Where to Go For More: Resources for Essential Schools to Make the Most of Inclusion

LD Online

LD Online is a big tent, providing deep and broad resources for people with disabilities and their parents, educators, and friends. Its comprehensive offerings, mostly focused on the United States and Canada, include descriptions of a wide range of learning disabilities, expert commentary, an online store, pointers to school, summer, and other programs, an active online community, research collections – very useful, with active links to full articles from a variety of sources – and more. If you’re craving support, understanding and perspective, browse the first-person essays from people with learning disabilities, their teachers, and their family members. LD Online includes powerful messages about ability, too, particularly in featured children’s artwork and writing. The site itself is fairly accessible, with some information in Spanish and links to browsealoud (www.browsealoud.com), software that transforms website text into audio.

Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative

The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, an Education Development Center (EDC) project founded in 1994, gathers 150+ urban districts nationwide to share resources and knowledge on special education issues. Districts join as fee-paying members for access to meetings, publications, technical assistance and professional development, including a program on building inclusive urban schools for grades 6-12. The Urban Collaborative website provides a good overview of its offerings, with additional resources available for member districts. www.urbancollaborative.org

Research Institute on Secondary Education Reform for Youth with Disabilities (RISER)

A research project based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed in 2003, RISER’s goal was to “expand the current knowledge base related to practices and policies in secondary schools that enhance learning, achievement and postschool outcomes for students with disabilities,” paying particular attention to reform and restructuring efforts that include students with disabilities. Among other efforts, RISER identified “schools of authentic and inclusive teaching and learning,” or SAILS. The project’s description of and research from the SAILS (which included longtime CES affiliate Souhegan High School in Amherst, New Hampshire) correlate strongly with CES principles and practice, and do so with particular attention paid to the needs of students with disabilities. This philosophical and practical overlap provides valuable knowledge for schools committed to inclusion and the CES principles. Don’t look to the RISER site for practical content such as teaching or assessment plans, but do visit for powerful analysis, evaluation and evidence that schools that propel all students toward success are schools designed to support all of those students, including students with disabilities.

All Kinds of Minds

Conversations with many CES educators reveal that Mel Levine’s work on learning differences has been a powerful source of knowledge, direction and inspiration. All Kinds of Minds, Levine’s website, is forthrightly promotional, selling the books, seminars, professional development and other products that detail his research and insight into minds that don’t all think alike. The power of Levine’s approach is his embrace of diversity and focus on identifying learners’ strengths while acknowledging that everyone, too, has areas of weakness. His work moves conversation about learning away from the deficit model of disability and identifies ways for home, school, work, and social life to support everyone, including people who think and interact in different, sometimes challenging, ways. CES educators report that Levine’s books and professional development offerings add value and vividly complement CES practice. For the uninitiated, the website’s Library section gives an overview of All Kinds of Minds’ approach and resources.

Ability Hub

The stories in this Horace issue have mentioned the benefits of assistive technology. Ability Hub is a stellar array of assistive technology, in particular, tools that allow people with a wide range of disabilities to operate a computer and access the internet. If you’re new to the field, the range of technology possibilities is eye-opening, and if you’re looking for a specific solution, you’ll likely find it. Along with an inventory of technology such as screen readers, voice recognition software, mouse and keyboard alternatives, Ability Hub offers consulting on assistive technology, links to disability resources, and categorization of technology according to a wide range of physical and cognitive needs.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities

Formerly the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, and still referred to as NICHCY, the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities is an information clearinghouse operated by the Academy for Education Development (AED) for the U.S. Department of Education. NICHCY offers both comprehensive information and remarkably well-written content that is really a pleasure to read. NICHCY’s offerings focus primarily on those challenges that can affect learning; there’s less information on non-cognitive physical disabilities. Engaging introductions preface comprehensive and well-organized website lists, with some information provided in Spanish. The Research section is particularly useful to practitioners interesting in using the vast body of research on learning disabilities and differences. NICHCY also offers links to information about IDEA and NCLB as it pertains to students with disabilities.

The Access Center

The Access Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and hosted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), provides technical assistances to elementary and middle schools, offering teaching, assessment and curriculum strategies with particular focus on including students with disabilities. The site offers a well-edited collection of programs from various states and districts, “webinars” (online and phone seminars) on particular aspect of accessible curriculum, a broad collection of resources, including a comprehensive chart, “Strategies to Improve Access to the General Education Curriculum,” that details a wide range of instructional strategies for inclusive teaching and learning. This chart alone – linked from the Access Center’s home page at the time of this writing – is worth the visit.

Harvard Civil Rights Project Action Kit – Racial Discrimination in Special Education

This section of the Harvard Civil Rights Project website accompanies Racial Inequities in Special Education, a 2003 Civil Rights Project book edited by Dan Losen and Gary Orfield. The well-organized action kit is primarily geared toward students and their families facing special education misdiagnosis, lack of access to appropriate services and barriers to full appropriate public education. One section, “State Statistics: Overrepresentation,” offers six data sets that vividly portray nationwide racial disparities in special education identification, placement in restrictive settings, school discipline incidents, and rates of incarceration of students with disabilities.

National Center on Educational Outcomes

The National Center on Educational Outcomes’ website offers a wide and deep range of resources on assessing students with disabilities and limited English proficiency in order to ensure that such students are included in and benefit from national and state assessments, standards-setting efforts, and graduation requirements. The site’s features include an online accommodations bibliography that offers research on various assessment accommodations practices, a comprehensive review of state policies for assessing students with disabilities, an array of papers and reports, and information on a variety of topics including accommodations, accountability, alternate assessments, graduation requirements, limited English proficiency students, out-of-level testing, standards, and universal design.

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)

Featured elsewhere in this issue, CAST features research, professional development, policy and practice recommendations, publications and other resources to support inclusive education. Founded by David Rose and Anne Meyer, CAST has grown from its initial focus on technological solutions for inclusion to include extensive material on universal design for education. The website’s Teaching Every Student section offers powerful resources for understanding and applying CAST’s Universal Design for Learning approach. CAST also offers institutes, consultation services and other professional development opportunities that make it possible for educators to reshape their curriculum, instruction and evaluation practices to support all students.

Coalition of Essential Schools Website Resources and ChangeLab

CES practice creates fertile conditions for learning diversity, and Essential schools have been refining their capacities for twenty years. While there’s no special section for students with disabilities (as it should be, in a truly inclusive world), the CES website and ChangeLab, which demonstrates the best practices of the CES Small Schools Project, offer useful practice and philosophy for educators working to create and sustain meaningful learning for all.