“…even the smallest actions are steps in the right direction.” Author Unknown
Embarking on the journey of building high-quality inclusive early childhood programs can be daunting for school division leaders. While the Training and Technical Assistance Center at ODU offers technical assistance to school divisions in the region, the process of implementing these changes can span three to five years. This timeline can raise concerns among division leaders, who may question their readiness for such a significant transformation while acknowledging the benefits of high-quality inclusive programs for all children.
Considering staff shortages across the Commonwealth, many leaders are working to protect teacher’s time, prioritize training, and prevent burnout. They also want to avoid initiative fatigue as the new unified measurement and improvement system (VQB5) launches this fall. At times, it can feel like a walk on the moon may be an easier feat than implementing high-quality inclusive practices across a division.
Regardless of how long it may take to reach your destination, it is better to act now by taking small steps in the right direction. Below, we outline a month-by-month action plan for leaders to implement during the school year, preparing them for more extensive systems work in the future.
Stepping Up Month-by-Month
Make one small change each month to improve inclusive practices in your division for the year!
In recognition of Disability History & Awareness month, provide classrooms with books, materials, and visuals that reflect individual differences.
> Children’s Books: Portrayals of People with Disabilities
Don’t “leaf” inclusion behind. Develop a vision statement that promotes a culture and climate to support high-quality inclusion and ensure staff can articulate and explain the vision.
> Preschool Inclusion: Laying the Groundwork for Success
Give the gift of data accuracy! Check Indicator 6 data before submitting Dec 1 Count by spot checking students enrolled in EC classrooms and identified with having a disability. Does your data flow correctly to student profiles for reporting purposes?
> Indicator 6 LRE Preschool
Ring in the new year by seeking parent and student input for instructional planning and IEP writing using student interest surveys to address individualized child and family strengths and needs.
> I’m Determined Preschool IEP Template
Support your love for inclusive practices by learning more about the Inclusive Classroom Profile and then observe inclusion through the eyes of children with disabilities in an inclusive setting.
> Introduction to the Inclusive Classroom Profile (ICP)
Don’t leave it to luck. Support joint planning for kindergarten transition by inviting elementary school personnel to attend spring IEP meetings and schedule planned visits to meet Kindergarten staff. Don’t forget to obtain parent consent for participation.
> Transition from Preschool Special Education to Kindergarten Checklist
Hop into spring by hosting listening sessions with ECE/ECSE staff to identify perceived barriers to inclusion and write a goal to address one barrier next school year. Need help facilitating these discussions? Contact your local T/TAC.
> Barriers & Supports to Early Childhood Inclusion
End the year by visiting the VDOE Inclusive Practices webpage to learn more about inclusion. Then, contact your local T/TAC to request technical assistance to build sustainable inclusive programming for the upcoming school year!
> Inclusion in Virginia’s Early Childhood Programs
Cool off by developing agreements with early childhood education (ECE) programs, health partners, and behavior support personnel to provide supports and services to children with disabilities in inclusive settings.
> Guidance on Creating an Effective Memorandum of Understanding to Support High-Quality Inclusive Early Childhood Systems
Get on the bus for the upcoming school year by developing a division-wide inclusion team or add EC inclusion as an agenda item to an existing meeting between ECSE/ECE LEADS.
> ECTA Collaboration in Leadership Checklist
Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, & National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (2020). Indicators of High-Quality Inclusion. Retrieved from https://ectacenter.org/topics/inclusion/indicators.asp
Safir, S. (2007). The listening leader: Creating the conditions for equitable school transformation. Jossey-Bass.
Soukakou, E. P. (2017). Inclusive Classroom Profile (ICP) [Database record]. APA PsychTests.
Thousand, J. & Villa, R. (2019). The early childhood inclusive education checklist: A self-assessment of best practices. National Professional Resources.
Virginia Department of Education & the Training & Technical Assistance Virginia Department of Education. (2021). Inclusive Placement Opportunities for Preschoolers: Implementation Matrix.
Virginia Department of Education, Early Childhood Network. (2019). Inclusive placement opportunities for preschoolers: A systems approach to preschool inclusive practices. Virginia Department of Education. Retrieved from https://ttaconline.org/ipop
Virginia Department of Education. (2018). Virginia guidelines for early childhood inclusion. Retrieved from https://www.doe.virginia.gov/home/ showpublisheddocument/2732/637981772416700000