Guidebook for Inclusive Practice Overview
Massachusetts has a longstanding commitment to providing a high-quality public education to every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, cultural background, sexual orientation, exposure to trauma, or disability status. There are persistent gaps in the quality of educational opportunities available to students in Massachusetts, however, and these gaps are a call to action1. As the needs of our students become ever more diverse, the importance of fostering inclusive learning environments continues to grow.
Although commonly associated with special education and the federal mandate that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment to the maximum extent appropriate, an inclusive philosophy goes beyond the needs of students with disabilities to frame a system of accessible instruction and positive behavior supports that generates positive outcomes for all students. The emphasis on systemic implementation is important. Inclusion is not solely the job of any one educator or classroom-the successful creation of inclusive settings begins at the school and district levels, with superintendents and principals bearing as much responsibility for student success as educators and related service providers.
Inclusion is not necessarily a placement or a setting-it involves the implementation of systems and processes that allow all students to be educated within an educational community, the impact of which is significant. In Massachusetts, students with learning or communication disabilities who are educated, full-time, in general education settings are nearly five times more likely to graduate high school in four years or fewer than are similar students in substantially separate placements2.
Inclusive practice refers to the instructional and behavioral strategies that improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for all students, with and without disabilities, in general education settings. To support inclusive practice, the tools of this Guidebook are based on the frameworks of Universal Design for Learning, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports , and Social and Emotional Learning .
The Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice is designed to support all classrooms, schools, and districts as they serve a diverse range of students with diverse educational needs. Using the Massachusetts Educator Evaluation Framework as an organizing structure, the set of tools offered within the Guidebook is designed to align with the process districts use to promote educator growth and development to strengthen inclusive practice and empower both educators and leaders to meet the needs of all students in inclusive classrooms. Use of these tools is purely optional but will help educators and evaluators implement, document, and reinforce evidence-based best practices for the provision of support to students with diverse needs in all classrooms. From master scheduling and goal setting to gathering student feedback and designing assessments, the tools of the Guidebook will support Massachusetts educators in the creation of inclusive settings for all learners.
Nobody knows the tools that educators need better than educators themselves. Therefore, each tool in the Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice was developed and field-tested by a team of educators, researchers, and policymakers that included the following:
Forty Massachusetts educators, including teachers, specialized instructional support personnel, school administrators, and district administrators
National experts and researchers in the fields of inclusive instruction, universal design for learning, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and social-emotional learning
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff with expertise in inclusive practice and educator evaluation3.
Inclusive practice refers to the instructional and behavioral strategies that improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for all students, with and without disabilities, in general education settings. Working with educational researchers and Massachusetts educators, designers wove strategies for best instructional practice and behavioral support throughout the Guidebook to provide a common language and consistent set of expectations. The tools of the Guidebook align to evidence-based best practice by following:
The principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
The principles of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
The principles of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
These principles serve as the building blocks for promoting more consistent inclusive placements, where appropriate, and ensuring access to the general curriculum for all students. Throughout the Guidebook, these principles generally will be referred to as "accessible instruction and positive behavior supports."
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to designing learning experiences so that they meet the needs of the widest range of learners. UDL grew out of the universal design movement in architecture in which accommodations such as wheelchair ramps and curb cuts began to be included in the original design of buildings and structures, rather than added on as an afterthought. Likewise, barriers to instruction can be removed from the initial design of lessons rather than addressed after the fact through accommodations. UDL increases flexibility and adaptation to student needs so that all students can learn from instructional practices and materials that are accessible to them, including the ways in which they take in information, process as they learn, show what they have learned, and engage with instruction and materials. The UDL framework addresses learner variability by providing multiple approaches to the representation of information, to student action and expression, and to student engagement.
As with UDL, the principles of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) establish a proactive approach to modeling, developing, and supporting positive behaviors and social-emotional development in all students as a preventative approach, rather than reacting to negative behaviors after they occur. PBIS emphasizes educationally and behaviorally important student outcomes through the systematic consideration of data, evidence-based practices, and effective implementation systems supports across a multi-tiered logic. SEL emphasizes the process of developing students' and adults' social and emotional competencies-the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that individuals need to make successful choices.
The documents above provide more information on UDL, PBIS, and SEL. These contain the full UDL Guidelines, school-wide and classroom-based approaches to PBIS, and the competencies and practices of SEL. For more information about the Systems for Student Success (SfSS), which incorporates the frameworks of both UDL and PBIS, visit the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's SFSS page.
The Massachusetts Educator Evaluation Framework
The Guidebook tools are grounded in a sound evidence base and meet the commonsense definition of good teaching practice. Each tool in this Guidebook had to (1) meet the practical and professional review of Massachusetts educators and their colleagues; and (2) align with the Massachusetts Educator Evaluation Framework, a comprehensive set of regulations designed to support and improve teaching and leadership throughout the Commonwealth. Alignment with the Educator Evaluation Framework establishes a coherent understanding of educator practice and provides a practical context in which Massachusetts educators can use each tool.
The Educator Evaluation Framework is most effective when aligned to locally identified priorities. Many districts go through a process of analyzing DESE's Model Rubrics and identifying particular elements or indicators that most fully represent district priorities. The Massachusetts educators who created the tools of the Guidebook applied a similar process to generate Power Elements for Inclusive Practice from the Teacher and School-Level Administrator Model Rubrics. These Power Elements describe a set of high-impact areas that can focus conversations between educators and evaluators, collaborating educators, and decision makers at the school and district levels using the established, familiar language of the Model Rubrics. The Power Elements do not represent a narrowing of the Model Rubrics on the part of ESE, nor should they necessarily supplant focus elements that districts have identified as most aligned with their priorities. The Model Rubrics are solely meant to facilitate and focus discussions about inclusive practice. Districts should be mindful of existing evaluation systems when incorporating the Power Elements and other tools of the Guidebook.
Using This Guidebook
Each section of the Guidebook is aligned to activities of the Educator Evaluation 5-Step Cycle:
Each section contains tools that provide supports for the Educator Evaluation Framework that are aligned to accessible instruction and positive behavior supports. The tools of the Guidebook can be used comprehensively to improve practice around inclusive supports, or they can be used individually to address specific areas of need.
The directions to each tool include guidance for educators at the classroom, school, and district levels. For example, Tool 7a in the Common Assessments section is an Accessibility Review. As you can see below, the directions give suggestions for possible uses:
Inclusive Practice Tool: Accessibility Review
District administrators can use this tool to systematically review common assessments with their instructional leadership teams. Building administrators can use this tool to review grade- and subject-level common assessments with instructional teams. Classroom teachers can use this tool to review common assessments for accessibility.
The tools of the Guidebook are designed to support educators in providing accessible instruction and positive behavior supports to students with diverse learning profiles in inclusive settings. The tools should be used as supports for teaching and learning and guidelines for collaboration and planning.
Inclusion means a place for every student in every district-students with disabilities; students who are English language learners; students who are gifted; students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning; and students who seem to fall neatly into the "average" range. All students deserve a chance to learn in a safe and supportive environment. Along with comprehensive professional development, supportive instructional leadership, and time for collaborative planning and decision making, the Educator Evaluation Framework and the Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice provide Massachusetts districts with robust tools to support educators and place the focus on teaching and learning for all students.
Power Elements for Inclusion: Classroom Teacher Rubric
Power Elements for Inclusion: School Administrator Rubric
1 Massachusetts State Equity Plan
2 For a comprehensive analysis of special education in Massachusetts, see Reports by Dr. Thomas Hehir and Associates.
3 The contents of this resource were developed under the Race to the Top grant from the U. S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U. S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
Last Updated: September 2, 2015