Improving inclusion requires leadership

November 18, 2014

Part two of a seven-part series

On Sept. 10, the Alberta Teachers’ Association released the Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Inclusive Education in Alberta Schools.

The report outlines 38 recommendations arranged around seven themes. In this, the second of a seven-part series, the ATA News outlines the recommendations that fall within the second of these seven themes.

Leadership

Leaders at all levels have the capacity to champion the shift from the current reality to the intended outcomes.

Recommendation 8
— to Alberta Education

Provide immediate, targeted, substantial and sustained funding for school jurisdictions’ implementation plans in cycles of five to seven years to provide the staff, resources and supports necessary to build and sustain capacity in the system.

The number of students in Alberta schools is rising, as is the level of complexity in classrooms. If inclusion is to become a part of Alberta’s social fabric, the government must provide immediate, targeted, substantial and sustained funding to make the ideals of inclusion a reality. It is possible to build support and capacity in the system, but not without a concerted effort.

Recommendation 9
— to Alberta Education

Demonstrate commitment to and leadership for inclusive education by providing ministry staff, knowledgeable in inclusive education, who are able to provide direct, one-on-one, ongoing support to each school jurisdiction in creating and realizing its implementation plan.

Accessible, ongoing support from the ministry is needed to assist jurisdictions in creating and implementing successful inclusion plans. This would enable communication to be more clear and direct, and would also help to facilitate networking among jurisdictions.

Having ministry staff accessible and available in the field would help to identify successes and challenges, and enable more timely responses to concerns that arise during implementation. It would also help to build relationships between the ministry and the people who are working directly with students and other stakeholders.

Recommendation 10
— to Alberta Education

Clearly delineate stakeholders’ leadership roles and responsibilities through clear policy directives and regulations.

Confusion in the field has persisted regarding such matters as funding, coding and the status of initiatives in inclusion, including individualized program plans (IPPs).

In order to effectively implement inclusion, leadership at every level is important, and everyone in the system must have a clear sense of implementation plans. Through interviews, focus groups and submissions to the panel, it became clear that having strong, supportive leaders with a depth of understanding of inclusion and what it takes to support all students makes a huge difference in success or lack thereof. Alberta Education has a responsibility to develop and implement policy directives and regulations that ensure equity across the province for all students. Without these policies and regulations, implementation will be uneven.

Recommendation 11
— to Alberta Education

Consistent with the vision of Setting the Direction, eliminate the current coding system at the ministry and jurisdiction levels.

The system of coding students can be traced back to a medical model of recording student deficits. In the interviews conducted with the focus groups and with superintendents and in the written submissions to the panel, there was an abundance of references to coding, and many people still believe that coding triggers funding, though this has not been the case for two budget cycles.

In addition, many school jurisdictions have retained the old model of coding and funding for distributing inclusive education funds internally — likely because it is familiar and easily replicated. In order to shift to a strengths-based model, it is important to remove the codes. An alternative would be to replace them with descriptors related to strengths and effective programming strategies.

Read the full report
Read the companion document
Read part three of the ATA News seven-part series