District Administration April 2017 - 36


Power of inclusive

PRESCHOOL
Christina M. Kasprzak, director of the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center at the University of North Carolina's Frank
Porter Graham Child Development Institute.
"In the last 10 years, we've really been moving from access
for children in special education to looking at accountability in
outcomes and quality," Kasprzak says.
The number of special education students included in preschool programs for typically developing children grew only by 6
percent between 1985 and 2012, according to the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center. Inclusion therefore drives the
work Kasprzak and her team do with districts to raise the quality
of their programs; that includes helping administrators implement practices recommended by the Council for Exceptional
Children's Division for Early Childhood (DAmag.me/dec).
Among its wide-ranging guidelines are:
* embedding learning into all preschool activities, including- and sometimes particularly in-play
* working with families to tailor instruction and classroom
environments to each child's needs
* using intervention strategies to address challenging or negative behavior among children
* allowing regular collaboration among general education
teachers, special ed teachers, therapists and other early-childhood
educators and professionals
* providing regular opportunities for students to move and be
physically active
While Race to the Top and other grant programs have
expanded early childhood special ed programs in recent years,
school districts, Head Start and other agencies should partner to
share resources-such as ongoing professional development for
teachers-in a time of tightening budgets, says Pamela J. Winton,
a senior scientist at Frank Porter Graham Institute. "In this new
administration, my sense is there's going to be an emphasis on
charter schools and voucher systems," Winton says. "We all have
to be paying close attention to make sure the needs of children
with disabilities, whether in early childhood or in general, are in
the forefront of those discussions."
Opening the 'Solution Suitcase'
Blue Valley Schools, located in the suburbs of Kansas City, Kansas, tracks the social-emotional development of its preschoolers
with the same high expectations as it measures academic growth.
That's one of the ways in which the 22,000-student system continues to refine the inclusive preschool classes it has provided for
20 years, says Kendall Burr, the district's early childhood director.
"If a student can't perform a skill, we see it as a skill deficit,"
Burr says. "We feel the same way for a student struggling with
behavioral or social-emotional needs."
The district adopted a Positive Behavioral Interventions and
Supports model to provide different levels of social-emotional
36 April 2017

GROWTH RATES-Special needs students in inclusive
preschool classes in Kingwood Township Schools in New
Jersey often remain in a general education setting as they
progress through higher grades.

instruction. The least intensive involves teaching students a set of
skills the district calls "Solution Suitcase." This gives students different ways to respond calmly and positively when, for instance, a
classmate has a toy they want. Students can set a timer for when
they can ask again for the toy or teachers can help them find
another activity. Students who still struggle with behavior will
receive more one-on-one attention from teachers and therapists,
Burr says.
Blue Valley splits its 26 preschool classrooms 50-50 between
students who are developing typically and those with IEPs. About
three years ago, the district opened an early learning center that
has space for 15 of those preschool classrooms. It provides teachers, therapists and other educators with shared office space to
collaborate and refine their learning approaches to individual
students, Burr says.
Throughout the district, specialists-as often as possible-
provide speech and occupational therapy and other interventions
as part of a child's daily classroom routine. Students aren't separated or pulled out of the room.
"The kids themselves don't discriminate and our model lends
itself to that," Burr says.
In the River Forest School District in the Chicago suburbs,
which in the 2016-17 school year launched its first inclusive
pre-K class, teachers are already working to develop students' soft
skills. For much of the preschool day, students can move around
to stations where the play activities have various academic
District Administration


http://www.DAmag.me/dec

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration April 2017

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