Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will celebrate Inclusive Schools Week December 2-6, 2013, with this year’s theme, “Authentic Inclusion: Increasing Our Comfort Zone! In an effort to ensure equity and excellence throughout APS, the district continues to focus on building inclusive schools, where all children are full members of their school community. One component of inclusion is to increase the percentage of students with disabilities who are educated in general education classes. Over the past few years, the percentage of elementary, middle and high school students who have disabilities and spend at least 80 percent of their school day in general education classes has increased to 58 percent in 2013-14, up from 55 percent in 2012-13 and 48 percent in 2011-12.
To strengthen inclusive practices, APS principals, special education teachers, general education teachers and central office leaders have worked diligently to use co-teaching in schools across the district. During co-teaching, a general education teacher and a special education teacher provide instruction to a class of students with and without disabilities. Having two teachers in the classroom allows small group instruction to take place so that students can receive differentiated, tailored instruction.
Research shows that all students benefit from an inclusive school environment. While APS educators and leaders are pleased with the increase in inclusive practices, they are not satisfied and continue to pursue more positive movement in this critical area.