Recently several GW teachers and I attended a networking session sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Association of IB schools dedicated to what IB calls SEN, “special educational needs” within the IB program. (We use the term Special Education in ACPS schools.)
Special education students learn differently than their peers. “SPED” teachers are masters at making content accessible through various channels and techniques that are often unique to each learner. In ACPS, special educators generally work in partnership with classroom teachers to provide differentiation for identified special ed students in mainstream classes.
Presenter Nonye Oladimeji, IB Coordinator at Glasgow Middle School and a former special education algebra teacher, offered this focusing question: What sort of life do we want for a child with special needs in 25 years?
Answers tend to include college/career ready, the ability to self-advocate, be an engaged citizen, and have the maximum level of independence their disability allows. In short, said Nonye, these students deserve “a life like ours.” So, what is the path for a student in middle school?
The main message from IB, and one also espoused by ACPS, is inclusion. In a 2010 publication, IB sees inclusion as “…an ongoing process that aims to increase access and engagement in learning for all students by identifying and removing barriers.” In ACPS, inclusion is defined as providing what the law calls “the least restrictive environment.”
IB frames successful inclusion as a process of problem-solving where educators, parents and students collaborate to address each learner’s individual needs: “Inclusion is the learner profile in action,” states the SEN guide, “an outcome of dynamic learning communities.”
The learner profile is comprised of 10 attributes that all members of the IB community strive to display. IB challenges not just students and teachers but also schools to be reflective, caring, and principled as regards our special education students.
Within the structure of the school, we need to reflect on how best to meet every child’s needs; we must have a level of caring where every student is valued as an individual; and above all, we are bound to honor the fundamental principle that all students deserve access to a rich education.