For many schools, it’s difficult to find the right combination of communication, compassion, and connection to help students who are struggling because of disabilities or ethnic or linguistic differences. While all schools are required to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities, these programs often focus on addressing deficits and do not reflect the whole student or the family’s hopes for that child’s future.
EDC’s ICARE (Involve, Collaborate, Affirm, Respect, Empower) Schools study has identified two middle schools that have found the right balance. At Roosevelt Middle School in West Orange, New Jersey, and Moore Middle School in Arvada, Colorado, students thrive, and families feel like partners in the educational process.
A sense of belonging
Simply put, these schools support students and their families and create a sense of belonging. “The students have places to go and people to interact with that they are comfortable with,” says EDC’s Anna McTigue. “Both schools allowed the kids to change and grow while providing necessary social and academic supports to foster successful outcomes.”
To understand how these schools work, the ICARE team researched the schools and worked with the students and their families. They shadowed nine students throughout their school day and interviewed members of the school community. Consistently, the team found that regular communication, responsive listening, respectful negotiation with families, and meaningful connections with students were crucial to a student’s success.
As one father explains, “What I really like about the staff and the people who work here is that they have really wrapped their arms around [my son] and helped him a lot… . Everybody realizes what he’s like and the best way to get him to where we need to get him to.”
ICARE is producing a toolkit based on the successful practices used at both middle schools. Two tools and more information are already available through the Inclusive Schools Network. The study is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
Originally published on July 25, 2008