An Inclusive Model for All Students | Part 1

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by Genevieve Thomas & Caitlin Gallagher
Director of Integrated Special Education & School Psychologist

At Rocketship, we are striving to eliminate the achievement gap within our lifetime. We know, though, that the achievement gap touches many aspects of our country’s approach to education, including our interactions with and programs for students with special needs. Read more to learn how we’re rethinking our approach to serving all students through innovative new practices.

Serving all students in an inclusion model

Rocketship’s Specialized Inclusion Program (SIP) was launched at the beginning of the 2013 – 2014 school year in response to a growing number of students with moderate to severe learning needs enrolling at Rocketship schools. SIP is a unique program which allows students with moderate to severe disabilities to receive the specialized supports they require while simultaneously spending the majority of their school day included in the general education program. We know all students, regardless of severity of disability, deserve the opportunity to learn and grow.

Our inclusion program ensures that students with moderate to severe disabilities are able to have meaningful and intentional participation with their general education peers for the majority of their school day. Due to the language-rich nature of the classroom and modeling of expected behaviors from classroom peers, the general education setting is an ideal placement to address many areas of need.

Through thoughtful collaboration amongst the general education staff and a credentialed special education case manager and team, instruction is tailored to also meet the needs of students with severe disabilities through differentiation, assistive technology and supplementary aids.  Other supports within the SIP program include co-teaching, service provider collaboration, disability awareness and peer buddy supports.  There are, of course, times in the student’s day where needs are better addressed outside of the general education setting, and the team assess this need on an individual basis.sip

SIP benefits everyone.

One primary misconception that our SIP program hopes to breaks down is the belief that children with severe learning disabilities cannot be educated alongside non-disabled peers.  We have seen firsthand that rigorous and intentional instruction in the general education setting promotes social, academic, self-help and communication growth.   Similarly, over the course of the SIP program we have seen equal benefit for non-disabled students, giving them an opportunity to build understanding and empathy towards individuals who are different from them.

Student-driven data determines our success and next steps.

In the most general terms, success for the students participating in SIP is meaningful inclusion.  We are continuing to define meaningful inclusion as a team, as well as develop accurate tools for assessing the inclusion experience and providing feedback to school teams.  This year, we will be launching a new assessment system which uses a detailed rubric to assess all aspects of SIP, from the frequency and quality of interactions between students in the SIP program and their general education peers, to the integration of assistive technology within the classroom.  We also look at student achievement metrics, defined largely by student progress towards goals outlined in each student’s individualized education plan (IEP).

In the end, the success of our program is driven by the results we see in student outcomes. Next month, we’ll explore the ways in which the SIP program has significantly impacted educational outcomes for one of our students: Bryan.

What else is important to meaningful inclusion? We’d love to hear from you ➟ @RocketshipEd


Genevieve Thomas has had various roles within special education over a decade before becoming Rocketship’s Director of Integrated Special Education. Genevieve has many passions, but when forced to choose, she is caught between finding new ways to be active in the outdoors, and finding ways to improve educational opportunities for students with disabilities.

Caitlin Gallagher is one of Rocketship’s talented School  Psychologists. She grew up in the East Bay and attended the University of the Pacific studying education before earning an  Ed.S in School Psychology. Caitlin is  inspired by holistic and inclusive learning for students and believes that these two factors together can create serious change in the lives of our students.  For fun, Caitlin enjoys traveling, the outdoors, and new experiences.

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