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Quality Indicators for Inclusive Practices: How Are We Doing?

Spring is an ideal time for educators to pause and reflect.  Routines and practices are established, but enough of the year remains to make adjustments.  It is also not too early to start planning for next year.  Reflection can occur in three different ways (Knight, 2011):

  • Looking back is thinking about something after it has happened and considering what went well and what needs to  be done differently the next time.
  • Looking at is being aware of what is going on while in the moment and making adjustments as needed.
  • Looking ahead is “thinking about how to use an idea, practice, or plan in the future” (p. 37).

The guiding questions in Table 1 are adapted from a T/TAC William and Mary tool based on a similar instrument prepared by the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education 2011.  Both self-assessments are adapted from other evidence-based practice tools. A comprehensive list of these tools appears at the end of this article.

The questions on the self-assessments may be used to guide mid-year reflection. All are intended to be completed using a collaborative team approach, in which educators with different areas of expertise in the school review responses to the guiding questions and determine if a gap exists between current practices and evidence-based practices (Stollar, Poth, Curtis, & Cohen, 2006).  “Yes” answers indicate that the inclusive practice is evident. “No” responses may indicate areas for growth.  Click here to complete the self-assessment prepared by the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education 2011.

 Table 1

Table 1 Guiding Questions: Quality Indicators for Inclusive Practices

Administrative Support for Inclusion Yes No
  1. Does our school communicate a vision that values the contributions of all learners as members of the school community?
  1. Does our school improvement plan include inclusive practices with action steps to support implementation?
  1. Is person-first language used and modeled by administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, and other school staff?
  1. Do school administrators communicate that general educators are responsible for teaching students with disabilities with the support of special educators?
  1. Does the administrative team create balanced classroom rosters (number and degree of severity of students with disabilities vs. the total number of students in each class)?
  1. Are school-wide supports in place to develop social skills and relationships?
Collaborative Planning and Teaching Structures Yes No
  1. Is there adequate, regularly scheduled, ongoing planning time for general and special education teachers and other staff to collaborate?
  1. Are a variety of models for the delivery of special education services, such as collaborative consultation and co- teaching, plus instructional practices such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and flexible groupings used to meet the needs of all students?
  1. Do teachers clarify and share roles and responsibilities so that distinctions between “specialist” and “classroom teacher” are not obvious?
  1. When co-teaching, do teachers select and utilize structures based on the needs of the students?
  1. Do teachers engage students by providing multiple opportunities and modes for responding?
  1. Do teachers use tiered planning that reflects UDL and readiness of students as well as interests, learning profiles, and opportunities for choice?
  1. Are there professional development opportunities for staff regarding instructional strategies and supports for UDL?
  1. Are paraprofessionals skilled and responsible contributors to the classroom?
Individual Student Supports Yes No
  1. Do pre-referral strategies use a wide range of accommodations and modifications that are clearly documented?
  1. Is data-based decision-making used to identify and plan for meeting the academic and behavioral challenges of students?
  1. Do teachers use, and do students have access to, technology that supports student learning and communication?
  1. Is there an official planning process for students with disabilities who are transitioning between grades/schools to ensure educational supports are accurately implemented?
  1. Are families fully involved in and regularly consulted about their children’s educational programs?
  1. Do students with disabilities have access to and are they encouraged to participate in the same extracurricular activities as their peers?
Individual Education Program Development Yes No
  1. Do students with disabilities, regardless of severity of disability, receive all or most of their education with age-/grade-appropriate peers and have similar schedules as their peers without disabilities?
  1. Are all supplementary services and necessary accommodations considered and implemented collaboratively?
  1. Are IEP goals and objectives aligned with the Standards of Learning and focused on literacy, writing, mathematics, communication skills, and social skills?
  1. Do special education teachers and other specialists routinely provide consultation and deliver services in the general education classroom to the maximum extent possible?
  1. Are families full members of the IEP teams and do they participate in the planning process?
Consideration of these quality indicators can help schools educate ALL students, but especially students with disabilities. For more information on inclusive schools, visit the Inclusive Schools Network™ or read archived Link Lines articles focused on inclusive practice.

Additional Evidence-Based Practice Tools

  • California State Department of Education and WestEd. (2007). California Least Restrictive Environment Self-assessment and Continuous Improvement Activities Tool–School Site Level. California Least Restrictive Environment Resources Project.
  • Jorgensen, C., McSheehan, M., & Sonnenmeir, R. (2005). School-Wide Inclusive Education Best Practices Indicators. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire University Affiliated Program.
  • Maryland State Department of Education and Maryland Coalition of Inclusive Education (2006). Quality Indicators of Inclusive Schools. Hanover, MD: Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education.
  • McGregor, G., & Brinkley, J. (2007). Supports for Inclusive Practices: An Evidence-Based Self-Assessment. Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network.
  • New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities and New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education. (2009). Quality Indicators for Effective Inclusive Education Guidebook. East Brunswick, NJ: Author.
  • Virginia State Department of Education and CTE Resource Center. (2007). Stepping Stones to Success II: Collaboration: Working Together for All Students. Retrieved from


Knight, J. (2011). Unmistakable impact: A partnership approach for dramatically improving instruction.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Stollar, S. A., Poth, R. L., Curtis, M. J., & Cohen, R .M. (2006). Collaborative strategic planning as illustration of the principles of systems change. School Psychology Review, 35, 181-197.