“The goal of the Task Force is to educate ourselves and others about the evidence-based benefits of inclusion for all students, best practices in inclusion, and how we can support APS’s efforts to make inclusion a priority. The community must create a shared vision for inclusion.” Tauna Szymanski
Why We Formed
The Arlington Inclusion Task Force was created in June 2014 to increase opportunities for the authentic and supported inclusion of students with disabilities within Arlington Public Schools (APS).
In many cases, students with disabilities in APS spend their entire day in segregated, self-contained classrooms with no interactions with typical peers or access to the general education curriculum.
Thirty years of research indicate that all students (both those with disabilities and those without disabilities) benefit significantly from inclusive classrooms, in terms of academic test scores, long-term outcomes, and improved empathy and concern for social justice. In fact, little to no evidence supports self-contained classrooms.
Who We Are
The Inclusion Task Force is a 135-member ad hoc group with close ties to the Arlington Special Education Parent-Teacher Association (SEPTA) and the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC).
The group includes teachers, parents, lawyers, Ph.D.s, national disability advocates, communication and government relations professionals, project managers, a developmental psychologist, and related service providers.
We also work with the Virginia Inclusion Task Force, which formed in May 2015.
Creating a Truly Inclusive School District:
- The APS School Board’s core vision in part states that APS “is a diverse and inclusive school community, committed to academic excellence and integrity.”
- One of the Board’s core values is that “[w]e value all students, staff and families in our diverse, inclusive school community.”
- The Task Force’s long-term goal is to assist APS in achieving its vision and core value of becoming a truly inclusive school district.
- Developing talking points on inclusion in Arlington
- Reviewing the 2013 external evaluation of APS special education programs and excerpting inclusion-related points. You can read the evaluation here
- Collecting individual stories about inclusion in Arlington
- Developing connections with state and national leaders on inclusion
- Compiling and summarizing research on inclusion
- Sharing best practices and news on inclusion through our member list, the SEPTA listserve, Facebook, and Twitter
- Speaking at state and national conferences
- Regular meetings with APS School Board members, senior APS staff and school principals
- Forming parent-to-parent support networks
- Fundraising for professional development seminars on inclusion for APS teachers and staff
Events and guest speakers
- December 4, 2015 – Arlington Inclusion Task Force presents at TASH National Conference, Portland, Oregon. Presentation can be viewed here: TASH Slides – Portland 2015 Final 120415.
- November 14, 2015 – SEPTA and Arlington Inclusion Task Force co-sponsor full-day free professional development workshop provided by the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education on “Including ALL Students: WHY and HOW?” for APS teachers and staff. SEPTA Members can access professional video of the workshop and the slides and handouts here. You’ll need to be logged in as a SEPTA member to access this page.
- September 21, 2015 – Arlington Inclusion Task Force presents on inclusion at Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee meeting
- August 12, 2015 – Arlington Inclusion Task Force speaks on inclusion panel with VDOE Assistant Superintendent for Special Education John Eisenberg and inclusion filmmaker Dan Habib, Arc of Virginia State Convention, Virginia Beach, Virginia
- June 15, 2015 – Kurt Schneider, Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Hinsdale, Illinois, who has transformed two very different school districts in Wisconsin and Illinois to become fully inclusive (private discussion with APS leadership)
- April 21, 2015 – Barb Trader, Executive Director, TASH, “The Ethical and Economic Imperatives of Inclusive Education: Why We Need to Act Now”
- April 14, 2015 – Discussion session with representatives of U.S. Health and Human Services regarding their forthcoming national preschool inclusion initiative
- January 15, 2015 – Hank Millward, Virginia DOE, “What VDOE Expects Regarding Inclusion”
- December 4, 2014 – Deirdre Hickey Sturm, BCBA, SLP, Santa Cruz, CA, “How Inclusion Works”
- August 24, 2014 – Screening and discussion of “Including Samuel” by Dan Habib
To be added to the Arlington Inclusion Task Force list and learn about opportunities to get involved contact Tauna Szymanski at firstname.lastname@example.org.