Thirty years ago, Pennsylvania was a leader in the innovation of special education. Sadly, however, Pennsylvania now ranks 38th in the nation for inclusion rates of students with disabilities into the general curriculum. In response, a class action lawsuit comprised of parents of students with disabilities across the state won a settlement against the Pennsylvania Department of Education insisting that their children be included in the least restrictive environment or general education to the maximum extent possible. This has resulted in a five-year agreement named the Gaskin Settlement which is merely enforcing current federal requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Three school districts in Erie County are rated in the top twenty worst school districts for inclusion in the state. There are several reasons for this painful slow rate of inclusion: often, schools are resistant to change, parents are unaware of the right for their children to be included, or there is a lack of teacher preparation concerning best practices to support and include individuals with disabilities.

Inclusion is necessary for all youth—with or without a disability. First, inclusion for children in school as a whole or individually in their classroom is a microcosm of a healthy, diverse society. In society, people are not segregated according to their abilities or disabilities. For example, everyone uses the same stores, health care providers, and businesses. Students who are included face significantly less stigmatization than students who are pulled out of general settings. 

Secondly, research shows that included students do as well as, or better than, students who are segregated. The students who are fully accepted, included, and integrated benefit from access to a rigorous, challenging curriculum where high expectations are the norm.

The following resources will assist all teachers to transform their classrooms to be inclusive for all students—with or without disabilities.

School Presentations and Assemblies

Mission Empower wants to come to your school!  We want tomorrow’s leaders to see our abilities and not our disabilities. We offer presentations about diversity and ability through humorous skits, an interactive game show to test students’ knowledge, and hands-on activities for younger learners.

Contact us to schedule a date and time for a group from Mission Empower to come to your school.

For more information, contact Jill Hrinda-Patten at (814) 825-0788.

Learning Strategies

With 20 or more students in your classroom each school year, you have found that each one is different, and they learn in their own ways. We have provided different strategies and techniques that you can use in your classroom to help everyone learn the material you are teaching.

Learn about inclusive learning strategies

Resources from Patrick Schwarz

The following resources are from Dr. Patrick Schwarz. Dr. Patrick Schwarz is a dynamic and engaging professor, author, motivational speaker, and leader in Education (Inclusive Education, Special Education, General Education and Educational Leadership) and Human Services. Patrick’s company is Creative Culture Consulting LLC.

To learn more about Dr. Patrick Schwarz, please visit his website at www.patrickschwarz.com.