Secretary Arne Duncan and ED’s Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Alexa Posny, stopped by Beers Elementary School in Washington, DC yesterday to get a close-up look at one school that is successfully integrating students with disabilities into the school culture.
Beers Elementary is one of 16 public schools in the District of Columbia that participate in the Schoolwide Applications Model (SAM), an inclusive education program that engages the entire school staff and works to achieve a safe and orderly learning environment in which all students receive the supports they need, including students with disabilities. Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary Posny visited a 2nd Grade and 4th Grade SAM classroom and also participated in a roundtable discussion with DC school administrators, teachers and parents.
One of the takeaways from the Beers visit is how closely the staff work together, and how such teamwork is positively affecting student achievement. Katherine Chesterson, one of Beers’ support teachers, explained that teachers at the school aren’t working in a silo, and that they are constantly reinforcing each other as well as the positive behavior of all the students. One of the roundtable participants described what the teachers are doing at Beers as “something pretty special.”
Jeffery Brown, a school counselor at Beers, noted that the most impressive part of the SAM model is that the school reflects the environment students will encounter beyond school. The world, Brown said, doesn’t have “two parts of society, where there is a general part of society and a special part of society.” Beers Principal Gwendolyn Payton explained that when you go to the neighborhood grocery store, there isn’t a separate cash register marked “special.” Life doesn’t have two categories of citizens, so why should schools?
Secretary Duncan will address the importance of inclusion in a keynote address later this evening at the American Association of People with Disabilities conference. Below is a behind-the-scenes look at yesterday’s visit.
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