The Inclusive Schools Network (ISN) is a global resource and network of professionals, families, schools and organizations focusing on inclusive education around the world. At the heart of ISN is the mission: To encourage, embolden and empower people to design and implement effective inclusive schools, by sharing insights and best practices and by providing opportunities for connection.
ISN provides year-round opportunities for families and educators to meet others on the same journey of building and sustaining inclusive schools and communities.
Inclusive Schools Week (ISW) is an annual event sponsored by the Inclusive Schools Network. Celebrated during the first week in December, ISW was created to commemorate the progress that schools have made in providing a quality education to an increasingly diverse student population including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economics status, cultural heritage language preference and other factors. ISW also provides an important opportunity for educators, students and parents to discuss what else needs to be done in to ensure that their schools continue to improve their ability to successfully educate all children.
A New Era
The Inclusive Schools Network and Inclusive Schools Week moved to a new home during the summer of 2011. ISN will expand its depth and reach as the primary source of information about inclusive education worldwide with Stetson & Associates, a leading educational organization committed to educating and supporting families, schools, districts, universities, state departments of education and other educational entities in their efforts to provide bring success within the reach of all students.
Over the next few months and years, members will see fresh and innovative features and ideas introduced to the Network while Inclusive Schools Week will continue to be a cornerstone event sponsored by the ISN each year.
The Inclusive Schools Network was born as a result of the great success of Inclusive Schools Week (ISW) inaugurated in 2001.
Inclusive Schools Week was originally developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. It was conceived as a vehicle through which the federally funded National Institute for Urban School Reform (NIUSI) and the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching(NCREST) could disseminate materials concerning inclusive education. As a partner to NIUSI and NCREST, the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative (Collaborative) at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), played a strategic role in this initiative, providing vision for ISW and managing outreach efforts, and continued to financially support, develop and manage Inclusive Schools Week when federal funding was no longer available.
In 2007, under the leadership of the Collaborative and EDC, the Inclusive Schools Network (ISN) was formed in the spirit of continuing the dialogue started during Inclusive Schools Week throughout the year. The ISN continues to proudly support Inclusive Schools Week each year.
Inclusive Schools Network and Week have historically offered a unique opportunity for administrators, practitioners, paraprofessionals, parents, and students to come together, discuss, and share instructional strategies, tips, and lesson plans that have been shown to meet the educational needs of the diverse learner. Time and time again, these discussions have led to positive changes for students with disabilities in schools around the world.
Over the past 10+ years, the Inclusive Schools Network has received thousands of e-mails, phone calls, and letters from across the world describing the impact of the resources, events and support offered through the Network.
Families have depended on ISN to bring awareness of inclusive practices to their schools and communities. A parent from Norwood, PA, wrote “It [Inclusive Schools Week] has inspired me to know that I am doing the best thing possible for my son and other children. I have started an inclusion committee in our building with the principal.”
Teachers across the world are using ISN to enhance their knowledge of inclusive practices and incorporate new skills into their classrooms. For example, in 2010 in Pakistan, the Rural Inclusive Education Program of Ghazali Education Trust held an awareness seminar at LUMS, a local university in Lahore, Pakistan, in celebration of ISW and used the 2010 Celebration Kit as a resource for strategies and ideas.
State, district, and school administrators are using materials available through ISN and ISW as an opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of inclusive practices to school boards, families, teachers, students, and the community at large. The Michigan State Board of Education again passed a resolution recognizing December 6–10, 2010, as an official state celebration of Inclusive Schools Week.
The reach of ISN has gone beyond individual districts and schools. Entire communities, cities, and states have chosen to participate in ISW, contributing to the development of a more inclusive society. In 2010, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco proclaimed the first week of December as the annual “San Francisco Inclusive Schools Week.”
Families depend on the ISN to bring awareness of inclusive practices to their schools and communities.
From the onset, it was clear that ISW and ISN had struck a chord with educators and families around the world. The grassroots support and ownership of the initiative was immediate and verified the need to support students, parents and educators in their efforts to create more inclusive schools and communities on the local level. The publications, tools, and resources made available through the Inclusive Schools Network have been utilized by thousands of people to improve the education of thousands of children. This practitioner-based, grassroots support for ISN has remained consistent throughout its existence and is a hallmark of the initiative.
Widespread Recognition and Support
Inclusive Schools Week has evolved into an international event celebrated in countries around the world, such as Canada, the UK, the Philippines, Pakistan, Turkey, and Afghanistan. The Inclusive Schools Network website has had visitors from more than 50 countries.
Nationally ISN and ISW has been recognized by prominent news agencies, including The Washington Post, US State News, Orlando Sentinel, The Gloucester County Times (NJ), Omaha World Herald, Concord Monitor (NH), The News-Star (LA), Pensacola News Journal (FL), St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), The Times (Shreveport, LA), The Birmingham News, The Daily Item (Lynn, MA), and News 14 in Charlotte, NC. And in 2010, Inclusive Schools Week received celebrity support. International pop icon Clay Aiken participated in Inclusive Schools Week through the organization National Inclusion Project.
Since its inception, the Inclusive Schools Network has benefited from the support of influential professional, educational, parental, and community groups, as well as state and local governments. There have been official proclamations recognizing Inclusive Schools Week from the state governments of Alabama and New Jersey. The cities of San Francisco, Boston, Newark and Montclair (NJ), Philadelphia, and Roswell (GA) also issued proclamations recognizing ISW, as did the Michigan and Massachusetts State Boards of Education. The White House has acknowledged ISW in several official letters throughout its 10-year history.
Inclusive Schools Network continues to grow each year in terms of the breadth and depth of its outreach efforts, content coverage, participation, and media response. Its place in history may be marked by the simple reality that Inclusive Schools Week allows us all to take a moment to applaud the progress we’ve made toward building more inclusive school communities while pledging to continue our work toward becoming a more inclusive society. The Inclusive Schools Network provides the resources, tools and support needed to turn our plans into action.
Being an inclusive school is not always easy. But schools and classrooms that have made the decision and taken the steps to become more inclusive are reaping the benefits and rewards—for all of their students.