Inclusion - Both an Educational Practice and an Educational Philosophy

A young boy enjoys participating in a theater troupe with typically developing peers. KETV


Inclusion is both a practice and a basic underpinning of modern educational philosophy.

A Practice

The practice of inclusion in public schools is based on the legal concept of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) When Congress passed PL94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, it was in response to the findings of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971 in PARC (Pennsylvania Association of Retarded Citizens) vs. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The decision stated that children with handicaps were protected under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Least Restrictive Environment has come to be known, through legal challenges and due process, as that educational experience that is most like that received by non-disabled students.

Districts (the Local Education Authority) are expected to offer a full spectrum of placements in the best interest of children, from full inclusion, which means receiving all instruction in the general education setting, to residential treatment,when it is in the best interest of the child, and all alternate levels of restriction have been exhausted.  It also requires that students with disabilities attend schools in their neighborhood, rather than in special schools.  Most students receive support and services in something between the two extremes, as for students with significant academic challenges, they often do the best when they receive explicit instruction in the resource room, where the difference in their skills and their need to focus are not compromised by active students.   The amount of time spent in a special education setting needs to be designated in their IEP, as well as being justified there.

Inclusion as a Philosophy

Inclusion is also an educational philosophy. Supported by research, it fosters belief that children with disabilities do better in general education settings with typically developing peers. It also advances the understanding, also supported by research, that best practices in special education, especially differentiation, provide the most success for general education as well as special education students. Unlike "mainstreaming" which proposed to stick students qualifying for special education in general educations to "sink or swim," inclusion holds that students of broadly differing abilities can succeed with appropriate support.

Although integration is sometimes used interchangeably with inclusion, it is more generally understood as the effort to bring minorities, English Language Learners and new immigrants from diverse populations, into local educational communities, and the practices that best foster smooth integration into social and cultural groups.  Certainly, good teaching is good teaching, and strategies that help integrate English Language Learners also supports students with specific learning disabilities in building and enriching language development.


Pronunciation: in-kloo-shun

Also Known As: integration, inclusional (in Canada and England)

Examples: The Rye, New Jersey school district has clearly demonstrated its commitment to inclusion by hiring and training extra special education teachers to co-teach in middle school and high school classrooms with general education teachers.