The barriers to full inclusion

Last week we talked about the benefits of implementing full inclusion; however, there are some realistic barriers to implementing this program.  As with anything, it’s necessary to weigh the investment with the potential benefit to your students. To help you do this, I’ll lay out some of the biggest barriers to successful implementation.


Requires strong leaders and teachers. Differentiation requires skill and expertise with any classroom, addressing the needs of the full spectrum of cognitive and physical abilities in one classroom can be daunting.  Strong teachers are necessary to create a curriculum that meets standards and can be accessed by all students, not to mention creating multiple versions of every activity. For instance, I observed a teacher who created five different versions of a novel for different ability levels in her classroom.  It allowed her to discuss the same topics of theme and symbolism with all students. However, this is a difficult and time-consuming project. She had to recreate the same story five times without losing meaning or depth! Not every teacher has the skills to or is willing to undertake a project like that for every student assignment. Although some differentiated resources are available online, they are often hard to find or require tools not available at a school site.  Finding or training teachers with the skills to differentiate to a wide range of students and do it well is a difficult, but essential task.

Supporting strong teachers requires strong leadership as well.  School leaders create the culture that supports students and teachers and set expectations for the school.  A strong leader is necessary to maintain an environment of inclusion, high expectations, connection, support, and tolerance. The school leader needs to be able to get buy in from teachers on new processes or programs and respect their planning time.  Strong teachers without a strong leader can only do so much and a strong leader without strong teachers is similarly limited. It takes both for a school to successfully implement a full inclusion model.

May require extra planning time.  Ample panning time is necessary to successfully implement a full inclusion model.  Teachers should be allowed time to plan differentiated lessons and create differentiated materials on their own as well as time to plan with special education teachers and school psychologists.  Both collaborative and individual planning time is needed every single week, if not multiple times a week. This is a key piece of a full inclusion model. The collaboration between special ed and general ed teachers is necessary for creating structures that allow all students to succeed academically and socially and minimize classroom distractions.  If there isn’t enough time in the day for planning, it will be difficult to make a full inclusion model work for your school.

May require additional staff. An extension of the need for additional planning is additional staff.  More staff may be required to provide teachers with the necessary planning time.  Furthermore, during instruction, depending on the make-up of the classroom, additional paraprofessionals or even psychologists may be necessary to provide the structure and supports students need to be successful.  For instance, if a student is prone to behavior issues, additional classroom staff may be needed to directly support that student. Working with both classroom and special education teachers to determine the number of educators necessary for each classroom of students to be supported and successful is essential to implementing a full inclusion model.  

Full inclusion can be hard and it requires a strong commitment to the mission.  It’s not a task to be undertaken lightly, but it can pay off big for students. To check out a couple of the many schools who do full inclusion well and have the student outcomes to prove it, look at CHIME Institute in Southern California and Mission Achievement and Success in New Mexico.

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