During the last ten years, inclusive education has been an important movement in Michigan. The experience in Michigan may provide lessons for other states. Building on a base of innovations in services to children and adults, inclusive education occurred through the combined efforts of innovators in local school systems, information and examples provided by colleagues in Canada, and a federal "systems change" project, the Michigan Inclusive Education Project. All these efforts highlighted critical policy questions which led to a series of working groups and task forces that have addressed policy issues regarding inclusive education and special education as a whole. This process has been long and deliberative and its impacts are yet to be fully realized. Yet, inclusive education is now established in schools throughout Michigan. Data regarding student placement indicate dramatic shifts out of separate schools. Students with moderate to severe disabilities have shown substantial increases in their participation in general education classes while students with mild disabilities placements have changed little and students with sensory impairments have greatly reduced their degree of participation in regular education. Important formative research has been conducted as a component of evaluations of efforts in local schools. However, research is needed regarding the present status, cost, and efficacy of inclusive education in Michigan.
Inclusive education has been growing in schools throughout the world as an integral component of efforts to improve schooling for all students. With a goal to include all students with disabilities in general education with needed attendant classroom-based supports, inclusive education represents the first time education of students with disabilities, and other special needs, has substantially impacted on the structure of education as a whole. Not surprisingly, like other major school reform efforts, it is controversial, its tenets and appraoches hotly contested.
During the last ten years, schools throughout the state of Michigan have begun to implement variations of inclusive education. These developments have been substantial in that a decade ago no school district in the state was implementing inclusive education. On the other hand, segregated programming for a large portion of students with disabilities is still the rule rather than the exception. What can be learned from experiences in Michigan regarding successes and limitations of this movement to date. This article is written to explore these questions.
A tradition of community-based services.
Implementation of inclusive education in Michigan built on existing patterns and innovation initiatives in the state. It also brought together new coalitions of advocates, university personnel, educators, and state department officials in collaborative work. The movement has also stirred great controversy in both general and special education. We begin at the beginning.
Inclusive education in Michigan has been both stimulated and limited by the tradition of services to people with disabilities in this state. During the 1970's, the state of Michigan took national and world leadership in the deinstitutionalization of persons with developmental disabilities and the utilization of community-based programs and family support services. The state committed to a policy of moving people with disabilities into community placements, largely at the time into group homes, sheltered workshops, or other similar programs (Michigan Developmental Disabilities council, 1990), after significant class action suits related to conditions in state institutions were filed. In this context, Michigan also made major investments in school programs for students with disabilities. Public Act 198 passed in 1971 mandated special education services to students with disabilities age birth through age 25 (Michigan Department of Education, 1996a). Intermediate school districts built new facilities to educate students with moderate to severe disabilities who previously would have been in institutions. Subsequently, an interagency collaborative took the lead in developing a supported employment systems change initiative, and by 988 some communities were exerimenting with strategies to support people with disabilities in their own homes rather than group homes (Midland Institute for Community Inclusion, 1994; Provencal, J., 1988). These efforts provided a conceptual framework -- provide supports to people in the mainstream community -- upon which inclusive education would be based.
Progressive professionals and advocates also began applying this paradigm to schooling in the mid-1980's. Nationally, Madeline Will, Under-Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) called for a "regular education initiative" and "shared responsibility" for the education of students with disability, moving away from the separate system of education (Will, 1983). These efforts had their effect in Michigan spawning several projects designed to identify "educational alternatives" for students with disabilities and approaches to the regular education initiative (Burke, D. & Davis, J., 1988; Frey, W., 1988; Michigan Department of Education, 1989; Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council, 1988). At this time, reports began to draw attention to the status of segregated and integrated placement in states (Danielson, L.C. & Bellamy, G.T., 1988). These documents lay beginning groundwork for movements towards inclusive education.
From across the border: Early training and technical assistance.
In the mid-1980's schools in a few states and the Canadian borders of the United States began to experiment with the next phase of services for students with disabilities that brought the paradigm of support in typical environments to a new level. Events in Ontario were particularly influential in Michigan. In Kitchener, Ontario, schools established successful efforts to include children with mild to severe disabilities in general education classrooms with support. A unique partnership of individuals worked together to develop, celebrate, understand, and share information. Marsha Forrest, as advocate, trainer, and university technical assistance provider, worked hand in hand with George Flynn, leader and Canadian equivalent of school superintendent, principals, teachers, and parents. Their work had substantial impact in Michigan. Marsha and colleagues offered annual summer institutes on integrated school and community and substantial numbers of individuals from Michigan attended. Teams of people were organized to attend shorter training sessions at the school system itself, only a 2 hour drive from the Michigan border (Hoyle, 1989). Their training engaged a growing number of school personnel and parents who were instrumental in going back to their own districts. This early support for developing skills and a vision was very important in Michigan.
Numerous teams attended seminars during 1989 and 1990 that included parents, teachers, superintendents of schools, advocates, university faculty, and state leaders, most notably the directors of special education and mental health. Not only did these visits provide an opportunity to see effective models of inclusive education, they also provided important opportunities for discussion and thinking on the several hour car drive up and back. The director of special education, Ed Birch, had been considering how best to move towards inclusive education. Some were proposing a gradual approach that would start with movement from separate schools to separate classes in regular schools. In Kitchener, however, his observations and conversations with educators there led him to believe that direct movement from separate schools and classes into inclusive classrooms was more efficient and effective. This decision was important in supporting moves towards inclusive education (Hoyle, 1990).
Leading towards change: Two counties.
School teams from two counties in Michigan were particularly involved in these institutes and in initiating movements towards inclusive education -- Washtenaw county near Ann Arbor in southeast Michigan and Marquette and Alger counties in the Upper Peninsula area of the state (Michigan Inclusive Education Project, 1989). Their involvement set a base of support, knowledge, bonding, and excitement that lay the foundation for work in their own counties. Advocates in Washtenaw County were instrumental in gaining administrative support of the new superintendent of the intermediate school district and began a pilot effort involving several schools in the county (Hoyle, 1989).. A local advocacy organization, the Washtenaw Arc (now Washtenaw Association for Community Advocacy) sponsored several training events including a series of presentations by Marsha Forrest regarding the efforts in Kitchener, Ontario (Forrest and Cullen, 1988) who drew substantial crowds of people to afternoon and evening meetings in the Fall of 1988.
This effort built very naturally on an innovation in the Saline Schools, a small rural district just north of Ann Arbor, in some of their more severely disabled students back to the district from the separate school run by the county placing them in a cross-categorical special education classroom. The district's success in this endeavor spurred them to be one of the first in moving substantially into experiments in inclusive education (Davis, 1988; LeRoy, 1990a). Originally, WISD hoped to pilot this effort in one school building in one district. However, it soon became clear that numerous parents were interested in seeing their children "come home" from Highpoint, the separate school operated by the ISD. Consequently, several schools in multiple school districts in the county began experiments in implementing inclusive education simultaneously.
By the Spring of 1989 several districts returned students with moderate to severe disabilities to their local schools with support from the ISD. As this occurred, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District set an important precedent and model for the state by developing arrangements whereby funds associated with students in separate schools followed students back to their home districts (Washtenaw Intermediate School District, 1988-1989; 1990). By 1990, Washtenaw County teachers, principals, the special educationdirectors, and superintendents began to speak in training's, conferences, and seminars throughout Michigan. Saline and other schools in Washtenaw County soon were providing local examples of inclusive education that were visited by other school districts (Washtenaw Intermediate School District, 1990
At the same time, parallel efforts occurred in the Upper Peninsula driven by somewhat different dynamics. While in Washtenaw County, a vocal advocacy organization worked collaboratively with supportive educational leaders, in the Marquette-Alger Intermediate School District change was driven by educators responding to problems that were occurring in programs for students with emotional impairments. The ISD sent a team of people to the summer institute in Canada in the summer of 1988 and the following year began to develop and implement plans to facilitate integration of students with emotional impairments. As these efforts began to be successful, teachers and administrators from schools also became spokespersons regarding inclusive education. By 1990, counties at both extremes of the state -- northern and southeastern -- were implementing models of inclusive education. The work in Marquette-Alger ISD was particularly important given their initial focus on students that some would consider the most difficult -- students with emotional impairments. The ISD and cooperating schools demonstrated that rural schools, some with limited resources, could implement inclusive education as well as the more affluent schools (Michigan Inclusive Education Project, 1990).
Early on advocates and university faculty collaborated to form a network that would engage in strategizing and organizing efforts for inclusive education. This advocacy group was particularly important in initiating movement towards inclusive education in Michigan. Specifically, the advocacy director in Washtenaw County and director of Michigan's University Affiliated Program the Developmental Disabilities Institute, met and soon developed a collaborative plan to convente interested individuals. Beginning in the Fall of 1988, what became known as the Inclusive Education Network met monthly with some 20 people. Members of the networks devised a comprehensive strategy for facilitating change in districts throughout the state and developed a position statement calling for inclusive education as an integral part of improving schools for all students. The first in the state to articulate an approach to and rationale for inclusive education, the statement was signed by representatives of 40 groups by May of 1989. The statement articulated a serioes of beliefs:
We believe full inclusion means equity and quality education
for all students.
We believe that inclusive education is a value and underlying philosophy by which we should educate all students.
We believe that all schools should include and value all students.
We believe that the purpose of education is preparation for adult life through teaching the skills needed to work, play, and live productively in the community.
We believe that preparation for life in the community best occurs when all students are educated together.
We believe that each student belongs in the classroom with same-age peers, attending the same school he/she would attend if not disabled.
We believe that each student deserves an individualized education which includes all the supports necessary for learning.
We believe that regular and special education teachers, administrators and support staff should work together as a steam, supporting each other to meet the unique needs of all students.
We believe that successful inclusion is dependent on the ongoing shared responsibility of parents, regular educators, special educators, support staff, and students.
We believe that school districts should provide the necessary supports and assistance to fully include all students with disabilities.
External funding for training and technical assistance:
The Michigan Inclusive Education Project
In 1989, the state of Michigan submitted a grant for a "systems change" project for inclusive education. This effort in some ways recognized and responded to the beginning efforts of local schools and the activities of advocates, particularly those associated with the Inclusive Education Network. It was built on a collaborative effort between the university affiliated program, the Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University, the advocacy community, and the state department of education.
This effort was controversial at the time. While a few schools were beginning to implement inclusive education, it was considered far too radical by many. The state had taken no position or leadership in support of inclusive education. The special education director, however, sponsored meetings with key advocacy leaders and convened a group to develop an approach to a federal grant project that could provide support to school districts. Symbolically, a subcommittee drafted the approach for what was to become the Michigan Inclusive Education Project at a seminar on inclusive education in Ontario creating the term "inclusive education" for the state driving back from the training seminar (Peterson, 1989-94. In June of 1989, the U.S. Department of Education notified the state that the inclusive education project was funded but at a much higher amount -- $234,000 per for 5 years rather than the previously announced amount of $90,000 for 3 years. This immediately raised the stakes and the possibilities for impact. Funded as a Michigan Department of Education initiative by the federal government, the project committed the state to a project goal of "inclusive, community-referenced education in Michigan for all children and youth" (Michigan Department of Education, 1989, p. B-2) with the following operational objectives:
Objective 1: establish an advisory council . . . to provide input for statewide systems change and policy development
Objective 2: identify discrepancies between best practices and present status . . . and formulate an on-going data system for tracking inclusive education . . .
Objective 3: develop policies, identify and address barriers, and support inclusive education into adult life for students with severe disabilities in Michigan.
Objective 4: develop model sites of inclusive education . . . in 13 school districts . . .
Objective 5: provide a range of training and technical assistance . . .
Objective 6: develop a statewide education and support network of parent and family groups . . .
Objective 7: develop awareness and training materials . . .
Objective 8: develop an inter-university consortium to facilitate curriculum changes in teacher and educational administrator preparation . . .
As the Michigan Inclusive Education Project began, an "application
for assistance" process was mailed to all superintendents
and special education directors. Schools were invited to participate
in the project as one of five sites to be selected each year.
As part of the application process schools were requested to form
a local planning group, commit to serving a specific number of
students in inclusive education, describe how resources would
be allocated to the effort and linkages made with the district's
school improvement plan, and specify support requested from the
project staff (Michigan Department of Education, 1990; Michigan
Department of Education, 1991a.
During the first two years of the project, assistance to schools focused on providing training and technical assistance around planning and inclusion of specific individual students. A planning packet and series of training workshops were developed around this focus with topics that included: Making Action Plans (MAPS), curriculum matrix, daily schedules, team work and collaboration, and related issues (LeRoy, England, and Osbeck, 1990). By the second year of the project, it was clear that systemic efforts were needed to deal with the shifting of special education resources and the application was revised to reflect this requirement (Michigan Inclusive Education Project, 1991).
Part of the ongoing struggle of the systems change effort lay in balancing the range of needs and focal points. Parent advocacy and the interests of individual teachers centered around planning for individual students. Initially, the model used by most districts was based on parent requests in many districts in which inclusive education would be planned if a parent requested the approach in a building. However, special education teachers in resource rooms or special classrooms in this approach were requested to provide in-class supports to students in addition to dealing with their typical classroom. As the number of students in inclusive education grew in a district so did the necessity of systematically addressing the shift of resources.
The evaluation of the project conducted in 1992 reinforced the need to redirect project resources towards more systemic school-based change moving beyond providing student by student technical assistance. This evaluation included the following points: (1) activities to date place a great deal of emphasis on work with individual students; (2) the project should develop a network of implementation sites in which local expertise may be used to provide peer training and opportunities for visitations by other schools; and (3) "refocus the type of technical assistance activities away from student by student consultation towards larger systems issues. " (Karassof, 1992a, p. 2).
Initially, inclusive education was perceived as a highly controversial approach implemented with only a very few children in two visible school districts in the state. Early on, the Michigan Education Assocation (MEA) was very active in articulating clear concerns about the demands of inclusive education on their members and the need for adequate supports for teachers (Michigan Education Association, 1989a; 1989b; 1990).
By 1992, however, schools throughout Michigan were implementing inclusive education with growing numbers of students. A 1991 survey by the Michigan Association of Directors of Special Education identified a wide range of districts who considered themselves increasing school integration efforts for students with disabilities (Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education, 1991). A report from the Michigan Inclusive Education Project similarly indicates that as of 1991 some 36 school districts were directly involved in the project and were providing inclusive education for 895 students. By 1993 this number had jumped to 67 school districts in 209 specific school buildings involving 3,722 students with disabilities in 23 of Michigan's 82 counties (Michigan Department of Education, 1994a; Baldwin, Peterson, and LeRoy, 1995). The largest number of schools were rural involving towns or small cities; six sites were in metropolitan areas -- 3 suburbs and 3 cities of size. This mix of urban, suburban, town, and rural sites was reflected over the years of the project.
Staff of the Michigan Inclusive Education project increasingly teamed with a growing number of teachers, parents, and administrators throughout Michigan to provide training, technical assistance, opportunities for observation in schools. In the initial years of the project (1989 - 1992) much awareness training was provided. By 1992, however, the emphasis shifted to technical assistance -- both related to individual children and increasingly to systems issues regarding use of special education resources (Michigan Department of Education, 1995). By the end of the short-term training and technical assistance had been provided in all but 15 counties in Michigan.
The Michigan Inclusive Education Project developed a training curriculum by the end of the project, engaged in numerous formative evaluation studies of inclusive education as data was collected at project sites, and provided instruction in courses in universities, most signficantly two summer institutes with Northern Michigan University and Saginaw Valley State University. Additionally, project staff became increasingly involved in providing testimony in the growing number of hearings and court cases dealing with inclusive education. The dedicated resources of the three full-time and additional part-time staff to this effort provided a mechanism of support for schools.
The Michigan Inclusive Education Project ended in 1994. At that time, it represented the only state effort to provide support to school districts in planning for and implementing inclusive education. As the project came to a close a number of alternatives were considered to continue such support. The project Advisory Committee developed recommendations to the Michigan Department of Education that funding be provided to continue training and technical assistance (Michigan Department of Education, 1989-1994). Simultaneously, superintendents of several school districts made direct contact with state officials to express the need for allocation of state funds to continue these efforts through a contract to the technical assistance providers. These schools included several who had applied to be project sites (Peterson, 1989-1994).
The most substantive effort to maintain support to schools in the implementation of inclusive education occurred through the development of a new proposal to the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for a second round of funding for a "systems change" grant. Titled the Michigan Initiative for Inclusive Schooling, this project targeted efforts that were identified as "persistent and continuing" issues and included: the need to focus on access for minority students to inclusive education, particularly in the larger urban areas of Michigan; development of an exemplar and model of closure of a special education school; funding disincentives for inclusive education; and personnel preparation efforts involving universities (Michigan Department of Education, 1994b). This project was not funded and hopes that the plan articulated in this proposal would serve as a strategic plan was further not realized. Subsequently, the coalition built to submit the proposal was dissolved. State technical assistance to local schools ceased and efforts to link and sustain university-based efforts stalled.
By 1995, the two state funding sources involved in the coalition application provided separate funding initiatives related to inclusive education. The MDE provided a total of $100,000 in grants to 10 local districts to assist local schools in innovations related to inclusive education. These grants were used for a variety of purposes to include inservice, technical assistance, development of materials (Michigan Department of Education, 1995). In the same year the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council (1995) issued a request for proposals that would address inclusive education in urban schools. That project was awarded to a coalition of United Cerebral Palsy, the Developmental Disabilities Institute, and the Detroit Public Schools. However, this project ran into difficulties in meeting its objectives, and in January of 1997, the school district withdrew from the project (Stephens, 1997).
Policy, Legal Rights, and Inclusive Education
While schools throughout Michigan were beginning to implement inclusive education, pressures were growing to address multiple related policy issues. From 1989 to 1997, enormous amounts of statewide discussion and dialogue occurred through a series of three separate working committees and task forces. In addition, with the election of a conservative Republican Governor, the movement towards inclusive education policy changes occurred in the context of tremendous changes in educational policy at federal and particularly state levels. Major changes in funding for school districts were passed concurrent with other major funding policy shifts in human services, particularly related to welfare in the state.
In the Fall of 1989, a conference on inclusive education was co-sponsored by the MDE and DDI. Marsha Forrest came to Michigan to challenge some 300 people (Forrest & Flynn, 1989). At this meeting, Associate Superintendent Barbara Markle made a welcome keynote speech for the conference in which she committed the department to support the move towards inclusive education as an integral part of school improvement associated with the recently passed PA 25. As attendees subsequently inquired as to the specifics of this commitment, MDE created a committee to develop a policy statement on inclusive education (Michigan Department of Education,, 1992; Peterson, 1989-94). This occurred in the context of a federal monitoring report in which least restrictive environment concerns were central cited violations (Office of Special Education Programs, 1990).
The inclusive education committee included representatives
of some 20 educational organizations in Michigan. These groups
represented a wide range of opinions regarding this initiative.
The goals of the committee were three-fold: (1) to develop a
definition of inclusive education; (2) to articulate a relationship
between inclusive education and the existing least restrictive
environment policy; and (3) to develop recommendations regarding
implementation of inclusive education (Michigan Department of
Michigan's policy statement on inclusive education was the first in the country. It defined inclusive education as . . .
the provision of educational services for students with disabilities, in schools where non-handicapped peers attend, in age-appropriate general education classes under the direct supervision of general education teachers, with special education support and assistance as determined appropriate through the individualized education planning committee (IEPC). (Michigan Department of Education, February, 1992)
This position paper proved extremely important in giving a basic framework and definition for inclusive education. Initially, inclusive education was seen by many as only for students with moderate to severe disabilities. Thus, inclusive education was seen as not applicable to teachers of students with milder impairments such as learning disabilities, emotional impairment, or speech impairment. However, the definition adopted clearly established inclusive education as an alternative educational approach applicable to all students with disabilities. This framework had already been adopted in the Michigan Inclusive Education Project. This dual effort gradually had an impact as districts involved in the project adopted this multi-categorical approach as part of their participation (Peterson, 1989-1994).
Subsequently, the paper was brought to the Michigan Board of Education to receive and submit for hearings and public input. These hearings proved to be tumultuous with advocates for inclusive education and separate schools provided opposing testimony. Additionally, written comments were submitted by many organizations. Staff analysis of these comments indicated that, of the 100 speakers at 3 hearings and comments by some 219 written statements, 203 persons were in "support of the concept" and 90 persons "against". The written analysis summarized two major themes -- fears associated with loss of services outside special education programs that were balanced against "increased socialization that includes the ability to function around and with age peers" . . . (Michigan Department of Education, January, 1991, p. 4).
Based on the charge in the policy statement on inclusive education based by the Michigan Board of Education, staff of the Department invited leaders involved with inclusive education in Michigan to develop a set of recommendations for implementation of inclusive education. This group deliberated several months producing a document that addressed several areas and included 82 highly specific recommendations (Michigan Department of Education, 1992; Michigan Department of Education, 1993). The working group called for: improved and ongoing research that would build on tendencies to support inclusive education; a move towards functional, rather than categorical eligibility for special education; supports available to students driven by need rather than category that "includes full-time general education with support" (Michigan Department of Education, 1993, p. 17); elimination of separate special education schools as part of the continuum of services in Michigan; redesign of funding systems for special education to eliminate existing disincentives for inclusive education; and improvements in teacher preparation that would include required knowledge related to inclusive education (Michigan Department of Education, 1993).
The Michigan Department of Education provided opportunities
for input from the field regarding this report and subsequently
staff conducted an analysis and submitted reports to the department
regarding these recommendations (Michigan Department of Education,
Much of the work of the inclusive education recommendations committee shortly was subsumed in a Task Force charged with the revision of the special education rules.
In Michigan, special education is governed by state law and state rules, paralleling federal legislation and regulations. Many of the recommendations developed by the Task Force that have been supported by staff have substantial potential to support effective implementation of inclusive education in Michigan. The document is predicated on the development of a unified educational system in which eligibility for special education is based more on need rather than disability category and in which funding would shift from an "added-cost" system in which incentives are provided to maintain students in separate schools and classrooms to a "flat-rate" model based on K-12 population and indices of socio-economic need. Further recommendations address specific requirements for both general and special education teachers with the latter being prepared for three critical roles: (1) basic instruction, typically in separate special education classrooms, (2) instructional support particularly to general education teachers; and (3) teacher consultant. (Michigan Department of Education, 1996a).
In this context, Dr. Rich Baldwin, appointed Director of the Office of Special Education in 1990, provided a framework of direction for special education in Michigan that has had an important impact on inclusive education. Early in his administration, he sought to focus activity around 8 central themes or goals which included two directly related to inclusive education: continuum of educational options and working with general education (Baldwin, R., 1991). In an update in 1993, he reported on collaboborative "restructuring" efforts between general and special educators throughout Michigan in which "'all children' means ALL". He further went on to state that "Michigan . . . will continue to increase options for children in inclusive settings .. . The option must be available to all of our children . . ." (Baldwin, R., 1993, p. 9-11). In 1995, commenting on the theme of working with general education, Baldwin stated that "co-teaching and team teaching that is happening thoughout our state is very exciting and is a prelude the unified school system which is our future" (Baldwin, R., 1996, p. 3). However, he and staff have not pushed for inclusive education as a priority but facilitated discussion and input of multiple groups involved taking care to build on the tradition of the state in viewing inclusive education as an option on the continuum of services.
As parents have obtained increasing amounts of information
regarding inclusive education, the number of hearings and court
related to inclusive education has grown. During 1989 - 1994,
more than 25 hearings were held related to inclusive education
requests to school districts by parents of which several proceeded
into federal court (Baldwin, Peterson, and LeRoy, 1995).
Several efforts have occurred during this same period to provide support to schools related to inclusive education. Several law firms and their partners have provided detailed descriptions and training for special education administrators regarding methods of assuring compliance with the law and adequate legal backup during parent requests for inclusive education (Beekman, L., Flaggert, J., LaPointe, S., & Zimmer, P. , 1992; Birch and Beekman, 1990). The Inclusive Education Network developed a Legal Defense Fund to support key hearings and court action related to inclusive education. The Network also conducted a study of the state hearing process in which they discovered that parents requesting inclusive education prevailed in less than 10% of the time during the period from 1987-1995. The Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services used this information in requesting rule changes pending before the Michigan Board of Education (Baldwin, Peterson, and LeRoy, 1995).
Learnings and Reflections
On the one hand, inclusive education as an educational option is firmly established at the present time in Michigan. On the other hand, as a model of service delivery for substantial numbers of special education students, it must be considered in its infancy. Many issues remain for the future. With the pending acceptance of special education rules, policies and funding mechanisms will be in place that allow and even encourage effective inclusive education. The effect of these cumulative effects is yet to be seen.
Status of the implementation of inclusive education.
Data were collected by the Michigan Inclusive Education Project, particularly related to the sites with whom they were working, indicates a substantial growth in these districts in the number of students for which inclusive education is being provided. Numerous additional formal and informal reports have been written regarding local inclusive education efforts (Hakola, 1992; Hotchkiss, 1989; Kelley, 1995; LeRoy, 1990b; LeRoy & MacDonald, 1992; Michigan Department of Education, 1994; Patriarcha, 1996; OSE Awards, 1995; Peterson, 1997; Sasso, 1996; SCADS, 1990a ; SCADS, 1990b ; SCADS, 1991; Streeter, 1995; Washtenaw Intermediate School District, 1990).
Student placement data by disability provides some indicator of effect. However, such data provides no information regarding the types of supports being provided. Comparative placement data for the years 1986-87 and 1994-95 school years are shown in Table 2. This data indicates a substantial change in placement patterns for students with more severe disabilities However, there has overall been little shift in such patterns for students with milder disabilities. A major shift did occur during this time in the number of students identified as learning disabled and emotionally impaired with an increase in the former by 15,099 and a decrease in the latter by 5,488. Table 2 further illustrates a very surprising shift in the placement of students with sensory disabilities for whom placement in separate special education classroom programs has grown substantially over the ten year period with concurrent reductions in placement in separate schools and regular classrooms.
Considered another way, the shift of students with disabilities from placement in special education schools to general education schools froom 14,956 in 1986-87 to 1,191 in 1994-95 may be the most important indicator. It is interesting in that there is no known report of such a school actually closing. Moderate increases overall are evident in both separate special education classes in regular education school buildings (from 32,413 to 40,306) and involvement in regular education at least 50% of the time (from 68,379 to 81,129).
Funding of inclusive education in the context of overall special education funding is an important issue. It has become more so given a major law suit on the part of "out-of-formula" districts throughout the state in which the state owes an estimated 4 billion dollars to local schools of which much is related to special education services. Only one study of funding and inclusive education is known in Michigan. Conducted in Rochester Schools in Oakland County, this study indicated that despite the fact that inclusive education was less expensive than separate schooling; existing funding mechanisms nevertheless made the option more expensive for the local school district (Simpson, 1992). To date, local counties have been given much latitude in the distribution of funds. Some have developed mechanisms to return resources to local schools to follow students. Others, such as Oakland County, one of the most populous counties in the state, are on the verge of utilizing such funding mechanisms.
Exploratory research data were collected in sites associated with the Michigan Inclusive Education Project using a variety of instruments: placement data and surveys of students, parents, and teachers regarding their perceptions of inclusive education. A summary report of the data analysis indicated the following results:
o teacher attitudes, confidence, and skills improved with experience
in implementing inclusive education;
o all parties perceived benefits for both students with and without disabilities;
o students with disabilities improved their social and affective abilities while results related to behaviors were mixed;
o high degrees of social interaction in elementary schools; low degrees of social interaction in secondary schools;
ostudents without disabilities were not negatively impacted by inclusion (Baldwin, Peterson, and LeRoy, 1995).
Challenges for the future.
While Michigan has made strides towards the implementation of inclusive education, much more is needed. Access continues to be a major issue in the state. In the Michigan Inclusive Education Project, a very small percentage of students directly served were members of minority groups.This is particularly true in Detroit and other cities in the state with high concentrations of persons of color. Moreover, in numerous suburbs and communities access to inclusive education as a meaningful option varies substantially from district to district. Some school districts in the vanguard of implementation of inclusive education have reported numerous families moving to their school districts for the express purpose of accessing inclusive education.
Substantial issues for inclusive schooling exist at both ends of the age spectrum. Michigan's early emphasis in providing services to young children in "pre-primary impaired" classes has created a very strong, separate system of early childhood education. Informal reports from knowledgeable individuals around the state indicate that this pattern is maintained.
For older students with disabilities, approaches to "transition"
also have major barriers to inclusive approaches. The Michigan
Inclusive Education Project reported early data that indicated
reduced levels of social interaction and friendships between students
with and without disabilities at the secondary level (Michigan
Department of Education, 1995; Peterson, 1991). The complexity
of high schools and vocational-technical programs has nationally
created greater challenges for inclusive education and Michigan
appears to follow this pattern. Additionally, the adult service
system in Michigan continues to largely operate separate programs
for individuals with disabilities. Despite state policy and practice
initiatives in supported employment and community inclusion, sheltered
workshops, group homes, and other separate community services
continue to be the predominant options available to persons with
moderate to severe disabilities.
The lessons learned.
For those interested in helping schools and communities move towards inclusive schools and communities, the story in Michigan provides food for thought about the question: how does change occur? Relatedly: how can we best harness our energies to facilitate change? In looking at the story of inclusive education in Michigan as it has unfolded to date, we can draw the following tentative conclusions about the process of change in this state.
Trust and relationship building. Movement towards change incorporates many ingredients -- vision, collaboration, policy, training, technical assistance. Key to moving towards change are the working interpersonal relationships of those involved in the process. The Michigan Inclusive Education Project, in part, became a reality because trust was established among selected representatives of local schools, the advocacy community, university, and state.
Advocacy networks with a focussed agenda. It is also clear that a small number of advocacy leaders were influential in shaping an agenda that impacted on the beginning of inclusive education in the state. This was particularly true in Washtenaw County but was true in numerous other counties throughout the state as well. The Inclusive Education Network helped to articulate an agenda for change and gain support of the state department for submission for federal funding.
Recognizing local risk takers and innovators. What is also clear is that a meaningful number of general and special educators early on developed a vision to which they were committed in seeing inclusive education implemented in their schools. Throughout the state individuals took reasonable organizational risks in moving ahead based on a set of principles, beliefs, and values regarding inclusive education as a needed approach to special education services. They did this in a context in which inclusive education was seen as highly controversial provoking substantial fear in meaningful numbers of people throughout the state. Key, it appears, has been the leadership role played by key administrators in various districts, particularly school superintendents, special education directors, and teachers.
Training and technical assistance by critical friends. Outside training and technical assistance to schools has played a large role. This is consistent with emerging findings that a "friendly critic" working with a school district is improtant. Early on the Centre for Integrated Education and schools in Ontario fulfilled this role along with numerous consultants from other states. Subsequently, staff of the Michigan Inclusive Education Project provided substantial training and technical assistance statewide.
Critical role of local and state administrative support. Experience in Michigan confirms what others have learned -- administrative support at local and state levels is critical. Early on the movement towards inclusive education was spurred and strengthened by some very articulate and visible superintendents of schools, local principals, and directors of special education who saw inclusive education as part of school improvement efforts. Similarly, key consultants in general education at the Michigan Department of Education carried the same message throughout the state.
The siren of the state, meetings, and policy change. However, where the state has fallen short has centered in the role of special education in the state department. The role of the state department in Michigan has been that of a facilitator of public and professional opinion and arbiter of various groups. Policy statements have been more a function of the deliberation of various groups with influence by the state for a particular direction being unclear. While the state department provided a mechanism for policy position statements, leadership in the department has not been committed to moving policy and practice towards inclusive education. Unlike other states, the state department has not provided ongoing funding to support training and technical assistance efforts to local schools. This role has functionally supported those in the state who have sought to resist implementation of inclusive education.
Despite this fact, however, new rules for special education have been adopted that provide new opportunities and expectations for school districts to provide options for inclusive education. These rules go into effect simultaneously with the passage of the amendments of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by the U.S. Congress. These amendments have strengthened the focus on inclusive education from a federal level. As this article is written in the Fall of 1997, there is evidence that school districts understand the need to at least provide opportunities for inclusive education. In Detroit, Michigan, for example, staff of separate schools are being told for the first time that eventually their schools will be closed and students be included in typical schools.
Building an ongoing investment. Michigan has much history that has worked to the advantage of supporting inclusive education. However, other history and traditions have worked against it. In disability circles, Michigan has mandated change from the state but provided no ongoing capacity to provide local training and technical assistance. Such capacity for inclusive education in Michigan has disappeared. While efforts were made to institutionalize arrangements between the state and a consortium of universities, the advocacy community was not supportive of such efforts; last minute attempts were made by several school districts to request such assistance by the state department. However, these requests were disallowed.
The lesson here for others is that capacity to support change on an ongoing basis is a critical element in building over time. Such capacity must be provided resources out of existing line item budgets rather than relying on discretionary federal grants or the isolated inservice grants available through local school districts. Other states such as Colorado, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, have developed programs to provide ongoing assistance to schools. The impact in such states appears much more extensive than Michigan due, in part, to such programs.
Restructuring teacher training. If inclusive education is to become part of the ongoing structure of the service delivery of public schools, training of teachers and administrators must be addressed. This is an ongoing problem in Michigan, reflective it would seem, of dynamics throughout the country in universities. Most personnel involved in providing training and technical assistance to schools via state of federal projects do not have faculty positions but are funded, as was the Michigan Inclusive Education Project, through centers and institutes. Given the typical separation of such organizations from the central life of the university, this insures that there will be little interaction between teacher education and such efforts. In Michigan, no major university has restructured its programs to focus the training of teachers using inclusive education as the prime model. Special education faculty in universities have, by and large, appeared uninterested to actively hostile. The consequence is that teachers continue to leave Michigan universities with mental models of students with disabilities largely in separate special education classes and pull-out programs being the only model of obtaining additional assistance for a student. The advocacy community in Michigan, uncomfortable with and sometimes hostile to universities, has not made efforts to build such relationships; neither has this occurred in meaningful ways with either school systems or the state.
Keeping the faith and clarifying the vision. Not unrelated, the public energy, debate, conferences -- all have quieted as of 1997. Michigan appears to be in a "dip" in the change process. In a recent conversation with an educator in one of the pioneering school districts, he stated that "no one in our county really talks about inclusive education these days."
It's not about inclusion, it's about good schools and caring communities. In Michigan, the movement towards inclusive education gained much of its initial momentum from educational leaders at various levels who recognized and championed the connection with overall school reform. The alliance between advocacy and these leaders was important. Ultimately, inclusive education has seemed to "fall back" into conceptualization as a special education entity. Continued movement towards truly inclusive schools requires a vision for diversity, justice, and caring communities beyond a framework of disability.
Inclusive education in Michigan is a complex phenomenon. On the one hand, movement towards inclusion of students with disabilities as made great strides in this state. On the other hand, its momentum has slowed and the focal points have narrowed. The future of this movement in Michigan would appear tied to the capacity of educators, the public, and advocates to see a vision that includes disability but looks beyond to issues of justice, inclusion, support, and effective schooling for diverse children of all sorts.