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Inclusion in Jamaica

Using Professional Learning Communities and Professional Development to foster successful inclusion in one Primary School
by Tyherrona Gosse on 5 May 2013

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Transcript of Inclusion in Jamaica

Educational History Equality of Opportunity Using Professional Learning Communities
and Professional Development to foster successful inclusion in one Primary School Inclusion in Jamaica Problem and the Need Slavery Colonialism Independence Education during slavery was reserved for plantation owners and their children; most of whom received formal education in England. Special Education in Jamaica Access to equal opportunity of education during colonial times was based on one's color, race, ethnicity, class and gender. Up to 1953 only 75% of school aged children were enrolled in school.
Among other issues were the differences in available resources to many students. The Jamaican student population residing outside the metropolis of Kingston, lacked much needed educational resources and many children did not attend school. Access to education, was even more limited to Jamaicans living with a disability. Jamaica's independence from England in 1962, ushered in a thrust for improvements in school enrollment and achievement of universal primary education.
The focus was on enrolling all primary aged students into schools.
Special Education would receive attention much later only after parents and private institutions had established private special education facilities. Special Education in Jamaica was started by private initiatives such as churches and social associations.
When the government realized that there were insufficient service providers to meet the needs of the population they intervened and undertook complete budgetary responsibility of these institutions.
The government also supported the special education needs of the country by subsidizing teacher training and implementing teacher training programs at two local teachers' colleges.
The government's efforts were met with resistance from the government bureaucracy and parents who thought it was a waste of financial resources to spend on these children. Additionally, there was the underlying fear of including them among regular students by parents who thought that the quality of their children's education would be lowered. Human rights organizations and parents of children with disabilities fought those in opposition and succeeded.
Public education worked to further lower parental resistance.
Much work has been done to attend to the educational needs of school aged children with disabilities but many are still taught in semi- segregated and segregated settings.
Although there has been a growth in the population of students with special needs, there has not been an increase in the placement options for this student population. Professional Development Profession Learning Communities Students in the Jamaican classroom with disabilities are not being fully catered to due to insufficient service providers.

By default, many students with disabilities are served within the general education classroom. Teachers need support to provide for these students' learning needs in the best ways possible.

Professional Learning Communities and Professional Development are integral, cost-effective measures that can be used to stem the problems associated with the current practice of not adequately addressing this student population. A professional learning community (PLC) can be described as a collaborative effort by a group of teachers towards:
Ensuring that students learn
Establishing and maintaining a culture of collaboration and
Focusing on student results (Dufour, 2004).
In a PLC, a group of teachers meet at set times to collaborate on issues that affect teaching and learning in a bid to create positive change. How Would PLCs and PDs work to foster inclusion? When teachers work together collaboratively, they receive support that they would not otherwise receive. Teachers in the same situation may find solace in knowing that someone else shares their problem.

As a result, teachers can address common problems and focus on the best practices they have found to be successful.
Additionally, Smith and Leonard (2005), explained that "professional collaboration and facilitative principal leadership are integral in creating successful inclusion programs" (p. 269).

Their research further revealed that key to successful inclusion was "teamwork, mutual goals, teacher empowerment and principal as facilitator emerging as highly significant to successful inclusion" (Smith & Leonare, 2005, p. 269) Professional development (PD) refers to the in-service training that teachers receive. Quite often, teachers find the sessions time consuming and unnecessary.

In this context, PD is being paired with PLCs because the feedback that is garnered in the PLCs will be the basis of PD training. PD sessions will act to connect the information shared and learned in PLCs to the wider school community. Data and Findings from Research about the Problem Teachers often believe that inclusion is great on paper but impractical in practice (Dufour, 2004).

In the day to day operation of a regular education classroom, exceptional students require teachers to expend more effort and time than regular students which, many teachers fear will reduce the quality of instruction provided to all students ( Winzer & Mazurek, 2011).

In developing countries such as Jamaica there are often few support personnel available to provide the services included students may require. Most schools in Jamaica do not have a special education teacher on staff. In the United Arab Emirates (Anati & Ain, 2012), inclusion is being seen as ineffective because there have not been enough available support personnel to meet the needs of the students.

Many teachers and researchers believe that inclusion will result in substandard instruction as the teacher has to spend most of the instructional time focused on students for which another placement option would be beneficial (Winzer & Mazurek, 2011). (Miller, 1999) In their research, Anati & Ain (2012), discovered that the recurrent theme among regular education teachers was the need for professional development for the successful implementation of inclusion.

Most regular education teachers are unfamiliar with the techniques to ensure that included students are successful. By using PLCs and PD sessions, the negative impact would be significantly reduced.

One education official explained that although Jamaica supports inclusive education, inclusion as a policy would not be economically viable. This is as a result of a limited number of support personnel such as Speech Language Pathologists, Educational Psychologists and even Special Educators.

The most significant point made by the official, was the change in teachers' mindset about inclusion. Teachers seem to be the greatest obstacle, because they do no want exceptional students in their classes. But, pull-out programs are known to increase discrimination against exceptional students (Anati & Ain, 2012).

Using PLCs can help teachers to understand that there is value embedded with inclusion. PD sessions would equip teachers with the strategies that they would use with students. Viable Solution & Recommendation Inclusion of students is already being practiced because most of the students with special needs in the school do not have access to special education services.

It therefore means that students needs are not being adequately met. By involving teachers in the process of using PLCs and PD, they will be more enlightened on the many ways they can successfully cater to these students.

Addressing these students' needs in a deliberate and collaborative manner will yield positive results immediately, because teachers will no longer feel helpless. In the medium and long term, students achievement rates will likely see positive gains. Furthermore, the research supports the point of view that "professional collaboration is key to successful inclusion" (Smith & Leonard, 2005). Solution Recommendation As Smith and Leonard (2005), mentioned, "teachers need professional development in order to successfully implement inclusion".

Therefore, in this context, teachers would be engaged in PD sessions where they are taught one to two strategies at a time. In this way, they can apply these strategies slowly to different aspects of their lessons, master the technique and then receive additional training.
An example of this would be differentiating one aspect of the lesson, perfecting that, then moving on to another segment of the lesson.

Another recommendation is to begin to create a new school culture of collaboration and support by using PLCs. This would require the involvement of the school administration in helping to lead the way for PLCs by allocating time for teachers to meet. As PLCs become a normal part of the school, hopefully, teachers will begin to change their negative mindset about exceptional learners. Rationale If PLCs and PD become a natural part of the school culture as inclusion is practiced, more teachers will begin to use best practices that will benefit all students.

We already practice forced inclusion, why not streamline it by using PLCs and PD so that teachers can better cater to all of their learners? Ethical Framework With a systematic approach to inclusion by using PLCs and PD, there would be a gradual reduction in the continuous marginalization of exceptional learners. No longer will they exist on the fringe of classrooms, but will be involved in the best ways possible as they learn.

Inclusion through PLCs will forge a better understanding of all students, including those with behavioral problems.

There is often little that is done to address the needs of these students because of their behavior. It is noteworthy that "If these students fail to receive the support they need, they will become delinquent juveniles" (Mathur, 2007).

Teachers who have to work with these learners need additional support, which can come from being in a PLC.
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