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Our DPS Weekly: The Power of Inclusion

Feb. 14, 2020
Superintendent Susana Cordova met with students and members of the team at Willow Elementary in Near Northeast Denver

Pictured above: Supt. Susana Cordova met with students and members of the team at Willow Elementary in Near Northeast Denver.

A great education starts with expectations and beliefs. Blake and his community at Green Valley have built a culture of believing in and setting high expectations for all of their students. That comes through so clearly in this powerful story that Chalkbeat’s Melanie Asmar recently wrote on how our Green Valley and Willow elementary schools are leading the way in our citywide effort to create stronger, more equitable, and more inclusive programs for our students with disabilities.
Right now, about 65% of our students with disabilities spend more than 80% of the school day in a general education classroom. And we have a detailed plan, with clear action steps, designed to increase those numbers. These are the goals of our inclusion initiative:

  • All schools will have a comprehensive program review that looks at Inclusive Practices and develops action plans to address concerns/needs.
  • All students with mild to moderate needs will be served in their schools of choice.
  • All instructional staff are trained on scientifically-based inclusive practices.
  • Every school will participate in a comprehensive special education program review to drive continuous improvement for special education.
  • Students with disabilities will benefit from a full continuum of services that starts with a data-driven placement that meets their academic and social-emotional needs.

More broadly, the goal is to learn from schools like Green Valley and Willow … and leaders like Blake and Willow Principal Amy Gile, a former special education teacher who has led Willow as a fully inclusive school since it opened in 2014.

Both Blake and Amy believe that we owe all of our kids a high-quality experience in school. At both Willow and Green Valley, teachers work to support the unique learning needs of individual kids and get training on how to adjust and make the changes that help all kids be included.

Schools are, of course, ultimately about learning and getting children ready for their future. A culture of belonging, believing, and including does so much to make sure the door to learning — and a great future — is open wide … for all of our students.

Warm regards,