Adolescents and Inclusion: Transforming Secondary Schools. Ann M. Bauer and Glenda Myree Brown. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 2001.
This book is the result of a 2-year action research project conducted by the authors with teachers, administrators, and students from an inclusive urban high school. They focused on describing how inclusion works and what teachers and students have to say about their school. Through the story of Purcell Marion High School, Bauer and Brown offer insight into both the processes and the practices that are fundamental to creating a high school for all learners—including students with significant disabilities.
This work is a valuable addition to the literature on secondary school inclusion. Traditional high school structures tend to present many challenges for including students with disabilities, and there are only a few resources available on this topic. Bauer and Brown's book will be helpful and relevant to secondary school principals and others (e.g., other administrators, teachers, consultants) who are exploring and implementing school-based change.
It is important to note that the Purcell Marion High School is not a public school, but a private, Christian high school. As I began reading, my initial reaction to this information was one of disappointment. I assumed that this feature would render any lessons irrelevant for public schools, due to (presumed) differences in private and public schools. However, this is not the case for several reasons. First, although Purcell Marion is a private high school, the authors report that they serve a diverse urban student population in terms of race, language, social class, and ability. This feature makes them more like many public schools than their private school counterparts. Second, they are committed to and actively engaged in recruiting and maintaining a diverse student body. This is quite unlike my assumption (and experience) with many private schools, which offer students and families an “alternative” to their heterogeneous public schools and restrict access in various ways (e.g., tuition, entrance exams, location). Although some differences between Purcell Marion and public high schools may exist, many of the issues presented in this book are relevant for any high school.
The chapters are organized into three major sections: (a) What does an inclusive high school look like? (b) How does an inclusive high school work? (c) Getting the most out of your inclusive high school.
In the first section, chapters 1 through 4, the authors discussions reflect many of the strengths of this work. Through these chapters, they help readers to understand the complexities of this type of school-based change and highlight the commitment to a long process for planning and implementing change, and the roles and activities of various participants along the way. Examples from Purcell Marion's development emphasize the critical role of the principal as leader and change agent. Features of the process are offered within a helpful and thorough discussion of the current literature on educational change. Some of the important topics include creating a collaborative school culture and supporting a collegial climate and shared leadership. Key points from the literature are illuminated by examples from this school's practices and experiences. These beginning chapters capture the complex, serious business of school-based change for inclusion. Rather than a “here's how to do it” approach, the authors discuss many dimensions that influence successful change and offer considerations that can guide planning in other schools. Features of change include discussion of both staff ownership/commitment, and problem-solving to address needed structural changes. It is clear that this change is an ongoing process, grounded in careful planning by various participants.
One limitation of this section is that some examples that could have been more helpful are referenced vaguely. For instance, after reading Chapter 3, “Managing the Changes of Becoming Inclusive,” I was very pleased that the authors note how traditional structures may be “barriers to innovations such as inclusion.” Changes at Purcell Marion, such as block scheduling and new times for extra curricular activities, are mentioned, but not explained. Examples of old and new class schedules and new extra curricular offerings and schedules would help others envision some of the “nuts and bolts” of a new kind of high school.
The final chapter in this first section, “Who Are the Students in an Inclusive High School?” provides helpful background on many of the characteristics of learners. Discussion begins with what adolescents are likely to have in common during this phase of human development. Rather than focusing only on ability/disability, the authors include commentary related to other factors, including those who are at-risk (but not necessarily poor), and those from various ethnic backgrounds or who speak languages other than English.
The second section of the book includes chapters related to implementation issues—community, designing instruction, prosocial behavior and classroom management, adaptations, assessment, and IEPs. These chapters will be particularly helpful to teaching teams as they work with diverse groups of students. The strength of these chapters is that the topics highlight the fundamental components of inclusive education. Chapter 5, “Community in an Inclusive High School,” provides helpful discussion about the types and features of community. Ideas and examples of how schools can foster the development of a sense of community would have made this a stronger chapter. Schools and teams would benefit from more discussion of ongoing strategies to foster a sense of community.
Each of the other chapters (6 through10) provide a solid overview of current practices in each specific area, from designing instruction for diverse groups and classroom management to individual, student-centered planning for proactive behavior supports, adaptations, or assessment. In these chapters the authors draw examples from the literature on best practices in general education (e.g., cooperative learning) and special education (e.g., proactive behavior). The practices in these chapters are clearly described.
After the first section of this book, I did feel a bit disappointed in the section on “How Does An Inclusive High School Work?” There is important information presented, but there are only a few examples drawn from the experience of teachers at the school. Although early chapters highlight change to now include students with significant disabilities, the few school examples in these chapters do not illustrate strategies specific to their participation. There is a shift in the writing of these chapters. The authors seem to depart from action research discussion and instead summarize the literature on school and classroom practices for inclusive education. The tone of these chapters becomes more like a textbook. It is unfortunate that there are no well-developed examples from Purcell Marion students and teachers on these practices (e.g., a case description of a student who has a proactive behavior support plan; example adaptations for academic activities for real students with mild and significant cognitive disabilities). Presenting more examples—especially for students with more specific support needs—would serve to bring these topics to life for high school teams. Still, these chapters do offer a wealth of current and valuable information for teaching teams in high school settings.
The final section of the book, “Getting the Most Out of Your Inclusive High School,” includes chapters on topics related to broader issues. In chapter 11, “Joining Up,” a veteran teacher offers advice for beginning teachers on their place among colleagues as well as working with students. There are helpful hints here that support the professional development of new team members. Chapter 12, “Everybody Can Play,” promotes the participation of all students in extracurricular activities. This is an important issue. For many high school students, their extracurricular participation is central to their relationships and their place in the peer network of the school. Often these activities are competitive, limiting participation of students with certain characteristics, excluding those with disabilities. In chapter 13, “Experiences of Successful African American Students,” the authors review important considerations for teachers—most of whom are Caucasian. Chapter 14, “Where Do Students Go After High School,” is focused on postschool opportunities and transition planning for students with disabilities. Although the chapters in this section are less connected than those in previous sections, each touches on important considerations for inclusive secondary schools.
Bauer and Brown's book contributes to our current understanding of creating inclusive secondary schools. There are helpful considerations for those engaged in creating opportunities for all learners at the team or building level.