Using the Inclusive Classroom Profile to make quality inclusion a priority
How Georgia promotes quality special education inclusion in early childhood programs
In Georgia, young children and their families have a powerful ally in Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL). As part of its mission to meet the child care and early education needs of Georgia’s children and families, DECAL administers Georgia’s nationally recognized pre-K program and licenses child care centers and home-based child care. DECAL also administers Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, maintains federal nutrition programs, and manages Quality Rated, Georgia’s community-powered child care rating system.
The Inclusion Endorsement
In 2015, DECAL increased its focus on early childhood inclusion by launching a highly competitive pilot program on the importance of quality inclusive practices. Known as the Inclusion Endorsement, this program is part of Quality Rated, Georgia’s systemic approach to assessing, improving, and communicating the level of quality in early and school-age care and education programs.
To be eligible for the Inclusion Endorsement, programs must have at least one child with a disability between the ages of 30–60 months, and at least 51% of the children in each class must be general education students. The Inclusion Endorsement’s goal is to identify child care and education programs that have participated in technical assistance and received a minimum overall program score of 5 or higher on the Inclusive Classroom Profile (ICP™).
Congratulations to the Hudgens Center at Gwinnett Technical College, the first recipient of Georgia’s Quality Rated Inclusion Endorsement for its demonstrated ability to provide a high quality inclusive environment to all children in their community
ICP ratings indicate the extent to which program staff intentionally adapt the classroom’s environment, activities, and instructional support to encourage children’s active participation.
At the heart of the Inclusion Endorsement is the ICP, an observation rating scale designed to assess the quality of daily classroom practices that support the developmental needs of children with disabilities in early childhood settings. ICP ratings (on a 7-point scale) indicate the extent to which program staff intentionally adapt the classroom’s environment, activities, and instructional support to encourage children’s active participation. The ICP can be used as a research instrument to assess the quality of classroom practices in inclusive settings, as a program evaluation tool to assess the quality of inclusive practices across early childhood programs, and as a quality improvement tool to guide professional development.
ICP and the Inclusion Endorsement
Once selected, the programs in the Inclusion Endorsement pilot receive a baseline assessment with the ICP. The overall program score is computed as an average of all the classrooms assessed.
If a program receives an average score of 5 or higher on the ICP, they will receive the Inclusion Endorsement. If a program scores below a 5 on the ICP, that program will work with an inclusion specialist to create an action plan that leverages areas of strength to increase skills in areas where additional support is needed. The inclusion specialist provides intensive training and technical assistance to improve the program’s inclusive practices. At the end of this period, the program is reassessed and the ICP is completed again in a percentage of all eligible classrooms. If the program scores a 5 or higher this time, they receive the Inclusion Endorsement; if they don’t, they are eligible for an additional 3 months of technical assistance and a final assessment.
ICP looks at:
- adaptations of space, materials, and equipment
- adult involvement in peer interactions
- adults’ guidance of children’s free-choice activities and play
- conflict resolution
- relationships between adults and children
- support for communication
- adaptations of group activities
- transitions between activities
- family–professional partnerships
- monitoring children’s learning
For the pilot, 60 programs out of 294 eligible applied and 10 were selected. Currently, three early childhood programs have received the Inclusion Endorsement, with the first program receiving their endorsement in December 2015. Three more programs are still completing the process, and by October, another two programs will be up for reassessment.
We are so honored to be the first program to have earned the Quality Rated Inclusion Endorsement. It is a wonderful testament to the work our teachers and staff do each day to meet the needs of ALL children. It is also a powerful example for our students here at Gwinnet Tech about the importance of providing inclusive care and learning environments for children from birth to five. —Rebecca Olson, director of the Hudgens Center
Programs that receive the Inclusion Endorsement are rewarded and recognized for providing high quality inclusive classrooms. And for families in search of inclusive environments that will nurture the learning and development of their children, the Inclusion Endorsement will help point the way to the best programs in their area.
So what’s next for the Inclusion Endorsement? As this is a pilot program, DECAL plans to closely review the factors that influence the ICP scores. These factors include the importance of the technical assistance, the effect of staff-child ratios and class size, and the impact of the quality star rating. After more consultants are trained and reliability is reviewed, DECAL will focus on scaling the Inclusion Endorsement in other parts of the state, so more programs and families will benefit.
Families looking for child care can search for Quality-Rated child care programs on the DECAL website.
Originally published: August 2016