Last month, I offered a list of questions for schools to consider related to the inclusive vision of belonging. You can find those questions here. These questions were meant to serve as points to ponder for schools as they either begin the conversation about an inclusive vision of belonging or as they review their current special education program.
Many schools will attest to the challenges that face them, as they look to doing better with the growing diversity of students in their classrooms. Becoming a school where students of all abilities thrive is not without its growing pains. Let us acknowledge creating a school culture that reflects the diversity of learners and the emphasis of being over doing is a process that is always being refined; it is never completed.
With that in mind, and with reference to the words in I Corinthians 12, how does a school create the sense of interdependence, of connectedness, among families, staff, and administration, particularly as it relates to students of all abilities? How do we measure our steps?
As a resource, I offer to you the Christ-Centered Educational Services Standard, created by the CLC Network (based in Grand Rapids, MI). Founded in 1979, the CLC Network strives to support families, schools, and churches with the inclusive vision of belonging. The standard was created in 2016 by a team of experts connected with Christian education and reflects years of experience and insight from Christian schools across the United States.
Here in Canada, this standard can also serve as a valuable tool for Christian schools wherever they find themselves on the journey towards inclusion and belonging. A unique feature of this document is its accessibility; it can be used by a school just beginning the conversation about inclusion and disability or by a school already working intentionally with all kinds of learners. Though designed to supplement a school in their accreditation process, this document can be used anytime as a self-audit. It is free to download, and the CLC Network website includes a tutorial video as well.
The Christ-Centred Educational Services Standard offers this definition as its starting point: “A Christ-centered school which fully includes children and young people of all abilities creates a culture that equips each pupil to actively contribute in the life of the school community.” Consider how that definition measures to your own school’s mission statement or vision.
Indicators of The Christ-Centred Educational Services Standard are divided into Community, Collaboration and Culture. Each category includes at least four additional sub-topics, and the entire document reads as a rubric that allows for self-assessment of the present - with room to grow moving forward. The process is also designed to include as many members of the community in this self-assessment: “We encourage schools to engage the whole school in a self-assessment process using this standard, rather than placing sole responsibility on the educational services staff. Because educational services influence so many areas of a school, it is important to get a holistic view of your school’s level of achievement.”
Emphasizing community, collaboration and culture, The Christ-Centred Educational Services Standard supports both the big picture and the small details of illustrating belonging and acceptance. Embracing the inclusive vision of belonging as a school means moving deliberately and often slowly forward, with purposive steps.
I welcome further conversation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo credit: Elma Regnerus