At Equality, we pride ourselves on being a fully inclusive environment and we tout this fact quite often from the tops of our lungs.
But just as much as we talk about it, people ask us what we mean by the term "inclusive environment." The simplest answer is that we educate all scholars together, in one setting, without separating them based on labels they have been assigned. Most often, students are given the labels of GenEd for General Education scholars and SpEd for Special Education scholars. The very fact that labeling kids is a regular practice in most schools is what separates kids, not includes them in one common environment. We believe that, as a public school, it is our responsibility to educate all scholars who come to our school and to adapt our model, ourselves, and our teaching to meet their needs (not the other way around).
At Equality, we give all scholars "equal access to high quality education," which is actually where we got our name Equality Charter School. They are in classes all together, which gives the responsibility to the teacher(s) to meet all scholars needs in that one setting regardless of any labels. We look at each scholar individually to figure out how we can meet their needs. While "educating all scholars together, in one setting" may be the simplest of answers, it does not really even begin to address what it means.
The other day I read an article, WHEN WE SAY, “WE DO INCLUSION,” WHAT DO WE MEAN? by Megan Davis-Hitchens. This past summer, Ms. Davis-Hitchens came to Equality to train our staff on inclusive practices and we will continue to work with her throughout the course of the year.
In her first paragraph she states, "it becomes clear that behind their inclusive systems are highly passionate and committed educators - educators who believe, whole-heartedly, that all students can be successful and truly belong in their school community. They continuously adapt, modify, shift, and learn, in order to ensure that all students are included." And that is where all the work occurs. It is not simply in scheduling the scholars together in one setting, it is the challenging work our teachers take part in to ensure all of their needs are being met.
We are grateful for all of the supports we get, such as from the NYC Charter School Center, to help us figure out how to best educate our scholars. Being a school that touts our inclusive environment, means we are a school that is constantly learning, growing, and evolving. Challenging work it is!
Founder & Executive Director