$8M Federal Grant to Encourage Inclusive Education in New Jersey
Program to Reduce NJ's High Rate of Special-Education Students in Separate Classes and Schools
By: NJCIE, Montclair State University, and NJDOE
"This is an incredible commitment by the New Jersey Department of Education to address inclusion of children with special needs in New Jersey, so that they are fully educated with their same-age peers. Inclusion is the legal and moral starting point for all education, to minimize segregated, self-contained placements,"
"This project sets us on a new path to equitable services for our students with disabilities,"
New Jersey continues to have one of the highest rates of students with disabilities in separate educational settings in the country. The National Center for Educational Statistics' most recent public report on special-education placement data in 2017 found that nationally, 63.4 percent of children receiving special education were in "inclusive" settings – meaning they were educated with their nondisabled peers for 80 percent or more of the school day. In New Jersey, however, only 44 percent were in this category. Although this rate rose to 47 percent in 2019, the NJDOE recognizes the need to intensify supports for school districts and families to create inclusive school communities that welcome all students.
Corinne Catalano, Assistant Director for Consultation Services at CAECMH explains, "The strengths and challenges of children with disabilities need to be understood through a multidisciplinary lens including cognitive, communication, sensory/motor, social and emotional well-being/mental health domains. Through this project, administrators, teachers and other school-based professionals will be supported in their collaboration to provide every student the opportunity to reach their full potential."
Fred Buglione, President and CEO of NJCIE, states, "The NJIETA project represents a statewide commitment to ensuring that students with disabilities are fully included in their local schools, general education classrooms and curricula. We envision a future in which individuals with disabilities have access to equitable opportunities for learning and meaningful participation as valued members of their communities, and we are honored to co-lead this effort with our friends and colleagues at CAECMH-MSU and the NJ DOE."
How NJ Inclusive Education Technical Assistance Will Work
The NJIETA project team will create and implement a three-pronged effort to support the development of more inclusive schools where students with and without disabilities learn, contribute, and belong. The project includes leadership development, targeted technical assistance, and the facilitation of systemic change through the development of implementation sites.
Throughout the project, Montclair State University's Ben Samuels Children's Center, a model center for early childhood inclusion, will serve as a demonstration site for early childhood inclusive education. Since 2005, the Ben Samuels Children's Center has demonstrated that children with and without disabilities can learn together in high-quality, developmentally appropriate classrooms.
"For the past year, Corinne Catalano, Kaitlin Mulcahy [Associate Director, CAEMCH] and I have worked closely with NJCIE Executive Director, Fred Buglione and the New Jersey Department of Education to develop this plan," said Costa. "It's gratifying and rewarding to see it realized and endorsed with this level of support and funding, and ultimately reflects the State's commitment to providing the best possible educational practices for all children in New Jersey."
New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education