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Creating a Culture of Inclusion: MCIE Spreads the Word!

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

How many times have you heard any of the following:

“Inclusion doesn’t always work.”

“She belongs in inclusion.”

The problem with these statements is that “inclusion” is not a place.

Wayne Sailor (2016) calls for a move away from a place-based view of inclusion to a whole-school, equity-based approach that provides resources and services that are not based on labels, but instead based on practices that are designed for all learners in a school building. This approach requires an organizational shift in how schools are structured. And we, at MCIE, have worked alongside educators, families, and administrators since 1990 to build the school structures that can support everyone.

One of the main ways MCIE is affecting real change in school districts throughout the U.S. and the world is through presentations that are reaching more people than ever before with the shift to virtual work.

In December 2020, founder and CEO of MCIE, Dr. Carol Quirk, gave a keynote address at the TASH Conference where she spoke about creating a culture of inclusion and why a sense of belonging is so important. She described the communities in which a person is included, meaning the physical or psychological spaces where groups of people “belong” because of a shared interest or identity: places of worship, recreational activities, clubs, homes, and schools. What makes a person feel “included” is the sense of belonging that results from being a member of the community, valued for both their shared interests and unique contributions. 

In March 2021, Dr. Quirk was the speaker at a Town Hall held in Lake Forest, Illinois, where she elaborated on how membership and belonging are linked to meaningful participation in the social and academic activities of a school; these form the foundation for success in school and after school.

Dr. Quirk reminded us that if “inclusion doesn’t work, it wasn’t inclusion.” If the adults and peers are not welcoming and appreciative of a child’s unique gifts, and if the educators are not intentionally planning grade-level lessons adapted for meaningful participation and learning, then it is not inclusion.

Most recently, in cooperation with the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the nonprofit Roots of Inclusion, Dr. Quirk gave a 90-minute presentation and answered questions from educators, families, advocates, and legislators from across Washington State about building a culture of inclusion that is built on a school framework, like MCIE’s.

One key point Dr. Quirk made in this presentation was that the Least Restrictive Environment requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) clearly states the expectation that planning for placement begins with designing the supports and services that will be delivered in the school and class the child would attend if they did not have a disability. She noted that, while IDEA allows for removals when a child’s behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with learning, it prohibits removals only because of the extent of modifications to the curriculum that are needed.

If we are measuring placement, the rates at which children and youth with disabilities are in general education 80% or more of the day are increasing each year. But Dr. Quirk reminds us that placement alone is insufficient to define inclusion. True inclusion requires a mindset of appreciation, flexibility, welcoming, and willingness to develop a shared understanding through collaboration.

For more information about MCIE, visit


SWIFT Education Center. (2017). Equity as a Basis for Inclusive Educational Systems Change, Research to Practice Brief. Lawrence, KS: Author.


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