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When students with disabilities are provided appropriate instruction and supports,
they can learn grade-level general education curriculum, communicate in ways that
are commensurate with their same-age peers without disabilities, have meaningful
social relationships, and graduate from high school—college and career ready.
An Essential Best Practices guide was first developed by the Institute on Disability as part
of the Beyond Access model demonstration project, funded from 2002-2006 by the U.S.
Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. At that time, the authors
synthesized over 25 years of research and practice to identify inclusive educational practices
that were shown to support positive school and post-school outcomes for students with
This 2012 version was informed by our recent work in drop-out prevention, Response to
Intervention, large scale accountability (particularly alternate assessment based on alternate
achievement standards), and three comprehensive syntheses that identified evidencebased
instructional practices for students with autism. In addition, we conducted a targeted
literature review of approximately 30 well journals for research published from 2002 to
early 2012 concerning students in general education settings with autism, Down syndrome,
intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and deaf-blindness.
This guide might be used in a variety of ways by families and professionals alike. For example:
- Superintendents might use the guide for working with staff to develop their individual professional development plans or a local school improvement plan.
- A teacher might organize a reflective practice group to study the practices in the guide and support one another to design and evaluate lessons that are inclusive of diverse learners.
- School board members might organize a study committee comprised of community members to consider how closely their schools implement the highlighted practices.
- Principals might assemble a task force of staff and community members to use the guide to conduct a self-assessment of their current school practices and a multi-year school improvement plan.
- Parents might share the guide with their child’s educational team to discuss program strengths and suggestions for improvement.
- A speech-language pathologist might share the guide with his or her supervisor to begin a discussion of how to change the current service delivery model to be more classroom-based.
- Students might use the guide as a springboard for discussion in a youth group dedicated to eradicating racism or other forms of social injustice in their schools.
Regardless of your role—student, parent/ guardian, educator, related service provider,
administrator, or community member—we hope that you use this resource to not only
advance your own knowledge, but to take action to improve the lives of your students and