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    Inclusion at Mercer Middle School Promotes Stronger Community for All Students
    Posted on 02/27/2020
    Mercer student at a deskMercer Middle School is an international community of learners - at Mercer every student is a reader, writer, mathematician, scientist, and thinker. Staff understand that the quality of instruction, coupled with the relationship between adults and students, is the key to student performance. They support classroom instruction with excellent professional development, strong interventions, proactive support systems, and diagnostic assessments that lead to learning.

    We know that students thrive in healthy, safe, engaging, supported, and challenging environments in which they can learn to their full potential. Instruction must be high-quality, culturally responsive, focused, and aligned to standards for students to develop as independent learners. And we know all students have unique stories, strengths, and needs.

    Knowing those unique needs is the first step in building a successful learning environment for that student. Serving students in accordance with their individual needs is a key value at Mercer Middle School. For students receiving special education services, that means students are provided many opportunities to access general education settings throughout the day. Whenever possible, students receiving special education services are integrated with their non-disabled peers. That may involve integrated, grade-level lunch periods, or Unified Physical Education classes, or classes that are co-taught between a special education teacher and a general education teacher. In many classrooms at Mercer Middle School, it is impossible to discern which students are receive modified services or accommodations and students who do not. An observer only sees students learning, engaging with each other, asking questions, trying, processing, and mastering.

    “We serve kids, not caseloads or programs,” says principal Cindy Watters. This means that students are considered and served as individuals, and adults modify their schedules and practices to support that. With the ten special education teachers at Mercer this year, many of whom are new to the field, Principal Watters encourages team-based approaches across different service pathways and collaboration with general education grade-level and content teachers. The math specialist serving students receiving special education meets, plans, and confers with the general education math team, to ensure he is offering his students access to grade-level curriculum. With modifications and specially designed instruction, students are given the tools and supports they need to master their academic standards.

    Mercer Middle School staff are creating universal, school-wide expectations for students and critically and actively practicing inclusion. All students stand to gain from learning alongside their peers, not despite their differences, but because of them. When our classrooms are integrated and “inclusion” is understood as a verb, all our students grow. Mercer Middle School is constantly working to create the diverse environments that benefit all learners.