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Becoming a Great Inclusive Educator (Disability Studies in Education)

reviewed by Kate Esposito & Kimmie Tang

coverTitle: Becoming a Great Inclusive Educator (Disability Studies in Education)
Author(s): Scot Danforth (Ed.)
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433125498, Pages: 346, Year: 2014
Search for book at Amazon.com

National statistics indicate that more than 6.4 million children and youth with disabilities between 3 and 21 years-of-age received special education services during the 2013–2014 academic school year (U.S. Department of Education, 2015). In addition, 95% of these students received special education services in public schools, with 61% or more of them said to be highly included—80% or more of their school day—in general education classroom settings (U.S. Department of Education, 2015). On one hand, these estimates may be quite positive given the high number of students educated in inclusive settings. On the other, they can be disconcerting because inclusion greatly relies on educators who are ill-prepared to meet the needs of all students, and “would prefer not to do inclusion” (p. 307).

Scot Danforth’s Becoming A Great Inclusive Educator is the 16th volume in the Disabilities Studies Series, edited by Susan L. Gabel and Scot Danforth. Danforth provides teacher practitioners, graduate students, educational researchers, and faculty members with a variety of perspectives that interrogate existing social, political, and educational realities faced by individuals with disabilities. The volume also provides readers with the necessary tools to transform shared educational spaces within which all stakeholders interact (e.g., students, families, teachers, and communities). Danforth offers educators seeking to implement truly inclusive practices a “useful path of personal change and the necessary conceptual and practical provisions for the journey” (p. 14).

Situating this volume within disability studies provides a valuable theoretical framework from which to operate when seeking to ameliorate educational insufficiencies suffered by students with disabilities. The 22 chapters are organized into three sections: 1) Foundations of Successful Inclusion, 2) The Living Tradition of Inclusive Education Practices, and 3) Narratives of Inclusive Education Struggle and Success. These sections reflect Danforth’s belief that valiant advocacy, pedagogical competencies, and powerful human connections are intricately tied to successful inclusionary practices.

The first section is steeped in a disability studies perspective, and provides readers with a strong and engaging narrative covering the disability civil rights struggle that still continues today. Danforth’s review of recent legislative gains and ideologies of ability are meant to serve as a “foundation…for the conceptual and ethical challenges of becoming an inclusive educator” (p. 20). This foundational knowledge is central to understanding the lived realities of individuals with disabilities and often missing from teacher preparation programs. Danforth posits that “purposeful efforts to create access and social acceptance in the general education community for students with disabilities is…the disability rights movement occurring in…public schools” (p. 45). This book is a welcome addition to teacher education programs, especially if schools are to become more socially just and inclusive.

In the next section, Danforth provides a “rich tradition of inclusive instructional practices that have been developed by general classroom teachers, special educators, parents, students, and researchers over the past 25 years” (p. 98). These well-written chapters offer many useful strategies that teachers can readily implement into their daily classroom practice. For example, Chapter Eight, “Encouraging Positive Behavior,” encourages readers to think of disabled students as citizens, and brings to light critical questions educators and policy makers need to ask regarding the widely implemented Response To Intervention (RTI) practice. However, Danforth misses a valuable opportunity to question existing school policies that have created the school-to-prison pipeline evident in urban schools. The pipeline warrants greater attention given that schools suspend or expel students who are non-white and suffer from disabilities at significantly higher rates than white students (Cramer, Gonzalez, & Pellegrini-Lafont, 2014; Gowdey, 2015). This volume would benefit from discussing methods to reduce the overrepresentation of students with disabilities in suspension and expulsion rates, and dismantle practices that are destroying the lives of many oppressed K–12 learners.

Finally the third section provides readers with personal lived testimonials and perspectives from a broad range of individuals (e.g., parents, teachers, researchers) regarding their experiences with the inclusion movement. Danforth notes that these testimonials “are not standardized, cleaned up, and purified” (p. 171) but portray the challenges and successes that exist within schools in a raw manner as individuals transform entrenched ideologies and educational practices. In Danforth’s words, “a story that seemed less germane years ago speaks directly to you in the present moment…is not only the power of the stories but the dynamic of the interaction between your stories and these” (p. 172). These testimonials are not simple recipes that any person can just pick up and follow as Danforth cautions, but serve as exemplars of the power of human connection. The richness in this approach is the implicit knowledge that some stories will resonate with readers more than others, and may lead to the identification of key elements to support readers’ own inclusion journeys. Chapter Eleven’s parental perspective is of great value to practitioners given the pivotal role parental involvement plays in the academic achievement of students with disabilities (Thigpen, Freedberg, & Frey, 2014).

Becoming A Great Inclusive Educator is a rich text that implores readers to continue the work of the disability rights movement within schools. It is well suited for general and special educators, policy makers, researchers, and parents who strive to create socially just, humane, and equitable learning environments truly valuing individuals with disabilities. The book’s probing questions serve as effective instructional tools that university faculty, professional development leaders, and reading groups can easily implement on the journey to true inclusion.


Cramer, E. D., Gonzalez, L., & Pellegrini-Lafont, C. (2014) From classmates to inmates: An integrated approach to break the school-to-prison pipeline, Equity & Excellence in Education, 47(4), 461–475.

Gowdey, L. (2015). Disabling discipline: Locating a right to representation of students with disabilities in the ADA. Columbia Law Review, 115(8), 2265–2309.

Thigpen, D., Freedberg. L., & Frey, S. (2014, February). The power of parents: Research underscores the impact of parent involvement in schools. Oakland, CA: EdSource and New America Media. Retrieved from http://edsource.org/wp-content/publications/Power-of-Parents-Feb-2014.pdf


U.S. Department of Education. (2015). The condition of education 2015 (NCES 2015-144). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015144.pdfhttp://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, 2016, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 19312, Date Accessed: 7/19/2019 7:14:34 PM

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