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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Warner, Greece schools renew partnership

The University and the Greece Central School District have agreed to another in a series of multiyear partnerships that will draw on the expertise of graduate school faculty to help educators rethink current school and classroom practices.

The partners recently announced an inclusive education project, known as "Understanding Disability and Transforming Schools." The project involves three central components:

1. Faculty members of the Warner School are supporting and consulting with the district in its transition from special-education classes to inclusive schooling.

2. Teachers in the Greece district will be able to pursue a master's degree at the Warner School with a new focus on inclusive education.

3. Greece educators will support and collaborate on the research and fieldwork of Warner faculty and doctoral students.

The master's program, which was designed in collaboration with Greece, will focus on rethinking assumptions and beliefs about disabilities and traditional special-education practices, and prepare educators to teach all children in their classrooms. Social justice issues, including disability, will be infused throughout the curriculum. Some courses will require that students develop relevant fieldwork to lay the foundation for the inclusive education model that Greece schools are planning.

"Greece's approach to inclusive education is visionary," said Philip Wexler, dean of the Warner School. "Rather than look for the easiest fix, they are engaging in a significant self-examination to produce curricular, instructional, organizational, and cultural change within the district."

Warner School Assistant Professor Linda Ware and Susan Hetherington, clinical instructor in developmental disabilities in the Department of Pediatrics and part-time Warner faculty member--along with graduate student Michael Baker--are working closely with Greece to ensure the success of its inclusive education initiative. Ware is directing the research component of the project and Hetherington is the project's director.

"Schools have an important role to play in changing attitudes about disability, and this won't change until we abandon the mindset that only certain types of professionals can work with certain types of students," Ware said.

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