TASH and NDSS Partner with CPSD for Congressional Briefing on Education Reform

An inclusive education is one that fully integrates all students into a general education setting with access to peers, classrooms, teachers and the general curriculum. For children with significant disabilities, an inclusive education offers a chance for academic advancement, meaningful social relationships, employment skills and the tools and resources needed for successful life in the community. Inclusive education settings also impact perceptions about persons with disabilities and their potential, contributes to true diversity in our schools and elevates academic scores on standardized tests for all students, regardless of disability. Yet despite the research demonstrating benefits for all students in an inclusive environment, the policy changes that make this a reality have yet to arrive.

That was the message of a congressional briefing held Wednesday, February 23, at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, by TASH and the National Down Syndrome Society, in partnership with the Collaboration to Promote Self Determination. CPSD is a network of 12 national organizations promoting high-impact public policy reform aimed at maximizing the propensity of citizens with significant disabilities to achieve optimal advancement and self-sufficiency. The work of CPSD is focused on inclusive education, effective transition services, integrated employment and long-term supports that promote economic advancement and independent living.

Congressional staff members, representatives from national disability organizations, federal agency policy-makers and other stakeholders interested in positive change in U.S. public schools attended the briefing. The briefing focused on the pathway to true inclusion in our nation’s schools. The follow is a brief summary of the proceedings, along with video segments from each of the panelists. We invite you to review this information and support TASH, NDSS and CPSD in our efforts to ensure quality education for all students.

CPSD Participating Organizations

American Network of Community Options and Resources

Association of Persons for Supported Employment

Association of University Centers on Disability

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Autism Society

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Association of State Directors on Developmental Disabilities

National Disability Institute

National Down Syndrome Society

National Fragile X Foundation

National Disability Rights Network



Tackling Education Reform through Inclusion: Promoting Innovative Practices, Breaking Down Policy Barriers, Achieving Results for All Students

This CPSD briefing was co-hosted by TASH, a national authority on best practices supporting students and adults with significant disabilities and support needs, and the National Down Syndrome Society, a national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. TASH and NDSS are founding partners of the Collaboration to Promote Self Determination, a national network of organizations committed to the enactment of public policy reforms that ensure economic advancement and full community participation for individuals with significant disabilities.

Barb Trader, Executive Director of TASH, provided the welcome and opening remarks. Panelists for this congressional briefing included Carol Quirk, Executive Director of the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education and current Board President of TASH; Jacqueline Kearns, Principal Investigator for the Kentucky Alternate Assessment Project at the University of Kentucky; Wayne Sailor, Associate Director of the Beach Center on Disability and CEO of SAM, LLC.; and Ricki Sabia, Associate Director of the National Down Syndrome Society Policy Center.

Simply click on the videos below to view full presentations from these panelists. Captioning is in progress and will be added to this page shortly. 

Barb Trader

Executive Director, TASH


Breaking down the barriers, building bridges: the interconnectivity between general education reform and inclusion

When inclusion is the framework for an education, all students experience greater outcomes. Barb Trader provides an overview of what is at stake and urges congressional leaders to acknowledge the positive impact that inclusive schools will have on all children.



Carol Quirk

Executive Director, Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education


A dose of reality: taking a hard look at what the data tells us about education performance, outcomes and disparities

The chances for success shouldn’t depend on where you live or your ethnic, racial or cultural identity. Carol Quirk examines the disparities impacting students with disabilities across the U.S. and how outcomes vary state-to-state. She also discusses the disparities impacting students of diverse backgrounds with disabilities.

View slides that correspond to the video below



Jacqueline Kearns

Principal Investigator, Kentucky Alternate Assessment Project, Inclusive Large Scale Standards and Assessment at the University of Kentucky

Re-evaluating our assumptions regarding students with significant disabilities – are standard assessments a valid tool in evaluating a student’s capabilities?

We’ve known about the needs of children, in many cases, since the day they were born. Yet somehow they continue to leave the school system with no symbolic language or augmentative communication system. Jacqueline Kearns explores national data on alternate assessment, and emphasizes the impact of communication in providing access to the general curriculum.

View slides that correspond to the video below


Wayne Sailor

Associate Director, Beach Center on Disability at the University of Kansas, Founder and CEO, SAM, LLC.


What is really possible – an overview of evidence-based practices linking inclusion principles to general education reform for all students

The Schoolwide Application Model (SAM) is a whole-school model that maximizes the resources in school systems and serves the unique needs of all students. Wayne Sailor has implemented this model successfully in schools from California to Washington, D.C.

View slides that correspond to the video below




Ricki Sabia

Associate Director, National Down Syndrome Society Policy Center


Where do we go from here? Policy options for the 112th Congress to transform America’s educational system

Where do we go from here? Ricki Sabia offers specific policy recommendations on education reform that promotes inclusion and access to the general curriculum for students, and preparation and supports for school personnel.

View slides that correspond to the video below



Question & Answer Session