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Outside picture of the BCSC school building

How One School District Transformed Its Community

Through Universal Design for Learning and a model of inclusivity, the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation helps all students, including students with autism, succeed together.

Many people use a short tagline or quotation as part of their email signature. Maybe it’s to promote a work-related project, thought, or interest, or maybe it’s to offer a little window into one’s personality. Transition Coordinator Mary Hamlin and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Coordinator Rhonda Laswell, M.Ed. whose taglines are “What if? Why not?” and “If you design it, they will learn,” respectively, take their taglines seriously. Those short phrases are at the core of what they believe and how they bring those beliefs and passions to their work.

Ms. Hamlin and Ms. Laswell both work for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) in Columbus, Indiana, where education is built on the district’s philosophy of “together we learn.” BCSC includes 16 schools — 11 elementary, two middle, and three high schools, an early education program, a virtual pathway program, and an alternative education program. The district — or corporation as is used in Indiana — has 11,500 students, represents 60+ languages, and has 21 buildings, which they call their “city of support.” Most impressive is the fact that BCSC has less than one percent of students who receive their instruction in a self-contained classroom. What does that mean? In a nutshell, through the use of UDL and a deep community-wide commitment to an inclusive model, almost all of their students — whether traditional learners or students with autism or other special needs — are included in mainstream classrooms.

“We’re not just going to focus on teaching down the middle, but meeting the needs of all students. How do we push students who are really excelling and how do we support the students who may struggle in certain areas academically or socially?” says Jennifer Dettmer, Ph.D, principal of one of BCSC’s elementary schools. Dakota Hudelson, a seventh-grade Writing, Literacy, and Literature teacher at BCSC, adds, “The more options there are for learning, the more all students can be included and celebrated for how they learn and what they bring to the school community.”

Ready to learn more about BCSC’s journey to inclusivity? Keeping reading and dig in to find out exactly how they transformed their school for student success.