School Board Focuses On Co-Teaching
The Garden City Board of Education listened to an update on co-teaching at their November 12th work session.
The evening began with a definition: "integrated co-teaching services means the provision of specially designed instruction and academic instruction provided to a group of disabled and non-disabled students." Two teachers, one who concentrates on general education and one whose specialty is special education, share the responsibility for a single group of students. They teach the required curriculum and address Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, with mutual ownership and joint responsibility.
"I think of it more like a marriage where you're living with your in-laws, both sets, because the administration is very, very, very important in a co-taught setting," explained Dr. Gloria Wilson, the district's co-teaching consultant from Hofstra University.
One of Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen's goals is to extend and enhance co-teaching. Over the last two years staff development has been provided over the summer. The district has actively sought candidates for open positions who have training or experience with co-teaching.
In addition, Dr. Wilson was hired to be the co-teaching consultant to work with all co-taught classes. She has met with curriculum coordinators and conducted a workshop at the administrative retreat. Dr. Wilson also provided staff development to co-teaching teams during the summer, and compiled a list of concerns and recommendations for district consideration. One of the issues that need to be addressed is increasing parental involvement.
At Stewart and Stratford elementary schools in certain fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, a general education and special education teacher provide instruction together all day. This has proven to be very successful. Dr. Wilson meets monthly with the teams to review and strategize.
The middle school has nine co-teaching teams. There are 21 co-teaching teams providing joint instruction in all core subjects at the high school.
All co-teachers now have common planning time, which Dr. Wilson explained is a change implemented this year that appears to be very positive and helpful.
Eileen Fredericks, assistant director of Pupil Personnel Services, provided the school board with a chart on class averages on Regents exams or final assessments for 2007-08, which showed that all students generally do better in co-taught classes. This report was used to refute a common misconception that instructors have to "teach down" in a co-taught classroom to reach learning disabled students.
The report found that general education students in a co-taught environment in many subjects performed better than their general education peers who were not in a co-taught classroom. The class average of students with disabilities was either at a passing level or above. The highest class average of these students was 89 on the eleventh-grade US History Regents; the lowest average was 65 on the tenth-grade Global History Regents.
Although the district has made great strides in this area, co-teaching training will continue to be a priority. Dr. Wilson was scheduled to meet with all administrators and curriculum coordinators this week.
"It has to become part of the fabric of what we do in order for us to consider it done," explained Dr. Feirsen. "I don't think we're there yet. We certainly have made excellent progress, but we're not there yet because we're still talking about it as an initiative. The way we talk about it will partly reflect how well we're doing."