Friday, May 25, 2012

Co-teaching and Inclusion

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This last week at the Special Education Advisory Committee we talked about the new plan to have more special education resources in our neighborhoods. This means they may want to move SensiGirl from the school she is successful in to one that isn't equipped to deal with her needs.
The plan is to expand services in each busing zone so they don't have to bus children across town to school. This makes sense when it is a language immersion school or an arts school, not when it is a special needs program. Their solution to the lack of appropriate placements in each busing zone is to expand the special education programs in each zone. This is a commendable goal, as most parents don't want to put their child on a bus for 45 minutes or more, or drive them every day to get to a school across town. I know that busing is a large expense for the school district and they need to cut costs.
I would encourage them to slow down a bit.  The teachers who are going to be providing the services in each zone need special training. It has to be more than adding additional teachers and putting a new label on a program and saying it is appropriate for all special education students in that area. If done right, it could attract more kids into the district, as there would be more classrooms available to special education students.
I asked some questions as to how they propose to provide the kind of education and services that I found in SensiGirl's school in the neighborhood zone special education school. The answer was to expand services to include co-teaching and inclusion.
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Co-teaching is when a special education teacher and a general education teacher team up to teach a class together. They share responsibility of running the classroom. They put the lesson plans together as a team, with the needs of the special education kids in mind. This is the preferred method of inclusion being practiced right now. Inclusion is thought to be the replacement for mainstreaming. The problem is what about he kids who can't handle being in a room with 20 other kids? That needs to be addressed before immersing a student into a general education classroom for the whole day. Mainstreaming has its place, we should think of classrooms meeting the needs of special ed. students like the spectrum we think of for autism. The reality is that there isn't a one size fits all solution to the need for expanded services.
There is more to co-teaching than just additional teachers in the room to get a successful program like SensiGirl's into the neighborhood school. They need to take the time to pair up and train the teachers to get good co-teaching relationships.
The problem is that inclusion with co-teaching is the ideal. The real world application is most likely co-instructing or co-working, with the worst outcome being co-existing. The benefit of co-teaching would be to expose children with special needs and children in the general education classroom to each other.  The cost might be to the expense of the special needs child's education. I hope they make the effort to get it right. It would be a great boon to our school district if they can make it work well.
This is an expansive topic, I am sure there will be more to share about inclusion and co-teaching. Let me know if you have had any experiences with this in your school and how it worked. What are the pitfalls? Let's talk about them, so we can reduce the learning curve for all of us.  Let's make sure we advocate to make it right for our kids.

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The ideal classroom


  1. Interesting post and thoughts. Co-teaching like that sounds quite familiar to me - and not in a good way. That's a part of why my son is in a private school outside our district. We have no plan in place for next fall yet and our options are very minimal... Nothing like the unknown to stress a mom out! I have faith, though, that we will find the right fit, eventually, probably with me driving a very far distance away! Oh well, we all do what we have to for our children. :)

  2. You will find the right school. I know from another mom that even if you don't get it right from the start of kindergarten, you will eventually find the right place. Random Guy had to switch schools at the beginning of 3rd grade to find the right place. I am actively advocating for the right placement for SensiGirl with all these changes. I know she is in the right place now. I am just hoping it continues to be the right place for all of elementary school.