DEXTER — General Brown Central School District students will have two head teachers in the classroom this fall, with the implementation of a new educational model: integrated co-teaching.
This model implements a general education teacher and a special education teacher jointly at all grade levels, enabling teachers to meet the diverse needs of all students in their classroom.
Superintendent Barbara L. Case said elementary students who receive special education services — 224 of the district’s 1,401 students — previously were placed in separate classrooms from their general education peers or were pulled from the classroom throughout the day for additional services.
With this in mind, district leaders performed an informal evaluation of its special education services in the spring of 2018 to find better ways to continue these services in a less restrictive environment.
“We can be doing interventions — and should be doing interventions — in the general education classroom,” she said.
Under this new co-teaching model, special education students will be placed in general education classrooms with special education services integrated into the curriculum. The teachers will plan lessons together, Ms. Case said, making their instruction cohesive and blended.
“It will allow us to meet the various needs of an entire classroom, so that when you are planning for co-teaching, you are planning for the needs of the students and areas they need growth,” Ms. Case said. “You modify the lesson, you offer different reading materials, you offer a different opportunity for them to show they know the content.”
This plan also provides more opportunity for students socially, Ms. Case said, allowing for more bonding between classmates.
The district will be hiring three additional certified special education teachers to implement co-teaching at all elementary grade levels, accounted for in the 2019-2020 budget.
Additionally, the district’s leadership team began working with consultants Julie Causton and Kate MacLeod, co-founders of Inclusive Schooling, in the fall of 2018 to research additional ways to fulfill this plan.
Ms. Case said Ms. Causton worked with the district’s staff in March and will be brought back several times during the 2019-2020 academic year to help staff integrate co-teaching into their practices. The district also formed a steering committee on inclusion in April, consisting of administrators, staff and representatives from the Northern Regional Center for Independent Living, to implement this.
“We know we’re in the very beginning stages and that this will be a several year process,” Ms. Case said. “We’ll never be at the end because we’ll always be looking for ways to enhance how we are supporting all of our students.”
Throughout the school year, Ms. Case said administrators and staff will periodically evaluate their progress and make changes if necessary.
“This plan hits upon each of our strategic plan’s three focus areas as we are being very intentional in how we ensure we offer an inclusive environment that supports academic achievement and promotes a positive school culture and community,” Ms. Case said.