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Students with disabilities who receive Integrated Co-Teaching services are educated with age appropriate peers in the general education classroom. ICT provides access to the general education curriculum and specially designed instruction to meet students’ individual needs.
As Wendy Murawski, the co-author of "Leading the Co-teaching Dance: Leadership Strategies to Enhance Team Outcomes" (CEC, 2013) observed: “Co-teaching is like a marriage. It’s two adults who are working together to nurture a group of children. Co-teaching cannot be successful if two teachers are just plunked down in the same room with no professional development to help them with expectations, no time to help them with planning, and no rapport to help them with their day-to-day efforts.” Among the things that will increase the chances of success of a co-teaching partnership and change outcomes for students, according to Murawski, are professional development for all faculty regarding what co-teaching is and is not; allowing teachers to volunteer to co-teach and have a voice in their partnerships; and schedules that ensure teachers have common planning time and a limited number of partners.
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According to the state, school personnel assigned to each Integrated Co-Teaching class must minimally include a special education teacher and a general education teacher. In New York City, the special education teacher must be certified/licensed and appointed in special education and the general education teacher must be certified/licensed and appointed under a general education or content area license. The general education or content area teacher has primary responsibility for delivery of content area instruction in an ICT class. The special education teacher is primarily responsible for delivering specially designed instruction to remediate the learning, behavior, social, communication and other issues identified in the present levels of performance and addressed in the annual goals on the student’s IEP.
Two teachers, one general education and one special education, must be present for all periods of ICT instruction required by students’ IEPs. Co-teachers may not cover for each other during preparation periods, nor may they tag-team each other at IEP team meetings. Co-teachers may not be assigned to other duties (such as exam scoring, coverage or proctoring for other classes) that would prevent them from providing IEP mandated services.
- Guidance on providing mandated services and absence coverage in ICT classes (November 2016 Principals’ Weekly)
- Special Education Policy Guideline: Attendance of a General Ed or Special Ed Teacher at an IEP meeting (Principals' Weekly March 2015)
- Arbitration Award on Collaborative Team Teaching
According to the NYC Continuum of Services for Students with Disabilities, “[w]hen they team teach, the general education and special education teacher meet to co-plan and prepare lessons, activities and projects that incorporate all learning modalities. Together, the general education and special education teacher carry out instruction employing a range of methodologies.”
In Collaborative Team Teaching, Live Q & A for School Administrators, NYC DOE consultant Marilyn Friend identified common planning time for teachers as essential and one of the “top 10” issues that must be addressed directly for ICT/CTT to be successful.
Ratio/Maximum number of students with disabilities and variances
The number of students with disabilities in an Integrated Co-Teaching class may not exceed 40 percent of the total class register with a maximum of 12 students with disabilities. Integrated Co-Teaching classes must adhere to general education class size limits. Under Integrated Co-Teaching, classes that normally have a class size limit of 20 students will increase to 25 students, with a maximum of 10 students having disabilities.
The limit of 12 students with disabilities in an Integrated Co-Teaching class was added in 2008 as a result of changes in state regulations.
The 40 percent and 12-student limit includes any student with a disability in that class, regardless of whether the student is recommended for integrated co-teaching services. For example, if two students with disabilities in a class receive special education teacher support services (SETSS) and 10 have IEPs recommending integrated co-teaching services, there are 12 students with disabilities in that classroom. While the two students in the above example may benefit incidentally from the integrated co-teaching services, their IEPs would not need to specify the integrated co-teaching services.
State regulations allow schools to add one additional student (13th student) to an ICT class by notifying the State Education Department and to add a 14th student with prior approval by the State Education Department. According to state guidance, schools can exceed the maximum of 12 students with disabilities in ICT classes “only when exceptional circumstances arise.” Examples of “exceptional circumstances” provided by the SED are students who are newly identified as disabled or move into the school district during the school year. Schools must begin the school year in compliance with the 12-student limit and they must not routinely apply for waivers. When notifying the SED of the addition of a 13th student or applying for a variance to add a 14th student, the school must “demonstrate educational justification and consistency with providing an appropriate education for all children affected” [ i.e., the entire class]. The Commissioner may revoke or preempt any increase in the number of students with disabilities in an ICT class beyond the regulatory maximum if a finding is made that the increase would not be consistent with appropriate special education.
A city DOE memo reinforced these state guidelines along with existing rules regarding the composition of ICT classes in New York City public schools. The DOE memo states that the addition of the 13th student “should be used infrequently.” The DOE memo also states that “NYC will continue to adhere to its policy, whereby the maximum number of students receiving ICT services in a class cannot exceed 40% of the total register of the ICT class.” “Doing the ‘Math” on ICT Variances” describes the interplay between the DOE’s 40 percent rule, the SED’s 12-student maximum and the variance procedures.
- NYSED, Variance Procedures to Temporarily Exceed the Maximum Number of Students with Disabilities in an Integrated Co-teaching Services Class (includes procedures and variance notification/request form), January 2011
- NYCDOE, Summary of changes to Part 200 Regulations of the commissioner relating to Special Education Mandate Relief, January 13, 2011
- UFT, Doing the “Math” on ICT Variances
Class composition and functional grouping
Marilyn Friend, consultant to the NYCDOE on team teaching, identifies class composition as one of the “top ten” issues that must be directly addressed by school administrators.
Functional grouping requirements apply to students with disabilities in Integrated Co-Teaching classes. State regulations require students with disabilities placed together for purposes of special education (including integrated co-teaching) to be grouped by similarity of individual needs in accordance with the four need areas: academic achievement, functional performance and learning characteristics, social development, physical development and management needs.
The determination of whether integrated co-teaching is an appropriate recommendation for an individual student with a disability must be made on an individual basis. For some students, integrated co-teaching would be an alternative to placement in a special class with the added benefit of having both a special education and a general education teacher deliver the curriculum to the student. For each student, whether the general education classroom is the least restrictive environment for the student to receive his or her special education services should be made in consideration of, but not limited to the following factors:
- the classes in which integrated co-teaching is offered and the match to the student’s needs;
- the extent of special education services the individual student needs to access, participate and progress in the general education curriculum;
- the similarity of needs of the other students with disabilities in the class;
- the potential effect of the class size on the student’s learning needs;
- any potential benefits and harmful effects such services might have for the student or on the quality of services that he or she needs; and
- whether the extent of the environmental modifications or adaptations and the human or material resources needed for the student will consistently detract from the opportunities of other students in the group to benefit from instruction.
Stated another way, Integrated Co-Teaching may not be an appropriate service for a student with a disability if the student
- requires so much of the teachers’ time that the teachers cannot give adequate attention to the needs of other students in the classroom, and/or
- the student is so disruptive in the general education classroom that the education of the student or other students is significantly impaired, and/or
- the student requires the curriculum to be modified so significantly that it bears little relation to the instruction in the classroom.
There is no regulatory maximum number of non-disabled students in an integrated co-teaching class. However, the number of non-disabled students should be more than or equal to the number of students with disabilities in the class in order to ensure the level of integration intended by this program option. An important consideration in determining the number of students with disabilities and non-disabled students on an integrated class roster is that the ratio must not result in a de facto segregated class which would undermine the philosophy of inclusive practices.
Service delivery: Full day or individual subjects
Integrated Co-Teaching may be provided for all subjects or on an individual subject basis. When Integrated Co-Teaching is recommended for less than the full school day, the student’s IEP must indicate the specific subjects or instructional areas in which the student requires Integrated Co-Teaching services.
The DOE’s method of funding ICT services introduced confusion in the field about the meaning of “full time” ICT services. The fact that students are considered full time for funding purposes does not mean that students are not eligible for ICT services in other subject areas, i.e., art, music, physical education, cluster and special subjects, based on their individual needs. ICT services can and should be recommended for non-“core” subjects any time a student needs the service to succeed in that subject.
- NYSED, New York State’s Continuum of Special Education Services for School-Age Students with Disabilities: Questions and Answers, Question 36
Interim SETSS services
In certain circumstances, SETSS services may be provided to students who have been recommended to receive integrated co-teaching services, but have not been placed in a timely manner. Specifically, if a student has been recommended to receive ICT services as a result of an initial evaluation or reevaluation and has not been placed (or offered placement) in an ICT class within 60 school days from the date of consent for initial evaluation or referral for reevaluation, pending placement in an ICT class,
- the parent may agree to place the student in a general education class with two periods of SETSS a day if the student is currently in a more restrictive environment than ICT;
- the school will provide the student SETSS for two periods a day if the student’s current placement is in a less restrictive environment than ICT.
Models for team teaching
NYCDOE consultant Marilyn Friend identifies six team teaching models. They are:
- Team Teaching: Both co-teachers deliver instruction to the whole group at the same time.
- One Teach, One Observe: While one teacher leads the lesson, the co-teacher collects specific data about the students, the co-teacher or the environment.
- Station Teaching: Teachers divide content and students. Three groups of students rotate through three stations in which they work on non-hierarchical activities.
- Parallel Teaching: Two co-teachers teach the same content to separate groups simultaneously.
- Alternate Teaching: One teacher works with the large part of the class while the co-teacher works with a smaller group.
- One Teach, One Assist: one teacher leads instruction while the co-teacher circulates providing unobtrusive help as needed.
Experts recommend that the last option, One Teach, One Assist, be used sparingly. This model does not take full advantage of having two teachers in the classroom. It can result in one teacher, most often the general education teacher, taking the lead role most of the time while the special education teacher functions more like a paraprofessional or teaching assistant than as a co-educator. Also, keep in mind that the special education teacher in a co-teaching classroom is responsible for delivering specially designed instruction. SDI requires the special education teacher to lead delivery of instruction, e.g., teach a strategy, rather than simply provide support to the student, e.g., graphic organizer or story starter.
Models of co-teaching can vary during the course of the school day. Teachers should not have to commit to only one approach of co-teaching.
Resources for Team Teaching
- NYC Continuum of Services for Students with Disabilities
- State Regulations: 8 NYCRR § 200.6
- New York State’s Continuum of Special Education Services for School-Age Students with Disabilities: Questions and Answers
- Arbitration Award on Collaborative Team Teaching
- Access Center
A professional development module on collaborative teaching