The time is now!

Misinformation about Integrated Co-Teaching

This is the exact text of an email that was sent to teachers in a school that will remain anonymous:

“Please be advised of the following changes when recommending ICT for a student:

The maximum number of periods for a full-time ICT student should be 25 and not 30. The periods designated for ICT should reflect the subjects taught in the student’s classroom. Please do not designate any ICT periods for cluster classes.”

In other schools, teachers have been told that they can only recommend Intregrated Co-Teaching for ELA and math. Both of these directives are wrong. If either of these directives were issued in your school, whether in writing or orally, file an online UFT special education complaint immediately. When recommending Integrated Co-Teaching services, it is imperative that you consider the student’s need for support in every subject. There is no “all” in the SESIS dropdown, so you will need to place a checkmark next to every subject for which Integrated Co-Teaching is recommended.

The way that the special education reform has been implemented at the school level has hijacked good decision-making for students with disabilities. As high season for annual reviews approaches, now is the time to make sure that the students you serve have strong IEPs with solid program and service recommendations.

General education teachers: Do you have students with IEPs in your classes? If so, are they receiving adequate support to meet the instructional expectations in your class? Special education teachers: Do you have students who are not progressing with their current level of service? Have you been told that you cannot recommend certain services because your school does not have the budget or space to provide them or because they are not permitted under special education reform? The law has not changed. If these or other inappropriate activities are happening in your school, you must take action.

If your students with disabilities are not thriving, the time to make changes is now at annual reviews.

A new IEP, of course, begins with a solid and well-documented statement of the student’s present levels of performance. This statement informs the student’s annual goals for the next year as well as program and service recommendations.


Consider full continuum of services

When crafting program and service recommendations, remember that the entire continuum of services is available for your consideration. Also keep in mind that Integrated Co-Teaching services are not limited to ELA and math at the elementary level or to so-called “major subjects” in middle and high schools. Invite your colleagues who teach cluster classes, art, music and physical education to provide their input about the individual student’s needs before making recommendations for these subjects. While many students can succeed without special education supports in certain subjects, the student’s support needs must be considered for each and every subject.

For students who require behavior supports, don’t forget that a functional behavioral assessment must be conducted to inform the behavior intervention plan. And, if paraprofessional services are recommended for behavior support, be sure to indicate the professional development that may be required to implement this service in the section of the IEP called “supports for school personnel.” Lastly, with new, more demanding tests, make thoughtful recommendations for test accommodations for students who need them.


Don’t let an administrator bully you

There are a couple of issues that have cropped up this year in response to the special education reform. I have received many reports of IEPs being changed after the fact under the guise of “reviewing for mistakes and grammatical errors.” Decisions regarding a child’s IEP at the annual review should be made by consensus at an IEP team meeting. I am also hearing that teachers are being pressured to recommend students who are performing below grade level for alternate assessment. The eligibility criteria for alternate assessment are very strict: the student must have a significant intellectual disability. Don’t let anyone bully you into changing IEPs or removing students from the path to a regular high school diploma.

If you have been pressured or misled by the reform rhetoric to ignore the special education process, staffing or other requirements, I strongly urge you to immediately file a UFT special education complaint online at www.uft.org/special-ed-complaint-form. If you let it slide, you can bet that the rights of your students will be violated once again next year.

Did you accept the 13th or 14th student in a 12:1 class without a waiver? Did you agree to provide Integrated Co-Teaching and SETSS services simultaneously in the same class? Did you look the other way when the second teacher in your Integrated Co-Teaching class wasn’t properly licensed or went out on leave and wasn’t replaced? Did you stay silent when your students didn’t receive the SETSS services or speech therapy on their IEPs?

Did you call parents at your principal’s request to persuade them to change their child’s IEP to reduce services when you knew the change was not in the child’s best interest, but rather to help the principal deal with budget, staffing or space issues? Now is the time to remedy these issues.

Remember that your fight is a fight for your students’ success, and you have their parents on your side.

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