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Integrated Co-Teaching classes

New York Teacher
Integrated Co-Teaching classes
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Teachers Larissa Loua (left), special education, and Rose Chiusano, general education, teach an ICT class at PS 44 on Staten Island.

Integrated Co-Teaching classes, which have become a popular instructional model in city public schools, provide students with disabilities with access to the general education curriculum as well as to specially designed instruction to meet their individual needs. But for the ICT model to work, checks and balances — some residing in the Special Education Standard Operating Procedures Manual and others in the DOE-UFT contract — must be in place to ensure that students get the instructional support they need. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about ICT classes.

What is the class size and composition of an Integrated Co-Teaching class?

The number of students with disabilities in an ICT class may not exceed 40 percent of the total class register with a maximum of 12 students with disabilities. ICT classes must adhere to general education class-size limits.

ICT classes may not open in September in violation of these class-size requirements. Later in the school year, in limited circumstances, schools may apply for variances to exceed these limits if new students with ICT recommendations are assigned to the school or students in the school are newly recommended for the service.

All students with IEPs count when determining the maximum number of students with disabilities in an ICT class. If an ICT class opens in September in violation of these limits, the teachers should first ask if there are any students in the class with IEPs that do not require ICT. These students can and should be moved into the appropriate general education classes. If this is not a possibility, and if an action plan to resolve the issue moving forward is not concretely established, the UFT member should file a special education complaint on behalf of the adversely affected students.

How are Integrated Co-Teaching classes staffed?

School personnel assigned to each ICT 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 an appropriate general education or content-area license.

Two teachers, one general education and one special education, must be present for all periods of ICT instruction required by students’ IEPs. If both teachers in an ICT class are certified in general education and neither teacher holds a special education teaching certificate, one of the teachers should file a special education complaint with the UFT. A UFT liaison will contact the member within 48 hours of filing the complaint to discuss the matter further.

What is the primary responsibility of the special education teacher in an ICT class?

The special education teacher is primarily responsible for delivering specially designed instruction to the students with disabilities to address the learning, behavior, social, communication and other issues identified in each student’s present levels of performance and addressed in the annual goals on the student’s IEP.

What is the primary responsibility of the general education teacher in an ICT class?

The general education or content-area teacher has primary responsibility for delivery of content-area instruction in an ICT class.

Do the general education and special education teachers in an ICT class have one lesson plan or are they each responsible for developing a lesson plan?

The general education teacher and the special education teacher have different responsibilities. Each must have a lesson plan.

What is the school’s obligation to provide regular common planning time to ICT teachers?

According to a Q&A issued by the DOE, co-teachers must collaboratively plan, prepare and facilitate lessons, activities and projects. Therefore, they must be provided regular common planning time during the workday.

While teachers are not required to use their self-directed prep period for co-planning, teachers in secondary schools and eight-period elementary schools can use their professional activity periods for common planning if they choose it from the menu of options. Teachers can also choose to spend the 35 minutes the contract allots for Other Professional Work on common planning. Finally, schools can use some of the 80-minute professional development block each week for common planning.

If the lack of common planning time is having a negative impact on students with disabilities, UFT members can file a special education complaint.

Can co-teachers in an ICT class cover for each other during preparation periods?

No. 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.

Can co-teachers in an ICT class “tag team” each other to participate in their students’ IEP team meetings?

No. When a general education teacher is a required member of the IEP team for the student, a general education teacher of the student must be present for the entirety of the IEP meeting, unless the general education teacher is excused from all or part of the meeting through written parental consent at least five days prior to the meeting.

Similarly, when a special education teacher is a required member of the IEP team for the student, a special education teacher of the student must be present for the entirety of the IEP meeting, unless the special education teacher is excused from all or part of the meeting through written parental consent at least five days prior to the meeting.

Keep in mind that if your school has a centrally funded IEP/Intervention teacher, one of the responsibilities of the position is to provide coverage for special education teachers who are participating in IEP team meetings for their students.

Can a general education teacher cover for an absent special education teacher in an ICT class?

Yes, a general education teacher can provide coverage if adequate efforts have been made to locate an appropriately certified/licensed special education teacher and no one is available.

Can co-teachers in ICT classes be assigned other duties during times that students are mandated to receive instructional services?

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.

If a co-teacher is routinely assigned to other duties, the UFT member should bring the DOE guidance on the topic to the chapter leader and/or administration to discuss possible programming solutions. The chapter leader should bring the issue up at the next consultation committee meeting to establish a resolution that applies to all ICT classes in the school. If an action plan to resolve the issue moving forward is not concretely established, the chapter leader should bring the issue to the attention of the UFT district representative to resolve with the superintendent. The member can also file a special education complaint on behalf of the adversely affected students.