George Lucas Educational Foundation

Co-teaching in Chicago. Are you seeing this problem where you teach?

Co-teaching in Chicago. Are you seeing this problem where you teach?

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Chicago is now embracing co-teaching. Each school is implementing their version of it. Teachers aren't being trained. Currently, I am one of those displaced teachers that hasn't found a full time job. I used to be a self contained primary and intermediate teacher. I was also a resource teacher. I have never worked in a co-teaching classroom. I have some concerns. I went to three schools for an interview, they wanted me to co-teach 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade. I asked them for what subjects. I was told all four subjects (language arts, math, science, & social studies). I was unable to speak for a moment. My mind couldn't fantom how I would be able to meet the needs of so many diverse students in a general education setting. I asked if the student's placement was based on ability. I was told no. I asked if in the 5th or 8th grade classroom, where there any students that were reading at the kindergarten level. I was told yes. I was also told that I would be bouncing from one room to another throughout the day. I would spend about 20-30 minutes basically in each room.

My questions are:
How can I meet their needs if I am only there for 20 minutes? A child that is in 5th grade reading at a kindergarten level needs a lot of one to one instruction. 20 minutes isn't enough time. Remember he won't be the only child there that need help. I can have up to 12 students in that classroom with varying degrees of reading difficulties and only 20 minutes to address them. It seems as if I would be forced to write the IEP to meet the situation the student finds himself in instead of writing the IEP to address the needs of the student. Instead of recommending that student for 700 minutes per week on specialized instruction now I have to write 100mpw. The child hasn't improved that much to justify lowering his minutes. How can they get away with that?

Is this typical in co-teaching schools?

I also asked about common planning time. I was told they didn't have any. How can co-teaching work if there is no shared planning time? Obviously, I refused the job offer. My problem is that I am finding more and more schools asking the sped teachers to spread themselves very thin and be held responsible for everything. Imagine if a parent sues. I would be held liable.

How is co-teaching being done in your school?

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Maura Hart's picture

This is tremendously disturbing. Co-teaching is not simply a couple of teachers in a classroom. Teachers need time, training, commitment and both personal and professional skills to successfully co-teach. In the schools where I work with co-teachers, there is little time for team planning, but there is some. When an administration does what it can to support co-teachers -even though there are never enough resources- co-teaching can be done and it can be immeasureably successful. Successful co-teaching is intrinstically rewarding because it involves personal relationships and support in what is an extrememly difficult and isolating profession.

Sped Man's picture
Sped Man
Special Education Teacher in Chicago.


Sped Man's picture
Sped Man
Special Education Teacher in Chicago.

Yes, that is true Maura teacher need common planning time, training and support. What really concerns me is having students that should be in a self contained classroom receiving one to one instruction being placed in a regular education classroom with whole group instruction. Prior to being placed in the co-teaching classroom the child was getting 700 mpw direct instruction for language arts now they are getting 100mpw shared with 30 students. Looks like a recipe for disaster.

vs's picture

I agree that Special Ed teachers are being expected to bridge the increasing gap between students' with and without special needs to curriculum expectations. I too believe ALL students are capable of growth at their own rate and style of learning (which has been greatly compromised). Being in education for 20 + years, I presently work within 3 grade levels (spread thinly with 25 minute sessions, as co-teaching, consultant and special class pull-out). Our education system is in need of change but somehow the way we are going about it is really hurting more than helping. Unfortunately, All students, Gen. Ed and Special Ed teachers, are working with significantly less resources, while expectations are at an all time high with 'new standards', 'teacher evaluations' and higher stakes testing. I find IEP's are identifying the more significant disabled with less focus on the individual's needs (more to accommodate resources and scheduling restraints--but you didn't hear that from me). I'd like to ask "What is Special Education's future and where do we as Special Educator's fit into the bigger scheme of things"?????

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