Sunday, October 7, 2018

October 7 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope everyone is enjoying this long weekend.  I would like to begin by thanking everyone who gave up their time last Thursday evening to join us for this year’s Open House.  I enjoyed meeting every one of you who stopped by to introduce yourselves to me.  Some of you told me how well you liked learning about the co-teaching model of delivering instruction.  McCall and the Winchester Public School district are committed to increasing the support and opportunities for practicing co-teaching.  The reason is the co-teaching benefits to both students and teachers are numerous, and those advantages are well supported by research.

For those of you unfamiliar with co-teaching, it is a method of delivering instruction where two or more certified education professionals share instructional responsibility for a single group of students.  At McCall, the co-teaching partners are comprised of one general education teacher and one special education teacher.  However, co-teaching partners can be made up of a general education teacher and one specialist like a Reading Specialist, a Speech and Language Pathologist, or a teacher for English Language Learners.  I have also seen co-teaching teams that are made up of a core academic teacher (e.g., a math teacher or an ELA teacher) and an Exploratory Teacher (e.g., Fine Arts or Music Teacher).

The main benefit of creating co-teaching classrooms is to lower the teacher to student ratio thereby increasing opportunities for individual instruction, small group learning, and stronger teacher modeling to occur. McCall, like many schools across the state, uses co-teaching as a method to deliver special education services.  By delivering individualized instruction within their core academic general education classrooms, the school will be able to minimize or even eliminate the need to pull students with disabilities from Exploratory or elective classes such as Performance Arts and Fine Arts courses.  In addition to allowing students to learn in the least restrictive setting, the school can also eliminate the stigma students may feel when they are asked to leave their general education classes in order to receive services.

The advantages to co-teaching go beyond benefiting students with special needs.  Research shows that co-teaching, when done well, will increase the gains that high performing students will make as well.  The ability for teachers to collaborate and draw from each other’s expertise will result in instruction that more creative and targeted toward all students’ needs.  In addition, the inclusive learning environment that co-taught classrooms creates the opportunity for all students to learn from each other and enriches the learning experiences of all students regardless of their abilities and needs.

The challenge of creating an effective co-teaching structure is that the co-teachers’ work goes beyond what happens in the classrooms.  An effective co-teaching model provides the co-teachers the necessary time outside of the classes they teach to co-plan and co-assess.  Co-planning is critical because co-teachers need time to develop the necessary rapport with each other and think carefully about how to deliver instruction in order to meet the needs for the students in their classes.  Co-assessing is crucial because teachers need to analyze the data they collect in order to determine whether the instructions they delivered actually bring about the outcomes they wanted to achieve.

While the benefits of co-teaching are clear, it is more expensive to implement it than the traditional one-teacher-one-class approach.  The main reason is we are utilizing two more licensed teachers to teach one class of students.  Therefore, I urge everyone to keep in mind not just the positive outcomes produced by co-teaching but also the resources our school needs in other to implement this model effectively.  During this past week’s Open House, many of you saw snippets of what McCall has done to promote co-teaching and the positive results it is creating.  I hope you will continue to support this very worthwhile effort.


James Lin
McCall Middle School

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