Guidelines for special education services have been in place since 1975 when Congress passed P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Over the past 30 years, those services have evolved to include educating students with disabilities in the general education classroom as the norm, rather than the exception. Carefully implemented inclusive practices are creating effective schools, helping students with disabilities become increasingly successful, both academically and socially. Co-teaching has become a popular strategy for supporting effective inclusion in schools (Walther-Thomas, Korinek, McLaughlin, & Williams, 2000).
As educators form co-teaching partnerships, they must enlist assistance from the families of students with disabilities. One ingredient for a successful co-teaching partnership is to have family members be part of the educational support team.
The No Child Left Behind legislation (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) both contain provisions to help families become more effective members of the educational support team. These laws provide information for families that will help them become knowledgeable about their child's education as they support co-teaching partnerships.
To assist in making these partnerships successful, families should ask that both the general education and the special education teacher be present at all scheduled meetings. When possible, families should also include their child in these meetings. Families should ask the following questions as they meet with both the general education teacher and the special education teacher:
Is my child receiving access to the same curriculum as students in classes without disabilities?
What information does my child's Individualized Educational Program (IEP) contain about how my child will be taught grade-level content in the core academic areas such as reading and math?
During co-taught lessons, how is my child receiving the necessary accommodations in order to learn grade-level content?
When co-teaching partners meet to problem-solve issues involving my child, will I be contacted to provide input into any decisions made?
How often will co-teaching partners provide me with information about my child's academic and social progress?
What communication vehicle will co-teaching partners use to provide feedback about my child's achievement (e.g., phone, e-mail, student planners, activity logs)?
How can I contact my child's teacher when I have concerns or questions?
What strategies can I use at home while doing daily routines that will help my child be successful at school?
It is important that adults working with students with disabilities be willing to work as a team. Co-teaching partners and family members working together is the key to student success. Parents as partners have become a vital resource and support for successful inclusive schools and co-teaching teams.
Walther-Thomas, C., Korinek, L., McLaughlin, V.L., & Williams, B.T. (2000). Collaboration for inclusive education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Berger, E. H. (2004). Parents as partners in education. Columbus, OH: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
Callison, W.L. (2004). Raising test scores using parent involvement. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Education.
Friend, M., & Cook, L. (1996). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Date: November/December 2005