School Committee Hears Report on Co-Teaching

The School Committee’s April 22 meeting focused on the district’s co-teaching model and development of a revised job description for art teachers. Superintendent Jon Sills also delivered an update on the district’s calendar revision, which is pending details from the Commonwealth’s Department of Secondary Education.

Co-Teaching in Bedford Schools

Marianne Vines, the Director of Special Education, presented the district’s report on co-teaching, a practice that has grown since original implementation in Bedford in 2012.

Vines described co-teaching as an educational model in which a general education teacher and a special education teacher collaboratively plan, instruct, and assess a diverse group of students in a single co-taught classroom. Vines noted that this model draws on the strengths of the general education teacher, who is an expert in curriculum and pacing, and a special education teacher, who is an expert in adapting the curriculum and differentiating instruction to meet the individual needs of students.

Since co-teaching differs among classrooms, Vines developed four measures of successful co-teaching: impact on inclusion, student outcomes, the fidelity of implementation, and stakeholder perception.

Vines stressed that inclusion is not a favor rather it is the law. With this in mind, Vines assured the School Committee that inclusion was a priority focus of the School Department. However, she made it clear that co-teaching helps both special education and general education students, since the introduction of another instructor in the classroom increases opportunities to receive individualized help. Furthermore, with co-teaching, there is increased appreciation and acceptance of differences among students

Vines also cited a review of special education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that asserted that students with disabilities who had full inclusion placements appeared to outperform similar students who were not included to the same extent in general education classrooms with their non-disabled peers.

Vines said co-teaching helped the district reduce out of district placements and use Bedford’s local resources to educate students with special needs closer to home.

The district will continue to implement co-teaching partnerships between staff. In addition, Vines stressed that improvements to stakeholders’ perceptions are critical. The practice should be communicated as an opportunity for an improved education setting rather than an intervention.

Since its implementation with two co-teaching pairs in the high school during the 2012-2013 school year, co-teaching has grown considerably to cover all four schools with a total of 31 pairs.

Vines recommended that across the district, administrators should work together to develop a vision for co-teaching and provide professional development for administrators on co-teaching.

Superintendent’s Report

Sills reviewed Governor Charlie Baker’s decision to close schools for the remainder of the school year. He noted that the Governor’s announcement was a difficult decision with large ramifications for the youth, families, and educators. However, Bedford Public Schools remain committed to teaching, even if remotely, through the end of the year.

Sills acknowledges that online education continues the risk of extending the academic gap in education that he described as already troublesome. Sills said it would be a priority of the district to figure out the best plan for students’ education moving forward.

He said the decision to close schools would impact the transition in the fall when introducing teaching material that is normally covered the year before.

Looking forward to next week and the rest of the year, the School Department, coordinating with the Board of Health, will reopen the building to allow students to collect supplies and other personal items at school.

District Calendar Revision

Although Superintendent Sills expected to finalize the calendar at the School Committee’s April 22 meeting, he was unable to move forward due to legal issues tied up in the Department of Secondary Education. A final day of the year for Bedford Public Schools will be announced and voted at a later date.

Art Teacher Job Description

Superintendent Sills presented Art Program Director Sean Hagan’s updated job description for art teachers across all four Bedford schools. It includes both generic responsibilities that apply to all teachers and those that specifically pertain to the department. A vote is planned for the next meeting.

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