Integrated Co-Teaching Services
December 13, 2021
The decision to move forward with a full-day Integrated Co-teaching Services (ICS) model at Garden City Park School was in discussion and planning stages since July 2017. As discussed at the Work Session on November 22, 2021, in public sessions and at budget hearings in the recent past, the many positive reasons for implementing a full-day ICS program have been openly shared with the community, and thoughtfully crafted and planned as the needs of our students have evolved.
The profile of the disabled learner in our district has changed over time, and, subsequently, teachers and administrators have supported and requested the extension of the special educator’s assignment from 2 hours of service per day to full-day. We have witnessed more involved behavioral, emotional, and academic needs over the past ten years. With one special education teacher split between two sections, the amount of time for planning between teachers and monitoring and assessment of students was not ideal to support the level of increased need of our learners.
In addition, we observed that in the primary grades, K-2, very few students were recommended for ICS. At times, this resulted in one special education teacher assigned to a class that had one classified student, limiting the reach of the teacher, and our ability to assign the teacher to additional students with disabilities. For these reasons, it seemed appropriate to combine the students into one class (as we do with special classes), assign one special education teacher to one group of students in one location, and pair that teacher with one general education teaching partner.
Federal law states that students with disabilities should be removed from the general education classroom to the least extent possible. This is called the “least restrictive environment” (LRE). Our responsibility is to give students with disabilities access to the general education curriculum with the proper support and services. There are a range of services, called a continuum of services, from related services to hospital and residential services, that a school district is obligated to provide as necessary.
Districts are not required to provide a particular service in a student’s home school. This is evident in the fact that students with disabilities from all four schools attend our intensive needs classes at either Manor Oaks or Garden City Park. In addition, our special classes consist of students with disabilities from across the district and are located at Garden City Park and New Hyde Park Road School. When we are able to, we provide services in a home school, however, a district is not obligated to do so, and fiscally, this practice is not justified due to the small number of students requiring the service.
It is also important to note that Integrated Co-Teaching Services is not a mandatory service. Schools are not required to implement ICS, although it is a strongly encouraged practice. Because we have chosen to implement Integrated Co-Teaching Services in our district, we follow the guidance set forth that states that the maximum number of students with disabilities is 12 per class. The number of nondisabled students should be more than or equal to the number of students with disabilities.
After analyzing the number of students in our district who have historically qualified for the 2-hour ICS, it is anticipated that we will very likely need two schools to host the program in our district once the number of students recommended at a grade level meets capacity (12 or half the class) at GCP. The data show that we tend to see an increase in the number of students recommended for ICS by third grade. Additional sections in the upper grades would be considered for housing at New Hyde Park Road School, as the special classes are also located there, and ICS offers those children an opportunity for mainstreaming. Road School may also have enough instructional space to accommodate related services, and because of its central location in the district, transportation may not be required for many students.
We chose to begin the full day ICS at Garden City Park School as it historically has the lowest K-2 class enrollment, and, therefore, it was determined we could easily accommodate additional students. As a result, the class size at the other schools decreased by the number of ICS students attending GCP, saving sections and not requiring new hires.
GCP was also a sound choice because most students who are attending GCP from another school qualify for transportation. This helps when a parent has to drop siblings at different schools in the morning. When transportation is not available, the principal makes a plan to assist parents with early dismissal or late pick up. Additionally, siblings of ICS students have been offered seats at GCP. Because of our K-6 configuration, siblings attending different schools is not common in our district, although it happens historically in the case of special classes.
Historically, when a child no longer needs services at a particular school, parents have been given the choice to move their child back to their home school or remain at their current school. Moving forward, parents may be given the opportunity to move their child to another school if a section of ICS is opened at another school and the class is not at capacity, and it does not cause the need to open an additional section.
We understand that parents may be disappointed that their children may not attend a school that is not their home school. Each family has the prerogative to make their decision to not make the move. That has not been the norm, as evident from the population attending special classes and intensive needs classes. Over the last ten years, only three families have refused services, and the district has worked with them to accommodate their children’s needs.
The Committee on Special Education recommends, encourages, and supports families in making decisions for their child to receive the best education in the least restrictive environment. Our teachers and administrators are responsible for, and have done an extraordinary job, making every family and child feel that the school they attend is their home school, and that they are truly an Eagle, Mustang, Cardinal, or Husky.
Presented at the BOE work session 11/22