Coaching Collaborative Partners
An average of eighty percent of the school budget is spent on employee salaries and benefits. Being a steward of these resources is paramount for building principals and other administrators. P.S. duPont Middle School principal, Kimberly Gibbs, was concerned that, even though she had provided common planning time in the master schedule, collaborative partners assigned to support students with disabilities included in general education classes were primarily using a one-teach/one-assist approach for instruction. Ms. Gibbs realized that teacher partnerships represented a large investment of unrealized potential in co-taught classrooms. She knew that effective teaching would require co-teachers to use a variety of teaching approaches such as flexible grouping for the delivery of specially designed instruction and equitable support for all students in co-taught classrooms. Ms. Gibbs partnered with Stetson and Associates to assist with building the capacity of school staff to effectively support all learners in co-taught classrooms.
In early October 2021 amid pandemic challenges, co-teachers were observed. Although they had been asked to present a lesson that included parallel, station, or alternative teaching and that provided accommodations according to student IEPs, only one lesson demonstrated an approach other than one-teach/one-assist. Later in the year, a second round of observations was preceded by sessions guiding collaborative lesson design. With a shortage of substitutes, teacher planning periods were utilized for lesson preparation to identify flexible grouping opportunities and use of the Instructional Design Tool (IDT) for the lesson design. Prior to lesson delivery and observation, the lesson objective and teacher roles were reviewed. Following the observation, a collaborative partner post-conference was held to allow partnership reflection regarding what worked well and what could be changed as well as observer suggestions. The focus on planning yielded the results that all but one of the lessons observed used small groups to deliver specially designed instruction.
A valuable lesson shared by the teacher partnerships was the critical nature of common planning time for partners to build their capacity and maximize the impact on student learning. Campus and district leaders should not assume collaborative partners know how to best utilize planning time but instead offer guidance in lesson design in a positive coaching environment.
One factor supporting the success of Ms. Gibbs’ initiative was central office support. Members of central office administration honored the need for professional development in early December when the Director of Special Education Dr. Nicole Warner, contracted with Stetson and Associates for a training session on quality Tier-One differentiated instruction and co-teaching. In addition, Dr. Warner, Coach Dr. Sharron Wisdom, and Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools Dr. Yolanda McKinney participated in classroom observations/reflections.