• Community welcome to Dec. 9 co-teaching update 

    With co-teaching underway, the General Brown Central School District community and board of education will receive an update on the district’s progress from an inclusion expert who has been partnering with the district for the past year. 

    During the board’s regular 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 meeting, Julie Causton, co-founder of Inclusive Schooling, plans to give an overview of integrated co-teaching and talk about the changes that have been implemented in GB classrooms. Prior to her presentation, there will be a short, combined performance of all members of elementary and junior-senior high school bands and choruses in the GB Junior-Senior High School auditorium. The board will then move to the General Brown Room for the remainder of its regular business meeting. 

    The district officially launched inclusive classroom instruction by implementing integrated co-teaching at all grade levels in September. Integrated co-teaching is an educational model in which a general education teacher and a special education teacher jointly provide instruction to a class that includes students with and without disabilities. 

    “We look forward to hearing from Dr. Causton on the progress that’s been made so far and where we go from here,” Superintendent Bara Case said. “I am so proud of our staff as they have shown their willingness to adapt to new ways of doing things.”

    Integrated co-teaching enables teachers to meet the diverse needs of all students in their classroom rather than sending some students out of the classroom for such services as math and English language arts support. That could be accomplished through assistive technology, modifications, flexible seating and student choice. Teachers are being challenged to provide access points for students to lessons and the curriculum based on students’ individual needs, strengths and areas of growth. 

    “Change is part of growth, and we are focused on growing and stretching in ways that benefit our students and staff so that, as a district, we are providing a positive and excellent educational experience for all,” Case said. 

    In fall 2018, the district’s leadership team began working with Causton and Kate MacLeod, consultants and co-founders of Inclusive Schooling, to research additional ways to fulfill the district’s mission of preparing and inspiring each student to meet future challenges, with a focus on students with disabilities. 

    Special education teachers were already working in classrooms with students at the junior-senior high school, but for the 2019-20 school year, classrooms shifted to a model in which the general education teacher and the special education teacher plan and teach collaboratively to support all students with strategies to master the content.

    At times, depending upon the content being taught, there are two certified teachers in classrooms available to help any student. 

    The district also hired additional certified special education teachers so that co-teaching could be implemented at all elementary grade levels. In the past, elementary students who received special education services were placed in separate classrooms from their general education peers or they were pulled from the general education classroom throughout the day to receive additional services. 

    Under the co-teaching model, students who receive special education services are placed in general education classrooms where they now receive services within the general education classroom. Additionally, reading and academic intervention services (AIS) teachers provide support directly in the classroom setting so that all students benefit from wraparound support. 

    For those students who were previously in a more restrictive setting, transitioning to a co-teaching model has provided them with the opportunity to become more a part of the school community and to form relationships with more of their classmates, Case said. 

    The implementation of inclusive classrooms district wide is just one aspect of the district’s 2019-22 strategic plan. The plan focuses on three areas: academic achievement, intentional investment in learning and school culture and community, which involves ensuring an inclusive environment in which all students will be educated in inclusive settings. 

    “We will continue to look for ways to enhance what we are doing across the district so all students feel welcome in all aspects of their educational experiences at General Brown,” Case said.