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Feb. 21, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU faculty write co-teaching book

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -Rapid changes in U.S. public education, including the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, have left many educators struggling to meet classroom demands. Three Slippery Rock University special education faculty have stepped up with one approach, the concept of co-teaching in the classroom, which is gaining popularity across the nation,

The three, Richael Barger-Anderson, an associate professor of special education, and Robert Isherwood and Joseph Merhaut, both associate professors of special education, have released "Strategic Co-Teaching in Your School: Using the Co-Design Model."

The 213-page work was published by Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

"The book was brought about by the work we are doing in area schools involving co-teaching," said Barger-Anderson. "Co-teaching involves teachers collaborating with others to get each student the help they need to success across the curriculum," she said.

"In our view, co-teaching will help all students in a class. We see it work in the inclusive classrooms where there is a wide range of abilities," she said.

The book, which will be used as a textbook in a variety of college education courses, is also a work K-12 teachers, administrators and others can use as a reference and from which to gather ideas for use in their own schools, Barger-Anderson said.

The text will also help students, including SRU education majors, undertaking their student-teacher requirements. "They will come to better understand working with the cooperating teacher in the classroom and will see how they can help students be successful," Barger-Anderson said.

The SRU trio worked on the book for six years. "We saw the co-teaching concept and its success in practice, and we realized we needed to put it down in writing," she said.

In part, the book helps those who are transitioning from the traditional self-contained classroom operation to the more flexible inclusionary classroom, in which students at all levels of skills are included. The book is designed to move teachers already using the co-teaching approach to the next level. It offers a detailed, step-by-step guide to the research-based Co-Deisgn Model, an innovative, schoolwide approach used in districts nationwide to strengthen collaboration and inclusion.

The work includes in-depth guidance, real-life success stories and forms and checklists to give those using the co-teaching system addition tools to implement the Co-Design Model.

"Collaboration and communication among school personnel are positive outcomes of No Child Left Behind and are critical to successful co-teaching practices. In addition, our students identified with special needs are now included in general classrooms with the supports necessary to allow them to be successful. This book can guide educators in how they can provide an appropriate education for the diverse leaners that are in their classrooms," wrote Michelle Miller, superintendent of the Blackhawk School District in Beaver Falls, in the book's forward."

Miller credited the three authors for helping "transform our program, staff and classroom into an inclusive, welcoming education setting that supports success for all students. Implement-ing collaborative practices via the Co-Design Model works."

"We are already using the text here on campus for pre-service teachers, and we are pushing for them to use it with their host teachers," she said.

"We recently held an on-campus workshop in the College of Education and worked with cooperative teachers involved in co-teaching," Barger-Anderson said.

"Co-teaching is being supported by school districts and has to be an assignment from the building administrator. It takes professional development to learn to incorporate the system and it takes time from the day to allow the participating co-teaching teachers to collaborate and develop the necessary learning steps to help the student succeed in his or her class assignments," she said.

"We have found that it takes nine different elements to make co-teaching successful. The essential elements include leadership; assembly of site; curriculum knowledge; co-instruction; classroom management; adaptations accommodations and modifications; assessment; personality types; and co-design time," she said. "Support from the administration, curriculum knowledge of what both teachers are teaching and goals for the classroom are also involved. It takes agreement on classroom management styles and faculty involved must have common planning time."

Program participants must agree on physical arrangement of the classroom, how they will evaluate or do assessments in the classroom and how they will adapt according to the learning needs of the students - that means making adaptations for both the gifted students and those struggling to learn the lessons," she said.

The program can be used in nearly every class, kindergarten through high school senior.

The book is intended for use by teachers at all grade levels and with any level of experience, content specialists in all curriculum areas and many other professional in the educational system, such as instructional coaches, reading specialists, physical and occupational therapists, nurses and speech and language therapists," Barger-Anderson said.

"Typically in most schools, administrators try to target the most diverse, in terms of learning abilities, classrooms," Barger-Anderson said. "In many cases one of the teachers involved in the general education teacher and the second is a special education teacher, at least for a portion of the day."

The book is available in the SGA Bookstore on campus as well as from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.