Co-teaching provides a structure for special and general educators to work together to educate students with disabilities in the general education classroom. According to special education law (PL 94-142), students with disabilities should be served in the “least restrictive environment”—in most cases, an environment that allows students with disabilities to be educated alongside their non-disabled peers. Over time, the least restrictive environment has been interpreted as more than a particular location; the concept has broadened to include an educational approach that minimizes social restriction and provides students with disabilities access to the general education curriculum (Lenz and Deschler, 2004). Thus, students with disabilities are moving into general education classrooms. Co-teaching facilitates this placement by enabling specialized social and academic support.
Who Is Responsible for Students with Disabilities?
Although students with disabilities typically spend the majority of their time in general education classrooms, there has been some confusion about who is responsible for their education (Maheady, Harper, and Mallette, 2001). Special education students have been considered primarily or solely the responsibility of special education teachers. However, funding for all students who receive instruction from general educators, including those with disabilities, is allocated to general education, implying that general educators are responsible for the education of all students within their classrooms—with or without disabilities. These funds are used to pay budget items including salaries for general education teachers and supplies for the general education classroom (Office of the Federal Register, 2005).
What Is the Legal Requirement?
Despite the implication of budget allocation, many current instructional practices limit the role of the general educator in educating students with disabilities—contrary to the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act (2004), which governs services to students with disabilities. This law requires that the general educator participate in decision-making for and instruction of students with disabilities. Ideally, the general education teacher is responsible for the education of the majority of students with disabilities in general education classrooms, and the special education teacher supports the general educator in the meeting the students' special education needs.
List of References
Lenz, K. and Deschler, D. (2004). Teaching content to all: Evidence-based inclusive practices in middle and secondary schools. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Maheady, L., Harper, G., and Mallette, B. (2001). Peer-mediated instruction and interventions and students with mild disabilities, Remedial and Special Education, 22, 4–14.
Office of the Federal Register (2005). The Federal Register, 70. Retrieved on September 1, 2005, from http://www.ofr.gov/.