What is curriculum development?
According to IDEA 97, unless it has been determined that a disability is so severe a student will take an alternative assessment, children with disabilities are to learn the same curriculum as their nondisabled peers. This focus on the same curriculum makes the development of curricular goals for students with disabilities easier. However, at the same time, students with disabilities have additional curricular expectations as outlined in their IEPs. Therefore, students with disabilities who are included in the co-taught classroom have two curricula that must be considered when working as a team. With such clear state standards in most states the "what" students will learn is easy in a co-taught setting from the general education curriculum, but the "what" students with disabilities will need to have put into the curriculum to meet their unique needs must be discussed (e.g. behavioral needs, different level textbooks, assistive technology).
Why is curriculum development important in co-teaching?
A blended or Universally Designed Curriculum (REF) must be at the core of the discussion for co-taught teams. Otherwise, just placing two teachers in a room together, delivering instruction in a general education setting to students with disabilities without curricular goals to meet their learning, behavioral, and social goals, will ensure that the co-teaching relationship does not work for all students.
Communicating with the general education classroom teacher
At the core of success for co-teaching is that both teachers discuss the expectations of the general education curriculum and the unique learning needs of the student with special needs. This co-planning for the curriculum is equally important to daily co-planning, because if the curricular needs of students are not at the core of daily planning, then no matter how much daily planning occurs, it may not meet individual student's needs. For example, a student with behavioral needs being included in the general education setting still might fail, if a strong behavioral structure is not introduced parallel to the general education content. Therefore, just placing students into the classroom and focusing on the general education content still may not make students successful.
Individual Student Summary Sheet: Use the tool provided to give general educators summaries of students' IEPs. You can also use this form for any student who has been through the child study team process, for a student who has been absent, or even for a student who is gifted who might be bored or need some more challenging work. One school uses these forms and puts them into a PDF format out on their server. Then this form is linked to the students' names in the electronic attendance process. When a teacher logs in (which makes the forms secure) to take attendance, there is a red asterisk next to the student's name that the teacher can click on and see the "summary" sheet for that student in his/her class. This form is especially helpful when you are co-teaching to allow the general educator to get a quick overview of the needs of students.
Providing the special education teacher with important general education curriculum information
Although special educators are very knowledgeable people, they may or may not know all the material covered, especially at the secondary level. Therefore, providing an overview before a co-teaching arrangement starts can be very helpful in defining roles, making meaningful accommodations for all students, and in being more effective as a team.
General Education Curriculum Snapshot: Use this form for the general educator to provide an overview for the special educator as to what will be coming up over the next 9 weeks. This form can also be used to continually assess the progress of students with disabilities and identify potential stumbling blocks, if students are not meeting minimal levels of mastery, especially if skills build upon each other in areas such as English or math.