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Volume 15, Number 2
March/April 1999


Are Two Heads Better Than One in an Inclusion Classroom?


When Ronni Swan's principal at Starms Discovery Learning Center in Milwaukee asked her to co-teach this school year with a special educator, Swan balked. A general education teacher, Swan had already had a bad experience trying to co-teach, and the memory made her leery. But the push on co-teaching was part of the multiage elementary school's mission to weave disabled students into all regular classes. So, Swan agreed reluctantly—and then worried.

As it happens, her pairing with teacher Paige Richards has worked so well it's made her a believer in co-teaching. "I would never go back to just teaching regular ed [by myself]," Swan says firmly. "It's no fun. It's lonely." Swan also believes the students benefit academically from having two teachers present, each with different strengths. Swan's strong suit is language arts, while Richards' is science.

Richards, the special educator, also raves about co-teaching and being able to mix special ed and regular ed children together. "I feel like the benefits of inclusion far outweigh anything in a self-contained [special education] classroom," she says. She cites in particular the progress of one 10-year-old mentally retarded boy she has taught for three years in an inclusion class at the school. When he started in the multiage class, the boy had poor social skills and couldn't stay on task. Now the boy can "tell you what he did over the weekend. He can tell you two or three things in a row, on a topic, and then switch to something else. That's a goal we had for his IEP (Individualized Education Plan)."

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.