As school starts and students settle into their routines, teachers take the time to learn about each of their students. This includes monitoring behaviors, noting progress or lack of progress on assignments, and reading data from standardized assessments. For some teachers, it may be time to reassess students in order to make decisions about placement for those with special needs.
One of the options for specialized instruction of students with special needs is to keep them in the regular education classroom either with or without a special education co-teacher. What is the allowed ratio of students with special needs to regular ed students? Does it change if there is a co-teacher present? NeuroHealth Arlington Heights invites you to learn more about the IEP (individualized education plan) process, placement options for special education students, and how a robust co-taught classroom may be the best option for some students with special needs.
What Is an IEP?
An IEP is an educational plan that’s put in place for students who have been identified with a disability that impacts their education. The educational plan consists of annual goals, supplementary aids and services, related services, times for specialized instruction, and present levels of performance.
A team that must consist of a regular education teacher, parent/guardian, an LEA (local education agency, generally a school administrator), and a special education teacher meets annually to discuss the strengths and concerns in regards to that student. Based on the input from every team member and the data collected, the team will formulate an educational plan for that student.
What Is Specialized Instruction?
Specialized instruction is instruction provided to students with disabilities. This instruction can adapt the methodology, delivery, or content a teacher uses to help disabled students have equal access to the regular education curriculum. Some students require specialized instruction in order for them to make progress and close the gap in their education. Without this specialized instruction, they could potentially fall further behind their peers.
Students with disabilities can receive specialized instruction in many different ways, including in the general education classroom with proper support and modifications or accommodations, using check-ins and check-outs, through a resource room, in a co-taught classroom, in a special education classroom, at a separate school, within a residential facility, or in a homebound or hospital setting. The IEP determines the least restrictive environment for the child to receive the specialized instruction they need to make educational gains and close the gap between a general education student and the student with special needs.
What Is a Co-Taught Classroom?
A co-taught classroom consists of a general education teacher and a special education teacher delivering instruction together in a general education classroom. In this type of setting, it’s the responsibility of both teachers to plan instruction, know every student’s needs, share responsibilities and roles, and implement learning opportunities for all students. This method of teaching can be very impactful if implemented with integrity.
How Many Students With IEPs Should Be in a General Education Classroom?
The number of students in a classroom will vary. Ideally, a smaller class size is always preferable. In a typical classroom, the number of students ranges from 15 to 22 with one general education teacher. In a special education classroom where students receive specialized instruction in a small group setting, class sizes typically range from 3 to 10 students. This classroom will have one special education teacher and possibly a paraprofessional. Class size can change when providing specialized instruction in the general education setting for students with IEPs.
In a typical classroom setting, the rule of thumb is to have no more than a 70/30 split between students with and without disabilities. This rule is a guideline. In some cases, it may be as close to a 50/50 split. The students with disabilities in these classrooms may or may not be pulled out to receive specialized instruction throughout the day. The needs of the students should be the determining factor in how many students with IEPs are in a general education classroom with no support.
Students with disabilities will stay in the general education classroom and receive their specialized instruction from special education and regular education teachers. In this type of co-taught classroom setting, the number of students with IEPs could be slightly higher. However, it’s important to have a good mix of students. This allows some students to act as role models or leaders for those students who might struggle in certain areas.
With two teachers in the general education classroom, it’s possible to increase the total number of students, but closely maintaining the 70/30 split is ideal. Again, the needs of the students should determine how many students with an IEP are in the co-taught classroom.
Why Should a Student With an IEP Be in the General Education Classroom?
Students who have a disability have the right to a free and appropriate public education in a nonrestrictive environment. This means that a student with a disability should be placed with their same-aged peers as much as possible but still have their educational needs met. Students with disabilities can bring a new perspective to the classroom, and they learn so much from their peers who model appropriate behavior and academic readiness.
Peers that do not have a disability can also learn from their peers who have a disability. They can learn how to interact with them appropriately and better understand who they are as a person. Having the opportunity to have a child with an IEP be a part of the general education setting can be a powerful thing, especially when a dynamic co-teaching environment is established.
The number of students with an IEP in a general education classroom can vary between school districts and states. You’ll want to use caution when more than 30% of the class comprises students with an IEP. If the numbers are too high, all students could potentially suffer, as their educational needs may not be met. Sticking to the 70/30 split is a highly recommended guideline.
If you feel your student could benefit from the specialized instruction of an IEP and aren’t sure where to start, contact the experts at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights. School consultation and advocacy are our strengths, regardless of age or ability.