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Cambridge School Tries Co-teaching

The Cambridge Public Schools Committee discussed yesterday night the possibility of extending an innovative method for integrating special education students into the classroom from the Haggerty School to other schools in the district next year.

The Cambridge Public Schools Committee discussed yesterday night the possibility of extending an innovative method for integrating special education students into the classroom from the Haggerty School to other schools in the district next year.

The meeting revolved around the presentation of Janelle T. Bradshaw—the principal of the Haggerty School—regarding the school’s practice of “co-teaching,” which is a method that seeks to integrate special needs students into regular classrooms.

Bradshaw said that since the advent of co-teaching at the school, there has been “an increased community feeling” among all the students.

Timothy K. Cutler, who has three children at the Haggerty School, including one with special needs, said that all his children have benefited from the new policy.

He described it as “a fabulous program” for his son with special needs, but also emphasized that the method is one of “mutual exchange” for all kinds of students.

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The Haggerty School, which is K-6, piloted the method in the last school year in three classrooms, and has expanded it to five this year.

Bradshaw said that she had decided to attempt a less conventional model of integrating special education students into an environment dominated by general education students because she did not believe that their needs were being met.

In the previous system, special needs students were constantly removed from the room to meet with outside help and were therefore never properly integrated into the classroom environment, Bradshaw explained.

She noted that the continual movement of the special needs students in and out of the classroom caused the school to sometimes feel “like Grand Central Station” and that since the implementation of co-teaching “there have been a lot less doors slamming in the hallways.”

Given the positive response, committee members said after the meeting that they are considering expanding the program to other schools in the district for the next school year.

But they added that they still have concerns.

“I want to understand how we’re evaluating the program,” said school committee member Patricia M. Nolan ’80. “But it sounds like we heard some really promising things tonight.”

Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey M. Young added that he thinks that co-teaching is “an excellent structure to address certain goals.”

“As part of the budget process for 2010-2011, I expect it will be part of the initiatives we discuss,” he said.

—Staff writer Sofia E. Groopman can be reached at segroopm@fas.harvard.edu.

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