Karen, an inner-city teacher, loves teaching seventh grade math but feels overwhelmed by the wide range of students in her class—a third of whom have disabilities. Her colleague, Camilla, a special educator, is overbooked, with little one-on-one planning time with the math teachers.
Thousands of teachers across the nation face similar challenges. They teach a wide range of learners, and with No Child Left Behind and IDEA legislation, they are increasingly accountable for the performance of all their students, including those with disabilities.
EDC educators have stepped in, with funding from the National Science Foundation, to promote collaboration, helping mathematics teachers and special educators make mathematics instruction more accessible to students with learning disabilities and other special needs.
“Our program brings together two groups of teachers not accustomed to working with each other,” says EDC’s Fred Gross in the Center for Online Professional Education. “Teachers attend workshops to learn about the difficulties that students with disabilities have in learning math and about different instructional approaches. Then they meet regularly in study groups, examining student work and brainstorming strategies, to meet their students’ needs while preserving the integrity of the math.”
The program is operating and being evaluated in five diverse districts in Massachusetts, following 102 teachers over two years. Participating administrators report an impact on how teachers teach and their willingness to try new things. One principal said he’d like to see all the teachers in study groups. Why? “Because it changes their preconceived notions about each other and about special education students.”
Originally published on January 1, 2007