Rocketship Education and O’Farrell Charter Schools enlist co-teaching methods that benefit all students

Many of the charter schools in our SELPA have been pushing toward inclusive programs by pursuing innovative teaching methods that offer students with special needs the opportunity to receive specialized academic instruction in the least restrictive environment: general education. Among these charter schools are Rocketship – Bay Area and O’Farrell Charter School from San Diego. Both have teamed up with the El Dorado Charter SELPA to design and implement a co-teaching program to support their inclusive classroom environments.

O’Farrell Succeeding with Zones of Regulation

O’Farrell Charter School serves students from transitional kindergarten through high school. In addition to developing co-teaching partnerships in language art and math, O’Farrell has identified a creative way to provide all elementary school students with social-emotional supports in the general education classroom through co-teaching. With the assistance of the El Dorado Charter SELPA, they have teamed up with their speech pathologist and school psychologist to implement a Zones of Regulation program utilizing the Zones of Regulation Curriculum, allowing students with disabilities and general education students to learn about social-emotional issues and strategies to manage them. “We are providing an independent approach to self-awareness, which is having an enormous impact on our students’ academics, and even their home lives,” says Samantha Pohaku, Director of Special Education at O’Farrell Charter School. “For the general education students, this program allows our kids to make sense of some of the feelings they may be having before they ever get to the point that requires an IEP.”

The co-teaching program/service delivery model has established a classroom culture which integrates teaching styles conducive for all students, resulting in a richer learning experience. Co-teaching is not only a means to improve the learning environment for students with special needs, but also has positive impacts on students in the general education setting. “We find that this inclusive model enables student interactions that benefit all of our kids,” says Pohaku. “As our academic performance rises, we’re also seeing a wonderful increase in student interaction and collaboration.”

Nationwide Co-Teaching Model from Rocketship Education

Implementing a co-teaching service delivery model within one school can be a challenge, and designing an inclusive program that can be adopted by schools throughout the country can seem like an educational mountain of challenges. In spite of those challenges, Rocketship created a co-teaching model that could be emulated throughout their 16 schools currently operating across the nation. “It was important to create a co-teaching model that could be scaled and implemented in all of our schools,” says Emma Brady, Associate Director of Integrated Special Education at Rocketship Education. “We created a co-teaching framework that is student-focused and widely accepted among our administrators and teachers.”

The first priority was to build a co-teaching model that would complement the current Rocketship instructional model. The idea began with the growing desire to ensure meaningful inclusion was occurring in all classrooms. At Rocketship, the number of students with exceptional needs making significant academic and social gains is impressive, in large part due to the implementation of co-teaching practices. “I’ve seen with my own eyes some of our most challenging students now thriving in the co-teaching environment,” says Brady. The co-teaching approach is working well throughout Rocketship schools and serves as a leading example for systemic change in today’s education system.

An unexpected highlight of the co-teaching model was the excitement voiced by the teachers themselves. Implementing co-teaching can come with challenges in teacher preparation and partnership, but Rocketship teachers are engaged and invested in the execution and continual improvement of the co-teaching model. “Beyond the incredible academic results we’re seeing, the co-teaching model is reinvigorating the passion within our staff,” says Brady. “Implementing any new model can come with challenges. Our staff embraced the challenges and implemented co-teaching to benefit students at Rocketship.”