Inclusion in the classroom is often at the forefront of conversations in educational institutions. However, implementing inclusive practices can often seem like an uphill battle and, at times, unattainable. Kairos Public School Vacaville Academy is defying all odds by implementing a campus-wide co-teaching model that benefits students and teachers alike.
Special Education Coordinator, Melanie Thomas, welcomed the El Dorado Charter SELPA to a first-hand demonstration of their co-teaching program. Melanie introduced a number of her colleagues who support special education and general education programs. In speaking with the Kairos team, the resounding sense of community and collaboration seemed to be at the foundation of the Kairos culture. Melanie explained that implementing co-teaching didn’t come without some difficulties. “Co-teaching and inclusion is challenging, and there’s no way around that — but it’s also so rewarding for students and staff,“ says Thomas. “Once we began implementing the co-teaching model, even some of our most fearful teachers began to experience the benefits of the added support.” Thomas outlines the difficulty that comes along with such an ambitious form of curriculum, but by focusing on extensive training and a shared culture of collaboration, the Kairos team has set an example as one of the most inclusive campuses in the Charter SELPA.
For those not familiar with the instructional model, co-teaching is a classroom setting where two educators are working together to instruct a class of both special and general education students. This model is an excellent example of special education students in the Least Restrictive Environment by allowing them to learn alongside their general education peers. Allowing students of varying abilities to learn in the same environment has not only positive academic impact but also produces students that are more independent and accepting of people with disabilities.
Megan Zadnik is a Language Arts teacher at Kairos and speaks to the misconceptions associated with educational modifications and accommodations. “Providing flexibility comes with a stigma of lowering a bar,” says Zadnik. We strive for adaptability to make sure each student is learning and working toward their own level of excellence.” Megan and her colleagues describe the idea of creating self-directed learners as students advocating on their own behalf without the shame of asking for assistance in the classroom. This heightened independence and confidence seen in Kairos students is a reflection of implementing the co-teaching model.
The success seen in the special education program at Kairos has now opened up a dialog with other local schools and districts who hope to mimic similar student outcomes on their campuses. If you are a partner with the Charter SELPA and would like to learn more about co-teaching, contact your program specialist.
Watch an interview with Kairos leadership on creating positive school culture and co-teaching: