What are the first steps that Ms. Flores, the school principal, and the School Improvement Team should take to support students with disabilities throughout the school system?

Page 3: Encourage Collaboration Among Teachers

To be effective, schools must also demonstrate collaboration between teachers. For students with disabilities, it is especially important for special education and general education teachers to work together. There are several ways for these teachers to collaborate:

  • In class: General education teachers might receive in-class direct support from a co-teacher or para-educator. Page High School in Franklin, Tennessee, a Beacons of Excellence school, has some classrooms with “shared teachers” who provide strategies and modifications while general educators teach content.
  • Outside of class: Special education and general education teachers can communicate regularly as peer-coaches or mentors, with special education teachers providing:
    • Teaching strategies
    • Advice on curriculum modifications
    • Behavior management strategies
    • Assessment strategies
    • Moral support

Benefits to Staff and Students

When teachers collaborate:

  • They enjoy working together hand-in-hand as equals, rather than as one another’s handmaidens.
  • Students learn better and assessment results are strong.

To foster successful collaboration among teachers, principals’ support is critical. Principals provide encouragement and innovation, and they should work to create structures for team teaching. Among the ways principals can encourage collaboration among teachers is to:

  • Provide extra planning time, possibly designated as “team” planning time
  • Arrange for professional development
  • Require all staff, including general educators, to attend and participate in IEP meetings for students with disabilities

Listen now as John Calton describes some of the ways he helps teachers to work collaboratively in his elementary school (time: 1:30).  


John Calton, PhD,
Principal Lipscomb Elementary School
Brentwood, TN

Listen now as general education teacher Janet Polsteen and special education teacher Brenda Flowers discuss a few of the ways that their principal supports them as they teach together in an inclusive classroom.

Janet Polsteen
General Education Teacher
Lipscomb Elementary School
Brentwood, TN

(time: 0:33)

View Transcript



Brenda Flowers
Special Education Teacher
Lipscomb Elementary School
Brentwood, TN

(time: 1:01)

View Transcript

beaconsIn Beacons of Excellence Schools, general educators often participate in IEP meetings. “Typically, they provide observations about the student’s behavior, social interactions, and developmental achievements. About half of the teachers share information about the instructional strategies and learning environments that worked well for a student, areas of need and how the student’s disability affected academic and non-academic achievements, and test and performance assessment results.”

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