May 11, 2006 4:00 PM

DOE drops challenge of UFT win on collaborative teaching

“It means team-teaching in art, music and physical education, too. And it begins now, not in September.”

— UFT Vice President Carmen Alvarez

Facing reality, and bowing to the commonsense understanding of the word “all,” the Department of Education dropped its challenge to a UFT-won arbitration and directed principals to ensure that students mandated to receive collaborative team teaching (CTT) for “all” periods receive the services of both a general education teacher and a special education teacher, “consistent with students’ IEPs.”

“That means every period, all day and every day,” UFT Vice President Carmen Alvarez said. “It means team-teaching in art, music and physical education, too. And it begins now, not in September.”

The DOE directive comes after the city lost its two-year challenge against an arbitrator’s ruling that dual-teacher coverage was indeed mandatory in every CTT classroom with one or more students mandated to receive full-time CTT. The ruling held it couldn’t be done either by denying general education teachers their preparation time or by leaving CTT classes short-staffed. The DOE about-face came a full year after the state Supreme Court refused to vacate the arbitrator’s award and dismissed the department’s petition challenging the award.

While the directive, in the form of an implementation memo to school principals in the DOE’s Principal’s Weekly newsletter, recognizes that CTT can be provided for less than the full day, it also says that in these cases the Individualized Education Program (IEP) must indicate the number of periods per week or per day that the student will receive CTT services. “In making decisions regarding part-time CTT services,” Alvarez said, “IEP team members must consider whether the child needs the additional support of a special education teacher to benefit from instruction in that class. Budget and scheduling issues have no place in the discussion.”

Teacher preparation time can be accommodated by regularly assigning the IEP teacher to a CTT class for a limited number of periods, by using “shortage area prep” coverage, or by using F-status special education teachers.

Unfortunately, since the memo was one of a dozen “non-critical” items in the Principal’s Weekly, it is unlikely to be accompanied by any professional development for IEP team members, Alvarez said. She believes that the union will have to take a leadership role in seeing that it is implemented.

“IEP team members,” Alvarez said, “must make individualized determinations regarding each child’s needs when recommending CTT services. Many children recommended to receive CTT services will need the support of a special education teacher in art, music, computer and physical education. For those who do, it is incumbent upon the IEP team to recommend it.”

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IEP team members who need additional clarification regarding CTT recommendations and teachers who believe that CTT is not being properly implemented in their schools should contact Alvarez at calvarez@uft.org or 1-212-598-9546. 1