Argyle Co-Teachers Show How Teaming Up Works; Practice Will Not Be Allowed Next Year

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY MARAGHY

Two teachers are better than one, some Argyle Elementary School students and parents say.

"You learn more with two," said Ebonee Maxey.

Ebonee is among 31 third-graders who have two classroom teachers this year: Karen Frazier and Paige Roberts, who volunteered to co-teach to help save space at what is Clay County's most crowded public school.

According to state guidelines, a third-grade class should have only 18 students. Co-teaching makes it possible to go above capacity and squeeze more students into one room, school officials said.

"We didn't have room to put another building on the campus. In theory, it splits a class in half, " said Mary Bethea, assistant superintendent of instruction. "It allows us to go past the cap of 18 and still make it a workable situation for children."

Co-teaching, normally reserved for special education classes, means assigning two teachers to one classroom.

The practice has increased 260 percent in Florida public schools since 2002, when voters approved a class-size reduction amendment. It calls for all public school systems, by 2006-07, to have no more than 18 students per classroom in pre-kindergarten through third grade, 22 in fourth through eighth and 25 in high school.

However, a recent interpretation says those numbers should be per teacher, not just per classroom. So beginning next year, co-teaching will not be an acceptable solution for class-size reduction purposes, according to the Department of Education.

Bethea said she's hoping the state will rethink that decision because Clay is in such a rapid growth area that it needs that option to meet the requirements.

2 TEACHING STYLES

Both Argyle Elementary and Swimming Pen Creek Elementary have four classes with co-teachers this year due to a shortage of class space. They are the only schools in Clay County using co-teachers.

Although it was chosen for space purposes, Bethea said administrators are seeing many advantages to the teaching style.

"It's working well. Students have very little down time," she said. "It gives students two options, two personalities to interact with."

Meanwhile, Argyle's overcrowding should be relieved in a year. Clay County School officials are fast-tracking construction of a new school nearby in OakLeaf Plantation, slated to open in August.

A search of educational theory Web sites showed that opponents have said co-teaching amounts to chaos, double-talk and ambiguity leading to student frustration. Supporters argue that it prepares students for a world filled with complex issues open to numerous, and sometimes contradictory, interpretations.

Though some call co-teaching a necessary "evil," Argyle Elementary educators, parents and students said nothing but good has come from it.

"You have two teaching styles and two personalities," said guidance counselor Vickie Lurie. "Kids who don't bond with one may bond with the other."

"You can always get help in this class," said student Victor Deschapell who said if Roberts can't help him, Frazier can, and vice versa. …