Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State May Be Flexible on Duval Co-Teaching; Schools Have to Show That the Practice Isn't Damaging to the Quality of Education, Attorney Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State May Be Flexible on Duval Co-Teaching; Schools Have to Show That the Practice Isn't Damaging to the Quality of Education, Attorney Says

Article excerpt

Byline: J. TAYLOR RUSHING

TALLAHASSEE -- A looming lawsuit by Duval County school officials against the state may be averted under a minor breakthrough last week over the county's use of co-teaching, which is among the highest in Florida.

Education Commissioner John Winn and W.C. Gentry, an attorney for the Duval County School Board, met Tuesday to discuss the county's practice of using co-teaching, or "team teaching," to lower student-teacher ratios.

Duval had 3,749 co-taught K-12 classrooms last year -- more than any other district in the state, according to statistics from the Department of Education. Local administrators say they need it as a tool to comply with the 2002 class-size amendment, but state officials have taken a stance against that and lawsuits have been mentioned.

Winn and Gentry reached no formal deal or agreement on the issue. However, Gentry said the state may be flexible if local officials can prove co-teaching isn't damaging the quality of education in Duval County and that the county can comply with the class-size amendment by 2010 without relying on the practice.

Winn couldn't be reached for comment Friday, but Department of Education officials confirmed the meeting.

"There's no commitment one way or another, but we have a good understanding and we're going to go back and see if we can address his concerns," Gentry said. "I left there thinking he really wants to work with us. The question is, can we get there? They want to see a plan."

Duval County School Board Chairwoman Nancy Broner said district officials are gathering statistics that Winn had requested but that co-teaching is a necessary tool because the county cannot build schools quickly enough. The county's co-taught classrooms, for example, already comprise between 11 percent and 14 percent of the district's total.

However, Broner said she thinks the district can satisfy the state and voters, too. …

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