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Modeling success

Statistics show Duncombe Elementary exceeds state average for special ed proficiency with its unique co-teaching model

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Duane Fliehe, 7, left, and Olivia Andrews, 7, read a book together in Peggy Larson's first grade class at Duncombe Elementary School recently.

A co-teaching model that was introduced at the start of the 2016-17 school year has proven successful for special education students at Duncombe Elementary School.

Duncombe is 13 percent above the state average in terms of serving special education students, according to Stacey Cole, Fort Dodge Community School District director of education services.

The study shows the average percent of special education students who are proficient.

Duncombe scored 38 percent, while the rest of Iowa was at about 25 percent, Cole said.

The co-teaching model puts a special education teacher and general education teacher in the same classroom to serve all students.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Kirstie Ron, special education teacher at Duncombe Elementary School, left, provides support to Shanise Foy, 7, and Mariah Gonzalez, 8, during a reading program in Peggy Larson's first grade class at Duncombe Elementary School recently.

Duncombe houses kindergarten through fourth grade.

“Students with an IEP, Individualized Education Program, are served throughout the day with a general ed teacher and special ed teacher,” Cole said. “That means those two teachers can decide together what that instruction looks like.”

Duncombe implemented that model for one classroom at every grade level for the 2016-17 school year.

The model was used in Peggy Larson’s first-grade class.

Larson said the results have been beneficial.

“This allows us to differentiate our instruction more,” she said.

Larson also said the model is more inclusive for students.

“The kids don’t know who is special ed and who is not, so they don’t feel labeled,” Larson said.

Kirstie Ron is a special education teacher who is paired with Larson.

Ron said students who ordinarily would be separated from the general education classroom are now kept in the same class.

“Special ed kids used to get pulled out of the classroom, but now they are integrated 99 percent of the time,” Ron said. “They are getting a double dose of education.”

Ron and Larson are able to reach more students by working as a team.

For example, one can teach while one observes.

Racquel Benegas, special education teacher, is paired with Kathy Arends for fourth-grade instruction.

Benegas said the partnership allows for more flexibility.

“There is a lot of planning that goes into this,” Benegas said. “We do a lot of flexible grouping. We have seen a lot of growth in reading and math. It’s been a fun year.”

Arends also approves of the model.

“We are closing the gap,” she said. “That’s our big thing. That’s the whole purpose is to close the gap with other kids. All of our special ed kids have improved with this model.”

Cole said that based on the success at Duncombe, the district may look to expand the model to other classrooms and schools.

“Now that we see the results we are getting at Duncombe, we are considering expanding it,” she said. “As we see that it works and as we can afford it, the model will continue to be used.”

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