Co-teaching to support ELLs, an article by Anne Beninghof and Mandy Leensvaart, in February 2016's Educational Leadership (accessible to ASCD members here), discusses effective ways to maximize student learning through co-teaching. The first thing of note was that there was a school wide mandate for the plan. Second, teaching pairs received multiple years of training and coaching which was followed up with administrative support peer observations. This requires substantial commitment and work from the school to instill collaborative structures. They note that,
"examples of poor co-teaching abound. Simply placing two educators together in a classroom does not result in effective co-teaching. When districts have tried this, many found that the classroom teacher ends up in charge while the ELD (English Language Development) teacher is drastically underused, holding up the wall in the back waiting to help out or becoming a 'kid whisperer' for the ELLs." (p. 71)
From the special education perspective I understand that reality all too well. Sitting quietly in a classroom may make the general education teacher comfortable, but does not allow for the specially designed instruction that the students truly need. Unfortunately administration is often more concerned with the mandate being met in word than in deed- make it look good, don't upset the apple cart too much, and they are happy. More than two decades after co-teaching became part of the reality for general education, there still exists huge pockets of resistance. There also are places where collaborative teaching happens regularly. Much of the results is actually based on the personnel having buy-in or not.
The authors do not give much space to planning. They mention a lesson plan design change that includes prompts for learning targets, academic language, and participation structure. Presumably this would be based off a general education lesson plan that was passed along to the ELD teacher or co-planned. I am left wondering what really happens in the school. It also would have been nice to see a sample lesson plan.
They put forward excellent result for their program. I am glad to hear that they are helping their students achieve so well. I wonder about the portability in light of logistic issues around planning and scheduling time, personnel issues and administrative support. Unfortunately many co-teaching set ups are more the "kid whisperer" version than co-teaching. Consequently, data on the program design tends to be inconclusive. Rigorous well implemented programs may be highly useful.