Are Two Teachers Better than One? The Effect of Co-Teaching on Students with and without Disabilities

Authors: Nathan Jones & Marcus A. Winters

Project Summary
Co-teaching has become a common strategy for educating students with disabilities in inclusive environments. It involves a general education teacher and a special education teacher working together to teach students with and without dis­abilities in a single classroom. Co-teaching is meant to givestudents with disabilities access to both the general education curriculum and the specially designed instruc­tion outlined in their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

Nathan Jones and Marcus A. Winters leverage longitudinal data for students and teachers in Massachusetts to provide the first estimates for the causal effect of co-teaching within the context of a large public school system.

Key Findings
As currently implemented in Mas­sachusetts, Jones and Winters find that attending a co-taught classroom on average leads to test score improvements for both students with and without disabilities. However, the magnitude of the benefit is small relative not only to prior estimates for the impact of co-teaching but also relative to the impact of other educational interventions. The effect of co-teaching is similar regardless of subject tested, grade level, as well as the student’s sex or race/ethnicity.

Implications and Recommendations
The findings are generally positive for co-teaching. However, the broad endorsements of co-teaching common among special education researchers and policymakers are perhaps not warranted given the magnitude of the effect. Policymakers require detailed information about the financial and other costs associated with co-teaching. Additional research exploring the social impacts of moving students with disabilities into inclusive classroom settings could also be useful. If in combination with the small test score benefits co-teach­ing improved the social skills and friendships ofstudents with disabilities, then it might be worthwhile even if it imposes significant costs.

Teacher looking over students reading from a book

Project Resources 

Brief Author Presentation