Syracuse Post Standard
By Elizabeth Doran
The Onondaga Nation School is taking an unusual approach to teaching in an effort to boost its pupils’ state test scores.
The school last year adopted collaborative, or “team,” teaching in math and other core classes.
Collaborative teaching traditionally involves a classroom teacher who periodically teams with a special education teacher, said Jessica Cohen, Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES superintendent. The Onondaga Nation School’s approach, in which a full-time math specialist is paired with a classroom teacher in every class, is innovative, particularly because of the intensity of individualized instruction it offers, Cohen said.
“It’s a wonderful approach, and is designed so the individualized education will help those kids who are struggling to learn,” Cohen said.
At the school, fifth-grade teacher Roz George and math specialist Mary Sennett are a team in one class, where they plan lessons and teach the 11 pupils.
“It gives us more opportunity to help those kids who don’t get it, and provides challenges to those who do,” said Principal Carol Erb. “Each teacher brings something to the collaboration, so the end result is a very strong delivery of instruction.”
The school also is relying on more staff development using an outside consultant, is applying more lessons to life outside the classroom, and engaging pupils with such activities as a math club.
“I love math,” said fifth-grader Shane Daniels. “Math is all around us, and I can use it to measure width and height if I’m building a house.”
Erb said the effort will take time.
“We’ve got a lot going on, and we’re getting better at what we’re doing,” she said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”