A recent meta-analysis by King-Sears and colleagues compared the achievement of students with disabilities in special education classes to those learning in co-taught classrooms. The researchers identified 26 studies for inclusion in the analysis, with all but one of the studies being conducted in the United States.
- Overall, the researchers found a moderate positive effect on academic achievement (ES = +0.47) for students educated in co-taught classrooms when compared to students educated in special education classrooms.
- Further analysis demonstrated the effect of co-taught classrooms varied by student age, with elementary school outcomes showing a weaker effect (ES = +0.25) than middle school outcomes (ES = +0.56) and high school outcomes (ES = +0.52).
- The analysis also indicated slightly stronger effects for co-taught classrooms in language arts (ES = +0.60) than in mathematics (ES = +0.42).
However, the researchers were concerned that the students assigned to co-taught classrooms may have had different characteristics than students assigned to special education classrooms. To assess this source of bias, the researchers separated studies using convenience sampling from those using randomization techniques. Studies using convenience sampling yielded larger effects (ES = +0.51) than those using a randomization technique (ES = +0.24), but both methods still demonstrated significant positive effects for students in co-taught classrooms.
This meta-analysis provides evidence that students with disabilities in co-taught settings have better academic outcomes than students in special education classrooms. However, the researchers also emphasized that the placement setting of a student with disabilities is a complex decision that must account for other factors beyond the scope of this meta-analysis.
Source: King-Sears, M. E., Stefanidis, A., Berkeley, S., & Strogilos, V. (2021). Does co-teaching improve academic achievement for students with disabilities? A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 34, 100405. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2021.100405