CHIME Charter Elementary School: Increasing Teacher Expertise « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

CHIME Charter Elementary School: Increasing Teacher Expertise

Practice Area: School-University Partnerships

CHIME Charter Elementary School:
Increasing Teacher Expertise

CHIME Charter Elementary School

Woodland Hills, California
Founded 2001
220 students
Grades K-5
White 56%, Hispanic 27%, African-American 9%, Asian 8%, Other 0%
7% English language learners
20% Special needs
20% Receive subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2006.

As a model for the inclusive education of students with disabilities, CHIME has reaped many benefits from its
relationship with California State University at Northridge.

CSUN’s faculty assists with CHIME’s governance, shares current best
practices with CHIME teachers and provides skills training to teachers to
help with students’ social development. CSUN also provides professional development, support, and problem troubleshooting in any area where teachers request assistance.

In turn, the university sends a large number of observers and student teachers to CHIME each year to observe and experience best practices for teaching in an inclusive classroom.

CHIME’s students benefit from the school/university partnership by receiving instruction from well-educated, motivated teachers. The children’s test scores have improved significantly and their socio-emotional growth has been documented.


CHIME maintains a demonstration site for inclusive education where about 20 percent of the school population have special needs. Each classroom follows the co-teaching model in which a general education teacher is paired with a special education teacher.

Every semester, CHIME hosts CSUN student teachers in both general education and CSUN’s four special education credential programs. Each CHIME teacher is paired with a student teacher, all of whom have been hand-picked for their adaptability to the co-teaching model. Student observers and fieldwork students from CSUN are also at the school to observe and participate in classroom activities.

All teachers have a weekly planning meeting and daily 30-minute debriefings at the end of the school day. CSUN provides training and support in any area in which teachers request assistance; for one, setting up and maintaining a reading lab to provide additional help for some students in inclusive classrooms.

CSUN guides CHIME by assisting with the governance of the school through its representation on the CHIME Board of Directors and the school governing councils.

All CHIME teachers may avail themselves of resources at the CSUN School of Education. Many of CHIME’s paraprofessionals have enrolled in CSUN’s teacher credential program; working at CHIME has enhanced their teaching knowledge and expertise.

Members of the greater community — parents, educational administrators, policymakers – are also allowed to observe CHIME’s classrooms. Viewing the inclusive environment firsthand may affect their parenting, educational supervision and governance, and public policymaking.

From outside the partnership, teachers in both special education and general education come to CHIME to observe inclusive education and increase their own knowledge and skills through the experience.

Requirements Of Inclusive Co-Teaching Special Education

As the school exists as a demonstration site for inclusive education, most of the school budget is tied into the partnership. For example, money is allocated to maintain that the school campus and classrooms are all wheelchair-accessible.

CHIME’s traditional school schedule (summers off) meshes with CSUN’s semester schedule. The two schools are about five miles apart, a distance that isn’t ideal but is not insurmountable. Location on the CSUN campus would be great for both schools, CHIME staffers have said, but they did not see it happening in the near future.

The administration and teachers agree that hiring teachers with the right experience and attitude are crucial for the success of the program. Paraprofessionals to assist the special education teachers are also necessary; sharing the school’s philosophy is more important than experience when hiring paraprofessionals.

CSUN is the main provider of professional development for the CHIME staff. At the beginning of each school year, CSUN’s five days of development focus on best practices, training, and relevant research. CSUN also provides bi-monthly university research forums and continuous follow-up on an as needed basis.

CSUN also has adopted and has funded the Schools Attuned program, the only money that CSUN contributes to the partnership. All teachers are trained in the program, designed to help struggling students measurably improve their performance by providing training for teachers that integrates understanding of variation in learning with a model for promoting student success.

CSUN faculty spend several weeks each year prepping and developing professional development for CHIME, though professors and staff say it is hard to measure exactly how much time the partnership requires.

CSUN’s dean of education is CHIME’s ambassador within CSUN; the university’s president is a great supporter of the partnership. Thus, the CHIME staff’s resources and opportunities are much greater than those of schools with no university partner.

Lessons Learned

CSUN provided support in many crucial areas, CHIME teachers have said: most notably in the implementation of co-teaching.

Inclusion was a challenge when we first started, one teacher has said. We had mild to moderate disabilities in the same classroom as moderate to severe disabilities and we still needed extra support, “even with all the teaching credentials between us.”

Initial assessment of all students’ learning levels was another challenge, as was making appropriate modifications for each student: most notably the gifted ones.

Having a university faculty member at CHIME part-time has been suggested. Future professional development should include teaching math, the needs of second-language learners and additional guidance for student teachers, teachers have said.

CHIME’s status as a frequently observed demonstration site raises teaching issues, one CSUN professor has said. “There are so many observers coming through that it is like teaching in a fishbowl. It can be exhausting and strain the teaching experience which is critical for it to be effective as a demonstration site.”


Together, CSUN and CHIME developed a successful co-teaching model in which general education and special education teachers share classroom duties.

The school/university partnership has also forged increased teaching expertise, to the benefit of CHIME, CSUN and the community, especially the students.

CHIME’s students have made gains on test scores every year, including the California Alternate Assessment for special needs students. The school’s current API is 766.

Teachers and parents have also noticed an increase in the independence of some special needs students: a start towards some of these students being able to live on their own when they are older.


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