In the later years of the 20th century, a group of our nation’s governors and corporate business leaders banded together to form Achieve, Inc., an organization dedicated to improving educational standards in the United States. In 2009 their hard work was turned into the Common Core Standards Initiative, a nationwide implementation of a standardized curriculum. It has taken some time for all states to adopt this new method of teaching, but six states are still holding out – Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, Virginia, Indiana and Nebraska. Some other states that have a license to teach Common Core are working to repeal or replace the curriculum, feeling it’s not a good fit for their state’s children.
There is a strong focus on standardized test results in Common Core, as it helps to better assess each state’s education ranking, but it does not allow for a comparable test to be given to students who receive special education services. When test results are analyzed, there is no separation between special education scores and the rest of the school population; every child is held accountable for the school’s overall score in a certain subject. Common Core standards are meant to be challenging for the general population of learners, but for special education classes this way of learning can be disabling.
A challenge is presented in which an educator now has to find a way to help a special education student reach the same Common Core standards as every other child, but there is a section in the Standards titled “Application to Students with Disabilities” that supports the idea that necessary accommodations be made for students who need it to function during the school day.
Here’s a look at what Common Core has to offer in regards to support for special education.
• Standards-Based IEP – This Individual Education Plan (IEP) helps educators design and implement the right method of teaching for each specific child with special needs, with an appropriately accommodated learning experience as part of the end result. The goals set forth in this IEP must match grade-level standards of achievement.
• Instructional Accommodations or Support – Types of services that must be provided to students includes: additional classroom support; access to the technology that assists them in communicating; an instructional approach that appropriately matches the child’s needs.
• Teaching & Support Staff – Students much receive a high-quality education that is provided by qualified teachers and support personnel. Instruction must be appropriate and evidence-based so as to customize each lesson to support the child’s individual needs.
There are some parents and educators who understandably have concerns regarding Common Core Standards in special education, with good reason. While there are countless pros and cons to the Common Core Standard, this group of advocates argues that holding a child with special needs to the same standards as a child who receives a general education is unfair and paints an unrealistic picture. Parents who have children with severe cognitive abilities, for instance, would prefer their child focus on self-skills rather than academic achievement, thus skewing the standardized score results for everyone.
Concern also lies in how to accurately measure the performance of children with disabilities while still respecting the child himself. It can seem like some schools are more concerned with how the numbers look rather than who the child with special needs really is, which is off-putting to the self-esteem of these children.
Children who receive special education services often require between one month and 40 days more instruction than children who receive a general education – this means that, on the Common Core standardized tests – these children are likely be tested on material they’ve never even seen before. This presents, once again, an unfair representation of the school and the child’s unique limitations.
In addition to agreeing to a standard set of educational rules, special education under Common Core presents the challenge of agreeing on appropriate accommodations for each child. This address the concern of incorporating assistive technology directly into the test versus introducing the child to new technology at the time of the test, such as using a computer for the first time while also being tested. As well, computer-adaptive tests are designed to adjust the difficulty of test questions based on a string of previous answers, but might also serve to give students questions that are below their grade level, simply because they might not have performed well on the questions that came before.
A Tentative Agreement
Although educators all across the board will not agree on Common Core Standards, most can agree on one thing: Common Core presents a unique opportunity to provide special education students with the same rigorous quality of teaching as the school’s general population under the mandates set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
As of now, there is a lot to be learned about how Common Core will have a long-term effect on special education services, especially since not all schools have adopted a standardized education. Asking for a large-scale shift in public education rocks the boat from both sides, and much is left to be determined. Since Common Core has only been an active curriculum option for the last few years, it will take many more instances of trial-and-error and simple time in order to know how Common Core truly makes a difference to special education.
A Customizable Solution
Special Education Resource knows just how tough Common Core can be for a child with special needs, which is why we offer lesson plans and services such as special education tutoring that are tailored to work with your child’s specific learning needs. Our customizable lesson plans can include a mix of disability support and academic sessions, and will never go at a pace or cover material that your child is not comfortable with.
Our goal is to remove the stigma surrounding special education and give each child access to a way of learning that they can easily understand. Whether you want a one-time session or regular tutoring, we have a schedule that fits your needs as well as your child’s. Each child deserves educational success, and we’re here to help make that happen.