Last summer the federal government moved away from the educational standards provided in No Child Left Behind into a new set of standards called Common Core Standards. Common Core Standards, commonly referred to as CCS, provide a basis for standards at each grade level for reading, language arts, and math that are to be followed by all states. Previously, each state was able to determine the standards, how they would be implemented in the classroom, and how they would be assessed at the end of the year to provide the data to the state and federal government to show academic progress. The rigor and standards for each grade level were not consistent across the states. No Child Left Behind left room for much interpretation including as to how special needs students fit into the academic puzzle. An additional document released with the standards addresses the needs for special education students and adaptations.
CCS’s Impact on Special Education
The Council for Exceptional Children has an informative article about how the change to CCS will impact the special education classroom. The CCS will be the same across the grade levels for special needs students as it is for the general education classrooms. The goal is to hold all students to high expectations of learning gains based on college and career readiness. However, for special needs students there are specific adaptations, accommodations, and assistive technology provided for students to be able to attain those high standards. The documentation provides information that struggling students should be provided with interventions and that the standards should be read in a broad manner that allows for adaptations to help students with special needs to achieve mastery of the standards at the highest level possible. The broad interpretation opens the way for changes that can be determined at the state and local level.
This change in standards with increased levels of mastery for special needs students will come with some growing pains. Special education teachers, along with general education teachers who teach special needs students in the general education setting, will need to be provided professional development opportunities to learn about scaffolding ideas, helping struggling students meet high standards, and how to meet the needs of special education students in the general education classroom. The states, districts, schools, and teachers are challenged to find the means that works best in their environment to teach the students to gain mastery in those standards that are outlined.
Reading & Language Arts Standards
The Reading and Language Arts Standards provided in the CCS are not solely for the language arts and reading teachers. The standards promote literacy across all classes. There are specific standards for reading in history, science, technology, health, and mathematics. Each grade level is broken down into various higher level categories like reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language standards. Then, it is broken down into grade-specific standards that help to achieve the goal of college and career readiness.
The CCS Math Standards focus on the students being able to understand math rather than just solve equations. Ideas like understanding the problem, reasoning, and modeling are integrated into the standards. The math standards do not directly address the accommodations for students who are struggling or special needs students except for the fact that they should be provided access to the high-level of standards with accommodations or assistive technology as needed. The standards are broken down into clusters and domains to outline the various mathematical concepts that the students should learn at each grade level.
Article By Laura Ketcham
Picture By hashmil