Common-Core Challenges For Special Education Students

Posted by Big Universe on Oct 31, 2013 8:00:46 PM

ID-10093914The Common-Core is creating challenges for Special Education students, especially those who struggle to meet grade level standards, and now changing national standards, which for some students may be years ahead of current programming. In a special report, Education Week is profiling diverse learners in "Moving Beyond the Mainstream." It warrants close attention and a lively discussion from both parents of children with special needs and special education teachers.

In an Education Week article by Catherine Gewertz, “A Common-Core Challenge: Learners With Special Needs: Adapting the standards for students with disabilities, English-learners, and gifted students is no easy task,” Ms. Santelises, who “oversaw common-core implementation as the chief academic officer in the Baltimore schools” notes:

"Honesty goes a long way—like being honest about the fact that there is no silver bullet with which to move a student who's three or four years behind grade level to a standard that is now two to three years above the one they're currently not meeting. Those are the elephants in the room, the discussions that policy and practitioners have to be willing to have."

That is a brave statement, and quite profound. It scares this mom of child with special needs, as I am sure other parents and those who teach our children.

In another featured EdWeek article, “Common Core's Promise Collides With IEP Realities: Special education teachers struggle to make sure individualized education programs align with standards” written by By Christina A. Samuels, points out the evolution of the “standards-based IEP began in the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act" where "access to the general curriculum was a mandated goal for students with disabilities, though the law did not say that access had to be at the student's enrolled grade level." She then points out "The No Child Left Behind Act...provided reinforcement that children with disabilities should be exposed to the general education curriculum on their grade level to the greatest extent possible.”

So now with Common Core, is our nation asking special education students to meet the same expectations of typical students as they attain the common core knowledge standards? What about those students who currently learn a modified curriculum? And some of them who are exempt from taking on particular coursework? Is it enough to "Captur[e] the essence" of the standards enough for special education students? Barbara Van Haren, the director of special education at a cooperative educational service agency serving more than 30 districts in southeastern Wisconsin, suggests it may be so.

Possibly, this may be best done in the way that Kim Mearman, an assistant director at the State Education Resource Center in Connecticut, suggests – tying in academics to real-life skills. I am not sure how the application will help special education students reach common core goals, but will wait to see how special educators are addressing and bridging this gap.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane at

Topics: Common Core, Special Education

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