Can special education students keep up with the Common Core? On the Hechinger Report, Amanda M. Fairbanks looks at a special-ed class for third- and fourth-graders at a Long Island school. Nicole Papa plays an audio recording of a nonfiction article about bullying and peer pressure. Then, she reads it the first part again and asks students to think the main idea.
Her students have “diagnoses ranging from autism spectrum disorders to learning disabilities to mood disorders.” They don’t read well enough to get through the article themselves.
“A couple of years ago, I would never have tried such a difficult passage with these kids,” said Papa, reflecting on her lesson. “My students are stepping it up and showing some unexpected successes. I see the light bulbs go on and I see a lot of growth in their comprehension, in their vocabulary and in their confidence. They know they’re doing exactly what their peers are doing right across the hallway.”
They’re doing it at a much slower pace. While the mainstream class finished the first of four English segments in October, Papa’s class was still working on it in May.
Common Core’s higher expectations is tackling a “huge underachievement problem,” said Lindsay Jones, the director of public policy and advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
Nevertheless, Celia Oyler, a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, is troubled by the uniformity she observes when visiting special education classrooms.
“Every child is being given the same materials at the same time,” said Oyler, who runs the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project and directs the inclusive teacher education programs at the college. “The very essence of meeting the needs of children with disabilities is that learners need to be doing things at different times.”
Most special ed students weren’t meeting the old standards, notes Anya Kamenetz on NPR.
Jackson Ellis, who’s starting fourth grade in Louisiana, is on the autism spectrum. “There’s always been a gap — academically, socially — between what he could do and other kids could do,” says his mother, Rebecca Ellis. “When the standards changed, the gap grew into this canyon overnight.”