In the past few years, there has been a move away from the educational standards of the No Child Left Behind Act to a new system called the Common Core State Standards, or CCCS. These standards provide guidelines for the subjects of reading, language arts and math, and they are being implemented in all states.
In the past, each state was allowed to determine their own criteria for the standards and how best to implement them in their schools. This resulted in inconsistency from state-to-state. However, curriculum is now being designed to promote more consistency in the implementation of the common core standards, including additional standards and specifics related to the needs of special education students and teachers.
The Council for Exceptional Children recently released an article regarding how recent CCSS changes will potentially impact the special education experience and classroom. The goal is more consistency among grade levels, classes and overall standards. This will contribute to competency and readiness for college in all students, as well as future career goals and pursuits.
However, special education students usually require additional accommodations, specific adaptations and other assisting technology in order to enable them to meet the higher standards. The new documentation provides for struggling students to be given appropriate interventions and allows the standards to be interpreted a bit more broadly in order to facilitate mastery and success for all students. These broader interpretations make room for appropriate adaptations to be made as needed by a state, a community or even an individual school.
However, the change has not come without some growing pains. Both special education teachers and general education teachers who assist with special needs education students will have to be afforded opportunities for professional development. Some of the areas to be covered will be strategies for helping all students adhere to higher standards, scaffolding methods, and how to elegantly meet special education needs with students within the general education classroom. Individual districts, schools and states will be challenged to find methods to successfully implement the standards as designated and outlined.
The new Math Standards for the Common Core State Standards focus on an overall, comprehensive understanding of math rather than just a rigid ability to solve problems or equations. More general concepts like reasoning, understanding the problems, and modeling proven methods are now integrated into the math standards. The new math standards don’t directly address accommodations for struggling students or those with special needs, but teachers are to be provided access to the same high level standards with appropriate accommodations and assisting technologies as needed.
The standards are also now broken down into more manageable domains and clusters in order to outline all of the various math concepts required by students at each grade level. The new standards are expected to cultivate a more integrated and well-rounded approach to math, instead of rigid adherence to actual calculations and solutions, many of which can be accomplished using tools such as computers and calculators.
Common Core State Standards for reading and language arts standards are not just for language arts and reading teachers. These standards promote reading literacy across all class types and subjects. There are specific core standards for reading within the subject areas of history, technology, science, health and math. Each grade level is further delineated into higher level categories including writing, reading, speaking, comprehension and language standards. From there, requirements are further divided into grade-specific standards that will help students achieve the practical, real-world goals of college preparation and future career readiness.
While the Common Core Standards may still be evolving, many see them as much more helpful and proactive than their predecessor, the No Child Left Behind standards. Special education teachers and students will notice the change and reap the benefits of more stringent and consistent standards. There is a fair amount of latitude and flexibility allowed within the standards for special education teachers to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate the special needs of all students, and this flexibility should make the standards easier to implement in the classroom.