The transition to the Common Core State Standards presents both a challenge and incredible opportunity for our students with special needs. While they set high expectations to help our students be college and career ready, they also allow flexibility for multiple means of access and assessment.
However, if we as special educators don’t prepare early, then we run the risk of turning our students with special needs into secondary citizens. While their general education peers are engaging in a new and innovative curriculum, resources, and teaching methodologies around the common core, our exceptional learners will be remain stuck in outdated standards and curriculum.
The three strategic initiatives below are the most fundamental initial steps to fulfill the promise of this new change:
1) Special Educators Trained in Common Core Standards and Curriculum
Special educators need to be involved with their classroom colleagues in trainings around the Common Core. As the expectations for general and special education collaboration continue to rise, we need to prepare our staff to speak the same language as their colleagues and be valuable contributors to lesson planning, assessment, and provide better access to benefit of all students.
2) Standards Aligned IEPs
Given that the IEP is the driving force in a student’s education program it is critical that academic IEP goals are aligned to the new Common Core standards in ELA and math. As inclusive placements are more commonplace, IEP goals must be relevant to the general education teacher and the curriculum they use in the classroom.
3) General Educators Trained in Universal Design for Learning
Most general educators will be prepared in the Common Core Standards and the general curriculum, but most will NOT be prepared in making the necessary accommodations and modifications to provide access to students with special needs. Universal Design for Learning is a powerful framework to increase accessibility and engagement that special educators are rallying around. General educators will need to be trained in the fundamentals of UDL and use of accommodations and modifications should be incorporated into their ongoing coaching and evaluation.
I am encouraged to see significant innovation and efforts in this space:
The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative is convening a group of innovative and proactive special education leaders who are gathering to discuss and take action to help their organizations meet the needs of all their students. Their fall member meeting is entirely focused on the topic of making Common Core meaningful for students with disabilities.
Goalbook is developing a first of its kind Toolkit with Common Core aligned goals, measurable objectives, and accommodations/modifications based on UDL guidelines. If you are interested in learning more about this valuable resource, please go here.
Daniel Yoo is the Founder and CEO of Goalbook. He was previously a special education teacher and administrator for five years at Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, California.