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COMMON CORE: HOW DOES IT AFFECT CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES?

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New York State has recently adopted the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). CCLS are  the new rigorous academic standards all students will be expected to reach and have been established in three areas:  1.  Pre-kindergarten;  2.  English language arts (ELA)/Literacy; and
3.  Mathematics

The purported goals of the CCLS are to: 1.  help students gain the knowledge and skills that they need to think and work at a deeper level; 2.  create opportunities for all students to excel at reading, writing, speaking, listening, language and math; 3.  support students to think critically about what they read and the math that they do; 4  allow teachers and students to focus more deeply on fewer critical concepts in mathematics; 5.  build students’ abilities to apply what they have learned to the real world; and 6.  ensure that all students can communicate strong ideas and arguments in writing and react powerfully to what they read. What, then, should be done with students with disabilities?  How can a student with severe disabilities navigate through the CCLS?

In New York State, regardless of where your child goes to school (i.e., a regular public school classroom, a special class, special classes in an approved non-public school, or a charter school), your child must be receiving instruction in the general education curriculum toward the State’s learning standards. 

CCLS requires special-needs students to achieve the same level of academic proficiency as their non-disabled peers.  So, if your child is in the 6th grade, is learning disabled and is reading on the 1st grade level and performing on the 1st grade level in mathematics, how does the CCLS affect him and his ability to make meaningful educational progress as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?  Simply put: it doesn’t!

Although New York State Law requires that students with disabilities be taught the same general education curriculum as other non-disabled students, they must also to be provided with appropriate supports and services based on their individual needs so that they can gain knowledge and skills in what is being taught and demonstrate what they have learned. 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that each child with a disability have an individualized education program (IEP) that identifies annual goals (including academic and functional goals), designed to meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.  However, in New York, where there is a state imposed curriculum, the Common Core standards require scripted rigid lesson plans met for more advanced learning levels which simply don’t work with children with special needs.  If the CCLS requirements are too restrictive, how can a child who needs instruction tailored to his individual needs be taught this curriculum?

This is why now, more than ever, a student’s placement in the proper educational environment is so crucial.  Only with a proper, individually tailored educational environment, tailored to the special needs of the child, can a child with special needs reach his educational potential.  The IDEA states that all students are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  CCLS are in direct contradiction to the stated purposes of the IDEA.  CCLS attempts the “one size fits all approach” to education, requiring all students, regardless of their educational disabilities, to be taught the same, rigorous curriculum.

If your child has an IEP, and his/her school has adopted the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) and its curriculum, here are some questions you might want to ask your child’s teacher(s). The answers to these questions might alert you to the fact that your child's school is not providing an appropriate education for your child. If you believe that your child's school is not providing them with an appropriate education as a result of the implementation of the CCLS, then you might want to contact our law office to better understand what your rights are and how to enforce those rights.

1. Will the Common Core curriculum be modified when taught to my special needs child? How will the Common Core curriculum be modified so that my special needs child can benefit from instruction?

2. If the Common Core curriculum is not being modified when taught to my child, how can the school assert that my special needs child is receiving "instruction geared to address his/her individualized special education needs."

3. Have you, as my child's teacher, been thoroughly trained in how to present the Common Core curriculum to special education students? How long was the training and of what did the training consist?

4. Will my child be graded on using the Common Core problem solving methodology when solving math problems or will be it sufficient for him/her to simply obtain the correct mathematical answer?

5. How will the Common Core curriculum be assessed with my child? How often? 

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