...special education teacher Julie Cavanagh doesn't think that's enough with regard to the Common Core. She firmly believes that the new standards have made learning more difficult across the board, especially for special educations students... Cavanagh, who teaches third and fifth grade at PS 15 Patrick F. Daly in Red Hook, Brooklyn, said the new standards represent a "developmentally inappropriate curriculum" for special education students and has had the additional effect of "taking away from schools' and educators' ability to really focus on differentiated and individualized sort of goals for those students."... CBS TV Report, Common Core: What's right for special education students?One of the things I love about being involved in MORE -- the people who get it - that the small stuff will never be addressed without also addressing the big stuff.
Years ago at an ICE meeting Jan. 2009 - we were talking about setting up a committee to fight for ATRs and closing schools. John Lawhead said we should add high stakes testing as the big enchilada since that was the instrument being used to close schools and create ATRs.
Some of us in ICE had been involved with a NYCORE testing committee and we invited them to work with us -- and thus was born Grassroots Education Movement - GEM - a bigger idea than just a caucus focusing on narrow issues - which enabled us to attract such high quality people like Julie after we added fighting charter schools. The alliances built in MORE led to our movie, which I still consider the single most effective piece to fight ed deform I have yet seen as we took up every single issue related to deform -- we had stuff in there on charters not back filling as a way to keep scores high - we even had graphs showing how the drop in students in each successive grade related to higher scores. I think we were the first to point that out in such a public manner. Now that is a hot issue.
And GEM led to MORE and Change the Stakes, where the MORE people can focus on union related issues and the CTS people - parents mostly - but also progressive principals like Carol Burris - aim at testing.
Being involved in groups like this is enabling for both teachers and parents, who are equipped to go forth into battle with the deformers and the UFT semi-deformers. (There is a MORE general meeting tomorrow at noon.)
A recent powerful addition to MORE is special ed teacher Mindy Rosier, who made this comment on the assault on spec ed students:
I am not going to be quiet on this. Why have we NOT heard about any differentiation for our special education teachers and students? Our kids are the most neediest. Why isn't there more attention to this? Why are we continually ignored? Let's also not forget about ESL teachers and students, thanks to Arthur Goldstein's article in the NY Daily News. If the powers who be won't scream from the mountain tops, if the mass media won't cover this, then WE need to. If something is not done about this, ultimately our kids will suffer and our livelihoods are at stake. I will NOT go down without a fight!
Lots to say about this piece. So much important conversation was cut out, but even given the charter slant, I think it sends a clear message.
Special education students in the United States have what is called an Individualized Education Program (IEP). It provides support and services for each student depending on their learning needs. Some of that support comes in the form of accommodations during test-taking like getting extra time, having some questions read out loud (depending on the test), and being in a different testing location.
However, even with these accommodations, special education teacher Julie Cavanagh doesn't think that's enough with regard to the Common Core. She firmly believes that the new standards have made learning more difficult across the board, especially for special educations students.
Cavanagh, who teaches third and fifth grade at PS 15 Patrick F. Daly in Red Hook, Brooklyn, said the new standards represent a "developmentally inappropriate curriculum" for special education students and has had the additional effect of "taking away from schools' and educators' ability to really focus on differentiated and individualized sort of goals for those students."
Cavanagh specifically teaches students who take alternate assessments, which means they don't take the same standardized tests as everyone else. These special education students also have IEPs but might receive more accommodations and modifications than other special education students because their learning disabilities are more significant.
Alternate assessment allows Cavanagh to write her own version of the end-of-the year state tests - still based on the Common Core, but modified for her students.
However, some special education teachers think the basic accommodations for their students - the IEPs - are enough to help them succeed within the Common Core framework.
"I believe that given the opportunity, special education or not, the standards should be set high because once we're out of school, the standard is set high. So there is no real benefit for the child to set the standard low in their early life so that when they get out of school they are now not functioning as well as they could have," said Dan Blackburn, who teaches special education for kindergarten through fifth grade at Amber Charter School in Manhattan.
----Even Cavanagh agrees there shouldn't be a two-tiered system where children who have IEP's are working toward one set of standards and children who don't have IEP's are working toward another, but feels the Common Core's "over-emphasis" on testing "really undermines the work of that individualized, differentiated experience" that has become the hallmark of special education.
Cavanagh also says the focus on teacher accountability can be counterproductive. In New York, 20 percent of an educator's evaluation is based on students' standardized test scores. Cavanagh said this puts an immense amount of pressure on the teachers as well as the students.
"I think where we run into a problem is expecting that children with or without an IEP are going to be able to demonstrate proficiency on those skills at the exact moment that the state or some [policymaker] has decided that they should be doing that."