Can the Common Core Standards Meet the Needs of Special Education? by Barbara Mascareno-Shaw

Blogging in Support of Special Needs

What is special needs education?

Special needs education programs are designed for those students whose needs cannot be met within the traditional classroom environment. These programs and services adapt content, classroom management and teacher instruction to meet the needs of each child. Although special needs students are often classified with learning disabilities, they can also include gifted students and English Language Learners (ELLs). A large number of students with varying needs and ability levels are grouped under one umbrella; addressing the needs of so many students can seem overwhelming under any circumstances.

And now, as the Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI) makes its way into the educational system, it leaves special education in the dark. Even though the Common Core defines a set of standards for special education, it is leaving a gap for teachers to fill in.

Why is the CCSI not up to standards with special needs education?

In part, it comes from the design of the Common Core itself.

According to Katharine Beals from The Atlantic, the Common Core Standards are designed to teach students regardless of educational level. Whether it’s students in a regular class or special needs class, these standards are the same for everyone. However, many special education teachers believe these standards do not adhere to special needs students; those who need help are still expected to learn under the CCSI.

The Common Core states that teachers should provide individualized instruction and assistive technology to teach special needs students. On the other hand, the standards don’t offer any ways to teach them. As a matter of fact, Beals suggests that the CCSI leave special students behind the standards.

This is more pronounced for English Language Learners — most of their learning is based on the Common Core English Language. If they can’t master those standards, then they are left behind.

How can parents and teachers help special needs students?

Support from parents and teachers is important for students with special needs, and knowing their behavior triggers can help them overcome learning obstacles. When educators are aware of these triggers, they can better predict potential outbursts. Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) help prevent these outbursts so that they don’t interfere with students’ education. IEPs allow special needs students to move ahead and blend in with their general education classmates and friends. While the materials and assessments are the same for everyone in the class, IEPs are provided to bring special needs students up to date. Including special needs students in the class can be a challenge.

Communication is an essential part of instruction. When special needs students feel comfortable in the classroom, they are more apt to share ideas and opinions.

While the Common Core Standards try to provide principles for special needs education, it lacks the procedures to administer them. Teachers are left to oversee these standards on their own. Common Core Standards were designed to close the gap in learning among students in all socioeconomic groups. However, they forgot to include those special needs students who need the most help.

Barbara Mascareno-Shaw is a bilingual teacher in Spanish, math and science. She is the creator of Spanish4Kiddos Tutoring Services and TutoringServices4All. Barbara believes in education for all children. You can connect with Barbara on her Spanish4Kiddos blog, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.