A recent Ed. Week article, “Common Core’s Promise Collides with IEP Realities,” claims, “Special Education teachers struggle to make sure individual education programs align with standards.” Wow! You could have fooled me! I thought IEPs were tailored to student needs, not to the Common Core State Standards.
But really, aligning IEPs to the standards—has been going on for years—even before CCSS became a reality. The focus, instead of being about the student’s instructional needs, is about aligning what the child learns to what everyone else is doing. The Common Core State Standards are just what’s in now.
The IEP has become a “feel good” document to tell parents their students with, even some of the most severe disabilities, will now have access to the regular class—like they have somehow been locked out of it for all these years. What a truly strange message this is.
We are told if teachers do it right it will work. In fact, whatever teachers do to align their student to the Core, it better work, or they won’t be teachers anymore. The scores of students with disabilities will be combined with the scores of all students and used to judge teacher effectiveness. Looming in the future? The U.S. Department of Education is going to eliminate all test modifications for students with disabilities.
Parents who hope their student will get a personalized plan, incorporating realistic goals that take into account their child’s disability, will learn that, with the IEP aligned to the Common Core, their student will master the same standards like all the other students. Of course they will do it differently (that’s where the magic wand comes in).
But never mind the disability—the disability the child brought to school to begin with. I have to add that one gets the distinct feeling that teachers caused and are blamed for the disabilities students bring to school—that they have somehow kept students back by focusing on those special needs.
But never fear! Now students will learn the standards! It isn’t really an Individual Educational Plan. It isn’t a plan for the student. It is a plan to align the child to the Core.
I think of the myriad of students I’ve known and taught in my life. This includes a young man with brain damage due to a terrible accident, and the teen who could not write but knew how to verbally express himself better than a used car salesman. I remember dyslexic students who learned to compensate for their disabilities through their artistic capabilities. I could go on. I can’t think of any student, no matter the disability, no matter the gifts and talents, that didn’t grow and learn and exhibit their own personal distinction—their brand of self-worth.
In fact, most all of us have strengths and weaknesses—we all exhibit areas of ability and points where we lack aptitude. Why must all students be judged by their abilities on a narrow set of standards?
I find it hypocritical that the new special ed. experts, often from nonprofit groups, proclaim that all students can follow the Common Core State Standards—that every child can and should learn the same things. They act like this is the civil rights issue of our time. These folks must know that students with disabilities will eventually be bounced out of class altogether. We see this phenomenon already in charter schools. Just look at New Orleans where students with disabilities are counseled out.
What would have become of the precious students I knew if they had been made to work within the Common Core box—forced into the sameness of an arbitrary ideal of normal? If you think Common Core works, let’s talk again in 10 years. Let’s see where all the students with disabilities will be with their IEP Common Core alignment then. The Reformers don’t get what a real IEP is all about. They don’t seem to understand the meaning of INDIVIDUAL.