By Monica Kennedy Kounter
I am a parent of a special needs child, a certified lay advocate, and I have a Master’s of Science in Early Childhood Education.
I have been fighting Common Core on the behalf of students with disabilities in New York State for a year now. I am a relative newcomer to this fight because my son’s school district only began full implementation of Common Core in the fall of 2013.
As I began to research Common Core, and how it will impact our most vulnerable learners, I came to an unfortunate conclusion. The underlying purpose of this agenda, with regard to special needs students, is to get them out of public school.
Arne Duncan uses this country’s low PISA scores to justify the need for the Common Core Standards. Several top education experts have proven that this is a fallacy. It is comparing apples to oranges. Other top scoring countries only test their elite and they might not even educate the special needs population. They test more homogeneous populations. The United States has a high percentage of students affected by poverty and who have disabilities taking the test.
The score results from the Common Core Assessments of students with disabilities have proven to be extremely low. I believe they will be used to get rid of special needs teachers who they will deem ineffective when they are unable to raise test scores. Then, who will teach our children? What programs and supports will they have left?
Parents will either pull their children to homeschool as I have, or be forced out of public school by a system that does not meet the needs of their children. In either case, this is what I see for the future of our children.
Until yesterday, I was hoping it was the distant future. I was wrong. Someone from an upstate NY school district informed me that the following was posted on a parent informational page. The page is public, and the district has not denied that the information is anything but accurate.
At a recent Board of Education meeting, a new head of “The Department of Teaching and Learning” was introduced. This is a new position created with taxpayer money in order to oversee the special education department. The salary paid to this individual could have been used in ways that would have more directly benefited those students who need the most support. Instead, this individual was introduced, along with the following statement:
At the end of the 2013/2014 school year, the ******* special education rate was 24.6%. The county rate was 17-18%. The NYS rate was 12%. As a result, the district has implemented several goals. These include:
Reduce the classification rate by 2% every year for the next 3 yrs.
Reduce the evaluation request rate by 10% every year for the next 3 yrs.
Use data to determine the frequency of services that are approved.
Increase assessments 7% over the next 3 years through the use of CC Math and ELA standardized tests.
Increase the Special Ed graduation rate by 2% a year over the next 3 years.
Implement APPR’s for Service Providers (OT, PT, ST, etc).
Challenge special ed students to increase academic performance by participation in CC standards and assessments.
Now, in my opinion, they will try to justify this by stating that, in the past, there may have been excessive referrals in this high poverty area and they are looking to rectify this. This may be true. But, who is to say the district will stop after they rectify this? What if the numbers aren’t enough to reach that arbitrary percentage? Here are some important questions to consider:
- How can they predetermine what the population of incoming students will be for the next three years? Therefore, how can they put a limit on new evaluation requests?
- How are Service Providers (OT, PT, Speech Therapists) supposed to be evaluated through APPRs? These professionals have nothing to do with what Common Core teaches, nor the results found through the assessments. Anyone who has a child who receives these types of services knows that there is no possible way to “make” a child reach his/her goals by the end of the year.
The point is, the goals listed above as stated by this district cannot be achieved through “making it so”. If they achieve these goals, it will be to the detriment of the special needs students and the professionals who serve them. I believe that the district’s decision to cut services while simultaneously increasing testing and their idea of teacher accountability, will create a recipe for disaster.
The district will be giving students less while pushing more inappropriate standards and obsessive testing. In addition, using the scores to evaluate all special education teachers is grossly unfair to the wonderful educators who know best how to help our children.
In my opinion, this district is in violation of the IDEA, even as weak as it has become under Arne Duncan. If there is no legal challenge to the goals of this district, and they are successful in implementation, this will impact all parents of special needs students. It will more than likely be coming to your district soon if it isn’t already there. The future plans for our special needs students is very disturbing to say the least.
Enough is enough. This abuse of our children needs to stop. NOW!
Monica Kounter is an activist who follows changes being made to special education and problems caused due to Common Core State Standards.