Common core has spawn conversations regarding IEP goals and alignment. Now that most states have adopted common core, it is time to have the conversation about how IEP teams will move students academically. The answer lies in accommodations! The IEP team’s first step is to understand the student’s disability and its impact on learning academics. Once the team has a clear understanding, then accommodations will only be limited by the team’s creativity.
The best place to start is by looking closely at the student’s disability and utilizing the evidence found with the psychological testing report, academic testing report, work samples, teacher interviews, and student interview. These five components will paint the picture needed to understand the student’s disability with academics. If the IEP team doesn’t start with data, then they are apt to miss opportunities that will be needed for thinking about and writing accommodations.
This current school year, I have found myself in deep thought about the students in my special education class who are performing poorly with common core. On the surface it is easy to think that it is the disability itself that prevents access to learning. Instead, we need to be thinking about the opportunities that common core provides by requiring students to “analyze”, “identify”, “compare”, “integrate”, “explain” and challenge ourselves and the student to think about what it is that she or he needs in order to be an active and successful participant. This is a simple mind-shift allows teachers to be creative with accommodations, which by the way is the corner-stone of most special education teachers.
Instead of working alone, develop partnerships with students about their learning. Discuss the requirements, what it is that he/she needs to access the material, and how the student will show mastery places the responsibility for learning on the student. Common core allows the flexibility of showing mastery through oral reports, visual presentations using technology, art, and even writing. So if the common core goal is to integrate information from several sources on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably, understanding the student’s disability and providing the right accommodation will not only allow access but also increase learning.
Students know what it is that they need to be academically successful. The problem is that teachers have been locked-in to thinking of traditional accommodations: extra time on tests, alternate environment, tests read out loud, calculators, and etcetera. Today, I challenge IEP teams and general education teachers to change their mind-set and “shovel the ramp” first! If we have evidence that a student does better on a multiple choice test, or performance assessment, then why are we having him/her responding to fill-in? If we have evidence that a student has a short-term memory issue, then he/she should be able to use key notes on quizzes and tests. If the student works best with technology then the student should have access in every subject. Common core allows for individualization more than state standards. It is time to think differently and it all begins with understanding the student’s disability, how it affects learning, and providing accommodations for success.
I am looking forward to seeing your comments and suggestions,