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Teacher: Common Core Leaves My Special Education Students Behind

Teacher: Common Core Leaves My Special Education Students Behind

Brian Zorn, a special-education teacher in New York, is speaking out against Common Core standards that he says "humiliate," not help, children in special education as teachers struggle to help them succeed.

Specifically, Zorn references New York's English and mathematics exams with which he has experience and says he believes they are holding his special-education students back.

"The tests, administered to third- through eighth-graders over six days each spring, evaluate students on uniform Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by most states and emphasize critical thinking. As this newspaper reported in 2013, the first year the tests were administered, many children in New York state 'ran out of time, collapsed in tears or froze up,'" Zorn said in a post for the Wall Street Journal.

Zorn says that by requiring his special-education students to take the state administered exams despite learning disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD, Asperger's syndrome and more, it sends a message to these students that they can't compete.

Failing the exams let the state know that the special-education students are not performing at grade level, but Zorn argues this is redundant information because the students are already placed in special-education classes.

"Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act, all students who receive special-educational services are entitled to a 'free and appropriate' education. That education must be individualized and designed to meet the child’s unique needs. It is not appropriate to provide reading instruction that is three years above a special-education student’s grade level," he said, according to the article.

Zorn describes the statewide exams as "six horrific days" in his classroom as students who had begun to improve and build confidence throughout the year were forced to attempt to answer questions above their grade level.

One of Zorn's fifth-grade students was finally starting to gain confidence in his reading before he was forced to take the ELA exam.

"On the first day, he laid his head down on the desk as tears rolled down his face. He couldn’t understand a single question in the ELA test, let alone entire passages. The test is written on a fifth-grade level; he is reading on a first-grade level."

What Zorn argues for is a change to this system so that special-education students are not deterred from their successes; he wants a test like the Measures of Academic (MAP) to be the required test because it provides individualized questions.

"This computerized test is designed to increase or decrease in difficulty until the student gets a certain number of questions correct. This helps to determine his or her mastery and instructional levels. Additionally, this exam is able to take into account a student’s individual reading and mathematics level. The state English and math tests don’t—and are leaving special-education students behind."

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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