Common Core accused of leaving special-needs students behind

Compiled by Nicole Shepard, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Sun, July 6, 2014, 5:20 a.m. MDT

 Special needs children are being left behind as a result of Common Core standards neglecting them, some say.

Special needs children are being left behind as a result of Common Core standards neglecting them, some say.

(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

There are 6.5 million special-education students in the U.S. today, and most are falling further behind their peers under Common Core standards.

“The latest government figures show that the dropout rate for students with disabilities is twice that for non-disabled students,” NPR’s Claudio Sanchez reported. “Two-thirds of students with disabilities are performing well below grade level in reading and math. By the eighth grade, that figure rises to 90 percent.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded to the rising problem of special education failing under Common Core in a press conference, expressing his disregard for schools claiming it’s enough that they are following the standards of Common Core in their special-education classrooms.

"Most states are in compliance with special-education regulations," Duncan said. It's not enough for a state to be compliant if students can't read or do math. We must have a system that will do more than just measure compliance."

In her article “Asking Kids With Special Needs To Clear The Same Bar,” NPR’s Anya Kamenetz wrote that many assume it’s normal or expected that special-needs students be markedly behind other students. She reported when most people think of special-needs students, they think of students with more severe cognitive and physical disabilities than what is typical in special education.

“According to the National Center for Education Statistics,” Kamenetz reported, “13 percent of public school students receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Of those kids, 36 percent have ‘specific learning disabilities.’ Twenty-one percent have ‘speech or language impairments.’ Another 22 percent have autism, intellectual disabilities, a developmental delay, or multiple disabilities.”

Less than 10 percent of those in special-education classes were previously expected to fall behind significantly in reading and math for their grade level, Kamenetz reported. But teachers and parents of special-education students are seeing much more than 10 percent failing, it’s now 90 percent.

"There's always been a gap — academically, socially — between what he could do and other kids could do," Rebecca Ellis told Kamenetz about her autistic son. "When the standards changed, the gap grew into this canyon overnight."

Those with autism and language-processing disabilities are quickly becoming education casualties in numbers before unseen.

“Though most Common Core goals are abstract and schematic, collectively they constitute a one-size fits-all approach that, in practice, has severely straightjacketed America’s special-needs students,” reported Katherine Beals for The Atlantic.

Beals reported that there might be a few factors at play here outside of Common Core pedagogy. First there is the fact that more students than ever are diagnosed with learning disabilities, making the pool larger. Second, under No Child Left Behind, students with special needs were the focus, allowing for them to catch up to their peers, whereas with Common Core they are marginalized in the pursuit of a more equalized education.

“The purported goal of the Common Core is success for all students,” Beals wrote. “But success for all requires openness towards cognitive diversity, and isn’t so easily standardized.”

Beals and Ellis both argued for a reform of the grade-level standards, or the grading based on age group, contending that student success can only be judged on improvement for their cognitive levels, not by class-level criteria.

EMAIL: nshepard@deseretnews.com TWITTER: @NicoleEShepard

1. Mainly Me
Werribee, 00,
July 6, 2014

Common Core is a common joke. It isn't about teaching students much other than "co-operation." Get along to go along. Work in harmony even though you come to the wrong conclusion. It's nothing more than conditioning children to be good little socialists.

Provo, UT,
July 6, 2014

Special needs students need different education

3. vern001
Castle Rock, CO,
July 6, 2014

I feel as if this article is conflating several issues.

First, the author goes out and finds quotes from educators about how kids with special needs are falling behind and how several states aren't doing a good job educating them. This is all true, but the studies done by the DOE, for example, were done BEFORE Common Core standards were implemented. You can't blame Common Core when the kids were educated using a different system!

Furthermore, many groups advocating for children with disabilities favor tougher standards for all kids, including those with disabilities. Why? Because then educators are motivated to actually educate these kids, not just give them easy work. We need to set high standards for all kids, not just typical kids.

Furthermore, every child with a diagnosis receives an Individualized Education Plan that is tailored to his or her needs. They're not going to make a child with an IQ of 55 do calculus just because that' what his or her typical peers need to learn.

I am the mother of a son with special needs and I wholeheartedly support the Common Core. I welcome tougher standards for all my kids--typical and developmentally delayed.

4. Steven S Jarvis
Orem, UT,
July 6, 2014

The cause and effect relationship being outlined in this article went completely unsupported. Its just another baseless attack on common core. The common core is no different than any other sets of standards that the state has adopted in the past. Standards don't fail kids, teachers, parents and schools do. We as a state graduate students that do not meet minimal proficiency for grade level math, reading and writing. Even our best High schools fail to get at least half the students on grade level in any one of those subject areas. This existed BEFORE common core adoption.

What IS happening is students with disabilities are being counted, tracked and followed more closely than they had been before. Our students with differing needs have benefited from the increased exposure of NCLB and are now being brought to the forefront. With greater exposure more schools will begin to adopt scientifically proven methods that help not only special needs students but all students--things like Direct Instruction.

5. Howard Beal
Provo, UT,
July 6, 2014

These could be legitimate concerns of the common core but I have to agree posters #3 and #4, this data trying to make a correlation isn't either sufficient to make any causation and it seems again like data that came about BEFORE the common core was fully implemented. Indeed, the common core might bring about these problems, these are real concerns, but one has to be fair and that correlation that the article professes the common core brings to special needs students, can't be proven at this time.