Hudson Valley Parent

HVP October 2014

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Page 6 of 41 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 7 teach some students ma- terial they are not ready for. This is because they will be tested on grade level content at the end of the year, no matter their ability or cognitive level. This can be very frustrat- ing and demoralizing for a child. Kiersten: So you're saying that no matter what's on a student's IEP, they have to take the state exam for their grade level? Bianca: Yes. A very small percentage — roughly 1 percent — of students with IEPs are eligible for taking an alternative assessment. There are very rigid and specifi c criteria that students must meet, and the exam is geared toward the students with the most severe disabilities, not the majority of students with IEPs. Kiersten: Is there anything good that the CC does for students with disabilities? Bianca: Yes. The CC has brought back direct phonics instruction in grades K-2. Many students who are struggling readers respond well to this method of reading instruction. I also think the idea of having to sup- port your opinions with evidence, which is one of the hallmarks of "close reading," is an important skill. However it's been taken to a level that's developmentally inappropriate. Because of the CC, we have kids reading incredibly imaginative, creative texts like Peter Pan, looking for text-based evidence to answer Dear Kiersten, How does the Common Core affect English Language Arts instruction and assessment for students with special needs? To answer this question, I interviewed a friend and colleague, Bianca Tanis, who is both a special educa- tion teacher and a parent of a child with special needs. Bianca: I believe that the increased text complexity is developmentally inap- propriate. The idea that we've been historically dumbing down the texts that we expose our children to — special needs or not — is a fallacy. To arbitrarily increase the diffi cul- ty of text doesn't make sense and leaves children who were already behind suddenly signifi cantly more so. The CC also discourages the use of background knowledge and per- sonal experience to comprehend a text. This negates decades of read- ing research. Kiersten: How does the CC affect students with Individualized Educa- tion Plans (IEPs)? Bianca: Students with IEPs are entitled to an individualized educa- tion that meets their unique needs. However, high-stakes testing cou- pled with the CC forces teachers to questions and annotating their texts. Peter Pan was meant to be en- joyed — it wasn't designed for close reading. In order to teach students to demonstrate profi ciency on a developmentally inappropriate skill on a test, educators must resort to teaching tricks and formulas, which is essentially test prep. Kiersten: What advice would you give to parents of students with disabilities who want to know more about this topic? Bianca: I would encourage par- ents to go beyond the sound bytes they hear about the CC and do some research on their own. They could go right to the CC website and look into what research has been done on the application of the CC for students with disabilities. They'll see that it's not much. Everyone wants their child to be held to high stan- dards and to be prepared for college, but there is no evidence that the CC will do this. Kiersten Greene, PhD, is an assis- tant professor of literacy education at SUNY New Paltz. Common Core @ Home On the web: Find more answers to your questions about Common Core Mathematics and English Language Arts at common-core-at-home. Answers from Common Core experts Part Eight of a Continuing Series KIERSTEN GREENE English Language Arts High-stakes testing coupled with the Common Core forces teachers to teach some students material they are not ready for.

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