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Special-ed students falling behind in Common Core
school locker
Many educators are starting to fear that special education students are being locked out of education by Common Core standards. - photo by Stock photo

There are 6.5 million special-education students in the United States 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.
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,” said Katherine Beals for The Atlantic.
She 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.”
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 said, “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.”
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 be judged only on improvement for their cognitive levels, not by class-level criteria.

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