Reach the Moon! Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Help Students with Disabilities (SWD)
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
President John F. Kennedy in his speech to Congress on May 25, 1961
Just as in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to reach beyond what we knew at that time about space travel, forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity, have committed themselves to reach beyond what we have known about state standards in the past. They are committed to implementing common core state standards which will provide an opportunity for all students to experience our nation’s next “Moonshot Moment.” These common standards provide clear, consistent, and meaningful grade level expectations for student learning which will bring about changes in the ways in which children are taught, how they learn, and how they will be assessed. Common language and expectations across states will allow for parents and educators to engage in meaningful conversation and provide experiences for students that are “common” across states and territories. When students move from one state or territory to another, or pursue a college, career, or community experience outside their home state or territory, these clear, consistent expectations will provide for a common educational framework to allow students to land or reconnect safely in their new environment.
The goal of the common core state standards initiative is to prepare students for successful transition to post-high school opportunities that include college, career, and within the community. Classroom communities from pre-kindergarten up to high school will evolve to reflect a culture of high expectations for all students. Students with disabilities will be thought of as general education students first, who, with supports and accommodations, can be expected to move forward in the general curriculum with mastery of grade-level standards as the goal. Students with significant disabilities will work toward core content connectors that are aligned with common core standards for instruction and assessment. As a result, teachers will design lessons that are based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs. Parents will observe students with disabilities receiving necessary supports within the general education setting. Students with significant disabilities will receive instruction in an alternate curriculum and will participate in assessment that is reflective of their instruction. This will require school staff to work collaboratively to plan, instruct, and make accommodations for students with disabilities across school settings.
Full Integration Florida’s schools will be fully integrated with common core state standards by school year 2014-2015. During school year 2013-2014 the School District of Indian River County, Fl., will be fully implementing common core in grades kindergarten (K)-2 with blended implementation of CCSS/Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in grades 3 – 12 and transition to full implementation of common core state standards grades K-12 during 2014-2015. The SDIRC Exceptional Student Education Department, in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education and discretionary projects, including Florida Diagnostic Learning Resource Services (FDLRS), Florida Inclusion Network (FIN) and Project 10: Transition Education Network (TEN) provides professional development, modeling, and teacher coaching in the area of common core implementation.
District initiatives that will ensure access for SWD include instruction in self-advocacy and self-determination; implementation of evidenced-based curricula and strategies; UDL instructional supports; student-data-driven flexible scheduling; collaborative teaching and planning; transition assessment, planning, and instructional application within the community. School-based teams will receive professional development in writing individualized education plans that reflect common core and core content connectors to make sure that all programming is in line with what students should know and be able to do by the end of a given grade level.
Success for all students is the underlying principle of this national effort to provide learning opportunities that are relevant, rigorous, and meaningful in the 21st century. In 2013, common core state standards provides the framework and supports for students with disabilities to make this our generation’s Moonshot Moment!
Rachelle Kistler and Randall Hunt, Exceptional Student Education Program Specialists, School District of Indian River County, FL.
Photos Courtesy Henrik Abelsson via Wikimedia Commons