How Common Core Tests are Impacting Students with Disabilities

In testing, the IEPs are not getting the attention they require.

In testing, the IEPs are not getting the attention they require.

When New York recently released its Common Core test results, children with special needs saw one of the largest drops in the percentage of students rated “proficient”.

by Rachel Howard -

The results released for New York students who took the inaugural Common Core tests last spring were alarming to anyone concerned with the state of education in  New York City. But those of us who are parents and/or work with parents of children with disabilities?

We hit the ceiling.

But before I get to that, it’s important to know that there are a lot of us. Over 6.5 million children with disabilities receive services under federal education law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In New York City alone, over 200,000 children receive these services and supports. And it’s no secret that for all the children that do, many more should.

Now here’s why we hit the ceiling.

In New York City, only 8 percent of students with disabilities tested met the statewide math standards. Less than 6 percent tested met the statewide English Language standards.

It is no secret that historically, our system has failed to support these families in the special education process, including the small number of parents who have the time, skills, resources, and drive to persistently advocate for their child, year after year, and also including that much greater number of parents who don’t. The result is the profound and unrelenting achievement gap expressed by the test results. And the result of this gap is an even greater risk of incarceration, unemployment, and failure for students with disabilities.

The foundation for closing this gap is called the Individualized Education Program, or IEP. The IEP is a contract between the education system and an individual student. When appropriately created—i.e. with input from both families and professionals—and when implemented with integrity, this plan works. And this plan happens to be federal law, a right guaranteed under the aforementioned Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

But the IEPs are not getting the attention they require, and the problem has gotten worse in recent years.

At Resources for Children with Special Needs, we work with thousands of families every year, both through workshops and through one-to-one help. Our observation from working with families is that the IEP process is taking a back seat. More than ever, parents come to us because they are not getting services they are entitled to, because progress has been delayed, and because their experience with the system is so bewildering.

Arnie Duncan, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, says this:

“For too long we’ve been a compliance-driven bureaucracy when it comes to educating students with disabilities. We have to expect the very best from our students — and tell the truth about student performance — so that we can give all students the supports and services they need. The best way to do that is by focusing on results.”

While this sentiment, and others surrounding it, seem positive, there is danger in a shift away from compliance. Because without compliance, good results are impossible.

To close the achievement gap with the thousands of students with disabilities in this city, the Department of Education must return to the IEP as the central lever of equity. Compliance with the IEP process must be at the heart of the change. Simply put, students with disabilities cannot learn effectively without the foundation of the services and supports defined in the IEP.

Even more specifically, our experience highlights the need for the following urgent measures in the city’s public schools:

Read more at New Tests Expose Inequities for Students with Disabilities.

[Via - WNYC]

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