Eye on Education

Core Questions: Does the Common Core Meet the Needs of Special Education Students?

Common Core appleStateIm­pact is answering reader-submitted questions about the Common Core, a new set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do in math and English at each grade level. Ohio is one of 45 states that have fully adopted the Common Core.

Today, we answer a Core Question from an audience member at the WVIZ/PBS ideastream Education panel discussion on the Common Core earlier this month.

The audience member asked:

How does the Common Core address the needs of the special education population?


Bill Zelei, director of the Ohio Schools Council and a past Ohio Department of Education associate superintendent, says the Common Core will offer more individualized approaches to learning, which could be a benefit for students with disabilities.

“One of the things about special ed is that you’re not learning the way that the majority of the population learns,” Zelei said. “And so the Common Core is going to broaden the way we instruct. It should provide more access to special ed children to be able to access the content.”

Supporters say teaching to the new standards will bring more in-depth instruction and more practical lessons applicable to life outside school.  But along with that instruction comes standardized tests.

Everyone, including students with disabilities, will be taking more tests in 2014-2015. Ohio students across all grades are expected to take about 49 additional hours of testing over the course of the school year.

Special education students could have some flexibility with test accommodations, like having extra time to take a test, a dictionary, or the option to listen along as someone reads them the test directions. Students with significant cognitive disabilities may take a different version of the tests.

What do you want to know about how the new Common Core education standards will affect Ohio schools? Email us at ohio@stateimpact.org. You can also send us a message on Twitter or Facebook.

Please tell us if you’re a parent, teacher, principal, policymaker or concerned citizen. We’ll find answers and share them here at StateImpact Ohio.


  • Math Coach

    Common Core math approaches this as success for all students. The focus and depth of the math standards provides students and teachers much more time, and a much slower pace in which to learn and understand procedures and concepts. This was intentionally done to eliminate the ineffective practice of trying to cover far too many topics in a year. For example students will now spend much of first grade mastering facts and representations of addition and subtraction through 20. The sums of 10 or greater will introduce the properties of our base 10 number system. Fluency will be the goal for every student – accuracy, efficiency, AND understanding. All three parts of fluency should be a focus of instruction any time the number system and number sense are taught. Arithmetic is not mathematics; it’s only one part that later becomes part of understanding bigger ideas and more complicated procedures.

    • confused

      I work as a paraeducator for students in our ALS program in Maryland. For those not familiar…ALS is academic life skills. Sounds like it should pair well with common core ideals, but there are some problems. Our students in ALS, I feel, are being dragged along and forced into complying with common core standards and assessments. It’s driving most special education teachers to work increasingly longer hours to figure out how to create assessments that all students in our class can take. I think people assume that if these students are in the same class they should all be around the same age level of learning. However, we have anywhere from students that are fully able to answer what operation to use when finding half of a given number…to students that don’t know how to find and circle the word “add” when given a choice of two operations. If special education is forced to spend less time on more individualized goals then is it really a benefit? Or is it just another set of standards to change special customized education into assessment driven education? What good is it to them if we focus more time on passing the standard test than teaching them to their actual highest level of academics in the specific areas they need. I don’t want to spend time probing a student to learn how to find the area of a given box when they still don’t know how to give me $1.28 for a drink they want to purchase. Anyone else have any problems with this concerning their students in ALS?

  • http://phantomminuet.blogspot.com/ MinAgain

    Math teachers are the only ones that I’ve heard speak positively about Common Core. In my albeit limited experience, the teachers in other subjects almost universally dislike and mistrust CC.

  • Meg Norris

    CC is a nightmare for all students but especially for students with disabilities. After 18 months with Common Core in my classroom I left teaching to fight against Common Core. CC is a one-size-fits all forced, scripted curriculum the requires special ed and second language learners to be taught at grade level no matter where they are currently functioning. It also requires testing at grade level and eliminates all modifications. Individual Educational Programs as required by law under IDEA are being ignored. Anyone who supports CC has no understanding of child or brain development. Reviews of the CC standards in math have repeatedly shown CC to be terribly substandard to MA, International and other national standards. Standards should be used as a guide only. Testing should be used after blocks of grades such as in 5th, 8th and 12th. Norm referenced tests, ITBS and CoGat are fine for national measurements.

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