My state has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the lastest educational fad to equalize education by having what is more or less national teaching standards. While I like the idea of everyone in the nation finally (with skepticism) being taught and held to the same academic standards, I wonder how that will have an impact on students with exceptionalities.
I recently received a rather thick binder of the new English/Language Arts standards that also include Social Studies and some Science standards and am a bit concerned on how well this new system will work for my students. While the standards themselves are a great tool to aid in curricula planning, they have their shortcomings. They use an abundance of primary sources and really increase the rigor of p-12 academics, but I fear that based on our old way, the new way will be too difficult for many students and things will change before we get them to the level the new standards require.
Currently, we take a state standardized test, which in my opinion is a very broad and ineffective standard with no criteria for mastery and such. We differentiate and interpret it as best we can to meet the level of our students. The CCSS seem to be more precise, and while I haven't read the entire binder, I get the impression that there is a more stringent criteria for mastery, as they provide student exemplars to show you what they want.
At our last ELA meeting, we were advised to begin to phase in the CCSS practices to get students prepared for the change next year. As I looked at this binder, my mind was full of images of frustration, anger, cussing, and students running out of the room mad at me, themselves, and the world. Why these images of Armageddon? Because my students are still struggling to read basic texts (3rd-4th grade material in the 7th grade), and soon they will be expected to take primary sources, which are not written in common language for a 13-year-old audience, then critically analyze and apply this knowledge to academic and real-world applications.
While I admittedly may be over analyzing the new standards, I am truly concerned in the ability of my students to grow as fast as we need them to grow, and in myself to be able to differentiate the instruction enough to achieve mastery. (The idea of mastery is another post for another day!). My students this year are on average 2-3 standards behind the rest of the grade, as I do not move on from something until they demonstrate no less than an 80% correct score on a variety of assessments. I give them standard pencil and paper, performance, and sometimes even verbal assessments so that I am testing them in a way they can best demonstrate their knowledge based on their style.
Needless to say, I will spend a few days of winter break reviewing my new binder and developing new strategies to help ease the transition. What are your thoughts on the move to the CCSS? How do you feel they will impact special education?