Testing for Special Education Students Part 2: Aligning to Common Core State Standards

ABC learningby Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS

Last time, I talked about testing accommodations for special needs students and new technologies that can assist at test time. Once IEP accommodations are devised, teachers are wondering how to align lessons and classroom tests to CCSS (Common Core State Standards)? Now that most states have adopted common standards, and we’ve gotten over the shock of needing to line up and adopt them at the micro level, how do we do that? Check out the CCSSI site itself for a look at alignment for students with disabilities.

Despite initial emotional resistance to moving to the new standards, I’ve been able to see that CCSS can actually be a useful tool as we create new lessons for special needs kids. Blended learning environments are available if we plan for them, and they offer additional technology assists for our lesson planning processes. One obstacle seems to be the availability of teacher training to bring technology to life.

This acceptance did not happen overnight, but I didn’t need a twelve-step program to come to acceptance level after all. We all want high standards for all children, they need something to aim for, and the stars are a good target. One could argue that the CCSSI is not the stars, but that’s a subject for another day.

I’ve found the best place to start in the alignment process is to consult my state department of education website for guidance. I use this resource all the time, but it’s fair to note that some state sites are better than others. Here is a link to the California site’s section on special education and CCSSI just to show an example.

They link to symposiums and other helpful events, but there is a tab for “assessment”. There is an organization, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and a California site to show how it all works. SBAC is national but not all states have joined the consortium. Your state department of education will provide similar links to SBAC if they are members. On their site, we can learn about achievement level setting. It seems others have walked this path before, so let’s let our colleagues help us. There is an organized way to migrate to CCSS in special ed classrooms. There are also technology assists for moving to an online testing environment.

In SBAC’s own words,

Achievement level setting, also known as standard setting, is the process used for establishing one or more cut scores on an assessment, making it possible to create categories of performance. Smarter Balanced Governing States are using a three-phase design for achievement level setting, which involves an online panel, an in-person panel, and a vertical articulation committee.” Through these ongoing panels, schools are learning how to adjust their existing classrooms to CCSS and testing for special needs students.

This is where I jump in and decry the level of commercial enterprise at work throughout the CCSSI environment. Or, do I? I no longer have a big problem with companies popping up to make a living with software, products, consortia, symposia or other packages of services to help schools navigate these enormous new challenges. Have I gone to the dark side?

I’m not entirely ready to question whether the public sector (corporations) should be handed the reins for all education related issues, but it’s worth looking at the options. State and federal departments of education are struggling to keep up with new regulations and protocols. I know, they should have thought of this before, but let’s back off a little and let some commercial enterprises in to help them out.

More resources to help sort it all out:

I’m hoping this blog stirs a response from you, makes you mad, or indignant, thrilled, or something. Even if you completely agree with my line of thinking, can you let me know what you think? We’re all trying to answer the question, “How do I align my curriculum to CCSSI”? Moreover, is it worth it?


Grant Name: USGA Alliance Grants

Funded By: National Alliance for Accessible Golf

Description: Grants support organizations which provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to learn and enjoy the game of golf and its inherent values. The Alliance and the USGA share the belief that the game of golf is exceptionally well-suited to allow individuals with disabilities to participate in a recreational or competitive activity with participants who have various types of disabilities as well as those who do not have disabilities. We encourage inclusive programming – opportunities that allow participants with disabilities and participants without disabilities to learn and play the game side by side.

Program Areas:   Disabilities, Health/PE

Eligibility: Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline: Ongoing

Average Amount: $1,000.00 – $20,000.00

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Telephone: 812-320-1126

E-mail: accessolutions@gmail.com

Website: National Alliance for Accessible Golf

Availability: All States

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Budgets and IEP Team Activities

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

This time of year, we are creating Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams and preparing for annual meetings for our kids. The subject of IEP team creation has come up in our district. An administrator noticed that budgets for last year had to be increased for SPED because of a very liberal IEP team that wrote expensive equipment into their program. A challenge for all districts: how do you find a balance between providing services and maintaining budgets? There are some promising new software solutions for some of the more common learning disabilities, but they are expensive and untried. Is it worth the investment? Can we find more cost effective solutions for similar problems?

Daily Organizer

The quick answer is, “Of course it’s worth the investment; we shouldn’t skimp on our kids.” The real answer is more complicated and deserves study and review.

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) describes the IEP team as including:

  • The parents of the child
  • Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment)
  • Not less than one special education teacher of the child, or where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the child
  • representative of the public agency who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities, knowledgeable about the general education curriculum and knowledgeable about the available resources of the public agency
  • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results
  • Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate (invited at the discretion of the parent or the agency)
  • The child with a disability (when appropriate)

I’d like to focus on the individual who can “interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results.” Our superintendent has asked if this person is properly trained to deliver this service. He is supportive of district teams in general, but his responsibility is to stay within budget. The evaluation of services is an ongoing job, and it can’t be delegated to just one person, especially in large districts. You may have an “evaluation specialist” that attends your meetings, and you would hope that person has thoroughly evaluated new programs and equipment, but there aren’t always enough hours in the day.

Since 94-142 laws and their amendments have been written, the costs for special education services have soared. Providing programs and equipment to support the least restrictive environment language in the federal law has created a huge business for publishers and software companies. Are we too eager to jump on bandwagons without study?

If you’ve ever attended a sales meeting for large publishing company sales reps to come and show their wares, you know how tempting this is. The presentations are slick, and the statistics they throw around make it sound like their products are the only solutions for some of the more challenging disabilities and behaviors we see that cause referrals for SPED services at the classroom teacher’s level.

This subject deserves careful attention, and a single blog will not cover it adequately. I’ve collected some resources for you to review if this blog opens the dialogue for your teams.

Tell us if your district has a plan in place for reviewing SPED budgets and maintaining great educational services.


 

Grant Name: Foundation Grants

Funded By: Safeway Foundation

Description: The Safeway Foundation supports nonprofit organizations whose mission is aligned with our four priority areas: Hunger Relief, Education, Health and Human Services, and Assisting People with Disabilities.

Program Areas: After-School, Arts, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Early Childhood, General Education, Health/PE, Homeless, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology

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Proposal Deadline: Ongoing

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Website: Safeway Foundation

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