September, 2013 | Littman Krooks, LLP
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How the Common Core Standards Will Affect General and Special Education

September 24th, 2013

The Common Core State Standards Initiative represents an effort led by states to establish a clear set of standards for math and language arts education from kindergarten through the 12th grade. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter college or the workforce. The guidelines are designed to be clear and concise so that parents, teachers and students can easily understand what students are expected to learn. The standards have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states, many of which are implementing them beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.

It is important for parents to be aware of what the common core standards are and how they will affect their children’s education. Parents of children with special needs may also wonder how special education will be integrated with the common core standards.

The common core standards are different from previous standards in that they encourage teachers to delve more deeply into the subject matter that is appropriate for that grade level, rather than attempting to cover too many different topics in a superficial way. As an illustration, kindergarten students in New York were previously expected to learn to count to 20 orally and write the numbers up to 10, and they were also introduced to exercises in identifying and creating numerical patterns, which was intended as a rudimentary introduction to algebra concepts. In the new standards, the focus on patterns has been dropped, and kindergarten students instead focus more intensely on learning to count. Kindergarteners will now learn to count to 100 orally and write the numbers up to 20. Rather than memorizing a list of numbers, the focus will be on making sure students truly understand what numbers mean.

The principle of delving more deeply into fewer subjects holds true for language arts as well. The Common Core also requires students to read more deeply and to read non-fiction. It applies to all grade levels from kindergarten to 12th grade.

The Common Core in New York City school system, the NYCDOE, is initiating changes. The implementation of the common core standards is happening at the same time that changes are being made in the city’s special education system, after a two-year pilot phase. The special education reforms call for more inclusion for students with special needs, with as much integration into general classrooms as is appropriate based on the student’s individual challenges. The city’s academic officers said that separate special education classrooms could be a detriment to students with learning disabilities who are seeking high school diplomas.

There are obvious challenges involved with introducing two different sets of changes simultaneously, and some parents have expressed concern that the new common core standards may be difficult to modify for special education purposes and might create more barriers for special needs students. However, education officials said that the approach makes sense and is part of moving all students toward a higher set of standards.

For more information on the Common Core in New York, visit
To learn more about our legal services for families with special needs, visit


Understand Legal Rights to Assist Students with Disabilities Entering College

September 12th, 2013

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq.
The beginning of college or other post-secondary school represents an exciting and emotional time for any parent, filled with great pride but also great concern.  For students with disabilities, the emotions are amplified, as many parents wonder if their children are sufficiently prepared and ready to succeed in college.

With careful attention to this transition, parents can act as partners with their children without usurping and controlling the process.   Parents should understand their legal rights and the rights of their children to help the process go smoothly.

Know Your Parental Rights to Receive Information
As a general rule, pursuant to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), the right to access educational records transfers from parents to “eligible students” at age 18.  Many parents and even some colleges believe that this means that parents have no right to receive information or educational or records without student consent.  Many colleges, as a general practice, will not give parents information or educational records about their children.  However, if you claim your child as a dependent on your tax return, as most parents do for college students, FERPA allows your student’s college to release student records and information to you, whether or not your child consents.

So if your student’s college resists providing information, let them know your child if financially dependent and, if necessary, you can provide your tax returns.
Encourage Your Child to Self-Advocate
Parents must help their children advocate for themselves. Ideally, students should have developed this skill in high school as part of transition services on their IEP, but many do not develop this skill by high school graduation.
If your child has not developed the skill of self-advocacy, there is still time.  Your student must know his or her strengths and areas of need and understand his or her legal rights. You can ask your student’s advisor to work with your child to help him or her self-advocate and explain the importance.
How much should you advocate for your college student? Every student is different. For students with disabilities initially adjusting to college, some parental advocacy is appropriate to get students settled. But ultimately, your goal should be to ensure your child understands his or her legal rights and can advocate.

Understand Your College Student’s Rights
Although colleges and universities do not have to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and develop IEPs or provide a free and appropriate public education, just about every institution must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.   This means that they must offer equal opportunity and access to opportunities for students with disabilities, and offer programs and services on the same basis as to non-disabled students. Specifically, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides, in relevant part that, individuals with disabilities shall not “be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Students with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations and services, but your child will have to initiate the request for accommodations or services and provide documentation.
Your student’s college should have a Disabilities Service Office and publish important information on student rights. The Office for Civil Rights has put together guidance written specifically for college students with disabilities and has also published important information on auxiliary aids and services.
Parents of High School Seniors
In a future entry, we will provide guidance for parents of students with disabilities in high school, preparing for college, to ensure your child is receiving appropriate transition services.

For more information visit

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