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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
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This article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon. If you need legal advice concerning this or any other topic please contact our offices to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at 914-684-2100 or 212-490-2020.