Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yours, Mine or Ours-Teaching All Children Through the Common Core.

One of the advantages of my job as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction is that I get to go out and about to classrooms across content and grade levels to watch teachers and students in action. I don't know which students have been labeled what, I just get to see them all participating in their classrooms or activities.  This year I have seen an Amelia Bedelia fashion show, heard a gym full of starting string players make great music together, tapped words with Kindergarteners,  listened to second graders share military stories from their families, played in an orchestra with HS musicians, and shared the enthusiasm of MS Lego builders.  I have also led many discussions on what the Common Core and the Ohio Model Curriculum will look like in our classrooms.  In order for the Common Core Curriculum to REALLY be common to all of our students, we need to start with the understanding that all of the students are OUR students.

There  is a much used African proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child". What it means is that the village must take responsibility for that child.  A school is like a village. A classroom is also like a village.  As the new Common Core Standards are implemented, with their increased demands for rigor and depth of knowledge, a lot of teachers and administrators are wondering what this will mean for students who have been identified as "special ed".  It is the intent of the Common Core to raise expectations for ALL students and to make this education available to as many students as possible in a regular education setting.  This is a shift in how we think about "special education".  As educators, we need to move away from the thinking that if a student doesn't fall in the "norm" it is someone else's responsibility to educate this child. We need to stop thinking of Special Education, as a place and think of it more as a partnership.  It is all of our responsibility to have high expectations for our students and to differentiate our instruction to allow them to grow as learners.  We need to start acting more like a village and less like remote islands.

It starts at the top with district leaders.

  • What professional development do teachers need to help them plan lessons that will challenge all students in their classrooms?
  • How can co-teaching partnerships be supported and developed?  
  • What data can be collected to help teachers and building principals make informed decisions about educational supports and interventions? 
  • How can we continue to educate parents about their role in their child's education?
  • How do we identify resources that teachers can use to make the Common Core accessible for all students? 
  • How will we develop grading policies that accurately reflect the progress of all students on mastering grade level content standards and college/career skills like communication, collaboration and research?
  • How can we contribute to the state-wide discussions on graduation requirements and college/ career readiness to make sure that all of our students will have what they need to access education and training after their k-12 education?

Teachers also need to reflect on their own classroom practices:

  • How do you collaborate with peers and support staff to take "shared ownership" of all the students in your classroom?
  • What resources might you access to help you differentiate lesson materials to challenge all learners?
  • How are you using formative instructional practices (formative assessment) to help you plan lessons, help your students monitor their learning and help you assess progress?
  • How familiar are you with IEPs, 504s, and WEPs?  
    • What information you can gather from them? 
    • How can you provide feedback to monitor progress? 
    • How can you participate in  developing standards based goals that would help students access the Common Core?
    • How can you participate in designing appropriate modifications or accommodations to help students access the Common Core?
    • How can you help students to work on mastering goals?

Resources to Learn More About Special Education and the Common Core

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