Good-Bye STAR; Hello Common Core Standards – What This Means for Special Education

California, along with 46 other states and the District of Columbia, are gearing-up to implement the common core standards for Math and English Language Arts in 2014. The intent of developing a national common core standard was to eliminate gaps in academic expectations throughout the United States and to more closely align the United States academic standards with international standards. The common core standards were developed as the result of initiatives led by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Counsel of Chief State School Officers.

Recently, California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, announced that he plans to call for the suspension of STAR testing beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, so that students can be assessed on the new common core curriculum standards in Spring of 2015. It has been widely reported that the common core standards and new state common core assessments will likely be more rigorous for students because of the emphasis on critical thinking and conceptual understanding.

The common core standards focus on national standards for all school age children, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (“IDEA”) and comparable state laws require schools to develop programs that allow special education students to have access to the general curriculum, which is currently governed by various content standards. What should be expected then, is that the general curriculum will be governed by new/different content standards than have existed in recent years.

With the implementation of the common core standards fast approaching, it is essential to understand and train school staff to develop IEPs, including consideration of assessment accommodations and/or modifications, in accordance with the common core standards. IEP teams will be charged with developing academic goals consistent with common core standards while still adhering to the IDEA and California Education Code requirement that IEPs be individualized. IEP teams will need to know, and most importantly, understand the core standards.

Likewise, IEP teams will need to consider if any accommodations, modifications, or services are necessary due to the additional rigor the new curriculum may impose, as well as establish if any testing accommodations or modifications will be necessary once the common core assessments begin in Spring 2015. Training school staff on developing IEPs in accordance with the core standards and goal development will be essential as California schools move toward the new core standards and assessments. We encourage school districts to contact CDE, their SELPA and/or legal counsel to explore the complexities of applying the common core standards to students with disabilities. AALRR will be discussing the common core standards as part of its upcoming 2013 Special Education Training Academy hosted at various locations in Southern and Northern California in March 2013. The training academy is open to all California school district, SELPA, and County Office of Education employees. Please check our firm’s website for details.


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