Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

May 22
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by Jess

As of May 11, 2012, forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, and two American territories have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  That means, whether your state is one of the adopters or not, CCSS are changing the face of education.

So what are the CCSS and what does this all mean for your child?  The Common Core State Standards are a set of expectations for what students should learn during the course of their educational careers.   CCSS create a measure of continuity across state lines in the content that will be taught and, more importantly, raises the bar for students and teachers alike.  States and territories using CCSS are charged with teaching standards that are often more complex than most states’ current academic content standards—demanding a change in how teachers present information to their students as well as demanding a deeper level of comprehension from the students themselves.  How is this achieved?  CCSS requires a focus on higher-order thinking questions and skills.  For instance, in math class, rather than asking which numbers are even, students will be asked which numbers are even and how do they know that (i.e., the numbers are divisible by two, they have a pair).   English Language Arts (ELA) is now explicitly tied to history/social studies, science and technical studies, meaning that all of these content areas will require complex thinking and analysis rather than rote memorization. Look at the difference between these two questions:

1.       List two reasons the Civil War began.


2.       Explain how economics contributed to the start of the Civil War.   Support your answer with evidence from the book we read.

The goal of the CCSS is for students to think more deeply than was previously expected. Answering question #2 requires comprehension, analysis, and critical thinking, all skills that benefit students long after they have left the classroom.   

With the change in standards, how we assess students for those large-scale, end-of-year tests that currently measure Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) is undergoing huge changes. The Federal government has funded five consortiums to develop assessments based on the CCSS: Two for general education assessments, two for alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards, and one for English language learners.  They are: 



Intended Population

Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers



Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Smarter Balance


Dynamic Learning Maps



National Center and State Collaborative



Assessment Services Supporting English learners through Technology Systems.




Each consortium has a website that can be found at the link below


The five consortiums are working independently but sharing information to ensure that the general education assessments, alternate assessments and assessment for English language learners build from best practice.  They are going to be designed to be accessible, to assess information in multiple ways and to be technically defensible. After the assessments are released, any state will be able to use these assessments. Until that time, you can learn about which states belong to each consortium by clicking here: http://www.k12center.org/rsc/pdf/Coming_Together_April_2012_Final.PDF (page 14).

But what does all this mean for students who have special needs? Because we at Keystone Assessment work with the alternate assessment, our focus is on the issues related to teaching and assessing students with the most complex needs, those students who would take the alternate assessment.  It is important to remember that state standards are the standards for ALL students, whether they have an IEP, a 504 plan or no need for accommodations or special education services whatsoever. The IEP is in place to support the student with identified disabilities learning the standards; all students are expected to access and make progress in the standards.   As a result, the new assessments are trying to include principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL): basically, that students need to be able to access, respond to and engage with information in multiple ways. For instance, embedding within the test opportunities for students to make text larger, have it read to them, or highlight information. Students with special needs are not an afterthought but rather an important consideration as the assessments are designed. The new assessments are still in development and test design information may change as things evolves, but here is some of what NCSC and DLM, the two consortiums building alternate assessments have as of May 2012:



Based on CCSS


Computer based assessment

Online professional development will be available

Multiple item types (i.e., multiple choice, short answer, fill in the blank)

Building sample lessons and curriculum that teachers may use

Propose having interim assessments that are compiled to create the end of year assessment


Using learning progression frameworks to inform their understanding of student learning

Using dynamic learning maps to inform their understanding of student learning


Both consortiums are trying to keep an eye on unintended consequences. We should all be aware of some of these possibilities to ensure that the assessments support students in inclusive settings, the instruction reflects the rich context that is set out in the CCSS, and these assessments are used for the purpose for which they were built.

Teachers and administrators are currently trying to get ahead of the instructional changes that the CCSS will require, but there is much work to be done. And, when you have a student who is struggling to recognize numbers in third grade, thinking about raising the bar even higher may seem daunting! But, if we start to build lessons with ALL students in mind from the ground up, work now toward building strong school teams and facilitating good decisions around appropriate accommodations and supports, then all students will benefit. There are already a plethora of resources out there to support students who are struggling with content—many free! We list some of the free resources we have found useful on our webpage here: http://keystoneassessment.com/?page_id=181.

All in all, the move to CCSS is providing an opportunity for in-depth research on a population of learners who, up until a few years ago, received low priority consideration in regards to standards development and achievement. Now we need to continue to shine the light on the gains these students have made since we have raised our expectations while continuing to build supports for them and those who work with them.

For more information on alternate assessments or how to build lessons built on grade level academic content for students with the most complex needs, you can check out some of our trainings and resources at www.keystoneassessment.com. Send us any questions or concerns and we’d be happy to talk with you!



Authors: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers Title: Common Core State Standards (insert specific content area if you are using only one) Publisher: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C. Copyright Date: 2010http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf



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