Ms. Flores and Mr. Ericson are reviewing the large-scale assessment data across all grade levels and want to improve the scores of students with disabilities. What problems do you think they might discover? (Opinion Question: No Resources)
How can Ms. Flores and Mr. Ericson use the school summary data to guide their efforts to help improve the scores of students with disabilities?
Margaret J. McLaughlin, PhD Professor, Department of Special Education University of Maryland, College Park
Transcript: Margaret J. McLaughlin, PhD
One of the first assumptions that underlie the requirement that students with disabilities have access to the general education curriculum is that the general education curriculum is aligned with subject matter or content standards—and this notion that students with disabilities have the right and should have the opportunity to access those standards. And, particularly, because we now think of content standards as representing—or as making explicit—that enduring essential knowledge and skills that we want all students to learn—and all students means students with disabilities. So we think it’s very important for students with disabilities to have access to the standards, and the way that they should do that is through a curriculum that is aligned with those standards. It’s very important from both the needs of these children, as well as a social equity, that if someone—a state, for example, or a local district—has determined that this content is important information for students to learn, that it must be equally important for students with disabilities to learn that material. A misconception that many people have, however, when they start talking about content standards or general education curriculum, is that students with disabilities can never learn this material: Its’ too cognitively difficult; it requires too many skills; it’s too complex. And in many ways this represents a misconception or reflects a narrow understanding of curriculum and also a lack of knowledge about special education’s history of educating individuals with disabilities.
I would just ask people to think about probably the most classic examples from our history. And that just a very few decades ago we used to think that individuals who had Down’s syndrome were uneducable. They were placed in institutions; they were not given any specific education. Now we know from our own everyday lives and experience that not only do these individuals learn, they learn very well. They graduate from high school, they have a number of literacy skills, they hold jobs, they live independently in the community. And this didn’t just happen. This happened through education. Now, for us to make the reality of high standards and high expectations for students with disabilities, we need to turn to an overview of what is the general education curriculum, and how do we need to think about this for students with disabilities.
New Horizons Corporation:
Picture of a young woman stacking folders in a bin.
Picture of a worker inserting a paper flap in a booklet.
Picture of a young man clocking in.
Picture of a worker making boxes.
Picture of a group standing in front of a van.
Keep in Mind
Teachers should consider the complexity of the material they are teaching. Does it include mostly facts and concepts or principles and procedures? The kind of thinking that students are capable of is greatly affected by the kinds of information they learn. More complex information, such as principles and procedures, promotes thinking of a higher level.