Accessing the General Education Curriculum: Inclusion Considerations for Students with Disabilities
In this module, you’ve learned about some tough issues, and now you’re ready to begin tackling the challenge of helping students with disabilities to perform at high levels on state and district assessments. Click on the movie below to hear Margaret McLaughlin and Victor Nolet as they highlight some of the key points of the module (time: 4:14).
Transcript: Wrap Up
Narrator: Now that you’ve completed the module, you’re ready to begin the task of improving assessment scores for students with disabilities. But before you start, let’s review quickly what you’ve learned in this module. First, it is extremely important to know what data is included in reports from state or district assessments. It’s also useful to request or collect additional data to obtain a clear picture of the learning that goes on in a school.
Dr. Nolet: Principals and teams in schools need to think of themselves more like sleuths, that they’re going to collect evidence to try and make some decisions. And we’re always interested in the validity of those decisions. Have we collected the right evidence, have we collected enough evidence, and have we made the right decisions with the evidence that we’ve collected?
Narrator: You also learned to examine data closely, looking at specific groups, including groups of students with disabilities. For students with disabilities to perform well on high stakes assessments, it is important that they have access to the general education curriculum. To work toward improving instruction and assessment within a school, principals should gather teams of teachers to develop and implement improvement plans.
Dr. McLaughlin: It should be obvious that this is not something that special educators can do alone. This is not a special education issue; this is a whole school issue. When we begin to talk about providing access to the general education curriculum, we must be talking about general educators and special educators working together in new ways to help all children learn this important information.
Narrator: There are several key issues in improving assessment results for students with disabilities. Students have greater access to the general education curriculum when the intended, taught, and learned curricula are closely aligned.
Dr. Nolet: Teachers need to understand the standards deeply because their understanding of content standards then becomes the taught curriculum in many respects. This is one of the reasons that it’s so important for students with disabilities to have access to curriculum that is taught by teachers who understand the content. We really feel strongly that the best teachers of content are teachers who have deep understanding and background in that content.
Narrator: Instruction and assessment for students with disabilities can also be enhanced through accommodations and modifications. Sometimes these two are difficult to distinguish.
Dr. McLaughlin: The important concept is not what particular strategy is an accommodation but the purpose of that accommodation. It is something that offsets the impact of the disability without changing the content standard or performance expectation. In contrast, a modification does, whatever it may be, and it could be exactly the type of strategy or device that I mentioned under an accommodation, but in this case, when it is applied it actually changes or alters the content standard or the performance expectation.
Narrator: To account for the instruction of all students, a small group of students receive alternate assessments.
Dr. McLaughlin: An alternate assessment, as used in the IDEA and other law, refers to an assessment other than the standard assessment that has been designed or being given, administered to the general population, but it is typically thought of, or at least referred to, as applying to only a small percentage or proportion of students with disabilities, usually those who have the most significant cognitive disabilities.
Narrator: It’s no easy task, but improving instruction and assessment for students with disabilities is an important goal. With your understanding of how to gather and interpret data as well as the key factors in improving instruction for students with disabilities, you’re up to the task. Go for it!
Revisiting Initial Thoughts
Think back to your initial responses to the following questions. After working through the resources in this module, do you agree with your Initial Thoughts? If not, what aspects of your answers would you change?
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?
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?
What questions should Ms. Flores and Mr. Ericson ask the general and special education teachers?
When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.