Thursday, August 22, 2013

Postcards from the Edge

I recently attended a workshop put on by a special education advocacy group. The workshop was intended to introduce us special ed parents to how to navigate the 'major shifts in implementing common core standards.'.

I went, with my full bias against Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and I took as many notes as I could. There was a slide show which is supposedly going to be available electronically. If it does not become available soon I will scan the paper handouts we were given to go along with it.

Here I will try to provide my notes and what links they provided.

The "quotes" may not be DIRECT and PERFECT quotes but as close as I could get writing them out. The workshop leaders were two women from the Louisiana State Dept. of Ed, Debra Dixon and Nanette Olivier.

The word "RIGOR" was mentioned 12 times. In 90 minutes.


"CCSS is best led by teachers."
"Those students participating in PARCC assessments have accommodations available." So does this imply if you are a special ed student who refuses to take PARCC for any reason, you won't get any classroom accommodations as well?

"Intent is not to bring students down {in scores}".

From Jim Garvey, "BESE's feeling is expectations are raised, or scores will be similar as now. Not going to be a big drop in scores. Shouldn't be an increase in students failing the LEAP. What's considered passing is going to change. Maybe in the future we will raise the bar of the equivalent to the LEAP. I don't think you're going to see a change. We're not going to punish the students for that, or the schools. This is what we think is coming."

Um what? First off the first part of what he said was confusing and not clear. Secondly, what they THINK is coming? It's clear they don't know what they're doing.

"PARCC (and any standardized test) is a snapshot of the student, a narrow set of skills we look at. It's a small % of the child's growth."

"We have so much technology that we need to use." 
Right, meanwhile parents must buy their own assistive technology for their special needs student.

"CCSS is not a curriculum, it's a set of standards."
 We all know that party line. I will say it until I"m blue int the face, STANDARDS ALWAYS BEGET CURRICULUM.

This one is one of the best....
 "If we have concerns about education, IEPs, etc, we are always "welcome to contact the help desk at LaSDE." 

I'll wait while you pick yourself up from the laughter.

"How do we implement the standards?" (There was no answer.)

"Teachers really want your child to succeed." Well duh. Teachers don't do this job for the glory of snot on their shirts, they do it because they love what they do. But now, "teachers are even more accountable than ever." RIGHT, so THEIR job is dependant on our children's test scores and interaction in the classroom.

"It's never to early to prepare for PARCC on the IEP." Yup, nothing like high stakes testing for a child who's developmentally delayed.

"We've been spending too much time reading fiction over nonfiction." Um. Shut the front door. This is the part of the workshop that got me fired up and first spoke out. Are you freaking KIDDING ME? Classic literature is the backbone of classic education. 50/50 fiction/nonfiction for K-6, 70/30 nonfiction/fiction for 9-12. (gradual shift between 6-12). 70%. Still boggles my mind.

"We're asking kids to read more analytical texts." Right because every great artist was supported by reading welding technical manuals.

For the math standards, "emphasis on digging deep." Yeah, that's clear.

"Parents should always ask, "What is the priority for my child?" in an IEP." Again, most parents do this. But the school administrations do not make this easy, never have and I suspect never will. 

One of my favorites was the horrahing of St. Tammany Parish School Boards work in getting assistive technology in the classroom. CLEARLY, they have never listened to the stories about parents having to provide their own iPads, PECS programs and so on. I will say there are some AMAZING staff, teachers, therapists, and providers in the St. Tammany Parish system, including a dedicated AT specialist. But to say the school board provides these things as truly needed is a flat out LIE. It's not the fault of the therapists, it's the fault of the higher ups who argue the money game. Forget it's a child's right due to IDEA or their IEP. 

And my very favorite, they were quite clear and proud to make SURE we knew "Debra and Nanette did NOT say you can opt out of the PARCC assessments." They wanted that made very very clear. So clear it was almost as if they had someone breathing down their neck to make SURE we parents knew we couldn't opt out....I wonder who that could be. *cough cough, NGA, Tides Foundation, John White, Jindal, cough cough*.

So when your child who's in fourth grade but is at a 1st grade level developmentally fails the PARCC and struggles daily with the curriculum, (which is not written by the CCSS, even though its found on the Louisiana Believes website, until they realize we know and they scrub the site.), but when your child fails the PARCC and must be remediated, you be SURE to remind them that Debra and Nanette said, "Promotion and retention are decided at a local level."

And don't forget the rigor.

I need a drink.


  1. Still sharing your perspectives on #CCSS and Students with Disabilities.

  2. I had a great email chat with a homeschooling father who has been trying to figure out the Math Wars. I blogged it here:

  3. Here is a good discussion of the Common Core and a sample lesson plan for a K Math standard.

  4. Your post is well-written (and funny!) but I'm concerned that you state emphatically right off the bat, that you went into the meeting with your "full bias" against CCSS. It sounds as though you have good reason to be angry; that your child has not received the support needed. I wonder how much of this has to do CCSS at the local level, as opposed to the national level. As with any new "big thing," it is only as good as the people who implement it. It sounds as though Common Core has really dropped the ball where special needs children are concerned. I am both a teacher AND the mother of a 4-year-old with special needs, so I'm sure I'll have to navigate these tricky waters as well. If your purpose in writing this blog was simply to vent, then go for it! If you want to be an agent of change, I'd suggest putting your bias aside (at least for a little while) and using the plethora of resources available online to research CC a little more. Once you've done this, you'll have the tools to a. help your child and b. begin an authentic discourse with the local powers that be. I hope this didn't come off as too preachy - you are clearly passionate about your child's education. I think you could do a lot of good.

  5. I really enjoyed your post and your insight! It's to see a mom standing up for her children and encouraging her children to stand up for themselves! I think common core has the ability to do great things, but I think it is being implemented in way that is too stressful for our children. They are going to experience meltdowns by 5th grade! I'm still learning about this topic and trying to figure it all out myself. Would love to hear more about what you think.


I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions! Please keep the comments respectful and mature. We are all in this together. United we stand.