Curriculum Developers and Administration at Wesley Lakes Elementary School: my Thoughts as a Special Education Teacher
In education, a curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. A curriculum consists of a group of knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, including the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet. Some activities that can be implemented within the curriculum are units and lessons that the teachers will teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and assessments.
Georgia Performance Standards currently serve as the state’s curriculum, defining what students should know and be able to do across all grade levels. The Georgia Department of Education develops units of standards for all academic subjects, an instructional framework, instructional resources, and online professional learning materials. All these materials are designed and created to help teachers prepare students for graduation and post-secondary college and career opportunities. Some people love the idea of being presented with all the content needed to teach their students along with the provided outline. However, there are many teachers who disagree with the state’s curriculum. I am one of those people. The Georgia Performance Standards are not designed and created to meet the needs of all learners.
As an educator, I am fully aware that all students do not work and think the same. Each and every student is different, and they all think and process information differently. Classrooms consist of students with different learning styles. So, why are we treating them as if they are all the same? As a Special Education Teacher, I don’t think it’s fair to hold all of my students to the same expectations as someone without a learning disability. As mentioned above, the Georgia Performance Standards were designed and created to prepare students for graduation, post-secondary college, and career opportunities. But what about the students who may or may not be able to attend college or post-secondary school because of their cognitive and adaptive skills? What if they are only able to work small jobs due to their disability? How are we preparing these students for life? We teach these “standards to prepare them,” but are we really doing that? It breaks my heart to sit through a lesson on World War II when I have students who can’t even tell me their parents’ phone number or their own address. Are we really preparing them for life, or is Georgia doing what’s best for Georgia and not the students they serve?
Special education teachers are struggling to adapt Common Core-aligned assessments and standards to the unique needs and learning styles of students with disabilities. Special education teachers work extremely hard to provide the most effective ways to teach their students. A student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) consists of details that describe the way the child learns best and what the child needs to be successful. Common Core developers should be analyzing these documents and using that information to better serve this population of students.
The Common Core standards are often challenging for general education learners. Why would you hold a student with a learning disability to the same standard as one who doesn’t? Holding students with learning disabilities to the same academic standards as general education students is unrealistic and unfair. Under CCSS, the learning curve for children with special needs grows considerably longer. So, again, you have to ask yourself, are we doing our students a service?
In order to provide the proper support needed for our students, things need to change. The first thing I believe needs to change is the curriculum designers. Some of these designers have never worked with students who have disabilities. How do they know what’s best if they don’t have that experience? How can you create something for someone and know nothing about the person you are creating it for? I also believe that the curriculum designers, administrators, and teachers need to work together to design a curriculum that best works for our population of students.
The Georgia Common Core standard was designed to help teachers prepare students for graduation and post-secondary college and career opportunities. I believe parents should be the deciding factor in determining whether their child should be compelled to learn all these academic skills, which may or may not benefit them, or if they should have the option to be exposed to a more functional life skill route. The primary goal for our student population is for them to be able to function in society. This is what our students need. They need to concentrate on skills that will assist them in their adult lives.