Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Common Core Expertise for Special Education Teachers: What Do Special Education Administrators Think Is Important?

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Common Core Expertise for Special Education Teachers: What Do Special Education Administrators Think Is Important?

Article excerpt

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been described as the next chapter in American education with the promise to deliver "fewer, clearer, and higher" standards aimed at preparing all students for college and career (Rothman, 2013). Though CCSS articulates minimum expectations for what college- and career-ready students should know and be able to do in the 21st century, it is beyond the scope of the standards to identify specific interventions and supports needed for students who are performing below grade-level expectations (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). Students with disabilities represent a heterogeneous group of students whose instruction has always been guided by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) (California Department of Education [CDE], 2014a; McLaughlin, 2012). Thus, a clear path to providing rigorous access to CCSS for students with disabilities remains challenging.

In preparation for CCSS implementation for students with disabilities, practices such as aligning IEP goals to CCSS, implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and utilizing evidence-based practices in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics have been advised by experts in the field (Graham & Harris, 2013; McLaughlin, 2012; Powell, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2013; Rose, Meyer, & Gordon, 2014). School leaders have also been urged to support practices such as collaboration between special education and general education teachers (McLaughlin, 2012). What is also recommended for immediate implementation is that teachers align curriculum and instruction with the "instructional shifts" of CCSS to ensure instruction is matched to the more rigorous expectations of the new standards (Alberti, 2013). Thus this study sought to investigate recommendations for CCSS and special education proposed in the research and those proposed by field-based sources to analyze the presence of or lack of alignment between recommended practices. Findings have implications for preservice teacher education and in-service teacher professional development (PD).

Conceptual Framework

An implicit assumption guiding this research was that special education administrators would have relevant perspectives for teacher education programs because of their roles and responsibilities for special education programs and services as conceived in Crockett's (2002) conceptual framework for leadership in special education. According to Crockett, a central tenet of special education administration is "providing and ensuring programming that makes a difference" (p. 162). The foundational pillars undergirding these principles are: (a) ethical practice that advocates for informed decisions and full educational opportunity; (b) individual consideration that attends to exceptional need, requiring extraordinary response of specialized instruction; (c) equity under law that provides child benefits through law, finances, and public policy; (d) effective programming that provides and ensures that programs produce positive student outcomes; and (e) productive partnerships with families formed by negotiating and collaborating on behalf of learners with exceptionalities. Thus special education administrators are instructional and programmatic leaders in implementing school reforms such as Common Core that impact special education teachers and students with disabilities. With limited research available on the implementation of CCSS and special education, teacher educator programs may glean insight into the current status of preservice and in-service special education teacher needs from leaders in the field with direct responsibility for ensuring that CCSS is implemented effectively for special education.

Review of the Literature

CCSS and Instruction

In terms of general recommendations for CCSS and special education instruction, some are designed for school leaders and some are geared more toward educators. …

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