“The Common Core State Standards emphasize rigorous grade-level expectations in the areas of mathematics and English language arts for all students,” said Dr. Joy Hudson, supervisor of student services.
“The common core standards identify the skills and knowledge students need in order to be successful in college and careers.”
All students, with exception of those in the Comprehensive Developmental Classrooms, will be expected to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers under Common Core. This assessment will be replacing the Tennessee Comprehensive Program, or TCAP.
Students with special needs in the Cleveland City School system have often been placed in resource, or pull-out, classrooms for their core subjects.
Common Core’s rigorous standards for math and English language arts are making it vital for students to join the general education population.
Hudson said the model being followed by the school system is not a traditionally inclusive one. Students with special needs will not be added to the general population without additional aid. Their former resource teachers will be used in their core classes to co-teach.
The special education teacher and general education teacher will both be responsible for planning and conducting lessons.
Hudson admitted the transition may be challenging, but it is a needed change for Common Core.
“Students with disabilities are students who have disabling conditions that could hinder their performance in the general education classroom,” Hudson said. “However, all students have the ability to learn, and Cleveland City schools have high expectations for all students to learn.”
More than 880 students in the city school system are considered to have special needs. Students in the CDC program are a part of the overall number, but will not be joining the general education population. The disabilities of students moving out of resource classrooms are mild to moderate. These include students who are blind, deaf, emotionally disturbed and autistic, as well as, those who have medical problems, ADHD and orthopedic impairment.
Hudson said she believes introducing special needs students to the general education program will allow them to grow.
“This will allow students with disabilities to obtain an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment and be educated largely with non-disabled peers,” Hudson said. “Co-teaching option in the general education classroom provides in-class support as required in individual education plans of SWDs, and shows it is beneficial for many other groups of students.”
Added Hudson, “Research indicates that effective inclusive programs improve achievement and outcomes better than “pull out” or sub separate programs for students with mild to moderate disabilities.”
Co-teaching was introduced at Cleveland Middle School in sixth-grade core classrooms. The teachers were initially apprehensive about the change, but agreed in the end it was for the better. Hudson said the sixth grade team was very pleased with the progress their students made.
“The really big goal for Cleveland City Schools is to be fully inclusive,” Hudson said. “We are trying to increase [fully inclusive students] up to 80 percent.”
According to Hudson, co-teaching will be implemented at the seventh grade level for the 2013-14 school year. The entire middle school, sixth through eighth, will have co-teaching classrooms for core subjects by the 2014-15 school year.
In addition, co-teaching has already been introduced at the high school level. The number of classrooms with co-teachers, and the number of special needs students in the general program, will increase alongside the middle school.