Carney takes issue with common curriculum standard for special, general education
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield School Board member Mary Carney took issue with the district’s process of using the same curriculum standards for both special education and general education students at Wednesday night’s board meeting.
An example of a curriculum standard is: A kindergarten student should be able to “with prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text,” according to state of Wisconsin standards for English language arts. A standard identifies what a student should learn or be able to do at each grade level.
Director of Teaching and Learning Kim Ziembo said the state mandates that all students have access to the same curriculum, and this is not something the district could change even if it desired to.
This process of using the same curriculum standards was presented to the district’s curriculum and instruction committee for information only and subsequently touched on during the full board meeting Wednesday night.
“Being a former special ed teacher, it’s impossible to have the same expectations of special ed students and the regular ed,” Carney said. “I just feel it will create an undue burden on kids that are struggling even in their special ed classes, and now they’re going to be expected — they’ll have the same expectations as the regular ed for every grade level.”
Marshfield School District Superintendent Dee Wells said she felt the point of the common standard was to establish an expectation of progress for special education students.
“That progress shouldn’t be set towards some artificially lesser place. Not all students will achieve at the same point to the same place,” Wells said. “But you do need to keep good expectations for all students.”
“I think what the state is getting at is we need to be clear, though, that we do expect our children to grow and perform regardless of any label that’s attached to anyone,” Wells said.
A document provided to Hub City Times by Ziembo outlining the district’s procedure on this matter said, “To prepare each student for post-secondary options, the School District of Marshfield ensures all students access to grade-appropriate standards and work toward the same curricular goals as students without disabilities. Special education students do not have their own curriculum. Instead, the Individual Education Plan (IEP) centers around grade-appropriate learning goals and the specialized instruction plan to reach the goals.”
The IEP, Ziembo said, is created in collaboration between the student, parents, teachers, and administration. It factors in if the student’s disability is such that meeting a general curriculum standard is unrealistic and is tailored to the student’s abilities as much as necessary.
Ziembo added that some students in special education may have a disability that does not affect his or her academic performance. In those cases that student’s IEP would specify that no academic accommodations are necessary.
For students who cannot realistically meet that general curriculum standard, the question becomes, “How can we get as close to that standard without making this completely unreachable for him? That’s what those individual education plans are,” Ziembo said.
“My concern is that the kiddos who are really struggling just to learn life skills, I wouldn’t want time taken away from learning life skills (for) learning about the American Revolution … for kiddos who are just trying to be more independent,” Carney said.