One thing I have found in my adventures in education is that we all, teachers – administrators – SLPs – parents, have a love-hate relationship with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Frankly, it ranks right up there with caseload sizes, teacher certification, idiotic review processes, and annoyances with ASHA for the number of people that are disgruntled by it.
(For those who don’t know me, I have a great caseload size, I’m not teacher certified, and I’m not unhappy with ASHA…but I know lots of SLPs who are 1 if not all 4 of these).
Most SLPs would agree, CCSS appears to add a lot of nonsense work to our already busy schedules. It seems redundant to what we are already doing. A common thread of dissatisfaction comes from the fact that it pushes kids…and it does. For the exceptional kids who are already pushed, it feels almost insurmountable and as if we are doing a grave disservice to them.
So…when I was given the opportunity to review a book specifically about SLPs and CCSS, I jumped at the opportunity. I decided I would either hate it or love it, but either way, I wanted to tell you about it… So here goes.
Publisher: Plural Publishing, 2015
Author: Lissa A. Power-deFur
Collaborators: Peggy C. Agee, Brenda C. Seal, Julie Durando, Sharon H. deFur, Lori Korinek, Perry Flynn, Judy Rudebusch, and Elda Rojas. (whew! That’s a lot of people. I’d put their credentials down, but then it’d truly be alphabet soup with lots of PhD, EdDs, SLPs, CCCs, etc.)
Total pages: 249 (including index…so it’s not so big it’s overwhelming but lots of information!)
One of the snippets from the introduction that yelled at me was the typical complaints the author heard about CCSS. It resonated because I’ve heard them myself…and I may have even thought them once or twice. They include:
- “With all the children on my caseload, how can I possibly incorporate the standards into my therapy?”
- “Aren’t the goals we write on the children’s IEP the standards that children should aspire to?”
- Why do we need to consider the CCSS since we have goals on the IEP, and the IEP is a legally binding document?”
- “My students have so many needs, how can I possibly address those and the CCSS too?”
- These standards were developed by policy makers who have probably never worked with children like I do on a daily basis. These just aren’t practical.”
- “This is just another education fad that will go away.”
Do any of those sound familiar? Have you heard them…or said some variation of them?
The book discusses HOW CCSS were created and WHY…and frankly, it makes sense. Now before you string me up, please…keep reading.
Chapter 1: The Common Core State Standards
This chapter discusses how CCSS were developed and why. I knew it was to get kids ready for college and life…what I didn’t realize is that the push for it was because US students are woefully behind in college readiness when compared to other nations. So CCSS is designed to “measure up to international standards.” Wow! and to think, here I was happy that when kids moved from Florida to ND there wouldn’t be entire grade level discrepancies between what they were taught (which is also addressed in this chapter and a very real problem).
This chapter also talks about the implications of CCSS with exceptional children. It talks about how College and Career Readiness skills ARE needed for our kids in special education. This I completely agree with. All too often, special educators tend to think “less” is better – our kids can do “less.” When in reality, what they need is “different.” It has long been a mantra of mine that we teach our kids “differently” not “less,” we assess them “differently” not “less,” and we expect the same things to be learned…but in different ways.
“The CCSS provide an opportunity for speech-language pathologists to change the common perception of their role from that of speech therapy ancillary to the curriculum to speech-language services that are a vital part of the school teams’ striving to ensure mastery by all students.” (wow…talk about rebranding the school-SLPs role!)
One of the cool things about this chapter, is it includes ideas for where to find the CCSS that fits what we’re working on. For example: Need to work on phonology? It fits in “add or substitute individual phonemes in simple one-syllable words to make new words. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.2.E)
Chapter 2: Language and Communication Expectations of the Standards
This chapter discusses how language and communication expectations occur in the CCSS. For instance, it discusses how the Foundational Skills (K-5) begin with phonological awareness and that by second grade, they expect kids to have developed phonological awareness.
This makes sense because by 3rd grade, kids are reading for content. If they can’t decode/encode, they’re not going to comprehend a lot.
This chapter also discusses the need for Oral Communication, Fluency, and Pragmatic skills. Vocabulary is touched on and a handy chart of grade level expectations for conventions of standard English is included. This is a great breakdown for when students should be learning various nouns, verbs, pronouns, prepositions, etc.
There’s another handy chart that provides a breakdown by CCSS. It explains by grade, what the student should be able to do in a particular section. So, for instance: “Identifying Meaning” means that by K a child should be able to identify new meanings for familiar words (do they know duck means TO duck, and also a bird). By grades 1, 2, 3 students should be using sentence level context clues to get meaning, etc.
This chapter also talks about Dynamic Learning Maps that we would use for our most severely involved students.
This provides a great way to incorporate goals we already write for our struggling students and have them fit into the CCSS guidelines.
Chapter 3: Analyzing Students’ Ability to Meet the Expectations of the Standards
This chapter gave me some cause for thought and self-reflection. Paraphrasing it won’t do it justice, so I’m going to include the whole quote here. This section talks about how most states moved to standards in 2004 with the reauthorization of IDEA.
“The standards-based approach recognizes that students with disabilities must engage in and progress in the general curriculum; however, many IEPs do not sufficiently link student performance and intervention to the expectations of the general curriculum. Further, IEPs often result in lowered expectations for students with disabilities by using a separate curriculum, a curriculum minimally related to the academic expectations of the general curriculum.” (emphasis is mine)
Wow. This hit rather close to home. Not that my curriculum was lower (because who has curriculum?) but I know many students on IEPs who did/do have reduced expectations, who aren’t required to learn the same curriculum. Have we done them a disservice?
This chapter, again, gives a handy table that includes the “Underlying language skills needed for Mastery” for each standard! Talk about a way to make it easier to decide which goals need addressing. It even gives an example of a “task analysis” chart to help make goal setting both easier (yay!) and relevant (double yay!).
Chapter 4: Students with Communication Disorders
Interesting numbers here: According to USDE 18% of kids on IEPs are speech-language as a primary disability; of those on an SLI or other disability, 35-40% also receive speech-language services.
This chapter goes over some of the different types of speech-language disorders and the relevant standards that are associated with them. Wondering whether or not an articulation disorder affects a student’s academics? This chapter (page 55) lists the standards that are effected when a student has a speech sound disorder. I love how this chapter talks about reviewing the classroom materials and collaborating with the teacher.
The language portion of this chapter is interesting as well. Did you know 40-65% of children with a language impairment are also diagnosed with a reading impairment? This chapter talks about that and the high reliance of language throughout the standards (yes, that’s a “doh” but one that many people fail to recognize). A breakdown of the standards, the skills needed for each standard, and ways to help address them in the classroom is provided. (Each time I read this chapter, I find something new…and something I wish I’d considered when I was selecting the goals for my students.)
Chapter 5: Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
This chapter talks about the diagnostic criteria for ASD (according to the DSM-5), the incidence and prevalence of ASD, and various trends in ASD. The chapter also touches on Theory of Mind and Executive Functioning. What’s even more cool is that it touches on what impairments of each of those areas looks like and how it impacts academics.
The chapter breaks down how ASD may impact speaking, writing, reading, and math standards as well (talk about a loaded chapter).
Chapter 6: Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
One sentence jumps out at me here… “How could we not hold students with hearing loss to the same standards to which we hold students who hear?”
You know, I think that’s enough said about this chapter. It sums it up nicely and is a great reminder that IEPs are not meant to provide LESS but are meant to provide DIFFERENT instruction. Like the other chapters, this one provides ways to collaborate, standards to address, and suggestions for ways to do just that.
Chapter 7: Students with Visual Impairment or Deaf-Blindness
I don’t know about you, but the unique difficulties associated with this population are … daunting. This chapter helps break down some of those difficulties. It discusses the difference between the types of visual impairment, causes of deaf-blindness, and the characteristics of children with deaf-blindness.
Chapter 8: Students with Specific Learning Disabilities
This chapter talks about processing difficulties and executive functioning as well as academic characteristics of children with SLD, and the challenges associated with them. The chapter talks about ways to make the curriculum accessible to these students including: systematic instruction, scaffolding, accommodations, strategy instruction, collaboration, co-teaching, and co-planning.
This is a great chapter for reminding all of us of the different ways to provide supports to a student and that the goal is to let them access the materials successfully…not change the requirements (again, “different not less”).
Chapter 9: Students with Severe Disabilities at the Secondary Level
This chapter talks about the trend for SLPs to be less involved with students at this level, and the continued need they have for help. It discusses collaborating with members of the educational team, transition services, and ways to help students off-site (during job training, etc.).
The chapter talks about dismissing students and when it’s appropriate to do so. “The definition of a related service, according to IDEA, is that the student requires the service to benefit from special education in the primary area of disability.”
Chapter 10; Students who are English Language Learners
This chapter talks about the differences between ELL and SLI. It discusses social language, academic language, and language and literacy skills.
Wow. This post became lengthy, and for that I apologize…but I simply could not figure out a way to provide a comprehensive review of the book without putting in the information.
I am still processing many parts of the book, how it applies to me and my school, and how it might apply to others. However, each time I open it I find new information that seems relevant. There are a few moments of “yeah, right…try getting THAT past administration,” but thankfully, those moments are few and relatively far between.
I love that each chapter provides its own section of sources cited as well as the breakdown of standards and how to possibly address them. The book seems to be filled with some fairly good tips and reminders and suggestions.
I’d recommend this book for any SLP working in the schools. It’s an easy read, well-organized, and relevant to our populations. As with any book, there are areas that don’t apply to me, but I can use those areas to consider other areas. This book is also a great way to help collaborate with teachers for Response to Intervention (RTI).
Disclaimer: I received the book in exchange for the review; however, the review is done without bias and is 100% mine. This book is one I actually wish I had access to in grad school. It would have been a great addition to actually learn WHAT to consider regarding speech-language therapy in the schools.