This is the first in a series of posts drawing attention to the intersection of our students who receive special education services and the goal of the Visioning work of making public schools better for all Texas children. All Texas children.
Consider the two images below. Which best illustrates the overlap of the impact of the Vision and the students we serve in our schools every day?
Clearly, our work must resemble the image to the right. If our work looks more like the image to the left, which students would we abandon to the outer portion, beyond the impact?
Ten years ago, this was the Vision. It still is today and will still be tomorrow:
We envision schools where all children succeed, feel safe and their curiosity is cultivated. We see schools that foster a sense of belonging and community and that inspire collaboration. We see learning standards that challenge, and intentionally designed experiences that delight students, develop their confidence and competence, and cause every child to value tasks that result in learning. Ultimately, we see schools and related venues that prepare all children for many choices and that give them the tools and attitudes to contribute to our democratic way of life and live successfully in a rapidly changing world.
Consider the decisions that we make through the lens of the Visioning Document. We should work toward actualizing the articles for all students. First, we will focus on Article II: The New Learning Standards. For the sake of conversation, I challenge you to add the statement, “This includes students receiving special education services” to the end of each of the premises:
We hold that:
II.a Standards should be clear, attainable, and high enough to provide for a system of student performance variance where all can experience success and challenge. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.b Learning should be specified to the “profound level,” that is, students are able to apply their learning to new situations, to synthesize, solve problems, create knowledge, and cultivate and utilize the full range of their capabilities. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.c. Learning standards should embrace development of the whole person to build students’ capacity to shape their own destiny as individuals and as contributing members of society. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.d Standards should respect and value students’ “multiple intelligences” and talents and provide opportunities for all students to excel and experience success. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.e Standards should tap curiosity and imagination in the traditional academic core, aesthetic, and skill areas in a way that lack of proficiency in any one area does not discourage students from recognizing and pursuing their special talents and learning in other areas. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.f New learning standards should reflect realities of the new digital era, where students are not just consumers of knowledge, but creators of knowledge. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.g Content standards should serve as frameworks that assist teachers and students in creating learning experiences that motivate student success. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.h Standards should be flexible enough to provide for expansion and extension by local districts and their communities. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.i Guidance should be given to teachers’ daily work so they can make the content standards clear and compelling to their students for each unit of focus. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.j Standards should be framed so they do not sacrifice the profound learning desired for easy and low-cost state assessment and accountability measures. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.k When competent, caring teachers provide properly designed learning experiences in inspiring social environments, all students will engage and can meet or exceed a reasonable variance to the standards. This includes students receiving special education services.
II.l Standards should result in all students being committed and equipped to be competent lifetime learners, well-prepared for further formal education and to pursue multiple careers. This includes students receiving special education services.
Did any of these premises, with the additional statement, cause you to pause? What steps can we take to remedy that pause? Where can we start to ensure that we mean all students when we speak of the Visioning work?
In light of the start of the new school year, I draw your attention to Academic/Standards-Based Goals for students receiving special education services and the connection to premise IIa which calls for identification of “power” or high priority learning standards (HPLS). These standards should be clarified, supported by evidence they are accessible for all students, focus on depth over breadth, and communicate linkages across disciplines. If your district has identified the HPLS for a given program area (such as reading and/or mathematics), vertically aligned K-12, then how might these clarified, accessible standards be used when ARD committees write Academic/Standards-Based Goals for students receiving special education services?
I challenge you to consider the HPLS as a priority for students receiving special education services. We know we must ensure a guaranteed and viable curriculum for our teachers and students. The guarantee of the curriculum is related to (1) no matter what classroom, on what campus the student is enrolled, he/she will have access to the curriculum and (2) we have evidence and structures in place that safeguard intervention for those students who are not initially successful. The viable of the curriculum is related to the feasibility and reasonableness of the time required to teach the scope of the content. I argue the HPLS are necessary to ensure a guaranteed curriculum because we cannot guarantee the students will learn the content if we do not have a plan, supported by high quality materials, to intervene if necessary. I also argue the HPLS are a necessary step in ensuring the viability of the curriculum, because without a narrowed focus, we risk a mile wide and inch deep curriculum.
This resource from Region 20 ESC’s Progress in the General Curriculum (PGC) Network articulates that Academic/standards-based goals are annual, measurable goals aligned to enrolled grade level curriculum standards. The “standard” in the term standards-based IEPs refers to the curriculum standard on which the goal is based. The resource goes on to clarify the student’s goal should include the goals that designate the specially designed instruction (content, methodology, and delivery of instruction) the student needs in order to attain the standards. When written, the HPLS are based on the grade level curriculum standards (TEKS) and are clarified in terms of rigor and applicable learning design. Therefore, these priority standards are the ultimate starting point for ARD committees when drafting Academic/Standards-Based Goals for students receiving special education services.
I encourage you to refer to the Instructional and Leadership Practice Considerations of the Framework for Vision-Driven Instruction and Leadership for more information related to premise IIa as well as the rest of the premises of the Visioning Document.
If you would like to discuss how I have worked to lead my own program in the identification and implementation of structures of support for the constraint of High Priority Learning Standards, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me (Mary). My contact information is available on the Authors tab at the top of this blog.