How the Common Core Affects Kids with Learning Disabilities

January 24, 2014 by Geoff Nixon

Does it Create a Label of Failure That is Hard to Shake?

There’s no doubt that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has caused some controversy. Educators across the nation are strongly in favor or against this attempt to create universal standards while at the same time changing the focus of education, moving away from memorization towards higher-order thinking.

While there are benefits and disadvantages to this colossal change, two things seem certain:

  1. Standards are here to stay
  2. Critical thinking is a new national priority

These two themes are integral to the Common Core, as they are likely to be in any standards developed to replace the Common Core in states that have opted out or did not sign on initially.

The Impact of any Kind of Standard on Children with Learning Issues

One of the major complaints among educators is that the Common Core treats children like widgets, setting annual milestones along the mythical development curve of a child who will be proficient in 12th grade reading and math. with learning disabilities like widgets.

For children with learning disabilities these Common Core standards are mission impossible. They are like asking a child who is afraid of the water to swim a lap of a swimming pool or receive a FAIL or BELOW STANDARD grade. This is soul destroying for the child and the family.  The fact that the Common Core affects kids with learning disabilities in this negative way is part of the reason for educator resistance.

Educational outcomes do correlate with expectations, and so there is reason to hope that this lifting of expectations will broadly lift US educational outcomes. Kids with learning disabilities are a different case though. The Common Core will require everyone to lift their game, with special pressure on teachers to recognize when children are confronted with impossible-to-reach standards and coming up with a different plan for these children.

Critical Thinking and Learning Disabilities

Critical thinking is what gets students through college. It’s how new professionals find success. And it’s how we apply our years of education to real life circumstances – the things that matter. And often, children with reading problems, dyslexia, or auditory processing disorder don’t have access to the type of education they need to develop problem-solving skills in a traditional classroom. The focus on memorization and outward performance is overwhelming to a child whose brain isn’t able to make the usual verbal connections.

But these students can continue through to the next grade by memorizing the necessary facts to pass the test. The effects of the learning disability go undetected; students aren’t provided with the conditions needed for critical thinking to happen.

With the Common Core’s emphasis on critical thinking skills, teachers will focus more and more on this essential area of education. A student’s learning disability might come to light sooner with the greater emphasis on practical application. And the students can be provided with the learning environment and treatment they need for success.

In an article by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, special educator Chelsea Miller explains that while standardized testing can be especially difficult for students with learning disabilities, it’s fortunate that the CCSS encourages creativity in teaching.

Parenting a Child with Learning Disabilities in a Common Core World

Parents should be aware of how the Common Core affects kids with learning disabilities, and to as much as possible shield their children, certainly in elementary school, from the failure labels.

Given the acceleration of reading skill requirements embedded in the Common Core, parents should also consider outside assistance earlier than may have been the case prior. The 2nd and 3rd grade standards include quite challenging reading comprehension standards that are beyond many readers. Our reading help works on reading automaticity and the cognitive skills required for reading, the necessary foundation for this level of reading skill.