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Common Core and special needs students

Teachers aren't permitted to change the phrasing of PARCC test questions

When Jennifer Curley, a special education teacher in New York, asked how the rigorous new Common Core standards would affect students in her class during a training session, she learned the dirty secret school administrators have been hiding from parents: Special education students, she was told, were a "sacrificial population," according to a 2014 story in the education journal The Hechinger Report.

There appears to be no level playing field for students with cognitive or emotional disabilities in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The slowest learners are given the same test as the most exceptional. Teachers aren't permitted to change the phrasing of test questions and are monitored to ensure compliance.

In 2013, parents in New York received a letter signed by eight school principals about Common Core's effects on children. It described children crying, vomiting and losing control of their bowels during the test. One teacher reported a student kept banging his head on the desk and wrote, 'This is too hard,' and 'I can't do this,' throughout his test booklet," according to a Washington Post report that year.

Here is a story about two school principals charged with implementing Common Core in their respective districts.

Principal A sees her students struggling, crying and puking and decides to put her career on the line by instigating the warning letter to parents.

Principal B certainly knows the forums being sponsored by her district — the Calvert County Public Schools — are shams designed to mislead parents about the new standards.

Which principal would a parent feel more comfortable entrusting their special needs child with?

Special needs children deserve an advocate, not a cheerleader for Pearson Education. It is heartbreaking to see a special education teacher with 30 years' experience helping physically and mentally challenged learners reach their goals sacrifice those same students on the altar of federal funding.

I find it difficult to believe that the "visceral" reactions of students described above are somehow unique to New York students. I think there should be a full investigation to determine what Calvert County Public Schools administrators knew about Common Core and when they knew it.

If there have been reports of any local traumatized students or teachers who were discouraged from reporting it, I believe there should be consequences for the responsible parties.

Edward C. Davenport, Drum Point

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