Discrepant students in the time of the Core

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The Discrepancy Model is one model used to determine whether or not a student qualifies for special education services. In the past, this model was the gold standard, but other placement strategies have been allowed in the last few years. Many districts still use the Discrepancy Model, though, sometimes in conjunction with other intervention techniques. For readers who are not teachers, here’s a bit of explanation.

In the Discrepancy Model, trained personnel use a child’s IQ or another intelligence measure to determine how well that child should be performing academically. We measure how far a child has fallen behind his peers, with the interesting additional twist that if a child has a lower IQ or intelligence measure, then that child should be falling behind his peers. Under the Discrepancy Model, the discrepancy between a child’s IQ-adjusted age and academic performance must lag by one to two years in order for that child to qualify for special education.

I had a student tested for special education once whose IQ of 78 fell a full 22 points from the 100 point “average.” She did not qualify for services. My student struggled to write even simple words, and her math consisted of nearly random numbers much of the time, but her performance matched her measured IQ and she had missed the district special education low intelligence cut-off by three points.While normally a student must fall behind peers by a year or two in order to qualify for special education help, falling behind is not enough. My student was far behind most of her peers, but her IQ actually kept her out of special education. She was performing up to expectations for her measured intelligence.

Her homework arrived faithfully. She was perhaps my most reliable student. That homework was mostly wrong and sometimes so wrong that I could only be fascinated as I read through three pages of numbers without a discernable pattern.

Another school district’s policy might have resulted in a special education placement for my student, but different areas and districts have different policies depending upon their resources and location. My student remained part of the regular bilingual program. If she had not been lucky enough to qualify for bilingual services, she would have been on her own in a regular classroom, perhaps one of 28 or more math or language arts students, lost and confused as she tried to follow the new content introduced by her teachers.

Eduhonesty: My student’s best piece of luck: She ducked the Common Core. She graduated last year. She never had to take PARCC test. She attended almost all of her classes while flexibility still remained in the classroom.

One test does not fit all. One curriculum does not fit all. I taught that girl that “him” was not spelled “hem.” I don’t know how many times I taught her that. I taught her that “will” was not “well.” Over and over, I worked on words and ideas. I worked with her on adding fractions. She remained years behind her technical grade-level, but she was my student before the Core ruled all content. I was able to differentiate content as well as delivery back in that time. For the sake of all the students like my former student — who was a delight to teach despite the many repetitions required — I wish we could move back in time.

That plan from last year where the bilingual and special education department were required to give exactly the same tests and quizzes as the regular teachers? That plan was crazy. Many of my students last year failed quiz after quiz. When you are doing math at a third grade level, a Common Core-based test written by outsiders at a seventh grade level can only be a disaster. No other outcome is possible despite Field of Dreams rhetoric about not underestimating your students.

Eduhonesty: In the 1800s, when you finished the 3rd grade reader, you went on to the 4th grade reader. You learned math and English step by laborious step. I remain simply bemused by all these so-called educational experts who created the Core. How can they avoid understanding the simple truth that giant leaps in curricular expectations and demands create confusion rather than learning?