Developing deeper learning outcomes and creating learning environments for special needs students, who are taught in an inclusion or resource learning settings, are new concepts for special education teachers. With Common Core Standards, it is requiring the special education genre teachers to reinvent how they teach their lessons, how they become master teachers in specific content areas, and how they demand more authentic work samples from their students. In the professional learning session, I conducted Tuesday, March 25, 2014, participants discussed and learned how transforming information can assist special education teachers to complete their paperwork, determine the special needs student's present level of performance and how their disabilities actually impact their learning. Each teacher began with the question, “What does Common Core look like in Special Education inclusion, resource, and self-contained classroom?”
The major questions from the resource teachers were: “Is their classroom a regular classroom where they teach the subject area curriculum or a location for remediation to occur only?” During this share-out period, teachers addressed the issues of maintaining data on their students throughout the school year while constantly, making realistic data-driven decisions and goals, and identifying student's learning patterns. These group of teachers realized that these new demands of higher expectations will send most of their students into a whirl wind of confusion. They described their students as students who believe everything is given to them, that no teacher will fail them because they are special needs students, and that I will be taken care of because I receive a social security check for my disability.
One teacher’s question was “How do we change the learning environment to encompass these students’ reality?” or “What makes them motivate to work hard when they know that there is a hand-out waiting for them?” This is where I began explaining to the teachers the different components of demographic data. The definition of data that I used for this professional learning session was “data is any information that is gathered, reviewed, and analyzed in order to produce useful knowledge.” Therefore, demographic data is any information presented by the parents, guardian, or students, students’ mobility patterns in/out of schools, transportation needs, neighborhood characteristics/values, and students’ social and behavior issues. A teacher asked the question “How is the neighborhood characteristics/values apart of a student’s demographic data?” It provides information about student’s mindset, beliefs, and values of their surroundings or expectations.
At the end of this professional learning session, teachers began analyzing their teaching style, software to assist them in remediation, data to support their students’ current level of performance, and how they can describe their students’ disability impact on their learning. This was a very productive session. Special Education teachers began reviewing themselves as real teachers and realize that they have issues like general education teachers. The scenarios in a special education vary from day to day or issue to issue.