NJCLD Convenes Popular Symposium on Common Core State Standards

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By Elisabeth Liptak, Director of Professional Development, IDA

The June 3rd symposium of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD), Helping K-12 and Postsecondary Students with Learning Disabilities in an Era of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), drew a full auditorium of educators from the DC/Maryland region, an indication of the high level of interest in this topic. The symposium was held at the conclusion of the group’s summer meeting.

Mark Griffin, founder and former headmaster of the Eagle Hill School in Connecticut and a board member of the National Center on Learning Disabilities, discussed the challenges of making the CCSS accessible for children with learning disabilities. The LD community is eager to embrace the culture of higher expectations that the CCSS embodies, he said, since many LD students were held historically to lesser standards. He expressed concern, though, that the CCSS did not explicitly address the instructional interventions needed for students performing below grade level and with a diverse set of needs. He called for better professional development for teachers working with this population, with the school principal serving as the instructional leader and with appropriate differentiated instruction that allows LD students equal access to learning.

Beth Poss, an instructional specialist with the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, talked about how the Universal Design for Learning framework can be used to create teaching options for all learners. She emphasized the importance of anticipating the needs of all students and embedding flexible strategies into the curriculum from the beginning of the planning process, so that all students have access to a variety of learning strategies.

Barbara Marinak, an associate professor at Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland and a member of the RTI Task Force of the International Reading Association, addressed the importance of collaboration among teachers, administrators, and other professionals to ensure that the goals of the CCSS and RTI (response to intervention) are best implemented for students with learning disabilities. She noted that an overemphasis on data can have a dehumanizing effect on these students and that advocates must push back against the idea that a student’s college and career readiness can be determined by a single terminal assessment.

Founded in 1975, the NJCLD is a national committee made up of representatives from eleven member organizations (including IDA) that are committed to the education and welfare of individuals with learning disabilities. In addition to organizing two symposia each year, the NJCLD consists of working groups that issue reports, articles and statements on topical issues. Current working groups are focused on the Common Core State Standards and the impact of poverty on students with learning disabilities.

Elisabeth “Liz” Liptak is in an expert in the reading and literacy fields. She served as the Executive Director of the Washington Literacy Council, a community-based direct service program in Washington DC that served struggling adult readers and younger children, prior to joining IDA in May of 2011. Liz has been a reading tutor since 1989. 

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