The Standards’ Elephantine Oversight Nowhere do the Common Core State Standards say how to apply them with students with language impairments from low socioeconomic backgrounds. So I offer my own how-tos. From My Perspective
From My Perspective  |   September 01, 2014
The Standards’ Elephantine Oversight
Author Notes
  • Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at California State University, Sacramento, and a clinician in the San Juan Unified School District. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 14, Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations.
    Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at California State University, Sacramento, and a clinician in the San Juan Unified School District. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 14, Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Language Disorders / From My Perspective
From My Perspective   |   September 01, 2014
The Standards’ Elephantine Oversight
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FMP.19092014.8
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FMP.19092014.8
“Say what? Like the kids on my caseload are ever going to even remotely meet the Common Core State Standards! You have got to be kidding.”
This, or some version of it, is what I commonly hear when I discuss the CCSS with speech-language pathologists in California and other parts of the country. As a university professor, part-time itinerant SLP in the public schools and mother of a school-age child, I have thought a great deal about the standards and what they mean for SLPs.
In the public schools, I work primarily with students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. When the CCSS were rolled out, I immediately wondered how—if at all—I would even begin to implement them with the students on my caseload.
I believe that the standards’ intent is good. I absolutely agree with their goals of 1) creating globally competitive citizens in the 21st century, 2) preparing students for college, 3) creating critical readers who read “deeply” and 4) helping students become responsible citizens who use evidence for deliberation.
There is just one little issue. Nowhere in the standards are we told how to do this with low-SES students with language impairments. The CCSS exhort us, “Don’t modify expectations, but do provide accommodations.” Yay. So we are supposed to hold our students to the same standards as those who come from middle-class backgrounds, and do not have language impairments? And how are we supposed to provide accommodations? Nowhere in the standards are these “how-to” questions addressed.
I decided to create my own “how-to” answers. Viewing the CCSS as the new elephant in the room, I asked myself if I could take on just one small piece or two of the elephant. I know that low-SES students are vulnerable to literacy deficits due to environmental issues. I also know that low-SES students are more likely to have smaller, more concrete vocabularies than students from middle-SES homes. If these low-SES students also have language impairments, academic success is, indeed, a challenging prospect.
As an itinerant SLP, I have chosen to address two areas of the CCSS: expository reading (reading for information) and vocabulary of the curriculum. The English Language Arts standards emphasize, among many other things, that students need to become competent readers of expository text. Vocabulary is strongly emphasized as well. Although there are many things to work on, I have chosen to simplify my life by primarily focusing on these two areas.
When I go to my students’ classrooms to pick them up for treatment, I ask them to bring their language arts books. We work on reading the current chapter for comprehension and learning any unfamiliar vocabulary. Sometimes the students read the chapter aloud; if they can’t, I read it to them. We stop at places along the way, and I have the students summarize the content in their own words. This process is very helpful for their comprehension of expository text. We define unfamiliar vocabulary words and I write the words on the whiteboard (along with a simple definition they can relate to).
Last week, for example, I was working with several students with speech-sound disorders accompanied by language impairments. We read the chapters in their language arts books, discussed the meaning of the text, learned new vocabulary words, and emphasized words with their target sounds. One girl was working on her /sh/ sound. We read the story in her language arts book that the class was working on—thankfully for me, it was about Sir Ernest Shackleton! We focused on accurate /sh/ production and also on vocabulary and comprehension of information in this expository chapter.
I don’t believe that SLPs need to take on the burden of the whole CCSS elephant. We can’t! But without too much extra time and effort, we can use expository text from our students’ classrooms to work on increasing their vocabulary skills, expository reading skills and even increasing accurate production of the speech sounds they are working on. Teachers appreciate these efforts, students benefit … and I am happy that I am succeeding in addressing my small part of the elephant.
September 20, 2014
Eliza Thompson
Implementation of the Common Core Standards
Just today I heard a PSA about Common Core bad thought, great! Yet another burden with which to hold educators' feet to the fire. As most of these new curriculums and guidelines go, they sound great in theory and ideology, but in reality. It is something completely different. This article is great as it gives practical and real-life suggestions that can easily be implemented. Thank you ! Eliza Thompson, Ed.S, CCC-SLP
October 7, 2014
Susanne Reed
Why do we strive for "Common" when we could be "Extraordinary"?
I appreciate Celeste's comments and practical advice. We worked together on a project years ago and she truly has a grasp of how to coordinate the theoretical with real practice. Since Common Core is here and we are required to use it, it is important to have a realistic approach on how to do as much as we can for our students. However, I believe the elephant also needs to be chased out of the room. Another "better" test is not really the answer to our educational dilemma. Alva Noe's book "Out of Our Heads" is an intricate discussion of brain, body and environmental factors of consciousness. In discussion of the efficacy of functional MRIs in "proving" brain function the author makes the statement that we must be careful in our interpretation because the localization of events in the brain is only to a cubic region of between 2 & 5mm. In these regions there are hundreds of thousands of cells and we do not know the intricacies of function and interdependence that occurs. Further, the averaging process leads to the loss of a lot of information about any one brain. Brains, like fingerprints are unique. People, like their brains, are unique. If such a small localization is a cause for concern over efficacy in validity of brain research, what are we doing in limiting the experiences of our students in order to pass a test? When we strive to standardize everything, we truly are not advocates of diversity. In our folly to believe we can reduce children to a test score we are missing the true uniqueness of their individuality. With many of our students we are setting them up for a frustrating experience with all these tests for very little return value. We have lots of other measures to know how our students are doing. It is not that these target skills are not worthy of our effort but what I see happening is that a great deal of time and money are going into implementation of common core. I think these resources could be better used to revamp our schools to help our students become "extraordinary" instead of fitting into a "common" mode. I work with autistic and language impaired students in a mild/moderate SDC and have taught at Teacher' College of San Joaquin for the last 14 years. In the last year, I started teaching Physiology of Learning and have been discovering the work of Eric Jensen, Daniel Siegel, David Sousa, …What I have come to believe is that the problem is not that our students can't fit the norm, but we have not truly engaged them in authentic learning. Simply put, we do not teach the way the brain learns. This is not due to a lack of skill on the part of teachers, but more to the tenacity of school systems to cling to old systems whose original intent was a production line approach to children. My own son came home from the first day of kindergarten and was dismayed that when they played "Who took the cookie from the cookie jar" everyone said the same thing. So he broke from the traditional response and stated "I admit it- I took them and I ate them all". He was asked not to play and was not sure he would return to school. I assured him that as long as he was respectful to himself and others, he did not have to be like everyone else. In fact, I would prefer that he not strive to be anything other than himself. He returned to kindergarten with that reassurance. As a student he struggled with sensory processing issues, dysgraphia , hypotonia and anxiety. I was told he was performing in the average range and that he was fine. The only problem was that he couldn't physically write the novel he had in his head in third grade. Long story short, we didn't take the common approach to his education. By building a system of interventions around him (including a wide range of cultural experiences and outdoor adventures) that were unique to his needs, he began to find his place and became a merit scholar and junior olympic water polo player. He was invited to 10 colleges and was the recipient of a number of large scholarships. He is currently a research assistant and teacher's assistant as a beginning junior at his college. and intends to go on for his PhD. Please overlook mom's pride and focus on the message. Our children do not need massive testing. They do not need to be linked at the hip to a computer. They need to be allowed to explore, feel the earth, discern patterns and discover the gifts that lie inside each one of them, no matter the pattern of strengths and weakness. When we promote the unique truth that speaks to the individual child, we will not have a high school drop out rate that boggles the mind. Instead we will have global citizens who can think, plan, contribute and are masters of their own life's helm. So, instead of a common test, why don't we build extraordinary, brain- based schools? Susie Reed
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September 2014
Volume 19, Issue 9