Common Core Language Goals for Common High School Graduates

I’ve just finished revamping my power point slides for this week’s installment of my Autism, Language and Reasoning class. In the process, I found myself back on the Common Core website–a place I hadn’t visited for a while.

This week’s class discusses the challenges that writing assignments pose to children with high functioning autism, most of whom are mainstreamed into regular classrooms. One of the strategies we consider is offering alternative, autism-friendly writing assignments.

But what do the Common Core English and Language Arts Standards have to say about that, I wondered. How much flexibility does the Common Core allow towards uncommon students? After all, only 1-2% of students are exempt–only those with the most severe cognitive impairments. Everyone else, including those with high functioning autism (like J), is held to the same calendar-age-based standards.

A quick scan through the ELA Standards shows a number that could double as diagnostics for autism. Consider:

  • “collaboration with peers”
  • “Use… dialogue… to develop characters.”
  • “anticipate the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.”

(From the Writing Standards).

Even better, from the Speaking and Listening standards:

  • “Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions…building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.”
  • “Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).”
  • “Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks”
  • “Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives”

and, perhaps most effective of all:

  • “use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.”

America’s Common Core architects appear to think they’ve landed on something that has eluded the world’s psychologists, neurologists, and therapists: a cure for high functioning autism! Namely, America’s Common Core-guided K12 classrooms.

Unless what they’re really after is a high school diploma that certifies that none of America’s high school graduates has more than a mild touch of autism.

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