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Arkansas State University

Students With Disabilities And The Achievement Gap

As individual standards become a more common education strategy in our public schools, the achievement gap between students with disabilities and those without has begun to change. In the past, special needs education was a separate entity from standard education, but now that inclusion is the norm there appear to be gaps between general- and special needs students in different areas of achievement. Many special needs students have access to assistive technologies and other aids that help them demonstrate what they have learned in ways not possible before. Similarly, the general population is also changing their achievement through technology. The future of special needs education may be shifting into a co-teaching opportunity and a platform for using new technologies to support students. This is an exciting time for a teacher to earn an online master’s degree in special education in order to lead development in the education world.

How Technology-Based Tests May Help Special Needs Education

Tara Garcia Mathewson, author of “Common Core Tests Will Widen Achievement Gap — at First,” writes, “When it comes to achievement, creators have capitalized on the computer-based format of the new tests to incorporate a host of extra tools students can use to perform at their best. For non-native English speakers and students with special needs, especially, these new features may help them display knowledge they’ve always had but haven’t been able to prove.” As these new computer-based formats continue to develop, teachers will need to learn to incorporate them quickly and efficiently, as cutting-edge technology will likely be the difference between students who succeed and those who do not. One way to access this new research as it comes out is through an online master’s degree in special education program.

Closing the Achievement Gap at the Student Level

Teachers can help special needs students close the achievement gap more quickly by setting clear goals in their Individual Education Plans (IEPs). They can ensure that students understand how to use their personal strengths to overcome their challenges. They can also closely monitor students and provide flexible instruction to help them achieve their personal best.

Closing the Achievement Gap at the Classroom Level

Teachers must help their special needs students by keeping their differences in mind as they teach. Teachers need informal assessment strategies that help children understand where they are in their individual learning as well as where they need to go next. Teachers can help them adapt their learning to these new paths, and by meeting students in this manner, teachers may more effectively close the achievement gap in special needs education.

Closing the Achievement Gap at the School Level

Finally, general education teachers can help their schools by collaborating with special education teachers to meet the needs of every student in the school. Finding solutions such as co-teaching or sharing classroom spaces can help special needs children and their general education peers bond socially and learn from each other. When special needs education solves problems in collaborative and unique ways, students learn more effectively and efficiently, which makes the achievement gap a little smaller every time.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s Online MSE – Special Ed – Instructional Specialist K-12.


The Hechinger Report: Common Core Tests Will Widen Achievement Gap – at First

Education Week: NAEP Scores for Students With Disabilities Show Wide Achievement Gap

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