Perceptions and experiences working with students with Learning Disabilities: How policies have shaped and are changing the Special Education system today Open Access

Kaplan, Haley Francis (2015)

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In this thesis I examine how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) works on a localized level and impacts educators' perceptions and expectations of students with learning disabilities (LD). Currently 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted and are now implementing these new standards. As schools and districts implement the Common Core State Standards, the standards for English and Math intensify the national standardization of what constitutes 'academic success.' These reforms place special education at a new crossroads, and provide a fresh opportunity to consider how learning disabilities are constructed, problematized, and addressed in the United States. Through my research I aim to answer three main questions: what social and historical changes do the production and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards index? How are the Common Core State Standards reconfiguring or reinforcing the current cultural construction of disability, particularly as it relates to notions of success and failure? And what are the implications for special education teachers and the construction of learning disabilities with the education changes that accompany Common Core? To answer these questions I employed the anthropological method of ethnographic research. Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews I examined the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as it relates to special education at three schools in one district in Northern California. Through my research I found that the cultural understanding and value of success, standardized tests, and education as a science and the role of technology, continue to be transforming and reproduced through the implementation of Common Core State Standards. Each cultural value uniquely interacts with special education and contributes to the evolving social construction of learning disabilities. Studying disability and education policy from an anthropological perspective provides insight into the cultural construction of disability and the societal values that are created and reproduced within today's transforming education system.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Literature Review 5

A brief history of US education policy 5

Anthropology of Education: Social systems and American Values 8

Anthropology of Disability: Demonstrating values through difference and absence 15

Understanding learning disabilities: The cross section between education and disability 20

Methods 28

Ethnography 31

Transitioning to Common Core: The implementation process in the Rolling Golden Hills District 31

Success 36

Standardized Tests 53

Education as science and the role of technology in schools 66

Conclusion and Implications 79

References 88

Appendix A 95

Appendix B 97

Appendix C 98

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