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Aligning state standards and the expanded core curriculum: balancing the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act.

How do professionals address accountability mandates that are derived from the No Child Left Behind Act and the overall educational needs of students who are visually impaired during the school day? Meeting state and federal mandates while maintaining the individuality of educational programs is challenging for all educators. Teachers of students who are visually impaired and certified orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists may be affected even more as they search for an approach that allows them to address the subject areas of both the general education curriculum and the expanded core curriculum (ECC) in both the classroom and students' Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Professionals in the field of visual impairment know that the ECC is a critical component of students' education and development (Hatlen, 1996, 2003). We also know that it is important both to teach the skills required in each of these areas in isolation and to generalize them within other ECC areas and ultimately within the community.

When teachers of students with visual impairments and classroom teachers collaborate on the ECC areas and aligning them with the state standards creates an opportunity to address not only the general curriculum, but also the educational needs that arise from the visual impairment itself during the school day and in IEPs. This collaborative approach does not exclude teaching the ECC areas in isolation, but provides an additional avenue through which the ECC could be integrated into a student's day. This report offers one perspective on how to create a more balanced curriculum for students who are visually impaired by demonstrating a systematic approach to aligning state standards with the ECC, thereby bridging concepts and promoting additional avenues for integration of the ECC into the school day, and using the aligned concepts to generate meaningful, applicable, and appropriate IEP goals.


The core curriculum addresses skills that all students, sighted or visually impaired, are expected to achieve by the time they graduate from high school (Ahearn, 2005). In most states, the core curriculum consists of language arts, mathematics, health, science, fine arts, social studies, economics, business education, vocational education, and history. Students who are visually impaired receive the same curriculum that is available to their sighted peers. However, for students to acquire proficiency in these subject areas more equitably, teachers of students with visual impairments and certified O&M specialists must provide adaptations and instruction in developmental skills and concept areas that are impeded because of the students' disability. The ECC consists of instructional areas that address skills and concepts that are unique to visual impairment: compensatory or access skills, social skills, recreational and leisure skills, O&M skills, independent living skills, assistive technology and technology skills, career education, sensory efficiency skills, and self-determination (Hatlen, 1996, 2003). Aligning state standards with the ECC may ultimately provide a more supportive bridge between development of concepts and demonstration of proficiency for students who are visually impaired.

Collaborating with general education teachers in public schools is always essential and could ultimately build a more productive partnership between these teachers and teachers of students with visual impairments. The process of aligning the standards with the ECC is as follows: First, the teacher of students with visual impairments or the certified O&M specialist determines which academic goal from the state standards he or she or the general education teacher will address in the classroom or resource room. Second, the teacher of students with visual impairments analyzes what the goal's true intent is by its key words. Third, the teacher of students with visual impairments or a related specialist determines which ECC areas and concepts the student needs to develop before he or she can address the intent or concept of the goal. Figure 1 presents examples of ECC areas and concepts to consider (see Step 3.1, Figure 1). Fourth, the teacher of students with visual impairments defines the ECC area and concepts in terms that produce an outcome that is parallel to the intent of the standard's goal. Finally, the teacher of students with visual impairments constructs one integrated goal that is meaningful, accessible, and applicable to the child's learning environment.



There are no standards in the individual states to ensure that students who are visually impaired will acquire the skills defined in the ECC by graduation. However, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 states that all students who have IEPs need to have functional outcomes or the ECC addressed in the IEPs. Integrating goals and benchmarks for the ECC into IEPs also requites administrators and districts to become responsible and accountable for providing appropriate instruction and complying with state and federal laws.

According to IDEA, an IEP must (1) relate students' educational programming to the students' involvement in and progress toward the same general education curriculum as their sighted peers and (2) address the unique needs arising out of the students' disability or disabilities (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). It is appropriate to address and infuse these skill areas into the IEP because many of the unique needs arising out of a student's disability are those defined in the ECC (Hatlen, 1996, 2003). The difficulty for teachers of students with visual impairments and the focus of this section of the report presented here is that more and more states of local districts are requiring IEP goals to be referenced back to the state standards to reflect compliance with accountability mandates, thus making it more challenging for teachers to develop goals that arise from a student's disability. It is for this reason that I developed a framework for addressing both vision-specific ECC needs and state standards on IEPs.

The IEP team should work collaboratively to develop appropriate goals that are based on assessment data for a student who is visually impaired. The team needs to follow the steps defined in Figure 1, keeping in mind the measurable benchmarks that are required to meet the goal. For example, a language arts goal that is required according to one state's standards (LA-F4 or Functional Language Arts) reads "Interpret visual clues in cartoons, graphs, tables, and charts that enhance the comprehension of text." The teacher of students with visual impairments and other team members can analyze the standard's true intent on the basis of key words, which, in this case, are visual clues and comprehension. Next, they can determine which ECC skills and concepts a student needs to develop first to address the intent of the standard's goal better. For example, a student who has low vision may need to learn more efficient scanning and tracking techniques because he or she has difficulty identifying the critical components in a text. The teacher and other team members can follow this step with defining the ECC skill and concepts in terms that produce a similar outcome to the goal of the standard. For example, a student who can scan the content on a page is more likely to locate visual clues and therefore process and comprehend the meaning of the text. An integrated goal may read, "Johnny will visually scan tables and graphs from left to right with the support of his low vision device to gather, identify, and comprehend information more efficiently." Achievement can be based on specific benchmarks that are constructed to measure progressive behaviors that reflect the goal.


One state followed the approach outlined in this report a step further and used the framework I developed to assess its entire state standards. After a careful analysis of 1,247 standards, 439 were identified by me (in collaboration with professionals including O&M instructors, independent living skills specialists, and low vision specialists) as having direct key words that were also directly defined in ECC areas (Lohmeier, 2003). According to the document, strong commonalities between the core curriculum and ECC areas were revealed between mathematics and O&M, history and social skills, both mathematics and science and independent living skills, and both mathematics and language arts and compensatory or access skills. Additional standards that did not share the same key words could have been integrated if they were appropriately structured; however, for the purposes of this document, only direct key words that overlapped were analyzed and calculated. Although the document may be replicated, it cannot be reproduced verbatim in other states, since each state has its own individual standards.

The document could be set up in a variety of ways in another state. For example, it could categorize the ECC areas into the major core content areas of the state standards. Mathematics may be a category with different goals that reflect the potential integrated ECC areas within it. This would make the document easier to access by a teacher who is looking specifically for a mathematics goal to include in an IEP. Another possibility is to categorize the document by grade levels (for example, kindergarten, first grade, or second grade) and reflect the content area. Regardless of the layout, a variety of specialists in each area (such as a certified O&M specialist, an independent living skills specialist, and a low vision specialist) must review the document and provide feedback to include integrated areas that may not have been considered.


Ahearn, E. (2005, September). Access to the general curriculum. Retrieved, June 27, 2008, from 0/Documents/Download%20Publications/ DFR-0526.pdf

Hatlen, P. (1996). The core curriculum for blind and visually impaired students, including those with additional disabilities. Rehabilitation and Education for Blindness and Visual Impairments, 28, 175-182.

Hatlen, P. (2003, December 4-7). Impact of literacy on the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference, Vancouver, B.C.

Koenig, A., & Holbrook, M. (Eds.). (2000). Foundations of education: Volume 2, Instructional strategies for teaching children and youths with visual impairments. New York: AFB Press.

Lohmeier, K. (2003). Aligning the state standards and the expanded core curriculum (rev. ed.). Tucson: University of Arizona College of Education. Retrieved June 25, 2008, from azaer/AZ%20Standards%20Aligned.pdf

Lohmeier, K. (2006). An analysis of disability-specific curriculum in a specialized school for the blind: A case study. Dissertation Abstracts International 66(08), 2891A. (UMI No. 3187969)

U.S. Department of Education (2001). Accountability for schools. Retrieved June 20, 2008, from landing.jhtml

Keri L. Lohmeier, Ed.D., cochair, National Agenda Goal 8, board of directors, Division on Visual Impairments, Council for Exceptional Children, vision programming specialist, Office of Education Services, 1020 Richardson Drive, Raleigh, NC 27699, and adjunct faculty, East Carolina University; e-mail:<>.
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Title Annotation:Practice Report
Author:Lohmeier, Keri L.
Publication:Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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