Thumbnail Image

Negotiating a curriculum balance: Perceptions of special education teachers and administrators regarding alternate assessments in Oklahoma

Modenbach, Joy Lynn
This qualitative study sought to understand how teachers and administrators navigate the state and federal requirements for students with severe and profound disabilities in regards to alternate standards and assessments. Special education teachers must balance the required curriculum while continuing to meet the physical and emotional needs of students with severe and profound disabilities. Seven special education teachers and three administrators were interviewed individually in non-school settings, usually coffee shops. Teachers and administrators work diligently each day to support the students and meet their academic, social, emotional and physical needs.
During the research and data collection phases of this study the stories that emerged illuminated the daily dedication, compassion, and perseverance of the teachers. The researcher used a constructivist perspective and Ethic of Care theory (Noddings, 2006) to analyze data. Data analysis revealed emergent themes including: frustration, unreasonable expectations, balance of competing expectations, time balance, assistive technology and oppression and Othering.
Teachers feel pulled between following the state and federal requirements while also meeting the needs of the students they serve. The alternate standards and assessments often do not fully inform the teacher or parent regarding the process the student is making because the standards and assessments are unachievable to the student being assessed. Implications include the need for providing more training for teachers aligned to the assessment and standards with a continuum of specific strategies for each standard allowing teachers to better balance the planned curriculum with the functional level of each student and changing the expectation from a competitive structure to tracking individual progress.