• Full FrameEducation Week's Photo Blog

    Testing the Tests for Students With Cognitive Disabilities

    by Swikar Patel posted April 22, 2014

    Kansas City-based photographer Steve Hebert describes the need to be flexible on a delicate assignment for Education Week photographing a story on field-testing of assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards in a special education class in Buhler, Kan.

    Before I traveled to Buhler Grade School, on the flat plains of central Kansas, I was already made aware we wouldn’t be able to use any names of the kids in Greta Smith’s special education class.  I found out, when I got to the school, I was only going to be able to show the faces of three of the eight kids in class because not every student had signed releases.

    Students share a laugh during class as they learn about the water cycle with hands on classroom technology at Buhler Grade School in Buhler, KS. --Steve Hebert for Education Week

    Students share a laugh during class as they learn about the water cycle in a class at Buhler Grade School in Buhler, Kan. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    Greta Smith’s class had taken part in field-testing of assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards but designed for students with cognitive disabilities, and I needed to make images of the teacher and her students.

    The Common Core State Standards in English and Math are being implemented in 45 states around the country, including Kansas. Two federally-funded groups have been asked to create tests that are aligned to the common core standards, but that are accessible for children with severe cognitive disabilities. Kansas is in the process of "field-testing" the assessment for Dynamic Learning Maps, which is one of those federally funded groups. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    The Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and Math are being implemented in 45 states around the country, including Kansas. Two federally-funded groups have been asked to create tests that are aligned to the common-core standards, but that are accessible for children with severe cognitive disabilities. Kansas is in the process of “field-testing” the assessment for Dynamic Learning Maps, which is one of those federally funded groups. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    When I entered Ms. Smith’s class, I was greeted with smiles and questions by nearly all the students who wanted to know who I was, and more importantly, why I needed two cameras to do my job!  The students were an inquisitive bunch and it became clear they had a strong bond with their teacher, who was engaged and working hands-on with them. Ms. Smith, who has been a teacher for 10 years and has taught special education for seven, went on with the classroom activities as I moved around the room and focused on the kids I could photograph.  To be honest, being told I could only photograph three students (those with photo releases) made my hunt for pictures that much easier.

    A student comes up to the board during a lesson about the water. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    A student comes up to the whiteboard during a lesson about water. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    In the short time I had with the class, I was able to see the students engaging with technology, taking part in story time, and even participating in a short bit of dancing, which was fun to watch and challenging to photograph!

    Special Education teacher Greta Smith congratulates one of her students as they work on iPad's during class. Smith’s class is filled with technology so the kids can learn better. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    Special Education teacher Greta Smith congratulates one of her students as they work on tablets during class. Smith’s class is filled with technology so she can better address each child’s learning needs. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    This is the best job in the world, even when there are small barriers in the way of working the way you would like to.

    Special Education teacher Greta Smith helps two of her students with a math game on classroom computers Wednesday. Smith has been teaching special needs kids for seven years at Buhler Grade School. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    Special Education teacher Greta Smith helps two of her students with a math game on classroom computers. Smith has been teaching special needs students for seven years at Buhler Grade School. –Steve Hebert for Education Week

    I left Buhler Grade School with images I knew captured the story and an lesson in how to be flexible in covering a story.

    About:

    Steve Hebert is an award winning Kansas City-based photojournalist whose passion for visual storytelling has taken him across the country and around the world. He has spent over 15 years working professionally as a photojournalist for a number of newspapers and magazines, including Time, U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal. His ongoing project, “The Quiet Professionals,” is a photo book that features unprecedented documentation of the U.S. Special Forces. Steve is one of the only photojournalists to have been granted access to embed with the Green Berets in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, Africa, and the Philippines. To see more of Steve Herbet’s work please visit his website at http://www.stevehebert.net/

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