April 2008 Archives

Readers who will be in New York May 9-11 should check out the Sprout Film Festival, a three day showing of films by and about people with disabilities. The first day features "Including Samuel," a movie I didn't get a chance to see when it was shown in the D.C. area., unfortunately. The documentary, filmed by photojournalist Dan Habib, shows a family's efforts to involve their son Samuel, who has cerebral palsy, in every part of educational and social life. The last day of the festival will include a showing of "Autism: The Musical," which was recently broadcast on ...


The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to put a hold on new Medicaid rules that would prevent schools from being reimbursed for providing certain services on behalf of some students with disabilities. But the Senate Republican leadership is urging its colleagues to reject the House measure, so the fight, for schools, is not over yet. You'd know this already if you were on the e-mail list of the LEAnet, which describes itself as a "growing coalition of local education agencies dedicated to the protection and enhancement of school health programs." Gregory K. Morris, the executive director of the ...


Nevada's first school exclusively for deaf and hard-of-hearing students is opening this fall in Las Vegas. The school will offer a bicultural/bilingual environment, with all teachers fluent in American Sign Language. The school plans to start small, according to the article, and is opening only for kindergarten through 3rd grades. The school founders hope to improve graduation rates for students with hearing impairments. Late last year, I wrote an article about a school for the deaf in California and a student who is deaf and also has severe additional disabilities. In the course of my reporting, I learned that ...


Virginia wants to drop a state requirement that parents have to be notified before terminating a student's special education services. Like many states, Virginia is in the process of aligning its state special education standards to the federal standards included in the 2004 Indviduals with Disabilities Education Act.The state says this type of notification isn't required in the federal standards. The state gave an example of how this might work: If a student with a learning disability was receiving an hour of occupational therapy a day, the school would have to notify a parent if it determined the child ...


The RTI Action Network that I blogged about recently plans its first online chat with Stanley L. Deno, a professor at the University of Minnesota and an expert in curriculum-based measurement. The chat is from 1 to 2 p.m. April 23, and no special equipment needed other than a computer with internet access. It will also be archived for later reading if you can't tune in during the day....


My colleague Debra Viadero's article about the wide "achievement gap" between the smartest black and white students is a must-read, and free to non-subscribers. New research into what is commonly called the black-white “achievement gap” suggests that the students who lose the most ground academically in U.S. public schools may be the brightest African-American children. As black students move through elementary and middle school, these studies show, the test-score gaps that separate them from their better-performing white counterparts grow fastest among the most able students and the most slowly for those who start out with below-average academic skills. The ...


Jim Gerl, at the Special Education Law Blog, has a recent post about a supposed 85 percent estimated divorce rate among parents of children with disabilities. I've heard similar estimates before, but I've never been able to track down the research behind the claim. Others have raised the same question. I have no doubt that raising a child with a disability can put a unique strain on a couple. But there is some analysis that suggests that these children may not provoke the marriage-ending crisis that is popularly assumed. In 2004, Don Risdal and George H.S. Singer at the ...


Board Buzz, the blog of the National School Board Association, brings news of an upcoming audio conference titled "Special Education: What's On the Horizon?" The conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST April 16, and includes some well-known special education law experts, including Houston-based school attorney Christopher Borreca and Allan Osborne, a principal and former president of the Education Law Association. Regular registration is $140, but some discounts are offered and for the price, you can gather as many people as you want around a speaker phone to hear the presentation. Here's my prediction: Response ...


The just-launched RTI Action Network, sponsored by the The National Center for Learning Disabilities, promises to be a good source of information on the educational process, one of the hottest topics in education. NCLD has brought together some of the best-known names in the field to serve on the Web site’s advisory council, including George Batsche, Judy Elliott, Doug Fuchs, and Naomi Zigmond (all of whom I've had an opportunity to inteview for a recent article.) The “Ask the Experts” part of the Web site, which already has some questions and responses, should be particularly helpful for those who ...


I scoured the Internet to find other blog posts on the Council for Exceptional Children convention, which wrapped up last week. Christine Southard's Blogspot delved into assistive technology and co-teaching. Daniel McNulty, blogging on behalf of an assistive technology project in Indiana, talked about his own presentation on using iPods in the classroom. Dorophoria found some sessions she liked, but complained that the titles of some presentations didn't match the actual content. Pat at Successful Teaching offers to share some of her notes on multicultural education of students with different learning needs, and reveals her sweet crush on "The Fonz"—actor...


Part of life is fun and games, but too few children with disabilities are getting that in the classroom. Two professors presented compelling—and sad—research during their Friday afternoon session at the CEC convention showing that children with disabilities have only the barest of interactions with their typically developing peers in many classrooms, even when they are in "inclusion" settings. The few interactions they do have are negative, or completely task-oriented. The trend persists even in elective classes, where students with disabilities are often placed on the assumption that non-academic classes promote more personal interaction. The only way to ...


There was a big crowd at a Friday morning panel on reaching childen with severe emotional needs through PBIS, also known as PBS or “positive behavioral supports.” PBIS is another form of response to intervention. But, while the term “RTI” is often used to refer solely to academic interventions, PBIS is an intervention process for children with behavioral issues. As with RTI in the academic realm, all students in a PBS model are screened, and children who are believed to be at high risk for behavioral problems receive interventions that can hopefully nip such problems in the bud. And, as ...


A morning session with Thomas Hehir, a professor at Harvard and former director of the U.S. office of special education programs, was a bit of a lift. He started his presentation on “ableism”—the notion that our attitudes about disability are so negative that they distort the way we educate students—with the clear message that children with disabilities are doing far better today than they ever have before. In addition, special educators know much more now about good practices for learning disabilities. What got my attention, though, was his statement that most of the gains have been made...


Arizona State University professor Kathleen McCoy and Diane Bruening, the special education director of Chandler, Ariz. schools, teamed up for a presentation on ways to retain special education teachers. They conducted a survey of teachers and administrators and no surprise, teachers do appreciate higher salaries and less paperwork. But a finding that was intriguing to both of them was how important “collegiality” was to teachers. The presenters described principals who had no real idea of what their special education teachers do—to the point that principals were asking for central office staff to come in and do the evaluations of special...


More from the Council for Exceptional Children conference in Boston... A new provision of the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that students receive a “summary of performance” when services end. The summary must include recommendations on how to assist the student in reaching post-secondary goals. Every state is tackling this requirement in a different way, with predictably varied results. Virginia educators gave a presentation at the CEC convention on how they’re implementing this policy. The model templates available here give a good example of how a thorough summary of performance can look....


Sadly, my Macbook and the wireless Internet at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center appear not to be on speaking terms, so I might not be able to post as frequently during the convention as I planned. I'll keep working on it....


There’s something for everyone at the Council for Exceptional Children convention. This year’s session in Boston has drawn about 6,000 teachers, administrators, and parents to the hundreds of different seminars that will be presented over three days. It’s no surprise that some of the largest crowds appear to be drawn to the sessions on response to intervention. The topic definitely has staying power. One session allowed audience members to talk about their own challenges with starting the process, especially at the middle and high school level. Rowan University professor Sharon Davis Bianco, who led the panel, ...


Graduation day isn't seen as a time for celebration for many students with disabilities, says an article by the Associated Press. During their public school years, children with disabilities are entitled to a menu of special services, such as music or occupational therapy, extra reading help and door-to-door transportation. The law also requires they be given an Individualized Education Program, a blueprint tailored to their needs with involvement from educators and parents. It's a comforting safety net that often ends abruptly when students leave school. They might get help securing a job, enrolling in a technical school or giving college ...


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