May 2008 Archives

The Florida teacher who asked her kindergarten students to vote a classmate with Asperger's Syndrome out of the classroom has been reassigned. According to a newspaper account, a police report filed after the incident explains that the decision to take a vote on 5-year-old Alex Barton was a part of a lesson that the children were learning on voting and tallying. The teacher, Wendy Portillo, also told police that the vote was to let Alex know how his behavior was affecting the class, and it was only intended to be for a day. "Portillo said she did this as she ...


My blog post about "books of the future" using principles of universal design for learning brought this comment from source Candace Cortiella, director of The Advocacy Institute, which I thought was worth bringing up: Hi Christina: UDL approaches also extend to large-scale assessment design. The National Center on Educational Outcomes has written a guide for states to help begin thinking about designing assessments (UDA) with all students in mind, just as UDL attempts to design curriculum accessible to the widest range of students right from the start. It would be most unfortunate for UDL to take hold without UDA coming ...


Some stories don't even need a comment: a Florida teacher faces legal action for allowing her students to vote a 5-year-old child with Asperger's Syndrome of out the classroom. After each classmate was allowed to say what they didn't like about Barton's 5-year-old son, Alex, his Morningside Elementary teacher Wendy Portillo said they were going to take a vote, Barton said. By a 14 to 2 margin, the students voted Alex -- who is in the process of being diagnosed with autism -- out of the class. Alex then spent the rest of the day in the nurse's office. The ...


Bipolar disorder among adults is little understood; among juveniles, it's even more of a question mark. Newsweek has a long but engrossing article about a Massachusetts family and their life with their 10-year-old son, Max, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well as a host of other problems: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder. In his short life, he has been on 38 different psychoactive drugs. Though the focus of the article is mostly on Max Blake's family life, his school life is mentioned as well. His behavior problems were so severe that he ...


I was just chatting with my colleague Debra Viadero about her web story about new tests for giftedness. These tests, if deemed valid, could yield a more diverse pool of gifted students. I'm proud to say that I sort of got the answer on the practice question included with the story -- see if you get it too!...


It's been a few years since I've written about special education in the District of Columbia, but every time I do so, I'm astounded at just how dysfunctional that system is. While parents in other school systems may be fighting over getting appropriate services for their child, in D.C., the fight often begins with the most basic need: getting a child properly assessed. Even with an assessment and a diagnosed need for special education, there's no guarantee a child will actually get the services called for in an individualized education program. And if the services aren't provided for, there's ...


Late last year I wrote an article on "universal design for learning," an educational philosophy that promotes using technology to supplement teaching materials and make them accessible to all types of students. UDL had found support among several disability advocacy organizations, who wanted the concept included in the reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Ricki Sabia, an advocate with the National Down Syndrome Society, just sent me a link that shows an example of universally designed texts created by the Center for Applied Special Technology in Wakefield, Mass., which has spearheaded the UDL movement. This is really ...


I can't be the only Generation X-er thrilled to hear about the return of The Electric Company, right? I was primarily a Sesame Street gal, but I remember many a leisurely afternoon hanging out with Rita Moreno and Morgan "Easy Reader" Freeman. I honestly didn't know at the time that these shows were intended to help me learn to read; I just thought it was fun with letters and numbers. But this incarnation of The Electric Company, just like the groovy 1970s version, is intended in part to help kids get past the "fourth grade slump." The producers said that ...


I was hoping that Implementation Study of Smaller Learning Communities: Final Report (pdf) released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education might have some tidbits about how these school structures have affected students with disabilities. The federal government provided funding to districts so that they could start these programs. And, if the idea is to break large, impersonal schools down into nurturing structures that cater to individual students' needs, students in special education would seem to be an ideal audience. But, no luck. The only information about students with disabilities contained in the report, which examined 119 small schools ...


My colleague David Hoff has a great article on our Web site now about a group that contends Asian-American children are being shortchanged under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund noted that the NCLB provisions for tracking ethnic subgroups are not adequate for Asians, and that Asian children who are English-language learners may have different needs and struggle in different areas than Hispanic students. Too often, the group contends, the unique struggles of Asian children are ignored because they're often seen as "model minorities." This complaint reminds me of what I've ...


I have to admit that the connection to special education is pretty tenuous, but I was transfixed by a story on NPR Wednesday about two families coping with transgendered young sons. One family decided to let their child live as a girl while another family is trying to make their son feel more comfortable in his biological gender, including taking away his "girlish" toys. Now, the child's mother says, her son has some friends who are boys and is no longer saying that he's a girl...but she senses that he's leading a double life. At school he plays with ...


It might be risky to draw attention to another special education blog, but I can't ignore the recent launch of Wrightslaw Blog. Wrightslaw has been a reliable source of information for me since I started covering special education four years ago, when I didn't know IDEA from FAPE. The perspective is that of a parent advocate, which Peter Wright has been for decades. In 1993, he represented the parents in a Supreme Court case, Florence County v. Shannon Carter, in which the court unanimously held that parents can be reimbursed by a school district for tuition when they place their ...


G. Reid Lyon, a key architect of the Reading First program and the former chief of the child development and behavior branch at the National Institutes of Health, weighed in today on the interim report on Reading First released last week. His in-depth responses on the ednews.org website offer a different perspective on the report, which showed no difference in reading comprehension levels for students who were instructed in Reading First, and those who were not. Thanks to JohnL at Teach Effectively for the tip....


The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and other like-minded organizations want you to spend May 6 calling your congressional representatives on behalf of a bill that seeks to award expert witness fees to parents who win due-process disputes against schools. H.R. 4188 seeks to undo a policy created by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2006 decision in Arlington V. Murphy. In that case, the court decided that parents who prevail in special education cases are not entitled to be reimbursed for the fees they pay to experts, such as educational consultants. (Education Week covered the case extensively, as ...


Everyone should check out the article written by my colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo about a major federal report on the $1 billion Reading First initiative. Students in schools receiving grants from the program perform no better than students in comparison schools in reading comprehension. Many states use their Reading First dollars to implement response-to-intervention frameworks in their schools. The interim report and Kathleen's reporting suggest that Reading First has done a great job improving the ability of kids to decode words, but their ability to derive meaning from what they've read still falls short. RTI is just a way of ...


Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church Church of Christ in Chicago, doesn't just have a lot to say about politics--he also has some thoughts on special education as well, which he shared during his April 27 speech before the NAACP in Detroit: Turn to your neighbor and say different does not mean deficient. It simply means different. In fact, Dr. Janice Hale was the first writer whom I read who used that phrase. Different does not mean deficient. Different is not synonymous with deficient....Dr. Hale showed us that in comparing African-American children and European-American children ...


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  • sdc teach: I agree with the previous post regarding the high cost read more
  • Jason: That alert is from 2001. Is there anything more recent read more
  • Vikki Mahaffy: I worked as a special education teacher for 18 years read more
  • paulina rickards: As it relates to this research I am in total read more
  • Anonymous: Fully fund the RTI process. We are providing special education read more