Charter schools often have an awkward, if not contentious, relationship with their local districts. That makes sense, as the public charter school movement is essentially a reaction to what can be a cookie cutter way of educating kids in neighborhood schools. Yet charter schools are part of the very same district (or state) that funds the neighborhood schools. It’s as if they’re siblings – they have the same parents but are often rivals – vying for funding, control, students, and political power among other things. Some district/charter relationships are cooperative, but others are rancorous, as illustrated by recent disputes in New York City and Pennsylvania. [...]
Charter schools and special education. Two concepts antithetical to each other? Not in my book. A handful of public charters are already doing a bang-up job educating kids with disabilities, I swear. And some visionary charter school leaders already see special education not merely as a political liability, which it is now more than ever, but as an opportunity to propel charters even further into the mainstream and to prove that charters can do special education better than the traditional public school system – unfortunately, that shouldn’t be a very difficult feat. But why would I have so much faith in [...]
Every so often the government takes a powerful stance on the side of the less powerful. January 21, 2011 was one of those moments. On that date the United States Department of Education released a memo to the State Directors of Special Education stating that schools cannot deny or delay a parent's request for a psycho-educational evaluation of their child if the parent and the school believe that the child may be eligible for special education services. It is pretty unusual for the US Dept. of Ed to issue a memo like that, and it must be that my experience in [...]
As many of you may have heard, last spring the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a study concluding that charter schools enroll a lower percentage of special education students than traditional public schools. The latest is that the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has deployed “several broad compliance reviews” to address enrollment as well as legal compliance in charter schools, and that some state legislatures have placed enrollment “targets” resembling quotas in charter schools to “fix” the enrollment problem. This GAO report has gotten a tremendous amount of attention over the last several months. Some of that attention [...]
In Robyn Rennick’s post on Florida’s McKay Scholarships for Students With Disabilities last week, she argued that standardized testing measures are “inappropriate,” even “cruel,” for disabled children due to their diverse levels of achievement and in some cases immeasurable levels of progress. But this assumes that standardized testing is a “one size fits all” accountability measure. In reality, there are dozens, even hundreds, of standardized assessments that are designed for every segment of the student population – whether children are learning self-care or calculus. The choice of test can be left to the private school, not the state. More importantly, standardized testing is perhaps the only way to [...]
If you've heard your child's teachers complaining more than ever about scarce classroom resources - or worse, your child has lost classroom support, such as a paraprofessional or an extra teacher - there's a reason. The most recent data gathered by Washington, DC - based Advocacy Institute shows that Miami-Dade Public School District has cut special ed funding by over $46 million dollars! And Broward by over $32 million. In my work I've seen some kids with Autism or severe ADHD being placed in classrooms with intellectually disabled kids because it's cheaper than giving them the support they're entitled to in [...]
Most parents are advocates of school choice -whether we identify ourselves that way or not. We would choose to send our children to the best school in our neighborhood over the one which was just simply around the corner, that is, if we could. Upper middle class parents routinely choose to buy homes in neighborhoods where the schools are superior - that was the earliest, and is still the most common, form of school choice. Parents of children with special needs have been called "extreme choosers" when it comes to finding the right school for their child. That's because their children's [...]
The IEP meetings are crucial for not only diploma planning, but also for transition planning and career preparation. Good transition goals in the IEP (which are critical years prior to high school graduation) can include workplace experiences that help students learn about employment settings and vocational opportunities and specific plans for developing self-determination skills. IDEA requires that in addition to parents, the student, and school personnel, the other agency representatives that are likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services must participate in the meetings. Outside agency representatives may include: vocational rehabilitation counselors, county social workers, secondary education [...]
Starting now it will be much harder (in fact, I think nearly impossible in Florida)to get your learning disabled ("LD") child special education services. That said, special ed services historically haven't helped LD kids very much. So, let's hope these changes are all for the good. Children with behavior problems may not receive special ed services as easily as before either.
RtI is a 3-tiered process of increasingly intensive research- based instruction which is part of federal law (IDEA 2004). At the end of the process (Tier 3), students who are still struggling in reading, math and/or behavior will be eligible for special education services (an "IEP"). The theory of RtI, which is to catch struggling students early and provide high quality research-based instruction, is great.