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January 25, 2011
Departing from plan, Black slows down special ed changes
A delay in special education reforms is the first sign that plans laid out before Chancellor Cathie Black's arrival might not be carried out as intended. The Department of Education was supposed to expand changes to special education from 260 schools system-wide this fall. But that plan has been pushed back to 2012, Black told principals in an email earlier this week. The move was first reported by Insideschools, which reported that special education advocates said the city would not have been able to scale up the changes successfully on its original timeline. The slowdown is notable because it marks Black's first departure from the script set out for her by her predecessor, Joel Klein. Since being appointed chancellor, Black has largely indicated that she will stay Klein's course. In her previous "Principals Weekly" emails, she expressed commitments to many of Klein's priorities, last week inviting more schools to join the Innovation Zone he launched last year. The special education expansion plan was ambitious from the start. An internal review completed in July 2009 called for substantial reforms. But by February, when the city began explaining its plans to special education advocates, few details had been fleshed out. Changes to state special education requirements and unanswered questions about funding are contributing to the delay, Insideschools reported. Black's complete email to principals is below.
January 21, 2011
Week of 1/17/11: Teaching & learning tidbits
New and improved School Finder in Denver, teacher training - by students, new program for struggling readers, Aurora delays shift in grad requirements, teachers learn online techniques, Colo. gets mixed reviews in Quality Counts, DPS budget boost, and more!
January 14, 2011
Week of 1/10/11: Teaching & learning tidbits
Special ed fair in Aurora, Race to Nowhere screenings near you, Denver School of Science and Technology touts 100 percent of grad class accepted to four-year college, decline in computer science education, schools prep for national standards, NY teacher rankings rankle, enrollment growth in Colo., DPS Educa radio show lauded.
January 3, 2011
Animal therapists provide solace, training to youngsters
Animal-assisted therapy began to emerge in the 1990s, and today is a widely-recognized specialty to aid children with special learning needs. Read this story to find out what's happening in Colorado, along with available resources.
December 17, 2010
Week of 12/13/10: Teaching & learning tidbits
The teaching and learning stocking is stuffed to bursting with news of parents successfully fighting the powers that be in schools, views on school taxes and tenure, kudos to several Colorado schools, vouchers and value-added assessments of teachers.
August 2, 2010
Explaining to middle schoolers why fair isn't always equal
Older M.S. 223 students working with the Summer Bridge program made this bulletin board to welcome the new sixth-graders. (Photo courtesy M.S. 223) School districts around the country are increasingly trying to bring special education students into mainstream classrooms. The challenges this presents — and the possible benefits — were on display last week inside a summer school classroom in the Bronx. Each summer, the South Bronx's M.S. 223 brings in as many of its rising sixth-graders as it can find for a "summer bridges" program to smooth their transition into middle school. This is the first year that the summer program has brought special education students and students learning English together into the mainstream classes. The city school system as a whole is moving in this direction — this school year, about 200 schools will begin to bring special education students at all levels into regular classes. The following year, all schools will be required to do so. M.S. 223 is not a part of the pilot, but is trying to get a head start. During the week-long summer session, each day concluded with "team and family time," where students give thanks or shout-outs as praise to other students, and apologize or call each other out for misbehavior. In a class taught by Ashley Downs, one girl called out another for relying too heavily during class time on the older M.S. 223 student working as the class' counselor. "It's like she wasn't doing the work herself," the girl complained.
July 23, 2010
Breaking From The Routine: What Happened When I Relaxed
Structure and routine is a refrain that starting-out special education teachers hear incessantly. The right classroom management strategy creates the perfect classroom, we're told. Yes, my second-grade special education students at Brooklyn's PS 12 needed some sort of structure and routine to thrive. Yet so often, it seems as though structure is equated to teacher control. Exact routines. Little freedom. No down time. I knew my students needed something more, something different. There were moments when they excelled and shined, but it wasn't when they were doing desk work, sitting on the rug, or taking part in skill and drill curricula. Our escape from a teacher-dominated structure began with a field trip to the New York Aquarium that coincided with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. After our visit, I posted a few links to site and articles about the oil spill on our classroom wiki and invited my students to look around the websites. They were riveted by the images of the dirty water and oil-covered sea creatures. One of my toughest and overage students sat in front of her laptop and said to herself, "This is so sad. I want to help." We brainstormed a few ideas as a class. How could we help? We contemplated sending toothbrushes, collecting pet and human hair for the booms (yes, my second-graders know what booms are!), and sending supplies like paper towels and heavy-duty bags. Ultimately, we decided to put our effort in closer to home, by creating a news broadcast about the spill. The link to our regular classroom activities came from comic books, which my students had been reading. One of my awesome educational assistants, Janice Pierce, suggested that we create superheroes who could help out on the Gulf Coast. Our team of superheros, the Superpsychics — Environmentra, Bubble Girl, Dragon Boy, Diamond Woman, Heart Girl, Rainbow Girl, Green Hulk, and Superboy — was born. The students were at last engaged in writing. I'd never seen them work so intently. By late June, we had completed two major projects — a video and a comic book.
July 15, 2010
Regulating charter school demographics proves challenging
One of the most heralded parts of the new charter law forced charter schools to enroll more students with disabilities, learning English, and living in poverty. But that will be trickier than it sounds. The most immediate problem is access to data. The state's two main charter school authorizers, the State University of New York's Charter School Institute and the state education department, are tasked with setting enrollment targets that its charter schools must meet. The crucial piece of information that SUNY needs to set its targets is how many needy students currently attend charter schools and neighborhing district schools. The law mandates that charter schools aim to enroll and retain needy students at "comparable" rates to other public schools in the district.
July 9, 2010
City reopens hiring for ESL, science, Latin, Chinese teachers
With eight weeks to go before the 2010-2011 school year begins, the city is letting principals hire more teachers from outside the school system. An update to the city's year-old teacher hiring freeze means that principals are now free to hire people who are licensed to teach earth science, middle school general science, English as a second language for grades 7-12, Chinese, and Latin, even if they aren't already working in the school system. There are more open positions in these areas than there are teachers whose jobs have been eliminated, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Ann Forte. Principals were already permitted to look outside the city for special education, speech, and some Spanish bilingual subject teachers. New schools are also allowed to bring on new teachers for up to 40 percent of their hires. The most recent change suggests that the city might be starting to get a handle on how principals decided to staff up for the coming school year.
May 28, 2010
Brill-ing Down: Adding to Steven Brill’s NYT Magazine Report
Steven Brill's latest article chronicling the politics of the Race to the Top competition has caused a torrent of commentary. One contentious aspect of the piece is Brill's comparison of two schools that share the same building: Harlem Success Academy and P.S. 149. After Valerie Strauss picked up the statistics posted on the New York Public School Parents Blog, there has been much speculation about what types of kids are attending each school. Just how different are the populations anyway? To figure out the answer, I looked at NY State Accountability Report Cards, the Special Education Service Delivery Report for P.S. 149, as well as special education invoices provided to the UFT by the New York State Education Department. I chose these data sets because they seemed to be the most reliable and the most comparable. By "comparable" I mean that both Harlem Success and P.S. 149 have to submit to the state as part of their Accountability Report Cards data on students who receive free or reduced price lunch (an indicator of economic need), whereas, for instance, only P.S. 149 lists something known as the poverty rate (which is slightly different.) According to this data, Harlem Success Academy does appear to serve fewer needy students, both in terms of economic status, limited English proficiency, and special education needs. On the other hand, Harlem Success dramatically outperforms P.S. 149 on 3rd grade test results.
February 25, 2010
Arts education requirement advances
It was kind of a topsy-turvy day in the House and Senate education committees.
February 1, 2010
City announces broad outlines of a special education overhaul
School officials outlined a plan to change the way city schools serve students with disabilities at a closed-door meeting this morning with special education advocates. The plan's first step: Telling schools they have to accept, and "embrace," students with special needs. "For too long, educating students with disabilities has meant separating them from their general education peers," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said in a statement. "Today we are building on the premise that every school must be able to educate the vast majority of these children." That premise represents a badly needed advance for the city schools, according to special education advocates. "The principles in [the plan] are wonderful, but they've been law forever," said Maggie Moroff, who coordinates the ARISE Coalition but was not speaking on the coalition's behalf. "The overarching goals are exactly what they ought to be, it's just that in my mind they’re not so novel."
October 8, 2009
SBE underwhelmed with interim panel
Some State Board of Education members Thursday expressed disappointment with the limited recommendations that seem likely to emerge from the Interim Committee on School Finance.
July 29, 2009
Principals are now free to look anywhere for special ed teachers
The incremental thaw of a citywide teacher hiring freeze advanced today, when the Department of Education gave nearly all principals the go-ahead to hire new special education teachers. Principals in districts 9, 19, and 23 must still fill special education positions from the pool of teachers already employed by the city. Those three districts, located in the Bronx and Brooklyn, have either a low number of vacancies or a high number of special education teachers whose positions were eliminated, according to a DOE spokeswoman, Ann Forte. City officials still have not said how many teaching positions were lost to budget cuts at the end of the school year. Today's change is the third since the city told principals in early May they would be able to hire only current teachers for new positions or to fill vacancies. Three weeks ago the city started allowing principals of District 75 schools, which serve the city's most disabled students, to hire new teachers. A week later, school doors opened for most aspiring science teachers. The vast majority of teaching positions remain closed to new teachers. The change also means that more than half of this year's Teaching Fellows cohort are now eligible for jobs. Of this year's Teaching Fellows, 330 are assigned to teach special education. An additional 70 were assigned to District 75, and others were assigned to teach science. Below the jump is an e-mail sent to new Teaching Fellows today explaining the change.
July 7, 2009
Some hope for shut-out teachers as a hiring restriction is lifted
The same day the city announced a total hiring freeze, the Department of Education began lifting one of its own. Last night, the department e-mailed new Teaching Fellows assigned to District 75, the city's school district for the most disabled students, to let them know that they can now be hired for open positions in the district. For months, Teaching Fellows and all other teachers not already working in the system have been shut out of consideration for all positions at the department, the result of a cost-saving hiring freeze enacted in early May. The change means that about 10 percent of the city's new Teaching Fellows are now eligible for positions, because about 70 of the 700 fellows currently in training have been assigned to District 75, according to a department spokeswoman, Ann Forte. (Another 330 of the 700 are being trained as special education teachers to work in general education schools, she said.) Previously, those teachers and others not already in the system could be hired only by new schools, and only in small numbers. Another set of novice teachers so far shut out of most positions, those hired by Teach for America, will not be affected by the change, because TFA does not assign teachers to District 75, Forte said. Paraprofessionals, aides who work with needy students, are still barred from hiring and remain at risk of being laid off, even from District 75 schools, she said.
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