Archive for November, 2011

The D.C. Council wants to find a cheaper way to transport special-education students, whose busing system costs the city $92 million — or $26,285 per student.

When the public schools lack the services for a student’s special needs, the federal government requires the District to foot the bill of sending the child to another school. That’s currently the case for 3,500 students, served by the Department of Student Transportation’s $92 million budget and 840 buses that run 645 routes.

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A new bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Sannicandro aims to make the transition from school to the working world easier for students with special needs.

The legislation, which was engrossed in the House of Representatives last week and now moves on to the Senate, would revise licensure requirements for special education teachers to allow them to seek certification in transitional services by completing graduate-level courses or similar programs. That additional training will help their students better prepare for life after grade school, said Sannicandro, an Ashland Democrat who represents several Framingham precincts.

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A federal judge has ruled that District of Columbia public schools must make sweeping changes to how young children with disabilities are located and served.

In a ruling last week, Judge Royce Lamberth said the district must ensure that 8.5 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 5 are enrolled in special education and related services, as required by federal law.

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DC Public Schools recently opened a second facility to serve DC parents who are concerned that their preschool-age child may have a disability or a developmental delay. However, as a judge’s ruling made clear last week, ineffective managers of these facilities are allowing children with special needs to fall through the cracks.

This is not only tragic for these children, but extremely expensive when DCPS identifies their special needs much later.

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DC needs better data to fight unemployment

Mayor Gray has made employment for DC residents a top priority. But without good data, policies are little more than a stab in the dark.

It’s quite surprising how little data DC collects on unemployment. What obstacles do the unemployed face in getting jobs? If the obstacle is a skills mismatch, are there training providers available that teach those skills?

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Mayor paid the price, says it was worth it

A summit on improving education in America this week gave one politician a chance to talk about an issue that may have cost him his re-election.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was ousted in a primary earlier this month, was a panelist at NBC’s Education Nation summit, and didn’t shy away from questions about his public schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, a polarizing figure in his re-election bid.

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A judge renders D.C. schools speechless

Regarding the Nov. 17 Metro article “Ruling: D.C. falls short on special-ed”:

A D.C. Public Schools spokesman has “no comment” on a federal judge’s ruling that the District has failed to provide special education services to hundreds of preschool-age children. How about an apology, to start? Given a reporter’s ability to review the ruling with enough speed to publish an article on its implications in the next day’s paper, is it too much to expect DCPS to issue a statement? Couldn’t it have predicted this decision based on the District’s shameful record of services to children with special needs?

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AUGUSTA, Maine — Under the short-term spending measure passed in October, Congress cut federal funds for special education, disadvantaged youth programs, teacher improvement programs and career and technical education. Maine Education Commissioner Steve Bowen said the cuts total nearly $1.5 million in Maine and have already taken effect.

“We are doing what we can to minimize the impact on local schools,” he said. “But we can only absorb so much within our existing funds.”

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Chancellor Kaya Henderson pushed back Friday at this week’s federal court ruling that the District has failed to identify and treat adequate numbers of young children with special needs, saying that the District received little credit for substantial progress.

She said that since the opening of the Early Stages diagnostic center in 2009, DCPS has dramatically increased the percentage of the pre-school age population identified as needing special education services from 2 percent to 7.4 percent. That places the District 15th among the states in meeting the “Child Find” requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

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A Tense Situation

MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr speaks at a Listen & Learn event. Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools

Anyone who’s attended a Listen and Learn session hosted by MCPS schools superintendent Joshua Starr in recent months has heard a quick rundown of his resume as he introduced himself to county residents.

But when Starr met Tuesday night with the Special Education Advisory Commission, he took care to detail his experience both as a teacher and administrator dealing with emotionally disturbed students in New York City.

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