Tiffany Johnson is the beneficiary of the Washington, D.C., merit pay system.

Washington, D.C., public school teacher Tiffany Johnson is a “highly effective” educator — and saw her pay jump to $87,000 from $63,000 this past year as a result.

“When I was making way less, I was entertaining the idea of going to a neighboring school district,” said Johnson, 29, a special-education teacher. “I’m not going anywhere now.”

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Special Education Children

Tiffany Johnson, a special-education teacher, got a large raise after earning the rating "highly effective" for two years in a row.

WASHINGTON — During her first six years of teaching in this city’s struggling schools, Tiffany Johnson got a series of small raises that brought her annual salary to $63,000, from about $50,000. This year, her seventh, Ms. Johnson earns $87,000.

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IDEA transition provisions – an overview

IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – America’s special education law.

IDEA has specific provisions about how IEP teams plan for a student’s transition to life after IEPs.

This is your child’s future we’re talking about.

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A recent study shows that black students in the Washington, D.C. area are two to five times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled from school. The Washington Post has analyzed districts in both suburban areas and cities, and found that a major discrepancy exists when it comes to the ethnicity of students being harshly punished in public schools.

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Last month, the Council for Court Excellence published sobering statistics in its report, “Unlocking Employment Opportunity for Previously Incarcerated Persons in the District of Columbia.”

The council found that the unemployment rate for ex-offenders in Washington, D.C., is as high as 46 percent. According to the report, 8,000 individuals were released from prison or jail into the District last year, and it is anticipated that about 4,000 of these individuals will re-offend, finding themselves back behind bars in the next three years.

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The New Year: Improving Public Schools

As 2011 makes way for 2012, I am reminded that Mayor Vincent Gray was sworn into office a year ago, after having placed fairness, high standards and community engagement at the heart of his education plan. One year on, how close has he come to realizing the plan that helped his campaign succeed?

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A federal judge ruled in November that the Washington, DC, school system has not fulfilled its duty to provide special education services to its eligible preschool-age children, calling for additional future court oversight because of “persistent failure to live up to their statutory obligations, a failure that works a severe and lasting harm on one of society’s most vulnerable populations—disabled preschool children—is deeply troubling to the court.”

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What’s Working in Urban Schools

At first glance, it would appear there is little to cheer about with America’s urban schools. Results from the “Nation’s Report card,” released Nov. 1 by the U.S. Education Department, were disappointing: no true narrowing of the black/white achievement gaps. High school graduation rates are shockingly low, especially among the most academically fragile students. Only 47 percent of black males, for example, graduate from high school.

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