A Northwest D.C. public charter school that has not enrolled a special-education student in three years is under scrutiny by District officials.

Roots Public Charter School, which serves 120 children in grades pre-K through 8, said it does not discriminate against students with physical or emotional disabilities. But the staff of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees the city’s 57 publicly funded, independently operated schools, said in a recent report it has “grave concerns” about Roots’ admissions practices. It said the board planned “an intensive compliance review” of the school.

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Parents, students and school officials voiced their support for legislation that would keep District schools open after-hours to provide medical services and learning opportunities to the surrounding low-income communities.

Learning Centers

D.C. Councilman Michael Brown

The Community Schools Incentive Amendment Act of 2011, written by D.C. Councilman Michael Brown, D-at large, would partner five public schools with community organizations to provide mental health services, tutoring, adult classes in nutrition and literacy, and more initiatives to combat the effects of poverty.

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Texas cities are low on annual literacy list

Texas has routinely topped the national growth charts, but the Lone Star State’s biggest cities are behind the curve in an annual ranking of literacy rates.

Austin (tied with New York City at No. 22) was the only Texas city to crack the top third of the 75 cities ranked in the study of literacy resources by John Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University.

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The District of Columbia has long had some of the worst educational outcomes in the country, including the lowest high school graduation rate. Now the nation’s capital owns the dubious distinction of having by far the largest achievement gap between African American and white students – as well as Hispanic and white students – among major urban school systems, according to a federal study released last month.

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Race and the Diagnosis of Disability in Students

It has long been known that African American students are disproportionately diagnosed — over-diagnosed? — with learning and other disabilities. Ed Week cites 2008 government data from the Equity Alliance at Arizona State University according to which African-American students are “nearly or greater than twice as likely as white students to be classified with emotional or intellectual disabilities.” Nirvi Shaf at Ed Week’s On Special Education blog provides more statistics to underscore the extent of the problem:

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Growth in prekindergarten slowed in recession

WASHINGTON –  The expansion in public prekindergarten programs has slowed and even been reversed in some states as school districts cope with shrinking budgets. As a result, many 3- and 4-year-olds aren’t going to preschool.

Kids from low-income families who start kindergarten without first attending a quality education program enter school an estimated 18 months behind their peers. Many never catch up, and research shows they are more likely to need special education services and to drop out. Kids in families with higher incomes also can benefit from early education, research shows.

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Today, DCFPI is releasing a “resource map” of workforce development services in the District of Columbia. This project, a culmination of nearly two years of effort, offers a visual way to see how our city spends its resources on services to help residents get and retain jobs. We hope it’s a policy brief that would make the character Rod Tidwell—“Show Me The Money”—in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire proud.

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Acting program geared to children with autism

A theater teacher since 1980, Stephanie Wilson of Westlake Village has met children with autism who come alive on stage.

“When I heard about ‘Autism: The Musical,’ I knew that there were great teachers out there creating programs specifically for young people on the spectrum, so I began to do the research so we could design a program,” she said.

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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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Some officials associated with the District’s public charter schools are lauding an initiative that will streamline the way these schools are evaluated.

The Public Charter School Board, parents and other stakeholders spent almost three years developing the Performance Management Framework (PMF), which will be an evaluation tool to assess and monitor charter school performance. Schools that are rated will fall into one of three tiers. Tier 1 schools will have met standards of high performance; Tier 2 schools are those which fall short of high performance standards but meet minimum overall performance; and Tier 3 schools are those which fall significantly short of high performance standards and show inadequate performance. Tier 3 schools that fall below 20 percent of an established number of points may have their charters revoked.

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