Archive for the ‘Special Education’ Category

Asperger Syndrome Revisited

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, General Psychology, Psychiatry, School Psychology, Special Education on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 05:59

Asperger Syndrome Revisited

By: Lee Wilkinson, Ph.D.

The deletion of Asperger’s disorder (Asperger’s syndrome) as a separate diagnostic category from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has been widely publicized. The new DSM-5 category of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which subsumes the previous DSM-IV diagnoses of autistic disorder (autism), Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), reflects the scientific consensus that symptoms of the various DSM-IV subgroups represent a single continuum of impairment that varies in level of severity and need for support.

An important feature of the DSM-5 criteria for ASD is a change from three symptom domains (triad) of social impairment, communication deficits and repetitive/restricted behaviors, interests, or activities to two domains (dyad); social/communication deficits and fixated and repetitive pattern of behaviors. Several social/communication criteria were merged to clarify diagnostic requirements and reflect research indicating that language deficits are neither universal in ASD, nor should they be considered as a defining feature of the diagnosis. The criteria also feature dimensions of severity that include current levels of language and intellectual functioning as well as greater flexibility in the criteria for age of onset and addition of symptoms not previously included in the DSM-IV such as sensory interests and aversions.

DSM-IV Criteria in Practice

Problems in applying the DSM-IV criteria were a key consideration in the decision to delete Asperger’s disorder as a separate diagnostic entity. Numerous studies indicate that it is difficult to reliably distinguish between Asperger syndrome, autism, and other disorders on the spectrum in clinical practice (Attwood, 2006; Macintosh & Dissanayake, 2006; Leekam, Libby, Wing, Gould & Gillberg, 2000; Mayes & Calhoun, 2003; Mayes, Calhoun, & Crites, 2001; Miller & Ozonoff, 2000; Ozonoff, Dawson, & McPartland, 2002; Witwer & Lecavalier, 2008). For example, children with autism who develop proficient language have very similar trajectories and later outcomes as children with Asperger disorder (Bennett et al., 2008; Howlin, 2003; Szatmari et al., 2000) and the two are indistinguishable by school-age (Macintosh & Dissanayake, 2004), adolescence (Eisenmajer, Prior, Leekam, Wing, Ong, Gould & Welham 1998; Ozonoff, South and Miller 2000) and adulthood (Howlin, 2003). Individuals with Asperger disorder also typically meet the DSM-IV communication criterion of autism, “marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others,” making it is possible for someone who meets the criteria for Asperger’s disorder to also meet the criteria for autistic disorder.

Treatment and Outcome

Another important consideration was response to treatment. Intervention research cannot predict, at the present time, which particular intervention approach works best with which individual. Likewise, data is not available on the differential responsiveness of children with Asperger’s disorder and high-functioning autism to specific interventions (Carpenter, Soorya, & Halpern, 2009). There are no empirical studies demonstrating the need for different treatments or different responses to the same treatment, and in clinical practice the same interventions are typically offered for both autism and Asperger’s disorder (Wilkinson, 2010). Treatments for impairments in pragmatic (social) language and social skills are the same for both groups.

Application of the New Criteria

It’s important to remember that in the DSM, a mental disorder is conceptualized as a clinically important collection of behavioral and psychological symptoms that causes an individual distress, disability or impairment. The objective of new DSM-5 criteria for ASD is that every individual who has significant “impairment” in social-communication and restricted and repetitive behavior or interests should meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD.  Because language impairment/delay is not a necessary criterion for diagnosis, anyone who demonstrates severe and sustained impairments in social skills and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities in the presence of generally age-appropriate language acquisition and cognitive functioning, who might previously have been given a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder, will now meet the criteria for ASD.

The new DSM-5 criteria for ASD have created significant controversy over concerns that it would exclude many individuals currently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS, and thus make it difficult for them to access services. However, recently published field trials suggest that the revisions actually increase the reliability of diagnosis, while identifying the large majority of those who would have been diagnosed under the DSM-IV-TR. Of the small numbers who were not included, most received the new diagnosis of “social communication disorder.” Moreover, the accuracy of non-spectrum classification (specificity) made by DSM-5 was better than that of DSM-IV, indicating greater effectiveness in distinguishing ASD from non-spectrum disorders such as language disorders, intellectual disability, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety disorders. It is also important to note that all individuals who have a DSM-IV diagnosis on the autism spectrum, including those with Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS, will be able to retain an ASD diagnosis. This means that no one should “lose” their diagnosis because of the changes in diagnostic criteria.  According to DSM-5, individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, or PDD-NOS should be given a diagnosis of ASD.  Those who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not meet the criteria for ASD, should be evaluated for Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder.


In conclusion, the DSM-5 category of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which subsumes the current diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), better describes our current understanding about the clinical presentation and course of the neurodevelopmental disorders. Conceptualizing autism as a spectrum condition rather than a categorical diagnostic entity is in keeping with the extant research suggesting that there is no clear evidence that Asperger’s disorder and high-functioning autism are different disorders. As Gillberg (2001) notes, the terms Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism are more likely “synonyms” than labels for different disorders. Lord (2011) also comments that although there has been much controversy about whether there should be separate diagnoses, “Most of the research has suggested that Asperger’s syndrome really isn’t different from other autism spectrum disorders.” “The take-home message is that there really should be just a general category of autism spectrum disorder, and then clinicians should be able to describe a child’s severity on these separate dimensions.” Unfortunately, many individuals may have been advised (or assumed) that a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder was separate and distinct from autistic disorder and that intervention/treatment, course, and outcome were clinically different for each disorder. While including Asperger’s Disorder under the DSM-5 category of ASD will likely continue to require a period of transition and adjustment, the proposed dimensional approach to diagnosis will likely result in more effective identification, treatment, and research for individuals on the spectrum.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders(4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders(5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Attwood, T. (2006). The complete guide to Asperger’s syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Carpenter, L. A., Soorya, L. & Halpern, D. (2009). Asperger’s syndrome and high- functioning autism. Pediatric Annals, 38, 30-35.

Eisenmajer, R., Prior, M., Leekam, S., Wing, L., Ong, B., Gould, J. & Welham, M. (1998)

Delayed Language Onset as a Predictor of Clinical Symptoms in Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 28, 527–34.

Gillberg, C (2001). Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism: Shared deficits or

different Disorders? Journal of Developmental and Learning Disorders, 5, 79-94.

Howlin, P. (2003). Outcome in high-functioning adults with autism with and without early language delays: Implications for the differentiation between autism and Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33, 3–13.

Leekam, S., Libby, S., Wing, L., Gould, J. & Gillberg, C. (2000) Comparison of ICD-10 and Gillberg’s criteria for Asperger syndrome. Autism, 4, 11–28.

Lord, C. et al. (2011). A multisite study of the clinical diagnosis of different autism spectrum disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.148

Macintosh, K., & Dissanayake, C. (2006). Social skills and problem behaviors in school aged children with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 1065–1076.

Macintosh, K.E., & Dissanayake, C. (2004). Annotation: The similarities and differences

between autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder: A review of the empirical evidence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 421–434.

Mayes, S., & Calhoun, S. (2003). Relationship between Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism. In M. Prior (Ed.), Learning and behavior problems in Asperger syndrome (pp. 15-34). New York: Guilford Press.

Mayes SD, Calhoun SL, Crites DL (2001) Does DSM-IV Asperger’s disorder exist? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29, 263–271.

Miller, J. N., & Ozonoff, S. (2000). The external validity of Asperger disorder: Lack of evidence from the domain of neuropsychology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 227–238.

Ozonoff, S., Dawson, G., & McPartland, J. (2002). A parent’s guide to Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism: How to meet the challenges and help your child to thrive. New York: Guilford Press.

Ozonoff, S., South, M., & Miller, J. N. (2000). DSM-IV-defined Asperger syndrome: Cognitive, behavioral and early history differentiation from high-functioning autism. Autism, 4, 29–46.

Szatmari, P., Bryson, S.E., Streiner, D.L., Wilson, F.J., Archer, L., & Ryerse, C. (2000). Two year outcome of preschool children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry, 15, 1980–1987.

Szatmari, P., Bryson, S., Duku, E., Vaccarella, L., Zwaigenbaum, L., Bennett, L. & Boyle, M.H. (2009). Similar developmental trajectories in autism and Asperger syndrome: from early childhood to adolescence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 1459-1467.

Wilkinson, L. A. (2008). Adults with Asperger syndrome: A childhood disorder grows up. The Psychologist, 21, 764-770.

Wilkinson, L. A. (2010). A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for Asperger syndrome and autism in schools. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wilkinson, L. A. (Ed.) (in press). Autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents: Evidence-based assessment and intervention in schools. American Psychological Association (APA): Washington, DC.

Williams, K., Tuck, M., Helmer, M., Bartak, L., Mellis, C. & Peat, J.K. (2008). Diagnostic labelling of autism spectrum disorders in NSW. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 44, 108-113.

Wing, L. (2005). Problems of categorical classification systems. In F. R. Volkmar, R. Paul, A. Klin, & D. Cohen (Eds.),Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders: Vol. 1. Diagnosis, development, neurobiology, and behavior (3rd ed., pp. 583–605). New York: John Wiley.

Witwer, A.N., & Lecavalier, L. (2008). Validity of autism spectrum disorder subtypes. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1611–1624.

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, CCBT, NCSP is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Retrieved from: http://bestpracticeautism.blogspot.com/2013/12/asperger-syndrome-revisited.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BestPracticeAutism+%28Best+Practice+Autism%29



Education Chief Lets States Delay Use of Tests in Decisions About Teachers’ Jobs

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, Special Education on Thursday, 20 June 2013 at 12:23

Education Chief Lets States Delay Use of Tests in Decisions About Teachers’ Jobs


Published: June 18, 2013

Acknowledging that the nation’s educators face large challenges in preparing students for more rigorous academic standards and tests, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, told state education officials on Tuesday that they could postpone making career decisions about teachers based on performance evaluations tied to new tests.

Rick West/Daily Herald, via Associated Press

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said “the rollout of new, higher, state-selected standards will continue on pace.”

Mr. Duncan wrote in a letter to state education officers that they could delay using teacher evaluations that incorporate test results for “personnel determinations” by another year, until 2016-17. The postponement was in response to growing complaints from teachers’ unions and school administrators that they were being held accountable for results on tests before they had time to adjust to new curriculum standards.

Over the past 18 months, states have agreed to adopt new “college and career ready” standards for mathematics and reading and to tether teacher performance ratings partly to student achievement on standardized tests based on those new standards. These changes are part of an agreement with the Department of Education that allowed states to qualify for waivers from No Child Left Behind, the signature Bush-era federal education law.

Most states were at risk of violating the most onerous provisions of that law, which required that all children be proficient in math and reading by 2014. The waivers relaxed that requirement in exchange for agreement by the states on a timeline for instituting the new standards and teacher evaluations.

As states have scrambled to revise their public school curriculums and develop the new performance ratings, teachers have complained that they have not had time to learn how to bring the new standards into their classrooms before being subjected to new tests. They have also protested that they are in effect forced to teach one curriculum in the morning and another in the afternoon, because some states are still administering old tests while introducing new standards.

Teachers’ unions have fought with education officials and lawmakers over the proper role of standardized tests in public schools and, most controversially, in individual ratings of teachers. A backlash against high-stakes testing has also been building in several states, including New York, Texas and Washington. And legislators and Tea Party critics in states including Indiana and Michigan have said that the federal Education Department has pushed the new standards on states without consulting teachers or parents.

In April, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, warned that the new standards could be consigned to the “dustbin of history” and proposed that teachers be given a year to master the new curriculums before test results counted in tenure or other personnel decisions, including possible firings.

In his letter to state education chiefs, Mr. Duncan wrote that he appreciated “both the courage to tackle so many challenges at once and the burdens this imposes on frontline educators.”

The department will now allow states to apply, in effect, for waivers from their waivers. States that are introducing new tests will also be relieved of having to give both new and old tests in the same school year.

“This decision ensures that the rollout of new, higher, state-selected standards will continue on pace,” Mr. Duncan said in a statement, “but that states that need it will have some flexibility in when they begin using student growth data for high-stakes decisions.”

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. Duncan insisted that Tuesday’s announcement did not amount to a “pause or moratorium” in introducing new standards, tests or performance evaluations.

Some education policy groups expressed disappointment. Daria Hall, K-12 policy director at the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for racial minority students and low-income children, said the evaluations would be introduced without any teeth. “So you’re saying set up a system that tells us we have teachers who aren’t up to it, but don’t do anything about it for another year,” she said.

In an interview, Ms. Weingarten said she welcomed the flexibility. “It’s a big recognition that you have to actually prepare people to do the work that they need to do when you’ve asked them to do something fundamentally different,” she said, adding, “You can’t lead with measurement and testing.”

Some states have already put teacher evaluation systems in place and may begin using them to make decisions about raises, tenure or staff changes earlier. New York, for example, already rolled out new tests based on the more rigorous standards this year and has begun carrying out teacher evaluations in most of the state. Mitchell D. Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary education in Massachusetts and the president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said he hoped the secretary would guard against further extensions. “Inertia is a powerful force you can’t overestimate,” Mr. Chester said. “So I do worry that any signals on delays really do allow folks to hope that new evaluation programs are not implemented.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 19, 2013, on page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: Education Chief Lets States Delay Use of Tests in Decisions About Teachers’ Jobs.

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/education/us-lets-states-delay-using-tests-to-rate-teachers.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Autism at School: DSM or IDEA

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, School Psychology, Special Education on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 08:10

Autism at School: DSM or IDEA

More children than ever before are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now estimates that 1 in 88 eight year-old children has an ASD. This dramatic increase in the prevalence of children with ASD over the past decade, together with the clear benefits of early intervention, have created a need for schools to identify children who may have an autism spectrum condition. It is not unusual for children with milder forms of autism to go undiagnosed until well after entering school. In fact, research indicates that only three percent of children with ASD are identified solely by non-school resources. As a result, school professionals are now more likely to be asked to participate in the screening and identification of children with ASD than at any other time in the past.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV) are the two major systems used to diagnose and classify children with ASD. The DSM-IV is considered the primary authority in the fields of psychiatric and psychological (clinical) diagnoses, while IDEA is the authority with regard to eligibility decisions for special education. The DSM-IV was developed by clinicians as a diagnostic and classification system for both childhood and adult psychiatric disorders. The IDEA is not a diagnostic system per se, but rather federal legislation designed to ensure the appropriate education of children with special educational needs in our public schools. Unlike the DSM-IV, IDEA specifies categories of ‘‘disabilities’’ to determine eligibility for special educational services. The definitions of these categories (there are 13), including autism, are the most widely used classification system in our schools. According to IDEA regulations, the definition of autism is as follows:

(c)(1)(i) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in this section.

(ii) A child who manifests the characteristics of ‘‘autism’’ after age 3 could be diagnosed as having ‘‘autism’’ if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.
This educational definition is considered sufficiently broad and operationally acceptable to accommodate both the clinical and educational descriptions of autism and related disorders.

While the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria are professionally helpful, they are neither legally required nor sufficient for determining educational placement. It is state and federal education codes and regulations (not DSM IV-TR) that drive classification and eligibility decisions. Thus, school professionals must ensure that children meet the criteria for autism as outlined by IDEA and may use the DSM-IV to the extent that the diagnostic criteria include the same core behaviors (e.g., difficulties with social interaction, difficulties with communication, and the frequent exhibition of repetitive behaviors or circumscribed interests). Of course, all professionals, whether clinical or school, should have the appropriate training and background related to the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. The identification of autism should be made by a professional team using multiple sources of information, including, but not limited to an interdisciplinary assessment of social behavior, language and communication, adaptive behavior, motor skills, sensory issues, and cognitive functioning to help with intervention planning and determining eligibility for special educational services.

Legal and special education experts recommend the following guidelines to help school districts meet the requirements for providing legally and educationally appropriate programs and services to students with ASD.

1. School districts should ensure that the IEP process follows the procedural requirements of IDEA. This includes actively involving parents in the IEP process and adhering to the time frame requirements for assessment and developing and implementing the student’s IEP. Moreover, parents must be notified of their due process rights. It’s important to recognize that parent-professional communication and collaboration are key components for making educational and program decisions.

2. School districts should make certain that comprehensive, individualized evaluations are completed by school professionals who have knowledge, experience, and expertise in ASD. If qualified personnel are not available, school districts should provide the appropriate training or retain the services of a consultant.

3. School districts should develop IEPs based on the child’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Goals for a child with ASD commonly include the areas of communication, social behavior, adaptive skills, challenging behavior, and academic and functional skills. The IEP must address appropriate instructional and curricular modifications, together with related services such as counseling, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, physical therapy and transportation needs. Evidence-based instructional strategies should also be adopted to ensure that the IEP is implemented appropriately.

4. School districts should assure that progress monitoring of students with ASD is completed at specified intervals by an interdisciplinary team of professionals who have a knowledge base and experience in autism. This includes collecting evidence-based data to document progress towards achieving IEP goals and to assess program effectiveness.

5. School districts should make every effort to place students in integrated settings to maximize interaction with non-disabled peers. Inclusion with typically developing students is important for a child with ASD as peers provide the best models for language and social skills. However, inclusive education alone is insufficient, evidence-based intervention and training is also necessary to address specific skill deficits. Although the least restrictive environment (LRE) provision of IDEA requires that efforts be made to educate students with special needs in less restrictive settings, IDEA also recognizes that some students may require a more comprehensive program to provide FAPE.

6. School districts should provide on-going training and education in ASD for both parents and professionals. Professionals who are trained in specific methodology and techniques will be most effective in providing the appropriate services and in modifying curriculum based upon the unique needs of the individual child.

References and further reading:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Pub. L. No. 108-446, 108th Congress, 2nd Session. (2004).

Mandlawitz, M. R. (2002). The impact of the legal system on educational programming for young children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 495-508.

National Research Council (2001). Educating children with autism. Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism. C. Lord & J. P. McGee (Eds). Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Twachtman-Cullen, D., & Twachtman-Bassett, J. (2011). The IEP from A to Z: How to create meaningful and measurable goals and objectives. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wilkinson, L. A. (2010). Best practice in special needs education. In L. A. Wilkinson, A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism and Asperger syndrome in schools (pp. 127-146). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2ndEdition (2007).

Yell, M. L., Katsiyannis, A, Drasgow, E, & Herbst, M. (2003). Developing legally correct and educationally appropriate programs for students with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18, 182-191.

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD is the author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/autism-at-school-dsm-or-idea?goback=%2Egde_2191897_member_225669404

increase in adhd diagnoses…

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 11:59

is this because of increased awareness, greater recognition of adhd, better diagnostics and screening, etc. or is it because of the heightened demands put upon all of us in today’s society?  i do believe adhd is a very real diagnosis and can have deleterious effects on the brain if left untreated.  what i can tell you i do see in my work as a school psychologist is some children with a true disability and some very savvy parents (or kids, in some instances) who know that a stimulant will help them meet any increased demands and are able to “get” an adhd diagnosis by going to certain doctors or knowing what to say and what “symptoms” to report.  a comprehensive adhd diagnosis is not an easy one to make and takes way more than a ten-minute session with a pediatrician.  this is one of the reasons i am such a proponent of  the advancements in genome wide association studies, neuroanatomy, neurobiology, etc. that can effectively show differences between a brain with adhd and a brain without adhd, thus, one day hopefully being able to diagnose with more than parent and self-report and some testing.  and, with the large population of untreated adhd or late-diagnosed adhd (so, no treatment until adulthood), we are able to see the effects of no treatment, then getting proper treatment.  

i am a fan of a new book on adhd by cecil reynolds, et al.  it is a comprehensive look at adhd by one of the foremost neuropsychologists today.  http://www.amazon.com/Energetic-Brain-Understanding-Managing-ADHD/dp/0470615168 

there’s my two-cents.  here is the article:

Study Suggests Increased Rate of Diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder at Health Plan


Media Advisory: To contact study author Darios Getahun, M.D., Ph.D., call Sandra Hernandez-Millett at 626-405-5384 or email sandra.d.hernandez-millett@kp.org or call Vincent Staupe at 415-318-4386 or email vstaupe@golinharris.com.

CHICAGO – A study of medical records at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health plan suggests the rate of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis increased from 2001 to 2010, according to a report published Online First by JAMA Pediatrics, a JAMA Network publication.

ADHD is one of the most common chronic childhood psychiatric disorders, affecting 4 percent to 12 percent of all school-aged children and persisting into adolescence and adulthood in about 66 percent to 85 percent of affected children. The origin of ADHD is not fully understood, but some emerging evidence suggests that both genetic and environmental factors play important roles, the authors write in the study background.

Darios Getahun, M.D., Ph.D., of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Medical Group, Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues used patient medical records to examine trends in the diagnosis of ADHD in all children who received care at Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) from January 2001 through December 2010. Of the 842,830 children cared for during that time, 39,200 (4.9 percent) had a diagnosis of ADHD.

“The findings suggest that the rate of ADHD diagnosis among children in the health plan notably has increased over time. We observed disproportionately high ADHD diagnosis rates among white children and notable increases among black girls,” according to the study.

The rates of ADHD diagnosis were 2.5 percent in 2001 and 3.1 percent in 2010, a relative increase of 24 percent. From 2001 to 2010, the rate increased among whites (4.7 percent to 5.6 percent); blacks (2.6 percent to 4.1 percent); and Hispanics (1.7 percent to 2.5 percent). Rates for Asian/Pacific Islanders remained unchanged over time, according to study results.

Boys also were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, but the study results suggest that the sex gap for black children may be closing over time. Children who live in high-income households ($70,000 or more) also were at an increased risk of diagnosis, according to the results.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 21, 2013. doi:10.1001/2013.jamapediatrics.401. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)

Retrieved from: http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/study-suggests-increased-rate-of-diagnosis-of-attention-deficithyperactivity-disorder-at-health-plan/

Christie Signs a Bill into Law That Will Create Consistency in Special Education Programming

In Education, Education advocacy, Education Law, School reform, Special Education on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 10:30

Christie Signs a Bill into Law That Will Create Consistency in Special Education Programming.

california teachers sue over workload.

In Education, Education advocacy, Education Law, Special Education on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 08:18

thanks for the article, greg branch!


good article.

In Education advocacy, Politics, School reform, Special Education on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 15:13


arne…friend or foe?

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform, Special Education on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 15:08


early intervention and autism

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Intervention, School Psychology, Special Education on Friday, 4 January 2013 at 11:21

Early Intervention Program Alters Brain Activity in Children with Autism

Clinical study of Early Start Denver Model intervention shows that it improves not only social skills, but also brain responses to social cues

Decades of research have shown that behavioral therapies for autism can improve cognitive and language skills. Still, it remained unclear whether behavioral interventions simply reduced autism’s symptoms or actually “treated” the developmental disorder. In other words, could an effective behavioral intervention change the brain biology that underlies autism spectrum disorder?

This year, researchers delivered compelling evidence that the Early Start Denver Model(ESDM), an intensive early intervention program for toddlers with autism, improves brain activity related to social responsiveness. The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry published the findings in its November issue.

“This may be the first demonstration that a behavioral intervention for autism is associated with changes in brain function as well as positive changes in behavior,” commented Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Psychologists Sally Rogers, Ph.D., and Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., developed the ESDM therapy program in the 1990s. It adapts key techniques from Applied Behavioral Analysis(ABA) for toddlers, with an emphasis on interactive play between children and their therapists and parents. Dr. Rogers is a professor and researcher at the University of California, Davis, MIND Institute. Dr. Dawson was a professor and researcher at the University of Washington, Seattle, when she and Dr. Rogers developed the program. She is now the chief science officer of Autism Speaks and a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Three years ago, Drs. Dawson and Rogers published the first results of a clinical trial comparing ESDM with conventional autism therapy services. They randomly  48 toddlers (ages 18 to 30 months) to receive either ESDM therapy or the early intervention services routinely available in their communities (Seattle). Both groups received roughly 20 hours of weekly therapy for two years. Overall, those in the ESDM group showed greater increases in IQ, language and adaptive behavior than children in the community-intervention group.

In this year’s report, the research team published their analysis of brain activity monitoring performed on both groups of children at the end of their two years of therapy. For comparison, they also performed the brain activity tests on a group of age-matched children without autism.

Noninvasive electroencephalography (EEG) showed that the children in the ESDM group showed greater brain responses to social information compared to children in the community group. When they viewed women’s faces, their brain activity patterns were virtually identical to those of the children without autism. This more-typical pattern of brain activity was associated with improved social behavior including improved eye contact and social communication.

By contrast, children in the community intervention group showed greater brain activity when viewing objects than faces. Previous research has shown that many children with autism have this unusual pattern of brain activity.

“By studying changes in the neural response to faces, Dr. Dawson and her colleagues have identified a new target and a potential biomarker that can guide treatment development,” Dr. Insel said.

“So much of a toddler’s learning involves social interaction,” Dr. Dawson added. “As a result, an early intervention program that promotes attention to people and social cues may pay dividends in promoting the normal development of brain and behavior.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends autism screening for all children twice before 24 months. “When families receive a diagnosis, it’s vitally important that we have effective therapies available for their young children,” Dr. Dawson urged. Currently ESDM is the only early intervention evaluated in clinical trials.

As methods for earlier detection become available, infants flagged at risk for ASD may likewise benefit from early intervention, many experts agree. Research suggests that adults with autism can benefit from interventions that promote social engagement as well.

Dawson G, Jones EJ, Merkle K, et al. Early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized brain activity in young children with autism. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012; 51(11):1150-9.

Retrieved from: http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/top-ten-lists/2012/early-intervention-program-brain-activity-children-autism

FAPE and class size…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, Special Education on Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 09:26

wow, 6-8 kids in a resource class sounds like a great idea and it is the law, but…what to do when the law and politics don’t mesh???  so the law says we must offer smaller classes, and i agree that some kids really, really need this type of individualized instruction only able to be taught in much smaller classes.  there are general education and team-taught classes with upwards of 40 kids in a class and that does not allow for the type of instruction some of our kids need.  so, glad to see the courts upheld smaller class sizes to adhere to FAPE, but i have to wonder exactly how that is going to happen when all i see in my district is cut, cut, cut.  cutting programs, closing schools, firing teachers…so i have to wonder how school districts are going to follow FAPE without teachers to teach the classes and, in some cases, rooms to hold them in.  guess we shall see.  maybe this, along with other recent events, will send the message that we need to be throwing money at education and early intervention services.  or, maybe there will need to be law suits to get the districts to realize where their money needs to go.  all i know now is that teachers are completely over-worked and under-paid (my district’s employees-that would include me-have not had a raise or any increase in SIX years) and programs and schools in my district are closing.  not sure how they are going to provide FAPE with a cap of 6-8 kids.  not unless we have a paradigm shift and decide education in the u.s. needs a complete overhaul and it does NOT start with the teachers.  we need to reorganize our priorities and make EDUCATION primary…not testing, numbers, pay-for-performance.  true education by any means necessary, i.e. NOT making up new standards every few years, NOT rating everything as it relates to test scores, and NOT blaming teachers.  i think after newtown we all saw where teachers’ hearts lie…with their students.  

Special Ed: FAPE Required a Smaller General Education Setting (6-8 Students)

NOVEMBER 27, 2012


Nov. 26 (2012): The United States Supreme Court recently denied the Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed by the Solana Beach School District in the case of KA.D. v. NEST (Case Nos. 10-56320, 10-56373). This case is significant because it effectively upheld the lower courts’ decisions that FAPE required an offer of a smaller general education class.

A summary of the underlying facts is that the student, diagnosed with autism, was placed by her parents at Hanna Fenichel (a small private preschool for typically developing peers), because the district failed to offer a small group setting with typical peers at a public school. The district’s offer consisted of a bifurcated placement, which divided the student’s school day between a special day class and a general education class. The parents’ position was that their daughter had difficulties in larger educational settings, but that their daughter was able to participate in a general educational setting with a 1:1 aide as long as the setting had a small student teacher ratio. There was no dispute that the student benefitted from her instruction at Hanna Fenichel. Parents sought reimbursement for the private placement.

At Hanna Fenichel, the classes consisted of 6 – 8 students. The District’s offer of placement would have required for the student to interact with about 42 children. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision that the district’s offer of placement failed to provide FAPE. The district then filed a Petition in an effort to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the actual opinion is not published,* parents should be aware of the reasoning of the lower courts in case they have similar claims or concerns with respect to their child.

For more information:

Ninth Circuit Opinion

U.S. District Court, S.D. California

Attorney for parents: Michael T. Kirkpatrick, Public Citizen Litigation Group, 1600 20th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, 202-588-1000.

*Opinons that are not “published” do not serve as precedent and do not have the same binding effect as cases that are published. However, the reasoning of the courts may be beneficial to parties asserting similar claims and may be cited under certain circumstances.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/special-ed-fape-required-a-smaller-general-education-setting-6-8-students

Evaluating special education teachers: Implementing the IEP should be the standard

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, Special Education on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 09:05

Evaluating special education teachers: Implementing the IEP should be the standard.

inclusion for all?

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 15:36

Study Questions Benefits of Inlcusion for Autism

By: Lee Wilkinson, Ph.D.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) (P.L. 108-446) (idea.ed.gov/) guarantees a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for every student with a disability. The LRE provision mandates that “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” In general,inclusion (or inclusive education) with typical peers is often considered to be the best placement option for students with disabilities. However, a study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, calls into question whether or not inclusive education actually leads to better outcomes in the long term for children with autism.

The Study

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University sought to determine whether the proportion of time spent in an inclusive educational setting, a process indicator of the quality of schooling for children with autism, improves key outcomes. The participants were 484 children and youth educated in special education with a primary diagnosis of autism in the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). The NLTS2 is a 10-year study of youth with disabilities who were receiving special education services in public or state-supported special schools. The NLTS2 uses a nationally representative sample of youth in special education who were between the ages of 13 and 16 on December 1, 2000.

The primary exposure of interest in this analysis was the proportion of time the youth spent in a general education classroom. A school program questionnaire was used to collect data on the courses that each student took during the 2003 school year and whether each course was taken in a general education or special education classroom. The proportion of time spent in an inclusive setting was categorized as 0%, 1% to 74%, or 75% to 100% of courses taken in a general education classroom.

Key Outcomes

Three outcomes were assessed in the study’s analysis: (1) not dropping out of high school, (2) any college attendance, and (3) a cognitive functional scale. Youth were coded as not dropping out if the parent reported that they graduated, received a certificate or General Educational Development certificate, or were still in high school at the time of data collection. Any college attendance was based on parent report of whether the youth attended any type of postsecondary school in the previous 2 years, including postsecondary classes to earn a high school degree, a 2-year or 4-year college, or postsecondary vocational school. The functional cognitive scale measured a combination of parent-reported cognitive, sensory, and motor skills used in performing daily activities (such as counting change). Parents rated their child on a scale of 1 (“not at all well”) to 4 (“very well”) for each of these skills. The rating for each skill was added to create the functional cognitive scale, which ranged from 4 (not at all well for any of the skills) to 16 (very well for all of the skills).


Compared with children with autism who were not educated in an inclusive setting, children with autism who spent 75% to 100% of their time in a general education classroom were no more likely to attend college, not drop out of high school, or have an improved functional cognitive score after controlling for key confounders. The researchers state that “In general, our analyses suggest that inclusivity does not improve educational or functional outcomes for children with autism.” They also note that although the link between inclusivity and outcome remains weak, “inclusive education” that is well implemented and supported might have substantial benefits. Recommendations for further research include investigation of educational and functional outcomes from data on large samples of children in real-world settings. There is also a need for developing future indicators to measure the “quality” of special education for children with autism. This includes a careful description of the learning environment and experiences within and between communities as well as key measures specific to the characteristics and education of children with autism. The authors conclude that the study illustrates the challenges of understanding the effect of real-world services and treatments and that a “A fuller understanding of inclusively and other potential measures of educational quality may have to wait for better data and methods.”

Foster, E. M., & Pearson, E. (2012). Inclusivity an Indicator of Quality of Care for Children With Autism in Special Education? Pediatrics, 130, S179-S184.

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD is the author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Dr. Wilkinson can be reached at bestpracticeautism.com.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/study-questions-benefits-of-inclusion-for-autism

Court Decision on Independent Educational Evaluations

In Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 15:29

Court Upholds IDEA Rule on Independent Evaluations

By Mark Walsh

A federal appeals court has upheld a longtime U.S. Department of Education regulation requiring school districts, under certain circumstances, to reimburse parents for independent educational evaluations of their children with disabilities.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled unanimously to uphold the regulation promulgated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the main federal special education law. The rule requires districts or other public agencies to pay for independent evaluations when parents disagree with the public agency’s initial assessment of their child.

The regulation has been in place in various forms since 1977, two years after the passage of the precursor to the IDEA.

The challenge to the rule comes in the case of Alabama parents who squabbled with the Jefferson County school district over the education of their son, identified as A.C., who has a disability not specified in court papers. In 2005, the parents disagreed with the district’s evaluation of their son and obtained an independent evaluation. The district refused to reimburse the parents, who then pursued relief through administrative channels and then the federal courts.

In court, the Jefferson County district challenged the authority of the U.S. secretary of education to promulgate the regulation requiring that parents be reimbursed for independent evaluations. The board argued that the regulation exceeded the scope of the IDEA because the statute itself did not authorize such reimbursements. The U.S. Department of Justice, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the 11th Circuit on the parents’ side, argued that the regulation was valid and was entitled to deference.

A federal district court rejected the board’s arguments, and in its Nov. 21 decision in Phillip C.v. Jefferson County Board of Education, the 11th Circuit appeals panel affirmed.

The appeals court noted that Congress, in effect, endorsed the earliest version of the independent evaluation regulation in a 1983 reauthorization of the special education law, and that lawmakers have further renewed the IDEA in 1990, 1997, and 2004 “without altering a parent’s right to a publicly funded [independent educational evaluation].”

“Under the re-enactment doctrine, Congress is presumed to be aware of an administrative or judicial interpretation of a statute and to adopt that interpretation when it re-enacts a statute without change,” the 11th Circuit court said. “Accordingly, Congress has clearly evinced its intent that parents have the right to obtain an IEE at public expense.”

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/school_law/2012/11/court_upholds_idea_rule_on_ind.html?intc=bs&cmp=SOC-SHR-GEN

stability balls…not just for fitness!

In ADHD, ADHD child/adolescent, Attention, Education, Special Education on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 12:59


Children With Autism Developmentally Normal at 6 Months

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Neuropsychology, School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 15:24

Children With Autism Developmentally Normal at 6 Months

Pam Harrison

Infants who go on to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are developmentally normal by the age of 6 months, and the earliest signs of developmental disruption are subtle and not specific to autism, prospective, longitudinal data show.

In the largest prospective, longitudinal study to date comparing children with early and later diagnosis of ASD with children without ASD, Rebecca Landa, PhD, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues found that the earliest signs of developmental disruption in children with ASD are likely to be nonspecific to ASD, such as communication or motor delay.

At 6 months, development within both the early-onset ASD children and those with later-onset ASD was comparable both to each other and to non-ASD control children.

“The standard clinical tools that we use to assess early development are not identifying abnormalities in babies midinfancy that go on and have autism,” Dr. Landa told Medscape Medical News.

“So the assumption that any infant who is going to have autism would be obviously autistic in midinfancy is a myth because this just isn’t happening.”

The study was published online October 30 in Child Development.

Developmental Trajectory

Studying the developmental trajectory of multiple systems — motor, cognitive, social, and language — in the first 3 years of life in children with and without ASD could shed light on the susceptibility of the developing brain to the impact of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors in children with ASD.

Therefore, the investigators examined language and motor development in children aged 6 to 36 months and social development from 14 to 24 months, the time during which ASD regression usually occurs.

Participants included 204 infant siblings of children with autism as well as 31 infants with no family history of autism.

The Mullen Scales of Early Learning provided measures of motor and language functioning, and the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile provided measures of 2 social functions related to the diagnostic criteria for ASD.

By 14 months, the early-onset group exhibited significantly lower expressive language and shared positive affect scores than the later ASD group (P < .001 for both endpoints).

By 18 months, the early ASD group also had greater delays in receptive (P < .001) and expressive language development (P = .001) compared with the later-onset group.

Gap Closes

At 24 months, however, “the gap between the Early- and Later-ASD groups had closed, and no differences from the Later-ASD group were detected at subsequent ages,” the investigators write.

These findings indicate that the early-ASD group manifested earlier development disruption, especially as it affected language and social functioning, than children with later-onset ASD but that they were no more severely affected than later-onset ASD children at either 30 or 36 months.

“There are different developmental pathways to ASD,” said Dr. Landa.

Children who manifest symptoms by their first birthday are more globally impaired at 14 months than children who have later manifestations of ASD.

On the other hand, children with later-onset ASD do have some signs of developmental delay at 14 months, but these signs are not specific to ASD and include motor and communications delays.

However, by 36 months, both groups are comparable in their social and developmental characteristics, she added.

“Many pediatricians screen for autism at around 18 months, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, but they don’t continue screening after that,” Dr. Landa said.

“But screening should be repeated through early childhood, and if concerning signs of delay associated with ASD are observed in a child who scores normally on standardized tests, further assessment is warranted.”

Need for Early Intervention

Deborah Fein, PhD, University of Connecticut, in Storrs, told Medscape Medical News that it is important to appreciate that the ASD children included in this study were infant siblings of children with ASD.

As such, “this is not the population at large, so these findings might not be generalizable,” Dr. Fein said

On the other hand, infant siblings of children with ASD are a small enough population that they could be followed very closely throughout their preschool years, and subtle delays in motor or social communication development could be identified.

Other children at risk for ASD, including premature infants or infants who have had obstetric complications, are also at risk for ASD and could be similarly followed, she added.

“There are preclinical signs of ASD, but in a sense, it doesn’t matter because if you know a child has some mild delay in cognitive or motor or social communication function, you still want to deliver early interventions,” she said.

“Then if full-blown autism does emerge, you’ll be on top of it.”

The authors and Dr. Fein have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Child Dev. Published online October 30, 2012. Abstract

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773990?src=nl_topic

After 30 Years of Special Ed. Law, How Far Have We Really Come? – On Special Education – Education Week

In Education, Education advocacy, Special Education on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 13:33

After 30 Years of Special Ed. Law, How Far Have We Really Come? – On Special Education – Education Week.

common core…another educational phase or here to stay?

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Psychology, School reform, Special Education on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:23

Scores Drop on Ky.’s Common Core-Aligned Tests

By Andrew Ujifusa

Results from new state tests in Kentucky—the first in the nation explicitly tied to the Common Core State Standards—show that the share of students scoring “proficient” or better in reading and math dropped by roughly a third or more in both elementary and middle school the first year the tests were given.

Kentucky in 2010 was the first state to adopt the common core in English/language arts and mathematics, and the assessment results released last week for the 2011-12 school year are being closely watched by school officials and policymakers nationwide for what they may reveal about how the common standards may affect student achievement in coming years. So far, 46 states have adopted the English/language arts common standards; 45 states have done so in math.

Two federally funded consortia are working on assessments based on the common standards, and those tests are not slated to be fully ready for schools until 2014-15. But Kentucky’s tests are generally understood to be linked to the common core.

“What you’re seeing in Kentucky is a predictor of what you’re going to see in the other states, as the assessments roll out next year and the year after,” said Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers, which spearheaded the common-core initiative along with the National Governors Association. Mr. Wilhoit was also previously Kentucky’s education commissioner.

Falling Scores

The drop in Kentucky’s scores conform to what state education officials had expected: that students in grades 3-8 taking the new, more-rigorous Kentucky Performance Rating of Education Progress, or K-PREP, would not be able to reach their achievement levels of prior years. Kentucky began implementing the common standards in the 2011-12 school year.

The biggest drop came at the elementary level. On the previous Kentucky Core Content Tests, 76 percent of elementary students scored proficient or higher in reading in the 2010-11 school year. That percentage plunged to 48 percent for the K-PREP results in the 2011-12 school year, a drop-off in proficiency of more than a third.

In 2010-11, 73 percent of elementary students were proficient or better in math, but that fell to 40.4 percent. That drop represents a 45 percent decline in the share of proficient students.

Middle schoolers’ decline was a little less steep. In reading, they dropped from a 70 percent proficiency level in 2010-11 to 46.8 percent in 2011-12, a decline of a third. In math, proficiency-or-better levels declined slightly more than that, from 65 percent in 2010-11 to 40.6 percent in 2011-12.

Overall, students in grades 3-8 demonstrated somewhat higher proficiency levels in reading than in math.

When new tests are introduced, states can expect scores to fall in most cases, said Douglas McRae, a retired assessment designer who helped build California’s testing system. “When you change the measure, change the tests, then you interrupt the continuity of trend data over time. That’s the fundamental thing that happens,” he said.

Kentucky developed its tests in conjunction with Pearson, the New York City-based education and testing company, which is also crafting curricula for the common core.

K-PREP does not represent the final, polished version of common-core assessments. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and theSmarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are designing the tests that most states have signed on to for gauging students’ mastery of the common standards nationwide beginning in the 2014-15 school year. (Kentucky belongs to the PARCC consortium.)

But Mr. Wilhoit said K-PREP represents the state’s best effort, along with Pearson’s, “to develop an assessment that was representative of the common core.”

Proficiency drops also occurred in the end-of-course tests in reading and math Kentucky administered to high school students. But those declines were smaller than those in the earlier grades, and a state study shows that while the K-PREP tests are completely aligned with the common standards, the high school end-of-course tests (from the ACT QualityCore program) are only about 80 percent to 85 percent aligned to the standards.

The proficiency level in high school reading dropped from 65 percent to 52.2 percent (a figure 6 percentage points higher than the state’s prediction), based on the end-of-course tests, while proficiency in math fell from 46 percent to 40 percent on the Algebra 2 test, beating the state’s prediction by 4 percentage points.

Commissioner’s Take

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said that students beat the state’s predictions for both the K-PREP and end-of-course exams. Using a statistical model that predicted ACT performance based on academic results in reading and math in 2011, for example, the state estimated a 36 percentage-point drop in elementary reading scores in 2011-12, instead of the actual 28-point drop.

“We’re just a little bit above our prediction, which I think is a pretty good testament to our teaching,” Mr. Holliday said.

Earlier exposure to the common standards, he suggested, would help younger students at first.

“It’s going to take a little longer to see middle and high school growth on these tests,” Mr. Holliday said. “It’ll take about five years to see an overall growth of significance at all levels.”

But based on national benchmarks, the new K-PREP tests may not have been rigorous enough, said Richard Innes, an education policy analyst at the Bluegrass Institute, a conservative-leaning Lexington, Ky.-based think tank.

In a report released the week of Oct. 29 for the institute, Mr. Innes compared the K-PREP math scores for 8th graders this year (41.5 percent proficient or better) with the results on the ACT Explore test this year (30.5 percent) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress proficiency levels in 2011 (31 percent).

“There are questions in my mind as to whether they are rigorous enough in several areas,” he said. Different subject tests appeared to have been more rigorous in different grade levels, Mr. Innes said. The math in middle schools appears to be the subject where K-PREP is less rigorous than NAEP or Explore tests, he noted. He drew the same conclusion about K-PREP reading results at the elementary school level.

One number that went up: the proportion of students qualifying as college and/or career ready, which rose to 47 percent in 2011-12, from 38 percent the previous year. Mr. Holliday attributed that rise to the state creating more career pathways and bringing more introductory college courses to high school seniors to prevent the need for postsecondary remediation.

“To get that much improvement in the first year is extraordinary, I think,” said Bob King, the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, based in Frankfort, Ky.

Preparing the Public

To combat a potential public backlash from the lower scores, Mr. Holliday noted that he had enlisted the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce as part of a yearlong public relations campaign.

Florida schools earlier this year endured a significant backlash when proficiency rates on its state writing tests dropped by two-thirds after a tougher grading system was introduced, forcing the state school board to change the test’s cutoff score retroactively.

“We knew the scores were going to drop, but this is the right thing for our kids, our schools,” he said. “You’re going to see quite a different reaction in Kentucky because we watched what happened everywhere else,” Mr. Holliday said.

But the transition for schools can be disappointing for some, especially in the short term. Carmen Coleman, the superintendent of the Danville Independent district, said she was proud of how the school system had progressed over the past three years from a ranking of 110th to 24th among the state’s 174 districts, only to tumble back to the middle of the pack in the newest rankings of school districts.

“It’s a tough blow for teachers and students,” she said.

The Kentucky PTA has received grant money from the National PTA to educate parents and others about the new standards, but the state group’s president, Teri Gale, said it doesn’t mean people won’t be caught off guard by the lower-than-usual results.

“They’ve heard us talk about it. They’ve seen the newscasts and everything,” Ms. Gale said. “But until they actually see the scores, I don’t think it’s going to hit home that this is what we were talking about.

Coverage of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the common assessments is supported in part by a grant from the GE Foundation, atwww.ge.com/foundation.

Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/11/02/11standards.h32.html?tkn=MUUFgXKG6BeBJ5plrgNFi1pr%2BpWNe%2BzfFckH&cmp=clp-edweek&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EducationWeekWidgetFeed+%28Education+Week%3A+Free+Widget+Feed%29


special education in los angeles…

In Education, Education advocacy, Special Education on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:16

Los Angeles Still Struggles to Serve Students With Disabilities

By Nirvi Shah

The latest progress report on Los Angeles’ ability to serve its students with disabilities shows the district is making headway in some areas, but it is still falling short of a 6-year-old target for providing services as frequently and for as long as special education students need them.

In the report, issued last week, the district’s independent monitor noted that the district was to have provided—by 2006—93 percent of the services for students with disabilities. That target was the result of a federal court case resolved in 2003. The district has largely reached that target, though intermittently.

But another goal set in the court case was that the district would provide 85 percent of those services for the duration and frequency specified by students’ education plans. For example, a student might require three one-hour sessions of speech therapy each week.

While the district has come a long way, it still falls short of this second goal, said the monitor, special education expert Frederick J. Weintraub. About 83.5 percent of students received the correct number of service sessions, but only 70 percent got those services for the amount of time their educational plans say they should, the report said.

While some of the shortfall might be attributed to inaccurate record-keeping, therapists and other service providers said that making up missed sessions is sometimes a challenge because of paperwork, meetings, the district’s electronic monitoring system for tracking services, and scheduled school events, such as testing or school assemblies, the report said. Some providers simply aim to provide a certain amount of services each month or year for their own flexibility (does this serve the students though? Advocates, experts, please weigh in.).

Mr. Weintraub was appointed as a monitor because of a federal court settlement, and must stay on until Los Angeles meets all the goals it set out to achieve. Next school year, the district will study its own capacity to monitor whether students with disabilities are getting the services they need, he said in the report.

“The [independent monitor] has repeatedly stated that service provision is the cornerstone of [a free, appropriate public education] and substantial compliance. As this consent decree nears completion, the District must demonstrate the ability to deliver services and comply with the service requirements of the IEP,” he said in the report.

Mr. Weintraub did find that while about 94 percent of kids with disabilities receive services—at least one session of any of the services they may be entitled to in a given eight-week period—but he also found 400 cases in which there was no evidence students were served at all in eight-week period. Some of this was because of the district’s tracking system.

One high point: the monitor found that Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, now has enough well-qualified special education teachers to meet its needs. A decade ago, it had enough to meet only 70 percent of its needs, and now that figure has risen to 96 percent. The district has also made progress in reducing the disproportionate identification of black students as having an emotional disturbances, and in remodeling and upgrading facilities to make them accessible to students with disabilities.

There’s been some progress on yet another lingering issue: whether charter schools are screening students for disabilities. (Los Angeles isn’t unique in having some version of this issue.) The monitor found that in June, 28 charter schools continued to ask parents to provide information related to special education. “While this is a substantial decrease from the past two years, this finding is evidence of the district’s inability to provide rigorous oversight of its independent charter schools,” the report said.

The district must review charter school applications again in December.

Still, overall enrollment of students with disabilities at charter schools continues to climb, the monitor found.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2012/10/los_angeles_still_struggles_to_serve.html

asd…intervene early, see positive changes.

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Psychiatry, School Psychology, Special Education on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 06:04

Early Autism Intervention Normalizes Brain Activity

Pam Harrison

Early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized patterns of brain activity along with improvements in social behavior in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a new nationwide study shows.

The multicentre study conducted by investigators at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, showed that 73% of children who received the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) intervention showed greater brain activation when viewing faces than when viewing objects.

This was very similar to typically developing children, 71% of whom showed the same brain activation pattern when viewing faces rather than objects.

In contrast, 64% of ASD children who received the control community intervention showed a greater response to objects than to faces, the opposite response from that seen in ESDM recipients.

Previous research has shown that ASD children typically respond more to nonsocial than to social stimuli.

“Those of us in the intervention field always assumed that improving children’s learning had to change brain function — that is how we learn,” Sally Rogers, PhD, University of California, Davis, MIND Institute, told Medscape Medical News.

“This evidence confirms how we understand learning — it’s not a surface change [but rather] a change in brain activation and patterns of brain connection.

“So I think behavioral intervention can be seen as a biological intervention because it changes the biology of brain activity.”

The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Intensive Therapy

A previous report from a randomized trial indicated that ESDM, a developmental behavioral intervention, resulted in gains in IQ, language, and adaptive behavior in children with ASD (Pediatrics 2010;125:e17-e23).

The current report describes electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, a secondary outcome measurement from the same study.

A total of 48 children aged 18 to 30 months who had been diagnosed with ASD were randomly assigned to receive ESDM or referral to community intervention for 2 years.

Children randomly assigned to ESDM received the intervention for 2 hours, twice a day, 5 days a week for 2 years.

The community intervention group received comprehensive diagnostic evaluations, interventional recommendations, and community referrals.

The children enrolled in the study represented the full range of severity of ASD in early childhood, and as Dr. Rogers emphasized, they were not picked because they had mild symptoms.

Two types of brain activity measurements were collected in response to social (faces) and nonsocial (toys) stimuli.

“The first reflected early-stage perceptual processing of faces versus objects,” the authors state, “[and] the second set of measurements reflected the degree of attention engagement…and active cognitive processing of the stimulus.”

Children randomly assigned to either intervention arm did not differ from typical children in early-stage perceptual face processing, the researchers point out.

In contrast, EEG measurements reflecting patterns of attention engagement and active cognitive processing of social stimuli showed that children who received the ESDM intervention exhibited brain activity that was comparable to age-matched typical children in that both allotted greater attentional and cognitive resources during viewing of social stimuli than to nonsocial stimuli.

These patterns were different from patterns observed in children who received the community intervention, who allotted greater attentional and cognitive resources to viewing of nonsocial stimuli than to social stimuli.

Powerful Intervention

“This is a very powerful intervention,” Dr. Rogers emphasized. For example, almost none of the children had speech prior to the ESDM intervention.

The average IQ prior to the intervention was only 65, she added.

Following the intervention, the average IQ was in the 80s.

“This means that these children no longer had intellectual disability as a group, so it was a huge change, and almost all of the children were able to use language effectively and functionally as well,” Dr. Rogers said.

Children with good EEG data who received the ESDM intervention also differed significantly on behavioral outcomes in autism symptoms, IQ, language, and adaptive and social behavior.

“Many public services provide interventions for young ASD children, but too many children are getting a hodgepodge of interventions,” Dr. Rogers observed.

“But national standards require we use evidence-based intervention, and what this study demonstrated is the importance of using evidence-based interventions and delivering them with enough intensity so they can have maximal effect.”

New Target, Potential Biomarker

Thomas Insel, MD, National Institute of Mental Health, noted in a press release on the study that this may be the first demonstration that a behavioral intervention for autism is associated with changes in brain function as well as positive changes in behavior.

“By studying changes in the neural response to faces, Dawson and her colleagues have identified a new target and a potential biomarker that can guide treatment development,” Dr. Insel added.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Dawson and Dr. Rogers are authors of the book Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism, from which they receive royalties. Dr. Insel has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012:51:1150-1160. Abstract

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773641

Early Behavioral Intervention Is Associated With Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children With Autism 






A previously published randomized clinical trial indicated that a developmental behavioral intervention, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), resulted in gains in IQ, language, and adaptive behavior of children with autism spectrum disorder. This report describes a secondary outcome measurement from this trial, EEG activity.


Forty-eight 18- to 30-month-old children with autism spectrum disorder were randomized to receive the ESDM or referral to community intervention for 2 years. After the intervention (age 48 to 77 months), EEG activity (event-related potentials and spectral power) was measured during the presentation of faces versus objects. Age-matched typical children were also assessed.

ResultsThe ESDM group exhibited greater improvements in autism symptoms, IQ, language, and adaptive and social behaviors than the community intervention group. The ESDM group and typical children showed a shorter Nc latency and increased cortical activation (decreased α power and increased θ power) when viewing faces, whereas the community intervention group showed the opposite pattern (shorter latency event-related potential [ERP] and greater cortical activation when viewing objects). Greater cortical activation while viewing faces was associated with improved social behavior.


This was the first trial to demonstrate that early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized patterns of brain activity, which is associated with improvements in social behavior, in young children with autism spectrum disorder.

Retrieved from: http://www.jaacap.com/article/S0890-8567(12)00643-0/abstract

Homework Help, Timing is Vital: Setting Yourself and Your Child Up for Success

In ADHD, ADHD child/adolescent, Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:59

Homework Help, Timing is Vital: Setting Yourself and Your Child Up for Success

Every household and every student is different so we ask that when you are reviewing these guidelines think about what might need to be adjusted in your household to be sure that we are setting up for success! First off, if you are reading this you are already on your way because step 1 is being committed to improving. Whether this is the first year of homework or a teen or college student, creating new habits takes consistency and commitment; if this sounds like too much work or not the easy answer you were hoping keep reading, it is still a start!

Timing is key:  Most people with ADHD are pros at putting off things that are more difficult or take longer to complete. You will hear and may have heard almost every excuse, this isn’t about excuses, this is about accomplishment.We work on upfront contracting and positive reinforcement and reward systems. Work with the student to set the intention in advance and then stick to it. Discuss with the student the expectations of homework such as how and when you  will review daily assignments before and after they are completed. Then set a time frame for which they need to be completed by. It has to be specific and it has to fit your household. Try to use events that occur daily rather than a specific time on the clock to ensure the child has a clear understanding of what that timeframe means.

Here is one example: Child arrives home from school and they show you their work from the day and what assignments they have as soon as they walk in the door. They then have 20 minutes for snack and free time. Once the 20 minutes is up all work  must be completed before any extra activities or electronics are used including cell phone, TV and video games.

Dinner is typically not a priority for most children and even teens/adults, it is a necessity, so avoid using the “finish your homework before dinner” because that affects you and the family time not the students needs, wants or desires. Most often this upsets the person making dinner and turns into an argument and dinner time a negotiation rather than much-needed family time.

During the childs snack/free time try to estimate in your mind what they will need help with more than other things and prepare yourself to be an active observer and helper as needed so that they feel both supported and monitored. Let them  know that you are there if they need help with a certain area and if you have something to accomplish discuss that with the student before their snack.

Example: Student has some geography work that you know they typically struggle with and some reading and math that looks like they should handle with minimal guidance and you have dinner to make. “It looks like the countries you have to identify and the geography assignment is something that might be new to you. I have to make dinner, but am happy to work with you on it or be here for questions if you need, would this help? Could we work on that assignment first so then I can get dinner going while you finish up the rest of your work?”

If a child has something going on that you are aware of in the evening, remind them in the morning that because of the event they will have to skip free time and have their snack while they do their homework so that they can still make the special event.Giving them a heads up helps them to prepare rather than meltdown or feel unexpectedly rushed.

We talked about removing electronics before homework is completed, YOU HAVE TO STICK TO THIS! Set up the students space or their launch pad is vital. We will talk more about how to accomplish this in future posts but the key is to stick with it!

If your child is completing homework at after school or a relatives house be sure and still have guidelines set up for when they walk in the door at home. Is there remediation of a particular subject that they should do a few times a week? Be sure you are at least reviewing the work first thing and then coming up with your strategies from there. The more consistent your expectations and behavior the less likely you will have blow ups and missed work. Your child wants to please you and be successful even if they don’t let you know that!

Retrieved from: http://focusmdblog.com/2012/10/18/homework-help-timing-is-vital-setting-yourself-and-your-child-up-for-success/


exercise and adhd…

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Fitness/Health, Neuropsychology, Psychiatry, School Psychology, Special Education on Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 09:43

Exercise May Lead to Better School Performance for Kids with ADHD

ScienceDaily (Oct. 16, 2012)

A few minutes of exercise can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder perform better academically, according to a new study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

The study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, shows for the first time that kids with ADHD can better drown out distractions and focus on a task after a single bout of exercise. Scientists say such “inhibitory control” is the main challenge faced by people with the disorder.

“This provides some very early evidence that exercise might be a tool in our nonpharmaceutical treatment of ADHD,” said Matthew Pontifex, MSU assistant professor of kinesiology, who led the study. “Maybe our first course of action that we would recommend to developmental psychologists would be to increase children’s physical activity.”

While drugs have proven largely effective in treating many of the 2.5 million school-aged American children with ADHD, a growing number of parents and physicians worry about the side effects and costs of medication.

In the study, Pontifex and colleagues asked 40 children aged 8 to 10, half of whom had ADHD, to spend 20 minutes either walking briskly on a treadmill or reading while seated. The children then took a brief reading comprehension and math exam similar to longer standardized tests. They also played a simple computer game in which they had to ignore visual stimuli to quickly determine which direction a cartoon fish was swimming.

The results showed all of the children performed better on both tests after exercising. In the computer game, those with ADHD also were better able to slow down after making an error to avoid repeat mistakes — a particular challenge for those with the disorder.

Pontifex said the findings support calls for more physical activity during the school day. Other researchers have found that children with ADHD are less likely to be physically active or play organized sports. Meanwhile, many schools have cut recess and physical education programs in response to shrinking budgets.

“To date there really isn’t a whole lot of evidence that schools can pull from to justify why these physical education programs should be in existence,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do is target our research to provide that type of evidence.”

Pontifex conducted the study for his doctoral dissertation at the University of Illinois before joining the MSU faculty. His co-investigators included his adviser, kinesiology professor Charles Hillman, and Daniel Picchietti, a pediatrician at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Champaign, Ill. The research was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Michigan State University (2012, October 16). Exercise may lead to better school performance for kids with ADHD. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/10/121016132109.htm

Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121016132109.htm

Homework Help, Timing is Vital: Setting Yourself and Your Child Up For Success!

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 15:52

Homework Help, Timing is Vital: Setting Yourself and Your Child Up For Success!.

a mother’s letter to the principal…

In Education, Education advocacy, School Psychology, Special Education on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 15:47


another piece on teacher evaluations…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Psychology, School reform, Special Education on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 08:25

Seeking Aid, More Districts Change Teacher Evaluations

By: Motoko Rich

LONGMONT, Colo. — In an exercise evoking a corporate motivation seminar, a group of public school teachers and principals clustered around posters scrawled with the titles of Beatles songs. Their assignment: choose the one that captured their feelings about a new performance evaluation system being piloted in their district.

Jessicca Shaffer, a fifth-grade teacher in this suburban community northeast of Boulder, joined the group assembled around “Eight Days a Week.” (Other options: “We Can Work It Out” and “Help!”)

“If we truly had 52 weeks of school a year, we still would not have enough time to do everything we have to do,” Ms. Shaffer said, sounding a common note of exasperation. “I am supersaturated.”

An elementary school literacy coach wondered whether the evaluations would produce anything other than extra paperwork. “Are they going to be giving us true feedback?” she asked. “Or are they just going to be filling out a form?”

The teachers and administrators, who gathered last month in the boardroom of the St. Vrain Valley School District for a daylong training session on evaluating teachers through classroom observations, echoed anxieties that are rippling through faculty lounges across the nation.

Fueled in part by efforts to qualify for the Obama administration’s Race to the Top federal grant program or waivers from the toughest conditions of No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era education law, 36 states and the District of Columbia have introduced new teacher evaluation policies in the past three years, according to the National Center on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. An increasing number of states are directing districts to use these evaluations in decisions about how teachers are granted tenure, promoted or fired.

Proponents say that current performance reviews are superficial and label virtually all teachers “satisfactory.” “When everyone is treated the same, I can’t think of a more demeaning way of treating people,” Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said in a telephone interview. “Far, far too few teachers receive honest feedback on what they’re doing.”

So far, attention has focused mainly on one element of the new evaluation systems, the requirement that districts derive a portion of a teacher’s rating from student performance on standardized tests. Anger over the use of test results exploded during the strike by the Chicago Teachers’ Union last month. But most of the new state policies also include a component based on classroom observations by principals, peers or outside evaluators.

Advocates of the new evaluations, including Secretary Duncan, have repeatedly emphasized the importance of professional reviews including “multiple measures” of performance.

During the St. Vrain seminar, officials from the Colorado Department of Education walked administrators and teachers through a model rubric for classroom observations that the Education Department had developed to guide principals in assessing teachers. At 24 pages, the rubric serves as a checklist of broad ideals, asking whether a teacher “motivates students to make connections to prior learning” or “provides instruction that is developmentally appropriate for all students.”

The new Colorado evaluation system was developed in response to a 2010 bill requiring that all principals, teachers and other licensed school staff be reviewed annually. Half of a teacher’s score is determined by student achievement on a range of tests; the other half is based on an evaluation of “professional practice” — what can be observed in class as well as gleaned from lesson plans and other instructional materials.

Even those who are skeptical about the value of using test scores to rate teachers say that classroom observations, done well, can help teachers improve.

“It can be very powerful and it is more stable and reliable” than measures that look at test scores, said Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University. But, she added, “one of the big challenges we have is to create systems that are manageable, doable and not overwhelming.”

For teachers, the biggest fear is that a poor evaluation could lead to job loss. Under the new Colorado law, teachers can be rated highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective. Starting in the 2014-15 school year, anyone who receives an “ineffective” or “partially effective” rating for two consecutive years will be stripped of the state’s equivalent of tenure status, said Katy Anthes, the executive director of educator effectiveness at the state Education Department. To qualify for tenure, a new teacher must be rated at least “effective” for three consecutive years.

During the St. Vrain training session, officials from the state Education Department sought to tamp down fears that the new evaluations were designed to weed out or shame underperforming teachers. “It is not about a ‘gotcha’ game,” Mike Gradoz, a consultant with the department, told the teachers and principals. “It is about elevating the game so you get better at what you already do.”

To help acquaint the principals and teachers with the state’s rubric, Mr. Gradoz and another trainer walked them through a mock scoring exercise. In one case study, the phantom teacher earned a “partially proficient” rating for failing to establish a “safe, inclusive and respectful learning environment” and showing weak evidence of lesson planning.

Mr. Gradoz asked the group how they would respond to such a rating. Joe Mehsling, a veteran principal, got right to the point. “If it is a rookie, there is hope,” he said. “If it is a veteran, time to start counseling out.”

During a break, Mr. Mehsling said the new system — and the mandated consequences — would indeed make it easier for principals to fire low-performing teachers. “The elephant in the room that we are dancing around is the fact that public education has not done a good job on our own dismissing ineffective teachers,” Mr. Mehsling said.

But, he added, such teachers represented only 1 or 2 percent of those in classrooms. The new systems, he said, could subject the best teachers to onerous observation and bureaucracy so that principals could justify firing a few bad eggs. “It is taking a sledgehammer where an ice pick would have been effective,” he said.

Still, Mr. Mehsling said the new evaluation systems could result in more objective reviews. “I think it is going to be more work,” he said. “But I think it is going to be more meaningful.”

In that, he was joined by many principals and teachers at the training session.

“The current system has no rubric so it is harder to know what you are checking for,” said Janis Hughes, a principal who attended the training.

The following day, Ms. Hughes, who has been the principal for more than a decade at Burlington Elementary, a diverse neighborhood school where about 41 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, dropped by to observe Brian Huey, a fourth-grade teacher.

Mr. Huey, who shaves his head and wears a tiny silver hoop in each ear, began by asking the children to define the word of the day: “disposition.”

Quietly segueing into a math lesson, he wrote a multiplication word problem on a whiteboard. The students worked independently, and then Mr. Huey helped guide them through several strategies that would help them arrive at the right answer.

Next the class gathered on the rug for a review of geometry concepts. “What are the dimensions of that rectangle?” Mr. Huey asked one boy.

The boy paused. A girl who had piped up several times during the lesson was eager to showcase her knowledge again. “It is also known as a perimeter!” she blurted.

“Let’s not cheat his thinking,” Mr. Huey said gently.

Ms. Hughes, watching from the back of the room, noticed. “He engaged Janelle but did it in a respectful, nice way,” she said. “But it also let her know she can’t dominate the conversation.”

Such observations, Ms. Hughes said, would easily fit into the state’s model rubric. (Page 10: The teacher “ensures that all students participate with a high level of frequency.”)

In general, Mr. Huey said, “when I looked over what the criteria are, they sound fair.”

“It’s just good teaching,” he added.

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/education/seeking-aid-more-districts-change-teacher-evaluations.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fnational%2Findex.jsonp&_r=0&pagewanted=all


Raising a Child with Special Needs…the Psychic Toll on Families

In School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 08:36

The Psychic Toll Paid in a Special Needs House

Ron Leiber

October 12, 2012

Most people caring for a family member with special needs eventually assemble a financial checklist of sorts.

They put together a team of health, legal and financial experts who understand their family member’s condition. Then comes the estate plan and making sure they understand the eligibility rules for any state or federal benefits.

Checking these items off, however, as I did in a column last week, often proves to be the easier part of special needs planning. The harder part springs from two challenges that are ultimately rooted in emotion and behavior. It’s the psychological side, after all, that often plays a big role in just about every major financial decision.

The first is the question of where a special needs child or sibling should live. The second is not letting the stress of managing the affairs of a special needs family member contribute to the end of a marriage or other long-term romantic partnership.

When Alice Walther’s son was small and experiencing developmental delays, she and her husband took him to a major children’s hospital in the St. Louis area. A top doctor there told them that he was severely retarded. “He said to put him in a home, that it will ruin your family,” she recalled.

Her son Sean is now 43 and he never left his family’s home. He works part time at a library and pursues his passion for golf in his spare time, watching tournaments on television and maintaining a collection of scorecards from all over the world that is so large it takes up three bookshelves.

“He’s gotten so used to his own room and his own bathroom that he wouldn’t fit into a group home, quite honestly,” Ms. Walther said.

Mary Anne Ehlert, a financial planner in Lincolnshire, Ill., who specializes in advising people with family members who have special needs, has heard versions of this before. Her own late sister, who had cerebral palsy, lived with her parents as an adult before her parents finally decided to have her move out.

“You want to keep them totally in a bubble,” she said. “But it’s not in their best interest, and it’s not what they want. The problem is, if the parents die, then what?”

Ms. Walther’s other son Michael, a financial planner himself, has thought through every angle of his younger brother’s situation. He sees things as Ms. Ehlert does and thinks his brother should move out of his parents’ home sooner rather than later.

“Change is not something he does well with,” he said. “If we were to introduce it at the same time as the loss of a parent, that’s going to be an awful lot to swallow. ”Their parents have a plan for this. “The minute one of us goes, the two who are left will move into assisted living,” Ms. Walther said. Meanwhile, they’re building a financial war chest for that moment, in part by living in the same house they have been in for 45 years.

Once Sean’s other parent dies or is close to death, Mike plans to move his brother to the Chicago area where he lives. He’s made peace, more or less, with his parents’ decision about where Sean will do best in the meantime. “They’re going to win this argument while they’re alive,” he said. “And I’m going to win it when they’re dead.”

The elder Walthers will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary next month, but not every couple is so lucky. Just how many couples never make it that long while caring for a family member with special needs is a bit uncertain, though. Families I’ve spoken to in the last two weeks have repeated a statistic that about 75 percent of parents with a special needs child end up getting divorced or splitting up.

There does not seem to be any data backing this up, but it’s clear why people may fear the financial consequences of a divorce in a family that is caring for a child or live-in relative with special needs.

Christopher Currin, a financial planner in Dallas who has an 18-year-old son with Down syndrome, knows of a family that ended up paying for three residences after a divorce. One is for the mother, one for the father and one is the house they used to share. They didn’t think their child with special needs could easily move back and forth from one residence to another, so the parents trade off moving back in.

Mr. Currin’s marriage is intact, but as someone who has counseled many families with special needs relatives, he understands why many partnerships do not. “One person in a couple with a child whose disability was unexpected may have difficulty accepting it,” he said. “A deeper wellspring of love may open up in one of them, while the other goes to that well and finds it empty.”

Some people also turn to a higher power when faced with a different sort of parenting challenge. “It can reinforce or cause someone to rediscover religious feelings,” he said. “But others might be cast into doubt that can lead to losing faith.”

The one advantage to frightening, if exaggerated, divorce data is that it might nudge people into some preventive marriage counseling. Or if not that, the persistent, low-grade fear of a failed partnership may at least encourage people to invest in some quality time as a couple.

Mr. Currin said he was particularly grateful for the respite programs that Methodist churches in his area have offered over the years. There, special needs children and their siblings can spend an evening with others like them while their parents get a few hours alone.

“We don’t ever use the D word,” said Matt Syverson, a financial planner in Overland Park, Kan. He and his wife have twins and a younger daughter, Lily, who has Down syndrome. “We don’t ever need to go there. We make the best with what we’ve been dealt, and with God’s help we keep getting through it.”

In fact, now that Lily is in kindergarten, the Syversons have decided to add another child to their family. In the spring, they hope to adopt a boy they’ve named Levi and bring him home from China. He has a severe heart ailment, and once he’s moved in, they will cross their fingers when the time comes for the surgery that will give him the best chance at a long life.

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/13/your-money/the-psychic-toll-paid-in-a-special-needs-house.html?smid=li-share&_r=0

Occurrence and Family Impact of Elopement in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, School Psychology, Special Education on Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 11:58

Running Away Common with Autism

By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Oct 08 – Almost half of children with autism in a new study had run away at least once – and many of them were missing long enough to cause concern.

Researchers found that kids most often wandered off from their home, school or a store, and some tried to run away multiple times a day.

But rather than being confused about where they were, kids typically left to find a place they enjoyed, to explore or to avoid an anxious or uncomfortable situation, based on their parents’ reports.

“It’s rooted in the very nature of autism itself,” said Dr. Paul Law, who worked on the study.

“Kids don’t have the social skills to check in with their parents, and to have that communication and social bond that most children have when they’re approaching a road or at a park.”

Dr. Law directs the Interactive Autism Network Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. With funding from a number of autism research and advocacy groups, he and his colleagues used their registry to survey the parents of 1,218 kids with an autism spectrum disorder.

Of those kids, 598 – or 49% – had tried to run away at least once, their parents reported. And 316 were missing long enough to cause concern – an average of more than 40 minutes.

In comparison, the same parents reported 13% of their non-autistic children had ever wandered off after age four.

Most of the kids with autism who went missing were in danger of getting hit by cars, and others could have drowned. Police had to be called for one-third of missing children.

“Amongst the families we did interview, there were many reports of injuries, close calls with drowning (and) close calls with traffic accidents,” Dr. Law told Reuters Health.

“There’s an enormous burden that all families are undergoing to keep their families safe. The amount of diligence, and not going out in public, and staying up late at night… just the general anxiety that families live under because of concerns with this is just torturous.”

Children with more severe autism were more likely to have bolted, according to findings published Monday in Pediatrics.

Autism researcher Russell Lang from Texas State University-San Marcos said the prevalence of running away or “eloping” in children with autism “absolutely surprised” him.

“It’s a very dangerous behavior, and it’s a little bit deceptive because it can seem somewhat benign compared to other challenging behaviors,” Lang, who wasn’t involved in the new study, told Reuters Health.

Those other “challenging behaviors” common in kids with autism include self-injury and property destruction, he said. They often get lumped together with running away, which is why researchers haven’t had a good estimate of the prevalence of elopement until now.

The new study couldn’t estimate how many children with autism die every year due to running away and getting into danger, the researchers said.

“This is not simply a case of parents being remiss in some way regarding their supervision of their children,” Lang said. “The child with autism doesn’t realize what danger they’re putting themselves in. They have a propensity to elope, it seems, regardless of parental care.”

He said therapy that rewards kids for not wandering off may help prevent them from disappearing in the future.

Dr. Law advises parents to reach out to advocacy groups to learn about safe locks for their doors and tracking devices for kids. And emergency responders can be better prepared for getting the call when a child with autism goes missing.

Still, he added, “we haven’t totally come to consensus on what some of the best practices are” to prevent running away.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/RLrO7s

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/772243?src=nl_topic

Occurrence and Family Impact of Elopement in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Connie Anderson, PhDaJ. Kiely Law, MDa,bAmy Daniels, PhDa,c Catherine Rice, PhDdDavid S. Mandell, ScDeLouis Hagopian, PhDa,b, and Paul A. Law, MD, MPHa,b


OBJECTIVES: Anecdotal reports suggest that elopement behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) increases risk of injury or death and places a major burden on families. This study assessed parent-reported elopement occurrence and associated factors among children with ASDs.

METHODS: Information on elopement frequency, associated characteristics, and consequences was collected via an online questionnaire. The study sample included 1218 children with ASD and 1076 of their siblings without ASD. The association among family sociodemographic and child clinical characteristics and time to first elopement was estimated by using a Cox proportional hazards model.

RESULTS: Forty-nine percent (n = 598) of survey respondents reported their child with an ASD had attempted to elope at least once after age 4 years; 26% (n = 316) were missing long enough to cause concern. Of those who went missing, 24% were in danger of drowning and 65% were in danger of traffic injury. Elopement risk was associated with autism severity, increasing, on average, 9% for every 10-point increase in Social Responsiveness Scale T score (relative risk 1.09, 95% confidence interval: 1.02, 1.16). Unaffected siblings had significantly lower rates of elopement across all ages compared with children with ASD.

CONCLUSIONS: Nearly half of children with ASD were reported to engage in elopement behavior, with a substantial number at risk for bodily harm. These results highlight the urgent need to develop interventions to reduce the risk of elopement, to support families coping with this issue, and to train child care professionals, educators, and first responders who are often involved when elopements occur.

Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/02/peds.2012-0762.abstract


Special Ed complaints to Office of Civil Rights reach new heights

In Education, Education advocacy, School Psychology, School reform, Special Education on Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 08:49

Special Ed complaints to Office of Civil Rights reach new heights

OCTOBER 7, 2012


The federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR)has just released a new report, Disability Rights Enforcement Highlights, and it reveals among other interesting findings that during the three year period from 2009-2011, it received more disability complaints than during any other three year period in its history. During this time, OCR received over 11,700 disability complaints, which comprised 55% of the total overall complaints received. The other 45% of the claims received were related to other areas of OCR enforcement in areas such as national origin, race, age, and sex.

Based on the report, it is clear that the vast majority of disability complaints were in the area of FAPE, Free and Appropriate Public Education. FAPE questions concern whether a district has offered a special needs child an educational program from which the student can obtain at least some minimal benefit. If not, the student has been denied FAPE. Of the 11,700 disability complains, 4678 were devoted to FAPE questions, or roughly 40%. Other high complaint areas were exclusion, retaliation, and academic adjustment. During this three year span, the OCR launched 15 FAPE related investigations of its own.

Another important function that OCR noted it played over this same time span was protecting the educational rights of “wounded warriors.,” our nation’s soldiers who have returned home from battle with permanent injuries that qualify them for educational protection. OCR noted that often these former soldiers are not familiar with the educational protections provided for them under federal law.

Similarly, educational institutions are not uniformly prepared to serve an influx of veterans with combat-related disabilities such as Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. OCR’s technical assistance has informed veterans, educators and service providers from institutions such as the Veterans Administration about how the protections afforded to post-secondary students with disabilities apply to those returning from war.

Here are examples of some of the investigations based on complaints received by OCR.

Academic Adjustment: An HIV positive student alleged that his college discriminated against him by dismissing him from its medical office technology program. One of the required classes for it mandated that the students draw blood from one another, and the school dropped the young man due to safety concerns. In order to resolve the complaint, the school agreed to re-enroll the student, consider the student’s request for the academic adjustment of not having other students draw his blood, and provide the college’s staff with training on the necessity of providing academic adjustments to disabled students.

FAPE: OCR facilitated Early Complaint Resolution where parents alleged that a school district had not faithfully implemented their child’s IEP (individualized educational program) who qualified for services due to a mood disorder. Based on these efforts, the district agreed to schedule an IEP to discuss the parent’s concerns and to provide notice to the teachers of the requirement that they implement the IEP.

Harassment: Parents filed a complaint based on harassment they alleged their student had received due to a disability related body odor issue. The child had been previously diagnosed due to Fragile X Syndrome, ADD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Tourette’s Syndrome. The complaint alleged that based on the body odor issue, the student had been detained by school staff who made her take a shower prior to attending class, had staff spray air freshener on her in front of other students, and be sent home prior to the end of the day due to her body odor. After OCR facilitated Early Complaint Resolution, the school district agreed to train staff regarding the student’s disabilities, enroll the student in its Senior Life Skills course, offer weekly social work services, and assist the student in finding community employment.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/special-ed-complaints-to-office-of-civil-rights-reach-new-heights

this is not very awesome…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform, Special Education on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 15:32

this isn’t any good for anyone…




Background TV…when you’re not even actively watching.

In Education, School Psychology, Special Education, Uncategorized on Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 07:22

U.S. kids exposed to 4 hours of background TV daily

By Michelle Healy

A number of studies have found evidence that too much television is bad for children’s development, even when it’s playing in the background and kids are not watching. Now a study has tracked just how much background TV kids get and it’s a lot — 232.2 minutes or nearly 4 hours worth every day.

The average amount is even greater among some, especially children who are younger, African-American or from the poorest families, finds the study in today’sPediatrics.

The nearly four hours of background TV exposure “easily dwarfs” the 80 minutes of active TV viewing the average child in this age group absorbs daily, says the study.

“You’re looking at three times the amount, which is enormous,” says Matthew Lapierre, one of the study authors, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “It’s really kind of shocking,” he says.

The study was presented in May at a meeting of the International Communication Association. It was conducted using a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,454 parents with at least one child between the ages of 8 months and 8 years old.

Among questions that parents were asked: how often their TV was on when no one was watching; whether their child had a TV in their bedroom and the number of TVs in the home.

It found that in addition to actual TV viewing, children under age 2 and African-American children were exposed to an average of 5.5 hours a day of a TV playing in the background; children from the poorest families were exposed to nearly 6 hours per day.

The finding among African-Americans “wasn’t unexpected,” says Lapierre noting that statistically, their households “are often found to be more TV-centric,” compared with other groups, with more TVs per household and more of those TVs in bedrooms.

He suspects that the high rate of background TV among very young children may have to do with parents and caregivers leaving the television on, even when they’re not actively watching, to “break up the monotony” of being with an infant or toddler for long stretches of the day.

The study notes that background television exposure has been “linked to lower sustained attention during playtime, lower quality parent-child interactions, and reduced performance on cognitive tasks.”

Heather Kirkorian, an assistant professor of human development and family studies a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has published studies on background television’s impact on both parent-child interaction and children’s play patterns, says “until now we could only guess at the extent of the impact in children’s day-to-day lives.” The new study “documents just how great the real-world impact may be, particularly for very young children.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under age 2 not be exposed to any television.

To reduce background TV exposure, the study recommends turning off the TV when no one is watching and at key points during a child’s day, such as bedtime and mealtime.

Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/01/background-tv-viewing-pediatrics/1599995/

television exposure and kids

In School Psychology, Special Education on Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 05:57

U.S. kids exposed to 4 hours of background TV daily

By Michelle Healy

A number of studies have found evidence that too much television is bad for children’s development, even when it’s playing in the background and kids are not watching. Now a study has tracked just how much background TV kids get and it’s a lot — 232.2 minutes or nearly 4 hours worth every day.

The average amount is even greater among some, especially children who are younger, African-American or from the poorest families, finds the study in today’s Pediatrics.

The nearly four hours of background TV exposure “easily dwarfs” the 80 minutes of active TV viewing the average child in this age group absorbs daily, says the study.

“You’re looking at three times the amount, which is enormous,” says Matthew Lapierre, one of the study authors, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “It’s really kind of shocking,” he says.

The study was presented in May at a meeting of the International Communication Association. It was conducted using a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,454 parents with at least one child between the ages of 8 months and 8 years old.

Among questions that parents were asked: how often their TV was on when no one was watching; whether their child had a TV in their bedroom and the number of TVs in the home.

It found that in addition to actual TV viewing, children under age 2 and African-American children were exposed to an average of 5.5 hours a day of a TV playing in the background; children from the poorest families were exposed to nearly 6 hours per day.

The finding among African-Americans “wasn’t unexpected,” says Lapierre noting that statistically, their households “are often found to be more TV-centric,” compared with other groups, with more TVs per household and more of those TVs in bedrooms.

He suspects that the high rate of background TV among very young children may have to do with parents and caregivers leaving the television on, even when they’re not actively watching, to “break up the monotony” of being with an infant or toddler for long stretches of the day.

The study notes that background television exposure has been “linked to lower sustained attention during playtime, lower quality parent-child interactions, and reduced performance on cognitive tasks.”

Heather Kirkorian, an assistant professor of human development and family studies a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has published studies on background television’s impact on both parent-child interaction and children’s play patterns, says “until now we could only guess at the extent of the impact in children’s day-to-day lives.” The new study “documents just how great the real-world impact may be, particularly for very young children.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under age 2 not be exposed to any television.

To reduce background TV exposure, the study recommends turning off the TV when no one is watching and at key points during a child’s day, such as bedtime and mealtime.

Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/01/background-tv-viewing-pediatrics/1599995/


Schools and ADHD…an “F” grade

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 07:25

How schools (even great ones) fail kids with ADHD

By Valerie Strauss

 There’s a group of students struggling through school rd to navigate that gets little attention in the media or in the debate about how to fix schools: Children with ADHD.

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a brain condition that makes it especially hard for children to focus and concentrate in school and has a number ofother symptoms. It is too often misunderstood by teachers, parents and even the students themselves. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age, had been diagnosed with ADHD, as of 2007. Many others who have the disorder haven’t had the benefit of a diagnosis.

Here is a powerful post by David Bernstein, a nonprofit executive who lives in Gaithersburg, Md., writing about the difficulties that his two sons, ages 7 and 15, have confronted in school as a result of ADHD.

By David Bernstein

When I was in fourth grade in the mid-1970s, my teacher pronounced that I was going to be an artist. The truth was that she didn’t think I had any academic talent to speak of. I was an “ADHD” boy who couldn’t follow directions, figure out what page we were on in the book, or turn my work in on time. With a severely limited understanding of the mind, the teacher simultaneously overestimated my artistic talent and underestimated my intellectual gifts.

School, particularly elementary school, was not for boys like me. And, 25 years later, even the very best schools have only changed slightly.
Like so many others who deviated from the norm, I learned much more from exploring my passions than I ever did from a structured school setting. With the help of numerous mentors, I taught myself how to write op-eds, lead teams, speak, and advocate. I actually cared about ideas, not primarily because of school, but despite it.  The Washington area, alive with political discourse, was the perfect place to give expression to my passions, and I moved here in my early twenties to take a job in the world of advocacy.

Now I have two boys of my own, neither of whom possesses a normative learning style. My teenage son goes to what is widely considered an excellent private school in the area with numerous wonderful, committed teachers. But like nearly every other educational institution in America, it’s built on an outmoded educational model.

Ironically, I first began to question the current model of education when the headmaster of my son’s school showed a video clip at a graduation ceremony of creativity guru Ken Robinson discussing how education kills creativity. Robinson maintains that we are using a model of education left over from the industrial revolution, where schools are organized along factory lines, complete with ringing bells and separate facilities.  “We educate kids in batches, as if the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture,” he states in another video on the topic.

Influenced by Robinson, best-selling author Seth Godin recently published a manifesto , “Stop Stealing Dreams,” on the need for radical education reform. He lays out the need for a post-industrial educational model that caters to diverse learning styles, passion for ideas and what individual students really care about. In such a school, teachers are coaches who help students in a journey of self-discovery. Students have a great deal of choice to determine what they study and how they study it, in stark contrast to the one-size-fits-all system of today.

Your child is right that he or she will never use trigonometry (unless so inclined). Exposing them to variety is one thing, but forcing the same subject for 13 years is another. In the modern marketplace, depth is just as important, if not more so, than breadth. Schools are all about breadth.

In today’s schools, the “good” students end up conforming, diminishing their own prospects for greatness, and the rest end up in an excruciating battle with themselves, their parents (trust me on this), their teachers and the endless tutors. My job as a parent, I’m reminded over and over again by the school, is to enforce the absurdity of the current system — make them turn everything in on time — which I do faithfully because there seems to be no other choice.

My youngest child, a rising second grader, rambunctious and restless as any you’ll find, has “fallen behind” in reading. He is “not sufficiently available for learning,” we are told. The teachers and guidance counselors, loving and well-meaning though they are, insist on ADHD meds so he can amp up his reading and catch up with his classmates. He’s a creative, bright, independent child, who will, there’s not a doubt in my mind, learn to read well and become highly successful. But he’s just not on their timetable for reading.

We are forced, in the words of Ken Robinson, to “anesthetize” him so he can function in today’s antiquated classroom setting. The Ritalin will do nothing to make him a more successful human being, a better thinker, or a more productive member of society. It will simply help him keep up with the masses and potentially drain him of some of his creative juices. By forcing him and so many other children like him to take thesepowerful drugs , schools deprive the future economy and society of precisely the creative talent they will need the most.

Greg Selkoe, the 36-year-old CEO of Karmaloop, a growing hipster media company with revenue of more than $130 Million a year, stated in a recent interview in Inc.: “I was diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school and actually got kicked out of several schools before landing in one for kids with learning issues. What made me not do well in school has actually been very beneficial in business, because I can focus on something very intensely for a short while and then move on to the next thing.”

Yet today’s schools insist that we prescribe our kids drugs to rid them of their hyper-focus.

I’ve talked with a number of educators, who see the writing on the wall for the current education system. They know that the economic reality of the day demands that schools change. But they also know that college-obsessed parents would balk at such changes, fearful that it might detract from their kids’ chances to go to the best college possible.
It will take monumental leadership to change the current educational mindset and model. In the meantime, my kids will struggle through school, battered along the way, and, like their father, be forced to discover most of their talents and passions on their own, outside of school.

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/how-schools-even-great-ones-fail-kids-with-adhd/2012/09/23/8e81c83c-f828-11e1-8253-3f495ae70650_blog.html

Tensions and Pitfalls in Teacher Evaluation Policies

In Education, Pedagogy, Special Education on Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 04:40

Getting Honest About the Tensions and Pitfalls in Teacher Evaluation Policies

By Sara Mead on September 26, 2012 10:48 AM

Today the American Enterprise Institute is releasing a new paper that I wrote with my colleagues Andrew Rotherham and Rachael Brown looking at some of the tensions in the current policy shift towards new teacher evaluation systems–and advising policymakers on how to avoid some potential pitfalls implicit in those tensions.

Obviously, Andy, Rachael and I are no foes of the move towards new systems of teacher evaluation: We believe the previous system–which ignored student learning completely, failed to recognize excellence or give teachers meaningful feedback to improve, and rated 99+% of teachers satisfactory or better–was clearly a broken one. We also believe that new evaluation systems, when done well, have the potential not only to identify ineffective teachers who would be better suited to other careers, but also to give due credit to excellent teachers who should be rewarded and retained, and to help all teachers improve their performance.

But we’re also very cognizant of the pitfalls here. In the rush to gain public and political support for new evaluation systems, proponents of these systems have too often over-promised or ignored real limitations, tensions, and trade-offs in both the design of these systems and the technologies (including value-added metrics, data systems, and observational rubrics) that underlie them. As Iwrote recently, there’s a temptation among some reformers to treat value-added measures and evaluation systems as a sort of “magical black box” that, if we just use it, will tell us the real, honest truth about teacher performance. But the reality is a lot more complicated than that. And in failing to acknowledge that, reformers run the risk of jeopardizing the sustainability and success of the very systems they seek to promote. We need to move forward with new teacher evaluation systems–but we need to do so with humility, the recognition that no one knows all the answers, and plenty of room for flexibility and revision over time as we learn from the successes and challenges of various models.

Andy, Rachael, and I outline four key tensions that have been overlooked in current debates over teacher evaluation: 1) Tensions between centralized control and flexibility, 2) Tensions about the role of teacher evaluation in an evolving overall ecosystem where an increasing number of teachers cannot be directly linked to the test scores of a specific group of students in a specific subject, 3) Tensions about how to prioritize different purposes (accountability, personnel decisions, professional development) for which evaluation results may be used, and 4) Tensions about what it really means to evaluate teachers as professionals. We also offer recommendations for policymakers seeking to negotiate and balance these tensions in evolving teacher evaluation systems. Check out the whole thing here.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/sarameads_policy_notebook/2012/09/avoiding_a_teacher_evaluation_hangover.html?print=1

The hangover: Thinking about the unintended consequences of the nation’s teacher evaluation binge

Sara Mead, Andrew J. Rotherham, Rachael Brown | American Enterprise Institute

September 26, 2012

Over the past three years, more than twenty US states have passed legislation establishing new teacher evaluation requirements and systems, and even more have committed to do so in Race to the Top or Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility Waiver applications. These new evaluation systems have real potential to foster a more performance-oriented public education culture that gives teachers meaningful feedback about the quality and impact of their work. But there are pitfalls in states’ rush to legislate new systems, and there are real tensions and trade-offs in their design.

Unfortunately, much of the current policy debate has been framed in stark ideological terms that leave little room for adult discussion of these tensions. This paper seeks to move the debate beyond ideology and technical issues by highlighting four key tensions that policymakers, advocates, and educators must consider in the development of new teacher evaluations:

  • Flexibility versus control: There is a temptation to prescribe and legislate details of evaluations to ensure rigor and prevent evaluations from being watered down in implementation. But overly prescriptive policies may also limit school autonomy and stifle innovation that could lead to the development of better evaluations.
  • Evaluation in an evolving system: Poorly designed evaluation requirements could pose an obstacle to blended learning and other innovative models in which it is difficult or impossible to attribute student learning gains in a particular subject to a particular teacher.
  • Purposes of evaluations: New evaluation systems have been sold as a way both to identify and dismiss underperforming teachers and to provide all teachers with useful feedback to help them improve their performance. But there are strong tensions between these purposes that create trade-offs in evaluation system design.
  • Evaluating teachers as professionals: Advocates argue that holding teachers responsible for their performance will bring teaching more in line with norms in other fields, but most professional fields rely on a combination of data and managerial judgment when making evaluation and personnel decisions, and subsequently hold managers accountable for those decisions, rather than trying to eliminate subjective judgments as some new teacher evaluation systems seek to do.

Recognizing these tensions and trade-offs, this paper offers several policy recommendations:

  • Be clear about the problems new evaluation systems are intended to solve.
  • Do not mistake processes and systems as substitutes for cultural change.
  • Look at the entire education ecosystem, including broader labor-market impacts, pre- and in-service preparation, standards and assessments, charter schools, and growth of early childhood education and innovative school models.
  • Focus on improvement, not just deselection.
  • Encourage and respect innovation.
  • Think carefully about waivers versus umbrellas.
  • Do not expect legislation to do regulation’s job.
  • Create innovation zones for pilots—and fund them.

Retrieved from: http://www.aei.org/papers/education/k-12/teacher-policies/the-hangover-thinking-about-the-unintended-consequences-of-the-nations-teacher-evaluation-binge/


Cyberbullying in the schools

In Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 at 06:19

in this age of computers, smartphones, twitter, facebook, etc., it has become increasingly easier and easier to ‘broadcast’ anything, even massive negativity.  i have seen an uprising in the amount of cyberbullying by students to other students year after year.  i have many examples, and will share one from my middle school.  we had a child with asperger’s who ‘liked’ a girl.  while in the cafeteria, some girls convinced him that he should “ask her out.”  now, the girl he liked was in on the joke.  so, he walked up to the girl in the cafeteria and did what they told him…asked her out.  she pretended to be flattered and accepted.  well, my student got very excited and started “flapping” and very obviously (and in his very asperger’s way) showed his excitement.  as you can imagine, this boy, who didn’t really get attention from his peers, and especially girls, put on a bit of a ‘show.’  that night, the while episode was on youtube.  all i can be thankful for is that my student did not know of it.  but…when trying to find some disciplinary action to take via the school system and anti-bullying, we could not as the incident happened at home (via their home computers) and not at school.  while we did call the parents and have it removed, that was about all we could do.  and this is a MILD story.  i have so many more in which the student being cyberbullied DID know what was being posted/written and there was little we could do about it.  kids who send sexually explicit photos to others, kids who post death threats to other kids, kids who arrange bullying ‘events’ via social media and get others involved…the list goes on and on. 

on another note, i have also had teacher friends of mine videoed in class, then the videos were carefully edited for maximum effect and posted on youtube. 

as a side note, our district does have some leeway now to deal with cyberbullying, but in my opinion, it is not enough.

so, the following article holds promise for cyberbullying.


Teachers Fight Online Slams

Amid Free-Speech Concerns, Law Targets Comments That ‘Torment’ Faculty


After years spent trying to shield students from online bullying by their peers, schools are beginning to crack down on Internet postings that disparage teachers.

Schools elsewhere in the U.S. have punished the occasional tweeter who hurls an insult at a teacher, but North Carolina has taken it a step further, making it a crime for students to post statements via the Internet that “intimidate or torment” faculty. Students convicted under the law could be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished with fines of as much as $1,000 and/or probation.

The move is one of the most aggressive yet by states to police students’ online activities. While officials have long had the ability to regulate student speech at school, the threat of cyberbullying teachers, which typically occurs off-campus, has prompted efforts to restrain students’ use of the Internet on their own time.

Judy Kidd, a Charlotte, N.C., teacher said teachers needed a law for ‘protection’ from online comments.

School officials in North Carolina and elsewhere say the moves are necessary to protect teachers in an age when comments posted online—sometimes by students pretending to be the teachers they are mocking—can spread quickly and damage reputations.

The North Carolina law makes it a crime for a student to “build a fake profile or web site” with the “intent to intimidate or torment a school employee.”

Critics, however, argue the law risks trampling on mere venting and other less inflammatory forms of expression.

“Our concern is that we don’t throw the First Amendment out the window in our haste to get the kid who is calling the principal bad names on Facebook,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va., a national group that advocates for students’ free-speech rights.

Traditional issues of free speech on public-school grounds are largely settled, thanks to a 1969 Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines. That ruling held that students’ First Amendment rights are generally protected on campus, but that administrators can punish them for speech on school grounds when they can clearly show it caused significant disruption to school activities or violated others’ rights.

But while past off-campus insults about a school employee were largely undetected and unpunished, cyberinsults are digitally preserved and on display for many to see.

The wide use of social media, particular among teens, makes such platforms the go-to place for such incendiary comments.

While nearly every U.S. state has now passed measures to curb student-on-student cyberbullying, North Carolina is apparently the first to pass a law aimed at students bullying teachers online.

Courts have been mixed on the issue. Last year, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in two separate decisions, said two schools, both in Pennsylvania, had encroached on students’ free-speech rights by punishing them for creating social media profiles mocking their school principals. The court held that the students’ parodies, which were created off-campus, didn’t significantly disrupt the schools.

School Rules

Under a new law, North Carolina students face a fine of as much as $1,000 and/or probation if they:

  • Build a fake profile of…
  • Post a real or fake image of…
  • Post information about…
  • Or repeatedly contact…

…school employees, including teachers

In one case, Justin Layshock, a high-school student, mocked his principal in a Myspace profile parody, writing, among other things, that the principal was “too drunk to remember” his own birthday. In the other case, a middle-school student identified in court documents only by initials J.S. created a Myspace page to make fun of her school principal. using his photo and including among his general interests: “hitting on students and their parents.”

Yet in a separate case in Connecticut last year, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found administrators were within the law when they disciplined Avery Doninger, a high-school student, for posting a message to her blog encouraging people to call school officials a profanity in order to protest the school’s “jamfest” being canceled.

Even though Ms. Doninger wrote the post off campus, the court held that it created a substantial disturbance at school to warrant a punishment. Mr. Layshock and Ms. Doninger, whose cases garnered national attention, have gone on to graduate from college, attorneys for them said.

In the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down opportunities to hear those three cases, as well as a fourth about student speech, which might have brought some clarity. In the fourth case, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found it permissible for administrators in West Virginia to suspend a student who had created a Myspace page ridiculing another student.

The Classroom Teachers Association of North Carolina l based in Charlotte, lobbied for the teacher-bullying provisions to be included in the state’s School Violence Prevention Act of 2012 after fielding complaints about students using social media sites and email to make false accusations about school employees, said Judy Kidd, the group’s president. In one case Ms. Kidd cited, a sixth-grader sent sexually explicit emails about a teacher to other students. In another, a high-school student posted false allegations on Facebook that an instructor for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps had groped her while fitting her for a uniform.

“It became apparent that we had to get some kind of protection,” said Ms. Kidd, a high-school science teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Some free-speech advocates say the North Carolina law gives administrators wide latitude to go after students and possibly infringe on free speech. They say the law, which was passed in July, could be enforced against students who are making truthful statements or posting undoctored photos of staff.

Thomas Wheeler, an Indiana lawyer who represents school districts, said he hoped a case will be heard by the Supreme Court and result in clear guidance from the justices on how far schools can go to police what students say online and on social media sites. “The times have changed and we are trying to get caught up,” he said.

Write to Steve Eder at steve.eder@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared September 18, 2012, on page A3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Teachers Fight Online Slam.

Retrieved from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443779404577644032386310506.html?KEYWORDS=student+online+postings&goback=.gde_159675_member_165295745

Seclusion and Restraint in the Public Schools

In Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 08:20
September 8, 2012
A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children
By: Bill Lichenstein
Editors’ note appended
IN my public school 40 years ago, teachers didn’t lay their hands on students for bad behavior. They sent them to the principal’s office. But in today’s often overcrowded and underfunded schools, where one in eight students receive help for special learning needs, the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms has become a common way to maintain order.It’s a dangerous development, as I know from my daughter’s experience. At the age of 5, she was kept in a seclusion room for up to an hour at a time over the course of three months, until we discovered what was happening. The trauma was severe.According to national Department of Education data, most of the nearly 40,000 students who were restrained or isolated in seclusion rooms during the 2009-10 school year had learning, behavioral, physical or developmental needs, even though students with those issues represented just 12 percent of the student population. African-American and Hispanic students were also disproportionately isolated or restrained.Joseph Ryan, an expert on the use of restraints who teaches at Clemson University, told me that the practice of isolating and restraining problematic children originated in schools for children with special needs. It migrated to public schools in the 1970s as federal laws mainstreamed special education students, but without the necessary oversight or staff training. “It’s a quick way to respond but it’s not effective in changing behaviors,” he said.State laws on disciplining students vary widely, and there are no federal laws restricting these practices, although earlier this year Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote, in a federal guide for schools, that there was “no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective.” He recommended evidence-based behavioral interventions and de-escalation techniques instead.

The use of restraints and seclusion has become far more routine than it should be. “They’re the last resort too often being used as the first resort,” said Jessica Butler, a lawyer in Washington who has written about seclusion in public schools.

Among the recent instances that have attracted attention: Children in Middletown, Conn., told their parents that there was a “scream room” in their school where they could hear other children who had been locked away; last December, Sandra Baker of Harrodsburg, Ky., found her fourth-grade son, Christopher, who had misbehaved, stuffed inside a duffel bag, its drawstrings pulled tight, and left outside his classroom. He was “thrown in the hall like trash,” she told me. And in April, Corey Foster, a 16-year-old with learning disabilities, died on a school basketball court in Yonkers, N.Y., as four staff members restrained him following a confrontation during a game. The medical examiner ruled early last month that the death was from cardiac arrest resulting from the student’s having an enlarged heart, and no charges were filed.

I saw firsthand the impact of these practices six years ago when my daughter, Rose, started kindergarten in Lexington, Mass. Rose had speech and language delays. Although she sometimes became overwhelmed more quickly than other children, she was called “a model of age-appropriate behavior” by her preschool. One evaluation said Rose was “happy, loves school, is social.” She could, however, “get fidgety and restless when she is unsure as to what is expected of her. When comfortable, Rose is a very participatory and appropriate class member with a great deal to contribute to her world.”

Once in kindergarten, Rose began throwing violent tantrums at home. She repeatedly watched a scene from the film “Finding Nemo” in which a shark batters its way into a tiny room, attempting to eat the main characters. The school provided no explanation or solution. Finally, on Jan. 6, 2006, a school aide called saying that Rose had taken off her clothes. We needed to come get her.

At school, her mother and I found Rose standing alone on the cement floor of a basement mop closet, illuminated by a single light bulb. There was nothing in the closet for a child — no chair, no books, no crayons, nothing but our daughter standing naked in a pool of urine, looking frightened as she tried to cover herself with her hands. On the floor lay her favorite purple-striped Hanna Andersson outfit and panties.

Rose got dressed and we removed her from the school. We later learned that Rose had been locked in the closet five times that morning. She said that during the last confinement, she needed to use the restroom but didn’t want to wet her outfit. So she disrobed. Rather than help her, the school called us and then covered the narrow door’s small window with a file folder, on which someone had written “Don’t touch!”

We were told that Rose had been in the closet almost daily for three months, for up to an hour at a time. At first, it was for behavior issues, but later for not following directions. Once in the closet, Rose would pound on the door, or scream for help, staff members said, and once her hand was slammed in the doorjamb while being locked inside.

At the time, I notified the Lexington Public Schools, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and the Department of Mental Health about Rose and other children in her class whom school staff members indicated had been secluded. If any of these agencies conducted a formal investigation, I was not made aware of it.

Rose still has nightmares and other symptoms of severe stress. We brought an action against the Lexington Public Schools, which we settled when the school system agreed to pay for the treatment Rose needed to recover from this trauma.

The physical and psychological injuries to children as a consequence of this disciplinary system is an issue that has found its way to Congress. Legislation to ban these practices has been introduced in the House and the Senate, but no vote is expected this year.

Meanwhile, Rose is back in public school and has found it within her to forgive those involved in her case. “They weren’t bad people,” she told me. “They just didn’t know about working with children.”

Bill Lichtenstein is an investigative journalist and filmmaker.

Editors’ Note: September 16, 2012
An opinion essay on Sept. 9 criticizing the use of seclusion and restraint to discipline students described an episode on Jan. 6, 2006, in which the writer’s daughter, then a kindergartner, was kept in an isolation room at her school in Lexington, Mass. Several details of that episode have since been disputed.The girl wet herself while being confined in a closet for misbehaving. But school officials, and a 2008 deposition by the girl’s mother, state that she was then cleaned up and dressed while her parents were notified — and that it was not the case that the parents found her standing alone, unclothed, in her urine.

The article incorrectly described the closet where the girl was confined. It was on a mezzanine between two classroom levels, not in the basement.

While the girl’s parents sued the Lexington school district in 2007, and obtained a settlement in 2008, the writer did not notify two Massachusetts state agencies — the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Mental Health — “at the time” of the episode, according to state records.

The girl’s parents divorced in 2007. If The Times had known before the article was published that the writer’s ex-wife was now the girl’s custodial parent, it would have contacted her.

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