NJ Provision of Special Education

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the Education Law Center

Internet Link: http://www.edlawcenter.org/

Significant Cases

M.A. v. Newark Public Schools

In 2001, ELC with co-counsel Gibbons Del Deo, filed a class action lawsuit against Newark Public Schools and the New Jersey Department of Education, alleging that Newark and the State failed to identify, locate, refer and evaluate students with disabilities for special education services, failed to provide these students with appropriate special education services, and failed to provide “compensatory education” for the deprived services. The complaint also charged the State with failure to monitor school districts and failure to provide appropriate relief in response to special education complaint investigation requests. [Docket No. 01-cv-3389 (US District Court for the District of NJ) Docket No. 02-1799 (US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit)]

An Opportunity to Improve Assessment Systems

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Linda Darling-Hammond writes about the possibilities for better assessment based on the new Common Core Standards:

“Because the CCSS are intended to be “fewer, higher, and deeper” than previous standards, they have created a natural opening for the development and adoption of better assessments of student learning. The assessments developed by two new multi-state consortia could move us toward more informative systems that include formative as well as summative elements, evaluate content that reflects instruction, and include some challenging open-ended tasks” (TESTING TO, AND BEYOND, THE COMMON CORE; New assessments can support a multiple-measure framework to deepen teaching and learning. By Linda Darling-Hammond; Principal, January/February 2014).

The reform of testing is an ongoing business. Year after year the testing companies have refined their product. But there is a real need for changing the purpose to which these assessments are always tasked with, accountability. This accountability is narrowly defined and heavily sanctioned when schools fall behind. After 10 years of NCLB most schools have been deemed as falling behind or otherwise not making the grade. Why would we think this narrow accountability definition for standardized tests is helping anyone? It isn’t. So Darling-Hammond’s hope for better assessments that are improved by teachers and principals is welcome news:

Arts Impact in Rochester, NY (2007-2009)

posted in: Arts, Intelligence | 0

Introduction

I want to give the public access to a brief summary of our first study in Rochester, NY on the impact of the arts on student learning. The three year grant (2007-2009) was a quasi-experimental design, 10 schools in the treatment group and 10 schools in control group, to learn the impact of arts integration on student achievement. Our firm was the evaluator for this grant.

Purpose of AEMDD

The purpose of the AEMDD Federal grant is to support the enhancement, expansion, documentation, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, cohesive models that are based on research and have demonstrated that they effectively: (1) integrate standards-based arts education into the core elementary and middle school curricula; (2) strengthen standards-based arts instruction in these grades; and (3) improve students’ academic performance in ELA and Math, social studies and science, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts.

Study Refutes Theory that Girls Thrive When Separated From Boys in Schools

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The merits of separating girls and boys in classrooms has been debated for many years. As recently as the 1990’s research seemed to show separation increased achievement and lowered anxiety (Gurian Institute). But now we have some research that really contradicts separation as a good educational practice. The Huffington Post (Feb 5, 2014), reports on a new study released by the American Psychological Association:

Do students really learn better when separated by gender? New research indicates that they do not.

Study results released this week by the American Psychological Association found that students do not perform better in math, science or verbal subjects when they attend single-sex schools, or single-sex classes within coeducational schools. The research, which analyzed 55 years worth of data, refutes theories that adolescent girls thrive when separated from boys, and that boys perform better when they have a curriculum specifically tailored to them.

College Exit Exam

posted in: Assessment, Reform | 4

Taking Exit Exams in order to graduate college is a new trend in college accountability. Previously, a student’s grade-point-average would stand in for this accountability, except, it has been well known for some time that grade inflation is rampant at colleges and universities. By one measure employed by Teachers College, 43% of students receive and “A.” What is also interesting is the groups of people who are invested in this accountability—parents, lawmakers and others:

The advent of the college exit test is being driven largely by parents, lawmakers and others intent on making sure they’re getting their money’s worth from colleges and universities—and by employers who complain that graduates arrive surprisingly ill-prepared.

Integrating the Arts

posted in: Arts, Assessment, Reform | 0

In a recent post on the EdWeek blog, Matthew Lynch talks about the loss of the arts as subjects, and the use of the arts as integrated into other subjects. Before getting too enthusiastic about this approach, it is important to remember that integration of the arts requires common planning, implementing, and assessment. When the arts are placed in the classroom as full partners, student learning increases.

The arts have always had a secondary place in K-12 learning. If you doubt that statement, think of the first programs to go whenever budget cuts are implemented – music, fine arts and even physical fitness which includes dance. I’ve yet to hear of a school board or administrators discussing the way cutting math programs could help the school’s bottom line. There is a hierarchy of academics in America, and arts education tends to fall pretty low on the totem pole.

Questioning the Common Core In New York State

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Recently, Commissioner John King testified in front of the New York State Senate Committee on Education and defended the Common Core. Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County, said school officials within his district are unified in their criticism of the Common Core.

“School superintendents, principals, school administrators, parents, PTA groups, classroom teachers — they all seem to be united in their opinion of the Common Core,” Maziarz said. “To me, those are experts that we are hearing from. Now, commissioner, to be frank with you, the people who seem to be supporting this are yourself and the members of the Board of Regents.” (Lohud.com)

Cheating on High Stakes Tests

posted in: Assessment, Reform | 0

John Merrow has documented several scandals involving cheating, including this one in Washington, DC, under former Chancellor Michelle Rhee. In Merrow’s Blog, Learning Matters/Taking Note, he documents a common way for teachers or principals to change answers to high stakes tests in order to raise the test scores of students. The cheating method is called erasures and the analysis method to uncover that is called Wrong-To-Right Erasures.

The gist of his message: the many ‘wrong to right’ erasures on the students’ answer sheets suggested widespread cheating by adults.

Are Portfolios the Next Wave of Student Assessment?

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One of my favorite blogs is CreatEquity. In one of their blogs a few weeks ago, (Portfolios: The Next Wave of Student Assessment? By LINDSEY COSGROVE | Published: DECEMBER 30TH, 2013) they highlighted the rising role of portfolios in schools and the need for performance assessments as opposed to standardized testing. It could be argued that we really have enough standardized testing to last a life time, and if that method was going to help us, it would have, already, by now. Unfortunately, the paradigm of standardized testing is not a strong enough measurement of how and what the brain is learning. But instead it has caused accountability to be transferred away from teaching and learning by measuring the wrong types of things such as brain processing speed, access to quality curriculum, and even socio-economic background traits. Outside tests have a very difficult time measuring what types of learning and teaching are going on inside a school. So one of the references for this blog mentions a great report to read and understand this trend:

Google’s Assessment System

posted in: Assessment | 0

Assessment should help us know what our goals are, how well we are making progress toward those goals, and the evidence of our progress. Although this seems easy to say, systems of assessment that work well and are understandable are hard to find. Here is an excellent example from the company named Google.

When Google was less than a year old, John Doerr, one of its investors, made a presentation pitching the company on using a organizational system called Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs. The OKR system came from Intel. Google took to OKRs pretty much immediately and has been using it ever since.

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