Parents of Students With Disabilities Seek Vouchers Despite Risks, Report Says – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Some parents of students with disabilities see a clear benefit to voucher programs to escape public schools that are a poor fit, even though the vouchers rarely pay the full cost of private school tuition and, in some cases, accepting one means giving up rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Council for Parent Attorneys and Advocates, a group that supports the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities, surveyed the landscape of voucher and other school choice programs in a June 8 report called School Vouchers and Students with Disabilities: Impact in the Name of Choice. (COPAA has organized a panel on the report for Congressional staffers that I am moderating.)

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice says that 11 states have voucher programs that are explicitly for students with disabilities, or that include students with disabilities among other targeted student groups (for example, students in schools deemed to be failing, or from low-income families). They are: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin.

Source: Parents of Students With Disabilities Seek Vouchers Despite Risks, Report Says – On Special Education – Education Week

Everyone’s a winner at Vallejo Special Olympics – Times Herald

By Irma Widjojo

The intermittent gusty winds and chilly weather Friday did not stop nearly 200 Vallejo students from having fun and being winners.

The Vallejo school district’s special education students, along with their teachers and families, gathered at Vallejo High School’s Corbus Field for the 44th annual Vallejo City Unified School District Special Olympics.

“It’s great for them to be part of a community event,” said Kathy Hellfeier, Widenmann Elementary special education teacher. “It makes them feel like stars and (helps them) be active for the day.”

via:  Everyone’s a winner at Vallejo Special Olympics – Times Herald

School bus drivers vital link to home, school – Daily Republic

By Mayrene Bates

Just in case some of us may have forgotten, Tuesday was California School Bus Driver’s Day. I am a huge cheerleader for school bus drivers and each year try to make it a top priority to ride, at least, one of the routes – usually out of town.

I always return enthused, as I get to meet a new driver or renew an acquaintance with a driver who I’ve ridden with before like Eliane Medina. I also get to meet the children, of course, as well as greet parents who meet the bus to see their children off to school.

This School Bus Driver’s Day I was excited about taking the bus at 7 a.m. from the Solano County Office of Education’s transportation yard on Clay Bank Road and head out to schools in Fairfield and Green Valley with driver Medina. By the time we returned to the yard, it was time to join everyone for a mouth-watering barbecue to honor theses special heroes of the road.

Source: School bus drivers vital link to home, school

20 Tips to Help De-escalate Interactions With Anxious or Defiant Students | MindShift

By Katrina Schwartz

Students’ behavior is a form of communication and when it’s negative it almost always stems from an underlying cause. There are many reasons kids might be acting out, which makes it difficult for a teacher in a crowded classroom to figure out the root cause. But even if there was time and space to do so, most teachers receive very little training in behavior during their credentialing programs. On average, teacher training programs mandate zero to one classes on behavior and zero to one courses on mental health. Teacher training programs mostly assume that kids in public schools will be “typical,” but that assumption can handicap teachers when they get into real classrooms.

A National Institute of Health study found that 25.1 percent of kids 13-18 in the US have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. No one knows how many more haven’t been diagnosed. Additionally between eight and 15 percent of the school-aged population has learning disabilities (there is a range because there’s no standard definition of what constitutes a learning disability). Nine percent of 13-18 year-olds have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (although the number one misdiagnoses of anxiety is ADHD), and 11.2 percent suffer from depression.

Source: 20 Tips to Help De-escalate Interactions With Anxious or Defiant Students | MindShift | KQED News

What Special Ed Teachers and Parents Need To Know About Social Media : NPR Ed

By Byrd Pinkerton

“Discuss, monitor, and educate.”

That’s Kortney Peagram’s advice to parents and teachers who want to help special needs teens lead an online life. She wrote up some of her experiences as a psychologist working to reduce cyberbullying in Chicago for our friends at NPR’s All Tech Considered.

Students can definitely benefit from social media, Peagram says. For kids who can’t be touched, or who can’t look people in the eye, digital networks are a chance to share pictures and interests, and an opportunity to have a social life.

But the internet can be a dangerous place, especially for kids who may struggle with communication.

Source: What Special Ed Teachers and Parents Need To Know About Social Media : NPR Ed : NPR

Ceremony to recognize outstanding service to special needs students – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

The 10th Annual Community Advisory Committee Recognition Awards Ceremony is scheduled for April 18 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Solano County Office of Education, 5100 Business Center Drive..

The awards are presented for outstanding service to students with special needs. Awards are given to one person from each school district within the Solano County Special Education Local Plan Area: Benicia Unified, Dixon Unified, Fairfield-Suisun Unified, Travis Unified, Vacaville Unified and the Solano County Office of Education.

In addition, one community organization representative and one student representative will be honored who have shown dedication to the support of individuals with special needs.

Source: Ceremony to recognize outstanding service to special needs students

Budget, Measure A contracts, special education plan on Vacaville Unified agenda – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Vacaville Unified leaders, when they meet tonight, will hear a presentation on the second interim report of the 2015-16 budget, likely approve two Measure A-related contracts, and be updated on the district’s special education strategic action plan.

Deo Persaud, the district’s newly named chief business official, will update the seven-member board about the 2015-16 budget. He will note major changes since the first interim report in December, newly projected revenues and expenses, the ending fund balance, and multiyear projections.

He will tell trustees that he plans to file a “positive budget certification” with the Solano County Office of Education, signifying that the district will be able to pay its bills for the current and next two fiscal years.

Source: Budget, Measure A contracts, special education plan on Vacaville Unified agenda

California moves to bring special education students ‘into the fold’ of mainstream education | EdSource

By Jane Meredith Adams

Ordered by the federal government to elevate academics for students with disabilities, and by the state to raise low-income student achievement, the California Department of Education is working to create a unified system that will do both, a move that aims to bring special education students into every school district initiative to improve achievement.

The department is “building the basis of one coherent system,” Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, told the State Board of Education last week at its meeting.

For the first time, the California Department of Education’s special education division is planning to align new federal progress measures for students with disabilities with the state board’s system of evaluation, now being created, that will gauge success under California’s school finance system. That system, known as the Local Control Funding Formula, directs additional funds to districts to serve “high-needs” students, defined as low-income students, English learners and foster children.

Source: California moves to bring special education students ‘into the fold’ of mainstream education | EdSource

7 Reading Readiness Apps for Special Needs Students | Edutopia

By Jayne Clare

What is reading readiness? The dictionary defines it as the point when a child transforms from being a non-reader to being a reader. But this definition leaves out the concept that reading readiness may actually begin in the womb. Watch Annie Murphy Paul’s TED Talk to learn more about what is called fetal origins.

In another vein, as Maryanne Wolf writes in Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, “We were never born to read.” Getting ready to read takes years of informal exposure to language and print in a myriad of ways. This stage is called early literacy. Talking and interacting with children about daily literacy-based activities that interest them in their everyday lives best accomplishes acquiring these skills. Storytelling, print and book awareness, and playing with words #rhyming, clapping, stomping out syllables, rolling and bouncing a ball# are all great ways to get started at an early age. But even when the stage has been set with all the right components, the special-education child usually grapples with reading and writing.

Source: 7 Reading Readiness Apps for Special Needs Students | Edutopia

Preschool Special Education Would Get Small Boost Under Federal Budget Plan – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Special education spending for school aged-children would hold steady, but spending for infants and children under 5 would see a modest boost under the White Houses proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, released on Feb. 9.

Students ages 6-21 currently receive the bulk of federal special education dollars, and that wouldnt change under the proposed spending plan, which would hold overall special education spending steady at $11.9 billion, the same as the previous fiscal year.

An additional $35 million would be allocated to services for children ages 3 to 5, bringing the total proposal to about $403 million. Those children are served under Section 619 of the federal special education law.

via Preschool Special Education Would Get Small Boost Under Federal Budget Plan – On Special Education – Education Week.

Special Ed students, faculty present hand-made blankets to Vallejo Fire Dept. – Times Herald

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

Students and faculty members of Vallejo’s Everest Academy learned Wednesday that you don’t need to be wrapped in a blanket to feel warm and cozy — making and giving blankets away can do that for you, too.

The 5-year-old Everest Academy is a Vallejo City Unified School District special education program, whose school site on Corcoran Avenue, is walking distance to Vallejo Fire Department Station 25.

Three of the small class’ five students, along with the teacher, para-educator and principal, walked to the station on Wednesday morning, to present about a half-dozen fleece blankets the students made in their spare time over the last month or so, principal Eileen Abreu said.

via Special Ed students, faculty present hand-made blankets to Vallejo Fire Dept..

Solving The Special Ed Teacher Shortage: Quality, Not Quantity : NPR Ed

All over the United States, schools are scrambling to find qualified special education teachers. There just arent enough of them to fill every open position.

That means schools must often settle for people who are under-certified and inexperienced. Special ed is tough, and those who arent ready for the challenge may not make it past the first year or two.

Really good teacher preparation might be the difference. At least, thats what the Lee Pesky Learning Center believes.

In partnership with Boise State University, this nonprofit is working to overcome the shortage in Idaho, not just by filling vacancies, but by creating special education teachers fully prepared for the demands — and the rewards — of working with special-needs students.

via Solving The Special Ed Teacher Shortage: Quality, Not Quantity : NPR Ed : NPR.

Some districts exempt students in special ed from vaccination law | EdSource

By Jane Meredith Adams

California now has one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country, but ambiguity in its wording has left school districts deciding on their own whether to grant special education students a de facto exemption.

The California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education have not yet issued guidance on how to apply the vaccination law to special education students. Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, students who qualify for special education services, such as speech therapy or small group instruction, must receive those services. Failure to comply leaves districts vulnerable to lawsuits from parents.

At the same time, beginning July 1, the state law will require all kindergarten, transitional kindergarten and 7th-grade students to be vaccinated against 10 communicable diseases before they are allowed to attend school, unless they have a medical condition that makes them unable to do so. Under the new law, parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children in public or private schools and child care centers based on their personal beliefs.

via Some districts exempt students in special ed from vaccination law | EdSource.

Its Not Easy Teaching Special Ed : NPR Ed

By Lee Hale

Its getting harder and harder to find quality special education teachers, which is why 49 out of 50 states report shortages.

Why? Its a tough sell.

Even if youre up for the low pay and noisy classrooms, special education adds another challenge: crushing paperwork.

This is something I understand firsthand. You see, I was a special education teacher and I just couldnt hack it. Though Im somewhat ashamed to admit it, I lasted only a year in the classroom.

I chose special education for what felt like the right reason. I wanted to help the students who struggle to learn. But I soon realized that was only a part of the job.

via Its Not Easy Teaching Special Ed : NPR Ed : NPR.

Chieko Asakawa: How new technology helps blind people explore the world | TED Talk

How can technology help improve our quality of life? How can we navigate the world without using the sense of vision? Inventor and IBM Fellow Chieko Asakawa, whos been blind since the age of fourteen, is working on answering these questions. In a charming demo, she shows off some new technology thats helping blind people explore the world ever more independently … because, she suggests, when we design for greater accessibility, everyone benefits.

via Chieko Asakawa: How new technology helps blind people explore the world | TED Talk | TED.com.

The great equalizer: Sports program pairs special, general-ed children – Daily Republic

By Amy Maginnis-Honey

The smile on Dominic Miller’s face couldn’t have been any wider.

The 5-year-old who attends Dan O. Root Elementary School was one of about 560 children who participated in a special event Thursday at Fairfield High School’s Schaefer Stadium.

The gathering was the first since the Fairfield-Suisun School District partnered with Special Olympics Northern California to launch a unified sports program with eight elementary schools.

via The great equalizer: Sports program pairs special, general-ed children.

Benicia girl with a big heart raises money for special friends – Times Herald

By Irma Widjojo

A Benicia special education teacher had no idea that the friendships that began at the play ground during recess time would turn into something much bigger.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Tammy Harley, Mary Farmar Elementary School special education teacher.

Harley said it was the beginning of this school year when third grader KayLee Ingle came to her and told her that she has a surprise.

“She told me she’s been fundraising for my class during the summer,” she said.

via Benicia girl with a big heart raises money for special friends.

Special Education Spending Flexibility Focus of GAO Report – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Loosening the reins on state and district special education spending could lead to more innovation without damaging student services, says a report released Monday from a congressional watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office was asked to look into special education spending—specifically the provisions around “maintenance of effort.”

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires, with few exceptions, that school districts and states spend the same amount or more on special education from year to year. That eliminates wild swings in funding, and insures that spending can only go up, not down.

via Special Education Spending Flexibility Focus of GAO Report – On Special Education – Education Week.

States Vary in Proportion of Students With Disability-Related 504 Plans – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Almost 5 percent of students in New Hampshire have disabilities that are covered solely by “Section 504,” which offers protection to students who have a “physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” These disabilities might include conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, food allergies, depression, or mobility impairments.

In contrast, in New Mexico and Wisconsin, less than half a percent of students have such plans.

These findings come from a recent analysis of Section 504 enrollment conducted by the Advocacy Institute of data from the U.S. Department of Educations Civil Rights Data Collection. That data collection covers the 2011-12 school year, and about 16,500 school districts, 96,500 schools, and 49 million students were included.

via States Vary in Proportion of Students With Disability-Related 504 Plans – On Special Education – Education Week.

Vacaville native, music conservatory bring music therapy to children with disabilities – The Reporter

By Ryan Chalk

A Vacaville native has taken her lifelong passion for music to help children with developmental disabilities transform their lives, one song at a time.

It’s happening inside a Davis Street home that once housed a longtime Vacaville photography business, now home to a bustling music education and performance studio called the Young Artists Conservatory of Music. A hub of activity, in one room, you might hear a student attempting to master Beethoven on piano, a budding saxophonist running a jazz scale, and in another, Brianna McCulloch, a board certified music therapist, leading a child in song.

via Vacaville native, music conservatory bring music therapy to children with disabilities.