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1-25-13 Education Issues in the News
The Record - Feds tell schools to include disabled kids in athletic programs… The directive, reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for women, could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come..."North Jersey superintendents said they expect Duncan’s announcement to have little effect, if any, on their districts.“In River Dell, we’ve always included students with disabilities in athletics,” Superintendent Patrick Fletcher said. “New Jersey has been on the forefront of inclusion for quite some time. We’re pleased to offer these opportunities.”(GSCS Note - There are complicated issues involved here and GSCS will be analyzing the potential impact of this directive and will be reporting back to you and policymakers soon.)

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Teacher Evaluation Update…The administration eases some guidelines, two pilot districts weigh in with their experiences and progress

NJ Spotlight - State Education Chief Will Finally Meet with Key Senate Committee…Cerf, on the job for two years and controversial reform agenda in tow, will discuss issues and initiatives

The Record - Feds tell schools to include disabled kids in athletic programs… The directive, reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for women, could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come.

Friday January 25, 2013, 12:08 AM

BY PHILIP ELLIOTT

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Breaking new ground, the U.S. Education Department is telling schools they must include students with disabilities in sports programs or provide equal alternative options. The directive, reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for women, could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come.

Schools would be required to make “reasonable modifications” for students with disabilities or create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing to mainstream programs.

“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement announcing the new guidance on Friday.

Federal laws, including the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, require states to provide a free public education to all students and bans schools that receive federal funds from discriminating against students with disabilities. Going further, the new directive from the Education Department’s civil rights division explicitly tells schools and colleges that access to interscholastic, intramural and intercollegiate athletics is a right.

“This is a landmark moment for students with disabilities. This will do for students with disabilities what Title IX did for women,” said Terri Lakowski, who led a coalition pushing for the changes for a decade. “This is a huge victory.”

The impact that the directive will have in New Jersey was not immediately clear on Thursday. The state already requires that “the benefits and values” of high school sports be “made available to all students regardless of cognitive or physical limitations.” And in 2009, Gov. Jon Corzine signed another law directing the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to establish interscholastic programs in “adaptive” sports for students with disabilities.

North Jersey superintendents said they expect Duncan’s announcement to have little effect, if any, on their districts.

“In River Dell, we’ve always included students with disabilities in athletics,” Superintendent Patrick Fletcher said. “New Jersey has been on the forefront of inclusion for quite some time. We’re pleased to offer these opportunities.”

Education Department officials emphasized they did not intend to change sports’ traditions dramatically or guarantee students with disabilities a spot on competitive teams. Instead, they insisted schools cannot exclude students based on their disabilities if they can keep up with their classmates.

“It’s not about changing the nature of the game or the athletic activity,” said Seth Galanter, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department.

Richard Ney, the superintendent of the Manchester Regional High School District in Haledon, said a high school junior with autism has played on the school basketball team for three years. The student is assigned to the junior varsity squad, but occasionally plays varsity and received no special accommodation.

“When he first started, they would give the other players on the opposing team a heads-up, saying, ‘We’re trying to be inclusive,’Ÿ” Ney said. “They would take some care not to rough him up. Now, we don’t even tell the other team. He just goes out and plays.”

It’s not clear whether the guidelines will spark a sudden uptick in sports participation. There was a big increase in sports participation by girls after Title IX guidance in 1972 instructed schools to treat female athletics on par with male teams. That led many schools to cut some men’s teams, arguing that it was necessary to be able to pay for women’s teams.

There is no deadline for schools to comply with the new directive.

Activists cheered the changes.

“This is historic,” said Bev Vaughn, the executive director of the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, a non-profit group that works with schools to set up sports programs for students with disabilities. “It’s going to open up a whole new door of opportunity to our nation’s schoolchildren with disabilities.”

A Government Accountability Office study in 2010 found that students with disabilities participated in athletics at consistently lower rates than those without. The study suggested that the benefits of exercise may be even greater for children with disabilities because they are at more risk of being sedentary.

“We know that participation in extracurricular activities can lead to a host of really good, positive outcomes both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Kareem Dale, a White House official who guides the administration’s policies for disabled Americans.

Dale, who is blind, wrestled as a high school student in Chicago. “I was able to wrestle mainly because there was a good accommodation to allow me to have equal access and opportunity,” Dale said, describing modified rules that required his competitors to keep in physical contact during matches.

Those types of accommodations could be a model for schools and colleges looking to incorporate students with disabilities onto sports teams.

Increasingly, those with disabilities are finding spots on their schools’ teams. “I heard about some of the other people who joined their track teams in other states. I wanted to try to do that,” said Casey Followay, 15, who competes on his Ohio high school track team in a racing wheelchair.

Current rules require Followay to race on his own, without competitors. He said he hopes the Education Department guidance will change that so he can compete against runners.

Staff Writer Leslie Brody contributed to this article.

 

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Teacher Evaluation Update…The administration eases some guidelines, two pilot districts weigh in with their experiences and progress

By John Mooney, January 25, 2013 in Education|1 Comment

What it is: The periodic update sent to districts by the state Department of Education includes the latest developments in the state’s planned implementation of a statewide teacher evaluation system by next fall.

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What’s new?: Sent this week, the updates includes revised timelines for districts to report their progress. They now have until February 15 to report their final decisions on evaluation instruments. It also includes some details on the Christie administration’s upcoming and low-awaited guidelines, as well as specific feedback from two districts involved in the evaluation pilot: Haddonfield and Rockaway.

Some flexibility to a strict deadline: The state’s new tenure law requires evaluation systems be in place for both teachers and principals for the 2013-2014 school year, but the administration has often said it wants to provide as much leeway as possible given the time constraints. In addition to the February 15 deadline for reporting -- instead of the January 1 deadline in the law -- it also sets some loose deadlines for the principal evaluation, saying that even training now doesn’t need to be completed until October 15 .

All about the regs: Central to how districts are to implement their own evaluation systems will be the administration’s regulations. The latest update said that code will be submitted to the state Board of Education on March 6, including how student performance is to be used in the evaluations, surely the effort’s most controversial piece. But the timing is tight on that, given the state board’s glacial approval process. The final vote is scheduled for September 4.

Public campaign: With the new proposal, the department has pledged to launch an outreach effort to get feedback from educators and the public. “Over the course of several weeks, we will conduct regional presentations, post a variety of resources on our website, and provide opportunities for educators and others to share questions and feedback,” wrote Peter Shulman, the assistant state commissioner overseeing the effort.

Student growth: The update also gives more description of the “student growth percentile” measure that will be attached to each student and in turn their teachers as part of the evaluation system. The department has begun to circulate those numbers for students and schools, and earlier this month did so for individual teachers in the first 11 pilot districts. Still, for all the attention this issue receives, the number of teachers affected are a small minority who have students taking the state’s NJASK tests in math and language arts. The update said if these measures were in place for last year, it would have encompassed 16,500 teachers -- less than a fifth of the statewide teaching force.

Reports from the field: Each of the updates gives details from some of the pilot districts, and this one includes two districts doing distinctive work.

Haddonfield describes its progress in developing a single score or “summative rating” for teachers based on their evaluations and student progress. The work has involved a committee of educators and an algorithm using different weights and measures.

Rockaway is one of a handful of districts piloting both teacher and principal evaluations. The school’s superintendent, Deborah Grefe, said there has been a benefit in doing both at once: “By implementing teacher and principal evaluation frameworks at the same time, both groups have established significant camaraderie, which led to a positive culture around this initiative.”

 

 NJ Spotlight - State Education Chief Will Finally Meet with Key Senate Committee…Cerf, on the job for two years and controversial reform agenda in tow, will discuss issues and initiatives

By John Mooney, January 25, 2013 in Education|1 Comment

After two years in office, state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf will finally make his first appearance before the Senate Education Committee on Monday, with both broad and very specific issues on the minds of committee members.

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Cerf has made a half-dozen public appearances before the Legislature since he took office, but he had yet to come before the influential Senate committee, in part due to political tug-of-war that led to delays in Cerf’s confirmation until last summer.

So, with the new year under way, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said she invited the commissioner to testify on Monday morning to open a dialogue on a host of education issues facing the state.

“This will give the Department of Education the opportunity to describe where they’ve been, where they are now, and where they see themselves moving into the future,” Ruiz said yesterday.

“This is meant to be an open and honest discussion with the department and what it sees its role with districts,” she said.

It is no secret that there has been plenty of tension with Democrats over Cerf’s and Gov. Chris Christie’s education agenda, with its push to tighten spending and increase pressure on schools to improve. There’s also new student testing and stakes tied to that testing, and moves afoot to open the state’s first virtual schools.

Ruiz has been on board for some of those steps, most notably leading the overhaul of the state’s tenure-reform law last year, working closely with the administration, including Cerf.

And she said yesterday that Monday’s meeting is meant to be a “positive discussion” to discuss topics on which they both agree and disagree.

Cerf himself said yesterday that he looks forward to the discussion: “I worked closely with Sen. Ruiz on the tenure bill and value the collaborative relationship I have developed with her and other members of the Legislature.”

Among the key topics for her, Ruiz said, will be charter schools and her own work in drafting a bill to rewrite the state’s charter school law, school safety and the state’s own requirements, and the ongoing work on a statewide teacher evaluation system.

The last one is part of Ruiz’s tenure-reform law, and it has been a contentious one for districts feeling pressure to have the evaluations ready and running by next fall, as the law requires.

An outside report by Rutgers University on the progress so far is expected to be released by the administration in the next couple of weeks, and Ruiz said her own feedback from districts has been positive.

But she recognized there has been some angst in districts and wants to hear more from Cerf. “This will be an opportunity to discuss all that,” she said.

A month before Christie is to present his next state budget, Cerf will also surely face questions about his latest school-funding report and its proposals for adjusting the funding formula to give less extra aid districts with high concentrations of at-risk students.

Ruiz sponsored a resolution last week opposing the funding report and sending it back to Cerf to revise. But again, she yesterday held off on any criticism and said she wanted to hear first-hand from Cerf.

“This is an opportunity for both sides to be heard,” she said.

Even after two years on the job, Cerf’s department itself remains a work in progress.

He began reorganizing it once in 2011 and then did some tweaking of that reorganization last year. Now most of his top lieutenants are in place, although his office said he is still looking for someone for the post of chief improvement officer to oversee the new Regional Achievement Centers.

Cerf did make one high-profile hire recently in picking up former New York City schools’ finance chief, Photeine Anagnostopoulos, to serve as a special assistant. Cerf worked with Anagnostopoulos when both were deputies under former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein.

Anagnostopoulos, who briefly was chief budget officer for Newark Public Schools, will conduct a study of school spending in about a dozen districts and links to school performance. Her pay is $99,000.

“One of the least understood subjects in all of public education is what works, and what is the most effective way to spend resources to advance student learning,” Cerf said last week in describing the project.

“I simply asked [Anagnostopoulos] to unpack a bunch of budgets at a highly detailed level for some districts with great results, some with poor results, some urban, some suburbans and see what you can find out about where the money is going,” he said.

Cerf said there was no specific timetable for her work, but said, “The work is way too early to draw any conclusions.”

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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