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4-25-14 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: State Lays Out Guidelines for Complying with New Dyslexia Law...Memo to school districts gives details of requirements for screening children, training teachers and staff

Star Ledger - Voters approve 12 school budgets, say yes to extra funds in Greenwich and Chatham

NJ Spotlight - Lakewood School District May Be in Line for State Fiscal Monitor...Financially strapped district may be faltering under responsibility of servicing 20,000 students not in public school

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: State Lays Out Guidelines for Complying with New Dyslexia Law

John Mooney | April 25, 2014

Memo to school districts gives details of requirements for screening children, training teachers and staff

 

What it is: The state Department of Education last week sent a memo to school districts about how to comply with new legislation that requires schools to specifically screen for reading disorders like dyslexia and to provide services for students and training for teachers.

What it means: It is the first directive the state has sent out regarding what will likely be an extensive array of requirements related to the package of dyslexia-related legislation laws enacted last year. Advocates have said that the new laws are only the first step, and that implementation and enforcement by the state and school districts will be critical. The law goes into effect next fall.

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Dyslexia Legislation Update

The legislation: The bills enacted by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Christie were long-sought by parents and advocates. The legislation was seen as a breakthrough for families who contended that dyslexia addressed inadequately by the state’s schools.

The laws specifically require that teachers receive at least two hours a year of training in reading disorders, including dyslexia, and that students be screened for the disorders by the end of the first semester of second grade.

Specifics: The state memo provides the definition of dyslexia that is written into the law and should be used by districts. That’s a key first step, say advocates, who contend too many schools failed to recognize the disorder at all.

Teacher training: The memo also notes that all general and special-education teachers and reading specialists in kindergarten through third grade will be required to receive at least two hours of training annually in addressing reading disorders, including dyslexia. The requirement will be part of the existing 20-hour –a-year professional development mandate for all teachers.

Screening and intervention, with more to come: The central piece of the legislation is its new requirement for specific screening of reading disorders, and the use of intervention strategies for children found to have symptoms. The state Department of Education says that many districts may already conduct such screenings, but it will be providing resources and guidelines in coming months to help districts that may not conduct screening.

It’s a start: “We are glad they are finally talking about it and contacting the schools,” said Liz Barnes, a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia New Jersey, a grassroots group of parents that lobbied hard for the bills.

“We wish the DOE gave the districts more specific information and guidance on interpreting the laws. We have to hope that the districts will make good choices and do the right things for our dyslexic kids.”

Educating parents: “The big job will be informing and educating the parents so they know what they can and cannot ask of their districts. DD-NJ will try to educate parents to the best of our abilities and resources,” Barnes said.

“We’ve said all along that these laws will not fix all our problems, but it is a good beginning. Just having school districts use the word ‘dyslexia’ is a huge step forward for many parents.”

 

Star Ledger - Voters approve 12 school budgets, say yes to extra funds in Greenwich and Chatham

 

By Peggy McGlone/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 24, 2014 at 2:13 PM

Voters in Morris, Monmouth, Middlesex, Passaic and Warren counties approved 12 school budgets yesterday, with voters in Chatham and Greenwich Township also agreeing to second ballot questions seeking additional funds.

Just over 4,100 voters cast ballots in Morris County, where the budgets for School District of the Chathams, Mountain Lakes, Pequannock, Riverdale and Rockaway Borough all passed, according to unofficial results from the county clerk.

Chatham voters also approved a $460,000 request for technology upgrades,
In Middlesex County, Edison and New Brunswick voters said yes, although fewer than 300 voters in the county seat cast ballots. About 8 percent of Edison’s registered voter cast ballots in a close vote for its budget, which was approved 2,238 to 2,139.

Voters approved the budget in Irvington in Essex County, those clerks reported. In the state-run district of Newark, voters chose supervisory board members but did not vote for a budget.

School budgets in Totowa and Passaic overwhelmingly passed, with 1,273 ballots cast in Passaic and 495 in Totowa.

And in Greenwich Township, where 750 ballots were cast, voters approved both the district budget and a second $1.1 million request, the clerk said. The special question sought money for 10 classroom teachers, a music teacher, art teacher, reading and media specialists and two guidance counselors.

Only 26 school districts around the state held school board and budget elections yesterday. Before a 2012 law allowed school districts to hold elections on five different dates, including November general election, almost 550 of the state's districts held elections in April.

 

 

NJ Spotlight - Lakewood School District May Be in Line for State Fiscal Monitor

John Mooney | April 25, 2014

Financially strapped district may be faltering under responsibility of servicing 20,000 students not in public school

 

Lakewood has long been one of New Jersey’s most intriguing -- and sometimes most troubled -- school districts, and the spotlight is about to get brighter.

State and local officials are set to meet in Trenton today to discuss plans for the state to step up its role in the Ocean County district, including the appointment of a fiscal monitor, according to an official close to the decision who asked to remain anonymous.

It would be the seventh district in New Jersey to be assigned a fiscal monitor, a step below the state taking over the district altogether. The state currently has fuller control of at least some operations in four other districts.

The impetus in Lakewood is a growing fiscal crisis in which officials have said the district of 5,700 students could run out of money in May, spending down its $143.4 million budget. The board voted last month to seek a $5 million loan to make it through the year.

But what has put the squeeze on the Lakewood budget is not simply serving the district's public's schools. It also is picking up at least part of the tab for 20,000 additional children who typically attend private schools, including hundreds of yeshiva for the community’s large Orthodox Jewish community.

Lakewood spends close to $20 million a year to provide transportation for those students to attend their schools, as required by state law. In addition, the high special education costs are also borne by the district, again as required by the state.

“This situation cannot go forward,” said state Sen. Robert Singer (R-Ocean), who is expected to attend the meeting today in the offices of acting Education Commissioner David Hespe.

“These are serious times, and we have numerous responsibilities,” Singer said yesterday. “The first is to the schoolchildren and making sure they receive a good education.”

Singer said he had yet to be briefed on the state’s plans, but indicated he would support a state monitor and other state assistance to get the district on a better fiscal track.

“We can’t continue to hold children and their parents hostage,” he said. “The bitter pill that you sometimes have to take can only be administered by an outside person.”

The exact dollar amount of the district’s deficit unclear, but is typically pegged at $3 million to $5 million. One option is for the state to effectively bail out the district through a loan or emergency aid to get it through the year.

But Singer and others said it should be a last resort. “If they’re $5 million short this year, what does it mean to the taxpayers next year?” Singer said. “If they are in a true deficit, that’s not an option for anybody. It’s a sign they can’t handle their finances.”

Efforts to reach Lakewood school board members last night were unsuccessful.

But the long-term challenges are equally tricky, given the extraordinary circumstances of having so many children not in the public schools but drawing district services. And what has been left is a district rife with problems, from chronic low-performance of its schools, inadequate supplies in the classrooms despite spending over $20,000 per student, and questionable business dealings.

Even before today’s expected action, the state has increasingly stepped up its oversight over the district in the past decade, including strong interventions over the past two years through the Regional Achievement Centers created under former Commissioner Chris Cerf


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



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