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LCC expands Running Start program with online options

Earning early college credit has often meant long commutes and missed extracurricular opportunities for high-performing “Running Start” students, especially those who live in rural school districts.

A new online outreach program offered by Lower Columbia College aims to pry students out of that dilemma.

Traditional Running Start programs require high school students to attend classes on college campuses for part or all of the day. LCC’s outreach program, launched last fall in Toutle and recently expanded to Castle Rock and Woodland, enables students to take college classes online and get supported by tutors and advisors through outreach centers established in all three high schools.

LCC Director of eLearning Renee Carney said the centers provide more support for online students and a location for them to complete online course work at high schools.

“The more options we can provide students, the better we can serve their needs, their learning styles and their motivations,” Carney said. With the rural outreach centers, students will be able to take online classes, in-person classes or classes that use a combination of both online and in-person instruction. No all classes are offered online, however.

Castle Rock senior and Running Start student Darren Ayoub says supplementing his in-person classes with online LCC course work has allowed him to better manage his time while still playing high school sports.

“I think it’s benefited me a lot,” Ayub said of the online courses, reporting he has earned A’s and B’s in them.

Castle Rock High School Principal Mark Purvine says Running Start students often find it challenging to stay connected to their high school or participate in activities, like clubs and sports, while spending much of their time at LCC.

“Some of the opportunities that exist here in the high school are unique to a high school setting,” Purvine said. “The hope and belief is that our students that are also Running Start students will be able to more fully engage in those things that are traditionally associated with high school programs.”

Running start students pay significantly less for their college credits then do regular students. Ayub estimates his savings at $1,500 per quarter.

“It saves me a ton,” said Ayub, who hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon and plans to spend many more years in school. “It’s nice to get two (years of college) done while I’m in high school.”

About 350 local students have enrolled in Running Start at LCC this year. Fourty-six students from Castle Rock enrolled in Running Start at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, and 31 of them are taking at least one online class this quarter.

Nine students from Woodland participated in LCC’s Running Start in the at the start of the 2013-24 school year, and seven are now taking an online class.

All eight of the Running Start students at Toutle Lake High School take an online class.

At the Castle Rock outreach center, LCC Running Start tutor Kathren Rintoul spends four hours there daily. Mostly, she said, she helps students with questions about assignments, center hours and access to course materials.

Purvine said the number of students using the outreach center in Castle Rock, located in a remodeled space near the school’s entrance, remains low because it just opened. Running Start students usually commit to a year-long schedule when a school year starts, he said, and students had already committed to their academic schedules by the time Castle Rock’s center opened. He predicts students will begin using the services in larger numbers next fall and said the mid-year opening allows time to “work the bugs out” of the outreach center.

“It also gives us an opportunity to work with the LCC staff for them to become familiar with our campus operations here at the high school.” Purvine said.

Rintoul said she’s been seeing an average of one or two students drop by the outreach center each day since it opened, but numbers have been increasing.

“There’s definitely a pique in interest,” Rintoul said. “They’re getting used to it.”

Article source: http://tdn.com/news/local/lcc-expands-running-start-program-with-online-options/article_d00cd5ca-8d6a-11e3-a954-001a4bcf887a.html

New Market Skills Center Turns Out Career-Ready Graduates

 

By Jennifer Crain

70050 SCJ ASCJ Co clr e1368366094368 New Market Skills Center Turns Out Career Ready GraduatesMariah Julian hopes to become a traveling nurse. Carly Carlson would like to end up at a children’s cancer research hospital. Kristen Hetrick wants to work in an emergency room. Chealcey Dennis is aiming to be a surgeon.

These young women aren’t undergrads in a health sciences program. They’re high school juniors and seniors enrolled in the Professional Medical Careers track at the New Market Skills Center in Tumwater.

70050 NewMarket ProfMedical weighing 1 141 200x300 New Market Skills Center Turns Out Career Ready Graduates

A fast track into the workforce is what encourages many students to seek out New Market Skills Center.

Referred to as Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers, skills centers “provide high school students with the skills, leadership, and employability training needed for success in school and the working world.” Kris Blum, New Market’s Executive Director, says the Tumwater-based center has been in operation since 1986 and is one of 13 skills centers in Washington State.

The model is a long way from the vocational schools of the past. New Market has 15 career-specific tracks and serves close to 550 students. They also house a high school program for just over 100 students as well as YouthBuild, a collaboration with Community Youth Services.

In addition to medical careers training, career-track students can choose from programs in areas such as the culinary arts, natural resources, graphic design, pre-veterinary, business, criminal justice, and alternative energy.

Students from ten South Sound school districts attend career-track courses through the skills center, attending daily during either the morning or the afternoon sessions. They will launch a third session in February that will take place after school hours.

Blum says New Market students are diverse, directed, and invested. Participation at New Market is voluntary so student involvement and interest is high. Because they offer varied programs, she says they have plenty of room for students with an array of goals and learning styles.

Carly Carlson says she appreciates the hands-on nature of the Professional Medical Careers track.

“We came here to learn and get our CNA. As soon as we started, we got right to it,” she says. “We’ll have a two-year start, even before we graduate.”

Carlson is referring to one of the most practical aspects of the medical careers track, the ability to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA. The training, testing, and licensure process could cost thousands of dollars through a private program. But training at New Market Skills Center is tuition free. The center receives funding on a per-student basis.

Blum says many graduates who leave as licensed CNAs end up taking their first jobs in the local community, often in nursing homes. For the past two years, 100% of the students in the medical track have passed both the written and skills portions of the state test. Some places of employment, knowing the center’s reputation, even call to ask about prospective employees when they have open CNA positions.

70050 NewMarket ProfMedical bloodpressure 1 141 200x300 New Market Skills Center Turns Out Career Ready Graduates

Students in the Professional Medical Careers Track of the New Market Skills Center practice in the skills lab. Photo courtesy New Market Skills Centern

A fast track into the workforce is what encourages many students to seek out New Market in the first place.

“I think one of the best things about the program is that you can start working almost immediately,” says Chealcey Dennis. “As a CNA, you can start working at a nursing home and learn your trade while going to school.”

Students in the Professional Medical Careers track, as in others, form a tight bond, the result of spending hours with the same group of students and the same instructor. Students remain in the same classroom for the entire two-and-a-half hour session, learning together the basics of health education. On the day I visited the school, they were in their nutrition unit. Students said they had already covered HIV/AIDS, the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and CPR. Theory and book-learning are supplemented with a heavy dose of time in the skills lab, where they take turns role-playing as patient and provider, donning hospital gowns and taking blood pressure readings, for example. As is the case in other tracks, training is constantly updated based on the advice of industry experts.

Though gaining career-specific skills makes students marketable, the benefits of the skills center go far beyond immediate job prospects. Students can earn high school credits in English, math, science, or the fine arts through New Market’s programs. There are also opportunities to earn college credits. The center has a relationship with Bates Technical School, for instance, allowing students to earn credits toward a post-graduation certificate or degree.

Every track also focuses on universal, positive work habits to be sure students will have transferable qualities as future employees. Every track has a student leadership structure as well as committee work and student-run events, such as a blood drive run by the medical careers students. Through these kinds of interactions, students learn to be flexible, responsive workers who know how listen to a co-worker’s concerns, run a meeting using Robert’s Rules of Order, and to consign their cell phones to a pocket or purse during work hours.

One of Blum’s goals is to address misconceptions about career- and tech-related alternative education.

70050 NewMarket ProfMedical bloodpressure2 1 141 300x200 New Market Skills Center Turns Out Career Ready Graduates

Gaining career-specific skills makes students marketable as future employees. Photo courtesy New Market Skills Center.

“There is a perception that a skills center is for those students who are not going off to college. And I would really like to break that myth,” she says. “There’s a spot for any student here to explore.”

A walk through the campus is enough to prove her point. The roomy Tumwater site is reminiscent of a community college campus, a collection of buildings surrounding a large common area lawn. Classrooms and lab areas are outfitted with industry-standard computers, ovens, and instruments. It feels like a place of learning and collaboration, a good place for young people to learn to fly at a time in their lives when they’re ready to test their wings.

Mariah Julian agrees, “It’s a good stepping stone for the real world.”

New Market Skills Center

7299 New Market St. SW
Tumwater, WA 98501

360-570-4500

5a0d1 pf icon small New Market Skills Center Turns Out Career Ready GraduatesPrint Article

Article source: http://www.thurstontalk.com/2014/01/16/new-market-skills-center-turns-career-ready-graduates/

Chobani Recall Update: Company Starting Lunch Program In Schools After Mold …

Just weeks after Chobani was forced to conduct a nationwide recall of products due to mold, the company will begin a $300,000 contract to supply yogurt for a pilot program hosted by the National Lunch Program. The program will be hosted in Idaho, Arizona, Tennessee and New York, where 230 school districts have already ordered more than 3,300 cases of the company’s yogurt products.

Article source: http://www.ibtimes.com/chobani-recall-update-company-starting-lunch-program-schools-after-mold-recall-1408490

Stamford Gets $659K In State Grants For After-School Programs

STAMFORD, Conn. — Stamford received two state grants worth a total of $659,358 to support after-school programs, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday. 

The grants were part of $8.49 million awarded statewide to 26 programs in 18 school districts. 

In Stamford, a grant for $282,856 went to Aspiring Leadership Through Action and a grant for $376,502 was awarded to After-school Titans. 

“Growing existing programs that work and creating new after-school options not only creates a safe environment for our young people, but further supports our ceaseless efforts to level the playing field and begin to eliminate the devastating achievement gap,” Malloy said in a statement.

The State Department of Education selected the grant recipients through a competitive process that considered the strength of the proposal to address the needs of students in their community, promote parental and community engagement, provide academic enrichment, support the overall wellness of students, and demonstrate strong program organization.

The After-School Grant Program promotes the implementation or expansion of high-quality after-school programs. These programs provide valuable educational enrichment and recreational activities for K-12 students.

Article source: http://stamford.dailyvoice.com/schools/stamford-gets-659k-state-grants-after-school-programs

Norwalk Gets $600K In State Grants For After-School Programs

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk received two state grants worth a total of $603,174 to support after-school programs, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday.

The grants were part of $8.49 million awarded statewide to 26 programs in 18 school districts.

Norwalk received two grants: $376,504 for Helping Youth Through Responsive Education and $226,670 for Choices for Success After-school Program.

“Growing existing programs that work and creating new after-school options not only creates a safe environment for our young people, but further supports our ceaseless efforts to level the playing field and begin to eliminate the devastating achievement gap,” Malloy said in a statement.

The State Department of Education selected the grant recipients through a competitive process that considered the strength of the proposal to address the needs of students in their community, promote parental and community engagement, provide academic enrichment, support the overall wellness of students, and demonstrate strong program organization.

The After-School Grant Program promotes the implementation or expansion of high-quality after-school programs. These programs provide valuable educational enrichment and recreational activities for K-12 students.

Article source: http://norwalk.dailyvoice.com/schools/norwalk-gets-600k-state-grants-after-school-programs

Navigating special education can be difficult for parents

Many families who confront special education programs that are full of jargon and complicated explanations often find that special education processes are so complex, they just let the schools handle it.

Most times the schools get it right, many parents and special education experts have said, but sometimes they don’t. It’s up to parents to know their rights.

The first thing parents should do if they notice their child is struggling is to contact the student’s teacher, said Noreen O’Mahoney, a parent and licensed social worker who has worked in the field of disabilities her entire career. If that doesn’t work, try the principal or someone at central office, she said.

One of the things school districts implement to try to catch kids who begin to show signs of struggle is what’s called scientific research-based intervention, or SRBI. This program has three tiers, with increasing levels of additional help.

“This instruction needs to be designed on an individual basis and carefully monitored by data analysis to ensure progress,” said Ms. O’Mahoney, who became an advocate for parents when she realized her own child needed help.

If a student is not progressing with SRBI, a parent has the option to request an evaluation to determine if the child requires specialized instruction. If the child is found eligible, then the district, in concert with parents, would develop an individualized education plan, or IEP.

Federal law states, however, that a person’s disability doesn’t necessarily mean they qualify for special education. The disability must impact the student’s ability to learn.

Parents are invited to be involved in the planning and placement team meeting, or PPT, which includes special education professionals, and meets at least once a year to develop a child’s education plan, or IEP.

The IEP should detail the following:

• What are the child’s identified special needs;

• What services will be provided to address those needs and where, and when and how often they will be provided;

• What goals and objectives the child should be able to achieve at intervals throughout the year, and what data will be collected to measure that progress;

• What consultation or training the school team may require to implement the program.

If an evaluation finds a student does not need an IEP, parents have the option to seek a second opinion. This “independent evaluation” is supposed to be paid for by the schools; however, they don’t have to agree to perform one. The schools also need to agree on who would perform the independent evaluation.

Ms. O’Mahoney said there are numerous evaluators out there, and parents “really need to do their homework on which ones can provide them with the most thorough, useful and truly ‘independent’ assessment of their child’s needs.”

If the child is again not found eligible for an IEP, it’s still possible to get some extra help through a 504 plan, which is named from a section of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It typically includes classroom modifications or accommodations such as preferential seating, extended time for testing or modified assignments, which could be needed for a student to access an education, Ms. O’Mahoney said.

But one of the most helpful professionals for parents is the child’s pediatrician, according to advocates.

“If you have concerns, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician, request information regarding your child’s challenges and research online as much information as you can find about your child’s needs and diagnosis,” Ms. O’Mahoney said.

If a child gets an IEP but continues to show signs of struggle, this is where things can get difficult, for both the school district and parents.

If a parent believes the IEP is inadequate, he or she can call for a planning meeting (PPT) to discuss their concerns.

“Sometimes knowing what to ask for, and how to ask for it is the key to getting the right services in place for the child,” Ms. O’Mahoney said.

If parents and the district continue to disagree, each has the option to file for due process with the state Department of Education. The state can act as mediator to help both sides reach an agreement.

If that doesn’t work, parents and districts have the option to file for a legal proceeding called a due process hearing to have an independent hearing officer determine if the school’s program is appropriate or not.

If a child is on a 504 plan and is not making progress, there is a different process involving the federal Office of Civil Rights, because these services are under a different federal law.

“Our experience working with more than 2,000 families has made one fact very clear,” Ms. O’Mahoney said. “Unless parents clearly understand their child’s learning issues, what the effective teaching methodologies are to address those issues, and the intricacies of the process they need to use to ensure the school provides those services, there is a strong likelihood that their child is being under-served.”

Faith Filiault, a special education advocate based in Wilton and owner of Advocate with Faith, agreed. She advised parents who already have education plans for their students with special needs to start the new school year by requesting progress data and grade-level curriculum to prepare for the coming year.

Parents should request monitoring data from the last school year quarter and data from summer school, if pertinent, and compare it with the progress report and baseline data, which the district should provide, Ms. Filiault said.

Through the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act, or FERPA, parents have the option to request all records related to their child’s education.

Kathleen Casparino, a former special education teacher who later became an advocate, said parent involvement is key at every turn.

“The overarching theme should be informed parental involvement,” Ms. Casparino said. “It is an intimidating process and parents should know they have the right to be included as full team members. This includes the right to ask for clarification when they don’t understand something.”

She added, “I cannot underscore enough the importance of parents reading and understanding their child’s IEP.”

Parents can get help through the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (cpacinc.org), a state-supported organization that offers information and support, such as pro bono legal help, to parents of children with disabilities. They can be reached at 800-445-2722.

There are also many tutoring centers that offer additional help for parents.

For those interested in learning more about special education law and advocacy, Pete Wright, a Virginia lawyer, professor and founder of WrightsLaw.com, will be speaking at a conference in Wilton on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the WEPCO building at 48 New Canaan Rd. The cost is $190 and up. For more information, visit AdvocateWithFaith.com and click on the WrightsLaw conference logo on the left.

Article source: http://www.eastoncourier.com/6155/navigating-special-education-can-be-difficult-for-parents/

Navigating special education can be difficult for parents

Many families who confront special education programs that are full of jargon and complicated explanations often find that special education processes are so complex, they just let the schools handle it.

Most times the schools get it right, many parents and special education experts have said, but sometimes they don’t. It’s up to parents to know their rights.

The first thing parents should do if they notice their child is struggling is to contact the student’s teacher, said Noreen O’Mahoney, a parent and licensed social worker who has worked in the field of disabilities her entire career. If that doesn’t work, try the principal or someone at central office, she said.

One of the things school districts implement to try to catch kids who begin to show signs of struggle is what’s called scientific research-based intervention, or SRBI. This program has three tiers, with increasing levels of additional help.

“This instruction needs to be designed on an individual basis and carefully monitored by data analysis to ensure progress,” said Ms. O’Mahoney, who became an advocate for parents when she realized her own child needed help.

If a student is not progressing with SRBI, a parent has the option to request an evaluation to determine if the child requires specialized instruction. If the child is found eligible, then the district, in concert with parents, would develop an individualized education plan, or IEP.

Federal law states, however, that a person’s disability doesn’t necessarily mean they qualify for special education. The disability must impact the student’s ability to learn.

Parents are invited to be involved in the planning and placement team meeting, or PPT, which includes special education professionals, and meets at least once a year to develop a child’s education plan, or IEP.

The IEP should detail the following:

• What are the child’s identified special needs;

• What services will be provided to address those needs and where, and when and how often they will be provided;

• What goals and objectives the child should be able to achieve at intervals throughout the year, and what data will be collected to measure that progress;

• What consultation or training the school team may require to implement the program.

If an evaluation finds a student does not need an IEP, parents have the option to seek a second opinion. This “independent evaluation” is supposed to be paid for by the schools; however, they don’t have to agree to perform one. The schools also need to agree on who would perform the independent evaluation.

Ms. O’Mahoney said there are numerous evaluators out there, and parents “really need to do their homework on which ones can provide them with the most thorough, useful and truly ‘independent’ assessment of their child’s needs.”

If the child is again not found eligible for an IEP, it’s still possible to get some extra help through a 504 plan, which is named from a section of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It typically includes classroom modifications or accommodations such as preferential seating, extended time for testing or modified assignments, which could be needed for a student to access an education, Ms. O’Mahoney said.

But one of the most helpful professionals for parents is the child’s pediatrician, according to advocates.

“If you have concerns, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician, request information regarding your child’s challenges and research online as much information as you can find about your child’s needs and diagnosis,” Ms. O’Mahoney said.

If a child gets an IEP but continues to show signs of struggle, this is where things can get difficult, for both the school district and parents.

If a parent believes the IEP is inadequate, he or she can call for a planning meeting (PPT) to discuss their concerns.

“Sometimes knowing what to ask for, and how to ask for it is the key to getting the right services in place for the child,” Ms. O’Mahoney said.

If parents and the district continue to disagree, each has the option to file for due process with the state Department of Education. The state can act as mediator to help both sides reach an agreement.

If that doesn’t work, parents and districts have the option to file for a legal proceeding called a due process hearing to have an independent hearing officer determine if the school’s program is appropriate or not.

If a child is on a 504 plan and is not making progress, there is a different process involving the federal Office of Civil Rights, because these services are under a different federal law.

“Our experience working with more than 2,000 families has made one fact very clear,” Ms. O’Mahoney said. “Unless parents clearly understand their child’s learning issues, what the effective teaching methodologies are to address those issues, and the intricacies of the process they need to use to ensure the school provides those services, there is a strong likelihood that their child is being under-served.”

Faith Filiault, a special education advocate based in Wilton and owner of Advocate with Faith, agreed. She advised parents who already have education plans for their students with special needs to start the new school year by requesting progress data and grade-level curriculum to prepare for the coming year.

Parents should request monitoring data from the last school year quarter and data from summer school, if pertinent, and compare it with the progress report and baseline data, which the district should provide, Ms. Filiault said.

Through the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act, or FERPA, parents have the option to request all records related to their child’s education.

Kathleen Casparino, a former special education teacher who later became an advocate, said parent involvement is key at every turn.

“The overarching theme should be informed parental involvement,” Ms. Casparino said. “It is an intimidating process and parents should know they have the right to be included as full team members. This includes the right to ask for clarification when they don’t understand something.”

She added, “I cannot underscore enough the importance of parents reading and understanding their child’s IEP.”

Parents can get help through the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (cpacinc.org), a state-supported organization that offers information and support, such as pro bono legal help, to parents of children with disabilities. They can be reached at 800-445-2722.

There are also many tutoring centers that offer additional help for parents.

For those interested in learning more about special education law and advocacy, Pete Wright, a Virginia lawyer, professor and founder of WrightsLaw.com, will be speaking at a conference in Wilton on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the WEPCO building at 48 New Canaan Rd. The cost is $190 and up. For more information, visit AdvocateWithFaith.com and click on the WrightsLaw conference logo on the left.

Article source: http://www.eastoncourier.com/6155/navigating-special-education-can-be-difficult-for-parents/

Navigating special education can be difficult for parents

Many families who confront special education programs that are full of jargon and complicated explanations often find that special education processes are so complex, they just let the schools handle it.

Most times the schools get it right, many parents and special education experts have said, but sometimes they don’t. It’s up to parents to know their rights.

The first thing parents should do if they notice their child is struggling is to contact the student’s teacher, said Noreen O’Mahoney, a parent and licensed social worker who has worked in the field of disabilities her entire career. If that doesn’t work, try the principal or someone at central office, she said.

One of the things school districts implement to try to catch kids who begin to show signs of struggle is what’s called scientific research-based intervention, or SRBI. This program has three tiers, with increasing levels of additional help.

“This instruction needs to be designed on an individual basis and carefully monitored by data analysis to ensure progress,” said Ms. O’Mahoney, who became an advocate for parents when she realized her own child needed help.

If a student is not progressing with SRBI, a parent has the option to request an evaluation to determine if the child requires specialized instruction. If the child is found eligible, then the district, in concert with parents, would develop an individualized education plan, or IEP.

Federal law states, however, that a person’s disability doesn’t necessarily mean they qualify for special education. The disability must impact the student’s ability to learn.

Parents are invited to be involved in the planning and placement team meeting, or PPT, which includes special education professionals, and meets at least once a year to develop a child’s education plan, or IEP.

The IEP should detail the following:

• What are the child’s identified special needs;

• What services will be provided to address those needs and where, and when and how often they will be provided;

• What goals and objectives the child should be able to achieve at intervals throughout the year, and what data will be collected to measure that progress;

• What consultation or training the school team may require to implement the program.

If an evaluation finds a student does not need an IEP, parents have the option to seek a second opinion. This “independent evaluation” is supposed to be paid for by the schools; however, they don’t have to agree to perform one. The schools also need to agree on who would perform the independent evaluation.

Ms. O’Mahoney said there are numerous evaluators out there, and parents “really need to do their homework on which ones can provide them with the most thorough, useful and truly ‘independent’ assessment of their child’s needs.”

If the child is again not found eligible for an IEP, it’s still possible to get some extra help through a 504 plan, which is named from a section of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It typically includes classroom modifications or accommodations such as preferential seating, extended time for testing or modified assignments, which could be needed for a student to access an education, Ms. O’Mahoney said.

But one of the most helpful professionals for parents is the child’s pediatrician, according to advocates.

“If you have concerns, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician, request information regarding your child’s challenges and research online as much information as you can find about your child’s needs and diagnosis,” Ms. O’Mahoney said.

If a child gets an IEP but continues to show signs of struggle, this is where things can get difficult, for both the school district and parents.

If a parent believes the IEP is inadequate, he or she can call for a planning meeting (PPT) to discuss their concerns.

“Sometimes knowing what to ask for, and how to ask for it is the key to getting the right services in place for the child,” Ms. O’Mahoney said.

If parents and the district continue to disagree, each has the option to file for due process with the state Department of Education. The state can act as mediator to help both sides reach an agreement.

If that doesn’t work, parents and districts have the option to file for a legal proceeding called a due process hearing to have an independent hearing officer determine if the school’s program is appropriate or not.

If a child is on a 504 plan and is not making progress, there is a different process involving the federal Office of Civil Rights, because these services are under a different federal law.

“Our experience working with more than 2,000 families has made one fact very clear,” Ms. O’Mahoney said. “Unless parents clearly understand their child’s learning issues, what the effective teaching methodologies are to address those issues, and the intricacies of the process they need to use to ensure the school provides those services, there is a strong likelihood that their child is being under-served.”

Faith Filiault, a special education advocate based in Wilton and owner of Advocate with Faith, agreed. She advised parents who already have education plans for their students with special needs to start the new school year by requesting progress data and grade-level curriculum to prepare for the coming year.

Parents should request monitoring data from the last school year quarter and data from summer school, if pertinent, and compare it with the progress report and baseline data, which the district should provide, Ms. Filiault said.

Through the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act, or FERPA, parents have the option to request all records related to their child’s education.

Kathleen Casparino, a former special education teacher who later became an advocate, said parent involvement is key at every turn.

“The overarching theme should be informed parental involvement,” Ms. Casparino said. “It is an intimidating process and parents should know they have the right to be included as full team members. This includes the right to ask for clarification when they don’t understand something.”

She added, “I cannot underscore enough the importance of parents reading and understanding their child’s IEP.”

Parents can get help through the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (cpacinc.org), a state-supported organization that offers information and support, such as pro bono legal help, to parents of children with disabilities. They can be reached at 800-445-2722.

There are also many tutoring centers that offer additional help for parents.

For those interested in learning more about special education law and advocacy, Pete Wright, a Virginia lawyer, professor and founder of WrightsLaw.com, will be speaking at a conference in Wilton on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the WEPCO building at 48 New Canaan Rd. The cost is $190 and up. For more information, visit AdvocateWithFaith.com and click on the WrightsLaw conference logo on the left.

Article source: http://www.thereddingpilot.com/12421/navigating-special-education-can-be-difficult-for-parents/

Navigating special education can be tricky for parents

1670a weston special ed confused  300x200 Navigating special education can be tricky for parentsMany families who confront special education programs that are full of jargon and complicated explanations often find that special ed processes are so complex they just let the schools handle it.

Most times the schools get it right, many parents and special education experts have said, but sometimes they don’t. It’s up to parents to know their rights.

What parents need to know

The first thing parents should do if they notice their child is struggling is contact the student’s teacher, said Noreen O’Mahoney, a parent and licensed social worker who has worked in the field of disabilities her entire career. If that doesn’t work, try the principal or someone at the central office.

One of the things school districts implement to try to catch kids who begin to show signs of struggle is what’s called scientific research-based intervention, or SRBI. This program has three tiers, with increasing levels of additional help.

“This instruction needs to be designed on an individual basis and carefully monitored by data analysis to ensure progress,” said Ms. O’Mahoney, who became an advocate for parents when she realized her own child needed help.

IEP

If a student is not progressing with SRBI, a parent has the option to request an evaluation to determine if the child requires specialized instruction. If the child is found eligible, then the district, in concert with parents, would develop an individualized education plan, or IEP.

Federal law states, however, that a person’s disability doesn’t necessarily mean they qualify for special education. The disability must impact the student’s ability to learn.

Parents are invited to be involved in the planning and placement team meeting, or PPT, which includes special ed professionals, and meets at least once a year to develop a child’s education plan, or IEP.

The IEP should detail the following:

• What are the child’s identified special needs;

• What services will be provided to address those needs and where, and when and how often they will be provided;

• What goals and objectives the child should be able to achieve at intervals throughout the year, and what data will be collected to measure that progress;

• What consultation or training the school team may require to implement the program.

Evaluations/504

If an evaluation finds a student does not need an IEP, parents have the option to seek a second opinion. This “independent evaluation” is supposed to be paid for by the schools; however, they don’t have to agree to perform one. The schools also need to agree on who would perform the independent evaluation.

Ms. O’Mahoney said there are numerous evaluators out there, and parents “really need to do their homework on which ones can provide them with the most thorough, useful and truly ‘independent’ assessment of their child’s needs.”

If the child is again not found eligible for an IEP, it’s still possible to get some extra help through a 504 plan, which is named as such from a section of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It typically includes classroom modifications or accommodations such as preferential seating, extended time for testing or modified assignments, which could be needed for a student to access an education, Ms. O’Mahoney said.

But one of the most helpful professionals for parents is the child’s pediatrician, according to advocates.

“If you have concerns, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician, request information regarding your child’s challenges and research online as much information as you can find about your child’s needs and diagnosis,” Ms. O’Mahoney said.

Disagreements

If a child gets an IEP but continues to show signs of struggle, this is where things can get difficult, for both the school district and parents.

If a parent believes the IEP is inadequate, he or she can call for a planning meeting (PPT) to discuss their concerns.

“Sometimes knowing what to ask for, and how to ask for it is the key to getting the right services in place for the child,” Ms. O’Mahoney said.

If parents and the district continue to disagree, each has the option to file for due process with the state Department of Education. The state can act as mediator to help both sides reach an agreement.

If that doesn’t work, parents and districts have the option to file for a legal proceeding, called a due process hearing, to have an independent hearing officer determine if the school’s program is appropriate or not.

If a child is on a 504 plan and is not making progress, there is a different process involving the federal Office of Civil Rights, because these services are under a different federal law.

“Our experience working with more than 2,000 families has made one fact very clear,” Ms. O’Mahoney said. “Unless parents clearly understand their child’s learning issues, what the effective teaching methodologies are to address those issues, and the intricacies of the process they need to use to ensure the school provides those services, there is a strong likelihood that their child is being underserved.”

New year advice

Faith Filiault, a special education advocate based in Wilton and owner of Advocate with Faith, agreed. She advised parents who already have education plans for their students with special needs to start the new school year by requesting progress data and grade-level curriculum to prepare for the coming year.

Parents should request monitoring data from the last school year quarter and data from summer school, if pertinent, and compare it with the progress report and baseline data, which the district should provide, Ms. Filiault said.

Through the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act, or FERPA, parents have the option to request all records related to their child’s education.

Kathleen Casparino, a former special education teacher who later became an advocate, said parent involvement is key at every turn.

“The overarching theme should be informed parental involvement,” Ms. Casparino said. “It is an intimidating process and parents should know they have the right to be included as full team members. This includes the right to ask for clarification when they don’t understand something.”

She added, “I cannot underscore enough the importance of parents reading and understanding their child’s IEP.”

Outside school help

Parents may get help through the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (cpacinc.org), a state-supported organization that offers information and support, such as pro bono legal help, to parents of children with disabilities. They may be reached at 800-445-2722.

There are also many tutoring centers that offer additional help for parents.

For those interested in learning more about special education law and advocacy, Pete Wright, a Virginia lawyer, professor and founder of WrightsLaw.com, will be speaking at a conference in Wilton on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the WEPCO building at 48 New Canaan Rd. The cost is $190 and up. For more information, visit AdvocateWithFaith.com and click on the WrightsLaw conference logo on the left.

Article source: http://www.thewestonforum.com/13060/navigating-special-education-can-be-tricky-for-parents/

Waiting for Superman: Technology and Education

In 2010, a movie came out in theaters that highlighted a growing problem in our education system: that students are finding it more challenging to get a quality education based on the current paradigm. Waiting for ‘Superman’ is certainly a powerful film and follows several students striving to go to a charter school in pursuit of better learning.

While the film raised controversial issues, a thought came to me: students are being distracted by the problems that have become endemic to the current education system and are struggling to learn. So in light of this, could technology step in to complement what they’re being taught and better prepare them for the working world and life?

Is the education technology sector ‘Superman’?

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Dealing with lack of support

In the United States, schools that teach students from kindergarten to high school seniors have run into resource issues. Why? It’s due to the global recession and budget cuts that states have habitually made towards education. When I was in public school, I remember the district often holding referendums to help raise money to support its schools.

With fewer resources available to them, that means more students per classroom and a decrease in available courses, leading some to abandon the system and go after private and charter schools, where competition for admission is fierce. Without the tools and solutions available to students, how can they gain the knowledge to figure out what they want to do when they graduate (or rather if they do)?

Today, the system appears to be in major flux with the 5 percent automatic across-the-board cuts being made due to the enactment of the sequestration cuts, reducing the funding for the US Department of Education programs by $2.5 billion.

There’s a bevy of startups in this space that are looking to help students, parents, teachers, and also school districts combat this dilemma. And so while the community is battling with its local government for funding, it appears tech companies are leveraging their know-how to keep the train going, so to speak.

‘Commercialization’ of the classroom?

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The adoption of technology in the classroom isn’t a new thing — it’s already being used in practically all schools (hello, Internet?), but there are other services that will help augment what they’re learning in class, potentially helping bolster a student’s academic performance. In a way, it’s akin to the commercialization of the classroom — are tech companies looking to help students learn on devices that they’re already familiar with?

I remember when I was in school, one of the popular education services used was Blackboard, a virtual learning environment and course management system. Back in the late 1990s, education technology startups like Coursera and Khan Academy didn’t exist. If you needed help outside of the classroom, you went to your teacher, a tutor, or companies like Kaplan and Kumon. More than a decade after its founding, Blackboard wound up getting acquired for $1.64 billion from an investment group led by Providence Equity Partners.

In a study recently published by OnlineColleges.net, a vast majority of students are already proficient in using phones, text messages, social media, and the like. Here’s some of its findings:

  • 93 percent of students who own phones use them to send text messages
  • 3D printers are becoming more popular in education environments
  • eBooks continue to replace traditional textbooks
  • Video game-based learning is becoming continuously more effective
  • Educational institutions are continuing to adopt cloud-based technologies

f9ed7 Screen Shot 2013 08 31 at 5.25.17 PM Waiting for Superman: Technology and Education

Infographic excerpt via AnsonAlex.com

Schools are already providing laptops and tablet devices to their students at the beginning the academic year, seemingly to replace the need to carry around heavy textbooks and saving everyone a lot of money. But it’s not a foolproof plan as there are critics that suggest it will do little to encourage students to read (studies show that they don’t).

Helping everyone, both in and out of the classroom

The education technology space is certainly a hot market and there are perhaps hundreds of companies all vying to be appealing to teachers/professors, parents, students, and administrators. Some are well-known, including Edmodo, Chegg, Treehouse, PluralSight, Amplify, ShowMe, Subtext, and The Minerva Project, but there are many more that are striving to help change the world.

We’re all aware of the success companies like Coursera, Khan Academy, Codecademy and Udemy have had when it comes to helping educate people outside of the classroom, but what about those services seeking to help inside? An example is CK-12 Foundation, a California-based non-profit organization started by Neeru Khosla, wife of Sun Microsystem co-founder and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

As with all ed-tech companies, CK-12?s philosophy is to look at what’s wrong with education. It fundamentally believes that solutions must tackle the root of the problem, not the place that the problem starts manifesting itself. The organization is targeting those from kindergarten to 12th grade and looking to help provide students and teachers with textbooks and learning resources that it hopes will actually work.

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We sat down with Khosla and her team and found out that the average cycle for a text book is seven years so by the time students matriculate out of their current school, they’ll have left with outdated information. Using its service, teachers and students can craft their own textbook using the latest information. Through its software, CK-12 has academic scholars and experts develop textbooks that teachers can use in their courses.

Khosla tells us that teaching doesn’t have to be just from textbooks, but multiple modalities, such as videos, software, and more. In its current form, students and teachers are both served, with students able to get additional assistance through a tutorial website that will guide them through problems in mathematics, science, english, and other subjects.

Teachers can look through textbooks and make copies of the relevant lessons they want — the organization looks at the teaching requirements from all 50 states in the US. CK-12 says that it has broken each lesson into bite-size nuggets of information, which should help improve student comprehension of the subject.

In February, CK-12 launched a student competition called “Get Real” to encourage students to develop a real-world application of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concept they’ve learned.

Other startups looking to help the academic world include Clever, which is looking to help teachers better perform and improve access to data to share with their students. A Y Combinator company, it has partnered with 40 of the leading companies in the K-12 space such as DreamBox, Scientific Learning, and MasteryConnect. In doing so, it creates a centralized database between a school’s SIS database and the startup’s partners.

So far, Clever has more than 2,000 schools integrated with its service, allowing teachers to pull lessons from its partners and have students complete the exercises in the classroom. When graded, those records would be passed through Clever and stored in the school’s SIS database. Adding new apps to the system is reportedly easy to do as well, requiring only five minutes.

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We mustn’t forget about the work done by companies to help foster education in much needed parts of the world, like what Google has done with its Apps platform, Chromebook, and other product initiatives. Some of its successes include having 2,000 schools signed up to use its hardware, launching Google Play for Education to make it easier for young children to find age-appropriate apps to bolster their learning, creating a Search Education site for teachers to assist in the development of lesson plans and classroom activities, and more.

YouTube is also playing a pivotal role in how educators are supplementing their teachings in the classroom. During World Teachers’ Day in 2012, the company revealed that more than 1,000 educational channels were featured on the video sharing website, making it possible for anyone to continue learning both in and out of the school setting.

Apple is most certainly also involved in the education space — for decades, it has been in a close relationship with the academic world –practically every school in the US had Apple computers in them. Now, with the iPad tablet device, it’s taking on the textbook, similar to what CK-12 is doing, and hopes that students will find it appealing enough to want to study more.

At an education event in January 2012, the company debuted iBooks 2, which was called the “new textbook experience for the iPad.” As we all know, textbooks are expensive, physically cumbersome, and prone to being obsolete in a year or so. But with digital copies, educators can have better up-to-date versions instantly without needing students to get new books.

Putting it all to the test

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It appears that startups are certainly gaining recognition in the community and on their way to becoming as successful as Blackboard. Last month, the online book rental service-turned digital hub for students Chegg announced it is going public with an intent to raise $150 million in capital.

Udacity is another service receiving some noteworthy attention. It is in a relationship with San Jose State University to test out use of the platform’s online courses as part of its curriculum. After the first semester was a disappointment, the university saw a marked improvement in four of the five summer courses it offered, showing some potential.

And while there’s certainly more cases of education technology startups receiving press accolades or hitting other milestones, the point here is that many of these services are getting noticed by the academic world and are becoming seen as important to helping reform the broken system. As serial entrepreneur Naveen Jain, founder of Moon Ex and a trustee board member at X Prize and Singularity Universitypenned in a Forbes article:

Rethinking education starts with embracing our individuality. Our life experiences are very different from one and other, and yet we seem to think every one of us can learn the same way. Some of us learn experientially, while others are more attracted to logical or conceptual learning. Why are we limiting ourselves to one format or curriculum when we know that each individual is going to learn differently?

Don’t abandon your teachers — technology isn’t taking over

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But while startups are doing what reformers hoped would be done by our leaders, what do governments think about these initiatives? Will it help improve the education system? US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed this issue during a Google+ Hangout in August during an interview with Khan Academy founder Sal Kahn.

During the 36 minute conversation, Secretary Duncan responded to a question about the use of technology in the classroom, specifically in terms of reducing the amount of human interaction between students and teachers:

Technology is never going to replace great teachers. What all the research and studies seem to show is that blended learning, great teachers empowered by great technology is what’s leading to the best educational outcomes and achievements for students…

I think technology can help to strengthen teaching, help teachers not just teach, but actually know whether their students are learning or not. The goal is not to teach, the goal is to actually have students learn, to have students much more engaged in their own learning, to have parents know what’s working and what’s not and have them be better partners. There’s tremendous upside.

Secretary Duncan says that he’s optimistic about the use of technology and its future in the education space. And already, the Department of Education is doing something to back up those feelings. Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, schools will need to comply with the Common Core State Standards program, which has been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

What is the Common Core State Standards program? It’s perhaps the first of its kind that enables states to collaborate on a range of tools and policies, including the development of textbooks, digital media, and other teaching material. In addition, it enables the creation of a “common comprehensive assessment system” that will measure student performance annually. So starting next school year, schools will need to invest in education technology services lest students be left behind.

Juan Lopez-Valcarcel, Chief Digital Officer at education and publishing company Pearson, agrees with Duncan. At TNW’s conference in Amsterdam this year, he spoke about the ed-tech space, which he says is a $4 trillion market — three times larger than the mobile space, and eight times larger than the advertising industry. His entire talk is below:

Technology isn’t education reform’s silver bullet

Now, some of you might be reading this thinking that I’m claiming that technology is the end all be all cure for all that ails the education world. This is not what I’m saying — it is part of the solution.

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Communities and governments need to figure out ways to help support schools and improve student performance so that they can do well in their future professional endeavors. And while that might include budget constraints, resource deficiencies, overcrowding in the schools, lack of qualified teachers, and a slew of other issues constantly raised, learning shouldn’t have to suffer.

So while the physical classroom may be going through some seemingly never-ending turmoil, perhaps technology can offer a helping hand and be that one party that actually thinks about the children.

Now read:

Photo credits: BORYANA KATSAROVA/AFP/Getty ImagesMark Dadswell/Getty ImagesMichael Nagle/Getty Images, infographic from OnlineColleges.net via AnsonAlex.comJoe Raedle/Getty ImagesEMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty ImagesChung Sung-Jun/Getty Images, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images, and Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

Article source: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/09/02/is-technology-the-superman-that-the-education-sector-has-been-waiting-for/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+thenextweb%2FDfGz+(TNW+Aggregated+Feed)

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    Welcome , today is Thursday, April 17, 2014