Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year

As the year turns, it's time for reflection and resolutions.So think back upon last year and get ready for the new one,  and most importantly chew the black-eyed peas carefully.

If anybody has a good special education resolution, we'd love to hear it. Please share.

To all of our loyal and fantastic readers, Happy New Year!

In the meantime, here are some fun facts about world and US population from our friends at the Census Bureau:

As our nation prepares to ring in the new year, the U.S. Census Bureau today projected the United States population will be 322,762,018 on Jan. 1, 2016. This represents an increase of 2,472,745, or 0.77 percent, from New Year’s Day 2015. Since Census Day (April 1) 2010, the population has grown by 14,016,480, or 4.54 percent.
In 2016, the United States is expected to experience one birth every eight seconds and one death every ten seconds. Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 29 seconds. The combination of births, deaths and net international migration increases the U.S. population by one person every 17 seconds.
The projected world population on Jan. 1 is 7,295,889,256, an increase of 77,918,825, or 1.08 percent, from New Year’s Day 2015. During January 2016, 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths are expected worldwide every second.
The Census Bureau’s U.S. and World Population Clock
 simulates real-time growth of the U.S. and world populations at <

Monday, December 28, 2015

Weekly Question!

According to Howard Zehr, "Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in the specific offense, and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible." Does restorative justice have a place in special education: re bullying, student discipline, remedies. etc? What do you think?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

To all of our readers, please have a Merry Christmas.  Please remember to think about others in this most important holiday. Below is some music and some fun facts. Enjoy the holiday.

Here is some nice Christmas music for you:

Here are some fun facts about the holiday season from our friends at the U. S. Census Bureau:

Rush to the Stores
$24.5 billion
Estimated retail sales by the nation’s department stores (including leased departments) in December 2014. This represents an estimated 41.2 percent jump from the previous month when retail sales were estimated at $17.3 billion. No other estimated month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Monthly Retail Trade Survey

Note: Leased departments are separately owned businesses operated as departments or concessions of other service establishments or of retail businesses, such as a separately owned shoeshine parlor in a barber shop, or a beauty shop in a department store. Also, retail sales and inventory estimates have not been adjusted to account for seasonal or pricing variations.
The estimated percentage of total 2014 sales for department stores (including leased departments) in December. For jewelry stores, the estimated percentage was 18.2 percent. Sources: U.S. CensusBureau, Monthly Retail Trade Survey <
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The estimated growth in inventories by our nation’s department stores (excluding leased departments) from Aug. 31 to Nov. 30, 2014. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Monthly Retail Trade Survey<

$48.3 billion
Estimated value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order houses in December 2014 — the highest estimated total for any month last year. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Monthly Retail Trade Survey <

The number of electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in 2013. These businesses, which employed 383,066 workers in the pay period including March 12, are a popular source of holiday gifts. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 County Business Patterns <

Christmas Trees and Decorations
$1.2 billion
The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and September 2015. China was the leading country of origin for such items. Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($163.3 million worth) during the same period. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Statistics <

Estimated number of U.S. producers who grew poinsettias in 2014. California, North Carolina and Florida ranked in the top three for sales of the popular holiday plant. Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (pg. 42) <

Where Toys are Made

The number of locations that primarily produced dolls, toys and games in 2013; they employed 6,538 workers in the pay period including March 12. California led the nation with 86 establishments. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 County Business Patterns <|0100000US.04000/naics~33993

Holiday Names
Place names associated with the holiday season consist of a dozen places named Holly, including Mount Holly, N.C. (population 14,016) and Holly Springs, Miss. (7,574). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,644), Santa Claus, Ind. (2,479), North Pole, Alaska (2,178), Noel, Mo. (1,831) and — if you know about reindeer — Dasher, Ga. (959) and Rudolph, Wis. (433). There is also Unity, N.H. (1,615) and Peace, N.D. (28). Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates <

$1.7 billion
The estimated product shipments value of candles in 2013 by U.S. manufacturers. Many of these candles are lit during Diwali (Nov. 11), Hanukkah (Dec. 6-14) and Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) celebrations. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 Economic Census, Industry Series <

The estimated percentage by which the U.S. Postal Service surpassed its own projections for package deliveries in December 2014. This marks an increase of 18 percent from package deliveries in December 2013. Sources: U.S. Postal Service <
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Feds Provide Guidance on Recent Changes to ESEA #ESEA

The U. S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter on Friday providing guidance on the recently reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  The letter covers  expectations regarding: Title I assessment peer review; annual measurable objectives (AMOs) and annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAOs) for school years 2014–2015 and 2015–2016; conditions and other related requirements under ESEA flexibility; priority and focus school lists; and educator evaluation and support systems under ESEA flexibility. 

In addition, the letter notes that  a Request for Information (RFI) that seeks advice and recommendations regarding regulations under Title I of the ESEA as reauthorized by the ESSA is available today for public inspection at A link to that document will be available at when it is published in the Federal Register. So if you have thoughts about new Title I regulations, you may provide input there.

You can read the Dear Colleague Letter here.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Weekly Question!

According to Howard Zehr, "Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in the specific offense, and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible." Does restorative justice have a place in special education: re bullying, student discipline, remedies. etc? What do you think?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

President Signs ESEA Reauthorization Into Law #ESEA

 President Obama signed the Every Child Succeeds Act (S. 1177) into law last week. This law is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, until recently also known as No Child Left Behind.  You can read the text of the law here. You may read the entire report of the House-Senate Conference Committee here. The Department of Education website has a wealth of information about the new law here. The White House fact sheet about the new law is available here. Even more resources about the law are available on the Policy Insider blog of our friends at the CEC.

There are a few big changes that concern the education of students with disabilities.  One is that the highly qualified teacher requirement is removed. Another is that the adequate yearly progress requirements are removed and replaced by a statewide accountability system.  The following chart compiled by the Council for Exceptional Children lists the other major changes in the law:

CEC’s Summary of Selected Provisions in Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 
In December 2015, the U.S. Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act / No Child left Behind (ESEA/NCLB). This summary of selected provisions in ESSA is intended to provide CEC members with information on issues relevant to children and youth with disabilities and gifts and talents. The summary includes new provisions as well as those provisions eliminated. This summary is not intended to be exhaustive of all the provisions nor reflective of CEC’s position on the provision. 
 Transfers authority for accountability, educator evaluations and school improvement from the federal government to the states and local districts. 
Assessments and Accountability 
 Maintains annual, statewide assessments in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12. 
 Repeals adequate yearly progress and replaces it with a statewide accountability system. 
 Includes the use of multiple measures in school performance. 
 Maintains annual reporting of data disaggregate by subgroups of children including students with disabilities. 
 Maintains with some modifications provisions for a cap of 1% of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can take the alternate assessment aligned to the alternate academic achievements standards. 
 Helps states to improve low performing schools (bottom of 5% of schools). Actions will be determined locally not federally. 
 Authorizes the use of federal funds for states and local school districts to conduct audits of state and local assessment systems to eliminate assessments that do not contribute to student learning. Standards 
 Ensures States are able to choose their challenging academic standards in reading and math aligned to higher education in the state without interference from the federal government. The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adapt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core.
 Provides $15+ billion a year to states in formula funding, as well as additional funds through competitive grants. 
 Maintains maintenance of effort and supplement not supplant, with additional flexibility for States and local school districts. 
 Choice for Parents
 Improves the Charter Schools Program by investing in new charter school models, as well as allowing for the replication and expansion of high quality charter school models. 
Early Childhood 
 Authorizes the Preschool Development Grants program. This competitive grant program will use existing funding to support states that propose to improve coordination, quality and access for early childhood education and will be administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the Department of Education. 
Teacher Effectiveness 
 Eliminates highly qualified. 
 Eliminates federally mandated teacher evaluation system. 
 Includes an option to transfer unlimited amounts of professional development funds out of Title II.  Encourages states and local school districts to develop teacher and principal residency and induction programs, support teachers and principals through professional learning and growth systems and leadership opportunities. 
 Provides for the allowable use of funds for establishing or expanding teacher preparation academies. 
 Rejects “portability” provisions that would have allowed states to shift federal funds away from schools that need them most. 
 Rejects vouchers. 
Pay for Success 
 Adds a pay for success initiative that is defined as a performance – based grant, contract, or cooperative agreement awarded by a public entity in which a commitment is made to pay for improved outcomes that result in social benefit and direct cost savings or cost avoidance to the public sector. 
Mental Health 
 Requires consultation with school psychologists and other specialized instructional personnel in the development of state and local plans. 
  Recognizes school – based mental health services as an evidence – based whole – school improvement and targeted intervention strategy. 
 Authorizes significant investments for states and districts to implement: comprehensive school mental health services, efforts to improve school climate and school safety, strategies to reduce bullying and harassment, and activities to improve collaboration between school, family and the community. 
Gifted and Talented 
 Authorizes the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act supporting high ability learners and learning. 
 Includes strong provisions for the disaggregation of student achievement data by subgroup at each achievement level on state and local report cards. 
 Provides options to include the identification of and service to students with gifts and talents in local education agency plans. 
 Provides options to include professional development plans for gifted and talented educators in Title II. 
Children with Disabilities 
 Ensures access to the general education curriculum. 
 Ensures access to accommodations on assessments.  Ensures concepts of Universal Design for Learning, 
 Includes provisions that require local education agencies to provide evidence – based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups. 
 Requires states in Title I plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion). 

So what do you think of the new ESEA?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Weekly Question!

According to Howard Zehr, "Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in the specific offense, and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible." Does restorative justice have a place in special education: re bullying, student discipline, remedies. etc? What do you think?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Comparative Special Education Law: Scotland - Part II

At the CADRE Symposium in October, I met a special education mediator from Scotland, Morag Steven. She presented an interesting concurrent session. I always find comparative special education law to be fascinating. This is a powerpoint that she used during her presentation. This is her website.

She also agreed to be interviewed for this blog. Her answers to the first questions can be found in this earlier post.  Her answers to the remaining questions follow:

3. What is mediation like for special education disputes in Scotland?
My company Common Ground Mediation and another collaborative competitor Resolve:ASL have contracts to deliver additional support needs (ASN) mediation across about 70% of Scotland, and broadly speaking we use the same model. Because of the broad scope of the terms of ASL and ASN, we mediate all sorts of disputes, not just the ones where there are statutory duties and legal issues. For example, we mediate disputes about school placement, types of support and adaptations available in schools, parental complaints etc, but we also mediate when the issues are less tangible, such as loss of trust and respect, poor communication, differing views about the child's/student's abilities, etc.  In fact, what I call 'interpersonal issues' is one of the main factors in ASN mediation, despite effective home school partnership being championed by the Scottish Government.

4. Having attended the CADRE symposium, what similarities and differences do you see for special ed mediation in the US as compared to Scotland? What can we learn from each other?
Attending the CADRE symposium for the first time was just as fantastic an experience as I had hoped for. It was great to meet so many special education mediators from across US and gain affirmation that we are all working with the same values and principles. There are many similarities despite our different legal systems in education, but I was also interested in variations across US states, where some (including California, I think) seem to have 2 types of special education mediation, one less formal at an early stage (perhaps more similar to what we offer in Scotland) and the other more formal when a due process hearing has been requested. I hope I have picked up this information correctly!
In Scotland mediation services are legally obliged to ensure that the child/student's views are included in whatever way seems appropriate, and I was surprised that there was not so much discussion about this issue at the symposium - so that seems to be a difference between us. On the other hand, I attended the session about Student-Led IEPs and student engagement as a driver of change, and was very impressed by the work of School Talk in Washington DC.

5. What else would you say to our readers about special education mediation? 
It took some years for educators in Scotland to understand the potential benefits of mediation and other types of dispute resolution in education. However, everyone agrees that the best way to support children's learning is to encourage effective communication and partnership working between parents and educators. It's not surprising that there can be disagreements and differences of opinion - but that doesn't necessarily have to lead to destructive conflict. It can be very challenging to bring up a child with a disability and/or additional support need (I have personal experience of this) but schools and teachers have their own challenges and frustrations too. Scottish parents have been encouraged by successive governments to think of themselves as consumers of a service, and their expectations are high, at a time when public service budgets continue to be cut. I think there will continue to be a growing need for mediation!

You can learn more about special education mediation in Scotland in this article from the Times Educational Supplement Scotland.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Weekly Question!

According to Howard Zehr, "Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in the specific offense, and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible." Does restorative justice have a place in special education: re bullying, student discipline, remedies. etc? What do you think?