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The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
August 4, 1999

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Issue - 38

ISSN: 1538-3202


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1. News Break! New York Agrees To Overhaul Special Education

For years, New York has been criticized for placing too many children with disabilities – especially black and Hispanic boys – in segregated special education classrooms. After being placed in segregated classes, few of these children leave.

Nearly 400,000 students are in New York special education programs, including 84,000 in New York City.

The federal government has threatened to sanction New York with the loss of $335 million in aid unless New York ends these discriminatory practices.

Negotiators for the state Senate and Assembly have been trying to avoid sanctions from the federal government. The negotiators have proposed a plan to reform special education that would take effect in the fall of 2000.

On August 3, 1999, The New York Times published "Plan Is Set for Overhaul of Special Ed in New York" by Raymond Hernandez. According to this article:

"The plan would provide additional financial resources to districts that want to remove children from special education and place them in regular classrooms, where the extra funds would be used to provide tutors, therapists and other support."

"This agreement protects $335 million in federal funds for the education of disabled children," he said, "while taking important steps to avert inappropriate referrals to special education and encourage the placement of children to regular, integrated classrooms."

"The deal still requires the approval of state education officials, who in turn must notify the federal government that the state has taken actions to avert penalties. Christopher Carpenter, a spokesman for the State Education Department, said the department could not comment on the plan because it had not had the opportunity to review the details."

"Under the current system, school districts receive additional state aid for each child placed in special education, but critics say the additional money has led educators to identify disabilities in children who are simply troubled or underachieving to glean extra funds."

The URL for this New York Times article

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2. News Break! 8th Circuit Rules That Title II Of ADA Is Unconstitutional

Sonja Kerr, parent attorney from Minnesota, advised that-

"In an opinion issued July 23, 1999, in Alsbrook v. Arkansas Commission on Law, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that Title II of the ADA is not a proper exercise of Congressional power under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the Court said that Congress did not have the power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to require states to be subject to the ADA. Thus, the Court concluded that an ADA claim against state defendants is barred by the U.S. Constitution under the Eleventh Amendment."

On August 3, 1999, we received an alert from Justice-For-All:

"This means that in the 8th Circuit, which includes Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, Title II of the ADA is unconstitutional. It is unclear whether these states have any ADA Title II responsibilities or if advocates have any Title II claims."

"What is clear is that ADA is under major attack not only in the 8th Circuit but all over the country. Some case testing the constitutionality of the ADA will almost certainly go before the Supreme Court next session." (Justice-For-All)

Because other Courts have ruled that Title II is constitutional, this new 8th Circuit ruling has created a "split among Circuits." We expect that the U. S. Supreme Court will be called upon to resolve the split.

The URL for the Alsbrook decision

If you live in Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota or South Dakota, you should make regular visits to Sonja Kerr’s website. This will help you stay on top of legal developments in your Circuit. Go to

http://www.kerrlaw.com

Contact information for Justice-For-All: Fred Fay, Chair, Justice-For-All: jfa@jfanow.org

Website: http:://www.jfanow.org

===============

3. "Tailoring Reading To The Child"

On August 3, 1999, Gail Russell Chaddock, staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor, wrote an excellent article about tailoring reading programs to the needs of individual children and improving teacher training. Here are some highlights from Chaddock’s article. The URL for this article is at the end of this highlight.

"After decades of bouncing between supposedly cure-all reading methods, lots of kids are still not learning the most basic skill of all. And new testing programs at both the national and state level are making that failure harder to hide."

"In the highest-poverty public schools, more than 2 in 3 fourth- graders can't read, according to the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). By the 12th grade, 23 percent of students are still reading poorly."

"But recently, experts are calling for – and politicians are mandating – a "balanced approach" that tailors a program to each child's specific needs."

"Freeing teachers from relying exclusively on one method could ensure that more children become competent readers. But it requires teachers to be trained in and have access to materials for a range of methods – currently not the case in most schools."

"Every program we've ever studied works with some kids and leaves many behind," says G. Reid Lyon, chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. For 60 percent of US children, reading is a "formidable challenge," he says. For poor kids, the struggle to learn to read can be especially tough."

"There is an epidemic of reading difficulties among economically and socially disadvantaged children in the United States," Mr. Lyons told the House Committee on Education and the Workforce last week.

"Recent research shows that learning to read - or failure to do so – begins long before kids enter school. Children that are talked to and read to early start school with a big advantage."

"To make up early deficiencies, schools must provide focused and intensive remedial work as early as possible, experts say."

"Good professional development for reading teachers has been one of the weakest points in US education. Many teachers' colleges still do not require students to diagnose and correct reading difficulties. And experts caution that a flood of untrained tutors won't meet the need."

"One of the challenges of tutoring poor children is finding qualified volunteers. The presence of a skilled on-site reading consultant to write lesson plans, prepare materials, and give feedback can make up for those deficiencies."

"You can make a difference, but only if you have somebody on site who can intervene and teach the tutors as well," says Marcia Invernizzi, who helped set up a volunteer literacy program in New York, based on a program, "Book Buddies," that she co-founded in Charlottesville, Va."

"Discussing ways to deal with untrained tutors, Dr. Invernizzi said "Many [in the Bronx] didn't finish high school and English was not their first language. Their own schooling experience really varies and was not particularly positive . . . you can work with such volunteers if there is a reading specialist on site every day."

"States are just beginning to be sure that they provide institutes for teachers to learn the phonics they didn't learn in teachers’ colleges," says Sandra Stotsky, deputy commissioner for academic affairs and planning at the Massachusetts Department of Education, who is completing a study on new state literacy standards."

"It's part of a hopeful picture. We're beginning to restore the notion that the role of the teacher is teaching," she adds."

The URL for this article

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