Sunday, September 30, 2012

Your Child's Initial PPT Meeting - Special Education

Many parents have an extra responsibility when it comes to their children's education. Every year these parents attend their child's Planning and Placement Team meeting. Any child with a designation within the special education spectrum has one of these meetings every year. These designations include learning and intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, autism, other health impairments (ADD/ADHD, etc) and many others. Attending these meetings can be daunting and intimidating to non-educational members of the team. It doesn't have to be though. If a parent is prepared for the meeting and knows the 'drill' it should be much less difficult.
Annual PPT's are held every year at the same time. Legally there must be a meeting every year within 365 days and a triennial every 3 years. The triennial is a meeting to determine if a child is still eligible for special education. I am jumping ahead here a little, let's start at the beginning.
If your child has never had a special education designation, a member of the school community, yourself or your doctor may suggest that your child is tested to determine if he or she needs extra support. Sometimes it is obvious (your child may have autism, down's syndrome, or a physical disability) and other times additional testing needs to be completed to determine eligibility.
  1. The first step is for you or school personnel to start the process. If you initiate the process (through a written letter - example to be shown) the school must hold an initial meeting called a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting. At this meeting a number of individuals may be present. This will include a building administrator, special education teacher, a regular education teacher, the school psychologist, guidance counselor, school nurse, transition coordinator and anyone else deemed necessary. Your child's strengths and weaknesses will be discussed and you will be asked for your input and what your concerns are. You must also sign a permission to test form. Withholding permission will stop the process. The school district may determine that legal mediation is necessary at this time. A multi-disciplinary will be conducted to determine eligibility and must be completed within 45 of the initiation of services. Therefore, a full evaluation must be completed from the date the school receives your letter (or is internally referred by school personnel) within 45 school days. Weekends and vacations do not count.
  2. At the 2nd meeting it will be determined whether or not your child qualifies for special education services. For placement in special education, you must give your written consent. This can be withdrawn but you should seek the advice of an educational lawyer or advocate if you plan to do this. If it is determined that your child does not qualify for special education services, ask about a qualification under a 504 designation. You can disagree with any of the decisions made and have it noted in the Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is the map that school personnel will use to guide them in servicing your child's educational needs. You also have the option of disputing your position through the courts. The school district I work in tries to work with parents and avoid this altogether. If you win your case, the school district must pay your legal bills. It is suggested that you bring another individual with you (spouse, friend, pastor) for positive support. You should write down the concerns you have: strengths, what your child needs the most help with, goals that you want your child to succeed.
  3. If you child will be transitioning from high school to college or the world of work, a transition plan must be developed as well. Be prepared to discuss what you see for your child. Your teen will also be at this meeting (starts attending around 8th grade) and be asked what their interests and dreams are. You can help him or her in discussing this beforehand.
  4. Standardized testing will be discussed and it will be determined whether your child needs extra time, special setting or a reader (or any other number of accommodations).
  5. A modification page will be in the Individual Education Plan; you should ask for a copy of this page and make suggestions that you think are necessary for your child to succeed without enabling him/her.
  6. The number of hours your child will be serviced by special education personnel, counseling staff, etc. will be determined.
  7. Goals and objectives will be written for any areas that your child needs additional help in. This can include reading, math, writing, general academics, behavior, self-help skills, communication and other areas as necessary.
  8. Make sure to ask questions if you have them and get the name and number of at least one member of the team that you can talk to if you have any concerns or questions about your child, the IEP or PPT meeting.
  9. IEP's generally go into effect 5 days after the meeting or sooner if agreed to by the team. The school is obligated to get you a copy of the IEP within 5 days of the PPT meeting. Any questions you have (or disagreements with the plan) should be directed to a member of the team (usually a special education teacher or administrator).
  10. Relax, relax, relax. The more often you attend PPT's the more comfortable and knowledgeable you will become.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

5 Things to Know About Free Appropriate Public Education and Special Education

Do you have a child with autism or a learning disability and you are concerned about their education? Does your child with Dyslexia struggle with their academics even though they are receiving special education services? Free Appropriate Public Education is a right for all children receiving special education services. This article will discuss 5 things that you will need to know about FAPE, to help your child receive it.
1. The legal definition of FAPE is: special education and related services that are designed to meet the child's unique needs, gives meaningful benefit, and has been given at no charge to the parents. Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) includes and Individual Education Plan that is designed to meet the child's unique educational needs and gives meaningful benefit.
2. The Supreme Court Case that gave us this definition of FAPE is Board of Education Vs. Rowley 458 US 176 in 1982. You may be able to use this case in the future if you have a dispute with your school district over FAPE.
3. In the Rowley Case the justices determined that there are two areas that must be met to determine if a child with a disability is receiving FAPE:
A. Procedural Requirements: Did the district follow the correct procedural requirements and provisions in developing the child's IEP?
B. Will the IEP developed by the school district give the child meaningful educational benefit.
If either one of these is not done by the school district, then it means that the child is not receiving a free appropriate public education.
4. IDEA 2004 states that a procedural violation must rise to the level of substantive violation, to constitute a lack of FAPE. In other words the procedural violation must be a major violation, in order to be a violation of FAPE. Some hearing officers and courts have found that parents being denied the ability of being an equal participant in their child's IEP, is a substantive violation which is a denial of FAPE.
5. A new recent court case N.R. vs. Kingwood Township the court states that the IEP must allow the child: significant learning and give meaningful benefit. Use this definition to determine if your child's IEP is going to allow them significant learning and give meaningful benefit.
By understanding what Free Appropriate Public Education is and having knowledge of court cases you will be able to help your child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Online Education in Developing Countries

What we see up-and-coming is a society of Open and Distance Learning Institutions with a strong association among themselves. Sometimes this collaboration involves the exchange of course materials, and some form of cross licensing and credit transfer. The delivery is becoming increasingly electronic, and we should now view these educational systems as information technology systems.
Will these developments serve the interests of developing countries? There is clearly much need for caution. We need to moderate the developments reported above with concerns for access to the education both in terms of the students' own prior knowledge and cultural perspectives, and in terms of access to the technology through which to access the education. We also need to be concerned about the impact upon the local culture that may be matte by imported materials and the developed world's culture that these embody.
National Distance Learning Programs
In developing countries there is a natural desire to extend educational provision to the whole population.
Online education at the schools' level began in both countries during the colonial era in the 1950s and 1960s, partly through voluntary organizations and partly through government support as `a palliative for the colonial conscience'. The provision has taken various forms -correspondence schools, radio programs to supplement normal provision, radio and poster campaigns to promote literacy, health and other issues, as well as more formal online education programs. These programs have continued in the post-colonial era, with 70,000 students involved in Tanzania, and 42,000 in Zimbabwe. There has been a major focus on teacher training. Programs in both countries have suffered from inadequate funding (10% and less than 5% of the educational budget, respectively, in Tanzania and Zimbabwe). Neither country has established their own open university. One was advocated in 1989 for Tanzania, with use of radio and television broadcast, but not the full use of IT. In 1993 the University of Zimbabwe established its Online education Centre which now has some 1,500 students. We believe that this uses the conventional correspondence approach based on text.
Online education saves the need to build university campuses with teaching facilities, and for students to travel and to be accommodated centrally. IT and networking further helps this, but requires access to the technology - and as Zindi and Aucoin have pointed out for Tanzania, even something as basic as electricity may not be available within the community that you are wishing to serve. Such infrastructure problems are not faced by developed countries, though sometimes, as in Russia which is also seeking the use of online education to meet an educational need, there can be infrastructure difficulties: thus in Russia conventional postal delivery can be problematic while delivery electronically via satellite to the best of current equipment could be perfectly feasible.
Transnational Programs
We have seen that a large provider of education like the OU is already reaching out beyond its national borders, helped by IT and networking, to provide education globally. Geography is no longer a barrier.
This means that local students could subscribe to courses that may be supplied purely on the networks, and through this would obtain qualifications from the suppliers in the developed world. Presumably these qualifications would be recognized locally, and could indeed have some special standing.
It is worth noting that one motivation for Zimbabwe to establish its own national programs was to reduce the 163 million dollars flowing out of the country from the 40,000 students annually enrolled on online education courses. Developing countries may, just not be able to finance transnational educational programs.
The language of teaching is not the only concern. Teaching materials often draw upon case studies and examples, and these may not make any sense in other contexts. An example from the training materials for a database tool was the use of baseball, which was, of course, incomprehensible outside the US - a translation into football made the training much more widely acceptable.
The transnational and trans-cultural use of educational materials must be viewed with caution.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How to Have True Leadership in Education

There are three kinds of education: Professional education, the public school system, and leadership in education. Leadership in education can also be called the Thomas Jefferson Education. For families who couldn't afford to give their children any other kind of education, public school was their option. The system was instituted to create students who could become part of the work force after receiving a diploma.
Now, the public school system is overwhelmingly the educational option of choice for almost all Americans. Educators who know Thomas Jefferson's style of education like to call public school education "conveyor belt education." Public schools punch out students as if they were little more than commodities and factory products. Children are all treated the same in the public school system. They all get the same materials at the same age. They get the same indistinguishable tests. There is little or no focus on individual skills or interests.
Most students from this kind of education are great workers, at least. They were pretty much taught what to think. Another system is professional education, which is not far removed from its public counterpart. Professional schools offer training in specialized fields, such as law, medicine, and business.
Professional schools are better known as trade schools. These schools are very difficult to get into, with only the best students being highly competitive. A student who emerges from this school is a trained specialist who knows when to think.
Leadership in education, or leadership education, is the third form of education. Historically, students of this system went on to become powerful leaders in government. Students from this system also become champions of noble causes, great speakers, and entrepreneurs. It was Thomas Jefferson's vision to institute a system that would create leaders who would prevent tyranny. But after his educational plan was instituted, it only took a few short years for the government to involve itself in public education.
Jefferson and other leaders like him throughout history were mostly schooled at home. Once they received the foundation skills, they went to quality schools to learn the classics. Students are inspired to learn when mentors and teachers guide them in their studies. They learn how to think when placed at the feet of the great minds from the classics.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Influence of Internet on the Education System

The Information highway or the Internet has changed the way the world goes about doing things. It is one more point in a long continuum of inventions that is set to revolutionize lifestyles. One is inclined to ask, how does the ability of computers to talk to each other improve the learning process in the classroom? How does it make a difference in study of epics like the Odyssey and the Iliad? These questions and more will be answered in the following passages. The Internet has a more pervasive effect than other electronic media and is the modern engine of progress; it is the new form of thinking that will show a fresh approach to online education.
Personal computers and the Information Superhighway are rapidly transforming America. Already, the Internet is making large amounts of information available at unprecedented speeds. When this revolution makes itself fully felt in schools, teachers and students will have virtually instantaneous access to vast amounts of information and a wide range of learning tools. If we guide the information revolution wisely, these resources will be available not only to affluent suburban schools but also to rural school districts and inner-city schools. Broad access can reduce differences in the quality of online education and give children in all areas new opportunities to learn. Used well, this transforming technology can play a major role in school reform.
The new technology will enable students to acquire the skills that are essential to succeed in modern society. Exposure to computer technology in school will permit students to become familiar with the necessary tools at an early age. By using the technology well, they will also acquire better thinking skills to help them become informed citizens and active community members.
The drive to integrate technology into our nation's schools goes far beyond the Internet. If the Internet didn't exist, advanced technology would still have so many valuable educational uses distance learning applications, collaborative learning, and so forth that far larger investments than are being contemplated would be justified.
Web resources are excellent tools for researches. Let's not kid ourselves, however. Even if policymakers, practitioners, and parents did decide what their goals were and even if the research findings supported one of several configurations of hardware and software, deciding when, how, or if to use technology (or any other reform) in the classroom is not likely to be determined solely on these bases. Many other factors--ranging from parental pressure to superintendents wanting to leave their fingerprints on the district to technology corporations promoting their products--shape decisions to buy and allocate technologies to schools.
The Internet is an incredible information resource and a powerful communication tool. The ability to use new technologies is becoming a more important factor in career options, and the future success of today's students will be more affected by their understanding of and ability to access and use electronic information. The increased use of on-line services in the home by children adds to the impetus for schools to take a more active role in family education regarding their use.
Schools have the potential to be access points and online educational centers for exploring Internet resources. Increased involvement of parents in school education programs can help address community concerns and can improve their children's overall academic performance. If educators assume responsibility for helping students master the use of technology and educating them about potential risks, students will become more empowered to make intelligent choices.
Multicultural education relates to education and instruction designed for the cultures of several different races in an educational system. This approach to teaching and learning is based upon consensus building, respect, and fostering cultural pluralism within racial societies. Multicultural education acknowledges and incorporates positive racial idiosyncrasies into classroom atmospheres.
The concept of learning styles is rooted in the classification of psychological types. The different ways of doing so are generally classified as: Concrete and abstract perceivers and Active and reflective processors.
There are many academic and psychological issues do minority students encounter such as: low single head of household, low socioeconomic status, low minority group status, limited English proficiency, low-educational attainment of parents, mobility, and psychosocial factors.
Not only do school programs and practices have a direct impact upon student success, but the school and community contexts in which these programs and practices occur also affect success rates. "Context" is comprised of numerous factors. Some contextual variables can have a positive impact upon students, while others work against student success.
The call for total school reform strongly suggests that existing conceptions of education are inadequate for promoting multicultural equity. Unfortunately, these same conceptions have shaped the schooling of prospective teachers. Their education likely has been characterized by tracking (the process of assigning students to different groups, classes, or programs based on measures of intelligence, achievement, or aptitude), traditional instruction that appeals to a narrow range of learning styles, and curricula that exclude the contributions of women and people of diverse cultures. Competition drives this factory model of schooling, in which students tend to be viewed as products coming off an assembly line.
Education is a fundamental human process; it is a matter of values and action. The cluster of technologies called the Internet has the ability to complement, to reinforce, and to enhance the educational process. It will take the focus of education from the institution to the student. The Internet has come to befriend, dwell with, and live beyond, both, the teacher and the student. African wisdom says, "It takes an entire village to raise a child".
My personal conclusion is that all students, regardless of race, ethnic group, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location, age, language, or disability, deserve equitable access to challenging and meaningful learning and achievement. This concept has profound implications for teaching and learning throughout the school community. It suggests that ensuring equity and excellence must be at the core of systemic reform efforts in education as a whole.