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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Education News Roundup

I bookmark many education stories but wait until I have a mass and/or time to post them.

First, up worry over teachers labeled "highly qualified" teaching Special Ed students.  This story comes from the Special Ed section at Ed Week.

Earlier this year, the Senate merely left the door open to extending a provision that allows teachers still working on their certification to be considered "highly qualified"—a designation created by 2001's No Child Left Behind law. The law says teachers must already be certified to qualify, but Education Department regulations created about the law allowed for teachers in alternative routes to be considered highly qualified, even if they were still working on their certification. For example, people in the classroom as part of the Teach for America training program would fall into this category.

The department's regulations on these alternative routes were set to expire, but as my colleague Alyson Klein explains over at the Politics K-12 blog, the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday extended the provision through the end of the 2014-15 school year.

In a letter earlier this week, the Coalition for Teaching Quality, which includes the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and several other special education and disability advocacy groups, urged Congress not to extend the alternative routes to being highly qualified beyond next year.

"Allowing this temporary provision to sunset on June 30, 2013 would represent an important step forward in providing thousands of high need students and families across the country equal access to high quality teachers, and will signal a positive change of course on this critical issue," the group wrote.

But the House panel did just the opposite.


What about education in the upcoming election - policy or politics?  This is considered by Ed Week in their Transforming Learning blog.

Five years of talk about "education reform" but no clear blueprint for action.

Five years of mandates that punish educators and push education down the wrong path.

Five years of measuring student proficiency largely based on single-dimensional standardized test scores.

Five years of too many strings attached to too few dollars.

Five years is too long to wait for action.


However,

This necessary emphasis on the role of principals in school improvement builds on decades of research that has produced reams of reports: Principals are second only to classroom teachers in influencing student achievement. A teacher can create a great classroom, but only a great principal can create and sustain a great school.

Good news for kids in Missouri who don't want to do science homework - just say it violates your religious beliefs.  Missouri voters approved a state constitutional amendment that "protects" religious freedom.  From the Times:

The measure — Amendment 2 — says Missourians' right to express religious beliefs can't be infringed. It protects voluntary prayer in schools and requires public schools to display a copy of the Bill of Rights.

It says students need not take part in assignments or presentations that violate their religious beliefs.

That last provision may soon become the subject of litigation, critics warned. They said it could lead to students skipping science classes or assignments when they disagree with teaching about the origins of man.


Great YouTube video about ALEC called Students for Sale.

On August 3, 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that a school resource officer did not have probable cause to look through a student's backpack (and therefore an air pistol in it could not be used in a criminal case).   The issue seemed to revolve around whether the school resource officer - typically a police officer - was a school official (usually not as the city pays police officers).

From  Ed Week:

The Aug. 2 ruling in Washington v. Meneese stems from a February 2009 incident at Robinswood High School in Bellevue, Wash. School Resource Officer Michael Fry, of the Bellevue police department, spotted a student in a school restroom holding a bag of marijuana. Fry took the student, Jamar B.D. Meneese, to a school office where he placed him under arrest and handcuffed him. Fry then opened and searched the student's locked backpack, which contained an air pistol.

Meneese, who was evidently an adult at the time, was convicted in a state trial court of possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana and unlawfully carrying a dangerous weapon at school. The student challenged the weapons charge based on the officer's alleged lack of probable cause to search his backpack. Under relevant case law, the officer would have had to have a warrant to open the locked bag absent the "school exception," or reasonable suspicion standard.

Lower courts rejected the argument, but in its decision this week, the Washington Supreme Court sided with the student. The majority said there where overwhelming indications that Fry was acting as a law enforcement officer, not a school official, in conducting the search.

"Fry's job ... concern[s] the discovery and prevention of crime, and he has no authority to discipline students," said the majority opinion by Justice Susan Owens. "He is a uniformed police officer who responds to, and addresses, incidents occurring on school grounds. Moreover, his role as SRO does not exempt him from other police duties as he can still be called upon to answer police matters unrelated to the school."


Apparently WA State constitutional law has stronger protections from illegal searchers than the US Fourth Amendment. 

 And the specific facts of this case supported the probable cause requirement, as Officer Fry was not trying to further school discipline because he had already placed Meneese under arrest when he conducted the backpack search.

"There was no chance for swift and informal school discipline and further searching primarily promoted criminal prosecution, not education," the majority said.

9 comments:

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Very true - nobody wants an underqualified teacher, especially for a child with a disability. But neither do we want our kids to have endless subs. They aren't especially well qualified, and they aren't interviewed by school based interviews. Lots of sped positions are held by subs, often a different sub every week or every few days, for as long as a year.

Sped Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

SpedParent, so what's the answer? Should we be paying more attention to finding and keeping good Spec Ed teachers? Merit pay for them?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I have an answer. Yes, there could be some sort of differentiated pay scale or bonus system for sped teachers, especially EBD teachers who are impossible to retain - even in a very tight job market. But, more importantly, principal accountability in sped issues including recruitment and teacher retention should be enacted. If even retaining sped staff were part of a review goal for principals - I'm sure they'd get better at it. In schools sped teachers find themselves in the same poor sped environment as students. If the students are a very low priority, it makes the teaching job much more difficult. The difference? Teachers can leave.

-Sped parent

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I have an answer. Yes, there could be some sort of differentiated pay scale or bonus system for sped teachers, especially EBD teachers who are impossible to retain - even in a very tight job market. But, more importantly, principal accountability in sped issues including recruitment and teacher retention should be enacted. If even retaining sped staff were part of a review goal for principals - I'm sure they'd get better at it. In schools sped teachers find themselves in the same poor sped environment as students. If the students are a very low priority, it makes the teaching job much more difficult. The difference? Teachers can leave.

-Sped parent

Jet City mom said...

I think more needs to come from the union when hammering out their contract. My impression is there is not much representation from SPED teachers at the table.

Anonymous said...

Well, with the SEA VP a SpEd teacher, one would hope the SpEd rank and file would have better representation, but I'm not holding my breath.

Putz

Jet City mom said...

According to their current contract, Sped teachers can have a self contained classroom of 20 students in high school. Considering the diverse needs and challenges of a group that size, that seems like warehousing to me.

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