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May 2014 Archives

-Dr. Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy and Culture, College of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on multicultural education, especially Latinos and immigrants and students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 

-Dr. Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University. She is a designer of cattle-handling facilities and developed animal welfare auditing for fast food restaurants in the US. 

-Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, President of the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury and Pastor, Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York. Internationally recognized as an educator, minister and leader to empower men and women in society, he contributes daily to the growth and development of the community of Harlem. 

-Dr. Carl Wieman, Professor of Physics and Education, Stanford University. He has done extensive experimental research in atomic and optical phyhsics and is currently focused on teaching undergraduate physics and science education.

Hunter College Commencement


Hunter College President Jennifer Raab will welcome 3,000 graduating students at the 2014 Hunter College commencement on Tues. May 27 at Radio City Music Hall.

Wynton Marsalis, internationally acclaimed musician, composer, band-leader, educator and Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center and Music Director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will be the speaker. He was honored by Hunter College in 1995 with an honorary degree at Doctor of Humane Letters. This year, that honorary degree will be awarded to Eleanor Clift, journalist and author. Clift became one of the nation's best known and best-regarded political reporters during her 50-year career at Newsweek. Today, she covers politics for The Daily Beast and is widely recognized as "the determined voice of reason" on the combative political talk show, The McLaughlin Group.


tc1.jpgPhotos of: Advisory Council of Teachers College on the altar of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. 

By Mark Alter, PhD, Joan Rosenberg  EdD and Neal Rosenberg Esq.

In October 2007, the United States Supreme Court ruled for the parents of a disabled child in New York City Board of Education v. Tom F and, once again, this issue was addressed by the courts in the Forest Grove School District v. T.A.  523F.3d 1078 (9thCir.2008).The Supreme Court ruled that parents of special-education students may seek government reimbursement for private school tuition, even if they have never received special-education services in public school. In its decisions, the high court affirmed that parents of a disabled child are entitled to tuition reimbursement under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)-even if that child has not previously received any public special education services. The cases encompassed the heart, soul, spirit, and source of all the issues in special education: What is appropriate?  What is the least restrictive environment, and what are the conditions that will enable the delivery of the individualized plan for a student with a disability?

A cornerstone of special education is the determination of the Least Restrictive Environment--that is, the classroom conditions that enable the delivery of an appropriate education. Though an appropriate education in many cases may be in a private school, it had not previously been determined if a family is eligible for reimbursement of education expenses for private school. Prior to the high court's ruling, for parents to be eligible to obtain reimbursement for placement in a private school, they had to prove (and this still exists today) that the school district did not offer their child a free appropriate public education. In addition, the parents also had to demonstrate that the private program they selected provided their child with an appropriate education. How or what do the courts rely on to render a decision?

Our discussion begins with a brief overview of litigation affecting placement in special education. Section 1415 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grants broad equitable powers to a Court to order appropriate relief, including private school tuition reimbursement, where a school district has failed to provide FAPE. In keeping with the IDEA's broad remedial provisions, New York's implementing statute permits "parents who object to a proposed IEP [to] request an "impartial due hearing' before a hearing officer" and then subsequently to appeal an unfavorable decision to a court. Board of Educ. of Pawling Central Sch. Dist. v. Schultz, 290 F.3d 476, 481 (2d Cir. 2002), citing N.Y. Educ. Law §4404(1). In Burlington, the Supreme Court made clear that Section 1415 provides courts with broad discretionary power to order reimbursement for children with disabilities unilaterally placed by their parents in private schools: The statute directs the court to "grant such relief as [it] determines is appropriate." The ordinary meaning of these words confers broad discretion on the court. The type of relief is not further specified, except that it must be "appropriate." The Act contemplates that such education will be provided where possible in regular public schools, with the child participating as much as possible in the same activities as non-handicapped children, but the Act also provides for placement in private schools at public expense where this is not possible (Burlington, 471 U.S. at 369). Burlington interpreted the IDEA as providing broad powers to a reviewing court to grant reimbursement for unilateral private-school placement where (1) the IEP is later found to be inappropriate; (2) the child's private school placement is found to be appropriate; and (3) equitable considerations favor the granting of relief to the child.

What evidence is relied on for the courts or even a parent to make an "appropriate education in the least restrictive environment" decision? Gottlieb & Alter (2002) point out that the research regarding special education is quite clear; beneficial results on behalf of students with disabilities are possible when effective programming is in place and when a variety of steps are taken by the schools to increase the chances for success. But here's where the issue gets messy.  In urban settings, special education systems continue to struggle with general education's fallout. Teachers, principals and school staff must be knowledgeable and involved in the implementation of a range of academic, social and emotional  instructional strategies and interventions as well as  behavior plans--or the placement of the student will be inappropriate whether he or she is placed in general education or in special education.  Critics of segregated special education argued convincingly and correctly that students with disabilities can be educated in the general education classroom. However, if that were true the vast majority would not have been referred, screened, evaluated, found eligible, and placed in special education.

IDEA provides a court with broad discretion to craft remedies for a failure to provide FAPE. The statute authorizes courts to order reimbursement for private school expenses when a school district is unable to provide FAPE on a timely basis-even when a placement is made unilaterally. Consistent with Burlington, no court has ever held-until now- that a parent like Mr. F., who has requested special education services, cooperated with a CSE, and fully participated in the IEP process is barred from reimbursement simply because his child never attended a public school. Since Burlington, courts have consistently held that Section 1415 authorizes an equitable remedy of reimbursement, even for children placed in private schools unilaterally-as long as the parents notify the school district that FAPE is at issue and cooperate with the school district's efforts to provide FAPE.

Nothing in the statutory language, legislative history, or applicable regulations requires, either expressly or by implication, that a child have attended public school in order to be deemed to have "received special education and related services under the authority of a public agency. "Had Congress wished to impose such a requirement, it easily could have done so. To the contrary, all of the statutory language and regulations indicate that the term "special education and related services" provisions should be interpreted broadly to ensure the provision of FAPE to as many eligible children as possible. For example, the regulation defining, "special education" states that the term means "specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability." 34 C.F.R. §300.26. This includes instruction in a variety of venues, including at home, in institutions, and in "other settings," which has been interpreted to include private schools. See Burlington, 471 U.S. at 359. The provision is broadly drafted and is clearly intended to capture many types and natures of "instruction" in order to provide a child with a disability with an appropriate educational experience commensurate with his or her abilities.

In summary, if the Court rules that a child is required to attend a public school for some period of time in order to qualify for reimbursement of private school expenses it is not only unjustified based on the plain language and aims of the statute, it would also create perverse incentives and undermine the purposes of the IDEA. Dissatisfaction with special education in no way implies that general education can effectively deliver an appropriate education for many of the students with disabilities.

Fordham University & the United States: A History Details a University's Storied Past
 From Civil War Heroes and Presidential Visits to Vietnam Unrest and Rebirth as 
a Nationally Respected Institution, a Memorable Tribute

In Fordham University & the United States: A History (E-Lit Books, October 2013, $19.99),  Debra Caruso Marrone delivers a breezy, informative title for American history lovers and anyone associated with the 172-year-old institution.  Founded as St. John's College in 1841 by New York Archbishop John Hughes, the university began as a vehicle to edu.

Caruso Marrone, a Fordham graduate and member of the alumni association's Board of Directors, documents the life of the university, intertwining university events and the students and faculty members who made their mark on the nation. She writes about national figures who impacted the institution, once a stomping ground for U.S. presidents, war heroes and leaders in all fields. The book contains the story of Fordham's rebirth, alongside that of the Bronx, under its three most recent presidents.

A fundraiser for Fordham students via the Fordham College Alumni Association, the book will also be of interest to those with ties to the Bronx.

Even those who know the basic history of Fordham - the playing days of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, the university as home to the troops during both world wars and the years of unrest during Vietnam - will find new historical details.

  • Fordham, a destination for students from the North and South, produced a number of Civil War heroes who often met on the battlefield, including Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the first all-black U.S. Army regiment made famous by Matthew Broderick in the movie, "Glory."
  • When Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited the university on October 28, 1940, just days before his second reelection, he was sent there by a campaign manager who was afraid the president might be beaten by Wall Street industrialist Wendell Willkie who had paid a recent visit.
  • Harry Truman and Richard Nixon both received honorary degrees from Fordham; the latter posed with a live Ram (the school's mascot) who wore a "Vote for Nixon" button on its forehead.
  • Tragically, Robert F. Kennedy was scheduled to deliver the Fordham commencement address on June 8, 1968, just three days after his tragic assassination in Los Angeles.

"I tried to produce a work that showed how this grand institution fit into the scheme of U.S. history," said Caruso Marrone, owner of the New York City media relations firm DJC Communications.

"Conducting the research was a labor of love. I hope readers will enjoy learning so many great tidbits about New York City, the U.S. and Fordham. I believe Fordham alumni will experience a reinforcement of that special connection that starts with a short four years and lasts a lifetime, somehow transcending decades and miles."

The book reveals information about the prejudice felt by Catholics before and after the turn of the last century, the reason a number of Popes during that era urged New York's Catholic hierarchy to establish an upper class of its own. It details the evolution of Jesuit and Catholic higher education.

Seventy percent of all proceeds from Fordham University & the United States: A History will be donated to the Fordham College Alumni Association whose mission is to fund scholarships, fellowships and undergraduate research.

About the Author: Debra Caruso Marrone, president and owner of DJC Communications in New York City, has more than 30 years experience as a media executive. Her firm, founded in 1991, represents corporations, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities. She has been quoted on media issues in Marketwatch, ABC News Radio, WNYC, the Arizona Republic, Forbes.com, AOL WalletPop, the Christian Science Monitor and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, among others. A graduate of Fordham University with a degree in journalism, Debra was previously vice president at Sheehan Communications, Inc.  Married with two children, she is author of the blog, TV Takes All, and serves on the board of directors of the Fordham College Alumni Association and Jazz 2 Cure, which raises funds for music therapy for cancer patients.  Featured in the Huffington Post, Debra has also authored articles on public relations in such publications as BullDog Reporter, Ragan.com, O'Dwyer's PR Magazine and CommPro.biz on such topics as advice for the presidential candidates.

 About e-Lit Books: E-Lit Books is a ground-breaking publishing company of YA, NA, adult fiction and non-fiction books from emerging and established writers. It offers topnotch titles by fascinating authors supported by a leading national marketing and PR team. E-Lit Books presents the perfect combination for readers seeking engaging books and writers making their mark on the literary world.

Dr. Louisa Moats, the nationally-renowned teacher, psychologist, researcher and author, was one of the contributing writers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS initiative is an attempt to deal with inconsistent academic expectations from state-to-state and an increasing number of inadequately prepared high school graduates by setting high, consistent standards for grades K-12 in English language arts and math. To date, 45 states have adopted the standards. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the implementation of the CCSS with Dr. Moats.

Dr. Bertin: What was your involvement in the development of the common core state standards (CCSS)?

Dr. Moats: Marilyn Adams and I were the team of writers, recruited in 2009 by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel, who drafted the Foundational Reading Skills section of the CCSS and closely reviewed the whole ELA section for K-5. We drafted sections on Language and Writing Foundations that were not incorporated into the document as originally drafted. I am the author of the Reading Foundational Skills section of Appendix A.

Dr. Bertin:What did you see as potential benefits of establishing the CCSS when you first became involved?

Dr. Moats: I saw the confusing inconsistencies among states' standards, the lowering of standards overall, and the poor results for our high school kids in international comparisons. I also believed that the solid consensus in reading intervention research could be reflected in standards and that we could use the CCSS to promote better instruction for kids at risk.

Dr. Bertin: What has actually happened in its implementation?

Dr. Moats: I never imagined when we were drafting standards in 2010 that major financial support would be funneled immediately into the development of standards-related tests. How naïve I was. The CCSS represent lofty aspirational goals for students aiming for four year, highly selective colleges. Realistically, at least half, if not the majority, of students are not going to meet those standards as written, although the students deserve to be well prepared for career and work through meaningful and rigorous education.

Our lofty standards are appropriate for the most academically able, but what are we going to do for the huge numbers of kids that are going to "fail" the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test? We need to create a wide range of educational choices and pathways to high school graduation, employment and citizenship. The Europeans got this right a long time ago.

If I could take all the money going to the testing companies and reinvest it, I'd focus on the teaching profession -- recruitment, pay, work conditions, rigorous and on-going training. Many of our teachers are not qualified or prepared to teach the standards we have written. It doesn't make sense to ask kids to achieve standards that their teachers have not achieved!

Dr. Bertin: What differences might there be for younger students versus older students encountering it for the first time?

Dr. Moats: What is good for older students (e.g., the emphasis on text complexity, comprehension of difficult text, written composition, use of internet resources) is not necessarily good for younger students who need to acquire the basic skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. Novice readers (typically through grade three) need a stronger emphasis on the foundational skills of reading, language and writing than on the "higher level" academic activities that depend on those foundations, until they are fluent readers.

Our CCSS guidelines, conferences, publishers' materials and books have turned away from critical, research-based methodologies on how to develop the basic underlying skills of literacy. Systematic, cumulative skill development and code-emphasis instruction is getting short shrift all around, even though we have consensus reports from the 1920's onward that show it is more effective than comprehension-focused instruction.

I'm listening, but I don't hear the words "research based" as often as I did a decade ago -- and when CCSS proponents use the words, they're usually referring to the research showing that high school kids who can't read complex text don't do as well in college. Basic findings of reading and literacy research, information about individual differences in reading and language ability, and explicit teaching procedures are really being lost in this shuffle.

Dr. Bertin: What benefits have you seen or heard about so far as the CCSS has been put in place, and what difficulties?

Dr. Moats: The standards may drive the adoption or use of more challenging and complex texts for kids to read and a wider sampling of genres. If handled right, there could be a resurgence of meaty curriculum of the "core knowledge" variety. There may be more emphasis on purposeful, teacher-directed writing. But we were making great inroads into beginning reading assessment and instruction practices between 2000-2008 that now are being cast aside in favor of "reading aloud from complex text" -- which is not the same as teaching kids how to read on their own, accurately and fluently.

Dr. Bertin: What has the impact been on classroom teachers?

Dr. Moats: Classroom teachers are confused, lacking in training and skills to implement the standards, overstressed and the victims of misinformed directives from administrators who are not well grounded in reading research. I'm beginning to get messages from very frustrated educators who threw out what was working in favor of a new "CCSS aligned" program, and now find that they don't have the tools to teach kids how to read and write. Teachers are told to use "grade level" texts, for example; if half the kids are below grade level by definition, what does the teacher do? She has to decide whether to teach "the standard" or teach the kids.

Dr. Bertin: You've raised concerns elsewhere that CCSS represents a compromise that does not emphasize educational research. How do the CCSS reflect, or fail to reflect, research in reading instruction?

Dr. Moats: The standards obscure the critical causal relationships among components, chiefly the foundational skills and the higher level skills of comprehension that depend on fluent, accurate reading. Foundations should be first! The categories of the standards obscure the interdependence of decoding, spelling, and knowledge of language. The standards contain no explicit information about foundational writing skills, which are hidden in sections other than "writing", but which are critical for competence in composition.

The standards treat the foundational language, reading and writing skills as if they should take minimal time to teach and as if they are relatively easy to teach and to learn. They are not. The standards call for raising the difficulty of text, but many students cannot read at or above grade level, and therefore may not receive enough practice at levels that will build their fluency gradually over time.

Dr. Bertin: How about recommendations for writing?

Dr. Moats: We need a foundational writing skills section in the CCSS, with a much more detailed progression. We should not be requiring third graders to compose on the computer. Writing in response to reading is a valuable activity, but teachers need a lot of assistance knowing what to assign, how to support writing and how to give corrective feedback that is constructive. Very few know how to teach kids to write a sentence, for example.

Dr. Bertin: In an article for the International Dyslexia Association, you said "raising standards and expectations, without sufficient attention to known cause and remedies for reading and academic failure, and without a substantial influx of new resources to educate and support teachers, is not likely to benefit students with mild, moderate, or severe learning difficulties." You also mention that 34 percent of the population as a whole is behind academically in fourth grade, and in high poverty areas 70-80 percent of students are at risk for reading failure.

How does the CCSS impact children who turn out to need additional academic supports for learning disabilities, ADHD or other educational concerns?

Dr. Moats: I have not yet seen a well-informed policy directive that addresses the needs of these populations. There are absurd directives about "universal design for learning" and endless accommodations, like reading a test aloud, to kids with learning disabilities. Why would we want to do that? The test itself is inappropriate for many kids.

Dr. Bertin: How does it relate to concerns you have about teacher training in general?

Dr. Moats: What little time there is for professional development is being taken up by poorly designed workshops on teaching comprehension of difficult text or getting kids to compose arguments and essays. This will not be good for the kids who need a systematic, explicit form of instruction to reach basic levels of academic competence.

I've been around a long time, and this feels like 1987 all over again, with different words attached to the same problems. When will we ever learn?

About Me

Homeroom is the place to go for quick news on what is happening in education around the world. Remember how you had to check in to homeroom for attendance and daily schedule changes in intermediate school as well as high school? Education Update has created this section...Read More

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