Mary Beth Bruder, UConn; Marisa Halm, Center for Children’s Advocacy; Catherine Holahan, EducationCounsel; and Betty Sternbger, CCSU took part in a panel moderated by WNPR’s David DesRoches.
As with other areas of public education, when it comes to special education there are big disparities between districts. How do we make sure all students and families receive equitable special education services?
That was the topic of a panel discussion at a recent Special Education in Connecticut Summit sponsored by the UConn Neag School of Education and the Klebanoff Institute.
“Early identification and early screening are so important,” said Catherine Holahan, senior legal and policy advisor for EducationCounsel.
Fairfield teacher and local president Bob Smoler testified before the legislature Thursday on a special education proposal.
Every year legislators on the Education Committee deliberate over many bills that could have a big impact on children, parents, and educators. This legislative session, special education is receiving particular attention.
Among the many bills the Education Committee heard testimony on today were one proposing a new way of funding special education in Connecticut and one that provides very prescriptive rules for parent observation, including allowing a minimum of 16 hours per parent in a school year.
Fairfield Education Association President and math teacher Bob Smoler took the time away from his busy teaching schedule to come up to Hartford to speak out on that second bill. Read more
The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Task Force yesterday reviewed a set of objectives that it will use to select a final formula or formulas to recommend to the legislature. The task force’s Formula Subcommittee, which has been reviewing possible formulas, said it will have formulas for the entire task force to review at its next meeting, October 30.
Some of the key objectives the task force agreed to include the following.
- Student performance measures should be incorporated in the ECS formula to ensure resources are available to properly support underperforming students.
- The ECS formula must strive to direct state money inversely to a district’s capacity to pay for education.
- The state should strive to fully fund the new or amended ECS formula within four years.
- A part of the grant for underperforming districts should be contingent upon the State Department of Education approving districts’ plans to improve their performance.
- ECS grants should be predictable.
- Property value and income should be balanced in determining town wealth, and a three-year average of data should be used whenever possible.
- A foundation rate should be derived through a strong and transparent rationale — including the elimination of minimum aid funding levels over a phase-down period.
In recommending that a new or amended ECS formula should be fully funded within four years, the Formula Subcommittee Chair Len Miller, co-founder of the Fairfield County Collaborative Alliance, recognized that the state’s education funding will be constrained by its ability to generate revenue. “We’re trying to look at financial reality,” he said. “We don’t want this to just be an exercise. We want it to be as difficult as possible for the formula not to be fully funded – we don’t want waivers and suspensions.”
State Senator Toni Harp, co-chair of the legislature’s appropriations committee, agreed, saying “It only makes sense to look at funding a new formula in light of what we have available to spend.”
Ted Sergi, former state commissioner of education, said, “The more the state contributes to the whole education funding pie, the less unequal opportunities we’ll have. I’m not a fan of adopting a four billion dollar formula if we’ll never reach it.”
The Special Education Subcommittee also submitted a report to the task force that calls for the state to develop a new process for reimbursing school districts for excess special education costs. This recommendation would shift responsibility for high-cost special education students from the districts to the state, and create a sliding scale reimbursement based on a town’s wealth.
The task force plans to compile the subcommittee reports into a final report by the end of November.
In a recent blog post we discussed how social capital, essentially teacher collaboration, has been proven by research to increase student achievement. Education Week has a story this week on one dimension of teacher collaboration — co-teaching.
Co-teaching — an instructional method which involves a general educator and special educator teaching together in one classroom — is part of a new initiative in Maryland.
The state developed a framework for co-teaching, providing a common language and guidelines for all districts to use. The framework spelled out the roles and responsibilities for staff members at the district, school, and classroom levels…. The framework is not a list of requirements but rather suggested best practices, and professional development sessions are presented as an opportunity for district leaders to learn from one another.
Sara Dunaway and Dawn Peake are co-teachers at a Baltimore area school. Referring to the isolation many educators experience, Dunaway says of co-teaching, “You’re not an island, you have a partner.”
Watch Dunaway and Peake talk about their experiences co-teaching in the Education Week video above left.
Have you co-taught? What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the model?