New Mission

New Mission

My mission is to explore how other countries around the world are dealing with education and special education issues.

I would like to visit and observe different types of schools that have proven records of success, wherever those schools may be. I would like to meet with school directors and administrators, government officials, leaders in the business world, and others who are responsible for implementing education systems or otherwise connected to education to learn more about how education is being addressed in their communities.

If you know of any remarkable schools in other parts of the world (especially special needs schools), please let me know about them. If you know of any education experts who are engaged in remarkable work in this field, please introduce me to them.

Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the above. Read more about my mission here.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Alabama Law Known As "Section 28" Requires Schools To Report Students' Immigration Status To The State

Today's NY Times highlights a provision of Alabama law, known as Section 28, which requires schools to record the immigration status of incoming students and forward that information to the state.  The story is just one piece of the broader debate concerning immigration law and immigration reform.

Although it's not clear how such information obtained by schools would actually be used, one can imagine some of the consequences it might have.  It could lead to some students whose families have questionable immigration status being denied entry to our schools.  On one side of the debate, if there are students in our educational system whose parents are in the country illegally, with the financial straits and lack of resources plaguing our schools nationally, why should those parents be rewarded with the guarantee of a free public education for their kids?  Taking it a step further, these students are eating up precious funding and resources that otherwise would benefit children whose parents are legal.  You could see how this might affect special education as well - think of the dollars that could be put toward special ed if that money wasn't funding the education of children whose parents were never legally admitted to the U.S. 

On the other side, those children whose parents came here illegally, did not take part in that decision and shouldn't be punished for their parents' actions.  First of all, those children who were born in the U.S. are American citizens anyway, regardless of their parents' immigration status, and therefore are entitled to the same rights as any other citizen.  What about those children who were not born here but were brought over by their parents illegally?  I am not an expert in immigration law, but the NY Times article seems to suggest that a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision addressing that issue held that states could not withhold funding for or deny entry to children of illegal immigrants because those kids were not responsible for their immigration status. 

The immigration debate is a heated one, for sure.  How Section 28, specifically, will affect education locally and in other states remains to be seen.  If nothing else, this story demonstrates the tension that exists between federal and state government on the issue of immigration, each trying to influence legislation that could have significant ramifications for the country as a whole. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bloomberg Says No To More Wheelchair Accessible Taxis

See the below article from Disability Scoop about Mayor Bloomberg being against making more wheelchair-accessible taxis:

He cites three reasons: (1) taxis will have lower suspension and thus people won't want to ride in them; and (2) the wider gap between passenger seat and divider would lead to injuries or just plain inconvenience; and (3) too expensive.  Frankly, I don't know anything about suspension, don't know that I would recognize lower suspension if I saw it, and don't know that it would dissuade me from getting in a taxi for 6 blocks.  Next - people are going to get hurt because of the wider gap?  Couldn't they just be extra mindful not to stand up or get out of their seats while the vehicle is moving, or put on a seatbelt?  I guess the final reason - money - is always a legitimate consideration when it comes to government spending.  I don't know the numbers but there's got to be a way to make it cost-effective.  There isn't?  Well then maybe the mayor can cover the difference.  He pledged to go into his pockets once already this year - perhaps he'd be willing to do it again.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Fascinating Video About The Impact Of The iPad On Children With Autism

As Steve Jobs' legacy lives on, parents of children with autism and special education teachers continue to discover and appreciate the powers of the iPad for breaking communication barriers and getting through to their kids. Check out the fascinating 60 Minutes segment below:

NYS Board Of Regents Is Busy, Busy, Busy

Anit-cheating measures.  Computer-based exam testing.  Waivers for proficiency requirements.  Support for the Dream Act.  Read more about the Board of Regent's involvement in these issues in the following NY Times article:

Proposed Changes To No Child Left Behind (AKA "Elementary And Secondary Education Act (ESEA)"

The Senate education committee has approved a bill that would involve significant changes to the current version of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.  The bill proposes loosening accountability requirements and absolving states of having to set annual, measurable goals.  Has accountability become less of a priority in striving for academic success?  No, not really.  My best guess is that people in Congress are disillusioned by the previous failure to meet the accountability standards in the last version of the law and, this time around, they're feeling a bit gun-shy.  The bill would also reduce the federal government's role in education, including consolidating a number of federal programs. 

Read more about it, including the implications for President Obama's waiver plan, by following these links:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vote On The Isakson Amendment

Please see the below message that I received today from the Council Of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA):

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, a national membership whose primary goal is to secure high quality educational services for children with disabilities, urges a NO vote on the Isakson Amendment because students with disabilities deserve access to the same education as other students! (see letter attached to Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Enzi)

Senator Isakson (R-GA) today offered an amendment that seeks to lift the cap on the 1% and 2% regulations respectively. As a result, states would be allowed to administer different assessments - either an alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards or an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards - to any number of, or possibly all, students with disabilities.

Neither the data, which indicates that the students who benefit from an alternate assessment are far less than one percent, nor best practice would support placing more students into alternate assessments.

The Isakson amendment would remove the limits on how many students with disabilities can be counted as making adequate results or sufficient progress using less challenging systems of standards and assessments. This amendment would allow schools to take millions of students with disabilities off track for a regular high school diploma as early as 3rd grade when assessment decisions are made in schools, relegating them to lower career and college expectations—simply because they receive special education services.

The Isakson amendment INCORRECTLY promotes that most students with disabilities can’t learn or achieve when most students with disabilities are able to learn and achieve, just like all other students, when provided appropriate services and supports.

The Isakson amendment promotes abuse and overuse of alternate assessments by allowing any student with a disability to be tested through these assessments.

The Isakson amendment will turn back the clock on the advances made in educating students with disabilities over the past 10 years.

Too many parents and students are not told, or may not fully understand, that when a student with a disability takes a different assessment than a student without a disability, there is no way to compare their performance, no way to accurately measure achievement gaps, and no way to know how well they have grasped the grade-level content. They are no longer on track for a high school diploma.

CALL TODAY!!. Call your Senators 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904). If you do not know who they are, you can look them up at Ask for the staff member who handles education or disability. Tell them to vote NO on the Isakson Amendment

Send an email - You can email your Senators through a Web Form available on the Senate website,
Want to make a bigger impact? Personalize your message.
Members of Congress pay particular attention to personalized messages from their constituents. Include a personal story about how your child has had academic success and has achieved in the regular classroom with his/her peers due to high expectations and appropriate services and support.

Vote NO on Isakson amendment to lift caps on alternate assessments for students with disabilities

New Part C Regulations Affecting Infants And Toddlers With Disabilities

As you may know, the U.S. Department of Education published new regulations relating to Part C of the IDEA affecting infants and toddlers with disabilities.  The Council for Exceptional Children, its Division of Early Childhood, and the IDEA Infant Toddler Coordinators Association have together produced a side-by-side summary of the new regulations compared to the old regulations from 1999.  That comparison can be accessed at:

For the Council for Exceptional Children blog, visit:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

REMINDER: Free Informational Workshop About The Turning-Five Process

There is still time to sign up for the free informational workshop being presented by Sarah Birnbaum this Wednesday evening.  This lecture is a valuable primer for parents of children with special needs in preschool or transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. 

Kindergarten: The Great Beyond; Or, "You Mean I'm Not Done Yet?"

Date: Wednesday, October 19, 6:00-8:00pm

Location: Bankstreet College of Education

610 West 112th Street, main floor auditorium

Monday, October 10, 2011

How Do You Teach Character?

I meant to post this article when it first appeared in The New York Times but, when I stumbled upon it again this weekend, I realized that I never did.  So here it is now.  This is an interesting, thought-provoking article about what qualities we need to instill in our young students to prepare them for success in life.  Are there qualities that you think are tied to success?  This article highlights a few, with a heavy emphasis on grit and resiliency.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Classroom Observations

There are times when you may want to arrange for a classroom observation at your child's school.  Let's take the case where you are working with a private psychologist who wants to observe your child in his regular classroom setting in order to develop a complete understanding of your child's academic ability and the way he/she functions in a real-life academic setting.  Does the school district have an obligation to allow that kind of observation? 

In Appeal No. 11-074, SRO Stephanie Deyoe considered this question.  (For those of you having trouble keeping up with yet another SRO change, you are not alone.)  The basic facts of this case are that the parents who had a child with autism and ADHD wanted the private psychologist they had hired to conduct a classroom observation at the child's public school.  The school had denied the psychologist access, stating that it would cause too much of a disruption and that there was a concern about student confidentiality and safety.  The SRO agreed with the IHO who had ruled in favor of the parents.  Although a school district may impose certain requirements to ensure confidentiality and safety of the students, it cannot prohibit a private psychologist from entering the school to observe the child when such an observation is meant to assess the child's needs and abilities, and is necessary for a complete evaluation.  Although the IDEA does not clearly set out this right, the SRO pointed to letters from the Office of Special Education Programs which support the right to such an observation.  The district's informal policy of allowing district personnel to perform observations but preventing private psychologists from doing so was rejected. 

A recent federal case from the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, Disability Rights of N.J. v. New Jersey Department of Education, also considered the issue of classroom observations but in a slightly different context.  Here, the issue was a class action lawsuit alleging that schools across the state were not in compliance with certain requirements under the IDEA.  The court said that under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, during discovery a party has a right to enter onto property, which could include school grounds, so that the requesting party may conduct an inspection, which could include classroom observations.  The Court ultimately struck down the request for classroom observations for a number of reasons, including: (a) the defendants in this case were the state-level educational authorities like the NJ Department of Education and the issues of denial of FAPE and least restrictive environment should have been directed against the local school district through the impartial hearing process; (b) the plaintiffs were not sufficiently specific about how the observations were going to be conducted; and (c) even though the judges could have given the plaintiffs some leeway, there would have been an enormous burden on the schools and the plaintiffs' attorneys did not do a good enough job connecting the dots for the judges as to why this was so important.  The takeaway message here: if you're going to bring a class action and ask the court to allow discovery that would put extreme demands on the district in terms of time, personnel, and money - you better demonstrate a good reason for doing it.

Free Informational Workshop About The Turning-Five Process

If you have a child who is in preschool or heading to kindergarten, there is a very useful informational workshop coming up that you should not miss.  I have attended this workshop in the past and it offers a wealth of information (in just two hours) that any parent going through the special education process should not be without.  See below for details:

Kindergarten: The Great Beyond
Does your child receive preschool special education services?
Are you heading to kindergarten in the fall of 2012?
What kind of elementary program will be right for your child?
What are your rights and options?
Hear a free presentation by Sarah Birnbaum of New York Special Needs Support on how to:
Learn your educational options, public and private
Obtain the best evaluations and guidance
Find an appropriate kindergarten program
Understand your legal rights
Get through the Turning 5 process and create an IEP
Date: Wednesday, October 19, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Location: Bank Street College of Education
                 610 West 112th Street
                 Main floor auditorium

More info at