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Sunday, September 23, 2018

One-Third of College Freshmen Report Symptoms of Mental Illness

From The American Psychological Association
September 17, 2018

A new study finds that freshmen from 19 colleges in eight countries report symptoms consistent with a diagnosable psychological disorder.

“While effective care is important, the number of students who need treatment for these disorders far exceeds the resources of most counseling centers, resulting in a substantial unmet need for mental health treatment among college students,” said lead author Randy P. Auerbach, Ph.D., of Columbia University.

“Considering that students are a key population for determining the economic success of a country, colleges must take a greater urgency in addressing this issue.”

For the study, Auerbach and his research team analyzed data from the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health International College Student Initiative. In it, almost 14,000 students from 19 colleges in eight countries — Australia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Spain, and the United States — responded to questionnaires to evaluate common mental disorders, including major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

The researchers found that 35 percent of the respondents reported symptoms consistent with at least one mental health disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition. Major depressive disorder was the most common, followed by generalized anxiety disorder.

“The finding that one-third of students from multiple countries screened positive for at least one of six mental health disorders represents a key global mental health issue,” said Auerbach.

Previous research suggests that only 15 to 20 percent of students will seek services at their college’s counseling center, which may already be overtaxed, according to Auerbach. If students need help outside of their school counseling center or local psychologists, Auerbach suggested that they seek Internet resources, such as online cognitive behavioral therapy.

“University systems are currently working at capacity and counseling centers tend to be cyclical, with students ramping up service use toward the middle of the semester, which often creates a bottleneck,” said Auerbach. “Internet-based clinical tools may be helpful in providing treatment to students who are less inclined to pursue services on campus or are waiting to be seen.”

According to Auerbach, future research needs to focus on identifying which interventions work best for specific disorders. For example, certain types of depression or anxiety may be best treated with certain types of Internet interventions, while other disorders, such as substance use, may require treatment in person by a psychologist or other mental health professional.

“Our long-term goal is to develop predictive models to determine which students will respond to different types of interventions,” said Auerbach.

“It is incumbent on us to think of innovative ways to reduce stigma and increase access to tools that may help students better manage stress.”

The study was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

New Biomarker Panel Could Accelerate Autism Diagnoses

From University of California - Davis Health System

September 6, 2018

Investigators at the UC Davis MIND Institute and NeuroPointDX, a division of Stemina Biomarker Discovery, have identified a group of blood metabolites that could help detect some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


Part of the Children's Autism Metabolome Project (CAMP), the largest metabolomic ASD study ever attempted, these findings are a key step toward developing an ASD biomarker test. The research was published September 6 in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

"With this panel of alterations in amino acid metabolism, we can detect about 17 percent of kids with ASD," said David G. Amaral, founding director of research at the MIND Institute and senior author on the paper. "This is the first of hopefully many panels that will identify other subsets of kids with autism."

No biomarker tests for ASD currently exist. Children are diagnosed based on their altered behaviors, which may not become evident until children are 2-4 years old. Families often must wait over a year or more for an appointment with a specialist, delaying diagnosis even further.

CAMP researchers believe the answer lies in the metabolome -- the molecules that remain after larger molecules have been broken down (metabolized). Metabolomics has the advantage of monitoring both genetic and environmental contributions to the development of autism.

"By the time you're getting to metabolomics, you're looking at how the body is working, not just the genes it has," said Amaral, a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

The team hopes to use these and other CAMP findings to accelerate diagnosis and move kids into intensive behavioral therapy at an earlier age, which has proven quite effective. The multisite study has collected blood samples from 1,100 children -- about two-thirds having been diagnosed with ASD -- between 18 months and 4 years old. This is the first publication from the CAMP effort.

"One of the major goals of the MIND Institute is the development of early biological markers for detecting the risk of autism spectrum disorder," Amaral said. "It would have been difficult for the MIND Institute to carry out the CAMP study on its own."

Amaral added that CAMP is an excellent example of an academic/corporate partnership that has the promise of benefitting the autism community.

"It is unlikely that a single marker will detect all autism," he said. "This paper demonstrates that alterations in metabolic profiles can detect sizable subsets of individuals with autism. The hope is that we will be able to generate a panel of biomarkers that will detect a large proportion of people at risk. Moreover, this approach highlights metabolic pathways that may be targets of intervention."

In their work the research team compared blood metabolites -- specifically, amino acids -- in 516 kids with ASD and 164 children showing typical development. They found that 17 percent of the ASD children had unique concentrations of specific amino acids (metabotypes) in their blood.


Though a 17 percent subgroup may seem small, it is actually quite significant. ASD encompasses a complex array of symptoms, and no one expected to find a single group of markers that would diagnose all subsets. Rather, the researchers hope to create a number of metabolomic assays that cover all variations.

"The long-term vision is, once we've been able to analyze all the data from CAMP, we would have a series of panels," said Amaral. "Each of these would be able to detect a subset of kids with autism. Ultimately, metabolomics may be able to identify most children with autism."


In addition to enabling earlier diagnosis, this work also could help generate targeted interventions for specific ASD groups. Amaral points to phenylketonuria (PKU) as a possible template. PKU is a rare disease in which the amino acid phenylalanine builds up, causing brain damage. However, relatively small dietary adjustments can make a big difference.

"With just a simple dietary modification, a child can move from being profoundly disabled to one who lives a reasonably normal life," said Amaral. "That's the hope with autism as well."

The CAMP researchers will continue to validate these results while simultaneously investigating other metabotypes.

"I'm optimistic this is not a one-off," said Amaral. "There are going to be other panels that can detect other groups of kids with ASD."

Other researchers included Alan M. Smith, Joseph J. King, Paul R. West, Michael A. Ludwig, Elizabeth L. R. Donley and Robert E. Burrier at Stemina.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH 5 R44 MH107124-03 and 1R01MH103371), the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation and The Robert E. and Donna Landreth Family Fund.

David G. Amaral receives research funding from Stemina and is on the Scientific Advisory Boards of Stemina Biomarker Discovery, Inc. and Axial Therapeutics.


Journal Reference
  • Alan M. Smith, Joseph J. King, Paul R. West, Michael A. Ludwig, Elizabeth L.R. Donley, Robert E. Burrier, David G. Amaral. Amino acid dysregulation metabotypes: potential biomarkers for diagnosis and individualized treatment for subtypes of autism spectrum disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.08.016

Confronting the Education Debt

From The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools
via The Schott Foundation for Public Education

September 20, 2018

Executive Summary

Five Causes of the Education Debt

What We Can Do About it

The history of public education in the United States is both a story of great promise, and of systematic exclusion. These two realities continue side by side, today. For white, and affluent children, public education holds great promise. Black, Brown and low-income children continue to be denied access to that promise.

In 2006, Gloria Ladson-Billings, then president of the American Educational Research Association, introduced the concept of the “education debt.” She argued that we as a nation must address the historic, economic, sociopolitical and moral origins of the academic achievement gap if we are to succeed in closing it.

Confronting the Education Debt, by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools argues that still today, the disenfranchisement of communities of color has allowed elected policymakers to pursue priorities that deny children—especially Black, Brown and low-income children—the educational opportunities they deserve.

Instead of funding our schools, policy decisions are made that increase personal and corporate wealth, drawing down public revenues in the process. Instead of funding our schools, we have seen an explosion of policies that criminalize Black and Brown communities, including young people. Instead of funding our public schools, privatization soaks up education dollars and strips the budgets of traditional public districts.

All of these trends continue to compound the education debt.

A student who entered kindergarten in 2005 would have graduated from high school this past May.

Based on data compiled for this report, between 2005 and 2017, public schools in the U.S. were under-funded by $580 billion in Title 1 and IDEA federal dollars alone—money that is targeted specifically to support 30 million of our most vulnerable students.

Over that same period of time, the personal net worth of the nation’s 400 wealthiest individuals grew by $1.57 trillion.


The systematic stripping of resources from public schools serving Black, Brown and low-income children, the increasing presence of police officers in their schools, the encroachment and financial instability caused by privatization and the relentless transfer of public dollars in to the hands of the wealthy are not passive events.

They are the results of policy priorities and decisions made at the local, state and federal levels—made against the best interests of communities that have been historically disenfranchised.

Confronting the Education Debt reviews five components of the ongoing, systematic under-funding of Black, Brown and low-income public schools and offers a roadmap for responding to what Ladson-Billings terms the “moral debt” – addressing the “disparity between what we know is right and what we actually do.”

1.) CONGRESS HAS FAILED TO FULLY FUND TARGETED FEDERAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS

Title I

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was a core component of then-President Johnson’s War on Poverty. Title I of the ESEA targets federal dollars to schools with high concentrations of students living in poverty.

The authorization embedded in Title I—then and still today—allows Congress to provide an additional 40 percent above each states’ per pupil spending base, for each Title I-eligible child, to allow their schools to provide supplemental supports such as extra reading assistants and parent engagement specialists.

Having set that 40 percent authorization in the law, Congress immediately failed to fully fund it, not only in 1965 but in every year since. Aggregated over the past 13 years, Congress has failed to appropriate $347 billion towards the education of low income students, primarily Black and Brown. The impact of that under-funding is dramatic.

If Title I was fully funded by Congress each year, the nation's high-poverty schools could provide:
  • health and mental health services for every student, including dental and vision services; and,
  • a full-time nurse in every Title I school; and,
  • a full-time librarian for every Title I school; and,
  • a full-time additional counselor in every Title I school, or
  • a full-time teaching assistant in every Title I classroom.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

In 1975, a decade after passing the ESEA, Congress sought to address the educational needs of students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to identify students with disabilities and to provide them the supports and services necessary to achieve academically.

In the law, Congress pledged that the federal government would pay up to 40 percent of that additional cost, with local and state funds covering the remaining amount.

Once again, having established the formula, Congress failed to invest in it. Federal funding of IDEA has never approached the promised 40 percent mark.

In districts already struggling for resources, the mandate of IDEA has shattered school budgets, affecting educational quality for all students—those with, and without disabilities.

Since 2005, the aggregated federal underpayment to states to help provide services to students with disabilities has reached $233 billion.

2.) STATE AND LOCAL SCHOOL FUNDING SHORT-CHANGES BLACK, BROWN AND LOW-INCOME SCHOOLS

Most education spending comes from local and state funds. Here too, schools serving Black and Brown students are systematically sabotaged.

Local funding—which makes up about 45 percent of funding for public schools—is typically based on property tax revenues, an archaic system that inherently discriminates against low-income communities.

State governments, which provide an average of 47 percent of school funding, can choose to use state money to offset local disparities in school resources. Only 11 states do so. Twenty states have flat funding formulas that do not distinguish between high- and low-poverty districts, and 17 states actually channel more resources to wealthier districts than to high-poverty ones.

Across the country, districts with large majorities of students of color, and low wealth districts on average, spend less per student than districts serving the fewest students of color and wealthier districts.

3.) TAX CODES AND CORPORATE SUBSIDIES HELP THE RICH GET RICHER, WHILE DRAINING PUBLIC COFFERS

Over the past several decades, lawmakers have stripped public funding from programs and services that Americans depend on, in favor of tax and development policies that benefit the wealthy.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was above 90 percent. Today it is 37 percent. When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed last fall goes in to effect in 2019, more than half of its benefits will go to the richest five percent of taxpayers. The law is expected to cost the federal treasury as much as $1.5 trillion in lost revenues over the next decade.

Virtually every state tax system also takes a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families.

In addition to wealthy individuals, corporations are also advantaged by federal, state and local tax policies. While the federal corporate tax in the United States is set at 35 percent, after loopholes and deductions the effective tax rate that corporations pay is only about 14 percent. These tax breaks cost the federal government at least $181 billion in annual revenue, based on 2013 estimates by the Government Accountability Office.

Local and state corporate tax and abatement programs compound those costs.

By choosing to enact programs that benefit corporations and the wealthy, policymakers are directly short-changing public schools and the students who attend them. Austerity is not inevitable. It is manufactured.

4.) RISING INVESTMENTS IN CORRECTIONS AND POLICING DIVERT SPENDING FOR SCHOOLS

Racial disparities have always been a feature of the U.S. criminal justice system, but state and federal policies beginning in the late 1960s labeled Black youth as “delinquent,” criminalized drug users, deepened the relationship between the military and the police and led to a mass incarceration movement that has swept Black and Brown bodies into prison at astounding rates.

Young people and their schools have been caught up in this movement, which increasingly prioritizes control and compliance in Black and Brown schools, instead of educational opportunity.

In 2017, the National Association of School Resource Officers claimed that school policing was the fastest-growing area of law enforcement. The school safety and security industry was reported to be a $2.7 billion market as of 2015. Most of that $2.7 billion is public money now enriching the private security industry instead of providing real supports to students.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that 1.6 million students in the U.S. attend a school that has hired a law enforcement officer, but no school counselor.

5.) PRIVATIZATION EXTRACTS FUNDS FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The movement to privatize public schools is a deliberate strategy to throw open the “education marketplace” to private interests.

Charter schooling did not begin as a privatization strategy. But twenty-five years of charter schooling—now legal in 44 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico—has systematically stripped public school budgets through the creation of parallel structures of privately-operated, publicly-funded schools.

The financial impact is real, and devastating:
  • Charter schools cost the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) over $65 million each year—or about $620 per public school student.
  • The Los Angeles Unified School District had over $591 million in 2015 alone in lost revenues and added costs due to charter schools.

Additional cost studies have been conducted in Nashville, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Durham and other cities. The findings are consistent: the privatization of schools has contributed to austerity conditions in traditional public schools.

Yet the drive to expand continues. The U.S. Congress appropriates millions of dollars to the Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP), which funds new charter start-ups and expansions. With a budget of $500 million this year, the CSP is the nation’s largest bankroller—public or private—of charter proliferation.

In other words, the U.S. Department of Education is operating a program that directly undermines public schools.

A ROADMAP FOR ADDRESSING THE EDUCATION DEBT

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools promotes a research-based vision of a fully-resourced, academically challenging and student-centered public school. We call them Sustainable Community Schools.

Americans know what these great public schools look like. They offer wide-ranging academic opportunities that encourage students to find and pursue subjects that engage them. They are staffed with experienced teachers, adequate numbers of guidance counselors and full-time librarians. They have small class sizes to allow for individualized attention. They are guided by a culture of respect and focused on teaching and learning, not on compliance and regimentation. They provide health, mental-health and other wraparound services to students and the surrounding community.

And, they are publicly owned and operated by boards that are accountable to the communities they serve. Thousands of these schools exist today, most of them in white, and affluent communities.

Confronting the Education Debt means committing to Black, Brown and low-income students, that their public schools are a priority—that their educational success is as important as the educational success of white and affluent students.

We can do this by:
  • Full funding of Title I and IDEA to target federal support to low-income children and students with disabilities.
  • The creation of 25,000 Sustainable Community Schools by 2025.
  • A new focus for the U.S. Department of Education, on ensuring and incentivizing equity in public schools across the country.

Elected officials at all levels of government must work together to achieve these ends.

HOW WE PAY FOR IT

A.) Make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Rescind the 2017 tax code changes, which overwhelmingly favor the top 1 percent of income earners.
  • Close the federal carried interest loophole, a step that could increase federal revenues by between $1.8 and $2 billion annually or, according to some researchers, by as much as $18 billion annually.
  • If the carried interest loophole is not closed at the federal level, states can impose a surcharge on carried interest income at the state level, raising millions for state budgets.
  • Enact so-called “millionaire’s taxes” that increase the tax rate on a state’s highest earners. New York and California have already passed such laws.

B.) Require wealthy corporations to pay their fair share.
  • End or reduce corporate tax breaks that cost the federal government at least $181 billion annually.
  • Reduce state and local subsidies to businesses for economic development projects and hold school funding immune from tax abatements.
  • Enforce and strengthen programs like Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to ensure that wealthy institutions pay their fair share towards local budgets.

C.) Divest from the school-to-prison pipeline.
  • School safety and security is now a $2.7 billion industry. Much of that money is public money, going to profitable corporations instead of schools.
  • Divest from expensive security systems, metal detectors and legions of school-based police officers and instead invest in counselors, health and mental-health providers and other supports that make schools safer.

D.) Place a moratorium on new charter schools and voucher programs.
  • A moratorium on the federal Charter Schools Program would free up $500 million annually, which could be used to support the creation of Sustainable Community schools.

CONCLUSION

A study released in 2015 found that for low-income children, as little as 10 percent more funding per pupil, maintained through 12 years of public school is associated with greater likelihood that the student would finish high school, achieve 10 percent higher earnings as an adult and a 6 percentage point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty.

Ten percent is pocket-change for a nation that has orchestrated the rise of an unmatched billionaire class. In the richest nation in the world, it is possible to fully fund all our public schools, and to provide Black, Brown and low-income children with the educational resources and additional supports and services they need to achieve at the highest levels.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Incentives Floated for Treating People with Developmental Disabilities

From DisabilityScoop

By Courtney Perkes
August 13, 2018

Federal lawmakers are looking to make doctors and other health care services far more available for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Proposed legislation would designate people with intellectual and developmental
isabilities as a "medically underserved population" creating new incentives to
encourage health care providers to treat this population.

A bipartisan bill introduced late last month in Washington would for the first time designate people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a “medically underserved population” and qualify this group for additional resources under more than two dozen federal programs.

Health care experts say passage of the legislation would increase access to medical and dental care, reduce health disparities and improve specialized training for medical providers.


“It’s exciting to see it starting to get some traction,” Dr. Stephen Sulkes, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and president of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, said of the proposal.

“This is going to encourage health care providers to pay attention to this population and learn what it takes to provide appropriate care, to be good listeners, to be understanding and responsive in ways that will enhance care.”

The so-called MUP designation would allow doctors to receive higher payments from Medicare and Medicaid for seeing patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

It would also offer repayment of student loans for health professionals who serve this population and provide funding for research on topics affecting this group, according to U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Gregg Harper, R-Miss., who sponsored the bill known as the Healthcare Extension and Accessibility for Developmentally Disabled and Underserved Population, or HEADs Up, Act of 2018.

Research shows that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a hard time finding competent providers, have a higher rate of chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and are less likely to receive routine health screenings, according to a report by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

The MUP designation was created to identify groups with too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty or a high elderly population. Since the 1960s, some groups have been automatically included by law, including migrant workers and people who are homeless. But for others to qualify, they must live in the same neighborhood or geographic area.

“The issue here is that a generation ago, people with IDD were institutionalized,” said Sulkes, a professor at the University of Rochester. “When they were institutionalized, they got all their health care in the institutions.”

So now, with deinstitutionalization, in order for people with disabilities to be included, the law would have to be changed to reflect their widespread presence in communities across the country.

“The only reason that the IDD population has not been designated as a MUP is because they do not live together in a geographic area,” Moulton and Harper wrote in a letter to their Congressional colleagues. “To go back to forced segregation, in order to receive the benefits of being designated a MUP, would be to require the community to undo all of the hard work that has been done.”

Among the benefits of the MUP designation would be training programs and student loan forgiveness for health professionals who choose to focus on caring for patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

David Ervin, chief executive for The Resource Exchange, a nonprofit service provider that is collaborating with the University of Colorado to train medical students to better treat patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said student loans are a barrier to attracting doctors to the field.

“So many of our folks (with intellectual and developmental disabilities) are on Medicaid or dually eligible and whether we like it or not, that is not a way to repay your medical school loans,” Ervin said. “This gives a pathway.”

Two Schools with High Numbers of Special Education Students Face Budget Cuts

From The Lens

By Marta Jewson
September 20, 2018

Two New Orleans public schools that make a point to serve special education students will have to make budget adjustments if they can’t hit enrollment targets by the beginning of next month, when the state takes a formal enrollment count.


Cypress Academy in Mid-City is 71 students shy of its budgeted enrollment of 265 students, a district official announced this week. That’s about a 25 percent gap.

“We are actively working with our finance team to address the financial ramifications and will be bringing a plan forward for consideration at the October board meeting,” district Chief of Schools Rene Lewis-Carter told Orleans Parish School Board members Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Noble Minds Institute for Whole Child Learning has already amended its budget, including a cut in hours for some employees. The state-authorized charter school had 53 students as of Tuesday. That was 17 short of its original 70-student goal.

“Our short-term goal is to get to 60,” Noble Minds CEO Vera Triplett told her charter board members Wednesday.

“As a result of the lower enrollment we have had to make staffing cuts,” she said. “We just had to respond to our new financial reality.”

Orleans Parish has a unique funding formula that — on top of a base per-pupil amount — provides extra funding depending on the severity of a student’s special education needs. Sometimes that money isn’t enough to cover services for students with particularly intense need.

However, it only applies to direct-run and district-authorized charter schools, not Triplett’s state-authorized charter.

“We just had to respond to our new financial reality.”
—Vera Triplett, Noble Minds Institute for Whole Child Learning

Back at Cypress, parents are a little too familiar with budget shortfalls.

In May, grappling with a projected budget shortfall for the 2018-19 school year, the Mid-City charter school’s board decided to shutter the school. The board announced the decision just three days before the end of the school year, sending many Cypress families into a tailspin. But Cypress parents quickly rallied and demanded answers and action.

After a few harrowing days, the district announced it would step in and run the school. A week later, the district agreed to run the school for two years. That made Cypress the first new traditional school in Orleans Parish since Hurricane Katrina.

Acknowledging the school’s high population of students with special education needs, the district transferred its assistant director of exceptional children’s services, Laverne Fleming, to become Cypress’ executive director.


Cypress parent Jeremy Dewberry said parents are continuing to monitor the district’s management of the school.

“The parent group is dedicated to ensuring that our kids are getting the services that they need and that they were promised,” he said Thursday.

Dewberry said parents hadn’t heard anything about enrollment numbers.

“We haven’t heard anything negative or positive indicating that there’s going to be any cuts or any moves or anything of that nature,” he said.

The district did not respond to a request to clarify what parents could expect if the school has to revise its budget.

“At this time, the district is working to finalize its plan for under-enrollment at Cypress,” district spokeswoman Dominique Ellis wrote in an email late Thursday. “Those plans, once finalized, will be presented at the October board meeting.”

Of course, the adjustments may not be necessary if schools hit their enrollment numbers by October 1. That date, and February 1, are “count days” — the dates the state uses to determine student counts for funding purposes.

The district’s decision to halt enrollment at four charter schools that may close at the end of the school year could help the under-enrolled schools meet their targets by lowering competition in the city.

Student Enrollment Drives Revenue

All schools face a delicate budgeting balance each year because they are funded on a per-pupil basis. This is particularly important to independent charter schools, which are operating on a much smaller scale and do not have the financial backing of a traditional school district.

In New Orleans, students rank schools in a central lottery system and no child has an assigned neighborhood school.

A 2015 study found 25 out of 30 school leaders surveyed reported engaging in some kind of marketing strategy in response to competition.

The second most common response to competition was offering unique programming and extra services. That kind of differentiation is an integral part of both Cypress and Noble Minds.

When Cypress opened in 2015, it reserved 20 percent of its seats for students at risk for a reading disability. The school quickly became known for working with students with disabilities. Cypress parents praised the school at parent meetings last spring and challenged the school board to keep it open.

Noble Minds takes a therapeutic approach to education, Triplett said, and offers students a social-emotional classes that teach them how to express and manage their feelings in a healthy, controlled way. Parents have also praised the school’s programming.

Targeting Special Populations

Both schools have a higher than average percentage of students who need special education services. And those services come with a price tag. Many students with special education needs cost more to educate than the schools receive in public funding.

“Make no mistake about it, it’s a much more difficult situation, particularly when you’re dealing with a higher percentage of high-needs students than most schools,” Triplett said.

In May, Cypress parents begged Orleans Parish school district administrators not to let the school close. They said it would reinforce the idea that having a higher than average special education population wasn’t worth the budgetary trouble.

Triplett said things are even tougher for Noble Minds because the state-authorized school does not receive additional special-education money through the Orleans Parish funding formula.

She said the school has focused its cuts on supplies. She also said a number of administrative staff are now working few hours.

“We do need folks to step in and help. We need private foundations and individuals to step in and help,” Triplett said. “People who say this is important to them should know that it costs money, and we do not get enough from the federal [government] or the state to cover these services.”

Triplett said she expected enrollment challenges because it is a new school. It opened in 2017 on the West Bank, then moved to Carrollton this summer.

“We’re small and a lot of people just don’t know we’re here.”
—Vera Triplett, Noble Minds Institute for Whole Child Learning

Noble Minds is not the first school to struggle to fully enroll in early years. When Cypress opened in 2015, the school had to convert two of its kindergarten classes to first grade classes to attract enough students. Noble Minds opened as a kindergarten through second grade school last fall. They added third grade this school year.

At Wednesday’s Noble Mind’s board meeting, board members asked Triplett about marketing and how the school could recruit more students in the next 10 days. She offered an array of ideas, including setting up a table at Walmart.

As part of their professional development, Triplett said Noble Minds staffers will canvas the neighborhood on Friday to raise awareness of the school.

“We’re small and a lot of people just don’t know we’re here.”

Friday, September 21, 2018

Network for Public Education Conference to Feature Groundbreaking Report on Privatization of Education

From the Education Law Prof Blog

September 12, 2018

This summer, the Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation released on new report on the privatization of public education titled, Grading the States: A Report Card on Our Nation’s Commitment to Public Schools.

The report was the one I had been waiting for. It filled in key facts that have been missing from the public debate and will help move it in a more positive direction. The Network's national conference on October 20 to 21 will feature a panel on the report.

John Jackson, President of Schott, and Tanya Clay House, a long time civil rights advocate and former Obama appointee, will be on the panel along with myself.


Registration for the event is still open HERE.

The panel promises to be an important one. As I argue in Preferencing Educational Choice: The Constitutional Limits, the analysis of charter schools and vouchers needs to be reframed. Toward that end, I identify a handful of categorical ways in which states have actually created statutory preferences for charters and vouchers in relation to traditional public schools.

I explain why a statutory preference for these choice programs contradicts states’ constitutional obligations in regard to education. I also explain how, even if there is no statewide statutory preference, choice programs can have the effect of undermining the delivery of adequate and equitable education opportunities in particular locations.

When they do, the programs violate state education clauses. We just have to examine the facts on a case by case basis.

My research, however, analyzes the issues from a relatively high level of abstraction, highlighting problematic examples in particular states and districts and synthesizing constitutional principles from various states.

The NPE/Schott report drills down into the facts deeper than anyone before. It offers a systematic examination of charter and voucher laws in each state. As a result, it clearly shows the extent to which each state’s laws represent a decommitment to public education.

The report is the “yin” to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ “yang.” Each year, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) releases a report detailing charter school laws, with the frame of reference being the extent to which states have law that promote the expansion of charters. The report normatively assumes that charter schools are good and state laws that overly restrict them are bad.

So. the states that it labels as having excellent charter laws will probably fair poorly on the Network for Public Education (NEP)/Schott Foundation report. For instance, NAPCS ranks Indiana as the top state for charters, but NEP and Schott rank Indiana in the 40s.

But that is what makes this report so important. Because there hasn’t been any systemic to response to NAPCS’s reports, it has been able to skew the conversation. This new report brings balance.

Here are some key paragraphs from the executive summary:

"Public schools remain a source of pride and hope, helping to level the playing field for children from incredibly diverse racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic groups. Even amid concerns and often unsubstantiated criticism, Americans continue to view public schools as a defining hub for their communities. In the spring of 2001, a national poll found that Americans ranked public schools as “the most important public institution in the community” by at least a five-to-one margin over hospitals, churches and other institutions.

Nonetheless, within the past two decades, there has been a fervent push by those interested in privatization who seek to de-prioritize the importance of public schools and effectively undermine their functionality. Ignoring these attacks, most parents and citizens understand that public schools provide a critical service to American society by educating the majority of students with a base level of accountability while protecting their civil rights in the classroom.

Moreover, a recent poll conducted in October of 2017 found that among all registered voters, only 40 percent supported vouchers while 55 percent are opposed. This number further decreases to 23 percent with opposition at 70 percent when voters were asked to consider support if it meant less money for public schools.

With the ongoing debate on the relevance and benefit of public schools versus private schools, the historical context of this debate must be understood. The commitment to a free education for American children has its roots in the 17th century and has evolved along with the laws of the nation to include a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all children. Those of privilege have always understood that education is the cornerstone to success and inclusion in society.

Yet the reality is that disadvantaged groups including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, women, the poor, those with disabilities and others have always had to fight for inclusion. For many generations, structural racism inherent in American society maintained a segregated system for African Americans and people of color. From passage of Massachusetts’s first compulsory education law to present day, historically disenfranchised communities have fought for the right to receive a free education.

The public education system was developed to serve all children and can continue to do so with the appropriate support from the federal, state and local levels. Public schools offer a rich opportunity for all children to learn from their peers of other racial, ethnic, religious or other identities. Private schools, including charters, were not created to serve all children. Although parents always have a right to send their children to private schools at their own expense, they are not and never can be the model for educating of all this nation’s children, nor should they be supported by public dollars."

The report evaluated education privatization based on the following, assigning numerical values to each:
  • Types and Extent of Privatization
  • Civil Rights Protections
  • Accountability, Regulations and Oversight
  • Transparency
  • Other Factors (charter schools)

It found that:

"Overall grades were assigned based on the extent of privatized school choice in the form of vouchers, neo-vouchers and charter schools, as well as the quality of the state’s laws that promoted accountability, oversight, transparency and civil rights. The states with the best overall grades for resisting school privatization are predominantly rural states with a strong commitment to community public schools and an aversion to public dollars leaving already cash-strapped rural schools[, although]... rural state support for public education is not a universal pattern.

There are 22 states with grades between a C and a B+. Six states and the District of Columbia received a grade of D or D+ and 17 received a grade of F.

In addition to giving each state an overall grade, we assigned grades for voucher and charter policies as well. There are 22 states that earned an A+ for resisting attempts to give public funds in the form of vouchers and/or neo-vouchers to their public schools.

The six states with an A+ for their charter laws are Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia. However, there were also 37 states plus the District of Columbia that received a Grade of F based on their charter laws — states that embrace for-profit charter management, weak accountability and other factors that make their charter schools less accountable to the public."


For more detailed findings, see HERE.

We’ve So Overscheduled Our Kids That Doctors are Now Prescribing Playtime

From The Washington Post

By Katherine Marsh
September 14, 2018

We idiotically insist that all of their activities be purposeful and structured.


Last month, I picked up my children from their first day back in American elementary school after three years at a French school in Belgium. They both looked glum. “Did you make any friends?” I asked hopefully.

“What’s the point?” my 7-year-old daughter said. “Recess is too short.”

In Brussels, they had 50 minutes of recess plus a 20-minute mid-morning break. In Washington, they have 30 minutes of recess total. The school district here guarantees just 20 minutes, and some American schools offer just 15 minutes, which is the amount of time it takes most children just to get out the door.


In Belgium, regardless of the weather, recess was always outdoors. In the District, if it’s too hot, too cold or too rainy, the children have indoor recess — which, at our school, Lafayette Elementary, is held in the classroom because of a lack of available gym space.

Later that week, my 10-year-old son reported watching a short film at school about how the kids of my generation “didn’t have video games and had to play board games.” The point, he explained, was that kids should get off screens and play together (never mind the irony of teaching this message through a screen).

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report detailing the developmental importance of play and suggesting that doctors write “prescriptions” for it during early-childhood checkups.


Calls for increased playtime have been out there before — including in previous AAP reports and from nonprofit groups like KaBoom and the U.S. Play Coalition — but the idea of “prescribing play” made headlines, showing up in a range of media from the New York Times to People magazine.

[We’re bad at judging risk to kids, but we’re great at judging parents]

This is an important cause, but after I spent three years in Europe, the fact that child development experts had to “prescribe” play to get society to listen struck me as ridiculous, much like using a movie to promote screen-free time.

To justify children’s natural behavior to parents and teachers, it apparently has to be presented as a data point. Play can’t be just what children do or what they enjoy — it has to serve a purpose.

There is nothing wrong with having a sense of purpose when it comes to parenting or teaching children, especially in comparison with the more neglectful practices of the past. But increasingly in America, there is a sense that every moment of a child’s life must be purposeful.

As a children’s book writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about the unique ways children process the world; in life, as in literature, moments of growth and discovery are more likely to take place in the absence of adults, not when they micromanage.

This tyranny of purpose also exhausts parents and teachers: Instead of letting children play for an extra half-hour in a state of semi-supervised chaos, we supervise them while they do something educational.


But because no one has that level of constant energy, we end up relying on screen-based activities billed as educational, even when our instincts tell us they are not. Does anyone really think a 6-year-old should be playing math games on an iPad instead of running around outside?

[Forget about free-range kids. Children in America still aren’t safe enough.]

This relentless emphasis on purpose flows from a heightened sense of competition. At a party in Belgium, I met a French mom who had lived for several years in the Washington area. She recalled with disdain the American kindergartners who bragged about their reading skills but seemed at a loss about what to do on a playdate.

Several years ago, I met an Italian parent at my son’s American elementary school who noted a similar sense of academic purpose in even very young children. He offered a theory: Anxiety over the next generation’s economic prospects and fear of losing a foothold in the meritocracy put parents under pressure to invest in their children’s skills earlier as a competitive advantage.

But by always driving children to be purposeful, are we giving them a better future or a worse one? One way to gauge this is to look at our own sense of satisfaction as parents. An ocean of ink has been spilled on the topic of how stressful parenthood has become, in large part because we don’t allow ourselves to stop parenting.


We are being driven mad by purposefulness, including guilt that we can’t be there, and be on, for our children every minute of the day. It may well be more honest — and more beneficial to children — to teach them that we all need downtime.

[We had the solution to America’s child-care crisis 78 years ago]

Play also does not need to be justified as educational, which is what tech marketers do to sellgames that might teach a little math or basic programming, but are essentially babysitting for teachers and parents and screen time for kids.

It’s fine to play these games — contrary to the film my son saw in class, I spent plenty of my childhood zoning out to Pac-Man on my Atari — but let’s stop pretending that we’re enriching our children rather than giving them and ourselves a rest. By more honestly treating these games as entertainment rather than edification, we’re also teaching kids to be savvier consumers.

No one wants his or her child to become a purposeless adult. But part of the joy of childhood is doing things because they anchor you to the moment, not because they will reap future benefits or rewards. There is a sense of mindfulness children feel when they play that so many of us long for as adults.

This is why the AAP report is so important — and why we need to implement its philosophy by trusting ourselves as parents and teachers, not by following doctor’s orders. True play is freedom from purpose, and no doctor can prescribe that.

Katherine Marsh is a children’s author and the former managing editor of The New Republic. Her most recent novel is Nowhere Boy.”