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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Cultural Activity Matters

From EducationNext

By Jay P. Greene
May 23, 2017

Some people have been puzzled as to why I’ve been studying how cultural activities, like visiting an art museum or seeing live theater, affect students. Why don’t I do what almost everyone else in our field does and just study how various interventions affect math and reading test scores?

Well, I’ve been making the argument for a while now that there is remarkably little evidence linking near-term changes in test scores to changes in later life outcomes for students, like graduating high school, enrolling in college, completing college, and earnings.

I have yet to see anyone bother to refute my observation of this weak and inconsistent connection between test score changes and life changes. Whether kids go to art museums or see live theater is often viewed as at best an amusing sideline or at worst a harmful distraction from the primary goal of education, which they believe is boosting math and reading test scores.

But now we have a rigorously designed study out of Denmark that shows cultural activity among students is strongly (and likely causally) related to later academic success.

The study appears in Social Science Research, a Sociology journal that was co-founded by James Coleman. It examines a large sample of monozygotic twins in Denmark to see if their cultural activity was related to their teacher-given GPA, exam-based GPA, and rate of completing secondary school.

To measure cultural activity they relied on a survey administered to the mothers of those twins that asked about what their children did when they were 12 years old. It asked things like: “How often child went to any type of museum” and “How often child went to the theater or a musical performance.”

By comparing outcomes among identical twins, the researchers hope to control automatically for a large set of unobserved environmental and genetic factors. We could reasonably believe that a large portion of the variation in cultural capital among twins was due to chance and not differences in their upbringing or ability.

The researchers found that the twin whose mothers reported having higher cultural capital at age 12 had significantly higher marks on their end of compulsory school exams at age 15/16. They also found “an increase in cultural capital of one standard deviation is estimated to increase the likelihood of completing upper secondary education by 12.5 percentage points.”

Cultural capital was not a significant predictor of the grade point average students received from their teacher when they were 15, which was contrary to the researchers’ expectations. Earlier theory had suggested that cultural capital might improve academic performance by making students falsely appear more knowledgable, even if their command of the material were no greater.

As they put it: “Bourdieu argued that cultural capital, that is familiarity with the dominant cultural codes in a society, is a key determinant of educational success because it is misperceived by teachers as academic brilliance and rewarded as such.”

This study found that not to be the case. Instead, their findings are more consistent with the arguments advanced by E.D. Hirsch and others that cultural capital gives students a stronger foundation of broad knowledge that then facilitates future knowledge acquisition.

And the significant increase in completing secondary school may be a function of that broader knowledge, as opposed to the narrow knowledge captured in math and reading standardized tests. Cultural activity may also increase graduation rates by giving students more ways to be engaged with school on top of traditional academic coursework.

So the next time someone asks me why it matters whether students go to art museums or see live theater, I can tell them that there is at least as much rigorous evidence showing the long term benefits of cultural activity as there is for interventions designed to boost standardized test scores.

Jay P. Greene is endowed chair and head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

Democrats Grill DeVos on School Choice and Budget Cuts

From Real Clear Education

By Ford Carson and Christopher Beach
May 25, 2017

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared before Congress Wednesday to face tough questions about the administration's proposal to cut $9 billion, or 13 percent, from the department's $68 billion budget while spending an unprecedented $1.4 billion to expand school choice.

“I’ve seen the headlines, and I understand those figures are alarming for many; however, this budget refocuses the department on supporting states and school districts in their efforts to provide high-quality education to all our students,” DeVos said in her opening statement before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee.

What followed was a barrage of questions from Democrats honing in on the proposed budget cuts and how federal dollars would be used to push school vouchers.

In a tense exchange, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., asked DeVos whether she would prevent private schools that receive public dollars from discriminating against students. Citing an example of a private Christian school in Indiana that denies access to gay students, Clark pressed DeVos on how she would treat that school if it applied for federal voucher funds.

“There’s no situation of discrimination or exclusion that, if a state approved it for its voucher program, you would step in and say, ‘That’s not how we’re going to use federal dollars?’” Clark asked.

"For states who have programs that allow for parents to make choices, they set up the rules around that,” DeVos stated.

"So that's a ‘No,’" Clark added.

The congresswoman followed up with a similar hypothetical about African-American students. DeVos replied that the Department of Education's "Office of Civil Rights, and our Title IX protections, are broadly applicable across the board."

The exchange revealed a quandary that DeVos and many Republicans face – how to expand school choice with public dollars while allowing private and religious schools to maintain their autonomy from certain federal laws and protections. It's a question that has long divided the school choice movement and doesn't appear to be fading anytime soon.

“To be sure, no school – public or private – may discriminate on the basis of race. But the cause of pluralism demands that we allow a multiple variety of schools, including those that serve only one gender, and those that only serve one religion,” said Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a leading think tank that supports school choice.

“I'm not surprised that this freighted issue was politicized at Secretary DeVos's hearing. No good can come from nationalization, and politicizing, the debate around such sensitive trade-offs.”

Many Democrats don't see it this way. "If this administration won't say they'll protect students facing discrimination, then they are failing our children on a fundamental level,” Clark told RealClearEducation.

Last year, Clark introduced a bill that would publicize the names of colleges and universities that have cited their religious principles as a reason to exempt themselves from certain Title IX protections for students.

During the hearing, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., pressed further and asked DeVos if all recipients of public funds would be held to equal standards of accountability. In her response, DeVos cited the accountability standards included in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which do not, contrary to her testimony, apply to private schools.

Other members, allotted just five minutes apiece in the hearing, expressed frustration at DeVos’s lengthy responses and lack of specifics on budget issues. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., both pressed DeVos on her source of funding for vouchers. DeVos replied that vouchers are not the only vehicle for promoting choice and that the specifics remain to be decided upon.

However, there was one area of federal law about which DeVos was crystal clear: federal intrusion into curriculum and standards. Referring to the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal law that replaced No Child Left Behind, Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., asked DeVos, “Do you acknowledge that the law now expressly forbids coercing states to adopt certain education standards in curriculum, including Common Core?” DeVos agreed and said the department would follow the letter of the law.

"Secretary DeVos couldn’t have been any clearer: federal coercion in education is done,” Roby stated after the hearing. “We made that the law and the department is going to follow it. As someone who has worked very hard over the last four years to make this a reality, I greatly appreciate the secretary’s directness."

Ford Carson is an editorial intern for RealClearPolitics. Christopher Beach is the editor of RealClearEducation.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Who Wants to Go to German Preschool?

From A Cup of Jo

By Joanna Goddard
May 22, 2017

If little kids could close their eyes and envision their dream preschool, it might look something like Robin Hood Waldkindergarten in Berlin — one of more than 1,500 “forest kindergartens” in Germany. The New York Times just visited the school, and it sounds magical!

Here are six things they do that I’d love to add to my parenting repertoire…

1.) Let kids run free within earshot.

The children were spread out over an expanse of at least 10 acres. Some were jumping from boulders; others were dragging logs through marshland. Most were sucking on filthy icicles that had fallen from the eave of a greenhouse. At Robin Hood, the children are allowed to be out of eyesight of their minders, but not out of earshot. “Being secretive is good for child development,” Peters said.

2.) When heading outside, don’t bring toys.

Toys are replaced by the imaginative use of sticks, rocks and leaves… “We used to bring very simple things, lengths of rope for instance,’ [a teacher named] Peters said. “But soon we realized even that wasn’t necessary.” The lack of toys, he explained, means less fighting and more inclusiveness.

3.) Be frank and straightforward about nature.

One child discovered a gruesome scene and pulled [the school’s director] Baule over. “Ah,” she said, beckoning everyone else over. She pointed to the ground, where a pile of dark feathers lay lumped beneath a fir tree. She asked the children to guess who “killed” the blackbird. One small boy suggested that it was maybe the work of a fox.

Baule, the school’s director, pantomimed exaggerated thought. “Well, no,” she said. “See how smooth the quill is?” The boy ran his fingers along the feather and nodded. “That means it was plucked. So the blackbird was killed by a bird of prey, not a fox.” She gathered the dirty feathers from the ground and distributed them one by one to the children.

4.) Use vegetation instead of Band-Aids.

Peters bent down and picked a frosty leaf — an English plantain, I later learned. “We use this instead of Band-Aids,” he said, “You just mash it up a bit and stick it on a cut. It has natural anti-inflammatory properties.” [Ed note: Banana peels also help promote healing.]

5.) Even the littlest kids can be outdoor adventurers.

When we returned… the children immediately kicked off their boots and stripped off their snow clothes. I suddenly saw them as they really were: tiny. In every case, their volume had decreased by at least 60 percent.

6.) Teach your child a lifelong love of nature.

“In life, bad things happen,” [says Peters], “You lose your job or your partner or everyone just hates you — but you’ll always have this.”

I have never felt this way about nature — but I’d love to. And, of course, I’d love my children to. I’m going to think about ways to do this in New York City.

What about you? Does this sound amazing to you, or like a nightmare? Did you grow up around lots of nature?

We grew up in the Michigan suburbs, but definitely had minimal adult supervision — and every summer, we’d run wild with our cousins around our grandparents’ Cornish fishing village. (And it was dangerous! We’d climb jagged rocks over the ocean, take boats out by ourselves, swim in the harbor with no adults — in some ways, it’s amazing we’re all still here to tell the tales.)

Read the full N.Y. Times article here, if you’d like.

Trump Budget Would Slash Education Dept. Spending, Boost School Choice

From the Education Week Blog
"Politics K12"

By Andrew Ujifusa
May 23, 2017

President Trump's full budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Education, released on Tuesday, includes big shifts in funding priorities and makes cuts to spending for teacher development, after-school enrichment, and career and technical education, while ramping up investments in school choice.

A $1 billion cash infusion for Title I's services for needy children would be earmarked as grants designed to promote public school choice, instead of going out by traditional formulas to school districts. These would be called Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS) grants, according to a summary of the department's budget, that would provide money to school districts using weighted student funding formulas and open enrollment policies.

That would bring Title I grants up to $15.9 billion in all. However, in Trump's budget, states would lose out on the $550 million increase in formula-based funding that Congress approved in a budget deal earlier this year. Total Title I grants to districts through those formulas would be funded at $14.9 billion in Trump's proposed budget.

And charter school grants, which currently get $342 million in federal aid, would get nearly a 50 percent increase and get $500 million. Finally, a program originally tailored to research innovative school practices would be retooled to research and promote vouchers, and get a funding boost of $270 million, bringing it up to $370 million.

Grants for special education, which also go out by formula, get $12.7 billion in Trump's budget, a decline of about $112 million from the amount in the fiscal 2017 budget deal.

The biggest single line-item to be eliminated is $2.1 billion for supporting teacher development and reducing class size under Title II.

Overall, Trump's detailed spending plan for K-12 mostly sticks to the preliminary budget his administration released in mid-March by cutting $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent, from the Education Department's current $68.2 billion budget for fiscal 2017. It is the largest single-year cut that a president has looked to make to the Education Department's discretionary budget (by percentage) since President Ronald Reagan sought a 35.7 percent cut to the department in his proposed fiscal 1983 budget.

Congress ultimately increased the department's budget for fiscal 1983. And this time around, Congress might very well might end up disregarding many of Trump's budget proposals. Over 30 programs would be eliminated or reduced.

The budget would primarily impact the 2018-19 school year. Cuts would occur to higher education as well as K-12 programs.

"This budget allows the department to focus our efforts on serving students" while being a good steward of taxpayer dollars, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Tuesday during a department presentation of the budget.

Discussing the new $1 billion public school choice grant fund, Jason Botel, a deputy assistant secretary at the department, said the proposal is intended to prompt school officials to rethink current school funding systems and make them more equitable. And he said the department is seeking new statutory language to allow for the FOCUS grants under Title I.

"I think there's an appetite in the field for more schools, more districts, more states, to build financial management systems to do those kinds of things," Botel said.

More and Less Money

Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Tuesday the budget would provide "more money for school choice" and therefore deliver on one of Trump's campaign promises. (Last September, Trump pitched a $20 billion plan to expand choice, but that's much bigger than what the budget proposes.)

The Education Innovation and Research Fund would get a budget boost from $100 million to $370 million, but a portion of this money would be re-purposed to "support efforts to test and build evidence for the effectiveness of private school choice" as a strategy for helping parents who want to send their children to private schools, improving outcomes for students from low-income backgrounds, and increasing competition to improve all schools.

As he did in mid-March, Mulvaney on Tuesday specifically criticized the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide after-school programs for needy students, for not being effective enough to justify its funding. A Brookings Institution report from 2015 took a broadly negative view of the program, but the Afterschool Alliance, an advocacy organization, has defended the centers.

A new block grant under Title IV, which got $400 million in the fiscal 2017 budget deal that lasts through Sept. 30, is also eliminated under Trump's budget

DeVos is slated to discuss the budget proposal at a House appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday. It would be the first time she has met publicly with lawmakers since she was confirmed in February.

On Monday evening, in a speech at the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group, DeVos said it would be a "terrible mistake" for states not to participate in Trump's proposed school choice initiative: "They will be hurting the children and families who can least afford it. If politicians in a state block education choice, it means those politicians do not support equal opportunity for all kids."

Trump's budget would also make changes to student loan repayments for higher education, and eliminate public service loan forgiveness and subsidized student loans for low-income students. The spending plan would institute year-round Pell Grants. There would also be a $3.9 billion draw-down from the Pell program's surplus, although the total maximum individual Pell award is slated to remain level.

It's worth noting that in the fiscal 2017 spending agreement Congress reached earlier this year, lawmakers cut Title II teacher development grants by about $200 million, but actually provided increases to a few programs Trump wants cut for fiscal 2018.

For example, Congress increased funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers by $25 million for this budget year. Impact Aid, GEAR UP, and TRIO programs also got small increases.

Other Agencies

Head Start, which is run by the Department of Health and Human Services, would get a small increase of $17 million, up to $9.17 billion, in Trump's budget plan. Elsewhere at HHS, the budget proposes just over $1 billion for the National Center for Child Health and Human Development, a 23 percent cut from fiscal 2017. That's in keeping with the overall HHS budget proposal, which would reduce research grants in general by more than $3.7 billion, or abut 21 percent.

In addition to Medicaid cuts, Trump's budget proposal would affect the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides matching funds to help states provide health insurance for children in low-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid.

The rate of uninsured children birth to 17 reached an all-time low of 5 percent in 2016, thanks in large part to CHIP and Medicaid, which cover about 39 percent of those children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. By comparison, the uninsured rate for adults 18-64 is 12 percent.

The budget would extend CHIP through fiscal 2019, but it proposes changes that would cut the program's costs by a total of $5.8 billion over 10 years. Among the changes proposed in Trump's budget is the end of a provision created under the Affordable Care Act that increases federal matches for states' CHIP programs by 23 percent.

For the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the budget proposal would provide no money for school kitchen equipment grants, a relatively small program that was praised by school food directors for helping meet the need for updated equipment to prepare school lunches and breakfasts. The grant program is scheduled to receive $25 million this fiscal year.

Federal school meal program funding would remain about the same. The budget calls for about $13 billion for school lunches, compared to the $12.3 billion it is set to receive this year, and about $4.8 billion for school breakfasts, compared to $4.5 billion in this fiscal year.

The budget also dramatically cuts funding for the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, a Justice Department program created after the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The initiative provides grants that help university researchers study the root causes of issues like school violence and bullying and to test the effectiveness of various interventions. Trump's budget plan would provide $18 million for the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, compared to $50 million it is set to receive this fiscal year.

Early Reaction

Some conservative analysts are skeptical about the budget's emphasis on choice, even when the cuts to many programs are included.

Meanwhile, several education groups had already decried the impact of Trump's budget when key details emerged last week, and Democratic lawmakers joined in.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a harsh critic of DeVos during the secretary's confirmation hearing and a member of the Senate education committee, blasted away at the budget Tuesday night on Twitter, saying, "The Trump-DeVos budget would push opportunities out of the reach of millions of students across the country."

Follow Elizabeth Warren ✔@SenWarren
@realDonaldTrump’s @usedgov budget is an all-out assault on America’s
kids, teachers, college students & student loan borrowers.

And Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., told us in response to early reports about the budget last week that the budget undermines the congressional intent behind the Education Innovation and Research fund by turning it into a vehicle for private school choice.

The reaction wasn't all doom and gloom, however. Last week, the Heritage Foundation's Lindsey Burke, for example, said she liked the overall cut to the Education Department's budget and says if that were to mean more control for states and school districts, so much the better (Heritage favors limited federal government.)

However, both she and Neal McCluskey of the libertarian Cato Institute expressed concern about the general thrust of the choice-friendly initiatives in the budget. They said in general choice fans should be wary of having the federal government dictate too much of what's going on in states and schools.

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which favors school choice and a limited federal role in education, said the Trump budget might have a positive impact in some areas. For example, he said the proposed elimination of Title II might trigger states to rethink how they often spend that money on ineffective teacher development programs: "If you're going to pick on something, that's a pretty good place to pick on."

But in general, he said he expected the budget to be "completely ignored" in Congress. And he said conservatives should resist the school choice carrot being dangled by the Trump administration in the budget, since it would increase Washington's intrusion into K-12 and could be misused by a subsequent Democratic presidential administration.

Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks and Staff Writer Evie Blad contributed to this post.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump Budget Guts Medicaid, Disability Programs

From DisabilityScoop

By Michelle Diament
May 23, 2017

“Time and time again, President Trump has shown a complete disregard for the rights and concerns of individuals with disabilities — and his budget is just the latest example,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget,
speaks during a press briefing about President Donald Trump's 2018 budget proposal
 that includes boosts for the military and spending cuts to safety-net programs.

Deep cuts to Medicaid and other programs that people with disabilities rely on are at the heart of President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal.

The $4.1 trillion spending plan released Tuesday would put safety-net programs on the chopping block while bolstering defense.

“The budget provides a path toward welfare reform, particularly to encourage those individuals dependent on the government to return to the workforce,” reads the plan.

Trump is looking to slash $610 billion from Medicaid in the next decade. Rather than provide uncapped matching grants to states to pay for services provided by the entitlement program, the budget plan calls for states to be able to choose between receiving a set amount for each beneficiary — a method known as per capita cap — or receiving a block grant, essentially a lump sum from the federal government.

Disability advocates say that such a fundamental shift to Medicaid would have far-reaching consequences for people with developmental disabilities, affecting the availability of everything from health care to home and community-based services.

“We are extremely concerned with the devastating cuts to safety-net programs that help people with disabilities live, learn and work in the community to pay for tax breaks for the extremely wealthy,” said Eric Buehlmann, director of public policy at the National Disability Rights Network.

The budget released this week spells out what Trump initially hinted at in his “skinny budget” which was unveiled in March. While the budget is unlikely to be adopted by Congress as proposed, it illustrates Trump’s priorities.

Apart from Medicaid, Trump’s plan calls for a decline in federal special education spending and cuts to funding for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, state developmental disabilities councils, autism programs and medical research.

“Time and time again, President Trump has shown a complete disregard for the rights and concerns of individuals with disabilities — and his budget is just the latest example,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“By slashing critical efforts to support education for students with disabilities, increase employment opportunities for workers with disabilities, provide affordable health care for people with disabilities and provide accessible housing, President Trump is leaving millions of Americans with disabilities to hang out to dry.”

Lawsuit Alleges Mississippi Deprives Black Children of Equal Education

From CNN

By Madison Park and Dave Alsup
May 24, 2017

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of four black families alleging that the state of Mississippi has failed to live up to a Reconstruction-era agreement to provide "a uniform system of free schools" for all children.

The SPLC claims that its clients' school systems lack textbooks, experienced teachers, basic supplies and "even toilet paper." The group says the schools are far from uniform, which violates the 1869 Readmissions Act, which Mississippi agreed to in order to rejoin the Union.

SPLC's claim points at disparities between predominantly white and black public schools in Mississippi.

"Black students still do not receive an education equal to that received by white students," according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The schools where the four plaintiffs' children attend lack textbooks, basic supplies, extracurricular activities and even toilet paper, according to the lawsuit.

The schools are attended by mostly African-American children. They are part of the Jackson Public School District and the Yazoo City Municipal School District, which have been rated an "F" by the state's department of education, according to the lawsuit.

One of the plaintiffs, Precious Hughes described her six-year-old daughter's school as "old, dark and gloomy -- like a jail." She said teacher absenteeism is frequent and there aren't enough textbooks for everyone. Twice a year, she's asked to bring soap and paper towel for the school, according to the lawsuit.

Academically, 10% of the students at her daughter's school are proficient in reading and 4% in math.

Hughes wants her child to go to a better school, but can't move into a better district.

"I can't afford to move my family to one of the school districts," she said in a press conference Tuesday, covered by CNN affiliate WLBT. "I know I'm not the only mother who feels this way."

Other parents in the suit described overcrowded classrooms, lack of supplies, bathroom stalls that don't close and rotten food in the cafeteria.

"The state's education system is shamefully inequitable and anything but uniform," said Will Bardwell, senior staff attorney in the SPLC's Jackson office in a statement.

The lawsuit names the state's governor, lieutenant governor and other Mississippi officials as the defendants.

WLBT got a statement from Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant calling the lawsuit an "attempt by the Southern Poverty Law Center to fundraiser on the backs of Mississippi taxpayers."

"While the SPLC clings to its misguided and cynical views, we will continue to shape Mississippi's system of public education into the best and most innovative in America."

The state ranks near the bottom on academic performance measures.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves also blasted the group's lawsuit in a statement.

"The irony of a fringe organization that is already suing the state to protect the status quo in opposition to providing school choices to minority students while now simultaneously suing the state based on the fact those same failing districts aren't adequately educating those same minority students is almost laughable. They obviously have more lawyers than they have 'causes'."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

IEP Tips for Parents

From Smart Kid, Can't Read

By Lorna Kaufman, Ph.D.
May 20, 2017

Children who receive special education services do so under the auspices of an Individual Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a document that outlines the services your child will receive.

An IEP team includes teachers relevant to your child’s services and specified special education personnel. As a parent you are automatically a member of your child’s team. You are not only a valuable team member but decision-making power regarding your child’s education ultimately rests with you.

It is important to understand how to manage team meetings because that is where decisions are made. It’s easy to be intimidated in a meeting when sitting at a table surrounded by many professionals. There are “rules of the road” that can improve your ability to advocate for your child.

Remember, when you negotiate with the school on your child’s behalf, you increase the odds that he will receive an appropriate education.

1.) Never go to a team meeting alone. I always advise both parents to attend team meetings. This is true whether or not you are currently married. If your child’s other parent is unable to accompany you to the meeting, find someone to go with you, preferably someone who is a good note taker. If possible, select someone who knows the field of education. At the very least, bring someone who exudes confidence.

Bring an advocate to a meeting if you anticipate a disagreement over the help your child needs. Bring your independent evaluator to the meeting to explain your child’s evaluation results when that evaluation is completed.

2.) Be prepared for the meeting. Most team chairpersons work from an agenda. Ask for an advance copy of that agenda and make sure the items you want to discuss are included. You want to know who will be in attendance and what part each person will play. Remember, you are an equal participant in your child’s team. Make certain you have all the documents you will need.

If the school has completed an evaluation of your child it is important to obtain copies before the meeting. Study those reports and come prepared with a written list of questions.

3.) Know what you want. Before entering the meeting, decide what actions you want team members to take. If your evaluator or advocate will be attending with you, confer with them prior to the meeting. Be clear on your goals. What is your bottom line? What is negotiable? What are you unwilling to relinquish? For example, does your child need daily instruction in a pull-out setting with 1:1 help in reading? Is there a particular type of instruction that will benefit him?

To make these decisions you must be informed about your child’s needs. That information will come from your independent evaluation. Some advocates recommend that parents prepare a written Statement of Concerns and a Request for Services that list each area of difficulty along with the services their child needs. Bring a copy for each team member and make sure your requests for services receive a formal response.

4.) Take the time to make an informed decision. Make certain you have the information you need to make the best, most informed, decision for your child. You do not need to make decisions at the meeting. For example, if your school recommends placement in a self- contained special needs classroom, make sure that either you or your representative observe the classroom to determine whether it is an appropriate placement for your child. Remember, you can accept all or parts of the IEP. If there are particular areas you believe do not meet the needs of your child, you can reject those portions of the IEP.

5.) Be respectful. While it is important to be an advocate for your child, be careful not to come across as militant. Be prepared for the meeting and present yourself as composed, confident, and friendly. Be willing to listen as well as advocate your points.

Actively look for ways to validate the positive things happening in your child’s classroom. Be sensitive to honest efforts on the part of team members. In nearly all cases, teachers are doing the best they can.

Leave your strong emotions at home. A team meeting is not the place to break down in tears or engage in a yelling match. Stay focused on the present and the decisions that need to be made now. Don’t indulge in historical recriminations.

What is past may well have contributed to your current dilemma, but it does no good to indulge in anger over it. Move forward.

6.) Become an informed parent. With a clear understanding of your child and his educational needs, you will have the knowledge needed to advocate for those needs. Study the federal law and your state’s special education regulations. As you reveal your depth of understanding of your child, the nature of his educational needs, and the law, you will position yourself as a valuable member of the team.

Stay focused on finding solutions for your child. Armed with an arsenal of accurate information, expect to be treated as a worthwhile contributor at the table.

You can find more information on this topic in “Smart Kid, Can’t Read” available on Amazon.

Infection During Pregnancy May Alter Expression of Autism Genes

From Spectrum News

By Bahar Gholipour
May 22, 2017

A severe infection during pregnancy disrupts the expression of autism genes in the child, a study in rats suggests (1).

Common cause: Rats exposed to an infection in the womb have atypical
social behaviors reminiscent of those seen in autism.

The findings may help to explain why maternal infections boost autism risk by as much as 37 percent.

Infections set off an immune reaction involving molecules that can enter the womb. The new work shows that infection in a pregnant rat dampens or boosts the expression of a number of genes linked to autism. Many of these genes control the growth and formation of the junctions between neurons, called synapses. And some are on a list of genes that harbor rare, harmful mutations in some individuals with autism.

“It’s amazing what the correspondences are” between findings in rats and those in children with autism, says Eric Courchesne, professor of neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, who led the study. “Even though there may be different causes behind autism, these different causes seem to converge to common attributes.”

Environmental factors such as maternal infection sometimes exacerbate the effect of genetic risk factors for autism. For example, a 2015 study revealed that children who have a large DNA deletion or duplication linked to autism and whose mothers had infections during pregnancy have more severe autism features than children with only one of these risk factors.

The new work shows how the prenatal environment may affect autism genes to alter brain development, says Melissa Bauman, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

Large Overlap

Courchesne and his colleagues used gene expression data from a 2012 study. In that study, researchers injected pregnant rats with a chemical called lipopolysaccharide, which mimics a bacterial infection and elicits a strong immune response. Rat pups exposed to an immune response in the womb are known to show autism-like features, such as social deficits.

In the 2012 study, researchers injected the rats on day 15 of pregnancy, equivalent to the end of the first trimester in people. Four hours after the treatment, they collected the fetal brain tissue to determine which genes were expressed and at what levels.

In the new work, Courchesne team reanalzyed this dataset to confirm previous results and found that the pups express 4,033 genes at unusually high levels. These genes seem to play a role early brain development, guiding processes such as cell division. The pups also show diminished expression 4,959 genes that help guide the formation of neurons and synapses.

The researchers then looked to see if any of 35 autism-linked genes cropped up in the group of 4,959 genes — and found that 20 of them did.

The team also found that immune activation decreases the expression of 75 percent of ‘high-confidence’ autism genes in a database of known autism genes.

The study represents a step forward in understanding how maternal infection might boost autism risk, says Alan Brown, professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study. “The findings indeed overlap with several genes and mechanistic pathways that have been suggested in autism,” says Brown.

Time Lapse

Maternal immune activation does not appear to affect the expression of FMR1 or CHD8, two genes with strong ties to autism. But each of these genes is known to regulate hundreds of others, and some of their targets are altered.

The researchers compared their findings with those from studies of postmortem brain tissue from people with autism, and found large networks of genes in common. For instance, a network of genes involved in protein translation is altered in both types of tissue.

But looking at the single-gene level indicates less convergence. Dozens of disrupted genes in mature human brain tissue are similarly changed in rat fetuses, but that is less than 5 percent of the roughly 9,000 genes that Courchesne’s team found altered.

One possible explanation is that some of the genes have functions in early brain development and are not detectable in the mature brain, says study investigator Tiziano Pramparo, research scientist at the University of California, San Diego.

The rat model may have limited relevance to people for other reasons. The researchers induce an infection in rats that is much more severe than most of the ones that pregnant women get. “That’s why we see a massive dysregulation of genes,” Pramparo says. “This is not the case with getting a common cold.”

What’s more, various genetic factors as well as the timing of a maternal infection are likely to play a role in which children develop autism, Bauman says. The vast majority of women who have infections during pregnancy do not have children with the condition.

In future studies, the researchers plan to examine gene expression in blood samples of toddlers with autism.

  • Lombardo M.V. et al. Mol. Psychiatry Epub ahead of print (2017) PubMed

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dr. Ross Greene: Educating Kids Who Have Been Traumatized

From ACEs Connection

By Christine Cissy White
May 5, 2017

The Educating Traumatized Children Summit had Ross Greene, Ph.D. as the keynote. He was interviewed by Julie Beem of the Attachment Trauma Network (ATN).

Dr. Greene is the author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, Lost & Found and Raising Human Beings. He's the originator of the Collaborative and Pro-Active Solutions (CPS) model. I’d heard his name from some of the teachers in my life, but I’d never heard him speak.

I’ve summarized, paraphrased and quoted a few of the things he said though I changed some of the sequence in which they were said. There's an audio replay airing tomorrow, Saturday, May 6th for anyone interested in hearing the entire talk. It was really good. I listened to several of the ATN summit series and learned a ton about what making schools more trauma-informed.

Notes & Quotes from Dr. Ross Greene Educating the Traumatized Child Education Summit by the Attachment & Trauma Network

For a very long time, we’ve thought that children’s misbehavior was the result of poor motivation. With what the research (over 40-50 years) shows is that ”kids with chronic behavior problems are lacking skills not motivation and need interventions that are not oriented towards improving motivation (time outs, stickers, detentions, paddling).

These don't help, he said, because kids need help solving the problems causing their challenging behavior.

He said behavior problems are the result of a kid facing expectations that outstrip abilities.

He spoke of the “spare the rod and spoil the mentality” many of us come from and the fact that the United States “incarcerates more people than any other country on earth."

He said that the kids repeatedly suspended, expelled or put into treatment facilities are not being served and are also the most expensive.

He noted the financial cost, but the bigger one - “losing a kid.”

He said how the research shows kids are lacking skills and how none of it shows they just “prefer doing poorly.”

He said that what “gets done to kids” who are having trouble meeting expectations is “unconscionable.”

Responding with “punitive interventions,” don't address root issues.

“It’s the same 10 to 20 kids who are on receiving the end of detentions, suspensions. They keep getting it over and over,” he said, which is “proof that it’s not working.”

The same kids are becoming the most expensive in school and issues aren’t being addressed. Instead, the skills that are lagging have to be identified he said and then pro-actively and collaboratively solved.

Often, he said, the more extreme behaviors such as "biting, screaming, throwing” don't "elicit empathy from us." For many, it is "easier to respond in empathic ways to ones crying, sulking, withdrawing” because it’s less scary or threatening.

However, he said, both groups of kids are exhibiting the same inability to match skills to expectations and are deserving of the same consideration.

His approach is to work with kids collaboratively, he said, as a partner or teammate. CPS, the model he created, is one approach. Conscious Discipline is another one.

What they share, he said, is relying on “relationship building” and “problem-solving.”

He spoke of his time earlier in his training when doing in-patient psychiatry. He recalled a kid was put in a seclusion room to “calm down” when he freaked out. It was later discovered this kid had a trauma history which had happened in a closet. Obviously, seclusions weren't beneficial for him. “This is what I would call retraumatizing the already traumatized,” he said.

“Kids with a trauma history doesn’t need to be hit or pinned to the ground," and yet, still, in 2017, "in 19 different states, kids can still be hit."

Also, he said, "Hitting is also very popular at home. In U.S., we have yet to ratify policies against spanking.”

“Kids with trauma history don’t need more punishment, and quite frankly they don’t need more stickers.”

What they need, he said is "to be heard" and for their concerns to be "clarified, understood, validated and addressed."

A kid with a trauma history needs "their voices to be heard more than any of the rest of us do," he said, but "the reality is we all want our voices heard and we all want our concerns addressed.”

Other things he mentioned as helpful are:

  • Relationships
  • Communications
  • Not having concerns swept under the rug.
  • Agency, which he described as having "some control over one’s life."

He spoke about how kids with a trauma history can either feel powerless or can “overdo it” in the power direction.

Both Julie Beem and Dr. Greene noted that many adults struggle with the same issues and same history of trauma.

Adults with a trauma history are also in the school system. In fact, Julie Beem talked about how when the ATN gives workshops in schools, they routinely talk about ACEs and do the ACE test.

They spoke about how carrying trauma as adults also impacts parents and parenting. I couldn't help but think of how punitive our approaches have been to parents as well who lack skills that match expectations and the needs of children.

Although I don't believe Dr. Greene uses the ACEs study or ACEs science in his own work, it's clear that the CPS model and trauma-informed and self-healing communities share similar principles.

Anyhow who says, "re-traumatizing the already traumatized," sounds a lot like Jane Stevens to me and that's a good thing. Stevens is founder and publisher of ACEs Too High as well as this network.

Anyone who says, "re-traumatizing the already traumatized," sounds a lot like Jane Stevens to me and that's a good thing. Stevens is founder and publisher of ACEs Too High and this network.

Here, for more on the Attachment Trauma Network (ATN) and the little time left for this summit.

For more on Dr. Ross Greene's organization and approach, see Lives in the Balance.

74 Interview: Harvard’s Fernando Reimers on the Crucial Need to Teach Kids to Be Strong Global Citizens

From The 74 

By Kate Stringer
May 21, 2017

A year and a half ago, Harvard University professor Fernando Reimers noticed a concerning trend in the United States: an increase in hate, particularly in school bullying.

“If I can be frank, I associated a lot of that increase to the last campaign,” said Reimers, Ford Foundation professor of practice in international education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “I have the impression that President Trump — I don’t think he invented this hate, but he capitalized on it and he made it worse.”

Reimers realized he needed to do something about it — something he should have done years ago. A scholar of global education, he had created a curriculum at the request of a private school to teach students about their diverse global neighbors and the role of global citizens in facilitating world peace and sustainable development. He decided this was the time to release that curriculum, “Empowering Global Citizens,” to the world.

Already used by thousands of teachers and students, the curriculum has just been republished in an open-source book called Empowering Students to Improve the World in Sixty Lessons. It’s a consolidated version based on feedback from teachers who can’t devote several hours a week to teaching the subject.

Using project-based learning, the book gives kindergarten through high school students five lessons per grade to teach them how to create a sustainable future in a diverse cultural world, one that is being brought increasingly closer by technology.

Reimers shared with The 74 his perspective on the duty that public schools have, in a politically divided country and world, to instruct students on empathy, collaboration, and being globally minded. At stake, he says, is world peace.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you define a global citizen?

A global citizen is someone who understands how their lives are influenced by globalization: how we associate, how we organize, how we work. It has also made us aware of challenges that we share that cannot be resolved within the boundaries of a nation-state. The best example is global warming, but it’s not the only example.

Global education is about helping people care about some of the global risks that we face and have the skills to make a difference in some of them. In some ways, I think public schools were invented to produce that. It’s just that when they were invented two centuries ago, globalization was not what it is.

So of course, the bar has been raised in terms of what it means to do the job of what public schools were always meant to do, which is to help people become a little bit more cosmopolitan, to get outside their shells, outside their communities, and develop a bigger view of the world.

How do you think the United States as a whole is doing when it comes to educating global citizens, compared to other countries?

It would seem that we’re doing a lot worse than Canada, for example, which does not surprise me. When I look at the way in which schools look at cultural differences in a place like Canada, they tend to see that as an asset. They don’t tend to see kids who come from different countries as a problem. That’s not how most of our schools see themselves. We still are fighting the wars of 200 years ago, thinking that if a child comes to school and their parents speak a foreign language, this is a problem that the school has to fix.

I’m not suggesting that children should not learn to speak English. In most countries, high school graduates have a lot more proficiency in speaking one or more foreign languages than they do in the United States.

In the U.S., we still have the mindset that is really not supportive of producing global citizens. We have too many people who tend to think of global citizenship as an either/or. If you’re interested in global citizenship, it’s because you’re not enough of an American. I would understand that 200 years ago, when there was this insecurity on the part of a new nation, that you kind of had to demand that people would give up any other identity. But the country’s been around long enough that I don’t think we should fear that if someone calls themselves an Asian American or a Hispanic American, you should doubt their loyalties to the country.

I would hope that we’re sophisticated enough to understand that identities are complex, that people can be American and women and Catholic and black and that all these things make them a more interesting person. Another person can be American and a man and Protestant and gay, and all these people are all-American and none of these things is taking anything away from being American. That’s part of what global citizenship needs to do: produce people who feel in their gut comfortable with this notion of diversity.

There are countries we could learn a lot from because their own processes of instability have caused them not to take democracy for granted. One of the countries that has made great strides in developing very good curriculum and programs to promote citizenship education is Colombia. You might say, “That’s paradoxical. Colombia has had five decades of civil war.” Perhaps for that reason, they have understood how important it is to make citizenship education as important as language or mathematics education.

You look at India and you look at their curriculum, and the emphasis on peace in their curriculum is remarkable. It’s a vast country. It’s one of the largest education systems in the world, and so obviously the fact that they have those aspirations doesn’t mean that they are living up to those aspirations in all of their schools.

You wrote that “even though children across the world have greater access to education than they’ve had at any time in the past century, and globalization is bringing humanity closer together, we have also been pushed further apart.” Why is that?

There is a group of the population that feels very threatened by the reality that we now are in contact with ideas and people and media from very different cultures and origins and religious backgrounds. My sense is that there’s a segment of the population that embraces that and is ready to embrace it, and there is a segment of the population that feels somehow that their own identity is threatened. I suspect that these rising nationalisms that you see around the world, in India, in the recent presidential election in the U.S., in the U.K., in some of the forthcoming elections in Europe, are an expression of that.

Imagine a PTA where you have a group of parents who would say, “Yes, it would be lovely if our children learned to speak other languages. We should be teaching Chinese and Arabic.” And I can imagine another segment of parents who would say, “Absolutely not. Teaching Arabic is going to take away from the identity of our children as Americans and being American means you speak English and English only and I object to the use of resources to teach Arabic.”

You also said educators should learn about education practices in other countries to make sure their teaching strategies are effective. Why is this important?

One of the most significant silent revolutions that humanity has experienced over the last century and a half is the construction of the public school. It’s a remarkable invention, better than the polio vaccine, honestly. Because 150 years ago, 1 in 5 people could complete a basic education, and now most people can do that. We should be figuring out, what are different places doing to sustain that institution? How do they prepare their teachers? What do they teach? When they say they want to prepare people to participate economically, what do they teach them?

Don’t draw just on the lessons of schools in your local community for inspiration, but look elsewhere. You can borrow good practices. There are countries that do that already. I’ll give you an example of a country that intentionally builds into their programs of teacher preparation and of principal preparation the development of skills to borrow from other nations, and that’s Singapore.

Part of your training includes a short stay in another school in another country. What you’re expected to do in that country is to identify at least one innovation and to study it well. To understand, what is that innovation contributing? Why is it significant? Why has it been able to scale? When you come back to Singapore, you share what you learn with everyone else.

In some ways, that idea is not foreign to us. When Teachers College created the very first school of education in a university in America about 100 years ago, the founders believed the same thing. This was a time when the country was in the midst of a huge influx of migrants and when schools were expanding so that many of the kids coming to school were reaching grades that their parents hadn’t been to.

So the theory of the president of Teachers College was, “We’re going to have to prepare teachers who have the flexibility of mind to find new ways to teach these kids whose parents are Irish or German or Italian and so on.” The reason to help teachers learn from other countries is to develop a flexibility of mind, a creativity, that would allow them to become more innovative in serving their students.

There is good evidence in the field of the study of creativity that one of the benefits of having teams that are culturally diverse is that they tend to be more creative; they tend to come up with many more solutions to a problem than teams formed by people of the same cultural origin.

Do you know how well the U.S. does at trying to adopt best global education practices, or are there other country leaders that do a better job of that?

If I look at business schools or schools of public health and schools of education, business and public health are a lot more global than education. They have global built into them. Many of the case studies that are used to teach students business are situated in different countries, and I think if you were to ask any dean of a business school today, “Could you develop people who aspire to lead in business and not [teach] global?” they would see that as a contradiction. They would say, “No. There’s no way to be a leader if you are not global, if you do not have a global mindset.” People are hired on that basis.

Increasingly, the same is true in public health. That is not necessarily the case in schools of education. Schools of education can still get away with being very provincial, very U.S.-centric. And it’s not because we don’t have access to those ideas. We have access to all the knowledge in the world. But maybe we have not yet concluded that education is also a profession that would benefit from a global body of knowledge and evidence and practice.

You made a powerful statement in an article that said world peace is at stake if we don’t teach global citizenship education. Can you explain that?

Historically, the idea that every person should be educated was produced at the end of a period in Europe, The Thirty Years’ War, a religious war where people killed each other because they had different religious faiths. A man who had become a refugee for that reason, John Comenius, he had a minority faith in his community and that caused some of his neighbors — that would be the equivalent of our white supremacists, our KKK of the time — they set his house on fire. He became a refugee.

This guy who was a writer, a philosopher, he asked himself, “Why do we do these horrible things to one another?” This guy said, “We should educate everybody so that people would have the skills to work out their differences with others in peaceful ways.”

A similar idea reflected in an important document for education is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the end of World War II. They said, “Why did this horror happen?” If you read Article 26 in the Universal Declaration, it says in order to have peace in the world, we have to provide every person a fundamental education.

So let’s come to the present and let’s look at some of the divisions in American society that we have. I think at the core of many of these divisions is a fundamental inability for people to see the humanity they have with another person. We have a different skin color, preach to a different god, or in a different language, come from a different background. We can’t see that we’re fundamentally the same.

How we’re going to get to see that is through educational experiences. By educational experiences, I don’t mean reading the same book, although that can help. I mean being together in the same school, being together in the same sports team, collaborating to produce a play or some kind of a creative project together, working together on a science project. When you get together with another person in an experience that is formative, that causes you to re-examine “Who am I in relationship to others?”

Seeing the common humanity we have with others gives us peace. We fail to do that. We built these wonderful education institutions and then we segregate kids by race, but that defeats the whole point of why they were created. Or we fund them in such a way that we are producing de facto segregation even if it’s illegal to do it. It’s as if we have forgotten why we built these institutions in the first place.

I think that this particular time in American society, it’s so important that we go back to those questions of asking ourselves, “Why did we create public schools?” Some people don’t give half a thought to the question. [They] think schools exist to prepare people for a trade, and that’s not true. They have that goal too, but schools fundamentally are about preparing people to live in a democracy. Democracy does not work if we don’t have the skills to cross all kinds of lines of differences and collaborate with others in making it work.