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| NEWS | On Special Education
Mary Washer, a 17-year-old in Broken Arrow, Okla., is profoundly disabled. She has autism and encephalopathy, disorders that leave her functioning at the cognitive level of a toddler.
Like other students with disabilities in the state, she is required to pass "end of instruction" tests on four out of seven core-content areas. But her mother, Angela Chada, contended that the state was discriminating against students like her by restricting the type of test accommodations her daughter could use. Those restrictions were keeping her daughter from earning a diploma, Chada said.
However, the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights disagreed, saying there was "insufficient evidence" to conclude that discrimination was occurring, according to an article published in the Tulsa World.
The state decided color-coding could not be used as a testing accommodation for the student, because the resulting test results were unreliable, the article said.
"I wanted her to get a diploma because she's been in school every day for 12 years, plus summer school," Chada said in an interview with the paper.
Teachers practiced with the student until she could place a Post-it note on the answer, then filmed her taking the test and sent it to the state to be scored.
Despite the OCR decision, the story has a happy ending: Mary Washer eventually managed to pass the required tests to the satisfaction of state officials, and she will earn her diploma.
—Christina A. Samuels
| NEWS | Curriculum Matters
Alabama has become the first state to defect from common-assessment states in favor of a new comprehensive test system being designed by ACT.
Iowa-based ACT made a point of announcing this month that Alabama has signed on to use its new assessment system. The announcement could resonate as two big groups of states push hard to craft new tests for the Common Core State Standards.
When ACT's partnership with Pearson on a "next generation" suite of tests came to light, ACT was serving as a subcontractor to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of the federally funded state consortia. PARCC saw the project as sufficiently competitive with its own work as to pose a conflict of interest for ACT. ACT withdrew from the PARCC contract.
Recently, Alabama announced that it was pulling out of both consortia—PARCC and Smarter Balanced—and going with a different testing system for federal accountability. Alabama chose the ACT-Pearson suite of tests.
Alabama is one of 44 states working with one or both of the two consortia.
| NEWS | Teaching Now
Last summer, I wrote about a series of briefs released by Public Impact, an education policy and management-consulting firm, that detailed some ways schools could potentially alter their staffing models to boost teachers' pay without increasing existing school budgets. Now, through a contract with Project L.I.F.T., a public-private school improvement partnership, the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based organization is helping to bring some of those models to North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.
As part of a pilot program called the Opportunity Culture Initiative, Project L.I.F.T. is creating a variety of new job roles for pre-K-8 teachers at four schools in the 141,000-student district based on the Public Impact model. Those roles are:
• Multi-classroom leader 1: Leads one to four teachers, including specifying their teaching roles and working with them to improve their instruction. This leader is responsible for the progress of the teachers' 50 to 400 students, and receives $16,109 on top of their salary.
• Multi-classroom leader 2: Leads four or more teachers and oversees more than 400 students. The supplement is $23,002.
• Blended learning teacher: Instructs multiple classes at once, using a mix of digital and face-to-face learning. The salary supplement is $9,205.
• Expanded-impact teacher: Instructs multiple classes at once by rotating students with a paraprofessional. The supplement is also $9,205.
• Specialized elementary teacher: Instructs only math/science or language arts/social studies. The bonus is $4,702.
According to Public Impact, 708 teachers applied for 26 positions.
Vol. 32, Issue 29, Page 7