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October 02, 2012 4 min read
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Student Move Doesn’t End Special Ed. Obligations

A federal court of appeals has ruled that when a student with disabilities moves out of state, that doesn’t absolve a school district from providing compensatory education services.

In a ruling last month in D.F. vs. Collingswood Borough Board of Education, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia reversed a previous ruling that excused the New Jersey school district from making up for special education services a student missed when enrolled in that district.

D.F. was a kindergartner in the district in the 2008-09 school year, but he had been identified as having a disability by another school district. Midway through the school year, D.F.'s mother filed a complaint, alleging that Collingswood wasn’t upholding its obligations to her son under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. By the end of the 2009-10 school year, the family had moved to Georgia, and an administrative law judge dismissed D.F.'s case as moot.

The student’s mother complained that her son had been in a regular classroom without a personal aide for part of the school year, violating his education plan.

D.F. had been diagnosed as having ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder, and although his cognitive abilities were at or above grade level, he threw objects, hit classmates, had temper tantrums, and ran away. In the school district where he had been diagnosed with disabilities, strategies outlined in a behavior-intervention plan had begun to improve his behavior.

The Third Circuit said a “claim for compensatory education is not rendered moot by an out-of-district move, even if that move takes the child out of state.”

But what does the ruling mean for Collingswood? The court said one way the district could provide this compensatory education is by establishing a fund that could be spent on D.F.'s education. The district could also pay D.F.'s new district or contract with a local provider in his new home to provide tutoring, counseling, or other support services.

—Nirvi Shah


Common Core Reaches Into Science, Survey Finds

The Common Core State Standards aren’t just changing instruction in math and English/language arts, new survey data suggest. They’re also finding their way into a lot of science classrooms.

A majority of science teachers surveyed see some benefit coming out of this intersection, even as some worry that pressure to infuse science lessons with math and literacy takes time away from the core content of their disciplines.

The data, collected by the National Science Teachers Association, provide a glimpse into how the common core is affecting classrooms for grades 6-12.

My favorite part of the survey asks teachers for open-ended responses.

“Students have to improve their reading skills to find the reasons in the research to support their claims and evidence,” one teacher responded.

“I am concerned that science may become another literacy block,” another lamented.

The NSTA data do not reflect a nationally representative sampling of science teachers. Even so, the results offer helpful clues as to what’s happening in schools. Nearly 400 science teachers from 34 states responded to the online survey.

The ELA standards appear to be reaching more science classrooms than the math standards, based on the data. Nearly two-thirds of science teachers said they’re being asked by administrators to devote class time to the section of the ELA standards that covers reading in science and technical subjects, compared with about one-third who said the same of the new math standards. About the same proportion said the reading standards complement and improve science instruction “somewhat” or a “great deal.”

—Erik W. Robelen


Letter Warns Chief to Avoid Politics

An Atlanta lawyer is telling the state’s schools chief to stay out of politics—at least while in his current job.

State school Superintendent John Barge recently announced his opposition to a measure on the ballot this November that would create a state commission with the power to approve charter schools, over the objections of local districts.

But lawyer Glenn A. Delk says Barge went a step too far in taking that public position. In a letter to Barge and a group of local school superintendents who have opposed the referendum, he argues that they are violating state law, which “clearly prohibits the use of school tax funds for any purpose other than the support and maintenance of public schools.”

He says that Barge—an elected Republican who has angered some conservatives by opposing the measure—used public resources (like public stationary) in issuing statements and materials against the referendum, an amendment to the state’s constitution.

Delk, a lawyer who has represented parents and others on school issues, said he was writing on behalf of several taxpayers, whom he declined to identify. He said he personally supports the referendum.

If Barge and the local superintendents—from the Gwinnett, Atlanta, and Fulton school systems—don’t cease the activity, the lawyer says he’ll seek to stop them in court.

Barge’s office is evidently taking that threat seriously. It declined comment, citing the possibility of litigation.

—Sean Cavanagh

A version of this article appeared in the October 03, 2012 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week


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