by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
The Philadelphia School District has at least 20,000 students designated as having special needs.
Each year, the District pays millions in legal fees and lawsuit settlements based on its failure, both proven and alleged, to meet their needs.
This year, due to budget cuts, the District shed close to 3,000 staff members.
[Updated, 9 p.m.] The School Reform Commission devoted its monthly strategy meeting Monday from 6-8 pm to the topic of special education. The agenda included both District officials and special education advocates, with a staff presentation on the state of special education in the District.
By Bill Hangley, Jr.
A new state scholarship program can benefit Philadelphia students who live near struggling schools, but it isn’t likely to have a big impact in the coming school year.
Program officials and local scholarship organizations say that they hope that by this time next year, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) will be running as smoothly as a similar, more broad-based program, the Educational Investment Tax Credit (EITC) program.
“We’re sort of stuck in the weeds right now, but hopefully in a year, things will smooth out,” said Ida Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia.
South Philadelphia senior Marcus Johnson stands at the front of his classroom eager to give his presentation on mammals. But there are no poster board cutouts here, no sketches across a blackboard, no pages borrowed from an animal encyclopedia. Johnson, with his back to a class that has iMacs and iPads, works the keys on his laptop computer with the focus of an engineer in a computer lab. After a few clicks, he turns to face his peers, and the website he designed – which gives vivid images and rich content about the animals he loves so much – fills the interactive projector at the front of the room.
In Michele McKeone's autistic support classroom at South Philadelphia High School, students develop their communication skills and the abilities necessary for their transition to independence. McKeone, in her fourth year of teaching at Southern, uses digital media to keep the students engaged, as well as plugged in to what's relevant today. The Notebook talked with her about some of the exciting projects that students have created using digital media.
In a January presentation to the School Reform Commission, District officials introduced their plans to "right-size" the many half-empty, aging facilities but offered no specifics on how closures and consolidations could impact special education services, especially those for severely disabled students.
More than one in five of all Teach for America corps members in Philadelphia schools this year – 46 out of 213 – are in special education classrooms. By definition, these teachers are inexperienced and have received minimal training – seven to eight weeks over the summer.
Is this good for special education instruction?
I can't think of a better - or more necessary - time than late January to generate discussion, ideas, creativity, collaboration, and energy around issues of education. Which is I am so looking forward to attending the EduCon 2.2 conference this weekend hosted by Science Leadership Academy.
Check back after the weekend for a recap of events and to continue the conversation!
Note: The event is sold out, but there is a wait list and an option to "attend digitally."
“Innovation” is a term not often associated with large systems such as the School District of Philadelphia or the city’s Department of Human Services (DHS). Nevertheless, for the past 10 years, these two systems, with similar missions but separate funding streams, have maintained a partnership to help children overcome barriers to learning.
Children under age three (“infants and toddlers”) are entitled to Early Intervention services if they have a “developmental delay” in one or more of these areas: cognitive (thinking), communication, physical (including vision and hearing), social/emotional, or self-care, or if they have a physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay.