Category: Special Education

LIVE BLOG: Special Education Advisory Panel – June 18, 2014

The Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP) meets on Wednesday, June 18, from 9:30 a.m. to not later than 3:00 p.m. in Montgomery.

The public is allowed to comment from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m.

There was an opportunity to register to participate via WebEx (online), but that deadline was June 6, 2014. Apologies for not getting this notice online sooner. All notices are shared through the COSEPTA Connections Facebook page.

Meeting is held here. All are welcome.

Here is the official notice:


Here are the Bylaws governing the SEAP.

I will live-blog from the meeting.

State Board of Education Meeting and Work Session – July 9, 2013

We have a new State Board of Education (SBOE) leader: Dr. Charles Elliott. Elliott’s technical title is Vice President, as Governor Bentley serves as President. Bentley rarely attends, which means Elliott serves as President in Bentley’s absence. Ella Bell was re-elected to the President Pro Tem position.

Agendas for Meeting and Work Session.

Here is the video of the Meeting (held first). Here is the video of the Work Session (held after a short break at the end of the Meeting).

Here is the Storify version (all tweets sent from the meeting).

Both the meeting and work session were filled with discussions of rules that must be approved to administer the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), the Educational Intervention Act, the new High School Diploma requirements, and changes to areas of Special Education.

In addition, an overview of the accountability portion of Plan 2020, how student achievement will be measured and how schools will be held accountable for student achievement, was shared at the work session.

The first item of real discussion pertained to a textbook that was recommended for adoption for English Language Arts, specifically for Kindergarten through 1st grade. Board member Betty Peters questioned whether content was age- and ability-appropriate. That is not my area of expertise, but the ensuing discussion highlighted (at least for me) how few members of the public really take the time to review the textbooks that are being used in Alabama’s public schools prior to their adoption.

Textbook adoption is done at the state level, but also at the local district level. Every board of education adopts textbooks for purchase and use. The public is given the opportunity to review any proposed textbooks and give input to school officials about them. I can honestly say that I have never once reviewed a textbook prior to its adoption by my local school district. I knew when the opportunities were provided, and simply chose not to take the time to review the proposed textbooks.

And while I know my own reasons for not doing so (mostly that I didn’t feel I was qualified to review and comment), I encourage you to find out when your local boards of education are adopting textbooks and make the effort to poke around in a few to see what they cover. Your local board should announce the intent to adopt textbooks in their board meeting agendas.

Here are the members of the State Textbook Committee for Social Studies, Grades K-12.

A Resolution to change some passing scores for the Praxis (teacher certification tests) and add some tests was approved. Board member Ella Bell asked if there was evidence of correlation between scores on the Praxis and effectiveness in the classroom. Here’s an interesting look at what scores different states consider passing on various Praxis exams, current as of May 2013. Not every state uses every test, but it’s interesting to view Alabama’s passing scores compared to other states.

Calhoun County’s Innovation/Flexibility Plan Waiver Request was up next. Here are the main points of their request. To get the full picture of what their request entailed, you really need to view their presentation at the Work Session on June 27. Their presentation is a little more than 25 minutes long. The Request was approved.

Next up were many of the rules I mentioned. These rules were all approved as Emergency Rules. Rules can be approved temporarily (on an Emergency basis, hence the name) while new rules are going through the full adoption process.

Rules pertaining to flexibility for students in failing schools – Approved. No surprises.

Rules pertaining to Educational Intervention – Approved. Short and sweet.

Rules pertaining to how state monies are divvied up for FY14 – Approved. This is done every year at this time, updating the language to include the budget approved by the legislature and any changes to the Foundation Program that may have occurred. No surprises.

All of the rules pertaining to Private School Licensure were removed from the agenda by State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice. Bice said he wanted to wait until after meeting with private school administrators before he brought those to the board for approval. Bice plans to meet on two separate days, July 11 and 12, with private school administrators. The second meeting is a repeat of the first, and the first meeting is scheduled to be broadcast live on ustream on the ALSDE’s channel. Not sure what time the meeting will start.

Much was said about the opportunity to “partner” with private schools. Bice reminded the Board that they are responsible for oversight of public, private, and church schools in the state. The licensing process is nothing new, but needs to be updated, according to Bice.

Toward the end of the Meeting, Board member Stephanie Bell asked about an article from The Tuscaloosa News published that morning that quoted a Tuscaloosa County school official saying that the district would purchase iPads rather than offer children the opportunity to transfer out of a “failing” school in the district.

The official stated that they would use the money that would have been spent busing students from the “failing” school to other schools on iPads instead. “The state allows us that option of not accepting students into our other schools. We feel like this will better serve the students,” the official said.

Bell asked Bice if a district could choose not to allow students to transfer. Bice said no, that the parent has the choice to transfer the student.

But it does create a dilemma if school officials make the deliberate choice not to allow students in the “failing” school to transfer to other schools in the district. 

Bice promised to look into it. The meeting adjourned at 11:08 (by my watch). They took a brief recess and began the work session at 11:20 a.m.

Bice stated that another agency needed to use the auditorium at 1, so the work session must conclude by 12:30 p.m. He urged all presenters to be brief.

The Plan 2020 accountability model overview was just that: brief. It was a whole lot of information to digest, presented very quickly. Feel free to look through the presentation for more details. Here is the video of just the presentation and discussion regarding the accountability model under the waiver.

The main focus of the presentation was to discuss the various labels now given under the waiver: Priority, Focus, and Reward. These labels were dictated by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). The USDOE did not dictate what measures should be used to place these labels on schools, though. The ALSDE was allowed to make that determination.

Priority Schools are those schools that are the lowest performing schools in the state.

Focus Schools are schools with large gaps between subgroups of children as measured by the ARMT (soon to be the ACT Aspire), the AAA (test for children with severe cognitive disabilities) and the graduation rate.

Priority and Focus Schools will be given support at the district and state level, differentiated based on what is needed, as determined by school, district, and state folks.  These determinations last at least three years. The waiver sets forth the process by which schools “exit” the status of Priority or Focus.

Reward Schools are those schools that are showing great success. They are akin to our Torchbearer Schools. For 2013, 2014, and 2015, Torchbearer Schools will continue to be named using criteria already set.

Beginning in 2016, the criteria will change to include not only Title I schools, but all schools that meet the criteria.

Check this out for more information on Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools.

During the discussion of the School Performance Index (SPI), Bice stated that the end number translates nicely into a “grade” for the school. The Legislative Grading Systemwill be implemented in the fall of 2016.

Board member Stephanie Bell asked Bice about the Grading System and what kind of progress is being made. Here is the video of that discussion. Bice said that the internal committee has done their work and that it is now time to share this with parents to determine what information will be helpful to them. (Yay! Stay tuned for your opportunity to share your thoughts!)

Bice then addressed what he termed “a bit of misinformation” about Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) being set by race and other demographic characteristics. (Here is my take on it.)

You really just need to hear Bice say it for himself. So here is his minute and a half explanation of what those different AMOs are all about as he views it.

Video streaming by Ustream

The expectations for all children are the same, he said. “100% proficiency.” But setting these achievement measures differently “forces us to own” the gap and accelerate the achievement of children who are farther behind at a faster pace.

Here is the summary of the differences between the old way (AYP) and the new accountability model:

Differences BT Old and New

That last line about school choice and “SES” (Supplementary Educational Services) being replaced means that the students who have chosen to transfer to schools that have not “failed AYP” from schools that have “failed AYP” will no longer be given that option. It is unclear what will happen to students who have transferred…will they be sent back to their zoned school or will they be allowed to continue their education where they are?

The next few items pertained to proposed changes to the Alabama Administrative Code (AAC).

Here is the presentation regarding the changes needed to address the new Alabama High School Diploma, which is in effect with this year’s entering 9th graders. (Here’s some background information on the new diploma changes.)

Next up: changes to the AAC where special education is concerned.

Then, a proposed new chapter in the AAC for treatment facilities. This is being added in an effort to enhance the education standards and expectations for facilities that serve children with certain special needs. These facilities (approximately 90 facilities across the state) will be required to obtain an educational endorsement from the ALSDE before being able to obtain state education funding for children in their facilities. If adopted, the requirement will go into effect August 1, 2014.

The work session adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

The next Board meeting is August 8. The next Board work session is August 22.

School starts for most (if not all) districts on August 19.


Special Education Advisory Panel Meeting – June 7, 2012

The Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP) meeting was held at the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) building in Montgomery on Thursday, June 7.  The meeting began at 9:30 a.m.  I wore two hats to the meeting:  that of the Alabama School Connection and as Vice President of Legislative and Advocacy for the Community Outreach Special Education Parent Teacher Association (COSEPTA).  I am not a member of the SEAP.  I attended as an interested observer.  The meeting is a public meeting.  Additionally, the public was provided access through WebEx.  Pre-registration for the WebEx presentation was required.

The SEAP is a state advisory panel mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) “for the purpose of providing policy guidance with respect to special education and related services for children with disabilities in the State.”   Continue reading