Correctional Institute programs help female inmates gain education …

On Tuesday, August 8, 2017, during the regularly scheduled Board of County Commissioner’s meeting, Karen Worthey-Osborne Program Director for the Intensive Outpatient Program, presented an overview of the Hernando Correctional Institution’s (Hernando CI) Programs. The Hernando CI is a prison that houses around 400 female inmates and is located on Spring Hill Drive, in Brooksville.

On August 8 Osborne said the programs are created to help prepare women for the world that awaits them once they are released. “Our task is to prepare them for the challenges they are going to be faced with upon release. Some of the obstacles are housing, employment and regaining trust from potential employers, future neighbors, family members and the community at large,” Osborne said.

One program at Hernando CI is the Faith and Character Program. Ladies within the program are expected to complete various courses including Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, House of Healing: a prisoner’s guide to inner power and freedom and Life Mapping: an individualized plan for re-entry into society.

Inmates are provided an opportunity to continue their education through the Life Christian University where the ladies can receive their general education degree (GED), an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree and even a master’s degree.

In 2016, five inmates received their bachelor’s degree, three received master’s degrees in Theology while 16 attained their GED.

The Faith and Character Program also had a total of 89 graduates in the year 2016 alone.

During the meeting on Aug. 8, Osborne said that it is critical for the female inmates to begin the process of preparing for the future. “We want them to start thinking about, ‘what are you going to do when you get out.’ That is a critical part,” Osborne said.

According to the National Institute of Justice over half of prisoners released to the public were likely to be arrested within the first year of release. Osborne said that these women need support to grow and ensure that they will not be repeat offenders.

“If they don’t have the education or skills it is very likely they will go back to some criminal behavior they are familiar with,” Osborne said. Commissioner John Allocco thanked Osborne for her work. “We all hope for low recidivism (reoffending) rates, that is the goal here. I want to applaud you for actually doing something about this and helping these women,” Allocco said.

In her closing statement, Osborne read aloud the philosophy the inmates recite daily:

“First let us know these things, that our lives matter because we are born with potential. There are people who love us and who need our love. We are not victims of circumstance because every person can be greater in their heart and mind than any circumstance. To be free we must master our own habits because they have us held hostage in fear and anger and lead us to do desperate things and commit thoughtless harm. We can be a part of something greater than ourselves. Let us do these things, humble ourselves to learning out of respect for our own potential and out of respect for those who teach us. Take courage against our fears and be steady in our effort so that what is waiting in us to grow can become strong and beautiful. Extend our arms to others and draw strength from each other. For the one who falls low can bring us all down, unless we help her rise. The one who rises high can take us all higher if we strive together.”

When it comes to controversial science, a little knowledge is a problem

For a lot of scientific topics, there’s a big gap between what scientists understand and what the public thinks it knows. For a number of these topics—climate change and evolution are prominent examples—this divide develops along cultural lines, typically religious or political identity.

It would be reassuring to think that the gap is simply a matter of a lack of information. Get the people with doubts about science up to speed, and they’d see things the way that scientists do. Reassuring, but wrong. A variety of studies have indicated that the public’s doubts about most scientific topics have nothing to do with how much they understand that topic. And a new study out this week joins a number of earlier ones in indicating that scientific knowledge makes it easier for those who are culturally inclined to reject a scientific consensus.

What’s the consensus?

The new work was done by two social scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fishchoff. They relied on a large, regular survey called the General Social Survey, which attempts to capture the public’s perspective on a large variety of issues (they used data from the 2006 and 2010 iterations of the survey). The survey included a number of questions on general education and scientific education, as well as a number of questions that determined basic scientific literacy. In addition, it asked for opinions on a number of scientific issues: acceptance of the evidence for the Big Bang, human evolution, and climate change; thoughts on the safety of GMOs and nanotechnology; and the degree to which the government should fund stem cell research.

The survey also included questions on its participants’ political and religious identity. The authors performed a variety of statistical tests designed to determine whether there were any correlations among these opinions. Since there were so many factors under consideration, the standard statistical measure—a five-percent chance of a result occurring at random—was deemed insufficient. Instead, the researchers only reported results that had a one-percent chance of occurring at random. Although one percent seems a bit arbitrary, the increased statistical rigor is something that would be good to see more often.

We’ll do the good news first: there’s no sign of cultural polarization on GMOs or nanotechnology. The former is a bit of a surprise given the widespread public mistrust of this biotechnology (and the frequent claim that the problem arises from a bunch of lefty granola eaters). It would also be easy to envision religious opposition on these topics, given that both involve “playing God” in the sense that humans are creating things that don’t commonly occur naturally.

But that’s about where the good news ends. Drummond and Fishchoff found strong polarization on most of the other topics.

In terms of stem cell research, evolution, and the Big Bang, those with a stronger general education showed greater political polarization, with conservatives more likely to reject them. For those with a strong science education, those topics were also polarized, as was climate change. In a bit of good news, high levels of scientific literacy removed the Big Bang from that list. Put differently, stem cell research and evolution were consistently polarized along political lines. As scientific literacy went up, climate change became politicized, too, but people were more likely to accept the evidence for the Big Bang.

Partly overlapping effects were seen when religious fundamentalism was considered, the exception being climate change, where opinion wasn’t polarized along religious lines. Stem cell research, the Big Bang, and human evolution were, however.

Education vs. science

Overall, Drummond and Fishchoff found that education doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to accepting science. “Participants’ general educational attainment and science education were at best weakly related to their acceptance of the scientific consensus,” they conclude. Scientific literacy helped a bit overall, as “those with higher scientific literacy scores were more likely to agree with the scientific consensus on three issues: the Big Bang, human evolution, and nanotechnology.”

But that was largely due to the large effect it had among political and religious liberals. In other ways, it hurt, as those with a strong science education or who demonstrated scientific literacy showed higher polarization when it came to stem cells, evolution, and the climate, primarily because conservatives become less likely to accept the scientific consensus.

Ultimately, the thing that matters most is trust. “On all six topics,” the authors write, “people who trust the scientific enterprise more are also more likely to accept its findings.” The politicization of scientific issues may, in part, be the result of a long-term decline in trust in the scientific enterprise among conservatives.

As always, there are some caveats when it comes to the questions asked in the survey. For example, it’s tough to get a firm grasp on scientific literacy from a few survey questions, and the percentages seen in many surveys depend on how various questions are phrased. For example, an individual may answer a question on dinosaurs in a way that acknowledges that they lived millions of years ago while answering a question on human origins by saying they didn’t evolve. And the climate question asked how much participants were “concerned” about climate change. It’s entirely possible for someone to accept the science of human-driven climate change while rejecting scientists’ conclusions of what a 4-degrees-Celsius-warmer world would look like.

Those caveats would be more significant if it weren’t for the fact that multiple other studies have seen more or less the same thing. For example, Dan Kahan at Yale found that there’s no difference between liberals and conservatives when it comes to knowing what scientists have determined about the climate, and the understanding gets better as climate literacy rises. But ask the same people what they believe, and conservatives with higher climate literacy are less likely to agree with the scientists.

As scientific literacy goes up to the right, conservatives are equally likely to know what scientists have concluded and less likely to believe that themselves.

The question is why. Here, the authors propose two mechanisms. One involves motivated reasoning, in which people accept or reject information depending on whether it conforms to what they’d prefer to believe. Arguably, those with better scientific literacy would be more adept at rejecting some scientific information. The alternative is a sort of anti-Dunning-Kruger, one where actual knowledge leads to a level of confidence that allows people to maintain extreme views. Drummond and Fishchoff also suggest that better general education may make people more aware of which topics have become the subject of a polarizing controversy.

Unfortunately, the study doesn’t identify which of these (if any) is a factor. In many ways, the most important things identified in the study may be nanotechnology and GMOs, as these are cases where polarization hasn’t occurred, despite ample opportunities. If we can figure out why, it might help us keep future technologies from becoming embroiled in arguments that have little to do with the underlying tech.

PNAS, 2017. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1704882114  (About DOIs).

Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT)

According to New York State, school personnel assigned to each Integrated Co-Teaching class must minimally include a special education teacher and a general education teacher. In New York City, the special education teacher must be certified/licensed and appointed in special education and the general education teacher must be certified/licensed and appointed under a general education or content area license. The general education or content area teacher has primary responsibility for delivery of content area instruction in an ICT class. The special education teacher is responsible for designing and delivering specialized instruction to students with disabilities.

The number of students with disabilities in an Integrated Co-Teaching class may not exceed 40 percent of the total class register with a maximum of 12 students with disabilities. Integrated Co-Teaching classes must adhere to general education class-size limits. Under Integrated Co-Teaching, classes that normally have a class-size limit of 20 students will increase to 25 students, with a maximum of 10 students having disabilities.

The 40 percent and 12-student limit includes any student with a disability in that class, regardless of whether all of the students are recommended for integrated co-teaching services. For example, if two students with disabilities in a class are recommended for resource room and related services and 10 are recommended for integrated co-teaching services, there are 12 students with disabilities in that classroom. While the two students in the above example may benefit incidentally from the integrated co-teaching services, their IEPs would not need to specify the integrated co-teaching services.

Effective December 2010, state regulations were changed to allow schools to add one additional student (13th student) to an ICT class by notifying the state Education Department and to add a 14th student with prior approval by the state Education Department. According to state guidance, schools can exceed the maximum of 12 students with disabilities in ICT classes “only when exceptional circumstances arise.”

San Dieguito ready to tackle special education with task force

The San Dieguito Union High School District held a special education workshop on Aug. 17, providing a general overview of the state of the program as a whole and sharing goals for the future with the board and a group of highly-engaged parents.

Mark Miller, the associate superintendent of administrative services, said this year San Dieguito is prepared to evaluate the special education curriculum, improve transition planning for students at all levels and to increase parent participation. The parents will be involved in the district’s recently- approved special education task force that will take a look at a variety of topics in order to craft a long-term strategic plan. The group is expected to begin meeting this fall.

“I think we can all agree that the last couple months in this district have been quite a turbulent ride. Often it is with these turbulent times that produce learning on what could’ve been done differently,” Miller said.

Miller said district staff has heard numerous concerns from special education parents over the last several months and has been working “diligently” to address them. They have relocated the Adult Transition Program from portables at Earl Warren to new classrooms at La Costa Canyon High School, worked to increase support for students at the site level, and have hired of administrators with special education experience. As of July 1, the district’s administrative services department was re-organized, with the key focus of integrating general education and special education. Miller said, “All students are general education students first.”

“We have also learned that much work needs to be done around communication and in creating a community of inclusion at our school sites,” Miller said. “One common theme that I’ve heard over and over is that our parent community wants to work with the district in providing a road map for special education…The task force has the potential to be an environment where members can learn specifics about special education services, pour into data and meaningfully participate in civil discourse and ultimately draft a plan around special education.”

In the workshop, Miller went over how the district’s special education program was performing through various measurements, such as graduation rates, California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test scores, and post-secondary education and employment.

The CAASPP scores are just one measure to mark student progress. Miller said more students with disabilities are taking the general test while a smaller subgroup of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take the California alternate assessment. This is a change from the state’s old testing program where a larger population took the alternate assessment.

Miller showed charts that showed the percentage of students who met or exceed standards on the CAASPP math test were at 26 percent, compared to 15 percent county-wide and 9 percent of the state.

Miller said that he knows math is an area in which students with disabilities are struggling.

“The way the information is presented does not provide enough details to help the board appreciate how poorly La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines are doing, and those two schools have most of the students with disabilities,” said parent Lucile Lynch. “The lack of scrutiny by school site is one of the issues we repeatedly raised in the special education committee meetings this past year.”

According to the School Accountability Report Cards, Lynch said only 8 percent of students with disabilities at La Costa Canyon Canyon met or exceed standards and at Torrey Pines, only 5 percent met or exceed standards, meaning 95 percent are not proficient.

“We know we have work to do, math is a specific area that we are not scoring well,” said Miller, noting they are working to shore up the program and provide intervention measures.

Miller said the district’s measurement of post-secondary education and employment is “flawed” and they need to come up with a better way to track their students’ success. San Dieguito is working to improve students’ transition to post-school life by developing a plan based on students’ strengths, preferences and interests. One parent said that the district needs to be more thoughtful in its assessments of students and take into account their individual skills — “don’t just put them in retail.”

Miller also discussed the due process complaint procedure within the district and how, as much as possible, they work to resolve differences. A due process complaint is a written document used to request a hearing related to the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child with a disability or the provision of a free, appropriate public education to the child. The complaint can be filed by a parent or the public agency — the district is required to file when the parent refuses to consent to any part of a special education student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program).

Of 1,365 students on IEP in San Dieguito, nine parents filed a due process complaint in 2016-17 and the district filed five. In 2016-17, the district spent $162,347 in legal fees and $634,102 in mediation settlements.

“To me, we need to find out why parents (or IEP teams) are asking that students be moved out of the district,” Lynch said. “I know many of the families that are no longer in one of the district’s schools and they all seem to have commonalities that could possibly be addressed by this district in order to retain their presence in a district school.”

Across the state, due process complaints have increased over the last several years — “Our expectations are higher,” one parent said. “Parents are fighting more because they know that their kids are capable of making improvements and progress.”

In concluding the workshop, Miller said he believes that the district is in a good position to work with the community to examine issues and come up with solutions for all students.

“I believe now is the time to move forward and not backward,” Miller said. “District staff has committed to improving student learning, we’ve committed to seeking parent input and we’ve committed to community engagement through this newly-formed task force. I believe that continuing pointing of fingers and continued disparaging of the special education staff is not going to be productive. We have listened.”

“We want the best for our kids,” said parent Kaya Hogan. “I’m excited for this to work. Let us tell you want we need.”

Faculty study general education requirements – The Metropolitan

As fall semes­ter begins, fac­ulty will resume their eval­u­a­tion of the impact of gen­eral edu­ca­tion require­ments on students.

In Jan­u­ary, the Fac­ulty Coun­cil, the lead­er­ship of Metro State’s fac­ulty union, directed the Gen­eral Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee to study the credit require­ments of Gen­eral Edu­ca­tion and Lib­eral Stud­ies (GELS), accord­ing to the committee’s chair, Dr. Patri­cia Borchert. She also serves as depart­ment chair of Man­age­ment, Entre­pre­neur­ship and Human Resource Management.

All under­grad­u­ate stu­dents must com­plete the 48-​credit GELS require­ments, regard­less of major or pro­gram. The cred­its are spread across 10 goal areas, includ­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion, nat­ural sci­ences, human­i­ties and fine arts. Eight of the cred­its must be in 300-​level or higher lib­eral stud­ies courses, and may over­lap with one or two of the goal areas.

There is a per­cep­tion that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of stu­dents are hav­ing trou­ble com­plet­ing the Gen Ed require­ments in 120 cred­its,” said com­mit­tee mem­ber Mark Matthews. Matthews is the committee’s Col­lege of Lib­eral Arts rep­re­sen­ta­tive and a pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy. “We will be look­ing at this anec­do­tal infor­ma­tion and try to find more sys­temic infor­ma­tion. Because I don’t know how bad the prob­lem really is. I don’t really know who has the prob­lem, or why they’re hav­ing the problem.

The com­mit­tee began its work in Jan­u­ary by ask­ing for input and com­men­tary from fac­ulty in every col­lege. By April, com­mit­tee mem­bers knew they needed more time. Their motion for “the nec­es­sary time for delib­er­a­tion, study, and suf­fi­cient reflec­tion upon this mat­ter of exis­ten­tial impor­tance to the Uni­ver­sity” was approved by the Fac­ulty Council.

Once they fully under­stand the issue, Borchert said any num­ber of pro­pos­als may come forward

I have no idea if we’re going to come up with one pro­posal. It could be keep it at 48 [cred­its]. Move it to 44. Get rid of lib­eral stud­ies. Allow majors to have to have lib­eral stud­ies courses in their major, which they’re not allowed to right now, and keep it at 8 [cred­its] or move it to 4. All sorts of pos­si­bil­i­ties,” said Borchert.

When the com­mit­tee set­tles on a pro­posal, it will be sub­mit­ted to the Fac­ulty Coun­cil for con­sid­er­a­tion. If the coun­cil approves it, the pro­posal must be dis­cussed at “Meet and Con­fer,” a monthly meet­ing between the fac­ulty union and uni­ver­sity admin­is­tra­tion, before it can become uni­ver­sity policy.

The growth of GELS

Gen­eral Education/​Liberal Stud­ies (GELS)

48 credit

Min­nesota Trans­fer Cur­ricu­lum (MnTC)

40 cred­its + Lib­eral Stud­ies (8 credits

Major require­ments

2464* credit

Min­i­mum total cred­its to graduate

20124 credit

Min­i­mum upper-​division credits

40 credit

Min­i­mum cred­its com­pleted at Metropolitan

State 30 credit

*In an analy­sis of the under­grad­u­ate cat­a­log, and in con­sul­ta­tion with aca­d­e­mic advi­sors, The Met­ro­pol­i­tan found that the low­est major require­ment was 32 cred­its (Eng­lish Teach­ing BS) and the high­est was 78 cred­its (Account­ing BS)

Source: Met­ro­pol­i­tan State Under­grad­u­ate Catalo

The committee’s work comes in the wake of the addi­tion of two new require­ments to GELS in recent years. Newly-​admitted stu­dents will need to take addi­tional cred­its of lab­o­ra­tory work to meet Goal 3, the nat­ural sci­ences requirement.

We hadn’t been doing [lab work] here because we didn’t have the facil­i­ties. With the cre­ation of the sci­ence build­ing, the fac­ulty voted to meet the gen­eral edu­ca­tion require­ment for nat­ural sci­ences that is present typ­i­cally at other state uni­ver­si­ties,” said Matthews.

Stu­dents admit­ted since fall 2016 must com­plete the Racial Issues Grad­u­a­tion Require­ment (RIGR) by tak­ing at least 3 cred­its from approved courses that address racism and racial injustice

We’re still say­ing 48 cred­its but those two things got added

And the rea­son why this motion came up in the first place is ‘when is this going to stop?’ Our stu­dents aren’t going to have any choices any more. If you have to do 48 cred­its but you’re putting more things in, everyone’s going to have to over­lap more,” said Borchert.

The who, what, why

As part of the process, the com­mit­tee first will col­lect data on the num­ber and majors of stu­dents grad­u­at­ing with over 120 cred­its, and under­stand why they took addi­tional credits.

One of the ‘whys’ could be is that they’re enrolled in large credit num­bered majors. But they could also have this prob­lem because they made bad deci­sions. Like for exam­ple when they were pur­su­ing their associate’s degree, they made choices that didn’t do well when they trans­ferred to Metro State and that they should have known about. Is it that they changed their mind about their course of study?” said Matthews.

Borchert said the com­mit­tee must also con­sider the effect of new Trans­fer Path­ways devel­oped by the Min­nesota State Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties sys­tem. The path­ways guar­an­tee that stu­dents with cer­tain associate’s degrees can trans­fer to a Min­nesota State uni­ver­sity, like Metro State, and com­plete a bachelor’s degree in 60 cred­its. “We don’t fully under­stand the impli­ca­tions of the path­ways yet because they are so new,” she said

After ana­lyz­ing the col­lected data, the com­mit­tee will draft pro­pos­als that address any prob­lems iden­ti­fied in their analysis.

The national context

Some fac­ulty are con­cerned that this delib­er­a­tion over gen­eral edu­ca­tion is really an effort to elim­i­nate the 8-​credit lib­eral stud­ies requirement.

In April, social sci­ence pro­fes­sor Jose San­tos pub­lished a com­men­tary enti­tled “Why we need lib­eral stud­ies now more than ever” in Min­nPost, a Min­nesota online news­pa­per. “I wrote the op-​ed in response to con­cern that peo­ple were com­ing for lib­eral stud­ies to solve their prob­lems,” he said. “At the national level, the sac­ri­fice has been we don’t need this lib­eral stud­ies stuff. It’s been easy to attack that.

San­tos sees lib­eral arts as essen­tial to devel­op­ing stu­dents who can write, think and read crit­i­cally. Lib­eral stud­ies courses illu­mi­nate the “cul­tural shifts” that will help stu­dents nav­i­gate in the work­place and world, he said.

A major con­cern, and a valid one, is the num­ber of cred­its required to grad­u­ate. Is that a bur­den on stu­dents? I don’t want us to have a zero sum men­tal­ity. That if stu­dents are tak­ing that [course], then they’re not tak­ing courses in my depart­ment. But, what courses are off-​limits [to elim­i­na­tion] because they are cen­tral to what we’re try­ing to do as a uni­ver­sity?” said Santos

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Matthews also sees the work in a larger con­text. “It is a big issue. It is a national issue. There’s pres­sure on all sides on what is the rel­e­vance and impor­tance of the lib­eral arts. And that’s the way it’s express­ing here at Metro State,” he said.

If the place some peo­ple want to make a cut is lib­eral stud­ies, that assumes a lot of things we don’t know yet,” said Matthews. “I want to know how many are hav­ing this prob­lem. If it’s 1 per­cent then I’m not very moti­vated to change gen­eral edu­ca­tion. If I’m going to change a whole sys­tem, it can’t just be a few peo­ple who are hav­ing problems.

Chair Borchert acknowl­edges the con­cerns over lib­eral stud­ies. “But this is not an attack on the 8-​credit lib­eral stud­ies require­ment. This dis­cus­sion is one hav­ing an eye to reduce the impact of the 48-​credit-​hour,” she said

The com­mit­tee did not meet dur­ing sum­mer semes­ter. Its com­po­si­tion may change as new rep­re­sen­ta­tives are elected in August. The com­mit­tee aims to make a pro­posal to the Fac­ulty Coun­cil by the end of the fall semester

We owe the fac­ulty a pro­posal,” said Borchert. “It’s a com­pli­cated issue and process. But it’s been a long time since the over­all require­ments have been eval­u­ated. That’s a large task. No one is tak­ing it lightly.

There are strong opin­ions. As there should be. But what’s great about Metro State is peo­ple here are not afraid to talk about things, to face dif­fi­cult sub­jects. And in a well-​reasoned way,” she said

WalletHub Ranks 2017’s Best & Worst Community Colleges

WalletHub Ranks 2017's Best  Worst Community CollegesCopyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Image Courtesy MGN Online

Cost is often a major consideration when evaluating college prospects. And with tuition rates continuing to rise every year — not to mention all the other expenses related to attendance — many would-be students are easily priced out of a university education.

Community colleges offer a perfect solution — and a better alternative to forgoing higher education altogether. During the 2016 to 2017 academic year, tuition and fees for full-time, in-state enrollment at a public two-year college averaged $1,760 per semester versus $4,825 at a public four-year institution and $16,740 at a four-year private school. Based on those rates, students who earn their general-education credits at a community college before transferring to an in-state public four-year university would save $12,260 over two years on tuition and fees alone.

Besides their reputation as an affordable, and in some cases free, option for earning a degree or serving as a bridge to university, community colleges are known for a number of attractive qualities. They often provide more flexible schedules, smaller class sizes and comparatively rigorous coursework, including bachelor’s degree programs in nearly half of all U.S. states — again, at a fraction of the university price tag. Such advantages appeal to first-time college entrants but especially to nontraditional students who juggle their studies with other commitments, such as family and work. Many university students today are even transferring to community colleges for the same reasons, a growing trend that reverses the traditional path of “upgrading” from a two-year to a four-year institution.

Individual community colleges, however, vary in performance and affordability.

To determine where students can receive the best education at the lowest price, WalletHub’s analysts compared more than 700 community colleges across 14 key indicators of cost and quality. 

Out of the 728 schools ranked, we had four ranked in our area.

Mesalands Community College came in at 9 in the WalletHub ranking; with ‘Cost and Financing’ at 53rd and ‘Edcuation Outcomes’ 11th.

Clovis Community College came in at 126th; with ‘Cost and Financing’ at 187th, ‘Education Outcomes’ 155th, and 346 in ‘Career Outcomes’.

Clarendon College came in at 414th overall; with ‘Cost and Financing’ at 553rd, ‘Education Outcomes’ 302nd, and 558th in ‘Career Outcomes’.

Amarillo College came in at 442nd; with ‘Cost and Financing’ at 368th, ‘Education Outcomes’ 481st, and 353rd in ‘Career Outcomes’.

Dignity Health wellness campus comes before city

Work on Dignity Health’s Sacramento River-front wellness campus north of the Henderson Open space in Redding could start next year.

Dignity’s $50 million project comes before the Planning Commission on Tuesday afternoon.

The panel will be asked to approve a use permit for Dignity, the parent company of Mercy Medical Center in Redding, and adopt a resolution approving a general plan amendment application of 10.5 acres to public facilities.

If approved Tuesday, the City Council would consider the general plan amendment needed for the project on Sept. 19.

Dignity wants to build the project in two phases, the first consisting of a four-story, 80,000-square-foot building. This is the portion that could open in 2019.

Steve Foerster, chief strategy officer for Dignity Health North State, said they would like to start construction in 2018 but officials are still working on details and schedules. If construction does start next year, the campus would be expected to open in 2019.

“We are not 100 percent certain but that is our goal to start in 2018,” Foerster said, “but we could (start construction) in 2019. We are still trying to confirm the exact date.”

At this time, Dignity does not have a timeline for the second phase, which would include a 27,800-square-foot, three-story building and a two-story, 21,800-square-foot building.

“The other buildings would be dependent on need,” Redding Senior Planner Lily Toy said.

Called Dignity Health North State Pavilion, the healthcare giant believes its wellness campus will be an economic boon for greater Redding and estimates up to 180 people will work there at full build-out.

Primary care, general education health classes, imaging services and “a handful of other services” would be housed in the first phase, Foerster said.

At full build-out, the wellness campus would offer family medicine, orthopedics, urgent care, radiology, pharmaceutical, physical therapy, diagnostic testing, women’s health and wellness, and administrative offices and classrooms.

The wellness campus would be built just south the Cypress Avenue Bridge behind the Cobblestone Shopping Center that at one time was anchored by a Raley’s supermarket. Some discussion surrounding the project has revolved around Dignity’s plan to build a portion the parking lot in a federal 100-year floodplain. The floodplain inundates about an acre of the project site.

The parking lot would be raised above the base flood elevation and so it would not be affected during 100-year flood events, Toy wrote in her report.

What’s more, a letter of map revision has been submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency proposing the floodway and floodplain further west. The project is proposed under the map revision, “otherwise two of the buildings would either be in the floodway or the 100-year floodplain,” Toy said. Thus, prior to opening the campus, the flood map revision letter must be approved by FEMA.

City officials approved the sale of four parcels and a portion of fifth at the southwest corner of East Cypress and Hartnell for $641,162 in 2016 to Dignity. The deal closed in June, said Chris Haedrich of Haedrich Co. in Redding.

Nichols, Melburg Rossetto Architects of Redding designed the campus.

Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting starts at 4 p.m. at Redding City Hall.





Teacher shortage looms over Detroit

A significant teacher shortage looms at Detroit Public Schools Community District, and it’s likely to leave some children without teachers when school starts in two weeks.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said last week 340 teacher vacancies remain in the district, which employs about 2,700 teachers and educates an estimated 47,950 students. There are 243 general education vacancies, primarily in grades K-5, and 97 special education vacancies. That’s up from about 200 vacancies at this time last year, according to the teachers union.

Whether or not there will be enough teachers for the first day of school on Sept. 5 for every classroom with students, Vitti said he is working hard to make the district fully staffed.

“That’s what students and teachers deserve,” he said.

The shortage is larger than last year, Vitti said, because the district reacquired 10 of its schools from the Education Achievement Authority, and only about 50 percent of EAA teachers have reapplied for jobs in the district. Of the 340 vacancies, 85 are in former EAA schools.

The district has two teacher recruitment fairs this month — one held last week and another on Aug. 31 — to boost teacher ranks, but the district is still falling short of providing a teacher for all of its classrooms.

The district plans to continue seeking potential hires throughout the year, even if it means pursuits other than an enrollment fair, district spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said.

“It’s going to be a constant effort to recruit talent,” she said.

Wilson said on Monday that 164 people attended last week’s recruitment fair and 61 were offered positions in the district but still need to be placed.

“The number (in the shortage) is moving daily,” she said.

The good news, Vitti said, is he has 85 pending hires who would bring the number of vacancies down to around 255. Some district staffers moved from human resources into teaching positions and are still being placed — those people will reduce the shortage as well.

“We are getting closer. But a lot of work is still to be done,” Vitti said.

To combat the shortage, Vitti also is working on increasing steps for outside candidates in hard-to-staff areas and hiring bonuses for hard-to-staff schools, assigning human resource employees to specific schools to boost hiring and accessing Wayne County’s application pool to view teacher applicants — a first for the district.

Vitti is also meeting with principals to determine exactly where vacancies exist and is trying to recruit more HR staff who have been teachers in the past.

“It’s very hard to recruit teachers if you’ve never been a teacher. That is something we are trying to change,” he said.

‘Praying every day’

Asked whether every Detroit student will have a teacher in class on the first day of school, Ivy Bailey, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said she does not think so, but she is confident the number of vacancies will go down by then.

“I am praying every day. Our teachers cannot go through another year of large class sizes, of missing their preps, doing triple duty. They cannot physically and mentally sustain it,” Bailey said. “They are going to do whatever it takes to get these kids educated. They will miss their preps and their lunch.”

Vitti said he hopes the teacher recruitment fairs and new collective bargaining agreement in place will attract teaching talent to the district. New teacher salaries increased to $38,500 from $35,683, he said. Teachers with post-doctorate degrees at the top of the salary schedule will make $66,265 this fall.

The deal is partly why some of the nearly 150 attendees at the recruitment fair Thursday in Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine sought positions.

“I was kind of hedging, but I was encouraged by the last contract talks,” said Juanita Davis, who recently became certified, while waiting for an interview.

William Nagy had previously worked for a city charter school that closed and attended the fair hoping to find a job with better benefits.

“There are a lot more opportunities,” said Nagy, who has taught physical education.

At the teacher recruitment fairs, applications are being accepted for all teaching positions, but a critical need for teachers exists in math, science, English language arts, special education, music, Spanish, K-5 elementary, social studies and career technical education.

The district is also hiring retirees for the field of special education, science, math and Spanish. On-the-spot conditional offers may be provided to qualified candidates, district officials said.

The chance to find a job in the district lured potential hires such as Alicia Shearill, a Detroiter with about a decade of experience in the education field. Her goal was a “dream job” teaching social studies at a middle school.

Progress in both the district and Detroit pushed her to look at the district.

“If we’re going to be a comeback city, our students have to be part of the comeback,” Shearill said. “I want to be a part of that.”

‘Approaching a cliff’

The teacher shortage could continue in coming years.

On Aug. 15, during the board of education meeting, Vitti said a majority of the district’s teachers — about 66 percent — are at the higher end of the salary range and step system.

“The positive aspect is we have a strong veteran workforce with long-standing relationships with our students. The negative is we are approaching a cliff. If they retire in the next couple of years, it exacerbates our teacher shortage problem,” Vitti said.

Bailey said the teacher shortage is not new to the district. Last school year, there were 200 vacancies at this time across the entire district.

“We have lost population in the city. We got charter schools. Some left for charters. Some left the city, and then the emergency manager, and we took a 10 percent pay cut,” Bailey said. “A lot of people couldn’t afford it, and those who could leave, left.”

In 2009, the union agreed to have teachers loan money to the cash-strapped district, which was under state control at the time. Then in 2011, teachers took a 10 percent wage cut.

Those who stayed are invested in Detroit and most attended or graduated from Detroit schools, Bailey said.

“And they are diehard Detroiters and others and really care about the kids, and they aren’t going anywhere,” she said.

The number of vacancies is bound to increase in September, Bailey said, when a group of teachers historically returns in September and leaves that same month for retirement. Typically that accounts for 50 to 70 teachers a year, she said.

Bailey said teachers are coming over from the EAA, but they are taking pay cuts because they were paid more working under a year-round calendar. EAA teachers also did not pay into the state’s retirement system as Detroit teachers do.

Bailey, a Cass Tech graduate and former DPS teacher, said the district has a negative reputation, but she and other union members and teachers would be happy to talk about the culture around the city and schools that make it a great place to work.

“A lot of us stay. We see how awesome our kids are. We see their potential and they are willing to try. They just need something to push them in that direction,” she said. “You are on the ground floor making some amazing things happen. We have a new superintendent and new school board. We need new energy, we need new ideas.”

A statewide teacher shortage in recent years has been blamed on fewer college graduates entering teaching schools and the profession.

David Crim, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, said there are sporadic teacher shortages around the state in difficult subject areas, such as math, science, special education and foreign language.

Randy Liepa, superintendent of the Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency, said overall districts are still seeing challenges in hiring teachers based on the smaller number of students in teacher graduate programs.

Districts that started their hiring processes earlier in the year, such as in the spring, are in better shape than districts that waited until the summer to recruit new staff, he said.

Teachers wanted

A second teacher recruitment fair will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Aug. 31 at Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine at 571 Mack in Detroit.

Candidates who are interested in employment are encouraged to visit and complete an online application.

Shane Phipps column: The complex world of special education is ever-changing

I have a feeling that, unless you are a public education insider, you likely don’t have any idea about the complexity of the world of special needs education.

I’m sure you’re aware that there are special education students and teachers and that there is this mysterious term called “inclusion,” which requires that students with special needs are offered an equal opportunity at a full education in what is legally referred to as the “least restrictive environment” possible. Special education is governed under federal laws and public schools and teachers are held to tight accountability to monitor students with special needs and ensure their rights are being met.

That is a very broad and somewhat vague umbrella statement of the world of special education, but I’ll bet you’d be amazed to see it in action in a large public school in today’s climate. I can tell you, it is a wonder to behold.

For students on my roster, there are several distinct levels of special education placements. Each special education student has either an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or what is known as a 504 plan. These plans are developed by teams of special education teachers, parents, and other specialists and then are distributed to general education teachers and aides so that they can understand and provide all the supports built into the plans in order to help each child succeed.

Many special education students are in what is called full inclusion. This means they are in most of the general education classrooms throughout the day. These students have some identified learning disability but, with some extra support, they can thrive and succeed in a general education classroom. The goal for them is to be on the high school diploma track. They may have an aide available to check in on them and provide support during classes. Often, this is the case in math and language arts classes. Other times, it may just be that they are on their own with the general education teacher. Any given classroom in a typical public school may have several such students on the roster.

Other students need more of a specially structured schedule. Another level of support is mild intervention. These students may have a mixture of inclusion in general education classrooms and self-contained classes with a special education teacher and aides. The plan is to give them more structured support to help them make gains with the goal of graduating high school.

There is also a level of support especially for children on the autism spectrum. The amount of time these students spend in general education settings will vary case by case.

The Comprehensive Intervention Program (CIP) is a self-contained classroom environment for students with significant impairments and multiple disabilities. These students are generally not in regular classes nor are they normally on a diploma track. The goal for them is to teach them life skills in order to increase their independence.

There is also an emotional disability classification. The teachers of record for these students require special training to deal with kids with profound difficulty managing behaviors and emotions. These students can become verbally and physically abusive or may become flight risks with little to no forewarning. Their ability to succeed in general classes can vary from student to student or even from day to day or moment to moment for individual students.

The world of special education is ever-changing. Special education teachers hold a special place in my heart. They have so much paperwork, so many case conferences — just so many things on their plate. They put up with an awful lot that most uninitiated people would be shocked to learn. But they have one thing in common — they have big hearts for their kids and they are fierce proponents for them.

Alexandria native Shane Phipps is an author and teacher in Indianapolis. His column appears Mondays in the Herald Bulletin. Email him at Follow his blog at and follow him on Twitter @shanehphipps.

Dyslexia, once the reading disability that shall not be named, comes into its own in California

Credit: Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource

August 20, 2017
1 Comment

Jamie Bennetts created a spreadsheet of every child’s reading scores in the small Knightsen Elementary School District a few summers ago, identified the laggers and greeted them in the fall with state-adopted reading interventions. She was new to her job as a reading interventionist, a position she sought after the unnerving experience of teaching 7th-graders, many of whom she’d taught as 1st- or 2nd-graders, and discovering that the 6- and 7-year-olds she’d known as poor readers were still reading poorly at 12 and 13.

“I was stunned to find a lot of kids hadn’t made a lot of progress since I’d left them,” she recalled. She was stunned again by the unsuitability of the reading programs that came with her job. “They stunk,” she said. “They were too broad, too general, not diagnostic and not prescriptive.” She talked her district into paying for her to get trained in interventions for children who have dyslexia, the No. 1 reading disability in the United States.

Now, in roughly three years on the job, she’s spread her training to receptive teachers in her Contra Costa County district. Referrals to special education have dropped by about 70 percent, she said, and children with signs of dyslexia, a neurological disorder that makes it difficult to “sound out” words by matching letters with sounds, are getting the right kind of help.

The hope is for districts across the state to follow Knightsen’s example, according to legislation that last week produced its goal: the release of the California Department of Education’s California Dyslexia Guidelines, a long-awaited document meant to let schools know what exactly dyslexia is and what interventions have been proven effective. Estimates of the prevalence of dyslexia range from 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population — which would mean between 300,000 and 1.2 million children in California public schools. Brain imagery has shown that people with dyslexia process word identification differently, and children do not outgrow dyslexia. The goal is to learn how to compensate for it. The disability is unrelated to intelligence, but students have long floundered without the correct help.

“The idea that there is a document with the state seal and the word dyslexia on it — I’m exultant,” said Anjanette Pelletier of the San Mateo County Special Education Local Plan Area.

“My teachers would write, ‘She’s very bright, she just doesn’t apply herself,’” recalled Joyce Childs, a resource specialist in the Twin Rivers District, president of CARS Plus, an organization of California special educators, and a person with dyslexia. When she was a 5th-grader at Coyle Avenue Elementary in Carmichael, Childs recalled, she was asked to read aloud and mispronounced “island.” “Everybody laughed and my teacher laughed and I never read aloud again in my education career,” she said.

The 132-page guidelines, which are not mandatory, are the upshot of years of lobbying by parents who watched their children agonize over learning to read with little help from teachers or specialists, even though effective methods for teaching dyslexic students to read have existed for decades, said Tobie Meyer, state director of Decoding Dyslexia California, which led the legislative lobbying. Worse, Meyer said, is that many special education teachers maintain they are not allowed to even say the word dyslexia. Among educators, fear of the word and the associated costs of replacing reading curricula with dyslexia-specific interventions has been such that the federal government in 2015 issued a letter instructing districts to do more for dyslexic students and “say dyslexia.”

New guidelines call for early screening

The power of naming what’s happening is not to be underestimated, said Holly Synder, a parent of a son with dyslexia and a member of Decoding Dyslexia California. “You don’t want your child to have something wrong, but to have a name for it, a reason why it’s happening and a path you can take, it’s an amazing feeling,” she said.

The era of denial should be coming to an end, said Anjanette Pelletier, senior administrator for the San Mateo County Special Education Local Plan Area, a regional center for special education. “The idea that there is a document with the state seal and the word dyslexia on it — I’m exultant,” she said. The parents of Decoding Dyslexia California “took their frustration, anger, pain, sadness and desire for other people not to have to deal with this” and initiated a change with potentially far-reaching effects, she said. Most crucial is the focus on early intervention and prevention, she said.

“I’ve devoted my life to special education and it’s not the best model,” Pelletier said. “Special education is not preventative, it is reactive.” In contrast, the guidelines give schools a way to intervene with dyslexic students before their reading careers are derailed, she said. The guidelines call for kindergarten teachers or reading specialists to screen all kindergartners by spring  using an evaluation that has been proven to detect signs of dyslexia. These “universal screening tools” should continue to be used through high school, the guidelines say, and begin in the general education classroom. “Students who have dyslexia are ‘general education students’ first, can be educated in general education classrooms, and benefit from a wide variety of supports,” the guidelines say.

California students are in need of better instruction in reading, the guidelines note. In 2015, 41 percent of 4th-grade students in California scored below basic achievement levels, compared with 32 percent nationally, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Among students with disabilities, 80 percent of California students scored below basic achievement levels, compared to 67 percent nationally. “One of the greatest contributing factors to lower achievement scores in reading is the lack of early and accurate identification of students with dyslexia,” the guidelines stated.

The remedy includes better teacher training. “There needs to be a commitment” from credentialing programs to teaching future teachers reading methodologies that help all students and are particularly helpful for students with some degree of dyslexia, the guideline state. Typically, these methods involve practicing how a letter or pair of letters look and how they sound. Teacher preparation program standards set by the International Dyslexia Association are a start, the guidelines suggest.

Mara Wiesen, president of the Los Angeles branch of the International Dyslexia Association, concurred, saying that school districts should not have to step in to train their teachers in proper reading instruction. “That shouldn’t be their burden,” she said. “All of our teachers should come out of teacher preparation programs knowing how to teach reading.”

She praised the guidelines. “I think they covered everything and covered it all quite beautifully,” she said

Now it’s up to districts to take the guidelines, which were produced as a result of Assembly Bill 1369, a 2015 law by Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, and put them into action.

“The devil is in the details — now we need to look at how we convert this into practical and implementable practice in our public schools,” said Meyer of Decoding Dyslexia California. She acknowledged the stress of limited school funding. “Without a budget for teacher and professional training, it will be impossible to address the needs of not only our dyslexic students but all struggling readers,” she said.

Some school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, already are moving ahead. In late June, the Los Angeles Unified school board passed a resolution giving the district 90 days to come up with a plan to train teachers to work with students with dyslexia. To that end, a work group is to meet for the third time next week. “I think it’s being very carefully done,” said Virginia Kennedy, an associate professor at Cal State Northridge, a member of the state Dyslexia Working Group that drafted the guidelines and a member of the group working with LA Unified.



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  1. Lori DePole 12 hours ago12 hours ago

    Great summary of the new California dyslexia guidelines! I like that the guidelines show that neuroscience findings support IDEA that dyslexia does NOT require a discrepancy between reading and IQ (page 7). California needs to stop utilizing outdated methods of identification for special education eligibility.