General Assembly overrides four vetoes issued by Bevin; education bill headed for signature

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Four vetoes issued by Gov. Matt Bevin in recent days were overridden by the Kentucky General Assembly, allowing the legislation to pass into law.

The governor had vetoed Senate Bill 91, Senate Joint Resolution 57 and House Bill 540, as well as a portion of House Bill 471. The Senate and House voted to reject the vetoes by wide margins earlier today, the second-to-last day of the General Assembly’s 2017 regular session.

SB 91, also known as “Tim’s Law”, sponsored by Senate Health and Welfare Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, will allow court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for certain mentally ill Kentuckians who have previously been involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness at least twice in the past year. Bevin vetoed the law, saying it “is well intentioned, but would set a dangerous precedent…” in his veto message. The Senate voted 35-1 and the House voted 91-0 today to successfully override that veto.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, (left) listens to Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, in the Senate. (LRC Public Information Photo)

SJR 57, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, designates honorary names and sign placements on roads throughout the Commonwealth. In his veto message on the measure, Bevin said provisions of SJR 57 naming portions of roads in McCreary and Whitley counties as “Copperhead Trail” fell outside of state policy. The General Assembly disagreed, with the Senate voting 34-2 and the House voting 92-0 to override the veto.

HB 471, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, is widely known as the funding bill for public charter schools legislation. Bevin vetoed other parts of HB 471 that would require the General Assembly to approve spending of any funds the state receives from the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Agreement, a multi-billion national agreement that settles allegations of emissions test cheating by the automaker. The General Assembly voted 89-0 in the House and 37-0 in the Senate to override the veto.

The final veto overridden by the General Assembly today was the veto of HB 540, a bill sponsored by House Small Business and Information Technology Committee Chair Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park. Bevin vetoed the bill – a bill dealing with the regulation of drones – calling HB 540 “a well-intentioned, but premature piece of legislation that is preempted by federal law” in his veto message.

The veto was overridden by a vote of 35-1 in the Senate and 93-0 in the House.

Comprehensive education reform bill heading to Governor’s desk

A wide-reaching education reform bill that would change how Kentucky public schools are held accountable for student progress, as well as how teachers are evaluated, has achieved final approval from the state’s General Assembly.

Among other goals, Senate Bill 1 is designed to place more control and accountability in the hands of local school districts, enabling them to have a stronger voice in how to improve performance by both students and teachers, and to turn low-performing schools around.

The sweeping new law requires regular reviews of academic standards in Kentucky schools, makes schools accountable for success indicators such as graduation rates and college admissions exam scores, offers state-funded opportunities to assess students’ academic progress through taking early college admissions tests, returns responsibility for teacher evaluation back to local school boards, and reduces the amount of paperwork that now takes time from teachers and administrators.

Noting that the measure had widespread support from numerous education associations across the state as well as bipartisan support in the General Assembly, Sen. Mike Wilson, D-Bowling Green, the bill’s sponsor, said, “We can now provide significant guidance to the state Board of Education. This bill will increase the post-secondary readiness of Kentucky graduates, and it significantly impacts every classroom and future generations of Kentuckians.”

Referring to it as the “Let Teachers Teach Bill,” Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, added his support, noting that the legislation “gives local control back to Kentucky schools.”

Senate Bill 1 now heads to Gov. Matt Bevin’s office for his signature.

From LRC Public Information Office

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What the UP president thinks of fewer GE units in college

GENERAL EDUCATION. UP President Danilo Concepcion says he allowed the University Council of UP Diliman to 'decide democratically' on its General Education curriculum. Rappler screenshot

GENERAL EDUCATION. UP President Danilo Concepcion says he allowed the University Council of UP Diliman to ‘decide democratically’ on its General Education curriculum. Rappler screenshot

MANILA, Philippines – Last March 20, the University Council of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman voted in favor of a new General Education (GE) curriculum with a minimum of 21 units.

It was the last UP constituent unit to decide on the issue which has spurred much debate on campus. Critics say March 20 was the “twilight of general education,” and a day when university education was narrowed down “to mere specialization and employability.”

The group UP Sagip GE continues to oppose the shift to a new GE curriculum, coming out with position papers from different faculty members of UP Diliman.

UP President Danilo Concepcion, who assumed office just a month before Diliman voted on the issue, said he understands where the critics are coming from. (READ: New UP president urges concern, not just honor and excellence)

“On the one hand, I agree with the proponents or the people who are against the decrease. The UP… has to ensure that its graduates are well-rounded. But somehow we also have to make sure that our students are competitive, not only locally, domestically, but also globally,” he said in a Rappler Talk interview on Wednesday, March 29.

Concepcion said he did not take any side in the debate and allowed the University Council to “have a full debate” and to “decide democratically.”

“I was informed a big majority of the members of the University Council approved the proposal to lower the minimum requirement of GE units that a student must complete in order to graduate. I think they agreed to lower it to 21 units,” he added.

One of the arguments for the new GE curriculum is the “need” to reduce 5-year courses like engineering to 4 years.

Concepcion said with Southeast Asian countries now reducing engineering to a 4-year course, the Philippines “will be producing graduates who are less competitive” if it does not follow suit.

“Because they’ll be getting work one year after their contemporaries in other countries have finished their courses. And not only that, it will also be a great expense on the part of the student to stay in school for one year more,” he explained.

He cited a study in the United States about law students, and the debts they have to pay after taking loans to finance their 8-year college education.

“According to this study, because of the amount of debts the student has accumulated to finish law, the amount of the cost of legal service in the United States has gone up, because that lawyer has to recover everything that he has invested, he has to pay all the loans that he incurred in order to finish the course,” Concepcion explained.

He added: “And that may also be true in the case of engineering: another year of stay in college will entail lots of expenses, and that may be a gamechanger in the global market.”

On Tuesday, March 28, UP Sagip GE called for the “revaluation and resurrection” of Diliman’s GE program. They wore a “black sablay” – sablay refers to the sash worn by UP graduates – as they “mourned the death” of general education. –

UM-Flint Launches Online Inclusive Education Grad Program

Pending final approvals, the University of Michigan-Flint School of Education and Human Services will launch a new Master of Arts in Inclusive Education degree program in Fall 2017.

The completely online program (10 classes/30 credits) aims to help general and special education teachers and early childhood professionals to better meet the academic, behavioral, and social needs of all students by building a successful, inclusive classroom environment, working collaboratively with multidisciplinary professionals, and implementing research-based practices.

IU graduate student addresses Syrian education issues in Turkey

While President Donald Trump attempts and fails to ban refugees from America, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not only allowed millions of refugees to enter Turkey but has also created a screening process, which could potentially grant some refugees citizenship.

However, by allowing refugees into the country, the Turkish government faces infrastructure difficulties like educating Syrian children.

IU’s No Lost Generation Student Association, an organization that advocates for Syrian children who are displaced by the Syrian crisis, invited IU graduate student Ozlem Erden to their event “National and International Frameworks Regulating Refugee Education: Challenges and Opportunities of Refugee Education in Turkey,” where she discussed the inconsistency in educating Syrian refugee children in Turkey on Tuesday evening at the Global and International Studies Building.


Erden is a Fulbright Ph.D. scholar at IU’s Center for International Education, Development Research. Her research concentrates on refugee and immigrant youth.

“Every year they go to a different type of school, which creates an inconsistency,” Erden said. “It’s also affecting finding reliable data to figure out what the 
problems are.”

The Syrian crisis began March 2011 as a civil resistance, an effect of the Arab Spring, which was a democratic uprising in North Africa and the Middle East.

“When refugees came to the border, they were automatically let in,” she said. “There was no screening 

At first Syrian refugees could attend any school they wished, but as the number of refugees increased, the financial burden on the Syrian government increased. This caused the government to allow refugees only in public schools.

The Ministry of Education began offering two types — general education services and alternative educational services.

General education consists of open admission to universities, schools in camps, temporary education centers and Syrian schools. Alternative education offers Turkish language courses, weekend and vocational schools.

Transitioning to a different education system in a different country is often traumatizing for students, Erden said.

“The Turkish government does not do anything to assimilate these refugees,” she said. “When it comes to Syrians, they are reminded that they are Syrians and that they have to protect their identity.”

The younger students are especially prone to 
becoming traumatized after coming to Turkey because the people around them expect them to be traumatized, Erden said. Often, students are trying to move on from the experience of having a war in their country, but teachers will want them to talk about their feelings to cope.

“As they think all refugee students are traumatized, they are traumatizing the 
students,” she said.

One aspect of refugee education that is detrimental to Syrian refugee children is the language barrier, Erden said. In Turkish schools, instructors teach children the lessons in Turkish, Turkey’s official language.

When refugees first came over, they were let in, but they were only thought of as guests. The government did not want them to stay, Erden said. However, now that the crisis has lasted so long, the families have to find ways to create a stable lifestyle.

“The first priority of refugees is financial needs,” she said. “Most of the children, particularly boys, end up working in local shops.”

Because of this, many of the children give up or sacrifice their education in some way to work and help support their family, Erden said.

Opening Syrian schools and temporary education centers can be difficult because they struggle to attain resources, she said. There are a small number of available teachers and a lack of books.

“Once refugee students reach a form of satisfaction with the material they have, they begin the second stage of identifying social norms and values that cause difficulties such as misunderstandings with their peers, bullying and social isolation,” Erden said.

The lack of consistency in the Syrian children’s lives makes it difficult for them to feel comfortable within their society, she said. Erden said it is especially difficult when the Turkish locals are too sensitive to the students because the children want to be 
treated normally.

“They don’t need your pity,” Erden said. “They need your social assistance so they can live a normal life.”

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IDS to print twice weekly starting in the fall

In response to industry changes the Indiana Daily Student will alter its news distribution model to expand its digital presence. Read about it here.

ICYMI: Trump has dropped 220 spots on Forbes’ billionaires list

Additionally, Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch has begun Senate confirmation hearings. Here is a rundown of what happened and why it matters

The third life of Darryl Pinkins

After 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Darryl Pinkins is finally free. Now he’s starting over in a world that did not wait for him. 

Primary Care

Will Cooke is the only doctor in Austin, Indiana, a city that in 2015 experienced the worst HIV outbreak in recent US history. Two years later, his work is still not done. Read our fourth installment of “Epidemic in Indiana” here.

Without a woman

The IDS talked to women taking the day off, women who could not afford to, and female-owned businesses. Find our full coverage here.

Travel ban updated, health care bill introduced

The Trump administration also revoked protections for transgender students. Read more here.

The lady in the van

Two years ago, Brittany Combs would have been scared to drive into neighborhoods populated by drug addicts. But now, she makes sure she’s there every week, trying to save their lives. Read our third installment of “Epidemic in Indiana” here.

Close to home

Public health nurse Jackie Crane sees addiction and overdose at work every day. She never thought she’d see it happen to her own son. Read her story here.

End of the fall

TJ Covey has resolved to beat an addiction that’s ravaging much of the rural United States. 
Read his story here.


Resistance: They will not be silenced

The IDS sent reporters to the Monroe County Courthouse and the Indianapolis International Airport to cover protests in opposition to President Trump’s 90-day travel ban. This is what they saw.

More campus stories

Amid leak rumors, one IUSA ticket requests judicial review
Muslim Student Association encourages cultural understanding with week-long awareness event
Women discuss activism Monday evening

Ansonia to save $500000 with portable classrooms

ANSONIA The Board of Aldermen recently approved a bid to enable installation of portable classrooms at Mead School this fall, a move that’s slated to save the district half a million dollars.

Vanguard Modular Building Systems, with its regional offices based out of Danvers, Mass., was the low bidder for the project, coming in at $1.5 million. There were three other companies vying for the job.

The Board of Education received a $1.6 million grant through the state’s construction grant program to fund the project.

The six portable classrooms are not necessarily being installed to combat an overcrowding issue at the elementary school, officials said, but rather to bring back special education students, previously placed in costly, out-of-district facilities, and educate them here.

“The portables are needed to provide space to bring back special education students into the district, thereby saving an estimated $500,000 in out of district special education costs,” said Ansonia Schools’ Director of Facilities Robert Evans. “The portables will provide flexible space to allow more special education students to remain in-district.”

Special education tuition alone for the 2017-2018 school year has increased by $1.5 million, according to School Business Manager Frank Connolly. The costs are beyond the board’s control, and anytime a special education student moves into the district, but cannot be educated within Ansonia schools, the district must pay the tuition, no matter the cost, to educate the student outside the district.

That’s why the board has been working for the past two years on a solution to save money and come up with a plan to try to educate all of its students in-house, and the portables is a way to do that, according to Board of Education President Nimons.

Nimons had said in the current school year, there are 530 special education students, comprising 20 percent of the total student population of 2,626 students, who are educated both in and out of the district. However, Nimons said, the total special education budget comprises 29 percent of the total current budget, or almost one-third of the total Board of Education budget. He said that comes down to mandated special education programs “adversely effecting the general education budget.”

The budget the board approved earlier this year includes some $271,000 to hire new teachers to staff the portables

“The portables will allow flexibility of student allocation based on student load and the individual requirements of the special education students,” Evans said.

The current class size at Mead School is 23, and that student population, Evans said, is expected to remain constant. Mead School serves students in grades K-6.

Evans said while portables will solve some of the district’s issues, they are “not a permanent solution” to the problem.

“The construction of a bricks and mortar school addition would have involved an entirely different and very lengthy process with the state,” Evans noted.

Hot Jobs: March 28, 2017

CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) – This week’s Hot Jobs report is courtesy of Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend.

Location Orange Grove, Texas
Job Number 7184033
Title Welder
Salary $18.00 – $25.00 Hour
Qualifications Five (5) years prior Experience and a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Will use hand-welding equipment to weld guard rails and hand rails. Must be proficient in flux-core, mig and stick welding.  Aluminum and tig welding a plus.  AWSD II Certification required. Background check and drug screening will be conducted.  Valid Class C – Standard Driver’s License required.

Location Corpus Christi, Texas
Job Number 6537383
Title Divisional Manager Landscape Irrigation
Salary $60,000.00 – $75,000.00 Year +Benefits +Bonuses
Qualifications Two (2) years prior Experience and a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Responsible for the management, and scheduling of all current and on-going landscaping/irrigation maintenance and commercial service work, as well as PL, business development and management of subcontractors. Licensed Irrigator Backflow Tester Certification, preferred

Location Corpus Christi, Texas
Job Number 5215752
Title Technical Specialist – Streets
Salary $17.11 – $28.04 Hour +Benefits
Qualifications Two (2) years prior Experience and a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Will install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair traffic control devices and equipment to meet all associated construction standards. Will operate and maintain equipment including aerial hydraulic bucket truck and digger derrick. Valid Class C – Standard Driver’s License required.

Location Corpus Christi, Texas
Job Number 7184109
Title Attorney III
Salary $77,445.00 – $126,904.00 Year +Benefits
Qualifications Five (5) years prior Experience and a Doctoral Degree required. Will provide legal advice to Engineering Department on all matters of contract, construction, municipal, procurement, bond and surety law premiums. Must be licensed by the State Bar of Texas.  Valid Class C – Standard Driver’s License

Location Beeville, Texas
Job Number 5215587
Title Maintenance Worker
Salary $14.00 Hour +Benefits
Qualifications One (1) year prior Experience and a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Will plan, schedule, and conduct general maintenance, repairs, and remodeling of commercial or residential properties. Will perform some administrative duties such as collection of rental fees, deposits and payments of insurance premiums.  Valid Class C – Standard Driver’s License

To learn more about these jobs, call Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend at 888-860-JOBS.

Hot Jobs is a segment that is found every Tuesday, on 3News at 5 p.m.

© 2017 KIII-TV

Supreme Court Refines Legal Standard for Special Education …

Thirty five years ago, in Board of Education of Hendricks Hudson District v. Rowley, the Supreme Court ruled that, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools must provide students with an individualized education plan (IEP) “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits.” Last week, the Supreme Court revisited that standard in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District and ruled that “a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

The Court in Endrew F., to resolve the dispute below (summarized in this alert) and provide further guidance on the free and appropriate public education (FAPE) standard, looked to the text of the IDEA. The IDEA requires that the IEP “describe the special education and related services … that will be provided so that the child may advance appropriately toward attaining annual goals and, when possible, be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.”

The Court agreed with Rowley that for students included in general education classes, FAPE requires an IEP “reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade.” But the Court also acknowledged that this standard was not reasonable for all children with disabilities, and for children not included in general education classes, the “educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of [the child’s] circumstances.”

The standard endorsed by the Court is more rigorous that the one used by the 10th Circuit: “some educational benefit,” meaning “merely more than de minimis.” But the Court also rejected the parents’ proposed standard: “an education that aims to provide a child with a disability opportunities to achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency, and contribute to society that are substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities.”

The Court’s standard continues to recognize that an IEP is forward looking; thus it must be “reasonably calculated” to provide appropriate educational benefit, but it does not guarantee any particular outcome. And given the wide spectrum of children with disabilities covered by the IDEA, the Court declined “to elaborate on what ‘appropriate’ progress will look like from case to case.” The standard also continues to give deference to the expertise and judgment of school authorities.

What does this mean here in the Seventh Circuit? The standard the Seventh Circuit has used is that, to be sufficient, the IEP must be “likely to produce progress, not regression or trivial educational advancement.” Alex R. v. Forrestville Valley Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. #221. And the Seventh Circuit has recognized that the “requisite degree of reasonable, likely progress varies, depending on the student’s abilities.” This standard and the one articulated by the Supreme Court in Endrew F. appear quite similar. Future cases will provide additional guidance. Because IEP goals set out what the team believes is appropriate progress given the student’s circumstances, we anticipate increased focus on accurate present levels of performance, ambitious and realistic annual goals, and thorough progress monitoring.

Special ed has big local impact

NEW ULM — Special education in New Ulm Public Schools serves a small percentage of the population, but it is significant in impact.

Just under 14 percent of students in Independent School District (ISD) 88 are enrolled in special education programs, and $1.7 million from the general fund helps pay for it. So what does it look like?

The first lesson to learn when trying to understand special education is in its name. Students become enrolled in special education because they need specialized instruction.

“Special education is all completely individualized to the student,” Christina Mattson, a middle school autism spectrum disorder (ASD) special education teacher, said. “So each child has an individual education plan (IEP) that dictates what we as special education teachers are working on with that particular child, and all of our interventions and strategies are then tailored to that particular student’s plan.”

An IEP doesn’t mean that students are less intelligent than their peers or incapable of functioning. It means students just require a different approach.

“They are quite capable,” Gay Lynn Cowing, a high school special education teacher licensed in specific learning disabilities (SLD), said. “For example, to qualify for a learning disability, a student has to have average or above average IQ.”

Before a student gets an IEP, they must be evaluated. The evaluations are done by one of two teams involved in the student’s education.

The evaluation teams can vary but generally consists of teachers, the student’s family, specialists, a psychologist and administrators.

“Those are the people who determine what the needs are and what we are going to write as goals and objectives,” Sue Kimmel, a special education teacher at Washington Learning Center (WLC), said. “Then the IEP team is the team that is responsible for carrying out those goals and objectives.”

Students with an IEP are generally categorized into one of 13 federally recognized disability categories. Some examples are: ASD, SLD and emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD).

All of this is to provide the students with a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE), both of which are defined in federal legislation. The least restrictive environment is being full-time in the general education (setting),” Mattson said. “So as close to that as we can get is what we want.”

“The purpose, really, of special education is to allow our kids to access general education,” Christine Kral, a middle school EBD and developmental and cognitive disorder (DCD) teacher, said. “That is really the key, and our long-term goal is always to allow the maximum access to the general education setting.”

Across the district, teachers use two broad categories of tactics to try to get special education students to a place they can enter general education.

“For special education at Washington, we are trying to do a push-in model,” Kimmel said. “What that means is, instead of the special education teachers saying, ‘here I am, come with me’ we are trying to push-in and provide the service that the kids need right within the classroom.”

A lot of the time, paraprofessionals can assist in this work. Paraprofessionals serve a multitude of functions, from being the eyes and ears of the teacher, as ASD teacher April Lewandowski put it, to keeping a classroom on track and keeping tabs on students.

“Our paraprofessionals are life savers in the classroom,” Kelsey Bussler, a high school learning disabilities (LD) teacher, said.

“We could not do our job without paraprofessionals,” Lewandowski added.

On the other hand, pull-out tactics and classes can take a variety of forms. In the middle school, Mattson’s room has an open-door policy.

Students can go to her room for study help and to just get a different atmosphere. Some special education students suffer from sensory stimulation complications. An overhead florescent light can make it impossible for them to focus.

One method used at WLC is play group. Kimmel organizes play group during the lunch period, for a mixture of special education and non-special education students.

The students played in an imaginary bowling alley. One tracked scores and another ran the alley as her own store.

It was set up in a way that while the students are playing, they are also practicing basic math, social skills and more.

“I want it to be fun, I want it to be engaging, but I am actually working on specific goals and objectives for the students that are here,” Kimmel said.

At Jefferson Elementary, Irena Soboleva, a SLD teacher, works with small groups, along with her in-classroom support.

She breaks the groups up based on what skills they need to work on. Soboleva might take a group of students who need help with reading, set them to one task and then drill down with each student.

“You need to figure out what that student needs exactly, and sometimes the first thing you see is not the biggest concern or need after all,” Soboleva said. “When you start looking at the other aspects of student performance, you notice that one thing leads to another, and maybe you notice behaviors first, but then you start looking at other needs. Maybe his lack of reading skills causes that student to act a certain way.”

Things shift dramatically at the high school level. Starting in ninth-grade, students are no longer just playing catch-up.

“In the earlier ages the idea is remediation: to get caught up or to be able to function,” Cowing said. “At the high school, it is starting to shift to compensation.”

It is here that students who do not or cannot overcome a skill deficiency learn to use other skills to compensate. A dyslexic student who has trouble reading can find audiobooks.

“For the most part, except DCD students, students go to regular classes, general education classes, throughout the school day, except for one period a day,” Lewandowski said. “Then one period a day would either be study skills, social skills or transition skills.”

Transition skills consist of the skills a student is going to need after high school. Those skills can range from interviewing to cooking and taxes.

This semester, some students have begun a workforce class where they are able to earn credit by working for businesses for a couple of hours a day.

“It is three students strong right now, so it is kind of a grass-roots effort,” Dane Wilson, an EBD high school teacher, said. “We are trying to get kids out and get some other work experience, placements. I have talked to quite a few employers in town and they have all, like 99 percent of them, have been very receptive and willing to do it.”

Right now students are only receiving credit, though some employers would like to compensate students monetarily.

The class is not set up to do that right now, Wilson said, in part because a student’s skills and capability are virtually unknown when they start the program.

Along with teaching these students how to operate in the business or college world, special education teachers at the high school help students set realistic goals.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at

SRBI: Schools adapt toward inclusive teaching model

A fifth grader could be having trouble reading at the same level as his or her peers, but excelling in math.

This scenario is not uncommon throughout the years of schooling. Some kids develop certain skills faster than others, while requiring more attention to master different ones.

The state of Connecticut developed a method called “Scientifically Research Based Intervention” to ensure that educators can give children reinforcement in specific areas where they need it and extra challenges where they can take them.

More commonly known as SRBI in teaching circles, the method serves as a way to determine who might need special education — extra attention — and who could benefit from an extra challenge in the classroom.

“SRBI alerts teachers that if a student is struggling they might want to take a closer look,” said Alison Villanueva, the district’s supervisor of humanities for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Ridgefield Public Schools was found to be executing the method well, but there are some areas that need improvement — with an overall rating of 3.95 out of five across 31 SRBI categories.

That was what Villanueva and Anne Marie Cordisco, the assistant director of special education, told the Board of Education March 13.

“We’re in good shape, but we can still expand our menu of research-based interventions,”  Villanueva said. “Progress monitoring tools need to be improved — they’re not consistent across the board.”

“We’re not utilizing data systems to the fullest. Everything is paper-based at the moment. … If you can imagine, going into a filing cabinet at each school is not the best way.”

What is SRBI?

SRBI was first designed in 2008 to screen the needs of all students.

The system helps pinpoint students who might need extra help, or those who are already doing well in the general instruction classroom.

Teachers use data they collect from their daily classroom observations to offer “research-based” help.

Although it can serve as an identification procedure for learning disabilities, it is not the only way to determine a child needs special education.

SRBI operates through a “three-tiered model,” and students may move along each tier, or remain in just one:

  • Tier one: Students succeed in the general education classroom without extra help.
  • Tier two: Students need extra help in addition to being in the general education classroom to succeed. The extra help can occur in large or small groups, in or out of the classroom.
  • Tier three: Students need a high level of support through small group instruction to succeed.

Villanueva said it’s important to separate SRBI from special education.

She said a student can move to tier two while bettering a specific skills, and then go right back up to tier one.

“There’s a myth that if you’re receiving SRBI support that you’re automatically special ed, but that’s not true,” said Villanueva.

“If interventions are not working, then SRBI can be used to inform that special ed might be necessary. They are separate entities but they can feed one another.”


Villanueva and Cordisco collected data and conducted surveys from all nine schools from October to December 2016 to determine how the district was performing in SRBI.

“It is clear that SRBI practices are occurring across the district K-12,” said Villanueva.

“To what degree of fidelity and how consistently they are being implemented varies from building to building and in intensity.”

She said that the Ridgefield Public School system is in a good place to start adapting even further to the current model.


Going forward, the educators recommended a series of steps that will help the district reach a more consistent and strong execution.

They include redesigning the official district SRBI handbook, modifying schedules at the elementary and middle school levels to include 45 minutes of daily intervention time, and planning for collaborative meetings among educators.

They also suggested learning centers across all departments in Ridgefield High School and revised SRBI-related forms.

“The Ridgefield Public Schools handbook on the SRBI process needs to reflect the new language and information protocols coming from the state,” said Villanueva.

Other possibilities Villanueva and Cordisco think the board should look into are SRBI workshops for teachers, and digital platforms with specific SRBI features that all educators can access.

“Consistent language across the district is critical for communications with parents,” Villanueva said.

Two-decade old legal battle over special education brings major …

The California Department of Education said that it will comply with a federal court order to improve significantly its system for monitoring special education, after years of legal maneuvering to block the changes.

The department said it would end its legal challenges and follow a “corrective action plan” for special education monitoring issued in 2014 by the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a mandate upholding its December decision that the state must comply with the district court order to follow the corrective action plan. The department had sought a rehearing, after losing its appeal to overturn the order. Legal recourse would be an appeal to the high court, which the department said it had rejected.

“We are not considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Cynthia Butler, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Education said in an email Monday. “We are continuing to work on the corrective action plan imposed by the court monitor.”

Advocates for students who receive special education services welcomed the news. “The California Department of Education must now comply with the corrective action plan and reform its dysfunctional state-level monitoring system,” said William Koski, an attorney from Stanford Law School’s Youth Education Law Project. Koski is one of several public advocacy attorneys representing the plaintiffs in a 1996 class action lawsuit, Emma C. et al. v. Delaine Eastin et al., that led to the corrective action plan.

“The corrective action plan requires reforms to the design of CDE’s state-level monitoring system that will benefit all concerned about CDE’s responsibilities to monitor and enforce special education laws,” said Larisa Cummings, a staff attorney at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund who is representing the plaintiffs in the Emma C. lawsuit.

The changes in monitoring come as California is taking steps to address a root concern about special education services statewide: why many students with disabilities, about 85 percent of whom have no intellectual disability, are not receiving the supports that would allow them to achieve at the same high level as their peers, according to the Statewide Special Education Task Force final report in 2015. Achievement levels for students with disabilities in California are among the lowest in the nation, the report found. Changes in credentialing requirements for special education and general education teachers, urged by the task force, now are underway as part of a strategy to bring all students — those with or without disabilities — into a unified teaching and administrative system to improve outcomes.

The corrective action plan emerged from a long running 2003 consent decree that settled the Emma C. lawsuit and continues to govern special education services in East Palo Alto’s K-8 Ravenswood City School District. The lawsuit, brought by eight students in the Ravenswood district, alleged erratic or nonexistent special education services in the district, as well as poor oversight by the California Department of Education.

Under the terms of the consent decree, the California Department of Education agreed to monitor improvements in special education in Ravenswood in areas including staff training, student assessments, the creation of individualized education plans and the integration of students with disabilities into general classrooms.

And the department agreed to submit its monitoring system to a court monitor, appointed by Judge Thelton Henderson of the U.S. District Court, who would determine whether the system is “capable of ensuring continued compliance with the law” to serve children with disabilities in Ravenswood. Both the Ravenswood plaintiffs and the California Department of Education agreed in the consent decree to grant the court “broad authority” to review and improve the state monitoring system, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals noted.

While the consent decree concerns the corrective action plan only as it applies to the monitoring of the Ravenswood district, changes to the monitoring system would likely affect oversight of special education in other districts, said Karli Eisenberg, a deputy attorney general representing the California Department of Education. Eisenberg argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in November that changes to its monitoring system should not apply to how the department monitors districts across the state.

“The parties to this action signed a consent decree outlining an agreed-upon remedy, the Ravenswood corrective action plan,” Eisenberg said to panel of three judges. “Over 10 years later, the district court has imposed an entirely new remedy, a statewide corrective action plan, affecting not just the 400 (special education) students in Ravenswood but the 600,000 students statewide receiving special education services.”

The judges – Chief Judge Sidney Thomas and Judges Michelle Friedland Alex Kozinski – quickly got to the heart of the state’s approach to monitoring special education.

Friedland asked Koski: “Am I understanding that basically it’s the state who said if you’re challenging Ravenswood’s monitoring, you’re really challenging the whole state because it’s a uniform system? Is it the state that said we just have one system so it is the whole state?”

Koski: “The state has offered only one system, so that’s exactly right.”

The plan requires the California Department of Education to create a monitoring system that uses more rigorous data collection, program evaluation and intervention to ensure that a district is in compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It calls for the state to explain precisely how it determines, among other measures, that a district is identifying children in need of services and providing students with disabilities who are suspended with behavioral supports that could allow them to remain in class.

The California Department of Education has been taking steps to comply with the corrective action plan since it was first ordered in 2014, after losing its motion in district court to stay the order while the department worked to overturn it. Maureen Burness, co-executive director of the Statewide Special Education Task Force said the Emma C. consent decree already has spurred changes in special education policy.

“I have been in several different meetings over the last few years where the ongoing status of that (Emma C.) case has been claimed as the reason for the increase in monitoring from the state department of education,” Burness said.

In the Ravenswood district, the termination of the consent decree depends on two factors: evidence that Ravenswood has met its improvement goals and proof that the state has a monitoring system that will keep Ravenswood improvements in compliance with federal law.

“We are on the verge of having Ravenswood come into full compliance with the Ravenswood self-improvement plan,” Koski said. But before that can happen, he said, “the state must have in place a system to ensure compliance with the law.”

He added, “The federal court has looked at the state-level special education monitoring system and found it lacking under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and under the consent decree.”

EdSource, nonprofit journalism organization, works to engage Californians on key education challenges with the goal of enhancing learning success.