Fletcher and South Central impacted by campus realignments …

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System announced plans to realign eight of its campuses beginning in July as the system looks for ways to combat continued cuts to higher education.

The move, which was approved by the system’s board on Wednesday, would impact Fletcher Community College in Houma and the South Central Louisiana Technical College campuses in Thibodaux and Galliano.

Fletcher Chancellor Kristine Strickland said the realignments are a positive move that shows the college system is looking to the future to ensure community colleges and technical education remain viable options. 

“I appreciate the fact that they took the time and the effort and put in the energy to really determine what was going to be best for the citizens of Louisiana and to make those decisions,” Strickland said. 

Under the new alignment beginning July 1, Fletcher’s Louisiana Marine Petroleum Institute will be realigned to South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette. Fletcher will be given sale rights for a portion of its campus, pending final board approval.

According to documents from the LCTCS, the move is being made in part because South Louisiana Community College has “healthy financial reserves.” The move would also seethe Marine Petroleum Institute moved under the same leadership as a marine training extension campus at the South Central Louisiana Technical College Morgan City campus.

“We’ve been working for over a year, in close partnership, with South Central in offering high quality, state-of-the-art, short-term maritime training,” Strickland said. “For us, this is really just a continuation of that mission. Although the building belonged to Fletcher, South Central was very clearly our educational partner and actually providing the training. There won’t be any change in faculty, in courses and the facilities will still be there. It’s going to be a seamless transition there.”

The South Central Louisiana Technical College campuses in Thibodaux and Galliano will be realigned to Fletcher, allowing for the greater delivery of transferable general education courses to the area, according to those same documents.

Strickland said Fletcher will continue to provide quality education at the Thibodaux and Galliano locations, but students can expect to see increased course offerings as well as other services, such as student loans, which Fletcher provides that were not available from South Central Louisiana Technical College.

“It’s a great win for our community in terms of broadening some of the things that we can offer in Lafourche Parish,” Strickland said. “For students, it’s going to be an enhanced experience.”

Students enrolled in programs at the realigned campuses prior to July 1 will be allowed to finish the program at no greater cost for a two-year period ending in July 2019.

The system says these moves are designed to help save money. They note that in July 1999, state funding accounted for 85 percent of all technical college’s budgets and 75 percent for community colleges. The next eight years would see 16 successive budget cuts, totaling $82 million, placing a higher burden on student tuition and fees in terms of budgets. LCTCS has already seen a mid-year $2 million reduction in funding during the current fiscal year.

Earl Meador, director for South Central Louisiana Technical College, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Strickland said she is looking forward to making the transition a smooth one and becoming more involved with the community in Lafourche Parish.

“Fletcher has a long history of serving both Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes,” Strickland said. “We see this as just really a continued part of our mission and our service to the community.”

La. community college system to restructure as cost-saving measure

(WAFB) –

The state’s community college system is realigning eight of its campuses, reassigning them to different schools in an attempt to save money.

Over the past decade, community college leaders have watched as financial support from the state has diminished.

“At some point, we will reach a level where the resources are simply not there,” said Monty Sullivan, the president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

In 1999, state funding made up about 85 percent of the budget for technical colleges and 75 percent for community colleges. Now, after 16 budget cuts over eight years, state funding is making up less of the budget. To make up the difference, many schools turned to tuition increases, but as those prices rose, enrollment slumped.

Now, many of the system’s more rural campuses are struggling financially, with lower enrollment generating less funding. By reassigning those campuses, they hope to keep those campuses alive. The Westside campus in Plaquemine is one of those on the list. It will be transferred from the Baton Rouge Community College to the River Parishes Community College based in Gonzales.

“That institution receiving the campus has the greater ability to invest long-term,” Sullivan said. “The likelihood is we’re going to see additional programming, additions offering at those campuses that perhaps we could not sustain today.”

System leaders say the change will allow them to streamline administrative costs, because they can group together a bunch of campuses focused on a single skill-set, like those related to the petrochemical industry.

“Our services related to those industries are creating the workers to operate those plants,” said Dale Doty, the chancellor of the River Parishes Community College.

He said he is considering introducing more general education courses at his new Plaquemine campus. “Students are not going to go very far to take a class if they have an option, they’ll got to the closest place,” Doty said.

The full list of realignments is as follows:

  • South Central Louisiana Technical College’s Reserve Campus is realigned with the River Parishes Community College
  • The South Central Louisiana Technical College’s Lafourche Campus is realigned with Fletcher Technical Community College.
  • South Central Louisiana Technical College’s Young Memorial Campus is being realigned with the South Louisiana Community College
  • Fletcher Technical Community College’s Louisiana Marine Petroleum Institute is being realigned with South Louisiana’s Community College
  • Northwest Louisiana’s Technical College’s Natchitoches Campus is being realigned with Central Louisiana Technical Community College
  • Northwest Louisiana Technical College’s Sabine Valley Campus is being realigned with Central Louisiana Technical Community College
  • Central Louisiana Technical Community College’s Oakdale Campus is being realigned with SOWELA Technical Community College
  • Baton Rouge Community College’s Westside Campus is being realigned with the River Parishes Community College

But even with these changes, the future remains rocky. More state budget shortfalls are forecasted for next year.

“We are challenged, there’s no question about it. We are all optimistic about where this state is headed, but we also have to be, to some extent, realistic and make decisions that are responsible decision,” Sullivan said.

No campuses will be closed as part of the plan. However, a handful of people – mainly administrative workers – could be let go, according to a spokesman for the system.

The changes take effect on July 1.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.

Fletcher and South Central impacted by campus realignments

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System announced plans to realign eight of its campuses beginning in July as the system looks for ways to combat continued cuts to higher education.

The move, which was approved by the system’s board on Wednesday, would impact Fletcher Community College in Houma and the South Central Louisiana Technical College campuses in Thibodaux and Galliano.

Fletcher Chancellor Kristine Strickland said the realignments are a positive move that shows the college system is looking to the future to ensure community colleges and technical education remain viable options. 

“I appreciate the fact that they took the time and the effort and put in the energy to really determine what was going to be best for the citizens of Louisiana and to make those decisions,” Strickland said. 

Under the new alignment beginning July 1, Fletcher’s Louisiana Marine Petroleum Institute will be realigned to South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette. Fletcher will be given sale rights for a portion of its campus, pending final board approval.

According to documents from the LCTCS, the move is being made in part because South Louisiana Community College has “healthy financial reserves.” The move would also seethe Marine Petroleum Institute moved under the same leadership as a marine training extension campus at the South Central Louisiana Technical College Morgan City campus.

“We’ve been working for over a year, in close partnership, with South Central in offering high quality, state-of-the-art, short-term maritime training,” Strickland said. “For us, this is really just a continuation of that mission. Although the building belonged to Fletcher, South Central was very clearly our educational partner and actually providing the training. There won’t be any change in faculty, in courses and the facilities will still be there. It’s going to be a seamless transition there.”

The South Central Louisiana Technical College campuses in Thibodaux and Galliano will be realigned to Fletcher, allowing for the greater delivery of transferable general education courses to the area, according to those same documents.

Strickland said Fletcher will continue to provide quality education at the Thibodaux and Galliano locations, but students can expect to see increased course offerings as well as other services, such as student loans, which Fletcher provides that were not available from South Central Louisiana Technical College.

“It’s a great win for our community in terms of broadening some of the things that we can offer in Lafourche Parish,” Strickland said. “For students, it’s going to be an enhanced experience.”

Students enrolled in programs at the realigned campuses prior to July 1 will be allowed to finish the program at no greater cost for a two-year period ending in July 2019.

The system says these moves are designed to help save money. They note that in July 1999, state funding accounted for 85 percent of all technical college’s budgets and 75 percent for community colleges. The next eight years would see 16 successive budget cuts, totaling $82 million, placing a higher burden on student tuition and fees in terms of budgets. LCTCS has already seen a mid-year $2 million reduction in funding during the current fiscal year.

Earl Meador, director for South Central Louisiana Technical College, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Strickland said she is looking forward to making the transition a smooth one and becoming more involved with the community in Lafourche Parish.

“Fletcher has a long history of serving both Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes,” Strickland said. “We see this as just really a continued part of our mission and our service to the community.”

Middlesex Community College news

Middlesex to host dual enrollment orientation sessions in March
Middlesex Community College will host two orientation sessions for the Middlesex Dual Enrollment Academy, which allows qualified high school and home-schooled students to earn college credit while satisfying their high school graduation requirements.
A Lowell Campus Dual Enrollment Orientation Session will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. March 15, in the Federal Building Assembly Room, 50 Kearney Square.
A Bedford Campus Dual Enrollment Orientation Session will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. March 29, in the Alcott Room in the Bedford Campus Library, 591 Springs Road.
As part of MCC’s Dual Enrollment Academy, students may enroll in college-level courses offered online, during the day, evening or weekend on MCC’s Bedford or Lowell campuses. Flexible options are available to focus on science and math, engineering and technology, health professions or business administration. Also welcome are students who want to get a head start on completing the general-education courses required by most colleges and universities.
A Middlesex Dual Enrollment Academy adviser will be assigned to work with each applicant, their parent/guardian, and high school guidance counselor to design a program based on the student’s academic skill level and educational goals. To maximize success, MCC offers academic counseling, tutoring, computer labs and library serves, and encourages students to participate in on-campus events and student clubs.
Dual Enrollment students pay reduced tuition costs. State funding is available to cover tuition and fees for a limited number of admitted Massachusetts residents enrolled in college-level courses that are transferable to an associate or bachelor’s degree program.
For information: 800-818-3434; https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/dualenroll/.
MCC opens new Asian American Connections Center
Middlesex Community College celebrated the opening of its new Asian American Connections Center in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 2.
The center is funded through the recent $1.7 million Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution grant awarded to MCC from the U.S. Department of Education.
Under the grant, Asian-American students attending Middlesex will receive a range of support services and co-curricular activities designed to improve their college-going experience, as well as their completion and transfer outcomes. More than 11 percent of MCC credit students are Asian-American, primarily Southeast Asian. Among that cohort, 70 percent apply for financial aid, and the majority are also from families in which they are the first to attend college.
Joining MCC President James C. Mabry in a short speaking program preceding the ceremony was Virak Uy, director of the Asian American Student Advancement Program; State Rep. Rady Mom; Bopha Malone, member of the MCC board of trustees and MCC students.

New core curriculum set for 2018-2019 academic year – The Eagle

The AU Faculty Senate unanimously approved a new Core Curriculum program last month that will be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. The new curriculum was designed to “encourage our students to engage with complexity, value diversity and understand change,” according to the program proposal.

A “core curriculum” is a foundational set of classes taken across the university. In the new program, students will begin with introductory level writing and math and continue with general education courses that coincide with a student’s specific major. Each individual will ultimately have the same foundational background to carry with them into the specialized studies. This varies from the program set in place for students now.

Under the current General Education program there are five foundational areas, which include creative arts, traditions that shape the western world, global and cross-cultural experience, social institutions and behavior and natural and mathematical sciences. Students are required to take two courses in each of these areas.

Once they have completed all ten classes with a C grade or better, the General Education requirement is complete; this is often done within a student’s first two years at AU. This is different from the new program which is slated for students to finish in four years, all the way through a capstone project.

“I think that both faculty and advisors and students have all come to look at Gen Ed as being divorced from their major and divorced from their career aspirations, just something to get over,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr. “We want to create Gen Ed as a complement to the majors and career work.”

The current General Education program was designed in 1989 and has been updated a few times since. Faculty members wanted to replace the school’s general education program because its main purpose — to expose students to a broad base of knowledge — was no longer being achieved, according to the committee’s proposal.

Students who earned high scores on certain Advanced Placement exams were exempt from large portions of the requirements, according to the proposal. The program was no longer uniform across the student body; not everyone was required to fulfill the same number of courses. It has been reworked so that this can no longer happen.

“It has a sense that you have two sets of students, the students that only have to take four and the students that have to take 10,” Starr said.

Starting in the summer of 2015, the General Education Committee began examining the current curriculum. Starr said they were “going around, talking to people, trouble shooting” to come up with a proposal to bring to the Faculty Senate.

Since then, they have created a model that they believe produces an “effective citizen.” According to the proposal, the committee defines this as “someone who understands connections among ideas and can engage in a global society; and a model of curiosity that helps students understand how different disciplines ask and answer questions.”

“In particular, our proposal is built around a developmental arc that starts with a first-year experience and foundational skills, highlights essential habits of mind, then integrates these skills and habits with the major, culminating in a capstone,” Starr said.

The new program is designed for students to complete their core requirements from freshman year all the way through graduation. The course track begins with Complex Problems, a class offered to introduce students to college level critical thinking through analysis of real world problems. The track also includes AUx1 and AUx2, which address the diversity and inclusion aspects of the new mission.

Cindy Bair Van Dam, a senior professorial lecturer and general education program chair, said in an email she is “very excited about the new AUx1 and AUx2 courses, along with the Diverse Experiences requirement.” Bair Van Dam was one of the key members of the curriculum revamping.

Piloting the new curriculum

Complex Problems, AUx1 and AUx2 were all piloted in the 2016-2017 academic year. In fall 2016, incoming freshmen were eligible to enroll in the Complex Problems Living Learning Community, as well as sign up for the AUx1 course.

Freshmen Zak Marsh, a student in the School of Public Affairs, and Sophie Fickenscher, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, participated in the pilot programs this year.

Marsh’s Complex Problems course focused on juvenile justice.

“It got my entire class thinking about things that don’t always have that mathematical, 2+2=4 way of thinking. There is more than one way to get an answer. I enjoyed Complex Problems, personally,” Marsh said. “It expanded us from high school thinking to thinking on our own.”

Fickenscher participated in both the Complex Problems and AUx pilots.

“The whole idea of Complex Problems is to allow freshmen to have a piece of the pie,” Fickenscher said. They are now a part of the bigger conversations.

When it comes to the AU Experience classes Fickenscher said “it’s not for everyone and needs tailoring.” She said that there was a liberal bias, which upset some students.

This spring, those same students registered for the AUx2 edition, which deals with diversity and inclusion. More sections for these courses will become available for the fall 2017 school year.

“Our students have been asking for a course like this for quite a while, and we’re thrilled to put it in the AU Core curriculum,” Bair Van Dam said in the email.

The next set of requirements are Foundations Courses, which include written communication and information- and quantitative-literacy courses.

Following those are the Habits of Mind courses, which are similar to the former Gen Ed requirement. Courses under this label include: creativity and aesthetic sensibility, cultural interpretation, ethical reasoning, natural-scientific inquiry and socio-historical understanding.

Proceeding habits of mind and the integrative courses: diverse experience (DIV), written communication and information literacy II and quantitative literacy II. The last two are the toolkit courses, one credit classes for work and life experience, and the capstone.

According to the writers of the new program, the main take away from the new curriculum is the emphasis on diverse experiences.

“We also hope faculty will be eager to have a DIV course type attached to their classes, and eventually, so many classes will be certified as DIV courses that students will take many of them as they move through their Habits of Mind courses and into their majors,” Bair Van Dam said in the email.

bcrummy@theeagleonline.com

Campuses are ‘in jeopardy,’ but there’s a plan for survival

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System is hoping to see $10 million more a year come 2019 through recommendations approved Wednesday by the system’s Board of Supervisors.

The board unanimously approved a “strategic sustainability and growth plan” with recommendations to improve financial stability by realigning operations at some campuses, investing in people and technology, and implementing additional financial monitoring tools.

“In the last fiscal year, LCTCS colleges expended approximately $10 million in cash reserves to simply maintain existing operations. While the final result of these recommendations is undeterminable at this time, it is estimated that the total fiscal impact in savings and new revenue to the college budgets should rectify the current structural deficit,” according to the plan.

Recommendations stemmed from the board’s request in January that system leadership do a comprehensive review of LCTCS operations for long-term sustainability. There was no directive from outside of the system, LCTCS President Monty Sullivan said.

READ MORE: Take a look at Louisiana lab schools | Coming to a college near you

Chairman Tim Hardy said the board wanted to be proactive and not wait until the situation was too dire.

“We recognize the fiscal challenges we face are well-known,” Hardy said. “… We asked them to search for duplication of efforts and ways to tighten our belts. We’ve made tough decisions, but we believe it will keep us viable without impacting service to our students.”

Eight campuses will be realigned effective July 1, and cost-savings and new revenues would be targeted at those campuses, Sullivan said.

“We do have campuses that, frankly, are in jeopardy,” Sullivan said. “Our ability to serve students is at stake when they don’t have financial backing. We’re going to move some to be under the purview of ones that do.”

Campuses to be realigned are:

Realignment will reduce some overhead management costs, but Sullivan said he doesn’t anticipate substantial layoffs. Some positions might be eliminated, but most campuses don’t have a lot of administrative positions at this point, he said.

“These are steps aimed at preventing layoffs. We’ve merged colleges. We’ve taken the hard steps,” Sullivan said, referring to previous efforts like a layoff avoidance/reduction in force plan in 2015.

State funds to the LCTCS has been cut nearly $80 million from 2009 to 2016, with more projected to be cut for 2017. The system responded, like others in higher education, with tuition increases, but that’s a trend that can’t continue, he said.

“It’s not just about the substantial state funding lost over the past nine years, but also the speed from which we moved from state funding to student funding,” he said. “It’s caused a major shift in how we do business at colleges.”

And the road ahead doesn’t look so different.

“At the same time, we also look forward and recognize the state is still very much challenged from a revenue perspective,” Sullivan said. “We feel it’s important to adjust for long-term viability in our mission.”

Sullivan said he doesn’t expect current students to feel much of an impact of these realignments, but as the campuses transition there will be more course offerings, particularly general education courses, and changes in branding like email addresses.

Other recommendations included in the growth plan are to serve and graduate more students and increase self-generated revenue to ensure program sustainability.

LCTCS comprises 13 colleges with multiple campuses among them.

DCC cybercrime graduate fights crime online

E. Scott Campbell, a deputy sheriff with the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office, is a 2015 graduate of DCC’s cybercrime investigation certificate program and credits the college for providing “eye-opening” information on how online crimes are committed.

“Over the last 25 years or so, I have attended DCC off and on, along with other out-of-town community colleges and universities, obtaining degrees and college credit in areas from architectural drafting, fire, science, paramedical studies, and criminal justice administration to OSHA and human resource courses,” Campbell said. “My latest experience with the Cybercrime Investigation Program was no exception.”

The college’s cybercrime program requires a series of general education courses, including college composition, introduction to computer crime, computer forensics, and network security basics. Cybercrime Investigation requires courses such as introduction to criminal law, constitutional law, and criminology, which is consistent with coursework and learning outcomes associated with administration of justice studies, while the Cybersecurity Certificate places a heavy emphasis on theory associated with computer operating systems, networking systems and communication, firewall protection systems, virtual infrastructure, and basics of cyber law.

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“Given Deputy Campbell’s workload, community, and family obligations, I was amazed at his performance in achieving his Associate of Arts and Science in Administration of Justice and three certificates: one in law enforcement and two in the cybercrime investigation areas,” Associate Professor of Administration of Justice John Wilt said.

Wilt has been a member of the American Society for Industrial Security International for 35 years and has held the Certified Protection Professional designation since 1985. Wilt also holds a lifetime certification as a certified security trainer.

Campbell explained that he arrived at the decision to pursue these certificates because of emerging trends.

“Some years ago, professor Wilt made the comment to me that his studies of criminal trends indicated that cybercrime investigations would be in very high demand and that Danville Community College was working extremely hard to bring this educational and professional opportunity to our area to meet those demands,” Campbell said. “The cyberattacks started almost daily not long after that. It was obvious that we in law enforcement needed to learn new ways and techniques involving data and information technology in order to follow the digital footprints and evidence versus the physical footprints and evidence we could plainly see at ordinary crime scenes.”

“I quickly learned that the tools I had used for over 23 years in law enforcement investigations were becoming obsolete and had shifted from the days where you could go knock on doors and walk the streets asking questions to solve a crime to criminal activity occurring in cyberspace,” Campbell said.

The challenge then became getting to that crime scene, he explained.

“I remember reading about former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Robert Mueller reporting that cybercrime had superseded the drug trade in funding terrorism,” Campbell recalled. “I thought to myself about the resources I knew were needed and allocated to combating the drug trade alone. That’s when I decided to expand my law enforcement expertise.”

Campbell said that his coursework at DCC presented “eye-opening” information on cybercrimes and how they are committed.

“It provided a basic introduction to the nature of computer crimes, computer criminals, up-to-date laws, investigative techniques, and emerging trends,” Campbell said.

Wilt said civilian examiners working for state and local law enforcement agencies often have starting computer forensics salaries between $50,000 and $75,000. On the private side, new forensic examiners with limited experience often start in private consulting firms between $50,000 and $60,000.

Danville Community College’s Cybercrime Investigation Certificate Program consists of 38 credit hours. More information about the program is available at www.danville.edu/Departments/AS/Academics/Cyber.htm or by contacting Wilt at (434) 797-8468 or jwilt@dcc.vccs.edu.

Is Teacher Preparation Failing Students With Disabilities?

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. — When Mary Fair became a teacher in 2012, her classes often contained a mix of special education students and general education students. Placing children with and without disabilities in the same classroom, instead of segregating them, was a growing national trend, spurred on by lawsuits by special education advocates.

But in those early days, Fair had no idea how to handle her students with disabilities, whose educational challenges ranged from learning deficits to behavioral disturbance disorders. Calling out a child with a behavioral disability in front of the class usually backfired, and made the situation worse. They saw it as “an attack and a disrespect issue,” Fair said.

Over time, Fair figured out how to navigate these situations and talk students “down from the ledge.” She also learned how to keep students with disabilities on task and break down lessons into smaller, easier bits of information for students who were struggling.

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No one taught her these strategies. Although she earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate in math instruction for both elementary and middle school, she never had to take a class about students with disabilities. She was left to figure it out on the job.

The need for teachers who have both the knowledge and the ability to teach special education students is more critical today than ever before. A national push to take students with disabilities out of isolation means most now spend the majority of their days in general education classrooms, rather than in separate, special education classes. That means general education teachers are teaching more students with disabilities. But training programs are doing little to prepare teachers; Fair’s experience is typical.

Many teacher education programs offer just one class about students with disabilities to their general education teachers, “Special Ed 101,” as it’s called at one New Jersey college. It’s not enough to equip teachers for a roomful of children who can range from the gifted to students who read far below grade level due to a learning disability. A study in 2007 found that general education teachers in a teacher preparation program reported taking an average of 1.5 courses focusing on inclusion or special education, compared to about 11 courses for special education teachers. Educators say little has changed since then.

A 2009 study concluded that no one explicitly shows teachers how to teach to “different needs.” Because of time constraints, the many academic standards that must be taught, and a lack of support, “teachers are not only hesitant to implement individualized instruction, but they do not even know how to do so,” the report stated.

Fair says teacher preparation programs should be doing more. At the very least, “You should have a special education class, and an English language learner class,” she said. “You’re going to have those students.”

Between 1989 and 2013, the percentage of students with disabilities who were in a general education class for 80 percent or more of the school day increased from about 32 percent to nearly 62 percent. Special education advocates have been pushing for the change — especially for students who have mild to moderate disabilities like learning disabilities or a speech impairment — in some cases by suing school districts.

Some research shows as many as 85 percent of students with disabilities can master general education content if they receive educational supports. Supports can include services, such as access to a special education teacher, or accommodations and modifications, such as having test questions read aloud, or being allowed to sit in a certain part of the classroom.

Students with disabilities who are placed in general education classrooms get more instructional time, have fewer absences and have better post-secondary outcomes, research shows. Studies also show there is no negative impact on the academic achievement of students without disabilities in an inclusion classroom; those students benefit socially, by forming positive relationships and friendships and learning how to be more at ease with a variety of people.

Alla Vayda-Manzo, principal of Bloomfield Middle School about 30 miles outside of New York City, said she’s seen the benefit of inclusion for students. The school serves about 930 students, nearly 20 percent of whom have a disability, according to state data. When students with disabilities are included in classrooms with their peers, Vayda-Manzo said the high expectations and instructional strategies “lend themselves to those students being more successful than they would be had they been in a separate, self-contained environment.”

But as more districts move to make classrooms inclusive, they’ve been caught flat-footed when it comes to finding teachers prepared to make the shift. Academic outcomes for students with disabilities have remained stagnant for years, even as more students with special needs are integrated into general education classrooms. Students with disabilities are less likely to graduate and more likely to earn an alternate diploma that is not equivalent to a general diploma in the eyes of many colleges and employers. And year after year they score far lower than their peers on standardized exams.

Experts say the problem is that it takes much more than just placing students with disabilities next to their general education peers: Teachers must have the time, support and training to provide a high-quality education based on a student’s needs.

Mike Flom, a parent and co-founder of the advocacy group New Jersey Parents and Teachers for Appropriate Education, said many factors impact inclusion’s effectiveness. His twin daughters, now in seventh grade, were placed in an inclusion classroom beginning in fifth grade. Initially, Flom said his daughters had “mixed reviews” on whether inclusion was beneficial.

“I think the teachers were really motivated to be helpful,” Flom said. “I don’t know the extent to which they were permitted to do the things, or had enough training to do the things, that were required to be more effective.”

“It’s not just getting a child included … that is only a small portion of the battle,” he added.

Inclusion done right

These days, Mary Fair navigates her classrooms with ease. She has learned through experience how to teach students with a variety of disabilities, and works with a veteran special education teacher to modify lesson plans and tests.

On a recent morning in a seventh-grade math inclusion classroom at Bloomfield Middle School, Fair and her co-teacher, special education teacher Christina Rodriguez, were starting a lesson on the order of operations.

Fair stepped up to the front of the classroom as Rodriguez circulated to make sure students were on task.

“We’re starting order of operations,” Fair said. “It’s something you did in sixth grade, but today we are doing it differently.”

“Ms. Fair, I want to see if they remember,” Rodriguez said to Fair, who smiled and nodded.

“Put your hand up if you remember what the order of operations is,” Rodriguez said.

More than half of the students raised their hands

“Who remembers ‘PEMDAS’?” Rodriguez asked, referring to the mnemonic device used to remember order of operations (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, Addition and Subtraction). More students eagerly shot their hands in the air.

Fair cut in and explained that although they learned PEMDAS in sixth grade, they were going to learn a new rule about the order of operations today. “Take your yellow paper and fold it horizontally,” Fair said, referring to a yellow sheet of paper that sat on each student’s desk.

“Like this,” Rodriguez said, holding up a piece of paper and demonstrating how to fold it horizontally.

“Like a hamburger,” Fair added.

To an outsider, it’s impossible to tell who is the general education teacher and who is the special education teacher. Both Fair and Rodriguez have desks at the front of the room. They switch off during lessons, effortlessly picking up where the other has left off. They both give directions and explain content. They are careful not to fall into what educators say is a common trap: seeing general education students as the responsibility of one teacher, and special education students as the responsibility of the other.

That’s how a good inclusion class should be, Rodriguez said, but it takes practice and time. Like Fair, Rodriguez didn’t receive any training in special education before she entered the classroom. She became a teacher through an alternate program. When she got a job teaching special education six years ago, she relied on strategies she learned while working as an aide in a class for students with autism. In 2014, she received her master’s degree in teaching students with disabilities from New Jersey City University; she now teaches a class for Montclair State University’s dual-certification teacher preparation program.

Although most traditional teacher preparation programs nationwide do include some training on students with disabilities, usually in the form of one course over the entirety of the program, educators say this course is often generic and perfunctory. Aspiring teachers also may be given assignments in other classes that require them to adapt a lesson for a hypothetical special education student.

Fair said she had some assignments like those, but “we didn’t really know what we were talking about, because we weren’t taught it.” Her colleague, science teacher Jessica Herrera, said she was only offered one class in special education — called “Special Education 101” — when she went through a traditional teacher preparation program in New Jersey.

“A lot of my training was for that ‘middle of the road’ kind of kid,” Herrera said. “I was prepared for the regular ed student.” In her 13 years as a teacher, Herrera has taught some inclusion classes; she said she picked up strategies from working with “good special education teachers.” When she earned her master’s degree from Montclair State, she was finally taught how to teach a “range of learners,” she said.

Fair and her co-teacher Rodriguez say there are certain things they wish were included in all teacher education programs, like an explanation of the different kinds of disabilities, and ways to address the various struggles students may encounter. They also say teacher preparation should include more classroom management and “subtle ways” to keep students focused and on task.

Rodriguez says it’s also important for teacher candidates to be exposed to different classrooms, including inclusion classrooms, to ensure teacher preparation is not “so out of context.”

Mimi Corcoran, president of the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), said teacher preparation should better address topics in special education. “We do a disservice to the teachers we’re sending (to schools) in the way we’re training, and we’re doing a disservice to kids,” Corcoran said. “We’ve got to step up to the plate and think differently and act differently, and that’s hard because everybody gets comfortable and systems are hard to change.”

Promising programs

Some teacher preparation programs are trying to better prepare graduates to teach students with disabilities, especially in inclusion classrooms. At Syracuse University in upstate New York, George Theoharis, a professor and the chair of Teaching and Leadership, said the school’s elementary special education program has been one of the leaders nationwide in training educators for inclusive education.

Every teacher who graduates from Syracuse’s Early Childhood or Elementary Education program is dual-certified in special education and spends time in inclusion classrooms. Theoharis says it’s an approach that more preparation programs should take. “All of our programs need to be inclusive,” Theoharis said, referring to teacher preparation. “Regardless of what job teachers get, people need to be prepared to work with all children and see all children as their responsibility,” Theoharis said.

At Montclair State University in New Jersey, students can receive a dual certification in special education and a subject-level or grade-level range. The school also offers a unique concentration in “inclusive iSTeM,” which specifically prepares science, technology, engineering and math teachers for inclusion classrooms. Students in the program receive a Master of Arts in Teaching, a certification in math or science, and are endorsed by the state as a teacher of students with disabilities.

Jennifer Goeke, a Montclair State professor and the program coordinator, said the dual certification program prepares teachers to be hired as either a general education or special education teacher. “They know how to perform both roles easily and effectively,” Goeke said.

On a recent afternoon, Goeke was holding class in the Bloomfield Middle School media center. She asked her 17 students to first discuss issues they were having in their “fieldwork classrooms,” where they are currently observing and working with general and special education teachers. She listened to a few descriptions of struggles and then reminded her students that part of their job is to be an example for other teachers.

“I’m not trying to minimize or trivialize what you might be learning in your content area,” Goeke said. “It’s very important that you have a strong grounding in the methodology and the philosophy of your discipline … and know how to teach your content.” But, Goeke added, “You have to remember that most people do not have any diverse learners in mind. Their training did not teach them to take those students into account.”

Goeke’s students nodded and a few scribbled down notes.

In Montclair’s program, students work with two mentor teachers for a year in an inclusion classroom and in small-group settings and receive extensive training in how to work with students with disabilities, as well as how to effectively teach content, like math and science, or grade levels, like early education or elementary education.

Bloomfield Middle School, where Fair, Rodriguez, and Herrera teach, chose to partner with the iSTeM program in 2012. Bloomfield has hired two graduates of the iSTeM program and offered teaching positions to several more, who eventually chose jobs in other districts. Bloomfield Principal Vayda-Manzo says the graduates of the program are “like unicorns in the field,” as it’s rare to find teachers who are dual-certified in general and special education.

Current teachers at Bloomfield have also benefited from iSTeM, Vayda-Manzo said. The program provides professional development for inclusion teachers at the school who agree to be mentor teachers for iSTeM students, and those teachers also observe each other and work with professors from Montclair State. Vayda-Manzo said the school makes sure co-teachers have the same planning periods so they have time to plan lessons together each day.

Teacher Herrera, who mentors iSTeM teachers, said the professional development provided through the program has improved her ability to teach students with disabilities. “I feel like I got a lot of additional strategies through that,” Herrera said.

On-the-job training is essential to ensure teachers have the skills needed to teach all students in their classroom, especially those teachers who may have attended teacher preparation years ago or missed out on training about disabilities, according to Mimi Corcoran of NCLD. “We have to be fair for the educator,” Corcoran said. For “many that are already in field, the concepts of special education and how to include kids has shifted, and (teachers) need the supports.”

Vayda-Manzo said it has been an easy choice to continue the program.

“I saw the impact that it made in our inclusion classes,” Vayda-Manzo said. “We saw tremendous gains.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

Transfer options available

The Feb. 26 edition of the Salina Journal offered an informative front-page piece highlighting course transfer options for students with an emphasis on Kansas Wesleyan.

As a faculty member at Salina Area Technical College, I am glad my students can transfer credit to Kansas Wesleyan if that meets their educational goals. What the article does not mention is the transfer options that exist for our students with all state schools in Kansas. As a member of the Kansas Board of Regents Transfer and Articulation Council, I take pride in saying that all general education courses along with many health field courses transfer seamlessly to every two- and four-year public school in Kansas.

The general education tuition rate at Salina Tech is $99 a credit hour. A 12- or 15-hour load of transferable courses is significantly less expensive at Salina Tech than the equivalent KU core or KSU eight courses. The Transfer and Articulation program allows for students, having completed these courses, to transfer them to the four-year university of their choice.

Families with seniors planning to continue their education in college should explore the transfer possibilities provided by the Board of Regents through Salina Area Technical College, Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus and other two- and four-year state colleges and universities.

— JAMES HAWLEY, Salina

Palomar College to open Rancho Bernardo campus for summer 2018 – The San Diego Union

Ground has officially been broken at the site of Palomar College’s future Rancho Bernardo campus, although construction began on the site a couple months ago.

The March 3 groundbreaking ceremony was attended by Palomar College officials, Poway Unified School District representatives and others in the community.

“This will be a real college campus,” said Daniel Sourbeer, Palomar College’s interim assistant superintendent/vice president of instructional services.

The campus — officially known as the Palomar College South Education Center — is expected to open for the summer 2018 term. It will be able to accommodate up to 2,000 full-time equivalent students and have an estimated 38 full-time faculty members plus another 37 staff members and administrators, according to Dr. Joi Lin Blake, Palomar College’s superintendent and president.