From 2001 to 2014, Illinois high school juniors took the ACT college readiness assessment each April to test high school achievement and to obtain a score for college admission. In 2015 and 2016 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing was administered to both grade school and high school students. For Spring 2017, high school students will take the SAT with a writing component included. Students in grades 3-8 will continue to take the PARCC assessment.
Tony Smith, Illinois' State Superintendent of Education, explains in a July 11, 2016 Dear Colleague letter, that it is important to provide access to a college entrance exam for all Illinois students. He feels it is essential to give all students an opportunity to receive a college-reportable score at no cost that may assist with admission to an institution of higher education. The SAT will provide that opportunity and will serve as the state assessment for purposes of state and federal accountability. Smith notes that the SAT aligns with the Illinois Learning Standards.
On January 25, 2013 the Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague letter addressing extracurricular activities for students with disabilities. The Government Accountability Office had found that students with disabilities were not being afforded an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics in public elementary and secondary schools.
The Dear Colleague letter pointed out that a school district may not rely on generalizations about what students with a type of disability are capable of-one student with a certain type of disability may not be able to play a certain type of sport, but another student with the same disability may be able to play that sport.
School districts must make reasonable modifications and provide those aids and services that are necessary to ensure an equal opportunity to participate, unless the school district can show that doing so would be a fundamental alteration to its program.
The provision of unnecessarily separate or different services is discriminatory. Students with disabilities who cannot participate in the school district's existing extracurricular athletics program-even with reasonable modifications or aids and services-should still have an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of extracurricular athletics. When the interests and abilities of some students with disabilities cannot be as fully and effectively met by the school district's existing extracurricular athletic program, the school district should create additional opportunities for those students with disabilities.
Equal access also applies to other non-academic parts of the school experience including school clubs, assemblies, field trips, and school-sponsored after-school programs.
Each student with diabetes will need individualized diabetes care support at school. Some of the older students will test their own blood sugar levels, inject their own insulin or adjust their own insulin pump. Younger students may need assistance will all levels on diabetes care. The American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have helpful resources on reliable diabetes care during the school day.
A Diabetes Medical Management Plan should be developed and reviewed with the principal, teachers, school nurse, nutrition services manager, and other school staff who have responsibility for the student with diabetes during the school day. The plan should include information about target blood sugar ranges, low blood sugar management, insulin and other medications, and the management of physical activities and sports. School staff also need appropriate training as a back up to school nurse services.
In some cases, disabilities may prevent students from eating meals prepared for the general school population. In most cases, children with disabilities can be accommodated with little extra expense or involvement. There are situations which may require additional equipment or specific technical training and expertise. The nature of the child's disability, the reason the disability prevents the child from eating the regular school meal, and the specific substitutions needed must be specified in a statement signed by a licensed physician. The U.S. Department of Agriculture - Food and Nutrition Service offers guidance to schools on this issue. Their guidance document was last updated in 2001 and is currently undergoing revisions.
The 2001 guidance clarifies that the school food service is required to offer special meals, at no additional cost, to children whose disability restricts their diet. This includes modifications to the texture of the food served (chopped, ground, pureed). In order to accommodate a child with a disability, the school must ensure that both facilities and personnel are adequate to provide necessary services. In some cases, a registered dietitian may be consulted or a nurse or trained health aid may need to feed the child. It is not the responsibility of the school food service staff to physically feed a child. For children who need assistance in eating, the determination of who will feed the child is a local school decision of the IEP team. If a child's IEP includes a nutrition component, the school should ensure that school food service managers are involved early on in deisions regarding special meals or modifications.
Schools may, but are not required to, make meal substitutions for children who have a health condition such as elevated cholesterol or are overweight, since these conditions do not meet the definition of "disability". If the school does make the accommodation, a supporting statement from a recognized medical authority needs to be on file. Schools are not required to make food substitutions based on food choices of the family such as a vegetarian diet.
Food allergies present an increasing challenge for schools. Schools must be prepared to provide treatment to food-allergic students, reduce the risk of food-allergic reaction and to accommodate students with food allergies. The Illinois State Board of Education published guidelines for schools to follow for creating school policies and best practices about these issues in 2010.
The ISBE guidelines emphasize that school districts have an obligation to seek suitable means of reasonably accommodating a student upon notification and confirmation of potentially life-threatening food allergies and to keep a record indicating that the school conscientiously carried out this obligation. Each food-allergic student is different and will require a different individualized plan based on a variety of factors. A representative of the school must meet with the parent/guardian to develop an Individual Health Care Plan to create strategies for management of the student’s food allergy. This IHCP will indicate what the school will do to reduce risk and to respond to any emergency that occurs during the school day, while traveling to and from school, during school-funded events and while on field trips.
In addition, the Illinois School Code outlines the rules related to self-administration and self-carry of epinephrine auto-injectors. This most recent law became effective in 2015. It states that schools must permit the self-administration and self-carry of asthma medication by a pupil with asthma or the self-administration and self-carry of an epinephrine auto-injector by a pupil, provided that the parent/guardian provide the school with written authorization, a physician’s authorization, the prescription label for the asthma medication or a statement listing the name and purpose of the epinephrine auto-injector, the prescribed dosage, and the time or circumstances under which the medication is to be administered.
Children are impacted by the trauma associated with such things as abuse, witnessing abuse, the death of a family member, abandonment, poverty, divorce, natural disasters, terrorism, and violent events. Each child experiences trauma differently based on many factors including the severity of the act, the length of time the trauma took place, the relationship the child has with the person involved, and the age of the child.
When exposed to adverse childhood experiences, there is a risk of interruption of the neurodevelopment of the child's brain. Trauma also impacts children socially, emotionally and even cognitively.
The ACE-Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire is a tool to determine the level of trauma someone has experienced. It has been determined that teachers can expect that 30% of their students have experienced at least four or more of the ten traumatizing events contained in the questionnaire. This trauma can manifest as children who are withdrawn, have frequent absences due to illness, are unable to attach to adults, are unable to work in groups or make friends, react negatively to touch, are unable to focus and concentrate, disengage, are always on edge, are always on the defense, and who easily escalate and go into a fight-flight-freeze state. Having a high ACE score also impacts a child's ability to learn. Students with a score of three or more on the ACE are 2.5 times more likely to fail a grade, score lower on standardized tests, and have language difficulties. These students may struggle with organization, comprenhension, memory, the ability to produce work, and the ability to engage in learning.
In order to gain a different perspective on the behaviors of a child, check out:
A webinar presented by Chris Wasik on Trauma: Is This a Behavior or Could This Be the Impact of Trauma?
The video First Impressions: Exposure to Violence and a Child’s Developing Brain produced by the California Attorney General’s Office
Time-out can be used, not to punish, but according to Tracy Mercier, "to teach students to self-regulate - to recognize when they're getting frustrated or just losing focus, and to give themselves a break so that they can regroup and return to productive learning". She helps children become aware of their triggers and know when signs of tension mean it is time to take a break. She wants children to self-regulate responses to frustration. To learn about her strategies, read: Time-Out & Teaching Self-Regulation
In the federal regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, dyslexia is listed as one of a number of disorders included as a specific learning disability that may adversely affect a student's educational performance and result in a child's eligibility for special education and related services.
Child with a Disability (34 CFR 300.8)
(a) (1) Child with a disability means a child evaluated in accordance with §§ 300.304 through 300.311 as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.
(c) (10) Specific learning disability
(i) Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
The following information has been added to the Illinois regulations under 226.125 governing specific student populations, effective January 13, 2016:
For the purposes of the Section, dyslexia means a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
Each child suspected of having dyslexia or identified as dyslexic shall be referred for an evaluation.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers students with disabilities from age three until the student leaves high school. Under IDEA, students with disabilities receive specialized instruction and related services. Accommodations and modifications are provided based on individual needs. Once a student leaves high school, rights to assistance with educational needs fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Students have considerably more responsibility in postsecondary education to request their own accommodations. Programs may request current documentation of the disability (usually data that is less than three years old). Eligibility is based on whether there is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (walking, seeing, concentrating, listening, etc.).
It is important that the student’s Summary of Performance (SOP) that was provided by the school district during the last year of school is shared with the college or university. This document should include the student’s academic achievement, functional performance, and recommendations on how to assist the student in meeting his or her postsecondary goals.
Summary of Performance
Since postsecondary programs at colleges or universities must not discriminate on the basis of disability, they must provide architectural access, and the aids and services necessary for effective communication and accommodations. Some examples are:
· Providing students with information about course requirements, assignments, due dates, etc. in both oral and written form
· Providing outlines or summaries of class lectures
· Allowing students to use note takers or to record lectures
· Allowing extended time for test completion
· Providing sign language interpreters
· Rescheduling classes to an accessible location
The accommodations provided under the law are to be at no cost. However, more intense services such as tutoring, that are not required by law, may be offered for a fee.
Challenging, chronic, and severe aggressive behaviors act as impediments to academic success and are threats to school completion. One validated approach that works well to reduce physical and aggressive behaviors in youth with disabilities is cognitive-behavioral interventions. They have shown effectiveness across educational environments, disability types, ethnicity, and gender.
Students are given a “road map” to use as they regulate their behavior. They receive direct teaching of specific problem-solving strategies, communication skills, and situational self-awareness.
As a parent, you will need to communicate vital information about your child with the school district. This is usually done informally through in-person contact, phone calls, or emails. When your child has a disability, you will communicate with school staff informally but will also need to share information at educational planning meetings and possibly through comments in a daily communication log.
Putting your thoughts in writing gives you an opportunity to take as long as you need to
-state your concerns
-think over what you have written
-make changes, and
-have someone read over the letter and make suggestions before emailing or mailing it.
Some reasons to write letters include:
-to discuss a problem
-to request educational records
-to send a follow-up message
-to provide positive feedback
-to request an evaluation you feel your child needs
-to request a meeting with school staff/the IEP team
-to discuss a need for a change of placement for your child
-to request “Prior Written Notice”
During in-person meetings, CADRE-the Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education, recommends focusing on “interests” rather than “positions”. For example, instead of starting a meeting by taking the position that your child needs a one-on-one aide, start by reviewing what is working and then reviewing concerns. These might include needs related to safety, health issues, lack of academic progress, a need for verbal or physical prompts, behavior, attention span, anxiety, etc. Once there is acknowledgement that these issues exist, you can ask for proposals on how to address the needs. The conversation may result in a discussion about a one-on-one aide, but there will have been an opportunity to lay out the reasons first and for all the team members to get a better understanding of one another’s “interests” without either side taking a firm “position” first.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law on December 10, 2015. It reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and replaces the previous version known as No Child Left Behind. This federal education law applies to all public school children, including those with disabilities.
In part, the ESSA:
-REDUCES the amount of classroom time spent on standardized testing, but maintains the requirement that States administer high-quality annual assessments in at least reading/language arts, mathematics, and science every year from third grade to eighth grade and once in high school
-PROVIDES more access to high-quality preschool programs
-ENCOURAGES States and districts to put in place new supports for teachers and school leaders, including increasing compensation
-REQUIRES goals for the progress of all students and ensures that every student subgroup (low-income families, English learners, students of color, students with disabilities) makes gains toward college and career-readiness
-MAINTAINS provisions for a cap of 1% of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can take the alternative assessment aligned to alternative academic achievement standards
Learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act from these organizations:
When conduct at school damages relationships, restorative justice strategies can provide ways to effectively address behaviors without the use of suspension and expulsion. Restorative justice involves cooperation among all people involved. The focus is on repairing and restoring relationships. Each person is treated with respect and parties work together for a mutually-agreeable solution.
Implementing Restorative Justice – A Guide for Schools is a publication that introduces school personnel to the concept of restorative justice, offers tools to reduce suspensions and expulsions, and offers ways to prevent conflict and restore relationships after conflict arises.