Arizona Awarded New Preschool Development Grant

The U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that Arizona has been awarded a $20 million development grant under the Preschool Development Grants program as one of 18 states allocated with funding. With the planned focus of increasing access to high-quality preschool programs, the grant was awarded to states with small or no state-funded preschools; it was earmarked for states that serve less than 10 percent of four-year-olds and have ambitious plans for serving additional eligible children. This grant is groundwork for the Preschool for All initiative. Read more about this exciting opportunity for Arizona’s preschoolers at http://www.azed.gov/special-education/files/2014/12/preschool-development-grant.pdf.



Special Education Rule Committee 12/2/14 Communique

The Special Education Rule Committee’s purpose is to examine Arizona Special Education State Board 401 rules, to propose rules that are clear, instructive, and aligned to the IDEA, and to provide guidance for implementation. Please read the December 2, 2014, Rule Making Communique for more information about the Committee, the Core Team membership, and the December 2 meeting.



The Special Edition Newsletter

The Exceptional Student Services team is honored to introduce the inaugural issue of the Special Edition. The Special Edition is our quarterly newsletter to share information on relevant topics and communicate upcoming events. We hope you enjoy our first edition. Please let us know if you would like a topic addressed in upcoming issues (http://ess.fluidsurveys.com/s/special-edition-1-1/). Look for the second edition in March 2015. Enjoy!

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National Inclusive Schools Week

Save the Date Inclusive Schools


Letter from Angela Denning
Submit your school’s inclusive activities
National Inclusion Week Flyer


What is Inclusive Schools Week?

Inclusive Schools Week is an annual international event designed to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of teachers, administrators, students, and parents in making their schools more inclusive, thereby significantly contributing to the development of a more accepting society.

What are the goals of Inclusive Schools Week?

  1. Celebrate the progress schools have made in serving a diverse student population.
  2. Acknowledge the commitment to schools, families, and communities in creating inclusive opportunities.
  3. Encourage reflection on how culture, policies, and practices in schools can promote inclusive education.
  4. Promote action to increase the capacity of schools and communities to meet the needs of all learners.

Why is Inclusive Schools Week important?

Inclusive Schools Week increases the dialogue on the importance of building inclusive schools and communities, where ALL students have full access to educational opportunities.

Theme: Inclusive Education: One School Community

As the diversity of learners within our classrooms continues to grow, the need to structure curricula, lessons, and activities that not only meet the needs of all students but also celebrate the diversity among those learners becomes critical. The resources we have will encourage and inspire movement toward a more inclusive community.

Plan:

To assist you in planning for the week, we have categorized the activities into three groups: (1) for classrooms; (2) for schools; (3) for communities. Within these categories, there are three levels of implementation:

1) Activities that promote awareness: These activities help create an awareness of the benefits of inclusive education.
2) Activities that build knowledge and skills: These activities reflect the importance of taking action.
3) Activities that influence the system: By changing policies, procedures, and culture in our schools, it is more likely that positive advances in inclusive education will become an integral part of the community framework.

There are also self-assessments, planning guides, group activities, ideas, and resources aimed at helping schools get organized and motivated. You can access further information at the following web link: www.inclusiveschools.org.


OCR Issues Guidance on Same-Sex Classes

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance that applies only to single-sex classrooms and not to single-sex schools, which are covered under different guidance. The link to the press release: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-clarifies-requirements-offering-single-sex-classes. The link to the guidance document: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/faqs-title-ix-single-sex-201412.pdf.



State Summative Assessments

The Education Commission of the States published 50 Ways to Test: A look at state summative assessments in 2014-15, which provides an overview of the two testing consortia and federal testing requirements. The report also includes a comprehensive table with a breakdown of the state summative assessments being administered in grades 3–12 in all 50 states during 2014–15.



Special Education Rule Committee 11/14/14 Communique

The Special Education Rule Committee’s purpose is to examine Arizona Special Education State Board 401 rules, to propose rules that are clear, instructive, and aligned to the IDEA, and to provide guidance for implementation. Please read the November 14, 2014, Rule Making Communique for more information about the Committee, the Core Team membership, and the November 14 meeting.



Guidance on Communication Rights of Students Issued

To enable students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities to participate fully in public schools, their communication needs must be addressed. In a joint letter to educators, the Office for Civil Rights, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division emphasize the rights of public school students with communication needs. The two-page letter to educators (available in Spanish) explains the concerns related to IDEA, ADA (Title II), and Section 504 and contains a brief description of what each law requires in a Frequently Asked Questions document.

In some cases, in order to comply with Title II requirements (effective communication), a school may have to provide a student with auxiliary aids or services that are not required under IDEA. In other cases, the communication services provided under the IDEA will meet the requirements of both laws for an individual student. Public schools must apply both the IDEA analysis and the Title II effective communication analysis in determining how to meet the communication needs of an IDEA‐eligible student with a hearing, vision, or speech disability.



October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

To remind schools of the need to prevent and end bullying in our schools, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued a guidance to schools letter during National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. It is a reminder that bullying persists in our schools, especially for the 6.5 million students with disabilities. The letter details public schools’ responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (both of which OCR enforces) to protect students with disabilities from bullying. The increase in the number of OCR complaints indicates that disability-based harassment is a troubling trend, and schools need to fully understand their legal obligations. Building on past letters, this guidance letter explains that bullying a child with a disability can result in a denial of FAPE (either 504 FAPE or IDEA FAPE) or a disability-related harassment violation. When a school knows or should know about bullying based on disability, it must take immediate, appropriate action to remedy the violation. For information on bullying prevention and remedies, visit the federal website, www.stopbullying.gov. Also, a fact sheet for parents on schools’ obligations to address bullying is available in English and in Spanish.



Students with Disabilities and Testing Accommodations

In an effort to reduce anxiety and be proactive, the Assessment and Exceptional Student Services Sections want to provide some information regarding students with disabilities who will be participating in the new statewide achievement assessment. Please share this information with your district administrators, principals, department heads, special education teachers, school psychologists, and case managers.

As a reminder, all students are required to participate in state assessments. It is not a requirement that IEP teams convene specifically to identify the name of the new state achievement test in a student’s IEP. Exception: If a student qualifies for the Alternate Assessment and is participating in the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) or AIMS A Alternate Assessment, the IEP team must be convened to address eligibility for the tests, including why the particular alternate assessment the student will be participating in is appropriate for the student, and why the student cannot participate in the regular assessment. (IDEA 2004 300.320(a)(6).)

Per IDEA 2004 (300.320(6)(i)) and the Elementary and Second Education Act 612 (a)(16), if a student has specific accommodation(s), these must be identified for use in the state achievement assessment. Accommodations should only be identified if they are used routinely during instruction. The identification of accommodations should not be limited to nor based on what is allowed on the state achievement test. Accommodations should be determined based on individual student need rather that what is allowable on an assessment.

Concern has been expressed that since the allowable accommodations are not yet known for the new state assessment, if a student needs specific accommodation(s), these should have already been identified in the student’s IEP. Please note that what is most important regarding accommodations is to identify what type of accommodations your student needs. Once the accommodations for the new assessment are known, ADE will make that information available as soon as possible.

The following online resources are free tools that will help you determine appropriate instructional accommodations for your students.

  • AIM Navigator is a tool to help IEP teams make decisions about need, selection, acquisition, and use of accessible instructional materials: http://aim.cast.org/navigator/page/.
  • AIM Explorer is a free simulation that combines grade-leveled digital text with access features common to most text readers and other supported reading software, including: custom text, background colors, text to speech, text highlighting, and layout options that allow students to decide which of these supports might help them to access and understand text: http://aim.cast.org/navigator/page/.