Monday, October 15, 2012

Don Peek - I Always Welcome Good News

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter

I Always Welcome Good News

A few weeks ago I wrote about the positive difference my grandson’s current school system has made in his attitude toward school and in some ways life in general.  My grandson is autistic.   Yes, he has problems with both verbal and non-verbal communication.  He engages in repetitive activities and stereotypical movements.  He resists changes in his routine and can “lose it” when he’s around crying children.  But he’s my grandson, and I want what’s best and right for him just as I do my other grandchildren.

It was good news for me when I learned that he liked his present school and was doing well.  It was equally good news to me this week when I learned through my son and his wife that my grandson will definitely be receiving transitional services next year.  Yes, I know schools are obligated to provide services up through the school year of a student’s 21st birthday.  But you know what?  Not all of them do.  Not all of them let parents know what is available and what can be done to help that special education child with the transition from high school to college, specialized training, the work force in general, or just the rest of their lives.

Some schools do not graduate students when they reach the typical senior age of 18 or 19.  They simply keep them in school taking classes until they reach 21.  The transitional plan, as with everything else dealing with special education students, should be detailed in the IEP.  Teachers and parents have to come together and decide what is most beneficial for special education students when they reach 18, and decide if it’s best for them to continue going to school or if it’s best for them to go into some kind of outside transitional program.

Unfortunately, the quality of these transitional programs is not consistent across the country and school districts are not consistent in providing them.  Also, it is not automatic that students once in a transitional program will remain in them until they are 21.  It depends on the goals of the transitional program, the progress made, and the abilities of the students.

Beginning at the age of 16, each students’ IEP’s must include appropriate measurable postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills, as well as the transitional services.  If these goals are not met by the time the student earns enough credits to graduate, the district is obligated to either keep the student in school or to provide transitional services to meet these goals.

If there is a dispute about whether the student should receive a diploma or if the transitional plan is appropriate, a parent may file for mediation and due process proceedings.

Who in the world wants or needs to be involved in that kind of response?   And that’s why I’m so glad to hear that my grandson will graduate this spring, but he will promptly begin his transitional program next fall.  No fuss, no fight, his school is providing what is right and what he needs.

We want the very best for those we love, but it’s always good to see the personnel of a school district want the very same things for them that we do.
Grant info:

Grant Name:  Monell Foundation Educational Grants

Funded By:  The Ambrose Monell Foundation

Description:  Giving on a national basis to improve the physical, mental, and moral condition of humanity throughout the world. Giving largely for hospitals and health services, scientific research, museums, performing arts, and other cultural activities, and higher and secondary education; support also for social services, research in political science, mental health, and aid to the handicapped. No grants to individuals.

Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE

Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Ed, Other

Proposal Deadline:  10/31/12

Average Amount:  $5,000.00 – 1 million

Telephone:  212-245-1863

Availability:  All States



Monday, October 1, 2012

Don Peek - Getting Familiar with those IEP's

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.
Getting Familiar with those IEP’s
Just about everyone is back in school now, getting over the newness and settling into the routine.  Of course, it’s a no-brainer that both regular and special education teachers should be pouring over the IEP’s right now.  Most of those IEP’s were developed and approved by committee last spring.  It’s definitely time to put them to use.
Some of you are probably wondering why I would write about something that should be so obvious to everyone involved.  Well, I served in public education for 20 years as a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and an assistant superintendent, and it was not until I became an assistant principal and starting attending lots of review meetings that I fully understood how important IEP’s were --- to both special ed and regular education teachers.
Once I saw the value of these documents, I became a very strong advocate.  I have to admit, however, that while I was a regular ed teacher and taught many special education students who were mainstreamed into my classes, I rarely glanced at an IEP.  I must have gotten them in my mailbox and promptly put them in a filing cabinet where they stayed, unused, for the remainder of the school year.  At that time, I didn’t know what an IEP was or how it was supposed to be used.
What’s a little frightening is that now, in 2012, there are still many, many classroom teachers who pretty much ignore IEP’s and certainly a large number who do not use them effectively.   While a majority of these teachers are in regular classrooms, it is not unheard of for some special education teachers to either ignore or make half-hearted attempts at following the IEP’s they receive for the students in their classrooms.
There are two main reasons for ignoring the directions laid out in IEP’s.  First, some teachers may not have a clear understanding of what an IEP is or what they are required to do in order to fulfill the obligations set forth in the IEP for each student.  This is especially true of new teachers who are often overwhelmed the first few months they are in their classrooms.  These teachers need help, and they especially need help in understanding how they may need to modify what they do when working with mainstreamed special education students.
The other reason that teachers tend to ignore IEP’s is that they are often required to do special work to modify their lessons, assignments, and expectations for the special education students they teach, and they are simply too lazy or too strong-willed to modify what they do for any student.  It’s true that I’m probably talking about a very small percentage of teachers who have this attitude, but even a small percentage of teachers can impact a very large number of students.
New teachers need help.  The other teachers need to be counseled and monitored closely enough to let them know that carrying out the mandates in IEP’s is a part of their job and simply not an option.  Teaching is not easy.  Anyone who has worked as a classroom teacher at any level can tell you that.  And it is true that having to modify lessons for individual students in a classroom makes that job more difficult.
What everyone (parents, teachers, and administrators) needs to understand, however, is that well-developed IEP’s are the key to success and growth when dealing with special education students.  The contents of an IEP should never be made light of or ignored.  Students with disabilities have it tough enough.  It is the least we can do as teachers and administrators to follow the guidelines in their IEP’s so that we have the greatest chance of success when we work with these students.
Grant Name:  Kresge Foundation Educational Grants
Funded By:  Kresge Foundation
Description:  Giving on a national basis with emphasis on Detroit, MI, as well as some international funding to strengthen nonprofit organizations by catalyzing their growth, connecting them to their stake holders, and challenging greater support through grants. Grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations operating in the fields of education, health and long-term care, human services, arts and humanities, public affairs, and science, nature, and the environment. No grants to individuals, or for debt retirement, projects that are already substantially completed, minor equipment purchases, or for constructing buildings for worship services and provide no support for religious organizations, (unless applicant is operated by a religious organization and it serves secular needs and has financial and governing autonomy separate from the parent organization with space formally dedicated to its programs) private foundations, or elementary and secondary schools (unless they predominantly serve individuals with physical and/or developmental disabilities).
Program Areas:  After-School, Arts, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education
Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Ed, Other
Proposal Deadline:  See website for details.
Average Amount:  $10,000.00 - $500,000.00
Telephone:  248-643-9630
Availability:  All States