AM News: Study Reconfirms PreK Benefits

IL_CT (4)Study: Boost from preschool lasts into adulthood WBEZ: Arthur Reynolds began studying more than 1,500 Chicago kids back in 1986, and he's kept up with most of them ever since... Preschool benefits last into adulthood, study says AP:  Preschool has surprisingly enduring benefits lasting well into adulthood, according to one of the biggest, longest follow-up studies of its kind... Brizard would like year-round schools, longer days ABC7:  The new chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools says he not only wants a longer classroom day, he'd like to see year-round schools... A push for longer school days Tribune:  Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made it clear that one of the first educational priorities of his administration is to stop shortchanging kids, and to provide them with the quality instruction they deserve... New schools chief: I wouldn't take bonus this year Tribune:  Brizard has yet to release the details of his contract, but he's saying that even though the contract includes performance-based bonuses he won't be taking any this year ... MORE ITEMS BELOW. Budget would cut $171 million from public schools:  The state budget plan now in Gov. Pat Quinn's hands would slash $171 million in public school funding, erasing financial support for everything from teacher and principal mentoring to state writing tests for high school students. One of the biggest blows... Quinn to sign tenure reform law; voucher bill dead Catalyst:   On Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to sign Senate Bill 7, the landmark bill that makes sweeping changes to teacher tenure and strike rights. City Colleges announces shake-up:  Emanuel said the new college presidents chosen after a nationwide search will have the autonomy to tailor solutions to the needs of students. But they will be held accountable for improving student performance... 

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  • I thought that the new CPS CEO's op-ed on the longer school day that is linked on the District 299 blog was an important discussion of the issue and should be a starting point for a dialog on these issues. This is a long post, but the issue is a relatively complex one that CEO Brizard raised in his Tribune op-ed essay hense the length of the post.

    In fact only two days ago Access Living sent a letter to CEO Jean-Claude Brizard asking for a meeting which in part we hope we will discuss how CPS would utilize the longer school day. CEO Brizard discussed the significant amount of evidence relating to the benefits of a longer school day stating "research has demonstrated that the amount of instructional time students receive has a direct impact on achievement."

    As always I guess I am the contrarian, so there is no reason to stop now, research evidence on the length of the school day and its positive benefits need to be mitigated by its impact or lack thereof on the subgroup of students with disabilities. I do after all get paid to advocate and lobby for these students. I have yet to see a large scale study showing these benefits on this subgroup, but intuitively more meaningful instruction for students with disabilities would seem to be a good thing. But for some students with disabilities there may be an academic time satiation effect leading to a shut down. One thing I have learned working for many years with students with disabilities is how unique each student's learning profile and instructional needs can be.

    Since CEO Brizard in his essay references only one school district specifically, the Houston Independent School District (HISD), I think it is reasonable to examine this district in light of the claims being made in relation to the benefits the longer school day has had on students with disabilities in that district. Much of the discussion that follows comes from a study of special education services and outcomes in HISD [http://www.houstonisd.org/HISDConnectEnglish/Images/PDF/HISD__Special_Education_Report_2011_Final.pdf] and other information comes from the Texas Education Agency [http://www.tea.state.tx.us/].

    While it appears from references to HISD during the SB7 debate that the longer school day is seen as being instructionally critical to the district, that is actually not the case. Back in March the district proposed changing the start and end times of each school to maximize transportation potential and cut down on salary expenses due to a major cut in state funding. Currently, the district has 19 different start times. School days were proposed to be shortened by fifteen minutes to more than two hours in some cases under this proposal. Only yesterday, June 9, did HISD decide not to reduce school hours at any school. So at least to a degree the length of the school day in HISD was not seen as sacrosanct and was open for debate.

    The first thing that needs to be grasped about HISD and special education is that Texas is a very low spending state when it comes to funding special education, it ranks 47th out of the 50 states according to the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The average school district in Texas spends less than half what the average district in Illinois spends on educating students with disabilities. Texas also identifies fewer students as disabled as a percentage of its total school enrollment than almost any other State, 9.1%, whereas the national average for the States is currently 13.1%. Only 9 years ago Texas was identifying close to the national average and it made a concerted effort to reduce the number of identified students.

    Approximately 8.2% of the students in HISD have a special education designation. It is extremely rare for a large urban city to have a lower identification rate than the State average. CPS for instance is right around the our state average with an identification rate of 13.3%.

    African American students in HISD are over-represented in special education as a whole, compared to non-African American students. This over-representation is especially evident in the cognitive disability and emotional disturbance categories, where African American students are dramatically over-represented. Second, limited English proficient Hispanic students are under-represented in special education during elementary school and over-represented in middle and high school, and these findings are not driven by immigration status. The report we noted above also found that HISD was under identifying students who might be learning disabled.

    African American students in HISD appear to have weaker instructional programs

  • I am against a longer school year due to lack of A/C in so many schools. That said, a longer school day, I think is a good thing. Many studies and researchers, including Richard Allington indicates that while many instructional practices are not supported by research, the one thing that is proven in increase reading achievement is more reading during the school day. Not more reading instruction. More time spent actually reading. Allington advocates that students spend at least 2 hours of actual reading (again, that is ON TOP of reading instruction) each school day. He states that most reading "instruction" is actually what he describes as "reading-lite", you know, art projects and other things not really even related to reading itself. Not that art is bad by any means, but much of our instructional time is spent doing things that does not impact reading ability. I believe Allington is correct. If we extend our school day, we need to spend a large portion of that extension in real reading time. (and some added math and science) Of course, an issue then becomes break/lunch time for teachers, which is another important need. Not sure how to make that all happen.

  • Sorry for the typos....typing too fast for my own good!

  • If one read CEO Brizard's op-ed on the longer school day that is linked on the District 299 blog you can see there is no definition of what a longer school day is. Not in terms of what teacherparent raised about content reading as opposed to the utilization of basel readers, or in terms of actual hours and minutes per day. I think it would be wrong to assume that CPS has not already thought through this. I believe there is a blue print waiting to be implemented and it has not been revealed to the public as yet.

    Unfortunately for almost all CPS students with disabilities independent reading of more complex and longer books is impossible because of basic literacy and phonics deficits. Even at the high school level the vast majority of students with disabilities will need structured reading programs, how much time on task they can handle is really an individual issue. The exception to this are the rare children of both middle class and engaged lower income parents who have spent countless hours providing supplementary tutoring for their disabled children either at home or through private tutors. I know several special education teachers and psychologists who have done tutoring making a fair amount of money doing it too.

    Frustrated students with disabilities at the high school level will simply not stay in school and will walk out if pressed beyond a certain point, but the reality also is these students are walking out of CPS high schools by the hundreds every day right now because they see no point in the entire high school process. I think there are probably without question current and former CPS special education students with IEPs indicating emotional disturbance (EBD) involved in the recent "mob" attacks. We know that at least 30% of the youth in Cook County Juvenile detention have IEPs on any one day, many labeled EBD, LD, or cognitively disabled.

    As a former CPS high school social studies teacher I can say that very few of my students with IEPs could read and understand the American History texts we were using. I had to find primary level texts and photo copy them for the students to get any reading out of them at all. Formally this was inappropriate because their IEPs did not call for radially modified instruction. There is no question that using primary level texts with 11th graders is to say the least a radical modification. Other social studies teachers stuck the standard text in front of these students and asked them to look at the pictures and write a sentence about them and called that a modification.

    More time on task means zero if the tasks are beyond the student's current skill level and no one is building the skills necessary to achieve those tasks. That is exactly what has taken place with the longer school day in Houston that discussed in the post above.

    Rod Estvan

  • In relation to the homeroom situation discussed at Jones. First of all placing severely disabled students in regular homerooms is being done so the time on their IEPs can be listed as regular time and statistically looks better on reports. Here is how I believe this form of inclusion should be done. The object is not statistical but actual benefit to the students, both disabled and non-disabled.

    The homeroom teacher has to be trained to address the unique homeroom needs of these students and the unique issues these students will face in life after school is over. All the supports necessary need to be in place in the homerooms including aides if needed. Because of the training requirements for teachers these more severely disabled students would need to be clustered with them composing no more than 20% of any homeroom and given the complexity of these students no other disabled students should be in these particular homerooms.The relations with families are critical. So these non-special ed teachers would need several full days of training. I think part of that training should be spending part of a day at Access Living to learn about what life is like for people with significant disabilities after school and visiting other service providers in Chicago that provide supportive services to the population that is being discussed. Access Living does not charge CPS for any trainings we do just so you all know I am not out here trying to drum up business, we are not part of the special education consultation cash machine.

    Most importantly for this inclusive homeroom to have any useful purpose a "best buddies" program needs to be established within the room. This model exists in numerous suburban school districts and non-disabled students are given community service credits for that work. There are a lot of articles about the model on the internet if people want to read about it.

    Unfortunately as usual CPS does it wrong and I am sorry to hear that.

    Rod Estvan

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