News-in-Brief – June 2010

Common Core State Standards Released

On June 2, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released the final version of the Common Core State Standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. Forty-eight states, two territories, and the District of Columbia participated in developing these standards, as well as the earlier Career- and College-Ready Standards which correlate with the K-12 content standards just released. In the next months, states will decide through their own processes if they wish to adopt these standards as their “state standards.” The U.S. Department of Education has already acknowledged the importance of this effort by giving state applicants for Race to the Top grants extra points for agreeing to use the common core standards. Kentucky was the first state, even prior to the June 2 release, to adopt the standards. Click here for more information and to review the final standards.

LDA offered comments on the proposed standards and participated in face-to-face meetings to discuss accessibility of the standards for students with disabilities. A document accompanied the final standards that specifically addresses this issue and mentions among other information the use of accommodations, having trained staff and ongoing professional development, and the use of universal design for learning principles. Click here to download this document (PDF).

National UDL Task Force Hosts Hill Briefing

LDA is an active member in the National UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Task Force, which works to educate policymakers and the public about the use of UDL principles as a major tool in improving outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities. In mid-May, the Task Force hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill, which was attended by staff from House and Senate offices. Among the speakers were a teacher and the technology team leader from the Montgomery County (MD) School District, a suburb of Washington, DC. The presenters provided an excellent view for Hill staff of how UDL principles are being implemented across a school district to improve instruction and student outcomes.

Task Force speakers from the National Down Syndrome Society, the National School Boards Association, the National Education Association, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education also were joined by Dr. David Rose, Chief Education Officer and Chief Scientist of the Center on Applied Special Technology (CAST). CAST has produced guidelines for implementation of UDL principles, a framework for designing curricula, and professional development tools for school districts. CAST serves as a major resource to the National UDL Task Force.

The Task Force was successful in getting a definition of UDL into the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 and has submitted recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

EduJobs Bill Stalls

The House and Senate have been working for several weeks on an emergency supplemental appropriations bill, which the education community hopes ultimately will include $23 billion for education-related jobs. These funds are the focus of a major advocacy push from all the education-related groups, anticipating an estimated loss of between 100,000 and 300,000 jobs in the next school year. These funds would be available to school districts to retain positions in early childhood education, K-12 teaching positions, and jobs for specialized instructional support personnel (related and pupil services). With personnel shortages already a serious issue in special education, anticipated cuts in positions could be devastating.

The Senate has passed an emergency supplement that does not include the $23 billion. Originally Senator Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, had planned to introduce a floor amendment to add the $23 billion, but he did not have the votes to pass the amendment. The House Appropriations Committee was supposed to consider its bill last week. Unfortunately several hours before the committee meeting, Chairman David Obey (D-WI) cancelled the markup, most likely due to a combination of circumstances, including again not having enough votes to pass the bill. Mr. Obey has encountered opposition from “Blue Dog” Democrats who are fiscally conservative and from a host of other Democrats and Republicans who are concerned with any bill that appears to increase the federal deficit.

Obey has reassured the education community that he is still committed to passing a bill with the $23 billion for education jobs and, if possible, an additional $5.7 billion to cover the Pell Grant shortfall. However, a new committee markup has not been scheduled. In fact, technically speaking the House does not have to pass a bill, because the bill passed in the Senate originated in the House (the smaller emergency supplemental mentioned above).

Celebration of ADA 20th Anniversary Begins

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, the first comprehensive civil rights law for persons with disabilities. On June 6 at the VSA International Festival in Washington, DC, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, kicked off the celebration of the 20th anniversary. On behalf of the President, Ms. Jarrett stated, “The ADA was a landmark civil rights legislation. It was a bill of rights for persons with disabilities, a formal acknowledgement that Americans with disabilities are Americans first and that they’re entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everybody else….[t]he ADA’s 20th anniversary is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to making sure that we see those with disabilities for what they can do rather than for what they cannot. And that everyone has the right to pursue the American dream, everyone, just like everyone else.”
National disability organizations are gearing up for major celebrations across the country to mark the 20-year milestone. The National Council on Disability will host a National Summit in Washington, DC, July 25-28 (invitation only) to celebrate the 20th anniversary and to launch a national dialogue on disability policies and programs in the 21st century. In addition, an ADA Anniversary Toolkit is available on the DBTAC National Network of ADA Centers website.

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