Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 13
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
States' Spec. Ed. Work Offers a Jump on ESSA's Demands
Efforts already underway
focus on student growth
By Christina A. Samuels
Well before the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act-which came with a requirement for states to create ambitious
blueprints to improve student performance-
special education officials were already doing
This school year marks the third year of the
"results-driven accountability" initiative started
by the U.S. Department of Education. And
many of the elements of that effort are echoed
in ESSA, such as soliticing the views of parents,
local and state educators, and other stakeholders, creating ambitious goals for students, and
leaving it to state discretion to figure out just
what those goals should be and how quickly
they should be achieved.
Part of the power of the work has been allowing states to "get more narrow and deep
in fewer areas, rather than trying to solve
every problem, in every way, at the same
time," said Rorie Fitzpatrick, the director
of the federally funded National Center on
Systemic Intervention, which has been providing assistance to states for these resultsdriven accountability efforts.
Another important part of the project has
been encouraging states to carefully assess
their approaches, and helping them improve
systems so that all children are given effective
services, she said.
The goal "is not the intervention that you
give to one kid," Fitzpatrick explained. "It's the
system of interventions that you build."
Paying Attention to Results
The Education Department has long been
responsible for evaluating how well states
were meeting the mandates spelled out in the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The law and its accompanying regulations
can be exacting: For example, states have 60
calendar days to evaluate a child once a disability is suspected.
Over time, states have been meeting such
procedural compliance provisions of the law.
But when it comes to standards connected
to how well students are doing academically-
test scores and graduation rates, to name
two-the performance of students with disabilities has been stagnant.
That was the impetus for results-driven accountability: States would still be responsible
for meeting the procedural aspects of the federal special education law, but they were also
prompted to create a "state systemic improvement plan" that would focus on improving
And as part of that plan, each state was
required to dig deep into its special education data to identify one area that it believed
would really make a difference in the perfor-
mance of students with disabilities. These
areas of focus are called "state-identified measurable results."
Most states have chosen some aspect of literacy, math, or graduation rates as their area
of focus, although how they have chosen to do
that can vary.
For example, Utah's area of focus is the middle school math performance of students with
specific learning disabilities or speech and language impairments, two disability categories
that cover about 70 percent of the state's special education population, said Glenna Gallo,
the state's director of special education.
It became clear as the state analyzed its data
that by the time they reached middle school,
students with disabilities didn't have the same
access to core math instruction as their typically
developing peers, Gallo said. And middle schools
have fewer resources to provide targeted assistance in math compared to elementary schools.
Partly, the state is addressing educators' exPAGE 14 >
Amid Fiscal Crisis, Puerto Rico Shuts Down Scores of Schools
Puerto Rico will close 179 public
schools this summer as the U.S. territory grapples with an economic
Critics warn that the cost-cutting
plan could hasten the departure
of families and veteran teachers,
bringing an already weakened public education system to its knees.
The mass school closure-which
could displace close to 30,000 students-is the largest in Puerto Rico's history and comes as the island
deals with an estimated $120 billion
in debt and pension liabilities.
Since the budget plan does not
call for immediate teacher and staff
layoffs, the school closures are expected to save the government only
between $7 million and $10 million-essentially utility costs.
In a prepared statement, Puerto
Rico's Education Secretary Julia
Keleher described the closure plan
as a "unique opportunity to improve
the system" and said the decisions
were carried out with "students as
Keleher, a former U.S. Department of Education manager and
Washington-based education consultant, worked with Puerto Rico in
both roles, helping educators develop
school improvement strategies and
comply with federal laws. Education Week could not reach Keleher for
comment for this story.
With more families and educators moving to the mainland U.S.
in search of work and stability, the
future of public education on the island may be at a crossroads,
"Maybe the priority shouldn't be
to close schools and balance the
budget on the backs of children,"
said Julian Vasquez Heilig, a professor of education leadership at
California State University, Sacramento who has studied and written
about education in Puerto Rico.
"The adults are trying to cover for
their mistakes on the backs of the
children and, essentially, harming
the future of the populace of the island," Heilig said.
The proposed cuts could go
deeper. An oversight board appointed to guide the U.S. territory back to fiscal health has recommended closing roughly 300
schools and mandating two furlough days per month for teachers
and four for support staff.
"It's not going to get better, It's
going to be worse," said Aida Díaz,
president of the 29,000-member
Puerto Rico's Association of Teachers. "We have to prepare [children]
for the future. If we don't take care
of them, we won't have a future."
By Corey Mitchell
Declining Student Enrollment
School closures have become
more common on the island of
3 million people. Between 2010 and
2015, the education department
shut down roughly 150 schools.
Even with the slate of closures and
the fleeing families, the island will
have 1,113 schools for an estimated
365,000 students come August.
Over the last decade, the island
has seen a 27 percent enrollment
drop in its public schools, according
to a report on restructuring Puerto
Rico's education system by the Boston Consulting Group. In that same
period, the teaching corps shrunk by
The Boston Consulting Group
report recommended consolidating
schools. While acknowledging that
the closures are inevitable, teachers'
union leaders are fearful that administrators will use the proverbial
budget axe, rather than a more precise tool, to decide when and where
to shut down schools.
The wrong moves could leave fam-
Ana Sanchez and her 8-year-old daughter, Naiyari, lock the gates of the Dr. Isaac Gonzalez Martinez school in San
Juan, Puerto Rico. The school is one of 179 closing this month amid an economic crisis in the U.S. territory. It is
the second time in two years that a school that Naiyari attends will be closed.
ilies without transportation with no
access to education, they say.
In statements, Keleher has argued
that closures will focus on underutilized buildings and pave the way
for the district to offer a more comprehensive education to students.
Many schools on the island are still
without Internet access and serviceable computers.
"They will justify closing schools
by using this language of efficiency
and quality, but it actually has nothing to do with efficiency or quality,"
While the crisis has rocked Puerto
Rico, it's marked boom times for
mainland schools that need bilingual teachers.
Puerto Rico, where teachers are
already U.S. citizens, is a rich recruiting ground for teachers who
can teach in English and Spanish.
The teachers already understand
American culture and can often
have their salaries doubled or tripled by taking jobs in the United
States. Teachers in Puerto Rico earn
$21,000 per year on average. Dallas-where the base starting salary
for teachers is around $50,000-
employs about 300 teachers from
Puerto Rico, a number that's swelled
in recent years.
"For us, it's always paid off," said
Jordan Carlton, the talent acquisition manager for the Dallas school
district. "The teachers are able to
step in from Day One."
Carlton has noticed that more
districts are heading to the island,
looking to reel in veteran teaching
"It's different than just getting a
[first-year] teacher," Carlton said.
"It's someone who has that experience, has that knowledge and
they're able to work with our bilingual students."
The island lost 3,000 public school
teachers in 2015, Díaz said, and
departures this year could top that
figure. The recruitment from mainland schools has depleted the teaching ranks in crucial subjects such
as English, math, and science, she
"It's the perfect confluence of districts desperately needing [teachers]
who can work with Spanish-speaking immigrant students and longterm, lifer English-language learners," Heilig said, "What that has
meant is really a brain drain for the
island for teachers looking for better
pastures in the United States."
EDUCATION WEEK | May 31, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 13
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 31, 2017
Education Week - May 31, 2017
Where Career Plans Start Early
States Struggle to Define ‘Ineffective Teachers’
Trump Priorities on Full Display In K-12 Budget
For Schools, Rating Students’ Character Is a Tricky Prospect
News in Brief
Charter Win Brings Big Shift to L.A. Unified
Reading and the Mind : An Author Q&A
Letters to Districts Prompt Worries About E-Rate’s Future
States’ Spec. Ed. Work Offers a Jump on ESSA’s Demands
Amid Fiscal Crisis, Puerto Rico Shuts Down Scores of Schools
Budget Plan Spares Some Ed. Research Efforts, Cuts Others
Trump Budget Draws Ire, Tepid Support From School Choice Worl
Darienne Driver: A Collective-Impact Approach to Equity
Steve Canavero:Two-Party Support Gives School Funding Wider Reach
Peggy Lehner: Money Doesn’t Ensure Equity
Veronica Palmer: Empowering Families to Lead
Pedro A. Rivera: A Fair Formula for Funding
John Schoenig: Our Children Are Made for Greatness
Tammy Wawro: Confronting the Realities of a Changing Population
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Danielle Gonzales & Ross Wiener: Yes, Schools Have an Equity Problem. What Should We Do About It?
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - For Schools, Rating Students’ Character Is a Tricky Prospect
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 2
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 3
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Report Roundup
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Charter Win Brings Big Shift to L.A. Unified
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Reading and the Mind : An Author Q&A
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Letters to Districts Prompt Worries About E-Rate’s Future
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 9
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 10
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 11
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 12
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Amid Fiscal Crisis, Puerto Rico Shuts Down Scores of Schools
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 14
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 15
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 16
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 17
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Trump Budget Draws Ire, Tepid Support From School Choice Worl
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 19
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Steve Canavero:Two-Party Support Gives School Funding Wider Reach
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Pedro A. Rivera: A Fair Formula for Funding
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 24
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 25
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 26
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - 27
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - Danielle Gonzales & Ross Wiener: Yes, Schools Have an Equity Problem. What Should We Do About It?
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - May 31, 2017 - CW4