• Florida strips former Palm Seaside County instructor of her license after relationship with pupil

    Florida strips former Palm Seaside County instructor of her license after relationship with pupil

    Florida strips former Palm Seaside County instructor of her license after relationship with pupil

    Kimberly Charles, 29, was convicted of a cost involving a sexual relationship with a pupil.

    Kimberly Charles, a former instructor at Forest Hill Excessive Faculty, has misplaced the proper to work in Florida’s public faculties after a years-long course of that began when police accused her of getting a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old pupil.

    The connection started round 2018 and the instructor’s “flirtatious conduct” finally caught the eye of a faculty district worker and different witnesses. That led to an investigation in 2019 and detectives’ interview with a lady, who described “sexual exercise” and sleepovers at Charles’ home, in accordance with a police report.

    After her arrest in 2020, Charles prevented a felony conviction for lewd conduct towards a pupil by pleading responsible to the lesser cost of contributing to the delinquency of a kid, a first-degree misdemeanor.

    Learn extra: Forest Hill Excessive instructor had sexual relations with pupil, police say

    Charles, who taught English to audio system of different languages at Forest, additionally agreed to resign from the Palm Seaside County Faculty District and to not search re-employment in native faculties or different jobs “in shut proximity to kids.”

    Now, the Florida Division of Schooling has completely revoked her educator certificates, in accordance with an order filed Wednesday. Educator certificates are required to work as a instructor, administrator, steering counselor or media specialist, amongst different faculty positions.

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    And beneath Florida legislation, when an individual’s educator certificates is revoked, they’ll now not work “in any capability requiring direct contact with college students” at a public faculty.

    The revocation follows an administrative criticism filed in November 2021 by then-Schooling Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who known as for sanctions towards the Palm Seaside County instructor, including to the punishment handed down in her felony case the yr earlier than.

    Circuit Decide Jeffrey Gillen ordered Charles, 29, of West Palm Seaside, to serve 30 days in jail and full one yr of probation, although the choose later agreed to finish her probation early.

    She additionally needed to write an apology letter, end 100 hours of neighborhood service and bear a psychological analysis, together with any really helpful therapies.

    Charles declined to remark via her lawyer, Arthur Schofield, who represented her throughout the Schooling Division’s disciplinary case.

    Giuseppe Sabella is an training reporter at The Palm Seaside Put up, a part of the USA TODAY Florida Community. You may attain him at [email protected] Assist help our journalism and subscribe at the moment. 

    This text initially appeared on Palm Seaside Put up: Florida strips license from former Forest Hill Excessive Faculty instructor

  • City student bags gold at international math olympiad
    Math Club and Olympiad

    City student bags gold at international math olympiad

    Seventeen-year-old Pranjal Srivastava’s love for mathematics has earned him international acclaim. The class XII student of National Public School, Koramangala, who represented India at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), brought laurels to the country by bagging the gold medal.

    Due to the pandemic, the competition this year was held remotely from St. Petersburg, Russia, last Monday and Tuesday and the medal announcement was made on Saturday night at the closing ceremony.

    For Pranjal, this is a remarkable achievement. He is the only student from India to win gold medals twice. Two years ago, he had won a gold at the same event. This year, he also won a bronze medal in the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI).

    On his experience at the IMO this year, Pranjal said: “The paper was extremely difficult, especially on day one of the competition.” IMO tests four different skill sets – algebra, combinatorics, number theory, and geometry – in a mixed bag of questions over two days. The top 8% scorers are awarded the gold medal.

    Given the prestige associated with an IMO gold, this becomes an intense competition. Celebrated Field medallists, considered the Nobel Prize in mathematics like Terence Tao and Maryam Mirzakhani have been IMO gold medallists.

    “Becoming an IMO champ is possible only if you have a deep love for the subject and are ready to invest in exploring it,” Pranjal said. He acknowledged the constant support and encouragement received from his parents and school. Pranjal’s immediate goal is to pursue mathematics in higher studies and in the long term, he may pursue algorithms or computer science.

  • Has your college had a conversation on telepsychiatry and student care? |
    College Guidance and Counseling

    Has your college had a conversation on telepsychiatry and student care? |

    Mantra Health’s new report shows the benefits, including ROI, of delivering flexible mental health services.

    Has your college had a conversation on telepsychiatry and student care? |Adobe Stock

    If the words “mental health” don’t grab your attention as a college administrator, maybe these statistics will.

    More than a third of all students are suffering from moderate depression, and 21% have screened positive for major depression. Of those, 13% have thought of suicide and 6% have a plan to follow through.

    Dr. Nora Feldpausch, the medical director at mental health provider Mantra Health, says the need to get help to students has reached a crisis stage at institutions of higher education.

    “So, 1% of students every year attempt suicide. If you’re looking at a Big Ten school, that’s almost 500 students a year attempting suicide,” she says. “There’s an astronomical number of students dying every year. Every campus ends up dealing with suicides. A third of students say that at least two days out of the week, they’re affected by their mental health to the point that they can’t complete their studies. If we have students dropping out, that’s a huge economic burden on universities. But we’re also talking about how to keep students alive.”

    Mantra Health, which is continually expanding its partnerships with colleges and universities, just launched Telepsychiatry: Transforming Campus Mental Health, a resource that looks at those staggering numbers based on data from the Healthy Minds studies and others. It offers an in-depth look at how their scalable solutions can have a positive impact on students and institutions. The report outlines the costs and outcomes of having flexible, vetted providers available via telehealth to free up overwhelmed campus counseling centers. And it outlines what happens when those services are not in place.

    Dr. Feldpausch, a former staff psychiatrist at Michigan State University’s Olin Health Center and at Colorado State University, likened a typical counseling center’s position now to one of a triage unit.

    “College counseling centers have a huge job on their hands,” she says. “They’re finding that they cannot keep up in terms of hiring the number of providers necessary. Even if there was enough funding to be able to pay for the kind of care that college students are needing, just to be able to recruit that many providers locally is essentially impossible for most universities. Since many universities are in rural areas, it becomes even harder.”

    That has resulted in a large portion of students who need care not being able to access it 24 hours a day. Some who were surveyed simply gave up. Sadly, 30% of those said they either self-medicated or self-harmed. Colleges are clamoring to do what they can to address it, with more than 70% allocating more funds toward mental health.

    Providers are important to students

    Primary care physicians (PCP) are often thought of as the first and best source of treatment for individuals in health care. But that traditional option is not necessarily the best for students who have mental health concerns or issues. In Dr. Feldpausch’s work and noted in the study, students need psychiatric providers, but a third of institutions don’t have them. Half of those who sought care on campuses in the survey instead saw PCPs. The vast majority of students said they would prefer to see a psychiatric physician, and many of them would like to do that through telehealth.

    Dr. Feldpausch highlights in the report that only 13% of mental health patients receive “minimally adequate care” from PCPs. “[Primary care providers] have such a depth of information that they need to learn in a relatively short period of time that many of them are not able to get specialized training to do it,” she says. “There’s a reason why we have psychiatrists. There’s a reason why we have psychiatric nurse practitioners. Those folks have spent several years or more training on how to handle these types of illnesses. Many primary care providers refer out when they start to get folks with mental illness.”

    And increasingly, those patients—and new ones—are ending up in remote care for mental health, particularly ones who suffer from depression and anxiety. Other, more complex issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or substance use would need in-person evaluation. Colleges and universities, understanding telehealth’s value both in terms of flexibility and ability to provide a vast network of options, are increasing pairing up those services with ones they have on the ground.

    “Once you get a taste of telehealth, it’s very hard to convince people to go backward,” Dr. Feldpausch says. “You’re talking about being able to offer appointments in the evenings or on the weekends and being able to say to a student, ‘You don’t have to schlep across a freezing cold campus to come in and see me. You can just join from your dorm or wherever you are.’ I think college counseling centers are still incredibly important and need to be preserved. But to incorporate that telehealth piece is going to increasingly become the standard of care going forward. You’re going to have a hard time convincing students that this isn’t an option for them.”

    The availability, level of care and sheer number of providers, especially during the pandemic, have boosted telehealth’s image.

    “Can you actually do good care via telehealth? The answer is yes. If you look at the outcomes, they are comparable or better doing video conferencing vs. in-person care for many of the illnesses that we treat,” she says. “We offer a group of providers who are well vetted, who are high-quality, who are specialized in this population.”

    And, she says, the array of providers is far wider than what a typical institution could offer.

    “Say we have a provider that’s working 40 hours. We can have them do five hours of their time at multiple different universities,” she says. “Let’s say they’re an LGBTQ provider of color. That might be a relatively niche person who really saves lives and help retain students. Maybe a university couldn’t hire someone full-time in that position. We can say, ‘We’ve got that provider for you, and we can embed them within your counseling system.’ We can also bring in folks that maybe don’t want to live in rural Pennsylvania or southern Florida. We can open up this realm of providers that you can’t recruit locally.”

    Assistance for colleges and universities

    Once on board, Mantra Health effectively creates a system for institutions that includes a dashboard, allowing colleges and universities to see how many students are accessing care and how many students are high-risk. Some of the colleges that have executed it well—Penn State University, Moravian University and Hamilton College—have put plans in place that get students assistance and position them for success in the future. Because they can access services when they’re away from campus, they also get whole coverage during high-risk periods.

    “There’s always this fear on campus that we’re going to come in and somehow suck the students away or give them subpar care and the campus is going to lose track of them,” Dr. Feldpausch says. “That’s not us. We are a complement to the on-the-ground care.”

    For institutions, telepsychiatry is not without cost, but Mantra Health says it’s worth it. “It’s hard to convince the administration that investing is incredibly important. It takes upfront money to prevent loss of students,” she says. “But for a relatively small amount upfront, you will gain back in tuition two to three times what your initial investment is.”

    Mantra Health’s report, in fact, outlines how spending $1,500 each on 100 students can result in a huge return on investment. Take that $750,000 and put it up against the cost of 95 students who are likely to stop out or drop out. If tuition is just shy of $25,000, that’s $2.3 million.

    Beyond the report, another great resource is Healthy Minds, which has a calculator that can help leaders can punch in their own stats and get ROI. Institutions also can continue to lean on the Association for College Psychiatry and the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors for guidance. Mantra Health, meanwhile, also hosts open forums each month that center around different topics related to mental health.

    Dr. Feldpausch recommends that institutions “be in the conversation with [national organizations and leaders] to see what other university centers are doing. There’s a ton of collaborative spirit I found among higher ed folks. Even the smaller schools, the more you can get connected with some of those national forums, the more you’ll learn and be able to rely on your colleagues to help you put together a program together.”

  • Student Teaching in Spain in the Time of COVID
    Bilingual Education

    Student Teaching in Spain in the Time of COVID

    The European Quality Chart on Internships and Apprenticeships describes higher education and vocational school practices in participating companies and entities as a training-oriented component of students’ coursework (European Youth Forum, n.d.). In the educational realm, these experiences help teacher education candidates develop and refine their professional competencies and provide them with an easier transition to the job market, increasing their chances of finding quality, stable jobs (European Youth Forum, n.d.). These practices are known in Spain as the practicum.

    The practicum, a required subject in the coursework of both early childhood and primary education BA degrees, consists of a series of collaborative activities between teacher training and education colleges and professional development schools, aimed at offering student teachers the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the realities of teaching in the early grades en route to adopting and developing their own teaching styles. Its formative objective is to provide student teachers with the opportunity to apply the knowledge acquired in their academic training to real classrooms and thereby acquire the necessary skills and abilities to foster their professional preparation and improve their employability prospects (Real Decreto 592/2014, 2014). To regulate the experience, universities sign MOUs with the Departments of Education of the different regional governments describing, among other things, the role of student teachers in the delivery of instruction and classroom organization, the duties of supervising school and university mentors, and the number of credits earned at the completion of the experience. Student teachers are also required to participate in university seminars as part of the practicum to reflect on aspects related to the realities and challenges of the job, their own performance during classroom presentations and explanations, and discrepancies in the theory–practice connection (Guía del Practicum, 2021).

    While the benefits of the practicum for student teachers have been documented, information on its impact for placement school mentors is scant. Obtaining more information on the latter was therefore the objective of two of the authors, professors at the University of Extremadura in Spain. They decided to investigate the extent of student teachers’ cooperation with, and support for, their respective mentors in Extremadura during the extended nationwide COVID-19 mandated lockdown, when online teaching was the only instructional delivery mode allowed, as well as when a decrease in the spread of the virus permitted the regional government to lift the restrictions and allow a return to face-to-face instruction. Participants were 15 early childhood and primary education veteran school mentors with student teachers in their classrooms. Their responses appeared to point to the following three areas:

    Support for “fatigued” teachers: One year after the beginning of the pandemic, the mentors agreed they were experiencing “fatigue,” described by Michie, West, and Harvey (2020) as “a presumed tendency for people to naturally become ‘tired’ of the rules and guidance they should follow to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” They alluded to episodes of fear and anxiety due to both the expansion of the pandemic and the unexpected recurrent virus spikes, as well as overwhelming stress caused by their having to adopt and incorporate into their teaching routines instructional delivery modes and technological resources most of them were not familiar with. As the lockdown was progressively lifted in Spain and they had to return to the classroom, they began to show psychological effects similar to those seen in health-care workers in potentially unsafe conditions (TFA Editorial Team, 2020), namely exhaustion and fear (Duffy and Allington, 2020). These effects were especially prevalent among veteran teachers, many of whom decided to resign and apply for early retirement. In fact, according to Núñez (2021), 2020 early retirement figures in the region showed a 30% increase over those in 2019. It was not therefore surprising, given this context, that the mentors interviewed appreciated having additional help in their classrooms, as the presence of student teachers provided much-needed assistance controlling students and making it easier to pay more individualized attention to those needing extra help or identified as having learning difficulties or disabilities. Moreover, the energy, novel approaches to teaching, and innovative tech tools, software, and activities brought and implemented by student teachers helped their respective mentors partially overcome their own tech deficiencies, acting as a singular vaccine against the latter’s previous fear, exhaustion, doubts, and even apathy.

    Support with virtual learning and IT: The teaching force in Extremadura is aging. Thus, during the 2013–2014 academic year, 33% of its teachers were more than 50 years of age and just 2% of the total were under 30, compared to 25% and 12% respectively in 2004–2005 (Moral, 2015). A subsequent report placed Extremadura among the autonomous communities with the fewest young teachers in both primary and secondary education (Infoempleo, 2017). Despite significant efforts reinforcing the importance of the integration of information technologies in the educational system of the community (Fundación Maimona, 2014), many veteran teachers still have difficulties incorporating tech resources into their teaching routines. Fortunately, the student teachers in this project were able to offer their struggling mentors ongoing individual, specific support that allowed the latter to revamp numerous lessons for use in both synchronous and asynchronous meetings. They taught their mentors the basics of innovative software and tech tools such as Flipgrid, Genially, ClassDojo, TED, The Primary Box, Educaplay, MapTool, Kahoot!, Mentimeter, and eXeLearning, among others. Student teachers also helped their mentors incorporate project-based learning, flipped classrooms, and gamification into their lessons, creating a more engaging and appealing classroom environment that increased the motivation and interest of students, who were equally tired of the pandemic. As an added perk, thanks to their familiarity with the above tools, student teachers confined at home continued to be able to support their mentors remotely and even lead lessons in some cases, as seen in the example graphic above, created with eXeLearning by one such student who was commissioned to teach an art class on impressionism.

    Support with logistics: Student teachers had to add logistical help to their academic duties, given mandated restrictions and safety protocols inside and outside classrooms and schools to prevent the spread of the virus among students, staff, and parents. Some of these daily tasks included ensuring students maintained the required social distance while entering and leaving school grounds, playing in the yard, and during bathroom breaks; checking students’ temperature, distributing hydroalcoholic gel, and disinfecting lunch areas at required times and on an as-needed basis; monitoring students during individual and small-group work; managing small and large group configurations; working with students needing additional help in homogeneous ability groups; providing specific individual reading, writing, and academic instruction; reporting assigned students’ progress at the end of the school day; or observing students’ socialization and interaction patterns during whole-class instruction in order to identify students needing help as well as those able to help others during follow-up assignments.

    The practicum is beneficial for all parties involved. Feedback from mentor teachers helps the Teacher Training and Education Colleges at the University of Extremadura improve the student teaching experience. Mentor teachers enjoy the benefits of student teachers’ additional help managing their classrooms and introducing them to innovative tech tools to create more engaging lessons for their students. Student teachers gain practical experience and become more attuned to the realities of the classroom. In the time of COVID-19, student teachers constitute a valuable resource for an exhausted teaching force working under strenuous circumstances. Mentor teachers should be encouraged to openly communicate with them, request their help when needed, and take advantage of the opportunity to learn about new resources and methods that can make their lives easier.

    Duffy, B. and Allington, D. (2020). “The Accepting, the Suffering and the Resisting: The different reactions to life under lockdown.” King’s College London: The Policy Institute. https://www.kcl.ac.uk/policy-institute/assets/Coronavirus-in-the-UK-cluster-analysis.pdf
    European Youth Forum. (n.d.). European Quality Chart on Internships and Apprenticeships. https://www.youthforum.org/sites/default/files/publication-pdfs/European%20Quality%20Charter.pdf
    Fundación Maimona. (2014). Estado de las TIC en Extremadura. Badajoz, Spain: Fundación Maimona, CREEX, Fundación CRESEM.
    Guía del Practicum (2021). Prácticas externas: Curso 2020–2021. https://www.unex.es/conoce-la-uex/centros/profesorado/informacion-academica/practicas-externas/practicas-externas-20-21/practicas-externas.-curso-2020_2021
    . (2017). Evolución del empleo por edad. Mercado Laboral. https://www.infoempleo.com/guias-informes/empleo-educacion/mercado-laboral/mercado-laboral-empleo.html#reparto-comunidad
    Michie, S., West, R., and Harvey, N. (2020). “The Concept of ‘Fatigue’ in Tackling COVID-19.” BMJ Opinion. https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2020/10/26/the-concept-of-fatigue-in-tackling-covid-19/
    Moral, G. (2015). “Uno de cada tres profesores de la región supera los 50 años de edad.” El Periódico Extremadura. https://www.elperiodicoextremadura.com/noticias/extremadura/uno-tres-profesores-region-supera-50-anos-edad_883609.html
    Núñez, C. (2021). “Las prejubilaciones de docentes se doblan en Cáceres a causa de la COVID.” Hoy. https://www.hoy.es/caceres/prejubilaciones-docentes-doblan-20210122074948-ntvo.html
    Real Decreto 592/2014. (2014). Real Decreto 592/2014, de 11 de julio, por el que se regulan las prácticas académicas externas de los estudiantes universitarios. Madrid, Spain: BOE.
    TFA Editorial Team. (2020). “Tackling COVID-19 Fatigue as a Teacher: How educators can build resilience amid the pandemic.” Teach For America. https://www.teachforamerica.org/stories/tackling-covid-19-fatigue-as-a-teacher

    Francisco Ramos, BA, MA, MSc, PhD, is a professor at the School of Education, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA, where he teaches courses on bilingual education, bilingualism and biliteracy, and methods of teaching in L1 and L2 in bilingual settings.

    Gemma Delicado, BA, MA, PhD (University of Chicago, 2007), is currently the director of international affairs and a professor in the English Department at the Teacher Training College, University of Extremadura (Spain), where she teaches courses on bilingual education, English, and Spanish language and literature for U.S. study abroad students.
    Laura Alonso-Díaz, BA, MA, PhD, is the director of internships and employment and a professor in the Education Department at the Teacher Training College, University of Extremadura (Spain). Her research interests revolve around teacher training, virtual educational environments, training for employment, internships, and bilingual education.

  • Walton student gets perfect score in SAT and subject exams
    Math Club and Olympiad

    Walton student gets perfect score in SAT and subject exams

    Abhinav Kona, Walton student, perfect SAT score

    Sirisha Kona, the very proud mother of Walton High School junior Abhinav Kona, got in touch to let us know about her son’s perfect score of 1,600 in the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

    He also got perfect scores in the subject SAT exams, an 800 in chemistry and 800 in math 2.  

    Here’s more from Sirisha about Abhinav’s involvement in academic and other activities at Walton and where he’s looking to attend college:

    “He’s interested in neuroscience and plans to apply to many medical programs and colleges such as Northwestern, Stanford, Harvard, Brown, and the University of Michigan. He is actively involved in Walton’s math team, math and science honors society, science Olympiad, and Protein Modeling Club. At school, he enjoys playing the double bass and participating in chamber and GMEA’s all-state orchestra.

    “Outside of the classroom, Abhinav cofounded a non-profit organization named the American Assimilation Helpline (AAH) to tutor refugees, immigrants, and low-income family students and provide a fair opportunity for all students to achieve high academic success wherever they are. The program is dedicated to providing free, personalized one-on-one tutoring sessions weekly, integrating student and parental preferences to match teachers with students based on teachers’ specialties.”

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  • Student special education plans expired during COVID in Chicago
    Special Education

    Student special education plans expired during COVID in Chicago

    Before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools last year, David Rushing was an energetic 15-year-old who liked to play basketball and baseball. He was an avid swimmer and a member of the Jesse White Tumblers — performing high-energy stunts like backflips and somersaults, sometimes in front of large audiences.

    Then COVID-19 swept across the country and forced Chicago schools to close, leaving David, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, unable to participate in sports and without the proper support to help him focus in online classes.

    At the beginning of his freshman year at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy last fall, David’s Individualized Education Program, a legally binding document known as an IEP that outlines what special education services and interventions a student should receive, was set to expire on Nov. 5, 2020. He was to be re-evaluated for a new plan the month before. But that didn’t happen.

    Within a matter of months, David’s life spiraled out of control.

    Yvonne Bailey, David’s biological grandmother who adopted him at a young age, noticed David behaving differently.

    David “got involved with the wrong people in the neighborhood,” Bailey said. “He was running away from home and staying out all night.”

    David’s case is not isolated. The pandemic year has uprooted support for students with disabilities in Chicago and nationwide, creating a backlog of old IEPs that could lead to widening academic gaps for students in need of special education services. Students with disabilities make up 14.6% of Chicago’s enrollment, almost 50,000 students. Nearly half of those students are Latino, and about 40 percent are Black.

    New data obtained by Chalkbeat shows that during the 2019-20 school year — which saw an 11-day teacher strike and COVID-19 school closures — more than 10,050 re-evaluations, initial evaluations, and annual reviews were incomplete, a more than threefold increase over the previous school year. More than 3,500 students, like David, were waiting for a re-evaluation that is required by federal law.

    The data shows improvements during the 2020-21 school year, but 1,768 students were waiting to be re-evaluated and 230 were waiting for an initial evaluation to get an IEP.

    Hidden from public view

    Delays in IEP re-evaluations were a pre-pandemic problem that landed Chicago Public Schools under state review. In 2018, the state board of education appointed a monitor to ensure that Chicago was not denying or delaying special education services to students. In June of this year, the state board of education approved another year of state oversight.

    Even though the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult to conduct IEPs in person, schools were still responsible for updating the plans and had to provide remote evaluations. Yet despite issuing waivers for such activities as standardized testing, the U.S. Department of Education never waived any part of federal law meant to protect students with disabilities.

    Correspondence between Chicago, the state board of education, and special education advocates in the city shows that as far back as September, officials had evidence that the pandemic had disrupted students’ services.

    In a September letter obtained by Chalkbeat through an open records request, the district’s Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services acknowledged that some evaluations were left “indeterminate.” The district promised in the letter that all evaluations would be completed during the 2020-21 school year.

    Some parents and advocates say that did not happen, and data released by the district show some students were still left waiting during the 2020-21 school year. But the full scope of the problem is not clear because Chicago Public Schools continues to withhold key data points that indicate compliance with federal special education law, including the race of children whose families seek evaluations and how many referrals were initially requested by parents or educators.

    Chalkbeat sent Freedom of Information Act requests to both the state board of education and Chicago Public Schools in March asking for data on how many students were waiting for initial evaluations to create an IEP and how many students needed to be re-evaluated to update their current IEPs during the 2018-2021 school years.

    The state board referred Chalkbeat back to Chicago Public Schools officials, saying that the state only has limited access to the district’s database that tracks the status of students’ IEPs. Chicago Public Schools extended the information request deadline several times. In April, Chalkbeat went to the state’s Attorney General Public Access Bureau for assistance, but the district still refused to provide the data. In late July, the district partially released data weeks after Chalkbeat filed a lawsuit against the school district in the Cook County Circuit Court. (Chalkbeat is represented by Loevy & Loevy, a civil rights firm.)

    The data Chicago released in late July offers a first public look at end-of-year numbers for the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 school years and shows how many re-evaluations, initial evaluations, and annual reviews were completed and how many were left incomplete. Across the three categories, students in need of annual reviews were most likely to face delays, with about 8.7% of eligible students waiting in 2019-20 compared to 1.7% the year prior.

    Rates of incomplete education plan re-evaluations in Chicago schools

    Network 2021 Incomplete 2020 Incomplete 2019 Incomplete
    Network 2021 Incomplete 2020 Incomplete 2019 Incomplete
    Other 66.08% 62.41% N/A
    AUSL 18.53% 40.63% 8.16%
    Options 17.61% 45.89% 20.48%
    Network 15 17.54% 14.44% 1.80%
    Network 3 14.02% 24.76% 1.06%
    Chicago Average 13.13% 25.14% 7.75%
    Network 16 12.44% 15.97% 6.79%
    Network 13 12.43% 36.47% 0.82%
    Network 6 12.14% 24.39% 2.65%
    Network 11 10.88% 31.53% 2.02%
    Network 10 10.84% 32.46% 1.10%
    Network 12 10.70% 26.49% 3.67%
    Network 17 9.75% 18.36% 0.87%
    Charter 8.48% 17.80% 5.40%
    Network 4 8.37% 29.57% 0.23%
    ISP 8.28% 21.37% 1.03%
    Network 9 8.23% 28.40% 0.90%
    Contract 8.22% 13.33% 1.49%
    Network 1 7.37% 27.18% 0.79%
    Network 8 5.70% 18.04% 0.25%
    Network 7 4.58% 23.05% 0.69%
    Network 14 3.58% 12.05% 0.51%
    Network 2 3.57% 28.07% 1.91%
    Network 5 3.23% 21.19% 1.53%

    NOTE: “Other” includes students who are enrolled in a separate day school, have been evaluated but have not yet enrolled, or attend a private school but receive services from CPS, such as therapeutic day schools.

    Annie Fu, Chalkbeat

    According to the data provided by the district, broken down by network, the 2019-20 school year saw the highest numbers of students waiting for a re-evaluation. The number of students waiting depended on where they attended school in the city and what type of school it was. Students who attended schools in Networks 11 and 13 — the former spans Englewood and parts of the Southwest Side and the latter cuts across neighborhoods on the city’s far south and far east sides — were unlikely to be re-evaluated during the school year.

    Also, the district’s turnaround school operator, the Academy for Urban School Leadership, or AUSL, which was tasked with managing some of the lowest-performing schools in Chicago until the district decided to phase out the program earlier this year, had a higher rate of non-compliance during the 2019-20 year, with 40.9% of re-evaluations left incomplete. Charters as a whole tended to perform better than city averages during 2019-20, with 17.8% of re-evaluations incomplete compared with a citywide average of 25%. The following year, however, charters did not comply as well as most of the district-run networks, reporting some of the highest numbers of incomplete annual reviews and initial IEP evaluations and reporting middle-of-the-pack numbers for re-evaluations.

    Chicago Public Schools denied a Chalkbeat request to interview a representative from the district’s special education department. However, district spokesman James Gherardi said there were complications re-evaluating students with disabilities due to the pandemic and a year of related school closures.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic added a layer of difficulty to the evaluation process that our school leaders and staff are still working through to ensure each student that needs an evaluation receives one,” said Gherardi.

    Families search for options

    (Left to right) Yvonne Bailey poses for a portrait with her adopted son David and her husband, Terry Bailey in front of trees and a small pond on a sunny day.

    Dunbar High School freshman David Rushing (center) was one of over 3,500 students affected by Chicago Public School’s failure to re-evaluate IEPs for its students in a timely manner.
    Courtesy of Yvonne Bailey

    That still leaves family members such as Yvonne Bailey, David Rushing’s mother, desperate to find help for struggling students.

    Bailey went to Equip for Equality, a nonprofit legal service organization, to get help with getting David’s evaluation. With Equip for Equality’s help, David was re-evaluated in the spring and a new IEP was written in April.

    Unlike Bailey, many Chicago parents are not able to access legal services. Instead, some have decided to leave the school district to ensure that their child receives special education services.

    For some families, the issue wasn’t the timeline. It was poor execution.

    Courtney Aviles moved to Cincinnati after spending a year trying to get her 5-year-old son re-evaluated for an IEP. When her son was in preschool, a teacher raised concerns about his fine motor skills, especially his ability to write.

    Before schools shut down in March 2020, Aviles’ son had an annual IEP meeting to assess current goals, at James B. McPherson Elementary School, on the city’s north side. Aviles, a former teacher in Florida, was taken aback to see that her son’s teachers and case manager, who previously worked with him, were not there to speak about his needs in the classroom. Legally, schools are required to have teachers and case managers present at IEP meetings.

    “As a former teacher myself, I feel that it greatly impacted our ability to conduct the IEP meeting,” said Aviles. “Having his teachers there to share their experience with and to advocate for my son would have made the meeting more productive.”

    During the annual meeting, Aviles and the IEP team agreed that her son would be evaluated for occupational therapy to help him write. However, schools across the state were shuttered in response to the coronavirus pandemic and Aviles’ son did not receive special education services for the remainder of the year.

    At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, Aviles transferred her son to Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies. Prior to the start of the school year, Aviles emailed the school’s case manager to inquire about the occupational therapy evaluation discussed at her son’s last IEP meeting in August.

    Aviles did not hear back from the case manager until October.

    The case manager emailed Aviles to say that her son’s previous school had not finalized the assessment plan needed to get him evaluated for occupational therapy. Aviles signed a consent form to be connected with the school’s occupational therapist for an evaluation.

    However, Aviles’ son, who was supposed to be evaluated by Jan. 22, 2021, never received an assessment. In February, Aviles and her son’s IEP team again gathered to update his program. The team concluded that Aviles’ son would need a full re-evaluation — but that didn’t happen.

    By March, the family moved to Ohio. Aviles called it a “spur of the moment” decision after visiting friends for her son’s birthday. Aviles and her husband felt that they could make a good life for their children in Cincinnati. She said that while she loved Chicago, struggling to get special education services for her son was a major factor in her decision to move to another state.

    Aviles wished she would have pushed harder for her son’s services, but felt she had to maintain a good relationship with the school’s staff. “It could be a really delicate balance,” she said.

    A national problem emerges

    Rachel Shapiro poses on a sunny day outside of her Chicago home, cars lining the street behind her.

    Rachel Shapiro, an attorney at Equip for Equality, believes that schools in Chicago used the pandemic to cover their shortfall in evaluating IEPs.
    April Alonso for Chalkbeat

    The stakes for students who do not receive a re-evaluation are high, according to Rachel Shapiro, an attorney at Equip for Equality.

    “We explain it to parents that your child’s development could progress or there could be regression,” said Shapiro. “We have no way of knowing that without having some kind of standardized data.”

    When the district delayed special education services for David Rushing and Aviles’ son, both boys saw a regression in their skills and changes in behavior. David started to run away from home and Aviles’ son struggled to learn how to write.

    While working with parents, Shapiro claims that schools in Chicago were using the pandemic as a cover to only review IEPs and not perform evaluations.

    “Part of the evaluation is that it has to be thorough and contain multiple different assessments because we don’t want to diagnose students based on one assessment,” she said.

    A student’s IEP team — which includes teachers, case managers, and therapists — are supposed to meet every year to review a student’s progress, address any concerns, and update that student’s goals. The state requires re-evaluations every three years. Parents must be proactive in ensuring that their child gets what they need, said Shapiro.

    Shapiro suggests parents document requests in writing and ask for standardized assessments, progress data, and requests for IEP meetings. If things don’t go well, Shapiro says, parents can request a mediator from the state board of education or file a complaint with the board.

    According to Lindsay Kubatzky, policy manager at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, an advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., school districts across the country have a backlog of evaluations due to the pandemic. Also, some school districts were concerned about the validity of doing evaluations remotely.

    Kubatzky recommends that school districts communicate with parents about what to expect from the evaluation process this year.

    “We see that the strongest indicator of whether a school district is doing a good job at evaluating or re-evaluating is whether parents have the information that they need and have a good understanding of what the process will look like,” said Kubatzky.

    Kubatzky also urged school districts to use emergency federal funding to increase staff for evaluating students.

    “So one thing that they could do is hire additional paraprofessionals to work with students to do some of the evaluations or contract with outside evaluators to help with the workload,” said Kubatzky. “There’s resources outside of the school building that could be beneficial for students and families.”

    Chicago Public Schools said that it will spend $17 million to hire 78 nurses, 44 social workers, and 51 special education case managers for next school year.

    What’s next for students

    Since leaving Chicago, Aviles has turned to private occupational therapy for her son and has seen a lot of growth in his writing skills. In the fall, the 5-year-old will be attending kindergarten at a smaller school district in Cincinnati.

    “At CPS, he couldn’t even hold a pencil. He can write his name, he’s writing letters and he’s recognizing letters,” said Aviles. “It’s a huge amount of growth in a super short period of time and it’s really unfortunate that it took a move to do that.”

    Yvonne Bailey’s son, David, has been doing much better since he received an updated IEP. At the end of the school year, Bailey signed him up to attend in-person school two days a week. This summer, David was enrolled in the school’s football camp.

    David will be returning to Dunbar for his sophomore year. Bailey feels that in-person learning will be better for him, especially when more students are at school.

    “David does well around people. He likes hanging out with the kids like any kid at this age,” said Bailey. “So I think it’ll be better.”

    Samantha Smylie began this project at Chicago Headline Club’s FOIAFest 2021 Boot Camp under the mentorship of journalist Angela Caputo, an investigative reporter at APM Reports.

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  • Williamsport high school teacher accused of having unlawful contact with a female student

    Williamsport high school teacher accused of having unlawful contact with a female student

    WILLIAMSPORT – A 10th-grade math teacher at Williamsport Area High School has been accused of making inappropriate comments to two female students and having unlawful contact with one of them.

    Christopher P. Yoder, 42, of Williamsport, was arraigned Tuesday by Williamsport police on charges of unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors and harassment.

    He was committed to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $85,000 bail despite agent Brittany Alexander not objecting to his release because he has been cooperative and appeared for arraignment with his attorney Anne K. Leete.

    Leete argued for release pointing out Yoder is not charged with any physical impropriety and he would agree to avoid having any contact with the victims.

    District Judge Aaron S. Biichle rejected her argument, citing the seriousness of the charges, but made Yoder eligible for intensive supervised bail.

    The father of five has been suspended with pay since May 14, the day after a Childline report about suspected child abuse was referred to police. He has been a teacher in the district since 2007.

    The allegations against Yoder involve conduct at the school and at home during remote instruction. For example, he is accused of several times drawing a heart one one girl’s hand and a smiley face on her leg through a hole in her ripped jeans.

    In another instance, two girls were discussing what to wear to the prom, and one asked Yoder for a suggestion. Authorities say his alleged response was a tight red dress with a low-cut V neck that would “fit her figure.”

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