40 Years of Opportunity thanks to RFB&D

This was a nice story to read today, especially while celebrating 20 years of the ADA.

After four decades of association with RFB&D, John Erickson is still learning, listening, and thriving. Visual impairment hasn’t stopped him from becoming a successful financial advisor, champion skier, and community role model. In a recent speech to Chicago civic leaders, volunteers and staff at RFB&D’s Chicago Loop Studio, John gave a testimonial about what equal access to reading has meant for him.

New Jersey Shore/Beach Accessibility 2010

Andrew Colavito in beach accessible wheelchair. Although I was pleased to find Monmouth County’s link while reading through my listservs, I think the other three shore counties should put out equally comprehensive information every year. Thanks to Monmouth County’s Disabilities Office, disabled New Jerseyans can learn about the accessibility of local beaches ahead of time. I’ve found some beach accessibility info for the rest of the state and compiled it here for easy reference. It would be nice if the state put each county’s info into an annual accessibility guide. But I’ve done my best.

Monmouth County Office on Disabilities 2010 Accessible Beach Guide

Long Beach Island New Jersey Beach Access

Atlantic County NJ Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities

Cape May County’s Beaches and Surf Chairs for People with Disabilities 2010 Guide

New Jersey Shore Guide has NJ beaches listed from North to South with designations such as “Partial” or “Full” Handicapped Accessibility

Public Access to NJ’s Shoreline Interactive Map

The Public Trust Doctrine as it Applies to Beach Access in New Jersey

Citizens' Right to Access Beaches, C.R.A.B. INC.

Citizens' Right to Access Beaches, C.R.A.B. INC.

Summertime rolls…

Thank you Gov. Christie for this… Public access to N.J. beaches may see setback with revised state regulations

Bill introduced to improve counseling for student veterans

I liked reading about this last night. There are not nearly enough psychological supports for veterans returning from the Afghan/Iraq theatres. I wish the community colleges would get on board with this sooner than later.

U.S. Rep. Chris Carney (PA-10) has introduced legislation to improve counseling for student veterans.

The Student Veteran Counseling Improvement Act, co-sponsored by Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL), will provide college and university counselors and mental health professionals with better resources with which to treat student veterans at a time when an increasing number of veterans are attending college upon returning from war.

“We owe it to our men and women in uniform to ensure that their mental health needs are met,” said Carney, who serves in the same Navy Reserve unit as Congressman Kirk. “With an increasing number of veterans returning to college, it is critical that school-based counselors and mental health professionals be familiar with the challenges specific to our fighting men and women.”

Student veterans face different challenges than the typical student. These students are often returning from war, separating from the service, and readjusting to civilian life, all the while beginning school. They are also more likely to suffer from mental health or cognitive issues. According to a RAND Study, 14 percent of troops returning from Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom screened positive for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and 14 percent for major depression. Nineteen percent reported a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment. In addition, a report recently released by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) indicates that there has been a dramatic increase in suicide among veterans 18 to 29 years old.

In March 2009, the VA launched a Web site – http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/college – to help campus counselors and mental health professionals learn more about the challenges and problems our student veterans face. From March to December 2009, the site received over 22,000 visitors, indicating a clear need for these services. However, the VA is not tracking who is using the site, nor is it collecting feedback on the site’s effectiveness. We can do better.

The Student Veteran Counseling Improvement Act instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a toll-free hotline manned by a licensed mental health counselor to assist college counselors in treating student veterans with mental health issues. It also requires the VA to provide college counselors and mental health professionals with training in treating veterans. This training could be done in a multitude of formats, including web-based and on-site training. Additionally, the legislation provides incentives to Institutions of Higher Education with more than 100 student veterans using the GI Bill to take advantage of this training.

The VA will submit to Congress a report on the number of colleges and universities with counselors who have been trained, the number of veterans who have committed suicide while enrolled in an Institution of Higher Learning, and the number of calls received by the hotline.

“Those who wore the uniform risked it all in defense of our nation,” said Congressman Kirk, who like Congressman Carney serves as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer. “This legislation helps ensure that the young men and women who have sacrificed everything receive the support they need to successfully pursue their dream of obtaining a college education.”

The measure is endorsed by the Student Veterans of America, the Air Force Association, the National Guard Association of United States and the American Counseling Association.

Congressman Chris Carney is a commander in the Navy Reserve. He joined the Navy Reserve in 1995.

World Cup live action for blind and visually impaired

RFB&D

rfbd.org

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic Innovative FIFA World Cup live action for blind and visually impaired football fans. This is unprecedented in South Africa’s sporting landscape.

www.fifa.com

Blind and visually impaired fans will be able to enjoy a special live-match experience at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa. Six stadiums will each have 15 seats equipped with headphones, and trained commentators will report live on the action happening down on the pitch.


Update: Auxiliary Aids & Services for Postsecondary SWD

Updated information on postsecondary schools’ obligations to provide auxiliary aids to qualified students who have disabilities under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. Includes examples of different types of auxiliary aids and services.

AccessIT promotes the use of electronic and information technology (E&IT) for students and employees with disabilities in educational institutions at all academic levels. This Web site features the AccessIT Knowledge Base, a searchable database of questions and answers regarding accessible E&IT. It is designed for educators, policy makers, librarians, technical support staff, and students and employees with disabilities and their advocates.

Common Core State Standards

Having worked with post-secondary students for the past two years, after working with urban special needs high school students for eight years, this initiative is long overdue. Students lack the general skill sets necessary to be successful at the community college level. And if it’s this bad in NJ, I can only assume that students graduate even less prepared in other parts of the United States. The majority of students should not test into developmental/remedial/basic skills English/Math courses… yet this is the norm. Education should be free, but the 80% of students testing into these classes are 99% paid by taxpayers. And unlike my student loans, disadvantaged students rarely have to pay their funds back. Is this insane, or is just me? I believe students should graduate high school with the skills necessary to be successful in post-secondary vocational or community college programs.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has issued a statement on the release by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers of a set of state-led education standards known as the Common Core State Standards. The Standards represent a set of expectations for student knowledge and skills that high school graduates need to master to succeed in college and careers, and include information about the importance of challenging, and supporting, students with disabilities to excel within the general curriculum and be prepared for success in their post-school lives. Common Core State Standards

UPDATE: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 – Many States Adopt National Standards for Their Schools

A version of this article appeared in print on July 21, 2010, on page A1 of the New York edition.
By TAMAR LEWIN
Less than two months after the nation’s governors and state school chiefs released their final recommendations for national education standards, 27 states have adopted them and about a dozen more are expected to do so in the next two weeks.

Their support has surprised many in education circles, given states’ long tradition of insisting on retaining local control over curriculum.

The quick adoption of common standards for what students should learn in English and math each year from kindergarten through high school is attributable in part to the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition. States that adopt the standards by Aug. 2 win points in the competition for a share of the $3.4 billion to be awarded in September.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education. “This has been the third rail of education, and the fact that you’re now seeing half the nation decide that it’s the right thing to do is a game-changer.”

Even Massachusetts, which many regard as having the nation’s best education system — and where the proposed standards have been a subject of bitter debate — is expected to adopt the standards on Wednesday morning. New York signed up on Monday, joining Connecticut, New Jersey and other states that have adopted the standards, though the timetable for actual implementation is uncertain.

Some supporters of the standards, like Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, worry that the rush of states to sign up — what Ms. Weingarten calls the “Race to Adopt” — could backfire if states do not have the money to put the standards in effect.

“I’m already watching the ravages of the recession cutting the muscle out of efforts to implement standards,” she said. “If states adopt these thoughtful new standards and don’t implement them, teachers won’t know how to meet them, yet they will be the basis on which kids are judged.”

The effort has been helped by financial backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to most of the organizations involved in drafting, evaluating and winning support for the standards. The common core standards, two years in the making and first released in draft form in March, are an effort to replace the current hodgepodge of state policies.

They lay out detailed expectations of skills that students should have at each grade level. Second graders, for example, should be able to read two-syllable words with long vowels, while fifth graders should be able to add and subtract fractions with different denominators.

Adoption of the standards does not bring immediate change in the classroom. Implementation will be a long-term process, as states rethink their teacher training, textbooks and testing.

Those states that are not winners in the Race to the Top competition may also have less incentive to follow through in carrying out the standards.

“The heavy lifting is still ahead, and the cynic in me says that when 20 states don’t get Race to the Top money, we’ll see how sincere they are,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of an education research group in Washington, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a longtime advocate of national standards. “They could just sit on their hands, chill out and say, ‘Well, we don’t really have the money right now to retrain our teachers.’ ”

Yet even promises of support for national standards are a noteworthy shift. Many previous efforts to set national standards have made little headway. In 1995, for example, the Senate rejected proposed history standards by a vote of 99 to 1.

The problem of wide variations in state standards has become more serious in recent years, as some states weakened their standards to avoid being penalized under the federal No Child Left Behind law. This time, the standards were developed by the states themselves, not the federal government. Last year, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers convened English and math experts to put together benchmarks for each grade.

Texas and Alaska said they did not want to participate in developing the standards. And Virginia has made it known that it does not plan to adopt the standards.

Increasingly, national standards are seen as a way to ensure that children in all states will have access to a similar education — and that financially strapped state governments do not have to spend limited resources on developing their own standards and tests.

“We’ll have states working together for the first time on curriculum, textbooks, assessment,” said Mr. Duncan. “This will save the country billions of dollars.”

An analysis by Mr. Finn’s institute, to be released Wednesday, determined that the new common core standards are stronger than the English standards in 37 states and the math standards in 39 states.

In most others, the report found that the existing standards are similar enough to the proposed common core standards that it was impossible to say which were better.

States that adopt the standards are allowed to have additional standards, as long as the common core represents at least 85 percent of their English and mathematics standards.

In closely watched Massachusetts, even those who see the common core standards as a comedown for a state whose students score highly on national assessment tests say they have lost the battle.

“They’re definitely going to be adopted,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy organization.

Mr. Stergios’ group found the common standards less rigorous than Massachusetts’ existing ones.

“Vocabulary-building in the common core is slower,” he said, citing one example. “And on the math side, they don’t prepare eighth-grade students for algebra one, which is the gateway to higher math.”

Others analyzing the two sets of standards disagreed.

Achieve Inc., a Washington-based education reform group, found the common core standards “more rigorous and coherent.” WestEd, a research group that evaluated the standards for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, found them comparable. And Mr. Finn’s group said the Massachusetts standards and the common core standards were “too close to call.”

But Mr. Stergios pointed out that the other groups had either funding from the Gates Foundation or connections to those who developed the standards.

“We’re really the only ones who had no dog in this fight,” he said.