Some parts of this page are out of date. Feel free to update links and add more recent info. GS'
Links to NPS and PAC Web Sites Edit
Newton Parent Advisory Committee Web Site:
PAC Yahoo Group:
Main Newton Special Education Page:
Transition Web Site (not an official NPS or PAC site) http://transitiontopics.wikispaces.com/home
Assistive Technology Wiki for NPS Staff http://newtonassistivetech.wikispaces.com/
Connections ABA program at NNHS: http://connectionsaba.weebly.com/who-are-we.html
Safe and Supportive Schools Edit
Books on Trauma informed Care plus safe and supportive schools. http://massadvocates.org/publications-category/tlpi/
Break Rooms Edit
Angier presentation from July 18 with drawing of time out rooms:
There's one on the second floor and one on the third floor labelled "quiet room". They are just to the left of the middle stairs. The original design only included one. Sometime over the summer it was increased to two. See reference to quiet room here :
FYI I believe the current Angier has a time out room described this way See: http://wiki.laptop.org/images/d/d2/MSBA-submission.pdf page 7 or 1.2):
"Three storage closets without mechanical or fresh air have been converted to specialist spaces for OT, speech and special education; these spaces do not meet state building code requirements for occupied spaces"
Main Angier School Design page: http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/building/angier_school/design.asp
Video of School Committe Meeting on Angier from 11/05/2012: http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01443&video=134659
Angier project minutes http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/aldermen/current_building_projects.asp
Free Speech Edit
Public Records Edit
See this link for a fruitless attempt to get information on special education litigation from the City Solicitor:
Gag Orders Edit
Newton requires a Gag order for all parents who sign a settlement with the city. A legal case was brought in MA Superior Court challenging the right of NPS to require Gag orders in settlements. The pleadings in the case are below.
This letter was received from the Attorney General's office prior to filing of the case.
Newton asks for the case to be dismissed, saying there is no limit to the rights you can give up in a contract. Also mentions the "legions" of people (e.g. you the reader) who the plaintiff's want to talk to.
Plaintiffs response saying that it's in the public interest for parent's to share the terms of settlements which Newton has imposed on them.
I believe the Judge rejected this motion because Newton's attorney failed to file an affidavit showing that the settlements are kept in a separate file under the student's name as required if it is an education record.
Newton tries again adding the affidavit. They also explicitly state that there is no public interest in parent's talking about the terms of settlements.
Plaintiff's response indicating that the gag order is "an improper attempt to shield the allocation of public moneys from public scrutiny".
The court ruled that the contract is valid, including the gag order. See the ruling here: Ruling
Meanwhile another case was brought by a parent in Weston, based purely on Public Records law and FERPA. They won that case which is now being appealed by Weston. See that ruling here: Weston ruling
See a letter to the editor by the Weston parent here: http://www.wickedlocal.com/weston/topstories/x2139019524/Letter-Weston-schools-must-release-settlement-agreements
Special Education Programs and Services Edit
Links from NPS Web site:
We could add a page here for each school. It can include comments by parents on special education, lists of programs and services etc.
Executive Functioning Links Edit
Presentation and notes from Sarah Ward on executive functioning:
Info on Response to Intervention Edit
Response to Intervention is an organizational model used to identify and help students who fall behind or learn differently than the norm. It affects all students in general and special education. It is now being used broadly in Newton Public Schools.
This is related to and a continuation of the "tiered" instruction used in High School. AKA curriculum I, II Advanced, etc.
http://www.doe.mass.edu/sda/framework/level4/TieredInstruction.pdf DESE Paper cited in the report This link is broken, please update if anyone knows where this paper is now.
RtI assessment instruments related to literacy used in Newton (from Angier Preliminary Design page 7 http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/building/angier_school/design.asp)
Assessment practices include: running records and system-wide instruments
- Phonemic Awareness Assessment (MJ Adams);
- Phonics: Fundations Unit Assessments, Comprehension: Guided Reading, Fountas and Pinnell;
- Comprehension Tool Kit, Stephanie Harvey; Spelling and Phonics: Words Their Way, Templeton, Johnston, Bear & Invernizzi;
- The Developmental ReadingAssessment Expressive Language assessment, formal and informal reading inventories
- Benchmark Assessment System; Guided Reading, Fountas and Pinnell; Comprehension Tool Kit, Stephanie Harvey;
- Words Their Way, Templeton, Johnston, Bear & Invernizzi.
Tier 2 Intervention includes: Fountas and Pinnell Intervention Program skills inventories
- Reading folder (should include log of all independent reading choices, small group book selections, reading responses, self-assessments and reflections, and, possibly, informal assessment data)
- Writing folder (should include a table of contents, all drafts, assessment instruments such as rubrics and writing prompts, self-assessments and reflections)
- Parent-student-teacher conferences that focus on collections of student work (portfolios, reading/writing folders, etc.) and progress over time relative to standards
Links to more web sites with information on RtI and Tiered Instruction
Considerations for Aides and Co-Taught Classrooms Edit
An e-mail exchange with the authors of a study on paraprofessionals is here:
This exchange includes lots of good info and advice on how to decide between co-taught classes and aides. It also includes links to additional research:
See page 9 of this last article for an important reference on how to use this research
Some comments on how to use aides from a professor of SPED at UVM below
From my personal experience I consider some of the ways in which a paraeducator was most useful to be:
1 - to model effective interactions for the other students--for example, since Andreas had little respect for personal space of others, and would try to hug, the students were taught to counter his enthusiastic approach by offering a high-five;
2 - to assist with personal care;
3 - to assist with desensitization--for example, helping him accept toothbrushing, overcoming his tactile defensiveness;
4 - to transport him for jobs in the community and serve as job coach;
5 - to assist the school nurse in the case of seizures;
6 - to assure safety in situations where his impulsiveness could create danger (like bolting into the street);
7 - to carry out sensory integration procedures (like brushing);
8 - to assist the teachers in creating accommodations (like finding and bringing in a full-size skeleton poster for identifying bones, or enlarging graph paper so that he could be accurate in placing data points);
9 - to support his use of communication devices (programming, trouble-shooting);
10 - to serve as facilitator in facilitated communication (but should NOT be the sole facilitator, as communication can fall apart if that person leaves the job);
11 - to assist with transitions;
12 - to cue him on appropriate responses.
Co-taught classes Edit
- Compehensive overview of co-taught teaching models This includes some "short and sweet" reads and descriptions of different approaches.
- Abstract of Co-teaching in inclusive classrooms: A metasynthesis of qualitative research. Exceptional Children, 73(4), 392-416. By Scruggs, T.E., Mastropieri, M.A., & McDuffie, K.A. (2007)
How to raise concerns with co-taught classes Edit
A recent BSEA case says that moving a child to a co-taught classroom is not a new "placement".
See a description of Newton's co-taught classes here: http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/sites/default/files/cotaughtstudentservices.pdf
Parents who have a concern with Newton's co-taught classroom and do not want to send their child to a co-taught class can still reject an IEP. You need to do it based on something more than just the fact that its a co-taught class. Think carefully about what your concerns are and if NPS can address those concerns within the co-taught class.
These look like great programs and I hope they succeed. However, they wont be right for every child so the following is meant to help parents understand how best to preserve your options.
For example, if you have a 1:1 aide and you want to keep that level of attention for your child you can ask that they keep the 1:1 aide in the co-taught class. If you have concerns about your child being in a largely special education class you can make that case. Regardless, make sure to send a letter to the Team. Get an attorney or advocate if you can.
You should decide as early as possible if you will send your child to a co-taught class if it's adapted or you absolutely will not, regardless of changes.
Here are some suggestions for ways to follow up on co-taught classes and make the case that they should be adapted or are not right for your child:
- Get an independent evaluation (often paid for by insurance). Have that person meet with your child then visit the co-taught class. Ask them to document the needs of your child and what is not available in the co-taught class. They need to make specific recomendations for services.
- e.g needs a quiet space to learn to read like a Learning Center or needs more constant supervision (aka aide).
- Ask for the resumes and credentials of the teachers in the co-taught class. Get your own expert to state whether they have the skills or training to provide the services your child needs. In co-taught classes some services are provided by regular education (non-SPED) teachers. You can make the case that all services must be provided by trained and qualified special educators.
- Ask for the a list of the diagnoses of the other children in the class and ask for their IEPs. Get an expert to state whether or not it's a valid cohort (aka are the other children appropriate peers). You can make the case that your child needs a specialized and focused class (e.g. focused on social skills) while co-taught classes cover a range of diagnoses but do not address any specific one well.
Summer Camp Info Edit
Sample Home School Logs Edit
These are examples of logs parents and teachers/aides can use to share info between home and school. Typically an aide or other school person sends the log home every afternoon and the parents send it back in the morning. It's a good way to share info and stay in touch, but sometimes the child will read the log too so e-mail may work better for more delicate discussions.
Behavior and Autism Spectrum Information Edit
One of the BCBA's in Newton co-authored a book published by the Harvard Education Press:
There's also an article describing the main thesis here:
Info on ABA: Applied Behavioral Analysis is a method to change childrens behavior. It is most commonly used with children on the autism spectrum. The basic idea is the same as Pavlov's dog and the Skinner Box (AKA operant conditioning). Hopefully the focus is on motivating children with positive feedback more than negative feedback.
ABA is defined here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_behavior_analysis
ABA and the interventions associated with it (discrete trial training, floor time, etc.) are described here:
This paper includes an extensive list of ABA activities in a classroom. It also compares ABA to the only other major technique used for working with kids on the autism spectrum in school, TEACCH. It used to be free, but looks like they are charging for it now :-(. Definitely worth the cost if you need to know what happens in an ABA run classroom.
Glossary of Special Education Terms Used in Newton Edit
Please add to this section and write definitions.
- Inclusion - a SPED child being taught in a class of mostly or all NT (neurotypical) kids. The child may leave from time to time (e.g. for 1:1 english help) but otherwise they are in a regular class.
- Integrated classes - A class with some Special Needs kids and some NT kids.
- Inclusion Facilitator - An elementary school person who is responsible for helping special needs kids be included in regular classes. Typically one per elementary school. Maybe also one per middle and high school but I'm not sure.
- Team - The people who write and agree on an IEP. Includes parents or guardians. The team leader (sometimes an inclusion facilitator, sometimes a SPED administrator) and all team members from NPS make the final decision which the parents can accept or reject. In addition to a leader and parent, the team must include a regular education teacher.
- Aide - A person (also called a paraprofessional) who works with the child in addition to the teacher. Aides can be one to one (AKA one aide for one child) or one to many (one aide for several children). Even if the aide is noted as full time on the IEP, it only means 1:1 if it explicitly says One to one or 1:1.
- Behavior Therapist
- BCBA - Board certified behavior analysts. Typically associated with ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis). See elsewhere on the page for info on ABA.
- Out of district placement
- Cost share
- Co-taught classrooms
- Stabilization program
- Neighborhood Inclusion
- Learning Center
- 504 plan
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
- Integrated program
- Language development classes (REACH)
- Office of student services
- Early Childhood Program
- Ed Center
- Tiered intervention (commonly known as RTI or response to intervention)
Reports on SPED in Newton Edit
SPED Review by Outside Consulting Group Edit
NPS contracted with a group to do a study of special education. Their final report was posted in December, 2011:
Web site of group doing the a study of special education: http://districtandcommunitypartners.org/
Report on trends in Special Education Edit
The overall is essentially the same as the 2010 report. Specific Learning Disability is decreasing and Autism Specturm Disorders is increasing. The change in both is accelerating.
The following graph projects the data from the trends report in to the future. Based on the data from 2003 - 2009, the average rate of growth in each category is used to predict the numbers up to 2019.
See also comments on the 6/28/2010 meeting
Community Advisory Group Report on School Costs Edit
This detailed report includes a long section on Special Education.
They looked at:
- The efficacy and fiscal sustainability of the Neighborhood Inclusion model;
- The lack of agreed-upon metrics to measure outcomes of programs and services;
- The absence of a consistent and easily understandable summary of special education costs and revenues (presented in a way that allows easy analysis of growth trends, etc.);
- A lack of transparency about the special education programs and services provided within Newton Public Schools;
- A lack of public understanding about special education generally – what it is, the diversity of the special needs population and profiles, the legal mandates under which services are provided, and the individualized nature of each student’s educational plan.
And they identified three areas of cost growth:
- Transportation costs
- Out of district tuitions
- Contracted services
This section (bold emphasis added) discusses the idea of city wide classes. Despite the concerns raised in this report, this approach was adopted in the FY 11 budget and will be implemented this year (2010 - 2011). AFAIK, any analysis of integrated classrooms was not made public.
"In January 2008, the Newton Public Schools modeled the cost of creating substantially separate classrooms in each elementary school to determine if clustering children within their schools would reduce costs (by reducing the number of aides). The modeling showed that in 13 of the 14 elementary schools, clustering students into a substantially separate classroom would have been approximately $582,000 more expensive. The analysis did not model the costs of clustering the students across the City or by villages as this “would not only pose a further regression for any inclusive practice, but would add transportation costs.” (As noted above, special education transportation costs grew at a CAGR of 10% from 2004-2008.) Note, too, that space constraints may make the creation of substantially separate classrooms infeasible.
Substantially separate classrooms may also not be desirable or appropriate from an academic standpoint. Because each child’s needs are unique and can vary widely (even within a “common” or “like” disability), there may not be an appropriate grouping at a certain grade level to support substantially separate classrooms that would meet the students’ academic needs. The Newton Public Schools are working on modeling and documenting the viability of more integrated classrooms. The Citizen Advisory Group applauds this effort and encourages the Newton Public Schools to make its analysis available to the public."
State Reports on SPED in Newton Edit
- State 6 year review of Newton's special education programs:
This is an excellent guide to what the school system is supposed to do. It also lists where they are close but deficient.
Here is the response to the items cited as partially implemented:
- State's Three year mid-cycle review
Follow up on three year review
Student Services Reports Edit
Recent Student services reports are available here: http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee/documents/linked_resources
Summary of a few reports from 2011 is below.
November 2011 Fiscal and Operations Report Edit
The current status of key budget areas in Student Services is summarized in Appendix A. The projected annual deficit for Student Services is -$305,000, an improvement of $130,000 since last month. This month’s improvement is due to reductions in the forecasts for out-of-district tuition (-$109,000) salaries, primarily aides (-$31,000) and other expenses (-$2,000), offset by an increase in the forecast for Special Education transportation (+$12,000). This month, there were an unusually high number of out-ofdistrict placements exiting due to students who aged out or graduated. Additional placements have been added to the forecast to offset the savings trend this month. The forecast for Student Services aides allows for 6.0 additional FTE aides to be hired during the remainder of the school year.
The current projected annual Student Services deficit of -$305,000 is within three areas, the largest of which is contracted services (-$282,000). The projection for contracted services of $992,000 is consistent with the final FY11 spending of $1.04 million and is the same as last month. The two other unfavorable variances are in aides (-$133,000) and Special Education transportation (-$27,000). These negative variances are partially offset by positive variances to budget of $74,000 in out-of-district tuition and $62,000 in Special Education staff, not including aides. First quarter circuit breaker funds for FY12 were received this month and were used to credit out-of-district tuition as planned. The selection process for the position of Special Education Finance Director is in the final stage. It is expected that the new director will be in place by mid-November to begin the work of additional forecasting and analysis of all costs of Special Education.
October 2011 Fiscal and Operations Report
Student Services/Special Education
The current status of key budget areas in Student Services is summarized in Appendix A. The projected annual deficit for Student Services is -$435,000 after the use of additional funds in the amount of $950,000 as shown in the introduction. If not for the use of the additional funds, the Student Services shortfall would be $1.3 million. The forecast includes assessments of what is likely to occur during the school year, based on current students’ needs and what has happened in prior years. The largest variances remain in contracted services (-$282,000), aides (-$171,000), out-of-district tuition (-$36,000) and Special Education transportation (-$15,000). These negative variances are partially offset by a positive variance of $69,000 in Special Education staff, not including aides. The district will benefit from additional circuit breaker funds in FY12; the budgeted reimbursement rate of 46% improved substantially to 65%, plus a supplemental payment of $19,000. Most of this had been anticipated in the July budget addbacks. The remaining Circuit Breaker funds are applied to expected tuition costs for this year. The contract services budget shortfall of -$282,000 is due to a current year budgetary adjustment made after the full costs for FY11 were known late in the fiscal year. The projection for contracted services is consistent with the final FY11 spending of $1.04 million. A new state grant credit of $100,000 is assumed in the current forecast for Special Education professional development expenses. The addition of the unanticipated Medicaid reimbursement funds will serve to offset costs as well.
Newton has received additional school based Medicaid reimbursement due to changes in the Medicaid claim process for direct services to eligible students (those with Special Education IEP's) as well as for administrative claims. The direct cost component has a new payment methodology based on new requirements as of July 2009 (FY10). This new method resulted in a retroactive reimbursement for FY10 in the amount of $543,487. These funds went directly to city revenue and will be appropriated to the school district in the amount of $470,000. The city retained $73,487 as part of the expected Medicaid revenue for the past year. To access more information about the School Based Medicaid Program please use the following link:
The position of Special Education Finance Director has been posted and advertised and a selection process is underway. It is hoped that the new director will be in place in November to begin the additional forecasting and analysis of all costs of Special Education. The Newton Early Childhood Program currently serves 193 students, including 59 students with special needs enrolled in preschool classrooms, 74 students who are typically developing enrolled in preschool classrooms, and 60 students with special needs receiving related services only. Evaluation of preschool student needs is ongoing, with 45 children currently receiving evaluations. Central High School has begun the third full year of operation with 13 students enrolled as of September 30, 2011. One student who is no longer attending Central High School is being tutored by Central High School staff. The students continue to meet the established eligibility criteria; they returned from out-of-district placements or were prevented from being placed in a more restrictive environment because this level of service is available in the district.
Out of District Placements Graphs Edit
The charts below shows trends in out of district placements.
The fraction of "cost share" (placed under legal settlement with NPS) placements declined in 2012. The overall out of district placements also started to decline.
Board of Alderman Minutes on SPED Edit
March 2014 on Social and Emotional Learning Edit
The cover letter cites the article Making School a Calmer Place to Learn from The Harvard Education Letter Volume 30, Number 1 January/February 2014
See an excerpt here: http://hepg.org/hel/article/585#home and e-mail gregsmithpm at gmail dot com for a full copy.
The meeting also covered:
- curriculum and programming for all students through classroom instruction
- intervention for small groups of students based on identified needs
- intervention for individual students based on identified needs
- community partnerships
and progress monitoring, primarily via the Youth Risk Behavior Survey available here (See September 2013): http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee/majorreports
The PPT presented at the meeting is available here.
Video of the meeting is here.
In addition to the links below, the PPT references these professional development programs:
All Elementary teachers trained in Second Step
Elementary social works trained in: Zones of Regulation
Middle and High School Physical Education trained in Project Adventure
- Elementary: Grades K-‐2 Open Circle http://www.open-circle.org/ and https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/
- Elementary: Grades 3-‐5 Steps to Respect http://www.cfchildren.org/steps-to-respect.aspx
- Middle School: Grades 6 – 8 Second Step http://www.cfchildren.org/
- High School: Grades 9 - 12 Michigan Model for Health (Note: this one was not working and they plan to change) http://www.emc.cmich.edu/mm/
Often a guidance counselor or social worker will invite a few students to eat lunch in his or her office, an opportunity for informal socializing among students, and for the adult to facilitate interaction, provide social cues and time for reflection. Other groups may be formed in response to shared need, for example students whose parents are divorcing.
Elementary (ESP), Middle (MSP), and High (HSP), plus Springboard, are regular education 45 school-‐day programs, originally designed to be off-‐campus placements for students in crisis. They operate under the direction of the Office of Student Services.
On Elementary schools they said:
This year, ESP has “gone mobile”, supporting students in crisis by bringing the ESP staff to the home school. This model allows for intensive and targeted professional development in the students’ regular education classroom while working with the student in crisis. Student stability and success has improved significantly due to contact with the home school staff who can remain with the student throughout the intervention.
See the report for comments on Middle and High School.
"city departments and agencies with whom we collaborate to make additional services and supports available to students and their families".
Past minutes and summaries Edit
Link to School Committee meeting info: http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee/meetinginformation
Student services reports are available here: http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee/documents/linked_resources
Possible Public Records Requests Edit
History of special education in Newton Edit
The following was heard second or third hand. Not sure if it's true but it sounds plausible.
In the 1990s parents were concerned that their children were being isolated in programs within Newton and out of district. A SPED director was hired from Brookline who was committed to inclusion. Newton became really good at inclusion. A new SPED director (Mozelle Berkowitz) was hired possibly in early 2000s who continued that trend but the pendulum started to swing the other way. Parents who had problems with the district couldn't get their children out. A new SPED director (Judy Levin-Charns, current director as of this writing) was hired in 2007-2008 from Sharon. The challenge of parents not being able to get their children out of district placements grew.
Anyone with more history, please add it here...
I think Mozelle did a good job. Eileen Sullivan who ran early childhood was incredible. But we moved in 2004.
See also the Board of Aldermen section for some history from 2006 - 2012.