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Special education

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A state investigation into Norwalk's special education program has found that the district has not been following federal law, but the findings reflect deeper problems that the district has faced for years.

The complaint that sparked the investigation was filed on behalf of 14 Norwalk students, but Jill Chuckas, a special education advocate who filed the complaint along with two lawyers, said the problems impact all kids with disabilities in the district.

Sam Goldenberg

A series of pictures depicting the Ten Commandments is on display at Yale Divinity School. The works were drawn by Bruce Gillespie, a celebrated artist with Down syndrome.

For  Gillespie, making art is practically a necessity. For most of his life -- he's in his 60's now -- any spare moment has been spent with his trusty felt-tip markers and sketch pad.

Retired special education teacher Sam Goldenberg has mentored Gillespie for years. He first met the artist when Gillespie was in his early twenties.

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A recent state investigation found significant problems with a special education program in Torrington run by EdAdvance, one of six regional educational service centers, or RESCs, in the state. RESCs are publicly-funded schools that offer a variety of programs, including specialized services for students with disabilities who can’t be taught at their home schools.

But a former social worker at EdAdvance’s Torrington location said the school was rife with problems, and a state investigation agreed.

A Special Ed Lawyer Who's Walked In His Clients' Shoes

Feb 25, 2019
David DesRoches / Connecticut Public Radio

When he was young, Michael Gilberg knew how to make a point.

"My mother always said when I was 8, I would make a good attorney because I was good at arguing,"  he said.

Connecticut teachers are among the most prepared in the country to teach children how to read, according to a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Reading is considered the foundation of all other learning, so it stands to reason that teaching children how to read is also a big deal.

David DesRoches / WNPR

New guidelines have been developed by Connecticut's education department that describe the process parents should use for their children to be evaluated for special education services. But concerns are being raised that the new guidelines would make it harder for parents, not easier, than under previous guidance. 

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

The system that oversees private special education schools in Connecticut needs an overhaul, according to a recent state audit. About 3,000 students with severe needs are currently placed in these schools, mostly at the expense of public school districts.

Katie Hanley, head of Oak Hill's Center for Relationship & Sexuality Education, teaches students about the different types of relationships.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The title for today’s lesson is written on the whiteboard of this Hartford classroom: #Relationships.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Ten months after the tragic death of Hartford teenager Matthew Tirado -- a look at what’s being done to safeguard the lives of children with disabilities.

Coming up, we hear about a recent Office of the Child Advocate investigation into the case of 17-year-old Tirado.

The report recommends improvements that apply to school districts statewide. 

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The state's budget crisis is hitting Connecticut schools hard, and special education programs might also be feeling the pain, even though these services are protected by federal law.

David DesRoches/WNPR

It's known at the "summer slide" in education circles. It's what happens during summer break when students forget what they learned during the school year. But for students on the autism spectrum, the summer slide can also mean losing hard-won social skills, and that can make it especially difficult once school starts again.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Here's how journalist Gabrielle Emanuel described having dyslexia.

"I've come, very recently, to kind of think about it as a tongue twister, but for the brain," Emanuel said on WNPR's Where We Live. 

Pool Photo / Stephanie Aaronson / Wall Street Journal

Special education professionals and parents gathered at the University of Connecticut's School of Law on Friday, to talk about changes that may follow a landmark court case decided last September. One of those changes has to do with perceptions of children with severe disabilities.

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In 2015, taxpayers spent over $230 million on private special education providers. But a state audit of six schools found that one of them wasn’t providing some of the services it was paid to provide.

US Department of Education / Creative Commons


The selection of billionaire Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Department of Education has ignited a debate over her lack of experience, and whether it could be good or bad. 

Zeroing in on Zero Tolerance

Sep 22, 2016
Victor Björkund / Creative Commons

Zero tolerance policies send a strong message to students but at what cost?

This hour, we examine how over time, these policies have led to suspensions and expulsions for minor issues -- and can have drastic effects on a student’s future.

Pool Photo / Stephanie Aaronson / Wall Street Journal

Many issues have come out of last week's decision in a landmark school funding lawsuit, including how the state pays for special education.

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A Superior Court Judge ruled last week that Connecticut’s system for funding public schools is ‘irrational’ and ‘unjustifiable’ — failing to provide a fair distribution of funds for Connecticut’s students. The judge allowed the state 180 days to come up with a plan to overhaul its system.

This hour, we talk more about the ruling and find out what, if anything, can be done to improve the way our schools are funded. 

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It's hard to think about language as being endangered or replaceable. But as our culture and means of communication evolve, certain languages find their utility in decline. 

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A transcript of this show is available here.

It's hard to think about language as being endangered or replaceable. But as our culture and means of communication evolve, certain languages find their utility in decline. Braille and sign language are in just such a predicament.

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Connecticut is one of only four states in the country that requires local school districts to pay for the bulk of special education costs, according to a new study that examines how states pay for this federally mandated program.

Shan Ran / Creative Commons

Avon has decided to replace its school social workers with school psychologists. According to the district, school psychologists will better meet students' needs.

Office of Dannel Malloy

The state’s new education commissioner said that about half of all Connecticut school districts have been trained to handle behavior problems in a new way.

Jeff Millsteen / Flickr Creative Commons

Detentions, suspensions, and expulsions: these are the time-honored  and well-worn enforcements of many a scorned teacher. Even student arrests are not uncommon in some troubled school districts. The practice of addressing bad behavior in the classroom with an even worse punishment has long been the norm.

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The Renzulli School for the Gifted has been touted as a success story in Hartford, but now the city is moving the school to another location.

Three school communities are being affected by Renzulli’s move to the Rawson School, yet no parents were involved in this decision, and neither were the School Governance Councils nor the Board of Education. 

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Should all kids, regardless of their individual abilities, be taught in the same classroom?

It's a controversial topic, and the laws around it are a little contradictory. For example, federal law requires disabled students to be taught in what's called the "least restrictive environment." In Connecticut, this is defined by time spent with non-disabled peers. But, for some kids, being around non-disabled peers could actually be considered restrictive.

Vancouver Film School / Creative Commons

Should all Connecticut teachers get more special education training? 

The idea has been put on the table by a group of educators, lawmakers and other professionals, with a goal to help teachers identify students with disabilities earlier, so that they don't fall behind in class or develop behavior problems.

Restraint and Seclusion, Legal in Public Schools

Jul 29, 2014
State of Connecticut Board of Education

A recent report by investigative news organization ProPublica exposes a controversial but legal practice in public schools. Students, often those with disabilities, can be restrained and secluded against their will. Nationwide, there are 20 known cases of death because of restraint or seclusion in the past two decades, with injuries far more common.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Restraint and seclusion is a legal, albeit controversial, practice in our nation's public schools. Students -- often those with disabilities -- can be restrained and secluded against their will. This can result, and has resulted on many occasions, in injury to the student. Nationwide, there are 20 known cases of death because of restraint or seclusion in the past two decades.

The Prodigy Paradox

Jul 17, 2014
Baby Einstein / Creative Commons

In a society which rewards brains over brawn, who better than a prodigy to place your bets on? The answer may surprise you.  

Bobby Fischer was terrible at everything  except chess. His entire life was punctuated by extreme paranoia, bouts of seclusion, and cascading, erratic behavior. Ted Kaczynski, a child math and science prodigy… I don’t have to tell you how that one worked out.  

Thomas Chatterton was writing publishable poetry by the age of 12, and in the immediately ensuing years, wrote work that left its mark on the literature and influenced the  romantic movement. He took his own life with arsenic three months shy of 18. 

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