Monday, April 30, 2012

Retaking a Class? Make Changes!

It is an assumption, but I believe most students really don't like to retake a class. Taking a class and failing can have a very negative impact on a student's self-esteem and attitude toward school. I will also step out on a limb and say that nearly all students who fail a class do so because of bad habits, such as disorganization, apathy toward school or the class specifically, and simply not turning in work. Whatever the reason a class was failed and is on your schedule again, you have to make some changes if the same outcome is not to be repeated. Learn from the mistakes you made the first time.  If you are in this unfortunate circumstance, begin to plan now for a successful completion when you return to school.

1.      Commit to a new start. There is no use berating yourself or blaming anyone else for failing a class. Use this experience to learn some better habits and improve yourself.
2.     Be better organized. Use a specific folder and a planner to keep track of the assignments for this class. When you complete and hand in an assignment, put a check mark or some symbol next to it so you can see your progress and know you handed in the required work.
3.      Chances are you still have some materials from the class. Use old tests and quizzes as review material. Be sure to do the required reading again, but you will no doubt find you can move through the material faster as it will be familiar to you. While you may not remember all the detail of the important concepts from the first time, you will remember reading about them. Use your prior knowledge to help you through the material.
4.     Talk to your teacher frequently. You need to let him/her know you are concerned about your progress. Whether the teacher is the same, you are repeating the class and the teacher will, most likely, know. A positive attitude and genuine concern for your academic progress will make quite a difference in your experience.

5.     Try to use other sources to help bring the materials to a level of understanding for you, if you are struggling with concepts. I recently had to help tutor a biology student in genetics, and I was having trouble understanding the concepts by reading the textbook. I google searched "genetics for dummies" and "simple genetics" and was greeted by a large amount of material. I was much better prepared to help tutor the student after I spent some time doing a little research.

 6.     Complete all assignments. Each one is worth points, and all assignments are important. Many students who do poorly in class do so because they failed to hand in the assignments that were worth 5-10 points. These assignments add up in a hurry, and it is difficult to dig out of this hole once in it.
Failing a class is not the worst thing that will ever happen to you. Getting stuck in the negativity and allowing the experienceto leave a permanent scar is not acceptable. Learn and grow from your experience. Know this, however...if you don't change some habits that you know caused problems for you the first time, failing again is probable.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Post Secondary Enrollment Act...What are the basics?

The public school districts in Iowa are required to have information available to students and parents on the Post Secondary Enrollment Options Act.  This is an opportunity that is taken advantage of each school year by over 6,000 students in our state.  Information can be located at the Iowa Department website  Using the A-Z Index link, click on the letter “S” and then find the subject heading “Senior Year Plus.”  That link will take you to information on PSEO.  The school district guidance office will also have information.  Basic foundational information is provided in this article.

What is the purpose of the PSEO Act?  Promote rigorous academic pursuits and to provide a wider variety of options to high school students.

When was the PSEO Act first established? 1987

Who is eligible for taking PSEO classes?  The program allows all 11th and 12th grade students as well as 9th and 10th grade students, identified as gifted and talented by the local district, to enroll in college courses.

Who pays for PSEO classes?  The school district pays the eligible postsecondary institution for the cost of the course (tuition and books) OR $250, whichever amount is lower.  The only cost to the student may be a possible equipment purchase (such as a calculator for a math class).

When would the student be responsible for paying for the PSEO course?  Only if the student fails to complete the course and is not eligible for a waiver OR if the student chooses to take a class during the summer term would the student or the parent be required to pay for a PSEO course.

What courses are eligible PSEO courses?  If a comparable course is NOT offered at the respective school district a student may enroll in it.  Courses offered at a PSEO institution or via ICN or distance learning are eligible courses.  Courses in all disciplines and vocational/technical courses are eligible.

How does a PSEO course impact the high school grade/credit? Successful completion of the course generates high school credit and applies toward district subject area and graduation requirements. Usually PSEO courses do not impact high school GPA but are recorded as Pass/Fail on a student’s report card to reflect a credit earned or not earned.

Are home-school students eligible?  Yes, providing the student is dual enrolled and the resident district does not offer a comparable course.

Can post secondary institutions place restrictions on courses high school students take under the PSEO Act?  Yes, in short, there may be standards required, such as prerequisite courses or evaluation procedures to determine competency.

What paperwork is required to participate in PSEO?  The school district has a process in place for a respective semester that a student wishes to take a PSEO class.  Usually a form of “intent” is required as is an application to the post secondary institution. There is typically a “window” of time to notify the district of the intent to participate in PSEO in a respective semester.

Is the high school district required to provide transportation to a PSEO class?  No.  

What are some major benefits experienced by taking a PSEO class in high school?  A few of the major benefits include earning college credits, exploring possible courses of career interest, getting a “leg up” on general education college credits, beginning the transition to college and getting used to different expectations, saving several hundred dollars on college credits because the school pays the bill, earning additional high school credits, a wider variety of course options while in high school, and the risk factor to your high school transcript is low (typically only impacts GPA if the course of failed).

16 Iowa Department of Education

Senior Year Plus uid Page 17

Myth vs. Reality

A recent teleconference titled Special Education: 30 Myths in 30 Minutes, facilitated by Thomas Mayes, legal consultant at the Iowa Department of Education, was designed to lay foundational information for serving children with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan.  Both an IEP and a 504 plan are written legal documents that serve to “level the playing field” so to speak for children in the public school system so they have the same opportunities to succeed as students without special needs. Rather than go into detail of all 30 myths, I have highlighted a few of the most common. 

Myth 1: In an IEP meeting, the goal of the IEP team is to reach consensus regarding decisions made for the special needs child.  Reality: The goal of the IEP team is to WRITE an IEP.  The IEP must be drafted in accordance with IDEA’s procedural requirements.  Decisions are made in accordance with what is best for the educational needs of the child.  Decisions that are not in agreement can be challenged through mediation or due process.

Myth 2: Para educators can be used to provide instruction.  Reality: Teachers teach.  Para educators help teachers or other licensed professionals.  Para educators do NOT teach.  This includes the use of a Para educator in a collaborative teaching situation.

Myth 3: A free and appropriate public education (FAPE) stops at 3:30 PM.  Reality: A free and appropriate public education may include extra and co- curricular activities.  The law is clear that the child with special needs must have an equal opportunity for participation in such activities.  This includes field trips, end of the year trips, and any sports.  The law does not guarantee playing time or a starting position; just an equal opportunity to participate.

Myth 4: Special education is really for ALL children who need a little extra help with their learning.  Reality: Special education is for children who need help with learning because they have a disability, not solely for other reasons.  If Sarah does not have an identified disability but she wants to take her test in the resource room where it is quiet, this is not acceptable.  Sarah can be given other options of testing places.  

Myth 5: Response to Intervention (RTI) is special education.  Reality: RTI is effective education that is NOT limited to special education and should not be used as a replacement or delay of services or testing.

Myth 6: No student with an IEP can earn any grade higher than a C+ because that would not be fair to the other students.  Reality: The law stipulates that accommodations be made for a child with a disability.  Such accommodations are likely to help provide support for that student so that he/she can show their knowledge/learning of the subject area content in a different way.  A blanket rule on grading kids with IEPs or 504 plans is intentional disability discrimination.  If modified grading is suggested, support by the AEA or other advocacy organization should be given to help ensure such discrimination does not occur.

Myth 7: The school can refuse to pay for something that will help level the playing field for my child because it is too expensive.  Reality: Regardless of the expense, if the purchase would be necessary to meet the requirements of FAPE, the district must provide the tool.  If the item is NOT necessary for FAPE, the district is not bound to purchase the tool.  The district can consider cost options and select the less expensive option as long as FAPE is met.

Myth 8:  My child has a weighting of Level 3.  Therefore, my child must go to Level 3 math, Level 3 Reading, and Level 3 science classes in the Level 3 classroom.  Reality:  The Level system is strictly a finance mechanism.  The levels are determined by a child’s needs, but the levels do NOT determine a child’s programming or placement.  Basing a child’s programming or placement on a “Level” or “Weighting” is illegal.

Thomas Mayes cited authorities for each myth he discussed.  The various authorities he referenced included the Iowa Administrative Code sections, the US Constitution, and the United States Code.  Mr. Mayes is always inviting of questions and can be reached at the Iowa Department of Education at 515-242-5614 or by e-mail at