Down-Alzheimer’s link

In “New Clues to Down Syndrome-Alzheimer’s Link,” Greg Miller of ScienceNOW Daily News reports about progress made in understanding the how one of the extra genes present among people with Down Syndrome may be involved in the development of plaque and other signs of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease, a dreaded specter for many elderly, is far more likely to strike individuals with Down syndrome. Now, a study with a mouse model of Down syndrome may explain why. The work hints at potential targets for future drugs that fend off dementia–in people with Down syndrome and in the general population too.

Link to Mr. Miller’s story.

Scholarship opportunity

Scholarship Program for College Students with Disabilities

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars is pleased to announce it will continue to help increase employment for students with disabilities through an academic internship program. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, The Washington Center is working to help students develop leadership skills and gain valuable work experience in public service. The Washington Center will complement students’ professional experience with solid academic training for credit from highly qualified instructors. In addition, students will be exposed to community, national and international leaders through workshops, seminars, lectures, embassy visits and networking events held throughout the course of each semester. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) will offer technical guidance and support to the program.

The Washington Center is able to provide a total of 50 competitive scholarship awards in the amount of $8,500 for each eligible student with disabilities interested in working in the executive, judicial or legislative branches of the federal government during the fall 2006 and spring 2007 semesters (scholarships are not available in the summer).


Applicants Must:
* Be enrolled full-time in an accredited college or university
* Be at least a second semester sophomore at the time of the internship
* Have at least a 2.75 GPA
* Show proof that they will receive academic credit for the internship
* Be a U.S. Citizen
* Self-identify as a person with a disability as defined by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA defines a person with a disability as:
– a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, OR
– a person that has a record of such impairment, OR
– a person that is regarded as having such impairment

Application Materials Include:
* Official transcript
* Two letters of recommendation
* A letter from your campus disability services office, a vocational rehabilitation office OR a physician treating you for your disability confirming the fact that you have a disability.
* Resume
* Two writing samples
* Completed application form
* Campus sponsorship agreement (students must receive academic credit for the experience)
* Application fee of $60.00

Applications are available at: Please contact The Washington Center if you require the application in an alternate format. The application for the scholarship is the same as the regular application.

Spring 2007 Internship Program
* Application due date: November 15, 2006
* Spring semester begins: January 18, 2007
* Spring semester ends: May 5, 2007

All students will be placed in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of government.

Sample placements include:
* U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
* U.S. Department of Homeland Security
* U.S. Department of Treasury
* U.S. Department of Labor
* U.S. Department of Agriculture
* U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
* General Services Administration
* Office of Personal Management
* U.S. Department of Defense
* U.S. Department of Commerce
* U.S. Department of Justice
* U.S. Department of Education
* Small Business Administration
* Congressional Members Offices (House & Senate)


The total scholarship award is $8,500 that would go toward covering TWC’s total program and housing fees. This money can be combined with state scholarship awards available through The Washington Center, which range from $1,800 to $4,000 per student. Eligible students would be able to combine these awards and have a remaining amount to cover additional living expenses. Please visit for more information.


The Washington Center will work with the government agencies hosting the interns to ensure reasonable accommodations are provided to students who may need them to successfully complete their job duties.

Student Housing
The Washington Center provides all students accessible housing during their participation in the program in Washington, D.C. The Washington Center will work with students on a case-by-case basis to ensure accommodations are met. Our housing facilities offer shared facilities in apartment buildings in Northern Virginia and Maryland. They are located in well-lit, high traffic areas that provide secure and comfortable surroundings. The apartments are fully furnished, and provide local telephone and basic cable service, 24-hour front desk, and laundry facilities.

Academic Training
The Washington Center will work closely with students with disabilities to assess and provide accommodations (physical and programmatic) for students to complete the academic requirements of the program.

Local Transportation
The Washington Center housing facilities are within close proximity to the subway system. The Washington Center will work with each student on a case-by-case basis to provide an orientation to and information on how to utilize public transportation to arrive at their place of employment and all Washington Center functions in a timely manner. The Washington Center will provide mobility training when and if necessary. In addition, The Washington Center will conduct an orientation to answer questions about transportation, general accessibility issues, accommodations and internship sites.

* Participation in the Washington Forum (Presidential Lecture Series, Congressional Breakfast Series, Embassy Visit Program, Small Group Activities)
* Enrollment in an academic course provided by The Washington Center (there are over 20 courses to select from)
* Completion of a portfolio that documents student’s internship experience and reactions to the Washington Forum sessions
* Approval to receive academic credit for the program from student’s home institution

For more information contact:
* Ms. Roshni D. Lal, The Washington Center for Internships & Academic Seminars.
* Phone: 202-336-7567, or email: roshniL /at/
* You can also visit us on the web at

Jay Matthews factor

A column by Jay Matthews, who is an education reporter for the Washington Post, has drawn attention, at least in part because it challenges the newly popular and (borrowing terminology from a colleague or Mr. Matthews, here) conventional wisdom that boys are in crisis.

Mr. Matthews went beyond the overblown reporting on this topic and dug into an extensive analysis by Sara Mead of Education Sector. Education Sector is an non-profit, non-partisan think tank examining issues in education, about which I shall write more in another post. For now, I address some of the content Mr. Matthews draws from Ms. Mead’s report called “The Truth About Boys and Girls.”

Although Mr. Matthews’ column and the report on which he bases it contain many other concerns, one part of the report that Mr. Matthews quotes refers to the preponderance of boys with “” (LD, a term which Mr. Matthews—he is not alone in this error—mistakenly equates with general special educational needs). In his quote, he omits a phrase from the original that I have indicated with underlining:

In addition to disadvantaged and minority boys, there are also reasons to be concerned about the substantial percentage of boys who have been diagnosed with disabilities. Boys make up two-thirds of students in special education—including 80 percent of those diagnosed with emotional disturbances or autism—and boys are two and a half times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The number of boys diagnosed with disabilities or ADHD has exploded in the past 30 years, presenting a challenge for schools and causing concern for parents. But the reasons for this growth are complicated, a mix of educational, social, and biological factors. Evidence suggests that school and family factors—such as poor reading instruction, increased awareness of and testing for disabilities, or over-diagnosis—may play a role in the increased rates of boys diagnosed with learning disabilities or emotional disturbance. But boys also have a higher incidence of organic disabilities, such as autism and orthopedic impairments, for which scientists don’t currently have a completely satisfactory explanation. Further, while girls are less likely than boys to be diagnosed with most disabilities, the number of girls with disabilities has also grown rapidly in recent decades, meaning that this is not just a boy issue.

Although Mr. Matthews makes no more of the disability issue in his column, he recounts the overarching argument of the report, which is that the “boy crises” is overblown. It may be. That there are more boys in special education than one would expect based on population statistics is hard to dispute. And, as Mr. Matthews notes, the report cites alternative reasons for the discrepancy. What Mr. Matthews’ column omits is a later section in which the report calls for further funding of research about gender differences among students with disabilities. Here is that later call for support of studies of disabilities:

Finally, policymakers should support and fund more research about differences in boys’ and girls’ achievement, brain development, and the culture of schools to help teachers and parents better understand why boys’ achievement is not rising as fast as that of girls. Such research should include studies that use proper methodological and analytic tools to look into the cause of gender achievement gaps, as well as experimental evaluations of different approaches that seek to close them. To support research, policymakers should make sure that data systems are collecting quality information about boys’ and girls’ school experiences and academic achievement and men’s and women’s educational attainment and workforce outcomes. In addition, policymakers should fund research on some of the specific problems—learning disabilities, autism, and disciplinary or emotional problems—that disproportionately affect boys. [Emphasis added by JohnL]

This is a critical concern for special education professionals. I hope that Mr. Matthews’ discussion of this report will draw attention to the argument favoring funding of research. To be sure, we need to obtain full-funding (even if that only means 40% of the excess costs of providing special education services, a level that the US Congress has not seen fit to provide in the 30 years since it pledged to provide such funding). We also need focused funding for research about the features of disability that might be amenable to change.

Given adequate special educational services, many students with disabilities (including those with Learning Disabilities, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Mental Retardation, and even Austism) can, acquire skills and knowledge that will permit them to be contributing members of our society. To the extent that they acquire those skills and therefore contribute to the fabric of society and the tax roles, their competence is a double win for us. The more individuals with disabilities can contribute to society in their adult years, the fewer dollars they will require from society for support during those same years.

As a society, we need an investement in these individuals. It’s not just the humane thing to do, it’s the smart thing.

John Wills Lloyd, Ph.D.
University of Virginia

Exclusion forewarning

Somebody should have some ‘splainin’ to do here.

Scores of the new, small high schools are shutting out special education students – a controversial practice federal authorities are now examining.

The boutique schools, highly touted by Mayor Bloomberg, are not required to enroll special education students during the school’s first two years. And few are equipped for teens with wheelchairs, severely limiting the students’ enrollment choices.

Ashley Anderson, an eighth-grader with cerebral palsy, said she was stunned when she flipped through the city’s high school directory last fall and discovered that page after page blared “no accessibility” for wheelchairs.

“It was like waking up on Christmas morning and there weren’t any toys,” the 14-year-old said.

According to this story entitled “Special Ed pupils in limbo” by Kathleen Lucadamo of the New York (NY, US) Daily News, students with disabilities are being excluded from special small high schools in the city. Putatively, the exclusion rule allows these not-so-special schools to ramp up to providing services; basically, it’s to save money.

Also, consider this behavior by these schools the next time you hear someone advocate for charter schools. As Liz Ditz has noted repeatedly, there’s a lot of problems with charters (see this list of her posts).

Link to Ms. Lucadamo’s story.

Personnel prep money losses

Federal support for preparation of personnel to provide special education and related services to students with disabilities was initiated in 1958, when P.L. 85-926 authorized use of discretionary funds for preparing personnel to provide leadership in mental retardation. From that time forward, the federal government has attempted to play a catalytic role in assisting colleges, universities, states, and local education agencies to develop an infrastructure for personnel development in special education. These efforts have focused on ensuring a sufficient quantity of special education and related services personnel; increasing the quality of personnel preparation; and enhancing the capacity of states and institutions of higher education (IHEs) to prepare personnel for special education and related services (Campeau, Appleby, & Stoddart, 1987).

Using information from the sources cited below, I traced the actual and inflation-adjusted appropriations for personnel preparation from 1970 through 2005. (The 1977 appropriation could not be located.) I used NASA’s inflation calculator to calculate the impact of inflation used in both analyses.

Cost-versus AppropriationsAs shown in the accompanying charts, the actual appropriation for personnel preparation increased over the past two-and-a-half decades. However, when adjusted for inflation, the costs of goods and services has increased over time, and the purchasing power of the appropriations has decreased. To compute the inflation-adjusted costs of goods and services for each year, I used 1970 as the index year and entered the actual appropriation for each comparison year into the inflation calculator. Chart 1 shows that, when adjusted for inflation, the increase in costs of goods and services far outpaces the growth in actual appropriations.

Appropriations versus purchasing powerConversely, Chart 2 shows the actual appropriations per year and the decreasing purchasing power of that year’s appropriation (with inflation), in comparison to 1970. To compute the inflation-adjusted purchasing power, each year after 1970 was treated as the index year, and the purchasing power of the appropriation for the index year was compared to the purchasing power of the 1970 appropriation. This analysis simply shows the flip-side of the first one, but either way one considers it, the costs of preparing students for careers in special education has risen faster than the funding of programs to prepare them for those careers.


Source of information regarding appropriations for personnel preparation for the years 1970 – 1974: Burke, P. J., & Saettler, H. (1976). The Division of Personnel Preparation: How funding priorities are established and a personal assessment of the impact of P.L. 94-142. Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded, 11(4), 361-365.

Source of information regarding appropriations for personnel preparation for the years 1974 – 1985: Campeau, P. L., Appleby, J. A., & Stoddart, S. C. (1987). Evaluation of discretionary programs under the Education of the Handicapped Act: Personnel Preparation Program. Final goal evaluation report and technical appendices (Contract No. 300-85-0143). Palo Alto, CA: American Institutes for Research.

Source of information regarding appropriations for personnel preparation for the years 1990-2004: Directories of Grants and Contracts funded by OSEP, National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) and ERIC/OSEP.

Sources for information regarding appropriations for the years 1986-1990: USDE- OSERS, Program Funded Activities.

Source of information regarding appropriations for personnel preparation for the years 2000 through 2004:

Source of information and Consumer Price Index calculator used to show relative purchasing power and relationship of actual appropriations to appropriations adjusted for inflation for the years 1970 – 2004:

Jeannie Kleinhammer-Tramill, Ph.D.
Department of Special Education
University of South Florida

New NASDSE resources

Project Forum, a federally funded effort by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, has announced the publication of two new documents. Here are the descriptions from Project Forum with links to the PDFs of the documents.

National Longitudinal Transition Study-2: A Synthesis of Three NLTS2 Reports on Going to School, Youth Achievements and Services and Supports

This In-Brief Policy Analysis synthesizes three reports from the NLTS2. It describes students with disabilities’ school and classroom contexts, patterns of course taking, characteristics of classroom instruction; highlights student outcomes related to school programs and experiences and parent expectations; and discusses the importance and challenges of providing services and supports for youth with disabilities. A discussion of policy implications and next steps for future analyses of NLTS2 is given.

Standards-Based IEPs: Implementation in Selected States

This In-Depth Policy Analysis builds on previous Project Forum work, defines “standards-based IEPs and describes implementation in 18 states. The data collected confirmed the existence of significant policy changes in states and extensive investments in professional development. This document is an analysis of the most recent developments in some states that are implementing standards-based IEPs. It is written to further the recognition of this evolving movement and to stimulate additional sharing and conversation among states.

NYC special education

WNYC’s Beth Fertig, familiar to listeners to National Public Radio news shows, has had a series of stories about special education in New York City (NY, US). The first two were about graduation and the third was about ethnicity. I’ve written entries about the first and third stories on sibling blogs.

DC costs

The Washington (DC, US) local education agency (LEA) spent $118 million in 2005 on tuition for out-of-district placements for students with disabilities, according to an article by Dan Keating and V. Dion Haynes of the Washington Post. Furthermore, the LEA has underestimated tuition cost repeatedly, transferred funds from other budget lines to cover the costs, does not have a trustworthy records system about students in special education, and does not maintain contracts with private providers of special education services.

D.C. school officials have promised repeatedly over the past decade to improve and expand public school programs for disabled students, which would cut the number of children placed in the expensive private facilities. But many administrators and teachers throughout the system say they fear that the spending trends are becoming self-perpetuating: As the tuition payments grow, there is less and less money to hire the teachers, therapists, social workers and other specialists needed to make the public programs more acceptable to parents and hearing officers hired by the school system.

That pattern has created some glaring inefficiencies in spending. At Lafayette Elementary School in Northwest Washington, for example, Principal Gail Lynn Main said 12 to 15 students have been sent to private academies over the past three years since she lost one of her two special education teachers during systemwide budget cuts and could no longer meet the students’ needs. Based on the average tuition bill, the school system could have avoided spending $600,000 to $750,000 a year if it had given her the $42,000 she needed to hire the extra teacher.

The coverage by Mr. Keating and Mr. Haynes is extensive (~2800 words) but well worth reading. Link to the article. Also, note that the Post provides connections to blogs that have commented on the story; some of those are quite intriguing:

  • EduWonk: “WaPo’s Keating and Haynes turn in one of the paper’s periodic exposés on the scandal that passes for special education in Washington, D.C. More data on the kinds of students served, rather than just their cursory demographic overview buried toward the end of the story would be helpful but the article does a great job making clear the contours and severity of the problem….”
  • DCEduBlog: “Dan Keating and V. Dion Haynes of the Washington Post have a great, in-depth look at how DCPS manages (or, more truthfully, doesn’t manage) its special education program. From it, you will get a good sense of just exactly why the District’s school system is so dysfuntional.”
  • Cato-at-Liberty: “School choice opponents love to declare that ‘unlike private schools, public schools have to teach everyone.’ Well it turns out that that’s not really true. As Dan Keating and V. Dion Haynes expose in today’s Washington Post, when kids’ disabilities get too tough, the D.C. Public Schools turn to private institutions, where disabled students can finally get the specialized attention they need.”
  • ToThePeople: “The US mandate to fund “appropriate” education for disabled students ironically has the impact of leaving the majority of students in classrooms that can’t afford chalk and erasers.”
  • WhyIHateDC: “The Washington Post had a front-page, above the fold story on DC’s out-of-control spending on special education. (Fucking ‘tards. Give ’em an inch and they take a mile!)”

Racial disparities

The Education Department of the state of New Jersey (US) found that the Lakewood local education agency (LEA) discriminated against African-American and Hispanic-American students its preschool special education program, according to stories by Richard Quinn in the and Angela Delli Santi in Newsday. Unlike much of the discussion regarding discrimination in special education, where the issue is African-American and Hispanic-American children being mistakenly identified as having disabilities, this story is about those students not getting equal treatment.

Here is a snippet from Ms. Santi’s story:

In a 31-page report issued last week but publicized by the ACLU Wednesday, Education Department officials cited examples of students with similar disabilities, but different treatment plans. Besides giving preferential treatment to whites for out-of-district services, disabled white preschoolers also were more likely to be offered full-day, rather than half-day, special education classes, the report found.

Link to Ms. Santi’s story and a link to Mr. Quinn’s more extensive coverage.


This just in from NASDE–JohnL

Dear Colleague:

The following new Project Forum document was recently prepared under Federal Cooperative Agreement H326F000001:

HOUSSE: State Approaches to Supporting Special Educators to Become “Highly Qualified”

This In-brief Policy Analysis provides an overview of how states are utilizing the option of a High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE) to assist veteran teachers, particularly those teaching students with disabilities, to meet the “highly qualified” provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) while continuing to teach in their current placements.

This document is available for download by clicking the “Publications” button at NASDSE’s new web page: Search for the specific document by typing in the above title. Many other documents can be downloaded by following the same procedure. Additional copies are available from NASDSE; however, there are no restrictions on copying because this document was produced with federal funds.

Please feel free to include the above short summary in any pertinent organization’s newsletter.

If you have difficulty with the document links, please contact me and I will be happy to mail a hard copy to whatever address you provide.

Paula J. Burdette, Ph.D.
Project Forum
1800 Diagonal Rd Suite 320
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 519-3800 x335
fax (703)519-3808

Doctoral programs

Today I learned that the US National Research Council will repeat its previous studies about the quality of doctoral programs.

The National Research Council has launched its latest project to assess U.S. research doctorate programs. Like previous efforts in 1983 and 1995, the new study is designed to help universities improve the quality of these programs through benchmarking; provide potential students and the public with accessible, readily available information on doctoral programs nationwide; and enhance the nation’s overall research capacity.

The focus of the effort is on research areas generating new knowledge. The committee expressly excluded education and similar fields, including special education, because research in those areas aims to improve practice.

Recommendation 3.5: The number of fields should be increased, from 41 to 57.
A number of additional programs in applied fields urged that they be included in the study. The Committee decided not to include those fields for which much research is directed toward the improvement of practice. These fields include social work, public policy, nursing, public health, business, architecture, criminology, kinesiology, and education. This exclusion is not intended to imply that high quality research is not conducted in these fields. Rather, in those areas in which research is properly devoted to improving practice, evaluation of such research requires a more nuanced approach than evaluation of scholarly reputation alone. It should also include measures of the effectiveness of the application of research. The Committee’s view is that this task is beyond the capacity of the current or proposed methodology. It does recommend that, if these fields can achieve a consensus on how to measure the quality of research, the NRC should consider including such measures in future studies.

It would be good to develop that consensus, no?

Dismay over Syracuse Appointment of Dean


29 October 2005

We, the undersigned, are fully aware that Syracuse University and its School of Education do not depend on our approval for making administrative decisions. However, we also recognize the responsibilities of academic institutions in making leadership appointments in their departments, colleges, and schools of education. Now, as never before, research and training in education are being scrutinized and typically found culpable for the poor learning outcomes of many students. Selection of a dean, therefore, constitutes an important and very public signal of how seriously a university views its responsibilities towards public education. By selecting someone whose record constitutes an argument against rigorous science in research involving individuals with disabilities, Syracuse University has sent a public message of disregard for education that undermines not only its own standing among academic institutions but also, by negative example, threatens the credibility of all educators engaged in rigorous research addressing critical problems in teaching and learning.

In our opinion, it is essential that both individuals and institutions adhere to the highest standards of scientific rigor in their professional conduct. We therefore express our strong disapproval of the appointment of Douglas Biklen as Dean of Education at Syracuse University for reasons that we explain.

Since the early 1990s, Professor Biklen has persistently and, in our view inadvisably, promoted training in and the use of facilitated communication (FC), an ostensible means of communication that has been resoundingly and thoroughly discredited by many scientific studies. The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Association on Mental Retardation, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Association for Behavior Analysis, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the New York State Department of Health have all gone on record advising against the use of FC. Furthermore, the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health has expressed its criticism of Professor Biklen’s appointment, with which we concur.

As researchers and members of the teacher education communities in special education, we are deeply concerned by the harm to individuals with disabilities, their families, therapists, and teachers resulting from the use of FC. The harm to which we refer includes the false hopes, false accusations of abuse, wasted learning opportunities, and miseducation of teachers fostered by FC and training in its use.

Many controlled investigations by scientists who study communication, education, and mental health have led to a consensus that FC is, if not a hoax, an unreliable and discredited means of communication. We find it disturbing that Professor Biklen has ignored this evidence and continued to insist that the scientific studies revealing the illegitimacy of FC are themselves unreliable. Professor Biklen may have good intentions, but his unrelenting advocacy of FC in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that it typically results in counterfeit messages (produced unwittingly by the “facilitator”) does not serve the cause of science or of social justice or of individuals with disabilities. We wish to disassociate ourselves from the fraudulent claims of FC and the non-scientific methods used by Professor Biklen and his colleagues in their attempts to validate the technique.

Our statement is not based on ad hominem toward Professor Biklen. In our opinion, the decision of Syracuse University to appoint Professor Biklen as Dean of its School of Education brings discredit to the university precisely and solely because it reflects disrespect for educational and psychological research as well as teacher preparation, given Professor Biklen’s disregard for scientific evidence. Certainly, Professor Biklen is free to believe and teach whatever he wants. However, we believe that university administrators have a larger commitment to select as leaders of academic units, including education, those individuals who demonstrate a clear commitment to the principles of scientific research.

Admin note: To indicate your support for this statement, please leave a comment (prior registration required; once registerd, click link labeled “comment” and scroll to the bottom of the statement). In your comment, please give your full name and affiliation.

Reginald L. Jones, 1931-2005

Reginald L. Jones

Reginald Lanier Jones died 24 September 2005 in Hampton, Virginia. Born in 1931, he took his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. At Hampton, Professor Jones served as Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Special Education and Director of the National Center for Minority Special Education. Prior to joining the faculty at Hampton, he was Professor of Psychology and of African American Studies at the University of California Berkeley.

Professor Jones’ contributions to education were exceptional, both for their extent and their breadth. He edited many books, including some of the most influential examinations of race as it relates to development and education. His academic career began in the 1950s and continued until recently. During that time he reported orginal research on topics as diverse as the trustworthiness of standardized tests, social perceptions about disabilities, and mainstreaming. The scope of his work spanned the range of disabilities, including studies of children who were blind as well as those who had mental retardation, orthopedic disabilities, learning disabilities, or other problems; in addition, he reported studies about gifted children and youth.

The recipient of many awards, including a Centennial Citation from the University of California, Professor Jones was honored twice by the Association of Black Psychologists for his scholarship. He also served as president of that association from 1971-72. In addition, he served in elected and advisory positions for many other organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the Council for Exceptional Children.