Autism linked to educated parents

Autism “is more a surge in diagnosis than disease,” concludes the Los Angeles Times. Statewide, 1.1% of California elementary students have been identified as autistic, but rate is much higher in affluent communities than in rural districts.

. . .  the number of students receiving autism services, including speech, behaviorial and other therapies, has grown fivefold since 2000, driving up special education costs even as school budgets are being slashed.

“Warrior parents” who fight for services get much more help, adds the Times.

For autistic children 3 to 6 — a critical period for treating the disorder — the state Department of Developmental Services last year spent an average of $11,723 per child on whites, compared with $11,063 on Asians, $7,634 on Latinos and $6,593 on blacks.

. . . The divide is even starker when it comes to the most coveted service — a behavioral aide from a private company to accompany a child throughout each school day, at a cost that often reaches $60,000 a year.

In the state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, white elementary school students on the city’s affluent Westside have such aides at more than 10 times the rate of Latinos on the Eastside.

My niece provides after-school therapy for children on the autism spectrum. She plans to earn a doctorate in psychology and specialize in the field.

The Education Commission of the States reviews state efforts (pdf) to help students with autism, notes On Special Education.

Holding everyone accountable

Schools are held accountable for student achievement, even when students’ performance is affected by poverty, family dysfunction and neighborhood dangers, notes Education Sector.

In Striving for Student Success: A Model of Shared Accountability (pdf), Kelly Bathgate, Richard Lee Colvin and Elena Silva look at the Strive Partnership of Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, which is trying to create cradle-to-college supports for children’s education and well-being.

Made up of more than 300 civic groups, businesses, nonprofits, colleges, public agencies, and philanthropies, Strive “coordinates every service and support that children and adolescents need, at every stage of their education and development,” the authors write.

One result: kindergarten readiness has risen substantially in Cincinnati and two Strive towns in Kentucky.


No child without dental care, pre-K …

In rewriting No Child Left Behind, senators want to provide support services to educate the “whole child,” reports Education Week, covering a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

(That could include) dental and mental health, as well as programs aimed at providing prekindergarten and library services, summer and after-school enrichment, mentoring, college counseling, and increased parent and community involvement. The whole-child concept can also refer to making sure schools attend to students’ nonacademic interests, through programs such as the arts and physical education.

Budget-strapped schools would need to hire more staff, acknowledged U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the committee. “As you add all this stuff on, you’re going to have to add more people, mentors, librarians. … How do we do that?”

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who was Denver school superintendent, suggested “Congress should start by providing school districts and communities with greater funding flexibility so that they could choose the support services that will be most beneficial.”

The same day, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill requiring all districts and states to report on students’ physical activity and time in P.E. classes. “The bill would finance research to examine how children’s health affects their achievement,” EdWeek reports.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is pushing Promise Neighborhoods, a $210 million to plan to create more support services in urban areas modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone.

RAND has different ideas on how to improve No Child Left Behind.  Inside School Research’s Debra Viadero summarizes:

These include: promoting more uniform academic standards and teacher-qualification requirements across states; setting more “appropriate” improvement targets for schools (i.e., ones that give schools credit for students’ academic growth rather than just overall achievement scores); expanding testing and accountability requirements to subjects beyond reading and math; offering incentives for teachers to teach in low-performing schools; and recognizing the “limited benefits” of school choice by focusing on improving all schools while continuing to offer choice.

When I hear “educate the whole child,” I reach for my . . . Well, unlike Goering, I have no gun. Let’s just say, I wonder how the feds are going to provide cradle-to-college care for the poor, the near poor and, inevitably, the not-so-poor while also funding reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and “21st-century skills.” And P.E.