Friday, February 17, 2012

The Department of Education Awards $1 Million to 12 Districts for Outstanding Performance with Students with Disabilities

Department of Education Awards $1 Million to 12 Districts for Outstanding Performance with Students with Disabilities Also Announces First Ever $1 Million "Special Education Recognition Award" Competition Available to All Schools in 2012-13 School Year Through award, the Department will identify and disseminate successful practices across the state.

For Immediate Release...
Contact: Justin Barra
Allison Kobus
Date: February 17, 2012

Trenton, NJ - In order to highlight the importance of achievement for New Jersey's students with disabilities, the Department of Education today awarded $1 million to 12 districts that demonstrated both high growth and proficiency with their special education student population. In addition, the Department announced a $1 million competitive grant for individual schools that improve student performance for students with disabilities in the 2012-13 school year. 

This award will both encourage districts to explore innovative and proven modelsto serve students with disabilities and to disseminate those successful practices across the state. The funding comes from a portion of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) available to support state initiatives for students with disabilities. "We developed these awards to shine a spotlight on the needs of our students with disabilities, and to make sure that we as educators work tirelessly to improve their performance," said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf. "By highlighting 12 successful districts last year and developing a competitive grant for next school year, we hope to learn from those that are most successfuland scale their practices across the state." The 12 awards announced today were granted to 12 districts that showed strong performance with students with disabilities in the 2010-11 school year. 

These districts did not know that they were eligible for an award until the announcement today. To identify districts, the Department created 5 different groupings of K-12 districts based on poverty level to ensure that districts serving all demographics were represented. The Department also created a sixth grouping of high school districts. The Department then looked at districts that met the following criteria: 
o The number of classified students enrolled was greater than 100 
o The number of valid test scores (NJASK 3-8, APA and HSPA) was greater than 50 in LAL and Math 
o The district classification rate reported in the fall of 2010 was no more than one percentage point above the state rate (which includes approximately 2% for students eligible for speech-language services and 14% for all other disabilities) 
o The district classification rate for specific learning disability (SLD) and speech-language impairment(SLI) combined was no more than one percentage point above the state combined rate as reported in the fall of 2010 (approximately 9%) In K-12 districts, the Department used a combination of absolute proficiency rates and growth to identify districts.

The Department identified proficiency in both math and language arts literacy (LAL) on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) and the Alternate Proficiency Assessment(APA. The Department identified growth throughout the year on the NJASK in grades 4 - 8, identified by the district's mean student growth percentile (SGP) for students with disabilities. This combination of growth and proficiency rates ensures that districts receive credit for how much their students improve throughout the year.

 In the high school districts, the Department identified successful districts based on achievement on the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) and the APA. The Department is only able to calculate student growth percentiles for the NJASK. A list of the selected districts can be found at the end of this press release. Districts can use these funds in compliance with IDEA requirements to provide special education programs and services to students with disabilities. Through this award, districts will be able to implement enhanced services and expand successful programs leading to improved student results for students with disabilities.

"While certainly these districts are not the only ones to show results for students with disabilities, we hope that this announcement today spurs dialogue so that we identify and learn from successful programs across the state," said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf.

In conjunction with this award, the Department also announced the first ever $1 million "Special Education Recognition Award"available to all schools in the 2012-13 school year. The Department will award IDEA funds to up to 20 schools that demonstrate improved achievement and/or growth in mathematics or language arts literacy. Schools that wish to compete for the award will complete an application in the spring of 2012. Each applicant will identify a grade or grade range that is tested by state assessments (3-8 and/or 11) and implement supplementary instructional strategies or programs, services, and/or educational technology for the purposes of improving achievement in mathematics or language arts for students with disabilities.

In their application, schools will identify how growth will be measured in the school or classroom, such as through a curriculum-based measurement or other classroom-based measure. In the spring of 2013, achievement results and other performance documentation from eligible districts will be reviewed by an external panel of experts who will make the final recommendations for awards in the summer of 2013. The Department will release an application with additional details in the coming weeks. 

"Through the Special Education Recognition Award, we will reward schools that are truly successful in improving outcomes for some of our most vulnerable students, and to identify innovative and successful practices to share with all of our schools," said Acting Commissioner Cerf. "As educators, we must work to continuously improve our programs and strategies to help all of our students graduate from high school ready for college and career." 

A list of districts awarded grants for the 2010-11 school year are below:
District County Award Poverty level - 0-5%
North Caldwell, Essex $50,000
Green Brook Township, Somerset $75,000

Poverty level - >5-15%
Lincoln Park Borough, Morris $75,000
Madison, Morris $100,000

Poverty level - >15-30%
Totowa, Passaic $75,000
Dennis Township, Cape May $50,000

Poverty level - >30-60%
North Bergen, Hudson $100,000
Lodi, Bergen $100,000

Poverty level - >60%
Dover Town, Morris $100,000
Fairview, Bergen $75,000

High School District
No. Hunterdon/Voorhees Reg High,Hunterdon $100,000
Northern Valley Regional, Bergen $100,000

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