NM schools prepare for an extended year study

Students at Carlos Rey Elementary School in New Mexico

A study undertaken by the Center for Persons with Disabilities will allow schools in four districts to participate in an extended school year program in New Mexico—and generate data on whether more days in school is a good investment of public money.

The project will examine the effects of a longer school year on all children, regardless of their background or academic standing. The StartSmart K-3 Plus project will compare the performance of students who had an extended school year to those who did not.

For Judith Touloumis, administrator of Carlos Rey Elementary School in Albuquerque, the project is another tool to bolster a good trend. The percentage of Carlos Rey students who met the annual measurable objective climbed from 44 percent in 2008 to 57 percent in 2010. Despite the improvements, though, one identifiable group lags behind: English language learners. Touloumis hopes a chance to go to school longer will help them close the gap.

She plans to start sending notes home to parents in January, letting them know about the opportunity to participate in the study. (Some families will be chosen to send their children to school for a longer school year. Other students will serve as a control group, who will go to school for the regular number of days. The control group’s performance will also be measured to help the researchers understand whether a longer school year will make a difference.)

Read more about the StartSmart project on the CPD website. To see more photos from the schools in New Mexico, visit our facebook page.

CPD by the numbers

In the 2010 fiscal year, 34,741 people received training from the CPD.

The CPD welcomes its newest faculty fellow

Dr. Robert Morgan

This year, Dr. Bob Morgan joined the list of CPD Faculty Fellows.

He is currently involved in Project PEER, or Post-Secondary Education, Employment and Research. Dr. Morgan serves on the PEER advisory board, supervising student teachers, working with the teacher in getting feedback from employers, and consulting.

He is a professor in USU's Special Education and Rehabilitation Department.

The PEER project works with people with developmental disabilities ages 18-21 prior to their leaving the public school system. It helps them discover their interests and help them plan and launch a career path. Seventeen students are enrolled per year, and PEER employs one teacher and several paraprofessionals.

The project is intended to improve on some discouraging statistics. The current economy has reduced the number of supported and competitive jobs available to them.  Adult services budgets have been slashed. In a recently released study, Easter Seals revealed that only 11% of parents of adult children with disabilities say their child is employed full time.

Nationally, many people with developmental disabilities are leaving high school and “falling into a chasm,” Dr. Morgan said. It’s a trend he and others in Utah State University’s College of Education and Human Services would like to help reverse. What’s more, Dr. Morgan cites studies showing that supported employment programs are nearly 65 percent more cost-effective than sheltered workshops among people with severe disabilities. (R.E. Cimera’s cost-effectiveness study was published in 2007 in Research and Practice for Persons With Severe Disabilities, Vol. 32 Issue 4).

Project PEER has also provided fertile ground for research and development in transitioning to the adult world. It has been the subject of three of Dr. Morgan’s research projects. It also uses a program he developed to assess job preferences for people with developmental disabilities. Your Employment Selections, or YES, is a website that allows people to assess their interests. It includes video of 150 entry-level jobs to help the person decide on a career path.

Deciding what a student wants to do is often the first hurdle, said Dr. Morgan. Other goals include improving social skills, which can be another formidable barrier to getting and keeping a job.

The program’s ultimate goal is for every PEER graduate to go on to a job or post-secondary education.

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