Affordable Care Act:
The Federal Affordable Care Act that became law March 23, 2010, could create some additional financial expenditures for our school district. The district could face stiff penalties if it does not provide what the act defines as “affordable minimum essential coverage” to full-time employees. The act, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, includes more than 2,000 pages of legislation and 13,000 pages of regulations. The effective dates for various provisions stretch out until 2020, and “many, many” details are not yet defined.
While implementing the provisions, the school district would need to consider several definitions. They include: who is a large group employer; who is a full-time employee; what is “minimum essential coverage”; how is “affordable” defined; and when will the employer be impacted.
State Government Budget Update:
The governor has backed away from two major components of his tax reform and budget plan, the business-to-business sales tax expansion and the homeowner rebate. He’s still insisting on raising $1.8 billion to back-fill the $627 million deficit and to invest in education and workforce development. The bottom line for K-12 education didn’t change amidst the governor’s budget shuffle. The next big question is what the House and Senate DFL leaders will allot for a K-12 spending target as they move into this week.
We live in a strange and crazy world. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Sometimes though, the overall irony shoots right over the top.
Zombies are a hot commodity. Never mind nobody’s ever seen a real one – they’re on TV, T-shirts, in books, video games and the movies, so we’re all familiar with this group of undead.
For the last few years, for many viewers, zombies have dominated Sunday evening television – giving a new definition to the term, “dead man walking.” Zombies were to the Neilson ratings what marshmallows are to s’mores – gooey blobs that had people coming back for seconds while sitting around the warm glow of a campfire (or TV screen).
It appeared zombies had the upper hand – well, the ones that still had hands did. They were the Chia pets of the new millennium. Trendy and not very cute, but cropping up everywhere. Despite their gory appearance, ratings were through the roof and zombies were on a roll (or at least a slow-paced swagger). Nothing short of an axe to the head would stop these man-eating monsters.
Then, along came God.
Timotheus Gordon and his new friend, Shanae Heard, want people with disabilities to be heard, seen, and read. Last November, they began Abilitysota.com, a website for people with disabilities to showcase writing, poetry, music videos, photography, drawings, and paintings.
“We are (technically called) the Abilities of the Arts, or Abilitysota,” said 25-year-old Gordon in a telephone interview. Gordon and Heard met in June 2011 while both were trying to submit work for an online magazine. They enjoyed talking about poetry and work, and realized creative people with disabilities had few platforms to showcase their talents.
Gordon lives in Atlanta, Ga., and has nearly completed a master of fine arts degree at Savannah College of Art and Design and already has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota.
So what are their disabilities? Gordon said, “I have been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. I make good grades in school and have strong interests in social science, literature, poetry, and football. When I was growing up in Chicago, people would treat me like I was an encyclopedia. They would go to me for questions and would use me for my intelligence. But I didn’t make friends easily and I often got teased for being smart.”
He said he has always wanted to fit in socially, but either didn’t know how, or didn’t know the right way for a particular situation. He has had difficulty finding people with common interests who will accept him.
His friend Heard was born with cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and is “very bright,” said Gordon. “She loves psychology, and can see problems from more angles than the average person.”
“We have been getting good responses,” he said, referring to the website. “People like the concept. Our struggle has been in getting more content. We feature photos, paintings, drawings, videos, poetry, and different kinds of writing, such as short stories and blog postings of writing.”
Abilitysota.com, also has actively promoted krip-hop, which is a style of hip-hop music performed by people with disabilities.
The last several months have brought him joy. He said, “With the website, I like seeing people from not only the U.S., but also England, speaking out. They are using their abilities and talents to open people’s eyes that people with disabilities are just as talented as anyone else and can be just as influential as an able-bodied person.”
Contact: daniel j vance.com, [Sponsored by Palmer Bus Service and LittleGiantFudge.com]
Testing and Accountability:
Most of us agree that students are tested too much. Public schools in Minnesota are required to administer the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA). The MCA tests were introduced as a paper and pencil test administered in reading, language arts and math. Recently, the assessments have slowly progressed toward computer completion aligned with the Science MCA. Embedded in the MCA tests are the GRAD tests that students must pass to receive their diploma. Students take the MCA tests in the spring and the results are returned at the end of the summer. A common concern is that MCA tests provide no real-time information for teachers to customize their teaching, therefore, requiring many districts to pay for Aimsweb, Scantron, MAP or NWEA assessments taken on the computer. We currently use Aimsweb in the primary grades, and NWEA assessments at various grade levels throughout the district to provide ongoing monitoring of student progress. These tests are computer adaptive, meaning the questions progressively get harder or easier depending on the student’s answers. Teachers get immediate results and know exactly where each student is at.