One Texas middle school has started a peer-mentoring program called Helping Our Peers Excel that pairs students in general education for one class each day with their peers who have special needs. A student came up with the idea for the program, which has been added as an elective course at the school. "Even though they have the opportunity for peer interaction, it doesn't always occur. This adds some structure to it, some predictability to it," the school's life-skills teacher said.
The Obama administration's blueprint for revising No Child Left Behind calls for students in special education to graduate from high school with the same college- and career-readiness skills as their peers. Officials are also pushing for more inclusion and tests that better measure the academic proficiency of students with special needs. Bruce A. Ramirez, the executive director of the Council for Exceptional Children, was cautiously optimistic about the proposal, which he said "enhances inclusion of students with disabilities" but lacks specifics about implementation.
Some New Jersey parents and disability advocates are upset about the way some school districts across the state used a legal loophole to spend federal stimulus money meant to improve special-education programs to pay for teacher salaries, benefits and other school programs. Some school districts defended their use of the money, but critics say the law allowing districts flexibility with the money is shortchanging students.
A group of computer and engineering students at the University of Washington has created five mobile-phone applications to help simplify everyday tasks for people with disabilities. An application called BrailleLearn helps children learn Braille through a virtual pet game, while another program helps people with visual or hearing impairments determine their location and find points of interest using Google Maps.
A New Jersey district school is planning to overhaul an elementary gifted-education program, and parents are upset because they were not asked to be part of the process. Proposed changes include integrating some advanced lessons into the mainstream classroom instead of pulling students out of class for specialized instruction, switching to a project-based curriculum, and using more measurements to identify students who may be gifted. School administrators said they will consider parents' input as they move forward with the plan.