A group of special-education directors, parents and disability advocates in Minnesota are examining how the paperwork requirements and increasing caseloads are changing the work environment of special-education teachers. A review of caseload regulations, special-education laws and rules will be part of the report that the task force will present by mid-February to state lawmakers.
The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District in Minnesota offers free, 12-week adult education classes to bilingual, often immigrant, adults to become paraprofessionals for English-language learners. The class focuses on preparing the future aides to pass the paraprofessional exam but also covers classroom scenarios, while also diversifying the teaching workforce. "We needed a way to make the content in the mainstream classroom accessible for our English language learners," said curriculum director Kathy Funston.
Graphic novels are being used in more classroom lessons because of the format's accessibility for learners of all abilities as well as their complexity in content and subject matter. In fact, graphic novels, which combine images and texts, are included as a form of "new media" in its new Minnesota Academic Standards. "You can have the AP students in class with the non-AP students. It's really like the great equalizer in education," said high-school literature teacher Mark Ferry.
Halfway through a 10-year "Heart of New Ulm" project to improve the Minnesota community's cardiovascular health, data show lower rates of high blood pressure and cholesterol, a stable obesity rate, and a small drop in weight across the population. The project has broad community support, and data is tracked using electronic medical records at New Ulm Medical Center, where more than 90% of the 13,000 residents get their health care.