How the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Affects Our Kids

Commentary by Andrea Hatch       |  2018-11-02

“I am a dancer, a singer, and a person who is good at math. I am understanding, thoughtful, and try my hardest to make friends and sometimes I succeed. I am a son, a grandson, and a great grandson and am sooo much more than a kid in a special ed class.” – Andre

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - The Individualized Education Program was established for kids who have behavioral and learning abilities that are different than the “average” child. Some kids receive an IEP and remain in a general education classroom with special focus on what they need most to succeed. Other children are placed in completely separate classrooms staffed with several teachers and varying levels of behavioral and learning difficulties. My son, Andre, was put into an IEP class by second grade. He was kicked out of several schools, saw several therapists, and a call or email was received almost daily regarding a behavioral outburst. The request was made several times for a shadow but I was advised that, unless he had a specific diagnosis, it would not be possible. The only problem was he had not, and has not been, diagnosed with anything specific. Behaviors at home are the polar opposite of how his behavior is at school. One of our greatest fears, when moving Andre to the IEP program, was that his academics would slip and his behavior would worsen. We were assured that would not happen; however, we are now in the fifth grade and our fears have come true. It is called an Individualized Education Program; however, each time we made suggestions that would help we were told they don’t have the ability to give individual attention to each student.

We have pushed for Andre to be reintegrated to the general education and have been told that cannot happen until his behavior improves. How do we know his behavior in a new setting unless we try? When surrounded by kids, with even greater behavioral issues, how can we expect behavior to actually improve? Many IEP kids are in sports, activities, and have hobbies where they interact in a positive manor with others. When doing these other activities, outside of their special education program, they are able to interact like a “normal” kid because they are in an environment with other “normal” kids. If we, even as adults, are placed in an environment where aggression is present then we will likely become aggressive, seeing as how it’s in our nature to protect ourselves.

There are benefits of this program and there are drawbacks. Being in IEP protects the children from expulsion, or arrest, depending on behavior and it allows the children to remain on a school campus, even though they struggle. The downfall is that there is such a severe gap in the behaviors and thoughts of these children that there is no way it is an Individualized plan. If you have a child who is academically challenged mixed with a child who is behaviorally challenged where do you focus? Both children are now being academically neglected. The child who is academically strong is being neglected due to behavioral challenges and the child who struggles academically will continue to do so since the focus is only on a behavior, or behaviors, of other classmates. It’s a vicious circle that needs rectification.

The IEP children are removed from what is viewed as the “normal” classroom, yet are expected not to see themselves differently and the “normal” students are not supposed to view the IEP students differently. The IEP children get teased and picked on, yet are expected to see themselves as being like the other children. Other parent’s look at our children with disgust for their struggles with what seems like simple tasks to other. I personally heard one mother, not realizing I was my son’s mother, talking so badly about my child and telling her child to stay away from my son. What is being missed is that my son is a 10 year old boy. Just like several others, my son is loving, generous, funny, caring, and kind hearted. He just doesn’t know how to handle things when he gets upset. How will he ever learn unless the time is taken to teach him to do better? His academics should not suffer based on his struggle with behavior. We need to remember that these are children too and that all children are different. As adults we need to remind the “normal” children that we are not all the same. We need the Individualized Education Program to be better tailored for each student. We need to remember that it takes a village and if the village gives up, so do our youth. We cannot expect our children to know what they haven’t been taught. Next time you see an IEP kid on the campus of your child’s school smile, ask them how they are doing, and show your kids the importance of being kind so that it lives within them when they are not with you.

(StatePoint) Career aspirations are driving more students to graduate school these days, and nearly two thirds believe an advanced degree is the new minimum standard level of education for any professional occupation.

According to “How America Pays for Graduate School,” the new national study from Sallie Mae and Ipsos, an independent global market research company, nearly all grad students (95 percent) said an advanced degree is necessary to enter, advance, accelerate or remain competitive in their chosen career.

Cost is less of a factor in the enrollment decision than it is at the undergraduate level, as more than eight in 10 surveyed based their enrollment decision on a school’s academic offerings, prestige, location, campus culture, or other personal consideration. However, eight in 10 grad students said they took more responsibility for paying-for-school decisions than they had for their undergraduate studies.

“It is human nature to plan for what you value, and that includes graduate school. Today’s students see graduate school as their ticket to a successful and prosperous career, and most have a plan to pay for their advanced degree before they enroll,” says Raymond J. Quinlan, chairman and CEO, Sallie Mae. “That planning pays off: the overwhelming majority are confident in the financial decisions they’ve made about how to pay for their graduate education.”

How much did they pay? Students spent an average of $24,812 on grad school in academic year 2016-17, and more than three-fourths of them (77 percent) paid for it, at least in part, by borrowing. Funds borrowed by students covered more than half of the cost (53 percent), while money students earned, including income and savings, paid for 24 percent. Grants, fellowships, scholarships, and tuition waivers accounted for 15 percent, while eight percent of grad school costs came from funds borrowed or contributed by parents or others.

The study also reveals that scholarships and grants are less available for grad students than for undergrads, accounting for just 15 percent of grad school costs. In response, Sallie Mae announced a new Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students that will award four $20,000 scholarships in 2018. Students may apply by Feb. 14 by visiting SallieMae.com/BridgingtheDreamGrad.

To view the complete report, visit SallieMae.com/HowAmericaPaysGrad and join the conversation using #HowGradsPay.

As a graduate degree continues to become the educational norm, students will continue to plan and find creative ways to meet the cost.

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More Students are Going to Grad School: How are They Paying for It?

StatePoint Media  |  2018-01-29

(StatePoint) Career aspirations are driving more students to graduate school these days, and nearly two thirds believe an advanced degree is the new minimum standard level of education for any professional occupation.

According to “How America Pays for Graduate School,” the new national study from Sallie Mae and Ipsos, an independent global market research company, nearly all grad students (95 percent) said an advanced degree is necessary to enter, advance, accelerate or remain competitive in their chosen career.

Cost is less of a factor in the enrollment decision than it is at the undergraduate level, as more than eight in 10 surveyed based their enrollment decision on a school’s academic offerings, prestige, location, campus culture, or other personal consideration. However, eight in 10 grad students said they took more responsibility for paying-for-school decisions than they had for their undergraduate studies.

“It is human nature to plan for what you value, and that includes graduate school. Today’s students see graduate school as their ticket to a successful and prosperous career, and most have a plan to pay for their advanced degree before they enroll,” says Raymond J. Quinlan, chairman and CEO, Sallie Mae. “That planning pays off: the overwhelming majority are confident in the financial decisions they’ve made about how to pay for their graduate education.”

How much did they pay? Students spent an average of $24,812 on grad school in academic year 2016-17, and more than three-fourths of them (77 percent) paid for it, at least in part, by borrowing. Funds borrowed by students covered more than half of the cost (53 percent), while money students earned, including income and savings, paid for 24 percent. Grants, fellowships, scholarships, and tuition waivers accounted for 15 percent, while eight percent of grad school costs came from funds borrowed or contributed by parents or others.

The study also reveals that scholarships and grants are less available for grad students than for undergrads, accounting for just 15 percent of grad school costs. In response, Sallie Mae announced a new Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students that will award four $20,000 scholarships in 2018. Students may apply by Feb. 14 by visiting SallieMae.com/BridgingtheDreamGrad.

To view the complete report, visit SallieMae.com/HowAmericaPaysGrad and join the conversation using #HowGradsPay.

As a graduate degree continues to become the educational norm, students will continue to plan and find creative ways to meet the cost.

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It's Time To Get Smart About College Savings

(NAPS) - Sponsored content  |  2017-12-05

The sooner you start saving for your child’s education, the better—and special investment plans can help. Photo courtesy NAPS

(NAPS) - Fall: It’s a time of bright leaves, crisp apples, family feasts and a chill in the air. But for many American families, there’s a chill in the pocketbook, too, as parents around the country consider the daunting challenge of saving for their children’s college education.

The cost of college is rising and Americans are wrestling with ever-increasing amounts of student debt. It has been estimated that by 2033, based on inflation rates, it could cost $262,000 to cover four years of tuition, room and board at a private college. The situation isn’t much better if you go the public route. Sending your child to a four-year state university could set you back up to $134,000.

While saving for college may seem like an overwhelming task, there are tools available to make the impossible seem possible. One essential tool that all parents (and students) should consider is the 529 college savings plan, a tax-advantaged savings plan that is specifically designed to encourage saving for future college costs.

“A 529 college savings plan is an incredibly helpful investment tool to consider when it comes time to buckle down and save for college,” said Rachel Ramos, Product Manager of Investment Services Wealth Management at Capital Group, home of the American Funds® and one of the world’s leading investment management firms. “They are designed to benefit families and come with attractive and compelling benefits.”

Why 529s Are so Valuable

A 529 plan should be a part of your college savings plan for many reasons:

• Investments within the plan grow tax-free, and in many states, the account owner is eligible for full or partial state income tax deductions for contributions to a 529 plan.

• When money is withdrawn from the account, it is tax-free if the funds are used for qualified education expenses, including tuition, books, room and board, computers or other supplies.

• If your student is awarded a scholarship or doesn’t use the entirety of the funds, the owner of the 529 account can change beneficiaries at his or her own discretion and without limitation.

• These accounts never expire, so those assets can be used for graduate school, or can even be passed down to younger siblings or future grandchildren.

“It’s a common misperception that 529s are only for college savings,” continued Ramos. “But 529s are surprisingly flexible. For example, if you’re interested in pursuing higher education for a new hobby or skill, those expenses could be covered with money saved in a 529 plan.”

Millennials—the generation seemingly most impacted by student loan debt—are very focused on saving for their children’s education. According to a recent survey issued by Capital Group, 31 percent of millennials report that not having enough money to pay for their children’s education keeps them up at night. A similar number, about one in three, said that 529 college savings plans are a very important benefit an employer could offer. 

How 529s Work

Think a 529 isn’t for you? Consider this: Anyone, regardless of income, can contribute to a 529 account, making it a nice one-size-fits-all gift that never goes out of style. Plus, 529s are not just for saving for a child’s education—529s can be used to explore intellectual passions and expand horizons well into retirement.

In a 529, investors are able to front-load up to five years in contributions, or contribute up to $14,000 ($28,000 for married couples) annually, without gift-tax consequences. These benefits make contributing into a 529 plan, or opening up a new one, an attractive gift choice for grandparents and family members.

How to Choose the Right 529

There are a number of choices that savers can make when choosing a 529 plan. Most importantly: Do your homework and select the right one for your family that will pay off in the long run. Determine investment goals and then find a plan with flexibility, low fees and low minimum investment.

In addition to state-sponsored 529 options, a number of investment firms offer 529s. CollegeAmerica® 529 Savings Plans, the nation’s largest 529 college savings plan, is a strong option that offers low expenses and flexible, easy-to-use investment options, including target date funds. CollegeAmerica® has been consistently recognized by Morningstar®, an investment research and investment management firm, as a highly rated advisor-sold 529 plan.

Paying for college shouldn’t be the most difficult part about college. Relax, take a deep breath and start saving. 

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NorCal STEM Winners Take Prizes from Global Competition

Source: California Association of Professional Scientists  |  2017-05-25

The STEM winners were (L to R) Arya Goutam, from The Nueva School, Teevyah Yuva Raju from Mira Loma High School, and Guadalupe Bernal of Folsom High School.

Three student finalists from the 2017 Sacramento Regional STEM Fair won awards at the Intel Engineering and Science and Engineering Fair that ended May 19th in Los Angeles.

The winners were:

Teevyah Yuva Raju from Mira Loma High School took 4th place in her category of Plant Sciences. Her project looked at how to reverse drought-triggered organic imbalances in soil that harm crops.

Arya Goutam, who attends The Nueva School, won 3rd place in in the Embedded Systems category for developing the hardware and software for a low-cost wearable motion-sensing device that alerts family members via cell phone in the event of a person’s fall.

Guadalupe Bernal of Folsom High School won third place in the Robotics and Intelligent Machines category. She built and programmed an autonomous vehicle that uses computer vision to navigate.

To compete in the global competition, all three students in March won a science, technology, engineering and mathematics competition in Sacramento. That event was sponsored by the NorCal STEM Education Foundation.

The NorCal STEM Education Foundation’s mission is to encourage students to find their passion for and spark their interest in scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical degrees and careers

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Sacramento STEM Fair Winners Head to Global Competition in Los Angeles

Source: NorCal STEM Education Foundation  |  2017-04-13

The NorCal STEM Education Foundation has awarded top honors to three projects at the Sacramento region’s largest STEM competition on Saturday, positioning three students to vie for a title in a global science and engineering competition in May.  The local winners and their projects:

  • Grand Prize 3rd – Guadalupe Bernal, Folsom High School, Autonomous Off-Road Vehicle Using Computer Vision for Surveillance applications. (Rough-cut video available at https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B7qjuaEG9E4SYkZodkJON3cxQ28)
  • Grand Prize 2nd – Arya Goutam, The Nueva School, ResQ: A low-cost wearable motion-sensing device that alerts family members via cell phone in the event of a person’s fall, even if he or she goes unconscious. Goutam built and demonstrated the device and wrote the cell phone app that it operates.
  • Grand Prize 1st – Teevyah Yuva Raju, Mira Loma High School, The Reversal of Harms Done by the Drought: How carbon and nitrogen levels affect Fusarium oxysporum f. sp., a fungus that has decimated California's tomato crop.

All three Grand Prize projects qualify, all expenses paid, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles. The global competition runs May 14-19.

The annual competition last weekend, organized by the non-profit NorCal STEM Education Foundation, highlighted projects that students had worked on for a year. Their research and experiments focused on seven categories: behavioral and social sciences; biological sciences, chemistry and health sciences; energy and transportation; engineering, math and computer sciences; and physical sciences. California Association of Professional Scientists, Professional Engineers in California Government, Intel, SMUD and American River College – which hosted the competition – where among the STEM Fair sponsors.

The NorCal STEM Education Foundation’s mission is to encourage students to find their passion for and spark their interest in scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical degrees and careers.

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Back to School? Learn About Tax Credits for Education

Source: Internal Revenue Service  |  2016-09-15

If you pay for college in 2016, you may receive some tax savings on your federal tax return, even if you’re studying outside of the U.S. Both the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit may reduce the amount of tax you owe, but only the AOTC is partially refundable.

Here are a few things you should know about education credits:

The American Opportunity Tax Credit is worth up to $2,500 per year for an eligible student. This credit is available for the first four years of higher education. Forty percent of the AOTC is refundable. That means, if you’re eligible, you can get up to $1,000 of the credit as a refund, even if you do not owe any tax.

The Lifetime Learning Credit is worth up to $2,000 per tax return. There is no limit on the number of years that you can claim the LLC for an eligible student.

You may use only qualified expenses paid to figure your credit. These expenses include the costs you pay for tuition, fees and other related expenses for an eligible student to enroll at, or attend, an eligible educational institution. Refer to IRS.gov for more on the rules that apply to each credit.

Eligible educational institutions are those that offer education beyond high school. This includes most colleges and universities. Vocational schools or other postsecondary schools may also qualify. If you aren’t sure if your school is eligible ask your school if it is an eligible educational institution, or see if your school is on the U.S. Department of Education’s Accreditation database.

In most cases, you should receive Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, from your school by February 1. This form reports your qualified expenses to the IRS and to you. The amounts shown on the form may be either: (1) the amount you paid for qualified tuition and related expenses, or (2) the amount that your school billed for qualified tuition and related expenses; therefore, the amounts shown on the form may be different than the amounts you actually paid. Don’t forget that you can only claim an education credit for the qualified tuition and related expenses that you paid in the tax year and not just the amount that your school billed.

The education credits are subject to income limitations and may be reduced, or eliminated, based on your income.

To see if you’re eligible to claim education credits, use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on www.IRS.gov.

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