To Kill A Mockingbird: The Art Of Prejudice In Delaware

One of my favorite movies of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird. Way before I was involved in matters with special education, I found this movie to be a true picture of society. Even now. Everyone assumes the African-American special needs man was the one to commit a murder. People called this person different names back then, but political correctness has changed the label, but not the stereotypes.

I look at what is going on in Wilmington, with the school to prison pipeline. Way too many of our youth are exposed to violent crimes, and many of them feel there is now way out. When did we allow this to happen? How many of these students may have special needs that have never been identified or diagnosed? Who is to blame? The schools? The parents? The students? Maybe it is a combination of all three. We seem to have forgotten about the spirit of the civil rights movement. Prejudice has taken on a new form in the 21st century. It’s no longer about the Ku Klux Klan running around burning crosses and lynching black people. It’s about placement and segregation.

All of the schools in Wilmington are divided into two types: the haves and the havenots. The Charter School of Wilmington is a shining example of the haves. Only the best and brightest get into this school. But the selection process is flawed. The fact that only a couple handfuls of African-Americans graduated this year is a clear sign of that. The fact that the school as a whole only has .6% of special needs students is another. I refuse to believe that the school only looks at the best and the brightest. I truly believe they handpick who they want and who they don’t want.

Boo had to find out the hard way how society views him. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he paid a heavy price. His best friend in the world was a girl named Scout, and even all of her hard work, supporting him and befriending him came at a price. We need more Scouts in the world. We need our state government to take a very hard look at what is going on in Wilmington. It is considered one of the most violent cities in the country. Where is our state pride? This is a stain on our state that can’t just be washed away with a simple swipe of a brush. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. So while our government celebrates the impending release of Smarter Balanced Testing and the great reform of our schools in the race to the top, let’s be mindful that this only means so much as how our state is viewed. And with Wilmington as the largest city in our state being one of the most violent, it doesn’t matter how great the government thinks our best schools are when we can’t take care of the ones that need it most.

 

If we spent as much time building up the charters in that area as we did on cleaning up Wilmington, we could do wonders.  Instead we allow these schools to cherry pick who they want and don’t want.  Stop the segregation, stop the hurt, stop these people from thinking they are not productive members of society.  Stop sending a message of intolerance and shame.

SPED Parents Beware!: 10 SPED Mistakes to Watch Out For

I really like this site, especially this article. I would recommend the IEP Taskforce in Delaware checks this out whenever they begin their meetings to evaluate Special Education in Delaware.

spedsupport4parents

Deciding to place your child in special education is never an easy decision to make.  As parents we worry if we are making the right decision and if the school will do their best to service our child’s needs.  I like to think that all schools, every where, are doing their best to meet the need of all the children they serve.  However, I know this is not true, so, based on my experience as a parent and teacher, I have come up with a list of ten things to watch out for.  Any of these things could* signal to you that your child’s school is not complying with special education regulations.

10.  Not Informing You of Your Rights:  The school should give you a copy of your rights (called the Parental Safeguards) every year.

9.  Completing Paperwork Late:  A new IEP is written every 12…

View original post 358 more words

Delaware Bloggers Need To Stop Being A Meanie To Greg Lavelle

It’s just not nice. People can change their mind you know. I have nothing more to write about this.

Lavelle

musewear-flip-flops

Feel free to add any flippin’ comments you want, but don’t be flip!

ten minutes in

My son has Sensory Processsing Disorder, so I can relate to this mom. It’s a tricky thing, and things people take for granted can make or break a child with SPD. Excellent Blog!

Pencader Days, The News Journal Interview With Mrs. Lewis

http://archive.delawareonline.com/videonetwork/1704081299001/School-leader-questioned-about-PhD

I had heard some things about what happened with Pencader Charter School, the school that was shut down by the Delaware DOE last year, but I had no idea how bad it was until I started watching some videos. Wow! And the fact that so many supported her when this was discovered. I’ve heard of school loyalty, but this is another thing!

A Plea To Delaware Parents Of Children With Special Needs And Disabilities #netde #edude

I wrote this a few weeks ago when the House of Representatives passed House Bill 334, which allows for Smarter Balanced Assessments. A lot has happened since then, especially with the Fed report on Delaware needing intervention for special education, but we still need to unify as one voice.

The Exceptional Infinite

I’ve been doing this blog for less than a week, and I am amazed at how many people have looked at it, and how diverse the audience is.  I am very proud of this.  I’m still new at this, and I have a lot to learn.  When I started this blog journey by telling my son’s special education story from a Delaware Charter school, I promised I had no political agenda.  That has changed.  The only way things can change for these kids is through legislation and hammering the points home to those who need to listen the most.  I am not running for any type of office, but I believe new legislation needs to be passed so children with special needs and disabilities have more rights in the state of Delaware.  I have talked to many parents from different states, and when they hear about the types of things that…

View original post 1,478 more words

Delaware Special Education Statistics Part 1: Comparisons With Other States & Countries

To understand this post, you would need to review my articles about Special Education Grades for all public schools in Delaware. They can be found here:

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/these-schools-in-delaware-get-a-big-f-grade-for-special-education/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/which-schools-got-a-d-in-special-education-in-delaware-find-out-here/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/schools-in-delaware-with-a-grade-of-c-for-special-education/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/schools-that-got-a-grade-of-b-for-special-education-in-delaware/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/which-delaware-schools-got-an-a-a-or-super-a-for-special-education-populations/

Based on my “grades” I gave each school in Delaware, some facts shine very brightly while some need to be looked at with a fine tooth comb. The grades I gave the schools were based on what percentage of the student population receives special education services. I did not include schools that are essentially pre-schools, or ones with just pre-school and kindergarten. I also didn’t include schools that are 100% special education students, such as The Delaware School For The Deaf. Without those schools in there, the state average for Special Education students is approximately 13.5%. With those students, the state average is approximately 13.9%. All of my figures were based on the numbers provided on the Delaware Department of Education (DOE) website for school profiles for the 2013-2014 school year.

http://profiles.doe.k12.de.us/SchoolProfiles/CommonControls/Reporting.aspx?districtCode=0&schoolCode=0&dataBlock=Demographics&catBlock=OtherCharacteristics&Language=English&type=CatUrl

From there, you have the ability to go to each school district or charter school and find out what each and every school has for their special education population. What qualifies a student as being special education is very simple. They have to have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This was confirmed to me by someone at the DOE. Students with a 504 plan are not considered special education in terms of funding in Delaware. Based on the numbers from these profiles, each school gets a percentage of the annual IDEA-B funding from the federal government. The operating assumption for the US DOE would be these numbers are accurate. This does not pay for all special education services. A rough breakdown gives the feds paying 40% and the other 60% comes from state and/or local funds, however, these are based on 1999 numbers, so a true average of what the feds give the states breaks down to about 17%. In essence, the financial burden on the state has risen dramatically in the last 15 years. Students who attend private schools or church-based schools are not reflected in these numbers because they do not receive funding and are tuition based.

The first fact to look at is the state average. Whether it is 13.5% or 13.9%, both of those numbers are slightly higher than numbers provided by the US Department of Education going up to 2010. In 2010, the national average was 13%. Their website shows most averages between 1977 to 2010. In 1977, the average was 8.3%. Back then, the laws were not as stringent as they are today in regards to the identification of disabled students. As well, disabilities, especially autism, have increased dramatically since then. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=64

Another chart gives a very interesting breakdown on student placement, which would indicate where a special education attends their schooling. Part of IDEA law indicates special education students must be in a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) setting in schools. If a child with, for example, ADHD is able to function in a regular school setting, that child would be in a typical public school. For most deaf and blind students, they are usually placed in schools specifically designed for those disabities. One of the key components of an IEP is the amount of time a student spends inside the regular classroom with non-disabled students. For the Federal charts, the ranges begin at less than 40% out of classroom, 41-79%, and 80% and over. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_204.60.asp

This year, the US DOE changed the way they are measuring states for special education ratings. Before, it was based solely on compliance. Now they are looking at both compliance and student outcomes. The numbers they look at go back two years. So for the 2014 IDEA Annual report, it is based on 2012 numbers.

The next chart gives a breakdown by state. Delaware is showing 14.7% for students 6-21 with special education. This is much higher than the Delaware DOE Profile website for those years which shows 13.6%, and that includes pre-Kindergarten numbers which are not included in the Federal percentage for Delaware. What could account for the difference? I’m not sure. It may be that the US DOE chart goes up to the age of 21, and the state may only go up to 18 or 19, but that is conjecture on my part. IEPs are allowed for students up until the time they receive either their high school diploma or attendance certificate, up to the age of 21. Once a student is out of the public school system, an IEP is no longer effective or legal. Their numbers may also include students in private or religious schools as well. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_204.70.asp

So how did states within a 100 mile radius of Delaware compare? Maryland had 12.1%, Virginia had 12.8%, New Jersey had 16.2%, Pennsylvania had 16.5%, and Washington D.C. had 18.1%. The lowest state was Texas with 8.8% and the highest was Washington D.C. New Jersey is well known for having an excellent special education program. Pennsylvania has made rapid improvements due to a growing number of due process hearings in that state.

But are these numbers accurate? Do these numbers represent the true number of children with disabilities? Of course, those who aren’t identified would not count. There is no exact method of calculating how many children are unidentified with a disability. But a glance at well-known organizations estimates can give an idea.

World Report On Disability (UNICEF): 15%

National Institute For Health: 15-20%

2010 US Census for All People: 20% (it showed 8% for children, which is a gross understatement, but this is based on census forms filled out by American citizens)

Why would there be so many unidentified special needs children? The reasons for this are varied. Some parents do not want their children to be labeled and refuse to have their child identified. Traumatic Brain Injury can go unidentified in up to 10% of the population causing a rapid increase in an inability to achieve a good educational outcome. Many schools do not perform their Child Find duty, even though it is required under federal law. The burden is often placed on parents, who may be unable to afford the medical payments required for diagnosis or they aren’t seeing at home and see it as a school issue. And unfortunately, some students just manage to drift through the system and don’t perform up to their academic capability.

In 2010, the Fordham Institute did a study entitled Shifting Trends In Special Education. In that study, the US Average was 13.14% and Delaware was 15.60%. Delaware had gone up 1% over a 10 year period according to the report. This study, based on numbers reported to the Federal government, showed a decrease in special education students. Most governmental agencies and medical professionals felt these numbers were rising nationwide, so Delaware was riding with that trend.

Internationally, numbers are all over the place for estimations of children with special needs in schools.

United Kingdom: 17 to 26% of students are estimated to have special needs.

Finland: 12.7%

Sweden: 15 to 20%

Netherlands: 26 to 30%

New Zealand: 9%

Finland is probably the closest to Delaware in special education population. They are considered to have one of, if not the, best education systems in the world. I will be exploring this subject at great length in the future, as well as how Delaware can learn from them.

Trending estimates show that disabilities will increase throughout the world. There are many factors for this: pollution, preservatives in our food, and hereditary conditions are amongst the largest of those reasons. Delaware is considered to be one of the more polluted states in the country due to refineries and our water. American diet has changed considerably for children compared to when I was a child. With all these changes, the human DNA is actually changing and the offspring are bearing the brunt of these changes.

 

What Smarter Balanced Assessment Means to Education in Delaware

This passed the Senate this evening, and just needs Governor Markell’s signature, which is a sure thing. Parents need to know what this test can mean to students.

The Exceptional Infinite

The Smarter Balanced test will roll-out in the 2014-2015 academic year if passed by the Senate and Governor Markell.  While parents may think this will be a once a year test, they are very wrong.

According to Brian Touchette, the state director for assessment at the Delaware DOE, modified teaching curriculum is in the process of being introduced to help teachers with transition to Smarter Balanced testing.  This could change teaching as we know it.  One of the biggest hurdles to teaching has been the implementation of Common Core standards, and now how teachers educate will be challenged.  Any educator I have talked to has been against Common Core, but they can never admit it publicly for fear of losing their job.  The DOE, Governor Markell, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy continuously state that educators are behind this, but fear outweighs common sense.

Mr. Touchette gave a presentation at the…

View original post 521 more words

Parent Opt-Out Legislation for Severely Cognitively Impaired Students Passed by Senate, House Bill 229**Updated** #netde #edude

This bill would allow for students with either autism, multiple disabilities or a moderate or severe intellectual disability to potentially be opted out of state standardized assessments.  But the caveat here is only the parent can request it.  In lieu of the standardized test, a parent would request a “portfolio review” to show student progress.  No member of a school or IEP team can request this.  Another key part is the child must have an IQ of 50 or less.

Another important part attached to this bill deals with children with dyslexia or an inability to read by the age of 7.  The way it is worded is a little bit confusing.  It looks to me like if a child isn’t reading by age 7 they should have an IEP.  As well, it pretty much says those children would have automatic Extended School Year services in their IEP unless there is  a major reason for not having those services is written into the IEP.

This does not take away the emergency opt-out clause, for students who have a major, sudden illness right before the test.

I don’t think they wanted to pass this bill until HB 334, which allows for Smarter Balanced Assessments to take over DCAS, was passed.  This passed 20 minutes after HB 334 passed.  How children will do on the Smarter Balanced Assessments is very much up in the air.  Other students with disabilities may see something familiar in a year if they don’t do well on that test.

UPDATED, July 1st, 2014, 3:55pm

After careful review of this bill, does it really say what it is meant to say?  The key is in the amendments and the exact wording.  The parent can request the portfolio assessment, but it has to be agreed on by the IEP Team, the school superintendent OR charter school leader will make the decisions regarding the style of the portfolio.  And if a school requests too many? Then the DOE steps in who will already be deciding the nature of the portfolio assessments.  So what does this bill do for these students that they don’t already have?  It looks like they will be counted for the participation rate for schools whether they take this or the SBA.

SPONSOR: Sen. Poore & Sen. Hall-Long & Rep. Longhurst & Rep. Q. Johnson & Rep. Ramone & Rep. M. Smith
Sens. Blevins, Bonini, Bushweller, Ennis, Henry, Marshall, McBride, McDowell, Peterson, Pettyjohn, Sokola, Townsend, Venables; Reps. K. Williams, Jaques

DELAWARE STATE SENATE, 147th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

SENATE BILL 229

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE EDUCATION OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

WHEREAS, under current Delaware law as interpreted by the Department of Education, all students are required to take a standardized assessment at regular intervals regardless of the nature of their cognitive disability, unless the student is suffering from extreme illness or injuries or has recently experienced severe trauma; and

WHEREAS, this requirement of state law often compels students who in the opinion of medical experts are literally unable to produce valid results on these tests to nevertheless sit for the tests; and

WHEREAS, some Delaware students with severe cognitive disabilities are currently required to take statewide standardized assessments over the objections of their own parents and teachers; and

WHEREAS, mandating that students with severe cognitive disabilities who are clinically incapable of producing valid results on standardized assessments can be harmful to those students; and

WHEREAS, teachers who now attempt to prepare such students for standardized assessments would prefer to use their classroom time to convey skills or information that their students could put to use in a vocational setting; and

WHEREAS, a limited number of young students in Delaware have dyslexia and other disabilities that severely limit or prevent them from decoding text; and

WHEREAS, the state should ensure that school districts and charter schools are being appropriately diligent about providing early, evidence-based interventions to these students so that they can learn to read;

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1.  Amend Chapter 1, Title 14 of the Delaware Code by making deletions as shown by strike through and insertions as shown by underline as follows and by redesignating accordingly:

§ 151 State assessment system; rules and regulations.

(j) Notwithstanding any other language in this Title, a student who has a measured intelligence quotient of 50 or less, has been formally classified as having one of the three following conditions, and whose parents or guardians, and IEP team, and school district superintendent or charter school leader believe will not produce valid results on either the standard or alternate assessment, shall be granted a special exemption from taking either assessment. The definition of each of the following three conditions shall be the same that is in effect on the date of passage of this Act in Title 14, Section 922 of the Delaware Administrative Code.

(i) Autism;

(ii) Multiple disabilities;

(iii) An intellectual disability.

The Department of Education shall promulgate regulations establishing a procedure for the review and approval of special exemptions requested under this subsection (including acceptable means of measuring intelligence quotient) and for further reviews of individual schools and/or school districts that request an unusual number of special exemptions.   The Department of Education shall also promulgate regulations providing for a method of measuring academic progress by students receiving a special exemption from the state’s assessment, which shall provide objective criteria by which student progress can be planned and measured and shall be developed in consultation with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens. Students who are granted a special exemption under this subsection shall not be included in the participation rate calculation for schools and school districts.

Section 2.Amend Section Chapter 31, Title 14 by making deletions as shown by strike through and insertions as shown by underline as follows:

§ 3110 Rules and regulations.

(e) With respect to any child with a disability who is not beginning to read by age seven, each IEP prepared for such student until that student is beginning to read shall (a) enumerate the specific, evidence-based interventions that are being provided to that student to address the student’s inability to read, and (b) provide for evidence-based interventions through extended year services during the summer absent a specific explanation in the IEP as to why such services are inappropriate.

Section 3.It is the intention of the General Assembly that $500,000 of the funds appropriated by Section 189 of House Bill 200 of this General Assembly shall, if such funds are reappropriated by a subsequent General Assembly, be specifically designated beginning July 1, 2015 for the annual provision of regional evidence-based summer reading instruction for students who are not beginning to read by age seven.

Section 4.The provisions of this Act are severable, and a finding that any individual provisions or sections are unenforceable shall not prevent enforcement of all other provisions.

SYNOPSIS

Section 1 of the Act would permit the state’s students with severe cognitive disabilities, with the consent of their parents, IEP teams, and school districts, to receive special exemptions from taking either of the state’s standardized assessments. The academic progress of those students would still be measured in order to ensure that they are being challenged and provided meaningful instruction.   Sections 2 and 3 of the Act attempt to ensure that evidence-based interventions are provided for young students who have dyslexia and related disabilities, to ensure that they are receiving necessary assistance in learning to read.

Author: Senator Poore

With Senate Amendment #2

AMEND Senate Bill No. 229 by deleting lines 20 through 36 in their entirety and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

“(j) Notwithstanding any other language in this Title, a student who has been formally classified as having one of the following four conditions, and whose parent, IEP team, and school district superintendent or charter school leader believe will not produce valid results on either the standard or alternate assessment despite accommodations and adjustments, shall receive his or her alternate assessment through consideration of work samples, projects and portfolios, which facilitate authentic and direct gauges of student performance with respect to both relevant state standards and the student’s IEP (a “portfolio assessment”). The definition of each of the following four conditions shall be the same that in effect on the date of passage of this Act in Title 14, Sections 922 and 925 of the Delaware Administrative Code:

(i) Moderate Intellectual Disability

(ii) Severe Intellectual Disability

(iii) Autism, accompanied by intellectual functioning equivalent to Moderate or Severe Intellectual Disability

(iv) Multiple Disabilities, accompanied by intellectual functioning equivalent to Moderate or Severe Intellectual Disability.

The parents of a student classified as having one of these four conditions shall be informed of their child’s rights under this section, but no IEP team, school or school district shall advocate that parents exercise those rights. Only a student’s parents may initiate a portfolio assessment request under this Section, and when such a request is made, the student’s IEP team and school district superintendent or charter school leader shall make their determinations regarding the portfolio assessment within 60 days of said request. The Department of Education shall promulgate regulations establishing a procedure for the design and evaluation of portfolio assessments requested under this subsection and for further reviews of individual schools and/or school districts that request an unusual number of portfolio assessments. The Department of Education shall also promulgate regulations providing for a method of measuring academic progress by students receiving a portfolio assessment under this section, which (i) shall provide objective criteria by which student progress can be planned and measured, (ii) shall be developed in consultation with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens, and (iii) shall satisfy the requirements of 20 U.S.C. § 1412, 20 U.S.C. § 6311, and any other applicable federal laws or regulations. Students who are granted a portfolio assessment under this subsection shall not be included in the participation rate calculation for schools and school districts.”

FURTHER AMEND Senate Bill No. 229 by adding the following to end of line 36: “Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit the authority of the Department to approve exemptions from assessments for students not covered by this subsection.”

FURTHER AMEND Senate Bill 229 by adding a new Section 5, to read as follows:

“Section 5. All regulations required by this Act shall be promulgated by the Department of Education within 90 days of enactment into law, and shall be subject to the approval of the State Board of Education and any entities required by federal law.   The process authorized by Section 1 of this Section shall not begin until it is approved pursuant to this Section, and the Secretary of Education shall report to the General Assembly every 90 days beginning 90 days after enactment of this Act into law with respect to the Department’s progress in fulfilling its obligations under this Act.”

SYNOPSIS

This amendment makes six changes to Senate Bill 229.   First, it amends the terminology in Section 1 of the bill to adopt existing definitions and standards from existing Department of Education regulations rather than creating new definitions and standards. Second, it clarifies that students covered by this Act will still have their academic progress assessed, but by a means other than the existing DCAS alternate assessment.   Third, it limits to parents the right to initiate requests under this section, and establishes deadlines for schools and school districts to respond to such requests. Fourth, it clarifies that any regulations promulgated by the Department of Education must be consistent with existing federal law governing assessments. Fifth, it establishes deadlines for the Department of Education to promulgate regulations relating to this Act and clarifies that those regulations are subject to approval by the State Board of Education and federal agencies. Finally, it clarifies that the Department of Education’s existing authority to grant special exemptions for circumstances such as sudden, severe illness are not impacted by this legislation.

Another Task Force! SCR 65: Autism Educational Taskforce

I hope all these Senate Concurrent Resolutions do some worthwhile fact rendering and important legislation comes out of it.  There is no time like the present for improvement!

 

SPONSOR: Sen. Henry & Sen. Townsend
  Sens. Blevins, Ennis, Hall-Long, Lopez, Poore, Venables; Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Brady, Briggs King, Dukes, Gray, Hudson, Jaques, J. Johnson, Kowalko, Osienski, Ramone, B. Short, D. Short, Smyk

 

DELAWARE STATE SENATE

147th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 65

 

 CREATING AN AUTISM EDUCATIONAL TASK FORCE.

WHEREAS, the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies conducted a comprehensive statewide appraisal of the ongoing needs of Delawareans with autism spectrum disorder (hereinafter “ASD”); and

WHEREAS, a summit was held inviting a diverse group of stakeholders involved in the lives of individuals with ASD that provided the opportunity to express individual perspectives or concerns regarding the Blueprint; and

WHEREAS, the Delaware Department of Education (hereinafter “DDOE”) provides valuable education opportunities and services to students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the state of Delaware has a history of providing a groundbreaking and innovative, evidence-based education program for students with ASD; and

WHEREAS, students who have an ADS function at many different and individual cognitive levels; and

WHEREAS, the conclusions found in the Blueprint regarding the educational needs of students with ASD show that there are areas needing improvement.

NOW THEREFORE:

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the 147th General Assembly of the State of Delaware, the House of Representatives concurring therein, that an Autism Educational Task Force (hereinafter “Task Force”) is established to study the Blueprint to prioritize and make recommendations regarding the initiation of Educational and Technical Assistance Teams and a statewide Autism Resource Center, and to research appropriate funding streams to enable the creation and implementation of these two programs.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force shall be composed of the following members:

(a)   One member of the Delaware State Senate appointed by the President Pro Tem; and

(b) One member of the Delaware House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House; and

(c) Two parents of an individual with ASD, from a variety of age groups and geographic areas, one to be appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, one to be appointed by the Chairman of the House Education Committee; and

(d) Two individuals personally affected by autism one to be appointed by the President Pro Tem, one to be appointed by the Speaker of the House; and

(e) A private service provider for Delawareans with ASD to be appointed by the Delaware Secretary of Health and Human Services; and

(f) The Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education or a designee thereof; and

(g) The Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) or a designee thereof; and

(h) The Secretary of the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families (DSCYF) or a designee thereof; and

(i)   The Secretary of the Delaware Department of Labor (DOL) or a designee thereof; and

(j) The Executive Director of Autism Delaware or a designee thereof; and

(k) The Executive Director of the Delaware Parent Information Center or a designee thereof; and

(l) The Director of the Delaware Division of Developmental Disability Services (DDDS) or a designee thereof; and

(m) The Director of the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) or a designee thereof; and

(n) The Director of the Delaware Birth to Three Early Intervention System or a designee thereof; and

(o) The Director of the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS) or a designee thereof

(p) The Statewide Director of the Delaware Autism Program or a designee thereof; and

(q) The Board Chair of the Delaware Autism Program Peer Review Board or a designee thereof.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force shall convene its first meeting no later than 60 days after enactment. The member of the Delaware State Senate appointed by the President Pro Tem shall serve as the chair of the Task Force, and shall convene the first and subsequent meetings.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Education shall provide staff and fiscal support for the Task Force.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly to be reviewed by the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Committee on or before March 31, 2015.

SYNOPSIS

This resolution establishes an Autism Educational Task Force.

Author: Senator Henry

 

Delaware Senate Defeats, Rescinds And Then Passes House Bill 334 For Smarter Balanced Assessment


They rescinded the initial vote, voted again and passed House Bill 334, making the Smarter Balanced Assessment the law of the land.  Guess we are stuck with it.  Sorry to get everyone’s hopes up!

HB 334 Scott Passed
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATED TO EDUCATION.

Date:06/26/2014 09:34 PMPassed

Vote Type:SM

 

Yes:12 No:9 Not Voting:0 Absent:0
Blevins Y Hocker N Peterson Y
Bonini N Lavelle Y Pettyjohn N
Bushweller Y Lawson N Poore Y
Cloutier N Lopez N Simpson N
Ennis Y Marshall Y Sokola Y
Hall-Long Y McBride Y Townsend N
Henry Y McDowell Y Venables N

 

So what is the Delaware DOE going to do now?  More details to come.  This will make many parents happy! And teachers!

HB 334 Scott Defeated
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATED TO EDUCATION.

Date:06/26/2014 08:31 PMDefeated

Vote Type:SM

 

Yes:8 No:13 Not Voting:0 Absent:0
Blevins Y Hocker N Peterson Y
Bonini N Lavelle N Pettyjohn N
Bushweller Y Lawson N Poore Y
Cloutier N Lopez N Simpson N
Ennis N Marshall Y Sokola Y
Hall-Long Y McBride N Townsend N
Henry Y McDowell N Venables N

Meet Kathy Willis, A Delaware Advocate For Children with Special Needs #netde #edude

 

I have the extreme pleasure of posting an interview I recently had with Kathy Willis. Kathy is an advocate for children with special needs and disabilities in the state of Delaware. She has attended several Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings to support parents in helping to get the accommodations their children need in IEP and 504 plans. I met Kathy last month through Kilroys, and I believe she is a great person in our state to help our children. Kathy’s story is below, and she has gone through several of the same struggles many parents have in Delaware. But she turned dark times into something positive that has been truly beneficial for parents. I don’t know if the DOE and the state government realizes how many of us are out there, trying to champion this cause. It can be as an advocate, or a blogger, or as a parent attending a support group. Without further ado, please meet Kathy Willis!

I understand you have children with disabilities. Did you have any struggles with any schools in Delaware?

I have two children with disabilities. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADD, severe casein intolerance (casein is a protein in milk), expressive language delay, and medical issues. Also, to make it even more complicated he is twice exceptional, which means he is gifted with a learning disability. My daughter has mild to moderate dyslexia, and has an average to above average IQ.

We have had problems with both of their schools.

My story started with my son. We always knew he became extremely stressed during the school year. He was never a behavior problem, but he hated school to the point it made him physically sick. We home schooled off and on most of his life because of his severe anxiety. In 9th grade, he went to a charter school, and he was so incredibly stressed that he would literally rip his fingernails off to the point he would bleed.  He would spend hours upon hours doing his homework, and he would literally hit his head and say “I am just so stupid.”

We actually wanted to bring him back home. He was happy and content when we homeschooled him. He was incredibly bright and easy to home school. However, he decided he wanted to stick it out at this charter school. We supported him in this decision, but we grew more and more concerned as his anxiety increased. In November of 9th grade, he had a serious medical issue with rapidly developing pectus carinatum. He had numerous doctor visits, including a trip to the New York area for a brace fitting several times.

I had been in touch with the school’s Educational Diagnostician (ED) after a teacher referred her to me. She seemed nice, and at the time I actually trusted her. I actually updated her on my son’s medical condition during our visits to see specialists as far as California, and thought of her as a friend at the time. I had asked several times to have him evaluated, and that I knew something was wrong. I grew frustrated, as she seemed to ignore my requests for months. I began to study Delaware special education laws and Wrightslaw (link to http://www.wrightslaw.com/)

I finally put my request for an evaluation in writing, and she finally did a very basic and completely lacking evaluation. In the end, he basically scored 4 years ahead in most areas except written expression. (I guess I did a good job with homeschooling!) Due to his disability, he was on a kindergarten level in written expression. I didn’t know much about what this meant at the time, but when the ED suggested he sit with her to learn basic grammar at lunchtime, I knew something was not right. He had scored four years ahead in basic grammar, sentence structure, and spelling so how would learning basic grammar help him? It just didn’t make sense. At first, I politely said that I did not agree, and paid for an occupational therapy (OT) evaluation independently. We learned he had many deficits, and we paid over $6000.00 in OT to help him. The school later hired an OT of their own to write a report on our OT’s evaluation, which of course she disagreed with. The ridiculous part was that she had never met my son, nor had she ever evaluated him. I personally think she should lose her OT license.

The story grew from here as my son’s struggles increased. We started noticing that he was getting all A’s and B’s, but he was not completing assignments because he was unable to do it. His nature is to please, and despite hours of trying he couldn’t express himself in writing. He could answer a multiple choice with almost 100% accuracy, but he could not write about the same information. Assignments that were supposed to be five paragraphs long, he would only write two sentences and get an A+. I really grew concerned because he was still so stressed and he knew he wasn’t able to do the assignments, and a teacher told me that I needed to be concerned because he would never make it in college.

I began to request that he have some help with his writing. I was so naive at first that I just asked for a few minutes each week. I was repeatedly denied. We finally hired an advocate, and she was appalled at the behavior at an IEP meeting. The ED denied saying he needed instruction in basic grammar despite it being written in the actual evaluation as a recommendation. She accused me of only wanting a 504 plan, and that I refused an IEP despite literally 100s of emails begging for help. I even told her that I didn’t understand the difference in an IEP or a 504 plan.

We had an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) completed that stated he needed an IEP for a learning disability in written expression. However, the IEE also stated that his grades were good so it was questionable how much he needed. We later found out that the teachers had lied and provided false information to the evaluator. I am so thankful for the Home Access Center, and we were able to print out his actual grades. I found that at one point he was missing 13 out of 23 assignments, but still had an A+ in his English class. I saved every assignment and grade, and found that he was only writing the two sentences for five paragraph essays. He was graded A+ for those papers. It was unreal what they were doing to keep from helping him.

There were so many dirty things done to make it look like he was faking his disability and/or to cover it up. We fought literally for three years until I was so fed up, and I literally almost memorized state and federal education laws. At the time, it was really hard to find a lawyer in Delaware for special education. I finally filed a state complaint, and the response was outrageous. If you were to read the state DOE response online, you would think that they were right not to rule in our favor. However, the report is nowhere near accurate.

After he was finally given a (ridiculously poor) 504 plan, he was to have OT for written expression weekly. Unfortunately, he did not receive one session for months. I finally filed an Office of Civil Rights complaint regarding the lack of services, ignoring their own and the school’s evaluation, falsifying records, etc. If you do any reading on OCR complaints, you will find that they rarely find in favor of the child. We won hands down, and the school was required to sign a contract with OCR. The 4 page contract required the charter school to obtain training on IEPs/504 plans, compensatory education for my son, and many other things. OCR, which is a federal entity, was serious and made several follow ups.

During the investigation by OCR, which took several months, we again tried to get an IEP for our son. The school finally hired a speech therapist to evaluate him, and even despite her recommendation for an IEP, the ED (who governed the IEP team) refused to do so. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when my son did extremely well on the DSTP, and the ED said “see he doesn’t need an IEP.” When we got home, we asked our son about the DSTP, and that we were proud of him but puzzled on how he did so well. He said, “What???? Who wrote what???” He told me that a special education teacher took him to his office, asked him a few questions, but he could not see what he was writing.

There is nothing wrong with my son’s hands, and no one should have been writing anything for him. We called the state DOE, made an appointment to take him to look at the actual test, and after reading it, he said “I did not say these things.” There were no accommodations to use a scribe, and the state was not even informed that he had one for the test. To be clear, even if a scribe is necessary, they are only to write word for word what the student says. They cannot even add punctuation without the child saying to do so. Of course, we were completely fed up.

The DOE initiated an investigation, which we followed up with a written request for one. The state DOE interviewed everyone involved including our son in our presence. The final report was that the teacher had cheated, and guess what, he did not lose his job. We were told that it was a personnel issue, and none of our business. We do not know why to this day that we did not go to the News Journal.

By the way, my son became so ill from stress that he was on homebound from December 2008 until late September 2009. The ED was still arrogant, and our fight went on for several more months. We filed for a due process hearing, and won in a resolution meeting with a settlement. My son’s senior year was his best year in his entire schooling, and with special education his writing grew from a kindergarten level to a 6th grade level. We used compensatory education to get him individual help, and he is doing well in college. We also got a true IEE, and we learned even more about his needs and disabilities. There were so many dirty things done at that charter school, but it would take me days to tell them all.

What prompted you to become an advocate?

I hate to see a child suffer. I hate it when an adult knows a child needs help, and continues to berate them for their disability. It took me a long time to learn what I know, and how to be smarter than the school so that the child can get the help they need. I believe that by helping another family through this horrible maze, it makes my son’s difficulties seem (a little) worth it. I have helped children all over the state (including PA & NJ) in numerous school districts and in all three counties in Delaware. It brings great joy and healing to see another child helped.

How does advocacy work? Do you need a license?

You do not need a license. You do need to know special education laws, but you have to be careful not to practice the law.

What are some of the most common problems you come across?

Parents don’t understand that they must put their request in writing if they want their child evaluated. They do not know how to read the school’s evaluation, they do not know their procedural safeguard. They don’t know it’s imperative to record all IEP meetings because they trust the IEP team. Children are given accommodations to help the teachers not the child. IEPs are written poorly. The child does not progress and parents don’t know how to monitor progress. Children are denied IEPs. Children’s disabilities are sometimes accommodated but rarely remediated, etc. etc.

It sounds like there are many situations where a child is denied an IEP based on intelligence. Would you find that to be accurate?

Absolutely. It isn’t always an easy task. In my son’s case, he was technically gifted so how could he need an IEP according to the school. This is old school thinking, and it clearly has no place in IDEA.

What is a due process hearing like? A mediation?

Mediation is supposed to be less confrontational with less people than a full IEP team. Also, you request Mediation without filing for Due Process. During Mediation, there is generally a mediator from the University of Delaware that leads the meeting. Any decisions made in mediation are legally binding, but the discussions held in Mediation are not.

Also, I would never agree to mediation AFTER filing for a due process hearing especially if you have hired a lawyer. If the issues are settled in Mediation, you cannot usually get lawyer fees. Generally after filing for due process, the school should offer a resolution meeting. If the issues are settled there, you can ask for legal fees to be paid. I have not had to go to a full due process in Delaware. The two cases I filed were one for my son and one for my daughter and both settled in Resolution. I have had many parents file for due process in Delaware, but all have been extremely strong cases so the school settled in Resolution. The cases settled in Resolution do not get recorded so you will never hear how often this occurs. I have had parents go through and win due process in Pennsylvania. I will say that it is extremely stressful, takes hours and hours of preparation, and you really, really need a lawyer.

Everyone talks about IEPs, but a lot of people don’t know about 504 plans. Have you ever advocated for someone on a 504 plan?

I have advocated for children with 504 plans. It is rare that I think a 504 plan is sufficient. If the child has medical conditions that affect his education, but has no educational or behavioral needs, then and only then might a 504 plan be sufficient.

Many people in Delaware believe charter schools have the most special education issues. Do you believe charter schools have more problems with special education than regular public schools?

Yes, but regular public schools can be just as bad. The cost is high to educate a child with a disability, but they deserve a Free Appropriate Education (FAPE). I have found that those leading and working in charter schools have very little knowledge about special education laws. However, make no mistake that a child with a disability has the same protections and rights as any child does in any other public school.

What do you think of special education in Delaware?

Honestly, we do a pretty good job with early childhood (before entrance into the school system) interventions. However, we absolutely stink once a child gets older.

Do you think schools in Delaware are accurately performing their Child Find duties?

They do a pretty good job with early childhood Child Find, but once a child is in elementary school the identification goes down. They are required to assess in all areas of suspected disability, and you will mainly find the status quo evaluation only has an IQ test and a basic achievement test. Tests only measure what they are designed to do. For example, the most common intelligence test is the WISC, which is based mostly on language. If a child has an expressive language disorder, you could get a very false low score. I have found this to be true on many occasions. It is terrible to be told your child has a low IQ, when in fact they may not. As another example, dyslexia is rarely picked up by these standard achievement tests. There are many, many tests that are rarely used by schools that should be.

What do you think of the report that came out this week regarding Delaware needing Federal intervention for special education?

It’s about time!!

How do you feel about standarized testing and Common Core in Delaware? Do you think all parents of special needs children should have the option of opting out of standardized testing?

Common Core: I can only imagine the number of children struggling with it. I am sure we will never know. As far as standardized testing, well I am on the fence about that one. It can alert parents that a child has a disability and it can also help monitor their progress. I do believe parents should have the choice, but I fear parents will make uneducated choices. If you want your child to succeed in college, they will have to take tests.

What is the one thing you could do over if you had the chance?

I wish that I had learned how to help my son a lot sooner than I did. However, let me be clear, it is never the parent’s responsibility. According to case law and the IDEA, the child find responsibility is 100% on the schools. I still wish I could have helped my kids a lot sooner. I would also have filed my OCR complaint and my due process complaint a whole lot sooner than we did. We wanted them to just do the right thing and help our son. We didn’t want the fight, but we certainly were not going to give up. There are many days I wish I had gone to the News Journal, but our intent was to help our son, not ruin the school. We had a horrible IEP team, but we still believed in the school. There were some good things about the school.

If you hadn’t intervened with the school, where do you think your children would be now?

There is no doubt in my mind that neither of my children would be doing as well as they are in college. I believe they are both on their way to independence. I sincerely doubt my son or my daughter would have ever made of $8 an hour if they were not helped. I also think that both of them would be seriously depressed and their self esteems in the toilet. We have done a lot of emotional repairing and even counseling to help them get over the school trauma.

How are your children now?

See above. 🙂

I want to thank Kathy for her courage in telling her children’s story, as well as many useful tips for Delaware parents. As I have said all along, never walk into an IEP meeting without an advocate, take notes, and save all emails from any school the moment you walk into the door the very first day.

If you are a parent in need of an advocate, please contact Kathy Willis at advocating4kids@yahoo.com

Delaware House Reps & Senators Emailed Tonight to Include Parents on IEP Task Force

Whether it was their regular email on the website or their Facebook account, all Delaware House Reps and Senators were emailed by me tonight.  Most of them got the same one, but I have met a few of them already to discuss some issues.  I appreciate those who emailed back so quickly.  One of them told me this was not the first email they received today.  Hopefully parents can be included in Senate Concurrent Resolution 63, which creates an IEP Task Force to basically look at why Delaware is doing so bad in Special Education two years in a row.

Here is the letter I sent to ALL of them:

I am a father of a special needs child.  My son has Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, and Sensory Processing Disorder.  I am a huge advocate not only for my own son, but all the children in Delaware with special needs.  So much so that I started my own blog, Exceptional Delaware, after writing a story on Kilroy’s Delaware about what happened to my son at a Delaware charter school. 

I read about SCR 63, the IEP Task Force.  This is a wonderful thing, and it is very needed.  However, I noticed there are no parents designated on the Task Force.  I believe this is a very big mistake.  Children with special needs are the primary stakeholders of whatever this task force comes up with, and the parents are the primary advocates for our children.  Parents are always part of the IEP process, and this should not be an exemption to parents at all.  Please speak about this tomorrow during the last day of legislative session and propose that parents be allowed a part of this.  I would highly recommend at least 3 parents of special needs be allowed on the Task Force, one from each county of Delaware.

We are the ones who are highly invested in this process, and we probably have the most to say about it, and how Delaware has arrived at the position they are in with the Federal Government.  IDEA and IEP are very tricky animals, and it needs to be looked at very carefully.  One wrong mistake can have tragic consequences for these children. 

Thank you for your time, and I appreciate all you do for our kids.

I hope Governor Markell realizes what a very big deal this is to so many in our state.

Delaware Senate Responds To Federal Ruling About Special Education Mess **UPDATED**WITH SUCCESS!!!!!!!!

Finally, someone in the government does something!  But I think they MUST have at least three parents of special needs children on this task force.  Parents are always a part of the IEP process, so they MUST be a part of any task force involved in making changes to it.  Otherwise, it is a slap in the face of every single parent of a special needs child that has had to fight to get accommodations for their child.  SCR 63 MUST change this immediately!  Yesterday, the US DOE stated Delaware is one of three states that needs federal intervention.  As a result, the Delaware Senate has put forth the following:

SPONSOR: Sen. Sokola & Sen. Poore & Rep. M. Smith & Rep. Ramone

 

DELAWARE STATE SENATE147th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 63

 

ESTABLISHING A TASK FORCE TO EXAMINE MEANS TO IMPROVE THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PLAN (IEP) PROCESS FOR STUDENTS IN DELAWARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

 

 

 

 

WHEREAS, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are the mechanism under federal and state law whereby schools determine what academic and other services should be provided to students with special needs, and what goals should be set for those students; and

WHEREAS, the process of developing IEPs for students in some of our state’s schools and school districts is, at best, difficult for parents to understand and navigate, and at worst in some instances, unfair and intimidating to parents; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly has made efforts over the past several years to improve the IEP process, by passing legislation leveling up the services to which students with disabilities are entitled and legislation making it more economically feasible for parents dissatisfied with their children’s IEP to appeal the IEP decision; and

WHEREAS, notwithstanding these improvements, the IEP process does not always result in the best outcome for students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, it is in the best interest of students with disabilities for Delaware to improve the IEP process used in its schools.

NOW, THEREFORE:

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the 147th General Assembly of the State of Delaware, the House of Representatives concurring therein, that an IEP Improvement Task Force is hereby created by the General Assembly.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the membership of the IEP Improvement Task Force shall be as follows:

  1. Two members of the State Senate, a member of the majority party appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem and a member of the minority party appointed by the Senate Minority Leader;
  2. Two members of the House of Representatives, a member of the majority party appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a member of the minority party appointed by the House Majority Leader;
  3. The Secretary of Education or his designee;
  4. The President of the State Parent Teacher Association or the President’s designee;
  5. The chair of the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council or the chair’s designee;
  6. Three representatives of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens, to be selected by the chair of the Council;
  7. The Governor or the Governor’s designee;
  8. The Lieutenant Governor or the Lieutenant Governor’s designee;
  9. A representative of the Delaware State Bar Association, to be selected by the President of the Delaware State Bar Association;
  10. The President of the Delaware State Education Association or the President’s designee;
  11. Two representatives of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, to be selected by the president of that organization;
  12. Two persons who teach special education in Delaware public schools, to be selected by the task force chair;
  13. Two persons who provide services to children with disabilities in Delaware public schools, to be selected by the task force chair;
  14. One non-attorney who advocates for parents and children in IEP proceedings, to be selected by the task force chair.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the task force shall report to the General Assembly and Governor by January 1, 2015 on the following topics:

  1. Practices being used in other states for development of IEPs that are different from practices in Delaware;
  2. The differences in practices used in different school districts within Delaware for development of IEPs;
  3. Research or other academic evidence of best practices with respect to development of IEPs;
  4. Federal or state law restrictions on changes to Delaware’s IEP process;
  5. Potential legislative, regulatory, funding, or other improvements to Delaware’s IEP process.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the chair of the Task Force shall be selected by the President Pro Tem of the Delaware State Senate, with the Lieutenant Governor to serve as temporary chair pursuant to Senate Rule 8(b)(4).

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff support for the task force shall be provided by the Delaware Department of Education.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Delaware Department of Education and all Delaware school districts and charter schools shall respond promptly to requests for information from the task force.

 

SYNOPSIS

This concurrent resolution creates an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Task Force.

Author: Senator Sokola

Updated, 6/26/14, 2:44PM: Despite all my best efforts, emailing every single Delaware House Rep and Senator, this resolution passed the Senate at 2:18 pm today with NO amendment to add parents, even though several reps told me they would let Senator Sokola know so he could amend it.  All who got in touch with me seemed to agree that it should have happened, and one even said it was probably an oversight.  Rep Paul Baumbach informed me on Twitter there was no time to amend the bill, but there are opportunities to be named to the task force or to attend and testify at all their public meetings.  Which does answer one question about whether this would be open or closed.

I think it is a travesty not to include regular parents on this that aren’t 1) an advocate, 2) a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council For Exceptional Citizens, and 3) Someone providing services at a school for special need’s children.  Just a regular parent who has been through all the exhaustive school battles and will give raw, untainted testimony about what is really going on.

Updated 6/26/14, 7:03PM: After creating a twitter storm advising all Delaware parents to have outside special needs parents added to the Task Force, and emails coming at me left and right from House Reps, the Senate stopped any motion on the resolution and put it under the label of “reconsider”.  At 6:28 pm tonight, they added this amendment and repassed the resolution:

AMEND Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 63 between lines 37 and 38 by inserting the following:

“15. Three parents, one from each county, each having a child who has had or currently has an IEP, to be selected by the Senate and House Task Force members.”

SYNOPSIS

This amendment adds three members who are parents of children who have experience with an IEP.

Victory!!!! Thank you to all the parents out there who helped with this and advised our public officials what is best for our awesome children!  We did a good thing today.  I also want to give a huge shout-out to Representative Kim Williams, Representative Rebecca Walker, Representative Darryl Scott, and Senator Nicole Poore for going the extra mile on this.  Thank you!

Learning About the Diabiliaties in Education Act

Kavips has a dramatic flair for this type of thing, but I find his predictions tend to be very accurate. I think all of Delaware will be put to the test next year when Smarter Balanced Assessments come out. And the special needs children will suffer the most. It will be Delaware’s moment as they will once again fail a federal special education review and everyone in the state government will wonder why.

kavips

Due to the report lambasting Delaware for coddling special ed children, I have dug into the topic of education disabled children…..As usual… it comes down not to science, but wishful thinking….

Here is how the department of Education described forcing children to achieve a high bar that is impossible for them…..

“Under the Department’s proposed regulation, students with disabilities who have been taking the AA-MAAS (Alternative Assessments-Alligned to Modifed Academic Achievement Standards) will transition to college and career ready standards and general assessments that are aligned to those standards and accessible to all students. Research has shown that struggling students with disabilities make academic progress when provided with appropriate supports and instruction. .”   That seems to meet the common sense test doesn’t it?   Pushing people harder gets more productivity.

The key is in “red”….

Scientific research shows that raising the bar and firing the coaches when they don’t meet…

View original post 566 more words

Breaking News: Feds Want To Intervene In Delaware Special Education, **Updated**

According to an article in the Delaware News Journal, the Feds have placed Delaware on a watch list as one of three states to need intervention for special ed students.  This is what I have been saying all along.  Special education in Delaware is severely lacking.  Maybe the powers that be will start to wake up!

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/06/24/feds-del-needs-intervention-special-ed/11305993/?sf27702642=%5B%271%27%5D
Updated: The Huffington Post picks up on this story as well: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/24/idea-compliance-2014_n_5524196.html?utm_hp_ref=politics
Updated again: How about timing? When I read this article I was sitting in Governor’s Café in Dover. In the next room, members of the Delaware Department of Education were having a meeting with their summer interns. In fact, the Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy, was walking out as I walked in. The Executive Director for the Board of Education, Donna Johnson, came in late. After I read the article, I spoke to another woman to see if I could speak with Donna Johnson about the News Journal article. She said the person I would want to speak with would be Maryann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Children’s Resources at the Delaware DOE. I came home and called her, but she was at lunch. More to be updated later!

Updated again: I have sent the following email to Maryann Mieczkowski at the DOE:

Hi Maryann, I am a parent of a special needs child in Delaware.  I have attended state board meetings, written on Kilroy’s, started my own blog, and more.  There is a growing group of us in Delaware that have had it with the DOE and special education.  AlI roads seem to lead back to you according to everyone I have spoken with at the state.  I have several questions for you in regards to special ed.  Please let me know when we can meet to discuss these issues.  I left you a message earlier today.

Updated at 1:38 PM EST, 6/24/14:  Delaware legislature, maybe you can follow up with me on my many ideas for immediate legislation for special education.  You still have 3 days left to pass something meaningful for special education children.  My ideas can be found here: http://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/epilogue-a-fathers-cry-for-his-son-re-failure-of-a-delaware-charter-school-promise-netde-edude/

Updated at 2:25 PM EST, 6/24/14: No word yet from Mary Ann Mieczkowski or Matthew Albright at the Delaware News Journal.  I did talk to House Representative Darryl Scott’s assistant.  He said it is too late to get anything introduced with only three days of legislative session.  I advised him if they had done something a long time ago, maybe the 147th Assembly wouldn’t be upset about this report that came out today.

Updated at 2:51 PM EST, 6/24/14: Mary Ann emailed back and she wants to meet.  Trying to figure out schedules.  In the meantime, you can find out how your state did in the federal IDEA report here: http://specialchildren.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=specialchildren&cdn=parenting&tm=11&f=00&su=p284.13.342.ip_&tt=65&bt=8&bts=8&zu=http%3A//www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/06/24/most-deficient-special-ed/19466/

Updated at 5:55 PM EST, 6/24/14: Scheduled an appointment with Maryann for next week.  In the meantime, Delaware media and national education media is jumping all over this story.  From WDEL: http://wdel.com/story.php?id=60459 Education Week: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2014/06/ed_dept_releases_results_of_ne.html

Updated at 6:15 PM EST, 6/24/14: from the US Department of Education website: State Graphic Fact Sheet:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/2014-chart-1-7.pdf

2014 IDEA determination fact sheet: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/ideafactsheet-determinations-2014.pdf

How OSEP made determinations for Part B:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2014/2014_part_b_htdmd.pdf

How OSEP made determinations for Part C:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partcspap/2014/2014_part%20c_htdmd.pdf

How OSEP Made Determinations under Section 616(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B in 2014: Entities with Determinations Based on Compliance:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2014/2014%20htdmd-part-b-entities.pdf

2014 Letter to Delaware Secretary Of Education Mark Murphy from OSEP: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2014/de-acc-aprltr-2014b.pdf

This report made a big deal about 39 of the states meeting last year, but Delaware was not one of them based on their 2013 OSEP letter to Mark Murphy:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2013/de-aprltr-2013b.pdf

So they had a year to get it right, and they still couldn’t.

Updated at 10:57PM, 6/24/14: Claudio Sanchez at nprED doesn’t think we should trust Arne Duncan and the folks in DC.  It’s always been hard for me to trust a Secretary Of Education with little or no educational experience.  But this link tells us why: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/06/24/325229848/a-major-shift-in-oversight-of-special-education/

Delawareliberal.net is getting in on it too, and Steve Newton’s comments are spot on: http://www.delawareliberal.net/2014/06/24/delawares-special-education-program-needs-intervention/

So my question now is, what happens next?  Say Delaware keeps ignoring the federal demands and they strip away Delaware’s IDEA funding.  What happens to all the special needs kids in Delaware?  Yes, it is only 60% of the funding for special education, but that’s a lot of money.  Would things like Capital School District’s DAP program be able to survive losing that money?

And what changes will the Delaware DOE make?  Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has been quiet on the subject all day.  He sure seemed happy when I saw him coming out of Governor’s Café this morning.  And the letter to him from the Feds was from yesterday.  Should Murphy be fired?  Two years in a row of basically failing in special education, and you are the Secretary of Education.  Please, if you don’t get fired, just quit.  Delaware deserves better than you.  Meanwhile, I still don’t see the audio recording of the last board meeting which went over the IDEA Annual Performance Report.  I missed the meeting, and I’m kicking myself now!

This is why things like House Bill 23 need to be passed, so we can all know what is being said at School Board meetings.  I’m not worried about the ones that already do it.  It’s the ones that aren’t.  The ones with lots of money going out but the students aren’t seeing it.

Updated at 11:56PM, 6/24/14: All the links for the US DOE website appear to be working now.  I would also check out the Delawareonline comments section on Facebook.  Lots of special ed parents are raising hell.

Updated at 8:55AM, 6/25/14: The New York Times is getting in on the action: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/us/shift-in-law-on-disability-and-students-shows-lapses.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

And The Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/states-special-education-services-face-tighter-oversight-by-the-obama-administration/2014/06/23/a103031e-fb36-11e3-b1f4-8e77c632c07b_story.html

And Kilroy looks at some Delaware political ties to this subject: http://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/delaware-rep-lavelle-might-want-to-save-some-finger-pointing-for-rep-hudson-re-special-ed-report/

And lo and behold, the Delaware DOE has put up the audio recording from their Board of Education meeting on 6/19/14.  The audio recording you want to listen to is Part 4 6/19/14 going over the IDEA Annual Performance Report, starring our very own Mary Ann Mieczkowski.

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/ddoe/sbe/sbeaudio.shtml

 Updated at 2:05PM, 6/25/14: An interesting link to WDDE 91.1FM about this debacle- http://www.wdde.org/63945-federal-report-delaware-special-education-intervention

The original Delaware News Journal article by Matthew Albright seems to have more information: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2014/06/24/feds-del-needs-intervention-special-ed/11305993/

I’ve searched for any word from Mark Murphy on all of this but have found none.  In the meantime, many parents are wondering why the Feds discontinued the old compliance monitoring where they would go into schools to audit special education department’s IEPs to make sure they were compliant.  This stopped in 2012, and Delaware has gone dramatically downhill in special education since then.  In 2010, the Exceptional Children branch of the DOE announced all schools in Delaware would be audited every three years.  Where are those audit reports?  Are they even being done?  It sounds like the DOE needs to drum up some reports to the public very fast, or parents are going to start filing FOIA requests left and right.  I may be first in line.  Someone needs to come up with an official statement immediately.

By viewing comments people have left on this matter on Facebook and Twitter and other articles, it sounds like the vast majority of Delaware parents of special needs children have had many problems with our schools.  I can attest to that based on the many problems I had with “that charter school in the County of Kent”.

I would advise every single parent in Delaware to look at the Board minutes of each charter school, public school district, or vocational school to see what is being said during Board meetings.  Look at their financial statements.  Look at Delaware Online Checkbook.  See where the money is going to.  Make sure everyone at the schools your child attends is certified.  This can be done through the DEEDS website at the Delaware DOE.  Just be sure to know exactly how the first and last name is spelled or it won’t give you any information.  Here is a link:  https://deeds.doe.k12.de.us/public/deeds_pc_findeducator.aspx

And where do teachers factor into all of this?  I think they are fed up as well.  Between Common Core being force-fed to them, all the high risk testing, and special education requirements changing constantly, we run the risk of losing good teachers.  And that will mean more bad teachers, or teachers that are too new to know what is best.  Delaware needs radical change, and we need it now.  The General Assembly can’t do anything.  They have two days left of legislative sessions, and a lot of them are up for reelection.  The head of the education committee for the House of Representatives in Delaware is not running for reelection, so nobody knows who will fill that slot.  The 148th General Assembly won’t meet in session again until January 2015.  The DOE is running around with their cheerleader uniforms on praying and hoping Smarter Balanced testing goes smoothly.  And how about our own Governor Jack Markell, not saying a word about this?  He didn’t even respond to my twitter question about this matter.  He did respond to the News Journal in saying money was allocated in next year’s budget for a full Special Education annual review.  But how about more Jack?  Who is accountable for this educational mess?

 

 

 

The Eagles Wings Ministries and Pizza Google Search

So I wanted to find out what the fascination is with Eagles Wings Ministries and pizza, so I did a Google search, and found a lot of local pizza places send pizza to EWM.  Included are: Tony’s Sausage House, Capitol Pizza, Buffalo Wild Wings, Four Season’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, and Little Caesar’s Pizza.  If you took all that pizza, and offered it to me for my forgiveness for Stacie Bohannon’s assault on my son, I still wouldn’t take it.  I know the Bible says to forgive, but usually an offending adult would need to take responsibility for their actions.  Especially for the forgiveness part to even begin.  So until Stacie Bohannon and Eagles Wings Ministries apologizes for their actions against my son, I may have to find out all I can about EWM and post something everyday!

To my regular readers, I will still post stories about special education in Delaware.  This is sort of related as this church was advised of my son’s disabilities and still chose to treat him in an unspeakable way. I really wouldn’t mind a resolution or legislation being passed that would indicate that anyone who works with children in any capacity needs to follow the child’s IEP. I think Delaware could use that. Maybe that would prevent these types of things from happening. In the meantime, I have more pictures that are food related at this church. It sounds like a lot of their advertising for child services relates to food. It reminds me of that scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where the guy lures the children into his van with sweets.

10339547_807363585941036_8133976632147240937_n

391561_464720933538638_2049562633_n

Eagles Wings Ministries started their Bible School this week….Parents Beware!

Especially if Stacie Bohannon is involved.  When I went to drop in that night to see my son I thought something seemed a bit off.  The way she was wanting the children to take notes on her bible scripture seemed like it was more for her than them.  To find out what Stacie Bohannon did to my son, you can either read it here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/disability-discrimination-local-church-youth-leader-assaults-my-son/#comments and if you are an ex member of the church, please let me know of any other times an adult there has grabbed, kicked and pushed a child with disabilities.

I haven’t heard a peep about it since then.  I have checked their Facebook page, and saw their vacation bible school started this week.  I think I would rather chew glass than have my child attend that event!  Their website shows the Sunday school teachers.  Thank God Stacie Bohannon isn’t one of them.  But then again, who knows what some of the other adults are like at this church.  In any event, it really makes me wonder about this church.  They are a part of the Delmarva Church of God.  My wife left DCOG a message last Friday and hasn’t heard from them either.  The way the pastor wouldn’t tell me the youth group leader’s name sounded like there was something to hide.  Same thing with my son’s ex-friend’s mother.  Is there more to Stacie Bohannon than meets the eye?  Her very public Facebook page has some wonderful pictures and comments regarding something it took her 13 years to get.  I know it seems like I’m giving her a hard time.  I am.  She physically assaulted my son.  Legally, I guess you could say she offensively touched by son, if she was found guilty of that.  But the state police refused to do anything because, as Stacie Bohannon yelled at my wife, “He’s lying!”.  I do know one thing.  I would never go there for pizza.  My son said they got two pizzas for the youth group that night.  The youth group leader got three slices of pepperoni pizza.  And another adult there got some too.  Want to know what they did for all the children?  They cut each piece of pizza into four more slices and told each child they could only get one piece.  Maybe they were thinking more kids would come, cause there weren’t that many kids, and that’s a lot of leftover pizza.  Maybe they had a chowdown after my son’s beatdown.  As long as the adults had more pizza later, that’s okay.

As per their Facebook page, this is their motto: “Our banners are FAITH, HOPE, & LOVE. We exist to serve God and others through a heart of compassion, service, and humility.”  So let’s go through these, cause I can relate.

A heart of compassion: yes, I have seen their light.  When a child pushes the leader’s son off of him after he jumped on him, let’s be compassionate about how pissed off we are and grab, kick and push the kid down!

Service: Why yes, I see this as well!  Let’s serve our community by alienating any new members and parents.  We felt so welcome to your church.  We would want to come to a Sunday service just right about the time hell freezes over folks!

Humility: I see this most of all, cause my son sure felt humiliated after a few hours at your church.  And after he told us, he got very upset about this happening to him, and he questioned why he had to go through stuff like this with his disabilities.  You remember those, cause my wife told you about them a couple weeks prior.

I know one youth group leader’s mottos seems to be pepperoni pizza, kicking kids who are less than 1/3rd her age, and hiding behind a youth group and pastor to protect her when the mother gets pissed off at her.  My wife asked to speak to her away from the children, but she used them as a shield for her overdramatic performance and denial of the events.  When my wife and son pulled up right before that, they both heard some kids saying “Uh-oh”, so I wonder how much prep time the kids got to support her story?Image

The blessed church above this sentence.  I hope hell didn’t freeze over…nope, just the winter.  Phew!

And from their facebook page, I can’t tell if those are supposed to be chains or chocolate donuts.  Keep them away from the pizza lover!  Or she might connect her foot with your child!

Image

Parents Of Christina Blog Writer Passes Away, A Great Man

Harry Curriden passed away last Monday.  I never met the man in my life, but I was very sad about his death.  Why?  Because he helped his daughter to advocate for what she deserves, and he helped several other children through advocacy as well.  Any person who does that is a hero in my book.  The Delaware blogging world lost someone great, and I never knew him.  I have been to his family’s blog several times, Parents Of Christina.  In fact, I have it on my blog list on this site, and have since day one.  I fully intend to read all of his family’s writings, because you never know when you can learn from someone who helped blaze the paths for advocacy in Delaware.  His last post was on Father’s Day, a week ago.  What a fitting tribute for a man who was the very essence of the word father.  Harry was very invested in exposing things in our education world today, and I found this post from May 1st to be awesome!

http://www.parentsofchristina.org/2014/05/good-things-are-happening.html

I wanted to share a couple other links, to the Kavips and Children & Educators First blogs, where they knew him much better and gave great tributes to him:

http://elizabethscheinberg.blogspot.com/2014/06/condolences-to-parents-of-christina.html

http://kavips.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/death-comes-to-blogging/

Thank you Harry, for everything you did for so many children in our state.  I have already listened to Fireflies a few times today.  Rest in peace.

Disability Discrimination: Local Church Youth Group Leader Assaults My Son

Being a parent of a child with a disability is a very tough thing.  Parents of “normal” kids don’t get it.  With my son having TS, ADHD, OCD, SPD, and other initial disorders, he has had a lot of friends.  The problem is most of the friends don’t stay as his friends.  They come and go like waves on a beach over the years.  He just wants to be accepted, like any child does.  He has a very forgiving heart, and he doesn’t hold a grudge for too long.  He has tried to tell people about his Tourette’s in the past, but it doesn’t usually go to well for him.  He has been bullied over it.  But even worse than kids are adults who refuse to understand that he is different.  A neighbor told us once that he is one of those children who will respond well to kindness and compassion.  Unfortunately he hasn’t had a lot of that in his ten short years on this world.  People don’t always get it and I believe some don’t even want to.  They don’t want to accept what is different.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe if they do that, then maybe they will see that we are all different in some way.

Sometimes, as a special needs parent, you want to bury your head in the sand and run away from it all.  The challenges at home are one thing, but to see it in schools, neighborhoods, churches, scouts, stores…it can be overwhelming.  You question if you are a good parent and your own self-worth can go down the drain pretty quick.  But then I will hear my son laughing, and it all goes away.  My wife and I can be very tough sometimes, and I think God gave us some thick skin so we can protect and advocate for our son as long as he needs us to.  For those who know who I am, this is a fact: I will not tolerate any discrimination against my son.  He is a boy.  A caring, kind-hearted boy.  That is who he is deep inside, the true him.  What you may see is a manifestation of his disabilities, and you may judge him by that cover.  Every book has a cover, but the heart of any book is what’s inside.  I would rather see my son have very few friends who accept him for who he is, than have several “friends” go in and out of his life.  The same is true for my family.  We have each other, and sometimes that has to be enough.

Last nigh, my son was told to “consider his ways” by a youth leader during a bible reading at a local church youth group.  This was his second time at this youth group, and my wife had advised them of his disabilities the first time he went.  An hour later, while playing tag, her son jumped on my son so he pushed him off, which is a normal reaction.  The youth leader came to my son, grabbed his arms, kicked the back of his leg, pushed him down and said “Now you see what it feels like”.

When we found out, my wife went down to the church to confront the youth leader.  She denied it and said he was lying.  All the other kids were involved in another activity, so no one else could have seen it.  Of course the whole group said nothing happened.  The youth leader refused to talk to my wife in private, and told her and my son they were no longer welcome at their church.  My wife said some not so nice words to her and left.  My wife was able to find the phone number for the pastor and left a message.  The pastor called back and denied anything happened, even though she wasn’t there.  After some back and forth, we called our state police.  An officer came out, took our statement, talked to my son, and we advised him we wanted to press charges against the youth leader.  He advised it wouldn’t be physical assault, it would be offensive touching.  He called later in the evening and said there were conflicting stories and he couldn’t do anything.  He said we could file a complaint with the justice of the peace.

What kind of world do we live in where an adult leader at a youth group can attack a child like that and the law doesn’t protect a boy with disabilities?  And where a pastor refuses to give the name of the youth leader?  I eventually found it Scooby-Doo style for the 21st Century by going through the church Facebook page, and going through likes and other people’s comments and then their friends and so on.  It truly is amazing what some people will put on Facebook for the world to see.  But I digress.  Once again, my son has been traumatized by a person in a leadership capacity.  When will this stop?  I know other parents go through this kind of crap.  We need to stand together.  Our children need us.  Because one day someone may tell your child to “Consider your ways” without looking at how evil their own are.

Obviously, no one in my family will EVER attend that church again, and we have never been happier to be “not welcome” there.  Because any church that would allow that type of thing to happen and then try to cover it up isn’t associated with the God I believe in.  They may be upset at how my wife reacted, however several parents have told me they would have done much worse than say some words in anger after their son had been physically assaulted.  I was a little miffed my wife lost her temper, but let’s be real.  I would have too!  Any parent would.  What they don’t know is something only I know.  If my son was lying, I would know it.  He does something, very subtle and unique when he lies.  He doesn’t even realize I know what it is, and I don’t believe he is even aware he does it.  And guess what he did not do when he told us what happened? That thing he does.  God bless my child, because his flock certainly won’t at a certain church in my area.  But guess what, he doesn’t need them.  What he has is more precious than any building or group of people.  He has a good heart. Consider your ways…