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

Special Needs Parents

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 Season Of Myths

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…

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

Delaware Special Education

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:






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.


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

Smarter Balanced Assessment

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 Season Of Myths

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…

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

Autism, Smarter Balanced Assessment

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




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;


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.


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.”


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.