IEP Task Force Meeting #6, Live From Dover, DE **UPDATED**

A week and a day after the last meeting, here we are again.  Back in the conference room we should have been in last week when the DOE hijacked the room from the task force for their town hall meeting.

Matt Denn asked for approval of minutes rom last meeting.  Everyone agreed. He said there are two meetings left before the report is due to Governor Markell on January 1st, 2015.  Denn will recommend to the legislature to continue the task force after that date to go over further issues that have come up.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) representative speaking about significant changes coming to transition through legislation. They serve many adults as well as students. No new funding with these new measures. Every high school in DE has a VR rep in high schools to deal with students in the year prior to their exit year. They have MOUs with every high school in the state. They help students get jobs after secondary schooling. Work with hospitals, such as Bayhealth. Also have program called Early Start to Employment. They have received a lot of good data on that program, including a 95% success rate. However, they had 60 students choose not to participate in the program so they want to get the word out since it is so successful. They are working with DOE on program for students w/learning disabilities and behavioral problems. These are students with a high risk of dropping out and not going to college. They need to get the buy-in from the education system to start this process early.  PETS services helps transition students who may not be a transition youth (need to do some research on this).  Many states don’t have partnerships with their state DOEs so Delaware is ahead of the game with this.  They think with upcoming IDEA reauthorization it will provide more useful language in the law for these kinds of transition matters.  Information on upcoming law will come out in January 2015.  The law is requiring them to be the gatekeepers for sheltered workshops.  They don’t normally do this anyways, but if the IEP states a student wants to attend this kind of program.  Student will need a statement stating they are so disabled they can only work in this type of environment, otherwise they can’t participate.

Matt Denn asked VR rep if transition can be included in IEPs earlier than junior or senior year?  She responded that due to capacity (and funding I’m sure) they don’t have the staff to do that.  They may able to do some consultative work but they can’t attend every IEP meeting.  She agrees transition planning should start at an earlier age.  Through working w/Dale Mitusevich at Delaware DOE, they have been able to work more with juniors in high school than seniors.

A representative named Andrea from In The Works, works w/many agencies including state Medicaid agency on a program called Pathways To Employment for students 14-25 years old.  God bless her, she’s talking very fast and dropping many abbreviations for state agencies.  I may have to go to the audio recording on this part.  Sorry folks.  They want to provide services that are “less like crisis management and more like support management.”

A rep from Division for Visually Impaired spoke about how resources are shifting to an older population in the state.  They provide braille instruction, consultative services, technology, employ child youth counselors, orientation services, assistive technology and an array of service providers.  They are currently serving 250 students across the state.  They are part of the PATHWAYS program.

Bill Doolittle asked how much grant amount might be, VR rep said $1,000,000.00.  Andrea said Pathways to Employment would be eligible for service if they receive Medicaid and meet other criteria.  DVI rep said they get $100-120,000 from DE DOE and $125,000 from other state agencies.

Marissa Band asked if they would work with the DEDisabilityHub website.  VR rep said absolutely, and has worked with Wendy Strauss on matters already.  Liz Toney asked how many teachers they Div. of Visual Impairment employs, rep said 8 out of the 9 employed in the state.  She asked rep if task force is able to acquire additional funding and get more teachers if that would help.  He said they would have to examine other factors since they are not an education agency.

No more questions.

Matt Denn opened the floor to suggestions for issues of transition planning.  Nobody is talking.  Denn looks flustered.  Ruth Lavelle spoke up and wants services to come in at age 14.  She would also like to say large group resources to help get the word out better.  She stated it is a very confusing subject when first introduced.  She said there needs to be a better game plan in the earlier years.  Marissa Band said the transition task force recommended there be transition coordinators in every high school.  Matt Denn asked who those people would be, Band said it would be school district staff.  Said could spread out amongst middle and high schools.  VR rep agreed and said this was an important recommendation coming from that task force.  Dale Mitusevich (sitting in for Mary Ann Mieczkowski from the DOE) said every school district has one transition person assigned to their job duties.  He said DOE has a transition matrix, said it could be a teacher or an educational diagnostician.  He said this is a burden on these individuals.  Pam Atchison said Charleton School hired a transition coordinator, but later added that due to funding she had to pull a teacher from the classroom.

Dale Mitusevich said there was a meeting at DOE about transition today.  He said district reps coming in to transition cadre has to have an administrator on their team.  He said four charters are involed with this.  They have multiple transition training sessions with the charters throughout the year.  Denn said he wants to get a price tag for implementing a resolution to have a coordinator in each high school, independent of other duties.  He said he also wants to enhance abilities of PIC and Community Legal Aid to help parents.

Ruth from VR said career assessments need to be done as early as possible to help in the IEP planning to help people point students in the right direction.  Mitusevich would like to see more reaching out to higher education programs.  He stated transition planning in this group can be confusing due to lack of knowledge.  Ruth from VR said she has worked with the Autism Task Force and DAP has an assessment program that works very well.  Ruth said it doesn’t have to be a certified evaluator to do career assessment, she said it could be a paraprofessional.

Matt Denn thanked the guests, and now he wants to look at the 2nd draft that appears on the IEP Task Force website.  http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/141120/IEPTaskForceReportDraft111714.pdf

Mitusevich said Delaware has a higher standard than many other states.  Marissa Band said she has some issues with language in the draft but she will put in information via email or talk with Kim Siegel.  Matt Denn said there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about what other states are doing in other states with IEPs.  Liz Toney brought up the presentation from the first meeting.  She brought up Wrightslaw as a good resource.

A parent gave public comment thanking the task force for their recommendations for visually impaired students.

I gave public comment about how special needs students at the priority schools and Gateway Lab School are victims of special education games in the state.  I referenced my article from last night about Rodel and Markell and how special needs children have suffered immensely in Delaware.  I also recommended the task force adds the subject of IEP denials if they continue past the Governor’s report.

Sarah Celestin from DOE gave public comment about Standards-Based IEPs, student led IEPs, and translating Behavior Intervention Plans into IEPs.  She said there is training and assistance through University of Delaware.  She said they have been working w/districts on standards-based IEPs (Common Core for the IEP in my opinion).  She said through funds from a Federal grant DOE wants all districts and charters in the state to have these IEP strategies in the next two years.  She asked Mitusevich to talk about student led IEPs.  He spoke about the transition conference at Dover Downs a few weeks ago.  He said there was a big group from DC to speak about these, as well as folks from Virginia, Dr. Jim Martin out of University of Oklahoma on student led IEPs and student active participation in IEP meetings.  He said this means a student doesn’t just read a script and actually participates in the IEP meeting.  Celestin said DOE is offering training and coaching.  Denn asked if this is required for districts to implement.  She said standards-based IEPs are not required but it is about standards not standardized.  She said parents and IEP teams have struggles with implementing these kinds of IEPs because they need to help students close achievement gaps.  She said teachers are struggling with this and stressed it is not required.  (as Steve Newton mentioned in an article on these IEPs, the measurement for it is the “fidelity” component of the grant in getting schools trained on it).  She did say through compliance monitoring in the future they will look at things that are part of standards-based IEPs in terms of students needs so they will hold IEPs to a higher standard and best practices.  Matt Denn said this isn’t a subject for the IEP Task Force report, but he is hesitant to make recommendations for  something that isn’t required.

I raised my hand to speak again, and Matt Denn jokingly said something about “or if anyone wants to give second public comment”.  I went up and responded to Sarah’s comment.  I advised I went over to DOE presentation to the GACEC (Gov. Adv. Council For Except. Children), and it absolutely is tying IEPs into standards based on “curriculum” which is code word for those who may not know what Common Core is.  I advised the word “rigor” is used in the document which is used by Common Core proponents all the time.  I said rigor is not a word parents like, especially special needs parents, because the way it is used would indicate students with disabilities need to try harder to get to a regular students level, which completely invalidates the spirit of IDEA.

My commentary on tonight’s meeting: Interesting stuff with these transition services coming in.  All of them said “we need more funding”.  In regards to comments made by DOE employees, I know these folks work very hard at their jobs, and for that, they have my respect.  But if Delaware holds such a higher standard for IEPs, why did you need Federal intervention in Special Education?  Why would you hold a higher standard for something that isn’t even legally required?  Cause you like what you have created?  If they look at best practice, why the hell won’t they look at IEP denials?  Who are they trying to protect? (I already know the answer to that, and they know I know but they don’t care) Sorry Sarah, you can say whatever you want, but any presentation that has the word “rigor” in it, which is one of those words that make opponents of common core flip out, is not going to work for me and many other special needs parents.

To Be Continued December 3rd…

 

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