IEP Task Force Live From Dover, Nov. 20th 2014, My Son Gave Public Comment!!!!

Yes, even in the wake of huge ACLU announcements against the state of Delaware, life must go on, so here we are again.  This is the 2nd to last meeting of the already scheduled IEP Task Force Fall 2014 session, but the group may continue after the report to Governor Markell.

Denn explained this is the last chance to really get anything included in the report.  Tracy Bombarra mentioned standards based IEPs based on a comment by Ruth Lavelle.  Lavelle had said the task force shouldn’t make a comment about it but Bombarra thinks it is based too much on Common Core.  Eastburn said if nothing is written in stone about standards-based IEPs, it won’t be the same for every district.  More of the same discussion from the last meeting from Sarah Celestin.  You can say it all you want DOE, but the result is still the same, common core for the IEP.  All the other things she is mentioning are already included in the IEP.

Denn mentioned something about his grandmother to the effect of “Don’t open up the can of worms”.  He said he can talk a lot about this and what is and isn’t appropriate to be put into an IEP.  Eastburn brought up being at an IEP meeting as an advocate and being told a service doesn’t have to have an educational outcome.  Mieczkowski disagreed.

Liz Toney asked what the likelihood of getting an extension would be for the task force to which Denn replied it is very high.  She suggested omitting any mention of Standards-Based IEPs in the report so the task force can discuss it further.  Many members of the task force debating on the issue.  Ruth Lavelle said life skills should already be in an IEP.  I think Denn gets what the controversy is with Standards Based IEPs.

Bill Doolittle talked about the IEP draft being shared with parents. If it has been broadly shared with the whole team, then the parents should receive a copy.  Eastburn said it should go out with the 10 day notice of meeting.

Mitch is worried about the legality of parents seeing things written down, like goals and services, written ahead of time.  She feels parents should be a part of the discussion. I agree with this, but the easy solution is to put DRAFT on the copy and a little disclaimer indicating this is not a final copy.  Doolittle just said the same thing.  More back and forth.  Not a lot of team unity here on these topics.

Marissa Band brought up having questionnaires sent home to parents and vice versa.  I had to step out to get my son’s Legos he left in the car.  Yes, my son is here, and yes, he may give public comment…

There is talk about bringing up the subject of IEP denials when the IEP Task Force reconvenes after the Governor’s report.  Many members think it is an important topic of discussion.

There is now talk about the fiscal notes attached to any bill associated with this document.  Someone said things cannot be mandated to a district without the funds available to implement them.  Now there is talk about Parent Councils within each district.  Someone said to have PIC back this and be at these meetings.  I highly disagree with this idea.  PIC doesn’t have the resources to do this.  Surrate from PIC said there are programs through University of Delaware to address the types of issues.  Someone brought up Fran Fletcher, a facilitator who provides these types of services at IEP meetings.  She also provided mediation services.  Luckily, Fran is in attendance as a member of the public.  She is giving details about what she does.  She stressed mediation is a legally binding document, but doesn’t have to be an outcome of a due process complaint, it can happen before.  Fran explained it takes a lot of time to talk with the parents.  She stressed they are not an advocate, but refers parents to PIC for this type of service.

Denn brought it back to the Parent Council discussion.  Denn stressed it was of a support vessel for parents to utilize, and not a “this is what you have to do at an IEP meeting” type of intervention.  Eastburn asked how many families PIC serves in each county.  PIC was unable to provide the county breakdown information.

Task force is winding down, going over the wording in the draft (which will be updated when the task force website is updated with tonight’s info in the next few days).

More service provider talk about whether or not to send parents information about exact dates and times when services were provided.  Going on and on.  Denn said this should be provided in summary form, like “Your son received 5 out of 9 sessions.”  He said parents have the right to request exact information at that time.

The highlight of the evening came at the end of the meeting, after Fran Fletcher gave public comment about training parents who may be on the parent councils to give potential advice to parents about the IEP process.  This was when my son actually gave public comment.  Confession time.  I asked him if he wanted to do it, and he said yes, but he didn’t know what to say.  I told him to speak from the heart, but he still wanted help.  So I wrote most of it, but he helped out with a little bit.  I’m sure you will be able to figure out which is which.  I did have to “announce” him as he was nervous, but he did a good job!  This is what he said:

I think the DOE needs to monitor when charter and public schools decline IEPs.  I’ve had this happen to me and it was not fun.  The ACLU is already filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights for schools not letting kids like me go there.  When kids like me don’t get services, it takes a long time for us to catch up and learn.

Let me stress again, he wanted to do this.  He knows about my blog, and he actually knows who a lot of the key players are, like Murphy, Markell, and the DOE.  When I told him someone from the DOE was speaking about standards based IEPs, he said “Do they know Mark Murphy?”  I said they probably do.  Unfortunately, we all know who Mark Murphy is….

 

 

ACLU Complaint Against Delaware Charters, The State, and Red Clay

The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and Community Legal Aid, Inc. announced at a press conference today that they have filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in regards to the re-segregation of Delaware schools going back to the Charter School Law of 1995.  The complaint, embedded below, is going after the state and Red Clay over discrimination against minorities, as well as low-income and disabled students.

Many in the state have suspected something like this was coming, but I did not think the scope would be this big.  The ramifications of just an announcement of this proportion are very huge for education in Delaware.

CONTACT: Kathleen MacRae, ACLU-DE Executive Director—302.654.5326 x102, kmacrae@aclu-de.org ; Brian Hartman, CLASI Disabilities Law Program Project Director—302.575.0660 x220; bhartman@declasi.org

ACLU and CLASI File Complaint with Office of Civil Rights

CONTACT: Kathleen MacRae, ACLU-DE Executive Director—302.654.5326 x102, kmacrae@aclu-de.org ; Brian Hartman, CLASI Disabilities Law Program Project Director—302.575.0660 x220; bhartman@declasi.org

Wilmington, DE (December 3, 2014) — The American Civil Liberties Union and Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. filed a complaint today with the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education arguing that Delaware’s charter school law and policies have a discriminatory impact on students of color and students with disabilities and have significantly contributed to the resegregation of Delaware’s public schools. Specifically, the complaint claims that the State of Delaware through the Department of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District, the two entities that authorize public charter schools in the state, are in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Every student in the State of Delaware deserves equal access to a high-quality education,” said Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware. “But what has evolved since the passage of the Charter School Act of 1995 is state-sanctioned preferential treatment for families who are able to navigate the special requirements of charter school admissions.

“These include such things as high examination scores; essays written by parents to explain why a school is a good choice for their child; access to gifted and talented elementary and middle school programs that help increase academic performance; annual activities fees; mandatory parent involvement, sometimes in fundraising; and mandatory high-cost uniform purchases. These barriers prevent students from low-income African American and Hispanic families from having the same access to high quality charter schools that middle and upper class families have.

“We hope that the Office of Civil Rights recognizes that any system of selection that has the effect of almost completely excluding children with disabilities from the ‘high-achieving’ charter schools is deeply disturbing and must constitute illegal discrimination,” says Dan Atkins, Legal Advocacy Director of the Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.

It’s terribly unfair to the children with disabilities who should have earned their place in those schools, and it sends a harmful and hurtful message, really to everyone, to continue to shut those students out. We look forward to working with the federal government, the State of Delaware, and Red Clay Consolidated School District to develop criteria that integrate more students with disabilities. This is consistent with the State and Federal Government’s mission to provide equal educational opportunities to all children—regardless of race, income, and disability.”

Racially Identifiable Schools

The complaint documents that over three-quarters of charter schools operating in Delaware are racially identifiable. High performing charter schools are almost entirely racially identifiable as White. Low income students and students with disabilities are disproportionately relegated to failing charter schools and charter schools that are racially identifiable as African American or Hispanic, none of which are high performing.

Another result of the proliferation of charter schools is increased segregation in traditional public schools located in districts where charter schools operate. In addition, when the impact of the Neighborhood Schools Act of 2000 is considered, inner city school children have no good alternatives—they may attend a hyper-segregated traditional public school or attend a hyper-segregated charter school. When charter schools admit a disproportionate number of higher-income White students with no disabilities, the traditional public schools are left with the difficult and costly task of educating the students most challenged by poverty or special education needs.

Recommendations

In order to remedy the current situation regarding Delaware public schools, the ACLU and CLASI urge:

  • A moratorium on the authorization and opening of new charter schools until an effective desegregation plan has been implemented;
  • Utilization of a random opt-out lottery for charter school admissions;
  • Assurance that the cost of attending a public charter school is free and that parents are not required or pressured to purchase uniforms or raise money for the school;
  • Capping class size in traditional public schools at the same level as charter schools and ensuring that total funding for traditional public schools is equal to that of charter schools;
  • Providing additional funding to schools with a disproportionately high number of students of color, students with special needs and low-income students;
  • A plan to ensure that students with disabilities are recruited and reasonably accommodated in all charter schools.

Delaware DOE’s Sample Letter To Parents Who Opt Their Child Out

I’ve obtained a copy of the sample letter parents can expect to receive if they opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  There is a lot of threatening statements in this letter, but THEY HAVE NO MERIT ACCORDING TO THE LAW!!!!

Parents, do not be threatened by this vain attempt by the Delaware DOE to prevent you from honoring your constitutional right to determine what is best for your child’s education!!!

SAMPLE LETTER
LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY (LEA)

DATE

Dear (Parent/Guardian),

This letter is in response to your request to have your child not participate in mandated state testing, which will be administered this spring. Unfortunately, (LEA) has no discretion in the matter. Federal and state laws require that public-school students be tested.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires all states to implement “high-quality, yearly student academic assessments.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3)(A). The statute further provides that “[s]uch assessments shall . . . provide for . . . the participation in such assessments of all students.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b)(3)(C) (emphasis added). The ESEA does not allow parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessments.

Delaware State Code also is clear that school districts and individuals shall not “exclude a student from participation in the state assessment except in accordance with the regulations of the Department” (Title 14, Chapter 1, Subchapter IV § 173).

The only exemptions allowed under the law due to extreme medical incidents or for reasons of mental health of the child. Each requires documentation from a physician.

Both federal and state statutes are clear in their language—that all students enrolled in public schools must take the yearly state assessments. The Delaware Department of Education and each school district and charter school must comply with federal and state mandates.

If you have any questions, please contact (NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION FOR LEA CONTACT PERSON).

Sincerely,
(SUPERINTENDENT/CHARTER DIRECTOR’S NAME)
(LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY NAME)

So let’s take a look at the specific codes they are mentioning:

20 U.S.C. § 6311(b)

(3)  Academic assessments

 (A)  In general
Each State plan shall demonstrate that the State educational agency, in consultation with local educational agencies, has implemented a set of high-quality, yearly student academic assessments that include, at a minimum, academic assessments in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science that will be used as the primary means of determining the yearly performance of the State and of each local educational agency and school in the State in enabling all children to meet the State’s challenging student academic achievement standards, except that no State shall be required to meet the requirements of this part relating to science assessments until the beginning of the 2007–2008 school year.

The State shall have such academic standards for all public elementary school and secondary school children, including children served under this part, in subjects determined by the State, but including at least mathematics, reading or language arts, and (beginning in the 2005–2006 school year) science, which shall include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all children. 

(C)  Requirements
Such assessments shall—

 (i) be the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all children;

 (ii) be aligned with the State’s challenging academic content and student academic achievement standards, and provide coherent information about student attainment of such standards;

 (iii) be used for purposes for which such assessments are valid and reliable, and be consistent with relevant, nationally recognized professional and technical standards;

 (iv) be used only if the State educational agency provides to the Secretary evidence from the test publisher or other relevant sources that the assessments used are of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under this chapter and are consistent with the requirements of this section, and such evidence is made public by the Secretary upon request;

And the Delaware Code, from Title 14:

§ 173. Data reporting violations.

School districts and individuals shall not:

(1) Fail to report assessment scores, numbers of students administered the assessments any other data element required to be reported to the Department;

(2) Report incorrect or otherwise inaccurate assessment scores, numbers of students administered the assessments or any other data element required to be reported to the Department;

(3) Exclude a student from participation in the state assessment except in accordance with the regulations of the Department;

(4) Refuse to disclose to the Department information concerning a violation of the foregoing data reporting requirements; or

(5) Refuse to cooperate in the investigation of a suspected data reporting violation, whether such investigation is conducted by a school district or the Department. The investigation shall include a review of mitigating circumstances, if applicable.

73 Del. Laws, c. 81, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 53, §§ 42, 43.;

Now who are these individuals?  Does this refer to any parent who opts their child out of Smarter Balanced?  Or do they mean individuals who are employed by the school district?  The next paragraph in the code makes this VERY clear:

§ 174. Civil sanctions for violations.

(a) A student who violates any of the provisions of § 172 of this title shall be subject to the following:

(1) At the discretion of the Department, the assessment score of such student may be invalidated and the student may be declared ineligible to retake the assessment until the next official testing opportunity; and

(2) Such disciplinary action as deemed appropriate by the student’s school district.

(b) An individual other than a student who knowingly violates any of the provisions of this subchapter shall be subject to the following:

(1) Such personnel sanctions as might otherwise be imposed by the individual’s employer for an act of misconduct;

(2) A hearing conducted by the Professional Standards Board to determine revocation of any license issued to such individual pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 12 of this title; and

(3) Payment of any costs incurred by the State or Department as a result of the violation.

73 Del. Laws, c. 81, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 53, § 44.;

As well, the law defines who these individuals are:

(4) ”Individual” means a student, teacher, administrator, local or state school board member, or other employee, agent or contractor employed by the Delaware public school system whether local or at the state level, and including an employee,  agent or contractor of a charter school;

Did you see the word “parent” on that list?  I sure as hell didn’t!  If you are going to cite law, don’t just throw arbitrary paragraphs out there when others ones contradict what you are trying to accomplish.  I don’t think the Professional Standards Board can revoke my license to be a parent.  No one can take away my right to opt my son out as it is currently written in the law.  Once again parents, do not be fooled!

 

Delaware ACLU bringing public school re-segregation to legal issue @arneduncan @washingtonpost #edude #netde @dedeptofed @destateboarded @usedgov @EducationOIG @huffingtonpost #neatoday @NSBAComm @NatlGovsAssoc

What happens when a state allows certain “public” schools to pick and choose what type of student they want? This is what happens. And it’s about time!

Another Change for Exceptional Delaware: New and Improved!

For anyone who was reading this earlier tonight, I apologize for the blinding colors.  At the request of many, the colors are more appealing to the human eye.  I’ve also added many of my favorite quotes the further down you go into the blog.  If there are any quotes you would like to see, let me know and I will put them up.  I also included an exchange I had between another commenter and myself on Kilroys a couple months ago.  It pretty much sums up what I believe.  Thank you to all of you who are reading Exceptional Delaware.  I can promise you the next month in Delaware education will be very crazy!  And it all starts today at 10am.