Editor’s note: I wrote this last year in July. I reblogged it once and you can’t do that twice apparently. I sent this link to someone, and I read over this again. Not much has changed. Aside from State Rep. Kim Williams addressing the basic special education funding for K-3 students with pending legislation, I can’t think of anything. Well, except the hurricane that Smarter Balanced has become. And I did find the actual links on the DOE website for the actual unit counts for each school. But this blog has gained many new readers since then, so take a trip down the rabbit hole that is special education in Delaware…
In a hurricane, everything is wild and chaotic. Winds are fierce, rain is massive, and destruction looms. Many people flee, but some stay hoping for the best. Homes are destroyed, roads are flooded, and lives are frequently lost. In the middle of a hurricane, everything is calm. It can sometimes be sunny, and rain may not be present and it can be viewed as a moment of peace. The eye is the center of the hurricane, and everything that happens is a result of the eye. This is the Delaware Department of Education in regards to special education.
Last week, I met with the Exceptional Children Group, the Delaware Department of Education’s special education department. I met with their director, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, as well as the DOE’s public information officer, Alison May. I had several questions stemming from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) report on Delaware’s special education that came out two weeks ago. In the report, it stated Delaware was one of three states that needed federal intervention in regards to special education.
The Exceptional Children’s department in Delaware seemed to think the need for federal intervention was solely based on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) testing done for students. This testing was done to determine student’s abilities, and several special education students were not included in this testing. The testing is done for students in 4th, 8th and 12th grade. According to the letter OSEP sent to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, “We plan to measure growth in the proficiency of children with disabilities when States have transitioned to college- and career- ready standards and assessments. In the interim, we are using data from NAEP on the performance of children with disabilities, which provide a consistent and fair benchmark for performance of children across all States. In the future, OSEP plans to use only regular Statewide assessment data, rather than NAEP data, for annual determinations, including data on the growth in proficiency of children with disabilities on Statewide assessments.” Some parents feel Delaware excluded children at a much lower level than other states, such as Maryland, which may have made Delaware look worse. But also written in the letter to Secretary Murphy was the following: “This determination is based on the totality of the State’s data and information, including the Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2012 Annual Performance Plan (APR) and revised State Performance Plan (SPP), other State-reported data, and other publicly available information.” Delaware’s goal for compliance is 100%, but they fell into a range of 75-90% for the 2013 OSEP report. While those may not seem like a bad range, it would indicate that anywhere from 10% to 25% of students had faults in their IEPs. Out of the over 18,000 students that were qualified with special education in Delaware for the time period of this report, the 2010-2011 school year, that means that anywhere from 1800 to 4500 students had IEPs that were not compliant based on these percentages. That is an alarming number. And after that report, the Exceptional Children Group decided to raise the amount of years that schools are audited from a 3 year cycle to a 5 year cycle. There is no notice of this change on the DOE website because it still shows a three year cycle. Delaware has been rated as needs assistance for special education by OSEP in 2013, 2011, 2009, and 2007 and in 2014, they were rated as needs intervention. This means Delaware has received bad marks from OSEP for 5 out of the past 8 years. They have corrected past mistakes, but it seems new ones are created every couple years. But for two years in a row they have missed the mark.