Delaware Special Education: The Eye of the Hurricane Part 1 Revisited A Year Later…

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. Continue reading Delaware Special Education: The Eye of the Hurricane Part 1 Revisited A Year Later…

Mother of Child With Autism Stands Up For Her Son At Academy of Dover Public Hearing

Yesterday, at the Delaware Department of Education, a public hearing was held for Academy of Dover, a charter school in Dover now under formal review.  The only members of the public to show up were a Miss Sabine Neal and myself.  Representing the school were Principal Cheri Marshall, Board member Nancy Wagner, and a member of the administrative staff.  The purpose of this public hearing was for any member of the public to give comment about Academy of Dover.  Neal gave public comment, and what she said is disturbing, but necessary for parents and members of the community to know.  Miss Neal gave me permission to tell this story, and it is very similar to what so many parents in Delaware have gone through at the hands of our schools.

Hi, my name is Sabine Neal.  I’m a parent at Academy of Dover.  My two children, two of my children go there.  I’m here today, sorry I’m kind of nervous.  I’m here today to stand up for my son.  He was the child that was abused at the Academy of Dover.  He is a six-year old kindergarten special needs student who I asked for an evaluation for in August from the school.  I did not receive any evaluations until November, and I was not notified he was going to be evaluated.  I found out because he came home nervous.  I submitted an Autism diagnosis, I submitted an ADHD diagnosis.  I was told they could not do anything with the ADHD diagnosis until he had been in the school six months.  The Autism diagnosis, I was told since he was only two and a half, it was too old and I needed a new one.  They knew he had issues, I asked for help, and problems escalated throughout the year.  He’s autistic, he doesn’t deal well with change.  Issues occurred and arose throughout the year.  He’s been suspended multiple times, but he’s not a bad child.  He is six.  I tried everything with the school.  I set up to get him reevaluated.  Getting into a neurologist takes a lot of time.  I went to a neurologist, my insurance dropped that neurologist, so I had to go to Delaware Autism Program as the school suggested.  I got him re-diagnosed again, again, he’s not eligible.  I never had a meeting, they never said anything.  I was just told by the Behavior Interventionist he is not eligible.  Continue reading Mother of Child With Autism Stands Up For Her Son At Academy of Dover Public Hearing

Fight Song

I saw this yesterday on a Facebook page.  A very brave person!  And you will hear all about her fight very soon.

New York Times: Opt Out Becomes a Powerful Political Force

Make note Governor Markell, Delaware DOE, and those school districts and charters in Delaware who would dare to presume they know better than a parent what’s right for a child, this is Delaware’s future as well. Hopefully next year!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Elizabeth Harris and Ford Fessenden wrote an article that just went online in The Néw York Times about the stunning growth of the Opt Out movement in Néw York state. Its numbers have increased dramatically in only two years.

The movement is now a potent political force:

“As the vanguard of an anti-testing fervor that has spread across the country, New York’s opt-out movement already has become a political force. Just two months ago, lawmakers from both parties, at the behest of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, increased the role of test scores in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions.

“Those same legislators are now tripping over one another to introduce bills that guarantee the right to refuse to take tests. The high numbers will also push state and federal officials to make an uncomfortable decision: whether to use their power to financially punish districts with low participation rates.”

The…

View original post 187 more words

Promoting Peace and Non-Violence In Our Schools Instead of Bullying And Violence

“Imagine what would happen if millions of our kids grew into adults with better skills to deal with conflict and to cultivate peace. It could fundamentally change our nation and world for the better.”

Huffington Post came out with an excellent article yesterday on school violence and bullying.  This is an issue that hits home for far too many students, parents and schools.  There are several great resources out there to deal with these issues, but the key is having the proper staff to implement them.

This is the key battle in our schools, not standardized testing and Common Core. But because of these two items, many schools and states have confused curriculum and testing with academic readiness.  It’s not just understanding the material, it’s developing the life skills to be able to take those skills into adulthood.  Schools can teach academic standards all they want, but if the student doesn’t have the social skills, none of it will matter.

To some, they believe this is not a school’s responsibility.  It belongs to the parents.  I agree, but only to the point that this is a parent’s responsibility while a student is at home.  So much of our children’s lives are shaped by what happens in school.  Peer interaction happens in an education setting the most in students lives.  Schools are obligated to provide these types of services, instead of accuse/blame/punish.  I will go one step further than the article written by Matthew Albracht with the Peace Alliance and say schools need to stop the interrogation techniques with students and not always assume one person needs to take responsibility.  What if it is a child with a disability and the “fault” is a manifestation of the disability?  Should a child be made to take accountability for something they can’t help?  What if a situation started outside of school and the student at “fault” continued it in school?  Should they be considered accountable if they didn’t necessarily start it to begin with?  These are heavy questions and the time is now for this discussion.

I think any peaceful technique to curb the violence in our schools is welcome, whether it is meditation or social learning groups or whatever works to peacefully stop the situations from occurring in the first place.  This means being proactive rather than reactive.