Red Clay & Christina Respond To General Assembly With Opposition To New Stall Tactic Legislation

The Red Clay and Christina School Districts responded quickly and definitively to the new legislation kicking the can down the road for the redistricting plan with no guarantees of funding and asking for more planning.

DOE Spins 2016 Special Education Rating With False Praise And Outright Lies

The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their Annual IDEA Determinations for each state, and despite what I previously wrote, Delaware received a “needs assistance” rating for the second year in a row.  This only proves, without even seeing the letter or the actual report on Delaware, that the Feds are more lenient to the state than the DOE is to their own school districts and charters.  Even though the Delaware DOE links to the website that is supposed to show the letter generated from OSEP to Delaware, it only shows last year’s letters.  But I believe that is the rating given to Delaware, but it is not accurate.  Delaware has been failing students with disabilities for well over a decade, consistently and methodically.  Our Governor cares more about getting them into low-paying jobs as adults and tracking them in pre-school than giving them the funding when they need it the most.  With a few exceptions, our General Assembly is asleep at the wheel.  Our General Assembly, once again with exceptions, cares more about testing our special needs kids with high-stakes and growth measures that are unsustainable or realistic.

Here is the spin machine on Delaware’s rating:

Focus on special education leads to sustained federal rating

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) gave Delaware its second highest rating in its evaluation of the state’s special education services. The state fell just shy of earning the highest rating.

This is the second consecutive year Delaware has received the “needs assistance” rating and the second consecutive year it has seen progress: Delaware moved from an overall grade of 53 percent in 2014 to 68 percent in 2015 and to 76 percent this year. The state needed a grade of 80 percent to receive the highest “meets requirements” rating, a difference of one point on its evaluation.

This year’s evaluation, based on school data from the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, takes into account the following improvements Delaware made to special education after receiving a “needs intervention” rating in 2013. Delaware’s “needs intervention” rating was based on performance data from the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.

For the past two years, Delaware has:

  • Provided professional learning for special education teachers on standards-based Individual Education Plans (IEPs), positive behavior supports and accessing the general curriculum.
  • Included special education teachers in all trainings related to the state’s academic standards.
  • Assisted districts and charters schools in developing transition plans for students with disabilities who are 14 years old or entering the eighth grade to help them succeed in jobs or further education.  The state has been collecting data to ensure those plans are being prepared and carried out.
  • Clarified for districts and charters the policies requiring students with disabilities to take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and state assessments to ensure the state has full information on the progress of these students.
  • Provided districts and charter schools with comprehensive data on their performance to help local leaders better understand how well they are complying with state and federal law and how their students with disabilities are performing academically.
  • Provided targeted state technical assistance to those districts and charter schools found to be in need of assistance and intervention.

In addition, the Delaware Department of Education, in collaboration with various stakeholder groups, developed a five-year, K-3 Literacy Initiative to ensure that specialized instruction and support is provided to the state’s youngest readers with and without disabilities. In the 2016-2017 school year, the initiative will identify major areas of need as well as develop, implement and evaluate specific interventions for students in these grades.

The state first improved to the second-highest rating, “needs assistance,” in its 2015 evaluation, which used data from the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 schools years.

Last year OSEP also began calculating its ratings using a combination of compliance and results indicators for students with disabilities called results driven accountability (RDA), rather than relying solely on compliance data. RDA incorporates measures such as the percentage of students with disabilities who are taking state assessments as well as NAEP; how students with disabilities performed in reading and mathematics on NAEP; and proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and other students. This year’s report from OSEP also includes the graduation and drop-out rates of students with disabilities.

District and charters have welcomed the transition, which looks more closely at student outcomes than it does at how well districts and charters complied with the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

“Having data that measures true student outcomes makes the annual determination process invaluable to educators, and it is especially vital to students with disabilities and their families,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “We appreciate this year’s rating that acknowledges the progress made, but we also are still focused on the work we have ahead of us to ensure the expectations for students with disabilities align with those we have for all students.” 

Delaware is working closely with school districts and charter schools to ensure students with disabilities have opportunities to learn the same content as their peers, receive support they need to prepare for success after high school, and have their social, emotional and behavioral needs addressed.

IDEA Annual Determinations for FY2014: District and Charter ratings now available

In keeping with OSEP’s new evaluation method, the Delaware Department of Education uses RDA in assessing the performance of the state’s school districts and charter schools. District and charter school reports for 2016 are available on the Exceptional Children section of DDOE’s website  here.  Between FY2013 and FY2014, the following districts and charters saw improvements:

 

  • Caesar Rodney
  • Capital
  • Delmar
  • Gateway Lab Charter
  • Laurel
  • MOT Charter
  • POLYTECH
  • Positive Outcomes Charter

 

POLYTECH Superintendent Deborah Zych credited a focused approach to meeting individual student needs for the improvements in her district.

“We added an enrichment period when students with learning deficits receive interventions and formed the Instructional Support Team to focus on individual student needs,” she said.

The Caesar Rodney School District made special education outcomes a priority during the district’s goal-setting with principals last summer. The district’s Student Services Division focused on on-going trainings on standards-based IEPs, student outcomes with an emphasis on Transition Age Students and instructional interventions designed to meet individual student needs. The division also conducted on-going audits of programming at the school and classroom level to ensure compliance as well as best practice. This summer’s professional development calendar also includes nine sessions specifically for working with special education students.

“We established a quarterly data review of special education students … The goal was to identify red flags early and develop intervention plans to keep students on track,” said Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald. “ Our improvement was the result of working together, setting goals and focusing resources.

“We understand that while we have made improvements there is more work to be done and we will continue to make this a priority,” he said.

Sheila Swift, whose son, Sam, completed the Project SEARCH program through Red Clay Consolidated School District in June, said special education in Delaware has experienced some improvements the past few years but students with disabilities need more supports statewide.

“Services after high school have gotten better,” Swift said. “Project SEARCH has been an excellent program. Six of the 10 students in my son’s class went right into jobs at Christiana Care.”

Still, Swift says that before her son entered Project SEARCH, she fought hard against putting him in an inclusion program. She said more supports, including those related to school climate, are needed for students with disabilities who attend traditional middle and high schools.

The department continues to provide targeted technical assistance to all districts and charter schools found to be in need of assistance and intervention.

Alison May alison.may@doe.k12.de.us (302) 735-4006

 

The Political Allegiance of Exceptional Delaware

I’ve written many articles over the past two years pointing out inconsistencies and downright violations of Delaware and Federal law.  I have called out elected and state officials countless times.  I care about education.  I care about transparency.  I care about due process.  I care about the law.  There are many who I believe, and others constantly agree with me, that talk the talk but their actions speak otherwise.  They are the Governor, the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, Delaware Congressmen, and several of our State Senators and Representatives.  They are district and charter leaders as well.  They are lobbyists and special interests.  They are non-profit corporations.

But there are also those that desperately care, that stick their neck out to do the right thing.  People like Kim Williams and John Kowalko.  Those that defy the will of their party in favor of the will of the people.  Who listen to their constituents and act.  People like Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook, who do everything in their power to make things right for teachers in our state.  People like Dave Lawson, who I don’t always agree with, but is willing to call out our DOE and attempt to make changes to our education system even though it is an exercise in futility.  People like Jennifer Nagourney, who I also don’t always agree with, but made sure transparency was a top priority for our Delaware charter schools.  People like John Young and Liz Paige, who aren’t afraid to question and call out the actions of the Christina School District.  There are countless others.  Those I don’t always agree with, but I know they are trying to do the right thing.

When it comes to kids and education, there is no right and left.  There is no liberal and conservative.  There is no Democrat and Republican, blue or red.   There are children and teenagers.  With disabilities, different skin colors, talented, gifted, poor, who come from environments of trauma and violence.  All across the state.  Who don’t speak our language.  Who don’t understand the machinations of adults who do not have their best interests at heart.  They are my political allegiance.  Over 130,000 children who don’t have an allegiance.  Who aren’t getting what they rightfully deserve.  Who are the pawns in a game of corporate interest and profits.  They are who matters.

So when I call out a collective body, such as the Delaware General Assembly, it is not to insult those whose hard work I admire.  It is the group as a whole.  I am angry.  I show it and I know it.  And I truly don’t care.  I am constantly told to calm down, or to temper my thoughts, or to compromise.  Sometimes I do, but more often than not, I blast.  I lash out.  I act.  Why?  Because if I don’t, who will?  I’m not trying to martyr myself here.  But every thought, every word I write, is about kids.  It is about our future who we, as a collective country, are throwing to the wolves.  It’s about my own son, who was violated and discriminated against.  Who is just one of many in our state who experienced the same thing.  They dominate my thoughts and my words.  If it isn’t good for them or their future, I write.  I don’t care who I tick off along the way.  I don’t care if my articles offend those who have a vested interest that will not ultimately benefit the students of Delaware.  I don’t care if politicians treat me like dirt or laugh at me or ignore me.  I don’t care if I am called a conspiracy theorist or that I wear a tin hat.  They are not why I do this.  I am not here to appease or compromise.  I am here to teach, and educate, and inform.  I am here to point out the issues and the situations that will lead to a bad outcome for students.  To catch the cracks in the dam before they explode.  View this is arrogant all you want.  I don’t care.  If I get something wrong, I’ll fix it.  I will edit or update.  But what I will not do is compromise my integrity or morals over the best interests of children.  What began as a fight for special needs children evolved a long time ago into all students.  I will always befriend both sides of the aisle and those who don’t pledge to those two sides.  I will engage with my enemies as well.  I will take the awkward or angry stares and conversations.  I will put myself into the den of the lion and roar.  But that does not mean I will tolerate violations of the law.  I will not tolerate interpretations of the law that have no justification.  I will not hide behind a black curtain covering up the truth.

There is a dark and festering rot in this state.  It isn’t going away any time soon.  As long as it is there, taking away from children and benefitting adults, I will continue to piss off many.  I will speak for those who aren’t able to or don’t know how.  For the parents of these children who are struggling in their own way who may not have the means or ability to speak.  For teachers who truly care about students and just want to do their job, who are threatened and demeaned by many.  I almost caved and joined the system by running for the Capital School Board.  In hindsight, I am very glad I lost.  It would have forced me to be in a position of compromise and to not always act in the best interest of children.  It would have tainted me.  It would have forced me to look out for a corporation, a school district, instead of the students that are the heart of the district.  This is who I am.  Take it or leave it.  Like it or hate it.  Accept me or not.  I’m here to stay.

 

Delaware Senate Violates Constitution By Passing Budget Without Required Majority 3/4 Vote

On Tuesday, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Bill 285, the FY2017 budget bill, with a vote of 15 yes and 6 no.  The Delaware Constitution requires 3/4 of both the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate to vote yes in order for the budget to pass.  The Delaware Senate did not get the necessary 3/4 vote.  It was a little bit over 71%, not 75%.  But they passed it anyways and sent it to the House who did pass it with the required 3/4 vote.  Now it heads to Governor Markell’s desk.  As El Somnambulo pointed out on Delaware Liberal this morning, only the General Assembly can declare this unconstitutional and could send it to the Delaware Supreme Court.  This is the dark side of shady Delaware Politics as El Som pointed out:

The question, of course, was moot when the budgets passed almost unanimously. But that’s not the case this year. I don’t care whether the R’s are doing this just to be pains in the ass. The idea that the General Assembly would willfully pass, and the Governor would sign, a budget that might not meet constitutional standards is, well when you think of it, not surprising. Just depressing and sorta outrageous. And business as usual.

The absolute corruption and fraud in Dover continues.  It isn’t just education folks, it is everything.  This General Assembly has no respect for the Delaware Constitution or those who came before them.  They set up laws to allow illegal activity in our state. Yes, that is an oxymoron, but it is what they do.  And we still keep voting the same people in, year after year.  At least Senator Karen Peterson has the good sense to get the hell out of there before they do something even more stupid.  The same day the Senate illegally passed the budget, WBOC reported a federal judge ruled Delaware’s abandoned property collecting practices violate due process law.  Amounting to revenue for the state to the tune of almost $500 million dollars on an annual basis.  That is about 1/8th of the state budget folks.  How can we, as the citizens of Delaware, allow this to continue?  When will the people rise up and take control?  Are we just as guilty as the politicians that look the other way on illegal activities by electing the lawmakers who violate our Constitution?

WEIC Dies As Delaware Senators Try To Appease WEIC Advocates With Meaningless Legislation

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan is dead.  Not officially, but close enough.  Two bills introduced by the Delaware Senate basically say “We aren’t going to approve the plan but we are going to kick the can down the road.”

The two new bills, Senate Joint Resolution #17 and Senate Bill #300 hold about as much clout as a snowflake in July.  If I were the advocates for WEIC, I would feel very insulted.  These legislators need to get some gumption and either vote yes or no.  Jea Street is going to sue you.  He has been adamant about that.  Tony Allen is going to be very angry about this.  And Governor Markell?  What’s his stance?  Does it matter at this point?  Not really.  Quack-quack.

SB300

SJR17

And so WEIC ends, not with a bang, but with legislative whimpers.Del

Good News

Yesterday, Senator David Sokola laid his righteous judgment on Delaware blogs by stating we don’t talk about the good things happening in education.  While I gave public comment at the meeting when he said this, indicating that was the DOE’s job and I will do my thing, maybe he is right.  So here is some good news!

Senator David Sokola has a very worthy opponent for his Senate seat in the upcoming election and he is scared.  Real scared.

Delaware has great teachers that no test can ever measure.

The students of Delaware are awesome and they are not failures.

The parents of Delaware are watching the General Assembly like never before and are calling them out on their antics.

Governor Markell will be gone after January.

Pete Schwartzkopf and Valerie Longhurst pissed off a ton of parents, teachers, citizens, and even fellow legislators last night.  How is this good news?  It was live and recorded.

Charter schools will have to record their board meetings in a few months and post them on their website.

Everybody now knows the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware ever made.

Meredith Chapman is running for the 8th Senate District seat.

Precious Little still makes me laugh… a lot.

John King gets grilled by the US House Education and the Workforce Committee on a monthly basis.

God gave me the good fortune to be present at certain times and places to witness and record what happens in Delaware education.

Winter is coming.