Diploma Bill Released From House Education Committee

The first battle for HS1 for House Bill #287 was won today as the Delaware House Education Committee released it from committee.  This puts the special education legislation on the Ready list for a full House vote.

All were in favor of the release except for State Rep. Deb Heffernan who voted no and State Rep. Stephanie Bolden who abstained.  There was a great deal of discussion about the bill and who exactly it represents among Delaware special education students.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the Delaware Department of Education, attempted to answer these questions to committee members.  The diploma with modified standards would apply to a very small population of Delaware students, approximately 1% of them.  These are students with severe disabilities that affect their ability to perform relative to their peers.

Currently, these students receive a “certificate of performance”.  Which means they are not allowed to check up the Diploma box on job applications.  They are unable to have the opportunity to apply for many jobs.  For parents of these children, as so aptly put by parent John Young, it is a resignation for their children that is very difficult to accept.

Much of the conversation was about the gap group of special education students between those this would apply to and those who receive a high school diploma.  To qualify for this bill, you have to be approved by your IEP team to take the alternative state assessment.  But that is only a little over 1% of Delaware students.  Our special education numbers hover around 15-16%.  Some of those students who do qualify for the Smarter Balanced Assessment have a difficult time passing rigorous high school courses and are unable to graduate.  Many legislators wanted to see numbers from the Delaware DOE on this.

One public comment, given by Robert Overmiller, said this bill would be lying to these students.  The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, of which Overmiller is a member, had public comment from member Kathie Cherry.  She felt it was important to note that Overmiller’s views on the bill did not reflect the overwhelming majority of the council who are in support of the bill.  While I do agree with Overmiller on many education issues, I felt his opposition to this bill was unfair but he is certainly entitled to his opinion.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting gave the DOE’s approval of the bill, as did Delaware Autism, the Delaware Association of School Administrators, the Delaware School Boards Association, and parents.

This is an important victory for this bill.  It still has a long way to go but I like the track it is going in.

2 thoughts on “Diploma Bill Released From House Education Committee

  1. I don’t mind a diploma for special ed student’s, its 1 very small step in the right direction.

    There are many student’s with problems like Dyslexia & because of a 504, they do well in school but are unable to pass Standardized Testing. They can’t prove their knowledge on Smarter Balance. Some of these student’s can’t read & handwrite in English yet they are expected to do it for 2 years in another language to get a Diploma. Smarter Balance was created in a way any student with a learning disability will fail, when will this change. The diploma requirements setup those with disabilities to fail. When is the State going to wake up? When will the Federal Government wake up? Not all student’s do well on tests (it’s a proven fact), yet this is how our children, teacher’s & schools are judged. It needs to end.

    Until it ends, 504 & IEP allowances should happen on all Standardized Tests.

    I thank God my extremely Dysgraphic, Dyslexic child goes to a school who understands the struggles of Dysgraphia & Dyslexia. Has administration who care about it, has teacher’s who care about the struggle & work within the 504. My child is expected to know everything every other Honor student does but is allowed a Chromebook. Despite my child’s struggles with Dysgraphia & Dyslexia, my child’s does not use it as an excuse & has been carrying almost straight A’s since mid 7th grade.

    My child proves student’s with learning disabilities can be very intelligent they just need a little help. In fact, most student’s don’t know about the learning disabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

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