Back To School Message For Students, Parents, Teachers & Schools

In Delaware, all public school students are back in school.  This will be a very interesting year ahead for all of us.  The invasion of corporate education reform will be felt the strongest this year.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment results will be released on a statewide level in a couple days and the results will go to parents in a few weeks.  Priority and focus schools will feel the pain of submitting plans to the Delaware Department of Education.  Opt-out will become bigger and more complicated.  Schools will lose essential funding due to budget issues in our state government that will continue to go unaddressed.  Reports will come out showing how some charters in this state should practice certain application tactics.  Parents and teachers will complain about things.  The DOE will make it look like everything is awesome when they come out with press releases.  Governor Markell will most likely have about 20 weekly messages and 30 public comments about how great education is but how much we need to do to make Delaware the best state in the country for education.  A new Secretary of Education will decide if the DOE should stay on course or course-correct.  The 148th General Assembly will debate education issues for our children and the DOE and their reform buddies will lobby the legislators for their own agendas.  Parents will become increasingly vocal about hotbed education issues in our state.  Common Core will be a common pain for students and parents.  Wilmington schools will be the front page headline for most schools in the state.  Vouchers won’t go anywhere.  Most of the people in the state will still have no clue who Rodel is.  I will keep blogging about all of this.  But at the end of the day, it’s about our children.  We all need to keep them safe and keep them learning.  The rest is just detail.  Best of luck to all involved in any way with education this year!

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Back To School: A Great Transition Meeting #netde #eduDE

Yesterday, we had a sort of unofficial IEP meeting with my son’s new school.  Transitioning from elementary school to middle school, my wife and I thought it would be a good idea to meet the IEP team in an unofficial capacity.  My son attended as well, and it was an excellent way of not only introducing him to his primary teachers, but to also let the team know what to expect with his Tourette’s Syndrome and other diagnoses. 

Everyone was very willing to listen to our understanding of TS and suggestions.  Many questions were asked in regards to certain scenarios that may come up.  It was a great way to clear the air and start the school year off on a good note.  I highly recommend doing this for any special needs child who may be transitioning from one school to another within the same district.  I have to give high props to Capital School District in Dover, Delaware for their excellent special education team!

Five Days, A New Beginning, Old Nightmares, and Common Core Hell! #netde #eduDE #edchat

In five days Jacob starts school again.  At a new school.  In Delaware, students go to middle school in 5th grade.  Not sure why, but that’s they way it is.  Jacob is very nervous.  He already knows there will be some other students there that he had problems with in the past.  Even some student’s parents as well.  My wife and I explained to him yesterday that is all in the past, and the best way to forget about those times is to move forward.  I think it will take him a while.  With any new school for Jacob, there is the reeducation of teachers and students about his Tourette’s Syndrome.  His new school will be very proactive about it.

On Monday, the teachers and staff are being trained on Tourette’s and what to expect.  This was something my wife and I insisted on.  We wanted it as an actual goal in the IEP, but we were refused on the grounds that it doesn’t affect Jacob’s educational outcome.  I still disagree with that, but since the school agreed for all staff to be trained on it prior to school starting, each year, then I will take it as a win.  Students will be trained in the first week or two of school.  I know Jacob will be nervous and he will be ticking a bit.  I just pray that no cruel bullying or teasing results from it.

Children can be cruel.  We all know this.  They don’t always understand what is different.  Sometimes adults don’t either.  I can deal with children being cruel, to a point.  Once they know and have the knowledge to understand Jacob’s condition, and they continue to do it, to me that is bullying and discrimination.  It’s no worse than making fun of someone’s race or religion.  In Delaware, somewhere around 30% of bullying in schools is directed towards kids with disabilities.

When an adult does this, it is beyond intolerant in my eyes.  It is shameful, and those people need to look inside themselves to find out why they think it’s okay to do that.  There is no reason for any adult in this day and age, with what we know, to not understand that what is different about people is what makes us unique.

My wife and I have a transitional IEP meeting on Wednesday, the day before school.  This will give us a chance to let his teacher’s know about his disabilities and what to expect with Jacob.  I know one of his primary teachers was selected as a teacher of the year last year, so that gives me hope.

I am already dreading 5th grade Common Core homework.  My hate and loathing of the CCSS has only grown since Jacob was in 4th grade.  I know if I see one more math problem that takes three times longer to do than what I had to do, I may have to take a step outside and count to ten.  Then I will come inside, take a deep breath, and attempt to help him with his homework.  It is my fervent hope the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be a thing of the past by the time they have to take that monstrosity.  I really can’t think of any other word for it.  But no matter what happens, I have to be there for Jacob and help him with what he has to do, no matter how much I loathe it.  Cause that’s what Dads do!

Back To School: A Guide for Special Needs Parents #netde #eduDE

It’s August 1st, and for many of us this means a return to school in the next thirty days. Most of us should find out what teachers are children will have this month. Once you do, it may not be a bad idea to contact the special education case manager at your school to set up a brief transition IEP meeting. Summer can be a long time for special needs kids, and teachers need to be aware of any new events that may have occurred. If your child is going to a new school this school year, I would recommend having an IEP meeting as soon as possible.

Aside from the frenzy of shopping for school supplies, I would talk to your child about any apprehension or fear they have for returning to school. Find out what their true fears are, whether it is bullying or an increased workload in school. Reassure them, but also watch them and let the school team know what those feelings are.

For parents who may have children on a 504 plan, take a hard look at the plan to make sure it is the best fit for your child. If they qualify medically for an IEP, you may want to take those first steps to request one and this would be requesting an IEP in writing now. A fact to always remember is that a medical diagnosis doesn’t guarantee an IEP. The purpose of an IEP is to give special education if the disability or condition affects educational outcome. You don’t want too much time to pass in the school year where your child could be getting accommodations that can benefit their educational outcome.

Most states have different timelines for the IEP process, and parents need to know what those are. Do some research on your state DOE website to determine what you need to know. IDEA law states that if a parent doesn’t agree with an evaluation the school does then you can request an independent evaluation at the school district or charter school’s expense. The school may deny the request, but you can file for due process in that event.

My best advice is to work together with the school. Let them know about your child if they don’t already. Schools usually don’t respond well to demands, but at the same time you need to advocate for your child. It can be a very slippery slope, but don’t go to extremes unless you absolutely have to.