Administrative Complaint Against Colonial School District Deals With Special Education On The School Bus

Is a bus driver beholden to a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)?  That was the question for an investigator at the Exceptional Children’s Resources Group, the special education division of the Delaware Department of Education.  When behavioral issues came up for this student on the school bus, did the district do everything it could have when the student was denied access to the school bus?  Find out the answers here!

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State Board Of Education Postpones Special Education Strategic Plan Presentation

The Delaware State Board of Education has their monthly meeting today at 1pm.  On the agenda was a presentation by the Special Education Strategic Plan Officer Matthew Korobkin.  That presentation has been postponed.  Yesterday, the Delaware Department of Education, disability groups, and district and charter special education directors, along with other stakeholders, met to discuss progress on the strategic plan.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams also attended the meeting, along with many other meetings in this process.  The entire group realized there were still many things to iron out in the process.

Last month, citizens were invited to participate in public comment sessions for special education in Delaware.  Meetings were held in each county.  The Special Education Strategic Plan was inserted into the epilogue language for the Delaware State Budget for FY2015 and work began on the plan in November of 2014.  The plan was originally slated to be finalized at the end of this year.  After hearing the concerns of stakeholders, Secretary Godowsky opted to postpone the presentation and hear more from stakeholder groups to establish a defined plan represented by all voices.

specedstratplansboeprescanceled

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

 

Delaware To Get Federal “Needs Intervention” In Special Education Again As Incompetent DOE Lies At Public Meeting

Delaware WILL get a “Needs Intervention” label for their Annual IDEA Determination from the Office of Special Educations Programs at the United States Department of Education.  The Delaware DOE knows this, but they aren’t announcing it.  My guess is they are waiting for the “formal” letter to come from the feds before they publicly release this information to the public.  Even though they were told this information at least four weeks ago.  If I were a betting man, we won’t find this out until after June 30th.  I predicted this three weeks ago when I found the letters that went out to the districts and charters.

At the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens meeting on Tuesday night, the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE gave a presentation to the council on the Local Education Authority (LEA) portion of the annual determination.  The presentation was given by Barbara Mazza and Maria Locuniak from the DOE.  In this presentation, there were several absolute lies that are in this article, for which I caught them red-handed.  It is very alarming they would try to dupe a state council devoted to the improvement of outcomes for persons with disabilities. Continue reading “Delaware To Get Federal “Needs Intervention” In Special Education Again As Incompetent DOE Lies At Public Meeting”

Breaking News: Special Education Nuclear Blast Will Take Place In Delaware In The Next Month

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a hurricane in Delaware Special Education.  This year I predict a full-blown nuclear blast.  The Exceptional Children Resource’s Group at the Delaware Department of Education will release their FY2014 Special Education Compliance & Results report they must submit to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs in the next month.  The results are going to be catastrophic for Delaware.  We will be labeled as “needs intervention” once again.

This year’s results will be more controversial than any other year because out of the 43 “indicators” identified by the US DOE this year, 28 of them are based on the state assessment.  In Delaware, that would be the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  In other words, 65.11% of Delaware AND each local school district or charter school’s rating scale will be based on Smarter Balanced.  Participation rate will tie into this.  Delaware did not make the participation rate of 95% for students with disabilities in ANY grade.  So that is 32.65% of the rating.  The other 32.65% is based on proficiency goals for both ELA and Math.  What is odd though is the Math goals are based on the 2014-2015 Smarter Balanced scores but the ELA goals are based on the 2013-2014 DCAS scores.  The other new indicators are results tied to early childhood learning to elementary learning in three different areas covering “growth” and “expectation” for a total of six categories.  These new weights total nearly 14% of the rating.  Other new “results” indicators are graduation rates and drop-out rates, which Delaware did not hit the goals for either one.

In terms of compliance, which used to account for 100% of the Annual State Improvement Plans from the US DOE, this year it only counts for less than 14% of the entire report.  Delaware came in at the halfway mark for this section.  Indicators in this section included disproportionality in all disabilities or specific disabilities (much more of one disability over another, like ADHD for example), a disproportionate amount of suspension rates for minority students who are also students with disabilities, initial evaluation timelines, pre-school transitions, and secondary transition (making sure students with disabilities who transition from middle school to high school are part of their IEP team).  Delaware did perfect in the disproportionality sections, but the other areas fell well below the goals.

The report on this hasn’t come out, but the Delaware DOE did send letters to each school district and charter school in the state.  Based on the numbers in each of these letters, I was able to determine Delaware will be labeled as “needs intervention” this year by the US DOE.

The following districts and charters were labeled as “needs intervention”: Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, Lake Forest, Red Clay, Woodbridge, Campus Community School, Delaware College Prep, EastSide, Prestige Academy, Thomas Edison and students handled through the Department of Students, Children, Youth and their Families.

The following districts and charters were labeled as “needs assistance”: Appoquinimink, Cape Henlopen, Capital, Delmar, Indian River, Laurel, Milford, Smyrna, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Kuumba Academy, Las Americas ASPIRAS, Positive Outcomes, and Providence Creek Academy.

What is interesting is the charters who have very few students with disabilities or very low populations of intensive or complex categories did extremely well this year.  Out of the 43 indicators, the Charter School of Wilmington only qualified for 1 which they passed.  Delaware Military Academy only had 6.  None of the charters and a few districts did not qualify for the pre-school indicators.  When I determined Delaware’s rating, I factored out any district or charter that was not applicable for any of the 43 indicators.

The participation rates were based on the 2014-2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I find it hysterical that they are using Smarter Balanced for this report.  The goals for Smarter Balanced Math on this report was a proficiency rating of 15% for students with disabilities.  All grades with the exception of 11th grade passed that goal.  But the participation rates, compliance indicators, and early childhood learning all brought Delaware way down this year.  When the final numbers come out, I predict we will be at 37.21% for our overall percentage with US DOE.  For the ratings systems, 80% and above is “meets requirements”, 60% to 79% is “needs assistance”, and 59% and below is “needs intervention”.

To see how your district or charter school did, check out this page on the Delaware DOE website.  Letters were sent out to each Superintendent or Head of School (charters) on May 31st.

Let me be the first to say I think it is utterly preposterous they are using the Smarter Balanced scores and participation rates for this report.  It is ludicrous to think it accounts for nearly two-thirds of it.  For those who ever thought testing is good, not only are teachers evaluated based on the scores, but our schools are now going through double jeopardy based on the scores and participation rates, especially schools with high populations of low-income and minority students who ALSO have high populations of students with disabilities.  I don’t accept this report and see it as utter garbage.  While some of the compliance indicators, the graduation rates, and the drop-out rates are worthy measures, the rest of it is utter crap.  I’ve said this last year and the year before, but there are so many other worthwhile things they could be measuring with these annual reports.  Such as IEPs being implemented with fidelity, IEP denials, and parent feedback.  In fact, the only thing remotely surrounding parents in this is participation rates, and that is an extreme dig at parental choices that are not against the law.  Delaware and the US DOE will NEVER learn…

I hate to be the deliverer of bad news, but once I saw these letters and what they were measuring, I knew I would be spending the rest of my day figuring all this out.  The last time we got a “needs intervention” in Delaware, back in 2014, Governor Markell announced the creation of a Special Education Strategic Plan.  He set aside funds in the FY2015 budget for this.  Almost two years later and this Strategic Plan still hasn’t seen the light of day.  But a former Rodel employee with very little special education background is getting paid a very nice salary as part of the Secretary of Education’s office.  Matthew Korobkin is in charge of this “strategic plan”.  So far the only thing I’ve heard is how much the Autism community in Delaware was pissed off at him for essentially trying to copy their Autism Blueprint into his strategic plan.  Money well spent Jack!  An IEP Task Force, formed in the General Assembly in 2014, did create legislation that is just now going into effect, but the task force never reconvened even though this was a huge discussion point towards the end of the first round.

A Message From Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn About IEPs And DOE Surveys

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn wants all parents of students with disabilities with an IEP to read this message!  As part of the IEP Task Force recommendations back in 2014 which became part of Senate Bill 33 last year, the Delaware DOE is required to send surveys out to a representative number of families where a child has an IEP.  The goal of the survey is to see how our schools are doing with the IEP process and implementation.  I strongly urge all parents in Delaware who  have a child with an IEP to take this survey.  Thank you.

“Dear Friends,

I am writing to ask for your assistance in ensuring that our schools are complying with their legal responsibilities to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities. One of the recommendations of the IEP Improvement Task Force that I chaired was to survey families specifically about their experience with the IEP process, so the state could determine if particular schools or districts were failing to comply with their legal responsibilities to children with disabilities. The General Assembly enacted legislation last year requiring the Department of Education to conduct this survey. The Department of Education, through the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware, is mailing such a survey out to the homes of a randomized group of approximately 5,000 students with IEPs. In addition to these mailed surveys, we have also created an online version which will allow families who do not receive the mailed survey to share their experience. While we request permission to contact the responding families if there are concerns about their responses, they may choose to participate anonymously.

I ask you to share the web address for this online survey with the families of children you serve and encourage their participation, so we can try to ensure that all children with disabilities in our state receive the support to which they are entitled.”

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2T789KW

Sincerely,

Matt Denn

Special Education Front & Center In Budget Talks With DOE

DelawareJFC

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee grilled Secretary Godowsky yesterday about the dramatic rise in special education numbers this year.  The News Journal, Delaware Public Media and Delaware State News covered the hearing with very different takes on the events of the day.  All of them cited the increase this year of 848 students classified as special education.

Delaware State News provided the quote of the year from Senator Harris McDowell:

A large portion of the dialogue centered on enrollment figures, with committee members questioning the discrepancy between predicted and actual growth and the JFC chairman referring to the funding formula as “‘Harry Potter’ calculus.”

Both legislators and DOE officials seem to be perplexed at the rapid rise in special education students and don’t know how to figure this out.

“We’ve really been in the position of, is this a bubble, is this a one-time or two-time increase in special education enrollment that’s driving that growth?” said department finance director Kim Wheatley.

The News Journal had a different take on the matter:

Department officials and several lawmakers said much of that increase was likely due to the state’s recent efforts to better screen students to catch disabilities and learning differences. Godowsky said the department was working with the University of Delaware to study the state’s population and see if the increase could be a long-term trend.

But Delaware Public Media offered more insight into Godowsky’s thoughts on the issue:

“It’s the unknown factor of students identified as ‘exceptional’ and are eligible for special education services. So that’s the variable that we haven’t really been able to tap exactly,” Godowsky said.

But the shell shock award of the day definitely goes to Delaware Public Media:

Many parents of kids with learning differences choose to move to Delaware because of the state’s quality special education, Dr. Godowsky said.

Are you kidding me?  Really?  Quality special education.  That is a complete lie.  When I talk about special education with people from different states they laugh and tell me how horrible Delaware is in comparison to other states.  For a state listed as needing intervention three out of the past five years this is a complete joke.  This is not a knock against our teachers, but a complete slam on the DOE who seems to think special education’s sole purpose is to bring up test scores.  Meanwhile, our bloated classrooms, some with well over 30 students and one teacher in some districts are suffering immensely.  If Delaware had quality special education this blog would not exist.

I’ve told people for going on two years now that special education numbers are too low in Delaware.  Many of the increases this year are coming from the charter sector of Delaware public education.  Now that accountability is really kicking in I’m not surprised the charters are waking up to this fact.  Now that their schools are on the line just as much as traditional school districts are, their excuses with low special education numbers just don’t cut it any more.  While this is not all charters, there are certain ones who have insanely small special education populations that do not match any realistic demographics in the state.  The vo-techs aren’t much better in some respects.  There could be other factors at play here as well.

We all know Delaware has some major pollution issues.  There have been concerns about chemical waste and toxins for years.  Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle wants Delaware’s water tested to make sure we aren’t having issues like the crisis in Flint, Michigan.  My son has Tourette Syndrome and it is a mystery about how children develop the disability.  The disability is not present in any of his relatives on both sides, nor was it in past generations.  I have questioned the origin of my son’s disability.

In 2006, a company called Reichhold in Cheswold had a chemical leak.  A railroad car released a chemical called styrene which is used in plastics.  The smell of the chemical was felt up to five miles away from the now closed plant.  My house is a little over a mile away from the now closed chemical plant.  My wife and son were home on that summer day, with all the windows open.  He was two when this happened.  Twenty people went to the hospital.  Route 1 closed down in that area for most of the day.  Everyone within the five-mile radius of the plant was told to stay indoors.  In my neighborhood, every single child I knew that was home that day has some type of disability that was not present before the leak.  I actually contacted Erin Brokovich about this a few years ago but I never received a response from her.  I don’t think it is a coincidence events like this occur and we see a rise in children with disabilities.  While Delaware didn’t see an immediate health danger to citizens in the area, we don’t know what long-term effects these unstable chemicals can do to developing minds in children.

Yesterday, State Rep. Kim Williams attended the JFC hearing with the DOE and after hearing the special education numbers, she tweeted an astonishing figure that none of the major media covered:

That is a lot of unfunded special education!  3rd grade is also the first year students take the Smarter Balanced Assessment folks.  I wrote in great detail about the 2015-2016 September 30th enrollment numbers back in November.  Delaware charter schools special education numbers rose nearly 15% on average while traditional school districts rose 4.4%.  At that time, 2,467 students in Delaware who have IEPs received no additional funding for the simple fact they are considered basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  This is a travesty.  William’s House Bill 30 would take care of this issue but nobody seems eager to make sure it passes aside from a handful of legislators.  Meanwhile, Governor Markell wants to boost early education by over $11 million dollars.  While funds would go to daycare centers, the discussion at the JFC hearing also talked about funds going to “coaches” to train the daycare center providers.  How much of that money will go towards these “coaches” and who are they?  The DOE and Governor Markell stress the need for this and the General Assembly seems to be accepting everything involved with it at face value.  I fear this is just another money grab by companies wanting to profit off children and an all-too-willing DOE and Governor who put money before children in their priorities.

When is our General Assembly going to stop blindly believing all the DOE and Markell have to say about how to “fix” education?  While Godowsky has certainly made some good staff changes at the DOE, it is merely window dressing to the true problems with the DOE and State Board of Education.  Those who suffer the most are the nearly 20,000 special education students in Delaware who do not have the funding, resources, and support they so desperately need.  But we have no problem sending millions upon millions of dollars to outside companies who come up with their mythical reports and their ridiculous high-stakes tests which tell us nothing we don’t already know.

Exciting News About The IEP Task Force in Delaware!

In my conversation with Attorney General Matt Denn the other night, we also talked about the possibility of the IEP Task Force in Delaware reconvening.  This group dealt with issues surrounding Individualized Education Programs and special education in Delaware.  This culminated with Senate Bill 33, signed into law by Delaware Governor Jack Markell a couple weeks ago, which will launch a multitude of new laws concerning special education in Delaware.

Denn said Senator Nicole Poore was planning on introducing legislation that evening/morning to get the IEP Task Force going again, but with the very hectic schedule due to the budget issues, he wasn’t sure if it was going to happen.  I looked on the Delaware General Assembly website yesterday to see if anything did happen, and I didn’t find anything.

I contacted Senator Poore, and she did confirm what Denn told me, but she said it was absolutely crazy that last day and was not able to get it in for a vote.  However, she did state that herself and State Rep. Deb Heffernan have discussed this at length about getting the IEP Task Force going again, and they will be working during the next 6 months to examine ideas and issues to tackle when they introduce legislation in January 2016 to get the IEP Task Force reconvened.  Attorney General Denn will not be the Chair, but Poore and Heffernan would be co-running the task force.

Poore recognized that while the original IEP Task Force tackled a lot of issues, there are certainly many more matters to tackle.  While the make-up of the group may be a bit different, I look forward to this group getting together again and discussing these issues!  Recently, Delaware was rated as “needs assistance” by the Office of Special Education Programs based on their 17 part indicators for compliance and results, but this blogger does not believe this paints a full picture of the issues facing special education in Delaware.

Delaware School Districts, Charter Schools and Vo-Techs Special Education Ratings By The Delaware DOE. State Ratings By The US DOE.

The Delaware Department of Education recently sent letters to every single school district, vocational district, and each charter schools with their special education rating based on compliance indicators with the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.  There are four designations: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention, and substantially needs intervention.  I will be delving into more of this in GREAT detail, as I don’t agree with much of this.  This is based on compliance from fiscal year 2013, so any schools that opened in FY2014 or FY2015 are not part of these ratings.  But for now, please see what the district ratings are:

Traditional School Districts

Appoquinimink: Needs Assistance

Brandywine: Needs Intervention

Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention

Cape Henlopen: Meets Requirements

Christina: Needs Intervention

Colonial: Needs Assistance

Delmar: Needs Intervention

Indian River: Meets Requirements

Lake Forest: Needs Assistance

Laurel: Needs Intervention

Milford: Meets Requirements

Red Clay Consolidated: Needs Intervention

Seaford: Needs Intervention

Smyrna: Needs Assistance

Woodbridge: Needs Intervention

Vocational Districts

New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements

Polytech: Needs Assistance

Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements

Charter Schools

Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance

Campus Community: Needs Assistance

Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security: Meets Requirements

DE College Prep: Meets Requirements

DE Military Academy: Meets Requirements

East Side Charter: Needs Intervention

Family Foundations Academy: Meets Requirements

Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention

Kuumba Academy: Needs Assistance

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy: Needs Assistance

MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance

*Moyer: Needs Intervention

Newark Charter School: Meets Requirements

Odyssey Charter School: Meets Requirements

Positive Outcomes: Needs Intervention

Prestige Academy: Needs Intervention

Providence Creek Academy: Needs Assistance

*Reach Academy for Girls: Needs Assistance

Sussex Academy: Meets Requirements

Thomas Edison Charter: Needs Assistance

*means school is now closed as of 6/30/15

There you have it, all the districts, charters, and vo-techs in Delaware.  Anyone with a basic knowledge of Delaware can see the obvious flaws with this rating system.  Most of the districts and charters who “need intervention” have the greatest populations of special education students, as well as the highest number of minorities and low-income populations.  This system is completely unfair to any parent looking for potential school choices for their special needs child.  Or even to those parents with a “regular” student, who may think the school is not a right fit for their child because of perceived special education issues.

These ratings also do not take into account IEP denials at all.  Many charters have flat-out refused entrance to children with IEPs, despite numerous warnings by the state and the federal government, as well as civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union.  Charters have also been widely known to practice “counseling out”, where students with IEPs are either kicked out or pushed out through repeated suspensions or strong suggestions to parents how they “can’t service your child” or “we don’t have the resources”.

For a school like Charter School of Wilmington to “meet requirements” when they have a literal handful of IEPs there, while a school like Eastside who has numerous IEPs to need intervention is not a fair and accurate comparison.

One other important factor is none of these ratings take into account the continuous and growing number of special education lawsuits in our state.  The feds ratings are based on complaints, mediations (with the state) and due process hearings.  There are several problems with this.  First off, there hasn’t been a due process hearing in Delaware in over two years.  The last hearing was in April of 2013, and out of the 25 due process hearings since 2006, only two were against charter schools.  Anyone with a basic knowledge of Delaware Online Checkbook can see the MILLIONS of dollars going out in special education lawsuits.  When I asked MaryAnn Mieczkowski, the Director at the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE about this conundrum last summer, she stood by the due process system as being “more than fair.”  Many of the schools that “meet requirements” have been sued and more than once.  But the DOE will never report that data…

Second, the complaints are heard by “hearing officers” who are paid by the Delaware Department of Education.  One such hearing officer is the President of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, Robert Overmiller.  He was paid $10,000 this year alone to rule on these special education complaints.  The Director of the Exceptional Citizens Resource Group at the DOE sits on the very same group.  Overmiller is also paid by the GACEC.  The GACEC issues opinions on matters such as the recent and growing opt-out movement.  Many were shocked to see the GACEC dead set against opt-out and House Bill 50.  But now we know about conflicts of interest where the state Department pays the other state group’s Presidents, and the two side on issues of legislative importance.  As well, the GACEC gives opinions on State Board of Education regulations.  This is the problem in Delaware with conflicts of interest.  They aren’t transparent until someone happens to stumble upon them.

There is so much more to all of this, and I will be writing a lot about it in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can read each letter sent to these districts, vo-techs and charters here: District And Charter Reports

You can also see each state’s ratings below, in the below document released by the US DOE, which is also very misleading, because it rates Delaware as “needing assistance” in the Part B determinations for one year, and “meets requirements in Part C, but doesn’t even touch on the fact they were “needing intervention” the past two years, which makes Delaware look better on a long-term basis when that is not the case.

Delaware DOE Pats Itself On The Back For Special Education Improvements…Slow Your Roll!

Apparently the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has come out with their official state ratings and Delaware has elevated to “needs assistance” after two years of “needs intervention”. This is based on data from two years ago, from fiscal year 2013. The DOE announced all of this today in a press announcement, which is rather long.  I love how the DOE calls it “the second highest rating” when there are only four, and they were at the “second to last” rating the past two years.  I will have MUCH more on this later.  I’m still too tired from the General Assembly’s all-night session to be objective…

Delaware continues to make special education improvements

The Delaware Department of Education 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.

Those were three areas about which the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) expressed concerns when, in 2014, the department changed the ways in which states were evaluated for the services provided to students with disabilities. That evaluation, based on performance data from the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, gave Delaware a rating of “needs intervention,” the second-lowest of four possible ratings. This year, the state improved to the second-highest rating, “needs assistance,” in its 2015 evaluation, which used data from the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 schools years. The state expects the efforts undertaken statewide over the last 12 months will yield even greater progress.

“Over the past year we have partnered with our districts and charter schools to examine data, provide additional educator training, begin new programs and clarify expectations for students with disabilities,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. “We know we have more work to do, and we are committed to continue to make improvements until all Delaware students have the best chance to make the most of their abilities.”

Results driven accountability

OSEP’s 2014 report used a new approach to its evaluation called results driven accountability (RDA); in prior years, OSEP had based its ratings only on whether states had complied with the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). RDA incorporates measures such as the percentage of students with disabilities who are taking state assessments as well as the National Assessment of Educational Progress; 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.

In keeping with OSEP’s new evaluation method, the Delaware Department of Education now is using RDA in assessing the performance of the state’s school districts and charter schools. District and charter school reports for 2015 are available on the Exceptional Children section of DDOE’s website.

“Delaware is committed to closing the achievement gap for students with disabilities,” Chief Academic Officer Michael Watson said. “In the past several years, the state has moved away from solely focusing on compliance and procedural requirements. While important, we also need to focus on results for students, such as graduation rates, transitions to college or career and proficiency gaps when compared to their peers. We applaud the U.S. Department of Education for increasing the focus on these issues in Delaware and across the country, and we believe that we have a special opportunity now to address these issues.”

Over the past year the state has:

· Provided professional development 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 Common Core State Standards trainings.

· 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 is 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 NAEP and state assessments to ensure the state has full information on the progress of these students.

· Provided districts and charter 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 DDOE, in collaboration with various stakeholder groups, is developing 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. This plan will identify major areas of need and will develop, implement and evaluate specific interventions for students in these grades.

Feedback on progress in Delaware schools

The state’s commitment to improvement is one shared by district and charter school leaders.

“The mission of a public school system is to ensure the success of every student, regardless of his or her disability or socioeconomic status,” Indian River School District Superintendent Susan Bunting said. “The State of Delaware and the Indian River School District have made tremendous strides toward this goal since the initial OSEP evaluation in 2014. The professional development provided to teachers has been integral to the process of giving students the individual tools they need to overcome their personal challenges and be successful in the classroom. We believe future OSEP ratings both locally and statewide will show vast improvement and reflect the hard work invested by educators across Delaware.”

Parents said they are seeing positive changes as well as areas in which the state and districts/charters can continue to improve. In her role as a board member of the Parent Information Center, Appoquinimink parent Verna Hensley hears from parents with varying experiences depending on their location.

“I still see challenges – the uneven implementation of policies that are already in place but may or may not have filtered down to every district and in the district filtered down to the school or classroom,” she said. “I’m optimistic. I see progress, but it has to flow all the way down to the parent and the child’s experience in the classroom.”

Ellen Coulston, a parent in the Brandywine School District, also cited communication as a remaining challenge.

“There is a problem with the communication between the state and the districts,” she said. “There are good things happening. There are good ideas but they are (not all reaching the local level).”

Delaware receiving a poor rating last year was a good thing, she said.

“It raises awareness to all stakeholders and causes people to honestly step back and re-examine how we are impacting students,” Coulston said, noting the greatest need she sees is for better training in teacher pre-service programs including transition planning so all educators in the classroom can lead and better support students toward better outcomes.

“It’s part of Common Core. It’s part of your college and career readiness,” she said.

Brandywine Superintendent Mark Holodick said he’s pleased with the improvements since the report first was issued.

“Response to Intervention, done well, as well as increased efforts around communication can help us continue to see growth in a positive direction,” he said. “Many districts, including Brandywine, have made great strides in strengthening communication, as evidenced by the work done by many district and school administrators, teachers, and educational diagnosticians over the past two years. The communication between district office, schools and families has been a priority for us in Brandywine, and we have made significant progress in meeting the needs of all students. In the past, districts and schools have been very compliance-driven and more focused on meeting requirements. Now, instead of being driven by requirements and regulations, we are ensuring that we meet each student’s individual needs through individualized plans, special services, collaboration with parents and programs that promote inclusion.

“I am very optimistic about this progress and the potential for even greater achievement and success for all students,” he said.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4000

Where Are The Special Education Ratings For Each State? US DOE & OSEP Dropping The Ball!

Nothing has been released for the 2015 Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) annual report for how the states are doing with special education.  Why is this?  Last year, this information was released on June 23rd.  They did switch how they do things, so this could play a factor.  It used to be a Results Driven Accountability rating, and now it is called the State Systemic Improvement Plan.  So perhaps they are extending the timeline for this.

Last year, California, Texas, Delaware, and Washington D.C. were rated as needs intervention in special education.  For Delaware, this was their 2nd year in a row, and if they hit this mark for a third year, it could have serious consequences for the First State.  From what I could see from Delaware’s submission to OSEP, things aren’t looking much better for special education in Delaware.  With the rise of Smarter Balanced Assessment and Standards-Based IEPs, I can’t see a lot of room for improvement.  As usual, the students suffer…

Meanwhile, the US DOE and OSEP shouldn’t wait too much longer.  States need to plan for school starting in a couple months, and if they don’t know how they might need to improve, it’s like cutting them off at the knees.  Or perhaps the Feds want that.  It’s no wonder so many parents of students with disabilities are saying enough is enough and opting their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the PARCC…

IEP Task Force Legislation Clears The House With 40-0 Vote, Governor Markell Needs To Sign & It Is Law!

Senate Bill 33, the IEP Task Force bill, cleared the Delaware House of Representatives with a unanimous 40-0 vote, with one representative absent.  Short and sweet.  No one had any questions about it, just went straight to roll call.  Now the bill goes to Governor Markell’s desk for signing.

The Lying & Deceitful DOE & Their Manipulative Agendas To Screw Over Students With Disabilities

The Delaware DOE is filled with liars with the sole purpose of misleading the public.  When things like “standards-based IEPs” are introduced, they misinform the public by saying things like “they aren’t about the Common Core” when in reality they are.  I received an email today which was very troubling and confirms my suspicions about Delaware’s standards-based IEPs.  This is what was contained in the email:

Where is this “required”?  My child has an IEP.  How come I received no notice from PIC on this meeting?  The email was originally sent to parents with autistic children.  Where is the state-wide collaboration?  Does it even exist?  If you didn’t know, PIC is a requirement of Federal IDEA law that each state has a parent group.  And guess who gives them their funding? The Delaware DOE!

When I first heard about Standards-Based IEPs, many folks told me I was overreacting and that they were not based on the Common Core and the state assessment.  Some said it was a good thing.  The Exceptional Children Resources Group, led by Maryann Mieczkowski, said they are not solely based on the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I actually wrote about this conversation in an article on the November 20th IEP Task Force meeting.

Celestin said DOE is offering training and coaching.  Denn asked if this is required for districts to implement.  She said standards-based IEPs are not required but it is about standards not standardized.  She said parents and IEP teams have struggles with implementing these kinds of IEPs because they need to help students close achievement gaps.  She said teachers are struggling with this and stressed it is not required.  (as Steve Newton mentioned in an article on these IEPs, the measurement for it is the “fidelity” component of the grant in getting schools trained on it).  She did say through compliance monitoring in the future they will look at things that are part of standards-based IEPs in terms of students needs so they will hold IEPs to a higher standard and best practices.  Matt Denn said this isn’t a subject for the IEP Task Force report, but he is hesitant to make recommendations for  something that isn’t required.

I raised my hand to speak again, and Matt Denn jokingly said something about “or if anyone wants to give second public comment”.  I went up and responded to Sarah’s comment.  I advised I went over the DOE presentation to the GACEC (Gov. Adv. Council For Except. Children), and it absolutely is tying IEPs into standards based on “curriculum” which is code word for those who may not know what Common Core is.  I advised the word “rigor” is used in the document which is used by Common Core proponents all the time.  I said rigor is not a word parents like, especially special needs parents, because the way it is used would indicate students with disabilities need to try harder to get to a regular students level, which completely invalidates the spirit of IDEA.

My commentary on tonight’s meeting: Interesting stuff with these transition services coming in.  All of them said “we need more funding”.  In regards to comments made by DOE employees, I know these folks work very hard at their jobs, and for that, they have my respect.  But if Delaware holds such a higher standard for IEPs, why did you need Federal intervention in Special Education?  Why would you hold a higher standard for something that isn’t even legally required?  Cause you like what you have created?  If they look at best practice, why the hell won’t they look at IEP denials?  Who are they trying to protect? (I already know the answer to that, and they know I know but they don’t care) Sorry Sarah, you can say whatever you want, but any presentation that has the word “rigor” in it, which is one of those words that make opponents of common core flip out, is not going to work for me and many other special needs parents.

I went to go back and listen to the audio recording of this meeting, but the audio recording was cut short and is not able to be downloaded.  Many of the audios from this task force were shortened or aren’t downloadable.  But I did recall the Exceptional Children Resources Group giving a presentation on standards-based IEPs to the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens.  There was a whole section on this presentation on “de-bunking the myths about standards-based IEPs”.  The main thrust of this section was “The CCSS (Common Core State Standards) are not a menu for special educators to pick and write from,” and “standards-based IEPs focus on the prioritized skills needed for students with disabilities to have ACCESS to the same standards as non-disabled peers.”

They already have access to the state standards.  It’s called going to public school in Delaware.  I have to admit, with all the attention I’ve given to the parent opt-out movement in Delaware, I let this one slip by.

Here’s the facts: Standards-based IEPs are not written in IDEA regulation nor are they written anywhere in Delaware state code.  Matt Denn, the Chair of the IEP Task Force didn’t even want to include standards-based IEPs in the Final Report for this very reason.  There is absolutely nothing written into Senate Bill 33, the legislation coming out of the IEP Task Force about them either.

The standards-based IEP in Delaware is turning into something every parent of a child on an IEP needs to be very afraid of.  It is all designed to address the Smarter Balanced Assessment when all the catchy phrases and jargon come out of the wash.  Last Summer, U.S. Senators blasted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over Federal intrusion with IDEA and special education but nothing came out of it.

Delaware Senate Bill 33 To Implement Findings of IEP Task Force

Senator Nicole Poore submitted legislation yesterday to turn the recommendations of the IEP Task Force into law.  House Bill 33 is now in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.  I think the most important change will be from paragraph 3131, section d.

148th General Assembly
Senate Bill # 33
Primary Sponsor: Poore Additional Sponsor(s):    & Sen. Lawson & Rep. Heffernan & Rep. Miro & Rep. Hudson
CoSponsors: Sens. Blevins, Hall-Long, Hocker, Lavelle, Sokola, Townsend; Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Hensley, Jaques, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Mulrooney, Paradee, Ramone, M. Smith, Viola, K. Williams, Wilson
Introduced on : 01/29/2015
Long Title: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM.
Synopsis of Orginal Bill:
(without Amendments)
 
Current Status: Senate Education Committee   On   01/29/2015
Full text of Legislation:
(in HTML format)
Legis.html Email this Bill to a friend
Full text of Legislation:
(in MS Word format)
Legis.Docx   (Microsoft Word is required to view this document.)
Fiscal Notes/Fee Impact: Not Required

Actions History:

Jan 29, 2015 – Assigned to Education Committee in Senate

Special Education in Delaware Is Still Failing Miserably Based On Annual Performance Report

The Delaware Department of Education Exceptional Children Resources Group gave a presentation to the Governors Advisory Council for Exceptional Children (GACEC) on January 20th.  This was led by the Director of the DOE group, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, also a member of GACEC, as well as another member of this DOE Group, Barb Mazza.

The presentation dealt with the indicators all states are judged on by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the US Department of Education.  There are 17 indicators, and this presentation showed how Delaware did for 16 of them for Fiscal Year 2013.  Last June, OSEP labeled Delaware as one of three states needing federal intervention for special education.

Did they improve for FY 2013?  Read the below file and judge for yourself. Continue reading “Special Education in Delaware Is Still Failing Miserably Based On Annual Performance Report”

What Will Make Special Education in Delaware Better? #netde #eduDE

What will it take? Please give multiple answers if you want.

Update on the PCG & DOE Story

An update would usually indicate some type of new information, of which there is none.  I have done a considerable amount of searching on what the relationship between these two entities is, and have come up with nothing.  Nothing that justifies over $400,000 being spent.  But sometimes no information is information.  It tells me there is something there.  I have not had any response from the Board of Education at the Delaware DOE, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, or Governor Markell’s office. 

Some have had their doubts about my claims that the DOE is providing IEP information to PCG, or that the reasons for it are harmless.  But the more I have researched PCG, the more I find of instance where they are a corporate entity meddling in education far too much.  They own their technology and many state education agencies utilize it.  How secure is that information?  How much access does PCG have to it?  What happens then if PCG gets hacked and all that information is out there?  Why aren’t parents told what the relationship between PCG and the DOE is?  Why is there no contract between the DOE and PCG?  These are questions that need to be answered for myself and other parents to be satisfied.

I do realize my headline from a few days ago included “What company is buying special education data” was misleading.  If my theories are correct, they aren’t buying the data.  They are being paid to store it and many entities, including the Delaware DOE are giving that information.

Exceptional Children Group at Delaware DOE: What Do They Spend Money On? And What Company May Be Using Special Education Data?

Important disclaimer to this artice, I changed the title for it on August 21st, 2014. CPG is not buying special education data, so I changed that aspect of the title. The rest of the article is speculative, but led me to the even more atrocious findings I had in my article from today, August 21st.

Being a blogger geek that checks finances for everything, I always get excited when Delaware Online Checkbook updates their website.  It used to be quarterly, but now they do it monthly.  Around the 15th of the month, I get to see where the money is going at the DOE and what the schools are spending money on.  I can usually find some interesting items, as well as some ones that raise my eyebrows.  The amounts below are just for the month of July, the first of the new fiscal year.

The first thing I look for is the residential treatment centers.  Especially the out of state ones the ICT group sends severely complex special needs kids to, because our state doesn’t have the resources (see Delaware DOE: Eye of the Hurricane Part 2).

Advoserv (in Delaware): $407,198.34

Benedictine (in Maryland): $79,200.56

Devereux (in Pennsylvania): $463,743.12

High Road School: $329,669.00

Woods Services (Pennsylvania): $116,938.00

Grand Total for July 2014: $1,396,749.02

Now keep in mind, the Delaware DOE pays only 70% of these costs, while the public school districts pay 30%, so it is actually a much higher amount that taxpayers doll out for these out of state services for Delaware’s youth.

The rest of the Exceptional Children Group payments were typical.  Except for this one: Public Consulting Group Inc.  Who are they?  As per their website:

“PCG Education consulting solutions help schools, school districts, and state departments of education to promote student success, improve programs and processes, and optimize financial resources. Our technology solutions are used by educators to analyze and manage state and district data and student performance information. PCG Education solutions are supported by 25 years of management consulting experience and significant K-12 educational domain expertise. We provide educators with the tools and skills to use data to make effective instructional decisions.”

So what in the world does that have to do with the Exceptional Children Group?  They deal with special education.  But wait, PCG does have an area that deals with special education!  More information from their website:

“PCG Education is a leading provider of comprehensive, Web-based student case management solutions for special education. When combined with the expertise of PCG Education professionals who understand education, educational organizations, and how to effectively guide a school district through a comprehensive implementation process, our systems can help districts successfully plan, implement, and manage students’ individualized education plans (IEPs) in a manner that increases teachers’ time with students and helps districts to achieve federal and state compliance.

 PCG Education is a leading national provider of data solutions that promote student success. We combine 25 years of K – 12 consulting expertise with innovative technology and research-based methodology to help educators
make informed decisions that lead to improved student outcomes. Our innovative special education management tools and services help districts plan, implement, and manage students’ individualized education plans (IEP) and meet state/federal reporting requirements. PCG Education applications are used in more U.S. schools than any other online special education case management tools.”

It gets more interesting under system features:

System Features

  • Compliance and event alerts with flexible parameters.
  • ‘Virtual’ file cabinet to store each student’s special education-related documents.
  • Teacher credential tracking.
  • Intuitive, built-in compliance measures.
  • EasyFax™, an option that gives districts the ability to easily capture and convert paper documents to paperless format.
  • PCG Notifier, a Web-based communication tool that schedules automated or text or voicemail alerts through EasyIEP™ and other EdPlan™ modules.
  • State-of-the-art advanced reporting and data analysis capabilities.
  • Recording, tracking, and management tools to readily produce IEP Summary of Performance documents.
  • Workflow support and centralized documentation for Child Find activities.
  • Transfer of records between districts
  • Integration of student data with district and state SIS.
  • Comprehensive training and support services.

I have taken the liberty of putting the parts I find unbelievable in bold.

A “virtual” file cabinet:  That means special education files are being put in another company’s files.  I don’t recall ever signing off on my son’s special education records being put in a company setting.  I don’t recall ever being notified on that.

“Teacher Credential Tracking”: Don’t we already have that with DEEDs on the Delaware DOE website?

“Intuitive, built-in compliance measures”: Compliance for what?  An intuitive computer system based on an Individualized Education Plan?  Does that computer system know my son?  I don’t recall him ever mentioning his intuitive friend.

“State-of-the-art advanced reporting and data analysis capabilities”: We know the Delaware DOE loves doing their “data dives”.  Is this how they do it?  I love that my son is being data analyzed!  Makes me so happy….not!

“Recording, tracking and management tools to readily produce IEP Summary of Performance documents”: Is this the new system they were talking about at my son’s IEP meetings last Spring?

“Transfer of records between districts”: So not only can they see my son’s records currently, they can see ALL his records!

“Integration of student data with district and state SIS”: SIS stands for School Information System.  I guess someone has to coordinate all that data between the districts and the state!

“Comprehensive training and support services”: Training for who?  The DOE Exceptional Children Group?  I hope it’s just on computer systems.  I would hate to think a company is training our state specialists on special education.

Special needs parents: Were you aware your special needs children’s information has been sold to an outside company?  I didn’t, until now.  I think Mary Ann Mieczkowski and the Delaware DOE have some explaining to do….

If you can’t wait for Mary Ann (she is really nice by the way), you can read all about PCG here: http://www.publicconsultinggroup.com/index.html

In the meantime, since Mary Ann told me she doesn’t read blogs (you really should, you get much more information here than in other state media), I’m going to email her this and ask what services PCG provides for the Exceptional Children Group and why I wasn’t notified my son’s personal information is being stored with another company!

To be continued I’m sure!

Quick Update: I just checked PCG as a vendor for the whole state, and guess who else uses them: Department of Health And Social Services!  And the areas of that department that utilize PCG are Visually Impaired Services, State Service Centers, Long-Term Care Residents Protection, Management Services, Services of Aging and Adult Physical Disabilities, Social Services, Medicaid and Medical Assistance, and Community Health.  Update on the update: Also Services for Children, Youth & Families: Fiscal Services division. They must have a lot of medical and educational data on a lot of Delaware citizens!

Special Education in Capital School District A Hot Issue At Board Meeting #netde #eduDE @Doverpost @TheStateNews

The topic of special education and standardized testing came up in a big way at the monthly Board meeting in the Capital School District.  Here’s where I take my impartial glasses off and announce that I spoke at the meeting.  I gave public comment to the Board concerning my article yesterday about Federal interference with IDEA and Special Education laws.

I read parts of the letter the US Republican Senators sent to the US DOE and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about how the US DOE is potentially breaking the law with results-driven accountability and NAEP testing as a performance indicator for special education students.  I advised that since a national test like NAEP is skirting around IDEA laws, then the state is doing the same with Smarter Balanced Assessments by having it put into Indicator 17 on the new special education audit system the state of Delaware has to give to the Feds.  Because of this, I advised the Board that no child with an IEP should be required to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I also said parent opt-out shouldn’t even be an option, it just shouldn’t happen at all.

Board Vice-President Matthew Lindell also brought up the subject of standards-based IEPs and their impact on Capital School District.  It appeared Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas was going to look into this subject.  I wrote about the standards-based IEPs last week and how the state of Delaware is incorporating Common Core and the controversial results-driven accountability as part of their “counseling” to schools for these new standards. 

Dr. Thomas also briefly discussed the United States Supreme Court decision on Schaffer v. Weast, from 2005.  This decision indicated the burden of proof for due process hearings on special education matters rests with the party initiating the case for the student, usually the parents.  In using this framework, Dr. Thomas had a slide up which wrote: “This creates a number of practical problems and is a significant reason school districts are regularly expending vast amount of public funds to settle what are at time dubious claims.” 

There was not much actual discussion about this matter, but the fact that it was introduced seemed odd.  I am quite sure, speaking from experience, that to parents of special needs children, their claims are not dubious and are a result of months of effort to obtain proper special education for their children.  For more information on the 2005 Supreme Court Ruling, please read here: http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/ussupct.schaffer.weast.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Care About Special Education in Delaware

I wish I could answer that question with an easy simple sentence, but I can’t.  Before my son was diagnosed with Tourette’s and all it’s friends, I can honestly say I didn’t give too much thought to special needs children.  It just wasn’t in my limited radar.  They were there, and I would see them sometimes, but it wasn’t a major part of my world.  And then a funny thing happened.  It became my world.  My family became very different then.  Every moment, every action, I saw the label.  I saw my son as different, as “not normal”.  I was in denial for a long time.  Not because of him, but because my mind, my heart, it couldn’t accept what was right before my eyes.

Over time, this changed.  My son’s disabilities were with me every waking moment.  I tried to hide from it, to run away from it, but they were there, saying “Help me Daddy”.  And I’ve tried.  For the longest time I thought if I just treated him like every other normal child, maybe things would change.  But they didn’t.  I had to take a strong look at myself before I could accept him for who he was.  I had to, and still have to, realize that it doesn’t matter what others think.  It doesn’t matter, at all.  Let them judge, let them stare.  It’s reality.

First and foremost, I am a husband and a father.  My family isn’t the perfect Norman Rockwell family that so many dream of.  I know I did for a long time, but it’s just not in the cards.  But what I have is something better.  I have something real.  Something so crazy and imperfect that it makes the most sense in the world.  I get to see something some can never see.  I see human emotion in it’s pure, truest form.  Love, anger, sadness, happiness, jealousy, hope.  It’s all there.   My son has the ability to display all of these.  But it’s more than emotions.  It’s like they are colors.  Beautiful, radiant colors, that shine the brightest in his soul.

Conversations I had with people in the past used to consist of my latest TV show craze, whether it was X-Files, Lost, or Game of Thrones. I would talk about music, some politics, but for the most part I was a very self-centered person. My world was MY world and I felt people were crazy for not liking what I liked. Then a little thing became a big thing, and before I knew it, I was fully immersed in a cause. It didn’t happen overnight. It built up for a long time, and I didn’t even realize it.

When my son started having numerous problems at his old school, I figured he was just a misfit of sorts and he liked causing trouble. But it continued, and I knew something was off, but I didn’t know what. Eventually, I found out. He had Tourette’s Syndrome. And ADHD. And Sensory Processing Disorder. And OCD. And Anxiety. And Depression. He wasn’t even in double digits yet, and he had all of this to look forward to. I didn’t have the slightest clue how to help him, and I’ll be honest, sometimes I still don’t.

I don’t expect perfection. Let’s get that on the table right now. I accept mistakes, if they are made with the right intentions. But when the “old school” denied my son services that should have been his by federal law, I was pissed off. When I fully realized the scope of it all, I was well beyond pissed off. So I researched everything. Schools. The DOE. The Government. Common Core. Rodel. Smarter Balanced Assessments. The Charter School Network. What I found was a clear path, visible to those who follow the steps.

It’s the oldest game in the world. Survival of the fittest. Cavemen did it, and those in power do it now. They don’t want to relinquish their power and they will hold onto it as long as they can. Those who get in their way are pushed aside. But something new and bizarre is happening in the power landscape. The Power People are getting together and banding together. They are forcing their will on the people through coercion and specific techniques. And it all begins with education.

We think we know what’s going on, but there are depths and levels of which most people don’t have a clue. It’s a game of chess, and their pieces have been placed in a potential checkmate position for a long time.