The IEP Task Force Is Back! Too Bad Nobody Knows & They Are Having Non-Public Meetings…

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Today the IEP Task Force reconvened in a meeting about the new IEP Plus 5.0.  Together with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC), a meeting was held to go over the new functionalities of the IEP computer system that former Chair of the IEP Task Force Matt Denn wanted to scrap altogether.  This meeting was SO important nobody knew about it.  And unless legislation has been introduced extending Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 from the 147th General Assembly, anything with the name “IEP Task Force” is technically illegal.

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While pretty much nobody showed up to the meeting from the old IEP Task Force, I find it interesting the DOE would stage a meeting in conjunction with the GACEC and this mythical new IEP Task Force.  None of the legislators from the previous task force showed up.  Matt Denn wasn’t there.  So who is running this?  Apparently, the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group Mary Ann Mieczkowski ran the meeting.  She was on the IEP Task Force.  And she is also a member of the GACEC.

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So we have a non-public meeting of two very public entities.  Say the IEP Task Force was just a name thrown on over a month ago (which was when an email was sent to different task force members advising them of this meeting today).  The GACEC should have definitely put this on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  But I guess non-transparency is okay if nobody finds out about it!

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From what I have learned, the meeting was very boring.  It was a lot of technical lingo about the updated computer system run by Sunguard.  Sunguard also runs e-school, that clever little database that houses EVERYTHING about your child.  IEP Plus is the system where ALL IEPs are stored.  But that’s not the point.  I’ve been in IEP meetings where IEP Plus sucks the oxygen out of the room and technical difficulties take up far too much time.  I’m sure it isn’t just schools and the DOE who are fed up by it.  But here is the DOE, probably paying tons of money for this upgrade with no one the wiser.  By denying any parent the ability to go to this meeting, I have to wonder what other meetings are going on in this state behind closed doors that should be open to the public.  I’m sure there are plenty!  Like I’ve said a couple times: “Delaware, first to sign the Constitution, the last to follow it!”

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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 IEP Task Force Bill Unanimously Released From House Education Committee

The mood in the Delaware House Education Committee meeting this week was a great deal lighter than last week.  Delaware Senator Nicole Poore’s Senate Bill 33, otherwise known as the IEP Task Force bill, cleared through the House Education Committee with no “nay” votes.

The biggest topic of conversation surrounded teachers or contractors in IEP meetings.  Several individuals commented at the IEP Task Force meetings held last fall that they felt intimidated or in some cases, threatened, about advocating for a student during an IEP meeting.  Part of the legislation of Senate Bill 33 would put into state law that this practice would not be legal.  Opponents of this one section were worried about teachers or contractors speaking out without enough knowledge to help the student, which could lead to many complications according to these individuals.  Members of the task force gave public comment explaining why this was included, and that while some districts may not have these issues, others have.  Although a representative from the Delaware State Educators Association was present, they had no public comment on this matter.

Delaware State Rep. Sean Lynn was concerned about the exact wording for parent or guardian as some people may legally be assigned those rules from the court.  He suggested a potential amendment, but Attorney General Matt Denn, who also chaired the IEP Task Force, explained this definition of “parent” is already written into State and Federal law.  No amendment was introduced by Lynn upon hearing this.

State Rep. Kim Williams asked when the Procedural Safeguards parents receive when they ask for an IEP or 504 plan was last updated.  Maryann Mieczkowski, Director of the Exceptional Childrens Resources group with the Delaware DOE  and an IEP Task Force member answered 2009 when the law was last changed, but it would be updated to reflect the new law if Senate Bill 33 becomes law.

A few individuals, including myself, expressed a desire to see the IEP Task Force continue, which Denn hinted may happen during the task force meetings last fall.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan wanted this, but she wanted the group to focus more on student outcome going forward.  She didn’t clarify what this meant, if it was about standards-based IEPs, or transition issues for students who become adults with disabilities.  Many Delaware agencies gave full support of the bill in public comment.

Delaware IEP Task Force Legislation To Be Heard At House Education Committee Tomorrow

Senate Bill 33, sponsored by Delaware Senator Nicole Poore, will be heard in the Delaware House Education Committee tomorrow at 2:30pm at Legislative Hall in Dover.  While this bill is not nearly as controversial as House Bill 50, there is some controversy surrounding it.  Just search Senate Bill 33 on this blog for past articles.  From the legis.delaware.gov website which thankfully has fixed the linking issues since they redesigned the site last month:

Chamber: House

Chairman: Jaques

Location/Room: House Chamber

Date/Time: 04/29/2015 02:30:00 PM

Revision Num:

Agenda

SB 33 w/SA 3 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM.
Sponsor : Poore

HB 52 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS.
Sponsor : Hudson

HB 81 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION PROFILE REPORTS.
Sponsor : M. Smith


Comment:

Meeting Minutes:

IEP Task Force Bill Tabled Due To Delaware Charter Schools Network Interference

Senate Bill 33, sponsored by Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore, was tabled today in the Delaware Senate.  This legislation came about due to the hard work of 24 individuals on the IEP Task Force.  How does a bill, which passed through the Senate Education Committee, become LOT (left on table) when it is presented to the Senate?  Two words: Kendall Massett.  The director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network herself.

After the bill went through the Senate Education Committee with no unfavorable votes, with an amendment to clear up some of the language, Massett got involved and demanded the amendment to the bill be put in Title 31, which is the part of Delaware code covering welfare.  Why she was insistent on this being put there I can’t fathom because an IEP is an education issue which would belong in Title 14.  Unfortunately with the new General Assembly website, amendments to bills can’t be read.

Apparently, she didn’t like the fact that charter schools would be required to have one employee from each charter school getting specialized training from the Delaware Department of Education on the legal rules for Individualized Education Programs as well as access to resources available in helping students with disabilities.  Having attended every single one of the IEP Task Force meetings, I can say the subject of charter schools came up more than once.  I am not saying ALL charter schools, but many don’t have a clue in how to handle special education.  Many children have been denied IEPs at Delaware charters, “counseled out”, or denied entrance to charters because parents were told by charter school officials they don’t have the “resources” to help those children.

Any time this charter lobbyist gets her hooks into legislators, bills get screwed up in the General Assembly.  I would think the charters would want the extra assistance instead of paying out extra costs to special education attorneys and education funds for students.  But no, they want traditional schools to have this caveat as well.  Here’s a news flash Kendall: traditional schools can’t counsel students out and they can’t say “we can’t take your child”.  So if you don’t like the charters getting some heat, tell all your charters to do their job!

Do you want to take a wild guess why the task force didn’t include any charter school representatives?  Maybe it’s because the Delaware DOE picked the task force with approval from the legislators involved and knew who would be able to give expert advice on special education in Delaware schools.  When the DOE doesn’t think charters can give experts on a task force, you know something has to be seriously wrong.  If it was such a concern of yours during the task force, how come you didn’t show up to any meetings Kendall?  And now you want to stick your nose into a special education bill that is meant to help these disadvantaged students?  Just because your beloved charters got called out on actions they have themselves brought upon themselves for years?

Delaware legislators: this charter lobbyist is wielding WAY too much influence on your decisions for the good of ALL Delaware children.  The charter problem in this state is getting worse by the day, and many of you will do nothing but defend these schools and the money behind them.  You have allowed them to operate under very little scrutiny and when they are caught, you grow silent.  I am not saying ALL charters or ALL legislators.  But we all know who they are and far too many of you could care less.  As long as you keep the Governor happy you are content with segregation, discrimination and denial of services.  And while all this is going on, traditional schools are losing funding and resources while the DOE pumps money into companies that provide all these corporate education reform “services” and then turn around and fund other companies for more charters.  Wake up!  It’s seconds before midnight and you are still operating under the belief that charters are the next great thing.

Senators Brian Bushweller and Greg Lavelle must have received a mouthful from Kendall on this because they were the ones who initiated the discussion today that got this bill tabled.  In a Delawareonline article today, Bushweller stated the fact that charters weren’t represented on the task force was “very disappointing”.  And Lavelle, don’t even get me started.  He said he wasn’t aware of the amendment on the bill, but his wife was on the IEP Task Force.  This bill was introduced in January.  The IEP Task Force ran from September to December.  Did Bushweller or Lavelle, both of which voted yes for Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 in the 147th General Assembly which created the task force, even bother to read the recommendations or listen to the digital audio recordings from the task force?

It is a shameful day in Delaware when legislation that can and will help special needs students is tabled because the charter lobbyist decided she didn’t like some wording.  Shame on those who sided with her during discussion of this important bill.  Once again, everything has to be about the charters in Delaware.  Enough.

To read about Delawareonline’s take on this, which included NO mention whatsoever of the sneaky, crafty maneuvering of Kendall Massett, please go to:

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/firststatepolitics/2015/03/24/debate-delayed-disabilities-legislation/70401932/

Delaware General Assembly To Receive Recommended IEP Task Force Regulation Changes

The IEP Task Force finished their work in December, but now it will be up to the General Assembly to make the recommended changes into law.  I’m hearing this will be submitted to the General Assembly tomorrow, but with the snow forecast, I’m guessing it will be later in the week.  I have to say, I really like these changes.  It is by no means the end, and this group needs to continue, but it’s a great start.

Delaware IEP Task Force Final Report Released Today

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn released the final report of the IEP Task Force today.  It’s a good start, but there is still a lot that needs to change in Delaware for special education to be great.  I really hope the 148th Assembly, beginning their legislative session on January 13th, will reassemble this task force.  I firmly believe there should be many more parents on this task force, and they could trim some of the heavy-handed school personnel.  If it does continue, parents need to come and give public comment.  I went to every meeting (more than some of the task force members).  Take the time special needs parents.  You never know, if enough people complain about the same thing, change could happen.

The Task Force’s Mission

Senate Concurrent Resolution 63 established an IEP Improvement Task Force in order “To Examine Means to Improve the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Process for Students in Delaware Public Schools.” The resolution noted that the process of developing IEPs “is, at best, difficult for parents to understand and navigate, and at worst in some instances, unfair and intimidating to parents,” and that it “does not always result in the best outcome for students with disabilities.” Most significantly, the task force was tasked with recommending to the General Assembly and Governor “potential legislative, regulatory, funding, or other improvements to Delaware’s IEP process.” The task force was also charged with informing the General Assembly and Governor about practices being used in other states that are different from Delaware’s, different IEP practices used within Delaware, research and other academic evidence regarding best practices in IEP development, and federal and state law restrictions on changes to the Delaware IEP process.

Members of the IEP Improvement Task Force

The Hon. Matthew Denn Chair
Dr. Pam Atchison Delaware Association of School Administrators
Marissa L. Band, Esq. Delaware State Bar Association
Tracy Bombara School service provider
Dafne Carnright Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens
Tricia Dallas Special education teacher
Bill Doolittle Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens
Diane Eastburn Kent County Parent Representative
Rep. Debra Heffernan House Majority Caucus
Mike Hoffmann Delaware State Education Association
Seth Kopp Special education teacher
Ruth Lavelle New Castle County Parent Representative
Sen. Dave Lawson Senate Minority Caucus
Laura Manges Delaware Association of School Administrators
Maryann Mieczkowski Department of Education
Rep. Joe Miro House Minority Caucus
Sen. Nicole Poore Senate Majority Caucus
Shawn Rohe Developmental Disabilities Council
Howard Shiber Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens
Meedra Surratte Parent advocate
Jossette Threatts School service provider
Liz Toney Delaware PTA
Brian Touchette Governor’s designee
Karen Wagamon Sussex County Parent Representative

Federal Statutory Law Governing Delaware’s IEP Process

Because Delaware receives federal funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, it is required to submit a plan to the United States Secretary of Education showing that the state has in effect policies and procedures to ensure that an individualized education program meeting the requirements of federal statute is developed, reviewed, and revised for each child with a disability.

The federal IDEA statute has a number of very specific requirements as to what must be included in a student’s IEP. The IEP must include:

a statement of the child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance (including how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum, for preschool children as appropriate how the disability affects the student’s participation in appropriate activities, and for children who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives);

a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet the child’s need resulting from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum and meet each of the child’s other educational needs arising from the child’s disability;

a description of how the child’s progress towards meeting annual goals will be measured and when periodic progress reports will be provided;

a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child;

an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in regular classes and activities;

a statement of accommodations necessary for the student to take the state’s student assessment or explanation of why the student must take an alternate assessment and why that alternate assessment is appropriate;

the projected date for the start of services and the anticipated frequency and duration of services; and

for IEPs that will affect students 16 and older, measurable post-secondary goals and transition services needed to assist the student in reaching those goals.

These required elements of an IEP are minimum standards set by federal statute, but there is no reason that a state cannot add additional required elements.

The federal IDEA statute also contains minimum requirements for who must be on a student’s IEP team. Required team members include parents, at least one regular education teacher if the student has one, at least one special education teacher, at least one district or charter representative who is qualified to supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the needs of children with disabilities, an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results (who may be a member already required by another provision of the statute), any individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child who the parents wish to have present, and whenever appropriate the child in question. The statute also enumerates the factors that must be considered in developing the IEP, and requires consideration of positive behavioral interventions and supports for students whose behavior impedes learning and other special factors for students with other specified disabilities.

The federal IDEA statute requires that the student’s IEP be reviewed at least annually to determine whether annual goals are being met, to be revised to address lack of expected progress, the results of any re-evaluations, information provided by parents, or other matters.

Finally, the federal IDEA statute contains a number of detailed formal procedural safeguards in addition to those described above. They include provisions governing parents’ access to records, designation of educational surrogates for students whose parents cannot be located, written notice to parents of proposed changes (or refusals to change) an IEP, opportunities for mediation, the contents of required notifications to parents of complaints relating to due process and other procedural irregularities, and the specific procedures that must be followed by the state when a parent files a due process or administrative appeal of a school district or charter school’s decision.
Enhancements to the IEP Process Under Delaware State Law

In 2010, the Delaware General Assembly amended the Delaware Code to provide for a substantially more detailed definition of the “Free and Appropriate Public Education” that is required by the IDEA statute (and therefore required to form the basis for an IEP), and to incorporate specific terminology from case law in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that was more favorable to students with disabilities than the standard that was being applied by some school districts prior to the 2010 amendments. Under House Bill 328, IEPs must provide for an education that is individualized to meet the unique needs of the student, provides significant learning to the student, and confers meaningful benefit on the student that is gauged to the student’s potential.

Delaware law also contains new provisions requiring that certain elements be included in the IEP of a student 7 years or older who is not yet readingand a student who is deaf or has a hearing deficiency, and a relatively new provision requiring that that local school boards be kept better apprised of appeals of IEP decisions.

Although there are lengthy federal and state regulations that also govern the IEP process, they do not affect the facets of the IEP process addressed in this report in a way that differs from the statutory framework described above.
Best Practices With Respect to the IEP Process

There does not appear to be any national or academic consensus on what constitutes best practices with respect to the preparation of IEPs. Although the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education have endorsed “standards-based IEPs” as a best practice, there has been controversy both in Delaware and nationally as to what that term means and how it is actually used with respect to the preparation of individual IEPs. For that reason, the task force takes no stance at this time with respect to using standards-based IEPs. With respect to the specific issue of the preparation of IEPs for students age 14 and older, there does appear to be a consensus — including a recommendation from Delaware’s State Transition Task Force – that IEPs for children age 14 and older should be student-led when possible.

TASK FORCE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The task force met eight times, and at each meeting also allowed members of the public to speak. Early in the tenure of the task force it became apparent that the list of issues that task force members and members of the public wished to address relating to the IEP process was longer than the task force would have time to thoughtfully discuss in the time permitted by its enabling legislation. Therefore, the task force members settled upon a number of priority recommendations, which are reflected below. However, the task force also recommends that it be reconstituted by the General Assembly so that it may return to some of the important issues that were raised but could not be discussed due to time restrictions, including district and charter school determinations of eligibility for services, and the use of standards-based IEPs.

The task force recommends that the state take the following steps as soon as reasonably possible in order to improve the IEP process for students and their parents. The task force’s recommendations apply to all public schools, both traditional public schools and charter schools. The task force recognizes that there are time commitments and costs associated with some of its recommendations, to the extent that those could be specifically calculated they are reflected in the recommendations.

Structural Support for Parents and Students in the IEP Process

Ensuring Representation at IEP Meetings for Parents Who Need Assistance. Several task force members and members of the public noted the complexity and potentially intimidating nature of IEP meetings, and thought it necessary (a) for parents to clearly understand that there were organizations that could either prepare them to better handle IEP meetings or attend those meetings with them, and (b) for those organizations to have adequate resources to be able to assist parents who might reasonably require their assistance. The task force focused on two options currently available to some Delaware parents requiring assistance with the IEP process. One is the Parent Information Center, which provides training and advice to parents and, in some instances, has non-attorneys attend IEP meetings with parents. The second is Community Legal Aid Society of Delaware, which provides free legal representation to a limited number of parents with specific legal issues in the IEP process. Therefore, the task force makes the following recommendations:

The state should require schools to provide specific, clear guidance to parents as soon as (a) the school has notice that their child has a disability, (b) a child is identified by the parent or school as needing evaluation for a potential disability, or (c) a child transitions as he/she approaches age three from the state’s Child Development Watch program, that the parents may be able to receive assistance through the Parent Information Center, Community Legal Aid Society, or private legal counsel.

The state should ensure that the resources necessary to meet the anticipated demand for legal services are made available to the Parent Information Center and Community Legal Aid. Specifically, the task force urges the General Assembly to grant the request of CLASI’s Disabilities Law Program for $100,000 in funds to continue its special education advocacy project, which would allow it to train or assist 250 families in the IEP process, and to make $88,500 available to the Parent Information Center in order to allow it to hire two additional full-time parent consultants to meet anticipated increases in its demand for its services.

Parent Councils. The task force saw great value in schools facilitating communication between parents of students with special needs new to the IEP process and parents who have more experience with the process. Therefore, the task force recommends that the state require school districts and charter schools to facilitate the creation of parent councils for the parents of students with disabilities. These parent councils would have two purposes: first, to advocate generally for children with disabilities within their school districts, and second, to provide person-to-person support for individual parents and children attempting to navigate the IEP process.

Procedural Changes to the IEP Process

Eliciting Input From Parents Prior to IEP Meetings. The task force believes that a more open-ended effort to solicit parents’ input about their children’s needs prior to an IEP meeting would result in IEPs that better reflect the viewpoints of parents and children about the unique educational needs of that child. For that reason, the task force recommends that Delaware statute require school districts and charter schools to formally elicit, through the use of a voluntary questionnaire, the viewpoints of parents and (where age appropriate) children in advance of the preparation of a draft IEP or holding of an IEP meeting. The questionnaire should elicit the parent and child’s views on the child’s progress to date and additional steps that should be taken to adjust the child’s goals, curriculum, services, aids, modifications or other elements of the student’s IEP.

Providing Parents With Information Prior to IEP Meetings. One problem that was repeatedly identified by task force members was the fact that in some IEP meetings, parents were presented for the first time at an IEP meeting with a draft IEP report and expected to comprehend, consider, and approve the draft IEP in a single sitting. One proposal made by the task force to improve this process was to amend Delaware statute to require that a draft IEP be offered to parents prior to an IEP meeting if one is to be considered at the meeting itself, so that the parent has the option of carefully reviewing the draft IEP before the meeting and better participating in the meeting. Any draft document provided to the parent prior to the IEP meeting should be clearly and prominently labelled as a draft document that is for discussion purposes at the impending IEP meeting. The draft IEP would be offered to parents only if such a document had been created prior to the IEP meeting, and would be accompanied by a letter clearly indicating to parents that the document is a draft for discussion and possible revision rather than a final document. In addition to a draft IEP, parents should also be able to request prior to the IEP meeting data pertaining to their child’s needs and/or disability. With respect to this recommendation and the prior recommendation relating to eliciting input from parents, information should either be provided to parents in their native language where required by law or assistance should be offered to parents to translate the information.

Providing Protections to Teachers and Staff To Ensure Free Discussion During IEP Meetings. Some task force members noted that teachers, staff, and contractors of school districts and charter schools can feel constrained from freely engaging in discussion at a child’s IEP meeting for fear of later repercussions for their comments. The task force recommends that the General Assembly amend the Delaware Code to prohibit School Districts, Charter Schools, and/or the Department of Education from retaliating or causing teachers, staff, or contractors to face other negative repercussions as a result of their expression of a student’s needs and/or rights in connection to the IEP process.

Discouraging the Use of Acronyms and Technical Terminology in the Preparation of IEPs. The task force noted that the use of acronyms and technical terms in IEPs can be confusing to parents and children and discourage those parents and children from understanding the IEP and participating in its preparation and revision. The task force recommends that the state, in its training and instructional materials for school districts and charter schools, discourage the use of acronyms and technical terms where they need not be used, and provide a glossary to parents and children so that they can comprehend those terms where they must be used.

Enhanced Discussion of Transition Planning. Although funding challenges make it unlikely in the short term that individual representatives from relevant state agencies can participate in IEP meetings at an earlier stage than they presently enter the process, the task force strongly recommends that schools and school districts hold informational meetings for parents of students who are approaching transition age where parents and children can receive information from relevant state agencies and incorporate that information into the IEP process. The task force also recommends that each school district and charter school have an employee who serves as a designated transition coordinator.

Prioritizing Competitive and Integrated Employment Options. Competitive and integrated employment settings should be thoroughly discussed during the IEP process as the top priority employment option for students with disabilities. This is consistent with HB319 signed into law July 2012 which declares that it is the policy of this state that competitive employment (including compensation at or above minimum wage) in an integrated setting shall be considered the first and priority option when offering or providing services to persons with disabilities who are of working age (14 years of age or older).

Format and Structure of the IEP Meeting Itself

Participation of Relevant Faculty and Staff. Several task force members and members of the public noted that in some cases, paraprofessionals and other staff who may work with a child more extensively than anyone else at the school are not included in IEP meetings. The task force did recognize the logistical challenges presented by having multiple staff people present at IEP meetings, at the same time that all other students in the school need to be supervised and educated. In an effort to balance these realities, the task force recommends (a) that parents be explicitly invited prior to each IEP meeting to recommend any staff members who they believe should be present at the meeting, and (b) that schools be required to ensure that those staff members be present for at least a portion of the IEP meeting, even if their schedule does not permit them to participate in the entire meeting. This recommendation reflects not only what the task force believes to be a good practice, but also applicable federal law.

Preparation Time for Teachers and Staff. Teachers and staff members on the task force who participate in the preparation of IEPs expressed concern with the absence of sufficient time to adequately prepare for IEP meetings. The task force recommends that school districts and charter schools develop a mechanism by which the scheduling demands on teachers and staff specifically allow for preparation time for IEP meetings.

Use of Computer Programs for Preparation of IEPs. A number of task force members involved in the preparation of IEPs expressed strong concern with the computer program whose use the state has mandated for preparation of IEPs. Specifically, task force members stated that the computer system frequently does not work – that it shuts down or freezes during preparation of the IEP or the IEP meeting itself, not only inconveniencing parents, students, teachers, and staff, but also causing valuable instructional and therapeutic time to be lost. The task force believes that there is real value to the use of a working computerized IEP preparation program, but the current program often does not work and is an impediment to the preparation of IEPs and the overall instruction of students with disabilities. Therefore, the task force recommends that the state legislature direct that the Department of Education make a formal report to the General Assembly and Governor by March 1, 2015 on (a) the functionality of IEP Plus, (b) specific plans that are in place to remedy any problems with IEP Plus, and (c) available alternatives to IEP Plus which would provide a more usable computerized system for preparation of IEPs.

Reporting to Parents on Student Progress

Improving Reporting to Parents on Students’ IEP Progress. Task force members noted that the current manner in which some school districts and charter schools report student progress on their IEPs is not helpful or, in some cases, coherent. The task force recommends that the state adopt specific standards for districts and charters to report to parents on IEP progress, which should include a clear and simple manner of communicating whether a student is meeting his or her stated IEP goals and specific information reflecting the degree to which a student has received related services that are required by his or her IEP (e.g. speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy). Progress reporting for students with transition IEPs should include progress toward activities and services leading toward all post-secondary goals.

Random Auditing of District and Charter School Compliance With State and Federal Law

The Need for Random, Open-Ended Examinations of School Districts and Charter Schools to Ensure Compliance with State and Federal Law Governing IEPs. In the course of discussing other recommendations, it became clear to the task force that although the state reviews the written records of school districts and charter schools to ensure compliance with the law, and surveys parents anonymously to gather statistical information about the IEP process, there is no current effort to make inquiries with parents about the IEP process that would reveal concerns with that process which might not be evident from a review of written records. The task force recommends that the state directly inquire of a material number of parents from each school district and charter school each year who have participated in the IEP process as to their satisfaction with the process, and use the information gathered in the course of that inquiry to conduct follow-up examinations with school districts and charter schools as to their good faith compliance with IEP laws and regulations.

Specific Needs of Charter Schools

Technical Assistance and Professional Development for Charter Schools. The task force noted that there is a deficiency among charter schools, often because of their limited size compared to school districts, in training and expertise relating to the development of IEPs and knowledge of statewide programs that are available to assist with the education of students with disabilities. The task force recommends that charter schools be required to have responsible persons at their schools receive appropriate training from the Department of Education designed to ensure that they are aware of their legal responsibilities relating to IEP preparation and aware of the resources available to them to comply with those responsibilities.

 

Visually Impaired Students

Separate Task Force Recommendation. A number of public members and task force members believed that the unique educational needs of students with visual impairments were not being met through the existing IEP process, but that the number of changes necessary to remedy this problem exceeded the time or scope of this task force. Therefore, those members suggested – and this task force recommends – that the state set up a separate task force assigned to specifically address the needs of visually impaired students.

Live From The Last 2014 Meeting Of The IEP Task Force @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

This is it! The last meeting of the IEP Task Force based on the legislation from Senate Concurring Resolution #63.  The IEP Task Force may reconvene but this will be the last meeting prior to the report to Governor Markell.  Lieutenant Governor (soon to be Attorney General) Matt Denn indicated this will be a short meeting.  The members are going over the draft to see if any changes are suggested.

Diane Eastburn asked for clarification on distinctions in the draft about school districts and charter schools.  Denn clarified it is written like that because no charter school is part of a district (aside from the ones in Red Clay).  Deb Heffernan stated having an IEP with a gold standard is good but she wants to make sure they are implemented and kids are more proficient.  Senator Lawson said he wants to make sure all paragraphs mention school districts and charter schools.  Marissa Band added Department of Education to which Denn agreed.

Ruth Lavelle had questions about progress reports in terms of transition goals.  Dale Mitusevich with the DOE (sitting in for Maryann Mieczkowski) said these goals are post-secondary goals, but he suggested progress reports should show how the student is doing towards reaching those goals.  Lots of back and forth discussion regarding the exact wording.  Issue solved after a few minutes.

Meeting is about to end after public comment.  Senator Nicole Poore thanked Denn for getting it going.  Only public comment was from this guy, and I thanked Denn as well and Senator Poore and other legislators who helped push to get parents on the task force.  I told the task force we have a long way to go with IEPs in Delaware but I am confident the suggestions made from this task force will help the process.  I asked Matt Denn if he would chair the task force if it continues.  He said it depends on what the legislature decides about reconvening the task force.

IEP Task Force Live From Dover, Nov. 20th 2014, My Son Gave Public Comment!!!!

Yes, even in the wake of huge ACLU announcements against the state of Delaware, life must go on, so here we are again.  This is the 2nd to last meeting of the already scheduled IEP Task Force Fall 2014 session, but the group may continue after the report to Governor Markell.

Denn explained this is the last chance to really get anything included in the report.  Tracy Bombarra mentioned standards based IEPs based on a comment by Ruth Lavelle.  Lavelle had said the task force shouldn’t make a comment about it but Bombarra thinks it is based too much on Common Core.  Eastburn said if nothing is written in stone about standards-based IEPs, it won’t be the same for every district.  More of the same discussion from the last meeting from Sarah Celestin.  You can say it all you want DOE, but the result is still the same, common core for the IEP.  All the other things she is mentioning are already included in the IEP.

Denn mentioned something about his grandmother to the effect of “Don’t open up the can of worms”.  He said he can talk a lot about this and what is and isn’t appropriate to be put into an IEP.  Eastburn brought up being at an IEP meeting as an advocate and being told a service doesn’t have to have an educational outcome.  Mieczkowski disagreed.

Liz Toney asked what the likelihood of getting an extension would be for the task force to which Denn replied it is very high.  She suggested omitting any mention of Standards-Based IEPs in the report so the task force can discuss it further.  Many members of the task force debating on the issue.  Ruth Lavelle said life skills should already be in an IEP.  I think Denn gets what the controversy is with Standards Based IEPs.

Bill Doolittle talked about the IEP draft being shared with parents. If it has been broadly shared with the whole team, then the parents should receive a copy.  Eastburn said it should go out with the 10 day notice of meeting.

Mitch is worried about the legality of parents seeing things written down, like goals and services, written ahead of time.  She feels parents should be a part of the discussion. I agree with this, but the easy solution is to put DRAFT on the copy and a little disclaimer indicating this is not a final copy.  Doolittle just said the same thing.  More back and forth.  Not a lot of team unity here on these topics.

Marissa Band brought up having questionnaires sent home to parents and vice versa.  I had to step out to get my son’s Legos he left in the car.  Yes, my son is here, and yes, he may give public comment…

There is talk about bringing up the subject of IEP denials when the IEP Task Force reconvenes after the Governor’s report.  Many members think it is an important topic of discussion.

There is now talk about the fiscal notes attached to any bill associated with this document.  Someone said things cannot be mandated to a district without the funds available to implement them.  Now there is talk about Parent Councils within each district.  Someone said to have PIC back this and be at these meetings.  I highly disagree with this idea.  PIC doesn’t have the resources to do this.  Surrate from PIC said there are programs through University of Delaware to address the types of issues.  Someone brought up Fran Fletcher, a facilitator who provides these types of services at IEP meetings.  She also provided mediation services.  Luckily, Fran is in attendance as a member of the public.  She is giving details about what she does.  She stressed mediation is a legally binding document, but doesn’t have to be an outcome of a due process complaint, it can happen before.  Fran explained it takes a lot of time to talk with the parents.  She stressed they are not an advocate, but refers parents to PIC for this type of service.

Denn brought it back to the Parent Council discussion.  Denn stressed it was of a support vessel for parents to utilize, and not a “this is what you have to do at an IEP meeting” type of intervention.  Eastburn asked how many families PIC serves in each county.  PIC was unable to provide the county breakdown information.

Task force is winding down, going over the wording in the draft (which will be updated when the task force website is updated with tonight’s info in the next few days).

More service provider talk about whether or not to send parents information about exact dates and times when services were provided.  Going on and on.  Denn said this should be provided in summary form, like “Your son received 5 out of 9 sessions.”  He said parents have the right to request exact information at that time.

The highlight of the evening came at the end of the meeting, after Fran Fletcher gave public comment about training parents who may be on the parent councils to give potential advice to parents about the IEP process.  This was when my son actually gave public comment.  Confession time.  I asked him if he wanted to do it, and he said yes, but he didn’t know what to say.  I told him to speak from the heart, but he still wanted help.  So I wrote most of it, but he helped out with a little bit.  I’m sure you will be able to figure out which is which.  I did have to “announce” him as he was nervous, but he did a good job!  This is what he said:

I think the DOE needs to monitor when charter and public schools decline IEPs.  I’ve had this happen to me and it was not fun.  The ACLU is already filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights for schools not letting kids like me go there.  When kids like me don’t get services, it takes a long time for us to catch up and learn.

Let me stress again, he wanted to do this.  He knows about my blog, and he actually knows who a lot of the key players are, like Murphy, Markell, and the DOE.  When I told him someone from the DOE was speaking about standards based IEPs, he said “Do they know Mark Murphy?”  I said they probably do.  Unfortunately, we all know who Mark Murphy is….

 

 

IEP Task Force Meeting #6, Live From Dover, DE **UPDATED**

A week and a day after the last meeting, here we are again.  Back in the conference room we should have been in last week when the DOE hijacked the room from the task force for their town hall meeting.

Matt Denn asked for approval of minutes rom last meeting.  Everyone agreed. He said there are two meetings left before the report is due to Governor Markell on January 1st, 2015.  Denn will recommend to the legislature to continue the task force after that date to go over further issues that have come up.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) representative speaking about significant changes coming to transition through legislation. They serve many adults as well as students. No new funding with these new measures. Every high school in DE has a VR rep in high schools to deal with students in the year prior to their exit year. They have MOUs with every high school in the state. They help students get jobs after secondary schooling. Work with hospitals, such as Bayhealth. Also have program called Early Start to Employment. They have received a lot of good data on that program, including a 95% success rate. However, they had 60 students choose not to participate in the program so they want to get the word out since it is so successful. They are working with DOE on program for students w/learning disabilities and behavioral problems. These are students with a high risk of dropping out and not going to college. They need to get the buy-in from the education system to start this process early.  PETS services helps transition students who may not be a transition youth (need to do some research on this).  Many states don’t have partnerships with their state DOEs so Delaware is ahead of the game with this.  They think with upcoming IDEA reauthorization it will provide more useful language in the law for these kinds of transition matters.  Information on upcoming law will come out in January 2015.  The law is requiring them to be the gatekeepers for sheltered workshops.  They don’t normally do this anyways, but if the IEP states a student wants to attend this kind of program.  Student will need a statement stating they are so disabled they can only work in this type of environment, otherwise they can’t participate.

Matt Denn asked VR rep if transition can be included in IEPs earlier than junior or senior year?  She responded that due to capacity (and funding I’m sure) they don’t have the staff to do that.  They may able to do some consultative work but they can’t attend every IEP meeting.  She agrees transition planning should start at an earlier age.  Through working w/Dale Mitusevich at Delaware DOE, they have been able to work more with juniors in high school than seniors.

A representative named Andrea from In The Works, works w/many agencies including state Medicaid agency on a program called Pathways To Employment for students 14-25 years old.  God bless her, she’s talking very fast and dropping many abbreviations for state agencies.  I may have to go to the audio recording on this part.  Sorry folks.  They want to provide services that are “less like crisis management and more like support management.”

A rep from Division for Visually Impaired spoke about how resources are shifting to an older population in the state.  They provide braille instruction, consultative services, technology, employ child youth counselors, orientation services, assistive technology and an array of service providers.  They are currently serving 250 students across the state.  They are part of the PATHWAYS program.

Bill Doolittle asked how much grant amount might be, VR rep said $1,000,000.00.  Andrea said Pathways to Employment would be eligible for service if they receive Medicaid and meet other criteria.  DVI rep said they get $100-120,000 from DE DOE and $125,000 from other state agencies.

Marissa Band asked if they would work with the DEDisabilityHub website.  VR rep said absolutely, and has worked with Wendy Strauss on matters already.  Liz Toney asked how many teachers they Div. of Visual Impairment employs, rep said 8 out of the 9 employed in the state.  She asked rep if task force is able to acquire additional funding and get more teachers if that would help.  He said they would have to examine other factors since they are not an education agency.

No more questions.

Matt Denn opened the floor to suggestions for issues of transition planning.  Nobody is talking.  Denn looks flustered.  Ruth Lavelle spoke up and wants services to come in at age 14.  She would also like to say large group resources to help get the word out better.  She stated it is a very confusing subject when first introduced.  She said there needs to be a better game plan in the earlier years.  Marissa Band said the transition task force recommended there be transition coordinators in every high school.  Matt Denn asked who those people would be, Band said it would be school district staff.  Said could spread out amongst middle and high schools.  VR rep agreed and said this was an important recommendation coming from that task force.  Dale Mitusevich (sitting in for Mary Ann Mieczkowski from the DOE) said every school district has one transition person assigned to their job duties.  He said DOE has a transition matrix, said it could be a teacher or an educational diagnostician.  He said this is a burden on these individuals.  Pam Atchison said Charleton School hired a transition coordinator, but later added that due to funding she had to pull a teacher from the classroom.

Dale Mitusevich said there was a meeting at DOE about transition today.  He said district reps coming in to transition cadre has to have an administrator on their team.  He said four charters are involed with this.  They have multiple transition training sessions with the charters throughout the year.  Denn said he wants to get a price tag for implementing a resolution to have a coordinator in each high school, independent of other duties.  He said he also wants to enhance abilities of PIC and Community Legal Aid to help parents.

Ruth from VR said career assessments need to be done as early as possible to help in the IEP planning to help people point students in the right direction.  Mitusevich would like to see more reaching out to higher education programs.  He stated transition planning in this group can be confusing due to lack of knowledge.  Ruth from VR said she has worked with the Autism Task Force and DAP has an assessment program that works very well.  Ruth said it doesn’t have to be a certified evaluator to do career assessment, she said it could be a paraprofessional.

Matt Denn thanked the guests, and now he wants to look at the 2nd draft that appears on the IEP Task Force website.  http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/141120/IEPTaskForceReportDraft111714.pdf

Mitusevich said Delaware has a higher standard than many other states.  Marissa Band said she has some issues with language in the draft but she will put in information via email or talk with Kim Siegel.  Matt Denn said there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about what other states are doing in other states with IEPs.  Liz Toney brought up the presentation from the first meeting.  She brought up Wrightslaw as a good resource.

A parent gave public comment thanking the task force for their recommendations for visually impaired students.

I gave public comment about how special needs students at the priority schools and Gateway Lab School are victims of special education games in the state.  I referenced my article from last night about Rodel and Markell and how special needs children have suffered immensely in Delaware.  I also recommended the task force adds the subject of IEP denials if they continue past the Governor’s report.

Sarah Celestin from DOE gave public comment about Standards-Based IEPs, student led IEPs, and translating Behavior Intervention Plans into IEPs.  She said there is training and assistance through University of Delaware.  She said they have been working w/districts on standards-based IEPs (Common Core for the IEP in my opinion).  She said through funds from a Federal grant DOE wants all districts and charters in the state to have these IEP strategies in the next two years.  She asked Mitusevich to talk about student led IEPs.  He spoke about the transition conference at Dover Downs a few weeks ago.  He said there was a big group from DC to speak about these, as well as folks from Virginia, Dr. Jim Martin out of University of Oklahoma on student led IEPs and student active participation in IEP meetings.  He said this means a student doesn’t just read a script and actually participates in the IEP 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 to 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.

To Be Continued December 3rd…

 

What’s Up With The IEP Task Force? Are Parents No Longer The Focus? @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @Apl_Jax @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @nannyfat #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

The IEP Task Force in Delaware has met five times.  The last session was very reminiscent of the second meeting.  Both of those meetings were very heavy on the side of the schools and not the parents.  The largest matter concern parents receiving a copy of the IEP draft prior to an IEP meeting.  There is also the matter of the group’s transparency.  Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn, the chair of the task force, always had the groups minutes and audio recordings up the next day.

The IEP draft was a hot topic the other night.  In prior meetings it had been discussed and most felt it was a good idea for parents to have a copy of the draft before a student’s IEP meeting.  But members were acting like it was a bad idea the other night.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exception Children Resources group at the Delaware Department of Education, said she worries about the legal implications of giving parents a copy of the draft.  Like parents don’t know what is a draft and what isn’t.  C’mon Mitch, I think parents can recognize what is and isn’t a draft.  I even overheard members, including a special education teacher, state parents get ten days after the IEP meeting to sign the document.  That is only if they choose to do so and aren’t pressured to sign the IEP right then and there.

There is also the matter of the group’s transparency.  Yes, the DOE pushed them out of their prior room and there were problems with the video conference “thingamajigger” as Denn put it, but Denn promised the public full transparency.  Here we are four days later, and nothing new is on the website.  Has anything happened between the fourth meeting and this one?  Something called an election?  Denn got the votes, and when asked if he would continue to chair the task force after his inauguration as attorney general, he didn’t answer.  Denn already suggested having the group continue after the report to Governor Markell.

The legislators come and go as they please.  Some arrive late, some leave early, some don’t even bother to show up.  In the beginning, most of them were very vocal during meetings, but now they barely say anything.

I had emailed Denn about including IEP denials as a topic in the next meeting.  I received a response from Kim Siegel indicating it would not happen, but the group does want to increase how the state audits IEPs and hold them more accountable.  To say I was disappointed is an understatement since I have been pushing for this since day one.  But yet things like vocational schools and services for the blind (mainly covered by the Department of Health and Social Services) are topics discussed at length during meetings.  What is the point of this task force anymore?

We will all know when the draft of the task force is released to the public what made the cut and what didn’t.  I sincerely hope the task force can bring it back yet again to the parents, but more importantly, the student with special needs.  They need to remember, as one task force member said, what got them there in the first place.  It wasn’t to discuss matters that did not put Delaware in hot water with the Feds and put the state on a “needs intervention” label.

IEP Task Force Meeting #5, Live From Dover & Wilmington @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @Roof_O @ecpaige @nannyfat @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

Here we are, in Dover at the John J. Collette Center in Dover.  The task force is meeting in a smaller room due to the Delaware Department of Education Town Hall meeting in an hour and a half.  We’re trying to get a videoconference connection.

Still having connectivity issues…with nine members of the task force here, this can’t be good!

A few minutes later…we have to have the meeting via speaker phone from Wilmington.  We may get the live video feed going, but I won’t hold my breath.

Still waiting…

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn can be heard coming from a cell phone speaker.  He just said they are going to try a different video conference “thingamajigger”.

Ruth Lavelle is talking about transition meetings.  Can’t hear her too well with the cell phone speaker…

Kim Siegel got the video conferencing going up in Wilmington.  Now the IEP Task Force up there has to walk four floors to get to the new meeting room!

Everyone approved the minutes from last month.  Ruth Lavelle talking about transition from secondary school to life after school for students with disabilities.  Talking about employment and life skills.  Shouldn’t wait until age of 18 to talk about it with these students.  DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) needs to come in earlier.  Dale Mitusevich from the DOE is stating they would need to double their number of counselors to meet this demand.  DOE is already looking at these issues.  Explained DVR wouldn’t take referrals until students’ senior year.  DVR gets Federal funding and very little state funding, so that is a huge issue.  The Division of Developmental Disability Services is working with Pathway to Employment, which starts in the 8th grade.  This program is for students who are more severely disabled.  Denn asked age range that DVR works with.  Mitusevich said it isn’t based on age.  Some counselors work with students in junior year, but most are waiting until senior year.  They work with students when they are employed for 90 days above minimum wage and working at least 20 hours a week.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski (Mitch) stated the DOE has a Memorandum of Understanding with DVR and DDS.  Needra Surratte from PIC suggested having someone from DVR attend the next meeting.  Mitch said we would probably need another task force to cover these issues with transition.  Joe Miro said it is a good idea to have someone come in for the next meeting (which is next week on November 20th).

I apologize, I have to confirm all these agencies and their abbreviations!

Division of Visually Impaired should also be invited to discuss these issues as per Senator Lawson.  Mitusevich agreed.  Denn asked who else we should invite to the meeting.  Marissa Band is talking about student-led IEPs to help students self advocate for themselves.  Laura Manges thinks it is an excellent suggestion for vocational schools in Delaware to establish teams to help with these services.  She said this helps to justify the tax dollars being sent to these districts.

Bill Doolittle talking about service providers being able to advocate for students during IEP meetings.  “Theoretically they are all supposed to be equal partners,” but this isn’t always the case Doolittle explained.  Band talking about 504 plans and how there is a prohibition against retaliations.  A teacher recently filed an OCR complaint and is going after her employer based on these guidelines.  Denn asked if copying the language out of the other statute would be advisable, Band agreed.  Doolittle said it is against the law for schools to do this.  Lavelle said it shouldn’t just protect teachers, Denn agreed.

Dafne Carnwright talking about progress reports to students with IEPs.  She said room for narrative should be added to IEP Plus.  Liz Toney also said a checklist of when students received services should be added as well.  Diane Eastburn bringing up section needing to be checked off if student met goal, didn’t meet goal or exceeded goal.  It needs to be more descriptive and consistent across the state.  Toney said it can be confusing for parents and needs to be simplified.  Surratte said a narrative is good, but parents mainly want to see their child’s progress on goals.  She said it could also be good to show examples of students work.  Mitch explaining how Present Level of Performance and Benchmark Goals explains this process to parents.  Tracey Bombarra said a lot of this can occur during parent-teacher conferences and this would be more work for the schools.  Surratte clarified this work should be available upon parent request, and not necessarily at a parent-teacher conference.  Everyone seems to be chiming in on this issue.  Denn said as a parent he isn’t satisfied with satisfactory or exceeds.  Everyone agrees there should be a narrative provided for children who are receiving related services to see when students had services and to ensure abbreviations are spelled out.

Senator Dave Lawson explaining to the group that members of the task force talking about what their school does isn’t helping.  He said what brought them here is that not all schools are consistent.  House Representative Miro stated fifteen minutes for Parent-Teacher Conference is way too short, responding to a comment made by Diane Eastburn.  Mitch clarified no changes should be made to IEP during Parent-Teacher Conference.  Miro keeps talking about this issue which really has nothing to do with any of this.  God bless him!

Denn asking for member of public Debbie Harrington for clarification on services for visually impaired students.  She said the bottom line is that educational services for visually impaired is too complex and it isn’t provided by the DOE.  She recommends another task force for education for these individuals.  There are way too many varying issues for what each and every student needs.  The greatest deficiency is two agencies providing these services.  Harrington said there is about 250+ students in the state that are visually impaired with only 8 teachers.  This is classroom sizes of 30+ students (which is typical for a lot of classes in Delaware).  Everyone seems to agree a separate task force should be made for this topic, which would of course be up to the legislators.

Denn going over proposed drafts with findings and recommendations that were emailed to members of the task force this morning.  Lavelle brought up issue of parental safeguards and clarification on this.  Band brought up this issue as well, and Lavelle said these are Federal requirements.  Carnwright said seeing the actual behavioral data for a functional behavioral analysis is not always honored by schools to parents.  Toney brought up issues of cancelled IEP meetings when the parents get there.  Denn said 3/4s of parental safeguards go over what happens when an IEP matter isn’t agreed upon, so unless it is in those documents it can’t really be changed too much.

Members going over draft notes, but I am unable to see those notes, so I’m kind of in the dark right now.  Sorry folks!  Due to the technical difficulties this meeting is running way over.  Lots of conversation about wisdom over giving parents a copy of the draft IEP ahead of time.  This is a HUGE issue with members having different sides of this battle.

Also big issues with IEP Plus coming up again.  Overheard one member of the task force indicating some previously discussed issues are not being put into the draft as originally discussed.

Public comment from parent of blind student.  Said waiting for legislators to get task force going and then implementing findings is at least six months out and these students need help now.

Votech special education teacher talking about transiton services and liked comments previously said about vocational schools helping out in the state.

Big Night In Education at the DOE’s Collette Center Tonight! #netde #eduDE #Delaware

First is the IEP Task Force from 4:30-6:30pm and then overlapping a bit is the Town Hall meeting the Delaware Department of Education is holding to discuss what the public may want to see on school accountability annual report cards.

I will be live blogging from both, and if the IEP Task Force goes like it did at the last meeting (ending at 5:45pm), I should be able to get both in.  If not, I will come up with something so nobody misses a beat.

As I stated yesterday in an article, I emailed Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn to attempt to get the issue of IEP denials discussed at the task force.  I’ve also mentioned it in public comments a couple times, so I’m at a dead end with this matter.  But if more parents speak up, I would urge them to do so now as the Governor’s Report is due in January.

The Town Hall from the DOE, in my opinion, is a smokescreen for things they have already decided on.  They want to show the illusion of working with parents, but it will be very interesting to see the wording being used and what they “lead” parents to with options.  I would not be shocked if they give parents “options” about what to speak about.  This is a very old trick.  Give horrible options so the other ones don’t look as bad.  I hope I’m wrong, but we will find out tonight!

My Email To Matt Denn About The IEP Task Force, Denial Is Not Just A River In Egypt @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @roof_o #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

Tomorrow night, November 12th, is the 5th meeting of the IEP Task Force.  Lieutenant Governor/future Attorney General Matt Denn has indicated the task force will continue past the drafting of the Governor’s Report, due in January 2015.  But there is one major issue this task force has not discussed, and it was brought up in public comment by myself and others.

I wrote the following email to Matt Denn as a plea for the future of the students with disabilities in Delaware abused by this process.  Not only is it a Civil Rights violation, it is also against Federal Law.

Hi Matt,

Congratulations on your victory in the election for Attorney General.  I am confident you will do great things in this role. 

I had some concerns about the IEP Task Force.  My number one problem, and always has been, is the amount of IEP denials that occur.  This occurs often in charter schools.  I spoke with Mary Ann Mieczkowski last summer about this, and she informed me there is NO protocol for monitoring the amount of denials.  No audit takes place to suggest if a denial was warranted or not.  What tends to happen is the IEP is denied, and either a 504 plan might be given or nothing happens.  The amount of protection offered by a 504 is minimal compared to an IEP for a special needs student.  For children with behavior issues who are denied an IEP, they are often “counseled out” by a charter or expelled.  Their behavior is the catalyst for these actions, but with no special education accommodations given, these students don’t stand a chance.

I know I am not a member of the task force, but I am asking, no, begging, that this topic is introduced.  I’ve brought it up a few times in public comment, but it doesn’t even appear to be an issue amongst the task force.  I know charters were brought up at the last meeting, but this particular topic didn’t come up.  When a student “switches” to another school, long-term behaviors have become a part of this student’s thinking, and it is very difficult for the next school to get a student back on track.

I am proposing the Delaware Department of Education requires all schools in Delaware under their jurisdiction to have this information reported to them, and audited by them.  While the Federal government does not mandate this, there are specific laws written into IDEA that require the schools to do things which should prevent these issues from happening in the first place.  This is a major reason why there are so many special education lawsuits in this state. 

I know the IEP Task Force may be extended past the Governor’s report in January, but I feel this is the most important issue in the whole IEP process.  Every day when something is not done is another day when a Delaware student is suffering because they don’t have the supports in place to help them.  This is the ugly part of IEPs that the DOE and legislators don’t want to look at, but it is happening, right now, and parents and students with disabilities are paying the price.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to attending the meeting tomorrow night.

Sincerely,

Kevin Ohlandt

Delaware parents of special needs children.  If you have not already given public comment or emailed Matt Denn about your own situation where your child was denied an IEP at any school in the state that you feel was not justified, please attend the meeting tomorrow night in Dover or Wilmington.  Let this task force know what happened with your child and what the negative results may have been for them.  This is the time to bring this matter under the microscope so it can be eliminated from happening to any child.  I know it can be hard speaking in public about your child, but it is the right thing to do.  The system can’t change unless more parents speak up.

Many of you have shared your stories with me, whether it was email, talking, or on social media.  This is the same thing, but with the ability for great and lasting change.  I personally do not want any child in this state to suffer the way my own did, and I feel it is my responsibility and duty as a human being to make sure events like this never happen again.

The 4th IEP Task Force Meeting, Live From Dover & Wilmington @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @ecpaige @Apl_Jax #netde #eduDE

Tonight’s meeting is centrally located in Dover, with the teleconferencing from Wilmington. It looks like most of the task force is in Dover.

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn is asking for a roll call and intros.

Going over draft meetings from last two previous meetings. Denn is explaining how the audio recording gives much more information than draft minutes could, and the audio recordings are now available as a podcast on ITunes (Thanks Kilroy!).

The legislators on the task force seems a bit slim today. None of them are here, but Senator Lawson does have his Chief of Staff (will have to check on her official title!) Brian Touchette is not present. Otherwise it looks like most members are here.

Denn is going over the agenda items and matters that need to be discussed. He is please with the progress they have made. He wants to go over two items from the last meeting they did not get to. Technical Assistance, with an emphasis on charter schools, in preparing for IEP meetings is on the table. Marissa Band from Legal Aid is discussing concerns about charter schools not having resources, knowledge or skills to properly prepare IEPs. As a result the children tend to get pushed back into the local public school district. She indicated they need adequate support to be able to meet the needs of the children. Diane Eastburn, Kent County parent advocate, asked if charter school case managers get the same training as public school district case managers. Mary Ann Mieczkowski with the Delaware DOE Exceptional Children Group said they do give specific meetings and professional development with the charter schools several times a year. She acknowledged they do need more help. She also said she just completed a two-day professional development on standards-based IEPs. She said she has representatives from her workgroup that serve as a liason for each charter school in the state.

Laura Manges is speaking about a potential bill in legislation that would ensure charter school educators have the same credentials as public school educators. She said this is the way it used to be in the state. Denn is asking if “technical assistance” was a polite way of making sure they do it the right way. He asked if this is monitored. Mary Ann Mieczkowski said there is a monitoring system in place (compliance monitoring) on a 5 year cycle. She said on-sight monitoring occurs on Tier 2. She is going over several of the different indicators required by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). She said when they find an issue of non-compliance, they issue a letter to the charter or district indicating the area out of non-compliance. They have to correct the issue, which includes holding an IEP meeting to fix it. They must have a root cause analysis and professional development. After this is done, the DOE goes back in to look at different IEPs to make sure the problem is corrected. This must be done in a year to get out of non-compliance.

Denn asked about things that may not show up on a compliance audit. Mieczkowski indicated how due process works: complaint, mediation, due process hearing. Denn is asking if there is any contact with parents with a kind of “how’s it going” questionnaire. She answered this is required through OSEP for a parent engagement survey. They aren’t totally satisfied with this, but they are working with PIC and the Delaware PTA to make this a broader type of survey. Denn asked what happens when they get back a survey with bad marks. Mieczkowski said parents can always call their office but the surveys are anonymous.

Bill Doolittle is stating a charter school is equivalent to one school in a district. Mieczkowski advised charters go through a rigorous application process and all of this needs to be spelled out during that timeframe. If their application falls short it would be addressed right away. Doolittle advised the charters need a place to go to get resources. Tracy Bombarra asked what kind of questions are asked on the survey to which Mieczkowski explained questions appear like “Were you involved in the IEP process” or “How satisfied were you with the IEP process.” She admitted they have a positive response, but the number of responses is low, which they are working on with PIC and DE PTA.

Band said she is concerned about charters not having access to programs like the Delaware Autism Program (DAP) or programs for hearing-impaired students. Josette Threats asked if there is a place where a parent can go to do a survey. She said she has never seen any type of survey. Mieczkowski said currently it’s a pencil and paper survey but they are looking at different methods. Eastburn asked if it could be done at the annual IEP meeting? Liz Toney with the Delaware PTA was at a meeting with the DOE and said this is in the beginning stages and an online survey has been discussed. She said the data she has seen indicates it shows parents are too happy with the IEP process.

Denn is asking if “technical assistance” needs to be clarified for actual technical issues or everything that has been discussed. Band said the training should be required, and not voluntary. She said they need to be using the technical assistance provided by the state. Mieczkowski said the training they give them is not only based on regulatory requirements but social skills training, parental safeguards, positive behavioral supports and other areas. She said based on some data, some of the charters are required to attend these trainings. Toney asked what representative from the charters attends the meeting. Mieczkowski (I’m going to refer to her as Mitch from here on out cause, God bless her, I can’t keep typing her last name) said it depends on the type of training. She also said there is a problem with the charter schools in regards to their “n” size which can impact when they are flagged.

Eastburn is talking about charter schools not always reporting issues of suspensions. She and Mitch are going back and forth about who the DOE, schools and parents answer to. Denn advised most parents aren’t very knowledgeable about these types of matters. Denn said there is an advantage to this for parents, not in terms of statistics, but in schools knowing they need to be more aware of parent issues with schools. He brought up random bullying audits he has been involved with. He brought up a parent comment from the last meeting with charter school issues. Mike Hoffman, special education teacher, asked who would handle this? Denn advised the schools would not be a fair and biased party to do this. Doolittle said there needs to be more auditing and the state doesn’t have good data. He is aware there is a cost for this but it is worth looking at. Mitch indicated they do get data from PIC, DAP, GACEC and other sources to help improve the system. She said they need all data, including Diane Eastburn data. Tracy Bombarra asked about provider data. She asked that they be randomly surveyed as well to which Mitch said sure. Manges said there was a time where DOE would go to districts and do a comprehensive review at different schools within the district and would send out teams over a day or two to do this. She asked if the DOE has expanded to allow for the growth of all these charters. Mitch indicated it has not.

Denn is bringing up the topic of “jargon” on IEPs. Toney said she thinks taking the jargon out of the IEPs entirely would be good. She said she has been involved in this process a long time and she still doesn’t understand all of the acronyms. Mitch asked what the jargon is in IEPs? Toney explained things like WISC and other terms can be very confusing to parents. Dafne Carnright said additional training should be given, like a type of customer service, that school members in the IEP meetings should avoid using acronyms or technical jargon. Denn and Threats are talking about providing a glossary for parents. Denn reminded the task force this report will go to legislators to provide actual laws to change things, and the advice needs to be very precise in terms of getting things passed or not passed into law.

(side note: Very glad to see all the charters getting this “special” attention!)

Denn is going over the list of other items he wants to make sure is in the report to Governor Markell. He is talking specifically about transition services for older students and the ability of providers responding without a fear of repercussions down the road. He is asking the task force if there are matters they feel should be on the priority list. Eastburn said the benchmarks need to be addressed at some point consistently throughout the state so parents aren’t just given a copy of an IEP. Bombarra said there is a narrative box on IEP Plus where the schools are supposed to give that data. She said people either aren’t doing it, and they should. She said it takes her two days to complete the process for the three schools she works with. She said the system is set up to do this. Tricia Dallas, another special education teacher, said she isn’t sure how much parents are getting from the form sent home with report cards. Carnright agreed with what Dallas said and this needs to be looked at. Denn said is putting it down as “better way to communicate IEP goals to parents” and will make it more specific about what is should look like.

Denn brought up unique problems with visually-impaired students in the IEP process and is strongly hinting this becomes a priority issue without saying it needs to be. Senator Nicole Poore said she thinks this is very important to add to the list of priority issues. Denn agrees. He reiterated this group should continue and will advise the legislature this group should go on after this. Denn said he will go over empowering advocates and providers to better educate for students and the visually impaired issues will be brought up the next meeting. Someone in Wilmington said this is done through the Department of Health and Human Services, to which Denn said this issue will be looked at.

Ruth Lavelle, New Castle County parent rep, said she was in a meeting last week and said IEP Plus is not user-friendly and questioned whether it is less of a band-width issue but the system itself. Denn said this is a major issue on the list. Carnright and Toney talked about the Wellington System that Eastburn brought up at the last meeting. Denn said how other states do things will come up when they work on the drafts for the legislature, which could help answer the IEP Plus question. Bombarra asked about how anything the legislature passes will be funded. Denn said anything over $50,000.00 gets a fiscal note, otherwise the districts or charters get the bill for that. Denn did say other bills do provide funding, such as the summer reading coding amendment from Senate Bill 229 which was sponsored by Senator Nicole Poore and passed in the 147th Assembly. Denn said it is fortunate many of the legislators on the task force sit on the financial committee in the legislature. Denn explained he knows not every single member on the task force will agree on the final resolutions they will submit, so he is opening up the floor to anyone who has issues with what has been discussed. Lawson’s rep said he wants to make sure the Delaware laws are consistent with Federal law for special education.

I briefly gave public comment where I stated the biggest problems I see with the charter schools are them not understanding other-health impaired and what disabilities are listed under that and using a child being “too smart” as a reason to not give an IEP even though a disability or behavior issues affect a child’s educational outcome.

Meeting adjourned!

Don’t Forget, IEP Task Force Meeting on Thursday, October 23rd @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog netde #eduDE

The 4th IEP Task Force meeting will be this Thursday, October 23rd from 4:30 to 6:30.  The “main” action will be in Dover at the Collette Resource Center, while the videoconferencing will be in Wilmington.  I will, of course, be there doing my live blogging.  I’m not sure if I will do a public comment or not.  I would love for more parents to show up and comment.

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn stated at the last meeting this task force may have to extend into next year.  I have no problem with that.  But my big question is what happens to Matt Denn if he becomes Attorney General after the upcoming election on November 4th.  Chances are he will win, but would that pose any problems for him being the chair of this task force?

Matt Denn continues to impress me.  I think he’s starting to see some of the big picture in terms of IEPs in Delaware.  It will be very interesting to see what comes out of this task force…

Matt’s website of the IEP Task Force is awesome!  It has all the digital recordings, many links to various articles, and meetings and agendas.  It’s everything you could ask for from a charter school, but will never get!  Matt’s done a great job on the website.  Check it out here: http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/

My Public Comment at the 3rd IEP Task Force Meeting and my Message for Governor Markell, the Delaware DOE and Arne Duncan @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @ecpaige @DeDeptofEd @DeStateBoardEd @TNJ-malbright @ArneDuncan @usedgov

 

 

At the third IEP Task Force meeting, I followed tradition and gave the following public comment:

This is the 3rd time I have spoken at the IEP Task Force, I’ve spoken in front of the Delaware Department of Education 3 times, I’ve spoken in front of the Capital School District Board 2 times, and last week I spoke in front of the Christina school board. Every single time I have spoken, it has been with the problems of my son at the forefront of my mind. Behind him are the over 18,000 children with disabilities in this state. This task force has been given a great responsibility. In your hands are the abilities to change over 18,000 lives.

Let me say once again: these children have disabilities they neither asked for nor want. They didn’t choose to have them. They weren’t cursed with them. Most of them were born with them. It was locked into their DNA for whatever reason, and this was how their life had to be. As parents or guardians, it is our job to protect them and make sure they have the best life possible. As educators, teachers, counselors of all shapes and colors, providers and administrators, it is your job to educate them. So my question is this: why do so many of you treat their disabilities as something they are intentionally trying to do? Why do so many teachers think that if you yell at a child or speak down to them that this behavior will change? Why do so many of you think you can sit in an IEP meeting and tell parents “Your child may have a disability but I think they know what they are doing” or “Part of it is their age”. These are children with extremely difficult neurological disabilities. Their brains are not wired the same as you or I. So why would you try to rewire them into a shape that just doesn’t fit? The discipline problems these children face in schools can and should be prevented. Placing any child with disabilities in a class of 30? You’re asking for trouble. Inclusion is required, but that does not mean you put them anywhere. The Least Restrictive Environment is required by IDEA law. It means the child is put into the least restrictive place to obtain a proper education. And in Delaware, that doesn’t mean a Chevrolet, it means a Cadillac. Teachers: Please understand, I know the problems you are facing. I know your evaluations,  as well as your jobs,  are tied to student performance on a once a year test. There are a growing number of regular parents and citizens who recognize and empathize with you. And we are trying to help you as well as our children. But please recognize that we will do anything we can to protect our children, and if that means calling anyone out at a school, teachers included, we will do that.

I think we talk and talk about special education in Delaware, but when it comes time to truly do the right thing for these students, a lot of us drop the ball. It’s not about common core, it’s not about college, it’s not about China, it’s not even about the teachers, or the principals, or even the parents. It’s about them. These precious gifts have been given to us and they have a lot to teach us, but we don’t want to learn. We need to learn to accept them for who they are. Not what we want them to be, but what they are.

In conclusion Lieutenant Governor Denn, if you could please pass the following on to the Delaware Legislature and Governor Markell. We will not accept or allow anyone to change our children into something they are not meant to be. Please tell the Delaware DOE they we don’t want the standards-based IEPs and please ship them back to Arne Duncan at the United States DOE and to leave Delaware’s special needs students alone. It is past time Delaware became its own state and stopped being the education lap dog of the federal government. It is way past time that we stopped letting corporations and education reformers intruding on our children’s lives so they can fill their pockets with profits. There is a lot of that going on and nobody on this task force is talking about that on this task force, and that’s impacting teachers, and how they teach, and how they’re able to deal with these children. That’s a huge aspect and I’m shocked nobody on the task force has brought it up. Thank you.

 

IEP Task Force #3, Live From Dover and Wilmington @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat #netde #eduDE

Live from Dover (and Wilmington), it’s the third meeting of the IEP Task Force.  It’s hard to tell with the video feed from Wilmington, but the task force looks a little bit slimmer this time.

Roll call, Brian Touchette is in the house, introduced himself as Director of Assessment.  I wonder where this is going….

Minutes won’t be approved for last meeting and this meeting until the next meeting.  Lieutenant Governor Denn said task force may need to be extended past December if they are not able to get to all matters in the Governor’s report.

Top 4 Matters to address:

What additional information should be provided to parents in the IEP process to make it more understandable?

What assurance should be required over life of IEP that teachers and schools are following the IEP?

What technical assistance is needed to prepare appropriate IEPs in schools and charters?

Language in IEPs, fewer acronyms and jargon

PIC rep: Needra Surratte, going over what PIC does for the state, to help parents become more informed and to be better advocates, provide services to parents just finding out about disabilities in child, give resources, their main goal is to educate parents so they can advocate for our children, under IDEA every state is required to have a PTI, which PIC is for the state of Delaware.   Partners with other organizations across Delaware to make sure there is consistency for parents in all areas

Denn asked Surratte if they go to IEP meetings, she said not usually, said they will prepare parents for meeting and let them know their rights, said IEP meetings can be recorded by any party, said level of service is based on what the parent needs, said there are circumstances where they have to attend IEP meetings, in situations where environment is adversarial they will sometimes go to meetings.

Senator Dave Lawson asked Surratte how parents know about them, Surratte said often they don’t.  She said some school districts will give parents information about PIC at the first IEP meeting.  Said has received complaints from parents that they would have like to have known that prior to first IEP meeting.  Lawson said it is after the fact to which Surratte agreed.

Bill Doolittle said in an ideal world parents would know all of this as soon as there is even a suspicion of a disability, said until parents go through it, it is very difficult for them to understand.  Suggested each school district has parent that has been through the process to provide support to new parents going through it.

Surratte said PIC used to have something close to that but it was very difficult to implement statewide.

Someone (my apologies to someone, hard to hear and see from my vantage point) suggested there is a special education council in each school district.  What kind of things should they be asking for in an IEP.

Deb Heffernan said parents should be used as mentors (as it was through ARC- will find out what that is).  Ruth Lavelle talking about difficulty getting parents to the point of utilizing the IEP process.  Frequently parents with disabilities are not always given accommodations (e.g. deaf-no interpreter, someone in wheelchair not given access to school).  Mary Ann Mieczkowski said parental safeguards are sent once an evaluation is requested.  She said when she worked for a district (Appoquinimink), a psychologist would call the parents giving them information on the IEP process and parental safeguards.  Diane Eastburn said in the 94 IEPs she has advocated for in Kent County, no parent has ever received a copy of the parental safeguards prior to the first IEP meeting.  She said each district needs to be consistent statewide.

Deb Heffernan stating task force is being too picky, going over everything but the very first part of SCR 63, which is making the process easier for parents.  She said we are getting very bogged down.  Said they are getting to far from the charge.  Surratte agrees in the respect there is a lot being said but many items are already written into law.  She said compliance is a separate issue.  Doolittle said the four parts talked about today.  Denn said as the writer of the resolution it is his opinion that helping to make sure parents is the most fundamental part of the task force.

Mieczkowski said the PLEP, the meat of the IEP, said there are projects with DOE to develop educational standards into IEPs (and so it begins), she said they build a parent component into each project they are working on.  She wants parents to know they are always thinking of the parent in the process.  Said at the Center For Disabilities Studies at University of Delaware there is a parent assigned to work on data for the project.

Doolittle said no school has a formal training group like PIC for students in transition.  Heffernan agreed with this.  Said she and Ruth Lavelle created a special needs PTA in the Brandywine School District.  She said due to privacy issues districts don’t want to share names with other students.

Liz Toney (sorry for being late) said she sees lots of problems with transition between elementary school and middle school.  She said it is very difficult for these students due to completely different environments.  Surratte said task force would need to be clear at what this would look like.  Said typically is at age 14, but is worth exploring but need to define what this looks like.

Senator Lawson bringing it back to the parents.  He said “It’s like climbing a tree but we haven’t planted it yet.” (love this guy!)  Denn agrees.  Surratte said they are funded and there has been a decrease in funding.  She said the best way to meet those needs is to leverage the capacity with the resources they have.  Denn guessing there are two types of parents: one who needs to learn the process and the other having adversarial conflicts with the school.  Surratte agreed, said often parents may be requesting certain services but school district won’t provide them.  She said they will provide the parents with their rights in this.  She said they won’t get involved if there is an attorney involved.

Doolittle said as an advocate they spend 5:1 time getting to know the parents and knowledge about the child.  He said he tells parents to relax and be the parent and the advocate will take care of the technical aspects.  He said it is designed to be a collaborative process between the schools and the parents.

Touchette talking about working with DAP (Delaware Autism Program) and parents would get a packet about services available and what resources they could utilize.  Someone brought up the fact that there are a good number of parents who either may not be able to read or understand written English.

Tricia Dallas said there are different types of parents so there may be a need for a differentiated response to parents, a multi-tiered support system.

Liz Toney said she received a bag when her child was in hospital due to hearing loss, she was given a bag and had no clue what the information was.  Diane Eastburn talked about Childwatch program, talked about the Amish population in Kent County and they don’t have the resources to obtain a great deal of information at all.  Denn said the far end is a parent has a lawyer, and the other end is being a parent by themselves in an IEP meeting, with PIC in the middle.  Denn wondering if there should be additional resources on this balance beam.

Someone in Wilmington talking about another program in place like PIC that provides services similar to them.  Dafne Carnwright said it is an excellent idea to have a parent-peer support program.  Eastburn said it should be listed on the DOE website (a list of parents willing to help).  Doolittle said districts would be very supportive of this.  Toney said districts shouldn’t be as divided as the IEP Process.  Ruth Lavelle said there is a need for a central location for all of this information.  Talked about issues with PTA and getting lists of parents and that has gone on for twelve years.  Heffernan said issues with funding and getting this material out to parents.  Surratte agreed.  She said she has seen several parent resource centers spring up but not all parents are serviced.  She said there are parents who do not have good relationship with schools due to trust factors and this is very difficult.  Doolittle said he is shocked by how many parents ask to become advocates after they are helped.

Deb Heffernan asked if other states are utilizing the practices brought up as ideas? Denn said it is something to look into.  Doolittle said no state in the country is consistent with this information.

Item #2: What assurance should be required over life of IEP that teachers and professionals are implementing the IEP?  Doolittle said “Is the IEP being followed” in a way that is helping the child.  Carnwright said the GACEC was faced with questions from parents trying to find out when the students related services were provided.  Tracy Bombarra said she has folder for every speech-impaired student and parents have access to it indicating when every meeting took place between therapist and student.  Toney said things like Friday folders are good places to get information, or during interim reports.  Mieczkowski talked about data provided from the goals.  Doolittle said as they are moved into a more inclusive environment it gets more complex and parents have a good sense of when the IEP is NOT being followed (been there, done that).

Eastburn said if providers hours are insurance billable, the logs are excellent.  She said if they are not billable, the records are less likely to be completed.  Touchette said worried that talk is more about process than outcome.  He said he is cautious about too much talk about process and not enough about outcome.  (He’s dropping hints already.  Fellow Delaware bloggers, we all know where this is going…)

Toney talking about assistive technology and substitutes and implementation issues.  Suggested putting provider information on school computer system that parents have ability to access.  Ruth Lavelle said another task force is needed for IEP implementation!

Eastburn talked about a Southern California system called Wellington and it is an excellent IEP system that parents have access to via password and providers can put notes on it.  She also said there are multiple language providers for those who speak languages other than English.

Talk going back to IEP Plus.  Denn wants to table this for another time.  Denn wrapping it up and wants to allow time for public comment.

Save The Date: October 9th, Delaware IEP Task Force Meeting #3 @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #edude #edchat

On Thursday, October 9th, the IEP Task Force will reconvene for their 3rd meeting.  This meeting will be VERY interesting.  The first meeting was geared towards parents concerns, and the second was extremely heavy with school members complaining about logistic parts of the IEP process.  The third time is the charm as they say, and I am getting advanced word about a particular guest who may show up.  Some people will NOT be happy about this individual daring to show their face.  But many people will be ecstatic.  Trust me when I say any parent of a special needs child will want to show up for this one!

This will be the meeting where Lieutenant Matt Denn makes his mark, one way or the other.  He will be confronted with the absolute reality behind the IEP process and how he runs with it will define this task force.  Another wild card will be if Governor Markell’s designee deigns to show up.  Brian Touchette is the testing guru at the Delaware Department of Education, the wizard behind the curtain for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The only person who has brought up standards-based IEPs at this point is myself in public comment.  I’ve heard from another source that all the school districts in Delaware are being told to start them immediately, without any type of transition period like the four pilot districts received.  Once again the DOE is inserting itself into matters that are controversial at best.  Will Touchette bother to show up for the third meeting?

The meeting is at 4:30 pm, at the Collette Center in Dover and the Carvel Building in Wilmington.  The center of the action will be in Wilmington for this round, and with this potential surprise guest, you may want to venture up to Wilmington for this one if you don’t live in the area.  Trust me when I say you will want to see this one live.

Governor Markell Appoints Brian “Smarter Balanced” Touchette as his designee on IEP Task Force #netde #eduDE #specialeducation @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DianeRavitch @hanna

In looking at http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/ I noticed a very minor change.  It appears Brian Touchette, the high-stakes testing guru over at the Delaware DOE, has been appointed as Governor Markell’s designee on the task force.  Here’s where Smarter Balanced Assessment and Common Core get pushed on the task force.  Brilliant move DOE!  Get the task force going, have all the members talk about the reasons IEPs are suffering in Delaware, and then insert the testing guy.  The one who serves on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as the K-12 State Lead.   My suspicions had gone away, but now I am very suspicious, more than ever before.  This father did not pour his heart out in public only for this to happen.  I was wondering why Secretary of Education Murphy’s designee didn’t have a lot to say.  Now I know why.

I’ve been saying for months that special needs parents need to unite.  Now it is imperative!  We have been marginalized and pushed to the side too many times.  This isn’t right, and we all know it.  I know some of you will be covered with Senate Bill 229, which prevents the most severely cognitive disabled children from taking the damn test.  But how does that help the rest of us?  When the schools can barely accommodate our kids in many situations?  You want them to be proficient on a stupid test they take once a year?  The test that only one member of our legislature took, and basically said it sucked?  What kind of messed up cruel game are you playing here Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE?  Some of us know the game, and we know why you are doing it.  We know the end plan, and it doesn’t bode well for special needs children, minorities, and public school teachers.

So when people comment on me being too hard on people at the DOE, this is why!  Things need to change, and if the people making all the changes won’t do anything, then maybe we need to.

The next meeting has been changed to Tuesday, September 23rd.  We need parents there.  We need A LOT of parents.  We need them to open up the other room in the Collette Building (Michelle, you may need to get more chairs).  We need to speak, and we need to stop this.