In education tradition, the term “Standards-Based IEPs” meant something very different from the current bastardization of the words. Nowadays, it means Common Core. As in aligning a student with disabilities IEP to the Common Core State Standards. I challenged the DOE on this a year and a half ago. Their response: that it was a myth. That this had more to do with the IEP than Common Core. They lied. They lied to me, and they lied to the IEP Task Force. It is all about the Common Core. This isn’t my first rodeo in writing about standards based IEPs. Cause I was really ticked off here, even more than when I first figured out what they were. I know this because the DOE put it on their own website, as seen on the last paragraph of this picture:
So what is this WRITES initiative the DOE speaks of? It is the “ACCESS Project”, and it comes from the University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Studies. Yet another program where the DOE is spending tons of money to “fix” our education with their top vendor: University of Delaware. The University explains what this project is here. The key words from the DOE website are “aligning student IEP goals and assessments to the Common Core State Standards.” When did special education ever become about the curriculum and standards and not the individual student? They will try to make parents of these children think it is all about the individual, but this is the biggest lie. Because Markell and the DOE want these students to fail…
What really ticks me off with special education in Delaware is the fact that students with disabilities in Kindergarten to 3rd grad who qualify for basic special education services based on their IEP receive no extra funding. Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams took aim at this inequity last winter with House Bill 30, and has now been tied in with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission. I think it was one of the most important education bills in Delaware right now. But why did we even get to this place to begin with?
To find the answer to this, we have to go back almost five years ago to January 6th, 2011. This is the day House Bill #1 was introduced to the Delaware General Assembly. The bill made into law the needs-based funding formula that is our current method of funding schools based on units and special education. This legislation was rushed through the House and Senate in 20 days and passed both by 1/26/11. Governor Markell signed the legislation on 2/17/11. The bill was more a technicality than actual groundbreaking legislation. The needs-based funding formula pilot actually started out in Brandywine and Seaford back in 2003. 12 more districts were added in 2004, and then all districts and charters were included in 2009. This was accomplished by use of epilogue language in the budget bill. House Bill #1 solidified this by making it part of Title 14, the section that covers education in Delaware code.
Since 2009, all public school students in Delaware have been a part of the needs-based funding formula, but basic special education students in K-3 received no extra funding. I have to wonder why. Look at these students now. Children who were in Kindergarten when Governor Markell signed this bill in February 2011 would now be in 5th grade. If they were in 3rd grade then, they would now be in 8th. What assessment do students take from 3rd to 8th grade? The Smarter Balanced Assessment. While this bill was rushed through the General Assembly, no one could have predicted the monstrosity that is the Smarter Balanced Assessment four years later. But Governor Markell was well aware of this.
Almost a year before this, Delaware was one of two states to win the first round of Race To The Top. As part of the funding received from RTTT, states were required to create state assessments aligned with Common Core. Markell knew this, the DOE knew this, and the General Assembly knew this. The students who were denied special education funding through House Bill #1 eventually became the students with disabilities guinea pigs on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. We all know how they did on this test statewide. 19% proficiency. They were destined to fail. I believe Markell wanted this. After all, to justify more contracts and companies coming into Delaware to fix our education, doesn’t there have to be a problem?
We are now seeing this with the contract the DOE is currently picking a vendor for. According to the DOE and Markell, we have a literacy problem that needs to be fixed, but there is so much more wrapped into that contract proposal. It is all tied into US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his bon voyage gift as he leaves his position. Which brings us back to standards-based IEPs. How many contracts and vendors will it take to get Delaware students with disabilities from 19% to 59% proficiency in six years? Quite a few I imagine! It is and always has been about the money. But as always, it is the students who pay the price. As well, I have no doubt House Bill 30 will become law, whether WEIC passes or not. Because the extra money and funding that these students should have never been denied, will help to get that proficiency rate up! But for the students with disabilities from 2009-2016 who went through Kindergarten to 3rd grade in Delaware without this essential funding, what happens with them? Their very foundation in education stolen from them because of a jacked up funding formula designed to make them look bad.
This issue is at the heart of this blog. Because my son was one of those students. Because the funding isn’t there for those students, getting an IEP for them can be very difficult at some schools. Why would a school implement an IEP and provide services for these students if they aren’t getting any extra funding for them? And these children have suffered immensely for Jack Markell’s hubris.