Delaware DOE, Learn The Difference Between “Guidance” & “Regulatory”

Guidance means a “suggested” way of doing things.  “Regulatory” means you have to do it.  The Delaware DOE doesn’t seem to know the difference between the two.  There is a very fine distinction.  This is the case with the Accountability Framework Working Group being told by Penny Schwinn at the DOE that participation rate penalties in the Delaware School Success Framework are “mandatory” and “non-negotiable”.  This is a complete fabrication and distortion of the truth.  But it appears the district superintendents and administrators on this group swallowed the lie, because they agreed to it.

But here is the important distinction between guidance and regulatory.  The US DOE issued guidance on charter school enrollment preferences surrounding specific interest in their applications.  They stated charter schools should only use this to benefit Title I, IDEA, low-income & minority students, and students with disabilities.  As we all know, certain charters in our state completely ignore this and pick who they want for their schools.  I don’t see the Delaware DOE rushing to enforce this “guidance”.  If they had, there wouldn’t be a pending complaint in the Office of Civil Rights from the ACLU of Delaware and Delaware Community Legal Aid against the Delaware DOE and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  But when it comes to parent opt-out, that guidance becomes “mandatory” and “non-negotiable”.

In the presentation below, the key pages are 4 and 16.  It indicates a potential way of using opt-out or participation rate in accountability but nowhere does it say “You must do this or we won’t approve your waiver request.”  They can threaten and bully all they want, but we all know how that turns out in the end.

To read the non-regulatory guidance concerning charter school enrollment preferences, please read below:

Central DE School Of The Arts For The Exceptional: New Charter School for High-Functioning Autism in Kent County? @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @Apl_Jax @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @nannyfat @DelawareBats @DeDeptofEd #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

I was on Facebook and noticed a page by a proposed charter school called Central DE School Of The Arts For The Exceptional.  I went to their page, and found the following:

10363761_1549658098585652_8569371242424323686_n

Charter school offering fine and performing arts curriculum, plus specialized programming for students with high functioning autism. Program will include education and related services from qualified educators and clinicians from a team approach in a true inclusive environment. Related services will also include family and peer training, as well as sibshops for siblings of students on the spectrum, which will foster growth in every student both in school and outside of school.

So we had our first official Board Meeting yesterday and I have to say thank you to our members who were able to make it. We are in the process of revising our bylaws so we can submit our application for nonprofit status…lots of great feedback was given and I cant wait to finish this part and move forward on the fun stuff!

Looked at their curriculum and it looks like like we’ll be modeling a lot of it at our school school! ABA isn’t just for autism, which is why it’s so successful. Just one -very large- piece off the puzzle.  http://blog.theautismsite.com/new-arizona-autism-charter-school/?utm_source=social

The holidays are quickly approaching and there is so much to do! How will you be spending your holidays? If you are looking for a way to get involved, please message me!   We are currently looking for 1-3 board members who are willing to get involved, are passionate about inclusive education, and who want to offer a new, innovate way to broaden Kent County’s horizons. Join us in making a difference for our community!

Now this is actually a charter school, if done right, I could support.  While my views against charters are well-known, I do find schools like Positive Outcomes and Gateway are very beneficial for students in Delaware.  What makes schools like this stand out is the enrollment preference is a given: students with disabilities.  To be able to attend, you would have to fit this criteria.  There is no smokescreen, or confusing wording.  It is what it is.

I did a Google search on the proposed school, and I found the person trying to get this school going, Tyler Anaya.  She worked for Autism Delaware recently.  I do have some questions about this.  Who is already on the board?  Where is a proposed location?  Would they be working with the Delaware Autism Program?  (who I have heard is running out of funding at a massive rate)  Is this school exclusively for children on the Autism spectrum, or would other students with disabilities that are high-functioning status be able to attend?  I would have to think the funding for a school of this sort would have to be very large given the services these children would need.  I will certainly be reaching out to Tyler Anaya to get more information.

Charter Schools Under The Microscope in Delaware…Again! @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #eduDE

Due to academic performance frameworks, special education issues, application enrollment preference controversies, and another failing charter school in Delaware, charter schools in Delaware are being looked at in a negative light in Delaware.

According to Kilroy’s Delaware, a mandatory request was put out to all Delaware charter schools to meet with the Delaware Department of Education. As per Kilroy, the United States Department of Education is not very happy with the Delaware DOE’s method of evaluating charter schools through their academic performance framework. This has played in the charter schools favor in annual performance calculations. Because charters are stand-alone districts, many of their subgroups do not count in proficiency models due to a low number in some of the subgroups. As a result, this makes the charters look better in certain circumstances.

As well, the Office of Civil Rights has been investigating Delaware charter schools for quite a long time now. All Delaware charter schools were told by the OCR to let them see applications for two years. Anyone can look at the school profiles section on the DOE website and see clearly where certain charters are either very low in special education students or minorities. These allegations have been made against the Delaware charters as well as ones around the USA for many years now.

I am hearing from many parents in Delaware how the month of September has been the worst ever at some Delaware charters for special education. Either IEP requests are flat-out being denied, or evaluations are not being done, or already-existent IEP accommodations aren’t even happening. Students are being treated as behavior issues and not as a student with disabilities. And yet the IEP task force has had two meetings and no one on the task force is even bringing this up. Everyone knows it happens, but no one wants to hold them accountable. I guess the charters are “too big to fail”. But we have yet another charter school that has done just that. Moyer’s second chance has resulted in a failure more disgusting then that of Pencader, the charter that was closed by the state last year. Moyer had one part-time special education worker in the school.

The state legislature and the DOE have made small inroads to fixing these issues, but nothing to hold them accountable for their biggest problems. And reform bills like House Bill 165 passed in 2013, has resulted in brand-new charters, open only for the 2014-2015 school year being given bonus money under a performance fund. Yes, you read that right.

Parents are slowly opening their eyes to the fact that the great charter experiment is not as grand as they thought. Schools that six months ago had no slots open or only a couple spots left in a few different grade levels, are now accepting applications for all grade levels. Brand new charters that haven’t even opened yet have gone under review for not being able to fill the minimum enrollment numbers. But the DOE and Governor Markell, in their most brilliant idea yet (please note the sarcasm here), have designated six public school district elementary schools as failing based on standardized test scores and have labeled them as “priority schools”. Everyone knows they will probably become charter schools eventually. What most don’t realize,  as  Kavips pointed out here: http://kavips.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/behind-the-choice-of-the-six/they are all within a mile of a building designed to hold multiple charter schools. Maybe this can explain the look of glee on Delaware Secretary Of Education Mark Murphy’s face during the priority schools announcement on September 4th. And there was also a Delaware state senator who could not stop smiling during this announcement. It’s all on Delawareonline. Yes, these are appropriate facial gestures when your boss is announcing what amounts to state takeovers of the schools with the most dire low-income students in the state. Unless it will benefit them somehow…

Update on Office of Civil Rights Investigation of Delaware Charter Schools #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

I called the Office of Civil Rights in Philadelphia to find out the status of https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/breaking-news-office-of-civil-rights-wants-all-delaware-charter-school-applications-for-last-2-school-years-netde-edude/ and talked to the attorney from the PDF file.  This information was first published by Kilroy a couple months ago in response to the Board minutes from Newark Charter School.  I had a very lovely chat with the attorney in regards to what the OCR does and how they handle complaints in general.  I then asked about this particular case, and she was unable to give me current information on it.  She did say it is not closed.  Not much new information, but a couple people asked me about it.  No news is…no news!

IEP Task Force: Legislation To Keep The Special In Education #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

A couple months ago I was finishing up “A Father’s Cry For His Son” on Kilroy’s Delaware. I had many potential ideas for legislation that I introduced in the epilogue. I still agree with many of those ideas. Since then, a lot has happened in the special education arena. The Feds said Delaware needs intervention, the ICT group has come into focus thanks to Elizabeth Scheinberg, another charter school is up for potential closure, and the Common Core battle is getting bigger and uglier by the day.

These were the ideas I introduced in the epilogue:

1) All IEP and 504 meetings must be digitally recorded. Of course, FERPA will protect the rights of these students, but they could be very useful if something goes wrong.

I still think this is a good idea. Not so parents can sue the pants off of any school when something goes wrong, but in case there is a disagreement or something that needs clarification, the team can go back to figure out what was said.

2) All school board meetings, for any school that receives public funding, charter, public, vocational and alternative alike, must digitally record their board meetings and have them available to the public within 7 business days. (This is already House Bill #23)

This needs to happen, and here’s why. The situation with Moyer, and what happened at Pencader. These may not have happened if there was more transparency with their boards. I went down to Legislative Hall, as promised, to drum up more support for HB23. It was a Lone Ranger mission, and nothing happened with the bill, but it did put me in a position to meet different legislators. I think the IEP Task Force should make sure this bill is reintroduced in the new legislative session next January so the public is more aware. As evidenced in the notes and the audio session of the June Delaware DOE Board meeting, what is put in writing is much less than the wealth of information that can be found on an audio recording. Charters need to stop isolating themselves and think they aren’t accountable to the public. Because they are.

3) All school districts, charter, public, vocational and alternative alike, must have psychiatric or neurological consultation available for any suspected neurologically-based condition within twenty days of a parent’s request for an IEP.

This is a must. Nothing against school psychologists, but they are not experts at neurological conditions. Most of them haven’t even been through clinical training. And yet, IEP teams continue to believe the school psychologist’s word is the gospel truth. Say it ain’t so! Psychiatrists and neurologists know much more about the vast majority of the disabilities and disorders that warrants most IEPs. They could do the IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation) at the forefront to get to the heart of a child’s problems or difficulties.

4) All school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, shall put on their own website, the number of IEPs, 504s, IEP denials, and 504 denials they have had in the past month, to be updated monthly. For public schools, this must be put on the district website, as well as the website for each individual school in the district. They shall also share annual numbers as well, for each school year AND on a 12 month rolling basis. If a student changes from a 504 to an IEP, or if a decline becomes either an IEP or a 504, the school must make a note of that with the monthly numbers.

I brought this one up to members of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, and it was quickly shot down. An excuse was given that they have a hard enough time with the schools reporting what they already do. I found this to be an example of what is so wrong with the system already. If you hold the schools to a low standard, this is what you will get. If you push them to be more accountable, and explain why, you will find they should be more willing to comply. I’ve also heard this could put any child at a labeling risk because people could figure out who the child is. This is far-fetched. If you only have one child with an IEP at any given school, sure, this could happen. But these are all excuses. This will prevent fraud and abuse, plain and simple.

5) All school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, shall be completely transparent on their website. All staff must be listed. All board minutes must be listed. All attachments must be listed with the exception of something that can only be handled in an executive session. All monthly financial information shall be listed. With that monthly financial information, you must break down the sub-groups of funding you are receiving.

I’ve read many school board minutes, and the one consistent thing I see over and over is these words “See attached”. And about 99% of the time, there is nothing to be seen. Parents want to see attached! If your staff changes, update your website. It isn’t hard. I’ve seen schools that haven’t updated their staff listing in over a year. A good number of the teachers aren’t even there anymore. I know the Charter School Office at the state DOE already requires some of these, but there is nothing to hold the schools accountable if they fail. With financial information, break down the sub-groups. Show what areas of federal funding are being dispersed to (i.e. IDEA-B, Title I, etc.). Show specific areas for teacher salaries (i.e. special education, tenured teachers, new teachers, etc.).

6) All schools must report to the DOE, on a monthly basis, how many current IEPs and 504 plans they have, as well as any IEP or 504 denials.

I’ve found out the schools are required to report to the DOE on how many current IEPs and 504 plans they have. But the denials, this needs to happen. The DOE doesn’t seem to think a denial is that important. But most of the special education lawsuits stem from denials for IEPs. If the state is okay with millions of dollars going out in private lawsuits, then sure, don’t look at the denials. But take a position of caring rather than a position of blind arrogance.

7) The DOE shall do a yearly audit of all school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, not only for already established IEPs and 504 plans, but also denied IEPs and 504 plans. The individuals doing these audits must be highly qualified special education professionals who understand IEPs and 504 plans, as well as all of the disabilities and disorders that these plans accommodate children for. If the DOE determines an IEP or 504 plan was denied for the wrong reasons, the school district must contact the parent(s) within 5 business days and explain to the parent(s) of their procedural rights as well as mail a letter to the parent(s) with the reason for the change as well as a copy of their procedural rights. The Department of Education shall publish the results of these audits within 30 calendar days of their completion.

This is the big one. I know it would be impossible to do audits of every single IEP or 504 plan. But the DOE needs to do more than what they currently do. There is a middle ground somewhere. The DOE loves to make reports, so I am sure an annual report can be generated with a lot of this audit information without compromising the identity of any particular student. If the DOE holds the threat of interference over schools, the individual schools will be more likely to get an IEP or 504 plan right the first time. I’m quite sure no school would want parents getting a call from the state DOE about something they did wrong.

8) All Delaware parents, custodians, guardians, et al, shall receive, along with their child’s teacher and supply list, prior to the start of the next school year, a pamphlet indicating what Child Find is, a full disclosure that any evaluations a parent requests must be done at public expense, what IDEA is, how it works, a listing of every disability covered by IDEA, even those covered in other-health impaired, an IEP timeline, a sample copy of an IEP, what a 504 plan is and how it differentiates from an IEP, a sample copy of a 504 plan, and parents procedural rights, whether a child has a disability or not.

I talked to Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director for the Exceptional Children Group, about this idea back in early July. She didn’t commit to anything either way. But I think it’s important for parents to be given more proactive information before they are put in a position where they have to spend countless hours trying to figure out what to do. It also shows a willingness on the schools part to have a better relationship with parents, as opposed to an adversarial one.

9) Any school district found in violation of three or more individual special education audit failures, shall be put on the newly created Special Education review, which shall have the same weight as any other criteria that would cause a school to go under formal review.

This is the one that would have to radically change. For a school that has two hundred IEPs, this could conceivably happen. But if a school has ten, that’s more of a big deal. How about we limit this one to charter schools since they have more issues with special education than public schools.

10) All school boards, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, must have a parent of a special needs child as a member of their school board.

This one is simple and easy. Most school boards tend to have 6-10 members on their board, and if 13% of kids in Delaware have special education, it’s a no-brainer. Someone needs to represent these children on each school board. A lot of them already have a parent in this category, but with this legislation it would be required. This parent would also look at special education practices in each charter school or school district.

11) No charter school may ask on an application if a child has an IEP, has special needs or any questions relating to a disability. If a child is selected to attend a charter school through a lottery or the school accepts an application prior to that, then the charter school can ask that question after a student has been accepted.

This is the core of the special education issues with charter schools in Delaware. With the exception of Positive Outcomes and Gateway, which specifically cater to these types of children, most of the other charter schools practice this type of behavior. It is discrimination, pure and simple, and it needs to be abolished.

12) All charter school lotteries must be a public event, published on the school web site 30 days in advance, with two members of the local school district board members in attendance, and all names from applications must be shown to them before they are placed in a closed area prior to the picking of names.

This goes along with #11 to prevent enrollment preference. These “lotteries” are anything but. They are never a public event, and this allows cherry-picking to the highest degree. Enough is enough.

13) All public, charter, vocational, and alternative schools shall change the number of suspensions that warrants a manifestation determination from 10 to 3. As well, if a child is removed from a classroom setting 5 times for a period of more than 30 minutes, a manifestation determination must kick in as well. For any child with an IEP or a 504 plan, a Functional Behavioral Analysis must be completed as well as a Behavior Intervention Plan or modification of an already existing Behavior Intervention Plan. Ten suspensions is too much missed instructional time and doesn’t benefit anyone.

This is another big one. If a child is suspended that much, there is obviously an issue. Schools and the DOE need to be more proactive at recognizing when something is obviously going wrong. By the time a student has been suspended ten times, most school officials and teachers probably see him or her as more of a problem child than a student that needs extra attention and support. Labeling has already happened, and I would be willing to bet administration has already written this student off. For a special needs student, this could easily lead to an ICT (Interagency Collaborative Team) placement that can be detrimental to a student and the family involved. As well, if a student is spending a good deal of time in the office, that is not helping the student or the school. It’s just ignoring what is right before them. I know many schools do this already, but disciplinary action should use positive behavior supports rather than negative. This has been proven time and time again, and many great teachers use this technique. I firmly believe all teachers should to help eliminate punitive action that is neither helpful or successful.

I do recognize I would be foolish to think these will all happen. But it would be a good idea for these to at least be looked at as part of the IEP task force. We are still waiting for a first meeting date and an announcement of who the members will be. If they are planning to have an August meeting, this needs to be announced very soon!

Googling “Delaware Charter Schools Network” “Special Education” #netde #eduDE @DelawareBATS

I found no specific articles, mentions, or actual things being said by Delaware Charter School Network about special education. This is the organization that is the cheerleader for Delaware’s charter schools. How is it even possible, with a statewide special education population rate of over 13%, that this organization can’t talk about special ed? They have been around a long time. The only mentions that come up are special ed teacher jobs that show up on their job board, and mentions about charter schools they cater to and special education issues.

This is why charter schools have been found to discriminate against students with special needs. How can you promote charter schools and virtually ignore 13% or more of the population in your state? Kendall Massett, executive director of DCSN, is always crying about how charter schools have to “do more with less”. The reason for that is because you don’t get as much funding due to not taking as many low income, minority, and special education students. Of course your funding would be less.

In June of 2012, 1000 children from charter schools around Delaware held a rally at Legislative Hall in Dover, DE. According to a Delaware Newszap article from May 11, 2012, the students were told to chant “When we work hard, we get smart,” and “Charter schools are good for me. Charter schools are always free. Charter schools are good for you. Charter schools are public too,” or “Charter schools give parents choice. Charter students, raise your voice!” To have children promoting your ideology in such a way sounds almost like brainwashing to me. How would so many young children know what school choice is?

69418

But are they good for special needs children? If they are going to Gateway or Positive Outcomes, they certainly are. But as for the rest of the charters in Delaware? I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Earlier this week, I tweeted the public information officer for the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Catherine Nessa. I asked her why the Delaware Charter Schools Network never talks about special education. We went back and forth on other topics, but she ignored that question entirely. I wonder why…

Horrible Special Education & Discrimination in Charter Schools isn’t just a Delaware thing, USA Snapshot #netde #eduDE @delaware_gov

Delaware charters have become well known for being very bad at accommodating children with special needs.  It’s not all of them, but the bulk of them have a very hard time giving children what is required by federal law.  Recently, Kendall Massett, the executive director for the Delaware Charter School Network, wrote an article on a Delaware blog asking parents to tell why charters are so great.  To get the word out about why parents should choice their children to charters.  She also talked about how her organization wants to get more charters in Delaware’s other two counties, Kent and Sussex.  No thank you, Kendall.  We have more than enough.  Until your “great” charters fully follow the law, I don’t want to hear about MORE charters in Delaware.

To be fair though, I decided to see if this is just a Delaware issue.  It’s not.  It’s all over the country.  New York, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and more.  I went through different search sites, and found an overwhelming amount of links.  All I put in was “charter schools not accommodating special needs”, and they appeared.  I’m going to put several links up, and I encourage every special needs parent and non-special needs parent around the country to pass the word around about America’s charter schools!

Included in these articles are special education issues, as well as numerous other tactics and illegal activities America’s charter schools have accomplished in their 18 year existence.  Well done charters!

Massachusetts: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/07/13/charter-school-battle-erodes-middle-ground/ehBkNEg8rtplHN1Gta18CK/comments.html?p1=ArticleTab_Comments_ Continue reading

Special Education Statistics Part II: Red Clay and Charters Vs Publics #netde #edude @ed_in_de @KilroysDelaware @destateboarded @dedeptofed

So after I did my grades on all the schools for the percentage of the student populations that are special needs, I noticed some alarming trends, especially in Newcastle County in Delaware.  This county has the bulk of the charter schools in this state, and some of the lowest special education populations in the state.

Red Clay Consolidated School District is a very unique school district in this state.  Included in the district are the charter schools that reside within.  Of course, I have to start with my most talked-about charter school, the good old Charter School of Wilmington.  With their underwhelming .6% special ed population.  I know, it’s a “smart” school, with an application process that probably makes Yale or Harvard look easy.  But, many special needs students are smart, some are brilliant.  They just need to be fully accommodated to reach that potential.  I don’t think CSW wants to give that kind of attention to itself.  Or to special needs students.  So what would happen if CSW all of a sudden came to their senses and started accepting a lot more special needs students.  Does that mean other schools would actually drop in special ed?  Schools like A.I. Dupont High School (17.1%), Dickinson (17.5%) or McKean (20.2%)?  We can’t put that much weight on CSW.  So let’s take a look at the other charter schools in the area.  Delaware Military Academy has a 2.8% population for special ed and Delaware College Prep lands at 4.1%.  Delaware College Prep is an elementary school, so we can’t compare that to other high schools.  But to be fair, let’s include Conrad School Of Science (2.9%) and Calloway School of the Arts (2.5%).  These are all the high schools in Red Clay Consolidated.  So what conclusions can be drawn from this?  The bulk of special needs children are served at the public high schools.  There are no charter elementary schools in Red Clay Consolidated.  Why is that?  Would it be too difficult to filter the “good” and the “potential trouble spot” students?  Let’s not forget, the state average is 13.5%.  So the public schools get the majority of the special ed students, thus bearing more of the financial cost through needs based funding.

To accurately see this reality, we would need to look at each school’s federal funding.  Unfortunately none of the schools give a breakdown between the subgroups that fall under federal funding.  The IDEA-B funding that schools receives are what covers special education in schools.  If anyone can provide this information, I would love to see it.

All federal funding for any type of public school in Delaware falls under Title I (for students listed as poverty) and IDEA-B (all special education funds).  Any school district should separate the two in their financial statements.  Charter School of Wilmington does not.  So it is impossible to find out how much they get for IDEA-B funding based on their total actual revenue from federal funding of $83,412.  The same can be said of Delaware Military Academy.  No breakdown on their federal funds, but they did receive a total of $156,301.96, almost twice as much as CSW.  Red Clay does not give an exact breakdown of their federal IDEA-B funding either, but they do give a breakdown of the special education units that falls under needs based funding, so I would have to calculate what that amount comes to.  I will do that and then I will  update this article.  Or again, if anyone wants to provide that information I would be happy to accept it!

The bottom line is a huge enrollment preference that is disproportionately unfair to Red Clay’s public schools. School choice allows parents to switch their children to different schools.  But when the charter schools ask for IEP/Special Education info on the applications, some parents may view this as a positive when the reality is a game.  The charter schools frequently use this information to weed out the undesirables.  So much so that a bill was introduced today by House Rep Darryl Scott to prevent this very sort of event from happening.