State Board of Education Overturns Smyrna Expulsion

In another Smyrna School District expulsion case, not related to that of Student J, the Delaware State Board of Education overturned that decision.  The family filed an appeal earlier this Spring.  The Hearing Officer recommended the State Board overturn the decision.  They did so at their July 27th meeting last Thursday.

It is my most fervent hope that between this and Student J’s case, the district will take a very close look at their expulsion policies which are among the highest percentage in Delaware for school districts.  I am not against expulsion if the violation is egregious.  But any expulsion is a very serious thing and should not be taken lightly.

This issue is on my radar and it does not just apply to traditional school districts.  I find “counseling out”, where some charter schools have “talked” a parent out of keeping their child in their school to be just as unfair as an unnecessary expulsion.  I will be keeping a very close eye on these kind of situations in the upcoming school year.  If any parent feels an expulsion was unjust, I encourage them to contact me.  As J’s mother quickly became aware, I will quickly intervene and attempt to help.

To read the full story of Student J in Smyrna, click here.

What Is Wrong With So Many Delaware Charter Schools?

I’ve been racking my brain on this for a long time now.  If it isn’t financial abuse, it’s bad enrollment preferences.  If it isn’t the DOE praising certain charter schools, it is a lack of due process.

I think what it comes down to is arrogance.  We see that in traditional school districts as well, but what makes it so pronounced with the charters?  Charters are smaller.  When they make noise, everyone hears it or points it out.  Nothing gets some Delawareans pissed off more than seeing some charters blatantly flaunting their admissions process.  For others, it is the amount of money being wasted by school leaders and not making it to the classroom.  But when a charter has issues, hearing or seeing the leaders defend problems that are so inherently wrong makes them look rather foolish.

Just about every charter school in Delaware, since I started this blog, had one of the above issues I mentioned since I started this blog back in June of 2014.  Three charters have shut down, with another going down at the end of this year.  When things go down at a charter, we often see the bulk of the parents defending the school as if they can do no wrong.  Is it that they are blind to the facts or is the option of sending their child to a traditional school district so frightening for parents they are willing to overlook these infractions?

There are the true horror stories like Delaware Met and possibly Delaware Design-Lab High School.  Brand new charters that don’t seem to have a clue how to run a school.  And as we’ve seen time and time again, the DOE, with rare exceptions, doesn’t do anything until after that Wednesday in January when the choice window closes.  We find out what they knew all this time, and the DOE gets away with it every single time.

What are we teaching our children?  That it’s okay to send the more fortunate and the more knowledgeable to the “better” schools?  That it doesn’t matter if you go to a school that is 98% African-American?  That if you are “counseled out” of a charter it’s okay to be out of the system for over a month?  Behind all of this is the shadow of standardized test scores.  For all Delaware schools, including charters, this is the measurement over which the DOE’s judgment is severe.  Many think the DOE is too charter friendly, but when there are issues, the DOE comes down on them like white on rice.  Which is good, but had the DOE acted sooner in many of these situations things wouldn’t get as bad.

There are no easy answers or solutions to these issues.  What we need is a culture change when it comes to charters.  In the meantime, the war, yes, the war, continues.  It bubbles over into every aspect of education in our state in one form or another.

Statewide Review Of Education Opportunities Highlights Charter School Cherry-Picking & Creaming

cherrypicking

Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools.  This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right.  When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities.  All of this is based in 2014-2015 data.  This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.

Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test.  It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.

The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  The result: complete chaos in Delaware.  While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County.  If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports.  They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick.  They cream from the top applicants.  And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique.  To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.

The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware.  This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state.  It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools.  Do not be fooled by this illusion.  Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores.  I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters.  This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state.  This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools.   Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom.  All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation.  While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.

This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned.  We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities.  We have other charters with very high populations of the two.  We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel.  We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it.  We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces.  We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this.  We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace.  This is Delaware education.

Can Restorative Justice Change Our Schools?

Drew Serres, a member of the Coalition for Fairness & Equity in School, wrote an excellent letter to the editor in the News Journal today about Restorative Justice and suspensions in Delaware Schools.

Since its passage, House Bill 85 has been adversely affecting all students; but it has had a disproportionate effect on students of color and those with disabilities. For instance, African-American and Latino students are suspended three-to-four times more than their white peers, even when they represent a substantially low enrollment rate overall.

This legislation goes back to 1993.  Which is about the time when all of the zero tolerance practices came into play.  Personally, I think some schools cherry-pick students when it comes to discipline and suspensions.  Discrimination rears its ugly head in strange ways in Delaware.

I am lucky. The school policies when I was growing up allowed me to learn from my mistakes. I think all children deserve that opportunity as well.

There are certain offenses that should cause suspensions, in my opinion, especially fighting.  But what do we do when someone is just defending their self when someone attacks them.  If no adult can stop it in time, should another student allow himself to be pummeled?  In today’s world, that student would be suspended as well.  I have been told by a school administrator that if a student puts his hands over his face, that is sufficient.  Really?  That makes the difference?  I don’t condone fighting, but if students have to protect themselves than they should be allowed to do it.  My issue is adults not intervening in time.  I know, fights can happen in an instant, and I don’t blame teachers or school staff for actual fighting.  But I do think they can keep a more watchful eye on students to begin with, especially during transition times, recess, or lunch.

Restorative justice is a model of discipline based on appropriate consequences for a student’s poor behavior and reconciliation of the student and the school system. It is a process where offenders, instead of just being punished, have the opportunity to restore the harm done to the community. It is actually a lot more work for the offender, but instead of feeling ostracized and criminalized they are given the opportunity to restore their inner sense of worth and to get on a path where they learn how to contribute.

My biggest question out of this is how this is dealt with when a student with disabilities has “poor behavior” and doesn’t understand their bad behavior because it is a result of a neurological disability.  All too often, students with disabilities are ostracized in schools because they don’t understand.  Can inclusion truly work in this type of environment or are we putting these kids through the wringer?  I’m all for change because the way it is now just isn’t working.

In the Christina School District, they were mandated by the Office of Civil Rights to reduce the amount of suspensions because African-Americans were being disproportionately suspended.  As a result, they went from zero tolerance to what they have now.  They still have the issues going on they had before the OCR complaint.  However, I have been told by many teachers in Christina they are told not to report infractions because of the OCR mandates.  That just makes the situation worse, but the district is beholden to Federal law in this situation.  As a result, parents who see this do not want to have their child attend Christina schools and they choice them out to charter schools.  As a result, Christina loses a lot of local funding.  This double-edged sword doesn’t work, so we need to do something.

With all the pressure put on teachers on a district, state, and federal level and the demands on their time, do they actually have the time to establish restorative justice techniques between test prep, evaluations, instruction, professional development and test prep?  I heard many teachers had a hard enough time submitting grades into the state E-School system last weekend, on their days off, because the DOE decided that would be a good time to do an upgrade on the system.  Furthermore, if administrators aren’t willing to practice what they preach, will these children be able to separate authority from adults with bad behavior?  If administrators come down on students with an iron fist but at the same time try these techniques on them, it sends a very mixed message that can be very confusing to a student, especially the younger ones.  This obviously depends on the type of behavior exhibited by the student, but this is a very fine line.

What this doesn’t take into account is home life.  If a child’s parents just don’t care enough to practice restorative justice in the home, will a student be able to carry this into school?  Take Christina for example.  As a result of school choice, the “better” students have left.  This leaves the schools with all the perceived “troublemakers”.  If a “troublemaker” choices out, chances are they will be back if the charter counsels them out or expels them.  This leaves a disproportionate number of “troublemakers” in schools.  I can’t stand when these students are referred to as animals.  I truly can’t.  Yes, they have bad behavior and they make bad choices, but to refer to them as barbaric or animalistic demeans them as a human being.

These are tough questions, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers.  But we need to find those answers fast as more lives are lost to the justice system.

Students With Disabilities & Delaware Charter Schools: OCR Complaint & We Need Your Help!

Last week, I filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights against the Delaware Department of Education for allowing a culture of discrimination against students with disabilities at Delaware charter schools.  All too often, children with disabilities are either denied an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or they are “counseled out”, meaning the school either expels the students or very strongly suggests to the parent they don’t have the resources to help their child.  Both are illegal under Federal and Delaware law.  To this extent, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has responded to my complaint and they need a lot more information.

I need every single parent or guardian who has run across any of the below issues to contact me as soon as possible.  The OCR has given me a very small window of opportunity here.  For some parents, they may be worried if this interferes with any type of legal resolution they had with a school in the past.  It would not.  This is a complaint against the Delaware Department of Education, not any individual school.  I will not make any of this information public, but it would be included in the complaint.  We need to stop this culture of lawlessness in our state in respect to special education.  It must stop.

While the below information states anything prior to 180 days would need a waiver, I fully intend to request this waiver since this has been an ongoing system issue in our state.  The Delaware Department of Education has no method by which they track IEP denials in Delaware schools.  If things progress too far, it can wind up going into mediation or a due process hearing.  But this is not an easy task for parents and it takes up a great deal of time, money, and resources.  We need to stop this problem from happening in the first place.  While far too many parents can’t change what happened to their own child, we can stop this from happening to other children.  I need your story!

If you have any information in regards to the following, including the funding issues when a student leaves a charter school, please reach out to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com.  If you are just reading this article and it does not apply to you, please share this link on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media.  If you know anyone this may apply to, please share this with them specifically.  Thank you!

Below is the letter I received from the Office of Civil Rights in regards to my complaint:


Dear Mr. Ohlandt,
This refers to the complaint you filed with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE).  OCR enforces regulations that prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color, disability, sex and age.  The regulations enforced by OCR also prohibit retaliation against individuals who assert or defend a right or privilege secured by the laws OCR enforces, or participate in an OCR proceeding.
In order to proceed further with your complaint, we need additional information regarding your allegation[s].  Please respond to the questions below as specifically as possible. In responding to questions about your belief that an action by the recipient is discriminatory, please provide information indicating that the action was inconsistent with a recipient policy or practice (be as specific as possible), you were treated differently than others in a similar situation, and/or that members of the recipient staff made statements that would indicate dislike/hostility on the basis of disability.
 
  1. Based on your review of your complaint, it appears that you are alleging that the DDOE is discriminating on the basis of disability by:
  1. Permitting Delaware charter schools to deny students with disabilities an individualized education program (IEP);
  2. Permitting Delaware charter schools deny or discourage the enrollment of students with disabilities; and
  3. Permitting Delaware charter schools to maintain funding for students who leave the charter school after the September 30th count, but requiring the funding to follow a student who leaves a traditional school district to attend a Delaware charter school.
  1. Do the allegations listed above in #1.a.-c. fully and completely capture the allegation(s) that you wish to raise at this time?  Yes or No (please circle or highlight your answer).  If not, please edit the above allegations accordingly and/or list your additional allegations.   Please provide the following information about each additional allegation:
  1. Describe the discrimination (who, what, when (date), where, how, please list the applicable names and dates);
  2. State the basis for the discrimination (e.g., disability); and
  3. State your reasons for believing that the discrimination is related to that basis (es).
  1. With regard to allegation #1.a., provide the following information for each student was denied an IEP:
  1. Name of student;
  2. Name of charter school;
  3. Date of parent request to charter school to evaluate the Student for an IEP or Section 504 plan;
  4. Date of charter school’s denial of request;
  5. If request was denied, indicate whether parent was provided with notice of procedural safeguards;
  6. If the denial occurred as a result of an evaluation meeting and you believe the meeting did not comport with the regulations enforced by OCR, please provide information indicating that the meeting was not attended by persons knowledgeable about the child, the evaluation data, and the placement options, or that the parent was not provided with notice of procedural safeguards.
  1. With regard to allegation #1.b., provide the following information about each instance when a charter school denied or discouraged the enrollment of students with disabilities:
  1. Name of student;
  2. Name of charter school;
  3. A description of the discriminatory conduct by charter school officials, including the date;
  4. The names or titles of the charter school officials engaging in the discriminatory conduct; and
  5. Most recent date of charter school’s denial of enrollment or student withdrawal.
 
  1. With regard to allegation #1.c., please state your reasons for believing that this practice constitutes discrimination against students with disabilities, identify any harmed students with disabilities, and the date of the harm.
 
  1. In your complaint, you identified September 1, 2015, as the most recent date of discrimination.  If not already explained in responses to the questions above, please provide the information requested under #2.
 
  1. OCR will generally only investigate allegations of discrimination that have been filed within 180 days of the most recent act of discrimination unless the complainant is granted a waiver.  You filed your complaint on September 16, 2015; therefore, any incidents occurring prior to March 20, 2015, are untimely.  To the extent that you are requesting a waiver of the 180-day filing requirement, please state the reason(s) for not filing sooner.
 
We need to receive your response within 20 calendar days from the date of this email (i.e., by October 14, 2015). If we do not receive this information within 20 days, we may close your complaint.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  Thank you.
 
Joseph P. Mahoney
Program Manager
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
100 Penn Square East
The Wanamaker Building, Suite 515
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Delaware Charter War Part 1: The Birth of Charter School of Wilmington, Counseling Out & Cherry-Picking of Delaware Students

CSWApplication1996

Charter schools.  Two words that bring up a great deal of conversation in Delaware.  For some they have become the savior of public education.  For others they find that they continue segregation in Delaware, are not accountable in the way traditional schools are, and they are the root cause of the corporate education reform movement that has swept across America over the past decade.  In the 1990s, charter schools were created in Minnesota and California.  By 1995, Delaware wanted to take a stab at it.

In 1995, six companies wanted to sponsor a new type of school in Delaware, a charter school: AstraZenaca (then called Zenaca Inc.), Christiana Care Health (then called Medical Center of Delaware), Delmarva Power, DuPont, Hercules Incorporated and Verizon (then called Bell Atlantic). They infused a $600,000 commitment into the school launch. Red Clay Consolidated School District President of the Board William Manning, and St. Marks Principal Ron Russo, were sold on the idea. Originally, they wanted to house the Charter School of Wilmington at The Pines in Pike Creek, a northern suburb of Wilmington, but local residents rejected this idea.  Why not turn Wilmington High School into a charter school? They wanted to offer parents different choices for education that did not involve parents shelling out tons of hard-earned money for private schools.  The school already housed two magnet schools at the time: Cab Calloway School of the Arts and the Academy of Math & Science. The plan was to have Charter School of Wilmington replace the Academy. But first the concept of charter schools in Delaware had to become part of state code.

Enter Senator David Sokola, who sponsored Senate Bill 200. At the time there was no Rodel Foundation, Delaware Charter Schools Network, Innovative Schools, or any charter organization in the state. There were no high-stakes standardized tests at this point. Governor Carper was getting a lot of pressure to change education in Delaware. Reform efforts already began which put Delaware in the spotlight for the first time in a long time.

To get to the story of how CSW began, we have to look even further back at the landmark decision made in 1978.  If folks think four school districts is too much for Wilmington, back then there were eleven! After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which demanded the dismantling of “black” school districts, Wilmington schools were desegregated based on a court ruling called Evans v. Buchanan in 1956. The schools integrated and by 1967 there were no more black school districts in Delaware.

The demographics of Wilmington changed drastically since Brown v. Board of Education. In seventeen years, Wilmington went from 73% white in 1954 to 79% black by 1971.  Dubbed the “white flight”, Wilmington changed dramatically in less than two decades.

The concept of desegregating schools in Delaware was not native to Wilmington.  According to Gene Capers, a retired principal from Towne Point Elementary School in Dover, William Henry Middle School housed the “black” students of Dover, while Central Middle School had all the “white” students.  In the late 1960s, the district changed the dynamics of the two schools and integrated all students in 5th-6th in William Henry and 7th-8th in Central Middle School, which continues to this very day.

In 1969, the General Assembly approved the Educational Advancement Act of 1968, trimming down the number of school districts in the state from 49 to 26. Wilmington wasn’t a part of this legislation, and in effect, Wilmington became re-segregated. In the 1970s, many schools began re-segregating students. The State Board of Education came up with the very controversial “busing plan”. Schools were forced to accept every type of student and the result was a dramatic shift in the makeup of many schools in the area. Schools were closed, students were resassigned, and parents became very angry. The entire public school district system changed, and parents wanted to do away with the busing requirements. The anger from this gave birth to the creation of charter schools in Delaware.

Senate Bill 200 passed in the General Assembly in 1995 creating charter schools in Delaware.  The bill was introduced on June 1st, 1995, and signed by Governor Carper on July 10th of the same year.  To read the whole Senate discussion on Senate Bill 200, please read the below in its entirety.  Senator Sharp predicted much of what came to pass.

By 1996, Charter School of Wilmington was approved by the Red Clay Consolidated School District. In their application, it stated Delaware required 19 credits for students to graduate, Red Clay required 20 credits, but CSW required 24, and said “We regard these requirements as only a minimum education program.” What was even more frightening though was the part about special education, to which the Red Clay Accountability Committee wrote:

“As the Charter School of Wilmington accepts students, it should be cognizant of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), a federal law which mandates a free and appropriate education (FAPE) for students with disabilities. The charter school plans to seek a waiver from the State of Delaware related to the special education provision…The value of diversity which appears in the school’s mission statement must be made concrete through the provisions of this aspect of the Charter School’s operations. Specification of admission requirements was requested of the Charter Committee and a copy of the application was provided and is attached as Appendix B. It is clear from this application that the proposed charter has met the requirements of the law which stipulate that the charter may not restrict student admissions.”

In fact, CSW may have given birth to the phrase “counseling out” with charter schools, as written in their response to the Red Clay Accountability Committee:

“Students who cannot or will not meet success criteria will be counseled to transfer to other schools. It would be appropriate for students to enroll in the CHARTER SCHOOL at times other than the beginning of the school year. This presumes a minimum of disruption to the student’s schooling. Ideally, any transfers out would be balanced by the arrival of new students. Consideration should be given to having the balance of the student’s funding follow the student to the receiving school.”

The issue of charter school funding is an issue that still haunts traditional school districts to this very day.  State Rep. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 28 this legislative session to address this issue, but the bill wasn’t even heard in the House Education Committee.

While the “specific interest” of CSW wasn’t talked about in the response, it became very clear that the assessment given to students prior to admission was a requirement for the school, but this wasn’t listed in the response to Red Clay.

“In the case of oversubscription, the CHARTER SCHOOL will use the preferences permitted by the CHARTER LEGISLATION; i.e., siblings, Red Clay Consolidated School District students residing in a five-mile radius of the school. Diversity will be achieved by attracting a diverse pool of student applicants.”

The reality is, once the school got to a position of needing a lottery for students to enter, the opposite occurred.  Instead of achieving diversity, the school in the City of Wilmington became the mirror opposite of the population of Wilmington.  When the seventh type posted the original Senate document, some very interesting conversations took place on Delaware Liberal with both sides of the issue planting their flags in the ground over the topics of race and the predictions of Delaware Senators and eventual segregation in Wilmington schools.

For the first few years, CSW accepted applications from anyone who applied. But the first charter of the state was already on the way to becoming the school it is now in terms of demographics. Imagine the old Wilmington High School all of a sudden housing three different schools. On the first floor was Cab Calloway, Wilmington High School on the second, and CSW on the third. Ron Russo, the head of school at CSW, was adamant about keeping the CSW students separate from the Wilmington High students. In 1997, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer by reporter Connie Langland talked about this new choice option open to Delaware students. Manning was quoted as saying “The nice thing about choice is that it tells you right away what people think of your schools…and what schools require change.”

Langland wrote in the article:

“Another concern is whether the plan will have an adverse impact on long-standing efforts to desegregate Wilmington-area schools. School districts in the Wilmington area have relied on busing to achieve racial balance, but with choice families can avoid an unwanted assignment.”

By 1999, Wilmington High School was no more, and the former home of the Red Devils was now the birthplace of the Delaware charter school and a magnet school.

In the book: Congressional Record Vol. 146-Part 2: Proceedings and Debates of the 106th Congress Second Session from March of 2000, Bill Manning was described in a section on school construction funding that he testified at:

“An attorney by trade, Mr. Manning has been among Delaware’s leaders in proposing and implementing a variety of educational reforms: public school choice, charter school legislation, and rigorous academic standards statewide. Red Clay is currently the only district in Delaware to have reached an agreement with its teachers association pursuant to which Red Clay teachers will be evaluated based on student performance.”

During the testimony, Manning said:

“I believe, as do many of you, that charter schools are already improving the educational landscape by offering variety, quality and single-school focus to those who previously had to pay to get those things. That’s the good news. The bad news is that charter schools are still regarded by the educational establishment in some quarters as the enemy. Thus, the organization that owns our school buildings is sometimes stingy with them when it comes to housing charter schools. Nor do the funding formulae in many state charter school bills provide adequate capital- as opposed to operating- assistance to charter schools. Please don’t overlook them.”

To date, Charter School of Wilmington is the only charter school in Delaware that started (and continues to do so) in a building that also housed a regular traditional school district school. While charters share space in the Community Education Building in Wilmington, no other charter has been able to replicate the success of what CSW did in terms of literally taking the best and brightest out of their own building and sending the others to feeder schools.

As the sun set on the previous century, more charter schools were approved by the Delaware Department of Education and opened up across Delaware: Campus Community School and Positive Outcomes in Kent County, EastSide Charter School and Thomas Edison in Wilmington, and Sussex Academy. One charter, called the Richard Milburn Academy, closed down in 2000 due to poor academic performance and the inability of board members to function as a cohesive unit.  Other charters applied for authorization, and were approved, but never opened.

The idea of charter schools was blossoming from an idea to a new landscape for education in Delaware. The forced busing issue combined with school choice was setting up the battle for the ages, but something happened in 2000 that changed everything for all Wilmington schools.

To be continued…

*Special thanks to the amazing narrative of Antonio Prado and Andrea Miller in http://www.clintdantinne.com/mphs/losthighschools.pdf which provided a great deal of the historical backdrop in this article.  As well, to Mike O from the seventh type who provided a wealth of knowledge in his publishing of the Senate discussion of Senate Bill 200.  I would also be remiss in forgetting the Delaware Department of Education who provided the link to the Charter School of Wilmington’s original application to the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

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

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

Traditional School Districts

Appoquinimink: Needs Assistance

Brandywine: Needs Intervention

Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention

Cape Henlopen: Meets Requirements

Christina: Needs Intervention

Colonial: Needs Assistance

Delmar: Needs Intervention

Indian River: Meets Requirements

Lake Forest: Needs Assistance

Laurel: Needs Intervention

Milford: Meets Requirements

Red Clay Consolidated: Needs Intervention

Seaford: Needs Intervention

Smyrna: Needs Assistance

Woodbridge: Needs Intervention

Vocational Districts

New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements

Polytech: Needs Assistance

Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements

Charter Schools

Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance

Campus Community: Needs Assistance

Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security: Meets Requirements

DE College Prep: Meets Requirements

DE Military Academy: Meets Requirements

East Side Charter: Needs Intervention

Family Foundations Academy: Meets Requirements

Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention

Kuumba Academy: Needs Assistance

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy: Needs Assistance

MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance

*Moyer: Needs Intervention

Newark Charter School: Meets Requirements

Odyssey Charter School: Meets Requirements

Positive Outcomes: Needs Intervention

Prestige Academy: Needs Intervention

Providence Creek Academy: Needs Assistance

*Reach Academy for Girls: Needs Assistance

Sussex Academy: Meets Requirements

Thomas Edison Charter: Needs Assistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/

Correct The Blogger Challenge: “EastSide Charter’s Proficiency Gains Have Nothing To Do With Attrition”

In the first “Correct The Blogger Challenge” email I received, an anonymous individual under the pseudonym “Education Opinions” wrote to me about my article on EastSide Charter School from last week.  They wrote:

This is in response to your  3/10 post “The Recipe Behind the ‘Pixie Dust’ at Eastside Charter: Very High Attrition Rates, Part 1.” I want to start by saying that I don’t work at Eastside, I’m not on their board, I don’t have any kids at the school, I don’t work for the DOE, and I am not related to anyone who meets any of those qualifications either. I am just a community member concerned about the way data (for both traditional and charter schools) is sometimes utilized to make points that might not be completely accurate.

In your post, you state,
Governor Jack Markell gave the keynote speech, and left immediately afterwards for another engagement.  He spoke about Eastside Charter School’s great job with closing proficiency gaps, and stated “they have gone from only having 15% of their 5th graders scoring proficient in reading to 66% in just three years.”  If only this were true…”. You then go on to post the number of students in each K-6 grade from the year 2009 until the current year, citing high attrition as a reason why this proficiency statistic can’t be true. 
Continue reading

DE Community Legal Aid Disabilities Law Program Needs Public Input NOW!!!!

The Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that the State of Delaware permits the charter schools to engage in practices that reduce the number of students with disabilities, students of color and students whose first language is not English who attend the schools.  They are looking for individuals to add to their complaint this month.  They are looking for students of color or students with disabilities who were denied entry to a charter school or did not apply to a specific charter school because of what they had heard about the school, and for families who did not apply to high performing charter schools because they did not know they were public schools.   They are also looking for students who have been pushed out of charters because of their disability needs.

If you or your friends have had these experiences, please contact Marissa Band,  (302) 575-0600, ext. 228, or Richard Morse, (302) 654-5326, ext. 103, for possible inclusion in the complaint.

 

Message From The DE ACLU In Wake Of Wilmington City Council Vote To Ban New Charter Schools

The Delaware American Civil Liberties Union has put out a message to all citizens of Delaware following the vote by the Wilmington City Council to ban all new charter schools in the City of Wilmington last Thursday night.  Nancy Willing, of Delaware Way, has written the following:

Any parent in the state of Delaware who has experienced problems getting their child into a charter school or keeping a child in a charter school should contact the ACLU of Delaware! http://www.aclu-de.org/. The ACLU’s resegregation lawsuit is focusing on the actionable classes of either special needs or minority children but I would think they’d be interested in the testimony of any parent whose child was denied admission to a public charter school.

Sad to say, I know far too many people who should probably check this out if they haven’t already…

An Inside Look At The Mindset of The Delaware Charter Schools Network @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @Roof_O @DelawareBats @BadassTeachersA @Avi_WA @TNJ_malbright #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

I’m sure it will come as no secret that I don’t have a lot of love for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  I think they have entirely way too much influence on education in Delaware.  Roughly 10% of Delaware students attend charter schools.  In the grand scheme of things, that is not a huge number.  The vast majority of charter school students are in Newcastle County, as they have the largest number of charters.

So why is it that these schools, representing not even a quarter of the population of students in Delaware, cause such controversy?  It could be the propaganda behind them.  The Charter School Law in Delaware was created in 1995.  The original law’s intent is vastly different than the charter school landscape we see nearly 20 years later.  What caused the ground to shift?  One word: Rodel.  When Paul Herdman took the reigns as executive director of Rodel in 2004, the charters were well-positioned in Delaware, and they were growing in popularity.  When Herdman and his group of “education pioneers” started exerting their influence on Delaware education, No Child Left Behind was in full swing.  Herdman’s blueprint almost disappeared, but he wisely backed Jack Markell in his candidacy for Governor of Delaware.  Their blueprint is almost identical to what has come since: Common Core, standardized tests, teacher effectiveness, more charter schools, priority schools, etc.  Many students have attended charter schools to escape problems in public schools: large classroom sizes, bullying, and sad to say, to be with their own race.

While the race issue is not seen so much in Kent County with it’s five charter schools, it is much more predominant in Newcastle County.  So much so that the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and Community Legal Aid, Inc. have filed a complaint with the Federal Office of Civil Rights, targeting the State of Delaware and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  The accusing parties feel the state and Red Clay have allowed segregation to reappear in Delaware schools.

As a response, the executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Kendall Massett, publicly stated the allegations against Delaware charter schools was a myth.  Unfortunately, this “myth” has played out in many states across our country. I am a proud supporter of public education in Delaware, and I firmly believe if the public school districts were given more adequate funding, they would be looked at very differently by citizens of our state.  The problem with charter schools is their non-transparency.  Family Foundations Academy, and their current allegations of financial embezzlement, spotlight this very fact.  How do we truly know the data provided by the charter schools is even accurate?

The way charters are presented in the media, they can do no wrong.  There is a very good reason for that.  The Delaware Business Roundtable pays for the bulk of the advertising in our major media outlets, such as the News Journal.  The Business Roundtable is a consortium of the largest businesses in Delaware and they are also some of the largest supporters of charter schools in Delaware.   I sent quite a few hints to the Delaware News Journal to pick up on the story of Family Foundations Academy.  They reported nothing until the Delaware Department of Education announced there was a 200 page audit of the schools finances which caused a delay in the decision on their charter renewal.

Twenty years ago, any newspaper with a shred of decency would have jumped on a story like that and found out more facts than Kilroy’s Delaware and Exceptional Delaware did.  But this is the reality we live in.  Recently, Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews and Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy both had letters to the editor in the Delaware News Journal about the priority schools in Wilmington.  A type of Facebook rivalry developed between the competing contributors, and Matthews was clearly in the lead with Facebook shares.  By early afternoon that Sunday, all the Facebook comments and number of shared posts had been deleted on Facebook.  Many of the opponents of corporate education reform have reported similar events occurring with the News Journal.

When you have a media bias going on, a large conglomerate of businesses supporting an ideal, and a system within the Department of Education and State Government stacking the deck for the charter schools there will be casualties.  That is the public school district system in Delaware.

Nowhere is this more pronounced than the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  I view them as one of the largest enemies of public school district education in Delaware.  To truly understand any enemy, you have to understand them.  My son went to a charter school in Delaware, and he had a horrible experience there.  As a child who attended a charter school from 1st to the beginning of 4th grade, these were his key years.  The foundations of his education happened during these years.  Unfortunately, that foundation was made of glass and shattered.  While this could be seen as a bias of my own, I am not alone in feeling this way.  Hundreds of parents have gone through these types of problems at Delaware charter schools.

I recently started looking at what the Delaware Charter Schools Network puts out there.  Aside from their “point of view” editorials in the News Journal, I went to their website.  I began to more clearly understand what they tell parents to make them believe charters are better for students than regular public schools.  One of my favorite blogs in Delaware, Transparent Christina, sometimes goes through editorials or articles and they will do what is called a “red pen” edition where they comment throughout.  I will gladly copy that tactic (and I’m sure John won’t mind) with what I found in the Delaware Charter Schools Network November online newsletter:

Thankful for Our Schools
By: Kendra Giardiniere, DCSN Program Manager

004-giard-ryan.jpgA few weeks ago I was out to dinner with a group of friends who also happen to be educators at schools in Wilmington. We were talking about the new priority schools plan that the Department of Education has put into action for 6 district schools in Downtown Wilmington. You can read up on this plan HERE, but the main idea is that the State has set aside extra money to improve academic outcomes at these schools.

Which is essentially next to nothing with this amount of money per individual student.  Most of these funds would go towards new school “leaders” (aka transplants from charter schools chains and TFA and TNTP organizations) and “planners” (more of the same).

To obtain the funds, the school has to create a plan to improve student academics, based on a rubric created by the Department of Education.

To obtain the funds, the schools have to resort to what can only be seen as bullying by Governor Markell, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Penny Schwinn.

They have to submit the plan by Jan. 1, and if it is approved, they will get the money.

If their plan strays too much from the DOE’s original MOU, Markell will take the schools anyways which is what he wanted all along, to personally insult the educators in these schools.  The timeline has been extended into January, but I’m sure the DOE has planned for this all along as well, so they can paint the school districts in a more negative light in the media after the holidays.

If it is not approved, the school will be given the option of closing or flipping to a high-performing charter school.

The school doesn’t have that option, that rests solely in the hands of Governor Jack Markell, under executive order, with more loopholes in state code and regulation than any normal citizen can barely understand.

We were talking through this charter school piece when one of my tablemates said “But what I don’t understand is how turning a school into a charter will help. Won’t the charter school just kick out all the bad kids? Then where will they go?” Ouch. That comment stung.

It stung because it’s true.  This is no myth, this is reality, played out time and time again in many Delaware charter schools.  Especially to children with disabilities who are denied accommodations they are federally entitled too based on IDEA law.  If these students have “behavior” problems, the schools can’t wait to either counsel them out or expel them.

But that’s the perception isn’t it? People believe that the reason charter schools are successful is because they take the “best kids” from the district schools and kick out children with behavioral disorders and disabilities.

Perception and reality are two different things.  If a charter schools success is measured by standardized test scores, they don’t fare all that much better than the public school districts.  Those that have similar test scores to the “priority” schools and other “partnership zone” schools, are sent to the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE and given warnings or a death sentence.  But that’s okay, because for every charter school the DOE closes there are probably five more waiting in the wings.

If you know me, you know that prior to being the Program Manager at DCSN, I was a kindergarten teacher at Kuumba Academy in Wilmington. I also spent the last year tutoring two Kuumba 4th graders. One of my tutoring students was new at Kuumba — he came from a district school in Wilmington. Alton* was at least two grades behind in reading. He told me that he was behind because at his old school he was a “bad kid”– he spent a lot of time in the dean’s office or at home after having been suspended.

Which school was this?  If you changed the name of the student, you can name the school.  How do we even know this story is even true?

His teacher at Kuumba was a friend of mine, and hearing about his track record made us worried for this child’s progress. But week after week Alton came to class and tutoring, and week after week he had perfect behavior. He was far behind the rest of the students in the class, but that didn’t seem to bother him. He was engaged. He asked good questions. He did his homework and his classwork. He did the extra credit. The mom, the teacher, the student, and the tutor — we worked as a team. At the end of the year, I was shocked at Alton’s test scores. At his end of year conference, we revealed to Alton and his mother that he would be promoted to the fifth grade–Alton cracked a huge smile, his mother cried . . . I almost cried too! This child had never seen success in school. And here he was — the poster child for student success!

Once again, based on standardized test scores.  Alton was obviously taught how to perform well on DCAS.  That worked out well for Alton, but how many Altons are there in the priority schools.  I would hazard to guess, there are probably twenty-five Altons in the priority schools for every one at Kuumba Academy.  But let’s raise the bar of success at Kuumba based on one student getting tons of extra support provided with free tutoring.  Have you ever tutored one of the kids in the priority schools?

When I think about all of the negativity and misconceptions surrounding charter schools, I think about this student. Maybe there is some truth to what they say — “Charter schools have the best kids”. Shouldn’t every school believe that their kids are the best kids? I’m so grateful for the children and families I met while I taught at Kuumba. They showed me that it is possible for children to overcome their circumstances.

What are you smoking?  The playing field is not level.  “Charter schools have the best kids.”  Nobody has ever said that.  What we have been saying is they have more economically advantaged kids and smarter kids in some schools, and high groups of minorities and low-income kids in others.  I don’t believe for one second that many charter schools in Wilmington and other areas of the state don’t carefully screen and evaluate every single application they receive.  I wouldn’t be shocked if the DOE gave many charter schools each student’s DCAS scores.  They probably accept a few lower scoring students to make it look less obvious.

They showed me that if you set high standards, and if you work like failure is not an option, children can succeed despite any number of horrible and debilitating events going on in their lives.

You must belong to the Penny Schwinn school of thought were crime and violence in Wilmington “isn’t necessarily a hurdle to overcome”.  And once again, these success stories are based on standardized test scores that have yet to be evidence of long-term success in any child’s life.  Some students just don’t do well on these tests, no matter how intelligent they might be.  Instead, these students with the promise of success feel like failures.  That should never be an option.

I wish I could tell you that every single student I taught had success stories like Alton’s. For many students, it’s more of a long and arduous road to success, peppered with little wins along the way. But it’s that incredible growth mindset that keeps students moving year after year–the belief that a person’s situation is changeable. That growth mindset is taught through a school culture that embraces students for who they are, where they come from, and where they can go.

Where are they going?  Do you have any statistical data to back up this claim?  Do you have data showing students are more successful after college because they went to a charter school?  Public schools don’t have the same mindset that embraces students for who they are?  Where is the data for that?

This Thanksgiving, I want to encourage our community to think about the positive. What success stories have you witnessed? Where have you seen our charter movement succeed? Share it with us and add the hashtag #DECharters. If we share these stories of hard working students, dedicated teachers, loving parents, and infectious school culture, then together we can correct the misconceptions about our schools and help Delaware families understand that all kids have the potential to be the “best kids” — they just need the right environment, a school community that supports them, and teachers that truly believe in them.

Wow, what a rousing amount of public support you received under the hashtag of #DECharters.  For the time period of May 6th until the present, I saw an astonishingly large number of 0 (that would be zero) parents commenting under that hashtag.  What I did see was @DECharterNetwrk and other charter schools promoting charters in Delaware, along with some other education reform companies pimping their wares.  This reminded me of the time Kendall Massett went on Delaware Townsquare’s website and wrote a column asking for the same thing, and the only comments were from like-minded citizens bashing charter schools in Delaware.

 *Name has been changed

Share your charter school success story on our Facebook page! Or email Info@DECharterNetwork.org

Okay, I went to your Facebook page.  Once again, I didn’t see anyone other than one possible parent complimenting the performances students had at your organization’s IDEA Awards show in October.  Which I’ve publicly stated is an insult to the actual IDEA law that serves students with disabilities.  Something you banned me from your Twitter account for when I dared you to discuss special education.  But I won’t go over all that again!

Where are all the parents?  I don’t see the parents on your social media sites.  Unless you pulled some Jedi mind trick on me, “These are not the parents you’re looking for.”  So this leaves me to ask, what exactly is the purpose of the Delaware Charter Schools Network?  I know you have your charter expos where parents can come and look at prospective schools for their children.  From the attendance figures you report on social media, I’ll say you do get a bit of a crowd.  Not a huge one, but a decent size.

I’m going to say you are more of a lobbyist group than a parent group.  I believe your target audience is Legislative Hall and the Charter School Group at the DOE.  I believe your primary goal is to get as many charter schools crammed into our little state as you possibly can.  Your stated mission on your website states the following:

The Delaware Charter Schools Network provides advocacy and support for the charter school movement and charter schools in Delaware. The Network educates the public about charter schools, provides assistance to existing Delaware charter schools and those yet to open, and serves as a voice for the state’s charter schools at the state and national level.

In Delaware, charter schools play a critical role in our public education system – we are the educational choice for 10% of Delaware’s public school students. DCSN currently supports 24 Delaware charter schools educating 12,521 students and over 1000 school administrators and staff members.

I was just curious, where was your support for Gateway Lab School?  Cause I didn’t see you charging out of the gate to support them when parents were crying foul over the DOE’s failed attempt at non-charter renewal.  As well, I haven’t seen you mention one iota of a word about Family Foundations Academy.  So I would have to see you only support schools that make you look good!  Can’t be a part of any controversy!  Although you did move very fast when I publicly pointed out Sean Moore, the head of school at Family Foundations, was the treasurer of your governing board.  He was off your website within two days!

Shouldn’t that number be 22 (maybe 21 if Family Foundations gets shut down)?  Since two charters will be on the chopping block this year, Moyer and Reach, and we didn’t see your public support for them, shouldn’t you be a bit more honest about your declared purpose?

 

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.

Delaware Special Needs or Minorities Parents: I Need Information #netde @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

If you have ever applied for a charter school in the state of Delaware, and the application was denied, and you feel it was based on your child being either a student with special needs or a minority, I want to hear from you.  If your child was accepted to a charter school, but you were then told by the charter school they could not accommodate your child’s needs, I want to hear from you.  If your child was ever “counseled out” from a charter school due to behavior issues and your child had special education, and the result was you pulled your child out and sent the child back to the local public school district, I want to hear from you.  If your child took a test for entrance and did well on it, but the application was still denied, I want to hear from you.  If you feel your child was put in a lower bracket of special education at a charter school and you knew there should be more services provided for your child, I want to hear from you.  If your special needs child was suspended more than ten times in a school year, or was expelled, I want to hear from you.  All information is confidential, and I may want to speak with you.  Please leave your name, email and contact number.  Information can be sent to kevino3670@yahoo.com

 

Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education

In a hurricane, everything is wild and chaotic.  Winds are fierce, rain is massive, and destruction looms.  Many people flee, but some stay hoping for the best.  Homes are destroyed, roads are flooded, and lives are frequently lost.  In the middle of a hurricane, everything is calm.  It can sometimes be sunny, and rain may not be present and it can be viewed as a moment of peace.  The eye is the center of the hurricane, and everything that happens is a result of the eye.  This is the Delaware Department of Education in regards to special education. Continue reading