Congratulations To The Delaware Class Of 2018! You Are The Last Class To…

Delaware high school seniors are having or had their high school graduations.  Congrats to all of you!  I hope you all have bright futures ahead of you.  This class also has something very significant that the next generation of high school graduates won’t be able to say. Continue reading

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Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints

I will be emailing all Delaware Superintendents, Heads of School, and the DOE on this tomorrow, but I wanted to put it out there now.  If any of you have ANY data walls with kid’s names on them or anything that could make a student easily identifiable by the peers in their class, you have until the end of the day on Thursday to get rid of them.  If you don’t, I will start filing FERPA complaints against each and every one of the schools that ignore this.  I don’t mean to play hard ball here, but you are violating the most sacrosanct part of education, the rights of the child.

I highly recommend ALL Delaware parents contact their schools and ask if they have these data walls in their child’s school.  I also suggest they ask the principal or assistant principal to make sure their child IS NOT ON IT.  I don’t care if you think your kid is the next Einstein.  It is wrong to do this.  I don’t care if it is the best charter school, magnet school, or regular school out there.  It is a violation.

DataWalls2

If you want to kill a child’s self-esteem, there is no easier way to do it than data walls.  This latest disgusting and sick craze of schools is an actual posting in school hallways or a classroom of a child’s progress.  Whoever thought this was a good idea is one sick individual.  I’m sure it is great for the smart kids who are always on top.  But for those who struggle it is a demeaning and humiliating experience.  For priority schools in Delaware, this is a requirement.  From the minds of those with no soul in the education reform world who don’t give a crap about children and their needs.  For students with disabilities, this is just the latest smack on their beaten faces.

DataWalls

This morning on Facebook, the current president of the Red Clay Education Association brought this up, as well as the growing in popularity E.R. Educators to the Rescue page.

ER wrote:

I call these “Data-shaming Walls”. I hate them (yes, hate) and here’s why you should too. In an age of anti-bullying, this is an in-your-face way of shaming low-performers and their parents. The only folks that like these are parents whose children are the green or advanced levels; everyone else feels like crap. If you see one in your child’s school, please ask the teacher/administrator to take them down.

The Washington Post thinks these are an abomination whereas the mighty Scholastic thinks they are the greatest thing since white bread.

Mike Matthews said:

My unfiltered definition of what a data wall is? It’s a tool used to shame and bully students into making them do better. Under the guise of competition, someone who’s in the “red” will just magically, one day, decide to change his or her performance to get into the “yellow” or “green.”

For some students this will work. Fine. But for others, like the many children with special needs I’ve taught over the years, this will not work and will continue to be a demotivator and could cause unnecessary emotional harm.

Last year at (x school) I had a young lady who came from the (y school). She was profoundly low. Many of the other students knew it, but we’re always very welcoming and supportive with her.

But what if I had one of these data walls? As the lowest-performing child in my class, what would this have done to her to see her name and picture “on the bottom?”

No. No data walls for me. In my classroom, I prefer regular conferencing with students to give them an update of where they are and where they need to be. This public shaming business has to end.

Don’t know what a data wall is? Thanks to E.R. Educators to the Rescue for posting this.

Other people (mostly teachers) had this to say about these pathetic data walls:

I’m shocked that student performance is publicly posted. That’s a clear violation of privacy. The only time I effectively used public posting of data is when I compared percentage passing the test to time studied by each student and found a strong correlation. Blew their minds that it actually mattered.
This is an epically bad idea on par with New Coke
I’m still floored that they posted PHOTOS! Now, the other students can properly identify and chide the lowest performers
Doesn’t this violate FERPA?
You’ve hit a nerve in every proper educator with this topic.
I would certainly think so. I don’t even put student’s names on the board. In the beginning of the year I give them each a number. We use the number instead of a name so that parents and other educators can’t see what going on and the students maintain their dignity. A data wall is exactly the opposite! We are taking a huge step backwards with this!
Yes, they are a violation!!! Would teachers want a similar wall based on their DPAS in the faculty room. Would admin want one based on theirs?
Definitely. If I’m not allowed to have a list viewable which tells of life threatening allergies, then I surely shouldn’t have a chart visible for students own data tracking. Does anyone remember the year that we had to discuss personal growth goals and then reward students who achieved their goals? And I teach kindergarten!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My whole class got rewarded because I value them more than their data.
I wouldn’t do it. Suspend me for insubordination if you must, but I would not do it.
Basically posting students scores on a chart for all to see.
Bahahaha! This one comment: “How about posting each one of your paychecks or your weight? Seems only fitting the teacher share in this glorious display of data.”
So, we’re taking away creative play and limiting recess, adding more testing and less instruction, and then thinking this will lead to better test scores and kids caring about the boring, stressful testing moments of their days? Ugh. Education reform needs a reality check on the positive growth and development of children.
Horrible, terrible, miserable, anti-empathetic, anti-teacher-like behavior.
So there you have it folks.  Teachers hate these things.  They should fire whoever came up with this crap.  Seriously.  I’m guessing they don’t have kids or they had some horrible accident where all the feeling and emotion got sucked out of them.
Remember Delaware public schools…Thursday…the clock starts ticking NOW!

Students In Red Clay Are More Likely To Be Bullied As Those In Christina…Why Are We Redistricting?

The Delaware DOE released their annual bullying report for the 2014-2015 school year, and reported and substantiated bullying did go down compared to the previous year.  I would like to empathize the words “reported” and “substantiated” because I don’t always believe the reporting and substantiations actually occur as much as they should.  Schools and districts in Delaware run the risk of being labeled a “dangerous school” if they have too much bullying and school crimes.  This actually incentivizes schools NOT to report things, something Attorney General Matt Denn warned schools about last winter.

With the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission/Redistricting of Wilmington schools thing going on, I thought this would be an ideal time to look at both Red Clay and Christina.  For 2014-2015, Red Clay had 106 substantiated bullying incidents where Christina had 65.  Out of those, multiple students aren’t counted in those figures if it is the same incident.  When you put in those numbers, Red Clay had 127 compared to Christina’s 74.  When you take the charters in Red Clay out of their numbers for academic performance (which I don’t agree on based on standardized testing), Christina out-performs Red Clay.  So why do we have this huge push to take Wilmington students out of Christina and into Red Clay?  Culture and academics are better in Christina.

Once again, many charters and one district reported NO bullying incidents and some didn’t even have any reported incidents.  Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware Military Academy, First State Montessori Academy, Odyssey Charter School and Sussex Tech reported no bullying incidents to the DOE.  All told, 16 different charters and districts reported 5 or less bullying incidents.  Reporting incidents to the DOE needs a lot of work.  The DOE audited 11 different traditional district schools and one charter, and they found many instances of schools not reporting things to them within the required 5 business days of the incident.

The very loose “peer attention” was cited as the number one reason for bullying with 238 incidents with this as the cause.  The even more loose “other” had 118.  When it gets down to specific reasons, physical appearance had 76, age had 57, disability had 20, and race/color had 13.  With 356 vague and unknown reasons serving 65% of the reasons for bullying, that really doesn’t help Delaware get to the heart of the reasons for bullying.  I strongly suspect there are other reasons that could have been checked off but the school chose not to so they wouldn’t look bad.

I will be going into great detail like I did last winter on individual districts, schools and charters on these issues.  And once again, I implore any parents who know of substantiated bullying incidents that occurred in schools where NONE were reported to let me know.

Into The Wild: The Special Needs Kids of Delaware’s Priority Schools @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @delawareonline #netde #eduDE

People have asked me why I care about the priority schools all the way up in Wilmington when I live in Dover.  My reply is we should all care.  Not only because what the state and the DOE are doing is fundamentally wrong, but also because if it can happen there it can happen anywhere in our state if we don’t make a stand.  I am also very concerned about what happens with all of the students with disabilities who receive special education services.

Here are the facts: If the Red Clay and Christina school districts do not sign the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) by September 30th, the Delaware DOE will take them over.  This is no secret.  All indications are leading to the school district boards refusing to do so.  Rumors, although unsubstantiated, indicate these six schools would become charter schools.

For the September 30th, 2013 count, the six schools had the following special education populations:

Bancrof, Christina 14.7% 61 out of 206
Bayard, Christina 19.0%  88 out of 463
Warner, Red Clay 15.4% 101 out of 541
Shortlidge, Red Clay 14.0% 45 out of 317
Stubbs, Christina 9.5% 31 out of 325
Highlands, Red Clay 11.5% 32 out of 350

In comparison, the “great” charter schools Markell referred to had the following special ed populations:

East Side Charter 15.1% 61 out of 403 (students with Special Education did not score proficient in scoring)
Kuumba Academy 5.7% 17 out of 298 (not enough students to even count in the proficiency figures)

So what happens to these 358 special education students?

358 childen with IEPs and special education services may be transferred to new charter schools. As a whole, Delaware charter schools have been notorious for not being able to adequately handle special education correctly. Very few even accept the most severely complex students with disabilities.

Taking away the potential legal hurdles that may come up for the DOE, such as union contracts, ownership of the school buildings, and other litigation that may come up, say these students go to a new charter school. Since it is essentially a transfer, an IEP would have to be reviewed. Governor Markell has already said these schools will be put through a rigorous process to get the students to proficiency status. He announced after school activities for tutoring and to get students back on track. Children with special needs often have enough problems getting through a regular school day. To add longer time to the day will be a severe burden for these kids.

The “rigor” of common core will be put to the test with special needs children at these new schools. I have a theory that out of these six schools, one of the new charters will focus solely on all of these displaced students with IEPs. This would eliminate inclusion and the least restricted environment. It would also allow the other five schools proficiency scores to automatically rise on standardized testing since the “specials” are no longer part of the equation. This is not about “closing the gaps” as the DOE, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Governor Markell have stated. Even more far reaching is the belief from many that the DOE will grandstand these achievements, and try to have even more reach across the state with this experiment.

If this is true, every single special needs parent in Delaware needs to be very concerned. Our children will be segregated from “normal” children and a free appropriate public education will become a joke. Even worse, for these special needs children at the priority schools, this will become a TRIPLE SEGREGATION: special needs, low income and minorities. This sinister agenda is happening right before our very eyes and we need to unite. If I were any parent of special needs children at these six schools, you need to speak now. You need to organize into a group and come down to Dover, straight to the DOE office, to the Governor’s office, and anywhere your collected voice can carry weight. Demand that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy resign or call for his termination. You need to write to the newspapers, the blogs, and contact TV and radio stations. Call AND email your elected officials: State House Representatives and Senators. Let our US Senator and House Representative representing Delaware know your complaints. Contact the US Department of Education. Let President Obama know. Contact the Office of Civil Rights. You need to picket where it will be noticed.

The IEP Task Force has their next meeting on Tuesday, September 23rd, at 4:30 pm. There are two locations: The Carvel Building in Wilmington and The Collette Center in Dover. If you are working, ask to leave early. Bring your children with you. Tell the task force your fears. Let them know you are not okay with this.

In ten days, by October 1st, you may not have any more options. This is short notice, but your children will be severely affected by this. There is no time to wait. If you have any doubt in your mind, you need to do this now. Because once it happens, you will live with regret that you didn’t speak up sooner.

 

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!