Delaware’s First State Military Academy did a 180 degree turn on their special education services for students with disabilities. For those who believe I hate all charter schools, this is not the case. What I am against is bad decisions by some in the charter community as well as traditional school districts. I have seen some charters who did very bad things manage to do an awesome turnaround. I’ve also seen charters do really great and then see them fall apart. And then there are those charters who are bad and manage to continue their downward spiral. There are some I don’t write anything bad about because there is nothing bad about them.
First State Military Academy just opened last August. Located in Smyrna, the new charter had some special education issues in the beginning of the year. After an initial special education director resigned, and a replacement didn’t work out as planned, the school had to get it together. The school already had a higher than normal special education population. Getting IEPs together for a large influx of students with disabilities, along with opening a new school, has to be a harrowing effort. To that effect, the school hired a former special education teacher from the John Charlton School in the Caesar Rodney School District.
Since then, I’ve heard from multiple sources the school is offering top-notch special education services. One of their biggest challenges was the handling of student accommodations with a technology-based curriculum. For example, IEPs or 504 plans could have an accommodation where a student is only expected to do half of an assignment. In Math, instead of doing 20 problems, they only do 10. When you have a computer doing the scoring, it would take a massive amount of computer code to change existing programs. The school found a way to work around this and make sure students with accommodations are taken into account with the scoring. This allows the students to receive a more accurate grade based on their special education needs.
I’ve also heard IEP meetings are excellent at First State Military Academy. The difference between when they first opened last year and today are night and day. The meetings are organized, the teachers are on board, and parents are much happier.
I’ve heard from many folks about how great Commandant Patrick Galluci and School Instructional Leader Dr. John Epstein are. It looks like they are living up to this reputation. I’m happy the school not only identified their prior special education issues but also acted on them. Doing the right thing is what most of us want. If I am constantly bashing on certain charter schools in Delaware, there are valid reasons for that. Special education is near and dear to me and good news deserves a shout-out!
Because of the very nature of charter schools in Delaware, information about them is much easier to find through the Delaware Department of Education website and other sources. I have written about traditional school districts quite a bit as well on this blog. Most of my issues with Delaware charters surround their enrollment preferences and financial transparency. If I can find something out from their website or through Google, that’s an issue. But the biggest source of information, when it comes to good news, comes from the parents. I am always happy to publish the good stuff as well as the bad. If you know something great going on, let me know. I won’t bite! Unless it is to spread any type of love about standardized testing. You won’t find any support from me on that one!