Glasgow High School & Christina School District In Big Trouble With Delaware DOE Who Fell Asleep At The Wheel And Let It All Happen

In the wake of the IEP scandal at Glasgow High School, ALL of Christina School District is at the mercy of the Delaware Department of Education when it comes to special education.  Following the events concerning fake IEP meetings at Glasgow High School that I published in October, the Delaware Department of Education was forced to act.  But questions linger about how and why the Delaware DOE was unable to find out before they did. Continue reading

“The Secretary Is Concerned About Your Behavior And Blogging”

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting called the police on me today for sitting in the PUBLIC LOBBY of the Townsend Building! Continue reading

Hey Delaware DOE, You May Want To Make Sure Mitch & Our Schools Know This Stuff!

It would be my hope that all Delaware schools, be they district or charter, have seen this.  I would also hope the Exceptional Children Resources Group, the special education area of the Delaware Department of Education, led by Mary Ann Mieczkowski, circulated this to all our schools.  If not, I’ll make sure they get this.  And I won’t even charge them!  But just in case they haven’t seen this, they may want to read this from top to bottom.  Special education is NOT a choice.  And you are expected to implement it with fidelity and as per federal law under IDEA.  The below document, released by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education issued guidance about the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on Endrew F v. Douglas County School District.

Administrative Complaint Against Colonial School District Deals With Special Education On The School Bus

Is a bus driver beholden to a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)?  That was the question for an investigator at the Exceptional Children’s Resources Group, the special education division of the Delaware Department of Education.  When behavioral issues came up for this student on the school bus, did the district do everything it could have when the student was denied access to the school bus?  Find out the answers here!

Delaware Special Education Due Process Hearing Decisions & Administrative Complaint Resolutions Released For Four Districts & One Charter School

Three Delaware Due Process Hearing and two Administrative Complaint decisions were put on the Delaware Department of Education website with varied results.  The Due Process cases involved the Colonial School District, Brandywine School District, and a combined case against Delaware College Prep and the Delaware DOE.  As well, an Administrative Complaint decision involving the Red Clay Consolidated School District prevailed for the district where another Administrative Complaint involving the Milford School District prevailed for the student.

In most of these cases, there were complaints around Independent Educational Evaluations in terms of the costs and the timing of them.  Other cases involved residential treatment center costs, a school making sure IEP accommodations were followed, and statute of limitations.  These are important decisions to read.  Parents can avoid many pitfalls by reading these and seeing what they shouldn’t do.  Special education is complicated enough but even a careless error on a parent’s part can lead to future ramifications.  All schools, districts, and teachers should read these as well.  Special education will never get better unless the players are informed of their rights in all sides of the issues.  Many of these cases involve timing, on either the school or the parent’s part.  The Brandywine case is very interesting.

Many schools in Delaware start up again in two weeks.  Many parents will be requesting IEPs or updates to existing ones.  Now is the time to see what cases are setting precedence!

Due Process Hearing: Colonial School District Vs. Student

Due Process Hearing: Student Vs. Brandywine School District

Due Process Hearing: Student vs. Delaware College Prep and Delaware Department of Education

Administrative Complaint: Student Vs. Red Clay Consolidated School District

Administrative Complaint: Student Vs. Milford School District

 

DOE Spins 2016 Special Education Rating With False Praise And Outright Lies

The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their Annual IDEA Determinations for each state, and despite what I previously wrote, Delaware received a “needs assistance” rating for the second year in a row.  This only proves, without even seeing the letter or the actual report on Delaware, that the Feds are more lenient to the state than the DOE is to their own school districts and charters.  Even though the Delaware DOE links to the website that is supposed to show the letter generated from OSEP to Delaware, it only shows last year’s letters.  But I believe that is the rating given to Delaware, but it is not accurate.  Delaware has been failing students with disabilities for well over a decade, consistently and methodically.  Our Governor cares more about getting them into low-paying jobs as adults and tracking them in pre-school than giving them the funding when they need it the most.  With a few exceptions, our General Assembly is asleep at the wheel.  Our General Assembly, once again with exceptions, cares more about testing our special needs kids with high-stakes and growth measures that are unsustainable or realistic.

Here is the spin machine on Delaware’s rating:

Focus on special education leads to sustained federal rating

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) gave Delaware its second highest rating in its evaluation of the state’s special education services. The state fell just shy of earning the highest rating.

This is the second consecutive year Delaware has received the “needs assistance” rating and the second consecutive year it has seen progress: Delaware moved from an overall grade of 53 percent in 2014 to 68 percent in 2015 and to 76 percent this year. The state needed a grade of 80 percent to receive the highest “meets requirements” rating, a difference of one point on its evaluation.

This year’s evaluation, based on school data from the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, takes into account the following improvements Delaware made to special education after receiving a “needs intervention” rating in 2013. Delaware’s “needs intervention” rating was based on performance data from the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.

For the past two years, Delaware has:

  • Provided professional learning for special education teachers on standards-based Individual Education Plans (IEPs), positive behavior supports and accessing the general curriculum.
  • Included special education teachers in all trainings related to the state’s academic standards.
  • Assisted districts and charters schools in developing transition plans for students with disabilities who are 14 years old or entering the eighth grade to help them succeed in jobs or further education.  The state has been collecting data to ensure those plans are being prepared and carried out.
  • Clarified for districts and charters the policies requiring students with disabilities to take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and state assessments to ensure the state has full information on the progress of these students.
  • Provided districts and charter schools with comprehensive data on their performance to help local leaders better understand how well they are complying with state and federal law and how their students with disabilities are performing academically.
  • Provided targeted state technical assistance to those districts and charter schools found to be in need of assistance and intervention.

In addition, the Delaware Department of Education, in collaboration with various stakeholder groups, developed a five-year, K-3 Literacy Initiative to ensure that specialized instruction and support is provided to the state’s youngest readers with and without disabilities. In the 2016-2017 school year, the initiative will identify major areas of need as well as develop, implement and evaluate specific interventions for students in these grades.

The state first improved to the second-highest rating, “needs assistance,” in its 2015 evaluation, which used data from the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 schools years.

Last year OSEP also began calculating its ratings using a combination of compliance and results indicators for students with disabilities called results driven accountability (RDA), rather than relying solely on compliance data. RDA incorporates measures such as the percentage of students with disabilities who are taking state assessments as well as NAEP; how students with disabilities performed in reading and mathematics on NAEP; and proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and other students. This year’s report from OSEP also includes the graduation and drop-out rates of students with disabilities.

District and charters have welcomed the transition, which looks more closely at student outcomes than it does at how well districts and charters complied with the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

“Having data that measures true student outcomes makes the annual determination process invaluable to educators, and it is especially vital to students with disabilities and their families,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “We appreciate this year’s rating that acknowledges the progress made, but we also are still focused on the work we have ahead of us to ensure the expectations for students with disabilities align with those we have for all students.” 

Delaware is working closely with school districts and charter schools to ensure students with disabilities have opportunities to learn the same content as their peers, receive support they need to prepare for success after high school, and have their social, emotional and behavioral needs addressed.

IDEA Annual Determinations for FY2014: District and Charter ratings now available

In keeping with OSEP’s new evaluation method, the Delaware Department of Education uses RDA in assessing the performance of the state’s school districts and charter schools. District and charter school reports for 2016 are available on the Exceptional Children section of DDOE’s website  here.  Between FY2013 and FY2014, the following districts and charters saw improvements:

 

  • Caesar Rodney
  • Capital
  • Delmar
  • Gateway Lab Charter
  • Laurel
  • MOT Charter
  • POLYTECH
  • Positive Outcomes Charter

 

POLYTECH Superintendent Deborah Zych credited a focused approach to meeting individual student needs for the improvements in her district.

“We added an enrichment period when students with learning deficits receive interventions and formed the Instructional Support Team to focus on individual student needs,” she said.

The Caesar Rodney School District made special education outcomes a priority during the district’s goal-setting with principals last summer. The district’s Student Services Division focused on on-going trainings on standards-based IEPs, student outcomes with an emphasis on Transition Age Students and instructional interventions designed to meet individual student needs. The division also conducted on-going audits of programming at the school and classroom level to ensure compliance as well as best practice. This summer’s professional development calendar also includes nine sessions specifically for working with special education students.

“We established a quarterly data review of special education students … The goal was to identify red flags early and develop intervention plans to keep students on track,” said Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald. “ Our improvement was the result of working together, setting goals and focusing resources.

“We understand that while we have made improvements there is more work to be done and we will continue to make this a priority,” he said.

Sheila Swift, whose son, Sam, completed the Project SEARCH program through Red Clay Consolidated School District in June, said special education in Delaware has experienced some improvements the past few years but students with disabilities need more supports statewide.

“Services after high school have gotten better,” Swift said. “Project SEARCH has been an excellent program. Six of the 10 students in my son’s class went right into jobs at Christiana Care.”

Still, Swift says that before her son entered Project SEARCH, she fought hard against putting him in an inclusion program. She said more supports, including those related to school climate, are needed for students with disabilities who attend traditional middle and high schools.

The department continues to provide targeted technical assistance to all districts and charter schools found to be in need of assistance and intervention.

Alison May alison.may@doe.k12.de.us (302) 735-4006

 

Delaware To Get Federal “Needs Intervention” In Special Education Again As Incompetent DOE Lies At Public Meeting

Delaware WILL get a “Needs Intervention” label for their Annual IDEA Determination from the Office of Special Educations Programs at the United States Department of Education.  The Delaware DOE knows this, but they aren’t announcing it.  My guess is they are waiting for the “formal” letter to come from the feds before they publicly release this information to the public.  Even though they were told this information at least four weeks ago.  If I were a betting man, we won’t find this out until after June 30th.  I predicted this three weeks ago when I found the letters that went out to the districts and charters.

At the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens meeting on Tuesday night, the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE gave a presentation to the council on the Local Education Authority (LEA) portion of the annual determination.  The presentation was given by Barbara Mazza and Maria Locuniak from the DOE.  In this presentation, there were several absolute lies that are in this article, for which I caught them red-handed.  It is very alarming they would try to dupe a state council devoted to the improvement of outcomes for persons with disabilities. Continue reading

Delaware’s Special Education Plan To Prevent IEPs & Improve Smarter Balanced Scores

Ever since Delaware received the label of “needs intervention” with special education in June of 2014 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the United States Department of Education, the Delaware Department of Education made every effort to do everything but tackle the number one problem of special education: making sure IEPs are implemented with fidelity.

Their solution to the problem: make sure children can read by 3rd grade so they can score proficient on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Every state in America has a checklist of items, dictated by the US DOE, that they are monitored on by OSEP.  One of them, Indicator 17, is a plan each state must come up with to improve special education outcomes.  The Exceptional Children Resources Group, the special education area at the Delaware DOE, chose the Delaware Early Literacy Initiative as their project for Indicator 17.

To say this is a confusing mess would be an understatement of epic proportions.  I find it even more troubling they would pick Kindergarten to 3rd Grade as their test subjects when they know children in those grades don’t receive basic special education funding.  The students who are considered intense or complex do, but the bulk of the students with disabilities in those grades fall under “Basic Special Education”.  As a result, some schools in Delaware are hesitant to grant IEPs for these students since they know the cost will fall on the district or charter school without any extra money from the state.

The Delaware DOE relies on Response to Intervention as a way of determining if a child needs special education services or not.  It is a faulty system, mandated by the feds, that can take years before a child is fully identified for special education.  As a result, these children become lost in a system while their neurological disabilities manifest.  An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is designed for that particular student.  The IEP team, consisting of the school Special Education director, a Principal or Vice-Principal, the primary teachers, the school nurse, the school psychologist, and the parent or parents of the child.

Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves, of the website Make Special Education Work, recently wrote an article about why RTI isn’t working.  In the article, they wrote:

Even though RTI instruction may be high quality and research-based, can it meet your child’s unique needs? Meeting these needs through an individualized education program is your child’s right under IDEA.

While the Delaware DOE’s Early Literacy Initiative is certainly a long read, it is chock full of errors and omissions that fail to adequately address the unique and individual attention a child with disabilities truly needs.

 

Delaware DOE Finds More Creative Ways To Screw Over Schools And Students With Disabilities

The federal government issues special education funds to states through IDEA.  The state issues them based on the federal funds available, as well as their own share of state funds.  In Delaware, this is the unit-count process.  Under federal law, they are beholden to use the laws in IDEA to issue these funds.  But now the Delaware Department of Education is looking at Smarter Balanced Assessment results in funding to local education agencies (schools).  The Exceptional Children Resources Group is looking to do this based on no state or federal laws.  Once again, the Delaware DOE, even under the leadership of Dr. Steven Godowsky, is creating their own rules and accountability scare tactics.

Could the DOE find more ways to screw over students with disabilities?  This is obviously tied to opt-out.  After high school juniors, the highest population of opt-outs was students with disabilities in Delaware.  By tying funding to SBAC performance, the DOE is trying to test schools and parents.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  When Acting US Secretary of Education John King is holding onto state assessments as “excellence in education” and views opt-out as unacceptable, the Markell flavored Delaware DOE is sure to follow suit.  When is this going to end?  When will we stop relying on high-stakes tests to determine students and schools worthiness?  This changes nothing.  Continue to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Delaware parents.  The testing window starts Wednesday.  Opt-out and refuse the test now!

First State Military Academy Having BIG Issues As Well, Another “Model” Of Learning Through Innovative Schools…

Looks like Delaware Met isn’t the only brand new charter school to open this year that is having problems.  Turns out First State Military Academy in Kent County is feeling major opening pains as well.  First State Military Academy (FSMA) picked the Innovative Schools inspired “New Tech Network” for their model.  You would think with a technology-based program the school would have computers for all the kids.  Nope, they are thirty short.  Oops!  Innovative Schools website describes this “New Tech Network as:

New Tech Network (NTN) is a non-profit school development organization that works with districts to build and sustain innovative K-12 public schools. NTN works to create a rigourous and engaging school experience that features the intense use of Project-Based Learning and technology to establish a positive and engaging school culture. In the seventeen years since its founding, the network has grown to 133 K-12 schools in twenty-three states and Australia. Innovative Schools has established partnerships with schools like Delaware New Tech Academy in Seaford and First State Military Academy in Clayton, to help bring the first New Tech Network model schools to Delaware. Learn More About New Tech

But the bigger problem has to do with special education.  When FSMA opened they received forty students with disabilities.  As a new school and students that transferred, the school has to redo all those IEPs.  They have one dual-certified teacher to handle all forty of these students on top of being the one to handle all these IEPs.  And here is the kicker- they have to be completed by October 30th.  In five days!  What is it with these charter schools that don’t anticipate large populations of special needs students?  The state average is 13% and rising.  Like Delaware Met, they didn’t count on this at all.  It comes with the package, and the State Board of Education, the Charter School Office and the Exceptional Children Resources Group should be making sure all new charters have their ducks in a row with this kind of thing.

With this revelation coming out, I feel obligated to reveal a story I wrote about FSMA in the summer, but I never named the school.  Yes, this was the school that had a special education coordinator that pretended to be on the IEP Task Force last year.  This coordinator quit before school started.  I wonder why?

As well, I’m hearing several students are having a VERY difficult time with the curriculum at this school.  Some are failing.  While these issues aren’t at the level Delaware Met is having, I would say they are very serious.  Time to add another one to the pile Delaware DOE?

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.

The Exceptional Delaware No Response List

Over the past year, I’ve reached out to several people and organizations either for information on articles or to advocate on issues.  I usually get a response, but some flat-out ignore me.  Especially after I publish something in opposition to their stance or actions.  That’s fair.  But at least respond!  And no, anonymous comments made on here with different names do not count as a response!

The biggest one would have to be Dr. Paul Herdman with Rodel, which I made very public on here.  After he blasted me on my Rodel article in an email last November, I emailed him back and asked him to meet at any of the six priority schools.  I never got a response back from him.  I did introduce myself to him at the Senate Education Committee meeting a couple weeks ago…

I reached out to the Delaware Charter Schools Network last summer quite a bit in regards to special education and why they never really talked about it.  They did respond: by blocking me from their Twitter account.  I am not holding out hope they will respond to my latest email to them…

The DOE can be infamous for not responding, but I have to give credit where credit is due.  Penny Schwinn reached out immediately when I had questions about the whole Smarter Balanced/SAT debacle a couple months ago.  But I did call them out on a FOIA response a few weeks ago.  I requested one specific email that I know they sent regarding Senate Joint Resolution #2.  I was told they couldn’t find it but I could pay DTI $300.00 to search for it.  I emailed back and said they were lying.  No response.  I’ve reached out to the Exceptional Children Resources Group a few times and they are hit and miss…

I will say Donna Johnson with the State Board of Education is very quick to email me if I get something absolutely wrong.  I respect that and I will correct things in those situations if I see proof or it just makes logical sense.  With that being said, she has not responded to requests for meetings either…

Lindsey O’Mara, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, hasn’t responded two weeks later to an email.  After Jack gave a big speech at New America, I asked who pays for this and if the Governor gets any compensation for these speeches.  Zippo from Lindsey on this…

Even last weekend, I emailed the head of the charter school office at the DOE about their part-time charter school monitoring job.  I advised them my blog does about 3/4 of that work anyways, and if they added special education monitoring onto it and made it a full-time job with benefits, salary could be negotiable.  Updated: Just got a response!  And I will add that Jennifer Nagourney is very good about returning emails, even late at night or on weekends!  The charter school monitoring job email I sent was more of a feeler and not an official application.

I’ve sent a couple emails to Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf to get House Bill 61 on the agenda, no response.  But I have to say, most of the legislators do respond if it is very specific…

The blogger Kavips NEVER responds to any email anyone sends.  This is a blogger that is so anonymous I don’t think he/she knows who he/she is anymore…

The biggest no responder is none other than Governor Jack Markell himself.  I’ve emailed him numerous times about issues and requested meetings.  Nada.  Nothing.  Not even a “my people will get back to you”…

Will this trend continue?  Absolutely.  I’m not the News Journal, so they are under no obligation to get back to a spitfire blogger who doesn’t get paid to publish information.  However, it is always in their best interest to do so, because it makes it look worse for them when I do publish information and their lack of response becomes part of the issue.  In fact, I’m going to email someone at the DOE right now and see what happens…

Delaware Special Education: The Eye of the Hurricane Part 1 Revisited A Year Later…

Editor’s note: I wrote this last year in July.  I reblogged it once and you can’t do that twice apparently.  I sent this link to someone, and I read over this again.  Not much has changed.  Aside from State Rep. Kim Williams addressing the basic special education funding for K-3 students with pending legislation, I can’t think of anything.  Well, except the hurricane that Smarter Balanced has become.  And I did find the actual links on the DOE website for the actual unit counts for each school. But this blog has gained many new readers since then, so take a trip down the rabbit hole that is special education in Delaware…

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.

Last week, I met with the Exceptional Children Group, the Delaware Department of Education’s special education department.  I met with their director, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, as well as the DOE’s public information officer, Alison May.  I had several questions stemming from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) report on Delaware’s special education that came out two weeks ago.  In the report, it stated Delaware was one of three states that needed federal intervention in regards to special education.

The Exceptional Children’s department in Delaware seemed to think the need for federal intervention was solely based on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) testing done for students.  This testing was done to determine student’s abilities, and several special education students were not included in this testing.  The testing is done for students in 4th, 8th and 12th grade.  According to the letter OSEP sent to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, “We plan to measure growth in the proficiency of children with disabilities when States have transitioned to college- and career- ready standards and assessments.  In the interim, we are using data from NAEP on the performance of children with disabilities, which provide a consistent and fair benchmark for performance of children across all States.  In the future, OSEP plans to use only regular Statewide assessment data, rather than NAEP data, for annual determinations, including data on the growth in proficiency of children with disabilities on Statewide assessments.”  Some parents feel Delaware excluded children at a much lower level than other states, such as Maryland, which may have made Delaware look worse.  But also written in the letter to Secretary Murphy was the following: “This determination is based on the totality of the State’s data and information, including the Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2012 Annual Performance Plan (APR) and revised State Performance Plan (SPP), other State-reported data, and other publicly available information.”  Delaware’s goal for compliance is 100%, but they fell into a range of 75-90% for the 2013 OSEP report.  While those may not seem like a bad range, it would indicate that anywhere from 10% to 25% of students had faults in their IEPs.  Out of the over 18,000 students that were qualified with special education in Delaware for the time period of this report, the 2010-2011 school year, that means that anywhere from 1800 to 4500 students had IEPs that were not compliant  based on these percentages.  That is an alarming number.  And after that report, the Exceptional Children Group decided to raise the amount of years that schools are audited from a 3 year cycle to a 5 year cycle.  There is no notice of this change on the DOE website because it still shows a three year cycle.  Delaware has been rated as needs assistance for special education by OSEP in 2013, 2011, 2009, and 2007 and in 2014, they were rated as needs intervention.  This means Delaware has received bad marks from OSEP for 5 out of the past 8 years.  They have corrected past mistakes, but it seems new ones are created every couple years.  But for two years in a row they have missed the mark. Continue reading

Delaware DOE Wants Special Education & Smarter Balanced Results To Have An Unholy Marriage

The Delaware Department of Education presented their State Systemic Improvement Plan for special education to the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens on Tuesday evening.  As will all news coming out of the DOE these days, it’s all about the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Indicator 17, one of the compliance measures states need to adhere to based on the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), is based on Standards-Based IEPs.  The DOE and the US DOE actually think they can come close to eliminating the proficiency gap between students with disabilities and their regular peers.

This is a foolhardy measure at best, and I have spoken at great length about this in the past.  Fixing special education in Delaware is going to take a lot more than this ridiculous compliance indicator!  I’m all for students with disabilities reading earlier and becoming more fluent in reading, but basing the goal based on performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment is insane.  If the DOE has already said 70% of students won’t reach proficiency for a few years on Smarter Balanced, how the hell do they expect to lower this gap to 49% in three years?  The Delaware DOE needs to be shut down and built up again with actual logic and common sense.

 

 

Governor’s Advisory Council For Exceptional Citizens January Minutes, DOE Report To GACEC

The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens hit the ball running in their first 2015 meeting.  I posted the Exceptional Children Resources Group’s presentation to the GACEC a couple weeks ago, which went over the State Performance Plan/Annual Report for special education compliance monitoring in Fiscal Year 2013.  But there was a lot of discussion at this meeting on items such as Senate Bill 229, the Elementary Secondary Education Act waivers, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Standards-Based IEPs (without even saying the words) and even the Alternate Route to Teacher Licensure and Certification Program.  Read the minutes and the DOE report to the GACEC below!

 

Special Education in Delaware Is Still Failing Miserably Based On Annual Performance Report

The Delaware Department of Education Exceptional Children Resources Group gave a presentation to the Governors Advisory Council for Exceptional Children (GACEC) on January 20th.  This was led by the Director of the DOE group, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, also a member of GACEC, as well as another member of this DOE Group, Barb Mazza.

The presentation dealt with the indicators all states are judged on by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the US Department of Education.  There are 17 indicators, and this presentation showed how Delaware did for 16 of them for Fiscal Year 2013.  Last June, OSEP labeled Delaware as one of three states needing federal intervention for special education.

Did they improve for FY 2013?  Read the below file and judge for yourself. Continue reading