Red Clay Superintendent Merv Daugherty Hints Governor Jack Markell May Not Veto Parent Opt-Out Bill

Will Delaware Governor Jack Markell veto House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation in Delaware that passed the House of Representatives and Senate in the First State in June?  According to Red Clay Consolidated School District Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, indications are pointing to him not vetoing the controversial bill.  At their board meeting on Wednesday July 8th, Daugherty said the district is preparing for the legislation to take place later in the summer.  He indicated the district may have to notify parents in both September and in the Winter so they are given the options at the start of the school year and prior to the next round of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Weeks later, and Markell has not even asked for House Bill 50 to be brought to his desk.  Once he does that, if he fails to do anything with the legislation, it passes into law in ten days.  The opt-out legislation would stop Delaware schools and the Delaware Department of Education from bullying and intimidating parents when they decide to opt their child out of the high-stakes assessment.  As well, it would stop the opt-out students from counting in the school’s accountability rating and would not count against teachers in their evaluations.  Sponsored by State Rep. John Kowalko, a Democrat, and State Senator Dave Lawson, a Republican, the legislation had a five month battle in many areas of Delaware: schools, Legislative Hall, the DOE, the Governor’s office, homes, and on social and print media.

In New York, New Jersey, and the state of Washington, many opt-outs went far below the 95% Federal threshold for test participation.  Threats of federal funding cuts have been just that: empty threats.  Despite all the posturing and bullying by both the US DOE and the Delaware DOE, no school has received funding cuts due to opt-out by parents.  While the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores haven’t been released yet in Delaware, it looks like high school juniors may have gone below the 95% mark.

Freire Head of School Violated School’s Own Zero Tolerance Policy Today By Having A Rage Attack Against Protesters **UPDATED**

A few months back I put a post up about how many Brandywine residents are up in arms over the new Freire Charter School location.  Today some peaceful protesters decided to, you know, protest some more.  Apparently the head of school was in the area and got rather physical with them.  Please keep in mind several of the protesters were women and some were African-American.

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After calling the protesters racist, Freire Charter School of Wilmington Head of School William Porter charged the protesters, yelling and screaming.  Startled, one of the women almost fell to the ground.  It is unknown if she had any injuries, but five Wilmington police cars showed up at the scene, and the protesters were allowed to continue.

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The irony of a zero tolerance charter school and the Head of School going after a woman is just too crazy.  Freire Charter Schools are based on the beliefs of Paulo Freire.  A noted Marxist, Freire Charter School of Wilmington has this on their website about Paulo:

Who is Paulo Freire?

So, why a name so unique? While our name might be often mispronounced (we say Free-air-ee), we selected it because the educator, Paulo Freire, is a philosopher whose ideas inspired us to be a different kind of school. Paulo Freire believed in the value of a classical education (liberal arts and sciences) yet argued that most schools failed to provide such learning in an effective manner. In his mind, most schools instead promoted the values of the dominant class, creating a “culture of silence” where underserved individuals were deprived the means to think critically about their place in the world.

Paulo Freire was a Brazilian educator and theorist who wrote several influential books, most notably Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Though he is most known for his progressive theories in this book, Freire spent much of his early life working on literacy with peasant farmers in Brazil. His dedication to provide the underserved with the necessary tools to reach liberation is his legacy.

Along with his contemporaries, like John Dewey, Freire pushed teachers and administrators to reconsider their role in learning. Are students vessels, needing only to be passively filled with facts and numbers to achieve competency? Or, are they active participants in a process built on equality, diversity, and critical thought? It was, and is, novel to consider students as learners and teachers.

At Freire Charter School, we believe students have much to learn and experience but, also, much to teach – to each other and our educators. This growth begins in the classroom and continues through the hallways and into our community. The students of Freire Wilmington carry the responsibility of their scholarship along with administrators, teachers, support staff, and parents. We believe this holistic approach, which values autonomy, equity, and community, honors the legacy of Paulo Freire.

I’m sure these peaceful protesters really loved Porter’s “holistic” approach.  So how did Freire even come to Wilmington?  That is a story in itself.  Apparently their backers bring with them millions of dollars in support.  And none other than Governor Jack Markell insisted they come to Wilmington.  Yes, this is the kind of school Delaware needs, one where they can’t even practice what they preach.  So does this mean that the school will enforce it’s zero tolerance policy on Porter?  One strike, and you’re out!  We shall see how this plays out…  Meanwhile, I’m sure Paulo is rolling around in his grave…

The Delaware State Board of Education just approved the school’s modification request to lower their enrollment minimum and to remove the specific interest of a zero tolerance school.  And yet, parents are required to sign the zero tolerance policy if they send their kids there.  Sounds like a lot of potential here… for a lawsuit!

In the meantime, here’s 10 Things To Know about this school, straight from their website.  I’m sure civil rights attorneys will be keeping a very close eye on this school!

Ten Things to Know About Freire Charter School Wilmington

1) Freire Wilmington serves any and all 8th-12th grade students in the City of Wilmington and surrounding suburbs. Where there are too many students and not enough spaces, Freire uses a random lottery system to determine enrollment. We do not discriminate based on race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, academic ability – or anything whatsoever.

2) The students who succeed at Freire are the ones who take action to help themselves, who see a bright future for themselves, and who are willing to do whatever it takes (i.e. long nights of homework; studying on the weekends; going to the library on a sunny day) to get the best high school education out there.

3) We mean what we say at Freire. Perhaps other schools tell you that if you break their code of conduct there will be consequences. But then when it comes right down to it, many of these schools do not enforce their rules. At Freire, we enforce everything we say. Honestly. We do what we say we are going to do. And we expect you to do the same.

4) We are a 100% nonviolent school. Safety is our first priority. If a student acts violently – whether in words or in actions- to anyone at school or on the DART bus OR ANYWHERE – he or she will be expelled. There are no second chances. Our second priority is helping students learn to resolve conflicts peacefully and without violence.

5) Freire is for students who plan to go to college. Do not send your child to Freire if college is not in the future plan. Your sons and daughters will not be happy at Freire if they want to do something other than college after high school.

6) Remaining a student at Freire takes hard work, courage, honesty, and constant determination every day. Getting into Freire means getting a space through our lottery. That’s the easy part. The hard part is staying at Freire. We guarantee there will be challenges at Freire, and we will ask community members to do things they think are beyond their abilities. Those who succeed at Freire are the ones who never stop trying, and who are willing to work as hard as it takes to achieve excellence. No excuses.

7) Freire teachers and staff are some of the most talented, dedicated and caring in the country. These professionals come to Freire to serve students and families to the best extent ever imagined in a school.

8) Parents/Guardians must be involved and must participate in their child’s education with us as equal partners. We will expect and demand this of all our families. Freire students need support, family involvement and encouragement every step of the way through high school.

9) Learning at Freire is painful and joyous, hard and exciting. And learning happens everywhere – in classrooms, on school trips, at internships, on athletic fields, using the internet, planning the school dance, eating healthy food before school, and doing homework at night.

10) Freire is a place to take risks, dream big, and then work hard every day to meet  those dreams head on. We strive for excellence in our community every minute of  every day. Freire is a school for those who want to do and be their best all the time.

To read more about this charter school that has only managed to enroll 105 students, please go here: http://freirewilmington.org/

Delaware House Bill 50 Would Allow Parent Opt-Out Of Smarter Balanced & Protect Teachers

Delaware House Bill 50, co-sponsored by Delaware House Rep. John Kowalko and Delaware State Senator Dave Lawson has officially been released.  While it does not show up on the Delaware General Assembly website yet due to the recess during Joint Finance Committee hearings, the bill is official.

Since the bill was introduced for circulation purposes a couple weeks ago, new language has been added to give protections to teachers, principals and schools.

“The Department (DOE) shall report opt-out numbers in accountability ratings to provide context and impact on school and district ratings; however, the opt-out numbers shall not factor into the accountability ratings.”

What is interesting about this bill is the sponsors on it.  Kowalko told Exceptional Delaware “Kim Williams and Paul Baumbach are being added to the bill as sponsors.”  So sponsors from the House include Kowalko, Williams, Baumbach, and Helene Keeley, all reps who voted no on House Bill 334, which signed the Smarter Balanced Assessment into law.  But  State Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman voted yes.  As for the Senate Sponsors, Lawson voted no, while Margaret Rose Henry voted yes.  New State Reps Sean Matthews and Lyndon Yearick are also sponsoring the parent opt out bill but they were not a part of the 147th General Assembly.

There seems to be a shift in thinking in regards to the state assessment in Delaware.  Spiegelman told this blog last fall that the legislature was in an impossible situation with the Smarter Balanced Assessment since Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy had already bought the assessment for Delaware.  Many legislators reported it didn’t matter what they voted because Governor Jack Markell’s staff told them even if it was turned down, Markell would sign an executive order if need be.

For many people, that very brief moment of victory when the bill was defeated in the Senate, and then rescinded a brief time later, and then passed was a dark moment for Delaware education.  Many folks blamed the one Republican Senator who changed his vote, but there were also three Democrats.

Below is a copy of House Bill 50 which is the version that will be submitted to the House Education Committee when the General Assembly returns in mid-March.  To help support this bill, please use the hashtag #supporthb50

Special Education Statistics Part III: Kent County Publics vs Charters #netde #eduDE @delaware_gov

Kent County is a unique place.  It is considered part of “slower lower”, but the capital of the state is in Dover.  All the major decisions about the state occur here, even though the majority of the population lives in Newcastle County.  The schools in Kent County are also unique.

Seven school districts are in Kent County.  Capital, Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest, and Polytech are all within the borders of Kent County.  Smyrna overlaps into Newcastle County, while Woodbridge and Milford share district space with both Kent and Sussex .  There are only four charter schools in Kent County: Academy of Dover, Campus Community, Providence Creek and Positive Outcomes.  Of the four charters, their special education population is as follows:

Academy of Dover: 8.4% (26 out of 308)

Campus Community School: 9% (37 out of 411)

Providence Creek Academy: 4.4% (31 out of 697)

Positive Outcomes: 63.3% (76 out of 120)

Positive Outcomes is the exception to the rule when it comes to special education in Delaware.  The school primarily serves students with special needs and behavior issues, so it is no surprise they would fully accommodate in those situations.  The other three…that’s different.  Both Academy of Dover and Campus Community have a high percentage of lower income and African-American students, so in that aspect, it doesn’t appear charter school enrollment preference affects income or race.  But with a state average of 13.5-13.9% for special education, those numbers are much lower than their public school peers.  So where are all the special needs children going?  Certainly not Polytech, a vocational high school (the only school in that district).  Their average is 9.3% (112 out of 1,206).  So this would leave the public schools to deal with this student population.

Caesar Rodney: 13.6% (1,046 out of 7,677)

Capital: 17% (997 out of 6,442)

Lake Forest: 13% (479 out of 3,687)

Milford: 12.3% (507 out of 4,168)

Smyrna: 13.5% (697 out of 5,163)

I’m not going to include Woodbridge since most of the school district is within Sussex County.

So we can definitely see the public schools are taking in much higher populations of special needs children than the charter schools in the area.  Why is this?  Pretty much the same answer as the rest of the charters in the state.  They don’t want them.  This is why they put sections on their applications  with questions like “Does your child have an IEP” or “Does your child have any special education needs”.  They want to weed them out.  Not including Positive Outcomes obviously, the other three charter schools have a total of  7 complex special education students, and they are all at Academy of Dover.  Both Campus Community and Providence Creek Academy have NONE.  I guess autistic children aren’t welcome there.  What does FAPE stand for again?

Smyrna School District seems to take the bulk of special needs children in the area.  The majority of students that go to Providence Creek reside in Smyrna, and then Capital.  Since Providence Creek can only accommodate 26 special needs students, but the other 671 are “normal”, that must be an acceptable sacrifice for them.  But hey, they should feel lucky.  Their special education population actually went down from 4.7% in 2013 to 4.4% in 2014.  Less burden for them.

Further south in Kent County are the  Caesar Rodney, Milford and Lake Forest districts.  Some children from there go to the charters in Kent County, but the further south you go the less likely this is.  Their special education numbers seem to be near the state average.

Capital School District’s special education numbers are much higher than everyone else.  They also have the Kent County Community School, which serves the Delaware Autistic Program (DAP) for autistic students in grades K-12.

No new charter schools have opened in Kent County in many, many years, and that’s probably a good thing.  I wouldn’t mind at all if Positive Outcomes opened a K-6 school.  Maybe they can take over one of the other schools.  In the meantime, parents of Kent County, I would be very wary about sending any special needs child to a charter school in Dover, unless it is Positive Outcomes.  I have heard from parents who let one or two of their kids stay at a charter school but they send their special needs child to a public school.  This must be a huge pain in the ass for these families.  The charter school should be more than capable of handling a special needs child.  The big lingering question is this- why aren’t they?

 

 

Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education Part 2 #netde #eduDE @usedgov @delaware_gov

In any hurricane, the outer bands which are furthest from the eye, can cause the most damage. If the DOE is the eye, resting comfortably in Dover, then what lies to the west and north, causing irreversible damage? That would be the children placed in out-of-state private placements because Delaware does not have the capacity.

The Interagency Collaboration Team. What is it, and what do they do? It is a group of nine individuals, from various child services in Delaware. The members are a representative from the following groups: Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, Division of Family Services, Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Office of Management and Budget, Controller General, Exceptional Children Resources Group (DOE), and the Teaching and Learning Branch (DOE). The coordinator is Linda Smith. Care to hazard a guess which of the above groups she belongs to? The DOE of course.

The ICT’s main purpose is to hear cases about a very unique, rare group of students where all resources of the schools and the state can no longer help a student with special needs.  Typically, it is due to behavior issues.  On Children & Educators First, Elizabeth Scheinberg wrote about the DOE’s response, how the student could be educated at school but problems in the home prevent that from happening.  My contention is most of these students were not accommodated extensively the way they should have been.  Most of these students are in their teenage years, but the special education process has to begin earlier for it to have the desired effect.  You can give a 13 year old an IEP, but if he should have had one for the past 4-5 years, it will be much harder for the student to adapt.  This is the world we live in.

Why is the ICT so damaging to families?  When a child is put into a placement at a residential facility out of state, the funding for it is paid by Delaware.  The parents are allowed to visit the child, but they cannot move to the state.  If they do, the funding would no longer be covered by Delaware since the parents are not citizens of Delaware any longer.  The assumption is a student would not be out of state permanently, but sadly, this has not always been the case.  This can results in a  student going years without being an active member of a family unit.  They say the hardest thing a parent will ever go through is the death of a child.  This would have to be the second hardest thing.  For a parent to even be put into a position of making a choice like this would have to be something agonizing.  If there are siblings, it would have to be what is best for the majority.  I have such compassion and respect for any parent having to make these hard choices, and my heart cries out to them.

So who writes the annual reports for ICT? That would be the director of the Exceptional Children Group, Mary Ann Mieczowski. It seems like she is a part of every single major decision that happens with special education in our state. I see her name on everything. Should one person have that much power? And where is Secretary of Education Mark Murphy during all these decisions ICT are making?  He does read the report when it is released in February the next year.  At least his name is on the distribution list.

Between 2012 and 2013, the number of cases reviewed went from 105 to 120. Out of those 120, 104 were male, and 16 were female. Out of the 120 total, 18 were between the ages of 5-12, 64 were between 13-17, and 38 were 18-21. Of the cases heard, 97.5% were placed in private placements, be it day services or residential services. The other 2.5% (3 cases), received 1:1 care from a paraprofessional in a public school setting.

What is startling about this is the 2004 numbers, where 101 out of the 217 received 1:1 instruction. That reached a high of 137 in 2006, and went up and down the next few years. And then the numbers plunged down to 22 in 2010, 6 in 2011 and 2012 each, and then 3 in 2013. What changed? Needs based funding. Before needs-based funding was signed off by Governor Markell in February 2011, the ICT team determined 1:1 instruction. Needs-based funding eliminated those seven other voices to determine those types of services. To get those types of services, the IEP team has to agree. What this means, is a child has to pass a checklist to qualify, the district would then have to approve it, and then the DOE. The ICT would only see it if no other available resources were left. So what happened between 2009 and 2010, when the 1:1 instruction dropped from 86 to 22? Needs based funding wasn’t around then. At least it wasn’t the law. Governor Markell didn’t sign it until a year and a half later. It appears the DOE started needs based funding before the bill was even signed by the Governor.

In the 2013-2014 school year, the number of Complex Special Education needs based funding was a total of exactly 2400 students. 59 of those went to charter schools. Out of those 59, 22 went to the two charter schools that deal with IEPs for a huge percentage of their student population. The rest of the highly esteemed charters, that use school enrollment preference as on ongoing process, well they served a whopping 1.5% of the complex special education students. And out of those 19 remaining charter schools, 9 of them had NO complex special education students. The charter schools with no complex special education students are the following: Campus Community School, Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Prep, Delaware Military Academy, Kuumba Academy, Providence Creek Academy, Reach Academy, and Thomas Edison. I know there are other schools in their areas that provide services for students meeting some of those complex needs, but really? Not one student?

What the ICT report does not have demographics for speaks more than for what it does. No race is selected for any of these children. There is no county, school district or type of school listed. We don’t know if they are coming from public schools, charter schools, or vocational schools. We don’t know what type of incidents lead to a student coming to this ICT group. The report has more holes in it than a box of cheerios. It gives the most basic and superficial information it can. It doesn’t give a list of the different placement centers for these children, just some vague information about averages. But thank the Lord for Delaware Online Checkbook, cause we can figure this out real fast.  At least where the money is going.

The below information has been taken out of the Delaware Online Checkbook, for the four main residential placements these students have been taken to as a result of ICT placements. Also included is High Road, owned by a company called Specialized Education Inc., which is a day school. All of the numbers were found under the Department of Education, Special Needs category:

Advoserv (in Delaware):
2014: $4,622,298.43
2013: $4,238,629.34
2012: $4,140,372.66
2011: $2,937,639.80
Total: $15,938,940.23

Benedictine School For Exceptional Children (Maryland):
2014: $1,451,168.29
2013: $1,131,947.86
2012: $1,007,155.31
2011: $461,846.27
Total: $4,052,117.73

Devereux Foundation (Pennsylvania):
2014: $1,731,214.40
2013: $644,637.00
2012: $381,239.00
2011: $221,556.00
Total: $2,978,646.40

Specialized Education of Delaware (High Road) (Wilmington):
2014: $2,063,768.00
2013: $1,458,419.00
2012: $1,468,338.00
2011: $1,387,107.00
Total: $6,377,632.00

Woods (Pennsylvania):
2014: $878,796.00
2013: $417,320.00
2012: $489,725.00
2011: $761,412.00
Total 4 years: $2,547,253.00

Yearly Totals of all the above schools:

2014 Total: $10,747,245.12
2013 Total: $7,890,953.20
2012 Total: $7,486,829.97
2011 Total: $5,769,561.07

In a three year period, the costs for these facilities nearly doubled.  Is Delaware being swindled?  The report for the 2014 fiscal year hasn’t even come out yet, and won’t be seen by the governor until February 2015, and the price tag for just these facilities went up nearly $2.85 million dollars.  In one year.  There were 9 more students being sent out of state this year.  What is even more interesting is the costs of some of the out-of-state placements. The Benedictine School went from $51,952 in 2010 for an average year’s tuition, to $99,697 in 2013. That is a huge increase! Pennsylvania’s costs for these schools has increased dramatically. My guess, based on the data, is Devereux has become the “go-to” place for many of these students. Additionally, these facilities receives millions of dollars from the school districts in the state.  The DOE pays 70% of the bill, and the school districts pay the remaining 30% according to Alison May with the DOE.  Shorehaven in Maryland was used years ago, but for some reason it is not anymore. School districts like Christina and Red Clay Consolidated still use them.

If you calculate the yearly costs with the school districts paying 30% of the bill, the numbers increase even more, and also include a per student average on any private placement based on the number of students from the last 3 years of annual reports:

2014: $15,353,207.31   Average Cost per Student: Unknown until Annual Report comes out with # of students

2013: $11,272,790.28   Average Cost per Student: $96,348.63 (based on 117 placements)

2012: $10,695,471.38   Average Cost per Student: $108,035.06 (based on 99 placements)

2011: $8,242,230.10     Average Cost per Student: $98,121,79 (based on 84 placements)

The above costs don’t include what other agencies in Delaware pay as part of the total bill. It is nowhere near what the DOE  and the school districts are paying, but the high amount of money going to these facilities as a collective whole in Delaware is astonishing.  Other costs, which the parents get reimbursed for is mileage when they are visiting their children.

Last year, Melissa Steele with the Cape Gazette, wrote an article detailing the rising costs of these facilities. Many attempts to find out more information were thwarted not only by the facilities, but also the Delaware DOE. Confusion over needs based funding and ICT placements received contradictory statements by people at the DOE.  It was an excellent piece of journalistic work, and it won awards for investigative journalism.   It should be read by legislators, parents, teachers, administrators and journalists.  http://discoveramericasstory.com/view_article.html?articleId=CPG0816201301801

In going through all the reports for the ICT going back 5 years, I noticed a very odd trend.  Included below is the ratio of in-state placements versus out of state placements.  The out of states are always higher.

2013 51 students: Ratio of in-state/out-of-state: 37.2% (19)/62.8% (32)
2012 42 Students: Ratio: 45.2% (19)/54.8% (23)
2011 36 Students: Ratio: 38.9% (14)/61.1% (22)
2010 35 Students: Ratio: 45.7% (16)/54.3% (19)
2009 31 Students: Ratio: 45.2% (14)/54.8% (17)

In every single year, the number of in-state is less than 50%, no matter what the number is. It would almost seem like, and I really hate to even think this, there are contracts with some of these out-of-state facilities based on the number of residential placements the ICT grants. If this is true, then ICT is playing a numbers game. I would hope it’s because Advoserv doesn’t have the capacity.

The rise of autism may have played a huge role in ICT getting rid of 1:1 instruction. Rates for autism have skyrocketed in the first 15 years of this century. By providing needs based funding, the DOE has essentially removed one of the key components of the original ICT process. They have brought the 1:1 instruction under their own roof with no one else to challenge it. I don’t think it is a coincidence that outside lawsuits have magnified greatly since needs based funding began. As well, zero tolerance towards bad behaviors at school has significantly increased. The results are not surprising once you see a clear picture.

Needs Based Funding comes around, gives schools a SET amount for the whole school year, zero tolerance policies result in increased behavior issues, special education departments and school psychologists deny A LOT of IEP requests, lawsuits rise, common core is introduced, standardized testing becomes the barometer for school, teacher and student success, and Delaware gets bad grades for special education 3 out of the past 4 years. There’s more. The US DOE’s special education unit, OSEP, decides to stop a crucial part of compliance monitoring. They decide to stop doing in-school visits. The Delaware DOE decides to audit schools on a 3 year cycle, but change that to 5 years without any notification on their website whatsoever. This is all in a four year period.

Who watches the watchmen? Certainly not the feds. They just seem to care about overall results with special needs kids. The legislature? Maybe not in the past, but that could change depending on the elections in November. It remains to be seen what the IEP task force will do. Nothing has been heard about it since the House of Representatives passed it on July 1st. Parents? Probably the ones keeping a tab on them the most. Attorneys are certainly watching every move the schools and the DOE make. Advocates are great, but do they have the ability to change something on a state level? Sometimes, but not the big picture. The media may do stories here and there, but nothing that impacts dramatic change. So it seems to be left to us bloggers and reporters like Melissa Steele, plugging away and doing the research. What we need though is eyewitness testimony to what other parents have seen. The DOE is getting away with a lot, and people need to know about it.  The problem then becomes, what do you do about it?  A state can’t just shut down a DOE.  How are they held accountable when issues like this arise?  It’s complicated, it’s messy, and it’s just beginning.

Things are only going to get worse. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is going to be a disaster. Common Core is going to die a slow death in Delaware, but it’s time is coming. It’s already begun in many other states. What comes out of this will determine education in Delaware. We can stop the corporate takeover of education in our state, and try to come up with something meaningful, something good for our state. Or we can continue the way we have been. With the best and brightest finishing at the top, and the unwanted, unprivileged, poor, and disabled students getting scraped off the bottom with a spatula and thrown into a world where nothing makes sense.

@GovernorMarkell just doesn’t get it. #SPECED

I couldn’t agree more. First they pass a bill to get the most severely impaired exempt from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and now they are going to pressure more special ed students to not be exempt? Something is very wrong with this picture. Enough is enough.

Delaware House Reps & Senators Emailed Tonight to Include Parents on IEP Task Force

Whether it was their regular email on the website or their Facebook account, all Delaware House Reps and Senators were emailed by me tonight.  Most of them got the same one, but I have met a few of them already to discuss some issues.  I appreciate those who emailed back so quickly.  One of them told me this was not the first email they received today.  Hopefully parents can be included in Senate Concurrent Resolution 63, which creates an IEP Task Force to basically look at why Delaware is doing so bad in Special Education two years in a row.

Here is the letter I sent to ALL of them:

I am a father of a special needs child.  My son has Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, and Sensory Processing Disorder.  I am a huge advocate not only for my own son, but all the children in Delaware with special needs.  So much so that I started my own blog, Exceptional Delaware, after writing a story on Kilroy’s Delaware about what happened to my son at a Delaware charter school. 

I read about SCR 63, the IEP Task Force.  This is a wonderful thing, and it is very needed.  However, I noticed there are no parents designated on the Task Force.  I believe this is a very big mistake.  Children with special needs are the primary stakeholders of whatever this task force comes up with, and the parents are the primary advocates for our children.  Parents are always part of the IEP process, and this should not be an exemption to parents at all.  Please speak about this tomorrow during the last day of legislative session and propose that parents be allowed a part of this.  I would highly recommend at least 3 parents of special needs be allowed on the Task Force, one from each county of Delaware.

We are the ones who are highly invested in this process, and we probably have the most to say about it, and how Delaware has arrived at the position they are in with the Federal Government.  IDEA and IEP are very tricky animals, and it needs to be looked at very carefully.  One wrong mistake can have tragic consequences for these children. 

Thank you for your time, and I appreciate all you do for our kids.

I hope Governor Markell realizes what a very big deal this is to so many in our state.

Breaking News: Feds Want To Intervene In Delaware Special Education, **Updated**

According to an article in the Delaware News Journal, the Feds have placed Delaware on a watch list as one of three states to need intervention for special ed students.  This is what I have been saying all along.  Special education in Delaware is severely lacking.  Maybe the powers that be will start to wake up!

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/06/24/feds-del-needs-intervention-special-ed/11305993/?sf27702642=%5B%271%27%5D
Updated: The Huffington Post picks up on this story as well: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/24/idea-compliance-2014_n_5524196.html?utm_hp_ref=politics
Updated again: How about timing? When I read this article I was sitting in Governor’s Café in Dover. In the next room, members of the Delaware Department of Education were having a meeting with their summer interns. In fact, the Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy, was walking out as I walked in. The Executive Director for the Board of Education, Donna Johnson, came in late. After I read the article, I spoke to another woman to see if I could speak with Donna Johnson about the News Journal article. She said the person I would want to speak with would be Maryann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Children’s Resources at the Delaware DOE. I came home and called her, but she was at lunch. More to be updated later!

Updated again: I have sent the following email to Maryann Mieczkowski at the DOE:

Hi Maryann, I am a parent of a special needs child in Delaware.  I have attended state board meetings, written on Kilroy’s, started my own blog, and more.  There is a growing group of us in Delaware that have had it with the DOE and special education.  AlI roads seem to lead back to you according to everyone I have spoken with at the state.  I have several questions for you in regards to special ed.  Please let me know when we can meet to discuss these issues.  I left you a message earlier today.

Updated at 1:38 PM EST, 6/24/14:  Delaware legislature, maybe you can follow up with me on my many ideas for immediate legislation for special education.  You still have 3 days left to pass something meaningful for special education children.  My ideas can be found here: http://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/epilogue-a-fathers-cry-for-his-son-re-failure-of-a-delaware-charter-school-promise-netde-edude/

Updated at 2:25 PM EST, 6/24/14: No word yet from Mary Ann Mieczkowski or Matthew Albright at the Delaware News Journal.  I did talk to House Representative Darryl Scott’s assistant.  He said it is too late to get anything introduced with only three days of legislative session.  I advised him if they had done something a long time ago, maybe the 147th Assembly wouldn’t be upset about this report that came out today.

Updated at 2:51 PM EST, 6/24/14: Mary Ann emailed back and she wants to meet.  Trying to figure out schedules.  In the meantime, you can find out how your state did in the federal IDEA report here: http://specialchildren.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=specialchildren&cdn=parenting&tm=11&f=00&su=p284.13.342.ip_&tt=65&bt=8&bts=8&zu=http%3A//www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/06/24/most-deficient-special-ed/19466/

Updated at 5:55 PM EST, 6/24/14: Scheduled an appointment with Maryann for next week.  In the meantime, Delaware media and national education media is jumping all over this story.  From WDEL: http://wdel.com/story.php?id=60459 Education Week: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2014/06/ed_dept_releases_results_of_ne.html

Updated at 6:15 PM EST, 6/24/14: from the US Department of Education website: State Graphic Fact Sheet:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/2014-chart-1-7.pdf

2014 IDEA determination fact sheet: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/ideafactsheet-determinations-2014.pdf

How OSEP made determinations for Part B:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2014/2014_part_b_htdmd.pdf

How OSEP made determinations for Part C:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partcspap/2014/2014_part%20c_htdmd.pdf

How OSEP Made Determinations under Section 616(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B in 2014: Entities with Determinations Based on Compliance:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2014/2014%20htdmd-part-b-entities.pdf

2014 Letter to Delaware Secretary Of Education Mark Murphy from OSEP: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2014/de-acc-aprltr-2014b.pdf

This report made a big deal about 39 of the states meeting last year, but Delaware was not one of them based on their 2013 OSEP letter to Mark Murphy:  http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2013/de-aprltr-2013b.pdf

So they had a year to get it right, and they still couldn’t.

Updated at 10:57PM, 6/24/14: Claudio Sanchez at nprED doesn’t think we should trust Arne Duncan and the folks in DC.  It’s always been hard for me to trust a Secretary Of Education with little or no educational experience.  But this link tells us why: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/06/24/325229848/a-major-shift-in-oversight-of-special-education/

Delawareliberal.net is getting in on it too, and Steve Newton’s comments are spot on: http://www.delawareliberal.net/2014/06/24/delawares-special-education-program-needs-intervention/

So my question now is, what happens next?  Say Delaware keeps ignoring the federal demands and they strip away Delaware’s IDEA funding.  What happens to all the special needs kids in Delaware?  Yes, it is only 60% of the funding for special education, but that’s a lot of money.  Would things like Capital School District’s DAP program be able to survive losing that money?

And what changes will the Delaware DOE make?  Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has been quiet on the subject all day.  He sure seemed happy when I saw him coming out of Governor’s Café this morning.  And the letter to him from the Feds was from yesterday.  Should Murphy be fired?  Two years in a row of basically failing in special education, and you are the Secretary of Education.  Please, if you don’t get fired, just quit.  Delaware deserves better than you.  Meanwhile, I still don’t see the audio recording of the last board meeting which went over the IDEA Annual Performance Report.  I missed the meeting, and I’m kicking myself now!

This is why things like House Bill 23 need to be passed, so we can all know what is being said at School Board meetings.  I’m not worried about the ones that already do it.  It’s the ones that aren’t.  The ones with lots of money going out but the students aren’t seeing it.

Updated at 11:56PM, 6/24/14: All the links for the US DOE website appear to be working now.  I would also check out the Delawareonline comments section on Facebook.  Lots of special ed parents are raising hell.

Updated at 8:55AM, 6/25/14: The New York Times is getting in on the action: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/us/shift-in-law-on-disability-and-students-shows-lapses.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

And The Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/states-special-education-services-face-tighter-oversight-by-the-obama-administration/2014/06/23/a103031e-fb36-11e3-b1f4-8e77c632c07b_story.html

And Kilroy looks at some Delaware political ties to this subject: http://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/delaware-rep-lavelle-might-want-to-save-some-finger-pointing-for-rep-hudson-re-special-ed-report/

And lo and behold, the Delaware DOE has put up the audio recording from their Board of Education meeting on 6/19/14.  The audio recording you want to listen to is Part 4 6/19/14 going over the IDEA Annual Performance Report, starring our very own Mary Ann Mieczkowski.

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/ddoe/sbe/sbeaudio.shtml

 Updated at 2:05PM, 6/25/14: An interesting link to WDDE 91.1FM about this debacle- http://www.wdde.org/63945-federal-report-delaware-special-education-intervention

The original Delaware News Journal article by Matthew Albright seems to have more information: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2014/06/24/feds-del-needs-intervention-special-ed/11305993/

I’ve searched for any word from Mark Murphy on all of this but have found none.  In the meantime, many parents are wondering why the Feds discontinued the old compliance monitoring where they would go into schools to audit special education department’s IEPs to make sure they were compliant.  This stopped in 2012, and Delaware has gone dramatically downhill in special education since then.  In 2010, the Exceptional Children branch of the DOE announced all schools in Delaware would be audited every three years.  Where are those audit reports?  Are they even being done?  It sounds like the DOE needs to drum up some reports to the public very fast, or parents are going to start filing FOIA requests left and right.  I may be first in line.  Someone needs to come up with an official statement immediately.

By viewing comments people have left on this matter on Facebook and Twitter and other articles, it sounds like the vast majority of Delaware parents of special needs children have had many problems with our schools.  I can attest to that based on the many problems I had with “that charter school in the County of Kent”.

I would advise every single parent in Delaware to look at the Board minutes of each charter school, public school district, or vocational school to see what is being said during Board meetings.  Look at their financial statements.  Look at Delaware Online Checkbook.  See where the money is going to.  Make sure everyone at the schools your child attends is certified.  This can be done through the DEEDS website at the Delaware DOE.  Just be sure to know exactly how the first and last name is spelled or it won’t give you any information.  Here is a link:  https://deeds.doe.k12.de.us/public/deeds_pc_findeducator.aspx

And where do teachers factor into all of this?  I think they are fed up as well.  Between Common Core being force-fed to them, all the high risk testing, and special education requirements changing constantly, we run the risk of losing good teachers.  And that will mean more bad teachers, or teachers that are too new to know what is best.  Delaware needs radical change, and we need it now.  The General Assembly can’t do anything.  They have two days left of legislative sessions, and a lot of them are up for reelection.  The head of the education committee for the House of Representatives in Delaware is not running for reelection, so nobody knows who will fill that slot.  The 148th General Assembly won’t meet in session again until January 2015.  The DOE is running around with their cheerleader uniforms on praying and hoping Smarter Balanced testing goes smoothly.  And how about our own Governor Jack Markell, not saying a word about this?  He didn’t even respond to my twitter question about this matter.  He did respond to the News Journal in saying money was allocated in next year’s budget for a full Special Education annual review.  But how about more Jack?  Who is accountable for this educational mess?

 

 

 

Gilligan and The Skipper Speech About Common Core Implementation

Video

Governor Jack Markell and Secretary Of Education Mark Murphy gave a speech to educators in Delaware in 2012 to “keep Delaware moving forward”. What they didn’t say was “Thanks for all that Race To The Top money. Let’s give some to the schools, and we’ll spend a lot of it on a new test that’s going to make us filthy rich!”