Breaking News: Special Education Nuclear Blast Will Take Place In Delaware In The Next Month

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a hurricane in Delaware Special Education.  This year I predict a full-blown nuclear blast.  The Exceptional Children Resource’s Group at the Delaware Department of Education will release their FY2014 Special Education Compliance & Results report they must submit to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs in the next month.  The results are going to be catastrophic for Delaware.  We will be labeled as “needs intervention” once again.

This year’s results will be more controversial than any other year because out of the 43 “indicators” identified by the US DOE this year, 28 of them are based on the state assessment.  In Delaware, that would be the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  In other words, 65.11% of Delaware AND each local school district or charter school’s rating scale will be based on Smarter Balanced.  Participation rate will tie into this.  Delaware did not make the participation rate of 95% for students with disabilities in ANY grade.  So that is 32.65% of the rating.  The other 32.65% is based on proficiency goals for both ELA and Math.  What is odd though is the Math goals are based on the 2014-2015 Smarter Balanced scores but the ELA goals are based on the 2013-2014 DCAS scores.  The other new indicators are results tied to early childhood learning to elementary learning in three different areas covering “growth” and “expectation” for a total of six categories.  These new weights total nearly 14% of the rating.  Other new “results” indicators are graduation rates and drop-out rates, which Delaware did not hit the goals for either one.

In terms of compliance, which used to account for 100% of the Annual State Improvement Plans from the US DOE, this year it only counts for less than 14% of the entire report.  Delaware came in at the halfway mark for this section.  Indicators in this section included disproportionality in all disabilities or specific disabilities (much more of one disability over another, like ADHD for example), a disproportionate amount of suspension rates for minority students who are also students with disabilities, initial evaluation timelines, pre-school transitions, and secondary transition (making sure students with disabilities who transition from middle school to high school are part of their IEP team).  Delaware did perfect in the disproportionality sections, but the other areas fell well below the goals.

The report on this hasn’t come out, but the Delaware DOE did send letters to each school district and charter school in the state.  Based on the numbers in each of these letters, I was able to determine Delaware will be labeled as “needs intervention” this year by the US DOE.

The following districts and charters were labeled as “needs intervention”: Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, Lake Forest, Red Clay, Woodbridge, Campus Community School, Delaware College Prep, EastSide, Prestige Academy, Thomas Edison and students handled through the Department of Students, Children, Youth and their Families.

The following districts and charters were labeled as “needs assistance”: Appoquinimink, Cape Henlopen, Capital, Delmar, Indian River, Laurel, Milford, Smyrna, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Kuumba Academy, Las Americas ASPIRAS, Positive Outcomes, and Providence Creek Academy.

What is interesting is the charters who have very few students with disabilities or very low populations of intensive or complex categories did extremely well this year.  Out of the 43 indicators, the Charter School of Wilmington only qualified for 1 which they passed.  Delaware Military Academy only had 6.  None of the charters and a few districts did not qualify for the pre-school indicators.  When I determined Delaware’s rating, I factored out any district or charter that was not applicable for any of the 43 indicators.

The participation rates were based on the 2014-2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I find it hysterical that they are using Smarter Balanced for this report.  The goals for Smarter Balanced Math on this report was a proficiency rating of 15% for students with disabilities.  All grades with the exception of 11th grade passed that goal.  But the participation rates, compliance indicators, and early childhood learning all brought Delaware way down this year.  When the final numbers come out, I predict we will be at 37.21% for our overall percentage with US DOE.  For the ratings systems, 80% and above is “meets requirements”, 60% to 79% is “needs assistance”, and 59% and below is “needs intervention”.

To see how your district or charter school did, check out this page on the Delaware DOE website.  Letters were sent out to each Superintendent or Head of School (charters) on May 31st.

Let me be the first to say I think it is utterly preposterous they are using the Smarter Balanced scores and participation rates for this report.  It is ludicrous to think it accounts for nearly two-thirds of it.  For those who ever thought testing is good, not only are teachers evaluated based on the scores, but our schools are now going through double jeopardy based on the scores and participation rates, especially schools with high populations of low-income and minority students who ALSO have high populations of students with disabilities.  I don’t accept this report and see it as utter garbage.  While some of the compliance indicators, the graduation rates, and the drop-out rates are worthy measures, the rest of it is utter crap.  I’ve said this last year and the year before, but there are so many other worthwhile things they could be measuring with these annual reports.  Such as IEPs being implemented with fidelity, IEP denials, and parent feedback.  In fact, the only thing remotely surrounding parents in this is participation rates, and that is an extreme dig at parental choices that are not against the law.  Delaware and the US DOE will NEVER learn…

I hate to be the deliverer of bad news, but once I saw these letters and what they were measuring, I knew I would be spending the rest of my day figuring all this out.  The last time we got a “needs intervention” in Delaware, back in 2014, Governor Markell announced the creation of a Special Education Strategic Plan.  He set aside funds in the FY2015 budget for this.  Almost two years later and this Strategic Plan still hasn’t seen the light of day.  But a former Rodel employee with very little special education background is getting paid a very nice salary as part of the Secretary of Education’s office.  Matthew Korobkin is in charge of this “strategic plan”.  So far the only thing I’ve heard is how much the Autism community in Delaware was pissed off at him for essentially trying to copy their Autism Blueprint into his strategic plan.  Money well spent Jack!  An IEP Task Force, formed in the General Assembly in 2014, did create legislation that is just now going into effect, but the task force never reconvened even though this was a huge discussion point towards the end of the first round.

Here It Comes! Wait For It! “Common Core Is Working!”

The News Journal wrote about Delaware’s latest graduation rates.  It seems after years of increasing rates, the numbers are now flat!  Tomorrow, at the State Board of WEIC Education meeting, we will hear the State Board members justifying why this isn’t a bad thing.  Someone, probably Pat Heffernan, will say something to the effect of “it looks like Common Core is working”.  But they will remain oblivious to the facts before them.

In 2014’s graduating class, 8,202 out of 9,713 students graduated for a rate of 84.4%.  For 2015, 8,293 graduated out of 9,832 students at 84.3%.  Yes, 91 more students graduated, but 28 more dropped out.  In 2014, 1,511 students dropped out and in 2015, 1,539 dropped out.  That isn’t really something to be proud of.  On the downward trend are students with disabilities, English Language Learners, Hispanic students, multi-racial students, and low-income students.

In comparing the 2014 rates to 2015, the biggest drop in graduation rates was for English Language Learners, dropping over six percentage points from 75% to 68.7%.  Low-income students also took a pretty big drop.  But this is hard to figure out, when you look at the numbers, since the Delaware Department of Education changed the definition of “low-income” from those eligible for free and reduced lunch to those on public assistance.  But still, in 2014 only 77.8% of low-income students graduated compared to 73.7% in 2015.  Even though more graduated in 2015, the percentage of students with disabilities dropped .4% between 2014 and 2015.

These are the statements I predict we will hear tomorrow at the State Board meeting:

“This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  At least we didn’t take a sharp drop.”

“We have to stay on course.  We cannot relent.”

“I think personalized learning will be a driver for future growth.”

“After four years of Common Core implementation, we are seeing the fruits of a rigorous educational environment.”

“We will continue to have robust conversations on how to make all students college and career ready.”

“I don’t understand all these numbers.  What does all this mean?”

 

 

 

Interesting House Education Committee Meeting Today With Wellness Centers And University of Delaware

The Delaware House Education Committee held their first meeting today after the long Joint Finance Committee break.  On the agenda was one bill, House Bill 234, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams.  As well, the University of Delaware gave a presentation on their overall enrollment trends.

House Bill 234 concerns wellness centers in three traditional school district high schools: Appoquinimink High School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Conrad Schools of Science.  These three are the last remaining high schools in the state (not including charters) which have no wellness center.  A wellness center is not just a school nurse.  They also provide counseling services as well.  The bill was unanimously released from committee.  Several folks gave public comment in support of the bill: Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, President of DSEA Frederika Jenner, and a representative from Red Clay.  Rep. Williams read a letter she received from a high school student.  The young man was going through a depression and he credited the wellness center at his high school for getting him through this very troubled time.

There was some debate about which schools would get a wellness center first if the bill passes.  Rep. Williams felt it should be the oldest school first, but State Rep. Charles Potter felt it should be needs-based.  Rep. Williams indicated the JFC would determine this in the budget as the bill calls for each of the schools receiving the wellness centers at one per year for the next three fiscal years.

Dr. Nancy Targett, the Acting President of the University of Delaware gave a long presentation on enrollment trends and a general overview of the university.  She showed many slides about minority enrollment, retention rates, and graduation rates.  Afterwards, during a question and answer with the members of the House Education Committee, things got a bit more tense.  State Rep. Charles Potter was very concerned about minorities being placed in the Associate program at the University of Delaware.  This program is for students who need more help when they enter college.  When asked about what may be holding these students back by Rep. Williams, Dr. Targett was unable to give a clear answer but did promise the committee she would get more information.  Many civil rights advocates feel the University of Delaware under-enrolls African-Americans.  Dr. Targett did say this is her number one priority and many universities across the country are dealing with these issues.

Dr. Targett felt the recent announcement about the pilot program concerning SAT scores not counting towards admission credentials could allow for more minorities to be accepted at University of Delaware.  She said the University understands not all students do well on tests like that and a student could just have a bad day.  They want to focus more on students’ actual Grade Point Average and other activities.

After the meeting adjourned, I asked Dr. Targett about an omission in her presentation: students with disabilities.  She said she didn’t know the numbers offhand but gave me her email address so she can find out.  Which I will certainly take her up on!

The DOE Makes It So Easy…Why Do They Do This?

Last week, I wrote about the Race To The Top report the US DOE came out with.  I saw Delaware’s ridiculously high graduation rates compared to all the other original Race To The Top states and I just laughed.  Turns out the Delaware Department of Education was all set to boast of this and did it in record time!  I have to redline this joke of a press release.  It is begging me to do it.  They do this all the time, and I have to wonder if anyone really cares or listens anymore about what they say.  It’s so full of their flawed methodology it’s sickening…

Delaware leads RTTT states in college enrollment gains

Delaware’s work to increase its college enrollment rates was highlighted in a U.S. Department of Education report released today looking at the progress made by states under the federal Race to the Top grant.

Say, didn’t Avi over at Newsworks dispute your drop-out claims which you openly admitted?  It stands to reason your graduation rates would be affected by that as well!  And didn’t you use to not let kids graduate if they did bad on the DSTP?  The pre-Smarter Balanced test that everyone hated?

Delaware was cited as having made the greatest gains (10.7 percent) in college enrollment. Tennessee was second at 3.3 percent.

Well la de da!  And what does that mean exactly?  Does it mean more students are taking all those remedial classes in college you like to talk about so much?  But hey, let’s have our colleges and universities make major decisions based on Smarter Balanced!  Cause that’s going to work out so well!

Race to the Top also provided Delaware students with more opportunities for Advanced Placement and pre-AP courses. The report highlights how Delaware has supported educators through more direct AP training and given districts/charters increased access to virtual courses. This has resulted in student enrollment in AP courses increasing by 9.2 percent in Delaware since 2011. In the same period, the number of AP exam scores of 3 or higher (on a 5-point scale) has increased 22.2 percent.

Too bad a score of 3 isn’t accepted by Delaware’s colleges.  Too bad the bulk of students score a three.  That is $90 per course out the window.  Be proud DOE, be proud…

In other areas of the report, First State educators were called out for their collaboration during professional learning communities as well as their school team approach to professional learning as part of the state’s Common Ground for the Common Core.

Is there still a teacher’s lounge in every school where teachers sit during lunch, relax, and talk to each other?  That is true collaboration!  Teachers complain about all the time they don’t have in school.  And you actually said the words Common Core instead of the “standards”.  You haven’t been watching other states.  Those words have become toxic…

“Delaware teachers in every school met weekly for 90 minutes in professional learning communities to analyze student work and reflect on ways to modify instruction to bridge gaps identified in student learning,” the report said.

I’ll bet that was so much fun for all these teachers.  You make it sound like it was a party.  You forced teachers to do this and most of them can’t stand you for it.

The report also praised the state for listening to educators and adjusting supports to meet their needs: “Delaware and Tennessee had initially planned to conduct large-scale training sessions to help teachers transition to new standards. However, after soliciting feedback from teachers, they changed their plans and brought school teams together for action planning and used the talents of their own excellent teachers, rather than outside consultants, to provide training.”

So why did the Vision Coalition get paid so much Race To The Top money?  What essential need did they provide teachers that teachers could have done themselves?  Rodel IS an outside consultant DOE, get it through your thick head!

Delaware also was commended for relying on groups of teachers and leaders to provide ongoing input on new approaches or strategies to improve evaluation practices. For example, the state engaged 600 teachers to develop more than 200 assessment “tool kits” that provided rigorous and comparable measures of growth in student learning for non-tested grades and subjects.

More of the teacher cabal over at Rodel/Vision.  And don’t our Delaware teachers just love DPAS-II?  Please…you disgrace every teacher in this state with this nonsense…

And the U.S. Department of Education lauded Delaware for using RTTT to provide educators with an improved and more comprehensive data system as well as for using this customized data system to help support and manage program implementation at the district level. The digital systems that Delaware developed also made it easier to report and summarize student outcomes.

I’ll bet it did!  And where is all that data going DOE?  I know, I know, “we can’t send out personal data”.  Unless it is for the furthering of education and the fix-its we all know companies love to tell us we need but they never actually fix anything.  As State Rep. Sean Matthews brilliantly said, it is “cash in the trash”.

Schools, Parents Sue Pennsylvania Over ‘Educational Caste System’ @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @Apl_Jax @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @DSNEleanor @TNJ_malbright @DeDeptofEd @nannyfat @roof_o @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

Schools, Parents Sue Pennsylvania Over ‘Educational Caste System’.

Deirdre Fulton, a staff writer at commondreams.org wrote an article today about the huge lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania by parents, school districts, and organizations in the Keystone State.  Fulton’s article is below:

Six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations sued the commonwealth of Pennsylvania on Monday, claiming legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor have failed to uphold the state’s constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards and “participate meaningfully in the economic, civic, and social life of their communities.”

According to the complaint (pdf), “state officials have adopted an irrational and inequitable school financing arrangement that drastically underfunds school districts across the Commonwealth and discriminates against children on the basis of the taxable property and household incomes in their districts.”

“The disparity in education resources has created an educational caste system that the Commonwealth must eliminate.”
—Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

As a result, the plaintiffs claim that hundreds of thousands of students throughout the state lack basic educational supports and services—functioning school libraries, up-to-date textbooks and curriculum materials, reasonable class sizes, guidance counselors, school nurses, vocational-ed and college prep classes, academic tutoring programs, and more.

“My child is in classes with too many other students and she has no access to tutoring services or support from paraprofessionals, but our elected officials still expect and require her to pass standardized tests,” said Jamela Millar, parent of 11-year-old K.M., a student in the William Penn School District. “How are kids supposed to pass the tests required to graduate high school, find a job and contribute to our economy if their schools are starving for resources?”

The state NAACP and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools joined the suit on behalf of their members. Urban, suburban, and rural districts are represented among the plaintiffs. While the state-run Philadelphia School District did not join the legal action, two Philadelphia parents are part of the suit and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers issued a statement in support on Monday.

According to the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, which is litigating the case along with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and a national, private law firm, the lawsuit requests that the court:

  • Declare that the current system of funding [Pennsylvania] schools does not comply with the state constitution; and
  • Order the defendants to cease using a funding system that does not provide adequate funding where students can meet state standards and which discriminates against low wealth districts.
  • Order the defendants to create and maintain a constitutional school funding system that will enable all students to meet state academic standards and does not discriminate against low-wealth school districts.

“It’s a shame that it has come to this,” lawyer Michael Churchill, of the Public Interest Law Center, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It is really only because of the starkest failures that we are taking this step to force the legislature’s hand by going through the courts.”

But could it work?

Philadelphia Magazine, which calls the suit “potentially momentous,” offers a partial answer:

Could the Supreme Court really order the state to come up with billions of dollars of new funding for public education? New Jersey’s Supreme Court did. In 1990, the court ruled that the state had provided inadequate and unequal funding for students in urban districts, a ruling that led in part to a $2.8 billion tax hike. Now, urban districts in New Jersey are as well or better funded than their suburban counterparts, an investment that has yielded mixed results.

But New Jersey’s judiciary has historically been far more progressive and activist than has Pennsylvania’s. Securing new funding and a new formula through the courts is likely to be a far more difficult proposition for educative advocates here.

The Allentown Morning Call reports:

Lawsuits in the late 1990s challenging Pennsylvania’s education funding system were defeated.

The court previously ruled that it could not address problems with school funding since it did not have any manageable standards by which to measure what students needed to learn and whether they were meeting those standards, according to the attorneys in the new lawsuit.

Two key factors have changed since that ruling, attorneys for the plaintiffs said.

First, a costing-out study in 2007 showed how much money the state believed schools needed to provide a thorough education. Though the Legislature initially attempted to fund education to that level, it abandoned those plans, according to the suit.

Second, the introduction of the Keystone Exams created a standard of what students need to learn to graduate. Currently, more than 50 percent of students are unable to pass the Keystone Exams, the suit claims.

The inadequate funding of public education in Pennsylvania is representative of a national problem affecting millions of school children across the country, triggering similar lawsuits in many states, said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“Pennsylvania is not alone in denying adequate funding for its students, especially those in high poverty school districts,” Henderson said. “But this case shows that Pennsylvania is one of the worst offenders in the nation. The disparity in education resources has created an educational caste system that the Commonwealth must eliminate. We will continue to take action to vindicate the state constitutional rights of all students to an education that prepares them for citizenship and the workforce. We also call on the U.S. Department of Education to investigate Pennsylvania for the glaring inequity in essential education resources in schools serving poor and minority school children and to take decisive corrective action on the findings.”

While outgoing Republican governor Tom Corbett—named in the suit—came under fire for his deep cuts to basic education services, Democrat Tom Wolf, who unseated Corbett last week, has said he will restore education funding and enact an equitable funding formula.