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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what happens to these 358 special education students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

IDEA: What Disabilities, Disorders or Conditions Qualify for an IEP? Find out here, along with the key rule!

The following are listed as qualifying conditions, disabilities, or disorders for an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.  The important thing to remember for any IEP is that the condition MUST affect a child’s educational outcome.  If they are brilliant and have no problems whatsoever with learning or adapting to a classroom environment affecting the ability to learn, chances are they may not qualify.  This is a very important thing for parents to remember.  Evaluations will be done to help determine disabilities, but parents should always find out ahead of time which ones are being done, and should also do some research to make sure they are the appropriate evaluations.

The federal criteria indicates a child must be impacted in the following areas to the point where they cannot perform at grade level when given instruction at that grade level. The term the federal government gives is “adversely affected”.  The following are the educational areas where a child must be adversely affected: Oral Expression, Listening Comprehension, Written Expression, Basic Reading Skills, Reading Fluency Skills, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics Calculation, and Mathematics Problem Solving.  The key to determining all of these criteria is is a history of assessments showing what areas a child may have struggled in, as well as a guarantee of appropriate professional instruction by an educator.  Once again, educational outcome must be affected!

The following are disabilities that can qualify a child for an IEP as long as they are adversely affected educationally:

Autism: A developmental disability that overwhelmingly affects a child’s verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as the ability to socially interact appropriately or at the child’s age level.  Autism typically needs to be diagnosed before the age of 3.  If the primary diagnosis that affects the ability to have a good educational outcome is an emotional disturbance it is not considered autism.

Deafness: A child would need to be completely deaf or the hearing must be so bad that they cannot function at an educational level appropriate to their age, with or without technical assistance or amplification.

Deaf-Blindness: A child with both of these afflictions must be in a position where they cannot reasonably be educated in classrooms with students who are just deaf or just blind.

Developmental Delay: This would be a delay in one or more of these disadvantages- physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, or behavior development.

Emotional Disturbance: The following must be present over a long period of time and to the extent that the educational outcome is affected.  These include an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual or sensory or health factors, not being able to create or maintain social relationships with peers and teachers, behavior that is not normal under usual circumstances, a continuing depression or feeling of unhappiness, and an ability to create symptoms or fears in regards to school and social life.  Schizophrenia would be covered under this.

Hearing Impairment: The child is not deaf, but their ability to hear impacts them to such a degree that an educational outcome is affected.

Intellectual Disability: Not being able to significantly function intellectually at an age appropriate level.  This has to co-exist with an inability to show signs of adaptive behavior.  Another key factor is this must be shown while a child is still in development.  This used to be called mental retardation, but a law in 2010 changed the terminology.

Orthopedic Impairment: These must be conditions that stem from disease such as tuberculosis or polio, an amputation, the permanent shortening of a muscle or joint (this would include those caused by burns or fractures), and cerebral palsy.

Other-Health Impaired: This is easily the most controversial category involved in identifying whether a child qualifies for an IEP because the following do not have their own category.  It is not a one-size fits all listing though where any condition must occur, but it MUST be looked at by anyone determining a qualification for an IEP.  Disabilities or Conditions listed in this category are: ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Asthma, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Heart conditions, Hemophilia, Lead Poisoning, Leukemia, Nephritis (A kidney inflammation disorder), Rheumatic Fever, Sickle Cell Anemia and Tourette’s Syndrome.  With any of these, there must be clear signs that educational outcome is affected.

Specific Learning Disability: This is another one that can be easily missed that includes dyslexia, perceptual disabilities, brain injury (including those that cause minimal brain dysfunction), and developmental aphasia (also known as word blindness).

Speech or Language Impairment: These would be listed as a communication disorder with the following types of conditions- stuttering, a voice or language impairment, or an impaired articulation.  Once again, educational outcome must be affected.

Traumatic Brain Injury: Put simply, this means any brain injury cause by an “outside physical force”.  It must cause total or part dysfunction, and affect abilities such as language, reasoning, memory, cognition, judgment, problem solving, or attention.  It could also cause problems with your motor, sensory, or perceptual abilities.  Other factors could include problems with physical functions, information processing, and social behavior.

Visual Impairment (including Blindness): This covers any impairment with a child’s vision whether it can be corrected or not that also affects a child’s educational outcome.

Multiple Disabilities: Having more than one disability, disorder or condition on this list, with the exception of deaf-blindness (as that is already a multiple disability), that would cause additional special education to cover the multiple disabilities.

It is very important for any parent to know that their child does not have to be failing to have their educational outcome in trouble.  Federal law states that any child with one or more disabilities must have a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that requires “special education or related services”.

In the world of special education, teachers, special education departments and administrators live by acronyms.  They will refer to FAPE, IEP, IDEA, and other terms all the time.  If you aren’t familiar with these terms, it can get very confusing for a parent.  So it is worth it to brush up on these prior to any IEP meeting.

For a lot of parents who have already been thrust into the special education world, most of this is familiar to us.  For new parents introduced to these terms, I hope this provided some insight and clarification for you.