Diploma Bill Released From House Education Committee

The first battle for HS1 for House Bill #287 was won today as the Delaware House Education Committee released it from committee.  This puts the special education legislation on the Ready list for a full House vote.

All were in favor of the release except for State Rep. Deb Heffernan who voted no and State Rep. Stephanie Bolden who abstained.  There was a great deal of discussion about the bill and who exactly it represents among Delaware special education students.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the Delaware Department of Education, attempted to answer these questions to committee members.  The diploma with modified standards would apply to a very small population of Delaware students, approximately 1% of them.  These are students with severe disabilities that affect their ability to perform relative to their peers.

Currently, these students receive a “certificate of performance”.  Which means they are not allowed to check up the Diploma box on job applications.  They are unable to have the opportunity to apply for many jobs.  For parents of these children, as so aptly put by parent John Young, it is a resignation for their children that is very difficult to accept.

Much of the conversation was about the gap group of special education students between those this would apply to and those who receive a high school diploma.  To qualify for this bill, you have to be approved by your IEP team to take the alternative state assessment.  But that is only a little over 1% of Delaware students.  Our special education numbers hover around 15-16%.  Some of those students who do qualify for the Smarter Balanced Assessment have a difficult time passing rigorous high school courses and are unable to graduate.  Many legislators wanted to see numbers from the Delaware DOE on this.

One public comment, given by Robert Overmiller, said this bill would be lying to these students.  The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, of which Overmiller is a member, had public comment from member Kathie Cherry.  She felt it was important to note that Overmiller’s views on the bill did not reflect the overwhelming majority of the council who are in support of the bill.  While I do agree with Overmiller on many education issues, I felt his opposition to this bill was unfair but he is certainly entitled to his opinion.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting gave the DOE’s approval of the bill, as did Delaware Autism, the Delaware Association of School Administrators, the Delaware School Boards Association, and parents.

This is an important victory for this bill.  It still has a long way to go but I like the track it is going in.

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.

The IEP Task Force Is Back! Too Bad Nobody Knows & They Are Having Non-Public Meetings…

Closed

Today the IEP Task Force reconvened in a meeting about the new IEP Plus 5.0.  Together with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC), a meeting was held to go over the new functionalities of the IEP computer system that former Chair of the IEP Task Force Matt Denn wanted to scrap altogether.  This meeting was SO important nobody knew about it.  And unless legislation has been introduced extending Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 from the 147th General Assembly, anything with the name “IEP Task Force” is technically illegal.

cantbloghere

While pretty much nobody showed up to the meeting from the old IEP Task Force, I find it interesting the DOE would stage a meeting in conjunction with the GACEC and this mythical new IEP Task Force.  None of the legislators from the previous task force showed up.  Matt Denn wasn’t there.  So who is running this?  Apparently, the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group Mary Ann Mieczkowski ran the meeting.  She was on the IEP Task Force.  And she is also a member of the GACEC.

closedtothepublic

So we have a non-public meeting of two very public entities.  Say the IEP Task Force was just a name thrown on over a month ago (which was when an email was sent to different task force members advising them of this meeting today).  The GACEC should have definitely put this on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  But I guess non-transparency is okay if nobody finds out about it!

ParentsNotPermitted

From what I have learned, the meeting was very boring.  It was a lot of technical lingo about the updated computer system run by Sunguard.  Sunguard also runs e-school, that clever little database that houses EVERYTHING about your child.  IEP Plus is the system where ALL IEPs are stored.  But that’s not the point.  I’ve been in IEP meetings where IEP Plus sucks the oxygen out of the room and technical difficulties take up far too much time.  I’m sure it isn’t just schools and the DOE who are fed up by it.  But here is the DOE, probably paying tons of money for this upgrade with no one the wiser.  By denying any parent the ability to go to this meeting, I have to wonder what other meetings are going on in this state behind closed doors that should be open to the public.  I’m sure there are plenty!  Like I’ve said a couple times: “Delaware, first to sign the Constitution, the last to follow it!”

authorized personnel

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.

 

 

My Email To Matt Denn About The IEP Task Force, Denial Is Not Just A River In Egypt @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @roof_o #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

Tomorrow night, November 12th, is the 5th meeting of the IEP Task Force.  Lieutenant Governor/future Attorney General Matt Denn has indicated the task force will continue past the drafting of the Governor’s Report, due in January 2015.  But there is one major issue this task force has not discussed, and it was brought up in public comment by myself and others.

I wrote the following email to Matt Denn as a plea for the future of the students with disabilities in Delaware abused by this process.  Not only is it a Civil Rights violation, it is also against Federal Law.

Hi Matt,

Congratulations on your victory in the election for Attorney General.  I am confident you will do great things in this role. 

I had some concerns about the IEP Task Force.  My number one problem, and always has been, is the amount of IEP denials that occur.  This occurs often in charter schools.  I spoke with Mary Ann Mieczkowski last summer about this, and she informed me there is NO protocol for monitoring the amount of denials.  No audit takes place to suggest if a denial was warranted or not.  What tends to happen is the IEP is denied, and either a 504 plan might be given or nothing happens.  The amount of protection offered by a 504 is minimal compared to an IEP for a special needs student.  For children with behavior issues who are denied an IEP, they are often “counseled out” by a charter or expelled.  Their behavior is the catalyst for these actions, but with no special education accommodations given, these students don’t stand a chance.

I know I am not a member of the task force, but I am asking, no, begging, that this topic is introduced.  I’ve brought it up a few times in public comment, but it doesn’t even appear to be an issue amongst the task force.  I know charters were brought up at the last meeting, but this particular topic didn’t come up.  When a student “switches” to another school, long-term behaviors have become a part of this student’s thinking, and it is very difficult for the next school to get a student back on track.

I am proposing the Delaware Department of Education requires all schools in Delaware under their jurisdiction to have this information reported to them, and audited by them.  While the Federal government does not mandate this, there are specific laws written into IDEA that require the schools to do things which should prevent these issues from happening in the first place.  This is a major reason why there are so many special education lawsuits in this state. 

I know the IEP Task Force may be extended past the Governor’s report in January, but I feel this is the most important issue in the whole IEP process.  Every day when something is not done is another day when a Delaware student is suffering because they don’t have the supports in place to help them.  This is the ugly part of IEPs that the DOE and legislators don’t want to look at, but it is happening, right now, and parents and students with disabilities are paying the price.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to attending the meeting tomorrow night.

Sincerely,

Kevin Ohlandt

Delaware parents of special needs children.  If you have not already given public comment or emailed Matt Denn about your own situation where your child was denied an IEP at any school in the state that you feel was not justified, please attend the meeting tomorrow night in Dover or Wilmington.  Let this task force know what happened with your child and what the negative results may have been for them.  This is the time to bring this matter under the microscope so it can be eliminated from happening to any child.  I know it can be hard speaking in public about your child, but it is the right thing to do.  The system can’t change unless more parents speak up.

Many of you have shared your stories with me, whether it was email, talking, or on social media.  This is the same thing, but with the ability for great and lasting change.  I personally do not want any child in this state to suffer the way my own did, and I feel it is my responsibility and duty as a human being to make sure events like this never happen again.

The 4th IEP Task Force Meeting, Live From Dover & Wilmington @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @ecpaige @Apl_Jax #netde #eduDE

Tonight’s meeting is centrally located in Dover, with the teleconferencing from Wilmington. It looks like most of the task force is in Dover.

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn is asking for a roll call and intros.

Going over draft meetings from last two previous meetings. Denn is explaining how the audio recording gives much more information than draft minutes could, and the audio recordings are now available as a podcast on ITunes (Thanks Kilroy!).

The legislators on the task force seems a bit slim today. None of them are here, but Senator Lawson does have his Chief of Staff (will have to check on her official title!) Brian Touchette is not present. Otherwise it looks like most members are here.

Denn is going over the agenda items and matters that need to be discussed. He is please with the progress they have made. He wants to go over two items from the last meeting they did not get to. Technical Assistance, with an emphasis on charter schools, in preparing for IEP meetings is on the table. Marissa Band from Legal Aid is discussing concerns about charter schools not having resources, knowledge or skills to properly prepare IEPs. As a result the children tend to get pushed back into the local public school district. She indicated they need adequate support to be able to meet the needs of the children. Diane Eastburn, Kent County parent advocate, asked if charter school case managers get the same training as public school district case managers. Mary Ann Mieczkowski with the Delaware DOE Exceptional Children Group said they do give specific meetings and professional development with the charter schools several times a year. She acknowledged they do need more help. She also said she just completed a two-day professional development on standards-based IEPs. She said she has representatives from her workgroup that serve as a liason for each charter school in the state.

Laura Manges is speaking about a potential bill in legislation that would ensure charter school educators have the same credentials as public school educators. She said this is the way it used to be in the state. Denn is asking if “technical assistance” was a polite way of making sure they do it the right way. He asked if this is monitored. Mary Ann Mieczkowski said there is a monitoring system in place (compliance monitoring) on a 5 year cycle. She said on-sight monitoring occurs on Tier 2. She is going over several of the different indicators required by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). She said when they find an issue of non-compliance, they issue a letter to the charter or district indicating the area out of non-compliance. They have to correct the issue, which includes holding an IEP meeting to fix it. They must have a root cause analysis and professional development. After this is done, the DOE goes back in to look at different IEPs to make sure the problem is corrected. This must be done in a year to get out of non-compliance.

Denn asked about things that may not show up on a compliance audit. Mieczkowski indicated how due process works: complaint, mediation, due process hearing. Denn is asking if there is any contact with parents with a kind of “how’s it going” questionnaire. She answered this is required through OSEP for a parent engagement survey. They aren’t totally satisfied with this, but they are working with PIC and the Delaware PTA to make this a broader type of survey. Denn asked what happens when they get back a survey with bad marks. Mieczkowski said parents can always call their office but the surveys are anonymous.

Bill Doolittle is stating a charter school is equivalent to one school in a district. Mieczkowski advised charters go through a rigorous application process and all of this needs to be spelled out during that timeframe. If their application falls short it would be addressed right away. Doolittle advised the charters need a place to go to get resources. Tracy Bombarra asked what kind of questions are asked on the survey to which Mieczkowski explained questions appear like “Were you involved in the IEP process” or “How satisfied were you with the IEP process.” She admitted they have a positive response, but the number of responses is low, which they are working on with PIC and DE PTA.

Band said she is concerned about charters not having access to programs like the Delaware Autism Program (DAP) or programs for hearing-impaired students. Josette Threats asked if there is a place where a parent can go to do a survey. She said she has never seen any type of survey. Mieczkowski said currently it’s a pencil and paper survey but they are looking at different methods. Eastburn asked if it could be done at the annual IEP meeting? Liz Toney with the Delaware PTA was at a meeting with the DOE and said this is in the beginning stages and an online survey has been discussed. She said the data she has seen indicates it shows parents are too happy with the IEP process.

Denn is asking if “technical assistance” needs to be clarified for actual technical issues or everything that has been discussed. Band said the training should be required, and not voluntary. She said they need to be using the technical assistance provided by the state. Mieczkowski said the training they give them is not only based on regulatory requirements but social skills training, parental safeguards, positive behavioral supports and other areas. She said based on some data, some of the charters are required to attend these trainings. Toney asked what representative from the charters attends the meeting. Mieczkowski (I’m going to refer to her as Mitch from here on out cause, God bless her, I can’t keep typing her last name) said it depends on the type of training. She also said there is a problem with the charter schools in regards to their “n” size which can impact when they are flagged.

Eastburn is talking about charter schools not always reporting issues of suspensions. She and Mitch are going back and forth about who the DOE, schools and parents answer to. Denn advised most parents aren’t very knowledgeable about these types of matters. Denn said there is an advantage to this for parents, not in terms of statistics, but in schools knowing they need to be more aware of parent issues with schools. He brought up random bullying audits he has been involved with. He brought up a parent comment from the last meeting with charter school issues. Mike Hoffman, special education teacher, asked who would handle this? Denn advised the schools would not be a fair and biased party to do this. Doolittle said there needs to be more auditing and the state doesn’t have good data. He is aware there is a cost for this but it is worth looking at. Mitch indicated they do get data from PIC, DAP, GACEC and other sources to help improve the system. She said they need all data, including Diane Eastburn data. Tracy Bombarra asked about provider data. She asked that they be randomly surveyed as well to which Mitch said sure. Manges said there was a time where DOE would go to districts and do a comprehensive review at different schools within the district and would send out teams over a day or two to do this. She asked if the DOE has expanded to allow for the growth of all these charters. Mitch indicated it has not.

Denn is bringing up the topic of “jargon” on IEPs. Toney said she thinks taking the jargon out of the IEPs entirely would be good. She said she has been involved in this process a long time and she still doesn’t understand all of the acronyms. Mitch asked what the jargon is in IEPs? Toney explained things like WISC and other terms can be very confusing to parents. Dafne Carnright said additional training should be given, like a type of customer service, that school members in the IEP meetings should avoid using acronyms or technical jargon. Denn and Threats are talking about providing a glossary for parents. Denn reminded the task force this report will go to legislators to provide actual laws to change things, and the advice needs to be very precise in terms of getting things passed or not passed into law.

(side note: Very glad to see all the charters getting this “special” attention!)

Denn is going over the list of other items he wants to make sure is in the report to Governor Markell. He is talking specifically about transition services for older students and the ability of providers responding without a fear of repercussions down the road. He is asking the task force if there are matters they feel should be on the priority list. Eastburn said the benchmarks need to be addressed at some point consistently throughout the state so parents aren’t just given a copy of an IEP. Bombarra said there is a narrative box on IEP Plus where the schools are supposed to give that data. She said people either aren’t doing it, and they should. She said it takes her two days to complete the process for the three schools she works with. She said the system is set up to do this. Tricia Dallas, another special education teacher, said she isn’t sure how much parents are getting from the form sent home with report cards. Carnright agreed with what Dallas said and this needs to be looked at. Denn said is putting it down as “better way to communicate IEP goals to parents” and will make it more specific about what is should look like.

Denn brought up unique problems with visually-impaired students in the IEP process and is strongly hinting this becomes a priority issue without saying it needs to be. Senator Nicole Poore said she thinks this is very important to add to the list of priority issues. Denn agrees. He reiterated this group should continue and will advise the legislature this group should go on after this. Denn said he will go over empowering advocates and providers to better educate for students and the visually impaired issues will be brought up the next meeting. Someone in Wilmington said this is done through the Department of Health and Human Services, to which Denn said this issue will be looked at.

Ruth Lavelle, New Castle County parent rep, said she was in a meeting last week and said IEP Plus is not user-friendly and questioned whether it is less of a band-width issue but the system itself. Denn said this is a major issue on the list. Carnright and Toney talked about the Wellington System that Eastburn brought up at the last meeting. Denn said how other states do things will come up when they work on the drafts for the legislature, which could help answer the IEP Plus question. Bombarra asked about how anything the legislature passes will be funded. Denn said anything over $50,000.00 gets a fiscal note, otherwise the districts or charters get the bill for that. Denn did say other bills do provide funding, such as the summer reading coding amendment from Senate Bill 229 which was sponsored by Senator Nicole Poore and passed in the 147th Assembly. Denn said it is fortunate many of the legislators on the task force sit on the financial committee in the legislature. Denn explained he knows not every single member on the task force will agree on the final resolutions they will submit, so he is opening up the floor to anyone who has issues with what has been discussed. Lawson’s rep said he wants to make sure the Delaware laws are consistent with Federal law for special education.

I briefly gave public comment where I stated the biggest problems I see with the charter schools are them not understanding other-health impaired and what disabilities are listed under that and using a child being “too smart” as a reason to not give an IEP even though a disability or behavior issues affect a child’s educational outcome.

Meeting adjourned!

Live, From The IEP Task Force Meeting in Dover, Delaware

It’s 4:21 pm and folks are coming in.  I see quite a few familiar faces.  Many people I don’t know…yet.  I will be updating throughout the meeting….stay tuned!

It looks like most of the people are here.  It’s a packed house here at the Collette Education Resource Center.  Many citizens of the state have come out to see what will happen here.  Quite a few parents.  There’s even a couple kids here!

Matt Denn is starting the meeting and greeting everyone.  Introductions are happening.  We have videoconferencing from Wilmington, sound quality is low.  They just turned it up.  No members of the public in Wilmington.    Four people will be giving public comment at the end of the meeting.

Matt Denn is going through Senate Concurring Resolution 63 which created the IEP task force.  Matt is citing the task force’s main goal as “difficult for parents to understand and navigate, and at worst in some instances, unfair and intimidating to parents.”

Denn said “Our challenge is figuring out how to protect those parents and those kids without negatively impacting the districts and parents.”

Delaware passed a statute in DE four years ago that gave a standard stating special education services need to be better.  Quoted statement from 1975 that “children with disabilities are entitled to a Cadillac education, not a serviceable Chevrolet.”  The statute indicated Delaware students do deserve a quality special education above and beyond, not just the most basic.  Denn expressed the following:  It’s complicated for families to work through an appeal financially for families.  Appeals are expensive due to expert witnesses.  Schools have that paid for already, but parents don’t.  Delaware changed the law a couple years ago.  If you win an appeal the attorney fees are paid by the school district.  Other attorneys take cases on contingency.

Eight meetings over next four months.  Last four will be for drafting report to Governor Markell.  Second to last meeting will be votes on recommendations.  Meetings will end by 6:30pm to allow all parents on task force and in audience to take care of children, especially those who are extending their work day.  Task force will take written comments and will be distributed to members of task force.

Matt Denn said “This is the place to tell your personal story.” Denn wants the task force can get a good idea of what is going on in our state with special education.  He express that this isn’t the place for pending issues with IEPs to get worked out.  Matt Denn said he will shut up soon!  Now we will get to the heart of this!

Kim Siegel from Denn’s office is talking about special education practices in other states.  13 out of 25 states provide parent guides.  Some were over 200 pages while one was only 5 pages.  Common parts of these include glossaries of terms and acronyms (of which there are many in this world), listings of community resources, explanations of legal rights, sample forms, and methods of dispute resolutions.  Massachusetts has it’s own Bureau of Special Education Appeals to help parents with dispute hearings.  Some states have several different options for parents knowing goals.  A lot of states are dealing with behavior issues in classrooms and committing to looking at it within the IEP.  Indiana actually has sections for the primary disability and secondary disabilities on their IEPs.

Denn talked about PIC (Parent Information Center) and how they are there to help with IEP meetings.  He is now talking about attorney situations that are unavoidable.  Delaware wants to do something in between, including supporting advocates attending IEP meetings.  He said lawyering up is not always the best solution.

Liz Toney from Delaware PTA gets IEP questionnaire in Brandywine School District in DE, asks for parent goals and thoughts.  She feels this is an excellent way to relieve tension prior to meeting.  Toney will provide copy of questionnaire, many feel it is a great idea.  This blogger agrees!

Doing second round of introductions due to some latecomers on the task force.

A member asked Siegel if information from other states was beneficial to parents, but Siegel said she was not able to dig that deep on it.  PIC rep Meedra Surratte advised they let parents know to think about what their goals are.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski from the Exceptional Children Group at DOE said PIC wrote a book on assisting parents through the IEP process.  Surratte said it was revised last year and is not too comprehensive and long.  PIC rep said reading level of book may go beyond some families reading capabilities.

Diane Eastburn, the Kent County parent representative, stated she likes parents to see copy of IEP prior to IEP meetings to add to parental clarity to event.  Surratte said good idea, but needs to be stressed to parent that it is only a draft, not a final.  Mieczkowski asking about how much is written beforehand, Eastburn answered she sees many situations where IEP is just read.  Dafne Carnwright from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) said any IEP meeting is overwhelming, so parents having the IEP draft beforehand can relieve some of that tension.  Bill Doolittle from GACEC agreed with this.

Senator Nicole Poore said she toured ten schools throughout Delaware and said there is no consistency.  Her own son has had differing IEP goals and problems in the process.  Eastburn said it would be easier to do IEPs by birthdate instead of cramming so many in during certain times of the school year, which causes severe burden on IEP teams.  She cited one example where she saw the wrong child’s name on an IEP report.

Teacher on task force in Wilmington talking about how time is very limited for IEP development due to time constraints during the school day.  Stating problems with IEP Plus (system Delaware uses for IEPs) often crashes.  Another teacher is talking about how during IEP meetings staff picked to substitute aren’t always qualified for servicing certain special needs students.  Doolittle stated we need to start thinking outside the box, and do we always need to be pulling special education classes out of their classes?

Tracy Bombarra, a school service provider, said sometimes administrator’s often tell teachers just to read the report in the IEP meeting and then leave (against IDEA law).  She said she could be sued for not being there and taking minutes.  Said it is a no-win situation.  There was a question about service days, and Tricia Dallas, the administrator member of the task force from the Charleton School, said that could be looked at but service days are for professional development.  Denn said more professional development needs to be done overall.

Denn said there needs to be more school willingness to engage parents prior to IEP meetings.  Seth Kopp, a special education teacher member of task force, said parents just don’t understand the IEP process.  Denn said even the most knowledgeable, sophisticated parent can see an IEP meeting fall apart over disagreement with just one service not being provided.  He felt this creates an adversarial relationship with administrations, teachers, and service providers (ex. Occupational Therapist).

Senator Dave Larson talked about all the acronyms involved and how they can be very cumbersome .  He said plain English is the way to go.  Bombarra said interpreters are needed for uncommon languages for parents who may not speak English, Spanish or French Creole.  She has run against problems with Vietnamese and other languages where services were not available.

Someone in Wilmington talked about how we may want to look at more student-led IEPs.  LRE (least restrictive environment) was brought up by another Wilmington member, and said you can have the best IEP in the classroom in the world, but if it isn’t implemented in the classroom, it’s a waste.  Doolittle said he has run into situations where schools don’t know how to implement certain services.

Mike Hoffman, the Delaware State Education Association member, said as a paraprofessional he is not shown the IEP which makes his problems much more difficult.  Surratte said PIC recommends any paraprofessional attends IEP meetings.  Senator Poore strongly agreed with having the paraprofessional be a part of the process since they are the ones making sure certain services are attended to.  Hoffman said he asks IEP teams all the time “How in the world do you have stuff on the IEP without asking me?” since he provides so many essential services for students.   Eastburn said this can impact the data for the IEP goals and this can greatly affect whether students meet goals or not.  Carnwright said she often gets calls from parents who state that IEP goals can completely disappear from one year to the next, and the parents are confused about that.  They aren’t sure if their child met the goal or if it was left out.  Laura Manges, the task force member with the Delaware Association of School Administrators, stated children are served with the best of intentions.  She said many changes will require time commitment and additional funding.  She said teachers are still responsible for teaching special ed students Common Core standards and teachers are overwhelmed with what she labeled as “double duty”.  Bombarra talked about a need for more information on the IEP form for services and less for testing accommodations.

Denn stated certain things in IEP meetings are mandated by federal law under IDEA, but some things don’t have to be there.  He said he  wants to look at what the state has discretion over and what they don’t.  Denn wrapped up the discussion and said many topics have come up.  He said when the task force compiles the report that not everyone will agree on the report.  But he did clarify that any member is welcome to tack something on to end of report indicating why they don’t agree, which the Governor and the legislators will see.  (Really liking Matt Denn even more right now!)

Public Comment time!  This blogger made public comment which I’ll put up later.  Wendy Strauss with GACEC talked about Disability Hub, a new informational website for children 14 years or older and adults with disabilities who are in transition post high school.  She said the IEP process is very emotional and that my comments were very emotional.  She believes teachers and parents need to know what is in the IEP, and it needs to be reread it throughout the year.  She said several teachers, when asked, are not able to say what exactly is in the IEP.

Sonja Lawrence commented and said she assumes the IEP team has children’s best intentions at heart.  She said her child is visually impaired, and braille instruction is an accommodation but it isn’t provided in the classroom and parents are asked by administration to make a choice at that point in time which is difficult.  That choice is the braille service or classroom inclusion, but parents want both, according to Lawrence.  She talked about the many problems with visually impaired programs in Delaware.  She had concerns about large classrooms and 28:1 student teacher ratios.  She said teachers are beholden to cases across the state and they are unable to service all those children.  She had three recommendations:  1) Let’s put something in place that allows teachers to put services in as a whole, 2) Braille instruction is required by law, 3) Student services are under resourced and under funded.  Debbie Harrington spoke next, and she has a daughter in high school, who is also visually impaired.  Like Lawrence, she also wants more representation in Delaware for the visually impaired.  She said there are too many inconsistencies in the process for the state.

The final public comment came from Greg Mazotta, who he was very surprised there were no school psychologists on the team, but believes the group has many strong members and thinks it is a good start.  He said there needs to be more sustainability in the IEP process.  He wants to volunteer his services for the taskforce to help improve quality services.  He said there are several places to go to find workable services and best practices.  He said strategic plans in school districts for continuous improvement don’t always include ancillary services.

Denn concluded the meeting, and said several things were brought up today that are very important.  He asked if there were any other concerns, and a member of the Wilmington task force said health education is not being serviced to children with IEPs and they are most vulnerable in terms of sex education.  Doolittle said he also wants to hear positive examples of how the process works.  September 30th at 4:30 pm is next meeting.  Nothing said about subgroups yet.  Meeting adjourned.

Notes: It was very difficult to know who was speaking in Wilmington, so I apologize if I misrepresented anyone there.  I will write more later, but I thought it was a great meeting.  So many topics were introduced, including my own which I will post about later.  This is going to be one busy task force.  I really like that Matt Denn was making it very informal, and invited public response so graciously.  I apologize if I raised fears in folks that this would be all about Common Core.  Based on what I was hearing, as little as two days ago from an absent member of the legislative side of the task force, indications were pointing that way.  It is not DOE focused as I also feared, and I believe good things can come from this.  For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful about special education in Delaware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Relationship Between The Delaware DOE and Public Consulting Group Revealed, It’s Worse Than Before!

The Delaware Department of Education and the Public Consulting Group have a relationship based on a contract, but the circumstance regarding the implementation of this contract are very alarming. This contract is to help support the Children Services Cost Recovery project, which provides federal Medicaid reimbursement to Delaware. PCG has had a vendor contract with the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) for many years, but it wasn’t until the end of 2011 that the DOE gained a contract with PCG.

When a student with disabilities receives Medicaid and also receives special education services through an IEP, the state can actually get part of the costs for the special education reimbursed to them. Special needs parents of a child with an IEP should receive a letter asking for authorization from the state to recover such costs. This could include occupational therapy, speech and language, or even a school nurse. This would be classified as School Based Health Providers. As per the DOE website, the letter should indicate something to this effect:

Written Notification to Parents/Guardians/Custodians

Regarding Use of Public Benefits or Insurance (MEDICAID)

You are receiving this written notification in order to provide you with information about your and your child’s rights and protections under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). This information is to assist you in making an informed decision about whether you should give your written consent to allow your school district or charter school to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education and related services that your school district or charter school is required to provide at no cost to you under IDEA. This written notification must be provided to you before the school district obtains your consent for the first time and annually thereafter. Your rights include the following: 

Before your school district or charter school can use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) for the first time to pay for special education and related services under IDEA, the school district or charter school must obtain your signed and dated written consent. 

Under Federal law—the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and the confidentiality of information provisions in IDEA—your school district or charter school is required to obtain your written consent before disclosing personally identifiable information (such as your child’s name, address, social security number, student number, student number, IEP, or evaluation results) from your child’s education records to a party other than your school district or charter school, with some exceptions. In this situation, your school district or charter school is required to obtain your consent before disclosing personally identifiable information for billing purposes to the agency in your State that administers the public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program. Your consent must include a statement specifying that you understand and agree that your school district or charter school may use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for services under 34 CFR part 300, which are special education and related services under IDEA.

Your school district or charter school if the school district or charter school seeks to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid).

Your school district or charter school may not require you to sign up for, or enroll in, a public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program in order for your child to receive a free, appropriate public education (“FAPE”) under IDEA. Additionally, your school district or charter school may not require you to pay an out-of-pocket expense, such as the payment of a deductible or a co-pay amount for filing a claim for services that your school district or charter school is otherwise required to provide to your child free of charge. Finally, your school district or charter school may not use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) if using those benefits or insurance (Medicaid) would: (a) decrease your available lifetime coverage or any other insured benefit, (b) cause you to pay for services that would otherwise be covered by your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program because your child also requires those services outside of the time that your child is in school; (c) increase your premium or lead to the cancellation of your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid); or (d) cause you to risk the loss of your or your child’s eligibility for home and community-based waivers that are based on your total health-related expenditures.

You may withdraw your consent to the disclosure of your child’s personally identifiable information to your State’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program agency at any time.

If you provided your consent for your school district or charter school to disclose your child’s personally identifiable information to the State agency that is responsible for administering your public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program, you have the right under 34 CFR part 99 (FERPA regulations) and 34 CFR part 300 (IDEA regulations) to withdraw that consent at any time. If you wish to withdraw your consent, you should ask your school district or charter school what procedures you would need to follow.

If you refuse to provide your consent, or subsequently withdraw your consent, your school district or charter school must ensure that your child is provided all required special education and related services at no charge to you or your child.

If you withdraw your consent or refuse to provide consent under the FERPA and IDEA regulations, your school district or charter school may not use your withdrawal of consent or refusal to provide consent to disclose personally identifiable information to a public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) program to deny your child the special education and related services he or she is otherwise entitled to receive under IDEA. Therefore, if you refuse to provide consent or withdraw consent, your school district or charter school has a continuing responsibility to ensure that your child is provided all required services necessary to receive an appropriate education at no charge to you or your child.

We hope that this information is helpful to you in making an informed decision regarding whether to allow your school district or charter school to use your or your child’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education and related services under IDEA.

What this notice does not mention is the specific corporation that is receiving a lot of private information based on this program, which is PCG.

Another result of this contract is what is called “A Random Moment In Time”, which is a computer system that contacts random Direct Service Providers in Delaware to log into the system and record what they were doing for one minute. The methodology behind this system is to provide accurate data to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for billing purposes for Medicaid reimbursement. Since DHSS is the provider for Medicaid, CMS required the DOE to be included in this project due to special education and School Based Health Providers. The DOE had to utilize PCG as what is called a sole source provider due to a tight timeframe in which the state risked losing this source of revenue. Since PCG had an existing vendor status with DHSS, this gave the impetus for the DOE using PCG as a sole source vendor, which was approved by then Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery. As part of Delaware Medicaid, DHSS contracts with the Direct Service Providers for what is known as Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services given to those who receive Medicaid benefits under the age of 21. The criteria for this is set forth by the Delaware Medicaid Assistance Program (DMAP).

DMAP has a website which indicates what records are to be provided to DHSS or their contracted agents (PCG) by the School Based Health Providers. The website states the following:

All providers participating in the DMAP are required to maintain records that will disclose services rendered and billed under the program, and upon request, to make such records available to DHSS or its representatives in substantiation of any or all claims. These records should be retained a minimum of five (5) years in order to comply with all State and Federal regulations and laws.

In order for DHSS to fulfill its obligation to verify services provided to Medicaid eligible clients and that are paid for by Medicaid, providers must maintain auditable records that will substantiate the claim submitted to Medicaid.

At a minimum, the records must contain the following on each client:

• Notice of referral for physical therapy services by a licensed physician, updated annually

• Referral/authorization for services by an appropriately credentialed service provider

• Full assessment(s) in the appropriate discipline area(s) with pertinent documentation such as tests, evaluations, and diagnosis (updated at least every 3 years), and an annual reassessment documented in written format including narrative information summarizing the child’s status and the continuing need for treatment

• A treatment plan prepared by the respective therapist(s) that describes the goals/objectives and level of service(s) (i.e. type and frequency of service) needed. The treatment plan is required annually. A progress note is required approximately every six months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress and the continuing need for service. An I.E.P. must be developed within 30 calendar days following the determination that a student is eligible for special education and related services.

• The name and title of the professional providing services and/or supervision

• Each occurrence of the student’s service, including the date, type, length, and scope of professional services provided

• Any significant contacts made in relation to the student

DHSS has also delegated authority to Children’s Services Cost Recovery Project (CSCRP) personnel to periodically review the ongoing operations of a school based health services provider with respect to:

• Certification requirements

• Service documentation, including need for services, treatment plans and case/progress notes

• Service practitioner’s qualifications

• Billing records

Where this gets real interesting is in the area of mental health school based health providers:

Mental Health Treatment Assessment

Assessment refers to the process of determining the need, nature, frequency and duration of treatment; deciding the needed coordination with others; and documenting these activities.

Screening

Mental Health screen has four primary components:

• Child study team meetings – a meeting of staff who have knowledge of a referred student to discuss the referral problem for the purpose of determining the next step in the screening process.

• Observations – a period of time spent observing a referred student in a natural setting for the purpose of determining student’s academic and/or interpersonal behaviors.

• Group testing – Psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s participation in administration of tests for the purpose of obtaining specific information about a student or group of students.

• Records review – Information gathering on a designated student by way of examining academic, health, behavioral and any other related records for the purpose of providing data relevant to concerns.

Evaluation

Evaluation includes a “Psycho-educational Assessment”. This assessment includes psychological and/or educational testing, typically for intellectual, personality, and/or educational evaluation of referred student, for diagnostic purposes resulting in the generation of a report. The psychological component of the assessment evaluates the intellectual, academic, perceptual motor skills, social and emotional adjustment, and readiness for learning.

Mental Health Treatment Services

Mental health treatment services includes the following therapeutic and related services:

• Individual Therapy – This service consists of supportive, interpretive, insight oriented and occasionally directive interventions.

• Group therapy – This service is designed to enhance socialization skills, peer interaction, consensual validation, expression of feelings, etc.

• Family Therapy – This service consists of sessions with one or more family members, for purposes of effecting changes within the family structure, communication, clarification of roles, etc.

• Case Consultation (Reimbursable for the time of the mental health professional only and must pertain specifically and completely to an individual student.) The role of consultation is monitoring, supervision, teaching and training of professionals, paraprofessionals, parents and student in the educational environment, home and/or community environment. Case consultation includes:

o Providing general information about a specific student’s handicapping condition

o Teaching special coping and intervention techniques necessary for the specific student’s interpersonal skills

o Recommendations for enhancing a specific student’s performance in educational environments

4.2.5.3 Mental Health Treatment Services: Service Procedures

The following services are included in the mental health treatment services category and should be used to document service provision for the purpose of reimbursement:

• Mental health treatment assessment

• Individual therapy – one therapist to one student

• Group therapy – one therapist to six or less students.

• Family therapy – one therapist to one or more family members of the student’s family

• Individual co-treatment therapy – two therapists to one student

• Group co-treatment therapy – two therapists to six or less students

• Family co-treatment therapy – two therapists to one or more family members of the student’s family

• Case consultation

Mental Health Treatment Services: Treatment Plan Requirements

An assessment and treatment plan are required annually. This treatment plan must be based on an evaluation by a qualified mental health treatment provider. Further, the treatment plan must indicate goals/objectives and level of service (type and frequency of service). A progress note is required approximately every six months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress and the continuing need for service. The progress note must:

• Indicate where the student is in relation to the treatment plan goals

• Indicate if the treatment plan requires changes in the goals and/or objectives and

• Indicate if the type or frequency of the treatment requires modification.

So what records do the School Based Providers need to submit to DHSS and by default, PCG?

Service Documentation

School based health services providers must make all records of services provided to students with special health needs available to Medicaid program personnel or its representatives for monitoring and auditing purposes. These providers must maintain the following information for at least five years on all individuals for whom claims have been submitted:

• Dates and results of all evaluations/assessments provided in the interest of establishing or modifying an IEP, including specific tests performed and copies of evaluation and diagnostic assessment reports

• Copies of the IEP/treatment plan documenting the need for the specific therapy, treatment or transportation service (updated annually)

• Documentation of the provision of service in the student’s record by individual therapists and individuals providing service, including:

o The date of service

o Signature of the therapist rendering the service

o Duration of the service

• Documentation of case notes, at a minimum of once a month, by the individual therapist or the individual providing the service. The definition of case note is a descriptive summary of service provided with identification of any isolated or recurring problems. If a practitioner chooses to document session notes, there is no need to document monthly case notes. Session notes must contain some written narrative.

• The provision of special transportation services will be documented by the responsible schools in a client specific, date specific format.

• Progress notes delineating the continuing need for service are required approximately every 6 months or at a reasonable interval to document the student’s progress.

This then helps to determine medical necessity:

Medical necessity will be determined by judging what is reasonable and necessary with reference to accepted standards of medical practice and treatment of the individual’s illness.

School based health services shall be determined medically necessary based upon the assessments and evaluations conducted and the prescribed care as found in the student’s treatment plan. The treatment plan shall be developed by a multi-disciplinary team, or by an authorized therapist or other authorized medical professional and signed by treatment team members. The treatment plan should address the medical necessity for the identified service(s).

Although a physician signature is not required on the treatment plan, evidence of annual physician referral is required for physical therapy services.

What other information needs to be provided to DHSS, and by default, PCG?

The student’s service record shall contain, but is not limited to, the following:

• Identifying data including name, address and phone number, sex, date of birth, next of kin, date of initial referral or assessment/evaluation, date of service initiation, and source of referral

• Date of most recent EPSDT screen

• Referral documentation by a physician or other health care professional

• Assessment, evaluation and testing reports

• Handicapping condition of the student and/or a diagnosis which has been determined using a recognized diagnostic system (e.g., ICD-9)

• An Individual Education Program, if the student is determined to need special education and related services

• A current treatment plan which sets forth the type, level and frequency of services provided to the student

• Progress notes and other relevant service documentation which denotes status of services and progress to identified service goals

• Documentation of each service rendered which describes the type of service(s) provided and the date the service(s) were provided

• Documentation supporting the discontinuation of services including treatment outcome(s) or referral for continued/enhanced services outside of the school based health services provider

RECORD MAINTENANCE A. Nursing Services B. Psychological and Counseling Services C. Speech, Language and Hearing Services D. Occupational Therapy E. Physical Therapy F. Transportation A through F should include student specific identifying information, amount of service, date of service and signature of provider. All records must be maintained for a period of at least five (5) years.

All of the above in regards to DMAP guidelines can be found here: https://www.dmap.state.de.us/downloads/manuals/School-Based.Services.Provider.Specific.pdf along with other more detailed information.

DMAP clearly states that student identifiable records must be provided to DHSS and by default, PCG, as their contracted 3rd party vendor. But does the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) recognize a contracted vendor, such as PCG, to be a party that is allowed to see all of the above types of records? A study done in 2008 through the Fordham Law School’s Center on Law and Information Policy, indicated this was a clear violation of FERPA in a similar situation in New Jersey. The Department of Treasure Purchase and Property Division had a contract with Public Consulting Group, but the contract called for personal identifying information regarding students with the New Jersey DOE. Because the contract was with a separate department, and not the DOE, the authors of the report stated the New Jersey DOE was out of compliance with FERPA based on this. They also found the following:

If the information we collected mentioned that the state used a third party vendor for the development of the system or for the storage of the data, we also made a request for a copy of the agreement with such third party vendor. Most states responded promptly; however, as of the date of this report, we have not received requested contracts from a few of the states. Also, some states may use third party vendors without disclosing those relationships publicly on their websites.

FERPA generally covers a local school district, or LEA, that receives funding from the Federal Government due to the LEA being part of a public school district. State Educational Agencies (SEA) typically aren’t covered under FERPA unless it has to do with records delivered from the LEA to the SEA. In the above, the Delaware DOE definitely receives a great deal of information from local school districts in regards to special education student identifiable data. The Fordham report goes on to state the following in regards to 3rd party vendor reception of student records and parental consent:

Another exception to the written consent requirement arises for educational agencies or institutions that disclose personally identifiable, non-directory information to organizations conducting studies on behalf of the educational agency or institution. To be in compliance, these studies must be conducted in order to develop, validate, or administer predictive tests, administer student aid programs, or improve instruction. The agency or institution may release information without prior written consent only if the study is conducted in a manner that does not permit personal identification of parents and students by anyone outside of the research organization and as long as the information is destroyed when no longer needed for the purposes for which the study was conducted. Recipients of information under this exception may not redisclose personally identifiable information outside of the research organization. Under this exception a school or school district may disclose educational records to a third party vendor that such school or district has contracted with for research purposes provided that the information disclosed to such vendors remains confidential and there is a schedule for deletion of such records following the completion of the stated purpose. This exception does not permit SEAs to disclose educational records to third parties for research purposes. Research contracts must be directly tied to the school or local education institution.

So how exactly does this related to PCG and their vendor contract with Delaware?

“…further disclosure by the state to any third party vendor is only permitted in narrow circumstances. The vendor must enter into an agreement with the state department of education, which provides that such vendor is a contractor and is under the direct control of the department. Any disclosures that do not meet this criterion, or that are done simply for research purposes, are not permitted. At least one state, New Jersey, does not appear to comply with this restriction. The New Jersey contract with Public Consulting Group is between the Public Consulting Group and The NJ State Department of Treasury Purchase and Property Division rather than the Department of Education and does not indicate that the Department of Education has direct control over the vendor.”

Does current FERPA law still agree with this?

99.31 Under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information?

(a) An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record of a student without the consent required by 99.30 if the disclosure meets one or more of the following conditions: (1)(i)(A) The disclosure is to other school officials, including teachers, within the agency or institution whom the agency or institution has determined to have legitimate educational interests. (B) A contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions may be considered a school official under this paragraph provided that the outside party– (1) Performs an institutional service or function for which the agency or institution would otherwise use employees; (2) Is under the direct control of the agency or institution with respect to the use and maintenance of education records; and (3) Is subject to the requirements of 99.33(a) governing the use and redisclosure of personally identifiable information from education records.

Based on those regulations, the answer would be yes. This means the Delaware DOE was out of compliance with FERPA regulations from the moment they began working with DHSS on the Children’s Services Cost Recovery Project until the time they signed a sole source vendor contract with PCG on 12/1/2011. This may be why Lowery had to act fast in obtaining PCG as a sole source vendor contractor in late 2011. From the time they were first notified in 2008, it took three years for the Delaware DOE to become compliant with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services regulations. When it became a matter of the revenue being suspended due to this non-compliance issue, the DOE signed a very quick contract with PCG.

In terms of the ability for PCG to accurately protect data, I have not heard of any breach. But parents need to understand they do have access to a great deal of special needs student information, including personal identifiable information as well as psychological or psychiatric evaluations that could contain deeply private information. Parents need to know what they are signing when they sign the Medicaid reimbursement form when they obtain an IEP for their child. This would be a personal decision, but as a parent, I certainly won’t do it.

My investigation into PCG and the Delaware DOE wouldn’t have lasted as long if the DOE was more transparent on their website with vendor contracts. PCG is mentioned in one place on the DOE website, and that is on the Random Moment In Time training manual. Are they obligated to release this information? Probably not. But if they are having parents sign a form indicating information will be released for Medicaid reimbursement purposes, they should also include every single Delaware agency as well as 3rd party vendors that may be able to see this information. This isn’t a legal matter, but one of transparency and common sense. Parents need to know when they are signing a document of this sort what the full implication of that signature actually means. As well, with school based health providers, if they are required to keep their records for five years if they are involved with this program, where is that data stored? Is it protected?

Nowhere on the Delaware Awarded Contracts website does it show the contract between the Delaware DOE and Public Consulting Group or PCG. It does show two contracts through DHSS. I have seen the contract though, as a result of an FOIA request I submitted last weekend. This contract states PCG will work with the Delaware DOE on implementation of the Random Moment In Time study and the DOE’s share of the annual cost reporting and cost reconciliation for fiscal years 2009-2012. The contract has been extended each year since it ended on June 30, 2012, and the current extension will expire on June 30, 2015.

Is the timing coincidental for when the Fordham study was released, clearly showing non-compliance on the part of the New Jersey DOE with FERPA regulations, and when Delaware was notified of non-compliance with this very similar reimbursement program and the same vendor? That is not for me to judge. Just to report the facts as best I can with the information provided to me.

The Delaware DOE is not selling IEP information to anyone. But pertinent and private information is being released to third party vendors all over the country, and transparency laws need to be much stronger in the USA so all parents know exactly who is seeing this type of personal information.

I am personally disgusted that anyone would need to see case notes from what I would otherwise assume to be a private and confidential session between a student and a psychologist or psychiatrist. It sounds like HIPAA and FERPA need to get together and come to terms with some discrepancies. I understand the need for a reimbursement program, and the fact that Delaware has recovered $8 million dollars in revenue from the Children’s Services Cost Recovery program is probably a good thing for the state coffers. But the price, as usual, is students and their personal information. Is $8 million worth the time, money and resources spent dealing with PCG on this project? I am sure PCG provides other types of services with DHSS, but the tally on their bill for the last four years alone, as per Delaware Online Checkbook, is over $12 million dollars, so what is Delaware truly getting out of this? I am quite sure the Random Moment In Time system is an annoyance and burdensome to the school based health providers. Some are never picked at all for this study, while others are picked multiple times. Most teachers have never heard of it.

Based on my findings on PCG, they are aligned with some of the most loathed and despised entities promoting Common Core State Standards and high-stakes testing. In a survey released by Gallup yesterday, it showed the country is very divided among those who support Common Core and those who oppose it. Many states are struggling with very pissed off teachers who are justified in their opposition to this federal intrusion into public schools. The US DOE has come under fire in the past couple months from the GOP Senate due to how Arne Duncan and his cohorts are conducting business. Even President Obama may have a lawsuit against him based in part on how his administration has handled education reform in America. But here is Delaware, with our Governor Markell, Secretary of Education Murphy, the DOE and the State Board of Education, proudly cheerleading what a growing number of parents in this state are beginning to hate. The government in Delaware has aligned itself with many of these entities that promote this faulty education agenda. Does the state have a back-up plan if something happens that outlaws Common Core and the tests that go along with it? They may want to start thinking about this if the current trends stay on the same track. Meanwhile, companies like PCG will continue to reap the benefits of the system that allowed them to become richer and richer.

UPDATED at 3:20pm: http://www.hockessincommunitynews.com/article/20140818/NEWS/140819818 Apparently someone hacked into the Delaware State Treasury website this morning. Although not on a state server, I ask once again, how secure is our children’s private information?

Helpful links to get more out of this article:

Delaware Online Checkbook

Random Moment In Time Training Manual

2008 Fordham Report

DOE 2013 Data Acquisition List

Delaware Awarded Contracts Website

Update on the PCG & DOE Story

An update would usually indicate some type of new information, of which there is none.  I have done a considerable amount of searching on what the relationship between these two entities is, and have come up with nothing.  Nothing that justifies over $400,000 being spent.  But sometimes no information is information.  It tells me there is something there.  I have not had any response from the Board of Education at the Delaware DOE, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, or Governor Markell’s office. 

Some have had their doubts about my claims that the DOE is providing IEP information to PCG, or that the reasons for it are harmless.  But the more I have researched PCG, the more I find of instance where they are a corporate entity meddling in education far too much.  They own their technology and many state education agencies utilize it.  How secure is that information?  How much access does PCG have to it?  What happens then if PCG gets hacked and all that information is out there?  Why aren’t parents told what the relationship between PCG and the DOE is?  Why is there no contract between the DOE and PCG?  These are questions that need to be answered for myself and other parents to be satisfied.

I do realize my headline from a few days ago included “What company is buying special education data” was misleading.  If my theories are correct, they aren’t buying the data.  They are being paid to store it and many entities, including the Delaware DOE are giving that information.

Exceptional Children Group at Delaware DOE: What Do They Spend Money On? And What Company May Be Using Special Education Data?

Important disclaimer to this artice, I changed the title for it on August 21st, 2014. CPG is not buying special education data, so I changed that aspect of the title. The rest of the article is speculative, but led me to the even more atrocious findings I had in my article from today, August 21st.

Being a blogger geek that checks finances for everything, I always get excited when Delaware Online Checkbook updates their website.  It used to be quarterly, but now they do it monthly.  Around the 15th of the month, I get to see where the money is going at the DOE and what the schools are spending money on.  I can usually find some interesting items, as well as some ones that raise my eyebrows.  The amounts below are just for the month of July, the first of the new fiscal year.

The first thing I look for is the residential treatment centers.  Especially the out of state ones the ICT group sends severely complex special needs kids to, because our state doesn’t have the resources (see Delaware DOE: Eye of the Hurricane Part 2).

Advoserv (in Delaware): $407,198.34

Benedictine (in Maryland): $79,200.56

Devereux (in Pennsylvania): $463,743.12

High Road School: $329,669.00

Woods Services (Pennsylvania): $116,938.00

Grand Total for July 2014: $1,396,749.02

Now keep in mind, the Delaware DOE pays only 70% of these costs, while the public school districts pay 30%, so it is actually a much higher amount that taxpayers doll out for these out of state services for Delaware’s youth.

The rest of the Exceptional Children Group payments were typical.  Except for this one: Public Consulting Group Inc.  Who are they?  As per their website:

“PCG Education consulting solutions help schools, school districts, and state departments of education to promote student success, improve programs and processes, and optimize financial resources. Our technology solutions are used by educators to analyze and manage state and district data and student performance information. PCG Education solutions are supported by 25 years of management consulting experience and significant K-12 educational domain expertise. We provide educators with the tools and skills to use data to make effective instructional decisions.”

So what in the world does that have to do with the Exceptional Children Group?  They deal with special education.  But wait, PCG does have an area that deals with special education!  More information from their website:

“PCG Education is a leading provider of comprehensive, Web-based student case management solutions for special education. When combined with the expertise of PCG Education professionals who understand education, educational organizations, and how to effectively guide a school district through a comprehensive implementation process, our systems can help districts successfully plan, implement, and manage students’ individualized education plans (IEPs) in a manner that increases teachers’ time with students and helps districts to achieve federal and state compliance.

 PCG Education is a leading national provider of data solutions that promote student success. We combine 25 years of K – 12 consulting expertise with innovative technology and research-based methodology to help educators
make informed decisions that lead to improved student outcomes. Our innovative special education management tools and services help districts plan, implement, and manage students’ individualized education plans (IEP) and meet state/federal reporting requirements. PCG Education applications are used in more U.S. schools than any other online special education case management tools.”

It gets more interesting under system features:

System Features

  • Compliance and event alerts with flexible parameters.
  • ‘Virtual’ file cabinet to store each student’s special education-related documents.
  • Teacher credential tracking.
  • Intuitive, built-in compliance measures.
  • EasyFax™, an option that gives districts the ability to easily capture and convert paper documents to paperless format.
  • PCG Notifier, a Web-based communication tool that schedules automated or text or voicemail alerts through EasyIEP™ and other EdPlan™ modules.
  • State-of-the-art advanced reporting and data analysis capabilities.
  • Recording, tracking, and management tools to readily produce IEP Summary of Performance documents.
  • Workflow support and centralized documentation for Child Find activities.
  • Transfer of records between districts
  • Integration of student data with district and state SIS.
  • Comprehensive training and support services.

I have taken the liberty of putting the parts I find unbelievable in bold.

A “virtual” file cabinet:  That means special education files are being put in another company’s files.  I don’t recall ever signing off on my son’s special education records being put in a company setting.  I don’t recall ever being notified on that.

“Teacher Credential Tracking”: Don’t we already have that with DEEDs on the Delaware DOE website?

“Intuitive, built-in compliance measures”: Compliance for what?  An intuitive computer system based on an Individualized Education Plan?  Does that computer system know my son?  I don’t recall him ever mentioning his intuitive friend.

“State-of-the-art advanced reporting and data analysis capabilities”: We know the Delaware DOE loves doing their “data dives”.  Is this how they do it?  I love that my son is being data analyzed!  Makes me so happy….not!

“Recording, tracking and management tools to readily produce IEP Summary of Performance documents”: Is this the new system they were talking about at my son’s IEP meetings last Spring?

“Transfer of records between districts”: So not only can they see my son’s records currently, they can see ALL his records!

“Integration of student data with district and state SIS”: SIS stands for School Information System.  I guess someone has to coordinate all that data between the districts and the state!

“Comprehensive training and support services”: Training for who?  The DOE Exceptional Children Group?  I hope it’s just on computer systems.  I would hate to think a company is training our state specialists on special education.

Special needs parents: Were you aware your special needs children’s information has been sold to an outside company?  I didn’t, until now.  I think Mary Ann Mieczkowski and the Delaware DOE have some explaining to do….

If you can’t wait for Mary Ann (she is really nice by the way), you can read all about PCG here: http://www.publicconsultinggroup.com/index.html

In the meantime, since Mary Ann told me she doesn’t read blogs (you really should, you get much more information here than in other state media), I’m going to email her this and ask what services PCG provides for the Exceptional Children Group and why I wasn’t notified my son’s personal information is being stored with another company!

To be continued I’m sure!

Quick Update: I just checked PCG as a vendor for the whole state, and guess who else uses them: Department of Health And Social Services!  And the areas of that department that utilize PCG are Visually Impaired Services, State Service Centers, Long-Term Care Residents Protection, Management Services, Services of Aging and Adult Physical Disabilities, Social Services, Medicaid and Medical Assistance, and Community Health.  Update on the update: Also Services for Children, Youth & Families: Fiscal Services division. They must have a lot of medical and educational data on a lot of Delaware citizens!

Uh-Oh, Common Core for Special Education. What are Standards-Based IEPs? And which are the Pilot Districts?

That June 14th Annual IDEA Presentation from the Exceptional Children Group of the Delaware DOE to the Delaware Board of Education sure provided a wealth of knowledge. One of the things that was mentioned was standards-based IEPs. From my transcript in an earlier article, this was where Sarah Celestin spoke of this new form of IEP:

“The first standards based IEPs: This is a new initiative that really has just started since January. We’ve been doing some development work since last summer but the training kicked off in late January and early February. The reason we are moving towards standards based IEPs in Delaware is in our compliance monitoring of IEPs we saw that sometimes the rigor, there was a lot of remedial kind of goals and there wasn’t as much focus on how is a student gonna access grade level instruction. And you remember you need an accommodation, you need an accommodation of remediation and access goals and also goals that are gonna help the student really work on grade level skills. And so through standards based IEPs were really addressing that and we’re very fortunate to have instructional coaches that have a strong understanding of the Common Core and that also really understand IEP development and are able to help the teachers. So similar to what Tracy described to you, we have coaches that do not only the training, but go out and do individual and small group coaching with teachers. Right now we’re working with four school districts on that. The plan is that over the next two school years to go to state to scale up state wide with charters and districts.”

In a nutshell, this is adding common core to IEPs. You know, those INDIVIDUALIZED education plans special needs children get. The Delaware DOE found a way, without any focus groups or parental input, to literally CHANGE how an IEP is written. Is it legal? I don’t know, but I will find out.

According to Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the four pilot districts for standards-based IEPs are Woodbridge, Red Clay, Colonial and Brandywine. Once again, no charter schools were chosen for this world-changing special education initiative? I wonder why that is? Maybe because with the exception of Gateway and Positive Outcomes, most of them don’t know how to write the old IEP, much less a new one! And some don’t even know how to GIVE an IEP.

I would love to talk to ANY parent from any of the four districts above to know how their child’s IEP was created with these new common core standards implemented into a federal document. IEP Task Force…you can’t come soon enough!

What 4 Districts in DE needed Special Ed intervention or Compliance? How did Charters get out of this? #netde #eduDE #edchat

During the June 2014 Delaware Board of Education meeting, Mary Ann Mieczkowski told the board four school districts in Delaware were being worked with in regards to special education compliance agreements or needed intervention. It was not mentioned during the meetings which districts those were, but I reached out to Mieczkowski about this and she gave me the districts. They were Red Clay, Colonial, Christina and Capital. All of these school districts have a very high population special education students. What shocked me was NONE of the charters were listed. I wondered why this was?

Charter schools are their own school districts. Is it possible that charter schools won’t fall into an intervention or compliance agreement due to their small size? The state measures compliance with changes in groups of students with 10 or more being affected. This is called an n#, and those below it are exempt from being included in calculations. With charters, they can easily fall below that number due to their populations, so they may not be included in calculations that would trigger these types of audits.

Maybe it’s time for all the charters to be counted as their own Delaware school district to prevent this type of thing from happening. The charters are well-known to have special education problems in this state. Just look at Delaware online-checkbook to see the funds charters are sending out due to special education issues. Look at Pencader and Moyer as public examples of special education problems. Another matter for the IEP task force to look at…

How Many Complex Special Needs Children Did Delaware Ship Out Of State In Fiscal Year 2014? #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

Last month, I did a long article on the Interagency Collaborative Team (ICT). This team decides where to place the most severely complex special needs children into a residential setting. More information from the original article can be read here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/category/delaware-special-education/

At that time, I did not have the numbers of students placed in residential treatment centers for the 2013-2014 school year. However, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Childrens Group at the Delaware Department of Education, provided this information to me.

In fiscal year 2014, 134 students came before the ICT. Out of those, 57 students were placed in residential treatment centers. Out of the 57, 39 students were placed out of state. This is an average of 62.7%. In fiscal year 2013, the average was 62.8%. If there are more students, and Delaware can only fit so many, why would the average be almost exactly the same? Advoserv had 17 Delaware student placements in 2013, and 19 in 2014. Did they add more room? As I indicated in my previous article, the ratios between those served in state and those served out of state has remained very close for the past 5-6 years.

Information I was not able to obtain was out of the 77 remaining students, how many were placed in day schools like High Roads.

In fiscal year 2013 as well, 32 students were placed in out of state treatment centers. With an increase of only 7 students in the next fiscal year, the costs for these out of state treatment centers skyrocketed this year. I went over the figures in the prior article mentioned above, but between fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the costs for these schools (both residential treatment centers and day schools) went up well over $4 million dollars.

I submitted an FOIA request to the Delaware DOE for the service contracts between the residential treatment centers and the state of Delaware, but the public information office for the DOE, Alison May, informed me the school districts have the contracts with these centers, not the state. Yet 70% of the funding for these centers are coming from the State run DOE, and 30% from the school districts. Why would they not have access to these contracts?

What is even more astonishing is the rise in funding received by the Devereux Foundation between fiscal years 2013 and 2014. Factoring in the 30% the local school districts kicked in for fiscal year 2013, the amount was roughly $920,910.00 but in fiscal year 2014 that amount was $2,473,163.00. An increase of over $1.5 million dollars. All of the other residential treatment centers increased as well, but Devereux’ increase is very dramatic. Is it a question of capacity for Advoserv in Delaware as well as the other out of state residential treatment centers? Or is there something more to it?

The Delaware Autism Program (DAP) is the only state-wide autism program of it’s sort in the country. The Statewide Director for DAP is Vincent Winterling. He accepted that position in 2009. As per the Devereux website, Winterling was “Former National Coordinator, Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Former Director, Devereux Institute of Clinical Training & Research (ICTR) Consultants. Is there a connection between the rise in Devereux Foundation placements coming from Delaware and the head of the autism program in Delaware having very close ties with the organization?

I would have to imagine going from such prestigious positions with Devereux to a state paid position would have to result in a very large pay cut. But LinkedIn shows he also holds positions at A-B-C Consultants as Associate Director and Director of Vincent Winterling, Ed.D., LLC. All three of his current positions have been held since 2009, the same year he left Devereux after 19 years of employment there. No information was found for why Winterling left Devereux. In the years since he left Devereux, many school boards across Pennsylvania and New Jersey have hired Winterling for consulting services for special needs children.

In the fall of 2010, there was statewide concern about shutting down some of the residential group homes servicing autistic children within Delaware. On October 1st of that year, the News Journal published an article about the situation, and the journalist covering the story wrote: “Winterling, who declined to be interviewed for this story, said in an August interview with The News Journal that the homes should be closed and children in need of these services should be sent elsewhere. This would mean these children would be sent to neighboring states, with Delaware absorbing costs of $150,000 to $200,000 per child a year.”

Meanwhile, questions have risen amongst many school districts about what they actually paying for. In an article written by Melissa Steele for the Cape Gazette on August 16, 2013, she wrote “While all children are entitled by law to a free and appropriate public education, the high cost of residential care raises questions. What services are special needs children receiving in return for tuition costs? Who evaluates the cost of services, and who determines whether the services are effective? Months of effort to uncover answers to these questions have failed to produce any understanding of these costs. Repeated efforts to access facilities that accept taxpayer money or obtain information about services students receive have been met with refusals on grounds that providing this information would violate student privacy.”

I will be doing even more research into this subject in the future. If anyone has any information about the Interagency Collaborative Team, Devereux Foundation, Vincent Winterling or the other residential treatment centers Delaware sends these kids to, please email me at the address provided in the About Me section of this blog. In the meantime, it looks like the IEP Task Force, created through Senate Concurring Resolution 63, is set to begin meeting this month. One of the mandates of the resolution states the DOE and school districts must provide any information requested. Maybe the task force will be able to get more answers on this expensive, puzzling mystery.

Part 3 of The Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education #netde #eduDE @usedgov @delaware_gov

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I went over the Delaware Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Group. This was in response to the federal Office of Special Education Programs issuing Delaware a status of “needs intervention” in special education along with three other states. In Part 1, I went through some of the root causes for why they need intervention. In Part 2, I took a detailed look at the Interagency Collaborative Team, and the placement of highly complex special needs children in residential treatment centers, in and out of the state.

With Part 3, I did a transcription of the audio recording of the Exception Children Group’s IDEA Annual Performance Report that they presented to the Delaware Board of Education on June 19th of this year. This was an over 40 minute presentation, with many technical terms that the casual parent or layman may not understand. I will do my best to give a breakdown of these terms, as well as who the cast of characters were during this presentation.  Items in italics are when something was difficult to understand or a word was inaudible.  Items in bold, aside from the name of the speaker, are key points I felt were said, whether intentional or not.  At the end, I will give my thoughts on what this meeting meant and what was not talked about.

Abbreviations:

APR-Annual Performance Report

ESEA-Elementary and Secondary Education Act

IDEA-Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEP-Individualized Education Plan

NCES-National Center For Education Statistics

NIMAS-National Instructional Material Accessibility Standard

NPSO-National Post Secondary Outcome

OSEP-Office of Special Education Programs

PBS-Positive Behavior Support

The Cast:

Mary Ann Mieczowski: Director of Exceptional Children Group at the Delaware DOE

Dale Matusevich: Education Associate, Transitional Services

Barb Mazza: Education Associate, General Supervision IDEA

Tracy Neugebauer: Education Associate, IDEA Implementation

Sarah Celestin: Education Associate, General Supervision, IDEA

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: President of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Donna Johnson: Executive Director of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Jorge Melendez: Vice-President of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Gregory Coverdale: Board Member of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Patrick Heffernan: Board Member of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Mark Murphy: Delaware Secretary Of Education

 

6/19/14: Delaware DOE Board Meeting, IDEA Annual Presentation, Transcript

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: I invite Mary Ann Mieczkowski, Director of Exceptional Children Resources, and Barbara Mazza, Education Associate to share with us the Annual Performance Report from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

Mary Ann Mieczkowski: Good afternoon. I am Mary Ann Mieczkowski, and Barb Mazza who is an associate within my workgroup whose main responsibility is compiling and organizing the information for the Annual Performance Report and writing it. Today we are going to do a little different presentation than we have in the past. We’ve gone through a very general overview in the past but today were going to take a little deeper dive into three different indicators. So I’m going to just do an overview of what the Annual Performance Report is and then three members of my workgroup who are intimately responsible for the indicators are here to present the data and the improvement strategies because they are the experts in that area. So we will be talking about graduation and dropout rates for students with disabilities, disproportionate representation of students with disabilities who are suspended or expelled, and the student performance on DCAS and DCAS-Alt for students with disabilities.

So what is the APR? The APR is our Annual Performance Report that we are required to submit every February based on 16 indicators that the Federal Government has required us to address and it’s based on our state performance plan. And the state performance plan was written, was supposed to be written for five years and they extended it to seven years and were at the very end of that so we will begin writing a new state performance plan and Barb will explain that at the very end of our presentation. There are 16 indicators, 6 of them are compliance indicators and 10 of them are results indicators, and it’s the core of our work within our workgroup. And we’re required to do some specific things around the indicators. We’re required to do data reviews and data dives to establish stakeholder groups to set targets for us, public reporting, compliance monitoring and then review of policies, practices and procedures both in the state and in districts. These are the 16 indicators with a brand new 17th indicator that we’ll roll into our state systemic performance plan, er, improvement plan it’s called now. So, as I said, 6 of these are compliance and the other are results. The very first one that we’re gonna talk about are the graduation and dropout rates. This is Dale Mitusevich from my workgroup and he’s in charge of the graduation and dropout and secondary transition.

Dale Matusevich: Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity of coming before you this morning, er, afternoon. If you look at the data, we’ve given you a snapshot over the last couple of years and one of the main things that you are going to see, especially around the dropout rate is it looks like there is a huge decline in the graduation rate. Over the last couple of years, as Maryann was speaking earlier, or mentioned earlier, we are under a different state performance plan so were using the NCES, or National Center for Education Statistics, definition for graduation rate. During that time, as we’ve moved to the ESEA definition we were trying to get through the old state performance plan before moving to a new one. So we didn’t cause a lot of confusion that was out there. During this new submission, in February of this year, OSEP alerted us to say that we needed to go ahead and make the new calculation, or incorporate the new calculation into it. So that’s how it appears so were at almost a 20% drop. We had, using the NCES, we’ve stayed kind of stagnant over the last few years. Remembering back to the NCES calculation, if we would’ve used that this year, we were back in the 76% range, but using the graduation definition for the NCES, I’m just going to give you that a little bit, so you can see the difference in the calculations because the denominator changes significantly. So that’s one of the reasons for the changes.

Under NCES the rate is based off of students who begin the 9th grade and graduate within four years, so kind of like they do with the ESEA  (not sure what said). Where things start to differ a bit is in the NCES definition students who are new to Delaware, say in the 10th, 11th and 12th grade, they’re not added into that original cohort. And then this also takes into account, or subtracts out all of the, or as in all of the dropouts, students who dropout, with the exception of those that transfer into adult education programs. So that kind of changes significantly the denominator for us because it’s ESEA definition takes in, uh, it’s the on time graduates within four years that’s specifically within a 9th grade cohort following them for 4 years. The denominator is the first time entering 9th grade as the specific year. It adds in the transfer and subtracts the transfers out as we go in.

Mieczkowski: If I could also add, we were one of 44 states that had to change this also so other states were following the NCES.

Patrick Heffernan: But with the, you know, extension of teaching to 21 with this population, I’m a little confused by why that would make sense.

Dr. Gray: Does the NCES calculation account for the extension to 21 for graduates?

Matusevich: No, what we have been told coming down from the Governor’s office that we are a strict four year cohort so there is not an adjusted graduation rate under our plan for ESEA so we have to submit what is in our ESEA plan. There’s no allowance for..

Heffernan: Are we looking at, I guess, maybe if we have to fill out the form under a different formula but in reality I think we…I wouldn’t necessarily say that a student who graduated in five years with a diploma was a failure of the system at all really.

Matusevich: Right, and as well with this, this also takes into account none of our students who have exited out with a certificate of performance are included in this calculation either in the numerator. The only people, the only students that are in the numerator are those that exit out with a regular high school diploma.

Donna Johnson: So the students that exit out with the certificate are in the denominator though?

Matusevich: Yeah

Johnson: And students whose IEPs indicate that they have a 5 or 6 year graduation track are not allowed that in our graduation rate?

Matusevich: Not under NCES.

Johnson: That’s one of the Federal issues that’s happening across the United States.

Matusevich: Almost every national meeting I go to we have the same conversation on why students held under IDEA are held strictly to that four year cohort when the federal regulation allows that.

Heffernan: I can see that you would calculate both. You would calculate it one way to have an apples to apples comparison but I’m not sure that, you know, it’s hard to plan for something if you would consider it successful to do x and only count for y.

Gray: I guess what I’m not clear about, is that different for the NCES calculation than it is for the ESEA calculation?

Matusevich: No.

Gray: So that’s why it was the same?

Heffernan: Yes, no, that’s not the difference.

Matusevich: The difference is the NCES definition accounts for those who drop out but enter into an adult education program and the ESEA doesn’t allow you, they count all dropouts in their denominator.

Gregory Coverdale: What is the total number of students, the population, in this study?

Matusevich: Uh, I’d have to go back and pull it when I…

Heffernan: Between 10-12,000

Coverdale: About 10-20,000 (I think that’s what he said, it was very hard to understand)

Mieczkowski: That’s 21. That’s the high school.

Gray: Okay, sorry, keep going.

Jorge Melendez: I have a question about the drop out rate. I see you have there that the number that dropout changes. Can you identify, or is there a way of identifying of those students that dropout if they come back and graduate? Because that, even though the target is 3.8 and that’s, but you’re looking for something minimal, but 3.8, that is still a percentage of students dropping out, but finding out, if we applied that percentage if any come back and actually graduate I think that would be positive to talk about.

Matusevich: Right, there is a, just, an example is we’ve had just a number of calls, or I’ve received a number of calls, just within the last few weeks, about students wanting to come back into that place. But with our dropout rate calculation, it’s an event calculation, so once districts submit their December 1 counts and everything, if we take a snapshot of those, let me make sure I’ve got it right here, it’s the total number of students who drop out of a school in a single year divided by the fall enrollment of that same year. So it’s an event calculation from year to year with that piece. The thing that I will mention about the dropout rate is for the fiscal year 2009 we were actually down to about 3.3% in special education. And then we’ve doubled our, almost double, with the dropout rate going up to 6.4. We kind of look at the data and started to dig a little deeper. We’ve looked at the information that we have received from families about the rationale for why they dropped out is, we’ve made a conclusion that part of rationale was that students were dropping out to go to work to help their families because people were losing or had already spent out their savings from the recession and those years there. Cause if we look at the data during the graduation rate at that time the number of students who indicated they dropped out to go to work to help their families also doubled in number within that. And so were slowly coming back down as we move through.

Gray: Any changes in the base calculation, between the NCES and the ESEA? For dropout?

Matusevich: It’s an event calculation…

Gray: It’s the same for both?

Matusevich: Yes. It’s the same for both, yes ma’am. Some of the initiatives we have going on to combat dropout rate are, over the last year and a half, we’ve had the opportunity to enter into an agreement with the National Secondary Technical Assistance Center which is based out of UNC Charlotte. As well as the national postal (it sounded like postal to me, I think he meant post) outcome center at the University of Oregon and we’ve been working with them closely over the past year and a half. One of the things that came out of those agreements with them is we created our transition cadre which is now just over a year old. We have nine districts that are a part of that transition cadre, on a voluntary basis. The only stipulation that we had with them is, when they came to be a member of the cadre, is they had to bring an administrator to the table with them and enter discussions. So what we are doing is districts are analyzing their data, looking specifically at what were calling the four transition indicators in the annual performance report: Graduation data, dropout data, transition planning within the IEP and the postal (there it is again) outcomes which is our Indicator 14 data that we look at. They are really doing a lot of data dives and the exciting thing is it’s one of the first groups that I’ve been able to facilitate or be a part of to where when we break for lunch you don’t have to worry about if “Are people coming back?” or “Are they coming back on time?” Many times we have people working through lunch in their teams or they’re back early and we don’t have to say let’s get going again. They automatically come back in and are working.

We’re using a tool around the two national centers Instock and NPSO and the national dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University Design. It’s called the STEPs program and it allows the district to dig into their data around those four indicators and it automatically goes in and links them to postal evidence based place for school predictors for outcome success, as well as it then takes them straight into an action planning piece. We’ve spent the last four years action planning and districts are coming back in the fall and we’re hitting the ground running implementing those action plans that they’ve been working on.

A couple of other things we have going is our state transition councils. Those operate on a regional basis. We have one for Newcastle County, we combine our Kent and Sussex. They operate out of or meet on a quarterly basis. We combine our meeting, year meeting, in January at the request of the two councils coming together. We use that to talk about the indicator data. We also talk about issues that districts are having. Also with those, those are open meetings to the public. So we have community members, parents are a part of those meetings. We have employers sometimes sit in on those meetings as well as we work towards improving transition services within the districts.

Mieczkowski: Okay, next we have…

Matusevich: We didn’t do the…

Mieczkowski: As our next person gets ready regarding suspension and expulsion, I just want to explain in-between each one of our presentations that across our branch we have college and career ready plans. We work collaboratively with every one in the branch to set targets and provide the momentum for our work. It’s also, so we’re not working in isolation, and we can see that our work is valuable, but it’s also our accountability to Secretary Murphy that we set targets and we reach those targets and we report out to him. We also have ESEA routines with our districts and our indicator information data is being presented to the districts and people within my workgroup are assigned as a liaison to certain districts so they know their data, they talk about their data, and help them with improvement activities. So the districts are owning it but our workgroup is also supporting it. So Tracy Neugebauer is presenting the disproportionate representation of students with disabilities of students who are suspended and expelled.

Tracy Neugebauer: Hello. I’m gonna talk about suspension and expulsion. We’re specifically going to look at discrepancy rates of suspension and expulsion for kids greater than 10 days. And see by the data, we have 3 years of data above here. The reason why we went from 0% to 12.2% is because that year, what we had under new leadership, we changed the calculation. Some more of what Dale was talking about. We went from a relative difference of upward of state average to talking with our stakeholders and came up with state bar that we started to use. As you see that year is a 1.3 baseline that we use. We had 5 LEAs that didn’t make that target and then in the school year 12-13 we had one less LEA and 9.75 did not make that target. And every year that state bar drops by .02 so this year we’re currently looking at that data and the districts that we found did not meet the bar during self-assessment and we will be talking with them once we get that information.
Alright, so what is the work that we’re doing to help support the school districts with this suspension and expulsion data? We have our Delaware PBS project where we contract with University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Study and they work with us in a multi-tier system of support including school-wide, group and individual intervention. That is a tier system, tier #1, 2 and 3. We use that for a lot of different systems. We have students who tier 1 is a school-wide system and we really focus on tier 2 and tier 3 for students who need more intensive support in the classroom. We had several projects along with our state personnel grant that we’re working with the PBS project to help support students and teachers within the classroom so we can provide students support and keep them in the classroom.

Gray: So does the support mean actual people? Experts? What does that mean?

Neugebauer: No, we have several initiatives. We have something called prevent-teach-reinforce when we work with school psychologists and teachers to help support better behavior support plans and to help develop better IEP goals for students who have behavioral needs so that teachers can support them in the classroom.

Mieczkowski: It’s a professional development and coaching.

Nuegebauer: So through the Delaware PBS project we have hired instructional coaches to provide need and actually go into the schools and work with teachers. We have a new project coming up called Peers and we’re contracting with a group from UCLA and that is for secondary students in helping with social skills. So that’s another project that’s going to start this year. Again, all of the help for students and teachers to show improvement in the classroom.

Multi-tiered system of compliance monitoring: We work with those districts who are struggling in this area through compliance agreement intervention plans. They submit us an intervention plan and they provide updates monthly to us on how they are making progress in meeting these goals so they can make the target and not have more students with disabilities expelled and, than not.

Mieczkowski: Our work group has to take two positions: One is the good cop, and one is the bad cop and we have to call out districts and report to the Feds if they’re not compliant with certain indicators so we do have to cite them as needs assistance or needs intervention but then we put our good cop hat on and support them. We have developed a multi-tiered system of accountability and as a district moves up the requirements get stronger and stronger. Currently we have four districts we are working in with this level of support.

Neugebauer: I’d like to talk about developing effective IEP behavior goals and I touched based with you on this a little bit. But we have academic initiatives to help districts write better standards in their base IEP goals. Any then my project is going to be actually writing better behavioral goals, cause we really need to drill down, find out what the behaviors are, find how that is affecting the teacher’s classroom, and how we can provide accommodations and support the classroom to improve student outcomes.

Mieczkowski: And the 3rd indicator that we would like to provide to you is student performance on the state-wide assessment and Sarah Celestin is the workgroup member who is in charge of this.

Sarah Celestin: Good afternoon everyone. So indicator 3 that you’ve heard a lot about before, today what we are presenting to you is Indicator 3C, which is the percentage of students that are meeting or exceeding the standards on DCAS and DCAS-Alt 1. So this will be performance level 3 or 4 and the percentages you see is an aggregate of DCAS and DCAS-Alt 1 scores. So their combined together. You’ll see that over the last three federal fiscal years, the percentages of, to be very frank and blunt about it, the percentages are not good. The percentages are low, you can see ranging in the 20% up into to 40% levels. In this last year, federal fiscal year 2012, we had that range of 30% to 38%. I did want to talk a little bit, about breaking out DCAS versus DCAS-Alt 1, because here you’re seeing the reading percentages aggregated. When you look separately at DCAS versus DCAS-Alt 1 there is a difference. So for DCAS the range of percentages ranges from 27%, meeting or exceeding standards, up to 35% meeting or exceeding, versus DCAS-Alt 1, the alt state’s alternate assessment there is a range from 46.9% up to 68%, meeting or exceeding. So what this tells you really is when we look at the aggregate the alternate assessment scores are in fact pulling up our percentage compared to (digital audio recording stopped) and that’s something we really need to look at.

I know DCAS-Alt 1, I know that’s something you’ve all heard about, that’s a relatively newer assessment and that’s relatively a new assessment that we’ve been using for the last 3 school years. But the percentages of the meeting or exceeding are higher on that, particularly in reading. The other thing that I wanted to mention as we move into the math scores as we look into this data, we dig in and we disaggregate by district and by school we really look for trends and patterns. Part of our responsibility, Mary Ann mentioned that we’re liaisons to the districts and charters, part of our responsibility as liaisons is to work with them to really do some data mining and to dig into their data and we actually work with them on what are the root causes of their data. So when we look at this data as an average, we have concerns, but certainly as we work with our individual districts and charters, and we dig down and try to figure out what is the root cause. Some of the root causes that we have seen in particular for reading in working with our districts, some have contributed it to trying to roll out new curriculum and teachers getting familiar with that. Some districts have contributed it to changing their staffing and trying to do more co-teaching as teachers adjust to that. So you’ll see, they really hovered at a lower percentage but we did see a little bit of a dip in federal fiscal year 12.
If you’ll give it the next slide on math, you can see here again in federal fiscal year 2012 every grade level did decrease. I will say, you know, we look at DCAS versus DCAS-Alt 1. The DCAS scores ranged from 24.7 to 35% meeting or exceeding versus DCAS Alt-1 the range was from 32% to 68%, a really wide range on DCAS-Alt 1. The percentages meeting or exceeding are lower in the alternate assessment compared for math compared to reading. There’s been a lot going on, especially in the special schools, around math instruction. So you can see overall in our message is that we are very concerned with these percentages. In the work that we are doing with districts, we really focus on looking at the trends and helping them to identify what they need to focus on in their implementation plan that we work on with them in their routines. There are some strategies listed here similar to what Tracy mentioned to you. We have a technical assistance project with the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies, as well as some other partners. I’m gonna mention the different initiatives and talk about the partnerships. The first standards based IEPs: This is a new initiative that really has just started since January. We’ve been doing some development work since last summer but the training kicked off in late January and early February. The reason we are moving towards standards based IEPs in Delaware is in our compliance monitoring of IEPs we saw that sometimes the rigor, there was a lot of remedial kind of goals and there wasn’t as much focus on how is a student gonna access grade level instruction. And you remember you need an accommodation, you need an accommodation of remediation and access goals and also goals that are gonna help the student really work on grade level skills. And so through standards based IEPs were really addressing that and we’re very fortunate to have instructional coaches that have a strong understanding of the Common Core and that also really understand IEP development and are able to help the teachers. So similar to what Tracy described to you, we have coaches that do not only the training, but go out and do individual and small group coaching with teachers. Right now we’re working with four school districts on that. The plan is that over the next two school years to go to state to scale up state wide with charters and districts.

The next bullet point that you see there is instructional strategies. We have a lot going on really in the development around instructional strategies. Obviously there is a lot going on with common groundwork, but we are looking specifically at literacy and literacy strategies for students who are struggling with reading with learning disabilities, dyslexia and also intellectual disabilities. We’re looking at strategies and partnerships with several different, not only University of Delaware, but some other university partnerships to bring some training and coaching for that. The other partnership we are looking at, in terms of strategies, is University of Kansas, with the strategic instructional model, which is really around learning strategies. So teaching students how to be more independent, monitor their own learning and be more self-sufficient in their own learning.
Accessible instructional material: There’s a wide array of activities we have going on around this. Typically when you hear that term, accessible instructional materials, it has to do with alternate forms of books and tests for students. And so we actually work with two different AIM Centers, Accessible Instructional Materials centers. We have one that’s through the Division for Visually Impaired, through DHSS, whose a partner with us. We also have another AIM Center through University of Delaware. I work with both of those centers to make sure that students in all the districts and charters always have accessible materials. That is related to NIMAS. NIMAS is really the national act that talks about the provision of instructional materials. And we also have a project through the University (of Delaware), the Access Project, which is, that project also provides adaptable materials for students. But that’s the material, the material they provide is a little bit different, that is for students with more moderate and severe disabilities so that those students can also access the curriculum.
The other work that were doing in partnership with the Office Of Assessment, is really around accessibility for assessments. Both the state assessment as well as formative assessments students are taking. And this is looking at different types of accommodations for students, as well as designated supports for students who are at risk. So students who might be going through response to intervention (RTI) who are not identified with a disability but who need additional support, that’s part of the accessibility guidelines. We’ve just rolled out those guidelines in the last couple weeks and we have webinars and training coming up for that in September.

Gray: Thank you.

Mieczkowski: Indicator 17, because we are ending our state performance plan, we’re beginning the development and writing of a new performance plan. It’s all gathered under Indicator 17.

Barbara Mazza: Indicator 17 is something that OSEP has put into place. Up to this point they have held states accountable solely for compliance indicators and now they’re having, they’re shifting into looking at compliance and results indicators, which is results driven accountability. And what they’ve done is charged each state with putting together a plan of how we are going to do that within our state, how we hold our LEAs accountable. So Indicator 17 is the state systemic improvement plan and it’s a multi-year plan to look at improving results for students with disabilities. There are three phases, and they have four components: analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation. And right now we are in the analysis phase which will be what we report next February on our report.

The first step was, a couple of us went to Kentucky to learn and receive training about Indicator 17. Then some people that represent OSEP from the Regional Resource Center have come to Delaware to work with our work group to do some training. Right now we’re in the process of putting together an advisory council that’s going to help us with this work. And through each of those phases we will be very involved and engaging a collaboration with all of our stakeholder groups. So if you see the list there, those are the agencies and the stakeholder groups that are represented on our Council. We have three meetings planned from now till November where we will be together and engage in certain steps.

Mieczkowski: And Mr. Heffernan is representing the stakeholders (multiple people talking at once and laughing).

Mazza: Yes. You may have heard me say yes. And you can see, as part of that we also have, we are looking across department, looking at assigning people from assessment, from K-12 initiatives into early learning in Title 1 cause we know that we don’t work in isolation. We have to work together to do this work. So the steps that we will take as an advisory council is to first look at data. We’ll look at different kinds of data, we’ll look at achievement data, we’ll look at the suspension and expulsion data, all the kinds of things that impact students being in the classroom and making progress. From that data dig, what we’ll have to do with Advisory Council is identify an area that were going to look at for focused improvement. Once we look at identifying that area, the next step is to do an infrastructure analysis. When we look at that what we’re looking at is looking at the current initiatives within the department, which ones connect to our work around our focus area. We also need to look at the state systems and look at our strengths. Are there any barriers to what our focused improvement area is? Once we complete that we’ll move into a root-cause analysis and Sarah shared a little bit about that. So we need to look at is why is this happening. What are the contributing factors? What could be the contributing factors? Cause we don’t know why we can’t move forward. As we develop a theory of action, that will be where we outline a plan and look at, okay, if we make a change here, is it going to make a difference for improved outcomes for kids? And once we complete that step, we will develop a plan of action. The plan will include evaluation and it will include a timeline. And then we will move into implementing that plan and evaluating it as we go, and like I said, we will have a stakeholder group working with us and doing this work all along.

Mieczkowski: Our focus will be small as we start out. We’re very focused but the intent is to scale this up statewide. So when we’re developing our plan there will be action steps to carry this out statewide. Are there any questions?

Gray: So again, it’s a year to plan and…implementation…I don’t understand the difference between implementation and evaluation.

Mieczkowski: Implementation is implementing the plan and then you evaluate the success of it.

Gray: Oh, I see. Gotcha, so you’re implementing from 16-20 (years-2016 to 2020)?

Mazza: Right, and I’ll go in and evaluate all along. If we see something that’s not working we will address it as we go.

Gray: I guess I didn’t quite understand, do we, I’m leaving the plan now, just want to make sure you know I’m changing the subject, the reason for the decline is in target, in meeting targets, particularly in math?

Mazza: I would say as a state we looked at that as a decline across all students and we worked with the office of assessment to take a look at that data. I think we were concerned because when we mine our data, we saw in some districts there was a more significant drop than in others. So even though you see the average, in the average drop, there were some districts that actually did have an increase and then there were other districts that had a more significant drop. Through the work that we are doing with our liaison districts and charters, we’re really trying to identify that those charter and district leads on special ed records, why did they see the drop in that year? And so some of them tend to contribute that to curriculum, putting different curriculum into place and teachers not being as familiar. Other districts and charters contributed it to board to the way they were changing their staffing. For example, in one district that I work with, they changed their model and they were trying to move to a co-teaching model and something I think they recognized was that they had not done a lot of professional development of how the teachers were supposed to work together in co-teaching, and so I think it was really a lesson learned for them, and having to go back. So I think it’s a hard question to answer but I would say that I think that the root cause is different in different districts. You know, cause we saw some different things in different districts and they attribute that to what they were doing. So, I don’t know Mitch (Mieczkowski’s nickname), if you have, Mary Ann, some other…

Mieczkowski: Yes, what Sarah said, there are individuals we try to work with districts to take that data drive also so that they can do the root cause analysis and then we can support them in activities that will show improvement.

Mazza: One of the things, I think, to mention, is relative to this is that through the ESEA routines that Mary Ann explained were not only working with them to identify root cause, were also meeting with them to develop their implementation plan which is really like a strategic planning process on how are they going to address this? We do that in the ESEA routine that we do give them feedback but then all of us in our work group are also meeting individually with the special ed directors to make sure that they are addressing the concerns that are coming out.

Mieczkowski: I really do think with our results driven accountability of the results, indicators will be in their determination tables and letters. A district will either meet requirements, need assistance, need interventions, and we’ll be able to ramp up the consequences, or the heavier support that will be needed to show improvement.

Gray: Any other questions?

Heffernan: So one thing I was gonna ask you, I guess, and sort of not to pre-empt the development of Indicator 17, but as I was going through this, of the current 16 indicators which, cause we didn’t go through all of them in detail, which one do we think is most troubling, which one do we think we need to work on the most, and do we have a plan to do something about that. And I know it may be…

Mieczkowski (interrupts Heffernan): …data dives…and really looking at student performance and we’re really taking the dive into literacy. Yeah. We know that…

Gray: Defined by the reading assessment, the scores…

Mieczkowski: However, our stakeholder group will, you know, present this analysis of data and they will…(Heffernan interrupts, can’t make out what is being said)

Heffernan: I would think that 17 is, the plan that you have with 17 is gonna mean we’re not working on anything else.

Mieczkowski: Nooooo, we’re required…

Heffernan: Right, I’m saying, but whatever the outcome of the stakeholder group is…

Mieczkowski: I think we’ll be set, uhm, the targeted, uhm, identify measure but all the work in the other indicators will feed into that also.

Mazza: One of things we didn’t look at today is Indicator 5, which is district environment and inclusion, and I think some of the data work that we’ve done is really look at Indicator 3 along with 5, and what, for instance, so as you can probably imagine, students that are in restrictive placements and inclusive classrooms the majority of the day were certainly seeing that their performance is much lower than performance of students that are included in general ed classrooms and so it really, as we’ve been pushing on the districts to ask questions about “Have you looked at the curriculum being used in your self-contained classrooms?” and I know that we have also echoed that in their routines, because sometimes what the students are being exposed to in accessing in those rooms is totally different than a general ed curriculum. And so, that’s one of the things were looking at, it’s not just Indicator 3 in isolation, but looking at the Indicators together, trying to work to better understand what is happening.

Heffernan: So that brings up, I wrote this down, sometimes we talk about, I struggle sometimes when we call out districts and sometimes when we don’t, but I know this year, I’ll use Red Clay as an example, they had a vote on whether or not they should implement inclusion plan, right? I don’t understand why, you know, this has been law of the land since the 70’s and now we’re going to vote as to whether or not we should do inclusion. I don’t get that and I don’t understand, you know, we talk about good cop/bad cop thing, I don’t maybe wanna focus on what punishment someone’s gonna get by these things, but I don’t even think we have any punishment to give them, but if we at least do something good, if we have punishment, you know, whatever we should be doing in, you know, 2014 when were voting not to do inclusion, right?

Mieczkowski: As we had our ESEA routine meeting, the liaison to that from my group called out the performance of the students in segregated schools, within, and they’re saying “It’s not working, what are you going to do about it?”

Gray: I guess I didn’t quite understand, it was the law of compliance versus…

Mieczkowski: Well, she was looking at the results indicator of their student performance saying when you look at a segregated school such as Central or Richardson Park Intensive Learning Center you view what your scores look like in those schools compared to scores in your other elementaries or middle schools.

Heffernan: And I get that, and we have this old, that the Alt test throws this monkey wrench, it’s hard to compare the two scores to each other and come up with a conclusion. So if you got one school with a higher percentage but the kids doing alt, how can you really measure that, and I know it’s better than the portfolio where everybody got a 5, what was it, 95% of the kids got a 5. It was the highest possible, that was the highest subgroup, right, for on DSTP, was the kids taking the alternate assessment. They got more 5s than anybody else. And so it was that measurement. So we got a lot of, uh, shut up (talking to himself), we got, yeah…so I uh, you know…

Mieczkowski: We’re happy that your on our (can’t tell what said, assume stakeholder group)

Heffernan: We’ll see, we’ll see..

Mieczkowski: You’ll push us.

Gray: Any other questions? Thank you.

Mieczkowski: Thank you.

And that ladies and gentleman, is the end of the IDEA Annual Performance Report!

Okay, my thoughts on this.  First off, where was Secretary of Education Murphy during these forty minutes?  Was he on Craigslist looking for new assistants?  No, he was there.  Just sitting there the whole time.  He probably knew the OSEP letter was coming four days later and may have been too scared to bring up anything.  Who knows…I can’t figure that guy out.  And what about the rest of the DOE Board members?  Hughes, according to the minutes, left during the IDEA presentation.  We also didn’t hear from Barbara Rutt and Dr. Terry Whitaker either.  But that’s okay, cause I think Heffernan asked enough questions for the whole board!  The first time I saw “Heff” in action was at the April Board meeting when it was charter application mania.  This was the meeting where he said “Maybe someone wants to open a clown school, and because they filled a form out right we have to approve it.”  The man is funny to watch at these meetings!

In going through word counts, the word data or data used in combination of another word was said 36 times.  The word student was said 56 times.  Since this was an IDEA presentation, one would think it would be about IEPs.  The word IEP was used 10 times.  The word individual was said 4 times, or 5 times if you count individually.  DCAS or DCAS-Alt was said 18 times.  Smarter Balanced Assessment was not said at all, but the word assess or assessment was used 15 times.  Disability or disabilities was said 12 times, and there was never any mention of any specific type of disability aside from dyslexia, which was said once.

This may seem trivial, but I think it speaks a lot about where the Exceptional Children Group has their head at.  For the word “data” to be used twice as much as a combination of the words “IEP” and “individual” in an IDEA presentation shows what is more important to these people who guide our state in special education.  Listening to it, it felt like special needs children are little hamsters running around in a cage, and these five people are watching them saying “Let’s see if they do a data dive off the shelf”.

Once again, it seems like all that matters with the DOE is the damn standardized testing.  It’s all about the results.  Nothing was said about what can make life more tolerable for special needs students.  Behavior was directed at better outcomes for the classroom, so they can improve, and do better on the tests.  No school was called out for huge compliance issues, but I’m willing to bet they are out there.  After all, four school districts are being “worked with” but nobody knows who they are.

It seems to me that IDEA is actually being rewritten, on a Federal level, to accommodate Common Core and standardized testing more than the individual child and what their needs are.  Don’t believe me, check this out from The Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/17/2014-14154/applications-for-new-awards-technical-assistance-and-dissemination-to-improve-services-and-results

If you’ve read this whole thing, you know what Indicator 17 is, the student’s performance on standardized testing.  What are the other 16 indicators? I found it hard to find the new ones, but these were the 20 previous indicators:

Indicator 1: Percent of youths with an IEP graduating from high school

Indicator 2: Drop-out Rates

Indicator 3: Participation and Performance on Statewide Assessments

Indicator 4: Suspensions And Expulsions

Indicator 5: Participation/Time in General Education Settings

Indicator 6: Preschool Children in General Education Settings

Indicator 7: Preschool Children with Improved Outcomes

Indicator 8: Parental Involvement

Indicator 9: Percentage of Districts With Disproportionate Representation Of Racial and Ethnic Groups in Special Education and Related Services that is the Result of Inappropriate Identification

Indicator 10: Percent of districts with disproportionate representation of racial and ethnic groups in specific disability categories that is the result of inappropriate identification.

Indicator 11: Percent of Children with Parental Consent To Evaluate, Who were Evaluated Within 60 Days (State Established Timeline)

Indicator 12: Transition Between Part C and Part B (children under age 3 who have an IEP by the age of 3)

Indicator 13: Post School Transition Goals in IEP

Indicator 14: Participation in Postsecondary Settings One Year After Graduation

Indicator 15: Timely Correction Of Non-Compliance

Indicator 16: Resolution of Written Complaints (removed in January 2013)

Indicator 17: Due Process Timelines (removed in January 2013)

Indicator 18: Hearing Requests Resolved by Resolution Sessions

Indicator 19: Mediations Resulting In Mediation Agreements

Indicator 20: Timeliness and Accuracy of State Reported Data

The NEW Indicator 17 is State Systemic Improvement Plan, how states will improve outcomes for children with disabilities

Which brings me my next point, which is The Advisory Council that Mary Ann Mieczkowski was speaking about in the presentation.  Is this the same type of advisory group that became Senate Concurring Resolution 63, the IEP taskforce?  Because the goal of that resolution is to improve the IEP outcome for students.  I hope the two are separate, because that would indicate a degree of DOE collusion with the Delaware Legislators prior to the scathing federal report.  We will see if Heffernan is picked as the designee for Secretary of Education Murphy on the IEP task force coming out of SCR 63.

I have a great idea for a NEW indicator: Number of students who were declined IEP services, and then switched to another school, and received IEP services.

The end result is a massive change for how special needs children will be looked at in Delaware.  They are now data, not individual children with different disabilities.  My fear is they will suffer with the rigor they are about to be presented with.  Rooting out reasons for behavior, suspensions and expulsions through data won’t tell you a whole lot.  Looking at students not being accommodated properly will.  On a personal note, I can say my son was suspended quite a bit when he was not given accommodations.  But once he switched schools, and started receiving accommodations prior to the IEP being signed, he was not suspended one single day at his new school.

The DOE is blissfully ignorant of the word “Individual” in IEP these days.  It’s all a numbers game to them.  Looking at test results for why students are doing poorly is not the answer.  Maybe the answer is the tests themselves and all that goes with it, common core and the rest of that nonsense.  The most honest thing said during this entire presentation was when Barb Mazza said “Cause we don’t know why we can’t move forward.”  Do the grown-up thing here, admit your faults, stop blaming the schools, and do something real and honorable.

However this IEP task force turns out, I know I will be at each and every meeting.

Here we go again!!!! Moyer charter school to be put on formal review! **UPDATED**

Another Delaware charter school put under formal review. I saw it on the agenda for the Delaware DOE Board meeting today. Once again, special education children at a Delaware charter school getting the shaft. When are they going to learn? I suggest they all have a meeting with Positive Outcomes in Dover to learn how it’s done. Kilroy asked when they are releasing results of Moyer’s full Special Education audit. When are they releasing ALL of the special education audits?

UPDATED Thursday 7/17/14, 10:58 PM

As per the Delaware DOE website:

On July 17, 2014, with the assent of the State Board of Education, the Department of Education placed the Maurice J. Moyer Academic Institute charter school on Formal Review, pursuant to Title 14 Delaware Code § 515(b), to determine whether the charter holder is violating the terms of its charter and, if so, whether to order remedial measures.

The Department of Education accepts electronically submitted and written comments from the public. All letters of public comment will be part of the official record to inform the decision regarding this application. Electronic comments may be submitted by email to the Charter School Office at infocso@doe.k12.de.us. Written comments may be submitted to the Charter School Office at the Department of Education, 401 Federal Street, Suite 2, Dover, DE 19901-3639. Public comments will be accepted until September 15, 2014.

Kilroy's Delaware

V. C. 3. Recommendation for Formal Review of an Existing Charter (For Action)

The Department is seeking consent of the State Board of Education to place Maurice J. Moyer Academic Institute on formal review.  

The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to: 

Academic Performance; Appropriate Strategies to Accommodate the Needs of At-Risk Students and Those Needing Special Education Services; Educational Program; School Discipline; Attendance; Student Assessment; Economic Viability; Staff Credentialing; and Financial and Administrative Operations. 

If the State Board consents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.

And when is DE DOE releasing results of Moyer’s Spec Ed full audit ? 

View original post

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.

Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education

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. Continue reading

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?