In the wake of the IEP scandal at Glasgow High School, ALL of Christina School District is at the mercy of the Delaware Department of Education when it comes to special education. Following the events concerning fake IEP meetings at Glasgow High School that I published in October, the Delaware Department of Education was forced to act. But questions linger about how and why the Delaware DOE was unable to find out before they did. Continue reading
The Delaware Department of Education recently sent letters to every single school district, vocational district, and each charter schools with their special education rating based on compliance indicators with the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs. There are four designations: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention, and substantially needs intervention. I will be delving into more of this in GREAT detail, as I don’t agree with much of this. This is based on compliance from fiscal year 2013, so any schools that opened in FY2014 or FY2015 are not part of these ratings. But for now, please see what the district ratings are:
Traditional School Districts
Appoquinimink: Needs Assistance
Brandywine: Needs Intervention
Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention
Cape Henlopen: Meets Requirements
Christina: Needs Intervention
Colonial: Needs Assistance
Delmar: Needs Intervention
Indian River: Meets Requirements
Lake Forest: Needs Assistance
Laurel: Needs Intervention
Milford: Meets Requirements
Red Clay Consolidated: Needs Intervention
Seaford: Needs Intervention
Smyrna: Needs Assistance
Woodbridge: Needs Intervention
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements
Polytech: Needs Assistance
Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements
Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance
Campus Community: Needs Assistance
Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements
DE Academy of Public Safety & Security: Meets Requirements
DE College Prep: Meets Requirements
DE Military Academy: Meets Requirements
East Side Charter: Needs Intervention
Family Foundations Academy: Meets Requirements
Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention
Kuumba Academy: Needs Assistance
Las Americas ASPIRA Academy: Needs Assistance
MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance
*Moyer: Needs Intervention
Newark Charter School: Meets Requirements
Odyssey Charter School: Meets Requirements
Positive Outcomes: Needs Intervention
Prestige Academy: Needs Intervention
Providence Creek Academy: Needs Assistance
*Reach Academy for Girls: Needs Assistance
Sussex Academy: Meets Requirements
Thomas Edison Charter: Needs Assistance
*means school is now closed as of 6/30/15
There you have it, all the districts, charters, and vo-techs in Delaware. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Delaware can see the obvious flaws with this rating system. Most of the districts and charters who “need intervention” have the greatest populations of special education students, as well as the highest number of minorities and low-income populations. This system is completely unfair to any parent looking for potential school choices for their special needs child. Or even to those parents with a “regular” student, who may think the school is not a right fit for their child because of perceived special education issues.
These ratings also do not take into account IEP denials at all. Many charters have flat-out refused entrance to children with IEPs, despite numerous warnings by the state and the federal government, as well as civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. Charters have also been widely known to practice “counseling out”, where students with IEPs are either kicked out or pushed out through repeated suspensions or strong suggestions to parents how they “can’t service your child” or “we don’t have the resources”.
For a school like Charter School of Wilmington to “meet requirements” when they have a literal handful of IEPs there, while a school like Eastside who has numerous IEPs to need intervention is not a fair and accurate comparison.
One other important factor is none of these ratings take into account the continuous and growing number of special education lawsuits in our state. The feds ratings are based on complaints, mediations (with the state) and due process hearings. There are several problems with this. First off, there hasn’t been a due process hearing in Delaware in over two years. The last hearing was in April of 2013, and out of the 25 due process hearings since 2006, only two were against charter schools. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Delaware Online Checkbook can see the MILLIONS of dollars going out in special education lawsuits. When I asked MaryAnn Mieczkowski, the Director at the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE about this conundrum last summer, she stood by the due process system as being “more than fair.” Many of the schools that “meet requirements” have been sued and more than once. But the DOE will never report that data…
Second, the complaints are heard by “hearing officers” who are paid by the Delaware Department of Education. One such hearing officer is the President of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, Robert Overmiller. He was paid $10,000 this year alone to rule on these special education complaints. The Director of the Exceptional Citizens Resource Group at the DOE sits on the very same group. Overmiller is also paid by the GACEC. The GACEC issues opinions on matters such as the recent and growing opt-out movement. Many were shocked to see the GACEC dead set against opt-out and House Bill 50. But now we know about conflicts of interest where the state Department pays the other state group’s Presidents, and the two side on issues of legislative importance. As well, the GACEC gives opinions on State Board of Education regulations. This is the problem in Delaware with conflicts of interest. They aren’t transparent until someone happens to stumble upon them.
There is so much more to all of this, and I will be writing a lot about it in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can read each letter sent to these districts, vo-techs and charters here: District And Charter Reports
You can also see each state’s ratings below, in the below document released by the US DOE, which is also very misleading, because it rates Delaware as “needing assistance” in the Part B determinations for one year, and “meets requirements in Part C, but doesn’t even touch on the fact they were “needing intervention” the past two years, which makes Delaware look better on a long-term basis when that is not the case.
The Delaware DOE is filled with liars with the sole purpose of misleading the public. When things like “standards-based IEPs” are introduced, they misinform the public by saying things like “they aren’t about the Common Core” when in reality they are. I received an email today which was very troubling and confirms my suspicions about Delaware’s standards-based IEPs. This is what was contained in the email:
Where is this “required”? My child has an IEP. How come I received no notice from PIC on this meeting? The email was originally sent to parents with autistic children. Where is the state-wide collaboration? Does it even exist? If you didn’t know, PIC is a requirement of Federal IDEA law that each state has a parent group. And guess who gives them their funding? The Delaware DOE!
When I first heard about Standards-Based IEPs, many folks told me I was overreacting and that they were not based on the Common Core and the state assessment. Some said it was a good thing. The Exceptional Children Resources Group, led by Maryann Mieczkowski, said they are not solely based on the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I actually wrote about this conversation in an article on the November 20th IEP Task Force meeting.
Celestin said DOE is offering training and coaching. Denn asked if this is required for districts to implement. She said standards-based IEPs are not required but it is about standards not standardized. She said parents and IEP teams have struggles with implementing these kinds of IEPs because they need to help students close achievement gaps. She said teachers are struggling with this and stressed it is not required. (as Steve Newton mentioned in an article on these IEPs, the measurement for it is the “fidelity” component of the grant in getting schools trained on it). She did say through compliance monitoring in the future they will look at things that are part of standards-based IEPs in terms of students needs so they will hold IEPs to a higher standard and best practices. Matt Denn said this isn’t a subject for the IEP Task Force report, but he is hesitant to make recommendations for something that isn’t required.
I raised my hand to speak again, and Matt Denn jokingly said something about “or if anyone wants to give second public comment”. I went up and responded to Sarah’s comment. I advised I went over the DOE presentation to the GACEC (Gov. Adv. Council For Except. Children), and it absolutely is tying IEPs into standards based on “curriculum” which is code word for those who may not know what Common Core is. I advised the word “rigor” is used in the document which is used by Common Core proponents all the time. I said rigor is not a word parents like, especially special needs parents, because the way it is used would indicate students with disabilities need to try harder to get to a regular students level, which completely invalidates the spirit of IDEA.
My commentary on tonight’s meeting: Interesting stuff with these transition services coming in. All of them said “we need more funding”. In regards to comments made by DOE employees, I know these folks work very hard at their jobs, and for that, they have my respect. But if Delaware holds such a higher standard for IEPs, why did you need Federal intervention in Special Education? Why would you hold a higher standard for something that isn’t even legally required? Cause you like what you have created? If they look at best practice, why the hell won’t they look at IEP denials? Who are they trying to protect? (I already know the answer to that, and they know I know but they don’t care) Sorry Sarah, you can say whatever you want, but any presentation that has the word “rigor” in it, which is one of those words that make opponents of common core flip out, is not going to work for me and many other special needs parents.
I went to go back and listen to the audio recording of this meeting, but the audio recording was cut short and is not able to be downloaded. Many of the audios from this task force were shortened or aren’t downloadable. But I did recall the Exceptional Children Resources Group giving a presentation on standards-based IEPs to the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens. There was a whole section on this presentation on “de-bunking the myths about standards-based IEPs”. The main thrust of this section was “The CCSS (Common Core State Standards) are not a menu for special educators to pick and write from,” and “standards-based IEPs focus on the prioritized skills needed for students with disabilities to have ACCESS to the same standards as non-disabled peers.”
They already have access to the state standards. It’s called going to public school in Delaware. I have to admit, with all the attention I’ve given to the parent opt-out movement in Delaware, I let this one slip by.
Here’s the facts: Standards-based IEPs are not written in IDEA regulation nor are they written anywhere in Delaware state code. Matt Denn, the Chair of the IEP Task Force didn’t even want to include standards-based IEPs in the Final Report for this very reason. There is absolutely nothing written into Senate Bill 33, the legislation coming out of the IEP Task Force about them either.
The standards-based IEP in Delaware is turning into something every parent of a child on an IEP needs to be very afraid of. It is all designed to address the Smarter Balanced Assessment when all the catchy phrases and jargon come out of the wash. Last Summer, U.S. Senators blasted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over Federal intrusion with IDEA and special education but nothing came out of it.