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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!”

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The Lying & Deceitful DOE & Their Manipulative Agendas To Screw Over Students With Disabilities

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.

IEP Task Force Live From Dover, Nov. 20th 2014, My Son Gave Public Comment!!!!

Yes, even in the wake of huge ACLU announcements against the state of Delaware, life must go on, so here we are again.  This is the 2nd to last meeting of the already scheduled IEP Task Force Fall 2014 session, but the group may continue after the report to Governor Markell.

Denn explained this is the last chance to really get anything included in the report.  Tracy Bombarra mentioned standards based IEPs based on a comment by Ruth Lavelle.  Lavelle had said the task force shouldn’t make a comment about it but Bombarra thinks it is based too much on Common Core.  Eastburn said if nothing is written in stone about standards-based IEPs, it won’t be the same for every district.  More of the same discussion from the last meeting from Sarah Celestin.  You can say it all you want DOE, but the result is still the same, common core for the IEP.  All the other things she is mentioning are already included in the IEP.

Denn mentioned something about his grandmother to the effect of “Don’t open up the can of worms”.  He said he can talk a lot about this and what is and isn’t appropriate to be put into an IEP.  Eastburn brought up being at an IEP meeting as an advocate and being told a service doesn’t have to have an educational outcome.  Mieczkowski disagreed.

Liz Toney asked what the likelihood of getting an extension would be for the task force to which Denn replied it is very high.  She suggested omitting any mention of Standards-Based IEPs in the report so the task force can discuss it further.  Many members of the task force debating on the issue.  Ruth Lavelle said life skills should already be in an IEP.  I think Denn gets what the controversy is with Standards Based IEPs.

Bill Doolittle talked about the IEP draft being shared with parents. If it has been broadly shared with the whole team, then the parents should receive a copy.  Eastburn said it should go out with the 10 day notice of meeting.

Mitch is worried about the legality of parents seeing things written down, like goals and services, written ahead of time.  She feels parents should be a part of the discussion. I agree with this, but the easy solution is to put DRAFT on the copy and a little disclaimer indicating this is not a final copy.  Doolittle just said the same thing.  More back and forth.  Not a lot of team unity here on these topics.

Marissa Band brought up having questionnaires sent home to parents and vice versa.  I had to step out to get my son’s Legos he left in the car.  Yes, my son is here, and yes, he may give public comment…

There is talk about bringing up the subject of IEP denials when the IEP Task Force reconvenes after the Governor’s report.  Many members think it is an important topic of discussion.

There is now talk about the fiscal notes attached to any bill associated with this document.  Someone said things cannot be mandated to a district without the funds available to implement them.  Now there is talk about Parent Councils within each district.  Someone said to have PIC back this and be at these meetings.  I highly disagree with this idea.  PIC doesn’t have the resources to do this.  Surrate from PIC said there are programs through University of Delaware to address the types of issues.  Someone brought up Fran Fletcher, a facilitator who provides these types of services at IEP meetings.  She also provided mediation services.  Luckily, Fran is in attendance as a member of the public.  She is giving details about what she does.  She stressed mediation is a legally binding document, but doesn’t have to be an outcome of a due process complaint, it can happen before.  Fran explained it takes a lot of time to talk with the parents.  She stressed they are not an advocate, but refers parents to PIC for this type of service.

Denn brought it back to the Parent Council discussion.  Denn stressed it was of a support vessel for parents to utilize, and not a “this is what you have to do at an IEP meeting” type of intervention.  Eastburn asked how many families PIC serves in each county.  PIC was unable to provide the county breakdown information.

Task force is winding down, going over the wording in the draft (which will be updated when the task force website is updated with tonight’s info in the next few days).

More service provider talk about whether or not to send parents information about exact dates and times when services were provided.  Going on and on.  Denn said this should be provided in summary form, like “Your son received 5 out of 9 sessions.”  He said parents have the right to request exact information at that time.

The highlight of the evening came at the end of the meeting, after Fran Fletcher gave public comment about training parents who may be on the parent councils to give potential advice to parents about the IEP process.  This was when my son actually gave public comment.  Confession time.  I asked him if he wanted to do it, and he said yes, but he didn’t know what to say.  I told him to speak from the heart, but he still wanted help.  So I wrote most of it, but he helped out with a little bit.  I’m sure you will be able to figure out which is which.  I did have to “announce” him as he was nervous, but he did a good job!  This is what he said:

I think the DOE needs to monitor when charter and public schools decline IEPs.  I’ve had this happen to me and it was not fun.  The ACLU is already filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights for schools not letting kids like me go there.  When kids like me don’t get services, it takes a long time for us to catch up and learn.

Let me stress again, he wanted to do this.  He knows about my blog, and he actually knows who a lot of the key players are, like Murphy, Markell, and the DOE.  When I told him someone from the DOE was speaking about standards based IEPs, he said “Do they know Mark Murphy?”  I said they probably do.  Unfortunately, we all know who Mark Murphy is….

 

 

IEP Task Force Meeting #6, Live From Dover, DE **UPDATED**

A week and a day after the last meeting, here we are again.  Back in the conference room we should have been in last week when the DOE hijacked the room from the task force for their town hall meeting.

Matt Denn asked for approval of minutes rom last meeting.  Everyone agreed. He said there are two meetings left before the report is due to Governor Markell on January 1st, 2015.  Denn will recommend to the legislature to continue the task force after that date to go over further issues that have come up.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) representative speaking about significant changes coming to transition through legislation. They serve many adults as well as students. No new funding with these new measures. Every high school in DE has a VR rep in high schools to deal with students in the year prior to their exit year. They have MOUs with every high school in the state. They help students get jobs after secondary schooling. Work with hospitals, such as Bayhealth. Also have program called Early Start to Employment. They have received a lot of good data on that program, including a 95% success rate. However, they had 60 students choose not to participate in the program so they want to get the word out since it is so successful. They are working with DOE on program for students w/learning disabilities and behavioral problems. These are students with a high risk of dropping out and not going to college. They need to get the buy-in from the education system to start this process early.  PETS services helps transition students who may not be a transition youth (need to do some research on this).  Many states don’t have partnerships with their state DOEs so Delaware is ahead of the game with this.  They think with upcoming IDEA reauthorization it will provide more useful language in the law for these kinds of transition matters.  Information on upcoming law will come out in January 2015.  The law is requiring them to be the gatekeepers for sheltered workshops.  They don’t normally do this anyways, but if the IEP states a student wants to attend this kind of program.  Student will need a statement stating they are so disabled they can only work in this type of environment, otherwise they can’t participate.

Matt Denn asked VR rep if transition can be included in IEPs earlier than junior or senior year?  She responded that due to capacity (and funding I’m sure) they don’t have the staff to do that.  They may able to do some consultative work but they can’t attend every IEP meeting.  She agrees transition planning should start at an earlier age.  Through working w/Dale Mitusevich at Delaware DOE, they have been able to work more with juniors in high school than seniors.

A representative named Andrea from In The Works, works w/many agencies including state Medicaid agency on a program called Pathways To Employment for students 14-25 years old.  God bless her, she’s talking very fast and dropping many abbreviations for state agencies.  I may have to go to the audio recording on this part.  Sorry folks.  They want to provide services that are “less like crisis management and more like support management.”

A rep from Division for Visually Impaired spoke about how resources are shifting to an older population in the state.  They provide braille instruction, consultative services, technology, employ child youth counselors, orientation services, assistive technology and an array of service providers.  They are currently serving 250 students across the state.  They are part of the PATHWAYS program.

Bill Doolittle asked how much grant amount might be, VR rep said $1,000,000.00.  Andrea said Pathways to Employment would be eligible for service if they receive Medicaid and meet other criteria.  DVI rep said they get $100-120,000 from DE DOE and $125,000 from other state agencies.

Marissa Band asked if they would work with the DEDisabilityHub website.  VR rep said absolutely, and has worked with Wendy Strauss on matters already.  Liz Toney asked how many teachers they Div. of Visual Impairment employs, rep said 8 out of the 9 employed in the state.  She asked rep if task force is able to acquire additional funding and get more teachers if that would help.  He said they would have to examine other factors since they are not an education agency.

No more questions.

Matt Denn opened the floor to suggestions for issues of transition planning.  Nobody is talking.  Denn looks flustered.  Ruth Lavelle spoke up and wants services to come in at age 14.  She would also like to say large group resources to help get the word out better.  She stated it is a very confusing subject when first introduced.  She said there needs to be a better game plan in the earlier years.  Marissa Band said the transition task force recommended there be transition coordinators in every high school.  Matt Denn asked who those people would be, Band said it would be school district staff.  Said could spread out amongst middle and high schools.  VR rep agreed and said this was an important recommendation coming from that task force.  Dale Mitusevich (sitting in for Mary Ann Mieczkowski from the DOE) said every school district has one transition person assigned to their job duties.  He said DOE has a transition matrix, said it could be a teacher or an educational diagnostician.  He said this is a burden on these individuals.  Pam Atchison said Charleton School hired a transition coordinator, but later added that due to funding she had to pull a teacher from the classroom.

Dale Mitusevich said there was a meeting at DOE about transition today.  He said district reps coming in to transition cadre has to have an administrator on their team.  He said four charters are involed with this.  They have multiple transition training sessions with the charters throughout the year.  Denn said he wants to get a price tag for implementing a resolution to have a coordinator in each high school, independent of other duties.  He said he also wants to enhance abilities of PIC and Community Legal Aid to help parents.

Ruth from VR said career assessments need to be done as early as possible to help in the IEP planning to help people point students in the right direction.  Mitusevich would like to see more reaching out to higher education programs.  He stated transition planning in this group can be confusing due to lack of knowledge.  Ruth from VR said she has worked with the Autism Task Force and DAP has an assessment program that works very well.  Ruth said it doesn’t have to be a certified evaluator to do career assessment, she said it could be a paraprofessional.

Matt Denn thanked the guests, and now he wants to look at the 2nd draft that appears on the IEP Task Force website.  http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/141120/IEPTaskForceReportDraft111714.pdf

Mitusevich said Delaware has a higher standard than many other states.  Marissa Band said she has some issues with language in the draft but she will put in information via email or talk with Kim Siegel.  Matt Denn said there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about what other states are doing in other states with IEPs.  Liz Toney brought up the presentation from the first meeting.  She brought up Wrightslaw as a good resource.

A parent gave public comment thanking the task force for their recommendations for visually impaired students.

I gave public comment about how special needs students at the priority schools and Gateway Lab School are victims of special education games in the state.  I referenced my article from last night about Rodel and Markell and how special needs children have suffered immensely in Delaware.  I also recommended the task force adds the subject of IEP denials if they continue past the Governor’s report.

Sarah Celestin from DOE gave public comment about Standards-Based IEPs, student led IEPs, and translating Behavior Intervention Plans into IEPs.  She said there is training and assistance through University of Delaware.  She said they have been working w/districts on standards-based IEPs (Common Core for the IEP in my opinion).  She said through funds from a Federal grant DOE wants all districts and charters in the state to have these IEP strategies in the next two years.  She asked Mitusevich to talk about student led IEPs.  He spoke about the transition conference at Dover Downs a few weeks ago.  He said there was a big group from DC to speak about these, as well as folks from Virginia, Dr. Jim Martin out of University of Oklahoma on student led IEPs and student active participation in IEP meetings.  He said this means a student doesn’t just read a script and actually participates in the IEP 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 to 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.

To Be Continued December 3rd…