Pat Heffernan Is The Biggest Jerk In Delaware!

I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education over the past four years.  I’ve seen people say some very brilliant things and I’ve heard very stupid things.  I’ve seen the full range of human emotion, from happy to sad, from angry to depressed.  But what I heard today made me feel many negative things like never before.  How someone could be so blind to reality yet be in such a position of power is beyond my comprehension.  Who is this person? Continue reading

Updated: Red Clay’s Tax Rate Jumps Up 2 Cents Without A Referendum!

Man, taxpayers are getting it this year.  Like Appoquinimink, Red Clay citizens are going to get another hit this year as their tax rate leaps up 2 cents to $2.174 per $100 of assessed value.  But if you look at the below pictures, it shows a bigger increase.  That is because their last referendum had different amounts that would change in the tax rate for the next couple years.  But unlike Appo, there tuition tax leapt up .02 cents as opposed to .06 cents.  Red Clay has a ton more students with disabilities, and yet their needs-based special education funding only went up $250,000 as opposed to Appo’s needed $815,000 for “increased special education cost”.  So Appo still  has some explaining to do (I am working on a follow-up article to explain this anomaly).

RCTuition

rc5yrtaxratehistory

Click on the blue to see Red Clay’s current tax rate presentation and FY2017 Preliminary Budget.

Delaware DOE Reveals The Common Core Loving Truth Of Standards Based IEPs

DOEBldg

In education tradition, the term “Standards-Based IEPs” meant something very different from the current bastardization of the words.  Nowadays, it means Common Core.  As in aligning a student with disabilities IEP to the Common Core State Standards.  I challenged the DOE on this a year and a half ago.  Their response: that it was a myth.  That this had more to do with the IEP than Common Core.  They lied.  They lied to me, and they lied to the IEP Task Force.  It is all about the Common Core.  This isn’t my first rodeo in writing about standards based IEPs.  Cause I was really ticked off here, even more than when I first figured out what they were.  I know this because the DOE put it on their own website, as seen on the last paragraph of this picture:

DOE StandardsBasedIEPs

 

So what is this WRITES initiative the DOE speaks of?  It is the “ACCESS Project”, and it comes from the University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Studies.  Yet another program where the DOE is spending tons of money to “fix” our education with their top vendor: University of Delaware.  The University explains what this project is here.  The key words from the DOE website are “aligning student IEP goals and assessments to the Common Core State Standards.”  When did special education ever become about the curriculum and standards and not the individual student?  They will try to make parents of these children think it is all about the individual, but this is the biggest lie.  Because Markell and the DOE want these students to fail…

What really ticks me off with special education in Delaware is the fact that students with disabilities in Kindergarten to 3rd grad who qualify for basic special education services based on their IEP receive no extra funding. Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams took aim at this inequity last winter with House Bill 30, and has now been tied in with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission. I think it was one of the most important education bills in Delaware right now. But why did we even get to this place to begin with?

To find the answer to this, we have to go back almost five years ago to January 6th, 2011.  This is the day House Bill #1 was introduced to the Delaware General Assembly.  The bill made into law the needs-based funding formula that is our current method of funding schools based on units and special education.  This legislation was rushed through the House and Senate in 20 days and passed both by 1/26/11.  Governor Markell signed the legislation on 2/17/11.  The bill was more a technicality than actual groundbreaking legislation.  The needs-based funding formula pilot actually started out in Brandywine and Seaford back in 2003.  12 more districts were added in 2004, and then all districts and charters were included in 2009.  This was accomplished by use of epilogue language in the budget bill.  House Bill #1 solidified this by making it part of Title 14, the section that covers education in Delaware code.

Since 2009, all public school students in Delaware have been a part of the needs-based funding formula, but basic special education students in K-3 received no extra funding.  I have to wonder why.  Look at these students now.  Children who were in Kindergarten when Governor Markell signed this bill in February 2011 would now be in 5th grade.  If they were in 3rd grade then, they would now be in 8th.  What assessment do students take from 3rd to 8th grade?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment.  While this bill was rushed through the General Assembly, no one could have predicted the monstrosity that is the Smarter Balanced Assessment four years later.  But Governor Markell was well aware of this.

Almost a year before this, Delaware was one of two states to win the first round of Race To The Top.  As part of the funding received from RTTT, states were required to create state assessments aligned with Common Core.  Markell knew this, the DOE knew this, and the General Assembly knew this.  The students who were denied special education funding through House Bill #1 eventually became the students with disabilities guinea pigs on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  We all know how they did on this test statewide.  19% proficiency.  They were destined to fail.  I believe Markell wanted this.  After all, to justify more contracts and companies coming into Delaware to fix our education, doesn’t there have to be a problem?

We are now seeing this with the contract the DOE is currently picking a vendor for.  According to the DOE and Markell, we have a literacy problem that needs to be fixed, but there is so much more wrapped into that contract proposal.  It is all tied into US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his bon voyage gift as he leaves his position.  Which brings us back to standards-based IEPs.  How many contracts and vendors will it take to get Delaware students with disabilities from 19% to 59% proficiency in six years?  Quite a few I imagine!  It is and always has been about the money.  But as always, it is the students who pay the price.  As well, I have no doubt House Bill 30 will become law, whether WEIC passes or not.  Because the extra money and funding that these students should have never been denied, will help to get that proficiency rate up!  But for the students with disabilities from 2009-2016 who went through Kindergarten to 3rd grade in Delaware without this essential funding, what happens with them?  Their very foundation in education stolen from them because of a jacked up funding formula designed to make them look bad.

This issue is at the heart of this blog.  Because my son was one of those students.  Because the funding isn’t there for those students, getting an IEP for them can be very difficult at some schools.  Why would a school implement an IEP and provide services for these students if they aren’t getting any extra funding for them?  And these children have suffered immensely for Jack Markell’s hubris.

Delaware Special Education & Enrollment Numbers Released, Students With IEPs Up 9.5% This Year

The Delaware DOE released the September 30th student counts.  This helps to determine funding units for each school.  Special Education is determined as one of three categories: Basic for 4-12, Intensive or Complex.  There is no funding for Basic Special Education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade, even though State Rep. Kim Williams attempted to get a bill passed during the first half of the 148th General Assembly.  I sincerely hope her House Bill 30 gets passed in 2016, because these kids need this!

For the state, the average percentage of the 19,870 special education students out of the total enrollment of 136,027 is 14.6%.  Traditional School Districts have 18,580 while Charters have 1,290.  To put this in perspective, 18% of students in Traditional School Districts are Special Education compared to Charters at 10.1%.  Had Kim Williams House Bill 30 passed, 2,467 students in basic special education in grades K-3 would have received the extra state funding they rightfully deserve.  Instead, schools get nothing for these students.  This is 12.4% of the special education population in Delaware that is being underserved by a funding issue.

Charter School enrollment grew by 12.7% with an increase of 1,591 students.  Last year, 13,521 Delaware students attended charters, this year it is 14,112.  Five new Delaware charters began this year, but two were shut down last year.  Some of the schools, with Delaware Met loud and center, are having special education issues.

Without further ado, let’s get to the numbers!  For each school district or charter, the first number is the special education percentage, followed by last year, then this year’s student count, followed by last year.

 

Traditional School Districts

Appoquinimink: 11.9%, last year 11.1%, Student Count: 10, 378, last year 9,870

Brandywine: 14.4%, last year 13.3%, Student Count: 10,580, last year 10,740

Caesar Rodney: 15.6%, last year 14.7%, Student Count: 7,221, last year 7,249

Cape Henlopen: 17.3%, last year 16.3%, Student Count: 5,170, last year 5,075

Capital: 18.9%, last year 17.4%, Student Count: 6,486, last year 6,665

Christina: 18.8%, last year 17.9%, Student Count: 15,553, last year 16,255

Colonial: 16.4%, last year 14.8%, Student Count: 9,763, last year 9,825

Delmar: 9.8%, last year 9.1%, Student Count: 1,347, last year 1,367

Indian River: 16.5%, last year 16.0%, Student Count: 10,171, last year 9,842

Lake Forest: 15.9%, last year 14.9%, Student Count: 3,794, last year 3,812

Laurel: 15.5%, last year 15.0%, Student Count: 2,221, last year 2,177

Milford: 14.1%, last year 13.6%, Student Count: 4,119, last year 4,197

New Castle County Vo-Tech: 12.0%, last year 12.4%, Student Count: 4,698, last year 4,629

Poly-Tech: 8.4%, last year 9.1%, Student Count: 1,194, last year 1,192

Red Clay Consolidated: 13.5%, last year 11.9%, Student Count: 16,094, last year 16,302

Seaford: 17.2%, last year 17.1%, Student Count: 3,473, last year 3,509

Smyrna: 15.3%, last year 14.4%, Student Count: 5,233, last year 5,279

Sussex Tech: 6.9%, last year 6.9%, Student Count: 1,444, last year 1,545

Woodbridge: 12.5%, last year 12.5%, Student Count: 2,466, last year 2,384

 

While a few districts stayed the same, it is obvious the bigger districts are actually rising with special education students at great rates.  Last year, the special education population was 17.2% for traditional school districts, but it is up to 18% this year, a 4.4% increase.  I’m not digging the vo-tech numbers and their downward trend.  The vo-tech percentages as a whole are actually lower than the charter average. 7,336 Delaware students are attending vo-techs, but their special education average is 10.4%, much lower than the traditional school districts.

Last year, traditional school districts had 104,388 students and this year they went slightly down to 103,335 for a loss of 1,053 students.  For the four Wilmington school districts, they all lost 1,132 students this year, with the majority of those belonging to Christina which lost 702 students.  The charters gained 1,591 students.  But did their special education numbers rise as well?

 

Charter Schools

* means they just opened this year

Academia Antonia Alonso: 2.2%, last Year .9%, Student Count: 320, last year 221

Academy of Dover: 9.5%, last year 11.7%, Student Count: 284, last year 290

Campus Community: 6.7%, last Year  8.3%, Student Count: 417, last year 410

Charter School of Wilmington: .5%, last year .2%, Student Count: 972, last year 972

Del. Academy of Public Safety & Security: 19.5%, last year 16.5%, Student Count: 303, last year 363

Delaware College Prep: 1.6%, last year 2.5%, Student Count: 186, last year 203

*Delaware Design Lab High School: 20.6%, Student Count: 233

*Delaware Met: 27.9%, Student Count: 215

Delaware Military Academy: 3.9%, last year 3.0%, Student Count: 564, last year 569

Early College High School: 10.5%, last year 2.3%, Student Count: 209, last year 129

EastSide Charter: 12.9%, last year 14.8%, Student Count: 443, last year 418

Family Foundations Academy: 8.6%, last year 5.3%, Student Count: 792, last year 811

*First State Military Academy: 19.3%, Student Count: 202

First State Montessori Academy: 7.4%, last year 5.4%, Student Count: 325, last year 280

*Freire Charter School: 6.4%, Student Count: 234

Gateway Lab School: 60.8%, last year 59.9%, Student Count: 212, last year 212

*Great Oaks: 16.0%, Student Count: 212

Kuumba Academy: 10.5%, last year 6.3%, Student Count: 644, last year 464

Las Americas Aspiras: 8.5%, last year 5.7%, Student Count: 639, last year 541

MOT Charter School: 6.8%, last year 6.1%, Student Count: 1,013, last year 869

Newark Charter School: 6.4%, last year 5.6%, Student Count: 2,140, last year 1,948

Odyssey Charter School: 4.9%, last year 4.4%, Student Count: 1,160, last year 933

Positive Outcomes: 62.7%, last year 65.9%, Student Count: 126, last year 126

Prestige Academy: 27.2%, last year 22.0%, Student Count: 224, last year 246

Providence Creek Academy: 5.1%, last year 5.1%, Student Count: 690, last year 688

Sussex Academy: 4.9%, last year 3.6%, Student Count: 594, last year 498

Thomas Edison: 7.0%, last year 7.1%, Student Count: 758, last year 745

 

Last year, the charters had special education populations in total of 8.6%.  This year they rose to 10.1%.  This is a rise of 14.85% in students with disabilities receiving IEPs at Delaware charter schools, but don’t forget, they also had an increased student count of 1,591 students this year.   They are up a bit from last year’s percentage of 12.7%, which is good.  But it seems like the bulk of new IEPs are going to some of the newer charter schools, like Delaware Met, Delaware Design Lab, Great Oaks and First State Military.  They are all well above the state average.  But the much vaunted “zero tolerance” charter stumbles at the gate with a very low 6.4%.  Charter School of Wilmington more than doubled their special education numbers.  But really, going from .2% to .5% is a joke.   Of concern are the two Dover charters who look like they are experiencing a downward trend in special education numbers.  That isn’t good, which accounts for Capital’s very large rise in percentage.  Down in Sussex Academy, it looks like the bulk of parents of special needs children chooses to send them to traditional school districts over Sussex Academy and Sussex Tech.  My big question though, if Providence Creek stayed the same, and Smyrna went up, where are the First State Military special education kids coming from?  This is a high school, so perhaps they are getting a lot of the Campus Community students that graduated from 8th grade there?  Or maybe more from the Middletown-Odessa area?  Who knows!

For student populations, the charters are definitely seeing upward movement, but one thing to remember is many of them are adding newer grades.  When a charter is approved, they can’t just open up every grade at once.  So it is a slow build.  For already established charters, you see them leveling out around the same numbers from year to year.  If I were Delaware College Prep and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, I would be very worried about those falling numbers.  Since the districts aren’t adding many numbers in your area, I would assume the bulk of your losses are going to other charters.  So they don’t just take from the traditionals, they also feed off each other.  It looks like the Middletown-Odessa area is having a huge population boom.  Between Appoquinimink and MOT Charter School’s rise, that is a total of nearly 750 new students between the two.  I would have expected Appoquinimink to decrease with the new MOT high school, but that isn’t the case at all.

It is obvious special education is on the rise in Delaware.  But are all schools implementing IEPs with fidelity?  I would find it very difficult to believe they are.  In this era of accountability and standardized test scores, it has to be very hard for the administration and teachers of any school to keep up with it all.  The DOE has so many demands going out to our schools, traditional and charter alike.  And in the next year or so, all of these IEPs will transition to “standards-based” IEPs if they haven’t already.  These are controversial, but many teachers swear they work better.  The jury is still out on that one.

In the meantime, email your state legislators today and let them know they need to support House Bill 30 no matter what the budget says.  The bill has been stuck in the Appropriations Committee for 9 months now.  2,467 Delaware students are not getting the supports they need.  The funds this would generate would give these students more teachers and paraprofessionals.  This is a crime this wasn’t included in this “needs-based” funding.  There is a crucial need, and Delaware isn’t meeting it.

To find out how each school did in the traditional school districts with special education percentages and student counts by grade, they are all in the below report.  Just hit the arrow on the bottom to get to the next page, or hit the full-screen button on the bottom right.

Delaware Special Education: The Eye of the Hurricane Part 1 Revisited A Year Later…

Editor’s note: I wrote this last year in July.  I reblogged it once and you can’t do that twice apparently.  I sent this link to someone, and I read over this again.  Not much has changed.  Aside from State Rep. Kim Williams addressing the basic special education funding for K-3 students with pending legislation, I can’t think of anything.  Well, except the hurricane that Smarter Balanced has become.  And I did find the actual links on the DOE website for the actual unit counts for each school. But this blog has gained many new readers since then, so take a trip down the rabbit hole that is special education in Delaware…

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.

Last week, I met with the Exceptional Children Group, the Delaware Department of Education’s special education department.  I met with their director, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, as well as the DOE’s public information officer, Alison May.  I had several questions stemming from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) report on Delaware’s special education that came out two weeks ago.  In the report, it stated Delaware was one of three states that needed federal intervention in regards to special education.

The Exceptional Children’s department in Delaware seemed to think the need for federal intervention was solely based on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) testing done for students.  This testing was done to determine student’s abilities, and several special education students were not included in this testing.  The testing is done for students in 4th, 8th and 12th grade.  According to the letter OSEP sent to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, “We plan to measure growth in the proficiency of children with disabilities when States have transitioned to college- and career- ready standards and assessments.  In the interim, we are using data from NAEP on the performance of children with disabilities, which provide a consistent and fair benchmark for performance of children across all States.  In the future, OSEP plans to use only regular Statewide assessment data, rather than NAEP data, for annual determinations, including data on the growth in proficiency of children with disabilities on Statewide assessments.”  Some parents feel Delaware excluded children at a much lower level than other states, such as Maryland, which may have made Delaware look worse.  But also written in the letter to Secretary Murphy was the following: “This determination is based on the totality of the State’s data and information, including the Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2012 Annual Performance Plan (APR) and revised State Performance Plan (SPP), other State-reported data, and other publicly available information.”  Delaware’s goal for compliance is 100%, but they fell into a range of 75-90% for the 2013 OSEP report.  While those may not seem like a bad range, it would indicate that anywhere from 10% to 25% of students had faults in their IEPs.  Out of the over 18,000 students that were qualified with special education in Delaware for the time period of this report, the 2010-2011 school year, that means that anywhere from 1800 to 4500 students had IEPs that were not compliant  based on these percentages.  That is an alarming number.  And after that report, the Exceptional Children Group decided to raise the amount of years that schools are audited from a 3 year cycle to a 5 year cycle.  There is no notice of this change on the DOE website because it still shows a three year cycle.  Delaware has been rated as needs assistance for special education by OSEP in 2013, 2011, 2009, and 2007 and in 2014, they were rated as needs intervention.  This means Delaware has received bad marks from OSEP for 5 out of the past 8 years.  They have corrected past mistakes, but it seems new ones are created every couple years.  But for two years in a row they have missed the mark. Continue reading

Big Changes Coming For Delaware Autism Program (DAP) With Senate Bill 92

SenateBill92

Delaware Senator Margaret-Rose Henry introduced Senate Bill 92 today, and it could mean huge changes for the Delaware Autism Program (DAP).  Citing an increase in reported Autism diagnoses in Delaware of 900%, this much-needed legislation will give extra supports and services these children desperately need.  From the official press release given today at Legislative Hall in Dover:

Lawmakers and stakeholders held a press conference Tuesday afternoon announcing legislation that would realign the state’s educational model for students diagnosed with autism by adding services allowing them to be educated in their home schools. The legislation also would create a panel to monitor the latest developments in educating students with autism spectrum disorders and craft policy reflecting those changes.

Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington South, who co-chaired the Autism Education Task Force with Rep. Earl Jaques, said there was a pressing need for the changes.

“When you look at the sheer numbers, our population of students diagnosed on the autism spectrum has exploded,” she said. “There’s a need to modernize our policies for these students and ensure we’re equipping their teachers, families and the agencies who assist them, with the best possible information.”

Currently, there are about 1,500 students diagnosed with autism in Delaware’s public schools. That’s up nearly 900 percent over the 152 students diagnosed with autism in 1992, when an initial statewide autism program was first established.

Please read the proposed legislation below:

And as I reported earlier, only it didn’t have a bill number attached to it yet, Senate Bill 93, creating the Delaware Interagency Committee for Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism:

Bill To Give K-3 Students Basic Special Education Funding Clears Through Delaware House Education Committee

At the Delaware House Education Committee meeting today, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 30, which would allow students with basic special education needs to receive extra funding in grades Kindergarten to 3rd grade, was unanimously released rom the committee.

The bill’s next stop is the House Appropriations Committee due to a $10 million fiscal note attached to it.  My take on this: this should have never happened in the first place in Delaware.  Part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), reauthorized in 2004, states schools must have adequate resources available for students on an IEP.  Delaware, in my opinion, is in Federal violation of this part of IDEA ever since Governor Jack Markell issued his Executive Order for needs-based funding and this necessary allotment didn’t go to these students.

Several parents have reported their children were denied IEPs in Delaware during these pivotal school years.  The fact that there was no extra funding available for these students has caused many parents to wonder if this was why.

Several Delaware Superintendents voiced their support for the legislation indicating it would give these students the supports they need, especially since the rates are climbing for students with disabilities.  Merv Daugherty, the Superintendent for Red Clay Consolidated, said his K-3 students in his school district are bigger than some of the other Delaware School Districts.  No representatives from charter schools or charter school organizations spoke up about the legislation and it did not appear any were in attendance.

House Bill 30 Introduced To Deal With Special Education Funding in Delaware

Last July, I found a startling piece of information while investigating the Delaware Department of Education Exceptional Children Resources Group.  For students listed under basic special education in grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade, they receive no additional funding even when they have an IEP.  This is based on the needs-based funding, which was House Bill 1 in the 146th General Assembly and was signed by  Governor Markell in February 2011.  With this bill, these students would receive additional funding that is desperately needed.

This can help the schools hire more special education teachers and get more funding for further resources needed to help the critical needs of these students.  Sponsored by Delaware State Representative Kim Williams and Delaware Senators Poore and McDowell, this bill finally allow students at a critical juncture to get the proper funding they need.  I think it’s a good sign this bill has 32 sponsors!

There is an excellent article on this here: http://www.dehousedems.com/press/bill-would-extend-special-education-all-students-k-3

Primary Sponsor: K. Williams Additional Sponsor(s):    Sen. McDowell & Sen. Poore
CoSponsors: Reps. Barbieri, Baumbach, Bennett, Bolden, Brady, Carson, Heffernan, Jaques, Q. Johnson, J. Johnson, Keeley, Kowalko, Longhurst, Lynn, Matthews, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Osienski, Paradee, Potter, Schwartzkopf, B. Short, M. Smith, Viola; Sens. Bushweller, Ennis, Henry, Sokola, Townsend
Introduced on : 01/28/2015
Long Title: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
Synopsis of Orginal Bill:
(without Amendments)
This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.
Current Status: House Education Committee   On   01/28/15

House Concurrent Resolution #5 To Create Education Funding Task Force in Delaware

House Concurrent Resolution #5 will create a task force to examine how funds are allocated per student in Delaware.  My biggest question though is why the hell a representative from Rodel is needed on this?  The Delaware Charter Schools Network I can sort of undertand, but Rodel?  This “non-profit” has no business interfering in Delaware education more than it already has.  Enough is enough.  Haven’t they caused enough problems?

SPONSOR: Rep. Briggs King & Sen. Pettyjohn;
Reps. D. Short, Hudson, Kenton, Smyk, Wilson, Yearick; Sens. Lawson, Simpson

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES148th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 5

 

ESTABLISHING A BLUE RIBBON TASK FORCE ON EDUCATION SPENDING TO AUDIT PUBLIC SPENDING FOR EDUCATION IN DELAWARE AND TO MAKE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO ASSURE FAIR AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION.

WHEREAS, the Delaware Department of Education currently provides K-12 funding to a variety of educational systems throughout the State; and

WHEREAS, the existing formulas for distribution are inequitable and create a large disparity in the quality of education that our children are able to receive; and

WHEREAS, it is the intent of the General Assembly that a task force of qualified persons study the current formulas for distribution and develop alternatives that will allow for an equitable distribution among all children receiving an education in the State, by and among all school districts and non-public forms of education.

NOW, THEREFORE:

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the 148th General Assembly of the State of Delaware, the Senate concurring therein, that the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Education Spending be established to study and make findings regarding the current formulas for distributing public funds for education among all forms of education, and to make recommendations to improve the formulas for distribution to assure fairness and equity for all children receiving an education in Delaware.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force be composed of the following members:

Two members of the House of Representatives, one appointed by the Speaker of the House and one appointed by the Minority Leader;

Two members of the Senate, one appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate and one appointed by the Minority Leader;

The Controller General, or designee;

Two representatives from the Department of Education;

One representative from the Rodel Foundation;

One representative from the Delaware Charter Schools Network;

One representative from the Delaware State Education Association;

One parent, appointed by the Education Committee of the House of Representatives;

One teacher, to be appointed by the Education Committee of the Senate;

One Public School District Superintendent from each County, to be appointed by the Governor; and

One representative from a Vocational School, to be appointed by the Governor.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that two co-chairs are to be selected from the members, one to be chosen by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one to be chosen by the President pro tempore of the Senate.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Co-Chairs of the Task Force shall be responsible for setting the initial meeting of the task force and guiding the administration of the Task Force.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Education shall provide access to any information and resources that may be required to complete this study, and may provide reasonable and necessary support staff and materials for the Task Force.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force report its findings and recommendations to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Governor, the Department of Education, and the Directors of the Division of Research and the Delaware Public Archives for public dissemination by one year from the date of passage of this Resolution.

SYNOPSIS

Under the current Department of Education formula for providing State funds for education, there is a wide discrepancy in the funding per pupil between public school districts and among the other educational systems offered in this State.   This Resolution will establish a Task Force to examine and study all Department of Education K-12 spending in Delaware, as it exists across all forms of education. The Task Force will be able to use that information to make recommendations that will create and promote an equitable distribution among all children receiving an education in Delaware, by and among all public school districts and alternative educational systems. This Task Force will be comprised of 16 persons with diverse backgrounds and interests, including those from public, charter, and vocational educational systems.

September 30th Unit Count Report from Delaware DOE w/Special Education Units, Charters Still Underserving Students With Disabilities @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @Roof_o #netde #Delaware #edchat #eduDE

Special Needs Parents of Delaware: The Delaware DOE has just released their September 30th Annual Enrollment Unit Count for every single public school in Delaware, including charters and vocational schools.  The unit counts are based on the following categories: regular students, basic special education and regular students in K-3, basic special education in 4-12, intensive special education in K-12, and complex special education in K-12.  To qualify as special education in this report, a student with a disability must have an Individualized Education Plan.

If you wanted to see how many special needs students go to the priority schools, this is your chance.  If you wanted to choice your child out to a charter and he/she is a student with disabilities, you might want to take a careful look at which charters really don’t cater to children with special needs.  The report can be read here:

How did the charter schools do with special ed this year?  Did they learn some lessons from last year, or are they still around the same amounts? Or did they decrease?  With a state average around 13.5%, any charter below 10% of their population being special education really needs to stop the enrollment preference!  If any of the schools below score below 7%, I put them in bold for really not doing a good job at acquiring special education students, whether they were up from last years numbers or not.  For the new charters, I’m going to leave them alone this year, but I really hope to see an increase in their statistics next year.

*Academia Antonia Alonso: 2 out of 221, .9% New Charter School

Academy of Dover: 33 out of 290, 11.4%, Last Year 8.4%, up +3

Campus Community: 33 out of 410, 8%, Last Year 9%, down -1

Charter School of Wilm.: 2 out of 972, .2%, Last Year .6%, down -.4

Del. Academy of Public Safety: 59 out of 363, 16.2%, Last Year 13.3%, up +2.9

Delaware College Prep: 3 out of 203, 1.5%, Last Year 4.1%, down -2.6

Delaware Military Academy: 17 out of 569, 3%, Last Year 2.8%, up +.2

*Early College High School at DSU: 3 out of 129, 2.3%, New Charter School

East Side Charter: 62 out of 418, 14.8%, Last Year 15.1%, down -.3

Family Foundation Academy: 43 out of 811, 5.3%, Last Year 5.9%, down -.6

*First State Montessori Academy: 15 out of 280, 5.3%, New Charter School

Gateway Lab School: 127 out of 212, 60%, Last Year 58.7%, up +1.3

Kuumba Academy: 29 out of 464, 6.2%, Last Year 5.7%, up +.5

Las Americas Aspira: 31 out of 541, 5.7%, Last Year 4.6%, up +1.3

Moyer: 61 out of 208, 29.3%, Last Year 31.3%, down -2

MOT Charter: 53 out of 869, 6.1% , Last Year 5.9%, up +.2

Newark Charter: 109 out of 1,948, 5.6%, Last Year 5.7%, down -.1

Odyssey Charter: 40 out of 933, 4.3%, Last Year 4%, up +.3

Positive Outcomes: 83 out of 126, 66%, Last Year 63.3%, up +2.7

Prestige Academy: 54 out of 246, 22%, Last Year 19.5%, up +2.5

Providence Creek: 35 out of 688, 5.1%, Last Year 4.4%, up +.7

Reach Academy for Girls: 24 out of 377, 6.4%, Last Year 5.3%, up +1.1

Sussex Academy: 17 out of 498, 3.4%, Last Year 4.4%, down -1

Thomas Edison Charter: 53 out of 745, 7.1%, Last Year 6.8%, up +.3

Totals For Delaware Charters for 2014-2015:  988 out of 12,521, 7.9%

Even though they were above my “failure” threshold, they weren’t that far above it. The charters in Delaware need to do a much better job at special education. If I took Gateway and Positive Outcomes out of the mix, the average would be 778 out of 12,183, or 6.4%.  And with Gateway’s fate undecided, they may not even be a factor next year.  So overall Delaware charters, YOU FAILED to attract and retain special education students.  And CSW, I didn’t think you could get any worse than last year, but really, 2 out of 972 students?  No comment…

Students With Disabilities At Most Delaware Charters Do Poorly @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DeStateBoardEd #netde #eduDE

Students with disabilitities seem to do very bad on standardized testing at most Delaware charter schools. As these results show, students with disabilities at the bulk of charter schools in Delaware fit into two categories: they do poorly on standardized testing or the charters don’t have enough special education students to even count in the numbers. Both of these are extreme issues in this state. Granted, not every single charter school can cater to specific disabilities based on an advanced curriculum, such as Charter School of Wilmington. While others may focus solely on complex disabilities, such as Gateway. But somewhere in the middle are the bulk of these schools. This shows a clearer picture of how application enrollment preference can and does boost the academic numbers for some schools.

You will find each charter school in Delaware below, with the academic ratings for students with disabilities. For those that didn’t have enough students, this is based on Needs Based Funding categories for special education. There either weren’t enough students or it fell in a 15 or below status which eliminates them from the state numbers. I did earlier articles when I first started Exceptional Delaware grading each school in Delaware for special education populations. Comparing those reports with this is very interesting. I will also list the grades those schools received after the names of each school from those articles.

The actual academic framework reports for each school are very complex because certain schools didn’t make the growth targets between the Fall and Spring DCAS tests. A school like Charter School of Wilmington, which is ridiculous given the other numbers. But then you have other schools that met those growth targets, but the school was still rated does not meet. But in conjunction with the grades I gave the schools for special education, questions do emerge about how well the students are being accommodated. Some do it great, but most of them seem to be missing the boat .

Academy of Dover, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall School: Does Not Meet (rated Meets previous two years) (got D grade for special education population)

Campus Community, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall School: Meets (rated Does Not Meet previous two years) (got C grade for special education population)

*Charter School of Wilmington, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students w/special education in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (rated Exceeds previous two years) (got F grade for special education population) *CSW is known to have more rigorous studies in science and math and is known for having a more gifted student population

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Does Not Meet (3rd Year in a row) (got F grade for special education population)

Delaware College Preparatory Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students w/special education in each NBF category, Overall: Does Not Meet (Does not meet previous year, Far Below Standards year before) (got F grade for special education population)

Delaware Military Academy, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Exceeds, Overall: Meets (3rd Year in a row) (got F grade for special education population)

Eastside Charter School, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Meets (was Does Not Meet previous two years) (got A+ for special education population)

Edison, Thomas Charter School, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Far Below Standards, Overall: Does Not Meet (was Does Not Meet previous year, Meets year before) (got F grade for special education population)

Family Foundations, Math and ELA: Exceeds, Overall: Meets (Meets previous year, Does not meet year before) (got F grade for special education population)

*Gateway, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Far Below Standard (Far Below previous two years) (got A++ for special education population) *Gateway is a special needs school serving a very high population of autistic and complex special needs students.

Kuumba Academy Charter School, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (was Meets previous year, Exceeds year before) (got F for special education population grade)

Las Aspiras ASPIRA Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (Meets previous year, Does not meet year before) (got F for special education population)

MOT Charter School, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Meets (Meets previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Moyer Charter School:

Math and ELA: Far Below Standard, Overall: (previous year Does Not Meet, was under K12 Management year prior after formal review, currently under Formal Review again) (got A++ for special education population)

Newark Charter School, Math and ELA: Exceeds Standards, Overall: Meets (Exceeds previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Odyssey Charter School,  Math: Exceeds Standards, ELA: Meets, Overall: Meets (Exceeds previous year, Meets year before) (got F for special education population)

Positive Outcomes, Math and ELA: Meets, Overall: Meets (Does Not Meet previous two years) (got A++ for special education population)

Prestige Academy, Math: Far Below Standards, ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Does Not Meet (3rd Year In A Row) (got A+ for special education population)

Providence Creek, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet (Insufficient Number of Students, Results Not Reported), Overall: Does Not Meet (Meets previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Reach Academy, Math and ELA: Far Below Standard (Insufficient Number of Students, Results Not Reported), Overall: Does Not Meet (Far Below Standards previous year, Does Not Meet year before) (got F for special education population)

Sussex Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Exceeds Standard (3rd year in a row) (got F for special education population)

Number of Charters with N/A Status: 4

Charters in danger due to three years in a row of does not meet or below: Reach Academy, Prestige Academy, Moyer (already on formal review), Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Preparatory Academy

 

Special Education Statistics Part III: Kent County Publics vs Charters #netde #eduDE @delaware_gov

Kent County is a unique place.  It is considered part of “slower lower”, but the capital of the state is in Dover.  All the major decisions about the state occur here, even though the majority of the population lives in Newcastle County.  The schools in Kent County are also unique.

Seven school districts are in Kent County.  Capital, Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest, and Polytech are all within the borders of Kent County.  Smyrna overlaps into Newcastle County, while Woodbridge and Milford share district space with both Kent and Sussex .  There are only four charter schools in Kent County: Academy of Dover, Campus Community, Providence Creek and Positive Outcomes.  Of the four charters, their special education population is as follows:

Academy of Dover: 8.4% (26 out of 308)

Campus Community School: 9% (37 out of 411)

Providence Creek Academy: 4.4% (31 out of 697)

Positive Outcomes: 63.3% (76 out of 120)

Positive Outcomes is the exception to the rule when it comes to special education in Delaware.  The school primarily serves students with special needs and behavior issues, so it is no surprise they would fully accommodate in those situations.  The other three…that’s different.  Both Academy of Dover and Campus Community have a high percentage of lower income and African-American students, so in that aspect, it doesn’t appear charter school enrollment preference affects income or race.  But with a state average of 13.5-13.9% for special education, those numbers are much lower than their public school peers.  So where are all the special needs children going?  Certainly not Polytech, a vocational high school (the only school in that district).  Their average is 9.3% (112 out of 1,206).  So this would leave the public schools to deal with this student population.

Caesar Rodney: 13.6% (1,046 out of 7,677)

Capital: 17% (997 out of 6,442)

Lake Forest: 13% (479 out of 3,687)

Milford: 12.3% (507 out of 4,168)

Smyrna: 13.5% (697 out of 5,163)

I’m not going to include Woodbridge since most of the school district is within Sussex County.

So we can definitely see the public schools are taking in much higher populations of special needs children than the charter schools in the area.  Why is this?  Pretty much the same answer as the rest of the charters in the state.  They don’t want them.  This is why they put sections on their applications  with questions like “Does your child have an IEP” or “Does your child have any special education needs”.  They want to weed them out.  Not including Positive Outcomes obviously, the other three charter schools have a total of  7 complex special education students, and they are all at Academy of Dover.  Both Campus Community and Providence Creek Academy have NONE.  I guess autistic children aren’t welcome there.  What does FAPE stand for again?

Smyrna School District seems to take the bulk of special needs children in the area.  The majority of students that go to Providence Creek reside in Smyrna, and then Capital.  Since Providence Creek can only accommodate 26 special needs students, but the other 671 are “normal”, that must be an acceptable sacrifice for them.  But hey, they should feel lucky.  Their special education population actually went down from 4.7% in 2013 to 4.4% in 2014.  Less burden for them.

Further south in Kent County are the  Caesar Rodney, Milford and Lake Forest districts.  Some children from there go to the charters in Kent County, but the further south you go the less likely this is.  Their special education numbers seem to be near the state average.

Capital School District’s special education numbers are much higher than everyone else.  They also have the Kent County Community School, which serves the Delaware Autistic Program (DAP) for autistic students in grades K-12.

No new charter schools have opened in Kent County in many, many years, and that’s probably a good thing.  I wouldn’t mind at all if Positive Outcomes opened a K-6 school.  Maybe they can take over one of the other schools.  In the meantime, parents of Kent County, I would be very wary about sending any special needs child to a charter school in Dover, unless it is Positive Outcomes.  I have heard from parents who let one or two of their kids stay at a charter school but they send their special needs child to a public school.  This must be a huge pain in the ass for these families.  The charter school should be more than capable of handling a special needs child.  The big lingering question is this- why aren’t they?

 

 

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

Special Education Statistics Part II: Red Clay and Charters Vs Publics #netde #edude @ed_in_de @KilroysDelaware @destateboarded @dedeptofed

So after I did my grades on all the schools for the percentage of the student populations that are special needs, I noticed some alarming trends, especially in Newcastle County in Delaware.  This county has the bulk of the charter schools in this state, and some of the lowest special education populations in the state.

Red Clay Consolidated School District is a very unique school district in this state.  Included in the district are the charter schools that reside within.  Of course, I have to start with my most talked-about charter school, the good old Charter School of Wilmington.  With their underwhelming .6% special ed population.  I know, it’s a “smart” school, with an application process that probably makes Yale or Harvard look easy.  But, many special needs students are smart, some are brilliant.  They just need to be fully accommodated to reach that potential.  I don’t think CSW wants to give that kind of attention to itself.  Or to special needs students.  So what would happen if CSW all of a sudden came to their senses and started accepting a lot more special needs students.  Does that mean other schools would actually drop in special ed?  Schools like A.I. Dupont High School (17.1%), Dickinson (17.5%) or McKean (20.2%)?  We can’t put that much weight on CSW.  So let’s take a look at the other charter schools in the area.  Delaware Military Academy has a 2.8% population for special ed and Delaware College Prep lands at 4.1%.  Delaware College Prep is an elementary school, so we can’t compare that to other high schools.  But to be fair, let’s include Conrad School Of Science (2.9%) and Calloway School of the Arts (2.5%).  These are all the high schools in Red Clay Consolidated.  So what conclusions can be drawn from this?  The bulk of special needs children are served at the public high schools.  There are no charter elementary schools in Red Clay Consolidated.  Why is that?  Would it be too difficult to filter the “good” and the “potential trouble spot” students?  Let’s not forget, the state average is 13.5%.  So the public schools get the majority of the special ed students, thus bearing more of the financial cost through needs based funding.

To accurately see this reality, we would need to look at each school’s federal funding.  Unfortunately none of the schools give a breakdown between the subgroups that fall under federal funding.  The IDEA-B funding that schools receives are what covers special education in schools.  If anyone can provide this information, I would love to see it.

All federal funding for any type of public school in Delaware falls under Title I (for students listed as poverty) and IDEA-B (all special education funds).  Any school district should separate the two in their financial statements.  Charter School of Wilmington does not.  So it is impossible to find out how much they get for IDEA-B funding based on their total actual revenue from federal funding of $83,412.  The same can be said of Delaware Military Academy.  No breakdown on their federal funds, but they did receive a total of $156,301.96, almost twice as much as CSW.  Red Clay does not give an exact breakdown of their federal IDEA-B funding either, but they do give a breakdown of the special education units that falls under needs based funding, so I would have to calculate what that amount comes to.  I will do that and then I will  update this article.  Or again, if anyone wants to provide that information I would be happy to accept it!

The bottom line is a huge enrollment preference that is disproportionately unfair to Red Clay’s public schools. School choice allows parents to switch their children to different schools.  But when the charter schools ask for IEP/Special Education info on the applications, some parents may view this as a positive when the reality is a game.  The charter schools frequently use this information to weed out the undesirables.  So much so that a bill was introduced today by House Rep Darryl Scott to prevent this very sort of event from happening.