DE Atty. General Matt Denn Files Brief For Special Education Supreme Court Case… What About My Kid Matt?

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, along with the AGs from Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed an amicus brief for the upcoming special education case which will be heard by the United States Supreme Court.  The Endrew F. v Douglas County School District is a case which can change the face of special education.  But what about my kid right here in Delaware Matt Denn?  The one who was kicked out of a special education program at a Delaware private school last Friday with no due process, no advance notification to the parents about the true purpose of the meeting, and no chance for my son’s voice to be heard?

For the most part, I like Matt Denn.  I think he can be an excellent advocate for students with disabilities.  But sadly, what he wants and what we have in Delaware are two very different things.  I wish Denn could help my own son the way he is helping this child in Colorado.  I understand the implications of this case and what it can do for special education if they rule in favor of the student.  That would be a very good thing.  But there are far too many students here in Delaware that are now suffering with special education.  My own son Jacob included.  If Delaware’s special education is supposed to be so great, why isn’t it Matt?  We both know the answer to that.  But why should my kid have to go through all venues of education in this state and still not have schools understand his needs?  Charter, district, private school, private school homeschool-coop program.  None have worked Matt.  None.  They may be great at other things, but they have all failed my son.  As one father to another father, I’m asking you to do something here, in Delaware.  In your state.  Not later, not down the road, but now.  I don’t know if I can get my son back on track.  There has been so much damage done to him.  By adults who think power is more important than what is right.  Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to watch your own child’s spirit break time and time again.  I truly hope you don’t.  But I’m just one of many parents who has to pick up the pieces of a child’s shattered life again and again while the system fails him time and time again.  It doesn’t matter what kind of school it is.  I don’t care about all this fancy legal stuff.  I just want consistency and best practices with my son, with all the special needs kids in this state.  We are destroying lives here Matt.  What are you going to do about that?

Talk is on thing but actions speak louder than words.  How many more Jacobs do we have to have in this state Matt?  How many more tears have to be shed before something is done?  How many families have to deal with turmoil you can’t even begin to imagine Matt?  How many more children have to be psychologically beaten down before you do something?

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Delaware Files Amicus Brief Supporting a Colorado Student’s Claim on Behalf of Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, joined by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed a formal brief Monday with the United States Supreme Court supporting the appeal of a Colorado public school student with disabilities who claims that his school district has not complied with federal law in meeting his educational needs. The brief filed by Delaware urges the United States Supreme Court to adopt a higher national standard for the services that U.S. schools must provide, and articulates that the standard reflected in Delaware state law, rather than the lower standard used in Colorado and many other states, is the proper standard to measure the provision of such services.

The brief was written by Delaware State Solicitor Aaron Goldstein and Deputy Attorneys General Patricia Davis and Laura Makransky. The brief states that the three Attorneys General “implore this Court to find that the highest level of educational benefit for children with disabilities currently recognized by federal courts of appeal is the correct level for all of the nation’s children with disabilities in order to ensure that the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act]’s ideals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency are fulfilled.”

Although Attorney General Denn has joined other briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court since taking office in January of 2015, this is the first United States Supreme Court brief that his office has authored since he took office. “We chose this issue to seek to be heard with the United States Supreme Court,” Denn said, “because it is fundamentally important to the future of every child with a disability in our nation’s public schools. We also sought to be heard because how the Supreme Court phrases its opinion could also have a direct impact on students with disabilities in Delaware public schools.”

 

 

 

The Wink

Last Thursday at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, Chris Ruszkowski gave his last public appearance as the Chief of the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware Department of Education.  State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray congratulated Ruszkowski on his departure to New Mexico.  As a few of us feverishly went to Google to find out what that was all about, a DOE employee informed me he was going to be the new Deputy Secretary of Education for New Mexico.  I put up a very short post about it right away.

Shortly after, Ruszkowski winked and smiled at me.  I have to wonder what that was about.  Was it his way of saying “You were right about everything but guess what, I’m moving up in the education world.”  Or was it “I can’t stand you, but I’m not going to let you know that.”  It could have possibly been “You were wrong about everything.  There you sit with your little blog while I’m off to New Mexico.”  I’ll probably never know.  Or there could have been other reasons.  Maybe he really liked the “Surfer Boy” nickname I gave him.  Perhaps he enjoyed the cat and mouse games myself and others played with him and it kept him on his toes.

It is my hope his replacement, Angeline Rivello, seizes the opportunity to make this area of the DOE more transparent and less judgmental about our teachers in Delaware.  Ruszkowski didn’t just burn bridges, he blew them up.

All I can say is good luck. New Mexico is going to need it!

Chris Ruszkwoski Is The New Deputy Secretary of Education For New Mexico

Today is Delaware DOE Chief of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit Chris Ruszkwoski’s last day.  It was just announced at the State Board of Education he will be the new Deputy Secretary of Education for New Mexico.  That’s all…

New Mexico ACLU Complaint Could Have Huge Impact For Teachers Nationwide

The New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint yesterday with the First Judicial District Court of Santa Fe County.  The plaintiffs, five public school teachers and a parent, allege that the New Mexico Public Education Department is violating their First Amendment rights by forbidding them to talk negatively about standardized assessments.

The concerns are serious, touching on one of the most basic functions of government, public education.  They include criticisms that government officials have prioritized profit and politics over public education; have fundamentally changed education, as teachers must now devote significant hours to teaching to the tests, not their students’ actual education needs; and have ignored that the tests are often developmentally inappropriate and traumatic for some students with disabilities.

The teachers and the parent work or live in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque Public School districts.  Both districts give parents the right to opt their children out of standardized tests, but state law forbids teachers from “disparaging” standardized tests.  The teachers and the parent this robs educators of the ability to advocate for students when they have first-hand knowledge of what high-stakes tests do to students.  They also allege these tests give school districts false labels in accountability measures.

I could easily see this case, if not won at a state level, advancing even higher.  It was only a matter of time before this country saw a case like this.  This could have far-reaching implications for opt out across the country.  If the plaintiff wins, it could be used as precedent in other cases across America.  If they lose, I would certainly hope they would appeal.  I truly wouldn’t mind if a case like this wound up in the United States Supreme Court so the decision on parental rights is made once and for all by the highest court in the country.

New Mexico uses the PARCC as their state assessment.

I salute these five teachers and parent for bringing this case forward as well as the ACLU for taking the case.  It is about time people stood up for their own rights, student rights, and parent rights.  I will be following this case closely going forward!  To read the full complaint, please see below:

It’s Optoutpalooza! Student Walk-outs, Computer Opt Outs, & Teacher Protests

“Today’s fiasco once again demonstrates that Florida testing policy is being driven by politicians and ideologues, not educators.”

“We Are Not A Test Score.”

“We honestly believe that The State of New Jersey, by forcing us to administer this time-devouring test, is engaged in behavior destructive to the educational well being of our students.”

While the Smarter Balanced Assessment doesn’t start in Delaware for another eight days, many states started the Pearson created PARCC test today.  But it looks like many students and teachers didn’t take part.  Diane Ravitch must have had a field day with her blog today.  Every article was about huge problems with this test.  Another blog, based out of Florida called Scathing Purple Musings had plenty to say about it as well!

In New Mexico, hundreds of students just walked out of the tests!  The biggest walkout occurred at Albuquerque High School.  Students had signs indicating “We Are Not A Test Score” and “Common Core Fails”.  All told, twelve high schools in the state had walkouts.  Another student in the Santa Fe School District got suspended for telling students they can opt out of the test.  Diane Ravitch put the student on her blog honor roll!

In Florida, it looks like the computer system was sick of standardized testing as anywhere from 8 to 12 school districts were unable to log into the system.  While this wasn’t the PARCC, it was the first day of the Florida Standards Assessment.  Leon County has told the state they won’t try to give it anymore until the state DOE can confirm it won’t happen again.

Illinois had bad news today.  The Superintendent of the Chicago School District had announced she was only giving the PARCC to 10% of students.  She caved on this today which I’m sure shocked the other 90% of the students.

But the biggest news came out of Newark, New Jersey.  Teachers at one of the most successful schools in the state, Science Park High School, wrote a very long letter protesting the PARCC test, calling it “Thirty days of destruction.”  But in the rest of the state, thousands of students walked out and opted out.  30% of the students refused the test in one district alone.  That should be an interesting conversation with the state DOE!

Speaking of the DOE, I wonder how many will show up tomorrow night at the Delaware PTA sponsored parent opt out town hall event?

All of these articles can be read at http://dianeravitch.net/ and https://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/