Why Stan Lee’s Death Matters

Yesterday, comic book creator extraordinaire Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95.

I met Stan Lee once.  It was at the 1992 San Diego Comic-Con.  He was hanging out with Spider-Man and I got to introduce myself and tell him how much a fan I was.  Something he must have heard millions of times in his long career in comic books.  For many, Stan Lee was Marvel.  But for me, Stan was a creator.  Along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he created characters and storylines that will never be repeated.

The first time I ever heard of Stan Lee was 1977.  I just began collecting comics.  For me, they were an escape.  My favorite was Spider-Man.  Followed by the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and all the rest.  Stan created all of them.  He was the writer who put the words behind the pictures.

The face of Marvel comics was present in everything you see in the Marvel movies.  For me, he was a presence in my education foundation.  You see, I didn’t read many books as a kid.  I read comics.  Tons of them!  How many kids really got into reading because of Stan’s words?  The number is probably higher than any of us can imagine.

Some of us are visual thinkers.  I know I am.  I see pictures in my minds and words form out of them.  A comic book is the same thing but seen in physical form.  Stan took that already existing format and rewrote the rules.  He created characters that will live long past his 95 year-old life.

Stan wasn’t without controversy in his life.  The artist of many of his creations, Jack Kirby, fought long and hard to get his original art back.  It was something that was never fixed by the time he died in 1994.  Steve Ditko, the artist of The Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, had a frosty relationship with Stan.  Stan’s finances at the end were a hot mess as vultures took advantage of him.

I choose to remember the Stan Lee who kept fans guessing for 25 issues on the identity of the Green Goblin.  The guy who created the concept of mutants and tackled issues of discrimination.  The man who said screw it to the Comics Code Authority, the authoritarian censorship association, and showed the very real results of drug use in Amazing Spider-Man #96-98.  The writer who wasn’t afraid to create African-American characters, like the Black Panther.  The creator who turned the team concept into something to be modeled for generations to come in the form of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men.  Stan even used disabilities as the basis of a character in the form of the blind Daredevil.  For Stan, it wasn’t the costume but the person that was behind the costume.  It was the character that mattered, not the powers.  It was how they used those powers for the common good.  Before Stan, it was the hero first and the person second.

Like I said, my favorite was always Spider-Man.  His Peter Parker was a bullied teenager who never quite fit in.  His tagline of “with great power there must also come great responsibility” showed the inner and constant battle Parker faced on a daily basis.  It is the heart of a hero.  The ironic part is I loathe spiders but Spidey was my favorite.  But I digress.  Spider-Man is the story of every single awkward teenager who just wants to belong and fit in.  I remember buying these paperback reprint editions of Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1-20.  There were three of them.  I think I still have one of them packed away somewhere.  This was the gold of my childhood.  There was also a trade paperback called “Origins of Marvel Comics” which showcased the first appearances and origins of many of Stan’s creations.  These stories were the foundation of Marvel Comics.

Comic books taught me a lot.  The most important was to always try to do the right thing.  Yes, we fail miserably at that concept in all our lives.  None of us are perfect.  But if that is your cornerstone, your life as a human being will be better for it.  Sometimes the right thing comes at great personal sacrifice.  And it hurts.  But you have to keep going, keep plugging along.  That was Stan Lee’s legacy for me.  Rest in peace Stan.  You are joining all the other comic book greats that passed before you and paving the way for those to come.

‘Nuff said.

Become A Reading Angel!

readingangel

I had no idea this existed until last week.  The United Way of Delaware is looking for volunteers to read to kids at Delaware schools.  I signed up for one this week.  I always wanted to do something like this, for many years.  When I first thought of it, I thought about reading to sick kids in hospitals.  Time and life got in the way of doing anything about it, but when I saw this the door opened for me.

This is during the week, so it can be tough for many of you.  But if you have time, please consider being a Reading Angel to a local school.  The schools participating in this are North Georgetown Elementary School in Georgetown, Fairview Elementary School in Dover, Bancroft, Pulaski, Shortlidge, Stubbs, and Wilmington Manor Elementary School(s) in Wilmington, Lewis Dual Language, and Eisenberg Elementary School in New Castle.  I have no idea what I will be reading to the kids, but I look forward to it!

To sign up for this, please go to the United Way Delaware: Reading Angels website and pick a school and date!  Why is this important?  As per the United Way of Delaware website:

Books have the power to benefit children in a myriad of ways. As a Reading Angel, reading to students is one of the most important things you can do to prepare them with a foundation for academic excellence.

Why Does it Matter? Children who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school as those who read proficiently.  Help us improve our kid’s literacy scores and their reading capability.

Commit to reading to students for one hour at a local school.  We’ll help schedule a convenient time and place – you will help inspire a love of books in local children!

Amen!  Thanks United Way of Delaware!

Intermission

If you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing as much lately.  I’ve been on an intermission of sorts.  Life stuff.  And fun stuff (for me at least).  I’ve been catching up on some reading and listening to a lot of music.  Things I used to do a lot before I started blogging.  I just need to wind down at times.  I’ve pretty much been on the go for over two years with education and I really don’t want to burn out.  So I’m taking some time off.  I’ll still try to get some stuff up everyday, but nothing to in-depth.  Unless something big comes my way.  Then I will get that up fast!

My wife and I cleaned out our garage today.  My car was filled with stuff we donated to Good Will.  I had to clean out my gutters when I saw weeds growing out of them in a couple of areas.  While I was doing that, a wicked wind blew green leaves all over the place.  I thought I might lose some trees on the edge of our property, but walnuts are very sturdy.

TV winds down for me in the summer.  Only a few shows I’m watching now: Game of Thrones, Preacher and Outcast.  The season finale of The Americans is on tonight.  I will definitely be watching that!  Like those who watch it, I think it is one of the best shows on TV now.  Having lived through the 1980s it is very spot-on with the rendition of the early part of that decade.  They even had a bunch of characters watching “The Day After” in one episode this season.  Kids today don’t live with nuclear threats like I did when I was a kid/teenager.  That movie scared the crap out of millions of Americans.  It came out in 1983 on a Sunday night.  I’ve watched it a few times since.

I was listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons earlier today.  The Summer trio are my favorite.  Highs and lows, with a crashing crescendo at the end!  Then I vegged out to some Imagine Dragons and later a band you’ve most likely forgotten about or never heard of called Gene Loves Jezebel.

I’m just blabbing here, about nothing specific.  My son has been watching Arrow and telling me all about it.  I’m a huge Flash fan, but I’ve been stuck on the first season of Arrow for a couple of years.  If you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge comic book fan.  In terms of shows and movies, Marvel gets the movies right and DC does really well with the tv shows.  I still haven’t seen Captain America: Civil War yet.  It is on my soon-to-do list.  Along with a million other things.

I’m kind of at a transition point.  My son is exactly where he needs to be with education.  His battles are a thing of the past for the most part so much my anger is fading.  That doesn’t mean I don’t care about education overall, I just don’t have that immediate connection to it I used to have.  I’ll still do the research and the digging and the listening.  But I am really trying to leave emotion out of it.  If anything, I’ve gotten more sarcastic with my writing.  I’ve been involved with this mess in Delaware so long and so intensely, nothing really shocks me much anymore.  But we are entering unchartered territory with Jack leaving next year and the upcoming elections.  At the time of this writing, Hillary is the Democrat nominee and Donald is the Republican.  I really can’t stand them both.  I was really rooting for Bernie, but his age concerned me a lot.  I don’t like the fact that both the frontrunners are two people who I’ve heard about for over twenty years and neither of them ever impressed me.  It’s kind of depressing actually.  I will fully admit it is very hard for me to not want to blast certain people involved in education.  I see them doing some of the same things over and over.  But it’s the everyday people I’m sometimes hard on, and I’m starting to feel bad about that.  My intention isn’t to hurt anyone.  I’ve always figured if you are going to attend meetings about education you are most likely a public person.  Even if they are “secret” or non-public meetings.  I know I upset a couple of people two weeks ago and I feel bad about that.  I’m going to try to be nicer to people on here.   I know, I’ve said that before and then two weeks later I was cussing out some folks.  When I have posts like that, I’m not going to publish them right away.  Sometimes the best thing to do is sleep on it and not go by the moment.

Alright, enough out of me.  For those reading this, I’m sure this was not the kind of post you wanted to read.  Everyone always loves the scoop (or the supposed scoop).  But even bloggers need a time out once in a while!

The Herdman Problem

Right now, a Herdman problem is running amok in our education system and causing chaos.  The Herdman problem is not the only issue.  Our classrooms are changed because of this.  We don’t know why this is happening, just that it is.  Students don’t want to go to school.  It is very hard for them to learn in this environment.  How can we solve the Herdman problem?  Parents, teachers, and principals are upset.  The community is outraged.  How did we allow the Herdman problem to invade our schools?  Each year the problems only get worse.

If you think I’m talking about Dr .Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation, then you have been actively reading this blog but that is NOT what this article is about.  It’s about reading.  Right now my son is reading a book called The Best Worst School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson.  This is a sequel to a story many children have read called The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  It’s about six siblings, known as The Horrible Herdmans.  These kids are monsters!  They steal, they lie, they cheat, they burn, they kidnap, you name it, they have done it.  There doesn’t seem to be one honorable bone in their bodies.  Yet, at the end of the day, you find they capture your heart in a weird way.

As my son reads this, cracking up throughout, I am relieved.  Reading and my son don’t always get along.  But he is fully engaged in this book and he is loving it!  This is what reading is meant to do.  To suck you in and bring you new worlds of joy and creativity.  To expand your brain in ways you can’t imagine.  To see my son this into a book is awesome!

I read a lot.  All the time.  I refuse to let my mind go stagnant.  I am of the belief that children need to read everyday.  It doesn’t always work as planned, but that is my goal for my child.  But some kids don’t even know how to read.  They need to be taught.  Their future depends on it.  Our future depends on it.  They may not even know words, or they may have a learning disability.  I think we can all agree this is a huge issue, and we all need to work together to solve it.  For our toddlers and really young ones, parents need to read to them all the time.  Go out of the box and see if they can actually read.  Show them the words and ask if they can say them.  Point to the words as you are saying it.    It probably won’t happen, but one day you just might be surprised!

Parent Opt-Out Legislation for Severely Cognitively Impaired Students Passed by Senate, House Bill 229**Updated** #netde #edude

This bill would allow for students with either autism, multiple disabilities or a moderate or severe intellectual disability to potentially be opted out of state standardized assessments.  But the caveat here is only the parent can request it.  In lieu of the standardized test, a parent would request a “portfolio review” to show student progress.  No member of a school or IEP team can request this.  Another key part is the child must have an IQ of 50 or less.

Another important part attached to this bill deals with children with dyslexia or an inability to read by the age of 7.  The way it is worded is a little bit confusing.  It looks to me like if a child isn’t reading by age 7 they should have an IEP.  As well, it pretty much says those children would have automatic Extended School Year services in their IEP unless there is  a major reason for not having those services is written into the IEP.

This does not take away the emergency opt-out clause, for students who have a major, sudden illness right before the test.

I don’t think they wanted to pass this bill until HB 334, which allows for Smarter Balanced Assessments to take over DCAS, was passed.  This passed 20 minutes after HB 334 passed.  How children will do on the Smarter Balanced Assessments is very much up in the air.  Other students with disabilities may see something familiar in a year if they don’t do well on that test.

UPDATED, July 1st, 2014, 3:55pm

After careful review of this bill, does it really say what it is meant to say?  The key is in the amendments and the exact wording.  The parent can request the portfolio assessment, but it has to be agreed on by the IEP Team, the school superintendent OR charter school leader will make the decisions regarding the style of the portfolio.  And if a school requests too many? Then the DOE steps in who will already be deciding the nature of the portfolio assessments.  So what does this bill do for these students that they don’t already have?  It looks like they will be counted for the participation rate for schools whether they take this or the SBA.

SPONSOR: Sen. Poore & Sen. Hall-Long & Rep. Longhurst & Rep. Q. Johnson & Rep. Ramone & Rep. M. Smith
Sens. Blevins, Bonini, Bushweller, Ennis, Henry, Marshall, McBride, McDowell, Peterson, Pettyjohn, Sokola, Townsend, Venables; Reps. K. Williams, Jaques

DELAWARE STATE SENATE, 147th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

SENATE BILL 229

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE EDUCATION OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

WHEREAS, under current Delaware law as interpreted by the Department of Education, all students are required to take a standardized assessment at regular intervals regardless of the nature of their cognitive disability, unless the student is suffering from extreme illness or injuries or has recently experienced severe trauma; and

WHEREAS, this requirement of state law often compels students who in the opinion of medical experts are literally unable to produce valid results on these tests to nevertheless sit for the tests; and

WHEREAS, some Delaware students with severe cognitive disabilities are currently required to take statewide standardized assessments over the objections of their own parents and teachers; and

WHEREAS, mandating that students with severe cognitive disabilities who are clinically incapable of producing valid results on standardized assessments can be harmful to those students; and

WHEREAS, teachers who now attempt to prepare such students for standardized assessments would prefer to use their classroom time to convey skills or information that their students could put to use in a vocational setting; and

WHEREAS, a limited number of young students in Delaware have dyslexia and other disabilities that severely limit or prevent them from decoding text; and

WHEREAS, the state should ensure that school districts and charter schools are being appropriately diligent about providing early, evidence-based interventions to these students so that they can learn to read;

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1.  Amend Chapter 1, Title 14 of the Delaware Code by making deletions as shown by strike through and insertions as shown by underline as follows and by redesignating accordingly:

§ 151 State assessment system; rules and regulations.

(j) Notwithstanding any other language in this Title, a student who has a measured intelligence quotient of 50 or less, has been formally classified as having one of the three following conditions, and whose parents or guardians, and IEP team, and school district superintendent or charter school leader believe will not produce valid results on either the standard or alternate assessment, shall be granted a special exemption from taking either assessment. The definition of each of the following three conditions shall be the same that is in effect on the date of passage of this Act in Title 14, Section 922 of the Delaware Administrative Code.

(i) Autism;

(ii) Multiple disabilities;

(iii) An intellectual disability.

The Department of Education shall promulgate regulations establishing a procedure for the review and approval of special exemptions requested under this subsection (including acceptable means of measuring intelligence quotient) and for further reviews of individual schools and/or school districts that request an unusual number of special exemptions.   The Department of Education shall also promulgate regulations providing for a method of measuring academic progress by students receiving a special exemption from the state’s assessment, which shall provide objective criteria by which student progress can be planned and measured and shall be developed in consultation with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens. Students who are granted a special exemption under this subsection shall not be included in the participation rate calculation for schools and school districts.

Section 2.Amend Section Chapter 31, Title 14 by making deletions as shown by strike through and insertions as shown by underline as follows:

§ 3110 Rules and regulations.

(e) With respect to any child with a disability who is not beginning to read by age seven, each IEP prepared for such student until that student is beginning to read shall (a) enumerate the specific, evidence-based interventions that are being provided to that student to address the student’s inability to read, and (b) provide for evidence-based interventions through extended year services during the summer absent a specific explanation in the IEP as to why such services are inappropriate.

Section 3.It is the intention of the General Assembly that $500,000 of the funds appropriated by Section 189 of House Bill 200 of this General Assembly shall, if such funds are reappropriated by a subsequent General Assembly, be specifically designated beginning July 1, 2015 for the annual provision of regional evidence-based summer reading instruction for students who are not beginning to read by age seven.

Section 4.The provisions of this Act are severable, and a finding that any individual provisions or sections are unenforceable shall not prevent enforcement of all other provisions.

SYNOPSIS

Section 1 of the Act would permit the state’s students with severe cognitive disabilities, with the consent of their parents, IEP teams, and school districts, to receive special exemptions from taking either of the state’s standardized assessments. The academic progress of those students would still be measured in order to ensure that they are being challenged and provided meaningful instruction.   Sections 2 and 3 of the Act attempt to ensure that evidence-based interventions are provided for young students who have dyslexia and related disabilities, to ensure that they are receiving necessary assistance in learning to read.

Author: Senator Poore

With Senate Amendment #2

AMEND Senate Bill No. 229 by deleting lines 20 through 36 in their entirety and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

“(j) Notwithstanding any other language in this Title, a student who has been formally classified as having one of the following four conditions, and whose parent, IEP team, and school district superintendent or charter school leader believe will not produce valid results on either the standard or alternate assessment despite accommodations and adjustments, shall receive his or her alternate assessment through consideration of work samples, projects and portfolios, which facilitate authentic and direct gauges of student performance with respect to both relevant state standards and the student’s IEP (a “portfolio assessment”). The definition of each of the following four conditions shall be the same that in effect on the date of passage of this Act in Title 14, Sections 922 and 925 of the Delaware Administrative Code:

(i) Moderate Intellectual Disability

(ii) Severe Intellectual Disability

(iii) Autism, accompanied by intellectual functioning equivalent to Moderate or Severe Intellectual Disability

(iv) Multiple Disabilities, accompanied by intellectual functioning equivalent to Moderate or Severe Intellectual Disability.

The parents of a student classified as having one of these four conditions shall be informed of their child’s rights under this section, but no IEP team, school or school district shall advocate that parents exercise those rights. Only a student’s parents may initiate a portfolio assessment request under this Section, and when such a request is made, the student’s IEP team and school district superintendent or charter school leader shall make their determinations regarding the portfolio assessment within 60 days of said request. The Department of Education shall promulgate regulations establishing a procedure for the design and evaluation of portfolio assessments requested under this subsection and for further reviews of individual schools and/or school districts that request an unusual number of portfolio assessments. The Department of Education shall also promulgate regulations providing for a method of measuring academic progress by students receiving a portfolio assessment under this section, which (i) shall provide objective criteria by which student progress can be planned and measured, (ii) shall be developed in consultation with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens, and (iii) shall satisfy the requirements of 20 U.S.C. § 1412, 20 U.S.C. § 6311, and any other applicable federal laws or regulations. Students who are granted a portfolio assessment under this subsection shall not be included in the participation rate calculation for schools and school districts.”

FURTHER AMEND Senate Bill No. 229 by adding the following to end of line 36: “Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit the authority of the Department to approve exemptions from assessments for students not covered by this subsection.”

FURTHER AMEND Senate Bill 229 by adding a new Section 5, to read as follows:

“Section 5. All regulations required by this Act shall be promulgated by the Department of Education within 90 days of enactment into law, and shall be subject to the approval of the State Board of Education and any entities required by federal law.   The process authorized by Section 1 of this Section shall not begin until it is approved pursuant to this Section, and the Secretary of Education shall report to the General Assembly every 90 days beginning 90 days after enactment of this Act into law with respect to the Department’s progress in fulfilling its obligations under this Act.”

SYNOPSIS

This amendment makes six changes to Senate Bill 229.   First, it amends the terminology in Section 1 of the bill to adopt existing definitions and standards from existing Department of Education regulations rather than creating new definitions and standards. Second, it clarifies that students covered by this Act will still have their academic progress assessed, but by a means other than the existing DCAS alternate assessment.   Third, it limits to parents the right to initiate requests under this section, and establishes deadlines for schools and school districts to respond to such requests. Fourth, it clarifies that any regulations promulgated by the Department of Education must be consistent with existing federal law governing assessments. Fifth, it establishes deadlines for the Department of Education to promulgate regulations relating to this Act and clarifies that those regulations are subject to approval by the State Board of Education and federal agencies. Finally, it clarifies that the Department of Education’s existing authority to grant special exemptions for circumstances such as sudden, severe illness are not impacted by this legislation.