My Email To Glasgow High School Principal Butch Ingram, Richard Gregg, & Christina’s Board of Education

I expected there to be some fireworks over at Glasgow High School today.  There were.  District officials came rushing over at 8am and met with Principal Harold “Butch” Ingram.  Ingram then held a staff meeting to let folks know what was going on.  Cue some Spin Doctors music here readers!  I sent an email to Butch to let him know he is more than welcome to come on here and let the fine people of Delaware know what happened.  I sent this to Ingram, Superintendent Richard Gregg, and the entire Christina Board of Education minutes ago. Continue reading

Glasgow High School In Middle Of Scandal With Fake IEP Meetings & Loss Of Funding

The quickest way to lose special education funding is to lie about holding IEP meetings.  Such is the case with Glasgow High School in the Christina School District.  If this were one or two IEP meetings that would be one thing.  But sources are telling me this could be upwards to 70 IEP meetings.  The situation is so bad that the school lost a ton of funding for these special education students.

How does a school hold up to 70 fake IEP meetings?  You set them up in the system, set up a date for the meeting, and then do NOTHING ELSE.  Who gets blamed for this?  Is it Principal Butch Ingram?  The education diagnostician for the school?  The school psychologist?  The teachers?  Was the then head of special services for the district, Michele Marinucci, aware of this situation?  (Marinucci is now the Head of School at Academy of Dover.)  Did the IEP team members actually sign off on IEP meetings that never happened in the first place?  Tons of questions here folks!

Sources for this horrible news are laying very low.  The situation is playing out but the September 30th unit count report is going to look very different for Glasgow H.S. compared to previous years.  That report usually comes out in November courtesy of the Delaware Department of Education.  Speaking of the DOE, how long have they been aware of this mess?  Why has NONE of this been made public until the scrappy little blogger from Dover had to stick his head out of the sand to write about this?

While I’m sure Christina’s CFO Bob Silber and the other fine district folks are scratching their heads and trying to figure out how to do damage control over this latest debacle, I would hope someone in the district is considering the impact this will have on the actual students with disabilities.  How many services will they go without this year because the adults screwed up?  For a school that had a little over 15% of its population listed as students with disabilities, that amounts to 114 out of the 753 kids that attended the school during the 2018-2019 school year.  That’s a ton of funding for the school to be losing!  What say you Superintendent Richard Gregg?

Chances are good this story is going to keep on growing.  I’m just breaking the ice here.  I have no doubt there is much more going on here.

Attorney General Opinion Highlights Need For More Accurate Accounting For Education Funding

Allison Reardon, the State Solicitor for the Delaware Department of Justice, wrote a legal opinion on a Freedom of Information Act complaint last week.  Even though DOJ ruled the complaint was not a FOIA violation, the answer from Christina School District shows Delaware seems woefully lost in terms of being able to decipher education funding. Continue reading

Controversy Erupts On Social Media Over Special Education Funding Task Force Resolution

House Concurrent Resolution #34, introduced on June 29th last year, will be on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting tomorrow.  One line in the legislation offended many, including myself, when it was brought to my attention.

WHEREAS, special education represents a growing financial burden on school districts as the need for services increases.

I can pretty much guarantee any parent of a student with disabilities would take offense to that wording.  While it is true that special education costs have risen over the past decade, referring to those costs as a “financial burden” is not a wise choice of words.  Schools have an obligation, under both state and federal law, to provide those services regardless of cost.  Which is exactly how folks took it on social media last night.  I do not think that was the intent of the legislators who sponsored the bill.

As well, parents took offense to there only being one slot on this task force for a parent.  That seat would be determined by the Delaware PTA.  The bill has an odd mix of sponsors.  With the majority of the sponsors as Republicans, some wondered why Democrat State Senator Nicole Poore would sign on as the prime Senate sponsor.  In addition,  Democrat State Rep. Ed Osienski also signed on as a co-sponsor.

State Senator Brian Pettyjohn joined in on the conversation and doubted the resolution would appear in the Delaware Senate.

Last week, news from Texas regarding allegations against the Texas Education Agency shocked Americans everywhere.  A report said the TEA was limiting the number of special education students in The Lonestar State since 2004.  Their special education population dropped from 11% to 8% over a seven-year period even though most states saw dramatic increases in those student populations.  Many blame caps instituted by the Texas legislature on special education funding.  Which is eerily similar to the recommendations a task force like this could come out with.

While I don’t believe there was ill intent with this legislation, the optics on it could not be worse.  In conjunction with the news from Texas, a lawsuit filed by the Delaware ACLU today against the state has special education funding as part of the overall complaint with education funding.

I have been saying for years that Delaware needs to revamp how they submit payments in their state financial system.  No one follows the recommended spending codes so it is impossible to track how money is being spent.  Especially with special education.  That should be an easy problem for our legislators to fix but no one wants to take up the baton.  Not sure why.  It isn’t a change to the Delaware Constitution.  It would be a simple bill mandating our school districts and charter schools accurately code expenditures in a uniform process.  And the Delaware Department of Education would have to oversee this and implement regulations in regards to Delaware state code.  Any task force, committee, workgroup or other such thing looking at any facet of education spending is useless until this is done first.  Which legislator wants to twirl a baton?  Anyone?

Meanwhile, HCR #34 is on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting.  Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews said DSEA does not support the legislation on one of the Facebook posts that came out last night.  I would hope that when legislation like this comes out that our state legislators would look at the wording of their bills or resolutions.  The people are watching them.

The Heart Of Special Education Was Argued Before The U.S. Supreme Court Today

The United States Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments for the Endrew v. Douglas County School District today.  This case could determine the goal of special education in America: a bare minimum special education or a more than minimum special education.  These arguments weigh the words “significant” and “meaningful” quite a lot since it is the center of the case.  Another question is how do you measure progress for a student with an Individualized Education Program.  Does the IEP team just write the IEP and make sure the student is on target to perform as well as their non-disabled peers or do you go above and beyond?

Another huge issue is funding for special education.  The fact that the Federal government spends less than 15% of what they promised to do for special education is a large problem.  It was not the Congressional intent to dump all of this on the states and local school districts but that is exactly what happened.  As well, what does “standard” mean in this context?  Is it the Common Core State Standards and the high-stakes testing that supposedly measures the ability of the student to grasp those standards?  Do classroom grades count for anything anymore?

The case is officially submitted into the highest court in the country.  This will be fascinating to watch, especially the final ruling.

National Education Association To Advocate For Full IDEA Special Education Funding

I didn’t want to put “news” up on the 4th of July, but this one was too important to pass by.  The National Education Association (NEA) is having their Annual Representative Assembly in Washington D.C. this week.  They just passed an item to launch a digital campaign to advocate for the full funding of IDEA.  Since it was reauthorized in 2004, the feds have never given the full amount of funding for special education in America.  Here is how it works now: The feds, through IDEA Part B funding, pays about 10-15% of special education costs while states and local districts pay the rest.  However, the original intent was for the feds to pay up to 40% of a student’s special education costs.

This glaring omission on the feds part results in states and districts bearing the brunt of the costs.  And in a state like Delaware, where there is no Basic Special Education funds from the state for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, the local district or charter is forced to pay for 100% of special education services for these students.  Despite excellent legislation that would have provided these funds over a period of years for these students, the Delaware General Assembly as a collective body refused to allocate these funds in their most recent budget and the bill didn’t move past being released from the House Appropriations Committee.  This should be a no-brainer, but our budget is filled with pork that could have easily been cut to make room for this.

I salute the NEA for their advocacy on this issue.  As states struggle with different education funding models, the US DOE needs to step up and do their promised part.  But it is up to Congress to allocate these funds.  Thank you NEA!

NEASpecEdFunding

Thank you to Mike Matthews for putting this picture up on Facebook!

DOE Spins 2016 Special Education Rating With False Praise And Outright Lies

The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their Annual IDEA Determinations for each state, and despite what I previously wrote, Delaware received a “needs assistance” rating for the second year in a row.  This only proves, without even seeing the letter or the actual report on Delaware, that the Feds are more lenient to the state than the DOE is to their own school districts and charters.  Even though the Delaware DOE links to the website that is supposed to show the letter generated from OSEP to Delaware, it only shows last year’s letters.  But I believe that is the rating given to Delaware, but it is not accurate.  Delaware has been failing students with disabilities for well over a decade, consistently and methodically.  Our Governor cares more about getting them into low-paying jobs as adults and tracking them in pre-school than giving them the funding when they need it the most.  With a few exceptions, our General Assembly is asleep at the wheel.  Our General Assembly, once again with exceptions, cares more about testing our special needs kids with high-stakes and growth measures that are unsustainable or realistic.

Here is the spin machine on Delaware’s rating:

Focus on special education leads to sustained federal rating

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) gave Delaware its second highest rating in its evaluation of the state’s special education services. The state fell just shy of earning the highest rating.

This is the second consecutive year Delaware has received the “needs assistance” rating and the second consecutive year it has seen progress: Delaware moved from an overall grade of 53 percent in 2014 to 68 percent in 2015 and to 76 percent this year. The state needed a grade of 80 percent to receive the highest “meets requirements” rating, a difference of one point on its evaluation.

This year’s evaluation, based on school data from the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, takes into account the following improvements Delaware made to special education after receiving a “needs intervention” rating in 2013. Delaware’s “needs intervention” rating was based on performance data from the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.

For the past two years, Delaware has:

  • Provided professional learning for special education teachers on standards-based Individual Education Plans (IEPs), positive behavior supports and accessing the general curriculum.
  • Included special education teachers in all trainings related to the state’s academic standards.
  • Assisted districts and charters schools in developing transition plans for students with disabilities who are 14 years old or entering the eighth grade to help them succeed in jobs or further education.  The state has been collecting data to ensure those plans are being prepared and carried out.
  • Clarified for districts and charters the policies requiring students with disabilities to take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and state assessments to ensure the state has full information on the progress of these students.
  • Provided districts and charter schools with comprehensive data on their performance to help local leaders better understand how well they are complying with state and federal law and how their students with disabilities are performing academically.
  • Provided targeted state technical assistance to those districts and charter schools found to be in need of assistance and intervention.

In addition, the Delaware Department of Education, in collaboration with various stakeholder groups, developed a five-year, K-3 Literacy Initiative to ensure that specialized instruction and support is provided to the state’s youngest readers with and without disabilities. In the 2016-2017 school year, the initiative will identify major areas of need as well as develop, implement and evaluate specific interventions for students in these grades.

The state first improved to the second-highest rating, “needs assistance,” in its 2015 evaluation, which used data from the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 schools years.

Last year OSEP also began calculating its ratings using a combination of compliance and results indicators for students with disabilities called results driven accountability (RDA), rather than relying solely on compliance data. RDA incorporates measures such as the percentage of students with disabilities who are taking state assessments as well as NAEP; how students with disabilities performed in reading and mathematics on NAEP; and proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and other students. This year’s report from OSEP also includes the graduation and drop-out rates of students with disabilities.

District and charters have welcomed the transition, which looks more closely at student outcomes than it does at how well districts and charters complied with the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

“Having data that measures true student outcomes makes the annual determination process invaluable to educators, and it is especially vital to students with disabilities and their families,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “We appreciate this year’s rating that acknowledges the progress made, but we also are still focused on the work we have ahead of us to ensure the expectations for students with disabilities align with those we have for all students.” 

Delaware is working closely with school districts and charter schools to ensure students with disabilities have opportunities to learn the same content as their peers, receive support they need to prepare for success after high school, and have their social, emotional and behavioral needs addressed.

IDEA Annual Determinations for FY2014: District and Charter ratings now available

In keeping with OSEP’s new evaluation method, the Delaware Department of Education uses RDA in assessing the performance of the state’s school districts and charter schools. District and charter school reports for 2016 are available on the Exceptional Children section of DDOE’s website  here.  Between FY2013 and FY2014, the following districts and charters saw improvements:

 

  • Caesar Rodney
  • Capital
  • Delmar
  • Gateway Lab Charter
  • Laurel
  • MOT Charter
  • POLYTECH
  • Positive Outcomes Charter

 

POLYTECH Superintendent Deborah Zych credited a focused approach to meeting individual student needs for the improvements in her district.

“We added an enrichment period when students with learning deficits receive interventions and formed the Instructional Support Team to focus on individual student needs,” she said.

The Caesar Rodney School District made special education outcomes a priority during the district’s goal-setting with principals last summer. The district’s Student Services Division focused on on-going trainings on standards-based IEPs, student outcomes with an emphasis on Transition Age Students and instructional interventions designed to meet individual student needs. The division also conducted on-going audits of programming at the school and classroom level to ensure compliance as well as best practice. This summer’s professional development calendar also includes nine sessions specifically for working with special education students.

“We established a quarterly data review of special education students … The goal was to identify red flags early and develop intervention plans to keep students on track,” said Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald. “ Our improvement was the result of working together, setting goals and focusing resources.

“We understand that while we have made improvements there is more work to be done and we will continue to make this a priority,” he said.

Sheila Swift, whose son, Sam, completed the Project SEARCH program through Red Clay Consolidated School District in June, said special education in Delaware has experienced some improvements the past few years but students with disabilities need more supports statewide.

“Services after high school have gotten better,” Swift said. “Project SEARCH has been an excellent program. Six of the 10 students in my son’s class went right into jobs at Christiana Care.”

Still, Swift says that before her son entered Project SEARCH, she fought hard against putting him in an inclusion program. She said more supports, including those related to school climate, are needed for students with disabilities who attend traditional middle and high schools.

The department continues to provide targeted technical assistance to all districts and charter schools found to be in need of assistance and intervention.

Alison May alison.may@doe.k12.de.us (302) 735-4006

 

Chaos Unleashed At Delaware Met Yesterday

Delaware-Met-2

Instead of students being somber about their charter revocation January 22nd, they decided to do something else yesterday.  This week, the Delaware Met received a new leader in the form of Denise Barnes, a former middle school assistant principal from Appoquinimink.  Yesterday, the students took full advantage of the recent decision by the State Board of Education to shut down the school by misbehaving and “jumping”, a slang term for causing fights.  The school had no clue how to handle the unruly students, so they shut down at noon.  This was not a planned and scheduled day.  They just said “School’s over, time to go home.”

Why would the charter, with a model that  focuses on personal relationships called “Big Picture Learning”, allow this behavior to continue.  And with all the problems, why would they hire a person from Appo to lead the school?  Appo and Delaware Met are two completely different worlds.  I’ve heard that even though the students had issues with former school Leader Tricia Hunter Crafton, she at least had their respect.  She knew how to connect with the students.  But as the school has gone through a few “leaders”, the students are running the school.

Delaware Met closes for Christmas break on December 22nd.  When they come back in January, they will have a few weeks before they close for good.  Who is monitoring what goes on there between now and then?  Is anyone?  It is painfully obvious that whoever the authority figures are now do not know what they are doing.  Are these students even learning anything these days?  And what about all their internships?  Is that even happening (which was the whole purpose of the school)?  The school bragged about their hiring of A.J. English and his mentoring team with English Mentoring.  What is going on with that?  What is their much vaunted “school climate team” even doing there?  The school has bragged about how things have turned around, but just this week alone there was an emergency room visit for a student who got stitches after a chair was thrown at his head, and then the mini-riot yesterday that forced the school to send everyone home without parental notification.  Apparently, the DOE was unaware of the stitches incident until well into the State Board of Education meeting the next day.  As if not telling the DOE about the stitches thing would have stopped the State Board from shutting them down!

As the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office investigates the school’s finances, many are wondering about what they will find.  I would assume they are looking at how funds were allocated, especially special education dollars.  Their budget submissions to the DOE during their formal review showed a lot of funds moving around.  And if there was any misappropriation of federal dollars, that’s big time!  I would also guess they are looking at Innovative Schools role in this unprecedented disaster.  How was money spent during the two-year planning period?  Did Innovative take advantage of the apparent inexperience of their board of directors?  And will we ever find out the mystery of the bleeding meat served at lunch to students?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the State Board of Education made the right decision in shutting them down.  But with that decision also comes the responsibility of making sure things run right until that closure.  By shutting them down, the State Board is saying they don’t trust the school to make the right decisions for their students.  So if they didn’t trust them before their decision, why would they trust them now to do the right thing?  With everything going on there, someone needs to look out for these kids.