A Message From Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn About IEPs And DOE Surveys

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn wants all parents of students with disabilities with an IEP to read this message!  As part of the IEP Task Force recommendations back in 2014 which became part of Senate Bill 33 last year, the Delaware DOE is required to send surveys out to a representative number of families where a child has an IEP.  The goal of the survey is to see how our schools are doing with the IEP process and implementation.  I strongly urge all parents in Delaware who  have a child with an IEP to take this survey.  Thank you.

“Dear Friends,

I am writing to ask for your assistance in ensuring that our schools are complying with their legal responsibilities to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities. One of the recommendations of the IEP Improvement Task Force that I chaired was to survey families specifically about their experience with the IEP process, so the state could determine if particular schools or districts were failing to comply with their legal responsibilities to children with disabilities. The General Assembly enacted legislation last year requiring the Department of Education to conduct this survey. The Department of Education, through the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware, is mailing such a survey out to the homes of a randomized group of approximately 5,000 students with IEPs. In addition to these mailed surveys, we have also created an online version which will allow families who do not receive the mailed survey to share their experience. While we request permission to contact the responding families if there are concerns about their responses, they may choose to participate anonymously.

I ask you to share the web address for this online survey with the families of children you serve and encourage their participation, so we can try to ensure that all children with disabilities in our state receive the support to which they are entitled.”

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2T789KW

Sincerely,

Matt Denn

Roughly 10% Of Special Education Students In Delaware Are “Proficient” On Smarter Balanced

I just heard roughly 10% of students with disabilities in Delaware were rated as proficient in Delaware for the Smarter Balanced Assessment administered last Spring.  I wish to God this test would just disappear.  Can you imagine the other 90% of these children’s parents getting the results of this assessment.  I really hope they strongly reconsider having their child take Smarter Balanced next year.  10%…

I feel a deep sadness for these children.  I picture them struggling on this test, with fewer worthwhile accommodations than they had on the prior DCAS state assessment.  The weeks they spent taking this horrible, horrible test.  This is a wake-up call for special needs parents.  Our children are more than ten scores.  I don’t care what their proficiency rate is.  They are 100% awesome!

When I have official numbers, I will update this.

House Bill 50 & Senate Joint Resol. #2 To Collide At Senate Education Committee on 6/3

Here we go.  The agenda for the Senate Education Committee meeting on 6/3 at 3pm has been officially announced.  Here’s where it’s going to get real crazy, very fast.  Both House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill, and Senate Joint Resolution #2, what the DOE feels is an alternative to opt-out with the assessment inventory, will go head-to-head in this committee.  Start emailing them now, cause this one is going to be a doozy!  Further complicating this is Senate Bills #92 and #93.  They are great bills dealing with Autism, but they will demand a lot of conversation.  Or, the committee will say these are awesome bills and pass them fast.  You never know.  Either way, this is going to be a packed chamber.  Opt-out parents, DOE, State Board of Education, lobbyists, parents of children with Autism, school officials, other government agencies, and so forth.  Get there early!

Chamber: Senate

Chairman: Sokola

Location/Room: Senate Hearing Room

Date/Time: 06/03/2015 03:00:00 PM

Revision Num: 1

Agenda

SB 92 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER.
Sponsor : Henry

SB 93 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 16 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATED TO CREATING AN INTERAGENCY COMMITTEE ON AUTISM AND THE DELAWARE NETWORK FOR EXCELLENCE IN AUTISM.
Sponsor : Henry

SB 94 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO A MILITARY CONNECTED IDENTIFIER IN DELAWARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Sponsor : Bushweller

SJR 2 DIRECTING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO STUDY STUDENT ASSESSMENT TESTING.
Sponsor : Sokola

HB 50 w/HA 1 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT.
Sponsor : Kowalko


Exceptional Delaware Photo Of The Day, 3/18/15

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Delaware IEP Task Force Final Report Released Today

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn released the final report of the IEP Task Force today.  It’s a good start, but there is still a lot that needs to change in Delaware for special education to be great.  I really hope the 148th Assembly, beginning their legislative session on January 13th, will reassemble this task force.  I firmly believe there should be many more parents on this task force, and they could trim some of the heavy-handed school personnel.  If it does continue, parents need to come and give public comment.  I went to every meeting (more than some of the task force members).  Take the time special needs parents.  You never know, if enough people complain about the same thing, change could happen.

The Task Force’s Mission

Senate Concurrent Resolution 63 established an IEP Improvement Task Force in order “To Examine Means to Improve the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Process for Students in Delaware Public Schools.” The resolution noted that the process of developing IEPs “is, at best, difficult for parents to understand and navigate, and at worst in some instances, unfair and intimidating to parents,” and that it “does not always result in the best outcome for students with disabilities.” Most significantly, the task force was tasked with recommending to the General Assembly and Governor “potential legislative, regulatory, funding, or other improvements to Delaware’s IEP process.” The task force was also charged with informing the General Assembly and Governor about practices being used in other states that are different from Delaware’s, different IEP practices used within Delaware, research and other academic evidence regarding best practices in IEP development, and federal and state law restrictions on changes to the Delaware IEP process.

Members of the IEP Improvement Task Force

The Hon. Matthew Denn Chair
Dr. Pam Atchison Delaware Association of School Administrators
Marissa L. Band, Esq. Delaware State Bar Association
Tracy Bombara School service provider
Dafne Carnright Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens
Tricia Dallas Special education teacher
Bill Doolittle Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens
Diane Eastburn Kent County Parent Representative
Rep. Debra Heffernan House Majority Caucus
Mike Hoffmann Delaware State Education Association
Seth Kopp Special education teacher
Ruth Lavelle New Castle County Parent Representative
Sen. Dave Lawson Senate Minority Caucus
Laura Manges Delaware Association of School Administrators
Maryann Mieczkowski Department of Education
Rep. Joe Miro House Minority Caucus
Sen. Nicole Poore Senate Majority Caucus
Shawn Rohe Developmental Disabilities Council
Howard Shiber Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens
Meedra Surratte Parent advocate
Jossette Threatts School service provider
Liz Toney Delaware PTA
Brian Touchette Governor’s designee
Karen Wagamon Sussex County Parent Representative

Federal Statutory Law Governing Delaware’s IEP Process

Because Delaware receives federal funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, it is required to submit a plan to the United States Secretary of Education showing that the state has in effect policies and procedures to ensure that an individualized education program meeting the requirements of federal statute is developed, reviewed, and revised for each child with a disability.

The federal IDEA statute has a number of very specific requirements as to what must be included in a student’s IEP. The IEP must include:

a statement of the child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance (including how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum, for preschool children as appropriate how the disability affects the student’s participation in appropriate activities, and for children who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives);

a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet the child’s need resulting from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum and meet each of the child’s other educational needs arising from the child’s disability;

a description of how the child’s progress towards meeting annual goals will be measured and when periodic progress reports will be provided;

a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child;

an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in regular classes and activities;

a statement of accommodations necessary for the student to take the state’s student assessment or explanation of why the student must take an alternate assessment and why that alternate assessment is appropriate;

the projected date for the start of services and the anticipated frequency and duration of services; and

for IEPs that will affect students 16 and older, measurable post-secondary goals and transition services needed to assist the student in reaching those goals.

These required elements of an IEP are minimum standards set by federal statute, but there is no reason that a state cannot add additional required elements.

The federal IDEA statute also contains minimum requirements for who must be on a student’s IEP team. Required team members include parents, at least one regular education teacher if the student has one, at least one special education teacher, at least one district or charter representative who is qualified to supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the needs of children with disabilities, an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results (who may be a member already required by another provision of the statute), any individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child who the parents wish to have present, and whenever appropriate the child in question. The statute also enumerates the factors that must be considered in developing the IEP, and requires consideration of positive behavioral interventions and supports for students whose behavior impedes learning and other special factors for students with other specified disabilities.

The federal IDEA statute requires that the student’s IEP be reviewed at least annually to determine whether annual goals are being met, to be revised to address lack of expected progress, the results of any re-evaluations, information provided by parents, or other matters.

Finally, the federal IDEA statute contains a number of detailed formal procedural safeguards in addition to those described above. They include provisions governing parents’ access to records, designation of educational surrogates for students whose parents cannot be located, written notice to parents of proposed changes (or refusals to change) an IEP, opportunities for mediation, the contents of required notifications to parents of complaints relating to due process and other procedural irregularities, and the specific procedures that must be followed by the state when a parent files a due process or administrative appeal of a school district or charter school’s decision.
Enhancements to the IEP Process Under Delaware State Law

In 2010, the Delaware General Assembly amended the Delaware Code to provide for a substantially more detailed definition of the “Free and Appropriate Public Education” that is required by the IDEA statute (and therefore required to form the basis for an IEP), and to incorporate specific terminology from case law in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that was more favorable to students with disabilities than the standard that was being applied by some school districts prior to the 2010 amendments. Under House Bill 328, IEPs must provide for an education that is individualized to meet the unique needs of the student, provides significant learning to the student, and confers meaningful benefit on the student that is gauged to the student’s potential.

Delaware law also contains new provisions requiring that certain elements be included in the IEP of a student 7 years or older who is not yet readingand a student who is deaf or has a hearing deficiency, and a relatively new provision requiring that that local school boards be kept better apprised of appeals of IEP decisions.

Although there are lengthy federal and state regulations that also govern the IEP process, they do not affect the facets of the IEP process addressed in this report in a way that differs from the statutory framework described above.
Best Practices With Respect to the IEP Process

There does not appear to be any national or academic consensus on what constitutes best practices with respect to the preparation of IEPs. Although the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education have endorsed “standards-based IEPs” as a best practice, there has been controversy both in Delaware and nationally as to what that term means and how it is actually used with respect to the preparation of individual IEPs. For that reason, the task force takes no stance at this time with respect to using standards-based IEPs. With respect to the specific issue of the preparation of IEPs for students age 14 and older, there does appear to be a consensus — including a recommendation from Delaware’s State Transition Task Force – that IEPs for children age 14 and older should be student-led when possible.

TASK FORCE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The task force met eight times, and at each meeting also allowed members of the public to speak. Early in the tenure of the task force it became apparent that the list of issues that task force members and members of the public wished to address relating to the IEP process was longer than the task force would have time to thoughtfully discuss in the time permitted by its enabling legislation. Therefore, the task force members settled upon a number of priority recommendations, which are reflected below. However, the task force also recommends that it be reconstituted by the General Assembly so that it may return to some of the important issues that were raised but could not be discussed due to time restrictions, including district and charter school determinations of eligibility for services, and the use of standards-based IEPs.

The task force recommends that the state take the following steps as soon as reasonably possible in order to improve the IEP process for students and their parents. The task force’s recommendations apply to all public schools, both traditional public schools and charter schools. The task force recognizes that there are time commitments and costs associated with some of its recommendations, to the extent that those could be specifically calculated they are reflected in the recommendations.

Structural Support for Parents and Students in the IEP Process

Ensuring Representation at IEP Meetings for Parents Who Need Assistance. Several task force members and members of the public noted the complexity and potentially intimidating nature of IEP meetings, and thought it necessary (a) for parents to clearly understand that there were organizations that could either prepare them to better handle IEP meetings or attend those meetings with them, and (b) for those organizations to have adequate resources to be able to assist parents who might reasonably require their assistance. The task force focused on two options currently available to some Delaware parents requiring assistance with the IEP process. One is the Parent Information Center, which provides training and advice to parents and, in some instances, has non-attorneys attend IEP meetings with parents. The second is Community Legal Aid Society of Delaware, which provides free legal representation to a limited number of parents with specific legal issues in the IEP process. Therefore, the task force makes the following recommendations:

The state should require schools to provide specific, clear guidance to parents as soon as (a) the school has notice that their child has a disability, (b) a child is identified by the parent or school as needing evaluation for a potential disability, or (c) a child transitions as he/she approaches age three from the state’s Child Development Watch program, that the parents may be able to receive assistance through the Parent Information Center, Community Legal Aid Society, or private legal counsel.

The state should ensure that the resources necessary to meet the anticipated demand for legal services are made available to the Parent Information Center and Community Legal Aid. Specifically, the task force urges the General Assembly to grant the request of CLASI’s Disabilities Law Program for $100,000 in funds to continue its special education advocacy project, which would allow it to train or assist 250 families in the IEP process, and to make $88,500 available to the Parent Information Center in order to allow it to hire two additional full-time parent consultants to meet anticipated increases in its demand for its services.

Parent Councils. The task force saw great value in schools facilitating communication between parents of students with special needs new to the IEP process and parents who have more experience with the process. Therefore, the task force recommends that the state require school districts and charter schools to facilitate the creation of parent councils for the parents of students with disabilities. These parent councils would have two purposes: first, to advocate generally for children with disabilities within their school districts, and second, to provide person-to-person support for individual parents and children attempting to navigate the IEP process.

Procedural Changes to the IEP Process

Eliciting Input From Parents Prior to IEP Meetings. The task force believes that a more open-ended effort to solicit parents’ input about their children’s needs prior to an IEP meeting would result in IEPs that better reflect the viewpoints of parents and children about the unique educational needs of that child. For that reason, the task force recommends that Delaware statute require school districts and charter schools to formally elicit, through the use of a voluntary questionnaire, the viewpoints of parents and (where age appropriate) children in advance of the preparation of a draft IEP or holding of an IEP meeting. The questionnaire should elicit the parent and child’s views on the child’s progress to date and additional steps that should be taken to adjust the child’s goals, curriculum, services, aids, modifications or other elements of the student’s IEP.

Providing Parents With Information Prior to IEP Meetings. One problem that was repeatedly identified by task force members was the fact that in some IEP meetings, parents were presented for the first time at an IEP meeting with a draft IEP report and expected to comprehend, consider, and approve the draft IEP in a single sitting. One proposal made by the task force to improve this process was to amend Delaware statute to require that a draft IEP be offered to parents prior to an IEP meeting if one is to be considered at the meeting itself, so that the parent has the option of carefully reviewing the draft IEP before the meeting and better participating in the meeting. Any draft document provided to the parent prior to the IEP meeting should be clearly and prominently labelled as a draft document that is for discussion purposes at the impending IEP meeting. The draft IEP would be offered to parents only if such a document had been created prior to the IEP meeting, and would be accompanied by a letter clearly indicating to parents that the document is a draft for discussion and possible revision rather than a final document. In addition to a draft IEP, parents should also be able to request prior to the IEP meeting data pertaining to their child’s needs and/or disability. With respect to this recommendation and the prior recommendation relating to eliciting input from parents, information should either be provided to parents in their native language where required by law or assistance should be offered to parents to translate the information.

Providing Protections to Teachers and Staff To Ensure Free Discussion During IEP Meetings. Some task force members noted that teachers, staff, and contractors of school districts and charter schools can feel constrained from freely engaging in discussion at a child’s IEP meeting for fear of later repercussions for their comments. The task force recommends that the General Assembly amend the Delaware Code to prohibit School Districts, Charter Schools, and/or the Department of Education from retaliating or causing teachers, staff, or contractors to face other negative repercussions as a result of their expression of a student’s needs and/or rights in connection to the IEP process.

Discouraging the Use of Acronyms and Technical Terminology in the Preparation of IEPs. The task force noted that the use of acronyms and technical terms in IEPs can be confusing to parents and children and discourage those parents and children from understanding the IEP and participating in its preparation and revision. The task force recommends that the state, in its training and instructional materials for school districts and charter schools, discourage the use of acronyms and technical terms where they need not be used, and provide a glossary to parents and children so that they can comprehend those terms where they must be used.

Enhanced Discussion of Transition Planning. Although funding challenges make it unlikely in the short term that individual representatives from relevant state agencies can participate in IEP meetings at an earlier stage than they presently enter the process, the task force strongly recommends that schools and school districts hold informational meetings for parents of students who are approaching transition age where parents and children can receive information from relevant state agencies and incorporate that information into the IEP process. The task force also recommends that each school district and charter school have an employee who serves as a designated transition coordinator.

Prioritizing Competitive and Integrated Employment Options. Competitive and integrated employment settings should be thoroughly discussed during the IEP process as the top priority employment option for students with disabilities. This is consistent with HB319 signed into law July 2012 which declares that it is the policy of this state that competitive employment (including compensation at or above minimum wage) in an integrated setting shall be considered the first and priority option when offering or providing services to persons with disabilities who are of working age (14 years of age or older).

Format and Structure of the IEP Meeting Itself

Participation of Relevant Faculty and Staff. Several task force members and members of the public noted that in some cases, paraprofessionals and other staff who may work with a child more extensively than anyone else at the school are not included in IEP meetings. The task force did recognize the logistical challenges presented by having multiple staff people present at IEP meetings, at the same time that all other students in the school need to be supervised and educated. In an effort to balance these realities, the task force recommends (a) that parents be explicitly invited prior to each IEP meeting to recommend any staff members who they believe should be present at the meeting, and (b) that schools be required to ensure that those staff members be present for at least a portion of the IEP meeting, even if their schedule does not permit them to participate in the entire meeting. This recommendation reflects not only what the task force believes to be a good practice, but also applicable federal law.

Preparation Time for Teachers and Staff. Teachers and staff members on the task force who participate in the preparation of IEPs expressed concern with the absence of sufficient time to adequately prepare for IEP meetings. The task force recommends that school districts and charter schools develop a mechanism by which the scheduling demands on teachers and staff specifically allow for preparation time for IEP meetings.

Use of Computer Programs for Preparation of IEPs. A number of task force members involved in the preparation of IEPs expressed strong concern with the computer program whose use the state has mandated for preparation of IEPs. Specifically, task force members stated that the computer system frequently does not work – that it shuts down or freezes during preparation of the IEP or the IEP meeting itself, not only inconveniencing parents, students, teachers, and staff, but also causing valuable instructional and therapeutic time to be lost. The task force believes that there is real value to the use of a working computerized IEP preparation program, but the current program often does not work and is an impediment to the preparation of IEPs and the overall instruction of students with disabilities. Therefore, the task force recommends that the state legislature direct that the Department of Education make a formal report to the General Assembly and Governor by March 1, 2015 on (a) the functionality of IEP Plus, (b) specific plans that are in place to remedy any problems with IEP Plus, and (c) available alternatives to IEP Plus which would provide a more usable computerized system for preparation of IEPs.

Reporting to Parents on Student Progress

Improving Reporting to Parents on Students’ IEP Progress. Task force members noted that the current manner in which some school districts and charter schools report student progress on their IEPs is not helpful or, in some cases, coherent. The task force recommends that the state adopt specific standards for districts and charters to report to parents on IEP progress, which should include a clear and simple manner of communicating whether a student is meeting his or her stated IEP goals and specific information reflecting the degree to which a student has received related services that are required by his or her IEP (e.g. speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy). Progress reporting for students with transition IEPs should include progress toward activities and services leading toward all post-secondary goals.

Random Auditing of District and Charter School Compliance With State and Federal Law

The Need for Random, Open-Ended Examinations of School Districts and Charter Schools to Ensure Compliance with State and Federal Law Governing IEPs. In the course of discussing other recommendations, it became clear to the task force that although the state reviews the written records of school districts and charter schools to ensure compliance with the law, and surveys parents anonymously to gather statistical information about the IEP process, there is no current effort to make inquiries with parents about the IEP process that would reveal concerns with that process which might not be evident from a review of written records. The task force recommends that the state directly inquire of a material number of parents from each school district and charter school each year who have participated in the IEP process as to their satisfaction with the process, and use the information gathered in the course of that inquiry to conduct follow-up examinations with school districts and charter schools as to their good faith compliance with IEP laws and regulations.

Specific Needs of Charter Schools

Technical Assistance and Professional Development for Charter Schools. The task force noted that there is a deficiency among charter schools, often because of their limited size compared to school districts, in training and expertise relating to the development of IEPs and knowledge of statewide programs that are available to assist with the education of students with disabilities. The task force recommends that charter schools be required to have responsible persons at their schools receive appropriate training from the Department of Education designed to ensure that they are aware of their legal responsibilities relating to IEP preparation and aware of the resources available to them to comply with those responsibilities.

 

Visually Impaired Students

Separate Task Force Recommendation. A number of public members and task force members believed that the unique educational needs of students with visual impairments were not being met through the existing IEP process, but that the number of changes necessary to remedy this problem exceeded the time or scope of this task force. Therefore, those members suggested – and this task force recommends – that the state set up a separate task force assigned to specifically address the needs of visually impaired students.

Why Schools Need To Be Okay With Upset Parents of Students With Disabilities

I posted my last article of 2014 last night, and I talked about how my son needed an MRI after he received a concussion at his school stemming from his 8th physical assault since the end of August.  Since then, the number one question I have received is why.  That’s not an easy question for me to answer.  If I knew the answer I could try to fix the problem

It’s very easy for me to focus on Priority Schools, FOIAs, charter school financial mismanagement and non-profit tax forms for educational lobbyist groups.  The answers come very easy for me with just a little bit of investigation.  Disability bullying is a very tough topic.  It’s personal for me because it involves my son.  And I will need help from other parents who have gone through or are going through these types of ordeals.  This needs to be an ongoing conversations between parents and schools.  It can’t just be the schools. Continue reading

Governor Markell, what are you doing the morning of January 7th?

Something is up the morning of January 7th.  I keep hearing this date.  Christina School District is having a board meeting on January 6th.  Certain FOIA requests have been postponed (one since October) until January 7th.  If I were a betting man, I would say Governor Jack Markell is going to make a big announcement the morning of January 7th concerning priority schools.

The DOE has gone ahead and set up a new potential leader hailing from the great state of New Jersey to oversee the priority schools.  And SHE comes from a big charter school chain.  The writing is on the wall people.  It has been since September 4th.  But if your mind is already made up Jack, did you think of this simple fact: Did you consult with special needs parents and IEP teams?  Uh-oh…did you know if you change kid’s academic placement it has to be approved by the IEP team?  Will they still be in the least restrictive environment?  You might want to check out what’s going on in York, PA before you make any hasty decisions Jack.  In the meantime, please tell your office to get rolling on the FOIA requests.

Special Needs Parent’s Awesome Response To Common Core Homework! Opt Out Now!

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In yet another brilliant Common Core homework response, this parent showed why Common Core and test-prep homework is beyond ridiculous.  She has a child with special needs, and this is what she wrote about it on a Facebook group:

Asking a child with a language based learning disability who struggles to articulate his thoughts in written words is difficulty enough….now expect that child to write out a lengthy written analysis of the mathematical process that are basically automatic….that’s pure torture….this common core “ccrap” has got to go…hence my response to my son’s homework last night….

People in power, who aren’t profiting from this insane corporate education reform, need to realize this is not only bad for regular students, it’s a nightmare of epic proportions for special needs children.  How good is anything is someone has to suffer?  Please parents, just opt out now.  Don’t let your state try to trick you into this and say it’s not your legal right to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment or PARCC test.  This is NOT about helping students, it’s about helping wallets, stock portfolios and hedge funds.  And none of that will benefit the other 99% of the country.

US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States Special Education Rights

In a stunning announcement that came out today, the United States Department of Education has decided to take away state rights in regards to curriculum and state assessments for special needs students.  Without any legislative approval, Arne Duncan has taken it upon himself to invalidate years of IDEA law and special education regulations.  This news broke today from this blog:

http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/federal-secretary-of-education-to-phase-out-the-authority-of-states/

And here is the new ruling:

http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201410&RIN=1810-AB16

Here’s what you need to do: email AND call your state senator and state representative in the US Congress.

For Delaware citizens, here are our representatives in Congress and how to contact them:

https://forms.house.gov/carney/webforms/email-me.shtml

http://www.carper.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-senator-carper

http://www.coons.senate.gov/contact/

I would also email John Kline, the head of the Education and Workforce Committee in Washington D.C.  at this address and let him know Congress needs to stop this NOW!!!!  The ruling states this is to go in effect January 1st, 2015.

https://edworkforce.house.gov/contact/

This is tantamount to war on special education in America.  I called this months ago, and now it is out there.  This is the same man who thrust Common Core on all schools and dangles carrots with the ESEA waivers constantly.  The man who believes every student, even those with a disability, should have a baccalaureate education and rigor should be used daily.

For residents of Delaware, your Governor Markell helped with this.  With his powerful backing from Dr. Paul Herdman and Rodel, our children’s special education rights are GONE if this goes through.  We all need to take a stand, every single one of us.  If you sit back and do nothing, your child WILL suffer.

I just found an excellent letter to send.  Thanks to Stacey Kahn from the Facebook group NYS Special Needs Parents Against Common Core for allowing me to repost it here!

Parents and teachers the time has come. As we all knew, the United States Department of Education, as directed by Arne Duncan, has decided to attempt to override special education and the laws that protect our most vulnerable students. The rights and rules both we and our own parents fought so hard for are being dismantled by the US Department of Education to pave the way for the inappropriate rigor of common core. If we do not speak out against this newest injustice, special education as we know it will dissolve.

Please take a few moments to contact your legislators through pen, phone, or email. Let them know they must get involved. The USDOE has gone too far. The same people who seem to put profits before people have again trampled the rights of students who struggle enough. Common core is enough of an injustice. To remove state authority to assist our special needs students is the final straw.

Attached is a letter template for your use. Feel free to add your own thoughts, the more personal the better. Let these legislators know your special needs children are worthy of a fair and appropriate education that isn’t driven by corporate gain and workforce readiness. All students are unique. The one size fits all mentality of common core has come to the head we knew it would. Please let your representatives know this is the time they must get involved, these children don’t get a second chance to be treated with respect, equity, and compassion.

For your immediate attention  (insert title and last name here):

We as parents, educators and citizens of the United States, are contacting you because it has come to our attention that there is a real and imminent threat to the states’ sovereignty with regards to education, and more importantly, to its most vulnerable citizens.

Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education has submitted a proposal to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Directly from the proposal is the following:
“The Secretary will amend the regulations governing title I, part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), to phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards in order to satisfy ESEA accountability requirements. These amendments will permit, as a transitional measure, States that meet certain criteria to continue to administer alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards and include the results in accountability determinations, subject to limitations on the number of proficient scores that may be counted, for a limited period of time.”

If this amendment is passed, it will signal the end of special education as we know it in this country’s public education system. Secretary Duncan has already stated that he feels that students with disabilities can and should be held to the same “rigorous” Common Core State Standards, as their fellow neuro-typical classmates. To give him the power to supersede the states regulations regarding allowable modifications and/or alternate assessments for these students sets a dangerous precedent.

Secretary Duncan has already weakened the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).If allowed to proceed with this amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act is in jeopardy as well. None of these changes were ever voted on by any legislative body.

Our states are losing their sovereignty in education on an almost daily basis. How much more are we as states and as citizens willing to hand over to the Federal Government?

We need our legislators to stand up and say enough is enough. We are a bipartisan group of citizens. Please put political parties aside and do what is best for our children and our country. We are counting on you!

Mark Murphy & Governor Markell Targeting Gateway & Reach! Making Room For Priority Charters?

In a shocking article yesterday, Kilroy’s Delaware announced the Delaware Department of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy were targeting Gateway Lab School and Reach Academy For Girls.  Both these schools have struggled for many years with reaching the proficiency ratings from standardized testing.  My thoughts and predictions on this are below the DOE announcement from yesterday:

CHARTER SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY COMMITTEE ISSUES RECOMMENDATIONS ON REACH ACADEMY, GATEWAY LAB’S FUTURES

Secretary Murphy to make decision at December 18 State Board of Education meeting following public comment period

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended not to renew Reach Academy and Gateway Lab School’s charters at the end of this academic year because of poor academic performance at both schools.

A public hearing is scheduled for December 10 in Wilmington with public comment accepted through that date as well. After reviewing the record, including public hearing transcripts, public comment and the CSAC recommendations, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make his decision regarding the schools’ futures at the December 18 State Board of Education meeting.

Should the Secretary and the State Board accept the committee’s recommendations and decide not to renew the charters, the state will assist families in finding other schools for the next academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school. The application deadline is January 14, 2015.

Reach Renewal Information/Timeline
· Renewal report (April 2014)
· Academic Performance Review (September 9, 2014)
· Organizational Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Financial Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Renewal application (September 30, 2014)
· Public hearing transcript (October 8, 2014)
· Initial CSAC meeting (October 15, 2014)
· CSAC initial report issued (October 22, 2014)
· School response (November 7, 2014)
· Final CSAC meeting (November 17, 2014)
· Final CSAC report issued (November 24, 2014)

· Public hearing and close of public comment period (6 p.m., December 10, 2014, 2nd floor auditorium, Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French St., Wilmington)

· Decision by Secretary Murphy at State Board of Education meeting (1 p.m., December 18, 2014, Cabinet Room, Townsend Building, 401 Federal St., Dover)

Gateway Renewal Information/Timeline
· Renewal report (April 2014)
· Academic Performance Review (September 9, 2014)
· Organizational Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Financial Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Renewal application (September 30, 2014)
· Public hearing transcript (October 8, 2014)
· Initial CSAC meeting (October 14, 2014)
· CSAC initial report issued (October 22, 2014)
· School response (November 7, 2014)
· Final CSAC meeting (November 17, 2014)
· Final CSAC report issued (November 24, 2014)

· Public hearing and close of public comment period (6 p.m., December 10, 2014, 2nd floor auditorium, Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French St., Wilmington)

· Decision by Secretary Murphy at State Board of Education meeting (1 p.m., December 18, 2014, Cabinet Room, Townsend Building, 401 Federal St., Dover)

In other recommendations, the committee supported renewal of the following charter schools: Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, EastSide Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, Las Américas ASPIRA Academy and Odyssey Charter School.

According to last year’s September 30th Unit Count report, Gateway Lab School is home to almost 60% special education students.  Out of that population of 122 students, nearly 28% were listed as in intensive or complex categories.  It is very easy to see why this many students with disabilities would struggle with standardized testing, something the DOE, Murphy and Markell seem to ignore.  Rigor and special needs don’t mix well, never have, never will.  But the DOE, in its continued arrogance, seems to think these students will just magically rise to the occasion.

The timing is also very suspicious for this announcement.  A month and a half before the Christina and Red Clay Districts have to announce their intentions with the priority schools and the already soon-to-be-closed Moyer charter school was given the hangman’s noose, two other charters seem to be given a death sentence as well.  This is a lot of realignment in one county.  Reach has been a thorn in the DOE’s side for years, but Gateway is different.  Closing Gateway would send a crystal clear message to the special needs community that no one is safe from scrutiny in Delaware.  I’ve commented before about the very high population of special needs children in the priority schools, and now this.  It would not be surprising if a very huge charter school housing special needs children in Newcastle County became a reality.  There has already been a Facebook announcement of a planned charter school of this type for Kent County, in addition to Positive Outcomes.

The DOE is shifting the landscape to further their own agenda.  So far, nothing has been able to stop them in their endless quest to harm public education in Delaware.  No task force, union, PTA, or other groups have stopped them in anything since Governor Markell began his authoritarian reign.  They are making all their decisions based on DCAS scores which no longer mean anything since that is not the state assessment anymore.  Furthermore, many students at Gateway would most likely qualify for the DCAS-Alt assessment.  The DOE could care less because to think otherwise would show a level playing field.  If Rodel and Markell say to do it, they jump.  And yet, Delaware College Prep gets a pass even though they have not met proficiency in four years.  Yes, their charter is not up for renewal, but they must please someone in the DOE and the Governor’s office.  This just proves the DOE will use data and manipulate it when it suits their needs.

I anticipate the parents at Gateway will cause a huge ruckus over this announcement.  This needs to be a warning sign to EVERY special needs parent in Delaware that has children in our public schools.  The DOE does not care about disabilities.  They do not care about anything that could affect your child.  It’s all about serving their masters and corporate profit at student’s expense.  They are moving so fast with decisions, the public can’t digest yesterday’s announcement when another one comes.  This throws everyone off track and stops the negative chatter because nobody can keep up with it all.

I will say this once more: We need to make a stand against Governor Markell and the DOE.  We need to do this now.  If you are in agreement, let’s start planning now.  We will only get one chance before things change so much we will be helpless to stop it.  Yes, I can be very argumentative about these things, but how often have I been wrong since I started this blog?  Come January 1st, I predict Markell will announce the priority schools will become charter schools, effective August 2015.  The student populations that don’t go to the feeder schools of the six priority schools, Gateway, Moyer and Reach will all transfer to the new charter school chain in the CEB Tower in downtown Wilmington.  If they do not make a new special needs charter school in this building, these students will go to their feeder schools where the DOE will use the data from Smarter Balanced to judge those schools as failures.  Eventually, they will replace every single school with charter schools while Rodel, the Vision Network, the DuPonts, Delaware Community Foundation, Governor Markell, select members of the DOE, many legislators, and the millionaires of Delaware become VERY rich, more than they already might be.

Into The Wild: The Special Needs Kids of Delaware’s Priority Schools @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @delawareonline #netde #eduDE

People have asked me why I care about the priority schools all the way up in Wilmington when I live in Dover.  My reply is we should all care.  Not only because what the state and the DOE are doing is fundamentally wrong, but also because if it can happen there it can happen anywhere in our state if we don’t make a stand.  I am also very concerned about what happens with all of the students with disabilities who receive special education services.

Here are the facts: If the Red Clay and Christina school districts do not sign the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) by September 30th, the Delaware DOE will take them over.  This is no secret.  All indications are leading to the school district boards refusing to do so.  Rumors, although unsubstantiated, indicate these six schools would become charter schools.

For the September 30th, 2013 count, the six schools had the following special education populations:

Bancrof, Christina 14.7% 61 out of 206
Bayard, Christina 19.0%  88 out of 463
Warner, Red Clay 15.4% 101 out of 541
Shortlidge, Red Clay 14.0% 45 out of 317
Stubbs, Christina 9.5% 31 out of 325
Highlands, Red Clay 11.5% 32 out of 350

In comparison, the “great” charter schools Markell referred to had the following special ed populations:

East Side Charter 15.1% 61 out of 403 (students with Special Education did not score proficient in scoring)
Kuumba Academy 5.7% 17 out of 298 (not enough students to even count in the proficiency figures)

So what happens to these 358 special education students?

358 childen with IEPs and special education services may be transferred to new charter schools. As a whole, Delaware charter schools have been notorious for not being able to adequately handle special education correctly. Very few even accept the most severely complex students with disabilities.

Taking away the potential legal hurdles that may come up for the DOE, such as union contracts, ownership of the school buildings, and other litigation that may come up, say these students go to a new charter school. Since it is essentially a transfer, an IEP would have to be reviewed. Governor Markell has already said these schools will be put through a rigorous process to get the students to proficiency status. He announced after school activities for tutoring and to get students back on track. Children with special needs often have enough problems getting through a regular school day. To add longer time to the day will be a severe burden for these kids.

The “rigor” of common core will be put to the test with special needs children at these new schools. I have a theory that out of these six schools, one of the new charters will focus solely on all of these displaced students with IEPs. This would eliminate inclusion and the least restricted environment. It would also allow the other five schools proficiency scores to automatically rise on standardized testing since the “specials” are no longer part of the equation. This is not about “closing the gaps” as the DOE, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Governor Markell have stated. Even more far reaching is the belief from many that the DOE will grandstand these achievements, and try to have even more reach across the state with this experiment.

If this is true, every single special needs parent in Delaware needs to be very concerned. Our children will be segregated from “normal” children and a free appropriate public education will become a joke. Even worse, for these special needs children at the priority schools, this will become a TRIPLE SEGREGATION: special needs, low income and minorities. This sinister agenda is happening right before our very eyes and we need to unite. If I were any parent of special needs children at these six schools, you need to speak now. You need to organize into a group and come down to Dover, straight to the DOE office, to the Governor’s office, and anywhere your collected voice can carry weight. Demand that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy resign or call for his termination. You need to write to the newspapers, the blogs, and contact TV and radio stations. Call AND email your elected officials: State House Representatives and Senators. Let our US Senator and House Representative representing Delaware know your complaints. Contact the US Department of Education. Let President Obama know. Contact the Office of Civil Rights. You need to picket where it will be noticed.

The IEP Task Force has their next meeting on Tuesday, September 23rd, at 4:30 pm. There are two locations: The Carvel Building in Wilmington and The Collette Center in Dover. If you are working, ask to leave early. Bring your children with you. Tell the task force your fears. Let them know you are not okay with this.

In ten days, by October 1st, you may not have any more options. This is short notice, but your children will be severely affected by this. There is no time to wait. If you have any doubt in your mind, you need to do this now. Because once it happens, you will live with regret that you didn’t speak up sooner.

 

Delaware Special Needs or Minorities Parents: I Need Information #netde @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

If you have ever applied for a charter school in the state of Delaware, and the application was denied, and you feel it was based on your child being either a student with special needs or a minority, I want to hear from you.  If your child was accepted to a charter school, but you were then told by the charter school they could not accommodate your child’s needs, I want to hear from you.  If your child was ever “counseled out” from a charter school due to behavior issues and your child had special education, and the result was you pulled your child out and sent the child back to the local public school district, I want to hear from you.  If your child took a test for entrance and did well on it, but the application was still denied, I want to hear from you.  If you feel your child was put in a lower bracket of special education at a charter school and you knew there should be more services provided for your child, I want to hear from you.  If your special needs child was suspended more than ten times in a school year, or was expelled, I want to hear from you.  All information is confidential, and I may want to speak with you.  Please leave your name, email and contact number.  Information can be sent to kevino3670@yahoo.com

 

Governor Markell Appoints Brian “Smarter Balanced” Touchette as his designee on IEP Task Force #netde #eduDE #specialeducation @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DianeRavitch @hanna

In looking at http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/ I noticed a very minor change.  It appears Brian Touchette, the high-stakes testing guru over at the Delaware DOE, has been appointed as Governor Markell’s designee on the task force.  Here’s where Smarter Balanced Assessment and Common Core get pushed on the task force.  Brilliant move DOE!  Get the task force going, have all the members talk about the reasons IEPs are suffering in Delaware, and then insert the testing guy.  The one who serves on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as the K-12 State Lead.   My suspicions had gone away, but now I am very suspicious, more than ever before.  This father did not pour his heart out in public only for this to happen.  I was wondering why Secretary of Education Murphy’s designee didn’t have a lot to say.  Now I know why.

I’ve been saying for months that special needs parents need to unite.  Now it is imperative!  We have been marginalized and pushed to the side too many times.  This isn’t right, and we all know it.  I know some of you will be covered with Senate Bill 229, which prevents the most severely cognitive disabled children from taking the damn test.  But how does that help the rest of us?  When the schools can barely accommodate our kids in many situations?  You want them to be proficient on a stupid test they take once a year?  The test that only one member of our legislature took, and basically said it sucked?  What kind of messed up cruel game are you playing here Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE?  Some of us know the game, and we know why you are doing it.  We know the end plan, and it doesn’t bode well for special needs children, minorities, and public school teachers.

So when people comment on me being too hard on people at the DOE, this is why!  Things need to change, and if the people making all the changes won’t do anything, then maybe we need to.

The next meeting has been changed to Tuesday, September 23rd.  We need parents there.  We need A LOT of parents.  We need them to open up the other room in the Collette Building (Michelle, you may need to get more chairs).  We need to speak, and we need to stop this.

Special Needs Parents: The Watchers On The Wall

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

This is from George R.R. Martin’s Game Of Thrones.  I’ve taken out the parts of the oath that don’t apply.  We don’t need to be just parents for our special needs kids.  In the Autism world, I hear about parents being a warrior for their children.  We all need to be warriors for our special needs children.  We fight the battles at home, we refuse to fight this battle anymore at our schools.  We cannot sit idly by and watch our legislators and the DOE decide what is best for our children.  This is what will happen if we do not provide input.

Special Needs Parents, we are the Watchers On The Wall!  We are all that stands between bad education standards and our children.  We need to unite, once and for all, and make a stand.  I’ve been saying this all summer.   Show up tonight at the IEP Task Force, either in Dover or Wilmington.  Make your voice heard.  Say no to the tests that are damaging our schools.  Say no to the battles at IEP meetings.  Say no to schools denying special education services our children deserve by law and right.  Say no to a Department of Education that does whatever the Federal Government tells them to do and nothing more.  If you can’t show up tonight, come to the next one.  Or the one after that.  Email your parent rep on the task force.  I don’t have all that info yet, but I will get it.  Don’t go to the DOE with your concerns about IEPs while this task force is running.  Go directly to the task force, to your parent rep, to the meetings, to the microphone.    I just don’t trust the DOE right now.  Too much has happened.  They are the one entity in the state who should be doing certain things for our children, and they are not.  They haven’t been for a long time, if ever.  I’m not clear on the the intentions with the task force, but this is our time.  We have NEVER had a better opportunity to initiate change then RIGHT NOW!!!!  You would be surprised how many of us there are, but we need EVERY voice.  This isn’t something that comes around often.  We have been given a public forum.  Let’s take advantage of that.  Our children are counting on us.

If you want to come at 4pm to the Dover site so we can organize, I will be there.  Meet me in front of the building.  Parents: We must fight, like we have never fought before.  We need to show them and tell them what they have done is wrong.  We must stop them from making the same mistakes, over and over and over.  Our children suffer.  Our families suffer.  Our schools suffer.  NO MORE!!!

DELAWARE SPECIAL NEEDS PARENTS: IEP TASK FORCE NEEDS YOU!!! Diane Eastburn wants to hear what is needed to change IEP process in Delaware! #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @TNJ_malbright

Diane Eastburn is the Kent County parent representative for the IEP Task Force, meeting for the first time this Thursday, September 4th, in Dover and Wilmington. Diane has a message for all special needs parents:

I am committed to doing everything I can to make the process better for Delaware students and parents. If you would like to contact me, I have provided my email address, Cedarridge90@aol.com or another contact for me is my home phone 302-653-4216. I will take calls 9am – 8pm, but since this is a holiday weekend I may be in and out – but I have an answering machine and would be happy to return any calls I may miss. Again, my goal is to make the IEP process better for everyone. Thank you again for your comments and feel free to share your thoughts. If people would like they may email thoughts and leave a phone number or email address so I may get back with them.

Please post this on your blog – the larger variety of people I hear from the larger voice I can help represent. This is all about fixing the process for our children and our parents. We need to remove the adversarial sides and make this a true team effort. IEP Team should be just that – a team, not a district against a parent. I also believe that we need accountability in the process.

This was exactly what I was looking for when I emailed every single House Representative and Senator in Delaware the evening they came out with Senate Concurring Resolution 63. I wanted outside parents on this task force, ones not involved in other groups. Diane Eastburn is just that, a regular parent, who has been through this process before, and helps others who have been in the same boat. I am confident Diane will be an awesome advocate for all our special needs children, so please try to contact her before Thursday. I am expecting heavy parent turnout at both locations, so public comment may be limited. If you can’t show up, please contact Diane and let her know what you feel is wrong in the process. If you have had IEPs denied, let her know that, and the reasons why it was denied. The only way we can change things is if we speak with one voice, and right now Diane has the microphone! All Delaware bloggers, please reblog this so we can get the widest audience possible!

Things To Know About Special Needs Families #netde #eduDE

With the release of the IEP Task Force membership, I’ve been hearing a lot of controversy about the membership.  I have stayed out of it, for the sole reason that many of these members have children with special needs.  They may belong to this group or that group, but we are all the same.  There are certainly people with influence, but I can’t think of any special needs parent who would sell the needs of their child down the river for the sake of another agenda.  To do so would be a mockery of everything this task force is about.  I believe, based on what I am hearing, that this task force will get to the real reasons why special education in our state is struggling so much.  But one thing I will never do is rip on families, no matter what is going on.  I post about a lot of things, but in my heart I am a parent first, and my son needs me.  He may not understand why I write a blog, but every word I write is for him and all the children in Delaware who are struggling with this.  Every investigation, every plea for help, is for all of them.   I would throw myself under a bus for my son if it meant he could have a better life.  That’s all any of us want.  So while this IEP Task Force is in session, please try to understand this.  Let’s face it, as things stand now, Delaware needs help.  Matt Denn has been a huge advocate for children with disabilities, and he is the best choice to lead this group.  Many of these children are unable to speak with their own voice, so that’s where the parents come in.  We can be loud, and forceful, and mad as hell.  But at the same time, if you have our back, you have a friend for life.   And no matter what our political or education beliefs are, we all have an unspoken bond that says we are there for each other because at the end of the day, it’s family first.

The IEP Task Force: Who Is In Charge? The Legislators or the DOE? #netde #eduDE @DEStateBoard @Matt_Denn

The IEP Task Force begins next week.  In nine days.  With no public notice of a location and who the members on the task force even are.  I do know the following: Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn is the Task Force Chair, and Senators Poore and Lawson and House Representative Heffernan (whose husband is on the Delaware Board of Education and was the chair for the DOE Advisory Council for Special Education Improvement) are the designated members from Legislative Hall.  I’m not sure who the minority Republican House Rep will be, but it is required in the legislation.  I am hearing many differing reports on if the task force is fully staffed yet.  According to the DOE, it is. See page 49 on this PDF from the DOE’s “Advisory Council” on improving the IEP process (same wording as the legislation, even though this advisory council has been meeting since earlier in the year): https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=190001&AID=7329&MID=339

According to someone in the know in Legislative Hall, it isn’t.  So who is right?  Or is the DOE just taking over the whole thing even though Senate Concurring Resolution 63 creating the IEP Task Force explicitly states who picks the members in designated areas?  Because Michelle Rush at the DOE has been designated as the coordinator for the task force.  No locations have even been announced, and no public notice has gone out.  It is scheduled at 4:30pm, virtually ensuring many working parents won’t be able to attend.  Public comment has been reserved for the end of the meeting, when focus will be dwindling amongst the members.

If this IEP Task Force is anything like the above link, then it will be all about aligning special education students with Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (with faulty accommodations for special ed students and no form to even go into IEPs yet).  I pray it isn’t about that, and it will address the true problems with special education.  I pray the task force chair, Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn, has the sense of purpose that these students need an individualized education plan, not making them more similar with other students and forcing them to adapt to the “rigor” of Common Core.  This was exactly why I insisted parents be added to the task force, to prevent this from happening.  But if the DOE has the final say on the task force, then the IEP process will not be improved, it will be diluted.  The Delaware DOE needs to understand this IEP Task Force was not created as their task force.  It was written by legislators, serving the will of the people who pay for your jobs.

What Will The Delaware DOE Do WHEN Common Core is Repealed? #netde #eduDE #edchat @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @BadassTeachersA

UPDATED: Had to change the title to WHEN!

With Common Core slipping in popularity more every single day, many people have been asking what would happen if it does go away. Has the Delaware DOE prepared for such an eventuality? With the way they have been talking at DOE meetings and around the state, it doesn’t look like they are. Everything they have been doing is with Common Core as it’s, well, core. For the DOE, Common Core is the sun giving strength to the whole solar system of education in Delaware. And if Common Core goes supernova, what happens to the aligned with Common Core, the controversial Smarter Balanced Assessment?

Aside from a few politicians and the DOE, I haven’t heard anyone talking positive about it. Once again, this includes charter school teachers who know they would lose their job if they publicly spoke out about it. In fact, most teachers want it to go away. They are very afraid of their jobs being impacted when most students tank the test next Spring. The DOE announced at their board meeting that scores won’t affect teacher performance appraisals until the 2015-2016 school year, but they did not indicate when during the school year that would take place.

Special needs parents are sick of Common Core and how it impacts their children. I am hearing a rising voice speaking up where they all want to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This is a turning point for these children, and this school year could have a dramatic effect on their future. Parents are dreading IEP meetings this year due to standards-based IEPs as well.

The DOE needs to stop patting itself on the back and get with the program, and fast. When more areas of your state are demanding change and you are moving forward with what the citizens don’t want, you need to open your eyes and take a hard look at what you are doing. Did you hear that Governor Markell and Secretary of Education Murphy? The people don’t want what you have been selling anymore.

Delaware Special Needs Support Groups for Parents

I would like to get a list together of support groups that are out there in Delaware for special needs parents. I can tell you that I go to a group at Calvary in Dover called “Reach Out”. There are several of us there, with children going through various types of disabilities. We haven’t met over the summer, but we will start up again soon. Several parents have concerns about what to do with their child. At “Reach Out”, a grou called Capernaum actually comes in and watches the kids. They are fully trained to deal with special needs kids of all sorts. We meet up on Wednesday nights, from 6:45 until 8:30pm.

I know there are other groups out there. If any of you reading this want to add to the comments, or email me at kevino3670@yahoo.com, please do so. I know there are a lot of parents out there who think they are in this alone, and they aren’t! Please include the following: Name of group, location, when you meet, and if it is disability specific, for example, just autism.

If there are none in your area, you might want to think about starting one. There may be churches or schools that would be willing to give you meeting space. There are so many options out there. Sometimes it just takes one strong person to make it happen! I would be more than happy to get the word out on my end, through here or on Facebook. Thanks to you all!

IEP Task Force in Delaware To Begin September 4th, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn Will Chair Group #netde #eduDE @TNJ_malbright

The IEP Task Force, which came out of Senate Concurring Resolution 63 in Delaware, will begin their meetings on September 4th, at 4:30pm.  The purpose of the task force is to improve the IEP process in the state of Delaware.  The meetings will occur in Dover, with video conferencing available in Wilmington.  No locations have been designated for both locations as of yet.  The members of the task force have not been released, but the legislation states it will include the following:

  1. Two members of the State Senate, a member of the majority party appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem and a member of the minority party appointed by the Senate Minority Leader;
  2. Two members of the House of Representatives, a member of the majority party appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a member of the minority party appointed by the House Majority Leader;
  3. The Secretary of Education or his designee;
  4. The President of the State Parent Teacher Association or the President’s designee;
  5. The chair of the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council or the chair’s designee;
  6. Three representatives of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Exceptional Citizens, to be selected by the chair of the Council;
  7. The Governor or the Governor’s designee;
  8. The Lieutenant Governor or the Lieutenant Governor’s designee;
  9. A representative of the Delaware State Bar Association, to be selected by the President of the Delaware State Bar Association;
  10. The President of the Delaware State Education Association or the President’s designee;
  11. Two representatives of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, to be selected by the president of that organization;
  12. Two persons who teach special education in Delaware public schools, to be selected by the task force chair;
  13. Two persons who provide services to children with disabilities in Delaware public schools, to be selected by the task force chair;
  14. One non-attorney who advocates for parents and children in IEP proceedings, to be selected by the task force chair.
  15. Three parents, one from each county, each having a child who has had or currently has an IEP, to be selected by the Senate and House Task Force members.

This notice was written on Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn’s public Facebook page:

During my tenure as Lieutenant Governor, I have made improving the services we provide to children with disabilities a top priority. We have had some notable successes, but there is still an awful lot of work to be done. Last June, I worked with legislators to create a task force focused on improving the way that Delaware schools prepare individualized education plans for students with disabilities, and Senate President Patricia Blevins has asked me to chair that task force. Our first meeting will be on September 4th at 4:30 p.m. – we have tried to schedule it to allow parents and school employees to attend. We will soon be announcing meeting locations (the first meeting will be held in Dover with a videoconferencing hook-up in Wilmington), and each meeting will allow members of the public to offer comments at the end of the meeting. If you have an interest in this subject, I encourage you to put it on your calendar and plan to attend. If you can’t make it to the meetings, audio recordings of all the meetings will be posted on the Lieutenant Governor’s office web site.
 
I think this task force can do some good work if they do not solely concentrate on tailoring IEPs to Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessments.  I’m sure the topic will come up, but there are far more important things to look at with special education in Delaware.  As many special needs parents know, schools do not always do the right thing when it comes to IEP implementation, or even IEP approval.  While DOE input will be needed, parent input will most likely be more important due to the complexities of the IEP process.  For schools, it is a professional matter as part of their business day.  This isn’t to say they don’t have personal feelings about it, but at the end of the day, it’s their job.  For parents, it is deeply personal and can change the outcome of a family’s life.
 
I strongly encourage all special needs parents in the state of Delaware to make it to these meetings.  We all need our voice to be heard.  If you are unable to attend, I will be more than happy to send any messages to the task force as I will be at each and every meeting.  Feel free to email me at kevino3670@yahoo.com or leave messages on my Exceptional Delaware Facebook page.  If you have specific examples of how the IEP process has worked out for you or your child, please include that information.  All information will be protected and kept anonymous if you choose.
 
The final report is due to the Governor in January, 2015.  The group is planning to meet twice a month.  From what I am hearing, public comment will be available at the end of each session.