Ever since Delaware received the label of “needs intervention” with special education in June of 2014 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the United States Department of Education, the Delaware Department of Education made every effort to do everything but tackle the number one problem of special education: making sure IEPs are implemented with fidelity.
Their solution to the problem: make sure children can read by 3rd grade so they can score proficient on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Every state in America has a checklist of items, dictated by the US DOE, that they are monitored on by OSEP. One of them, Indicator 17, is a plan each state must come up with to improve special education outcomes. The Exceptional Children Resources Group, the special education area at the Delaware DOE, chose the Delaware Early Literacy Initiative as their project for Indicator 17.
To say this is a confusing mess would be an understatement of epic proportions. I find it even more troubling they would pick Kindergarten to 3rd Grade as their test subjects when they know children in those grades don’t receive basic special education funding. The students who are considered intense or complex do, but the bulk of the students with disabilities in those grades fall under “Basic Special Education”. As a result, some schools in Delaware are hesitant to grant IEPs for these students since they know the cost will fall on the district or charter school without any extra money from the state.
The Delaware DOE relies on Response to Intervention as a way of determining if a child needs special education services or not. It is a faulty system, mandated by the feds, that can take years before a child is fully identified for special education. As a result, these children become lost in a system while their neurological disabilities manifest. An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is designed for that particular student. The IEP team, consisting of the school Special Education director, a Principal or Vice-Principal, the primary teachers, the school nurse, the school psychologist, and the parent or parents of the child.
Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves, of the website Make Special Education Work, recently wrote an article about why RTI isn’t working. In the article, they wrote:
Even though RTI instruction may be high quality and research-based, can it meet your child’s unique needs? Meeting these needs through an individualized education program is your child’s right under IDEA.
While the Delaware DOE’s Early Literacy Initiative is certainly a long read, it is chock full of errors and omissions that fail to adequately address the unique and individual attention a child with disabilities truly needs.