My moles across the state are telling me about emails going out to teachers and staff that schools will be physically closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. This unprecedented and historic move is based on the remaining threat of Covid-19 in Delaware. At a press briefing today Delaware Governor John Carney, when specifically asked, had not determined the fate of the school year. But just as that was going on, an email was sent out to Red Clay Consolidated School District teachers and staff about the future: Continue reading
There are two major reasons Delaware schools aren’t closing yet. Equity and special education. It all comes down to the digital learning environment school kids will be exposed to. School districts are worried about potential lawsuits.
For special education, federal IDEA law demands students get accommodations for their disabilities in an educational environment if their disabilities interfere with their ability to succeed academically. With digital learning from home, how would those accommodations happen? Disability Scoop covered this topic today in an article.
The Education Department said that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act do not specify what should occur if schools are closed for an extended period of time, which is considered more than 10 consecutive days. However, schools should generally offer the same level of services to students with disabilities that they are providing to other children.
As for equity, what about those families that don’t have wifi or bandwidth, or for that matter, computers, for their children to access digital learning from home. That is a huge concern. If they don’t receive instruction how can they even grasp educational material? What happens when the students return and those who were not able to get the digital learning are woefully behind?
These are the concerns the districts are having. And while we are in a state of emergency at not just the state level but the whole country, it does open up the possibility of litigation. But what is more important? Money or the health and well-being of not just students but every single citizen in the state? With all the ed-tech personalized learning, how did these get-rich quick companies not prepare for a day like this? But I digress…
So Governor Carney needs to be the one to make the call according to the districts. But will he? Or will he leave it up to the districts? As the risk and danger to Delaware citizens continues. Don’t believe what the Secretary of Health in Delaware is saying. About schools being safer. They aren’t. It is just a bigger Petri dish.
Meanwhile, parents are left with a choice- do I send my kid to school or not? Some districts, like Christina, are telling parents they need a doctor’s note in order to have an absence excused. So some parents are sending kids in whether they are sick or not cause their kid has too many absences already. It is a dangerous time folks!
In the wake of the IEP scandal at Glasgow High School, ALL of Christina School District is at the mercy of the Delaware Department of Education when it comes to special education. Following the events concerning fake IEP meetings at Glasgow High School that I published in October, the Delaware Department of Education was forced to act. But questions linger about how and why the Delaware DOE was unable to find out before they did. Continue reading
The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education in public schools. Their system of rating states and, by default, schools is problematic on its best day. Far too much emphasis is placed on the state assessment. In Delaware, that test is the Smarter Balanced Assessment for most students with disabilities. We all know it is a horrible test but no one seems to want to change it anytime soon. This is for the Part B determinations. Part C is for children with disabilities aged 3-5 while Part B is for students in elementary up through 12th grade.
The letters to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting can be found as follows:
You will notice some very distinct patterns in the below local education agency determinations for Delaware. No traditional school district met requirements. Those that were labeled as “Needs Intervention” tend to be the larger districts with high pockets of low-income students, minorities, and higher populations of special education students. All the schools that met requirements only serve high school students. I take these things with a grain of salt but it is not a state secret that Delaware special education needs a serious overhaul! As usual, the state education agency, the Delaware Department of Education, is not judged under the same criteria as our districts and charters. If they were, the Delaware DOE would assuredly need intervention.
Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements
Delaware Military Academy: Meets Requirements
First State Military Academy: Meets Requirements
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements
Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements
Academia Antonia Alonso: Needs Assistance
Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance
Campus Community: Needs Assistance
EastSide Charter School: Needs Assistance
First State Montessori Academy: Needs Assistance
Great Oaks Charter School: Needs Assistance
Lake Forest: Needs Assistance
Las Americas ASPIRAS: Needs Assistance
MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance
Newark Charter School: Needs Assistance
Polytech: Needs Assistance
Positive Outcomes: Needs Assistance
Providence Creek: Needs Assistance
Seaford: Needs Assistance
Sussex Academy: Needs Assistance
Thomas Edison: Needs Assistance
Appoquinimink: Needs Intervention
Brandywine: Needs Intervention
Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention
Cape Henlopen: Needs Intervention
Capital: Needs intervention
Charter School of New Castle: Needs Intervention
Christina: Needs Intervention
Colonial: Needs Intervention
Delaware Design Thinking Academy: Needs Intervention
Delmar: Needs Intervention
DSCYF: Needs Intervention
Early College High School: error on web page for letter
Friere Charter School: Needs Intervention
Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention
Indian River: Needs Intervention
Kuumba Academy: Needs Intervention
Laurel: Needs Intervention
Milford: Needs Intervention
Odyssey Charter School: Needs Intervention
Red Clay: Needs Intervention
Smyrna: Needs Intervention
Woodbridge: Needs Intervention
Last week, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education officially released the state determination letters for implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As I reported earlier this month, Delaware received a rating of “needs assistance”. In June, I reported the special education ratings for each school district and charter school. Both articles contain my thoughts on these ratings and how they don’t capture what it needs to.
The US DOE lags two years behind so these findings are based on the 2015-2016 school year in Delaware. This was the second year of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
As part of their release, the US DOE included documents for each state on how they reached their determination. Below is the Delaware documents. Also included are the letters sent for IDEA Part B and IDEA Part C.
According to Disability Scoop, the United States Department of Education is being sued by an organization called the Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates for delaying a final rule regarding significant disproportionality.
In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA, alleges that the agency is skirting its obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to ensure that students with disabilities receive appropriate services no matter their racial background.
The ruling was supposed to go into effect this year but the U.S. DOE delayed it for another two years. However, this is a part of each school’s matrix for annual determinations for how they are implementing special education.
Despite the delay, states are allowed to implement the new standard if they wish to, the Education Department said, and they are still obligated under IDEA to assess school districts for significant disproportionality.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is named in the lawsuit:
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia names DeVos and Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Johnny Collett in addition to the department itself. It seeks to have a judge invalidate the Department of Education’s delay and reinstate the July 1 start date for the rule.
I seriously wonder why the U.S. DOE would put a delay on a ruling that makes absolute sense.
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for the United States Department of Education came out with their special education ratings for each state on July 5th and Delaware was rated as “Needs Assistance” in special education for IDEA Part B (ages 3 through 21). For Part C, which covers Birth through Age 2, Delaware was rated “Needs Assistance” for the second year in a row.
While OSERS did not release the letters sent to each state, they did put up a document covering what each state received for their rating. The individual letters are supposed to be up this month according to their website.
It is hard to give a lot of weight to these rulings by the US DOE. Most of the ratings are based on standardized test scores. I broke this down by school districts and charter schools a few weeks ago based on the letters sent to each district or charter by the Delaware Department of Education. When over 60% of the ratings are based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the SAT, by grade, we are failing to properly grade our special education. Students with disabilities, historically, are the worst performers on these type of tests. These tests do not give an accurate gage of the ability and knowledge these students need to succeed in school. While even the education reformers are jumping on the “standardized testing does not show the full picture in education” bandwagon, for the US DOE, the almighty standardized test is the basis of everything. These tests, based on Common Core, which President Trump swore up and down he would abolish (like he even could if he wanted to). Furthermore, these ratings are always two years behind. This current rating is based on the 2015-2016 school year.
Repeat after me, IDEA is more than a standardized test. IDEA is more than a standardized test.
Once the US DOE releases Delaware’s findings letter I will post it. Last year we were “Meets Requirements”. We tend to flip back and forth between “meets requirements” and “needs assistance”. In 2014 we were rated as “Needs Intervention” which upset me to no end until I found out just how flawed these ratings are.
How were the Delaware school districts and charter schools rated this year for special education? Every single one is in here and the joke isn’t even funny anymore! Continue reading
Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February. The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws. The school does have discretion. It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.
The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child. I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out. So this would be the first to my recollection. The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out. They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold. Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year. I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay. It isn’t.
What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law. That states schools must administer the state assessment to students. It says nothing about the student actually taking the test. A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test. That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it. And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.
The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law. Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate. But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment. Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either. It doesn’t even address opt out. In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out. But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it. And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.
Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee. It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th. I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.
Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent. Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it. I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it. That is my promise to you! And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!
It would be my hope that all Delaware schools, be they district or charter, have seen this. I would also hope the Exceptional Children Resources Group, the special education area of the Delaware Department of Education, led by Mary Ann Mieczkowski, circulated this to all our schools. If not, I’ll make sure they get this. And I won’t even charge them! But just in case they haven’t seen this, they may want to read this from top to bottom. Special education is NOT a choice. And you are expected to implement it with fidelity and as per federal law under IDEA. The below document, released by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education issued guidance about the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on Endrew F v. Douglas County School District.
This is very big. The United States Department of Education ruled on a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) complaint in favor of a parent about opting their child out of education technology in the classroom. They went a step further and told the school they had to provide an alternative to the ed-tech as well.
The letter, sent to Agora Cyber Charter School in King of Prussia, PA, came out on November 2nd, 2017 (see below). It ruled the school violated FERPA by denying the parent’s request for their child not to use the ed-tech from K12 Inc. due to their terms of service. K12 could not make sure the information in their application would not go out to third parties. The parent filed a complaint five years ago. The US DOE letter said the charter school could not make this a condition of enrollment for the cyber charter school.
I would caution every single school in America that utilizes ed-tech in the classroom to make sure they are in compliance with this ruling!
The United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education the other day and Delaware obtained a “Meets Requirements” for indicators under IDEA Part B. For IDEA Part C, they were designated as “Needs Assistance”. Part B is for children ages 3 and up to 21, with disabilities, and Part C ranges from birth to 2 years old. I wrote last year how so many of these special education indicators are based on the state assessment: their scores and participation rate play a very heavy roll. I have neither the time or the patience to get into the nitty gritty with these determinations at a granular level. The feds don’t get it and our state doesn’t get it. I have no doubt the Delaware Department of Education will celebrate this and say “look how far we’ve come”. But since so much of this is based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I give it about as much legitimacy as a Mona Lisa forgery.
The Delaware Department of Education came out with the special education ratings for all Delaware school districts and charter schools. The information the schools and districts were rated on were based on indicators by the federal Department of Education. This is information the Delaware DOE collects from on-site monitoring of schools as well as performance data, including participation rates from the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The ratings are based on information from the 2014-2015 school year. I don’t necessarily agree with these ratings, especially as it relates to parents opting their children out of the state assessment. I’ve always found that many schools who have higher populations of students with disabilities tend to get the rougher ratings. It is a sure sign we need more funding, staff, resources, and training for special education.
Academia Antonia Alonso
Academy of Dover
Charter School of Wilmington
Early College High School
First State Montessori Academy
MOT Charter School
Newark Charter School
Odyssey Charter School
Polytech School District
Sussex Tech School District
Caesar Rodney School District
Campus Community School
Cape Henlopen School District
Delaware Design-Lab High School
Delaware Military Academy
Delmar School District
East Side Charter School
Freire Charter School
Indian River School District
Las Americas Aspira Academy
Laurel School District
Milford School District
Positive Outcomes Charter School
Providence Creek Academy
Woodbridge School District
Appoquinimink School District
Brandywine School District
Capital School District
Charter School of New Castle (formerly Family Foundations Academy)
Christina School District
Colonial School District
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security
Gateway Lab School
Great Oaks Charter School
Kuumba Charter School
Lake Forest School District
New Castle County Vo-Tech
Prestige Academy (closing this year)
Red Clay Consolidated School District
Seaford School District
Smyrna School District
Thomas Edison Charter School
A couple of weeks ago, I posted responses I received from U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE) and U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (DE) concerning the FY2018 U.S. Department of Education budget. Yesterday, I received the following from U.S. Senator Chris Coons (DE).
Well, that didn’t take long. It turns out former Delaware Governor Jack Markell is under investigation. I can’t say I’m surprised given some of his questionable activities concerning education during his term as Delaware Governor of the First State. It’s like I’ve always said, Delaware is the first to sign the constitution but the last to follow it. But what is he under investigation for? Continue reading
After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night. Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.
At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education. The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds. Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.
For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department. Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in. Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.
The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy. At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature. The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment. The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill. Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky. When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained. Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it. But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.
Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%. She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.
To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below. There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it. I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware. We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced. We shall see…
As predicted, the Delaware Dept. of Education is delaying the final sending of their state Every Student Succeeds Plan to the United States Dept. of Education by one month. Last week, the U.S. DOE released the final regulations for the accountability portion of the new federal education law. As a result, they are giving states more time to submit their state plans.
For Delaware, this means the State Board of Education will vote on the final plan at their March, 2017 board meeting. On April 3rd, Delaware will send the plan to the U.S. DOE. This changes many of the public comment periods for the Delaware plan as well. Here is the press release from the Delaware DOE from yesterday:
The U.S. Department of Education has extended its submission deadline for states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans, allowing Delaware to adjust its plan submission schedule and provide more time for public input and plan development.
Delaware now will submit its final plan on April 3. Other dates leading up to that submission also have been adjusted and are reflected below:
· January 11: Release of second draft of plan
· February 28: Release of final draft of plan
· April 3: Submission of final plan to U.S. Department of Education for approval
The public has several on-going opportunities to provide input on the plan:
· Community conversations: Three of the seven sessions of this second round of public input sessions remain. The next is Thursday night in Newark followed by two sessions for Spanish-speaking community members in Georgetown and Wilmington on December 14 and December 20, respectively. Find more information on these and the previous sessions here.
· Online surveys: Members of the public also may submit their feedback via three online surveys available here. This is the second round of online surveys.
· Discussion groups: Stakeholders are serving on two on-going discussion groups, one focusing on school supports and the second on measures and reporting. These are public meetings, and public comment is available at each session. The next session is tonight. Find more information, including minutes from past meetings here.
· Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee: Governor Jack Markell’s advisory committee also continues to meeting. These public sessions also include public comment. The next session is Jan. 11.
· Feedback also can be submitted via a designated email address, ESSAStatePlan@doe.k12.de.us.
The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law. Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of. We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing. We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools. We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix. Nothing has changed. Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place. Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere. I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.
One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans. Now they are April 3rd and September 18th. Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st. The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).
So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?
In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.
And what about opt-out? Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment? Yeah right!
To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.
This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package. And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago. You reap what you sow!
The Delaware Dept. of Education has a very bad habit. They ignore what the people are telling them. This is the case with the 2016-2017 Delaware School Success Framework. Once again, they are incorporating the Smarter Balanced Assessment participation rate as a penalty in the framework. Even though a majority of their stakeholders in the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group said they don’t want this anymore. The final regulations from the U.S. Dept. of Education concerning participation rate have not come out yet but ESSA dictates that it is the decision of the states and local education agencies to determine how they handle opt out. US DOE Secretary of Education John King received a great deal of flack from parents, educators, and citizens with his harsh regulations surrounding accountability. This also drew the attention of members of Congress who felt King was abusing the authority given to him with ESSA. The state does NOT have to have a penalty for participation rate. But the DOE continues to treat ESSA as a penalty-providing opportunity.
The above picture was taken by one of the members of the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group. The discussion groups come up with ideas and thoughts on how to improve schools. For this discussion group, after they have answered all questions, they put three stickers next to their top priorities. Not having opt out as a penalty in the DSSF and having the school report what may have happened received 8 stickers. If I remember this meeting correctly, there were only about half the members in attendance. So for this to get 8 priority stickers, that is huge. But the Delaware DOE ignores this.
Last year, when the Accountability Framework Working Group convened to decide on the final version of the DSSF, they came up with the same idea which was a valid option from the US DOE. It looked like that was going to go through until Governor Markell stuck his nose into it and directed Secretary Godowsky to proceed with the opt out penalty. Even though Markell will end his reign as Governor and is moving onto bigger and better things, like performing in the Nutcracker, the DOE continues his very bad education policy.
Last night, I had an interview with Education Week. They reached out to me due to my role on the Student and School Supports ESSA Discussion Group. I won’t spoil the interview, but there was discussion around what the true role of “stakeholder input” is with Delaware’s ESSA plan. Many feel that we are just placards in the process and the Delaware DOE will do what it damn well pleases. This latest version of the DSSF just reinforces that thought.
Incoming Delaware Governor John Carney: you really need to put the brakes on the DOE Accountability Machine! The DOE needs to listen to their stakeholders more than Rodel!
Napoleon once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” In Delaware, the state has been sharing personal student data in the form of a benign computer program designed on the surface to help students. This is a program that is so layered in varying shades of legality and loophole in state and federal law no person could ever realistically figure it all out. Luckily, I am not one of those people. So what is the Trojan horse inserted into every single school district and charter school in the state? Hint: it’s NOT the Smarter Balanced Assessment! Continue reading