Delaware’s Department of Education received the highest federal ranking possible for special education this year.
The rating has continually improved over the last few years – going up from 53% in 2014 to 68% in 2015. Last year, they received a 76% rating, and this year, they’re at 83%.
Delaware Department of Education Assistant Secretary Michael Watson says several factors have contributed to that.
“So it had certain indicators that came out of the federal requirements, and then some things that we just knew our entire system needed to focus on and work on," Watson said. "We did deep professional development for our special education teachers on standards-based individual education programs, or what the field normally calls IEPs.”
He says another big change has been the rollout of a results-driven accountability matrix. Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Work Network Mary Ann Mieczkowski says they’ve always had a monitoring system in place.
“But this system that we’ve built over the last five years is a more robust system, a more public system so that it’s very public and transparent and a very visual system," Mieczkowski said.
She says that while the accountability system was developed at the federal level, it was left up to the states to communicate to local districts.
The Delaware Department of Education has completed year three of Delaware’s IDEA State Systemic Improvement Plan focusing on improving literacy in grades K-3 for all students including students with disabilities and English learners.
“The secret sauce is a deep belief that all kids can learn: ensuring that they not only have access to the curriculum but are thriving through that system and then ensuring that there’s good feedback loops and mechanisms where we can continuously have conversations with the districts and provide them with additional support," Watson said.