What Smarter Balanced Assessment Means to Education in Delaware

IDEA and IEPs, Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balanced test will roll-out in the 2014-2015 academic year if passed by the Senate and Governor Markell.  While parents may think this will be a once a year test, they are very wrong.

According to Brian Touchette, the state director for assessment at the Delaware DOE, modified teaching curriculum is in the process of being introduced to help teachers with transition to Smarter Balanced testing.  This could change teaching as we know it.  One of the biggest hurdles to teaching has been the implementation of Common Core standards, and now how teachers educate will be challenged.  Any educator I have talked to has been against Common Core, but they can never admit it publicly for fear of losing their job.  The DOE, Governor Markell, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy continuously state that educators are behind this, but fear outweighs common sense.

Mr. Touchette gave a presentation at the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens on 5/20/14.  Several questions were asked about the Smarter Balanced testing.  One parent asked how accommodations for students with an IEP could conflict with the testing, especially in the usage of a human reader.  Mr. Touchette responded that accommodations cannot change the construct of the test.  Since when does Federal law get trumped by state law?

Interim assessments, to be decided on by the local school district, will replace the fall DCAS and the 1st Spring DCAS.  These assessments will help to prepare students for the Smarter Balanced tests.  This was decided on before House Bill 334 was even voted on, months ago.

Other questions were asked about the “human scorer” which will be handled outside of Delaware to an outside vendor.  Educators will train the scorers, but the human scorers were not said to be educators.  And since a lot of the test is essay based, can we really trust non-educators to accurately score our children’s capability to learn?  I don’t.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium will determine what the grade level standards will be.  Mr. Touchette stated each state involved in the consortium will have a representative to decide on these standards.  Of course, a representative from the Delaware DOE will be our state’s rep.

The same parent from above asked what the DOE’s stance is on opting out of the test, to which he said they have no policy.  It is up to the school district to determine that, but for a district to get funding they must have a 95% participation rate for the test, so there is some “wiggle room”.  He also said for special education children that promotion or retention could be decided on by the IEP team or the school district if an opt-out occurs.  Again, a state rewriting federal law to serve a state’s interests.  He also said school districts are allowed to “use the test for whatever purpose they serve.”  I hope that purpose is to crumple up the test, and see how many students can make a basket into the trash can.  If 95% of the students make it, maybe the DOE can call that a success!

Another Delaware blogger put out some sample tests that were being fielded last Spring: http://kavips.wordpress.com/delawares-smart-balanced-assessments-by-grade-level/

Several people who tried them couldn’t correctly answer many of the questions.  Honor roll students didn’t do well on the field tests.  So how can we expect our special ed students to do on it?  These are kids that struggle everyday with their disabilities.  Some are medicated.  Some can’t even get through the day without special assistance.  And the state is going to measure their success based on one day of testing?  What if they have a bad day?  Parents of special needs children know their kids have very bad days sometimes.  This is a very big mistake for Delaware.  Out of the 22 states that decided on Smarter Balanced testing, only 10 are left.  But Markell and the DOE are treating it like the best thing to come around since sliced bread.  Of course they are, their future depends on it…financially.


Delaware collectively groans as House Bill 334 passes to allow Smarter Balanced Testing to take over

Smarter Balanced Assessment

Delaware, did you hear that loud noise earlier this evening?  That was the noise of parents, students, educators and school administrators having a collective groan about the passage of House Bill 334 passing the Delaware House of Representatives.  It still has a Senate vote and then Governor Markell has to sign it if it passes the senate, but it will probably happen.  This bill replaces the already existing DCAS standardized testing with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have seen sample questions of this test, and it is the worst idea for schools ever.  The Smarter Balanced test was created by non-educator money, serving Wall Street corporate interests.  When did our schools become a matter of profit for a select few?  When did we allow money to be more important than education?  Probably when we allowed the following House reps to vote yes on this monstrosity by electing them.

Yes: Atkins, Barbieri, Blakey, Brady, Carson, Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, Hudson, Jaques, Kenton, Longhurst, Miro, Mitchell, Osienski, Outten, Paradee, Peterman, Ramone, Schwartkopf, Scott, B. Short, D. Short, M. Smith, Smyk, Spiegelman, Viola, Walker, D.E. Williams, Wilson

The voices of sanity who voted No: Baumbach, Bennett, Bolden, J. Johnson, Keeley, Kowalko, Mulrooney, Potter, K. Williams

Two absent members who probably didn’t want to even have this on their voting record were Briggs-King and Q. Johnson.

Any of those who voted yes and are up for reelection next November need to be strongly looked at when children come home from school next Spring and start crying to their parents about how bad they did on this test.  Most parents have no idea what the ramifications for their children will be, much less the parents of special needs students.  Everyone needs to take a strong look at the impact this will have on our school children.  It only benefits those who will make money off of it.  This is a horrible day for Delaware.

Critical Email Your Legislators About 334

Common Core

I absolutely, wholeheartedly, 100% agree with Kavips!


Dear Sir/Madam

I am very concerned we are rushing into the Smarter Balanced Assessments based only on one sales pitch.

We know this to be true.

  • Most kids guessed on the pilot tests offered this year, so results won’t be valid.
  • Education should be about taking something complicated, and reducing it to something simple.  Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessments do the exact opposite.  They take something simple and make it enormously complicated.
  • The sample tests are a joke, and most adults can’t even figure out the questions they are written so poorly.
  • All (100%) of independent educational experts are against this bill.  Only sponsors-for-hire are supporting this bill

There are no ramifications for saying no.  We can simply continue doing what we have since the DCAS was begun.

This bill is being sold on cutting down testing.  While overall that may be good, the quality of the test we are…

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Special Education in Delaware: How do you think it rates?

Special Education Poll

Please take this poll.  Let’s see what all of you think!

Important Legislation In Delaware Will Affect Exceptional Children

General Assembly Legislation

The following bills are being looked at by the House of Representatives and the Senate for the state of Delaware.  Their fiscal year ends on June 30th, so any bills that aren’t voted on will die or be reintroduced in the next fiscal year.

House Bill 23: All school boards must record!  This bill would mandate all public school boards (public, charter, vocational, and alternate schools) to digitally record their school board meetings and make them available to the general public within seven business days.  Many school boards already do this on a voluntary basis, like Red Clay Consolidated, Capital, Christina, Delmar, Brandywine and Colonial.  No charter or vocational schools currently do this.  I am definitely in favor of this bill.  In fact, I spoke to the sponsor of the bill, Deborah Hudson, last Thursday.  She said this bill was created because this is something parents want.  I asked why it has been sitting and collecting dust for so long, and she said it is not a priority.  But she did say she was going to speak about it officially during a House of Representatives legislative session.  It is still on the Ready List, so I hope it is discussed today.  The Speaker of the House, Peter Schwartzkopf, needs to get this on the Agenda ASAP!  I believe ALL parents should know what is being said during board meetings, and not just in public minutes cause they can’t possibly cover everything.

House Bill 337: This bill would allow a local school district to decide on applications to other schools in the district.  For example, in Kent County, if an application for a new charter school was submitted, Capital School District would have the ability to decide on the application based on capacity, economic impact and other factors.  This could have huge implications in Newcastle County because a part of the bill would allow for the local school district to decide based on desegregation plans that are court ordered. If an application was declined by a local school district, it would then go the Department of Education for further consideration.  This bill came about because of many allegations in Newcastle County that the charter schools are getting too much funding diverted from the public schools due to the rapid increase of charter schools in that area, as well as accusations that charter schools are not accepting African-Americans.

Senate Bill 229: This bill would allow for the most “severely cognitively disabled students” to be exempt from state mandated standardized testing.  If the Smarter Balanced Assessment is passed, this would allow these students to skip the test with no ramifications.  The House Education Committee will be meeting on this bill today at 12 noon as it has already passed the Senate.  This bill would exempt students with an IQ of 50 or less, and they must be autistic, have multiple disabilities, or have a specific learning disability.  These students would be required to take the Alternate DCAS 1, which they currently take.  If this goes through the education committee today, it could come up for a vote this week.

House Bill 334: This bill would pave the way for the Smarter Balanced Assessment to take over from DCAS.  It would also allow for a once a year assessment instead of two prep tests and the final one in the Spring as students have done for several years with DCAS.  Opponents of the bill (of which there are many) state the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a joke, and even adults can’t answer the questions as they are very confusing.  This is a very important bill, and as you can see based on my comment on this post from Kilroy’s, I strongly oppose it: http://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/h-b-334-vote-will-be-defining-moment-if-delaware-public-education/

House Bill 340: This would require all schools to be compliant with the Omnibus School Safety Act by September 2014 instead of September 2017.  All schools would have to have two lockdown/intruder drills a year and two lessons a year on what to do in the event of a dangerous situation at a school.  This bill has been out of committee since 6/4/14.

Senate Bill 247: This bill just passed the Senate on 6/12/14 and it would require all schools to have a qualified school nurse within one fiscal year of hiring.  I would hope ALL school nurses would be highly qualified before they even apply to a school.  I would also hope all schools already had a highly qualified school nurse.  I believe all school and psychologists should be licensed with the Department of Education and the Professional License Board.

I agree with Kilroy that many of these bills could severely impact many elections coming up in November of this year.  I know I will be watching every single action or vote on these bills!  The Education Committee for the House will have many changes next year, and some of those could be based on what certain folks do in the next couple weeks.

Schools in Delaware with a grade of C for Special Education

Special Education School Grades

These grades are solely based on the percentage of the student population that is classified with the state of Delaware as special education.  It in no way determines how good or bad a special education department is or the quality of the special education children receive.  These schools listed today represent the middle of the road for special ed services for exceptional children in this state.  The percentage that gives these schools a grade of C is 8.6% to 10.5%.  Some of these can easily move up to a B with just a few more IEPs next year.  For the charter schools in Kent County, Campus Community School is the top special education charter school (with the exception of Positive Outcomes which specializes in special education).  Way to go CCS!

Baltz Elementary School: 9.1%

Booker T. Washington Elementary School: 9.2%

Brader Elementary School: 9.5%

Brick Mill Elementary School: 10.1%

Campus Community School (Charter): 9.0%

Carrcroft Elementary School: 10.4%

Clayton Elementary School: 9.2%

Delmar High School: 9.0%

Dover Air Force Base Middle School: 9.5%

Elbert-Palmer Elementary School: 8.9%

Fairview Elementary School: 10.3%

Forwood Elementary School: 9.1%

Glasgow High School: 9.5%

Howard High School of Technology: 9.3%

Jones Elementary School: 9.4%

Lake Forest East Elementary School: 9.7%

Lake Forest North Elementary School: 9.3%

Lake Forest South Elementary School: 9.9%

Lancanshire Elementary School: 9.4%

Lord Balt Elementary School: 8.6%

Maclary Elementary School: 8.6%

Maple Lane Elementary School: 9.2%

Marbrook Elementary School: 8.8%

McVey Elementary School: 10.3%

Milton Elementary School: 8.6%

Mispillion Elementary School: 9.1%

Newark High School: 8.7%

North Dover Elementary School: 9.0%

Polytech High School: 9.3%

Richardson Park Elementary School: 10.0%

Richey Elementary School: 8.6%

Ross Elementary School: 9.5%

Silver Lake Elementary School: 10.2%

Stubbs Elementary School: 9.5%

West Seaford Elementary School: 10.5%