Breaking News: Delaware State Reps Kowalko and Matthews Open Letter To Arne Duncan for his visit tomorrow

Arne Duncan

Mark Murphy Appears Before House Education Committee To Answer Race To The Top Funding Questions

Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy

Right now, at Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is appearing before the Delaware House Education Committee to answer questions on the Race To The Top funding.  Prior to this, Murphy and the Delaware Department of Education presented the 2015-2016 education budget to the Joint Finance Committee.

Senator David Sokola is commenting to Mark Murphy about the Race To The Top funding and how the past four Governors in Delaware have been very generous to education.

House Representative Charles Potter is talking about Wilmington and feeder patterns, as well as the moratorium on charter schools on the not yet decided upon House Bill 29.

Mike Matthews just reported this on Facebook:

Looks like this education committee meeting, which is supposed to start at 4:30, may be starting late. DoE Sec. Mark Murphy is at present speaking to the Joint Finance Committee and I’m told he’s being GRILLED there. He’s asking to continue funding 10 high-paying DoE positions that were once paid for through RttT funds. Except now he wants them paid for out of the general fund. I’m being told legislators are having NONE OF THAT!

The meeting is finally started.  State Rep. Earl Jacques wants the DOE to come back on 3/11 to give final comments on the ESEA Flex Waivers.  It will be a 12 noon meeting.  David Blowman and Chris Ruszkowski from the DOE asked if they were buying lunch.  Tina Shockley, Karen Field Rogers, and Mary Kate McLoughlin are also in attendance from the DOE.  Murphy is still getting grilled by the JFC downstairs.  David Blowman is leading the presentation until then.

Four areas they want to go over 1) Rigor and curriculum, 2) developing highly qualified educators and supports, 3) Developing highly qualified teachers, 4) provide support for low-performing schools.

He brought up Booker T. and Howard High School as examples of where grant money can be effective.  The DOE values the free lunch program.  He’s talking about getting kids ready for college and all students can perform at the same levels.  They’ve taken the opportunity to listen to parents and community members about matters that concern them.  Even though RTTT funding is done, they’re work is not.

Karen Field-Rogers is explaining how RTTT came about and the focus of their “four pillars” (listed above).  She is explaining why Delaware was awarded RTTT funding first (along with Tennessee).  All the districts signed on to the funding.  The funds were based on the 2009 Title I Local Education Agency populations.  They had to follow the standards and assessment guidelines for the grant.  Early childhood programs, summer enrichment, after-school, data programs, educational support for access to data systems and much more were parts of the grant.  Teacher-leader positions were granted.  LEAs contracted for comprehensive reviews of low-performing schools.  The LEAs have spent $56 million since the start of RTTT.

DOE has spent $59.6 million dollars and most of the money went to support the work of the LEAs.  Sub-grants were granted to the LEAs and some funds went to oversight of the grant.

Data warehousing is updated nightly.  Data coaches provide supports for teachers and leaders.  Development coaches and more gave targeted supports.  Partnership Zone schools were implemented to give extra funding and supports to low-performing schools.  $44.8 million of the state share of RTTT funding has been spent.  $7.9 remains to be spent which has been already budgeted.

DE State Rep. Earl Jacques is asking how successful the partnership schools have been.  He is stating many parents don’t view them as successful.  Ruszkowski said they provided a lot of funding and support and provided data.  He is citing Howard and Positive Outcomes of schools that worked.  He asked about the summer enrichment programs and how they worked.  Field-Rogers stated it varied by district.

DE State Rep. Potter is asking about a correlation between the priority schools and after school programs.  They didn’t have that information.  DE State Rep. Kim Williams is commenting it was like “having a gun to their head” when she was on the Red Clay School Board in signing on to RTTT.  She brought up the comprehensive school review for the Christina priority schools (the DASL report) and how Murphy wouldn’t sign off on it.

She brought up Booker T. and why this school is compared to schools in the city.  She is talking about the demographics of the school.  In 2011 they became a Focus School due to being on an academic watch.  Booker T. got $700,000 to make things happen there.  She asked how 3rd and 4th grade can be cited as examples of success when each student received an extra $10,000 in funding.  Field-Rogers said the School Turnaround Unit will have to get back to her on that.  (Classic DOE response when they are asked tough questions).

Williams asked about the Early Learning Challenge.  Blowman said these are students in 3-5 who are labeled as struggling.  Williams asked why there is $8.5 million in unspecified funding.  McLoughlin said she will have to get back to them on this.  Williams asked how many employees are in the Teacher of the Year department.  Blowman said four.  Williams said the website states 25.  Ruszkowski said many were transferred during former Secretary Lillian Lowery’s term many were transferred to his department, the Teacher-Leader Effectiveness unit.  Williams asked about the Delaware Talent Cooperative and if it was effective.  Ruszkowski went over different funding formulas and where it went.  Williams said this type of money should be used in more meaningful ways.  Ruszkowski said teachers move from high-need schools to less need schools at a rate of 8-9 times higher than vice versa. (Does this include the TFA come and go program?)  Williams said so many teachers leave these schools because they do not receive the supports and resources they need.  They are going back and forth on this.  Williams is explaining how teachers love what they do but they are lacking the resources and no money is going towards poverty.

State Rep. Stephanie Bolden is asking about the resources given to the lowest achieving schools.  She saw a lack of community liasons taking place during RTTT.  She said she agrees with Williams that this isn’t working.  She taught for 35 years because she was able to gain trust from students and community members.  There is no follow-up and oversight and the money was just spent or reallocated with no follow-up.  She can’t understand why more money is being asked for when teachers can’t teach and discipline a class when they can’t stay in a class.  Ruszkowski said they oversaw that the districts and charters spent the money the way they were supposed to.  Ruszkowski said some districts didn’t spend the money the way they were supposed to.  Bolden wants to know about Wilmington schools.  He said Howard High School took full advantage of RTTT and retained the best teachers.  Howard was given more resources, which Bolden said answers her question.

State Rep. Debra Heffernan asked about the sub-grants and the priority schools.  McLoughlin said some of the RTTT funding went to the priority schools.  She said schools should have used the funds for short-term programs.  She asked if all school districts did that and why is DOE continuing with programs from this funding.

State Rep. Dukes said “There is so much money that is being kept by the DOE.”  He is not happy about this.  McLoughlin said this is all to benefit the teachers.  She said teachers did not know how to analyze that data and that was why data coaches were needed.  She said now that they are part of the districts they can utilize that information more effectively.  Ruszkowski said the US DOE asked the states to take on these roles.  He said the DOE is in a position of being able to save money each year because these things are currently in effect.  Dukes is very upset 50% was kept in the DOE Department and never got to the schools.  He said it is very frustrating.  He hopes in the end this is a long-lasting process otherwise we wasted $119 million.

Mark Murphy finally came up.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked why certain Newcastle County charter schools got funds when the high-needs schoos didn’t with the Delaware Talent Cooperative.  He asked what school based bonuses were.  He said they were academic achievement awards.  He said this could have been transformative for our state but the funds weren’t spent wisely.  In hindsight a data warehouse or pipeline is not going to yield the results the state needs.  No one is talking about the true problems in these schools and maybe Delaware needs Federal oversight since the Delaware DOE is in over their heads.

State Rep. Sean Lynn asked how many teachers were asked to be in the DE Talent Cooperative and how many accepted.  Ruszkowski said there was one teacher who left the co-op program but never answered the direct question.

State Rep. Osienski said there is no shortage of teacher applications out there so why are we using all these programs? Ruszkowski said they went out to each institution like Wilmington University and University of Delaware to attract teachers.  Osienski asked if positions are being eliminated at DOE and why they are asking for ten new positions.  Blowman from the DOE said the Department is not asking for new positions, he said these are existing employees but they are asking for a shift in funding.  Osienski said there were positions being paid for by the Federal grant so he is confused.  Blowman said many of the positions were contracted by vendors.

State Rep. Miro asked if the DOE contracters were citizens of Delaware or did they come out of state?  He is asking if RTTT helped the recession in Delaware or not.  Blowman said he doesn’t want to speculate.  Miro asked the DOE to give this information to the House Education Committee.

Williams asked the DOE how many employees they have before RTTT and how many they have now.  They will have to get back to her.

Potter asked how much money they have left from RTTT.  McLoughlin said about $15 million.

State Rep. Osienski asked Mark Murphy what grade the DOE would give themselves on how they spent RTTT funds.  Murphy gave Delaware a B because the students aren’t where they want them to be with achievement.  This is a solid B because our districts have made very good use of this funding and built capacity.  As a state they have done the same they can maintain at a fraction of that cost.  There have been quality improvements.  Osienski asked if the districts can sustain this effort, and Murphy said the $7.5 million asked for in the State budget this can keep these programs going.  Osienski asked what would happen if the JFC cut this funding.  Murphy said there are technology systems to deal with district supports for Common Core they would not be able to sustain.  This could cause problems with funding for the lowest-performing schools and getting them funding.


Governor Markell, Please Close The Income Gap Before The Proficiency Gap

Governor Markell

The Delaware News Journal came out with an article yesterday which stated the 1% of Delaware’s wealthiest citizens saw a 15% rise in their individual wealth since the 2009 recession while the remaining 99% actually dropped 1.6%.  This is all under Governor Markell’s watch.  He has ignored this cold hard reality while allowing millions and millions of dollars spent trying to close an unrealistic fantasy, the proficiency gap.

Governor Markell and his corporate education reformers in the Delaware Department of Education actually believe that by osmosis and rigor, all students can perform the same on standardized tests.  Minorities, low-income, and special needs children can be the same as their “regular” peers because they said so.  There is no evidence, data, or research to back this up.  But if they keep saying it, we have to keep trying.

Jonathan Dworkin, Governor Markell’s Spokesman told Jonathan Starkey with the News Journal:

“…the report “makes clear the long-term challenge facing Delaware and our country as middle class jobs of the past have been outsourced to new technology or other countries over many years.”

Price blamed the unequal economy – in Delaware and across the country – on the reduction of well-paid manufacturing jobs, falling union representation and a minimum wage that has not kept pace with rising costs, among other factors.”

El Somnambulo with Delaware Liberal wrote this:

“The policies he put into effect during the so-called ‘recovery’ led to more, not less, inequity in income growth. Actually, you can’t call it income growth for the 99% who saw their income shrink by 1.6%.  This is obscene.”

Maybe if Markell redistributed the millions of dollars he wasted in his thirst for power in education, this gap would not be so wide.  He allowed the Delaware Department of Education to beef itself up into a power mad unit of the Delaware government which has remained virtually unchecked until recently.  He did this in front of all the citizens of Delaware, and most of us didn’t even notice.

Governor Jack Markell doesn’t answer to citizens anymore, he answers to foundations: The Rodel Foundation, The Longwood Foundation, and The Gates Foundation.

Today, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will appear before the House Education Committee in Delaware to explain how his Department spent the Race To The Top funding.  As well, he also has to appear before the Joint Finance Committee to detail the 2015-2016 budget.  The fun begins at 1pm before the JFC, and then at 3pm for the House Education Committee.

The rest of the article is found here: while El Somnambulo’s take on this can be found here:

US Department of Education Gives A Case For Parent Opt Out of Standardized Testing

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

The United States Department of Education sent a letter to school superintendents December, 2014.  This explained to them exactly what student and parents rights are in regards to the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA).  This is the educational version of the medical HIPPA.  In this letter, it talks about when parents can opt their child out of certain events which could cover standardized testing if read the right way!

Page 4, #1 and #7 in the below document gives the best clear reason for opt out I have ever seen.  Under the section for the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, it clearly states:

PPRA may apply to the programs and activities of a State educational agency (SEA), LEA, or other recipient of funds under any program administered by the Department.  It governs the administration to elementary and secondary school students of a survey, analysis, or evaluation that concerns one or more of the following eight protected areas:

1. political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the students’ parent;

7. religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent.

In addition, it states the following:

PPRA also concerns the development of local policies concerning…the opportunity for the parent to opt the student out of participation in certain specific activities…

A case could certainly be made for this if parent opt out ever became an issue in a Federal court.  My beliefs certainly don’t agree with standardized testing in a high-stakes one-size-fits-all environment.  Read the below document and let me know your take on this!