Exclusive: DOE Is Giving A Survey To Students After They Take The Smarter Balanced Assessment **UPDATED**

I have seen it all.  I’m so glad this was sent to me the evening before a Parent Press Conference on parent opt out and other education matters in Delaware.  Could the Delaware DOE be any more intrusive in children’s lives?  Now they are asking questions about parent involvement with their children, and very specific questions about curriculum and how often it is implemented in schools.  This is a joke, but what should I expect from this Department?  Parents, if you needed just one more thing to push you over to the side of opt out, please let this be the case!  Do you really think the DOE wants this data to help your child?  While the letter to districts states it is voluntary, the language on the actual survey which the teacher would give states it is expected all students take the survey.

Isn’t the actual test supposed to provide all the data the DOE needs?  Apparently not….

**UPDATED** with surveys for 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, and 11th graders, as well as the letter to school districts.

DOE LETTER TO SCHOOL DISTRICTS ABOUT SURVEY

SURVEY FOR STUDENTS IN 3RD TO 5TH GRADE

SURVEY FOR STUDENTS IN 6TH TO 8TH GRADE

SURVEY FOR STUDENTS IN 11TH GRADE

 

 

My Thoughts On The WEAC Report: Charter Love & Not Enough For Special Needs Students

Having read the entire Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s Final Report, I’m left with more questions than answers.  Going into this, I did not expect the report to solve all the education problems in Delaware, let alone Wilmington.  The report has lots of data and many letters from the usual groups involved in education in Delaware.

My first impression: This report fails to recognize the damaging effect charter schools have on traditional school districts.  Funding has been stripped from school districts while charters have mostly been allowed to flourish not only with state and local funds, but also numerous donations by companies such as The Longwood Foundation and Innovative Schools.

One thing I was happy to see was this:

“Converting all Wilmington schools to charter schools authorized by a newly created Wilmington Charter District is neither desirable on educational grounds nor practical on political grounds.  Charter schools are playing a central and growing role in Wilmington public education.  However, Wilmington children require the full array of educational options that is possible only with a continued reliance on district, charter, and vo-tech schools.”

Amen!  I know Tony Allen and many members of WEAC have a deep and abiding love of all things charter, but to have them take over would be tantamount to a disaster of epic proportions.  But there is quite a bit in the report showing why charters will continue to grow in Wilmington with no anecdotal proof of how they came about these figures other than growing trends.  If the charter school moratorium for new charter applications becomes law, how are they basing the 2017 numbers and beyond?

Another example of a misleading report comes from the section showcasing a report by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.  This group attended the last Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting and advised the committee that charter schools should not have specific interest as an enrollment preference unless it serves students who need it the most: Title I, low-income, minority, students with disabilities, ELL, and others in those groups.  The WEAC report did not mention this very specific item which helped widen many of the gaps between schools in Wilmington and parts of Sussex County.  It did touch on certain “enrollment preferences” and recommends this be adapted to best national practices.

What this report fails to do is to bolster traditional school districts.  It seems geared towards getting more kids into charters but at the same time calling for more collaboration between the traditional school districts, charters and vo-techs.  This is dangerous territory to plant your flag in.

There is very little about students with disabilities in the report as well.  There are a few mentions, but absolutely nothing about what will be a growing trend and how to account for this.  I imagine groups and committees will spin out of this report, but it is a large enough issue that I feel it should have been addressed in this report because it is a priority in our state.

The report calls for a Charter Consortium, with more power than the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  This consortium would include all Wilmington charters to share best practices and have one organization perform financial and management duties.  While this would not be a KIPP-like takeover as I have predicted in the past, it could grant charters in the state even more power than they have now, which is very extensive and carries a lot of political muscle among our legislators.

I do have reservations concerning Red Clay being the sole district with Wilmington local schools.  I have not seen any indication that Brandywine would take any of these schools, so I have to assume Red Clay would bear the brunt of the consolidation.  Christina and Colonial would be out, and Red Clay would be the sole traditional school district.  My thought is this: they don’t do a good job with the three charters in their district so how can they add on a large number of  schools and be able to effectively run all these schools?

The devil is in the details, as they say, and I expected more in the details in this report.  What comes of this will be the key, and I anxiously await what happens next.  But the mystery behind all of this is the national issue of ESEA authorization.  If something changes on a Federal level in regards to curriculum and standardized testing, it could change many aspects of this report and what comes next.  I would urge the legislators in Delaware to show restraint until what happens on a national level is determined first.

Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Final Report

After months of hard work, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee issued its final report today.  This mammoth 204 page report has many suggestions based on interviews, research and community input.  Please read the below report.  I will post my own thoughts in an update on this article after I have read through the entire report.

 

WEAC’s Tony Allen Is The Busiest Man in Delaware!

The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee is completely transparent with their meetings with individuals outside the committee.  I applaud this level of transparency!  Tony Allen, the Chair of WEAC, has been extremely busy.  When does this man sleep?

Students in Lake Oswego, Oregon, Lead Opt Out Campaign

How great would it be if students in Delaware did the same thing! Way to go Lake Oswego, Oregon students!

Diane Ravitch's blog

A group of high school students in Lake Oswego, Oregon, has launched a campaign to persuade their classmates to refuse the Smarter Balanced tests, which will be given in April and May.

I have always believed that students are the best advocates for change, because they are the victims of the adult obsession with measuring their brains with bubble tests, and they have an additional advantage: they can’t be fired.

Here is the story:

Last week, they mailed letters to the parents of more than 300 LOHS juniors, urging them to opt out and including a link to an opt-out form they’d created.

“It’s not that we want to cause trouble for the school district or the parents or anything,” said Shaheen Safari, a junior and Student Union member. “It’s just what we personally believe in. We’re exercising our democratic right to speak our voice.”

The Student Union evolved from…

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Delaware DOE Does NOT Want Smarter Balanced & AIR Contracts Released, FOIA Response Is Ugly!!!!

On March 6th, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Delaware Department of Education.  Read below to see what I asked for and what the response was, and then my thoughts on this.

Date of Request: Friday, March 06, 2015
To: Doe.foia@doe.k12.de.us

Name: Kevin Ohlandt
Email: kevino3670@yahoo.com

Records Requested: This is a request under the Delaware Freedom of Information Act, § 100001 et seq. I ask to obtain copies, preferably in digital format as PDF files, of the following, which I understand to be held by your Department. I ask that correspondence regarding this request be sent via email to kevino3670@yahoo.com. Information Requested: I request the Delaware Department of Education’s contracts (whether they are awarded contracts, cooperative contracts, set aside contracts, sole source contracts, or recently closed contracts, including any and all RFPs, addendums, award letters, and change orders) agreements, pacts, communications (whether in email or written correspondence, email should be in To: formats and cc: formats between any DOE employee with the below companies or consortiums) with the following companies or consortiums: American Institutes for Research (or if they are listed under AIR or Amer Institutes for Research), Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (or if they are listed under SBAC, SB, Smarter, Smarter Balanced, or Smarter Balanced Assessment), and Data Recognition Corporation. If available, I ask that this information be provided in a PDF format for the contracts, and a database format with a delimited text file for the communications. If you have this information in an existing report, that may suffice. I would prefer that this information (be sent) by e-mail, but the records can also be mailed to: Kevin Ohlandt (took out my address).  If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law. I am a reporter and the sole writer for Exceptional Delaware, a blog about education in Delaware and the United States of America. This blog is widely read in Delaware and the USA. This request is made in the routine course of newsgathering. As such, I request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to the public understanding of operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in my commercial interest. If the communications part of the request takes longer to obtain than the contract portion, please provide the contracts and all aforementioned parts of those contracts with undue delay. If you wish to discuss this request, I can be reached at (302) xxx-xxxx. My e-mail address is kevino3670@yahoo.com. I prefer to be reached by e-mail or phone. Sincerely, Kevin Ohlandt, Exceptional Delaware Writer/Creator/Reporter 

Contact if cost greater then: 0.00

After some back and forth with the DOE FOIA representative, Tina Shockley, and making it well-known that if the emails took longer, to go ahead and send the contracts first since I thought this would be the easiest thing to do.  On the date of the designated 15 business day response time, March 27th, I received nothing.  I sent a very stern email advising they were out of compliance with Delaware FOIA laws.  Today, I received this email from Tina Shockley:

From: Shockley Tina <Tina.Shockley@doe.k12.de.us>
To:kevino3670@yahoo.com” <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent: Monday, March 30, 2015 8:48 AM
Subject: FW: FOIA request Comprehensive Estimates

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:

Thank you for your email on Friday. I did acknowledge your email request (see attached) on March 9, 2015, but I mistakenly sent it to the wrong email.  Please accept my apologies for that.  Likewise, I had this email ready to go on Friday, but forgot to send it before I left the office.

This email correspondence is to advise you that per your request for public documents under the Delaware Freedom of Information Act, 29 Del. C. Ch. 100, the Delaware Department of Education will need more than 15 days to fill your request because the request is for voluminous records, requires additional legal advice and the request includes one or more records that are in storage or archived.  DDOE estimates that the records requested from your FOIA request will be provided on or before June 1, 2015.   Because this is a large request which includes records dating back many years, we have contacted the Division of Public Archives.  They advise it will take at least 6 weeks to gather the information you are requesting. We will advise you if it will take longer than that.

You also noted that your FOIA was in the routine course of newsgathering, and you requested a waiver of all fees for this request.  I believe you may be confusing the provisions of the federal FOIA with the Delaware one.  Unfortunately, there is no state exemption or waiver for media.  If the review takes more than one hour, administrative costs are assessed.  Given that, I am providing you several options/cost estimates based on your request.  Please advise which portion of work you would like to pay and have us proceed with. Note work cannot start on your request until we receive payment.

The searches and administrative costs are:

Search 1 – $300 for DTI email search – this is for email correspondence between staff members.   You are welcome to send a check now made payable to DTI to get this work started.

Search 2 – $718.16 for DDOE to do email search, review and redact – this is based on 6 hours of work for the IT person to go through all the old records @ a rate of $45.46/hr., plus 20 hours of work at $22.27 hourly rate (of lowest rate for person able to perform the work) for the administrative processing, review/redaction of the files.

Search 3 – $5,359.20 for DDOE to search and pull contract information for the duration of the contracts, agreements requested – this is based on 220 hours of work at the $24.36 hourly rate (of lowest rate for person able to perform work)

Copies – You have the choice to come in and publicly view the information, or if you wish to have a copy of the materials gathered, we’d estimate that cost to be $191.50 = 1935 pages – 20 pages free x .10 

If you would prefer to put a timeframe on your request, that may reduce the costs and time to fulfill your request.    If you do so, I can provide you with an adjusted estimate.

Likewise, if you’d like to request and pay a specific amount, we can collect and copy and provide you with the documents reflective of the cost you pay, however, any work after that would not continue unless further payment is received.

Please advise which searches you would like to proceed with at this time.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to review the following public link  from our website which does provide some RFPs and contracts: http://bids.delaware.gov/.
Tina ShockleyEducation Associate – Policy Advisor Department of Education – Secretary’s Office, 401 Federal Street, Suite 2Dover, DE  19901

SLC:  D370B

 

 In what world does going through contracts take 220 hours?  These should all be available on the State of Delaware bid website, but they are not.  It is not a requirement, but they do so with every other contract.  Why don’t they with anything regarding standardized testing?  I expected the outrageous email costs, but over $5,300 for going over contracts?  That are already in PDF format I’m sure somewhere in the DOE computer system?  And here is how I know they are full of it because last summer I submitted a FOIA request to the DOE for the contract between the DOE and Public Consulting Group.  I got it back in a few days.

I can only assume they do not want this information to get out.  And if that is the case, they are hiding something.  But what?  The DOE has also been working with American Institutes for Research for a long time.  They created DCAS!  Taking away all the emails, how many contracts are set up with these companies?  Or is it so secretive it would put them in a very bad position if it ever got out?  I will be talking to the Delaware Department of Justice and Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn on this matter!

This is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  What could be so controversial the DOE does not want the public to see?  Children are taking this test right now in Delaware.  If I were a Delaware parent, I would be very concerned about this lack of transparency in regards to, as State Rep. Earl Jaques put it, a “little test”.

In other FOIA news, if State Rep. John Kowalko’s FOIA to Governor Markell’s office is answered with the release of alternative emails of the Governor, does that mean they are going to go back and release all the other emails I did not receive from my January FOIA for all emails between the Governor and Paul Herdman, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan?  I would think they would have to since it was part of an official FOIA request…

The Conversation

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, about this little thing called education in Delaware.  Want to know what I hear?  A lot of screaming.  A lot of people stamping their feet on the ground saying you can’t do this.  I’m guilty of it.  We all are.  Whether it’s the DOE, Governor Markell, the teachers, the superintendents, the boards, the charters, the legislators, whoever.  Tempers are flaring, and everyone is up in arms.  We can sit here all day and talk about what hasn’t been done, or what we think will happen.  We can say our way is the best way.  But guess what’s not going to change… the everyday reality of the students in this state.  We can form committees or a task force or whatever you want to call it.  It will drag things out, kick the can down the road, and someone else will have to pick it up.  And there we are, right back at the same place we started from.  Do I have an easy solution?  Probably not.  Nobody does.  We can keep throwing stones at each other.  Whether it’s done with a state board resolution, a vote of no confidence, or a blog post.  But guess what?  None of it is working.  We have eight sides in this battle: the teachers, the parents, the DOE, the districts, the administrators, the charters, the politicians and the communities.  Actually nine if you want to count the students.  But they aren’t a side, they are the victims.

I’ve taken many sides in this war, but at the end of the day, I have to ask: is anything better?  Have I improved education in Delaware?  Nope.  Not one iota.  If anything, I’ve made it worse.  I’ve brought fire down in regards to a standardized test, preached from the heavens, and parents are opting out.  I think that’s a good thing, but the reality is it is not going away any time soon.  It can’t.  Too many of the sides are for it.  The big and powerful ones.  But here is the deal, we need to get together.  Not in one hour meetings every couple of weeks.  Not in a board meeting where things can or can’t be said.  All sides need to get together.  There needs to be a whole week or weekend thing.  Where appropriate stakeholders get together and hash all this out.  We will scream, we will fight, and it will get ugly.  But no one can leave.  And when the fire of anger dies down to a few smoldering embers, that’s when the conversation starts.  We talk, we strategize, we form ideas, we find out what’s working and what isn’t.  And we do it together.  Cause if any of these sides do this without all of the others, nothing else matters.  Then it’s just noise.

Certain things aren’t going away any time soon: standardized tests, charters, school districts, opt out, choice, bullying, special education, crime, poverty, lack of funding, behavior issues, teacher evaluations, and anger.  All need to come to the table and deal with these issues on EQUAL standing.  This can’t be about one side saying they are more important, cause that doesn’t work.  People will need to eat some crow and give up some things.  If it means a consensus and taking on the Feds, then so be it.  If it means teachers have to give up what they feel are some inalienable rights, then so be it.  If it means parents have to be more tolerant about things, then so be it.  If politicians have to give up their own political ambitions with education, then so be it.  All sides must be willing to listen and collaborate.  We need to get real, and we need to do it NOW.  If you don’t think this is a crisis with immediate attention, then you need to open your eyes.  If you think the Delaware Way is appropriate for the students in this state, open your eyes.  Let’s get all the cards on the table so everyone can see them, and let’s start to fix things.  Adult egos and students don’t mix.

Governor Markell Ignores The Plights of Special Needs Students While Serving Corporate Interests

NGA Summer Meetings 2014, Guest Speaker, Vice President Joe Biden

So let me get this straight Jack: You want to boost the “great” schools in Delaware, many of which have already been named in a complaint that’s currently in the hands of the US DOE Office of Civil Rights division, but you won’t even mention the word special education?  Are you out of your mind?  Here’s the facts Jack.  These kids are treated horribly in many of our schools, or they aren’t even allowed to go there based on asinine laws that fit the mindset of a racist America.  It’s not really “choice” if some can go and some can’t.

Let’s not even get into your “World Immersion” program which is already causing pockets of schools to be re-segregated due to this clever idea.  Is this your plan for the non-Wilmington schools since the charter network can’t get their hooks in?  Set it up so the schools that don’t have these programs have lower scores because the “smart” kids want to take Chinese?  For children with an IEP or a 504 plan, this program is of course open to them, but isn’t recommended due to the “rigor” involved.

Everything that comes out of the castle of Markell stinks of corporate education reform and most parents are clueless.  The number of parents catching on is rising, but not nearly enough.  Do the districts even know what the long-term ramifications of your plans are?  Or do they just see dollar signs and think it’s okay?  I guess whether a student takes the Smarter Balanced in English or Chinese is immaterial to you, as long as they take your precious test.

I’ve already heard from some that your plans are designed to take advantage of those who need it the most.  While certain legislators are doing their best to take care of these students, you and your kind just steamroll right past them.  Little do you realize, these children will be taking care of you and yours when you are unable to take care of yourself.  Are you really going to guide them on a one-way street to discrimination and non-inclusion?  Of course you are, you haven’t done much to help these students at all except put them in a corner and ignore them.

Read The Memorandum of Understanding Between UCLA & Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Who owns the rights to the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  If you thought it was the governing states, you are wrong.  They belong to a university, UCLA.  Read the MOU between California, UCLA, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  I would assume every state involved in Smarter Balanced has a similar MOU with UCLA.

Bullying in Delaware: What is real and what isn’t?

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn came out with a 2015 report on bullying a few weeks ago.  While he noted a decrease in the amount of bullying substantiated incidents, he also found there to be such a huge decrease that the question of reported incidents is suspect.  Basically, he is stating schools aren’t reporting the reality on the ground.

In looking at the 2013-2014 Annual Bullying Report, as seen below, there are seven charter schools in Delaware with NO substantiated bullying reports.  Of particular interest are two out of the three charter schools that belong to the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Red Clay authorizes and monitors these charters, and the two charters in this district with no substantiated bullying incidents, Charter School of Wilmington and Delaware Military Academy, do not update their websites with minutes of their board meetings as well.

Once again, in 2012-2013, 8 charters reported NO substantiated bullying incidents.

Out of the local school districts, the following had the biggest decreases between 2012-2013 and 2013-2014:

Appoquinimink: down 67%

Christina: down 42%

Colonial: down 15%

Indian River: down 36%

Lake Forest: down 68%

Laurel: down 22%

New Castle County Vo-Tech: down 22%

But where this gets really interesting is when you take a look at the percentages compared to the entire student body for each district or charter of reported bullying incidents (SBI) in comparison to offensive touching of a student (OTS) and fighting/disorderly conduct (FDC) reports:

Academy of Dover: .64% for SBI, 0% for OTS, .32% for FDC

Appoquinimink: .25% for SBI, 2.1% for OTS, .72% for FDC

Brandyine: .73% for SBI, 5.4% for OTS, 2.2% for FDC

Caesar Rodney: .51% for SBI, 1.0% for OTS, 1.7% for FDC

Campus Community: 2.2% for SBI, 7.7% for OTS, .49% for FDC

Cape Henlopen: .26% for SBI, .20% for OTS, .85% for FDC

Capital: .38% for SBI, 1.1% for OTS, 1.9% for FDC

*Charter School of Wilmington: 0% (970) (School Code Parameter is Missing A Value)

Christina: .23% for SBI, 4.6% for OTS, 4.3% for FDC

Colonial: .37% for SBI, .40% for OTS, .70% for FDC

Delaware Academy of PSS: 0% for SBI, .33% for OTS, 2.1% for FDC

*Delaware College Prep: 4.5% (218) (School Code Parameter is Missing A Value)

*Delaware Military Academy: 0% (568) (School Code Parameter is Missing A Value)

Delmar: .44% for SBI,  .14% for OTS, .16% for FDC

East Side: 1.7% for SBI, 1.5% for OTS, 8.2% for FDC

Family Foundations: .61% for SBI, 1.5% for OTS,  5.1% for FDC

Gateway Lab: 3.8% for SBI, 11.5% for OTS, 4.8% for FDC

Indian River: .26% for SBI, .79% for OTS, .88% for FDC

Kuumba Academy: 0% for SBI, 2.0% for OTS, 2.9% for FDC

Las Americas Aspiras Academy: 0% for SBI, 0% for OTS, 0% for FDC

Lake Forest: .32% for SBI, .48% for OTS, .95% for FDC

Laurel: .84% for SBI, 88% for OTS, . for FDC 2135, 2.6% for FDC

Milford: .62% for SBI, 1.9% for OTS, 1.3% for FDC

MOT: 1.0% for SBI, 0% for OTS, 0% for FDC

Moyer Academy: 0% for SBI, 2.2% for OTS, 17.2% for FDC

Newark Charter: .17% for SBI, .39% for OTS, .11% for FDC

New Castle County Vo-Tech: .15% for SBI, . for OTS, . for FDC

Odyssey: 0% for SBI, .71% for OTS, .14% for FDC

Polytech: .17% for SBI, .17% for OTS, .09% for FDC

Positive Outcomes: 1.7% for SBI, 4.2% for OTS, 1.7% for FDC

Prestige Academy: 5.6% for SBI, 10.1% for OTS, 23.3% for FDC

Providence Creek:  1.1% for SBI,  5.9% for OTS, .28% for FDC

Reach Academy For Girls: .85% for SBI, .85% for OTS, 1.3% for FDC

Red Clay: .80% for SBI, 2.4% or OTS, .23% for FDC

Seaford: .51% for SBI, 1.3% for OTS, 2.8% for FDC

Smryna: .34% for SBI, .68% for OTS, .84% for FDC

Sussex Academy: .24% for SBI, .48% for OTS, 0% for FDC

Sussex Tech: .13% for SBI, .26% for OTS, .07% for FDC

Thomas Edison: .94% for SBI, .13% for OTS, 1.2% for FDC

Woodbridge: .43% for SBI, 1.1% for OTS, 1.2% for FDC

STATEWIDE AVERAGE Substantiated Bullying Reports: .47%

STATEWIDE AVERAGE Alleged Bullying Reports: 1.2%

STATEWIDE AVERAGE Offensive Touching: 2.0%

STATEWIDE AVERAGE Fighting/Disorderly Conduct: 1.9%

While this may seem like very odd data, it tells us many things.  About half the schools report fighting as fighting, while the other half reports it as offensive touching.  So which is it, and why is it not uniform across all schools in Delaware?  Both are reportable offenses in Delaware.  And how many schools aren’t reporting anything?  It sounds like something needs to be put in place to hold these schools in check.  Unfortunately, relying on the Delaware DOE to accurately convey data to the general public is a lesson in futility.  But the schools have a responsibility in this as well.  Parents need to know which schools are safe for their children, and this data is underrepresented and does not give a clear picture.  To be continued I’m sure…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday To The Inspiration Behind Exceptional Delaware

Before Markell and Herdman started plotting together, before Common Core was a gleam in Arne Duncan’s eye, before the words Race To The Top meant gouging schools in America with corporate education reform, a baby was born.  Eleven years ago today to be precise.  Out in Southern California, he entered this crazy world.  It was a beautiful day, very warm and in the 80s, not a cloud in the sky.

After some complications, my son was born.  My wife had some complications as well, so I went with the nurse to the incubator.  Before my son was placed in there, I reached out my hand to his and he squeezed my finger.  Not even 10 minutes old, and I bonded with him forever at that moment.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Here we are, eleven years later.  He came into this world on a warm and sunny day, and he turned eleven waking up to snow.  There have been many challenges along the way, and there will be more.  But there are also those moments of joy that you can never put into words.  Things only a parent can truly know.

His journey through life is his own, I’m just a guide for a certain amount of time.  He has other guides, like his mom, and others.  His story has become my story, and everything I do on here, every word I write, it is to help him, and others like him.  The battles I fight, the secrets uncovered, it is all to expose and to change.  If I, along with others, ever do win these battles, the biggest challenge will be what comes next.  Nature abhors a vacuum, so something must take it’s place.  I pray that worthy voices will very carefully replace the abomination education has become.  For my son, and the students in all of our schools.

I have to believe something better is on the way.  I have hope.  It can’t be this bleak all the time.  In the meantime, I will continue to write, for my inspiration and my moments of joy, happiness, sadness, anger, confusion, curiosity and insight.  Happy Birthday bud!  I love you!

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Special Education Complaints Increasing At A Federal Level

According to an article in Disability Scoop, found right here, complaints to the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Education are rising.  And they have been over a six year period.  They are not sure if it’s because parents are more aware of their rights or if it is something more.

I think it’s because of that and also because of Common Core and standardized testing.  Ever since Race To The Top came out, schools have changed. It’s no longer about being able to give more one-on-one attention.  It’s about prepping for the big test in many schools.  What I would like to see is how many of those complaints are from traditional schools and how many are from charter schools.  The article doesn’t break it down.

In 2009, 3,000 complaints were filed.  Last year, it was 3,900.  There is a very strong correlation between the advent of Common Core and these types of complaints rising.  If you are a special needs parent, please educate yourself and know your child’s rights, especially if they are in a lower grade.  This is a pivotal time for them and they need you to fight for them!

MUST READ: Revelations of a Disillusioned Reformer

Diane Ravitch's blog

WOW.

This is a remarkable and candid story of Jorge Cabrera, who joined the reform movement as a believer. He wanted to help the children of Bridgeport, where he grew up. He wanted better schools. He was a community organizer for Excel Schools.

And then he learned the truth.

“As I began my work in the “education reform movement” in Bridgeport, I noticed a plethora of ivy league educated “consultants” and “transformational leaders” that littered the often loose coalition of funders, new organizations and executive directors. From the beginning, it was clear that many of these new “leaders” that were emerging were well credentialed. They had graduated from prestigious universities and, it was presumed (though not by me), that alone qualified them to lead. Many were very young (recent graduates), energetic, unmarried with no children and little life experience. They often exhibited a cultish commitment to “the movement.” Their zeal…

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You Don’t Know Jack: The Markell Edition

Governor Markell, the biggest name in Delaware.  We hear him all the time talking about education in our state.  Why?  What is his agenda?  Is he in it for the children, or does he have other ulterior motives?  To that end, I will let you decide.

I have compiled all my main articles concerning Governor Markell in what spot on this blog, and you can find them all here:

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/governor-markell/

If you still think Markell is a great man after reading this, so be it.  If you are very concerned about your child’s education after reading some of these articles, please educate yourself some more and read the article right below this one and take a stand!

What To Expect At The Parent Press Conference

If you are coming to the Parent Press Conference on Wednesday, April 1st, outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 5pm, this is what you can expect:

-Parents talking about the damaging effects of Common Core and standardized testing

-A legislator talking about House Bill 50

-Delaware PTA talking about Parent Opt Out

-a potential other organization talking about their stance on parent opt out

Some have called this a rally.  We are rallying for a good cause: change in education.  If you believe that your child is more than a test score, please come.  If you are against teachers being rated based on a standardized test score, please come.  If you are tired of Common Core and other subjects either diminishing or disappearing in your school, please come.  If you are against your taxpayer dollars going to needless programs and services in our schools, please come.  If you are tired of paying school taxes so the Department of Education can sign contract after contract with companies that are interfering in education, please come.  If you want to save public education, please come.

You can find out more information on this event here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/962893793730222/

MOT Charter School’s Insanely Bizarre Parent Letter About Smarter Balanced & Opt Out

This letter was sent to parents of MOT Charter School today.  When it gets down to the opt out section of the letter, it basically says don’t opt out, but go to Legislative Hall or the Governor’s office.  As well, the letter says “As a community, we must not fixate too firmly on the dour projections being tossed about by our state leaders regarding student performance on the SBAC”.  This is the most manipulative school letter regarding standardized testing and opt out I’ve seen.  It’s as if MOT truly believes their students will soar on this test.  I can’t wait to see their scores on Smarter Balanced next summer!  In the meantime, if you are a MOT parent, and you want to opt your child out, please do come to Legislative Hall, next Wednesday, April 1st at 5pm for a Parent Press Conference covering this as well as other education issues in our state!  With all respect to Head of School Linda Jennings, the most effect way to change this issue IS TO OPT OUT AND DEMAND ACTION FROM OUR LEADERS.

Watch The University of Delaware Common Core Town Hall Debate

This video needs to be watched by every parent in Delaware.  If you think you know what is really going on with Common Core, you have no idea.  We all have busy lives, but this is well worth 2 1/2 hours out of your life.  This is the debate from January 24th that the Delaware Department of Education was supposed to be a part of but canceled at the last minute.  I can see why they wouldn’t be able to after watching this video.  They would have been slaughtered!

Governor Markell, Deliverology, & A British Knight: The Heart of Delaware Corporate Education Reform

Diane Ravitch wrote an article yesterday about an individual in the corporate education reform movement who is probably one of the biggest faces behind the agendas unleashed on an unwitting public.  What are his strange ties to Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell?  For one thing, they both have the same company on their résumé: McKinsey & Company.  Long before Jack Markell made his mark in Delaware government, he served as a consultant for McKinsey & Associates, based out of Chicago.  Another familiar face worked there as well starting in 2001: Sir Michael Barber.

Barber served as an education policy analyst for British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  He then went on to McKinsey in the same capacity.  Now he is the Chief Education Advisor for Pearson, the corporate giant in the education reform movement.  In 2011, Barber wrote the go-to book for the education reformers, along with McKinsey employees Andy Moffit (husband of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo) and Paul Kihn (Deputy Superintended School District of Philadelphia).  “Deliverology 101: A Field Guide For Educational Leaders” talks about the ways these reformers can manipulate the public consciousness.

Many of the quotes from Barber in this book are very similar to public comments made by  Governor Markell with regards to education:

Barber: parents and activists who challenge the corporate education reform movement are “defenders of the status quo”

Markell: from a press release on the creation of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, 9/25/14: “We must not accept a status quo in which students in our most disadvantaged communities fall further and further behind each year.”

Markell: from his keynote speech at the Imagine Delaware Education forum, “I, and I know that many of you, refuse to throw up our hands and say that we can’t truly improve education in our schools as long as poverty exists. That’s a recipe for the status quo.”

Barber: “The risks of inaction are greater.”

Markell: also from the Imagine Delaware Education forum, “Inaction is not an option.”

While the parallels in speech bear an uncanny similarity, the thought processes in “Deliverology 101” are downright scary.

Nicholas Tampio, a political science professor at Fordham University, wrote an article here about Barber and the corporate education reform strategies discussed in “Deliverology 101.”

“The authors define “deliverology” as “the emerging science of getting things done” and “a systematic process for driving progress and delivering results in government and the public sector.” The book targets systems leaders, politicians who support education reform and delivery leaders, employees responsible for the day-to-day implementation of structural change.”

This is Delaware education in a nutshell.  With Common Core and standardized testing, these are designed to move Markell’s agendas forward.  He uses certain legislators, business leaders, and an entire Department of Education in Delaware to issue his reforms.  Those who stand against him are put down or humiliated, such as traditional school district teachers, parents, and some legislators.

“This spring, a prominent anti–Common Core activist tweeted, “I don’t think the Ed reformers understand the sheer fury of marginalized parents.” Barber understands this fury but thinks the “laggards” will come around once enough people see the positive results.”

Markell is constantly pumping up schools with great standardized test scores and beats down ones that don’t.  Whenever a “threat” arises to Markell’s goals, we can count on a rousing speech to deliver more of his education reform talk, to get around around the true issues.

“Deliverology alternates between painting a big picture of what needs to be done and offering maxims such as “To aspire means to lead from the front” and “Endless public debate will create problems that could potentially derail your delivery effort.”

And Diane Ravitch writes here:

“In a democracy, we do engage in “endless public debate,” but such debates slow down the reform train. That is why corporate reformers like mayoral control and state takeovers. They like one decider who can tell everyone what to do. Local school boards are not easy to capture, there are too many of them. Like ALEC, the corporate reformers want to bypass local school boards and give the governor–or a commission he appoints–total control.”

Governor Markell has absolute and total control of education in Delaware.  Take the University of Delaware Town Hall Common Core panel in January.  The Delaware DOE was set to attend the debate on Common Core, but Markell told them not to go at the last-minute.  His obsession with controlling the conversation, and if he doesn’t like the talk he is hearing, he will do everything in his power to change it.  This is what is currently happening with the parent opt-out movement in Delaware.  His response to parents speaking up is to take a hard look at other assessments instead of the one test parents hate.

The vast connections between Markell and Barber don’t stop at a book or McKinsey either.  In 2008, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware knew they needed a Governor to back their agenda.  With Markell lagging in the pools, Rodel purposely turned education into a topic.  To that end, they invited Barber to speak at a huge event called Delaware for a Global Economy: Making Vision 2015 Work.  Shortly after Markell’s inauguration, President Obama announced Race To The Top.  Markell quickly used McKinsey & Company’s Education Group led by Barber to develop Delaware’s Race To The Top application.

Barber’s ideas for education reform have spread throughout the world.  This quote from Barber’s Wikipedia page:

“In the summer of 2010, Barber teamed with leaders from the Education Trust and Achieve to found the U.S. Education Delivery Institute. This Institute works with leaders of K-12 and higher education systems around the United States to adapt the delivery concept pioneered by Barber in the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit to drive American education reform efforts.

Based on this essay found in this article from The Guardian in 2012:

They see that mastery of the basics, while essential, is not enough. When I talk about the future of the curriculum, including not just knowledge but also ability to lead by influencing those around you, I find a ready audience among leaders of Pacific Asian systems. People understand too that while exams are important, the obsession with them among parents can be dangerous.

I find this to be very ironic on Barber’s mindset since he is the one behind the drive for corporate education reform at Pearson.  His viewpoint of parents is one he helped to create through his practices at McKinsey and Pearson.  And Governor Markell in Delaware is an all-too-willing partner in these endeavors.

Markell is deeply rooted in the corporate education reform movement, and has been for a long time.  This is his legacy and he will not tolerate any action or voice that attempts to block it.  But I think he underestimates the will and resolve of parents, teachers and organizations united in their attempts to stop him.  As the voices become louder, Markell is backing into a corner and his defensive postures becoming more diluted in the noise.

 

 

 

Governor Markell Gets The “Hilary Clinton Personal Email” FOIA Letter

Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s office received a letter today with a FOIA request regarding use of other email independent of his official state email.  Speaking from experience with a FOIA request to the Governor’s office, I was shocked when I received my FOIA back for emails between Markell and four individuals.  It was next to nothing, which I found VERY hard to believe given the relationship between Markell and Rodel’s Paul Herdman.  This should be interesting to see what comes out of this.

Official Press Release For Parent Press Conference on Delaware Education Sent To Media

As the number of parents joining the Parent Press Conference on April 1st grows by the hour, members of the media were sent the official press release for the event.  This was a massive press release sent to all the major media outlets in the tri-state area.   Parents can look forward to a very well-attended event with a lot of coverage.  If you would like to speak at the press conference, please arrive 15-20 minutes early, or feel free to contact me at the email in the press release.  Parking can be tight in this area, so you may want to arrive early.