Red Clay Lays Down The Opt-Out Rules For Teachers!!! The Propoganda Continues Without Board Approval!!!

No sooner do I write an article about sources and information I receive, when I get this bomb the Red Clay Consolidated School District is sending to principals to then sending to teachers.  Can we all see this district policy Merv?  Was this policy approved by the Red Clay Board?  Below is what was sent, and the red parts are my responses…

“Principals,

Please share with staff as we have had questions from teachers.

Like “Why am I telling students they will get a zero on the assessment and the district is telling us that but they aren’t putting it in writing?”

Update on Smarter Parent Refusals (“Opt Outs”)

The district’s position on refusals (“opt outs”) has been, and continues to be, respectful of both federal and state law, as well as parent decision. 

Your board passed a resolution supporting it but you continue to try to talk parents out of it and have teachers give false information to students.  I don’t see a whole lot of “respect” there.

The district would like to thank teachers for directing parent concerns relating to state testing to the school principal. Having principals as the primary contact for refusals (“opt out”) was set in place in December and explained to administrators and test coordinators.

I’m glad you have a policy for this.  Not that it’s been followed, but good to get out there.  Was this conveyed to parents to let them know this policy? No.  Can’t have parents even thinking this is an option, can we?

March’s district eNews also explained this was district protocol, as it was intuitive for parents to address concerns with the principal. This is important so each parent’s concern can be addressed with the individual student in mind. For example, some concerns can be addressed by requesting a medical exemption, by putting certain accommodations or supports in place, or by strategizing other solutions.

Yes, get the parents in with the principal who can attempt to coerce the parent into rescinding their opt out request.  Nothing like adding pressure to a parent!  Red Clay is walking a very fine line here…

Principals are also sharing DDOE’s document Requirements to Test Students on Statewide Assessments and a district letter. If, after the discussion with principals, parents still do not want their students to test, we are honoring their requests.

You should be honoring their requests the second you receive a letter and call it a day right then and there.  This coercion tactic is not only immoral and unethical, but gives the impression you know what is best for a child more than their own parent.

Additionally, principals have been provided information to help address common misconceptions. Many people in our community are not aware that the test items were written by educators, not a testing company.

Really? Please name these educators.  Since the schools and the state pay for the test, were these educators paid for their work by UCLA or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and will they be given credit on the assessment?

Many people are not aware Common Core State Standards were developed at the request of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), not federal DOE.  

We all know this, but they were not written by educators.  The educators in the initial phases of this dropped out of the design of the standards.  But the Federal DOE certainly intruded into local control numerous times with the Race To The Top and their current enforcement of their regulations and codes and their ESEA waivers.

Others were not aware of the data privacy in place.

Yeah, it’s so private teachers can’t even see the questions ahead of time or the results.  Just a number or score.  That will help the students…NOT!  And FERPA guidelines in terms of corporations receiving this data are nothing short of a joke!

Many are not aware that students will receive subtest scores, and scaled scores to measure growth over time.

Growth over time for the next grade, or for the next round of say, 3rd graders with the same teacher?  It makes absolutely no sense.  And I can’t wait to see all these scores that will measure “growth”.  It’s going to be a blogger bonanza on that day!

Others were not aware that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is managed by UCLA, not a testing corporation. 

Yeah, cause the Federal grant money ended and they had to do that starting January 1st of this year, but the consortium has been around for about five years and those testing corporations, like American Institutes for Research, call the shots on the test.  I’ve seen many contracts and I beg to differ.

Many are not aware that Smarter assessments were piloted and field tested for two years.

And based on those results, Mark Murphy said 70% of Delaware students won’t make proficiency.  Echoed by former Director of Assessment Brian Touchette that this will go on for “a few years”.

If you have unanswered questions about the test please refer to the FAQ posted on the district DeSSA Intranet page, or speak with your principal.

Or read Exceptional Delaware or the other Delaware blogs or the many national ones like Diane Ravitch and Deutsch29 where you will get a more realistic perspective about what this test really is.

Currently under 2% of our students eligible for testing have had parents request that their students not test.

And what is the coercion percentage?  How many parents were talked out of opting their child out?

The district will notify DOE at the end of the window which of its non-participants were due to parent refusals.

But you will announce the percentages to Newsworks without hesitation to make the movement seem small.  Let’s see if you are so willing to release those numbers a year from now, after parents see the atrocious scores their children received on this year’s test!

As a reminder, teachers are to direct all parents with questions on state testing to the school principal.”

Because we know better than teachers and the Delaware DOE told us to do it like that!

The Monstrous Ego Of Exceptional Delaware

As the opt-out movement is increasing in Delaware and charters are held to the fire, I’ve noticed the comments on here are getting more hostile and opponents of my views are not shying away from expressing their views.  Good, I want you to feel free to state your opinion.

Someone wrote the other day “I get that your blog exists only to stroke your own ego, and not to report responsibly about anything going on in the state…”  This commenter went on to talk about how I have the whole Academy of Dover and the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee mess wrong.  I don’t mind someone pointing out when they feel I am wrong, but please back it up with facts on how you think I’m wrong.  Otherwise I can only view it as opinion.

I’m quite sure I’m getting a lot of heat over my articles on disability organizations in the state.  That’s fine.  I’m not the only one expressing their views on their uneducated opposition of parent opt-out.  I have no qualms doing this either.  Many citizens in the state rely on their “expert” opinions and I have just as much right to challenge them than anyone else.  Some see this as a hostile stance, but I believe their initial actions are very hostile.

As far as my ego running amok, I don’t see it that way.  I see it as someone not operating out of fear or any restrictions to what I report.  Do I get everything right 100% of the time? No.  Sometimes I am fed false information, or complicated data can be misinterpreted based on the wording surrounding it.  It doesn’t mean I am completely wrong in my assertions, but it may not be as bad.  To the commenter who said I don’t report responsibly, how would you rate the media in Delaware in terms of responsible reporting?  Would you say they are 100% unbiased and follow every edict of professional journalism?  Is there such a thing as investigative journalism in Delaware education aside from bloggers?  Because the way I see it, most of the articles in mainstream media on education in Delaware come from the Delaware DOE, Governor Markell’s office, Legislative Hall, or local school stories.  Or the lobbyist organizations in the state who want to promote their views on education.

I remember when I first started digging into Family Foundations Academy last December, and I received many emails from angry parents telling me how wrong I was about Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington.  How dare I state they are stealing from the school.  Well they were, and when it came out in the News Journal a month later, it was the gospel truth.  I don’t mind taking the heat for articles like that because I know the truth will prevail eventually and if I can stir the pot, I will.

Because I dare to go against the highest powers in the state, I must operate out of a feeling of bravery.  I can’t cower to their intimidation or strong attempts to dissuade the public from pursuing issues that go against them.  That would not be responsible of me.  I don’t do this for me.  I do this for the 133,000 public school students who have no voice.  I do it for their parents.  I do it because my own son was a victim of so many egregious events in Delaware schools and this caused me to start digging for the truth.  I do it because our Governor and the DOE run around like every decision they make is right and they are infallible.  I do it because very few will and I have a moral responsibility to do so.

I will fully admit I drop easter eggs into articles all the time, hints of future articles.  For those who are well-informed of things, they see it.  There are some I have inserted into articles that nobody gets but make sense later on when I do post an article concerning that hint.  I get information all the time from several sources, some that nobody knows about.  Some of them turn out to be nothing, but some lead me in a certain direction only to have it turn out to be something completely different but even bigger than the lead.  And some, these poor desperate souls, try to give me blatantly false information in an attempt to diminish what I do.  And some think their lead is a big story, but it falls apart.

I don’t reveal these sources, and I’ve had to kill some stories because the very act of publishing the article would reveal that source in such a way they would be greatly impacted if I did so.  Usually I find a way around it and the story is slightly less than what it was meant to be, but there are some articles that will never see the light of day.  But if someone makes a public comment, anywhere, than I believe that is fair game.  If they contradict themselves publicly, and I find it, and it could change conversation, I’ll do it.  There are some stories I stumble on through sheer luck, and this happens more than anyone would think.  I do tons of research, sometimes keeping me up until the times when most sane people have long since gone to bed.

As an example of the leads I get, Kilroy wrote last night about how Moyer is having a lot of 1/2 days for professional development and he questioned the authenticity of this.  Someone emailed me how East Side Charter has 1/2 days every single Friday.  I immediately went to their website, verified my source was correct, but I checked to see what their hours of operation are: 8-4 Monday to Thursday and 8 to 12:30 on Fridays.  Most schools operate on a 7 hour day Monday to Friday, but East Side does it a little bit differently but the hours of instruction are actually a little bit more than most schools.  I am sure the person who sent me this information would not mind my writing about this to prove my point.

I find it ironic that those who accuse me the most of having this monstrous ego are usually anonymous but want to take potshots at me to think they are bashing me while under the guise of anonymity thinking they will persuade the entire readership of this blog that I am nothing.  I know I’m not going to change education in Delaware to my way of thinking.  But I do know many things I’ve written about have gotten conversations going.  And I’ve done this without joining one single group that would cause me to stifle my actions.  If that’s ego, I will gladly accept the accusation.  I do this for free, with no rewards or benefit.  And I happily accept this odd fate life has given me.  At the end of the day it’s about transparency and looking out for students in Delaware.  I don’t see them complaining, it’s the adults who are afraid to speak out because they are in positions where doing so would cause them problems.

I would challenge all Delaware parents of students to actively go to board meetings of your schools and state organizations.  Check out their websites.  Does what appears on there match what they are saying in meetings?  Are they being completely honest with the public?  Check out their finances and what is reported on the state websites about contracts and money going out.  Make Google your best friend.  After you have done all that, come back with information about why I am so wrong all the time.

GACEC Letter of Support for Gateway Lab School Contradicts Opposition Letter re: House Bill 50

In reviewing GACEC and their modus operandi, I was curious if they gave public comment concerning Gateway Lab School.  This is a charter school designed for students with disabilities that was threatened with non-renewal of their charter in late 2014.  Thankfully, the State Board of Education and Mark Murphy did renew their charter.  Public support was massive for this school.  The GACEC wrote a letter of support for their charter renewal which can be found on pages 6 & 7 of the below document.  My take on this below that.

It comes down to one statement in their letter: “In conjunction with our role as the state advisory panel, we would like to share our concerns on the recent decision by the Charter School Accountability Committee to recommend the State Board of Education revoke the charter of the Gateway Lab School based on assessment data.”

Assessment data should not be the sole factor in making a policy decision as per the GACEC.  But in their letter of opposition to House Bill 50,  President Robert Overmiller with the GACEC writes “the validity of overall test results will be undermined if large numbers of students do not participate in the assessment.”  So GACEC can determine when data should and should not be used.  The main issue with Gateway Lab School was academic performance.  I completely agree with the GACEC, standardized test scores should never make or break a school.  But they can’t play both sides on this balance beam.  Because “Avoiding the unpleasant reality of assessments and their place in public education is not a viable response to relatively poor overall performance by Delaware students” as Overmiller wrote in the opposition letter, completely goes against their reasoning for supporting Gateway’s charter renewal.

In the case of Gateway, Overmiller actually went to the school to observe and see how their students were doing with the school and if they were showing academic interest and their special education was offering a rewarding environment.  He found it was.  But in the case of parent opt-out, Overmiller did not reach out to parents who are opting out, or try to understand the motivations behind their decisions.  Has he talked to teachers or the DOE about  the technical accommodation issues affecting students with disabilities?  Did he observe how these children are doing on the test?  This council is meant to look at issues with citizens with disabilities, but in their opposition letter, they never once say the words “special education” or “disabilities”.  Once again GACEC, you can’t have it both ways.  I truly believe the GACEC should rescind their letter of opposition to House Bill 50 until they have truly educated themselves on this issue.

Why Are Red Clay & Capital School Districts Ignoring Board Approved Resolutions Supporting Opt-Out?

Dr. Mervin Daugherty was present at the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education meeting just two weeks ago when their board unanimously approved a resolution supporting parent opt-out without penalty to students.  Dr. Michael Thomas was present at the Capital Board of Education meeting last October when their board passed the same resolution.

So can someone tell me why Red Clay teachers are telling their students not to opt out or they will get a zero on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and their school’s scores will go down?  And why this is coming to them in orders from a district levels to let students know?  And why did Capital School District tell WHYY/Newsworks education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent they were able to talk 1/3rd of the opt out requests they received from parents into taking the test?

“Burgoyne says the district has convinced about a third of the parents who considered opting out to ultimately let their children take the Smarter Balanced exam.”

This article also has figures that conflict with other reported figures.  Capital Board member Matt Lindell publicly stated his district had 11% opt-out according to the district offices.  But the Newsworks article says only 34 students have opted out.  The article talks about students who have been “formally opted out” with their numbers.  What does “formally” even mean?  Is this where they have been taken out of the computer system or the school “approved” a request, like Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick has publicly stated?

This is just another reason why House Bill 50 needs to pass so these districts are consistent with not only their reporting of opt-outs, but also veiled threats or “convincing” parents and students receive.  I don’t see all these state agencies, groups, and corporate interest-lobbyists talking about that aspect of any of this.

Delaware parental enemies 1 & 2: GACEC and SCPD. HB 50 opposition wields a misinformed sword!

Delaware IEP Task Force Bill Unanimously Released From House Education Committee

The mood in the Delaware House Education Committee meeting this week was a great deal lighter than last week.  Delaware Senator Nicole Poore’s Senate Bill 33, otherwise known as the IEP Task Force bill, cleared through the House Education Committee with no “nay” votes.

The biggest topic of conversation surrounded teachers or contractors in IEP meetings.  Several individuals commented at the IEP Task Force meetings held last fall that they felt intimidated or in some cases, threatened, about advocating for a student during an IEP meeting.  Part of the legislation of Senate Bill 33 would put into state law that this practice would not be legal.  Opponents of this one section were worried about teachers or contractors speaking out without enough knowledge to help the student, which could lead to many complications according to these individuals.  Members of the task force gave public comment explaining why this was included, and that while some districts may not have these issues, others have.  Although a representative from the Delaware State Educators Association was present, they had no public comment on this matter.

Delaware State Rep. Sean Lynn was concerned about the exact wording for parent or guardian as some people may legally be assigned those rules from the court.  He suggested a potential amendment, but Attorney General Matt Denn, who also chaired the IEP Task Force, explained this definition of “parent” is already written into State and Federal law.  No amendment was introduced by Lynn upon hearing this.

State Rep. Kim Williams asked when the Procedural Safeguards parents receive when they ask for an IEP or 504 plan was last updated.  Maryann Mieczkowski, Director of the Exceptional Childrens Resources group with the Delaware DOE  and an IEP Task Force member answered 2009 when the law was last changed, but it would be updated to reflect the new law if Senate Bill 33 becomes law.

A few individuals, including myself, expressed a desire to see the IEP Task Force continue, which Denn hinted may happen during the task force meetings last fall.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan wanted this, but she wanted the group to focus more on student outcome going forward.  She didn’t clarify what this meant, if it was about standards-based IEPs, or transition issues for students who become adults with disabilities.  Many Delaware agencies gave full support of the bill in public comment.

Delaware Council For Persons With Disabilities Calls Opt-Out “Ostrichism”

I am a proud ostrich!  Yet another state agency representing citizens with disabilities has come out with an opposition to the Parent Opt-Out legislation, House Bill 50.  In both these letters, one subject is not even mentioned: parental rights.  Today the Delaware Council for Persons with Disabilities released a near-identical letter to the one the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens released yesterday.  More quotes from the News Journal, it will corrupt the validity of a test that has never been determined to be valid, and the usual arguments in opposition to the bill.  Not one mention of parental rights whatsoever.

But this agency says “ostrichism is not a viable response to relatively poor overall performance by Delaware students”.  So this agency for persons with disabilities is taking a stance on ALL Delaware students.  Going a little bit out of your comfort zone there.  Because taking tests that make students cry is a viable response.  Because teachers will be evaluated on these tests eventually and according to Governor Markell “I’m giving you one more year before consequences kick in.”  Because parents have the right to opt their child out of the test but you ignore that fundamental fact.

I know some of these people have to be parents.  Have any of them actually taken the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Why in the world do they trust the Delaware Department of Education to make the best choices for our children?  These agencies need to get out of their bubble and actually see the world outside their Markell-tainted windows.  Opposing a bill for political capital should not be a basis for opposition, and I am sure this will not be the last state agency to do so.

Delaware parents: Do Not Be Fooled by these letters.  The part that ticks me off the most is these agencies do some excellent work for our students with disabilities, but when it comes time to oppose something the Governor does these groups get very busy supporting him.  We get the state gives you funding, but don’t think for one second the ordinary citizens won’t hold you accountable for your public comments.

The GACEC Is Continuing To Oppose House Bill 50 Through Inaccurate Internet Links

Once again, the leadership of the Delaware Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens is opposing House Bill 50 by communicating links to their membership and those on their email list.  The latest is an article by a Home School organization talking about Arne Duncan’s funding cut threat.  I would post a link, but honestly, I’ve seen tons of these same articles in the past week.  It’s a hollow threat, said by a man who is astonished that parents don’t agree with his education reform.

I responded to the GACEC with this email:

Hello again,

Thank you for forwarding this.  I received a link of this last night.  Here is how I interpret Arne Duncan’s threat of “stepping in”.  The federal law clearly dictates all schools (public) must give the test.  This is because some schools have, in the past, excluded certain students so their scores were better.  The law is written for the schools, not parents opting their kids out.  Being that NO school in America has received federal funding cuts due to going below the 95% threshold, and many have in the past few years, I see this as an empty threat.  As well, the Chancellor of Schools in NY publicly stated last week there is some latitude given to each state in how any cuts would be handled.  These are false threats, given by a desperate man who is in the process of watching everything he built start to crumble.  And the mold he is made from is the exact same one that fits Mark Murphy and Governor Markell.

So please, leadership of GACEC, please thoroughly review this stuff before you send it out and scare people.  I have seen about three dozen articles linking Duncan’s quote since he said it last week.  I have also seen just as many that prove he has no legal basis to implement ANY funding cuts due to opt out.

I am not sure why you are trying to railroad this bill so hard.  We all know Governor Markell is against it, but I thought the GACEC was able to make up their own minds on issues in the best interest of all citizens with disabilities.  I have talked to the parents who are watching their children stress out so hard they are vomiting.  I’ve talked to the mothers  who are in tears because their school and district are giving vast amounts of threats and pressure to talk them out of opting out.  I’ve seen the letters that go to parents in Delaware, signed by superintendents, when it is in reality a DOE contractor paid a great deal of money to “convince” parents of the Smarter Balanced Assessment’s validity. I’ve read about Governor Markell’s “remedial classes” plan with Smarter Balanced and the colleges and universities in Delaware and also know that when the DOE was asked to provide the professors that validated the Smarter Balanced as an effective test, they were told to ask the universities. 

So please GACEC, do not rely on links that are spread around the internet every single day that just boast of the threats but don’t do the research behind them.  If you want to take a true stand on this issue, it is far too important to not educate yourselves on every single facet of the issues.  At the end of the day, this is about a parent’s right to decide for their children.  If the GACEC can’t stand for that, what can you stand for?

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Delaware Senate Bill 72 Would Prevent Another Mark Murphy As Secretary Of Education

Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 72 in Delaware.  This bill would change the qualifications for the Delaware Secretary of Education.  Had this been law four years ago, Mark Murphy would not have qualified.  I believe the Delaware legislators are way past the point where they are sick of the Delaware Department of Education and their shenanigans.

Delaware IEP Task Force Legislation To Be Heard At House Education Committee Tomorrow

Senate Bill 33, sponsored by Delaware Senator Nicole Poore, will be heard in the Delaware House Education Committee tomorrow at 2:30pm at Legislative Hall in Dover.  While this bill is not nearly as controversial as House Bill 50, there is some controversy surrounding it.  Just search Senate Bill 33 on this blog for past articles.  From the legis.delaware.gov website which thankfully has fixed the linking issues since they redesigned the site last month:

Chamber: House

Chairman: Jaques

Location/Room: House Chamber

Date/Time: 04/29/2015 02:30:00 PM

Revision Num:

Agenda

SB 33 w/SA 3 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM.
Sponsor : Poore

HB 52 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS.
Sponsor : Hudson

HB 81 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION PROFILE REPORTS.
Sponsor : M. Smith


Comment:

Meeting Minutes:

***UPDATED*** Delaware DOE Looking At 5 More Years Of Priority Schools ***WRONG***

***UPDATED*** Ignore the below comments I made based on this public notice.  School Improvement Grants, otherwise known as SIG funds, are grants given to schools that may or may already be in a priority school status.  The waiver Penny Schwinn is requesting is to have the availability of these funds extended from 2016 until 2020.  Schools actually request these, as can be seen on this list of schools that have applied for SIG funds in the past.  Yes, I do correct mistakes!

I just found this on the DOE website while trying to find other information:

PUBLIC NOTICE

Notice is hereby given, that the Delaware Department of Education (Department) has posted the following for comment:

An application for Title I, 1003(g) School Improvement Grant funds, which can be found here, will be submitted to the US Department of Education on April 15, 2015.  The application will include the waiver shown below.  The Delaware Department of Education will accept comment on this request through May 15, 2015. All comments received on the request will be forwarded to the US Department of Education through May 15, 2015. 

The State requests the following waiver:

 

  • In order to extend the period of availability beyond September 30, 2016, waive section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. § 1225(b)) to extend the period of availability of FY 2014 school improvement funds for the SEA and all of its LEAs to September 30, 2020.

 

Public comment regarding the waiver request mentioned above can be submitted to: Penny Schwinn, Chief Accountability and Performance Officer, Accountability, Assessment, Performance Management and Evaluation, Telephone (302) 735-4090; FAX: (302) 739-3092; Email: penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us

If I were a parent or educator in any low-income school that receives Title I funding, I would send an email of opposition to Penny Schwinn as soon as possible.  Because this is not about the existing priority schools but using funds to create new ones.  This was at the very bottom of Schwinn’s link to the application:

A “new award” is defined as an award of SIG funds to an LEA for a school that the LEA was not previously approved to serve with SIG funds in the school year for which funds are being awarded—in this case, the 2015–2016 school year. New awards may be made with the FY 2014 funds or any remaining SIG funds not already committed to grants made in earlier competitions.

Delaware House Education Committee Minutes From 4/22/15, House Bill 50 Parent Opt-Out

The below are the minutes from the 4/22/15 meeting of the Delaware House Education Committee.  The bulk of the meeting was in regards to House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation.  Also included are public letters of comment, remarks from DSEA, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, and University of Delaware Professor Farley-Ripple.

GACEC Sells Delaware Special Education Students Down The River In Letter Against House Bill 50 **Updated With My Response to the GACEC**

The Delaware Governor’s Advisory Committee for Exceptional Citizens wrote a letter in strong objection to House Bill 50.  This is a group designed for the sole purpose of improving the lives for Delaware’s citizens with disabilities, including students.  It is obvious by the tone and nature of this letter, this group does not promote parent rights and thinks all students should be tested with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I shouldn’t be surprised, this is a group funded by the state.

A year ago, the first time I spoke at a Delaware State Board of Education meeting, I was approached by a member of this committee to come to their meetings and that I was a strong advocate for children of special needs.  I went to a couple of their meetings and didn’t really like some of the overall tones of some of the individuals there, especially their subgroup looking at legislation.  I found it to be very condescending and arrogant that the leader of this subgroup shot down some legislative ideas I had without even bothering to look at them.  Had I joined this group, I would not have been able to write as much as I do.

I am very disappointed at this group’s stance on parent opt-out.  I have to wonder how many parents who have actually opted out their children, especially those with disabilities, they reached out to.

I blew holes through the whole Federal 95% rule last week, so they can’t say that.  The whole assessment inventory thing was designed by Markell and Jaques to distract parents from the Smarter Balanced Assessment which would never be considered by them to be removed as a horrible test.  The validity of the test has already been undermined because it was written by the same company that administers it along with many other corporate education reformers.  Their concerns with who opts out is inconsistent, one minute they talk about special ed and minorities but in the next they talk about “high-achievers”.  This is just another group in Delaware that will believe anything the governor and the DOE throws their way, and it’s obvious they rely on the News Journal for their information which is very frightening.

GACEC has me on their email list.  Very interesting how they didn’t send this out to all the folks in Delaware on this list.  So much for transparency.  This is exactly why I don’t join groups like this.  Where was this group when the DOE was giving a presentation to the State Board of Education on Smarter Balanced updates two weeks ago?  The one where their report showed severe issues of accommodations working which causes hours of wait time for students with disabilities?  The one where Penny Schwinn didn’t even talk about it?  The News Journal, WDDE and WHYY/Newsworks were there, but they didn’t report on this.  the only one that did was me.  Because parents have a right to know about things like this.  The things no one else will report.  Which is why I will NEVER put myself in a position where I cannot get the truth out to people.

Governor Markell uses groups like this to say “We reached out to stakeholders,” while they endorse his agendas without reaching out to the true stakeholders.  Just take a look at the members of groups like this and you can see the cross-pollination of so many of them on different groups, councils, committees, and yes, even state Departments.  Perhaps some energy should be going into examining how effective our taxpayer dollars are being used with groups like this who won’t support parents when they need them the most.

I sent the following email to the GACEC minutes ago:

Members of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens,

I’m glad this was sent out today so I could respond on another issue which was not communicated to everyone on this email list concerning a topic of great conversation.  The GACEC issued a letter to the 148th General Assembly concerning House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill.  I found this letter to be very slanted, with information that was not truly researched.  It showed a clear bias against parents who opt their children out, especially those with disabilities.

I did not see any representation from the GACEC at the Delaware PTA Parent Opt-Out Town Halls, the House Education Committee meeting on this legislation, the Delaware State Board of Education meeting a couple weeks ago where they reported on severe accommodation issues for students with disabilities, or actively seek out parents who have opted their children out to find out why.

This group is meant to stand for citizens with disabilities, not to continue to perpetuate the lies and agendas of a corrupt Governor and HIS Department of Education.  This is unacceptable from the council, and I am very sad for the students with disabilities, as well as other students, who are forced to take a test that is already being used for issues that were never approved by the General Assembly or even the Department of Education.

I hope you will reconsider your stance using the News Journal as anecdotal evidence on an issue that deserves more thought and consideration.  I have posted an article on this, which you can read here, which will include this email as well.

Kevin Ohlandt

An Inside Look At AIR: The Most Terrifying Company In Education Reform

The scariest company making millions of dollars from the Delaware Department of Education is not who you would think.  It’s not Pearson, or Amplify, or even the Rodel Foundation.  It is a company which has been a part of education policy longer than Common Core was even an idea.  This company sowed the seeds for No Child Left Behind and they even helped to tear down one of Bill Gates original education reform agendas.  This company is American Institutes for Research, otherwise known as AIR.

AIR is the contracted vendor to create and distribute the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the state standardized assessment in Delaware.  But they have been around in Delaware since long before this.  They were also the testing vendor for the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) in Delaware.  To date AIR received over $35 million dollars from the Delaware DOE as per Delaware Online Checkbook.  How did Delaware bargain students to such a company? Continue reading An Inside Look At AIR: The Most Terrifying Company In Education Reform

Which States Allow Opt-Out of Standardized Testing?

I’ve heard differing answers to this, so I figured I would check for myself.  Two states have very clear and distinct laws which allow parent opt-out of standardized testing, and those are California and Utah (Utah code Ann. Paragraph 53A-15-1403 (9)).  However, many other states have enough weight in their laws which can easily allow for opt-out.

In Pennsylvania, a student can be opted out of the standardized assessments for either religious or moral reasons.  But the parent has to review the assessment and make a decision.  A child can only graduate if they either do a project-based assessment due to being opted out or if the superintendent gives a waiver.  What is very interesting about Pennsylvania though is the 95% Federal requirement.  This does not apply to Pennsylvania since they filed for a No Child Left Behind waiver on this provision and it was granted to them.

In Tennessee, a child can be opted out by a parent if they are required to take a “survey, analysis or evaluation” (Tenn. Code Ann. §49-2-211) but it isn’t clear if this applies to the state assessment.

Wisconsin has a rather odd law  (Wis. Stat. § 118.30(2)(b)3) that stipulates any student in 4th and 8th-11th grades can be opted out if a parent wants that, but for standardized test purposes, 3rd and 5th-7th must test.

Oregon (OAR 581-022-1910) allows opt-out for disability or religious reasons and it does not affect a student’s graduation requirements as long as they can show proficiency in understanding the state Essential Skills in reading, writing and math.  Schools are held to the federal benchmark of 94.5% instead of the usual 95% for participation rates.

These are the key “opt-out” states, however many states currently have legislation like Delaware’s House Bill 50.  In New Jersey, their bill cleared their House unanimously and it is waiting for a Senate vote.  I will be updating those states this evening.  All of these would be contingent on a Governor signing the laws, and some states it is very doubtful a Governor would, but you never know.  If Delaware passes it, I am very curious how Jack Markell would handle that…

Doc Holodick’s Letter About Smarter Balanced Sent To Parents

Brandywine Superintendent Mark Holodick sent a letter to parents dated February 10th.  Some parents just got the letter this week with a Texas postmark.  Way to educate parents about a huge test over two months later Dr. Holodick!

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Hey, I want to know which Delaware educators helped create this train wreck!  Can we get a list of names?

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How many will reach the bar?  Not many.  Only 30% from what the DOE says.

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This ELA sample could be very subjective, but the human grader may not be objective.  This is a disaster waiting to happen!  Wait, it already is happening…  Delaware Parents: Please support House Bill 50 and opt your child out if you feel this is not the test for your child.

Former Math Teachers Defeats Their Own Argument! Comment Rescue!

It’s been an interesting weekend in terms of comments on the blogs.  The below was seen on Who’s Minding The Children in an article about student data.  The commenter was someone called Former HS Math Teacher.  I have no clue who this individual is, but their story is very interesting.

Story time.

While teaching, I primarily taught 11th and 12th grade (with a few 9th and 10th graders thrown in for fun). A very large number of my students were in the process of applying to college and taking the SAT. It was a pretty common topic of discussion between me and my students.

My school, which primarily served low SES students, was attempting to support students in this process as best as we possibly could. Two teachers in the school took on a much larger part in this – specifically myself and the English Department chair. We did everything that we could for our students in this regard. We built an SAT prep curriculum for our students, tutored them after school daily, reminded them of every deadline, helped them navigate choices for colleges, among tens of other things. We took the concept of in loco parentis about as far as it can be taken, at least in regards to the college application process.

Many of our students were extremely disappointed throughout the process, especially with their SAT scores. Their in school success was not correlating to success on the SAT or in college applications.

“I’m a straight A student! Why can’t I pass the SAT?”

Of the 350 juniors who took the SAT that year, there were only 3 that achieved a score above a 1550 (largely considered the college-ready score).

I find myself needing to make the following statements so that I don’t get entireIy torn apart:
I have no personal interest in the pro-reform movement. I find myself generally neutral towards it.
I believe that a strong public education system is important for the health of a community (and vice versa).
I believe that teachers must be empowered to make decisions about their students.
I believe that curriculum should not be limited to a textbook.
I believe that using test data punitively for schools and teachers is degrading to the profession.

Given all of those qualifiers, though, I do believe that there is importance in our students taking standardized tests. While the trend on your blog and many like them is to utterly disagree with absolutely everything that DEDOE and Mark Murphy state, there is value in the claim that, “Test scores provide invaluable information to help improve schools.”

In the case of my students, had we had data that was appropriately aligned to college-readiness information, teachers would have been able to adjust their formative and summative assessments appropriately. We could have appropriately adjusted our curriculum so that students received grades more indicative of how they were performing relative to their peers across the country. In this case, DCAS was not an aligned test and did not provide teachers with the information that they needed. (Slight tangent – throughout the state, students who received a 4 or higher on the math portion of the DCAS only had about a 50% chance of receiving a 500 or higher on the math portion of the SAT. Had it been an aligned test, then students receiving a 3 or 4 would have had a near 100% chance of receiving a 1550 or higher).

While we might believe that SBAC or PARCC is overbearing on students, standardized tests are not as terrible as you might believe. The information they provide schools can be quite valuable. While it may not provide information as immediately as we would like, when used appropriately they can provide teachers with a metric for how students are performing in a classroom as compared to a college-readiness benchmark. It also helps students’ future teachers with gaining background on their incoming students.

As an aside, I’m not sure how bringing up all of the data that teachers have access to is helpful. Should teachers not have access to this data? Also, I’m unsure of your background as it relates to teaching, but school employees only have access to the data that they might need to perform their job. For example, I did not have access to IEPs and 504s of students who were not my own (as is the law).

I took the SAT in high school.  I was average, not too far below, not high enough to get into Harvard.  But this teacher only had three out of 350 students pass based on the state score of “proficiency”.  And they were a math teacher.  I’m not sure what the timeline is on this, but if I took a guess, it would have to be in the past 15-20 years which would put us in the era of “new” math.  While new math has it’s proponents and opponents, based on this story, I would have to wonder how all these latest “reforms” in education work out for the students.  It seems like they are the ones that suffer the most.  Yes, this was a low-income school.  But maybe the problem isn’t the curriculum.  Maybe it isn’t the teachers.  Maybe it’s the low-income.  Depending on the city or state, this could mean many things.

This teacher obviously saw a troubling trend with students at their school so they decided to implement a plan, along with an English teacher, to get the students scores up.  Only 3 out of 350 made the mark.  How many did so the year before and the year after? Without that information, it’s kind of like throwing darts in the dark and hoping you hit your target.  Did the students do poorly in spite of the educational tinkering by the math and English teacher or because of it?  If anything, this post proves to me that if you mess with education curriculum too much it can have disastrous results.

Delaware and Poverty, How Far Have We Come In Six Years?

I found this report online, and I have to wonder how far Delaware has come since the issuance of this report back in 2009.  In terms of the education part of the report, this has the corporate education reform hallmarks all over it.  This is pre-Race To The Top and Common Core in Delaware, but everything was gearing up for it, even when the Poverty Task Force started under Governor Minner back in 2007.

Are we going to reduce that poverty level by 50% in the next four years?  I hear teachers from the priority schools talk, and I hear stories that bring tears to my eyes.  It’s heartbreaking that we live in a state where this happens.  It angers me that our Governor is more concerned with implementing education initiatives that don’t tackle the problem of poverty at all.  As if rigor and assessment is the way out.

I see lots of familiar names in this report, and many I’ve never heard of.  I wasn’t really involved in education six years ago.  I see this report and wish I was.  It’s not just Wilmington where poverty exists.  I live in Dover and it is here too. It’s pretty much everywhere in our state.  I have to wonder why we “invest” millions upon millions of dollars in education with little or no results?

Smarter Balanced Contract With State of Washington, Lead State In Consortium

Good fortune has allowed me to receive the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Contract with the State of Washington.  Washington is the lead state in this consortium of states involved with this standardized assessment.  The usual vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment is American Institutes for Research.  Read this contract very carefully to see exactly what is involved in all of this.  From what I understand, this contract is applicable to any state within the consortium….including Delaware…

My HB 50 Letter

Minding My Matters

I sent this late last night to all members of the House Education Committee as well as all sponsors and co-sponsors of this important legislation.

“April 25, 2015

Dear House Education Committee Members;

It was my pleasure to be in attendance at the April 22 House Education Committee meeting and to hear the discussion and debate around HB 50. I was concerned about what I felt were a few areas of inconsistent messaging and inaccurate information, and I wanted to share my thoughts further.

During my public comment, I pointed out that many members of the committee demonstrated the basic issues with the standardized testing system. It is not lost on me as a parent and an educator that there needs to be both accountability and demonstration of student achievement. However, when the major concerns raised by many of the legislators present revolved around the “uneducated inner city parents” being…

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