Will Governor Markell Show Up At The House Education Committee Meeting Tomorrow? #supportHB50

I’ve been wondering if he would dare show his face in front of all the parents supporting House Bill 50, which would allow parent opt-out of state standardized assessments in Delaware state code.  If you look at his  daily schedule you can see his last public appearance prior to the House Education Committee meeting is at 2pm in his office at Legislative Hall.  So he will already be in Dover.  I can picture him arrogantly giving a big speech about why parents shouldn’t opt out.  This will be THE education meeting of the year whether he shows up or not!

He is also making an announcement at Appoquinimink High School tomorrow at 9am to talk about something related to this “Pathways to Prosperity” initiative.  Markell talked about this during his State of the State address in January.  I am very curious what bomb he will drop on an unsuspecting Delaware this week….

I would highly encourage any parents who do come to the House Education Committee to follow House rules.  It is a very controversial issue, but this is a location that demands respect. While we may not agree with what some folks may have to say, they do deserve their say.  If you do wish to give public comment, I would recommend coming with prepared remarks which you can submit to the committee and would become part of the public record.  I will also be giving them all the signatures from the petition to support House bill 50, which you can still add your signature on here: https://www.change.org/p/delaware-house-education-committee-pass-house-bill-50-to-allow-parent-opt-out-2

The meeting will be live on the legis.delaware.gov website starting at 3:30pm, which is very unusual for a House Education Committee meeting.

Breaking News: DE State Rep. Kowalko Publicly Blasts Governor Markell Over Refusal To Release 3rd State Email

Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko and Delaware Coalition for Open Government President John Flaherty responded in a big and public way with the response Governor Markell’s attorney gave to them in regards to a FOIA request for all of his state email addresses.  You can read the response from Markell’s office and see that this FOIA request was in clear violation of Delaware law!

But in true Kowalko style, he doesn’t stop with a letter to the Governor, he issues a Press Advisory on the matter!

Governor Markell only believes in transparency when it fits his own agendas.  He is NOT a Governor for the people, but for corporate interests.  When will the legislators do the right thing and impeach this man?  The Delaware Way is vile and corrupt, and until Delaware wakes up, our children will pay the price.

The Lying & Deceitful DOE & Their Manipulative Agendas To Screw Over Students With Disabilities

The Delaware DOE is filled with liars with the sole purpose of misleading the public.  When things like “standards-based IEPs” are introduced, they misinform the public by saying things like “they aren’t about the Common Core” when in reality they are.  I received an email today which was very troubling and confirms my suspicions about Delaware’s standards-based IEPs.  This is what was contained in the email:

Where is this “required”?  My child has an IEP.  How come I received no notice from PIC on this meeting?  The email was originally sent to parents with autistic children.  Where is the state-wide collaboration?  Does it even exist?  If you didn’t know, PIC is a requirement of Federal IDEA law that each state has a parent group.  And guess who gives them their funding? The Delaware DOE!

When I first heard about Standards-Based IEPs, many folks told me I was overreacting and that they were not based on the Common Core and the state assessment.  Some said it was a good thing.  The Exceptional Children Resources Group, led by Maryann Mieczkowski, said they are not solely based on the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I actually wrote about this conversation in an article on the November 20th IEP Task Force meeting.

Celestin said DOE is offering training and coaching.  Denn asked if this is required for districts to implement.  She said standards-based IEPs are not required but it is about standards not standardized.  She said parents and IEP teams have struggles with implementing these kinds of IEPs because they need to help students close achievement gaps.  She said teachers are struggling with this and stressed it is not required.  (as Steve Newton mentioned in an article on these IEPs, the measurement for it is the “fidelity” component of the grant in getting schools trained on it).  She did say through compliance monitoring in the future they will look at things that are part of standards-based IEPs in terms of students needs so they will hold IEPs to a higher standard and best practices.  Matt Denn said this isn’t a subject for the IEP Task Force report, but he is hesitant to make recommendations for  something that isn’t required.

I raised my hand to speak again, and Matt Denn jokingly said something about “or if anyone wants to give second public comment”.  I went up and responded to Sarah’s comment.  I advised I went over the DOE presentation to the GACEC (Gov. Adv. Council For Except. Children), and it absolutely is tying IEPs into standards based on “curriculum” which is code word for those who may not know what Common Core is.  I advised the word “rigor” is used in the document which is used by Common Core proponents all the time.  I said rigor is not a word parents like, especially special needs parents, because the way it is used would indicate students with disabilities need to try harder to get to a regular students level, which completely invalidates the spirit of IDEA.

My commentary on tonight’s meeting: Interesting stuff with these transition services coming in.  All of them said “we need more funding”.  In regards to comments made by DOE employees, I know these folks work very hard at their jobs, and for that, they have my respect.  But if Delaware holds such a higher standard for IEPs, why did you need Federal intervention in Special Education?  Why would you hold a higher standard for something that isn’t even legally required?  Cause you like what you have created?  If they look at best practice, why the hell won’t they look at IEP denials?  Who are they trying to protect? (I already know the answer to that, and they know I know but they don’t care) Sorry Sarah, you can say whatever you want, but any presentation that has the word “rigor” in it, which is one of those words that make opponents of common core flip out, is not going to work for me and many other special needs parents.

I went to go back and listen to the audio recording of this meeting, but the audio recording was cut short and is not able to be downloaded.  Many of the audios from this task force were shortened or aren’t downloadable.  But I did recall the Exceptional Children Resources Group giving a presentation on standards-based IEPs to the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens.  There was a whole section on this presentation on “de-bunking the myths about standards-based IEPs”.  The main thrust of this section was “The CCSS (Common Core State Standards) are not a menu for special educators to pick and write from,” and “standards-based IEPs focus on the prioritized skills needed for students with disabilities to have ACCESS to the same standards as non-disabled peers.”

They already have access to the state standards.  It’s called going to public school in Delaware.  I have to admit, with all the attention I’ve given to the parent opt-out movement in Delaware, I let this one slip by.

Here’s the facts: Standards-based IEPs are not written in IDEA regulation nor are they written anywhere in Delaware state code.  Matt Denn, the Chair of the IEP Task Force didn’t even want to include standards-based IEPs in the Final Report for this very reason.  There is absolutely nothing written into Senate Bill 33, the legislation coming out of the IEP Task Force about them either.

The standards-based IEP in Delaware is turning into something every parent of a child on an IEP needs to be very afraid of.  It is all designed to address the Smarter Balanced Assessment when all the catchy phrases and jargon come out of the wash.  Last Summer, U.S. Senators blasted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over Federal intrusion with IDEA and special education but nothing came out of it.

Governor Markell To Teachers: “Giving You Another Year Before Consequences Kick In”

Last night at the Bright Spots Common Ground For The Common Core meeting, Delaware Governor Jack Markell gave a speech and told teachers he was “giving you another year before consequences kick in,” in regards to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware State Board of Education, in their March meeting, sent a request to the U.S. Department of Education to ask for an additional year aside from this year before teachers were held accountable for the assessment.  Does this mean the U.S. DOE denied the request from Delaware? Or was Markell talking about the additional year aside from this year?

Governor Markell also advised the audience he is always willing to hear concerns from educators about the assessment and indicated several have met with him at his office.  He clarified it was based on those concerns that he requested the delay in accountability for teachers.  This Governor has been rather snippy of late since the parent opt-out movement kicked in…

The keynote speaker for the meeting was Steve Leinward from the American Institutes for Research (AIR).  AIR is the DOE contracted vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Brandywine Superintendent Mark Holodick Is Markell’s Mini-Me

“You complete me.”

Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, told reporter Yossi Goldstein with WDEL the Smarter Balanced Assessment is absolutely necessary.  Why?  It’s all about the data.

“We’ve got to stay committed to the particular assessment that we select,” continued Holodick. “So that, over time, the data is relevant and valuable.”

I’m sorry Mark, did you say “that we select”?  Parents and teachers didn’t select this god awful test.  The Delaware Department of Education did, and only after they purchased it did they seek legitimacy from legislators and stakeholders.

“The student already has to take, at some point, a high stakes test, so to speak–to determine whether or not they’re going to have to take a remedial course in college. It might as well be while they’re in high school. So I don’t see that being a negative. I see it being a positive.”

Dr. Brandywine, are you actually admitting the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a high-stakes test?  Thank you!  Yes, I agree with you that high school juniors should have to take some type of test while in high school.  I don’t have an issue with that.  But every year from 3rd to 8th grade?  I don’t think so.  As Kavips recently wrote:

“You have to stop these people from throwing your child into those shrieking whirling blades. Once they ouch your child, whether good or bad, there is no going back. Nothing good ever comes out of a wood chipper. Be the adult. Opt them out.”

Why, I do swear Dr. Brandywine, you sound exactly like Governor Markell.  Do you just listen to his sound bites and practice in front of the mirror when you aren’t shaving (you really should based on your picture, even Mark Murphy does that)?  What’s next?  Should we expect to see a bald Dr. Brandywine in the future?

Red Lining Rodel

Only Kavips can use the words “wood chipper” and “kids” and have it make absolute sense. Please read Kavips latest post as he completely demolishes the op/ed released by Rodel’s Paul Herdman & Friends!

kavips

Allow us to inform you how these people do not tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth….  From their op-ed in the News Journal.

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Judging by the sheer volume of blog posts, social media blips, and op-eds – clearly, a lot of Delawareans today are questioning the role of testing in our schools.  “Bout time!

Is all this testing worth the time and stress? As parents, we all worry about over-testing our kids. We want our children to focus most of their time on learning, to expand their access to the arts and other aspects of the educational experience. But testing still holds tremendous value. Like $119 million of free Race To The Top cash for “Friends of Jack Markell”…

As parents, teachers, and community members, we need to know how our kids are doing. Proper test data tells us which students and schools…

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Penny Schwinn’s Exact Words At The State Board of Education Meeting Last Week Regarding Smarter Balanced Vs. SATs

The digital audio recording of the Delaware State Board of Education Meeting on 4/20 is up on the State Board website, so of course I had to go back and carefully listen to exactly what Penny Schwinn did say in regards to the controversy over the Smarter Balanced Assessment and SATs.

You can listen here: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=4505&ViewID=E324842B-E4A3-44C3-991A-1E716D4A99E3&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=13683&PageID=1770

I went ahead and transcribed the key part, which occurs about three to four minutes into it (the recording doesn’t show a time stamp if you pause it).  The areas in bold are what jumped out at me.

Penny Schwinn: So this is the five-year assessment plan.  Were gonna pass around a copy.  I know you’ve received the copy before.  There’s been a minor change.  We can just talk broadly about what’s going into that.  So for the five-year plan, uhm,  this, we will be doing over the next several months, we’ve distributed this to, uhm, several stakeholder groups, obviously given out on December 1st.     There’s been a pretty big robust discussion on our science and social studies test, specifically making sure we are aligned to our state standards, that we also have computer adaptive tests in a way that, uhm, we know measures student learning and thinking as much as it does content.  Uhm, we have seen pretty strong feedback in regards to reduction in end-of-course exams because they tend to be repetitive, and then also looking at 11th grade assessment.  Looking at 11th grade assessment, obviously with the transition to Smarter Balanced it does increase the amount of tests our 11th graders are taking, uhm, including Smarter, SAT, uhm, APs, etc.  That’s been a really big piece of feedback as well.  So I wanna give you a minute in case there’s any initial questions but what we’re asking from this group is people to write any feedback over the next two months around what you see when you look through these assessments and any potential reductions or changes you  would like to see coming out of the office of assessment.  But those are the big ones.  Again, science and social studies, uhm, the reduction in end-of-course exams, and then reduction in the amount of assessments that are required for 11th graders.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: So what was the change again?

 Schwinn: So what you saw before did not include the, just a little bit of asterisk on the bottom.  We hadn’t committed to, uhm, looking specifically at SAT versus Smarter in 11th grade.  There are several states that are moving in that direction and so what we would be looking at is an either/or potentially in the coming years as opposed to a both.  It would be a big change and we would want a lot of information on that specifically. 

Other conversation occurs at this point with board member Jorge Melendez showing his confusion over the whole assessment inventory process.

Pat Heffernan: I don’t know if you were asking anything, but in terms of the SAT, uhm, in 11th grade, I know as SAT becomes more aligned with Common Core and Smarter, you know, we should sort of know where kids are, going through the continuum.  There is value in taking the SAT for kids who might not otherwise.  So, you know, just factor that into your thinking.  I think it’s a, there’s a value in that, and how you want to… it’s a part of the big picture, right?  An overall sense of strategy, but more than that, the SAT per se, has value in and of itself that needs to be consider when you’re reviewing.

Schwinn: And that’s where we’re, that’s the direction we would be heading, so as the SAT becomes Common Core aligned, it would be a reduction in 11th grade Smarter but the SAT is not something that would be on the tableSo it would be SAT, and then not Smarter Balanced.  It’s not the other way around. 

Gray: What’s the timeframe for Common Core alignment of the SAT?

Schwinn: So we’re, I, there’s two parts to that question.  So we’ll have that through next year, but what we’re looking at is we wouldn’t want to make a decision until we have a couple years of data to be able to match the 11th grade Smarter with SAT, so we can see what the alignments with the test are and certainly see student scores.  We wouldn’t want to make any decisions on the transition within the next two years.  It would be something that would happen over the next 3-5 years once we had more robust data sets.  Uhm, but certainly, if that’s on the table, we would want to be able to fit capacity towards a really deep study and make sure we’re making a responsible decision that truly captures student achievement.   

Sorry Penny, but hearing your actual words, as well as Pat Heffernan publicly commenting about the transition for the SAT to Common Core AND Smarter, confirms that even if you call it the SAT, it will be the Smarter Balanced Assessment with a name change.  Which is what all the corporate education reformers want.  But the DOE and Governor Markell can certainly call it a “reduction” in assessments, but you would do away with the SAT as it is now.  And that’s exactly what Heffernan was talking about, there is value in the SAT.  Sure, people have their beefs with the SAT, but compared to Smarter Balanced, it is infinitely better.  I noticed all your “uhms” in the conversations.  Having told a fib or two in my life, I have certain mannerisms in my speech when I’m not being entirely truthful.  I do believe I, uhm, found yours…

For those listening to this recording, did you notice how fast Penny Schwinn speeds through her topics, with LONG drawn-out sentences that go on forever?  Heffernan does the same, but not fast at all.  You can tell he is thinking while he is talking.  And Schwinn loves the word “obviously” as if we should all agree with her line of thought…