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.