At yesterday’s Senate Education Committee meeting, the Delaware State Educators Association and Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Educators Association, publicly backed Senate Joint Resolution #2, labeled by the Delaware Department of Education as an “alternative” to House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill. An amendment was added to the resolution yesterday, at the request of DSEA, adding more authority to the General Assembly to make “recommendations” to the State Board of Education when the assessment inventory is due on January 31st, 2016.
For an organization representing thousands of teachers in our state and supposedly backs House Bill 50 and parent opt-out, they sure have a funny way of showing it. DSEA representative, Kristen Dwyer, told the committee she supports it but did add she doesn’t want this legislation confused with House Bill 50 because they are two different issues.
When asked by Dwyer if the Smarter Balanced Assessment would be included in the discussion of the assessment inventory, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsey O’Mara, said the following:
“Absolutely, yes, all assessments will be the subject of discussion. We were all invited together to have a discussion about assessments. Hopefully those discussions will be grounded in the reality of the cycle of state legal requirements around assessments. But were happy to have any conversation around any assessment that any member of this group would put on the table.”
Dwyer went on to say “clearly Senate Joint Resolution #2 is a positive step in the right direction.” RCEA President Mike Matthews gave public comment after Senator David Sokola talked about No Child Left Behind and how it should have been called “No Test Left Behind”.
“I had some concerns when this resolution was first introduced. I spoke to Kristen earlier today and I’m supporting the bill. I’d like to see an amendment that the parent be appointed by the PTA and not the Governor’s office. That would be fair. And on a personal note, we’re going to do this testing inventory, I think it’s a great thing, public meetings, get everyone’s opinion on board. The one test, we have a lot of tests in Red Clay, a lot of tests that give immediate feedback, DIBELS, SRI, even to some extent the Measure B’s, the pre and post tests, the one test that gives our teachers, our members absolutely no feedback is the Smarter Balanced Assessment. So I’m hopeful that will be a part of the discussion. I’m very please the language has been strenghthened surrounding reporting out to the legislature.”
*Amended to add Mike Matthews full public comment*
It is painfully obvious that DSEA and Matthews have fallen into the trap set for them by Governor Markell, the DOE, Senator Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques. Because this is what is going to happen: The Smarter Balanced Assessment will be discussed in this group. It will be brought up by someone with legal authority that the Smarter Balanced is the state assessment as required by Federal law. The report will be completed by January 30th, 2016. Maybe some legislation will come out of it when the General Assembly gets fully rolling again in February 2016. It will go through the motions there, which will bring us into April 2016. Well after the next Smarter Balanced Assessment testing window will begin in March 2016.
Some legislative genius will propose the following in the next 26 days of this legislative session: “If the Smarter Balanced Assessment is up for discussion in this assessment inventory, why do we even need House Bill 50? Why don’t we have it stricken?” And they may just do this. I could see this happening in the next week. Now that the Governor’s office has given a happy and cheerful “Absolutely” about Smarter Balanced being included in this process, I can definitely see this. And this is where the trap is revealed.
If House Bill 50 is stricken, or removed from the equation, here is what will happen: we will STILL have Smarter Balanced next year. Parents will opt-out their children. And they will still be harassed, bullied and intimidated by our schools. Teachers will be judged by these tests, whether it is official or not. Schools will be labeled and shamed. Students who are opted out won’t be given proper instructional or educational material to work on while their peers are taking the test. And we are right back to where we were a year ago when the 147th General Assembly passed House Bill 334 allowing the Smarter Balanced to be the state assessment.
Does the DSEA even care about any of this? They say they support House Bill 50, but their public support has been very limited. Do they care if they fall into this trap? I can’t answer that. But what was even more shocking was Mike Matthews publicly supporting SJR #2. Out of ALL the teachers in Delaware, he would have been the last one I would ever expect to back this.
If the DSEA showed as much backbone for parents as they do for educators, the system in this state would be a lot different. But no, they won’t do that. In fact, they will go to bat for teachers every chance they get and call for their support, like in this email they sent out today:
CC: DoverStaff@DSEA.org; NewCastleStaff@DSEA.org; LeadershipTeam@DSEA.org
Subject: DPAS II Proposed Changes – Call to Action
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 2015 13:03:55 +0000
As you may know, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) has sought to make substantive changes to the DPAS II-R evaluation system every year since 2010, when Component Five was first discussed. These annual changes have occurred even as the Department’s own survey data shows a precipitous decline in educator support for the system designed to assess educator effectiveness.
Despite these facts, DDOE is again pushing the State Board of Education to adopt substantive changes to the appraisal cycle and summative rating system. The potential impact of these changes, coupled with the history of other changes and data showing an overwhelming lack of support for the system, once again paints a troubling picture for the educator evaluation system in Delaware.
Issues with Changes to the Annual Appraisal Cycle:
DDOE is currently proposing a move to an annual appraisal cycle for all educators. They contend that this change will provide for “ongoing opportunities for teacher development and student achievement by strengthening and refining the appraisal cycle” and that “new administrative requirements would be offset by the number of required observations and the online platform system.”
DSEA’s position is that the Department’s response does not truly capture the impact their changes to regulations 106A and 107A would have. Administrators conducting DPAS II observations have long cited the amount of time required to complete an observation as a key problem with the current system. This opinion is supported by DDOE’s own Year 6 and Year 7 Annual DPAS II Survey, where administrator respondents specified that “time remains a significant issue.” Simply put, administrators already have far too many employees assigned to them for observations and they continue to struggle to complete the required number of observations and the accompanying paperwork.
Furthermore, the number of required observations has remained the same for the past three years. Last year the Department added the “short observation” (10 minutes in length) as an optional observation type for administrators to use “in addition to” the standard observation, not “in lieu of.”
Additionally, there is no indication that the online portal system would help offset the added administrative requirements, as the Department states it would. Theses proposed changes do not improve the system and actually create the potential for educators to be rated solely on the basis of one 30-minute observation and their Component 5 scores.
Issues with Changes to the Summative Rating System:
DDOE is also proposing to change how the summative ratings for evaluations are calculated and labeled. The primary change is adjusting the numerical scores and labels attached to Components 1-4, allowing for fractional point totals. It also further restricts the summative rating of “highly effective” to only those teachers who score “highly effective” or “effective” in Components 1-4 and “exceeds” in Component 5. The Department chose to submit this proposed amendment knowing that an alternative summative rating system had been proposed by a joint DASA/DSEA DPAS II Work Group.
The DASA/DSEA Work Group, a collaborative team of principals and educators, shared their alternate proposal with the DPAS II Advisory Committee. They also recommended that any changes to the ratings be piloted, with full implementation delayed for one year. The Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed the DASA/DSEA proposal. Despite those facts, DDOE asked the Advisory Committee to recommend to the State Board the Department’s original proposed changes and stated that the DASA/DSEA proposal could be offered as an alternative evaluation system that school districts use pending DDOE approval.
DSEA contends that the proposal of the Work Group is less burdensome than the Department’s changes and that it refines and simplifies the current system. The changes proposed by the Work Group are: (1) Creating uniform rating categories throughout the system for criteria, components, and the overall summative rating; (2) Assigning an equal value of 20% to all components; and (3) Creating a numeric system to determine criteria, component, and summative ratings. The Work Group continues to advocate for their proposed rating system to be piloted statewide with statewide implementation in school year 2016-17.
Call to Action!
The State Board of Education will vote upon these proposed changes at their meeting on June 18th. Now, this is where you come in, public comment on the proposed changes will be accepted until June 5th. So, we are encouraging all of our members to let the State Board of Education know why you oppose the proposed changes by sending in a letter for public comment. We have attached two form letters that you can read and edit to make your own. Once completed and personalized, please email or mail your letter to:
Ms. Tina Shockley
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite 2
Dover, DE 19901
To read the proposed changes click here. To read the letter submitted by DSEA to the State Board of Education stating our issued with these changes, click here.
Thank you in advance for voicing your concerns and taking action with us!
Now if this same organization were to write a letter supporting a parent’s right to opt-out, I would be very impressed. But I have a growing feeling they only care about opt-out as it would relate to teachers and their evaluations.
I have supported teachers and their unions for almost a year now, and backed them time and time again. But when the parents really need their backing, they scurry away like little mice.