DSEA & RCEA President Back An “Alternative” To House Bill 50 & Stab Parents In The Back

Delaware State Educators Association

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:

From: DSEAInfo@DSEA.org
To: dsea-info@list.nea.org
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

Dear Member,

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

Policy Advisor

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! 

In Solidarity,

Frederika Jenner

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.

29 thoughts on “DSEA & RCEA President Back An “Alternative” To House Bill 50 & Stab Parents In The Back

  1. Kevin —

    As you and many others know, I have no problem being called out. However, I wound respectfully ask that you please publish the second half of my public comment from yesterday where I specificay state that the SBAC is the bad test that is useless to teachers.



    1. With all due respect, parents needed backing yesterday. We didn’t get it, at all. Anyone knowing how this works can tell you SJR #2 is the House Bill 50 killer. It’s written on the wall in big bold letters. DSEA wants so bad to have their voice heard, but when parents NEED to have their voice heard, it is not supported in full. We get weak statements from them without REAL backing. They can’t have it both ways. If they want parents to support teachers, then they need to support us. There is no gray area.


  2. DSEA is somewhat of a misnomer. The name implies that it is about education, which one would think encompasses both parents and educators. It is my understanding that it is the teachers’ union. From what I have heard, teachers’ unions exist only to protect and advocate for teachers.


    1. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I think if it came down to protecting teachers over parents, then that is the end result. I’m not saying they are against parents, I’m saying in this situation they fell into a very deadly trap set by our Governor, our Department of Education, and certain legislators.


  3. I’m going to respectfully ask for a “time out” on this one. Firstly, I completely agree that DSEA has played the hokey-pokey with HB 50. However, it does appear that SJR#2 “could be” entirely separate from HB 50 and one does not necessarily mean the other will fall by the wayside (necessarily). You are absolutely correct in asking, even demanding, that education associations stand behind House Bill 50!! I wholeheartedly believe teachers and parents are the ONLY stakeholders in this who have the students’ best interests at heart. I also believe that skepticism on behalf of anything that Jaques and Sokola do at this point is healthy. However, Kristin Dwyer has an incredible reputation (among the education associations statewide) for knowing the truth about what is going on at Leg hall and for bringing unlike minds together) so I can completely understand why Mike Matthews would value her opinion. At some point, someone has to trust someone somewhere. I believe you are doing the right thing by applying more and more pressure to the HB 50 issue, but lets not turn this into teacher vs parents issue at this point of the game. We still need teachers in this whole-heartedly and they need parents just as much!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree, but I would urge anyone who thinks DSEA isn’t being fooled by the powers-that-be to read every single article I’ve written about Senate Joint Resolution #2 and it’s genesis. This didn’t come from parents or teachers, it came from the very same powers that have screwed over teachers and parents EVERY chance they get. This is the turning point to all of this. I need all of you to trust me on this. DSEA and all the locals need to publicly and loudly reject SJR #2 and back HB 50. Not just with “we support this”, but also why. This is another education reform Trojan horse.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get it too. Teachers ARE parents too. The reality of this is that government and administrators play on the kindness and generosity teachers have. It is in our blood. We want everyone to get along. WE, as teachers, need to keep our guard up, listen, and always proceed with cautious. I do not stress anyone and I hate to say that…


        1. I need to not type on a road trip. Proceed with caution. I do not trust anyone and I hate to say that…


  4. Kevin, great post, and I hate to call you out, but I’m relieved (and surprised) to find you just discovered the teacher’s union is not concerned about the parents as much as they are about the dues-paying members. If tomorrow, the Markell and/or Obama administration decided that they would not allow SBAC results to be used whatsoever in teacher evaluations, and the school’s funding wouldn’t suffer due to poor test scores, the union opposition will disappear with the snap of a finger. Meanwhile, all you parents who want the right to have a say in your child’s education will be left on your own to face the state.
    The harsh reality is, unions exist for dues-paying members, not the kids. Yes, teachers on an individual or group level may love and care about kids, but the way our schools are funded and run simply doesn’t permit school district leaders and union reps to think about any real changes to the schools besides getting more money. Why else do they fight any school choice option tooth and nail? Including ESA’s for special needs children and even homeschooling? It’s because they’re afraid of losing funding if kids don’t enroll in a traditional public school, and that alone ought to tell you what their real interest is. No one was trapped or fooled by the Markell Administration, I will say that now.


    1. I agree with you Sam, the unions will follow the money and have little interest in the kids needs. However, the way the public education system is going with charters and school vouchers don’t you think it’s in their best interest to ban with parents now to make changes before the public education falls to pieces. The corporate reformists obviously want to bust up unions at the expense of our kids so we are all in this together. It’s time to have each other’s back or we’ll never get anywhere.


      1. Appo mom, I agree with you again. It is in their best interest to band with parents. Not the DOE! DSEA doesn’t get it. They think working with the DOE and certain legislators will get them the results they want. And when it blows up in their faces, they say “What happened?” and the cycle begins again and again. DSEA will be dead along with public education in 10 years if they don’t start picking the right sides…


    2. I won’t go as far as you did Sam. When it comes right down to it, they were trapped. I don’t think it was intentional at all on DSEA’s part, but it was very intention on DOEMarkell’s end. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing. I agree with you on the role of unions, they are there for their membership. I’ve never doubted that. It would be like a gas station only selling Swedish fish otherwise. But I’m not completely sold on ESAs either. Still a lot of devil in the details on those as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As a DSEA member I have encouraged leadership to stop “playing ball” “in good faith” with districts and DOE. There is no such thing as “good faith” in DE. We lose EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. Believing there is any “good faith” is how we keep getting ourselves into these never ending messes.


    1. All of Mike’s comments have been posted Steve! Let me get something absolutely clear. I think Mike is an awesome guy, and he truly has teachers and students in mind with everything he does. I don’t think DSEA and Mike intentionally backed SJR #2 with the intention of causing problems for HB 50. I believe they want both. With that being said, there are red flags and danger signs ALL OVER SJR #2. It is not something that should be taken at face value. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” and all that. Look at SJR #2 from a teacher’s perspective. We all know SBAC isn’t going to disappear any time soon no matter what Lindsey O’Mara says. Which means assessments in the districts are going to disappear. These will be less opportunities to show REAL growth for your students, therefore less chances for students to do well on SBAC. Lower scores on SBAC=lower scores for teacher evaluations=more justification for DOE to continue to be jerks to you guys. What I want is for DSEA to break away from playing these parlor games with the DOE and fully unify with parents, like they did in New Jersey. Solidarity!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for posting my full comments, Kevin.

    Kavips — Here’s what I will say. I want the testing inventory. I have told DSEA that it is my hope that a large portion of this task force will be focused on SBAC. As my comments at the committee hearing make clear, most of my members in RCEA don’t have a problem with quite a few of the assessments used to determine benchmarks and create goals for students. Many are quite useful and provide immediate feedback so that plans for action can be developed and implemented for students. SBAC does neither. It was originally thought that SBAC was off the table for this task force. That is now no longer the case, as SJR 2 clearly states all assessments, including SBAC, will be on the table.

    I am now supporting SJR 2 because it has been amended to provide for much stronger input, oversight, and possible action by the General Assembly.

    Supporting SJR 2 in no way diminishes my support for HB 50 or the Opt Out movement. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. My members in RCEA are always talking about the obscene amount of tests our students have to take. While RCEA has not yet taken an official position on SJR 2, I’m confident that the membership would support the work of this task force knowing that SBAC is also included.

    We can go back and forth about what the purpose of this bill is or what the motives of the governor and DOE are, but I see this — for now — as simple as Opt Out. Opt Out is a simple statement on parental rights. SJR 2 is a simple statement that we’ve got too many tests. Let’s review them and put SBAC front and center.

    DSEA gets one seat on this task force. I wish it were more. I’m confident President Jenner either will be a fierce advocate for calling out SBAC or she will appoint someone who will.


    1. Namaste Mike! HB 50 is more than a statement though. It will protect students, parents, teachers and schools, and even the DOE to some extent, from 1) the behaviors associated with opt-out from certain individuals, 2) not having the opt out zero scores count towards teacher evals and 3) gives students a semblance of education while others are taking the test. SBAC isn’t going anywhere, and yes, that is a belief of mine, backed by numerous comments and research. If the legislators truly wanted to get rid of SBAC, any one of them could put legislation up for that very purpose. I also don’t trust that the DOE’s “guidance” on this assessment inventory is backed by Achieve Inc., a company who has fingerprints ALL OVER this corp. educ. reform.


    1. Actually, it does now. On the day of the House vote, April 22nd, an amendment was added to the bill changing it from the “state standardized assessment” to “the Smarter Balanced Assessment”.


  7. Let me interject here about teachers not looking out for students and parents. Sam F, that is about the biggest bunch of crap I have ever heard! There are many, many teachers out there who have put their livelihoods, health care benefits, professional statuses, etc. on the line in order to side with parents and students regarding their choice to opt out. Even more teachers have been outraged over the lack of support the union leadership has shown to teachers, parents and students with regard to high stakes standardized testing. You clearly know nothing about why “traveling funds” is a punishment and burden to any school, but especially those who are in the most need of every dollar of that funding. Please, don’t spew divisive nonsense for the sole purpose of creating discontent and then acting like you know it’s not “all teachers”. This is why I asked for the time out. Once a parent starts saying things like “you teachers” and teachers come back with “you parents” we begin winning the battle for Markell, Murphy and the DOE. Just keep your traps shut, unless it’s supportive and uniting and give people (teachers and parents) a chance to get this done.
    Thank you.


    1. I know you didn’t tell me to keep my trap shut! Meet me in the playground after school, and we’ll see whose mouth is going to be shut! (this message is an example of what the commenter was talking about in their comment and should not be misconstrued as a message of violence, but that of sarcasm and humor).

      Liked by 1 person

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