Accountability Framework Working Group Update Interesting Meeting

DelawareFirstState

I attended the AFWG Meeting Number 16 yesterday. There were 10 committee members present and 3 members of the public in attendance. Secretary Godowsky popped in and sat in the meeting for a while and thanked everyone for participating. It was really nice seeing the Secretary of Education at this meeting, this was the second time I have seen the Secretary popping into a meeting.

The next steps: share the recommendations with DESS Advisory Committee (stakeholder group), which happened today, State Board will review and hopefully accept recommendations as presented (State Board representative indicated the board may not accept the recommendations as presented), and then the approved recommendations from the State Board are sent to US DOE.

The members stated again to DOE, what supports are going to be provided to the schools once a school is labeled? We label the schools but there are really no supports in place.

A school…

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Smarter Balanced Test Results; Delaware

Another Lewis With Fake Credentials Destroys Something Good

Fake Credentials.  It’s a stupid thing to do in this day and age.  And you will get caught.  Putting a fake college name on your resume or LinkedIn is just asking for trouble.  For one special education advocate, this is exactly what happened.  But this isn’t just any special education advocate, this one the CEO of a major advocacy company called National Special Education Advocacy Institute.  I just wrote about this company a month ago when I received notice they were having certified special education advocacy courses in Wilmington at $195 a class.  Someone tipped off Fox29 in Philadelphia because they did a huge investigation into Marie Lewis, the CEO of this company.  The video and article make it crystal clear why I can not and will not endorse this company.  Fraud is fraud and it absolutely disgusts me someone with fake credentials would try to profit off students with disabilities and parents trying to help.

Where she’d go to school? It just says “R.U.”

“Where’s your Ph.D. from?” Cole asked.

“From Rockville University,” Lewis said.

“Where’s that, ma’am?” Cole followed-up.

“And so, why are you asking that question?” Lewis asked.

We wanted to know where it is.

“Well, Rockville used to be in Maryland, and they moved, and they actually were absorbed by another school,” Lewis told us.

We checked with Maryland’s Higher Education Commission. No college or university may operate in the state without commission approval, and it has no record of a “Rockville University” when Lewis claims she got her Ph.D. in 2008.

There are also huge issues with their IRS certification as well with questions if they are a for profit or non-profit business.  In the title to this I mentioned another Lewis with fake credentials.  This distinction belongs to Ann Lewis, the former Head of School of the now closed Pencader Business School in New Castle, DE.

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Wants To Add Charters To Priority & Focus Status In ESEA Waiver Request

The Delaware Department of Education just announced, at the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) Advisory Committee meeting, that they will be adding to their ESEA Flexibility Waiver that ALL public schools in Delaware will be given the same label system that is currently reserved for traditional public school districts.  These labels include “Priorty”, “Focus”,  and “Focus Plus”.  Currently, only traditional school districts are included but this would now include Delaware charter schools.  This would not include “Action” and “Watch” schools.  No discussion occurred in regards to funding for these schools.

Yesterday, at the Accountability Framework Working Group, the members discussed this idea and Penny Schwinn stated she would check on this.  Last evening she discussed this with members of the Governor’s staff and this will be added to Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  I’m not sure if the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell’s office have thought about needing public awareness of this as well as a public comment period.  Since Delaware has to hand in their updated ESEA Flexibility Waiver by October 31st, that leaves very little time for public comment.  This is not the same as Regulation 103 for several reasons.  This hasn’t been included in Regulation 103 at this point.  Regulation 103 will tie whatever is approved in the ESEA Waiver Request into State regulation.  Schwinn did state no priority or focus schools will be named in the next three years, so even if the charter addition is approved by US DOE, it wouldn’t happen until Fiscal Year 2019 at the earliest.

I am personally against this whole “labeling” system to begin with.  It is punitive in nature and severely disrupts education.  Making this happen for every school in the state could be very damaging to an already weakened traditional school district system.  This will just make charters that serve high populations of low-income, minority and special needs populations vulnerable to the same damaging effects other schools have gone through.

I asked Penny Schwinn at this meeting why are beholden to Federal “Guidance” from US DOE that is non-regulatory and does not have Congressional approval.  She flat-out answered that US DOE wouldn’t approve our ESEA Flexibility Waivers and we would fall under No Child Left Behind mandates.  Call me crazy, but I think we should call their bluff.  Nothing will change if everyone bows to the feds and says “Yes, we will do whatever you want.”  State Board of Education member Pat Heffernan said it best when he called these “Inflexibility Waivers” at last month’s State Board meeting.

Everything is tied together and it all revolves around the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is all under the direction of Governor Jack Markell.  He has sacrificed the public school education and the well-being of students all for the glory of high-stakes testing in the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It is time for Delaware to decide: do we live in Delaware or Markellaware?  Or is it all just Rodelaware?  I know I sound like Chicken Little all the time with my “the sky is falling” comments, but take a look around you.  Look at everything that is going on, in just the past month alone.  Local control is evaporating by the day and those pieces are gone before anyone realizes they are missing.

Penny Schwinn did go over the participation rate penalty part that I discussed yesterday from the AFWG meeting.  She said the Governor is okay with the option the group picked, whereby the school has to explain what they are doing about opt-out to the DOE and no school below 95% participation rate could be labeled a reward school.  I asked her point blank what changed in the past 24 hours since yesterday it seemed Markell wanted the proficiency rate multiplied by the participation rate option.  She said he was favorable to other options but preferred the infamous “#3” option.  This portion of yesterday’s meeting was not discussed by DOE to the DESS Advisory Committee until I brought it up.

Big Mouth Strikes Again: What Did Earl Jaques Say This Time To Diss Parents?

earlandjack

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques can’t let it go.  He hates parents opting their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Last night, at the SBOE SBAC Pizza Party, Jaques said “Parents make bad decisions for their kids.”  This was in reference to a question posed to participants about why 3rd graders may have done better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment compared to 8th graders.  While he didn’t come out and speak about opt-out, he briefly glanced over at me while he was saying this.  I was at this meeting for a very short time, but fate must have dictated I be there to hear Jaques’ latest rant against Delaware parents who must not know how to raise their children and must bow down before the all-knowing Earl Jaques, his buddies at the DOE and Governor Markell.  Jaques knows my position on opt-out as well and knows I am one of the most fervent supporters for it in the state.

As the House Education Committee Chair, Jaques vehemently opposed State Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson’s bi-partisan parent opt-out legislation earlier in the year.  House Bill 50 passed with a majority of votes in the Delaware House and Senate after months of arguments and amendments to the bill.  While Governor Markell vetoed the bill in July, many Delawareans are hopeful the legislators in the 148th General Assembly will override Markell’s veto when they return in January.  I expect more “Jaqueisms” at that time.  Last March, Jaques publicly stated students who opt out don’t measure up and slammed parents for opting their kids out.  This forever cemented Jaques place in the Exceptional Delaware Wall of Shame and earned him the ire of parents of special needs children.  He has been quiet on the issue up until last night.  Big mouth strikes again…

Apparently, Jaques really hates it if you spell his last name Jacques…

State Board of Education: “Poverty Is Not An Excuse…It Is Not Destiny”

The Delaware State Board of Education continues to ignore the effect Poverty has on students in high needs schools in our state.  As part of their presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover, the State Board presented a slide that said:

Poverty Is Not An Excuse…It Is Not Destiny

Once again, the State Board is using the data that helps to further their cause of convincing the state the Smarter Balanced Assessment is necessary for our children to succeed.  The biggest challenge for the State Board and the Delaware DOE is the issue of low-income and poverty.  To fight this, they are hand selecting schools that fared well on Smarter Balanced.  But do some of these schools already have extra programs that could warrant higher Smarter Balanced scores?  Yes they do.

Lewis Dual Language Elementary School (Red Clay), South Dover Elementary School (Capital), and John M. Clayton Elementary School (Indian River) are all part of Governor Markell’s World Language Immersion program for Spanish.  Booker T. Washington (Capital) houses the district’s gifted and talented program for their elementary schools.  As well, Capital only has 3rd and 4th grade in their elementary schools and no 5th grade.  Other schools cited by the DOE as “beating the odds” (my words) are Long Neck Elementary School and Georgetown Elementary School (Indian River), Town Pointe Elementary School and North Dover Elementary School (Capital), Lake Forest South and Lake Forest East Elementary Schools (Lake Forest), Banneker Elementary School (Milford), Kuumba Academy and Thomas Edison Charter School.

An important distinction to make with all of these schools is that they are elementary schools.  The DOE did not praise any middle schools in this presentation.  The tests 3rd graders take are very different than those for 8th graders.  Comparing the two is not a true indicator for why 3rd graders did better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment than their peers in 8th grade.  As well, this ignorance of poverty does not take a large portion of the poverty issue to task: the very real part that deals with addiction, violence and crime in many of these students’ homes.  All of the schools the DOE talks about are in lower Delaware with the exception of two charter schools in Wilmington.  There are no Red Clay, Christina, Colonial or Brandywine schools “beating the odds”.

As well, the State Board emphasized the Smarter Balanced Assessment is just one indicator of how our schools are doing.  Then why are measurements from the Smarter Balanced Assessment going to account for 90% of elementary and middle schools accountability ratings and 70% for high schools in the upcoming accountability system called the Delaware School Success Framework?  All the other indicators the State Board talks about, growth and resources, are tied to students doing better on this test.  Education in Delaware is now based on performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Poverty DOES matter, and there are facets of poverty Governor Markell said last March “that you and I can’t imagine“.  But it sounds like Governor Markell, the DOE, and the State Board of Education are unable to not just imagine it, they don’t have the first clue how to understand it.  Below is the entire presentation Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, presented to a group comprised of mostly educators and very few parents last night.  If any of you have more knowledge about what these schools may possess that other schools don’t, please share this information in the comments section.