As The SAT Aligns With Common Core And Becomes SBAC/PARCC Lite, How Many Students Will Suffer?

Tomorrow at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting in Dover, DE, a presentation will be given on Delaware’s 2015 SAT performance and upcoming changes to the test in 2016.  Last Spring, Chief Officer of Assessment and Accountability Penny Schwinn at the Delaware DOE advised the State Board the SAT was being aligned with Common Core.  Some states have already dumped the state standardized assessment for 11th graders because of this.

Only two high schools in Delaware had over 50% of their students reach the “college ready” benchmark on the 2015 SATs.  With alignment to the Common Core how will high school juniors perform next year?  When I see terms like “personalized learning” and “problems grounded in real world contexts”, I think Common Core and all it’s education reform friends.  Will we ever escape from the Common Core? January 2017 can’t get here fast enough and hopefully we will have a good Governor and a good President who can guide our state and country away from this insanity…

Colonial To WEIC: We Don’t Want Our Wilmington Students Going To Red Clay Schools

Our only role at this point is to save those babies from having to attend Red Clay because we’re already doing a great job…we need to prevent these children from going to this district. -Mel Spotts, Colonial Board of Education

I always knew some twist was going to come along in the whole Wilmington redistricting initiative.  Something would happen during the process that would cause people to say “Where the hell did that come from?”  That happened last night at the Colonial School District Board of Education meeting.  To end the suspense, the Colonial board voted 7-0 to keep their Wilmington students.  Let me repeat this, they do not want their Wilmington students leaving their school district and going to the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Approximately 350 students.  You can listen to the audio recording here.

Unlike Christina and Red Clay, the Colonial board never passed a resolution in favor of the recommendations or findings from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Existing Delaware law, in addition to the legislation from Senate Bill 122, allows for the bypass of a referendum if the school district boards involved in the redistricting effort passed a resolution in favor of it.  Colonial, in researching their board minutes, never did.  The only involvement with WEAC was a presentation to the school district on 2/23/15, but this was a workshop and just a presentation.

What this means for the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is not known.  This is the monkey wrench thrown into the gears of the entire plan.  In my opinion, Colonial was underestimated and not given the proper attention they should have received.  All of the focus seems to be on Red Clay and Christina.  Colonial seems to be very concerned about the approximate 350 students that would be affected by the redistricting to Red Clay schools.  In their audio recording from their board meeting last night, board member Mel Spotts stated:

I would like to make a motion, based on the data provided, that our students in the Colonial School District stay within our borderlines and are not a part of Wilmington reconfiguration.

The board then passed the motion on a unanimous 7-0 vote to let the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission know they are out of the redistricting process.  What this will do the future of the WEIC/redistricting initiative is going to be a big question in the coming weeks.  But I am fairly certain WEIC Chair Tony Allen and Governor Markell will not be happy about this.  I’m sure the phone calls will be coming fast and furious to Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey very soon, if not already.

I’m also hearing implementation of the redistricting, if it even goes through at this point in time, won’t be until 2018.

*To clarify, if the Wilmington redistricting does go through it is understood that Brandywine School District would receive these students which Ms. Spotts understood later on in the WEIC portion of the board meeting.  But the motion still passed.

*As well I reworded the portion with Senate Bill 122 to clarify what is in existing Delaware code prior to SB122 and what came as a result of it.

What Happened To Innovative Schools Operations Manager At Delaware Met?

It seems Jemeul Anderson is no longer the Operations Manager for The Delaware Met.  This role is through Innovative Schools.  As announced last night, The Delaware Met is up for formal review consideration at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting tomorrow.  According to Join Delaware Schools, a job posting went up yesterday for an Operations Manager at The Delaware Met.  Just click on all jobs, go to administrative, and then look at the last entry, posted 10/13/15.  Innovative School’s website still has Anderson listed as the operations manager for the school.

The tension concerning this school is way past the boiling point.  With Anderson already gone, who is overseeing the management and operations of this school?  The rumors coming out of this school are getting more bizarre by the day.  Delaware State Rep Kim Williams reported on Delaware First State about a letter coming from the school on September 29th concerning a student leaving, but they are now saying the student can’t leave because it was after the September 30th count.  I will continue to pray for these students…

On Monday evening, founding board members Adriane Anderson-Strange and Jillian Wattley resigned from the Delaware Met board.

Updated 12/16/15: The above crossed out part did not happen, I was given erroneous information.

American Institutes for Research Screwed Up Mailing of Numerous SBAC Scores For Families In Delaware

Last night, a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment results was given to the Christina Board of Education by Dr. Dan Weinles, the Supervisor of Assessment, Research & Evaluation for the district.  It was revealed that Delaware’s testing vendor American Institutes for Research royally screwed up on mailing the test scores to well over 1,000 families just in Christina alone, and probably accounts for well over 10,000 families in Delaware if the same mistake occurred statewide.

NOTE: The State Department of Education’s (DE DOE) test vendor (AIR) did not include apartment numbers in its mailing list. As such, many Smarter Assessment parent reports have been returned by the US Postal Service. To date, the Christina School District has received well over 1,200 returned reports. The DE DOE retrieved returned parent reports on Friday, Oct. 9, and the test vendor has committed to re-mail these reports with corrected addresses.

For a company that is so obsessed with proficiency, that is a huge and colossal mistake on their part.  But it isn’t just AIR that screwed up.  Christina reported there were numerous issues with the DOE’s reporting of participation rates in Christina.  Which I find ironic since Penny Schwinn said the DOE “rounded up” the participation rates as much as they could.  Did the DOE intentionally try to make Christina look bad? Again?  You can read the full presentation below:

Delaware’s Fatal Special Education Flaw: Using Response To Intervention

Delaware is considered to be horrible for special education by many around the country.  The reason for this could be due to Response To Intervention.

Under federal law, Child Find is an obligation for all public schools in the United States of America.  Wrightslaw describes Child Find as the following:

Child Find requires all school districts to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disabilities. This obligation to identify all children who may need special education services exists even if the school is not providing special education services to the child.

The US Department of Education came up with something called Response To Intervention (RTI).  This process does not work effectively at all for potential students with disabilities.  In Delaware, the whole RTI process takes 24 weeks until a suggestion is made, if needed, for an evaluation for special education services.  That is over six months because it is 24 weeks of school time.  While that may not seem like a long time for some, for the student with disabilities it can be a lifetime.  The large problem with RTI is many schools use it based on how a student is doing academically.  Some children with disabilities are very smart but the neurological wiring may not allow them to focus or have motivation to do well in school.  If the classroom is out of control, this magnifies for the student with disabilities.  Many of these students are perceived as “behavior problems” but if they do well academically, it is difficult for them to get an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Add in other factors, such as low-income or poverty status, bullying, and violence in their environment, and this is a cauldron of problems boiling over.

Title 14 in Delaware is very specific about what Response to Intervention is:

Under federal law, Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)  is mandatory for students with an IEP.  Using the Wrightslaw definition:

In a nutshell, FAPE is an individualized educational program that is designed to meet the child’s unique needs and from which the child receives educational benefit, and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living.

The problem is getting students to this point.  At the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee meeting today, two charters brought up the RTI process in how they identify potential special education students.  But the problems mount because of the time process.  If schools are using RTI to  identify students for special education, it is a minimum of six months before the RTI system reaches the point where special education evaluation can happen in Delaware.  Schools should be looking at other factors.  I’m not saying RTI is bad.  It can be very helpful for instruction.  But using this as a determining factor for special education services can cause a student to lose a whole year.  Then add the timeframes for the evaluation, getting parent permission, convening an initial IEP meeting, and then getting to the point of actually drafting the IEP, it could very well be a whole school year.

While I don’t think any school should be over evaluating students for IEPs for additional funding, the far greater danger is in under evaluating.  If the RTI process works for academic support, but the child does not have FAPE, it is not addressing the true needs of the student.  A student with disabilities can be brilliant, but if their neurological disability gets in the way of that, it impacts their education.  This is why I oppose many of the tests schools use to determine eligibility for special education.  A simple IQ test is not going to give you answers.  Many students with disabilities suffer from large classroom sizes without enough support.  For a sensory mind, this is like a torture chamber for these children.  But get them in a small group with RTI, where the focus is more centralized to their needs, and we have a much different story.  But RTI is not an all-day event.  So when the student is back in the general curriculum environment, that’s when teachers see the true natures of disabilities manifest themselves.  If a student appears to be smart, but doesn’t seem to be in control of their actions, this is the time to get an evaluation.  Yes, they are expensive for schools.  But how much time is spent on the RTI process that may or may not get this student results until another school year in most cases?  RTI as a system costs schools tons of money, time, staffing and resources.

Until Delaware schools truly get this, both charter and district alike, we will continue to bang our heads against the wall and say “We don’t know how to fix this.”  Add to this the even more burdensome “standards-based” IEPs which are rolling out this year, and we have a special education nightmare on our hands.  I’ve said this a million times: intelligence is not the sole factor for special education.  It could be as simple as a student having sensory toys, or additional transition time, or even training for staff at a more in-depth level.  There are so many things that can be done with special education that are not financially problematic, but common sense.  But expecting a special needs child to perform at the same levels as their peers when the DOE and schools have not done their essential legwork in truly identifying these students is a lesson in futility.  They may never perform at that level, but until schools do the right thing with special education and stop doing all this time-wasting nonsense, we will never know.  And let me reiterate: when I say performing at the same level as their peers, I do NOT mean standardized testing.  All the standardized tests actually take away from the uniqueness of the individual child and says “We want all of you to be the same.”  It is a demeaning and humiliating experience for all involved when we use a test to measure success.