What Happened to Kindergarten?

DelawareFirstState

kids

I have been meeting with teachers with Mike Matthews and what I have learned, there are no more play times for our children during their day. Yes, every grade in elementary school has recess but kindergarten students are being pushed and pushed and pushed. They do not have extra recess. They do not dress up or play house. They do not allow for make believe. Our kindergarten children are in school all day without a nap or any down time.

Both of my children (both had an IEP entering kindergarten) went to kindergarten for 2 1/2 hours a day and learned their letters and numbers, even mastered a little bit of reading but most of all they learned to love school. They learned to use their minds to pretend and to have dreams and they made friends. We made cupcakes, we had class parties, and we had fun all in…

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How Much Is Enough? When Does The Madness Stop In Our Schools?

If you come to this blog regularly, you are more than familiar with Mike Matthews, the President of the Red Clay Education Association.  Mike used to blog before he got into teaching, but some of his Facebook status updates might as well be a blog.  Mike asks a lot of tough questions surrounding education in Delaware.

Lately, the whole Red Clay inclusion topic is coming up in a big way.  Red Clay’s board voted for a big inclusion push for students with disabilities and their regular peers to be in more classes together.  While this is good in theory, if the resources and staff aren’t implemented well than issues will mount.  For those who think Mike is just a “union” guy, you would be wrong.  Yes, he is very supportive of the union.  But he also genuinely cares about what happens with students.  Nearly all teachers do.

Mike isn’t afraid to pull punches, and we need MUCH more of that in Delaware.  Tonight, Mike posted something very thought-provoking on Facebook, and I thought I would share it for those who aren’t friends with Mike.

Our students deserve more recess. Not more tests.

Our students deserve more extracurricular activities and more unified arts. Not more “rigor.”

Our students deserve more emotional supports. Not more Common Core.

Our students deserve more enrichment opportunities to show US how they can shine. Not more unit tests and Fresh Reads and Performance Plus.

Our students deserve a more responsive District that will banish the “test and punish” model that was rebuked with last week’s passage and signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Not more test prep that lines the pockets of textbook and software publishers.

Our students with special needs and English Language Learners deserve to be in schools with more than one or two specialized staff members to meet the needs of potentially hundreds of students at one site. Not more simplistic exposure to the “general education curriculum” that does little to address their needs or prepare them in a meaningful way for successful post-scholastic careers.

Our District continues down the long and quixotic road of attempting to standardized the most valuable resource that should never be standardized: Our Children. And as a result, they and others are turning off a generation of both learners AND teachers.

A wise friend of mine once said: “When is enough enough?”

Well…when is it?

I know I have asked this question many times.  It could be a lot of people who have said “When is enough enough?”  I asked this question, rather angrily, to Senator Sokola, the DOE, and a packed audience during the House Bill 50 debate in the Senate Education Committee.  It seems to me like students with disabilities continue to get the short end of the stick.  I’m getting VERY tired of this.  If your going to implement something to benefit special education students and English Language Learners, you better be damn sure you have the money, resources and staffing to get it right.  These kids can’t afford what happens when schools and districts get it wrong.

While Mike is obviously more enamored with ESSA than I am, he is absolutely right.  Delaware has a chance to rewrite the script on education.  And I’m not talking about WEIC either.  I’m talking about parents telling their legislators what they want for their kids.  We have to stop hiding behind our names or our standing and how we look to our friends and neighbors.  For all the Delaware parents who continue to flaunt this insanity in Delaware education, let me ask you one simple question: How would YOU have done with all this growing up?

Delaware parents can make the most obvious change now by opting their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and supporting the override of Governor Markell’s cowardly veto of House Bill 50.  The only way things are going to change is if the very mechanism for the corporate education reformers is taken away.  Take the test away, and they no longer have their funnel into the Delaware education system.

Contrary To Popular Belief: FOIA’s Are NOT Free

Elizabeth Scheinberg with Children & Educators First asked me to repost an article she wrote yesterday.  This is in response to Transparent Christina’s post last week about John Young’s FOIA petition.

Red Font/bolding is for emphasis.

TransparentChristina has shared some posts about a recent CSD FOIA with no comment mechanism.  It’s a tactic we often see associated with political bullies, a markellian method to stifle public discourse.
  
So, let’s have at it: FOIA is NOT Free. I disagree with TC.  I wasn’t present at the meeting and didn’t hear the public comment.  However, I can offer a rebuttal on generalities:

FOIA is a fantastic tenet of our democracy. With little exclusion, FOIA creates a lens for the public to look through and evaluate the performance of both elected and appointed officials. It is invaluable. But, it does come with a price tag. 

A recent CSD FOIA ran the district upwards of $3000.00.  Not a lot when compared to the budget of that beast, but significant enough to those who care.  I care. CSD is in a financial crisis.  And while I love FOIA (and I really, really do) I can’t justify what my district was forced to expend to satisfy a malicious and mostly frivolous FOIA. (Already noted in a previous post that 1 facet of the FOIA was conceded to by CSD; as for the other two issues, the DOJ found for the board, not the complainant.)

Forced to respond?

Yes, TC contends that “the public body has to DECIDE whether to respond via counsel to the allegation.”  That’s true on face value. But, only on face value. The body could choose to ignore that notification and request for evidence sent by the Department of Justice.  This will produce two outcomes, neither preferable to the engaged constituent:

  1. First, the body runs the risk of creating a public perception that it is above the law, above even the Department of Justice.  This route will tarnish the body’s public perception = a public less willing to support it.
  2. The body run the risk the FOIA opinion will be founded on whatever evidence the complainant provides – legitimate or fraudulent. I had the pleasure of communicating with the Department of Justice this past week. The department was most helpful in explaining what happens when the subject of FOIA does not respond to the DOJ’s inquiry.
    DOJ’s explanation:

     “opinions will be based on the evidence available.”

    Refusal of the body to participate = radical neglect that defeats the entire judicial process around FOIA.  It impugns the SPIRIT of FOIA! And leaves it open for manipulation because the only “evidence” provided will be that of the complainant.   

The COST of FOIA:
 
Moreover, regardless of the body’s decision to respond or not, the FOIA has already begun to cost tax payers’ dollars. How? When the FOIA petition reaches the DOJ, the department is obligated to assign an attorney to investigate the allegations. The hours consumed by the investigation of the petition and research into both the application of the law in the past and present and the evidence presented drain resources (financial and manpower) that could be dedicated to a host of other investigations occurring within the department. While the DOJ may budget funds to a FOIA department, the absences of a current petition does not mean that department personnel are idle.  It is fair to say their talents are used elsewhere within the department. The cost clock is ticking.  

Thus, the Outcome of the body not responding does not mean FOIA is FREE.  There is still a cost born by the tax payers – the cost of DOJ’s investigation is supported by tax payer provided funds!

Superfluous FIOA and Malicious Intent:

I’ve written my fair share of FOIA over the years.  It’s a necessary process and a right guaranteed by our democracy.  It holds public bodies accountable for their collective and individual actions.  However, it can also be abused. In the case of the Christina FOIA, there has been a limited dialogue and deep misunderstanding propagated by those who wish to claim winner-ship of the FOIA.

The petition stated 

Based on these 2 concerns in combination, I am asking for clarification of the previous FOIA opinion in order to ensure the CSD BOE acted properly. It is my ardent hope that we did so, but I feel we need to confirm this in light of the Appoquinimink FOIA opinion. https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/my-foia-complaint-filed-in-response-to-the-8415-csd-boe-meeting/

It appears the petitioner is acting in the best interest of the pubic body. However, in the comment section of this post, the petitioner goes on to make this accusation:

…Board members need to understand their roles and those that withhold information from others simply impede the governance necessary to help children. Worse, others don’t seem to take past experience in governance and apply the positive parts while discarding the negative. I’m not speaking of any single member, but some about all.
It’s a disease, and I think I know how you feel about those that flout the FOIA statute and act to secretly traffic information that board members need to make informed decisions. https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/my-foia-complaint-filed-in-response-to-the-8415-csd-boe-meeting/

And there you have it: That this petition provided clarification to the petitioner on several fairly recent FOIA opinions issued by the DOJ was secondary to the petitioner’s assertation that his fellow board members failed to learn from past experience and more importantly that they “secretly traffic information” to eachother. The DOJ opinion essential deems this malicious accusation to be unfounded.  It did not opine of any secret or otherwise information trafficked between the body’s members.

This was a superfluous and malicious filing. Had the body voted to ignore the Department of Justice’s communication, the body would have lost its opportunity to provide widely important exculpatory evidence and the finding might have been radically erroneous. 

FOIA IS NOT FREE.  And while it is open for abuse, the thoughtful and correct course is for a body to respond always.  It is only way to reach a unbiased finding based on evidence and law.

And if someone is telling you otherwise, they probably have oceanfront property in Tennessee to sell you too.

Delaware PTA To Host Override House Bill 50 Veto Rally At Legislative Hall On January 12th

SAVE THE DATE!!!!

Delaware PTA

Override House Bill 50 Veto Rally

January 12th, 2016

2:00 PM

Legislative Hall

Dover, DE

The Delaware PTA wants ALL parents, teachers, and students who support the opt-out movement to come to Legislative Hall on January 12th, 2016 at 2pm.  Not so coincidentally, this is also the first day the Delaware legislators are back in session.  We need to send a strong message to our legislators that we do NOT support Governor Jack Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  We also want our legislators in the House and Senate to override the veto.  More details to come, but please make every effort to come, whether or not you are in the Delaware PTA or not.  Every single voice counts!!!!

This is not about reducing assessments in Delaware.  This is about a horrible state assessment inflicted on our children.  We say no more!  We do not like the whole environment associated with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Yes, the overall goal should be getting rid of the test altogether, but until then, opt-out is the preferred path for those who choose to do so.  Overriding a bill made for parents showed a severe lack of disrespect on the Governor’s part.  Nowhere in his long-winded press release on the veto did he talk about parental rights and honoring those rights.

More details to come!

 

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: State Rep. Kim Williams

KimWilliams

As I started blogging, I heard a ton of people telling me I should talk to Kim Williams.  I didn’t even know it was possible to talk to a State Representative who wasn’t in your district.  Of course now I know how silly that is, but at the time I didn’t.  Kim Williams and I think a lot alike.  Many of the things I am passionate about in education Kim is as well.  At the end of the day, it is about equality and equity.

To say Kim had a busy year at Legislative Hall would be the understatement of the year.  She started the 148th General Assembly by submitting education legislation that not only made sense but was a long time coming.  House Bill #28 would make sure charters send funds if a student transfers out of a charter school after September 30th.  One of my favorite bills of the year, House Bill #30, would ensure students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade who qualify as basic special education through their IEP would get the additional funding that has long been denied them.  In an effort to make sure “priority schools” do not lose control at the local level in picking their leaders, Kim introduced House Bill #107.  In another attempt at trying to mitigate the power of the Delaware Department of Education, HB #108 would have given the General Assembly the ability to vote on any ESEA waiver prior to their sending it to the US DOE (now a moot point as the Every Student Succeeds Act kicks ESEA waivers to the curb).  #130 dealt with fees for educator licensure.

Kim also serves as the Vice-Chair of the House Education Committee.  With all of the legislation coming through Legislative Hall pertaining to education, she does an admirable job helping to get through it all.  She was a huge supporter of the parent opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.

Perhaps her most controversial, but also a much needed bill, was House Bill #186.  This bill passed the House of Representatives on June 30th, and is now in the Senate Education Committee.  This bill was actually the third dealing with charter school audits.  HB #53 and #154 set the stage, but were both combined to become House Bill #186.  With fierce opposition from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Kim had to fight tooth and nail to get this bill as far as it has.  This bill mandates charters have their post-audits done through the Delaware Auditor of Accounts.  Watching Kim fight for this bill was a wonder to behold.

I have talked to Kim on many occasions.  When there is a hotbed issue going on in Delaware education, she is there.  Whether it is at a troubled charter school, a school board meeting, the State Board of Education, a WEIC meeting, or the Delaware DOE.  Her dedication to improving the lives of Delaware students is unparalleled in the General Assembly.  She is not afraid to ask the tough questions.  Her dedication to her family is amazing as well and they support her 100%.  I look forward to watching Kim in the coming years, and I know she will continue to look out for Delaware education.