The manipulation behind the scenes with House Bill 50 is never-ending! Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill in July but he knows the General Assembly will attempt to override his veto. To that end, he has been working feverishly behind the curtain to make sure it does not pass! The drums of war are beating on both sides. The problem with Jack Markell is how he views himself. He truly believes he is infallible. He is just a man. A man who leaves enough breadcrumbs on the way that anyone who follows his trail can see them visibly.
To truly understand the process, you have to think like the Governor. Anticipating his next moves can be difficult, but he does have very clear patterns. We know he is calling many House Reps in Delaware and begging them to vote no on the House Bill 50 veto override. We know he hates the opt-out movement as it interferes with his corporate education reform plans for
Rodel The Delaware Business Roundtable The Aspen Institute The Southern Regional Education Board American Institutes for Research McKinsey Charter Schools Hedge Fund Managers His Own Ed-Stock Portfolio Delaware in a big way.
As the legislators return to Legislative Hall in two weeks, the conversation about the HB50 override is going to become very loud. This is how Jack is going to try to publicly sway the legislators and Delaware into thinking the override shouldn’t pass, followed by my counter to each and every point:
- The US DOE issued letters stating they will take away money from states who don’t hit participation marks two years in a row. Go ahead and take the money. By supporting this you are effectively saying money is more important than parental rights. And to clarify, it is Title I administrative funding, not the entire Title I funding pool. The feds are inviting parents to take part in a class action lawsuit against all this.
- The Assessment Inventory Task Force currently meeting will eliminate “unnecessary and redundant testing”. It will eliminate all but those assessments tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It will not reduce the amount of testing, it will increase the amount of preparatory and interim assessments for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
- It would be a violation of civil rights to pass it. The Smarter Balanced Assessment IS a violation of civil rights. It puts the most at-risk students in a position where they are inadvertently labeled as failures based on a once a year test score.
- An override of MY veto would be a tremendous amount of disrespect to my office and my legacy. Because your legacy is something to be proud of? Most of the legislators can’t stand you. Even the Democrats. They think you are a dictator! The power of democracy is a series of checks and balances to prevent one voice from deciding what is best for the people.
- We are going to get rid of Smarter Balanced for 11th graders and make the SAT the state assessment for high school juniors. The College Board overhauled the SAT to make it more like the Smarter Balanced, PARCC, and other state assessments tied to Common Core. Whether you call it an apple or an orange, it is still a piece of crap.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act is going to cause us to take a holistic and methodical look at state assessments and gives states more control over the implementation of state assessments. To which Penny Schwinn at the DOE publicly said Delaware is already in line with what came out of the ESSA. Funny how that happened. Stuff the DOE implemented the past few years just happens to be what is in the ESSA? I smell a festering rat!
- We will see editorials from Rodel, The Delaware Business Roundtable, Civil Rights groups, certain teachers who have been swayed to the Dark Side, and corporate education reformers about why the General Assembly shouldn’t pass the override. See the News Journal in the coming weeks and months…
- The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a work in progress and we need an accurate measurement of student progress so we can determine how to help the instruction of students. We haven’t heard one word about a reduction in Smarter Balanced Assessment test-taking time. The window for schools to take the test is the same as last year. The results show what we have always known. Students with disabilities, low-income, African-American, or English Language Learners do not perform as well as their peers on these tests. It has to be that way because if all the gaps were closed there would be no need for a state assessment or “fixing” our schools. Duh…
- We may be looking at ways to not have the Smarter Balanced results tie in so heavily with teacher evaluations. Because that worked out so well for Governor Cuomo in New York! The parents there don’t care what he says, they are still going to opt out this year. They are committed to doubling their opt-out numbers from 200,000 to 400,000 this year. This is also an attempt to get teachers to stop supporting opt-out. Good luck with that one. They may have been momentarily fooled by ESSA, but they aren’t stupid. And as long as bloggers like myself and others will point out the machinations behind the scenes (the vendor contracts, the state DOEs, “guidance” from the feds), we will blast a hole so large in that one a freighter jet could pass through it.
- It will undermine a district’s ability to effectively teach children and will disrupt the learning environment. The Smarter Balanced Assessment IS a disruption to the learning environment and forces teachers to instruct students based on what is on the test. Duh 2.0…
- History has shown schools that teach effectively are able to close the achievement gaps and have huge improvements in scores. Yes, we call these charter schools which have high turnaround, charters who pick and choose which students go there, districts that change their feeder patterns, and even magnet and vocational schools that can and historically show their ability to pick students. Yet, we also see that East Side Charter School, which was praised up and down for their “growth” in 2014-2015, did no better than other schools with similar demographics on the Smarter Balanced Assessment which really makes me wonder how they were able to grow so much.
- It will cause teachers and schools to pick who takes the test to make their numbers look better. Seriously? With all the heat from the opt-out movement and the very definitive laws surrounding state assessment participation, do you really think schools would be idiotic enough to exclude students from taking the test? They know the DOE monitors every burp and hiccup with the testing. They know their schools and districts have DOE sympathizers in them who will rat them out in a New York minute. Teachers are afraid for their jobs 90% of the time over this foolish test and what it will mean for their evaluations. Do you really think they would throw their career away like that?
- Parents of students with disabilities are the biggest supporters of opt-out and we are going to take a hard look at why that is and what we can do about it. Yeah right! If that were the case, you wouldn’t be expecting the proficiency rate for these kids to go from 19% this year to 59% by 2021. Give me a break!
We know the lengths the DOE went to in keeping the opt-out penalties for the Delaware School Success Framework very quiet. We know Secretary Godowsky did a 180 degree turnaround on the issue. We know the DOE falsely cited US DOE policy in allowing this to even be in there. We know the committee the DOE picked to handle the formation of the Delaware School Success Framework unanimously voted NOT to have the opt-out multiplier penalty in the DSSF. So with all that going on surrounding the harsh opt-out penalties it would have been the perfect time for the Delaware DOE to announce the letter from the US DOE about funding cuts due to low participation rates. They did not. They could have done this at the final meeting of the Accountability Framework Working Group. They could have done this at the State Board of Education meeting in November when they voted on it. Why would they not use the biggest weapon in their arsenal?
They knew they didn’t have to and they were saving it for a rainy day. Governor Markell picked each member of the State Board of Education. He controls how they vote 99% of the time. But the votes are 100% in his favor. He knew they would vote on the opt-out penalties even though everyone else was saying no. He was hoping to bring this out in January when the legislators return. He knows House Bill 50 will come up for an override. He wanted to squeeze this in there at the last possible moment. I can picture it now, sending his education policy advisor Lindsay O’Mara or Godowsky into Legislative Hall: “Look, there IS funding cuts coming. We have to stop this from happening! You must vote no”.
Now how would I jump to this conclusion? Like I said earlier, it is all about the bread crumbs. In their work session on October 15th, the State Board of Education asked Ryan Reyna with the DOE to get more information about the opt-out penalty on the DSSF.
The letter to the US DOE was dated 11/2/15. In this day and age, this information is most likely emailed and mailed to the State Education Agencies, in this case the Delaware DOE. Penny Schwinn and Carolyn Lazar were cc:ed on this as well, so they would have had this information for the State Board retreat. In the below document, when the AFWG recommendations are presented to the State Board, the minutes reflect very careful avoidance of discussing the US DOE letter and Secretary Godowsky’s recommendation to include the opt-out multiplier.
That night I received word of Godowsky’s recommendation and wrote about it right away. The very next day, the State Board recorder of minutes was very careful to now include notes about the previous day.
Finally, at the State Board of Education meeting when this came up for a vote, there is NO mention about the US DOE letter whatsoever. Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, would have been well aware of this letter. And by default, so would the State Board. Yet, in the very long discussion around the opt-out penalty, nobody mentions this. That is because they were told not to. And that decision could have only come from Governor Markell. Godowsky was the main recipient of the US DOE letter. The Secretary of Education is a Cabinet position in the State of Delaware. The only figure higher than him is the Governor.
This is “The Delaware Way”. In the past, nobody would have known about any of this. What changed? Myself and others who are keeping a very close eye on any and all activity of the Delaware DOE, things that are said, things that are not said, and what is announced in public session through audio recordings or minutes.
Make no mistake, any legislator who flips on their House Bill 50 votes will be given a very public lashing. Any legislator who votes no will be given a very public lashing. If you think you can hide behind a collective vote, you are very wrong. I will treat each of your votes as an individual vote. Thank you to Delaware Liberal for announcing which legislators will face re-election this year. Your vote will be a symbol of who you are as an elected official of the citizens of Delaware. If you side with Markell on this, no amount of excuses or reasoning will allow you to escape unscathed. We will all know why you did it. And I will leave no stone unturned after your no vote. I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican. I will scorch the political earth you walk on. If you are worried about Jack Markell, then you truly do not understand the lengths parents will go to. I truly don’t care about “political etiquette” or any of that nonsense. You can vote for the Governor or you can vote for the people. It is your choice. I’m just advising you way ahead of time what will happen if you vote no. I don’t care how nice you are or what a great person you are. I don’t care if we have allied in the past over issues or legislation. I will make it my goal in 2016 to make your life a living hell. And I will not be alone. I already have a list of names in the General Assembly. You have time to change your mind. But once your vote is cast, good luck! And if you aren’t running again, I will pound on every single piece of legislation you put out there and will gather others to help. I will make anything you do look tarnished and soiled. Because if you can’t represent and honor the rights of parents, you can’t do anything in Legislative Hall.