Red Clay: Your Inclusion Plan Is NOT Working. This Needs To Stop…NOW!!!!!

Last year, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education approved an inclusion plan for students with disabilities.  Instead of paying for students with severe and intense difficulties in their own educational setting, as required by federal law under IDEA, they decided to stick them with all the regular students.  The results have not been kind to these students.  I’ve been following this story for a while now, but with everything else going on I haven’t been able to give it the attention it deserves.  This changes now.  If I have to fight multiple fronts, I will.  This post put up by a sister of a Red Clay student with Autism was put on Facebook.  This should not be happening at all.  I am begging the Red Clay board to put a stop to this now.  If it means you don’t have funding for WEIC, so be it.  If you can’t handle your own, than you definitely shouldn’t be taking more.  I like some of you as people, but if you can’t get your act together as a whole for students with disabilities, all bets are off.

Today, my mom got a call from one of my sister Juliana’s teachers at Conrad. Her teacher told my mom that Jule was being horribly mocked and teased because of a pair of boots she liked and decided to wear to school today. Juliana is bullied and tormented every single day that she goes to school because she is autistic and she functions differently than other 7th graders. However, today was especially hard to hear about because she came home saying it was “one of the best days of her whole life.” When we asked her why, she said it was because her boots caught everyone’s attention, they were “complimenting” her, and even taking pictures. This honestly broke my heart because anyone would know that those kids weren’t really trying to make her feel good about herself in any way, and those pictures most likely ended up on Instagram or snapchat for everyone to mock. I just don’t understand how kids can be so cruel, especially to someone with a learning disability that doesn’t recognize sarcasm and thought all of their comments were serious. It breaks my heart to see her go through this every day of her life but today really struck something. If you have kids, please teach them kindness. It can be all someone like Juliana needs to know they’re not alone. My sister is a 12 year old girl living with autism, and she’s fucking amazing. Any kid that wants to at come for her, has to come through me first.

Is this really the environment Red Clay wants in their schools?

Kowalko To Ask For Suspension Of Rules To Override Markell’s Veto Of House Bill 50, This Is The Minefield Legislators Are Stuck In

Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko issued a letter today to his colleagues in the General Assembly.  He will be asking for a suspension of rules to bring the House Bill 50 veto override to the floor of the Delaware House of Representatives on January 14th.  For a suspension of rules to happen, a majority vote will determine this.  Unlike the veto override, which requires 3/5ths of both the House and Senate for that to happen.  From what I am hearing, many legislators have stated they will vote yes for the veto override, but would vote no for the suspension of rules.  The suspension of rules would prevent the bill from getting bottlenecked in the education committee.  Do not even think you can duck out of even voting for the veto override by voting no on a suspension of rules.  That is political suicide this year.

This is the minefield of Delaware politics.  Even though the majority of legislators vote yes for suspension of rules all the time on June 30th when they push bills through without the public ever knowing about them, they are going to make a stand now?  Seriously?  General Assembly, I have this to say to you: a vote of no on suspension of rules is the same as a vote of no for the veto override.  At least in my eyes.  Parents don’t care about your parlor games and rules.  They care about their kids.  So get your heads in the game and do the right thing for parents.  Enough.  You are turning all of this into a war, with Markell on one side and the voice of the people on the other.  Just do the right thing here.  If you don’t know what that is, err on the side of your constituents and not a lame-duck Governor who will probably give Delaware students free surf and turf lunches for the rest of the year at the rate he’s going.  He is already seriously on the edge of violating multiple Delaware laws with his latest SAT/SBAC stunt, and you know this.  How much longer are you going to give this Governor the authority to do whatever he pleases?

In the meantime, thank you to Rep. Kowalko for his respect and sincerity with the below letter sent to his colleagues today.

KowalkoHB50VetoOverrideSuspensionOfRules

Governor Markell Gives Godowsky Authority To Replace SBAC With SAT Without General Assembly Approval Or An Executive Order

It took a lot of work for the General Assembly to implement the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  Now Governor Markell has granted Secretary of Education Godowsky the authority to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment from the lives of high school juniors and replace it with the SAT.  Here’s the problem, the SAT is not considered to be a state assessment as defined in Delaware law.  Funding for the SAT to be provided to all Delaware students was part of a Race To The Top grant, and now that funding is gone.  Is Delaware going to pick up the cost for this?  As well, Markell did not issue an executive order to make this happen.  Are we now entering a stage in Delaware where the Governor can do whatever he wants as long as ten members of his own party write a letter to him?

This is clearly Markell’s strategy to once again thwart those who support the opt-out movement.  And he is doing this while at the same time spitting in the face of the General Assembly.  With the override of his House Bill 50 veto possibly coming up as early as January 14th, Markell is not pulling any punches to fight this.  I really hope the legislators who side with him on this issue think long and hard about his circumvention of the legislative process when it comes to Delaware education.  This is just another in a long series of moves the Governor made in the last eight years to make his corporate friends happy.

From the DOE press release:

SAT to replace Smarter in 11th grade

The SAT will replace the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.

The change comes at the request of legislators and as the state continues to look for ways to reduce testing, particularly for 11th graders who already were taking both exams as part of Delaware’s state-funded School Day SAT program.

The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the college entrance exam, is launching a redesigned SAT this spring that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, the academic expectations for what Delaware students should know and be able to do at the completion of each grade level. The changes to the SAT also include a move away from obscure “SAT vocabulary words” to the use of relevant vocabulary words in context, an in-depth focus on essential areas of math and the elimination of the guessing penalty.

“Our students deserve an exam that helps them gauge their college and career readiness, and our teachers deserve an exam that provides them with the information they need to guide their instruction. This is one example of how we are reducing the testing burden on our students and teachers,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “This is a smart solution that ensures our educators, students and families get the information they need while mitigating the over-testing concern many share.

The state will continue to administer the Smarter Assessment in grades 3 to 8.

Delaware has been administering a school-day SAT to all public school juniors at no cost to students since 2011. Godowsky said making the transition to use the SAT as the accountability test this year is based on the feedback of elected leaders, educators and families. Last week, 10 legislators sent a letter to Gov. Jack Markell asking to replace the 11th grade Smarter exam with the SAT.

“Our community was clear that this was in the best interest of our high school juniors and the sooner we could make the switch the better,” Godowsky said. “This decision is in response to that feedback.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who launched a statewide assessment inventory process last spring, said, “We believe that the concerns about the testing burden on our juniors are well founded.  We also agree that this move is a smart, commonsense way to reduce the testing burden significantly without sacrificing our ability to understand whether we are serving our students well and whether they are making the progress they need to be successful.  I have asked Secretary Godowsky to immediately designate the SAT as our 11th grade assessment and take all necessary steps to implement the change so that, beginning this year, juniors will no longer take Smarter Balanced.  The department will seek federal approval for this change in our state assessment as quickly as possible and otherwise ensure that the transition goes smoothly in schools across the state.”

Under Delaware’s former state test, the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS), 9th and 10th graders were tested. When the state moved to Smarter in Spring 2015, 11th grade became the singular testing year for high school. But many said that proved overwhelming for juniors, who also take Advanced Placement exams, the SAT, SAT subject tests, the ACT and other tests during their 11th grade year.

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt, president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, said superintendents in the state are in support of substituting the SAT in lieu of the Smarter Assessment as the required assessment for high school students.  This shift both gives teachers more time to provide necessary instruction and eases the load on our high school students with respect to the annual assessments they already must take.

State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray said students and families value the SAT.

“The redesigned SAT provides important information students, parents and educators want and need to understand students’ college, career and civic readiness. For that reason, it is already valued by parents and students.  In addition, by using this test as the high school assessment for English language arts and math, we will reduce the amount of required testing and costs to the state,” Gray said.

Last spring, the General Assembly passed and Governor Markell signed into law Senate Joint Resolution 2, requiring an inventory and review of all assessments currently administered at the state, district and school level “with the goal of decreasing the testing burden on students and teachers and increasing time available for teaching.”

This work continues. Districts and charter schools, which were eligible for supporting state grants, submitted their assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information to the state at the end of December. The department has convened an assessment inventory committee with representatives from the House and Senate education committees, Delaware State Education Association, state superintendents, civil rights community and parents to make recommendations. The state’s final report must be published by June 2016.

Sen. David Sokola, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Earl Jaques, chair of the House Education Committee, lauded today’s announcement.

“This is the kind of change legislators were seeking when we approved SJR 2 to create a task force to fully review our student testing,” Sokola said. “This is a good first step toward removing burdens on our students and increasing instruction time for teachers, while also providing them with the important metrics needed to gauge student progress.”

Jaques agreed, “This decision eliminates duplicative testing and reduces over-testing while helping to ease student stress and parental concerns.”

The department has posted information and will continue updating its website with information, including resources for districts/charters and the public, regularly. Educators or families with questions may email assessment@doe.k12.de.us or call (302) 857-3391.

As students prepare for the spring SAT, they also have some extra help this year. A partnership with Khan Academy and the College Board offers personalized SAT preparation based on students’ PSAT results. Delaware also provides the PSAT free to all public school 10th graders.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary, Best Teachers & More

Niche.com released their 2016 Best Schools and Districts ranking the other day.  Delaware schools and districts were included in the rankings, but it really wasn’t anything to brag about compared to the rest of America.  But one Delaware high school was ranked 29th for the best high schools in America.  I’m sure it won’t take a rocket scientist for many readers to figure out which one that was and how it got to be on the top!  But listed below are all the district, high school, middle school, elementary, and private high school rankings.  Where is your child’s school on here? Continue reading Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary, Best Teachers & More

New Delaware Met Principal Reached Boiling Point Yesterday

Yesterday, students at Delaware Met got to leave school early…again…  With only a few weeks left of school at the Delaware Met, apparently something is going on with their heater system because students are reporting the classrooms are VERY cold.  What happened next could only happen at this school where the bizarre and the jacked up seem to be on a collision course every day… Continue reading New Delaware Met Principal Reached Boiling Point Yesterday

African-American Opt-Out In Delaware, Part 1: The Lomax Factor

The next time you see a civil rights organization or leader trotting out the “Testing Is A Civil Right” rhetoric, check them out at the Gates Foundation website and see just how much payola they’re taking.

Over the past year, the question of opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment has been one of the biggest issues in Delaware.  Many parents have made the choice, despite the Governor, the Delaware Department of Education, and certain school districts and charters resisting the movement.  One group in Delaware has not made a lot of noise about opt-out though.  The African-American community.  I have often wondered why this is.  After all, history has shown a clear pattern on standardized assessments of African-Americans not performing as well as their peers.

For many, this is the heart of the problem.  Some, such as Governor Markell, feel that all children can perform well on these tests if given the right amount of rigor, instruction, and leadership in our schools.  Others feel as though the issues facing many of the children in the African-American community in our cities like Wilmington and Dover, such as crime and poverty, are harmful and transparent factors in preventing a student’s educational success.  The Governor will not accept the “status quo” but really doesn’t do much to change the environment many of these students live in.  I believe the Governor thinks education can overcome the obstacles these children face at home, but when you talk to the teachers in many of these schools they don’t see it.

When opt-out was reaching its height in the 2014-2015 school year, civil rights groups voiced strong objection to the opt-out movement.  They felt it would cause African-American students to become further behind.  Despite laws preventing schools and teachers from opting kids out, these groups were very public about their point of view.  Leading these voices was Michael Lomax, the President of the United Negro College Fund.  As opt-out becomes a major issue again with the potential override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, the Rodel Foundation and civil rights groups in Wilmington are bringing Lomax to town to speak about education for African-Americans.

Lomax

On January 14th, from 6pm-8pm, Lomax will speak to citizens of Delaware at the Christina Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) in Wilmington.  The event is sponsored by the Parents Advocacy Council for Education, a program from the CCAC, The Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League (MWUL), and the Wilmington Education Strategies Think Tank (WESTT).  But the real kicker is the next entity behind this event, which comes directly from the flyer for it: “Made possible in part by the Rodel Foundation of Delaware”.  All of these groups were very vocal with their opposition to the opt-out movement last spring, and some even took out an ad in the News Journal right before critical Senate votes on House Bill 50.

How does Michael Lomax, the President of the United Negro Fund, feel about opt-out?  He is dead set in his beliefs this is not the right path for African-American students.  Even though several civil rights groups joined in unison last year in support of the movement, others are sticking with their guns and fighting the movement.  What is causing this radical shift in thought among different groups?

Some, such as the popular blog called Perido Street School, believe there is a direct correlation between civil rights groups fighting opt-out and how much money they receive from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Gates Foundation has long been a proponent for the Common Core, standardized testing, teacher reform, and charter schools.  In fact, Lomax has written about how his grandchildren attend a charter school in Louisiana.  Last April, Lomax wrote an editorial in the New York Daily News about opt-out.

By opting out, parents do a disservice to all children, not just their own. Without an ample number of test takers, we will lose perspective on how our children are truly doing against the higher bar. This is especially important for students who need a better education the most: children of color, children from low-income families and those who require special education services or are learning English.

On its face, Lomax is absolutely right on several of his points in the article.  African-American students do have a history of not receiving equitable services compared to their Caucasian peers.  But the problem becomes what happens when those very same issues are continually brought up again and again so education consultants and vendors can profit off of the need to fix these problems.  Setting a higher bar all but ensures that there will always be proficiency gaps and attempts needed to get children to the point where they can reach this mythical end point.  The bar will always change to allow for more Wall Street intervention in our schools.

At the forefront of the civil rights groups is Michael Lomax.  He has spouted the same rhetoric about African-American students ever since he became the President of the United Negro College Fund in 2004.  In 2009, Lomax took part in a large education debate sponsored by the Philanthropy Roundtable in New York City.  Lomax made his feelings about teachers and unions very clear during his part in the debate:

The unions, superintendents, and school boards make up hundreds of hunkered-down intransigent, vigilant, resistant, inert status quo guardians guarding these gates.

He refuses to accept the possibility that the problems facing so many African-American students come from outside of the school.  He actually thinks education will bring African-American students out of poverty, as he wrote in a joint letter to the editor in the Washington Post:

Apologists for our educational failure say that we will never fix education in America until we eradicate poverty.  They have it exactly backward: We will never eradicate poverty until we fix education.  The question is whether we have the political courage to take on those who defend a status quo that serves many adults but fails many children.

For Lomax, the status quo has served him very well.  In Delaware, the figure for low-income status varies, but depending on family size, the average could be anywhere between $20-$25,000.00.  If you added the figures for 22 families at $25,000 for their annual income, Lomax would still make more.  According to that link, Lomax made $458,000 in 2014.  In 2013, with bonuses, he made $700,000.  The event in Wilmington, made possible in part by the Rodel Foundation, has their CEO making $343,000 a year.  It is very easy for these groups and “education leaders” to tell people how bad education is because it is obvious they get paid handsomely for doing so.

The United Negro College Fund received many donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the past seven years.  Over $1.5 billion dollars in donations.  As Perido Street School wrote in the top quote in this article, it would not be good for folks like Lomax to support opt-out at the risk of losing such generous sums of money.

Now it’s possible that Michael Lomax, CEO of the United Negro College Fund, would love testing and Common Core without the billion and a half+ in cash his organization has received from the Gates Foundation to fund scholarships.  But getting that kind of help from Gates sure does cut down on the time the organization has to spend fundraising and you can bet neither Lomax nor the United Negro College Fund want to lose that source of funding.  Now I dunno if somebody at the Gates Foundation called in a chit and “suggested” Lomax write his pro-testing screed or if Lomax just decided to be pro-active on his own and do it himself.  But you can bet it’s not an accident that a national civil rights organization that is receiving over a billion and a half dollars in cash from the Gates Foundation is pushing an education reform agenda that makes the Gates Foundation happy.

I have no doubt it is integral to Lomax’ financial wealth to continue to perpetuate the beliefs of the corporate education reformers.  He hangs out with some of the most vocal proponents of those who profit off the backs of students, teachers, and schools.  They are given the ability to raid state and local funding for their agendas and are given full support and approval by the United States Department of Education.  Folks like Joel Klein from Amplify, who was also brought in by Rodel to speak about education at $100 a seat last September.  The two of them helped to write the Washington Post editorial linked above.  In February, Lomax wrote an editorial for a website called Real Clear Education about the upcoming ESEA reauthorization.  This letter was written with Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff for President Obama and the current Mayor of Chicago, who is also a lightning rod for controversy these days.  In fact, Lomax is cited as one of the key people involved in the creation of state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) which are collecting a massive amount of data and personal information on students according to this article in the  Huffington Post.  These SLDS initiatives, with federal funding and massive amounts of money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation circumvent around appropriate laws to protect student data by allowing education vendors and outside companies to see much of this data.

Does Wilmington really need another supposed trumpeter of civil rights coming to town to tell us how bad African-American students are doing in our schools and how much our teachers need to change?  If you are the Rodel Foundation and Governor Markell, the timing could not be more advantageous.  Rodel and Markell are fierce opponents of parental rights when it comes to the opt-out movement.  They do not believe parents have any rights when it comes to testing.  They would rather see parents lose sleep over making the opt-out choice and have them fight with difficult charter schools and districts than allow a law to pass that would give them protection when making a fundamental and Constitutional supported decision.  When the arguments heat up over opt-out, Rodel decides to bring a very big weapon to town.  I do not believe it is mere coincidence Lomax will be speaking on the very same day the Delaware PTA is having an opt-out rally outside Legislative Hall and State Rep. John Kowalko may bring up the override question to the Delaware House of Representatives.  This is how Rodel operates, in my opinion.  This event was just announced yesterday, the day after a very controversial article about opt-out in the News Journal.

I will be exploring the issue of opt-out, especially for African-American students in Delaware, at greater length.  But for the people going to see Mr. Lomax speak next week, I would urge all to question a few things: “Why now?”, “How much is he getting paid to speak”, “Would he feel the same way if he was making the same amount of money as the students’ families he claims to want to lift up out of poverty?”, and “Would he be willing to go to the roughest neighborhoods in Wilmington after his speech tonight and hang out with the folks on the street for a few hours?”

Conflict Of Interest At Charter School Of Wilmington?

The Charter School of Wilmington.  The holy grail of all Delaware charter schools.  I bow to your excellence.

Okay, with that out of the way, I just have one question. Continue reading Conflict Of Interest At Charter School Of Wilmington?

My Daughter is Not a Widget

gadflyonthewallblog

Father Holding Daughter's Hand

“I’m not sure public schools understand that we’re their customer—that we, the business community, are your customer. What they don’t understand is they are producing a product at the end of that high school graduation. Now is that product in a form that we, the customer, can use it? Or is it defective, and we’re not interested? American schools have got to step up the performance level—or they’re basically turning out defective products that have no future. Unfortunately, the defective products are human beings. So it’s really serious. It’s tragic. But that’s where we find ourselves today.”
Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO

My daughter just turned seven during this holiday season.

She loves to draw. She’ll take over the dinning room table and call it her office. Over the course of a single hour, she can render a complete story with full color images supporting a handwritten plot.

These narratives…

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