And So It Begins…Again…Education Committee Agendas For Next Week

The second half of the 148th General Assembly begins next Tuesday, January 12th.  While a great deal of focus is on the veto override of House Bill 50, there are actually several important bills about education that deserve to pass.  The House and Senate Education Committees meet weekly, usually on Wednesdays.

House Education Committee Meeting, 1/13/16, 2:30pm, House Chamber

Agenda: Presentation by Vicki Innes with Reading Assist, additional items to be determine

Senate Education Committee Meeting, 1/13/16, 3:00pm, Senate Hearing Room (2nd floor)

Agenda: Senate Bill 165, House Bill 186

To view all the education legislation, the status of each bill, and who the sponsor is, please go here.

For any committees in the Senate or the House, public comment is allowed.

DE State Board President Dr. Gray Gets Militant About Smarter Balanced Scores & Teacher Evaluations

I can’t believe I first watched this video last night!  This is classic!  It was the Delaware Education Desk, hosted by Avi Wolfman-Arent of WHYY/Newsworks and the two guests were State Rep. John Kowalko and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.  The date was 6/10/15, the same day as the wild and crazy Senate Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50.  When the subject came up about teacher evaluations tied into standardized test scores, Dr. Gray completely loses her composure and gets very angry.  This is the same type of Dr. Gray we saw at the December State Board of Education meeting when the subject of the Christina Priority Schools came up.  What can I say?  Jack Markell picked her…

Will New Education Legislation Adding $11 Million More To Delaware’s Shrinking Budget “SAIL” Through The General Assembly?

Amidst all the craziness surrounding the SAT/Smarter Balanced Announcement yesterday, this one flew under the radar.  Delaware State Rep. Valerie Longhurst is introducing legislation next week to add $11 million dollar to the Delaware State Budget to fund afterschool programs in Title I schools across Delaware.  Whether this is part of the WEIC funding, Matt Denn’s plans for the foreclosure settlement funds, or new allocations of state funds is not certain.  But with Delaware facing a deficit of unknown amounts for FY2017, we sure are spending a lot of money fast!  From the Delaware House Democrats website:

Lawmakers Plan New Statewide Afterschool Initiative

DELAWARE CITY – Thousands of Delaware students across the state would gain access to new, high-quality afterschool programs providing homework help, enrichment activities and an extended school meal plan under a bill unveiled today at Gunning Bedford Middle School.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, lead sponsor of the legislation, said the measure is designed to help students become more effective learners and achieve better outcomes both in and outside their classrooms.

“We know that quality afterschool programs keep kids engaged, boost attendance and enhance literacy, improving the likelihood that our students will stay in school and earn their diplomas,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “We have a great core of organizations in our communities that have spent years showing us these outcomes, and it’s time for the state and our school districts to step up and bring these proven practices to even more kids throughout Delaware.”

The bill announced today would establish the Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Program, dubbed the SAIL Program, to provide grants to high-need schools as identified under federal Title I regulations. To qualify for SAIL grants, schools must offer at least three hours of afterschool programming four to five days each week during the school year for students in kindergarten through 10th grade. With a ratio of one teacher to 10 students, qualifying programs would consist of at least one hour of homework help and one hour of enrichment activities each day, as well as a healthy meal.

The legislation also provides for a direct link between the SAIL Program and school-day learning activities by requiring communication among SAIL staff and teachers via existing computer-based student information systems.

Working partnerships with longstanding afterschool program providers would be encouraged under the legislation, allowing them to expand the reach of their services.

“After school programs have proven to strengthen student performance, particularly their ability to complete daily assignments in a way that truly helps them grasp the subject matter,” said Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle. “Not only do after school programs offer an environment conducive to learning, but they offer a support structure of educators and peers that together can build confidence and self-belief in our students.”

According to a 2014 parent survey conducted by the Afterschool Alliance, more than 26,000 Delaware students participate in afterschool programs. But, the survey also found that a total of 48,000 students would be likely to participate in an afterschool program if one was available.

“Quality after school programs are important for helping kids learn and grow, and for keeping kids away from people and places that might lead them down a bad path,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “They show kids that people care about them and they help make neighborhoods and communities safer.”

Criminal justice research also supports bolstering afterschool programs. The hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. are routinely cited as the most dangerous time of day for youth and crime, representing the peak time when young people are likely to commit crimes or become victims of crime. An estimated 11 million youths in the United States are unsupervised afterschool each day.

“This legislation will provide much needed help to our schools for extra time assistance,” said Colonial School District Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey. “It will allow more students to receive afterschool help or provide time and resources for other activities that support student growth and students success.”

Initial funding for the SAIL Program grant fund is slated to be $10 million, subject to the appropriations process in the House and Senate. The legislation will be filed next week and will be assigned to the House Education Committee.

While Vision Coalition & WEIC Plan Funding, EFIC Meets Today To Discuss Funding As Well

SJR4EFIC

Delaware, the home of multiple groups working on the same issues at the same time.  Today, the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission is meeting for the third time at the Bear Library.  There are a lot of interesting names in this room.  Former State Rep. Darryl Scott, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara (who is probably having one hell of a morning), Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, State Board of Education member Barbara Rutt and more.  I see Senator Sokola’s aide, Tanner Polce.  I don’t see State Rep. Earl Jaques either, I suppose his aide is there as well.

It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with, along with Rodel The Vision Coalition.  WEIC’s funding will be subject to the Governor’s submitted budget at the end of January.  The one that will be submitted AFTER the State Board of Education votes on the plan.  To read more about the SJR #4 group, please read this.

SJR4

 

Secretary Godowsky And Governor Markell Recklessly Whitewash The SAT/SBAC Debacle While Violating State & Federal Law

“I, Jack Markell, do proudly swear to carry out the responsibilities of the office of Governor to the best of my ability, freely acknowledging that the powers of this office flow from the people I am privileged to represent. I further swear always to place the public interests above any special or personal interests, and to respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage of Delaware. In doing so I will always uphold and defend the Constitutions of my Country and my State, so help me God.”from the Delaware Oath of Office for all publicly elected officials

gov1

Yesterday, Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education made a grandstand announcement about the SAT replacing the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  They forgot many things in their hasty announcement.  There are important and crucial reasons why this is not what it appears to be and actually violates many state and federal laws.

  1. The SAT went through a “redesign” to make it tied to the Common Core standards.  This is not the same SAT high school juniors took last year.  Delaware already has horrible scores on the SAT.  With the scores based on Smarter Balanced already showing less than half of Delaware students were proficient, expect those scores to plunge even lower on the SAT.
  2. House Bill 334, which brought the Smarter Balanced Assessment to Delaware explicitly states that “(j) Rules and regulations pursuant to this subchapter shall be proposed by the Secretary subject to approval by the State Board of Education.”  Since the State Board of Education did not vote on this, nor have they even had this as a discussion item on their agenda, Governor Markell broke Delaware law.  The State Board would not be able to vote on this until their February State Board meeting at the earliest.  By giving the Secretary full authority on this issue, Markell is in violation of his oath of office.
  3. There is no fiscal note for this unlawful change as well.  The funding for giving the SAT to all high school juniors in Delaware was part of the Race To The Top grant.  Those funds are now expired.  With the SAT at $90.00 or more, who is going to pay for this assessment?  Assuming there are roughly 10,000 high school juniors in Delaware, that price tag is now $900,000.00.
  4. As Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams brilliantly pointed out yesterday, “Last year, the Governor announced that Delaware colleges agreed to use the Smarter Balance Assessment as a way to measure college readiness as Delaware students entered college. Students would be able to opt out of remedial courses if they were to score at a certain level on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, what happened to that great idea?”
  5. Over the summer, Governor Markell spoke to an audience at an education “think tank” called New America.  He stated “Smarter Balanced is the best test Delaware ever made.”  Why is he replacing “the best test Delaware ever made” with the SAT?  Is Smarter Balanced no longer the “best test Delaware ever made?”
  6. By far, the biggest mistake Markell and the DOE made in their haste to push this through was their complete ignorance of students with disabilities who have to take the SAT.  As per Title 14, § 151, (f) ”The Department shall establish alternate assessments for children with disabilities who cannot participate in the statewide assessment of student achievement even with appropriate accommodations and modifications. Alternate assessments must be developed and used in the statewide assessment beginning not later than the 2010-2011 school year. Each local school district, through the individual student’s Individualized Education Program Team or 504 Team, shall determine what assessment the student will take, as well as the student’s matriculation or promotion status and necessary remedial activities if the student’s performance on the assessment is below standard, and if the statewide assessment is administered, what accommodations and/or modifications will be utilized. However, no student shall be denied the opportunity to take the state assessments administered pursuant to subsections (b) and (c) of this section.”  Since the decision was made to begin this in the spring of this year, has the Governor and the DOE assured students with disabilities that the accommodations offered on the SAT will be the exact same ones offered by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium?  According to the College Board website, the process for accommodations on the SAT for students with disabilities is completely different.  At a minimum, the Governor and the Delaware Department of Education have now broken IDEA law (more on this below).
  7. With a letter from 10 Democrats, and not an actual resolution or bill passed by the General Assembly, Governor Markell has circumvented the legislative process.  House Bill 334 specifically states the purpose of the legislation was to transition Delaware from DCAS to Smarter Balanced.  Without an executive order, Governor Markell usurped the authority of the General Assembly and their ability to make laws in Delaware.  Since he signed the law, he has broken it.  “This bill provides for the transition of the statewide student assessment system, the Delaware Comprehensive Student Assessment (DCAS), to the Smarter Balanced Assessment System (Smarter). Specifically, the bill removes references to multiple assessments.”

In terms of accommodations for students with disabilities on the SAT, it is a minimum of a seven-week process.  The deadline to submit this application, along with consent from the student’s parent, for the March 5th test is January 15th, for the May 7th test it is March 16th, and for the June 4th test it is April 15th.  This will mean that all IEP teams will need to meet to determine what accommodations students with disabilities will need for the SAT test.  What happens if the College Board won’t accept all the accommodations students received for the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  According to the College Board website, sending an IEP or a doctor’s note is not sufficient by itself.  If Delaware State Code specifically states the IEP team decides on the accommodations but they are now subject to College Board approval, how does this even work?  In looking at the College Board website, they also ask for a great deal of personal student information including doctor evaluations and any medicine students take.  I don’t believe this is written in Delaware State Code.  The Governor and the DOE are seriously putting Delaware at great risk of potential litigation with this action.  In addition to IDEA federal law, there are also serious questions concerning private student data, FERPA, and basic civil rights for students with disabilities.

While Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky brought up working through the accommodations issue, he is not looking at the big picture at all.  In a letter sent to Delaware educators this morning, Godowsky failed to bring up many of the points I have made concerning actual laws his Department and the Governor have broken with this decision.

Message from the Secretary of Education

 
Fellow educators,
 
I hope you enjoyed the recent holiday break and have returned rejuvenated for the rest of the school year. Thank you for your continued commitment to ensure every child is prepared for success in our schools.
 
I am pleased to welcome you back with exciting news for 2016: The SAT will replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state accountability test for high school juniors beginning this spring.
 
We made this decision after hearing from educators, students, families, lawmakers and others concerned about the testing burden on students, especially 11th graders who already were taking both tests.
 
We formally announced this news today, and you can learn more here. This change comes with many challenges we must overcome in a short time period, such as determining the proper accommodations for students with disabilities, and we are working through these issues. We will continue to update this site with more information in the weeks ahead.
 
This year, the SAT is also redesigned. Changes include:
 
  • Two sections (plus an essay): Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math
  • A focus on the math that matters most for college and career
  • A move away from obscure vocabulary to the use of relevant words in context
  • The elimination of the guessing penalty
 
Several SAT supports are available to you as well. College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free SAT test practice to all Delaware students. Khan also provides personalized SAT practice based on students’ PSAT results. Through a score reporting portal, you can monitor student progress and guide them in preparing for greater SAT success. More information on the re-designed SAT, personalized practice recommendations, and important SAT dates and news is available here.  
 
Teacher guides and professional development modules are also available to support educators integrating SAT practice into their classrooms. Resources are available online, and College Board can come to districts to assist with training. Find more information here.
 
We continue to look for ways to support Delaware educators, help students, and reduce testing, and we look forward to the results of the work of an on-going assessment inventory task force to inform our state’s policy in the future.
 
In partnership,
 
Steven Godowsky
Secretary of Education
It is more than obvious Governor Markell is desperate and scared of the veto override on House Bill 50.  He is pulling out all the stops, but now he is getting very sloppy, careless and reckless.  Delaware parents have him on his toes and he really doesn’t know how to handle it.  Legislators in Delaware are now confused about what to do based on these decisions by Markell and the DOE.  The amount of discussion surrounding House Bill 50 while completely ignoring the entire purpose of the bill is sucking the oxygen out of the room.  Legislators are forgetting what this entire bill is about: parent rights, nothing else.  It is not about over-testing, or the SAT, or anything else.  It is parent rights.  Parents want it, they asked for it, and the majority of the 148th General Assembly approved it.  Everything else is subterfuge and propaganda coming from the DOE, Markell, and Rodel.
Governor Markell, in granting the authority to the Secretary of Education of Delaware, to make this decision is in violation of his Oath of Office.