Governor Markell Sends The Washington Post Editorial Hit Squad To Disrespect Delaware Parents Even More

The Washington Post, owned by the owner of Amazon, just published an editorial about the potential override of Delaware Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, our opt-out legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate last Spring.  They are very much against the override.  The owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, is a very well-known charter school supporter.  Many feel the true purpose of tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC tests is to label and shame traditional public schools to the point where they are put in “turnaround” status and then become charter schools.

I found the editorial staff’s column to be absolutely wrong on so many levels.

Credit to Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D), then, for standing up for accountability in vetoing a bill that would encourage parents to exempt their children from state tests.

The accountability where he made our Delaware Department of Education impose harsh opt-out penalties on our Delaware School Success Framework after our Secretary of Education said it would most likely not happen?  Accountability where students with high populations of minorities, low-income and poverty students, and students with disabilities don’t perform well on “the best test Delaware ever made”?  But yet Jack Markell can’t be accountable to the legislators that voted overwhelmingly in support of parental rights.  He dishonored them and parents with his cowardly veto.

In fact, parents can already prevent their children from taking these tests. But the legislation would give an imprimatur of state approval that would lead more parents to think it’s okay, even desirable, for children to duck these tests.

The legislation says absolutely nothing about that whatsoever.  It merely codifies a parental right and stops school districts and charter schools from strong-arming parents when they opt their children out.  If parents can already prevent their children from taking these tests, than why is our state not doing anything to stop school districts and charters from intimidating and bullying parents?  And yet, this editorial says absolutely nothing about the protections offered to students: they are to have alternate educational activities and they will not be punished by the school for the parent’s decision.

That, as Mr. Markell told us, would be bad policy. “Assessments are an important tool for teachers and families to have,” he said. Backing his decision are civil rights groups that fear minority and other at-risk students will slip through the cracks if there is no objective measure of performance and business groups that believe results should be measured when billions of dollars are spent on schools.

The same civil rights groups that get massive donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?  They are full of it and care more about their own bottom line than the students they claim to represent.

No doubt there is frustration with what some see as excessive testing, but the solution is not a knee-jerk boycott. Instead, there needs to be, as is being done in Delaware, a thoughtful inventory of tests to eliminate those that are redundant or otherwise unnecessary.

That thoughtful assessment inventory where the ONLY parent on the task force is one appointed by the Governor?  And stacked up with many of his education go-to legislators?  The one that will most likely get rid of assessments that actually do help students and will give rise to more Smarter Balanced interim tests?  That thoughtful process?

If they want to continue to have bragging rights in improving education, they need to preserve accountability and not give in to interest groups that oppose a clear view of how their schools are performing.

Trust me, the only ones bragging about Delaware education are the Governor and our DOE.  We know how our schools are performing, thank you very much, and it is all based on a lie called standardized tests used not for their original purpose but to test, label, and punish our schools.  They are socio-economic in nature and all they do is tell us what a child’s zip code is in many cases. 

 

DSEA Will Be Part Of NEA’s ESSA Implementation Team

The largest teachers union in America is going to have representatives from each state as part of their Every Student Succeeds Implementation Team.  This group was formed so they can comb through the recently passed ESSA signed by President Obama last month.  I know a few of the folks on this team, and I certainly hope they can help Delaware students, parents, teachers, and schools navigate through this transitional period.

There is news below about the ESSA and opt-out.  I strongly urge all Delaware parents to read this as the new law allows for opt-out policies to be made at the state level, not the Federal level.  This comes at a crucial time as the Delaware General Assembly is on the cusp of overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  The ESSA does not allow for the feds to issue letters about funding cuts whatsoever.  The key words in this are “maintains requirements that assessments be administered to at least 95% of all students“.  Schools control that, but they have absolutely no control if a parent chooses to not have their child take the assessment.

From their monthly newsletter, “Professionally Speaking”:

ESSA Explained

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December has raised an overwhelming number of questions from educators and other education stakeholders as to what is actually contained within the law.  Over the next few issues of DSEA’s digital newsletters, Professionally Speaking and Legislative Matters, we will feature some of the key differences between the No Child Left Behind Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  In this issue we focus upon Standards and Assessments:

ESSA Standards Table_2

ESSA Assessments Table_2
For any of the changes outlined above, it is important to remember that successful implementation of this new bill will be dependent upon the decisions made at the state and local levels.  Educator input on state and district policies covering testing, accountability systems, and how ESSA can best support the whole child will be crucial to ensuring that the bill truly works for students and schools.

To meet DSEA and other state affiliate needs, NEA has created an ESSA Implementation Team.  This team will have its first meeting in Washington, DC on January 22-23, 2016.   Implementation team members will learn more about the core aspects of the law, provide advice about how best to equip affiliates and members with tools they need, and formulate strategies for connecting affiliates, members and staff together in this implementation effort so that we learn from each other and can help each other.  

State affiliates were asked to submit name of staff and educators to be part of this team. DSEA team members from Delaware include Kristin Dwyer, DSEA Director of Government Relations, Deb Stevens, DSEA Director of Instructional Advocacy, Jesse Parsley, an Association Rep and 8th grade math teacher at Milford Central Academy, and Jill League, a member of the DPAS II Advisory Committee and a 5th grade teacher at Brandywine Springs Elementary.  Watch for more information about ESSA implementation from our team in the near future.

WDEL’s Weasel Of The Year: The Department of Education led by Donna Johnson and Dr. Teri Quinn Gray!!!

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The Rick Jensen Show on WDEL just announced their Weasel of the Year for 2015, and by a very wide margin, the Delaware Department of Education led by Executive Director Donna Johnson and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray took the award!  Other nominees were Bloom Energy, Paul Ryan, Governor Markell, and more.  But the DOE won by 27 votes.  Congratulations to the DOE, Donna Johnson, and Dr. Gray!  You certainly worked very hard all year long to get this prestigious honor!

Once Rick gets the podcast of this on the WDEL website I will definitely put it up on here!

Knowing the power structure down at the Townsend Building down in Dover, I have no doubt Donna Johnson will be very irate at being called the leader of the Delaware DOE.  I let Rick know this on the air as well, but I also said they are essentially the same thing.  Maybe not in the formal Delaware State Code, but you know what I’m saying.  The best part?  Even though Governor Markell didn’t win, this is reflective of him because he appointed all of the key personnel at the Delaware DOE.  So this is a double victory in my book!

Delaware Comes In 16th Place In EdWeek Ranking, Academics Get A D+

It seems like many websites are putting out education rankings these days.  The latest comes from EdWeek with their quality counts ranking system.  For Delaware, we came in 16th place, but this truly isn’t anything to rave about.  Delaware’s overall grade on this ranking was a C+.  A student’s “chance for success was also a C+, K-12 achievement got a D+ and school finance got a B.  I assume this report didn’t factor in all the charter school fiascos with financial fraud and abuse, but like I have said about ranking systems overall, I don’t give them much weight because they can be extremely subjective and biased.

The top three states were Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.  I think we can say, based on this and the Niche.com charts I listed the other day, our overall Smarter Balanced Assessment scores, the opt-out movement in Delaware, a pending ACLU lawsuit against the state and our biggest district based on charter school enrollment practices, a funding system that makes no sense, SAT scores at the bottom of the list based on every single student taking it, falling NAEP scores, and special education chaos throughout our state that Governor Markell’s education initiatives have landed our state into a position of abject failure when it comes to education.  Governor Markell’s education legacy won’t be looked on favorably in the years to come.

Our surrounding states did better than Delaware, with New Jersey coming in at #3, Maryland at #4, Pennsylvania at #7, and Virginia at #12.