Sorry If I Made You Storm Out Of The Assessment Inventory Committee Meeting!

The Delaware Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee, otherwise known as the Achieve Inc. payday, had their fourth meeting tonight.  Most of the discussion was around the district inventories and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Don’t get too excited Delaware!  The discussion about Smarter Balanced was by some members of the committee wondering why the Smarter Balanced wasn’t a major part of the discussion and the DOE trying desperately to work around it and misinterpreting the actual legislation that created the committee.  Once again, Senator David Sokola, who wrote the bill, didn’t show up.  I think he has been at one or two of the four meetings.  He hasn’t been to most of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meetings either, of which he is a member.  But his Legislative Aide did sit in his place, unlike State Rep. Earl Jaques who also championed this legislation last spring as an anti-opt-out bill and didn’t show up nor did he have someone come in his place, but I digress.  I do reserve the right to re-digress later though.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky was there for about the first third of the meeting.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if any state in the country has received a cut in federal funding due to participation rate.  The answer was no.  He then asked if any school or district in Delaware has.  Michael Watson from the DOE explained there have been Title I reallocations but didn’t specify why (and it wasn’t because of opt-out and we all know it).  Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey gave a presentation on Colonial’s assessment inventory process.  Many wondered right away why Smarter Balanced wasn’t included in their inventory even though most of the other districts and charters who participated did include it.  No clear answer was given except further clarification of the legal interpretation of SJR #2.  At some point, questions came up about the expectation of the district and the information supplied to them from the Delaware DOE for the process (of which schools and districts did receive grant money).  I yelled out “Achieve Inc. created it,” to which I was told public comment was at the end of the meeting.  😉  I can see the two DOE representatives were not happy with my comment and one of them was visibly pissed off.  State Rep. Matthews asked what the purpose of the Smarter Balanced is and why we need it.  He explained parents are more upset about their children not being able to go to the library to do research since their computer labs are tied up between March and June.  Even State Rep. Tim Dukes, a fervent supporter of standardized testing in the past, was questioning what this is all about.  He explained how he has been talking to teachers and, in my opinion, he may be walking towards the light in regards to how bad high-stakes testing really is.

Discussion continued around the federal role in Delaware education.  State Rep. Matthews asked why the DOE doesn’t push harder against federal mandate.  DSEA member Kirstin Dwyer, also on the committee, explained that when teachers pushed very hard for another year off from Smarter Balanced scores tying into their evaluations, they were told prior to this that the feds would never grant it, but they did.  A discussion came up about states that do not have to take assessments and were granted waivers.  The DOE explained there are seven states involved in something called the Innovation Network, which rang a bell in my head.  State Rep. Matthews asked why Delaware can’t try to join this group.  A vote was taken to get more information about these kinds of programs before they make their final recommendations.  It passed the committee.  Talk continued about the federal role, and Susan Haberstroh from the DOE said something to the effect of “Maybe the feds will let us do that”.  At this point, the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit leader Christopher Ruszkowski, who was sitting in the back, said “No they won’t.”  I said “Yes they will.”  We both repeated ourselves.  But the sad truth is Delaware doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Council of Chief State School Officers Innovation Lab Network.  Just ask the many teachers and citizens who are seeing this guinea pig experiment taking place in states like Maine, Colorado and New Hampshire.  I actually touch on one of the key parts coming out of these “Innovation Labs” later on in this article.  You will know it when you see it!  Scary stuff!

Teachers gave public comment about, you know, how bad SBAC is and how the test doesn’t give any useful information.  Red Clay Education Association President Mike Matthews complimented the Christina School District for giving a recommendation to dump the Smarter Balanced in their assessment inventory (Capital didn’t give it a ringing endorsement either).  He lamented Red Clay didn’t do the same.  But he did advise the committee his executive membership unanimously voted on a resolution to have Red Clay change their recommendation about SBAC and he questioned the transparency around Red Clay’s inventory process.

And then came my public comment.  To give some background, the meeting was already running late, and public comment was limited to two minutes.  One public commenter already went over their time (and continued), which didn’t bother me at all.  I knew exactly what I was going to say cause I wrote it out.

In 1992, the CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy wrote an 18 page letter to Hillary Clinton. Bill was just elected, and the CEO, named Marc Tucker, took it upon himself to write Hillary his ideas for the future of America.  Tucker wanted America to become like Germany and Switzerland, where students are “apprentice-trained”.  This begins at a very early age.  As part of Tucker’s plan, public education must become standardized.  As well, career paths are chosen through the tests implemented through these higher standards.  This is all part of a much larger plan to merge the US Departments of Education, Labor, and the Immigration division of Homeland Security.  By crafting this agenda, children will be tracked and catalogued through massive data systems, tied to state longitudinal data systems.  These “pathways to prosperity”, or career tracks for children, are contingent upon data.  Data that is provided by every single state to a joint system shared by the US Department of Defense and the US DOE. 

In 1996, a company called Achieve Inc. was created by our nation’s governors, corporate leaders, and Tucker’s group. Achieve eventually created the Common Core standards, but gave the illusion it was created by stakeholders.  Yes, the very same company that assisted with the assessment inventory in Delaware and gave the matrix for districts to follow.  The same company that created the standards is now telling districts how they should utilize their own assessments.

Bill Gates, through his foundation, began funding this over 15 years ago. Delaware allowed this into our state with the Race To The Top grant.  Yes, Senator Sokola and Attorney General Matt Denn wrote Senate Bill 79 last year which passed the General Assembly and was signed by the Governor.  This bill, supposedly meant to protect student data, was heavily lobbied by companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.  There is a gigantic loophole in this.  Eventually, Smarter Balanced will be broken down into chunks through personalized learning.  Using a competency-based education model, students will advance based on how they do on these mini-standardized tests.  This data will flow freely to the feds which will in turn be shared with employers, non-profits (especially those who really push personalized learning), and corporate interests.  What Sokola and Denn allowed into the final bill appears, on the surface, to protect student data.  But whether it was intentional or not, the algorithms for personalized learning and state assessments are allowed to be shared.  We already see 7-8 Delaware districts using the BRInC Consortium’s “Blended Learning” models.  Every single time a student logs in or enters a keystroke, the data recording begins by the companies tracking all of this data.  All of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, through the algorithms created by American Institutes for Research, fall into this category as well.  Our Governor is one of the very early pioneers of this agenda in Delaware, along with the Rodel Foundation. 

So really, who are we kidding with this nonsense?  This IS about students: cataloguing them, tracking them, and allowing the government to decide what they should be based on data.  But for students with disabilities, they will remain on the bottom of all things concerned with education.  Something Delaware fully allows by not granting these students funding in Kindergarten to 3rd grade unless they are so impaired the state doesn’t have a choice.  Meanwhile, Governor Markell is getting ready to go down to D.C. to hobnob with yet another education foundation instead of taking care of his own state.  

As I mentioned earlier, Senator Sokola did not attend the meeting but his Legislative Aide did.  I’ve met him a few times and he is a nice guy.  During my public comment, at the second mention of “Sokola”, he picked up his things, had a VERY angry face, and stormed out of the meeting.  I certainly hope it wasn’t anything I said, but he looked very troubled.  I have talked to Matt Denn about this bill, along with the representative from his office who wrote the legislation, and I don’t know if they are even aware of the “algorithm loophole” that is causing student data to go out like a burst dam.  But, and I am only guessing here, it bothered Sokola’s legal aide.  I could be wrong and something else was going on that I was not privy to.   As well, when I got my two minute flag, I did keep going.  I was almost done!  As I got into the part about students with disabilities somebody said “Kevin…” like I was saying something bad.  Or perhaps it was my angry tone.  But I already had to speed through my public comment due to a ridiculous two minute time limit.  I’m not a big fan of being cut off over parliamentary rules and procedures (which is why you don’t see me on these committees, task forces, or public office).  Or maybe some people didn’t like what I was saying and it cut a little to close to the bone for them.  Either way, I got it out.  And I have a ton more to say about all that.

Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges gave public comment about the Smarter Balanced Assessment that echoed many of the opponents of the test throughout the evening.  (As an aside, the DOE actually gave out the National PTA’s position statement against parent opt-out to members of the committee and the public).  Finally, State Rep. Kim Williams, https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/state-rep-kim-williams-slams-state-board-exec-director-donna-johnson-at-weic-meeting-tonight/ again questioned where the parent representative of the assessment inventory committee was.  She informed them this parent rep came to the first meeting and not the other three.  She was not happy the DOE hasn’t responded to her about this issue and that parents are once again being shut out of the process.  With that the meeting adjourned.  And I am left with the same conclusion I have always had about the Achieve Inc. Party Assessment Inventory Committee: it will get rid of the good diagnostic district tests that give immediate feedback and allow teachers to help students in lieu of more interim Smarter Balanced Assessments (which will eventually be broken down into mini-tests at the end of units).  More data.  More tracking.  More pre-determined “pathways” for every single student in Delaware.  Unless you opt out now.  Out of Smarter Balanced AND Personalized Learning.  Unless you are okay with your child’s social-emotional, academic, behavioral, and personal data going out to Education Inc.  In that case, keep on opting in!

Federal Role In Opt-Out Will Be The Same, John King Ignores The Intent Of ESSA

The United States Department of Education will continue to exert authority in regards to parents opting their child out of state assessments through regulations.

Congressman Jared Polis from Colorado asked Acting Secretary of Education John King, during the “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Upholding the Letter and Intent of the Every Student Succeeds Act” hearing, about opt-out and participation rates.

By stating “we all know states have a historically checkered record of making sure all vulnerable sub-groups are served,”  Polis referenced Oklahoma’s State Superintendent as saying “While a state is  welcome to pass bad laws as relating to opt-outs, we have Section 4-C-E of ESSA that says states must assess 95% of students.  That means all means all.”

Polis quoted US DOE as responding “While it is up to states to determine the consequences of failing to assess students, the Department will provide oversight and enforcement to ensure that states are assessing all students, regardless of what the states laws are and how opt-outs occur.”  He then asked John King what steps he plans to take to make sure “all means all” with participation rates.

King responded: “I take that responsibility quite seriously to ensure that all means all.  This implementation of the law advances equity in excellence.  I think we have an opportunity in the regulations and guidance that we help to provide guardrails that will ensure that states use their new flexibility around accountability and interventions to advance equity.  For example, as we begin the negotiated rule-making process around assessments, the kind of questions we’ve been getting have been questions around the participation of students with disabilities, the participation of English learners, the implementation of computer adaptive assessment, in a way that protects equity.  And so as we move forward, that negotiated rule-making, a central question will be how do we ensure that regulations we do on assessment protect civil rights of students.  And we’ll take a similar approach to the work on the on our negotiated rule-making for supplemented non-supplant and we continue to review, comment, and feedback from stakeholders to define other areas where we need to move forward with regs and guidance.”

Polis went on…. “And while the consequences of meeting the requirements are left up to state law, do you feel that you have sufficient leverage to ensure that those consequences are meaningful and not meaningless?”

King replied: “We do, and I will say it will require vigilance from the part of the Department, especially as states implement their first round of interventions and identify whether or not those interventions are helping to achieve progress, particularly for at-risk sub-groups.  We’re gonna have to be vigilant to ensure that states continue to move forward to shift strategy, if a strategy is not working for the highest-need students.”

Define vigilance John King!  This violates parental rights at a massive scale.  Opt-out is an individual parent choice for their child, not a school’s responsibility to make sure it does or does not happen.  It is our right that we choose to exercise.  This law gives parents, teachers, and schools absolutely no protection from the iron fist of the federal government.  We are back to square one…

John King Confirmation Quandary

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

john king  John King

On February 11, 2016, President Obama announced his intention to formally nominate acting US secretary of education, John King, for the official position of US secretary of education. In October 2015, when Obama announced that King would replace Arne Duncan, Obama indicated that he would not formally nominate King because Obama did not want to wrangle with trying to convince a newly Republican-majority Senate to confirm his choice.

However, in February 2016, it seems that the Republican-majority Senate is eager to confirm King as the next Us secretary of education. On February 22, 2016, Senator Lamar Alexander– one of the chief architects of the newly-reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)– seems especially eager to formally confirm a US secretary of education– even if it is King:

While Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is one of the Republicans trying…

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US Rep. John Kline’s Statement On ESSA Hearings From Today

The Every Student Succeeds Act got it’s own hearing today in Washington D.C.  Congressman and Chairman of the Education & the Workforce Committee John Kline oversaw the hearing.  Acting Secretary John King answered questions about the legislation signed by President Obama in December.  King will also face a US Senate confirmation hearing later this afternoon.  Odds are pretty good the Senate will confirm King as the official US Secretary of Education.  And many of us know why…

Kline Statement: Hearing on “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Upholding the Letter and Intent of the Every Student Succeeds Act”

 
 

Replacing No Child Left Behind was a significant achievement that was desperately needed and long overdue. The law represented the largest expansion of federal control over K-12 schools, and it was based on the flawed premise that Washington knows best what students need in the classroom. The federal government imposed rigid rules and punitive actions on states and schools in areas vital to a child’s education, like which teachers to hire and fire, how to gauge school performance, and how to fix underperforming schools.It didn’t take long before state and local leaders were raising concerns that this top-down approach wouldn’t work. Their concerns were affirmed year after year as we experienced little – if any – improvement in graduation rates, proficiency in reading and math, and the achievement gap separating poor and minority students from their peers. Frustration among parents and teachers went up, while student achievement remained flat. Despite the good intentions behind the law, millions of children were left behind.

To make matters worse, the administration spent years pushing a convoluted waiver scheme, which doubled-down on the false hope that Washington could fix the problems in our schools. States and schools were subjected to even more federal requirements in areas like standards and teacher evaluations. They were forced to choose between onerous requirements prescribed in federal law and onerous requirements prescribed by the secretary of education.

If we learned anything throughout process to replace No Child Left Behind, it’s that the American people are tired of Washington micromanaging their classrooms. They are desperate for a different approach to K-12 education, one that will significantly reduce the federal role and restore state and local control. That is precisely the approach taken by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Under the new law, authority over accountability, teacher quality, and school improvement is restored to state and local leaders. The law also brings new transparency and accountability to the department’s rulemaking process, ends the era of federally-mandated high-stakes testing, repeals dozens of ineffective programs, and sets the department on the path to becoming smaller, not bigger. Furthermore, due to the administration’s actions in recent years and the public outcry that ensued, the Every Student Succeeds Act includes unprecedented restrictions on the authority of the secretary of education, ending the days when one individual imposed his or her own agenda on our classrooms.   

The Wall Street Journal described the new law as the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.” A letter written by a coalition of organizations representing governors, state lawmakers, teachers, parents, principals, and superintendents says, “[The Every Student Succeeds Act] is clear: Education decision-making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.” They also urge the Department of Education to “honor congressional intent,” which brings us to the heart of today’s hearing.

Despite our success replacing No Child Left Behind, the real work to improve K-12 education is just beginning. The focus now shifts to leaders in state capitals and local communities who will use the tools and authority in the new law to build a better education for their children. And if they are going to succeed, they will need a Department of Education that behaves like a partner – not dictator.

I’ve described countless times the shortfalls of No Child Left Behind. While it may seem unnecessary at a hearing on the future of K-12 education, we need to remember where we have been as we look to where we want to go. Congress did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past, and we certainly did not want a Department of Education that would continue to substitute its will for the will of Congress and the American people. Quite the opposite, we wanted new policies that would empower parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders. Congress promised to reduce the federal role and restore local control, and we intend to keep our promise.

That’s why we are here today. We want to learn what actions the department intends to take to implement the law and to help ensure the department acts in a manner that strictly adheres to the letter and intent of the law. Dr. King, this committee stands ready to assist you in that effort. The reforms you are now implementing were the result of bipartisan consensus, and we will remain actively engaged as the department moves forward. There is a lot of work to do, especially in every state and school district across the country. The department must get this right so every child can receive the excellent education they deserve. 

This is EXACTLY what Wall Street, hedge fund managers, members of the National Governor’s Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and many legislators want.  The devil, of course, is in the details…

You can watch the video of the hearing as well:

 

State Rep. Kim Williams Slams State Board Exec. Director Donna Johnson At WEIC Meeting Tonight

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The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission had two meetings tonight.  At 5pm, they had their Redistricting Committee meeting and at 6:30 they had a regular commission meeting.  During the public comment part of the redistricting meeting, State Rep. Kim Williams advised the audience State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson was telling State Board members how to vote on the WEIC plan at last week’s controversial State Board of Education meeting.  This was overheard by a few people in the audience at the State Board of Education meeting.  The best part… Donna Johnson was sitting in the row behind her.  As reported to me by several people, Johnson immediately began shaking her head no.  She did not look happy at all by the time I got there.

I was not there for that stunning announcement, but I did arrive late to the commission meeting.  As Milli Vanilli would say, blame it on the rain.  But the meeting was in full swing by the time I got there.  Commission member Yvonne Johnson introduced a motion to send the WEIC plan back to the State Board without their amendments concerning “shall” and “may” and the Christina priority school plans.  The motion passed, after a lot of heated discussion on both sides of the argument, with 15 yes, 6 no, and 2 absent.

Prior to that, State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky were there to answer questions.  The best moment of the evening, which drew a huge round of applause, was when Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan informed Dr. Gray about how former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy never signed their memorandum of understanding developed with their board, the DOE, and representatives from Governor Markell’s office.  Dr. Gray actually said she wasn’t aware of that even though she was told this at the December State Board meeting.  She told Minnehan she misread the addendum to the WEIC plan, even though it was very clearly spelled out.  I have to wonder if these State Board members read anything or if Donna Johnson is calling the shots 100% of the time.  Minnehan told Dr. Gray she wanted an apology from the State Board for their misleading labeling of the Christina School District.  Many members of the commission and nearly all of the audience clapped at this.  Of course, Dr. Gray did not apologize.  I guess they need a board vote to determine if they “may” or “shall” do that.

Commission member Chandra Pitts asked Gray if she understood the intent of Senate Bill 122, which was that the WEIC plan either got a yes or a no vote from the State Board.  Gray responded by saying she did understand the legislation.  Pitts asked Secretary Godowsky what his plans are for Wilmington students after he openly said he wanted to make sure the Christina priority schools clause was put into the State Board’s consideration for the WEIC plan.

Gray said the State Board will advocate for Wilmington students just as much as they do for all of Delaware’s students.  This didn’t soothe any of the emotions in the crowd.  As I wrote on Facebook tonight, their idea of advocacy is ruling as tyrants in the Cabinet Room at the DOE Building once a month.  They are the most disconnected education group in the state, yet they have this power to make or break education.  All I see is a lot of breaking at the expense of Delaware’s students.  When the majority of the voices out there are telling you “this is wrong” or “don’t do this”, the State Board usually takes it upon themselves to ignore those voices and essentially do whatever Governor Markell tells Donna Johnson who then tells them what to do.  One member of the commission asked why the State Board brought up this whole “shall” and “may” stuff in Mid-February when they had the plan since December.  No response…

The districts were united in their response to the State Board’s change of the “shall” and “may” with no way!  They will have no part of an unfunded mandate that could eventually leave the citizens in their districts on the hook to pay for all of this.  Colonial Board Member Joseph Laws told Gray he thought it was ridiculous that the State Board would change those words based on the possibility of “tying the hands of the future State Board”.  He said the General Assembly and school board members pass laws, resolutions, and policies all the time.  Basically, and these are my words, it was lame of the State Board to change a whole plan based on future boards.

During the deliberation of the motion to send the original plan back to the State Board, WEIC member Rev. Meredith Griffiths told the group it should be about the students.  He felt if they send the plan back to the State Board where they will vote no on it again, it won’t help the students because the adults self-posture.  I see it as defending their local turf.  Had they done this during the Race To The Top days, things could be very different now.  Perhaps they have learned their lesson and we are seeing this now with the WEIC vs. State Board fight.

Bottom line: you can’t trust the State Board.  They are not publicly elected officials.  They are appointed by the Governor.  Granted, not all of the State Board members were appointed by Markell, but they have let him run the show since he became Governor.  And by using his puppet Donna Johnson to give the marching orders to the State Board, we get events like tonight.

Gray was not in her turf, so she couldn’t do her grand posturing and her bouts of Christina Derangement Syndrome the way she does in State Board meetings.  But make no mistake, beneath her calm demeanor, her arrogance could still be seen by all.  For the most part, Godowsky sat there stone-faced without much comment at all.  Our State Board of Education needs some major changes.  The trust in them is gone.  And I am still not convinced Godowsky’s changes in the DOE are enough to restore any semblance of faith in them as well.  At the end of the day, it is still Governor Markell’s commands being followed.  He may tweak those plans here and there in a vain attempt to restore public faith in his failed agendas, but the results are still the same.

If someone could please answer how the hell Donna Johnson still has her job I would greatly appreciate it.  How does someone advance from being on the Common Core math implementation team to the Executive Director of the State Board of Education in just a couple years?  It is my opinion, shared by many, that Donna Johnson abuses her power time and time again and no one at a state level who has the power to do anything about it does.  Like I said, we need drastic change in Dover.  The State Board’s incompetence at either passing or denying a redistricting plan is clear evidence of this, but this is just the culmination of years of their Markell-driven need for control.