John Carney: Don’t Be A Markell In Sheep’s Clothing

Carney

This is a plea to Congressman John Carney.

You are running for Governor in Delaware.  You haven’t officially filed yet, but you announced your intention last year.  In Delaware, it seems like a certainty you will win the election in November.  With that being said, I have some grave concerns with some of your education votes in the U.S. House of Representatives.

You voted yes for the following:

The Every Student Succeeds Act which yields to the states the ability to determine opt out procedures when parents don’t want their child to take the state standardized test.  Even though ESSA states 95% of students must take the state assessment.  The US DOE is ignoring the power given to states in this legislation.

You voted no for the following:

HR5: The Student Success Act.  This legislation, the House precursor to the Every Student Succeeds Act, allowed for parent opt out for any reason and would not penalize schools for opt outs in their accountability report cards.

In Delaware, parents cried out to our legislators last year to act for their rights.  While they were with us in the majority, when the time came for them to act again, many of them took the coward’s way out by not voting for a suspension of rules.  Something many of them have no problem doing all the time.  We don’t need another Jack Markell in Delaware.  I think we are all done with him.  His education legacy will be one for the history books, and not in a positive light in the long run.

Aside from attending Smyrna Day in the Smyrna School District and going to the Coding School in Wilmington, we really haven’t heard much from you on education.  I’m sure you are relieved this hasn’t come up.  But with ESSA regulations about to come out, it is essential that you let the voters of Delaware know your views on education matters.  If you are to be the presumptive winner for Governor of Delaware, let it be a presumption with all of the facts.

As a son of two teachers, I am sure you have a high regard for education and the teaching profession.  I would hope you don’t completely agree with many of the federal mandates from the past 15 years.  It is very important that you let us know your thoughts.  Let us vote with a clear idea of where you are coming from.  I am hoping you lead us out of the education quagmire Governor Markell perpetrated on the First State.  We want a Governor that supports parental rights as much as any other rights that you celebrate on social media so much.

I think you got a raw deal in 2008.  Many Delawareans feel this way.  Things could have been very different had you won back then.  Perhaps high-stakes assessments wouldn’t become the bread and butter of all things education in Delaware.  Perhaps our teachers would feel more respected by the state you hope to govern.  Perhaps parents wouldn’t feel the need to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment had someone fought Arne Duncan and the US DOE during the tumultuous Race To The Top years.

The time has come for you to speak about education in Delaware and what you are looking to achieve.  If it is the status quo, which is not what Jack Markell states it is, but rather the complete sell-out of public education to companies who want privatization while funds seep out of classrooms and into the eager hands of hedge fund managers, then be honest and let us know that.  If you want something different, something bold and a bit radical, let us know.  Either way, your silence is deafening.

 

House Bill 279 Would Allow For Public Comment At Any Public Meeting

State Rep. Kim Williams submitted another awesome bill today in the Delaware General Assembly.  House Bill 279 would allow for public comment at any public meeting.  It’s that easy!  I have seen, in the past, where some charters want you to let them know what they are saying ahead of time.  That defeats the whole purpose of public comment!  As well, the State Board of Education doesn’t allow for public comment on action items at their board meetings.  Which is ridiculous.  It’s not like the general public knows where to look for these things.  They don’t get the registrar of regulations mailed to them for Pete-not-Schwartzkopf’s sake!

HB279

First State Military Academy Delivering Top-Notch Special Education Services

Gallucci

Delaware’s First State Military Academy did a 180 degree turn on their special education services for students with disabilities.  For those who believe I hate all charter schools, this is not the case.  What I am against is bad decisions by some in the charter community as well as traditional school districts.  I have seen some charters who did very bad things manage to do an awesome turnaround.  I’ve also seen charters do really great and then see them fall apart.  And then there are those charters who are bad and manage to continue their downward spiral.  There are some I don’t write anything bad about because there is nothing bad about them.

First State Military Academy just opened last August.  Located in Smyrna, the new charter had some special education issues in the beginning of the year.  After an initial special education director resigned, and a replacement didn’t work out as planned, the school had to get it together.  The school already had a higher than normal special education population.  Getting IEPs together for a large influx of students with disabilities, along with opening a new school, has to be a harrowing effort.  To that effect, the school hired a former special education teacher from the John Charlton School in the Caesar Rodney School District.

Since then, I’ve heard from multiple sources the school is offering top-notch special education services.  One of their biggest challenges was the handling of student accommodations with a technology-based curriculum.  For example, IEPs or 504 plans could have an accommodation where a student is only expected to do half of an assignment.  In Math, instead of doing 20 problems, they only do 10.  When you have a computer doing the scoring, it would take a massive amount of computer code to change existing programs.  The school found a way to work around this and make sure students with accommodations are taken into account with the scoring.  This allows the students to receive a more accurate grade based on their special education needs.

I’ve also heard IEP meetings are excellent at First State Military Academy.  The difference between when they first opened last year and today are night and day.  The meetings are organized, the teachers are on board, and parents are much happier.

I’ve heard from many folks about how great Commandant Patrick Galluci and School Instructional Leader Dr. John Epstein are.  It looks like they are living up to this reputation.  I’m happy the school not only identified their prior special education issues but also acted on them.  Doing the right thing is what most of us want.  If I am constantly bashing on certain charter schools in Delaware, there are valid reasons for that.  Special education is near and dear to me and good news deserves a shout-out!

Because of the very nature of charter schools in Delaware, information about them is much easier to find through the Delaware Department of Education website and other sources.  I have written about traditional school districts quite a bit as well on this blog.  Most of my issues with Delaware charters surround their enrollment preferences and financial transparency.  If I can find something out from their website or through Google, that’s an issue.  But the biggest source of information, when it comes to good news, comes from the parents.  I am always happy to publish the good stuff as well as the bad.  If you know something great going on, let me know.  I won’t bite!  Unless it is to spread any type of love about standardized testing.  You won’t find any support from me on that one!