Delaware House Education Committee Baffled By Inability Of Public To Comment On Action Items At State Board of Education Meetings

This bill is a no-brainer! DeStateBoardofEducation

At the House Education Committee meeting in Delaware today, members looked confused as State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson tried to explain to them why they don’t allow public comment before any action items.  Citing regulatory laws and charter applications, which are in the synopsis of the bill, Johnson said regulations have a set period of public comment.  For charter applications, she said State Board members are required to vote on the charter file which is set up with a public comment period.  State Rep. Kim Williams brought House Bill 232 forward because of events she witnessed at State Board of Education meetings.

For a while there, the volley went back and forth between Williams and Johnson.  Williams stated she wanted to give public comment on Gateway Lab School’s formal review the day the State Board made their decision but she couldn’t because of this rule.  She also cited a recent Regulation, #616, that she wanted to give public comment on but couldn’t.  Johnson explained that Regulation 616 was a Secretary only regulation so she could have given public comment.  How anyone could ever keep track of all this stuff is beyond me.  If you are just a curious member of the public going to these meetings, you would have no clue!

Johnson went on to say the State Board could face a risk of a lawsuit if they voted on something based on a public comment after they have reviewed the entire record.  When asked if there has ever been any lawsuit in any situation like this for any state agency, the answer was no.  As State Rep after State Rep tried to figure out why the State Board wouldn’t allow public comment, it culminated in State Rep. Sean Lynn stating he felt the opposition to the bill (which only came from Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network) was disingenuous and was filled with self-interests.  No one on the committee had any reason to oppose the bill and it was released from committee.

For a split second, I almost felt bad for Donna Johnson.  Not because I felt she was right, but because she has no idea how she sounds to decision-makers.  She doesn’t see how going to bat for her friends in the charter community actually hurts her in the long run.  When a fervent charter school supporter like State Rep. Mike Ramone is saying this is an excellent bill and doesn’t understand why this isn’t already allowed, you know there is something wrong with the policy.  He questioned Johnson about the ability for a three minute public comment to completely sway a vote.  He felt that an official on any board should have enough knowledge of the events to be able to make a sound decision on matters.

Massett gave public comment.  She recalled a charter application in Southern Delaware where someone gave a statement that was completely false but there was no ability for the person they were talking about to rebut the comment.  This was the only “evidence” she could give to oppose House Bill 232.  I believe it was State Rep. Kevin Hensley who stated someone could still file a defamation of character suit in an incident like that.

Both State Reps Kim Williams and Kevin Hensley talked about their time on school boards and they couldn’t fathom not letting the public speak about an action item.  Hensley explained there were times when parents or a member of the community approached him about an issue right before a board meeting.  He said he would tell them to make sure to give public comment so the whole Board could hear it.  Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty said he may not always like what he hears in public comment, but he appreciates the public comment process.  As Lynn said today, “this bill is a no-brainer.”

I gave public comment before the vote.  I explained the public comment ban also happens for other charter issues, such as modifications or formal reviews.  I cited Family Foundations Academy and the Delaware Met as examples where things happened after the charter record closed and the State Board voted on something without giving the ability to the public to add new events.  I said there was an inherent danger with this.

One of the funnier moments came when Ramone kept going on and on about how the meeting room for State Board meetings was too small.  He recalled how it is standing room only and many people are forced to stand in the hall.  He suggested maybe they meet in the House chambers!  While it would be difficult to have seven state board members, an executive director and the Secretary of Education cram into the front of the House chamber, I’ve always suggested utilizing the VERY large conference room at the DOE’s other building over at the Collette Center in Dover.  While it isn’t as “official” looking as the Cabinet Room at the Townsend Building, it is certainly big enough to fit the State Board, DOE Chiefs, and at least a hundred members of the public, if not more.

It became very apparent to everyone in the audience today exactly why the Delaware State Board of Education was put on review by the Joint Sunset Committee yesterday.  In my opinion, I think this antiquated rule is something that comes from a country where dictators rule and the people are put on mute.  Transparency isn’t just being open with your records and dealings, it is also letting the public be transparent about how they feel.

One quick note: House Bill 161, which deals with Parent Empowerment Savings Accounts for students with disabilities, or as most call them, school vouchers, was taken off the agenda for today’s House Education Committee.

When Is The Next Delaware Assessment Inventory Meeting? Why Are They Stalling?

A week ago, I received notice the Delaware Assessment Inventory Committee will meet on April 26th.  Now, I am hearing May 2nd.  This came straight from Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky!  The May 2nd date is tentative.  So what is the hold-up?  It seems to me no one at the DOE really knows what they are doing with all of this.  Why are they the ones calling the shots?  They screwed it all up to begin with.

TaskforceUpdates

The above picture came from Secretary Godowsky’s “Legislator Update”, an email sent to all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly yesterday.  While this may seem arrogant of me, I could swear they change these meetings to Monday afternoon because they know I will be at work! 😉

For all the hoopla Delaware has made of their beloved “assessment inventory”, they don’t seem to be in a rush to get anything done with it.  This has been in discussion since April of last year, when it was first announced at the State Board of Education meeting.  We all know what it really is: a “solution” to eliminate opt out by giving the people what they think they want (but we aren’t that stupid DOE) and to get rid of local assessments that give immediate feedback and help to guide instruction.

Parents say there is too much testing and I agree with that.  But take what Appoquinimink is doing: They are administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment and then the MAP testing immediately after.  What kind of message does this send to parents?  They will all say “there is too much testing”.  The Governor and the DOE will pounce on that and suggest getting rid of the lesser of the two evils.  Buh-bye MAP tests, hello to the great Smarter Balanced!  This is all rigged and far too many parents believe the lie.

Other “highlights” from the “Legislator Update” include:

LegislatorUpdate3

I love the use of the word “investment”.  While I appreciate Dr. Godowsky getting this out there, and it is light years better than anything former Secretary Mark Murphy did, sending out a newsletter instead of actually changing things legislators want are two very different things.  For example, how about House Resolution #22 Dr. Godowsky?  Why do they only put the “good things” the DOE is up to in this newsletter?  I would love to see articles on how the DOE is causing more stress and headaches in our schools.  Putting a pretty picture on a state agency really doesn’t fool anyone Dr. Godowsky.

LegislatorUpdate1

It was at last year’s Common Core for Common Ground that Governor Markell gave a very condescending speech to Delaware teachers.  He told them it was the last year before things start to count, meaning the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores being used for their teacher evaluations.  Of course this year, they won’t either.  And everything changes with the Every Student Succeeds Act replacing ESEA.  What teacher in their right mind (those not recruited into the Rodel-DOE-Markell “dream teams” that unabashedly promote Common Core and personalized learning) would show off the very standards and “results-driven” strategies (which is one thing only in Delaware: the almighty high-stakes testing score) to their peers?  It looks like there is free food though.  That is always a way to lure educators into these events.  It wouldn’t shock me if they use all the culinary students in the state to produce the food!  But will they have the chocolate eclairs Rodel uses as bait for Delaware citizens to their Vision 20whatever conferences?

LegislatorUpdate2

I can’t wait to see the scores on the “new” SAT.  They are going to plummet because of the Common Core alignment.  But instead of recognizing that, we will see constant reports about how our high school juniors aren’t getting the instruction they need to be college and career ready.  More pawns in the corporate education reform psychodrama.

“Let’s Go Straight To MAP Testing After SBAC Since They Are In A Testing Frame Of Mind!”

A parent in the Appoquinimink School District informed me one of the schools is actually doing this.  Right after students finish the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they will immediately do their MAP testing.  Apparently the testing overlords don’t want to give the kids a break.  Gee, maybe they might be tired of testing?  This is equivalent to having someone do a marathon and then going to basic training immediately after.  Is it any wonder parents hate standardized assessments?  I say opt them out of both if school districts are going to have this asinine behavior.

Meanwhile, in one school in Appo, they canceled a field trip to the Old State Elementary School because it fell on a day of Smarter Balanced testing.  Forget that April is, you know, Education History Month!  Who cares about history anyways?  Who wants to see Colonial technology and fashion when they can sit in front of a computer screen and take high-stakes tests?  How boring and trite!  Who wants to reminisce about a time when education actually existed and students learned more than how to take a test?

Delaware Parents: Take back control!  Slay the testing beast!  Tell your schools to banish testing rigor from your child’s life!

Senator Lamar Alexander Gives John King a Stern Lecture

Diane Ravitch's blog

New Secretary of Education John King must have thought he could follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Arne Duncan and tell the states and districts what to do. Congress made it clear in the Every Student Succeeds Act that it was curtailing the Secretary’s power. King is now overseeing the drafting of new regulations to implement ESSA, and Senator Lamar Alexander–who led the effort to write ESSA–didn’t like what he saw. He gave King a strong reprimand at Senate hearings yesterday.

Here is a report from a Knoxville newspaper on some of their exchanges:

“U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander angrily accused the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday of blatantly ignoring part of the new school reform law that Congress passed last year with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“In an unusual public scolding, Alexander told Education Secretary John B. King Jr. the department is not adhering to a key section…

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