Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook Announce Run For DSEA President & VP

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Delaware teachers Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook announced they will run as a team for President and Vice-President the Delaware State Education Association.  These leadership positions are currently held by Frederika Jenner and Karen Crouse.  Their terms end on July 17th, 2017.

Mike Matthews was the most recent past President of the Red Clay Education Association while Jackie Kook currently serves as the Vice-President of the Christina Education Association.  Both are widely known throughout Delaware as advocates against many of the destructive and disparaging policies coming out of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The educators spoke in favor of better teacher evaluation in the DPAS-II system.  They both support a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment and spoke in support of House Bill 50.  As members of their district unions, they both publicly denounced former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and called for him to step down, which was echoed by DSEA at their next representative assembly.  Both were highly involved in fighting for their teachers, students and districts during the troubling priority school fiasco initiated by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE.

Matthews and Kook have launched a Facebook page for their candidacy here.  DSEA members will be able to cast votes by paper or electronically between January 9th and January 23rd, 2017.  Please support Mike and Jackie.  I can’t imagine Delaware education without them.

 

 

Governor Markell Signs Teacher Evaluation Bill With No Press Release Or Media Mention

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Yesterday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 399, a teacher evaluation bill that began its journey with great intentions and wound up a victim to horrible amendments put on the bill by Senator David Sokola.  There was no announcement of the bill signing to the press.  It was not on the Governor’s public schedule  There has been no press announcement or even a mention of this bill signing anywhere on the internet.  Until now.

In attendance were Governor Markell, State Rep. Earl Jaques (the primary sponsor of the bill), Senator Bryan Townsend, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, DSEA President Frederika Jenner, one of the co-chairs of the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, Jackie Kook (Christina), Jill League (Red Clay teacher, on the DPAS-II Advisory Committee), Markell Education Policy Advisor Meghan Wallace, and Delaware parent Kevin Ohlandt.

Markell invitied the parties into his conference room and engaged in a conversation about the bill.  As he looked around and commented how it was an interesting group in attendance, Markell thanked Jaques for all his hard work on the bill.  Markell and Jaques talked about how they had many conversations about this bill.  He then went around the table and asked for folks thoughts on the bill.  Many were supportive of the bill.  One person, the parent, said he felt it was a great bill until Senator Sokola put his amendment on it.

Secretary Godowsky said two charter schools were picked for the pilot program coming out of the bill, which would allow for a teacher and an administrator to choose which test to use for Part A of Component V (with the administrator having final say), all components would be equally weighted, and student and parent surveys.  Sokola’s amendment added the administrator always having final say, the student and teacher surveys, and the pilot of three schools.  The two charter schools invited by the Delaware DOE were Providence Creek Academy and Odyssey Charter School.  Oddly enough, Providence Creek announced in a board meeting on June 21st, eight days before the Senate Education Committee and nine days before Sokola put his amendment on the bill on June 30th, that they were picked for a DPAS study by the Delaware DOE.  Governor Markell expressed an interest in having districts participate in the pilot program.  Secretary Godowsky said he thought Appoquinimink was on board but they opted out.  Markell stated he may want to see Christina or Red Clay participate.  Jenner said she would put out some feelers.

Markell was very cordial with the audience.  He asked the teachers how their school year was going and how the schools they worked at were.  He reflected on a program at Kirk Middle School from many years ago called “I Am Kirk” which was an anti-bullying program.

The time came for the bill signing, and everyone in attendance stood besides Markell as many pictures were taken by Markell staffers, James Dawson with Delaware Public Media, and even State Rep. Earl Jaques wanted a picture of the event.  When Markell was signing the bill, the parent noticed he wrote each letter with a different pen until he reached the second letter of his last name which he finished signing with the same pen.  Afterwards, he gave each participant one of the pens he signed the bill with, as seen in the above picture.  He shook hands with everyone as the crowd drifted off, with the exception of Senator Townsend who stayed.

Yes, my first bill signing.  I was very happy for the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee when this legislation was first announced.  It was finally an end to the very harmful effect of standardized testing on teacher evaluations.  It opened a door for more medicine on the corporate education reform wounds inflicted on Delaware education.  But one ex-DOE employee (who worked in the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit there) was able to influence one advocacy group from Wilmington to intervene.  Then throw in Senator Sokola into the mix, and the amendment hijacked a great bill.  I firmly believe having student and parent surveys as a part of a teacher’s evaluation is very dangerous.  I am not sure why the DOE contacted schools to participate in this pilot program before Sokola even introduced the amendment (much less having the Senate approve the amendment).  That isn’t the first time they have done something like that, way before something else had to be done first.

I do think it is good the pilot program could morph into a permanent thing.  With Component V not always needing the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and giving the actual professionals: the teacher and the administrator the ability to collaborate and talk about a teacher’s choice is a good idea.  As well as the equal weighting of each component.  The DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee worked very hard for many months and they deserve major kudos for that.  The disrespect for teachers that stand up for their rights is alarming.  It is very disturbing that the Governor would not honor this bill the same as other bills he signs by making a pre-announcement of his signing and inviting any teacher who wanted to attend.  But to make it worse, by not even acknowledging he signed this bill shows something I don’t want to say right now but the words are in my head.  The disrespect for teachers that stand up for their rights is alarming.

As I eagerly awaited a picture or some type of announcement of the signing, from the Governor, Delaware Public Media, DSEA, Senator Townsend, or Rep. Jaques, with nary a paragraph or photo in sight, I was stuck with a Bic pen signed by Jack Markell.

Education & Workforce Committee Slam Secretary John King Over Homeschool Remarks

The fun never stops in Washington D.C.  After U.S. Secretary of Education John King said some rather stupid things about homeschooled students yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee thought they should issue a press release on King’s comments.  I have to agree with them!

Education & the Workforce Committee Contact: Press Office
September 23, 2016 (202) 226-9440
Secretary Knows Best?

The Obama administration has always had a “we-know-best” mentality when it comes to K-12 education. The Department of Education has spent years unilaterally dictating education policy through pet projects and conditional waivers. Last year, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan boasted that the department’s lawyers are “much smarter than many of the folks” working in the United States Congress. And in recent months, the department has put forward new rules that reflect the same old top-down approach to the nation’s classrooms.

Now, Secretary John King is sounding off on parents who decide to homeschool their children. According to Politico Pro:

[Secretary King said] that he’s concerned that homeschooled students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids” …

[King] said he worries that “students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school”—unless parents are “very intentional about it.”

We wonder if the secretary intentionally left out some key facts about the nation’s homeschool students:

  • According to the most recent data, nearly 1.8 million students are homeschooled each year, an increase of over 17 percent since 2007.
  • Homeschool students excel on reading and math tests, scoring in the 89th percentile and 84th percentile, respectively.
  • Students who are homeschooled typically score higher than public school students on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT.
  • As reported by U.S. News and World Report, a study of students at one doctoral university showed homeschooled students “graduated college at a higher rate than their peers—66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent—and earned higher grade point averages along the way.”

But the secretary knows best, right? Not quite. At a time when the Obama administration was busy setting national education policy, there has been little improvement in student achievement and graduation rates:

  • Only 36 percent of 8th graders are reading at grade level today—a number that remains virtually unchanged since 2009.
  • Only 26 percent of 12th graders are proficient in math—a startling statistic that also has not changed since 2009.
  • One out of every five students is dropping out of school—again, a number that’s largely unchanged since the president took office in 2009.

We all agree that every child deserves to have an excellent education. That’s the reason Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law protects homeschools from federal interference and empowers parents to do what they believe is best for their children. Why? Because that’s what is best for America’s students—whether the secretary knows it or not.

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How Can A Teacher Measure Goals For A Student When The DOE Hasn’t Provided The Actual Goals?

A Delaware teacher in the Red Clay Consolidated School District asked the Delaware Dept. of Education for the growth goals for Group 1 educators, which would be English/Language Arts and Math teachers.  Not an unreasonable question given that we are already a month into school.  It would be a pretty neat idea to have teachers measure goals based on the goals the DOE provides them.  Especially since this is a major part of their evaluation each year.  But in the below email exchange between Red Clay Teacher Steve Fackenthall and DOE Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit employees Laura Schneider and Jon Neubauer, something comes out.

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I apologize for the squinty eyes some of you may have experienced looking at the pictures of these emails. I tried to make them bigger, but c’est la vie! But notice how the teacher had very specific concerns about the targets and the response from Schneider at the DOE? As a married man, if my wife came to me with a concern and I said “thanks for sharing”, she wouldn’t take it too well.  I know if my boss addressed something with me at work and I said “thanks for sharing” and walked away, that would NOT be good for me. So why is it that the DOE feels they can talk to teachers like that? I give the DOE a hard time…a lot. But it is this kind of exchange which lends that feeling of a lack of communication a great deal of credibility.  I understand the DOE is busy and they have a clear mandate for what their duties are.  But a bit of empathy and compassion goes a long way.

I know John Carney (should he be elected as Governor) wants to make the DOE less a compliance factory and more of a valued resource for educators.  If I were a DOE employee and I read the teacher’s concern, knowing Carney is probably going to be our next Governor (based on what others have written), I might think twice of giving a “thanks for sharing” response.  Something to the effect of “that is a valid concern.  Maybe we should talk about that” or “can you go into more detail?” would go a loooong way towards mending old wounds teachers feel.

Many teachers feel that the DOE gives off a superior attitude to teachers.  It shouldn’t be like that.  It should be a collaborative relationship.  The very nature of the teacher’s email shouldn’t even be a reality.  Those goals should be sent out before school starts so teachers can start preparing.  Targets are one thing, but actual student’s goals shouldn’t wait until over halfway into a marking period or well into a trimester (which some districts and charters have).  This is the number one complaint I hear about the Delaware DOE.  And I think the lack of transparency is connected to that attitude.  It gives off a vibe of “we will release information when we want to do it, not when YOU want it”.

I have seen many emails from the DOE that came from FOIA requests.  I have seen them totally dog teachers between each other.  I’ve seen a dismissive attitude when teachers or other district staff reach out to them for help.

The DOE is filled with a lot of caring and wonderful people who care about kids.  But the leaders and higher-ups need to look at the perception people have of them.  If not, we can expect more of the same no matter what John Carney or the next Governor plan.  I understand the DOE isn’t going to please everyone all the time.  They get their marching orders from the big boss (and it is not the Secretary no matter what you think).  This same thing does take place in some charters and districts.  Just because you have a loftier position does not mean you are better.  It means you have an opportunity to provide more answers and deal with employees and constituents (whether they are parents, teachers, anyone really) on an equal level.  You might get a bigger paycheck but it should always be about the end goal: helping kids.  And upsetting and frustrating teachers is not the way to go.  They are the front line in education.  I get that politics play a big part, but be human!  I’m sure this sounds hypocritical coming from me, but when I react it isn’t always pretty.  I get upset when I see this kind of thing.  I could have easily written a title like “DOE doesn’t give a crap about teachers” but it has become more than obvious that there is a severe disconnect happening in Delaware education.  This isn’t anything new.  But how can we set a new course if the old matters aren’t addressed or pointed out?  Sitting at the table and hashing it out is good if there is less baggage to deal with.  That baggage needs to be dealt with.

 

Emails To Delaware Superintendents From DSCYF Confirms Definitive Discontinuation Of Services Was Planned

The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families sent two emails to Delaware Superintendents regarding the discontinuation of day treatment centers in Delaware.  I submitted a FOIA request to five Delaware Superintendents last evening to obtain these emails.  One of them got to me first so I canceled the other requests.  Both these emails give very definitive timeframes for when this was going to happen.  The State of Delaware reversed course on this issue, but make no mistake, this was going to happen prior to that decision.  One important thing from the second email is the glaring fact that TODAY is the last day for any district or charter school to make a referral for a day treatment center in Delaware.  So my question would be that if this change is on hold, is today still the last day for any referrals?  The second email had a lot of attachments included in the FOIA request.  Apparently there will be public meetings where they will present this.  One of them already happened in New Castle County on September 8th, but I would highly recommend they have another one since this story just broke in mainstream media two days ago.

Email sent to Delaware Superintendents 8/26/16

Follow-Up Email sent to Delaware Superintendents 9/9/16 and Key Information

 

The Child Predator We Invite into Our Schools

Read this. If you read one thing today, it must be this!

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There is a good chance a predator is in the classroom with your child right now.

He is reading her homework assignments, quizzes and emails. He is timing how long it takes her to answer questions, noting her right and wrong answers. He’s even watching her body language to determine if she’s engaged in the lesson.

He has given her a full battery of psychological assessments, and she doesn’t even notice. He knows her academic strengths and weaknesses, when she’ll give up, when she’ll preserver, how she thinks.

And he’s not a teacher, counselor or even another student. In fact, your child can’t even see him – he’s on her computer or hand-held device.

It’s called data mining, and it’s one of the major revenue sources of ed-tech companies. These are for-profit business ventures that produce education software: programs to organize student information and help them learn. They make…

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