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.