You Can’t Make Things Better Until You Fix What’s Broken

In the past week, a light bulb went off in my head.  I’ve been to a lot of education meetings lately.  State Board of Education, ESSA, Special Education Strategic Plan, district board meetings, and so forth.  I’ve seen and met a lot of legislators and candidates.  I’ve seen the old faces and the new.  For the most part, we are all talking about the same thing: problems in education.  Whether it is at a state level or on the ground floor.  At an ESSA meeting, one of the participants at my table was Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.

He made a very valid point.  We keep talking about education and how to make it better.  We keep throwing ideas into the mix.  We have meetings and task forces and committees and town halls and strategic plans.  We talk ourselves to death.  We don’t take action and we have gotten away from the basics.  I agree with him.

There have been opportunities to act, but they pass by.  Until the next idea comes along.  I’ve met with parents, teachers, district administrators, board members, the DOE, advocates, disability groups, legislators and regular citizens.  There are deep rifts between everyone.  Hurts.  Things happen.  Perceptions are thrown out of whack.  I have seen two of those groups talk about the exact same topic in separate meetings but the tone and feelings about it are wider than the Pacific Ocean.

As much as I rant about the DOE, I do like that they are having these town halls.  I like that people are coming out to them.  But it’s not enough.  Not nearly enough.  What is confusing me is why different states are taking advantage of different timelines for their draft plans.  For example, Delaware wants to get their plan in by the end of March.  In Florida, they are not submitting their plan until the end of July.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their plan in place by the 2017-2018 school year.  Florida’s wouldn’t fully kick in until 2018-2019.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their first draft done by the end of October.  In 37 days.  While it is a draft and would most likely be amended based on public feedback, I don’t like that short of a time frame.

Is that enough time to heal the rifts between the adults involved in education?  Is that enough time for us to decide, as a state, what is best for students?  No.  I don’t like the idea that we are rushing to get a basic plan done, with public comment to possibly tweak that plan, and then again after the end of the year.  I would much rather see something more solid in the beginning and build from there.  I want a foundation that is grounded in fixing the already existing problems with a definitive action plan and a path forward to fix them.  While some may see ESSA as a grand opportunity to get things right, are we rushing to get certain plans that are representative of the more powerful at the expense of the majority?  I believe we are.  Delaware needs more time.  With the vast amounts of money we spend on education, I would think there could and should be a way to get more voices involved.

When many education bills are submitted in the General Assembly, they are symptomatic of larger things that are broken.  If we don’t fix those bigger things, the small solutions don’t always work.  So, I guess, I’m putting this out there for the Delaware DOE, Secretary Godowsky, and the Governor to think about.  What is the harm in waiting another four months to put forth our ESSA plan?  Yes, it’s another year students may not have something.  And many of those things they need now.  But if we squander a gift of time and having true collaboration, at a state-wide level, to get things right, then all the plans in the world won’t help.  It would also give the General Assembly more of a sense of what this will cost over the five and a half months they are in session.  By submitting the plans by the end of March, it will force the General Assembly to most likely scramble to introduce legislation to make it all fit.  Why not let the General Assembly have until the end of June to do their thing while the rest of us, and I mean ALL of us, do our thing?  I have no doubt the DOE has a very good idea of what they would like to see.  But I don’t think the rest of Delaware feels they have been given enough to do this.  We need more time.

This isn’t a rant against the DOE.  It is a heartfelt plea to all involved in education to use the time we could have.  We need to come together, for the kids.

Picture Of The Week: What Seems Out Of Place?

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For the full story behind this picture, please click here. Thank you to State Rep Earl Jaques for getting this picture up!

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 2: Reinventing Schools & Dark Omens

At the first official meeting for the Delaware Dept. of Education/Rodel created Guiding Coalition for Competency-Based Learning, an email went out to members to research an organization called Reinventing Schools.  Theresa Bennett with the DOE sent the following email:

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Bennett announces that a Kim Hanisch from the Reinventing Schools Coalition will be facilitating their meetings.  The organization changed their name because of the initials, RISC, to Reinventing Schools.  This group received their start-up funds from the Gates Foundation.  A blog called Save Maine Schools gave a very detailed description of the man that runs Reinventing Schools, Dr. Joseph Marzano.  I imagine Rodel and Reinventing Schools have a lot in common since they are both lovers of competency-based education and personalized learning in a digital classroom.  Oddly enough, Reinventing Schools does not list Delaware in their map of schools and districts they work with.  I guess non-profits don’t count as true education centers of learning!  Save Maine Schools referred to Marzano as just another corporate education reform snake-oil salesman.  His ideas, according to the article and commenters, were nothing new but repackaged to further this modern-day Competency-Based Education mixed with Personalized Learning in a digital environment.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, a lot was going on in Delaware education at this time.  The priority schools debacle was heating up.  On the same day as this first meeting of the “Guiding Coalition”, the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated Boards of Education were holding meetings to decide their next steps with the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell.  Red Clay indicated they would capitulate with the DOE, but Christina was defiant and insisted on writing their own Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  The priority schools MOU called for the firing of half the teachers and each school had to get a new principal.  As teachers and Delaware citizens seethed, a growing voice was calling for the resignation of Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and a new employee at the DOE named Penny Schwinn, who led the Accountability & Assessment department, soon became the most hated person in the Delaware education landscape.  Many, including legislators, began wondering what the heck Delaware did with all the Race To The Top money and FOIAs started going out to the Delaware DOE.

As a result of this, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee was born.  Governor Markell issued an Executive Order to come up with recommendations on how to deal with the rising Wilmington education crisis.  Bank of America Communications Chief  and Former Chair of the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, Tony Allen, was chosen to lead the committee.  Meanwhile, a certain blogger started talking about Delaware Opt Out more and more.  All of these were easy distractions for those who were very worried about what was going on with Delaware education.  Markell was taking a very hard stance on the priority schools.  Nobody saw what was going in with the back-door and secret meetings of the Guiding Coalition.

The Rodel Foundation of Delaware was busy preparing for their next Vision Coalition annual conference.  One of their guests at the conference was a company called 2Revolutions.  I did not attend the conference, but I followed along on Twitter.  I decided to look into this digital learning company and was shocked by what I found.  Pretty much everything I am current writing about with Corporate Education Reform 2.0 is covered in that link.  That was from almost two years ago.  The next day I received an email from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC):

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This email contained a copy and paste from the Rodel Teacher Council for their “Performance Learning” blueprint which I included in an article I wrote on this.  I was skeptical of Rodel based on everything I saw and read before that email from the GACEC.  But this horrified me.  It was obvious Rodel was facilitating the reinvention of Delaware education and nobody was paying attention.  Changes were taking place.  The Delaware DOE was not running the show.  It was Rodel.  I began to commit myself to finding out all I could about Rodel.  It was Halloween and nothing horrified me more than what I wrote about that dark evening.  I didn’t truly understand it all at that time.  There was a lot going on.  But this was the beginning of putting the puzzle pieces together.  However, the upcoming General Election in Delaware would cause things to change in the Delaware General Assembly that would provide very big distractions for many.

As everyone prepared for a potential takeover of the Priority Schools, the Delaware DOE and Rodel continued their secret meetings.  To be continued in Part 3: Rodel gets a surprise and a matter of civil rights…