What Is The Purpose Of A Delaware Secretary Of Education?

In one of the most interesting pictures I’ve ever received, it made me question why we even have a Delaware Secretary of Education.  On Tuesday, Atnre Alleyne (the former Delaware Department of Education employee, the co-founder of TeenSharp, and the Director of DelawareCAN) posted a Facebook memory from a year ago.  The interesting part is the picture he put with it because that was NOT in the original post at all.

I found Godowsky’s comment about “the reformers” to be VERY interesting.  As a Delaware Secretary of Education, Godowsky certainly carried the water for former Governor Jack Markell.  While he was a vast improvement over his predecessor, Mark Murphy, he helped to make sure the opt-out penalty was inserted into the Delaware School Report Card fiasco.  Even though that disappeared with Delaware’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan, he still made sure it happened.  I sensed at the time he didn’t want it but he was TOLD to make sure it stayed.

Alleyne refers to this good-old boys club in his blog post, something he wanted to remind folks of on Tuesday.  My first question is HOW he received this email between Godowsky and Jeff Taschner, the Executive Director of the Delaware State Education Association.  The “Kevin” referred to in the email is NOT me because Godowsky never shared this post with me.  If I had to guess, I would have to say he shared it with Kevin Carson.  Carson was in the running for Delaware Secretary of Education but ultimately it went to Dr. Susan Bunting, a Superintendent in the Indian River School District.  It would appear Alleyne got his wish.

Which brings me to the point of this article.  If Godowsky didn’t agree with Markell on many issues but still carried them through, is the position of Secretary of Education in Delaware just a pass-through for whatever the Governor wants?  I would say yes.  After all, it is a Cabinet level position chosen by the Governor.  This shouldn’t be news to anyone.  If I had to guess, Markell wanted someone who was miles away from Murphy but would still follow orders.  Murphy replaced Lillian Lowery who helped to usher Race To The Top and Common Core into our schools, something Governor Markell was a chief spokesman for.  Bunting seems to fit the bill of someone able to march when told to.  I would have preferred Kevin Carson in the position and believe he would have been able to offer more impartial wisdom to Carney.

To me, the opposite of Alleyne’s depiction of certain folks as “the good old boys club” is the corporate education reformers that he is a card-carrying member of.  To me, they are The Empire or The First Order compared to The Rebels or The Resistance from Star Wars.  Something I have no doubt Alleyne would take offense to.  In my opinion, they use standardized test scores as the end-all and be-all of public education.  It is a very dangerous tool that causes an infinite amount of harm to education.  Alleyne would posit that the Smarter Balanced Assessment achieves something, that it balances the equity gaps in Delaware.  I have always said it does nothing but widen it.  This is a test that is NOT the same test for every student and it is computer-adapted, meaning it allows students to accelerate faster the more they get answers right.  The questions are NOT the same for every student which makes its outcomes more than suspicious.  As research has shown comparing scores of schools and the socio-economic populations for those schools, along with special education and English Language learner groups, SBAC is a complete and utter failure.

It remains to be seen how long Bunting will have her position.  Under Markell, three Secretaries of Education existed.  Carney isn’t even a year in, so I don’t expect Bunting to go anywhere soon.  But what is the point of even having this position if the Secretary will just do whatever the Governor wants?  I can think of better areas where a $150,000+ salary can go.  My choice for an alternative?  Make the State Board of Education an elected group and have them pass regulations.  Make sure all political parties are represented on the board to prevent any bias towards one party, have them pass regulations, continue to oversee charter school stuff, and be more proactive in guiding the Delaware Department of Education towards what is right for students instead of pushing very bad public education policies.  Have them work more with traditional school district and charter school boards in a collaborative way so things are consistent.  Just my opinion!

 

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