Clueless DOE Can’t Even Support The Charter School Community Now!

Typically after a blogger posts something about the Delaware Department of Education they act pretty fast in trying to get something website related fixed.  Not the case with their Charter School Renewal section of their website.  I had to hunt last month’s State Board of Education agenda to find a document showing when the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings and public hearing will be held.

Last night I put up a screenshot of their charter renewal web page.  It was blank.  It looks like they did go into it today to modify the already blank page.  How does a blank page get modified?

Uhm, okay…

So like I said, I did find a timeline somewhere else.

Let’s see…today is October 15th.  Looks like there are two public hearings tonight.  There are three tomorrow night.  Two last week.  But what the heck is the public supposed to comment on when there are no renewal documents available?  Are they supposed to say “I’m drawing a blank on why I love/hate this charter school?”  This is an insult to the charter school crowd.  I believe this is also a violation of State Code, Title 14.  But what do I know? (more than the DOE these days)

Get  with the program DOE!  You are growing more incompetent by the day!  If you are having technical issues, put a note on the page.  We know you went on that page today!  Did DelawareCAN/Atnre Alleyne hack into the DOE’s website last week too?  And why are they having public hearings before the first CSAC meetings?  Typically it is the other way around.  Secretary Bunting, it is time to wake up now!  This shouldn’t be THIS easy for me!

I will update this if the DOE gets around to updating their non-transparent website or they modify the blank page again.

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Charter School Office At Delaware DOE Throws Transparency Out The Window

Good luck finding out any information on the many Delaware charter schools that are up for renewal this December.  Turns out the Charter School Office scrubbed that part of their website on Thursday.  This same office has also gone without a leader since July 1st, three and a half months after Denise Stouffer left the role for Providence Creek Academy.

While I’m sure the DOE will call this a simple technical error, that is one big error!  How do you empty a whole webpage?

I checked this page today because I knew the Charter School Accountability Committee would be holding their first meetings with the many charter schools under renewal this month.  The last thing I wanted to see was a blank page.

So which charter schools are up for renewal? Delaware Design-Lab Design Thinking Academy, First State Military Academy, Freire, Greak Oaks, Kuumba, Newark Charter School, and Positive Outcomes.  Maybe when the Charter School Office gets the email tomorrow morning about me writing this blog post they will restore the page.

The Charter School Office leader position has been posted twice for recruitment.  Does nobody want this job or is the DOE looking for someone in particular?  My bet would go to the former.  I’m sure any applicant would know that just having the role would put them in my crosshairs.  Which is fine as long as you are transparent and aren’t doing the shady charter school cover-up stuff that would cause me to write something bad about you.

We saw a charter school collapse this fall while the Charter School Office remained without a leader.  And now we should expect that office to deal with seven charter renewals?  Sounds like Secretary of Education Susan Bunting’s idea of the DOE as a support organization is a bit of a misnomer.  I see it as not-so-organized chaos.

DOE Develops A Case Of Pretendonitis With Education Funding Transparency Meeting

The Delaware Department of Education held their first public meeting for Senate Bill #172 which is supposed to show clear transparency with education funding so people can compare how much schools are spending compared to other schools.  The poorly attended event, filled with the usual stakeholders and barely anyone from the general public, showcased a Department that really doesn’t know what this bill means or what they plan to do with it.  In other words, they have a scorching case of pretendonitis. Continue reading

The Delaware DOE: The Support, Enforce, or Ignore Test

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, under the policies of Delaware Governor John Carney, has transformed the Delaware Department of Education into a support organization.  Before Bunting, Carney recognized the DOE as an enforcement organization during former Governor Jack Markell’s two terms.  Carney put it on Bunting to make that transformation.  Did she succeed? Continue reading

The People Speak On Delaware DOE Calling The Police On Me Yesterday!

It has been a little over 24 hours since I had to deal with the Delaware DOE calling the police on me yesterday as I sat in the lobby of a public building.  I do want to give a shout-out to the Capitol Police for their fast response.  I know a lot of them from Legislative Hall.  They are great guys!  I don’t blame them for the incident yesterday.  They were just doing their job.

I’ve received many responses, publicly and privately in regards to the situation and my blog post about it yesterday.  Rob Petree with Delaware 105.9 put up an article about it on their website this morning.

This is what the people of Delaware had to say: Continue reading

Delaware DOE Employee Gets Off Easy On Theft Of Education Funds

In yet another pathetic sentencing, a Delaware state employee got off very easy for stealing in what should have been a harsher sentence.  When did our Delaware Department of Justice get so soft? Continue reading

Former Employee Alleges Delaware DOE Violated FOIA, Delaware AG Opinion Agrees

Atnre Alleyne, a former employee of the Delaware Department of Education and the current head of DelawareCAN, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOE back in March.  He was not satisfied with their response and filed a FOIA complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice.  The Delaware DOJ issued their opinion on the complaint on May 4th and found the Delaware DOE did violate FOIA. Continue reading

Delaware Department Of Education Salaries Over $100,000

As per the Delaware Department of Education website, the DOE employs 241 people. 66 of them make over $100,000 based on a Freedom of Information Act request I submitted to them on February 28th.  This is eight more than what the News Journal reported four years ago.  At that time, the DOE had extra employees as part of their limited Race To The Top federal grant. Continue reading

Live From Delaware Joint Finance Committee: Delaware DOE Hearing!

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee is hearing from the Delaware Department of Education for their FY2019 budget at this very moment! Continue reading

Delaware DOE To Face Joint Finance Committee Tomorrow

The Delaware Department of Education will present their FY2019 budget to the Delaware Joint Finance Committee tomorrow on Thursday, February 8th at 1pm.  With a projected budget surplus for the next fiscal year, the Delaware DOE will assuredly want more of that money.  The problem is everyone and their mother wants a chunk of that change!  Will they get it?

Last year, in the midst of the budget crisis of 2017, the Joint Finance Committee had tons of questions for Secretary Bunting.  Will history repeat itself or will the JFC relax a bit with a projected surplus?  I will be there, reporting live from Legislative Hall!

Delaware DOE Makes More Changes In Leadership

The Delaware Department of Education made more changes recently with their leadership.  No formal announcement came out for these, but I did some super-sleuthing on their website to figure it out. Continue reading

Breaking News: Major Shake-Up At Delaware DOE

And the revolving door keeps swinging.  Two longtime Delaware Department of Education mainstays are leaving and one was kind of sort of switched to a new role. Continue reading

Breaking News: Major “Retirement” At Delaware DOE

One of the big heads at the Delaware Department of Education is retiring. Which one? Continue reading

The Erosion Of Transparency At The Delaware DOE

Even though I’ve done my fair share of beating up on the Delaware Department of Education, I felt they were transparent in a few ways.  Most specifically on their website.  But now I am finding that transparency is evaporating fast.  There are three examples of this, most of which would not be caught by most people.  For a blogger like myself, those three areas contained a lot of information.

The first is their special education section.  For years I would look at their Due Process Hearing and Administrative Complaint decisions.  Each report would name the specific school district or charter school.  Since last Spring, they stopped doing that.  Now it just says “______ school district” or _____ charter school”.  What is the big deal?  Don’t parents of students with disabilities have a right to know what kind of special education complaints are happening at certain schools?

In looking at the above two screenshots from the DOE website, a pattern begins to form.  Last school year, there were three administrative complaints against charter schools in Delaware.  None of them are named.  I don’t need to be a forensic scientist to figure this one out.

The second area involves Department of Education personnel.  As long as I can remember, the Delaware State Board of Education would list changes to DOE personnel on their website as part of their agenda for each meeting.  That stopped a few months ago.  I did reach out to Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education.  She said the State Board does not control personnel at the DOE and they were the only state agency that listed personnel changes.  So it was a matter of consistency.  I get that, but it was also what made the DOE stand out above those other state agencies.  Not to belittle other state agencies, but the DOE is an important one and citizens have a right to know who is leaving or who is hired there.

The third area, which absolutely no one in their right mind would find is a bit tricky.  It involves their search engine.  I learned a few years ago that if you type “PDF” in their search bar it will bring up all PDF documents.  You can even tweak it so the results come up with the most recent documents.  I relied on this to see what was going on at the DOE.  The last PDF document that comes up on the search of most recent is from 5/2/2017.  I highly doubt the DOE is not creating PDF documents anymore.  I know that is the case because I’ve seen them.  But they somehow found a way to eliminate it from their search bar.  Maybe they figured out some crazed blogger from a specific IP address was always using it and disabled it.

It doesn’t shock me that these transparency issues coincide with the new Carney administration.  I, as well as others, have written about a continual lack of transparency coming from the state since Governor John Carney took office.  I guess the people no longer have a right to know.

Governor Carney Lets Teachers Get Pink Slips While Hiring New DOE Administrator

The optics are bad for Delaware Governor John Carney.  After telling us you were going to “trim” the Delaware Department of Education, you went and created a whole new division of the Department and placed them in Wilmington.  Yes, the new Office of Improvement and Innovation is just different letters for the same accountability machine.  Located in Wilmington, this new DOE division, led by former Brandywine Assistant Superintendent Dorrell Green, will “support Delaware’s most in need with a focus on Wilmington’s struggling schools,” according to a press release issued today.

According to Atnre Alleyne, a former Delaware DOE employee who broke this news yesterday, “It downgrades the work of the Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Branch and rebrands it as Educator Support and Collaboration (to be more palatable to those less interested in conversations about effectiveness).”  In fact, Alleyne’s post was mostly ripping on the Department he used to work for.

This is my real issue with this announcement.  With the FY2018 budget cuts, teachers are going to lose their jobs.  Carney’s response?  Create a new division of the Department that needs the biggest cuts of all.  Yeah, you can shrink down the TLEU and move people around, but setting up what will basically be a priority schools branch smack dab in the middle of Wilmington doesn’t show this DOE transformation.  It shows the DOE will be closer to schools they want to “monitor”.  While Carney says he wants the DOE to be more of a resource center for Delaware schools, who determines what resources are needed?  The schools, the Delaware DOE, or the US DOE?  I don’t picture this as a situation where schools say “we need this” and the DOE comes riding in on their white horse to save the day.  This is the same color, just a different kind of paint to make it look more pretty.

I don’t know the first thing about Dorrell Green, but it sounds like he has a great deal of experience in Wilmington schools which is always a good thing.  And I congratulate him on his new position, but now is not the time to be creating new divisions of the Department that most in Delaware want to see massive cuts.  You don’t do this the second the ink is dry on your budget signature and not expect the people of the state to raise a big old stink about it.  But, this is Delaware.  Where the people’s voice just doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

 

Delaware DOE Postpones Submission Of State ESSA Plan By One Month

As predicted, the Delaware Dept. of Education is delaying the final sending of their state Every Student Succeeds Plan to the United States Dept. of Education by one month.  Last week, the U.S. DOE released the final regulations for the accountability portion of the new federal education law.  As a result, they are giving states more time to submit their state plans.

For Delaware, this means the State Board of Education will vote on the final plan at their March, 2017 board meeting.  On April 3rd, Delaware will send the plan to the U.S. DOE.  This changes many of the public comment periods for the Delaware plan as well.  Here is the press release from the Delaware DOE from yesterday:

The U.S. Department of Education has extended its submission deadline for states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans, allowing Delaware to adjust its plan submission schedule and provide more time for public input and plan development.

Delaware now will submit its final plan on April 3. Other dates leading up to that submission also have been adjusted and are reflected below:

 

·         January 11: Release of second draft of plan

·         February 28: Release of final draft of plan

·         April 3: Submission of final plan to U.S. Department of Education for approval

 

The public has several on-going opportunities to provide input on the plan:

 

·         Community conversations: Three of the seven sessions of this second round of public input sessions remain. The next is Thursday night in Newark followed by two sessions for Spanish-speaking community members in Georgetown and Wilmington on December 14 and December 20, respectively. Find more information on these and the previous sessions here.

·         Online surveys: Members of the public also may submit their feedback via three online surveys available here. This is the second round of online surveys.

·         Discussion groups: Stakeholders are serving on two on-going discussion groups, one focusing on school supports and the second on measures and reporting. These are public meetings, and public comment is available at each session. The next session is tonight. Find more information, including minutes from past meetings here.

·         Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee: Governor Jack Markell’s advisory committee also continues to meeting. These public sessions also include public comment. The next session is Jan. 11.

·         Feedback also can be submitted via a designated email address, ESSAStatePlan@doe.k12.de.us.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006
Last night, the ESSA discussion groups held a meeting.  As a result of the changes, the schedules for the discussion groups are as follows:
Student and school supports will meet at some point in January, date to be determined.
Measuring student success will hold their next meeting, as scheduled, on December 12th from 6pm-8pm at the Collette Resource Center in Dover, DE.
The Community Conversation meeting held on Thursday evening will be at Newark Charter School.

Sussex Academy Student Teaches The Delaware DOE How To Do Math

People say I am very dark with this blog. That I never put up good news. Well today, I am about to share some really great news. In their latest Take Note newsletter, the Delaware Dept. of Education talks about how a student from Sussex Academy found an error in a family resource guide involving a math problem.

The problem was about figuring out the world population.  In the example, the DOE estimated the human population of Earth to be 7×108.   Sussex Academy junior Finn Davis was helping his little sister look through the guide from the DOE when he immediately noticed the glaring error.  According to the DOE’s calculation, that would put the world’s population at 700 million.  Finn, being a brilliant math student, corrected the error which should have been 7×109 which would have more closely estimate the world’s population at 7 billion.

Finn didn’t stop there.  He notified the DOE of this error and they corrected the guide which will now have a correct estimation of the world’s population.  Good job Finn!  Who says I don’t post good news?

“And the children shall lead us…”

The Delaware DOE Surveys That Are A Pain In My ESSA!

Surveys can be a pain in the ass.  Especially when they come from the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Done right, they can be very informative and allow the survey taker to feel like they are contributing their voice.  But if they are too narrow in scope, and only lead a person to a very limited result, those surveys are worthless except to the person administering the survey.  I get that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is very explicit with what it wants, but some areas are open to interpretation.  For example, every state has the ability to submit new standards and a state assessment to the U.S. DOE.  But Delaware is so stuck on Common Core and Smarter Balanced that they didn’t even consider doing away with it.

In their latest round of ESSA surveys, I found some of the questions to be very assumptive and misleading.  Without someone even knowing the background for the questions, a citizen would have no clue what kind of question they are even answering.  Of course, I believe the Delaware DOE relies on that and counts on specific parties answering them to get the results they want.

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We used to call these school partnership zones, priority, or focus schools.  It is just another label for “failing” schools.  It doesn’t help when prospective home buyers see these labels when a realtor identifies those schools as “failing”.  The measurement that would determine any of these labels is the Smarter Balanced Assessment and other standardized tests.  Those measurements are flawed to begin with.

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Both these questions are very misleading.  First off, the survey taker would have to believe the measuring device for a “failing” school is valid.  It does not take into account external characteristics that students bring into the school.  It could be an area of severe poverty or high violence or both.  In 2014, Delaware identified seven schools as “Priority schools”.  In the second question, that could make anywhere from 12-18 schools labeled as “failing”.  That is a HORRIBLE idea.  Schools shouldn’t be labeled based on standardized tests to begin with.

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What if the school experiences a spike in special education students?  What if there is a spike in violence within that school district?  There are so many factors that would skew the results of this.  And once again, it is based on standardized tests.  All of their options are horrible and just serve to stigmatize a district over test scores.  This is no different than what came out of Race To The Top and No Child Left Behind. Bad, bad, bad…

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Say you have a Title I school with 35% poverty and another with 60%.  Are they the same school?  What if one has a special education population of 6% and another has 20%?  Any funding should be contingent on the needs of the students.  These schools should be getting this in some format as it is.  Not based on standardized test scores!

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See where this is going?  ALL of this is based standardized test scores…

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How about student grades?  How they are growing in their student grades?  Their participation in class activities?  Why MUST it be tied to standardized tests?  The DOE has NEVER met their long-term goals so what the hell is the point?  They could say 50 years and we all know they aren’t going to make those goals because they are (yawn) based on standardized tests.  It is also comparing apples to oranges.  You can’t always compare students at a 3rd grade level in 2014 to 3rd grade students in 2016.  Especially on standardized test scores.

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survey11

Once again, average citizens will have no clue what a 5 year or 6 year graduation rate even means.  They won’t know that 5 and 6 year graduation rates apply to students with disabilities.  100% will never be attainable and I know the DOE knows that.  So why even put it up as an option?  Unless you want No Child Left Behind to stay in place…

survey12

If they have to measure graduation rates, of course they should do it for each one.  But they can’t measure 4 year graduation rates the same as 5 and 6 years rates.  They are a different kind of student.  As for the next question, and I know school districts will disagree with me, but I would go with school safety data.  But I have a feeling they want people to answer the absenteeism which is often out of a school’s control.

survey13

Are you kidding me with the early learning measurement?  Once again, beyond an elementary school’s control.  No, no, no!  For the next one, how about a definition of “college and career readiness”?  Student growth and proficiency are once again based on Smarter Balanced and the Next Generation Science state assessment.  No, No, NO!

survey14

The “n” number is a very convenient way for charter schools that have low populations of subgroups not have those students count in their accountability ratings.  I say NO n#!

survey15

Enough with the ratings already!  Has history taught you nothing?

I won’t tell people to take this survey or not.  But please keep in mind what I’ve said about these questions should you choose to take it.  But then again, the danger is all the people the DOE “wants” to take the survey will give them the results they want.  Business as usual!

 

Delaware DOE Continues To Ignore The Voices Of Their Stakeholders

The Delaware Dept. of Education has a very bad habit.  They ignore what the people are telling them.  This is the case with the 2016-2017 Delaware School Success Framework.  Once again, they are incorporating the Smarter Balanced Assessment participation rate as a penalty in the framework.  Even though a majority of their stakeholders in the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group said they don’t want this anymore.  The final regulations from the U.S. Dept. of Education concerning participation rate have not come out yet but ESSA dictates that it is the decision of the states and local education agencies to determine how they handle opt out.  US DOE Secretary of Education John King received a great deal of flack from parents, educators, and citizens with his harsh regulations surrounding accountability.  This also drew the attention of members of Congress who felt King was abusing the authority given to him with ESSA.  The state does NOT have to have a penalty for participation rate.  But the DOE continues to treat ESSA as a penalty-providing opportunity.

essameasurepicture1

The above picture was taken by one of the members of the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group.  The discussion groups come up with ideas and thoughts on how to improve schools.  For this discussion group, after they have answered all questions, they put three stickers next to their top priorities.  Not having opt out as a penalty in the DSSF and having the school report what may have happened received 8 stickers.  If I remember this meeting correctly, there were only about half the members in attendance.  So for this to get 8 priority stickers, that is huge.  But the Delaware DOE ignores this.

Last year, when the Accountability Framework Working Group convened to decide on the final version of the DSSF, they came up with the same idea which was a valid option from the US DOE.  It looked like that was going to go through until Governor Markell stuck his nose into it and directed Secretary Godowsky to proceed with the opt out penalty.  Even though Markell will end his reign as Governor and is moving onto bigger and better things, like performing in the Nutcracker, the DOE continues his very bad education policy.

Last night, I had an interview with Education Week.  They reached out to me due to my role on the Student and School Supports ESSA Discussion Group.  I won’t spoil the interview, but there was discussion around what the true role of “stakeholder input” is with Delaware’s ESSA plan.  Many feel that we are just placards in the process and the Delaware DOE will do what it damn well pleases.  This latest version of the DSSF just reinforces that thought.

Incoming Delaware Governor John Carney: you really need to put the brakes on the DOE Accountability Machine!  The DOE needs to listen to their stakeholders more than Rodel!

Delaware Dept. of Education Requesting 7.7% Increase In Operational Costs For FY2018 Budget

The Delaware Dept. of Education just held their FY2018 budget request hearing with the Delaware Office of Management and Budget.  They are requesting a 7.7% increase over their FY2017 budget.  This would push Delaware public education costs over the $1.4 billion mark to an astonishing $1,485,183,000 which would leave it closer to the $1.5 billion mark.  But just because the Delaware DOE is requesting this it doesn’t mean they are going to get it.  With the state facing a deficit of anywhere from $150 to $300 million for FY2018, many requests by various state agencies won’t be granted.

Among the increases are the following:

$39.838 million for FY2017 Salary/OEC Contingency (benefits)

$9.238 million for Educator Step Increases

$945,100 for Paraprofessional Salary Compression

$12.221 million for 2016-2017 unit growth of 144 units

$16.175 million for General Contingency increase of 190 units

$202,000 for Delmar tuition

$751,200 for related services

$685,600 for academic excellence

$3.9725 million for public school transportation

$602,000 for technology operations (there are three categories under this, I will find out what each one is for)

$7.98 million for Early Childhood initiatives

$3 million for public education bandwidth

$1 million for Technology Block Grant

$1.75 million for one-time replacement of DEEDS

$473,000 for technology operations for district/charters for

$219,500 to replace federal funds for personnel costs

$2.7 million for World Language Immersion expansion

$1.2 million for Teacher Leader Pilot expansion

$25,000 for Professional Standards Board

$18,000 for increases in Schoology

$500,000 for Seed Scholarships

$2.4 million for public school transportation

$500,000 for Career Pathways

 

They are also looking to made reductions of $4 million to the following:

$50,000 from SEED/Inspire marketing

$2.52 million from K-12 Pass Through Programs

$113,000 for Tech-Prep 2+2

$150,000 from Prison Education

$1.2 million from Driver Training

 

The Dept. of Education is also requesting $920,000 for Major Capital FY2018 Certificate of Necessity requests.  $633,745 of that would come from the state share and $286,862 would come from the Local source of funding.  I will have more to write on this later based on the presentation given.