The Delaware Joint Finance Committee is hearing from the Delaware Department of Education for their FY2019 budget at this very moment! Continue reading “Live From Delaware Joint Finance Committee: Delaware DOE Hearing!”
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!
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 “Delaware DOE Makes More Changes In Leadership”
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 Shake-Up At Delaware DOE”
One of the big heads at the Delaware Department of Education is retiring. Which one? Continue reading “Breaking News: Major “Retirement” At 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.
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.
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.
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…”
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
See where this is going? ALL of this is based standardized test scores…
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.
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…
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.
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!
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#!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Eight days after the 2016 elections are over (Thank God!) the Delaware Department of Education will discuss their FY2018 budget with the Office of Management and Budget. This is open to the public, but I recommend getting there early so you can get a seat. The budget for the next fiscal year is going to get crazy. First off, we have the Every Student Succeeds Act. In Delaware’s first draft plan, you can see that a lot of areas in the law will be depending on state funding. Which means the feds will have to decide on our state plan assuming these items would pass in our budget. Delaware is submitting their final plan to the U.S. Dept. of Education on March 6th. That is 116 days before the Delaware General Assembly would even pass the FY2018 budget. So what happens if the feds approve our plan but we don’t have the necessary funding allocations for our plan? The feds would presumably pass (or reject) our plan within 120 days of submission. That puts Delaware in the position of getting the approval after the end of legislative session. Not to mention the fact we will have a new Governor (presumably John Carney) with his own ideas on education. By the time this hearing comes, the next Governor will have been elected. But further complicating matters is the exiting Governor, Jack Markell. His administration will work up the proposed budget which won’t be released until January 2017. And if I know Jack Jack, he will attempt to get all his friends some last-minute goodies! Add in the fact that pretty much everyone in the state wants to trim down the Delaware Dept. of Education and make it less of a bureaucratic nightmare. This will be a must-attend meeting if you can make it. But, of course, it is at 10am in the morning when the true stakeholders in education… students, parents and teachers… are busy doing what they do best.
Last Wednesday night, both of the Every Student Succeeds Act Discussion Groups met at the Collette Center in Dover. This was the only time both groups will be in the same room. When I walked in, each group was told to sit on their side of the room. The big room will have a partition between the two sides for future meetings. The next one is tomorrow night at 6pm followed by October 17th at the same time. So what did the Delaware Dept. of Education do that was so creepy? Continue reading “The Delaware DOE Brings On The Creepy At The ESSA Discussion Groups”
The News Journal just reported that a group of Delaware charter schools are suing Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education over the charter school funding issue that I broke at the end of August. This is unbelievable! I can’t believe they have the unmitigated gall to go behind the districts’ backs all Spring, have the DOE issue “updated” funding formulas in August, and then sue Christina and the DOE after Secretary Godowsky reversed course on the plan.
And who does the News Journal have as a fresh picture, taken two days ago? None other than Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network. When Newark Charter School’s Head of School Greg Meece and Kendall Massett get together, we should expect nothing but trouble. For all of Massett’s talk about wanting district and charter collaboration, she sure has a funny way of showing it.
Fifteen charter schools have filed suit against the state Department of Education and Christina School District to get what they claim is their fair share of funding. Christina has been withholding millions of dollars in local tax revenue from charter schools for years and the Department of Education has been complicit, according to the lawsuit.
Their fair share of funding is what they already get. I actually can’t wait to see this go to court. I will say it here and now… the charter schools will lose! Who is paying for their attorney fees?
Under the adjusted formula, Christina School District would have had to pay about $3 million more this year than it had been planning. For Newark Charter School, one of the chief beneficiaries of those funds, that would have meant an additional $1 million in revenue.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again… this amounts to Greg Meece going for an unprecedented money grab for Christina after they won their referendum last Spring. And I also have a pretty good idea why he thinks the charters will win. But I will hold that close to the vest for now. But that one goes all the way to the top of Delaware, right Jack? So how far back does this lawsuit go? How about 2008!
The lawsuit aims at reinstating the adjustments made to the statewide formula and forcing Christina to pay back what it has withheld since 2008.
Newark Charter knows that if they win this would bankrupt Christina which I have no doubt is their overall plan. And what then? All of Christina goes back to the state and would most likely convert to charters. Is Meece going to lead his long dreamed of Newark Charter School Network and take all those kids he didn’t want for the past 15 years? I know what happened in 2008 when a former Christina Board member told Meece they would get additional funds from their referendum but the board member spoke out of turn. Ever since, Meece has been gunning for Christina because of bad information. I also have a pretty good idea of where Meece got certain information from that is making him think he has a case. That will be the true revelation when all is revealed!
I would have to assume these fifteen charters are the ones that get funding from Christina School District, which is most likely every one in New Castle County.
Last Friday, I posted an article about a Red Clay teacher asking the Delaware Dept. of Education for the student growth goals for their 2016-2017 evaluations. The teacher who sent this to me sent it as screen shots. Someone named “Penny” commented on the article last night suggesting that either myself or the teacher may have left out parts of the email chain in an attempt to make the Delaware DOE look bad. This is what “Penny” wrote:
When you post emails as a way to inform your readers of what is occurring at DOE or via the general communication exchange from a teacher to personnel at DOE, it would be far more honest and a clearer picture if they were posted in entirety as opposed to cutting them down to exclude portions of one or an entire sections of the exchange. When portions of the email exchange are not included in your article, it is not fair to judge the response of the representative that you are shaming without either knowing or sharing all that was communicated. I am hoping that it was Mr. Fackenthall that failed to share the full exchange in its entirety rather than your deliberate omission of portions in order to taint a member of the DOE in order to make the response altered from what it stated. Taking it piecemeal and not in its fluid exchange changes the tone, content, and intent of the conversation by both parties. I hope there was no malice on your intent but rather you were misinformed and the full email exchange was not shared with you.
As I replied to the commenter this morning, the screen shots sent to me were very small, and I had to do some cutting and pasting of the emails to give the full picture for the original article. As a result, the Red Clay teacher sent me the full email chain and I don’t see any changes to the content of the email whatsoever. I hoped anyone reading the article would be able to follow the time-stamps on the emails. But for clarity, here is the entire email chain:
From: Schneider Laura <Laura.Schneider@doe.k12.de.us>
Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 6:47 AM
To: “S. Fackenthall” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US>, Brake Kelley <Kelley.Brake@doe.k12.de.us>
Subject: Re: 2016-2017 growth goals
Thank you for sharing.
Director, Educator Effectiveness
Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Branch
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901-3639
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 6:11:48 AM
To: Schneider Laura
Cc: Neubauer Jon; Brake Kelley
Subject: RE: 2016-2017 growth goals
Thank you. I still don’t understand WHY our educators can’t know what the student targets are PRIOR to the meeting. This information apparently is already known since you take the scores from last year to create the target.
I’m hopeful that these targets are REASONABLE. I think we fail to address the diverse populations and learning needs within our buildings.
Jon sent you the rating targets, found in the DPAS-II Guide. That is all you need.
Here is some additional info:
Group 1 Educators include any educator who instructs reading and/or mathematics for at least ten (10) students in grades four (4) through eight (8). The Student Improvement Component of DPAS-II for Group 1 Educators shall be comprised of one Measure A and one Measure B or C, weighted equally (50% for each).
· Measure A: Measure A will utilize student scores from the state assessment in ELA and Math. Growth targets are based on the state’s student growth model and are established by the Department of Education.
· Measure B or C: The second growth target is locally determined using a state-approved Measure B content assessment or Measure C growth goal.
The Delaware student growth model for Measure A measures student academic growth based on the state assessments in ELA and mathematics. The model uses a statistical growth model technique to identify the impact of an educator’s performance on student achievement, controlling for variables such as prior student knowledge and other student characteristics. Measure A rating targets (found in the DPAS-II Guide for Teachers) needed for goal setting are as follows:
PLEASE NOTE: Although individual student targets are not needed for the goal setting process, they will be made available to the field in October.
Measure selection and goal target identification is based on professional conversation between the administrator and educator during conferencing. If agreement cannot be reached, administrators have final approval. Whenever possible, goal setting should include all students the educator instructs.
Please visit the Student Improvement Component policy document from the DOE website.
In addition, please take time to utilize our Goal Setting Resource Suite.
Director, Educator Effectiveness
Delaware Department of Education
Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Branch
401 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901-3639
Once again, how can educators create appropriate goals for their students without knowing what the targets are?
Sent from my iPad
On Sep 20, 2016, at 9:45 AM, Schneider Laura <Laura.Schneider@doe.k12.de.us> wrote:
Not sure if Jon got back to you yet, but the individual student targets will be made available to the field sometime in October.
Director, Educator Effectiveness
Delaware Department of Education
Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Branch
401 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901-3639
Thank you, Jon. Will the targets be made public?
While the student targets aren’t needed, educators would probably want to know what they are ahead of time as to best decide their goals.
Sent from my iPad
On Sep 20, 2016, at 7:02 AM, Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US> wrote:
Thank you for reaching out.
The individual student targets will be made available in early October. However, you don’t need those for the goal setting process.
The rating targets have been established and can be found in the DPAS-II Guide (http://www.doe.k12.de.us/domain/375). Below is a snapshot from the guid.
Please let me know if you need additional clarification.
From: Fackenthall Steven
Sent: Monday, September 19, 2016 11:36 AM
To: Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Subject: 2016-2017 growth goals
Good morning Jon,
Can you refer me to the growth goals for SBAC ELA/Math this year?
Thank you for your help.
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.
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.
I have seen some really crazy requests for proposals coming out of the Delaware Department of Education, but this one takes the cake! This latest RFP is a multi-vendor solicitation for nine different areas of education. I would almost say it looks like vendors will completely take over the Department of Education looking at this! While that probably isn’t the case, I have often wondered why I can’t find contracts for certain vendors at the Delaware DOE. My guess is these kinds of multi-purpose vendor bids have gone out before. Which is why I have never seen a DOE contract with the Rodel Foundation or the Vision Network.
But this is huge. Are they preparing for the Every Student Succeeds Act? While the law is meant to limit federal interference in how states carry out the law, it certainly looks like it is a cash cow for corporations to come in at lightning speed before the ink is dry on the regulations. Maybe if the Delaware DOE hired more educators, they wouldn’t need all these so-called “experts” in education. Delaware education has not gotten any better with all these cash in the trash consultants and vendors.
Our General Assembly needs to get control of the DOE. They are destroying what is good about education for our children, one day at a time. Piece by piece, bit by bit. And the transparency around their actions seems to be getting murkier by the week. But make no mistake, the entire DOE is led by one man: Jack Markell. He is behind every single decision that goes on there. He is so invested, politically and personally, in corporate education reform that he is unable to tell the difference between reality and wishful thinking. He is beyond being able to reason with. He lives and breathes education, but from a corporate perspective, not an educator one.
There is far too much going on at the Delaware DOE these days. Between ESSA meetings that I have no doubt have predetermined outcomes already in the works, their Special Education Strategic Plan (which I will have more to say about soon with the Paul Herdman selected guy running this), the charter-district funding fight, the charter school performance frameworks, Teacher-Leader pilots with very questionable transparency, getting ESEA flex waivers without clearly stating what they were applying for and not having the advisory committee required by law to go along with that, ongoing concerns about the upcoming Social Studies and Science state assessments, their complete and total pimping of the Pathways to Prosperity program, their inability to understand and listen to true stakeholder input, allowing Rodel to influence their every move, and willful defiance of the will and intent of the Delaware General Assembly.
This contract confirms my worst fears about this Department. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year in contracts to vendors. Money that should go into classrooms. Money that should keep classroom sizes down. Money that give basic special education to students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. Money that should give more resources to low-income and poverty-stricken children. Money that should go to school improvements and Capital funding. Instead they are giving it away to companies.
Incompetence seems to rule the Delaware DOE these days.
The Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Charter Schools, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network have been holding meetings this year to look at changing two areas of their annual Performance Framework. The Financial and Organizational Frameworks are two sections that have been controversial for charter schools in the first state. Some of the proposed changes are minor but some are very big. One statement from the proposed draft for the organizational framework probably sums up what many of the charter schools feel when these things roll out each year:
In order to avoid penalizing charter schools for anything less than perfection, the authorizer will apply a reasonable interpretation of sufficiency that acknowledges attentiveness, prudent compliance, and generally sound stewardship.
Let’s get real here Delaware! Unless a charter school falls apart like Delaware Met, Moyer, and Pencader, you aren’t going to see the DOE or even Red Clay doing a lot in terms of compliance on some of these issues. Especially website maintenance. Far too many charters have been raked over the coals by bloggers such as myself for not adhering to the law on tons of the requirements. But when it comes time for the charter to renew or get a modification, or even get a formal review, those things are rarely mentioned in the conversation. The State Board of Education rarely talks about any of that stuff. But in my eye, they need to be perfect with those things. The districts do as well (see: Indian River).
One of the biggest flaws in this new system pertains to board membership. Delaware law clearly states:
At the time at which the school commences its instructional program and at all times thereafter, the board of directors must include a teacher from at least 1 of the charter schools operated by the board and at least 1 parent of a student enrolled in a charter school operated by the board;
With this new organizational framework, they are proposing to change Delaware code, without any regulation or legislation, by giving charters a 90 day window to fill the parent and teacher slot for their board membership. This label in the framework would give the charter a “partially meets standard”. You can’t partially follow the law. You either do it or you don’t. In this area, you are either “meets standard” or “does not meet standard”. As well, they want to do the same thing with not posting minutes and financial information on their website, but this would have a 60 day window. You can’t cherry-pick through state law. If the law needs to change, lobby legislators to change it. But you can’t do it through the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education. This Department continues to defy Delaware legislators. It is the legislators duty to write the laws of this state, not the Charter School Office at the DOE.
The proposed financial framework would give charters some leeway when it comes to reporting requirements or how they submit financial information with the state. Let me be the first to say ALL Delaware schools need to get some serious training on this. The training exists, but everyone seems to do what they want with limited to no oversight. There have to be uniform procedures and policies across the board for every charter and district in the state with absolutely no excuses. Once again, it comes down to partially breaking the law. A misnomer if I’ve ever heard one. But even more important, there have to be very real consequences for those who violate financial laws in our state. This is something I hope and pray the 149th General Assembly tackles when they come back in January. Because right now, it’s a train wreck.
I will fully admit I sometimes feel bad for the charters. Especially when it comes to the DOE’s constant nitpicking about things. An organization filled with more non-educators in leadership roles that doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a right and left hand most of the time.
But the most egregious thing out of all this: the window for public comment begins on September 1st. But try finding them anywhere. Good luck with that! I happened to find the below documents in the DOE search engine. How can you say this is an open, transparent, and collaborative method when the public can’t even comment on what you are proposing? Even worse, the State Board of Education won’t let you comment on any action item on their agenda. This won’t come up for final action at a State Board of Education meeting until their October 20th meeting, but if these documents are never released to the public it will be highly illegal for the State Board to take action.
The Delaware DOE Charter School Office needs to release these drafts to the public and let them comment on it. These documents have not been posted on the DOE website. Care to take a wild guess who is running the show on this? If you said David Blowman, that would be correct on the surface. Until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney, who left the DOE on July 1st, Blowman is the guy in charge. But in a very odd find, well, you’ll get the picture…
How can Jennifer Nagourney be the author of the below documents when she is no longer an employee at the Delaware DOE? Doesn’t she work in the Charter School Office at the New York City DOE now? What in God’s name is David Blowman doing? This is the same guy who has run the non-transparent local cost per pupil scam that has caused a “firestorm” in Delaware. The same guy who went ahead and sent out changes to school districts and charter schools without the old Secretary of Education Seal of Approval? And he is in charge of this hot mess? Where charters seem to think it will be okay to partially follow the law? With a guy like Blowman running the show no wonder they think they can do as they please! And, it goes without saying, I’m sure the Sisters of Sin, Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network have their hands involved in this. But Nagourney? Unless you are getting paid for this work when you are no longer employed by the State of Delaware, why are you even involved at this point? It’s not like I haven’t written about the old PDF right-click trick. And you guys keep forgetting that essential thing!
At this point in time, our General Assembly needs to meet for emergency hearings and subpoena the hell out of the entire Delaware Department of Education. Every single document in their system. Every nook and cranny, from top to bottom. The more than obvious fraud and lies coming out of this Department is readily available for anyone to see. I’ve proved it over and over again. But no one does anything about it. It’s time. You know it and I know it. So stop making postures and just do it!
Below are the two proposed frameworks. These are not approved, just in draft form.
Proposed Financial Framework
Proposed Organizational Framework
Chartergate 2016 and the aftermath took over social media in Delaware yesterday. When I searched “Secretary Godowsky” last night on Facebook I saw tons of posts. Many people were outraged about Godowsky’s actions, but a fair number were upset about my comments concerning Mr. Greg Meece. I won’t apologize for that. Chances are probably pretty good I know a bit more about some behind the scenes stuff than you do.
Let me be perfectly clear on something. I am not the News Journal. First off, the News Journal wouldn’t write about most of the stuff I’ve figured out over the years. Second, a blog is not true journalism. That doesn’t mean the facts are wrong. But bloggers do not have a journalistic credo they need to have like members of the Associated Press do. I saw tons of posts about how I’m so wrong about things all the time. I’ll own that up to a point. Sometimes I am wrong. And when I am called out on it, I will either correct it or write about how someone felt I was wrong.
I always use this as a classic example. When the Family Foundations Academy fraud was going on at the school, I wrote about it before the mainstream media picked up on it. One gentleman, and I know he won’t mind me saying this, blasted me for it. How dare I disgrace the school and their leaders by writing about that. Turns out I was right. The same thing happened with Academy of Dover. I wrote about the Smarter Balanced shenanigans, and still there were doubters, but it turned out I was right about everything.
I don’t mind people doubting my information. I’ve received bad information in the past and ran with it, much to my chagrin. Here’s the deal though: if our schools and the DOE were more transparent about things, I wouldn’t have to write at all. But the hard truth some of you may not realize is this: there is a ton of shadiness that goes on in this state. That’s what I write about. I can’t just out sources all the time. I can’t always produce a smoking gun. But it’s out there. Most of the time I turn out to be right. And when I’m wrong and someone actually lets me know that, I’ll do what is right. Let’s really be honest with ourselves. With the stuff I find out, am I really going to get an honest answer? If I emailed Godowsky about this before I published it, he would have ignored me. I like Steve. I think he has a very tough job, but at the end of the day, he answers to the Governor. With what I do and what he does, there really isn’t a time where we can collaborate. We have talked many times in person. We’ve even joked around here and there. But when it comes to the really tough questions I present to him… he can’t own up to them. I get that.
Here are some facts for the whole mess.
Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel met with Delaware Associate Secretary of Education David Blowman and the director of the Finance area at DOE, Kim Wheatly, last April. Meece wanted more money from Christina. Somehow this evolved to all districts and charters. Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky is telling people he didn’t know about this until August 19th. I do know David Blowman was out of the office all last week because I received an out-of-office reply from him. Blowman and Wheatly set this whole thing up. Which means Godowsky didn’t know about the letter sent to all the districts on August 8th asking them to justify their restricted and non-restricted sections of their local funds. I can say with certainty Godowsky was not on that letter. But I don’t believe it was solely Blowman and Wheatly who knew about this. Blowman’s boss is Karen Field Rogers, the Deputy Secretary of Education. And I have always believed that State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson makes it a point to know every single thing that goes on there. Did it go up higher than that? I would assume it did. Education is Jack Markell’s baby, and nobody touches that baby without him knowing about it.
The charters have been holding meetings at the DOE, some public and some private, to change their organizational and financial framework sections of their budget. They had representation on the Education Funding Task Force this year. David Blowman was on that task force. This issue, to the best of my knowledge, never came up during those meetings.
The change in the local pupil cost for charters and choice schools was all set to change. I found out about this, ironically enough, when I was working on an article about charter school funding. This news changed that whole article so you may not ever see it. I heard from one person in one district, then another, and then another. 24 hours later I wrote the article and published it. When it comes to stuff like this, I explained it the best way I could. I’m sorry I didn’t pass the News Journal sniff test. When I break big news, it isn’t going to be easily tied up like an episode of Murder She Wrote. There isn’t going to be forensic evidence. Sometimes I’m able to provide that. But you need to understand that nothing in Delaware is neat and tidy. We are a very non-transparent state. There is a good reason we came in 49th place on a national state transparency ranking last year. Trust me, I would love to have a smoking gun for everything I write. I want that more than you do.
With stuff like this, you can either take my word for it or don’t and wait for it to be “officially verified”. I can take the heat. What I won’t take is someone trying to make an anonymous comment and attacking my son. That is intolerable. I’ve written over 2,800 articles on this blog and no one has ever done that until this article. You don’t like me attacking your school? I get that. Blast me all you want. But don’t you dare make an attempt to come after me through my son with false information. There is a line, and you went way past it. I never attack children on this unless they do something so heinous and it is already in the public spotlight, like the Howard High School of Technology murder. I will write about adults, but attacking kids… no. And if you disagree with me on something, that’s fine. But I hope whoever this was realizes this. You know who you are.
Today, Brian Stephan with Delaware Liberal wrote an excellent article going into the actual financial implications and what it all means. Thank you Brian! Brian has much more knowledge about education funding as a member of the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee. I appreciate him explaining this better than I ever could. In the article, Brian wrote about what the charter schools seem to be looking for. It is bogus, in my opinion.
This is my big question, especially for Newark Charter School. If you have such a great school, great classrooms, great teachers, manageable classroom sizes, students behave better than traditional schools, and so forth, what do you need all this extra money for? Many charters get extra money when their transportation budget is higher than what they actually spend. Some charters, like Newark Charter School, get tons of money from this. Probably more than they would have made had this gone through with Godowsky. Newark Charter School got free money from the charter school performance fund last year. $250,000. They got money from various foundations. Is it worth all this fuss, especially when they know districts aren’t exactly swimming in money. Lets face it, all Delaware schools have some fat they can trim. This isn’t a charter thing, this is a Delaware thing. I saw many comments about how I am so biased against charters. I’m not. I’m biased against financial abuse, closed-door meetings, things done in secret, high-stakes testing, an out of control DOE and Governor, and some legislators who care more about profit and pleasing the rich than they do about kids. I will fully admit I didn’t understand a ton of aspects with district financing until the past few months. Charters are smaller so it is easier to find stuff. I look at them as well now. But this move that was going to happen until I wrote about it was shady beyond all belief.
Yesterday, the legislators swarmed Godowsky, and he backed down from doing it this year. And it was a lot more than the four I saw on one legislator’s Facebook post. But it is not over. On Thursday morning, all the district business managers are having a meeting at the DOE. This is a closed meeting. The charter leaders aren’t backing down on this, and I’m sure the district leaders aren’t going to let this just happen. This will get ugly. The legislators are involved now, so a lot could happen either way. Godowsky and Markell will be gone in January. So if Markell wants this to happen, he would need to do something now or after the election.
In terms of charter funding overall, the way we are doing it does NOT work. At all. It sets up animosity between districts and charters. We also need to get rid of the false competition which is based on standardized test scores. And I’m going to say this NCS parents. Constantly saying we are “jealous” or “his kid must not have gotten into the school” is elitist. To be honest, I never heard of Newark Charter School until a few years ago. Ask Greg Meece about me. See what he says. Ask him all the questions I’ve written about. The only time he has ever reached out to me was last winter over a lottery issue with a parent of a disabled child. Ask him the following:
Why doesn’t NCS show other bank accounts run through the school or school activities on their website?
Why did the board remove their May 2016 board minutes? These minutes were put back on the NCS website at 5:17am this morning by NCS CFO Joanne Schlossberg, and does discuss the meeting with Blowman:
New Question: Why were the board minutes modified this morning and put up without approval of the Board of Directors at NCS who has to approve the minutes as per your very own bylaws?
Why does the school refuse to file a tax return based on very bogus reasons for not doing so in the first place?
Why did Greg Meece ignore the IRS Guidance letter stating charter schools really aren’t exempt from filing tax returns?
Did the school divert funds from allocations they weren’t allowed to in building their STEM lab and their new auditorium?
Why did the school accept a Title I award from the US DOE when they have one of the smallest Title I populations in the entire state?
Why did a teacher from the school publicly state yesterday on a Facebook post that in a year NCS will be over 50% minority?
How can NCS make a claim (from the same teacher) that they have more kids in Basic Special Education in K-5 than many Red Clay schools?
Why would Meece email all the teachers and parents to support the Christina referendum but wouldn’t do it publicly?
Why does Senator Sokola write so much legislation that benefits charters, especially NCS, but has no problem writing laws that make things harder for teachers and parents? How much input does Greg Meece have on that legislation?
Why does Meece refuse to collaborate on his innovative discipline practices with other schools?
Which, if any, legislators knew about this change in the way districts pay charters before a week ago? Did any help in the organizing or structure of these secret meetings? Did any attend these meetings?
Why have I heard from so many teachers in this state that if they disagree with Meece on even the slightest thing they are fired?
And the most important. Does he believe NCS is better than everyone else?
When he can answer all those questions, which I publicly ask him to do, then I may change my mind about him. But until then, no, I don’t have a high opinion of him as the Head of School at Newark Charter School. Sorry, but I have seen and heard far too much to think otherwise. I understand that for the parents and teachers at NCS it is the greatest place on earth. There is a reason for that. And maybe you don’t want to face it, but NCS supposed success is based on very selective enrollment preferences. Set up a long time ago, this prevents many at-risk kids from attending the school. Sure, some get in, but not enough based on the demographics. There are key parts set up which prevent the often-heard excuse of “it’s a lottery, anyone can get in”. You need to understand that choice has consequences. It may be great for your kid, but when people like Meece want more money, after he gets tons of it already from Christina and other districts, that takes from the very same at-risk kids who can’t get into that school. Not in the numbers where it would be a true picture of the surrounding area. And setting it up with a five-mile radius also prevents kids from not even being able to apply. So when folks see Meece wanting more money, that is what they see. They see your kid going to a school built on a façade while their kids will have less. This isn’t all charters. But enough. And when the one that is very guilty of this modern-day social engineering is the genesis of this funding change, you shouldn’t be surprised when there is major blowback. That’s not jealousy, that’s understanding the implications these actions have on the state. You want equal funding? You have to earn that. Prove it by opening your doors to everyone. Until then, you can say whatever you want, but we aren’t hearing it. Not until your demographics show otherwise.