The Accountability Framework Working Group, the group tasked to provide recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework is meeting now in Dover at the Townsend Building at the Delaware Department of Education. This should be very interesting!
Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appears to be leading the meeting, along with Ryan Reyna from the Accountability and Assesssment area of the DOE. Delaware State Representatives Paul Baumbach and Kim Williams are here as well.
I’m not sure if Penny Schwinn will be attending this meeting. She has been very quiet lately…
Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newswork just walked in. So did State Rep. John Kowalko. Everyone is introducing themselves. John Carwell with the DOE Charter School Office is attending as a non-voting member.
Secretary Godowsky stated there will be public comment, but he wants to relay the purpose of the committee. There were 16 meetings prior to this. He said he was confirmed as Secretary on October 28th. The ultimate goal of the AFWG was to get a level of commitment from all stakeholders. He appreciates everyone coming back for this meeting. He said he has watched from the outside the past couple years and wants everyone to work together to build a level of trust. He recognized there were changes to the AFWG’s recommendations. He is talking about his reversal on the opt-out penalty now. The first factor was the State Board’s position on the opt-out penalty. The consequences on the plan were not consequences. The State Board sets policy. They have a duty to look at students first and this influenced his thinking on this matter. As well, he said they are investigating the policy of getting rid of Smarter Balanced for juniors and replacing it with the SAT.
Godowsky said they met with the Chief School Officers and the State Board on 11//5 to discuss this transition. They came up with the possibility of perhaps doing this as early as Spring 2016 but there are a lot of details to sort out. He wants to be optimistic about that. Participation rate is key to their thinking and claims this is a civil rights issue and they have to test students in need. As they looked at their evidence higher performing students had not taken the test. On 11/7 there was an op/ed in the News Journal about achievement gaps and how protections need to be used to prevent a moral discrepancy. He met with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens and will speak with that group this evening. They respect their opinion but not the thousands of parents in Delaware.
They see more benefits for schools using the participation rate multiplier for schools in Delaware. This is also used to implement priority and reward schools. The priority schools will not be identified for another three years. They have already named these schools this year. The new framework will not be used this year and there will be no consequences this year. Now he is addressing schools that purposely left students out of the test. The New Castle County Vo-Tech District, of which Godowsky used to lead, was one of the first to recognize this. Now we know why Governor Markell picked him as Secretary of Education. He is talking about how Howard High School went from 56% to 80% proficiency. When you can control who gets in… The State Board raised these concerns in 2004 with students not being tested. Godowsky is stating the US DOE wants this as well. Where is the proof Dr. Secretary?
The consequences are significantly positive according to Godowsky. No, they are not. Now it is time for public comment. State Rep. Kim Williams gave public comment and said no superintendents are in agreement with the opt-out penalty. State Rep. Paul Baumbach said this is not gaming the system but empowering our parents. State Rep. Kowalko said there were several meetings without the AFWG that influenced his decision. The civil rights issue is not applicable to this situation. There are hidden fears perpetuated by the Federal Government and the State Board of Education regarding funding and a dismantling of the education system. RCEA President Mike Matthews said his membership voted against this penalty. He is talking about testing and punishing schools and giving more resources to high-needs schools. Hilary Clinton, according to Matthews, said teachers should not be evaluated. I gave public comment advising the State Board, the DOE and Secretary Godowsky they have no place determining parental rights. Especially over a flawed test that gives no immediate feedback or direct instruction for students. As well, they have provided no solid mandated proof of this opt-out penalty by the feds. Greg Mazotta is talking about the Baldridge Program.
AFWG member Bill Doolittle, representing the Delaware PTA, stated the federal intent was for schools excluding students from the test. The new ESEA reauthorization will have very little support for this and it will be up to the states. This was not a child-centered decision based on real world logic. This is a political decision. The AFWG’s recommendations gave the best outlook for students and will initiate confrontation. This decision will accelerate the opt-out movement in Delaware. With IDEA, they have used the NAEP standards giving parents the right to choose. We should do what they recommend. By agreeing to this it will distort data and the schools and DOE will not have clean data. SAT has a long history of discriminating against students with disabilities.
Deb Stevens with DSEA said she is very concerned about the State Board’s insistence on having negative consequences for schools in regards to participation rate. She supported the AFWG’s recommendations, but from what she is hearing it is not negative enough for the State Board. The State Board members have never had an opportunity to meet with the AFWG. She doesn’t understand the rationale of meeting with the State Board for 3 minutes a month before they act (as public comment at the State Board of Education meetings). This will not improve the student gaps and will not help with getting resources to schools. There is no confidence in this test based on the first-year results. They don’t know how valid or reliable the test is and it is foolish to attach consequences for a test with no track record. She will not change her vote that AFWG provided to the DOE.
Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald is thanking Ryan and Penny for their guidance with the group as well as the members of AFWG. He said poverty was a major concern with this group. Schools with high poverty will be punished the most with this. AYP, or adequate yearly progress, does not work. The AFWG thought the consequences they decided on were good. He thinks moving towards the SAT is good because students are tested too much, especially in 11th grade. He has concerns with the disability questions with the SAT. There is no reason for the AFWG to change their recommendation because the Secretary and State Board will decide what they want. He hopes they put a great deal of thought into the changes.
Ken Hutchins with Capital School District said parents got back the scores and students who were once proficient are no longer proficient. He doesn’t think Delaware has hit their peak with the opt-out movement. This will cause opt-out to increase. He is a data guy.
Joe Jones with New Castle County Vo-Tech said the schools already know what supports and resources they need. He doesn’t think an assessment should drive that change. Delaware needs to work together to get these supports and not under the lens of a consequence. He said nothing came as a surprise and always knew these were just recommendations. He would love to see it one day come to fruition where assessment is not driving change.
Heath Chasanov, the Superintendent of the Woodbridge School District, thinks this will cause opt-out numbers to rise. He went out and visited all four of the schools in his district (laughter in the room) and the comment a top senior in his class said they don’t take the SBAC as seriously as the SAT. In terms of reading, the student said, the SBAC has flaws with the passages in the test.
Indian River’s Jay Owens supported the AFWG’s recommendations but he is excited about the possibility of the SAT and getting rid of SBAC for juniors. They have the ability to monitor the participation rate. They can take action as a district when the test is not being pushed by the schools.
Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, is thanking the members of AFWG. It is no easy feat to come up with a framework like this. The State Board has publicly met outside of State Board meetings nine times over the Delaware School Success Framework. Dr. Gray heard the comments of this group. They are very clear about what the group’s recommendations are. The State Board did not believe developing a “plan” for opt-out was a good decision. “The State Board would prefer to see a consequence that is positive and negative.” Fitzgerald is stating there are no supports and resources to deal with the consequence. Is the State Board able to make a decision on that, Fitzgerald asked. Johnson said this was not a discussion at the State Board Retreat. Fitzgerald asked if any of the supports and resources are different than ones that currently exist to which Johnson said no.
Doolittle said some members who couldn’t make it submitted comments. He said the State Board has their own perception and this decision was not driven by Federal requirements and was driven by a desire from the State Board to have negative consequences. Stevens said the name and blame game is driven by Federal decision. But this does not provide the resources needed to move the needle and change the achievement gap. Johnson, in response to Doolittle, said schools should have a plan anyways if they don’t meet the 95% participation rate. I asked Johnson if Governor Markell advised the board to do this, wouldn’t they agree? She said no, they are their own board. She said I am entitled to my opinion. I responded I am, and many agree. I really need to check on my complaints with the DOJ today…
Godowsky is thanking the group. The comments were appreciated. Kowalko is asking what the exact negative consequence is from the State Board. He said the State Board did not specifically answer this. Johnson said the State Board did not suggest negative and punitive consequences. Doolittle said the AFWG was not given the right guidance from the Feds.