Penny Schwinn Lands In Texas

Former Delaware Department of Education Chief of Accountability and Assessment Penny Schwinn finally landed a new job in Texas of all places.  Her new title is the Deputy Commissioner for Academics in the Texas Education Agency.  Aside from overseeing assessments and accountability, her new job will see her also cover standards and programs.

As part of a complete overhaul of the Texas Education Agency, Education Commissioner Mike Morath replaced many of the top posts at the Texas equivalent of the Delaware Department of Education.  Morath’s role is equivalent to the Delaware Secretary of Education.

The Texas Tribune pointed out that out of the three positions Morath hired, three out of the five came from charter school backgrounds and only two were from Texas.  This appeared to be an issue with the Texas State Teachers Association and several traditional school districts.  It appears Delaware isn’t the only state that has our State Education Agency filled with charter/corporate education reformists.  I will be the first to start a poll on how long Schwinn will stay in Texas.

 

Osceola County In Florida Dodged A Bullet With Hurricane Schwinn!

I am proud that my work in developing this system solicited the largest representative population of state stakeholders in the Department’s recent history, further providing for a product that held local ownership, recognizes and highlights the performance of each subgroup within the state from an absolute as well as growth mindset, and empowers parents and schools to best address each student’s needs.

In Florida, it is state law that anyone who applies for a Superintendent position gets to have their cover letter and resume posted publicly so everyone can see it.  None other than Penny Schwinn, the recently departed DOE darling of accountability and assessment, applied for the Superintendent Position at Osceola County Public Schools.  She actually applied for the job on September 22nd, so her departure was in the planning stages for some time.  Let’s do the math: Schwinn applies in September, new Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky comes aboard in October, word gets out about Schwinn’s departure in November, and she is gone from the DOE in early January.  She only worked at the Delaware DOE for a year and a half folks!

The first time I saw her in action was at a State Board of Education meeting in August, 2014.  When asked by an African-American State Board member about the impact of violence and local murders in the classroom, she responded by saying she didn’t think that was a hurdle to overcome.  By the time Schwinn really got rolling, she became public enemy number one when she ran the “Priority Schools” initiative, a turnaround effort to force two school districts to kiss the DOE’s ass over six schools in downtown Wilmington, DE.  Her communication style, when you really need information from her, is not one of her strong points.

Let’s not even get into her “largest representative population of state stakeholders in the Department’s recent history” victory lap.  The highlight of that was her screwing over every single person on the Accountability Framework Working Group by convincing the Governor and Secretary Godowsky that harsh opt-out penalties should be used as a multiplier against a school’s proficiency ratings.  She obviously knew this would cement her unpopularity in Delaware into iconic status, so she left Delaware after her hurricane of a year and a half.  She was a wrecking ball, hired specifically to put things in place that made the Delaware DOE more nefarious than they already are.

Schwinn didn’t get the job, so Osceola County Public Schools can breathe a sigh of relief.  But I have no idea who Deborah Pace is.  From her experience, it looks she is homegrown but has a touch of education reform in her.  In the meantime, please look at Schwinn’s cover letter, resume, and her responses to questions.  Does this match with the Schwinn Delaware experienced for 18 months?

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Penny Schwinn

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A year ago, if you asked anyone on the Christina School District Board of Education to name one person at the Delaware Department of Education, the first name that would have popped up was Penny Schwinn.  Penny was the DOE face behind the priority schools in Red Clay and Christina.  Penny is currently the Chief of Accountability and Performance at the DOE.  When the Christina board had to pick two members to meet with the DOE, it was to meet Schwinn.  After the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee announced their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington, the DOE and Governor Markell backed off on Christina’s opposition to the priority schools.  The Christina board passed a resolution supporting the recommendations of WEAC.

Schwinn fell off my radar until a couple months later when she announced to the State Board of Education the SAT was being aligned to the Common Core.  I immediately jumped to the conclusion the SAT was being replaced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Many disagreed with me and told me I was wrong.  But essentially, that is what they are doing.  It won’t be the same test, but it will be more like SBAC than the previous SAT.  As well, the talk concerning the Assessment Inventory project showed the DOE was already planning this long before Governor Markell first mentioned it in March.

In May, I was given several emails from a FOIA concerning the priority schools which showed Schwinn’s role in the whole planning stage.  This gave a lot of insight into the whole debacle and how the DOE really didn’t know what the heck they were doing.

The subject of funding for the priority schools in Red Clay came up in a big way over the summer, as the DOE wasn’t giving the district their promised funding.  While never confirmed, this led directly to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s ouster at the Delaware DOE.

In September, after months of waiting, Schwinn’s group released the Smarter Balanced Assessment results to Delaware.  They had the results for quite a while before they were released which led to a lot of concern and speculation on my part as to why.  The results really didn’t show any earth-shattering increases for Delaware students, but overall, most students did worse on SBAC than they had on DCAS>

While all of this was going on, Schwinn was meeting with several superintendents, district admins, a rep from DSEA and a rep from the Delaware PTA on the Delaware School Success Framework.  The Accountability Framework Working Group was under the radar for most Delawareans until I accidentally found all their meeting notes and found the participation rate opt-out penalty.  This led to feverish and frantic emails to Schwinn and several complaints I filed with the US DOE and the Delaware DOJ.  As part of the US DOE mandated “school report card”, the US DOE gave “guidance” on the state’s new accountability systems.

Schwinn watched as the group unanimously voted to get rid of the participation rate penalty as a multiplier that would punish schools with high opt-out rates.  Eventually, newly christened Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky blew off the group’s recommendations and the DOE submitted the harsh opt-out penalty to the US DOE as part of their ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  Schwinn recommended, at the behest of Governor Markell, one of the toughest accountability systems for any state in the country.

As this was all coming to a head, Schwinn resigned from the Delaware DOE and is expected to leave by the end of this year.  Schwinn’s year and a half tenure at the Department was certainly full of controversy and angst for many school districts.  I am very curious where she will end up next…

The DOE Has Lost Their Minds! Really Governor Markell? You Disrespect Students With Disabilities

I posted the whole document these pictures were in two posts ago, but upon reviewing the DOE’s five-year goals for growth in the Smarter Balanced Assesssment, I noticed the one group that is going to be driven hard to improve proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Students With Disabilities.  Dammit Jack, what the hell is wrong with you?  You have NO idea what these kids are going through every single day.  My guess is this is something you do not deal with or experience on a daily basis.  I really think you may be insane.  This isn’t right, and every single parent of a child with disabilities needs to email their legislator and ask them to impeach Delaware Governor Jack Markell based on an inability to perform his job functions.

Below are the growth targets for the next five years for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They expect students with disabilities to jump up astronomically in the next five years which means the DOE will push teachers to push these students.  Enough is enough.

DOEGrowthTargetsELA

DOEGrowthTargetsMath

Welcome to the Jack Markell world of Rigor and Grit for students with disabilities.  This is not education.  This is insanity.  This is not aggressive, this is you just not getting it…

UPDATED: An earlier version of this article had an employee at the DOE named in it.  I talked with this employee when I left the State Board of Education, and I understand she was just doing her job.  She answers to her boss, and I totally get that.  This is why I have changed this to her boss.

Delaware Students Are The Sacrificial Lamb For Penny Schwinn

Penny Schwinn is the most dangerous woman at the DOE.  I saw this firsthand yesterday at the State Board of Education retreat.  I wrote about this extensively last night.  This is a woman who pushed Red Clay and Christina to the breaking point over the priority schools last year.  She is the same person who said that violence in our most impoverished communities “isn’t necessarily a challenge to overcome” with how it affects students in the classroom.  And yesterday, she announced at a public meeting that Delaware is going to implement the most aggressive and difficult accountability plan for schools in the entire country.  And she isn’t willing to back down from this.

I’m sure nobody challenges the fact that our schools have issues in our state.  No state is perfect, and Delaware is no exception.  It’s not like we are the top-ranked state in the country where we can afford to push the bar so high for our students.  We have one of the highest per-student funding mechanisms in the country.  But our students are not advancing.  Not to the level of the DOE’s satisfaction, and certainly not to parents satisfaction either.

The elephant in the room is the test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Everything is tied to this test.  I never hear the DOE or the State Board of Education EVER talk about students actual grades.  You know, the ones given by a teacher three or four times a year.  The ones that show, over a ten-week period, how our students are really doing.  Everything is in relation to the test: student growth, student proficiency, teacher effectiveness, school ratings, etc.  But if there is one thing I have learned in the past two weeks it is this: the Smarter Balanced measures schools based on labels.  In all the graphs released by this blog and Delaware Liberal in the past week, this test measures poverty and economic status.  And that is essentially it.  It recognizes the haves and the have-nots.

Regulation 103, also known as the Delaware School Success Framework, will punish schools severely over once-a-year test scores.  I truly don’t care what Penny Schwinn’s motivation is for all of this.  This is insanity at an epic level and our students will pay the most severe price for her madness.  It is past time our legislators and leaders took a step back and look at the effect all of this is having on education in Delaware.  Far too many citizens are measuring success based on one test.  It is wrong.  It is propaganda.  It is evil.  And it needs to stop.  Delaware parents, I implore you to refuse this test for your child.  It is now an essential and absolute urgency.  You hold in your hands, your voice, the ability to turn this around and get out of this toxic environment our children have been exposed to.  Please end it.  Now.