The DOE Makes It So Easy…Why Do They Do This?

Last week, I wrote about the Race To The Top report the US DOE came out with.  I saw Delaware’s ridiculously high graduation rates compared to all the other original Race To The Top states and I just laughed.  Turns out the Delaware Department of Education was all set to boast of this and did it in record time!  I have to redline this joke of a press release.  It is begging me to do it.  They do this all the time, and I have to wonder if anyone really cares or listens anymore about what they say.  It’s so full of their flawed methodology it’s sickening…

Delaware leads RTTT states in college enrollment gains

Delaware’s work to increase its college enrollment rates was highlighted in a U.S. Department of Education report released today looking at the progress made by states under the federal Race to the Top grant.

Say, didn’t Avi over at Newsworks dispute your drop-out claims which you openly admitted?  It stands to reason your graduation rates would be affected by that as well!  And didn’t you use to not let kids graduate if they did bad on the DSTP?  The pre-Smarter Balanced test that everyone hated?

Delaware was cited as having made the greatest gains (10.7 percent) in college enrollment. Tennessee was second at 3.3 percent.

Well la de da!  And what does that mean exactly?  Does it mean more students are taking all those remedial classes in college you like to talk about so much?  But hey, let’s have our colleges and universities make major decisions based on Smarter Balanced!  Cause that’s going to work out so well!

Race to the Top also provided Delaware students with more opportunities for Advanced Placement and pre-AP courses. The report highlights how Delaware has supported educators through more direct AP training and given districts/charters increased access to virtual courses. This has resulted in student enrollment in AP courses increasing by 9.2 percent in Delaware since 2011. In the same period, the number of AP exam scores of 3 or higher (on a 5-point scale) has increased 22.2 percent.

Too bad a score of 3 isn’t accepted by Delaware’s colleges.  Too bad the bulk of students score a three.  That is $90 per course out the window.  Be proud DOE, be proud…

In other areas of the report, First State educators were called out for their collaboration during professional learning communities as well as their school team approach to professional learning as part of the state’s Common Ground for the Common Core.

Is there still a teacher’s lounge in every school where teachers sit during lunch, relax, and talk to each other?  That is true collaboration!  Teachers complain about all the time they don’t have in school.  And you actually said the words Common Core instead of the “standards”.  You haven’t been watching other states.  Those words have become toxic…

“Delaware teachers in every school met weekly for 90 minutes in professional learning communities to analyze student work and reflect on ways to modify instruction to bridge gaps identified in student learning,” the report said.

I’ll bet that was so much fun for all these teachers.  You make it sound like it was a party.  You forced teachers to do this and most of them can’t stand you for it.

The report also praised the state for listening to educators and adjusting supports to meet their needs: “Delaware and Tennessee had initially planned to conduct large-scale training sessions to help teachers transition to new standards. However, after soliciting feedback from teachers, they changed their plans and brought school teams together for action planning and used the talents of their own excellent teachers, rather than outside consultants, to provide training.”

So why did the Vision Coalition get paid so much Race To The Top money?  What essential need did they provide teachers that teachers could have done themselves?  Rodel IS an outside consultant DOE, get it through your thick head!

Delaware also was commended for relying on groups of teachers and leaders to provide ongoing input on new approaches or strategies to improve evaluation practices. For example, the state engaged 600 teachers to develop more than 200 assessment “tool kits” that provided rigorous and comparable measures of growth in student learning for non-tested grades and subjects.

More of the teacher cabal over at Rodel/Vision.  And don’t our Delaware teachers just love DPAS-II?  Please…you disgrace every teacher in this state with this nonsense…

And the U.S. Department of Education lauded Delaware for using RTTT to provide educators with an improved and more comprehensive data system as well as for using this customized data system to help support and manage program implementation at the district level. The digital systems that Delaware developed also made it easier to report and summarize student outcomes.

I’ll bet it did!  And where is all that data going DOE?  I know, I know, “we can’t send out personal data”.  Unless it is for the furthering of education and the fix-its we all know companies love to tell us we need but they never actually fix anything.  As State Rep. Sean Matthews brilliantly said, it is “cash in the trash”.

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US DOE Race To The Top Report Released Today Is A Summary Of Lies And Reform Propoganda

I read this report released today by the US DOE, called Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top and found it to be laughable at best.  I’ll start off with the biggest and boldest first:

Race to the Top used transparency to advance knowledge about improving education and allow states to learn from each other.

What was not transparent was how schools, districts, teachers, parents and students were hoodwinked into believing this lie.  The caveat behind this Federal mandate disguised as a financial incentive was requirements to engage with outside companies with this money.

State work under the grants ended in summer 2015…

For Delaware, this part is completely false since the DOE and Governor Markell used parts of the state General Fund to keep Race To The Top created positions at the DOE.  This is hysterical, because the work continues.  They may not be getting federal funds anymore, but most states are using what they did from Race To The Top at all levels and implementing changes designed not to truly help students but to give their bloated Department of Education employees and leaders high salaries while contracting all their work to outside vendors.

State education agencies (SEAs) as drivers of change. SEAs moved beyond their traditional role of monitoring district compliance to driving comprehensive and systemic changes to improve teaching and learning across the state.

They are still accountability machines.  They live and die by compliance as never before.  Who are you kidding?

Improved, more collaborative, and productive relationships between states and districts. States worked more collaboratively with districts and increased their own capacity to effectively and efficiently support districts and schools in ways that were responsive to local needs.

Yeah, between states maybe, and the districts that sign up for all the personalized learning grants while selling students souls to Satan!

Better communication. States improved lines of communication with stakeholders and used a range of tools (e.g., social media platforms) to continuously gather input from teachers, parents, school leaders, stakeholders and the public to determine the additional supports needed to be successful in carrying out their work.

They certainly used a range of tools in Delaware.  I could name many of those tools, but I would hate to offend anyone.  And many of those tools either gained tremendous financial or political gain from all of this.  And the whole “stakeholder input” never mattered because our DOE didn’t listen to what parents were truly saying and did what they wanted to do anyways.

Higher standards. All Race to the Top states recognized the value of adopting higher standards that are similar across states. Each Race to the Top state implemented challenging kindergarten through 12th-grade academic content standards aimed at preparing students for success in college and careers. With improved standards, teachers, students and parents have a clear roadmap for what students need to know and be able to do to be prepared for success.

The clear roadmap called Common Core, where all students should be on the same level playing field across the country, but all the assessments designed for it are different?  That clear roadmap you say?  And the jury is still way out on if these were “improved” standards.

Teachers support each other to effectively implement higher standards. Teachers worked together to create tools and resources to help them understand the standards and how best to implement them in their classrooms. Hands-on, job-embedded training helped teachers transition to the new content and develop instructional tools, such as sample lesson plans and instructional videos, to translate the standards into effective classroom practices.

Teachers learned how to band together and collectively groan about everything the Feds and the States did to them.  You make it sound like it was such a wonderful and collaborative thing, but it wasn’t and it still isn’t.  Let’s get it straight: the standards were designed for teachers to teach to the state assessment.  Most teachers I know can’t stand these assessments and hate everything that comes with it.

Monitoring student progress during the school year. Every Race to the Top state developed resources and assessment tools that teachers can use in their classrooms to monitor student progress during the school year. Rather than focus on test preparation for the statewide assessment at the end of the school year, nearly all states introduced instructional resources for the classroom that measure higher-order thinking skills, including critical thinking and complex problem-solving.

You can change the words however you want, it is still teaching to the test.

Increased access to and use of objective information on student outcomes. States made critical investments in improving systems to compile student outcome data from pre-kindergarten through the workforce, while protecting personally identifiable information. As outcome data for schools and districts become more accessible to the public, a variety of stakeholders, including parents, policymakers and researchers, will be better able to use these data to answer important questions about educational outcomes, such as “Did students make a year’s worth of growth?” and “Are students succeeding, regardless of income, race, ethnicity or disability?”

That last line is the biggest joke of all.  Because income, race, ethnicity and disability can make a huge difference in a  student’s life, especially as those factors combine!  And we don’t know how much of our children’s data is being farmed out under certain FERPA laws and state regulations.

Local stakeholder engagement. Dramatic improvements in schools require the involvement of community members who understand local contexts and conditions, both inside and outside the school building, to help identify challenges and design solutions. States, districts, teachers, school leaders and community stakeholders are working together to implement strategies to improve the learning environments in their lowest-performing schools and provide services to meet students’ academic and nonacademic needs.

In Delaware, we call this Rodel and the Vision Coalition.  This local stakeholder engagement has been going on for ten years with little or no results except their CEO going from $170,000+ to a salary of $344,000 in a decade.

New performance management approaches. States are using performance management approaches to help districts support effective interventions in their lowest-performing schools. These approaches help states and districts identify problems, set goals to solve them and use data to track progress.

We call these priority schools and focus schools in Delaware.  Or “Partnership Zone” schools.  This is where our state blames teachers for standardized testing scores and do not factor in a lack of resources, funding, neurological disabilities, or issues outside of schools.

States used state-level funds to support districts. In addition to the 50 percent of the total grant award subgranted to districts, many states designed their state-level projects to distribute additional funds to districts. For example, New York competitively distributed nearly $80 million of its state-level “Teachers and Leaders” funds to districts to implement their plans to develop, implement or enhance teacher recruitment, development and retention.

Delaware farmed out millions upon millions of dollars to outside companies, some internal and some external, instead of giving the funds to the districts to lower classroom sizes and get more teachers and extra support.

Some states, such as Hawaii, Delaware and Massachusetts, created a separate office or designated an existing office to plan and coordinate Race to the Top initiatives across different offices

And then the Delaware DOE lied to their General Assembly when the funds ran out and found a way to keep those positions in our DOE without anyone the wiser.

…and Delaware created specific units within their state departments of education and used real-time data to assess whether projects were moving forward and producing quality results.

Results based on federal mandates that were neither Congressionally approved or regulatory in nature…

“We really keep coming back to three questions: Are we doing what we said we would do? Are we doing it well? Is it making a difference?” said Delaware’s former chief performance officer.

Which former chief performance officer is this?  I’m guessing this is why he or she is a former chief performance officer if they were asking questions like this in our dictatorial state led by the not-so-great Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

Beginning in 2008, the state-led effort included governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia and was informed by the best state standards already in use and the experiences of teachers, school administrators, content experts, state leaders and the public. From the beginning, state and local officials and educators took responsibility for adopting and implementing the standards, and for making decisions about how the standards are taught, how the curriculum is developed, and what materials are used to support teachers in helping students meet the standards.

Yes, the beginning of the cabal of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officer’s in leading the Common Core initiative where the two true educators in this design group dropped out from the development of these standards.  Then the districts were essentially brow-beaten, pressured, and lied to if they didn’t accept funds during a recession when states were cash-poor.

As a result, each Race to the Top state developed measures of growth in student learning and made the data available to teachers, school leaders, district leaders and, in some cases, parents.  These measure of growth in student learning provided a reliable measure of teachers’ contributions to student learning because they addressed a student’s proficiency across multiple years on a valid assessment that was comparable across classrooms and schools

“Valid assessment”.  I really don’t need to go any further on this one, do I?

In Delaware, the state hired data coaches to work directly with school leaders and teachers to lead professional learning communities.

The data coaches, who got tons of money.  Like the Vision Coalition in Delaware…

For many Race to the Top states and districts, the initiatives they implemented during the grant period have remained priorities that SEAs are now better equipped to support and continue. For example, Delaware’s performance management system did not exist prior to the grant period and will continue without Race to the Top funds. The state also will continue to implement, as part of its state capacity-building plan, its data analyses and biannual conversations with district leaders to better understand what is happening in districts and develop supports that match local needs. Through its district budget plan approval process, Delaware also is encouraging districts to use available funding streams to support work they found to be effective in their schools, such as using allowable federal funds for professional supports for teachers.

Our DOE might want to check with our General Assembly before they commit to all this.  Oh wait, they will answer to our Joint Finance Committee on 11/30/15 for their devious budget actions…

As directed in the report, the citation for this report belongs to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of State Support, Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top, Washington, D.C., 2015

Two Delaware Newspapers Show The Rift In Education And In The House Democrat Caucus

Holy smokes!  Not sure which one I was more surprised to see, the one about Valerie Longhurst or the one about the General Fund Race To The Top 8!

Starting with Longhurst, The News Journal covered a “scathing email” situation Longhurst sent out to a University of Delaware Professor when the U of D employee questioned the General Assembly about raises given to certain employees at Legislative Hall.  The employee, Ms. Fran Fletcher, is well-known in Delaware as a mediator.  I have seen her at the HB90 Enrollment Preference Task Force and found her to be a very reasonable woman.  She is frequently called on by the Delaware Department of Education to mediate IEP meetings when parents and schools cannot agree on IEP issues.  If the allegations surrounding Longhurst’s response to Ms. Fletcher are true, that goes way beyond a constructive response to a constituent.  I would say it was filled with veiled threats to someone who dared question a legislator over a controversial issue.

Meanwhile, The Delaware State News jumped on the eight Race To The Top positions that I wrote about on Monday but they even had a quote from one of the employees who should have been cut but now seems to be working in the Executive Branch.  Shana Young said:

“While it does not have the authority to create new positions, the Department of Education, like all state agencies, has the authority to reclassify vacant positions,” Ms. Young said. “So, in the case of these eight positions, they were reclassified into existing vacancies in the department.”

It seems members of the Delaware Joint Finance Committee were not too happy about this news either based on the article.  I really thought the DOE would be raked over the coals by the General Assembly during their last legislative session.  Perhaps we should gear up for an even bigger fight this year!  But the bigger fight may go down with the House Dems!

Delaware DOE Keeps 8 Race To The Top Positions From General Fund “Vacancies” With Salaries Over $800,000

The below emails say it all.  The DOE was supposed to cut 10 positions funded from Race To The Top when it expired on June 30th, 2015.  The DOE is allowed to use any remaining funds until the end of this calendar year.  But those are federal funds, not state funds.  When the Delaware Joint Finance Committee cut the budgeted $7.5 million down to $3.75 million, the remaining funds were only supposed to be used for initiatives, not positions.  But instead, the DOE is using state taxpayer funds from the state’s General Fund to pay for positions earmarked by a federal initiative.  State Rep. John Kowalko advised DOE and the State Board of Education he wasn’t going to stand for this.  Thank you to Rep. Kowalko for getting these answers as it is something that has crossed my mind lately.  Race To The Top is over, but it seems the Delaware DOE didn’t get the memo on this…


From: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Sent: Sunday, October 4, 2015 7:09 PM
To: Morton, Michael (LegHall); Jackson, Michael A. (DSCYF)
Cc: Bennett, Andria (LegHall); Baumbach, Paul (LegHall); Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kowalko, John (LegHall); Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall)
Subject: information urgently needed

Gentlemen,

I need an explicit breakdown of the use, actual or intended, for the remaining $3.75 million (of the original $7.5 million Governor requested) RTTT money that was authorized with the budget passage. Most importantly, I am requesting a specific listing of all paid positions that were created, extended, filled or funded by the $3.75 million. Originally it was presented that approval of the full $7.5 million would allow for ten positions to be either funded or made permanent and they were specifically listed in our briefing papers and synopsis. I am requesting the specific titles and names of the employees that were funded due to the passage of the $3.75 million budget item listed under RTTT. I hope you will send me this information forthwith.

Respectfully,

Representative John Kowalko (25th District)


From: Jackson, Michael S (LegHall)
Sent: Monday, October 5, 2015 1:54 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Cc: Bennett, Andria (LegHall); Baumbach, Paul (LegHall); Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); Morton, Michael (LegHall); Jackson, Michael S (LegHall)
Subject: RE: information urgently needed

Rep. Kowalko – –

Here is the breakdown of the $3,750.0 included in the FY 2016 Budget for Race to the Top Initiatives:

1.       $2,550.0 was allocated to the Professional Accountability and Instructional Advancement Fund for educator preparation and development such as pre-service training for future teachers and leaders; educator recruitment platforms and tools for school districts and charters; evaluating teacher effectiveness; and supporting teacher-leadership opportunities and professional learning networks.

2.       $600.0 for common core resources for school districts and charter schools and funding of professional development and instructional materials for the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards; and

3.       $600.0 for the maintenance of the Educator Insight Portal  that provides a dashboard of data, pulling from several technology systems, for student, class, school, district and state performance statistics. All districts use portal for various information, such as a teacher reviewing performance data for incoming students to his/her classroom.

Regarding the positions, there was no new funding or positions included in the budget for any of the 10.0 positions and budget epilogue prevents the allocation of any of the $3,750.0 in funding to be used towards positions. Below is the language:

Section 301.  Section 1 of this Act appropriates $3,750.0 for the following school based initiatives: Next Generation Science Standards/College Readiness/Common Ground, teacher preparation initiatives and technology support for the Educator Insight Portal. These funds shall not be used to hire or retain positions in the Department of Education.

The Department of Education used existing General Fund vacancies to retain 8 of the 10 people who were in Race to the Top positions. Below are the salaries, names and titles of the 8 people:

Assessment, Accountability, Performance and Evaluation Branch

Chief Officer for the Branch (Penny Schwinn) $134,337

Director, Office of Assessment (Ryan Reyna) $110,551

Chief Performance Officer, Office of Performance Management (Katherine Villari) $116,419

Deputy Officer, Office of Performance Management (Elizabeth Jetter) $85,020)

Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Branch

Chief Officer for the Branch (Christopher Ruszkowski) $134,337

Director, Educator Effectiveness and Talent Management (Atnreakn Alleyne) $110,551

Deputy Officer, Talent Recruitment and Acquisition (Tasha Cannon) $99,750 (this position has become vacant)

Chief of Staff for the Branch (Shana Young) $116,000

The remaining 2 positions that were not retained were vacant positions in the Assessment, Accountability, Performance and Evaluation Branch. 

Mike Jackson

US DOE’s Executive Summary On Delaware’s Race To The Top Program

The US Department of Education released an executive summary of Delaware’s Race To The Top program.  This has everything in there, including the latest Accountability Framework Working Group included…  And of course it wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Vision Coalition’s latest launch…

The Prophet Of Delaware Talks About The Profit Of Race To The Top

I stumbled across something last night, a whole cache of videos created by none other than Transparent Christina’s John Young!  These are pretty funny, especially given what came to pass!  Enjoy!