Smarter Balanced Assessment Went Under A Peer Review In Delaware…Where’s The Report?

On August 18th, the Delaware State Board of Education held a work session before their regular meeting.  At this session was Jon Cohen, the Vice-President of American Institutes for Research and Tony Alpert, the Executive Director of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

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Question… if the test is computer adaptive for each student, then not every student receives the same test.  So how could there possibly ever be mean scores involved with a test that is never the same?  Is that why Delaware Governor Jack Markell called this the best test ever made at a New America conference last year?  Here is the presentation:

That was the presentation.  As you can see, our stalwart State Board of Education took very detail minutes of the work session…

sboe81816worksession

Meanwhile, the Delaware DOE had a meeting with all the district test coordinators on 8/29/16.

Can someone please tell me how Component V from the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system is listed as a “Test Security Incident” for Smarter Balanced?  That seems kind of odd in my opinion.  In the below document, it states the Smarter Balanced Assessment went under a peer review as required by ESEA.  But who was this peer review submitted to?  They talk about “CFA consultants” in the document.  Upon searching for “cfa”, I believe this means “confirmatory factor analysis” based on this document.  Or is that the name of the company doing this “peer review”?  I hope it isn’t like Florida’s peer review that was making everyone ask “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?”

If this report was due in August, how come we have yet to see a copy of this federally required peer review?  Sounds like a future FOIA!

Schools In Delaware Get Ugly By Using SBAC Scores Or Opt Out To Deny Student Access To AP Classes

In the past week, I have heard from several parents in our state that their children are not getting into AP or advanced classes based on either their Smarter Balanced scores or the fact that their parents opted them out of the test.  This is a horrible idea.  Some of these students are straight A students.  What the hell is wrong with these Principals and Superintendents who are making these foolish decisions?  While I won’t name schools or districts due to the privacy of these families, I think these actions are abusive on unheard of levels.

Depression

When did Smarter Balanced become the barometer of student success in Delaware?   The sole purpose of this test is to understand where our children compare to each other, so we can reduce the so-called achievement gaps.  Now it is turning into a punitive measurement tool and it is affecting many lives.  What kind of sick and twisted crap is this?  Who is mandating this?  Is it the Delaware DOE or the districts themselves?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a fraudulent test.  It is horrible and how anyone can think this test in any way should decide what classes a student takes needs to take a look at what true education is all about.

Thecryingboy

We are gearing our kids toward this ridiculous notion of “rigor” at a very early age in Delaware.  I get that children need to read at earlier ages.  But the way we are going about it, by taking away play time and stripping these innocent children from the very creativity which allows them to grow as a human being is truly sad.

UpsetTeenager

Every single parent of a Delaware student this is happening to needs to be very loud and vocal.  They need to tell the school Principal this is unacceptable.  If the Principal doesn’t bend, go to the Superintendent.  If the Superintendent doesn’t bend, go to the School Board.  Go to the State Board of Education.  Go to the media.  Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, Delaware State News, and the News Journal.  Spread this to everyone you know on Facebook and other social media.  Email your friends and family about this.  Nothing in Delaware ever changes unless the people speak.  And on this issue, parents MUST speak.  And for those parents who don’t have kids in AP classes, if they are doing this to those students, just imagine how they are classifying other kids.  The best thing you can all do is opt out in mass numbers to make this waste of a test invalid.  That is the greatest option to end the destruction of public education.  You need to advocate for your child.  You are their parent.  If they are a victim of this insane testing abuse, you have to speak up for them.  Do not believe the lies far too many schools, districts, education non-profits like Rodel, and certain legislators are telling you.

It’s bad enough the Delaware DOE endorses ethical trickery with parents who try to opt their kids out.  It’s bad enough the Smarter Balanced Assessment students take isn’t the same test for every student (which in my mind makes this test worth less than fools gold).  But now we have this.  This is a state assessment.  Not a district mandated, or even school related assessment.  It was created by the state for state usage.  It should have absolutely no bearing on a student’s classroom progress.  Using Smarter Balanced as a competency-based model of student achievement is not a good idea at all.

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Can you imagine how students feel, who try their best in school, only to be victimized because of a once a year test?  The heartbreak they feel, like they just aren’t good enough.  This is what Delaware education has become, a travesty of epic proportions.  We have turned the Smarter Balanced Assessment into the center of education.  If it isn’t data walls, it’s accountability.  If it isn’t libraries closing for weeks at a time, it is teacher evaluations based on this wretched test.  If it isn’t state special education ratings from the feds, it’s standards-based IEPs designed to “help” kids do better on this test.  If it isn’t reshuffling of classrooms to have high-performing SBAC students help low-performing SBAC students, it’s fighting parents when they don’t want their kids taking the test.  If it isn’t students with disabilities being forced to take this test for 2-3 times longer than their peers, it’s the State Board of Education passing opt-out penalties in their school report card accountability joke.  This is NOT the best test Delaware ever made, despite Governor Markell’s comments to the contrary.

ChildCrying

When the 149th General Assembly reconvenes in January, their top priority needs to be setting firm laws dictating what this test can and can’t be used for.  They also need to finish the job with opt out and codify a parent’s right to opt their child out of these punitive tests without penalty to the student in any way, whether it is AP classes, graduation, summer school, standards-based IEPs, abuse by administration, or denying a student the ability to choice to another school.  This could have been written into law last January.  I warned them then this issue was only going to get worse.  My advice was unheeded by the majority of them.  Those that supported the override attempt know the real deal.  Those who didn’t need to seriously rethink their position on this.

And for any school in this state that has any type of data wall up in classrooms or anywhere in your schools with student names on them, take them down now.  The days of shaming students for a state assessment are done.  If any parent sees these data walls in any school, please take a picture of them and send them to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will file a Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) complaint the very same day.  I will need to know the name of the school and the district.  I am in the process of filing a few of these today.

The abuse of students in this state needs to stop.  These are children, not testing guinea pigs for the data freaks.  Is this really what education is about?  Mental torture of children?  All in the name of progress and accountability.  I don’t think so.  People wonder why I am so passionate about education.  This is the main reason.  What we are doing to kids.  We are destroying the future.

NotGoodEnough

 

Exclusive: A Delaware Legislator Is Not The Hero For Public Education They Appear To Be

I’ve been wrestling with something for a long time now.  I found out something.  Something big.  Usually my first instinct is to get it out there.  But this was BIG, and if I was wrong about it, it could have shot me in the foot.  It concerns a legislator and an election.  But more than that, it concerned friends.  Friends who are very supportive of this particular legislator.  I’ve had wrestling matches in my head before about these kind of things, but usually the need for truth prevails.  This time though, it was different.  Continue reading “Exclusive: A Delaware Legislator Is Not The Hero For Public Education They Appear To Be”

The Test Made For White Kids, Not Black Kids

I get it now.  A few months ago I was discussing parent opt out with an African-American friend of mine.  He explained to me that African-American students don’t do well on standardized tests because they’re written for white kids.  I disagreed with him.  I couldn’t grasp what was right before my eyes.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment was made for white kids.  Civil rights groups, usually backed by the Gates Foundation and other corporate education reformers, claim high-stakes standardized tests are important.  They say they need to understand where African-American students rank compared to their peers.  This only perpetuates the myth that these tests are necessary.  These groups vehemently opposed parents opting out of these tests because they claimed it would only continue pathways to discrimination.  Instead, the reality is staring them right in the face.  Standardized tests do show achievement gaps.  But not because they offer any solutions on how to close those gaps, but because they were written for a specific audience.

These tests fail to understand different minorities or cultures.  They were created from a white culture perspective.  They ask students to push themselves based on standards that don’t address poverty, low-income, special needs, violent environments, discrimination, segregation, or equity.  Even for white students, many who also deal with issues of low-income in our country, don’t perform well on these tests unless they are from more affluent areas.

DECharterAfrAmerVsSBACProf

Charter Schools were supposed to be the savior of education.  They were supposed to offer unique new ways of educating students and be models of innovation.  Instead, at least in Delaware, they have served as incubators of discrimination, segregation, and racism.  We can’t ignore this fact any longer.  We have to address this as a state, head-on.

DESchoolDistrAfrAmerVsSBACProf2016

In all likelihood, our charters are merely copying what happens in our regular districts.  We see that African-Americans in our traditional school districts do not fare any better on these tests.  Charter schools and districts with higher populations of white students do better on standardized tests.  This fact hasn’t escaped those who create these tests.  They know this.  Our politicians and education leaders know this as well.  This story isn’t new, nor is it shocking.  They have known this ever since standardized tests came about.  But we expect African-Americans to perform the same as their white peers.  If they don’t, our governments will label and shame the schools and teachers that administer these tests.  Why?  What is the point?

Education improvement programs make lots of money.  If a school isn’t converted into a charter under the accountability schemes brought to you by Education Inc., you better believe some company out there stands to make a tidy profit off “fixing” the “problem”.  In Delaware alone, a company called Mass Insight was paid $2.5 million dollars to help out six “priority schools”.  All inner-city schools with, you guessed it, very high populations of African-American students.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell said the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best test Delaware ever made.  If that is true, then it shows Delaware to be a very racist state because we allow this to continue.  Our Department of Education can throw out statistics and graphs until we are blue in the face, but the true facts are above, and in the article I did on low-income populations and Smarter Balanced proficiency.  I have no doubt students will gradually do better on these tests.  But not enough to give them the education they deserve.  Not enough for African-Americans to catch up to their Caucasian peers.  This isn’t defeat.  This isn’t accepting a status quo.  This is reality.  A test solely designed for one pre-dominant culture under the assumption that other sub-groups will catch-up is always destined for eventual failure.  Do we call that now?  Or do our policy-makers only look at the cost of the test and not the cost to the children of their state?

For parents of African-American students: How many pictures that show the same thing do you need to see?  Why are you continuing to let your children take a test that forces them to work harder to live to a different ideal and culture?  I’ve seen some of you point out that your children have predominantly white teachers.  If our schools and teachers are judged on a test that is written for white kids, and a white teacher is teaching a majority of African-American kids in a classroom, what do you think the results are going to show?  This test serves a dual purpose: to keep African-Americans down and to push those unionized white teachers out of public education.  If you want more African-American teachers in the future, how will today’s African-American youth even feel inspired to go into education when they are constantly told they are failures based on these tests?  These same tests that will eventually break down and morph into end of chapter tests, taken by students multiple times throughout the year.  This is not about helping students to become “college and career ready”.  It is an elaborate and long-term tracking system.  Think about it, and opt out until those in power change these pictures.  Look at those in your community who want this.  Follow the money.  Who are they speaking for?  Corporations or children?

Poverty & High-Stakes Tests = Oil & Water… Do You Get It Now?

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. -Albert Einstein

If you go to a charter school in Delaware without a lot of low-income and poverty, the chances are pretty good you will do better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Pictures don’t lie.  Yes, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, the odds speak for themselves.  Even the former “heroes” of Delaware like EastSide Charter School are not immune to the wrath of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

CharterSBACProfLowInc

Now you might be thinking, “you didn’t put in all the charters”.  I didn’t put in Gateway Lab School and Positive Outcomes.  Their populations are mainly special education and they did not do well on this test at all.  Freire and Great Oaks don’t have their low-income data on the DOE website.  Academia Alonso only goes up to 2nd grade so far.  Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware Design-Lab, Delaware Military Academy, and Early College High School are all high schools, so now Smarter Balanced for them!  And who knows where Delaware College Prep is.  I’m assuming their scores will be included with Red Clay’s when those come out, but they’re closing anyways.

DistrictSBACProfVsPLI

The traditional school districts didn’t have as drastic of a low-income impact on Smarter Balanced proficiency, but the data for each school in the districts won’t be out until next month.  That will give us a much better idea of how low-income status affects different schools.

It would be nice if the poor were to get even half of the money that is spent in studying them. -William Vaughn

To see how all the kids did in the state, take a look at the below fluff piece that was presented to the Delaware State Board of Education by the DOE’s Instructional and Accountability guru, Michael Watson.  While the participation rates may have gone up in a lot of schools, more parents were opting their kids out than last year.  And I believe that trend will continue when a lot of parents see their child still isn’t proficient on this test.  There has to come a point in time when parents start thinking this test really is bad and if I want my child to get a good education, it can’t be based on this test.

At this point, you have to ask yourself, if standardized tests are bad for teachers, and they’re bad for kids, who exactly are they good for? -John Oliver

As Delaware teacher Mike Matthews brilliantly pointed out to Governor Markell (see the article before this one), poverty has a huge effect on educational outcomes.  We can pretend it doesn’t, but until we somehow find a way to eliminate that, we will see the same results every standardized test tells us.  They are socio-economic indicators.  That’s it.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education will start flinging mud at a ton of schools, and we will fight them.  You can’t ignore these graphs, especially the charter schools.  They are more extreme because of enrollment practices.  We all know it.  Let’s stop pretending certain ones are great success stories.

My innovative education program will improve school accountability, fix our flawed state testing system and ensure school funds directly benefit Delaware’s children—and are not wasted on bureaucratic overhead costs. By attracting and retaining the best teachers through competitive salaries and benefits, we will improve classroom learning and reduce drop-out rates. We must expand early education programs and link preschools with local school districts to create a unified learning environment. -Jack Markell from his Blueprint For Delaware, 2008

You know, it’s amazing.  I’ve not yet met a single parent or teacher who tells me that their hopes and their aspirations for children are wrapped up in scores on high-stakes tests.  We have designed an education system that profits test-makers.  Now we need an accountability system that benefits the test-takers.  And as Governor, I will scrap the Delaware Student Testing Program and I will replace it with an assessment tool that helps teachers improve student learning. -Jack Markell at DSEA Primary Debate against John Carney and Mike Protack, 2008

Why Are So Many Charters In Delaware Starting Smarter Balanced After Traditional Districts?

This question came up last year and it is happening again this year.  Why do many Delaware charters get to begin Smarter Balanced testing anywhere from 3-7 weeks after traditional school districts take the assessment?  That is a lot more instruction students are getting.  That can make a large difference in the scores on SBAC.  It can make some schools look better.  Not that I think anything involving standardized test scores actually means anything, but our state and policy-makers do and they allow our DOE to judge schools based on the performance of these tests.  As well, schools are now getting rewarded based on their test scores and receiving financial awards.

I challenge all school districts and charters, or the parents thereof, to let me know when kids started taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment in your schools this year.  When the scores come out, it will be very interesting to see if that additional month makes a difference.  My feeling is that it probably does.  As well, how do we really know, since the tests are already out there so much earlier, that some schools aren’t given a heads up on what to expect on the tests and design instruction based on that?  I’m sure the DOE would respond “they can’t do that”.  But we all know the DOE does many things “they can’t do” but they do it anyway.

If there is one consistent thing I’ve heard this year about opt out it is that some schools are still sending out the -yawn- Delaware DOE template letter they sent to schools and districts way back in December of 2014.  The one with laws with … two times in the middle of the sentence.  The one where it cherry-picks certain words in the law without giving the full context, weight, or even the meaning of the law.  You know, the illegal letter.  The one that is about enforceable as a Resolution in the Delaware General Assembly.  I know the testing season is nearing the end for this year, but some schools haven’t begun testing yet, so it is important to continue to get the word out there for parents who don’t know this information.  Of course, this wouldn’t even be necessary to point out if our General Assembly did the right thing with House Bill 50.  But it appears that ship has sailed.  Please share on your Facebook pages and social media.

DSEA Unanimously Votes To Eliminate Smarter Balanced Assessment As Part Of Delaware’s Assessment Inventory

Senate Joint Resolution #2 in Delaware created legislation for the state’s assessment inventory.  All assessments given to students are included in this, with the exception of final exams and end of unit tests.  This includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At their Rep Assembly last weekend, a business item was introduced for the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) to recommend eliminating the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  It was a unanimous vote.

Last Spring, when discussion on inclusion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in the assessment inventory was discussed at a Senate Education Committee, then Education Policy Advisor for Governor Markell Lindsay O’Mara assured the large audience it would be.  During the last assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware Department of Education, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was a large topic of discussion.  State Rep. Sean Matthews argued the state does not provide any real identifiable data and takes away far too much classroom time.

While DSEA doesn’t have the final say on the assessment inventory, it is a very positive step that they would unanimously pass a recommendation based on the entire rep assembly at their event last weekend.  I would love to see the test gone from all schools in Delaware, but I also fear for the future of standardized assessments.

With personalized learning invading our schools in mass quantity, the writing is on the wall for the future of assessments: much smaller standardized assessment chunks embedded into digital format through the modules for personalized learning.  As the brilliant blogger EducationAlchemy pointed out in a recent post, what makes personalized learning so personalized if it is a student using a computer?  It is all about the data.  The predictive analysis algorithms built into the Schoology systems used in Delaware.  That legislation to protect student data does not cover at all.  All to determine career paths for children at a very young age and guide them toward that profession when they leave secondary education.

Our children are not test scores, and they certainly aren’t your data guinea pigs.  The intrusion into children’s personal lives is at an all-time high.  We must stop this and take back public education from the reformers who not only want to get very rich off children but also want to mold the future with people on pre-determined career paths.

The Time Is NOW For “Get Rid Of Smarter Balanced” Legislation In Delaware!!!!

JackLameDuck

The University of Delaware rendered a verdict on Common Core: We don’t care!  As Delaware First State reported on Friday could happen and the The News Journal reported last night, the University of Delaware is now making SAT scores optional on applications.  In other words, they don’t care what your SAT score was high school students of Delaware!  What does this have to do with the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Last May, the Delaware Department of Education made a big showing about the College Board redesigning the SAT to align with Common Core standards.  At the same time, high school juniors were the largest group of students opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At the end of 2015, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky made his big announcement about getting rid of Smarter Balanced for high school juniors in lieu of the SAT.  And now the largest university in Delaware has said the test is now optional.

Members of the committee that came up with the idea say research at other universities – and their own research into UD students – suggests that high school grade point averages are a better predictor of college success than the SAT.

This follows 815 other colleges and universities around the country who already did the same.  The message is loud and clear: our higher education institutes in America do not believe Common Core and the SAT are what makes a student “college-ready”.  Of course the article doesn’t come right out and say this, but for University of Delaware to do this now, right before the new alignment comes out?  Governor Markell’s education agenda failed.  There are no other words to accurately describe what the University of Delaware declared with this.  When I read the words “GPA” in the News Journal article my heart leaped!  These are the words I have wanted to hear for years!  Nobody talks about actual grades students are getting anymore.  All the big decisions made rotate around the state assessment.

The Delaware 148th General Assembly needs to have someone bring legislation forward to ban the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We can no longer sit idly by and pretend this test has been anything but a colossal failure.  I believe we can now expect parents to opt their teenagers out of the SAT.  Really, what is the point?  Yes, the test cost money.  Do we continue to spend millions of dollars on waste (I know, this is Delaware)?  I know this has been on the minds of many legislators in Dover but no one has crossed the Rubicon to make it happen.  I can say this, anyone envisioning a future role of higher public office could almost guarantee success by sponsoring something like this today.

While we are already transitioning to the Every Student Succeeds Act, now is the best time to reevaluate education in Delaware.  This means getting rid of Common Core, high-stakes assessments, how we evaluate our teachers, funding, and how to best serve all students in the state.  There are already several initiatives going on, but we need something bigger.  We need to bring ALL the existing groups and gets tons of parents, teachers, and even students in on this.  We need an education summit like no other.  Before we were knee-deep in the current wave of education reform we did this twice: in 2001 and 2005.  We need to look at everything: special education, bullying, district alignment, everything!  We are at a pivotal crossroads with education, and there is a ton of room for error.  Let’s bring everyone together and make something that is good and lasting for our kids.

House Democrats Letter To Governor Markell To Remove Smarter Balanced For 11th Grade

Today, ten Delaware House Democrats signed a letter to Delaware Governor Jack Markell asking him to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  The letter also mentions Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory task force.

We recognize that, by your order, the Department of Education is in the midst of creating an inventory of standardized tests administered throughout the state. Pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 2, signed into law in July, the department will share its findings with legislators and the public, as well as a special work group that will make recommendations regarding possible elimination of redundant tests. While opinions will differ among stakeholders, we believe there is universal support for eliminating the Smarter Balanced test for juniors in lieu of the SAT.

I fully accept that this is Governor Markell’s order.  He came up with the “assessment inventory” idea back in March.  It is a red herring though.  I firmly believe it will get rid of many assessments that give immediate and crucial feedback for teachers in how best to instruct their students.  I also predict it will see an increase in “prep” and “interim” Smarter Balanced Assessments.  The move towards personalized learning will allow for the eventual elimination of the nine-hour test (or longer depending on the individual student’s needs).  But it will not get rid of the basic flaws in SBAC, nor will it eliminate the time taking the test.  Instead it will eventually be in shorter doses but will be just as harmful to students.

There should be universal supporting for eliminating SBAC for ALL grades.  I would caution parents not to be fooled by this letter.  This is not a direction where the Smarter Balanced Assessment will gradually be removed.  It does not address the fundamental and core issues of what is wrong with Smarter Balanced.  I fear this is another attempt to sway legislators from voting for the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  This does not get rid of the issue of parents opting out except for those who have 11th graders.  The SAT is on a downward slope in many states, and now that they are “aligning” it with Common Core, that trend may increase.

Do Not Be Fooled by this Delaware parents!  The DOE has been planning this for over a year IN RESPONSE to the opt-out movement.  They knew 11th graders would have the highest opt-outs.  But it is still implemented in 3rd to 8th grade.  The assessment inventory task force is also stocked with many who will align with the Governor’s flawed logic about standardized assessments.  It wouldn’t shock me if the DOE already wrote the report on it and they are just waiting on the group to tweak it here and there.  I will still fight for the House Bill 50 Veto Override and support parents who choose to exercise their choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have been calling out the “assessment inventory” ruse since the Governor first started talking about it last March.

All The DOE Assessment Information Given To Districts In Delaware

On Wednesday, November 18th, the Delaware Department of Education had a meeting with all the district testing coordinators to go over all things assessment.  This includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the assessment inventory campaign, accommodations, and more.  It looks like the DOE’s Office of Assessment will be raiding monitoring visiting every single public school in the state over the coming months.  But who will lead this office now that Schwinn and Reyna are bidding adieu?

American Institutes for Research Screwed Up Mailing of Numerous SBAC Scores For Families In Delaware

Last night, a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment results was given to the Christina Board of Education by Dr. Dan Weinles, the Supervisor of Assessment, Research & Evaluation for the district.  It was revealed that Delaware’s testing vendor American Institutes for Research royally screwed up on mailing the test scores to well over 1,000 families just in Christina alone, and probably accounts for well over 10,000 families in Delaware if the same mistake occurred statewide.

NOTE: The State Department of Education’s (DE DOE) test vendor (AIR) did not include apartment numbers in its mailing list. As such, many Smarter Assessment parent reports have been returned by the US Postal Service. To date, the Christina School District has received well over 1,200 returned reports. The DE DOE retrieved returned parent reports on Friday, Oct. 9, and the test vendor has committed to re-mail these reports with corrected addresses.

For a company that is so obsessed with proficiency, that is a huge and colossal mistake on their part.  But it isn’t just AIR that screwed up.  Christina reported there were numerous issues with the DOE’s reporting of participation rates in Christina.  Which I find ironic since Penny Schwinn said the DOE “rounded up” the participation rates as much as they could.  Did the DOE intentionally try to make Christina look bad? Again?  You can read the full presentation below:

DOE Responds To My Not A FOIA Request On SBAC Achievement Levels With Names

Holy smokes!  I guess if you respond to a DOE email and include tons of people on the response, you might just get a response.  I got real live actual information regarding Smarter Balanced without making four mortgage payments!  State Rep. John Kowalko was included on this as well.  Below is the email from Alison May at the Delaware Department of Education with answers to all my questions (just for this request, they know I still have TONS of other questions).  I did take the liberty of doing some minor edits by adding a colon after each of my questions instead of the comma Alison May used.  As well, her answers had red, so I will do that which got lost in the copy.  I just wanted to make it prettier, but if anyone wants to see the REAL email, let me know.


From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
To: “‘kevino3670@yahoo.com'” <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>
Sent: Monday, October 12, 2015 4:22 PM
Subject: FOIA response

Mr. Ohlandt and Rep. Kowalko,

This is in response to your recent requests for information. Quoted below are Mr. Ohlandt’s original questions with respective answers in red.
1)     I would like to see a list of the individuals from Delaware who participated in the Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting.  This would include both the In-Person Panel and the Cross-Grade Review Committee:  The below spreadsheet lists the Delaware in-person participants.  Also, it identifies the cross-grade review committee participant from DE —-this process was also called Vertical Articulation Committee (VAC).  This was Karen Clifton.
The following represented Delaware as in-person panelists. TBL indicates the person served as a table facilitator. VAC indicates the person also participated on a vertical articulation committee.
SBAC Achievement Level
2)     As well, I would like to know who from Delaware represented the final achievement level settings: The state representatives participated in reviewing and making recommendations, which also took into consideration the online recommendations, etc.  There was then a final cross-grade or vertical process on the last day to make final recommendations from this group to pass forward.  These recommendations also went through external review, TAC, and Governing States chiefs for discussions.  Then they went to states for additional discussions and possible adoption. Karen Clifton from Delaware stayed for the final day of achievement-level setting. Carolyn Lazar of DDOE’s Assessment Office also was there for observation/auditing the process.  Former Secretary Mark Murphy participated in the Governing States discussions.
3)     Which higher education leaders participated in the 11th grade achievement level setting:  Faith Muirhead
4)     And anyone from Delaware who served on SBAC’s Technical Advisory Committee: There were no Delaware reps on Smarter’s TAC—this is not designed to be a state representative group but a professional group of assessment authorities.
5)     And if anyone from Delaware participated in the audit process for this:  Carolyn Lazar participated as a state observer/auditor for the process.  Each state was allowed to send one representative for this.
Alison May
Public information officer
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, DE 19901-3639

I do know or have heard of some of these teachers and general public participants in this.  Yvonne Johnson is THE Yvonne Johnson.  There can only be one!  At least on the Delaware PTA.  I know Yvonne was involved in many facets of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware as it was being developed, but don’t signal this as Yvonne has gone DOE on us.  She does not like this test AT ALL!  Don’t forget she was one of the major voices for opt-out and House Bill 50.

Some of these teachers are or have been involved with Rodel and the Vision Coalition of Student Success 2012, er uhm, 2015, er uhm. 2025.  The bottom line, we will all be dead and Dr. Herdman’s great grandson will be talking about Vision 2105.  And Alison:

THIS WAS NOT A FOIA REQUEST! IT WAS ONLY A QUESTION! BUT THANKS FOR ANSWERING!

Throwing Down The Gauntlet At The Delaware DOE and Governor Markell

Below is an email chain I had with the DOE today.  This was all based on a reblog from another blogger’s post about the achievement level settings for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  A commenter was questioning this and actually emailed the DOE, who provided answers to her without objection.  But when I emailed them for further clarification on the issues, that’s when things took their usual turn for the worse…


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 08, 2015 12:06 PM
To: Schwinn Penny; Reyna Ryan; Godowsky Steven; Haberstroh Susan Keene; Blowman David
Cc: Kevin Ohlandt; May Alison
Subject: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Good morning,
I would like to see a list of the individuals from Delaware who participated in the Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting.  This would include both the In-Person Panel and the Cross-Grade Review Committee.  As well, I would like to know who from Delaware represented the final achievement level settings, which higher education leaders participated in the 11th grade achievement level setting, and anyone from Delaware who served on SBAC’s Technical Advisory Committee and if anyone from Delaware participated in the audit process for this. 

From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; Reyna Ryan <Ryan.Reyna@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Thursday, October 8, 2015 1:37 PM
Subject: RE: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Kevin,
Just confirming I have received your FOIA request. I will be back in touch when your response is compiled.


From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 8, 2015 5:21 PM
To: May, Alison (K12); Schwinn, Penny (K12); Reyna, Ryan (K12); Godowsky, Steven (K12); Haberstroh, Susan (K12); Blowman, David (K12)
Cc: Markell, Jack (Governor); Denn, Matthew (DOJ); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kowalko, John (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); sean.lynn@de.us; Pettyjohn, Brian (LegHall); Matthew Albright; Baumbach, Paul (LegHall); Townsend, Bryan (LegHall); Terri Hodges; Avi Wolfman-Arent; Rick Jensen; Kilroy’s Delaware; Kavips World Press Blog; John Young; Lindell, Matt (K12); Nancy Willing; Eve Buckley; Pandora DeLib; Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall); Blevins, Patricia (LegHall); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); Furlong Tim (NBCUniversal); David Paulk; frederika.jenner@dsea.org; Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall); Sokola, David (LegHall); Paradee, Trey (LegHall); O’Mara, Lindsay (Governor); Gray, Teri (K12)
Subject: Re: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Alison,
This is not a FOIA request.  This is a question.  Does every question have to be treated as a FOIA?  Because we all know how successful that endeavor is.  If I want to file a FOIA request, I’m sure you know by now that I am well aware of how to do that.  What ever happened to transparency?  This is a statewide assessment.  Why is there all this secrecy with this?  If this test is truly about the betterment of children, I would think it would all be publicly available.  But when DOE pulls stunts like this it makes all of us wonder.  What is this Department hiding?  Why would you not have the contracts with the testing vendor available for all to see?  That’s why people aren’t believing the DOE when it comes to this test.  You guys may have a select group of educators in your little web, but at the end of the day everyone sees this for what it is: a huge effort by hundreds of companies who are literally banking on kids doing bad on this test.  And they are making tons of money off it as well as several DOE employees who are making some very high salaries.
I don’t think anyone is fooled anymore.  You folks can pretend you live in a world where you don’t need to abide by the rules and the letter of the law or you can change regulation, but it is catching up with all of you and faster than you think.  You may think you have the Governor’s blessing on all of this, but there will come a day when all the secrets will be unveiled and anyone who was a part of this will be held accountable and I can guarantee the former Governor will not pull any of you out of the fire.  Protection can only go so far, but transparency always rules the day.  So I will posit this question to you: Will you give me ALL the information I have requested from the DOE in the past 15 months without it being some huge clandestine affair?
Dr. Godowsky, this is your chance to actually make a crucial change in this Department.  I know you answer to the Governor, but I challenge you to do the right thing.  And Governor Markell, if you truly believe sunshine is the right thing, than you should readily agree.  We all know I write a blog and I call out the DOE on an almost daily basis.  Someone needs to.  Someone needs to see what this Department is and expose them whenever they can.  But I wouldn’t be too concerned about what I do write, I would be very worried about what I haven’t written.  I know about the true intent of SB79 w/SS1, I know about the umbrella corporation that is actually incorporated in Delaware, I know about all the companies, and on a national level many of us are putting the pieces together.  Now it becomes a matter of who lets this information out: you or me.
I am growing tired of this cat and mouse game with the DOE.  I am running out of patience.  You can provide answers or I can find them out and just publish them.  I’m sure you know I will publish them when you provide them.  It’s just a question of who provides the information.  Either way, all will be revealed eventually.  In the meantime, I would really like an explanation of the attached picture and what the hell Delaware thinks they are doing sharing student data with other states.

From: “Kowalko, John (LegHall)” <John.Kowalko@state.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; “May, Alison (K12)” <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>; “Schwinn, Penny (K12)” <penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; “Reyna, Ryan (K12)” <ryan.reyna@doe.k12.de.us>; “Godowsky, Steven (K12)” <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; “Haberstroh, Susan (K12)” <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; “Blowman, David (K12)” <david.blowman@doe.k12.de.us>

Dear Ms. May,

I am formally requesting this same information as a sitting State Representative and I expect a reply to be forthcoming from you and your office without delay. FOIA is not to be used as an obstacle course to government transparency and such an attitude will only ensure disappointment for the public and fuel the ire of the duly elected officials. I anticipate a response and the information sought within the next business day or I will be forced to demand it as is my right and the right of all taxpayers,

Respectfully,

Representative John Kowalko (25th District)


And the cycle goes over on…

State Board of Education: “Poverty Is Not An Excuse…It Is Not Destiny”

The Delaware State Board of Education continues to ignore the effect Poverty has on students in high needs schools in our state.  As part of their presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover, the State Board presented a slide that said:

Poverty Is Not An Excuse…It Is Not Destiny

Once again, the State Board is using the data that helps to further their cause of convincing the state the Smarter Balanced Assessment is necessary for our children to succeed.  The biggest challenge for the State Board and the Delaware DOE is the issue of low-income and poverty.  To fight this, they are hand selecting schools that fared well on Smarter Balanced.  But do some of these schools already have extra programs that could warrant higher Smarter Balanced scores?  Yes they do.

Lewis Dual Language Elementary School (Red Clay), South Dover Elementary School (Capital), and John M. Clayton Elementary School (Indian River) are all part of Governor Markell’s World Language Immersion program for Spanish.  Booker T. Washington (Capital) houses the district’s gifted and talented program for their elementary schools.  As well, Capital only has 3rd and 4th grade in their elementary schools and no 5th grade.  Other schools cited by the DOE as “beating the odds” (my words) are Long Neck Elementary School and Georgetown Elementary School (Indian River), Town Pointe Elementary School and North Dover Elementary School (Capital), Lake Forest South and Lake Forest East Elementary Schools (Lake Forest), Banneker Elementary School (Milford), Kuumba Academy and Thomas Edison Charter School.

An important distinction to make with all of these schools is that they are elementary schools.  The DOE did not praise any middle schools in this presentation.  The tests 3rd graders take are very different than those for 8th graders.  Comparing the two is not a true indicator for why 3rd graders did better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment than their peers in 8th grade.  As well, this ignorance of poverty does not take a large portion of the poverty issue to task: the very real part that deals with addiction, violence and crime in many of these students’ homes.  All of the schools the DOE talks about are in lower Delaware with the exception of two charter schools in Wilmington.  There are no Red Clay, Christina, Colonial or Brandywine schools “beating the odds”.

As well, the State Board emphasized the Smarter Balanced Assessment is just one indicator of how our schools are doing.  Then why are measurements from the Smarter Balanced Assessment going to account for 90% of elementary and middle schools accountability ratings and 70% for high schools in the upcoming accountability system called the Delaware School Success Framework?  All the other indicators the State Board talks about, growth and resources, are tied to students doing better on this test.  Education in Delaware is now based on performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Poverty DOES matter, and there are facets of poverty Governor Markell said last March “that you and I can’t imagine“.  But it sounds like Governor Markell, the DOE, and the State Board of Education are unable to not just imagine it, they don’t have the first clue how to understand it.  Below is the entire presentation Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, presented to a group comprised of mostly educators and very few parents last night.  If any of you have more knowledge about what these schools may possess that other schools don’t, please share this information in the comments section.

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Has NO Contract w/Scoring Vendor for Smarter Balanced…Who Does?

For the past couple days I have been emailing the Delaware Department of Education for simple answers to simple questions:

Why does Delaware Online Checkbook show no payments going out to the scoring vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Is it under a different name than Data Recognition Corporation?  If you do not pay them, who does?

I received no responses until I included more names on the email of folks who do not work at the DOE.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To: Blowman David (K12) <david.blowman@doe.k12.de.us>; Murphy Mark <mark.murphy@doe.k12.de.us>; “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>
Cc: Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Schwinn Penny <penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Monday, September 21, 2015 10:38 AM
Subject: Data Recognition Corporation

Good morning all,

I’m not sure who would be able to answer this question, so if none of you are able to could you please forward this to the appropriate party at Delaware DOE to answer this question.

I have looked on Delaware Online Checkbook for any payments sent to the scoring vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Data Recognition Corporation, and I have seen no payments sent to them which is very unusual.  Are payments sent to them under a different vendor name or does American Institutes for Research send them their payments?

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 10:12 AM
To: Blowman David; Murphy Mark; sgodow@udel.edu
Cc: Haberstroh Susan Keene; Schwinn Penny; May Alison
Subject: Re: Data Recognition Corporation

Hello again,

I am not sure why anybody is responding to this email.  I have found, consistently, when the Delaware DOE does not respond to very specific questions like this, there is something to hide.  I can find the answers other ways, but it will not make the Delaware DOE look good.  Is there another organization paying for Data Recognition Corp’s services?  If so, why?

I’m sure you do not see it this way, but I am actually trying to work with you folks, but when I get no response or vague comments without facts, it speaks volumes.

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>; Murphy Mark <Mark.Murphy@DOE.K12.DE.US>; “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>
Cc: Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 12:33 PM
Subject: RE: Data Recognition Corporation

Kevin,

Thank you for your inquiry. To confirm, we received your public information request on Sept. 21. Under the FOIA statute (http://www.doe.k12.de.us/domain/196), the department’s response is due by Oct. 12. 

In this case, we have no records in response to your request. The Delaware Department of Education does not have a contract with nor has it made any payments to Data Recognition Corporation.

Alison


So there we have it, the Delaware Department of Education has no contract with Data Recognition Corporation.  So who does?  While in the area I went to the DOE office in the Townsend Building and spoke with Alison May.  I reiterated the information she conveyed to me in her email, and she advised me AIR has a sub-contract with Data Recognition Corporation.  For those of you who may not be aware, AIR is American Institutes for Research, the actual testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware, along with many other states.  AIR pays Data Recognition Corporation to score the very same test they created.  Nobody knows how much.

To add insult to injury, Data Recognition Corporation was part of my FOIA request to the Delaware DOE last March.  The one where they overcharged nearly $7000.00 based on a legal opinion generated by the Delaware Attorney General’s office when I filed a complaint.  At no time during the constant email exchanges between the DOE and myself, and to my knowledge, since it is mentioned nowhere in the response to my FOIA complaint, did they convey this to the Attorney General’s office as well.  Six months later we are just now finding out this information.

Stay tuned, because I have a lot more to say about this and the many connections with Data Recognition Corporation and American Institutes for Research.  In the meantime, just put American Institutes for Research in the search box on this blog, and tell if you think it is right that this company which has made $38,000,000.00, just in Delaware alone, hires the scorer for their own assessment.  The plot thickens…

Interesting FYI: When I went to speak with Alison May, in the Cabinet Room next door there was a meeting.  It was the Accountability Framework Working Group.  To be a fly in the wall during that meeting…

 

Many Delaware Parents Are NOT Happy With Smarter Balanced Results

As predicted, Delaware parents are not happy with the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  Of course, the ones who scored proficient or above have not been vocal.  But the 49% of parents who are seeing English/Language Arts non-proficiency and 62% non-proficiency for math, are not too happy.  And parents of special needs children are horrified.  The Delaware DOE is going to put the maximum spin machine on this utilizing every possible source they can use.  The State Board of Education is having a workshop at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover next week to deal with the fallout.  Of course, they are going to talk about the myths and fallacies of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Will they come right out and say “Don’t read Exceptional Delaware, Kavips, or any of the other Delaware blogs”? Or will they, for once in their professional lives, come out and say “You know what, we messed up.  This test is horrible.  We apologize, and let’s really work together to come up with a new test.  We want your help, and all the other stakeholders we didn’t include the last time.”

If they did the latter, and stuck to it, I would be utterly amazed and shocked.  Oddly enough, Governor Markell has been strangely quiet on the issue.  Of course, he went to Germany last week, and the Pope is coming to town this week.  But we are heading into election mode, and it wouldn’t shock me if every announced or potential candidate told his office they don’t want him talking about this test at all!

Did You Get Your Child’s Smarter Balanced Results Today?

The Delaware Department of Education said they would be mailing individual student Smarter Balanced Assessment results yesterday, Friday September 18th, and on Monday, September 21st.  Depending on the mail system, some parents could be getting those results today.  This is the moment where many parents will get these scores and say “What the hell is this?”  And God forbid if ANY parent in this state who opted their child out gets actual results in the mail.

If anyone wants to share information about this with me, feel free to contact me at kevino3670@yahoo.com.  All is confidential, and if I write about the results, it will not include any information about YOUR child.  Unless that is something you want to comment on after the article is published.

This will be a very interesting week.  If you are very upset about this, I strongly suggest going to the State Board of Education workshop on the “Smarter Assessment” on October 5th at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover, DE at 5pm.  Light refreshments on the State Board (if they follow what they did at other Grotto’s State Board workshops).  This usually does NOT include free pizza!  Let the State Board know how you feel about this test they praise as the greatest thing since the Vega! (This is not quoted anywhere, nor was it ever said, but it will be the end result).

When you see these results, ask yourself…  “How did we get here?”  “What do I do?”  “Is this test really worth it?”  And take action.  All the fluff and stuff you get from DOE will say “Contact your child’s teacher if you have more questions.”  But which one? Their current teacher or the one they had last year when your child took the test?  I would say neither.  They don’t have the answers or any of the cut score information.  All they get is the overall results and their classes scores from the previous year.  But the cut score was an arbitrary number pulled out of a hat.  Another option to consider, if you haven’t already, is refusing the test for your child.  Opt them out.  Do it now.  Some schools will give you crap, but stand your ground.  The only way to make this go away is to ignore it.  Opt out is ignoring it.  It’s saying “Take your stupid test, your useless, untimely, not validated, not statistically normed, not internationally benchmarked, waste of time test and stop treating my child as data for your proficiency mongering.”

Delaware Educator Brings Down The Roof On The State Board and the DOE!

I got the inside scoop on the biggest mystery of the Delaware State Board of Education meeting from yesterday.  At the end of a video the State Board aired on the Smarter Balanced Assessment for parents, a teacher who is also the President of the New Castle County Vo-Tech Educators Association let out a strange noise.  It was funny, but no one knew exactly what the noise was or where it came from.  Last night, Danny Rufo emailed several people in Delaware to share the origin of the noise.

Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 9:47 PM
Subject: Parent questions about SBAC scores

Hello everyone,
I was able to attend the Delaware State Board of Education meeting today in Dover.  They presented a video prepared by the State, used to explain student test scores to parents.  At the end of the video parents are directed to “contact your students teacher if you have any questions regarding test scores”.  This is not cool!  When I saw and heard the message I made a deep, “soul in pain” sound.  It was truly an alarming message.
Why should a Delaware teacher avail themselves to questions concerning students they no longer teach, and a test that they did not make, or grade, centered on the “common core standards”, of which they were never properly trained, and test scores that are being used improperly?
Delaware teachers should not have to answer questions that parents have about the Smarter Balanced test, but the Board of Ed. The Dept. Of Ed. And the Sec. Of Ed. Should! 

-Danny

Donato C. Rufo
NCCVTEA President



I complete agree with Danny’s assessment of the assessment!  I sent out a reply to the more than 60 folks included in the email that said:
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 9:56 PM
Subject: Re: Parent questions about SBAC scores

 
And if I could add, Delaware teachers don’t see the answers either, so how in the world would a child’s current teacher be able to help with parent questions based on a test from last year with a different teacher who can’t see the answers either?  Furthermore, parents should consider these results recyclable material or save it for the winter and the firepit, in my humble opinion.
Kevin Ohlandt

I’ve met Danny a few times. He is a good guy who cares about education. He is very critical of the current administration and the DOE. He is like most of us! When I first saw this insane video I had the same thoughts. It’s like the DOE lives on a different plain of reality than everyone else. Come back to our world DOE!

The Complete Unembargoed Delaware Smarter Balanced Assessment Results

10% Proficiency in Math for Students With Disabilities

15% in English/Language Arts for Students With Disabilities

21% in Math for low-income students

35% in English/Language Arts for low-income students

22% in Math for African-American students

36% in English/Language Arts for African-American students

Delaware Governor Jack Markell: “Smarter Balanced is the best test Delaware ever made.”

Delaware High School juniors basically said “This test really doesn’t mean much, so whatever.”  God bless them!

Read the results and if you haven’t already, REFUSE THE TEST for your child.  Send the letter tomorrow.  It’s the only way they will truly understand…

Roughly 10% Of Special Education Students In Delaware Are “Proficient” On Smarter Balanced

I just heard roughly 10% of students with disabilities in Delaware were rated as proficient in Delaware for the Smarter Balanced Assessment administered last Spring.  I wish to God this test would just disappear.  Can you imagine the other 90% of these children’s parents getting the results of this assessment.  I really hope they strongly reconsider having their child take Smarter Balanced next year.  10%…

I feel a deep sadness for these children.  I picture them struggling on this test, with fewer worthwhile accommodations than they had on the prior DCAS state assessment.  The weeks they spent taking this horrible, horrible test.  This is a wake-up call for special needs parents.  Our children are more than ten scores.  I don’t care what their proficiency rate is.  They are 100% awesome!

When I have official numbers, I will update this.