Markell’s Former Girl Friday Lindsay O’Mara’s Big Blog Post On The US DOE Website

Wow! Everyone is blogging these days!  Even former Education Policy Advisors for Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  Lindsay O’Mara, who left Governor Markell’s administration earlier this year, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement at the United States Department of Education.  What do we call that title?  DASSLE?  But I digress…

I don’t see this blog post, put up earlier today, as a coincidence.  Her boss got shellacked by the Education and the Workforce Committee earlier today.  Poor John King, in the eternal hot seat with those not willing to put up with his malarkey.

My favorite Lindsay story to tell is from the Delaware House Education Committee meeting on our opt out bill, House Bill 50.  It is a well-known fact that you don’t just go up to legislators during a hearing, even if it a Delaware Education Committee meeting and the DOE just openly sits at legislators’ desks.  Especially when they are just about to vote on whether or not they will release the bill from committee.  But there’s Lindsay, running over to State Rep. Mike Ramone who was the swing vote on the bill.  Trying to whisper something to Ramone.  The Chair, State Rep. Earl Jaques, told Lindsay she couldn’t do that.  She skirts away like she had absolutely no idea she shouldn’t.  Yeah, right!  The committee released the bill on the way to an eventual veto by her boss, but Lindsay kept many advocates for the bill (myself included) pretty busy in the Spring of 2015!

A View from the Field: Building Comprehensive ESSA Stakeholder Engagement

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, presents an opportunity to continue making progress towards educational equity and excellence for all. For the first time, the reauthorization of the nation’s defining elementary and secondary education law explicitly supports a preschool to college- and career-readiness vision for America’s students. It also creates the flexibility for states, districts, and educators to reclaim the promise of a quality, well-rounded education for every student while maintaining the protections that ensure our commitment to every child — particularly by identifying and reporting the academic progress of all of our students and by guaranteeing meaningful action is taken in our lowest performing schools and school with low performance among subgroups of students.

To realize this promise, states should engage meaningfully with a wide range of stakeholders to create a common vision of educational opportunity and accountability. This engagement can take many forms and still be successful. Regardless of the form, however, to be meaningful it must be wide-spread, inclusive, ongoing, and characterized by true collaboration. For the law to work we need all those who have a stake in our education system to have a seat at the table as states are making their plans.

While many states are still contemplating how to move forward, several have launched stakeholder engagement processes to start determining how to develop the best education systems for students in their states, and to explore the new flexibilities and opportunities within ESSA. Some have committees chaired by senior state officials working to develop plans for accountability systems, school interventions, and assessment systems, among other elements of the law.   Others have solicited input more broadly and are taking a grass-roots approach to beginning their planning.

Although each state will ultimately pursue an engagement strategy that works for its local context, the work of others, and the guidance and tools that national education organizations have created for state and local government officials and stakeholders, may prove useful in devising those strategies. Here are a few examples of states and their unique approaches:

  • There is grassroots engagement afoot in Pennsylvania, where Education Secretary Rivera has held a series of stakeholder sessions at the local level, creating working groups focusing on core issues of the law – e.g. accountability and assessment – to better allow citizens throughout the Commonwealth to engage on specific issues within the ESSA law. These working groups are comprised of a wide array of stakeholders including teachers, principals, community based organizations, education non-profits, businesses and higher education institutions.
  • Strong executive leadership is the highlight of Alabama’s outreach strategy, where the Governor established a committee through an executive order to lead the development of the ESSA state plan. This ESSA Implementation Committee includes representatives from across the education community, including parents, educators, superintendents, school board members, school leaders, state Department of Education officials, and education policy advocates. In addition to the meetings of the committee itself, the chair and vice chair are holding subcommittee meetings on a variety of topics (including accountability, early learning, and standards and assessments), and plan to host public forums so local leaders and members of the public have an opportunity to weigh in on the development of the state plan. A full list of committee members, along with meeting dates, times, and locations, is available here. The Committee is also soliciting feedback and comments from the general public through an online webform.
  • The Colorado Department of Education created an ESSA working group and in May led listening sessions in different regions of the state to gather input from stakeholders such as parents and teachers. The ESSA working group committees will utilize this information from the sessions to develop the state plan that will ultimately be approved by the Colorado State Board of Education.

As states continue to refine their plans it is important that citizens, civil rights groups, parents, educators and many more stakeholders become involved in the state and local level conversations on how to best implement ESSA both initially and in the months and years to come. Here are some highlights of the tools national organizations have created to help their members create a thoughtful and inclusive engagement plan:

We look forward to supporting state and local leaders as they work to engage their constituents in developing high quality implementation plans that provide every student with a high quality world class education. For additional information, please read Secretary King’s Dear Colleague Letter to state and local leaders that highlights additional engagement materials developed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Lindsay O’Mara is Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education.

Now I don’t expect you to read most of the above links.  You can.  But a lot of it is going to be corporate education reform mumbo-jumbo.  Or it is corporate education reform mumb0-jumbo presented by organizations who have been brainwashed because of the mumbo-jumbo.

I wonder why she didn’t mention Delaware?  Oh yeah, we don’t have any ESSA stakeholder groups.  Just a clueless DOE and an even more clueless State Board of Education who will just take John King’s illegal regulations as law and implement them in Delaware while our crooked Governor sits back and goes cha-ching for all his buddies in Education Inc. while the students, teachers, parents, and schools suffer even more with high-stakes tests that offer nothing of meaning to anyone but the Rodel Foundation sure does love them!

We miss you in Delaware Lindsay!  Legislative Hall hasn’t been the same without you!

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Complete US DOE FOIA Showing Delaware DOE & US DOE Emails

On December 23rd, 2015, I found letters sent from the United States Department of Education sent to all the state DOEs about potential opt out penalties for the 2015-2016 year if schools went below the 95% participation rate.  In response, I sent a very detailed Freedom of Information Act request to the US DOE.  For the first time, you can view the entire response in its entirety.  I wrote an article based on some key parts of the US DOE FOIA response last month.

Julie Glasier is the main contact person for Delaware at the US DOE.  Many of these emails are in response to the Delaware School Success Framework which was met with stiff resistance last fall because of the opt out penalties against schools.  Keep in mind that the US DOE put Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver Request in this set of emails twice (since I asked for all attachments), but there are key and vital emails that appear between those and after.

While the Monique Chism email below doesn’t really delve into anything Delaware specific, it is very interesting to see who is on the US DOE’s Ed Title I ListServ.  These are emails that automatically go out to any of the participants who request to be on the list.  There are several redactions based on emails going to gmail or yahoo accounts.  As well, there are several emails going to outside education companies.

Of note in the below email between Penny Schwinn and Julie Glasier is the timing.  Penny Schwinn’s last day at the Delaware DOE was January 6th…

I found the next set of emails to be very interesting.  These are between Lindsay O’Mara and Ann Whalen:

Ann Whalen Elementary and Secondary Education Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Delegated the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education
Lindsay O’Mara Communications and Outreach Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement

Lindsay O’Mara was the former Education Policy Advisor for Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  She obtained a job at the US DOE, but I wasn’t aware of her title there until I just looked now.  This link shows O’Mara was a political appointee but does not show who appointed her.  What makes this email exchange very interesting is the redacted information.  Was O’Mara sending work-related emails through a personal email account?  Or was this part of her interview process with US DOE?  If it was the latter, why would they include that in a FOIA request since it would have been a personal nature?  If not, how many other state employees are conducting state business through personal emails?  I have seen several Delaware DOE FOIA responses that don’t show any emails other than the state email address.  Would they even know if their employees are using outside emails to conduct state business?

There you have it!  There are little easter eggs all over these emails.  If you see anything I haven’t touched on in the previous article linked above or this one, please let me know!  Some takeaways I got from this is the fact there were NO emails sent from Arne Duncan, John King, Governor Markell, Mark Murphy or Secretary Godowsky.

I did find an official announcement from US DOE this morning regarding Lindsay O’Mara’s new job at US DOE:

USDOELindsayOMara

US DOE Responds To My Email To Acting Secretary Of Education John King

A few weeks ago I sent an email to Acting US Secretary of Education John King.  This was actually in response to something State Rep. Earl Jaques did.  You can see the email and article about what Earl did here.  This was the response I got back from the United States Department of Education.  I really have to wonder if John King ever saw it.  And how much of my original email did they even address?

Mr. Kevin Ohlandt

Kevino3670@yahoo.com

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:

This letter is to acknowledge your January 28, 2016 correspondence addressed to Acting Secretary John King, U. S. Department of Education (Department), concerning educational reform for students with disabilities. Your correspondence was forwarded to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, within the Department, for reply.

OSEP is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts. OSEP administers the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  IDEA authorizes formula grants to states, and discretionary grants to institutions of higher education and other nonprofit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology and personnel development and parent-training and information centers.  These programs are intended to ensure that the rights of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and their parents are protected.

Thank you for sharing your reviews about a “parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.” The Department is always interested in hearing about issues that impact services to all children, including children with disabilities.  Your continued interest in the provision of educational services to children with disabilities is appreciated.  If this Office can be of assistance in the future, please feel free to contact Christine Pilgrim, Part B State Lead for Delaware, at (202) 245-7773.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Newton

Customer Services Specialist

Office of Special Education Programs

US DOE Promises Funding Cuts To States Who Miss Participation Rates Two Years In A Row, Contact President Obama Now!

In a letter sent to all states in America, the United States Department of Education is pulling the lever towards federal funding cuts to states who have participation rates below 95% on state assessments two years in a row.

If a State with participation rates below 95% in the 2014−2015 school year fails to assess at least 95% of
its students on the statewide assessment in the 2015−2016 school year, ED will take one or more of the
following actions: (1) withhold Title I, Part A State administrative funds; (2) place the State’s Title I,
Part A grant on high-risk status and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative
funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title VI State assessment funds.

Yes, they are actually doing it.  I would go with option number 3 for Delaware.  We don’t want your stupid state assessment funds.  Go ahead.  I dare you to do this US DOE.  You are nothing but bullies, flexing your muscles in direct opposition to parental rights.  You are complete idiots if you think parents are going to take this lying down.  We challenge you.  Miss Ann Whalen, “delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education”.  Who gave you this authority?  The departing Arne Duncan or the incoming John King?  You still don’t get it, do you?  Schools cannot and should not be punished for parents exercising their God-given, fundamental and constitutional rights for their children when it comes to education.  Yes, all schools are required to make sure students participate in the test.  That means the schools can’t tell parents to opt out.  There is nothing in your insane, ridiculous, mind-boggling, hateful, punitive, and disrespectful law about parents exercising their rights.  You are twisting the knife in public education.  America is tired of your high-stakes assessments meant to punish schools and feed the wallets of corporate education reformers.  You have sold your soul to Wall Street. 

President Obama, you are a lame-duck.  Are you really going to have this be your education legacy?  Choosing business over children?  Cutting funds to schools where standardized testing doesn’t mean a damn thing to students whose lives have not improved under your presidency?  You disrespect parents.  You disrespect minorities.  You disrespect students with disabilities.  You disrespect teachers.  You disrespect schools.  You disrespect state rights.  You disrespect those in low-income or poverty.  I disrespect you if this is really the route you want to take.  If this is something you are okay with, if this is something you allow, you should be prepared to take the heat for it.  I invite every single parent of a child in public school in America to call you now, until this mandate is GONE, and voice their vehement opposition to this totalitarian rule from the federal government on education.  Call today.  The phone number for the White House is 202-456-1111.  You can email President Obama here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact and tweet him at @WhiteHouse or you can comment on every single article the White House puts out here: https://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse/timelineTell the President your child is not his child.  Your child is not the property of the United States Department of Education.  Tell him your child is YOUR CHILD.  And you know what is best for them in determining YOUR CHILD’S education. 

To read the US DOE’s ultimate bully letter to the states, please see below:

US DOE’s Threat Letter To Delaware DOE About Opt-Out Is Ridiculous

The United States Department of Education sent letters to 12 states about issues with lower participation rates for either all students or sub-groups of students on the state assessment.  Delaware’s letter, from the US DOE Director of State Support Dr. Monique Chism, has all the intimidating and bullying language we have grown to expect from these federal intrusionists.  So much for the Every Student Succeeds Act and the clause about states determining how to handle participation rates.  The US DOE has learned nothing about standing up on the bully pulpit and telling states what to do.

So what bully lingo do we see in this letter about Delaware not meeting the 95% participation rate for English Language Learners and high school students?  The biggest “threat” is turning a school that has multiple years of low participation rates into a priority or focus school.  There are the usual funding cut threats.  But Delaware already addressed this in their last ESEA Flexibility Waiver edit sent to the US DOE on November 30th.  You know, the one where they have the participation rate multiplied against a school’s participation rate.  The one that nobody but the DOE, Godowsky, State Board of Education, Rodel, and the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens wanted.  DSEA, Delaware PTA, district and charter superintendents and heads of school opposed it.  Parents opposed it.

The timing on this couldn’t be better.  As the Smarter Balanced season begins next year, opt-out will become a huge conversation.  Our legislators have an awesome responsibility to override Governor Markell’s parent disrespecting veto of House Bill 50.  This final vote from the legislators over this issue will decide once and for all who they stand with: a departing Governor’s absolutely horrible education legacy or the constituents who elect them.  The Delaware DOE is probably emailing this letter to every single legislator as we speak.  But guess what?  I am calling the US DOE’s bluff.  Let them try to cut funding.  Let them try to interfere with a parent’s God-given, fundamental and constitutional rights to dictate the best interests of their children.  We will fight them all the way to the United States Supreme Court if need be.

Every single parent of a public school student in Delaware needs to make a choice for their child if they haven’t already: do they continue to let corporate education reform allow our children to be in huge classes with little funding going to support and resources in favor of a once-a-year test that dictates everything about their child, teachers, and school?  Do they allow our Governor, DOE, State Board, Secretary and the US DOE continue to take away local control from our schools and spend our taxpayer dollars on tests that do not give immediate feedback, do not impact the level of instruction an individual student receives and actually tramples the civil rights of every single sub-group of students in our state?  These are the questions parents need to ask.  Parents can and have made a difference, and their voices are growing stronger every single day.  Say no to the US DOE.  Say no to Governor Markell.  Say yes to your child.

Arne Duncan Leaves Nuclear Bomb Parting Gift For Students With Disabilities

One year ago tomorrow, I wrote my biggest article ever.  Entitled US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States’ Special Education Rights, it generated numerous hits from across the country.  I imagine just about every engaged parents of children with disabilities read that article.  It was a warning shot.  It impeded on the ability of IEP teams to accurately and correctly formulate an IEP.   The latest “Dear Colleague” letter from the United States Department of Education is actually striking the hammer into the coffin of IDEA.  The letter, written by Melody Musgrove, the Direct of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), demands all IEPs be written with the state standards as part of the goals for an IEP.  I find this to be incredibly offense and this spits on the whole concept of IDEA.

In Delaware, where I live, our Department of Education released their Annual Measurable Objectives last week based on growth and proficiency of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  While overall they want the proficiency rate to go from 50% to 75% in six years, for the sub-group of students with disabilities, they want them to go from 19% to 59% in six years.  So students with disabilities will have to work harder than every single one of their peers.

The combination of these two announcements shows that those in power in education truly don’t understand neurobiological disorders and disabilities.  It almost seems as if they want to get rid of the whole concept of special education in favor of personalized learning.  As well, it appears they want parents to pull their kids out of public education.  Is this some twisted voucher program that no one has told us about, or do they just not care about the well-being of these students?  I’m all for progress and improvement, but there comes a point in time where every long-distance runner hits a wall.  When they hit that, their body literally breaks down.  Students with disabilities are going to hit that wall and it won’t be pretty.

US DOE At High Risk Of Data Breach, 139 Million Social Security Numbers At Risk

On Tuesday, November 17th, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform met to discuss the security of the United States Department of Education’s information security system.  Their overall take on this: a resounding failure.  Yes, your child’s information is not safe, despite assurances by your state and your federal government that nothing could happen based on protections they have implemented.  We now know this to be an obvious falsehood.  This is the reality, and it is starting to look like even the US DOE can not keep our children’s information safe.

This isn’t just social security numbers either.  How much information does the US DOE have about our children?  How many reports, grades, and behavior files do they house in their system?  Do they have medical information in their system as well?  This is a train wreck in the making.  During Race To The Top, one of the mandates of the US DOE was for all states to create a Statewide Longitudinal Data System.  This means all that information is in this pipeline.  This affects all of us!

Ed-Scorecard

 

From the House Oversight Committee’s website:

TAKEAWAYS:
• The Department of Education (DoEd) has at least 139 million unique social security numbers in its Central Processing System (CPS).
• Reminiscent of OPM’s dangerous behavior, DoEd is not heeding repeat warnings from the Inspector General (IG) that their information systems are vulnerable to security threats.
o In the IG’s latest report, there were 6 repeat findings and 10 repeat recommendations.
o The Department scored NEGATIVE 14% on the OMB CyberSprint for total users using strong authentication
o The Department received an “F” on the FITARA scorecard
• The Department maintains 184 information systems.
o 120 are managed by outside contractors
o 29 are valued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as “high asset”
• The National Student Loan Database (NSLD) houses significant loan borrower information. There are 97,000 accounts/users with access to this significant data yet only 5,000, less than 20%, have undergone a background check to establish security clearance.
o The IG penetrated DoEd systems completely undetected by both the CIO or contractor
• The Department needs significant improvement in four key security areas:
o Continuous monitoring
o Configuration management
o Incident response and reporting
o Remote access management

PURPOSE:
• To examine information security at the U.S. Department of Education, including the Agency’s efforts to secure the personally-identifiable information (PII) provided by federal student aid applicants and their parents.
• To review recent findings of the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Department’s Inspector General (IG).

BACKGROUND:
• The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for managing the portfolio of over 40 million federal student loan borrowers holding over $1.18 trillion in outstanding debt obligations. The Department also manages other student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant program that annually serves 8.3 million students. These programs often require applicants and their parents to provide the Department with their PII.
• In FY2014, the IG found that, “While the Department made progress in strengthening its information security program, many longstanding weaknesses remain and the Department’s information systems continue to be vulnerable to serious security threats.”

Chairman Chaffetz (R-UT):
“Here they’re managing more than $1 trillion dollars in assets, liability for the United States, it’s basically the size of Citibank and the CIO meets with the Secretary maybe twelve times a year. That’s absolutely stunning. And looking at the vulnerability of almost half of the population of the United States of America has their personal information sitting in this database which is not secure.”

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

US DOE Directing All States To Make All Assessments The Way They Want Them

The United States Department of Education issued non-regulatory guidance on Assessment Review on September 25th, 2015.  This was a couple weeks before President Obama and Soon-To-Be-Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s public announcement for states to limit testing and to have no more than 2% of classroom going towards assessments.  Many have predicted this is just another attempt to get rid of district assessments that give clear and meaningful data for students, parents, and teachers.  We don’t want our students actually figuring out how to improve quickly when we have all those great state assessments like Smarter Balanced and PARCC that will give us results after kids go onto the next grade, right?

The full document from the US DOE is non-regulatory guidance but considered a “significant guidance document”, whatever the hell that means…  When the US DOE issues guidance that is non-regulatory, that means it has not been Congressionally approved by both Houses in the US Congress.  Which is how the US DOE likes to operate, without legislative approval…

The Full US DOE Fact Sheet On The Testing Action Plan

Below you will find the complete and unedited US DOE Fact Sheet on their recently announced Testing Action Plan.  Delaware citizens: Take not of the mention of Delaware.  Which confirms my suspicions this is all a smokescreen to get rid of district assessments and make EVERYTHING aligned to Common Core.  As long as they have their precious standardized assessment, no matter what the length is, they will do this.  I don’t buy this for a second.  This is exactly what Delaware Governor Jack Markell did, but on a national scale. Continue reading “The Full US DOE Fact Sheet On The Testing Action Plan”

Arne Duncan Calls For Limits On Testing…Is This US DOE’s Version Of Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2?

As heard pretty much everywhere, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan along with President Obama’s administration called for a limit on standardized testing and state it shouldn’t take up more than 2% of class time.  Do Not Be Fooled!  The words Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC were never mentioned in this press release.  Many states have called for a reduction in testing.  But not the ones that people REALLY want to disappear.  It is my contention that the feds are mimicking what many states are doing: trying to get rid of district assessments in lieu of the big state standardized assessments that Obama and Duncan just love so much.

Last March, Delaware Governor Jack Markell called for a limit in testing.  Coincidentally, this happened at the exact same time the opt-out movement in Delaware was gaining steam.  Coincidentally, Delaware Senator David Sokola introduced Senate Joint Resolution #2 within a week after the House of Representatives passed the opt-out legislation in Delaware, House Bill 50.  SJR #2 was the legislation to go along with Markell’s test reduction announcement.  Coincidentally, the task force to examine all of these assessments has done absolutely nothing.  Aside from some legislators being assigned to the task force, no planned dates have been announced for it whatsoever.  And coincidentally, when Governor Markell vetoed House Bill 50, take a wild guess what Markell and the DOE’s main reason was for this?  Because we are already going to reduce testing.

I got a ton of heat for casting fingers on SJR #2, but I have yet to be proven wrong.  Now the Feds are playing the same game.  And people are getting excited.  Once again, don’t be fooled.  Parents aren’t opting out of district assessments that gave immediate feedback and actually help teachers.  They are opting out of SBAC and PARCC.  Because they don’t help students or teachers, and there is no immediate feedback.  Hell, teachers can’t even see the questions or the answers.  Until President Obama publicly apologizes for the policies and non-Congressionally approved mandates coming out of HIS Department of Education, and abolishes all of these standardized assessments and the punitive measures they have on teachers and schools, I don’t believe a word he says about this matter.

Want to know when the SJR #2 Task Force will start to meet?  Probably the second a legislator brings up the veto override of House Bill 50!

Breaking News: Arne Duncan Resigning As US Secretary of Education

U.S. News and World Report just broke the news: Arne Duncan is stepping down as US Secretary of Education at the end of this year!  More details to come.

Duncan says in a letter to staff that he’s returning to Chicago to live with his family.

The letter was obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by a White House official. The official wasn’t authorized to comment by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Barack Obama is tapping Education Department official John King Jr. as acting secretary through the end of his term. But Obama is not nominating King to be secretary.

This is huge news for education in America!  But it may not be great news because it looks like his replacement isn’t much better.  John King resigned as Commissioner of Schools in New York last year and went over to the US DOE.  As Diane Ravitch wrote last December:

King encountered strong opposition from parents and educators for his strong advocacy of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and test-based evaluations of teachers and principals.

Take New York State Commissioner John King. His teaching experience is limited to three years in a no-excuses charter school where poor kids were expelled for minor infractions. Having been chosen to lead the Empire State, where only 3% of children are in charters, he has decided that the Common Core standards are his heroic mission. He has compared himself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And just a few days ago, he said that the advocates for the Common Core were like the all-black World War II unit called the Tuskegee Airmen.

When King resigned, the New York State Allies for Public Education, and BATS Spokeswoman Marla Kilfoyle commented in a press release from the NYSAPE:

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of the BATS stated, “John King has disregarded the voice of the practitioners in the classroom which soundly told him that the policies he promoted were hurting children and destroying their education.” – See more at: http://www.nysape.org/john-king-resigns-parents–educators-call-for-a-new-direction-from-the-regents-and-demand-no-interference-from-governor-cuomo.html#sthash.WIOZ2xp8.dpuf

US DOE Issues Letter To Charter Schools Regarding Spending Of Federal Funds

The United States Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter to charter schools and State DOEs in regards to charter school responsibility for spending of Federal funds issued to them.  It also warns about board oversight and conflicts of interest.  Something that never happens in Delaware, right?  This page on my blog is in the process of being updated in the next few days, and it is huge!

This letter goes out on the same day the US DOE gave away $157 million to US charter schools.  But read the letter.  Count the many ways in which Delaware charter schools are out of compliance with this guidance:

Delaware Doesn’t Get Any Money From Huge US DOE Charter School Grant Award of $157 Million

The US Department of Education announced a huge $157 million grant to “improve the charter sector”.  Delaware received nothing.  I wonder why that is with all of Governor Markell’s big connections…

From the US DOE Press Release:

U.S. Department of Education Contributes to an Improving Charter Schools Sector 

September 28, 2015
 
 

The U.S. Department of Education announced today new grants totaling more than $157 million through its Charter Schools Program (CSP), which funds the creation and expansion of public charter schools across the nation.

Since the program’s inception, the Department has invested over $3 billion in the charter school sector, and worked to strengthen accountability and quality of charter schools that are creating opportunities for students facing challenging circumstances.

These grants have had a major impact on the nation’s charter school sector. During the 2013–14 school year, for example, nearly half of the nation’s public charter schools benefited from CSP investments. Today’s announcement follows a period of significant growth, as well as academic and operational improvement, within the charter sector. Educators are leading innovative, community-based public charter schools that educate almost 3 million students across the country. The Department is proud to support high-quality public charter schools, especially those that are creating pathways to college, credentials and careers for low-income students and first-generation college-goers.

“All students have the right to an education that prepares them for college and their careers, and we’re thrilled that a growing number of charter schools create opportunities for students to achieve just that,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “In particular, we are excited to see so many high-quality charter management organizations focused on replicating successful models in high-needs communities. As we celebrate charter schools that help children from disadvantaged backgrounds, we must continue empowering educators to create great schools while holding ourselves to the highest possible standards of excellence.”

This year’s state grant program awarded $125 million in new grants to eight states. The funding will enable them to run state-level grant competitions to support approximately 400 new and expanded public charter schools.

This year’s CSP replication and expansion program will invest more than $32 million in 12 high-quality charter management organizations (CMOs) that serve students from low-income families. These organizations have a history of effectively serving high-need students, and will use these funds to replicate their successful programming for more than 40,000 additional students. Most of this year’s grantees are newer CMOs who are receiving their first charter grant. They are particularly focused on educating students who would otherwise be enrolled in low-performing schools and on encouraging diversity within their student populations. Prior to today’s announcement, the CMO program had previously invested over $230 million in planning and implementing more than 400 high-quality public charter schools and opening over 250 public charter schools across 20 states.

Many public charter schools, especially those serving students in high-poverty, urban areas, have seen promising improvements in student achievement. According to a 2013 study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the relative performance of charter schools compared to traditional schools has improved each year. The most recent CREDO study showed that charter school students in urban areas gain roughly 40 days of additional learning per year in math and 28 additional days of learning per year in reading.

The Department is committed to working with its partners at the state and local level to hold charter schools and their operators to high expectations for academic and operational excellence. While the charter schools sector has improved quality and oversight in recent years, the Department continues to be concerned about charter schools’ impact on student learning and about proper financial management of scarce public dollars. As part of this effort, the Department asked this year’s state grantees to focus on establishing rigorous performance expectations for all public charter schools, including ensuring equity for all students.

To help bring more clarity to states’ responsibility when it comes to fiscal oversight of charter schools, the Department is releasing a Dear Colleague Letter to states today emphasizing the importance of financial accountability for charter schools receiving federal grant funds. And as part of its commitment to transparency, the Department is also planning on releasing initial data on the more than 4,000 charter schools funded under CSP since its inception.

In my opinion, this is just more “cash in the trash”.  It’s a waste of money to an industry that hit its peak, but desperation leads to desperate measures.  As more US citizens wise up to the corporate education reform, look for more funds thrown charter schools way…

Delaware DOE Trying To Push Opt Out Penalty Based On Non-Regulatory Threats From US DOE

Last week, Regulation 103 was the hotbed education issue of the week, and Delaware parents, teachers, and organizations had a victory of sorts in stopping the Delaware State Board of Education from acting on this regulation at their October meeting.  But Penny Schwinn, the Chief Officer of Accountability and Assessment at the Delaware DOE stated she was going to seek official answers from the United States DOE over the issue of participation rate in the standardized assessment.  Based on research, I already knew the answer, but I decided to seek some answers from the Delaware DOE over this.


Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 3:51 PM
To: Schwinn Penny; Reyna Ryan; sgodow@udel.edu; Blowman David
Subject: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Good afternoon,

Could you please provide me with a copy of the letter Deborah Delisle sent to the DOE indicating the participation rate category in the accountability system for the ESEA  Flexibility Renewal had to be used as a “consequence” in the ESEA mandate school report card, otherwise known in Delaware as the Delaware School Success Framework?

Thank you very much,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: Reyna Ryan <Ryan.Reyna@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 4:11 PM
Subject: RE: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Kevin,

Here is the link: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/DE%20USED%20Letter%20Sec%20Murphy.pdf. It has been on the Office of Assessment site since 4/23/15.

Thanks,

Ryan


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 4:17 PM
To: Reyna Ryan
Cc: Schwinn Penny; sgodow@udel.edu; Blowman David
Subject: Re: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Thank you Ryan,

I’ve actually already seen that letter and published it on my blog the next day.  The letter you sent me was from 4/23/15, well after the AFWG group talked about participation rate and it was submitted into the ESEA Waiver renewal on the 3/31 draft.  This would be a letter referenced to the AFWG concerning the rationale for participation rate in the Delaware School Success Framework that specifically uses the word “consequence”.  Dr. Schwinn told the group about this letter.  I would like to have a copy of it.  Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt 


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Reyna Ryan <Ryan.Reyna@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Friday, September 18, 2015 7:07 AM
Subject: RE: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Good morning Mr. Ohlandt,

The letter that Ryan is referencing and the one that was discussed at AFWG stem from the same place. Based on feedback from stakeholders, DDOE asked USDOE for clarification on this issue in early March. These conversations were largely on the phone and, recognizing that this does not allow for documentation, DDOE requested an official letter from USDOE stating their position  on these issues. The letter on 4/23 was the documentation of the information that had been provided to DDOE (and then communicated to AFWG) previously. Both the very top of page 5 as well as the end of the first full paragraph of page 5 reference the need to include a consequence in the accountability system. This is no different than what is currently required through AYP, which as you know is more limited in what is included in accountability metrics.

I absolutely appreciate and understand your disagreement with the idea of imposing consequences in this area, and also recognize that this is different than the information and direction that has been provided by USDOE. I hope there are other areas in the DSSF, especially when compared to AYP, that you find are moving our state in the right direction.

All the best,

Penny


I covered this letter from US DOE Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle last April.  During the House Education Committee meeting, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy referenced a letter sent from US DOE warning about all the potential consequences of opt-out.  After much discussion and even argument, and a significant amount of public comment, the Delaware House Education Committee released the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, out of committee.  That evening I emailed the Delaware DOE for a copy of this letter, which they complied with the very next day in addition to putting it on their website.  Which resulted

In the above emails, Penny Schwinn referenced “telephone calls” with US DOE.  Which of course is not documented.  In February, Deborah Delisle sent a similar letter to Alaska in regards to what is required and what is not.  The key words in this letter are as follows:

In addition, all SEAs with approved ESEA flexibility plans have included specific consequences in their accountability systems for any school that misses participation rate, and must implement this component of their accountability systems with fidelity.

In every other section where Ms. Delisle referenced what is required, she gave specific federal regulatory code and cited it.  In this line, there was NO reference to any regulatory code or law.  On August 28th and 29th, I spent hours combing through ESEA Flexibility Waiver requirements and found NO reference anywhere to specific penalties in a state’s accountability system, which resulted in this article debunking Schwinn’s claim.  Yes, Ms. Delisle referenced a non-regulatory claim without any reference to an actual law or regulation at the top of page 5.  The key is in the wording.  She sandwiched the part about participation rate being included in a state’s accountability system between two regulations and laws, but that particular part is not referenced anywhere in those.  Ms. Delisle is no longer working at the US Department of Education.

As well, the Delaware PTA, in their official public comment at the State Board of Education meeting last week stated they checked with US DOE and found there is NO mandatory requirement to have participation rate on the state assessment as a penalizing factor on the school report card.

So we are at this point: the non-DOE members of the Accountability Framework Working Group collectively voted down having the participation rate penalty as part of the Delaware School Success Framework as seen in the above link.  DSEA spoke in opposition to it as well.  If the Delaware DOE does this, they are making it their own individual choice to include it based on no law or regulation requiring it.  And everyone else who has spoken on it, aside from the lone wolf Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens who receives their funding from the Delaware DOE, has been in opposition to this.

To read the Alaska letter, please see below:

So we are once again at a point where the Delaware DOE is telling everyone this is required and it really isn’t.  I can’t wait to see what kind of response the US DOE provides Penny Schwinn in regards to this when she asks them for “official” answers.  Sorry Penny, phone calls and non-regulatory threats with no legal backing behind them do not count as “mandatory”.  I would strongly suggest you have the Delaware DOE attorney thoroughly check any correspondence from US DOE on this issue.  Because we won’t be fooled again.

Dear Secretary Arne Duncan Letter, Federal and State Complaints Against DOE & State Board Revealed

Today is Parent Strike!  I will be holding a press conference shortly in front of Legislative Hall.  It could be five people, or it could be a hundred.  Either way a message will be sent and it will be one the Delaware Department of Education will NEVER forget.  I found their Achilles heel, actually, many of them once I knew what to do.  For some of this, it took weeks of culminating information.  For others, it was just a matter of attending a meeting.  It is past time the Delaware DOE was held accountable for THEIR actions.  They know this is coming, and they have not reached out once to explain anything.

It is not my intention to demolish the DOE.  It is my intention for them to want to change their actions.

In the below document, I sent an email to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier this morning.  For clarity purposes, SEA stands for State Educational Agency, or what we all refer to in Delaware, as the DOE.  LEA stands for Local Educational Agency, commonly known as school districts or an individual charter school.

So what are the complaints I filed against the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education and Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson?

Delaware Department of Education:

It is my contention for the following: Delaware DOE failed to adequately provide for public comment on Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Renewal in March of 2015- the DOE released a draft of their ESEA waiver to the public.  The DOE failed to include the “participation rate” category in the draft they released to the public even though it was already an approved category for the Delaware School Success Framework by the private, non-public Accountability Framework Working Group.  The DOE put it in their final draft on 3/31/2015 without any public comment on this portion.  This was, in my opinion, done deliberately to prevent support for House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation which was stirring a lot of public debate in March of 2015.

Complaint filed with the US Department of Education Office of Inspector General on 9/16/15, Complaint filed with Delaware Department of Justice on 9/10/15

It is my contention the Delaware Department of Education has failed to monitor crucial special education practices in respect to Delaware charter schools and a continued practice of denied Individualized Education Programs.  Because of the very low n number in relation to school accountability with standardized test scores, it has allowed Delaware charter schools to keep a low number of special education students.  All too often, many students are either expelled or counseled out from the charter school, or the parents do not return the child to the charter school the next school year.  The Delaware DOE is very much aware of these issues as I met with the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group last year and she advised me there is no method by which the DOE can keep track of these instances and they will not because the “due process system is more than fair”.  The DOE has allowed this environment to continue without any repercussions for anyone except the aggrieved student and their families.  All too often, parents are forced to seek outside counsel to resolve issues which tends to resolve itself in a mediation, but the damage has already been done for the student with disabilities.

Complaint filed with the US DOE Office of Civil Rights on 9/16/15

The Delaware DOE charged $300 for a Freedom of Information Act request I submitted on 9/10/15.  The request was for an email search for a few people at Delaware DOE in the past month to another state agency.  It is my contention they failed to provide a list of all charges for the request.  They claimed DTI is the one charging the costs for the email search, which is correct, but they did not provide a breakdown of any other charges for the FOIA. They stated in email they would not continue with the request until I paid $300 for the DTI search.  As well, I asked if their public information officer could simply ask the individuals for the emails and I received no response to this.  This is after the DOJ already issued a legal opinion on another FOIA matter and stated the DOE failed to adequately follow this part of state law.

Complaint filed with the Delaware Department of Justice on 9/11/15

Delaware State Board of Education:

By approving an ESEA flexibility renewal for submission to the US DOE without public comment on a crucial section, the State Board, as directed by their Executive Director Donna Johnson, approved a non-transparent and illegal ESEA draft because they duped the public by leaving out crucial parts, similar to the DOE complaint

Complaint filed with the Delaware Department of Justice on 9/10/15

Delaware Department of Education AND Delaware State Board of Education:

I attended part of the State Board of Education Retreat on Monday, September 14th.  This was a public meeting, announced by the State Board of Education on their website and also on the Public Meeting Calendar on the state website.  I was the only member of the public in attendance at this meeting.  As the Delaware Department of Education was about to present information on the state assessment, Smarter Balanced Assessment, I openly asked if there was any embargoed information.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson said “No, this is a public meeting.”

During a presentation by the head of instruction, Dr. Michael Watson, he was going through a slide show, and as he was going to the next one, he told me “This is embargoed information.”  But he presented it anyways, at a public meeting.  Later on in the afternoon, as the DOE and State Board were about to discuss information on the Smarter Balanced results, Donna Johnson, Shana Young (DOE) and Dr. Penny Schwinn (DOE) kept looking at me, whispering, and announced they would not be showing some information but it would be sent to the State Board members.  Even later, DOE employee Ryan Reyna advised of a slide with “embargoed” information concerning Smarter Balanced Assessment results for sub-groups.  It is my contention the State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE conspired to hold information they would have otherwise shown if I was not present, and when they did present information that was “embargoed”, they attempted to persuade me to not reveal it.  This is not in the spirit of an “open meeting” and violates FOIA in my opinion.  I am requesting a legal opinion on this matter.

Complaint filed with the Delaware Department of Justice on 9/17/15

State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray:

In her capacity as President of the State Board of Education, Dr. Gray is in a position of making education decisions for the students of Delaware.  Frequently, the Delaware Department of Education contracts or pays certain vendors to provide information to the Delaware State Board of Education to enact policy or regulatory changes.  One such vendor is the U.S. Education Delivery Institute.  Dr. Gray sits on the board of that company as well.  This company has received $345,218.50 from the DOE since FY2011 without any public acknowledgment from Dr. Gray of her capacity on this board.  This is a conflict of interest, both morally and financial.

Complaint filed with the Delaware Department of Justice on 9/17/15

State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson:

In her capacity as a State of Delaware employee and the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson emailed personal student information  as well as medical information about the student to a person who did not need to know this and asked this person to intervene instead of the local school district authority, she also emailed medical information about a Delaware Department of Education employee to the same person.  Both of these, in my opinion, are clear and blatant violations of FERPA and HIPAA laws.  The person she emailed this information to is myself.  As well, through personal email, Donna Johnson sent official state business to the same individual, and it is my contention, she sometimes conveyed false information, such as suggesting two members of the Christina School Board reported their own district to the Delaware State Auditor resulting in an official investigation by the State Auditor’s office.  The State Auditor’s office publicly stated there is no investigative audit going on with the Christina School District.  It is my contention Donna Johnson used this false information in an attempt to publicly ridicule and demean a traditional school district which had failed in two referendum attempts and was in the midst of internal tension due to a leave of absence of their Superintendent.  Both board members openly informed me they never made a call to the State Board of Education about a request for an investigative audit against the school district they serve.  In addition, through various blog commenter handles, Donna Johnson attempted to sway public policy using pseudonyms and aliases while she was privy to information the public did not know.

Complaint filed with Delaware Department of Justice on 9/10/15.

So there you have it.  And I will say this now, every single time the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, or any employee violates FOIA, or any other single law in this state, I will report them.  I urge every single citizen in the state to do the same.  They wanted accountability.  I just hope they are able to give the same rigor and grit during the coming months, when they have to answer for all this, that they expect out of Delaware students and teachers.  This is Delaware education, the sides the public doesn’t see.  And it is just beginning…

Below is just part of the formal complaints issued with the Delaware Department of Justice.

Delaware Parent Information Center Gets The Shaft From The US DOE

Yesterday, the United States Department of Education unveiled a $14 million dollar grant to Special Education Parent Training and Information Centers to 28 states and two U.S. territories.  But Delaware, with all the sucking up Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE due to Arne Duncan, did not get one single penny from this grant.

I don’t feel too bad though, because the last event the Parent Information Center of Delaware had was on “standards-based” IEPs.  You know, Common Core IEPs.  Of course the DOE will say that’s not what it’s about, but they also say high-stakes testing is good for kids, so there’s that!

I’m sure I’ll get a response consisting of “But we are already funded by the US DOE.”  I’m sure you are, but guess what, so are all those other states.  And you didn’t get a slice of the $14 million pie!  What does that say about Delaware special education when the Virgin Islands got over $100,000 and we didn’t get jack? (cause we have our own special kind of jack)

US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States Special Education Rights

In a stunning announcement that came out today, the United States Department of Education has decided to take away state rights in regards to curriculum and state assessments for special needs students.  Without any legislative approval, Arne Duncan has taken it upon himself to invalidate years of IDEA law and special education regulations.  This news broke today from this blog:

http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/federal-secretary-of-education-to-phase-out-the-authority-of-states/

And here is the new ruling:

http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201410&RIN=1810-AB16

Here’s what you need to do: email AND call your state senator and state representative in the US Congress.

For Delaware citizens, here are our representatives in Congress and how to contact them:

https://forms.house.gov/carney/webforms/email-me.shtml

http://www.carper.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-senator-carper

http://www.coons.senate.gov/contact/

I would also email John Kline, the head of the Education and Workforce Committee in Washington D.C.  at this address and let him know Congress needs to stop this NOW!!!!  The ruling states this is to go in effect January 1st, 2015.

https://edworkforce.house.gov/contact/

This is tantamount to war on special education in America.  I called this months ago, and now it is out there.  This is the same man who thrust Common Core on all schools and dangles carrots with the ESEA waivers constantly.  The man who believes every student, even those with a disability, should have a baccalaureate education and rigor should be used daily.

For residents of Delaware, your Governor Markell helped with this.  With his powerful backing from Dr. Paul Herdman and Rodel, our children’s special education rights are GONE if this goes through.  We all need to take a stand, every single one of us.  If you sit back and do nothing, your child WILL suffer.

I just found an excellent letter to send.  Thanks to Stacey Kahn from the Facebook group NYS Special Needs Parents Against Common Core for allowing me to repost it here!

Parents and teachers the time has come. As we all knew, the United States Department of Education, as directed by Arne Duncan, has decided to attempt to override special education and the laws that protect our most vulnerable students. The rights and rules both we and our own parents fought so hard for are being dismantled by the US Department of Education to pave the way for the inappropriate rigor of common core. If we do not speak out against this newest injustice, special education as we know it will dissolve.

Please take a few moments to contact your legislators through pen, phone, or email. Let them know they must get involved. The USDOE has gone too far. The same people who seem to put profits before people have again trampled the rights of students who struggle enough. Common core is enough of an injustice. To remove state authority to assist our special needs students is the final straw.

Attached is a letter template for your use. Feel free to add your own thoughts, the more personal the better. Let these legislators know your special needs children are worthy of a fair and appropriate education that isn’t driven by corporate gain and workforce readiness. All students are unique. The one size fits all mentality of common core has come to the head we knew it would. Please let your representatives know this is the time they must get involved, these children don’t get a second chance to be treated with respect, equity, and compassion.

For your immediate attention  (insert title and last name here):

We as parents, educators and citizens of the United States, are contacting you because it has come to our attention that there is a real and imminent threat to the states’ sovereignty with regards to education, and more importantly, to its most vulnerable citizens.

Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education has submitted a proposal to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Directly from the proposal is the following:
“The Secretary will amend the regulations governing title I, part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), to phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards in order to satisfy ESEA accountability requirements. These amendments will permit, as a transitional measure, States that meet certain criteria to continue to administer alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards and include the results in accountability determinations, subject to limitations on the number of proficient scores that may be counted, for a limited period of time.”

If this amendment is passed, it will signal the end of special education as we know it in this country’s public education system. Secretary Duncan has already stated that he feels that students with disabilities can and should be held to the same “rigorous” Common Core State Standards, as their fellow neuro-typical classmates. To give him the power to supersede the states regulations regarding allowable modifications and/or alternate assessments for these students sets a dangerous precedent.

Secretary Duncan has already weakened the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).If allowed to proceed with this amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act is in jeopardy as well. None of these changes were ever voted on by any legislative body.

Our states are losing their sovereignty in education on an almost daily basis. How much more are we as states and as citizens willing to hand over to the Federal Government?

We need our legislators to stand up and say enough is enough. We are a bipartisan group of citizens. Please put political parties aside and do what is best for our children and our country. We are counting on you!

DOE & Arne Duncan Accused of Breaking The Law With IDEA & Special Education by GOP Senate

In a letter addressed to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, GOP Senators from the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Kirk have accused the US DOE of breaking the law when it comes to special education determinations being based on NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) testing and making changes to IDEA without legislative approval.  The letter was dated August 4th, 2014.

“The changes spelled out in your “Results-Driven Accountability” framework clearly amount to Federal influence on the standards and assessments states and school districts use to direct the educational program of students with disabilities and would give the Federal Government authority to use student proficiency as measured by the NAEP to evaluate and either reward or sanction school districts.  This is clear influence and coercion, if not direct control.  It is troubling that the Department made unilateral changes to the IDEA compliance framework without seeking legislative approval, disregarded Congressional intent, and appears to have violated the clear letter of the law.”

The Senators also said the authorizing statute for NAEP states “Any assessment authorized under this section shall not be used by an agent or agents of the Federal Government to establish, require or influence the standards, assessments, curriculum, including lesson plans, textbooks, or classroom materials, or instructional practices of States or local education agencies.”

Does this invalidate OSEP’s ruling against Delaware, Texas, California and Washington D.C.?  Special Education has now become a Federal intrusion into public school districts.  I hope this issue becomes much bigger, and can also be used as another reason why standardized testing and common core just don’t work for students with special needs.  Someone needs to hold Arne Duncan and his wild bunch over at the US DOE accountable.

Thanks to Education Week for supplying the link to the letter: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/Secretary%20Duncan%20Letter%208.4.14.pdf