Over the past few weeks, I’ve written several articles about Patrick Miller and Dr. Susan Bunting. As sources continue to give me more information, the news from Governor Carney and the Delaware Department of Education in response to this have been non-existent. Half the state knows about this but the state agencies involved with this are on mute. Continue reading
A few days ago I put an article up about petty cash abuse in our districts and charter schools. No state agency has yet to give an official response even though they are all well aware of the article at this point. I’m fairly sure if there were an investigation that came out of this the last person they would tell is me.
The interesting snafu in all this is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. They are already on probation from their formal review. While not using a petty cash for fun time at the school is not a condition of their probation, the fact that money was used for fun time and who knows what else is a concern. I’ve heard lots of tales about how that money was used. An auditor would have a field day with this.
Like I said, I’m not too concerned with the folks who did it once or twice. Those can be explained. In fact, one school district made it a point to contact me. It is the chronic offenders I take issue with. Most especially the two that got a letter from Tom Wagner less than two years ago saying “Don’t do it”. No one should be doing it to begin with but when you get a letter like that and essentially flip the bird and do the same thing all over again, I have ZERO respect for you. Sounds like Sam Paoli has more on his plate than just CSW teachers joining the union!
I was really hoping Margie Lopez Waite and the board at DAPSS would act on this immediately. But no, when I go to the DAPSS website I see the SAME person on there who was behind the school’s petty cash splurging. On the taxpayer’s dime. I don’t mind paying taxes so kids can get an education. But I take a very serious affront to school leaders who want to break the rules and treat state money like it is their own piggy bank to play with. Yes, I’m talking about you Herb Sheldon. Margie acted lightning fast last Winter in getting someone off the school website. But I guess playing with school funding is an okay. Gotcha! I understand now!
Will anyone in the state actually do more on this issue than send more letters saying “Don’t do this”? When does REAL accountability start happening?
With very little fanfare and public notices on the State of Delaware Public Meeting website, the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) Working Group has met again. It seems, based on the below presentation and meeting minutes, the purpose of the group is to tweak the school “report card” to align with the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act state plan. This is a MUST read for teachers and parents.
The last time this group met, one of their biggest recommendations was that the Delaware Dept. of Education should NOT have a penalty on schools for parents their child out of the state standardized test, now the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The Delaware DOE did not honor that recommendation and put a penalty into the framework that would have punished schools over decisions made by parents. Eventually, when Delaware submitted their ESSA state plan earlier this Spring, they took out the penalty.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 30th, from 9:30am to 12noon at the TechRADD Facility (WARR building) in Dover.
My big question is this: Where is the Delaware State Educators Association representative on this? When this group was the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG), the number of members was much larger. Who are the members?
Darren Guido, Caesar Rodney
Carisa Pepper, Indian River
Joseph Jones, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech
Chris Havrilla, Woodbridge
Lisa Morris, Delmar
Ken Hutchins, Appoquinimink
Keisha Brinkley, Appoquinimink
Ed Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School
From the Delaware DOE, it looks like various folks are coming to the meetings from multiple areas within the state agency: Luke Rhine, Brittany Mauney, Terry Richard, Carolyn Lazar, Jen Koester, Ted Jarrell, Chantel Janiszewski, Elizabeth Jetter, Eric Niebrzydowski, Shana Payne, Denise Stouffer, Gregory Fulkerson, and Lindsay Lewis. I believe Janiszewski is the facilitator of this new DSSF working group.
On Friday, newly christened U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a, how shall I call it, awkward letter to all the education leaders of each state. Alarm bells went up immediately. Many people are scratching their heads about the missive dealing with state Every Student Succeeds Act implementation plans. The word “may” in relation to Title I, II, III, IV and V funding is the part that is confusing many. Is this Betsy’s way of phasing from Title funding to her school voucher plan? And how many enemies of modern-day accountability standards are equally confused about Betsy gutting the John King regulations from last fall? This could be a Trojan Horse leading to more Competency-Based Education. We all know CBE is a darling of the ed reformers these days. Read the below letter and sit and wonder like the rest of us! I have no doubt President Trump is clueless about any of this and is applying his next daily helping of orange glow.
The voting for the Delaware State Education Association leadership officially ends tomorrow, January 23rd. All ballots must be in as per the DSEA election website. Initial results will be shared with the Executive Director and Business Manager of DSEA on Thursday, and preliminary results will be announced on January 27th. If there is a challenge based on the preliminary results, that would have to be in by February 3rd. At the DSEA Executive Board meeting on February 16th, the results will be officially ratified.
There are four races for the President slot and two for the Vice-President. For President, there is Karen Crouse, Mike Matthews, Danny Rufo, and Dom Zaffora. For Vice-President, there is Jackie Kook and Stephanie Ingraham. Two are running on a “ticket” per se, but that ticket could be divided pending the results. Those “tickets” are Matthews/Kook and Crouse/Ingraham.
What is at stake with this election? The teacher’s union in Delaware would have a lot to contend with in the coming years. The three-year terms would usher in the new Every Student Succeeds Act in Delaware along with mounting budget issues that will almost assuredly result in education cuts along the way. Add on the new Carney administration and a promise from Governor John Carney to make the Delaware Department of Education less of an accountability factory and more of a resource center for districts and charters. However, much of that will depend on the final approved ESSA state plan. Even though ESSA was meant to eliminate a lot of the federal oversight, accountability regulations won’t change things that much. And if history is an indicator, the Delaware DOE loves accountability. The role of teacher evaluations will always be a major issue with DSEA. Other potential factors affecting them, depending on the state budget, could be the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan or the possibility of consolidating districts around the state becoming more than a discussion point.
Delaware Governor-Elect John Carney and State Senator Brian Pettyjohn held a question and answer session at J.D. Shuckers in Georgetown this morning. The packed restaurant submitted many questions. A few of them dealt with Delaware education. Carney’s answers provided some insight to one of his recent decisions. Continue reading
Once upon a holiday season, in the land of Delaware, there lived a man who would become Governor. He was promised the throne eight years ago, but another man took his seat. In this land, the people chose their Governor every four years. The man who would be Governor finally won the seat and 58.34% of the people rejoiced. As he sat in his car one day after returning from his job in D.C., he looked out the window. He saw the sun setting in the distance.
John was anxious to get things going in Delaware. He had to officially wait until January 17th, 2017. “Only 47 days,” John said to himself. He had been so busy for so long. Things wouldn’t slow down for him in the next four years, and hopefully the four after that. His day was filled with phone calls, texts, and emails. Everyone wanted a piece of Delaware. He knew not everyone could get a piece. He called his wife from the driveway and told her he was going to go for a walk to clear his head. Always supportive, she knew John needed this and told him to take all the time he needed. John drove to the nearby park. As he walked out of his car, he put on his hat. It was rare he could get away from his security detail but at the same time he didn’t want to be bothered. John walked down the trail…
Meanwhile, 3,529.75 miles away, the jolly one was settling into his favorite chair. The elves were busy preparing for the big day. Santa was happy he had an extra day to prepare this year. As a tradition, during these leap years, he would pick one day off each leap year to do whatever he wanted. Mrs. Claus always forgot about it, but Santa didn’t. Today was his day off! Santa picked up his laptop and on his favorites bar was the website he enjoyed going to the most: Exceptional Delaware. Ever since Santa learned about Common Core and opt out, he found himself checking back in to see what was happening with the children of Delaware and the rest of the country. Santa was not happy when he found out what happened a few weeks after Christmas earlier this year. The people of Delaware wanted the lawmakers to override Governor Jack’s veto of the opt out bill, but it got hung up in some silly rule business. He knew exactly which of those lawmakers would be getting coal this year, led by their Speaker and the leaders below him. Santa heard there was a new Governor in Delaware so he decided he would pay him a visit. While he didn’t usually venture so far south during the busy month, it was his day off and he could do whatever he wanted. At least the things Mrs. Claus wouldn’t have cause to file for divorce over.
As hard as he tried, John couldn’t stop thinking about his plans. He didn’t count on the new President actually winning the election. All his plans were contingent on the Hill winning. But the Tower Man won and he had to plan around it. The Tower Man was picking people who John couldn’t picture running things down in D.C. His office was frantic over the mess. John had to strategize very carefully how he moved forward with everything. Not only did the Tower Man win, but the two bodies of Congress won a majority in the election as well. John’s Delaware was still blue, but a shocking election there threatened to turn the Delaware Senate red too. The state he was to lead had some peculiar problems in it and at the top of that list was the economy and education. Governor Jack treated the two as if they were symbiotic with each other and made some poor choices along the way. John knew if he was going to improve both he would have to find a way to draw everyone in. It was a difficult maze and John knew he wouldn’t please everyone. Governor Jack chose a particular route but John knew if he did the same it would not be good.
Santa knew John’s mind was heavy. As his sleigh crossed the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Santa could feel the weight on John’s shoulders. Leadership always carries a heavy burden. Santa knew that better than anyone. Santa knew John ever since he was a little boy. He always knew John would become a leader. John didn’t have the same political sharpness so many politicians had but this also made him more relatable to the people. He watched John’s humble beginnings in the town of Claymont. Carney was one of those tough kids who excelled in football which helped him out at St. Mark’s High School and then Dartmouth College. Santa remembers John’s awards. As John was teaching freshmen football at the University of Delaware, he was also studying public administration. From there, John began his political career working for the county he lived in and then for Governor Tom. From there, John’s political ladder kept getting bigger and bigger. He became the Lieutenant Governor for eight years and decided to run for Governor. But the future “education” Governor Jack beat him in a close race. Others told Jack to wait his turn, it was John’s turn, but Jack ignored them. A couple of years later, John ran for Congress and won. For six years, having to run every two years for a total of three Congressional terms, John worked in D.C. and learned how the game of politics really works. But he never gave up on getting back to Delaware to win as Governor. After Governor Jack was expected to end his tenure, many thought Vice-President Joe’s son Beau would run, but tragically Beau passed away after a long illness. It was then that John decided he would run but wished it had been under better circumstances.
John walked down the path. There was a crisp wind in the air but the moon was bright. He used to walk down this path many times. It hadn’t changed much over time and he remembered it like the back of his hand. John tripped on a branch and fell to the ground. As he looked up, he saw a bright light in the sky above him. A voice cried out “John, we need to talk.” John reached for his phone but he had left it in the car. He thought to himself, “This is it, all alone in the woods with no one to help.” He began to picture the headline in the News Journal the next day. “Who are you?” John asked. “Someone you haven’t thought about in a long time John.” Santa gracefully landed the sleigh on the path in front of John. His lights were still on so John couldn’t tell who it was. “I do have security watching me right now. They are watching you right now. So I wouldn’t try anything They will find you if anything happens to me.” “No they won’t,” Santa said. “Remember you let all of them have the night off and you so conveniently told each one there was coverage?” John wondered how this guy would know that. “It’s me, John. Santa.”
John couldn’t believe his eyes. As a child, he always believed. But as children grew older, that magic disappeared. John saw Santa everywhere this time of year. He began seeing him in stores as early as October. But it wasn’t the same as the man who just walked off a sleigh that came down in the middle of the woods. John took that early childhood magic for granted, as every adult does. John wondered what in the world Santa Claus wanted with him. Did he visit all the new leaders? “John,” Santa said, “We have to talk about the kids. Come with me.” John felt the world spin beneath him. Santa’s words captured him. They weren’t words demanding John obey him, but those of comfort and a calm John hadn’t felt for a long time. John looked at his watch. It was 6:30pm.
Santa and John got in the sleigh. The reindeer, who John hadn’t noticed before, began running down the path. John felt the sleigh lift up into the December night. “John, did you read my letter last year?” Santa asked. John read letters every day. There were some days he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast he was so busy. John shook his head. “Did you send it to me?” John asked. He knew he probably had not seen it unless it was an issue of critical importance. He was sure if one of his staffers opened it and saw a letter from Santa Claus it would go in the circular bin next to their desk. “No, I let Exceptional Delaware put it up. I thought everyone in Delaware reads it.” That was a name John was familiar with the past six months. The blogger. “You mean the crazy education blogger from Dover? That guy wants to meet with me but I don’t know…” Santa abruptly interrupted John “Watch yourself,” Santa warned. “I have the utmost respect for the blogger. He helped me out last year and he knows what he is talking about.” John responded to Santa. “But he tends to tick off a lot of people. People I’m going to have to work with. I was warned to stay away from him.” Santa’s eyes widened. “Oh really? Would that have been Senator So-coal-A,” Santa carefully empathized. “And all those other adults who don’t have the first clue about what education really is? Let me tell you something John. You will be a leader of Delaware. Any state has a foundation from which it must build on. That foundation is the kids. Not the adults, and especially not the adults who try to make money and get power from kids. There are those out there who will pretend to speak the truth. You surround yourself with them. But there are those who speak uncomfortable truths that people don’t always want to hear. But they do so out of an innate need for change, in the hopes someone with the ability to hear will actually listen.”
John was familiar with what was going on in education. He was told of the long-range plans and how education would be reformed so all kids can succeed. The children would be trained to become the workforce of tomorrow. As he began his campaign, he knew many people in Delaware were hurting. When he ran for Governor the first time, the economy of the whole country was collapsing. Even though Delaware recovered from this, not all of the citizens did. Some never got the jobs back that made them more money. The cities were becoming too violent again. Drug use was up and children were getting shot in the street. But still, Delaware did the one thing it knows how to do best- spend money. John knew all that money wasn’t going to the right places. He also knew that when he became the leader he would have to fix a lot of these problems. Many of his advisors told him that education was going to fix all these problems. Not now, but down the road. But if he didn’t help follow the same paths Governor Jack made, nothing would ever get fixed. This was happening all over the country. There were critics, like the damn blogger, but they were just a whisper in the wind. They didn’t see the big picture and how this was for the good of the state and the country.
“Santa, where are we going?” John asked. “To see the children John.”
“Uhm, Santa. We are flying into downtown Wilmington. No offense sir, but I can’t be seen riding around in a sleigh with someone people don’t believe in along with eight reindeer.” Santa pulled out a pouch from his pocket. “Thanks for reminding me John, I almost forgot.” Santa took out a handful of dust and blew it all around him and John. “They won’t see us now.” Santa parked the sleigh on top of the Community Education Building. The duo went down through the building and to the streets below. They walked over to the playground next to the building.
In a dark corner, an African-American boy was reading with a flashlight. The boy was shivering as he turned a page. “Why is this boy out here Santa? Why doesn’t he go home?” Santa sighed. “This is his home John. He lives on the streets. During the really cold months he goes to a shelter with his aunt. She is at work right now.” John saw a grocery cart a few feet away from the boy. Covering it was a blue tarp. John could see some clothes in there and a few boxes. As John looked away for a moment in horror, he saw a hypodermic needle on the ground. The boy was reading a worn-out copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a flashlight between his yellow teeth. He saw the boy lift a crumpled up bag out of his coat pocket. The boy began eating the few crumbs left in the bag of potato chips. Santa told John about how his father went to prison a few years ago. He belonged to one of the gangs. During a shoot-out in front of their apartment building, a bullet missed hitting the boy but instead lodged itself in his mother’s brain. He told John this is the first thing the boy sees when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he sees at night. “Come on John, we have more stops to make tonight.” John walked to the sleigh but kept looking back at the boy.
Santa and John flew once more into the night. It was very quiet between them. They landed in a very wealthy neighborhood with mansions all around them. John wasn’t sure if he had been on this street when he was campaigning. Many houses were decked out in Christmas lights and he even saw Santas made up in lights. “This is never what Christmas was supposed to be John,” as Santa looked down at his belly. They got out of the sleigh and went into one of the houses. A girl was on her computer playing the latest version of Minecraft. Her mom asked her if she finished her homework. “I sure did,” the girl said. “You can check it on Schoology.” “Did you finish all the stuff on iReady?” the mother asked. “Yes Mom,” as the girl rolled her eyes. She had just finished eating the steak and shrimp but she was still hungry. “Can you turn the heat down Mom?” she yelled. As her hand grabbed the ice cream bowl, Santa and John left. As Sarah pulled the spoon to her mouth, she wondered if she had to be at the school in her cheerleader’s outfit by 9am tomorrow or 9:15.
They flew down to Georgetown. John was last there on Return Day in November. All the candidates who run for office, whether they win or not, participate in this event to “bury the hatchet”. But they flew away from the town to a trailer park. Inside, a Hispanic girl was kicking a ball around with her little brother. A man came into the room. “Hicerion sus deberes?” the man asked. “No podríamos papá. No sabíamos lo que significaban las palabras,” the boy answered. The man watched as his children did what they do after school almost every day. Kicking around the same ball. “Sorry Santa, my Spanish is very rusty. What did they say?” John asked. “The father asked if his children did their homework. They couldn’t because they can’t read the words. They don’t know English very well. They know enough for very basic things, but not enough to learn what they need to know. Their mother is still at the chicken farm working her shift. One of them always has to be with the kids. They aren’t here legally. The father is afraid all the time that his kids will be taken from him and he and his wife will have to go back to their country. He doesn’t know English at all.”
John felt his mind stir as they flew north. He was very troubled by what he saw. When he was campaigning, he tended to see the best of Delaware. In the daylight or early evening when many of his “Meet and Chews” with people were attended by those who had the means and the desire to see him. When he went to schools, he could tell the kids were on their best behavior because “an important man” was coming to visit. He didn’t see people in their homes or on the streets the way he did tonight. He felt uncomfortable, like he was seeing a side of the world he heard about but didn’t see first-hand. “Santa, I should really be getting back. It’s getting late and my wife is probably worrying about me.” Santa laughed so hard the sleigh shook. “Look at your watch John. What time is it?” John looked at his watch in bewilderment. It was still 6:30pm. No time had passed since he first got in the sleigh with Santa back on the trail. “Let me guess, another bit of your magic?” Santa smiled at John as they flew into a middle-class neighborhood in Dover.
The odd couple went into the house. Inside, a boy was crying on the couch. His parents were arguing in the kitchen. “What do you mean he was suspended again?” the father asked. “I got a call from school. They said he was acting out in class again and when the teacher told him to stop he ran out of the room. When another teacher found him, he pushed her away. The Principal came down the hall and yelled at him to come with him. David yelled back at him and Dr. Smith called two teachers to help bring him to the office,” the mother explained. “I didn’t get the call until two hours later. By the time I got there he was so upset.” “Did they give him any work to do when he was in there for two hours?” the boy’s father asked. “I don’t know. But this is not what his IEP says. They aren’t supposed to drag him down the hall and yell at him. He isn’t learning anything there. He’s depressed all the time. He can’t learn in a class with thirty kids.” John knelt down in front of the boy. He saw such pain and sadness in the boy’s eyes. “This boy has no friends John. The things you had growing up, kids to play with and throw a football around, running around in the woods, even going to the amusement park, David can’t do those things.” Santa explained how David was labeled as high-functioning Autism. He could do the work, but only under certain conditions. If there was a lot of activity in the classroom, people talking, moving around, David couldn’t handle that. His brain couldn’t filter out all the stimuli. Some days it worked, but for David, it was an endless litany of suspensions and leaving school early. “Special education John. If you don’t know what is going on with a child, and everyone is different, how can we put all kids in the same box?” Santa asked him.
John could see what Santa was doing. He understood that not every kid is the same. But if they didn’t try to help all the kids nothing would change. The two flew to the building where John was destined to spend many of his days in the next four years. Legislative Hall. Where all the laws in Delaware happened. John didn’t think there would be any kids there at 6:30pm, and he was right. Inside, a meeting was taking place. John knew about half the people at the large table in the House Majority Caucus room. There were some from the Department of Education, a couple from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the usual Delaware State Education Association contingent, some Superintendents, a few teachers, Delaware PTA, some of the disability advocates, the lady from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, four legislators, and a couple of State Board members. He knew them. A few people sat in the chairs outside of the table. A woman from the Delaware DOE was giving a presentation on the Every Student Succeeds Act. Delaware had to come up with a state plan so all students can succeed. She was talking about the Delaware School Success Framework and the measurements they wanted included in their state accountability system. It was all about proficiency and growth. Which John knew was based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. All these adults, sitting there talking about kids and how they can make education better. John knew a few of the people there had the best of intentions but this was what they do in Delaware. They sit around a table and talk. This was how things got done. They even had a name for it, The Delaware Way.
“You don’t get it!” John cried out. “We can’t keep testing these kids. They aren’t the same. We can’t keep doing this. Their lives mean so much more than these tests.” Santa looked at John. “They can’t hear you. Even if they could, too many of them wouldn’t listen. They think they know what is best. They forget what it was like when they were kids. Even that man over there.” Santa pointed to a man from Wilmington. “He kept fighting for the kids in Wilmington and how the teachers need to be better,” Santa explained. “The man believed what he said but he didn’t realize how much these children don’t have outside of school. The man didn’t understand that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make teachers better. And the best teachers, they were the ones already in those classrooms in Wilmington. They were the ones who came to school every day, knowing the problems these kids brought to the classroom. The look of hunger in their eyes as they wore the same clothes for the third day in a row. They dedicated their lives to helping these kids in the hardest classrooms in the state. In return, they were shamed by many of the people in this room. The little boy we saw on the playground tonight? He goes to the poorest school in the state. Most of the people in this room have never walked into his school. They don’t understand what he needs. That legislator over there? She sponsored a bill so special education would get better in the state. In their eyes, it did. Students went from 21% proficiency on the ELA part of Smarter Balanced to 23%. To them, that is growth. The Superintendent over there? She runs the district where the two kids from Georgetown go to school. She has a lot of students who can’t speak or read English. She hasn’t said one word tonight about how to help them. See the man over there? He runs a charter school in Newark. They just settled on a lawsuit against the Christina School District. In return they will get more money in the future. Remember the girl in the mansion? She goes to that charter school. That money will be taken from the homeless boy’s school. He will get less than he has today at school. The man over there? He sits on the board at the Rodel Foundation. He sees opportunity. He sees how the business leaders in the state can profit from all this. He is hoping they will start talking about more career pathway programs in our high schools. He knows that some will go to the coding school he sits on the board of. He talks with other business leaders and the graduates of that program do internships at their companies. Sometimes they get jobs. While they are learning, these coding students are building the network of tomorrow. They develop algorithms that will go into the education technology in all the schools. All that data, all that blessed data. They store it all. They keep everything, these futurists and visionaries. They have the money and influence to make sure what they want becomes policy and law. It is the way the modern world works John. Perhaps they know, and don’t care, that what they are setting up now will only make those children who struggle the most even further apart from any true opportunity to succeed. And them, over there, they work for the Department of Education. They are the middlemen between the schools and the business community. They make sure the business community gets what they want in the schools. They do this through regulations and conversations you will never hear about. That woman there, she runs the accountability section of the Department. Her job is to make sure all children in certain grades take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. When she sees the results come in, she doesn’t see the faces of the children who took the test. She sees numbers. Results. Scores. Her job is to understand why all the children we saw tonight got a 1 on the test last Spring except for the girl in the mansion who got a 4. She doesn’t see David’s disability. Or the two siblings who can’t read the instructions for the test in English much less understand the context of a passage in Spanish about the stock market. She doesn’t know that the African-American boy in Wilmington has slept in 124 different beds in the past year alone and the other 241 nights were outside with blankets. But she actually thinks they can close the achievement gaps and these children will grow into prosperity. How does she know this? It’s what her bosses tell her every single day. She hears the lie so much she believes it.”
John and Santa left the building. As the two flew north, they talked about what John had to do. What he needed to change. They talked about the blogger and the parents, teachers, legislators, advocates, and citizens who thought like Santa did. “Those are the ones you really need to talk to John. I’m sure you have heard from many of the people who were in that meeting tonight. If you haven’t, I have no doubt your advisors have.” John knew this to be true. “You need to understand the other side of the coin John, where the real world lives. These aren’t pleasant realities you saw tonight. For those fighting for the kids, even opting out of the test isn’t as easy as it once was. They are fighting for these kids, their kids. And their grandchildren. They are fighting for their jobs. They see beyond the results and the growth. They see what needs to change but no one listens. No one who can really make a difference. Some do, but not enough to make the changes. When they do speak, they are shunned by their peers. Given less importance. It isn’t right John. What the people in that room wanted, it won’t change anything. It will only cause more damage. You can’t incorporate education. These are children. You need to change all this.”
John walked out of the sleigh. He thanked Santa for showing him so much of the Delaware he didn’t see before. The two shook hands. “Santa, I don’t know if I can change all of this by myself. You know if I try I will make enemies. Those enemies won’t make my job any easier.” Santa put his hand on John’s shoulder. “That is what all leaders who understand what is right and just have to face. Some succeed and some fail. Some do it alone and some have support. All I can say is this John- remember what you saw tonight. Every single time you make a decision. Remember the children’s faces before you see the adults. You know in your heart who is really in this for the kids and who isn’t. When you hear that voice in your head, questioning what the true motives are, listen to that. Let that be your shield against your enemies John.” John hugged Santa. “Merry Christmas Santa.” “And to you as well Governor Carney.” Santa walked toward his sleigh and turned around. “John, find those who speak the uncomfortable truths.”
John looked down at his watch. It was 6:31pm. Santa was gone.
To date, three Delaware educators have announced their intention to run for President of the Delaware State Education Association. All three have announced this on Facebook. I know two of them, but I haven’t met the other candidate. Two of the candidates are running on a ticket with a Vice-President candidate. Who are these brave souls? Continue reading
The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law. Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of. We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing. We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools. We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix. Nothing has changed. Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place. Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere. I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.
One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans. Now they are April 3rd and September 18th. Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st. The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).
So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?
In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.
And what about opt-out? Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment? Yeah right!
To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.
This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package. And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago. You reap what you sow!
It’s real easy to play Monday morning quarterback after your team just took a huge hit. Donald Trump promised (and fooled) many citizens into thinking he could get rid of Common Core. So much so that his pick for Secretary of Education is now backtracking on her years of actions financially supporting Common Core. She sits on Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. This foundation LOVES Common Core and all that comes with it. DeVos, through the Betsy and Steve DeVos Foundation, poured millions of dollars into pro-Common Core candidates.
On some Betsy DeVos Question and Answer website that sprung out of nowhere, she denounces Common Core. This website was created on 8/16/16, but her picture was just added this month. This isn’t some long-time website that shows the DeVos denunciation of Common Core. This website was created specifically for the possibility of a Trump win. Why would anyone put up a q and a website unless they knew what the opposition would immediately come out with? This is what she has to say about Common Core. Items in red are my response to that.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk about Common Core. Can you provide some straight talk on this topic?
Certainly. I am not a supporter—period.
Financial support into candidates and states that support it IS supporting it.
I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense.
State standards, as written in the Every Student Succeeds Act, are now state decisions. Trump couldn’t dump them if he tried. There is a big difference between state and local decisions. The states now call the shots on education. The locals are just along for the ride. Local control of education is a thing of the past.
Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position. Sometimes it’s not just students who need to do their homework.
I don’t even know what that means Betsy DeVos. Common Core wasn’t created because kids weren’t doing their homework. It was set up for a VERY specific reason which I will get to soon.
However, along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.
A very intentional federalized boondoggle where states gave up ALL control to the feds. Once the states adopted the standards, it didn’t end there. In came the standardized testing, the accountability game that judges failing schools based on those same tests, as well as the longitudinal data (which was the real purpose which I will also get to later) creation in every state to allow student data to go out. Once everything was set up in the states through Federal funds (most of which did not go to local schools but to state Departments of Education who paid education reform companies billions of dollars), then the reauthorization of ESEA came about. ESSA is the shift towards this future. Giving the illusion of state control based on federal mandates and snake-oil deals from the Obama administration.
Above all, I believe every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserves access to a quality education.
Every single corporate education reformer says this, but being pro-school choice has not equated to greater educational improvement for children overall. Especially children that are minorities, low-income, English Language learners, and students with disabilities.
Betsy DeVos, through her foundation work for her own foundation as well as others, has been on of the biggest driving forces for the privatization of American public education. But why? Where is all of this going?
As I put up my post about DeVos selection for the U.S. Secretary of Education, I was met with an onslaught of comments stating she doesn’t support Common Core. Actions speak louder than words. I immediately directed readers to this excellent post showing how she DOES support Common Core and how. And then I wrote this:
To put this in a very easy way to understand, Common Core was created to train young minds for constant all-the-time digital learning. State assessments (based on Common Core) will become stealth assessments embedded in personalized learning/competency-based education environments. Once they bust the unions, traditional school districts will fall. Charters will go online. Our young kids will go to local non-profits to learn online while older kids learn online in a pay to earn environment through Charter Online Inc. Meanwhile, all this data from ed tech is tracking every student and whoring out their personal data and gearing them towards pre-determined professions that corporations want, not the kids. Who do you think will profit from this? Charters. Teachers will become glorified moderators while parents watch their rights slowly disappear. Their kids will go to community health-based centers for everything. This is the grand agenda. There is nothing Trump can do to stop it. Complete control over the future by corporations. Read into plans for Blockchain technology to see where all of this is going…. This has NEVER been about kids. It has always been about corporate profit.
We are now at a huge tipping point with public education. I’ve actually seen parents today, on anti-Common Core Facebook pages, actually trying to convince me DeVos is a good pick and to give her a chance. This is what the corporate education reformers do best. They pit people against each other. While everyone is arguing about this and that, they are getting things done. Planting seeds to get the whole thing done. They are the masters of distraction. Bill Gates is just one of them. Today, we saw another billionaire get the top education job in the country. With no background of ever being an educator. Do you really think it is a coincidence that the past three Secretaries of Education have been fervent supporters of school choice, charter schools, and “higher standards”? You can call Common Core whatever you want. But it is the same everywhere, in every state. It is just a vessel to much bigger plans, a complete and utter transformation of society where the top will always be on the top, but true choice and upward mobility for the rest will be on the bottom. It is central to destroying who we are as a nation. A nation of freedom and free will. That will be stripped from us, forever. We will become the cradle to grave workforce with the rich and elite overlords looking down upon us. The future generations of today’s rich and elite who use their money and influence to reshape society to their mold.
This was going to happen no matter who won the Presidency. Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein… it didn’t matter. Who do you really think is running the show? Politicians? No. It is corporations. Follow the money. Read the stuff that is coming out right now through ESSA. Sift through the smoke and open your eyes America. And act. Do something. They have you fooled. Everyone is going nuts about Trump, both sides. Love or hate. Meanwhile, no one is talking about the WOIA bills in every state. Or the ed tech invasion happening in your schools. Or the shift towards getting rid of number grades towards the same type of scores on standardized tests. How many states are developing “Pathways” programs which shift education towards a pre-determined career rather than moving on to college? Trump doesn’t matter. Not in the long run. Neither did Clinton. This was going to happen before your very eyes.
Do you hear anyone, aside from student privacy groups, demanding Trump restore FERPA to pre-2008 and 2011 levels? No. Do you hear anyone making a big deal about the Bill Gates driven work group that is deciding data sharing at ALL levels? No. Do you know why? Because they are distracting you. And they are succeeding.
Someone wrote to me on Facebook today that to change things would require a rebellion. That person wasn’t promoting it. I am. It is what we need. And it has to happen now. Please share this article. Spread it. Make sure people see it and see the truth about what is happening. The reformers will say I am a conspiracy theorist. I will gladly take that. Because this is a vast conspiracy that has been playing out for decades. And they aren’t done yet. Time for a rebellion.
Tony Allen issued a stern warning about Wilmington schools. He said a lawsuit is coming soon if we don’t fix it.
Last Wednesday evening, the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held a panel on Delaware education funding. The panelists were myself, Tony Allen (the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission), Brian Stephan (on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee), and State Rep. Paul Baumbach.
The main emphasis of the panel was to discuss the pros and cons of implementing a weighted funding system for Delaware schools. In this type of system, students with higher needs would have more money allocated to them. These would include low-income students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. For the last, this already takes place with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.
All the panelists were in agreement that the system we have is not working at all. While I don’t necessarily have an issue with a weighted funding system, the devil is in the details. But beneath the surface, as I stated towards the end of the panel, is the huge elephant in the room concerning accountability. Not for standardized tests but where money is currently going. There is no viable mechanism in Delaware to ensure the funds we are using in public education are truly going to the needs of students. Our state auditor is supposed to audit every single traditional school district for all expenses, but when was the last time we saw one of those reports unless it was part of an official audit inspection? There is no consistency with where funds are going. There are so many sub-groups of payment allocations with many overlapping each other. It is a beast to understand. Coding expenses in definitive places is a must, but no one seems to want to address that at a state level. It is my contention that throwing more money into the system is a recipe for disaster.
Say the advocates for better education in Wilmington schools do file a lawsuit. What would the result be? The feds have made important decisions in the past that put temporary band-aids on the issues but eventually the situation with “failing schools” comes up again and again. The definition of a “failing school” is now tied to standardized tests. It is the heart of all accountability in public education. But it fails to address the issues facing students of poverty, spoken languages that are not English, and disabilities that are neurologically based. The “one size fits all” mentality, which the Delaware Dept. of Education is still pushing in their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, doesn’t work.
Tony Allen told the group he was disappointed the WEIC Redistricting Plan didn’t pass in the General Assembly. He said, without hesitation, that he fears a lawsuit will have to happen to truly address the issues facing Wilmington students. He did concede that one of the biggest issues facing WEIC was not having representation from Kent and Sussex counties in the group. This was something I advised WEIC about in public comment at their very first meeting in August of 2015. It was also why I didn’t go to as many meetings as I could have. But will a federal lawsuit fix Wilmington schools?
In my opinion, the biggest problem in Delaware education among high-needs students is a problem no judge, accountability system, General Assembly, or any advocate can fix: hopelessness. In our biggest cities in the state, and reaching out into the suburbs and rural areas, is a drug problem of epic proportions. And with African-American youth, that comes with a potential of joining a gang. Until that problem is fixed, we will continue to spin our wheels trying to fix education. We can have after-school programs and more guidance counselors in our schools. That will help, but it will NOT solve the problem. I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t know who does. But until we can fix that problem, making our schools the penicillin for the disease facing our state will not get to the heart of the issue. With the drugs and gangs come extreme violence and people getting shot in the streets. This “be tough or die” mentality is the deadliest issue facing Delaware. And when those issues come into our schools, that is when education gets put in the bulls-eye of blame.
I have no doubt, at some point, Tony Allen, Jea Street and others will file some huge lawsuit against the State of Delaware. And many will look towards a judge to solve all our problems. It won’t. Until we get really tough on hopelessness, we will fail.
John Carney…no. Colin Bonini…no. Sean Goward…YES! Next Tuesday, do the right thing and vote for Sean Goward for Delaware Governor. There isn’t another choice. It is essential. If you want to hear another four years of useless sound bites coming from a Governor that is just following the script and Delaware students losing out even more, then I suggest you begin praying for the future of Delaware. I think Bonini and Carney are nice guys. But Governor material? No. Politicians? Yes. But we desperately need something different in Delaware. We need someone who will take the bull by the horns and really shake things up. Someone who will clear the rot in the foundation of this state.
I’ve met Goward a couple of times. I’ve had long conversations with him. Back in September, I posted an article where I asked 32 really tough questions on education to the Governor candidates. All but Carney responded. He wanted to wait to come out with his “education platform”. I read that document. It was a love song for the Delaware Dept. of Education and Rodel and their big plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act. Bonini’s responses to my questions were okay in some areas, but his schtick about failing schools based on standardized test schools is unacceptable given everything he should know by now about Delaware education.
But Goward? He gets it. He understands the absolute crap being foisted on Delaware students and teachers. He knows about all the corporate education reform going on. He accepts that Delaware has a lot of issues as a whole and we need to clear out the rot. When I hear people complaining about things in this state, and not the usual political/corporate jargon thrown around, but the real issues and problems, I see Sean Goward as being the best person to lead this state. We need radical change. Our two-party system just plain doesn’t work anymore. I would love to see a come from behind third-party candidate like Sean Goward actually win next Tuesday. He is Libertarian. Who cares? In the end, does the label matter more than the person behind the label? What that person stands for? Their inner integrity? Labels aren’t getting Delaware anywhere. Party loyalty is crippling this state, as well as our country, more than anything else.
I’m asking you to take a chance on Sean Goward. I’m asking you to take a chance on a better Delaware. A more transparent state that people can actually be proud of. We need someone who won’t bend to lobbyists and corporate interests. Someone who will lead this state based on the will of the people, not those who throw pies in the sky with ten year visions. Our children deserve better than the other two guys. Our families do. Our state does. Vote for Sean Goward on November 8th. Vote for a leader of the people.
The Delaware Dept. of Education will have three more Every Student Succeeds Act Community Engagement meetings in the next week. They held a meeting in Georgetown on Tuesday. The next three meetings will take place in Wilmington, Middletown, and Dover. The DOE is “requiring” participants to register through a company called Event Brite. Links to register can be found here.
I will stress with all the urgency I can muster that ALL public education parents attend these meetings. Before you go, I would familiarize yourself with the federal law. You can read the full text of the law here. It is a very long law with a lot of repeated jargon and “legalese” in it. The Delaware State Board of Education and Delaware DOE has put up many links to it on their websites, but a lot of that is open to interpretation. As well, U.S. Secretary of Education John King has issued “proposed rulemaking” which are potential regulations. These regulations are VERY controversial. You can read those regulations here and here.
These are my major concerns with ESSA:
By allowing states to have more flexibility, many states have already created long-term plans based on the prior federal mandates. Far too many in our state DOEs follow what the corporate education reformers want and give a false illusion of “stakeholder input”.
The Delaware DOE has given NO indication whatsoever that they will even consider changing the state standards away from Common Core even though they can certainly do this according to ESSA. The US Secretary of Education isn’t required to approve these standards. The states merely have to give an assurance that their standards will follow the law.
Student data still isn’t protected to parents satisfaction. To stop this data from going out, they need to restore the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) to pre-2011 levels
Bouncing off the previous statement, by allowing more social service and health-based practitioners into our schools, there is a serious question regarding what applies to FERPA and what applies to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
John King’s regulations would keep the 95% participation rates for state assessments with consequences for schools and districts.
John King’s Title I regulations would enact a “supplement not supplant” these funds. This is in sharp contrast with federal law and he was called out on this the other day by the US House Education and Workforce Committee.
There is far too much talk of competency-based education through computer adaptive assessments. That is just lingo for personalized learning. This law would allow for classrooms to become online all the time. There are severe dangers with this in regards to the downgrading of the teacher profession, far too much screen time for students, and the quality of the educational material. As well as severe data privacy concerns. In fact, there are incentives for schools to adopt personalized learning.
While the law forbids the US DOE from forcing or coercing states to implement any state standards, like Common Core, many states already have these in place and spent years embedding them into every facet of public education.
The law calls for state accountability “report cards”, based on performance of the state assessment, but the tests are not required to be exactly the same for all students. So the state assessments are not a true measurement since they will be different for each test-taker. Delaware set up their report card last year under the name of the “Delaware School Success Framework” but they inserted a very punitive participation rate penalty if a school dips below the 95% participation rate which can’t use parent opt-out in those calculations according to the law.
State assessments will not be required to have questions at the appropriate grade level for students.
ESSA requires any plan to be submitted to the State DOE, State Board of Education, the Governor and the state legislature. To date, the Delaware DOE has not had “meaningful” consultation with the Delaware General Assembly about ESSA.
The law specifically states that all choice schools should have priority given to the lowest-achieving students, but Delaware allows for charter schools to have enrollment preferences that allow for higher-achieving students to have distinct advantages, especially in our magnet schools and charter schools like Charter School of Wilmington.
I have many other concerns with ESSA, but these ones stand out for me. I am coming at this from the perspective of a parent. I know educators have concerns over some of this as well.
Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams let me know she was informed the closure of out-patient intensive servicees, otherwise known as day treatment centers, will occur in the next sixty days. This decision was made through the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health which is part of the Department of Services for Youth, Children and Their Families (DSCYF). One parent found out that local school districts or charter schools will be expected to pick up the tab for these types of services in private settings. Which is in sharp contrast to existing Delaware state code which indicates the state picks up 70% of these bills and the local districts pay 30%. These placements are deciding by a group called the Interagency-Collaborative Team.
The ICT and what they do is this, from Title 14 of Delaware code:
(b) Before the Department of Education can authorize expenditures for new placements according to this section, the case must be reviewed by the Interagency Collaborative Team (ICT).
(1) The ICT shall consist of:
a. Division Director, Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF);
b. Division Director, Family Services of DSCYF;
c. Division Director, Division of Youth Rehabilitation Services of DSCYF;
d. Division Director, Division of Developmental Disabilities Services of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS);
e. Division Director, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health of DHSS;
f. Director of the Office of Management and Budget or designee;
g. The Controller General or designee;
h. Director, Exceptional Children’s Group, Department of Education (DOE), who will serve as Chair; and
i. Associate Secretary, Curriculum and Instructional Improvement, DOE.
(2) A director assigned to the ICT may designate staff to represent the director on the ICT only if these designated representatives are empowered to act on behalf of the division director, including commitment of division resources for a full fiscal year.
The Delaware Department of Education needs to share the blame for this. They have set up a pressure cooker for students with disabilities. While Autism rates have soared in the past decade, so has the test, label, shame, and punish atmosphere set up by the DOE. While much of this was set up through federal mandate, Delaware has consistently failed in being able to “get” special education. Inclusion does not work in the modern era of Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. When the DOE started setting up “standards-based IEPs” they missed the whole point of special education. Is it any wonder students can’t function in these types of environments? It is toxic to them. It is toxic to all students, but more for the most challenged.
Special education in Delaware is horrible. I am not disparaging the teachers in the classroom who attempt to deal with these issues, but the psychological toll on these students is more clear than ever. What we are doing now isn’t working. What they are planning won’t work. It is past time for parents to begin rising in protest like they never have before and demand change.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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.
I was wondering why the Delaware Department of Education went to all the trouble of submitting an ESEA flexibility waiver for a dubious standard called the state’s “speaking and listening standards” last March. ESEA effectively ended on July 31st this year. Now we know why. Because it allowed the Delaware DOE to continue the same damaging and disturbing accountability practices for not just this school year, but through the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
This waiver was very odd to begin with. Yes, there is speaking and listening standards. It is part of Delaware’s Common Core State Standards. But to submit an ESEA Flex Waiver for this is ludicrous. But it doesn’t end there. The Delaware DOE was not forthright and honest with the process of applying for this waiver. As part of state code, Delaware is required to have an advisory committee to approve these waivers. This was the DESS Advisory Committee. For this waiver, DESS did not meet to approve it. In fact, as per an email from Susan Haberstroh at the Delaware DOE, the group is not even active at this point.
DESS is, however, required under Delaware state code to review the very same things this ESEA flexibility waiver is meant to address:
Under whose authority did Haberstroh decide DESS did not have to meet to review this flexibility waiver? This flexibility waiver is illegal in many ways. There is no state regulation that gives the Delaware School Success Framework any legal enforceability. Regulation 103, which covers these accountability standards, was not updated last year. The U.S. DOE has no authority to approve or disapprove Delaware law. By relying on the United State Dept. of Education to decide on Delaware law, the Delaware DOE is seriously overstepping the will and intent of the Delaware Constitution.
To make things more complicated, U.S. Secretary John King is abusing his authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act by approving any accountability waivers up through 2019. The Delaware DOE is cherry-picking what they can and can’t do with ESSA, just like John King is. For John King, when he does this stuff, he gets hauled into congressional hearings. When the Delaware DOE does this stuff, it gets mentioned on here. There is no accountability method for the Delaware DOE to answer for their actions. Someone needs to get the DOE into a public hearing to explain how they can do certain things and not others. Because the way they interpret the law and the way it must be interpreted are two different things. Events are progressing rapidly where the Delaware DOE is openly and flagrantly violating state law. This can not continue and I urge our General Assembly to take immediate and definitive action against our out of control Dept. of Education.
As for U.S. Secretary of Education John King, I have already taken some action on his abuse of power. I contacted Rep. John Kline (MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) addressing the abuse of power John King is exhibiting by approving this waiver. As well, I submitted the following to Senator Alexander:
Good morning Senator Alexander,
I am trying to reach you in regards to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Back in March, the Delaware Department of Education submitted a flexibility waiver under ESEA to the United States Department of Education. This was for a waiver of “speaking and listening standards” as part of our state assessment. Our Dept. of Education stated this was a “limited waiver” and bypassed parts of our state law for how these things are approved in our state. While I recognize you have no authority over Delaware state code, I do know you do have authority in regards to the U.S. Dept. of Education and have the ability to call out John King over abuse of power.
On August 5th, 2016, the Delaware DOE received an approval letter from Anne Whelan, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, action on Secretary King’s behalf, to approve our ESEA flexibility waiver. The letter, which can be found on the Delaware Dept. of Education website under “Accountability”, and then “ESSA”, seems to give the U.S. DOE authority to grant flexibility waivers with the same accountability standards under ESEA up through June 30th, 2019. As I am interpreting the Every Student Succeeds Act, this type of authority was explicitly stripped from the U.S. Secretary of Education. But John King is openly and publicly defying this federal mandate by continuing the same damaging practices from No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top.
The letter states:
“After reviewing Delaware’s request, I am pleased to grant, pursuant to my authority under section 8401 (b) of the ESEA, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a limited waiver of section 1111 (b)(3)(C)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), for school year (SY) 2016-2017 and of section 1111 (b)(2)(B)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, for SYs 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 so that the state’s assessment system, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment for grades 3-8 and the SAT for high school, need not measure the State’s speaking and listening standards at this time.
This waiver is granted to Delaware on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:
It will continue to meet for each year of the waiver all other requirements in the ESEA, as amended by NCLB or the ESSA, as applicable, for State assessment systems and the implementing regulations with respect to the State’s academic content and achievement standards and assessments, including reporting student achievement and school performance, disaggregated by subgroups, to parents and the public.”
In addition, by granting this waiver to Delaware, it would allow Delaware to continue accountability rules that have no regulatory approval in Delaware as required by Delaware state code. Delaware has not passed a final Accountability Framework for our public schools because there is no regulation supporting this updated matrix. As well, the Delaware School Success Framework punishes schools for participation rates below 95% on state assessments. While ESSA allows states to decide policies and procedures with regard to a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment, Delaware has not done so in any official capacity. The U.S. DOE is approving this illegal practice in our state which is against the spirit and intent of ESSA. No state regulations have been approved or are even in the pipeline for approval, and the U.S. DOE is in violation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
I implore you, as well as your other Congressional leaders, to hold Secretary King accountable for his very open defiance against the intent of Congress.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.
With warm regards,
Below is the letter sent from Anne Whalen to Secretary Godowsky on August 5th:
We strongly oppose the inclusion of this requirement, which is not authorized by the statute. The Department bases this proposal on a desire “to provide transparency.” (No further justification is provided in the NPRM.) We, too, support greater transparency, regarding both charter and non-charter schools, but this requirement would result in the reporting of misleading data. Moreover, the proposed requirement appears to be based on the premise that charter schools should look the “same” as district public schools in close proximity, when by definition charter schools are open enrollment. Lastly, the proposed requirement that is not in the statute, and would not equally apply to all public schools – only charter schools would be included.
The National Association for Public Charter Schools gave a very long public comment for the draft regulations put forth by the United States Department of Education and Secretary John King. Even they aren’t happy with parts of these regulations. Many felt the Every Student Succeeds Act gave gifts to the charters, but apparently the charters do not like some of these regulations.
The most important question is not who is enrolled in a charter school; it is whether all students and families who may wish to enroll have the opportunity to enroll – only then is the parent’s choice a meaningful one. The comparison data that the Department is asking for would not reflect this factor because the data would confuse and conflate the decision to enroll with the opportunity to enroll. As such, comparison data may be one indicator of meaningful access but comparison data are not the correct, best or only frame with which to evaluate equity.
I find some of their statements very ironic. Especially for some charter schools in Delaware where the opportunity to enroll is buried in selective enrollment preferences and factors that lead to very low populations of at-risk students: African-Americans, students with disabilities, and English Language learners. So much so that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in December, 2014.
Like some charters in Delaware, this collection of America’s largest charter school organizations and franchises want to cherry-pick through the regulations to insert additional language in the Every Student Succeeds Act. This is the one that disturbs me the most:
We recommend that the Department revise proposed section 200.24(d)(2), by adding a new clause (iii) reading as follows:
“(iii) Using funds that it reserves under section 1003(a), directly provide for the creation of new, replicated, or expanded charter schools to serve students enrolled in schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement, and other students in the local community, provided that:
“(A) The SEA has the authority to take such an action under State law or, if the SEA does not have that authority, the SEA has the LEA’s approval to use the funds in this manner; and
“(B) Such charter schools will be established and operated by non-profit entities with a demonstrated record of success (particularly in serving students from communities similar to those that would be served by the new charter schools), which the State shall determine through a rigorous review process.”
This language would be consistent with other provisions of the proposed regulations that support the concept of making charter school options available to students who would otherwise be enrolled in low-performing schools. It would take a different approach than just authorizing conversions, by making it possible for students enrolled in comprehensive support and improvement schools (as well as other students in the neighborhood or local community) to have the opportunity to transfer to a charter school run by a highly successful operator. We emphasize that the language would allow an SEA to use section 1003 funds for this purpose with the approval of the affected LEA, unless state law gives the SEA the authority to take such an action without LEA approval. (It would thus be somewhat parallel to the language currently in section 200.24(d)(2) allowing the SEA, with the LEA’s concurrence to provide school improvement activities through external partners). We strongly recommend that the Department adopt this recommendation.
I have no doubt you strongly recommend the Department inserts this into the law. We have yet to see, based on equal demographics, that charter schools do better than traditional public school districts. There are many charter schools that seem to work merely as rigor universities for high achievement on state assessments, but that is not a true barometer for student success which has been proven time and time again.
To read the rest about what the charters want and ALL the organizations and charters that signed this comment, read the entire document below:
On the Rick Jensen show, Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini just told Jensen he would have signed House Bill 50, Delaware’s opt out bill that Governor Markell vetoed last year. He agrees with many people in this state that the federal government is too involved in education and decisions are best left to the state and local districts. Bonini said he doesn’t agree with getting rid of testing altogether, but the high-stakes involved are too much. He thinks there needs to be some type of measurement to compare students and how they are doing.
He mentioned he will have a Delaware State Education Association interview next week but he doesn’t expect their support since he is a Right To Work guy. Jensen joked that he could agree with everything they said but would still endorse a Democrat even if that Dem disagreed with them on different things.
Bonini said the recent bill passed by the Feds (ESSA) is a healthy thing, but I would encourage all candidates for any public office in Delaware to read up on the nasty regulations U.S. Secretary of Education John King is trying to roll out. Which basically gives the feds a lot of the accountability power the bill was meant to get rid of. This WILL be a major thing during the next four years, guaranteed! I would also urge the candidates to look into the Delaware DOE supporting those regulations and their already shameful Delaware School Success Framework which was custom-designed for this legislation and the regulations King introduced.
All four Gubernatorial candidates in Delaware need to read between the lines on some of this stuff. They will be facing whatever comes out of the Every Student Succeeds Act when it is implemented into law next year. Wrong answers could, and most likely will, come back to haunt them.
What if I told you the high-stakes testing American children have been going through is a complete and utter scam? Many would say they already knew that, but would they be able to tell you how they knew this? Probably not. At least not at the levels our state Department of Educations developed with the many testing companies such as American Institutes for Research, Pearson, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
The Delaware Department of Education put out a Request for Proposal for our new Social Studies State Assessment. The actual RFP is a treasure trove of testing information. For starters, the Delaware Department of Education is flat-out lying in their RFP. Last year, the Delaware DOE put out their “Delaware School Success Framework”. This is essentially Delaware’s report card for schools. Included in this horrible accountability testing machine are participation rate penalties for schools that go under 95% participation rate on the state assessments. The Delaware DOE and State Board of Education tried passing an updated version of Delaware’s regulation regarding school accountability, but many parents and education organizations balked and successfully blocked the State Board of Education from passing it. As a result, even though the Delaware State Board of Education eventually passed the Delaware School Success Framework, there is no regulatory power behind it. But that didn’t stop the Delaware DOE from making it look like it is perfectly legal in their RFP for the new Social Studies state assessment.
One of the first things the DOE calls for from a potential vendor for this test is understanding of and the ability to put the Rasch Scoring Methodology into the test. What is this Rasch the Delaware DOE has? It is an all-consuming itch to trip up kids and schools and parents. This is part of the underbelly of state testing that no one talks about. The website appropriately titled Rasch-Analysis.com explains the Rasch Scoring Methodology as this:
What is a Rasch Analysis? The Rasch model, where the total score summarizes completely a person’s standing on a variable, arises from a more fundamental requirement: that the comparison of two people is independent of which items may be used within the set of items assessing the same variable. Thus the Rasch model is taken as a criterion for the structure of the responses, rather than a mere statistical description of the responses. For example, the comparison of the performance of two students’ work marked by different graders should be independent of the graders.
In this case it is considered that the researcher is deliberately developing items that are valid for the purpose and that meet the Rasch requirements of invariance of comparisons.
Analyzing data according to the Rasch model, that is, conducting a Rasch analysis, gives a range of details for checking whether or not adding the scores is justified in the data. This is called the test of fit between the data and the model. If the invariance of responses across different groups of people does not hold, then taking the total score to characterize a person is not justified. Of course, data never fit the model perfectly, and it is important to consider the fit of data to the model with respect to the uses to be made of the total scores. If the data do fit the model adequately for the purpose, then the Rasch analysis also linearises the total score, which is bounded by 0 and the maximum score on the items, into measurements. The linearised value is the location of the person on the unidimensional continuum – the value is called a parameter in the model and there can be only one number in a unidimensional framework. This parameter can then be used in analysis of variance and regression more readily than the raw total score which has floor and ceiling effects.
Many assessments in these disciplines involve a well defined group of people responding to a set of items for assessment. Generally, the responses to the items are scored 0, 1 (for two ordered categories); or 0, 1, 2 (for three ordered categories); or 0, 1,2, 3 (for four ordered categories) and so on, to indicate increasing levels of a response on some variable such as health status or academic achievement. These responses are then added across items to give each person a total score. This total score summarise the responses to all the items, and a person with a higher total score than another one is deemed to show more of the variable assessed. Summing the scores of the items to give a single score for a person implies that the items are intended to measure a single variable, often referred to as a unidimensional variable.
The Rasch model is the only item response theory (IRT) model in which the total score across items characterizes a person totally. It is also the simplest of such models having the minimum of parameters for the person (just one), and just one parameter corresponding to each category of an item. This item parameter is generically referred to as a threshold. There is just one in the case of a dichotomous item, two in the case of three ordered categories, and so on.
Now this has a lot of lingo I didn’t quite get. But the important part about understanding the Rasch Methodology of Scoring is that ALL items must be the same. This is NOT what is going on currently. With Smarter Balanced, PARCC and other state assessments, the testing companies have developed what is called a Partial Matrix of Items. What this means is that a portion of the state assessment is the same for everyone. But the remaining portion comes from a bucket of different test items submitted for these tests. In partial matrix testing theory, the similar content shared by all could be anywhere from 20-30% of the items on the test. The rest varies based on what is in the bucket. What this means is this shocking find: students aren’t taking the exact same state assessment. For Smarter Balanced test-takers, the tests aren’t the same. The same for PARCC as well.
The truly frightening part about this is the probabilities with Partial Matrix. If a student is a high achiever, the probability they will get a correct answer is above a probability of .5 on each item’s scale. If they aren’t a high achiever and struggle, the probability drops below .5 on the scale. So these tests are designed so roughly half get it right and half get them wrong. But if kids aren’t taking the same exact test, where all the items after the “common” items change, that throws the whole model into whack. The testing companies know this. Our state DOEs know this. The US DOE knows this. Chances are many corporate education reform companies, politicians, and even some school Superintendents know this. Any testing coordinator in a school district or charter school should know this.
This is also why opt out throws the whole scheme into disarray. If too many “smart kids” opt out, it will change that whole .5 probability. If too many struggling kids opt out, the test scores will be very high. The testing companies love this model because it furthers the whole standardized testing environment which gives them lots of money. With this model, schools fail and schools succeed. It really is based on the socio-economic demographics of any given school. This explains why the 95% participation rate is the desired outcome. With a school of 1000 kids, 950 kids taking the test isn’t going to skew the results too much. But once you get below that level, that .5 probability begins to shift in either direction. None of these testing advocates care if the kids are proficient or not. They already know, for the most part, exactly how it is going to turn out. That’s when the real work and potential manipulation can occur.
In Delaware, students don’t take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the same time. There is a three month testing window. Some schools begin in the first week of March whereas others may not start until May. How do we know, with 100% certainty, companies like our testing vendor, American Institutes for Research aren’t looking at that data constantly? How do we know they aren’t able to ascertain which questions have a higher or lower probability of being answered correctly once students start taking the test? How do we know the testing gurus at our state DOEs aren’t in constant contact with the testing companies and are able to determine ahead of time which testing items in the “non-common” partial matrix to send to different schools, or even certain grades?
For example, say a state really wants to have a particular school show phenomenal “growth” in proficiency scores from one year to the next. This could be a charter school. While the overall proficiency rate isn’t phenomenal, the growth could be. As a result, more students could be wowed by this school and might be more apt to send their children there. It could flip around another way. Say a state DOE really is just sick of a particular district and wants more charters in that area. The best way to make more charters is to show more failing traditional schools. Even some charters could be expendable. Another one might want to expand their enrollment and has more influence and pull than other ones. With current accountability regulations (and more to come under ESSA), this allows states to continue labeling and shaming certain schools. The reality is these assessments can be molded into any shape a state might want if they are able to interact with the testing vendor and determine which items go to which school. This is a worst-case scenario for an already bad test to begin with.
While state DOEs brag about the computer-adaptability of these tests and how it will “work with the student”, this is the most egregious part of the whole modern-day standardized testing scheme. By having this “adaptability”, it disguises the true intent: different items on the tests for different students. Even if students talk about particular items on the test, the adaptability prevents them from having the same items on the test. It is an ingenious scheme.
For teachers, some could be guided towards certain directions by the state DOEs for where to go with curriculum. Others could be guided in the wrong direction which will ultimately change the results of these assessments. It is the grandest illusion of them all. The state DOEs will say “we have advisory committees. Teachers pick the items for the test.” I’m sure they do. And I’m also sure there are plants on those committees. Ones that wind up working with certain state foundations, state DOEs, or other corporate education reform companies. It sounds so shady, doesn’t it? How much of a soul has to be sold to make more money or climb up the corporate education ladder?
While all of this may have your head reeling, try this on for size: what happens when competency-based education becomes the next “thing”? When digital personalized learning becomes the norm and all these state assessments become broken down into mini-standardized tests? Instead of those 7-10 days when students are hogging up all the bandwidth in the school and teachers most likely lose a lot of hair, the tests will be shorter. They will become end of unit assessments. Teachers won’t even need to worry about administering their own end of unit assessment because Smarter Balanced and PARCC already did all the work! How convenient. Not only did our states reduce testing time, but also teacher’s time and effort. A true cause for celebration. And parents won’t even be able to opt their kids out of these tests because most of them most likely won’t even know their kid is testing and their classroom grades will be based off their digital personalized learning work and their competency-based education high-stakes mini-test. We know Delaware is leaning towards this testing model because Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky mentioned this during our last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting back in May.
Meanwhile, back at the state DOE, they are getting all this data. They are getting it from their vendors like American Institutes for Research, or Questar, or Pearson. Other companies want to see it so they can work on a report about how to fix our schools. Our state DOEs actually pay them to do these reports. Through contracts and extensions of contracts. Yes, only the student identifier code goes out. These testing companies really don’t care about who the student is, just what they can extrapolate from the data. But then that information comes back to the state. The state knows who that student identifier belongs to. For example, Student ID # belongs to John Johns at Delaware Elementary School. Based on the information from all that data, they can easily paint a picture of that student. Based on the scores, how long it took them to take the test, how they answered responsive questions… all of this allows them to track. So much so they can determine, based on other algorithms and matrices, exactly what career path John Johns is heading towards. Perhaps we should guide him towards that culinary program. Or maybe Bio-technology pathways. Or maybe poor John Johns won’t ever advance past a welder position. FERPA guidelines allow state DOEs to actually do this.
Want to know who always loses in these testing games? Students with disabilities. They may receive accommodations but they never get the one accommodation they need the most. For regular classroom tests, IEP teams frequently agree on a student not taking every single test question. Maybe 1//2 or 3/4 of the questions. Standardized tests don’t allow for that. The answer is always the same: they will get more time. What they fail to understand is what “more time” means to these students. It means more time focusing on the same task: Taking a test. What are their regular peers doing when these kids are getting “more time”? They are learning. Receiving instruction. Getting ahead. Students with disabilities are, yet again, put in a position where they will become further behind.
We all knew our kids were guinea pigs for these tests. We just didn’t know how much. The time to opt out of these tests, no matter what the circumstances might be, is now. Not later, not tomorrow. Now. Today is your opt out day for your child.
Below is the RFP for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment. I’ve gone through this and highlighted key wording and troubling aspects which I will write more about tonight or tomorrow. Don’t be fooled by the DOE’s statements of assurance in this. I have no doubt their legal team went through it very carefully. But I’m fairly certain they didn’t expect a citizen to go through it and dissect it like I did…
In 2008, the Delaware State Education Association conducted a debate with the three gubernatorial candidates: Jack Markell, Mike Protack, and John Carney. They filmed the entire event. At the time, Carney was the Lieutenant Governor, Markell was the State Treasurer, and Protack was (and still is) a pilot. Will Carney take the same stances he did in this debate? We all know Markell didn’t. A lot has changed in eight years…