Colin Bonini Would Not Have Vetoed House Bill 50, The Delaware Opt Out Bill

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.

The High-Stakes Testing Scam Revealed At Last

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…

From The Vault: John Carney On Education

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…

 

The Jack Markell Email That Has Delaware Teachers Seething

JackMeme

Governor Markell sent an email to teachers and administrators thanking them for the latest Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  Meanwhile, people don’t care.  In the grand tradition of the former and very much lamented Transparent Christina, I hereby present the red-line edition of Jack’s chest-thumping email!

From: Markell, Governor (Governor)

Gee really, you need to write it down twice?

Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2016 2:01:51 PM (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
To:
K12 Employees
Subject:
Thank you to educators and school administrators

Thank you Governor Markell for forcing students to take this test and for teachers to administer them.  God bless the opt out parents!

Dear Educators and School Administrators,

What, no love for the parents? 

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer.

You too Jack.  Speaking on behalf of teachers, thank you for interrupting our bliss and harmony with this email.

As many of you may have seen, today the state released our annual data showing student performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The improved scores across subjects and grade levels throughout our state serves as yet more evidence that your hard work is producing great results for our children and I wanted to take this opportunity to send a note of thanks.

In other words, over half our kids still aren’t proficient in math based on Smarter Balanced Standards and only 55% of them are proficient in ELA based on those same standards.  I see what you’re doing here.  Thanking teachers for their “hard work” for bad results.  The joke is on you.  Anyone who doesn’t know this is a crap test has been living in a cave somewhere.

Our transition to higher standards for what students should know at each grade level has contributed to making the last few years a tremendously challenging time for all of our educators, no matter what subject you teach, and all administrators. At a time when it’s clear that students will rely on their education more than ever to reach their potential, we know they deserve these higher expectations aligned to what colleges and employers will expect of them after graduation.

Newsflash Jack, education has always been needed for students to reach their full potential.  This isn’t anything new.  Stop making it a crisis.  We get it.  They don’t “deserve these higher expectations”.  That’s like saying “I’m going to hit you in the face.  It will hurt.  But it will make you stronger.”  Colleges hate Common Core, hate your stupid high-stakes tests, and I have yet to hear any employer say “what were your Smarter Balanced scores?” in an interview. 

Accepting the higher standards at the state level was the easy part. Our progress is the result of what happens in our classrooms every day.

Yeah, rigor and grit.  Lots of academic sweat that still hasn’t produced the results you think we want but you don’t really because as long as kids our doing bad they still need to be fixed.  This story is getting as old as your time in office.  Like the citizens of the state had much say in accepting these “higher standards”.  When you dangle carrots like “Look, we’re getting all this money from the feds during a time when I had to cut teacher raises.  Hip Hop Hooray!  Come and board my train.  It will be fun.  Please fasten your seat belts cause you are going to get ridiculed and tested like never before.  Don’t worry about the scores or the growth.  Progress is progress.  As long as my friends make money, that is the true progress!”

The improving proficiency levels released today represent another data point to show that what you are doing is working. Our graduation rates are at record levels, and recently led the country for the biggest growth. More students than ever are being prepared to be fluent in another language, and to pass college-level dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses before they graduate. And you are making possible the incredible growth in our Pathways to Prosperity program, which just 2 years after it launched with about 30 students, will give more than 5,000 students this fall the chance to take courses that prepare them with college credit and workplace experience in growing industries from IT to health care to culinary arts.

But most of those students will need to go to Del-Tech.  Way to spend millions of dollars on programs that benefit your buddies over there.  Your asskissery has no limits.  More flavor in the favors, that’s all this is.  While I don’t mind students learning other languages, the fact that your “World Immersion” programs limit the number of kids who can enroll, especially students with disabilities, will just ultimately create more discrimination and segregation.  Why is it whenever I see pictures of these programs I see mostly white kids Jack?  But let’s take the time to thank Governor Markell for yet another data point that states the obvious: your ideas DON’T WORK!!!  Maybe to the sycophant Delaware DOE, State Board of Education and the suck-ups who don’t realize they are on the table and still think they are at the table.

More than anything, I want to thank you for the daily efforts you put into making your classroom the best possible learning environment, taking time after the school day ends to provide the best extra support, and developing lessons that meet individual needs of each child.

Individual needs measured by a standardized test that does not differentiate between those individual needs and set up to make those with the highest needs look like failures.  Teachers are burned out with your absolute hypocrisy and BS Jack.  How many more months?  I’m sure all the teachers are eternally grateful they have to spend so much of their day outside of their regular hours that get sucked up with professional development.  I’m sure they are real happy about that.  I’m sure they love the extreme waste of hours it takes students to take this cash in the trash test.  Thank you for not providing the true funding our students need to be truly successful and giving all those corporations their big tax breaks.  Thank you for giving the middle finger to parents and basically saying to them “Shut the hell up about what you want.  This is MY Delaware,” followed by “If you thought those after-school hours are bad now dear educators, wait until your schools become all-day community centers from fetus to the grave!”

I look forward to following your lead and making the most of all of my remaining days in office to provide the support our teachers and students need to make the most of their talents.

I have no doubt you will spend your remaining days finding new ways to further your corporate education reform agendas for your Wall Street, Rodel, and big campaign donor buddies.  Don’t forget Jack, you have to put those final nails in the public education coffin by getting those competency-based personalized learning plans into shape.  How long before the announcement that Smarter Balanced will replace final exams and tlater will serve as end of unit tests?  Can we take a peak at your stock portfolio?  God help us all if you do anything education related at a higher level after you (finally) leave office…

Thank you,

“Not really but I have to play this up…suckers!”

Jack A. Markell

Alan Jackson

Governor

Lame-Duck! Quack Quack!

The Sound Of Silence

Over the past year or so, I’ve written a lot of emails that never got a response.  I save all of them, and since I am so often accused of not reaching out, I thought I would publish those sent emails.  There are many more going back to the Mark Murphy days, but I will get around to those another time.  In the meantime, see what questions or requests I had that no one ever answered.  On some of these, they did respond, but when I responded back the sound of crickets was all I heard.  There are those who always respond to me, and I do truly appreciate those people.  And some I disagree with on policy all the time.  But for those who choose to ignore me, please see how I will be dealing with this practice at the end of the article going forward.

This email was sent during the infamous “school report card opt out & participation rate” saga from last fall.

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For the Parent Strike on 9/17/15, I sent a letter to the editor to all the major media in Delaware.  The News Journal actually edited parts of it which changed the whole context of what I wrote in parts.

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The PTO at Las Americas Aspiras was telling parents the school would lose ALL funding if too many parents opted out.  I reached out to their Head of School.

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To be completely fair, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky did reply to the original email, but after that… complete silence when I called him out on a few things.

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Last fall I reached out to Matthew Korobkin who was assigned to the Secretary’s area at the Delaware DOE to work on a special education strategic plan.  I had heard of him, but I did reach out to him in good faith to talk about special education.

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This was a second request to Governor Markell’s education policy advisor, Lindsay O’Mara, to clarify some questions about expenses when the Governor speaks for private education companies.  No response…

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About a year after I posted an in-depth article on Rodel and their CEO Paul Herdman emailed me about not reaching out to them first, I thought it was time to attempt to reach out to him after he completely ignore my response to him the year before.  Once again… nothing…

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I did get a few responses to this one, done in the spirit of the holidays, but nothing from Jack Frost…

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This was a second request to Governor Markell asking him to contribute to a New Years Day article.  I asked folks to list three things they wanted to see in Delaware education in 2016.  I guess Jack didn’t have any…

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While there is no guarantee that a letter to the editor will be published or even considered, a little bit of acknowledgment, which the News Journal did in the past, would have been nice…

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Last January, Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques asked for my opinion on getting opt out for students with disabilities.  I was vehemently against the idea as I believed it is any parent’s right to make that choice and shouldn’t be “allowed” for one group over another.  It angered me that he would think I would support that kind of idea, so I wrote this.  US Secretary of Education John King did respond to this, but not with anything truly addressing the issues I wrote about…

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For anyone following the former Delaware Treasurer Chip Flowers FOIA situation with Governor Markell’s office, I had a little bit to add to that situation.  Funny how precedent is set on issues when it is in the Governor’s favor…

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I did finally get a response to this FOIA request concerning National PTA President Laura Bay (no records found), but this wasn’t the first time I addressed FOIA issues with the Delaware DOE which they are acutely aware of.  To be fair, Alison May did respond to these emails, but from Godowsky… nothing!

Godowsky321

I submitted a request through the Delaware DOE’s request for data forms for actual data.  Especially information concerning their data.  Sometimes I think they like to mess with me…  The first pictures are screen shots I took of the actual request as I was doing it since the DOE doesn’t send an automatic reply showing what you requested.

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Peoples526Pt3

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After I read a special education due process decision for Cape Henlopen School District, I saw an inherent flaw in Delaware code in regards to this decision.  I reached out to legislators who I know tend to advocate for special needs students.  Granted, it was the second to last day of the legislative session, but I have yet to receive a response from any of the legislators with one exception.  I did discuss it with Kim Williams in person, but for the others, nothing.

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I sent this one last week to Christina School District CFO Bob Silber.  No response.  But I have since found out these VERY high non-state employee travel costs were paid with federal funds which makes me even more curious…

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For the past few weeks, Jack Wells has been hammering Delaware State Auditor Thomas Wagner to more effectively (and in some cases actually) audit school funding.  Wells tends to include a lot of folks on these emails, including myself.  I jumped on the bandwagon.  Either Wagner doesn’t read his emails or feels everyday citizens of the state that elected him into office aren’t worthy of a response.  I asked him to look into the Appoquinimink tuition funds situation.  To date, nothing from Wagner….

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Here I am basically telling people in response to a Jack Wells email that all too often, folks in Delaware who have the power to change things ignore the pleas for help and transparency coming from Delaware citizens.  I did get responses from Rick Jensen and Colin Bonini (who wasn’t even on the original email).  And some of the usual citizens on this email chain.  But for the power brokers…zip…nada…zilch…

Everyone714

As well, I also emailed Capital School District to find out why they lump special education funding into one big bucket on their expenditure codes instead of giving breakdowns…

SheltonSokolowski714

While this was just sent two days ago, I think history proves that Delaware Governor Jack Markell doesn’t respond to anything I have to say.  He did once, and that was when I sent something to his personal email address which was made public through a FOIA another citizen obtained.  And that was basically saying “we both want what’s best for students and we won’t always agree”…  For a Governor who believes transparency and accountability are SO important, he can’t even get through the gate with those two things…ob

GodowskyMarkell719

I have many more examples of this non-response environment in Delaware which I will put up in the future.  From here on out, if I send a request to someone who is a Delaware state employee and they fail to respond in a week, or within a week after an out-of-office reply shows a return date, I’m just going to publish the original email I sent… no matter what it says.  This is my idea of transparency.  If you think this is arrogant or presumptuous on my part, then keep ignoring me.  I think it is arrogant to ignore people as if we are just little tiny bugs you can swat away…

With Great Power… The Perception Problem Of The State Board of Education

StateBoardESSASpideyPic

“With great power must also come great responsibility.”-Stan Lee

If you haven’t heard those exact words before, then you have been victim to one of the greatest butcherings of the past fifty years.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Now this you have heard.

in 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the world to the Amazing Spider-Man.  We all know the story.  Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider which gave him the proportionate strength of a spider.  An orphan who lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  He learned an important lesson very fast when he became a superhero.  At first, he used his powers for fortune and fame.  One night, he failed to stop a robber.  The same burglar later attempted to rob his house and shot and killed his uncle.  When Peter, dressed up as Spider-Man, finally confronted the burglar, he saw the same face he failed to stop.  As he walked off into the night, he remembered what his Uncle Ben always told him, “With great power must also come great responsibility.”

This is the problem with the Delaware State Board of Education.  The initial phrase Stan Lee provided to readers shows that just because you have power doesn’t mean you already possess an inherent sense of responsibility.  That is something you have to develop and learn.  The rewording of the classic phrase, which appeared in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, changes the concept of the phrase.  As if power and responsibility are there from the start.  As Delaware plows into the upcoming Every Student Succeeds Act regulations, this will become very important.  I don’t feel our State Board has developed the responsibility that comes with their power.  In fact, they want to hijack this term in their meetings about the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Many of the decisions they have made since 2008 have not been in the best and long-term interest of children.  They embraced the corporate education reform movement and haven’t looked back.  They continue to listen to the Rodel Foundation more than the teachers, students and parents who are their primary stakeholders.  As a result, they have allowed an environment of false labels against schools, demeaned teachers, created a false illusion of praise for rushed teacher and leader programs, subjected our students to three different high-stakes tests that have not created improvement for anyone, manipulated legislators into believing their mantras, approved charter schools without any consistent or necessary follow-up to ensure they will be successful upon opening, revoked five charter schools, and nearly destroyed a generation of students.  They will never take responsibility for these actions or events or even state they had anything to do with it.  They will sit there and say most of these events were based on federal mandate or existing state law.

They have an opportunity now to change that.  With the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law states that the United States Department of Education cannot dictate what type of state standard any state chooses to have.  It also deals with parent opt out of state assessments as a state’s decision.  However, U.S. Secretary of Education John King seems to have some comprehension issues as the regulations coming out of the U.S. DOE contradict what the law states.  Granted, the law is a confusing mess and there are parts that contradict each other.  King knows this and he is taking FULL advantage of it.  King will, in all likelihood, be gone by January next year, but he will be able to approve regulations and state plans based on forced dictates from his office.  That is NOT responsibility either.  That is power run amok.

As our State Board of Education prepares to deal with these regulations, they are having a workshop on ESSA before their regular State Board of Education meeting on July 21st.  They will go over what many of the corporate education reform companies are translating the law into along with King’s regulations and accepting it as the Gospel truth.  This is a critical time for Delaware education.  A wrong move by our State Board and Delaware DOE will leave us in the same problems we have faced since No Child Left Behind came into law fifteen years ago.  If you read the below presentation, you can clearly see their interpretation of the law based on the regulations and what the education companies want.  Keep in mind, many of these “companies” have never taught in a classroom.  But they have a vested interest in education.  Actually, make that an invested interest in education.

There are others who have power in education: parents, teachers, administrators, unions, and even students.  I urge all of you to watch our State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE like a hawk.  Yes, it’s the summer and in a couple of months kids will be back in schools with all the business surrounding that.  This is why they are choosing now to push regulations through when parents aren’t paying attention.  Those who want to profit off education are already on this.  They helped to create ESSA.  They have power but no responsibility.  They will control education if we let them.  And our own Governor, Jack Markell, has been the largest cheerleaders for this movement.  Power, with no responsibility, or even accountability.

We need parents, teachers, administrators, and students to take a role in this.  Don’t rely on me as a mouthpiece.  I’m a hot-tempered judgmental and pissed-off dad who has already been through many wars over this stuff.  I will continue to fight the war, but I could hit by a truck tomorrow.  Even if you are busy, you need to make the time to attend any meeting about ESSA in Delaware.  You need to review what our state is proposing, carefully watch the public comment timeframes, and make your voice known.  As well, contact your state legislators and Congressmen.  Let them know how you feel.  We have the opportunity and means to take back our children’s education.  But not if we don’t become a part of it.  This is our power.  This is our responsibility.  We have to use our power and become responsible.  If you are relying on our policymakers and unelected State Board of Education to get it right, then you have already allowed them to shape education into what they want.  They want to control the conversation and trick us.  They are masters at it.  They will smile and invite you to their events and give you real yummy eclairs and make you feel special and wanted.  But they don’t want you, they want your child.  Make no mistake about it.

To add insult to injury, Delaware is embarking on a “regulatory review”.  So not only do we have federal education regulations under review, but also a statewide regulatory review which could easily cause mass confusion.  I believe this is very intentional.  So if you are reading up on regulations, make absolutely sure you know which ones are state and which ones are federal.

If you want to change the future, you have to act now.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  I will do my best to inform you and give crucial dates and timeframes, but make sure you also do this.

In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now

-John Mellancamp

Jennifer Nagourney Leaving Delaware DOE

I have to admit, I was kind of bummed to hear this.  Lord knows I have issues with charter schools, but I do recognize they are here.  If you were going to have someone do the job, Jennifer Nagourney was the right choice to run the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education.  She inherited a huge mess and had to put out a lot of fires during her time.  But she did it with grace and aplomb during a very troubling era of Delaware charter schools.  I know I kept her busy, but the reality is it would have been a great deal worse had someone else been in the job.  There were many things going on she had absolutely no control of.  The actions of others in charters who were doing what they did long before her time.

I remember attending an Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting at the end of 2014.  The subject for the members was if charter schools should have pre-admission assessments.  There was a lot of lively discussion on the subject.  Nagourney was filling in for Mark Murphy at that meeting.  When it came time for her to submit her opinion, she openly stated she was against pre-admission assessments.  At least with the people I was sitting with, a collective jaw-drop occurred.  I knew at that moment Nagourney wasn’t the typical charter leader.

Nagourney and I had more than our fair share of issues, but those were the roles the fates set up for us.  In the end though, I think she made a lot of much-needed changes for Delaware charter schools.  They aren’t perfect.  Nothing in education is and ever will be.  But she pushed transparency from the charters, and if you compare charter school websites from before her time to the way they are now, they are much better.  She held charters accountable for their actions and some didn’t survive the challenge.  Some made strides to be better schools than they were before.  Formal Reviews won’t be the same without her.  She was a perfectionist and made sure every possible detail was included on the DOE website.  That was a good thing!

Jennifer’s last day at the DOE will be July 1st.  From what I hear, she will be working for the New York City Department of Education and will be their Director of Charter Policy and Strategy.  This will be a much bigger role for her.  All I can say is good luck with Eva Moskowitz!

As Matt Denn Goes On An Arrest & Indictment Spree In Other State Agencies, Charter Leaders Still Aren’t Facing The Music

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn announced seven arrests and indictments stemming from misuse of funds at the Department of Health and Social Services.  Meanwhile, several charter leaders and employees still haven’t been arrested for crimes involving school funds.  This has gone on way too long!  I’m not buying any more excuses on this.  We’ve all seen the audits.  We’ve seen the articles.  Why aren’t these charter leaders being charged for their crimes Matt Denn?  Who is protecting them?

In the article covering the arrests, Denn is quoted as saying:

This case is part of an intensified focus our office is trying to bring to fraud being committed against the state’s public benefit programs.

So public benefits demands an accounting, but school funds are okay?  In the case of Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover, which was the first of the charter audits coming out of Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office last year, nothing has happened.  Where is his arrest?  And Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy?  And the lady from Providence Creek?  And what about Sally Maldonado and the maintenance guy at Kuumba Academy?  And the board president at Delaware College Prep?  And what about what will come out from any future audits coming from the Auditor of Accounts?  I like Matt Denn, but it is beginning to look like a bit of a cover-up in terms of not charging these school “leaders”.  In terms of Maldonado, why is she allowed to serve on state committees and task forces concerning crucial education decisions but she gets no accountability for what amounts to a raise she gave herself with no board approval?

One of the individuals charged with this theft of funds from DHSS was Kamilah Laws, who was also a contractor with the Delaware Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education.  She was contracted with the DOE during the formal review process for the Delaware Met, which was ordered to shut down in mid-January of this year. Isn’t that interesting?  (this corrects an error I previously made in stating that Ms. Laws was on the board at Delaware Met.  She was not)

Theft is theft Matt Denn.  So I am openly and publicly challenging you to answer these questions: when will the charter leaders and employees who stole money from kids (cause that’s what it comes down to) be held accountable?  Will they?  Is there any reason why they wouldn’t?  Is Delaware law upheld only with certain state agencies?

As US DOE Releases Proposed Rules For ESSA, Kline & Alexander Threaten To Pull The Plug

The first set of proposed rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act, unofficially released on May 20th, are already drawing the ire of many in Washington D.C. are not too happy with them.  Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) and US Rep. John Kline (MN) issued a press release today advising the United States Dept. of Education and Secretary of Education John King that if the proposed rules for regulation do not match the sprit and intent of the law they will take measures to overturn the proposed rules.

Both Kline and Alexander feel the federal overreach, which ESSA was supposed to get rid of, is still there.  This is not the first time in recent months they have blasted John King over the US DOE’s interpretation of the ESSA.  But as the proposed rules come out, expect a vicious fight in D.C.

Below are the proposed rules sent out for public comment.  They will be published in the Federal Register on May 31st, next Tuesday.  Also below are a summary of the proposed rules, a chart, the press release issued today by the US DOE on the proposed regulations, the Title I approved consensus for regulatory language on assessments, and the press release issued today by Kline and Alexander.

NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING FOR REGULATIONS UNDER ESSA FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, STATE PLANS, AND DATA REPORTING TO APPEAR IN FEDERAL REGISTER ON 5/31/16

US DOE SUMMARY OF PROPOSED REGULATIONS ON ACCOUNTABILITY, STATE PLANS, AND DATA REPORTING UNDER ESSA

US DOE CHART ON PROPOSED ESSA REGULATIONS

PRESS RELEASE FROM US DOE ON PROPOSED REGULATIONS, 5/20/16

TITLE Ia: APPROVED CONSENSUS REGULATORY LANGUAGE FOR ASSESSMENT IN ESSA, 4/19/16

PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY HOUSE AND SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN, 5/26/16

House and Senate Education Committee Chairmen: ESSA Accountability Regulations Need Close Review
Chairmen say if regulation doesn’t follow law, they will seek to overturn it through Congressional Review Act

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released the following statements after the Department of Education released its proposed regulation implementing “accountability” provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act. This proposed regulation is the first step of the regulatory process. The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal.

Congressman Kline said: “Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to move the country away from the prescriptive federal mandates and requirements of No Child Left Behind. We replaced that failed law with a fundamentally different approach that empowers state and local leaders to determine what’s best for their schools and students. I am deeply concerned the department is trying to take us back to the days when Washington dictated national education policy. I will fully review this proposed rule and intend to hold a hearing on it in the coming weeks. If this proposal results in a rule that does not reflect the letter and intent of the law, then we will use every available tool to ensure this bipartisan law is implemented as Congress intended.”

Senator Alexander said: “I will review this proposed regulation to make sure that it reflects the decision of Congress last year to reverse the trend toward a national school board and restore responsibility to states, school districts, and teachers to design their own accountability systems. The law fixing No Child Left Behind was passed with large bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate. I am disappointed that the draft regulation seems to include provisions that the Congress considered—and expressly rejected. If the final regulation does not implement the law the way Congress wrote it, I will introduce a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to overturn it.”

Will Academy Of Dover Survive Charter Renewal?

The Academy of Dover is going through the very laborious charter renewal process with the Delaware Department of Education.  On April 30th, the DOE gave the school their renewal report and AoD had 16 days to respond.  The school had a rough couple years.  Between a very damaging state auditor report on their former head of school embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, low high-stakes testing scores, a very large settlement with a former management company, and compliance issues, they have had their hands full.  The former assistant principal now leads the school.  A former principal from Town Pointe Elementary School in Capital School District runs the curriculum now.  The board has shifted and received training in areas that caused some of the problems.  Will it be enough?

This charter renewal comes at an interesting time.  The 2014-2015 school year was the first year Smarter Balanced came into play.  As such, the scores from that year don’t really count, but the DOE is using the ratings from the Delaware School Success Framework as a substitute for their Academic Framework.  Let me say from the start, I feel bad for charter schools in the respect that the state assessment plays such a large part in anything going on with the DOE.  AoD has a large population of low-income and minority students who typically fare worse on these tests than other schools.

Other factors that could affect their renewal involve Noel Rodriguez, their local school district, and the scores from the 2015-2016 SBAC.  The former Head of School, Noel Rodriguez, will face charges at some point.  I know of at least one other Delaware charter where the Attorney General’s office recently issued subpoenas about their own similar issues.  Yet another Delaware charter had their board file for insurance claims due to embezzlement at their own school from former leaders.  So something is coming which will put the school in the spotlight when Rodriguez faces charges.  However, this issue already came up in their 2015 formal review and they were not shut down for it then so the DOE should not put them under the same scrutiny twice.

Capital School District, under the new leadership of Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, is looking at their own district with their Strategic Plan.  What comes out of that, to improve the district, could affect AoD in the long run in terms of enrollment.  But it should have no bearing on their renewal process.

The scores from the recent Smarter Balanced Assessment for the school will not play into their academic framework since it is not a part of the renewal report, but the impression could taint the process.  Once again, I will stress my opinion these should not even factor into their charter renewal, but the DOE and I do not agree on this point.

I will admit I have softened my stance on Delaware charter schools a bit.  My own experience with them tainted my view a bit.  I still don’t agree with some of their very discriminatory practices up in Wilmington and the only one in Sussex County.  But I believe they are just as much a victim as traditional school districts are with the DOE in terms of very bad regulations, mandates, and accountability.  Academy of Dover and I had a frosty relationship in the past, but that has warmed up a bit in recent months.  Many of the complaints against most charter schools are a result of politics and tainted legislation by people in Dover who should really know better.   I believe the Delaware Charter Schools Network adds immensely to the perceptions against charters.  With that caveat, Academy of Dover has a former State Representative on their board who does carry a bit of clout in Kent County so politics can play a part to help the school.

Many of the issues with Academy of Dover are well-known by the DOE and have come up before in formal reviews.  There really aren’t any new complaints which suggests the school has fixed many of the issues since Noel Rodriguez left.  No school is perfect, but Academy of Dover seems to have turned a lot around in the past year and a half.  Rodriguez controlled the school and left a considerable amount of damage in his wake.

My one concern in the below response from the school is this 11 week Smarter Balanced Boot Camp after school for struggling students.  In this era of high-stakes accountability, schools are under the gun for kids to do well on these tests.  But they can go overboard with this effort.  Calling anything a boot camp with education is a bad idea in my opinion.  It suggests a dire need for these kids to do well on these tests regardless of the cost.  The sooner we can get schools to stop giving in to this very bad proficiency environment, the better things will be in the long run.  It gives the Delaware DOE all the power.  But I also don’t run a school with that kind of pressure thrust upon me so it is easy for me to say that.

I know the school had special education issues in the past, but we won’t know until June how they may have improved.  That is when the DOE issues their special education compliance annual reports.  However, those are usually about three years behind and would reflect the height of the Noel Rodriguez era so that should be taken into consideration as well.  Special education is a hot mess in Delaware overall.  There seems to be a mass amount of confusion between Response to Intervention and true special education.  This is an ongoing issue that will only get worse if we stay in this high-stakes accountability environment.

Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Delaware Secretary of Education will issue his final recommendation to the State Board of Education at their December 15th board meeting where they will vote on Academy of Dover’s charter renewal.

Below is the charter renewal report from the Delaware DOE and Academy of Dover’s response:

 

 

House Bill 390 Would Allow General Assembly To Approve WEIC Plan Without Funding Guarantees

Faced with some difficult decisions regarding the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan, the Delaware General Assembly gave a response to the very critical funding issue: skirt around that minor detail and just approve it.  That is essentially what House Bill 390 does.  This isn’t a train wreck.  The train crashed a long time ago.  Now it’s a matter of surveying the damage done to the building it crashed into.  That building just so happens to be called Wilmington Education.  Nobody wants this plan to stick to them.  Not during an election year.  So everyone is backing away from it while saying “Great plan, we need to do this now.”  But no one wants to own it.  I imagine the House Education Committee meeting today which does NOT have this bill on the agenda, just House Joint Resolution #12 which would allow the General Assembly to approve the redistricting plan, will be mighty interesting.  But does House Bill 390 have to be approved before HJR #12?  And what happened to just sticking an amendment on HJR #12?  They have to do a whole other bill?  While the intent behind this whole thing was pure, it has turned into such a political landmine.  Who does take responsibility for how much this costs and who approves the funding?

HB390

UPDATED WITH VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION!!! Parents Concerned About Murder At Howard High School Should Go To District Board Meeting Monday Night

Updated, 8:32am: I have just heard from a few sources that the district has changed their meeting to their district office at 4pm.  And the meeting will be held in a conference room that holds a maximum of 15 people.  Apparently there is a Town Hall at Stubbs Elementary School tomorrow night which is being led by Wilmington Councilman Darius Brown, which precipitated the time change for the board meeting.  The district did reach out to advise me this is the reason for the board meeting change.  Several folks were upset about this, and I did suggest to the district they might want to change the board meeting to another night when parents and members of the community are more easily able to attend.  There is another Town Hall this week for parents to talk about the situation.  I will update that information when I know when and where.  One thing I would remind everyone to do is think of Amy and her family and friends.  And please continue praying for all of them.

Howard High School of Technology belongs to the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District.  The district has a board meeting Monday night, 4/25, at St. George’s Technical High School in their Media Center at 7pm.  Howard was the high school where Amy died last Thursday.  I believe the district has a lot to answer for.  While I don’t believe the district is directly responsible for what happened to Amy, there were circumstances that allowed the situation to happen in the first place.

NCCVTAgenda42516

Why are students allowed to enter the school at 7:15am in the morning to gather and do what they please.  I’m hearing hall monitors are sparse, when they do come, and when they arrive on time.  I’ve heard many who want to blame the teachers for what happened.  Nope.  They are in district mandated professional development during some of these mornings.  To accommodate this, the district changed the start time for the first classes a couple days a week.  Let’s make one thing clear right off the get-go: teachers hate professional development.  I don’t care how many surveys the Delaware Dept. of Education dredges out.  The abuse of Delaware teachers doesn’t begin and end with their evaluations.

Our school districts have become so enamored with the Delaware Way, that horrible situation where all tables must come to the table and compromise while the more powerful of the parties ends up getting their way (in most cases the state DOE/Rodel Foundation for education).

Could Amy’s death have been prevented?  I would like to think it could have.  One thing is crystal clear.  The discipline and fighting figures we see are not honest.  There may be a few out there, but I think a lot is going unreported.  There are things our schools are trying to hide which is making problems worse, not better.  In many of our schools, students hit teachers all the time.  They curse and roam the halls in some schools.  Some students are expelled or sent to alternative schools in the hopes they will become better students.  But the class sizes in these schools now make it impossible for a teacher there to get anything done.  There is also this absurd culture where students have no authoritative role models anymore.  Some of them don’t get it at home or school.  A school should not be the Band-Aid to cure what ails so many of our students.  But this seems to be what our state and the corporate education reform companies want.

Don’t get me wrong: students should not encourage fighting, nor should they build a blockade so teachers or other adults can’t stop what is going on.  The students involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.  In my opinion, those who stood and watched while filming the tragedy should be held accountable as well.  They are just as guilty.  But the schools, districts and administrators who stand back and let these things happen time and time again need to realize how serious these things can get.  A student died in one of our schools in Delaware.  She was murdered.  We can’t forget that and it would dishonor Amy’s life to think otherwise.

The parents of students at Howard High School of Technology have every right to voice their concerns.  I strongly encourage all of them to attend the board meeting Monday night in Middletown.  If they are unable to get there, other parents should offer a ride or perhaps the district should arrange busing for them so they can make their voices heard.  This meeting could get very real and the district may be forced to hear things they would rather not hear.  But I’m sure Amy’s parents heard something they never wanted to hear the day she died.

Former Capital School District Teacher Arrested For Debit Card Card Abuse. Where Are The Charter Leaders Arrests For Larger Crimes?

It doesn’t just happen in charter schools.  According to WBOC, former Dover High School teacher Brian Ogbin gave himself up to the Dover Police last Friday and was charged with theft under $1500 and unlawful use of a payment card under $1500.  So how does it work that this guy gets arrested for theft under $1500 but charter school leaders and employees from Family Foundations Academy, Academy of Dover, and Providence Creek Academy get away with stealing funds in the five to six digits and NO arrests have been made?  It has been over nine months since the State Auditor report came out on Academy of Dover.

Ogbin resigned as a teacher with the Capital School District at their February board meeting.  According to the article, the theft of funds using the debit card and funds taken from a wrestling fundraiser were discovered following an investigation.  The article does not state who held the investigation.  I would imagine cash advances from Dover Downs totaling over $500 would have sent some red flags flying though.  How many debit or p-cards (state procurement cards) are floating around out there ready for someone to use at a moment’s notice for stuff like this?  While I’m glad this situation was discovered relatively fast compared to the charter school stuff going on out there, where are the controls that could stop this from happening in the first place?  Should school “clubs” or “organizations” be allowed to have their own control over funds generated by the district and fundraisers?

My biggest concern with all of this is the sheer hypocrisy involved.  I’ve been told by some in the know that something will happen with these charter school leaders.  That was in November.  I have asked “larger organizations” about this.  How long does it take to build a case against a charter school employee while a traditional school district employee is arrested for something similar but less egregious?  It makes it very hard to believe there will be accountability for the charter thieves in light of this.  They absconded with hundreds of thousands of dollars.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Matt Denn, what is the Department of Justice doing about this?

 

The Parent Bill Of Rights For Education

Since the Center for American Progress, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, and the President of the National PTA want to get 10,000 signatures on their Testing Bill of Rights within the next month, I think it is only fair parents who opt their children out of high-stakes assessments do the same.  With that being said, this article needs 20,000 commenters, or official signatures, within the next month.  We need to tell these corporate education reformers: NO MORE!  If we get 50,000, even better.

Our parental bill of rights regarding opt out or refusing the test bill of rights will be a work in progress, morphing and changing based on the need.  We will make sure every single legislator and decision-maker as it pertains to education in our country has a copy of this.  Parents and guardians are the stewards of our children, not corporations and politicians.  They are not “your” property.  They are unique and individual.

THE PARENTAL BILL OF RIGHTS FOR OUR CHILDREN IN EARLY EDUCATION, PRE-SCHOOL, ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

CONCERNING HIGH-STAKES STANDARDIZED ASSESSMENTS, OUR RIGHT TO OPT OUT OR REFUSE OUR CHILD OUT OF THOSE ASSESSMENTS, THE COLLECTION OF STUDENT DATA, AND OUR RIGHT TO GATHER

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PARENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Definition of parent: any biological parent, or a parent through legal adoption, or foster parent, or guardian, or court-appointed guardian, for children through the ages of birth to 18 or 21 with guardianship through the end of an IEP, whichever is later.

Whereas parents have been given the responsibility to raise a child and to help guide them to adulthood, as their primary caregiver, and

Whereas parents, through United States Supreme Court decisions and other laws, have the right to decide what is best for our children in education matters until they come to a legal age when they are able to make those decisions on their own, and

Whereas, we believe public education should be reserved for the public at large and not the corporations, be they profit or non-profit, and that decisions based on education are best made at the local level, and

Whereas, we believe any assessments given to our children should provide immediate feedback for the student, teacher, school, and parent as defined for the sole purpose of giving reasonable and interpretive analysis of academic progress for our child’s allotted grade.

Whereas, as the caretakers of our children, we demand that decisions regarding data and the collection of data are parental decisions and that we furthermore have the absolute, unconditional right and ability to consent or not consent to any sharing of said data

(1) As parents, we have the fundamental, moral, and constitutional right to make decisions on behalf of our children in regards to their education.

(a) This includes the type of school we decide they go to, whether it be in a traditional school district, public charter school, vocational school, private school, homeschool, or homeschool co-op program.

(b) This includes our ability to refuse or opt our children out of standardized assessments despite accountability measures placed upon a school.

(1) Once we have submitted our letter indicating our choice to refuse or opt out our child, we shall receive no verbal or written words meant to threaten, bully, or intimidate, in an effort, whether intentional or coincidental, to coerce us into changing our minds.

(2) We expect our children to receive instruction while their peers take the state assessment that is of equal or greater value to the type of instruction they would receive prior to or after the administration of the state assessment.

(3) If our child is forced to take a test after we have already given our consent to refuse or opt out, we reserve the right to call the local police and press charges against the local education administration.

(4) If we witness parents who are bullied or intimidated, we will advocate on their behalf with their consent, if they feel they are unable to do so.

(2) We reserve the right, as dictated by United States of America Federal Law, Title 34, Subtitle A, Chapter 1, Part 99.32 (b), to request all personal identifiable information sent as data or official records to all parties indicated in the entirety of Title 34, Subtitle A, and to receive the entire list of all those who have disseminated, received, or researched said data, and to receive such record keeping as required by federal law, within the 30 day timeframe.

(a) Parents also reserve the right to have any aggregated data on our child, which could conceivably set up a pattern of identification based on our unique and individual child’s health records, social-emotional behavior, discipline, socio-economic, or any such identifiable trait or history of said traits, be banned from any education research organization, personalized learning computer system, or blending learning computer systems, standardized assessment(s), or any other form of educational environment practice or computer-based digital learning environment, whether it is through algorithms already built into a system or any other form of data collection that does not include the legal definition of personal identifiable information, at our request.

(1) This would also include any State Longitudinal Data System, or any Federal system, up to and including the Federal Learning Registry, a joint system shared by the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Defense.

(2) Parents have the right to reject any “competency-based education” decisions for our children that we feel are not based on reasonable, valued, well-researched, or statistically-normed guidelines or analysis.

(3) Parents may freely reject any form of data collection, data-mining, or data sharing that would lead to our child having a pre-determined pathway to a career based on any such data unless we give consent for said behavior, before the actual data collection, data-mining, or data sharing by any education agency or institution, and as such, we reject and forbid any trajectory-based decisions for our child unless we have given complicit consent.

(3) For any education decisions regarding our children that we, as parents, feel is not safe, or is inadequate, or is unhealthy for our children, we hereby reserve the right to be able to give public comment to any governing body, without incident or refusal, based on compliance with existing, applicable, and reasonable rules of public meeting conduct, based on our First Amendment Rights.

(4) As parents, we reserve the right to gather, discuss, and give advice to other parents or concerned citizens, in any public meeting or gathering place or social gathering place, whether it is physical or on the internet, without censorship, removal, or banishment, based on existing, applicable, and reasonable rules of conduct set forth by the host of the public meeting place or social gathering place.

(5) Parents have the right to lobby elected officials or local school board officials or state board of education officials, regarding pending, suggested, or passed legislation or regulation, that parents deem harmful to their child or children in general, without cause or incident, based on existing, applicable, and reasonable law.

(a) We expect our elected officials, based on their availability, to make every concerted effort to personally respond to our request(s) and to not send a generic form letter, but rather to constructively engage with parents to the same effort they would with any official registered lobbyist who is paid to do so.

(6) As parents, we reject the ability of corporations to “invest” or “hedge” in education with financial predictors of success, including social impact bonds, or any other type of investments where financial institutions or corporations would gain financial benefit or loss based on student outcomes, as we believe a child’s education should be based on the unique and individual talents and abilities of each child, not as a collective group or whole.

(7) As parents, we believe our child’s teacher(s) are the front line for their education, and therefore, have the most immediate ability and responsibility to guide our children towards academic success, and therefore, should have the most say in their instruction.

(a) Therefore, we believe no state assessment can give a clear picture of a teacher’s ability to instruct a student or group thereof, and therefore, we reject any evaluation methods for teachers based on high-stakes standardized testing.

(b) Therefore, we believe a teacher’s best efforts should remain at the local level, in the classroom, and not to conform to a state assessment or to guide instruction towards proficiency on a state assessment, but rather on the material and instruction present before the students based on the material and instruction they have learned before.

(8) We reject any basis of accountability or framework system meant to falsely label or demean any teacher, administrator, school staff, or school, based on students outcomes as it pertains to state or national standardized assessments.

(9) As parents, we are the primary stakeholders for our child’s education, and therefore demand representation on any group, committee, task force, commission, or any such gathering of stakeholders to determine educational decisions for children, be it at a local, state, or national level.

(a) We demand equal or greater representation on any such group as that allotted to outside corporations.

Updated, 7:58pm, EST: I have started a petition at Change.org which will be sent to United States Representative John Kline (MN) who serves as the Chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee in Congress.  If you have already signed the article, please sign the change.org petition instead.  I apologize for the confusion!  It has been a crazy day!

Updated, 11:46am, EST: Apparently, Facebook does not like the idea of a Parent Bill of Rights for Education that touches upon an item concerning censorship of a parent’s First Amendment Rights to express their opinion that poses no physical harm or safety risk to any individual…

FacebookGroupCensorship

 

Updated, 3/29/16, 6:42pm: I am still in Facebook jail.  I’ve sent appeals to Facebook three times with no response whatsoever.  I guess they really don’t like parents protecting their rights…

The Delaware DOE Accountability Monster Is At It Again

The Delaware Department of Education held a District Test Coordinators meeting on March 16th, 2016.  The full report is below.  The presentation covered all things testing: Smarter Balanced, DCAS Science, DCAS Social Studies, and the new SAT.  One of the most shocking finds in this presentation was the revelation the redesigned for the Common Core State Standards SAT will be used for accountability purposes this year.  For those who may not be aware, prior to this year, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was used as the 11th grade state assessment for high school juniors.  In late December last year, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky made an announcement that the College Board redesigned SAT would replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  While the legislation that allowed for the transition from DCAS to the Smarter Balanced Assessment did not specifically name Smarter Balanced in the wording of the bill, House Bill 334 does clearly state:

(b) The Department shall administer both accountability and growth assessments of student achievement for students in grades 3-8, provided that additional grades may be added by the Department. (c) The assessments referred to in subsection (b) of this section shall measure achievement in English language arts and mathematics for students in a minimum of grades 3 through 8 and high school, provided additional grades may be added by the Department

But here’s the kicker, this is a brand new test.  It has been reformulated (like New Coke and those who lived in the 1980s know how that went over) to align with the Common Core.  It took a long time for many states to get the scores from the PSAT this year.  Many are already saying the new SAT is horrible (just like they did with Smarter Balanced which is why I call it Smarter Balanced Junior).  At least with the regular Smarter Balanced the DOE gave a one year pause for accountability purposes.  But they must have a lot of faith in the new SAT.  Who made this decision?  Godowsky?  Markell?

My big question would be how you measure growth for the new SAT.  Furthermore, how do you even measure growth when students skip grades 9 and 10?  Or are they measuring growth between last year’s juniors who took the brand new Smarter Balanced or the old SAT?  I thought the DOE would get smarter (no pun intended) with Godowsky, but it looks like they are fumbling at the fifty yard line yet again.  The only reason they came up with this not-so brilliant plan to begin with was because too many juniors opted out of Smarter Balanced last year.  But they must test, label and punish, even with a new, unproven, and already controversial test.

All the latest testing news is in here, including the draft of next year’s testing windows.

Shocking Find: Delaware DOE Reorganization Memo

After their first budget hearing with the Joint Finance Committee, the Delaware Department of Education knew it had to make some changes.  To that effect, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky crafted a memo to the Department employees.  I was able to get my hands on this over two-month old memo that has been shrouded in secrecy until today!  This isn’t something you can just find on the DOE website.  It doesn’t exist there.  It doesn’t exist anywhere on the internet.  Until now…

Since this memo came out, more DOE employees have left the organization.  Just this month, three major employees left the Department.  Atnre Alleyne, formerly with the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit left. Michelle Whelan from the Charter School Office got a job over at the Attorney General’s Office.  And Brian Curtis, once with the Accountability area and most recently with the TLEU, attained a position as the Principal at Kirk Middle School in the Christina School District.  These are three long-time DOE employees, there since Race To The Top.  Out of the three, Whelan’s position is the only one that will be replaced.

I could tell you how I got my hands on this document.  But then I would have to…

 

One Of Markell’s Hand-Picked Education Top Dogs To Resign

Someone very big in the Jack Markell education world is resigning.  This is as close to the top as you can get.  This is someone Markell hand-picked for the position.  Who is it?  And more important, who will replace this person?  From what I’m hearing, the title won’t be replaced but the duties will be delegated to different people.  This is big folks!  This person has been around long enough to have an impact on how things go that this void will have an effect on things.  Of course, it was, is, and always has been Jack Markell’s show.  I can’t say I’m surprised by the exit, but I am surprised at the assignment of duties to other people.  Who is it?  Did you think it was going to be that easy?  If you are drawing a blank on this one, don’t fret.  Continue reading

Osceola County In Florida Dodged A Bullet With Hurricane Schwinn!

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Godowsky Had No Choice With Opt-Out Penalties

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With the release of the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE about participation rates, we are getting a better picture of what happened the first week of November on the participation rate multiplier in the Delaware School Success Framework.  On October 21st, the soon to be confirmed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appeared before the New Castle County combined school boards at a breakfast.  He announced to the board members and superintendents of the districts that the harsh opt-out penalties most likely would not see the light of day.

The Delaware State Education Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators, Delaware Chief School Officers Association and Delaware School Boards Association all publicly endorsed Godowsky for his Delaware Senate confirmation in a News Journal letter to the editor on October 26th.  Two days later, Godowsky was confirmed by the Senate with only two no votes.  Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore referred to Godowsky as “a breath of fresh air“.  On November 5th, two weeks after his breakfast announcement, Godowsky flipped on his recommendation about opt-out penalties at the Delaware State Board of Education retreat.

Yesterday we found out the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE was dated 11/2/15.  The timing makes perfect sense.  Perhaps Markell did have a change of heart but was forced to flip back once the US DOE announced their opt-out mandates.  Who am I kidding!  Jack probably gave the US DOE the idea!  It does have his manipulative stench all over it.  I now understand why Godowsky looked like Judas Iscariot at the last Accountability Framework Working Group meeting and the State Board of Education meeting two days after.  His words said one thing, but the look in his eyes said something very different.

This may also shed some light on the bizarre Las Americas Aspiras Academy PTO email about opt-out.  Were they aware of this letter the day it was released?  I question the validity of this since their PTO leader stated ALL federal funding would be cut if 6% of their students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But given the nature of federal funding I can see how someone could misconstrue that.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE sent the letter out to all school leaders and Superintendents in Delaware the first chance they got.

I am seriously questioning why the letters to the twelve states who went below the 95% threshold and the letter sent to all the states announcing definitive cuts if participation rates went below 95% two years in a row were just released to the public yesterday, on December 23rd.  It was weeks after the final Every Student Succeeds Act votes and President Obama signing the legislation.  I have to believe some of these legislators in Congress knew about these letters.  How could they not.  No one can keep a secret that long.  Not in politics.

The smart thing the Delaware DOE and Godowsky could have done was simply tell the public on November 2nd they received these letters.  By doing this they could have taken some of the heat off themselves and shifted it to the US DOE.  Instead, they hid it from the public for over a month and a half.  They duped the public, along with the US DOE and every other state DOE, into thinking the Every Student Succeeds Act and the clauses about opt-out would allow states to decide how to handle opt-out.  They could have said they weren’t sure what they meant, but they had to reconsider the opt-out penalties.  Maybe through collaboration they could have come up with something different.  But this is not how the most unpopular state Department in Delaware operates.  Sunshine is not the best disinfectant at our DOE.  I think we need some good old-fashioned bleach to wipe the slate clean and start over.  We have far too many people involved in education who people like, and believe they have the best intentions.  But when it comes time for them to do the right thing all we hear is “I serve at the pleasure of the Governor,” or “It’s the feds.  We can’t do anything about it.”  For a Department that demands accountability from schools, teachers and students, they sure are hypocritical when it comes to themselves… And the duplicity continues…

“Every Student Succeeds Act” From Two Similar But Different Perspectives: DSEA & The Badass Teachers Association

As everyone assuredly knows now, the “Every Student Succeeds Act” passed the US House of Representatives today.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this 1,036 page bill and what it means for the future of education in America.  To that effect, I have recently seen two different views on the legislation.  One is from the Delaware State Education Association and the other is from the Badass Teachers Association.  While one waters down some of the concerns I have, the other reached some of the same conclusions I have.

From the DSEA:

Goodbye NCLB, Hello Every Student Succeeds Act
The newest proposed version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was released on Monday. NEA and DSEA are reviewing each and every line of the 1,000+ page bill ahead of the House vote that is expected by Wednesday evening. We expect a Senate vote next week.
While we continue to review the bill, and how it affects Delaware and Delaware Educators, see below for the basic top lines of the bill, as provided by Ed Week.

ESSA Top Lines

 

The ESSA is in many ways a U-turn from the current, much-maligned version of the ESEA law, the No Child Left Behind Act.

And from the Badass Teachers Association:

States would still have to test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and break out the data for whole schools, plus different “subgroups” of students (English-learners, students in special education, racial minorities, those in poverty).
But beyond that, states get wide discretion in setting goals, figuring out just what to hold schools and districts accountable for, and deciding how to intervene in low-performing schools. And while tests still have to be a part of state accountability systems, states must incorporate other factors that get at students’ opportunity to learn, like school-climate and teacher engagement, or access to and success in advanced coursework.
States and districts will have to use locally-developed, evidence-based interventions, though, in the bottom 5 percent of schools and in schools where less than two-thirds of students graduate. States must also flag for districts schools where subgroup students are chronically struggling.
The federal School Improvement Grant program is gone, but there are resources in the bill states can use for school turnarounds.
And, in a big switch from the NCLB waivers, there would be no role for the feds whatsoever in teacher evaluation.

Another Big Switch From NCLB

 

In a win for civil rights groups, the performance of each subgroup of students would have to be measured separately, meaning states could no longer rely solely on so-called supersubgroups. That’s a statistical technique in the waivers that allowed states to combine different categories of students for accountability purposes.
The bill would combine some 50 programs, some of which haven’t been funded in years, into a big giant block grant.
When it comes to accountability, there are definitely some “guardrails,” as one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would say. (More on just what those are below.) But the U.S. Secretary of Education authority is also very limited, especially when it comes to interfering with state decision making on testing, standards, school turnarounds, and more.
It’s still unclear just how the accountability or “guardrails” provisions of the bill vs. limits on secretarial authority dynamic will play out in regulation and implementation. There are definitely provisions in this bill that state and district leaders and civil rights advocates can cite to show that states and schools will have to continue to ensure equity.
But, it could prove tough for the U.S. Department of Education to implement those provisions with a very heavy hand, without at least the threat of lawsuits.
“What can the secretary do and not do? I think that’s where the lawsuits will be,” said Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama.

Accountability ‘Nitty Gritty’

Plans
: States would still have to submit accountability plans to the Education Department. These new ESSA plans would start in the 2017-18 school year. The names of peer-reviewers would have to be made public. And a state could get a hearing if the department turned down its plan.
Goals:
  • No more expectation that states get all students to proficiency by the 2013-14 school year, as under NCLB Classic. (That ship has sailed, anyway.) And no more menu of goals, largely cooked up by the department, as under the waivers.
  • Instead, states can pick their own goals, both a big long-term goal, and smaller, interim goals. These goals must address: proficiency on tests, English-language proficiency, and graduation rates.
  • Goals have to set an expectation that all groups that are furthest behind close gaps in achievement and graduation rates.
What kinds of schools will states have to focus on?
  • States have to identify and intervene in the bottom 5 percent of performers, an idea borrowed from waivers. These schools have to be identified at least once every three years. (That’s something many states already do under waivers. And some, like Massachusetts, do it every single year.)
  • States have to identify and intervene in high schools where the graduation rate is 67 percent or less.
  • States, with districts, have to identify schools where subgroup students are struggling.
What do these accountability systems have to consider? The list of “indicators” is a little different for elementary and middle schools vs. high schools.
Systems for Elementary and Middle Schools:
  • States need to incorporate a jumble of at least four indicators into their accountability systems.
  • That includes three academic indicators: proficiency on state tests, English-language proficiency, plus some other academic factor that can be broken out by subgroup. (That could be growth on state tests, so that states would have a mix of both growth and achievement in their systems, as many already do under waivers.)
  • And, in a big new twist, states must add at least one, additional indicator of a very different kind into the mix. Possibilities include: student engagement, educator engagement, access to and completion of advanced coursework, post-secondary readiness, school climate/safety, or whatever else the state thinks makes sense. Importantly, though, this indicator has to be disaggregated by subgroup. States are already experimenting with these kinds of indicators under the waivers, especially a cadre of districts in California (the CORE districts). Still, this is new territory when it comes to accountability.
  • States also have to somehow figure in participation rates on state tests. (Schools with less than 95 percent participation are supposed to have that included, somehow.) But participation rate is a standalone factor, not a separate indicator on its own. (That’s a clarification from the “framework” or outline of the bill we published earlier. If you’re a super-wonk who cares about this sort of thing, you can read all about how the change developed here.)
Systems for high schools:
  • Basically the same set of indicators, except that graduation rates have to be part of the mix. They take the place of a second academic indicator.
  • So to recap, that means for high schools: proficiency on tests, English-language proficiency, graduation rates, plus at least one other indicator that focuses a little more on whether students have the opportunity to learn, or are ready for post-secondary work.
  • And also, test participation has to be incorporated in some way. (But it’s a standalone factor, not a separate indicator like test, grad rates, or those non-academic factors).
How much do each of these indicators have to count? That will be largely up to states, but the academic factors (tests, graduation rates, etc.) have to count “much” more as a group than the indicators that get at students’ opportunity to learn and post-secondary readiness. (This is one of just a handful of important clarifications from the framework. If you’re a true-blue wonk, you can read more on how it developed here.)

How do interventions work?
For the bottom 5 percent of schools and for high schools with really high dropout rates:
  • Districts work with teachers and school staff to come up with an evidence-based plan.
  • States monitor the turnaround effort.
  • If schools continue to founder for years (no more than four) the state is supposed to step in with its own plan. That means a state could take over the school if it wanted, or fire the principal, or turn the school into a charter, just like states do under NCLB waivers now. (But, importantly, unlike under waivers, there aren’t any musts-states get to decide what kind of action to take.)
  • Districts could also allow for public school choice out of seriously low-performing schools, but they have to give priority to the students who need it most.
For schools where subgroups students are struggling:
  • These schools have to come up with an evidence-based plan to help the particular group of students who are falling behind. For example, a school that’s having trouble with students in special education could decide to try out a new curriculum with evidence to back it up and hire a very experienced coach to help train teachers on it.
  • Districts monitor these plans. If the school continues to fall short, the district steps in. The district decides just when that kind of action is necessary, though; there’s no specified timeline in the deal.
  • Importantly, there’s also a provision in the deal calling for a “comprehensive improvement plan.” States and districts have to take more-aggressive action in schools where subgroups are chronically underperforming, despite local interventions. Their performance has to look really bad though, as bad as the performance of students in the bottom 5 percent of schools over time.
What kind of resources are there for these interventions? The School Improvement Grant program, which is funded at around $500 million currently, has been consolidated into the bigger Title I pot, which helps districts educate students in poverty. But states would be able to set aside up to 7 percent of all their Title I funds for school turnarounds, up from 4 percent in current law. (That would give states virtually the same amount of resources for school improvement as they get now, through SIG.) However, the bulk of those dollars would be sent out to districts for “innovation,” which could include turnarounds. It would be up to states whether to send that money out by formula, to everyone, or competitively, as they do now with SIG dollars. (More in this cheat sheet from AASA, the School Administrator’s Association, which has been updated on this issue.) Bottom line: There are resources in the bill for school turnarounds. But some of the money could also be used for other purposes, if that’s what districts and states want.

What about the tests? The testing schedule would be the same as under NCLB. But in a twist, up to seven states could apply to try out local tests, with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education. And importantly, these local tests aren’t supposed to be used forever-the point is for districts to experiment with new forms of assessment (as New Hampshire is doing with performance tasks) that could eventually go statewide and be used by everyone. That way states don’t get stuck with the same old assessment for years on end.

What’s more, the framework allows for the use of local, nationally-recognized tests at the high school level, with state permission. So a district could, in theory, use the SAT or ACT as its high school test, instead of the traditional state exam.
Also, computer adaptive testing would be easier.
What about standards? States must adopt “challenging” academic standards, just like under NCLB Classic. That could be the Common Core State Standards, but it doesn’t have to be. And, as we noted above, the U.S. Secretary of Education is expressly prohibited from forcing or even encouraging states to pick a particular set of standards (including Common Core).
What about that supersubgroup thing mentioned higher up? Supersubgroups are a statistical technique used in the waivers that call for states to combine different groups of students (say, students in special education, English-language learners, and minorities) for accountability purposes. By my reading of the bill, it would seem that’s a no-no. States now have to consider accountability for each subgroup separately. States liked the flexibility of supersubgroups. But former Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and civil rights groups said they masked gaps. The deal appears to eliminate the use of supersubgroups.
How do we transition from NCLB and the waivers to this new system?
  • The bill outlines the transition plan from the Obama administration’s ESEA waivers to this bold new era of accountability. Waivers would appear be null and void on Aug. 1, 2016, but states would still have to continue supporting their lowest-performing schools (aka what the waivers call “priority schools”) and schools with big achievement gaps (aka “focus schools”) until their new ESSA plans kicked in.
  • So it seems that 2016-17 will be the big transition year. It will be partially under the Obama administration, and partially under the new administration.
  • In general, ESSA would apply to any federal grants given out after Oct. 1, 2016, so most grants would still be under the NCLB version of the law for the rest of this school year.

What about the rest of the bill?

English-Language Learners

 

Where does the deal land when it comes to when newly arrived English-language learners must be tested? (Background on this issue here). States would have two choices.
  • Option A: Include English-language learners’ test scores after they have been in the country a year, just like under current law.
  • Option B: During the first year, test scores wouldn’t count towards a school’s rating, but ELLs would need to take both of the assessments, and publicly report the results. (That’s a switch from current law. Right now, they only need to take math in the first year.) In the second year, the state would have to incorporate ELLs’ results for both reading and math, using some measure of growth. And in their third year in the country, the proficiency scores of newly arrived ELLs are treated just like any other students’. (Sound familiar? It’s very similar to the waiver Florida received.)
The compromise would shift accountability for English-language learners from Title III (the English-language acquisition section of the ESEA) to Title I (where everyone else’s accountability is). The idea is to make accountability for those students a priority.

 

Students in Special Education


The legislation says essentially, that only 1 percent of students overall can be given alternative tests. (That’s about 10 percent of students in special education.)

Opt-Outs


The bill largely sticks with the Senate language, which would allow states to create their own testing opt-out laws (as Oregon has). But it would maintain the federal requirement for 95 percent participation in tests. However, unlike under the NCLB law, in which schools with lower-than-95 percent participation rates were automatically seen as failures, local districts and states would get to decide what should happen in schools that miss targets. States would have to take low testing participation into consideration in their accountability systems. Just how to do that would be up to them.

 

On Programs


There’s more consolidation of federal education in the compromise than there was in the Senate bill. For a look at how much money each program is slated to receive, check out this great (and updated!) cheat sheet from the Committee for Education Funding.
  • The legislation creates a $1.6 billion block grant that consolidates a bunch of programs, including some involving physical education, Advanced Placement, school counseling, and education technology. (Some of these programs haven’t federal funding in years.)
  • Districts that get more than $30,000 will have to spend at least 20 percent of their funding on at least one activity that helps students become well-rounded, and another 20 percent on at least one activity that helps kids be safe and healthy. And part of the money could be spent on technology. (But no more than 15 percent can go to technology infrastructure.)
  • Some programs would live on as separate line items, including the 21st Century Community schools program, which pays for after-school programs and has a lot support on both sides of the aisle in Congress.
  • Other survivors: Promise Neighborhoods, and a full-service community schools program. And there’s a standalone program for parent engagement. There are also reservations for Arts Education, gifted education, and Ready to Learn television.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. got the early-childhood investment she wanted-the bill enshrines an existing program “Preschool Development Grants” in law, and focuses it on program coordination, quality, and broadening access to early-childhood education. But the program would be housed at the Department of Health and Human Services, not the Education Department as some Democrats had initially hoped. The Education Department would jointly administer the program, however. (The reason: HHS already has some early-education programs, like Head Start. Expanding the Education Department’s portfolio was a big no-no for conservatives.)

That new research and innovation program that some folks were describing as sort of a next-generation “Investing in Innovation” program made it into the bill. (Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Michael Bennett, D-Colo., are big fans, as is the administration.)

 

On School Choice


No Title I portability: That means that federal funds won’t be able to follow the child to the school of their choice.

But the bill does include a pilot project allowing districts to try out a weighted student funding formula, which would also essentially function as a backpack of funds for kids. The program would allow 50 districts to combine state, local, and federal funds into a single pot that could follow a child to the school of their choice. It is said to be a more workable alternative to Title I portability, which looked more dramatic on paper, but which few states would likely have taken advantage of because of its complexity, experts said. Importantly with this pilot, participation would be entirely up to district officials. And the language would give them a chance to better target funds to individual school needs.

 

Teachers


The headline here is that states would no longer have to do teacher evaluation through student outcomes, as they did under waivers. And NCLB’s “highly qualified teacher” requirement would be officially a thing of the past.
There’s also language allowing for continued spending on the Teacher Incentive Fund-now called the Teacher and School Leader Innovation Program-which provides grants to districts that want to try out performance pay and other teacher-quality improvement measures. And there are resources for helping train teachers on literacy and STEM. Much more from Teacher Beat.

 

Funding and Other Issues


No changes to the Title I funding formula along the lines of what the Senate passed that would steer a greater share of the funds to districts with high concentrations of students in poverty. But there were some changes to the Title II formula (which funds teacher quality) that would be a boon to rural states.

The agreement would keep in place maintenance of effort, a wonky issue we wrote about recently, with some new flexibility added for states. (Quick tutorial: Maintenance of effort basically requires states to keep up their own spending at a particular level in order to tap federal funds.)

There was some chatter that the bill would also incorporate changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. That’s not part of the agreement.

The framework would only “authorize” ESEA for four more years, as opposed to the typical five. That gives lawmakers a chance to revisit the policy under the next president, should they choose to do so. And its overall authorization levels are largely consistent with the most recent budget deal.

And from the Badass Teachers Association:

Here we go…. BATs Respond to Every Student Succeeds Act – please read ENTIRE POST carefully!

Send the BATs Action Network Letter NOW https://actionnetwork.org/…/hear-the-voices-of-the-people-m…

BATs we had a committee of five comb through the over 1000 pages of the ESSA starting on Sunday night. Our committee is exhausted and we want you to know that we read it from the lens of just regular classroom teachers. We also were able to talk and consult with people who were involved in the negotiations of this act as well as former members of the House of Representatives.

The Act came out of conference with a 39-1 vote – we have been told repeatedly that it is a done deal but that does NOT mean we have to roll over and take the act as is. We cannot amend it but we sure can request that some language be removed. We will demand thoughtful debate and for our lawmakers to listen to input from the public. They will not conduct a period of open comment from the public as they had that for a month already before the act hit the Conference Committee. So, make your voice heard through our letter writing campaign here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/hear-the-voices-of-the-people-make-every-student-succeeds-act-about-kids-not-wall-street-and-tech-companies SEND YOUR LETTER NOW!

We know the act will hit the House floor on Thursday and the Senate early next week. Please read the act over as if you have the time.

There is much that is GOOD about the ESSA. It strengthens the education of Native American children. Language in Title VI demands strong cultural components be weaved into their education experience and a need to return teachers of Native heritage back to their communities to teach. It has strong language that will support and assist our homeless children and families. It will require districts to help homeless families find housing and will also require that when homeless children must switch schools they be allowed to enter school immediately. It is an act that also protects our migratory children by demanding they be allowed to enter schools immediately and that pending paperwork cannot hold up their education. The other good thing about the act is that there are few federal mandates. Much in the act will be left up to the states (i.e. teacher evaluations, learning standards, testing). Rest assured the reformers are already mobilizing at the state level to get back what they lost in the ESSA. We must return to our states and understand what we need to work hard for at that level. We must remember that we have upcoming elections in which we need to get our votes in to make the change we want.

Perhaps the best part of the ESSA is that it defangs the USDOE. NY BATs will strongly tell you that we do not want John King in charge of education in this country. Throughout every part of the act you will see the restatement that the USDOE Secretary cannot mandate or control what states do. Common Core is essentially dead! They will try to rebrand it into “state standards” or keep it as the Common Core, but there is no longer a threat of a common standard that all children in the nation must follow. It will be left up to the states to create their own standards (some may keep the CC, some will try to rebrand CC, and some will create their own standards – we must be vigilant in speaking out during this process at the state level). Also, the Booker/Bennett Amendment made it into the final act. This is the work that BATs did with the AFT on teacher workplace conditions. BATs will now influence, and be in, federal education law! The Booker/Bennett Amendment will now require that Title II money be used to study, in general, teacher workplace conditions and how that influences the learning of students. Congrats to our amazing Quality of Workplace Team for their dedication to getting this inserted into federal education law.

The act has some BAD components but nothing came as a surprise. It kept yearly testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school. We knew this going into Conference Committee and that the Tester Amendment (which would have introduced grade span testing) did not even make it to discussion. We did not support yearly grade span testing several months ago but instead advocated for random sampling grade span testing. That still holds true! The Conference Committee did not listen to the voice of the public but instead to Civil Rights Groups in the Beltway who advocated for yearly testing and accountability. We are not happy with the 1% cap on alternative assessments for our special education students but we were happy that the act did insert that the IEP team at the local level may decide to pierce the 1% cap in their district, with a valid explanation to be submitted. This in essence will not allow IDEA to be trumped at the local level and if the state does not grant the district a waiver will set them up to be sued by parents for denying a child their rights under IDEA. This will also allow the state to pierce the 1% cap if needed, and if the feds deny the request can set the feds up to be sued for violating IDEA. We were not surprised that the act is “charter friendly” and we will need to remain vigilant at the state level to expose charter fraud, charter abuse, and mismanagement. We knew that if Sen. Alexander was involved that the act would be charter friendly but we also know that many Democrats love their charters! Some new stuff that was inserted in regard to the digital environment and digital learning is concerning. You will see that our letter requests that much of this language be revamped and addresses our concern that we are attempting to make public education into online learning centers. We shared the early results of our technology survey so that lawmakers could see clearly how teachers feel about using technology in their local districts. We should all advocate for Blended Learning which uses a hybrid of technology and student/teacher created learning in the classroom. We made it clear that technology should not outweigh the classroom teacher and that having children sit in front of a computer all day is not public education! We will need to remain very, very vigilant at the state level to make sure the state and local districts are not spending money on technology that cannot be sustained or is inferior. We will need to remain vigilant at the state and local level to make sure that the teaching profession does not become a facilitator of online learning. The good thing is the act DOES NOT MANDATE technology! In fact, there is not much that the feds can mandate in this act! We are concerned with the innovative assessments systems mentioned in the act. We all know what this means and we strongly suggested that language be removed.

->Please call your federal lawmakers and make your voice heard. This act hits the House floor on Thursday and the Senate floor on December 7th. You can use our letter as a guideline if you like. Here are the numbers for federal lawmakers https://www.opencongress.org/people/zipcodelookup

→We must start mobilizing at the state level. We are sure that reformers have a head start on this. They are angry that they lost – evaluating teachers on test scores as a federal mandate, Common Core as a federal mandate, and the digital testing that comes with CC as a federal mandate. They will mobilize at the state level to get all of this back! GET INVOLVED AT THE STATE LEVEL ON THESE ITEMS IN PARTICULAR TODAY!

 →We are all taxpayers and must be vigilant about bankers getting involved in opening and running anything having to do with education. Please be vigilant about charter expansion and fraud. Please be vigilant about what your state and local districts are buying in regard to technology. QUESTION EVERYTHING AT THE STATE LEVEL!