WestEd Selected As Vendor For Delaware’s Next Gen Science State Assessment

WestEd, a San Francisco based company, was selected as the vendor for the future Next Generation Science Standards state assessment.  The contract runs through December 31st, 2017 but it will assuredly get an extension based on the scope of work involved and the timetable for the full release of the new Science state assessment.  The amount awarded for the contract is $673,658.  Only two bidders sent proposals to the Delaware Department of Education, WestEd and American Institutes for Research (AIR).  AIR is the current vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.

The plan is to have the field tests for this assessment in the 2017-2018 school year and then all public school students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade get to take it in the 2018-2019 school year.  All states are required to administer Science state assessments to students in these grades and it will be the same for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Currently, Delaware students take the Science DCAS Assessment.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were created by Achieve Inc. and 26 states.  It rolled out in 2013 but only five states signed up to implement them.  As of today, there are only 18 states that have adopted the sometimes controversial science standards.  NGSS is very big on terminology surrounding three dimensions: science & engineering, disciplinary core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts.  Okay.  How do you accurately explain that?  I have an idea!  They should use rope to do it!  Oh wait, someone beat me to it…

ngss

I wrote about WestEd a month and a half ago when I saw they were one of the bidders for this contract:

WestEd, though, is no stranger to Delaware.  This is a company that thinks online digital learning games with Curious George are just great for preschool.  They also have an extensive list of clients with some very familiar names.  Ironically, the Delaware DOE hired facilitators from WestEd for their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, along with Research In Action.  They even went into a partnership recently with NewSchools Venture Fund to expand small business data technology companies in K-12 classrooms.

Lately, whenever I see a corporate education reform company, I check out how much money they have received from the Gates Foundation.  WestEd has received $24,164,909 over the past ten plus years.  That is no small chunk of change!  You can read the full contract below:

 

Why Companies Like Achieve Inc Now Want You To Opt Out Of State Assessments

A blog called NYC Public School Parents published the results of a survey about testing and opt out a couple of days ago.  The findings were a bit bizarre in my opinion.  The fact that it came from Achieve Inc. is very troubling.  For the past couple years, maybe longer, parents have been opting their children out of the state assessment.  That’s a good thing.  But the fact that Achieve Inc. would publish findings that show parents are presumably getting sick of testing and more suburban moms know about opt out is a bit of a farce in my opinion.  At this point, Achieve wants you to opt out.  They want you to complain about too much testing.  They want you, the parents of America, to make such a loud noise that the feds and the states will be forced to change testing environments.  Yes, one of the biggest corporate education reform companies in America is finally in agreement with what we’ve been saying all along!  Finally!  But guess what… this was the plan all along.

If you are royally confused, follow me.  Achieve Inc. helped to set up the Common Core, way back when.  There are some who say they took the work of the Common Core steering committees, ditched it, and came up with their own set of standards.  You know how so many people say “Common Core sucks” and “It’s federal intrustion” and all that stuff?  They are right.  I believe it was intentionally designed to be messed up.  And the tests based off it, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC?  They were designed to be bad tests.  No one will say this officially.  But they wanted enough parents to opt out to make some noise.  Not a full-blown, everyone opts out noise.  But enough to draw attention to the subject of assessments.  And they responded.  Florida, Delaware, and many other states conducted Assessment Inventories.  In Delaware, ours was initiated by, who else, Achieve Inc.  These inventories served a double purpose.  It kept the subject of “too many assessments” in the minds of those who followed this type of thing.  It also helped to stop some states from moving forward with opt out legislation.  I’ve seen a Delaware Department of Education email stating our Senate Joint Resolution #2 was a solution against opt out.

You’re still confused.  I understand.  It’s hard to explain this in any way that makes sense.  The Common Core-High Stakes Testing era of corporate education reform is coming to an end.  Very soon.  But that was just a phase.  It allowed the states to get all their data systems in place.  It allowed career & technical education initiatives to get their start.  But the biggest thing Common Core and the state assessments did was open the door to something else.  We are now entering the next phase and the groundwork was laid a long time ago.

Welcome to the Competency-Based Education era!  Instead of your child advancing through grade levels, they will now advance once they master the material.  Don’t get me wrong.  The state assessments will still be there.  But parents most likely won’t even know when their child is taking it.  Because it won’t be the same test.  It won’t be students cooped up taking the same test over a period of weeks in the Spring.  It will be all year.  The same tests, that we have loved to hate, they will still be here.  They may tweak them up a bit, but they aren’t going anywhere.  They laid the trap, and we all fell in it.

How is this even possible?  Through modern technology.  Through personalized learning.  Don’t be fooled by the term personalized learning.  There are actually two kinds.  The concept has been around for decades.  More one-on-one instruction from teachers, personalized on that student’s strengths and weaknesses.  A very humanistic approach which I don’t have an issue with.  But what the corporate education pirates want is the same thing, but take out the teacher.  Substitute it with technology.  With computers, and the internet, and cloud-based systems, and blended learning.  The teachers will still be there, but they won’t be the in front of the classroom teachers anymore.  They will facilitate, and guide the students through what the computer is teaching them.  Some states may push back a bit on this, and compromise with a blended learning system, which is a mix of both.  But make no mistake, the eventual destination is the demise of teacher unions and public education as we know it.

So if public education is gone, will we all have to pay for private school?  We kind of already are.  They are called charter schools.  The first one opened up in the early 1990s.  It has been a slow invasion ever since.  Even though charters represent less than a quarter of the schools in America, they have gained such a foothold in America that their supporters have overshadowed those who oppose them.  Charter schools, no matter what anyone tells you, are not public schools.  They don’t operate the same, and they aren’t held accountable in the same ways.  In charter heavy states, the laws have been written so they get a little bit more of this, a little bit less of that.  They are corporations.  With bylaws and boards that aren’t elected by the people, but among themselves.  Many of them are non-profit organizations, while some of the chains are very much for profit.  But they are not held to the same standards as regular schools.  Those that are horrible wind up shutting down.  These usually surround incapable buffoons who decide to steal from the kitty and get rich quick.  These idiots usually get caught, at one point or another.  They are non-union, and teachers don’t have the same protections as public school teachers.  But we pay for charter schools.

When you pay a local school district with your school taxes, they have to send part of those funds to the charter schools.  Any student from that district who attends a charter school?  You are paying for them to go there.  It comes out of a district’s local funds.  You send that proportion of the students costs to the charter.  There are different buckets of money where your school taxes go.  Some go towards buildings and repairs.  But a lot of them go to the actual student’s share of the pie.  And if they go to a charter, those funds follow them.  As a result, some school districts are left with much less funds over they years.  And since some charters like to pick and choose who they get, even though getting them to admit it is a lesson in futility, they take the better kids from the school districts.  Leaving the school districts with the harder to reach kids.  The ones who the charters don’t want.  If you think lotteries are really random, think again.  Some have very carefully worded interviews, some do kindergarten screenings, and some even have actual pre-acceptance tests.  They don’t want regular school districts anymore, and they are openly at war with public education.  They like to throw out that their enemies are the oppressors and they are the victims.  I hear this rhetoric a lot.  But it’s the whole chicken and the egg scenario.  But in this case, one did come first and the other has been like locusts swarming on public education as we know it.  They have the backing of billionaires.  Those billionaires set up the funds for them, through shell companies all over the country.  Even the feds are in on it.  So what does any of that have to do with testing?

The way things are now, the full-scale privatization of American schools can’t possibly move forward with the blessing of the teacher unions.  But they can infiltrate those unions, and slowly but surely get them to move over to their side of thinking.  We see it all the time.  The National Education Association just finished up their annual representative assembly down in D.C.  One of the biggest topics was charter schools.  Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the NEA members and when she mentioned charters, she got booed.  But behind the scenes, there were several new business items different members of the NEA introduced.  Controversial business items.  Ones that called out the leadership for cavorting with the enemy.  Ones that called for less testing and less labeling and punishing.  The ones leadership wanted, they passed.  The ones they didn’t were either defeated or bundled up and sent to a committee.  Where they will most likely never be heard from again.  Not in their current form at least.  Far too many in the teacher unions are well aware they are under attack but their defensive posture is “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”  That Kumbaya seat at the table is a red herring.  It will be a feast.  A feast of crows and vultures picking at the bones of public education.

Every time the unions give in, every time they give up just that one little piece of what used to be theirs, they are dying a slow death.  They incorporate the education reformers ideas and then you start hearing talk about “the whole child” and “community centers”.  And how there is too much testing, and we need to support that idea.  As our school districts try to become community centers, they won’t realize it is a losing proposition.  It is an unsustainable effort, unless they get help.  That help will come from outside organizations.  Like the United Way, and foundations, and those who are dedicated to helping the plight of low-income and minority children.  The civil rights organizations will say Yes, Yes, Yes!  Money will flow all over the place.  The districts will think they have it made.  Add more pre-school!  Bring them in as early as possible.  We have grant money flowing.  We won’t have to pay for it.  Who cares about the charters, we have tons of money.  Until they don’t.  And that’s when they pull the plug.  Who is this “they” I speak of?  All those outside companies, the states, the feds and their grant money.  It will run out.  The districts won’t even see the man behind the curtain until it is too late.

Districts who promised parents they would take care of their children will all of a sudden, in a blink of an eye, go bankrupt.  The states will take them over.  They already did it in some cities with testing and accountability schemes crafted by random luck or things like Race To The Top.  Those schools became, you guessed it, charter schools.  But this will be much more epic in scope.  It will be called the end of public education.  Schools that over-borrowed to become what the education reformers wanted them to be, all under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  So what happens to the teachers?  The ones that are still in the profession by that point?  The ones who haven’t jumped ship because of the stringent regulations and accountability schemes?  And the evaluations based on the high-stakes tests that companies like Achieve Inc. now want parents to opt out of?  By this time, the personalized digital learning empire will be in full swing.  The state assessment will be broken up into chunks at the end of each learning chapter.  For students taking the online Social Studies class, for example, they will take the state assessment portion of the Civil War chapter one week, and a month later they will get the one on The Reconstruction.  Or maybe two months later depending on how not proficient some of those students are.  How quickly they can grasp the concepts.  By this time, most of those who fought the reformers will either give in and settle into their facilitator role or will have left the profession.

With the testing, don’t be shocked at all if you hear one name coming up a lot.  That would be Questar.  They are NOT their own company.  They are owned by American Institutes for Research (AIR), the un-credited creator of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Yeah, I know, the states made it!  And I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’m willing to sell to you as well.  They have their hooks in quite a few states, the most recent being New York and Tennessee.  The PARCC test got the most bad press and AIR took advantage of that.  So your kid will take the smaller high-stakes test which will also be an end-of-unit test.  Which will also determine students’ class grades.  Will parents be able to opt out of that?  It was one thing when the tests didn’t mean anything.  Now they will mean everything!  But it doesn’t stop there.  Because everything will be online and through cloud services, that means all your kid’s data is being meticulously tracked.  All the way down to how long it takes them to type something.  The “researchers” will use this data to determine what the best career your child will “do best” at when they are older.  Career pathways, beginning at the very youngest of ages.  Probably in pre-school with the latest screams to get more of that going.  It all looks great on paper, and they want you to think it’s great.  It’s how they will own your child.  The future corporate America.  Education won’t be education anymore.  It will be a high-tech recruiting facilitator-led community-centered we own your kid once we get our hooks into them.   And if all of this isn’t enough, they will bet on the results through social impact bonds.  And get paid for their perceived success margins.  Companies.  Your child is a profit center, but your kid won’t see any of the results except the ultimate Big Brother.

Any parent, teacher, or student needs to speak up NOW.

 

JP Morgan Chase Teams Up With CCSSO For Corporate Race To The Top

JP Morgan Chase will be giving away $75 million in grants over the next five years to different states in their “New Skills For Youth” program.  The goal is to implement career readiness programs in order to have more students ready to enter the workforce.  This is all part of the original design, detailed in a letter to Hillary Clinton 24 years ago.

What is interesting is who is on the advisory committee JP Morgan Chase used for this initiative.  We have the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, and the Education Strategy Group.  The CCSSO was instrumental in launching Common Core on unsuspecting states.  But the last of these groups is very interesting given one of their recent hires this year.

Remember Ryan Reyna?  This former Delaware Department of Education employee was the Director of the Accountability unit under Penny Schwinn.  Schwinn and Reyna were the dynamic duo in charge of creating Delaware’s new accountability system.  You know, the one with the participation rate penalty that would punish schools for opt outs over 5% of the school or any sub-group.

From their bio for Ryan Reyna:

Ryan joined ESG in 2016 to support ESG’s overall college and career readiness strategy.  He leads the organization’s efforts to help states bring stronger, more impactful career-focused indicators into their K-12 accountability systems to ensure that those systems measure and value students’ readiness for the 21st century world of work.

What I didn’t know about Reyna was that before he came to the Delaware DOE, he worked at the National Governor’s Association in their Center for Best Practices.  And take a wild guess what he did there?

At the NGA Center, Ryan led the division’s support of governors’ offices on numerous issues, including college and career ready standards, assessment, accountability, and transitions into postsecondary education and training. He also previously held Senior Policy Analyst and Policy Analyst positions at the NGA Center and worked as a Research Associate at the Data Quality Campaign.

Even Education Strategy Group’s Founder and President has some deep ties to corporate education reform.  Matt Gandal worked as a Senior Advisor to former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and prior to that he was an executive vice-president at Achieve Inc.  Gandal was one of the key players in the American Diploma Project which led to the creation of the Common Core State Standards.  From his bio with Education Strategy Group:

He helped found the organization and was responsible for overseeing its major initiatives, including the American Diploma Project which helped 35 states advance college and career readiness policies; the Common Core State Standards Initiative which resulted in 45 states adopting rigorous academic standards; and National Education Summits that brought together governors, CEOs and education leaders from across the country to commit to ambitious reforms.

Both he and Delaware Governor Jack Markell took part in a “Colloquim” run by the Hope Street Group in January, 2013.  One of the main goals of this gathering of corporate education reformers was, you guessed it, career pathways.  If you aren’t familiar with the Hope Street Group, former Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education Dan Cruce is an executive Vice-President there.  He served under Lillian Lowery when she held the role for a few years when Jack Markell became Governor of Delaware.

For the states who submitted applications for this grant from JP Morgan Chase, the selection committee included the following: IBM, Southern Regional Education Board, CLASP, James Irvine Foundation, Jobs For The Future, New America, National Governor’s Association, US Chamber and Chamber Foundation, National Skills Coalition, the Aspen Foundation, a high school principal, and a former Kentucky Commissioner of Education.  Look at their bios.  Follow the trail of breadcrumbs from one corporate education reform company to the next.

It was only a matter of time before financial institutions got involved in these “pathways to prosperity”.  In a letter to the editor that appeared in USA Today back in January, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski stated:

Awarding grants to U.S. states will encourage them to implement career and technical education programs that correspond to the needs of area employers. High-quality, rigorous career technical programs would arm students with the skills to work as aviation mechanics, nursing technicians or IT specialists. The result is great jobs.

And so begins the Corporate Race To The Top.  But I doubt JP Morgan Chase will be the only company doing this.  Yesterday, Bank of America’s lead for corporate communications, none other than Tony Allen himself, had a very interesting tweet:

So I’m sure we can expect more of this from Bank of America and other big banking corporations out there.  It seems like many states are jumping on this Career-Technical Education bandwagon.

Read the “Dear Hillary” letter if you haven’t already.  This was planned a quarter of a century ago.  This isn’t a Republican or Democrat thing.  It is a Corporate thing.  Designed for the vast majority of society to be given a pre-determined career path based on standardized test scores.  To keep the bulk of the population in low-paying jobs while the top 1-5% keep the control.  Think about it, if students are “guided” toward certain career trajectories, they will most likely serve that job for the rest of their life.  Everyone will have their designated role in life while the fat cats reap the profits. 

We hear big companies talking all the time about the cost of training employees.  By getting rid of that and having public education do all the training, guess who pays for it?  The taxpayers.  While the big companies score even more profit.  Do you really think they are doing this to help disadvantaged students?  These are some of the same companies that caused the housing collapse and the worst recession this country has ever seen.  That wasn’t even ten years ago folks!  Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if it was one day revealed these companies wanted that to happen so they could implement all of this.  Where did all the funding for Common Core and Race To The Top come from?  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. 

The major players in the corporate education reform movement have been at this for a long time, well before Common Core became a headache for parents helping their kids with math homework.  We have Bill & Melinda Gates, Marc Tucker, and Matt Gandal as some of the key figureheads in everything that has come to pass since 1992.  Their policies and agendas have become embedded in nearly every single state’s educational and workforce landscape.  It is the complete restructuring and redesigning of American society.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell is actually a big piece of this puzzle, and has been for a long time.

These plans, long in scope and design, include corporate leaders, members of Congress, a couple Presidents, non-profit companies, state legislators, and every single education think tank and organization that has been paid one cent or more since 2009.  If they received money from Race To The Top, they are in on it.  And now, with personalized learning becoming the “next big thing”, we see companies like Schoology benefitting immensely from this charade we call corporate education reform.  You can read about this grand design in a blog from one of the pilot states for the personalized learning and Competency-Based Education guinea pigs.

Teachers as we know them now will be a thing of the past in just a few short years.  They will become moderators of the personalized learning and competency-based education platforms.  The teacher’s unions will disappear.  Student data will flow freely from the states to even more companies because they will now be considered “education agencies” based on initiatives like today’s announcement by JP Morgan Chase.  Our children are mere cattle for investors.  They will hedge bets on student outcomes and they will profit off these as well.  And for every single standardized test your child takes, no longer a once a year cram but a series of small high-stakes tests, your child’s uniqueness and individuality will disappear into the abyss as they become another drone of Corporate America’s Workforce.  They won’t have the ability or capability of being able to have independent thought.  They will be programmed and conditioned for their career pathway and you won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.

This is why the opposition against opt out is so huge among the education-workforce players.  Opt out kills their plans.  As former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said at a Senate meeting on opt out, “The data is important to us.”  You bet it is!  Without it, these plans are dead in the water.  Opt out now.  Seriously.  What more do you need to know to convince you?  If you are thinking “it won’t happen to my child”, think again.  It already is.  What can you do?  Stand tall and offer resistance.

beavoicenotanecho

From the Delaware DOE’s press announcement on the JP Morgan Chase “Corporate Race To The Top” initiative:

Delaware wins grant to develop plan to improve career preparation systems

The Delaware Department of Education has secured a $100,000 grant to develop a detailed career readiness action plan, which is an essential step to expanding economic opportunity for young people across the First State.

“Delaware has made tremendous progress in aligning our education and workforce development systems through Governor Jack Markell’s Delaware Pathways initiative,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “We are thrilled that these funds will further create opportunities for students to earn industry-recognized credentials and early college credits to accelerate their career goals.”

Delaware is among 24 states and the District of Columbia that secured grants for this work through phase one of New Skills for Youth grant opportunity. The grants are one piece of a $75 million, five-year initiative developed by JPMorgan Chase, in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Advance CTE, aimed at increasing economic opportunity for young people by strengthening career-focused education, starting in high school and ending with postsecondary degrees or credentials aligned with business needs.

Today, too few young people are receiving the education or training in high school and beyond that would put them on a track to qualify for these careers. By the age of 25, only about half of young Americans have a meaningful postsecondary credential that enables them to compete for good jobs, and the U.S. youth unemployment rate is more than double the national rate.

In Delaware, the 2014 youth (age 20-24) unemployment rate for men was 15.8 percent. For women, it was 8.8 percent. This is compared to 5.8 percent for all other age demographics. For men and women of color, the youth unemployment rate was even higher at 18 percent for African American and 11.1 percent for Hispanic youth.

Through phase one of New Skills for Youth, Delaware and other selected states will each receive a $100,000 six-month grant, in addition to expert technical assistance and peer support from other grantees, to perform a diagnostic assessment of their career preparation system and prepare for implementation of a new action plan.

Through Governor Markell’s Delaware Pathways initiative, Delaware has revamped career and technical education (CTE) to ensure youth have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials and early college credit to accelerate their career goals. And, these opportunities are expanding quickly. By the 2016-17 school year, more than 5,000 students in 29 of 44 public high schools will be enrolled in state-model pathway programs aligned to areas of high demand in Delaware’s economy. These programs include: finance, allied health, culinary and hospitality management, CISCO networking, computer science, manufacturing logistics and production, manufacturing/engineering technology, biomedical science, and engineering.

This work is further accelerated through the Delaware Pathways Strategic Plan, which was unveiled in February 2016 to more than 300 educators and employers.

“This grant is a testament to Delaware’s focus on preparing our students to leave high school college and career ready and well positioned to compete for the in-demand jobs driven by today’s global economy,” Governor Markell said.  “We’ll put it to good use to help ensure that we meet our commitment to the Delaware Promise that we announced last year, that by 2025, the percentage of Delawareans with a college degree or professional certificate will match the percentage of our jobs that will require one – 65 percent.”

States across the country are adjusting their career readiness programs to ensure they adequately prepare students for their next step after graduation, said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. “States have seized this grant opportunity to pursue bold plans for pathways that will put kids on a course for success after high school and beyond.”

Chauncy Lennon, head of Workforce Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase, said, “We must address the youth career crisis, and it starts in our schools. These grants kick start an effort to ensure career and technical education systems are better aligned with the needs of business and leaders throughout states are committed to tackling youth employment.”

An independent advisory committee recommended phase one grant recipients after a rigorous review process that considered states’ proposed plans, cross-sector partnerships, and demonstrated commitment and capacity to transform their systems of career preparation according to the grant guidelines.  In the judgment of the advisory committee, the selected states showed promise in their career readiness plans and indicated strongly that this work is a priority for them.

Delaware, and the other phase one planning grant states, will be eligible to apply for the phase two grant opportunity, which will require states to demonstrate the commitment and capacity to execute the action plans developed in phase one.

This grant opportunity builds on CCSSO’s Career Readiness Initiative, launched in 2015 to help close the skills gap in this country. The goal is to ensure that students are not only college-ready, but that all children also graduate from high school prepared for careers.

CCSSO’s work has been guided by the recommendations made in Opportunities and Options, a report of CCSSO’s Career Readiness Task Force.

The report encourages states to make high school programs more responsive to the labor market by enlisting the employer community as a lead partner; significantly raise the threshold for quality career pathways in secondary schools; and make career preparation matter to schools and students, in part by expanding accountability systems to emphasize career readiness.

Go back and click on all the links in the Delaware DOE press release.  Find out if your state is a part of this budding enterprise.  Research, write it down, and expose.  If you don’t have an avenue to do so, reach out to me.  There are plenty of ways to get information out there.

One final thought.  If you go to this JP Morgan Chase document, go all the way to the bottom of the last page on the right.  Look at the footnotes, #12.  A report from the Center for American Progress, the creator of the bogus “Testing Bill of Rights” released last week (not to be confused with the valid Parent Bill of Rights for Education that I created last week in response, for which you can sign a petition on at Change.org).  Notice the name of the author of that report in the footnotes: Sarah Ayres.  Who JP Morgan Chase discloses is now an employee of JP Morgan Chase.  This is how it is in corporate education reform.  People jumping from one position to the next.  Working for state Departments of Education at one point.  Thousands of players, involved in any potential place where education policy is discussed.

Read through that link very carefully.  Look at what states will be required to do to receive this Corporate Race To The Top seed money.  The changes they will need to make.  And then go look at the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Read through it very carefully, absorbing every single word.  While doing so, keep this article in mind and what the new federal education law is really about.  How it was rushed out in its final wording and how many organizations blindly accepted it.  Once again, they were either fooled or they already knew about all of this.

Other recipients of JP Morgan Chase’s “Corporate Race To The Top” career-readiness agenda are Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, and Montana.  At press time, these were the only states I could find press releases on in this first phase of the New Skills For Youth plan.

 

 

Sorry If I Made You Storm Out Of The Assessment Inventory Committee Meeting!

The Delaware Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee, otherwise known as the Achieve Inc. payday, had their fourth meeting tonight.  Most of the discussion was around the district inventories and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Don’t get too excited Delaware!  The discussion about Smarter Balanced was by some members of the committee wondering why the Smarter Balanced wasn’t a major part of the discussion and the DOE trying desperately to work around it and misinterpreting the actual legislation that created the committee.  Once again, Senator David Sokola, who wrote the bill, didn’t show up.  I think he has been at one or two of the four meetings.  He hasn’t been to most of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meetings either, of which he is a member.  But his Legislative Aide did sit in his place, unlike State Rep. Earl Jaques who also championed this legislation last spring as an anti-opt-out bill and didn’t show up nor did he have someone come in his place, but I digress.  I do reserve the right to re-digress later though.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky was there for about the first third of the meeting.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if any state in the country has received a cut in federal funding due to participation rate.  The answer was no.  He then asked if any school or district in Delaware has.  Michael Watson from the DOE explained there have been Title I reallocations but didn’t specify why (and it wasn’t because of opt-out and we all know it).  Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey gave a presentation on Colonial’s assessment inventory process.  Many wondered right away why Smarter Balanced wasn’t included in their inventory even though most of the other districts and charters who participated did include it.  No clear answer was given except further clarification of the legal interpretation of SJR #2.  At some point, questions came up about the expectation of the district and the information supplied to them from the Delaware DOE for the process (of which schools and districts did receive grant money).  I yelled out “Achieve Inc. created it,” to which I was told public comment was at the end of the meeting.  😉  I can see the two DOE representatives were not happy with my comment and one of them was visibly pissed off.  State Rep. Matthews asked what the purpose of the Smarter Balanced is and why we need it.  He explained parents are more upset about their children not being able to go to the library to do research since their computer labs are tied up between March and June.  Even State Rep. Tim Dukes, a fervent supporter of standardized testing in the past, was questioning what this is all about.  He explained how he has been talking to teachers and, in my opinion, he may be walking towards the light in regards to how bad high-stakes testing really is.

Discussion continued around the federal role in Delaware education.  State Rep. Matthews asked why the DOE doesn’t push harder against federal mandate.  DSEA member Kirstin Dwyer, also on the committee, explained that when teachers pushed very hard for another year off from Smarter Balanced scores tying into their evaluations, they were told prior to this that the feds would never grant it, but they did.  A discussion came up about states that do not have to take assessments and were granted waivers.  The DOE explained there are seven states involved in something called the Innovation Network, which rang a bell in my head.  State Rep. Matthews asked why Delaware can’t try to join this group.  A vote was taken to get more information about these kinds of programs before they make their final recommendations.  It passed the committee.  Talk continued about the federal role, and Susan Haberstroh from the DOE said something to the effect of “Maybe the feds will let us do that”.  At this point, the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit leader Christopher Ruszkowski, who was sitting in the back, said “No they won’t.”  I said “Yes they will.”  We both repeated ourselves.  But the sad truth is Delaware doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Council of Chief State School Officers Innovation Lab Network.  Just ask the many teachers and citizens who are seeing this guinea pig experiment taking place in states like Maine, Colorado and New Hampshire.  I actually touch on one of the key parts coming out of these “Innovation Labs” later on in this article.  You will know it when you see it!  Scary stuff!

Teachers gave public comment about, you know, how bad SBAC is and how the test doesn’t give any useful information.  Red Clay Education Association President Mike Matthews complimented the Christina School District for giving a recommendation to dump the Smarter Balanced in their assessment inventory (Capital didn’t give it a ringing endorsement either).  He lamented Red Clay didn’t do the same.  But he did advise the committee his executive membership unanimously voted on a resolution to have Red Clay change their recommendation about SBAC and he questioned the transparency around Red Clay’s inventory process.

And then came my public comment.  To give some background, the meeting was already running late, and public comment was limited to two minutes.  One public commenter already went over their time (and continued), which didn’t bother me at all.  I knew exactly what I was going to say cause I wrote it out.

In 1992, the CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy wrote an 18 page letter to Hillary Clinton. Bill was just elected, and the CEO, named Marc Tucker, took it upon himself to write Hillary his ideas for the future of America.  Tucker wanted America to become like Germany and Switzerland, where students are “apprentice-trained”.  This begins at a very early age.  As part of Tucker’s plan, public education must become standardized.  As well, career paths are chosen through the tests implemented through these higher standards.  This is all part of a much larger plan to merge the US Departments of Education, Labor, and the Immigration division of Homeland Security.  By crafting this agenda, children will be tracked and catalogued through massive data systems, tied to state longitudinal data systems.  These “pathways to prosperity”, or career tracks for children, are contingent upon data.  Data that is provided by every single state to a joint system shared by the US Department of Defense and the US DOE. 

In 1996, a company called Achieve Inc. was created by our nation’s governors, corporate leaders, and Tucker’s group. Achieve eventually created the Common Core standards, but gave the illusion it was created by stakeholders.  Yes, the very same company that assisted with the assessment inventory in Delaware and gave the matrix for districts to follow.  The same company that created the standards is now telling districts how they should utilize their own assessments.

Bill Gates, through his foundation, began funding this over 15 years ago. Delaware allowed this into our state with the Race To The Top grant.  Yes, Senator Sokola and Attorney General Matt Denn wrote Senate Bill 79 last year which passed the General Assembly and was signed by the Governor.  This bill, supposedly meant to protect student data, was heavily lobbied by companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.  There is a gigantic loophole in this.  Eventually, Smarter Balanced will be broken down into chunks through personalized learning.  Using a competency-based education model, students will advance based on how they do on these mini-standardized tests.  This data will flow freely to the feds which will in turn be shared with employers, non-profits (especially those who really push personalized learning), and corporate interests.  What Sokola and Denn allowed into the final bill appears, on the surface, to protect student data.  But whether it was intentional or not, the algorithms for personalized learning and state assessments are allowed to be shared.  We already see 7-8 Delaware districts using the BRInC Consortium’s “Blended Learning” models.  Every single time a student logs in or enters a keystroke, the data recording begins by the companies tracking all of this data.  All of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, through the algorithms created by American Institutes for Research, fall into this category as well.  Our Governor is one of the very early pioneers of this agenda in Delaware, along with the Rodel Foundation. 

So really, who are we kidding with this nonsense?  This IS about students: cataloguing them, tracking them, and allowing the government to decide what they should be based on data.  But for students with disabilities, they will remain on the bottom of all things concerned with education.  Something Delaware fully allows by not granting these students funding in Kindergarten to 3rd grade unless they are so impaired the state doesn’t have a choice.  Meanwhile, Governor Markell is getting ready to go down to D.C. to hobnob with yet another education foundation instead of taking care of his own state.  

As I mentioned earlier, Senator Sokola did not attend the meeting but his Legislative Aide did.  I’ve met him a few times and he is a nice guy.  During my public comment, at the second mention of “Sokola”, he picked up his things, had a VERY angry face, and stormed out of the meeting.  I certainly hope it wasn’t anything I said, but he looked very troubled.  I have talked to Matt Denn about this bill, along with the representative from his office who wrote the legislation, and I don’t know if they are even aware of the “algorithm loophole” that is causing student data to go out like a burst dam.  But, and I am only guessing here, it bothered Sokola’s legal aide.  I could be wrong and something else was going on that I was not privy to.   As well, when I got my two minute flag, I did keep going.  I was almost done!  As I got into the part about students with disabilities somebody said “Kevin…” like I was saying something bad.  Or perhaps it was my angry tone.  But I already had to speed through my public comment due to a ridiculous two minute time limit.  I’m not a big fan of being cut off over parliamentary rules and procedures (which is why you don’t see me on these committees, task forces, or public office).  Or maybe some people didn’t like what I was saying and it cut a little to close to the bone for them.  Either way, I got it out.  And I have a ton more to say about all that.

Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges gave public comment about the Smarter Balanced Assessment that echoed many of the opponents of the test throughout the evening.  (As an aside, the DOE actually gave out the National PTA’s position statement against parent opt-out to members of the committee and the public).  Finally, State Rep. Kim Williams, https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/state-rep-kim-williams-slams-state-board-exec-director-donna-johnson-at-weic-meeting-tonight/ again questioned where the parent representative of the assessment inventory committee was.  She informed them this parent rep came to the first meeting and not the other three.  She was not happy the DOE hasn’t responded to her about this issue and that parents are once again being shut out of the process.  With that the meeting adjourned.  And I am left with the same conclusion I have always had about the Achieve Inc. Party Assessment Inventory Committee: it will get rid of the good diagnostic district tests that give immediate feedback and allow teachers to help students in lieu of more interim Smarter Balanced Assessments (which will eventually be broken down into mini-tests at the end of units).  More data.  More tracking.  More pre-determined “pathways” for every single student in Delaware.  Unless you opt out now.  Out of Smarter Balanced AND Personalized Learning.  Unless you are okay with your child’s social-emotional, academic, behavioral, and personal data going out to Education Inc.  In that case, keep on opting in!

Achieve Inc. Celebrates Failure of SBAC & PARCC With Their Honesty Gap Bullcrap!

quote-don-t-put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket-is-all-wrong-i-tell-you-put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket-andrew-carnegie-304276

Yes, Achieve Inc. is actually letting people know that certain states are closing their self-created “honesty gap”.  What is an honesty gap?  Apparently, according to Achieve Inc., it is when you make your state standardized tests too easy and kids do too well on them.  Using the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as their benchmark, Achieve Inc. felt too many students did way better than the NAEP in recent years.  As a result, the gap between NAEP scores and state assessment scores was too big, which created an “honesty” gap.  Now that the “tough new tests” like Smarter Balanced and the PARCC rolled out in many states last year, Achieve Inc. is praising states that are closing this honesty gap.  I kid you not.

Of course, their whole evidence of this supposed honesty gap is scores on standardized tests.  Let’s not even worry about the actual grades kids are getting in class, if they are getting their projects and homework done, or if they feel like they are succeeding.  Let’s just worry about the data, the high-stakes test scores.  All this report really does is show how bad the Common Core standardized tests are really doing.  Let’s not read into this too much folks!  Only a corporate education reform company would judge failure as a success!

I am sure Achieve Inc. is salivating at the thought of brainwashed State Boards of Education saying “we need to fix this!  Now that we know how bad our kids are doing, we need to get them back up again!”  And Achieve Inc.’s marketing department is going “Hallelujah!  Let’s roll out the products!”  If it isn’t their marketing department, I’m sure it is one of the 1,000 or so other ed reform companies hoping to make a quick buck before the speculation craze in education goes the way of baseball cards.  I have no doubt, in my own state of Delaware, our State Board of Education will talk about this at one of their upcoming meetings.  In fact, I found the link to this absurdity through their own Twitter account!

Here’s an honesty gap for you Achieve Inc.: You helped to create Common Core, got a ton of money through Race To The Top grants as a vendor to many states, convinced states of this crucial need for an assessment inventory, and now you are telling them these horrible, waste of time, cash in the trash assessments are what students need?  Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!

Delaware Assessment Inventory By District, Charter & State: What Is Good & What Is Bad

Timeliness is a huge problem.  Couldn’t use the data as needed.  No teacher reports that gave insight that was meaningful.  Math items were very difficult.

Non-relevant information in a timely manner, not adaptive and doesn’t measure achievement ability at the grade level.  Not valid yet.  Lost instructional time.

TestStress

The above quotes came from two Delaware school districts’ assessment inventories.  Care to guess which assessment they are talking about?  The one everyone wants to be eliminated from Delaware assessments (in most cases) but will likely be the last assessment standing when all is said and done.

Governor Markell asked for an assessment inventory less than a year ago.  The Delaware Department of Education started moving on this prior to Markell’s announcement, with the help of Achieve Inc.  Achieve Inc. and Delaware go way back.  As far back as 2000 when the Assistant Secretary of Education Michael Cohen helped Delaware to “define their standards”.  In 2004, Cohen became the CEO of Achieve Inc. From 2007-2009, Achieve Inc. was instrumental in designing the new Common Core standards.  How ironic that they are now riding to the rescue in Delaware’s Assessment Inventory.  Not only did they set the standards that would be measured by state assessments, now they are determining which assessments are important and which are redundant.  Nothing like setting up the whole game in your favor…

Senate Joint Resolution #2 put the assessment inventory into law.  The Assessment Inventory Task Force is now meeting to decide the next steps.  All districts and charters who participated in the assessment inventory had to have their information submitted to the DOE by December 31st, 2015.

The Delaware DOE is accepting public comment on the assessment inventory:

Persons wishing to present comments on the assessment inventories or recommendations by the district, schools or state may do so in writing or by email by the close of business on or before February 21, 2016 to Tina Shockley, Education Associate, Department of Education, at 401 Federal Street, Suite 2, Dover, Delaware 19901.  Email is tina.shockley@doe.k12.de.us. Please type Assessment Inventory Comments in the subject line of the email.

All comments will be made public on the DDOE website and also provided to the SJR#2 Assessment Inventory Committee.
I would take FULL advantage of this Delaware parents!!!

Below are links to every single part of the Delaware Assessment Inventory.  Interestingly enough, only five of the Delaware charter schools participated in this inventory.  All 19 school districts in the state took part.  Also included is the state assessment inventory and their estimated time chart showing how they plan to reduce testing time but with no details explaining the how.  Care to take a guess which district’s assessment inventory was over 500 pages long?

DISTRICTS

Appoquinimink

Brandywine

Brandywine Recommendations

Caesar Rodney

Caesar Rodney Recommendations

Cape Henlopen

Capital

Christina

Christina Recommendations

Delmar

Delmar Recommendations

Indian River

Lake Forest

Laurel

Milford

Milford Recommendations

New Castle County Vo-Tech

Polytech

Polytech Recommendations

Red Clay Consolidated

Seaford

Smyrna

Sussex Tech

Woodbridge

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Academy of Dover

Campus Community School

Campus Community School Recommendations

Charter School of Wilmington

Charter School of Wilmington Recommendations

Delaware Design-Lab High School

Delaware Design-Lab High School Recommendations

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy

STATE ASSESSMENTS

State English/Language Arts

State Math

State Science

State Social Studies

TIME CHART

Time Reducation Chart for Delaware mandated assessments

Acting US Secretary of Education John King recently praised Delaware for it’s “important role” in defining how an assessment inventory should be done.  As if it was planned from the very beginning…

There is more than meets the eye with this assessment inventory…

Assessment Inventory Task Force Meeting Tonight, Don’t Opt Out Of This One!!!!

I strongly encourage everyone in Delaware to go to the Assessment Inventory Task Force meeting tonight at the Delaware Dept. of Education Townsend Building in Dover at 5:00pm.  The transparency surrounding this task force has been horrible.  When Senate Joint Resolution #2 was discussed during the Senate Education Committee meeting last June, the audience was told these would be public meetings with full transparency.  We are now seeing that isn’t the case at all.  I’m really not sure where the minutes are for this because there are none.  We can thank Senator David Sokola for this.  Tonight’s meeting is the third meeting and no minutes have been listed on the SJR #2 page.  You would think the DOE would also put minutes for this group on their website since it was their idea anyways, but no.  Unless you go to these meetings, we have no idea what they are doing.

For those thinking “Why should I go?  It’s not like they care about my input anyways!”, you are probably right.  But we need all eyes on this.  When asked if the Smarter Balanced Assessment would be a part of this conversation, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara said:

“Absolutely, yes, all assessments will be the subject of discussion.  We were all invited together to have a discussion about assessments.  Hopefully those discussions will be grounded in the reality of the cycle of state legal requirements around assessments.  But were happy to have any conversation around any assessment that any member of this group would put on the table.”

Time to live up to that promise Lindsay!  If we want this task force to Achieve it’s original promise, then we need to start making sure it is wide open to all.

Updated 15 minutes later.  The minutes for the second meeting are out there, but I could only find them on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar in draft form:

So I ask again: where is the conversation about Smarter Balanced being put on the table?  Or is the Smarter Balanced the power brokers behind this that want to eat up all the other assessments unless they support SBAC?  And I see a whole let of Achieve Inc. mentions in these minutes.  Speaking of power brokers…

DOE Purposely Misleading Stakeholders On House Bill 50 & Parent Opt-Out With “Alternative” SJR #2

The Delaware Department of Education hates parent opt-out.  They can’t do anything about it.  They know this, yet they continually attempt to greatly exaggerate even the tiniest detail, blow it up, and then add layers to it.  Exceptional Delaware was able to get its hands on the actual document the DOE has been sending their “stakeholders” lately in regards to parent opt-out and House Bill 50.  What is very telling is the document doesn’t even have the DOE letterhead on it.  This is a Department that never misses a chance to spread their name, but on this document, it is oddly missing.  Notice how close some of the wording is to the recent Dover Post article on parent opt-out with Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s editorial.

You can see it in bold print: “There is an alternative- Senate Joint Resolution #2 has been introduced- looking at testing.”  Now if anyone doubts the validity of this document coming from the DOE since it doesn’t have their name on it, I would be more than happy to email it to you.  When you are in the PDF, and you click on file, go down to properties, and it shows you the author “Young Shana”.  Otherwise known as DOE employee Shana Young.  This was written by Young on May 22nd.  Now some of this may seem familiar.  That’s because we have heard it from the DOE numerous times.  What wasn’t included in this document was extra wording talking about the General Assembly not having “formal authority” over the assessment inventory with Senate Joint Resolution #2.

What I would like to know is who the DOE is sending these out to.  I put in a FOIA request for any emails from Shana Young from May 14th and May 15th to any superintendents in Delaware.  Because I know Miss Young knew about Senate Joint Resolution #2 at least five days before it was even introduced, and that would mean this information could have only come from the sponsors of the bill: either Earl Jaques or David Sokola.  I emailed Senator Sokola on Tuesday for more information on this mystery but he hasn’t responded at all.  I did get the FOIA going with the DOE, but I guess I’m not important enough for Senator Sokola.  But I’m sure if it was the DOE emailing him, he would come running.

This is the email I sent to Senator Sokola:

 

To
  • Sokola David

Dear Senator Sokola,

I’m just going to come right out and ask this.  Which legislation are you giving more weight to: House Bill 50 or Senate Joint Resolution #2?  I know your thoughts on parent opt-out based on your interview with Avi at WHYY, but this is not just about your opinion.  It’s about giving this legislation the forum it deserves.  The House passed this 36-3.  I know there is a lot on the Senate Education Committee’s agenda, and this is not the only education bill out there.  But it has been the most mentioned in media (and not just my blog).  We have never actually talked person to person, but I am not a lone wolf crying in the dark.  HB50 is supported by the vast majority of the public.  As parents, we already have the right to opt our kids out.  And we will continue to do so in growing numbers.  What we will not tolerate is the treatment parents have received from many of our schools in regards to opt-out.  As long as one parent is receiving heat from any one school, this matter will not die.

What concerns me the most though is SJR #2 and your history with Achieve Inc.  I know you have a long-standing association with Achieve Inc. and Michael Cohen, going back to 2008, if not longer.  Achieve is also the vendor on the assessment inventory the DOE is pushing so hard.  As well, I have seen a DOE email from the past couple weeks talking about SJR #2 to “stake-holders” stating that SJR #2 is an alternative to House Bill 50.  As well, this email from Shana Young stated that SJR #2 will give no “formal authority” to the results of the assessment inventory.  Since you and Jaques are the primary sponsors on SJR #2, it is obvious SJR #2 is more about killing HB50 than tackling assessment inventory.

You have the power to make sure HB50 is heard, and heard first in the Senate Education Committee meeting on 6/3.  Parents will show up, and it would be a tremendous disservice to make them wait, if it is even heard that day.  Parents are now part of the process on education in Delaware.  It would be a true shame to ignore them.

I think there needs to be an honest conversation about these backroom deals going on with the DOE and their contracted vendors.  It is getting out of hand, and these are funds that should be going to our children in the classroom. 

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Now since this email with no response went out, the agenda for the Senate Education Committee meeting on 6/3 has gone up, and it has both House Bill #50 and Senate Joint Resolution #2 on it, along with two major autism bills and a bill about identification of students with military connections.  There could be a chance HB 50 isn’t even heard that day and it is pushed back until the next week.  But I can promise you this: if Senate Joint Resolution #2 is heard, and not HB50, Sokola is going to generate a lot of heat and ire from ticked off parents.

In the meantime, I’m sure the DOE will be sending out more “talking points” filled with half-truths, outdated information, and outright lies.  Their high-stakes testing propaganda machine is running out of fuel, so they are obviously googling ANY editorials they can find from other states on civil rights groups opposition to opt-out.  And the 27 number they quote for national civil rights groups?  That changed to 12 last month.  So nice try DOE.  At least get something right!

And what does this line even mean: “Without assessment results that shows where these students need support, the support for these students disappears.” So the only support these children need is based off of Common Core standardized tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Okay!  Does that mean the DOE won’t give low-income, minority and special needs children support if they don’t take the standardized test?  Are you saying that no school or teacher gives these kids supports, ever?  This scare tactic doesn’t work cause it is based on a falsehood that Governor Markell and the DOE have promulgated onto the public.

They also wrote “Testing, without over-testing, is valuable and provides us important information for our students and schools.”  Who is the “us” Miss Young refers to?  And this line shows this testing is important for the DOE, but not the students and the schools.  They want this information so they can USE the student data so they can PUNISH the schools.

“Under current Delaware law, all students are required to take statewide assessments.”  No, they are not.  The schools are required to administer the tests, but children are NOT required to take them.  Nice play on words there.

And then we have the (yawn) whole Federal Funding cut threats (getting sleepy) and how Delaware can stand to lose $42 million on one page, and $44 on another, but all coming from the same source.  But it never comes right out (zzzzzzzzzzzz…Sorry!) and says it, but there is a “risk”.  Sorry DOE, if the Feds are going to cut Title I funding to schools, they aren’t going to start with Delaware.  They would start with New York or New Jersey, and they would have done it by now.  The only reason they haven’t is because they can’t.  So once again, thanks for the empty threats.

Here is my biggest question though: How can the Delaware DOE already know the Fiscal Year 2016 allocation for Title I funds?  What if a student switches schools?  I truly don’t know the answer to this one so if anyone does, please advise me!

Oh yeah, one other big thing… why is Shana Young, who works in the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE, writing opt-out talking points to stakeholders?  Wouldn’t something of that sort be covered under Penny Schwinn’s area, Office of Accountability, which has Assessment under that umbrella?  Could it be that standardized testing is more about Teacher and Leader Effectiveness than Accountability?  I’ll let you draw your own conclusion on that one dear readers!

For parents and citizens who are supportive of House Bill 50 and parent opt-out, but against Senate Joint Resolution #2 and assessment inventory, please email the legislators and let them know.  For quick reference, just copy and paste the below information:

Harris.McDowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Karen.Peterson@state.de.us bethany.hall-long@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us David.McBride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us Charles.Potter@state.de.us StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us helene.keeley@state.de.us gerald.brady@state.de.us melanie.g.smith@state.de.us debra.heffernan@state.de.us Bryon.Short@state.de.us Quinton.Johnson@state.de.us Kevin.Hensley@state.de.us sean.matthews@state.de.us jeff.speigelman@state.de.us Deborah.Hudson@state.de.us john.l.mitchell@state.de.us Peter.Schwartzkopf@state.de.us Valerie.Longhurst@state.de.us jj.johnson@state.de.us Michael.Mulrooney@state.de.us michael.barbieri@state.de.us kimberly.williams@state.de.us Steve.Smyk@state.de.us Michael.Ramone@state.de.us joseph.miro@state.de.us paul.baumbach@state.de.us Edward.Osienski@state.de.us john.kowalko@state.de.us John.Viola@state.de.us Earl.Jaques@state.de.us william.carson@state.de.us trey.paradee@state.de.us bobby.outten@state.de.us Sean.Lynn@state.de.us andria.bennett@state.de.us jack.peterman@state.de.us Lyndon.Yearick@state.de.us David.L.Wilson@state.de.us Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us Ronald.Gray@state.de.us Daniel.Short@state.de.us Timothy.Dukes@state.de.us Richard.G.Collins@state.de.us

DOE Considering Replacing SAT With Smarter Balanced Assessment, Markell’s “Assessment Reduction” Plan Has Been In The Works For 6 Months, & School Turnaround News

Chief Accountability and Performance Officer Penny Schwinn, at the Delaware Department of Education, gave a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment to the State Board of Education today.  Schwinn indicated the Smarter Balanced Assessment may potentially be considered to replace the SAT in 11th grade for Delaware students.  She claimed that other states are doing this already.

The main part of the presentation was the five-year Smarter Balanced Assessment plan.  Schwinn and Dr. Carolyn Lazar, another associate at the Delaware DOE, talked about the recent “assessment reduction” initiative that had some rather revealing and shocking acknowledgments.  The DOE has spent the past six months reviewing state assessments and found there is a lot of replication across the state.  Their goals in this review have been to make sure assessments align to the state standards, yield valuable reports on student progress, adhere to best practices statewide, and align with the system in place.  Schwinn said “We all want as much instruction time as possible,” and in speaking about the community’s role in this initiative, “We want to be respectful of community input.”

Schwinn’s office feels end of year assessments (finals) are repetitive and they are starting to see a reduction on these tests in districts.  The five-year assessment plan will cover Smarter Balanced Assessments, DCAS for Social Studies and Science, Alternate Assessments, and the following tests: PSAT, SAT, ACCESS and NAEP.

Schwinn explained the grant funds involved with this assessment review available to the “largest districts” as she put it, and it would amount to $5.00 a student for a total of $80-90,000.  Lazar explained, contradicting Schwinn’s earlier statement, that the grant is available to all the districts in Delaware and that the DOE initiated this process two years ago but became a focus six months ago.  The grant funds became available for the districts in early April, and the districts have until the end of the April to deliver a list of their assessments to the DOE.

A company called Achieve is the DOE contractor involved in this, and their role is to provide a user-friendly model and to develop an action plan to execute on the findings of the review.  The DOE is planning to develop a communications and community engagement process, and they are pleased at the level of educator involvement already taking place with this review.

The DOE has already provided the districts with a template of the grant form to ease the burden on the districts.  They suggested the districts use an outside consultancy firm, like Achieve (which they specifically mentioned for a 2nd time).  The review plan has three steps: Phase 1: review, Phase 2: develop action plan, and Phase 3: implement action plan.  The goal, according to Lazar is “teaching more, testing less.”  The plan will ask “Why assess?” which they feel is necessary and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray agreed.  “We are all consumers of data,” Lazar said.

The DOE will be more than happy to provide technical assistance to the districts that they may consider part of their budget, with the help of Achieve (3rd mention of this company), who may want other contractors to come in and assist.  But the districts can be creative with the funds (based on a DOE designed grant template and the able-bodied assistance of Achieve).

Gray restated the earlier statement that the grant is optional to the districts, but Schwinn stated they are committed to doing this for all of the districts.  Board member Pat Heffernan asked if there is a rubric for this initiative, to which Lazar said that is something they are looking to implement but nothing exact like a specific rubric (after they already designed the grant template).

They expect the district assessment tally in mid-May and an action plan by December.  During the gap in time, they plan to utilize focus groups (with no definition of who would be on these focus groups).

Schwinn indicated teacher created assessments used in the classroom are not a part of this review, but some of the Measure B and RTI interventions used by the districts, according to Gray, are repetitive.  Schwinn stated these are the universal assessments that all students must take and determining the validity of them.  Schwinn stated Common Core alignment with the SAT would be ready by next year with a transition in the next two years and full implementation in the next 3-5 years.

The next part of their presentation concerned the current implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in districts and charters in Delaware.  Schwinn said she is “very excited” about the results they have seen so far.  As of April 10th, 15,000 students have taken part in the summative ELA Smarter Balanced Assessment, and 9,000 for the math.  When asked about the different in numbers, Schwinn indicated it was because of how the districts and schools implement the testing scheduled during their testing windows.  There was a long discussion about “chunking”.  Heffernan asked if there have been situations like the schools thought a section would take four days but it took six to which Schwinn answered they haven’t received that feedback at this point.

In terms of problems, the biggest problem which was on the screen, but not even discussed during the meeting was the issue of accommodations.  The screen indicated “ACCOMMODATIONS DATA TRANSFER EXPERIMENTING ISSUES-unresolved, students incorrectly appearing as “custom” for accommodations in the test administration interface.  Work-around requires test administrator to employ additional efforts to validate accommodations for every student.”  American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor is “working on the issue.”  Nothing was discusses about any financial impact to the state or the districts to resolve these issues.  The DOE has an internal system they use to monitor the Smarter Balanced called PBMS.  Schwinn indicated the first year of DCAS had similar issues (another state assessment designed by AIR).

Executive Director of the State Board Donna Johnson asked how many districts were doing the interim assessments and Schwinn answered this is decided by the actual schools, and in some schools, only certain grades.  For the hand-scoring they are using a new technical system for curricular assessments and collaborating with the State of Washington and Air for training.  This is posted on a portal called the Teacher Hand-Scoring System.

There has been an inconsistent display of resources but conference calls with other states in the SBAC, the staff at Smarter Balanced and AIR is allowing for collaboration and sharing of resources like sources, prompts and materials deployed.

Schwinn indicated students like “Smarter” (a recent Facebook commenter said all the DOE hipsters like to call it “Smarter”) better than DCAS and are showing more interest because it has listening and is more realistic (with not even 1/5th of the students in the state taking the test, they are already making this assumption without all the end-of-assessment surveys).

Here is my take on all this, and the whole “reduction of assessments” initiative is not to actually reduce testing, but because the DOE wants more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  The DOE and Governor Markell want everything tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment: college course placement, standards-based IEPs, SATs, and even those pesky little “other” assessments that provide real and valuable data in many cases.  My big question is this: how much did the legislators know of these plans with this test when the majority voted to approve it last year with House Bill 334?

While this question is being pondered, who is Achieve?  According to their website, their agendas (not making this up, they actually have a tab called “Our Agenda”) include standards, graduation requirements, data & accountability and assessments, with sub-groups in this category called sample student assessment reports, ADP assessments, measures that matter, and what a coincidence, one called Student Assessment Directory for School Districts.  And look at that, they just completed a huge guide for districts on 3/20/15!

And from their website, which can be found at just another corporate education reform link:

Below is a brief history of Achieve:

1996: Achieve is founded at the National Education Summit by leading governors and business leaders.

1998: Achieve begins its Academic Standards and Assessments Benchmarking Pilot Project.

1999: Achieve sponsors a National Education Summit.

2001: Achieve sponsors a National Education Summit; Achieve joins the Education Trust, Thomas B. Fordham Institute and National Alliance of Business to launch the American Diploma Project (ADP) to identify the “must-have” knowledge and skills most demanded by higher education and employers.

2004: The American Diploma Project releases “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts.” This groundbreaking report – the result of over two years of research – identifies a common core of English and mathematics academic knowledge and skills, or “benchmarks,” that American high school graduates need for success in college and the workforce. Education Week later named “Ready or Not” one of the most 12 influential research studies.

2005: Achieve co-sponsors a National Education Summit on High Schools, with the National Governors Association; the American Diploma Project Network is launched with 13 inaugural states.

2006: Achieve releases its first annual report on the ADP college- and career-ready policy agenda: “Closing the Expectations Gap: An Annual 50-State Progress Report on the Alignment of High School Policies with the Demands of College and Work.”

2007: The ADP Assessment Consortium launches to develop common Algebra II end-of-course assessment, which was, at that time, the largest multi-state effort to develop assessments to date.

2008: Achieve releases “Out of Many, One: Toward Rigorous Common Core Standards from the Ground Up,” a report that found that individual state efforts to set college- and career-ready standards for high school graduates actually led to a remarkable degree of consistency in English and mathematics requirements.

2009: Work begins on the development of the Common Core State Standards; Achieve partners with the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers on the Initiative and a number of Achieve staff and consultants serve on the writing and review teams.

2010: The final Common Core State Standards are released; Achieve begins serving as Project Management Partner for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

2011: Achieve begins managing the state-led development of the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards.

2013: The final Next Generation Science Standards are released.

 

So now that we know the who, what, where, when and how, my big question is WHY?  This is just another waste of money so the DOE can pay another corporate education reform company.  Is there just this huge and massive network of these companies that comes into states and “transforms” everything education related?

Well, at least now we know Penny Schwinn does more than worry about priority schools.  Wait a minute… I take that back.  I found this on the Delaware Contract Bid website, just placed two days ago in fact…

 

But let’s all hope Delaware Secretary of Education Mary Murphy’s sniffles get better.  The poor guy either has a bad cold, or allergies, or something.  Hope you feel better Mark!

 

 

The Aspen Institute: How They Shape Delaware Education & Reap The Profits

The Aspen Institute is a think tank that deals with global issues with a very large emphasis on education.  Eight citizens of Delaware are part of its fellowship program: Governor Jack Markell, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation, Senator Chris Coons, Tom Kovach, Collin O’Mara, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court Leo Strine and Portia Yarborough with DuPont.  Mark Murphy’s predecessor Lillian Lowery is also a fellow.

Their website describes the organization as:

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC.  Our mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.

Their website gives nine areas where they deal with these critical issues: Community & Family Prosperity, Culture & Communication, Economy, Education, Energy & The Environment, Health, Justice & Equity, Philanthropy & Social Enterprise, and Security & Global Affairs.

The President and CEO of The Aspen Institute is Walter Isaacson, a former CEO of CNN/TimeWarner.  He also serves on the board for Teach For America.

They also happen to have some of the biggest movers in the corporate education reform movement: US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, KIPP Founder Richard Barth, Great Schools CEO Bill Jackson, Education Pioneers CEO Scott Morgan, LearnZillion CEO Eric Westendorf, ten of the biggest Teach For America executives in the country including COO Elisa Villanueva Beard, John Luczak with Education First Consulting, Senior Vice President Laura Slover of Achieve Inc., three executives from the Achievement First chain of charter schools, Leah Hamilton with the Carnegie Corporation, Relay Graduate School President Norman Atkins, Uncommon Schools CEO Brett Peiser and Managing Director Julie Jackson, no less than seven high level officials with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ed Kirby with the Walton Family Foundation, Russlynn Ali and Shivam Mallick-Shah with the US Department of Education, John Bailey and Patricia Levesque with Foundation for Excellence in Education, Marc Porter Magee with 50CAN, CEO Jean Desravines of New Leaders for New Schools, Leslie Kerner and Larry Berger with Wireless Generation (now Amplify), COO Gloria Lee and three other associates with NewSchools Venture Fund, Co-founder Joann Gama of IDEA Public Schools (Charters), President Tim Daly with The New Teacher Project, Dan Katzir with The Broad Foundation, Founder John Danner of Rocketship Education, Executive Director Chris Eide of Teachers United, CEO Kevin Hall with Charter School Growth Fund, and CEO Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy Charter Schools.  All items in bold are explained below.

Add in companies like Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Foot Locker, Bank Of America, J.P. Morgan,  McKinsey & Company, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and many more.

So what does a fellow do at the Aspen Institute?  They have projects they work on for the betterment of their chosen area.  For Governor Markell, Paul Herdman and Mark Murphy, they are all in the education sector.

Markell’s project is below: Continue reading