Delaware School Success Framework Working Group At It Again

With very little fanfare and public notices on the State of Delaware Public Meeting website, the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) Working Group has met again.  It seems, based on the below presentation and meeting minutes, the purpose of the group is to tweak the school “report card” to align with the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  This is a MUST read for teachers and parents.

The last time this group met, one of their biggest recommendations was that the Delaware Dept. of Education should NOT have a penalty on schools for parents their child out of the state standardized test, now the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware DOE did not honor that recommendation and put a penalty into the framework that would have punished schools over decisions made by parents.  Eventually, when Delaware submitted their ESSA state plan earlier this Spring, they took out the penalty.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 30th, from 9:30am to 12noon at the TechRADD Facility (WARR building) in Dover.

My big question is this: Where is the Delaware State Educators Association representative on this?  When this group was the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG), the number of members was much larger.  Who are the members?

Darren Guido, Caesar Rodney

Carisa Pepper, Indian River

Joseph Jones, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech

Chris Havrilla, Woodbridge

Lisa Morris, Delmar

Ken Hutchins, Appoquinimink

Keisha Brinkley, Appoquinimink

Ed Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School

From the Delaware DOE, it looks like various folks are coming to the meetings from multiple areas within the state agency: Luke Rhine, Brittany Mauney, Terry Richard, Carolyn Lazar, Jen Koester, Ted Jarrell, Chantel Janiszewski, Elizabeth Jetter, Eric Niebrzydowski, Shana Payne, Denise Stouffer, Gregory Fulkerson, and Lindsay Lewis.  I believe Janiszewski is the facilitator of this new DSSF working group.

 

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Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…

 

Delaware DOE Continues To Ignore The Voices Of Their Stakeholders

The Delaware Dept. of Education has a very bad habit.  They ignore what the people are telling them.  This is the case with the 2016-2017 Delaware School Success Framework.  Once again, they are incorporating the Smarter Balanced Assessment participation rate as a penalty in the framework.  Even though a majority of their stakeholders in the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group said they don’t want this anymore.  The final regulations from the U.S. Dept. of Education concerning participation rate have not come out yet but ESSA dictates that it is the decision of the states and local education agencies to determine how they handle opt out.  US DOE Secretary of Education John King received a great deal of flack from parents, educators, and citizens with his harsh regulations surrounding accountability.  This also drew the attention of members of Congress who felt King was abusing the authority given to him with ESSA.  The state does NOT have to have a penalty for participation rate.  But the DOE continues to treat ESSA as a penalty-providing opportunity.

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The above picture was taken by one of the members of the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group.  The discussion groups come up with ideas and thoughts on how to improve schools.  For this discussion group, after they have answered all questions, they put three stickers next to their top priorities.  Not having opt out as a penalty in the DSSF and having the school report what may have happened received 8 stickers.  If I remember this meeting correctly, there were only about half the members in attendance.  So for this to get 8 priority stickers, that is huge.  But the Delaware DOE ignores this.

Last year, when the Accountability Framework Working Group convened to decide on the final version of the DSSF, they came up with the same idea which was a valid option from the US DOE.  It looked like that was going to go through until Governor Markell stuck his nose into it and directed Secretary Godowsky to proceed with the opt out penalty.  Even though Markell will end his reign as Governor and is moving onto bigger and better things, like performing in the Nutcracker, the DOE continues his very bad education policy.

Last night, I had an interview with Education Week.  They reached out to me due to my role on the Student and School Supports ESSA Discussion Group.  I won’t spoil the interview, but there was discussion around what the true role of “stakeholder input” is with Delaware’s ESSA plan.  Many feel that we are just placards in the process and the Delaware DOE will do what it damn well pleases.  This latest version of the DSSF just reinforces that thought.

Incoming Delaware Governor John Carney: you really need to put the brakes on the DOE Accountability Machine!  The DOE needs to listen to their stakeholders more than Rodel!

Delaware DOE Making Changes To Accountability System Without Any Public Notice Or Input

The Delaware Department of Education has tweaked the Delaware School Success Framework for the past four months without any public notice whatsoever unless you happen to look at the document buried on their website.  While some of the changes were based on approved changes by the State Board of Education or the Secretary of Education (such as the change for 11th graders from Smarter Balanced to the SAT), others have not.  Including a whole new metric calculation included in the latest version, released on Monday.  To rephrase this, they added a whole new section!  Now, if memory serves, the State Board of Education had to approve the Delaware School Success Framework.  And under that statement, I would assume the State Board of Education would have to approve any changes to the accountability system.  But here we have the Delaware DOE bypassing that process, with NO public notice, input, or comment.

Tell me, Secretary Godowsky, when does this better working relationship with the DOE start to happen?  When does that transparency get better?  Because I’m not seeing it.  Maybe some district or charter leaders might be seeing this stuff, but they aren’t the only stakeholders in education.  Please get that through your head.  Because, from my vantage point, things are no better under your leadership than they were with Mark Murphy.  Sure, some of the more visible lightning rods of controversy may have left, but that is no excuse to continue the absolutely horrible decisions your predecessor made.  In fact, I would say it is making it worse.  Who is guiding the DOE towards these decisions?  Who is signing off on these changes?  Why is there no discussion from Secretary Godowsky about these changes at State Board of Education meetings?  Where is the documentation that led to the creation of whole new business rule and a new section of the Delaware School Success Framework?  Was there another meeting of the Accountability Framework Working Group without any public notice whatsoever?  Because they are the ones who convened for well over a year and were the “stakeholders” behind this thing originally.  But I forget, you didn’t even follow their final recommendations with regards to the participation rate, so I assume their opinion doesn’t matter anyways.

The changes regarding the proficiency status if 30 students or less pass a “non-standard” state assessment are pretty major!

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Proficiency in science or social studies should have no bearing on proficiency in English or Mathematics.  Who does this benefit?  When parents are looking for schools, they could be looking for how students do in English or Math.  By changing the weight on non-related subjects it can skew the results for an entire school!  Even if it winds up benefitting the school, it is a false picture provided on this “school report card”.  I have to ask, who comes up with this nonsense?  I can only come up with one scenario where this would directly benefit public impressions: charter schools.  More under the radar puffing up of charters at traditional school district expense.  When are you going to stop this?  This n# thing that benefits charters in many situations has gotten out of control.  I get that it is meant to dissuade identification of students, but 30?  Come on!  Who is going to identify one student out of a group of 30?  In some Delaware charter schools, a grade could have less than 100 students.  We know this.  It allows charters to be exempt from some of the same accountability schemes traditional school districts are held under the knife for.  It also happens in special education all the time when it comes time for compliance audits or federal state rating systems.

Delaware DOE: You are the Department of Education, not the Department of Delaware Charter Schools.  Grow the hell up!  It’s getting really old!

And here are the complete list of changes as provided at the end of the updated Delaware School Success Framework:

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This needs to stop in Delaware.  No school that receives public funds should receive ANY special treatment over others.  But that is exactly what our DOE and State Board of Education do time and time again with our charter schools.  They actually allow them to look good in any potential and possible situation.  They do it with smoke and mirrors, behind closed doors, where no one can stop them.  They don’t solicit public feedback or allow anyone to see these “business rules” until they incorporate them.  And we are expected to believe they want public input on the Every Student Succeeds Act?  I have no doubt they already know exactly what they are going to do there.  Any pizza party at Grotto’s in Dover, on August 9th put on by the State Board of Education is just a big dog and pony show.  And don’t believe the lie about “light refreshments” beginning at 5pm.  When I went to one of these, they had whole pizzas.  So come on down or up to Dover and make your opinions known!  And eat lots of pizza!

 

 

ESSA Killed The Delaware DOE’s Opt-Out Penalty

When President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act last December, he actually helped Delaware immensely in regards to opt-out.  The Delaware DOE submitted their updated ESEA Flexibility Waiver to US DOE at the end of the November.  Two weeks before that, the Delaware State Board of Education voted on the participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework which was submitted to US DOE for approval.  As a result of ESSA, the US DOE is not signing off on anything that goes into effect after August 1st, 2016.  Since their original ESEA Flexibility Waiver submitted last March had it snuck in there at the last minute based on final recommendations by the Accountability Framework Working Group, the participation rate penalty in the DSSF can not be considered enforceable.

The updated Delaware Regulation 103, which was postponed by the State Board of Education last September after parents, educators, and a legislator had an open revolt at the State Board of Education meeting that month, was based on US DOE approval of the waiver request.  Since it is essentially null and void, Delaware can not insert the participation rate penalty into state code.

The caveat is the US DOE will be issuing regulations surrounding the Every Student Succeeds Act in the next few months.  That could change the conversation again at a later date, but I would assume the Delaware DOE will be unable to enforce the participation rate penalty on the DSSF for the 2015-2016 school year.  So no school should be citing the opt-out penalty to ANY parent when the parent wants to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment because that would technically be ILLEGAL to do so!

So Delaware parents, you can strike that off the list of reasons you shouldn’t opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  Despite the crazy State Board of Education meeting, this was very refreshing news to hear.  I emailed the DOE earlier this week and today I spoke to Susan Haberstroh at the DOE about whether or not the US DOE ever approved the request.  She explained they didn’t and why.  But she did inform me of the upcoming regulations from the US DOE which will truly test the power of ESSA in limiting the federal role in public education.

Remember Kids, Santa Claus Supports Opt-Out Too! Merry Christmas!

When I published Santa’s proclamation supporting opt-out of standardized testing, it took off like a rocket!  Santa Claus was very happy so many people read his press release, he asked me to publish it again tonight while he is out making all is deliveries to the children of Earth.  Santa was not happy the US DOE put out all those bad letters in the past couple months.  He is very disappointed in our education leaders.  He may have Dasher and Prancer do some of their covert operations during the off season…  But without further ado, here is the original story of how Santa Claus came to support opt-out.


Santa Claus was getting pictures at the Dover Mall with young children.  He always asks the kids what they want for Christmas.  He acknowledged hearing very strange requests over the years.  But he reported to me recently about a very unusual request he got on Black Friday.  A little boy who was 8 years old told Santa he only wanted one thing for Christmas.  He wanted his mother to opt him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Santa had never heard of such an odd thing before, so he asked the boy what it was.  “I’m in 3rd grade Santa, and all they talk about is some test we have to take next Spring.  All my teachers talk about it.  And we have to take something called an intrum test after we come back from Christmas break.  Every day teachers say ‘this could be on the test.  Make sure you know it.’  I’m getting tired of it Santa.  Nobody cares about my actual grades, and I’m a smart kid Santa.”

Santa asked the boy what “opting out” means?  The boy said some parents actually told the school they didn’t want their kid taking the Smarter Balanced test.  The school gave them a rough time, but the parents fought back.  “If they can do it, can you make sure my mom does it too?”  Santa pondered this for a moment. “I think,” Santa said, “That would be up to your Mom.”  “Good, she is right over there,” the boy said and pointed to his mother.  “Mom, can you come over here?  Santa wants to ask you something!” the boy shouted.

The boy’s mother walked over and Santa said “Your son wants you to opt him out of the Smarter something test.  It’s all he wants for Christmas.”  The boy’s mother explained she had never heard of the test.  “That’s cause this is the first year we take it Mom.  I heard some teachers say it doesn’t actually mean anything and it only lets the state know how we are doing.  And I heard something about some evil Psycho Metric guy.”  The boy’s mother explained, “I will have to look into this.”  The boy shouted “But I want you to opt me out!”  The crowd heard the words “opt-out” and all of a sudden, parents were yelling “Opt him out! Opt him out!”  Santa explained how he had to get to the next kid as the line to visit him was getting longer.  “Let me make some calls on this!  Can I call your mom about this when I get more information?”  The boy’s mother gave Santa their phone number.

After a very long three days, Santa Claus dove into the subject of opt-out.  He ran across this blog, so he gave me a call.  I explained to Santa Claus how opt-out works and that it is a parental right.  He asked me why schools fight it and want the kids to take a test that is bad for them.  I told Santa that the schools get threats and they are intimidated by the Delaware Department of Education.  I told him about House Bill 50, how some of the legislators like Jaques and Sokola tried to block it, how it passed the Delaware House and Senate, but then Governor Markell vetoed it.  But I also explained how the House and Senate might override his veto when they come back to make laws.  Santa laughed. “It sounds like someone should be called Senator So-coal-a!”  I explained to Santa how kids did worse on this test than the one that came before it and all the nasty tricks the DOE was trying to come out with because of the test.  Santa got very upset about the DOE and Secretary Godowsky blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendations about no harsh opt-out penalties for schools.  “Sounds to me like this Secretary and these DOE people want schools to be punished for a parent’s decision.  That isn’t honorable.  I might have to order some more coal this year…”

Santa’s cheeks got very red as he became more flustered about the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  “This just isn’t right!  Now I am understanding why so many kids have looked different and sad the past few years.  I thought this Common Core stuff would go away when they talked about all that nonsense with kids needing to compete with the kids in China.  I go there every year, and most of those kids don’t even take those tests!”  I told Santa how they got rid of that reason, and now it is so kids can be college and career ready!  Santa laughed so hard I could hear his belly jiggling over the phone.  “How in the world can a kid in 3rd grade, or even 8th grade be ‘college and career ready’?  Kids need to play and have fun.  School is important, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much other stuff that makes them grow up.”

Santa called the boy’s mother last night and had a long talk with her.  She agreed that opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best choice for her son.  That night, she wrote a letter to her son’s school opting her son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This morning, she gave it to the principal and kept a copy for herself.  She asked the principal to sign a piece of paper recognizing he received the letter.  She said I could share it but for the sake of her son’s privacy to take out her name.  It said:

Dear Principal,

I am letting you know that I am opting my son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be administered in 2016.  I am requesting my son not be punished for my decision and that he is given instruction while the other children are taking the test.  I understand schools have to give the test, but I also know this is a parent’s right and there is no law stating I can’t.  I do not wish to have any meetings or calls about this.  Please respect my decision.

Sincerely,

The boy’s mom

Santa was very proud of the boy for having the courage to ask for something so simple.  It gave him hope that other parents would see the wisdom in the boy and his mother’s decision.  Santa doesn’t usually interfere with the workings of the people, but he thought in this case he should issue some type of proclamation about this whole opt-out thing.  So he asked me to give the exclusive on his proclamation to which I happily agreed.  So without further ado, here is Santa’s official stance on opt-out!

SantaClausLetter

 

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…

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Hodges & Johnson

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Hodges & Johnson is not the latest detective show hitting television.  But it is an appropriate name for the powerhouse behind the Delaware PTA.  They really stepped up this year for parent rights.  President Dr. Terri Hodges and Vice-President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson started the year off with a bang by announcing two town halls for those interested in opting their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I will fully admit to being blown away when I heard this but I quickly got in touch with Dr. H and let her know I was in full support of this.

In March, the duo held the first opt out town hall in New Castle County.  To say the first town hall on opt-out was controversial would be an understatement.  Confession time again: I truly thought I was advocating on my own for opt-out.  I knew others in the state who supported it and a couple school boards were behind it, but in terms of rallying the troops I thought it was going to be a solo act.  With that first town hall I knew there was massive support for the rising movement in Delaware.  Around the same time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was introduced in the General Assembly, State Rep. Earl Jaques was blasting opt-out parents, and Governor Markell was taking steps in his failed effort to squash the movement.

By the time the second opt-out town hall in Kent County happened a couple weeks later in early March, Brian Touchette from the DOE and Donna Johnson with the State Board of Education were forced to admit there was no law preventing parents from opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This was a major breakthrough in the opt-out movement and cleared the path for everything that went down at Legislative Hall over the next four months.

Johnson & Hodges, or at least one of their carefully chosen representatives, were present for every single opt-out meeting or vote at Legislative Hall.  By the time the Delaware Senate finally passed the bill on June 25th, summer was here and everyone who supported the bill needed a well-earned break.  But not even a month later, Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed House Bill 50 and spit on parental rights everywhere.  Immediately the talk went towards overriding the Governor’s veto, but the General Assembly went out of legislative session for six months.  Since then, Hodges & Johnson, with the PTA membership, have been gearing up for next month when the legislators return.

In the past few months, the Delaware PTA again stepped up to help prevent the harsh opt-out penalties as part of Delaware’s new state accountability system.  Unfortunately, Secretary Godowsky caved in to pressure and recommended the opt-out multiplier penalty as opposed to districts and schools having to come up with a plan to prevent opt-out.  The State Board of Education approved the final part of their ESEA Flexibility Waiver last month and they are awaiting word from the US DOE on final approval.

I have no doubt that will happen, especially given the stab in the back from the US DOE announced today about definitive funding cuts for states who dip below the 95% participation rate two years in a row.  But the Delaware PTA is on it, and the recently announced House Bill Veto Override Parent Rally at Legislative Hall on January 14th will show the legislators parents should not be underestimated.  In the thick of it will be Yvonne and Terri, Delaware’s own Hodges & Johnson!

Both of them truly believe parents have a voice in education, and they have proved it time and time again.  While I don’t agree with 100% of everything the PTA endorses, I respect their ability to draw consensus from a large group of parents for whatever they decide as a group.  That is how it should be in education, but we have too many Markells and Rodels in our country.

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Penny Schwinn

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A year ago, if you asked anyone on the Christina School District Board of Education to name one person at the Delaware Department of Education, the first name that would have popped up was Penny Schwinn.  Penny was the DOE face behind the priority schools in Red Clay and Christina.  Penny is currently the Chief of Accountability and Performance at the DOE.  When the Christina board had to pick two members to meet with the DOE, it was to meet Schwinn.  After the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee announced their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington, the DOE and Governor Markell backed off on Christina’s opposition to the priority schools.  The Christina board passed a resolution supporting the recommendations of WEAC.

Schwinn fell off my radar until a couple months later when she announced to the State Board of Education the SAT was being aligned to the Common Core.  I immediately jumped to the conclusion the SAT was being replaced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Many disagreed with me and told me I was wrong.  But essentially, that is what they are doing.  It won’t be the same test, but it will be more like SBAC than the previous SAT.  As well, the talk concerning the Assessment Inventory project showed the DOE was already planning this long before Governor Markell first mentioned it in March.

In May, I was given several emails from a FOIA concerning the priority schools which showed Schwinn’s role in the whole planning stage.  This gave a lot of insight into the whole debacle and how the DOE really didn’t know what the heck they were doing.

The subject of funding for the priority schools in Red Clay came up in a big way over the summer, as the DOE wasn’t giving the district their promised funding.  While never confirmed, this led directly to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s ouster at the Delaware DOE.

In September, after months of waiting, Schwinn’s group released the Smarter Balanced Assessment results to Delaware.  They had the results for quite a while before they were released which led to a lot of concern and speculation on my part as to why.  The results really didn’t show any earth-shattering increases for Delaware students, but overall, most students did worse on SBAC than they had on DCAS>

While all of this was going on, Schwinn was meeting with several superintendents, district admins, a rep from DSEA and a rep from the Delaware PTA on the Delaware School Success Framework.  The Accountability Framework Working Group was under the radar for most Delawareans until I accidentally found all their meeting notes and found the participation rate opt-out penalty.  This led to feverish and frantic emails to Schwinn and several complaints I filed with the US DOE and the Delaware DOJ.  As part of the US DOE mandated “school report card”, the US DOE gave “guidance” on the state’s new accountability systems.

Schwinn watched as the group unanimously voted to get rid of the participation rate penalty as a multiplier that would punish schools with high opt-out rates.  Eventually, newly christened Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky blew off the group’s recommendations and the DOE submitted the harsh opt-out penalty to the US DOE as part of their ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  Schwinn recommended, at the behest of Governor Markell, one of the toughest accountability systems for any state in the country.

As this was all coming to a head, Schwinn resigned from the Delaware DOE and is expected to leave by the end of this year.  Schwinn’s year and a half tenure at the Department was certainly full of controversy and angst for many school districts.  I am very curious where she will end up next…

Breaking News: Santa Claus Supports Opt-Out!!!

Santa Claus was getting pictures at the Dover Mall with young children.  He always asks the kids what they want for Christmas.  He acknowledged hearing very strange requests over the years.  But he reported to me recently about a very unusual request he got on Black Friday.  A little boy who was 8 years old told Santa he only wanted one thing for Christmas.  He wanted his mother to opt him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Santa had never heard of such an odd thing before, so he asked the boy what it was.  “I’m in 3rd grade Santa, and all they talk about is some test we have to take next Spring.  All my teachers talk about it.  And we have to take something called an intrum test after we come back from Christmas break.  Every day teachers say ‘this could be on the test.  Make sure you know it.’  I’m getting tired of it Santa.  Nobody cares about my actual grades, and I’m a smart kid Santa.”

Santa asked the boy what “opting out” means?  The boy said some parents actually told the school they didn’t want their kid taking the Smarter Balanced test.  The school gave them a rough time, but the parents fought back.  “If they can do it, can you make sure my mom does it too?”  Santa pondered this for a moment. “I think,” Santa said, “That would be up to your Mom.”  “Good, she is right over there,” the boy said and pointed to his mother.  “Mom, can you come over here?  Santa wants to ask you something!” the boy shouted.

The boy’s mother walked over and Santa said “Your son wants you to opt him out of the Smarter something test.  It’s all he wants for Christmas.”  The boy’s mother explained she had never heard of the test.  “That’s cause this is the first year we take it Mom.  I heard some teachers say it doesn’t actually mean anything and it only lets the state know how we are doing.  And I heard something about some evil Psycho Metric guy.”  The boy’s mother explained, “I will have to look into this.”  The boy shouted “But I want you to opt me out!”  The crowd heard the words “opt-out” and all of a sudden, parents were yelling “Opt him out! Opt him out!”  Santa explained how he had to get to the next kid as the line to visit him was getting longer.  “Let me make some calls on this!  Can I call your mom about this when I get more information?”  The boy’s mother gave Santa their phone number.

After a very long three days, Santa Claus dove into the subject of opt-out.  He ran across this blog, so he gave me a call.  I explained to Santa Claus how opt-out works and that it is a parental right.  He asked me why schools fight it and want the kids to take a test that is bad for them.  I told Santa that the schools get threats and they are intimidated by the Delaware Department of Education.  I told him about House Bill 50, how some of the legislators like Jaques and Sokola tried to block it, how it passed the Delaware House and Senate, but then Governor Markell vetoed it.  But I also explained how the House and Senate might override his veto when they come back to make laws.  Santa laughed. “It sounds like someone should be called Senator So-coal-a!”  I explained to Santa how kids did worse on this test than the one that came before it and all the nasty tricks the DOE was trying to come out with because of the test.  Santa got very upset about the DOE and Secretary Godowsky blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendations about no harsh opt-out penalties for schools.  “Sounds to me like this Secretary and these DOE people want schools to be punished for a parent’s decision.  That isn’t honorable.  I might have to order some more coal this year…”

Santa’s cheeks got very red as he became more flustered about the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  “This just isn’t right!  Now I am understanding why so many kids have looked different and sad the past few years.  I thought this Common Core stuff would go away when they talked about all that nonsense with kids needing to compete with the kids in China.  I go there every year, and most of those kids don’t even take those tests!”  I told Santa how they got rid of that reason, and now it is so kids can be college and career ready!  Santa laughed so hard I could hear his belly jiggling over the phone.  “How in the world can a kid in 3rd grade, or even 8th grade be ‘college and career ready’?  Kids need to play and have fun.  School is important, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much other stuff that makes them grow up.”

Santa called the boy’s mother last night and had a long talk with her.  She agreed that opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best choice for her son.  That night, she wrote a letter to her son’s school opting her son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This morning, she gave it to the principal and kept a copy for herself.  She asked the principal to sign a piece of paper recognizing he received the letter.  She said I could share it but for the sake of her son’s privacy to take out her name.  It said:

Dear Principal,

I am letting you know that I am opting my son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be administered in 2016.  I am requesting my son not be punished for my decision and that he is given instruction while the other children are taking the test.  I understand schools have to give the test, but I also know this is a parent’s right and there is no law stating I can’t.  I do not wish to have any meetings or calls about this.  Please respect my decision.

Sincerely,

The boy’s mom

Santa was very proud of the boy for having the courage to ask for something so simple.  It gave him hope that other parents would see the wisdom in the boy and his mother’s decision.  Santa doesn’t usually interfere with the workings of the people, but he thought in this case he should issue some type of proclamation about this whole opt-out thing.  So he asked me to give the exclusive on his proclamation to which I happily agreed.  So without further ado, here is Santa’s official stance on opt-out!

SantaClausLetter

 

Final Minutes From AFWG Meeting Illuminates Controversy Over Opt-Out Penalties

When you have many district superintendents and administrators saying “Don’t do it!”, you would think the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and Secretary Godowsky would listen.  If you heard folks saying “opt-out is only going to get bigger,” you would think a voice of reason would go off in their heads.  But no, this is Delaware.  The state where King Markell reigns on high, telling all the little minions what they must do.  Below are the minutes from the final (for now) Accountability Framework Working Group meeting last week.  Interesting news about Jeff Klein from Appoquinimink buried in here as well….

Who Is On The Assessment Inventory Committee?

I reached out to Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques to see who is on the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  I received his response yesterday.  This is a very interesting list with a name I never saw before, but I was very familiar with the last name.  We shall see what comes out of this committee.  My guess: a massive reduction in district assessments which will lead to more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  As well, official legislation getting rid of the Smarter Balanced for high school juniors since the SAT is going to become SBAC Jr. (my nickname for it).

Here are the members of the SJR #2 Assessment Inventory Committee:

Delaware Senator David Sokola

Delaware Senator Nicole Poore

Delaware Senator Ernie Lopez

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews

Delaware State Rep. Timothy Dukes

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques

Delaware State Education Association President Frederika Jenner

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt (filling the role of President of Chief School Officer’s Association)

Raina Allen (filling the role of “A representative of the civil rights’ community picked by the Governor”)

Equetta Jones (filling the role of “Parent picked by the Governor”, also a teacher in Red Clay Consolidated School District)

This is an interesting group.  With the legislators, it is right down the middle with who voted yes on the opt-out bill, House Bill 50, and  who voted no.  The “yeas” were Senators Poore and Lopez and State Rep.  Matthews.  The “nays” were Senator Sokola and State Reps Jaques and Dukes.  Both Sokola and Jaques are the head of their prospective education committees in the Senate and House.  Jenner is obviously represent the entire DSEA membership.  Gehrt, who also hails from the same district as our current Secretary Godowsky.   I have never personally met Equetta Jones, but I did see her speak at a Red Clay school board meeting last spring and she is very passionate.  The only person I wasn’t familiar with was Raina Allen, but a quick Google search let me know exactly who she was.

Filling roles from the Department of Education are: Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Chief of Staff Shana Young (which will be interesting given what I’m hearing), Tina Shockley, and Susan Haberstroh.  What I don’t see is anyone from the State Board of Education involved, anyone as just a teacher, and only one parent.  This is a very top-heavy group and they will be helping to make crucial decisions about the future of assessment in Delaware.  If this sounds reminiscent of the DOE’s recently defunct Accountability Framework Working Group (but no legislators were on this), where the recommendations of that committee were ignored by Godowsky and the State Board of Education, let’s hope the legislators can keep an eye on what is really important and not make this the usual Jack Markell dog-and-pony show.

Delaware PTA President-Elect Bill Doolittle Steps Down

The Delaware PTA President-Elect announced he is stepping down from that position today at the Delaware PTA State Convention held at Del-Tech in Dover.  Bill Doolittle has been with the Delaware PTA since 2011, and has probably served on more committees and task forces in our state than most.

Bill is a good guy, and he is a strong advocate for students with disabilities.  I know him from the IEP Task Force.  I wasn’t a member, but I attended every meeting so I got to know him pretty well.  I also saw him in action as a member of the Accountability Framework Working Group the past couple months.  Doolittle was not happy with the opt-out penalty, even if the DOE’s minutes from last Winter may have suggested otherwise.

Doolittle will remain with the Delaware PTA as part of their advocacy committee run by Yvonne Johnson.  And he still holds a seat on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Exceptional Citizens.  I have no doubt Bill will continue to be an active voice for our special needs kids here in Delaware!

Dr. Terri Hodges remains the President of Delaware PTA, and Ashley Dalzell-Gray was voted in as the first Vice-President of Delaware PTA at the convention today.

State Board Audio Of Opt-Out Penalty Decision Is A Confusing Mess, Godowsky Stays Quiet Most Of The Conversation

Lord help me, I have transcribed the biggest part of the State Board of Education meeting from yesterday.  Once again I am numb from hearing the State Board try to figure out what the hell they were even voting on.  This is long, but there are very key and integral parts of this conversation which illuminate the State Board and Godowsky’s warped view of the whole opt-out penalty mess.  This whole decision, and the bulk of the weight on the Delaware School Success Framework, is based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The State Board also discussed the DOE’s Annual Measurable Objectives, which caused a huge outcry yesterday among parents of students with disabilities.  Here it is, but stay tuned at the end for a very special announcement with some, in my opinion, shocking news.

State Board audio transcription of the presentation on Delaware School Success Framework, 11/19/15

Players:

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, President of State Board of Education

Board Members: Nina Bunting, Gregory Coverdale, Pat Heffernan, Barbara Rutt, (absent: Vice-President Jorge Melendez and board member Terry Whitaker)

Donna Johnson,  Executive Director of the State Board of Education

Penny Schwinn, Chief Officer Accountability and Performance

Ryan Reyna, Officer of Accountability

 

Dr. Teri Gray: The next topic for us is the presentation of the Delaware School Success Framework and any other revisions to the ESEA flexibility request.  Welcome.  Please state your name for the record.

Penny Schwinn: Good afternoon, Penny Schwinn, Director of Assessment, Accountability, Performance and Evaluation.

Ryan Reyna: and Ryan Reyna, same office as Penny.

Schwinn: Well good afternoon.  Glad to be here to present the final revisions to our ESEA Flexibility request.  Today what we’ll be going over is the specific recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework, or DSSF.  The recommendations for the rating performance thresholds, in essence each category a (?) system, and our annual measurable objective.  Just for a little bit of context, we have an approved ESEA Flexibility Waiver through the end of this school year, through 2016.  We can extend that through the end of the 2017-2018 school year contingent upon the following: we need to submit an amended request to incorporate some of the final modifications to the DSSF, and we also need to demonstrate that the DSSF will allow Delaware to name the required number of priority, focus, and reward schools moving forward in the future.  Again, just to be clear, we’ve already named our priority and our focus schools, we will not be naming anymore for at least three years as they move through that process but we still need to demonstrate that this system would do so.  We also need to provide the technical documentation for the DSSF.  We’ll be provided a Spring workbook, later, once that is approved, so that will let them know what the business rules and metrics will be.  We are also requesting an approval and support from the State Board on the final annual measurable objectives, or AMOs.

So just to provide a very brief overview, I know you are probably getting sick of this graph, you’ve seen it so many times.  But we have our DSSF and this is the whole system. So we haven Part A, and in essence that is the components  that are rated.  The versus proficiency, and that is the proficiency in ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  We also have growth in ELA and Math.  And just to reiterate the points we brought up before. We have one of the most progressive growth measures in the country in terms of the weighting on our system in growth.  So as a state we’ve taken a very strong philosophical stance to really prioritize growth in student achievement as opposed to proficiency which I think is exciting.  Attendance, this is for elementary and middle school only, for school it is looking at on-track (to graduate) in 9th grade and again giving extra points for the catch-up work for those students who are in the bottom quartile in performance, catching up by the end of 9th grade.  The 4, 5, and 6 year graduation rates, which is a big change for the state.  And then finally, for elementary and middle schools we have growth to proficiency in ELA and Mathematics, for high school it is college and career preparation which we’ve spoken about includes more than just one test, it also looks at career and dual education etc.

Part B is the components that are presented.  Transparently but not rated.  Right now that is specifically to surveys, student and parent, teachers may be optional, some post-secondary outcomes, we also know that every school in the state outside of one has provided a narrative report.  And in the future we’re hoping to include social and emotional learning.

So these are the recommendations that are outstanding for the DSSF.  And again these are the Secretary’s recommendations of what we should move forward with in terms of final business rules and components.  The AFWG (Accountability Framework Working Group) has not revised their recommendation from last month so I want to be clear about that.  For the participation rates for 2015-2016’s accountability year which is based on the 2014-2015 data, essentially if a school falls below 95% participation rate, in either Math or ELA, the school will need to create a plan.  That plan will be monitored by the Office of Assessment in terms of implementation.  Moving forward, so starting 2016-2017, based on data from this school year, all schools will divide their participation rate by 95% and multiply that by the proficiency to generate an adjusted rate.  What that allows for is both positive consequences, so if a school for example if a school is higher than 95% in essence they get bonus points for testing more of their students.  Again, it is the same multiplier we will be applying to schools that fall below 95%.  We are also reporting on disaggregated participation rates which is required federally.  So I want to stop there to see if there are any questions before I move onto performance ratings.  (No questions).  Ok, great.

So for performance ratings, we have the aggregate performance so each metric area will get their own aggregated performance.  We will not do an overall rating.  We will have that information but it will not be presented on the PDF so that is consistent with what you saw last month and what we presented at the last retreat.  It will be on a 5 star scale, based on the total points available and we’ll talk about what those cut points will be in a bit.

Gregory Coverdale: So I guess, to make a comparison, that’s why we’re dividing by 95%?

Schwinn: 95% is the threshold in terms of what our expectation is for participation.  So we don’t want to do that out of 100% because if you get 96% you are above that level so 95 is our top point so in essence we are saying that as long as you are at 95% you get a 100% of the points, anything above that is extra credit.  A positive consequence so to speak.

One of the things we did want to highlight, specifically, is just the number of schools who are increasing their ratings in terms of 3, 4, and 5 Star.  We compared that to AYP (Annual Yearly Performance-created through No Child Left Behind).  One of the things we looked at was in the AFWG, our working group, was to make sure that we weren’t just seeing the performance of schools specifically related to income, so what we looked at were the number of 3, 4, and 5 star schools that were Title I schools or had a large proportion of students who were low-income and what we found was that 52 of 124 elementary and middle schools were a 3, 4, or 5 star school under this system so we’re seeing that actually 42% of the schools are high-rated even when they have large proportions of low-income students.  That is not consistent with what we’ve seen with AYP which is a lower percentage of students who did not meet AYP.  So again, while we want to see more of our schools, and many of our schools perform at the highest levels, we see that this system more accurately represents the information, specifically the growth that a lot of our schools are seeing over time.

The last point we want to bring up before we move on is looking at the number of schools who would have dropped their ratings because of the participation rate.  That was an outstanding question we had.  I’ll look to Ryan (Reyna) to double-check on some of those specifics, but no school dropped a rating in the overall based on the participation rate multiplier (important note: they did not include high schools in this information, which would have shown schools like Conrad in Red Clay take a massive drop with their 40% participation rate in math).  We did have one school that would have increased based on this multiplier.

Gray: Based on the 14-15 data?

Schwinn: Based on the 14-15 data, that’s right.

Reyna: Which is not in effect as you see on this slide.  Hypothetical, as the board presented a question to us.  So again, in confirmation of what Dr. Schwinn just said, overall no schools would have decreased their overall rating.  One school actually did improve its overall rating as it was right on the cusp.  In the area of academic achievement alone, there were three schools that improved their ratings and one school that decreased their rating, again, because it was sort of on the cusp of where the cut points are set and we will show you that in one slide.

Gray: So again, what we were trying to clarify with that question, we appreciate that follow-up, was that multiplier applies just to the proficiency component, not the overall rating.

Schwinn: Yes, it’s just the proficiency which is just one component of the overall.  So we did see more schools having positive impacts based on the multiplier.  We did want to provide that information as requested.

Reyna: 141 out of the 149 elementary schools increased as a result, would have increased as a result of this.

Gray: One question about the plan that’s in effect for this accountability year, right, so what happens if a school has to develop a plan, or a template for a plan?  So what happens to the plan?

Schwinn: The school will be given a template.  We are trying to keep it compacted based in the information we have shared earlier which is essentially: what was your participation rate, what were either your theories or proof that would constitute being below 95%, there’s a variety of reasons why that might have occurred.  Then we ask the schools to break that down so we can really get to the heart of why students aren’t participating and we have them break that down by sub-groups so that we are sure we are all appropriately testing all our subgroup students and then from there that plan is submitted to our branch.  The Office of Assessment specifically will be the ones following up on that.  This is the first year the Office of Assessment staff will be visiting every single school in the state to help support how they will be giving assessments this year.  We know there were a lot of things, a lot of questions that came up last year.  We talked about that with the Smarter presentation so our office will actually be visiting every school and we’re doing monthly visits to every district in order to support that.  So those schools that require a plan will have that direct support from our office.

Gray: And is the plan in effect?  Just for the 14-15 year?

Schwinn: It’s a one year plan.

Coverdale: Is there some sort of matrix that categorizes why a student wouldn’t have taken the test?

Schwinn: That will be a part of the plan, and we’ll be happy to supply that to the board.  You would be able to see the reasons assigned to each school where students didn’t participate and we will be doing that overall and by sub-group, for this year.

So looking at performance thresholds, I want to start with elementary and middle school.  Again, this is the similar weights we submitted in draft form in the Spring submission and then brought back to you earlier in the Fall.  But what you’ll essentially see is what the weights are for elementary and middle and the points assigned.  We didn’t…the AFWG recommended a 500 point scale but we used that scale and essentially used the multipliers with the weighting provided to get straight point allocation.  Ryan will talk a little bit about what the cut points will be so you’ll see that with elementary and middle, and then again with the high schools which is slightly different weights.

Reyna: So in setting the performance thresholds for each of the metric areas, again that’s where our focus is, not necessarily on the overall numerical score, the recommendation is that those metric thresholds, those performance thresholds, must be broken up equally across the five different categories to represent 1 through 5 stars.  We would roll up those scores in terms of rounding.  If a school is at 29 ½ for instance on academic achievement, they would be rounded up into the 2 star category so that we are recognizing that benefit, to a half point difference may not be a significant one.  So the table at the bottom of the slide is an example of what those star ratings would be for elementary and middle school with the similar rating structure for high schools as well.

We also wanted to discuss the Annual Measurable Objectives, the AMOs, as has been required since NCLB.  The US Department of Education, in the transition, recognizing the transition that many states made to ESEA adjustments has allowed states to reset their AMOs, create a new baseline.  And so this process is one in which the US DOE has requested that we submit , our process for doing so as well as the actual AMOs by January of ’16.  This is specifically for public transparency for being clear about what the state’s goals are and not necessarily as it has been in the past for determining whether or not a school met AYP or accountability.

Coverdale: How are the weights determined?

Reyna: Sure, this was the recommendation of the AFWG in how they would like to see, or how they believed, the different metrics should be weighted across the full system.  So as Dr. Schwinn mentioned, there was a firm belief amongst the AFWG members that we should place the heaviest weight on growth and the growth metrics.  And that weighting system is what was submitted in draft form in our March submission.  And then after reviewing the data, the AFWG confirmed that they wanted to stick with these weights as a recommendation and we took the weights into a direct translation of that 100 point scale.

Coverdale: The growth is weighted higher on the high school level than it is on the elementary and middle school levels.  I would think that might be reversed?

Reyna: So it is a good question.  Growth directly is weighted higher at the high school level.  But if you take into account growth to proficiency at the elementary and middle school, sort of, if you take that as another sort of growth measure, than it actually becomes more in elementary and middle.  So you see a total of 60% growth metrics between elementary and middle, we have the growth category as well as college and career readiness category.  And then high school we have growth, just the growth category.  That’s 45%.  So 60% growth metrics in elementary and middle, 45% in high school.

Schwinn: I want to reiterate this is the submission to US DOE in terms of what our proposal is.  We’ve been on calls with them multiple times cause this is a very aggressive submission in terms of growth.  But the AFWG felt strongly that these were the right weights.  Though we are pushing pretty hard to make sure this gets approved as is.  And we sent those weights in our proposal and didn’t get any pushback.  They are waiting to see the full DSSF submission in terms of some of the data from Smarter Balanced and that stuff has come in so we can run some of the numbers with DCAS and Smarter.  That being said, they are very aware this is our number one priority in terms of this system.  The group felt incredibly strongly about weights and our responsibility to advocate for that as much as possible.

Reyna: As in previous submissions, the US DOE allowed for three different options for the process which a state would set its AMOs.  Delaware has used #2 in its previous submissions and the recommendation is to stay with that.  The process being, focused on decreasing the numbers of students who are non-proficient in six years.  So that business rule would be allocated equally amongst those six years moving from a baseline to six years in the future as a way to close those gaps.  And on the next slide, you will see what, using that process, what the draft targets would be for ELA, so movement in the state from approximately 50% to 75% by 2021.  Also recognizing that some of our subgroups who start lower behind are required to make improvements at a faster pace just given the process.  And you can see that visually in the next slide where you see, I know this is difficult to read, and I apologize, but you do see that some of the subgroups are starting further behind and are catching up to the rest of the state.

Donna Johnson: And this is the same methodology that was used before in our current ESEA flexibility?  I went ahead and pulled up our existing AMOs to kind of look at them side by side and we set the baseline in 2011.  And so now this is based on a baseline of 2015 scores?  And using that same methodology moving forward?

Reyna: That’s correct.

Pat Heffernan: How close did we come to meeting it the first three years?  My recollection, vaguely, is that we weren’t really, that these are pretty aggressive targets based on what we’ve been able to do.

Johnson: I think some subgroups…

Reyna: Some subgroups have not…

Schwinn: I think that they are certainly aggressive for those subgroups that are starting out low.  Students with disabilities, for example, going from 19.3% to 59.6% is certainly incredibly aggressive.  And I think that internally, and as a state we want to be rational and reasonable about what we would expect for students or schools to grow their students on an annual basis.  If you look at other subgroups such as students either white, or Asian, there is much less growth that needs to occur.  So I think it absolutely depends, but I think they are incredibly aggressive for some of our subgroups.

Reyna: The rule is, the calculation is going to consistently…

Heffernan: Right, yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, sure, and I mean , it’s certainly our stated goal, to increase those gaps and move them, bring them together.  I just, I’m certainly not one for dropping the bar too low, but I don’t want to, get in a thing where, we know that the problem with 100% proficiency, right, is that everybody says “We can’t get that anyways, it’s all hooey”, so I, however we do this, however we monitor it, I don’t want us to get too discouraged because someone like, I don’t think…

Schwinn: I think we have a responsibility on that note to the supports provided to schools.  So the state’s responsibility to provide supports specifically to those subgroups that have a tremendous amount of growth, and the districts the same, to be able to provide support to their schools.  We’re not going to meet these goals if we don’t provide really targeted and comprehensive support to a lot of our subgroups.  Cause there is a long way to go, especially since we have that new baseline with Smarter Balanced.

Johnson: Are there opportunities as we collect more data to revisit our AMOs based upon data and student performance?

Schwinn: We always have the opportunity to resubmit or submit amendments to this flex waiver.  We also know that it is highly likely that the new ESEA bills that is going currently will be passed before the new year.  Let’s call that 60-40.  But there’s a good chance that could happen.  That creates a lot of change, potentially, to how we address this.  For now, this is consistent with what we’ve done in the past.  We felt like it was probably the most appropriate way to move forward given a new assessment, and we also recognize that there may be opportunities, especially after the second year of Smarter Balanced, to revisit based on the data we get in year two.

Gray: I think it’s important, I think that, I guess, the methodology is as good as we can probably get it, but I think the consistency in terms of monitoring is “Are we making progress?” and the conversation should be on are we moving in that direction or not and the endgame is always for us to try to go back cause the baseline has been reset given that we are using the Smarter data versus where we were with the 2011 baseline, which I think is DSTP data.  I’m sorry, DCAS data.  The reality check there is that we had a higher baseline, actually, right?  And we were probably giving, really, a falsehood in terms of where we really were actually at with students proficiency relative to where we want them to be for the  college readiness perspective, right, so a 64% opposed to a 50.5% for all students, so that shift needs to be a reality check for us.  The other piece is, this method does say that we will close the gaps, right?  It’s not closed as in no gap, but we are closing the gaps.  That is the intent.  Cause I keep looking at almost by half in some cases.  If you look at the white students versus African-American students it goes from 25.7% to I think 12.9% or something, so that in itself is a very appropriate goal for us to go for, it shouldn’t be any less than that.  It shouldn’t be less than that.

Schwinn: We certainly always want to see gaps close because our lower performing sub groups are doing significantly better as opposed to seeing our highest performing subgroups doing either worse or (?) we want to get better.

Gray: And I think that formula allows for (? mumbles) I think the challenge, Ryan has given this to us a few times, is there enough methodology approach to say this is better.  We have yet to figure that out.  Maybe that’s a trust we need to try to bring in.  But I think it’s a reasonable one, but I don’t think the goal should be any less, regardless of…

Heffernan: I hear you, and again, some of these make more sense than others.  I just don’t want us to feel like, and to Dr. Gray’s point when she said, making progress or moving in the right direction, I don’t, I don’t buy that really.  It’s not just getting a little bit better, we’ve gotta make appropriate, I, if we set something that’s impossible to reach its just discouraging.

Gray: And then the other piece that’s tied into monitoring.  There are gonna be some individual schools and/or aggregate of schools, that will do much better than this.  And I think we need to make sure we always highlight that relative to the aggregate.  There will be some schools that we know, they have literally closed the gaps within their buildings, it’s not…

Heffernan: They’re not even here now…

Gray: I think that’s part of the conversation, it is possible, right?  If one or two schools can do it, many schools can do it.

Heffernan: Right, I totally agree with that.

Coverdale: I just, big question is how do you close a gap without having more on the upper end, the echelon of, flat money? (not sure, Coverdale speaks very low and it is hard to hear him in the audience so the audio recording isn’t a shock).  If one or two aren’t learning than it just become a perpetual gap.

Gray: I’ll let the experts speak on that.

Heffernan: Everybody has an upper trend on that graph.  It’s just some are steeper slopes.

Schwinn: Yeah, so you’re going to have a steeper slope for those students who are currently lower performing, specifically, our students with disabilities, low-income, African-American, Hispanic-Latino, are starting at a much lower baseline so they are gonna be required to jump by 5,6, or 7 points each year as opposed to our Asian and white students who are gonna be required to jump 1 to 2 points each year.

Coverdale: So is there someone in the classroom saying “Hey, African-American student, this is what you’re gonna have to deal with?”  Is there like an African-American student group?  Do you know what I mean?  That’s the kind of granular focus that we need to happen in order for some of this to come to fruition by 2021.

Schwinn: I think we are seeing with our districts, we just finished our end of year meetings with our districts, we are starting our middle of the year meetings with our districts, a lot of the conversation is really focused on how are you allocating your resources to really target those groups that need additional supports, and how as a state can we provide you with even more supports, whether that’s financial, or capacity, to target some of your lower performing subgroups.  So those are ongoing conversations and what we’re seeing is a lot of districts are really looking at school level and even student level data around how to target more efficiently their dollars and resources.

Heffernan: But are we sending mixed messages?  So that we looked at how we are splitting up the growth and weight, all those things, right, is the growth reflecting these slopes?

Schwinn: The growth on DCAS?

Heffernan: The growth targets that we’re giving people, growth proficiency and all those things, right, this isn’t growth proficiency, that’s not even growth, right?  So on one hand we’re saying the school is growing, we’re going to give you credit for growth, but on the other hand we say these are what our system goals are for growth and I suspect that they’re not really aligned.  You could give us a school that is doing reasonably well in growth targets and are not living up to this.

Schwinn: This is essentially improvement, right, so we’re looking at just a standard baseline improvement for something like an AMO, but I think when we’re looking at growth it’s a much more complex function.  We’re taking into account prior test history, we’re looking specifically at cohorts of students, this is,  essentially, we have to create a straight line of slope as we’re looking at an improvement from year to year as opposed to looking at aggregate growth.

Heffernan: But the cohorts are included in here, a successful cohort growth is much more based on our historical…which we’re not doing anywhere near this, so we would be exceeding our growth targets and coming nowhere near meeting our AMOs.

Schwinn: Yeah, I think it’s gonna vary pretty significantly by school, but I that is absolutely a possibility.

Johnson: The AMOs are something that we report for all subgroups but I did not see that the AMOs were specifically referenced in the DSSF.  So this is a separate report than the DSSF.

Schwinn: Schools will not be rated based on this.  This is something that we are required to publicly report, but they won’t have any of their ratings based on the DSSF impacted whether or not they meet these targets.

Heffernan: I guess the feds are making us do this, but I don’t really buy into it, and we’re not really growing on this goal.  Because the whole system isn’t pointing towards this, we’re not driving this at all, it’s completely separate conversation, we did what we did, sort of, our growth targets are based on what we’ve always…, this is one of my big beefs.  Our growth targets are what we’ve always done, right?  My growth target would be based on, kids like me, how much did I grow, and how much did they grow last year, and if I grow that same amount, if I grow less than that same amount, than I can still easily meet the targets, right?  But overall we’re saying that we gotta bring the targets, the bar, we would never, I just don’t think the system is geared towards producing these results.

Coverdale: (mumbling again) How would the growth trajectory for African-American students be different, and I’m in the same class as these whites, and Asians, and everyone else.  I’m doing the same thing but I grow more, at a higher growth rate than everyone else.

Schwinn: I think that would get into some of the differentiation and instruction that teachers have to do and I think that teachers are, their job gets harder more and more every year, and things are being asked of our educators and they are doing a tremendous job in meeting the needs of individual students, but you’re right, there’s gonna be different growth expectations for different students in your class, and I think, I would say that we are happy to publish these targets, and separately say that we really stand behind the work of the AFWG in terms of really prioritizing growth in a more meaningful way than some of our subgroups formally…

Coverdale: (mumbling) by 2021…

Gray: I think the aggregate conversations are difficult, like this AMO one, and so, federal mandate or not, I think in the spirit of multiple measures, these should be trending in the same direction.  From a growth to proficiency, or a DSSF perspective, centered around that, or these aggregates, but we look at this whole population of 130,000 kids, where with the DSSF were really targeting accountability in our schools in terms of that calculation.

Barbara Rutt: But I would say still, in this conversation and not to get philosophical, but when you talk about multiple students in one classroom this whole concept of personalized learning and how do we get out of that expectation gap.  Cause we have evidence that the gap is closed at certain buildings and at certain at-risk schools so all of this is really possible.  It’s just a matter of how you close the expectation gap as well as actually put the personalized learning into play, and how you give more ownership with that learning, or shared learning, at the student level.  So I think that’s part of the conversation we’re struggling with and half of it is as much to do with policy as it is what is actually the relationship that is happening in the classroom.  Cause we have buildings, we have gaps close, we have schools around this country where there are no gaps, right? So we know that it is possible even if we got these aggregate AMOs or whatever, we got the DSSF which is getting down to the next granular level, like this is what needs to happen at that more intimate level, we got class change, so it should all be going in an upward direction.  As a pass point, it’s going to be very difficult for us to get our actual measures to line up with something at the Federal level cause its hard to serve millions of kids at the personalized level that you need to do, right?  Versus what we would do in Delaware.  So that’s where I am, and let me know if the measures are doing good.  I think it’s really worth the conversation.  They’re all doing that, even if…

Heffernan: The growth measures doing this, there’s no slope…

Gray: AMO? Is that what you’re looking at?

Heffernan: No, I’m talking about the growth of the DSSF.  How about a zero slope, right?  We’re talking about low growth targets or what we did last year, aren’t they?

Gray: No, I see why you’re confused.

Reyna: We moved away from the growth targets at the school level.  Its focused on the aggregate of student growth , there’s no longer a target of other than growth to proficiency is are you…

Heffernan: Growth to proficiency, I got that, yeah

Reyna: The growth targets that are part of the teacher evaluation system are slightly different than the way in which growth is calculated on the DSSF and we plan to discuss that, I believe…

Johnson: Yeah, so we’re not looking at student growth target, as we used to look at when we had the DCAS broke down, but we are looking at that Spring to Spring growth model and looking at it as a school level growth rather than…

Heffernan: But what is the goal of growth?

Johnson: Then you’re looking at the aggregate of, you know, with the conditions around it, did it grow more than the expected growth value of ones like it, and that’s where we use multiple levels of data.  That’s what you’re getting at, in terms of saying, are we seeing growth expectation based on multiple years of prior data, but we are looking at prior years of test data, not just prior years of that grade, which is what we have done before.  Ryan can explain it much better.

Heffernan: I won’t , but I guess, if the target is going to be aggressive in some cases, but on the other hand I think, well, I’m looking specifically at students with disabilities so that’s…

Gray: I gotcha…

Heffernan: We don’t want the target to be what we’ve always done. But I think we understand we need continuous improvement.  If we feed that correctly in there, if we align…I was just questioning that.

Gray: I agree with you.  I think that students with disabilities has always been one of the painful, realistically “How are we going to figure out that one?”  Not only realistic…

Heffernan: Not that we don’t need to do it.  You’re not going to see anyone think we need to do it more than I do.

Gray: I think it’s also worthy, cause it’s confusing Ryan, around the growth targets, and I think I have it in my head, I think that’s really where we were a few cycles back?  So we will always need to refresh our…

Reyna: Happy to do that…

Gray: Growth model.

Nina Bunting: Would you bring me up to date please, cause I wasn’t here in the Spring.  I just have to ask if there are stakeholders out there that feel their recommendations have been dismissed, what about this plan addresses that?  Have their recommendations been dismissed?  Or have you actually addressed those recommendations and incorporated them into the plan?  Because there are people who are very, very concerned.

Schwinn: Are you speaking specifically about the participation rate piece of the DSSF or the AMOs?  I can address both actually.

Bunting: Yeah.

Schwinn: Great.  So one specifically, and I should have probably stated this earlier, the pieces on the AMOs have not gone to DESS, they will go to DESS, a lot of the changes made, will go to DESS in December.  So they have not looked at that specifically.  We are looking at this participation rate discussion.  The recommendation of the AFWG has not changed.  Their recommendation was to do a plan as a primary consequence.  After discussion, and meeting at the retreat, from last month and this month, the recommendation of the Secretary is to use the mulitiplier.  I want to be clear that was the recommendation of the AFWG.  I know that in conversations we were looking at a multitude of input, and the recommendation put forth by Secretary Godowsky in terms of the participation rate.  The AMOs are put forth by the State and we decided because it was a new assessment we should move forward with what has been consistent in prior years.

Reyna: The rest of the plan with all the rest of the DSSF is based on the recommendations of the AFWG.

Schwinn: And the refresher from the Spring, around what kind of stakeholder engagement has been, the other big conversation has been how do you represent the data?  And one of the things we did, we did a series of focus groups that were facilitated by the University of Delaware, and then did a very brief, very fun, pick your framework that you like, the layout that you like.  The feedback that we got was that people didn’t like the layout, any of the options.  There were rocketships, and I think, grades, etc.  So we went back and looked at stars and that’s how we got the star system which was a compromise on that.  We have taken the majority of the feedback, especially from the AFWG, which has met over 16 times over the last 15 months…

Bunting: So you did take their recommendations?

Schwinn: We’ve taken a majority of their recommendations.  I just want to be very specific that there were the recommendations that were on the previous slides where they wanted the plan as the consequence for participation rate.  That was the recommendation, the recommendation in front of you is the multiplier.  But we’ve definitely been…it’s been a lively and engaged group in terms of the recommendation, but the majority of the recommendations have been taken.

Heffernan: What that process was, the group made a recommendation and not a decision, just as often we do with the Secretary around charter schools or whatever it is, the groups come in, and at the end of the day somebody weighs multiple views …

Schwinn: And there are many groups who provide that input and feedback.  The AFWG is the organized group that meets regularly but I certainly know that there are a variety of emails that have been sent to our Accountability email address and all that information is provided as part of the record.

Gray: Yeah, part of this conversation, I think we were 9-10 times on record having this discussion from the very first presentation, which was in March, April, I don’t recall, and much later in the year, so the DSSF component presented in the earlier charts, that kind of outline of A and B and the weights, that has not changed over time, and that came directly from the conversations.  And the whole participation rate, which has been the most robust conversation, that did come back to us initially last April, May (it was March Dr. Gray), it may have been earlier, March, April, the participation rate.  And then what came after was at the end of the AFWG conversations and that was probably the last, if not, one of the next to last sessions I was able to sit in around the conversation of having ratings, and the stars, that came out of that deal, and now we are at stars, versus having an overall rating, and the compromise around having stars as overall ratings, so that was the big one.  And the participation rate, what we actually said in that conversation, and now with the recommendation from the Secretary, was that, you know, the participation rate really does, we wanted a balance of that conversation, so at 95%, left at 95% with the multiplier, we also asked for the upside of that, so if when were above 95%, they get the same upside, an uptick, so we really wanted that balance…

Heffernan: And more schools were given the uptick than the down…

Gray: More schools were given an uptick, cause we really did not want to have a conversation as a one-way consequence, the actual definition of consequence, positive and or negative, is actually the conversation…

Dr. Steven Godowsky: I want to make some comments.  On November 17th, last Tuesday, we had a meeting of the AFWG to discuss the rationale for the modification of the plan so we did bring the group back to their 17th meeting to have that discussion.  I also want to say that the AFWG did, in my opinion, settle on the most important measurable outcome, and that’s the whole idea of a rated growth.  And that is probably the fairest to all schools, and the best measurement for a direct effect of teaching.  That’s where we can make a difference and that’s where we have control over that.  So I think they did absolutely the right thing on that.  And so the fact that has the most value, it belongs there, in my opinion.

Gray: I agree, and I appreciate that, cause growth is where we think the conversation should be, you know, for struggling students and those that are excelling, if we have them in our midst of a K-12 place, we want to see growth.  And  you talked about, there couldn’t have been more alignment, between where the Board is, and the Secretary, and where the AFWG is on that.

Reyna: So last, and you have the Math targets.  Similarly, it’s in process.  Last piece is next steps.  As Dr. Schwinn mentioned, we’ll be submitting, upon assent of the Board, so upon submitting final documentation to the US Department of Education next week, essentially before Thanksgiving, and then would wait for their response.  Certainly our expectation is, there is a lot of transition at the US DOE right now and with the holidays coming, I don’t necessarily believe we would be able to get that before Christmas for instance, but sometime in the early 2016 timeline and then from there the commitment is, again, to update and resubmit Regulation 103 within sixty days of approval by the US Department of Education, with public comment, at which point would then come  back to this Board for discussion and ultimately, action.

Gray: And when do we expect to hear back from US Ed?

Reyna: It would be great if it was before the end of the year, but likely, January, February timeline.

Schwinn: They committed to four weeks, but I don’t think that is taking into consideration that we’re going to have a new Secretary of Education (at the US DOE) there, so our expectation is sometime around the week of January 10th.

Johnson: And then once final approval is received, the Department would then begin re-revising Regulation 103 and we would have sixty days to promulgate those revisions and bring that back before the board for discussion and ultimate action.

Gray: Okay.

Schwinn: Are there any questions?

(none)

Gray: So the Department of Education seeks approval of the ESEA Flexibility Waiver application revisions as outlined in this presentation.  Is there a motion to approve DOE’s ESEA Flexibility application revisions?

Coverdale: So moved.

Gray: I do need a second.

Heffernan: Second.

Gray: Thank you.  Any further questions or discussion?

(none)

Gray: All in favor, indicate by saying aye.

Gray, Heffernan, Coverdale Rutt: Aye.

Gray: Any opposed? (none) Abstentions?

Bunting: Abstention please.

Gray: Motion carries.  Alright.

Johnson: Could we elect to do a roll call?

Gray: Sure

(roll call given, same result, Whitaker and Melendez absent)

 

And with that, the Delaware State Board of Education passed the opt-out penalty in the Delaware school report card.  What makes this all very interesting is the fact that two of the participants in this whole conversation will not even be at the DOE by the end of the year.  Two of the individuals are resigning from the DOE.  Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna are leaving.  A very important fact to make note of here is the timing on approval of this ESEA waiver application.  The DOE can not submit Regulation 103 until they get approval from the US DOE on this.  At that point, they have to redo Regulation 103 and it won’t be voted on by the State Board for at least sixty days.  Which gives the 148th General Assembly more than enough time to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50!  And with that, I will bid you good night.  Stay tuned (literally) tomorrow for the most offbeat post of the year, possibly my lifetime.  I know one person who will definitely want to see this!

 

Opt Your Child Out Tomorrow, Send The State Board A Clear Message

This is why you need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment tomorrow on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015.  And you need to send this message to every single parent you know who has a child in public school in the entire state.  Use Facebook, Twitter, email, text and calling folks to let them know tomorrow is Opt-Out Day.  Schools can not punish you or your child for your right to exercise your rights for what is best for your child.

The Delaware State Board of Education does not care about our schools and our students.  These are unelected officials, along with the Secretary of Education, who serve at the pleasure of Governor Markell.  Let’s get this out in the open for those who are not aware.  They do not care about the path of destruction they leave in their wake with the excessive amount of standardized testing, interim testing for the standardized testing, labeling schools, and evaluating teachers based on those assessments.  They do not care about the impact this has on children of poverty, race, and disabilities.  They will do what they want, when they want, and how they want.  They do not care if they are usurping the authority of the General Assembly.  They do not care about the rights of parents and insist on having negative consequences for schools over opt-out, even if at the most the US DOE simply states in non-regulatory and non-Congressionally approved guidance that schools must have a “consequence” for opt-out.  They do not care about the recommendations of the very committee they formed to give suggestions for this so-called “Delaware School Success Framework”.  The only reason they even created this group is because it was required by the US DOE as stakeholder engagement.  It is a charade and a sham, perpetrated on every single citizen of Delaware.

Delaware Parents: It is now your essential duty, as well as your fundamental right, to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The powers that be will not listen.  They have made this crystal clear.  The only way to stop this is to opt your child out now.  Do not believe the lies and propaganda coming from the Governor, the DOE, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of Education in Delaware.  They will come up with any reason, any task force, group or committee to try to stop you from opting your child out.  They will use other state agencies, such as the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens to get you to believe the lies.  They will throw civil rights in your face while violating the most basic tenets of civil rights in their test and punish environment.  They are causing even more segregation over the shaming of schools over standardized Their latest attempt at mind control is getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  They are retooling the SAT to match the very same Common Core State Standards the Smarter Balanced Assessment already has.  Last Spring, it was announced more than 850 colleges and universities dropping the SAT in the application process.  Warped methodology is their best friend, and they utilize it without regard to the damage it does.

So please, tomorrow, give a letter to your child’s principal telling them (not asking) that your child will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.   If they have opinions, questions, or attempt to talk you out of it, let them kindly know you respect their opinion but your decision is final.  They will definitely tell you now how it will affect their school’s ratings and so forth.  Let them know you understand that but you are the only one who can advocate for your child.  Advise them you expect your child to receive an education while the other students are testing, and stand firm with your decision.  The Delaware General Assembly could override Governor Markell’s veto of the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.  The ESEA reauthorization will most likely leave it up to states to handle opt-out, which the DOE and Markell are attempting to do with Regulation 103, which would become law 60 days after the State Board votes on this.  This is why, if you are going to opt your child out, you need to do it tomorrow.  The State Board meets on Thursday to decide on this.  Let’s show them how ignoring parents will not end well for them.  They disrespect us and underestimate us.  Let’s show them who is really calling the shots!

This is for all traditional school district and charter school parents.  We need to stand united with this and take back the conversation.  We need to show the DOE and the State Board we will not stand for them punishing schools.  In a sense, just making your child take the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a punishment in and of itself.  Because it does not help your child and the DOE uses it as a punishment.  That is the message they told every single parent in the state today.  There are no positive consequences in the picture the DOE wants to paint.  It is all about money, greed, and a severe lack of knowledge about what is truly best for students.

Accountability Framework Working Group Is Meeting NOW!!! Live From The DOE

The Accountability Framework Working Group, the group tasked to provide recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework is meeting now in Dover at the Townsend Building at the Delaware Department of Education.  This should be very interesting!

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appears to be leading the meeting, along with Ryan Reyna from the Accountability and Assesssment area of the DOE.  Delaware State Representatives Paul Baumbach and Kim Williams are here as well.

I’m not sure if Penny Schwinn will be attending this meeting.  She has been very quiet lately…

Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newswork just walked in.  So did State Rep. John Kowalko.  Everyone is introducing themselves.  John Carwell with the DOE Charter School Office is attending as a non-voting member.

Secretary Godowsky stated there will be public comment, but he wants to relay the purpose of the committee.  There were 16 meetings prior to this.  He said he was confirmed as Secretary on October 28th.  The ultimate goal of the AFWG was to get a level of commitment from all stakeholders.  He appreciates everyone coming back for this meeting.  He said he has watched from the outside the past couple years and wants everyone to work together to build a level of trust.  He recognized there were changes to the AFWG’s recommendations.  He is talking about his reversal on the opt-out penalty now.  The first factor was the State Board’s position on the opt-out penalty.  The consequences on the plan were not consequences.  The State Board sets policy.  They have a duty to look at students first and this influenced his thinking on this matter.  As well, he said they are investigating the policy of getting rid of Smarter Balanced for juniors and replacing it with the SAT.

Godowsky said they met with the Chief School Officers and the State Board on 11//5 to discuss this transition.  They came up with the possibility of perhaps doing this as early as Spring 2016 but there are a lot of details to sort out.  He wants to be optimistic about that.  Participation rate is key to their thinking and claims this is a civil rights issue and they have to test students in need.  As they looked at their evidence higher performing students had not taken the test.  On 11/7 there was an op/ed in the News Journal about achievement gaps and how protections need to be used to prevent a moral discrepancy.  He met with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens and will speak with that group this evening.  They respect their opinion but not the thousands of parents in Delaware.

They see more benefits for schools using the participation rate multiplier for schools in Delaware.  This is also used to implement priority and reward schools.  The priority schools will not be identified for another three years.  They have already named these schools this year.  The new framework will not be used this year and there will be no consequences this year.  Now he is addressing schools that purposely left students out of the test.  The New Castle County Vo-Tech District, of which Godowsky used to lead, was one of the first to recognize this.  Now we know why Governor Markell picked him as Secretary of Education.  He is talking about how Howard High School went from 56% to 80% proficiency.  When you can control who gets in…  The State Board raised these concerns in 2004 with students not being tested.  Godowsky is stating the US DOE wants this as well.  Where is the proof Dr. Secretary?

The consequences are significantly positive according to Godowsky.  No, they are not.  Now it is time for public comment.  State Rep. Kim Williams gave public comment and said no superintendents are in agreement with the opt-out penalty.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach said this is not gaming the system but empowering our parents.  State Rep. Kowalko said there were several meetings without the AFWG that influenced his decision.  The civil rights issue is not applicable to this situation.  There are hidden fears perpetuated by the Federal Government and the State Board of Education regarding funding and a dismantling of the education system.  RCEA President Mike Matthews said his membership voted against this penalty.  He is talking about testing and punishing schools and giving more resources to high-needs schools.  Hilary Clinton, according to Matthews, said teachers should not be evaluated.  I gave public comment advising the State Board, the DOE and Secretary Godowsky they have no place determining parental rights.  Especially over a flawed test that gives no immediate feedback or direct instruction for students.  As well, they have provided no solid mandated proof of this opt-out penalty by the feds.  Greg Mazotta is talking about the Baldridge Program.

AFWG member Bill Doolittle, representing the Delaware PTA, stated the federal intent was for schools excluding students from the test.  The new ESEA reauthorization will have very little support for this and it will be up to the states.  This was not a child-centered decision based on real world logic.  This is a political decision.  The AFWG’s recommendations gave the best outlook for students and will initiate confrontation.  This decision will accelerate the opt-out movement in Delaware.  With IDEA, they have used the NAEP standards giving parents the right to choose.  We should do what they recommend.  By agreeing to this it will distort data and the schools and DOE will not have clean data.  SAT has a long history of discriminating against students with disabilities.

Deb Stevens with DSEA said she is very concerned about the State Board’s insistence on having negative consequences for schools in regards to participation rate.  She supported the AFWG’s recommendations, but from what she is hearing it is not negative enough for the State Board.  The State Board members have never had an opportunity to meet with the AFWG.  She doesn’t understand the rationale of meeting with the State Board for 3 minutes a month before they act (as public comment at the State Board of Education meetings).  This will not improve the student gaps and will not help with getting resources to schools.  There is no confidence in this test based on the first-year results.  They don’t know how valid or reliable the test is and it is foolish to attach consequences for a test with no track record.  She will not change her vote that AFWG provided to the DOE.

Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald is thanking Ryan and Penny for their guidance with the group as well as the members of AFWG.  He said poverty was a major concern with this group.  Schools with high poverty will be punished the most with this.  AYP, or adequate yearly progress, does not work.  The AFWG thought the consequences they decided on were good.  He thinks moving towards the SAT is good because students are tested too much, especially in 11th grade.  He has concerns with the disability questions with the SAT.  There is no reason for the AFWG to change their recommendation because the Secretary and State Board will decide what they want.  He hopes they put a great deal of thought into the changes.

Ken Hutchins with Capital School District said parents got back the scores and students who were once proficient are no longer proficient.  He doesn’t think Delaware has hit their peak with the opt-out movement.  This will cause opt-out to increase.  He is a data guy.

Joe Jones with New Castle County Vo-Tech said the schools already know what supports and resources they need.  He doesn’t think an assessment should drive that change.  Delaware needs to work together to get these supports and not under the lens of a consequence.  He said nothing came as a surprise and always knew these were just recommendations.  He would love to see it one day come to fruition where assessment is not driving change.

Heath Chasanov, the Superintendent of the Woodbridge School District, thinks this will cause opt-out numbers to rise.  He went out and visited all four of the schools in his district (laughter in the room) and the comment a top senior in his class said they don’t take the SBAC as seriously as the SAT.  In terms of reading, the student said, the SBAC has flaws with the passages in the test.

Indian River’s Jay Owens supported the AFWG’s recommendations but he is excited about the possibility of the SAT and getting rid of SBAC for juniors.  They have the ability to monitor the participation rate.  They can take action as a district when the test is not being pushed by the schools.

Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, is thanking the members of AFWG.  It is no easy feat to come up with a framework like this.  The State Board has publicly met outside of State Board meetings nine times over the Delaware School Success Framework.  Dr. Gray heard the comments of this group.  They are very clear about what the group’s recommendations are.  The State Board did not believe developing a “plan” for opt-out was a good decision.  “The State Board would prefer to see a consequence that is positive and negative.”  Fitzgerald is stating there are no supports and resources to deal with the consequence.  Is the State Board able to make a decision on that, Fitzgerald asked.  Johnson said this was not a discussion at the State Board Retreat.  Fitzgerald asked if any of the supports and resources are different than ones that currently exist to which Johnson said no.

Doolittle said some members who couldn’t make it submitted comments.  He said the State Board has their own perception and this decision was not driven by Federal requirements and was driven by a desire from the State Board to have negative consequences.  Stevens said the name and blame game is driven by Federal decision.  But this does not provide the resources needed to move the needle and change the achievement gap.  Johnson, in response to Doolittle, said schools should have a plan anyways if they don’t meet the 95% participation rate.  I asked Johnson if Governor Markell advised the board to do this, wouldn’t they agree?  She said no, they are their own board.  She said I am entitled to my opinion.  I responded I am, and many agree.  I really need to check on my complaints with the DOJ today…

Godowsky is thanking the group.  The comments were appreciated.  Kowalko is asking what the exact negative consequence is from the State Board.  He said the State Board did not specifically answer this.  Johnson said the State Board did not suggest negative and punitive consequences.  Doolittle said the AFWG was not given the right guidance from the Feds.

 

 

 

 

An Open Challenge To Governor Markell, Secretary Godowsky & DOE Regarding Opt-Out

I just sent Governor Markell and the DOE an email with a request for the final Accountability Framework Working Group meeting on Tuesday at 10am.  Anything less than this will not be sufficient for myself and the growing number of parents who will exercise their parental rights to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Schwinn Penny <penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; Reyna Ryan <ryan.reyna@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay (Governor) <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>
Sent:
Friday, November 13, 2015 9:53 AM
Subject:
AFWG Meeting on 11/17

Good Morning Dr. Godowsky, Dr. Schwinn and Mr. Reyna,
I understand there is to be another Accountability Framework Working Group on 11/17/15 at 10am in the Cabinet Room at the Townshend Building in Dover.  I have to admit I was taken aback at Dr. Godowsky’s suggestion last week at the Delaware State Board of Education Retreat that he was not going to accept the AFWG’s recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework.
What I am asking of the three of you for Tuesday’s meetings is actual documentation, on United States Department of Education letterhead, why Delaware would have to impose the harsh opt-out penalties based on US Congressionally approved laws and regulations.  I’m sorry, but hearing from Dr. Schwinn vocally about what US DOE requires is not enough.  I want to see, in writing, why this is necessary.  Vague letters from an employee no longer at US DOE, and non-regulatory guidance from US DOE is not sufficient.  Not for something this big.  The letter from US DOE provided to then Secretary Murphy places the burden of opt-out on schools, meaning they cannot pick students to opt out.  The law absolutely says nothing in regards to parental opt-out.  While I agree schools should not make that choice as some have done in the past, it is fundamentally, morally, and legally wrong to infer that parents can not opt their child out of the state assessment.
I am writing this on behalf of all the parents who have either already opted their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, those who will be doing so, and those who have intimidation and what amounts to bullying tactics perpetrated on them by schools in Delaware who are not honoring their parental rights which are the underpinnings of our society.  Parents should not live in fear about consequences for a school if they choose to exercise their fundamental and Constitutional rights, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court on many occasions.
If this is a mandate from Delaware Governor Jack Markell, I would challenge him to come to this meeting in person to make clear his justification and reasoning for this. If he is unable to attend, then I would like him to craft a letter on State of Delaware Governor letterhead with a legal basis for this mandate.
To not honor parental rights and to punish schools for a parental decision is a slap in the face to parents and schools.  If the intention is to punish schools for parental decisions, this is abhorrent and a disgrace.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt,
on behalf of the Opt-Out Parents of Delaware

Breaking News: AFWG To Have Encore Meeting On Tuesday 11/17, Open To The Public

After the stunning news last week the Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky was blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendation of lighter opt-out penalties for the Delaware School Success Framework, the group is meeting for an encore on Tuesday morning, 11/17, at 10am.  This is two days before the State Board of Education will make their final decision on the ESEA waiver.  Interestingly enough, Regulation 103 (which ties the school report card mess into state code) is not up for a vote at this meeting, which means December will most likely be the vote for that.

Somewhat related to this, I’m hearing the DOE employee named Ryan Reyna who works in the accountability area and was one of the controversial Race to the Top positions that should have been cut from the DOE is in all likelihood leaving the DOE very soon.  Reyna was one of the key DOE employees involved in the AFWG group.

If you are available on Tuesday morning, this meeting will be open to the public and will have public comment.  I strongly suggest attending this meeting and making your voice known on this subject!!!!!

Here is the agenda for this meeting:

DOE’s Last Gasp In Fighting Opt-Out Is Resulting In Games And Lies Coming From Markell’s Favorites

Matthew Albright with the News Journal wrote about the betrayal and backstabbing by Secretary Godowsky and the Delaware Department of Education yesterday.  I have to wonder if that story would have come out two weeks from now had I not broken the news last night…

The whole article is chock full of lies as the REAL story is coming out.  I’ll get to the REAL story shortly, but some points I want to make from the News Journal article.

That’s a harsher penalty for schools with low participation rates than a panel of administrators and teacher and parent advocates recommended.

Let’s take a good look at this.  Because in the eyes of the DOE and the State Board of Education, the only voices that mattered in this charade were Donna Johnson, Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna.  Johnson is the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, and she has been calling the shots in the House of Jack for far too long.  She advises the State Board what to vote for, and she sits on these committees and work groups all the time.  I won’t get too much into the machinations Johnson has been up to as some are still under investigation.  But it is past time Donna Johnson was removed from power in the Townshend Building.  As for Schwinn, she smiles a lot and talks the big talk, but I have no doubt she formed this work group for the sole purpose of making it look like the DOE gave a crap about stakeholder input.  Reyna is the wild card, the guy who answers to Schwinn and does whatever she wants.  All three of them- Johnson, Schwinn, and Reyna- have been giving false advice to not only the AFWG, but also to the State Board and Secretary of Godowsky.

State officials say the penalty is a fair way to make sure every student’s academic progress is considered when sizing up a school.

I’m calling bullshit on this one.  The penalty is so the DOE can punish schools for a parent’s decision.  And it is the DOE sizing up the schools and casting their judgments on them.  And this is the infamous “Accountability 2.0” I wrote about earlier this year which came from an email at the DOE from 2013.  The DOE has been planning this Delaware School Success Framework for years.  The legislation they had to plan in April of 2015?  That is Regulation 103.  It got pushed back about six months, but make no mistake, it was all for this school report card crap.  And implementation of the school report card?  That takes place in the 2016-2017 school year.

The federal government requires states have an accountability system, and it requires that test results make up a significant part of the score. It also requires “consequences” for schools that fall below 95 percent participation on the state test.

Do some fact checking on this one Matt Albright!  Did the Delaware DOE tell you that, or did you actually contact the US DOE for that information?  In the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), it does state schools must have a report card.  The ESEA was passed by Congress in 1965.  It has been amended several times, but since President Obama came aboard, the Feds have played a heavy hand in education with non-regulatory guidance.  Which is NOT Congressionally approved.  The US DOE knows damn well what kind of game they are playing here.

The group recommended schools that fall below 95 percent should be required to submit a report explaining why that happened and how to improve participation – and should be ineligible to receive certain honors from the state.

Here is where the DOE’s argument falls apart.  The day the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG) approved this unanimously, Penny Schwinn explained to the group that Governor Markell gave certain options as penalties for the participation rate.  This was one of the options she proposed by the Governor.  The very next day, at the DESS Advisory Group, Schwinn explained that she talked to Governor Markell the night before, after the last AFWG meeting, and he was okay with the group’s recommendation.  So what changed in a month?  Meanwhile, the trio of Schwinn, Reyna and Johnson have been telling folks schools will lose Federal funding if the participation rate goes below 95%.  Which is an absolute lie.

And then the DOE’s Public Information Officer chimed in (who used to write for the News Journal):

“The state feels this is a fair proposal that takes into consideration participation, crediting schools that that work to ensure every child’s learning growth is considered,” May wrote.

Yes, the “that that” was in the article.  When May says “the state”, who is she talking about?  Donna Johnson?  Ryan Reyna?  Penny Schwinn?  Jack Markell?  Secretary Godowsky?  The DOE and Governor Markell are not “the state”.  “The state” is also made up of educators, parents, legislators and citizens.  I’m sure if a vote was taken right now, the entirety of “the state” would not agree with this.  First and foremost, it is bad policy, and second of all, it has Jack Markell’s stink all over it.  This is his way of leaving his legacy of hate for any who would stand against him.

She also points out that parents would still be able to see the school’s unadjusted performance when they get their “report cards” in the mail or online, but the overall component that measures academic performance would be lowered.

This is the DOE’s way of saying “Hey, you parents who opted your kid out, look what you did. This is what it would have been had you not opted your kid out, but because you did this is causing your kid’s school to look bad”.  It is a slap in the face of parents and their rights, and a kick in the back to the schools who aren’t allowed to encourage opt-out.

The Delaware State Education Association had a representative on the working group, and its president, Frederika Jenner, said the education union stood by its recommendation.

Really Frederika?  You might want to talk to your director and your AFWG rep, cause I’m hearing talk coming out of the DOE that they both support this opt-out penalty.  More on that one later.

State officials, however, maintain that the penalty isn’t related to opt out.

This is the biggest joke of them all.  Participation rate IS based on opt-out.  If it isn’t about opt-out, what the hell is it about?  You are lying through your lying little teeth DOE.  You lie when you don’t even have to.  You are a Department of compulsive liars.  Shame on you for abusing authority like this and lying to parents, students, educators and the citizens of Delaware.  Shame on you!  You all hate opt-out because you know it is the only mechanism left that can and will put a stop to all or your crafty plans.

As for Secretary Godowsky… if you honestly believe everything that has come out of the mouths of Johnson, Schwinn and Reyna, you are unfit to be the Delaware Secretary of Education.  I know of many conversations you had today with things that are not even in this article in an effort to put a lid on this quickly.  Where is the whole part about the Smarter Balanced Assessment going away for juniors because of the SAT which is being realigned to become SBAC Jr.?  How about the part where the participation rate for the SAT is 100% because Delaware used Race To The Top funds to pay for that and paid for every high school junior to take it?  But now those funds are gone?  Buries that argument real quick!  Or the part where certain people at DSEA and all the Superintendents of all the districts are behind this because of the very faulty SAT argument which only accounts for high school juniors?  I’m also hearing those state superintendents were not happy at all about this total ignorance of the AFWG’s recommendations.  So which is the real story Secretary Godowsky?  The fabrication of lies in the News Journal, or what you are telling other folks?  It sounds to me like you are lining up all the stakeholders and playing them against each other.  Shifting blame and collaboration to appease the complaints you got today.  Sorry Secretary Godowsky, I know you have your defenders, but all your effort and lip service to making the DOE better fell apart in a week once your were confirmed by the Delaware Senate.

And Jack.  Jack Jack Jack…  Don’t think you are just sliding out of this one.  No way!  Your dirty fingerprints are all over this one.  We all know these underlings of yours don’t breathe sideways unless you give them your dictatorial stamp of approval.  Once again, like you did when you came up with your rebuttals against opt-out and vetoed House Bill 50, you are disrespecting parents and their rights.  You are allowing YOUR Department, your education governance system to LIE to the very people you are sworn to represent.  You are not an honorable man.  You are duplicitous and slimy.  I have no doubt you will continue to destroy public education and Pompeii the whole thing before you leave office.  This is your payback now.  Your small, petty and vengeful payback against those who would dare to stand against the almighty Jack Markell.  But you will lose on this one Jack.  Make no mistake.  This will be rectified and course corrected, and soon, you and your little regulation raiders will be gone and your legacy of shame will go down in the history of Delaware as one of the worst governorships the First State has ever seen.

Delaware Senate To Hold Confirmation Hearing For Interim Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

On October 28th, the Delaware Senate will have a rare out of legislative session to reconvene for a confirmation hearing for the Governor Markell appointed Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky.  The meeting will be held at Legislative Hall in Dover in the Senate Chamber at 2:30pm.

It would be really great if the House could come in the day before and override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, that way the reconvened Senate could just vote on it the same day as Godowsky’s confirmation hearing.  But I can’t see this happening at this point in time.  I posted an article earlier today for questions to submit to the Delaware Senate to ask Dr. Godowsky.  This is a time when parents, teachers, and everyday citizens can make an impact.  Please let me know any questions you have and I will make certain the Delaware Senate gets them.

Governor Markell appointed Dr. Godowsky when Mark Murphy resigned from the Secretary position.  His last day was September 30th.  Dr. Godowsky has been visible of late.  He attended the first Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meeting, the final meeting of the Accountability Framework Working Group, and the last State Board of Education meeting in September.

Once again, I pray Godowsky is not just a Secretary who will do whatever Governor Markell says.  We need change in Delaware, and for those who have stood up for Dr. Godowsky, I really hope your words come true.