History Is A Set Of Lies Agreed Upon: The Delaware DOE’s Trojan Horse That Shares Personal Student Data

Napoleon once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”  In Delaware, the state has been sharing personal student data in the form of a benign computer program designed on the surface to help students.  This is a program that is so layered in varying shades of legality and loophole in state and federal law no person could ever realistically figure it all out.  Luckily, I am not one of those people.  So what is the Trojan horse inserted into every single school district and charter school in the state?  Hint: it’s NOT the Smarter Balanced Assessment! Continue reading “History Is A Set Of Lies Agreed Upon: The Delaware DOE’s Trojan Horse That Shares Personal Student Data”

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Attorney General Opinion On Delaware Pathways Steering Committee Issued Today Is Sloppy, Inconsistent, & Incorrect

On October 7th, the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee held their first meeting with no public notice or an agenda put up 7 days prior to the meeting as required by Delaware state code.  In August, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued an Executive Order creating this public body.  The only reason I found out about it was due to tweets from the Rodel Foundation and Mark Brainard of Delaware Tech.  I promptly filed a FOIA complaint on October 11th.  Seventeen days later, the Delaware Attorney General’s office has already responded to the FOIA complaint.  To put this in perspective, I filed a FOIA complaint last March which just had the Attorney General opinion issued last week.  BI submitted another FOIA complaint around that same time period and there has been no official opinion released from the Attorney General’s office.  But Alison May from the Delaware DOE did respond in record time with their side of the complaint, but she has before.  So why was this FOIA complaint rushed?

Below is my original request, the acknowledgment from the Attorney General’s office, the Delaware DOE’s response to the complaint, and the opinion on the FOIA complaint issued today.  As well, I am including an email that was still in draft form disputing the facts provided by Alison May in the Delaware DOE’s response.  I truly believed I had more time given the turnaround time on FOIA complaints coming out of the AG’s office but this one had a lightning fast response.  Given the below findings and other inconsistencies with their opinion, I believe this was a very rushed job they wanted to put to bed fast.  But that opens up a whole other can of worms…

Original FOIA Complaint, issued 10/11/16

From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 9:23 AM
To: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
Subject: FOIA Complaint

 

 Good morning,

I am submitting a FOIA complaint in regards to the newly created Pathways Steering Committee.  This body came out of Executive Order #61, issued by Governor Markell on Thursday, August 11th, 2016.  While there was nothing anywhere indicating they were holding a meeting, tweets appeared on October 7th suggesting the body met as a group.  This is a state group, created by an elected official.  Yet there was no posting of the meeting or an agenda.  Attached are screen shots of the tweets posted by Mark Brainard and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  

I take this violation very seriously.  For a group that is supposed to be all about students, I find it ironic they would operate in secrecy with no ability for the public to attend.  This does not translate into anything close to an open government.  

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

9 Crosley Court

Dover, DE 19904

On October 12th, the Delaware Attorney General acknowledged receipt of my FOIA Complaint

October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

VIA EMAIL

 

Mr. Kevin Ohlandt

9 Crosley Ct.
Dover, DE 19904
kevino@yahoo.com

RE:     October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:

            This will acknowledge receipt of your correspondence regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee (the “Committee”), received on October 11, 2016, alleging certain violations of the open meetings provisions of Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act, 29 Del. C. §§ 10001-10007 (“FOIA”). We treat your correspondence as a petition for determination pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 10005.  We are forwarding your correspondence to the Committee’s counsel, asking that they respond to your allegations by October 19, 2016.  When we have received the Committee’s response, we will determine whether additional information from either party is required and decide what further action, if any, is appropriate.

Very truly yours, 

                                                                        /s/ Kim Siegel

                                                                        Kim Siegel

                                                                        FOIA Coordinator

KS/ks

cc:        Danielle Gibbs, Chief Deputy Attorney General (via email)

            Michelle E. Whalen, Deputy Attorney General (via email)

            Meredith S. Tweedie, Esq. (via email)

The Delaware Department of Education’s Response to the FOIA Complaint, 10/19/16

Issued today was the official opinion from the Delaware Attorney General’s office:

16-IB23 10/28/2016 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Kevin Ohlandt re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

This is the draft I was working on to send to the Attorney General’s office that I believed I had more time to formulate:

October 26th, 2016

Good afternoon Ms. Siegel,

In reviewing Alison May from the Dept. of Education’s response to my FOIA complaint from October 11th, in the letter provided from her on October 19th, she states the following:

…and the draft minutes of the October 7th meeting (attached hereto, along with the other documents discussed at the meeting) will be posted online by the end of this week.
In doing an extensive search this afternoon, I have not been able to see anywhere in the State of Delaware, on the Delawarepathways.org website, or any such place on the World Wide Web where Alison May’s assurance of transparency actually took place.
This attempt at a good-faith effort on the Dept. of Education’s response to the complaint seems a bit odd considering this does not exist.  And while I know the Governor is not obligated to publicly report on where he speaks publicly, the fact that no documentation exists anywhere in regards to this meeting on the internet aside from I wrote about it on Exceptional Delaware and a few tweets from those associated with this group, I find that to be very suspect.  While Ms. May states “this was an oversight on the part of the involved State agencies and organizations and not an intentional effort to circumvent FOIA requirements” in her response, the very minutes she attached to the DOE’s response indicate Luke Rhine from the Department of Education would be in charge of coordinating staffing.  And since Alison May from the Dept. of Education was the responding party for the response to the complaint, that leads me to the belief that the Delaware Dept. of Education would have been the State Agency to fulfill FOIA requirements for a public body.  Since they did not, I take issue with Ms. May’s response about not coordinating with other state agencies and do not believe that to be a true statement. In regards to the reasoning for not making this meeting public to the citizens of Delaware, a statement of “oversight” bears little meaning in the contextual framework of following state code.
In a prior FOIA complaint of mine against the Delaware Dept. of Education, #15-IB12, Danielle Gibbs, the Chief Deputy Attorney General wrote:
The DOE provided no explanation as to why the notices and agendas were posted less than seven days in advance of the meetings, and it concedes that the postings did not comply with FOIA.  The DOE also explained that no action was taken by the AFWG at either meeting.  The DOE apologized and said it would “endeavor to determine the agenda of any future AFWG meetings as of the time of any required public notice of them, and include the agenda in any such required notice.
The notices and agendas for the AFWG meetings held in September violated FOIA because they were not posted at least seven days in advance of the meeting as required by 29 Del. C. §10004(e)(2).  We find that these errors were technical violations that did not negatively affect substantial public rights.[17]  Therefore, we find that no remediation is required.”
Given that the words “substantial public rights” means no action was taken at those meetings, it was during a regulatory process for Regulation 103 where key issues concerning that regulation would have been discussed at the AFWG meetings.  So in a finding that “substantial public rights” did not apply in that situation with pending legislative action, I take issue with that.  As well, in the attached minutes from the minutes for the Pathways Steering Committee, there is talk of legislative action and a discussion with the Delaware General Assembly.
In FOIA Complaint #13-IB05, issued October 1st, 2013, citizens filed a complaint against the Charter School Reform Working Group in regards to having closed-door meetings not open to the public.  In that Attorney General opinion, it states the following:
By letters dated July 31 and August 1, 2012, the Governor extended invitations to a number of individuals to participate in the Working Group as representatives of several public bodies, including the General Assembly, the Department of Education and the State Board of Education, and various private stakeholder groups (the “Invitations”).
While that opinion was an appeal to an earlier complaint, it states the following:
On June 10, 2013, you filed this appeal seeking access to the Working Group’s meeting minutes.  We received a response on July 11, 2013.  The response indicates that the Working Group did not consider itself to be a “public body” within the meaning of section 10002(h), due primarily to the informal nature of the Working Group.

FOIA, with certain exceptions not relevant here, establishes a public right to inspect all “public records” and requires that all meetings of public bodies be open to the public.4   FOIA’s “open meeting” provisions call for advance notice to the public of all public meetings and require public bodies to prepare and make available to the public agendas for and minutes of their public meetings.5

Section 10002(h) provides substantial guidance as to the types of entities and bodies encompassed within the phrase “body of the State.”  That concept, as used in FOIA, includes, among other things, any “group . . . appointed by any . . . public official of the State” that was “impliedly or specifically charged” with making recommendations.9   The Working Group was a “body of the State” within the meaning of section 10002(h).

But the key part from this opinion rests on the following and is key to my own FOIA complaint:

First, this Office consistently has rejected arguments that FOIA’s applicability hinges on adherence to formalities in the creation of a public body, lest FOIA’s goals of openness and government accountability be subverted.14

This was where my draft ended which I fully intended on doing further research on in the next week.

Now here are my issues with the Attorney General’s response to the FOIA complaint.  First off, in Alison May’s response from the Delaware DOE, she said it was under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s control to issue the agenda.  However, in the link on the FOIA complaint, we see an Agenda created on 10/17/16, ten days after the meeting, and it was issued from Governor Markell’s office, not the Delaware DOE.  Furthermore, if this was indeed a public body, why was there no agenda item for public comment?  As well, the minutes submitted by Alison May in the DOE’s response to the FOIA complaint are actually different than those that appear on the Googledrive website.

In the original minutes, submitted with Alison May in the Delaware DOE response to my FOIA complaint, it states the following:

Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;

Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;

But in the minutes on the Googledrive for the steering committee, it said this:
Mr. Rhine will conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;
Mr. Rhine will develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;
While the two items look very similar on the surface, the action of taking out Dr. Brainard from the updated minutes which were created on October 24th by Luke Rhine, which the Googledrive suggests that no action was directed to Luke Rhine, the main Delaware Dept. of Education representative, when in reality it was.  This change is substantial.  The opinion issued today states that no action was taken at this meeting so the perception that no “substantial public rights” violations occurred by not making a public body meeting public is visibly changed between the two meeting minutes.  As well, if the Delaware DOE is the state entity that answered the FOIA complaint and is in charge of posting information about it, why is there absolutely nothing on the Career and Technical Education portion of their website?
We are also expected to believe the minutes and agenda they presented are accurate when they were created at the earliest, six days after the meeting, and at the latest, seventeen days after the meeting:
dtccgoogledrivepathways
As well, the response from the Attorney General’s response today shows a link to a website that was not included in the original DOE response to the complaint which means there was further communication between the Attorney General’s office and the parties to which I issued the FOIA complaint against.  In all other FOIA complaints I have submitted, I have been a party to those communications every single step of the way but not with this one.
The Deputy Attorney General who wrote this opinion, Danielle Gibbs, handled a FOIA opinion from a complaint I submitted in 2015.  She made sure I received all communication from the Delaware DOE on that every single step of the way.  But this time I guess I wasn’t so blessed.  She actually wrote in the FOIA opinion issued today:

Moreover, as you note in your Petition, certain members of the Committee published photographs of its meeting on social media either, contemporaneously or immediately following the meeting. We find this to be inconsistent with an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions. We see no evidence of an intent – by the Governor or any other Committee member – to circumvent FOIA. Nor do we see an ongoing pattern of FOIA non-compliance which might warrant extreme remedy.

Here is a newsflash for the Attorney General’s office: having a non-profit foundation and a member of the committee post tweets about a non-transparent meeting of a public body issued by a Governor’s Executive Order, does not point either way towards an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions.  What it shows is someone tweeting.  So to give this extra bearing in a legal opinion about something that was already established to be under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s responsibility is misleading at best.

When you go to this website, there are also extensive plans and reports, involving millions upon millions of dollars of funding.  I would think that would be crucial for the public to see.
pathwaysstrategicplan
To see these large amounts of funds being talked about over the next three fiscal years, please go here: DE Pathways Priority 4 Funding Plan 10/6/16.  Feast your eyes on this document, created on October 6th, one day prior to the Steering Committee meeting.  Furthermore, the two entities planning this funding are not even state agencies, they are 3rd party non-profit companies: United Way of Delaware and the Rodel Foundation.
We have three entities involved with this FOIA complaint: the Delaware Dept. of Education, Governor Markell’s office, and Delaware Technical Community College.  How did the college get involved?  If you look at the Googledrive, the website is listed as:
This is a Del Tech website.  Why is Del Tech storing the minutes for this when it is supposed to be under the authority of the DOE?  And why is Markell’s office issuing the agenda (ten days after the fact)?  When I do a Google search for the past month using “pathways” “steering committee” “dtcc” and “minutes”, nothing comes up on the search.  So how would anyone be able to find these minutes without seeing them in a response to a FOIA complaint?  Even if I take out “dtcc” and replace it with “Delaware” nothing comes up.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the meeting minutes even discussing minutes or where these minutes were to be stored for public consumption.  I believe this to be a very sloppy response from all parties involved and further contend this Pathways Steering Committee is not making a good faith effort with transparency.  By allowing this public body to be open to the public, all three parties involved seemed to have communicated extensively with each other after I filed a FOIA complaint.  I will also add that additional communication provided by the other parties to the Delaware Attorney General’s office needs to be provided to me by the Delaware Attorney General’s office post haste.  The Attorney General opinion states it reviewed the website of the Steering Committee but the only way they would have been able to review that was by getting a link for it.  Since there is no viable way to search for this Steering Committee through internet search engines, I contend they were given this website by someone involved with it.
This Pathways Steering Committee, that is making gigantic decisions about students, in secondary and post-secondary setting, with plans for huge amounts of money at state and local levels, is all about substantial public rights.  When the General Assembly decided not to move forward with the Pathways Steering Committee as sponsored by Senator David Sokola with Senate Bill 277, Governor Markell took it upon himself to issue an Executive Order to create this committee.  When our Governor doesn’t get his way with the General Assembly, it seems he has the authority to bypass that with Executive Orders.
What is the point of a FOIA complaint if the Delaware Department of Justice, under the control of the Delaware Attorney General, has no ability to do anything substantial or with any consequences in regards to a FOIA complaint?  Why did they rush through the opinion on this FOIA Complaint without really checking into everything?  Why was there (in my view) an intentional attempt to lock me out of communication concerning this FOIA complaint when that has not happened in the past?  These are the things I want answers for, as well as Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn himself to issue a statement that this public body has to reconvene their October 7th meeting so the public is well aware of this Steering Committee that is deciding the future of thousands of Delaware students with significant amounts of taxpayer funds.
Updated, 4:53pm, 10/28/16: Since I finished this article, I can now see on the Delaware DOE website where they did a link to this on their website.  But it is filled with completely wrong information, as seen below.  First off, this is not a “task force”, it is a “steering committee”.  Second, it was not passed into law on June 14th, 2016 through Senate Bill 277.  It became law through Governor Markell’s Executive Order #61, issued on August 11th, 2016.  Senate Bill 277 was released from the Senate Education Committee on June 15th, 2016, but it never came up for a vote with the full Senate and the bill died as of the end of the 148th General Assembly on July 1st, 2016.
dedoetaskforces

Jaques And Sokola Emails Actually Reveal Levels Of Collusion & Deception At High Levels…But From Who?

An email from Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and State Senator David Sokola sheds new light on the district-charter funding debacle that has taken over Delaware education talk in the past week.  Meanwhile, the News Journal came out with another article on the issue that is sure to confuse everyone.

In the below email sent from Jaques to the House Education Committee, he gives a timeline of the events from the point in time he got involved in the issue and clarifies when Secretary of Education Dr. Stephen Godowsky found out about this.  He also put in a reply Sokola sent to a constituent regarding the issue which has some very accusatory statements toward Christina School District.

From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) Sent: Thursday, September 1, 2016 2:41 PM To: Bentz, David (LegHall); Bolden, StephanieT (LegHall); Dukes, Timothy (LegHall); Heffernan, Debra (LegHall); Hensley, Kevin S (LegHall); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kenton, Harvey (LegHall); Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Miro,   Joseph (LegHall); Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); Ramone, Michael (LegHall) Cc: Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall); Sokola, David (LegHall)

Subject: School Funding Formula  

House Education Committee Members,   Late last week I received notice about  a formula change between Charter Schools and our traditional Public Schools. I immediately called and talked with Secretary Godowsky to see if what I heard was correct and if so why was this change being made.  I was told by him that yes a change was proposed and he wasn’t aware of this change until just the day before.  On a side note, I wasn’t very happy to hear about this – since I and Dr. Godowsky just had breakfast only a couple of days before this news broke and no mention of this was discussed by him to me!  I was told by Dr. Godowsky that he has put a hold on any possible changes to the funding formula until there are complete discussionswith all stakeholders.  I then called Governor Markell to voice both my concern and outrage   at how this proposed change was brought forward with no regards to public input, transparency or discussion with either myself or Senator Sokola. I then called Superintendent Burrows, this year’s head of the chiefs, and was assured by him that no discussions between the “chiefs” and DOE regarding this change had occurred.  Their only acknowledgement came when they starting receiving bills from the charter schools and subsequently called DOE to find out what was going on.  On the very next day I was at a public event with Governor Markell.  He reinstated to me that no actions regarding the funding formula will occur this year and any discussions on this subject will be transparent and inclusive. Again, I followed up with Secretary Godowsky, requesting  that any changes to the   formula would require an open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders and plenty of public input. Today, there was a story in the News Journal that you might want to read to gain more insight.   

In addition, I have attached below part of an email that Senator Sokola sent to one of his constituents which gives very good details and background on the formula mechanism.  Although, his email talks about the Christina School District, I want to remind   you that this formula applies to all public schools across our state.

“It turns out that the funding formula has not changed, and the Secretary does not have the authority to change the formula that is in the code. There have been times over the years when there have been disputes about how the formula works, and apparently   we have one now. The dispute relates to the part of the code that allows for certain exemptions from the money that “follows the child” to a Choice or Charter alternative. The code allows for 4 specific areas and then has some general language that allows   a district to petition the Secretary of Education to allow for additional exemptions of local operating funds, and to sign off on those itemized expenses. The Christina District increased that line from under $700 thousand to about $9.2 million since 2011,   and has not asked the Secretary for approval of the increased exemptions. No other district in NCC has had anything but nominal changes in that time frame. The money in question also has nothing to do with the Autism Program or the Program for the Hearing   Impaired that are managed by Christina. It is my understanding that any action from the Secretary at this time is on hold, however Christina still has a legal obligation to specify those expenses beyond the 4 that are in the code that should be exempt, and   to have a formal sign off by the Secretary. I have supported for quite some time a weighted student funding policy, and would hope that we could make more progress on such a funding system. The money needs to specifically follow a student to a school, which   is not done well in Delaware including in Christina. Dispute resolution should be done by some mutually agreed upon mechanism, or one established in the code. If there still is not agreement, we have constitutionally protected separation of powers, and the legal system would be the mechanism of last resort. That is generally not a win-win result for the parties who are in disagreement.

The specific funding issues you mentioned can certainly be submitted to the Secretary and the district needs to be open, transparent and detailed with the financial records to make their case. The Secretary will be willing to consider the specific lines   of exemption that CSD has the legal obligation to propose. He would be negligent if he did not follow his statutory authority to review any specific exemptions proposed by CSD, and CSD would be negligent by not specifically submitting line items of proposed   exemptions to the formula that is in the code. If CSD does not make specific proposals, the district is at risk of legal action that the legislature and the Secretary are constitutionally barred from intervening in. My hope and advice to the Secretary has   been to give broad discretion to the specifics identified by Christina, and that we could have that open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders to clarify the financial obligations of a sending district to the various choice options   made by students and families.”  

As I receive additional information regarding this subject I will keep you informed…  

Earl Jaques

Chair, House Education Committee

So how is that Sokola tells a constituent that Christina performed this horrible deed but the News Journal doesn’t mention it once?  Sokola is saying Christina purposely withheld submitting their exclusions from the Delaware DOE.  Jaques states Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows didn’t know about this situation unfolding since last April until recently.  So how is it that the DOE asked the districts for this information in April as suggested by Saranac Spencer, the author of the News Journal article?  Actually, it was in May based on the below timeline.

In order to try to unify the system, the department began considering adjustments to the formula in April, when it asked districts across the state for an inventory of the exclusions they claim.

The actual timeline of events is as follows:

March 11th: Newark Charter School Head of School Greg Meece meets with Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzjewski to discuss the upcoming Christina referendum and payments from Christina to NCS. (source: Newark Charter School March 2016 Board Minutes)

Early April 2016: NCS representatives Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel meet with Associate Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman to discuss exclusions in the funds Christina sends to NCS.  The DOE indicates all exclusions will require approval from the Secretary of Education. (Source NCS April and May Board minutes)

April 8th: DOE holds District Business Manager’s meeting where the subject of district exclusions is brought up with District Chief Financial Officers.

May 2016: DOE sends out notices to District CFOs to send lists of their exclusion items in their local school budgets.

Mid-May: Kathleen Davies put on leave as Auditor of Accounts at Delaware State Auditor’s office.

August 8th: DOE sends out letters to District CFOs stating what exclusions are allowable and which aren’t.

Week of August 16th: Districts start receiving bills from charter schools for projected students choicing to charters from their districts.

August 19th: Secretary Godowsky finds out about situation going on with charter school payments from districts.

Week of Augusts 23rd: Word on situation slowly trickles out to school administration and some boards.

August 27th: Exceptional Delaware breaks news of a coming change in the way districts pay charters based on an approval from Secretary Godowsky, blogger was given information from various sources about changes regarding restricted funds being moved to non-restricted funds, no information given to blogger about specific exclusions.

August 28th: Legislators pound Godowsky who informs them there will be no change in the funding structure this year.

August 31st: News Journal covers story and states districts may have to adhere to the exemption list from the August 8th letter.

September 1st: NCS Board President Stephen Dressel writes letter to NCS parents alleging wrongdoing from Christina and a “few other districts”, states this isn’t a change in the formula for local cost per student but a correction, commenter on Facebook alleges parents from Las Americas ASPIRA also received a similar letter.

September 1st: Another News Journal article quotes DOE Spokeswoman Alison May as stating they may not be able to change this because bills already went out from charters to districts.

September 1st: Email from Earl Jaques to House Education Committee references a change in the formula, not a correction, email also has Sokola accusing Christina of not sending approval for exclusions to Secretary since 2011 for what was a $700,000 amount then which is now $9.2 million.

Here is the question no one seems to be addressing though.  What is the amount in that discretionary budget was approved once and didn’t have to be again?  When a district goes out for a referendum, it asks taxpayers to help the district pay for certain things.  What if Christina had a referendum at one point in time, designated a specific amount for what would become an exclusion in their local budget, and the DOE approved it.  Say that was 10 cents for every $100 of assessed property value.  As Sokola alleges, Christina kept shoving money into this fund causing it to rise over $8 million dollars.  But that 10 cents from a referendum, which becomes a part of the district’s local funds would certainly grow over time.  In 2010, Christina narrowly won a referendum.  But it stands to reason some of those designated funds could go into this “discretionary” bucket in their budget.  Which would certainly build up over time.  If the DOE approved this in July 2010, which would have been Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery, then that exclusion would not have to be approved every year.  That portion of the tax payments sent in from residents would just keep building in that bucket.  So Sokola’s allegation that Christina was willfully withholding payments from the charters by shoving money in this hidden bucket is blatantly false.

Now the big question is what started this runaway train.  Yes, charters have lobbied for more money from districts for years.  No one is arguing that.  But they were not going after these discretionary amounts approved by the Secretary of Education.  They wanted a share of the food services revenue the districts received, which is explicitly exempt from being a part of the payments made to charter schools since they have their own food programs which they get funds from at a federal, state, and local level.  So how would Greg Meece know to look for this one specific thing and start a chain of events that led up to now?  I’m working on that answer as we speak and I expect I will know the answer to that one in the next couple of weeks.

What leads me to believe Christina wasn’t “stuffing” money away into this secret account is also the reaction of one man to all of this.  If the DOE sent out these notices about the exclusion items last May, Christina CFO Bob Silber would have been freaking out back then about it.  If he knew the direction this was heading, he would have planned for it in their FY2017 budget, which he clearly did not.  From many people I’ve talked to in the district, Silber didn’t start freaking out until the district received the DOE letter stating what the new exclusions were and when the charter bills started rolling in.  Which leads me to think he wouldn’t have had to keep getting approval for the exclusions he put in this bucket based on a referendum allocation, approved by then Secretary Lowery, which would, over the years, increase this bucket.

In the meantime, I have to wonder why Sokola would specifically mention the year 2011 to this constituent he replied to.  That is crucial to all of this under my theory.  It makes Christina look really guilty.  Why would Sokola make Christina appear to be guilty?  I think we all know the answer to that one.  Which confirms my suspicion about his involvement in all of this.  His incessant talk in this email about legal action if Christina doesn’t comply and who can do what and when and where shows he is been looking into this for much longer than anyone else has.  Sokola is not an attorney.  He worked at DuPont for many years.  Is he smart though?  Yes.  Devious?  Hell yes.  Would he be able to paint a picture showing Christina as a district that was denying money to charter schools, especially Newark Charter School, who was “denied” one million dollars this year if this “finding” doesn’t work out in their favor?  He did in his email to the constituent.

I would go so far as to say there is an integrity issue with Sokola at this point.  The ethics involved with this whole mess certainly lend a certain weight to Sokola and Meece being the brains behind all of this.  Jaques wasn’t involved in this based on what he wrote in his email.  But he made it a point to include what Sokola wrote as part of his email which lended considerable weight to perception of this issue.  For that, I have to wonder what Jaques knew and when he knew it.

Is this the end of this?  Probably not.  Someone will come on here and say I have it backwards and I’m theorizing all of  this.  That’s certainly an option.  But at the very least, this opens the door to careful inspection about what the Secretary of Education approves and if it is for exclusions in the local restricted budgets for districts based on referendum amounts, does that item need continuous approval from the Secretary.  I don’t believe it does.

 

 

Charter Bias, Bad Math & Lack Of Integrity Shine In News Journal Article About District-Charter Funding War

The News Journal just put up an article on the charter school funding scam and their bias towards charters is painfully clear.

Saranac Spencer has just proven herself as one of the worst education reporters in the history of Delaware.  First off, I know you reached out to more people than Alison May, Bob Silber, Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and two legislators for this article.  Second of all, you didn’t research the facts behind this story at all.  If the charter supporters were so shocked by the reversal of the Delaware DOE’s decision because they planned for it in their budgets, didn’t that throw up a major red flag for you?  The districts didn’t know about this at all until last week.  Charters planned their budgets months ago.  Doesn’t that point you in a direction of collusion Ms. Spencer?  Do you even know how to investigate an issue?  I know you read my blog post.  You completely ignored the fact this was done in closed-door meetings at the DOE by a rogue Associate Secretary of Education and Secretary Godowsky didn’t even know about this until last week.  That was the true story here.  But you used the word transparency once in the article.

Furthermore, the DOE didn’t “begin looking into this in April”.  It was brought to them by Greg Meece and his merry band of firestarters over at Newark Charter School.  Or, as you put it, the beneficiary of $1 million dollars in this debacle.  The fact that the DOE is in negotiations on this matter after Secretary Godowsky told legislators this would NOT happen this year shows them to be proven liars, yet again.

May said Wednesday night that the department was in discussions with district and charter leaders that would determine which formula would ultimately be used this year.

And what you didn’t even touch on is the fact that the DOE (or is it?) is eliminating the match tax allocations from a restricted status.  Yeah, you forgot that VERY big part.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the district had excluded $9.3 million. Under the adjusted formula for the 2017 fiscal year, it would only be able to exclude about $650,000.

Actually publishing this elusive formula would help.  Did you even bother to look at Christina’s budget to see what that means?  What programs and district services would have to be cut for Christina students?  Take away from poor students so the more affluent students at Newark Charter can get more “cafetoriums” and Title I awards when they aren’t even a Title I school?  And before some NCS parent or teacher says “that is federal money”, you’re missing my point.  No.  Not one mention of that.  It’s all about what the poor charters aren’t getting.  Poor Greg Meece.  Boo-Hoo.  Poor Kendall Massett.  Boo-friggin-Hoo.  Ms. Spencer didn’t even bother to see what those cuts are and what they will mean.  She took the side of the charter advocates and didn’t even ask the districts what their opinion was.  That is bad journalism and in very poor taste on a controversial issue.  I  got lambasted by those “charter school supporters” because my article wasn’t “true journalism”.  Guess what, your article was not true journalism.  Not even close.  I have a good excuse.  This is a blog.  But you, you represent the largest newspaper in the state.  And your taking sides is not a good work ethic or even close to journalistic integrity.  How about the News Journal starts to really investigate what goes on in this state instead of being a public relations vessel for the DOE and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  It is getting really old.

But the worst bit of sloppiness in the article is the fact that THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP!  If you look at Christina’s preliminary FY2017 budget, there is something very wrong with her figures.  To anyone who decides to look up their budget, it shows over $49 million in Christina’s local restricted budget.  Now I can figure out where she got her $9.3 million figure from very clearly.  But to the readers of the News Journal who don’t happen to venture over here or bother to look up their budget, it paints a picture that Christina is skewing their numbers by 94%.  That is just bad journalism.  When the true story, based on what the charters are claiming to be true, is a very different percentage.  That comes out to 17.8% if  you take the TOTAL restricted funds they have of $48,389,296 by the very disputable $8.6 million the charters are claiming to be shortchanged from.  See what they did there?  Painting a picture like that on an already controversial issue is very deceptive.  It makes me wonder who in editorial is doing the fact-checking and let’s this hack work through to the printing press.

FY2016&2017CSD

If you subtract $650,000 from $9.3 million, you get $8,650,000.  Which number in this scenario shows $9,306,899?  That would be salary and wages.  But what the News Journal seems to forget is the fact that this district had a referendum last year.  And certain funds were earmarked out of the referendum revenue they will get to support the promises from that referendum.  Like restoring positions they cut when they lost their referendum attempts last year.  Which they have to do.  But the News Journal Lois Lane wannabe doesn’t bother to look into that important detail.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach plays the wishy-washy side here.

“The main concern is not that we are looking at the formula,” said state Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark. “The main concern is that too few eyes were looking at the formula.”

So whose responsibility is that?  What Rep. Baumbach fails to mention here is who has determined the formula for many years.  It is not the Delaware Department of Education.  It is the Office of Management and Budget, which comes out of the Governor’s office.  I pointed out in an article last night there was something very wrong with Christina jumping from $2.4 million to $7.3 million in payments to Newark Charter School over a three-year time span.  Especially when Newark Charter’s students that choiced from Christina only went from 1200 to 2000 in the same timeframe.  For a formula that hasn’t changed in well over a decade, except for minor inflation costs, that sure is one hell of a leap.  What has the Office of Management and Budget been doing with this formula?  Was this the same Office of Management and Budget that forced the Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office that forced Kathleen Davies to be put on leave?  The Auditor of Accounts for Delaware who was investigating charter schools in various inspections at the time?  One of which just so happened to be Newark Charter School?  I know that is a fact because I gave them the tip!  It looks to me like Newark Charter School has benefitted from this elusive formula for years!  Betcha didn’t know that very important fact Ms. Spencer!

The News Journal only mentions Baumbach and State Rep. Kim Williams as the legislators who reached out to Godowsky last Sunday.  There were many more.

But the topping on this farce of an article was the quote from Kendall Massett, of the lobbyist Delaware Charter Schools Network.

“This should not be a district-charter fight,” Massett said. “It’s about equity.”

Equity?  Coming from a paid lobbyist?  This woman has the unmitigated gall to bring up equity?  When she knows exactly what Newark Charter School does?  My God Kendall, please, just stop.  Equity and equality are too very different things.  Equity in this conversation would be closing down Newark Charter School based on their 21st Century racism, discrimination, and social engineering.  It is RACISM folks.  They can say they are coming around to it now, but the way their school is structured now with their demographics, it would take years for them to turn this discrimination factory around.  It is the affluent keeping out the unwanted.  It is segregation.  The very same school that will get more money and wants to cry poor?  When they just spent over $1.4 million dollars on a STEM lab and a performing arts center (or cafetorium as some may want to call it), when they refused to let a disabled six year old girl apply for their precious lottery until we beat them up over that?  Or when they get Federal money designed for Title I schools and they aren’t EVEN A TITLE I SCHOOL?  And our Delaware DOE was the one that submitted them for the award?  And they only qualified because the surrounding district was Title I?  The fact that this school applied for grant money, DOE performance funds, and a minor modification for a “performing arts center” that is actually a cafeteria and an auditorium already shows their inability to tell the truth.  And people just keep handing them dollar after dollar, and they want more.  Wake up!  Don’t you see what is going on here?

If this goes through tomorrow, Secretary Godowsky will have gone back on his word to the General Assembly legislators.  When he knew about this is immaterial at this point.  He knows about it now.  And if he does go through with it, we all know it isn’t even him making this decision.  It is Governor Jack Markell.  If this doesn’t go through, and things stay on course with our largest media outlet in the state heavily slanted on the charter side of the equation, it will happen eventually.  For a state that wants to do soooo much to help our kids in poverty and who are considered at-risk, we sure have a funny way of showing it.

The Sound Of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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Godowsky116Pt2

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

Korobkin119

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

Lindsay1110

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

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

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

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

NewsJournal112

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

JaquesMarkellKing

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

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

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

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DOEDataRequest2

DOEDataRequest3

 

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

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

SilberEmail712

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

WagnerEmail714

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

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

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

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

Breaking News: ESEA To Continue For “Several Years” Even With Implementation Of ESSA

Yesterday, I broke the  news that the Delaware Department of Education was going to be submitting another ESEA waiver.  Even though the Every Student Succeeds Act forbids these waiver schemes.  I reached out to the Delaware DOE for more information on this latest waiver, and received the following information from Alison May, the Public Information Officer at the DOE.  Below is what Alison sent me, including the letter Ann Whalen sent to all the states, along with the letter states would need to sign to get the waiver.  Note the part I bolded which extends ESEA waivers well after ESSA will be implemented.  There are serious games afoot here.  Is John King already abusing his authority?  Will Congressman John Kline (MN) intervene and stop this dead in its tracks?

Meanwhile, like with all previous ESEA flexibility waivers, state education agencies are required to get public comment on the waivers.  With three weeks time, how can this happen?  Some district boards don’t meet again until after the April 15th deadline.  Don’t they also have to submit any ESEA waivers to the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) advisory council?  How could that happen, as required by Delaware law, if the meeting scheduled for this week is canceled and no meetings are scheduled between now and April 22nd?

DESSMeetingCanceled

We are already losing a week due to Easter/Spring break.  As well, the Delaware General Assembly will be off for two weeks after this week.  How is the Delaware DOE going to make sure everyone sees this?  Or is just merely putting a notice up, hidden away on their website, or sending out a tweet, sufficient?  Thank God I find these things when I do!  This is the same kind of non-transparent information they put out there like the Accountability Framework Working Group last year.  They count on folks not looking for or even knowing where to find this information.  Too bad they didn’t count on me!

If the Delaware DOE’s deadline is April 15th, and this information is due to US DOE on April 22nd, does this mean the State Board of Education will put it up as an action item at their April 21st meeting?  Will they allow public comment on an action item which they typically don’t due to their archaic rules?

FW: FW: Letter from Senior Advisor Whalen re: Speaking and Listening Waiver People 

Attachments

  • Speaking and Listening Waiver Request Template.docx

 Per your request, please see below and attached. This guidance also is posted on USED’s website.
Alison
From: Honeysett, Adam [mailto:Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2016 9:17 AM
Subject: Letter from Senior Advisor Whalen re: Speaking and Listening Waiver

EXAMPLE OF REQUEST TO WAIVE THE SPEAKING AND LISTENING REQUIREMENT UNDER THE EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT (ESSA)

Ann Whalen

Senior Advisor to the Secretary

Delegated the Duties of Assistant

Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Ms. Whalen:

I am writing to request a waiver, pursuant to section 8401(b) of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), of section 1111(b)(3)(C)(ii) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), that [State]’s assessment system measure the full range of the State’s academic content standards. [State] requests this waiver only with respect to measuring the State’s speaking and listening content standards, which are part of the State’s reading/language arts academic content standards.  [State] requests this waiver because it is not practicable at this time for [State] to administer a large-scale summative assessment that includes speaking and listening standards.  This waiver will advance student achievement by permitting [State] to have a valid and reliable assessment system that measures the full range of the rest of the State’s academic content standards while providing time to complete the work necessary to have a valid and reliable measure of speaking and listening content standards.

[State] requests this waiver to allow for continued State and local receipt of Title I, Part A funding in good standing while [State] completes additional work to develop accurate, valid, reliable, and instructionally useful assessments related to speaking and listening. This waiver is requested for the 2015-2016 school year [(if requesting) through the 2016-2017 school year].  [State] assures that, if it is granted the requested waiver —

  • It will continue to meet all other requirements of section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB, and implementing regulations with respect to all State-determined academic content standards and assessments, including reporting student achievement and school performance, disaggregated by subgroups, to parents and the public.
  • It will continue to work toward assessing speaking and listening consistent with the State’s academic content standards.

 

Prior to submitting this waiver request, [State] provided all LEAs in the State with notice and a reasonable opportunity to comment on this request. [State] provided such notice by [insert description of notice, e.g., sending a letter to each LEA on [date] or sending an email to each LEA on [date]] (see copy of notice attached).  Copies of all comments that [State] received from LEAs in response to this notice are attached hereto.  [State] also provided notice and a reasonable opportunity to comment regarding this waiver request to the public in the manner in which [State] customarily provides such notice and opportunity to comment to the public [e.g., by publishing a notice of the waiver request in the following newspapers; by posting information regarding the waiver request on its website] (see attached copy of public notice).

Please feel free to contact me by phone or email at [contact information] if you have any questions regarding this request.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Do Delaware Educators Really Embrace Common Core? Or Is This Just Another Fluff Report?

Fallacy

Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education came out with a press release today which indicates 73% of Delaware educators fully embrace the Common Core State Standards.  The report from the Center for Education Research Policy at Harvard University used five states in their findings: Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and New Mexico.  Each state had “ten clusters” of schools to answer surveys.  The report does not show what the ten schools in Delaware were, but I did just email Chris Ruszkowski and Alison May at the Delaware DOE to find out.  I just received a response from May including the Communications Director for CEPR at Harvard, so hopefully answers will be forthcoming.  Ruszkowski is the head of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Department.

Any report like this can be read in many different ways.  We don’t know which schools and how many teachers in each school responded to the survey.  We don’t know if this survey was given before, during, or after the first round of Smarter Balanced testing in 2015.  If anyone has any information on these surveys from last Spring or which schools had these surveys, please let me know.  As well, were ALL teachers in grades 4th-8th given these surveys or just certain ones?

Educators: Common Core going well here

A significant majority of educators are supportive of the Common Core State Standards and believe their colleagues are effectively implementing them, according to a new study of educators in Delaware and four other states by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.

The report – “Teaching Higher: Educators’ Perspective on Common Core Implementation” — collected perspectives from a sample of teachers and principals in Delaware and four additional states last spring, focusing on math and English language arts (ELA) teachers and principals in grades 4 through 8. All were asked to provide their views of the Common Core training and supports they received prior to the administration of their state’s assessments.

The survey found 73 percent of teachers feel their colleagues have embraced the standards. The study also spotlights how teachers are making substantial changes in their instructional practices and materials and are collaborating frequently with their peers.

The Common Core State Standards, developed by states and adopted by Delaware and most other states, set consistent learning goals for each grade across state lines. For most states, including Delaware, the standards also raised expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level to have the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the 21st century.

The study found 69 percent principals believe these new standards will have a positive effect on students. Just 9 percent of principals reported resistance to the new standards from parents in their schools.

“This study gives a voice to what I hear from so many educators in schools across our state: Common Core is better preparing our students,” said Gov. Jack Markell, who co-chaired the National Governors Association’s bipartisan Common Core Standards Initiative.

“While the shift to higher standards is an undisputable requirement to best prepare our students for the new economy, we know it will only succeed with effective implementation. I’m encouraged by the feedback we have received from educators so far and by the tremendous work happening in our classrooms. Teachers have embraced professional learning opportunities to deepen their understanding of the new standards and collaborated to adjust their instruction to meet student needs. We must continue to listen to them and ensure we fully support their hard work,” he said.

The study found 76 percent of teachers said they have changed a significant portion of their instruction as a result of Common Core, and 82 percent said they had changed a significant portion of their math instructional materials; 72 percent said they had done so for ELA materials.

That work is paying off for Delaware students. Last spring, Delaware’s third graders had the second-highest mathematics and second-highest English language arts scores in the nation on the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment. Of all the students tested, third-graders had the greatest proportion of their academic careers under the Common Core.

Students who had the benefit of instruction aligned to the new standards appear to be better prepared for these more challenging expectations,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said.

Alison May

While Delaware may have had these great third grade scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, that isn’t exactly something to write home about considering the overall proficiency rate for third graders in English/Language Arts was 54% and for Math it was 53%.  Aside from white, Asian-American, and American Indian sub-groups, every other sub-group did worse than the state average in both ELA and math.  It’s very easy to praise success without talking about the factors that surround the supposed success, something we see from the DOE and Governor Markell every single chance they get.

There are 11,000 teachers in Delaware.  The CEPR report wished to thank “hundreds of teachers” in their report.  I’ve found when reports like this come out, if it is over 500, they will say “over five hundred” or give a number like 800 to show a bigger number.  This report came from five states, so for the sake of argument, they surveyed 500 teachers.  That breaks down to 100 in each state.  Over ten schools, that is about ten teachers per school.  Can we say for certainty there was no bias in who was picked to take this survey?  I will wait to hear back from the Communications Director at CEPR to see if she is even able to say which schools had a part in this report.  There are certain schools in Delaware that are very loyal to Common Core and the DOE.  Most of us know which ones those are…

To read the full report, go here: http://cepr.harvard.edu/files/cepr/files/teaching-higher-report.pdf

The Guy The US Senate Will Never Confirm (aka John King) Is Visiting Delaware On Friday

John_B__King,_Jr_2015

That didn’t take long.  The former New York City superintendent of schools, who is now the Acting US Secretary of Education is coming to Wilmington on Friday.  Have any Secretaries of Education ever bothered to check out our schools outside Wilmington?  Anyways, John King is coming to Kuumba Academy this Friday, and afterwards he is having a chat with civil rights leaders.  Probably about opt-out and how we can fix the low-income, poverty-stricken schools with more corporate education reform, personalized learning, less assessments that actually help, and more Smarter Balanced type tests to keep the hedge funders nice and rich.  Throw in some competency-based education for good measure…  I’m sure the Governor will be in attendance as well.

And once again, only “credentialed” journalists are allowed.  For God’s sake, keep the damn bloggers away!

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John King is Acting Secretary because the US Senate will never confirm the guy.  Talk to New Yorkers who are against education reform and they will tell you stories all night long!  Of course he is going to Kuumba Academy in the Community Education Building.  Maybe he would have gone to Delaware Met had they not shut down three days early.  That would have been an eye-opener!

Here is the official press release from Alison May down at the DOE:

ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION KING TO VISIT DELAWARE FRIDAY

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King will visit Wilmington Friday as part of his Opportunity Across America tour to discuss the state’s efforts to improve and reduce testing.

King will visit a classroom at Kuumba Academy Charter School prior to joining two roundtable discussions at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The roundtables will include an assessment discussion with district and state leaders and legislators as well as a second meeting with civil rights advocates.

Credentialed journalists are invited to join King for the following:

9:20 a.m.                                           Classroom visit (Kuumba Academy)

9:30 a.m.                                           Hour-long roundtable discussion about better assessments

10:40 a.m.                                         Press availability

10:55 a.m.                                         Hour-long roundtable discussion with civil rights advocates

Members of the media who would like to join the visit should RSVP to Alison.May@doe.k12.de.us by noon on Thursday, Jan. 21.

The Official DOE Response To The Delaware Met Closure

Alison May with the Delaware Department of Education release the following press announcement about the historic mid-year closure vote for Delaware Met.

For immediate release

Contact Alison May at (302) 735-4000

DELAWARE MET CHARTER REVOKED

DOE announces path forward for students and families with school closing on January 22

In response to the Delaware Department of Education and State Board of Education’s action today revoking the charter for the Delaware MET charter school in Wilmington at the end of the second marking period, the state announced that its staff will meet with MET students and families in the coming weeks to help them determine their best educational options for the second semester of the school year.

The school will close on January 22, 2016. The state will assist the school’s 206 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.

Families with questions should email Kamilah.Laws@doe.k12.de.us or call 302- 257-3635.

All documents related to the formal review, including committee reports and school responses, are available here.

The DOE Makes It So Easy…Why Do They Do This?

Last week, I wrote about the Race To The Top report the US DOE came out with.  I saw Delaware’s ridiculously high graduation rates compared to all the other original Race To The Top states and I just laughed.  Turns out the Delaware Department of Education was all set to boast of this and did it in record time!  I have to redline this joke of a press release.  It is begging me to do it.  They do this all the time, and I have to wonder if anyone really cares or listens anymore about what they say.  It’s so full of their flawed methodology it’s sickening…

Delaware leads RTTT states in college enrollment gains

Delaware’s work to increase its college enrollment rates was highlighted in a U.S. Department of Education report released today looking at the progress made by states under the federal Race to the Top grant.

Say, didn’t Avi over at Newsworks dispute your drop-out claims which you openly admitted?  It stands to reason your graduation rates would be affected by that as well!  And didn’t you use to not let kids graduate if they did bad on the DSTP?  The pre-Smarter Balanced test that everyone hated?

Delaware was cited as having made the greatest gains (10.7 percent) in college enrollment. Tennessee was second at 3.3 percent.

Well la de da!  And what does that mean exactly?  Does it mean more students are taking all those remedial classes in college you like to talk about so much?  But hey, let’s have our colleges and universities make major decisions based on Smarter Balanced!  Cause that’s going to work out so well!

Race to the Top also provided Delaware students with more opportunities for Advanced Placement and pre-AP courses. The report highlights how Delaware has supported educators through more direct AP training and given districts/charters increased access to virtual courses. This has resulted in student enrollment in AP courses increasing by 9.2 percent in Delaware since 2011. In the same period, the number of AP exam scores of 3 or higher (on a 5-point scale) has increased 22.2 percent.

Too bad a score of 3 isn’t accepted by Delaware’s colleges.  Too bad the bulk of students score a three.  That is $90 per course out the window.  Be proud DOE, be proud…

In other areas of the report, First State educators were called out for their collaboration during professional learning communities as well as their school team approach to professional learning as part of the state’s Common Ground for the Common Core.

Is there still a teacher’s lounge in every school where teachers sit during lunch, relax, and talk to each other?  That is true collaboration!  Teachers complain about all the time they don’t have in school.  And you actually said the words Common Core instead of the “standards”.  You haven’t been watching other states.  Those words have become toxic…

“Delaware teachers in every school met weekly for 90 minutes in professional learning communities to analyze student work and reflect on ways to modify instruction to bridge gaps identified in student learning,” the report said.

I’ll bet that was so much fun for all these teachers.  You make it sound like it was a party.  You forced teachers to do this and most of them can’t stand you for it.

The report also praised the state for listening to educators and adjusting supports to meet their needs: “Delaware and Tennessee had initially planned to conduct large-scale training sessions to help teachers transition to new standards. However, after soliciting feedback from teachers, they changed their plans and brought school teams together for action planning and used the talents of their own excellent teachers, rather than outside consultants, to provide training.”

So why did the Vision Coalition get paid so much Race To The Top money?  What essential need did they provide teachers that teachers could have done themselves?  Rodel IS an outside consultant DOE, get it through your thick head!

Delaware also was commended for relying on groups of teachers and leaders to provide ongoing input on new approaches or strategies to improve evaluation practices. For example, the state engaged 600 teachers to develop more than 200 assessment “tool kits” that provided rigorous and comparable measures of growth in student learning for non-tested grades and subjects.

More of the teacher cabal over at Rodel/Vision.  And don’t our Delaware teachers just love DPAS-II?  Please…you disgrace every teacher in this state with this nonsense…

And the U.S. Department of Education lauded Delaware for using RTTT to provide educators with an improved and more comprehensive data system as well as for using this customized data system to help support and manage program implementation at the district level. The digital systems that Delaware developed also made it easier to report and summarize student outcomes.

I’ll bet it did!  And where is all that data going DOE?  I know, I know, “we can’t send out personal data”.  Unless it is for the furthering of education and the fix-its we all know companies love to tell us we need but they never actually fix anything.  As State Rep. Sean Matthews brilliantly said, it is “cash in the trash”.

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 DOE & The 5Essentials Survey: More Intrusive Questions For Students, Teachers & Parents

The Delaware Department of Education is preparing to launch a survey unlike any other in the coming months.  The survey is a product of UChicago Impact, a non-profit company owned by the University of Chicago.  The survey, which is part of the Delaware School Success Framework (school report card), will have questions for students, teachers and parents to answer.  To say some of the questions are intrusive would be an understatement.  The part that offends me the most is this:

*Questions from the parent survey do not affect a school’s performance on the 5Essentials

Not to let the cat out of the bag so fast, but last week the DOE had a section for this on their website, but you couldn’t access any of the links.  I contacted their public information officer, Alison May, and advised her of this.  She emailed back and said it was supposed to be on their intranet for teachers.  But today, all the links were available.  So you can read the questions ahead of time and let me know what you think.

5Essentials 2016 Survey Questions

5Essentials Communication Kit for Delaware

5Essentials Phase 1 Training/Orientation for Delaware

When I emailed Alison May at the DOE about this last week, this was her response:

“The Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) will include information to highlight performance across multiple domains. Based upon significant stakeholder feedback, information about school climate and culture will be provided through student, teacher and parent surveys. The Department recently selected the UChicago Impact, a nonprofit organization focused on K-12 education at the University of Chicago, as the state’s vendor to administer the surveys. UChicago Impact’s “5Essentials” (5E) is an evidence-based system designed to drive improvement in schools nationwide. Currently school administrators are signing up for a related training. So likely that is the restricted access. They likely can see that page when they sign into the site. I’ll alert the web folks that the tab should be on the intranet as well if it is confusing.”

A year ago, the United States Department of Education really pushed 5Essentials for survey use.  It looks like Delaware took the bait.  Oddly enough, I can find no contract for this company anywhere on the State Contract website, nor could I find any payments going to 5Essentials, Urban Education Institute, UChicago Impact or the University of Chicago.  So who is paying for this and who holds the contract?  In doing an exhaustive search, the contract number for this was DOE_2015-15SuccessSurvey_RFP, but it shows no awarded bidder under the Awarded Vendors or Awarded Contracts.  But we do know what was in the Request for Proposal (RFP) and who put in bids for it:

Delaware DOE School Success Survey RFP

Solicited Bids for Delaware DOE School Success Survey

So once again DOE, why is there no contract with this company for the public to see?  We have seen this before with contracts with American Institutes for Research in regards to DCAS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When information like this is missing, it always makes me suspicious.  Sounds like Dr. Godowsky may want to look into why the DOE cherry-picks which contracts the public should see.  Interesting that the State of Delaware links to the bid website page in a section called “transparency”…

 

 

DOE Responds To My Not A FOIA Request On SBAC Achievement Levels With Names

Holy smokes!  I guess if you respond to a DOE email and include tons of people on the response, you might just get a response.  I got real live actual information regarding Smarter Balanced without making four mortgage payments!  State Rep. John Kowalko was included on this as well.  Below is the email from Alison May at the Delaware Department of Education with answers to all my questions (just for this request, they know I still have TONS of other questions).  I did take the liberty of doing some minor edits by adding a colon after each of my questions instead of the comma Alison May used.  As well, her answers had red, so I will do that which got lost in the copy.  I just wanted to make it prettier, but if anyone wants to see the REAL email, let me know.


From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
To: “‘kevino3670@yahoo.com'” <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>
Sent: Monday, October 12, 2015 4:22 PM
Subject: FOIA response

Mr. Ohlandt and Rep. Kowalko,

This is in response to your recent requests for information. Quoted below are Mr. Ohlandt’s original questions with respective answers in red.
1)     I would like to see a list of the individuals from Delaware who participated in the Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting.  This would include both the In-Person Panel and the Cross-Grade Review Committee:  The below spreadsheet lists the Delaware in-person participants.  Also, it identifies the cross-grade review committee participant from DE —-this process was also called Vertical Articulation Committee (VAC).  This was Karen Clifton.
The following represented Delaware as in-person panelists. TBL indicates the person served as a table facilitator. VAC indicates the person also participated on a vertical articulation committee.
SBAC Achievement Level
2)     As well, I would like to know who from Delaware represented the final achievement level settings: The state representatives participated in reviewing and making recommendations, which also took into consideration the online recommendations, etc.  There was then a final cross-grade or vertical process on the last day to make final recommendations from this group to pass forward.  These recommendations also went through external review, TAC, and Governing States chiefs for discussions.  Then they went to states for additional discussions and possible adoption. Karen Clifton from Delaware stayed for the final day of achievement-level setting. Carolyn Lazar of DDOE’s Assessment Office also was there for observation/auditing the process.  Former Secretary Mark Murphy participated in the Governing States discussions.
3)     Which higher education leaders participated in the 11th grade achievement level setting:  Faith Muirhead
4)     And anyone from Delaware who served on SBAC’s Technical Advisory Committee: There were no Delaware reps on Smarter’s TAC—this is not designed to be a state representative group but a professional group of assessment authorities.
5)     And if anyone from Delaware participated in the audit process for this:  Carolyn Lazar participated as a state observer/auditor for the process.  Each state was allowed to send one representative for this.
Alison May
Public information officer
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, DE 19901-3639

I do know or have heard of some of these teachers and general public participants in this.  Yvonne Johnson is THE Yvonne Johnson.  There can only be one!  At least on the Delaware PTA.  I know Yvonne was involved in many facets of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware as it was being developed, but don’t signal this as Yvonne has gone DOE on us.  She does not like this test AT ALL!  Don’t forget she was one of the major voices for opt-out and House Bill 50.

Some of these teachers are or have been involved with Rodel and the Vision Coalition of Student Success 2012, er uhm, 2015, er uhm. 2025.  The bottom line, we will all be dead and Dr. Herdman’s great grandson will be talking about Vision 2105.  And Alison:

THIS WAS NOT A FOIA REQUEST! IT WAS ONLY A QUESTION! BUT THANKS FOR ANSWERING!

Throwing Down The Gauntlet At The Delaware DOE and Governor Markell

Below is an email chain I had with the DOE today.  This was all based on a reblog from another blogger’s post about the achievement level settings for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  A commenter was questioning this and actually emailed the DOE, who provided answers to her without objection.  But when I emailed them for further clarification on the issues, that’s when things took their usual turn for the worse…


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 08, 2015 12:06 PM
To: Schwinn Penny; Reyna Ryan; Godowsky Steven; Haberstroh Susan Keene; Blowman David
Cc: Kevin Ohlandt; May Alison
Subject: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Good morning,
I would like to see a list of the individuals from Delaware who participated in the Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting.  This would include both the In-Person Panel and the Cross-Grade Review Committee.  As well, I would like to know who from Delaware represented the final achievement level settings, which higher education leaders participated in the 11th grade achievement level setting, and anyone from Delaware who served on SBAC’s Technical Advisory Committee and if anyone from Delaware participated in the audit process for this. 

From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; Reyna Ryan <Ryan.Reyna@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Thursday, October 8, 2015 1:37 PM
Subject: RE: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Kevin,
Just confirming I have received your FOIA request. I will be back in touch when your response is compiled.


From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 8, 2015 5:21 PM
To: May, Alison (K12); Schwinn, Penny (K12); Reyna, Ryan (K12); Godowsky, Steven (K12); Haberstroh, Susan (K12); Blowman, David (K12)
Cc: Markell, Jack (Governor); Denn, Matthew (DOJ); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kowalko, John (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); sean.lynn@de.us; Pettyjohn, Brian (LegHall); Matthew Albright; Baumbach, Paul (LegHall); Townsend, Bryan (LegHall); Terri Hodges; Avi Wolfman-Arent; Rick Jensen; Kilroy’s Delaware; Kavips World Press Blog; John Young; Lindell, Matt (K12); Nancy Willing; Eve Buckley; Pandora DeLib; Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall); Blevins, Patricia (LegHall); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); Furlong Tim (NBCUniversal); David Paulk; frederika.jenner@dsea.org; Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall); Sokola, David (LegHall); Paradee, Trey (LegHall); O’Mara, Lindsay (Governor); Gray, Teri (K12)
Subject: Re: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Alison,
This is not a FOIA request.  This is a question.  Does every question have to be treated as a FOIA?  Because we all know how successful that endeavor is.  If I want to file a FOIA request, I’m sure you know by now that I am well aware of how to do that.  What ever happened to transparency?  This is a statewide assessment.  Why is there all this secrecy with this?  If this test is truly about the betterment of children, I would think it would all be publicly available.  But when DOE pulls stunts like this it makes all of us wonder.  What is this Department hiding?  Why would you not have the contracts with the testing vendor available for all to see?  That’s why people aren’t believing the DOE when it comes to this test.  You guys may have a select group of educators in your little web, but at the end of the day everyone sees this for what it is: a huge effort by hundreds of companies who are literally banking on kids doing bad on this test.  And they are making tons of money off it as well as several DOE employees who are making some very high salaries.
I don’t think anyone is fooled anymore.  You folks can pretend you live in a world where you don’t need to abide by the rules and the letter of the law or you can change regulation, but it is catching up with all of you and faster than you think.  You may think you have the Governor’s blessing on all of this, but there will come a day when all the secrets will be unveiled and anyone who was a part of this will be held accountable and I can guarantee the former Governor will not pull any of you out of the fire.  Protection can only go so far, but transparency always rules the day.  So I will posit this question to you: Will you give me ALL the information I have requested from the DOE in the past 15 months without it being some huge clandestine affair?
Dr. Godowsky, this is your chance to actually make a crucial change in this Department.  I know you answer to the Governor, but I challenge you to do the right thing.  And Governor Markell, if you truly believe sunshine is the right thing, than you should readily agree.  We all know I write a blog and I call out the DOE on an almost daily basis.  Someone needs to.  Someone needs to see what this Department is and expose them whenever they can.  But I wouldn’t be too concerned about what I do write, I would be very worried about what I haven’t written.  I know about the true intent of SB79 w/SS1, I know about the umbrella corporation that is actually incorporated in Delaware, I know about all the companies, and on a national level many of us are putting the pieces together.  Now it becomes a matter of who lets this information out: you or me.
I am growing tired of this cat and mouse game with the DOE.  I am running out of patience.  You can provide answers or I can find them out and just publish them.  I’m sure you know I will publish them when you provide them.  It’s just a question of who provides the information.  Either way, all will be revealed eventually.  In the meantime, I would really like an explanation of the attached picture and what the hell Delaware thinks they are doing sharing student data with other states.

From: “Kowalko, John (LegHall)” <John.Kowalko@state.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; “May, Alison (K12)” <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>; “Schwinn, Penny (K12)” <penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; “Reyna, Ryan (K12)” <ryan.reyna@doe.k12.de.us>; “Godowsky, Steven (K12)” <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; “Haberstroh, Susan (K12)” <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; “Blowman, David (K12)” <david.blowman@doe.k12.de.us>

Dear Ms. May,

I am formally requesting this same information as a sitting State Representative and I expect a reply to be forthcoming from you and your office without delay. FOIA is not to be used as an obstacle course to government transparency and such an attitude will only ensure disappointment for the public and fuel the ire of the duly elected officials. I anticipate a response and the information sought within the next business day or I will be forced to demand it as is my right and the right of all taxpayers,

Respectfully,

Representative John Kowalko (25th District)


And the cycle goes over on…

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Has NO Contract w/Scoring Vendor for Smarter Balanced…Who Does?

For the past couple days I have been emailing the Delaware Department of Education for simple answers to simple questions:

Why does Delaware Online Checkbook show no payments going out to the scoring vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Is it under a different name than Data Recognition Corporation?  If you do not pay them, who does?

I received no responses until I included more names on the email of folks who do not work at the DOE.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To: Blowman David (K12) <david.blowman@doe.k12.de.us>; Murphy Mark <mark.murphy@doe.k12.de.us>; “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>
Cc: Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Schwinn Penny <penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Monday, September 21, 2015 10:38 AM
Subject: Data Recognition Corporation

Good morning all,

I’m not sure who would be able to answer this question, so if none of you are able to could you please forward this to the appropriate party at Delaware DOE to answer this question.

I have looked on Delaware Online Checkbook for any payments sent to the scoring vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Data Recognition Corporation, and I have seen no payments sent to them which is very unusual.  Are payments sent to them under a different vendor name or does American Institutes for Research send them their payments?

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 10:12 AM
To: Blowman David; Murphy Mark; sgodow@udel.edu
Cc: Haberstroh Susan Keene; Schwinn Penny; May Alison
Subject: Re: Data Recognition Corporation

Hello again,

I am not sure why anybody is responding to this email.  I have found, consistently, when the Delaware DOE does not respond to very specific questions like this, there is something to hide.  I can find the answers other ways, but it will not make the Delaware DOE look good.  Is there another organization paying for Data Recognition Corp’s services?  If so, why?

I’m sure you do not see it this way, but I am actually trying to work with you folks, but when I get no response or vague comments without facts, it speaks volumes.

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>; Murphy Mark <Mark.Murphy@DOE.K12.DE.US>; “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>
Cc: Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 12:33 PM
Subject: RE: Data Recognition Corporation

Kevin,

Thank you for your inquiry. To confirm, we received your public information request on Sept. 21. Under the FOIA statute (http://www.doe.k12.de.us/domain/196), the department’s response is due by Oct. 12. 

In this case, we have no records in response to your request. The Delaware Department of Education does not have a contract with nor has it made any payments to Data Recognition Corporation.

Alison


So there we have it, the Delaware Department of Education has no contract with Data Recognition Corporation.  So who does?  While in the area I went to the DOE office in the Townsend Building and spoke with Alison May.  I reiterated the information she conveyed to me in her email, and she advised me AIR has a sub-contract with Data Recognition Corporation.  For those of you who may not be aware, AIR is American Institutes for Research, the actual testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware, along with many other states.  AIR pays Data Recognition Corporation to score the very same test they created.  Nobody knows how much.

To add insult to injury, Data Recognition Corporation was part of my FOIA request to the Delaware DOE last March.  The one where they overcharged nearly $7000.00 based on a legal opinion generated by the Delaware Attorney General’s office when I filed a complaint.  At no time during the constant email exchanges between the DOE and myself, and to my knowledge, since it is mentioned nowhere in the response to my FOIA complaint, did they convey this to the Attorney General’s office as well.  Six months later we are just now finding out this information.

Stay tuned, because I have a lot more to say about this and the many connections with Data Recognition Corporation and American Institutes for Research.  In the meantime, just put American Institutes for Research in the search box on this blog, and tell if you think it is right that this company which has made $38,000,000.00, just in Delaware alone, hires the scorer for their own assessment.  The plot thickens…

Interesting FYI: When I went to speak with Alison May, in the Cabinet Room next door there was a meeting.  It was the Accountability Framework Working Group.  To be a fly in the wall during that meeting…

 

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Gets ESEA Flex Waiver Approved By US DOE

This was just announced by the Delaware Department of Education.  The good news is teacher and principal evaluations will get another “skip” year from the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The bad news, the feds really want the state to implement more priority, focus and reward schools in 2016-2017 based on the DOE’s new accountability system with grading schools.  I told you nine months ago this was coming…and here it is…

Below is the press announcement from the Delaware DOE:

Delaware receives federal approval for ESEA flexibility renewal

 The U.S. Department of Education today approved Delaware’s request for another year of flexibility from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Acting Assistant Secretary Heather Rieman said ESEA flexibility has helped “Delaware to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement …With this renewal, Delaware will be able to continue implementing its plan to promote innovative, locally tailored strategies to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.”

Delaware is eligible for flexibility approval through the 2017-18 school year after submission of more information this fall.

With the flexibility approval, which Delaware first received in the 2011-2012 academic year, schools no longer are subject to some restrictive requirements of ESEA. Schools and districts also gain the ability to refocus some funding, such as money formerly required for choice and supplemental education services, for the specific supports that best meet their students’ needs.

 Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said he appreciates the U.S. Department of Education’s support for the work underway in our state.

“We are proud of the progress our schools are making and that more children graduating from our system ready for college and careers. This flexibility will allow our educators to continue to make the decisions that are best for their children,” he said.

Find more information here.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4000

This is exactly why the ESEA reauthorization needs to get rid of this label and punish mentality.  If schools constantly feel under threat, that is intimidation.  “Do things our way, or else…”  They are nothing but a bunch of bullies…

Red Clay Priority School Plans Approved By Delaware DOE

In a move that probably shocks no one, the Delaware Department of Education approved the Red Clay Consolidated School District’s priority school plans.  This announcement was released today by the Evil Empire, sorry, Delaware DOE.  No word from them about what in the world they are going to do about Christina School District and their three priority schools as the chess match continues.  I find this announcement very interesting in light of the Wilmington Education Committee’s recommendations that Christina and Colonial relinquish their stake in the City of Wilmington’s schools.  Here is the DOE’s own Alison May with the press release:

Red Clay Priority Schools to move forward with school plans

Red Clay Consolidated School District’s three Priority Schools will provide new student supports, add Saturday and afterschool enrichment activities for students and families, and ensure greater parental involvement under plans that are moving forward after the Delaware Department of Education today approved the district to move onto the next steps in transforming these schools.

In September, Gov. Jack Markell and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced significant resources and support for the state’s six lowest-performing district schools, providing the opportunity for substantial changes in their approach to improve their students’ academic performance. These Priority Schools, all located within the City of Wilmington and split evenly between the Christina and Red Clay school districts, are eligible to share about $6 million to implement locally-developed, state-approved plans. The funding comes from several sources including federal School Improvement Grant and remaining Race to the Top resources.

Over the following four months, Red Clay leaders worked with educators, families and community members to develop school plans tailored to meet the unique needs of the students in Highlands Elementary, Shortlidge Academy, and Warner Elementary. The plans are in line with a Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the district and DDOE.

Red Clay’s school board approved individual school plans on January 27, and after review by Delaware Department of Education staff and national experts, the schools will continue to work with the community, district, and state to finalize plans for the 2015-16 school year.

In the coming days, the department will provide feedback to Red Clay about ways to continue to strengthen all three plans during that process so that final plans can be approved in the spring.

“We know that many of the children in these communities face unique challenges that require more support and resources. Thanks to Red Clay’s leadership and collaboration with its school communities, Highland, Shortlidge, and Warner now will have the plans and resources to better meet students’ needs,” Murphy said. 

Red Clay Deputy Superintendent Hugh Broomall said his district is ready to move forward.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” he said. “The work is hard, but we’re ready to engage in the process.”

Highlights of the School Plans

 

All Schools:

  • Parents will notice better coordinated referrals to community services for families and supports for teachers to improve behavior management in the classroom.
  • Schools will implement the use of iPads and laptops for students and teachers to improve technology literacy for students, with support to help teachers integrate this technology into their lessons.
  • Each school will host a leadership team, which will include a parent and community member, to help inform the decision-making of the school leader. The team’s responsibilities will include: organizing correspondence to the school community on developments in academic and social-emotional programming, improving academic growth and reviewing academic goals, monitoring progress on the implementation of the school’s plan toward its goals, reviewing achievements of teachers, and revisiting ongoing supports to ensure their success.
  • The district is implementing a new math curriculum in all three schools.

Shortlidge and Warner Elementary Schools

  • The district will reconfigure grades at two of the schools, with Shortlidge becoming a PK-3 grade campus and Warner becoming 4-5 grade campus.
  • Schools will offer Saturday Library as a time set aside for students and families to study a particular topic and for families to read with their children.
  • Schools will offer increased after school enrichment activities that are academic in focus but have character-building components that teach students skills such as sportsmanship and self-esteem. For example, Reading Basketball would offer students reading remediation with basketball games as a reward for participating.

Highlands Elementary School

  • Highlands will foster opportunities for parent-led activities for families at the school, such as family fitness night and a science expo.
  • Reading and math activities at Highlands will ensure parents have the tools needed to support their students to be successful in core content areas.
  • And Saturday activities at Highlands for students and families will increase tech literacy of students and provide parents with life skills workshops.

Alison May alison.may@doe.k12.de.us (302) 735-4000

Who Shot The Blogger? The Final Four! Murphy vs. Markell, May vs. Schwinn! Vote NOW!!!

We are down to the final four!  On one side is two ladies from the Delaware DOE: Penny Schwinn and Alison May.  I have to honestly say I didn’t think May would make it this far.  I predicted the other round before I even started this: Governor Jack Markell vs. Mark Murphy.  Who will make it to the end?  You decide!  This will run for two days, and then the grand whodunnit will determine who ended me!  As usual, this is completely fiction and is for amusement purposes only and none of the “suspects” involved have been accused of a violent crime.

Delaware DOE & Red Clay Respond To ACLU Complaint, What Happens Next, & My Demand From Delaware

In an article by the Hockessin Community News, both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District responded to the announcement yesterday of a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union and Community Legal Aid, Inc. submitted to the Office of Civil Rights regarding charter school discrimination against minorities, low-income students and special needs children.

The Delaware DOE’s response:

“We are committed to providing access to great educational opportunities for every Delaware student, from birth through higher education, and we are proud of the academic progress our low-income students and children of color have made in recent years, including by closing the gap between minority and non-minority students,” said Alison May, press spokesperson for the Delaware DOE.

May said that the state’s efforts to expand access has doubled the number of low-income children in “high-quality” early childhood programs, and has helped 100 percent of the state’s college-ready students apply to college regardless of their income.

“We will continue to expand and accelerate our efforts to make great education a reality for all of our students,” she said.

Red Clay’s response:

Red Clay Public Information Officer Pati Nash said that the district is now and always has been committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion in their schools.

“We will continue to be guided by those principles,” Nash said. “And continue providing an excellent education to our students and the community we serve.”

Newcastle Councilman of the 10th District Jea Street said:

“This is not only a New Castle County problem – this is statewide,” Street said, now in his 41st year as a student advocate. He later added, “I support this and I appreciate this (complaint).”

The article went on to explain what will happen next. The complaint has been issued to the United States Office of Civil Rights and the US Department of Education. This is not something that will be handled out of the regional Office of Civil Rights out of Philadelphia. An investigation will be done to see if the complaint has merit, which the legal director of the Delaware ACLU, Richard Morse, believes will happen.

A declaration on the complaint was submitted by Eve Buckley. Buckley resides in Newark, DE and is a history professor at University of Delaware. In the declaration Buckley compared Newark Charter School’s enrollment preference to those of private schools, which are not beholden to many laws due to private funding and the fact they receive no state or federal funds for their operations. Charter schools do receive federal and state funds, so any laws applicable to the regular public school districts apply to charter schools as well.

On Facebook and other forums, many citizens of Delaware have gone back and forth on the issue. Some feel it is something that should have happened years ago while others want the status quo. Many others blame the whole situation with bussing around Wilmington as the chief contributor of the problem. Unfortunately, some comments have been racist and discriminatory.

I find the Delaware DOE’s response to be typical, but very weak. To cite examples of pre-school children and juniors and seniors in high school on how they promote equity is ignoring the main victims of this complaint, all the students in-between. Once again, the Delaware DOE takes an opportunity to proudly announce how the gap is being reduced between these sub-groups and “regular” students based on standardized testing scores. The Delaware DOE, in my opinion, has been blissfully ignorant of everything else happening in schools unless it is related to education reform policies. They have allowed this to happen by essentially doing nothing about it. There are many other factors contributing to this, but the DOE could have done something about it as the state agency for education.

What I find very surprising is how this is just a charter school issue. There are other schools that have some of these same practices. Polytech, in Kent County, is just one example. Some online have said the magnet schools and vocational schools in Delaware have used enrollment preference in their applications as well. Yes, the charters are the primary target in this complaint, but in my opinion, ANY school that uses any type of discriminatory practices to weed out any sub-group in the surrounding community is just as guilty.

I take grave offense to the treatment of the special needs children in this state. If they aren’t denied entrance to a charter school, many are denied the special education services that should be given to them under Federal law. I have brought up this topic at just about every IEP Task Force meeting to be a topic in the report to Governor Markell. I met with Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the director of the Exceptional Children’s Resources Group at the Delaware DOE last summer, and her response to why the Delaware DOE does not audit schools for denied IEPs is because the “due process system is more than fair.”

It wasn’t until last night at the IEP Task Force that a member actually brought it up. Bill Doolittle, representing the Governor’s Advisory Council of Exceptional Citizens, stated that if the task force is reviewing the entire IEP process, and evaluations are an integral part of the discovery phase of an IEP request, then an IEP denial should absolutely be included in the conversation. It is too late for this to go into Governor Markell’s report due January 1st, but if the IEP Task Force continues past January (which Lieutenant Governor/soon to be Attorney General Matt Denn said is “highly” likely), it may come up as a topic. If nothing is done about IEP denials being audited in the state of Delaware very soon, I will be submitting my own complaint to both the US Office of Civil Rights as well as the US Department of Education. Enough is enough. Far too many students and their families have suffered as a result of an IEP denial. Far too many students who did not receive services at a young age when they should have end up spending time in residential treatment centers because of this practice. How many tears have to be shed? How many families have to be torn apart before this DOE acts? If they don’t act, I will.

Read more: http://www.hockessincommunitynews.com/article/20141203/News/141209902#ixzz3Kz1CeiWP

How Many Complex Special Needs Children Did Delaware Ship Out Of State In Fiscal Year 2014? #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

Last month, I did a long article on the Interagency Collaborative Team (ICT). This team decides where to place the most severely complex special needs children into a residential setting. More information from the original article can be read here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/category/delaware-special-education/

At that time, I did not have the numbers of students placed in residential treatment centers for the 2013-2014 school year. However, Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Childrens Group at the Delaware Department of Education, provided this information to me.

In fiscal year 2014, 134 students came before the ICT. Out of those, 57 students were placed in residential treatment centers. Out of the 57, 39 students were placed out of state. This is an average of 62.7%. In fiscal year 2013, the average was 62.8%. If there are more students, and Delaware can only fit so many, why would the average be almost exactly the same? Advoserv had 17 Delaware student placements in 2013, and 19 in 2014. Did they add more room? As I indicated in my previous article, the ratios between those served in state and those served out of state has remained very close for the past 5-6 years.

Information I was not able to obtain was out of the 77 remaining students, how many were placed in day schools like High Roads.

In fiscal year 2013 as well, 32 students were placed in out of state treatment centers. With an increase of only 7 students in the next fiscal year, the costs for these out of state treatment centers skyrocketed this year. I went over the figures in the prior article mentioned above, but between fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the costs for these schools (both residential treatment centers and day schools) went up well over $4 million dollars.

I submitted an FOIA request to the Delaware DOE for the service contracts between the residential treatment centers and the state of Delaware, but the public information office for the DOE, Alison May, informed me the school districts have the contracts with these centers, not the state. Yet 70% of the funding for these centers are coming from the State run DOE, and 30% from the school districts. Why would they not have access to these contracts?

What is even more astonishing is the rise in funding received by the Devereux Foundation between fiscal years 2013 and 2014. Factoring in the 30% the local school districts kicked in for fiscal year 2013, the amount was roughly $920,910.00 but in fiscal year 2014 that amount was $2,473,163.00. An increase of over $1.5 million dollars. All of the other residential treatment centers increased as well, but Devereux’ increase is very dramatic. Is it a question of capacity for Advoserv in Delaware as well as the other out of state residential treatment centers? Or is there something more to it?

The Delaware Autism Program (DAP) is the only state-wide autism program of it’s sort in the country. The Statewide Director for DAP is Vincent Winterling. He accepted that position in 2009. As per the Devereux website, Winterling was “Former National Coordinator, Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Former Director, Devereux Institute of Clinical Training & Research (ICTR) Consultants. Is there a connection between the rise in Devereux Foundation placements coming from Delaware and the head of the autism program in Delaware having very close ties with the organization?

I would have to imagine going from such prestigious positions with Devereux to a state paid position would have to result in a very large pay cut. But LinkedIn shows he also holds positions at A-B-C Consultants as Associate Director and Director of Vincent Winterling, Ed.D., LLC. All three of his current positions have been held since 2009, the same year he left Devereux after 19 years of employment there. No information was found for why Winterling left Devereux. In the years since he left Devereux, many school boards across Pennsylvania and New Jersey have hired Winterling for consulting services for special needs children.

In the fall of 2010, there was statewide concern about shutting down some of the residential group homes servicing autistic children within Delaware. On October 1st of that year, the News Journal published an article about the situation, and the journalist covering the story wrote: “Winterling, who declined to be interviewed for this story, said in an August interview with The News Journal that the homes should be closed and children in need of these services should be sent elsewhere. This would mean these children would be sent to neighboring states, with Delaware absorbing costs of $150,000 to $200,000 per child a year.”

Meanwhile, questions have risen amongst many school districts about what they actually paying for. In an article written by Melissa Steele for the Cape Gazette on August 16, 2013, she wrote “While all children are entitled by law to a free and appropriate public education, the high cost of residential care raises questions. What services are special needs children receiving in return for tuition costs? Who evaluates the cost of services, and who determines whether the services are effective? Months of effort to uncover answers to these questions have failed to produce any understanding of these costs. Repeated efforts to access facilities that accept taxpayer money or obtain information about services students receive have been met with refusals on grounds that providing this information would violate student privacy.”

I will be doing even more research into this subject in the future. If anyone has any information about the Interagency Collaborative Team, Devereux Foundation, Vincent Winterling or the other residential treatment centers Delaware sends these kids to, please email me at the address provided in the About Me section of this blog. In the meantime, it looks like the IEP Task Force, created through Senate Concurring Resolution 63, is set to begin meeting this month. One of the mandates of the resolution states the DOE and school districts must provide any information requested. Maybe the task force will be able to get more answers on this expensive, puzzling mystery.