Last week, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Every Student Succeeds Act. The US Senate will most likely vote on the bill this week and it is expected President Obama will sign the bill. This will get rid of the No Child Left Behind mandates imposed on all the states. It gives states more control. It explicitly says states can come up with own state standards and they do not have to be tied to Common Core. In Delaware, I see absolutely no indication of Governor Markell or the Delaware Department of Education dumping Common Core or it’s bastard offspring, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
On October 27th, the DOE submitted a proposal for contract bids on an Early Literacy Initiative. The bidding on this closed last Friday, 12/4. The contract calls for a vendor to go into four Delaware schools, three traditional district schools and one charter school. From the Request for Proposal:
Delaware and literacy rates for the most at-risk students have never been something to brag about. I fully support all children learning to read, but if the motivation is so they do better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I have serious issues with that. I don’t think increased “rigor” is going to help the students whose needs are not being met. For those who want to bash me for this, it is all designed for increased proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Why? Good question. Governor Markell was the one who wants students with disabilities to go from 19% proficiency on SBAC to 59% in six years. Like that rigor rubber band isn’t going to snap! This is what standards-based IEPs are all about, and anyone saying they aren’t is either lying or is unaware of the true motivation.
Which schools will be a part of this experiment? Are these current priority or focus schools? The DOE should really give more information on these schools so the vendor can know exactly what they are getting into. There is a huge difference between MOT Charter School and East Side, or Warner Elementary and Hartly Elementary. Are these schools the DOE is going to pick for this even aware of what is coming with this contract? And who were the bidders?
I am very familiar with four of these bidders: American Institutes for Research (AIR), Public Consulting Group (PCG), Amplify, and University of Delaware. But 95 Percent Group and Institute on Community Integration (ICI)? Never heard of them. I checked out 95 Percent Group’s website and I always get nervous when I see only three people listed as employees for a company like this. I’m sure they have more, or maybe they don’t. The Institute on Community Integration is through the University of Minnesota. Whereas 95 Percent Group has a small staff listed, ICI has tons of staff listed on their website! This happens with university programs like this. I hate to see AIR and PCG get even more involved in any aspect of Delaware education. It is very sad that the DOE has more faith in these companies than they do in our own schools and teachers. But since someone has to be the mediator between these companies and all our schools, it helps to make their existence even more important than it really is.
I have to ask though, what the hell are we even doing anymore? All of these companies have one goal when they take on these state vendor roles: increasing the scores on the state assessments. Whether they reach their goal or not, it is a faulty measure of success because state assessments do not provide an accurate assumption of student success. By driving students to do well on these tests, all they are getting paid for is essentially helping teachers teach to the test. That isn’t education. It is a false narrative written by folks like Governor Jack Markell. We need to stop reading this story. We need to demand our legislators strip the DOE of spending our taxpayers funds for “cash in the trash” programs like this. Every time the DOE signs a contract like this, with some contracts never seeing the light of day, we allow the DOE to continue this practice. Most of us aren’t even aware of this. Enough is enough…
I wrote an article last night wishing more teachers in Delaware would write anonymous blogs. The comments are coming in fast and furious on social media and on the article. One teacher’s response deserved an article of its own. Thank you Delaware Teacher! I like this idea, and I would be more than happy to do the same for any teacher in the state!
Hey so here’s a thought: Give educators the opportunity to guest blog here. Like how Kilroy got you started. Then you might be able to hear from more folks. I’d also reach out directly to individuals you know and see if they’d like to submit something. As far as a list of responsibilities, there is an excellent blog that I saw floating around on Facebook that really went into a great deal of detail about how teaching has changed over the 30+ years that person has been teaching. It is extremely comprehensive in terms of additional responsibilities.
Prior to making a list of my own, I want to make sure folks understand that I’m not complaining about working in my chosen profession. I’m not interested in being attacked by someone who thinks I’m “just bitching”, and yes, that has happened, online, on MY blog. So…
Educators are salaried employees, and that means we can be expected to work the job until our job responsibilities are complete. I’d like it noted for the record that, in my district at least, the union contract actually states this exact sentiment, that it is expected for educators to work outside the contractual hours.
I teach 3 classes and an enrichment course daily. I have 3 different grade levels, plus the mixed-grade enrichment, so that’s 4 separate courses I’m planning for on a daily basis. Currently I have a student load of over 210 spread across those courses, and in my discipline (elective course) there is no support person available to come in and work with the students who have special educational needs. Approximately 20% of my students have individualized education plans, with up to 1/3-1/2 of some classes with those particular individuals. Additionally, there are students with behavior plans, emotional support needs, and 504 plans that include such medical diagnoses as ADHD (I don’t have quick data on that percentage).
My courses are all hands-on, and I manage an 8,000 sq ft courtyard and have between 70 and 80 animals in the animal science program as well as wildlife habitat, vegetable gardens, fruit plants, and a small greenhouse. In my classroom I provide centers for students to work in when they finish early; these centers are in reading, art, science, and technology, and I created activities for each center that students complete as they work in the center.
On a normal day, I come into work 30-45 minutes early to get my room set up, copy materials, etc. I’m on hall duty for approximately 15 minutes, then the first class block starts. I’ve got 40 minutes of individual plan, then hall duty for 30 minutes twice a week, 70 minutes of individual plan twice a week, and 45-60 minutes of professional development with an additional 10-25 minutes of individual plan on the fifth day. After school I have hall duty again for about 10 minutes daily, then meetings three days a week. One of those meetings is about an hour in length while the other two are around 20-25 minutes each. That leaves me with four additional hours on a normal week between the end of the school day and the time I have to leave to pick my pre-k student up at his school. In a perfect week, I have about 11.50 hours between 6:15 am and 3:30 pm where I am at school with “free” time to plan, grade, etc.
I’m fine with my job duties, but it would be irresponsible to say that I have adequate time during the work day to get things done. Between the hall duties (good for the school), the peer learning time (good for the teachers), meetings (good for the staff), parent contacts (good for the students and families), and other things we get regularly called upon to do, it can be difficult to take the entire time allocated for work and give it to work. I’ve got IEP meetings, behavior plan meetings, TONS of emails to answer, guest speakers to arrange, trips for my student clubs to plan, evaluation system goals to write, lesson reflections to complete, student work samples to hang in the classroom and hallway, essential questions and standards and agendas to write on the board every day for every separate class, a positive behavior support system to maintain, attendance to enter into the computer (within the first 10-15 minutes of class, while also teaching), grades to update and enter electronically as well as back up manually, supplies such as books and paper and scissors to inventory and maintain, conversations with other educators about the students we share to help support them in our classrooms, missing and makeup work to track down, and data data data to enter into multiple systems. Heaven forbid I need to write a behavior referral for a student, because that entails multiple actions across multiple platforms in addition to calling home and conferencing with the student and all the things I did prior to needing to complete the referral.
Many of these are things educators have been doing for a long time. And that’s fine. The difference really is all the initiatives that we now have to follow. I can’t just write down my lesson topic on a piece of paper and go. I have to show my bellringer activity, my activating strategy, 3-4 transitions throughout the class, how I’m differentiating for all my students, what in-depth questions I’m asking to evaluate learning, what my formative assessment will be, where the lesson ties in to the overall unit and course, what standards the lesson is based on (my content standards plus math and ELA common core plus any science and social studies), and the level of rigor. We have a lot of professional development on our own in addition to the ones we get in groups.
So yes, over time the responsibilities have grown and the complexity of meeting the requirements have grown. A side note about Amplify: Yes, it is a company. However, that term is being used across the educational environment to describe a series of tests. There’s the Smarter Balanced test, the STAR test, SRI, etc. Amplify has a product that gets used, but instead of using its full name every time we refer to it, we simply say “Amplify”. Not trying to be touchy, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone respond to an educator with that “Amplify is a company, not a test” comment.
I really had to crack up when I saw this. For those of you who have never heard of Joel Klein, he is the former New York City Chancellor of Schools and currently sits as the Chief Executive Officer for Amplify. Amplify has been in the news quite a bit lately as the company tanked in spectacular fashion and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch dropped Amplify like a bad habit. Klein likes to claim credit for reforming NYC schools, but he was appointed as Chancellor without the credentials necessary for that role and no classroom experience. His huge offering from Amplify? A tablet that caught fire and only one state bought it in mass quantities.
This isn’t his first rodeo in Delaware. He spoke at a Vision 2015 gig back in 2010, also a gotta pay to get in event. Weeks prior to that, the New York Times reported Klein chickened out from speaking during a protest by parents. Why were the parents upset? New York Times wrote:
The upheaval began after Mr. Klein, among others on the stage, said that despite the drop in this year’s scores after the state recalibrated its standardized exams, students citywide were still making substantial progress, based on graduation rates and other data.
Say, didn’t we hear something very similar this month in Delaware when the Smarter Balanced Assessment results were released? But I digress…
What is Klein’s connections with Greak Oaks? Because we know there is always a connection in the corporate education reform game. He knows the Great Oaks founder, Michael Duffy, very well. Duffy ran the NYC Charter School Office from 2007-2010 when Klein was Chancellor. And Duffy probably knows Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman pretty well, because they both worked under former Massachusetts Governor William Weld back in the 1990s. I bring up Herdman because Rodel is really promoting this gig.
Great Oaks is a charter chain with schools in NYC and Newark, NJ. They opened a charter in Wilmington last month. What is Great Oaks all about? Technology in the classroom, personalized learning, and modeling themselves after a failed chain of schools from Sweden. In an article for The Spectator, Duffy wrote:
On my most recent visit to the UK, I visited a school in Twickenham run by the innovative Swedish network of schools known as Kunskapsskolan (‘knowledge school’). Their approach is to tailor education to each child, with goals set between the student, a tutor and the child’s parents.
Klein is coming to town to promote his book, Lessons of Hope. It is all about his time as NYC Chancellor. I wonder who wrote this description of the book on Amazon?
Lessons of Hope is Klein’s inside account of his eight-year mission of improvement: demanding accountability, eliminating political favoritism, and battling a powerful teachers union that seemed determined to protect a status quo that didn’t work for kids. Klein’s initiatives resulted in more school choice, higher graduation rates, and improved test scores. The New York City model is now seen as a national standard for meaningful school reform. But the journey was not easy. Klein faced resistance and conflict at every turn.
And what of Klein’s connections with our very own Delaware Governor Jack Markell? We know they have met before and even though Klein and Markell never email each other, at least through official state channels, it’s obvious they have the same ideals. As Markell publicly stated during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, “I have no problem with business executives running for office, after all, I am one.” And apparently running the schools for one of the largest cities in the country thrives on that same business executive mentality. But Klein left his role (it was rumored then Mayor Bloomberg was about to boot him out), and went to start up Amplify. And even though Amplify is in the midst of financial controversy, the Delaware Department of Education seems to have no problem handing them money. Between Amplify and their former name of Wireless Generation, Delaware taxpayers through the DOE have given this company $11,530,850.00 since Fiscal Year 2011 and it doesn’t look like that is going to stop anytime soon since many schools are currently using Amplify’s latest testing products.
Back to Great Oaks, this new charter school in the Community Education Building in Wilmington, is run by Kia Childs who was a leader at Mastery Charter Schools and Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School. Touting the school as bringing kids to success by using tutors, Duffy talks about the school here:
In a very odd coincidence, both Great Oaks and Freire opened up shop in Wilmington this year. They are both charter chains. They are both backed by some serious cash. And neither of them show up as schools on Delaware Online Checkbook. Is it because they are new schools? Nope. Delaware Design Lab High School is listed. So how can you find out how much money these schools are paying out? To do that, you have to actually go to “Dept of Education continued” to find Great Oaks Charter School and Freire. I guess that answer’s this question concerning Delaware Online Checkbook, DOE, and Great Oaks. How convenient…
But in the case of Klein’s not-so-cheap visit to Great Oaks, interested attendees have to pay the piper to hear him talk about a book about himself. But don’t worry educators, it’s only $25 for you! Should a public school be able to charge outrageous prices to hear a guy stroke his ego? And where are the proceeds going? In Klein’s pocket or into the classroom to help the children of the school? This event is to “celebrate the launch of our school”, but it sounds like what should be a free and public event is for the Richy Rich crowd.
Fellow blogger Kilroy was not happy about Klein’s first visit to Delaware back in 2010 during another Rodel sponsored event when the tickets were only $50.00. How will he react now that the price has doubled in five years? You don’t have to pay $100 to hear Klein pimp his book though. You can watch it here, if you have the stomach for it:
Hey, did you see that sign behind him? Is that the Aspen Institute? The same corporate education reform “fellowship” “think-tank” Markell, Herdman and soon to be former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy all belong to? Yes, they all pal around together, our little destroyers of public education!
The Delaware Department of Education is a cash-cow bonanza for education reform companies! Delaware Online Checkbook came out with the July 2015 numbers on the 15th, and the Delaware Department of Education looks like they don’t have any controls on their spending. All told, they spent $13,103,296.36 for the month of July. This is not unusual, but it’s WHAT they are spending the money on. A lot of these are standard services, food for schools, salaries, operational costs and so on. But the amounts they are spending on outside consultants and vendors is very high. I went through, one by one, and looked into each company. Some of them I was unable to figure out what kind of service they could be providing for the DOE. The first figure is the amount DOE sent payment to in July 2015. Then I went through and figured out how much the DOE spent with these companies and consultants over the past five fiscal years, from 2011-2015. Delaware Online Checkbook only goes back to 2011, so the amounts could be higher in some cases…
Achievement Network Ltd. (helps schools “boost” student learning): $17,500, previous five fiscal years (hard to tell, many companies with words “achieve” in them, mostly providing “material” to school districts): $0.00
American Institutes for Research (assessment vendor for Smarter Balanced Assessment, was also vendor for DCAS): $1,933,989, previous five years: $36,652,681.87, it is hard to say what the budgeted amount is for the contracts with this “non-profit” because the DOE doesn’t list the awarded contracts anywhere!
Amplify Education Inc. (previously Wireless Generation Inc., built data longitudinal system for DOE, provides “education material” aka Common Core for DE schools): $60,115.00, previous five fiscal years (including Wireless Generation): $10,461,101.00, as contracted vendor w/DOE under Amplify from 9/25/14-6/30/15: $725,980.00, actual money spent: $1,947,733.00, money spent over agreed-upon contract amount: $1,221,753.00
Department of Education (Indirect Cost, DOE claimed to the Joint Finance Committee and the General Assembly these are salary costs stemming from Race To The Top): $55,322.41, previous five fiscal years: $1,069,287.66
Derek J. Nino (Consultant w/Relay Graduate School): $9,940.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00
Double Line Inc. (education data management): $30,126.75, previous five fiscal years: $88.042.25
Education First Consulting (just another corporate education reform company to help “fix” education): $12,000, previous five fiscal years: $349,423.45
ESP Solutions Group (another education data company): $15,830, previous five fiscal years: $2,395,932.50
iAssessment (help clients develop iPad programs for students): $49,999.00, previous five fiscal years: $229,771.30
KSA Plus Communications Inc. (an “improving schools” communication company): $16,105.00, previous five fiscal years: $52,261.00
Marshall Consulting Company (not sure, many companies w/same name): $8,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00
MBO Partners (a consultant “head-hunter” company): $7,500.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00
MH Miles Company CPA PC (do accounting and consulting services): $16,700.00, previous five fiscal years: $229,150.00
Middlebury Interactive Languages (digital language learning company): $26,146.00, previous five fiscal years: $646,406.50
Myriam Met (consultant for foreign languages): $14,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $51,900.00
National Louis University (offers services for “reaching students” and “strengthening teachers”, contract w/DOE for “early learning” online professional development for educators): $7,700.08, previous five fiscal years: $656,630.59, contracted amount through 12/15: $714,978.10
NCS Pearson Inc. (yes, it is THAT Pearson): $19,000.00, previous five fiscal years for DOE: $3,648,335.65, for all of Delaware: $8,057,105.63
New Teacher Center (another making great students by “accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and leaders” company): $29,962.00, previous five fiscal years: $158,425.00
Nicole Klues (a “blended learning” or “personalized learning” consultant): $9,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $34,500.00
Partnership To Advance Learning (a Microsoft “partnership” w/Lamar University, more digital language stuff): $26,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $48,000.00
Piper Riddle (independent consultant to help teachers with Common Core): $4,080.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00
Rand Corporation (contractor for Delaware STARS program): $52,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $1,535,681.58, contracted amount until 12/15: $1,900,000.00
Research In Action Inc. (contractor for DPAS-II evaluation): $6,402.45, previous five fiscal years: $1,712,902.44
Richard Colvin (contractor for Delaware DOE communications strategies): $18,240.00, previous five fiscal years (2015 only): $136,880.00
Rodel Charitable Foundation-DE (no contract w/them right now): $133,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $387,454.60
Ronald Berry (recruitment manager for DE Talent Cooperative): $14,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $57,540.00
Schoology Inc. (“learning management” system, currently in many DE schools): $264,588.48, previous five fiscal years: $0.00 (many school districts use them)
Teach For America (fast-track teacher prep program): $3,634.92, previous five fiscal years: $799,389.85
Teaching Strategies LLC (early childhood “support for active learning”): $112,508.00, previous five fiscal years: $677,662.29
The Hanover Research Council LLC (does consultancy work regarding grants): $33,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $30,000.00
The New Teacher Project Inc. (another “great” teacher training company): $20,000.00, past five fiscal years: $465,646.65
Thomas Sauer (consultant on World Language Immersion for DOE): $6,000.00, past five fiscal years: $16,000.00
U.S. Education Delivery Institute (Dr. Gray on DE State Board of Education sits on the board of this company that helps education leaders work “smarter”): $30,293.25, past five fiscal years: $290,342.00
University of Delaware (not sure what the exact nature of work is, DOE has numerous projects going on with them): $545,081.01, not doing previous years because it is next to impossible to get this one right.
University of Wisconsin-Madison (this one was a bit tricky, but the consultant is actually a company called Education Analytics, usual education reform company who will “help”): $110,492.00, past five fiscal years including Education Analytics: $1,004,462.00
If you add up all the funds spent for these companies, consultants, and “non-profits”, the grand total just for July 2015 is $3,195,999.34. What I find very interesting is the amounts going to iAssessment. The DOE has no contract with this company, but the threshold for contract requirements is $50,000 in a fiscal year. For the past two years, the DOE has spent exactly $49,999.00 in each year to avoid having to sign a contract. And what has Rodel been doing for the DOE that would warrant a $133,000.00 check going out to them? I haven’t seen ANY contract with them. As money pours out of the DOE like a leaking pipe, with NO accountability or controls in place, how can the DOE judge school districts and charters on their own spending when they can’t even control themselves?
One thing is for sure, the DOE will certainly be focusing on the “World Immersion” program and personalized learning in the future. They are spending a large portion of funds on consultants to get more information on this. Why don’t they just use Google like I do to get information? It’s free and it’s probably more reliable!
Even more curious is the fact that NO funds have gone out to Data Recognition Corporation, ever! This is the scoring vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. At the Delaware PTA Kent County Parent Town Hall on opt-out, a representative from the Delaware State Board of Education specifically said this was the vendor for scoring the Smarter Balanced Assessment. We know the DOE has the results, and testing ended for some schools in March/early April, so why aren’t we paying this company? Or is it rolled into the contract with American Institutes for Research? The DOE actually confirmed this company is the hand scorer in this link:
There are many other companies and consultants the DOE works with. This is just a snapshot of one month’s spending by the runaway train called DOE money. Will the legislators start to reign them in? They need to because when school districts such as Christina are literally starving for funds and the DOE drops $3 million in one month for a lot of unnecessary spending, we have to wonder what this is all for.
The Aspen Institute is a think tank that deals with global issues with a very large emphasis on education. Eight citizens of Delaware are part of its fellowship program: Governor Jack Markell, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation, Senator Chris Coons, Tom Kovach, Collin O’Mara, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court Leo Strine and Portia Yarborough with DuPont. Mark Murphy’s predecessor Lillian Lowery is also a fellow.
Their website describes the organization as:
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.
Their website gives nine areas where they deal with these critical issues: Community & Family Prosperity, Culture & Communication, Economy, Education, Energy & The Environment, Health, Justice & Equity, Philanthropy & Social Enterprise, and Security & Global Affairs.
The President and CEO of The Aspen Institute is Walter Isaacson, a former CEO of CNN/TimeWarner. He also serves on the board for Teach For America.
They also happen to have some of the biggest movers in the corporate education reform movement: US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, KIPP Founder Richard Barth, Great Schools CEO Bill Jackson, Education Pioneers CEO Scott Morgan, LearnZillion CEO Eric Westendorf, ten of the biggest TeachFor America executives in the country including COO Elisa Villanueva Beard, John Luczak with Education First Consulting, Senior Vice President Laura Slover of Achieve Inc., three executives from the Achievement First chain of charter schools, Leah Hamilton with the Carnegie Corporation, Relay GraduateSchool President Norman Atkins, Uncommon Schools CEO Brett Peiser and Managing Director Julie Jackson, no less than seven high level officials with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ed Kirby with the Walton Family Foundation, Russlynn Ali and Shivam Mallick-Shah with the US Department of Education, John Bailey and Patricia Levesque with Foundation for Excellence in Education, Marc Porter Magee with 50CAN, CEO Jean Desravines of New Leaders for New Schools, Leslie Kerner and Larry Berger with Wireless Generation (now Amplify), COO Gloria Lee and three other associates with NewSchools Venture Fund, Co-founder Joann Gama of IDEA Public Schools (Charters), President Tim Daly with The New Teacher Project, Dan Katzir with The Broad Foundation, Founder John Danner of Rocketship Education, Executive Director Chris Eide of Teachers United, CEO Kevin Hall with Charter School Growth Fund, and CEO Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy Charter Schools. All items in bold are explained below.
Add in companies like Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Foot Locker, Bank Of America, J.P. Morgan, McKinsey & Company, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and many more.
So what does a fellow do at the Aspen Institute? They have projects they work on for the betterment of their chosen area. For Governor Markell, Paul Herdman and Mark Murphy, they are all in the education sector.
Dr. Paul Herdman and Governor Markell have a long history in Delaware in the 21st Century. Their collaborations have resulted in the biggest changes to education the state has seen in decades. Name any education change since Markell became Governor, and Rodel’s been a part of it. And they are making a lot of money off these changes!