Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger”

If Washington D.C. is the capital of America, than Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.

Over the past week, many of us who are resisting the privatization of public education have been talking about The Ledger.  Peter Greene broke the news for the world to see, which Diane Ravitch quickly picked up on.  What is “The Ledger”? Continue reading “Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger””

Jack Eyes Clinton Post As He Goes Out Of His Way To Praise Hillary

Delaware Governor Jack Markell had an embarrassing display of asskissery when he did an interview with WMDT earlier this week and talked about Hillary Clinton’s integrity.  Jack wants a slot in Hillary’s cabinet.  Vice-President is out since Joe Biden is the current VP and it would seem biased for Hillary to pick the next VP from Delaware.  Jack wants the Secretary of Education slot.

Can you imagine the damage Jack could do as Hillary’s Ed Secretary?  Look what he did to Delaware the past eight years.  Common Core, teacher evaluations, Smarter Balanced, Rodel… just imagine all of that at a national level.  Hell, I wouldn’t be shocked if he made Paul Herdman his Deputy Secretary.  It’s what Arne Duncan did when he became Secretary.  He stacked the US DOE with his buddies.

Jack Markell is a very smart man.  However, he is also very transparent when he wants something.  I would go so far as to say he is as transparent as Saran Wrap when it comes to Hillary Clinton.  But what happens if Trump wins?  What would Jack do then?  Has he even planned for that alternative?  Sure, Jack could go to any corporate education reform company and get a top spot.  But that wouldn’t be a step up in his ladder, or even a lateral move.  Could Jack handle that kind of thing?  For Jack, it is all about power.

Complete US DOE FOIA Showing Delaware DOE & US DOE Emails

On December 23rd, 2015, I found letters sent from the United States Department of Education sent to all the state DOEs about potential opt out penalties for the 2015-2016 year if schools went below the 95% participation rate.  In response, I sent a very detailed Freedom of Information Act request to the US DOE.  For the first time, you can view the entire response in its entirety.  I wrote an article based on some key parts of the US DOE FOIA response last month.

Julie Glasier is the main contact person for Delaware at the US DOE.  Many of these emails are in response to the Delaware School Success Framework which was met with stiff resistance last fall because of the opt out penalties against schools.  Keep in mind that the US DOE put Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver Request in this set of emails twice (since I asked for all attachments), but there are key and vital emails that appear between those and after.

While the Monique Chism email below doesn’t really delve into anything Delaware specific, it is very interesting to see who is on the US DOE’s Ed Title I ListServ.  These are emails that automatically go out to any of the participants who request to be on the list.  There are several redactions based on emails going to gmail or yahoo accounts.  As well, there are several emails going to outside education companies.

Of note in the below email between Penny Schwinn and Julie Glasier is the timing.  Penny Schwinn’s last day at the Delaware DOE was January 6th…

I found the next set of emails to be very interesting.  These are between Lindsay O’Mara and Ann Whalen:

Ann Whalen Elementary and Secondary Education Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Delegated the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education
Lindsay O’Mara Communications and Outreach Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement

Lindsay O’Mara was the former Education Policy Advisor for Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  She obtained a job at the US DOE, but I wasn’t aware of her title there until I just looked now.  This link shows O’Mara was a political appointee but does not show who appointed her.  What makes this email exchange very interesting is the redacted information.  Was O’Mara sending work-related emails through a personal email account?  Or was this part of her interview process with US DOE?  If it was the latter, why would they include that in a FOIA request since it would have been a personal nature?  If not, how many other state employees are conducting state business through personal emails?  I have seen several Delaware DOE FOIA responses that don’t show any emails other than the state email address.  Would they even know if their employees are using outside emails to conduct state business?

There you have it!  There are little easter eggs all over these emails.  If you see anything I haven’t touched on in the previous article linked above or this one, please let me know!  Some takeaways I got from this is the fact there were NO emails sent from Arne Duncan, John King, Governor Markell, Mark Murphy or Secretary Godowsky.

I did find an official announcement from US DOE this morning regarding Lindsay O’Mara’s new job at US DOE:

USDOELindsayOMara

Will Brandywine Get One Over On Arne Duncan?

This was a very busy week.  I didn’t write as much, but what I put up on March 1st sucked the oxygen out of everything else on this blog.  The Brandywine-Holodick-Wahl Saga is now my second most-read article on this blog.  It jumped over a controverial Teach For America story from last summer and the Charter School of Wilmington due process article and my son’s first day of Common Core division homework.  I knew the article would be big when I wrote it (actually, Pat Wahl did all of the hard work).  But it is still read thousands of times each day.  It has slowed down a bit since last Tuesday, but will it overtake Arne Duncan’s special education regulations from November 2014?  That one had many parents of students with disabilities ticked off during Thanksgiving week that year.  We shall see!  The Brandywine due process story has a ways to go to reach the #1 spot, but it could do it.  We shall see in the next week or next few weeks.

 

The Arne Grinch Who Stole Christmas And Promised To Punish School-Ville

ArneGrinch

US DOE Promises Funding Cuts To States Who Miss Participation Rates Two Years In A Row, Contact President Obama Now!

In a letter sent to all states in America, the United States Department of Education is pulling the lever towards federal funding cuts to states who have participation rates below 95% on state assessments two years in a row.

If a State with participation rates below 95% in the 2014−2015 school year fails to assess at least 95% of
its students on the statewide assessment in the 2015−2016 school year, ED will take one or more of the
following actions: (1) withhold Title I, Part A State administrative funds; (2) place the State’s Title I,
Part A grant on high-risk status and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative
funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title VI State assessment funds.

Yes, they are actually doing it.  I would go with option number 3 for Delaware.  We don’t want your stupid state assessment funds.  Go ahead.  I dare you to do this US DOE.  You are nothing but bullies, flexing your muscles in direct opposition to parental rights.  You are complete idiots if you think parents are going to take this lying down.  We challenge you.  Miss Ann Whalen, “delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education”.  Who gave you this authority?  The departing Arne Duncan or the incoming John King?  You still don’t get it, do you?  Schools cannot and should not be punished for parents exercising their God-given, fundamental and constitutional rights for their children when it comes to education.  Yes, all schools are required to make sure students participate in the test.  That means the schools can’t tell parents to opt out.  There is nothing in your insane, ridiculous, mind-boggling, hateful, punitive, and disrespectful law about parents exercising their rights.  You are twisting the knife in public education.  America is tired of your high-stakes assessments meant to punish schools and feed the wallets of corporate education reformers.  You have sold your soul to Wall Street. 

President Obama, you are a lame-duck.  Are you really going to have this be your education legacy?  Choosing business over children?  Cutting funds to schools where standardized testing doesn’t mean a damn thing to students whose lives have not improved under your presidency?  You disrespect parents.  You disrespect minorities.  You disrespect students with disabilities.  You disrespect teachers.  You disrespect schools.  You disrespect state rights.  You disrespect those in low-income or poverty.  I disrespect you if this is really the route you want to take.  If this is something you are okay with, if this is something you allow, you should be prepared to take the heat for it.  I invite every single parent of a child in public school in America to call you now, until this mandate is GONE, and voice their vehement opposition to this totalitarian rule from the federal government on education.  Call today.  The phone number for the White House is 202-456-1111.  You can email President Obama here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact and tweet him at @WhiteHouse or you can comment on every single article the White House puts out here: https://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse/timelineTell the President your child is not his child.  Your child is not the property of the United States Department of Education.  Tell him your child is YOUR CHILD.  And you know what is best for them in determining YOUR CHILD’S education. 

To read the US DOE’s ultimate bully letter to the states, please see below:

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

Arne Duncan Leaves Nuclear Bomb Parting Gift For Students With Disabilities

One year ago tomorrow, I wrote my biggest article ever.  Entitled US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States’ Special Education Rights, it generated numerous hits from across the country.  I imagine just about every engaged parents of children with disabilities read that article.  It was a warning shot.  It impeded on the ability of IEP teams to accurately and correctly formulate an IEP.   The latest “Dear Colleague” letter from the United States Department of Education is actually striking the hammer into the coffin of IDEA.  The letter, written by Melody Musgrove, the Direct of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), demands all IEPs be written with the state standards as part of the goals for an IEP.  I find this to be incredibly offense and this spits on the whole concept of IDEA.

In Delaware, where I live, our Department of Education released their Annual Measurable Objectives last week based on growth and proficiency of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  While overall they want the proficiency rate to go from 50% to 75% in six years, for the sub-group of students with disabilities, they want them to go from 19% to 59% in six years.  So students with disabilities will have to work harder than every single one of their peers.

The combination of these two announcements shows that those in power in education truly don’t understand neurobiological disorders and disabilities.  It almost seems as if they want to get rid of the whole concept of special education in favor of personalized learning.  As well, it appears they want parents to pull their kids out of public education.  Is this some twisted voucher program that no one has told us about, or do they just not care about the well-being of these students?  I’m all for progress and improvement, but there comes a point in time where every long-distance runner hits a wall.  When they hit that, their body literally breaks down.  Students with disabilities are going to hit that wall and it won’t be pretty.

US DOE Directing All States To Make All Assessments The Way They Want Them

The United States Department of Education issued non-regulatory guidance on Assessment Review on September 25th, 2015.  This was a couple weeks before President Obama and Soon-To-Be-Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s public announcement for states to limit testing and to have no more than 2% of classroom going towards assessments.  Many have predicted this is just another attempt to get rid of district assessments that give clear and meaningful data for students, parents, and teachers.  We don’t want our students actually figuring out how to improve quickly when we have all those great state assessments like Smarter Balanced and PARCC that will give us results after kids go onto the next grade, right?

The full document from the US DOE is non-regulatory guidance but considered a “significant guidance document”, whatever the hell that means…  When the US DOE issues guidance that is non-regulatory, that means it has not been Congressionally approved by both Houses in the US Congress.  Which is how the US DOE likes to operate, without legislative approval…

The Full US DOE Fact Sheet On The Testing Action Plan

Below you will find the complete and unedited US DOE Fact Sheet on their recently announced Testing Action Plan.  Delaware citizens: Take not of the mention of Delaware.  Which confirms my suspicions this is all a smokescreen to get rid of district assessments and make EVERYTHING aligned to Common Core.  As long as they have their precious standardized assessment, no matter what the length is, they will do this.  I don’t buy this for a second.  This is exactly what Delaware Governor Jack Markell did, but on a national scale. Continue reading “The Full US DOE Fact Sheet On The Testing Action Plan”

Arne Duncan Calls For Limits On Testing…Is This US DOE’s Version Of Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2?

As heard pretty much everywhere, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan along with President Obama’s administration called for a limit on standardized testing and state it shouldn’t take up more than 2% of class time.  Do Not Be Fooled!  The words Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC were never mentioned in this press release.  Many states have called for a reduction in testing.  But not the ones that people REALLY want to disappear.  It is my contention that the feds are mimicking what many states are doing: trying to get rid of district assessments in lieu of the big state standardized assessments that Obama and Duncan just love so much.

Last March, Delaware Governor Jack Markell called for a limit in testing.  Coincidentally, this happened at the exact same time the opt-out movement in Delaware was gaining steam.  Coincidentally, Delaware Senator David Sokola introduced Senate Joint Resolution #2 within a week after the House of Representatives passed the opt-out legislation in Delaware, House Bill 50.  SJR #2 was the legislation to go along with Markell’s test reduction announcement.  Coincidentally, the task force to examine all of these assessments has done absolutely nothing.  Aside from some legislators being assigned to the task force, no planned dates have been announced for it whatsoever.  And coincidentally, when Governor Markell vetoed House Bill 50, take a wild guess what Markell and the DOE’s main reason was for this?  Because we are already going to reduce testing.

I got a ton of heat for casting fingers on SJR #2, but I have yet to be proven wrong.  Now the Feds are playing the same game.  And people are getting excited.  Once again, don’t be fooled.  Parents aren’t opting out of district assessments that gave immediate feedback and actually help teachers.  They are opting out of SBAC and PARCC.  Because they don’t help students or teachers, and there is no immediate feedback.  Hell, teachers can’t even see the questions or the answers.  Until President Obama publicly apologizes for the policies and non-Congressionally approved mandates coming out of HIS Department of Education, and abolishes all of these standardized assessments and the punitive measures they have on teachers and schools, I don’t believe a word he says about this matter.

Want to know when the SJR #2 Task Force will start to meet?  Probably the second a legislator brings up the veto override of House Bill 50!

Letter From John Kline To Arne Duncan Surfaces, Raises Serious Questions About National Student Database

The Department’s effort to shepherd states toward the creation of a de facto national student database raises serious legal and prudential questions.  Congress has never authorized the Department of Education to facilitate the creation of a national student database.  To the contrary, Congress explicitly prohibited the “development of a nationwide database of personally identifiable information under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (20 U.S.C. § 7911)

Back in 2010, as Race To The Top was introduced, part of the initiative included the creation of a Statewide Longitudinal Data System, or SLDS for short.  The idea, according to the below letter, was for states to share data with each other.  US Representative John Kline, of Minnesota, opposed this idea.  The letter stated the inherent dangers in birthing a database of this type.

Does anyone know if Arne actually responded to Kline’s letter?  I would love to see that response!

Badass Teachers Association: Rejoiced Over Arne Duncan & Horrified Over John King

The Badass Teachers Association, a group of over 70,000 teachers nationwide released a press statement on Arne Duncan’s resignation as the United States Secretary of Education and President Obama’s selection of former New York Commissioner John King as his replacement.  The BATs are NOT happy about this, and I don’t think anyone who cares about public education should be either…

BATs Respond to Duncan Leaving USDOE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 2, 2015
More information contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager BATs or Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager BATs
Contact.batmanager@gmail.com
The Badass Teachers Association at badassteacher.org
Today the White House confirmed that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would be stepping down. The Badass Teachers Association, an education activist organization with over 70,000 supporters nationwide, celebrate this decision. Sadly, at the same time we rejoice the resignation of a man who has done more destruction to public education than any other sitting Secretary, we are horrified that President Obama has chosen to replace him with John King. John King is the former Commissioner of Education in New York.
John King’s tenure in New York was one of controversy and with an established agenda of dismantling public education by using corporate education reform tactics. King was run out of New York in 2014 because of a staggering test opt out rate, because he ignored and dismissed parents at education forums, and because he refused to fix an education system that he himself destroyed. The state teachers union, NYSUT, had a unanimous vote of no confidence in him prior to his departure.
“While we are glad to see Arne Duncan leave his post as one of the most destructive people to hold the title of Secretary of Education, we remain concerned that he will be replaced with yet another non-educator that will continue the Corporate Education Agenda. What we need now more than ever, is a compassionate, knowledgable, and experienced educator at the helm of this country’s highest education post.” – Gus Morales, Massachusetts BAT and Public Education Teacher 9 years
“John King did more destruction to the New York State education system than any sitting commissioner I have known in my tenure as an educator in New York State. He dismissed the parents, teachers, and students of New York State by calling us “special interest groups.” The fact that he has been elevated to the U.S. Secretary of Education is beyond appalling.” Marla Kilfoyle, New York BAT and Public Education Teacher in New York for 29 years.
John King taught for three years in a “no-excuses” charter chain that had a high suspension rate. His agenda in New York State was to attempt to destroy the public’s confidence in public education. He grossly miscalculated the parents, educators and students of New York State. We anticipate he will continue his failed New York agenda while head of the United States Department of Education.

# #  #

Governor Markell on Arne Duncan’s Exit: The Red Pen Edition

US Secretary of Education submitted his resignation letter earlier today.  I have to admit, when I first saw the headline, I was deathly afraid to read the article.  Why?  Because a couple years ago there was a rumor Duncan was going to resign then.  And one of the names put forth as a possible replacement?  None other than Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  Markell has been one of the chief proponents of Duncan and Obama’s education reform agenda.  He embraced the Common Core like a nail to a magnet.  So it was with great relief when I read the article and didn’t see his name.  That relief was soon replaced with horror as I read the name of the replacement: former NY Commissioner John King.  Make no mistake, King is probably worse than Duncan.

Today, Markell put forth a statement on Duncan’s resignation.  I feel obligated to give it the Transparent Christina Red Pen edition.

Governor’s Statement on Secretary Duncan Stepping Down

Wilmington, DE – Governor Markell issued the following statement in reaction to today’s news that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will leave his position in December:

He really wished he could put forth a statement indicating he would have been appointed, but failure is well-known in the halls of D.C.

“Secretary Duncan stepped into his role at a challenging time, when our changing economy means that the level of education and training our young people receive, from pre-school through postsecondary programs, is more important than ever,” said Governor Markell. “He recognized that we must improve the resources available for our schools to do their jobs, while doing more to hold our system accountable for serving all students.

So what he did, and Markell helped him out on this and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise, was engineer programs and policies to come up with Common Core and very high-stakes standardized assessments based on that curriculum.  Duncan and Markell definitely improved “resources for our schools” by allowing companies to come in and try to “fix” our “failing” education system.  All for the grand goal of destroying traditional public education in an attempt to get more charters out there.  We see how that is working out in the First State.

“As a country we can be grateful that he never shied away from this hard but necessary work. As a Governor, I particularly appreciate his focus on challenging states to find new ways to increase opportunities for students, while providing unprecedented opportunities for us to implement innovative solutions through initiatives like Race to the Top and the Early Learning Challenge. His determination to get more of our youngest kids the opportunities they deserve raised awareness about the importance of high quality early childhood programs and raised expectations for what should be available to kids from communities that have long been underserved.

Which country are you living in Jack?  We know you appreciate it!  When can we see your stock portfolio?  You and Race To The Top.  You will never let us forget Delaware’s absolute complicity in that, will you?  And those communities that have “long been underserved”?  You helped perpetuate that by cutting key funding before Race To The Top, never replacing it, and then holding a sword to the throats of every school district in the state with Race To The Top.  Embrace or die!  You are a hypocrite of the highest measure Governor Markell.  You let Rodel and corporate education reformers destroy Delaware education.  And they are still here.  Meanwhile, after the results came back from the “best test Delaware ever created”, we see students with disabilities, low-income students, and minorities are even further behind than their peers.  But let’s be innovative and emulate what is “working” in our schools: the ones with selective and preferential enrollment practices that marginalize and segregate the most vulnerable students in the state.  You crapped on teachers so much that they hate you with such a passion you can’t see straight.  All in the name of the students, right Jack?  You are such a horrible Governor and I can’t wait until you leave.  You are just as corrupt as Arne and one day you will be held accountable.

“During numerous visits to Delaware, Secretary Duncan showed a commitment to seeking out what’s working and what needs to be improved in our schools, and Delaware students are better off for his efforts. I thank him for his service and wish him and his family well in whatever comes next.”

Two of his “numerous” visits to Delaware were to the same school Jack.  If Duncan truly gave a crap about our schools he would have gone to different ones.  He would have actually engaged with students instead of watching you suck up to him.  On his last visit, it was the day after YOUR Department got grilled by the House Education Committee and the Joint Finance Committee over all the wasted money that was Race To The Top.  I do not thank Duncan for his service.  I lament every second of his service that has given us an immeasurable amount of Federal control over education, horrible and crappy tests, a curriculum that makes no sense, and countless taxpayer dollars going to countless companies that didn’t even exist twenty-five years ago.  I can’t wait until you do the same thing and hand in a resignation letter before your time.  Please make it happen.  I opted out of your belief system years ago, and more Delawareans are doing the same every day.  Veto that Jack!

Breaking News: Arne Duncan Resigning As US Secretary of Education

U.S. News and World Report just broke the news: Arne Duncan is stepping down as US Secretary of Education at the end of this year!  More details to come.

Duncan says in a letter to staff that he’s returning to Chicago to live with his family.

The letter was obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by a White House official. The official wasn’t authorized to comment by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Barack Obama is tapping Education Department official John King Jr. as acting secretary through the end of his term. But Obama is not nominating King to be secretary.

This is huge news for education in America!  But it may not be great news because it looks like his replacement isn’t much better.  John King resigned as Commissioner of Schools in New York last year and went over to the US DOE.  As Diane Ravitch wrote last December:

King encountered strong opposition from parents and educators for his strong advocacy of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and test-based evaluations of teachers and principals.

Take New York State Commissioner John King. His teaching experience is limited to three years in a no-excuses charter school where poor kids were expelled for minor infractions. Having been chosen to lead the Empire State, where only 3% of children are in charters, he has decided that the Common Core standards are his heroic mission. He has compared himself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And just a few days ago, he said that the advocates for the Common Core were like the all-black World War II unit called the Tuskegee Airmen.

When King resigned, the New York State Allies for Public Education, and BATS Spokeswoman Marla Kilfoyle commented in a press release from the NYSAPE:

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of the BATS stated, “John King has disregarded the voice of the practitioners in the classroom which soundly told him that the policies he promoted were hurting children and destroying their education.” – See more at: http://www.nysape.org/john-king-resigns-parents–educators-call-for-a-new-direction-from-the-regents-and-demand-no-interference-from-governor-cuomo.html#sthash.WIOZ2xp8.dpuf

Redlining The Delaware DOE Inner-City Teacher Bash Round 5,238,964

Hip-Hop Hooray! The Delaware Department of Education got federal kudos for spending millions of dollars on a teacher report that took three years and lots of human capital research work.  What’s next?  Arne Duncan coming to Delaware to visit the same school again and say “Delaware is really awesome, keep up the good work guys.”  In any event, here is the usual mud the DOE likes to sling at teachers in low-income and poverty schools.  Along with my comments…

State educator equity plan earns federal approval, praise

Delaware’s plan to improve equitable access to excellent educators for every child received approval from the U.S. Department of Education, federal officials announced today.

What the hell is equitable access?  Does this mean any teacher of any race, religion, disability level and whatnot can teach in our schools?  Do you morons even know what you write anymore?

The First State’s plan was shaped by six months of public engagement and input from more than 200 parents, educators and other community members.  Delaware’s stakeholders collectively developed seven strategies for greater focus over the next decade: improving school leadership and retaining the best leaders; strengthening educator preparation programs; enhancing educator recruitment and selection; improving induction and mentoring programs; enhancing professional learning; rethinking compensation and career pathways; and considering school climate and working conditions (through the ongoing administration of the TELL Delaware survey).

Oh, was that the TELL Delaware Survey the State Board of Education and the Rodel Foundation wouldn’t run this year because they didn’t like the changes teachers wanted in THEIR OWN SURVEY?  I swear, if Rodel and the State Board collectively had one more brain cell it would be lonely…

“The trends in the data are clear: Low-income and minority students in Delaware are more likely to go to schools with less experienced educators and more likely to have turnover among their teachers,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. “This plan is about ensuring any student in any classroom in any public school in Delaware has the same opportunity as any other student to be taught by a great educator who is supported by a great leader.”

In other words, Murphy said “We are going to threaten and intimidate and bully those schools as much as we can by testing the kids with rigor and grit, label the schools and then punish them.  Who cares about job security!  We got TFA ready to come in. And if they don’t want it, we have Relay right around the corner!”

The U.S. Department of Education asked each state educational agency to submit a new state educator equity plan in accordance with the requirements of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  As required by ESEA in its plan, each state had to, among other things, describe the steps it would take to ensure that “poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers.” Each state needed to analyze what its stakeholders and data had to say about the root causes of inequities and craft its own solutions.

So this means TFA and Relay should not step one foot into those schools!  I know, I know, it’s not all TFA teachers.  And they are nice people, blah blah blah…

Delaware data show clear educator equity gaps:

Based on DOE research which they designed to show clear educator equity gaps!

The state’s high-need schools have significantly higher teacher turnover rates than schools not designated as high-need. Teachers are also much more likely to transfer from high-need schools to non-high-need schools than to transfer in the opposite direction.

See my third red-line paragraph in this idiotic press release!

  • Turnover rates in Delaware schools with the highest proportion of minority students were close to 20 percent compared to 11 percent in the Delaware schools with the lowest proportion of minority students.
  • Oh, like Christina, where they get beat up by the DOE all the time and give them a black eye in the media so they wind up losing referendums cause the DOE are a bunch of thugs?  Yeah, we know your game…
  • 39 percent of Delaware teachers that left high-need schools transferred to a non-high need school; 5 percent of teachers that left a non-high need school in Delaware transferred to a high-need school.
  • Nothing to do with taking a lot of those “high-needs” schools out of partnership zone status?  Way to use your own data to manipulate a submission to the Feds there Delaware DOE!  As well, you changed ALL the low-income numbers, so there may not APPEAR to be as many high-needs schools.  Bravo you David Copperfield wannabies!

Early career teachers are more likely to teach in schools with high proportions of low-income and minority students.

  • 14 percent of teachers in Delaware’s highest poverty schools (top quartile) are early career teachers compared with 10 percent in schools with the lowest proportion of low-income students (bottom quartile).
  • But they tend to be some of the best teachers Delaware has because they deal with stuff, as Governor Markell said, “You and I can’t imagine”.

Low-income and minority children also were less likely to be taught by teachers who received the highest ratings for student growth on their educator evaluations.

Because children in poverty don’t do well on high-stakes testing.  Haven’t you read any graph published on a non-DOE website in the past week?  If not, it’s called my blog and Delaware Liberal.  You might learn something!

  • A quarter of math/English teachers in the highest-poverty schools earned the highest rating, “exceeds,”  based on their students’ growth on state tests. But in the most affluent schools, almost 40 percent of math/English teachers earned “exceeds” ratings based on their students’ growth on the same tests.
  • What is an “affluent” school?  All you are saying is money makes kids do better on tests with that statement.  Seriously, who writes this stuff?  How can you talk about equitable access when you are labeling schools based on income?
  • These ratings are based on growth only, which takes into account the proficiency level at which students started. However, additional analyses also found promising counter-examples to this trend with several high-poverty schools having the majority of teachers earning “exceeds” ratings based on their students’ growth on state tests, demonstrating that teachers and students can and do thrive in such schools.
  • Yeah, when they get “grants” and “donations” from places like the Longwood Foundation, Rodel, and all those other pro-charter school organizations.  When you are talking about these select high-poverty schools, you are talking about charters.  You aren’t fooling anyone here.  And with all that growth, I’m sure you wrote a lot about EastSide Charter School and their last DCAS “growth”, but failed to mention attrition rates there.  Say, how did they do on Smarter Balanced?

Delaware’s Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators for All Students outlines a course for 2015-2025 by detailing the state’s equity gaps, stakeholder engagement, root cause analysis, potential strategies and solutions, plan for ongoing monitoring of strategies and results, and plan for reporting progress to stakeholders and the public.  Delaware’s stakeholder engagement efforts were heralded by USED.

A ten year plan?  Why doesn’t the Department of Education just change their name to the Rodel Vision Foundation of Education in Delaware?  I guess RVFoEiD would be too complicated?  Did you say “heralded”?  The only time I hear the word “herald” anymore is when I go to midnight mass and hear “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” or the Marvel Comics planet-eater named Galactus gets a new herald, like the Silver Surfer. 

The department now will work on the state initiatives outlined in the plan and provide support to districts and charter schools in their next steps addressing the key areas of the plan, ranging from leadership development programs and examination of mentoring programs to improved recruitment efforts.

In another words, we have zero clue, but we’re going to put it in our plan to the feds and then put it in our press release to make it sound like we know what the hell were doing but really, what does it matter, we still get paid better than teachers!

“This plan will allow us to better analyze the root causes of why instructional inequities may exist around our state. Additionally, it should encourage all stakeholders to have the tough conversations needed regarding these existing inequities and lay out a plan to address them,” said Dr. Dusty Blakey, superintendent of the Colonial School District and a member of the Educator Equity Working Group.  This group, comprised of participants from earlier stakeholder engagement sessions, met to review the final plan prior to submission and will continue to meet quarterly to shepherd implementation.

Wait, isn’t the plan to get better teachers, not to keep examining the same thing.  Dr. Blakey, I’m a tad bit confused here.  Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s a DOE group: data, dive, data, dive, data, dive, action, back to data, dive, data, dive, robust discussion, action, data, dive, data, dive…time for a new plan!

“It’s all about providing every student across Delaware with access to outstanding teachers without regard to where you live,” Blakey said.

But graphs are graphs Dr. Blakey, you can’t ignore them!

Background

The data presented in Delaware’s Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators for All Students (Educator Equity Plan) builds on almost a decade of dedicated efforts to improve data quality as it pertains to educator effectiveness in Delaware. In 2006, the department submitted an educator equity plan to USED that detailed the steps that the state would take to ensure that students were instructed by a “highly-qualified” teacher (HQT). At that time, roughly one quarter of Delaware schools and more than a third of classes were instructed by teachers who did not meet the federal definition of HQT. Today, the vast majority of educators in core academic subjects meet that definition.  Via Race to the Top (RTTT), an updated statewide plan for building a more complex understanding of the state’s educator effectiveness landscape was charted in 2009-2010 (see Section D of Delaware’s RTTT Plan).

“We spent lots of money thanks to the taxpayers and all those who signed the in your face RTTT memorandums of understanding.  The rest is just our hipster little ways of making us sound smarter (get it, Smarter, Smarter Balanced…)”

In 2012, the department partnered ( and paid tons of money too as well, thanks taxpayers!  All of us at the DOE pray we can get jobs with all these companies we gave money too when the new Governor napalms this building!) with Harvard University’s Strategic Data Project to increase the state’s analytic understanding and capacity relating to issues of educator effectiveness.  This three-year partnership has allowed Delaware to conduct sophisticated analyses relating to equitable access (educator equity).  In April 2013, the state released the Educator Effectiveness Diagnostic after more than a year of data analysis. The diagnostic, which covered topics ranging from educator experience to retention to performance, provided the foundation for the educator equity gap data presented in Delaware’s Educator Equity Plan.

“And then we got the legislators to turn all of this into state law and they passed it!  But we can’t rest on our laurels! The Human Capital Reich must move on! Damn those teachers!” said some surfer looking dude.

Alison May alison.may@doe.k12.de.us (302) 735-4006

Arne Duncan’s Threats Of Federal Funding Cuts For Opt-Out Go Up In Smoke!

Kate Taylor wrote in the New York Times today an article stating New York State Chancellor of the State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, would not give any district with high opt-out rates any Federal funding cuts for going below the 95% participation threshold in standardized tests.

But on Thursday, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, said that the federal Education Department informed the state’s Education Department “a couple of weeks ago” that it was leaving any decision about financial penalties to the state. And Ms. Tisch, whose board oversees the state agency and appoints the commissioner, said the state did not plan to withhold money from districts.

All that melodrama from United States Secretary of Education and state education leaders and Governors about Federal funding cuts, including Title I funds, was nothing but empty threats.  I’ve been saying this for months, as well as many others, but no one in my state, Delaware, would indicate this would or would not happen.  I heard from one state legislator in Delaware who indicated he opposed our opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, because “you don’t know what Arne Duncan told me he will do if this passes.”  Now we have a crystal clear answer: nothing.

In Delaware, in approximately one month, we will experience Parent Freak-Out 2015 when Delaware parents receive the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  As I stated when Governor Markell vetoed House Bill 50 in July, opt-out is dead, just REFUSE THE TEST!  But I still want the 148th General Assembly to override Markell’s veto, because it is a great bill!

On the first day of school, starting next week for many Delaware students, just give the letter to the principal stating you refuse to let your child take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, you expect your child to be educated based on their current curriculum, and you do not want to discuss it further.  This is your right Delaware parents, and no one can stop you from doing this.  Do what is right for your child and REFUSE THE TEST!

Delaware Parent Information Center Gets The Shaft From The US DOE

Yesterday, the United States Department of Education unveiled a $14 million dollar grant to Special Education Parent Training and Information Centers to 28 states and two U.S. territories.  But Delaware, with all the sucking up Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE due to Arne Duncan, did not get one single penny from this grant.

I don’t feel too bad though, because the last event the Parent Information Center of Delaware had was on “standards-based” IEPs.  You know, Common Core IEPs.  Of course the DOE will say that’s not what it’s about, but they also say high-stakes testing is good for kids, so there’s that!

I’m sure I’ll get a response consisting of “But we are already funded by the US DOE.”  I’m sure you are, but guess what, so are all those other states.  And you didn’t get a slice of the $14 million pie!  What does that say about Delaware special education when the Virgin Islands got over $100,000 and we didn’t get jack? (cause we have our own special kind of jack)

Avi Wolfman Arent’s Fantastic Education Articles Two Days In A Row! Charters & Graduation Rates!

I have been a fan of report Avi Wolfman-Arent since he appeared on the education reporting scene last fall.  He writes for WHYY/Newsworks, and he has conducted investigative pieces on charter schools, the DOE, opt-out and has also conducted interviews with Mark Murphy and others in the education landscape of Delaware.

Yesterday, Avi wrote a very well-researched article on Delaware’s climbing graduation rate in an article called Progress or Illusion: Examing Delaware’s Drop-Out Rate.  Last February, the Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell were praising the rise in Delaware’s graduation rate, but Avi discovered the increase wasn’t what it appeared to be.  He found out it had more to do with better reporting of numbers by school districts than a mark of progress on the state’s part.  And the timing issue was crucial on the DOE’s part the day of the announcement, considering their appearance before the Joint Finance Committee on the FY16 budget, their meeting with the House Education Committee on Race To The Top funding, and Arne Duncan’s visit to Delaware the next day.  As well, they were beginning to feel the mounting threat from the opt-out movement.

Today, he wrote about the rapid proliferation of charter schools in Wilmington in the excellent Wilmington, The City With Too Many Charter Schools.  Avi got both sides and perspectives in this story, with the side of too many charters being pushed by Dan Rich, a member of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, and the other side by Mike Petrilli, the President of the Thomas Fordham Institute, a “conservative-leaning education think tank” as he described them.  In my research on Rodel, I found the Thomas Fordham Institute is one of the leading corporate education reform advisory groups and has influenced Delaware education reform considerably over the years, especially through Rodel’s Paul Herdman.  I take anything Petrilli says with a grain of salt because he is paid a considerable amount of money, like Herdman, to perpetuate the idea of more and more charter schools.

Avi continues to be a welcome addition to education reporting in Delaware, and I highly recommend checking his articles out and putting Newsworks in your favorites!  Blogs are very different from mainstream journalism, and we don’t always get both sides of the issues, but Wolfman-Arent does this in great detail with great transitions in his articles.

President Barack Obama, Arne Duncan & Delaware Governor Jack Markell Pull The Race Card Over Education

President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell continue to pull the issue of race into education.  Every time they talk about the proficiency gaps in low-income schools, they fail to mention the very mechanism by which these gaps are allowed to flourish: standardized assessments.  It’s a Catch-22 for a lot of folks.  If you disagree with them or their minions, you are accused of not caring about black kids.  If you agree with them, it looks like you are selling out traditional public school districts.

As Civil Rights groups speak out on the ESEA reauthorization, we already have veto threats by President Obama on either the House or Senate acts.  He has not come right out and said it, but he is given strong notions he doesn’t support either legislation.  Arne Duncan is pulling the Urban League president to support not getting rid of standardized assessments.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell openly said he “doesn’t like” a parent opt-out bill that would codify a parent’s right to opt their children out of the state standardized assessment, citing as one of his reasons that minority children would be disadvantaged.

I take great issue with even the tiniest implication that I don’t care about minorities.  As my son is a special needs student, he already is a minority just by the very nature of his rare disability.  Many of the children in the schools that need TRUE help the most, have all three: poverty, disabilities, and a minority status.

The bottom line is this: there is far too much federal and state control in education.  The result of this is students who are tested incessantly, teachers who are judged based on these test scores, and an out of control charter school industry that doesn’t play by the rules and the states and feds allow it.  By openly stating the bottom schools aren’t doing well in the environment Obama, Duncan, and many state governors created, is all the proof we need that what we have now just isn’t working.

As Smarter Balanced and PARCC scores start to trickle in from assessments given in Spring, we are seeing these great tests are no better than what came before.  It will show standardized assessments with high-stakes are not a true measurement of student’s abilities.  But it will show they need improvement, allowing more state and federal dollars to go to “consultants” who will “fix” our schools.  And the cycle does on and on, unless Congress finally steps up and does what is truly right for America’s public school students.

The first step they need to take is implementing all promised Title I and IDEA funding as originally approved.  Until they do that, nothing is going to improve for low-income, minority, and students with disabilities until they get the proper resources they need: lower classroom sizes, more special education services tailored for their individual IEPs, more education regarding these issues to educators and staff, and true educator-parent-student relationships with a collaborative effort.  It doesn’t matter what you call a curriculum or a standard, if you don’t have the basics down in terms of having an equitable school, nothing else matters.