Farewell Avi

Avi Wolfman-Arent announced on Facebook yesterday he is moving on from Delaware to greener pastures.  Avi was the education reporter for WHYY/Newsworks.  He will be joining the Philadelphia branch.  I wish him the best of luck!

This is the second education reporter Delaware has lost this year.  Matthew Albright with the News Journal is still in Delaware, but he is covering Legislative Hall.  Avi gave education a very different perspective in Delaware.  I remember the first time I came across him during the entire Family Foundations Academy debacle at the end of 2014.  We had our disagreements along the way but I always respected the Wolfman!  Some of his articles were nothing I expected but delivered in their thoroughness and research.

We still have the excellent Larry Nagengast and James Dawson here in Delaware, and Albright’s former title at the News Journal was replaced by Brittany Horn.  Like Delaware education, people come and go, but it is always interesting to say the least.

DE State Board President Dr. Gray Gets Militant About Smarter Balanced Scores & Teacher Evaluations

I can’t believe I first watched this video last night!  This is classic!  It was the Delaware Education Desk, hosted by Avi Wolfman-Arent of WHYY/Newsworks and the two guests were State Rep. John Kowalko and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.  The date was 6/10/15, the same day as the wild and crazy Senate Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50.  When the subject came up about teacher evaluations tied into standardized test scores, Dr. Gray completely loses her composure and gets very angry.  This is the same type of Dr. Gray we saw at the December State Board of Education meeting when the subject of the Christina Priority Schools came up.  What can I say?  Jack Markell picked her…

Christina Priority Schools & The Weird Behavior Of The DOE & State Board

On Christmas Eve, Avi with Newsworks/WHYY published an article called “A year later, still no money for three Delaware ‘priority’ schools”.  I found this article to be fascinating and revealing.  Especially since it gave information that, apparently, the Christina Board of Education wasn’t even aware of.  One thing is for certain: the Delaware Department of Education is gunning for the Christina School District and they don’t care who knows anymore.

Last year, the DOE labeled six Wilmington schools as priority schools based on standardized test scores.  Three in Christina, and three in Red Clay.  Red Clay submitted their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), their plans for the schools, and received funds from the state for the initiative.  Christina fought it tooth and nail in many intense board meetings.  Finally, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee released their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington.  The Christina Board signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE giving a one-year pause on their priority schools and granting them a second planning year.

The Christina priority schools seemed like a dead issue until October of this year.  At the Delaware Education State Support (DESS) meeting, a DSEA representative asked Penny Schwinn (Chief of Accountability at the DOE) what would happen to the three Christina priority schools if the redistricting effort fell through.  Schwinn responded that had been a recent topic of conversation at the DOE.  But as per several members of the Christina board of education, nobody from the DOE contacted them about the priority schools or even mentioned them until the State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.

Both Avi and I were present at this meeting and we both saw State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray’s very bizarre behavior.  Avi described it well in his article:

The issue surfaced publicly during last Thursday’s State Board of Education Meeting. In the middle of a presentation, board president Terri Quinn Gray grew so upset she rose from her chair and blurted, “I need to take a break.”  She meant it literally. Gray grimaced, clutched her stomach, and walked out of the board meeting.  The source of Gray’s discontent wasn’t charter schools or testing or redistricting in Wilmington. It was priority schools.

There were several contentious moments at this board meeting.  But for Dr. Gray it was something that should have been a throwaway line during a presentation from Penny Schwinn’s Accountability department.  The second Penny Schwinn mentioned Christina was on their 2nd planning year for their priority schools, Gray either was truly surprised or she was putting on a show for everyone to see and hear.

The State Board is presented with information for their meetings from Executive Director Donna Johnson.  Most of the time, the information can be seen by the public on the State Board website.  But sometimes, information isn’t seen until the day of the meeting.  I truly don’t know if this applies to the actual State Board members or not.  But based on attending one of their State Board retreats, I did see the information was available to them and not the public when it came to a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Now whether they actually read this information or not ahead of time, or any of the information presented to them, cannot be determined.

During a late September 2014 Christina board meeting, Dr. Gray and fellow State Board member Gregory Coverdale gave public comment and pleaded with Christina to sign their MOU.  The audience was filled with Christina board members, and Gray and Coverdale were booed and left when board member John Young was talking about how the DOE needs great leaders.  As revealed in a FOIA of DOE emails a year ago, Donna Johnson accused Christina Board member John Young of giving a speech that was most likely written by State Rep. John Kowalko or State Senator Bryan Townsend.  Both Gray and Johnson were hammering Christina at the State Board of Education.  And we can’t forget Donna Johnson’s very bizarre and strange accusation leveled at the Christina School District last summer.

Based on the last link, I filed a complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice’s office of Civil Rights & Public Trust against Johnson.  Over three and a half months later and I have not received an answer to that complaint.  No one has contacted me to clarify any of the information about it.  I did speak with Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn a week ago about the status of these complaints.  He explained to me that the new office in the DOJ is still in the planning stages and they are still sorting out what they can and cannot do based on state code.  He also said someone from that office would be contacting me in a few days.  That never happened.

In my perception, this is a very personal amount of contention against Christina between Gray and Johnson.  I do not think the State Board will approve the WEIC plan for the redistricting of Christina’s Wilmington Schools into Red Clay.  I think they are reintroducing the Christina priority schools conversation to put us back to the exact same moment we were at a year ago where the State wants to take those schools and convert them into charter schools.  The Delaware Met building is in the Christina School District.  There is room in the Community Education building for another school, which is also in the current Christina School District.

The true disconnect here seems to also be taking place within the Christina School District itself.  Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski admitted to having conversation with the DOE about Christina priority schools earlier this month.

Andrzejewski, who started as acting superintendent on October 1, told NewsWorks/WHYY he didn’t know money was available for the three priority schools until early December. He said the district will submit sub-grant applications for each of the three school before the month ends.  “It kind of surprised all of us when we heard come December that there was money available,” Andrzejewski said.

But this is something the Christina Board had no idea even came up until the State Board meeting on 12/17.  And it doesn’t stop there, because Andrzejewski submitted an application for a grant without anyone on the Christina Board even knowing about it.

State and district officials say they’re working together and that both want the schools to receive money as soon as possible. As this article was being reported, a Christina spokesperson told NewsWorks/WHYY that grant applications for each of the three schools were sent to the Department of Education on December 23.

It sounds to me like Andrzejewski needs to get it together and actually speak with his board.  The board hired him so he is beholden to informing them before anything like this is submitted to the DOE.  Beyond that though, this shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation.  The DOE should have given those funds to Christina once they had them available.  Instead, they are pretending this is a big deal to give it a media push.  Behind the scenes, they are just biding their time and waiting for the pushback from Christina so they can take the schools.  And lest we forget, Schwinn herself said one of the consequences of Christina not agreeing to the DOE’s terms on the priority schools is making Christina a “high-risk district”.  Imagine if the DOE could somehow take the whole district lock, stock and barrel?

Family Foundations Financial Fiasco Timeline

For those just now tuning in to the Family Foundations Academy story based on the Delaware Auditor of Accounts investigation released yesterday, I put together a chronological timeline of everything FFA related.  While the News Journal claims to be “following this story since January”, after their forensic audit was publicly released, myself, Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks and Kilroy’s Delaware were hammering this story out well before them.  Everything you need to know about the FFA story is in here, along with aspects not even touched on by the State Auditor’s inspection.  Kilroy first broke the news about stuff going on there!

12/12/14: Kilroy found it first while going through the DOE website! https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/something-for-delaware-state-representative-debbie-hudson-re-charter-school-transparency-arneduncan-washingtonpost-edude-netde-dedeptofed-destateboarded-usedgov-educationoig-huffingtonpost/

12/12/14: More complaints coming in for FFA’s charter renewal: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/tnj_malbright-more-family-foundations-complaints-sent-to-the-de-doe-charter-school-office-state-board-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-roof_o-netde-edude-de/

12/12/14: Kilroy finds the numerous attorney fees going out of FFA: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/delaware-charter-schools-are-a-bonanza-for-lawyers-omg-look-at-this/

12/13/14: FFA & DCSN Connections: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/de-charter-school-network-connections-with-family-foundations-academy-disaester-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-tnj_malbright-doverpost-thestatenews-destateboarded-dedeptofed-governormarkell-wsj-th/

12/14/14: Peyton Place & The Satisfaction Officer: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/peyton-place-at-family-foundations-academy-the-satisfaction-officer-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-governormarkell-delawarebats-rodel-netde-edude-delaw/

12/16/14: FFA under investigation by Delaware State Auditor’s office: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/breaking-news-family-foundations-academy-under-financial-investigation-with-state-auditor-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-apl_jax-rceaprez-governormarkell-destateboarded-dedeptofed-tnj_malbright-de/

12/17/14: Sean Moore no longer on board at Delaware Charter School Network: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/family-foundations-acad-head-of-school-sean-moore-no-longer-treasurer-of-delaware-charter-school-network-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-tnj_markell-avi_wa-wboc-w/

12/18/14: FFA’s fate decided at State Board of Education meeting: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/live-from-delaware-state-board-of-education-meeting-charter-school-decisions-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-roof_o-destateboarded-dedeptofed-delawarebats-netde/

12/19/14: Avi with Newsworks covers the State Board of Education meeting: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/76455-delaware-shuts-one-charter-school-spares-another

12/19/14: FFA under scrutiny by State Board of Education: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/family-foundations-academy-potentially-serious-allegations-of-financial-mismanagement-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-avi_wa-tnj_malbright-delawarebats-netde/

12/21/14: Kilroy ponders on criminal charges for Family Foundations leaders: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/if-allegations-are-substantiated-against-family-foundation-will-their-be-criminal-charges-nope/

12/23/14: FFA Board Meeting: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/family-foundations-academy-board-meeting-tonight-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-avi_wa-tnj_malbright-netde-edude-edchat-delaware/

12/30/14: The full Auphsite Consulting Family Foundations forensic audit report: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/4423/

12/30/14: Avi with Newsworks covers the Forensic Audit: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/76803-audit-details-financial-impropriety-at-delaware-charter

1/1/15: Kilroy talks about their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/is-family-foundation-keeping-their-cboc-in-the-dark-including-the-de-doe-rep/https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/is-family-foundation-keeping-their-cboc-in-the-dark-including-the-de-doe-rep/

1/2/15: Plea to parents and teachers at FFA to tell the truth: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/family-foundations-parents-and-teachers-its-time-to-tell-the-truth/

1/3/15: The stories pour in from parents and teachers: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/a-family-foundations-academy-blast-from-the-past-id-love-to-see-them-try-this-now/

1/4/15: What more could FFA do wrong? You would be surprised: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/uh-oh-looks-like-we-got-a-bleeder-here-what-has-family-foundations-academy-done-now/

1/4/15: FFA was looking for new board members, so….: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/both-moore-brewington-out-at-family-foundations-academy-looking-for-new-board-members-should-I/

1/5/15: Avi covers the “on-leave” status of Sean Moore at FFA: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/77006-embattled-charter-head-placed-on-leave

1/6/15: The Bizarro World at FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/more-truly-bizarre-family-foundations-academy-stories-surface/

1/8/15: Did something happen at FFA today?: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/what-happened-at-family-foundations-academy-today-reporters-doe-letters-oh-my/

1/11/15: My public comment for FFA’s formal review: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/state-rep-kim-williams-public-comment-on-family-foundations-academy-wow/

1/13/15: FFA leaders fired, big board changes: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/big-changes-at-family-foundations-academy-moore-brewington-terminated-with-cause-board-members-resign/

1/13/15: Avi covers the firing of Moore and Brewington: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/77260-major-leadership-shakeup-at-troubled-delaware-charter

1/13/15: Avi covers the EastSide Charter School rescue: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/77263-distressed-charter-cleans-house-enlists-help-of-eastside-charter

1/13/15: State Rep. Kim Williams Public Comment for FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/state-rep-kim-williams-public-comment-on-family-foundations-academy-wow/

1/14/15: Details on FFA/East Side agreement: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/has-family-foundations-academy-become-eastside-charter-2-sure-looks-like-it/

1/15/15: Secretary Murphy, State Board and East Side Charter School save FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/family-foundations-academy-fate-decided-handed-over-to-eastside-charter-placed-on-formal-review/

1/15/15: Avi covers the State Board meeting as well: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/77394-delaware-spares-troubled-charter-school

1/19/15: Unanswered questions about FFA and financial matters: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/family-foundations-academy-still-has-some-big-unanswered-questions/

2/7/15: Moore and Brewington and their future: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/next-stop-for-ex-family-foundations-head-brewington-moore-attorney-generals-office/

2/14/15: Moore and Brewington want their jobs back: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/say-what-sean-moore-and-dr-brewington-want-their-jobs-back-at-family-foundations-academy/

2/15/15: Questions about FFA & East Side arrangement: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/big-question-raised-regarding-east-side-charter-family-foundations-academy-arrangement/

3/16/15: Charter School Accountability Committee’s probation recommendation for FFA & new leaders getting snippy: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/eastside-and-family-foundations-overlords-getting-rather-snippy-with-doe-overreaching-a-bit/

3/22/15: Diane Ravitch jumps on the FFA story: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/family-foundations-academy-saved-by-state-board-as-they-get-ravitched/

4/7/15: FFA’s probation letter and news about Tennell Brewington: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/family-foundations-academy-their-conditions-for-probation-news-that-will-make-ja-flip-out/

7/17/15: FFA submits major modification to change locations for both schools: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/family-foundations-major-modification-to-move-buildings-to-reach-academy-plans-to-increase-enrollment/

8/22/15: FFA’s major modification approved by State Board of Education: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/family-foundations-major-modification-approved-by-state-board-of-education-potential-conflict-ahead/

9/6/15: Wondering when the State Audit investigation will be completed: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/family-foundations-academy-where-is-the-investigative-audit-are-they-still-on-probation/

9/9/15: FFA off probation status: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/family-foundations-academy-off-probation-status/

Kendall Massett And I Agree On Something!!!! Del Met & Other Charter News

Just kidding Kendall!  But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript!  Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well.  One clarification which I am now hearing about.  The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students.  There were about ten of them I am now hearing.  According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters.  But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:

School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

I supported this recommendation before it was even made!  One important thing to take note of is the timing.  The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February.  By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.

A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.

Issues considered by the committee include:

Educational program, specifically:

o    Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.

o    Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education

Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.

Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

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

I feel bad for these kids.  I truly do.  It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education.  Delaware Met is another thing altogether!  I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here.  Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision.  Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process.  Because it isn’t just Delaware Met.  Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions.  But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains.  First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator.  I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning.  If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA.  For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system.  As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that.  You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that.  Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue.  But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.

As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices.  I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March.  Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave?  Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse.  I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school.  Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing.  And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs.  I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students.  But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records.  We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth.  I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.

At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed.  I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up.  First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools.  Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.

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.

Delaware State Board of Education Approves ESEA Waiver, Unanimous Vote

DSEA Passes Resolution For No Confidence In Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy

This past weekend, the Delaware State Educators Association passed a resolution indicating they have no confidence in Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy to effectively lead Delaware in education.  As reported by Avi Wolfman-Arent on WHYY/Newsworks today,

The resolution comes shortly after unions representing teachers at the state’s two largest school districts passed a similar measure. It also points to growing discord between the union and state leaders, who once earned kudos for working together,  but recently have clashed over teacher evaluation, teacher training, and the use of standardized tests.

“It is no secret that many public school employees are frustrated by the decisions and actions coming out of the Department of Education,” said union president Frederika Jenner, in a statement. “This past weekend, that collective frustration manifested itself in a vote of ‘No Confidence” in Secretary Murphy.”

The resolution stopped short at Murphy, and did not call out the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education which the Christina and Red Clay Educators Association both did in their resolution last week, but it sends a very clear message that educators in Delaware are fed up with the policies of the Department and believe it is time for a change.  I think the majority of the citizens of Delaware are also reaching this point…

To read more on this story, please go here: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/79647-delaware-teachers-union-votes-no-confidence-in-secretary-of-education?l=dt

Governor Markell Chastises Parents While Jaques Calls Parents & Students Failures Over Opt Out

“I believe that this push for opting out is unproductive and I think it’s unfair to our young people,” said Markell. “Our educators, our school leaders, our parents, and for that matter our students deserve the information they need to understand how individual students are doing.”

“To me, opt out is admitting failure,” said Jaques. “[It’s] saying, oh, I can’t measure up. I’m not good enough to be able to take this test. I can’t pass that test. That’s not the American way.”

Markell just can’t shut up.  And his latest lapdog, Earl Jaques needs to step down from the General Assembly and crawl back into whatever hole he came out of.  The American Way brought you into office Jaques, and we will take you out of it!  Markell wants to control everything, and now he is directing his dictatorial and authoritarian views on parents looking out for their kids.  If he truly believed the words he said today, he would understand that parents DO NOT see this as valuable information.  If it was, the test results would come back sooner.

Markell is in crisis mode, and he can’t stand the fact that parents and educators are openly defying him.  About a month ago, I reached out to Governor Markell to talk about my issues.  I sent him a very courteous email with a genuine effort to engage in conversation.  His reply: none.  These are people who don’t care about regular everyday parents.  They care about their own money, and their own corporate-driven agendas.  Delaware Parents: They are using our children.  They don’t care about the actual data, just what they can do with it.  At every step of the way on this matter, I have stepped up my game to do what is right for our students.  I will not, and you should not either, allow Jack Markell and his cronies at the DOE, Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, The Delaware Business Roundtable and all the rest of these phony organizations to dictate what is best for our children.  Enough Markell.  You have drawn your line in the sand, and you should eagerly await my next response!

And as for you Mr. “I have never taught in a classroom” Earl Jaques, I can’t even bear to call you a State Representative anymore.  You have lost that title in my mind.  Twice you have chastised me at House Education Committee meetings when I have asked tough questions to the DOE that they didn’t want to answer.  Twice you did not even give them the chance.  You are not fit for the education committee, or the General Assembly.

To read more about the above quotes, please check out Avi Wolfman-Arent’s article on WHYY/Newsworks here: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/delaware/item/79489-delaware-to-launch-qtesting-inventoryq-for-school-assessments

 

Exclusive: Governor Markell Letter To General Assembly, DOE Freaking Out Over Opt Out

Parents are opting out.  Teachers are crying foul.  Legislators are demanding accountability from the Delaware DOE.  Schools are overwhelmed.  Students are walking out of schools across the country.  We are in test overload as a country.  So what is the DOE, members of the 148th General Assembly, and Governor Markell’s response?  Ease the problems by taking away what is surrounding the Smarter Balanced Assessment but by all means keep the test intact.

So who is this “small group” of legislators who have had closed-door meetings with the Delaware DOE?  Why is there no transparency with these discussions with parents or other stakeholders aside from DSEA or the Delaware PTA?

This is what you are going to see: more “extensions” for teacher accountability, a push to decrease the other tests students get during the school year, downplaying the parent opt out movement by making the Smarter Balanced Assessment less than what it is, turn the movement into a political thing, and education leaders voicing objections to the objections as if they are speaking for everyone they represent when they are not.

This is becoming dirty politics in every sense of the word.  I imagine many closed-door conversations are occurring down at Legislative Hall without authority or transparency.  This is the Delaware Way.  When things get out of hand and the people actually speak out about something, let’s get dirty.

What makes this situation different though is parents are finally starting to see through the smoke and mirrors.  I told the legislature last week in an article that parents will hold them accountable, and the response has been less than stellar.  There are a handful trying to do the right thing for students, but the vast majority either won’t address it or the ones that do are making the situation worse.

Yesterday, we had State Rep. Jaques refer to Smarter Balanced as a “little test” in an attempt to diminish the impact.  This was quoted in an article about potentially getting rid of some of the other tests for students which give actual useful data and in a timely manner.  Donna Johnson, executive director with the State Board of Education echoed this sentiment overtly at the Delaware PTA Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall last night.  Now we have this article from WHYY/Newsworks: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/delaware/item/79167-delaware-lawmakers-unions-want-delay-on-tying-new-test-to-teacher-evaluation with this direct quote from the President of the Delaware Educators Association:

“Jenner said she’d support tying test scores to teacher evaluations beginning in the 2016-17 school year.”

But not so fast, Jenner is denying on Twitter that this was the context of what she said.

In everything I’ve heard from numerous members of DSEA and the various education associations with each district, they did not support this, and overwhelmingly were against Component V in the DPAS II teacher evaluation system.  In Delaware DOE surveys given to teachers last year, they consistently said they lack faith in the systems as they are.  In fact, DSEA voted on a moratorium on Component V.

State rep. John Kowalko said in a conversation with Exceptional Delaware this afternoon,

“This is a Trojan horse, and DSEA members need to think twice before they approve a stall tactic designed to lessen the impact of an intrusive and damaging test to children.”

More details on this continuing story as they emerge…

 

Christina School Board Member John Young Interviewed On Newswork’s First For Friday To Discuss Priority Schools

Christina Board of Education member John Young appeared on WHYY/Newswork’s First For Friday video series in an interview by Avi Wolfman-Arent to discuss the priority schools in the Christina School District.  This is an excellent depiction of the reality and horror this school district has been through in trying to save these three schools. The interview with Mr. Young begins around the 7:00 mark.

http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365429944?chapter=3