Governor Carney Signs Pay For Success Bill

On August 8th, Delaware Governor John Carney signed Senate Bill #242 which allows the State of Delaware to enter into Pay For Success contracts.  The legislation sets the parameters for how this will work.  In a nutshell, an investor or organization pitches a program to a state agency and fronts all the money for it.  If the program is a success, the state pays them.  If it fails, they are out.  How will this work in public education? Continue reading

Governor Carney Signs Diploma Bill In Heartfelt Ceremony

Delaware Governor John Carney’s office was packed at 1:30pm today when parents, students, school employees, and advocates came to watch him sign HS1 for House Bill #287, the diploma bill.

State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Nicole Poore thanked everyone for all their hard work on the bill.  Both were close to crying with joy as they explained how much this bill will mean to this special class of exceptional students.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting thanked everyone for their contributions to the bill.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and DSEA Legislative Liason Kristin Dwyer talked about how they approached Williams and Poore about the bill.  Woodbridge Special Education Director and Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Group Chair Michele Marinucci said she has waited twenty years for this bill to become law.

But the best part was listening to the students who will benefit from this bill.  Hearing the joy in their hearts as they thanked the room for their chance to get a diploma made all the battles with this bill worth it.  One of Carney’s aides said there hasn’t been this many people in his office since the budget bill passed last July!  Even Carney was very moved about the response to his signing the bill.  He even joked that he wants the ability of the Spec Ed Strategic Plan’s Advisory Committee to get along to come to Legislative Hall!

I’ve been to a few bill signings in my day but this was easily the best!  Good things do happen in education.  I was happy to fight for this bill and report on it as much as I did.  No students will work harder than these awesome kids and they deserve it!  Today was a great example of the a wrong being fixed for the benefit of all- students, schools, and businesses.  Today, I was proud to be a Delawarean and even prouder to see this bill become law.

The bill will allow students with the most extreme disabilities to earn a diploma with modified standards in lieu of a certificate of attendance.  This became a huge issue when some of these students would fill out job applications and couldn’t check the box about having a diploma.  Many businesses in Delaware lost the chance to hire these hard workers because of that.  But more important, it was missed opportunities for these students.  Truly a blessed day at Legislative Hall!

Governor Markell To Sign Autism Legislation On 9/14

Autism advocates fought for this bill.  Now, after a long summer, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will finally sign Senate Bill 93 at Autism Delaware, 924 Old Harmony Rd., Ste. 201 on Wednesday at 9am.

An act to amend Title 16 of the Delaware Code related to creating an interagency committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism

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Senate Bill 93 was one of two Autism bills sponsored by Delaware Senator Margaret Rose-Henry which were introduced on May 12th, 2015.  After more than a year, Senate Bill 92 died as the 148th General Assembly ended on July 1st.  But Senate Bill 93, with its amendments, finally passed in the House in the late hours of June 30th after amendments passed.  Senate Bill 93 will give hope for better coordination of Autism services for the many parents of children and adults with Autism in the First State.

The history behind this legislation goes back a few years.  In 2013, Autism Delaware, with the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies and the Delaware Department of Education, released The Blueprint for Collective Action.  In the last days of the 147th General Assembly, an Autism Task Force was created.  Led by Senator Rose-Henry, the Autism Task Force created what eventually became the original bills, Senate Bill 92 and 93.  Senate Bill 93 was co-sponsored by Senators Catherine Cloutier and Bryan Townsend and State Representative Earl Jaques.

Delaware Autism has been the leading organization in Delaware for decades to help those with Autism.  To see a copy of their most recent newsletter, click here.

To see exactly what this bill will do for people with Autism, please see the below engrossment of the legislation which is exactly how it will be signed by Governor Markell.

Reality Hits Delaware Teachers That SBAC Counts In Their Evaluations Now But Bigger Dangers Are On The Horizon…

Yesterday, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky sent a memo to all Delaware public school teachers.  This message reiterates existing Delaware law about Component V of the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system.  In other words, Smarter Balanced counts in teacher evaluations this year.

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It was supposed to “count” last year, but legislators from the 148th General Assembly persuaded the Delaware Department of Education to submit an ESEA flexibility waiver in 2015 to extend the exemption period another year.  The US Dept. of Education approved that request.  Beginning this year, for almost every single public school in the state, the highly controversial high-stakes test will be a major part of Component V.

House Bill 399 will start a pilot program in select Delaware schools where the teacher and the administrator can choose another type of assessment for Measure A of Component V, but the administrator has final say in the event of a deadlock.  Governor Markell is expected to sign the legislation in the coming weeks.

Back in the spring of 2015, at a Common Core for Common Ground event, Governor Markell unwisely told a room full of educators to be prepared because he was:

Giving you another year before consequences kick in.

That was before the US DOE approved the flex waiver.  In 2015, the Governor very condescendingly told WHYY/Newsworks:

We know that some people don’t agree with higher standards and accountability.

When those “higher standards” and “accountability” are rigged from the get-go, it is hard to take the Common Core loving Jack Markell seriously.  It is very convenient for Markell to be okay with Component V hitting teachers after he leaves office.  Just yet another example of our “education” Governor creating destruction and leaving it for others to clean up the mess.

In the meantime, the dynamic due of Senator Sokola and Atnre Alleyne all but assured House Bill 399 was morphed into something from the corporate education reform playbook when it passed the Delaware General Assembly on July 1st.  Sokola’s amendments added a student and parent survey to the pilot program which enraged teachers across the state.  Newark Charter School has these types of surveys and it is something the DOE has been planning for a lot longer than we think…

In June of 2014, Atnre Alleyne worked at the Delaware DOE in the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit under Chief Christopher Ruszkowski.  He contacted a company called Panorama Education Inc. since they administered surveys to schools in New Haven, Connecticut public schools.  They provided information to Alleyne showing what these parent and student surveys could look like in Delaware:

And here are examples of the surveys this company wrote:

Student Perception Surveys for 3rd-5th Grade Students:

Student Perception Surveys for 6th-12th Grade Students:

For those who may be wondering how I was able to uncover these documents, they came from a FOIA request a Delaware teacher received from the Delaware DOE over a year and a half ago.  While looking back at the emails in this FOIA a few weeks ago, I found this.  It didn’t mean a lot at the time I initially reviewed the FOIA material, but in context of the Sokola amendment added onto House Bill 399, it is huge.  As an exclusive bonus, here are the emails that allowed Ruszkowski, Alleyne, and Laura Schneider (still with the TLEU at the Delaware DOE) to begin looking at student surveys over two years ago:

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The problem with any survey is how it is worded.  Surveys can very easily slant towards a very specific purpose.  There are a multitude of factors that can cause surveys to be tainted.  For students, there are many reasons why they could bash a teacher in a survey.  But Sokola and the DOE seem to want these surveys, along with parent surveys.  For what purpose?  I think we can all figure that one out: to label more teachers as ineffective in their path to destroy teacher unions.

For the Delaware DOE, they have already paid a very large chunk of money to Panorama this year.  What were the services Panorama provided for the DOE?  I can only imagine it was for the implementation of surveys into DPAS-II.  Note the date on the below picture.  This was before House Bill 399 had the Sokola amendment added to it.  Almost two months before…

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I firmly believe the original intention of House Bill 399 was hijacked from the Delaware DOE and Senator Sokola even before it was introduced.  They knew exactly what the outcome of this bill would be.  I would almost prefer Governor Markell does not sign it because of the Sokola amendment and the potential damage this could do to the teaching profession in Delaware.

In terms of Atnre Alleye, he is a nice guy.  But I have serious “heartburn” as Senator Sokola frequently says, about his role as a founder of TeenSHARP and the work they do while he was an employee of the Delaware Department of Education.  I believe there was a clear conflict of interest.  While he did leave the DOE in February of this year, he was very involved with House Bill 399 and what became of it.

Going back as far as 2010, Alleyne’s motivations were very clear for what he wanted in education:

I don’t believe a company he co-founded should in any way benefit from policies he helped contribute to as an employee of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  There is a blurring of the lines so to speak.  In fact, when you look at Alleyne’s Twitter account, it is filled with love for corporate education reform companies.

For Delaware teachers, this year will be the true test for them on the absolute damage one high-stakes test will do to their careers.  But is this a smokescreen for something even worse coming to all of education in America?  I believe it is.  I think the very loud protest coming from teachers in this state will lead to an elimination of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as we know it.  The test will evolve into weekly or bi-weekly tests in a personalized learning/competency-based education environment where the role of the teacher will be reduced to that of a glorified moderator.  Now, more than ever, teachers in Delaware need to not only fight what is here but what is coming.  And prepare now!

Why Hasn’t Governor Markell Signed Some Key Education Legislation?

For Delaware Governor Jack Markell, a great deal of time is spent during his summer months signing legislation passed by the Delaware General Assembly.  But some legislation has not received a signature by the Governor.  Three education bills, in particular, all show what can only be seen as resistance to many of the policies and agendas Governor Markell, Rodel, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and the Delaware DOE have put forth in Delaware the past eight years.  The Governor has nothing on his public schedule this week.  That doesn’t mean he won’t sign bills this week.  But when he has nothing, that usually means he isn’t in Delaware.

House Bill 399 w/House Amendment 1, Senate Amendments 1 and 2

This is the controversial teacher evaluation bill that stretched into the wee hours of July 1st this year.  Coming out of the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee recommendations, this bill generated a lot of heat after Senator David Sokola butchered the intent of the bill.  It was originally designed so other state-approved assessments could be used as a measure in Component V of the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system.  By forcing the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores to factor into teacher evaluations, the Delaware DOE and Markell got a ton of heat the past few years.  The bill was supposed to change that.  But Senator Sokola decided to intervene with a lot of help from ex-DOE employee Atnre Alleyne and the usual suspects over at the DOE and State Board.  So why hasn’t Jack signed the bill yet?  Rumors circulated at Legislative Hall that Markell did not like this bill.  We all know what happened the last time Jack “didn’t like” a bill.  Engrossed version of bill.

House Bill 408 w/House Amendment 2

The school breakfast bill, which would also give free breakfast to students in Delaware, caused a lot of controversy with a part about charter schools not being included.  An amendment in the House made sure they were.  Gee, when did a charter school meal program last cause a lot of conversation?  Perhaps when they applied for a major modification and it came out their meal program was not what it appeared to be?  Hello Newark Charter School!  Engrossed version of bill.

Senate Bill 93 w/Senate Amendment 1 and House Amendment 1

This bill is awesome.  The Autism community in Delaware spoke loud and clear in support of this bill.  But when an amendment was tacked on in the Senate giving the Delaware DOE a seat at the table through the very controversial Special Education Strategic Plan, led by ex Rodel employee Matthew Korobkin, the Autism community was outraged.  An amendment in the House stripped the entire Senate amendment out.  Over two years after Governor Markell signed this Special Education Strategic Plan into the FY2015 budget, we have yet to see it.  I’m hearing it is due any time now.  I can’t wait to see what Rodel and the charter lobbyists comes up with for this one!  Engrossed version of bill.

I see confusion on Markell’s part.  Does he sign these or not?  If he does, what does that say to some of his key allies?  If he doesn’t, he invites the wrath of many.  He is a lame duck, but he still has political aspirations.  Depending on what they are, could signing some of these bills affect those plans?  What to do, what to do…

If Kendall Massett Is In The Picture, It’s Bad For Public Non-Charters. Period.

HB435Signing

On Thursday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 435, the charter school audit bill.  After 15 months of back and forth between the forces of right and the shadows of wrong, we finally have something that is better than what existed before.  It could have been better, but Kendall Massett (runs the Delaware Charter Schools Network) had to stick her nose in it and get Senator David Sokola (the only guy who isn’t looking in the camera) to mess around with it.

I’ve seen Kendall several times.  We are polar opposites on education policy.  We always say hi to each other.  She has never written anything bad about me.  I can’t say the same.  We don’t see a lot of the corporate education reformers attacking people.  They have the power (or the illusion of it) so they don’t have to.  They are the ones who have a massive amount of lobbyists and political influence to get what they want.  Using Star Wars as an analogy, they are the Evil Empire, and folks like me are the Rebels, fighting the stuff they do with every fiber of our being.

House Bill 435 was a compromise bill.  Had Kendall not interfered with it, there would be a lot more transparency coming out with future audits of charter schools.  They are required to have annual audits.  But those audits miss a hell of a lot of information, as was the case with Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy.  We have something less than what it was meant to be because one woman couldn’t have her charter schools look bad.  If she is in the picture, charter schools will benefit while traditional public schools will suffer more in some way.  It’s a sure thing.

In this picture, we have Governor Markell’s right-hand man (literally, to Markell’s real right, and for the love of God Dave, look into the camera, you have an election coming up.  You aren’t going to get any door-knockers that way!) Senator David Sokola, standing on Jack’s shoulders is Kendall Massett, and to Jack’s far left (literally) is State Rep. Kim Williams.  Of course Jack Markell is the guy in the middle.  I have no clue who the guy next to Kendall is.  My apologies Mr. Unknown!

If Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams is in the picture, we know someone is fighting the good fight, sometimes with insurmountable odds.  We are lucky to have Kim Williams in our corner.  I fully endorse Kim Williams for her upcoming State Rep. election!