Good Luck Brian “Smarter Balanced Guy” Touchette!

Brian Touchette


The Delaware State Board of Education released the agenda for their August 18th meeting, a week from today.  Included in the agenda was the Delaware Department of Education personnel changes.  One of the employees leaving the Delaware DOE is Brian Touchette.

I always felt kind of bad for Brian.  He was the front guy at the DOE for the Smarter Balanced Assessment when they were doing the field test for it and when they were determining accommodations for students with disabilities.  When the opt out movement started kicking up dust, Brian went from Assessment Director to an Education Associate in a very short time after two Delaware PTA Opt Out Town Halls.  I gave him a rough time at a Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens meeting about accommodations a couple of years ago.

I haven’t heard much in the way of Touchette news since those opt out town halls and I wondered what became of him.  But it appears Touchette is no longer with the DOE now.  Good luck Brian!


An Inside Look At The Dark Minds Of The High-Stakes Testing Regimen of DOE and AIR

American Institutes for Research, Delaware DOE

The below document is disturbing on many levels.  It is the minutes from a joint meeting from the Delaware Department of Education and American Institutes for Research.  Many assumptions are made on both parts, and they just run with it.  Of particular assessment is the second paragraph of page four and the last paragraph on page seven.  I am beginning to understand why the DOE really doesn’t get special education.  The very fact that they would not defend their own students to these data freaks at AIR is astonishing.

If anything, this document shows what our students are to these data freaks at AIR- nothing but even more data for them to dissect and disseminate.  The cold and callous way students are discussed in terms of high-stakes testing chilled me to the bone.  These are children, not data.

As well, Brian Touchette with the DOE gives mention to something called the Duckworth/Grit analysis.  Angela Duckworth is a  psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has made over a million dollars with her “grit” method, which revolves around “growth mindset”.  Grit and rigor…flip sides of the same coin…

Some things to keep in mind with this presentation.  This is December 2013, six months before the Delaware General Assembly voted on House Bill 334, which made Smarter Balanced the state assessment in Delaware.  The DOE advises AIR they have already committed to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, without any change in the law.  Why is this important?  There has been differing opinions of when Delaware bought the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Governor Markell said one thing and former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said another.  This proves Delaware was very much committed to SBAC at least half a year before it was written into state law…

Brian Touchette No Longer Director Of Assessment at Delaware DOE

Delaware DOE

Brian Touchette, the former Director of Assessment at the Delaware Department of Education, has stepped down from the role but is still an employee.  Dr. Carolyn Lazar is serving as the Interim Director for the Office of Assessment.  This was confirmed with the Human Resources Department at the Delaware DOE.  Touchette is still listed as the K-12 lead on the Smarter Balanced website for Delaware, but I believe this information is outdated as well, as it has Touchette’s DOE Role in the Exceptional Children Resources Group, a role he had prior to the Office of Assessment.

I first noticed this when I went to look for any information on the letter Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy spoke of at yesterday’s House Education Committee meeting from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan regarding potential federal funding cuts for Delaware in the event an opt-out law is passed.  I found no letter, which I have formally requested from the DOE, but I did find this:

Office of Assessment Contact Information

Carolyn Lazar, Ed.D.
Interim Director, Office of Assessment
Phone: (302) 857-3391
Fax: (302) 739-3092

I made a few calls and this has been confirmed.  While no details were given in regards to the change, which I would not expect, I have to wonder if Touchette is the fall guy for the opt-out movement in Delaware.  This is merely speculation on my part.

Live From The DE PTA Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

The meeting just started.  Dr. Terri Hodges, President of the DE PTA will be moderating.  Due to bad weather up North, some of the members of the panel couldn’t make it.  Aside from Hodges, we have Yvonne Johnson, Donna Johnson (no relation), Brian Touchette, and Shelley Rouser.  State Rep. John Kowalko is in the house!

Yvonne Johnson is going over the basics on what assessments are and what high-stakes testing is.  For students this COULD mean promotion or retention.  Y. Johnson said one parent at the Newcastle County meeting said a parent said a school stopped a student from getting into an Advanced Placement class based on the student’s DCAS scores.  Yvonne said she feels this is a misuse of the purpose of high-stakes testing.  For educators this can affect their performance ratings.

Smarter Balanced is being used to align with Common Core.  You have to have a test to measure what it was designed for.  Student accountability will be determined by the local school district.  There are no consequences from the state DOE for student accountability.

Proponents of state assessments feel it motivates students to work harder, allows for teacher accountability, identifies areas of needed instruction.  Opponents feel it is not a reliable method of evaluating student growth or judging teachers.  The test is too long and takes up valuable class time.

Now were getting the whole “college and career readiness” statement which will assuredly help a child in 3rd grade.

Getting the DE DOE statement on conditions for opt out: medical or psychological issues.  The Delaware PTA will be voting at their next meeting on March 24th to officially state DE PTA supports parent opt out.

We are getting ready for questions after a statement from Brian Touchette, DE DOE Director of Assessment.  First question: What is the DOE’s stance on children being educated who have been opted out.  “A student shouldn’t be sitting and staring at a computer screen,” said Touchette.  But it is up to the districts to determine that.

2nd question: How can the fidelity of accommodations be assured for students in small-group testing?  Touchette said teachers are given guidance for how this should be implemented.  The teachers should know by now how to administer the test. A father asked point blank “Will the test follow my son’s IEP”, Touchette went to give an answer, but the father said “Yes or no?”.  Touchette went on about adaptations to the test.

A question was asked about the definition of individuals in Title 14, in regards to the assessment.  Touchette said the laws were written for schools, not parents.  Donna Johnson, director of the State Board of Education said there is nothing written in the assessment language in Federal or Delaware code about parent rights with opting out.  “Those are curricular decisions made by parents”.  There are state and federal requirements with testing for the schools who are obligated to give the test for children.  “It’s not directed at parents.”  Shelley Rouser said that is designed to make sure teachers don’t give lower performing students an out to keep the scores up.  Johnson (Donna) said the only way to measure schools is by having common assessments.  It is to help improve the education and reward the schools who are doing good and give the resources to those who need help.

DE State Rep. John Kowalko clarified parents have a Constitutional right to opt their parents out.  “If you think you can assess a student from Long Island with a student from Mississippi it is a Nirvana to try to do that.”

Someone asked about the Missouri local court ruling that the Smarter Balanced Asssessment Consortium is an illegal entity.  Okay, I asked that.  Donna Johnson said she has checked with legal counsel and is being told the state consortium was not directed at a Federal level.

Touchette responded to a question that the amount of testing has been reduced.  The AP teacher said students were pulled out of the class last year to do field tests.  Touchette said they were going to be making plans for that.  The teacher is stating it is very expensive and difficult for students in 11th grade with AP classes.  She is asking about make-up zones for when a student is opted out.  Kowalko is clarifying said House Bill 50 would allow for this matter to be looked at.

Yvonne Johnson said some of the letter responses parents got back from the school districts when they opted their child out were very threatening.  She is reading a statement from a superintendent who came out with a statement today (wonder who that is).  Yvonne said this is very threatening to parents.  She brought up the Appo letter and she sent it to the DOE to review. “Parents are confused and it is difficult .”

A parent explained how this test gives no immediate results and the student will go to a new teacher with no ability to learn from the test.  Shelley Rouser explained regular classroom tests allow students to learn from tests and this assessment shouldn’t be confused with the purpose of what teachers are supposed to be doing.

Kowalko said when they passed House Bill 334, the Smarter Balanced bill, they got rid of MAP testing which gave teachers direction for students through the year.  Teachers will still have those kinds of assessments.  The purpose of assessments is not to measure an artificial goal, but the needs of the teacher to meet the needs of the children.  The only thing accomplished by SBA is that No Child Left Behind is continued.  He said it’s about the individuals and public education is not about forcing kids to reach a level to aspire to.  It is about a bogus ideal and it is not right and it is not fair.

Parent Nelia Dolan said her children are tested numerous times a year through interim SBA assessments and she is very troubled by this.  Donna Johnson said there is a decrease in testing time through state mandated assessments.  A teacher and parent said there are ads on Craigslist for test scorers for $11 an hour and only 48 college credits.  Touchette said the DOE is using a company called AIR for test scorers and the training will be very extensive.

The same teacher said as a teacher she doesn’t need to review standardized assessments to gage how her students are doing, she already knows based on summative and formative assessments within her own classroom.  She also explained how cultural bias can play a role in the test.  Touchette said items go through multiple periods of review to determine if these types of biases show up on the tests.  There is a bias committee to address these types of issues.  Then field tests occur to judge the test from there.  If there are items that show up like this they are tossed from the test.

A reporter from the Dover Post asked if the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be used instead of the SAT for college entrance.  Donna said this is a topic of discussion but not right away.  I’m sure someone will comment on this latest revelation.

A parent from Sussex Academy said if teachers didn’t pass DCAS they didn’t go on to the next grade.  Another parent said Providence Creek Academy was the same way.  An art teacher said this has completely changed the way she is able to teach.  “My physical class has been completely taken over and I spend 70% of my time having students write about art and the creation time is slim to none.”

Donna Johnson wanted to hear from the audience what their exact problems were with the actual test.  One parent commented about a math sample he saw for scoring purposes where a student got the right answer but didn’t explain it right and didn’t get the full score.  But another got the wrong answer and explained it “right” and got a higher score.  Okay, I was that parent!  I asked Donna Johnson how this makes kids college ready.  I advised her if she went to her boss with wrong numbers he wouldn’t say “Oh, but you explained it right.”  He would say “Go back and do it again.”

Parents complained about the psychological effects of the test, such as kids vomiting before school, anxiety attacks, and the need to perform.  Parents said the language and wording can have many interpretations and meanings behind them which makes it VERY confusing.  I advised it will be especially hard for special needs students.

I did clarify with Donna Johnson that the state of Delaware can not hold a teacher or state employee accountable for opting their child out of the test.  That would be a district decision since they hire the teachers.  So I clarified, if I was a teacher at Capital, at Dover High School, and I opted my kid out, the state would do nothing.  She said yes.  The local district would make that decision.  But she seriously doubted any district would enforce that decision.

I think this meeting was less heated than the Newcastle County one.  Touchette did leave early due to weather conditions and he had to drive back to Wilmington.  Donna Johnson handled the crowd pretty well.  I did tell her afterwards that the next big issue is the free lunch program.  I told her the food sucks and she needs to fix that.  I’m sure I missed some stuff here, so feel free to comment if you were there.



A Must Read! FULL Transcript of DE PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall

DE PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall

An individual transcribed the complete Delaware Parent Teachers Association Parent Opt Out Town Hall from February 19th.  Transcription is a very difficult endeavor.  I’ve done it before, and it is time-consuming at best.  The longest I’ve ever done it for was a forty-five minute meeting.  This person did it for a two-hour meeting with multiple participants.  I posted the part with “Mr. Brandywine” yesterday, but this also has this individual’s conversation with him afterwards.

If you are on the fence about opting your child out, this is an essential document for you to read.  If you will never do so, you may want to read this anyways to find the “true value” of these tests.

Exclusive: Explosive Events At Delaware PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall Last Night **UPDATED**

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

“The DOE gave no compelling argument to have children take the test”

Last night’s Delaware Parent Teacher Association held their first of two Parent Opt Out Town Halls.  The meeting was very controversial and heated according to most participants.  The meeting, held at the Delaware PTA office in Bear, DE began at 5:30pm with about 60 participants.  Over half were parents and the others were teachers, some of which served a dual role as both a parent and a teacher.  A panel at the event included the following: News Journal education reporter Matthew Albright who moderated and asked the participant questions,  Dr. Terri Hodges, President of the Delaware PTA, Yvonne Johnson, former PTA President, Bill Doolittle, President-Elect of the PTA, Frederika Jenner, President of the Delaware State Educators Association, Brian Touchette, the Director of Assessment at the Delaware Department of Education, and Shelley Rouser, the Director of K-12 Initiatives and Educator Engagement for the DOE.  Members of the audience were given index cards to write questions on.

Jenner gave a presentation on the history of standardized assessments in Delaware and how they impacted students.  Rouser informed the audience Jenner was her teacher when she was a child.  Jenner clarified that “Key points were that while opt-out is the current action, the real goal we all share is to reduce the number of mandated tests, reduce the time dedicated to testing, reduce test prep except for what is agreed is really necessary to intro kids to new test, and to put testing in its proper place–not to rate and rank kids, educators, schools and certainly not to shame and blame.”

Jenner also said much of her presentation was based on questions surround lack of availability for other types of learning during the testing window.  Libraries and computer labs will be used for the test, which will take away time when those services are needed.  As well, she stated elementary school curriculum, which has become very narrow, is in danger of decline based on the testing environment in schools.  She said in a recent Facebook post she is “not opposed to testing.  Heck- teachers invented tests.  What we want are tests that are valid, reliable, aligned to what we teach, and not invasive and predatory.  We want time to teach and time to learn.  This is not too much to ask for.  The current regime of testing is not beneficial to children and other living things.”

Brian Touchette advised the audience he was approaching the meeting with a respectful tone and he expected the audience to do the same.  Multiple participants claimed Touchette was very defensive in the beginning, but after many questions he appeared to become very flustered and answered many questions with “I don’t know”.  Touchette told the audience that he understands they are not on the same side, but he did not want the yelling to continue.

Touchette presented the same statement from the DOE this blog put up yesterday which included Delaware state code from Title 14, Federal regulations, as well as multiple threats to funding from the United States Department of Education to the Delaware DOE, and from the Delaware DOE to the local school districts.  He did, however, confirm to the public there are no consequences when a parent opts their child out for the student or the parent.  The DOE has provided each school district with guidance to ensure that students who do not test will receive academic instruction.  Sit and stare is not a policy in Delaware.

Terri Hodges, the Delaware PTA President, clarified that Federal law states Local Education Agencies must test 95% of all students in order to be compliant with No Child Left Behind or risk losing Federal funding.  This is not the same as saying all students must test or that it is illegal for parents to opt their child out of the test.  The PTA said the consequences are financial for the DOE and the school districts, and the districts do have financial back-ups if they fail to reach the 95% mark needed to validate the results of the assessment.   The Delaware PTA felt the Delaware DOE will not concede on this point.  Hodges stated the Delaware PTA talked with Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn on this matter and he doesn’t feel it is illegal for a parent to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The PTA is going to ask for a formal legal opinion on this matter.

Wendy Johnson, a teacher in the Christina School District, said “The DOE gave no compelling argument to have children take the test, beyond the penalties that were mentioned.  Of course they never said it was money, they just used consequences and repercussions.  When asked, they were forced to admit that the results had nothing to offer the student, teacher, or parent regarding the child’s ability to progress, but they hope to use the Smarter Balance for years to come so they can begin to collect that data.”

A parent from the Appoquinimink School District showed a letter she received from the  district asking her to sign a letter acknowledging she is breaking the law by opting their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and this is illegal.  The Delaware PTA is forwarding this letter to the Attorney General’s office as part of their legal opinion request.  Bill Doolittle with the PTA said this could have been an earlier version of a DOE letter, before they offered the school districts further guidance.  This blog contacted the Appoquinimink School District and spoke with Lilian Miles, the Public Information Officer for the district.  She explained their letter is based on a Delaware Department of Education template they received and she would find out who the DOE representative was that provided this information to them.  I reached out to the Delaware DOE Public Information Officer Alison May and left a message for clarification on this matter but at publication time I had not heard back from her.

As the meeting wound down, a man stood up and said he was an employee in the Brandywine School District.  He explained there was a former teacher in the room who was wonderful.  The man said something parents may not have taken into consideration when opting out is the negative evaluations teachers may receive as a result.  He further clarified that “since we really love our teachers, do we really want to do that to them?”  While no direct threat was made, many parents and teachers reported they felt threatened and intimidated by his statements.

Teachers in the audience apparently were very offended by these comments as well.  Jennifer Twardowski, a teacher and member of the Christina Educators Association told the audience “If any of my parents are here, please do not worry about my evaluation.  I will not take it personally if you opt out.”  The teachers were told to stop shouting out but many teachers advised the man was given an opportunity to speak and they felt they should be afforded the same opportunity.  The man was later identified as Brandywine Assistant Superintendent of Academics Lincoln Hohler.  I left a message for Mr. Hohler, but I have not heard back from him, possibly due to the inclement weather Delaware is experiencing today, but the district office is open today.

Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Educators Association and a teacher at Warner Elementary School, said he left the State Board of Education meeting in Dover at 4:30 to get to the Town Hall.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education and a couple of members of the State Board were scheduled to attend the Town Hall, but Matthews said the State Board meeting wasn’t even halfway through their agenda by the time he left.  He did say Johnson asked him to let the PTA know they apologized for not being able to make it.  Matthews later said Johnson was very upset they were not there.

Hodges issued an official statement on behalf of the Delaware PTA over the controversial issue of parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

“We firmly believe in a parent’s right to choice whether it is on the location of the school or participation in the state assessment.

Based on all the information that has been presented so far (by the Delaware Department of Education and through our own research), we feel that parents do have the right to opt out of the assessment if they believe it is in the best interests of their child.

Assessments can be a valuable tool if developed, implemented and used correctly, with the student in mind.  We do not believe that is what we have at the moment.”

Hodges announced at the meeting she would be opting her own child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

The next Delaware PTA Opt Out Town Hall is at the Dover Public Library, 35 East Loockerman St. from 5:30 to 7:30pm on March 3rd.  To register for the event, please go here:

**UPDATED, 7:15pm to include further details and comments from Frederika Jenner.  Appoquinimink provided a copy of their letter to the parent, which can e seen here:

No response has been given by either Alison May with the Delaware DOE or Brandywine Assistant Superintendent  Lincoln Hohler at this time.



Delaware DOE Twisting The Opt Out Screws To Parents With Threat Of Funding Cuts Now, Getting Desperate…

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

In a document released yesterday by the Delaware Department of Education from the Office of Assessment, it appears the DOE is coming up with more threatening language for parents opting their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They are still sticking to this paragraph 173 which states schools and individuals can’t opt students out.  The rest is what the schools have to do, not anything about the parents.  I will say it one more time DOE before I go to the Attorney General with this tomorrow.  The “individuals” you write about is defined in the state code and parents aren’t a part of that!  It is not relevant.  You have been informed about this.  Stop with the bullying!  It is illegal to apply state code to a different part of the population the law does NOT apply to!  Read the latest Delaware DOE threat statement here:

Just stop with the pathetic “funding cuts” language. Half the states bagged out of this crap, and I don’t see them getting those cuts.  I don’t see New York and New Jersey where the vast majority of the population of parents want to opt out getting these cuts. Let’s cross that bridge when it comes to it.  Cause the US DOE has punked you into getting this stuff out there.  But don’t bark at to Delaware parents.  We will bite back…

Furthermore, you’ve been out of compliance with the Office of Special Education Programs for years, but I don’t see any IDEA funding cuts to Delaware.  Here’s what “may” happen.  You’ll get a warning the first year, second year you go on watch, and by then America will have come to it’s senses and banned both common core and this turd of a test.  So take your public punches and stop trying to bully and intimidate parents.

Podcast of WDEL Interview w/Rick Jensen on Parent Opt Out of High-Stakes Testing

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

I had an awesome time with Rick Jensen today talking about parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.   There was so much more I could have said, but I had an hour.  Some folks called in.  John Young from the Christina School Board, Delaware State Rep Sean Matthews and Delaware State Rep John Kowalko.  Rick and I talked about special needs children, the Delaware DOE, Smarter Balanced Assessment, and how it is not illegal to opt your child out in Delaware.  We talked about the “scare tactic” letter the DOE wants districts to give to parents when they opt their kid out and how it is based on state code that does not include parents at all.  I hope to do this again soon!

Part 3 of Christmas Presents for the Enemies of Delaware Public Education @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @Roof_O @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat



First up is a man who is not known outside of the education world in Delaware.  But he will have a huge effect on the education landscape starting in March.  He is the spearhead of the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the Delaware DOE.  He is also a data freak.  Brian Touchette, we have found a more effective way for you to play with data.


This is data you can play with anytime you want.  It can’t be used to close schools or judge teachers and students.  You can play with Data 24 hours a day, all week long.  But please, stop using our children as data.  They have individual minds.


Next up is our surfer dude at the DOE.  As chief of the teacher effectiveness group, Chris Ruszkowski is tasked with finding ways to make teachers less effective by drowning them in professional development and more nefarious ways to make them look bad.  His plans didn’t work out too well in 2014 as 99% of teachers in Delaware were effective or better.  We know there is a contract bid for an evaluation of the system your group helped to create, but might we suggest something that has worked through the years?


For your Christmas present, we thought you could benefit from a group skydiving gift certificate.  The key word here is group, as it takes a collaborative effort with all stakeholders to get results.  Demeaning and ridiculing our educators is NOT effective, and the only way you will ever get their respect is through something we like to call teamwork!


For the group that can’t seem to figure out what year their conquest of Delaware schools will happen, we have a simple Christmas gift for you.  Like Mr. Touchette above, this is a vision you can play with anytime you like.  We just don’t want you sharing your vision with our state moving forward.  Your plan reeks with the stench of corporate education reform, and we grow tired of it.

This is Vision.  He’s an Avenger.  This will be his year, because he will be in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron movie.  The Vision is a soulless android who can become intangible.  Kind of like your vision for education in Delaware.


Assessment Office At DE DOE Didn’t Get Charter School SAT Scores From College Board…Oops!

Delaware DOE

In yet another colossal blunder, the Delaware DOE didn’t get the charter school SAT scores from the College Board.  At the State Board of Education meeting last Thursday, Brian Touchette and Rita Fry from the Office Assessment gave a presentation on the SAT scores for all of the high schools in the state.  But he forgot that one crucial part…the charter schools.

According to the office of assessment, SAT scores were slightly down for African-American and slightly up for Hispanics.  Touchette explained he was unable to get the information for low-income students because of glitches in the system due to the new DOE website.  What is it with this DOE and low-income data?

When giving the presentation, it was very visible on the graph that Red Clay was much higher than the other districts.  Touchette explained this was due to the fact charter schools are part of Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Board President Dr. Gray asked Touchette why the other charter schools weren’t included.  Fry advised her “It was not part of the table received from The College Board.”  Gray seemed perturbed by this, and Touchette said he would go back and ask for that data.

My question would be if they didn’t give them to you, and you knew you were giving a report to the State Board of Education, why wouldn’t you ASK for them?  This isn’t rocket science.  I’ll bet if it was a standardized test the DOE can make money from, they would have been the first ones at the door the day the scores were announced.  But no, that must not have been important, those scores.  Not to an ASSESSMENT office!  This DOE is proving to be more ineffective by the day.  Hopefully, they will come in one day and forget all about Common Core, Smarter Balanced, Priority Schools, Gateway, their side deals up in Wilmington, and their love affair with all things charter.  Yeah, and maybe I’ll get a singing donkey for Christmas!

Back to the SAT conversation.  In 2012, the Delaware DOE, in their infinite wisdom, became the first (and only) state to require all students to take the SAT.  As a result, their data is inconsistent with the rest of the USA.  The national average above that magic score of 1550 was 43% and for Delaware it was 21%.

The board tried to figure out why Delaware was so low.  Touchette explained the national average of 43% was roughly twice the amount of Delaware’s percentage, so they are on track if only 50% of students in the USA take the SAT.  Mark Murphy said “We’ve spent hours discussing this.  We’ve been unable to make comparisons to the different groups.”  Now I’m not as much of a data freak as the DOE is, but I’m smart enough to let them know they didn’t need to spend hours discussing this, because IT’S DIFFERENT DATA!  You can’t put a round peg in a square hole.  Yes folks, this is who leads education in this state!  But that wasn’t even the best quote of the day…

What the DOE was very concerned about was how many students took the test during SAT day.  Only 90% took the SAT during that day.  This was very crucial for them to include this.  Not sure why, but in a moment of absolute confusion, Brian Touchette actually said “These numbers don’t match and that’s intentional.”  And that pretty much sums up the current mindset of the Delaware DOE…

Save The Date: October 9th, Delaware IEP Task Force Meeting #3 @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #edude #edchat

IEP Task Force

On Thursday, October 9th, the IEP Task Force will reconvene for their 3rd meeting.  This meeting will be VERY interesting.  The first meeting was geared towards parents concerns, and the second was extremely heavy with school members complaining about logistic parts of the IEP process.  The third time is the charm as they say, and I am getting advanced word about a particular guest who may show up.  Some people will NOT be happy about this individual daring to show their face.  But many people will be ecstatic.  Trust me when I say any parent of a special needs child will want to show up for this one!

This will be the meeting where Lieutenant Matt Denn makes his mark, one way or the other.  He will be confronted with the absolute reality behind the IEP process and how he runs with it will define this task force.  Another wild card will be if Governor Markell’s designee deigns to show up.  Brian Touchette is the testing guru at the Delaware Department of Education, the wizard behind the curtain for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The only person who has brought up standards-based IEPs at this point is myself in public comment.  I’ve heard from another source that all the school districts in Delaware are being told to start them immediately, without any type of transition period like the four pilot districts received.  Once again the DOE is inserting itself into matters that are controversial at best.  Will Touchette bother to show up for the third meeting?

The meeting is at 4:30 pm, at the Collette Center in Dover and the Carvel Building in Wilmington.  The center of the action will be in Wilmington for this round, and with this potential surprise guest, you may want to venture up to Wilmington for this one if you don’t live in the area.  Trust me when I say you will want to see this one live.

Governor Markell Appoints Brian “Smarter Balanced” Touchette as his designee on IEP Task Force #netde #eduDE #specialeducation @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DianeRavitch @hanna

IEP Task Force

In looking at I noticed a very minor change.  It appears Brian Touchette, the high-stakes testing guru over at the Delaware DOE, has been appointed as Governor Markell’s designee on the task force.  Here’s where Smarter Balanced Assessment and Common Core get pushed on the task force.  Brilliant move DOE!  Get the task force going, have all the members talk about the reasons IEPs are suffering in Delaware, and then insert the testing guy.  The one who serves on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as the K-12 State Lead.   My suspicions had gone away, but now I am very suspicious, more than ever before.  This father did not pour his heart out in public only for this to happen.  I was wondering why Secretary of Education Murphy’s designee didn’t have a lot to say.  Now I know why.

I’ve been saying for months that special needs parents need to unite.  Now it is imperative!  We have been marginalized and pushed to the side too many times.  This isn’t right, and we all know it.  I know some of you will be covered with Senate Bill 229, which prevents the most severely cognitive disabled children from taking the damn test.  But how does that help the rest of us?  When the schools can barely accommodate our kids in many situations?  You want them to be proficient on a stupid test they take once a year?  The test that only one member of our legislature took, and basically said it sucked?  What kind of messed up cruel game are you playing here Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE?  Some of us know the game, and we know why you are doing it.  We know the end plan, and it doesn’t bode well for special needs children, minorities, and public school teachers.

So when people comment on me being too hard on people at the DOE, this is why!  Things need to change, and if the people making all the changes won’t do anything, then maybe we need to.

The next meeting has been changed to Tuesday, September 23rd.  We need parents there.  We need A LOT of parents.  We need them to open up the other room in the Collette Building (Michelle, you may need to get more chairs).  We need to speak, and we need to stop this.

Bored With The Board of Ed! Welcome to Delaware Penny Schwinn! Please Read Up On Our State! #netde #eduDE #edchat @BadassTeachersA @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_DE

Delaware DOE

The Delaware Board of Education meeting yesterday was full of controversy and shock.

I attended about an hour and a half of the Delaware Board of Education meeting yesterday. When I arrived, a gentleman from the American Heart Association was thanking the Board for their support. I sat next to a familiar face who was cutting out items for his classroom with a pair of scissors. I introduced myself to Mike Matthews who I had been in contact with on social media recently. I asked if he was giving public comment, and he said I just missed it but to definitely listen to the digital audio recording when it is available. Throughout the meeting, Matthews and I had continuous looks of shock and awe with the comments coming from not only the Board, but members of the Office of Accountability and Performance.

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy seemed very upset about the recent report on how 0% of teachers in Delaware were not ineffective. He didn’t seem to think this was the reality in Delaware. But we all know this will change in a year when the Smarter Balanced Scores come out, which the state has already said they are aware student scores will plummet, and teacher evaluations will be based on these scores.

The Board went through their motions, and we arrived at the Performance and Accountability Presentation. Penny Schwinn is the new Chief Officer of Accountability and Performance for the Delaware DOE. After Assessment Director Brian Touchette gave his reasons for why there are gaps in performance testing between different subgroups, and why charters weren’t included in the Performance and Accountability Presentation (because they have their own performance framework arrangement with the state of Delaware), Schwinn gave a rather enlightening and distorted presentation of African-American students and students with disabilities.

For children with disabilities, she claimed the reasons for the performance gaps in DCAS scores was attributable to the following factors: Litigation at a district level distracted teachers from being able to give adequate special education accommodations, high teacher turn-over and a limited hiring pool in Delaware for quality special education teachers compared to other states. She did say there is a new strategy of looking at IEPs in Delaware, and that is to target the performance of students with disabilities. Which is, as we all know, the coming standards-based IEPs in Delaware. She did recognize that dual credentials for special education teachers provide “expertise and knowledge” in the classroom. What she failed to mention, in Delaware and across America, many special education teachers are leaving the profession due to upcoming teacher evaluations which will be based on student test scores. Many special ed teachers fear losing their jobs, so they are leaving the profession. Who will replace all these teachers with this expertise and knowledge when they are driven out or quit?

Schwinn expressed her interest in Student-Based Plans, which are IEPs, but for regular students. This is one of the goals of Rodel’s Vision 2025, to do away with special education and all students get their own version of IEPs. This just supports my fear and theories of the future of special education. See

Schwinn went on to talk about African-American student performance in Delaware. She said they expect high performance from all students, and this is driven through PLCs and site leadership. PLC is Professional Learning Community, which emphasizes shared leadership, community-based work groups, and learning over teaching. Schwinn wants to create strategies to prevent downward trends among African-American students in Delaware. She said there is a low expectation for African-American students from teachers “across the board”. At this point, Board of Ed Member Gregory Coverdale asked Schwinn if she felt the rising violence and murders in Wilmington was causing an impact in classroom environment in that area, to which she responded “That isn’t necessarily a hurdle to overcome”. For the three African-American members of the Board of Education, the looks on their faces said it all immediately after her response.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, the President of the Board of Education, said the following based on an article from WDDE today: “From those of us who are in under-represented groups, we deal with this often,” said Gray, who is African-American. “I’m not quite sure what to say about low expectations and cultural mindset,” she said. “How do you address that? A shift of culture takes 20 years, as they say, at least 10.” – See more at:

It is obvious Schwinn, who has been in her role for two months after leaving Sacramento, CA, needs to do a bit more research on Delaware. To think the issues of crime in Wilmington won’t have an impact on the classroom is foolish and naïve. To insult issues of poverty, crime and discrimination shows an apparent lack of the true reality in Wilmington. This is definitely a hurdle to overcome Penny Schwinn, and to continue to ignore this reality will only make the problem worse. As the Chief Of Accountability and Performance in Delaware, you need to look at ALL aspects of environment and how they impact the classroom.

For students with disabilities, Schwinn needs to recognize why special education teachers are leaving the profession, and that is mainly due to forced compliance with Common Core standards being shoved down their throats. Children are more than test scores, and the sooner the DOE realizes that, the better education and special education in Delaware will be. Litigation is rising in Delaware because of this education reform, not in spite of it.

The fact that charter schools in Delaware were not included in this presentation speaks volumes. To not include them ignores the impact charter schools have had on students with disabilities and minorities in Delaware, especially in the Wilmington area. Certain charter schools in our state have specific enrollment requirements that discriminates against low-income minorities and special needs children. The easy excuse for this by ignorant people is that children with disabilities are “low performers”. I think the Exceptional Children Group in the DOE is on the right track in correcting this position, but they need to realign their priorities in how to go about this.

But I can see how you would come to those conclusions based on your resume:

And yet, your one tweet twitter account from 2010 tells a completely different story: “@EnchantmentAZ As a teacher, role model and advocate for kids from low income communities, my mom inspired me to teach and be a foster mom.”

You are not currently advocating for these children. You may want to recheck your roots and be a part of the solution, not the problem.

What Smarter Balanced Assessment Means to Education in Delaware

IDEA and IEPs, Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balanced test will roll-out in the 2014-2015 academic year if passed by the Senate and Governor Markell.  While parents may think this will be a once a year test, they are very wrong.

According to Brian Touchette, the state director for assessment at the Delaware DOE, modified teaching curriculum is in the process of being introduced to help teachers with transition to Smarter Balanced testing.  This could change teaching as we know it.  One of the biggest hurdles to teaching has been the implementation of Common Core standards, and now how teachers educate will be challenged.  Any educator I have talked to has been against Common Core, but they can never admit it publicly for fear of losing their job.  The DOE, Governor Markell, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy continuously state that educators are behind this, but fear outweighs common sense.

Mr. Touchette gave a presentation at the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens on 5/20/14.  Several questions were asked about the Smarter Balanced testing.  One parent asked how accommodations for students with an IEP could conflict with the testing, especially in the usage of a human reader.  Mr. Touchette responded that accommodations cannot change the construct of the test.  Since when does Federal law get trumped by state law?

Interim assessments, to be decided on by the local school district, will replace the fall DCAS and the 1st Spring DCAS.  These assessments will help to prepare students for the Smarter Balanced tests.  This was decided on before House Bill 334 was even voted on, months ago.

Other questions were asked about the “human scorer” which will be handled outside of Delaware to an outside vendor.  Educators will train the scorers, but the human scorers were not said to be educators.  And since a lot of the test is essay based, can we really trust non-educators to accurately score our children’s capability to learn?  I don’t.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium will determine what the grade level standards will be.  Mr. Touchette stated each state involved in the consortium will have a representative to decide on these standards.  Of course, a representative from the Delaware DOE will be our state’s rep.

The same parent from above asked what the DOE’s stance is on opting out of the test, to which he said they have no policy.  It is up to the school district to determine that, but for a district to get funding they must have a 95% participation rate for the test, so there is some “wiggle room”.  He also said for special education children that promotion or retention could be decided on by the IEP team or the school district if an opt-out occurs.  Again, a state rewriting federal law to serve a state’s interests.  He also said school districts are allowed to “use the test for whatever purpose they serve.”  I hope that purpose is to crumple up the test, and see how many students can make a basket into the trash can.  If 95% of the students make it, maybe the DOE can call that a success!

Another Delaware blogger put out some sample tests that were being fielded last Spring:

Several people who tried them couldn’t correctly answer many of the questions.  Honor roll students didn’t do well on the field tests.  So how can we expect our special ed students to do on it?  These are kids that struggle everyday with their disabilities.  Some are medicated.  Some can’t even get through the day without special assistance.  And the state is going to measure their success based on one day of testing?  What if they have a bad day?  Parents of special needs children know their kids have very bad days sometimes.  This is a very big mistake for Delaware.  Out of the 22 states that decided on Smarter Balanced testing, only 10 are left.  But Markell and the DOE are treating it like the best thing to come around since sliced bread.  Of course they are, their future depends on it…financially.