Opt Out As We Know It Is Dead… Long Live The Badge

For years, I’ve been telling Delaware parents they should choose to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I was wrong.  Here is why…

We are entering a new era in education.  The promised era of digital personalized learning is here.  It is on the cusp of coming into every single public school in the country.  New national broadband laws are coming out of the woodwork to allow this.  We won’t need to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It will be gone soon.  They listened to us.  They heard us.  They will get rid of this test.  We gave them exactly what they wanted.  It was a trap. Continue reading

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

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

Over the past week, many of us who are resisting the privatization of public education have been talking about The Ledger.  Peter Greene broke the news for the world to see, which Diane Ravitch quickly picked up on.  What is “The Ledger”? Continue reading

Governor Markell Gives $400,000 To 21 Delaware Schools On Common Core Tour

As Delaware Governor Markell went on his “common core” tour today at W. Reilly Brown Elementary School in the Caesar Rodney School District, he announced $400,000 in competitive grants going to 21 Delaware schools.  The goal of these grants are professional development for teachers to further implement Common Core to increase student outcomes.  And God wept…

Why is Jack Markell, with nine months left in his reign as Governor, doing this Common Core tour?  Which company is paying him for this?  What disgusts me is the way the Governor and the DOE lure teachers in by making it look like it is for them.  How much professional development do teachers need?  Let’s not forget the two purposes of this tour: to thank teachers for implementing Common Core and to “debunk” the myths surrounding it.  You may fool some of our teachers and administrators Jack, but this is corporate tomfoolerty at its best.  Far too many Delaware parents know better and you may have fooled us once, but not twice.  As the state looks for funding, our districts will take any money they can get regardless of the cost to students.  I will ask again Governor Markell: where are the funds for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade?  Answer the question Jack!

This is, in my opinion, a strong push towards the blended/personalized learning the Rodel Foundation has pushed on Delaware the past couple years.  The press release doesn’t even mention this, but events from last night suggest otherwise.  Last night at the Capital Board meeting, their board unanimously voted to apply to BRINC, the blended learning consortium that already includes the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Colonial, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney School Districts.  Despite my public comment about the very obvious data privacy loopholes in existing law.

While student identifiable information doesn’t go out, it all filters through the Delaware DOE who simply gives education “research” companies the student’s identification number.  When that information comes back, the DOE has all that data attached to a student’s identification number.  As well, Schoology uses a cloud system called IMS  that would allow any aggregate information through the Schoology application to be shared with their members.  The Capital board seemed a little too eager to get this passed.  At one point, Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton didn’t know how much it would cost the district and it took him over fifteen minutes to find the information.  The board discussed how it would be good professional development for teachers without talking about what it means for students or their personal data.  Their CFO, Sean Sokolowski, said it would be paid for through Federal Consolidated Grants.  Are these the same grants Markell announced today or are they separate?  I would assume they are separate, but I’ve found many grants tend to have strings attached to them, just like the federal waiver scheme the US DOE abused under Race To The Top.  As we rush headfirst into this personalized learning/competency-based education/career pathway future for our students, those in the power to question things are going along to get along.  I can’t understand, for the life of me, why teachers are jumping on this bandwagon.  This will eventually cause their job functions, as instructors,  to diminish in the future.  To the point where they will become “facilitators” instead of “instructors”.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence paraprofessional salaries will eventually start at the same point as a first-year teacher in Delaware?  Don’t believe me?  Check out Governor Markell’s proposed FY2017 budget.  Go to page 202 on the pdf, section 286.  While many feel, and rightfully so, that paras in our schools are underpaid, should they be paid the same as a first-year teacher?  If they performed the same job function…

I have not been too impressed with Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald in the past year.  He seems to have been sucked into the DOE/Markell/Rodel whirlpool of corporate education reform.  You can read more on his role in today’s announcement below.

Just today, the National Education Policy Center issued a damning report on the success of blended and personalized learning schools and pointed out they are less successful than schools who don’t use these services.  So if it is all about proficiency and increasing standardized test scores and growth, why are we pushing, as a state, a system that just isn’t working?  Could it have anything to do with the billions of dollars companies are making off this smoke and mirrors?  And how many of these companies are incorporated out of Wilmington, DE?  As per the IMS article I linked to above, they are incorporated out of Delaware.

It is my opinion the Governor’s time could have been better spent heading to Wilmington to do more than issue a statement on the tragic and pointless death of a student at Howard High School today.  His visit to W. Reilly Brown was at 11am, well after this hit the media today.  As a state tries to understand the absolute horror that went on in that school today, our Governor is off playing corporate lap-dog for his education buddies.  I will never understand that man.

Here is the DOE press release on these “grants”:

21 schools win professional learning grants

Delaware awarded 21 schools in seven school districts nearly $400,000 in competitive professional learning grants Thursday as the state moves toward professional learning tailored to individual school needs.

Governor Jack Markell announced the awards today during a visit with Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky to Caesar Rodney School District’s W. Reily Brown Elementary School in Dover. Five schools in the district won a combined $50,000.

“All educators deserve the opportunity to continuously improve their practice through their own initiative and through investments made in them by their schools, districts, and the state,” Markell said. “We must improve the quality and efficacy of professional learning for all educators in Delaware. To do this, we as a state need to support districts and schools in their promise to provide Delaware educators with ongoing, job-embedded professional learning that leads to real improvement for students.”

For the past three years, the Delaware Department of Education has provided state-led professional learning for school-based teams through the Common Ground for the Common Core program. Common Ground identified principals and teacher leaders, engaged them in deep practices around the standards and concepts and analyzed student work to determine how to target instruction in the classroom.

In year one, the focus of Common Ground was on the shifts under the then-new standards. In year two, the focus was on ensuring a balanced assessment system, and in year three, the initiative focused on targeted approaches to closing achievement gaps and deepening literacy in other content areas. Next year, the Reimagining Professional Learning grants will provide professional learning that continues to target the school level.

“A stable foundation has been built, and after three years of Common Ground, we now are incentivizing schools that are committed to continuing this important work while also strengthening the professional learning for their educators,” Godowsky said. “The grant applications of these 21 schools is a clear indication that they are ready to embrace this challenge.”

Godowsky said he is continuously impressed by the commitment of Delaware’s teachers and administrators and what they do every day and by what they plan to do with the Reimagining Professional Learning Grant: “Educators at all of these schools are looking at their data, lesson plans and structures so that they can reimagine the positive impact of  professional learning for the benefits of their students.”

Each school designed professional learning to meet its staff’s needs. For example, at Brown, the grant will allow teachers to gather each month to plan and research a lesson. They will agree which team member will teach the lesson, and the lesson study team members will observe the lesson, collect data on teacher actions and student responses. Through using lesson studies, educators will collaborate and focus on the impact of this training on teacher practice and student learning.

The funding will make a difference in other ways across the state from Bunker Hill Elementary’ s focus on inquiry learning in the Appoquinimink School District to Milford School District’s emphasis on teacher leadership through cross-district work with all elementary schools and the early childhood center. In New Castle County Vo-Tech’s St. Georges High School, there will be a school-wide focus on speaking and listening with strong professional learning communities to sustain a cycle of improvement for both teachers and students. In Colonial, school and district leaders evaluated curriculum, structures and teacher and student needs to develop a comprehensive plan with regular coaching and feedback from administrators, teachers and students.

“Educators at these schools not only looked at their data but studied their structures and developed plans to reimagine professional learning that they will tie to student outcomes,”  said Michael Watson, the department’s chief academic officer.

Kevin Fitzgerald, superintendent of the Caesar Rodney School District, said he appreciates the state’s commitment to support school-led professional learning.

“This is a perfect partnership between the state, the district and the teachers and school leaders who work closest with our children and know best how to deliver these college- and career-ready standards.”

The winners are:

·         Appoquinimink School District (Bunker Hill Elementary): $30,000

·         Capital School District (Central Middle, Henry Middle, Dover High): $90,000

·         Caesar Rodney School District (Brown Elementary, Frear Elementary, McIllvaine Early Childhood, Simpson Elementary, Stokes Elementary): $50,000

·         Colonial School District (Eisenberg Elementary, Gunning Bedford Middle, George Read Middle, McClullough Middle, William Penn High, Wilmington Manor Elementary): $90,000

·         Milford School District (Banneker Elementary, Mispillion Elementary, Morris Early Childhood, Ross Elementary): $90,000

·         New Castle County Vo-Tech School District (St. Georges High): $30,000

·         Smyrna School District (Smyrna High): $20,000

Alison May
Updated, 5:41pm: Apparently schools did apply for these grants as found on the Delaware DOE website.

 

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Dr. Mark Holodick

Holodick

Mark Holodick had a very busy year in 2015.  I wrote about him quite a bit last March.  When the opt-out movement in Delaware took off, many schools and districts started offering resistance.  Dr. Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, published a very public letter regarding opt-out on the school website.  He indicated only he could decide who opts out and who doesn’t.  Parents, myself included, rebelled against his very authoritative comments.  I’ve met Dr. Holodick a couple times, and he is a nice guy.  I think his heart is in the right place, but he makes the same mistakes those in charge do.  They think because of their title they know what is best for all kids and they should be the ones making the crucial decisions.  Unfortunately for him and the other school leaders in Delaware, this is not the case.

Dr. Holodick was very involved in the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 this year.  As one of the founding members of the BRINC Consortium and their blended/personalized learning initiative, Holodick stood front and center for this latest “10 year vision”.  As well, he was on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission even though his district was not a part of the redistricting plan in Wilmington.  He remains the highest paid Superintendent in the state.  Many were predicting that if former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy ever quit or resigned, Holodick would take his place.  This was also true when Lillian Lowery held the title and resigned.

I am really hoping Holodick treats opt-out differently this year and he understands it is a parent’s decision, not his.  This is my wish for all school leaders and political figures who disrespect parents by not honoring their fundamental rights.  It doesn’t matter whether you agree with their decision or not, it matters if you honor it.

Christina Board of Education Shoots Down Joining BRINC With 4-2 Vote!!!!

240x196px-LL-e66ddef6_reverse-1253886001_office-no

The Christina School District Board of Education had an action item on their agenda to enter into a contract with the BRINC Consortium and a company called Modern Teacher.  I wrote a bit about it a few days ago.  With a third referendum attempt facing the district and a huge loss of students this year due to school choice, as well as a $49,000 contract that would have been implemented with joining, it sounds like wiser minds prevailed on the board.  The no votes were President Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Elizabeth Paige, Shirley Saffer and John Young.  The yes votes belonged to Vice-President George Evans and David Ressler.

In a change of pace, last night’s board meeting lasted for an hour and a half.

16 To Watch In 2016: Bob Andrzejewski

As the acting Superintendent of the Christina School District, Bob Andrzejewski will certainly have his hands full in 2016.  He was voted in by the Christina School District Board of Education back in September with a 4-3 vote, and he has been working hard for the district!  As a new face for the district, Bob A (as he is known in many circles) has been trying to get Christina to the top of their game!  With the pending and potential move of all Christina’s Wilmington schools to the Red Clay Consolidated School District, as well as a potential referendum next year, Bob A will have his hands full!

I have heard mixed things about Bob A since he came aboard the Christina train.  But one thing he does have is fans!  This one appeared in The News Journal as a letter to the editor on September 11th of this year:

Andrzejewski good choice for Christina

Kudos to the Christina School Board for selecting “Dr. A” to lead the district while Dr. Freeman Williams is on leave. Bob Andrzejewski has been around the block a time or two, but has not lost his passion for education or for seeking the best for educators and students. He is a strong leader and his past successes working with parents, elected officials, business leaders and the Delaware State Education Association will serve the Christina District well. He also knows the “Delaware Way” of working together to make good things happen for students.

Michael Walls

Former Superintendent

Christina School District

Newark

That was super nice of Michael Walls to write that about Bob A!  It really helps to have your peers recognize you like that.  Bob is actually hard at work getting the Christina School District to join the BRINC Consortium.  This blended learning-personalized learning group of Delaware school districts already has Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Red Clay, Appoquinimink, and Caesar Rodney.  I imagine Bob A has no other ulterior motives for joining this initiative!

michaelwalls

Wait one darn minute!  How did that picture get in here.  This is about Bob A, not Mike Walls!  He already had his moment in here.  He isn’t affiliated with Christina anymore.  He is working for some company called Modern Teacher now.   You can look on their website, just click on the lower left-hand corner!  Wait, is that…the same as the above picture?  Bob A wants the Christina School District to sign a $49,000 contract with a company that has the former Christina Superintendent working for them?  How did that happen?  It could be a coincidence, right?  It’s not like Walls endorsed the Christina board’s decision to hire him, so there is no conflict of interest there!  Oh wait…he did…  But let’s be real here.  It’s not like Andrzejewski has any ties with personalized learning, right?  Right?  Oh no.  Say it ain’t so…

 

InnovativeEducationalAssociates

What in the world is Innovative Educational Associates?  Any relation to Robert Andrzejewski?  And where did that picture come from?  Oh yeah, here.  But there surely must be many Andrzejewskis in Delaware, right?  Okay, I’ll check the Delaware Chamber of Commerce.  Maybe they have something.  Okay, but all they have is an address for this Innovative Educational Associates.  It’s probably some office complex or something.  I’ll check block shopper! They always know this stuff! Uh-oh spaghetti-o’s, not only does it list the same address but it shows the owners of the property to be Robert and Kathleen Andrzejewski!  But maybe it’s a quirk and Bob A has nothing to do with the company… Wrong again!!!!  I was really hoping I was wrong about this…

So not only does Bob A want Christina to enter into a contract with this Modern Teacher that deals with blended learning that a former superintendent of Christina now works for, but his own company also deals with blended learning, the same as the BRINC Consortium that also is big on blended learning.  I’m blended out Bob A!  Yeah, I’ll definitely be watching out for Bob A in 2016!