Capital’s Balanced Scorecard Is A Massive Shift In The WRONG Direction

Capital School District sure has changed in just two years.  Back in 2014, their board was railing against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and fully supporting a parent’s right to opt their child out of the test.  Flash forward to now, and their board will be discussing something called a “Balanced Scorecard.”

This balanced scorecard is five-year goals for the district.  Some of the goals are good: getting behavior referrals down, more parent involvement, things like that.  But then I wanted to vomit when I saw goals for Smarter Balanced proficiency.  Keep in mind this is just a draft.  The board hasn’t decided on this.  I’m at their board meeting now.  I thought their meetings started at 7:30 but I haven’t been here for a while so it looks like they changed it to 7:00.  Otherwise I would have assuredly giving public comment based on what I’m writing in this.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware students have ever taken.  Why in the name of public education is this district wanting to kiss the DOE’s ass and follow their own despicable goals based on standardized test scores?

What truly shocked me was a goal of “increasing students exiting out of special education”.  Currently they are using a baseline of 31% but they want to increase this to 41% in five years.  I’m sorry, how do you put a measurement on unique disabilities that affect an individual student?  While it is certainly true that students can fall out of needing special education for varying reasons, that seems like a very high number.  As well, decisions on special education are decided on by an IEP team, not based on a district-driven strategic plan.  This is highly disturbing on many levels.  The last thing special education students is a district trying to hit some arbitrary goal and pushing schools to have students get out of IEPs.

The board is discussing this now.  Board member Matt Lindell asked why the district can’t use this as their accountability scorecard.  Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton explained how the Delaware DOE has no intention of removing their own Delaware School Success Framework.  That was the only question.  Three members of this board sat in front of a very similar audience two years ago and proudly passed their opt out resolution.  Now they seem like they have accepted the horrible status quo that is killing public education.  The board is voting on the scorecard, passed 5-0.  What the hell is wrong with this board?  They are prescribing to the point of view of the Delaware DOE.  They have fully accepted Common Core and Smarter Balanced as legitimate for their district.

In talking about technology in their ongoing Strategic Plan, there is a lot of talk about collaborating with BRINC and increasing ed tech in the classroom.  More personalized learning.  They have no clue, as they talk about building configuration, how they are signing their own district death warrant by signing on to all of this junk.  The board is not asking questions about anything they should be asking.  This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed this out with this board.  Stop drinking the Kool-Aid Capital!  You should be better than this!  And I distinctly remember when Matt Lindell was President of the Board when they approved a letter to the General Assembly urging them to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, the opt out bill.  They never overrode the veto, so why has this district not come forth with an opt out policy like Red Clay and Christina did?

Red Clay Piloting Common Core Standards-Based Report Cards

Standards-Based report cards are here.  Three schools in the Delaware Red Clay Consolidated School District, Cooke, Forest Oak, and Richey are beginning a pilot program this year for 2nd and 3rd Grade.  The plan is to have standards-based report cards for all elementary grades, K-5, by 2019.  Modeled after the Smarter Balanced “scores”, the goal is to align report cards with the Common Core standards.  Really Red Clay?  Really?  It was bad enough when you took on Standards-Based IEPs, now this?

redclaysbrcrationale

redclaystandardsbasedtimeplan

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redclaysbrclearningbehaviors

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This is something Rodel has pushed for years through their plan for Competency-Based Education in Delaware (now the subject of a series I’ve been working on).  Note how the schools beginning this pilot aren’t exactly “struggling schools”, like the three priority schools in Wilmington.  This is how these kin of pilots go.  The suburban parents will lap it up because it is new and exciting.  The district will tell the board, “Look at this resounding success,” and lo and behold it is a part of the entire district.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE and Rodel were going “cha-ching” when they heard this.  Or perhaps they pushed Red Clay towards this.

Just another way Rodel has completely taken over education in Delaware.  Rodel estimated up to ten school districts and charters will implement these Common Core report cards this year.  I have to say I’m disappointed with Red Clay for drinking the Rodel Kool-Aid.  What are they thinking?  First they joined BRINC, now it’s 1:1 devices for all students and this.  Should they change their name to Rodel Consolidated School District?

 

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 1: Rodel, DOE & Achieve Inc. Team-Up

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  In its original form, it was an effort to personalize learning between a teacher and a student.  Students don’t always learn at the same pace.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning dream team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil but rather teachers who are easily manipulated and coerced into being connected with the “next big thing”.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.

Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coördination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

Coming up in Part 2: Delaware gets Marzanoed

Will Indian River School District Need A State Bailout?

Indian River has NO monthly financial statements, budgets, nothing showing ANY money whatsoever on their website.  Way to be transparent!  Hard to look for your yearly budgets with no information.  What are you hiding?  How much money did Miller mess with in the finances?  Is the state going to have to bail you guys out?  Why are teachers being told not to plug in anything that isn’t normally plugged in inside the classrooms?

I’m hearing Miller absconded with a ton of money, up to $14-15 million according to some.  Where is the transparency on this issue?  That is some very serious coin.  How can we trust Indian River to safeguard student data in the BRINC empire when the district can’t even safeguard their own money?  Oh wait, I’m sorry, the taxpayers money.  This is going to make any district financial meltdown in the past look like Romper Room.

Why is Bunting making this seem like some ordinary hiccup on the news?  This is the problem in Delaware.  Too many figures in power who think the people don’t need to know the truth.  Too many legislators who think they are the last point of transparency.  Not this time.  Come clean Indian River so we can all see what’s going on.  If the state winds up bailing you guys out we all pay the price for that one.  Better to tell the truth now than face the wrath of the entire state.

The fact that all your financial information is missing does not bode well for this district.  I have to wonder… when this district knew what happened in Brandywine with Patrick Miller, why would they hire a financial guy who basically plea bargained his way out of criminal charges?  Delaware deserves better than this.

Updated, 8:18am:  This is being referred to as Millergate around Sussex County and Indian River School District.  It’s not looking good the district will be able to make payroll going into October.  This is NOT good folks.

 

Capital Drinks The DOE/Rodel/Markell Kool-Aid As They Join BRINC & Announce “Strategies”

As Capital joins the BRINC initiative in Delaware, they are moving forward with their Strategic Plans which will benefit corporations more than students.  It is like they copied the playbook of the Delaware Dept. of Education, Rodel, and Governor Markell and called it a plan.

At their April board meeting, the Capital School District unanimously voted to apply to join the BRINC Consortium.  BRINC is a personalized/blended learning group of districts in Delaware that involves spending money, potentially compromising student data privacy, and forcing teachers into a certain way of doing things.  While the Rodel/DOE loving teachers jump all over this, some are opposed to it.  But that doesn’t stop districts from convincing their boards to vote on joining.  I gave public comment to the Capital Board of Education at their April meeting with my severe concerns with student data privacy and the loopholes that exist in state and federal law that allows student data to get out.  But no one listens to the blogger when it comes to making important education decisions.  Or consults with the parents of students in the district to let them know they will be changing how students are instructed going forward using lesson plans from teachers they aren’t familiar with.  Despite my reservations, the Capital School District joined BRINC when they accepted an invitation to join the conglomerate of blended learning school districts in Delaware.  WBOC reached out to Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton who said:

Dr. Dan Shelton, superintendent of Capital School District, said he is looking forward to using technology as a resource for teacher collaboration and sharing quality lesson plans.

For a district that is in the middle of a Strategic Plan that was supposed to be about increasing public stakeholder input for the district, this one sure fell under the radar.  Without the ability for the public to comment on it, for parents to see what BRINC is, and their board passed the action item with no public announcement ahead of time and just a board agenda, Capital has shown once again they don’t really want public input, just the illusion of it.  It’s starting to look like the ability of this board to provide the much-needed pushback against the DOE and corporate driven education “best practices” has faded with the departure of Kay Sass as the Board President last year.  They had a bright moment when they wrote the Delaware General Assembly to support the House Bill 50 override AFTER they already voted on it, but aside from that, I see less transparency.  I believe they think they are being more transparent by announcing things with their Strategic Plan, but I have no doubt in my mind most of the outcomes for this were already decided on a long time ago.  In my eyes, transparency is announcing and soliciting community feedback before an item like BRINC is approved, not announcing it after the fact.

In the below press release from Capital, they announce what their strategies will be coming out of their Strategic Plan.  While it all looks great to read, I have to wonder when they are going to announce their Early Learning Academy at Dover High School.  But there are things in there that give me equal agita.  Items italicized are in the report, while the red-penned comments are my own.

Students, Parents, Staff and Members of the community share through survey data a more positive reflection of our communication.

Survey data you say?  Wasn’t that a very controversial insertion into House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill), just last week?

Students report on surveys a more positive experience.

More surveys.  From students.  What are they going to judge?  Administrators, the district, teachers?  More information is needed.  Far too much potential for bias resulting in discipline against teachers that may not even be verifiable.

Student grades, attendance and standardized test scores improve.

Grades and attendance I like.  Standardized test scores…no.  Just no.  For the Capital Board to approve this and go along with it is a far cry from where they were a year ago.  In fact, I would say it is a 180 degree shift.

Student behavior referrals decrease

HA!  This is a district that has no consistency with this practice whatsoever.  It was also notated at their April board meeting that Booker T. Washington Elementary School, under the leadership of Dr. Dale Brown, had NO discipline referrals for this school year up to that date.  Not one student was sent to the Principal’s office.  The board questioned this and I later asked Dr. Shelton about this who informed me this was correct reporting from the school.

10-15 year Facility Plan is accepted by community of stakeholders.

This is what I like to call a future referendum for capital costs!

The board gives unlimited freedom to the implementation team as long as staff complies with regulations and board policies and the approved process for defining and implementing strategic priority projects are met.

Big mistake! Very big mistake.  A board needs to carefully watch things like this.  If they give up their authority to stop this, aside from budget constraints or those that conflict with district policy, they are handing the reins over without any rationale behind that decision.  This is just more erosion of local control from a local district.  We will see more of this than we already have in our local school districts in Delaware, mark my words.

My biggest question surrounds who is actually on the implementation team which the press release, and to the best of my knowledge, and the Capital website don’t specify.

https://www.scribd.com/document/317550144/Press-Release-CSD-Strategies-With-Attachments

To give some background on their Strategic Plan, we have to go back to a year ago.

Prior Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas retired last year.  As well, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Spangler and Director of Human Resources David Vaughn left as well.  The Board of Education hired Dr. Dan Shelton last July.  Shelton immediately embarked on his Strategic Plan.  Shelton and Demosophia owner Andy Hegedus already knew each other.  As former employees of Christina, they have connections all over the Newark area.  Hegedus wrote his own biography on the website for Demosophia.  He proudly lists himself as a Broad Fellow, which also has such distinguished members like Joey Wise, the former Superintendent of Christina, and Lillian Lowery, also a former Christina Superintendent and the former Delaware and Maryland Secretary of Education.  Hegedus proudly boasts about participating in a plan to change the Christina schools as far back as 2006 in this document.

The subject of a new Strategic Plan for Capital first came up at the October 3rd Board Retreat.  The only people in attendance at this Board Retreat were the five board members, Dr. Shelton, and Assistant Superintendent Sylvia Henderson.  On their Board Docs, it clearly states in Item #2: “Capital School District Strategic Plan”.  The board went into open session at 8am to discuss the Strategic Plan and then went into executive session the rest of the day to discuss contracts and personnel evaluations.  At their next board meeting on 10/21/15, the minutes reflect the Retreat was seven and a half hours. In the same meeting, there is no action item to move forward with the contract for the Strategic Plan at all in the minutes.  Under Delaware state law, if any state entity wants to obtain a vendor in an open bidding process, they must submit a Request for Proposal (RFP).  Capital gave a very small window for their RFP.  The public notice of the RFP went out on 10/30/15 and proposals were due by 11/13/15.  The RFP seems to be custom designed for a company like Demosophia.

An article in the Dover Post from 1/6/16 went over the thinking behind the Strategic Plan:

“I don’t want our direction moving forward to be Dan Shelton’s direction. It needs to be the community’s direction” he said. “We’re going to use our teachers, our administrators, and members of the community who want to volunteer for different portions of this plan.”

However, this is a direct contradiction with a part of the Superintendent Update from the Board’s 10/21/15 meeting:

Reviewed long term facility plan which will be incorporated into Strategic Planning Process

If the Strategic Plan was truly represented by the community of the district, how could they have a long term facility plan that would be “incorporated” into the Strategic Plan?

In fact, we don’t hear about the Strategic Plan in the board minutes for Capital again until their 1/20/16 meeting when the board unanimously approves the $45,000 contract awarded to Demosophia.  For a five year strategic plan, they sure didn’t leave a lot of time for companies to submit a bid.  Almost as if it was already decided who would win the contract.  However, they did have three top-ranked firms apply for the bid with a total of six interviews according to the audio recording from  the 1/20/16 meeting.  Board member John Martin asked how Demosophia was chosen as the vendor.  Shelton explained they scored 301 on the rubric with the two other firms placing at 294 and 232 points.  Board member Sean Christiansen said he was a member of the interview committee which included district staff, teachers, and members of the community.  He said Demosophia means “wisdom of the people” which is exactly what they were looking for at their 10/3 Board Retreat.

In the Board Docs for this meeting, there is no contract listed as a document.  In fact, the contract with Demosophia can not be found anywhere.  The Awarded Contracts for the State of Delaware website only shows the award letter issued to Demosophia.

Hegedus doesn’t even talk about the Strategic Plan with the public until the 2/17/16 board meeting.  So the board and Shelton knew about Demosophia’s involvement with the plan since at least 11/13/16 but this isn’t revealed until the 1/20/16 meeting.  Two and a half months after the Board Retreat…

The forums were held at the end of February and the beginning of March with the one-on-one interviews taking place in March.  The Capital Board was supposed to have a workshop on 4/6/16 to discuss how the Co-Labs would work, but it was abruptly canceled and never rescheduled.  The Co-Labs began in April.  In fact, Capital has been extremely transparent with the activities surrounding the Strategic Plan on their website.

In the Co-Labs, participants state their ideas and it is all thrown into a computer system which will generate the results based on the input.  It actually records exactly what these “stakeholders” put forth.  It then spews out a picture graph (as seen in the above document) of the most talked about ideas and forms a conclusion for what the main issue is.  This already happened in April.

Hegedus’ company, Demosophia lists other companies as their “world-wide affiliates” based on “Structured Democratic Dialogue”.  All of these companies participate in programs to “consciously design humanity’s future”.  These affiliates, including companies such as Institutes for 21st Century Agoras, CWA Ltd. ( a link to their website doesn’t even work), and Future Worlds Center.  These are all think tanks that want to guide a conversation toward pre-determined goals.

What are the goals of Dr. Dan Shelton’s ideal Capital School District?  He wants to start a Pre-School Academy at Dover High School.  Yes, you heard it right.  All of the forums involving the public and this came up how much?  Not much at all.  So how does a Strategic Plan spit out this big idea?  You have to look beyond the illusion crafted by the public forums.  The true meat of this agenda lies in the Co-Labs and who was on the committee.  85% of the members were paid employees of the district.  One board member, one student, one member of the district’s CBOC, two outside parents and one Dover High School  PTO vice-president.  However, in this document, it paints a very different picture of the representation on the committee.  It overlaps many district employees as parents of students at certain schools.  This is the trap.

Many task forces, committees, and advisory groups are stacked in the favor of those who want a desired outcome in Delaware.  Other current or recent groups in Delaware include the Assessment Inventory Committee, the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025, and the Education Funding Improvement Committee.   In fact, when the IEP Task Force was brought about by Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 in June, 2014 there were no outside parents on the group at first.  I successfully rounded up people to contact their legislators to include that crucial representation on that task force.  Their input was invaluable to the Task Force and helped to shape the final legislation brought about by Senate Bill #33 last year.

Make no mistake, this Strategic Plan is entirely Dan Shelton’s idea.  It is comparable to many initiatives going on in Delaware right now.  Governor Markell earmarked $11 million for early childhood programs in the state, but the final budget only had $9 million given to the initiative.  Since the federal Race To The Top for pre-schools ended last year, the state is on the hook.  The goal of these early childhood programs is to reduce the number of students who receive special education services in later years.  I heard as much at a Senate Education Committee meeting this winter.  That should not be a goal taking up $9 million state funding when things like the WEIC redistricting plan or basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade failed to be included in the final budget.  But I firmly believe Capital wants to strike gold on this while the funding is there.  By becoming the first district in Delaware to have universal pre-K services, they will increase attendance in the district which is their true objective.  The district lost a ton of students the past few years.  I don’t blame them for that, but the way in which they are going about it is not a long-term strategy if they don’t improve upon the basic issues in the district.

The district, like many others in Delaware, seem to have an overreliance on Response to Intervention as a cure-all for what ails the district.  RtI is a failed experiment that has long since outlived its original purpose of helping children to read better.  It is used as a substitute for special education services when nothing a school does or says can reduce a manifestation of a child’s neurological disability if they are not utilizing even the most basic of special education services.  And if they start this at a pre-school level district-wide, I fear for the outcomes of these children.  It’s almost like the district read the Every Student Succeeds Act, took the very worst parts inserted in there at the last minute by lobbyists for the corporate education reform machine, and came up with this Strategic Plan to implement it through the smoke and mirrors of community input.  In looking at the picture graphs, I see very little in regards to actual improvement of the district’s special education efforts.  The words special education are not even in there.  I see a lot mentioned about the “whole child” and “community centers”.  Many citizens in the district already feel our schools should not become all-day day-care centers.  But this plan seems to call for that, using outside organizations to improve the educational outcome of students.  While the district would be correct in stating they have a high population of students coming from low-income, poverty, and violence-prone communities or homes, they should not put themselves in the unsustainable position of becoming the go-to source for what affects children out of school.  Wrap-around services should be directed from parents, not a school.  If a parent is unable to provide those services for their child, there are already existing mechanisms by which a school district can help get those services for a child in the event of neglect.  But our schools should not become a Band-Aid for students.  Not to mention the already existing fears by many of state control over children and loopholes in student data privacy laws.

Full disclosure: I ran for the Capital School Board this year and I lost.  I bear no ill will towards the district or the board for that outcome.  In fact, I’m glad I lost and I certainly want to wish Dr. Chanda Jackson the best of luck as she is sworn in at a special board meeting tonight at their district office at 7pm.  I’m quite sure the district will say BRINC is the best thing for student outcomes and will come up with some fancy way of saying so.  Of that I have no doubt.  What I doubt is the ability of the board to question these things anymore and just goes along with whatever Dr. Shelton wants.  But the board lost a key player when former President Kay Sass resigned last year.  I thought Matt Lindell was the voice of sanity on this board, but I fear I misjudged him.  And who will pay for all this?  The citizens of the district, that’s who.  And as the Christina School District will be knee-deep in the Demosophia think-tank way of doing things with their own contract in the fall, Capital will be ahead of the game showing the residents of Dover what the eventual price tag for these plans are.

 

 

 

The Delaware Illuminati, Part 1: Jeb Bush Inspires Rodel

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  It is an effort to personalize learning so a student doesn’t always learn at the same pace as other students.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.  Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

 

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coordination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

To be continued…in part 2…coming soon…

To read the prologue to this series, link to The Delaware Illuminati, Prologue

Brandywine Threatens $8 Million In Cuts If Referendum Doesn’t Pass, 40 Teachers At Risk Of Losing Jobs

Yossi Goldstein with WDEL broke the news this morning concerning the Brandywine School District’s cuts they will have to make if their second referendum attempt this year does not pass on May 17th.  The district did not include the new turf costs in this referendum attempt.  Dr. Mark Holodick, the Brandywine Superintendent, laid down the potential areas where costs would occur at their board meeting last night.  While the below doomsday scenario doesn’t give exact amounts for each area or how definitive the cuts would be, he did estimate 40 teacher positions would be cut resulting in larger classroom sizes.

Brandywine is part of the BRInC Consortium which is a collection of several Delaware school districts who share a blended learning program, combining digital learning and actual instruction.  The report did mention the district’s “Instructional Technology Plan initiative”.  There was no mention of pending legal costs for the lawsuit filed by Patrick Wahl against the district which has received a great deal of media attention the past couple months.

Last month, both the Christina and Cape Henlopen School Districts passed their referendums, but Brandywine did not.

16 To Watch In 2016: Harrie Ellen Minnehan

Minnehan-ChristinaBoard_CmK-059_web

As President of the Christina School District Board of Education, Minnehan is the voice of the board at their meetings.  She holds the gavel!  With recent events concerning priority schools and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, the Christina Board will be in the spotlight quite a bit in the coming months.  The biggest matter facing Christina right now is what happens if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission does not pass.  The State Board of Education votes on the redistricting plan on January 21st, and if it passes it goes on to the General Assembly.

If, at any point, the plan fails to move forward, the DOE will pounce on Christina’s priority schools.  They are already gearing up for it.  But Christina has dire matters on its plate.  The first is their precarious financial situation.  They could be in serious financial trouble if they don’t pass their next referendum attempt, the third in the past two school years.  As well, there is the issue with what appears to be an acting Superintendent stepping a bit outside of his comfort zone on district matters.  Bob Andrzejewski already made this list, and not for good reasons.  Since then, the Christina board voted down his request to join the BRINC Consortium in a 4-2 vote.  But as of last week, it appears Andrzejewski is submitting grant applications to the Delaware DOE without the knowledge of his board.

As the face of the Christina Board of Education, Minnehan will be the voice behind how to reign in Bob A, as he is often referred to in Delaware education circles.  It is essential that the board make Bob A understand they are the deciding authority in the district.  Minnehan will play a large part in how that is done.  The last thing the district needs is an acting superintendent going rogue.  The board will begin a search for a permanent superintendent in February.

Flip This Bob A! Joining BRINC & Spending Tons Of Money While Laying Off Teachers Sends The Wrong Message

For a school district that laid off 99 teachers over the summer to enter into the BRINC Consortium and sign contracts with companies like Modern Teacher prior to going to a referendum is not the smartest of ideas.  With that being said, this is exactly what Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski is looking to do.  The Christina School District Board of Education released the agenda for their meeting a week from today.  On the Consent Agenda is this:

Contract Services: BRINC Consortium/Modern Teacher

When a district signs a contract, it isn’t free.  It costs money.  Christina lost their last two referendum attempts earlier this year.  They will assuredly attempt a third one at some point in 2016.  This is not the time for Christina to start signing personalized learning or professional development contracts based on that personalized learning with outside companies.  The last time I went to a Christina board meeting in August, there was talk concerning how the district might look in a year.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.  So why on earth would the district even attempt to sign onto this?

Two words: Bob Andrzejewski.  The former Red Clay Superintendent was voted in by the board as the Acting Superintendent after the soon to be resigning Superintendent Freeman Williams went on leave.  The vote was 4-3.  Since he was appointed, “Bob A” (his blog nickname, established long before I joined the scene) has told Christina parents and teachers in town halls he wants the district to join the BRINC consortium.  The original BRINC districts were Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial.  Last year, Appoquinimink, Caesar Rodney and Red Clay joined the “blended learning” initiative.  The only difference between personalized learning and blended learning is in the details.  They are both based on personalized learning.  Students still get that “personalized” touch, but with blended learning it is like a flipped classroom.

Last month, the United States Department of Education spotlighted the BRINC Consortium in an article.

Blended learning is an approach in which teachers deliver some instruction in traditional ways but also expect students to learn via digital and online media in and outside of class. Students are encouraged to follow a path of their choosing at a pace that is comfortable to them, as long as they meet expectations.

While BRINC is mostly a high school program, it will filter into the lower grades as well.  While I am all for innovation and technology, I don’t think students being guided to do their own thing as long as it fits “expectations” is appropriate.  There is a crystal clear reason why teachers and even college professors teach specific subjects.  They have been trained to do so (in most cases) and feel they can deliver that knowledge to the classroom.  I don’t think a “flipped classroom” is going to be effective in the long-term.  I definitely don’t think a “flipped classroom” with Common Core standardized assessment material embedded into a personalized learning environment to create a competency-based education experience is going to advance the proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment either.

As a result of this partnership, the Delaware Department of Education recently selected Schoology’s learning management system to replace its existing system to power online and blended learning for the entire state to shift education from being teacher-driven to student-centered, making active, engaged learners with access to the best, most effective technology.

That is a lot of power in an outside company’s hands.  Where does all that data go?  Schoology offers a cloud system where teachers submit ideas and lesson plans and other teachers pull it out of the cloud and use it.  But what this does is it takes away from that teacher-class relationship.  It turns it into a peer relationship opposed to a teacher-student mentality.  I just don’t agree with that.  Teachers are the adults.  They are not facilitators.  This is just the next education craze, but here is the issue with that.  Nobody is talking about Common Core anymore.  They have grown to accept it.  They are still complaining about the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is based on the Common Core.  Add personalized learning and competency-based education to the mix, and it is the future version of “Iceberg dead ahead”.  Many see Common Core and competency-based education as mirror opposites.  But Common Core has become embedded into all of it.  And the standardized tests will be as well.  Instead of once a year, they will be cut up into smaller pieces, all brought to Delaware by Schoology.  And since teachers have to keep up with all these changes, in comes Modern Teacher to save the day.  More professional development brought to us by Education Inc.

Back to “Bob A”.  I believe he is part of the Rodel/Vision/University of Delaware crowd.  The ones who are pushing all of this personalized learning and have been for a couple years now.  Even some of the BRINC Superintendents are a part of this crowd as well: Mark Holodick (Brandywine) and Susan Bunting (Indian River) are both part of the Rodel crowd now, and they are on the inner circle of the Vision Coalition.  But guess what, no matter what trends or crazes come in education, Common Core is here.  It is a part of all the personalized learning.  The standardized assessments are still here.  It is difficult to move on to the next thing if its foundation is based on a corporate education reform movement that turned Common Core into dirty words. but allow it to not only exist but thrive like never before.  But “Bob A” seems to want Christina to join this next big thing when the district clearly cannot afford it.  I would be hard pressed to meet any of the 99 laid off teachers from Christina who would be happy their jobs were replaced with vendor contracts and education technology to teach the other teachers who weren’t laid off how to sit back and watch students do most of the work.

Modern Teacher is just another in a long, long list of companies that will “transform” education and bring it to the next level.  Yawn…  From their website:

 “We are building a bold, ambitious solution to transform our current model of education by changing the end-user experience for teachers and students. A re-imagined instructional core binds today’s teachers, 21st century students, and digital content options into a personalized learning solution that truly transforms the K-12 classroom experience.”

Some think Andrzejewski will be the force that parts the Red Sea and allows Christina to win their next referendum.  I don’t see that.  I see someone who inserted himself into the district.  Whether that was him individually or if there were unseen hands pushing him there I can’t say.  But if I were the Christina board, I would be very wary of signing contracts with companies while the district could potentially go into receivership in nine months if their referendum doesn’t pass.  I just say more Rodelian and Markellian antics at play here.  Board members for all the districts need to become more involved in the negotiation phases of these contracts.  For far too long, the Superintendents have been the ones calling the shots in many districts.  They get the business and present it to the board.  The board is relying on the word of the Superintendent and their support staff.  The assumption is that the information conveyed to boards is open and honest.  But unless they are getting involved and doing the research into these contracts, I don’t think any board member can safely say they are voting on something that is the best for the students they are elected to oversee.  A Superintendent is appointed by a school board and they become the face of the district.  But a board is the law of the district.

As I read more and more of the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t like where all of this is going.  But there are clearly forces out there pushing this on all the schools and districts.  They contact the state non-profits (in Delaware’s case that would be Rodel) who then push it on the state Department of Education, and next thing you know, things like BRINC happen and spread.  There is a ton of money in education technology.  BRINC is not free, because students and teachers will pay the price.  You can attempt to have the board vote for a contract they most likely can’t afford with another education reform company, or you can flip this Bob A!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at legislation and regulations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which legislators are running for higher office?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Competency-Based Education & Personalized Learning Invaded Delaware…We Didn’t Even Realize It…

Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who has held the role of state leader in Delaware since 2009, also serves on the National Governor’s Association.  This collective of all the United States Governors has several different committees they serve on.  Governor Markell serves on the Education & Workforce Committee.  To any citizen of Delaware, this is not a shock.  Markell serves on this committee with the Chair, Governor Jay Inslee (WA), the Vice-Chair, Governor Robert Bentley (AL), Governor Pete Ricketts (NE), Governor Kate Brown (OR), Governor Tom Wolf (PA), Governor Dennis Daugaard (SD), Governor Bill Haslam (TN) and Governor Scott Walker (WI).  Four of these states, Delaware, Washington, Oregon and South Dakota all administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  None of these Governors represent the nine states where the PARCC assessment is administered.

From their website, the Education & Workforce Committee’s main goal is this:

The Education and Workforce Committee has jurisdiction over issues in the area of education (including early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary) as well as in the areas of workforce development. Members of the committee ensure that the governors’ views are represented in the shaping of federal policy.

The committee released a paper two and half weeks ago about “Competency-Based Education” from Kindergarten to college.  In a nutshell, the document (which can be read below), wants to completely gut what is currently done in education.  Instead of students going through grades K-12, this new model would have students advance when they are proficient in a subject.

CBE shows promise for helping more elementary and secondary students meet higher standards of learning and become better prepared for college or a career training program.  Once in higher education or job training, CBE allows older students (traditional-age college students or adult learners) to learn on their own time at their own pace.

While some envision personalized learning as the wave of the future, I think it is ripe for abuse.  If the goal of personalized learning is for each student to advance at their own pace, it presents a clear danger to students who are already behind to become even more so.  Even more frightening is the role of the teacher in this personalized learning environment:

In a CBE system, the role of the educator changes from an individual lecturing in a classroom to that of a coach or facilitator who guides learning.  In a CBE system, the training, certification, evaluation, pay, promotion, and leadership role of educators should all be reexamined.

The role of assessment plays a major part in this.  For those reading this and may be thinking none of this has happened yet, this is exactly what is going on right now in Delaware.  This is the Delaware School Success Framework.

Assessment is frequently tied to accountability in K-12; therefore, policymakers should rethink what their accountability systems measure and value.

The third big area with this revolves around student funding, which has become a hotbed issue in Delaware in the past year.

Altering structures to award funding based on learning could provide incentives for the wider adoption of CBE efforts and allow states to pay for the learning outcomes according to their value.

So we have this competency-based education that turns teachers into facilitators of a computer program, students who either advance fast or fall even further behind (and we all know who that will be: minorities, low-income students, and students with disabilities), and funding that translates to which companies will get very rich very fast off this initiative.  And let’s face it, anytime we hear the word “incentives”, it is more “waivers” where nothing really gets waived except an antiquated No Child Left Behind standard that nobody can meet and forces states to comply with Federal standards.  And when they say “wider adoption” that means comply or you get nothing, just like they did with the Common Core State Standards (developed by this group and the Council of Chief State School Officers) and Race To The Top.  Lest we forget, none of this means Common Core and the current crop of state assessments are going away, because the whole reasoning for this is based on 1/3rd of children in America were proficient on the state assessments.  Which allows them to complete the vicious cycle all over again for their next initiative, Competency-Based Learning.

Imagine, if you will, you are an education-tech company and your personalized program gets picked in this CBE world.  You are instantly rich!  And you will align with all the other companies to make sure you stay that way.  You will join consortiums and committees, and as your company grows, you will own employees in the US DOE and all the State DOEs as well.  But guess what?  This has already happened!  Things in Delaware like BRINC, Schoology, Student Success 2025, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and the DOE/State Board led Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities are all about this.  Even the Assessment Inventory Task Force will make sure assessments are designed towards this model.  We blinked, and personalized learning already infiltrated over half the state.  I warned folks a year ago how this would be a special education killer and competency-based education will do exactly that!

If you don’t think Delaware has been planning ahead for this for a long time, take this piece of information in the paper which talks about New Hampshire and their role in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium:

New Hampshire is working with other states on a task force as part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to describe how the assessments can comprehensively support a CBE-aligned system.  The task force will recommend enhancements and changes to the assessment components to provide more precise information to teachers that they can use to improve students’ learning within a CBE system.

In other words, the teacher facilitator will simply switch the module in the personalized learning computer system that some Fortune 500 company created so the student can do better on the assessment which is designed to show how much we need this new system based on the amount of students not scoring as proficient.  It is a vicious cycle which rewards students who come from a better economic background and drags the students who struggle through a proficiency nightmare.  If the goal is to challenge “smarter” kids and to make proficiency the goal for “not as smart” kids, what happens when the “not as smart” kids get tired of waiting to become proficient?  If there is no challenge for them and they go over the same material over and over again, they will quickly become very bored and will start to act out in this CBE classroom.  And what is a CBE classroom?  Will it have inclusion for students with disabilities?  How does discipline work with this new working class of facilitators?

There are more questions than answers with all of this, but it is painfully transparent how the stage was set for all of this.  The Common Core was developed to set the “standard”, the state assessments were developed to set the “proficiency”, the accountability systems for teachers and schools (not the students) were set up to “destroy” the public education system as we know it, all leading to this: students getting even more screen time all day in school and getting brief amounts of time off the computer to hear a facilitator summarize or say “time for lunch”.  This is also why we see such a huge push for charter schools.  They have no teacher unions for the most part, and their “models” are based on this type of environment.  As more and more charters choke the traditional school districts, the path to this get-rich future becomes even more clear.  And our Governors seem to be okay with all of this!  Why?

The promise of such a system is that it can adjust the methods of instruction and assistance to provide deeper, more personalized learning and help ensure that all students meet or exceed the high expectations of rigorous and relevant standards.

Or, you can believe this will further separate the haves from the have-nots.  Can anyone stop this train which left the station years ago?  Or is the future already here?  Parents across the country are actually making a difference in stopping this runaway train by opting their children out of the state assessment.  While the motivation is to look out for their child’s well-being, they are also throwing a wrench into this massive machine and stopping it dead in its tracks.  We just need much higher opt-out numbers to blow the whole thing up!

The full document is below:

Delaware Attorney General Responds To Senate Bill 79 and Data Sharing Fears

Last week, I posted a rather long article about data sharing and my fear the recently passed Senate Bill 79 will only make it worse based on some clauses in the legislative language.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn responded to me, and addressed his concerns.  I thought that was very forthcoming considering I hadn’t even reached out to him yet on the issue.


From: “Denn, Matthew (DOJ)” <Matthew.Denn@state.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: “Wright, Christian (DOJ)” <Christian.Wright@state.de.us>
Sent: Friday, October 9, 2015 7:51 AM
Subject: Senate Substitute 1 for SB 79

​Kevin — I saw Mike Matthews’ link to your blog post about Senate Substitute 1 for SB 79.  That bill was written by my office, and it has been recognized by national student data privacy advocates as among the most protective in the country for students.  It does not undo any existing privacy protections — you can actually look at the bill and see that not one word in the existing statute is deleted.  It does set up a task force to look at how DOE’s internal handling of student data should be improved — the majority of the bill relates to sharing and handling of student data by entities outside DOE.  Most if not all of the lobbyists who are listed were registered to lobby against the bill, they represent a variety of large national interests and getting the bill passed over their objections was a difficult undertaking.   I am copying Christian Wright from my office who wrote the bill and is also in charge of enforcing it, if you have any questions about it, he would be happy to answer them.

Matt Denn


I took AG Denn up on his offer and reached out to Christian Wright.


From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To: “Denn, Matthew (DOJ)” <Matthew.Denn@state.de.us>
Cc: “Wright, Christian (DOJ)” <Christian.Wright@state.de.us>
Sent: Friday, October 9, 2015 10:36 AM
Subject: Re: Senate Substitute 1 for SB 79

Matt and Christian,

I didn’t have concerns with this legislation as it was originally written.  Unfortunately I got very distracted by House Bill 50 while most of the action on this legislation was going on.  The amendment is what I have grave concerns with.  It seems as if it was modeled after “legislation” written by Jeb Bush’s company, Excellence In Education.  http://static.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/Student-Data-Privacy-Accessibility-and-Transparency-Act-Model-Legislation-03.2015.pdf  Many of the sections in the amendment have the exact same working as this mock legislation, especially on pages 10-13.  Jeb Bush has received a lot of criticism for his role in education and the further implementation of Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing, and things like this.  I can see why Google and Microsoft would lobby against the bill, but my concern is who lobbied FOR the bill, or more specifically, the amendment to it.

There are legal loopholes all over this that can cause data to stream out to outside companies.  As well, this company IMS Global Learning Consortium, which is incorporated in Delaware, seems to be an umbrella company for shared access of a great deal of student data between their “members”.  A blogger in Colorado wrote an excellent article based on this company and what is going on out there with data.  I would like to know how much of this bill was written by your office and how much was taken off templates from outside companies that actually make money off of education.  Legislation can be extremely tricky, but even if certain data is protected, a great deal of it isn’t and it really feels like students are being tracked and catalogued for unknown purposes.  I’m not the only person that feels this way.  Given the numerous issues going on with education in Delaware in terms of the DOE, the Governor’s role in very questionable actions, and the very large influence outside companies have on education in this state, I am attempting to understand what is really going on.  What we are told in the general media and in public meetings does not always gel with what is going on behind the scenes, and this concerns me on levels I never could have imagined.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, October 09, 2015 12:23 PM
To: Denn, Matthew (DOJ) <Matthew.Denn@state.de.us>; Wright, Christian (DOJ) <Christian.Wright@state.de.us>
Subject: Fw: Senate Substitute 1 for SB 79

Matt and Christian,

I’m sorry, I forgot to put up a link to the Colorado blog article: http://colohub.weebly.com/data-connect-the-dots.html.  As well, the Delaware blogger Kavips wrote an article this morning and he really went through what Senate Bill 79 w/SS1 does AND doesn’t do: https://kavips.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/revisiting-the-student-data-privacy-protection-act-sb-79/.

Thanks again,

Kevin


From: Wright, Christian (DOJ)
Sent: Friday, October 09, 2015 2:55 PM
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: Matthews, Michael J (K12) <michael.matthews@redclay.k12.de.us>; downwithabsolutes@gmail.com; Denn, Matthew (DOJ) <Matthew.Denn@state.de.us>
Subject: RE: Senate Substitute 1 for SB 79

Kevin —

Thanks for your emails.  I have attempted to address what I think are the questions you have raised SS 1 for SB 79, while also trying to provide an overall view of how the bill came about.

Who drafted SS 1 for SB 79?

I was the sole drafter of SS 1 for SB 79.  I modeled SS 1 for SB 79 on California’s Student Online Personal Information Privacy Act (SOPIPA), which is now Section 22584 in the California Business & Professions Code.  SOPIPA had been widely praised by student advocates as being the strongest legislation in the country for protecting student data privacy.  SOPIPA was suggested to us as model legislation by Common Sense Media, one of the top independent NPOs focused on children and technology.  SS 1 for SB 79, like SOPIPA, has been praised by student data privacy advocates and experts for taking one of the strongest stands in the nation to date in favor of student data privacy—most recently this morning during a call I had with a law professor who is a nationally-recognized expert on information privacy and cyber law.

Who lobbied on SS 1 for SB 79?

I handled all negotiations, meetings, and conversations with folks who wanted to provide input for or against SS 1 for SB 79 (and SB 79 before it).  Excluding legislators, the only parties with whom I had dealings on SS 1 for SB 79 (or SB 79 itself) were Common Sense Media, Microsoft, Delaware PTA, Google, DOE, the State Board, and the State Privacy & Security Coalition (whose members include Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Amazon, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon).  Until your email, I had never heard of either Jeb Bush’s company or IMS Global Learning Consortium.  (Your email was also the first time we have seen the proposed model legislation in the URL you provided, so it played no role in our thinking and drafting.)

Common Sense Media, Microsoft, and Delaware PTA lobbied hardest in favor of the bill, and Google and the State Privacy & Security Coalition lobbied hardest against it.  DOE and the State Board were also in favor of SS 1 for SB 79, but their participation was not as significant once SS 1 replaced the original SB 79.

Why the change from SB 79 to SS 1 for SB 79?

While you didn’t specifically ask this question, you stated that you didn’t have any concerns with SB 79 as originally written, so I thought it would be useful to explain why the substitution took place.  The original SB 79 was modeled on a Georgia student data privacy bill (SB 89), and the student data privacy provisions governing ed-tech companies in the Georgia bill were not as strong as California’s bill.  (At the time, we thought it might be difficult to get a bill as strong as California’s passed.)

During subsequent negotiations on SB 79, it became increasingly likely that SB 79 in its original form would have a fiscal note attached to it because of the provisions applicable to DOE.  We did not want a fiscal note to delay the passage of legislation regulating the security and privacy of student data collected or maintained by ed-tech providers, and Delaware already has laws and regulations addressing the collection and use of student data by DOE, districts, and schools, so we elected to strip all of the DOE provisions in SB 79 out (essentially lines 97-234 and 317-379) in favor of a substitute bill that focused only on the ed-tech providers using California’s best-in-class privacy protections, and the creation of a task force to take a comprehensive look at student data privacy and security in Delaware’s public school system.

What did SS 1 for SB 79 do to “provisions addressing data security and privacy responsibilities currently in code”?

Absolutely nothing.  They are all still there and will remain there until new Chapter 81A in Title 14 goes into effect.  The nine items in the final paragraph of the synopsis—including the language about “deleting provisions addressing data security and privacy responsibilities of the Department of Education in favor of establishing the Student Data Privacy Task Force”—are identifying the differences between SB 79 and SS 1 for SB 79.  This was done because the Division of Research’s Legislative Drafting Manual (p. 49) recommends that “A synopsis to a substitute bill should detail the difference between the substitute bill and the original bill, in addition to explaining what the bill does.”  So the “deleting provisions” language in the synopsis is identifying what was deleted from SB 79 in creating SS 1, not anything that was deleted from the Delaware Code itself.  ALL state and federal laws currently protecting student data (including FERPA, which we couldn’t touch anyway) remain in place until Chapter 81A goes into effect.

What about the legal loopholes in SS 1 for SB 79?

There aren’t any legal loopholes.  As the handout we distributed to legislators explains (see attached), SS 1 for SB 79 protects a broad range of student data, including student records, emails, searches, and personally identifiable information, from commercial use by operators of sites and applications used for school purposes.  The law absolutely forbids ed-tech providers from targeting students and parents with advertising based on student data, creating a student profile based on student data to be used outside of the school, selling student data, or disclosing student data to third parties (except in very limited, specified circumstances, set forth mostly in lines 105-124 of the bill).

The law does not allow student data to be given to marketers.  It does allow an operator to use de-identified or aggregate data—which cannot be traced to any specific student—for its own marketing purposes, but not generally to give to marketers.  If the data can in any way identify a student then it isn’t de-identified or aggregate student data and cannot be used for the operator’s own marketing purposes. 

Let me give you a concrete example of how that works.  Let’s say a Delaware school district hires Acme-Ed Corp. to provide online math services for its students, with personalized learning that adapts to the student’s progress as they learn the material.  The service performs amazingly, with huge leaps in student learning, and Acme-Ed would like to be able to tout this success when it pitches to other school districts (i.e., marketing its service).  Acme-Ed cannot use identifiable student data if it wants to do this—it cannot say “Jane Doe’s math scores jumped 37%, and John Public’s math scores jumped 40%!”.  But Acme-Ed would be able to say something like, “Using our product, the score for one student at an elementary school in Delaware jumped 37%” or “Using our product, the scores for the students at an elementary school in Delaware went by 15-40%, with a median increase of 27%.”

If there are other parts of the bill that concern you that I haven’t covered, please feel free to identify them for me, and I’ll be happy to address them.

Thanks for giving us an opportunity to clarify what SS 1 for SB 79 does (and doesn’t) do.  We are confident that the bill is a giant step forward for protecting student data in Delaware, and is every bit the “big victory for student privacy” that Common Sense Media calls it.  (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/kids-action/blog/big-victory-for-student-privacy-in-delaware)

Regards,

Christian

Christian Douglas Wright

Director, Consumer Protection Unit
Delaware Department of Justice
820 N. French Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
(302) 577-8944
christian.wright@state.de.us


My concerns, which really haven’t changed much at all, are still in the signed legislation, which can be on the Delaware Legislator website.  If you go to the right side, go to “Bill Quick Search”, on the drop bar, put in Senate Bill, and then 79.  When you scroll down, go to “Substitute Legislation for this bill”, and follow the lines by number if you download the Full Text of the Legislation in MS Word.  The following are the lines that I am most concerned about, all of which are already allowed under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Lines 91-93:

An operator shall not knowingly engage in any of the following activities with respect to such operator’s Internet website, online or cloud computing service, online application, or mobile application:

Lines 98-101:

(2) Use information, including state-assigned student identifiers or other persistent unique identifiers, created or gathered by an Internet website, online or cloud computing service, online application, or mobile application as described in § 8102A(10)a. of this title, to amass a profile about a student except in furtherance of K-12 school purposes.

Lines 105-110:

(4) Disclose student data, unless the disclosure is made for any of the following reasons:

a. In furtherance of the K-12 school purposes of the Internet website, online or cloud computing service, online application, or mobile application. The recipient of the student data disclosed for this reason shall not further disclose the student data unless done to allow or improve the operability and functionality within that student’s classroom or school, and is legally required to comply with the requirements of § 8104A of this title or paragraphs (1) through (3) of this section.

Lines 133-135:

2. As allowed by state or federal law and under the direction of a school district, school, or the Department, if no student data is used for any purpose in furtherance of advertising or to amass a profile on the student for purposes other than K-12 school purposes.

Lines 138-141:

(6) Nothing in this subsection prohibits an operator from using student data for any of the following:

a. Maintaining, delivering, supporting, evaluating, or diagnosing the operator’s Internet website, online or cloud computing service, online application, or mobile application.

b. Adaptive learning or customized student learning purposes.

Lines 171-174:

(8) Prevent the Department, school district, or school from recommending, solely for K-12 school purposes, any educational materials, online content, services, or other products to any student or to the student’s family if the Department, school district, or school determines that such products will benefit the student and no person receives compensation for developing, enabling, or communicating such recommendations.

If this was just the Delaware DOE, my concerns could stop there.  But we all know how much money they spend on vendor after vendor.  With Rodel really pushing personalized learning, my fears only magnify.  We already have several school districts in a “consortium” to share “best practices”.

But what makes my hair stand on edge is the words “except in furtherance of K-12 school purposes”.  This is the legal loophole.  Any corporate education reform company is supposedly in business for “school purposes”.  But they make tons of money while doing so, and their goal isn’t to make education better.  They are selling a product, so their goal is to make more and more money.

What safeguards does this legislation have for the student data once it is in the hands of a private operator?  Once the information is out there, it’s not that easy to just put it back.  If the company did violate this law, how would anyone know it?  It’s not like the company would just hand over the information to a concerned parent.  These companies have attorneys that make more in a day than the eight former Race To The Top positions at the DOE.  What normal parent can stand up to these corporate juggernauts?  How many years would it take?  And how much information is already out there?

I can’t believe our General Assembly would overwhelmingly pass this bill.  A hat tip to the four sole Republican Senators who had the courage to vote no.  If I can see the gaping holes in this legislation, why couldn’t they?  This bill was written by lobbyists who knew exactly what they were doing.  These lobbyists are paid handsomely to swindle legislators into obeying their corporate masters.  I’ve heard from a lot of folks indicating they needed more information on this.  Unless you have followed all the movements of the DOE, Governor Markell, and corporate education reform companies, it is hard to pinpoint one glaring point.

Aside from the time away from true teacher-student interaction, this is one of my biggest concerns with personalized learning.  Smarter Balanced was just the beginning in Delaware.  Now the Governor and the Delaware DOE have their “justification” to unleash an unwitting public into the glory of “blended learning”.  This was the true goal of all of this: a trillion dollar industry that has been very patient.  This is the crossroads.  Only you can decided if you want your child to be a commodity.

Four Delaware School Districts On The BrINC Of Massive Data Sharing

I’ve been meaning to write about this consortium for a while now, but other matters kept pushing it to the side.  BrINC stands for Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial, the four school districts that are part of the BrINC Consortium.  What is BrINC?  It is a massive personalized learning initiative.  And they are using the very same company that has hundreds of other companies under its data sharing umbrella.  The Delaware Department of Education and Rodel love this little group.  Rodel especially has been pushing personalized learning for a couple years now.  I can see why.  It’s a cash cow for education technology companies.  Especially IMS Global Learning Consortium who delivers all these wonderful toys to BRINC.  Think of IMS as a big huge cloud.  It houses all the data, and members pay a hefty fee to be a part of that cloud.  But it looks like Indian River School District, a member of IMS’ elite group of hundreds of other companies, school districts and universities, pays the bills to IMS.

Indian River loves the DOE, and the DOE loves them.  New Delaware State Board of Education member Nina Bunting said at their State Board Retreat last month “When the DOE says jump, we say how high.”  Current Superintendent Susan Bunting was in the running for Mark Murphy’s slot a few years ago.  So that leaves the other three districts: Brandywine, Colonial and New Castle County Vo-Tech.  Brandywine’s Mark Holodick has been hypnotized by the Vision Coalition (Rodel), Governor Markell loves the NCC Vo-Tech schools like Howard High School, and Colonial…things are fairly quiet with them.  Although I do like Colonial’s Superintendent.  Anyone who tells the DOE he wishes he could just “blow it up” when talking about the DOE’s school report card fiasco is okay in my book!  They don’t make a lot of noise.  Not like Christina and Red Clay.  Just think of the geography with this.  All the Wilmington school districts that aren’t a large part of the redistricting efforts and the biggest tourist area in the state.

To see what BrINC is all about, read their grant application below: