Christina Paying Vendor To Research School Start Times. District Could Do This For Free With A Google Search…

In the world of education, someone is always willing to make a buck. In the Christina School District, Hanover Research is the latest vendor to say cha-ching when the district gets an idea.

On Thursday, the district released a press release announcing they are looking into changing the start time for their schools. In Delaware, Superintendents and district administrators get paid a ton of money. Why are we paying outside vendors to do the work they should obviously be doing themselves? It is just cash in the trash!  This is a district facing mold issues and a charter school lawsuit on top of dwindling funds and resources.  Their board passed a resolution for the district to look at this topic, but that doesn’t translate to pay someone else to do it.  We all know their vendor is going to do the same thing anyone else could do: a Google search.  And then they will come up with a very pretty report.  I know Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski has his eye on the Delaware Secretary of Education slot, but is this the kind of continuing crap we could expect from his “ascendancy”: more meaningless contracts and vendors?  Here is the press release:

Christina Explores Changing School Start Times
Impact of early/late start times on student learning will be considered

Wilmington, DE – The Christina School District is exploring the issue of school start times and their impact on student learning, with a goal of determining if changing start times in its secondary schools could increase student achievement. The main focus is on middle and high school students and the impact of early morning start times on adolescents’ learning. The Christina Board of Education passed a resolution in May calling for the Superintendent to identify and provide a list of practices in school systems that start middle and/or high school after 8:00 a.m. Christina middle and high school students currently start school at 7:05 a.m.

The District will be working with research firm Hanover Research to determine how school districts who have adjusted their start times have dealt with issues such as communication, scheduling, transportation, sports, and after-school activities. The District is also engaging staff, parents, students, and the community through an online survey asking for feedback on how school start times may affect student success.

The Christina School District School Start Times Survey is available at the following link: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/ 3063051/e2158fc28598

The survey will be live until the end of November, and additional research and analysis will be gathered in the coming weeks.

Wendy Lapham, Public Information Officer
Christina School District

600 N. Lombard St.

Wilmington, DE 19801

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sean Matthews For State Rep. District 10

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Sean Matthews is awesome.  I can’t put it any clearer.  The 1oth Representative District in Delaware has only one choice to make on September 13th: Sean Matthews.

I met Sean in the beginning days of the 148th General Assembly when he came in as a rookie.  He is always friendly and cordial.  I knew he was an educator and stood for many of the same things I do.  But he took the ball and ran with it.  During the House Bill 50/opt out saga, he was in front of the bill supporting it all the way.  This brought him in conflict with some of his Democrat peers in the House, but he didn’t give up.  When there was a question if the bill would die in the original House vote, Sean added an amendment to make it just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  My proudest moment with Sean Matthews came in March of 2015.  The News Journal had an opposing views column on opt out, and Sean annihilated State Rep. Earl Jaques position on the issue.

But Sean’s accomplishments go beyond just House Bill 50.  He sponsored House Bill 157, signed by Governor Markell, which would change how potential patients are able to gather crucial information about freestanding emergency rooms.  He helped ease some of the burdens citizens face during snowstorms when they live near a school with House Bill 129, also signed by the Governor.  Matthews also sponsored a bill that may not seem important now but could save many lives down the road with House Bill 91.  If a student is opted out of immunizations based on religious beliefs, that student would be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an outbreak for what that student could have received a vaccine for.  That one was controversial, but it makes sense in the context of that kind of frightening scenario.  Sean also signed on as a sponsor on many education bills that I pushed for, including House Bill 30 (basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade) and House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill that I am hearing Governor Markell will sign in the next few weeks).

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As an educator in the Brandywine School District, Sean knows exactly what kind of challenges students face.  He doesn’t buy into the education fixit talk we hear from so many in Delaware.  He knows what teachers need to be able to reach students so they can truly succeed.  Not by a standardized test, but by treating students as unique and creative kids.  He knows that poverty is not an excuse for teachers to do their best with low-income students, but it plays a crucial factor in brain development.  I remember hearing him on the Rick Jensen Show one afternoon when he talked about the actual physical effects of poverty on the human brain and how that can impact a student’s ability to learn effectively.

On June 30th, 2015, Sean and five other Democrats valiantly said no to the budget that year.  He knew this would draw criticism from some of his peers who believe a budget vote must always be yes.  But he stood his ground, and for that I respect him.  I would rather see someone vote no for the right reasons than vote yes for the wrong reasons.

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He was one of the key members on the Assessment Inventory Committee that advocated for including the Smarter Balanced Assessment as one of the tests to look at getting rid of.  In the education arena we live in under Governor Markell, Sean consistently stuck his neck out in the face of fierce opposition.  But he did so with style and grace.  I don’t know if he first coined the phrase “cash in the trash” but it was the first time I heard it.  This term refers to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on education reform that doesn’t really do anything for students or educators.

He is one of the younger and newer faces at Legislative Hall, but also one of the brightest.  Rookie House Reps aren’t always able to get a lot done during their first term.  But Matthews will be one to watch, that I can bank on.  We have only begun to see what Sean Matthews has to offer and I urge the citizens in the 10th District to vote for Sean next Tuesday, September 13th.  Dennis Williams had his time.  It passed in 2014 when something better came along.

Achieve Inc. Celebrates Failure of SBAC & PARCC With Their Honesty Gap Bullcrap!

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Yes, Achieve Inc. is actually letting people know that certain states are closing their self-created “honesty gap”.  What is an honesty gap?  Apparently, according to Achieve Inc., it is when you make your state standardized tests too easy and kids do too well on them.  Using the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as their benchmark, Achieve Inc. felt too many students did way better than the NAEP in recent years.  As a result, the gap between NAEP scores and state assessment scores was too big, which created an “honesty” gap.  Now that the “tough new tests” like Smarter Balanced and the PARCC rolled out in many states last year, Achieve Inc. is praising states that are closing this honesty gap.  I kid you not.

Of course, their whole evidence of this supposed honesty gap is scores on standardized tests.  Let’s not even worry about the actual grades kids are getting in class, if they are getting their projects and homework done, or if they feel like they are succeeding.  Let’s just worry about the data, the high-stakes test scores.  All this report really does is show how bad the Common Core standardized tests are really doing.  Let’s not read into this too much folks!  Only a corporate education reform company would judge failure as a success!

I am sure Achieve Inc. is salivating at the thought of brainwashed State Boards of Education saying “we need to fix this!  Now that we know how bad our kids are doing, we need to get them back up again!”  And Achieve Inc.’s marketing department is going “Hallelujah!  Let’s roll out the products!”  If it isn’t their marketing department, I’m sure it is one of the 1,000 or so other ed reform companies hoping to make a quick buck before the speculation craze in education goes the way of baseball cards.  I have no doubt, in my own state of Delaware, our State Board of Education will talk about this at one of their upcoming meetings.  In fact, I found the link to this absurdity through their own Twitter account!

Here’s an honesty gap for you Achieve Inc.: You helped to create Common Core, got a ton of money through Race To The Top grants as a vendor to many states, convinced states of this crucial need for an assessment inventory, and now you are telling them these horrible, waste of time, cash in the trash assessments are what students need?  Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!

Delaware DOE Has No Desire To Dump Common Core Or The Smarter Balanced Assessment

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Last week, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The US Senate will most likely vote on the bill this week and it is expected President Obama will sign the bill.  This will get rid of the No Child Left Behind mandates imposed on all the states.  It gives states more control.  It explicitly says states can come up with own state standards and they do not have to be tied to Common Core.  In Delaware, I see absolutely no indication of Governor Markell or the Delaware Department of Education dumping Common Core or it’s bastard offspring, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

On October 27th, the DOE submitted a proposal for contract bids on an Early Literacy Initiative.  The bidding on this closed last Friday, 12/4.  The contract calls for a vendor to go into four Delaware schools, three traditional district schools and one charter school.  From the Request for Proposal:

 

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Delaware and literacy rates for the most at-risk students have never been something to brag about.  I fully support all children learning to read, but if the motivation is so they do better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I have serious issues with that.  I don’t think increased “rigor” is going to help the students whose needs are not being met.  For those who want to bash me for this, it is all designed for increased proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Why?  Good question.  Governor Markell was the one who wants students with disabilities to go from 19% proficiency on SBAC to 59% in six years.  Like that rigor rubber band isn’t going to snap!  This is what standards-based IEPs are all about, and anyone saying they aren’t is either lying or is unaware of the true motivation.

 

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Which schools will be a part of this experiment?  Are these current priority or focus schools?  The DOE should really give more information on these schools so the vendor can know exactly what they are getting into.  There is a huge difference between MOT Charter School and East Side, or Warner Elementary and Hartly Elementary.  Are these schools the DOE is going to pick for this even aware of what is coming with this contract?  And who were the bidders?

 

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I am very familiar with four of these bidders: American Institutes for Research (AIR), Public Consulting Group (PCG), Amplify, and University of Delaware.  But 95 Percent Group and Institute on Community Integration (ICI)?  Never heard of them.  I checked out 95 Percent Group’s website and I always get nervous when I see only three people listed as employees for a company like this.  I’m sure they have more, or maybe they don’t.  The Institute on Community Integration is through the University of Minnesota.  Whereas 95 Percent Group has a small staff listed, ICI has tons of staff listed on their website!  This happens with university programs like this.  I hate to see AIR and PCG get even more involved in any aspect of Delaware education.  It is very sad that the DOE has more faith in these companies than they do in our own schools and teachers.  But since someone has to be the mediator between these companies and all our schools, it helps to make their existence even more important than it really is.

I have to ask though, what the hell are we even doing anymore?  All of these companies have one goal when they take on these state vendor roles: increasing the scores on the state assessments.  Whether they reach their goal or not, it is a faulty measure of success because state assessments do not provide an accurate assumption of student success.  By driving students to do well on these tests, all they are getting paid for is essentially helping teachers teach to the test.  That isn’t education.  It is a false narrative written by folks like Governor Jack Markell.  We need to stop reading this story.  We need to demand our legislators strip the DOE of spending our taxpayers funds for “cash in the trash” programs like this.  Every time the DOE signs a contract like this, with some contracts never seeing the light of day, we allow the DOE to continue this practice.  Most of us aren’t even aware of this.  Enough is enough…