Wrecking Ball Ruszkowski At It Again… Merry Christmas Albuquerque!

Four schools.  Change or die.  That is the bully mantra coming out of Chris Ruszkowski’s mouth these days.  The former Delaware DOE employee who is now the New Mexico Secretary of Education seems to have taken the Wilmington Priority Schools guidebook and foisted it on New Mexico.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the four schools, three in Albuquerque, have until January 9th to make their decisions:

• Close the school and enroll students in other area schools that are higher performing.

• Relaunch the school under a charter school operator that has been selected through a rigorous state or local review process.

• “Champion” parents’ option to move their children into higher-performing charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling. This may also include the creation and expansion of state or local school voucher programs.

• Significantly restructure and redesign the school through steps like extending instructional time, changing the staff to include only top-rated educators or adopting state-selected curriculum approaches.

As usual, Ruszkowski fails to understand the reality of inner-city schools, just like he did in Wilmington, DE.

“For Albuquerque, this is a gut check moment,” Ruszkowski said. “Albuquerque talks a lot about equity and access, but when you have kids trapped in a failing school for six straight years, I don’t know what that means for equity and access.”

He questioned why APS hasn’t taken more action to improve these schools on its own, and said he expects the district will make excuses by citing the schools’ poverty rates and demographics.

Poverty is NOT an excuse.  It is a reality for these students.  Fat cats like Ruszkowski, who has never known poverty a day in his life, will never get that.  But this is just the beginning for New Mexico because there are 86 other schools that could be in this position next year.

New Mexico is a PARCC state.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment, the test used in Delaware, used to be the state assessment in NM but was changed to PARCC.  Same demon, different name.  This is like 2014 all over again, only it is in a different state.  Ruszkowski’s pals at the Delaware DOE targeted six schools in Wilmington, DE with pretty much the exact same threats.  Promised funding either never materialized or was drastically reduced.  The state did not live up to what it promised in their forced coercion scenario.

I always assumed Penny Schwinn, the former Delaware accountability chief (now making waves in Texas) was the ringleader behind the Delaware Priority Schools fiasco but it appears now Ruszkowski may have played a heavy hand in that debacle.  These fake, charter-loving “leaders” in public education are a destructive force, a wave of anti-matter ripping chaos through school buildings.  I’m sorry my state created so many monsters and let them loose on the rest of the country.

In Delaware, two of those priority schools are part of a horrible plan invented by Delaware Governor John Carney’s office and the Christina School District. The Governor wants those schools to consolidate with other schools in the area but he is rushing the district into a decision. Their board voted 5-2 to have the Governor slow his roll. Many in Delaware feel this plan by the Governor is a smoke and mirrors scenario where the district will fight the plan to the point where Carney pulls a fast one and charterizes the schools.

Say some prayers for New Mexico.  Putting a guy like Ruszkowski in the driver’s seat of education in a state is tantamount to giving a thief keys to your house.  He is a result of Race To The Top, the very worst kind of result.

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Chris Ruszkowski Slated To Become The Permanent New Mexico Secretary Of Education… Weep For New Mexico…

In an article released today by the Albuquerque Journal, Christopher Ruszkowski was given the permanent position of New Mexico Secretary of Education.  For the past few months, he has been the Acting Secretary in the wake of Hanna Skandera’s resignation last Spring.  Of course, like in Delaware, the New Mexico Senate will have to confirm him.  According to the article, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez may have been infected by the same bug former Delaware Governor Jack Markell had while he was in office:

“I’m confident that Christopher will bring the energy, enthusiasm and leadership needed to help New Mexico’s students succeed in the classroom,” Martinez said. “It won’t be easy. There are entrenched special interest groups in New Mexico that are dedicated to maintaining the status quo in education.”

As for Ruszkowski, he seems to still be stuck in the Race To The Top era where standardized test scores and grades for schools will lift our public schools out of their depths of misery:

Ruszkowski and the governor believe that state reforms like PARCC, school grades and teacher evaluations are driving improvement, such as a record high 71 percent graduation rate and increasing numbers of A and B schools.

Yawn… apparently Surfer Boy hasn’t learned much…  His comments were not ignored by the President of the New Mexico American Federation of Teachers though:

Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, said the state deserves “better than the lazy reformist sound bites of Christopher Ruszkowski.”

But the bit about Ruskowski’s extensive teaching career says it all…

Born in Chicago, Ruszkowski spent three years teaching in Miami and Boston schools through Teach for America, then received a master’s degree in education policy from Stanford University.

Yes, three years working for TFA seems to be all the experience you need to lead a state in education policy these days.  I weep for the future…

A tip of the hat to Matt Albright from the News Journal for sending out the tweet on the Albuquerque Journal’s article on this!

Pray For New Mexico! Surfer Boy Is In Charge Now!

If we could all take a moment of silence for New Mexico public education…

Thank you.  Earlier yesterday, I found out New Mexico’s Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandera, gave her two-week notice.  What I failed to recognize was who her replacement was.  As news trickled out to me, I found myself very concerned for public school educators in New Mexico.  Yes, the  former Race To The Top Delaware DOE darling, the Surfer Boy himself, is now New Mexico’s Acting Secretary of Education.  You heard me right folks, Christopher Ruszkowski is now in charge of New Mexico public education.

According to a U.S. News & World report article:

Deputy Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski will serve as acting cabinet secretary, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said.

Teachers in Delaware will ALWAYS remember the Surfer Boy for his Human Capital and Component V contributions to Delaware education.  Shall we go on… the Delaware Talent Cooperative, his love affair with Teach For America, bringing Relay into schools, and so on.  Ruszkowski left the Delaware DOE last year when he became the New Mexico Deputy Secretary of Education under Skandera.  He had been the Director of the Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware DOE.

All I can say is this: New Mexico, what in the name of Breaking Bad are you thinking?  But then again, they had Skandera, the Wonder Girl to Jeb Bush’s, uhm, Captain Underpants?  But even Surfer Boy is connected with Jeb Bush as he took a fellowship position in Jeb Bush’s corporate education reform group, Chiefs For Change, about a year ago.  Rumor has it Skandera may take a job under U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

It wasn’t long after I began this blog that I began writing about Ruszkowski.  You can read all the articles in THIS LINK.

A moment of silence isn’t enough for the teachers, students, educators, administrators, education bloggers, and hell, any taxpaying citizen in New Mexico.  Please continue praying for New Mexico.

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

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

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

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

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

Giving you another year before consequences kick in.

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

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

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

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

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

And here are examples of the surveys this company wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delaware DOE Hits All-Time Low With A Very Scummy Move Against Teachers…

Those no-good, rotten bastards at the Delaware Department of Education have done it again.  This time the after-effects will cause much more than a ripple.  This is going to really damage relations between the Delaware DOE and the Delaware State Education Association.  Things were supposed to be better with Secretary of Education Godowsky, but they really aren’t.  Instead, we have more humiliation for the educators of our state. This post does have an update at the bottom. Continue reading

The Wink

Last Thursday at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, Chris Ruszkowski gave his last public appearance as the Chief of the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware Department of Education.  State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray congratulated Ruszkowski on his departure to New Mexico.  As a few of us feverishly went to Google to find out what that was all about, a DOE employee informed me he was going to be the new Deputy Secretary of Education for New Mexico.  I put up a very short post about it right away.

Shortly after, Ruszkowski winked and smiled at me.  I have to wonder what that was about.  Was it his way of saying “You were right about everything but guess what, I’m moving up in the education world.”  Or was it “I can’t stand you, but I’m not going to let you know that.”  It could have possibly been “You were wrong about everything.  There you sit with your little blog while I’m off to New Mexico.”  I’ll probably never know.  Or there could have been other reasons.  Maybe he really liked the “Surfer Boy” nickname I gave him.  Perhaps he enjoyed the cat and mouse games myself and others played with him and it kept him on his toes.

It is my hope his replacement, Angeline Rivello, seizes the opportunity to make this area of the DOE more transparent and less judgmental about our teachers in Delaware.  Ruszkowski didn’t just burn bridges, he blew them up.

All I can say is good luck. New Mexico is going to need it!

Chris Ruszkwoski Is The New Deputy Secretary of Education For New Mexico

Today is Delaware DOE Chief of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit Chris Ruszkwoski’s last day.  It was just announced at the State Board of Education he will be the new Deputy Secretary of Education for New Mexico.  That’s all…

The 21st Century Racism That Pits Parents Against Teachers While Companies Profit

Yesterday, a presentation was given to the Delaware Senate Education Committee by the Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE) on the highly controversial Component V portion of the teacher evaluation system in Delaware. Component V is the part of Delaware’s teacher evaluation system tied to standardized tests.  The group also felt that the recently concluded DPAS-II Sub-Committee on teacher evaluations was found lacking with a diversity among its members.

PACE is an initiative of the Christina Cultural Arts Center, which advocates and promotes the arts in education. Centered out of Wilmington, PACE is comprised of concerned citizens who feel that parent education organizations are underrepresented by minorities.  The Christina Cultural Arts Center is run by Raye Jones Avery, who also sits on the board of the Rodel Foundation.

PACE began a few years ago but gained more momentum last fall when Elizabeth Lockman began running the organization. As a result of Lockman’s connections and influence in the Wilmington community, the group was able to define themselves and began conducting workshops to gain perspective on education in Delaware.

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The workshops offered different topics in education. Some examples of their workshops included presentations  from or topics on the following: Parent Information Center of Delaware (PIC), members of the Delaware Department of Education Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit, Early Education advocates, the Metropolitan Urban League, School Board governance, Community Schools, Title I Schools, Education Funding, College Readiness, “Opportunity Gaps”, the School To Prison  Pipeline, the State Legislature, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC), the Wilmington Education Strategy Think Tank (WESTT), TeenSHARP (run by former DOE employee Atnre Alleyne), Discipline and School Climate, ACLU/Coalition for Fair and Equitable Schools, and a presentation by Alleyne shortly before he resigned from the Delaware Department of Education.  This last presentation is very important in the context of this article, but I will touch on that later.

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Upcoming presentations include State Rep. Stephanie Bolden explaining how Education Policies become law, the education landscape in Wilmington, School Choice & Climate, Quality: Teacher Inequity & Ed Quality, Readiness: Getting from Early Ed to College & Career, Accountability: Inside Title I & Assessment, and Support: Empowered Parents = Ready Children. In addition, PACE partnered with the Delaware Charter Schools Network on the Public School Choice Expo and hosted the Michael Lomax presentation in January.

The DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee is an offshoot of the DPAS-II Advisory Group. Created through House Joint Resolution #6 last year, sponsored by Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola, the legislation stated the following about the goals of the committee:

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The group met for the first time on September 15, 2015. Based on the first meeting minutes, the membership of the group consisted of the following:

DPAS-II Sub-Committee Members

  • Jackie Kook, (Delaware State Education Association, Christina School District) – Chair
  • Dr. David Santore, (Delaware Association of School Administrators, Caesar Rodney) – Co-Chair
  • Sherry Antonetti, (DSEA, Caesar Rodney)
  • Clay Beauchamp, (DSEA, Lake Forest)
  • Rhiannon O’Neal, (DSEA, Woodbridge)
  • Kent Chase, (DASA, Woodbridge)
  • Dr. Clifton Hayes, (DASA, New Castle County Vo-Tech)
  • Dr. Charlynne Hopkins, (DASA, Indian River)
  • Bill Doolittle, (Parent Representative, Delaware PTA)
  • David Tull, DE (Delaware School Boards Association, Seaford Board of Education)
  • Dr. Lisa Ueltzhoffer, (Charter School Representative, Newark Charter School)
  • Dr. Susan Bunting, School Chief’s Association/(DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chairperson, also Superintendent of Indian River)
  • Donna R Johnson, (Executive Director of Delaware State Board of Education, non-voting member)
  • Delaware State Senator David Sokola
  • Tyler Wells, Higher Education representative
  • The following Delaware DOE members served as staff for the committee:
  • Christopher Ruszkowski, (Delaware DOE, Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit, non-voting member)
  • Atnre Alleyne, (Delaware DOE, TLEU, non-voting member)
  • Shannon Holston (Delaware DOE, School Leadership Strategy, non-voting member)
  • Renee Holt (Delaware DOE, TLEU, secretary for committee)

As well, Senator Sokola’s Aide, Tanner Polce, sometimes sat in for Senator Sokola.

Various members of the DOE attended meetings, usually from the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit.

The biggest recommendation to come out of the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee was reducing the weight of Component V. This part of the DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation system is tied to the state assessment. In lieu of using the state assessment as a measure of growth, the assessment could be one of several other measures. As well, the weight with component V, both parts, would be equal to the other four components. Each one would carry a weight of 20%.

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When this recommendation came out in its full context at the Sub-Committee meeting in January, Delaware Secretary Dr. Steven Godowsky was most likely planning for another big event coming the next day, on January 14th. Neither Donna Johnson nor Chris Ruszkowski from the DOE attended the meeting on January 13th. The very next day, the Delaware House of Representatives knew State Rep. John Kowalko would attempt to get an override of Delaware Governor Markell’s veto of the opt out legislation, House Bill 50. To do this, he would need to have a majority of the House vote to suspend the rules to have it get a full House vote. While that didn’t happen, I am sure Secretary Godowsky was in constant contact with Governor Markell and his Education Policy Advisor, Lindsay O’Mara. Since Alleyne attended the Sub-Committee meeting on January 13th, it would stand to reason Godowsky was notified the group was leaning towards the Component V recommendation. On the evening of January 14th, the PACE sponsored Michael Lomax presentation occurred.

At some point in February, Atnre Alleyne announced his resignation at the Delaware DOE. His last day was on February 29th. On February 13th, an announcement went up on PACE’s Facebook page announcing their next set of workshops.

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At the 2/16 meeting of the Sub-Committee, Secretary Godowsky showed up and listened to the group’s recommendations.

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Alleyne attended this meeting as well. He was very concerned about the wording on part of the draft for the final report of the committee

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Two days later, on February 18th, Alleyne was the speaker at the PACE Workshop on Teacher Quality and Assessment. Without knowing what was said at this workshop, I am speculating that a discussion ensued about the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee and their findings. Keep in mind he was still an employee of the Delaware Department of Education at this point.

By the time the next meeting came on February 29th, it was Alleyne’s last day at the DOE. Several people gave public comment, including two members of PACE: Althea Smith-Tucker and Mary Pickering.

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Alleyne served his last day at the Delaware DOE after this meeting. On March 7th, the day before the next meeting of the Sub-Committee, Alleyne put a post up on his blog, “The Urgency of Now”, entitled “Do #blackvoicesmatter in Delaware schools?” The blog article touched on many points which do show an underrepresentation of African-American students in the teaching profession in Delaware. Citing some other examples that I somewhat agree with, Alleyne brought up the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. In writing about both the DPAS-II Advisory Committee AND the DPAS-II Sub-Committee, he touched on the fact the Advisory Committee had no members of color aside from himself and he was a non-voting member (as an employee of the DOE). But what he did in the next paragraph failed to distinguish between the Advisory Committee and the Sub-Committee:

At the committee’s most recent meeting, a few black parents from Wilmington sat through the meeting and provided comments during the public comment section.

But what happened next made it look even worse for the committee:

After the meeting, they followed up on their critique of the committee’s lack of parent representation (it has one parent representative from the PTA) with the PTA representative. He noted that he agreed we need more parents on these committees. One of the parents pressed further and said, “Well I’ve seen you as the one representative of parents on a number of state committees. You should share the wealth.” His response: (paraphrasing) I’d love to not be the only one on these committees if other parents could learn enough about these issues and systems to be able to participate.

Apparently the two parents from PACE did not like this response. As well, Alleyne, who was STILL a DOE employee at this point (granted, it was his last day), jumped to their defense:

I joined the parents in letting him know that we found that notion offensive. He chided me for not understanding the research and advocating for ineffective and uninformed parent engagement. I retorted that perhaps the problem is we have policy wonks and interest groups advocating for adults at the table. Meanwhile, nobody is asking the simple questions and speaking from the heart about what is best for students.

I reminded him that ours is a democracy that lets everyone participate even if they are seemingly less informed. I also reminded him that the hoops and prerequisites he was promulgating as a barrier to participation seemed painfully similar to hoops black people had to jump through to prove they were smart enough to vote. One of the parents informed him (sarcastically) that she had a doctorate in education and that she was pretty sure she could figure out Delaware’s educator evaluation system–but it shouldn’t take having a doctorate degree to be worthy of sitting at the table.  

I found this assault on the parent representative from the Delaware PTA, Bill Doolittle, to be absolutely unfounded. In my years of blogging, I have met many people involved in education. As a parent advocate with the Delaware PTA and the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, as well as his own personal advocacy, there are not too many “non-educators” who have the resolve, knowledge, and depth of compassion for students that Bill Doolittle has. To turn his comments into an issue of race is very offensive to me. As well, by referring to “we” in his response to Doolittle, he removed himself from the reason he was there, as a non-voting member of the DPAS Sub-Committee, and became Atnre Alleyne.

But since Alleyne never made the distinction between the Advisory Committee and the Sub-Committee in the rest of the article, one would assume there was no person of color on either committee. What Alleyne left out was the fact two of the administrators on the Sub-Committee were African-American.

Now keep in mind, Alleyne had not written an article on his blog in eleven months. But by the time he wrote this, he was no longer an employee of the DOE and most likely felt he could express his thoughts as a private individual. This is certainly his right. But to leave an impression about a lack of diversity on an important education group when he very well knew there was diversity on this committee is disingenuous. I wouldn’t bring this up, but it does play a huge role in what happened after.

At the final meeting of the DPAS Sub-Committee on March 8th, the final recommendations of the committee came out, and Ruszkowski and Alleyne were not happy about them at all.

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As well, members of PACE, Alleyne (now speaking on behalf of TeenSHARP), and a Delaware student gave public comment:

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Now the name “Halim Hamorum” sounded very familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it. I Googled the name and couldn’t find anything. I tried the last name, nothing. Then I tried the first name and Delaware, and several hits came up. Halim Hamroun, a student at Newark High School, was one of the speakers at the launch of the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 last September. But I also remembered he wrote a column the same day in the News Journal about the student voice.

I am also a veteran of at least three state test programs meant to improve our educational system, and a guinea pig for various scheduling and teaching methods. Each year there’s a new flavor.

As I sit here writing this, I find myself wondering how a Newark High School student would find out about the DPAS-II Sub-Committee meeting, know exactly what it was about, and be able to attend and give public comment. This is conjecture on my part, but someone reached out to him. He was coached. They knew about his connection with the Rodel Foundation/Vision Coalition sponsored “Student Success 2025” and asked him to speak against the committee’s recommendations. In Delaware education, there is no such thing as a coincidence.

But what shocked me the most about the final meeting was the abhorrent behavior of the soon to be former DOE employee Chris Ruszkowski. His comments, especially suggesting that the committee was conducting secret meetings and “hoodwinked” the process and goals of the legislation is absolutely preposterous, especially coming from one of the most controversial employees of the Delaware Department of Education during Governor Markell’s tenure as Governor of Delaware. We all know transparency is an issue in Delaware, but I have seen many meeting minutes for all sorts of groups in Delaware. The minutes and transparency surrounding the DPAS-II Sub-Committee are some of the best I have seen in Delaware. I frequently look at the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar, and I always saw their meeting notices, agendas, and minutes faithfully listed.

What Ruszkowski may not be aware of is the large amount of DOE emails that were part of a FOIA request by another Delaware citizen that have his name on many of them. I’ve published some, and others I haven’t due to the nature of the emails. I have seen his disdain for many traditional school districts. I’ve heard the tales of his tirades against school districts who opposed his initiatives, such as the Delaware Talent Cooperative. I personally haven’t had any face to face discussion with Ruszkowski, but the one time I did, it was a childish response to a comment I made during the last assessment inventory meeting. I would not be surprised in the least, and this is merely conjecture on my part, if Ruszkowski’s resignation from the DOE was somehow connected with his behavior at the final DPAS-II Sub-Committee meeting.

To read the entire minutes from this final meeting (and I strongly suggest you do), please read the below document. But there is much more that happened after this meeting!

Two days after the final Sub-Committee meeting, Alleyne posted another article on his blog about the meeting. This article, aptly named “Reflections after last nights educator evaluation commitee meeting”, went over his perception of the events.

The committee is also recommending that the use of students’ growth on the state Math/English assessment will no longer be required as one of two measures in a Math and English teacher’s Student Improvement component. This is currently the only statewide, uniform, and objective measure of educator effectiveness in the evaluation system.

Keep in mind this is coming from the perspective of someone who lives and breathes the same kind of education talk we have heard from Governor Markell, the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation, and so many of the companies, non-profits, foundations, and think tanks that make up the corporate education reform behemoth.

What this led to next took many by surprise. PACE, somehow, was able to get a presentation before the Senate Education Committee yesterday. The man who sets the agenda for the Senate Education Committee is Senator David Sokola, the Chair. The same Senator who served on the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. The same Senator who wrote the legislation creating the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. The same Senator whose legislation stated the committee would present their findings to both the Senate and House Education Committees in the Delaware General Assembly. So how is it that a parent advocacy group from Wilmington presents their complaints about a committee that they didn’t really take action with until their last two meetings, well after the recommendations were put forth, is able to give a presentation to members of the Senate Education Committee, before the DPAS-II Sub-Committee even presented their final report to either Education Committee? And from what I’m hearing, the committee hasn’t even had a presentation date scheduled!

I attended the Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday, and I heard what Mary Pickering, who spoke on behalf of PACE, had to say. As well, a handout was given to members of the education committee and I was graciously given a copy. This document was written on March 31st, but nothing shows up anywhere online about it. PACE does not have a website, just a Facebook and Twitter page. I copied the entire document, but to prove its authenticity, I did take a picture of part of the first page:

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March 31, 2016

 

To The Members of the Delaware Legislature:

The Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE) is an organization whose mission is to raise awareness among parents and people who care about the need to improve public education across the state of Delaware, and in particular, for students living in the city of Wilmington.

Earlier this year PACE became aware of the DPAS-II subcommittee (created through HJR 6) and their efforts to recommend changes to Delaware’s teacher evaluation system. We began attending these meetings, sharing our perspectives as parents during the public comment porting of the meetings, and asking questions.  How teachers should be evaluated in Delaware was the focus of this committee, a very important topic that will impact all Delaware teachers, parents, and students.  Yet this 14-member committee has only one parent representative, very little diversity, and each of the meetings we attended had little participation from the general public.  The perspectives many parents shared during the public comment portion of the meeting, as well as those we’ve heard from other parents in our community, are not reflected in the Sub-Committee’s final recommendations.  As such, we are sharing this letter in the hopes that you will consider a diverse set of perspectives on this issue. 

As you discuss the future of teacher evaluation in Delaware’s public school system, we would like you to consider the following:

The importance of parent and student voice in teachers’ evaluations: Parents and students had very little voice in the DPAS-II Sub-committee process and have no voice in teachers’ overall evaluation process. Although this was mentioned in the Sub-Committee numerous times, our request was excluded from their recommendations.  Parents and students can offer unique perspectives on their experience with various teachers that will complete the picture of a teacher’s overall performance.  Parents are routinely subjected to surveys, none of which ask about our children’s experiences in the classroom.  Although all teachers receive ratings through the DPAS-II system, this information is not made available to parents to make informed decision and protect against inequities in schools.  We ask that you emphasize the importance of parent and student voice by adding a requirement that parent and/or student surveys be included in our Delaware teacher evaluation system.  We also ask that legislature make information about teachers’ evaluations more transparent to parents.

The importance of diverse perspectives in decisions about teacher evaluation: The DPAS-II Sub-committee had four representatives from the teacher’s union, four from the administrator’s association, and only one parent to represent the entire state of Delaware parent population. There were no teachers of color on the committee.  Although this committee is a poor representation of the diverse population you serve across the state, their recommendations will be presented as if there is a consensus.  We ask that you show your commitment to diversity by engaging a wider and more diverse set of stakeholders before taking any action on the sub-committee’s recommendations.  We also ask that legislation be amended to allow a more diverse set of stakeholders to serve on the DPAS-II Advisory Committee.

The importance of student learning and accountability for student learning: During the meetings we attended, we were appalled at how student learning took a back seat to the convenience of adults in the system. The committee is recommending reducing the weight of the Student Improvement component and making all 5 components equally weighted.  This would allow a teacher rated unsatisfactory on the Student Improvement Component to still be rated as an effective teacher.  The Sub-committee is basically saying that Planning and Preparation (Component 1) and Professional Responsibilities (Component 4) are as important as Instruction (Component 3) and Student Improvement (Component 5).  It is not clear to us how an education system designed to produce academically and socially successful students, implement an evaluation system that de-emphasizes accountability for student learning.  It is our concern that the recommendations of the subcommittee, if adopted, will widen the achievement gap for the children in places like Wilmington, DE.  We believe there should be an evaluation system that supports teachers, but also meaningful and consistent accountability.  We ask that you show your commitment to student learning and leave the weight of the Student Improvement Component as is. 

The importance of including the state assessment as a part of teachers’ evaluations: The committee is recommending that Math and English teachers no longer be required to use student growth from the state assessment as one part of their evaluation.  State test scores are the only objective measure of student improvements that are consistent across the state for educator effectiveness.  As flawed as the test may be (something we believe also needs to be addressed), it is still the only consistent measure of student growth.  The measures that the committee is recommending to replace state assessments are substantially less rigorous and comparable across the state.  Removing this measure will only serve to remove accountability, widen the disparity among schools, and eliminate the ability to monitor the impact of inequitable funding in disproportionately children of color.  We ask that you show your commitment to creating an objective and consistent evaluation system by leaving the state assessment as a required measure of Student Improvement for Delaware Math and English teachers.

We believe that an evaluation system where 99% of teachers are told they are effective or highly-effective does a disservice to educator professional growth.   It is also inconsistent with the experiences we have (and our children have) in schools each day.  We believe our recommendations will help Delaware create an evaluation system that values student learning, gives teachers accurate information they can use to improve, holds teachers accountable fairly, and values student perspectives.  We would appreciate the opportunity to further discuss our recommendations as the legislature discusses this important matter.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Mary Pickering

Advocacy Coordinator

Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE)

What I would like you, the reader, to do at this point is compare the handout from PACE with Alleyne’s blog article from March 10th.

This is what bothers me about this whole situation.  I like the idea of PACE. I think the idea of community members getting together, no matter who may provide the funding, in an effort to improve education is honorable.  I love the fact that they are very organized and set up workshops on a multitude of education subjects.  I agree with many of PACE’s goals.

I firmly believe minority students are not always given the same level playing field as their non-minority peers. The African-Americans in America are still marginalized in many areas of society.  But they have also come a long way depending on the path they took.  We have a black President.  We have very successful African-American business executives, both male and female.  In pop culture, the African-American culture thrives in music.  While there are still some hurdles to overcome, Hollywood is very welcoming to African-Americans.

But what hasn’t changed is the plight of inner-city youth. We still have far too many minorities who deal with poverty, violence, crime, drugs, and a gang culture that draws far too many of them away from the potential for success and into prison.  Many of these children have single parents, or no parents at all.  Many of these children are traumatized through the events in their lives.  Some of them, and by growing numbers, also have disabilities.

Somewhere along the way, corporate businessmen decided they could make a profit off this. As a result, we saw the growth of charter schools and school choice.  We saw testing companies spring up overnight.  With funds sponsored by the Gates Foundation, the Koch Brothers, the Walton Foundation, and so many more, education “reform” companies came out of the woodwork.  All of a sudden schools and states were contracting with these companies.  Report after report came out with the following statements: Our schools are failing.  Our teachers were not effective.  The unions were calling the shots.  Teach For America and similar teacher prep programs had better results than regular teachers.  Charter schools are better than traditional schools.  And every single report, every finding, came from one single thing: the standardized test score.

There are many names for these standardized tests: High-Stakes testing, state assessments, Smarter Balanced, PARCC, and the list goes on. But they all wind up with the same results, plus or minus a few abnormalities: they are socio-economic indicators that do not determine a student’s abilities but their zip code.  And many in the African-American community believe it is a valid measure.  In some ways, I can’t blame them.  They have a valid history of marginalization.  There have been equity gaps that still exist to this very day.  In Delaware, we have some schools that do not accept a large population of African-Americans or other minorities, even though the demographics surrounding these schools strongly suggest something is amiss.  These schools argue back and forth that they don’t get the applications from these communities, or the placement test scares them off.  But these are public schools, barred from any type of discrimination whatsoever.  If they have things in place that are preventing any group of students from attending, that is against the law.  But this is Delaware, and we seem to think it is okay as a state to let those things slide.

Which brings me back to PACE. A group, which started with honorable intentions, has been sucked into the madness of standardized testing.  In their handout to the Senate, they openly admit the current assessment in Delaware, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, is flawed.  Knowing that, they still want our teachers evaluated by it.  They feel that the potential price teachers could pay based on those evaluations is less important than the mirage standardized test scores give.  If anything, standardized test scores have widened the equity and proficiency gaps more than anything else since black and white schools.  And this is happening right now, in the 21st Century.

But here is the kicker to all of this. There is one group in education that performs far worse than any minority group.  They are always at the bottom of these lists.  And that is students with disabilities.  I am a parent of a child with a disability.  So no one can say I don’t have a voice or a stake in what is going on with standardized tests.  But we don’t see parents of students with disabilities advocating for these kinds of measurements for our children.  Many of us see them as an impediment to progress as opposed to a road to progress.

I was the first member of any type of media in Delaware to announce the DOE’s Annual Measurable Objective goals for all of the sub-groups in Delaware Education for 2015-2021. I was at the State Board of Education meeting in November.  I saw the document just placed on the State Board of Education website that documented what the Delaware DOE’s growth goals were for all of the sub-groups, all based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I saw immediately what the DOE’s growth goals meant for any high-need student: students with disabilities, English Language learners, African-Americans, Hispanics, and low-income students.

Take a very good look at the below two pictures. Note the growth that is expected out of these different sub-groups on one single measure: the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Look at the gains they will have to make compared to the groups with the least amount of growth expected: Asians and Whites.  Think about the vast amount of work expected out of educators to get to those levels.  Think about the struggles and “rigor” those students will need to get to those levels, if they make it at all (which I highly doubt).  Think about the state assessment, how it is designed, the anxiety in schools based on them.  Think about the vast amount of instruction time that is taken away for these tests.  Time your child will NEVER get back.  Think about the fact that most of us are in agreement that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a very flawed test.  Think about the fact that the Delaware DOE openly admitted these are the highest goals of any other state in the country.

DOEGrowthTargetsELA

DOEGrowthTargetsMath

Think about this: During this meeting, when I saw these goals, I assumed a DOE Employee was behind this. Her name is Penny Schwinn, and she no longer works for the DOE.  She left in January.  Her title was the Chief of Accountability and Assessment.  When I saw these pictures, I put her name in the title of this article.  After I posted it, I saw her in the hallway.  She had been crying and was very upset.  After the meeting, I approached her.  She explained to me that she didn’t set these goals.  She also explained that they are impossible goals to reach for these students.  I said to her “I know who set these goals.”  She looked at me and said “Chris?” to which I responded, “No, Governor Markell.”  I changed the name on the article since she openly admitted to myself and another person she did not make these goals.  I knew Penny Schwinn ultimately answered to the Governor, so I assumed he made the goals.  Or at the very least, approved them.

Upon retrospection of this conversation and all I have learned since, Governor Markell is a corporate guy. He is a persuasive public speaker and he knows how to sell a product.  But he doesn’t know how to build a product.  This growth model, in all likelihood, came from Chris Ruszkowski at the Delaware DOE.  The very same individual who, along with his second-in-command, Atnre Alleyne, used flawed data in every possible way to perpetuate the myth that school district teachers in districts with high poverty are failing our students.  In particular, students of color.  This is the pinnacle of the corporate education reform movement’s essence for being.  This is the heart of everything that comes out.  They use groups like PACE to further their own agendas.  Both Ruszkowski and Alleyne came to the Delaware DOE with well-established resumes in the corporate education reform movement.  I have no doubt they speak very well to a group like PACE.  They live and breathe the data they read, study, and create every single day.  They were paid by the Delaware DOE, with more money than most of us will ever see in an annual salary, to prove that public school education teachers are failing students of color.  Their data is, in large part, based on standardized tests.

So when I hear groups like PACE advocating for Component V in the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system, I know for a fact these aren’t conclusions they came up with by themselves. The timing of events suggests otherwise.  If you ask people in Delaware what they know about Component V, they would give you a puzzled look and think you were strange.  Unless you are an educator, a legislator, or deeply involved in education matters, it isn’t something that comes across the radar of everyday citizens.  But a group that has had multiple visits by Alleyne and Ruszkowski, who knew the exact right words to say to pull their chain, they would.  PACE came to two of the DPAS-II Sub-Committee meetings with very advanced knowledge of the DPAS-II process within a week of a presentation to their committee by the Delaware DOE employee who opposed the recommendations of the committee.  They were fed the same line of malarkey all of us have been fed.  But groups like PACE are organized and they want to see different lives for the children in their community.  I do not fault them at all for that.  But because they so desperately want these changes in education, they can easily fall prey to the very bad data and myths surrounding standardized tests and educators.

I have no doubt there are issues of racism in our schools. We do need more African-American teachers in our schools.  But to judge the teachers we do have in our schools with the highest needs, based on a test we know is horrible, what message does that send?  Let me put this another way: many parents who tend to advocate for their children the most believe there is an actual barrier to their educational success, whether it is the color of their skin or a disability.  It is very easy to blame a teacher when our children don’t succeed.  And I am sure, in some cases (but not as many as some think), there could be a valid argument there.  But to judge any teacher based on a flawed test that defines a child based on their zip code, color of their skin, disability, or income status is just plain wrong.  These tests are discriminatory in nature.  They are judgmental of our children, their teachers, and their schools.  They are, to put them in one word, racist.

Let that word hang there for a few minutes. Racist.  Standardized tests are racist.  Racism doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing it did twenty years ago.  Racism has evolved.  If standardized tests are racist, and we have people of all diverse cultures promoting them, what does that even mean?

It is the 21st Century version of racism: the sub-groups.  The African-American students.  The Hispanic students.  English Language learners.  Students with disabilities.  Low-Income Students.  Students from inner-cities who are homeless or come from severe poverty.  The children of the drug addicts who are born into trauma.  The children whose father is in prison.  This is the modern form of racism.  We hear it all the time.  We only have to look at some of the very racist comments when any article about race comes up on the Facebook account of Delawareonline.

None of these education groups out of the DOE or the foundations, think tanks and non-profits have the first clue about how to truly change these children’s lives. What they know is how to make a lot of money pretending to.  And it goes all the way to the top.  Do you want to know who has the best shot, aside from the parents of these children?  Their teachers.  The ones who devote their lives to helping them.  Even when they know they have no control over what happens outside of their classroom.  Even when they know they will most likely lose that student at the end of the year when they go into the next grade.  Sure, they get tough over the years.  The teachers in high-needs schools see it all.  They see the poverty.  They see the hunger.  They see the disabilities.  They see the cries for help that come out in anger from these kids.  They care so much more than you think they do.  They know a once a year test can’t measure the sum performance of these children.  They also know these tests are flawed, but the only way they can fight this ideology is by making sure these tests don’t stop their ability to try to help your child.

When I hear advocacy groups like PACE talk about “our community”, it makes me sad. I fight some of the exact same battles for students with disabilities but it seems like we are on opposite sides in the fight.  When I hear civil rights groups blasting opt out and continuing these very sick lines that are force fed to them by those who profit off the lies, I have to wonder why.  When they say “our community”, it is not.  All of us, we are all our community.  There should be nothing that divides us.  Not wealth, not religion, not the color of our skin or our hair or our language or the way our eyes are shaped.  Not our disabilities, of which we are all disabled in some way to some degree.  Not who we love or choose to spend our life with.  We all struggle, in our own ways.

Those with money and power are blinded to the realities of the real world. They justify their decisions because they don’t come from that perspective.  They look at us from their microscopes and think they know how to fix it.  And if they can get their buddies to help them out, to fix all those people below them, then it’s a party.  But they either don’t know or don’t care what kind of damage they leave in their wake.  They measure success by their paycheck.  If they make more money, or gain more power, they feel the decisions they make are the right ones.

This is the new racism. The haves and the have-nots.  The same story but with a much different twist.  This time, they are using children in the biggest high-stakes test of all time.  They get richer, while the rest of us either stay the same or slide down the scale.  We allowed this into our schools, slowly, over time.  We believed the lies they were telling us.  So many of us still do.  But this time, they are playing for keeps.  What they are setting up now will forever divide the rich from the poor and the rapidly declining middle class.  They are the ones telling us what to do.  Telling us our children can’t possibly succeed unless we make our schools do what they say.

Every single time your child takes a standardized test, you are giving them the power and the ability to sever themselves from the rest of us. This will continue, until we rise against them.  Rome fell.  The Soviet Union fell.  And Corporate America will fall.  It is the nature of power.  But until we revolt and take back the stability our children need, we will fight this war.  They will pin us against each other while we suffer.  While our children suffer.  The only way to stop it is to stop listening to them.  Demand our teachers be able to adequately instruct our children without the shadow of high-stakes standardized testing looming over their heads.  Demand our children be given better assessments that give true and immediate feedback.  Demand that if they don’t, we won’t let them take their tests.  We will opt them out.

Whatever you do, don’t ever be fooled into believing that your child or their teacher or their school is failing because of a standardized test. Do believe that the measurement, or the growth to that measurement, is designed to keep your child exactly where they are.  Don’t believe that any standardized test will ever show the vast majority of students as proficient.  They will always give the illusion that the majority of students are failing.  This is how those in power stay in power.  They rely on your belief that they are right.  It is their constant energy source.  This is the way they will keep most of the population in low-paying jobs.  They want to control us.  This is 21st Century racism.  End it.  Now.

Breaking News: Angeline Rivello Is The New Chief Of The TLEU At The DOE

Once a genie gets out of a bottle, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the news to follow suit. As I just announced, Chris Ruszkowski, the Chief of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware Department of Education, is leaving in a couple weeks.  I surmised if the TLEU would be rolled into another group, but as soon as I hit publish, several sources confirmed the title will be replaced by Angeline Rivello.  Some may recognize the name, but she is also Angeline Willen Rivello.

Rivello previously held the role of Director of Teacher & Administrator Quality Development, a subgroup of the TLEU. Prior to the Delaware DOE, Rivello was the manager of Human Resources in the Red Clay Consolidated School District from 2010-2012. So Delaware teachers, don’t get too excited yet. I would assume Ruszkowski’s departure is a good thing, but I truly don’t know much about Rivello aside from some FOIAs I published last year. Her LinkedIn profile shows she was a principal in New Jersey, Florida and New Hampshire from 2002-2001 prior to her Red Clay role.

Breaking News: Chris Ruszkowski Leaving Delaware DOE

In news that will surely cause tears and heartache, Christopher Ruszkowski is leaving the Delaware Department of Education. He gave his two week notice yesterday. Ruszkowski came to the DOE shortly after Race To The Top kicked off and quickly catapulted to the top of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit. Ruszkowski had a huge impact on many teachers in the state. As the main driver behind the DPAS-II Component V for teacher evaluations, many teachers felt getting evaluated on the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores of students was a horrible idea.

I’m not sure what this means for the rest of the TLEU, but as an area that should have gotten the chop after Race To The Top ended, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it integrated into some other area the way the Accountability area was after Penny Schwinn left in January of this year. The DOE won’t be the same without Ruszkowski. It should be better!

Ruszkowski’s departure follows other big exits like Penny Schwinn, Ryan Reyna, Shana Young, and who could forget, Mark Murphy!

Without further ado, I give you one more time, the Surfer Boy himself, the DOE hipster, none other than Christopher Ruszkowski:

300Ruszkowski

Good luck in your future endeavors Chris! I hope they take you far, far away from the First State! Bon Voyage!

Do Delaware Educators Really Embrace Common Core? Or Is This Just Another Fluff Report?

Fallacy

Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education came out with a press release today which indicates 73% of Delaware educators fully embrace the Common Core State Standards.  The report from the Center for Education Research Policy at Harvard University used five states in their findings: Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and New Mexico.  Each state had “ten clusters” of schools to answer surveys.  The report does not show what the ten schools in Delaware were, but I did just email Chris Ruszkowski and Alison May at the Delaware DOE to find out.  I just received a response from May including the Communications Director for CEPR at Harvard, so hopefully answers will be forthcoming.  Ruszkowski is the head of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Department.

Any report like this can be read in many different ways.  We don’t know which schools and how many teachers in each school responded to the survey.  We don’t know if this survey was given before, during, or after the first round of Smarter Balanced testing in 2015.  If anyone has any information on these surveys from last Spring or which schools had these surveys, please let me know.  As well, were ALL teachers in grades 4th-8th given these surveys or just certain ones?

Educators: Common Core going well here

A significant majority of educators are supportive of the Common Core State Standards and believe their colleagues are effectively implementing them, according to a new study of educators in Delaware and four other states by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.

The report – “Teaching Higher: Educators’ Perspective on Common Core Implementation” — collected perspectives from a sample of teachers and principals in Delaware and four additional states last spring, focusing on math and English language arts (ELA) teachers and principals in grades 4 through 8. All were asked to provide their views of the Common Core training and supports they received prior to the administration of their state’s assessments.

The survey found 73 percent of teachers feel their colleagues have embraced the standards. The study also spotlights how teachers are making substantial changes in their instructional practices and materials and are collaborating frequently with their peers.

The Common Core State Standards, developed by states and adopted by Delaware and most other states, set consistent learning goals for each grade across state lines. For most states, including Delaware, the standards also raised expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level to have the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the 21st century.

The study found 69 percent principals believe these new standards will have a positive effect on students. Just 9 percent of principals reported resistance to the new standards from parents in their schools.

“This study gives a voice to what I hear from so many educators in schools across our state: Common Core is better preparing our students,” said Gov. Jack Markell, who co-chaired the National Governors Association’s bipartisan Common Core Standards Initiative.

“While the shift to higher standards is an undisputable requirement to best prepare our students for the new economy, we know it will only succeed with effective implementation. I’m encouraged by the feedback we have received from educators so far and by the tremendous work happening in our classrooms. Teachers have embraced professional learning opportunities to deepen their understanding of the new standards and collaborated to adjust their instruction to meet student needs. We must continue to listen to them and ensure we fully support their hard work,” he said.

The study found 76 percent of teachers said they have changed a significant portion of their instruction as a result of Common Core, and 82 percent said they had changed a significant portion of their math instructional materials; 72 percent said they had done so for ELA materials.

That work is paying off for Delaware students. Last spring, Delaware’s third graders had the second-highest mathematics and second-highest English language arts scores in the nation on the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment. Of all the students tested, third-graders had the greatest proportion of their academic careers under the Common Core.

Students who had the benefit of instruction aligned to the new standards appear to be better prepared for these more challenging expectations,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said.

Alison May

While Delaware may have had these great third grade scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, that isn’t exactly something to write home about considering the overall proficiency rate for third graders in English/Language Arts was 54% and for Math it was 53%.  Aside from white, Asian-American, and American Indian sub-groups, every other sub-group did worse than the state average in both ELA and math.  It’s very easy to praise success without talking about the factors that surround the supposed success, something we see from the DOE and Governor Markell every single chance they get.

There are 11,000 teachers in Delaware.  The CEPR report wished to thank “hundreds of teachers” in their report.  I’ve found when reports like this come out, if it is over 500, they will say “over five hundred” or give a number like 800 to show a bigger number.  This report came from five states, so for the sake of argument, they surveyed 500 teachers.  That breaks down to 100 in each state.  Over ten schools, that is about ten teachers per school.  Can we say for certainty there was no bias in who was picked to take this survey?  I will wait to hear back from the Communications Director at CEPR to see if she is even able to say which schools had a part in this report.  There are certain schools in Delaware that are very loyal to Common Core and the DOE.  Most of us know which ones those are…

To read the full report, go here: http://cepr.harvard.edu/files/cepr/files/teaching-higher-report.pdf

New DOE Organizational Chart Showcases Many Things In The Department

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The Office of Accountability and Assessment is gone.  Previously led by Penny Schwinn, who departed the DOE earlier this month, it is now part of the Teaching & Learning Branch but only as the Office of Assessment.  Dr. Carolyn Lazar is still listed as the Interim Director of The Office of Assessment, in the sub-section of the Teaching & Learning Branch which is still led by Michael Watson.  There is a sub-section under the new Deputy Secretary, Karen-Field Rogers, called Performance Management, but that is showing as vacant.  This is echoed with the Data Management office.  Former Deputy Secretary David Blowman has taken over Field-Rogers slot as Associate Secretary Financial Management & Operations.  It looks like he still oversees the Charter School Office.  Chris Ruszkowski is still running the show in the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit.

It appears the DOE is in the process of updating their website, because if you look under their “leadership” tab, it still shows Penny Schwinn there, and Blowman as the Deputy Secretary.  There are many such errors on their website.  If you look under the Exceptional Children Resources group, it still shows Sarah Celestin listed even though she left the DOE last summer to become the Special Education Director at Red Clay Consolidated School District.

The DOE has seen some key departures and changes in the past few months since the new Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, took the helm.  With the amount of work the DOE receives based on the never-ending barrage of changes implemented by the State Board of Education and the feds, with more coming every day, on top of compliance issues, implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, charter school issues always going on, priority schools, assessment changes, state budgets and everything else is the DOE staff reaching a point where they are actually understaffed?  Do they have too much on their plate?  In some areas I would say so, but in others there is a lot of wasted money and resources going out.  Like the TLEU.  Every time I look, they are paying someone to come up with the latest report on Educator Effectiveness.  Or the Office of Assessment, constantly regurgitating report after report about Smarter Balanced and everything that goes with it.  Figuring out the Rubiks Cube that is the Delaware DOE is always a challenge…

What Is The Dastardly Delaware DOE Up To Now With Teacher Evaluations?

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The Delaware DOE sure was busy two days before Christmas.  They managed to get yet another request for proposal (RFP) out.  This one is for a teacher credentialing assessment.  This is basically the DOE seeking a vendor to give assessments to folks wishing to evaluate teachers.  They have to pass the DOE’s rigorous standards to be able to evaluate teachers.  And it must align with “college and career readiness” standards.  That’s right, even if the evaluator is observing a Kindergarten teacher, the teacher must demonstrate the ability to make sure those Kindergartners are ready to go to Harvard University!

While the Department of Education has implemented procedures for both new observers (“initial credentialing”) and existing observers (“re-credentialing”) over the past two years, the state is now seeking more robust and streamlined versions of both assessments.

You can read the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit’s request for somebody to do the work they should be doing themselves, but they just aren’t, ahem, effective enough…

Some Very Interesting Names On This DOE Email, One In Particular…

As usual, when I search for something, I find something I never expected. Such was the case this evening. Even more strange, what I found was something I actually did. Last winter and spring, I published several emails from the DOE that I obtained through someone else’s FOIA request. To my recollection, and I couldn’t find it on my blog, I never published this one. It didn’t have much of a story around it. But with finding this one name included in this email, it started to make me wonder. For those of you who have been following very current education news, you will certainly know the name when you see it…

Things that make you go hmm…I wonder what Ruszkowski meant about his term “in partnership“…

Seven Delaware Charters Bow Out of DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation System

Last month at the State Board of Education meeting, former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced he approved many charter schools for a minor modification involving their Teacher Evaluation system.  The schools are Positive Outcomes Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, Las Americas ASPIRA, Academia Antonia Alsonso, Early College High School, First State Military Academy, and The Delaware Met.  Oddly enough, the only school I knew that applied for this does not have anything listed on the Delaware DOE website about this.  But Freire Charter School of Wilmington is still on probation status.  Family Foundations Academy had their probation lifted at the same State Board of Education meeting. Family Foundation’s alternate teacher evaluation system will fall under the Delaware Charter Collaborative system that already includes East Side, Prestige Academy, Kuumba, and Thomas Edison.

By Delaware law, the Secretary of Education does not need the assent of the State Board of Education to approve a minor modification, nor are formal meetings of the Charter School Accountability Committee or formal Public Hearings.  But here’s my thing with all this.  One of the questions on the application for a minor modification request is this:

The authorizer will review your most recent Performance Review Reports as part of your application. Discuss the school’s academic performance, compliance with the terms of its charter, and financial viability as measured by the Performance Framework.

Four of these charters have NEVER had a Performance Review since they either opened last year (Academia Antonia Alonso and Early College High School) or this year (First State Military Academy and The Delaware Met).  Granted, the first two charters will have a performance review in the next month or so, but my point is this- should we be changing an established system in favor of an alternate system for charters that have never been put through a performance review?  In my opinion, this should be reserved for schools that have some data behind them to back this up.  One only has to look at the horror show of the past month and a half with The Delaware Met to know they should not be approved for an alternate system for teacher evaluation when they can’t even prove they know how to run a school!  Below are all the school’s applications and the section of Delaware code that allows for this.

9.9 Minor modifications

9.9.1 A minor modification is any proposed change to a charter, including proposed changes to any condition placed on the charter, which is not a major modification. Minor modifications include, but are not limited to:

9.9.1.1 Changes to the name of either the charter school or charter holder; or

9.9.1.2 The first extension of any deadline imposed on the charter school or charter holder by thirty (30) working days or less (or by 15 calendar days in the case of the First Instructional Day); or

9.9.1.3 In the case of a charter school which is open with students in attendance, offering educational services at a site other than, or in addition to, the site approved as part of the school’s charter, when use of the approved site has unavoidably been lost by reason of fire or other casualty as that term is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary; or

9.9.1.4 An increase or decrease in the school’s total authorized enrollment of more than 5%, but not more than 15%, provided further the minor modification request must be filed between November 1st and December 31st and, if approved, shall be effective the following school year; or

9.9.1.5 Alter, expand or enhance existing or planned school facilities or structures, including any plan to use temporary or modular structures, provided that the applicant demonstrates that the school will maintain the health and safety of the students and staff and remain economically viable as provided in 4.4 above; or

9.9.1.6 Any change in the school’s agreement with an educational management organization other than as set forth in 9.4.3 and 9.8.1.1 above; or

9.9.1.7 A change to the current authorized number of hours, either daily or annually, devoted to actual school sessions. Regardless of any proposed change, the school shall maintain the minimum instructional hours required by Title 14 of the Delaware Code; or

9.9.1.8 A change in the terms of the current site facilities arrangements including, but not limited to, a lease to a purchase or a purchase to a lease arrangement; or

9.9.2 The Secretary may decide the minor modification application based on the supporting documents supplied with the application unless the Secretary finds that additional information is needed from the applicant.

9.9.3 The Secretary may refer a minor modification request to the Accountability Committee for review if the Secretary determines, in her/his sole discretion, that such review would be helpful in her/his consideration of the application. If the Secretary refers a minor modification application to the Accountability Committee, she/he may decide the application based on any report from the Committee and the supporting documents related to the application. The applicant for a minor modification shall be notified if the minor modification request has been forwarded to the Accountability Committee. The applicant may be asked to provide additional supporting documentation.

9.9.4 The Secretary may deny a minor modification request if the supporting documentation is incomplete or insufficient provided the applicant has been advised additional information was needed

9.9.5 Upon receiving an application for a minor modification, the Secretary shall notify the State Board of the application and her/his decision on whether to refer the application to the Accountability Committee.

9.9.6 The meeting and hearing process provided for in Section 511(h), (i) and (j) of the Charter School Law shall not apply to a minor modification application even where the Secretary refers the application to the Accountability Committee.

9.9.7 Decisions for minor modifications to a charter may be decided by the Secretary within 30 working days from the date the application was filed, unless the timeline is waived by mutual agreement of the Secretary and the applicant, or in any case where the Secretary, in the sole discretion of the Secretary, deems that it would be beneficial to either refer the matter to the Accountability Committee or to seek advice from the State Board prior to deciding the matter.

Nowhere in this part of Delaware code is there anything about teacher evaluation systems.  But that is covered under the very loose “Minor modifications include, but are not limited to” part of this in 9.9.1.  That is a very major change to a school’s operations, and should be a major modification.  When these schools apply, the applications go to the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware DOE, led by Chris Ruszkowski.  Once they approve it, it goes to the Secretary of Education.  But I’m not surprised the DOE and Secretary Murphy would play fast and loose with state code to get what they want with charters…

Who’s Who At The Delaware DOE?

I write about these people all the time, and I take for granted that most of you have no clue who some of the Secretary of Education’s underlings are!  So here is an organizational chart, taken from the DOE website, from August 2015.  Don’t be alarmed about the name at the top!  Mark Murphy’s last day is September 30th, 2015.

DOE

The Oxymoron At The State Board of Education Retreat Today **UPDATED**

The hardest part about writing this article was coming up with the title.  There were so many things I could have named it.  Such as “It could have been worse, it could have been rocket ships.”  Or “Vermont and Connecticut are really going to hate Delaware soon.”  Or “We gotta grow them.”  Or “Is it still an embargo if they reveal it at a public meeting?”  In any event, I attended part of the State Board of Education retreat today.  I arrived at 1:30pm, and I was the ONLY member of the public there.  I received some stares.  All but two members of the State Board of Education were present.  Those that were there were President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Vice-President Jorge Melendez, Gregory Coverdale, Pat Heffernan, and Nina Bunting.

When I got there, head of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit Christopher Ruszkowski was giving a presentation on, what else, teacher effectiveness.  There was a slide up which said TEF- 5 charters, TEF- 6 charters, Freire, Colonial, Aspira.  If I had to guess, these are schools or “collaboratives” that have or will have their own teacher evaluation system.    The Rus Man (sorry, spelling his last name is a huge pain!) said Lake Forest School District believes DPAS-II is more equitable.  Rus said “Districts not using the new evaluation methods are not as successful.”  He explained how some districts get “caught up in the structure” and “the rules”.  He said principals want more high-quality data, and they are having better conversations about Measure B in the DPAS-II system.

This was followed with a presentation by Dr. Shana Ricketts.  She explained how that state trained 125 principals over the summer, and there will be training sessions over the next two weeks, and DSEA will be holding workshops over the changes in the DPAS-II.  The Rus Man explained how Delaware has the “most decentralized system in the country for teacher evaluations and goals are different across the board.”  A question came up about assessments.  Discussion was had about reducing assessments even more.  “If we standardize chemistry exams why have teacher ones as well,” Rus Man asked.  “But some are teacher-created, which is good cause it shows growth.”  Dr. Gray responded with “Gotta grow them!”  Rus man explained how “teachers need to be empowered”, “our obligation to be world-class is students have to be proficient when they graduate”, and “We are trying to ask the right questions.”  Rus man also said “There is not enough rigor.”

At this point, Dr. Penny Schwinn came in, followed shortly by Ryan Reyna, who works under Schwinn.  Actually, I should say next to her as they are both easily the two tallest employees at the DOE.  While I was distracted, Rus Man said something about “Commitment to proficiency…mindblocks….set the target, work my way back” followed by something about the “culture of the building”.  To which board member Pat Heffernan responded with “We can’t put blinders on and have no idea.”  Gray responded with “We want growth AND proficiency!” followed by “We don’t set the goal based on average, we set it on growth.”  Rus Man responded by saying “We are to be compared to everyone.  Not Delaware, not other states, but everyone in the world.”  He stated our principals are aware of this.  Someone asked if our principals understand this.  He explained how the alternative is the “same way we’ve done for 100 years, mastery of standards to grade book…”  Gray burst out that “It should be proficiency based!”  Board member Nina Bunting thanked Rus Man for the presentation and said “It was very informative.”  Heffernan said we need to “encourage principals to encourage good data entry.”

The State Board took about a ten minute break at this point.  Dr. Gray asked how I was doing, and I proceeded to tell her all about my hernia and my operation.  She explained how her brother had that done.  I asked if it was stomach or groin.  She said stomach. I told her mine was groin.  She just kind of stared at me for a few seconds, unsure of what to say.

At this point the accountability trio of Dr. Penny Schwinn, Ryan Reyna, and Dr. Carolyn Lazar began to give a presentation on Smarter Balanced.  I actually asked if this meeting had any embargoed information I shouldn’t know about.  Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, explained this is a public meeting.  Most of the information was already on the state DOE website.  Lazar explained how 21 states took the field test, and 17 Delaware districts participated.  All told, 4 million students took the field test in the USA.  Schwinn explained how elementary schools outperformed middle schools and high schools in both math and ELA.  Heffernan asked if this included charters on the data they were seeing, but Schwinn explained the charters were on a separate slide.  Lazar said there was a 15 point gap between Math and ELA, but the “claim area” was only 10 points.  At this point, Dr. Gray asked what the proficiency level was.  For the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Lazar explained it is the students who score proficient or above.  That is good to know!  Next they went over slides showing how close or how far districts were between Math and ELA scores.  Donna Johnson commented how Capital School District’s proficiency lines attached which is very unique.  Schwinn responded that this “speaks to the rigor of assessment.”  Schwinn brought up the student survey and said that 7,000 students self-selected to perform the survey at the end of the test.  Dr. Gray said that isn’t statistically normed.  Schwinn explained it was not, but the survey will become automatic next year, like how it was on DCAS.

Michael Watson, the teacher and learning chief at the DOE, presented next on Smarter Balanced in relation to teaching and instruction.  He explained how we need international assessments so we can compare against India and China.  He explained how Delaware had “strong positive indicators with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) trends.”  Watson proceeded to show the board a chart showing how Delaware compared to nine other Smarter Balanced Assessment states that released their data.  Delaware came ahead for literacy in third to fifth grade, but much lower in ELA for 8th grade.  Next, Watson gave a long talk about comparing Delaware to Connecticut with Smarter Balanced results and the two states NAEP results.  He found that Delaware trailed behind Connecticut in NAEP, but we were closer to their scores with Smarter Balanced.  I wanted to burst out “That’s cause SBAC sucks so I would expect most states to suck equally on it”, but I bit my tongue.  But as I thought about it, comparing two different states NAEP scores to SBAC is like comparing a clothing store to Chuck-E-Cheese.  There really isn’t a comparison as they are two different entities.  In talking about the states Delaware scored near the same as on SBAC, Watson actually said “Either Connecticut and Vermont didn’t take SBAC seriously or we are working harder.”  Bunting explained how in Indian River, “when state says jump we say how high!”

**At this point, Watson looked over at me and said the next slide is embargoed information but he presented it anyways.  So I can’t write about the embargoed information presented to me at a public meeting about a survey done showing that in Delaware, 88% of Superintendents feel we have implemented Common Core, followed by 87% of principals and 67% of teachers.  For some reason, this is top-secret embargoed information that won’t be released until next month or something like that. (**SEE UPDATE ON BOTTOM)

I had to leave to pick up my son from school.  I brought him home and checked my email real quick.  I did get an email from Yvette Smallwood who works for the state on the Delaware Register of Regulations.  She informed me, in response to my request they remove Regulation 103 from their September publication due to issues of non-transparency surrounding it, that they couldn’t remove it but the DOE did agree to extend the public comment period until October 8th, which would be 30 days after Regulation 103 was put on this blog!  I drove back to the State Board retreat and as I walked in I heard Dr. Gray talking loudly about parents needing to understand.  At which point Reyna pointed to a chair for me to sit in and Dr. Gray stopped talking about whatever parent thing she was talking about.

The infamous “toolkit” has been fully released on the Smarter Balanced website.  It includes a link to the DelExcels website, some other “very informative” websites called Great Kids and Be A Learning Hero.  The DOE is working with DSEA to get information out for parents to understand the Smarter Balanced results.  According to Donna Johnson, many districts are excited to get the information to parents, and are aligning curriculum and professional development in an effort to gain more awareness.  The DOE is working with superintendents, principals, social media, and their partners (Rodel).  The test results won’t be mailed out from the DOE until Friday, September 18th and Monday, September 21st.  Which is probably their way of screwing up my well-designed article from earlier today about education events this week…  But I digress.  Schwinn said the resutls will come out earlier in future years, but this is a transition year.  Johnson said “some districts are excited to dig in” with releasing data.  Lazar explained how teachers are getting “claim spreads” which are tied to “anchor data”.  At this point, it’s all Greek to me when they start speaking in that language.  The DOE is working with journalists (no one asked me, and I had already received embargoed information at a public meeting) to write articles on how to educate parents on “how to read reports and grade spreads”.  Because parents don’t know how to do that.  I don’t think parents are confused about the data.  They will be confused why Johnny is doing awesome with grades but he tanked the SBAC.  And no one will be able to present this to them in a way they will clearly understand so hopefully they will come up with the same conclusion as many parents already have: Smarter Balanced sucks!

At this point, Johnson wanted to play one of the new videos, just released Friday in an email blast to anyone the DOE has worked with (which didn’t include me, but I got it forwarded to me on Friday).  So here it is, the world premiere (if you haven’t been so blessed to be included in the email blast), of the Delaware DOE Smarter Balanced Guide For Parents Video 2015:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/4/DE_REPORT_VIDEO_REVISED_MIX_1.mp4?_=1

*video may not be working, I will work on it…

This won’t be the last time you hear this video, because apparently some districts want to put this on their morning announcement! I kid you not…

This next part is actually somewhat frightening.  When asked how many hits the DOE website is getting for this, Johnson was unable to answer, but they can track the hits or work with partners on sites they don’t own to get that information.  Tracking plays a LARGE part later on in this retreat…

The final part of the presentation was my whole reason for coming: The Delaware School Success Framework.  A slide came up from the State Board of Education agenda for Thursday’s meeting, but it had attachments that said “embargoed”.  These links don’t appear on the public agenda.  There was a lot of whispering between Penny Schwinn, Shana Young, and Donna Johnson at this point, as if they could be discussing something they didn’t want me to hear.  I don’t obviously know this for sure, just a hunch! 😉

She went over the state’s new accountability system called the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF).  I covered most of this last week in my Regulation 103 article and how much of a game-changer this system is, but I found out quite a bit of information on it today.  The DSSF will go live next month with what they are calling the “paper framework” until the full online system launches by June 2nd (a must date according to Penny Schwinn).  Schwinn said the reason they are including 4, 5, and 6 year graduation rates is because of special education students who may not graduate in four years.  She proudly said “Delaware is the first state to have college and career preparation” as part of the state report card (which is what the US DOE calls state accountability systems).  When talking about the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG), Schwinn stated Ryan Reyna is leading this group.  She said there is a lot of opinions in this group, and not everyone is going to agree, which makes it a good group.  She said no accountability system is going to have 100% agreement, so it took some compromising.

“Delaware has the most aggressive rate in the country for growth,” Schwinn said.  This was her explanation for the VERY high portion of the DSSF which has growth.  She said it “feels more appropriate with Smarter Balanced to set the bar high.”  She acknowledged they are “pushing it with US DOE” but feels they will be approved.  How this all works with the DSSF is this.  There is a Part A, which counts toward a school’s accountability rating, and Part B which will show on the DOE website and is informative in nature but has no weight on a school’s grade.  Part A includes proficiency (multiplied by the school’s participation rate on SBAC), growth to proficiency, college and career prep (for high schools), average daily attendance, and so forth.  The numbers have changed somewhat since I last reported on the weights of each category.  For elementary and middle schools, 30% of the weight will be proficiency, and high schools will be 25%.  For growth, in elementary and middle schools this will be 45%, and high schools 40%.  So in essence, 75% of a school’s accountability rating will be based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment in elementary and middle schools, and 65% for high schools.  The bulk of the rating system that will determine reward, recognition, action, focus, focus plus and priority status will be based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Schwinn said this is very aggressive and is “not comfortable backing down on it.”  Not one word was said about the participation rate or Regulation 103 during this presentation.  The categories were presented for the ESEA Flex Waiver last March but the weights have to be submitted to the US DOE by 10/31/15.  So the State Board has to make a decision on it by their 10/15 meeting.

Reyna talked about proficiency and growth with some scatter graphs.  “We’re really valuing schools that are showing growth with students” he said out of thin air.  Schwinn talked about the school survey parents will receive (school report card).  They are going with the “5 Essentials Survey” for the non-accountability rated Part B.  The DOE is creating a survey working group which will start next month and will include the “usual stakeholders”.  They sent emails to all the superintendents to participate, just like they did with the AFWG.  The state is holding itself accountable as well, but there was no discussion about what they are measuring themselves against.  Schwinn explained that on the survey last fall, parents liked the idea of letter grades on the school report and teachers hated it.  So they won’t have that on the report.  In news I know many will like, THERE WILL BE NO ROCKET SHIPS, TRAFFIC LIGHTS OR TROPHIES on the Delaware School Success Report sent to parents.  There was a lot of discussion about design and different ideas.  Heffernan said DOE can tell parents “It could have been worse, it could have been rocket ships.”

Schwinn explained on the online report, parents will be able to map and graph data.  As an example, Dr. Gray said if a parent is looking for a school that has choir, they will be able to find that, to which Schwinn agreed.  Schwinn said “accountability is intended to be a judgment on a school.  But we want to make sure parents see other data as well.”  Schwinn said they WILL TRACK THE INFORMATION PARENTS SEARCH FOR ON SCHOOLS to see if they can let schools or districts know about needs in their area.  Or at least that’s what she said.

Schwinn had to leave to “feed her family” and Reyna took over.  They are resetting assessment targets for the state and each subgroup which must be done by 1/31/16.  At this point, the next slide Reyna presented had embargoed information at a public meeting (just love saying that!).  So I cannot, by threat of force or violence, tell you that the overall state proficiency for SBAC was a little over 51% and for the overall subgroups, it was 38.8% for SBAC.  But here is the real kicker.  Delaware has to pick their choice to hold the state accountable.  With a six year plan, the state must close the proficiency gap between the overall sub-groups (including low-income, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and minorities) by 50% in six years.  This is what Delaware DOE wants.  Other choices were all schools are 100% proficient by 2019-2020, or “any other method proposed by state that is educationally sound and results in ambitious but achievable Annual Measurable Objectives for all schools and subgroups.”

Pat Heffernan was not a fan of DOE’s choice because of the impact on students with disabilities.  He even made a comment about how they won’t reach this goal either.  It was discussed how ALL students will be included in this state accountability rating.  The infamous “n” number won’t apply (when students are below 15 at a school in a sub-group, they are NOT counted towards the individual school’s accountability) on this state system since ALL students that are in a sub-group will be included in the state’s rating.  But students will not be double-counted.  So for example, an African-American student with disabilities will only count towards one of those sub-groups.  The DOE must increase the 38.8% for the sub-groups to 45% in six years to meet the state rating with the US DOE.

And with that, the meeting ended since they had already run over time for the meeting, and they used a room at the Duncan Center in Dover.

UPDATED, 9/17/15, 9:34pm: Michael Watson from the Delaware DOE spoke with me at the State Board of Education meeting during a break.  He informed me the slide he presented to me at the State Board Retreat was NOT embargoed information, but the name of the upcoming report is.  Since I didn’t remember it, it’s a non-issue but I do appreciate him letting me know.  As for Ryan Reyna, that’s another story.

Redlining The Delaware DOE Inner-City Teacher Bash Round 5,238,964

Hip-Hop Hooray! The Delaware Department of Education got federal kudos for spending millions of dollars on a teacher report that took three years and lots of human capital research work.  What’s next?  Arne Duncan coming to Delaware to visit the same school again and say “Delaware is really awesome, keep up the good work guys.”  In any event, here is the usual mud the DOE likes to sling at teachers in low-income and poverty schools.  Along with my comments…

State educator equity plan earns federal approval, praise

Delaware’s plan to improve equitable access to excellent educators for every child received approval from the U.S. Department of Education, federal officials announced today.

What the hell is equitable access?  Does this mean any teacher of any race, religion, disability level and whatnot can teach in our schools?  Do you morons even know what you write anymore?

The First State’s plan was shaped by six months of public engagement and input from more than 200 parents, educators and other community members.  Delaware’s stakeholders collectively developed seven strategies for greater focus over the next decade: improving school leadership and retaining the best leaders; strengthening educator preparation programs; enhancing educator recruitment and selection; improving induction and mentoring programs; enhancing professional learning; rethinking compensation and career pathways; and considering school climate and working conditions (through the ongoing administration of the TELL Delaware survey).

Oh, was that the TELL Delaware Survey the State Board of Education and the Rodel Foundation wouldn’t run this year because they didn’t like the changes teachers wanted in THEIR OWN SURVEY?  I swear, if Rodel and the State Board collectively had one more brain cell it would be lonely…

“The trends in the data are clear: Low-income and minority students in Delaware are more likely to go to schools with less experienced educators and more likely to have turnover among their teachers,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. “This plan is about ensuring any student in any classroom in any public school in Delaware has the same opportunity as any other student to be taught by a great educator who is supported by a great leader.”

In other words, Murphy said “We are going to threaten and intimidate and bully those schools as much as we can by testing the kids with rigor and grit, label the schools and then punish them.  Who cares about job security!  We got TFA ready to come in. And if they don’t want it, we have Relay right around the corner!”

The U.S. Department of Education asked each state educational agency to submit a new state educator equity plan in accordance with the requirements of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  As required by ESEA in its plan, each state had to, among other things, describe the steps it would take to ensure that “poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers.” Each state needed to analyze what its stakeholders and data had to say about the root causes of inequities and craft its own solutions.

So this means TFA and Relay should not step one foot into those schools!  I know, I know, it’s not all TFA teachers.  And they are nice people, blah blah blah…

Delaware data show clear educator equity gaps:

Based on DOE research which they designed to show clear educator equity gaps!

The state’s high-need schools have significantly higher teacher turnover rates than schools not designated as high-need. Teachers are also much more likely to transfer from high-need schools to non-high-need schools than to transfer in the opposite direction.

See my third red-line paragraph in this idiotic press release!

  • Turnover rates in Delaware schools with the highest proportion of minority students were close to 20 percent compared to 11 percent in the Delaware schools with the lowest proportion of minority students.
  • Oh, like Christina, where they get beat up by the DOE all the time and give them a black eye in the media so they wind up losing referendums cause the DOE are a bunch of thugs?  Yeah, we know your game…
  • 39 percent of Delaware teachers that left high-need schools transferred to a non-high need school; 5 percent of teachers that left a non-high need school in Delaware transferred to a high-need school.
  • Nothing to do with taking a lot of those “high-needs” schools out of partnership zone status?  Way to use your own data to manipulate a submission to the Feds there Delaware DOE!  As well, you changed ALL the low-income numbers, so there may not APPEAR to be as many high-needs schools.  Bravo you David Copperfield wannabies!

Early career teachers are more likely to teach in schools with high proportions of low-income and minority students.

  • 14 percent of teachers in Delaware’s highest poverty schools (top quartile) are early career teachers compared with 10 percent in schools with the lowest proportion of low-income students (bottom quartile).
  • But they tend to be some of the best teachers Delaware has because they deal with stuff, as Governor Markell said, “You and I can’t imagine”.

Low-income and minority children also were less likely to be taught by teachers who received the highest ratings for student growth on their educator evaluations.

Because children in poverty don’t do well on high-stakes testing.  Haven’t you read any graph published on a non-DOE website in the past week?  If not, it’s called my blog and Delaware Liberal.  You might learn something!

  • A quarter of math/English teachers in the highest-poverty schools earned the highest rating, “exceeds,”  based on their students’ growth on state tests. But in the most affluent schools, almost 40 percent of math/English teachers earned “exceeds” ratings based on their students’ growth on the same tests.
  • What is an “affluent” school?  All you are saying is money makes kids do better on tests with that statement.  Seriously, who writes this stuff?  How can you talk about equitable access when you are labeling schools based on income?
  • These ratings are based on growth only, which takes into account the proficiency level at which students started. However, additional analyses also found promising counter-examples to this trend with several high-poverty schools having the majority of teachers earning “exceeds” ratings based on their students’ growth on state tests, demonstrating that teachers and students can and do thrive in such schools.
  • Yeah, when they get “grants” and “donations” from places like the Longwood Foundation, Rodel, and all those other pro-charter school organizations.  When you are talking about these select high-poverty schools, you are talking about charters.  You aren’t fooling anyone here.  And with all that growth, I’m sure you wrote a lot about EastSide Charter School and their last DCAS “growth”, but failed to mention attrition rates there.  Say, how did they do on Smarter Balanced?

Delaware’s Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators for All Students outlines a course for 2015-2025 by detailing the state’s equity gaps, stakeholder engagement, root cause analysis, potential strategies and solutions, plan for ongoing monitoring of strategies and results, and plan for reporting progress to stakeholders and the public.  Delaware’s stakeholder engagement efforts were heralded by USED.

A ten year plan?  Why doesn’t the Department of Education just change their name to the Rodel Vision Foundation of Education in Delaware?  I guess RVFoEiD would be too complicated?  Did you say “heralded”?  The only time I hear the word “herald” anymore is when I go to midnight mass and hear “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” or the Marvel Comics planet-eater named Galactus gets a new herald, like the Silver Surfer. 

The department now will work on the state initiatives outlined in the plan and provide support to districts and charter schools in their next steps addressing the key areas of the plan, ranging from leadership development programs and examination of mentoring programs to improved recruitment efforts.

In another words, we have zero clue, but we’re going to put it in our plan to the feds and then put it in our press release to make it sound like we know what the hell were doing but really, what does it matter, we still get paid better than teachers!

“This plan will allow us to better analyze the root causes of why instructional inequities may exist around our state. Additionally, it should encourage all stakeholders to have the tough conversations needed regarding these existing inequities and lay out a plan to address them,” said Dr. Dusty Blakey, superintendent of the Colonial School District and a member of the Educator Equity Working Group.  This group, comprised of participants from earlier stakeholder engagement sessions, met to review the final plan prior to submission and will continue to meet quarterly to shepherd implementation.

Wait, isn’t the plan to get better teachers, not to keep examining the same thing.  Dr. Blakey, I’m a tad bit confused here.  Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s a DOE group: data, dive, data, dive, data, dive, action, back to data, dive, data, dive, robust discussion, action, data, dive, data, dive…time for a new plan!

“It’s all about providing every student across Delaware with access to outstanding teachers without regard to where you live,” Blakey said.

But graphs are graphs Dr. Blakey, you can’t ignore them!

Background

The data presented in Delaware’s Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators for All Students (Educator Equity Plan) builds on almost a decade of dedicated efforts to improve data quality as it pertains to educator effectiveness in Delaware. In 2006, the department submitted an educator equity plan to USED that detailed the steps that the state would take to ensure that students were instructed by a “highly-qualified” teacher (HQT). At that time, roughly one quarter of Delaware schools and more than a third of classes were instructed by teachers who did not meet the federal definition of HQT. Today, the vast majority of educators in core academic subjects meet that definition.  Via Race to the Top (RTTT), an updated statewide plan for building a more complex understanding of the state’s educator effectiveness landscape was charted in 2009-2010 (see Section D of Delaware’s RTTT Plan).

“We spent lots of money thanks to the taxpayers and all those who signed the in your face RTTT memorandums of understanding.  The rest is just our hipster little ways of making us sound smarter (get it, Smarter, Smarter Balanced…)”

In 2012, the department partnered ( and paid tons of money too as well, thanks taxpayers!  All of us at the DOE pray we can get jobs with all these companies we gave money too when the new Governor napalms this building!) with Harvard University’s Strategic Data Project to increase the state’s analytic understanding and capacity relating to issues of educator effectiveness.  This three-year partnership has allowed Delaware to conduct sophisticated analyses relating to equitable access (educator equity).  In April 2013, the state released the Educator Effectiveness Diagnostic after more than a year of data analysis. The diagnostic, which covered topics ranging from educator experience to retention to performance, provided the foundation for the educator equity gap data presented in Delaware’s Educator Equity Plan.

“And then we got the legislators to turn all of this into state law and they passed it!  But we can’t rest on our laurels! The Human Capital Reich must move on! Damn those teachers!” said some surfer looking dude.

Alison May alison.may@doe.k12.de.us (302) 735-4006

Will Schwinn and Ruszkowski Be Cut From DOE? Is Herdman’s Vision Of Personalized Learning Already Here? Do Teacher Surveys Give Meaningful Data? And MUCH MORE!!!!

Back in February, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee and the House Education Committee grilled the Delaware DOE over Race To The Top funding and everything that came with it.  At last, we have the answers made available to the public in this exclusive bombshell.  There are seven documents here, giving LOTS of details about the DOE.

It looks like the Joint Finance Committee’s slashing of the Delaware DOE’s previous Race To The Top employee funds could result in MAJOR changes at the DOE according to the below document!  Will Penny Schwinn and Chris Ruszkowski be the first to go?  And many more key positions as well!

As well, if you replace 2Revolutions with Schoology it is obvious that personalized learning is already implemented in many of our schools.  This will eventually lead to less direct instructional time by a teacher and more kids glued to computer screens.

There is SO much in these documents.  About teacher surveys, priority schools, more on Booker T, Education Insight and massive amounts of data being captured, and so much more!

So if I am reading this right, the following positions could be cut:

Chief Accountability & Performance Officer: Penny Schwinn

Director, Office of Data Management: Ryan Reyna

Education Specialist, Data Analyst, Office of Data Management: Chesiree Wise

Chief Performance Officer, Office of Performance Management: Katherine Villari

Deputy Officer, LEA Performance, Office of Performance Management: Elizabeth Jettter

Education Associate, School Turnaround: ??

Chief Officer, Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit: Christopher Ruszkowski

Chief of Staff, Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit: ??

Deputy Officer, Talent Recruitment & Acquisition: Tasha Cannon

Director, Talent Management: Atnre Alleyne

If anyone knows the blanks, please let me know.

Check out all the below documents which are referenced as attachments in the first document.

Delaware DOE Goes On A Contract Spree For Priority Schools, Teachers, & Prep Programs

You wouldn’t know the Delaware Department of Education is tightening spending after their budget increase was slashed in half last week by the Joint Finance Committee.  Just this month alone, they put out seven bid proposals.  These proposals are for priority school programs, teacher quality, the proposed school report card, and more.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence the 148th General Assembly will not be in session when all of these contracts are finalized?

I suppose the DOE would have to put a contract out for individual priority school leaders because it would not be an ongoing position.  All of these positions report to Chief Accountability Office Penny Schwinn, not the districts involved- Christina and Red Clay.

And we can’t forget the school report card program, otherwise known as the grade your local school accountability game.  Did anyone else know this will go live on August 24th, 2015?

But lest we forget, the DOE has four bid proposals in regards to teachers.  Because we can never have enough taxpayer money going out to improve teachers, right DOE?  I’m sure most of these are the brainchild of the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit, under the very watchful eye of Chris Ruszkowski…

That’s a whole lot of professional services the DOE is requesting.  Is this the sole purpose of the DOE’s Accountability and Assessment Office and the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit,  to serve as the middle men between our schools and these education reform companies?  It sure seems like that.  It’s very rare where you see any of them doing the actual work themselves, aside from taking other companies words, mixing them up, and presenting them to the State Board of Education at their monthly meetings.  Meanwhile, over 130,000 students in the state are suffering from a severe lack of resources in their classrooms…