Ex-DOE Employee Trying To Steer The Conversation With Delaware’s ESSA Plan… But He’s A Benefactor…

I’ve written about Atnre Alleyne more than any other Delaware Dept. of Education employee (aside from Godowsky) in the past six months and he doesn’t even work there anymore!  On Wednesday, Delaware Public Media released a letter Alleyne wrote to the Delaware DOE for input on the first draft of their Every Student Succeeds Act which should be out tomorrow.  With a ton of other sponsors on the letter, including Rodel, Teach For America, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, and of course, TeenSHARP, an organization run by Alleyne and his wife.  An organization he could potentially benefit from through ESSA grants.  No conflict of interest there.  But to make matters worse, he also sits on the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee.

Alleyne and the Delaware Corporate Education Reform Network (my new nickname for the above-mentioned companies) also rounded up every single civil rights group they could for this letter.  The PACE Network, Christina Cultural Arts Center, the Wilmington Education Strategy Think Tank, Aspira of Delaware, and oddly enough, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware.  The same organization who submitted a Civil Rights complaint against the State of Delaware and Red Clay Consolidated School District for authorizing charter schools that continue segregation in Delaware (22 months later and no word on that one).

To say Alleyne is making a move would be an understatement.  This was the same person who did everything in his power to kill legislation on teacher evaluations.  He pretty much got his wish when Senator David Sokola added his amendments to the bill.  Why should anyone listen to what amounts to a benefactor of ESSA?  Thanks to Delaware Public Media for putting this letter up on Scribd.  While I agree with very few of the points of the letter, it is definitely a power grab by Alleyne.  Alleyne is also an “education fellow” at 50CAN, just another one of those education think tanks that sprung up in the past decade with funding by the Gates Foundation and a gazillion other foundations that support charter schools.  And one of the documents Alleyne brings up in his letter was something Alleyne was compensated for at the Delaware DOE.  He worked in the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit before he sprouted his wings to do… this kind of stuff.

I have no doubt the Delaware DOE gave this letter very serious consideration and will incorporate the thoughts of it in the plan.  Kind of like how Senator Sokola took Alleyne’s charges with House Bill 399 very seriously.  But they were in cahoots the whole time.  This is Rodelaware you know…

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The Test Made For White Kids, Not Black Kids

I get it now.  A few months ago I was discussing parent opt out with an African-American friend of mine.  He explained to me that African-American students don’t do well on standardized tests because they’re written for white kids.  I disagreed with him.  I couldn’t grasp what was right before my eyes.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment was made for white kids.  Civil rights groups, usually backed by the Gates Foundation and other corporate education reformers, claim high-stakes standardized tests are important.  They say they need to understand where African-American students rank compared to their peers.  This only perpetuates the myth that these tests are necessary.  These groups vehemently opposed parents opting out of these tests because they claimed it would only continue pathways to discrimination.  Instead, the reality is staring them right in the face.  Standardized tests do show achievement gaps.  But not because they offer any solutions on how to close those gaps, but because they were written for a specific audience.

These tests fail to understand different minorities or cultures.  They were created from a white culture perspective.  They ask students to push themselves based on standards that don’t address poverty, low-income, special needs, violent environments, discrimination, segregation, or equity.  Even for white students, many who also deal with issues of low-income in our country, don’t perform well on these tests unless they are from more affluent areas.

DECharterAfrAmerVsSBACProf

Charter Schools were supposed to be the savior of education.  They were supposed to offer unique new ways of educating students and be models of innovation.  Instead, at least in Delaware, they have served as incubators of discrimination, segregation, and racism.  We can’t ignore this fact any longer.  We have to address this as a state, head-on.

DESchoolDistrAfrAmerVsSBACProf2016

In all likelihood, our charters are merely copying what happens in our regular districts.  We see that African-Americans in our traditional school districts do not fare any better on these tests.  Charter schools and districts with higher populations of white students do better on standardized tests.  This fact hasn’t escaped those who create these tests.  They know this.  Our politicians and education leaders know this as well.  This story isn’t new, nor is it shocking.  They have known this ever since standardized tests came about.  But we expect African-Americans to perform the same as their white peers.  If they don’t, our governments will label and shame the schools and teachers that administer these tests.  Why?  What is the point?

Education improvement programs make lots of money.  If a school isn’t converted into a charter under the accountability schemes brought to you by Education Inc., you better believe some company out there stands to make a tidy profit off “fixing” the “problem”.  In Delaware alone, a company called Mass Insight was paid $2.5 million dollars to help out six “priority schools”.  All inner-city schools with, you guessed it, very high populations of African-American students.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell said the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best test Delaware ever made.  If that is true, then it shows Delaware to be a very racist state because we allow this to continue.  Our Department of Education can throw out statistics and graphs until we are blue in the face, but the true facts are above, and in the article I did on low-income populations and Smarter Balanced proficiency.  I have no doubt students will gradually do better on these tests.  But not enough to give them the education they deserve.  Not enough for African-Americans to catch up to their Caucasian peers.  This isn’t defeat.  This isn’t accepting a status quo.  This is reality.  A test solely designed for one pre-dominant culture under the assumption that other sub-groups will catch-up is always destined for eventual failure.  Do we call that now?  Or do our policy-makers only look at the cost of the test and not the cost to the children of their state?

For parents of African-American students: How many pictures that show the same thing do you need to see?  Why are you continuing to let your children take a test that forces them to work harder to live to a different ideal and culture?  I’ve seen some of you point out that your children have predominantly white teachers.  If our schools and teachers are judged on a test that is written for white kids, and a white teacher is teaching a majority of African-American kids in a classroom, what do you think the results are going to show?  This test serves a dual purpose: to keep African-Americans down and to push those unionized white teachers out of public education.  If you want more African-American teachers in the future, how will today’s African-American youth even feel inspired to go into education when they are constantly told they are failures based on these tests?  These same tests that will eventually break down and morph into end of chapter tests, taken by students multiple times throughout the year.  This is not about helping students to become “college and career ready”.  It is an elaborate and long-term tracking system.  Think about it, and opt out until those in power change these pictures.  Look at those in your community who want this.  Follow the money.  Who are they speaking for?  Corporations or children?

15 Months Later: No Answers From Office of Civil Rights On ACLU Complaint About Segregation In Delaware Schools

In December of 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and the Delaware Community Legal Aid filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education.  The complaint was against the State of Delaware and the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  The allegations in the complaint were around how the state and Red Clay, as charter school authorizers, allowed charters to develop segregation and discriminatory practices in their enrollment.  Almost three months later, after the ACLU gathered information from people around the state, they submitted the information to the Office of Civil Rights in their regional Philadelphia office.  Since then, their has been no official resolution on the matter.

Back in February, the Racial Justice Program of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation based out of New York reached out to the Office of Civil Rights for a status update.  This is what they received back:

OCRLetter21916

None of the charter schools listed in the complaint officially changed any of their admissions policies as a result of this.  The Delaware Enrollment Preferences Task Force submitted their final report to the General Assembly shortly before the holidays last year, and not one piece of legislation has come out to address the issues.  There is still a great amount of inequity in some Delaware charters compared to their neighboring school districts.  I find it ironic both the Delaware DOE and the US DOE are so concerned about civil rights groups when it comes to high-stakes testing and how opt out could bring us back to “dark days” as some have put it.  But when it comes to visible and transparent discrimination and segregation, the one office in the federal Government who could actually do something about it is sitting on it.

In looking at the OCR website at ed.gov there have been OCR complaints filed and resolved after the Delaware ACLU and Delaware Community Legal Aid filed their complaint.  One was filed in September of 2015 and received a resolution in February of this year.  The only cases showing from Delaware involved ones with Colonial School District, PolyTech and Family Foundations Academy from 2014.  The longstanding Christina OCR resolution doesn’t show on the list because it only counts resolutions from 2013 and up.

I don’t see civil rights groups in Wilmington screaming about this.  Why is that?  When it comes to education and segregation, this is a shining example.  Why are they so quiet on this issue but will say they know Smarter Balanced is a bad test but it is the only measurement for minority students to know if they are succeeding or not compared to their peers?  I have to wonder how much influence the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell may have in making this drag out.  Or possibly even higher up than them.  Are any of our Delaware congressmen following up on this?  John Carney?  Tom Carper?  Chris Coons?  Or how about even Delaware’s own Vice-President Joe Biden?  I’m certain this isn’t a resolution the Delaware Charter Schools Network wants to come out any time soon.

We need to rally civil rights groups on issues like this and not ones about opposition of parent opt out of high-stakes tests.  I am calling on ALL Civil Rights groups to hammer the Office of Civil Rights office in Philadelphia, phone number (215) 656-8541, to make sure they are not stalling on this very important case.

Thank you to Richard Morse, Esq. for the Delaware ACLU in responding to my request to his office for information and allowing me to publish the response from the Office of Civil Rights.

Governor Jack Markell & Johnnie Cochran: Parallel Lines & Big Mistakes

American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson concluded on Tuesday night.  Based on the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the show brought the O.J. Simpson saga from 1994-1995 back to life.  During this time, Jack Markell was making a name for himself in the business world.  The parallels between Johnnie Cochran’s defense of O.J. and Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s defense of high-stakes testing are uncanny.

To be very clear, there is no doubt in my mind O.J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.  DNA evidence proved that conclusively with the blood found in his Bronco and in various areas around the Brentwood Estate.  The reason he was found not guilty was because the trial turned into a racial matter instead of a criminal one.  Even defense attorney Robert Shapiro admitted to playing the “race card” in the trial.  During the show, it became obvious that defense attorney Johnnie Cochran insisted on turning the already explosive murder trial into a black vs. white thing.  What didn’t help the defense at all was the very racist views of former Los Angeles detective Mark Furman and questions that arose concerning the bungling or planting of evidence by the Los Angeles Police Department.

JohnnieCochran

For the past twenty years, Delaware has embarked on one standardized test after another.  The purpose behind these tests, at least from the viewpoint of education “reformers”, is to close the equity gaps between minorities and their white peers.  As parents in Delaware decided to opt their children out of taking these tests, Governor Jack Markell continued to point out this divide.  With big money and high-profile names supporting him, Markell sold the “need” for the Smarter Balanced Assessment through a false defense for at-risk students along with intimidating threats by the US Department of Education.

Both Markell and Cochran seemed to think bringing race into a controversial issue was a smart idea to defend something bad.  O.J. Simpson, once again in my opinion, brutally killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend.  High-stakes standardized tests serve no other purpose than to give faulty data to corporations to further perpetuate the cycle of showing these “gaps” between minorities and their peers.

When things got tough during the O.J. trial, Cochran turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black people.  This galvanized the trial into two camps.  Most white people felt O.J. was guilty but most African-Americans felt he was either innocent or didn’t care if he did it and felt a verdict of not guilty was warranted based on past injustices against African-Americans.  As the show vividly displayed when the verdict of not guilty was read, white people gasped and African-Americans cheered.  It didn’t seem to matter what the scientific and forensic evidence in the trial showed.  It became a race issue.

When things got tough during the House Bill 50 opt out legislation last year, Markell and his friends at the Rodel Foundation turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black students.  The News Journal displayed an ad showing Delaware civil rights groups urging the Delaware General Assembly not to pass HB50.  When the bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly, Markell vetoed the bill and sought out public comment from members of Delaware civil rights groups to support the Smarter Balanced Assessment and rail against the opt out movement.

JMarkell

Cochran felt the O.J. trial was symptomatic of the problems African-Americans faced in the USA.  He believed far too many African-American faced arrest and imprisonment simply for the color of their skin.  He was right, but Cochran refused to believe his client was even possible of the murders.  As a result, his fierce advocacy for the true violations of civil rights of African-Americans blinded him to the preponderance of evidence which should have supported a guilty verdict.  His job was to defend his client, but the trial became a race issue because of how he conducted himself and he used the mistakes of the L.A. Police to highlight the racial divide.  Granted, Mark Furman and his very racist views didn’t help the prosecution, but race became the issue, not the murders of two people.

Many reports have come out about the very faulty state assessments in America.  Based on the Common Core standards, these tests are given once a year to students and the thresholds for the scores allow x amount of students to be proficient and the majority to be not proficient.  Clear and graphic data has shown these tests are more an indication of socio-economic levels in society than true academic progress.  This data, which has produced vast amounts of profit for testing companies and “education research” foundations and non-profits, is abused by those who want to increase the divide between at-risk students and their peers.  Politicians like Governor Markell are on the side of these companies, not the students, and especially not African-Americans.  Their agendas and testing schemes have disrupted education to such a degree that ordinary parents have chosen to pull their children out of these unnecessary and burdensome tests.

Both Cochran and Markell used the issues of the day to further matters that truly were not about race.  Cochran wanted a not guilty verdict for OJ Simpson and Markell wants a guilty verdict for schools with low-income students and high amounts of at-risk students.  By bringing race into their arguments, they have not advanced the cause for what they say.  They both caused the divide to widen.  In the end, OJ Simpson wound up being found guilty in a civil trial against him and is now serving time in prison for kidnapping and theft.  In the end, parents are still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and many in the African-American community are beginning to question if these tests truly are useful.

OJSimpson

Over twenty years later, many in the African-American community believe OJ Simpson committed the murders.  As OJ sits in a Nevada prison, pending parole next year, the true victims of his actions are the two people whose murderer was never found guilty by a jury.  As well, OJ’s children will forever live with the facts and the doubts in their minds about the results of what happened on June 12th, 1994.  Johnnie Cochran passed in 1995.  He will always be remembered for getting the not guilty verdict for his client, OJ Simpson.  Sadly, he won’t be remembered for advancing the true civil rights issues that continue to plague so many in the African-American community.

Meanwhile, as estimates come in of over 300,000 students opted out of the state assessment in New York and an unknown amount here in Delaware, the media is once again torn on the usefulness of these high-stakes tests.  Governor Markell has been very quiet on the issue this year, perhaps learning from the mistakes he made last year by reacting to the opt out movement in Delaware.  The true victims in this high-stakes education game are the children in 3rd to 8th grade, forced to either take a test that bears no worthwhile results to further their academic progress or be opted out by their parents with some schools fighting the parents tooth and nail over their decision.  As well, the parents who are forced to fight schools, the teachers who would much rather instruct students meaningfully instead of wasting all this time over a silly test, and the school administrators who feel the need to fight parents because of threats of funding cuts and false labels against their schools.  Standardized testing has done nothing to stop the very dangerous school-to-prison pipeline in Delaware.  If anything, it caused an increase as more at-risk students felt like failures based on the results of the very faulty tests and their self-confidence eroded to such a degree that they felt school was not a valid option.  Is it any wonder crime and violence increased in Wilmington the same years high-stakes testing increased?  Where is that study?

SchoolToPrisonPipeline

Cochran and Markell, two men of power, twenty years and 2,700 miles apart from each other, both used race to bring the wrong conclusion to bad events.  Their actions didn’t make things better.  They only made them worse.  History will eventually show the truth in both matters.  Race should never be used to support bad ideas.  Civil rights groups should not defend a man who openly admitted to beating his wife, was accused of killing her and her boyfriend, ran from the police, and then made a mockery of the very same community that defended him.  Civil rights groups should not use children in agendas to advance their cause, especially when they are receiving vast amounts of money from the very same foundations and companies that support the high-stakes testing environment that is putting labels on their communities.  It is deceptive and doesn’t help the ones they should be advocating for.

The injustices perpetrated against the African-American community are wrong.  No man or woman or child should be labeled or judged based on the color of their skin.  By showing false divides, we are not helping them, we are harming them.

Governor Markell & National PTA President To Take Part In “Testing Bill Of Rights” To Stop Opt Out

Here we go!  Right when high-stakes testing season is in full swing!  None other than Delaware Governor Jack “I disrespect parents” Markell will participate in a conference call along with National PTA President Laura “I stuck it to the Delaware PTA” Bay along with other civil rights representatives to call for a “Testing Bill Of Rights”.  I should have seen this one coming.  Is this part of the Governor’s official schedule as posted on his website?  Of course not.  This is sponsored by yet another think tank called the Center for American Progress.  So I must ask, which group that Markell is associated with is paying for this?  The National Governor’s Association?

 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Testing Bill of Rights Launch Press Conference Call

 

What: Governor Markell will participate in the testing Bill of Rights Launch Press Call– Joined by Center for American Progress Vice President of Education Policy Catherine Brown, National Parent Teacher Association President Laura Bay, New York Urban League President Arva Rice, and Queens Collegiate Teacher Rhashida Abdul-Malik, the Governor will participate in the testing Bill of Rights Launch conference call for members of the media. The call will focus on the right of teachers, parents, and students to high-quality tests that accurately assess student learning and help teachers understand how to improve instruction.

Who:   Governor Markell

              National PTA President

Paul Fanuele, President-elect, School Administrators Association of New York

New York Urban League President Arva Rice

Queens Collegiate Teacher Rhashida Abdul-Malik

            
WhenThursday, March 24th at 10:30 a.m. 

DIAL-IN INFORMATION: For dial-in information, RSVP to Allison Preiss at the Center for American Progress at apreiss@americanprogress.org or 202.478.6331

I love how the Governor’s office didn’t even put National PTA President Laura Bay’s name on this.  I thought I should check this out on the Center for American Progress website, and this is what it said in their official press release which you can find on their website:

The Testing Bill of Rights aims to help move toward better, fairer, and fewer tests and reduce burden on students and educators.

Washington, D.C. — With standardized test season approaching across the United States, educators and civil rights and education groups—along with Delaware Governor Jack Markell—will hold a press call on Thursday to unveil a Testing Bill of Rights. The Testing Bill of Rights articulates a middle ground on standardized tests through which tests are in service of instruction, not the other way around. The Testing Bill of Rights aims to help move toward better, fairer, and fewer tests and reduce burden on students and educators.

The Testing Bill of Rights arrives when many parents and students have felt real frustration with school assessments. At the same time, the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in December, retains the requirement that states test all students in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school. However, the law also greatly reduces the stakes of state tests for schools and teachers—creating an ideal opportunity for states and school districts to revisit their approaches to testing.

The Testing Bill of Rights is centered around the idea that tests should serve as a tool to identify areas of improvement in order to ensure that every child has an opportunity to be ready for college or the workforce, and to identify persistent learning gaps that have pervaded in some communities—including communities of color—for decades. Rather than opting out of such assessments altogether, the focus should be to ensure that all students and families get an accurate and honest assessment of their progress towards career and college readiness, while making sure that such tests are less burdensome for students and teachers, and are used as a tool to help students grow and improve.

WHAT:

Press call on the Testing Bill of Rights: The Case For Better, Fewer, and Fairer Tests

WHO:

  • Catherine Brown, Vice President for Education Policy, Center for American Progress
  • Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware
  • Laura Bay, President, National PTA
  • Arva Rice, President and CEO, New York Urban League
  • Paul Fanuele, President-elect, School Administrators Association of New York; Executive Principal of Arlington High School, LaGrangeville, New York
  • Rhashida Abdul-malik, Queens Collegiate, Teacher

WHEN:

Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. EST

DIAL-IN INFORMATION: For dial-in information, RSVP to Allison Preiss at apreiss@americanprogress.org or 202.478.6331.

###

 

In another words, these stewards of corporate education reform are saying “Don’t opt out!  You’re going to screw up the data!  The data is important.  We must have the data!!!!!!”  Governor Markell is THE most parent un-friendly Governor in our country.  And guess what, he will continually say opting out is a civil rights issue and it will put us back to the days when low-income and African-American communities were marginalized in society.  And yet the whole high-stakes testing enterprise is designed to do just that.  This guy will never learn.  This is a good sign though for opt out.  When parents start opting out, our Governor gets testy and starts doing lame things like this.  He is a sore loser and can’t stand anyone questioning his authority.  This is the same Jack who jumped over a candlestick and vetoed an opt out bill in Delaware honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The bill passed with an overwhelming majority in the Delaware House and Senate last Spring.

As for National PTA President Laura Bay, this doesn’t really shock me.  This is the same woman who works as a testing coordinator in her school district and shamed the Delaware PTA into compliance over supporting opt out.  It’s not surprising that the Governor of high-stakes testing would hook up with the not-really-representing parents Queen of the PTA.  And then throw in a civil rights advocate, a head of an administrator association in New York, and a teacher from Queens, and you have Jack’s hand-picked “we love testing and screw the kids and parents” group.

We all know Jack Markell is in bed with corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, the Gates Foundation, and all the rest.  It’s not a question of if he even likes opt out or not.  He can’t like it.  He is the front guy for a lot of companies and Wall Street investors, just itching for the upcoming personalized learning spree they are about to embark on.  And testing is a huge part of it.  It’s the string that binds the Common Core-career pathways-personalized learning-competency-based education quilt together.  It’s just a shame he can’t be the front guy for the people that matter the most: his constituents, those who voted for him (regrettably) and the children.

Who wants to start a real “Parents sticking up for their kids against bullies who should know better” Bill of Rights club?  Let me know!

Updated: I’ve just learned this was originally supposed to be some type of event in New York City and this think thank has been pushing this “testing bull of rights” nonsense for a while now.  It is now just a phone call.  I can only laugh and laugh and laugh…

Here are some pictures, one of the original event and the other for the cancellation:

Cent4AmerProgTweet

edprogresstweet

The Guy The US Senate Will Never Confirm (aka John King) Is Visiting Delaware On Friday

John_B__King,_Jr_2015

That didn’t take long.  The former New York City superintendent of schools, who is now the Acting US Secretary of Education is coming to Wilmington on Friday.  Have any Secretaries of Education ever bothered to check out our schools outside Wilmington?  Anyways, John King is coming to Kuumba Academy this Friday, and afterwards he is having a chat with civil rights leaders.  Probably about opt-out and how we can fix the low-income, poverty-stricken schools with more corporate education reform, personalized learning, less assessments that actually help, and more Smarter Balanced type tests to keep the hedge funders nice and rich.  Throw in some competency-based education for good measure…  I’m sure the Governor will be in attendance as well.

And once again, only “credentialed” journalists are allowed.  For God’s sake, keep the damn bloggers away!

cantbloghere

John King is Acting Secretary because the US Senate will never confirm the guy.  Talk to New Yorkers who are against education reform and they will tell you stories all night long!  Of course he is going to Kuumba Academy in the Community Education Building.  Maybe he would have gone to Delaware Met had they not shut down three days early.  That would have been an eye-opener!

Here is the official press release from Alison May down at the DOE:

ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION KING TO VISIT DELAWARE FRIDAY

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King will visit Wilmington Friday as part of his Opportunity Across America tour to discuss the state’s efforts to improve and reduce testing.

King will visit a classroom at Kuumba Academy Charter School prior to joining two roundtable discussions at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The roundtables will include an assessment discussion with district and state leaders and legislators as well as a second meeting with civil rights advocates.

Credentialed journalists are invited to join King for the following:

9:20 a.m.                                           Classroom visit (Kuumba Academy)

9:30 a.m.                                           Hour-long roundtable discussion about better assessments

10:40 a.m.                                         Press availability

10:55 a.m.                                         Hour-long roundtable discussion with civil rights advocates

Members of the media who would like to join the visit should RSVP to Alison.May@doe.k12.de.us by noon on Thursday, Jan. 21.

Governor Markell Sends The Washington Post Editorial Hit Squad To Disrespect Delaware Parents Even More

The Washington Post, owned by the owner of Amazon, just published an editorial about the potential override of Delaware Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, our opt-out legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate last Spring.  They are very much against the override.  The owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, is a very well-known charter school supporter.  Many feel the true purpose of tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC tests is to label and shame traditional public schools to the point where they are put in “turnaround” status and then become charter schools.

I found the editorial staff’s column to be absolutely wrong on so many levels.

Credit to Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D), then, for standing up for accountability in vetoing a bill that would encourage parents to exempt their children from state tests.

The accountability where he made our Delaware Department of Education impose harsh opt-out penalties on our Delaware School Success Framework after our Secretary of Education said it would most likely not happen?  Accountability where students with high populations of minorities, low-income and poverty students, and students with disabilities don’t perform well on “the best test Delaware ever made”?  But yet Jack Markell can’t be accountable to the legislators that voted overwhelmingly in support of parental rights.  He dishonored them and parents with his cowardly veto.

In fact, parents can already prevent their children from taking these tests. But the legislation would give an imprimatur of state approval that would lead more parents to think it’s okay, even desirable, for children to duck these tests.

The legislation says absolutely nothing about that whatsoever.  It merely codifies a parental right and stops school districts and charter schools from strong-arming parents when they opt their children out.  If parents can already prevent their children from taking these tests, than why is our state not doing anything to stop school districts and charters from intimidating and bullying parents?  And yet, this editorial says absolutely nothing about the protections offered to students: they are to have alternate educational activities and they will not be punished by the school for the parent’s decision.

That, as Mr. Markell told us, would be bad policy. “Assessments are an important tool for teachers and families to have,” he said. Backing his decision are civil rights groups that fear minority and other at-risk students will slip through the cracks if there is no objective measure of performance and business groups that believe results should be measured when billions of dollars are spent on schools.

The same civil rights groups that get massive donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?  They are full of it and care more about their own bottom line than the students they claim to represent.

No doubt there is frustration with what some see as excessive testing, but the solution is not a knee-jerk boycott. Instead, there needs to be, as is being done in Delaware, a thoughtful inventory of tests to eliminate those that are redundant or otherwise unnecessary.

That thoughtful assessment inventory where the ONLY parent on the task force is one appointed by the Governor?  And stacked up with many of his education go-to legislators?  The one that will most likely get rid of assessments that actually do help students and will give rise to more Smarter Balanced interim tests?  That thoughtful process?

If they want to continue to have bragging rights in improving education, they need to preserve accountability and not give in to interest groups that oppose a clear view of how their schools are performing.

Trust me, the only ones bragging about Delaware education are the Governor and our DOE.  We know how our schools are performing, thank you very much, and it is all based on a lie called standardized tests used not for their original purpose but to test, label, and punish our schools.  They are socio-economic in nature and all they do is tell us what a child’s zip code is in many cases. 

 

Rep. Kowalko & Senator Lawson Slam Markell’s HB50 Veto With Style & Facts!!

With permission from State Rep. John Kowalko to publish his letter that appeared on Delawareonline earlier this afternoon!

Markell Veto…..Opt-out or Cop-out

                It has been one week since we received Governor Markell’s message that he had vetoed House Bill 50 (the parental opt out rights bill). We feel it is our obligation, as responsible lawmakers, to thoroughly review and consider all aspects of Governor Markell’s stated reasons for vetoing this legislation.
Unfortunately, we found little if any reasonable logic to the Governor’s action and explanation. Quite frankly, there were a few questionable inaccuracies in the statement that lead us to believe that Governor Markell’s action was premeditated with little thought given to the overwhelming support from parents, teachers, administrators, school boards, and the General Assembly for HB 50.
We made every effort to grasp the argument that the administration was trying to make, but the indefatigable truth remains that he had no logical reason to reject the wishes of the parents and lawmakers and instead chose to diminish the seriousness of the “opt-out” movement with a series of unsubstantiated arguments.
The third paragraph of the Governor’s veto statement suggests that educators and school leaders opposed the legislation when, in fact, the reality is that HB 50 and parental opt-out rights are supported, unequivocally, by the DSEA and its membership and the Delaware PTA and its membership. There were also three of the largest and poorest school districts in the state–Christina, Red Clay, and Capital–who voted for and passed resolutions supporting parental opt-out rights. Also noticeable in its deliberate exaggeration is the Governor’s contention that the civil rights “community” opposed the legislation, while refusing to acknowledge that a larger portion of that community did not oppose “opt-out” legislation. Particularly offensive was the language in the fourth paragraph that stated, “if struggling students are disproportionately encouraged to opt out as has happened elsewhere, we may not be able to identify the children who need intervention to be successful.” Unfortunately, this type of hyperbole paints a false picture of the situation in many ways. There is no proof available or offered that a “disproportionate encouragement “of students to opt out has “happened elsewhere.” There is no evidence whatsoever that the test that will be used in Delaware does or will identify children who need intervention. Most importantly, HB 50 does not and cannot be used to encourage or discourage participation in the assessment test.
The fifth paragraph posits the unsubstantiated and unproven assertion that “students with disabilities and students of color have benefitted the most from the adoption of statewide testing requirements.” There is no valid data that would suggest this to be an accurate statement of fact. Out of respect for the office of the Governor, we will temper our comments regarding the deliberate misrepresentation of reality in that sentence and its intention to instill fear and doubt in the minority and disabled communities.
Governor Markell, in his veto statement, also suggests that HB 50 was a construct of those who feel that children are over-tested. This completely misses the point that the legislation is exclusively about parental and child rights to not participate in this specific, unproven, time-consuming distraction called the “Smarter Balanced Assessment,” which hinders their ability to learn expediently and prevents appropriately identifying their shortcomings and needs to succeed. The fact that this administration chooses to engage in the politics of distraction that could result in useful and proven tests being shunned to the detriment of students and educators speaks volumes against the Governor’s decision to veto HB 50.
In conclusion, after having thoroughly examined the Governor’s stated positions on parental opt-out rights and because of the enormous public support expressed for HB 50 by educators (DSEA), parents and families (PTA), school administrators (Capital, Christina, and Red Clay resolutions), and the huge majority of General Assembly members who supported HB 50, we have decided that it is our sworn responsibility to our constituents and all Delawareans to bring HB 50 to the floor in January for a veto override vote.

Representative John Kowalko 25th District, 14 Kells Ave. Newark De. 19711    302 547 9351
Senator Dave Lawson 15th Senatorial District  302 270 1038

Governor Markell Is Claiming The General Assembly Hasn’t Sent Him House Bill 50…He Still Doesn’t Like The Bill…

Commenter Delawareway posted the following earlier this afternoon:

Kevin, check out the interview on WHYY’s First this week with Markell. He gets a few whammers and gives a sour-faced, lame-ass delivery when answering all of the reporter’s ‘difficult’ education policy digs.

And Jack Markell is going with the crap talk that testing policy is a civil right in defense of ‘not liking HB 50 – the opt out bill.

The governor claims that the legislature hasn’t ‘sent him the bill yet’. FABRICATION. He calls for which bill he wants and, because the DEMs are in charge, he is in COMPLETE control of when he will be facing the rule of the 10 days to decide to sign a bill or not after receipt from the legis.

She claims Governor Markell is full of it!  When I called Governor Markell’s office about this, I was promised an answer by the following Monday.  That was a week ago.  What is he waiting for?  For school to be in session so even more parents will be pissed off at him for not signing it yet?

In listening to the interview with WHYY, he had a lot of “uhs” and “uhms” when asked about the opt-out bill.  He gave the usual “falling through the cracks” in supporting the civil rights groups.  Here’s one for you Jack: my kid is special needs, which is supported by several civil rights groups who do support parent opt-out.  Sign the damn bill!

You can listen to the Governor uh and uhm about opt-out here:

http://video.whyy.org/video/2365526201/

President Barack Obama, Arne Duncan & Delaware Governor Jack Markell Pull The Race Card Over Education

President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell continue to pull the issue of race into education.  Every time they talk about the proficiency gaps in low-income schools, they fail to mention the very mechanism by which these gaps are allowed to flourish: standardized assessments.  It’s a Catch-22 for a lot of folks.  If you disagree with them or their minions, you are accused of not caring about black kids.  If you agree with them, it looks like you are selling out traditional public school districts.

As Civil Rights groups speak out on the ESEA reauthorization, we already have veto threats by President Obama on either the House or Senate acts.  He has not come right out and said it, but he is given strong notions he doesn’t support either legislation.  Arne Duncan is pulling the Urban League president to support not getting rid of standardized assessments.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell openly said he “doesn’t like” a parent opt-out bill that would codify a parent’s right to opt their children out of the state standardized assessment, citing as one of his reasons that minority children would be disadvantaged.

I take great issue with even the tiniest implication that I don’t care about minorities.  As my son is a special needs student, he already is a minority just by the very nature of his rare disability.  Many of the children in the schools that need TRUE help the most, have all three: poverty, disabilities, and a minority status.

The bottom line is this: there is far too much federal and state control in education.  The result of this is students who are tested incessantly, teachers who are judged based on these test scores, and an out of control charter school industry that doesn’t play by the rules and the states and feds allow it.  By openly stating the bottom schools aren’t doing well in the environment Obama, Duncan, and many state governors created, is all the proof we need that what we have now just isn’t working.

As Smarter Balanced and PARCC scores start to trickle in from assessments given in Spring, we are seeing these great tests are no better than what came before.  It will show standardized assessments with high-stakes are not a true measurement of student’s abilities.  But it will show they need improvement, allowing more state and federal dollars to go to “consultants” who will “fix” our schools.  And the cycle does on and on, unless Congress finally steps up and does what is truly right for America’s public school students.

The first step they need to take is implementing all promised Title I and IDEA funding as originally approved.  Until they do that, nothing is going to improve for low-income, minority, and students with disabilities until they get the proper resources they need: lower classroom sizes, more special education services tailored for their individual IEPs, more education regarding these issues to educators and staff, and true educator-parent-student relationships with a collaborative effort.  It doesn’t matter what you call a curriculum or a standard, if you don’t have the basics down in terms of having an equitable school, nothing else matters.

Over 200 Civil Rights Groups & Organizations Urge U.S. Senate To Ban High-Stakes Testing, Halt Charter Expansion, & Give Full Title I Funding

Yesterday, 175 Civil Rights Groups and associations of the Journey For Justice Alliance wrote the U.S. Senate about their demands for reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act.  This is in sharp contrast to the small number of civil rights groups who have spoke out against parent opt-out the past few months.  These groups say what so many of us have been saying all along: high-stakes testing is extremely dangerous for students  with low-income and/or minority status and students with disabilities.  From the press release, announced today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 7, 2015

CONTACT: Rachel Tardiff, Rachel@FitzGibbonMedia.com, 202.746.1507

Nearly 200 Civil Rights, Community Groups Send Letter to Senate Demanding Fair & Equitable Reforms to ESEA Reauthorization

Groups Highlight Disproportionate Consequences of Testing for Black & Brown Students, Demand End to High Stakes Testing in Public Schools

This week, the Journey for Justice Alliance—a coalition of parents, students, teachers, and community & civil rights organizations—along with 175 other national and local grassroots, youth, and civil rights organizations, sent a letter to Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid demanding that high stakes tested be removed from the civil rights provisions within the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill currently being debated in Congress. Instead, the groups are calling for an end to school closures and privatization and investment in sustainable community schools with well-balanced assessments and challenging and varied curriculum.

In the letter, the groups state: “We respectfully disagree that the proliferation of high stakes assessments and top-down interventions are needed in order to improve our schools.  We live in the communities where these schools exist.  What, from our vantage point, happens because of these tests is not improvement.  It’s destruction.”

Read the full letter here: http://www.j4jalliance.com/media/openletter/

The letter continues: “High stakes standardized tests have been proven to harm Black and Brown children, adults, schools and communities. Curriculum is narrowed. Their results purport to show that our children are failures. They also claim to show that our schools are failures, leading to closures or wholesale dismissal of staff.  Children in low-income communities lose important relationships with caring adults when this happens. Other good schools are destabilized as they receive hundreds of children from closed schools. Large proportions of Black teachers lose their jobs in this process, because it is Black teachers who are often drawn to commit their skills and energies to Black children.  Standardized testing, whether intentionally or not, has negatively impacted the Black middle class, because they are the teachers, lunchroom workers, teacher aides, counselors, security staff and custodians who are fired when schools close.”

 “The organizations that join us in this letter represent thousands of students who have peacefully walked out of school to protest discriminatory practices, the tens of thousands of parents who have protested school closings and demanded equity.  These are the people who know that they don’t have the choice of a strong neighborhood school. They know that we deserve better,” said Jitu Brown, the director of the Journey for Justice Alliance.

The groups reaffirm four primary ESEA demands established in a letter sent by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS)—a signatory on this week’s letter—to House and Senate leadership in March. Those demands include:

·      $1 billion in funding to increase the number of sustainable community schools, which provide an array of wrap around services and after school programs and engaging, relevant, challenging curriculum while supporting quality teaching and transformative parent & community engagement;

·      $500 million for restorative justice coordinators and training to promote positive approached to discipline;

·      Full resourcing of Title I of the ESEA, including $20 billion in funding this year for schools that serve the most low income students, building to the 40% increase in funding for poor schools originally envisioned in the legislation;

·      A moratorium on the federal Charter Schools Program.

###

Journey for Justice (J4J) is an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations demanding community-driven alternatives to the privatization of and dismantling of public schools systems and organizing in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and nationally, for an equitable and just education system.

In reviewing the list of organizations on the website, I see NO mention of any Delaware Civil Rights groups or organizations.  In fact, they have openly opposed the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50, even going so far as to take out a full-page ad along with The Rodel Foundation and the Delaware Business Roundtable, who have long supported charter expansion and high-stakes testing in Delaware.

If You Thought The First Delaware PTA Letter Sent To The House Was Great, Wait Until You See This One! Slam Dunk!

I have to say I am extremely impressed!  Delaware PTA made a very wise choice when they chose Laurie Howard to represent them with the House of Representatives on tomorrow’s House Bill 50 vote.  She tackles the very controversial issues of parent opt-out affecting federal funding and the implications of standardized testing for urban minority kids.  What she essentially did was take all the crap the DOE, Markell, Rodel, and civil rights groups have been throwing our way, put them in a blender, and made some delicious opt-out soup!

This says submission 2 of 3.  What is #3 going to say?  I can’t wait for this!

Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman & His Vehement Opposition To Parent Opt-Out Speech

Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware gave a very long oppositional speech to parent opt-out and House Bill 50 the other day at the Senate Education Committee.  I’m going to post his full comment, and then I will react to it.  I will be posting various public comments over the next two to three days, and I will include the time stamps from my recording of the meeting to show how much time each speaker was allotted.

Paul Herdman, Rodel Foundation of Delaware, 32:49-38:28

So, my name is Paul Herdman, I’m with the Rodel Foundation. I’ve got three kids in Delaware schools.  I was a teacher myself for seven years.  I’ve worked for two governors in Massachusetts on education policy and I’ve been here for the past eleven years trying to actually bring public and private players together on accommodation around education.  And frankly, this is the first time I’ve actually come and spoken in front of this in eleven years.  And I oppose HB50.  I support the resolution.  What I want to try and to do is two things.  One, clarify the issue.  And then speak to some unintended consequences.  So to touch the issue, I think there is a lot of frustration around testing.  And I think this has become the focal point for a lot of different issues.  You have some folks who just don’t like Common Core, and they are supportive of this because it seems like it’s against Common Core.  You have some who see this as truly a parent’s rights issue.  That’s true, but I think one of the challenges is that some people are concerned about the Smarter Balanced test itself, but there are some who looking at this as a way to invalidate the test overall.  Senator Matthews, who was a sponsor, I mean Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of the bill in the House, said to the News Journal a couple of different times, one, a teacher, legislator and a member of the House Education committee encouraged all parents to consider exercising their right to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test, and he says further, in a subsequent article, “Kowalko and I are hoping that enough parents are getting out of the Smarter Balanced test, that the data becomes invalid.” (at this point Rep Kowalko interrupts at 34:30)

State Rep. John Kowalko: Excuse me Mr. Chairman, I never made that quote and I never made that statement and I find it unfair that you’re going to quote out of a paper what I said I never said.

Herdman: No, I, Senator…

Kowalko: You said it…

Herdman: Yes, and I’m saying that’s inaccurate.

(little bit of back and forth between Herdman and Kowalko, Senator Sokola steps in, ends at 35:02)

Herdman: Representative Matthews said, I’m just quoting what was in the paper, but, so Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of this, let’s leave Representative Kowalko out of this issue, Matthews says, that he hopes enough parents are getting out of the test that the data becomes invalid.  Now, the concern with that is that what do you do next?  Right?  So maybe we don’t like this particular test, who’s going to pay for and design the new test?  It takes, right, so how would that play out, because it costs millions of dollars to actually design a test, it takes year to actually do the pilot testing, etcetera etcetera, what’s next?  And the other piece is maybe you don’t want a test at all in terms of math and reading, but that doesn’t seem to work either.  The three unintended consequences that I would just like to point out are 1) virtually every civil rights group in the country and in Delaware have come out to say they oppose opt-out.  So you’ve got everybody in the United Negro College Fund (someone in the audience is heard saying “That’s not true.”), You’ve got the NAACP, you’ve got the Urban League, Latin Community Center, have said they do not support opt-out, and the reasons for that are if you make the test invalid for some students, it makes it invalid for all students.  And the concern is that, for civil rights groups on particular, they’ve been working a long time to make sure those students are counted, and there have been dark days when kids were encouraged to opt out to raise overall test scores.  So they don’t want to return to those days.  The second thing that is an unintended consequence is that if the test becomes invalid, that you undermine the trust in the public school system.  Now we spend a fill third of our budget on education, that’s over a billion dollars.  So the concern is that, that particularly in the business community, that if we do not have a valid test, you’re going to lose trusts amongst them.  In particular, there are folks who are concerned that they just may walk away, that they may not have enough confidence in the system, that in terms of passing referendums and things like that, it’s going to become more and more difficult.  We don’t have a valid test.  Trust in the system is the second piece.  The third pieces that I’ll just leave you with is that we get $90 million a year, in federal funds, for Title I students.  We get those dollars, with the commitment, that we will show how those kids are doing.  These are for low-income kids.  Now, the U.S. Department of Education has written letters to say that those dollars could be at risk.  And when we are facing a $100 million dollar deficit this year, it’s going to be worse next year, we can’t afford to risk losing any of those dollars going into the next year and there’s no, I guess my concern is that the current bill is more than a parents rights issue.  They could have broad implications for our most vulnerable students and could undermine the thing they trust in the public education system if we don’t have a consistent and comparable assessment over time.  So that’s my concern, and I do believe that the resolution could be a more thoughtful way to look at all of our tests and how they are used, cause I believe there needs to be some course corrections but I don’t believe House Bill 50 is the right way to go.  Thank you.

The first thing I want to say is Dr. Herdman is a very good public speaker in the respect that he can be very persuasive with an audience.  I have seem him speak on YouTube, and he masters the use of his hands in luring an audience to effectively listen to him.  During this speech, he used the word “Right?” after several of his points, as if to reaffirm his statements to which most people would say “Yes” in their head.  I didn’t because I have super powers to render myself immune to that sort of thing, but many people could fall under that spell.

I disagree with most of Dr. Herdman’s comments.  I don’t believe trying to link public and private players has provided a good outcome for education in general.  It has brought more inequity than not.  Dr. Herdman is paid very handsomely to promote the Rodel Foundation’s agendas for education, more than any state, district, or charter employee in Delaware, and by a very wide margin.

The very same civil rights groups Herdman talks about are the same ones that represent vulnerable students the Rodel Foundation of Delaware has helped to put in a position of segregation in Delaware with their constant advocating for more charter schools.

I’ve already gone through the financial funding threats so many times, but for the record, one more time, that’s if the schools opt kids out, not parents.  But let’s bring that old chestnut out one more time.  In regards to returning to those “dark days”, Rodel’s actions have brought much more of the actions of those days than anything parent opt-out (not school opt-out) could ever do.

I have no qualms with Rep. Matthews quote in the News Journal, which he did say.  If a parent is going to go to all the trouble of opting their child out of a three day test, it would stand to reason it is because they don’t like the test.  If someone doesn’t like a test, of course they would want it to go away.  It is also very logical to assume if enough students are opted out the data the Rodel Foundation and the DOE want so badly would be rendered inert.  This isn’t a leap in science, and I fail to understand why Herdman would paint Rep. Matthews as the bad guy here.  I guess every side needs a villain, right Paul?

“Virtually every civil rights group in the country…”  This is completely false Dr. Herdman, and you know it.  28 national groups wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress in regards to the ESEA reauthorization in January and touched very briefly on the importance of these tests for the minorities, special needs, and low-income children they represent.  But in the beginning of April, only 12 remained to voice opposition of parent opt-out.  And as Kilroy pointed out so brilliantly, how many of those very same organizations are at the exact same physical address where your office is?

“If the test becomes invalid, you will undermine the trust in the public school system.”  If the test becomes invalid, this would validate the complete lack of trust we have in the test-makers, the DOE, and Governor Markell in terms of education.  And yes, it would invalidate your 11 years of work in Delaware as well, and that is your biggest fear in my opinion.  If Rodel and the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce are so concerned about potential deficits in Delaware, perhaps they could cash in their numerous hedge funds and actually fully support education, not just the ones they support for their own financial benefit.

Opt-Out Obliterates The Rigor Imposed On Our Kids, Is It Enough To Change Education In Delaware?

Will the eight members of the Senate Education Committee vote yes or no for House Bill 50 tomorrow?  My gut tells me yes.  It’s what happens afterwards that concerns me.  The legislation needs to move to a full Senate vote as soon as humanly possible after tomorrows vote.  The Delaware General Assembly has numerous bills in front of them.  Due to the Beau Biden viewing at Legislative Hall on Thursday, there is now one less day for legislative action this month before it comes to an end on June 30th.  And say it passes the Senate.  Will Governor Markell pass it, veto it, or sit on it?

Meanwhile, the News Journal is giving full court to parent opt-out and House Bill 50 opinions.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko and I wrote a piece which will appear in tomorrow’s newspaper (oddly enough, only I got credit for it but it was a co-authorship).  You can read this here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/06/02/parents-know-smarter-balance-test-bad-kids/28383361/

I really wanted to delve into the Smarter Balanced field test scores.  I always knew they were much lower than even I expected for the children in sub-groups of low-income, African-American and students with disabilities.  But actually studying them, and comparing them to DCAS scores was very revealing.  It really drove home the realization this test is designed for nothing more than failure, especially for these three sub-groups.  Which is also why I can’t believe any civil rights group would stick up for the effectiveness of this test.  This test is not about reaching that “higher bar”.  It’s about one thing, and one thing only: money.  Not money that will ever reach the classroom, but money that goes straight into investor pockets.  It’s the greatest scam of our generation: using education “need and necessity” to basically steal taxpayer money to get rich.  I can’t even keep track of all these education reform companies out there anymore.  But when all this is said and done, watch  them fold up their tents like a cheap carnival trying to get out of town as fast as they can.

What comes after?  Is there an easy solution?  I’m already hearing rising talk about school vouchers and more “personalized learning” on computers.  Meanwhile, district funding and how schools use their money is coming up more and more.  Apparently, it’s not even just charters being investigated in the State Auditor’s office, it’s also some school districts.  Education is reaching a boiling point in Delaware.  Radical ideas will come up.  It’s going to take a revolution to fix all this.  But I can promise you one thing, parents WILL be a part of whatever comes next.

We will not allow the future of our children to be tied into corporate money-making schemes ever again.  We closed our eyes when this all started, but our eyes are wide open now.  We won’t be fooled twice.  The DOE may or may not realize this false ideology is falling apart.  If I were a DOE employee, I would be getting my resume together fast.  When it does collapse, and all stands revealed, I would not want my name associated with any of it.

The more these civil rights groups and Delaware business leaders push this damaging test, the more citizens will being to wonder why they are advocating for such an irresponsible and short-sighted test.  If any of these businesses or groups are concerned about public perception, they might want to reconsider their DOE/Markell tainted stance.  Will the “Delaware Way” be enough to stop the wave of parents demanding accountability and transparency for the funds involved in this education craziness?  I doubt it.  If opt-out has proven anything, it’s that parents do have a very loud voice, and the more you fight us, the louder we get!

DOE Purposely Misleading Stakeholders On House Bill 50 & Parent Opt-Out With “Alternative” SJR #2

The Delaware Department of Education hates parent opt-out.  They can’t do anything about it.  They know this, yet they continually attempt to greatly exaggerate even the tiniest detail, blow it up, and then add layers to it.  Exceptional Delaware was able to get its hands on the actual document the DOE has been sending their “stakeholders” lately in regards to parent opt-out and House Bill 50.  What is very telling is the document doesn’t even have the DOE letterhead on it.  This is a Department that never misses a chance to spread their name, but on this document, it is oddly missing.  Notice how close some of the wording is to the recent Dover Post article on parent opt-out with Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s editorial.

You can see it in bold print: “There is an alternative- Senate Joint Resolution #2 has been introduced- looking at testing.”  Now if anyone doubts the validity of this document coming from the DOE since it doesn’t have their name on it, I would be more than happy to email it to you.  When you are in the PDF, and you click on file, go down to properties, and it shows you the author “Young Shana”.  Otherwise known as DOE employee Shana Young.  This was written by Young on May 22nd.  Now some of this may seem familiar.  That’s because we have heard it from the DOE numerous times.  What wasn’t included in this document was extra wording talking about the General Assembly not having “formal authority” over the assessment inventory with Senate Joint Resolution #2.

What I would like to know is who the DOE is sending these out to.  I put in a FOIA request for any emails from Shana Young from May 14th and May 15th to any superintendents in Delaware.  Because I know Miss Young knew about Senate Joint Resolution #2 at least five days before it was even introduced, and that would mean this information could have only come from the sponsors of the bill: either Earl Jaques or David Sokola.  I emailed Senator Sokola on Tuesday for more information on this mystery but he hasn’t responded at all.  I did get the FOIA going with the DOE, but I guess I’m not important enough for Senator Sokola.  But I’m sure if it was the DOE emailing him, he would come running.

This is the email I sent to Senator Sokola:

 

To
  • Sokola David

Dear Senator Sokola,

I’m just going to come right out and ask this.  Which legislation are you giving more weight to: House Bill 50 or Senate Joint Resolution #2?  I know your thoughts on parent opt-out based on your interview with Avi at WHYY, but this is not just about your opinion.  It’s about giving this legislation the forum it deserves.  The House passed this 36-3.  I know there is a lot on the Senate Education Committee’s agenda, and this is not the only education bill out there.  But it has been the most mentioned in media (and not just my blog).  We have never actually talked person to person, but I am not a lone wolf crying in the dark.  HB50 is supported by the vast majority of the public.  As parents, we already have the right to opt our kids out.  And we will continue to do so in growing numbers.  What we will not tolerate is the treatment parents have received from many of our schools in regards to opt-out.  As long as one parent is receiving heat from any one school, this matter will not die.

What concerns me the most though is SJR #2 and your history with Achieve Inc.  I know you have a long-standing association with Achieve Inc. and Michael Cohen, going back to 2008, if not longer.  Achieve is also the vendor on the assessment inventory the DOE is pushing so hard.  As well, I have seen a DOE email from the past couple weeks talking about SJR #2 to “stake-holders” stating that SJR #2 is an alternative to House Bill 50.  As well, this email from Shana Young stated that SJR #2 will give no “formal authority” to the results of the assessment inventory.  Since you and Jaques are the primary sponsors on SJR #2, it is obvious SJR #2 is more about killing HB50 than tackling assessment inventory.

You have the power to make sure HB50 is heard, and heard first in the Senate Education Committee meeting on 6/3.  Parents will show up, and it would be a tremendous disservice to make them wait, if it is even heard that day.  Parents are now part of the process on education in Delaware.  It would be a true shame to ignore them.

I think there needs to be an honest conversation about these backroom deals going on with the DOE and their contracted vendors.  It is getting out of hand, and these are funds that should be going to our children in the classroom. 

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Now since this email with no response went out, the agenda for the Senate Education Committee meeting on 6/3 has gone up, and it has both House Bill #50 and Senate Joint Resolution #2 on it, along with two major autism bills and a bill about identification of students with military connections.  There could be a chance HB 50 isn’t even heard that day and it is pushed back until the next week.  But I can promise you this: if Senate Joint Resolution #2 is heard, and not HB50, Sokola is going to generate a lot of heat and ire from ticked off parents.

In the meantime, I’m sure the DOE will be sending out more “talking points” filled with half-truths, outdated information, and outright lies.  Their high-stakes testing propaganda machine is running out of fuel, so they are obviously googling ANY editorials they can find from other states on civil rights groups opposition to opt-out.  And the 27 number they quote for national civil rights groups?  That changed to 12 last month.  So nice try DOE.  At least get something right!

And what does this line even mean: “Without assessment results that shows where these students need support, the support for these students disappears.” So the only support these children need is based off of Common Core standardized tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Okay!  Does that mean the DOE won’t give low-income, minority and special needs children support if they don’t take the standardized test?  Are you saying that no school or teacher gives these kids supports, ever?  This scare tactic doesn’t work cause it is based on a falsehood that Governor Markell and the DOE have promulgated onto the public.

They also wrote “Testing, without over-testing, is valuable and provides us important information for our students and schools.”  Who is the “us” Miss Young refers to?  And this line shows this testing is important for the DOE, but not the students and the schools.  They want this information so they can USE the student data so they can PUNISH the schools.

“Under current Delaware law, all students are required to take statewide assessments.”  No, they are not.  The schools are required to administer the tests, but children are NOT required to take them.  Nice play on words there.

And then we have the (yawn) whole Federal Funding cut threats (getting sleepy) and how Delaware can stand to lose $42 million on one page, and $44 on another, but all coming from the same source.  But it never comes right out (zzzzzzzzzzzz…Sorry!) and says it, but there is a “risk”.  Sorry DOE, if the Feds are going to cut Title I funding to schools, they aren’t going to start with Delaware.  They would start with New York or New Jersey, and they would have done it by now.  The only reason they haven’t is because they can’t.  So once again, thanks for the empty threats.

Here is my biggest question though: How can the Delaware DOE already know the Fiscal Year 2016 allocation for Title I funds?  What if a student switches schools?  I truly don’t know the answer to this one so if anyone does, please advise me!

Oh yeah, one other big thing… why is Shana Young, who works in the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE, writing opt-out talking points to stakeholders?  Wouldn’t something of that sort be covered under Penny Schwinn’s area, Office of Accountability, which has Assessment under that umbrella?  Could it be that standardized testing is more about Teacher and Leader Effectiveness than Accountability?  I’ll let you draw your own conclusion on that one dear readers!

For parents and citizens who are supportive of House Bill 50 and parent opt-out, but against Senate Joint Resolution #2 and assessment inventory, please email the legislators and let them know.  For quick reference, just copy and paste the below information:

Harris.McDowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Karen.Peterson@state.de.us bethany.hall-long@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us David.McBride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us Charles.Potter@state.de.us StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us helene.keeley@state.de.us gerald.brady@state.de.us melanie.g.smith@state.de.us debra.heffernan@state.de.us Bryon.Short@state.de.us Quinton.Johnson@state.de.us Kevin.Hensley@state.de.us sean.matthews@state.de.us jeff.speigelman@state.de.us Deborah.Hudson@state.de.us john.l.mitchell@state.de.us Peter.Schwartzkopf@state.de.us Valerie.Longhurst@state.de.us jj.johnson@state.de.us Michael.Mulrooney@state.de.us michael.barbieri@state.de.us kimberly.williams@state.de.us Steve.Smyk@state.de.us Michael.Ramone@state.de.us joseph.miro@state.de.us paul.baumbach@state.de.us Edward.Osienski@state.de.us john.kowalko@state.de.us John.Viola@state.de.us Earl.Jaques@state.de.us william.carson@state.de.us trey.paradee@state.de.us bobby.outten@state.de.us Sean.Lynn@state.de.us andria.bennett@state.de.us jack.peterman@state.de.us Lyndon.Yearick@state.de.us David.L.Wilson@state.de.us Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us Ronald.Gray@state.de.us Daniel.Short@state.de.us Timothy.Dukes@state.de.us Richard.G.Collins@state.de.us