How did Delaware Governor Jack Markell come up with the whole “assessment inventory” thing at Howard High School on March 12th, 2015? Was this the brainchild of the DOE and Markell? Or did an outside consultant actually come up with this idea as a counter to House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill? Governor Markell vetoed the bill which was passed by both the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate last month, and the DOE and Markell cited the assessment inventory legislation, Senate Joint Resolution #2 as the primary reason. The “too much testing” argument was the foil for parent opt-out, which I called the second I read about it on March 12th. I never waivered from this argument, and it turned out to be true.
A contract was developed with a company called “Colvin Communications”, based out of Washington D.C. which ran from March 12th to June 30th of this year. Upon a Google search, the only place “Colvin Communications” comes up is in this very contract. However, payments for this contract went out to the same person who signed the contract, Richard Colvin. In a search for a Delaware business license, I did find one for Colvin Communications and Richard Colvin. So it is a legitimate business. But why didn’t Colvin use the company he currently works for, Cross & Joftus?
Richard Colvin is a major education reporter, most known for his articles on The Hechinger Report, which he created. Colvin has been a very vocal advocate for education reform. And he has met Governor Jack Markell in the past! The contract between Richard Colvin and the DOE concerned communications strategies at the DOE. For his services, Colvin’s contract called for a fixed fee payment of $112,000.00 for a little over two and a half month’s work.
Where this gets very bizarre is the payments going to Richard Colvin on Delaware Online Checkbook. The contract ran from 3/12-6/30/15. So what services did Richard Colvin provide prior to this contract?
Department: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION – Vendor: RICHARD COLVIN
Period: FY 2015
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|Division||Category||Date of Payment||Amount||Payment Reference|
|DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION||OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE||4/7/2015||$30,880.00||421173|
|DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION||OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE||2/4/2015||$17,600.00||402579|
|DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION||OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE||6/9/2015||$27,200.00||442773|
|DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION||OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE||3/9/2015||$6,787.00||411883|
|DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION||OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE||5/6/2015||$32,000.00||430917|
|DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION||OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE||3/9/2015||$22,413.00||411883|
Department: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION – Vendor: RICHARD COLVIN
Period: FY 2016 Period 1 thru 1
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So the contract was for $112,000.00. Colvin has been paid $155,120.00 by the DOE. Out of that amount, $46,800.00 was paid prior to the contract initiation date, which technically leaves $3,680.00 left in the contract. But what are the services Colvin actually provided to the DOE before his contract and with the contract? With Colvin’s wealth of information on education reform, standardized assessments, and his rabid promoting of the Edu-Wonk blog, it stands to reason Colvin may have actually come up with the whole assessment inventory idea prior to his contract beginning on March 12th. The timing is everything, and he started providing his “unique” service to DOE the same time opt-out was beginning in Delaware.
In this article on the Policy Innovators in Education Network, Colvin said the following:
“How should we think about the polarization and heated rhetoric around education reform? Is it evidence reformers are making a difference? Or does it impede progress by alienating the unions, which are not going to go away?
There are lots of questions for reformers to answer as they think about the tactics they should use. Obviously, the political context matters a lot. Republicans dominate in many of the states where we’ve seen significant change. But not all.”
In March, 2010, Colvin wrote a huge article about Delaware and Tennessee’s award for the Race To The Top competition in U.S. News & World Report:
Delaware’s application was supported by all of the state’s school districts and charter schools. It also was backed by the state teachers union, a coalition of business leaders, philanthropists, leaders of both political parties, and Gov. Jack Markell, who helped present the plan in person to the review teams that chose the winners. A Delaware business leader, a school district superintendent, and the president of the teachers union, the Delaware State Education Association, joined him in the interview.
Markell said that he believed that the widespread community support for the state’s plan helped it win. “In Delaware, we don’t have to choose between consensus and being bold,” he says. “You get the best of both worlds.”
But have Richard Colvin and Governor Markell ever met? Yes they have, and throw in Paul Herdman of Rodel for extra measure and you have a clear connection to Delaware education reform and Colvin. In fact, Paul Herdman even wrote about it in October, 2011. Colvin was a panelist at the annual Vision fest.
The frank dialogue continued throughout the day and was most striking in the inspired and candid conversation between Richard Colvin, Executive Director of Education Sector, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell. Both Colvin and audience members didn’t hesitate to ask the governor tough questions about teacher evaluation, funding, and a number of other issues that the governor and the state contend with daily. The governor underscored another prominent theme of the day, which is the responsibility that each of us has to contribute to this work, “Just getting it done among the people in this room is not sufficient. Please take the passion that brought you here and share it with those outside.”
According to Colvin’s LinkedIn profile, he is currently working with a company based out of Bethesda, MD called Cross & Joftus. This is yet another slew of corporate education reform companies that plague our country. They also were one of the bidders on the DOE’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities which was won by Public Consulting Group. Some of their clients are very familiar names to Delaware, including the Aspen institute (of which Jack Markell, Mark Murphy and Paul Herdman are all members and Colvin has written papers for), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation and another foundation called the Wallace Foundation, which Colvin has a long history with. Richard Colvin, Scott Joftus and Paul Herdman are all listed as participants in the NewSchools Venture Fund. Cross & Joftus have helped other districts and Departments with reassessment of statewide initiatives, like the current SREO campaign which Colvin probably came up with a week after his probable assessment inventory suggestion to the desperate Governor Markell and DOE.
As the connections to corporate education reform in Delaware continue to mount, it is important for Delaware citizens to unravel this labyrinth of connections and money that are taking resources out of the classroom and starving our traditional school districts. It has become more than obvious that the leaders in the Delaware DOE are incapable of initiating any change themselves, instead choosing to have contract after contract with companies that have not proven on a long-term basis that their education reforms are anything but smoke and mirrors. It is painfully apparent our Governor Markell is also unable to come up with anything by himself, instead relying on consultants to tell him how education in Delaware should be.