Rep Kim Williams Rips Into The Delaware DOE During Public Meeting

The Delaware Dept. of Education held the third meeting of the Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities in Delaware today.  I can’t even make an abbreviation out of that one.  Do not be confused with the Strategic Plan for Special Education that the DOE is also working on.  In any event, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams was NOT a happy camper.  While she is not a member of this committee, she attended the meeting and had some words to say to the DOE.

Apparently this committee came about as a result of an amendment on House Bill #56, the Wilmington charter school moratorium legislation signed by Governor Markell in 2015.  The Dept. was tasked with reviewing all educational opportunities in the state including charter, district, and vo-tech.  The DOE contracted with Public Consulting Group (PCG) to write up the report which came out last December.  PCG continued to work on the strategic plan and came out with another report in October.  In the October report, PCG made a reference to a District-Charter Collaboration Task Force.  Which is ironic since they didn’t post minutes nor did they come out with a final report.

At one point during the meeting today, Delaware Senator David Sokola mentioned a need for low-income and special education information on school choice applications.  David Blowman from the Delaware DOE allowed me to speak and I mentioned how the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, of which Sokola was a member, voted in the majority that information like that should not be on choice applications.  I mentioned that it was recommendations from the task force but it showed a clear decision to not have those items on choice applications.  Blowman agreed with me and said those items should not be on applications.  This prompted Rep. Williams to speak…

In August, Rep. Williams contacted the DOE about this strategic plan.  She contacted PCG and discussed the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, which met for a year and a half, kept all their minutes, and came out with a mammoth-sized final report which was sent to the DOE and the General Assembly.  She emailed a link to PCG.  Nothing even mentioning the Enrollment Preferences Task Force made it into PCG’s October report.  Williams blasted the DOE for this by stating she failed to understand how this strategic plan is meant to provide opportunities for ALL students.  She was clearly (and understandably) upset the report gave no mention to a task force she devoted a year and a half to.  But the District-Charter Collaboration Task Force, which had severe issues with transparency and no final report.  It was obvious to many in the audience that this oversight was not simply a mistake on PCG’s report.  I know for a fact the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson worked with PCG on their initial report which came out a few days before the final report for the Enrollment Preferences Task Force came out.

Senator Sokola asked Williams why she didn’t introduce legislation based on the recommendations of the task force during the last legislative session.  Williams explained that the legislation wouldn’t have come out until March of this year and everyone was very wrapped up in the WEIC redistricting plan.  Sokola said he can see that.  But Williams did say she will be introducing legislation based on those recommendations when the General Assembly comes back in January.  Williams argued that if she didn’t look at the October report from PCG and she didn’t attend this meeting, the DOE wouldn’t have even thought to mention the work 27 members of the task force worked on for a year and a half into this strategic plan.  There was no clear response from Blowman or Susan Haberstroh (also with the DOE).

Williams mentioned the glaring omission two times.  Eventually, Haberstroh assured the committee and Rep. Williams the Enrollment Preference Task Force report would be a part of the strategic plan.  This was supposed to be the last meeting of this committee but once the subject of enrollment barriers came up it was obvious the committee would need to meet again which all agreed to.

There is something about this committee that seems off.  Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques talked about the Christina School District a few times when talking about surplus school seats.  As well, the subject of empty buildings districts own came up.  I always find it to be odd when Sokola and Jaques, who are in their seats primarily because of voters from the Christina School District, tear into them.  I didn’t trust it when Sokola mentioned having information on choice applications he knew damn well shouldn’t be on there.

When Jeff Klein with the University of Delaware presented a report on choice applications by zip code, he did say there was a section in Maryland.  Sokola mentioned it could be a teacher sending their child to a Delaware school.  Which I assume to be Newark Charter School.  The DOE responded by saying it would be illegal for Delaware to pay for a Maryland student in a Delaware school.  Sokola had a puzzled look on his face…

Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked a question similar to one she asked at the meeting a few weeks ago.  She questioned why, as an example, if Woodbridge and Delmar school districts wanted a culinary program but didn’t have enough students to have a program, why they couldn’t push for opening a charter school to serve that need.  Heath Chasanov with Woodbridge explained they do have a program with Delmar that Del Tech coordinates.  I don’t fault Kendall for asking the question, but it would be more financially feasible for the districts to work together to offer programs in coordination as opposed to opening a brand new charter school that may or not fail.  This was echoed by David Blowman.

I did find out, 100%, that there are NO plans for Prestige Academy to merge into EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations.  Massett did explain that all the Wilmington charters are working with Prestige for a smooth transition for the students when the charter closes at the end of the year.

To read the reports PCG came out with in October, please see below.

Assessment Inventory Committee Meeting Tomorrow Night At DOE In Dover

The Assessment Inventory Committee will hold a meeting tomorrow night at the Delaware Department of Education office at the Townsend Building in Dover at 4:30pm.  The meeting will take place in the Library Conference Room.  The agenda, as shown below, will go over the DOE’s role in summative assessments.  The agenda does not show public comment, but it is a public meeting and public comment was allowed at other meetings so I’m sure this is just an error.  Please try to attend and give public comment!  Governor Markell’s former Education Policy Advisor assured members of the public the Smarter Balanced Assessment would be a part of the conversation around assessments last June.  I have yet to see anything serious from the SJR #2 Assessment Inventory Committee addressing this absolute waste of a test.

SJR2#4

Predicting Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Report

SJR2DOE

By June 30th this year we will all know what is in the final report from Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Committee.  This is when it is due to the General Assembly.  I have made predictions in the past about the end result: that district assessments will go the way of the dinosaur in favor of more interim assessments for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When Senate Joint Resolution #2 was announced, it was at the height of the 2015 opt-out movement.  Governor Markell spoke about it at Howard High School last March.  I immediately saw it as a response to opt-out.

A week before the legislation hit the General Assembly, I had the opportunity to see a DOE email stating that Senate Joint Resolution #2 was the answer to opt-out.  The House and Senate Education Committee Chairs in Delaware sponsored the legislation.  During the Senate Education Committee meeting in June, it was brought up before House Bill 50, much to the consternation of several people.  Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsay O’Mara, when asked at the meeting, said the Smarter Balanced Assessment could be a part of the assessment inventory but it depends on state and federal regulations.  The Assessment Inventory Committee officially began in November.

To date, no minutes have been posted on the General Assembly website or the DOE website.  The group first met on November 16th and then again on December 16th.  The only place it shows up is on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar and it must be put there seven days before the meeting as per Delaware state code.  In looking at that website, there are no scheduled meetings showing up anywhere in 2016.  In fact, on the list of committees and task forces in a different section of the General Assembly website, there is no listed Chair of this committee.  No meetings show up on the Department of Education calendar part of their website either.

I am going to predict now that the Smarter Balanced Assessment will definitely be a major topic of discussion at this task force.  It will not be a part of the assessment inventory to be kept or removed.  But someone will say something to the effect of “We need to do an evaluation of this test.”  It may even be one of the few members on the task force who has vocally opposed it.  Politics is often suggesting something to someone and making it seem like it was their idea.  Someone will whisper it into their ear and they will think it is a great idea.  When it comes to education, great ideas can seem like a good thing but they are loaded with snares and traps.  Like I said before, this committee is top-heavy with Markell sympathizers.

There will be some other carrots in this final report.  One teachers will love will be a recommendation that standardized tests not be used for the purpose of teacher evaluations.  Teachers will support this emphatically and will then support anything the committee recommends.  If Governor Markell doesn’t sign an executive order or no legislation passes prior to this report, there will be a very strong recommendation that high school juniors not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is something ten Democrats in the House of Representatives wrote to the Governor about three days ago.  The reduction in district assessments will not specifically say “get rid of this or that”.  There will be a recommendation that no student receives any type of “interim assessment”, whether it is the Smarter Balanced Assessment or something like SRI, SMI, MAPS, DIBELS, or any of the other assessments districts use in Delaware more than once in any given marking period.  There may be certain assessments ditched, but for the most part it will be up to the local districts.  There will most likely be language either requiring or strongly suggesting the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessment be given at least once during the first or second marking period.

The evaluation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be done by a third corporate cousin of one of the many vendor companies the DOE utilizes for pretty much anything that generates a report.  The evaluation will come back and find that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is effective.  Bloggers and teachers will rip it apart and say the report is not valid.  The state will most likely pay this vendor anywhere from $50-$100,000 for this report which will show some issues with the test but not enough to render it invalid.  When all is said and done, we will pretty much have what we’ve always had but a little bit less of the district assessments.  Smarter Balanced will still be here.  Parents will still opt-out.  The big question on everybody’s mind will be if our legislators honor that right by overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 or if they side with the test and punish corporate backed privateers who are hell-bent on continuing their agendas.

 

Exceptional Delaware Apologizes To The DOE

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  I wrote how they did not give sufficient public notice for their meeting last night.  Delaware law demands all public meetings be given a week notice with a posted agenda.  The DOE did get this out there on November 3rd, and I must have missed it somehow.  The DOE did act in full transparency in this situation.  This does not mean I am a DOE cheerleader, but I will point out when I make a mistake.  I emailed the powers that be over there just now about this with a heartfelt apology.