Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 3: Union? We Don’t Need Your Stinkin’ Union!

How did the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition get around the Delaware State Education Association?

The Rodel Foundation, Delaware DOE, and the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition had a meeting coming up on November 20th, 2014.  In the meantime, things were heating up with the priority schools, especially a looming showdown between the Christina School District and the Delaware DOE.  Many people felt no matter what Christina or Red Clay did, the DOE was going to take the six schools and convert them to charter schools.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was getting ready to release the cut scores on the upcoming high-stakes test based on the field tests administered earlier that Spring.  The Delaware DOE was starting their town halls for their “school report card”.  They had released surveys to the public with ridiculous things like stop lights for grades (this eventually became the Delaware School Success Framework).  The IEP Task Force was in full swing and they were actively working on their final draft.  Unbeknownst to most, former Rodel employee Matthew Korobkin began his job in the Secretary of Education’s office at the DOE to begin work on the Special Education Strategic Plan.  This blogger had started doing some serious digging into Rodel after what I found out at the end of October of 2014.  The General Election came and went.  Matt Denn won the Delaware Attorney General slot in a landslide.  Two new state reps would have a dramatic effect on education in the General Assembly in the next year.

On November 19th, 2014, I released my mammoth Rodel article.  Knowing this little group was meeting in back-door meetings would have been good to know when I was writing that article.  It would have filled in some holes.  From what I heard from a few people, this article really rattled Rodel CEO Paul Herdman.  I know he was upset with me for daring to allege that Rodel would ever make money from hedge funds and somehow profit off Delaware education.  But in any event, the CBL Guiding Coalition was about to meet…

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I tried the link referenced in the email to an Ed Week article, but the link no longer exists.  I have no doubt it reference some personalized learning school and how great it was.  When you look at the above email, note the word barriers.  If competency-based learning is supposed to be so great, why would there be any barriers?  At this point, it is probably a good idea to let folks know who was on both the Core and Advisory groups for this.

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In terms of involvement, I don’t know if every single person participated in this CBL Guiding Coalition that was now divided into two groups. I do know, for example, that Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA did not go to any meetings of this group whatsoever.  There were six district Superintendents and one charter Head of School on the coalition.  Quite a few of the teachers were also on the Rodel Teacher Council.  Note the presence of university and college members.  There was a specific reason for that which will come in later parts.  Now, on most education committees and task forces, or any type of education group, there is always representation from the Delaware State Education Association.  But not on this coalition!  To me, the key figures in this group were Michael Watson, Susan Haberstroh, Wayne Hartschuh and Donna Johnson.  They were (and still are) important people at the DOE who were in a position to let the ideas of this group come into being.

In terms of the barriers, the coalition was very visible with what the policy and system barriers could be:

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In answer to why DSEA wasn’t represented on this committee, I think the words “collective barg”, which would be “collective bargaining” gives a clear answer to that question.  Unless this is all about some secret archaeology plan, I can only assume “dig learning” is “digital learning”.

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Policies on seat time?  What does that mean?  In a competency-based world, a student doesn’t move on until they master the assignment or concept.  They must be proficient.  So what measures that proficiency?  The teacher?  Or a stealth assessment embedded into the ed tech the student is working on?  I love how the DOE and ed reformers turn simple words like “jigsaw” into something else.  I know what they mean, but why do they do that?

By the time their January 2015 meeting came around, the holidays came and went.  All eyes were on the Christina School District as they valiantly fought the DOE on the three priority schools in their district.  Red Clay signed their Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  A financial crisis occurred during Family Foundation’s charter renewal.  The community rallied for Gateway Lab School.  Parents were talking more and more about opt out.  And the General Assembly was back in session…

To Be Continued in Part 4: Playing with regulations, priorities change, and the DOE and the Governor freak out…

Prologue

Part 1

Part 2

The Bidders For The Delaware Social Studies And Science State Assessments

The Delaware Dept. of Education put out a request for proposal for their Social Studies and Science state assessments.  For Social Studies, the bidding ended on 9/9 and for Science, 9/23.  This is the second time the Delaware DOE put out requests for these two tests and some of the same companies bid again.  I went into detail about some of those companies last December.  The last time both the state assessments were included in one big lump.  This time, they separated them.  I had a lot to say about the Social Studies request for proposal last month and how this could lead to embedded stealth testing in a constant online competency-based personalized learning environment.

Delaware System of Student Assessment in Social Studies

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Next Generation Science Assessment for Delaware Learners

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The new bidders for these assessments are Measured Progress Inc. and WestEd.  Measured Progress is just more of the same according to Save Maine Schools.  They were the Smarter Balanced vendor in three states last year, but they couldn’t even handle the data capacity and had to shut down testing.  WestEd, though, is no stranger to Delaware.  This is a company that thinks online digital learning games with Curious George are just great for preschool.  They also have an extensive list of clients with some very familiar names.  Ironically, the Delaware DOE hired facilitators from WestEd for their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, along with Research In Action.  They even went into a partnership recently with NewSchools Venture Fund to expand small business data technology companies in K-12 classrooms.  How ironic that they received grant money from the Small Business Administration to fund ed tech start-ups while they are bidding for contracts that would measure the effectiveness of ed tech instruction with state assessments.  No conflict of interest there!  Strategic Measurement still has the same website as last year.  Both AIR and Pearson are still the lead players in the high-stakes testing arena.  None of these bidders signal Delaware ending the high-stakes testing arena any time soon.

Red Clay Piloting Common Core Standards-Based Report Cards

Standards-Based report cards are here.  Three schools in the Delaware Red Clay Consolidated School District, Cooke, Forest Oak, and Richey are beginning a pilot program this year for 2nd and 3rd Grade.  The plan is to have standards-based report cards for all elementary grades, K-5, by 2019.  Modeled after the Smarter Balanced “scores”, the goal is to align report cards with the Common Core standards.  Really Red Clay?  Really?  It was bad enough when you took on Standards-Based IEPs, now this?

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This is something Rodel has pushed for years through their plan for Competency-Based Education in Delaware (now the subject of a series I’ve been working on).  Note how the schools beginning this pilot aren’t exactly “struggling schools”, like the three priority schools in Wilmington.  This is how these kin of pilots go.  The suburban parents will lap it up because it is new and exciting.  The district will tell the board, “Look at this resounding success,” and lo and behold it is a part of the entire district.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE and Rodel were going “cha-ching” when they heard this.  Or perhaps they pushed Red Clay towards this.

Just another way Rodel has completely taken over education in Delaware.  Rodel estimated up to ten school districts and charters will implement these Common Core report cards this year.  I have to say I’m disappointed with Red Clay for drinking the Rodel Kool-Aid.  What are they thinking?  First they joined BRINC, now it’s 1:1 devices for all students and this.  Should they change their name to Rodel Consolidated School District?

 

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 2: Reinventing Schools & Dark Omens

At the first official meeting for the Delaware Dept. of Education/Rodel created Guiding Coalition for Competency-Based Learning, an email went out to members to research an organization called Reinventing Schools.  Theresa Bennett with the DOE sent the following email:

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Bennett announces that a Kim Hanisch from the Reinventing Schools Coalition will be facilitating their meetings.  The organization changed their name because of the initials, RISC, to Reinventing Schools.  This group received their start-up funds from the Gates Foundation.  A blog called Save Maine Schools gave a very detailed description of the man that runs Reinventing Schools, Dr. Joseph Marzano.  I imagine Rodel and Reinventing Schools have a lot in common since they are both lovers of competency-based education and personalized learning in a digital classroom.  Oddly enough, Reinventing Schools does not list Delaware in their map of schools and districts they work with.  I guess non-profits don’t count as true education centers of learning!  Save Maine Schools referred to Marzano as just another corporate education reform snake-oil salesman.  His ideas, according to the article and commenters, were nothing new but repackaged to further this modern-day Competency-Based Education mixed with Personalized Learning in a digital environment.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, a lot was going on in Delaware education at this time.  The priority schools debacle was heating up.  On the same day as this first meeting of the “Guiding Coalition”, the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated Boards of Education were holding meetings to decide their next steps with the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell.  Red Clay indicated they would capitulate with the DOE, but Christina was defiant and insisted on writing their own Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  The priority schools MOU called for the firing of half the teachers and each school had to get a new principal.  As teachers and Delaware citizens seethed, a growing voice was calling for the resignation of Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and a new employee at the DOE named Penny Schwinn, who led the Accountability & Assessment department, soon became the most hated person in the Delaware education landscape.  Many, including legislators, began wondering what the heck Delaware did with all the Race To The Top money and FOIAs started going out to the Delaware DOE.

As a result of this, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee was born.  Governor Markell issued an Executive Order to come up with recommendations on how to deal with the rising Wilmington education crisis.  Bank of America Communications Chief  and Former Chair of the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, Tony Allen, was chosen to lead the committee.  Meanwhile, a certain blogger started talking about Delaware Opt Out more and more.  All of these were easy distractions for those who were very worried about what was going on with Delaware education.  Markell was taking a very hard stance on the priority schools.  Nobody saw what was going in with the back-door and secret meetings of the Guiding Coalition.

The Rodel Foundation of Delaware was busy preparing for their next Vision Coalition annual conference.  One of their guests at the conference was a company called 2Revolutions.  I did not attend the conference, but I followed along on Twitter.  I decided to look into this digital learning company and was shocked by what I found.  Pretty much everything I am current writing about with Corporate Education Reform 2.0 is covered in that link.  That was from almost two years ago.  The next day I received an email from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC):

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This email contained a copy and paste from the Rodel Teacher Council for their “Performance Learning” blueprint which I included in an article I wrote on this.  I was skeptical of Rodel based on everything I saw and read before that email from the GACEC.  But this horrified me.  It was obvious Rodel was facilitating the reinvention of Delaware education and nobody was paying attention.  Changes were taking place.  The Delaware DOE was not running the show.  It was Rodel.  I began to commit myself to finding out all I could about Rodel.  It was Halloween and nothing horrified me more than what I wrote about that dark evening.  I didn’t truly understand it all at that time.  There was a lot going on.  But this was the beginning of putting the puzzle pieces together.  However, the upcoming General Election in Delaware would cause things to change in the Delaware General Assembly that would provide very big distractions for many.

As everyone prepared for a potential takeover of the Priority Schools, the Delaware DOE and Rodel continued their secret meetings.  To be continued in Part 3: Rodel gets a surprise and a matter of civil rights…

 

The Gates Foundation Isn’t Even Hiding It Anymore… The Complete Transformation Of Education Brought To You By Billionaires

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Bill Gates wants a Federal Student Data Tracking System.  That’s right.  He also wants competency-based education, more career pathways programs, and personalized learning to take over public education.  This is the same guy who funded Common Core.  Remember that when you read the document released by the Gates Foundation today.  If I had to guess, now that many education bloggers have exposed all the agendas which will lead to the Bit-Coin inspired Blockchain Initiative, the corporate education reformers (clearly led by Bill Gates) have nothing to lose by getting it all out there now.  Now I know why U.S. Senator Chris Coons (Delaware) is chomping at the bit for his post-secondary legislation to get passed by Congress.

Read this.  Every single word.  Read between the lines.  This is the endgame they have been pushing for, the complete and utter destruction of public education in anticipation of online education for all.  Where you will be tracked from cradle to grave, with data allowed to be looked at through a federal database, which will track everything about you.  The sad part is they play to civil rights groups by assuring more success for minorities.  They screw over students with disabilities every chance they get.  But their manipulation of under-served communities is at an all-time high in this document.  Words like “outcome-based funding” scare the crap out of me, and it should for every single American.  Look at all the footnotes in the below document.  Look at the companies and think-tanks that are reaping immense profits for every bogus report they come out with.  Look how embedded this already is in every single state and our national government.

While this document is geared towards higher education, its goals are for ALL education.  It is all about creating the “workforce of tomorrow”.  He mentions Jobs For the Future at the very end of the document.  Just take a look at the corporate education reform madness they push out.  I have no doubt Gates is concerned about the workforce of tomorrow.  By making sure we are all learning online, Microsoft continues to profit.  And all the other ed tech companies are chomping at the bit for their big paydays of the future.  This is ALL about corporate profit.

Hillary Clinton will, in all likelihood, be our next President.  She is all in on this.  Every single step.  And she has been since the very beginning.  The question is if we can, as everyday Americans, education enough people to rise up and tell our government to stop selling out education to investors, hedge fund managers, and ed tech companies.  That will be the challenge.  How do you stop corporations and billionaires from taking over not only education but the entire economy?  It takes courage and strength, bravery and daring.  It is in all of us.  Now we have to bring it out more than ever so we can turn the future into one of our design, not those who wish to be prophets and profit.

The above picture was from the following link: https://www.quora.com/Which-2016-presidential-candidate-does-Bill-Gates-support

 

ESSA: Parents & Educators MUST Attend The Upcoming Meetings & Educate Themselves On The Law!

The Delaware Dept. of Education will have three more Every Student Succeeds Act Community Engagement meetings in the next week.  They held a meeting in Georgetown on Tuesday.  The next three meetings will take place in Wilmington, Middletown, and Dover.  The DOE is “requiring” participants to register through a company called Event Brite.  Links to register can be found here.

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I will stress with all the urgency I can muster that ALL public education parents attend these meetings.  Before you go, I would familiarize yourself with the federal law.  You can read the full text of the law here.  It is a very long law with a lot of repeated jargon and “legalese” in it.  The Delaware State Board of Education and Delaware DOE has put up many links to it on their websites, but a lot of that is open to interpretation.  As well, U.S. Secretary of Education John King has issued “proposed rulemaking” which are potential regulations.  These regulations are VERY controversial.  You can read those regulations here and here.

These are my major concerns with ESSA:

By allowing states to have more flexibility, many states have already created long-term plans based on the prior federal mandates.  Far too many in our state DOEs follow what the corporate education reformers want and give a false illusion of “stakeholder input”.

The Delaware DOE has given NO indication whatsoever that they will even consider changing the state standards away from Common Core even though they can certainly do this according to ESSA.  The US Secretary of Education isn’t required to approve these standards.  The states merely have to give an assurance that their standards will follow the law.

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Student data still isn’t protected to parents satisfaction.  To stop this data from going out, they need to restore the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) to pre-2011 levels

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Bouncing off the previous statement, by allowing more social service and health-based practitioners into our schools, there is a serious question regarding what applies to FERPA and what applies to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

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John King’s regulations would keep the 95% participation rates for state assessments with consequences for schools and districts.

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John King’s Title I regulations would enact a “supplement not supplant” these funds.  This is in sharp contrast with federal law and he was called out on this the other day by the US House Education and Workforce Committee.

There is far too much talk of competency-based education through computer adaptive assessments.  That is just lingo for personalized learning.  This law would allow for classrooms to become online all the time.  There are severe dangers with this in regards to the downgrading of the teacher profession, far too much screen time for students, and the quality of the educational material.  As well as severe data privacy concerns.  In fact, there are incentives for schools to adopt personalized learning.

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While the law forbids the US DOE from forcing or coercing states to implement any state standards, like Common Core, many states already have these in place and spent years embedding them into every facet of public education.

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The law calls for state accountability “report cards”, based on performance of the state assessment, but the tests are not required to be exactly the same for all students.  So the state assessments are not a true measurement since they will be different for each test-taker.  Delaware set up their report card last year under the name of the “Delaware School Success Framework” but they inserted a very punitive participation rate penalty if a school dips below the 95% participation rate which can’t use parent opt-out in those calculations according to the law.

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State assessments will not be required to have questions at the appropriate grade level for students.

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ESSA requires any plan to be submitted to the State DOE, State Board of Education, the Governor and the state legislature.  To date, the Delaware DOE has not had “meaningful” consultation with the Delaware General Assembly about ESSA.

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The law specifically states that all choice schools should have priority given to the lowest-achieving students, but Delaware allows for charter schools to have enrollment preferences that allow for higher-achieving students to have distinct advantages, especially in our magnet schools and charter schools like Charter School of Wilmington.

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I have many other concerns with ESSA, but these ones stand out for me.  I am coming at this from the perspective of a parent.  I know educators have concerns over some of this as well.

My Thoughts On John Carney’s Proposed Education Policy

I wanted to get John Carney’s proposed education policy up fast to get people to read it ahead of his Meet and Greet tonight in Wilmington.  Upon reading it, I am left with more questions than answers.

First off, there is absolutely nothing in this regarding standardized testing, opt out, education technology, charter schools, Common Core, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the ineffectiveness of the State Board of Education, or financial accountability.  In terms of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan, he openly admits he will pick which parts should be implemented, which means there are parts he feels should not go through.  There is a lot about early education in this.  So much so that he wants to give early education it’s own special “council” in state government.  He also has a lot of love for the Pathways to Prosperity program.  All of this gives me the feeling his administration has no desire to get rid of the very horrible education policies initiated by Governor Markell.  In fact, unless things change, this will be Markell 2.0.

I want to go through some of his policy and give thoughts on it.

Despite improvements over the past decade, too many students, especially poor and minority students, are not meeting the standards that have been set.

I assume he is talking about Common Core.  Those standards were forced on districts through Race To The Top as the state was struggling to dig out of the Recession.  By stating the “standards that have been set” it shows he is not willing to honor the flexibility of the Every Student Succeeds Act to change those standards to something more palatable for students, teachers, schools, and parents.  Those standards were created for the sole purpose of messing up education, not fixing it.  To create the upcoming “earn to learn” programs coming from the corporate futurists of America and turn future generations into subservient slaves of the state.

The last ten years have been a decade of reform in education at the national level and here in Delaware. While many of these changes have been positive, there have also been missed opportunities. As a result of shifting focus from one reform to the next, many good ideas have never been fully implemented and others were abandoned before we could assess their impact on students.

I would really like to know which changes have been positive John.  Common Core is a disaster.  So much so that you won’t even say the words.  The assessments that came out of Common Core are horrible.  This created an opt out movement which, while still growing in Delaware, caused 1/5th of all New York students to have their parents opt them out the past two years.  Missed opportunities is a bit of a misnomer.  Getting rid of the Minner reading specialists in our schools was a huge mistake.  The education reformers didn’t shift focus from one reform to the next.  They allowed bad policy to continue to erode public education and built more bad policy to connect it all.

The states that will be successful in the future are the ones that have a quality, well-trained workforce. The future of our state’s economy depends on the talents and skills that our young people have to offer. Our education system needs to be dynamic and responsive to the needs of a 21st century workforce to prepare our students for the opportunities that lie ahead.

Saying this doesn’t mean anything.  We have heard this from Jack Markell for the past eight years.  It means nothing.

With the development of the STARS program, Delaware has made real progress in helping children get to school better prepared to learn. Since 2012, the number of Delaware early learning programs that have earned the highest quality rating, five stars, has gone from 24 to 127.

I haven’t written much about the STARS program, but from what I’ve heard from many people, those who play ball with the DOE get the higher ratings.  Those who want to remain independent and do their own thing (with success) have been marginalized in favor of those who adhere to the guidelines of the DOE and the Early Education Race To The Top mandates.  While I agree with John that getting more low-income children into these programs is good, I don’t like what is happening in terms of this pre-school “rigor” in getting these children ready for Kindergarten.

Unfortunately, not every child grows up in a supportive household. And parents often need additional help and training to ensure that their children are learning the foundational lessons and skills that position them for success in school and beyond.

I have mixed emotions about this.  If parents need help, then yes, I think they should have the ability to get help and resources to allow them to be a better parent.  But where is the line drawn?  When does the line between letting parents be parents and state control get blurry?  What makes America a great country is the ability to have freedoms that other countries may not have.  Which means less government interference and control.  If there is a child in a broken home and is subject to abuse and violence, there are mechanisms in place to deal with that.  Those agencies should be doing more.  Cross-coordination is a good thing, but my fear is too many “non-profits” getting involved.  So many of these problems are outside of the education arena.

John will reorient the Department of Education from a focus on monitoring and mandates to a focus on collaboration and support for districts. He’ll create resource centers at DOE to ensure that teachers and curriculum directors have access to experts with deep knowledge in critical areas who can provide advice and guidance and help share best practices across district lines.

I have always thought the DOE should be trimmed down considerably.  But they do need to be a better monitor in certain areas, especially special education and school discipline.  But in the academic arena, there are far too many Delaware DOE “leaders” who lack sympathy and emotion in dealing with Delaware teachers unless they are those teachers who prescribe to the DOE’s reformy ideas.  By filling the DOE with “experts”, without giving any definition of what describes an “expert”, this is very worrisome.  I’ll just come right out and say that Rodel should have zero influence on Delaware education.  Their idea of education, a personalized learning/competency-based education/feeding the corporate wallets idea of education, is bad.  They want to transform education into the mantras of the business community.  We have far too many Rodel “experts” in Delaware education policy.  If these “experts” with “deep knowledge” are all about lessening the role of teachers into a “digital facilitator”, then no thanks.

Delaware’s regulations on school accountability were created under the burdensome, top-down rules mandated by the No Child Left Behind law. NCLB has been replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which provides much more flexibility and input from state and local leaders who know the needs of their students the best. We should take full advantage of this opportunity and develop a plan that includes meaningful goals and appropriate accountability measures that keep Delaware students and schools on track.

The only things that will be acceptable to the majority of Delawareans will be the elimination of state assessments that really do nothing but provide data to the reformers to advance their dream of a cradle to grave apprenticeship workforce.  Once again, the “state and local leaders” part is very vague.  If it is the same representation we have had for the past ten years with many groups having the same like-minded and hand-picked people, then no thanks again.  I do see Kim Williams was picked for the ESSA Advisory Committee which is a good sign of potential change with these type of groups.  But let’s get the Rodel type people out of Delaware.  Enough already.  Until the very horrible Smarter Balanced is completely gone (including future stealth testing embedded into future digital classrooms) and teachers aren’t held  accountable for these tests, nothing will truly change John.  Opt out will get bigger and it will evolve to the point where parents are openly rebelling against all the ed tech their kids are subjected to. 

As Governor, John will work to improve the professional development offered to Delaware teachers by including relevant and meaningful lessons on Delaware’s standards, the science of student learning, and effective instruction for disadvantaged and trauma informed students.

Here we go again John!  Giving more “relevant” and “meaningful” lessons on horrible standards does absolutely nothing to address how bad the standards are.  Student learning is not just a “science”.  There are many factors that go into how children learn.  All the professional development in the world isn’t going to help student outcomes when they are in huge classrooms.  It won’t help the thousands of students with disabilities who are forced to adhere to these same standards you don’t want to give up.  It does nothing to address the extreme violence and rampant drug use in our state that forces children to carry these burdens into the classroom. 

Teachers shouldn’t have to become administrators to advance in their career. Excellent teachers should be able to stay in the classroom and take on leadership roles that help them expand their impact by mentoring their peers. Delaware is implementing a pilot “teacher-leader” program during the 2016-2017 school year. John will learn from this effort and move forward on a path that gives teachers throughout the state other options to move up, help their colleagues succeed, and increase student learning.

In other words, we don’t want to pay teachers all that administrator money.  But we will pick the teachers we want to be a “teacher-leader” like the DOE did before the committee to implement this program even came out with their final report.  And once again, we seem to have teacher-leaders who subscribe more to the Rodel way of doing things.

Teachers and principals are the ones who know their students the best, their successes and their struggles. John believes they should have input on using state resources in ways that will best meet their students’ needs.

Yes, but parents are the ones who know their children the best.  Once again, there is a very blurry line between the education setting and decisions best left at home.  We cannot turn schools into community centers that meet the needs of every student.  I can see very clearly where this is going.  To the death of brick and mortar schools.  Teachers will be gone.  Community centers run by non-profits like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club will take the younger kids where they will have their gaming/personalized learning sessions all day while older kids will have constant online schooling from the home. 

To that end, he will also create a 21st Century Opportunity Grant program that creates additional flexibility in state education funding and gives teachers and principals needed resources and support to implement solutions that work for individual students.

Where are the parents in these decisions?  Will they be a part of these decisions about what will work best for their own child?  It is a parent’s decision to choose the best education for their child, not teachers and principals.  By leaving parents out of these decisions, it is more state control.  It will lead to the further erosion of families that is already taking place in our country.  The whole “grant” scheme ultimately doesn’t change outcomes for students.  It may help the more advantaged students, but they are typically filled with loopholes.  We have no accountability or belief that our districts and charters use the education funding they already get with fidelity.  How can we trust that these grant funds won’t serve to fatten already bloated cows?

The bar for students today is higher than it’s ever been, and Delaware has to rise to the challenge. Every Delaware student has to graduate high school prepared to succeed in college or the workforce.

The bar has always been high.  Every single generation in this country has had higher expectations than the one before.  But we have used this term to completely surrender control of education to companies John.  You might as well say we have to drink water to survive.  When you keep saying the same things Jack Markell said I have to wonder whose ideas these are.

We’re starting to make strong connections between students, training and apprenticeship programs, and Delaware employers.

In other words, companies don’t want to train their own employees while we continue to cut their corporate taxes.  They get immensely richer while the cost of living for the average citizen rises exponentially.  Health costs are out of control.  These programs are nothing more than corporate giveaways but at a scale never seen before.  Where the state does what companies should be doing in the first place.

Forty two percent of Delaware students have to complete a remedial English or Math class when they get to college. These classes cost money and don’t count for credit, making it more difficult for students to earn their degree. Studies show that 30% of students required to take a remedial class in college never graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Just more proof that Common Core doesn’t work and we need to get back to education that works.  You can’t have it both ways John.  You can’t say the standards are set and then complain about how students have to take remedial classes. 

They’re taking classes and earning professional certifications in professions like computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. And the certifications they’re earning can be taken directly to the workforce, or help them further their education in college.

Once upon a time, a high school diploma meant something.  A college degree meant something.  But now we are entering the age of “certifications”.  Which will eventually become digital if the education/industrial complex gets their way.  This is, once again, a boon to the companies.  Not to public education.

He’ll also work to expand partnerships between Delaware Tech and the state’s high schools to get more students the critical skills and qualifications they need to be valuable members of the workforce.

The critical skills and qualifications students need are in post-secondary education.  They go to college to get those skills.  K-12 education should be about preparing them for college, not the workforce.  If students don’t want to go to college, we need to stop relying on taxpayers to pay for company training.  We are turning today’s youth into something companies want.  The price on future American ingenuity and success is going to be very high when all of these agendas are fully realized.  But today’s leaders don’t see that.  They want to profit on it now and don’t care if they kick the can down the road when it all comes apart.

Career readiness must be a priority, and it starts with assessing schools based on how they are preparing their students for the workforce.

Come on John!  Enough already.  I won’t continue with the same thing I’ve been saying throughout this article.  This future nightmare you are setting up is more of the same.

As Governor, John will make sure effective career readiness measures are included in Delaware’s system, incentivizing schools and districts to invest in these programs.

All incentivizing does is set up winners and losers John.  It doesn’t give any true equity or equality in education.  It further separates the haves from the have-nots.  What happens to schools or districts that don’t want to play this game?  Will they be marginalized and disrespect in the future?  And where is all this money going to come from to “incentivize” these schools?  Our state economy is not looking good and the numbers released from DEFAC yesterday don’t look promising.  Your ideas to incentivize schools for companies to profit comes at the expense of the already over-burdened low-income and middle-class tax paying citizens. 

In reading the proposed education policies of John Carney, the only words that come to mind are severely disappointing.  This is what we waited for?  More of the same?  I don’t see too many original ideas.  The biggest idea, changing the DOE, isn’t exactly a new idea.  People have been screaming about that in Delaware for years.  But the DOE is only a reflection of their true master: Rodel and the other corporate education reformers.  In reading this, John Carney appears to be yet another puppet for our future masters.

I can see why Carney refused to answer the questions I sent to him.  By answering those in any way it would have showed how he is no better than Jack Markell.  I have to wonder who even wrote this document.  Because I don’t see the words “we” too much in it.  I see a lot of “John”.  This is DOE or Rodel talk.  I’ve seen it enough times to know the lingo.  Make no mistake, this isn’t John Carney’s Delaware.  This is we the people’s Delaware.  You serve us, not the corporations.  It looks like the possibility of my being able to have a good relationship with Carney are diminishing by the day…

We do have other options come Election Day.  But will Delaware be able to get out of their party purist mindset to realize they are sacrificing their children, grandchildren, and future generations to corporate slavery to make a difference?

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 1: Rodel, DOE & Achieve Inc. Team-Up

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  In its original form, it was an effort to personalize learning between a teacher and a student.  Students don’t always learn at the same pace.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning dream team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil but rather teachers who are easily manipulated and coerced into being connected with the “next big thing”.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.

Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coördination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

Coming up in Part 2: Delaware gets Marzanoed

Delaware Competency-Based Education: Prologue

I started this series last May but the summer got away from me.  I am putting up the prologue and Part 1 up again but with a new title.  Delaware Illuminati is just weird.  But I do want to get out there, especially with recent developments from the past week.  And Part 2 is coming in the next couple of days!

There have always been those who meet behind the scenes to shape the future.  It is how governments were created.  Over time, it became harder for these groups to plot and scheme, but they did so just the same.  It happens everywhere.  It could be for something good or something bad.  Some may feel what they are doing is right and just while others don’t care as long as they are still in power.  But when children become part of those plans, someone has to watch what they are doing.  That is what I’ve done for two years now.  Watching, looking, hearing, waiting, and writing.

This series will look at the dark side of Delaware education.  Where the power players do their thing.  They manipulate, they use and they throw away.  You will see some of the names you expect in this series.  You will also see names who you could never believe would be a part of this.  But they did, and they still are.  You will see how ideas blossom from what seems like the best intention but their dark roots exist elsewhere.  You will see what I term as the Delaware Illuminati in the light, for all to see.  They will sacrifice children and their futures at any cost.  They have no fear and are willing to do what it takes to get the job done.  They are the masters of manipulation and fraud.  Some of you will say this is absolutely ridiculous and that these people may have faults but they certainly aren’t evil.  For that, we have to definite what is evil.  If you know it is wrong and you do it anyway, is that not evil?

This series will have mystery, horror, and true crime.  It will also have a lot of magic.  Magic is nothing but illusion, a carefully laid out trap of smoke and mirrors.  You will learn how those in power seek to illuminate the people into a certain way of thinking.  They paint the picture so you can only see it a certain way and the population falls for it.  This is what we have wrought in Delaware and future generations will pay the price.

A Conversation With Diane Ravitch & Clarification On Opt Out

Since myself and several other education bloggers came out with articles yesterday pushing for parents to opt out of more than just standardized assessments, we are being questioned by several in the fight against corporate education reform and the privatization of public schools.  Many of us found that social media groups where we regularly post articles were censoring us by not posting our articles.  This led to some anger and hostility.  Some felt we were undermining their own group goals with opt out.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Those of us who posted yesterday have been sounding the alarm about the ed tech invasion taking place in our schools even before the Every Student Succeeds Act bill was fully seen by everyone.  We believe the once a year assessments will be replaced by constant “stealth” assessments in a competency-based education set up by a constant digital learning environment.  We also believe that the ability to opt out will not be so easy when this happens.  Which is why we want to stop this from happening in the first place.  Sometimes you have to draw people into a conversation.  This was our attempt and it appears it is working.

As part of my article yesterday, I wrote about Diane Ravitch’s role in all this and how some felt she wasn’t speaking loud enough about these issues.  Last night into this morning, I had a very long exchange with Diane on her blog about this.  I want to share this conversation so that some who were misled about the intentions of my article understand where it was coming from.  It began with a comment from someone called “Digital Skeptic” (which is not me nor do I know who it is).  There is one part of the conversation that is bolded for emphasis as I feel it was the most important part of it.  The full story behind where all this came from and where the actual exchange took place can be seen here: BIG NEWS! DISCOVERY! One (1) Funder That Supports Public Schools!

Digital Skeptic, 9/14/16, 10:43am:

Well, you need to get up to speed on digital badging and learning eco-systems ASAP then. Maybe set up a google alert for “personalized learning?” That would give you a lot of material to start with. Also Knowledgeworks is one of the main promoters of this new way of looking at “education.”

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/15/16, 6:43pm:

Why is Diane refusing to answer questions about digital badging? She addresses everyone else but won’t answer this question. I don’t get it.

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 9:50pm:

Kevin, I don’t understand your hayloft. I have written many posts opposing data mining, data tracking, Gates-funded galvanic skin monitors. I oppose any digital monitoring, tracking, badging or spying on children.

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 9:56pm:

Kevin, I was driving from Brooklyn to Southold. Traffic was heavy. It took four hours. That’s why my response to you was delayed. Other than not commenting on digital badges, which I never heard of, what else have I not written about?

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/15/16, 10:13pm:

Many of us are finding out about big things going on with Competency-Based Education tied to digital learning and personalized learning. Some of us have been writing about this since last year. A lot of us got involved when ESSA came out. We have tracked companies and documents and found more than sufficient evidence that leads to the death of brick and mortar schools and teachers being eliminated. I think it concerns many that you aren’t aware of this. People look to you as the go-to person on this kind of thing. When there is silence on the issue, it is concerning. The fact you haven’t heard about digital badges is even more concerning. To some, and I will throw my name out there, it feels like you pick and choose what to write about. That is certainly your right. I don’t know how much you read other blogs or engage on social media. There isn’t enough time in the day to read everything. Our fear is that Hillary will be a HUGE supporter of all this when it goes down. It is already taking place in pilot districts across the country. This is the next battle. ESSA is complex but embedded in it are easter eggs for the corporations that are going to continue to data-mine students. The career pathway programs being set up by the Feds is also not a safe thing. When you combine all this, it is a frightening future. I think it caught many by surprise with your post about that foundation you wrote about yesterday. The fact you didn’t name them, but when people looked into them a relation of yours appeared. It was a culmination of events that have been building up. I am begging you… you have a very wide audience… please start to write about this stuff.

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 10:25pm:

Kevin, send me articles and I will post them. I am 78 years old. I spend 6-8 hours daily reading and blogging. Most of what I post comes from things that people call to my attention, either on my email, the comments on the blog, or Twitter. There have been nearly 400,000 comments on the blog. I have read all of them.  If you want me to write about digital badges, write a piece and send it to me.

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/15/16, 10:26pm:

Thank you, I appreciate that.

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 10:34pm:

Kevin, If you disagree with something I post or think I should post something different, write me. You don’t have to attack me to get my attention.

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 10:34pm:

My son invests in many businesses, his specialty is sports and media. If you want to buy or sell a sports team, he’s the go-to guy. He is not a hedge fund manager. He doesn’t play the stock market. He invests in new companies that he believes in them. I don’t know what he invests in but I have his promise that he will not invest in anything that promotes or supports or builds charter schools. He doesn’t tell me what his companies he invests in, and frankly I don’t give a damn. A mention in my blog does not help or hurt a company. If it did, Pearson would be bankrupt.

One more thing: Ari Emanuel, Rahm’s brother, has a partner of my son. This has zero influence on me. I have never said a good word about Rahm. When I met him in 2010, he was rude, condescending, and offensive. I have never forgotten or forgiven. Karen Lewis is one of my heroes, and I have condemned Rahm’s destruction of public schools in Chicago.

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/15/16: 11:01pm:

Diane, I totally agree with you on the investments in charters being a very bad thing. But there are inherent dangers when firms like Raine invest in companies that will immensely benefit Pearsson and other ed tech companies. The charters are just one part of the whole equation. When I talk about digital badges, these are badges students will “earn” in the future based on curriculum provided by ed tech companies. It won’t be about what happens in the classroom because they will be digital classrooms where the teachers I fight for every day will become nothing more than a glorified moderator to ed tech developed and created by companies.

In 2011, the Family Educational Privacy Rights Act changed. It allowed student data to go out to education “research” companies. I firmly believe, as do many others, this was intentional. It allows student identifiable information to go from schools to state DOEs to outside companies. It is a complete invasion of private information that should stay in public schools. Students shouldn’t be judged like this. They are creative and wonderful children, not guinea pigs for companies to make a profit off of. 

We need to get FERPA restored to what it was before 2011. That will stop this and we need you to help us get people to understand what is going on out there. Our next President (God help us all if it is Trump) needs to do this. The plans are in place and time is running out for today’s kids as well as future generations of students.

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 11:11pm:

Kevin, I strongly support the revision of FERPA to protect student privacy. Google my name and FERPA, and you will see that I wrote several posts condemning Duncan for weakening FERPA in 2011.

I am on the board of Leonie Haimson’s Class Size Matters, which sponsors Student Privacy Matters. Leonie and Rachel Strickland led the fight to kill Gates’ inBloom. It brought the issue of data mining to public attention. I supported their campaign to protect students. You criticize for not doing things that I did.

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 11:19pm:

My son has read my books. He stays far away from the education sector. He invested in VICE, a youth-oriented media company that produces cutting-edge documentaries and has its own cable station, in connection with HBO. One of the companies he backs created South Park and The Book of Mormon. He introduced the NBA to China. He invested in the Yankees cable station. He financed a guy who was creating a free and independent news outlet in Afghanistan. I am very proud of him. He is a good man.

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/15/16, 11:21pm:

I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t get involved in all of this “destruction of public education” until about 2 1/2 years ago when a charter denied my son an IEP and I started digging to find out what was going on in education. A lot of what you are talking about is “before my time” so to speak. I can’t change anything that happened before. And those things you did, they are huge! I apologize for not knowing your role in those events. I have a lot of respect for Leonie and Rachel and I engage with them regarding these matters quite a bit through an email group I belong to.

I’m not criticizing you for President Obama weakening FERPA, but with your legitimacy, saying how important it would be to undo that 2011 change to FERPA would add great weight to the fight for student data privacy. Our next president could repeal the 2011 change. Do you think Hillary would do that? I don’t know if you are in a position to ask her, but if so, is that something you could do?

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/15/16, 11:23pm:

Well if he got the Yankees cable station into being, he is an awesome person!

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 11:47pm:

I promise you I will fight to restore FERPA, to protect your children, my grandchildren, and every child.

Diane Ravitch, 9/15/16, 11:52pm:

Kevin, I hope you will reconsider your dismissal of the power of opt out. 20% of kids opted out in 2015, 21% in 2016. Lots of new kids added because the 8th grade moved on. Because of the opt out, Cuomo shut up about his plans to break public schools. The State Board of Regents has new progressive leadership. Opt out is powerful. The legislature is back pedaling. Suppose they gave a test and no one took it. No data. No data mining.

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/16/16, 12:23am:

I don’t dismiss the power of opt out at all. But opt out as we know it has to evolve. I spent a considerable amount of time in the first half of 2015 fighting for a bill in Delaware that passed overwhelmingly in our House and Senate. It codified a parent’s right to opt out. And also would have made sure our DOE and schools didn’t punish students. Our Governor vetoed the bill.

In the competency-based education arena, tests like SBAC and PARCC will change. The once a year test will be gone but will instead morph into mini-tests. Delivered online, but they will happen weekly, or bi-weekly, or at the end of each unit. Delaware put out an RFP for our new Social Studies state assessment that our Secretary of Education said will be delivered throughout the year. Make no mistake, these will be the same type of standardized tests parents are opting out of. But if they replace teacher created tests and student’s grades depend on them, it will make opt out very difficult.
Tom Vander Ark, who used to be an executive for Gates, and is now with Global Futures, told everyone about this here: http://gettingsmart.com/2015/05/the-end-of-the-big-test-moving-to-competency-based-policy/

This is happening now, in real-time, and it is only a matter of time before the “pilots” go national. I don’t want that for my son or any other child in this country. If it stayed the same as it is now, I would still be fighting the same fight. But ESSA will deliver this into our schools. Once that happens, what can a parent do? This is why I am so passionate about this stuff. Time is running out. ESSA calls for more pilot states for many things. My philosophy has always been the same, if it isn’t good for kids, I can’t support it. But when I see teachers fully embracing ed tech like it is the best thing since sliced bread, it is very worrisome.

Diane Ravitch: 9/16/16, 8:25am:

Kevin, I totally agree with you about the dangers of online assessment. I have written many posts criticizing online assessment. Among other things, they will be data mining students nonstop. The same parents who fought for opt out will fight against continuous online assessment. Saying opt out is dead demoralizes them and takes away the most powerful tool that parents have: the right to say no. The opt movement in New York has achieved incredible results. They will keep fighting against online assessment but they need support not negativity.

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/16/16, 9:04am: 

Diane, You keep talking about New York. I live in Delaware. While I think New York tends to set the pace for the rest of the country, followed closely by NJ, opt out is not as big in my state. The title of my article was “Opt Out As We Know It Is Dead”. Meaning it has become so much more than just opting out of assessments. Opt out is very powerful, but somewhere along the way the reformers learned how to take advantage of it. As opt out grew, so did the need for “reduced assessments”. What I found hysterical was that the state assessment, at least in my state, was not allowed to be on the table for change or elimination. It was talked about in meetings, but nothing came of it in the final report. I don’t underestimate the power of the parent voice at all. But I see so many parents who don’t seem to have a problem with the technology in classrooms. The biggest complaint from the opt out crowd in the beginning was too much assessment. And then certain civil rights groups (who get tons of funding from Gates et al) started speaking out against opt out. All I’m saying is parents need to use the tool they have and make it louder, much louder. To be very clear, I am NOT against opt out. We haven’t come this far to throw it all away now.

It was my idea to have multiple bloggers write about this topic yesterday. It was meant to draw attention to other issues going on besides just the state assessment. It is creating dialogue and conversation in the past 24 hours that many didn’t even know about. While I don’t think a “shock and awe” approach is always appropriate, in this situation I felt it was needed. Every single state will be submitting their ESSA plans in the next six months. A crucial part of that process will be what they hear from parents. By alerting parents to the dangers embedded in ESSA, it is my hope they will really look into what the entire law means, and not just the parts that the State DOEs and the reformers are choosing to show the public. The law was meant to give states more education power than the feds. But far too many states are aligned with what the feds have been doing. It will only solidify the power the reformers have. Sometimes you need to wake the sleeping giant.

Kevin Ohlandt, 9/16/16, 9:12am:

To illustrate what is going on with ed tech, I just got this email from Ed Week about ed tech in early education and a webinar next week. The assumption is already made that ed tech is a part of these environments. It is already there. They are trying to mitigate that by showing “hands on” approaches as well. I see more and more of this happening every day. Early education should be about many things, but I don’t think having ed tech for toddlers and pre-K students is the right way to go. These are developing brains getting flooded with screen time and things they may not neurologically be ready for. Event Registration

Digital Skeptic, 9/16/16, 10:09am:

“My son invests in many businesses, his specialty is sports and media.” Raine Group is also invested in Parchment, an online credentialing company. From your comments, it sounds like you talk about his business investments as they relate to education. I think it’s important that you follow up with him about that particular investment as it relates to digital badges and the changes that are coming under the new ESSA roll out. http://venturebeat.com/2014/03/19/credential-verification-startup-parchment-raises-10m/

Diane Ravitch, 9/16/16, 10:21am:

Skeptic, I don’t discuss my son’s investments with him. He told me he does not invest in companies related to charter schools. The company you mention stores graduation diplomas and makes them available. From what I read in the article you sent, if a person tells a hospital he has an MD, they can check if it is true. There are frauds, and I assume this service is a verification to prevent fraud. I saw nothing that suggests this company awards credentials. In any event, he doesn’t ask me what he should invest in, and I don’t tell him what to do.

Digital Skeptic, 9/16/16, 10:32am:

Actually, it is much more complicated than that. Arthur Levine, formerly President of Teachers College at Columbia University-now working with MIT and the Woodrow Wilson Institute on a Competency-Based Education Teacher Training Program, gave the keynote at the annual Parchment conference on “innovating academic credentials.” It’s a pretty fascinating talk, and in it Levine poses a pretty radical idea of calling for a “DSM for Achievement.” https://medium.com/learning-machine-blog/a-dsm-for-achievement-9e52fd881428#.1byckgdps

The push for standards-aligned workforce development by reformers goes from “cradle to gray” as they say. Through blockchain and other means (Kevin can talk about recent developments in Blockchain/Bitcoin legislation in DE), they are looking to break education down into these bits and pieces. People will accumulate them through “lifelong learning” as they call it. Which is a pretty unpleasant take on the concept. The goal is that there will be a seamless experience, no preschool, elementary school, middle, school, college, post-secondary, workforce certification—just badges and micro credentials that define you as a digital citizen.

“My son has read my books. He stays far away from the education sector.” I think once you look into what Parchment is really about, you will see how it is tied into the education sector. These are really new markets, once that the average person is not necessarily family with unless they enjoy delving into topics like block chain and learning eco-systems.

Diane Ravitch, 9/16/16, 10:48am:

Skeptic, I have no control over investment decisions by my son’s company. I don’t think he is a Pearson stockholder. Actually, I bought 10 shares so that my vote could be cast against present management. But you are wasting your time haranguing about Raine investments. I don’t know about them. My son doesn’t support me. His investments don’t affect my views.

This was where the conversation ended, but I certainly hope it continues.  It is far to important not to.  To point out one important thing: I am not Digital Skeptic nor do I know who it is.

This morning, the United Opt Out National group came out with the following position statement, in large part, I believe, as a reaction to the blog posts from yesterday:

“As the opt out movement grows, we grow – sometimes in different directions and sometimes together – as we adjust to policy changes that impact our schools.” United Opt Out National. Growth is necessary to ensure we continue to refuse to accept the privatization of our schools and communities.  As a form of resistance, opt out threatens those who seek to push their toxic brand of reform on public education.  And as the tactics change and evolve, opt out is needed more than ever.  

            Opt out is a type of civil disobedience. It is a form of protest where parents, students, and teachers refuse to submit to the perverted use of high stakes standardized testing. We never wanted permission to opt out.  We never asked for an opt out clause. We promoted opt out as a tool for stopping the corporate assault on public education. Opt out was to be the first domino that sends the rest falling down. If a whole class opts out then there is no need for test prep and if a whole school opts out then there is no need to use valued added measures (VAM) to evaluate teachers.  And one by one the dominoes fall as we get closer to tearing down the school reform house of cards.

            Since ESSA was passed, we at United Opt Out National have encouraged parents, students, and teachers to refuse indoctrination through digital learning. As we became aware of how the reformers would use ESSA to push through their new scheme we restructured our goals to include:

Push for protections for quality pedagogy, the teaching profession, and public school funding that the newly legislated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) attempts to tear down via the push toward isolationist computer based digital instruction that facilitates indoctrination, free for all data mining, and compromised cognitive, physical, and social development; the alternative teacher certification programs that place unqualified people in classrooms, and the unregulated charter industry that strips public schools of resources, increases segregation, and allows for theft of public money.

 Instead of only opting out of high stakes standardized tests, we have promoted opting out of all digital learning and assessments. In fact, given the documented negative effects of excessive screen time on children’s healthy development, our revised opt out letters must call for no screen time or a very limited amount each day (see sample letter below).  We must make it clear that no matter what legislation is passed or what new gimmicks they create; we will not be tricked into thinking that corporations have our best interest at heart.

            You see, those who seek to privatize education are always promoting choice. They promote charters because it gives parents choice. They support competency based education and personalized learning because it is tailored to the needs of children and gives them choices.  Well we support choice too. And opt out is a choice. A choice to just say no. No to the privatization schemes. No to turning education into a business. No to replacing teachers with computers. No to non-educators controlling education. As parents, students, and teachers we get to choose what type of education system we want. And when we opt out our choice becomes crystal clear.

In fact, we at United Opt Out National are working to broaden the opt out movement by hosting a Civil Rights Summit in Houston, Texas October 14-16. Our goal is to work with Houston AFT and civil rights groups who have historically misunderstood the opt out movement, to determine if we can build common ground around the harmful effects high stakes standardized testing is having on black and brown communities. Broadening opt out to be more inclusive of the needs of communities of color is another way we keep opt out alive and well and counter the myth that opt out is for white soccer moms. Opt out is about reclaiming our people power to fight back against what we know is wrong.  Opt out is only as strong as the people who use it. And the more we continue to resist the stronger we become.

I think we are all looking at the same book, but some of us appear to be on different chapters or pages within those chapters.  I agree with every single thing in United Opt Out’s statement.  Things have been very heated in the past few weeks.  It is more important that we talk with each other and reach out to each other.  We aren’t always going to agree, but our end goals are all the same: to get this horrible corporate invasion of public schools to come to an end once and for all.  Some feel that the discussion is the solution.  I don’t always agree with that.  I feel finding common ground or compromising only gives more power to the “other side”.  It is my contention they (the ed reformers and their legion of supporters in positions of power and commerce) put stuff out there knowing it will be sacrificed to make themselves look good.  But there are some who straddle between us (the rebellion) and the reformers (the empire).  There is value in swaying those groups, parents, and power figures to our side.  Some of us (like myself) take a very direct approach and the result isn’t seen as a soft touch.  Trust is a fragile thing in this environment.  I’m sure many groups and people who have been fighting this fight can attest to this.  This is what prompted the Diane Ravitch conversation.  I am taking Diane at her word that her son stays away from the education sector with the business he co-founded.  Even though others in the very same company are investing in ed tech, it is not my place to get involved with a son’s word to his mother.  I very much appreciate Diane engaging in this conversation.

 

Opt Out As We Know It Is Dead… Long Live The Badge

For years, I’ve been telling Delaware parents they should choose to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I was wrong.  Here is why…

We are entering a new era in education.  The promised era of digital personalized learning is here.  It is on the cusp of coming into every single public school in the country.  New national broadband laws are coming out of the woodwork to allow this.  We won’t need to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It will be gone soon.  They listened to us.  They heard us.  They will get rid of this test.  We gave them exactly what they wanted.  It was a trap. Continue reading

How Is It A “Strategic Plan” When It Takes An Ex Rodel Employee Over Two Years To Build It?

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If the strategy to improve special education in Delaware is to delay improving it for two years, the Delaware Department of Education is doing a bang-up job!

The Delaware Dept. of Education put out an announcement today for their “Special Education Strategic Plan”.  This plan was snuck into the epilogue language of the FY2015 budget on June 30th, 2014.  Here we are, over 27 months later, with NO Special Education Strategic Plan.  The director of this strategic plan is a former employee of the Rodel Foundation with no actual teaching experience in the classroom.  Matthew Korobkin worked for a collaborative that helped ten school districts with assistive technology.  That is NOT the same thing as living and breathing special education.  But somehow that qualified him for a job with the Massachusetts DOE (which Rodel CEO Paul Herdman worked for way back when) where he worked for 14 months.  Then he worked for Rodel for 2 1/2 years.  In October of 2014, he joined the Secretary of Education office as a “Special Education Officer”.

Given his background with technology and Rodel, I can easily see where this “strategic plan” is heading.  I can picture words like “personalized learning” and “competency-based education” being in this report.  And let’s not be fooled by this new desire for public input on special education.  This guy has never once sought out my opinion on anything.  This is more of the DOE charade where they give the illusion of public input so they can include it in the report with words like “we brought stakeholders from across the state together to discuss this”.  Right out of the Rodel playbook…

After butting heads with the Autism community over the failed amendment to Senate Bill 93, this is the guy who we want creating this strategic plan?  Let’s get real here.  Somehow, someway, Rodel wanted to get in on special education.  Their biggest enemy, in my opinion, is parents of children with disabilities.  We see through their crap and know that anything they want to invade our kids lives is somehow going to benefit companies and not our kids.  So they wormed one of their guys into the Secretary of Education office.  This guy has been collecting a paycheck for well over two years with NO results.  And now, we are led to believe we are going to see this “strategic plan” sometime before Jack Markell leaves office?  Why haven’t they been soliciting parent input on this for the past two years?  If this guy was remotely serious, he would have gone to parents in the first place.  Not wait two years.  When the DOE has this strategic plan overshadow everything else in special education, I have a major beef with that.  I guess we have to wait even longer for our kids to get the special education they needed two years ago so the ex Rodel guy can figure it all out.  How ironic they will be getting this out along with the Every Student Succeeds Act implementation and “stakeholder” input.  Almost as if that was the plan all along…

Meanwhile, the Delaware DOE is seeing a large increase in special education due process hearings and administrative complaints.  The placements in residential treatment centers is increasing every year, whether in-state or out of state.  Students with disabilities continue to do poorly on the Smarter Balanced Assessment as they are forced to take the test for longer periods of time than their peers.  Is it really a coincidence this is all happening at larger rates since Delaware implemented Common Core?  And what will happen to these students when we go full-blown personalized learning?  Competency-based education and special education are oil and water.

Here is the press release with my thoughts in red.

Public input sought to inform special education strategic plan

The Delaware Department of Education invites members of the public to three input sessions, one in each county, to inform the state’s strategic plan for special education.  Attendees will be asked to frame their comments around the following two questions:

1.    What are the most critical challenges in the delivery of special education services within the State of Delaware?

 I guess Mr. Korobkin didn’t bother to listen to ANY of the audio recordings from the IEP Task Force.  I can answer this one.  The most critical challenge is the Delaware DOE hiring ex Rodel employees to launch some Strategic Plan that takes over two years to create.

2.    When thinking about these challenges, what solutions do you think may solve these challenges?

Get back to reality and stop living in this nightmare world where even students with disabilities can do as well as their peers if we just give ’em enough rigor and grit to catch up.  Stop fooling everyone and stop playing games at the expense of students, teachers, schools, and parents.  The jig is up.

 Input will be recorded, reviewed, and used to inform the creation of the strategic plan.

I guess parents talking about their own experiences with special education, which is being recorded, isn’t going to come back to haunt them in some way.  I love the wording here: “used to inform”.  Not used to create, but inform.  Which means nothing when you actually think about it.  Sorry, but how much is Korobkin making at the DOE?  What the hell has he been doing for two years that he is just now getting to the parent input part of this plan?  I can picture it already: “Guys, the Strategic Plan is done!” “Did you get any parent input?”  “No, do I need that?”  “It looks good in the report.”  “Okay, I’ll get right on that!”

 

The meetings are planned for:

·         4 to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Collette Education Resource Center Conference Room A, 35 Commerce Way, Dover

·         6:30 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Wilmington Public Library Commons Room, 10 E. 10th St., Wilmington

·         4:30 to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 27 at the Greenwood Public Library meeting room, 100 Mill St., Greenwood

 

Should you need accommodations at any of these meetings, please contact Matthew Korobkin at Matthew.Korobkin@doe.k12.de.us or (302) 735-4192.

How about students with disabilities get the accommodations they need?  And I’m not talking about standards-based accommodations or accommodations for your precious Smarter Balanced test, but ones that don’t put them in a grinder!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving you another year before consequences kick in.

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

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

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

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

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

And here are examples of the surveys this company wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

32 Questions: Delaware Candidates For Governor On Education

I sent education surveys to all four of the candidates running for Delaware Governor.  Three responded.  I want to thank all the candidates for responding.  Many of the questions I asked deal with the issues I write about on this blog.  The survey was sent a few weeks ago, so recent events such as the district-charter funding issue and Blockchain aren’t in here.

These were tough questions in many areas and I challenged the candidates to do some research with some of them.  In some areas, all three were in agreement and in others not so much.  There were 32 questions overall, dealing with issues concerning teachers, special education, Common Core, Rodel, Markell, FOIA, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and more. Continue reading

What’s So Bad About Educational Technology? Beware The Poverty Pimps!

Ed Tech.  It is everywhere.  Like the Vikings of yesteryear, it is invading every classroom in America.  It is pillaging the public education village.  For the Vikings, this was their way.  It was all they knew.  But for the Poverty Pimps, the companies who profit from students with the justification of fixing education for poor kids, it is disturbing on many levels.  If this technology is used in moderation and for the sole benefit of increasing the ability for students to learn, that would be one thing.  But companies are making billions of dollars off of our kids.  Even worse, the privacy of our children’s information is suspect at best.  One mom from Pennsylvania, Alison McDowell, has looked into all of this and she has found out a lot about what is going on with this aspect of the Ed Tech Boom.

A Skeptical Parent’s Thoughts on Evaluating Digital Learning Programs

With the school year beginning, questions about digital learning programs and computerized behavior management programs have started to pop up in my feed. Is X program ok? How about Y? Concerned parents are scanning privacy policies and trying to figure it all out. What does this mean for MY child?

As someone who took a symbolic stand and opted her child out of Google Apps for Education last year (and she didn’t seem to come out any the worse for wear for it BTW), I’d like to share my current thinking on this topic. I am not a Luddite, but I am concerned that rather than being taught to use and control technology, many children (especially children in turn-around or transformation schools) are increasingly being put into the position of being used BY technology to further the interests of for-profit cyber instruction and workforce development. I’m sharing my thoughts in the hope of opening up a discussion and to see where other folks are in this brave new world.

For me the bottom line is this: Does the technology under consideration empower students to be the creators of the content? Is the power with THEM?

If the answer is “yes,” then it shouldn’t depend on tracking personalized data to function properly. Sure kids should be able to work on a project, save it, and go back to it, but online monitors shouldn’t be tracking all their data. Students own the work they do. It is their intellectual property. It should remain accessible and editable by them for the purposes of what the child and the teacher are doing in the CLASSROOM-that’s it. Storing student learning with PII (personally identifiable information) in the cloud for some unspecified future purpose concerns me.

Fortunately for our family, the above scenario is the norm at my daughter’s school. Mostly they use GAFE for open-ended word processing and there is a geometry program that allows students to render shapes. But THEY are doing the creating. The work is being done in THEIR brains. They are not consuming pre-determined content and having their micro-data tracked and aggregated.

If the sole purpose of the technology under consideration is to distribute content from an online learning management system based on prior data that a program has gleaned from a student interacting with the program, that is NOT an empowering educational experience.

Others may feel differently, but right now that is my framework for looking at this issue. That, and the fact that technology should not supplant funds for human teachers and there should be age-appropriate screen time limits during the school day.

What we need is more educational sovereignty and less educational surveillance.

In Delaware, personalized learning is pushed heavily by the Rodel Foundation with support from the Delaware business community.  Rodel, a non-profit company, has been pimping personalized learning and competency-based education for years.  I have extreme issues with the CEO of a non-profit being the highest paid education person in the state, with a reported earning of $343,000 as of 2014.  That is a lot more money than the highest paid state employee in education, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, who earned $217,000 as of last year.  Every state has similar “foundations” doing the same thing.

Delaware teachers are at a crossroads.  Do they embrace this technology knowing it could eventually lead to the end of their career as they know it, or do they resist it and fade into obscurity as districts and charter schools feel they aren’t supporting education?  The problem is the power  structure.  The teachers who are embracing this technology are regarded as education heroes in the press.  They are considered the “trailblazers” who will lead our children to “college and career readiness”.  They get the rewards and the accolades while teachers in high-poverty schools, who work just as hard without proper funding and resources in bloated classrooms, get labeled and shamed over the state assessment scores.

For parents, their rights to protect their child’s personal information have slowly been dismantled through federal regulations involving FERPA.  Outside contractors with state and local education agencies have certain allowances which allow them to see personal information.  The laws surrounding this are very vague and unclear.  On the surface, they look great.  But the loopholes embedded in these laws are the true tale.  For parents, opt out is no longer about the state assessment.  It is also about education technology.  But how does a parent opt their child out of entire curriculums that use computers and hand-held devices?  It’s not like schools can say “that’s fine, we will give your child a textbook.”

As the world slowly begins to embrace Blockchain technology, modeled after Bitcoin, serious questions are being asked about how this could transform the education landscape.  And what it means for our children.  Make no mistake, the initiatives and “ideas” are already in play and have been for years.  Blockchain is the end of the agendas.  It is the Rubicon of the plans that began in the early 1990s.  While these “futurists” didn’t foresee the exact mechanism of what is now Blockchain, they knew education would become a master and apprentice society, with earn to learn programs replacing the traditional classroom.  Common Core and the high-stakes testing were a means to this end.  We are hearing more and more talk about career pathways and early education.  The role of corporations in these areas is too large to ignore.  We are knee-deep in Education Incorporated, but we are about to be swallowed whole.

Last March, I created a Parent Bill of Rights for Education.  It began as a response to the Center for American Progress’ Testing Bill of Rights.  I found their platform to be insulting to the students, parents, and teachers of America.  Since then, things have changed.  I landed in Facebook jail when I posted this to the same groups I show my articles to.  With no explanation whatsoever from Facebook.  The idea took on a life of its own.  But I need your help.  Please look at it.  Come up with ideas on how to improve it.  Let’s make this a real thing and present it to Congress next year.  We must be able to exert parental control over what is best for our children before that control is stripped from us forever.  To this end, I have created a Parent Bill of Rights for Public Education group.  It will be a private group.  It will be by invitation only, which some may see as hypocritical on my end given my  rants about transparency.  But we don’t want the corporations getting their hooks into this.  This will be created by parents, for their children.  Not for profit or power and gain.  This is for our kids.  Because we love them better than any company ever will.

 

Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger”

If Washington D.C. is the capital of America, than Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.

Over the past week, many of us who are resisting the privatization of public education have been talking about The Ledger.  Peter Greene broke the news for the world to see, which Diane Ravitch quickly picked up on.  What is “The Ledger”? Continue reading

The High-Stakes Testing Scam Revealed At Last

What if I told you the high-stakes testing American children have been going through is a complete and utter scam? Many would say they already knew that, but would they be able to tell you how they knew this? Probably not. At least not at the levels our state Department of Educations developed with the many testing companies such as American Institutes for Research, Pearson, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The Delaware Department of Education put out a Request for Proposal for our new Social Studies State Assessment. The actual RFP is a treasure trove of testing information. For starters, the Delaware Department of Education is flat-out lying in their RFP. Last year, the Delaware DOE put out their “Delaware School Success Framework”. This is essentially Delaware’s report card for schools. Included in this horrible accountability testing machine are participation rate penalties for schools that go under 95% participation rate on the state assessments. The Delaware DOE and State Board of Education tried passing an updated version of Delaware’s regulation regarding school accountability, but many parents and education organizations balked and successfully blocked the State Board of Education from passing it. As a result, even though the Delaware State Board of Education eventually passed the Delaware School Success Framework, there is no regulatory power behind it. But that didn’t stop the Delaware DOE from making it look like it is perfectly legal in their RFP for the new Social Studies state assessment.

One of the first things the DOE calls for from a potential vendor for this test is understanding of and the ability to put the Rasch Scoring Methodology into the test. What is this Rasch the Delaware DOE has? It is an all-consuming itch to trip up kids and schools and parents. This is part of the underbelly of state testing that no one talks about. The website appropriately titled Rasch-Analysis.com explains the Rasch Scoring Methodology as this:

What is a Rasch Analysis? The Rasch model, where the total score summarizes completely a person’s standing on a variable, arises from a more fundamental requirement: that the comparison of two people is independent of which items may be used within the set of items assessing the same variable. Thus the Rasch model is taken as a criterion for the structure of the responses, rather than a mere statistical description of the responses. For example, the comparison of the performance of two students’ work marked by different graders should be independent of the graders.

In this case it is considered that the researcher is deliberately developing items that are valid for the purpose and that meet the Rasch requirements of invariance of comparisons.

Analyzing data according to the Rasch model, that is, conducting a Rasch analysis, gives a range of details for checking whether or not adding the scores is justified in the data. This is called the test of fit between the data and the model. If the invariance of responses across different groups of people does not hold, then taking the total score to characterize a person is not justified. Of course, data never fit the model perfectly, and it is important to consider the fit of data to the model with respect to the uses to be made of the total scores. If the data do fit the model adequately for the purpose, then the Rasch analysis also linearises the total score, which is bounded by 0 and the maximum score on the items, into measurements. The linearised value is the location of the person on the unidimensional continuum – the value is called a parameter in the model and there can be only one number in a unidimensional framework. This parameter can then be used in analysis of variance and regression more readily than the raw total score which has floor and ceiling effects.

Many assessments in these disciplines involve a well defined group of people responding to a set of items for assessment. Generally, the responses to the items are scored 0, 1 (for two ordered categories); or 0, 1, 2 (for three ordered categories); or 0, 1,2, 3 (for four ordered categories) and so on, to indicate increasing levels of a response on some variable such as health status or academic achievement. These responses are then added across items to give each person a total score. This total score summarise the responses to all the items, and a person with a higher total score than another one is deemed to show more of the variable assessed. Summing the scores of the items to give a single score for a person implies that the items are intended to measure a single variable, often referred to as a unidimensional variable.

The Rasch model is the only item response theory (IRT) model in which the total score across items characterizes a person totally. It is also the simplest of such models having the minimum of parameters for the person (just one), and just one parameter corresponding to each category of an item. This item parameter is generically referred to as a threshold. There is just one in the case of a dichotomous item, two in the case of three ordered categories, and so on.

Now this has a lot of lingo I didn’t quite get.  But the important part about understanding the Rasch Methodology of Scoring is that ALL items must be the same.  This is NOT what is going on currently.  With Smarter Balanced, PARCC and other state assessments, the testing companies have developed what is called a Partial Matrix of Items.  What this means is that a portion of the state assessment is the same for everyone.  But the remaining portion comes from a bucket of different test items submitted for these tests.  In partial matrix testing theory, the similar content shared by all could be anywhere from 20-30% of the items on the test.  The rest varies based on what is in the bucket.  What this means is this shocking find: students aren’t taking the exact same state assessment.  For Smarter Balanced test-takers, the tests aren’t the same.  The same for PARCC as well.

The truly frightening part about this is the probabilities with Partial Matrix.  If a student is a high achiever, the probability they will get a correct answer is above a probability of .5 on each item’s scale.  If they aren’t a high achiever and struggle, the probability drops below .5 on the scale.  So these tests are designed so roughly half get it right and half get them wrong.  But if kids aren’t taking the same exact test, where all the items after the “common” items change, that throws the whole model into whack.  The testing companies know this.  Our state DOEs know this.  The US DOE knows this.  Chances are many corporate education reform companies, politicians, and even some school Superintendents know this.  Any testing coordinator in a school district or charter school should know this.

This is also why opt out throws the whole scheme into disarray.  If too many “smart kids” opt out, it will change that whole .5 probability.  If too many struggling kids opt out, the test scores will be very high.  The testing companies love this model because it furthers the whole standardized testing environment which gives them lots of money.  With this model, schools fail and schools succeed.  It really is based on the socio-economic demographics of any given school.  This explains why the 95% participation rate is the desired outcome.  With a school of 1000 kids, 950 kids taking the test isn’t going to skew the results too much.  But once you get below that level, that .5 probability begins to shift in either direction.  None of these testing advocates care if the kids are proficient or not.  They already know, for the most part, exactly how it is going to turn out.  That’s when the real work and potential manipulation can occur.

In Delaware, students don’t take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the same time.  There is a three month testing window.  Some schools begin in the first week of March whereas others may not start until May.  How do we know, with 100% certainty, companies like our testing vendor, American Institutes for Research aren’t looking at that data constantly?  How do we know they aren’t able to ascertain which questions have a higher or lower probability of being answered correctly once students start taking the test?  How do we know the testing gurus at our state DOEs aren’t in constant contact with the testing companies and are able to determine ahead of time which testing items in the “non-common” partial matrix to send to different schools, or even certain grades?

For example, say a state really wants to have a particular school show phenomenal “growth” in proficiency scores from one year to the next.  This could be a charter school.  While the overall proficiency rate isn’t phenomenal, the growth could be.  As a result, more students could be wowed by this school and might be more apt to send their children there.  It could flip around another way.  Say a state DOE really is  just sick of a particular district and wants more charters in that area.  The best way to make more charters is to show more failing traditional schools.  Even some charters could be expendable.  Another one might want to expand their enrollment and has more influence and pull than other ones.  With current accountability regulations (and more to come under ESSA), this allows states to continue labeling and shaming certain schools.  The reality is these assessments can be molded into any shape a state might want if they are able to interact with the testing vendor and determine which items go to which school.  This is a worst-case scenario for an already bad test to begin with.

While state DOEs brag about the computer-adaptability of these tests and how it will “work with the student”, this is the most egregious part of the whole modern-day standardized testing scheme.  By having this “adaptability”, it disguises the true intent: different items on the tests for different students.  Even if students talk about particular items on the test, the adaptability prevents them from having the same items on the test.  It is an ingenious scheme.

For teachers, some could be guided towards certain directions by the state DOEs for where to go with curriculum.  Others could be guided in the wrong direction which will ultimately change the results of these assessments.  It is the grandest illusion of them all.  The state DOEs will say “we have advisory committees.  Teachers pick the items for the test.”  I’m sure they do.  And I’m also sure there are plants on those committees.  Ones that wind up working with certain state foundations, state DOEs, or other corporate education reform companies.  It sounds so shady, doesn’t it?  How much of a soul has to be sold to make more money or climb up the corporate education ladder?

While all of this may have your head reeling, try this on for size: what happens when competency-based education becomes the next “thing”?  When digital personalized learning becomes the norm and all these state assessments become broken down into mini-standardized tests?  Instead of those 7-10 days when students are hogging up all the bandwidth in the school and teachers most likely lose a lot of hair, the tests will be shorter.  They will become end of unit assessments.  Teachers won’t even need to worry about administering their own end of unit assessment because Smarter Balanced and PARCC already did all the work!  How convenient.  Not only did our states reduce testing time, but also teacher’s time and effort.  A true cause for celebration.  And parents won’t even be able to opt their kids out of these tests because most of them most likely won’t even know their kid is testing and their classroom grades will be based off their digital personalized learning work and their competency-based education high-stakes mini-test.  We know Delaware is leaning towards this testing model because Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky mentioned this during our last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting back in May.

Meanwhile, back at the state DOE, they are getting all this data.  They are getting it from their vendors like American Institutes for Research, or Questar, or Pearson.  Other companies want to see it so they can work on a report about how to fix our schools.  Our state DOEs actually pay them to do these reports.  Through contracts and extensions of contracts.  Yes, only the student identifier code goes out.  These testing companies really don’t care about who the student is, just what they can extrapolate from the data.  But then that information comes back to the state.  The state knows who that student identifier belongs to.  For example, Student ID # belongs to John Johns at Delaware Elementary School.  Based on the information from all that data, they can easily paint a picture of that student.  Based on the scores, how long it took them to take the test, how they answered responsive questions… all of this allows them to track.  So much so they can determine, based on other algorithms and matrices, exactly what career path John Johns is heading towards.  Perhaps we should guide him towards that culinary program.  Or maybe Bio-technology pathways.  Or maybe poor John Johns won’t ever advance past a welder position.  FERPA guidelines allow state DOEs to actually do this.

Want to know who always loses in these testing games?  Students with disabilities.  They may receive accommodations but they never get the one accommodation they need the most.  For regular classroom tests, IEP teams frequently agree on a student not taking every single test question.  Maybe 1//2 or 3/4 of the questions.  Standardized tests don’t allow for that.  The answer is always the same: they will get more time.  What they fail to understand is what “more time” means to these students.  It means more time focusing on the same task: Taking a test.  What are their regular peers doing when these kids are getting “more time”?  They are learning.  Receiving instruction.  Getting ahead.  Students with disabilities are, yet again, put in a position where they will become further behind.

We all knew our kids were guinea pigs for these tests.  We just didn’t know how much.  The time to opt out of these tests, no matter what the circumstances might be, is now.  Not later, not tomorrow.  Now.  Today is your opt out day for your child.

Below is the RFP for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment.  I’ve gone through this and highlighted key wording and troubling aspects which I will write more about tonight or tomorrow.  Don’t be fooled by the DOE’s statements of assurance in this.  I have no doubt their legal team went through it very carefully.  But I’m fairly certain they didn’t expect a citizen to go through it and dissect it like I did…

The Jack Markell Email That Has Delaware Teachers Seething

JackMeme

Governor Markell sent an email to teachers and administrators thanking them for the latest Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  Meanwhile, people don’t care.  In the grand tradition of the former and very much lamented Transparent Christina, I hereby present the red-line edition of Jack’s chest-thumping email!

From: Markell, Governor (Governor)

Gee really, you need to write it down twice?

Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2016 2:01:51 PM (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
To:
K12 Employees
Subject:
Thank you to educators and school administrators

Thank you Governor Markell for forcing students to take this test and for teachers to administer them.  God bless the opt out parents!

Dear Educators and School Administrators,

What, no love for the parents? 

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer.

You too Jack.  Speaking on behalf of teachers, thank you for interrupting our bliss and harmony with this email.

As many of you may have seen, today the state released our annual data showing student performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The improved scores across subjects and grade levels throughout our state serves as yet more evidence that your hard work is producing great results for our children and I wanted to take this opportunity to send a note of thanks.

In other words, over half our kids still aren’t proficient in math based on Smarter Balanced Standards and only 55% of them are proficient in ELA based on those same standards.  I see what you’re doing here.  Thanking teachers for their “hard work” for bad results.  The joke is on you.  Anyone who doesn’t know this is a crap test has been living in a cave somewhere.

Our transition to higher standards for what students should know at each grade level has contributed to making the last few years a tremendously challenging time for all of our educators, no matter what subject you teach, and all administrators. At a time when it’s clear that students will rely on their education more than ever to reach their potential, we know they deserve these higher expectations aligned to what colleges and employers will expect of them after graduation.

Newsflash Jack, education has always been needed for students to reach their full potential.  This isn’t anything new.  Stop making it a crisis.  We get it.  They don’t “deserve these higher expectations”.  That’s like saying “I’m going to hit you in the face.  It will hurt.  But it will make you stronger.”  Colleges hate Common Core, hate your stupid high-stakes tests, and I have yet to hear any employer say “what were your Smarter Balanced scores?” in an interview. 

Accepting the higher standards at the state level was the easy part. Our progress is the result of what happens in our classrooms every day.

Yeah, rigor and grit.  Lots of academic sweat that still hasn’t produced the results you think we want but you don’t really because as long as kids our doing bad they still need to be fixed.  This story is getting as old as your time in office.  Like the citizens of the state had much say in accepting these “higher standards”.  When you dangle carrots like “Look, we’re getting all this money from the feds during a time when I had to cut teacher raises.  Hip Hop Hooray!  Come and board my train.  It will be fun.  Please fasten your seat belts cause you are going to get ridiculed and tested like never before.  Don’t worry about the scores or the growth.  Progress is progress.  As long as my friends make money, that is the true progress!”

The improving proficiency levels released today represent another data point to show that what you are doing is working. Our graduation rates are at record levels, and recently led the country for the biggest growth. More students than ever are being prepared to be fluent in another language, and to pass college-level dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses before they graduate. And you are making possible the incredible growth in our Pathways to Prosperity program, which just 2 years after it launched with about 30 students, will give more than 5,000 students this fall the chance to take courses that prepare them with college credit and workplace experience in growing industries from IT to health care to culinary arts.

But most of those students will need to go to Del-Tech.  Way to spend millions of dollars on programs that benefit your buddies over there.  Your asskissery has no limits.  More flavor in the favors, that’s all this is.  While I don’t mind students learning other languages, the fact that your “World Immersion” programs limit the number of kids who can enroll, especially students with disabilities, will just ultimately create more discrimination and segregation.  Why is it whenever I see pictures of these programs I see mostly white kids Jack?  But let’s take the time to thank Governor Markell for yet another data point that states the obvious: your ideas DON’T WORK!!!  Maybe to the sycophant Delaware DOE, State Board of Education and the suck-ups who don’t realize they are on the table and still think they are at the table.

More than anything, I want to thank you for the daily efforts you put into making your classroom the best possible learning environment, taking time after the school day ends to provide the best extra support, and developing lessons that meet individual needs of each child.

Individual needs measured by a standardized test that does not differentiate between those individual needs and set up to make those with the highest needs look like failures.  Teachers are burned out with your absolute hypocrisy and BS Jack.  How many more months?  I’m sure all the teachers are eternally grateful they have to spend so much of their day outside of their regular hours that get sucked up with professional development.  I’m sure they are real happy about that.  I’m sure they love the extreme waste of hours it takes students to take this cash in the trash test.  Thank you for not providing the true funding our students need to be truly successful and giving all those corporations their big tax breaks.  Thank you for giving the middle finger to parents and basically saying to them “Shut the hell up about what you want.  This is MY Delaware,” followed by “If you thought those after-school hours are bad now dear educators, wait until your schools become all-day community centers from fetus to the grave!”

I look forward to following your lead and making the most of all of my remaining days in office to provide the support our teachers and students need to make the most of their talents.

I have no doubt you will spend your remaining days finding new ways to further your corporate education reform agendas for your Wall Street, Rodel, and big campaign donor buddies.  Don’t forget Jack, you have to put those final nails in the public education coffin by getting those competency-based personalized learning plans into shape.  How long before the announcement that Smarter Balanced will replace final exams and tlater will serve as end of unit tests?  Can we take a peak at your stock portfolio?  God help us all if you do anything education related at a higher level after you (finally) leave office…

Thank you,

“Not really but I have to play this up…suckers!”

Jack A. Markell

Alan Jackson

Governor

Lame-Duck! Quack Quack!

Why Companies Like Achieve Inc Now Want You To Opt Out Of State Assessments

A blog called NYC Public School Parents published the results of a survey about testing and opt out a couple of days ago.  The findings were a bit bizarre in my opinion.  The fact that it came from Achieve Inc. is very troubling.  For the past couple years, maybe longer, parents have been opting their children out of the state assessment.  That’s a good thing.  But the fact that Achieve Inc. would publish findings that show parents are presumably getting sick of testing and more suburban moms know about opt out is a bit of a farce in my opinion.  At this point, Achieve wants you to opt out.  They want you to complain about too much testing.  They want you, the parents of America, to make such a loud noise that the feds and the states will be forced to change testing environments.  Yes, one of the biggest corporate education reform companies in America is finally in agreement with what we’ve been saying all along!  Finally!  But guess what… this was the plan all along.

If you are royally confused, follow me.  Achieve Inc. helped to set up the Common Core, way back when.  There are some who say they took the work of the Common Core steering committees, ditched it, and came up with their own set of standards.  You know how so many people say “Common Core sucks” and “It’s federal intrustion” and all that stuff?  They are right.  I believe it was intentionally designed to be messed up.  And the tests based off it, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC?  They were designed to be bad tests.  No one will say this officially.  But they wanted enough parents to opt out to make some noise.  Not a full-blown, everyone opts out noise.  But enough to draw attention to the subject of assessments.  And they responded.  Florida, Delaware, and many other states conducted Assessment Inventories.  In Delaware, ours was initiated by, who else, Achieve Inc.  These inventories served a double purpose.  It kept the subject of “too many assessments” in the minds of those who followed this type of thing.  It also helped to stop some states from moving forward with opt out legislation.  I’ve seen a Delaware Department of Education email stating our Senate Joint Resolution #2 was a solution against opt out.

You’re still confused.  I understand.  It’s hard to explain this in any way that makes sense.  The Common Core-High Stakes Testing era of corporate education reform is coming to an end.  Very soon.  But that was just a phase.  It allowed the states to get all their data systems in place.  It allowed career & technical education initiatives to get their start.  But the biggest thing Common Core and the state assessments did was open the door to something else.  We are now entering the next phase and the groundwork was laid a long time ago.

Welcome to the Competency-Based Education era!  Instead of your child advancing through grade levels, they will now advance once they master the material.  Don’t get me wrong.  The state assessments will still be there.  But parents most likely won’t even know when their child is taking it.  Because it won’t be the same test.  It won’t be students cooped up taking the same test over a period of weeks in the Spring.  It will be all year.  The same tests, that we have loved to hate, they will still be here.  They may tweak them up a bit, but they aren’t going anywhere.  They laid the trap, and we all fell in it.

How is this even possible?  Through modern technology.  Through personalized learning.  Don’t be fooled by the term personalized learning.  There are actually two kinds.  The concept has been around for decades.  More one-on-one instruction from teachers, personalized on that student’s strengths and weaknesses.  A very humanistic approach which I don’t have an issue with.  But what the corporate education pirates want is the same thing, but take out the teacher.  Substitute it with technology.  With computers, and the internet, and cloud-based systems, and blended learning.  The teachers will still be there, but they won’t be the in front of the classroom teachers anymore.  They will facilitate, and guide the students through what the computer is teaching them.  Some states may push back a bit on this, and compromise with a blended learning system, which is a mix of both.  But make no mistake, the eventual destination is the demise of teacher unions and public education as we know it.

So if public education is gone, will we all have to pay for private school?  We kind of already are.  They are called charter schools.  The first one opened up in the early 1990s.  It has been a slow invasion ever since.  Even though charters represent less than a quarter of the schools in America, they have gained such a foothold in America that their supporters have overshadowed those who oppose them.  Charter schools, no matter what anyone tells you, are not public schools.  They don’t operate the same, and they aren’t held accountable in the same ways.  In charter heavy states, the laws have been written so they get a little bit more of this, a little bit less of that.  They are corporations.  With bylaws and boards that aren’t elected by the people, but among themselves.  Many of them are non-profit organizations, while some of the chains are very much for profit.  But they are not held to the same standards as regular schools.  Those that are horrible wind up shutting down.  These usually surround incapable buffoons who decide to steal from the kitty and get rich quick.  These idiots usually get caught, at one point or another.  They are non-union, and teachers don’t have the same protections as public school teachers.  But we pay for charter schools.

When you pay a local school district with your school taxes, they have to send part of those funds to the charter schools.  Any student from that district who attends a charter school?  You are paying for them to go there.  It comes out of a district’s local funds.  You send that proportion of the students costs to the charter.  There are different buckets of money where your school taxes go.  Some go towards buildings and repairs.  But a lot of them go to the actual student’s share of the pie.  And if they go to a charter, those funds follow them.  As a result, some school districts are left with much less funds over they years.  And since some charters like to pick and choose who they get, even though getting them to admit it is a lesson in futility, they take the better kids from the school districts.  Leaving the school districts with the harder to reach kids.  The ones who the charters don’t want.  If you think lotteries are really random, think again.  Some have very carefully worded interviews, some do kindergarten screenings, and some even have actual pre-acceptance tests.  They don’t want regular school districts anymore, and they are openly at war with public education.  They like to throw out that their enemies are the oppressors and they are the victims.  I hear this rhetoric a lot.  But it’s the whole chicken and the egg scenario.  But in this case, one did come first and the other has been like locusts swarming on public education as we know it.  They have the backing of billionaires.  Those billionaires set up the funds for them, through shell companies all over the country.  Even the feds are in on it.  So what does any of that have to do with testing?

The way things are now, the full-scale privatization of American schools can’t possibly move forward with the blessing of the teacher unions.  But they can infiltrate those unions, and slowly but surely get them to move over to their side of thinking.  We see it all the time.  The National Education Association just finished up their annual representative assembly down in D.C.  One of the biggest topics was charter schools.  Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the NEA members and when she mentioned charters, she got booed.  But behind the scenes, there were several new business items different members of the NEA introduced.  Controversial business items.  Ones that called out the leadership for cavorting with the enemy.  Ones that called for less testing and less labeling and punishing.  The ones leadership wanted, they passed.  The ones they didn’t were either defeated or bundled up and sent to a committee.  Where they will most likely never be heard from again.  Not in their current form at least.  Far too many in the teacher unions are well aware they are under attack but their defensive posture is “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”  That Kumbaya seat at the table is a red herring.  It will be a feast.  A feast of crows and vultures picking at the bones of public education.

Every time the unions give in, every time they give up just that one little piece of what used to be theirs, they are dying a slow death.  They incorporate the education reformers ideas and then you start hearing talk about “the whole child” and “community centers”.  And how there is too much testing, and we need to support that idea.  As our school districts try to become community centers, they won’t realize it is a losing proposition.  It is an unsustainable effort, unless they get help.  That help will come from outside organizations.  Like the United Way, and foundations, and those who are dedicated to helping the plight of low-income and minority children.  The civil rights organizations will say Yes, Yes, Yes!  Money will flow all over the place.  The districts will think they have it made.  Add more pre-school!  Bring them in as early as possible.  We have grant money flowing.  We won’t have to pay for it.  Who cares about the charters, we have tons of money.  Until they don’t.  And that’s when they pull the plug.  Who is this “they” I speak of?  All those outside companies, the states, the feds and their grant money.  It will run out.  The districts won’t even see the man behind the curtain until it is too late.

Districts who promised parents they would take care of their children will all of a sudden, in a blink of an eye, go bankrupt.  The states will take them over.  They already did it in some cities with testing and accountability schemes crafted by random luck or things like Race To The Top.  Those schools became, you guessed it, charter schools.  But this will be much more epic in scope.  It will be called the end of public education.  Schools that over-borrowed to become what the education reformers wanted them to be, all under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  So what happens to the teachers?  The ones that are still in the profession by that point?  The ones who haven’t jumped ship because of the stringent regulations and accountability schemes?  And the evaluations based on the high-stakes tests that companies like Achieve Inc. now want parents to opt out of?  By this time, the personalized digital learning empire will be in full swing.  The state assessment will be broken up into chunks at the end of each learning chapter.  For students taking the online Social Studies class, for example, they will take the state assessment portion of the Civil War chapter one week, and a month later they will get the one on The Reconstruction.  Or maybe two months later depending on how not proficient some of those students are.  How quickly they can grasp the concepts.  By this time, most of those who fought the reformers will either give in and settle into their facilitator role or will have left the profession.

With the testing, don’t be shocked at all if you hear one name coming up a lot.  That would be Questar.  They are NOT their own company.  They are owned by American Institutes for Research (AIR), the un-credited creator of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Yeah, I know, the states made it!  And I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’m willing to sell to you as well.  They have their hooks in quite a few states, the most recent being New York and Tennessee.  The PARCC test got the most bad press and AIR took advantage of that.  So your kid will take the smaller high-stakes test which will also be an end-of-unit test.  Which will also determine students’ class grades.  Will parents be able to opt out of that?  It was one thing when the tests didn’t mean anything.  Now they will mean everything!  But it doesn’t stop there.  Because everything will be online and through cloud services, that means all your kid’s data is being meticulously tracked.  All the way down to how long it takes them to type something.  The “researchers” will use this data to determine what the best career your child will “do best” at when they are older.  Career pathways, beginning at the very youngest of ages.  Probably in pre-school with the latest screams to get more of that going.  It all looks great on paper, and they want you to think it’s great.  It’s how they will own your child.  The future corporate America.  Education won’t be education anymore.  It will be a high-tech recruiting facilitator-led community-centered we own your kid once we get our hooks into them.   And if all of this isn’t enough, they will bet on the results through social impact bonds.  And get paid for their perceived success margins.  Companies.  Your child is a profit center, but your kid won’t see any of the results except the ultimate Big Brother.

Any parent, teacher, or student needs to speak up NOW.

 

The Delaware Illuminati, Part 1: Jeb Bush Inspires Rodel

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  It is an effort to personalize learning so a student doesn’t always learn at the same pace as other students.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.  Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

 

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coordination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

To be continued…in part 2…coming soon…

To read the prologue to this series, link to The Delaware Illuminati, Prologue