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Coons Concerned About Trump’s Deep Cuts To Education Budget

A couple of weeks ago, I posted responses I received from U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE) and U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (DE) concerning the FY2018 U.S. Department of Education budget.  Yesterday, I received the following from U.S. Senator Chris Coons (DE).

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:
 
Thank you for contacting me regarding President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget and the proposed cuts to education programs. I appreciate your taking the time to write to me about this issue.
 
As someone who has served as a countywide elected official charged with writing balanced budgets, I have long viewed budgets as not just a collection of numbers and programs, but also a statement about our basic values. Unfortunately, the budget proposed by President Trump denies our basic values by balancing the budget on the backs of children, seniors, the poor, and the middle class, while cutting investments essential for our nation’s future. We need a budget that preserves our social safety net and recognizes that investments in infrastructure, research, health care, and education are critical to growing our economy and supporting a strong middle class.
I am particularly concerned about the President’s proposed $9.2 billion cut to the Department of Education. Among other programs, this budget eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program, Title II grants for teacher training, and Title IV grants for academic enrichment and student support. The budget also proposes drastic cuts to programs like TRIO, GEAR UP, and Federal Work-Study that help low-income students access college, as well as eliminates the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that incentivizes individuals to take public sector jobs. These cuts help fund $1.4 billion in school choice initiatives, including $1 billion for Title I portability, an increase for the charter school grant program, and a new private school choice initiative.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, you can be sure that I will advocate to reverse these cuts to critical Department of Education programs, as well as support access to quality public K-12 and post-secondary education. You might be pleased to know that I cosigned a number of letters this May to the Senate Appropriations Committee advocating for funding for a variety of education programs, including: 21st Century Community Learning Centers; Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA); Title II School Leader Recruitment and Support Program; Title IV Student Success and Academic Enrichment Block Grant; Teacher Quality Partnership Grants; Pell Grants; and, campus-based student financial aid programs like Federal Work Study and Perkins Loans. Please know that I will do all I can to prioritize funding these important programs as Congress moves through the Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations process.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I am honored to represent Delaware in the United States Senate and value hearing from constituents on issues of concern. My website, http://www.coons.senate.gov, can provide additional details about my work in the Senate, including legislation and state projects. I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter to you.
Sincerely,
 
Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

 

The Heart Of Special Education Was Argued Before The U.S. Supreme Court Today

The United States Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments for the Endrew v. Douglas County School District today.  This case could determine the goal of special education in America: a bare minimum special education or a more than minimum special education.  These arguments weigh the words “significant” and “meaningful” quite a lot since it is the center of the case.  Another question is how do you measure progress for a student with an Individualized Education Program.  Does the IEP team just write the IEP and make sure the student is on target to perform as well as their non-disabled peers or do you go above and beyond?

Another huge issue is funding for special education.  The fact that the Federal government spends less than 15% of what they promised to do for special education is a large problem.  It was not the Congressional intent to dump all of this on the states and local school districts but that is exactly what happened.  As well, what does “standard” mean in this context?  Is it the Common Core State Standards and the high-stakes testing that supposedly measures the ability of the student to grasp those standards?  Do classroom grades count for anything anymore?

The case is officially submitted into the highest court in the country.  This will be fascinating to watch, especially the final ruling.

Delaware DOE Continues To Ignore The Voices Of Their Stakeholders

The Delaware Dept. of Education has a very bad habit.  They ignore what the people are telling them.  This is the case with the 2016-2017 Delaware School Success Framework.  Once again, they are incorporating the Smarter Balanced Assessment participation rate as a penalty in the framework.  Even though a majority of their stakeholders in the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group said they don’t want this anymore.  The final regulations from the U.S. Dept. of Education concerning participation rate have not come out yet but ESSA dictates that it is the decision of the states and local education agencies to determine how they handle opt out.  US DOE Secretary of Education John King received a great deal of flack from parents, educators, and citizens with his harsh regulations surrounding accountability.  This also drew the attention of members of Congress who felt King was abusing the authority given to him with ESSA.  The state does NOT have to have a penalty for participation rate.  But the DOE continues to treat ESSA as a penalty-providing opportunity.

essameasurepicture1

The above picture was taken by one of the members of the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group.  The discussion groups come up with ideas and thoughts on how to improve schools.  For this discussion group, after they have answered all questions, they put three stickers next to their top priorities.  Not having opt out as a penalty in the DSSF and having the school report what may have happened received 8 stickers.  If I remember this meeting correctly, there were only about half the members in attendance.  So for this to get 8 priority stickers, that is huge.  But the Delaware DOE ignores this.

Last year, when the Accountability Framework Working Group convened to decide on the final version of the DSSF, they came up with the same idea which was a valid option from the US DOE.  It looked like that was going to go through until Governor Markell stuck his nose into it and directed Secretary Godowsky to proceed with the opt out penalty.  Even though Markell will end his reign as Governor and is moving onto bigger and better things, like performing in the Nutcracker, the DOE continues his very bad education policy.

Last night, I had an interview with Education Week.  They reached out to me due to my role on the Student and School Supports ESSA Discussion Group.  I won’t spoil the interview, but there was discussion around what the true role of “stakeholder input” is with Delaware’s ESSA plan.  Many feel that we are just placards in the process and the Delaware DOE will do what it damn well pleases.  This latest version of the DSSF just reinforces that thought.

Incoming Delaware Governor John Carney: you really need to put the brakes on the DOE Accountability Machine!  The DOE needs to listen to their stakeholders more than Rodel!

The 2016 Anti-Endorsements

I see so many endorsements these days based on nothing but vapor.  I thought I would do the opposite.  An anti-endorsement.  Those who I wouldn’t vote for even if they were in my district and they were the only ones running.  These are candidates who have either done some really dumb things or are very clueless about what is going on.  And then there are the elite candidates who think their name is sufficient enough to stay in office.  Sorry, but I see right through you on many issues.  As for my Presidential anti-endorsements, it is a matter of choosing evil either way.  While we can certainly argue all day long about who is more evil, evil is as evil does…

David Sokola, 8th Senate District, incumbent, Democrat: If ever there were someone I would want to disappear from Legislative Hall, it would be Sokola.  It seems like every day I find out more about the damage Sokola has done over the past 25 years.  Enough.  If the 8th Senate District votes this guy in again, they are making a very big mistake.  I will be coming out with something in the next few days that will even cause Newark Charter School parents to rethink any support they may have for him.

Melanie George Smith, 5th Rep District, incumbent, unopposed, Democrat: She is a slippery one, this co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.  Using that kind of pulpit for dubious allocations of state funds is a big no-no in my book.  She has power down at Legislative Hall… too much.  Her recent home purchase in the Newark Charter School 5 mile radius is an transparent as Saran wrap.  I have to wonder what else she has done in the past couple of months in regards to that 5 mile radius…

John Carney, Delaware Governor, Democrat: I’ve heard John is a really nice guy.  He speaks from the heart, but what I worry about is his mind.  In a come from behind primary victory in 2008, Jack Markell beat John Carney.  I believe Carney remembers that very well.  Instead of looking at how bad Markell has been for Delaware over the past eight years, Carney is embracing the Markell mindset and forming the very same allegiances Jack had.  Carney’s “we all have to get along” doesn’t work for me.  It is easy to say that AFTER things have been set in place.  Stacking the deck with certain people and then saying “Let’s get together and talk” is pure politics and that is NOT the change I’m looking for.

Donald Trump, U.S. President, Republican: I lived in New York growing up.  Trump has been around a long time.  I still remember the controversy and shenanigans this guy has pulled going back to the 1980’s.  How he got this far is something I will always wonder about.  He is a bully, pure and simple.  A clown in a suit.  I firmly believe, should he win, he won’t sit long in the Oval Office.  And that will give us a President Mike Pence.  Another corporate education reform lover.  No thanks!

Hillary Clinton, U.S. President, Democrat: When Hillary was running for the New York Senate, an incident happened at Westchester County Airport.  It was covered up.  Someone died.  I wasn’t a big fan of her before that, and I’m not now.  She is the embodiment of all that is wrong with this country.  Corporate interests rule the day for her.  The will of the people will be sapped and broken if she wins.  Not right away.  But it will happen.  She knows damn well exactly what she is doing.  While not as transparent an evil as Donald Trump, it is the snake that is coiled up and hissing behind a rock you have to watch out for.

Colin Bonini, Delaware Governor, Republican: He ran for Governor but every time I hear him talk it sounds like a concession speech to John Carney.  He pretends to hate standardized test scores, but he blasts traditional school districts while thinking charter schools are a worthy replacement.  He forgets that test scores are the apparatus that damages high-need schools in Delaware.  And Colin, slavery apologies don’t change history, but it is a gesture of good faith.  It is not a crutch.

Harris McDowell, 1st Senate District, incumbent: You have long outlived your purpose in Legislative Hall Senator.  I wasn’t a big fan of McDowell before I saw this old post on Delaware Liberal the other night.  He was one of the four flippers on House Bill #334 which made the wretched Smarter Balanced Assessment the law of the land in Delaware.  He also voted no not once, but twice on House Bill 50, the parent opt out bill.  As the Senate co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, it is more than obvious he has used that pulpit for his own purposes.  Shady as shady gets…

Anthony Delcollo, 7th Senate District, candidate, Republican: This candidate did one thing to earn an anti-endorsement.  I attended a fund-raiser for State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Patti Blevins a couple of weeks ago.  Kim Williams will always have my support.  That is a no-brainer.  But Delcollo actually thought it was a good idea to ride around the restaurant where the fundraiser was being held with smears against Blevins on his truck.  This is extremely bad taste and gave me a gross feeling about him.  No thanks…

Pete Schwartzkopf, 14th Rep. District, incumbent, Democrat: A Jack Markell water carrier thick and thin.  It wasn’t just his appalling tactics with his desk-drawer veto of House Bill 50.  It was the disrespect he showed to members of the House.  As Speaker of the House, he has abused that role to further certain interests while using the big chair as a bully pulpit.  But all that pales to his behavior in caucus…  There is a very good reason many in Delaware refer to him as “Sneaky Pete”.

Joe Miro, 22nd Rep. District, incumbent, Republican: The one who brought the VERY WEAK opt out legislation forward when the House could have suspended the rules and overturned Jack Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  Nothing happened with that legislation and it was a way for Miro and other House Republicans make it look like they supported parental rights but instead brought it a crushing defeat that actually made parents feel like legislators don’t care about their rights.

Mike Ramone, 21st Rep. District, incumbent, Republican: See above.  But add to that, his telling me he can’t support the override because of John Kowalko…  not a good thing to tell me at all.  Add in his fervent support of charter school legislation that would have benefited charters for nothing but pleasing the charter crowd.

Bethany Hall-Long, Lieutenant Governor, Democrat: When I saw Hall-Long at the Del. State debate the other night, I saw someone who was pandering to a crowd.  I know, that’s what politicians do in many cases.  But it was thick as mud.  She was overdoing it.  She talks and talks and I don’t know if she truly understand what is coming out.  Her very quick plug for Teach For America the other night, after getting an endorsement from DSEA, spoke volumes.

Lisa Blunt-Rochester, U.S. Congress, Democrat: Her refusal to support parental rights in regards to standardized testing is a big reason I can’t support her.  But her Delaware Way of thinking, where everyone has to hash it out, hasn’t worked for Delaware.  And it is not going to work in Congress.  None of our Delaware reps in Congress have done anything really good for Delaware the past few years.  All of them voted no on an opt out amendment prior to the ESEA reauthorization.  I don’t see her supporting public education the way I would expect her to.  She seems far too connected with the Rodel crowd.  Those connections have been very bad for Delaware education.  While I think it would be great to have a female African-American Delaware Representative in Congress, I don’t think it should be her.

There are a few others who, a year ago, would have easily made this list.  But they earned some points for me in the last year.  It doesn’t mean I’m not watching them like a hawk though.  Some who I easily supported a year ago actually took a turn for the worse but they haven’t completely fallen into the pit.  Their conduct in the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale.  Not every anti-endorsement means I am 100% behind their challenger if they have one.  But my real endorsements are coming soon.

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Scott Gesty For Congress

There comes a time when you have to decide, and for Delaware’s Representative in Congress, there is only one choice: Scott Gesty!

I’ve gone back and forth on this one for weeks now.  But the only candidate I can endorse for Congress is Scott Gesty.  Scott is a Libertarian.  But don’t let the party fool you.  To me, the political party is just a cover for any candidate.  It’s who they are and what they believe that truly matters.  Folks will say I’m a one-issue voter.  To some extent, that is true.  But my answer to that is if you can’t get education right for kids, how can you really get the rest right?  I could list the reasons why I’m not endorsing the other candidates, but I’ve covered those reasons to one extent or another in various posts.  But this is what I like about Scott Gesty.

He is against the corporate education reform movement in not only Delaware, but America as well.  He does not support high-stakes standardized tests and Common Core.  He supports a parent’s right to opt their child out of those tests and he was not happy Governor Markell “thumbed his nose at parents”.  He said these words succinctly and clearly at the education debate in Wilmington a couple of weeks ago.  Gesty thinks the federal Department of Education needs to disappear and education decisions are best left at the local level.  He doesn’t like the fact that districts and states have to “jump through hoops” to get grant money.

In the economy, he is deeply troubled that we are trillions of dollars in debt as a nation.  He does not see free tuition as truly free, and he knows this would only put us in debt more as a country if we pursued this.  He sees education as a money-making enterprise and doesn’t see this as a good thing.  He understands that when companies start jumping into education, the prices go up but the quality goes down.

On the one issue brought up in the forum that I did not agree with Gesty on was the topic of giving teachers training with guns to protect a school until law enforcement arrives in the event of a crisis.  But that wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.  Even if Gesty supports this, there is no way it would happen.  But I agree with him on all his other education stances.  He believes in our local teachers to make the best decisions for Delaware kids.  He has seen how federal intervention at alarming levels in the past decade has taken away the ability for teachers to do what they are supposed to do: teach.

A growing concern with a number of parents in Delaware revolve around issues with student data privacy.  I believe Gesty would be the best representative in Washington D.C. to tackle this issue on behalf of Delaware.  And with what is coming down the pike, we will definitely need a voice of reason not beholden to special interests.

He recognizes the role charter schools play with discrimination in our state and feels that is a federal topic he could address in Congress.  But with other matters with charters, those should be dealt with at the state and local level.

But the biggest issue I have with all government is the two-party system.  Obviously, running as a 3rd party candidate, Gesty does as well.  But he sees how much damage this has done to our country.  How the system has brainwashed the masses into thinking you can only vote for one or the other.  It is manipulation at the highest levels, and I don’t trust the vested interests of many in both parties.  I do support some, but the majority appear to have their face in the public but their hands are always in their wallet.  I believe it is very dangerous for any American to swear absolute fealty to any one party.  I support issues, not the party.

As Gesty says on his campaign website:

In a decade or even less, the United States could suffer a very serious financial crisis. What happens when people’s individual incomes lose the ability to purchase basic goods and services? What happens when the government can no longer print money with any value and the people refuse to accept more tax increases? History suggests that not only does the government move in and take over large segments of the economy, but also that the Republic as we know it becomes a hollow shell. Real examples of this process abound, from the ancient Roman Republic to Weimar Germany.

If we intend to avoid that calamity, we need real change now. We cannot keep re-electing the career politicians who promise us that we can have lower taxes, more spending, and larger wars without consequence. We have to put American citizens into office who will tackle these problems if we want our children to avoid growing up in a Republic lost to the will of special interests and an ever expanding government.

Please vote Scott Gesty for Congress on November 8th!  We need to get out of the status quo that is destroying our state.  When I heard all the candidates at that forum, Gesty was the only one who talked at levels that didn’t sound like his answers were rehearsed.  He spoke from the heart.  I’m not saying the other candidates didn’t, but there was never any doubt in my mind about any of the answers Gesty gave.  I couldn’t say the same for the other candidates.  Even if I disagree with him on that one issue, it was how he truly felt.  We need more honesty like that in government.  I know Delaware is a very blue state, but I believe that has been to our detriment in many areas.   If we truly want any chance of getting out of the corruption and fraud our country is buried in, we have to start thinking outside of the box.

Many folks may be surprised at my choice, but I encourage all of you to find out why I made my choice and look into Scott.

Kline Calls John King’s Regulations A Convoluted Scheme

The Chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee just issued a press release on the regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  He blasted U.S. Secretary of Education John King and said he needs to be stopped!  We can all agree on this one Rep. Kline!  But here’s the deal: these proposed regulations have been out since the end of May.  It is now the last day of August.  Coming out with press releases is good, but you need to have the entire Congress get together for an immediate hearing and strip King of his power.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Press Office
August 31, 2016 (202) 226-9440
Kline Statement on Education Department’s Unprecedented Regulatory Proposal
“The Department of Education is threatening to unilaterally impose a multi-billion dollar regulatory tax on our nation’s schools.”

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, issued the following statement today regarding the Department of Education’s unprecedented and unlawful “supplement, not supplant” regulatory proposal:The Department of Education is threatening to unilaterally impose a multi-billion dollar regulatory tax on our nation’s schools. This punitive policy will unleash havoc on schools and their students at a time when education leaders should be focused on helping children succeed in the classroom. America’s poorest neighborhoods will be hit the hardest as communities are forced to relocate teachers, raise taxes, or both. Any supposed “flexibility” is really a limited set of bad choices dictated by the secretary of education. This is not at all what Congress intended, and those who helped enact this law cannot honestly believe differently.

What the secretary is proposing is unprecedented and unlawful. The only way to make this right is to scrap this convoluted regulatory scheme immediately. Members of Congress came together to pass bipartisan reforms that are designed to help every child receive an excellent education, and we will not allow this administration to undermine these reforms with its own extreme, partisan agenda.

# # #

Hey Terri & Yvonne! DE PTA Needs To Get Back On The Opt Out Bus! If NY PTA Can Do This, You Should Too!

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the United States Department of Education is required to issue regulations associated with the new law.  Of course U.S. Secretary of Education John King saw this as his big chance to make his national mark for his corporate education reform buddies, so he stuck with the accountability script and harsh rules about opt out of high-stakes tests.  The New York Parent Teacher Organization wrote a letter to King as part of their public comment for the regulations.

Something to keep in mind is the National PTA’s bizarre stance on parent opt out.  They are against it and don’t want the state PTA’s advocating it either.  Last February, they threatened Delaware with severe sanctions if they continue to advocate for a parent’s right to opt out.  This caused a complete shutdown with Delaware PTA on the issue.

Here is the letter the NY PTA sent to King:

There are a few other things readers need to be aware of when it comes to this issue.  Sanctions against the NY PTA would not be as damaging as ones against Delaware PTA.  If even ten percent of NY parents belong to their PTA, that is still at least ten times the amount of members as Delaware PTA.  Which means they have a lot more cash and pull with National PTA.  Plus, New Yorkers are a hell of a lot fiestier than Delawareans.  That doesn’t mean I would seriously mess with the Dynamic Duo of Dr. Terri Hodges and Yvonne Johnson.  I wrote a few articles about this issue last winter, as well as poking a bit at Johnson’s involvement with the Christina School District.  I caught holy hell for that.

But I do wish Delaware would follow New York’s lead on this.  They are basically telling John King AND National PTA “We don’t care what your stance on opt out is.  We are going to tell parents what their rights are.”  New York leads the way with opt outs, followed by New Jersey.  Yes, Delaware’s PTA could get into a heck of a lot of trouble with National PTA if they get back on their opt out positions, but who cares?  This a PARENT-TEACHER organization, not Laura Bay and Friends.  If the former district testing coördinator wants to hate on opt out, let her.  But she should not get a whole parent organization to stop doing what they feel is best for parents.  It’s kind of what they are there for Ms. Bay!

In the meantime, the next few months will be very interesting, not only in Delaware, but across the country.  As these regulations go forward, I predict a lot of pushback from many states, teacher unions, parents, schools, and advocates for public education.  Hopefully, the members of Congress who like to call out John King on a monthly basis will continue to do so.  If they don’t, John King gets his way, and the punitive mandates of Race To The Top will still be here.

Congressional Letter To FBI, FTC & IRS Raises Questions About Clinton Foundation, Will Hillary Be Able To Escape This? Deal Me Out!

On July 15th, several Republican members of Congress wrote a letter to the Directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service about questions of potential fraud with the Clinton Foundation.  Last night, Hillary Clinton accepted the Democrat nomination for President of the United States.  She gave a stirring speech with more about slamming Donald Trump than what she would actually do as President.  But underneath the surface of that speech lies unanswered questions about the Clinton Foundation and their illegal use of funding based on IRS regulations.

As Americans on the left and right continue to poke and jab at the opposite sides, it is more than obvious that neither candidate is worthy of becoming President.  Both candidates have been subject to numerous investigations that never seem to hold either of them accountable for their actions.  This is, by far, the worst selection of candidates the two major political parties in our country have ever picked.  This is a choice no American should have to face.  I am loathe to pick either of them in November.  The pressure both sides are putting on the other parties hasn’t even reached a fever pitch.  I think both candidate will not help public education.  One is more blatant and arrogant with their public persona while the other smiles but her actions behind the scenes speak in volumes about her pompous boasting.  I fear for the future of America with these two very greedy people at the helm.  They both claim they want to help the average American as they sit in the upper echelon of the 1%.  I cannot, and will not, support either Clinton or Trump.  I am ashamed to be an American facing these two choices.  I will not vote for either of them.  Their actions regarding persons with disabilities, through downright vocal discrimination or behind the scenes corporate actions in regards to the privatization of public education show they are not fit to lead our country’s future.  As I have been telling people, if you can’t do the right thing for children, how can you be expected to lead a country.  Children are the foundation and future of this country.

You can deal me out of voting for either candidate.  I pray America will come to its senses and do the right thing for our country.  No matter who wins, the controversy surrounding both of them will overshadow anything they do.  Both parties will become a lynch mob towards the other from 2017 to 2020.  This is not America.  This is not the country that Hillary Clinton talked about in her speech last night.  It is a very ugly political arena of the very worst America has to offer.  Hillary may have the political experience, but look at the many incidents she has escaped unscathed from.  Donald may have the corporate experience, but he has represented the 1% his entire life.

As a Delawarean, I see my own state divided into three parts: Hillary, Donald, and neither.  I fear Hillary the most because of rumors surrounding our own Governor, Jack Markell, vying for the US Secretary of Education spot under a second President Clinton.  I fear Donald because he is a racist maniac playing on the fear of Americans.  I fear Hillary because she caters to big corporations and has been paid handsomely for those efforts through the Clinton foundation or campaign contributions.  I fear Donald because he will land us into a bad war (if not nuclear) if he continues his rhetoric.  I support neither and there is no other viable choice that could get enough votes so neither of them become President.  What this country needs, right now, is a revolution.  We need to overturn both parties and do something.  I don’t know if that is even possible at this point, but if we want to save America, we really have no choice.  If the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, we need to rise above the fears of the supporters of both candidates and do the right thing for America and openly revolt against the two-party system that is killing our country.

Will Jack Markell Run For Congress?

JackBryan

This is the question that doesn’t seem to be on anybody’s mind, but it should be.  It also makes all those letters going out to Democrat Primary Candidates in Delaware much easier to understand.  Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend started the letter reveals today, and it was quickly revealed all the primary candidates got them.  Sounds like a Chair of the Democrat party going rogue, right?  Or maybe not.  Why would Bryon Short drop out of the race months ago?  He was endorsed by half the House Democrats and Governor Jack Markell last year.  Sure, Townsend may have been racking up the campaign contributions, but Short seemed to have the political edge for the race.  But he dropped out, all of a sudden to the shock of many.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is running for President.  To say she is the front-runner would be a bit of a misnomer.  But a strong rumor in Delaware was that Jack really wanted to be her Secretary of Education.  Like really, really bad.  But if there is a chance she might not win, what’s a Jack to do?  How about jumping into the race for John Carney’s seat in Congress?  It keeps him in politics, it is still a lofty position, and he doesn’t have to pull a Murphy and go work for one of those dime-a-dozen education companies.  We will know by July 12th if has any intentions.  But given the fact that a) Bryon Short dropped out, b) all the candidates got their “think about it and drop out if you can” letters, c) the one to the Congressional candidates specifically says the words “like Bryon Short”, and d) it would be Jack’s logical next move if he isn’t sure the Hillster can pull it off.

Daniello’s letter ticked off a lot of candidates.  Enough to cause self-doubt and angst?  Probably not.  But it does set up the chess board for Jack to enter, pissing off a lot of people in the Democrat party.  Especially folks like Townsend.  This wouldn’t be the first time Jack did something like this.  Those who remember, Carney was the favorite in 2008 for Governor, until Jack went against the party and entered the race.  But I hope the outcome is different should he choose to run.  I would love to see Jack in a primary… and lose!  I’m sure the DOE will have some openings by then!

Current Delaware Filings For Elected Office As Of 6/20/16

It’s that time of year again when the General Assembly winds down and the election season becomes the top priority in the state.  This is a list of filed candidates for either statewide office or the General Assembly.  Blue means there will be a Democrat Primary while Red means there will be a Republican Primary.  If a district or office is in bold, that means there will be a contest for that office on Election Day.

Delaware Election 2016

Deadline To File for Office: July 12th, 12 noon
Deadline To Register To Vote For Primary Election: August 20th
Primary Election: September 13th (7am-8pm)
Deadline To Register To Vote For General Election: October 15th
General Election: November 8th (7am-8pm)

President:

Hillary Clinton (D)
Bernie Sanders (D)
Donald Trump (R)

Delaware Governor:

Sean Goward (L)
Lacey Lafferty (R)

Congress: US Representative

Sean Barney (D)
Lisa Blunt Rochester (D)
Michael Miller (D)
Bryan Townsend (D)
R.E. Walker (D)
Scott Gesty (L)
Hans Reigle (R)

Lieutenant Governor:

Sherry Dorsey-Walker (D)
Brad Eaby (D)
Greg Fuller (D)
Bethany Hall-Long (D)
Kathleen McGuiness (D)
Ciro Poppiti III (D)

Insurance Commissioner:

Paul Gallagher (D)
Trinidad Navarro (D)
Karen Weldin Stewart (D) (Incumbent)
George Parrish (R)

Delaware General Assembly

State Senate:

District 1: Joseph McCole (D)
District 1: Harris McDowell III (D) (Incumbent)
District 1: James Spadola (R)
District 5: Denise Bowers (R)
District 5: Catherine Cloutier (R) (Incumbent)
District 7: Patricia Blevins (D) (Incumbent)
District 7: Anthony Delcollo (R)
District 8: David Sokola (D) (Incumbent)
District 8: Meredith Chapman (R)
District 12: Nicole Poore (D) (Incumbent)
District 13: David McBride (D) (Incumbent)
District 14: Bruce Ennis (D) (Incumbent)
District 14: Carl Pace (R)
District 15: Dave Lawson (R) (Incumbent)
District 20: Perry Mitchell (D)
District 20: Gerald Hocker (R) (Incumbent)

State Representative:

District 1: Charles Potter (D) (Incumbent)
District 2: Stephanie Boulden (D) (Incumbent)
District 3: Helene Keeley (D) (Incumbent)
District 4: Gerald Brady (D) (Incumbent)
District 5: Melanie George Smith (D) (Incumbent)
District 6: Deb Heffernan (D) (Incumbent)
District 6: Lee Murphy (R)
District 7: David Brady (D)
District 7: Bryon Short (D) (Incumbent)
District 7: David Wilson (L)
District 8: S. Quinton Johnson (D) (Incumbent)
District 9: Richard Griffiths (D)
District 9: Monique Johns (D)
District 9: Kevin Hensley (R) (Incumbent)
District 10: Sean Matthews (D) (Incumbent)
District 10: Dennis Williams (D)
District 10: Judith Travis (R)
District 11: Jeffrey Spiegelman (R) (Incumbent)
District 12: Deb Hudson (R) (Incumbent)
District 13: John Mitchell (D) (Incumbent)
District 14: Don Peterson (D)
District 14: Peter Schwartzkop (D) (Incumbent)
District 15: James Burton (D)
District 15: Valerie Longhurst (D) (Incumbent)
District 16: James Johnson (D) (Incumbent)
District 17: Michael Mulrooney (D) (Incumbent)
District 18: David Bentz (D) (Incumbent)
District 19: Kim Williams (D) (Incumbent)
District 19: James Startzman (R)
District 21: Mike Ramone (R) (Incumbent)
District 22: Lanette Edwards (D)
District 22: Joseph Miro (R) (Incumbent)
District 23: Paul Baumbach (D) (Incumbent)
District 24: Edward Osienski (D) (Incumbent)
District 25: John Kowalko (D) (Incumbent)
District 26: John Viola (D) (Incumbent)
District 27: Earl Jaques (D) (Incumbent)
District 28: William Carson (D) (Incumbent)
District 29: Trey Paradee (D) (Incumbent)
District 30: William Outten (R) (Incumbent)
District 31: Sean Lynn (D) (Incumbent)
District 33: Karen Williams (D)
District 33: Morgan Hudson (R)
District 33: Charles Postles (R
District 33: Robert James Scott (R)
*State Rep Harold Peterman not seeking re-election*
District 34: David Henderson (D)
District 34: Lyndon Yearick (R) (Incumbent)
District 35: Robert Mitchell (R)
District 35: David Wilson (R) (Incumbent)
District 36: Harvey Kenton (R) (Incumbent)
District 37: Paulette Rappa (D)
District 37: Ruth Briggs-King (R) (Incumbent)
District 39: James Brittingham (L)
*State Rep. Daniel Short has not filed*

Open Offices (no one filed yet):

Senate District 9 (currently State Senator Karen Peterson, not running again)
Senate District 19 (currently State Senator Brian Pettyjohn, expected to file)
State Rep. District 20 (currently State Rep. Stephen Smyk)
State Rep. District 32 (currently State Rep. Andria Bennett, expected to file)
State Rep. District 38 (currently State Rep. Ronald Gray)
State Rep. District 40 (currently State Rep. Tim Dukes, expected to file)
State Rep. District 41 (currently State Rep. Richard Collins)
**For Governor,  John Carney (D) and Colin Bonini (R) have not filed yet**
**If State Senator Bryan Townsend wins the US Representative seat, there will be a special election for the 11th Senate District after the General Election**

**If State Senator Bethany Hall-Long wins the Lieutenant Governor office, there will be a special election for the 10th Senate District after the General Election**

 

Opt Out: “The Data We’re Receiving Would Look Like Swiss Cheese”, The Easter Egg At A Congressional Hearing On Student Privacy

On Tuesday, the Education and Workforce Committee held a Congressional hearing called “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students”.  With one parent advocate, one data guy from the Georgia Department of Education, and two corporate schills (yes, there were two, more on that one later).  The hearing was stacked with U.S. Representatives who are, shall we say, sympathetic to the data-testing regime.  We all know the type!

If you looked at the witness list for who was giving testimony at this hearing on the EdWorkforce website, you can see who they were:

WitnessList

So who are these people?  Rachael Strickland is the co-founder and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.  Neil Campbell is the Policy Director for Next Generation Reforms at the Foundation for Excellence in Education (Jeb Bush’s company).  Jane Hannaway is with the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.  Robert Swiggum is the Deputy Superintendent for the Georgia Department of Education.  But one of these four has another job, which the Education and Workforce Committee did not include on their website.  During the hearing, this person’s other job wasn’t even discussed at all.  But it is a whopper.  So which one was it?

The day before the hearing, I received an email from the EdWorkforce Committee notifying me of the hearing.  They had the exact same witnesses in the email, but one of them has a different job:

EdWorkforceCommitteeEmail

Take a good look at Dr. Jane Hannaway… Institute Fellow, American Institutes for Research.  Also known as AIR, this is the company that was instrumental in creating the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They are my state’s vendor for Smarter Balanced.  They are all over the place.  Now why would the United States Education and Workforce Committee not mention that glaring fact at all?  Why would they not include it on their website and have the witness, sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not mention this at all?  In fact non-Government employees are required to fill out a “Truth In Testimony” form prior to any Congressional hearing.  Ms. Strickland and Mr. Campbell both listed their affiliated sources, but Ms. Hannaway didn’t list any organizations.  Even though she wrote about her affiliation with AIR in her testimony, it wasn’t spoken out loud.

There are some key points I want to highlight from Hannaway’s testimony, with my thoughts in red:

Almost every state has developed an individual student level longitudinal administrative data system. These data systems have substantive and technical research advantages, as well as efficiency virtues.

Substantive, technical, and efficiency virtues: Can we say cha-ching?  Show me the money?

Because the data are existing working files – created, maintained and used by the state for administrative purposes – they are readily available for approved research purposes.

I have no doubt the states are making these “readily available”.  And I’m sure they pay a pretty penny to make it so!

Having data already in hand means the turnaround time for getting feedback on the results of new policies is short, allowing informed decision making about whether to discontinue, modify or continue particular policies and practices. Indeed, some decisions of interest can be made almost in real time.

Decision making, policies, practices: This lady is combing through your child’s data.  She doesn’t at a government agency, but I’m sure she does work for government agencies.  How are these corporations setting policy?  Very frightening…

The files include data on all students and all teachers in the state over a number of years. So data on students of interest for a particular intervention or for a particular study, say 8th graders, or high performing students, or disadvantaged students can be easily selected.

“A particular intervention”… sounds like something every parent should worry about.  Note the word “all”: all teachers, all students.  They have it set up so they can “shop” through the data for any possible category they want.  I didn’t underline this for emphasis.  It was underlined in her testimony.

Indeed, because teachers can be linked in the data to their students and students’ test scores, teachers can also be compared in terms of their performance. Indeed, some of the most important finding from studies using longitudinal data have focused on teacher effectiveness.

Because that data has given us so many unreasonable conclusions, I find that data inconclusive.  And yet, here is Hannaway continuing to use the biggest fallacy of our time…

For example, regression discontinuity designs can assess the effect of, say, receiving an award on subsequent behavior by comparing results for students just above and below the performance award threshold.

In other words, they set the “performance award threshold”, aka, the high-stakes standardized test scores, based on a point where there would always be some above or below the threshold.  We will NEVER have maximum proficiency.

The advantages in terms of policy insights of individual education data are also substantially expanded when linked to later individual measures in areas beyond education, such as labor market (employment and earnings), justice and health outcomes.

Basically, she is saying we are going to use this data to track and catalog every individual student and determine your outcome for you based on high-stakes standardized testing data.

The state anonymizes the data before researchers receive them. Each student is assigned a state-constructed unique student id (USI) that is used by researchers to link data for each student across years and schools.

So instead of giving a name and social security number, I’ll call this the number of the beast scenario.  For “each student”… has anyone read “Revelations” recently?

Hannaway said, when asked about opt out and what it does to the data: “The data we’re receiving would look like Swiss cheese.”  She couldn’t have said it any better!  If you never had a reason to opt your child out before, know that your child’s “unique” number of the beast, assigned by your state, is given to all education agencies who ask for it from your state.  They base conclusions and policy and decisions, which become laws, based on that crappy test your child takes once a year.  Do your child a favor: make some Swiss cheese for companies like American Institutes for Research.  It is the ONLY way this nonsense will ever stop!  We need MORE Swiss Cheese!

To watch the full video, watch below.  The hearing doesn’t begin until the 6:37 mark.

Campbell looks really nervous at several points during this hearing.  He keeps wringing his hands.  Is that because he is afraid of what will come out or guilt?  Or is he generally a nervous guy?

I love how Swiggum says that states own the data.  Really?  Does the Delaware DOE “own” the data on my child?  His academic performance, social-emotional behavior, all that… they “own” it?  I don’t think so.  If they own it, they should take better care of it!

Delaware Election 2016: Current Filings For State Rep, State Senator, & School Board Candidates

Election day is less than eight and a half months away. But there will be other stuff going on before that. Referendums, School Board Elections, final candidacy filings for State Representative, and State Senator, and Primaries. Below is every single candidate who filed for President, Congress, Lieutenant Governor, State Senator, State Representative, and School Board elections. Important dates are in purple, candidates who will face a challenger in the primary or a school board election are in green, and in the school boards section if no one has filed for a seat it is in red.  The biggest race is for Lieutenant Governor in Delaware.  No Republicans want to run?

Don’t see some of your favorites or those you love to hate on here?  Don’t worry!  For the State Representative, State Senator, and School Board positions, many more will file including the majority of the incumbents.  All 41 of the State Representatives are up for re-election.  If there are any candidates with stars all around their name, I really want someone to run against them.  Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian, it doesn’t matter.  Just run!  One of the major Presidential candidates hasn’t filed yet in Delaware!  Which one?

As for why there is no Delaware Governor listing, none of the candidates have officially filed yet!

Election 2016:

Deadline To Change Party For Presidential Primary: February 26th

Deadline To Register To Vote For Presidential Primary: April 2nd

Presidential Primary: April 26th

Deadline To Register To Vote For Primary Election: August 20th

Primary Election: September 13th (7am-8pm)

Deadline To Register To Vote For General Election: October 15th

General Election: November 8th (7am-8pm)

President:
Bernie Sanders (D)
John Kasich (R)
Marco Rubio (R)
Donald Trump (R)

Congress: US Representative
Hans Reigle (R)
Sean Barney (D)
Bryon Short (D)
Bryan Townsend (D)

Lieutenant Governor:
Sherry Dorsey-Walker (D)
Brad Eaby (D)
Greg Fuller (D)
Bethany Hall-Long (D)
Kathleen McGuiness (D)
Ciro Poppiti III (D)

State Senators & State Representatives

State Senate:

District 1: James Spadola (R)
District 5: Denise Bowers (R)
District 7: Anthony Delcollo (R)
District 12: Nicole Poore (D) (Incumbent)
District 14: Carl Pace (R)

State Representative:

District 1: Charles Potter (D) (Incumbent)
District 2: Stephanie Boulden (D) (Incumbent)
District 4: Gerald Brady (D) (Incumbent)
District 7: David Brady (D)
District 7: Robert Cameron (D)
District 7: Joseph Daigle (D)
District 9: Kevin Hensley (R) (Incumbent)
District 10: Dennis Williams (D)
District 13: John Mitchell (D) (Incumbent)
District 14: Peter Schwartzkopf (D) (Incumbent)
District 15: Valerie Longhurst (D) (Incumbent)
District 17: Michael Mulrooney (D) (Incumbent)
**District 27: Earl Jaques (D) (Incumbent)**
District 35: Harvey Kenton (R) (Incumbent)

School Board Elections:

Filing Deadline: March 4th: 4:30pm

Elections: May 10th

Appoquinimink: Richard Forsten (5 years)

Brandywine: John Skrobot (District F- 5 years)

Caesar Rodney: Mark Dyer (5 years)

Caesar Rodney: Dana LeCompte (5 years)

Caesar Rodney: Michael Marasco (5 years) 

Cape Henlopen: Camilla Conlon (5 years)

Cape Henlopen: Janis Hanwell (5 years)

Cape Henlopen: Heather Ingerski (5 years)

Cape Henlopen: Teresa Carey (Area B-2 years)

Cape Henlopen: Jessica Tyndall (Area B-2 years)

Capital: Chanda Jackson (5 years)

Capital: Kevin Ohlandt (5 years)

Capital: Andres Ortiz (5 years)

Christina: Margaret Mason (District B- 5 years)

Christina: David Ressler (District B- 5 years)

Christina: Desiree Brady (District F- 5 years)

Christina: Elizabeth Paige (District F- 5 years)

Colonial: Timothy Suber (District D- 4 years)

Colonial: Joseph Laws (District F- 5 years)

Delmar: Farrah Morelli (5 years)

Delmar: Andrew Rementer (5 years)

Indian River: Gerald Penden (District 2, 4 years)

Indian River: Heather Statler (District 3, 3 years)

Lake Forest: Austin Auen (5 years)

Lake Forest: Earle Dempsey (5 years)

Lake Forest: Lendon Dennis (5 years)

Laurel: John Bowden (5 years)

Laurel: Shane McCarty (5 years)

Laurel: Christie Shirey (5 years)

Laurel: Patrick Vanderslice (5 years)

Milford: Renate Wiley (Area C- 5 years)

Red Clay Consolidated: Joseph Weeks (District F- 5 years)

Red Clay Consolidated: Faith Newton (District F- 5 years)

Seaford: Dianne Abrams (5 years)

Seaford: Kimberly Hopkins (5 years)

Smyrna: Kathryn O’Connell (5 years)

Woodbridge: John Barr (5 years)

Woodbridge: Alberta Smith (5 years)

 

Referendums:

Brandywine: March 23rd
Cape Henlopen: March 23rd
Christina: March 23rd

USA Teachers: It Is 11:59 On The Public Education Doomsday Clock! Wake Up And Act NOW! #StopESEA

clock

This is an urgent message to every single public school teacher in America.  You need to fight for your jobs.  That’s right.  You need to STOP this ESEA bill coming to a vote on Wednesday.  If you don’t, it will weigh on your conscience when all the bad stuff in the bill is implemented and you have even less control than you do now.  This legislation actually changes the future of teaching.  You will no longer be a teacher, giving instruction to your students.  You will become a data coach.  A facilitator.  Is this what you want?  If it is, then you can certainly stay the course.  If you want to stand around while children are plugged into computers all day and you base your very brief interaction with students on what will amount to a corporate written script, then stay the course.  But I urge you to read this legislation when it is made public tomorrow.  You need to act fast once you do.  Call your Congress representatives immediately if you do not think this is a good thing.

You have been under-minded by numerous companies and “leaders” in America.  Between No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Race To The Top, VAM, Standardized Testing, and so forth.  Are you really going to sit back and let this happen again?  You have a voice.  A very powerful voice.  Use it.  And not through the lips of your leaders.  Use your own voices.  But do it now before it is too late.

Just because your union presidents are endorsing this sham of an education bill does not mean you have to.  This bill is designed solely for the corporate education reformers.  The very same ones who pushed VAM and hardcore evaluations on you.  If you want to see the escalation of more money going out to companies instead of your classrooms, than doing nothing or endorsing this bill is your best course of action.  But if you believe that this is not education, but a nightmare being inflicted on kids and teachers, than you need to get on the phone, email, social media and any way or method you have to put a stop to this bill.

I am sure many of you are thinking “It’s no use.  There is nothing I can do.”  If you have that attitude, you are absolutely right.  But there are many of you fighting this fight and using their voice.  They will not quit.  They will not let public education be destroyed by greed and corruption.  If you truly believe in public education, then you need to fight.  And even if  you like some parts of this bill, you need to nuke the whole package with your voice.  All of you.

For those reading this who have no clue who I am, I will tell you.  I’m just a dad.  A very angry and upset father who has watched the fall of education happen before my very eyes.  I watched it affect my own son with disabilities in the worst ways possible.  I acted.  I researched.  I dove in to the data and the very diabolical events happening at my state’s Department of Education.  I saw how they pushed stuff through that was damaging to teachers and students and schools with no one the wiser.  I got wise.  I made it my mission to upset their plans as much as humanly possible.  I speak because so many of you can’t.  But it has reached a point where those of us who are fighting the good fight need you to rise.  If you have to march on your state capital or actually drive to D.C., do it.  Use social media as your weapon pointed right at those who would disrespect you and destroy what you enjoy.  But for the love of public education, do something!

You don’t have time to do nothing.  It is 11:59 on the public education doomsday clock!

 

The above picture was originally on Amazing Stories Mag

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

Letter From John Kline To Arne Duncan Surfaces, Raises Serious Questions About National Student Database

The Department’s effort to shepherd states toward the creation of a de facto national student database raises serious legal and prudential questions.  Congress has never authorized the Department of Education to facilitate the creation of a national student database.  To the contrary, Congress explicitly prohibited the “development of a nationwide database of personally identifiable information under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (20 U.S.C. § 7911)

Back in 2010, as Race To The Top was introduced, part of the initiative included the creation of a Statewide Longitudinal Data System, or SLDS for short.  The idea, according to the below letter, was for states to share data with each other.  US Representative John Kline, of Minnesota, opposed this idea.  The letter stated the inherent dangers in birthing a database of this type.

Does anyone know if Arne actually responded to Kline’s letter?  I would love to see that response!

US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States Special Education Rights

In a stunning announcement that came out today, the United States Department of Education has decided to take away state rights in regards to curriculum and state assessments for special needs students.  Without any legislative approval, Arne Duncan has taken it upon himself to invalidate years of IDEA law and special education regulations.  This news broke today from this blog:

http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/federal-secretary-of-education-to-phase-out-the-authority-of-states/

And here is the new ruling:

http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201410&RIN=1810-AB16

Here’s what you need to do: email AND call your state senator and state representative in the US Congress.

For Delaware citizens, here are our representatives in Congress and how to contact them:

https://forms.house.gov/carney/webforms/email-me.shtml

http://www.carper.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-senator-carper

http://www.coons.senate.gov/contact/

I would also email John Kline, the head of the Education and Workforce Committee in Washington D.C.  at this address and let him know Congress needs to stop this NOW!!!!  The ruling states this is to go in effect January 1st, 2015.

https://edworkforce.house.gov/contact/

This is tantamount to war on special education in America.  I called this months ago, and now it is out there.  This is the same man who thrust Common Core on all schools and dangles carrots with the ESEA waivers constantly.  The man who believes every student, even those with a disability, should have a baccalaureate education and rigor should be used daily.

For residents of Delaware, your Governor Markell helped with this.  With his powerful backing from Dr. Paul Herdman and Rodel, our children’s special education rights are GONE if this goes through.  We all need to take a stand, every single one of us.  If you sit back and do nothing, your child WILL suffer.

I just found an excellent letter to send.  Thanks to Stacey Kahn from the Facebook group NYS Special Needs Parents Against Common Core for allowing me to repost it here!

Parents and teachers the time has come. As we all knew, the United States Department of Education, as directed by Arne Duncan, has decided to attempt to override special education and the laws that protect our most vulnerable students. The rights and rules both we and our own parents fought so hard for are being dismantled by the US Department of Education to pave the way for the inappropriate rigor of common core. If we do not speak out against this newest injustice, special education as we know it will dissolve.

Please take a few moments to contact your legislators through pen, phone, or email. Let them know they must get involved. The USDOE has gone too far. The same people who seem to put profits before people have again trampled the rights of students who struggle enough. Common core is enough of an injustice. To remove state authority to assist our special needs students is the final straw.

Attached is a letter template for your use. Feel free to add your own thoughts, the more personal the better. Let these legislators know your special needs children are worthy of a fair and appropriate education that isn’t driven by corporate gain and workforce readiness. All students are unique. The one size fits all mentality of common core has come to the head we knew it would. Please let your representatives know this is the time they must get involved, these children don’t get a second chance to be treated with respect, equity, and compassion.

For your immediate attention  (insert title and last name here):

We as parents, educators and citizens of the United States, are contacting you because it has come to our attention that there is a real and imminent threat to the states’ sovereignty with regards to education, and more importantly, to its most vulnerable citizens.

Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education has submitted a proposal to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Directly from the proposal is the following:
“The Secretary will amend the regulations governing title I, part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), to phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards in order to satisfy ESEA accountability requirements. These amendments will permit, as a transitional measure, States that meet certain criteria to continue to administer alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards and include the results in accountability determinations, subject to limitations on the number of proficient scores that may be counted, for a limited period of time.”

If this amendment is passed, it will signal the end of special education as we know it in this country’s public education system. Secretary Duncan has already stated that he feels that students with disabilities can and should be held to the same “rigorous” Common Core State Standards, as their fellow neuro-typical classmates. To give him the power to supersede the states regulations regarding allowable modifications and/or alternate assessments for these students sets a dangerous precedent.

Secretary Duncan has already weakened the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).If allowed to proceed with this amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act is in jeopardy as well. None of these changes were ever voted on by any legislative body.

Our states are losing their sovereignty in education on an almost daily basis. How much more are we as states and as citizens willing to hand over to the Federal Government?

We need our legislators to stand up and say enough is enough. We are a bipartisan group of citizens. Please put political parties aside and do what is best for our children and our country. We are counting on you!

DOE & Arne Duncan Accused of Breaking The Law With IDEA & Special Education by GOP Senate

In a letter addressed to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, GOP Senators from the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Kirk have accused the US DOE of breaking the law when it comes to special education determinations being based on NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) testing and making changes to IDEA without legislative approval.  The letter was dated August 4th, 2014.

“The changes spelled out in your “Results-Driven Accountability” framework clearly amount to Federal influence on the standards and assessments states and school districts use to direct the educational program of students with disabilities and would give the Federal Government authority to use student proficiency as measured by the NAEP to evaluate and either reward or sanction school districts.  This is clear influence and coercion, if not direct control.  It is troubling that the Department made unilateral changes to the IDEA compliance framework without seeking legislative approval, disregarded Congressional intent, and appears to have violated the clear letter of the law.”

The Senators also said the authorizing statute for NAEP states “Any assessment authorized under this section shall not be used by an agent or agents of the Federal Government to establish, require or influence the standards, assessments, curriculum, including lesson plans, textbooks, or classroom materials, or instructional practices of States or local education agencies.”

Does this invalidate OSEP’s ruling against Delaware, Texas, California and Washington D.C.?  Special Education has now become a Federal intrusion into public school districts.  I hope this issue becomes much bigger, and can also be used as another reason why standardized testing and common core just don’t work for students with special needs.  Someone needs to hold Arne Duncan and his wild bunch over at the US DOE accountable.

Thanks to Education Week for supplying the link to the letter: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/Secretary%20Duncan%20Letter%208.4.14.pdf