On September 7th, I filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office. Even though I did receive the documentation for my original FOIA request regarding a contract that office entered into with Grant Thornton, it came very late. In fact, it came the day after a highly contested primary for the State Auditor position. But my FOIA complaint dealt with what I felt were illegal and unethical issues coming out of AOA. Continue reading
Kathleen Davies just released the agreement for the Grant Thornton contract. The contract was commissioned by Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner to look into Kathleen Davies, who many feel was ousted from Wagner’s office for doing quality audit investigations. The contract is a bigger bomb than the report because it proves the report is bogus. Continue reading
Kathleen Davies, a Democrat candidate for Delaware State Auditor, issued an official press release today about the very controversial News Journal article that appeared online and in print over the past couple of weeks. This answers many questions I’ve had and confirms many suspicions I’ve harbored over this matter. Continue reading
Pearson has officially entered the world of Delaware standardized tests. On November 10th, NCS Pearson officially signed a contract with the Delaware Department of Education for a five-year contract worth $6 million to create and deliver the Social Studies state assessment. This contract will expire on December 31st, 2021. You won’t find any official news release from the Delaware DOE on this. I imagine many history teachers across the state will not be too happy to see this news. The Delaware DOE has used Pearson in the past as a vendor, but never for an official state assessment. With American Institutes for Research as the Smarter Balanced Assessment vendor for English Language Arts and Math, along with WestEd as the recent awarded vendor for Science, Pearson joins the Delaware state assessment crew.
The Social Studies state assessment will be given to students in 4th, 7th, and presumably 10th grade. This would follow the former Social Studies DCAS testing delivery method. Upon reading the contract, it looks like the field tests would begin next year with full implementation in those grades by the 2018-2019 school year.
I was not able to determine whether this test will be a once a year test or a “stealth test” based on the below contract. Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky did mention the possibility of this assessment being a “stealth test”. Those kind of tests are delivered throughout the year in competency-based education environments. Until a student is considered to “master” the content, they do not move on until they do.
There has been recent talk in Delaware concerning the future of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Sources have indicated newly elected Governor John Carney may want to move away from the Smarter Balanced standardized test and may want to engage NWEA for the assessment provider for ELA and Math. But no matter who the vendor is or what kind of test it is, it would still be based on the Common Core State Standards. The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the flexibility to choose their own standards for education, but the Delaware DOE already decided (without any input from stakeholders whatsoever) that Common Core is the way to go.
Pearson beat out American Institutes for Research, Measured Progress Inc., and Strategic Measurement and Evaluation, Inc. to win this contract.
Napoleon once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” In Delaware, the state has been sharing personal student data in the form of a benign computer program designed on the surface to help students. This is a program that is so layered in varying shades of legality and loophole in state and federal law no person could ever realistically figure it all out. Luckily, I am not one of those people. So what is the Trojan horse inserted into every single school district and charter school in the state? Hint: it’s NOT the Smarter Balanced Assessment! Continue reading
WestEd, a San Francisco based company, was selected as the vendor for the future Next Generation Science Standards state assessment. The contract runs through December 31st, 2017 but it will assuredly get an extension based on the scope of work involved and the timetable for the full release of the new Science state assessment. The amount awarded for the contract is $673,658. Only two bidders sent proposals to the Delaware Department of Education, WestEd and American Institutes for Research (AIR). AIR is the current vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.
The plan is to have the field tests for this assessment in the 2017-2018 school year and then all public school students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade get to take it in the 2018-2019 school year. All states are required to administer Science state assessments to students in these grades and it will be the same for the Every Student Succeeds Act. Currently, Delaware students take the Science DCAS Assessment.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were created by Achieve Inc. and 26 states. It rolled out in 2013 but only five states signed up to implement them. As of today, there are only 18 states that have adopted the sometimes controversial science standards. NGSS is very big on terminology surrounding three dimensions: science & engineering, disciplinary core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts. Okay. How do you accurately explain that? I have an idea! They should use rope to do it! Oh wait, someone beat me to it…
I wrote about WestEd a month and a half ago when I saw they were one of the bidders for this contract:
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.
Lately, whenever I see a corporate education reform company, I check out how much money they have received from the Gates Foundation. WestEd has received $24,164,909 over the past ten plus years. That is no small chunk of change! You can read the full contract below:
Those no-good, rotten bastards at the Delaware Department of Education have done it again. This time the after-effects will cause much more than a ripple. This is going to really damage relations between the Delaware DOE and the Delaware State Education Association. Things were supposed to be better with Secretary of Education Godowsky, but they really aren’t. Instead, we have more humiliation for the educators of our state. This post does have an update at the bottom. Continue reading
The Delaware DOE is getting ready to pick a vendor for their
high-stakes rigorous grit-worthy state assessments for Science and Social Studies. Some of these were the companies I expected to see and some I never heard of before in my life! This is the world of corporate education reform. Every time you think you have a good handle of what companies are out there, a few more rise to the surface. All bids were due to the Delaware Department of Education by November 30th. The DOE is giving an estimated date of 12/18 for the recipient of the contract to be announced.
So let’s start with the obvious suspects: American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Pearson. AIR is the vendor of choice for the DOE on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. They were also the vendor for DCAS. They also implemented state assessments in Florida and Utah that did not go over well with the public. Pearson, the father of the PARCC assessment, is taking a huge hit after their bungled test.
Strategic Measurement & Evaluation Inc. comes from Lafayette, IN. Coincidentally, they have as one of their clients the Indiana Department of Education, along with the Michigan counterpart. But what is really fascinating is the testimonial section of their website. There are only two names on there. One is John King, the upcoming US Secretary of Education. It turns out he used this company when he ran schools in New York City. Another woman worked in NYC around the same time. She was the Vice-President of School Supports for the NYC Charter School Center. We in Delaware know this woman by her current title, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Education Building in Wilmington, none other than Aretha Miller. Yes, I noticed their website address is “escoreny” as well. Turns out they have a revamped website coming soon called “smeasurement.com”.
The other company, MetriTech is something of a mystery. Not for the obvious reason. If you go to their website, you better bring a magnifying glass or zoom to 150% or greater. Not that I’m impressed with any of these companies, but at least have a good website! Their list of clients includes Chicago Public schools and a couple state DOEs, but in looking at their product, it seems geared towards ELL students. But they are based out of Champaign, IL. So maybe they have some political connections or something.
So who will win the big contract? If I had to guess, I would go with Strategic Measurement and Evaluation. Pearson and AIR are becoming toxic names associated with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC. MetriTech looks like they need financing to get a good website going. But then again, SME has an old website. Who knows! I’m sure whoever it is, kids will hate it, teachers will prep students for it, and parents will want to opt their kids out of it!
As the acting Superintendent of the Christina School District, Bob Andrzejewski will certainly have his hands full in 2016. He was voted in by the Christina School District Board of Education back in September with a 4-3 vote, and he has been working hard for the district! As a new face for the district, Bob A (as he is known in many circles) has been trying to get Christina to the top of their game! With the pending and potential move of all Christina’s Wilmington schools to the Red Clay Consolidated School District, as well as a potential referendum next year, Bob A will have his hands full!
I have heard mixed things about Bob A since he came aboard the Christina train. But one thing he does have is fans! This one appeared in The News Journal as a letter to the editor on September 11th of this year:
Andrzejewski good choice for Christina
Kudos to the Christina School Board for selecting “Dr. A” to lead the district while Dr. Freeman Williams is on leave. Bob Andrzejewski has been around the block a time or two, but has not lost his passion for education or for seeking the best for educators and students. He is a strong leader and his past successes working with parents, elected officials, business leaders and the Delaware State Education Association will serve the Christina District well. He also knows the “Delaware Way” of working together to make good things happen for students.
Christina School District
That was super nice of Michael Walls to write that about Bob A! It really helps to have your peers recognize you like that. Bob is actually hard at work getting the Christina School District to join the BRINC Consortium. This blended learning-personalized learning group of Delaware school districts already has Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Red Clay, Appoquinimink, and Caesar Rodney. I imagine Bob A has no other ulterior motives for joining this initiative!
Wait one darn minute! How did that picture get in here. This is about Bob A, not Mike Walls! He already had his moment in here. He isn’t affiliated with Christina anymore. He is working for some company called Modern Teacher now. You can look on their website, just click on the lower left-hand corner! Wait, is that…the same as the above picture? Bob A wants the Christina School District to sign a $49,000 contract with a company that has the former Christina Superintendent working for them? How did that happen? It could be a coincidence, right? It’s not like Walls endorsed the Christina board’s decision to hire him, so there is no conflict of interest there! Oh wait…he did… But let’s be real here. It’s not like Andrzejewski has any ties with personalized learning, right? Right? Oh no. Say it ain’t so…
What in the world is Innovative Educational Associates? Any relation to Robert Andrzejewski? And where did that picture come from? Oh yeah, here. But there surely must be many Andrzejewskis in Delaware, right? Okay, I’ll check the Delaware Chamber of Commerce. Maybe they have something. Okay, but all they have is an address for this Innovative Educational Associates. It’s probably some office complex or something. I’ll check block shopper! They always know this stuff! Uh-oh spaghetti-o’s, not only does it list the same address but it shows the owners of the property to be Robert and Kathleen Andrzejewski! But maybe it’s a quirk and Bob A has nothing to do with the company… Wrong again!!!! I was really hoping I was wrong about this…
So not only does Bob A want Christina to enter into a contract with this Modern Teacher that deals with blended learning that a former superintendent of Christina now works for, but his own company also deals with blended learning, the same as the BRINC Consortium that also is big on blended learning. I’m blended out Bob A! Yeah, I’ll definitely be watching out for Bob A in 2016!
Another request for proposal came out from the Delaware Department of Education at the end of October. This one is for the Delaware Early Learning Literacy. You can read the whole below document, and what they want this vendor to do that they clearly can’t do themselves. But what it boils down to is this part from the Request for Proposal:
Decreasing the percent of students with disabilities in grade 3 that score below proficiency on the statewide assessment.
It always comes back to the same thing: Smarter Balanced. The damn test…
The Delaware DOE wants to remove the DCAS Social Studies and Science State Standardized Assessments and have new ones implemented by the 2016-2017 school year. They currently have a Request for Proposal (RFP) with final bids due by 11/30/15. You have to love this part of the bid proposal:
The initial term of the resulting Contract(s) will be from the Contract’s effective date, on or about December 31, 2015, through June 30, 2021. The DDOE reserves the right to extend any contract awarded as a result of this Competitive Sealed Proposal (CSP) for as many as five additional annual contracts if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the State of Delaware.
I imagine these new tests will be “more aligned with the Common Core State Standards” and the RFP already states these tests will be a part of the Delaware School Success Framework. So where does the DOE have the authority to do this? And where is the oversight? Look no further than this part of the proposal:
Funding for Contract(s) resulting from this Competitive Sealed Proposal (CSP) is contingent upon approval by the Delaware General Assembly each year of appropriations, limitations, or other expenditure authority.
The DOE estimates the “winner” will be announced around 12/18/15 with a start date of 12/31/15. While this bid proposal was created on 9/29/15, note at the bottom of page 2 and page 3 what the accountability measures are for proficiency. Yes, the old participation rate multiplier is in full effect on here even though the Accountability Framework Working Group voted against it and the State Board has yet to make a decision on this. Couldn’t that affect the bid process somewhat?
And what is the DOE requiring for these tests from a vendor?
require students to demonstrate a range of higher-order, analytical thinking and performance skills in reading, writing, and research based on the depth and complexity of Delaware Social Studies Standards, Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies (grades 6-10 only) and/or Next Generation Science Standards allowing robust information to be gathered for students with varied levels of achievement. A significant portion of total score points come from items that demonstrate a deeper level of knowledge (e.g., represent the high complexity levels designated by taxonomies of cognitive demand).
And which students will be taking these tests? Currently the DCAS Science assessments are for grades 5,8, and 10 and the DCAS Social Studies is grades 4th and 7th with a High School End of Course for U.S. History. By the 2019-2020 school year, these tests will be for all students from 3rd through 10th grade, in both Science and Social Studies.
Now if the 147th General Assembly had to approve the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the State Standardized Assessment and the bids for this are due while the General Assembly is out of session (like they did with Smarter Balanced), is this even allowed? Some legislators in the 147th General Assembly stated they voted yes for the Smarter Balanced legislation (House Bill 334) because Mark Murphy and the DOE already bought it. Can the 148th General Assembly prevent the very same mistake from happening again before a contract is signed and sealed? Especially when the plan is to have even more students taking these assessments?
To read the whole contract, see below:
Updated: I read through the text of House Bill 334, which allowed the Smarter Balanced invasion in Delaware (even though the DOE already signed a contract with American Institutes for Research to be the test vendor and joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). For Science and Social Studies, House Bill 334 states the following:
(c) The assessments referred to in subsection (b) of this section shall measure achievement in
readingEnglish language arts and mathematics for students in a minimum of grades 3 through 8 and high school, provided additional grades may be added by the Department. Science and social studies shall be assessed for students at least once in the elementary grades, at least once in the middle grades, and at least once in high school.
It looks like the DOE is taking the “at least once” and running with it.
The Delaware Department of Education is paying UChicago Impact, a non-profit owned by the University of Chicago, $443,750.00 for the 5Essentials Survey. The work will be completed in a year. This is all part of the Delaware School Success Framework, aka, the school report card. How much time and resources has the DOE spent on this part of our ESEA flexibility waiver? My biggest question is why the DOE pays so much money to outside vendors. I’m sure their response would fall somewhere along the lines of “our Department can’t be biased with these things so we need an outside voice”, but if you look at the “partners” of UChicago Impact, the bias is already there. They are all about the corporate education reform movement. The questions in their 5Essentials Survey are extensive and intrusive in my opinion and I don’t see any benefit coming to schools with these. It is just more ammunition for the DOE to blast teachers and schools.
While the scope of the work is vast, how can the DOE keep contracting with vendor after vendor with no oversight whatsoever by the state? Yes, I’m sure this is in their budget, but why are they allowed to have such an extensive budget when the students of Delaware have to sit in bloated classrooms with limited resources? This is a waste of money. $443,000 for a survey? Why are we making sure these education “fix it” companies are well-fed, but we can’t even do the same for our own citizens? Delaware DOE, you are actually making the problem worse. It almost seems like the Delaware DOE wants to have an elite “country club” status in education. But they don’t realize how much they are starving Delaware schools of what they truly need. Below is the contract with UChicago Impact and the Delaware DOE.
The Delaware Department of Education is preparing to launch a survey unlike any other in the coming months. The survey is a product of UChicago Impact, a non-profit company owned by the University of Chicago. The survey, which is part of the Delaware School Success Framework (school report card), will have questions for students, teachers and parents to answer. To say some of the questions are intrusive would be an understatement. The part that offends me the most is this:
*Questions from the parent survey do not affect a school’s performance on the 5Essentials
Not to let the cat out of the bag so fast, but last week the DOE had a section for this on their website, but you couldn’t access any of the links. I contacted their public information officer, Alison May, and advised her of this. She emailed back and said it was supposed to be on their intranet for teachers. But today, all the links were available. So you can read the questions ahead of time and let me know what you think.
5Essentials 2016 Survey Questions
5Essentials Communication Kit for Delaware
5Essentials Phase 1 Training/Orientation for Delaware
When I emailed Alison May at the DOE about this last week, this was her response:
“The Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) will include information to highlight performance across multiple domains. Based upon significant stakeholder feedback, information about school climate and culture will be provided through student, teacher and parent surveys. The Department recently selected the UChicago Impact, a nonprofit organization focused on K-12 education at the University of Chicago, as the state’s vendor to administer the surveys. UChicago Impact’s “5Essentials” (5E) is an evidence-based system designed to drive improvement in schools nationwide. Currently school administrators are signing up for a related training. So likely that is the restricted access. They likely can see that page when they sign into the site. I’ll alert the web folks that the tab should be on the intranet as well if it is confusing.”
A year ago, the United States Department of Education really pushed 5Essentials for survey use. It looks like Delaware took the bait. Oddly enough, I can find no contract for this company anywhere on the State Contract website, nor could I find any payments going to 5Essentials, Urban Education Institute, UChicago Impact or the University of Chicago. So who is paying for this and who holds the contract? In doing an exhaustive search, the contract number for this was DOE_2015-15SuccessSurvey_RFP, but it shows no awarded bidder under the Awarded Vendors or Awarded Contracts. But we do know what was in the Request for Proposal (RFP) and who put in bids for it:
Delaware DOE School Success Survey RFP
Solicited Bids for Delaware DOE School Success Survey
So once again DOE, why is there no contract with this company for the public to see? We have seen this before with contracts with American Institutes for Research in regards to DCAS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. When information like this is missing, it always makes me suspicious. Sounds like Dr. Godowsky may want to look into why the DOE cherry-picks which contracts the public should see. Interesting that the State of Delaware links to the bid website page in a section called “transparency”…
Thanks to “Armpit” for sending this one to me! Apparently, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office received a petition from a concerned citizen in the Appoquinimink School District due to an open meeting violation concerning their school board. Superintendent Matthew Burrows contract was invalidated due to the FOIA violations! You can read the legal opinion here but I will give the highlights:
We find that Executive Session and Public Meeting Agendas for the June 2014 Board Meeting violated FOIA and affected substantial public rights. In a similar case, we determined that the school board violated substantial public rights “by deciding who to hire as the new [District] superintendent outside of public view.” Del. Op. Att’y Gen. 02-IB17, 2002 WL 31031224, at *8 (Aug. 6, 2002). In that case, the “specific rights at issue . . . were the rights of students, parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens in the District to be involved in the selection of a new superintendent.” Id. However, we declined to invalidate the school board’s approval of the new superintendent for equitable reasons. See id., at *10.
Similarly, although we find that the Board’s June 2014 Meeting and related agendas violated FOIA, we decline to determine that the approval of the Contract is invalid for violation of the open meeting law.7 The record indicates that after Mr. Weller raised his concerns about the adequacy of the Board’s June 2014 meeting agendas, the Board placed the matter on its November agenda, engaged in a public discussion about the Contract at the November meeting, and voted on the Contract at the November meeting. The Board also completed FOIA training in a public session in November 2014 in order to gain additional understanding of FOIA’s public meetings laws. Therefore, we find that the Board has already taken action to cure the June 2014 violations of the open meetings laws. Under the circumstances, no additional remediation is required.
Even though the matter was fixed by the board, it still happened. What would have happened if Mr. Weller never brought it to the Attorney General’s attention? If I ever meet Mr. Weller I would like to shake his hand for his bravery and determination in this matter. School boards are elected officials, and they need to follow the letter of the law!
Good fortune has allowed me to receive the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Contract with the State of Washington. Washington is the lead state in this consortium of states involved with this standardized assessment. The usual vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment is American Institutes for Research. Read this contract very carefully to see exactly what is involved in all of this. From what I understand, this contract is applicable to any state within the consortium….including Delaware…