The Very Important Answer To The Question Nobody Asked!

How did Delaware Governor Jack Markell come up with the whole “assessment inventory” thing at Howard High School on March 12th, 2015?  Was this the brainchild of the DOE and Markell?  Or did an outside consultant actually come up with this idea as a counter to House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill? Governor Markell vetoed the bill which was passed by both the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate last month, and the DOE and Markell cited the assessment inventory legislation, Senate Joint Resolution #2 as the primary reason. The “too much testing” argument was the foil for parent opt-out, which I called the second I read about it on March 12th. I never waivered from this argument, and it turned out to be true.

A contract was developed with a company called “Colvin Communications”, based out of Washington D.C. which ran from March 12th to June 30th of this year.  Upon a Google search, the only place “Colvin Communications” comes up is in this very contract.  However, payments for this contract went out to the same person who signed the contract, Richard Colvin. In a search for a Delaware business license, I did find one for Colvin Communications and Richard Colvin. So it is a legitimate business. But why didn’t Colvin use the company he currently works for, Cross & Joftus?

Richard Colvin is a major education reporter, most known for his articles on The Hechinger Report, which he created.  Colvin has been a very vocal advocate for education reform.  And he has met Governor Jack Markell in the past!  The contract between Richard Colvin and the DOE concerned communications strategies at the DOE.  For his services, Colvin’s contract called for a fixed fee payment of $112,000.00 for a little over two and a half month’s work.

Where this gets very bizarre is the payments going to Richard Colvin on Delaware Online Checkbook. The contract ran from 3/12-6/30/15.  So what services did Richard Colvin provide prior to this contract?

Department: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION – Vendor: RICHARD COLVIN
for
Period: FY 2015

No. of Payments: Amount:
6 $136,880.00

 

Back to Search
Division Category Date of Payment Amount Payment Reference
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE 4/7/2015 $30,880.00 421173
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE 2/4/2015 $17,600.00 402579
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE 6/9/2015 $27,200.00 442773
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE 3/9/2015 $6,787.00 411883
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE 5/6/2015 $32,000.00 430917
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE 3/9/2015 $22,413.00 411883

Department: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION – Vendor: RICHARD COLVIN
for
Period: FY 2016 Period 1 thru 1

No. of Payments: Amount:
1 $18,240.00

 

Back to Search
Division Category Date of Payment Amount Payment Reference
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICE 7/21/2015 $18,240.00 454331

So the contract was for $112,000.00.  Colvin has been paid $155,120.00 by the DOE.  Out of that amount, $46,800.00 was paid prior to the contract initiation date, which technically leaves $3,680.00 left in the contract.  But what are the services Colvin actually provided to the DOE before his contract and with the contract? With Colvin’s wealth of information on education reform, standardized assessments, and his rabid promoting of the Edu-Wonk blog, it stands to reason Colvin may have actually come up with the whole assessment inventory idea prior to his contract beginning on March 12th.  The timing is everything, and he started providing his “unique” service to DOE the same time opt-out was beginning in Delaware.

In this article on the Policy Innovators in Education Network, Colvin said the following:

“How should we think about the polarization and heated rhetoric around education reform? Is it evidence reformers are making a difference? Or does it impede progress by alienating the unions, which are not going to go away?

There are lots of questions for reformers to answer as they think about the tactics they should use. Obviously, the political context matters a lot. Republicans dominate in many of the states where we’ve seen significant change. But not all.”

In March, 2010, Colvin wrote a huge article about Delaware and Tennessee’s award for the Race To The Top competition in U.S. News & World Report:

Delaware’s application was supported by all of the state’s school districts and charter schools. It also was backed by the state teachers union, a coalition of business leaders, philanthropists, leaders of both political parties, and Gov. Jack Markell, who helped present the plan in person to the review teams that chose the winners. A Delaware business leader, a school district superintendent, and the president of the teachers union, the Delaware State Education Association, joined him in the interview.

Markell said that he believed that the widespread community support for the state’s plan helped it win. “In Delaware, we don’t have to choose between consensus and being bold,” he says. “You get the best of both worlds.”

But have Richard Colvin and Governor Markell ever met? Yes they have, and throw in Paul Herdman of Rodel for extra measure and you have a clear connection to Delaware education reform and Colvin.  In fact, Paul Herdman even wrote about it in October, 2011.  Colvin was a panelist at the annual Vision fest.

The frank dialogue continued throughout the day and was most striking in the inspired and candid conversation between Richard Colvin, Executive Director of Education Sector, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell. Both Colvin and audience members didn’t hesitate to ask the governor tough questions about teacher evaluation, funding, and a number of other issues that the governor and the state contend with daily.   The governor underscored another prominent theme of the day, which is the responsibility that each of us has to contribute to this work, “Just getting it done among the people in this room is not sufficient.  Please take the passion that brought you here and share it with those outside.”

According to Colvin’s LinkedIn profile, he is currently working with a company based out of Bethesda, MD called Cross & Joftus.  This is yet another slew of corporate education reform companies that plague our country.  They also were one of the bidders on the DOE’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities which was won by Public Consulting Group.  Some of their clients are very familiar names to Delaware, including the Aspen institute (of which Jack Markell, Mark Murphy and Paul Herdman are all members and Colvin has written papers for), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation and another foundation called the Wallace Foundation, which Colvin has a long history with.  Richard Colvin, Scott Joftus and Paul Herdman are all listed as participants in the NewSchools Venture Fund.  Cross & Joftus have helped other districts and Departments with reassessment of statewide initiatives, like the current SREO campaign which Colvin probably came up with a week after his probable assessment inventory suggestion to the desperate Governor Markell and DOE.

As the connections to corporate education reform in Delaware continue to mount, it is important for Delaware citizens to unravel this labyrinth of connections and money that are taking resources out of the classroom and starving our traditional school districts. It has become more than obvious that the leaders in the Delaware DOE are incapable of initiating any change themselves, instead choosing to have contract after contract with companies that have not proven on a long-term basis that their education reforms are anything but smoke and mirrors. It is painfully apparent our Governor Markell is also unable to come up with anything by himself, instead relying on consultants to tell him how education in Delaware should be.

 

Delaware DOE’s Out Of Control Spending Spree In July

The Delaware Department of Education is a cash-cow bonanza for education reform companies! Delaware Online Checkbook came out with the July 2015 numbers on the 15th, and the Delaware Department of Education looks like they don’t have any controls on their spending.  All told, they spent $13,103,296.36 for the month of July.  This is not unusual, but it’s WHAT they are spending the money on.  A lot of these are standard services, food for schools, salaries, operational costs and so on.  But the amounts they are spending on outside consultants and vendors is very high.  I went through, one by one, and looked into each company.  Some of them I was unable to figure out what kind of service they could be providing for the DOE.  The first figure is the amount DOE sent payment to in July 2015.  Then I went through and figured out how much the DOE spent with these companies and consultants over the past five fiscal years, from 2011-2015.  Delaware Online Checkbook only goes back to 2011, so the amounts could be higher in some cases…

Achievement Network Ltd. (helps schools “boost” student learning): $17,500, previous five fiscal years (hard to tell, many companies with words “achieve” in them, mostly providing “material” to school districts): $0.00

American Institutes for Research  (assessment vendor for Smarter Balanced Assessment, was also vendor for DCAS):  $1,933,989, previous five years: $36,652,681.87, it is hard to say what the budgeted amount is for the contracts with this “non-profit” because the DOE doesn’t list the awarded contracts anywhere!

Amplify Education Inc.  (previously Wireless Generation Inc., built data longitudinal system for DOE, provides “education material” aka Common Core for DE schools): $60,115.00, previous five fiscal years (including Wireless Generation): $10,461,101.00, as contracted vendor w/DOE under Amplify from 9/25/14-6/30/15: $725,980.00, actual money spent: $1,947,733.00, money spent over agreed-upon contract amount: $1,221,753.00

Department of Education (Indirect Cost, DOE claimed to the Joint Finance Committee and the General Assembly these are salary costs stemming from Race To The Top): $55,322.41, previous five fiscal years: $1,069,287.66

Derek J. Nino (Consultant w/Relay Graduate School): $9,940.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

Double Line Inc. (education data management): $30,126.75, previous five fiscal years: $88.042.25

Education First Consulting (just another corporate education reform company to help “fix” education): $12,000, previous five fiscal years: $349,423.45

ESP Solutions Group (another education data company): $15,830, previous five fiscal years: $2,395,932.50

Evergreen Evaluation & Consulting (evaluation education data): $3,900.00, previous five fiscal years: $192,200.00

Federal Education Group PLLC (help clients understand Federal education rules) $14,975.00, previous five fiscal years: $136,775.00

Greatschools (online school search website): $15,000, previous five fiscal years: $1,090,749.50

Hendy Avenue Consulting LLC (teacher evaluation company): $21,950.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

iAssessment (help clients develop iPad programs for students): $49,999.00, previous five fiscal years: $229,771.30

KSA Plus Communications Inc. (an “improving schools” communication company): $16,105.00, previous five fiscal years: $52,261.00

Marshall Consulting Company (not sure, many companies w/same name): $8,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

MBO Partners (a consultant “head-hunter” company):  $7,500.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

MH Miles Company CPA PC (do accounting and consulting services): $16,700.00, previous five fiscal years: $229,150.00

Middlebury Interactive Languages (digital language learning company): $26,146.00, previous five fiscal years: $646,406.50

Myriam Met (consultant for foreign languages): $14,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $51,900.00

National Louis University (offers services for “reaching students” and “strengthening teachers”, contract w/DOE for “early learning” online professional development for educators): $7,700.08, previous five fiscal years: $656,630.59, contracted amount through 12/15: $714,978.10

NCS Pearson Inc. (yes, it is THAT Pearson): $19,000.00, previous five fiscal years for DOE: $3,648,335.65, for all of Delaware: $8,057,105.63

New Teacher Center (another making great students by “accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and leaders” company): $29,962.00, previous five fiscal years: $158,425.00

Nicole Klues (a “blended learning” or “personalized learning” consultant): $9,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $34,500.00

Partnership To Advance Learning (a Microsoft “partnership” w/Lamar University, more digital language stuff): $26,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $48,000.00

Piper Riddle (independent consultant to help teachers with Common Core):  $4,080.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

Rand Corporation (contractor for Delaware STARS program): $52,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $1,535,681.58, contracted amount until 12/15: $1,900,000.00

Research In Action Inc. (contractor for DPAS-II evaluation): $6,402.45, previous five fiscal years: $1,712,902.44

Richard Colvin (contractor for Delaware DOE communications strategies): $18,240.00, previous five fiscal years (2015 only): $136,880.00

Rodel Charitable Foundation-DE (no contract w/them right now):  $133,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $387,454.60

Ronald Berry (recruitment manager for DE Talent Cooperative): $14,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $57,540.00

Schoology Inc. (“learning management” system, currently in many DE schools): $264,588.48, previous five fiscal years: $0.00 (many school districts use them)

Teach For America (fast-track teacher prep program): $3,634.92, previous five fiscal years: $799,389.85

Teaching Strategies LLC (early childhood “support for active learning”): $112,508.00, previous five fiscal years: $677,662.29

The Hanover Research Council LLC (does consultancy work regarding grants): $33,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $30,000.00

The New Teacher Project Inc. (another “great” teacher training company):  $20,000.00, past five fiscal years: $465,646.65

Thomas Sauer (consultant on World Language Immersion for DOE):  $6,000.00, past five fiscal years: $16,000.00

U.S. Education Delivery Institute (Dr. Gray on DE State Board of Education sits on the board of this company that helps education leaders work “smarter”): $30,293.25, past five fiscal years: $290,342.00

University of Delaware (not sure what the exact nature of work is, DOE has numerous projects going on with them): $545,081.01, not doing previous years because it is next to impossible to get this one right.

University of Wisconsin-Madison (this one was a bit tricky, but the consultant is actually a company called Education Analytics, usual education reform company who will “help”): $110,492.00, past five fiscal years including Education Analytics: $1,004,462.00

If you add up all the funds spent for these companies, consultants, and “non-profits”, the grand total just for July 2015 is $3,195,999.34.  What I find very interesting is the amounts going to iAssessment.  The DOE has no contract with this company, but the threshold for contract requirements is $50,000 in a fiscal year.  For the past two years, the DOE has spent exactly $49,999.00 in each year to avoid having to sign a contract.  And what has Rodel been doing for the DOE that would warrant a $133,000.00 check going out to them?  I haven’t seen ANY contract with them.  As money pours out of the DOE like a leaking pipe, with NO accountability or controls in place, how can the DOE judge school districts and charters on their own spending when they can’t even control themselves?

One thing is for sure, the DOE will certainly be focusing on the “World Immersion” program and personalized learning in the future.  They are spending a large portion of funds on consultants to get more information on this.  Why don’t they just use Google like I do to get information?  It’s free and it’s probably more reliable!

Even more curious is the fact that NO funds have gone out to Data Recognition Corporation, ever!  This is the scoring vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At the Delaware PTA Kent County Parent Town Hall on opt-out, a representative from the Delaware State Board of Education specifically said this was the vendor for scoring the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  We know the DOE has the results, and testing ended for some schools in March/early April, so why aren’t we paying this company?  Or is it rolled into the contract with American Institutes for Research? The DOE actually confirmed this company is the hand scorer in this link:

Click to access Mar%202015%20Newsletter.pdf

There are many other companies and consultants the DOE works with.  This is just a snapshot of one month’s spending by the runaway train called DOE money.  Will the legislators start to reign them in?  They need to because when school districts such as Christina are literally starving for funds and the DOE drops $3 million in one month for a lot of unnecessary spending, we have to wonder what this is all for.

While The DOE Has Everyone Distracted By Legislation, Watch For What Is Coming…

While everyone is looking at House Bill 50 and other legislative matters, the Delaware Department of Education is just driving right past it without stopping to reassess themselves.  For example, two MORE contract bids have been put out as RFP’s by the DOE.  These are both for the upcoming school accountability initiative, the School Report Card.

and then there is this:

What is truly frightening is when these surveys will take place.  If it is during the summer, before standardized test scores come in, that would be one thing.  But if it is any time after, as in one to two months, that would be very bad.  It would have to be at some point during the summer in my estimation, otherwise how can you really judge a product until it is finished?

I see severe danger with these “School Report Cards”.  It will depend on what kind of questions are asked to the students, parents and teachers.  If it is anything like recent surveys I’ve seen by the DOE, it will be dangerous because of the nature of the choices giving a best possible result.

If you really dig into these RFP’s, the DOE wants the vendor to make sure when someone puts the school and report card on a search engine like Google or Yahoo, it comes up on the first page of the search.  They are very eager for the three stakeholders to take these surveys and for the public to see them.  There is still some time to figure out what the DOE’s intentions are with these, but I don’t trust it.  This is part of their ESEA waiver requirements, but I don’t trust any of the ESEA Flex Waivers…

The devil is in the details, and it will be very interesting to see who the contracted vendor on these two contracts will be…

More Truly Bizarre Family Foundations Academy Stories Surface

More stories from Family Foundations Academy are coming to light, and strange doesn’t even begin to describe them.  All sources who have provided these stories have elected to remain anonymous for their own reasons.

One educator advised they did donate part of their paycheck during the school’s “troubled financial crisis” back in 2008, but never received their two promised personal days off.  In fact, the school discouraged employees from taking their state allotted 10 days off.  When teachers were out, their classes of 30 or more were cut in half and put in other classes, which would give classroom sizes of 45 or higher!

A certain office assistant from many years ago sure liked money.  The school had a company they contracted for school pictures.  Apparently, this company would grant those pictures for free to employees of the school.  This office assistant would tell the company certain parents were employees when they weren’t, charged the parents, and kept the money for their own benefit.  This same employee was also in charge of collecting lunch money, but I imagine the amount of food going out was a lot higher than the money coming in.  When called out on this by an admin, another admin came to her defense because this employee also served as a “liason” arranger for this admin in setting up “rendezvous” meetings with the other admin.

At one point, the school arranged for a trip to The White House.  As a brother in the infamous fraternity the school is associated with, the school used the frat brother’s bus company for the trip.  The bus broke down, and had to return to the school.  The bus company agreed to reschedule the trip for free, but an admin charged parents again for the field trip, and kept the money.

The school received funding from Race To The Top, and spent some of this money on a company called Tutoring Works.  Would you like to take a wild guess what fraternity is part of the owner of that company’s profile?  Would you believe only fraternity brothers and one admin were allowed to perform these Saturday tutoring sessions?

Some of the charges by the school have been confirmed.  At one point, the school charged parents and students for a trip to a 76ers game, with a promise of the bus ride, the game, and a dinner.  Unfortunately, hungry parents and children only received a hot dog in tin foil, no drink, and not everyone got a hot dog…  One admin sure loved Arizona Iced Tea, and would purchase many cases of it from a certain wholesale club.  As well as other lots of treats and goodies.

Apparently “motels” was a popular word in texts between parents and certain employees at the school.  So much so that jealousy soon caused considerable rifts.

When FFA was administering the DSTP tests, one teacher would block all the windows with paper and would place candy on the correct answers while the students were taking the test.  This teacher would NOT open the locked door until all the tests were done and in their bag.

Apparently many teachers who were fired or quit due to tyrannical control by admin, many teachers went to the Christina School District.  One admin actually left FFA for the day to see all the teachers at the different schools.  Apparently these were insane moments…

I’m sure there will be more stories that come out, but in the meantime I have not heard back from anyone at Family Foundations Academy about my formal request for a seat on their board.

In the meantime, parents, teachers and concerned citizens, please make formal public comment with the DOE.  Please include your name, and any witnesses to these events.  There are certain laws against retaliation, and the more of you that speak up, the stronger the statements.  I have no clue what will happen with this school in terms of any DOE decision on their charter renewal, but all the allegations and stories about them clearly show this is a school that was run by people who did not have the best interest of students in mind.  If they are to stay open, any admin, staff, or board member associated with any of these allegations needs to be terminated.  As well, any connection with any vendor affiliated with “the frat” needs to be eliminated as a vendor and all future vendors should be on a contract through the state contract system.