Breaking News: Lamont Browne Leaving EastSide Charter & Family Foundations Academy

The Delaware exodus continues.  Next up: Dr. Lamont Browne, the Executive Director of EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations Academy.  Browne will leave his mini charter empire on June 30th.  This hasn’t been officially announced, but it will be tomorrow night at their board meeting.  The word on the street has him going to Relay Graduate School’s Colorado program in Denver.

Browne joined EastSide Charter School in 2011 after a couple of years as a Principal in Philadelphia.  His goal was to turnaround the struggling charter school.  After a few years under Browne’s leadership, EastSide showed major gains on the former Delaware state assessment, DCAS.  As honors and kudos came to him from Governor Markell and the State Board of Education, the board of EastSide took over Family Foundations Academy after major financial fraud by the two school leaders.  Browne became the Executive Director of Delaware Charter Schools: EastSide & Family Foundations Academy.  For all the growth the students at EastSide had on DCAS, the school did horrible on the Smarter Balanced Assessment last year.  While this was consistent throughout the state, it was surprising to see EastSide near the bottom of the list for Delaware charter schools.

Many viewed Browne as a miracle worker with the growth students experienced at EastSide.  As a former member of the Teach For America Corps, Browne used many TFAers at EastSide.  But the school also experienced a lot of turnover with students so it was hard to pinpoint the exact growth at a consistent level.  For the Common Core standardized testing cheerleaders in Delaware, Browne became the poster leader for school growth in Delaware.  In March 2015, Browne was one of the five participants in the Imagine Delaware Forum.  He also served on the leadership council of the Vision Coalition, the offshoot of the Rodel Foundation.

The timing of Browne’s departure for the Colorado relay program matches with the timetable for Relay going into full operation mode in Denver this summer.  Relay Graduate School, similar to Teach For America, has what many view as very controversial teacher and leader preparation programs.  The corporate education reform movement loves them both.  Browne is a huge believer in teacher leaders elevating to principal roles in Delaware schools.

Obviously, there is no word on who will take over Browne’s title.  Many of the principals at the two charter schools he oversees are new principals with very little experience.  The next few months will be interesting to watch.  Especially when something happens on Moore and Brewington, the former Family Foundations leaders…

Statewide Review Of Education Opportunities Highlights Charter School Cherry-Picking & Creaming

cherrypicking

Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools.  This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right.  When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities.  All of this is based in 2014-2015 data.  This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.

Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test.  It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.

The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  The result: complete chaos in Delaware.  While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County.  If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports.  They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick.  They cream from the top applicants.  And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique.  To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.

The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware.  This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state.  It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools.  Do not be fooled by this illusion.  Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores.  I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters.  This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state.  This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools.   Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom.  All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation.  While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.

This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned.  We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities.  We have other charters with very high populations of the two.  We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel.  We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it.  We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces.  We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this.  We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace.  This is Delaware education.

Science & Social Studies State Assessments Up For Bids By Delaware DOE For 5 1/2 Year Contract With No General Assembly Legislation

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.

Unraveling The Gordian Knot Around The Delaware DOE, AIR, DRC, CCSSO & SBAC

For many years, the Delaware Department of Education enacted policies and procedures with most of Delaware not aware of what was really going on.  This is changing at an exponential rate.  A Gordian knot is described as an unsolvable problem.  For years, folks in Delaware took whatever the DOE said as the gospel truth and there was nothing they could do about it.  The times, they are indeed changing…

For example, Senate Joint Resolution #2.  Sponsored by Delaware State Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques.  This resolution creates a task force to do away with unnecessary assessments because “students are being tested too much.”  Now I am hearing the DOE wants to increase the amount of interim assessments for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  So we will get rid of the tests that actually give immediate feedback for instructional growth, but have more tests aligned with the Smarter Balanced?  You have got to be kidding me.  I always knew this was a ploy to fight opt-out, but now we are seeing the scorpion sting coming from the backend.  They want ALL the assessments kids get to be tied to Smarter Balanced, all for scores on THIS test.  And let’s not even get into how much more money this will give the vendor for Smarter Balanced, none other than American Institutes for Research (AIR).  As if $38 million between DCAS and Smarter Balanced weren’t enough…

In a couple newsletters from the Delaware System of Student Assessments (DeSSA), they talk about Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) being the scoring vendor, but never reveal the actual contractual relationship between AIR and DRC, even though other states were openly talking about it.  In fact, it appears the DOE did everything they could to avoid anything seen as issues with the Smarter Balanced Assessment during all of the House Bill 50 debate.

The key words in this newsletter from May of 2015, which talks about the “assessment inventory” are as follows:

Ultimately, the overall goal of this project is to provide a balanced system of assessments incorporating a minimum amount of high quality testing while meeting accountability needs and the needs of the educators supporting student growth and maximizing time for instruction.

Source: DeSSA May 2015 Newsletter

We are also finding out how much AIR and DRC are closely tied.  DRC is not just a test scoring vendor.  In fact, DRC was recently announced as the testing vendor for the Badger Exam in Wisconsin.  And there are already accusations surrounding campaign contributions to Governor Scott Walker from DRC President Susan Engeleiter.  DRC is the scoring vendor for Delaware’s Smarter Balanced essay portions of the test.  But the Delaware DOE never announced this.  In fact, they danced around the question for quite a long time.  They said nothing about it.

In the same newsletter from above, the DOE is very careful about how they word things:

Delaware non-machined scored online items are being hand-scored by the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC). Delaware student items are being scored using the rubrics and student samples validated by educators from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium states, including educators from Delaware.

Hand-scored results will then be combined with machine-scored results for reporting purposes. Our score reports will then be sent from our Delaware online platform vendor, American Institutes for Research (AIR).

Parent reports are scheduled to be sent out early August, providing student scores for testing in ELA/literacy and mathematics. An interpretative guide will also be distributed to support full understanding of the document.

The whole newsletter is actually chock full of information.  Too bad parents don’t get this newsletter.  But in the March 2015 newsletter, it indicates more about DRC, and the qualifications for their scorers.

High Expectations for Summative Scorers:

Step 1 – Screening

Four-year college degree in relevant scoring content area

 Educational/work experience related to scoring subject

 Prior scoring experience is considered

Step 2 – Interview

Personal interview

 DRC content-area proficiency assessment

Step 3 – Training

Item training

 Reliability calibration/validation

Step 4 – Ongoing Validation

Read-behind validation

 Ten percent double-scoring, supervisor review

 Ongoing accuracy review

Step 5 – Retraining (if warranted)

Re-assignment of scoring and all previously scored work

 Follow-up tracking for accuracy

 Dismissal from process and rescoring of scored work

Source: DeSSA March 2015 Newsletter

The DOE confirmed at the May 2014 Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens that none of these portions of Smarter Balanced would be graded in Delaware.  This article from Oregon Save Our Schools shows a great deal of concern with DRC as the “human scoring vendor”…

…confirmed that the test vendor (AIR) is subcontracting with a company called Data Recognition Corporation, DRC, to manage scoring of constructed responses.  They operate in much the same way the Measurement Incorporated and Pearsons scores the tests using random temp workers paid low wages. DRC is paying $13/hour, like Pearsons while MI pays $10.70. They all make the only qualification, a BA or 4 year degree in any subject. These low wage temp workers are not educators and not qualified to evaluate our students. They work under conditions that are not conducive to good assessment, sitting for hours reading huge volumes writing of students they don’t know.

So what is the relationship between AIR and DRC in terms of standardized assessments?  They both have strong ties to overall education policy due to their business relationship with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  These corporations pay a “membership” fee to get in, and then reap the benefits through numerous contracts with testing consortiums and state education agencies like the Delaware DOE.

Led by Executive Director Christopher Minnich, CCSSO describes itself as:

The Council of Chief State School Officers is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

But good luck getting into any of their closed-to-the-public meetings.  In fact, they stress this is by invitation only.  As I reported last night, Mark Murphy and former Delaware Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery were both on the Board of Directors, but due to their recent resignations, they can’t be on the Board.  But that doesn’t mean other members of the DOE aren’t participating in the many different work groups within this organization.

Delaware DOE has a hand in the following groups at CCSSO: Accountability Systems and Reporting, Assessing Special Education Students, Science, Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction, and Supports and Interventions.  While CCSSO is very strict about quoting from their website, it is worth poking around at the CCSSO website to see exactly how many of the grand announcements coming out of the Delaware DOE actually come from this organization.  Everything from their recent announcements about educator effectiveness, to school leader programs, and even the Delaware School Success Framework seem to come from work done in this group.  Keep in mind this is a company, and it is not the United States Department of Education.  But they certainly assist in setting policy while they get paid handsomely by states and businesses.

Their business members, which they call “corporate partners”, include the following: American Institutes for Research, Data Recognition Corporation, Educational Testing Service (ETS), McGraw-Hill, Microsoft, Pearson, Scholastic, Amplify, Apple, College Board, ACT, IBM, Questar, Texas Instruments, and numerous other assessment and technology companies.  These members join at a Tier level, between 1-3, based on the amount of their entrance fee.

If you look at the contracts web page for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, you can see how many of these “corporate partners” are directly aligned with development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

States also have to pay for CCSSO’s services.  Delaware alone has paid $770,572.00 since Fiscal Year 2011 in annual membership fees and payments.  All of the companies CCSSO works with have made billions of dollars on testing American public school students.  American Institutes for Research is at the top of the pack.  Some have theorized that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium IS American Institutes for Research, but this has not been proven definitively.  But it is more than obvious AIR benefits from the need for high-stakes testing as blogger Mercedes Schneider wrote last year:

AIR does not question the self-defeating role that test-driven reform plays in compelling states to set “safe” state goals for an unrealistic NCLB  (including the lowering of state standards and watering down of state tests) in order to not have principals and teachers fired and schools declared failures and taken over in order to be “turned around” or handed over to privately managed, under-regulated charters. AIR assumes that test-driven reform is good and will result in some undefined international superiority evidenced by America’s achieving The Best Test Scores In the Universe.

But there is another home-hitting, *economic* reason for this AIR “CCSS and assessments” push:

AIR NEEDS CCSS because AIR is counting on profiting from CCSS assessments. 

AIR is the company that designed the pre-National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests which soon became the NAEP test as we know it.  They published report after report about how our schools were failing.  They were heavily involved with CCSSO who developed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS, not to be confused with CCSSO).  Then they developed the Smarter Balanced Assessment, many of the psychometrics for the test, and the algorithms for the test which creates the adaptive portion of the test.  And because so much of this is proprietary, they won’t even let state DOEs contract out the scoring vendor of THEIR test.  Only they can sub-contract.  Which they do to DRC, all the time.  But DRC is also known to be a recruiter for AIR, an assessment vendor, and other similar functions.  In this crazy world of corporate education reform, it is very hard to tell AIR and DRC apart.  But at the top of the assessment game, it’s AIR.  They not only created the need for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they created the test, the benchmarks, the algorithms, and they are well-connected with the company that scores the essays from the test.  It’s all a big win for AIR as Schneider wrote in the above link:

So, for AIR to analyze state standards and assessments, compare those to national and international assessments, and find in favor of a set of standards that it cannot test because doing so would require AIR use assessments that do not yet exist but are nonetheless declared imperative for America to compete internationally– that is decidedly suspect given AIR’s past, current, and future aim to profit off of CCSS assessments.

But AIR doesn’t just get rich from state DOEs.  They have over 20 contracts with the United States Department of Education as well, as I reported in April in a very extensive article about AIR.  If you look at the contracts web page for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium you can see how many of these “corporate partners” are directly aligned with development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

AIR also “helped” the Delaware DOE with their state educator equity plan, which drew the wrath of numerous inner-city school districts once the News Journal published a story blasting Delaware educators, especially those in Wilmington schools.

Source: Page 8, Delaware Excellent Educators For All Plan

AIR and DRC have their hands all over the education landscape.  And Delaware seems to be an easy target for their extensive work.  But our children do not benefit from their empire.  Delaware citizens are lied to all the time from state officials, or they aren’t given pertinent information.  Our educators are ridiculed and humiliated constantly, and the DOE doesn’t care.  They want this.  Make no mistake, this is a vast network of companies and US Government agencies, with tentacles everywhere, not just in education.  To untangle it all would take a great deal of time, and every time you think you have it figured out, like a hydra, two more take its place.

Since all of this culminates in the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the easy solution is the most obvious: REFUSE THE TEST!  Take away the fruit of all their labors, and what are they left with?  These companies have tried to mold public policy in their own self-serving interest to make more money!  At the end of the day, this conspiracy is all about money.  They are corporate invaders trying to take over public education because they want to make more money by privatizing it all.  This isn’t one political party that’s doing all of this.  It’s bi-partisan.  Because there is one thing that makes the world tick: money.  Either you have it or you don’t.  And in corporate education reform, these companies are getting it by the truckload every day!  You don’t have to be a prophet to see the profit.  But you do have to care to see this is not good for children at all.

Roughly 10% Of Special Education Students In Delaware Are “Proficient” On Smarter Balanced

I just heard roughly 10% of students with disabilities in Delaware were rated as proficient in Delaware for the Smarter Balanced Assessment administered last Spring.  I wish to God this test would just disappear.  Can you imagine the other 90% of these children’s parents getting the results of this assessment.  I really hope they strongly reconsider having their child take Smarter Balanced next year.  10%…

I feel a deep sadness for these children.  I picture them struggling on this test, with fewer worthwhile accommodations than they had on the prior DCAS state assessment.  The weeks they spent taking this horrible, horrible test.  This is a wake-up call for special needs parents.  Our children are more than ten scores.  I don’t care what their proficiency rate is.  They are 100% awesome!

When I have official numbers, I will update this.

Delaware, Stop Calling Our Schools Failing!!!! It Is Not A Solution!!!

Every time a Delaware citizen talks about our “failing schools”, it gives the Delaware Department of Education fuel.  They absolutely love it when people say this.  Because what so many of our citizens are forgetting, any label of success or failure is based on standardized testing.  This year, it is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Last year, it was DCAS.  A few years ago it was DSTP.  Everyone loves to put an easy Band-Aid on a deep flesh wound.  This is what our DOE has done.  They have allowed and brainwashed the public into believing their own fallacies.

It sickens me what the DOE has done to our communities and schools with their ideology that only puts more of OUR taxpayer money into the hands of companies that aren’t even incorporated in our state and make them rich beyond our wildest dreams.  All in the name of “progress” and erasing the “status quo”.  Failure is the Delaware DOE’s favorite word.  We need to STOP using this word as a measurement of our schools, and by default, our teachers and students.  We can talk about education, especially in the most impoverished and high-crime statistics.  But don’t for one second believe our children are failing based on the DOE’s measurement.  Because then you have fallen into their trap.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is bad.  It’s very bad.  Refuse this test for your child.  Write a letter today and let the DOE know you will not let your child be their guinea pig for one day longer.

An Inside Look At The Dark Minds Of The High-Stakes Testing Regimen of DOE and AIR

The below document is disturbing on many levels.  It is the minutes from a joint meeting from the Delaware Department of Education and American Institutes for Research.  Many assumptions are made on both parts, and they just run with it.  Of particular assessment is the second paragraph of page four and the last paragraph on page seven.  I am beginning to understand why the DOE really doesn’t get special education.  The very fact that they would not defend their own students to these data freaks at AIR is astonishing.

If anything, this document shows what our students are to these data freaks at AIR- nothing but even more data for them to dissect and disseminate.  The cold and callous way students are discussed in terms of high-stakes testing chilled me to the bone.  These are children, not data.

As well, Brian Touchette with the DOE gives mention to something called the Duckworth/Grit analysis.  Angela Duckworth is a  psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has made over a million dollars with her “grit” method, which revolves around “growth mindset”.  Grit and rigor…flip sides of the same coin…

Some things to keep in mind with this presentation.  This is December 2013, six months before the Delaware General Assembly voted on House Bill 334, which made Smarter Balanced the state assessment in Delaware.  The DOE advises AIR they have already committed to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, without any change in the law.  Why is this important?  There has been differing opinions of when Delaware bought the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Governor Markell said one thing and former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said another.  This proves Delaware was very much committed to SBAC at least half a year before it was written into state law…

Opt-Out Haters Of Delaware: Who is Senator David Sokola And How Has He Damaged Public Education For A Quarter Of A Century?

Delaware Senator David Sokola certainly had his moments with parents this legislative session, myself included.  After a tumultuous four and a half months in the General Assembly, House Bill 50 eventually passed.  Yesterday, Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill to the amazement and anger of, well, Delaware.  But the fallout from that one bill may echo into the second part of the 148th General Assembly as a potential veto override could take place as early as January, or barring some miracle where the General Assembly agrees to come back in special session between now and then.  While State Rep. Earl Jaques was certainly the biggest obstacle in the House of Representatives, Senator Sokola was clearly the largest obstacle of the bill as a whole.

I wondered why a State Senator who is the chair of the Senate Education Committee would oppose legislation that would codify the rights of parents to opt their child out of harmful testing.  I did some research on Sokola, and found his legislator history is filled with controversial education bills.  Over the last twenty-five years, he has served as a State Senator in the First State.

In 1995, Sokola was instrumental in getting the original charter school bill, Senate Bill 200, passed.  When Newark Charter School opened, Sokola was a board member and helped create the school.  According to Kilroy’s Delaware, Senator Sokola sponsored legislation in 2002 that repealed the law surrounding the impact of new charters on other schools in the area.  This led to Kilroy blasting the Senator in 2013 when he wrote a letter of recommendation for the never-opened Pike Creek Charter School, which was within his own district.  Last year though, legislation sponsored by Sokola brought this law back into place with Senate Bill 209.

In another article, Kilroy slammed Sokola for creating the DSTP in Delaware.  The DSTP was the state standardized assessment prior to DCAS, and was widely considered to be just as damaging as the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

“Many forget or might not know Senator Sokola is the godfather of DSTP the former standardized student test that was flawed from day(one)! Remember those 3-tiered diplomas grading student(s) based on one test like sides of beef in the supermarket.”

In fact, Sokola was opposed to DCAS and wanted another kind of standardized assessment in Delaware, but he was not granted his wish, and Delaware received the kinder and friendlier DCAS.  But last year, Sokola was the Senate sponsor for the very controversial House Bill 334, which brought the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  It would stand to reason he would oppose a measure whereby the state recognized and honored a parent’s right to opt out of a state assessment he sponsored legislation for.

In 2013, Sokola co-sponsored a bill to update the original Senate Bill 200 charter school law.  This one brought out a lot of fighting in Delaware and helped set up some of the current animosity against the Delaware Charter School Network.  House Bill 165 went through more amendments that were defeated or stricken than any bill in recent memory.  It set up the whole transportation slush fund and the annual charter school performance award.  The bill went through in a little less than a month with local school districts even more afraid of the impact a slew of charter schools would have on their enrollment and funding.  Side deals occurred like crazy, and the blogger Kavips gave a list of the reasons why House Bill 165 was a very bad bill.

Another Sokola sponsored legislation caused the current wave of teacher resentment against the DOE with Senate Bill 51.  This very controversial bill created the harsher evaluations currently used against Delaware educators.  While the educators have received a two-year pass from the Smarter Balanced Assessment impacting their evaluations, there is plenty in this bill that ticked teachers off.  And John Young with Transparent Christina warned citizens of Delaware:

“So, we have a group of legislators who have signed on, including my own Senator. But why? Well, I can only guess because it sounds so good and intuitive and simple and pure. All of which, when you are talking education should make your spine crawl.”

His latest offering to Delaware, signed by Markell yesterday, is Senate Joint Resolution #2.  Like most Sokola offerings, this bill looks really great on the surface, but it is injected with a poison.  SJR #2 is a convening of a group to look at district and state assessments and pick out which ones are good and which ones are bad.  Kids are over-tested, sure.  But this bill all but guarantees the further implementation of Common Core as assessments will be picked that are aligned with the state standards.  This will give districts less autonomy in figuring out what struggles students are having and how they can help them.  SJR #2 is filled with controversy.  Shana Young with the DOE sent out an email in early May fully stating this bill was designed to be a counter to the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50.  When I submitted a FOIA for this email, the DOE claimed it never existed even though I have seen it with my own two eyes.

During the Senate Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50, Sokola graciously allowed the opponents of House Bill 50 all the time they wanted for public comment, but stopped the supporters short and towards the end would interrupt them.  He then introduced an amendment to House Bill 50 when it came up for a Senate vote all but guaranteeing it would kick the bill back to the House of Representatives for another vote.  It did just that, and another amendment put on the bill by Senator Bryan Towsend almost killed the bill, but common sense prevailed and Townsend’s amendment was shot down after a 2nd vote.

I am sure Sokola is presently making the rounds about an override of House Bill 50.  It would need a 3/5ths vote in both houses to pass, and I have no doubt Sokola and his counterpart but not so smart buddy in the House Earl Jaques are making the calls as I write this.

A pattern begins to form with Senator Sokola’s greatest hits.  Rigorous testing, more charter schools and autonomy for them that they clearly don’t deserve, and what many view as unfair accountability for teachers.  Sokola has gone on record as recently as last month in saying we need to compete with other countries with standardized assessments, but he seems to forget that was the argument two years ago for Common Core.  It is very hard for me to trust any legislation introduced by Senator David Sokola when it comes to education, cause something always seems to come back to bite public schools and educators in the ass, with the exception of his beloved charter schools.   He has used his position and created multiple conflicts of interest but the Delaware Senate looks the other way.  Just like the Delaware Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education seem to want.  In a sense, Sokola could be directly blamed for the current status of segregation in Wilmington with his original charter school legislation and his demands for rigorous standardized testing that has done more damage to schools than anything Governor Markell could ever hope to do.  He will pretend to stand up for black students, but his actions speak otherwise.

Senator Sokola is up for re-election in 2016.  Will he run again, or does he possibly have something else lined up now that he has retired from DuPont?  Rumors circulate, but at this time they are just that.  Will he fade into oblivion or end up running some huge charter management company in Wilmington?  Or will someone finally hold this man accountable for his actions?

Odyssey Charter School Applies For Performance Fund $$$ They Don’t Even Qualify For!!!!

Last, but not least (well, it is in terms of the odds of them getting a penny from the Charter School Performance Fund), is Odyssey Charter School.  They don’t qualify for this because they were on probation during this fiscal year.  But that doesn’t stop them from applying anyway!  So let’s see what they wanted to get with this phantom money:

And we can’t forget the phantom budget!

So let me get this straight, they have a $500,000 shortfall in their capital budget for this building, they are already overbudget by $700,000 in their regular expenses (see last week’s Odyssey article), and whoever wrote this application doesn’t seem to be aware DCAS is no longer the state standardized assessment.  One word: INTERVENTION!

An Inside Look At AIR: The Most Terrifying Company In Education Reform

The scariest company making millions of dollars from the Delaware Department of Education is not who you would think.  It’s not Pearson, or Amplify, or even the Rodel Foundation.  It is a company which has been a part of education policy longer than Common Core was even an idea.  This company sowed the seeds for No Child Left Behind and they even helped to tear down one of Bill Gates original education reform agendas.  This company is American Institutes for Research, otherwise known as AIR.

AIR is the contracted vendor to create and distribute the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the state standardized assessment in Delaware.  But they have been around in Delaware since long before this.  They were also the testing vendor for the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) in Delaware.  To date AIR received over $35 million dollars from the Delaware DOE as per Delaware Online Checkbook.  How did Delaware bargain students to such a company? Continue reading

Delaware DOE Aims To Please Rodel!

Believe it or not, I’m still sorting through the huge FOIA file I received from another individual months ago.  In this latest email exchange between members of the DOE, see how they will do anything they can to please the Rodel Foundation.

Does Rodel pay the DOE for this information?  I imagine it would be many hours of work…

Correct The Blogger Challenge: “EastSide Charter’s Proficiency Gains Have Nothing To Do With Attrition”

In the first “Correct The Blogger Challenge” email I received, an anonymous individual under the pseudonym “Education Opinions” wrote to me about my article on EastSide Charter School from last week.  They wrote:

This is in response to your  3/10 post “The Recipe Behind the ‘Pixie Dust’ at Eastside Charter: Very High Attrition Rates, Part 1.” I want to start by saying that I don’t work at Eastside, I’m not on their board, I don’t have any kids at the school, I don’t work for the DOE, and I am not related to anyone who meets any of those qualifications either. I am just a community member concerned about the way data (for both traditional and charter schools) is sometimes utilized to make points that might not be completely accurate.

In your post, you state,
Governor Jack Markell gave the keynote speech, and left immediately afterwards for another engagement.  He spoke about Eastside Charter School’s great job with closing proficiency gaps, and stated “they have gone from only having 15% of their 5th graders scoring proficient in reading to 66% in just three years.”  If only this were true…”. You then go on to post the number of students in each K-6 grade from the year 2009 until the current year, citing high attrition as a reason why this proficiency statistic can’t be true. 
Continue reading

How Does A Student Get A 4 On DCAS At A Charter, Transfer To A Public School, And Can’t Read?

This is what I’ve heard about one student in the Northern part of Delaware.  This child went to a charter school that has been in the news a bit lately.  Getting the ultimate score of 4 on both English and Math on the DCAS test, this student transferred to their local school district.  Upon taking the SRI reading test, it was very quickly discovered this student cannot even read.  The worst part: this is a student with disabilities.

Apparently this student also took the DCAS with NO accommodations.  How is this even possible?  Unless…  Yes, this charter school is a cheat.  They found a way to make their scores even better for special needs students.  Their big mistake though was not doing the same for all students, and they were questioned about it.

This is why the high-stakes standardized testing game needs to be eliminated as any source of proficiency for students.  If a school can rig the game and an honest school doesn’t, it changes the entire landscape.  Especially if those with a vested interest in certain schools helped to design the test.  So while we have schools doing the right thing, and they are laid out on the floor for doing so, other schools have been cheating for years and unless they have other major problems flowing like water through a burst pipe, they get away with it.

I do believe there are honest charter schools as well.  Ones that work their ass off when they get low scores one year and only increase marginally the next but they are saved from the executioner’s axe.  But the ones that are cheating, and I know who a few of you are, you are the most vile disgusting scum in the state.  It’s not because you look better on paper.  It’s not because the DOE and Markell want to give you a ticker-tape parade when your scores are released.  It’s not because you narrowed the gap among different subgroups.  It’s because you are failing our students.  The students aren’t failures, you are.  You have been given a sacred trust, and you abuse that trust every chance you get.  These are human beings, not human capital.  They are children.  They are not to be used as pawns in your power games.

This is why we have priority schools.  This is why so many special needs children suffer so much in this state.  How can any student in any of these cheating schools ever be given a fair shot in life?  How can parents of charter school students accuse public school districts of giving free passes to students when some of these very same schools permanently damage students?  How in God’s name will any of these “proficient” students feel when they take the Smarter Balanced Assessment and fail miserably?

I encourage anyone who knows about these cheating scandals to come forward.  Cause if I expose you, it won’t be pretty.  I’m not sure why I’m assigning myself the job the DOE should be doing in the first place, but hey, that’s life.  There has to be a place in hell for anyone who would use children like this.  I think there should be legislation put forth that anyone involved in a cheating scandal like this should be prosecuted and do prison time if found guilty.  Does this sound too harsh?  Imagine how the poor student at a new school who thought they were doing good in school feels.  Being told you can’t read.  How do the parents feel?  Thinking their child is doing well only to find out it was all a lie and their child is most likely years behind their peers?  This is a rape of the mind, of the soul.

The Heroes of Delaware: Transcript of Parent Opt Out Decision at Capital School District Board Meeting @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @BadassTeachersA #netde #eduDE #edchat

On Wednesday, October 15th, the Capital School District Board of Education passed a resolution allowing parents to opt their children out of state assessments without any penalty from the schools or the district. The following is a transcript, taken from the digital audio recording of the meeting.

Capital School District Board of Education: Matthew Lindell (Vice-President, Acting President in lieu of President Kay Dietz-Sass’ absence), Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Brian Lewis (absent), Dr. Michael Thomas (Superintendent)

Lindell: Moving on. 3.10, State Assessment, Parent Opt Out, Resolution #15-041. Ms. Sass asked to put this on the agenda. I think we’ve gotten to the point where we ended up tabling the policy itself when we were trying to adjust the policy as far as protecting parents who choose to opt their children out of standardized testing within the school district. Upon just taking things into consideration and other thoughts, feelings and so forth. You know, parents, by creating a policy we’ve basically already, basically were almost like DOE but were just saying, were giving you the ability to do this. The parents have the choice, it’s just frowned upon by DOE. And yes, can there be consequences for the district? Yes, there can be. I think we’ve debated that extensively. But there comes a time, and I think I mentioned this the last time we tabled this, there comes a time when, imagine in history, when some of the key points in history when some individuals said “I’m gonna sit down and I’m not gonna risk it.” Imagine if George Washington said “I’m gonna turn down the command of the Continental Army in 1775,” or Thomas Jefferson was like “No, I’m not going to risk King George III hanging me from the closest tree.” Or Martin Luther King Jr. saying “You know what, I don’t want to rock the boat so I’m just going to let things go as they may.” If we did this every single time someone threatened us, and said “This is going to happen to you if you don’t do this,” what’s going to happen? I grew up in an America standing up for issues of great importance. Not being afraid of what might happen if you take the step of questioning the government that the people duly elect. Our government is not perfect, we’re certainly not perfect, but there comes a time when policies and the continuation of the same old same old needs to be questioned and addressed. When that communication is ignored, sometimes it requires bolder action.

I would support, and I hope the board would support, the idea that we would entertain a motion to protect the parents and the district who choose to opt out their children from the test. Just as much as we would protect the parents who choose to have their kid take the test. I think it comes down to parental rights. Who knows more about their kids, many times, than their parents? Just to see the stories of kids struggling and the lack of confidence… Just tonight we saw Mr. McCove (a former alumni of Capital who gave a presentation on a program called Passport To Success earlier in the meeting)… that creativity. That is what, in my personal opinion, I think, many countries around the world admire that they can’t duplicate about our system. We’re creative, and the one thing we try to do is educate everyone. But we’ve come to the point now where it’s just about the test. You see the excitement for learning just draining out of kids. We shouldn’t see that in 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade. We shouldn’t see kids going to the bathroom having to throw up, or being afraid to go to school because they have to take this test. There’s more to measuring our schools. The banners tonight, recognizing our schools, (banners were presented earlier in the meeting to schools in Capital School District that had significant increases in DCAS scores or decreased percentages in different proficiency gaps between regular groups and sub-groups such as minorities or special education students) I didn’t need the test data telling us our district and our schools are successful. I can walk in there and see what good teaching looks like. I can see what our students are doing. It’s about time that we started addressing these things and making waves and saying enough is enough. And hopefully we have some legislators that might join on board and say this is an issue we need to take a look at.

Christiansen: Mr. Lindell, as one of those parents that witnessed a child losing his mind because he was worried about a test, “I got a 4 Dad, but they need me to do better.” He didn’t sleep that night, he didn’t want to go to school the next morning, but he went. He took his test, he came home, (I said) “How did you do?” He said “Dad, I sat in the test.” “What did you learn today?” “How to take a test.” And that’s what our teachers are being pushed to do. You know, a lot of these teachers have been here a long time, and they’re going to be here a lot longer. Teaching has changed. The demands on our students have changed. The demands on our teachers have drastically changed. And it’s not easy for you to wake up every morning and say I’m going to school to educate because you’re worried about one thing or another. But when we take fun out of learning, we take kids that are in elementary school, not getting on the bus and hiding behind a bush because they don’t want to take a test, that’s an issue. We talked about this in May, of this year, and that’s when we tabled it I believe. And we stood up here strong and said we’re going to fight for the student or fight for the parents to be a parent. I think it’s time. I wish there were five of us here instead of three of us. But unless Mr. Martin’s got something to say or has a question I’d like to make a motion.

Martin: I’ve been waiting for this one all night long, the whole dog-gone time!

Christiansen: Are you okay with me making a motion now or do you have something to say?

Martin: Oh no, I have something audacious to say.

Christiansen: I can’t wait.

Martin: Let’s do it!

Christiansen: Mr. President, I’d like to make a motion that this Board of Education will support a parent’s decision for a child to opt out of standardized state testing without any repurcussions from the Capital School District.

Martin: Mr. Lindell, I second that motion. Resolution #15-041 for parents to be able to opt out of the state assessment.

Lindell: The motion has been made by Mr. Christiansen, and it’s been seconded by Mr. Martin. Any further discussion gentlemen?

Martin: None.

Lindell: All those in favor? Say aye.

Lindell, Christiansen and Martin: Aye.

Lindell: All those opposed? (None) Motion carries. (clapping coming from audience)

Students With Disabilities At Most Delaware Charters Do Poorly @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DeStateBoardEd #netde #eduDE

Students with disabilitities seem to do very bad on standardized testing at most Delaware charter schools. As these results show, students with disabilities at the bulk of charter schools in Delaware fit into two categories: they do poorly on standardized testing or the charters don’t have enough special education students to even count in the numbers. Both of these are extreme issues in this state. Granted, not every single charter school can cater to specific disabilities based on an advanced curriculum, such as Charter School of Wilmington. While others may focus solely on complex disabilities, such as Gateway. But somewhere in the middle are the bulk of these schools. This shows a clearer picture of how application enrollment preference can and does boost the academic numbers for some schools.

You will find each charter school in Delaware below, with the academic ratings for students with disabilities. For those that didn’t have enough students, this is based on Needs Based Funding categories for special education. There either weren’t enough students or it fell in a 15 or below status which eliminates them from the state numbers. I did earlier articles when I first started Exceptional Delaware grading each school in Delaware for special education populations. Comparing those reports with this is very interesting. I will also list the grades those schools received after the names of each school from those articles.

The actual academic framework reports for each school are very complex because certain schools didn’t make the growth targets between the Fall and Spring DCAS tests. A school like Charter School of Wilmington, which is ridiculous given the other numbers. But then you have other schools that met those growth targets, but the school was still rated does not meet. But in conjunction with the grades I gave the schools for special education, questions do emerge about how well the students are being accommodated. Some do it great, but most of them seem to be missing the boat .

Academy of Dover, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall School: Does Not Meet (rated Meets previous two years) (got D grade for special education population)

Campus Community, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall School: Meets (rated Does Not Meet previous two years) (got C grade for special education population)

*Charter School of Wilmington, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students w/special education in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (rated Exceeds previous two years) (got F grade for special education population) *CSW is known to have more rigorous studies in science and math and is known for having a more gifted student population

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Does Not Meet (3rd Year in a row) (got F grade for special education population)

Delaware College Preparatory Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students w/special education in each NBF category, Overall: Does Not Meet (Does not meet previous year, Far Below Standards year before) (got F grade for special education population)

Delaware Military Academy, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Exceeds, Overall: Meets (3rd Year in a row) (got F grade for special education population)

Eastside Charter School, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Meets (was Does Not Meet previous two years) (got A+ for special education population)

Edison, Thomas Charter School, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Far Below Standards, Overall: Does Not Meet (was Does Not Meet previous year, Meets year before) (got F grade for special education population)

Family Foundations, Math and ELA: Exceeds, Overall: Meets (Meets previous year, Does not meet year before) (got F grade for special education population)

*Gateway, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Far Below Standard (Far Below previous two years) (got A++ for special education population) *Gateway is a special needs school serving a very high population of autistic and complex special needs students.

Kuumba Academy Charter School, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (was Meets previous year, Exceeds year before) (got F for special education population grade)

Las Aspiras ASPIRA Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (Meets previous year, Does not meet year before) (got F for special education population)

MOT Charter School, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Meets (Meets previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Moyer Charter School:

Math and ELA: Far Below Standard, Overall: (previous year Does Not Meet, was under K12 Management year prior after formal review, currently under Formal Review again) (got A++ for special education population)

Newark Charter School, Math and ELA: Exceeds Standards, Overall: Meets (Exceeds previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Odyssey Charter School,  Math: Exceeds Standards, ELA: Meets, Overall: Meets (Exceeds previous year, Meets year before) (got F for special education population)

Positive Outcomes, Math and ELA: Meets, Overall: Meets (Does Not Meet previous two years) (got A++ for special education population)

Prestige Academy, Math: Far Below Standards, ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Does Not Meet (3rd Year In A Row) (got A+ for special education population)

Providence Creek, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet (Insufficient Number of Students, Results Not Reported), Overall: Does Not Meet (Meets previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Reach Academy, Math and ELA: Far Below Standard (Insufficient Number of Students, Results Not Reported), Overall: Does Not Meet (Far Below Standards previous year, Does Not Meet year before) (got F for special education population)

Sussex Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Exceeds Standard (3rd year in a row) (got F for special education population)

Number of Charters with N/A Status: 4

Charters in danger due to three years in a row of does not meet or below: Reach Academy, Prestige Academy, Moyer (already on formal review), Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Preparatory Academy

 

UPDATED: Delaware Legislators Not Given Testing Schedule For Smarter Balanced Test!

Updated, 9/11/14, 2:06 pm: Based on recent information obtained by Kavips, and a commenter on this very article, the Fall Smarter Balanced Interim is optional and at the discretion of the school districts.  When I saw this information, I was actually looking at accommodations for students with disabilities.  The schedule I saw just happened to be on there.  I reached out to a few legislators on this, and none of them were aware of there even being a possibility of a Fall interim test, so obviously they weren’t given the schedule either.  The calendar can be found here: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/assessment/files/2014-2015_DeSSA-Calender.pdf

I apologize for any concern this may have created, but I would also let the DOE know that if they are going to put links up with this type of information, they need to be consistent across the board.  I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has seen this and had questions about it.  Based on this, I have changed the title to “Delaware Legislators Not Given Testing Schedule For Smarter Balanced Test” instead of “Breaking News: Delaware Legislators Lied To About Smarter Balanced Test”. 

I still think House Bill 334 should be repealed, simply on the basis that the Federal Government bought the tests from Pearson and the SBA Consortium, and then “gave” it to the states.   The US Government is not supposed to interfere with public education, and they have been doing that non-stop for a long time now.  I will never change my mind on that!

 

Delaware Legislators were not given the testing schedule when they voted on the bill, according to a few legislators, therefore they were not aware of a fall interim Smarter Balance test.  And if they didn’t know about it, they would not have known it was optional according to recently found schedules on the DOE website.  given false information about the Common Core dictated Smarter Balanced Assessment which affected their vote.  In a shocking look at the Accessibility Guidelines Inclusion document released by the Delaware Department of Education it clearly indicates there will be two testing windows for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, but the legislators were promised it was a once a year test.  Many legislators indicated they voted for it because parents were tired of tests given to students more than once during a school year.

In this link, http://de.portal.airast.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/DeSSA-Accessibility-Guidelines_Inclusion_5-14.pdf it shows there will be two SBA tests, an interim test in the fall, and the main one in the Spring.  Page 8 of the document, which shows when the tests will be administered, clearly shows a Fall interim test.

Table 1. Delaware’s System of Student Assessments in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies (2014-15 School year) Name of Assessment Content Area Time of Year Grade levels
Smarter Interim ELA-Reading Fall 3-8 & 11
ELA-Listening Fall 3-8 & 11
ELA-Writing Fall 3-8 & 11
Mathematics Fall 3-8 & 11
To Be Determined ELA Fall 9 & 10
To Be Determined Mathematics Fall 9 & 10
Smarter ELA-Reading Spring 3-8 & 11
ELA-Listening Spring 3-8 & 11
ELA-Writing Spring 3-8 & 11
Mathematics Spring 3-8 & 11

As recently as last week, one Delaware legislator, who wished to remain anonymous, said he voted for HB 334 because he thought the kids would only be tested once.  He said many other legislators listened to their constituents and voted for what they wanted.  House Bill 334 passed the DE House of Representatives fairly easily, but the Senate was another story.  The bill failed when it was first voted on, by a 9-12 vote.  But Governor Markell sent his team in and told the Senate it didn’t matter how they voted because the governor would use executive power to make sure the test was going to happen.  Four Republican Senators flip-flopped on their original vote, and Smarter Balanced officially replaced DCAS as the state standardized test.

If the legislators were given false information which swayed the vote, then the vote should be repealed.  While the 147th Assembly ended on July 1st, they can still meet in emergency session.  Even any reps who may have lost in yesterday’s primaries are still elected officials until January 2015.  Parents need to call their representatives and senators and demand House Bill 334 is repealed based on false information being given to them about their children’s testing schedules.  because the Smarter Balanced Assessment just plain sucks and a legislator couldn’t make heads or tails of it when he took it.

Teacher accountability and effectiveness is also being measured by the test, so that bill should also be as well, which was passed around the same time.

Updated with link to House Bill 334 and what was passed by both the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate: http://legis.delaware.gov/LIS/lis147.nsf/vwLegislation/HB+334/$file/legis.html?open

The part of the bill which indicates the amount of testing tells the tale:

This bill provides for the transition of the statewide student assessment system, the Delaware Comprehensive Student Assessment (DCAS), to the Smarter Balanced Assessment System (Smarter). Specifically, the bill removes references to multiple assessments

All Delaware Parents: Opt Out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment #netde #eduDE #edchat #delaware

That is the only way anything can change. If enough parents do it, there will be a very large impact on every school in Delaware and the DOE. We’ve been seeing Common Core for a couple years now, but this is the school year where it will have a huge impact our students. Was it a pain for students in Delaware public schools to take DCAS three times a year? Yes, but I would have my son take DCAS ten times a year before I let him touch the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The time is now. Don’t sit on the fence and wait. Because it will be too late then. Do it now. If we ALL do it, the DOE would have to listen.

Cause I can tell you, they are all sitting in their little chairs at the DOE, smug as all get out, because this is the year all their plans come to fruition. For any parent still not satisfied, take a look at the Louisiana lawsuit concerning Common Core. Look at what happened at the rigged contracting with Pearson and Apple in Los Angeles. Look at what is happening to teachers and how their rights are being toyed with on a daily basis. You may not like education now, parents, but you will HATE it very soon. Don’t come late to the party, opt-out now!

Just call your school district tomorrow and ask how you can opt-out your child from standardized testing. They will tell you their is no opt-out procedure. Then you ask what the consequences are. They will tell you there are none, but if the district is less than 95% participation rate in the testing it could affect funding. But parents, if ALL school districts go below that number, are they going to cut funding to all the schools? Hell no! Public, charter, vocational: Don’t support the core. Stop taking orders and start running things your own way. The state and the feds have unnecessarily interrupted something that wasn’t so bad to begin with.

Part 3 of The Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education #netde #eduDE @usedgov @delaware_gov

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I went over the Delaware Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Group. This was in response to the federal Office of Special Education Programs issuing Delaware a status of “needs intervention” in special education along with three other states. In Part 1, I went through some of the root causes for why they need intervention. In Part 2, I took a detailed look at the Interagency Collaborative Team, and the placement of highly complex special needs children in residential treatment centers, in and out of the state.

With Part 3, I did a transcription of the audio recording of the Exception Children Group’s IDEA Annual Performance Report that they presented to the Delaware Board of Education on June 19th of this year. This was an over 40 minute presentation, with many technical terms that the casual parent or layman may not understand. I will do my best to give a breakdown of these terms, as well as who the cast of characters were during this presentation.  Items in italics are when something was difficult to understand or a word was inaudible.  Items in bold, aside from the name of the speaker, are key points I felt were said, whether intentional or not.  At the end, I will give my thoughts on what this meeting meant and what was not talked about.

Abbreviations:

APR-Annual Performance Report

ESEA-Elementary and Secondary Education Act

IDEA-Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEP-Individualized Education Plan

NCES-National Center For Education Statistics

NIMAS-National Instructional Material Accessibility Standard

NPSO-National Post Secondary Outcome

OSEP-Office of Special Education Programs

PBS-Positive Behavior Support

The Cast:

Mary Ann Mieczowski: Director of Exceptional Children Group at the Delaware DOE

Dale Matusevich: Education Associate, Transitional Services

Barb Mazza: Education Associate, General Supervision IDEA

Tracy Neugebauer: Education Associate, IDEA Implementation

Sarah Celestin: Education Associate, General Supervision, IDEA

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: President of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Donna Johnson: Executive Director of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Jorge Melendez: Vice-President of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Gregory Coverdale: Board Member of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Patrick Heffernan: Board Member of the Delaware State Board Of Education

Mark Murphy: Delaware Secretary Of Education

 

6/19/14: Delaware DOE Board Meeting, IDEA Annual Presentation, Transcript

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: I invite Mary Ann Mieczkowski, Director of Exceptional Children Resources, and Barbara Mazza, Education Associate to share with us the Annual Performance Report from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

Mary Ann Mieczkowski: Good afternoon. I am Mary Ann Mieczkowski, and Barb Mazza who is an associate within my workgroup whose main responsibility is compiling and organizing the information for the Annual Performance Report and writing it. Today we are going to do a little different presentation than we have in the past. We’ve gone through a very general overview in the past but today were going to take a little deeper dive into three different indicators. So I’m going to just do an overview of what the Annual Performance Report is and then three members of my workgroup who are intimately responsible for the indicators are here to present the data and the improvement strategies because they are the experts in that area. So we will be talking about graduation and dropout rates for students with disabilities, disproportionate representation of students with disabilities who are suspended or expelled, and the student performance on DCAS and DCAS-Alt for students with disabilities.

So what is the APR? The APR is our Annual Performance Report that we are required to submit every February based on 16 indicators that the Federal Government has required us to address and it’s based on our state performance plan. And the state performance plan was written, was supposed to be written for five years and they extended it to seven years and were at the very end of that so we will begin writing a new state performance plan and Barb will explain that at the very end of our presentation. There are 16 indicators, 6 of them are compliance indicators and 10 of them are results indicators, and it’s the core of our work within our workgroup. And we’re required to do some specific things around the indicators. We’re required to do data reviews and data dives to establish stakeholder groups to set targets for us, public reporting, compliance monitoring and then review of policies, practices and procedures both in the state and in districts. These are the 16 indicators with a brand new 17th indicator that we’ll roll into our state systemic performance plan, er, improvement plan it’s called now. So, as I said, 6 of these are compliance and the other are results. The very first one that we’re gonna talk about are the graduation and dropout rates. This is Dale Mitusevich from my workgroup and he’s in charge of the graduation and dropout and secondary transition.

Dale Matusevich: Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity of coming before you this morning, er, afternoon. If you look at the data, we’ve given you a snapshot over the last couple of years and one of the main things that you are going to see, especially around the dropout rate is it looks like there is a huge decline in the graduation rate. Over the last couple of years, as Maryann was speaking earlier, or mentioned earlier, we are under a different state performance plan so were using the NCES, or National Center for Education Statistics, definition for graduation rate. During that time, as we’ve moved to the ESEA definition we were trying to get through the old state performance plan before moving to a new one. So we didn’t cause a lot of confusion that was out there. During this new submission, in February of this year, OSEP alerted us to say that we needed to go ahead and make the new calculation, or incorporate the new calculation into it. So that’s how it appears so were at almost a 20% drop. We had, using the NCES, we’ve stayed kind of stagnant over the last few years. Remembering back to the NCES calculation, if we would’ve used that this year, we were back in the 76% range, but using the graduation definition for the NCES, I’m just going to give you that a little bit, so you can see the difference in the calculations because the denominator changes significantly. So that’s one of the reasons for the changes.

Under NCES the rate is based off of students who begin the 9th grade and graduate within four years, so kind of like they do with the ESEA  (not sure what said). Where things start to differ a bit is in the NCES definition students who are new to Delaware, say in the 10th, 11th and 12th grade, they’re not added into that original cohort. And then this also takes into account, or subtracts out all of the, or as in all of the dropouts, students who dropout, with the exception of those that transfer into adult education programs. So that kind of changes significantly the denominator for us because it’s ESEA definition takes in, uh, it’s the on time graduates within four years that’s specifically within a 9th grade cohort following them for 4 years. The denominator is the first time entering 9th grade as the specific year. It adds in the transfer and subtracts the transfers out as we go in.

Mieczkowski: If I could also add, we were one of 44 states that had to change this also so other states were following the NCES.

Patrick Heffernan: But with the, you know, extension of teaching to 21 with this population, I’m a little confused by why that would make sense.

Dr. Gray: Does the NCES calculation account for the extension to 21 for graduates?

Matusevich: No, what we have been told coming down from the Governor’s office that we are a strict four year cohort so there is not an adjusted graduation rate under our plan for ESEA so we have to submit what is in our ESEA plan. There’s no allowance for..

Heffernan: Are we looking at, I guess, maybe if we have to fill out the form under a different formula but in reality I think we…I wouldn’t necessarily say that a student who graduated in five years with a diploma was a failure of the system at all really.

Matusevich: Right, and as well with this, this also takes into account none of our students who have exited out with a certificate of performance are included in this calculation either in the numerator. The only people, the only students that are in the numerator are those that exit out with a regular high school diploma.

Donna Johnson: So the students that exit out with the certificate are in the denominator though?

Matusevich: Yeah

Johnson: And students whose IEPs indicate that they have a 5 or 6 year graduation track are not allowed that in our graduation rate?

Matusevich: Not under NCES.

Johnson: That’s one of the Federal issues that’s happening across the United States.

Matusevich: Almost every national meeting I go to we have the same conversation on why students held under IDEA are held strictly to that four year cohort when the federal regulation allows that.

Heffernan: I can see that you would calculate both. You would calculate it one way to have an apples to apples comparison but I’m not sure that, you know, it’s hard to plan for something if you would consider it successful to do x and only count for y.

Gray: I guess what I’m not clear about, is that different for the NCES calculation than it is for the ESEA calculation?

Matusevich: No.

Gray: So that’s why it was the same?

Heffernan: Yes, no, that’s not the difference.

Matusevich: The difference is the NCES definition accounts for those who drop out but enter into an adult education program and the ESEA doesn’t allow you, they count all dropouts in their denominator.

Gregory Coverdale: What is the total number of students, the population, in this study?

Matusevich: Uh, I’d have to go back and pull it when I…

Heffernan: Between 10-12,000

Coverdale: About 10-20,000 (I think that’s what he said, it was very hard to understand)

Mieczkowski: That’s 21. That’s the high school.

Gray: Okay, sorry, keep going.

Jorge Melendez: I have a question about the drop out rate. I see you have there that the number that dropout changes. Can you identify, or is there a way of identifying of those students that dropout if they come back and graduate? Because that, even though the target is 3.8 and that’s, but you’re looking for something minimal, but 3.8, that is still a percentage of students dropping out, but finding out, if we applied that percentage if any come back and actually graduate I think that would be positive to talk about.

Matusevich: Right, there is a, just, an example is we’ve had just a number of calls, or I’ve received a number of calls, just within the last few weeks, about students wanting to come back into that place. But with our dropout rate calculation, it’s an event calculation, so once districts submit their December 1 counts and everything, if we take a snapshot of those, let me make sure I’ve got it right here, it’s the total number of students who drop out of a school in a single year divided by the fall enrollment of that same year. So it’s an event calculation from year to year with that piece. The thing that I will mention about the dropout rate is for the fiscal year 2009 we were actually down to about 3.3% in special education. And then we’ve doubled our, almost double, with the dropout rate going up to 6.4. We kind of look at the data and started to dig a little deeper. We’ve looked at the information that we have received from families about the rationale for why they dropped out is, we’ve made a conclusion that part of rationale was that students were dropping out to go to work to help their families because people were losing or had already spent out their savings from the recession and those years there. Cause if we look at the data during the graduation rate at that time the number of students who indicated they dropped out to go to work to help their families also doubled in number within that. And so were slowly coming back down as we move through.

Gray: Any changes in the base calculation, between the NCES and the ESEA? For dropout?

Matusevich: It’s an event calculation…

Gray: It’s the same for both?

Matusevich: Yes. It’s the same for both, yes ma’am. Some of the initiatives we have going on to combat dropout rate are, over the last year and a half, we’ve had the opportunity to enter into an agreement with the National Secondary Technical Assistance Center which is based out of UNC Charlotte. As well as the national postal (it sounded like postal to me, I think he meant post) outcome center at the University of Oregon and we’ve been working with them closely over the past year and a half. One of the things that came out of those agreements with them is we created our transition cadre which is now just over a year old. We have nine districts that are a part of that transition cadre, on a voluntary basis. The only stipulation that we had with them is, when they came to be a member of the cadre, is they had to bring an administrator to the table with them and enter discussions. So what we are doing is districts are analyzing their data, looking specifically at what were calling the four transition indicators in the annual performance report: Graduation data, dropout data, transition planning within the IEP and the postal (there it is again) outcomes which is our Indicator 14 data that we look at. They are really doing a lot of data dives and the exciting thing is it’s one of the first groups that I’ve been able to facilitate or be a part of to where when we break for lunch you don’t have to worry about if “Are people coming back?” or “Are they coming back on time?” Many times we have people working through lunch in their teams or they’re back early and we don’t have to say let’s get going again. They automatically come back in and are working.

We’re using a tool around the two national centers Instock and NPSO and the national dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University Design. It’s called the STEPs program and it allows the district to dig into their data around those four indicators and it automatically goes in and links them to postal evidence based place for school predictors for outcome success, as well as it then takes them straight into an action planning piece. We’ve spent the last four years action planning and districts are coming back in the fall and we’re hitting the ground running implementing those action plans that they’ve been working on.

A couple of other things we have going is our state transition councils. Those operate on a regional basis. We have one for Newcastle County, we combine our Kent and Sussex. They operate out of or meet on a quarterly basis. We combine our meeting, year meeting, in January at the request of the two councils coming together. We use that to talk about the indicator data. We also talk about issues that districts are having. Also with those, those are open meetings to the public. So we have community members, parents are a part of those meetings. We have employers sometimes sit in on those meetings as well as we work towards improving transition services within the districts.

Mieczkowski: Okay, next we have…

Matusevich: We didn’t do the…

Mieczkowski: As our next person gets ready regarding suspension and expulsion, I just want to explain in-between each one of our presentations that across our branch we have college and career ready plans. We work collaboratively with every one in the branch to set targets and provide the momentum for our work. It’s also, so we’re not working in isolation, and we can see that our work is valuable, but it’s also our accountability to Secretary Murphy that we set targets and we reach those targets and we report out to him. We also have ESEA routines with our districts and our indicator information data is being presented to the districts and people within my workgroup are assigned as a liaison to certain districts so they know their data, they talk about their data, and help them with improvement activities. So the districts are owning it but our workgroup is also supporting it. So Tracy Neugebauer is presenting the disproportionate representation of students with disabilities of students who are suspended and expelled.

Tracy Neugebauer: Hello. I’m gonna talk about suspension and expulsion. We’re specifically going to look at discrepancy rates of suspension and expulsion for kids greater than 10 days. And see by the data, we have 3 years of data above here. The reason why we went from 0% to 12.2% is because that year, what we had under new leadership, we changed the calculation. Some more of what Dale was talking about. We went from a relative difference of upward of state average to talking with our stakeholders and came up with state bar that we started to use. As you see that year is a 1.3 baseline that we use. We had 5 LEAs that didn’t make that target and then in the school year 12-13 we had one less LEA and 9.75 did not make that target. And every year that state bar drops by .02 so this year we’re currently looking at that data and the districts that we found did not meet the bar during self-assessment and we will be talking with them once we get that information.
Alright, so what is the work that we’re doing to help support the school districts with this suspension and expulsion data? We have our Delaware PBS project where we contract with University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Study and they work with us in a multi-tier system of support including school-wide, group and individual intervention. That is a tier system, tier #1, 2 and 3. We use that for a lot of different systems. We have students who tier 1 is a school-wide system and we really focus on tier 2 and tier 3 for students who need more intensive support in the classroom. We had several projects along with our state personnel grant that we’re working with the PBS project to help support students and teachers within the classroom so we can provide students support and keep them in the classroom.

Gray: So does the support mean actual people? Experts? What does that mean?

Neugebauer: No, we have several initiatives. We have something called prevent-teach-reinforce when we work with school psychologists and teachers to help support better behavior support plans and to help develop better IEP goals for students who have behavioral needs so that teachers can support them in the classroom.

Mieczkowski: It’s a professional development and coaching.

Nuegebauer: So through the Delaware PBS project we have hired instructional coaches to provide need and actually go into the schools and work with teachers. We have a new project coming up called Peers and we’re contracting with a group from UCLA and that is for secondary students in helping with social skills. So that’s another project that’s going to start this year. Again, all of the help for students and teachers to show improvement in the classroom.

Multi-tiered system of compliance monitoring: We work with those districts who are struggling in this area through compliance agreement intervention plans. They submit us an intervention plan and they provide updates monthly to us on how they are making progress in meeting these goals so they can make the target and not have more students with disabilities expelled and, than not.

Mieczkowski: Our work group has to take two positions: One is the good cop, and one is the bad cop and we have to call out districts and report to the Feds if they’re not compliant with certain indicators so we do have to cite them as needs assistance or needs intervention but then we put our good cop hat on and support them. We have developed a multi-tiered system of accountability and as a district moves up the requirements get stronger and stronger. Currently we have four districts we are working in with this level of support.

Neugebauer: I’d like to talk about developing effective IEP behavior goals and I touched based with you on this a little bit. But we have academic initiatives to help districts write better standards in their base IEP goals. Any then my project is going to be actually writing better behavioral goals, cause we really need to drill down, find out what the behaviors are, find how that is affecting the teacher’s classroom, and how we can provide accommodations and support the classroom to improve student outcomes.

Mieczkowski: And the 3rd indicator that we would like to provide to you is student performance on the state-wide assessment and Sarah Celestin is the workgroup member who is in charge of this.

Sarah Celestin: Good afternoon everyone. So indicator 3 that you’ve heard a lot about before, today what we are presenting to you is Indicator 3C, which is the percentage of students that are meeting or exceeding the standards on DCAS and DCAS-Alt 1. So this will be performance level 3 or 4 and the percentages you see is an aggregate of DCAS and DCAS-Alt 1 scores. So their combined together. You’ll see that over the last three federal fiscal years, the percentages of, to be very frank and blunt about it, the percentages are not good. The percentages are low, you can see ranging in the 20% up into to 40% levels. In this last year, federal fiscal year 2012, we had that range of 30% to 38%. I did want to talk a little bit, about breaking out DCAS versus DCAS-Alt 1, because here you’re seeing the reading percentages aggregated. When you look separately at DCAS versus DCAS-Alt 1 there is a difference. So for DCAS the range of percentages ranges from 27%, meeting or exceeding standards, up to 35% meeting or exceeding, versus DCAS-Alt 1, the alt state’s alternate assessment there is a range from 46.9% up to 68%, meeting or exceeding. So what this tells you really is when we look at the aggregate the alternate assessment scores are in fact pulling up our percentage compared to (digital audio recording stopped) and that’s something we really need to look at.

I know DCAS-Alt 1, I know that’s something you’ve all heard about, that’s a relatively newer assessment and that’s relatively a new assessment that we’ve been using for the last 3 school years. But the percentages of the meeting or exceeding are higher on that, particularly in reading. The other thing that I wanted to mention as we move into the math scores as we look into this data, we dig in and we disaggregate by district and by school we really look for trends and patterns. Part of our responsibility, Mary Ann mentioned that we’re liaisons to the districts and charters, part of our responsibility as liaisons is to work with them to really do some data mining and to dig into their data and we actually work with them on what are the root causes of their data. So when we look at this data as an average, we have concerns, but certainly as we work with our individual districts and charters, and we dig down and try to figure out what is the root cause. Some of the root causes that we have seen in particular for reading in working with our districts, some have contributed it to trying to roll out new curriculum and teachers getting familiar with that. Some districts have contributed it to changing their staffing and trying to do more co-teaching as teachers adjust to that. So you’ll see, they really hovered at a lower percentage but we did see a little bit of a dip in federal fiscal year 12.
If you’ll give it the next slide on math, you can see here again in federal fiscal year 2012 every grade level did decrease. I will say, you know, we look at DCAS versus DCAS-Alt 1. The DCAS scores ranged from 24.7 to 35% meeting or exceeding versus DCAS Alt-1 the range was from 32% to 68%, a really wide range on DCAS-Alt 1. The percentages meeting or exceeding are lower in the alternate assessment compared for math compared to reading. There’s been a lot going on, especially in the special schools, around math instruction. So you can see overall in our message is that we are very concerned with these percentages. In the work that we are doing with districts, we really focus on looking at the trends and helping them to identify what they need to focus on in their implementation plan that we work on with them in their routines. There are some strategies listed here similar to what Tracy mentioned to you. We have a technical assistance project with the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies, as well as some other partners. I’m gonna mention the different initiatives and talk about the partnerships. The first standards based IEPs: This is a new initiative that really has just started since January. We’ve been doing some development work since last summer but the training kicked off in late January and early February. The reason we are moving towards standards based IEPs in Delaware is in our compliance monitoring of IEPs we saw that sometimes the rigor, there was a lot of remedial kind of goals and there wasn’t as much focus on how is a student gonna access grade level instruction. And you remember you need an accommodation, you need an accommodation of remediation and access goals and also goals that are gonna help the student really work on grade level skills. And so through standards based IEPs were really addressing that and we’re very fortunate to have instructional coaches that have a strong understanding of the Common Core and that also really understand IEP development and are able to help the teachers. So similar to what Tracy described to you, we have coaches that do not only the training, but go out and do individual and small group coaching with teachers. Right now we’re working with four school districts on that. The plan is that over the next two school years to go to state to scale up state wide with charters and districts.

The next bullet point that you see there is instructional strategies. We have a lot going on really in the development around instructional strategies. Obviously there is a lot going on with common groundwork, but we are looking specifically at literacy and literacy strategies for students who are struggling with reading with learning disabilities, dyslexia and also intellectual disabilities. We’re looking at strategies and partnerships with several different, not only University of Delaware, but some other university partnerships to bring some training and coaching for that. The other partnership we are looking at, in terms of strategies, is University of Kansas, with the strategic instructional model, which is really around learning strategies. So teaching students how to be more independent, monitor their own learning and be more self-sufficient in their own learning.
Accessible instructional material: There’s a wide array of activities we have going on around this. Typically when you hear that term, accessible instructional materials, it has to do with alternate forms of books and tests for students. And so we actually work with two different AIM Centers, Accessible Instructional Materials centers. We have one that’s through the Division for Visually Impaired, through DHSS, whose a partner with us. We also have another AIM Center through University of Delaware. I work with both of those centers to make sure that students in all the districts and charters always have accessible materials. That is related to NIMAS. NIMAS is really the national act that talks about the provision of instructional materials. And we also have a project through the University (of Delaware), the Access Project, which is, that project also provides adaptable materials for students. But that’s the material, the material they provide is a little bit different, that is for students with more moderate and severe disabilities so that those students can also access the curriculum.
The other work that were doing in partnership with the Office Of Assessment, is really around accessibility for assessments. Both the state assessment as well as formative assessments students are taking. And this is looking at different types of accommodations for students, as well as designated supports for students who are at risk. So students who might be going through response to intervention (RTI) who are not identified with a disability but who need additional support, that’s part of the accessibility guidelines. We’ve just rolled out those guidelines in the last couple weeks and we have webinars and training coming up for that in September.

Gray: Thank you.

Mieczkowski: Indicator 17, because we are ending our state performance plan, we’re beginning the development and writing of a new performance plan. It’s all gathered under Indicator 17.

Barbara Mazza: Indicator 17 is something that OSEP has put into place. Up to this point they have held states accountable solely for compliance indicators and now they’re having, they’re shifting into looking at compliance and results indicators, which is results driven accountability. And what they’ve done is charged each state with putting together a plan of how we are going to do that within our state, how we hold our LEAs accountable. So Indicator 17 is the state systemic improvement plan and it’s a multi-year plan to look at improving results for students with disabilities. There are three phases, and they have four components: analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation. And right now we are in the analysis phase which will be what we report next February on our report.

The first step was, a couple of us went to Kentucky to learn and receive training about Indicator 17. Then some people that represent OSEP from the Regional Resource Center have come to Delaware to work with our work group to do some training. Right now we’re in the process of putting together an advisory council that’s going to help us with this work. And through each of those phases we will be very involved and engaging a collaboration with all of our stakeholder groups. So if you see the list there, those are the agencies and the stakeholder groups that are represented on our Council. We have three meetings planned from now till November where we will be together and engage in certain steps.

Mieczkowski: And Mr. Heffernan is representing the stakeholders (multiple people talking at once and laughing).

Mazza: Yes. You may have heard me say yes. And you can see, as part of that we also have, we are looking across department, looking at assigning people from assessment, from K-12 initiatives into early learning in Title 1 cause we know that we don’t work in isolation. We have to work together to do this work. So the steps that we will take as an advisory council is to first look at data. We’ll look at different kinds of data, we’ll look at achievement data, we’ll look at the suspension and expulsion data, all the kinds of things that impact students being in the classroom and making progress. From that data dig, what we’ll have to do with Advisory Council is identify an area that were going to look at for focused improvement. Once we look at identifying that area, the next step is to do an infrastructure analysis. When we look at that what we’re looking at is looking at the current initiatives within the department, which ones connect to our work around our focus area. We also need to look at the state systems and look at our strengths. Are there any barriers to what our focused improvement area is? Once we complete that we’ll move into a root-cause analysis and Sarah shared a little bit about that. So we need to look at is why is this happening. What are the contributing factors? What could be the contributing factors? Cause we don’t know why we can’t move forward. As we develop a theory of action, that will be where we outline a plan and look at, okay, if we make a change here, is it going to make a difference for improved outcomes for kids? And once we complete that step, we will develop a plan of action. The plan will include evaluation and it will include a timeline. And then we will move into implementing that plan and evaluating it as we go, and like I said, we will have a stakeholder group working with us and doing this work all along.

Mieczkowski: Our focus will be small as we start out. We’re very focused but the intent is to scale this up statewide. So when we’re developing our plan there will be action steps to carry this out statewide. Are there any questions?

Gray: So again, it’s a year to plan and…implementation…I don’t understand the difference between implementation and evaluation.

Mieczkowski: Implementation is implementing the plan and then you evaluate the success of it.

Gray: Oh, I see. Gotcha, so you’re implementing from 16-20 (years-2016 to 2020)?

Mazza: Right, and I’ll go in and evaluate all along. If we see something that’s not working we will address it as we go.

Gray: I guess I didn’t quite understand, do we, I’m leaving the plan now, just want to make sure you know I’m changing the subject, the reason for the decline is in target, in meeting targets, particularly in math?

Mazza: I would say as a state we looked at that as a decline across all students and we worked with the office of assessment to take a look at that data. I think we were concerned because when we mine our data, we saw in some districts there was a more significant drop than in others. So even though you see the average, in the average drop, there were some districts that actually did have an increase and then there were other districts that had a more significant drop. Through the work that we are doing with our liaison districts and charters, we’re really trying to identify that those charter and district leads on special ed records, why did they see the drop in that year? And so some of them tend to contribute that to curriculum, putting different curriculum into place and teachers not being as familiar. Other districts and charters contributed it to board to the way they were changing their staffing. For example, in one district that I work with, they changed their model and they were trying to move to a co-teaching model and something I think they recognized was that they had not done a lot of professional development of how the teachers were supposed to work together in co-teaching, and so I think it was really a lesson learned for them, and having to go back. So I think it’s a hard question to answer but I would say that I think that the root cause is different in different districts. You know, cause we saw some different things in different districts and they attribute that to what they were doing. So, I don’t know Mitch (Mieczkowski’s nickname), if you have, Mary Ann, some other…

Mieczkowski: Yes, what Sarah said, there are individuals we try to work with districts to take that data drive also so that they can do the root cause analysis and then we can support them in activities that will show improvement.

Mazza: One of the things, I think, to mention, is relative to this is that through the ESEA routines that Mary Ann explained were not only working with them to identify root cause, were also meeting with them to develop their implementation plan which is really like a strategic planning process on how are they going to address this? We do that in the ESEA routine that we do give them feedback but then all of us in our work group are also meeting individually with the special ed directors to make sure that they are addressing the concerns that are coming out.

Mieczkowski: I really do think with our results driven accountability of the results, indicators will be in their determination tables and letters. A district will either meet requirements, need assistance, need interventions, and we’ll be able to ramp up the consequences, or the heavier support that will be needed to show improvement.

Gray: Any other questions?

Heffernan: So one thing I was gonna ask you, I guess, and sort of not to pre-empt the development of Indicator 17, but as I was going through this, of the current 16 indicators which, cause we didn’t go through all of them in detail, which one do we think is most troubling, which one do we think we need to work on the most, and do we have a plan to do something about that. And I know it may be…

Mieczkowski (interrupts Heffernan): …data dives…and really looking at student performance and we’re really taking the dive into literacy. Yeah. We know that…

Gray: Defined by the reading assessment, the scores…

Mieczkowski: However, our stakeholder group will, you know, present this analysis of data and they will…(Heffernan interrupts, can’t make out what is being said)

Heffernan: I would think that 17 is, the plan that you have with 17 is gonna mean we’re not working on anything else.

Mieczkowski: Nooooo, we’re required…

Heffernan: Right, I’m saying, but whatever the outcome of the stakeholder group is…

Mieczkowski: I think we’ll be set, uhm, the targeted, uhm, identify measure but all the work in the other indicators will feed into that also.

Mazza: One of things we didn’t look at today is Indicator 5, which is district environment and inclusion, and I think some of the data work that we’ve done is really look at Indicator 3 along with 5, and what, for instance, so as you can probably imagine, students that are in restrictive placements and inclusive classrooms the majority of the day were certainly seeing that their performance is much lower than performance of students that are included in general ed classrooms and so it really, as we’ve been pushing on the districts to ask questions about “Have you looked at the curriculum being used in your self-contained classrooms?” and I know that we have also echoed that in their routines, because sometimes what the students are being exposed to in accessing in those rooms is totally different than a general ed curriculum. And so, that’s one of the things were looking at, it’s not just Indicator 3 in isolation, but looking at the Indicators together, trying to work to better understand what is happening.

Heffernan: So that brings up, I wrote this down, sometimes we talk about, I struggle sometimes when we call out districts and sometimes when we don’t, but I know this year, I’ll use Red Clay as an example, they had a vote on whether or not they should implement inclusion plan, right? I don’t understand why, you know, this has been law of the land since the 70’s and now we’re going to vote as to whether or not we should do inclusion. I don’t get that and I don’t understand, you know, we talk about good cop/bad cop thing, I don’t maybe wanna focus on what punishment someone’s gonna get by these things, but I don’t even think we have any punishment to give them, but if we at least do something good, if we have punishment, you know, whatever we should be doing in, you know, 2014 when were voting not to do inclusion, right?

Mieczkowski: As we had our ESEA routine meeting, the liaison to that from my group called out the performance of the students in segregated schools, within, and they’re saying “It’s not working, what are you going to do about it?”

Gray: I guess I didn’t quite understand, it was the law of compliance versus…

Mieczkowski: Well, she was looking at the results indicator of their student performance saying when you look at a segregated school such as Central or Richardson Park Intensive Learning Center you view what your scores look like in those schools compared to scores in your other elementaries or middle schools.

Heffernan: And I get that, and we have this old, that the Alt test throws this monkey wrench, it’s hard to compare the two scores to each other and come up with a conclusion. So if you got one school with a higher percentage but the kids doing alt, how can you really measure that, and I know it’s better than the portfolio where everybody got a 5, what was it, 95% of the kids got a 5. It was the highest possible, that was the highest subgroup, right, for on DSTP, was the kids taking the alternate assessment. They got more 5s than anybody else. And so it was that measurement. So we got a lot of, uh, shut up (talking to himself), we got, yeah…so I uh, you know…

Mieczkowski: We’re happy that your on our (can’t tell what said, assume stakeholder group)

Heffernan: We’ll see, we’ll see..

Mieczkowski: You’ll push us.

Gray: Any other questions? Thank you.

Mieczkowski: Thank you.

And that ladies and gentleman, is the end of the IDEA Annual Performance Report!

Okay, my thoughts on this.  First off, where was Secretary of Education Murphy during these forty minutes?  Was he on Craigslist looking for new assistants?  No, he was there.  Just sitting there the whole time.  He probably knew the OSEP letter was coming four days later and may have been too scared to bring up anything.  Who knows…I can’t figure that guy out.  And what about the rest of the DOE Board members?  Hughes, according to the minutes, left during the IDEA presentation.  We also didn’t hear from Barbara Rutt and Dr. Terry Whitaker either.  But that’s okay, cause I think Heffernan asked enough questions for the whole board!  The first time I saw “Heff” in action was at the April Board meeting when it was charter application mania.  This was the meeting where he said “Maybe someone wants to open a clown school, and because they filled a form out right we have to approve it.”  The man is funny to watch at these meetings!

In going through word counts, the word data or data used in combination of another word was said 36 times.  The word student was said 56 times.  Since this was an IDEA presentation, one would think it would be about IEPs.  The word IEP was used 10 times.  The word individual was said 4 times, or 5 times if you count individually.  DCAS or DCAS-Alt was said 18 times.  Smarter Balanced Assessment was not said at all, but the word assess or assessment was used 15 times.  Disability or disabilities was said 12 times, and there was never any mention of any specific type of disability aside from dyslexia, which was said once.

This may seem trivial, but I think it speaks a lot about where the Exceptional Children Group has their head at.  For the word “data” to be used twice as much as a combination of the words “IEP” and “individual” in an IDEA presentation shows what is more important to these people who guide our state in special education.  Listening to it, it felt like special needs children are little hamsters running around in a cage, and these five people are watching them saying “Let’s see if they do a data dive off the shelf”.

Once again, it seems like all that matters with the DOE is the damn standardized testing.  It’s all about the results.  Nothing was said about what can make life more tolerable for special needs students.  Behavior was directed at better outcomes for the classroom, so they can improve, and do better on the tests.  No school was called out for huge compliance issues, but I’m willing to bet they are out there.  After all, four school districts are being “worked with” but nobody knows who they are.

It seems to me that IDEA is actually being rewritten, on a Federal level, to accommodate Common Core and standardized testing more than the individual child and what their needs are.  Don’t believe me, check this out from The Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/17/2014-14154/applications-for-new-awards-technical-assistance-and-dissemination-to-improve-services-and-results

If you’ve read this whole thing, you know what Indicator 17 is, the student’s performance on standardized testing.  What are the other 16 indicators? I found it hard to find the new ones, but these were the 20 previous indicators:

Indicator 1: Percent of youths with an IEP graduating from high school

Indicator 2: Drop-out Rates

Indicator 3: Participation and Performance on Statewide Assessments

Indicator 4: Suspensions And Expulsions

Indicator 5: Participation/Time in General Education Settings

Indicator 6: Preschool Children in General Education Settings

Indicator 7: Preschool Children with Improved Outcomes

Indicator 8: Parental Involvement

Indicator 9: Percentage of Districts With Disproportionate Representation Of Racial and Ethnic Groups in Special Education and Related Services that is the Result of Inappropriate Identification

Indicator 10: Percent of districts with disproportionate representation of racial and ethnic groups in specific disability categories that is the result of inappropriate identification.

Indicator 11: Percent of Children with Parental Consent To Evaluate, Who were Evaluated Within 60 Days (State Established Timeline)

Indicator 12: Transition Between Part C and Part B (children under age 3 who have an IEP by the age of 3)

Indicator 13: Post School Transition Goals in IEP

Indicator 14: Participation in Postsecondary Settings One Year After Graduation

Indicator 15: Timely Correction Of Non-Compliance

Indicator 16: Resolution of Written Complaints (removed in January 2013)

Indicator 17: Due Process Timelines (removed in January 2013)

Indicator 18: Hearing Requests Resolved by Resolution Sessions

Indicator 19: Mediations Resulting In Mediation Agreements

Indicator 20: Timeliness and Accuracy of State Reported Data

The NEW Indicator 17 is State Systemic Improvement Plan, how states will improve outcomes for children with disabilities

Which brings me my next point, which is The Advisory Council that Mary Ann Mieczkowski was speaking about in the presentation.  Is this the same type of advisory group that became Senate Concurring Resolution 63, the IEP taskforce?  Because the goal of that resolution is to improve the IEP outcome for students.  I hope the two are separate, because that would indicate a degree of DOE collusion with the Delaware Legislators prior to the scathing federal report.  We will see if Heffernan is picked as the designee for Secretary of Education Murphy on the IEP task force coming out of SCR 63.

I have a great idea for a NEW indicator: Number of students who were declined IEP services, and then switched to another school, and received IEP services.

The end result is a massive change for how special needs children will be looked at in Delaware.  They are now data, not individual children with different disabilities.  My fear is they will suffer with the rigor they are about to be presented with.  Rooting out reasons for behavior, suspensions and expulsions through data won’t tell you a whole lot.  Looking at students not being accommodated properly will.  On a personal note, I can say my son was suspended quite a bit when he was not given accommodations.  But once he switched schools, and started receiving accommodations prior to the IEP being signed, he was not suspended one single day at his new school.

The DOE is blissfully ignorant of the word “Individual” in IEP these days.  It’s all a numbers game to them.  Looking at test results for why students are doing poorly is not the answer.  Maybe the answer is the tests themselves and all that goes with it, common core and the rest of that nonsense.  The most honest thing said during this entire presentation was when Barb Mazza said “Cause we don’t know why we can’t move forward.”  Do the grown-up thing here, admit your faults, stop blaming the schools, and do something real and honorable.

However this IEP task force turns out, I know I will be at each and every meeting.

@DSEA1 press release brings more schizophrenic fail on DCAS test score release, VAM, and the need to support teachers. #netDE

John Young breaks down this letter the DSEA sent in regards to the “gains” and “flatlines” made by students on DCAS this year. And the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be tougher? Way to go Delaware! Let’s set up more failure!

What Smarter Balanced Assessment Means to Education in Delaware

The Smarter Balanced test will roll-out in the 2014-2015 academic year if passed by the Senate and Governor Markell.  While parents may think this will be a once a year test, they are very wrong.

According to Brian Touchette, the state director for assessment at the Delaware DOE, modified teaching curriculum is in the process of being introduced to help teachers with transition to Smarter Balanced testing.  This could change teaching as we know it.  One of the biggest hurdles to teaching has been the implementation of Common Core standards, and now how teachers educate will be challenged.  Any educator I have talked to has been against Common Core, but they can never admit it publicly for fear of losing their job.  The DOE, Governor Markell, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy continuously state that educators are behind this, but fear outweighs common sense.

Mr. Touchette gave a presentation at the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens on 5/20/14.  Several questions were asked about the Smarter Balanced testing.  One parent asked how accommodations for students with an IEP could conflict with the testing, especially in the usage of a human reader.  Mr. Touchette responded that accommodations cannot change the construct of the test.  Since when does Federal law get trumped by state law?

Interim assessments, to be decided on by the local school district, will replace the fall DCAS and the 1st Spring DCAS.  These assessments will help to prepare students for the Smarter Balanced tests.  This was decided on before House Bill 334 was even voted on, months ago.

Other questions were asked about the “human scorer” which will be handled outside of Delaware to an outside vendor.  Educators will train the scorers, but the human scorers were not said to be educators.  And since a lot of the test is essay based, can we really trust non-educators to accurately score our children’s capability to learn?  I don’t.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium will determine what the grade level standards will be.  Mr. Touchette stated each state involved in the consortium will have a representative to decide on these standards.  Of course, a representative from the Delaware DOE will be our state’s rep.

The same parent from above asked what the DOE’s stance is on opting out of the test, to which he said they have no policy.  It is up to the school district to determine that, but for a district to get funding they must have a 95% participation rate for the test, so there is some “wiggle room”.  He also said for special education children that promotion or retention could be decided on by the IEP team or the school district if an opt-out occurs.  Again, a state rewriting federal law to serve a state’s interests.  He also said school districts are allowed to “use the test for whatever purpose they serve.”  I hope that purpose is to crumple up the test, and see how many students can make a basket into the trash can.  If 95% of the students make it, maybe the DOE can call that a success!

Another Delaware blogger put out some sample tests that were being fielded last Spring: http://kavips.wordpress.com/delawares-smart-balanced-assessments-by-grade-level/

Several people who tried them couldn’t correctly answer many of the questions.  Honor roll students didn’t do well on the field tests.  So how can we expect our special ed students to do on it?  These are kids that struggle everyday with their disabilities.  Some are medicated.  Some can’t even get through the day without special assistance.  And the state is going to measure their success based on one day of testing?  What if they have a bad day?  Parents of special needs children know their kids have very bad days sometimes.  This is a very big mistake for Delaware.  Out of the 22 states that decided on Smarter Balanced testing, only 10 are left.  But Markell and the DOE are treating it like the best thing to come around since sliced bread.  Of course they are, their future depends on it…financially.