Governor Markell Gives $400,000 To 21 Delaware Schools On Common Core Tour

As Delaware Governor Markell went on his “common core” tour today at W. Reilly Brown Elementary School in the Caesar Rodney School District, he announced $400,000 in competitive grants going to 21 Delaware schools.  The goal of these grants are professional development for teachers to further implement Common Core to increase student outcomes.  And God wept…

Why is Jack Markell, with nine months left in his reign as Governor, doing this Common Core tour?  Which company is paying him for this?  What disgusts me is the way the Governor and the DOE lure teachers in by making it look like it is for them.  How much professional development do teachers need?  Let’s not forget the two purposes of this tour: to thank teachers for implementing Common Core and to “debunk” the myths surrounding it.  You may fool some of our teachers and administrators Jack, but this is corporate tomfoolerty at its best.  Far too many Delaware parents know better and you may have fooled us once, but not twice.  As the state looks for funding, our districts will take any money they can get regardless of the cost to students.  I will ask again Governor Markell: where are the funds for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade?  Answer the question Jack!

This is, in my opinion, a strong push towards the blended/personalized learning the Rodel Foundation has pushed on Delaware the past couple years.  The press release doesn’t even mention this, but events from last night suggest otherwise.  Last night at the Capital Board meeting, their board unanimously voted to apply to BRINC, the blended learning consortium that already includes the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Colonial, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney School Districts.  Despite my public comment about the very obvious data privacy loopholes in existing law.

While student identifiable information doesn’t go out, it all filters through the Delaware DOE who simply gives education “research” companies the student’s identification number.  When that information comes back, the DOE has all that data attached to a student’s identification number.  As well, Schoology uses a cloud system called IMS  that would allow any aggregate information through the Schoology application to be shared with their members.  The Capital board seemed a little too eager to get this passed.  At one point, Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton didn’t know how much it would cost the district and it took him over fifteen minutes to find the information.  The board discussed how it would be good professional development for teachers without talking about what it means for students or their personal data.  Their CFO, Sean Sokolowski, said it would be paid for through Federal Consolidated Grants.  Are these the same grants Markell announced today or are they separate?  I would assume they are separate, but I’ve found many grants tend to have strings attached to them, just like the federal waiver scheme the US DOE abused under Race To The Top.  As we rush headfirst into this personalized learning/competency-based education/career pathway future for our students, those in the power to question things are going along to get along.  I can’t understand, for the life of me, why teachers are jumping on this bandwagon.  This will eventually cause their job functions, as instructors,  to diminish in the future.  To the point where they will become “facilitators” instead of “instructors”.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence paraprofessional salaries will eventually start at the same point as a first-year teacher in Delaware?  Don’t believe me?  Check out Governor Markell’s proposed FY2017 budget.  Go to page 202 on the pdf, section 286.  While many feel, and rightfully so, that paras in our schools are underpaid, should they be paid the same as a first-year teacher?  If they performed the same job function…

I have not been too impressed with Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald in the past year.  He seems to have been sucked into the DOE/Markell/Rodel whirlpool of corporate education reform.  You can read more on his role in today’s announcement below.

Just today, the National Education Policy Center issued a damning report on the success of blended and personalized learning schools and pointed out they are less successful than schools who don’t use these services.  So if it is all about proficiency and increasing standardized test scores and growth, why are we pushing, as a state, a system that just isn’t working?  Could it have anything to do with the billions of dollars companies are making off this smoke and mirrors?  And how many of these companies are incorporated out of Wilmington, DE?  As per the IMS article I linked to above, they are incorporated out of Delaware.

It is my opinion the Governor’s time could have been better spent heading to Wilmington to do more than issue a statement on the tragic and pointless death of a student at Howard High School today.  His visit to W. Reilly Brown was at 11am, well after this hit the media today.  As a state tries to understand the absolute horror that went on in that school today, our Governor is off playing corporate lap-dog for his education buddies.  I will never understand that man.

Here is the DOE press release on these “grants”:

21 schools win professional learning grants

Delaware awarded 21 schools in seven school districts nearly $400,000 in competitive professional learning grants Thursday as the state moves toward professional learning tailored to individual school needs.

Governor Jack Markell announced the awards today during a visit with Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky to Caesar Rodney School District’s W. Reily Brown Elementary School in Dover. Five schools in the district won a combined $50,000.

“All educators deserve the opportunity to continuously improve their practice through their own initiative and through investments made in them by their schools, districts, and the state,” Markell said. “We must improve the quality and efficacy of professional learning for all educators in Delaware. To do this, we as a state need to support districts and schools in their promise to provide Delaware educators with ongoing, job-embedded professional learning that leads to real improvement for students.”

For the past three years, the Delaware Department of Education has provided state-led professional learning for school-based teams through the Common Ground for the Common Core program. Common Ground identified principals and teacher leaders, engaged them in deep practices around the standards and concepts and analyzed student work to determine how to target instruction in the classroom.

In year one, the focus of Common Ground was on the shifts under the then-new standards. In year two, the focus was on ensuring a balanced assessment system, and in year three, the initiative focused on targeted approaches to closing achievement gaps and deepening literacy in other content areas. Next year, the Reimagining Professional Learning grants will provide professional learning that continues to target the school level.

“A stable foundation has been built, and after three years of Common Ground, we now are incentivizing schools that are committed to continuing this important work while also strengthening the professional learning for their educators,” Godowsky said. “The grant applications of these 21 schools is a clear indication that they are ready to embrace this challenge.”

Godowsky said he is continuously impressed by the commitment of Delaware’s teachers and administrators and what they do every day and by what they plan to do with the Reimagining Professional Learning Grant: “Educators at all of these schools are looking at their data, lesson plans and structures so that they can reimagine the positive impact of  professional learning for the benefits of their students.”

Each school designed professional learning to meet its staff’s needs. For example, at Brown, the grant will allow teachers to gather each month to plan and research a lesson. They will agree which team member will teach the lesson, and the lesson study team members will observe the lesson, collect data on teacher actions and student responses. Through using lesson studies, educators will collaborate and focus on the impact of this training on teacher practice and student learning.

The funding will make a difference in other ways across the state from Bunker Hill Elementary’ s focus on inquiry learning in the Appoquinimink School District to Milford School District’s emphasis on teacher leadership through cross-district work with all elementary schools and the early childhood center. In New Castle County Vo-Tech’s St. Georges High School, there will be a school-wide focus on speaking and listening with strong professional learning communities to sustain a cycle of improvement for both teachers and students. In Colonial, school and district leaders evaluated curriculum, structures and teacher and student needs to develop a comprehensive plan with regular coaching and feedback from administrators, teachers and students.

“Educators at these schools not only looked at their data but studied their structures and developed plans to reimagine professional learning that they will tie to student outcomes,”  said Michael Watson, the department’s chief academic officer.

Kevin Fitzgerald, superintendent of the Caesar Rodney School District, said he appreciates the state’s commitment to support school-led professional learning.

“This is a perfect partnership between the state, the district and the teachers and school leaders who work closest with our children and know best how to deliver these college- and career-ready standards.”

The winners are:

·         Appoquinimink School District (Bunker Hill Elementary): $30,000

·         Capital School District (Central Middle, Henry Middle, Dover High): $90,000

·         Caesar Rodney School District (Brown Elementary, Frear Elementary, McIllvaine Early Childhood, Simpson Elementary, Stokes Elementary): $50,000

·         Colonial School District (Eisenberg Elementary, Gunning Bedford Middle, George Read Middle, McClullough Middle, William Penn High, Wilmington Manor Elementary): $90,000

·         Milford School District (Banneker Elementary, Mispillion Elementary, Morris Early Childhood, Ross Elementary): $90,000

·         New Castle County Vo-Tech School District (St. Georges High): $30,000

·         Smyrna School District (Smyrna High): $20,000

Alison May
Updated, 5:41pm: Apparently schools did apply for these grants as found on the Delaware DOE website.

 

Breaking News: Delaware STEM Academy Considered For Formal Review

Another Delaware charter school is getting the formal review recommendation at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow.  Delaware STEM Academy did not meet their 80% enrollment numbers required under state law and their own charter.

DelawareSTEMAcademy

I’ve seen this happen before with a few of the other new charters before they opened.  They don’t meet the enrollment numbers by April 1st, but they will probably meet them by the time this comes up for State Board action, most likely June the way these things go.  It happened last year with Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School of Wilmington.  Without knowing what their current enrollment numbers are, it would be hard to say what their situation is though.  The simple fact is this: we have too many charters in upper New Castle County.  The State Board should have considered this when they had their charter approval party two years ago this month.  This is what happens when you have too many schools and too many seats in those schools.  With some of the problems the newer charters had this year, such as Delaware Met closing mid-year and Delaware Design-Lab High School, Freire, and First State Military Academy experiencing opening struggles, I can picture many parents reluctance to send their kids to an unknown and unproven charter school.

 

The 21st Century Racism That Pits Parents Against Teachers While Companies Profit

Yesterday, a presentation was given to the Delaware Senate Education Committee by the Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE) on the highly controversial Component V portion of the teacher evaluation system in Delaware. Component V is the part of Delaware’s teacher evaluation system tied to standardized tests.  The group also felt that the recently concluded DPAS-II Sub-Committee on teacher evaluations was found lacking with a diversity among its members.

PACE is an initiative of the Christina Cultural Arts Center, which advocates and promotes the arts in education. Centered out of Wilmington, PACE is comprised of concerned citizens who feel that parent education organizations are underrepresented by minorities.  The Christina Cultural Arts Center is run by Raye Jones Avery, who also sits on the board of the Rodel Foundation.

PACE began a few years ago but gained more momentum last fall when Elizabeth Lockman began running the organization. As a result of Lockman’s connections and influence in the Wilmington community, the group was able to define themselves and began conducting workshops to gain perspective on education in Delaware.

PACEWilmington

The workshops offered different topics in education. Some examples of their workshops included presentations  from or topics on the following: Parent Information Center of Delaware (PIC), members of the Delaware Department of Education Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit, Early Education advocates, the Metropolitan Urban League, School Board governance, Community Schools, Title I Schools, Education Funding, College Readiness, “Opportunity Gaps”, the School To Prison  Pipeline, the State Legislature, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC), the Wilmington Education Strategy Think Tank (WESTT), TeenSHARP (run by former DOE employee Atnre Alleyne), Discipline and School Climate, ACLU/Coalition for Fair and Equitable Schools, and a presentation by Alleyne shortly before he resigned from the Delaware Department of Education.  This last presentation is very important in the context of this article, but I will touch on that later.

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Upcoming presentations include State Rep. Stephanie Bolden explaining how Education Policies become law, the education landscape in Wilmington, School Choice & Climate, Quality: Teacher Inequity & Ed Quality, Readiness: Getting from Early Ed to College & Career, Accountability: Inside Title I & Assessment, and Support: Empowered Parents = Ready Children. In addition, PACE partnered with the Delaware Charter Schools Network on the Public School Choice Expo and hosted the Michael Lomax presentation in January.

The DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee is an offshoot of the DPAS-II Advisory Group. Created through House Joint Resolution #6 last year, sponsored by Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola, the legislation stated the following about the goals of the committee:

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The group met for the first time on September 15, 2015. Based on the first meeting minutes, the membership of the group consisted of the following:

DPAS-II Sub-Committee Members

  • Jackie Kook, (Delaware State Education Association, Christina School District) – Chair
  • Dr. David Santore, (Delaware Association of School Administrators, Caesar Rodney) – Co-Chair
  • Sherry Antonetti, (DSEA, Caesar Rodney)
  • Clay Beauchamp, (DSEA, Lake Forest)
  • Rhiannon O’Neal, (DSEA, Woodbridge)
  • Kent Chase, (DASA, Woodbridge)
  • Dr. Clifton Hayes, (DASA, New Castle County Vo-Tech)
  • Dr. Charlynne Hopkins, (DASA, Indian River)
  • Bill Doolittle, (Parent Representative, Delaware PTA)
  • David Tull, DE (Delaware School Boards Association, Seaford Board of Education)
  • Dr. Lisa Ueltzhoffer, (Charter School Representative, Newark Charter School)
  • Dr. Susan Bunting, School Chief’s Association/(DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chairperson, also Superintendent of Indian River)
  • Donna R Johnson, (Executive Director of Delaware State Board of Education, non-voting member)
  • Delaware State Senator David Sokola
  • Tyler Wells, Higher Education representative
  • The following Delaware DOE members served as staff for the committee:
  • Christopher Ruszkowski, (Delaware DOE, Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit, non-voting member)
  • Atnre Alleyne, (Delaware DOE, TLEU, non-voting member)
  • Shannon Holston (Delaware DOE, School Leadership Strategy, non-voting member)
  • Renee Holt (Delaware DOE, TLEU, secretary for committee)

As well, Senator Sokola’s Aide, Tanner Polce, sometimes sat in for Senator Sokola.

Various members of the DOE attended meetings, usually from the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit.

The biggest recommendation to come out of the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee was reducing the weight of Component V. This part of the DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation system is tied to the state assessment. In lieu of using the state assessment as a measure of growth, the assessment could be one of several other measures. As well, the weight with component V, both parts, would be equal to the other four components. Each one would carry a weight of 20%.

ProposedComponentVPartA

ProposedComponentVPartB

When this recommendation came out in its full context at the Sub-Committee meeting in January, Delaware Secretary Dr. Steven Godowsky was most likely planning for another big event coming the next day, on January 14th. Neither Donna Johnson nor Chris Ruszkowski from the DOE attended the meeting on January 13th. The very next day, the Delaware House of Representatives knew State Rep. John Kowalko would attempt to get an override of Delaware Governor Markell’s veto of the opt out legislation, House Bill 50. To do this, he would need to have a majority of the House vote to suspend the rules to have it get a full House vote. While that didn’t happen, I am sure Secretary Godowsky was in constant contact with Governor Markell and his Education Policy Advisor, Lindsay O’Mara. Since Alleyne attended the Sub-Committee meeting on January 13th, it would stand to reason Godowsky was notified the group was leaning towards the Component V recommendation. On the evening of January 14th, the PACE sponsored Michael Lomax presentation occurred.

At some point in February, Atnre Alleyne announced his resignation at the Delaware DOE. His last day was on February 29th. On February 13th, an announcement went up on PACE’s Facebook page announcing their next set of workshops.

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At the 2/16 meeting of the Sub-Committee, Secretary Godowsky showed up and listened to the group’s recommendations.

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Alleyne attended this meeting as well. He was very concerned about the wording on part of the draft for the final report of the committee

Alleyne21616DPASIISubCommMtg

Two days later, on February 18th, Alleyne was the speaker at the PACE Workshop on Teacher Quality and Assessment. Without knowing what was said at this workshop, I am speculating that a discussion ensued about the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee and their findings. Keep in mind he was still an employee of the Delaware Department of Education at this point.

By the time the next meeting came on February 29th, it was Alleyne’s last day at the DOE. Several people gave public comment, including two members of PACE: Althea Smith-Tucker and Mary Pickering.

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Alleyne served his last day at the Delaware DOE after this meeting. On March 7th, the day before the next meeting of the Sub-Committee, Alleyne put a post up on his blog, “The Urgency of Now”, entitled “Do #blackvoicesmatter in Delaware schools?” The blog article touched on many points which do show an underrepresentation of African-American students in the teaching profession in Delaware. Citing some other examples that I somewhat agree with, Alleyne brought up the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. In writing about both the DPAS-II Advisory Committee AND the DPAS-II Sub-Committee, he touched on the fact the Advisory Committee had no members of color aside from himself and he was a non-voting member (as an employee of the DOE). But what he did in the next paragraph failed to distinguish between the Advisory Committee and the Sub-Committee:

At the committee’s most recent meeting, a few black parents from Wilmington sat through the meeting and provided comments during the public comment section.

But what happened next made it look even worse for the committee:

After the meeting, they followed up on their critique of the committee’s lack of parent representation (it has one parent representative from the PTA) with the PTA representative. He noted that he agreed we need more parents on these committees. One of the parents pressed further and said, “Well I’ve seen you as the one representative of parents on a number of state committees. You should share the wealth.” His response: (paraphrasing) I’d love to not be the only one on these committees if other parents could learn enough about these issues and systems to be able to participate.

Apparently the two parents from PACE did not like this response. As well, Alleyne, who was STILL a DOE employee at this point (granted, it was his last day), jumped to their defense:

I joined the parents in letting him know that we found that notion offensive. He chided me for not understanding the research and advocating for ineffective and uninformed parent engagement. I retorted that perhaps the problem is we have policy wonks and interest groups advocating for adults at the table. Meanwhile, nobody is asking the simple questions and speaking from the heart about what is best for students.

I reminded him that ours is a democracy that lets everyone participate even if they are seemingly less informed. I also reminded him that the hoops and prerequisites he was promulgating as a barrier to participation seemed painfully similar to hoops black people had to jump through to prove they were smart enough to vote. One of the parents informed him (sarcastically) that she had a doctorate in education and that she was pretty sure she could figure out Delaware’s educator evaluation system–but it shouldn’t take having a doctorate degree to be worthy of sitting at the table.  

I found this assault on the parent representative from the Delaware PTA, Bill Doolittle, to be absolutely unfounded. In my years of blogging, I have met many people involved in education. As a parent advocate with the Delaware PTA and the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, as well as his own personal advocacy, there are not too many “non-educators” who have the resolve, knowledge, and depth of compassion for students that Bill Doolittle has. To turn his comments into an issue of race is very offensive to me. As well, by referring to “we” in his response to Doolittle, he removed himself from the reason he was there, as a non-voting member of the DPAS Sub-Committee, and became Atnre Alleyne.

But since Alleyne never made the distinction between the Advisory Committee and the Sub-Committee in the rest of the article, one would assume there was no person of color on either committee. What Alleyne left out was the fact two of the administrators on the Sub-Committee were African-American.

Now keep in mind, Alleyne had not written an article on his blog in eleven months. But by the time he wrote this, he was no longer an employee of the DOE and most likely felt he could express his thoughts as a private individual. This is certainly his right. But to leave an impression about a lack of diversity on an important education group when he very well knew there was diversity on this committee is disingenuous. I wouldn’t bring this up, but it does play a huge role in what happened after.

At the final meeting of the DPAS Sub-Committee on March 8th, the final recommendations of the committee came out, and Ruszkowski and Alleyne were not happy about them at all.

DPASIISubMtg3816RuszkowskiHoodwink

As well, members of PACE, Alleyne (now speaking on behalf of TeenSHARP), and a Delaware student gave public comment:

DPASIISubPublCommentPickering3816

DPASIISubPublCommentAlleyne3816

DPASIISubPublCommentHalorum3816

Now the name “Halim Hamorum” sounded very familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it. I Googled the name and couldn’t find anything. I tried the last name, nothing. Then I tried the first name and Delaware, and several hits came up. Halim Hamroun, a student at Newark High School, was one of the speakers at the launch of the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 last September. But I also remembered he wrote a column the same day in the News Journal about the student voice.

I am also a veteran of at least three state test programs meant to improve our educational system, and a guinea pig for various scheduling and teaching methods. Each year there’s a new flavor.

As I sit here writing this, I find myself wondering how a Newark High School student would find out about the DPAS-II Sub-Committee meeting, know exactly what it was about, and be able to attend and give public comment. This is conjecture on my part, but someone reached out to him. He was coached. They knew about his connection with the Rodel Foundation/Vision Coalition sponsored “Student Success 2025” and asked him to speak against the committee’s recommendations. In Delaware education, there is no such thing as a coincidence.

But what shocked me the most about the final meeting was the abhorrent behavior of the soon to be former DOE employee Chris Ruszkowski. His comments, especially suggesting that the committee was conducting secret meetings and “hoodwinked” the process and goals of the legislation is absolutely preposterous, especially coming from one of the most controversial employees of the Delaware Department of Education during Governor Markell’s tenure as Governor of Delaware. We all know transparency is an issue in Delaware, but I have seen many meeting minutes for all sorts of groups in Delaware. The minutes and transparency surrounding the DPAS-II Sub-Committee are some of the best I have seen in Delaware. I frequently look at the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar, and I always saw their meeting notices, agendas, and minutes faithfully listed.

What Ruszkowski may not be aware of is the large amount of DOE emails that were part of a FOIA request by another Delaware citizen that have his name on many of them. I’ve published some, and others I haven’t due to the nature of the emails. I have seen his disdain for many traditional school districts. I’ve heard the tales of his tirades against school districts who opposed his initiatives, such as the Delaware Talent Cooperative. I personally haven’t had any face to face discussion with Ruszkowski, but the one time I did, it was a childish response to a comment I made during the last assessment inventory meeting. I would not be surprised in the least, and this is merely conjecture on my part, if Ruszkowski’s resignation from the DOE was somehow connected with his behavior at the final DPAS-II Sub-Committee meeting.

To read the entire minutes from this final meeting (and I strongly suggest you do), please read the below document. But there is much more that happened after this meeting!

Two days after the final Sub-Committee meeting, Alleyne posted another article on his blog about the meeting. This article, aptly named “Reflections after last nights educator evaluation commitee meeting”, went over his perception of the events.

The committee is also recommending that the use of students’ growth on the state Math/English assessment will no longer be required as one of two measures in a Math and English teacher’s Student Improvement component. This is currently the only statewide, uniform, and objective measure of educator effectiveness in the evaluation system.

Keep in mind this is coming from the perspective of someone who lives and breathes the same kind of education talk we have heard from Governor Markell, the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation, and so many of the companies, non-profits, foundations, and think tanks that make up the corporate education reform behemoth.

What this led to next took many by surprise. PACE, somehow, was able to get a presentation before the Senate Education Committee yesterday. The man who sets the agenda for the Senate Education Committee is Senator David Sokola, the Chair. The same Senator who served on the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. The same Senator who wrote the legislation creating the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. The same Senator whose legislation stated the committee would present their findings to both the Senate and House Education Committees in the Delaware General Assembly. So how is it that a parent advocacy group from Wilmington presents their complaints about a committee that they didn’t really take action with until their last two meetings, well after the recommendations were put forth, is able to give a presentation to members of the Senate Education Committee, before the DPAS-II Sub-Committee even presented their final report to either Education Committee? And from what I’m hearing, the committee hasn’t even had a presentation date scheduled!

I attended the Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday, and I heard what Mary Pickering, who spoke on behalf of PACE, had to say. As well, a handout was given to members of the education committee and I was graciously given a copy. This document was written on March 31st, but nothing shows up anywhere online about it. PACE does not have a website, just a Facebook and Twitter page. I copied the entire document, but to prove its authenticity, I did take a picture of part of the first page:

PaceNetwork33116

 

March 31, 2016

 

To The Members of the Delaware Legislature:

The Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE) is an organization whose mission is to raise awareness among parents and people who care about the need to improve public education across the state of Delaware, and in particular, for students living in the city of Wilmington.

Earlier this year PACE became aware of the DPAS-II subcommittee (created through HJR 6) and their efforts to recommend changes to Delaware’s teacher evaluation system. We began attending these meetings, sharing our perspectives as parents during the public comment porting of the meetings, and asking questions.  How teachers should be evaluated in Delaware was the focus of this committee, a very important topic that will impact all Delaware teachers, parents, and students.  Yet this 14-member committee has only one parent representative, very little diversity, and each of the meetings we attended had little participation from the general public.  The perspectives many parents shared during the public comment portion of the meeting, as well as those we’ve heard from other parents in our community, are not reflected in the Sub-Committee’s final recommendations.  As such, we are sharing this letter in the hopes that you will consider a diverse set of perspectives on this issue. 

As you discuss the future of teacher evaluation in Delaware’s public school system, we would like you to consider the following:

The importance of parent and student voice in teachers’ evaluations: Parents and students had very little voice in the DPAS-II Sub-committee process and have no voice in teachers’ overall evaluation process. Although this was mentioned in the Sub-Committee numerous times, our request was excluded from their recommendations.  Parents and students can offer unique perspectives on their experience with various teachers that will complete the picture of a teacher’s overall performance.  Parents are routinely subjected to surveys, none of which ask about our children’s experiences in the classroom.  Although all teachers receive ratings through the DPAS-II system, this information is not made available to parents to make informed decision and protect against inequities in schools.  We ask that you emphasize the importance of parent and student voice by adding a requirement that parent and/or student surveys be included in our Delaware teacher evaluation system.  We also ask that legislature make information about teachers’ evaluations more transparent to parents.

The importance of diverse perspectives in decisions about teacher evaluation: The DPAS-II Sub-committee had four representatives from the teacher’s union, four from the administrator’s association, and only one parent to represent the entire state of Delaware parent population. There were no teachers of color on the committee.  Although this committee is a poor representation of the diverse population you serve across the state, their recommendations will be presented as if there is a consensus.  We ask that you show your commitment to diversity by engaging a wider and more diverse set of stakeholders before taking any action on the sub-committee’s recommendations.  We also ask that legislation be amended to allow a more diverse set of stakeholders to serve on the DPAS-II Advisory Committee.

The importance of student learning and accountability for student learning: During the meetings we attended, we were appalled at how student learning took a back seat to the convenience of adults in the system. The committee is recommending reducing the weight of the Student Improvement component and making all 5 components equally weighted.  This would allow a teacher rated unsatisfactory on the Student Improvement Component to still be rated as an effective teacher.  The Sub-committee is basically saying that Planning and Preparation (Component 1) and Professional Responsibilities (Component 4) are as important as Instruction (Component 3) and Student Improvement (Component 5).  It is not clear to us how an education system designed to produce academically and socially successful students, implement an evaluation system that de-emphasizes accountability for student learning.  It is our concern that the recommendations of the subcommittee, if adopted, will widen the achievement gap for the children in places like Wilmington, DE.  We believe there should be an evaluation system that supports teachers, but also meaningful and consistent accountability.  We ask that you show your commitment to student learning and leave the weight of the Student Improvement Component as is. 

The importance of including the state assessment as a part of teachers’ evaluations: The committee is recommending that Math and English teachers no longer be required to use student growth from the state assessment as one part of their evaluation.  State test scores are the only objective measure of student improvements that are consistent across the state for educator effectiveness.  As flawed as the test may be (something we believe also needs to be addressed), it is still the only consistent measure of student growth.  The measures that the committee is recommending to replace state assessments are substantially less rigorous and comparable across the state.  Removing this measure will only serve to remove accountability, widen the disparity among schools, and eliminate the ability to monitor the impact of inequitable funding in disproportionately children of color.  We ask that you show your commitment to creating an objective and consistent evaluation system by leaving the state assessment as a required measure of Student Improvement for Delaware Math and English teachers.

We believe that an evaluation system where 99% of teachers are told they are effective or highly-effective does a disservice to educator professional growth.   It is also inconsistent with the experiences we have (and our children have) in schools each day.  We believe our recommendations will help Delaware create an evaluation system that values student learning, gives teachers accurate information they can use to improve, holds teachers accountable fairly, and values student perspectives.  We would appreciate the opportunity to further discuss our recommendations as the legislature discusses this important matter.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Mary Pickering

Advocacy Coordinator

Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE)

What I would like you, the reader, to do at this point is compare the handout from PACE with Alleyne’s blog article from March 10th.

This is what bothers me about this whole situation.  I like the idea of PACE. I think the idea of community members getting together, no matter who may provide the funding, in an effort to improve education is honorable.  I love the fact that they are very organized and set up workshops on a multitude of education subjects.  I agree with many of PACE’s goals.

I firmly believe minority students are not always given the same level playing field as their non-minority peers. The African-Americans in America are still marginalized in many areas of society.  But they have also come a long way depending on the path they took.  We have a black President.  We have very successful African-American business executives, both male and female.  In pop culture, the African-American culture thrives in music.  While there are still some hurdles to overcome, Hollywood is very welcoming to African-Americans.

But what hasn’t changed is the plight of inner-city youth. We still have far too many minorities who deal with poverty, violence, crime, drugs, and a gang culture that draws far too many of them away from the potential for success and into prison.  Many of these children have single parents, or no parents at all.  Many of these children are traumatized through the events in their lives.  Some of them, and by growing numbers, also have disabilities.

Somewhere along the way, corporate businessmen decided they could make a profit off this. As a result, we saw the growth of charter schools and school choice.  We saw testing companies spring up overnight.  With funds sponsored by the Gates Foundation, the Koch Brothers, the Walton Foundation, and so many more, education “reform” companies came out of the woodwork.  All of a sudden schools and states were contracting with these companies.  Report after report came out with the following statements: Our schools are failing.  Our teachers were not effective.  The unions were calling the shots.  Teach For America and similar teacher prep programs had better results than regular teachers.  Charter schools are better than traditional schools.  And every single report, every finding, came from one single thing: the standardized test score.

There are many names for these standardized tests: High-Stakes testing, state assessments, Smarter Balanced, PARCC, and the list goes on. But they all wind up with the same results, plus or minus a few abnormalities: they are socio-economic indicators that do not determine a student’s abilities but their zip code.  And many in the African-American community believe it is a valid measure.  In some ways, I can’t blame them.  They have a valid history of marginalization.  There have been equity gaps that still exist to this very day.  In Delaware, we have some schools that do not accept a large population of African-Americans or other minorities, even though the demographics surrounding these schools strongly suggest something is amiss.  These schools argue back and forth that they don’t get the applications from these communities, or the placement test scares them off.  But these are public schools, barred from any type of discrimination whatsoever.  If they have things in place that are preventing any group of students from attending, that is against the law.  But this is Delaware, and we seem to think it is okay as a state to let those things slide.

Which brings me back to PACE. A group, which started with honorable intentions, has been sucked into the madness of standardized testing.  In their handout to the Senate, they openly admit the current assessment in Delaware, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, is flawed.  Knowing that, they still want our teachers evaluated by it.  They feel that the potential price teachers could pay based on those evaluations is less important than the mirage standardized test scores give.  If anything, standardized test scores have widened the equity and proficiency gaps more than anything else since black and white schools.  And this is happening right now, in the 21st Century.

But here is the kicker to all of this. There is one group in education that performs far worse than any minority group.  They are always at the bottom of these lists.  And that is students with disabilities.  I am a parent of a child with a disability.  So no one can say I don’t have a voice or a stake in what is going on with standardized tests.  But we don’t see parents of students with disabilities advocating for these kinds of measurements for our children.  Many of us see them as an impediment to progress as opposed to a road to progress.

I was the first member of any type of media in Delaware to announce the DOE’s Annual Measurable Objective goals for all of the sub-groups in Delaware Education for 2015-2021. I was at the State Board of Education meeting in November.  I saw the document just placed on the State Board of Education website that documented what the Delaware DOE’s growth goals were for all of the sub-groups, all based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I saw immediately what the DOE’s growth goals meant for any high-need student: students with disabilities, English Language learners, African-Americans, Hispanics, and low-income students.

Take a very good look at the below two pictures. Note the growth that is expected out of these different sub-groups on one single measure: the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Look at the gains they will have to make compared to the groups with the least amount of growth expected: Asians and Whites.  Think about the vast amount of work expected out of educators to get to those levels.  Think about the struggles and “rigor” those students will need to get to those levels, if they make it at all (which I highly doubt).  Think about the state assessment, how it is designed, the anxiety in schools based on them.  Think about the vast amount of instruction time that is taken away for these tests.  Time your child will NEVER get back.  Think about the fact that most of us are in agreement that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a very flawed test.  Think about the fact that the Delaware DOE openly admitted these are the highest goals of any other state in the country.

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Think about this: During this meeting, when I saw these goals, I assumed a DOE Employee was behind this. Her name is Penny Schwinn, and she no longer works for the DOE.  She left in January.  Her title was the Chief of Accountability and Assessment.  When I saw these pictures, I put her name in the title of this article.  After I posted it, I saw her in the hallway.  She had been crying and was very upset.  After the meeting, I approached her.  She explained to me that she didn’t set these goals.  She also explained that they are impossible goals to reach for these students.  I said to her “I know who set these goals.”  She looked at me and said “Chris?” to which I responded, “No, Governor Markell.”  I changed the name on the article since she openly admitted to myself and another person she did not make these goals.  I knew Penny Schwinn ultimately answered to the Governor, so I assumed he made the goals.  Or at the very least, approved them.

Upon retrospection of this conversation and all I have learned since, Governor Markell is a corporate guy. He is a persuasive public speaker and he knows how to sell a product.  But he doesn’t know how to build a product.  This growth model, in all likelihood, came from Chris Ruszkowski at the Delaware DOE.  The very same individual who, along with his second-in-command, Atnre Alleyne, used flawed data in every possible way to perpetuate the myth that school district teachers in districts with high poverty are failing our students.  In particular, students of color.  This is the pinnacle of the corporate education reform movement’s essence for being.  This is the heart of everything that comes out.  They use groups like PACE to further their own agendas.  Both Ruszkowski and Alleyne came to the Delaware DOE with well-established resumes in the corporate education reform movement.  I have no doubt they speak very well to a group like PACE.  They live and breathe the data they read, study, and create every single day.  They were paid by the Delaware DOE, with more money than most of us will ever see in an annual salary, to prove that public school education teachers are failing students of color.  Their data is, in large part, based on standardized tests.

So when I hear groups like PACE advocating for Component V in the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system, I know for a fact these aren’t conclusions they came up with by themselves. The timing of events suggests otherwise.  If you ask people in Delaware what they know about Component V, they would give you a puzzled look and think you were strange.  Unless you are an educator, a legislator, or deeply involved in education matters, it isn’t something that comes across the radar of everyday citizens.  But a group that has had multiple visits by Alleyne and Ruszkowski, who knew the exact right words to say to pull their chain, they would.  PACE came to two of the DPAS-II Sub-Committee meetings with very advanced knowledge of the DPAS-II process within a week of a presentation to their committee by the Delaware DOE employee who opposed the recommendations of the committee.  They were fed the same line of malarkey all of us have been fed.  But groups like PACE are organized and they want to see different lives for the children in their community.  I do not fault them at all for that.  But because they so desperately want these changes in education, they can easily fall prey to the very bad data and myths surrounding standardized tests and educators.

I have no doubt there are issues of racism in our schools. We do need more African-American teachers in our schools.  But to judge the teachers we do have in our schools with the highest needs, based on a test we know is horrible, what message does that send?  Let me put this another way: many parents who tend to advocate for their children the most believe there is an actual barrier to their educational success, whether it is the color of their skin or a disability.  It is very easy to blame a teacher when our children don’t succeed.  And I am sure, in some cases (but not as many as some think), there could be a valid argument there.  But to judge any teacher based on a flawed test that defines a child based on their zip code, color of their skin, disability, or income status is just plain wrong.  These tests are discriminatory in nature.  They are judgmental of our children, their teachers, and their schools.  They are, to put them in one word, racist.

Let that word hang there for a few minutes. Racist.  Standardized tests are racist.  Racism doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing it did twenty years ago.  Racism has evolved.  If standardized tests are racist, and we have people of all diverse cultures promoting them, what does that even mean?

It is the 21st Century version of racism: the sub-groups.  The African-American students.  The Hispanic students.  English Language learners.  Students with disabilities.  Low-Income Students.  Students from inner-cities who are homeless or come from severe poverty.  The children of the drug addicts who are born into trauma.  The children whose father is in prison.  This is the modern form of racism.  We hear it all the time.  We only have to look at some of the very racist comments when any article about race comes up on the Facebook account of Delawareonline.

None of these education groups out of the DOE or the foundations, think tanks and non-profits have the first clue about how to truly change these children’s lives. What they know is how to make a lot of money pretending to.  And it goes all the way to the top.  Do you want to know who has the best shot, aside from the parents of these children?  Their teachers.  The ones who devote their lives to helping them.  Even when they know they have no control over what happens outside of their classroom.  Even when they know they will most likely lose that student at the end of the year when they go into the next grade.  Sure, they get tough over the years.  The teachers in high-needs schools see it all.  They see the poverty.  They see the hunger.  They see the disabilities.  They see the cries for help that come out in anger from these kids.  They care so much more than you think they do.  They know a once a year test can’t measure the sum performance of these children.  They also know these tests are flawed, but the only way they can fight this ideology is by making sure these tests don’t stop their ability to try to help your child.

When I hear advocacy groups like PACE talk about “our community”, it makes me sad. I fight some of the exact same battles for students with disabilities but it seems like we are on opposite sides in the fight.  When I hear civil rights groups blasting opt out and continuing these very sick lines that are force fed to them by those who profit off the lies, I have to wonder why.  When they say “our community”, it is not.  All of us, we are all our community.  There should be nothing that divides us.  Not wealth, not religion, not the color of our skin or our hair or our language or the way our eyes are shaped.  Not our disabilities, of which we are all disabled in some way to some degree.  Not who we love or choose to spend our life with.  We all struggle, in our own ways.

Those with money and power are blinded to the realities of the real world. They justify their decisions because they don’t come from that perspective.  They look at us from their microscopes and think they know how to fix it.  And if they can get their buddies to help them out, to fix all those people below them, then it’s a party.  But they either don’t know or don’t care what kind of damage they leave in their wake.  They measure success by their paycheck.  If they make more money, or gain more power, they feel the decisions they make are the right ones.

This is the new racism. The haves and the have-nots.  The same story but with a much different twist.  This time, they are using children in the biggest high-stakes test of all time.  They get richer, while the rest of us either stay the same or slide down the scale.  We allowed this into our schools, slowly, over time.  We believed the lies they were telling us.  So many of us still do.  But this time, they are playing for keeps.  What they are setting up now will forever divide the rich from the poor and the rapidly declining middle class.  They are the ones telling us what to do.  Telling us our children can’t possibly succeed unless we make our schools do what they say.

Every single time your child takes a standardized test, you are giving them the power and the ability to sever themselves from the rest of us. This will continue, until we rise against them.  Rome fell.  The Soviet Union fell.  And Corporate America will fall.  It is the nature of power.  But until we revolt and take back the stability our children need, we will fight this war.  They will pin us against each other while we suffer.  While our children suffer.  The only way to stop it is to stop listening to them.  Demand our teachers be able to adequately instruct our children without the shadow of high-stakes standardized testing looming over their heads.  Demand our children be given better assessments that give true and immediate feedback.  Demand that if they don’t, we won’t let them take their tests.  We will opt them out.

Whatever you do, don’t ever be fooled into believing that your child or their teacher or their school is failing because of a standardized test. Do believe that the measurement, or the growth to that measurement, is designed to keep your child exactly where they are.  Don’t believe that any standardized test will ever show the vast majority of students as proficient.  They will always give the illusion that the majority of students are failing.  This is how those in power stay in power.  They rely on your belief that they are right.  It is their constant energy source.  This is the way they will keep most of the population in low-paying jobs.  They want to control us.  This is 21st Century racism.  End it.  Now.

When Is The Next Delaware Assessment Inventory Meeting? Why Are They Stalling?

A week ago, I received notice the Delaware Assessment Inventory Committee will meet on April 26th.  Now, I am hearing May 2nd.  This came straight from Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky!  The May 2nd date is tentative.  So what is the hold-up?  It seems to me no one at the DOE really knows what they are doing with all of this.  Why are they the ones calling the shots?  They screwed it all up to begin with.

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The above picture came from Secretary Godowsky’s “Legislator Update”, an email sent to all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly yesterday.  While this may seem arrogant of me, I could swear they change these meetings to Monday afternoon because they know I will be at work! 😉

For all the hoopla Delaware has made of their beloved “assessment inventory”, they don’t seem to be in a rush to get anything done with it.  This has been in discussion since April of last year, when it was first announced at the State Board of Education meeting.  We all know what it really is: a “solution” to eliminate opt out by giving the people what they think they want (but we aren’t that stupid DOE) and to get rid of local assessments that give immediate feedback and help to guide instruction.

Parents say there is too much testing and I agree with that.  But take what Appoquinimink is doing: They are administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment and then the MAP testing immediately after.  What kind of message does this send to parents?  They will all say “there is too much testing”.  The Governor and the DOE will pounce on that and suggest getting rid of the lesser of the two evils.  Buh-bye MAP tests, hello to the great Smarter Balanced!  This is all rigged and far too many parents believe the lie.

Other “highlights” from the “Legislator Update” include:

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I love the use of the word “investment”.  While I appreciate Dr. Godowsky getting this out there, and it is light years better than anything former Secretary Mark Murphy did, sending out a newsletter instead of actually changing things legislators want are two very different things.  For example, how about House Resolution #22 Dr. Godowsky?  Why do they only put the “good things” the DOE is up to in this newsletter?  I would love to see articles on how the DOE is causing more stress and headaches in our schools.  Putting a pretty picture on a state agency really doesn’t fool anyone Dr. Godowsky.

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It was at last year’s Common Core for Common Ground that Governor Markell gave a very condescending speech to Delaware teachers.  He told them it was the last year before things start to count, meaning the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores being used for their teacher evaluations.  Of course this year, they won’t either.  And everything changes with the Every Student Succeeds Act replacing ESEA.  What teacher in their right mind (those not recruited into the Rodel-DOE-Markell “dream teams” that unabashedly promote Common Core and personalized learning) would show off the very standards and “results-driven” strategies (which is one thing only in Delaware: the almighty high-stakes testing score) to their peers?  It looks like there is free food though.  That is always a way to lure educators into these events.  It wouldn’t shock me if they use all the culinary students in the state to produce the food!  But will they have the chocolate eclairs Rodel uses as bait for Delaware citizens to their Vision 20whatever conferences?

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I can’t wait to see the scores on the “new” SAT.  They are going to plummet because of the Common Core alignment.  But instead of recognizing that, we will see constant reports about how our high school juniors aren’t getting the instruction they need to be college and career ready.  More pawns in the corporate education reform psychodrama.

All Delaware Juniors Take The Common Core SAT Today… Can They Opt Out?

Back in December, Governor Markell and Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky announced the Smarter Balanced Assessment was going away for high school juniors.  Because the College Board aligned the SAT with Common Core, why take both tests?  Today is the annual SAT day for the juniors.  The state pays for all of them to take the test.  I am very curious how the scores will be this year with the realignment.  I haven’t heard a peep about any parent wanting to opt their kid out of the SAT.  Or as I like to call it, Smarter Balanced Junior.

I actually heard one district gave all the 9th and 10th graders off tomorrow.  Did others do this as well and why?  Does the testing environment have to be in the right alignment as well for the juniors?  And why not give the seniors off as well?  Only in Delaware!  We are a state that is obsessed from the top down with testing.  We can’t escape from it because our Governor, legislators, and the DOE believe it is essential.  But our hubris comes at a price.  We don’t look at the quality, only the results.

For An “Education” Governor, Jack Markell Isn’t Too Bright! Exclusive FOIA Emails Show His Incompetency!

When it comes to education, brokering deals isn’t Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s strong suit.  His fumbling could have given the Christina priority schools major headaches larger than the ones they had.

In September, 2014, Governor Markell announced six priority schools in Wilmington, DE.  Three in the Red Clay Consolidated School District and three in the Christina School District.  Each school board had to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for each school.  Red Clay signed their MOU a few months later while Christina fought the Delaware Department of Education every step of the way.  By the end of February of 2015, the Christina School Board refused to sign the MOU and didn’t approve plans for the schools.  When it looked like the Delaware DOE and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy were going to take the schools from the district, Governor Markell brokered a plan between the district and the Delaware DOE.

As a result of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) and their recommendation to turn the Christina schools in Wilmington to Red Clay, the priority school saga was on hold.  The Christina Board voted in favor of the WEAC idea and Governor Markell brought both sides to the table.  A new MOU detailed the WEAC recommendation and the Christina Board signed it.  The MOU went to Secretary Murphy for signature.  The tension ended.  Or so we thought.

For seven months, the subject of the Christina priority schools was very quiet.  WEAC became the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission through legislation.  The commission started meeting in September of 2015 to craft the plans to eventually fold the Wilmington Christina schools into Red Clay.  At the October meeting of the Delaware Education Support System (DESS), a representative asked about the Christina priority schools and what would happen to them if the redistricting plan fell apart.  Delaware DOE Chief of Accountability and Assessment Penny Schwinn said that was a very good question and one they were hoping to get answers for soon.

The DOE was in transition.  Secretary Murphy announced his resignation at the end of July.  Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky inherited the Christina priority schools.  The DESS meeting was on October 5th.  A month earlier, I wondered what would happen if the WEIC plan didn’t pass the State Board of Education or the Delaware General Assembly.  Everyone assumed the deal Governor Markell brokered in March covered the Christina priority schools up until that point.  But in FOIA’d emails never revealed to the public until now, the Delaware DOE truly didn’t know what Markell’s deal even meant.  Behind the scenes, Schwinn emailed the United States Department of Education to get clarification on what the options were for the three schools seven months after “the deal”.

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I find it astonishing Governor Markell never had the Delaware DOE check with the US DOE before the March deal.  This is a man who prides himself on all things education.  Instead, he made an executive decision without checking to see if it was even okay.

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Nearly two weeks after Schwinn first posed the question to Julie Glasier, an Education Specialist at the US DOE, she received an answer:

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As per the US DOE, the deal brokered by Markell wasn’t good enough.  All of this led to what is known as “The Hissy Fit” at the December meeting of the Delaware State Board of Education meeting.  The board minutes for this meeting tell one story, but reality was far different.

It was pointed out that the Christina School District schools are in the second year of planning as the Department has not received a plan.  Dr. Gray voiced her dismay and concern that the district has failed to respond to the Department’s requests.  Dr. Godowsky stated that it is the Department’s expectation that the district will submit their plan.  It was also noted that the educators in that district are to be commended for helping their students achieve without the additional funding they could be receiving.

State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray was visibly upset about the Christina School District priority schools.  She acted as if the district made the deal back in March and just forgot about the schools.  She was so angry she had to excuse herself from the State Board meeting to regain her composure.  The very next day an astonishing revelation came out about what happened, or to be more concise, didn’t happen after the brokered meeting nine months earlier.  Secretary Murphy never signed the MOU between the Christina priority schools and the Delaware DOE.  Christina board members stated they were never told anything more had to be done with the schools during the pending WEIC redistricting proposal.  Now the Delaware DOE wanted the district’s priority school plans.

While never officially confirmed, Murphy’s resignation was rumored to be a “resign now” due to issues with the funding for the three Red Clay priority schools.  Emails released by this blog weeks before the Murphy announcement seemed to be the final straw for his Cabinet position in Delaware.  Was Markell aware of Murphy’s other colossal error concerning the Christina priority schools?

This led to another explosion of sorts at the February State Board of Education meeting.  The State Board voted no on the WEIC redistricting plan due to wording around funding and Christina having no priority school plans turned into the DOE.  State Board member Pat Heffernan went on a tirade of his own about the three schools and how Christina failed them.  At an emergency meeting of WEIC the next week, Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan told State Board President Dr. Gray she should apologize to Christina for the underhanded treatment they received from her.  To date, Dr. Gray has not apologized to Christina.

Christina submitted the priority school plans to Secretary Godowsky and the State Board passed the WEIC redistricting plan last month.  Godowsky notified the State Board the plans were enough for the DOE.

Several questions emerge from this year and a half story though.  During the time of the priority schools announcement and the months following, many assumed the DOE wanted to take the schools.  Myself included.  But the stark reality is the DOE really didn’t have a clue what they were doing.  Neither Governor Markell or the DOE bothered to check to see if the brokered deal was acceptable to the federal agency that mandated the priority schools in the first place.  Granted, Delaware made up their own plans to decide which schools were “priority”, which wasn’t exactly without it’s own controversy.

I don’t believe ANY school should get a label based on standardized test scores.  Period.  Teachers should not fear for their jobs because of bogus tests.   The way the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell treated Christina during the five months after the announcement was shameful.  Even worse was the false treatment from the State Board of Education last fall and this winter.  Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson serves as a liaison of sorts between the State Board of Education and the Delaware Department of Education.  While not knowing for certain, I would have a very hard time believing Johnson was not aware of Schwinn’s emails to the US DOE and the fact that Secretary Murphy never signed the MOU.  She could have cleared that up at the December State Board meeting, but she didn’t.  If she did know of these events, she allowed Dr. Gray to behave the way she did.  Even Godowsky seemed shocked at the appalling actions on Gray’s part.

The Delaware State Board of Education is appointed by the Delaware Governor.  There are no public elections for the seven State Board of Education seats.  Donna Gray sits on the DESS Advisory Committee.  The WEIC redistricting plan awaits action from the Delaware 148th General Assembly.  The three Christina priority schools are still in the district and they began the Smarter Balanced Assessment last month.  The scores on these tests, like so many other Title I schools in Delaware, determine their fates to this day.  Governor Markell believes the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best test Delaware ever made.

Secretary Godowsky, Don’t Forget About Your May 1st Deadline! Will You Own Up To It Or Play Chicken?

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Delaware House Resolution #22 and House Bill #243 are Delaware legislation introduced by several Delaware House Republicans on January 14th this year.  That was also the same day the majority of the State Representatives in Delaware voted not to suspend the rules to override the veto on House Bill #50, the opt out legislation that DID pass the House and Senate last year.  For newer readers, Delaware passed a perfectly good opt out bill last year, but Governor Markell vetoed the bill in July.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko brought the bill back on 1/14 in an attempt to have legislators override the veto, but many who supported the bill last year refused to suspend the rules to allow it come up for a vote that day.  It is sitting on the House Ready list, but only the Delaware Speaker of the House, State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, can put it on the agenda for a full House vote.  I would give the odds of Schwartzkopf putting it on the Ready List at slim to none.

Several House Republicans felt House Bill 50 wouldn’t go anywhere that day, but they still wanted to keep the possibility of opt out alive.  House Resolution 22 gives Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky until May 1st to come up with procedures and a process for all schools to follow in regards to opt out.  He has not given any indication he would even address this resolution.  House Bill 243 would make it so no schools or districts would be held accountable for a parent opting their child out of the state assessment.  Which would also override any current federal laws on the issue as the federal law, like the Delaware law, states schools can’t opt kids out.  This is parent opt out, not school opt out.  It is a good bill, but the likelihood of it even being heard in the House Education Committee is slim to none.  At the end of January, State Rep. Earl Jaques rather smugly told me “that legislation isn’t going anywhere“.

We still have parents opting out, and we still have schools trying to bully and intimidate parents into not opting out.  Some schools feel it is perfectly okay for a child who is opted out to be in the classroom while others are taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Some schools are telling parents they aren’t allowed to opt out, and some are saying they will lose ALL funding if any student opts out.  Why would the House Republicans who sponsored this bill give until May 1st for Godowsky to act on it?  Most of the Smarter Balanced testing would have been done by then, or many students would have already “broken the seal” and started the test.  Be that as it may, Secretary Godowsky has un upcoming deadline.  I’ve already heard from a couple of legislators that Godowsky hasn’t even broached the subject.

Today in April 9th.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has 22 days to honor House Resolution #22.  Will he do the right thing or is he truly just Governor Markell’s puppet?  We will find out on May 1st!

One very interesting tidbit to report: another Delaware Republican State Rep. signed onto the bill and the resolution as a sponsor since it was introduced.  State Rep. Tim Dukes signed on as a co-sponsor for both.  Last year, Dukes consistently voted no on every iteration of House Bill 50.  Prior to the veto override attempt, he was emphatic about voting no again if it came up.  However, at the last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting in February, Dukes looked like he was starting to see the light with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It was refreshing to see.  And then when I saw him added on these two bills, I have to admit I smiled!

 

Delaware DOE Breaks Federal Law By Sneaking In Amendment To ESEA Waiver Without Public Notice

The mischievous and law-breaking Delaware Department of Education actually snuck in an amendment to their ESEA Flexibility Waiver without notifying the public at all.  As required by Federal law, any changes to a state’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver MUST have a public announcement indicating the proposed change.  As well, there is a public comment period required where anyone can comment based on the public announcement.  But as usual, the Delaware DOE does as they see fit and continue to break laws with no oversight or accountability…

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I just found this on their website today.  I love how they include in their document to US DOE that they are attaching the pages in their ESEA waiver with red-lined parts where this amendment would change their waiver, but don’t have a link for the public to see this change.  And let’s be honest, this change wasn’t brought forth because of parents clamoring for it.  It was brought forth because the Delaware DOE was wetting their pants over how many juniors opted out last year!  It also references the February 19th, 2016 redline of the US DOE approved ESEA Waiver request, but no document is listed on the page anywhere.  So what does this mysterious document even say?

In regards to the other ESEA waiver the Delaware DOE is asking for public comment on, nothing is listed on the ESEA portion of the Delaware DOE website.  But the ironic part about that ESEA waiver is US DOE told Delaware DOE not to worry about having the DESS Advisory Committee comment on it, even though that is required by law.  So we have US DOE telling us to break the law and don’t worry about it, but they want us to submit this ESEA waiver even though it will be null and void as of August 1, 2017 when ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) goes into effect.  Or will it?  We won’t know until the regulations come out in the coming months.  I see this as a way for US Secretary of Education John King to continue the legacy of Arne Duncan by essentially bribing states with these waiver schemes.  And of course all this comes out after the Senate confirms the snake.

I was at the December State Board of Education where there was an “open discussion”.  Secretary Godowsky said something to the effect of “We are excited to make this change and I think we will have an announcement very soon.”  An “open discussion” would indicate the public was allowed to comment on this during this exchange.  That was not the case.  You can listen to the audio here.  Godowsky did mention many things would need to be ironed out with US DOE during this “open discussion”.  By submitting this ESEA flexibility waiver on March 29th, 2016, three months after Governor Markell and Godowsky announced the switch, how is that ironing things out?

As well, all the prior “stakeholder feedback” was meant to discuss the possibility of the issue.  That should NOT be counted as official public comment required under ESEA law.  But this is the Delaware DOE and the US DOE who bend and shape the laws to their own benefit.  And our Delaware legislators and US legislators just sit back and let it happen.  Wasn’t the whole point of ESSA to stop the US DOE from pulling this kind of crap?  And here we are in Delaware with not one, but two ESEA waivers with very questionable legality issues surrounding both of them.

And what exactly is going on with the DESS Advisory Committee?  Did they cancel them as a group since ESEA was going to be eliminated soon anyways?  But based on that line of thought we shouldn’t be submitting anything regarding ESEA.  Or is this just another way to try to get the feds to approve Delaware’s cockamamie opt out penalty into the Delaware School Success Framework?  Since they didn’t approve that based on their  November resubmission of the ESEA waiver request as a condition of their July approval of the ESEA waiver request because of ESSA.  Are you as confused as I am?  My head is spinning…

WTH

State Board of Education Approved Modifications For DAPSS, DE Design-Lab, First State Montessori, & Prestige Academy

The Delaware State Board of Education approved all the major modifications that came across their table last Thursday. The charter schools involved either raised or lowered their enrollment numbers with their modification applications.

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got rid of 8th grade and lowered their enrollment numbers to 330 for the 2016-2017 school year with increased enrollment of 375 by the 2020-2021 school year to keep them as a 9th to 12th grade school.

Delaware Design-Lab High School also lowered their enrollment, but they will be adding 11th grade next year as per their original charter application. Their growth is a bit more aggressive with 350 students in 9th-11th grade for 2016-2017, 475 for 2017-2018 when they add 12th grade, and up to 600 by 2019-2020.

First State Montessori Academy, who will be taking over the former Delaware Met building next door to them, was approved to add a middle school with students in 6th to 8th grade. Their enrollment for 2016-2017 must be 430 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade and by 2021-2022 they must have 654 students in K-8.

Prestige Academy is now a 6th to 8th grade school instead of a 5th to 8th middle school, and their enrollment has been lowered to 240 from the 2016-2017 school year and every year proceeding that.

Odyssey Charter School had a modification approved without the consent of the State Board of Education since it was considered a minor modifications. Their modification surrounded enrollment with increases less than 15%. Odyssey’s approved enrollment includes their high school which will make them a K-12 school by the 2019-2020 year. Both Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School had similar minor modifications approved in February by Secretary Godowsky with no grade level changes.

With the charter moratorium for Wilmington still in effect from House Bill 56, no new charter schools can apply for a Wilmington location. But that doesn’t seem to stop the existing schools from tweaking their numbers. Many First State Montessori parents wanted the change, but some folks submitted public comment around their enrollment preferences and were worried this could create more bias in the school. Prestige and Delaware Design-Lab were both on probation due to low enrollment figures last year. Their will still be many charter school enrollment changes next school year based on these approvals. More students in flux around Wilmington is not, in my opinion, a way to stabilize the situation with constant student movement in the city. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan is approved by the 148 General Assembly, it will create even more flux with students as Christina’s Wilmington schools become a part of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

The Delaware DOE Accountability Monster Is At It Again

The Delaware Department of Education held a District Test Coordinators meeting on March 16th, 2016.  The full report is below.  The presentation covered all things testing: Smarter Balanced, DCAS Science, DCAS Social Studies, and the new SAT.  One of the most shocking finds in this presentation was the revelation the redesigned for the Common Core State Standards SAT will be used for accountability purposes this year.  For those who may not be aware, prior to this year, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was used as the 11th grade state assessment for high school juniors.  In late December last year, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky made an announcement that the College Board redesigned SAT would replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  While the legislation that allowed for the transition from DCAS to the Smarter Balanced Assessment did not specifically name Smarter Balanced in the wording of the bill, House Bill 334 does clearly state:

(b) The Department shall administer both accountability and growth assessments of student achievement for students in grades 3-8, provided that additional grades may be added by the Department. (c) The assessments referred to in subsection (b) of this section shall measure achievement in English 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

But here’s the kicker, this is a brand new test.  It has been reformulated (like New Coke and those who lived in the 1980s know how that went over) to align with the Common Core.  It took a long time for many states to get the scores from the PSAT this year.  Many are already saying the new SAT is horrible (just like they did with Smarter Balanced which is why I call it Smarter Balanced Junior).  At least with the regular Smarter Balanced the DOE gave a one year pause for accountability purposes.  But they must have a lot of faith in the new SAT.  Who made this decision?  Godowsky?  Markell?

My big question would be how you measure growth for the new SAT.  Furthermore, how do you even measure growth when students skip grades 9 and 10?  Or are they measuring growth between last year’s juniors who took the brand new Smarter Balanced or the old SAT?  I thought the DOE would get smarter (no pun intended) with Godowsky, but it looks like they are fumbling at the fifty yard line yet again.  The only reason they came up with this not-so brilliant plan to begin with was because too many juniors opted out of Smarter Balanced last year.  But they must test, label and punish, even with a new, unproven, and already controversial test.

All the latest testing news is in here, including the draft of next year’s testing windows.

Christina School District & Delaware DOE Reach Agreement On Priority Schools

It was revealed yesterday that the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education finally reached a signed agreement over the eighteen month priority school battle.  As shown below, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky formally wrote a letter to the State Board of Education indicating this.  As one of their conditional approvals for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan, the State Board can no longer complain about this in their meetings.

Christina School District citizens face a referendum in 13 days.  I really like a lot of what I’m seeing from the district in terms of what they have planned for the money raised from the referendum.  Brian Stephan wrote an excellent article on Delaware Liberal earlier this morning about what the district will allocate the funds for and I like a lot of their ideas.

In the meantime, see the letter that ends the long DOE-State Board-Christina battle over three schools.  Is this the same agreement from a year ago?

GodowskyLetter

Delaware DOE Finds More Creative Ways To Screw Over Schools And Students With Disabilities

The federal government issues special education funds to states through IDEA.  The state issues them based on the federal funds available, as well as their own share of state funds.  In Delaware, this is the unit-count process.  Under federal law, they are beholden to use the laws in IDEA to issue these funds.  But now the Delaware Department of Education is looking at Smarter Balanced Assessment results in funding to local education agencies (schools).  The Exceptional Children Resources Group is looking to do this based on no state or federal laws.  Once again, the Delaware DOE, even under the leadership of Dr. Steven Godowsky, is creating their own rules and accountability scare tactics.

Could the DOE find more ways to screw over students with disabilities?  This is obviously tied to opt-out.  After high school juniors, the highest population of opt-outs was students with disabilities in Delaware.  By tying funding to SBAC performance, the DOE is trying to test schools and parents.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  When Acting US Secretary of Education John King is holding onto state assessments as “excellence in education” and views opt-out as unacceptable, the Markell flavored Delaware DOE is sure to follow suit.  When is this going to end?  When will we stop relying on high-stakes tests to determine students and schools worthiness?  This changes nothing.  Continue to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Delaware parents.  The testing window starts Wednesday.  Opt-out and refuse the test now!

The O’Mara-Markell-Coach-Quinn Gray-Godowsky Scandal

This was originally on the Delaware blog Children & Educators First yesterday:

Earlier this week, C&E 1st posed the question:  What’s Lindsey O’Mara got to do with it? Regarding the WEIC Commission, the State Board of Education, Priority Plans, and the Christina School District.

To get to the answer, I’ve scribed together several posts from Exceptional Delaware by Kevin Ohlandt. I give full credit to Kevin for ferreting out and documenting meeting after meeting related to the Gov and all his pawns.  What I have tried to do is give the reader a sense that not one event is singular to the WEIC drama, not one event is special, and not one is organic.  These meetings, who had what info, who stumbled, this was all pre-ordained by our self-aggrandizing Gov. Markell and his entitled political hacks.

Here’s your answer:

The Deal – https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/tag/the-deal/

According to Fred Polaski, the Christina Board of Education President, he and Superintendent Freeman Williams met with Lindsey O’Mara, the education advisor for Governor Markell, in hashing out an agreement over the three priority schools in their district.  The Delaware Department of Education was there at the beginning of the meeting, and left soon after.  More details as they emerge…
I’m not sure if this was at this meeting, before, or after, but apparently DOE Officer of Accountability Penny Schwinn told Christina she already has three assistant principals already in mind for the three priority schools during the “transition”.
The Christina Board is getting ready to vote on the decision to follow this plan, developed not by Christina and the DOE, but Christina and Governor Markell’s office.
The Christina Board passed the Markell/DOE plan (still waiting to find out whose plan it was), by a 4-1-2 vote.  For those keeping track, the yes votes belonged to John Young, Elizabeth Paige, David Ressler and Fred Polaski.  Harrie Minnehan voted no, and George Evans and Shirley Saffer abstained.  The board also voted unanimously for a second referendum on May 27th.


This was buried in a blogpost last March on ExceptionalDelaware – a post that garnered no comments (rare!) However, this meeting has a far reaching impact. Let’s start with the attendees – O’Mara, representing the Governor, Penny Schwinn, on behalf of DOE, Superintendent Williams and Board Member Fred Polaski, for the Christina School District.  Notably, Coach Murphy was absent.  It’s been rumored that the Gov. ordered Murphy to stand down and lay low. You can find the plans that this covert team hammered out here:

To read the rest of this very interesting article, go here: http://elizabethscheinberg.blogspot.com/2016/02/omara-markell-coach-quinngrey-godowski.html

Godowsky Officially Announces Lindsay O’Mara’s Exit From Markell’s Administration

dovertodc

I forgot to mention this yesterday.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky officially announced Lindsay O’Mara resigned from her position as Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor.  Something I announced two and a half weeks ago.  Godowsky also said she took a position at the United States Department of Education.   O’Mara held the position since 2013 in Governor Markell’s administration.  The question now becomes who, if anyone, will take her place.  I’ve heard different scenarios since I first posted the story but nothing official.

The Markell administration revolving door is open again!  With Lindsay at the US DOE, does this add more weight to Jack showing up there if Hillary becomes President?

Delaware DOE’s “Participation Rate Plan” Approved By US DOE, Don’t Mention Opt-Out At All

KingShining

The Delaware Department of Education submitted their participation rate plan to the United States Department of Education on 2/11/16.  Less than 24 hours later, the “plan” was approved by US DOE.  In my opinion, this is all smoke and mirrors.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment window opens next week.  I have no clue what opt-out numbers will be this year.  I know many of the same parents who opted their child out last year plan on doing it this year as well.  The big factor is going to be the replacement of the Smarter Balanced Assessment with the Common Core aligned SAT for high school juniors.  Many of the opt-outs last year were high school juniors.

I love how the Delaware DOE talks about how some communities balked about over-testing which resulted in the Assessment Inventory.  The ironic part is parental choice to have their kids not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Parents didn’t opt their kids out of the SAT, AP exams, or any of the other tests: just Smarter Balanced.  Much of the over-testing discussion for lower grades was around the DCAS which was administered two to three times a year depending on how the student did on the first Spring test.

Okay Secretary Godowsky, the DOE will send letters to Superintendents and Principals if the numbers are too low.  What do you expect them to do at that point?  The parents have already opted their child out.  Do you expect them to threaten or cajole the parent into having their kid take the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Bribe them?  Or even worse, have the kid take it without the parent’s knowledge?  That isn’t a plan!  The plain simple fact is the DOE cannot and should not make an opt-out plan.  It is something the DOE, school districts, and charter schools have no control over.  It’s a parental decision that should not be tampered with in any way!  And I love how you can’t use the participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework this year because the US DOE didn’t approve it because of the Every Student Succeeds Act!

But let’s look at the US DOE response:

Alrighty then, that’s a plan!  Cut the Title I administrative funds for the state assessment?  Yes!  Please do it!  Cut it all!  Bankrupt the federal funding for state assessments?  Sounds like a plan to me!  Delaware parents, opt your kids out TODAY!  Or better yet, REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE!!!!  And while your at it, all American parents need to contact their US Representatives and Senators and tell them to vote NO on confirming Acting US Secretary of Education John King!

 

Sorry If I Made You Storm Out Of The Assessment Inventory Committee Meeting!

The Delaware Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee, otherwise known as the Achieve Inc. payday, had their fourth meeting tonight.  Most of the discussion was around the district inventories and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Don’t get too excited Delaware!  The discussion about Smarter Balanced was by some members of the committee wondering why the Smarter Balanced wasn’t a major part of the discussion and the DOE trying desperately to work around it and misinterpreting the actual legislation that created the committee.  Once again, Senator David Sokola, who wrote the bill, didn’t show up.  I think he has been at one or two of the four meetings.  He hasn’t been to most of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meetings either, of which he is a member.  But his Legislative Aide did sit in his place, unlike State Rep. Earl Jaques who also championed this legislation last spring as an anti-opt-out bill and didn’t show up nor did he have someone come in his place, but I digress.  I do reserve the right to re-digress later though.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky was there for about the first third of the meeting.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if any state in the country has received a cut in federal funding due to participation rate.  The answer was no.  He then asked if any school or district in Delaware has.  Michael Watson from the DOE explained there have been Title I reallocations but didn’t specify why (and it wasn’t because of opt-out and we all know it).  Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey gave a presentation on Colonial’s assessment inventory process.  Many wondered right away why Smarter Balanced wasn’t included in their inventory even though most of the other districts and charters who participated did include it.  No clear answer was given except further clarification of the legal interpretation of SJR #2.  At some point, questions came up about the expectation of the district and the information supplied to them from the Delaware DOE for the process (of which schools and districts did receive grant money).  I yelled out “Achieve Inc. created it,” to which I was told public comment was at the end of the meeting.  😉  I can see the two DOE representatives were not happy with my comment and one of them was visibly pissed off.  State Rep. Matthews asked what the purpose of the Smarter Balanced is and why we need it.  He explained parents are more upset about their children not being able to go to the library to do research since their computer labs are tied up between March and June.  Even State Rep. Tim Dukes, a fervent supporter of standardized testing in the past, was questioning what this is all about.  He explained how he has been talking to teachers and, in my opinion, he may be walking towards the light in regards to how bad high-stakes testing really is.

Discussion continued around the federal role in Delaware education.  State Rep. Matthews asked why the DOE doesn’t push harder against federal mandate.  DSEA member Kirstin Dwyer, also on the committee, explained that when teachers pushed very hard for another year off from Smarter Balanced scores tying into their evaluations, they were told prior to this that the feds would never grant it, but they did.  A discussion came up about states that do not have to take assessments and were granted waivers.  The DOE explained there are seven states involved in something called the Innovation Network, which rang a bell in my head.  State Rep. Matthews asked why Delaware can’t try to join this group.  A vote was taken to get more information about these kinds of programs before they make their final recommendations.  It passed the committee.  Talk continued about the federal role, and Susan Haberstroh from the DOE said something to the effect of “Maybe the feds will let us do that”.  At this point, the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit leader Christopher Ruszkowski, who was sitting in the back, said “No they won’t.”  I said “Yes they will.”  We both repeated ourselves.  But the sad truth is Delaware doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Council of Chief State School Officers Innovation Lab Network.  Just ask the many teachers and citizens who are seeing this guinea pig experiment taking place in states like Maine, Colorado and New Hampshire.  I actually touch on one of the key parts coming out of these “Innovation Labs” later on in this article.  You will know it when you see it!  Scary stuff!

Teachers gave public comment about, you know, how bad SBAC is and how the test doesn’t give any useful information.  Red Clay Education Association President Mike Matthews complimented the Christina School District for giving a recommendation to dump the Smarter Balanced in their assessment inventory (Capital didn’t give it a ringing endorsement either).  He lamented Red Clay didn’t do the same.  But he did advise the committee his executive membership unanimously voted on a resolution to have Red Clay change their recommendation about SBAC and he questioned the transparency around Red Clay’s inventory process.

And then came my public comment.  To give some background, the meeting was already running late, and public comment was limited to two minutes.  One public commenter already went over their time (and continued), which didn’t bother me at all.  I knew exactly what I was going to say cause I wrote it out.

In 1992, the CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy wrote an 18 page letter to Hillary Clinton. Bill was just elected, and the CEO, named Marc Tucker, took it upon himself to write Hillary his ideas for the future of America.  Tucker wanted America to become like Germany and Switzerland, where students are “apprentice-trained”.  This begins at a very early age.  As part of Tucker’s plan, public education must become standardized.  As well, career paths are chosen through the tests implemented through these higher standards.  This is all part of a much larger plan to merge the US Departments of Education, Labor, and the Immigration division of Homeland Security.  By crafting this agenda, children will be tracked and catalogued through massive data systems, tied to state longitudinal data systems.  These “pathways to prosperity”, or career tracks for children, are contingent upon data.  Data that is provided by every single state to a joint system shared by the US Department of Defense and the US DOE. 

In 1996, a company called Achieve Inc. was created by our nation’s governors, corporate leaders, and Tucker’s group. Achieve eventually created the Common Core standards, but gave the illusion it was created by stakeholders.  Yes, the very same company that assisted with the assessment inventory in Delaware and gave the matrix for districts to follow.  The same company that created the standards is now telling districts how they should utilize their own assessments.

Bill Gates, through his foundation, began funding this over 15 years ago. Delaware allowed this into our state with the Race To The Top grant.  Yes, Senator Sokola and Attorney General Matt Denn wrote Senate Bill 79 last year which passed the General Assembly and was signed by the Governor.  This bill, supposedly meant to protect student data, was heavily lobbied by companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.  There is a gigantic loophole in this.  Eventually, Smarter Balanced will be broken down into chunks through personalized learning.  Using a competency-based education model, students will advance based on how they do on these mini-standardized tests.  This data will flow freely to the feds which will in turn be shared with employers, non-profits (especially those who really push personalized learning), and corporate interests.  What Sokola and Denn allowed into the final bill appears, on the surface, to protect student data.  But whether it was intentional or not, the algorithms for personalized learning and state assessments are allowed to be shared.  We already see 7-8 Delaware districts using the BRInC Consortium’s “Blended Learning” models.  Every single time a student logs in or enters a keystroke, the data recording begins by the companies tracking all of this data.  All of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, through the algorithms created by American Institutes for Research, fall into this category as well.  Our Governor is one of the very early pioneers of this agenda in Delaware, along with the Rodel Foundation. 

So really, who are we kidding with this nonsense?  This IS about students: cataloguing them, tracking them, and allowing the government to decide what they should be based on data.  But for students with disabilities, they will remain on the bottom of all things concerned with education.  Something Delaware fully allows by not granting these students funding in Kindergarten to 3rd grade unless they are so impaired the state doesn’t have a choice.  Meanwhile, Governor Markell is getting ready to go down to D.C. to hobnob with yet another education foundation instead of taking care of his own state.  

As I mentioned earlier, Senator Sokola did not attend the meeting but his Legislative Aide did.  I’ve met him a few times and he is a nice guy.  During my public comment, at the second mention of “Sokola”, he picked up his things, had a VERY angry face, and stormed out of the meeting.  I certainly hope it wasn’t anything I said, but he looked very troubled.  I have talked to Matt Denn about this bill, along with the representative from his office who wrote the legislation, and I don’t know if they are even aware of the “algorithm loophole” that is causing student data to go out like a burst dam.  But, and I am only guessing here, it bothered Sokola’s legal aide.  I could be wrong and something else was going on that I was not privy to.   As well, when I got my two minute flag, I did keep going.  I was almost done!  As I got into the part about students with disabilities somebody said “Kevin…” like I was saying something bad.  Or perhaps it was my angry tone.  But I already had to speed through my public comment due to a ridiculous two minute time limit.  I’m not a big fan of being cut off over parliamentary rules and procedures (which is why you don’t see me on these committees, task forces, or public office).  Or maybe some people didn’t like what I was saying and it cut a little to close to the bone for them.  Either way, I got it out.  And I have a ton more to say about all that.

Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges gave public comment about the Smarter Balanced Assessment that echoed many of the opponents of the test throughout the evening.  (As an aside, the DOE actually gave out the National PTA’s position statement against parent opt-out to members of the committee and the public).  Finally, State Rep. Kim Williams, https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/state-rep-kim-williams-slams-state-board-exec-director-donna-johnson-at-weic-meeting-tonight/ again questioned where the parent representative of the assessment inventory committee was.  She informed them this parent rep came to the first meeting and not the other three.  She was not happy the DOE hasn’t responded to her about this issue and that parents are once again being shut out of the process.  With that the meeting adjourned.  And I am left with the same conclusion I have always had about the Achieve Inc. Party Assessment Inventory Committee: it will get rid of the good diagnostic district tests that give immediate feedback and allow teachers to help students in lieu of more interim Smarter Balanced Assessments (which will eventually be broken down into mini-tests at the end of units).  More data.  More tracking.  More pre-determined “pathways” for every single student in Delaware.  Unless you opt out now.  Out of Smarter Balanced AND Personalized Learning.  Unless you are okay with your child’s social-emotional, academic, behavioral, and personal data going out to Education Inc.  In that case, keep on opting in!

State Rep. Kim Williams Slams State Board Exec. Director Donna Johnson At WEIC Meeting Tonight

WEICMeeting22416

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission had two meetings tonight.  At 5pm, they had their Redistricting Committee meeting and at 6:30 they had a regular commission meeting.  During the public comment part of the redistricting meeting, State Rep. Kim Williams advised the audience State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson was telling State Board members how to vote on the WEIC plan at last week’s controversial State Board of Education meeting.  This was overheard by a few people in the audience at the State Board of Education meeting.  The best part… Donna Johnson was sitting in the row behind her.  As reported to me by several people, Johnson immediately began shaking her head no.  She did not look happy at all by the time I got there.

I was not there for that stunning announcement, but I did arrive late to the commission meeting.  As Milli Vanilli would say, blame it on the rain.  But the meeting was in full swing by the time I got there.  Commission member Yvonne Johnson introduced a motion to send the WEIC plan back to the State Board without their amendments concerning “shall” and “may” and the Christina priority school plans.  The motion passed, after a lot of heated discussion on both sides of the argument, with 15 yes, 6 no, and 2 absent.

Prior to that, State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky were there to answer questions.  The best moment of the evening, which drew a huge round of applause, was when Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan informed Dr. Gray about how former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy never signed their memorandum of understanding developed with their board, the DOE, and representatives from Governor Markell’s office.  Dr. Gray actually said she wasn’t aware of that even though she was told this at the December State Board meeting.  She told Minnehan she misread the addendum to the WEIC plan, even though it was very clearly spelled out.  I have to wonder if these State Board members read anything or if Donna Johnson is calling the shots 100% of the time.  Minnehan told Dr. Gray she wanted an apology from the State Board for their misleading labeling of the Christina School District.  Many members of the commission and nearly all of the audience clapped at this.  Of course, Dr. Gray did not apologize.  I guess they need a board vote to determine if they “may” or “shall” do that.

Commission member Chandra Pitts asked Gray if she understood the intent of Senate Bill 122, which was that the WEIC plan either got a yes or a no vote from the State Board.  Gray responded by saying she did understand the legislation.  Pitts asked Secretary Godowsky what his plans are for Wilmington students after he openly said he wanted to make sure the Christina priority schools clause was put into the State Board’s consideration for the WEIC plan.

Gray said the State Board will advocate for Wilmington students just as much as they do for all of Delaware’s students.  This didn’t soothe any of the emotions in the crowd.  As I wrote on Facebook tonight, their idea of advocacy is ruling as tyrants in the Cabinet Room at the DOE Building once a month.  They are the most disconnected education group in the state, yet they have this power to make or break education.  All I see is a lot of breaking at the expense of Delaware’s students.  When the majority of the voices out there are telling you “this is wrong” or “don’t do this”, the State Board usually takes it upon themselves to ignore those voices and essentially do whatever Governor Markell tells Donna Johnson who then tells them what to do.  One member of the commission asked why the State Board brought up this whole “shall” and “may” stuff in Mid-February when they had the plan since December.  No response…

The districts were united in their response to the State Board’s change of the “shall” and “may” with no way!  They will have no part of an unfunded mandate that could eventually leave the citizens in their districts on the hook to pay for all of this.  Colonial Board Member Joseph Laws told Gray he thought it was ridiculous that the State Board would change those words based on the possibility of “tying the hands of the future State Board”.  He said the General Assembly and school board members pass laws, resolutions, and policies all the time.  Basically, and these are my words, it was lame of the State Board to change a whole plan based on future boards.

During the deliberation of the motion to send the original plan back to the State Board, WEIC member Rev. Meredith Griffiths told the group it should be about the students.  He felt if they send the plan back to the State Board where they will vote no on it again, it won’t help the students because the adults self-posture.  I see it as defending their local turf.  Had they done this during the Race To The Top days, things could be very different now.  Perhaps they have learned their lesson and we are seeing this now with the WEIC vs. State Board fight.

Bottom line: you can’t trust the State Board.  They are not publicly elected officials.  They are appointed by the Governor.  Granted, not all of the State Board members were appointed by Markell, but they have let him run the show since he became Governor.  And by using his puppet Donna Johnson to give the marching orders to the State Board, we get events like tonight.

Gray was not in her turf, so she couldn’t do her grand posturing and her bouts of Christina Derangement Syndrome the way she does in State Board meetings.  But make no mistake, beneath her calm demeanor, her arrogance could still be seen by all.  For the most part, Godowsky sat there stone-faced without much comment at all.  Our State Board of Education needs some major changes.  The trust in them is gone.  And I am still not convinced Godowsky’s changes in the DOE are enough to restore any semblance of faith in them as well.  At the end of the day, it is still Governor Markell’s commands being followed.  He may tweak those plans here and there in a vain attempt to restore public faith in his failed agendas, but the results are still the same.

If someone could please answer how the hell Donna Johnson still has her job I would greatly appreciate it.  How does someone advance from being on the Common Core math implementation team to the Executive Director of the State Board of Education in just a couple years?  It is my opinion, shared by many, that Donna Johnson abuses her power time and time again and no one at a state level who has the power to do anything about it does.  Like I said, we need drastic change in Dover.  The State Board’s incompetence at either passing or denying a redistricting plan is clear evidence of this, but this is just the culmination of years of their Markell-driven need for control.

 

Red Clay’s Merv Daugherty Stands Firm On Funding For WEIC

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Red Clay Consolidated School District Superintendent Merv Daugherty released a statement this morning about the State Board of Education’s very odd vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan last Thursday.  I talked with Merv yesterday at the Pathways To Prosperity conference and he told me the exact same thing!

I want to take this opportunity to reiterate and explain Red Clay School District’s position on the State Board of Education’s conditional rejection of the WEIC plan. From the beginning of this process, we have been clear that a guarantee of the plan would be supported with adequate and sufficient funding has been a critical non-negotiable item for our District. This is no mere parochial concern- we believe that it is crucial for the success of this endeavor. The plan submitted to the State Board of Education reflected the collaborative efforts of many stakeholders. Regrettably, the State Board of Education, rather than approving the plan as submitted, has attached two new conditions to it. One of these, the replacement of the word “shall” with “may” in item #2 of the resolution within the plan, is unacceptable to Red Clay. The distinction is not one of mere semantics- “may” and “shall” simply do not mean the same thing. “Shall” secures the adequate and sufficient funding the successful implementation of the plan requires; “may” throws it into doubt. Our concern was explained to the State Board of Education at their recent meeting. Indeed, they were explicitly told that their proposal “could be a deal-breaker.” Unfortunately, they failed to heed this warning. The possibility that the plan’s implementation could continue absent adequate and sufficient funding poses an unacceptable risk to Red Clay and does a disservice to the families and students involved. For these reasons, Red Clay cannot support the change submitted by the State Board last week.

Respectfully,
Merv

WEIC meets tonight to make some decisions about the State Board’s idiot vote.  At the Christina Board meeting last night it was revealed State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and Delaware Secretary of Education will appear at the meeting.  Well said Merv!

Delaware College Report Gives Mixed Message On Remediation Rates

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The Delaware Department of Education released the Delaware College Report for 2016.  Basing the information off the Class of 2014, the report shows remediation rates, students taking classes when they enter college, to still be high.  Nine districts lowered their numbers between 2012-2014.  Say, wasn’t the Smarter Balanced Assessment supposed to eliminate all these remedial classes?  Oh yeah, they took it away from high school juniors in lieu of the revamped SAT.  So much for that anti-opt-out idea!  But seriously, are these rates higher because of Common Core or in spite of it?  I guess we will know the answers to these questions in the next 8 years when the class of 2024 graduates.  This class would be the first to have Common Core from Kindergarten to 12th grade.  Provided it doesn’t become extinct by then.  We can all say a prayer for that!

The Delaware DOE also provided a press release with the announcement:

State Report: High student remediation rates remain

Of Delaware public high school graduates entering an in-state college or university, 42 percent will begin their post-secondary education behind their peers, according to the state’s 2016 College Success Report released today.  

 
Students who do not score well on college placement tests may be forced to take and pass non-credit, remedial courses before entering the college-level courses required for their degrees. These courses often cost the same as credit-bearing classes but don’t count toward a student’s degree.  

 

In Delaware – as is the case across the country – many students are graduating high school unprepared for the level of rigor necessary in a college course. Acceptance to college does not guarantee readiness for college. The Delaware Department of Education report released today — which includes school- and district-level data — outlines recommendations for schools, districts, and the state to better prepare all students for college success.  

 

“We already know that there is a strong correlation between the classes that students are prepared to take, the supports available to different students to succeed in those classes and student outcomes after graduation,” Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky said.
“We need to ensure that students are prepared to succeed in college before they enter the 12th grade. Some districts and schools are already seeing progress. We need to continue this good work and seek additional ways to better support our students.”  

 

Early signs of progress  

 

Over the last few years, districts have increased access to college-level courses such as dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement classes. In addition, the state began a pilot course in the 2014-15 school year called Foundations of College Math to serve as a bridge course for students likely to require remediation in college.   

 

These efforts are showing signs of early progress and the state has seen an overall reduction in remediation rates since 2012, the report found. Nine Delaware schools and districts have also started to reduce student remediation rates through changes to their curriculum and targeted student supports.   

During her senior year at Woodbridge High School, Katelyn Harding, 18, took Foundations of College Math.  

 

Now a freshman at Wesley College in Dover, Harding says her first-semester math course was a “breeze” because of the strong math groundwork she received at Woodbridge.

 

“With the teacher I had and just the atmosphere of the class, it made everything I had already learned come to life,” Harding said.  

 

Foundations of College Math provided Harding with the introduction to algebra equations and quadratic functions that she needed to ace her Wesley class.  
 
“In my first semester I was learning how to find vertexes and things I could not even imagine,” Harding said. ““I liked that the course in high school was mainly just basics because without them, I would probably not be doing so well now.”   

 

This year’s College Success Report makes specific recommendations for all Delaware schools and districts to follow as they work to improve student preparedness for college and continue the successes they have already seen.   

 

Woodbridge High School in the Woodbridge School District is among a handful of districts receiving recognition from the state this year for its reduction in student remediation rates.   

 

“We are excited by the fact that a higher percentage of our students are entering Delaware colleges without the need to take remedial courses.  This can be attributed to the hard work of our staff and the continued belief that our students are capable of achieving at higher levels,” Superintendent Heath Chasanov said. “Although, we certainly aren’t satisfied with our current percentages, we believe that this reduction in remedial rates will be a trend and not simply a one-time occurrence.”  

 

POLYTECH Principal Jason Peel credited the dedication of his school’s math teachers, who have “embraced Common Core and the need for more rigorous math instruction.”  

 

The school stopped offering pure remedial math in ninth grade and instead enrolled the students in Algebra I with an extra period of supports. Year-long geometry and Algebra II courses were created for struggling students with extra support classes (double periods). Enrichment period supports also were instituted during the day for struggling math students, Peel said.   

 

Special education supports in math were aligned so that co-teachers work together and have the same planning period on a more consistent basis. And POLYTECH quadrupled its AP Calculus enrollment and added an AP Statistics course.  

 

Other districts recognized for reducing remediation rates between 2012 and 2014 include: Colonial, Delmar, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Red Clay Consolidated, Smyrna and Sussex Tech.  


Two different college experiences  

 

After a concentrated review of student remediation data from 2012 through 2014, Delaware’s 2016 College Success Report highlights that 42 percent of all public and charter school graduates enrolling in a Delaware college are unprepared to successfully complete a college-level course. These students require remediation classes before their first-year college courses.   Remediation classes yield zero credits and are often offered at a significant cost to students. Nationally, less than 50 percent of students enrolled in remedial courses actually finish them. Furthermore, 3 in every 10 students who require remediation in college never graduate with a bachelor’s degree.   

 

Students taking remedial courses must take additional courses that their peers aren’t required to take. They can’t successfully enroll in their college courses until they have completed the remedial courses. For some students this can set them a full semester or more behind. For students depending on financial aid to cover the costs of college, this can increase their overall debt as many scholarships will not cover these courses.   

 

Several states across the country are starting to examine the remediation issue as more students are dropping out of college, taking longer to complete their degrees or graduating with significant debt.   
Remediation numbers are also significantly higher for students of color, students with special needs, English language learners (ELLs), and students from low-income families. 

 

 

Eliminating remediation  

 

For students, the path to remediation begins early. Each year more students make the decision to enroll in college. A college acceptance letter marks a significant milestone in a student’s educational journey and the path to the career of their dreams; however, the decisions and goals achieved prior to the college acceptance letter determine a student’s first year college experience.  

 

As students and parents work with their schools to select classes each year, they may not realize that not all classes will equally prepare students for success in college. The difference between an Advanced Placement course or a college prep course may ultimately mean a student graduates less prepared for college-level English, for example.    

 

Similarly, students taking less rigorous courses in math will find themselves more likely to be placed in remedial courses. This means that a student placed in Algebra II over calculus is also at a disadvantage and more likely to need college remediation than if the student had been given the opportunity to enroll in more-difficult classes.    

 

“We’re not just suggesting that schools place students in the more rigorous courses, such as calculus or Advanced Placement,” Shana Payne, director of the department’s Higher Education Office, said. “Our systems must be designed to prepare students to succeed in these courses. The data show that the more advanced courses a student takes before graduating high school, the less likely the student is to need remediation in college.”             

 

The department is calling on educators to use the data from the 2016 College Success Report alongside other measurements, such as the 10th grade PSAT and the 11th grade SAT, to provide targeted interventions to students as soon as they are identified as not yet meeting the college-readiness benchmark.   

 

Using this data, schools have the opportunity to identify when students are falling behind and provide the supports and access to more challenging courses so they can be ready for those first-year college courses.   

 

Additionally, evaluating curriculum and instructional practices in all classes can help to reduce and eliminate these knowledge gaps students are demonstrating before students reach the 12th grade.   

 

“The shift from 12th grade to college should be as simple as the shift from eighth grade to ninth grade or kindergarten to first grade,” said Michael Watson, the department’s chief academic officer. “Every student with a college acceptance letter and a Delaware high school diploma should be prepared to succeed in the college he or she chooses to attend.”
 
 
Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
302-735-4006

Charter Modification Update: DAPSS, DE Design-Lab & First State Montessori Get Thumbs Up From DOE

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Three of the five charters that submitted major modification requests to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education got the green light today.  The Charter School Accountability Committee held their final meetings with the three schools today.  All three received a recommendation of approval from the committee.  The State Board of Education will make the final decision at their March meeting.

Two other schools that submitted major mods have meetings tomorrow with the CSAC.  Prestige Academy has their last meeting and Academia Antonia Alonso has their first.  Another school, Odyssey Charter School, submitted a minor modification for enrollment changes but Secretary of Education Godowsky exercised his authority to give them the CSAC treatment.  They also meet with the CSAC tomorrow.

Should the State Board approve all these modifications, many students will be in flux next year.  First State Montessori will increase their enrollment significantly.  Two other charters submitted minor modifications for up to 15% increases: Great Oaks and Kuumba Academy.  They only need Secretary approval and not the State Board.  Prestige, Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, and Delaware Design-Lab will decrease their enrollment.  Academia Antonia Alonso will actually move their location from the Community Education Building.  This is on top of Delaware Met closing in January and Delaware College Prep closing at the end of this school year.  In December, Red Clay’s board approved a modification for Delaware Military Academy to start increasing their enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year.  Who needs a freeze on new charter applications when the Delaware DOE becomes Grand Central Station for Wilmington charter school students?