Seven Delaware Charters Bow Out of DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation System

Last month at the State Board of Education meeting, former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced he approved many charter schools for a minor modification involving their Teacher Evaluation system.  The schools are Positive Outcomes Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, Las Americas ASPIRA, Academia Antonia Alsonso, Early College High School, First State Military Academy, and The Delaware Met.  Oddly enough, the only school I knew that applied for this does not have anything listed on the Delaware DOE website about this.  But Freire Charter School of Wilmington is still on probation status.  Family Foundations Academy had their probation lifted at the same State Board of Education meeting. Family Foundation’s alternate teacher evaluation system will fall under the Delaware Charter Collaborative system that already includes East Side, Prestige Academy, Kuumba, and Thomas Edison.

By Delaware law, the Secretary of Education does not need the assent of the State Board of Education to approve a minor modification, nor are formal meetings of the Charter School Accountability Committee or formal Public Hearings.  But here’s my thing with all this.  One of the questions on the application for a minor modification request is this:

The authorizer will review your most recent Performance Review Reports as part of your application. Discuss the school’s academic performance, compliance with the terms of its charter, and financial viability as measured by the Performance Framework.

Four of these charters have NEVER had a Performance Review since they either opened last year (Academia Antonia Alonso and Early College High School) or this year (First State Military Academy and The Delaware Met).  Granted, the first two charters will have a performance review in the next month or so, but my point is this- should we be changing an established system in favor of an alternate system for charters that have never been put through a performance review?  In my opinion, this should be reserved for schools that have some data behind them to back this up.  One only has to look at the horror show of the past month and a half with The Delaware Met to know they should not be approved for an alternate system for teacher evaluation when they can’t even prove they know how to run a school!  Below are all the school’s applications and the section of Delaware code that allows for this.

9.9 Minor modifications

9.9.1 A minor modification is any proposed change to a charter, including proposed changes to any condition placed on the charter, which is not a major modification. Minor modifications include, but are not limited to:

9.9.1.1 Changes to the name of either the charter school or charter holder; or

9.9.1.2 The first extension of any deadline imposed on the charter school or charter holder by thirty (30) working days or less (or by 15 calendar days in the case of the First Instructional Day); or

9.9.1.3 In the case of a charter school which is open with students in attendance, offering educational services at a site other than, or in addition to, the site approved as part of the school’s charter, when use of the approved site has unavoidably been lost by reason of fire or other casualty as that term is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary; or

9.9.1.4 An increase or decrease in the school’s total authorized enrollment of more than 5%, but not more than 15%, provided further the minor modification request must be filed between November 1st and December 31st and, if approved, shall be effective the following school year; or

9.9.1.5 Alter, expand or enhance existing or planned school facilities or structures, including any plan to use temporary or modular structures, provided that the applicant demonstrates that the school will maintain the health and safety of the students and staff and remain economically viable as provided in 4.4 above; or

9.9.1.6 Any change in the school’s agreement with an educational management organization other than as set forth in 9.4.3 and 9.8.1.1 above; or

9.9.1.7 A change to the current authorized number of hours, either daily or annually, devoted to actual school sessions. Regardless of any proposed change, the school shall maintain the minimum instructional hours required by Title 14 of the Delaware Code; or

9.9.1.8 A change in the terms of the current site facilities arrangements including, but not limited to, a lease to a purchase or a purchase to a lease arrangement; or

9.9.2 The Secretary may decide the minor modification application based on the supporting documents supplied with the application unless the Secretary finds that additional information is needed from the applicant.

9.9.3 The Secretary may refer a minor modification request to the Accountability Committee for review if the Secretary determines, in her/his sole discretion, that such review would be helpful in her/his consideration of the application. If the Secretary refers a minor modification application to the Accountability Committee, she/he may decide the application based on any report from the Committee and the supporting documents related to the application. The applicant for a minor modification shall be notified if the minor modification request has been forwarded to the Accountability Committee. The applicant may be asked to provide additional supporting documentation.

9.9.4 The Secretary may deny a minor modification request if the supporting documentation is incomplete or insufficient provided the applicant has been advised additional information was needed

9.9.5 Upon receiving an application for a minor modification, the Secretary shall notify the State Board of the application and her/his decision on whether to refer the application to the Accountability Committee.

9.9.6 The meeting and hearing process provided for in Section 511(h), (i) and (j) of the Charter School Law shall not apply to a minor modification application even where the Secretary refers the application to the Accountability Committee.

9.9.7 Decisions for minor modifications to a charter may be decided by the Secretary within 30 working days from the date the application was filed, unless the timeline is waived by mutual agreement of the Secretary and the applicant, or in any case where the Secretary, in the sole discretion of the Secretary, deems that it would be beneficial to either refer the matter to the Accountability Committee or to seek advice from the State Board prior to deciding the matter.

Nowhere in this part of Delaware code is there anything about teacher evaluation systems.  But that is covered under the very loose “Minor modifications include, but are not limited to” part of this in 9.9.1.  That is a very major change to a school’s operations, and should be a major modification.  When these schools apply, the applications go to the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware DOE, led by Chris Ruszkowski.  Once they approve it, it goes to the Secretary of Education.  But I’m not surprised the DOE and Secretary Murphy would play fast and loose with state code to get what they want with charters…

Email To Delaware Superintendents and Heads of School re: Parent Opt Out, DE DOE, Governor Markell and Corporate Education Reform

Dear Superintendents and Heads of School of Delaware,

As you have no doubt heard, there is a movement afoot in Delaware whereby parents of students are opting their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Some of you have already taken a stand for or against parent opt out, or your respective school boards have done so for you. I write to you today on the eve of the bulk of the standardized assessment season.

Some of you I’ve had contact with in the past. Some of you don’t like me. I get that completely. But I think we all have one thing in common, and that is wanting the best for the children of Delaware. Our methods and ways of going about that vary in great degrees, but at the end of the day, we want students to be successful.

I will be very frank with all of you: The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not an accurate gage of student success. It is a horrible assessment, and I know many of you feel that way. One of you, in a very public forum, recently said “I’m not hear to debate if the test is good or not.” Why not? Why would we subject the students of Delaware to this? Why are so many of you bowing down to the Department of Education in Delaware and taking all the abuse they have inflicted upon your schools, your teachers, your staff, and your students? If you don’t agree with the test, why would you publicly accept praise and acclaim based on a flawed test?

This is a test that Secretary of Education Mark Murphy publicly stated he expects 70% of students to not meet proficiency on in the first year. State Assessment Director Brian Touchette said he expects that trend to continue for the next few years. So what is all of this meant for? How much true and valuable instruction time is being spent in your schools on test preparation and “teaching to the test”? Each of you know the answers to these questions. Many of you may mumble under your breath, “It will all go away, and then they will come up with something new.” How does that help the students of Delaware? Because we have gone from DSTP to DCAS and now to Smarter Balanced. The testing has not gone away. And let’s face it, some schools have had exemplary gains with test scores. But is that truly because the students are learning a varied curriculum or because some of your teachers are better at teaching to the test?

Now the DOE wants to judge not only our teachers, but also our schools on how well our students do on these tests. They want to give them letter grades, from A-F. They want to pass waivers that continue this madness. They want to replace our teachers, our educators, with “new” teachers who come into our schools with 5 weeks of training. They want to develop “leaders” out of these individuals, to slowly take over our public education system. I have seen the DOE emails between each other where they slam regular teachers and pump up these “new” teachers.

It all comes down to this one “little test” as the Chair of the House Education Committee, Earl Jaques, recently wrote in an article. Now Governor Markell wants to form a committee to take a look at all the other tests, but not the test that has such huge ramifications for our schools, teachers, communities, and educational outcomes of all the students of Delaware. Our Governor and our DOE are very frightened by parent opt out. They knew it would happen to a small degree by a few outspoken parents. But they had no idea it would become as big as it has.

You may be thinking, who is this man, daring to email us as if he knows more than we do about what is best for these children. I dare, because I know who all the players are, from the top down to the bottom. Some of you are on that list. Some of you would use children to manipulate data to further your own agendas as part of this game. I know how you do it and how the DOE and the Governor present this to the media. I say to any of you on this list, you need to leave education immediately because you should not be around children. Children are not a “market”. Children are not a “test score”. Teachers are not “Human Capital”.

Parents have the right to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Even the Delaware DOE has publicly stated this at the Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall. Yes, there may be consequences for those actions. But guess what, our children are paying the price every single day this supposed “education reform” continues. It is not in the best interest of the children you have been hired to do the best for. Perhaps some of you have seen the joy of education disappearing from these children’s eyes. They have become less than what they are capable of being because of this. Education in Delaware has become test prep. This is not education. It is a business, a corporate strategy developed by “leaders” who have never taught in a classroom. Every single time you allow these “foundations” and well-meaning “coaches” into your schools, you are taking more time away from the students. These entities are making a lot of money, and they are thanking you every time you let them in. These are funds that need to be going back to the students. We need smaller classrooms. We need more resources for our most vulnerable of students.

This is where all of you can make a crucial difference. You all have the ability to change the conversation. If you want the status quo and things to remain the same, then by all means, do nothing. But for those of you who want to take back your districts, take back your schools, and give these students the education they truly deserve, then speak up. Speak for those who are unable to: Your students and your teachers. Stop the madness and insanity driven by data and rigor. Tell your schools you stand for them, not a Department of Education that has lost the confidence of nearly every educator in our state.

I would respectfully ask that you do NOT do the following: Do not tell parents they need your permission to opt their child out. They don’t. Do not tell parents you need to meet with them to discuss this. They have already given this matter a great deal of thought, and it is insulting. Do not attempt to bully, intimidate, or harass any parent about this test. They are going public with this all over social media, and they are naming each and every one of you or your principals that do this. Do not tell parents they are breaking the law by opting their child out. There is no law when it comes to this, except those granted by the U.S. Constitution. We can argue the semantics of the law and different court cases, but do you want it to be YOUR school that causes the right parent to take this all the way up to the United States Supreme Court? Because it will happen in our country.

In conclusion, Governor Markell will most likely give some sort of speech in the very near future addressing this issue. It has become too big for him to ignore. He has a lot invested in this, so whatever he says will be some sort of attempt to downplay the issues. He will bring up all these “other” tests, he will ask parents to just give it a chance, or he may try to show some backbone and play the tough guy. Whatever he does, remember who you are there for. You aren’t there for him, or the DOE, or the companies that are going cha-ching every time a new waiver is passed or the DOE gets their panties in a bunch over teacher effectiveness. You are there for OUR children, the future of this state and our country.

It doesn’t matter what background our students come from. They may be special needs, minorities, low-income, English Language Learners, talented and gifted, or just a plain old regular student. They will ALL suffer from this test. Over 70% of them will be told “your best wasn’t good enough” or “you need to buckle down and do better”. But if you value these children at all, recognize the failure here. It is not the students. It is not their teachers. It is the test, plain and simple.

I would like to publicly salute Dr. Michael Thomas and the Capital School Board, Dr. Freeman Williams and the Christina School Board, and Dr. Dolan Blakey and the Colonial School Board for supporting the rights of parents.

Last night, at the Christina Board of Education meeting, board member John Young said “If this board can’t stand for parents, what the hell can it stand for?” To echo Mr. Young’s sentiment, if you can’t stand for your students, what the hell can you stand for?

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt

This email was sent at 9:08pm this evening to every single superintendent and charter head of school in Delaware.

me

Today at 9:08 PM

To

mervin.daugherty@redclay.k12.de.us

matthew.burrows@appo.k12.de.us

Holodick Mark

Fitzgerald Kevin (K12)

robert.fulton@cape.k12.de.us

Ring David (K12)

susan.bunting@irsd.k12.de.us

jaconway@lf.k12.de.us

monet.smith@laurel.k12.de.us

pkohel@msd.k12.de.us

Gehrt Vicki (K12)

Zych Deborah (K12)

dperrington@seaford.k12.de.us

deborah.wicks@smyrna.k12.de.us

Lathbury Aj (K12)

heath.chasanov@wsd.k12.de.us

Williams Freeman (K12)

Thomas Michael

dolan.blakey@colonial.k12.de.us

jesus.urdiales@academia.k12.de.us

cmarshall@aod.k12.de.us

margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us

Catherine Balsley

spaoli@charterschool.org

charles.hughes@dapss.k12.de.us

Angela.Dennis@dcpa.k12.de.us

lbrowne@escs.k12.de.us

jcoffield@desu.edu

Catherine Dolan

smaldonado@kuumba.k12.de.us

courtney.fox@fsma.k12.de.us

linda.jennings@mot.k12.de.us

alana.walls@mjm.k12.de.us

gmeece@ncs.k12.de.us

nick.manolakos@odyssey.k12.de.us

steve.norman@pocs.k12.de.us

jack.perry@pa.k12.de.us

aerschen@pca.k12.de.us

tara.allen@reach.k12.de.us

patricia.oliphant@saas.k12.de.us

Salome.Thomas-EL@tecs.k12.de.us

Save The Date! Mark Murphy is Coming to Legislative Hall on February 18th at 3:30pm!

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Committee Meeting Notice

Chamber: House
Committee: Education
Chairman: Jaques
Room: House Majority Hearing Room
Date/Time: 02/18/2015 03:30:00 PM
Agenda

o Presentation from Secretary Murphy and the Delaware

Department of Education on the Race to the Top Initiative

Shocking Response To Citizen’s Federal FOIA Request Concerning Priority Schools

A Delaware citizen forwarded me this information.  They wished to remain anonymous.  What they received from the US Department of Education was very perplexing.

If this is to be believed, there was no communication between the US Department of Education and DE Secretary of Education Mark Murphy or Governor Markell between January 1st, 2014 and December 23rd, 2014.  Not even one.  Hmmm…

Mark Murphy’s WHYY Interview…God, I Can’t Stand This Guy!

WDEL conducted an interview Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy recently.  My new favorite education report, Avi Wolfman-Arant, conducted the interview.  It covers Race To The Top, Priority Schools, Common Core, Smarter Balanced Assessment (and not a word about Parent Opt Out), Teacher Pay, and more.

You can view the video, or if you have a weak stomach, you can just read the article here: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local//item/77771-delaware-education-secretary-talks-common-core-teacher-pay-and-learning-video/

Murphy needs to be fired.  He needs to go back to being a gym teacher somewhere at some lovey-dovey charter school.

“Cops in Wilmington with high crime rates don’t have to reapply for their jobs”

These words, said by a teacher on Tuesday night at the Christina Board of Education meeting, made me think.  For a city recently labeled as “Murdertown”, why wouldn’t these police have to reapply for their jobs?  If you are going to make teachers do it at priority schools, why wouldn’t you hold law enforcement accountable?  Maybe because it’s not the right thing to do in either case Governor Markell.  Both are prime examples where the funding just isn’t there, and you can’t put a band-aid on a severed artery.

Another murder happened last night.  A teenager.  Not even a man yet.  I’ve heard stories lately Governor Markell.  From teachers in these schools.  How students can’t even get a good night sleep because they are hiding under a bed due to gunfire happening right outside their home.  How they have lost loved ones due to murder.  How they can’t go home and hug their dad cause he is buried in the ground.  And yet you endorse the work of the Delaware Department of Education.  You praise their ability to make students “work harder” so they can perform in the “new economy”.  If it’s such a “new economy”, than why are you using the old company you used to work for in what will surely be another profit for them?  You are so disconnected from the reality of the state you govern Jack.  According to the Priority diva in the DOE, violence in Wilmington “isn’t necessarily a hurdle to overcome.”  Tell that to the students that will find out today one of their classmates won’t be coming to school on Monday.  Tell that to the teachers who have to teach the almighty Common Core on Monday knowing the words opt out takes on a whole other meaning for one of these students.  Balance that in your blueprint Jack!

Someone had a very good idea.  Bring these children to Governor Markell and Secretary of Education Murphy.  Bring them in droves to the Townsend Building in Dover on February 19th during the State Board of Education meeting.  Let them tell their stories to those who need to hear them the most.  Bring their parents that are willing and able to support them.  Hell, bring all teachers and educators in those schools that day.  Bring them by the busloads.  I am very serious here.  Someone from the media will be there.  Make it a field trip for all to Legislative Hall so they can speak with the legislators that pass the bills which have allowed this to happen with these schools.  I will be there supporting every single one of you.  Let’s make it happen.

My Public Comment for Family Foundations Academy, Emailed to DE DOE Charter School Office

Tomorrow is the deadline for public comment on the charter renewal for Family Foundations Academy.  The Delaware Department of Education will accept public comment until the end of the day.  Please email them or go to the DOE website and look under  infocso@doe.k12.de.us

I have gone ahead and emailed my public comment, and I will let you all see it:

Dear Secretary of Education Mark Murphy,

Since the news broke in the media about Family Foundations Academy on December 12th on Kilroy’s Delaware, I have investigated this charter school extensively. I have found many of the same financial inconsistencies the auditor Auphsite Consulting found, and perhaps some more. We shall see when Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office finishes their audit. The vast amount of state money being spent by the two heads of school is disgusting and abhorrent. Schools are not administration’s personal ATM machine. For this reason alone, I find it impossible to understand how the board of this school did not know this was happening for all these years.

The fact that so much of the Board was made up of fraternity brothers from the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity shows such a vile conflict of interest that is beyond insane. I have heard from many people via email or comments on my blog and they have shared stories with me. Many of them I have not printed because they are the worst stories that can be told about children. Some of the stories I have shared have included the following: cheating on DCAS testing, many relationships happening among professionals at the school, teachers not receiving state raises, administration asking teachers to donate part of their pay, and much more.

The one article I wrote which bothered me the most was the child with a 504 plan who was discussed during an open public board meeting. The minutes for it can be found here:

http://www.familyfoundationsacademy.org/ourpages/auto/2014/10/16/35343210/2014-12-02%20-%20Board%20Meeting%20Minutes.pdf

During this meeting the exact action of the student with the 504 was discussed. While the minutes state the child was never mentioned by name, written records in your complaints indicate the child was named and a commenter on my blog indicated this as well. This is a complete violation of everything special education is supposed to be. This child has rights, and something like this should have been handled in the board’s executive session, not in an open forum.  It is not only a violation of the child’s Section 504 rights under The Office Of Civil Rights, it is also a FERPA violation to discuss a child’s disability during a public meeting like this.  Even if the child was not identified, the traits that were discussed in the board minutes make this poor child easily identifiable.

I have also heard from a few teachers that a special education student that received a 4 on both the Math and English/Language Arts DCAS test during the 2013-2014 school year recently transferred to their local public school district from Family Foundations Academy. This district is dumbfounded as to how this child could have done so remarkably well on DCAS when the child cannot read.  So how do we truly know if this school did as well with the academic performance framework?  We don’t.

I have read all the public comments the parents have submitted, and while I appreciate them, it seems there is a rot in the foundation of this school. I don’t know if it can be removed, but how many children have been victims of the games this school has played? How many children are years behind and parents are oblivious to this fact because they are simply going by DCAS scores to determine the educational proficiency of their child?

I am not sure what your decision will be on this Secretary Murphy, but I know these children deserve better. The deceptiveness that has occurred at this school is beyond measure. I sincerely hope all of the past misdeeds of this school will come out so parents know exactly what has happened there.  While I have no child there, and I don’t even live in the county where this school resides, it reflects poorly on the reputation of Delaware schools that events of this magnitude could occur for years with no one the wiser.

While many parents are calling for the reinstatement of Dr. Tennell Brewington, I do not feel this would be a wise decision on the school’s part.  She was half of the main problems there, and she needs to carry half the responsibility for the problems that happened under her watch.

No matter what happens, this shows a need for recording of all school board meetings in the state of Delaware so the public can have a chance to hear what exactly goes on at these meetings. As well, a greater oversight of the financial transactions of all schools in Delaware, especially charter schools, needs to happen now.  While other decisions on priority schools are being weighed at this time as well, it might be prudent to take a look at the whole nature of judging schools by standardized test scores.  If a school can cheat on these tests, it can throw the entire state off in terms of proficiency.  Until it can be proven that NO school has done this, these test scores should not be used for anything.  I have to believe that most educators would never stoop so low as to allow this to happen, but if there is even a very small shadow of a doubt, we owe our students more than this.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Since there are now allegations of standardized test cheating going on, it would look very foolish on Mark Murphy’s part to keep this school open and not accept the MOUs from Christina and Red Clay Consolidated School District.

 

Governor Markell & Mark Murphy’s Boasting of Eastside Charter Scores Based On Bogus Claims! @TNJ_malbright

As pointed out by a brilliant commenter on Kilroy’s Delaware, Eastside Charters huge “gains” aren’t as transparent as we originally thought.  This criteria was based on a 2010-2011 3rd grade class of 62 students compared to the same class which only had 29 students in the 2012-2013 year.  How in the hell can you compare the two?  You can’t.  How do we know some of the lower scoring DCAS students didn’t choice out or leave the school for some reason?  Someone has some explaining to do….

More bogus claims from the DOE and Markell to justify the priority schools.  And reported by Matthew Albright with the News Journal a few times, including a huge article today.  And the governor says comparing schools is making excuses…  Stop the madness Markell.  Your comments are being exposed for the fraud they are every single day!!!!!  People are going to start wondering why you are pushing so damn hard on this a week and a half before January 7th.

Priority School FOIAs Part 5

Part 5 shows the complete and utter frustration on the part of Delaware legislators with the horrible lack of communication from the Delaware DOE.  So much so that one of them filed with the Department of Justice.  Another FOIA set of emails that will be released by one of the Delaware blogs today will indicate the Delaware DOJ had to get advice from the Delaware DOE since “they are the experts” to get a legal opinion on the legality of the priority schools initiative….read into that how you will….

Priority School FOIAs Part 4

This part has actual DOE emails concerning the priority schools.  Interesting verbiage in these conversations….

July 18 Murphy Email about applicability to charter schools (partial)

 

Priority School FOIAs Part 3

Why does Markell’s office follow Rodel’s news blog so closely?  And did Mark Murphy write the script for the Wilmington City Council meeting on October 9th?  Judge for yourself!

The Priority Schools FOIAs Part 2

Part 2.  These are long reads, but there is a lot of information in these!

The Murphy’s Law Of Christmas Presents for the Enemies of Public Education @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @nannyfat @ecpaige @Roof_O @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

murphyaaaah

As the leader of the Delaware Department of Education, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy sure was a bad boy this year. I would give him coal, but that’s not fair to the piece of coal. Murphy has shunned educators, participated in Governor Jack Markell’s bullying tactics with the priority schools, and taken all the right steps for Vision Takeover Of All Public Schools and Turn Them Into Charter Schools. In 2015, I think three of Murphy’s money-driven strategies will explode, so Murphy gets this:

lemon

When three major things go wrong with a product, it’s called a lemon. With Murphy’s version of education, I am predicting now that Common Core-Smarter Balanced, his Teacher Effectiveness witch hunt, and the Priority Schools initiative will all go the way of the dinosaur. When that happens, Murphy is going to need this, a free visit to Career Builder! Maybe he can find a new job like this:

images5MZ3RN0G

And I really hope when you look back on your time as the destroyer of all that is good in Delaware education, and how you listened more to the folks at Rodel then the people who put your boss in the big chair, that this next thought messes with your mind more than you messed with educators, students and parents. Presenting, the next Delaware Secretary of Education:

hammockmike

Where Do We Go From Here? The State of Education in Delaware @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @Roof_O @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

The last major education meeting of 2014 happened yesterday, and it was a doozy!  As I look back at all the events of 2014 in our 1st state with regards to education, I have to wonder about the future.  There are several things going on simultaneously.  Something happened yesterday at the DE State Board of Education meeting that can change everything.

The board voted 4-3 to renew the charter for Gateway Lab School.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s comment about why he chose to renew their charter stemmed from about a month of the public pounding on the choice not to renew.  This means the public does have a voice and is able to influence education in Delaware.  The problem is not enough of us have been using that voice.  If the groundswell of support for Gateway happened with things like the removal of Common Core and parental opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just think what could happen.

Over half of the Delaware General Assembly wrote to renew Gateway’s charter.  Some of them were ones who already speak out about the changes in education and the priority schools.  But many of them are ones nobody ever affiliates with education.  The Gateway crisis actually opened a lot of ears to education in Delaware.  It also exposed the DOE as being to beholden to test scores.  This is a good thing.

Our next moment of direct attention needs to be towards the priority schools initiative.  While I’m not an expert on state code and the Delaware Constitution, I can see things are manipulated and twisted in order to allow the priority schools demands.  Governor Markell and Mark Murphy have looked for the most miniscule of loopholes to do this, but did they find them all?  Some, like State Representative John Kowalko, do not think they did and he has a strong case for the legality of the initiative.

Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessment will be a hot button of talk in the coming months.  More and more parents are waking up to the reality of this, and anyone who finds out what the true purpose of it all is wants it to be gone.  A message for those parents: spread the message fast and furious and do it yesterday.  Because everything the DOE and Markell have done, want to do and will do ties directly to standardized test scores.  It is their sole focus.  We are no longer a state where true education, occurring everyday in our schools, is a concern.  It’s about a once a year test that will judge teachers, principals and students.  And by a large default, parents as well.

I firmly believe the purpose of these “initiatives” is not for the betterment of our children’s education but the creation of more and more charter schools.  Some may ask, “Then why are they closing charter schools?”  Because even Super Bowl winners need to cut the weak links on a team.  This becomes a reverse choice option for parents.  They’re forced to make a choice against their original choice.

For the charter supporting parents out there: I know you will defend these schools and I support you for doing that.  But do not be blind to the realities behind charter schools.  They have boards that are not publicly elected, they have budget committees (or don’t in some cases) that do not have the proper representation, and their version of transparency is very clouded.  Nobody was talking about Family Foundations a month ago, but in the past week it is all anybody is talking about.  Years of financial mismanagement and allegations of outright theft at that school will hopefully lead to a careful examination of all the charter schools and how they spend their money.  I am not saying all the charters do this, but it is more than you think.  And I will expose them if the state doesn’t.

We need to do what is best for our children.  Every single one of us.  Far too many of us disagree on what the best course is, but we all need to come together one way or another, before any choice is gone forever.

 

Regulation 101: DOE Tweaking State Code For Smarter Balanced & Special Needs

On Thursday, at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, there will be talk about the Smarter Balanced Assessment (among MANY other things).  How will the DOE score this wonderful awesome test?  They really have no idea.  In fact, they have to hire an outside contractor to do all that!  But for now, let’s see how they do with what the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium sent them!

Yes, you read that right, Big Brain Brian Touchette actually said that:

Because the new standards set higher expectations for students–and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against these higher expectations–our definition of grade level performance is higher than it used to be.

As a result, it means that fewer students will meet grade level standards, especially for the first few years.

It starts with Mark Murphy saying he doesn’t expect more than 30% of the students to meet proficiency in the first year.  Then I start to hear two years.  Now it’s a few.  But the kids aren’t failing!  No, the schools will be and you will judge them and close them.  Even though you have said what you just said.  And maybe the test will never work, but we will use the data from it to close all of you nasty, filthy public school districts!  Sorry, I turned into Murphy there.

And then there are the special needs kids.  How about we change some laws to make it tougher for them AND their IEP Teams!  Let’s put some really vague wording in some areas, then ignore what is sent to us about it by the agencies that probably know more about these things than we do.  Even if they are filled with a bunch of filthy, nasty parents and union reps.  Sorry, morphed into the Murph man again!

Yada yada yada, opt out now, blah blah blah!  Just do it already parents! NOW!  Cause guess what, they didn’t even bring up the topic of parent opt out in this regulation, and we already know they either don’t how to read their own state’s code, or they purposely misinterpret it to scare parents.

Delaware DOE, Stop Bullying & Lying To Parents re: Opt Out With Your Scare Tactic Letter

Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) Please stop telling parents they are breaking the law if they opt their child out of Smarter Balanced. No where in the federal law does it state a parent can not do that. As for the state law you cite in your letter, it does say “schools” and “individuals”, but you need to reread the law, because earlier it specifically states:

(4) ”Individual” means a student, teacher, administrator, local or state school board member, or other employee, agent or contractor employed by the Delaware public school system whether local or at the state level, and including an employee, agent or contractor of a charter school;

For anyone reading this article through a link on Facebook or Twitter, please spread this everywhere.  If you live in Delaware, spread it to every corner of the state, from Wilmington to Rehoboth.  Email it, print it, give it to your friends and neighbors.  The only way we can get our DOE to stop this madness is by letting every single person in the state know what they are up to.

This is threatening parents based on a misinterpretation of the law. If you want to sit there and tell all parents it’s okay for the DOE to give this information, go right ahead. But know that parents will find out this information, one way or another. Until the DOE takes away parental rights from a parent, you can save some paper costs and try to find some other way to get parents to believe the lies you are telling them.  The only thing illegal in this letter is the act of making this letter.

This is why you are losing trust with more parents every day!  By deliberately misleading and bullying parents, you are showing what educators and schools across the state already know: You will do whatever it takes to please Governor Markell and his friends at Rodel.  This is not something any parent or educator or student signed off on.  The Common Core Standards were developed by the Feds and the governors of every single state at the time forced it upon local school districts, and with every year and every waiver that occurs, schools are losing more and more control and education has become a joke.  The more you bully all of us, the more we will stand up to you.  The more you send out threatening letters like this to school districts and parents, the more parents will want to opt out.  By manipulating and twisting regulations and the law, you will do the one thing you didn’t want to happen: cause a very massive opt out in this state.

For any news outlet reading this, please investigate the Delaware Department of Education.  From the time Race To The Top began until the present.  This DOE has manipulated and used standardized testing to further their own agendas to have more charter schools open in the state.  This is all part of an “education blueprint” developed by a non-profit (debated in some circles) and Governor Markell in the four years before he became Governor.  I would look at all DOE contracts, Race To The Top spending, and more.  I will gladly assist anyone in their investigation.  In fact, myself and other individual have some pending FOIA requests that may shed some light on matters.

For all parents reading this in Delaware: It is NOW time to end this.  We need to speak up and demand accountability and action from our legislators, DOE, and Governor Markell, even if it means calling for impeachment of Governor Jack Markell and demanding Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy be fired.

I posted this last week and I will repost it here again:

I’ve obtained a copy of the sample letter parents can expect to receive if they opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  There is a lot of threatening statements in this letter, but THEY HAVE NO MERIT ACCORDING TO THE LAW!!!!

Parents, do not be threatened by this vain attempt by the Delaware DOE to prevent you from honoring your constitutional right to determine what is best for your child’s education!!!

SAMPLE LETTER
LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY (LEA)

DATE

Dear (Parent/Guardian),

This letter is in response to your request to have your child not participate in mandated state testing, which will be administered this spring. Unfortunately, (LEA) has no discretion in the matter. Federal and state laws require that public-school students be tested.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires all states to implement “high-quality, yearly student academic assessments.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3)(A). The statute further provides that “[s]uch assessments shall . . . provide for . . . the participation in such assessments of all students.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b)(3)(C) (emphasis added). The ESEA does not allow parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessments.

Delaware State Code also is clear that school districts and individuals shall not “exclude a student from participation in the state assessment except in accordance with the regulations of the Department” (Title 14, Chapter 1, Subchapter IV § 173).

The only exemptions allowed under the law due to extreme medical incidents or for reasons of mental health of the child. Each requires documentation from a physician.

Both federal and state statutes are clear in their language—that all students enrolled in public schools must take the yearly state assessments. The Delaware Department of Education and each school district and charter school must comply with federal and state mandates.

If you have any questions, please contact (NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION FOR LEA CONTACT PERSON).

Sincerely,
(SUPERINTENDENT/CHARTER DIRECTOR’S NAME)
(LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY NAME)

So let’s take a look at the specific codes they are mentioning:

20 U.S.C. § 6311(b)

(3)  Academic assessments

 (A)  In general
Each State plan shall demonstrate that the State educational agency, in consultation with local educational agencies, has implemented a set of high-quality, yearly student academic assessments that include, at a minimum, academic assessments in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science that will be used as the primary means of determining the yearly performance of the State and of each local educational agency and school in the State in enabling all children to meet the State’s challenging student academic achievement standards, except that no State shall be required to meet the requirements of this part relating to science assessments until the beginning of the 2007–2008 school year.

The State shall have such academic standards for all public elementary school and secondary school children, including children served under this part, in subjects determined by the State, but including at least mathematics, reading or language arts, and (beginning in the 2005–2006 school year) science, which shall include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all children. 

(C)  Requirements
Such assessments shall—

 (i) be the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all children;

 (ii) be aligned with the State’s challenging academic content and student academic achievement standards, and provide coherent information about student attainment of such standards;

 (iii) be used for purposes for which such assessments are valid and reliable, and be consistent with relevant, nationally recognized professional and technical standards;

 (iv) be used only if the State educational agency provides to the Secretary evidence from the test publisher or other relevant sources that the assessments used are of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under this chapter and are consistent with the requirements of this section, and such evidence is made public by the Secretary upon request;

And the Delaware Code, from Title 14:

§ 173. Data reporting violations.

School districts and individuals shall not:

(1) Fail to report assessment scores, numbers of students administered the assessments any other data element required to be reported to the Department;

(2) Report incorrect or otherwise inaccurate assessment scores, numbers of students administered the assessments or any other data element required to be reported to the Department;

(3) Exclude a student from participation in the state assessment except in accordance with the regulations of the Department;

(4) Refuse to disclose to the Department information concerning a violation of the foregoing data reporting requirements; or

(5) Refuse to cooperate in the investigation of a suspected data reporting violation, whether such investigation is conducted by a school district or the Department. The investigation shall include a review of mitigating circumstances, if applicable.

73 Del. Laws, c. 81, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 53, §§ 42, 43.;

Now who are these individuals?  Does this refer to any parent who opts their child out of Smarter Balanced?  Or do they mean individuals who are employed by the school district?  The next paragraph in the code makes this VERY clear:

§ 174. Civil sanctions for violations.

(a) A student who violates any of the provisions of § 172 of this title shall be subject to the following:

(1) At the discretion of the Department, the assessment score of such student may be invalidated and the student may be declared ineligible to retake the assessment until the next official testing opportunity; and

(2) Such disciplinary action as deemed appropriate by the student’s school district.

(b) An individual other than a student who knowingly violates any of the provisions of this subchapter shall be subject to the following:

(1) Such personnel sanctions as might otherwise be imposed by the individual’s employer for an act of misconduct;

(2) A hearing conducted by the Professional Standards Board to determine revocation of any license issued to such individual pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 12 of this title; and

(3) Payment of any costs incurred by the State or Department as a result of the violation.

73 Del. Laws, c. 81, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 53, § 44.;

As well, the law defines who these individuals are:

(4) ”Individual” means a student, teacher, administrator, local or state school board member, or other employee, agent or contractor employed by the Delaware public school system whether local or at the state level, and including an employee,  agent or contractor of a charter school;

Did you see the word “parent” on that list?  I sure as hell didn’t!  If you are going to cite law, don’t just throw arbitrary paragraphs out there when others ones contradict what you are trying to accomplish.  I don’t think the Professional Standards Board can revoke my license to be a parent.  No one can take away my right to opt my son out as it is currently written in the law.  Once again parents, do not be fooled!

Mark Murphy Sinks To New Lows At Priority Task Force, His Arrogance Is No “Myth”

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The Priority Schools Task Force had a meeting today. One would think it would be at one of the priority schools, but no, to rub salt in the festering wound, it was held at the Community Education Building in Wilmington. This is the building that is in a one-mile radius of the six priority schools. The building that has lots of room for charter schools. The only six priority schools in the state. Coincidence? Hardly. But I’m not going to discuss that today. My views on this are well known. No, I am going to talk about the Secretary of Education for Delaware, Mark Murphy. It’s a wonder anyone could fit in the room for the meeting with his big ego swallowing everything up.

According to Mike Matthews, who attended the meeting, the following exchange occurred between Murphy and Matthews:

At the meeting today I asked Sec. Murphy what specifically was wrong with the priority schools considering the evaluation done by his department, the University of Delaware, and the Delaware Association of School Leadership revealed that Stubbs and Bancroft are doing great things. The secretary could not answer my question, instead accusing me of engaging in a “tit-for-tat” by asking such a question. Sec. Murphy did reveal that his office is refusing to sign off on those reports. And then I blurted out “Yeah because you don’t like what those reports revealed!” He was not pleased.

What a jerk! I always knew Murphy was an oddball, but this is pure arrogance on his part. To have a review done of some of these schools, and have them come back with really great things, only to dismiss it like a Massett would dismiss an ACLU complaint, is the very definition of ________ (pick your own word, many have come to my mind since I read this). For those who had any doubt prior to this, the DOE, Murphy, and Markell have made up their mind. They made it up before September 4th. These schools will be charter schools in the very building where the task force meeting was. And Gateway has already been decided on as well. This is my theory of course, not based on actual fact, but a preponderance of evidence and actions.

In other odd news from the meeting, apparently Red Clay’s proposal to the Delaware DOE for the three priority schools in their district would have assistance from the University of Virginia for leadership assistance. No mention was made if there is any cost involved for this endeavor. Some feel this is exactly what these schools do not need, more outside consultants.

Mark Murphy Hanging Out With Obama Today @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @TNJ_malbright @Roof_O @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is at the White House today for an event to support college readiness.  This isn’t a mutually exclusive thing, as hundreds of other comparable leaders from states and school districts were invited as well.  To be a fly on the wall though for any conversation between the President and Murphy.  The below is from the Delaware DOE News Page, courtesy of everyone’s favorite Alison May:

Delaware reinforces commitment to expand college access at White House event

Delaware Reinforces Commitment to Expand College Access at White House Event

Continue reading

A Christmas Poem For Governor Markell, Warning Signs All Over!

‘Tis the season for giving.  Yes, we have a Scrooge McLameduck wanting to take kids schools away for the holidays.  But I found this poem written by a certain Governor.  Not really, but it was fun writing it.

Twas the night before Christmas, in the DOE house, not a computer was whirring, not even a mouse.  All the teachers were hanging, by the Governor’s chair, in the fears that more charter schools, soon would be there.

The students were testing, all cramped like the dead, while Visions of rigor, danced in their heads.  And Murphy in his suit, and Markell on his throne, had just settled down, their faces like stone.

When out on the playground, a student said no.  Markell rose from his tonic, and said we have to go.   Away to the window, the other students looked, they all jumped out, Murphy’s goose was cooked.

The moon shone on the kids, with six feet of snow.  To all the parents, it appeared to be woe.  When what to Markell’s eyes soon did appear, but the DOE Horsemen bounded by fear.

With a fashionable driver, and a face like a German, he knew in a moment, it must be Paul Herdman.  More rapid than hedge funds, his money it came, and he whistled and shouted, and called them by name.

Now Blowman! now Schwinn!  now Ruskowski and Mieczkowski!  On, Johnson!  On, Watson!  On McLaughlin and Duncan!  To the school kids must go, get back to class!  Get back to testing, before I kick your ass!

As students ran, dollar signs soon appear; and Markell knew, this was his year.  His stock portfolio, he saw it grow; all the talk about caring, it was just a show.  So to the CEB Building, he made a bet; soon all my plans, they will be met.

Help the rich, screw over the poor; If you don’t like it, there is the door.  We have Teach For America, and a grad school called Relay; We get them much cheaper, it’s the start of a new day.

I let them all think, what we do is best; the parents and teachers, and all of the rest.  In my dreams, they all go to Hell; I’ve got Duncan, and a seat on Rodel!

The students will score, with utmost proficiency; the public school teachers, they get no leniency.  I’ll fire them all, kick them out of the school; I can’t help it, cause I’m such a tool.

To the students in the city, I’ll use discrimination; so what if it appears, like triple segregation.  I’ll send them to charters, by the city walls; I won’t get caught, Duncan owns my balls.

My state passed the bill, on political favors; it doesn’t matter, cause I got the waivers.  The parents may opt out; but that’s just a cop out.  Because of all this, I’ve got the bling; I just cash in, and I say cha-ching.

Schools must take the test, so they can get Smarter; school boards can kiss my ass, I’ll turn them to charters.  I’ve got my Secretary, my guy Mark Murphy; it could have been worse, by the name of Michelle Rhee.

Screw all the bloggers, especially Kilroy; I own the schools, they’re my little toy.  My president loves me, the name of Obama; Wilmington kids cry, straight to their mama.

I’ve got connections, especially Paul; public schools die, and I’ll watch them fall.  I know it seems, that I must be evil; try and stop me, it will be feeble.  I’ve got the money; but you have the test; kiss my ring, cause I am the best.

Some say it’s not right, and it’s not fair; you can all go to Hell, cause I rule Delaware.  Don’t think this is over, cause I’ve still got more; what can I say, I’m a Common Core whore!

 

 

Will Red Clay Throw Their Priority School Teachers Under The Bus?

 

In reading Matthew Albright’s News Journal article on the Priority Schools from Thanksgiving, it’s very clear there are some “read between the lines” parts of the article.  The most glaring is the parts by Deputy Superintendent Hugh Broomall:

“We’ve been able to work collaboratively with the Department of Education and our school communities to come up with a plan that we think is in the best interest of these schools and their students,” Deputy Superintendent Hugh Broomall said.

This sounds good, right?  The key words are “school communities”.  This does not show the overall community.  Part of the whole reason for needing more time was to work with the overall community.  Something Christina School District has done.  But Albright goes on to say this:

Broomall encouraged anyone in the affected schools’ communities to read the plan and reach out to the district if they have concerns.

So Red Clay is going to write their plan without any input from parents and members of the community?  This sounds absurd!  It tells me they are going to comply with the Delaware DOE as much as humanly possible.  I think Markell would relax a bit on the $160,000 requirement for a school leader but I highly doubt he is going to allow these schools to keep their complete staff.  It is my opinion that unless these schools comply with the original Memorandum of Understanding, Markell is going to take all six schools as soon as possible after December 31st.

If I were a teacher at any single one of these priority schools, especially in Red Clay, I would be very worried.  I have to believe Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews would absolutely refuse to sign onto anything that would involve teachers losing their jobs or even reapplying for their jobs.  But are Markell’s demands, based on Federal ESEA regulations, a union-busting move?  Markell, despite what I think of him, is a very shrewd and calculating man.  I doubt he would go into this without thinking he has all his bases covered.  Adding to that notion is something else Albright wrote based on Broomall’s words:

Broomall said the district needs to iron out an agreement with the union that would determine what happens if a teacher wants to stay at one of the Priority Schools but the school leader or district doesn’t think they would be a good fit.

No matter what Red Clay decides, it sounds like authority would be given primarily to the school leader.  Depending on who this leader is, if they are like most of the DOE “leaders”, it will be someone from the charter school industry or the fast-track teacher companies the DOE is obsessed with these days.  If Red Clay’s agreement agrees to cede all the power to this school leader, it will be very harmful to the existing teachers.

We will find out in the next month what the fates of these schools might be.  I sincerely hope something happens in the meantime that prevents any action Markell may take.  Mike Matthews did a public FOIA request for any email containing the names of the priority schools, turnaround school, parternership zone school, and more a couple weeks ago at the DOE State Board of Education meeting.  He received a response from the DOE indicating an overwhelming amount of money to comply, with a $300 start-up fee.  Matthews is looking at another source to help cover funding for this.

Should the DOE, Markell, and Murphy take all six priority schools AND Gateway Lab School, expect a public outcry like this administration has never seen.  Other school districts in the state will be even more untrusting of this cabal of terror.  Parents will know without any doubt no school is safe, and it is all a power grab.