Kowalko Blasts Carney, Bunting, & Several Christina Legislators

Last Thursday, Delaware Governor John Carney held yet another secret meeting.  This one was with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and several legislators whose districts are a part of the Christina School District.  Those legislators were Senators David Sokola and Bryan Townsend and Reps Earl Jaques, Ed Osienski, Joe Miro, Mike Ramone, Melanie Smith, and John Kowalko.  The subject: those damn test scores for Christina!

Carney was pulling the usual “why are Christina’s reading and math scores so low?”  If I were a déjà vu kind of guy, I would say it is the same record spun by Governor Markell and former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  Sokola talked about capacity and too much of it in Christina.  Ramone talked about how the state has closed failing charter schools and why not public schools.  Jaques talked about how we need to fill schools with psychiatrists and psychologists while not realizing budget cuts have affected the ability to properly staff schools with educators and resources before we even need to get to that point.  Miro talked about… who knows!  But Kowalko talked about the funding cuts that have already happened that is causing the suffering of poverty students in Christina.  He suggested Christina consolidates two of their high schools and actually build a Wilmington high school for Wilmington students so they aren’t bussed all over Christina School District.

Governor Carney is proving to be more of a Jack Markell wannabe than I ever thought he could be.  I agree with Kowalko.  When Markell cut the reading specialists Governor Ruth Ann Minner created years ago, the problems in Christina got bigger.  When Markell began his dance with corporations to “fix” education it got worse.  Now we’ve had three years of Smarter Balanced and, as predicted, the scores suck.  They suck bad.  No one in power ever stops to think the test is the problem.  No, we must get new leaders in our schools.  We have to fix poverty in the schools.  How about creating real jobs, for real people?  Not these new start-up tech companies Carney gets excited about.  Cause they aren’t going to fix poverty.  They are only going to further the divide between the haves and the have nots.

Kowalko told me the only legislator who made any sense was Senator Townsend.  The rest, he felt, were playing the same skipped record on Delaware education particularly in Christina.  And Secretary Bunting… I don’t know where your head is at these days.  You’ve been drinking far too much of the Rodel Kool-Aid lately.  Taking money away from districts (see recent articles about match tax) and just giving it away to the charters is not a solution.  For someone who came from a large district with financial issues, you sure do seem to be forgetting what is truly needed in education.  Who is advising these people?  How many other secret meetings are going on?  Thank God we have legislators like Kowalko who value transparency above all else.

Rep. Melanie Smith is one of the true catalysts, along with other charter-loving legislators, who don’t care about Christina.  They care about the charters they want their kids and grandchildren to go to.  And a few of them who have relatives that teach at charter schools.  The jig is up.  You aren’t fooling any of us with your grand posturing and false bravado.  Smith, Jaques, Sokola, Ramone, Miro… enough already.  The charter lobbyists don’t need to shove anything up your ass.  You do it gladly all on your own.

We have a Secretary and Governor who allow situations like the train wreck that is Providence Creek Academy’s administration and the continuing de facto segregation factory called Newark Charter School.  You want to put your money where your mouths are?  Don’t let the charters bitch for one iota of a second about match tax and all their other funding whining when they get to keep their damn transportation slush fund.  It is a disgrace.  Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter.  Most of you support it as evidenced by your budget vote every single damn year.  The ones that say no to that… those are the ones I respect down at Legislative Hall.  The rest of you are phoneys pretending to be lawmakers.  Allowing charters to suck at the public teat while cutting funds from districts.  And Bunting… perhaps the biggest traitor of them all allowing this to continue.  I thought coming from a district you were going to be the watcher on the wall against this crap.  But you have proven to be just like the other Governor mouthpieces for education.

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District Consolidation Task Force Bill Kicked Back To Delaware House, Bonini Amendment Takes Charters Back Out Again

House Concurrent Resolution passed the Delaware Senate a short time ago with amendment by Delaware Senator to take charter schools out of the district consolidation task force’s discussion.  A prior amendment in the House from State Rep. Earl Jaques included charter schools in the task force discussion.  Oddly enough, Senator Bonini’s amendment didn’t remove a representative from the Delaware Charter Schools Network from the task force.

Senator David Sokola said this bill did not have to be heard in committee but felt it was an important enough topic to have that voice.

Senator Bryan Townsend expressed hope that charters would be a part of the task force’s review.  He said the intent of the legislation is a coordinated school system.  He recognized Delaware’s unique education system and understood the ideological discussion of Senator Colin Bonini but still felt all Delaware public schools should be part of that system.

Senator Bonini’s amendment passed with 12 yes, 8 no, and 1 absent.  For the concurrent resolution, it passed with 17 yes, 3 no, and 1 absent.  I imagine it will come back to the House tonight.

Senator Townsend’s Senate Concurrent Resolution #39, requesting an advisory opinion from the Justices of the Delaware Supreme Court on the efficiency of Delaware’s public school system, was defeated in the Delaware Senate with 9 yes, 10 no, 1 not voting, and 1 absent.  House Bill #142, dealing with training for School Resource Officers in situations dealing with students with disabilities, passed the Senate with 20 yes and 1 no.  The Kim Williams sponsored bill goes to Governor Carney for signature.

SCR#38 Requests Advisory Opinion Of Delaware Supreme Court Justice To Find Out If Our Public Education System Is Efficient

This is a concurrent resolution, but an important one.  For years, Delaware has been floundering public education in our state.  Senate Concurrent Resolution #38 would seek the opinion of the highest court in our state to find out if we are even following our own Constitution with what has been going on.  For some reason it was left on the table during consideration in the Senate, which means they will get back to it at another time.  But this is timely and necessary.  Sponsored by Senators Bryan Townsend and David Sokola and State Rep. Sean Matthews.

To read the full text of the legislation, please go to the below document.

 

No Cuts To Education Funding Rally Draws A Crowd

 

Teachers, parents, and even kids gathered on the East side of Legislative Hall for a No Cuts To Education Funding Rally.  All told, I would estimate there were somewhere in the ballpark of 50-75 participants in the rally.  Speakers included Eugene Young with Network Delaware, income President-elect of DSEA Mike Matthews, Christina PTA representative Mary Schorse, incoming Christina Board of Education Member Eugene Griffith Jr., PACE of Wilmington representative Swiyah Whittington, Christina CBOC member and Blue Delaware writer Brian Stephan, and Senator Bryan Townsend.

All of the speakers do not want any cuts to education funding and favored more state revenue in the form of higher taxes.  They urged folks to get involved in education and speak up.  They said the best way to do that is by letting their legislators know their thoughts on this.  Senator Townsend referred to Delaware’s teachers as “magicians” in that he believes they do great things for Delaware’s students.  Instead of writing about what will surely be covered by the major media in Delaware, I am presenting a photo gallery of the event.  This event leaned toward the Democrat way of thinking as the Republicans tend to favor large cuts as opposed to increasing revenue by increasing taxes.  The only legislator who attended the rally was Senator Townsend.

Senator Sokola: “Maybe Christina Should Give One Of Their Buildings To Newark Charter School”

The Delaware Senate Education Committee tackled the 5 mile radius bill today with some explosive comments from Senator David Sokola, mostly in response to a public comment.  Warning: some of the comments conveyed today will get people very angry. Continue reading “Senator Sokola: “Maybe Christina Should Give One Of Their Buildings To Newark Charter School””

Delaware Senate Passes Blockchain Bill With Unanimous Vote & Things I Heard At Legislative Hall Today

My question is how many of these Senators even know what this bill means.  Do they know what they are opening the door to?  To be fair, all this bill does is allow Blockchain technology into Delaware corporate law.  The word “education” does not even appear in the bill.  Blockchain would allow for secure transactions.  It also allows for secure dataflow.  But who owns that data?  If it is meant for one business or one person, does that business or that person own that data?

What happens when a student’s standardized test data, medical information, discipline record, and attendance become a part of this permanent record?  What happens if that information is wrong?  How do you go about correcting it?  Who puts information in this distributed ledger?  There are so many unanswered questions about this technology.  For businesses and corporations, I get it.  But when it comes to the eventual distribution to ALL people, my red flags go way up.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 69 with 20 yes and 1 not voting (Senator Bryant Richardson).  I’m not sure why he chose not to vote.  There was hardly anyone else during this vote.  A handful of lobbyists and that was about it.  I did see the primary sponsor, Senator Bryan Townsend, leaving Governor Carney’s office shortly before the Senate convened.

There was a flurry of activity at Legislative Hall today.  Pro-lifers and some pro-choicers caused a long line to get in.  I guess nobody told them that arriving at 2pm does nothing because the House doesn’t vote on bills until after they go to Caucus.  Which they are still in since the House isn’t back in session yet.  I went for the SB69 vote and got back home a little while ago.  Many of the pro-lifers left.

I did have some chats down here.  I heard some rumblings about a few things.  One of them being a school district consolidation bill that is floating around.  I haven’t seen it yet.

I did have this conversation:

I just wanted to let you know your analysis is always right.  I read every article you put on your blog.

Yeah, but does HE read it? (pointing to Governor Carney’s office)

He doesn’t read your stuff.  He doesn’t have time for that.  But I know his education policy advisor does.

That is always a comforting thought.  The most powerful political guy in the state doesn’t read my stuff.  How assuring!  I know Jack did.  Jack read everything that had his name on it, good or bad.  This led to a conversation about the time I sang for Jack Markell.  When asked if I was going to make a song for John Carney, I answered my singing days are over.  But you never know…

State Rep. Earl Jaques’ new tax ’em without a referendum bill was officially introduced today.  House Bill 213 was assigned to the House Education Committee.

I heard some people having extreme agita about Senate Bill 50, Senator Harris McDowell’s love fest for Del-Tech.  Which would mimic how vocational school districts are funded for minor and major capital projects.  It would also give Del-Tech’s board the, you guessed it, ability to raise property taxes without a referendum for these projects.  Yes folks, they want us taxpayers to now fund community colleges and their pet projects as well!

State Rep. John Kowalko introduced House Bill #209 which would prevent the abuse of epilogue language in the state budget.  Kowalko’s bill would prevent the “waivers” that occur every single year which go against Delaware state code.  Think of the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund as just one example of this abuse.

I can’t imagine what State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman was thinking when he introduced House Bill #194 which would eliminate the senior tax credit for anyone born after 1967.  I can’t imagine too many Republicans would be on board with this, but they are all Republican sponsors on the bill.  That tax credit was something I was looking forward to.  Thanks for that Jeff!  It still has to pass.  Can’t imagine that happening with all this talk about budget deficits and “shared sacrifice”… insert sarcasm here…

I saw some faces from yesteryear as well.  Always good to chat with people I didn’t think I would see again.  I see on social media that some people I know were there today and I didn’t even see them.  Maybe next time.

That’s it for now folks.  In the coming days I’m going to have to list ALL the Delaware education legislation floating around.  I used to keep track of this stuff daily but it is a lot of work.

Townsend’s Death of Public Education Bill Gets A Senate Vote Today…Say What?

I should have been paying closer attention.  Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend introduced a bill on May 5th.  It cleared the Elections and Government Affairs Committee on May 17th.  Now it is up for a Senate vote today.  Let me be very clear: for all intents and purposes, this legislation will eventually destroy public education. Continue reading “Townsend’s Death of Public Education Bill Gets A Senate Vote Today…Say What?”

Picture Of The Week: What Seems Out Of Place?

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For the full story behind this picture, please click here. Thank you to State Rep Earl Jaques for getting this picture up!

Governor Markell Signs Teacher Evaluation Bill With No Press Release Or Media Mention

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Yesterday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 399, a teacher evaluation bill that began its journey with great intentions and wound up a victim to horrible amendments put on the bill by Senator David Sokola.  There was no announcement of the bill signing to the press.  It was not on the Governor’s public schedule  There has been no press announcement or even a mention of this bill signing anywhere on the internet.  Until now.

In attendance were Governor Markell, State Rep. Earl Jaques (the primary sponsor of the bill), Senator Bryan Townsend, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, DSEA President Frederika Jenner, one of the co-chairs of the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, Jackie Kook (Christina), Jill League (Red Clay teacher, on the DPAS-II Advisory Committee), Markell Education Policy Advisor Meghan Wallace, and Delaware parent Kevin Ohlandt.

Markell invitied the parties into his conference room and engaged in a conversation about the bill.  As he looked around and commented how it was an interesting group in attendance, Markell thanked Jaques for all his hard work on the bill.  Markell and Jaques talked about how they had many conversations about this bill.  He then went around the table and asked for folks thoughts on the bill.  Many were supportive of the bill.  One person, the parent, said he felt it was a great bill until Senator Sokola put his amendment on it.

Secretary Godowsky said two charter schools were picked for the pilot program coming out of the bill, which would allow for a teacher and an administrator to choose which test to use for Part A of Component V (with the administrator having final say), all components would be equally weighted, and student and parent surveys.  Sokola’s amendment added the administrator always having final say, the student and teacher surveys, and the pilot of three schools.  The two charter schools invited by the Delaware DOE were Providence Creek Academy and Odyssey Charter School.  Oddly enough, Providence Creek announced in a board meeting on June 21st, eight days before the Senate Education Committee and nine days before Sokola put his amendment on the bill on June 30th, that they were picked for a DPAS study by the Delaware DOE.  Governor Markell expressed an interest in having districts participate in the pilot program.  Secretary Godowsky said he thought Appoquinimink was on board but they opted out.  Markell stated he may want to see Christina or Red Clay participate.  Jenner said she would put out some feelers.

Markell was very cordial with the audience.  He asked the teachers how their school year was going and how the schools they worked at were.  He reflected on a program at Kirk Middle School from many years ago called “I Am Kirk” which was an anti-bullying program.

The time came for the bill signing, and everyone in attendance stood besides Markell as many pictures were taken by Markell staffers, James Dawson with Delaware Public Media, and even State Rep. Earl Jaques wanted a picture of the event.  When Markell was signing the bill, the parent noticed he wrote each letter with a different pen until he reached the second letter of his last name which he finished signing with the same pen.  Afterwards, he gave each participant one of the pens he signed the bill with, as seen in the above picture.  He shook hands with everyone as the crowd drifted off, with the exception of Senator Townsend who stayed.

Yes, my first bill signing.  I was very happy for the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee when this legislation was first announced.  It was finally an end to the very harmful effect of standardized testing on teacher evaluations.  It opened a door for more medicine on the corporate education reform wounds inflicted on Delaware education.  But one ex-DOE employee (who worked in the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit there) was able to influence one advocacy group from Wilmington to intervene.  Then throw in Senator Sokola into the mix, and the amendment hijacked a great bill.  I firmly believe having student and parent surveys as a part of a teacher’s evaluation is very dangerous.  I am not sure why the DOE contacted schools to participate in this pilot program before Sokola even introduced the amendment (much less having the Senate approve the amendment).  That isn’t the first time they have done something like that, way before something else had to be done first.

I do think it is good the pilot program could morph into a permanent thing.  With Component V not always needing the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and giving the actual professionals: the teacher and the administrator the ability to collaborate and talk about a teacher’s choice is a good idea.  As well as the equal weighting of each component.  The DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee worked very hard for many months and they deserve major kudos for that.  The disrespect for teachers that stand up for their rights is alarming.  It is very disturbing that the Governor would not honor this bill the same as other bills he signs by making a pre-announcement of his signing and inviting any teacher who wanted to attend.  But to make it worse, by not even acknowledging he signed this bill shows something I don’t want to say right now but the words are in my head.  The disrespect for teachers that stand up for their rights is alarming.

As I eagerly awaited a picture or some type of announcement of the signing, from the Governor, Delaware Public Media, DSEA, Senator Townsend, or Rep. Jaques, with nary a paragraph or photo in sight, I was stuck with a Bic pen signed by Jack Markell.

Did A Delaware Principal Break Delaware Election Laws?

Did a principal of a Wilmington, Delaware elementary school participate in electioneering?

The below picture just showed up in my email inbox.  The alleged letter is from the Principal of Stubbs Elementary School in the Christina School District.  The picture would suggest Stubbs E.S. Principal Jeffers Brown fully endorses Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend for Congress.  What’s the big deal?  He is acting as an employee of the Christina School District.  The title states “From the desk of Principal Jeffers Brown”.  Not Jeffers Brown, taxpaying citizen, but Principal Jeffers Brown.  I do not know how or if the below letter was sent out to the public.  I don’t know who received the letter.  I don’t know if it was placed in students’ backpacks to be sent home to parents.  I don’t know if it was mailed.  What I do know, if Principal Jeffers Brown did allegedly commit possible electioneering, that is explicitly against Christina School District Board of Education policy and Delaware election laws.

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This matter has been brought to the attention of the Christina School District but no response has been released yet.  I would have to wonder, personally, how this letter came about in the first place.  The letter does not state it was paid for by “Friends of Bryan Townsend for Congress” or anything like that and I would hope the Townsend camp would know that is a possible violation of Delaware law and possibly Federal law as well because this is a federal office.  Is this something Principal Jeffers Brown did on his own or was he asked to do it?  Was he the only employee of the district who put pen to paper with his signature as a school employee?  Is there similar campaign literature coming out of the Townsend camp with similar wording?  If so, please send to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and all will be kept anonymous.  While writing this article, I was informed there is an envelope with a P.O. Box on it but I have yet to receive a copy of such an envelope if it exists.

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This article will most assuredly continue to receive updates as developments become more clear. If Principal Jeffers Brown wishes to contact me as well, I would be more than happy to hear his side of the story behind this letter.  While I do not personally endorse Senator Townsend for Congress for reasons I have written about on this blog, I would be putting this article up no matter which candidate may have benefitted from a potential electioneering process as could be in the above letter.

Updated, 4:44pm: I received a copy of the envelope this was sent from.  In the below picture it states “From the desk of Jeffers Brown” with an address of PO Box 1729.  I did a quick search and found out where this address comes from:

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But this… this is not good at all…

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Governor Markell To Sign Autism Legislation On 9/14

Autism advocates fought for this bill.  Now, after a long summer, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will finally sign Senate Bill 93 at Autism Delaware, 924 Old Harmony Rd., Ste. 201 on Wednesday at 9am.

An act to amend Title 16 of the Delaware Code related to creating an interagency committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism

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Senate Bill 93 was one of two Autism bills sponsored by Delaware Senator Margaret Rose-Henry which were introduced on May 12th, 2015.  After more than a year, Senate Bill 92 died as the 148th General Assembly ended on July 1st.  But Senate Bill 93, with its amendments, finally passed in the House in the late hours of June 30th after amendments passed.  Senate Bill 93 will give hope for better coordination of Autism services for the many parents of children and adults with Autism in the First State.

The history behind this legislation goes back a few years.  In 2013, Autism Delaware, with the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies and the Delaware Department of Education, released The Blueprint for Collective Action.  In the last days of the 147th General Assembly, an Autism Task Force was created.  Led by Senator Rose-Henry, the Autism Task Force created what eventually became the original bills, Senate Bill 92 and 93.  Senate Bill 93 was co-sponsored by Senators Catherine Cloutier and Bryan Townsend and State Representative Earl Jaques.

Delaware Autism has been the leading organization in Delaware for decades to help those with Autism.  To see a copy of their most recent newsletter, click here.

To see exactly what this bill will do for people with Autism, please see the below engrossment of the legislation which is exactly how it will be signed by Governor Markell.

Christina Legislative Briefing Clearly Shows Delaware DOE’s Incompetence With District-Charter Funding Fight

The Christina School District held a Legislative Briefing for Delaware legislators this morning.  The subject: the ongoing district-charter local cost per pupil.  Answers were given in a very effective way by Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber.  Legislators in attendance were State Reps. John Kowalko, Earl Jaques, Ed Osienski, Mike Ramone, Kim Williams and Senator Bryan Townsend.  Most of the Christina Board of Education also attended as well as Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski.  Some charter advocates, such as Henry Clampitt who now serves on the Gateway Lab School Board of Directors also attended.

Silber gave specifics on what he believes the Delaware Department of Education is attempting to take out of Christina’s exclusion list from their local funding.  He also gave enlightening information on how the DOE specifically asked district Superintendents not to inform their local boards of the changes until a certain time.  As well, the meeting held at the DOE last week with district Superintendents was for them only.  No business managers were allowed to attend this meeting about education funding.  Which is ironic given that the business managers would have the most insight into these issues.  To me, it shows an unwillingness on the DOE’s part to make this a transparent and collaborative process.

Silber also presented a timeline of events from Christina’s perspective which almost mirrors my own that I posted last week.  Silber did mention that their legal counsel sent a letter to the Delaware DOE on August 26th.  The current status is that charter bills were pulled by Secretary Godowsky.  Silber did say some districts in Southern Delaware paid their charter bills but Christina will not until the funding amounts are correct.

I walked away from this meeting more convinced than ever that this began with Newark Charter School and once the DOE got involved, they took over and went crazy with it with absolutely no justification or ability to succinctly present anything associated with this mess that is in any way legal.  I will have more to say on this later when I transcribe the question and answer question with members of the audience, but in the meantime, feast on the presentation given by Silber.  He hit a grand slam on this and evaporated the DOE’s position on this, in my opinion.

What is always fascinating with meetings like this is who is watching who when certain things are said or questions are asked.

Exclusive: A Delaware Legislator Is Not The Hero For Public Education They Appear To Be

I’ve been wrestling with something for a long time now.  I found out something.  Something big.  Usually my first instinct is to get it out there.  But this was BIG, and if I was wrong about it, it could have shot me in the foot.  It concerns a legislator and an election.  But more than that, it concerned friends.  Friends who are very supportive of this particular legislator.  I’ve had wrestling matches in my head before about these kind of things, but usually the need for truth prevails.  This time though, it was different.  Continue reading “Exclusive: A Delaware Legislator Is Not The Hero For Public Education They Appear To Be”

Lisa Blunt-Rochester: “To Be Able To Have The Luxury To Opt Out Is A Luxury”

At the Delaware Congressional education debate last evening, a question concerning state testing led to some very offensive comments from candidate Lisa Blunt-Rochester.  Senator Bryan Townsend was asked a question by a member of the audience concerning his fights with state testing at Legislative Hall and his endorsement by DSEA (the Delaware teachers union).  The question was confusing but it alleged that since civil rights groups stand by testing as an accurate way to measure the progress of African-American students, and he fought against the state testing, how would he respond to that? The question was read by one of the moderators, Nichole Dobo.  Townsend defended his stance on testing because the testing was being used for purposes it was not meant for.

By the time candidate Lisa Blunt-Rochester answered, the subject of opt out had already come up by candidate Scott Walker.  He indicated he does not support opt out, especially for students with disabilities and feels it is illegal.  I’m assuming Walker didn’t see the very atrocious scores students with disabilities had on the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  But I digress.  By the time the question came back to Rochester, this was her response, as I understood it, while I typed it as I was live blogging:

The original question was about civil rights.  She understands why some folks would opt out, but as a person coming from the Civil Rights movement, to not measure anything is a problem.  Opting out isn’t the issue.  We need to measure to know where we are discriminating.  We need to put our money where our mouth is.

This is what she actually said, thanks to videos shown on the DelaCore Leaders Facebook page:

So the original question was about civil rights organizations and their positions on state testing and the concern that you can’t have it, kind of, both ways.  I understand why some folks would want to opt out, but for myself, as a parent, also as a person who comes from a Civil Rights background, you have to measure growth.  Maybe that’s part of what the challenges folks were concerned about, what we were measuring.  To not measure anything is a problem, to be able to have the luxury to opt out is a luxury.  If we need to fix the test, let’s fix the testing.  But we do have to hold ourselves accountable.  In all the conversation about discrimination, we need to be able to measure, so that we know we are being discriminated against.  So, I think, you put your money where your mouth is.

This statement could be taken a lot of ways.  I see it as the same argument as other folks defending the civil rights groups statements as “it doesn’t matter how bad the test is, we still need that measurement.”  I’m sorry, but I can’t, won’t, and never will buy that logic.  First off, there is a cultural bias with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It wasn’t written for African-Americans, English Language learners, or students with disabilities.  It was written for white kids.  We see this with every single score release of standardized tests.  This isn’t new.  It has been going on for decades.

If Blunt-Rochester feels opting out is a “luxury”, an option that is truly open and is not illegal under any circumstances in Delaware, then by her logic we can all enjoy that luxury.  Parents don’t opt out because it is a luxury.  They opt their kids out of the state assessment, which in Delaware’s case is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They don’t opt out of MAPS, or SRI, or SMI, or final exams.  They opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The test is long.  Parents and teachers don’t get the scores back on time.  Students aren’t even given the exact same test.  It is a test for accountability for schools.  This was said by Jon Cohen, who runs the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which just so happens to be the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment:

When you use a test for accountability, you’re not really using it to measure the kid.  You’re using it to measure the school, or the teacher, or the district.  And you want that school or teacher or district to have an incentive to teach the full range of curriculum.

This statement was taken from a video that used to appear in an article about AIR on this very blog, but AIR changed the settings on it so it could not be embedded outside of their reach.  It is my contention they don’t want people seeing this video.  When talking about the computer adaptability of the assessment, Cohen very frighteningly tells viewers students are not receiving the same test.  The questions aren’t the same for every student.  I wrote in greater detail about this a few weeks ago.  For all the talk about resources and funding we need for schools in Delaware, the one question many candidates aren’t asking is where is the existing funding going?  In Delaware, we have given AIR well over $40 million dollars over a five year period.  That is $8 million a year.  For results that really haven’t changed much when looking at this measurement.  I don’t know about you, but I’m sure our schools would be more than happy to be able to use that money towards lower class-room sizes or more support for students who are at-risk.

While I respect your right to choose whether or not your child takes the Smarter Balanced Assessment, what I don’t respect is you’re telling me that my choice is a luxury.  I actually found this extremely offensive.  I have a child with disabilities.  For these students, who score much lower than African-Americans, it frequently takes them two to three times longer to take this test with accommodations than their peers.  And yes, non-disabled African-Americans are their peers.  They are easily frustrated being forced to take a test for this long.  Because at the same time, their neurological disabilities are manifesting.  Whether it is high-functioning Autism, or Tourette Syndrome, or ADHD, or OCD, or in some cases (as it is with my child) a combination of co-morbidities.

I would like anyone reading this to try something.  Grab a piece of paper and start writing the Pledge of Allegiance.  While you are writing with your hand of choice, take your other hand and start swinging it out.  Keep writing.  At the same time you are doing both of these, start making humming noises.  Do all three at once.  How far did you get on the Pledge of Allegiance?  Now put that in a scenario where you are taking the state assessment on a computer.

Now, imagine you are a low-income African-American student with disabilities taking this test.

I’m sorry Lisa Blunt-Rochester, but you don’t get the luxury of telling me it is a luxury for me to opt my son out.  I respect your choice, but if you want to talk about discrimination, we can do that.  I can talk about how my son was denied an IEP at a charter school in Delaware because of a poorly-trained special education staff who were not even aware of the classification for disabilities of “other-health impaired” until my wife told them.  I can talk about how they treated his disability as behavior issues and wanted to punish him when they wouldn’t give him the accommodations he deserved under federal law.  And when things got so bad there, over a dropped cookie in the lunchroom, he ran to a confined space because he was so scared of their behavior interventionist who told him he would be suspended if he didn’t pick it up.  When they found him, he wanted to get out of that confined space.  And as my son sat there screaming to be let out of that confined space for half an hour, while I was in the school substituting that day and they never bothered to come get me knowing I was there, I found my son in a state I had never seen him in before.  I also found the behavior interventionist sitting in the hallway eating a sandwich and the head of school sitting there as well.  His face was the only face my son could see as they ignored his cries for help.  As I managed to coax my son out, who was crying, embarrassed, and afraid, the head of school and I took him to a conference room.  He explained I should take him home and talk about this the following Monday.  My son, who was in a very distraught state, said to the Head of School, “I’m going to get revenge on you.”  He didn’t specify what kind of revenge or anything he would do.  He just blurted it out.  The Head of School yelled, “That is duly noted”.

As I drove home with my son, my wife called the school.  She was unaware of what had just gone down.  She spoke with the Head of School.  When my wife asked him what he knew about Tourette Syndrome, he started making a tapping noise and said “I know there is a meeting on Concord Pike next week about it.”  He wound up yelling at my wife and hanging up on her.  When we brought my son back into school the next Monday, we were told my son was suspended for three days and when he came back he had to meet with a police officer to discuss “terroristic threats”.  That was the last time my son was in that school.  He was nine years old.

We pulled him out and took him to the local school district.  He got an IEP… after five long months.  It was the end of the school year.  The way my district is set up, he went to 5th grade in a middle school.  We were told by the new IEP team that his IEP was too complicated and we should rework it.  Over the next four months, my son was physically assaulted nine times.  The last of which gave him a severe concussion two days before Christmas.  That was the last time my son was in that school.  He was on homebound instruction for the rest of the year, along with months of physical therapy, headaches, and a very real fear that if he stepped out of the house he would get beat up.  He was ten years old.

We tried a local private school who would only take him on a probationary status because of his disabilities.  He received hours upon hours of homework each day which he had not received in the other two schools.  It was too much for him, so we pulled him out.  He was eleven years old.

We found a good school for him now, far away from Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He is receiving the best instruction he ever has.  He is twelve years old.

So we can sit here and talk about equity and discrimination.  But I can tell you I have lived it through my son.  So I’m sorry you see it as a luxury that I opted him out at the school where he got his concussion.  The ironic truth is that even though I opted him out, he didn’t have to take the test because he was released from the obligation by the school due to his medical issues, received at the school.  While all this was going on that year, I spent a considerable amount of time at Legislative Hall fighting for the rights of other parents to opt their child out.  In all the conversations about opt out, I never heard it referred to as a luxury.  Until last night.

The odds of your child having greater success at life are greater than mine.  This is a fact for persons with disabilities.  So if I make a choice to opt my son out of a test, that has nothing to do with your child, or someone else’s child.  It has nothing to do with civil rights.  I chose not to have my son be used as a guinea pig for results that have stated the same measurements you so vigorously defended last night.  A person can defend civil rights and be against state assessments.  They can have it both ways.  Many civil rights groups do this already, without financial backing from the Gates Foundation.  I am a staunch supporter of civil rights.  But I refuse to let my child be a part of your measuring stick for a test that is horrible to begin with so we can endlessly compare where your child is against mine.  You are a pawn to a money-making scheme that has been going on far longer than you realize.  All our children are being used.  It has nothing to do with proficiency.  The tests are rigged so there will always be winners and losers.  I don’t need my son to take a test to know he has been a victim of disability discrimination.  He didn’t even have to log onto a computer for me to realize that.

I have a very strong suspicion why Senator Townsend was asked such a specific question about state testing, civil rights, and DSEA.  It was meant to trip him up.  It was very carefully worded.  There was only one person in that audience who would have asked him a question like that.  You may or may not know who it is.  I doubt he would ever own up to it.  But he now knows I know.  I’ve seen his manipulation at play before.  But it backfired and most likely forced you to address something that may end up hurting your campaign.

As a candidate for Congress, you need to be aware of how you can be used and how other people’s agendas can backfire on you.  There were hundreds of people in that audience last night.  How is that was the only question asked by a member of the audience at an education debate?  I invite you to think about that.  But in the meantime, let’s stop talking about measurements.  When I cast my vote in the primary, I will be choosing a candidate who looks at all sides of the issues, for all Delawareans, and what is best for us as a state.  I support civil rights and equity.  But I don’t think constantly measuring students so we can hold schools, teachers, and districts accountable is moving forward.  As long as some support this mistaken belief about measuring students against each other while ignoring the individual student and their individual needs, we will continue to have this conversation while testing companies and hedge fund managers make tons of money that isn’t going into our schools.  I am unable to support you as a candidate based on what I heard tonight.  And yes, one word left a very big impression on me.  I respect your choice to put your money where your mouth is.  Please respect my choice to put my voting finger where my beliefs are.  Because the only gap I saw tonight was how far away you and a couple of other candidates are to the reality of what is truly happening with Delaware education.

Federal representatives voted for the No Child Left Behind Act.  Federal representatives stood back while Race To The Top bribed and coerced our states into accepting dubious state standards, tied to a state assessment, and put our highest needs schools into a deplorable cycle of test, label, punish and shame.  Federal representatives (from Delaware) voted no for a clause that would have honored a parent’s right to opt their children out of the state assessment.  Federal representatives (from Delaware) voted yes for the Every Student Succeeds Act which reversed the other two but essentially kept the very worst from what came before but promises vast amounts of money for other things.  We have once again, been duped.  Many of you won’t know it until it is too late.  So yes, opt out is just as much a federal issue as it is a state issue.  But one thing will not change: my unwavering belief that all parents have the constitutional, God-given, and fundamental right to decide what is best for their child.  Education is only one part of what an elected U.S. representative faces.  But education, which is the foundation for our children, is also the foundation for our democracy.  It is our way of instilling hope for the future.  It isn’t a measurement, or accountability.  It is about what is best for each child based on their own unique and beautiful mind.  When we constantly compare, there are always going to be winners and losers.  This creates an environment of discrimination.  I don’t care what any candidate looks like, the color of their skin, or their gender.  I don’t care where they come from.  I care about what they are going to do.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people say, even before it came out, that we need to fix the test.  And yet, Smarter Balanced is still here.  With no indication of it disappearing anytime soon.  Our United States Secretary of Education just okayed illegal flexibility waivers for Delaware under the condition we use the Smarter Balanced Assessment until June 30th, 2019.  We can talk about the importance of “growth”, but for students with disabilities, their “growth” requires two to three times more “growth” than their peers according to the Delaware Department of Education.  But yeah, let’s keep using a flawed test to measure students.  But you don’t have to be an elected federal Congresswoman to speak up against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and “fix the testing”.  Please put your money where your mouth is.

Live From The Delaware Congressional Education Debate Forum At The Christina Cultural Arts Center

The Congressional Education Debate in Wilmington is about to start.  Candidates Sean Barney, Lisa Blunt-Rochester, Scott Gesty, Mike Miller, Bryan Townsend, and Scott Walker are the candidates.  The debate moderators are Nathan Durant from Thomas Edison Charter School and Nichole Dobo with the Hechinger Report, formerly with the News Journal.

Dobo is giving the rules.  Candidates will have one minute to respond and thirty seconds for rebuttal.  Each candidate gets a 3 minute introduction.  Up first is Scott Walker.  He graduated from Brandywine High School in the largest graduating class in Delaware history.  He got an MBA from University of Delaware.  He helps to prosecute discrimination lawsuits. He is not a lawyer.  He said the skills he obtained at University of Delaware allowed him to become an entrepreneur.  He wants all students to have equal funding.  He wants to deregulate the teaching profession.  He ran out of time.

Sean Barney is up.  He is thanking all the sponsors.  He lives in Wilmington with his family.  They just got a puppy.  His daughter goes to First State Montessori Charter School.  He has been working in education policy for over ten years.  He said he worked with Governor Markell’s office on education policy.  He said segregation is an affront to our educational values.  “Nothing is more important than the education of our children.”

Delaware State Senator Bryan Townsend is up.  He thinks education is the most important topic we need to talk about.  He is running for Congress because our federal government and the congressional seat are important to education.  It is why he ran for State Senator, largely because of education issues.  Many in his family are Delaware educators.  He learned about a large emphasis on test scores and inadequate funding while children went hungry.  He has been a part of the conversations about test scores, data, and educator engagement.  He mentioned how DSEA endorsed him because of his efforts in the General Assembly.  He said it would be an honor to represent Delaware in Washington D.C.

Scott Gesty is up.  He is the Libertarian candidate. (All other candidates are Democrat).  He graduated high school in 1988 (so did I!).  He works for a global financial servicing firm.  He will be an adjunct professor at Goldey-Beacom in the fall.  He is running to get us out of the two party system.  He said the first thing he would do, if elected, is introduce term limits for Senators.

Now we have Mike Miller.  He is asking for his support if they like what he says today.  He hails from Lewes.  He said he is a family man, a successful business man, and a community man.  He is a five generation Delaware native who graduated from Cape Henlopen.  He is a tax accountant and owns a landscaping company.  “People are hurting, and we need to do better.  We’ve been kicking education down the road…”.  He said it is time to stop kicking the can in many areas.  He said we need a livable wage of at least $11/hr.  We need to fix the port, which we keep saying we will do, but the funds that went to corporate greed could have gone to education.

Lisa Blunt-Rochester is the final candidate to give an introduction.  It is big for her to say she is running for Congress.  She said education is why she is running.  There are important roles for the federal government with education.  She wants to take what we’ve learned in Delaware to D.C. and help Delaware to get the funds they need.  She grew up during the era of de-segregation in Delaware.  Her children graduated from Delaware public schools but had issues with college affordability and student loans.  She worked for the Metropolitan Urban League and worked with neighborhoods and talked with the Wilmington communities to work with students and families.  She knows the importance of a well-trained work force and a thriving economy.  She said we need education and everyone needs to get an opportunity.

The first question is for Sean Barney: With the Every Student Succeeds Act, what change do you think this will bring to Delaware?

Barney: This will be great change for Delaware.  He said we have great players unlike other states.  We have great leaders who organized this debate.  He thinks this is an opportunity for the state.  He said this is a devolution to the states with guard rails.  But he said it isn’t anything goes.

Rochester: We always have to be careful with block grants and grants to the state.  It is important that we recognize this flexibility comes with responsibility and this must come with accountability.   We have to engage stakeholders, especially parent involvement and that we are holding ourselves accountable.

Gesty: It is a step in the right direction.  He doesn’t like the idea of mandatory testing or jumping through hoops to get federal funding.  He doesn’t think the U.S. Dept. of Education should exist.  He believes in firm local control.

Miller: He believes the secondary education act gives more accountability.  He said it makes sure are schools aren’t cookie-cutters, it challenges the students, and puts money where it needs to be.  It puts the money where it needs to go with flexibility.

Townsend: Delaware wasn’t able to use the previous law correctly.  We have a diverse set of schools but we don’t fund our schools with enough flexibility.  He wants to see how Delaware uses that flexibility.  We have a uniquely-structured education assessment.

Walker: Is not in favor of this act.  We have too much discrimination and segregation.  We need the strong stroke of the federal government to take over these schools and give equal opportunity.  Federalism has to be enacted and come in like the 1960s and clean it up.

Wow!

Dobo is giving a quotes about low-income students and minority students graduating at lower rates and with less results than their peers.  How do we ensure equitable distribution?

Rochester: ESSA presents opportunities.  WEIC gave us strong opportunities.  There are real opportunities to bring people together to demand change.

Gesty: If he were a Congressman, he would have trust in our local educators to make sure discrimination doesn’t exist.  He said the feds track record isn’t great.  We are $20 trillion in debt.  He doesn’t have confidence in federal government, but he does in the state and local.

Miller: The Governor has to make changes in the 19 school dsitricts.  We need more resources in our schools and for our staff.  He believes we need to distribute the money equitably and we need more minorities sitting at the table.

Townsend: Delaware was battling testing and inequity and higher poverty in regards to state test scores.  There is a unique split in Delaware.  We know which schools are struggling.  The role of this position would give more resources for college.

Walker: We have a serious, serious problem in Delaware with education.  He is a father of four kids and had problems getting his last one through school.  We have to be honest with ourselves: more money is not going to fix education.  We had politicians hijack the education system and we need to return education to the schools and teachers.

Barney: At the federal level it is essential to provide transparency for how our students are doing.  And how they can succeed in the work world.  We need more actors to recognize where children aren’t being served the way they should be.

Next question: How are you going to make early education better?

Gesty: He doesn’t think dumping money into early education and universalize something, quality goes down and prices go up.  He said that is how market forces work.  He thinks the people should get block grants for this type of thing.

Miller: Believes in preschool and thinks it should be taxpayer funded.  He is giving statistics that it is a proven scientific fact that the more Pre K they get the better their outcomes.

Nate reworded the question.

Townsend: “Our children aren’t affected by market forces.”  It comes down to funding.  By supporting them at a younger age, they will have more opportunity.  We need qualified educators and change the way we look at early education, especially for the most vulnerable children.

Walker: We need to deregulate the early education industry.  He is a big advocate for the rights of the disabled.  We won’t have the funding for these things until we tax, not the 1%, but the 4%.  We need to develop our tax base.

Barney: If we ever hope to have equity, we need to address this.  He knows the science having worked in D.C.  The Governor’s focus on quality is important.  We need to make the investments in training for early educators to get the most of our time and do the best by our children.

Rochester: When you go to other countries, this isn’t even a debate.  She supports this.  It is a federal and state issue.  We need to make sure the wages are sufficient so people aren’t living in poverty while raising their children.  As Secretary of Labor, she understands all this.

Miller gave a rebuttal indicating he does support funding for early education.

Next question from Dobo: What do you think the federal role of school resource officers should be?  She is defining SROs as uniformed police officers who don’t have to go to a principal to arrest someone.

Miller: He doesn’t believe in security officers like that.  He thinks there is nothing wrong with security in our schools.  The principals and the administrators are still in charge.  He is talking about cruisers that are in impound.  We need to put those police patrols at the schools.  He thinks that would detract from those issues at our school because we respect the law.

Townsend: We have seen African-Americans suspended at higher rates than their peers.  We need culture accountability, but the key thing is to use grant money and flexibility from ESSA to have more community schools.  This is a key from ESSA and would be a driver that would get to the root of the issue instead of having law enforcement in our schools.

Walker: Having law enforcement in our schools is a horrible idea.  We need community program.  The child in Howard High School would be alive today if we had these programs.  SRO’s are an environment of fear and students can’t learn with fear.  Is against it, period.

Barney: The federal government should not be encouraging this.  There should be training for these officers and should be sensitive to suspensions and the criminal justice system create a path to prison.  We need needs-based funding for resources and health issues.

Rochester: We need to have more social workers and mental health providers in our schools.  Too many of our kids are coming to school traumatized and hungry.  We need to be looking outside of the school and inside the school.  We need to stand up to the NRA.  We need to have more pay for teachers to deal with these traumas.

Gesty: I don’t think the NRA has funded guns into our schools.  We need to empower teachers to get firearm training to take care of things until law enforcement gets there.  He agrees with Mr. Walker on these issues.

Rochester asked if the teachers should have guns and not the officers?  Gesty answered that the massacres in our schools, if they know they have resistance, it won’t happen.  Miller feels our schools are safe.  We need more minorities and educators who are black so children can have someone they can relate to.  Townsend empathized that he doesn’t feel schools would be safer by having more guns in our schools.  He doesn’t think these issues should be going on in our schools.  Gesty asked Townsend if he doesn’t think voluntary training could be given?  Townsend asked all educators in the room to clap if they don’t think more guns should be in their school.  Many clapped.

Nate asked what are some examples of excellence in education in Delaware?

Townsend: There are great after-school programs but we need to find a way to replicate the success to spread it across all Delaware schools.

Walker: We have great teachers.  They are under paid and over worked.  We need to pay them for what they are doing.  We have the greatest teachers in Delaware.  We need to fix the economy first.

Barney: Pilot grants are great and we need those for district-charter collaboration.  He said he stayed back in 9th grade.  He said he sends his kids to First State Montessori because they provide that edge to get students to learn.

Rochester: She said there are great things happening in our schools.  She would advocate for World-Language Immersion where students are learning Chinese and Spanish.  We need good global citizens.  We need more focus on STEM like schools in Sussex County.  She loves the STEAM program (an arts program).

Gesty: He doesn’t think the federal government should be involved.  His daughter is in public education and her teachers are incredible and go the extra mile.  Teachers give extra help to get them where they need to be.  Delaware schools are a role model for the rest of the country.

Miller: He doesn’t think the feds should provide more money for education.  No child is going to learn the same.  The monies coming in, some of them should be put aside for afterschool programs.  There is no cookie-cutter program.  That is what he would like to see.

Dobo is asking audience questions.

Is there a crisis with college affordability?

Walker: There is no such thing as free college.  Our taxes will go up.  Our economy is flat-lining.  We need something to get the private sector on their feet.   We have to have the money to do this first.  The money comes from the private sector: business, free enterprise, the American Way.  It is the only way we will get our schools through.

Barney: He was on Senator Carper’s board for service academies.  He wants more students serving AmeriCorps or Peace Corps.  He thinks students should give service and in exchange get funding for college.

Rochester: There are 40 million people in debt from student loans.  That is a crisis.  Many people have done the right thing.  They went to school but they are now in debt.  She thinks the ability to refinance those loans is important.  We need to bring back Pell grants.  That is an opportunity at the federal level.  There are great programs like TeenSharp.  These programs prepare kids for college and help them to apply for funds.  She believes in “cradle to career”.

Gesty: He doesn’t think college should be free.  We are $1.3 trillion in student debt.  This isn’t a free ride program, we need a getting our economy right program.

Miller: He thinks college should be more affordable but it shouldn’t be free.  He said the living at college expenses are what is really rising.  He is saying we need to look at how we train carpenters and mechanics: do we not pay for their training?

Townsend: If we value education we need to make sure we have educational opportunities available.  People take on debt and drop out of college which is even worse.  President Obama’s Community College Plan is what most people are talking about, not a free four-year degree.  We need interest rate reduction.  Government shouldn’t profit off students futures.

Miller added that we have the SEED program and the INSPIRE program.  He doesn’t understand the change in grades between University of Delaware where you need a 2.5 but with Del State you need a 2.75.  He said that is an African-American school.

Nate asked about charter school enrollment preferences and segregation:

Barney: This is an issue in Delaware.  We have too many schools being private in their admissions and have factors in their admissions they shouldn’t be allowed to have.  We need to create opportunity for more schools but schools should be equitable in their admission practices.

Rochester: The original charter law was supposed to be based on replicating success but we got away from that.  She said we have questions of equity and excellence.  Funds are being taken from local schools.  As a state we need to take a look at how we are addressing them.

Gesty: Charter schools are a state problem.  There is nothing we can do at a federal level.  But with discrimination, that is a federal issue and a violation of civil rights.  Feels this should stay at the state and local level.

Miller: When you look at this at a federal level, 80% of the money follows a student and goes from a district to a charter school if they choice out.  If there is segregation, the federal government should get involved.  Students with disabilities are released from school districts and the charters take them.  He said all the money doesn’t go to charter schools.

Townsend: A big bill he dealt with in 2013 was the charter school reauthorization bill.  We have funds through ESSA and we need to make sure we are rewarding all our schools and using funds equitably.  He talked about when Markell and Arne Duncan came to Hodgson and Townsend invited them to Stubbs to see the great work they are doing.  They declined because it wasn’t in the script.

Walker:  The charter experiment has failed.  Students with disabilities are left in public schools.  It is the role of a congressman to address these issues.

Barney: The federal government provides funding.  Federal dollars need to be used in a non-discriminatory manner.  If anything is a federal issue it is also a civil rights issue.

Rochester: She agreed with Barney

Dobo asked about state testing.  A question was directed to Senator Townsend.  The question is concerning how he fought testing and civil rights groups have defended these tests.  If DSEA has endorsed him, how does he respond to that?

Townsend: He said he ran based on civil rights issues.  He doesn’t feel the focus on test scores looked at what was going on the night before.  He addressed these issues to bring sanity to the conversation.

Walker: You have to have testing.  How do you know if a child is going to learn?  This isn’t the law of gravity or the speed of light.  Human behavior has to be tested.  We need to make the tests fair that measure.  He doesn’t think students with disabilities should be opted out of testing.  That will not help them.

Barney: We need to look at funds addressing testing.  Testing should be used for statistics on how our kids are doing.  We all know we aren’t where we need to be with the achievement gap.  We need to make sure we aren’t using testing to punish.

Rochester: The original question was about civil rights.  She understands why some folks would doubt, but as a person coming from the Civil Rights movement, to not measure anything is a problem.  Opting out isn’t the issue.  We need to measure to know where we are discriminating.  We need to put our money where our mouth is.

Gesty: He strongly opposes Smarter Balanced.  He opposes Common Core.  We passed a bill and Markell thumbed his nose at parents.  We need tests that will actually benefit students.

Miller: He applauds Markell for vetoing the bill but he did sign SJR #2 (assessment inventory bill).  We have too many tests.  He goes into the schools.  He doesn’t think there should just be one test because of the grade.

Townsend: What he felt was the debate last year was make sure you have the curriculum that is agreed to and make sure students have a meal that morning of the test.  Students didn’t have a stake in this.  It isn’t about accountability, it’s about how we do it.

Miller: If students aren’t doing well on those tests, there is something wrong.

Townsend: Mike, I’m not arguing against accountability.

Rochester: We are talking about some individuals having the opportunity to opt out.  Many poor children have a sense of urgency so it is important that testing, maybe not that test, but there has to be growth.

Townsend: This is why we sponsored bill for free breakfast for kids with Rep. Osienski.  We need broadband access in rural areas.  The civil rights groups vs. teachers represented a frustration.

Miller: We are teaching to take the test.  He wants to see good instruction throughout the school year.

Gesty: I believe a parent should have the right to opt out.  The federal government shouldn’t put down a heavy hand when it doesn’t really help his child get into college.

 

 

 

The Real Story About What Happened At The Christina Board Meeting Last Night…

Last night, Christina Board of Education member Elizabeth Paige was elected by her peers to be the next President of the board.  With a 4-3 vote, she took the post over from Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  What happened next was very surreal.  Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski was going through different contract amounts which the board had to take action on.  When one of them came up, I was absolutely shocked and horrified.  It wasn’t even on the agenda.  Their Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, disappeared shortly before this.  I think he knew what was coming.  Everyone was there: Acting Superintendent Robert “Bob A” Andrzejewski, Board members John Young, Fred Polaski, George Evans, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Shirley Saffer, Elizabeth Paige, and newly elected board member Meg Mason.  There were some people I knew in the audience as well.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to be writing about this, so I will show you…

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Will Jack Markell Run For Congress?

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This is the question that doesn’t seem to be on anybody’s mind, but it should be.  It also makes all those letters going out to Democrat Primary Candidates in Delaware much easier to understand.  Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend started the letter reveals today, and it was quickly revealed all the primary candidates got them.  Sounds like a Chair of the Democrat party going rogue, right?  Or maybe not.  Why would Bryon Short drop out of the race months ago?  He was endorsed by half the House Democrats and Governor Jack Markell last year.  Sure, Townsend may have been racking up the campaign contributions, but Short seemed to have the political edge for the race.  But he dropped out, all of a sudden to the shock of many.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is running for President.  To say she is the front-runner would be a bit of a misnomer.  But a strong rumor in Delaware was that Jack really wanted to be her Secretary of Education.  Like really, really bad.  But if there is a chance she might not win, what’s a Jack to do?  How about jumping into the race for John Carney’s seat in Congress?  It keeps him in politics, it is still a lofty position, and he doesn’t have to pull a Murphy and go work for one of those dime-a-dozen education companies.  We will know by July 12th if has any intentions.  But given the fact that a) Bryon Short dropped out, b) all the candidates got their “think about it and drop out if you can” letters, c) the one to the Congressional candidates specifically says the words “like Bryon Short”, and d) it would be Jack’s logical next move if he isn’t sure the Hillster can pull it off.

Daniello’s letter ticked off a lot of candidates.  Enough to cause self-doubt and angst?  Probably not.  But it does set up the chess board for Jack to enter, pissing off a lot of people in the Democrat party.  Especially folks like Townsend.  This wouldn’t be the first time Jack did something like this.  Those who remember, Carney was the favorite in 2008 for Governor, until Jack went against the party and entered the race.  But I hope the outcome is different should he choose to run.  I would love to see Jack in a primary… and lose!  I’m sure the DOE will have some openings by then!

Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend Gets Drop Out Of Race Letter… From His Own Party!!!!

Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, considered by the News Journal to be the front-runner for the Delaware United States Representative seat in Congress, received a disturbing letter from the Chair of the Delaware Democrat Party today.  Chair John Daniello urged Townsend to drop out of the race.  The day after Hillary Clinton was the spotlight of controversy concerning her emails.  Even though the FBI is not recommending charges against her, it put a huge spotlight on the situation and put Hillary in a bad light.  What does this have to do with the letter Townsend received today?  Probably nothing.  I would just look at the banner!

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And Townsend issued the following message to his followers on Facebook:

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DSEA Statement On House Bill 399

The Delaware State Education Association issued a very strong statement on the passage of House Bill 399.  The teacher evaluation bill which was completely gutted by Delaware Senator David Sokola with his amendment will affect teachers throughout the state if certain aspects of the pilot program become a permanent thing.  Obviously, there is a lot more they could have said about what happened, but this is a an official statement from the organization.  I am fairly certain there will be many discussions about what happened with this bill moving forward.  If I were DSEA, I would think very carefully about who they are endorsing in the 8th Senate District…

Update on House Bill 399:

HB 399 finally passed the Senate in the wee small hours of Friday morning. However, it’s passage came with two senate amendments attached to the bill which the House had already passed by a unanimous vote.

DSEA is deeply appreciative to its members, parents, and members of the community who supported our efforts to secure passage of the original bill passed in the House. The letters, emails, and phone calls which were made to legislators were very helpful in maintaining a firewall of support for the bill as it endured an onslaught of attacks from groups who sought to kill it. While the results of the bill were not “perfect”, politics rarely produces “perfect” results. We believe this is an important step forward, one which will help repair the damage done to DPAS in years past.

It must be noted that the final result was not a “compromise bill” in our eyes. We fought throughout day and night (literally) to maintain the original integrity of the bill, opposing Senate Amendment 1, but were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, we think the changes will help improve the quality of educator evaluations in Delaware going forward. Full text of the bill is available at: http://bit.ly/hb399-final.

The main victories which were maintained in the bill:

(1) Each component of DPAS will have equal weight in the overall score. This ends the past practice where Component V, which was built on the student score on the state standardized test, played a disproportionate level of influence on an educator’s evaluation.

(2) Codified the requirement of annual evaluations for all educators holding an initial license and all other educators to be evaluated every two academic years.

(3) Codified the allowance for the educator to select/determine a measure which they feel will demonstrate student improvement, in addition to measure(s) selected by their evaluator.

Senate Amendment 1 (http://bit.ly/hb399-sa1) to HB 399 was authored by Sen. David Sokola. DSEA opposed the amendment. Sen. Sokola’s amendment made the following changes to the bill:

(1) Clarifies that administrators maintain the “final say,” or discretion, to determine whether the State standardized assessment should be used as part of an educator’s evaluation.

(2) Clarifies that the proposed changes to the DPAS II evaluation system, as recommended by the DPAS II Advisory Committee, are intended to be piloted in three local education agencies to evaluate their effectiveness before any changes are permanently incorporated.

(3) Inputs comments received from stakeholders to include parent and student surveys in the pilot as well as include the alternate evaluation systems in the evaluation study.

Senate Amendment 2 (http://bit.ly/hb399-sa2) to HB 399 was authored by Sen. Bryan Townsend. Sen. Townsend’s amendment helped to codify the requirement that the educator be able to select/determine one measure of student improvement (see item #3 in “victories” listed above).

Let It Go! Christina Referendum Calls For Change From The Past

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Robert Andrzejewski, the Acting Superintendent for the Christina School District in Wilmington, led a battle cry last night to lift the district from their troubled past and send it to a bright future.

Hundreds of students, parents, educators, and citizens attended the Christina Referendum kick-off last night at Christiana High School.  The district wants to raise school taxes by 30 cents.  According to “Bob A”, the Acting Superintendent’s nick-name in New Castle County, the increase will result in an additional $16.2 million for the district allowing them to bring more quality resources to the district.  Bob A alluded to eventual magnet schools within the district.  In an apparent snafu, he said this would only cost taxpayers in the district an extra $300 a month or $15 a week.  Both are wrong, but we can put the blame on that towards Common Core which puts everyone’s math skills in serious jeopardy!

As Bob A talked about Christina escaping from his past, he brought up the movie “Frozen”.  He talked about “that song” and the main character, saying “What’s her name”?  Someone shouted “Elsa” which led Bob A to say “Yeah, Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go”.

Bob A railed on the current testing environment in Delaware during his speech, stating there is too much focus on testing and not enough on teaching to teach, which led to a round of applause from the audience.  Other highlights included a call for more vocational certificates to be issued from the district as more and more districts around the state incorporate co-op programs.

Senator Bryan Townsend attended the event, along with Braeden Mannering from 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags.  Board members Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Shirley Saffer, and John Young also attended.  There was a significant amount of energy which was missing in last year’s unfortunate two failed referendum attempts.  The referendum is on March 23rd.