New Faces In The Delaware House Education Committee

The Delaware 149th General Assembly goes back into session next Tuesday, January 10th.  The Delaware House of Representatives leadership picked the members for their committees.  Some surprising changes are going on with the House Education Committee. Continue reading “New Faces In The Delaware House Education Committee”

Will Delaware Republicans Try To Paint The Wall Red In 10th Senate District Special Election?

The upcoming special election for the 10th Senate District just got very interesting.  As we all know, Bethany Hall-Long will vacate her Senate seat when she is appointed Lieutenant Governor of Delaware.  In February or March, a special election will take place for her seat.  I put up some possible contenders for the seat in an article last Friday.  I assumed the Delaware GOP party would pick John Marino as the Republican frontrunner for Hall-Long’s seat.  But from what I’m hearing today, a new name is being given serious thought on the Republican side… Continue reading “Will Delaware Republicans Try To Paint The Wall Red In 10th Senate District Special Election?”

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.

The Next 55 Hours Will Determine WEIC, HB399, HB30, The Budget, The Bond Bill, & Possibly The Election Season

We are down to the homestretch on the 148th General Assembly.  It is the bottom of the ninth with two outs.  The next batter is up.  This will be Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s last sphere of influence with Delaware legislation as Governor of the First State.  For that, we should all have reason to celebrate.  As of July 1st, all eyes will turn towards elections in Delaware and the USA.  But there is a bit of unfinished business in Legislative Hall.  We will know by about 4am on Friday, July 1st what happened.

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting resolution is ready for a Senate vote.  The Executive Committee will clear it for a full vote.  But then, it gets very interesting.  I reported a few days ago that one Senate Democrat was a no and another was on the fence.  Now we can make that three Senate Dems as a no.  And the Senate Republicans which gives Senate Joint Resolution #12 a vote of 9 yes and 12 no.  But, I’m also hearing from the cracked walls of the basement of Legislative Hall that there might be new legislation kicking the can on this down the road into the 149th General Assembly.  Will Red Clay and Christina say “Enough” and get out of the whole thing?  Or will we have another year of “will they or won’t they” speculation?  In the chance SJR #12 does pass, the question then becomes “what happened to $6 million dollars”?  The Senate passed the budget today and WEIC was not in it.  I did find out the answer to this.  The funds are in reserve but they don’t want to put it in the budget without an affirmative vote on SJR #12.  What happens to the $6 million if SJR #12 doesn’t pass?  It goes to the Bond Bill.  For those who don’t know what the heck a bond bill is, in a nutshell it is a capital improvements bill.  Here is an example from FY2013.  We should see the FY2017 bond bill in the next 24 hours.

The Basic Special Education Funding for K-3 students, House Bill 30, has not received the full House vote yet.  I hope we will see it, and then a rush to the Senate, but I am not optimistic.  I did hear today that the Education Funding Improvement Committee may ask for an extension, but then that they may not.  We will know if a final report is issued to the General Assembly in the next 27 hours.

House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill, has become a very odd bill with a great deal of power.  As the story goes, State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola’s tiff is still going on.  Today in the House Education Committee, Jaques pulled Sokola’s teacher certification legislation, Senate Bill 199, from the agenda.  House Bill 399 is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for tomorrow.  Apparently a deal was reached whereby House Bill 399 will get to be heard in the Senate Education Committee and will most likely be released for a full Senate vote.  In exchange, Jaques will “walk” Senate Bill 199 for signatures from the House Education Committee members.  But then House Bill 399 has to go before the full Senate.  Which is a toss-up for how it could go there.  I’m hearing different things from different people.  Honestly, if anyone is still concerned about defying the will of Governor Markell, I would think twice before using that empty-handed justification.  Did you hear that quacking sound?  It is the sound of a lame-duck desperately grasping for power in a vacuum.

There is more at stake here than current bills.  Election season is coming fast and broken alliances and grudge matches could make things real ugly for the Delaware Democrats.  I’m pretty sure if WEIC fails in the Senate, Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Reps. Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and Helene Keeley will have a lot to say about that!  They say Wilmington wins elections for state-wide positions in Delaware, but the reality is that Jack Markell would not have become Governor if he didn’t win crucial votes in Kent and Sussex County when he beat John Carney in the primary in 2008.

Speaking of Carney, it looks like he is finally getting around to reaching out to different groups and state agencies in Delaware to firm up support for the Gubernatorial election in November.  He still hasn’t officially filed for the 2016 election yet, but he has until July 12 to do so.  We also have filings from Republican Lacey Lafferty and Libertarian Sean Goward.  Nothing from Republican and current State Senator Colin Bonini.  Goward and Lafferty have been the most visible on Facebook.  In my mind, you have to work for my vote and get your name out there.  I want to know your original ideas, not more of the same-old I hear now.  Many Delawareans are in this mindset.  If I had to vote today, Carney would not get my vote.  The only candidate who has reached out to me and presented many ideas I agree with is Sean Goward.  And not just about education either.  I would reach out to him and hear what he has to say!

The Congressional race in Delaware is going to amp up big time as well.  The News Journal declared Townsend as the “front-runner” a couple of weeks ago, but it is still a long ways off.  Townsend has massive support over at Delaware Liberal with some calling him one of Delaware’s best legislators.  He does certainly get a plethora of bills passed.  But Lisa Blunt-Rochester also has a great deal of support from the African-American community which could change this tale.  In terms of signage, I can’t speak for what is popping up in New Castle or Sussex County, but I can say Hans Reigle signs are all over the place in Kent County.  And not just roadside ones, but also property signs as well.  I have seen Mike Miller and Sean Barney popping up a bit more on the Democrat side.  While Townsend may have amassed the biggest war chest thus far, how much of that will be spent on the primary between five candidates?  I’m sure some will drop out between now and then.  This will be a contest between Townsend and Blunt-Rochester when it comes down to it.  Assuming no one else files on the Republican side, Hans Reigle will have an all-clear until the General Election.  After the primary, we will see massive competition between Reigle and the Democrat candidate.  With a growing feeling of disillusionment with the Democrat party in Delaware, especially in an environment with more in-fighting among themselves, I wouldn’t count Reigle out.  Delaware might be a “blue state”, but this year could change things.  Look at how much traction Trump has gotten in the past year.  I would like to hear more from Scott Gesty as I think he has some very interesting ideas as a Libertarian candidate.

In terms of the State Rep and State Senate races, we may see a mad rush of filings in the next couple weeks.  While some are already saying the Republicans don’t have a chance of changing the power structure in Dover, I wouldn’t be too sure.  At least in one House of the Delaware General Assembly.  People don’t like what is going on.  They see a lot of the egregious glad-handling and deals being made in Dover and they don’t like it one bit.  This is becoming a more vocal community, especially on social media.  I’m going to go ahead and predict many new faces in Dover come January.  I think the citizens of Delaware deserve a more balanced legislature.  Too much on one side has not been a good thing for the middle-class and lower-income families of the state.  I don’t like the assumption that certain people should win office because they are Democrat, or that certain bills will pass because they have Democrat support.  I like to hear both sides of the issues, but all too often some voices are drowned out by the high-fives and fist-bumping going on.  By the same token, there are some Republicans who need to realize they could be on the cutting line as well come November, or even September.  They should stop thinking of this as a frat club.  If you want respect, you have to show respect.  Especially as an elected official.  For those who are about to call me a hypocrite, bloggers don’t count!

Things are going to get very interesting over the next 55 hours and in the next four months.  This is Delaware.  Anything can happen!  The crazy action will take place on Thursday night in the General Assembly.  I’m not sure about the Senate yet, but the House begins their legislative session at 7pm.

Oh yeah, what about House Bill 50?  And the Autism bills, Senate Bills 92 and 93 with their assorted amendments?  To be continued…

Markell Gives Chapman Her Entrance Into The Delaware Senate As He Pits Sokola Against Jaques

So much for sticking up for your own party Jack Markell!  Delaware Governor Jack Markell not only found a way to kiss the rings of his Ponzi education reformer buddies, but also caused a rift between State Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques, made sure Meredith Chapman will become the next Senator of the 8th District, continued his favorite hobby of screwing over Delaware teachers, and proved he is the worst education Governor in Delaware history.  Congrats Jack! You have cemented your legacy with this bonehead move!

So what did Jack do now? Continue reading “Markell Gives Chapman Her Entrance Into The Delaware Senate As He Pits Sokola Against Jaques”

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

GodowskyPic

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

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

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

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

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

 

Look For Late Night Deals On Education Legislation At Legislative Hall On June 30th

As predicted, the final hours of the Delaware 148th General Assembly are going to be a hotbed of activity.  It will be Governor Markell’s last chance to get the legislation HE wants passed while he is still Governor.  For the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee, no date has been scheduled for their next meeting.  The final report is due 6/30/16.  And just now, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution #56.  This concurrent resolution which will most likely get passed by the Delaware House of Representatives today, extends the due date for the final report of the Education Funding Task Force.  This group was formed from Senate Joint Resolution #4 last year.

SCR56

These are the kinds of shenanigans where transparency goes out the window.  Rules are suspended so bills aren’t heard in committee and bills fly in and out of Legislative Hall on the last day of session.  The Governor will sign them because he is the one calling all the shots.  And on so many of these kinds of bills, we see the same names: Sokola and Jaques.  The education bullies of the state.  The ones who treat the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education like they are the royalty of Delaware.  The ones who treat parents and their rights as if they are a fly to swat away.  The ones who take good education bills and make mincemeat of them (or try).  Enough.  Someone run against these two education thugs.  Please!  If I were a betting man, I would say the results of these two committees are a foregone conclusion and the legislation that will come out of them was written a long time ago.  They just want to ram it through in the wee hours of June 30th, possibly into July 1st.  When everyone will be going nuts over the budget, Markell will take advantage of this and get his usual legislative accomplices to do his work.  WAKE UP DELAWARE!

US DOE Responds To My Email To Acting Secretary Of Education John King

A few weeks ago I sent an email to Acting US Secretary of Education John King.  This was actually in response to something State Rep. Earl Jaques did.  You can see the email and article about what Earl did here.  This was the response I got back from the United States Department of Education.  I really have to wonder if John King ever saw it.  And how much of my original email did they even address?

Mr. Kevin Ohlandt

Kevino3670@yahoo.com

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:

This letter is to acknowledge your January 28, 2016 correspondence addressed to Acting Secretary John King, U. S. Department of Education (Department), concerning educational reform for students with disabilities. Your correspondence was forwarded to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, within the Department, for reply.

OSEP is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts. OSEP administers the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  IDEA authorizes formula grants to states, and discretionary grants to institutions of higher education and other nonprofit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology and personnel development and parent-training and information centers.  These programs are intended to ensure that the rights of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and their parents are protected.

Thank you for sharing your reviews about a “parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.” The Department is always interested in hearing about issues that impact services to all children, including children with disabilities.  Your continued interest in the provision of educational services to children with disabilities is appreciated.  If this Office can be of assistance in the future, please feel free to contact Christine Pilgrim, Part B State Lead for Delaware, at (202) 245-7773.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Newton

Customer Services Specialist

Office of Special Education Programs

A Conversation With Earl Jaques Yesterday & How He Wants Me To Betray The Opt-Out Movement

After running some errands yesterday, I stopped by Legislative Hall in Dover.  There was no particular reason for going.  As the House Education Committee came out of their meeting, I was approached by State Rep. Earl Jaques.  He asked if he could speak with me in his office.  I immediately thought he was going to blast me for blasting him on this blog.  This wasn’t the case.

Last Spring, right before the House voted on HB50 for the first time on May 7th, Earl approached me about changing provisions for students with disabilities when it comes to the state assessment.  In 2014, Senator Nicole Poore brought Senate Bill 229 forward.  Her bill, which passed, allowed for the most cognitively impaired students to take an alternate assessment in lieu of the state assessment.  It was a bill I fully supported.  It passed within days of the HB334, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The law states this is for students who are “clinically incapable of producing valid results on a standardized assessment”.  This is for a very limited number of students, usually 1%.  These are children who don’t even have the ability to hold a pencil, or they are so challenged they can’t put words together.  Earl told me he wanted to add more disabilities to that list.  I advised him right then and there it doesn’t work like that.  You can’t just pick disabilities and say this child has to take a test and this one doesn’t.   He told me he wants to help out kids like my own.  I advised Earl my son is very smart, but I don’t want him taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He told me to think about it and let him know.

A couple days later, I received an email from Earl:

Additions to SB 229

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Schwartzkopf Peter (LegHall) <peter.schwartzkopf@state.de.us>; Markell Jack <jmarkell@comcast.net>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; “John.King@ed.gov” <john.king@ed.gov>; Johnson Donna R. <donna.johnson@doe.k12.de.us>; “David.Sokola@state.de.us” <david.sokola@state.de.us>
Sent:
Thursday, January 28, 2016 10:24 PM
Subject:
Opt-Out Clauses For Students With Disabilities

Good evening all.
Most of you know me, but for John King, please allow me to introduce myself.  I am one of, if not the, most vocal proponents of opt-out in the State of Delaware.  I supported Delaware’s House Bill 50 before it was even filed.  This was a legitimate bill, aimed at honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Our House and Senate passed it, but Governor Markell vetoed it.  I’m sure you know all of this and what has happened since.
According to our State Representative Earl Jaques, he had a conversation with you last Friday during your visit to Wilmington. About his idea to add disabilities for students who take the alternative assessment.  He made it sound like you were encouraged by this and you asked him to send you information on it.  At least that’s what he told me…
Getting to the root of this email, Earl approached me yesterday about adding disabilities to Senate Bill 229.  Mr. King, this was Delaware’s bill which would allow the most severe cognitively impaired students to take an alternate test. Either Rep. Jaques truly thinks disabilities can be added to this bill like a specific disability defines what a child can or can’t do, or he was playing me.  I believe he was trying to weaken opt-out by getting one of it’s biggest advocates to slow down the cause.  He wants me to give up the fight and cave.  I just have to offer labels to him.  As a father of a student with disabilities who is very intelligent and smart, and no longer attends public school in Delaware because of the insanity that has become public education, I find it disgusting and reprehensible that Jaques would think I would even think about participating in his sick game.
Rep. Schwartzkopf: You made a very big mistake putting Earl as the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee.  Is this how State Reps behave?  Playing on what they perceive to be an Achilles heel of someone who opposes them?  And then uses students with disabilities to accomplish this?  This is some sick stuff, and I hope you take action on this immediately.
I sincerely hope none of you in this email put Jaques up to this.  I truly hope none of you would stoop that low.  I can promise you though, my resolve with opt-out has never been stronger and thanks to Earl I am more determined than ever to educate every single parent of a child in a Delaware public school on opt-out.  We could have done this clean without all of this.  Oregon passed an opt-out bill Governor Markell, but you had to stick to your guns and look out for business interests over the rights of parents.  We can stop with the charades here.  It is what it is.  We all know what Smarter Balanced truly is and what it’s true goals are.  I would have to be a morally bankrupt human being, with what I know, to not encourage every single parent in this state to say no to SBAC.
But I’m not done there, because as we all know there are many parts to this machine in Delaware.  I am going to tear the whole thing apart.  Don’t believe me?  You don’t think I can do it?  Watch me!
Mr. King, since you aren’t really a part of all this, but I feel you should bear witness, I do have a boon to ask of you: Call off your participation rate attack dogs with their threatening letters about cutting Federal funding because of a parental choice.  Schools have no control over opt-out.  There is nothing they can do to stop a parent from making this choice.  And there is nothing you can do against a parent.  If you want to be helpful, stop with all this assessment inventory nonsense you are pushing and encourage states to get rid of the very tests parents are opting out of: the standardized test.  The jig is up.  Parents are only going to opt out more which renders the test useless.  We don’t want it for our children.  It is designed for data to track our children and to sell them to the lowest bidder.  We don’t even want it embedded into the personalized learning competency-based education widgets.  We don’t want our children to be investor’s little playthings.  Look me in the eye and tell me that isn’t what this is all about.  You can “personalize” and “standardize” all you want.  But leave our kids alone.  We aren’t stupid.  And the charter love, that is going to go down like the Titanic more and more every day as the cracks are exposed and the rot festers through the foundations behind that movement.
Governor Markell… Jack… I’ll bet you didn’t even think twice about not putting the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to third grade into your neat little budget.  But you made damn sure to get the $11.35 million in for all the early childhood education.  Let me ask you this though: what happens to those children, who got all that extra support when they were a toddler with disabilities, when they go to school and become a student with disabilities?  In an oversized classroom with limited resources?  I’m sure we would blame the teacher then, right?  It’s almost like you want students with disabilities to fail.  But they can’t just fail, they have to fail spectacularly well!  And we will stretch that proficiency gap so hard it snaps!  But hot damn, if we can get them a low-paying job when they graduate, then by golly, we did our job!  And we will continue to pay University of Delaware millions and millions of dollars to come up with “behavior” programs to deal with those neurologically-based special education kids!  But hey, we have money to throw around.  Let’s allocate $3 million for bike trails…
If any of you need more information on all of this and more detail about Earl, please read my article about this on Exceptional Delaware.  This email will be included in it.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt

 

 

 

Providence Creek Academy Knew About Their Financial Abuse & Still Backed Sokola’s Non-Transparency Audit Bill

As revealed just half an hour ago, Providence Creek Academy was the latest in the never-ending “Delaware Charter School Financial Abuse Scandals”.  They knew this report was coming out.  You would think they would have shut up about charter school audit bills given this information.  But no, they went on their Facebook page and encouraged parents of students to fight State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186, which would help prevent these scandals from happening.

PCASB171

I heard Providence Creek Academy’s Head of School, Chuck Taylor, was in attendance at last week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, along with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, of which he serves as the President of their board. Unconfirmed, but on the rumor circuit is the PCA board voting to oust Chuck as soon as they get a new school leader because he is not qualified to run the school based on what they want in a school leader. The school has been without an official head of school since Chuck “resigned” back in 2013. The current principal, Audrey Erschen, has been around this whole time but the board at PCA seems to be very loyal to her, despite family members causing problems at the school in the Fall of 2014. The DOE and the State Board of Education, fully aware of some of these financial abuses and that the school was under investigation, renewed PCA’s charter last month. While the school told the Charter School Accountability Committee about how they have improved financial control through all of this, they were not exactly forthcoming about the nature of the abuses. I even congratulated them on their supposed transparency based on what I knew, which wasn’t even close to what was in this report.

Earl Jaques And His “Told Ya” Sneer After The Vote… A Pathetic Man Most Of All…

Jaques

I’m going to write something good about Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques…

Okay, I’m drawing a blank here…

Earl Jacques is a problem.  Plain and simple.  He just reeks of treachery and arrogance.  He was feeling very high and mighty after the House Bill 50 suspension of rules vote the other day.  So much so that he looked over at Yvonne Johnson and Dr. Teri Hodges with the Delaware PTA, had his big cheesy smile, and said “Told ya.”

I really can’t stand this guy.  Can someone, anyone, please run against this guy?  He told me last year he wasn’t going to run again, but I trust him as much as I’d trust the DOE.  I don’t care if you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent.  But please run against him.  I think you would get A LOT of support!

Kim Williams Fights Back!!! Send The HB186 Letter To All The Delaware Senators!

One of the things I admire about State Rep. Kim Williams in the General Assembly is her strength amidst fellow legislators.  I believe Kim puts forth legislation that will help the students of Delaware.  While some may see her as one who opposes charters, that is not the case at all.  She just wants equity.  It is why she put forth the Enrollment Preference Task Force from House Bill 90 in the 147th General Assembly.  It’s why she has legislation pending to finally fund basic special education students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  It’s why she also put for House Bill 186, the charter school audit bill.

As I wrote in the following article yesterday, https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/dave-sokola-kicks-kim-williams-in-the-back-and-then-thrusts-the-knife-into-it/, it is obvious there are agendas afoot to stop Kim’s bill.  The Delaware Charter Schools Network hates this bill.  The cost isn’t anything that would force a charter school into bankruptcy.  Maybe they won’t be able to buy a slide for a pool, or send their whole staff to dinner at a country club, but they can afford it.  Don’t let the DCSN fool you!  They are paid by the charters to protect them and to advocate for them, just as DSEA does for teachers.  They have a lot of influence among the DOE, the State Board, and Rodel.  In essence, they are lobbyists.  Last year they started a massive letter writing campaign which I talked about in the above Sokola article.  Turnaround is fair play, so another letter writing campaign in support of House Bill 186 started earlier today.

This bill actually does protect charter schools by helping to make sure the outright theft of school funds doesn’t go for personal use by corrupt employees, and those funds go to the classroom where they are needed most.  I can’t for the life of me understand why Sokola and Jaques wouldn’t want that either.  They will argue technicalities, but let’s be honest, they are protecting this bizarre charter school mentality where they don’t want to have the transparency they actually need to survive on a long-term basis.  During discussion last spring for HB186, the State Auditor’s office told the House Education Committee the nature of the charter’s required yearly audits would not catch a lot of the financial malfeasance that went on at charters like Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover.

Please go to the letter writing campaign here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/support-hb-186?source=direct_link&referrer=hb-186

As of this writing, it states 162 letters have been sent.  To clarify, that is 162 sets.  Each Delaware Senator is receiving this letters and there are 21 Senators.  That is 3, 402 letters that have gone out today!  That is amazing!

Dave Sokola Kicks Kim Williams In The Back And Then Thrusts The Knife Into It

Sokola

Senator Dave Sokola pulled a fast one on State Rep. Kim Williams in his latest political trickery because of his uncontrolled bias for Delaware charter schools.

Last year, State Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 186 was approved by the Delaware House of Representatives on June 30th, the last day of legislative session. Senator David Sokola refused to suspend the rules and said this bill needed to be heard in the Senate Education Committee. Fair enough. It was heard in committee this week, and it was released yesterday. Fair enough. What he did behind the scenes is what defines him.

House Bill 186 deals with charter school audits. Rep. Williams felt the charter school fraud and embezzlement was a bit too much for Delaware taxpayers and she brought the bill forward to allow the State Auditor’s office to monitor charters more closely. This is something Kathleen Davies from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office was in full support of. The main party who was not in support of the bill was the Delaware Charter Schools Network. They vehemently opposed the bill stating it would cost charter schools extra money. On their website, they set up a “letter to the legislators” system where parents just add their information and a letter is automatically sent to the legislators.

At present, all traditional school districts audits go through the State Auditor’s office.  Charters use their own hand-picked auditors.  This bill would add an extra layer of protection.  As well, ever since the very first charter school closed in Delaware, funds seem to disappear resulting in millions of dollars vanishing.  Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 186 would put charters on the same equal playing field as traditional school districts and is not an attempt to treat charters any different.  Why would we not want to ensure our taxpaying funds are being used with fidelity and honesty?

Having sent my son to a charter school back in the day, I know how this works when legislation comes up that may affect a charter school.  Parents get emails from the school leader basically saying “Our poor charter school is under attack, we need your support.”  It usually ties to funding and money.

On June 30th, the bill passed the House with all Democrats except State Reps. Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques and all the Republicans voted no.

This week, Sokola, along with co-sponsor Jaques and several Senate Republicans filed Senate Bill 171.

Are charters required to have their audits done the same way as Sokola’s Senate Bill 171 states?  Not at all.  Title 29 of the Delaware State Code, dealing with the Auditor of Accounts, specifically states:

(f) The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits of local school district tax funds budget and expenditures annually. The results of the audit shall be submitted to the local board, the State Board of Education, the office of Controller General and the local libraries within said school district. Expenses incurred for such postaudits herein authorized shall be borne by the local school districts.

This says absolutely nothing about charter schools whatsoever.  With respect to charter schools, Title 14 does touch on this, but the wording is very vague:

The charter school shall contract to have an audit of the business and financial transactions, records, and accounts after July 1 for the prior fiscal year. The results of the audit shall be shared with the Department of Education by October 1.

What Sokola’s bill does completely ignores the authority given to the State Auditor of Accounts in Title 29.  And the charter audit part is not even included in chapter 29 whatsoever.  Title 14 doesn’t even define what the scope of the charter school’s audit should look like, and even with Sokola’s bill this is not defined either.  But Title 29, the section that once again authorizes the Auditor of Accounts of their duties and responsibilities, bolded for emphasis, states:

(a) The audits shall be sufficiently comprehensive to provide, but not limited to, assurance that reasonable efforts have been made to collect all moneys due the State, that all moneys collected or received by any employee or official have been deposited to the credit of the State and that all expenditures have been legal and proper and made only for the purposes contemplated in the funding acts or other pertinent regulations.

This is a direct attempt to sabotage Rep. Williams’ bill in my opinion. Sokola’s bill does absolutely nothing. It is a piece of paper designed to actually protect charter schools from the financial destruction some of them have inflicted on Delaware. After the State Auditor’s office released reports last year on Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover showing well over $300,000 of taxpayer money being absconded by school leaders, along with other reports showing a couple of charters doing very suspect things with school funds, one would think our elected officials would want to make sure charters are held under a bigger microscope.  In the case of Family Foundations Academy, telling the public they aren’t sure what may have happened to $2.5 million dollars along with another $141,000 in funds that may or may not have been personal purchases shows a clear need for more oversight into charter finances.  But apparently not with the Chairs of our Education Committees, Sokola and Jaques.

How does something like this happen when charter schools are supposed to have greater accountability because of their unique structure with the public school environment?  It is political maneuvering.  Senator Sokola is in the 8th District, in Newark.  Since 1990, Sokola has been a State Senator.  I wrote in great detail about Sokola’s history of education destruction last year.  The 8th District is a very unique district.  In this district is Newark Charter School.  Senator Sokola was one of the founding board members of the school.  Newark Charter School has a 5 mile radius for its applicants, which actually extends past the Maryland line.  So it is not a true 5 mile radius, but ensures all its students come from a very specific geographic area.  The 8th district.  This school is considered to be one of the best schools in the state based on standardized test scores, academics, and school climate.  There is usually an extensive waiting list.  Because of this, Sokola is able to hold onto his Senate seat because of his steadfast loyalty to charter schools.  He is also the chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Interestingly enough, State Rep. Kim Williams gave insight into this in a comment on Delaware Liberal last night:

House Bill 186 will require charter schools to have their audits done through the Auditor of Accounts like all other public school districts in the state. Currently, only public school districts are audited through the Auditor of Accounts. Sen. Sokola explained to us during the debate of House Bill 186 that his bill, Senate Bill 171, was drafted with the help of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, who represent charter schools and the leaders who have been stealing from Delaware taxpayers. Senate Bill 171 does not require the charter schools to have their audits done through the Auditor of Accounts office. The charter schools will be able to select who they want once again. Senate Bill 171 does nothing except protect the charter schools and not the taxpayers. I for the life of me cannot understand why these people do not care about protecting the taxpayers’ money; they are more interested in protecting the charter schools.

This is Delaware.  Those in power position themselves in the key positions so they can be re-elected over and over and over again.  Sokola is also the chair of the Senate Bond Committee so he can curry favor with the organizations that receive state funding through bonds and grants.  Sokola has not filed for the 2016 election, but his seat is up for grabs.  No opposing candidate has filed either, so there is still time.

I urge every single Delaware citizen to contact every member of the Delaware Senate to vote yes for House Bill 186.  Sokola’s anti-Williams bill will most likely be on the Senate Education Committee agenda for next week.  His bill will be fast-tracked for passage while Williams bill will either be voted down or sit in limbo.

I just wrote the Delaware Senators an email for my full support for House Bill 186, and I would ask anyone reading this to do the same:

Good morning Delaware Senators!

I wanted to ask for you support in voting yes for House Bill 186, State Rep. Kim Williams charter school audit bill which passed with overwhelming support in the Delaware House on June 30th, and was released from the Senate Education Committee yesterday.  As a Delaware taxpaying citizen, I firmly believe our Delaware charter schools need rigorous examination with their finances.  We have seen far too many charters abscond with public funds for personal use in the past few years for their own personal use. 

I firmly believe, after carefully reviewing House Bill 186, that this bill would give the extra protections Delaware taxpayers need to make sure our dollars are being protected from those who would steal money from us.  If we are going to demand accountability in our schools, that needs to start at the top in each and every building.  Every single traditional school district is held to this same process, so why wouldn’t we include charters in this process?

I would urge all of you to read this article by Business Insider which was written on January 6th, 2016: http://www.businessinsider.com/are-charter-schools-the-new-mortgage-crisis-2016-1  This article clearly shows the environment charter schools exist in and there are red flags all over the place.  Charter school accountability and transparency was also addressed in the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama last month.  The ESSA demands more state responsibility in monitoring charter schools.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Here is a list of the emails for our Delaware Senators, just copy and paste!

harris.mcdowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us karen.peterson@state.de.us bethany.hall-long@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us david.mcbride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us gerald.hocker@state.de.us bryant.richardson@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu

 

Red Clay Education Association Officially Supporting House Bill 50 Veto Override!!! And More!

While it isn’t the DSEA, the Red Clay Education Association officially voted tonight to support the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  Thank you the members of the RCEA for doing this.  The Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education passed a board policy honoring opt-out a couple months ago, so it looks like Red Clay supports opt-out all over the district.

Mike Matthews, the President of RCEA, just posted this on Facebook:

At tonight’s Representative Council, the Red Clay Education Association took an official position of support for the legislature to override Gov. Jack Markell‘s veto of HB 50, the Parent Opt Out Bill.

The rally the Delaware PTA is sponsoring will be held on Thursday, 1/14, at 1pm on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover.  All parents and students are encouraged to attend to lend support.  As well, the Delaware PTA petition is still live:

https://www.change.org/p/delaware-state-house-vote-to-override-delaware-hb50-veto

State Rep. John Kowalko will be asking for a suspension of rules when the Delaware House of Representatives meets in legislative session on Thursday.  A suspension of rules, which would prevent House Bill 50 from going back to the House Education Committee led by State Rep. Earl Jaques, would open up House Bill 50 for a vote by the State Representatives.  If the suspension of rules doesn’t go through, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost.  It would be up to Jaques to allow the bill to be heard in the House Education Committee.  It would go through the same process as last Spring if it progresses from there: House Education Committee to Full House Vote to Senate Education Committee to full Senate vote, assuming it passed each step along the way.

This has been a very long journey for many of us supporting this bill, and probably for those who oppose it as well.  While some may question the importance of it, and why it is such a big deal, I would hope those people understand this bill is about student and parent rights.  I have heard someone say it is a waste of “political capital”.  I wouldn’t say that at all.  Every bill in the General Assembly is important to someone.  To myself, there are certainly matters (like the state budget) that take on more public importance than House Bill 50, but this one that hits very close to home for a lot of parents.

While Vision Coalition & WEIC Plan Funding, EFIC Meets Today To Discuss Funding As Well

SJR4EFIC

Delaware, the home of multiple groups working on the same issues at the same time.  Today, the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission is meeting for the third time at the Bear Library.  There are a lot of interesting names in this room.  Former State Rep. Darryl Scott, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara (who is probably having one hell of a morning), Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, State Board of Education member Barbara Rutt and more.  I see Senator Sokola’s aide, Tanner Polce.  I don’t see State Rep. Earl Jaques either, I suppose his aide is there as well.

It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with, along with Rodel The Vision Coalition.  WEIC’s funding will be subject to the Governor’s submitted budget at the end of January.  The one that will be submitted AFTER the State Board of Education votes on the plan.  To read more about the SJR #4 group, please read this.

SJR4

 

Governor Markell Gives Godowsky Authority To Replace SBAC With SAT Without General Assembly Approval Or An Executive Order

It took a lot of work for the General Assembly to implement the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  Now Governor Markell has granted Secretary of Education Godowsky the authority to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment from the lives of high school juniors and replace it with the SAT.  Here’s the problem, the SAT is not considered to be a state assessment as defined in Delaware law.  Funding for the SAT to be provided to all Delaware students was part of a Race To The Top grant, and now that funding is gone.  Is Delaware going to pick up the cost for this?  As well, Markell did not issue an executive order to make this happen.  Are we now entering a stage in Delaware where the Governor can do whatever he wants as long as ten members of his own party write a letter to him?

This is clearly Markell’s strategy to once again thwart those who support the opt-out movement.  And he is doing this while at the same time spitting in the face of the General Assembly.  With the override of his House Bill 50 veto possibly coming up as early as January 14th, Markell is not pulling any punches to fight this.  I really hope the legislators who side with him on this issue think long and hard about his circumvention of the legislative process when it comes to Delaware education.  This is just another in a long series of moves the Governor made in the last eight years to make his corporate friends happy.

From the DOE press release:

SAT to replace Smarter in 11th grade

The SAT will replace the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.

The change comes at the request of legislators and as the state continues to look for ways to reduce testing, particularly for 11th graders who already were taking both exams as part of Delaware’s state-funded School Day SAT program.

The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the college entrance exam, is launching a redesigned SAT this spring that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, the academic expectations for what Delaware students should know and be able to do at the completion of each grade level. The changes to the SAT also include a move away from obscure “SAT vocabulary words” to the use of relevant vocabulary words in context, an in-depth focus on essential areas of math and the elimination of the guessing penalty.

“Our students deserve an exam that helps them gauge their college and career readiness, and our teachers deserve an exam that provides them with the information they need to guide their instruction. This is one example of how we are reducing the testing burden on our students and teachers,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “This is a smart solution that ensures our educators, students and families get the information they need while mitigating the over-testing concern many share.

The state will continue to administer the Smarter Assessment in grades 3 to 8.

Delaware has been administering a school-day SAT to all public school juniors at no cost to students since 2011. Godowsky said making the transition to use the SAT as the accountability test this year is based on the feedback of elected leaders, educators and families. Last week, 10 legislators sent a letter to Gov. Jack Markell asking to replace the 11th grade Smarter exam with the SAT.

“Our community was clear that this was in the best interest of our high school juniors and the sooner we could make the switch the better,” Godowsky said. “This decision is in response to that feedback.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who launched a statewide assessment inventory process last spring, said, “We believe that the concerns about the testing burden on our juniors are well founded.  We also agree that this move is a smart, commonsense way to reduce the testing burden significantly without sacrificing our ability to understand whether we are serving our students well and whether they are making the progress they need to be successful.  I have asked Secretary Godowsky to immediately designate the SAT as our 11th grade assessment and take all necessary steps to implement the change so that, beginning this year, juniors will no longer take Smarter Balanced.  The department will seek federal approval for this change in our state assessment as quickly as possible and otherwise ensure that the transition goes smoothly in schools across the state.”

Under Delaware’s former state test, the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS), 9th and 10th graders were tested. When the state moved to Smarter in Spring 2015, 11th grade became the singular testing year for high school. But many said that proved overwhelming for juniors, who also take Advanced Placement exams, the SAT, SAT subject tests, the ACT and other tests during their 11th grade year.

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt, president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, said superintendents in the state are in support of substituting the SAT in lieu of the Smarter Assessment as the required assessment for high school students.  This shift both gives teachers more time to provide necessary instruction and eases the load on our high school students with respect to the annual assessments they already must take.

State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray said students and families value the SAT.

“The redesigned SAT provides important information students, parents and educators want and need to understand students’ college, career and civic readiness. For that reason, it is already valued by parents and students.  In addition, by using this test as the high school assessment for English language arts and math, we will reduce the amount of required testing and costs to the state,” Gray said.

Last spring, the General Assembly passed and Governor Markell signed into law Senate Joint Resolution 2, requiring an inventory and review of all assessments currently administered at the state, district and school level “with the goal of decreasing the testing burden on students and teachers and increasing time available for teaching.”

This work continues. Districts and charter schools, which were eligible for supporting state grants, submitted their assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information to the state at the end of December. The department has convened an assessment inventory committee with representatives from the House and Senate education committees, Delaware State Education Association, state superintendents, civil rights community and parents to make recommendations. The state’s final report must be published by June 2016.

Sen. David Sokola, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Earl Jaques, chair of the House Education Committee, lauded today’s announcement.

“This is the kind of change legislators were seeking when we approved SJR 2 to create a task force to fully review our student testing,” Sokola said. “This is a good first step toward removing burdens on our students and increasing instruction time for teachers, while also providing them with the important metrics needed to gauge student progress.”

Jaques agreed, “This decision eliminates duplicative testing and reduces over-testing while helping to ease student stress and parental concerns.”

The department has posted information and will continue updating its website with information, including resources for districts/charters and the public, regularly. Educators or families with questions may email assessment@doe.k12.de.us or call (302) 857-3391.

As students prepare for the spring SAT, they also have some extra help this year. A partnership with Khan Academy and the College Board offers personalized SAT preparation based on students’ PSAT results. Delaware also provides the PSAT free to all public school 10th graders.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Opt-Out Heats Up Again During Arctic Chill

Here we go again!  The opt-out movement is back!  And smack dab in the middle of it all is Delaware’s 62 legislators in the House and Senate.  Matthew Albright with the News Journal wrote about the Veto Override of House Bill 50.  There are some great quotes in here… and then there is Earl…

“If you’re a Democrat, and the governor’s a Democrat, you have to think long and hard, ‘Do I want to override my governor?” said Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, chairman of the House Education Committee. “It has to be a really big issue for you to do that.”

Jaques was one of five representatives who voted against House Bill 50. He says parents already have the right to opt out, so he doesn’t understand the need for a new law.

Earl, Earl, Earl… when are you going to get what this is all about?  I’ve already put Earl in the no column on this.  I don’t expect him to change his vote at all.  There is no law when it comes to parents opting out, thus House Bill 50!!!  It protects the parents, but it is more than obvious Earl wants to side with the Governor.  Luckily, State Rep. John Kowalko is able to comment on this insanity with a breath of fresh air”

“If it’s a good policy, you voted for it because it’s a good policy,” Kowalko said. “That policy does not change its makeup just because the governor has decided that he doesn’t like it. If we start considering another branch of government as dictating to us how our decisions should be made, we are seriously compromising our rights as an independent body.”

State Rep. Mike Ramone is once again thinking this is all about the amount of testing kids take.  Mike, I’m going to tell you right now I have never once heard from any parent about any other test but the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Parents don’t want to opt out of any other test but the Smarter Balanced.  Once again, those who are pro “assessment inventory” are missing some basic facts.  When DCAS was around, it was taken two to three times a year depending on how the students did on the first Spring test.  If they didn’t hit proficiency, they had to take it again.  That’s when parents were talking about “too much testing”.  But what happens when we do get rid of the assessments that do matter in favor of SBAC and the interim assessments that accompany it?  Then you will have opt-out and NO assessments that give good feedback.  I am not anti-assessment.  Like the PTA, I support assessments that give timely feedback with a validated test.    I already gave my predictions on the final results for the Assessment Inventory Committee.  But Ramone… does he realize what House Bill 50 actually is?

Ramone also said he wants to see a statewide process for opting out, since the current rules are a patchwork of district-by district rules.

A statewide process for opting out?  It’s called House Bill 50.  It specifically states when schools would receive letters from parents and that students who are opted out need to receive another form of instruction.  Does he want us to do it through the DOE?  That would be a never-ending nightmare!  Let’s not muddy the waters any more Mike.  House Bill 50 is what it is.  You are either for parental rights or you’re not.  At the end of the day, this is what it all boils down to.  Something Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges agrees with:

“The message we’re trying to send is that parents and teachers and the community have spoken,” said Terri Hodges, the PTA’s president. “We are hoping our legislators honor the will of the people and follow their original vote.”

I am already hearing the DOE is talking about Smarter Balanced results coming in before kids leave school for summer.  I saw that one coming a mile away!  This will be another one of their attempts to dissuade legislators from voting for the override.  “Look, parents said they wanted quicker feedback.  We’re going to make that happen.”  But no matter when the results come in, we have to face facts.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a BAD test.  Period.  I am all for getting rid of SBAC for high school juniors.  But I am also for getting rid of it for ALL Delaware students. Until that happens, parents will opt out, and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it.  Yes, the legislators do need to look at the reasons why.  I won’t disagree with that.  But talking about it doesn’t do anything for parents.  The legislators who voted for the Smarter Balanced Assessment knew there were issues with it.  But they voted it in anyways.  This is the consequence of that action.  Yes, Murphy already bought the test.  We all know that.  But look at the results.  Has it changed anything for our students?  Not really.  It has brought disruption and chaos to our children’s education.  The only ones who support this assessment are the very ones who seem to profit, whether financially or through an illusion of success by having “great scores”.

As for the infamous letter the ten Democrats sent Governor Markell about the SAT replacing the Smarter Balanced Assessment, this is NOT their idea.  The Delaware DOE has been talking about this publicly since last May.  The College Board is redesigning the SAT to be more like the Smarter Balanced and make it all about the Common Core.  So guess what, it’s not like it will be that much of an improvement.  Can’t wait to see those SAT scores on top of Delaware’s already horrible scores.

This is a bill that comes down to basic and fundamental parental rights.  Meanwhile, over 200 parents have already signed the Delaware PTA Petition.  More will sign as well before it is all said and done.  This is a battle parents aren’t giving up on.  We won’t stop until our rights are protected.  I am frankly shocked that some legislators would rather see parents fighting with schools than overriding a ridiculous veto by a Governor who is so entrenched in corporate education reform he can’t see the forest from the trees.

Predicting Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Report

SJR2DOE

By June 30th this year we will all know what is in the final report from Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Committee.  This is when it is due to the General Assembly.  I have made predictions in the past about the end result: that district assessments will go the way of the dinosaur in favor of more interim assessments for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When Senate Joint Resolution #2 was announced, it was at the height of the 2015 opt-out movement.  Governor Markell spoke about it at Howard High School last March.  I immediately saw it as a response to opt-out.

A week before the legislation hit the General Assembly, I had the opportunity to see a DOE email stating that Senate Joint Resolution #2 was the answer to opt-out.  The House and Senate Education Committee Chairs in Delaware sponsored the legislation.  During the Senate Education Committee meeting in June, it was brought up before House Bill 50, much to the consternation of several people.  Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsay O’Mara, when asked at the meeting, said the Smarter Balanced Assessment could be a part of the assessment inventory but it depends on state and federal regulations.  The Assessment Inventory Committee officially began in November.

To date, no minutes have been posted on the General Assembly website or the DOE website.  The group first met on November 16th and then again on December 16th.  The only place it shows up is on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar and it must be put there seven days before the meeting as per Delaware state code.  In looking at that website, there are no scheduled meetings showing up anywhere in 2016.  In fact, on the list of committees and task forces in a different section of the General Assembly website, there is no listed Chair of this committee.  No meetings show up on the Department of Education calendar part of their website either.

I am going to predict now that the Smarter Balanced Assessment will definitely be a major topic of discussion at this task force.  It will not be a part of the assessment inventory to be kept or removed.  But someone will say something to the effect of “We need to do an evaluation of this test.”  It may even be one of the few members on the task force who has vocally opposed it.  Politics is often suggesting something to someone and making it seem like it was their idea.  Someone will whisper it into their ear and they will think it is a great idea.  When it comes to education, great ideas can seem like a good thing but they are loaded with snares and traps.  Like I said before, this committee is top-heavy with Markell sympathizers.

There will be some other carrots in this final report.  One teachers will love will be a recommendation that standardized tests not be used for the purpose of teacher evaluations.  Teachers will support this emphatically and will then support anything the committee recommends.  If Governor Markell doesn’t sign an executive order or no legislation passes prior to this report, there will be a very strong recommendation that high school juniors not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is something ten Democrats in the House of Representatives wrote to the Governor about three days ago.  The reduction in district assessments will not specifically say “get rid of this or that”.  There will be a recommendation that no student receives any type of “interim assessment”, whether it is the Smarter Balanced Assessment or something like SRI, SMI, MAPS, DIBELS, or any of the other assessments districts use in Delaware more than once in any given marking period.  There may be certain assessments ditched, but for the most part it will be up to the local districts.  There will most likely be language either requiring or strongly suggesting the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessment be given at least once during the first or second marking period.

The evaluation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be done by a third corporate cousin of one of the many vendor companies the DOE utilizes for pretty much anything that generates a report.  The evaluation will come back and find that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is effective.  Bloggers and teachers will rip it apart and say the report is not valid.  The state will most likely pay this vendor anywhere from $50-$100,000 for this report which will show some issues with the test but not enough to render it invalid.  When all is said and done, we will pretty much have what we’ve always had but a little bit less of the district assessments.  Smarter Balanced will still be here.  Parents will still opt-out.  The big question on everybody’s mind will be if our legislators honor that right by overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 or if they side with the test and punish corporate backed privateers who are hell-bent on continuing their agendas.

 

House Democrats Letter To Governor Markell To Remove Smarter Balanced For 11th Grade

Today, ten Delaware House Democrats signed a letter to Delaware Governor Jack Markell asking him to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  The letter also mentions Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory task force.

We recognize that, by your order, the Department of Education is in the midst of creating an inventory of standardized tests administered throughout the state. Pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 2, signed into law in July, the department will share its findings with legislators and the public, as well as a special work group that will make recommendations regarding possible elimination of redundant tests. While opinions will differ among stakeholders, we believe there is universal support for eliminating the Smarter Balanced test for juniors in lieu of the SAT.

I fully accept that this is Governor Markell’s order.  He came up with the “assessment inventory” idea back in March.  It is a red herring though.  I firmly believe it will get rid of many assessments that give immediate and crucial feedback for teachers in how best to instruct their students.  I also predict it will see an increase in “prep” and “interim” Smarter Balanced Assessments.  The move towards personalized learning will allow for the eventual elimination of the nine-hour test (or longer depending on the individual student’s needs).  But it will not get rid of the basic flaws in SBAC, nor will it eliminate the time taking the test.  Instead it will eventually be in shorter doses but will be just as harmful to students.

There should be universal supporting for eliminating SBAC for ALL grades.  I would caution parents not to be fooled by this letter.  This is not a direction where the Smarter Balanced Assessment will gradually be removed.  It does not address the fundamental and core issues of what is wrong with Smarter Balanced.  I fear this is another attempt to sway legislators from voting for the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  This does not get rid of the issue of parents opting out except for those who have 11th graders.  The SAT is on a downward slope in many states, and now that they are “aligning” it with Common Core, that trend may increase.

Do Not Be Fooled by this Delaware parents!  The DOE has been planning this for over a year IN RESPONSE to the opt-out movement.  They knew 11th graders would have the highest opt-outs.  But it is still implemented in 3rd to 8th grade.  The assessment inventory task force is also stocked with many who will align with the Governor’s flawed logic about standardized assessments.  It wouldn’t shock me if the DOE already wrote the report on it and they are just waiting on the group to tweak it here and there.  I will still fight for the House Bill 50 Veto Override and support parents who choose to exercise their choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have been calling out the “assessment inventory” ruse since the Governor first started talking about it last March.

15 Who Made An Impact On 2015: The Charter Thieves

The biggest Delaware charter school news this year definitely belonged to the three charter bandits: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Noel Rodriguez.  The first two were the heads of school at Family Foundations Academy while Rodriguez belonged to Academy of Dover.  Altogether, the trio managed to abscond over $300,000 of school funds for personal purchases.  And that was just the verified amount.  Over $1.3 million could not be verified as school or personal purchases by the Auditor of Accounts in Delaware.  That is some serious coin!

Luckily, none of them are currently employed by the schools.  *Brewington surfaced at Christiana in the Emotional Therapeutic Support classroom as a one-on-one teacher.  Shortly before Thanksgiving she was no longer there.  Moore and Rodriguez have been very quiet.  Rodriguez was last seen at the Amazon Distribution Center in Middletown but he was let go around the same time the auditor investigation into Academy of Dover came out last June.

Many are wondering why the three are not in jail.  Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle, a huge supporter of charters in Delaware, was wondering the same thing.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said his office is looking into the matter.  This is why State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 needs to pass, which would make all charter school audits go through Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  Resistance from the Delaware Charter Schools Network reached a fever pitch last Spring, even resulting in the non-profit recruiting parents to fill out an online form on their website which automatically went to the Delaware legislators.  The bill passed the House on June 30th, but every single House Republican voted no along with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques.  When the legislators return in January, this bill will be in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.

In October, Wagner’s office released a report that showed some other charter schools that had very suspect incidents of financial abuse.  Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep’s incidents were not as egregious as those of Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, but they are still a pattern that needs to change at Delaware charter schools.  In years past, Pencader Business School and Delaware Military Academy were also investigated for misuse of state funds.  While this is certainly not indicative of all charters in Delaware, it is far too many.  Education is about students, not a personal ATM machine!

*This article has been corrected to give a more accurate read on where Dr. Tennell Brewington wound up.  Apologies for the error!