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!

Breaking News: Santa Claus Supports Opt-Out!!!

Santa Claus was getting pictures at the Dover Mall with young children.  He always asks the kids what they want for Christmas.  He acknowledged hearing very strange requests over the years.  But he reported to me recently about a very unusual request he got on Black Friday.  A little boy who was 8 years old told Santa he only wanted one thing for Christmas.  He wanted his mother to opt him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Santa had never heard of such an odd thing before, so he asked the boy what it was.  “I’m in 3rd grade Santa, and all they talk about is some test we have to take next Spring.  All my teachers talk about it.  And we have to take something called an intrum test after we come back from Christmas break.  Every day teachers say ‘this could be on the test.  Make sure you know it.’  I’m getting tired of it Santa.  Nobody cares about my actual grades, and I’m a smart kid Santa.”

Santa asked the boy what “opting out” means?  The boy said some parents actually told the school they didn’t want their kid taking the Smarter Balanced test.  The school gave them a rough time, but the parents fought back.  “If they can do it, can you make sure my mom does it too?”  Santa pondered this for a moment. “I think,” Santa said, “That would be up to your Mom.”  “Good, she is right over there,” the boy said and pointed to his mother.  “Mom, can you come over here?  Santa wants to ask you something!” the boy shouted.

The boy’s mother walked over and Santa said “Your son wants you to opt him out of the Smarter something test.  It’s all he wants for Christmas.”  The boy’s mother explained she had never heard of the test.  “That’s cause this is the first year we take it Mom.  I heard some teachers say it doesn’t actually mean anything and it only lets the state know how we are doing.  And I heard something about some evil Psycho Metric guy.”  The boy’s mother explained, “I will have to look into this.”  The boy shouted “But I want you to opt me out!”  The crowd heard the words “opt-out” and all of a sudden, parents were yelling “Opt him out! Opt him out!”  Santa explained how he had to get to the next kid as the line to visit him was getting longer.  “Let me make some calls on this!  Can I call your mom about this when I get more information?”  The boy’s mother gave Santa their phone number.

After a very long three days, Santa Claus dove into the subject of opt-out.  He ran across this blog, so he gave me a call.  I explained to Santa Claus how opt-out works and that it is a parental right.  He asked me why schools fight it and want the kids to take a test that is bad for them.  I told Santa that the schools get threats and they are intimidated by the Delaware Department of Education.  I told him about House Bill 50, how some of the legislators like Jaques and Sokola tried to block it, how it passed the Delaware House and Senate, but then Governor Markell vetoed it.  But I also explained how the House and Senate might override his veto when they come back to make laws.  Santa laughed. “It sounds like someone should be called Senator So-coal-a!”  I explained to Santa how kids did worse on this test than the one that came before it and all the nasty tricks the DOE was trying to come out with because of the test.  Santa got very upset about the DOE and Secretary Godowsky blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendations about no harsh opt-out penalties for schools.  “Sounds to me like this Secretary and these DOE people want schools to be punished for a parent’s decision.  That isn’t honorable.  I might have to order some more coal this year…”

Santa’s cheeks got very red as he became more flustered about the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  “This just isn’t right!  Now I am understanding why so many kids have looked different and sad the past few years.  I thought this Common Core stuff would go away when they talked about all that nonsense with kids needing to compete with the kids in China.  I go there every year, and most of those kids don’t even take those tests!”  I told Santa how they got rid of that reason, and now it is so kids can be college and career ready!  Santa laughed so hard I could hear his belly jiggling over the phone.  “How in the world can a kid in 3rd grade, or even 8th grade be ‘college and career ready’?  Kids need to play and have fun.  School is important, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much other stuff that makes them grow up.”

Santa called the boy’s mother last night and had a long talk with her.  She agreed that opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best choice for her son.  That night, she wrote a letter to her son’s school opting her son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This morning, she gave it to the principal and kept a copy for herself.  She asked the principal to sign a piece of paper recognizing he received the letter.  She said I could share it but for the sake of her son’s privacy to take out her name.  It said:

Dear Principal,

I am letting you know that I am opting my son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be administered in 2016.  I am requesting my son not be punished for my decision and that he is given instruction while the other children are taking the test.  I understand schools have to give the test, but I also know this is a parent’s right and there is no law stating I can’t.  I do not wish to have any meetings or calls about this.  Please respect my decision.

Sincerely,

The boy’s mom

Santa was very proud of the boy for having the courage to ask for something so simple.  It gave him hope that other parents would see the wisdom in the boy and his mother’s decision.  Santa doesn’t usually interfere with the workings of the people, but he thought in this case he should issue some type of proclamation about this whole opt-out thing.  So he asked me to give the exclusive on his proclamation to which I happily agreed.  So without further ado, here is Santa’s official stance on opt-out!

SantaClausLetter

 

What Is The Southern Regional Education Board & What Does Delaware Do On This Group?

I read about this group before, but I didn’t pay it much mind.  For some reason though, it stayed with me and gnawed at the back of my mind.  Yesterday, I decided to look into them, and found out more about them.  The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is a group of southern states, stretching from Delaware to Texas.  Each state has a board and an advisory council.  Here is Delaware’s group:

SREBBoard

A lot of these names make sense, and some make no sense at all!  I’m not sure why a former state representative would serve on a council like this.  Darryl Scott has been somewhat quiet since he decided not to run again for State Rep but I am hearing his name spoken more than usual these days.  With all due respect to Robert Rescigno, I have never heard his name before.  Markell, Sokola and Jaques are the peanut butter & jelly (including the bread) of all things education in Delaware, so that fits.  Senator Brian Pettyjohn serves on the Senate Education Committee so I get that.  But Senator F. Gary Simpson?  I found that to be an odd choice.  So what does this group do?  And who funds it?  Some of the names of the “non-profits” and “foundations” below are the usual suspects when it comes to this kind of thing.  Which tells me this group is not an official political group but rather another corporate education reform group…

SREBFunding

From what I could from this document on the SREB website, this is all just more of the same.  More groups, more connections, and more taxpayer money that produces the same results…not a whole heck of a lot!  But what is interesting is some of the names that don’t serve on the Delaware SREB Board or the SREB Legislative Advisory Council and some of the other activities that go on with this group…

SREBBoard2
By what benchmarks is Delaware stating they are a leading state for standards and assessments?

SREBBoard3
I would love to see one of these newsletters! Can anyone send them to me?

SREBBoard4

State Rep. Joe Miro is involved! He is also on the House Education Committee.

SREBBoard5

Senator Sokola hanging out with Dr. Gray!  When it comes to the tech side of things in education, you can always count on Senator David Sokola to be in the thick of it!

SREBBoard6

More Sokola!

SREBBoard7

Can someone tell me what an “Academic Common Market” is?  Never mind, I looked it up.  It allows Delaware students to pay the same as in-state tuition rates at other colleges and universities if they are in the SREB.  Only 88 college students in Delaware are participating.

This all sounds like some regional thing, and I’m sure there are other boards like this in other sections of the country.  This is just more corporate education reform, but on the legislative side of things.  I always wonder where some of our legislators get all their nifty ideas for the destruction of public education…

 

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: State Rep. Earl Jaques

I have to be honest here.  Until 2014, I had never heard of Earl Jaques.  That all changed in 2015, and everyone knew who he was then!  Earl started the year as the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee.  He took over the slot from former State Rep. Darryl Scott who chose not to run again in 2014.  Many assumed the position would be held by State Rep. Kim Williams since she was the Vice-Chair since 2012.  Before the General Assembly even convened in 2015, State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf booted Kowalko off the education committee.  State Rep. Kim Williams remained as the Vice-Chair.  Why Jaques was assigned the Chair position was baffling, but it soon became apparent.

Jaques role as Chair of the Education Committee defined his year in the 148th General Assembly.  He went head-to-toe with the Department of Education over Race To The Top.  An epic battle played out on the House floor between Kowalko and Jaques over House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation.  Jaques allied himself with Governor Markell over opt-out, which led to Jaques very unfortunate comments about opt-out which appeared in Delaware media.  Referring to those who opt-out as “failures”, many parents of children with disabilities jumped on Jaques’ comments and slammed him for it.  He told a group of Christina teachers that House Bill 50 would never pass.  He helped create very controversial legislation with Senator David Sokola in the form of Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory bill that was meant to be a cure for opt-out.  He fought a charter school audit bill created by Kim Williams which led to more angst in the House due to Jaques not releasing the bill from committee to give it a full House vote.

By the time House Bill 50 came up for its first House vote, Jaques and two other lone wolves were the only nay votes for the legislation and it passed 36-3.  It still passed overwhelmingly by the time the Senate added amendments to the legislation causing it to bounce back to the House for a vote.  Jaques still voted no.

Even after the General Assembly went into recess for the recess for the rest of the year, Jaques still caused some controversy.  He was overheard talking negatively about parents at a State Board pizza party in early October.  At the end of October, Kowalko sent out an email to tons of people about the falling NAEP scores.  Jaques tried to hush Kowalko up by telling him not to use the state email system and his facts were biased.  This caused many people to defend Kowalko, including radio-show host Rick Jensen with WDEL.

Jaques will continue as Chair of the House Education Committee in 2016, even though most folks don’t take him seriously at all.  They understand he will do whatever Governor Markell instructs him to do.  As well, the Delaware DOE seems to know exactly how to maneuver Jaques with controversial legislation.  There is SO much more I could say about Earl Jaques, but for those who want to know more, just write Earl Jaques in my search bar and all can be found on here!

The Education Polls For Delaware…Those Running For Office- Take Note!!!

 

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

Who Is On The Assessment Inventory Committee?

I reached out to Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques to see who is on the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  I received his response yesterday.  This is a very interesting list with a name I never saw before, but I was very familiar with the last name.  We shall see what comes out of this committee.  My guess: a massive reduction in district assessments which will lead to more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  As well, official legislation getting rid of the Smarter Balanced for high school juniors since the SAT is going to become SBAC Jr. (my nickname for it).

Here are the members of the SJR #2 Assessment Inventory Committee:

Delaware Senator David Sokola

Delaware Senator Nicole Poore

Delaware Senator Ernie Lopez

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews

Delaware State Rep. Timothy Dukes

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques

Delaware State Education Association President Frederika Jenner

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt (filling the role of President of Chief School Officer’s Association)

Raina Allen (filling the role of “A representative of the civil rights’ community picked by the Governor”)

Equetta Jones (filling the role of “Parent picked by the Governor”, also a teacher in Red Clay Consolidated School District)

This is an interesting group.  With the legislators, it is right down the middle with who voted yes on the opt-out bill, House Bill 50, and  who voted no.  The “yeas” were Senators Poore and Lopez and State Rep.  Matthews.  The “nays” were Senator Sokola and State Reps Jaques and Dukes.  Both Sokola and Jaques are the head of their prospective education committees in the Senate and House.  Jenner is obviously represent the entire DSEA membership.  Gehrt, who also hails from the same district as our current Secretary Godowsky.   I have never personally met Equetta Jones, but I did see her speak at a Red Clay school board meeting last spring and she is very passionate.  The only person I wasn’t familiar with was Raina Allen, but a quick Google search let me know exactly who she was.

Filling roles from the Department of Education are: Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Chief of Staff Shana Young (which will be interesting given what I’m hearing), Tina Shockley, and Susan Haberstroh.  What I don’t see is anyone from the State Board of Education involved, anyone as just a teacher, and only one parent.  This is a very top-heavy group and they will be helping to make crucial decisions about the future of assessment in Delaware.  If this sounds reminiscent of the DOE’s recently defunct Accountability Framework Working Group (but no legislators were on this), where the recommendations of that committee were ignored by Godowsky and the State Board of Education, let’s hope the legislators can keep an eye on what is really important and not make this the usual Jack Markell dog-and-pony show.

I Thought I Should Actually Honor Jack Markell

**UPDATED**DOE Has Meeting For Assessment Inventory Committee

It turns out there is a Senate Joint Resolution #2 Committee meeting tonight at the Delaware Department of Education in Dover.  When was this announced?  Not a week ago which is required by Delaware law.  As well, who is on the Committee?  We know who the legislators are, but not the rest.  This was announced on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar on 11/3/15, so I was mistaken about the DOE not giving the required 7 day notice for public meetings, to which I apologized to the DOE in an email this morning.

 

sjr2

 

Delaware DOE’s Shocking Assessment Plans: This Was All Pre-Determined

“Life is like a box of chocolates, sometimes you never know what you’re gonna get.”

This was my thought last night when I found this document.  This is a draft of the Delaware Department of Education’s 5 year assessment plan.  Senate Joint Resolution #2, which provides for an assessment inventory in Delaware, will “reduce the amount of testing” students get in Delaware Schools.  Just not the right ones if the below picture is what ends up happening.  And it will.  This is Delaware.  Where they give the illusion of control to others, but it isn’t…they just steer people into thinking it.  But I’ll bet the fathers of SJR #2, Earl Jaques and David Sokola, know exactly what will happen…

5yrassessment

5yrassessmentalt

Delaware House Republicans Watch With Glee As Democrats Spar

I get emails from both sides of the aisle in Delaware.  The Democrats and the Republicans.  It is usually about legislation or crucial issues.  Rarely do I see one side taking potshots at the other.  On Friday, I received the House Republicans email which centered on a “cover story” on the email exchange between State Reps John Kowalko and Earl Jaques:

Disappointing Student Test Scores Spark Sniping Between Lawmakers, Public
 
Delaware’s disappointing mathematics and reading scores in the recently released  2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)  sparked a heated exchange between two state legislators and members of the public.
In an e-mail exchange shared with state legislators, bloggers, members of the media, and the education community, State Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, railed against Delaware’s public education policies.
 
The match to the fuse was the NAEP’s 2015 math and reading scores for students in 4th and 8th grades.  The data was last compiled and released two years ago.  
 
Compared to 2013, Delaware’s 4th Grade students saw their math scores drop from 243 to 239; while 8th grade math scores fell from 282 to 280.
 
In 4th Grade reading, Delaware students had an average score of 226 in 2013 and 224 for 2015.  Scores dropped in 8th Grade reading as well, from 266 to 263.
 
Delaware students also fared worse than the 2015 national public school average in three of the four previously cited measures, scoring above the national average only in the area of 4th Grade reading.
 
“Seriously consider the harmful effects foisted on our children by these ‘education reform’ salesmen,” Rep. Kowalko wrote in his e-mail.  “The NAEP test is one of the most widely used, highly respected and … accurate assessments of education results.  If this latest development doesn’t strike a warning chord in any of you that consider themselves as advocates for children and public education than I’m afraid it’s time for an introspective look we all should take.”
State Rep.
Jeff Spiegelman
Rep. Kowalko has been an outspoken critic of the Delaware Department of Education and the direction of education reform efforts in The First State.  House Republicans Jeff Spiegelman, R–Clayton & Lyndon Yearick, R–Camden-Woodside, joined Rep. Kowalko in sponsoring a measure earlier this year (House Bill 50, as amended) that sought to allow parents to exclude their children from the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment as well as any district-level assessment.
 
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is aligned with the contentious Common Core standards in English and mathematics.
 
Despite clearing the House and Senate with large bipartisan majorities, Gov. Jack Markell vetoed the measure citing the potential loss of federal funding and harm to the state’s economic competitiveness.
 
In his e-mail, and an identical post on his Facebook page, Rep. Kowalko criticized the state’s Common Core standards.  “Common Core is not a curriculum, but it is so specific in its standards that it becomes a de-facto curriculum.  Covering those prescribed ‘standards’ forces teachers to teach only those skills.”
 
Rep. Kowalko pointed to the NAEP test scores as reason to question Delaware’s education policies.  “The NAEP is a generalized test given to kids all over the world.  It is a consistent and reliable measure of comparison.  You can’t ‘study’ for it.  So when we look at countries that do well (i.e. Finland/New Zealand) and see that their curriculums are nothing like what we have just adopted/imposed, we should ask: ‘What are we doing?'”
 
House Education Committee Chairman, State Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, took issue with Rep. Kowalko’s use of state e-mail to share his views.  “John, your personal views shouldn’t be part of our e-mail system,” Rep. Jaques stated.  “Your e-mail isn’t based on any facts, but filled with innuendoes and bias against people you dislike.  Please take your postings to the blogs – not on the state email system!!”
 
Numerous people came to Rep. Kowalko’s defense, including WDEL Talk Show Host and Syndicated Columnist Rick Jensen.  
 
“The viewpoints of any State Representative or State Senator on public policy are absolutely permitted (and encouraged) for public dissemination via official email,” Jensen wrote.  “What should outrage every journalist and supporter of the First Amendment is Earl Jacques trying to suppress the comments of a representative who disagrees with him.”
This is going to be a very contentious second half of the 148th General Assembly folks.

WDEL’s Rick Jensen Slams Rep. Earl Jaques Over First Amendment Rights & Attempts To Suppress Rep. John Kowalko

Rick Jensen of WDEL fame replied to the stunning attempt by Rep. Earl Jaques to silence Rep. John Kowalko from an email chain yesterday and put Jaques in his rightful place on the issue:

Earl Jacques,

The viewpoints of any State Representative or State Senator on public policy are absolutely permitted (and encouraged) for public dissemination via official email.

What should outrage every journalist and supporter of the First Amendment is Earl Jacques trying to suppress the comments of a Rep who disagrees with him.

Kowalko does, indeed base his opinions on facts, Mr. Jacques.

As many people on this list you made public know, Mr. Jacques, I may not agree with many of them on many issues, but I have never tried to suppress their professional opinions as you are attempting with Mr. Kowalko.  In fact, I invite the contrast and debate for our many thousands of listeners to decide for themselves which policies to support and which to work against.

Are you going to try to suppress everyone on this email list when they disagree with you about some policy, Mr. Jacques?

Rick Jensen

Talk Show Host / Syndicated Columnist

WDEL AM&FM / Cagle Syndicate

2727 Shipley Rd.

Wilmington, DE  19810

(302) 478-2700 x170

Rick@WDEL.Com

@TheJensenShow

Updated, 12:16pm:  And it gets even more heated! Because Earl responded to Rick Jensen!

From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) [mailto:Earl.Jaques@state.de.us]
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2015 11:32 AM
To: Jensen, Rick <rjensen@dbcmedia.com>
Subject: Re: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

First Rick, my name is spelled JAQUES – no “c”.  No I’m not in anyway trying to suppress his opinion.  He has every right to his opinion as do you and I.  But I just don’t think that the state email system is the best place for this type of comments.  Maybe a better place would be a “Letter to the Editor” or a posting on a blog.  Finally, you are making the assumption that I disagree with Rep Kowalko.  But no where in my email do I state that as the reason for him not posting on the state email system.  I just don’t believe that the state email system is the place for his bias opinion and rants!

And Jensen quickly shot a retort to Jaques!

From: “Jensen, Rick” <rjensen@dbcmedia.com>

Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2015 12:06 PM
Subject:
RE: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

Earl “Jaques not Jacques,”

If you’re so concerned about lawmakers sharing their “bias opinion and rants” with fellow stakeholders on state.de.us email, then why are you ranting your “bias opinion” to me on state email?

Every opinion has bias. Bias per ideology, bias per research, bias per studies, etc.  The problem is your declaring a State Rep has no business communicating his or her opinion on policy to fellow stakeholders via state email.

Would you please forward to this email address of all of your state.de.us emails to see if, perhaps, you have followed your own prescription?

Feel free to omit those emails that pertain to personal and sensitive information from and about constituents.

Respectfully,

Rick Jensen

Earl Jaques Tries To Silence And Censor John Kowalko On Email Chain

Earlier this evening, Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko sent an email to over a hundred people about his thoughts on the latest round of NAEP scores, which are showing a downward trend.  Several folks responded, including State Rep. Earl Jaques.  What Jaques did is symptomatic of what is wrong in Delaware politics.  Follow the email chain, and let me know if you agree or disagree with Jaques.


From: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:06 PM
To: Bennett, Andria (LegHall); acherry@wdel.com; aloudell@dbcmedia.com; al@wdel.com; Bohm, Adriana L (K12); albydm@aol.com; “alan@greendel.org”; Alyssa Van Stan; amywroe@gmail.com; Volturo, Andrew (LegHall); Bradley, Juanita V (K12); Short, Bryon (LegHall); Baumbach, Paul (LegHall); Townsend, Bryan (LegHall); Hall-Long, Bethany (LegHall); Mike Begatto; Bentz, David (LegHall); Torbert, Betty (K12); “Graves, Bianca”; Bolden, StephanieT (LegHall); Bush, William (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); cciferni1972@gmail.com; Thompson, Cathy (K12); Carson, William (LegHall); Collins, Richard G (LegHall); Yvonne; downwithabsolutes@gmail.com; Rufo, Donato (K12); “dresler@verizon.net”; Sokola, David (LegHall); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); Wilson, David L (LegHall); “delawaregrapevine@comcast.net”; Hudson, Deborah (LegHall); Nelia Dolan; john_allison@comcast.net; Mitchell, John L (LegHall); Viola, John (LegHall); kevino3670@yahoo.com; Keeley, Helene (LegHall); kempskim@comcast.net; kenhaas@udel.edu; Osienski, Edward (LegHall); eve.buckley@gmail.com; Minnehan, Harrie E (K12); Paige, Elizabeth (K12); Henry, Margaret Rose (LegHall); hegedusfamily@comcast.net; frederika.jenner@dsea.org; Polaski, Fred (K12); Newton, Faith (K12); “flally@council81.org”; Frank Sims; Katie Gifford; Brady, Gerald (LegHall); gerri.coble@dsea.org; george.evans@christina.k12.de.us; Godowsky, Steven (K12); hegedusfamily@comcast.net; McDowell, Harris (LegHall); Kenton, Harvey (LegHall); Jackie Hilderbrand Kook; Hudson, Deborah (LegHall); jdf0000@aol.com; jyd1988@gmail.com; james.dawson@wdde.org; Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall); Spiegelman, Jeff (LegHall); Bradley, Juanita V (K12); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Peterson, Karen (LegHall); kavips2006@yahoo.com; kempskim@comcast.net; Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); lehman@bgisolutions.com; lpkaplan@comcast.net; Lindell, Matt (K12); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); lewis@udel.edu; Lindell, Matt (K12); Longhurst, Valerie (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Matthews, Michael J (K12); malbright@delawareonline.com; Nancyvwilling@yahoo.com; Tyler Nixon; Braddock, Nicole (K12); Marshall, Jayne O (K12); Piccio, Mike (K12); Sedacca, Paul A (K12); Paradee, Trey (LegHall); Puffer, Richard (LegHall); Johnson, Quinton (LegHall); rick@wdel.com; Marshall, Robert (LegHall); Ramone, Michael (LegHall); Zoe Read; Rivera, Brie E.; robgiff@gmail.com; BriggsKing, Ruth (LegHall); Thompson, Seth (LegHall); Frank Sims; tbarchak@nea.org; tobinpolitics@yahoo.com; “terri.hodges@delawarepta.org”; Williams, Freeman (K12); Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal); andy@pasenate.com; Yearick, Lyndon D (LegHall); Young, John (K12); Yvonne
Subject: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

 Dear all please read and seriously consider the harmful effects foisted on our children by these “education reform” salesmen. The NAEP test is one of the most widely used, highly respected and proven (over decades) accurate assessments of education results. If this latest development doesn’t strike a warning chord in any of you that consider themselves as advocates for children and public education than I’m afraid it’s time for an introspective look we all should take.

Representative John Kowalko

Here is part of my response to a media interview regarding my feelings as to why NAEP scores went down and my conclusion why that occurred.

Very simply put Markell’s, Arnie’s, RODEL’s, Gates’, and all of the other (for personal profit) “education reformists” have foisted a failed system on our children with a horribly harmful result under the guise of a “common core” system that is ruining America’s and Delaware’s public education structure and willfully hurting children. Brief statement follows:

Scores down for NAEP
They’ve changed the curriculum. When they are now teaching algebra and geometry (under common core) in 3rd grade what are they not teaching or no longer teaching. If kids don’t truly understand and know multiplication, how are they going to perform the higher level skills required?
The NAEP is a generalized test given to kids all over the world. It is a consistent and reliable measure of comparison. You can’t “study” for it. So when we look at countries that do well (i.e. Finland/New Zealand) and see that their curriculums are nothing like what we have just adopted/imposed we should ask “what are we doing”?
Common Core is not a curriculum but it is so specific in its standards that it becomes a de-facto curriculum. Covering those prescribed “standards” forces teachers to teach only those skills. This presents two significant problems. There is no time for anything else and teachers are being handed a curriculum and much like the “Balanced Assessment Test”, it is being written (and profited from) by the same people who wrote common core who are (in most cases) not qualified teachers in these fields.


Editor’s note: to save space, I’m not going to keep copying the to: part of the email.


From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) <Earl.Jaques@state.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:39 PM

John,

Your personal views shouldn’t be part of our email system.  Your email isn’t based on any facts but filled with innuendoes and bias against people you dislike.  Please take your postings to the blogs – not on the state email system!!

Earl Jaques


On Oct 28, 2015, at 6:58 PM, Rufo Donato wrote:

Hey earl
I like john and what he is doing…. He cares… Seems like your email is the snippy one….
When your in politics you have to learn how to deal with things….

Perhaps you should start to blog…. Maybe then people will know who’s side your on….

Donato C. Rufo

Social Studies Teacher

NCCVTEA President

From: Matthews Michael <michael.matthews@redclay.k12.de.us>

I have no problem with Rep. Kowalko’s email because, in essence, it directly calls out the leaders of the failed, multi-billion dollar policies at the state and national level that have most assuredly contributed to the embarrassing drop in NAEP scores.
We’ve had 15 years of education reform policies under Bush/Obama/Markell.  Those policies have includes — but are not limited to — more charter schools, more testing, most consultants, RttT, fewer reading and math specialists, more bloated bureaucracy at the Department of Education, more threatened school closures and turnaround, PLCs, “deep data dives,” “rigor,” “grit,” Teach for America, priority schools, focus schools, focus plus schools, Charter School Performance Fund monies for schools who a) don’t show a financial need for it or b) have shown no track record to deserve it, data coaches from FOX News’ Wireless Generation…need I go on?
The same policies and ideologies towards which millions of dollars have been ostensibly wasted all in the name of student achievement and heightened teacher accountability that could have been used to provide immediate supports to our neediest of schools. These are the policies of the last 15 years that have attempted to corporatized and privatize our schools.
And you know what? They’ve failed. Miserably. The gold standard of assessment — the NAEP — tells us we’ve failed. And you know who takes this stuff the hardest? The classroom teachers and specialists who’ve been saying for years that failed policies under two presidential administrations and this governor have given many cause to quit well before they’ve hit their peak.
It’s too late for the kids who’ve already gone through the system these last 15 years. Will we have the courage to stop the insanity NOW so we don’t risk the future of the next generation of kids?
Mike Matthews

From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 7:45 PM

Earl,

Your email epitomizes the problem. The state system is the peoples’ system. Why are you so concerned with stifling it? Why do you deign to denigrate John’s email as if it not informed by taxpaying constituents? Who are you to silence opinion and debate? Who elected you Governor? Our tax dollars pay for this, so you should probably consider it an EXPEDITED FOIA request.

I echo Mike Matthews sentiment completely.

Why don’t you show up to another CEA meeting and berate them over Opt Out again after it passed out of your committee and overwhelmingly by your colleagues after you declared the possibility of such as ZERO.  This is the peoples’ bully pulpit and I am deeply offended that an elected official, fresh off of calling my son a quitter over his parents’ reasoned decision to opt him out of high stakes tests would dare stifle dissent in such a brazen, callous manner. Tests imposed by this Governor, with your overt, glowing approval that have clearly been ineffective by the way. That was John’s point, and it is not only true, it resonates.

Why don’t you go read the Race to the Top Grant Application: https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/delawares-race-to-the-top-grant-application/and check the goals with the results. Get back to me when you realize the depth of failure you have chosen to embrace.

We need more John Kowalko’s and less Earl Jaques’. We need elected representative who actually understand representative republics and know that the House they do their work in is only on a visitor’s pass and at the exclusive behest of the people they represent.

Lastly, you are free to denigrate the blogs, but know this: we are the last line of truth in a free society, free from corporate influence.  Feel free to attack bloggers all you want, but we are not going away. We live to hold ill informed, power hungry, tin-eared politicians like yourself accountable.

John, thank you for speaking truth to power. Everyone does not have to, nor should agree with you at times, but they should never ignore you or denigrate your motives.

Earl, thanks for confirming what we already knew about your iron-fisted, bullying and intimidating style. It went out of fashion in 1985, but thanks for keeping it alive. (sarcasm intended)

John Young


Editor’s note: I sent a reply but I couldn’t reply to all with Yahoo, so I asked Rep. Kowalko to forward it to the recipients.


From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:57 PM
To:
Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall)
Cc:
Kowalko, John (LegHall); Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall)
Subject: Re: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

Earl,
I applaud Rep. Kowalko for getting the word out on these matters.  It shows courage and conviction that some legislators won’t dare to show for fear of opposing Governor Markell.  The only reason I am not including everyone on this email is because my yahoo Email won’t allow me to respond to that many people.  Just my two cents: I would listen to John.  I’m sorry you don’t see the inherent danger with what Governor Markell and others have done to education, but this path is clearly not good for Delaware students.  My best suggestion for you Rep. Jaques: You can either sink with the ship or grab ahold of a life-jacket as soon as possible.
Furthermore, by not personally sending John a reply with just him, you are using the very same email system you don’t want him using.  That seems odd, but putting a fellow State Rep. down over something and accusing him of bias without any facts is completely false.  I believe he is showing facts based on data from the NAEP scores that education reform isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I saw you battle John during the House Education Committee meeting over House Bill 50, and it was almost like you had a personal grudge against him.  There is no place in Delaware politics for that and I hope we don’t see that kind of behavior again come January.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt

Earl, Earl, Earl, when are you ever going to learn?  You can’t silence people like that.  You need to let the people speak, whether it’s through opt-out or public comment.  Legislators are not exempt from public comment.

Big Mouth Strikes Again: What Did Earl Jaques Say This Time To Diss Parents?

earlandjack

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques can’t let it go.  He hates parents opting their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Last night, at the SBOE SBAC Pizza Party, Jaques said “Parents make bad decisions for their kids.”  This was in reference to a question posed to participants about why 3rd graders may have done better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment compared to 8th graders.  While he didn’t come out and speak about opt-out, he briefly glanced over at me while he was saying this.  I was at this meeting for a very short time, but fate must have dictated I be there to hear Jaques’ latest rant against Delaware parents who must not know how to raise their children and must bow down before the all-knowing Earl Jaques, his buddies at the DOE and Governor Markell.  Jaques knows my position on opt-out as well and knows I am one of the most fervent supporters for it in the state.

As the House Education Committee Chair, Jaques vehemently opposed State Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson’s bi-partisan parent opt-out legislation earlier in the year.  House Bill 50 passed with a majority of votes in the Delaware House and Senate after months of arguments and amendments to the bill.  While Governor Markell vetoed the bill in July, many Delawareans are hopeful the legislators in the 148th General Assembly will override Markell’s veto when they return in January.  I expect more “Jaqueisms” at that time.  Last March, Jaques publicly stated students who opt out don’t measure up and slammed parents for opting their kids out.  This forever cemented Jaques place in the Exceptional Delaware Wall of Shame and earned him the ire of parents of special needs children.  He has been quiet on the issue up until last night.  Big mouth strikes again…

Apparently, Jaques really hates it if you spell his last name Jacques…

State Rep. Earl Jaques Slams Teacher Pay While Justifying Cuts To The Poor

Yesterday, Red Clay Education Association President Mike Matthews posted on Facebook regarding a News Journal article about cuts to the homeless in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.  Matthews wrote:

“Shameful. Poor folks get $15 less per month but we found $1,000,000 to go to a few charter schools.”

The ensuing conversation was very much in agreement with Matthews original comment, until Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques joined the fray…

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Obviously, this brought teaching into this conversation in a huge way.  The comments started flying:

Is Earl suggesting that underpaid teachers should make up the difference of cuts to the poor? Since Earl is part of the General Assembly, what is he recommending be cut to get that money back to the poor and when is he going to formally propose those cuts? Does he have any idea of what Mike already does for the poor? Real classy.

Earl — I don’t want to hear that argument so don’t sell it here. The argument is (expletive deleted) and you know it. Cutting general assistance to the poor so Newark Charter can build a new lab is disgusting and you know it.

But I agree with the bottom part of your comment. I just wish we had more legislators willing to be brave and do the right thing.

 Earl Jaques has reliably demonstrated, with both his words and actions, that he is both incapable and unconcerned with helping public schools best serve students and parents.

The step increases will perhaps cover the additional healthcare costs borne by the educators. I wouldn’t know, I’m at the top of the scale and don’t get steps anymore. But I still advocated for them for my fellow employees.

How about he cut HIS pay and give to the poor?

Most teachers I know give to the poor in real, tangible ways. Has EJ ever, with his own income ever purchased a coat, a pair of shoes, a backpack for a poor child? How about pay a family’s electric bill? Find an air conditioner for an asthmatic child, provided a graphing calculator for a motivated high school student who could afford her own? Figure out how to get eyeglasses for a struggling student, paid for a field trip, or year book for a child NOT related to him? Purchased a novel on CD that an English language learner could not read?
These are things that teachers do. No one forces them. It is not required of them. But many will ho-hum this litany of giving.
They expect teachers to give as they expect missionaries to lay down their lives for the faith.
And they want no reminders of the needs they choose to ignore.
I mean, who lobbies for the poor, anyway?
Allow teachers to give willingly and then try to shame them for not giving more.

Now if I were Earl Jaques, I would have probably walked away from this.  Trying to compare cuts to the poor to expensive labs in charter schools is not a wise idea in the current fiscal environment in Delaware.  Especially since this charter already got grants from other sources for this lab, including the Longwood Foundation.  But this morning he came back with the following which drew a brilliant response from Matthews:

  • Earl Jaques What you miss was that the budget is a balancing act. Everyone had needs and we try to fill as many needs as possible, but unfortunately we can’t fill every need to the level we would like. Also teachers aren’t the only state employees.
  • Mike Matthews $250,000 for a Newark Charter School expansion, Earl. This school serves a limited low-income population and they’re already at huge levels of proficiency on the state test. So why do they “need” that money? You can say all you want about everyone having to sacrifice a little, but it’s disingenuous to not qualify the level of “need” for NCS vs. the level of need of those on General Assistance.
     

Yes folks, this is the Chairman of the House Education Committee in Delaware!

Will Delaware State Board of Education & DOE Throw Delaware PTA Under The Bus For Smarter Balanced Scores As Well?

I found this very interesting item today… On October 5th, there will be a tentative special Delaware State Board of Education Workshop on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Accountability.  While it is not on the State Public Meeting Calendar, they already have the agenda up if you go to the above link, along with documents to be used in the presentation.  I wrote yesterday about the DOE’s plans to use teachers as scapegoats for the Smarter Balanced Assessment results, and from the looks of this, the Delaware PTA may be used in similar fashion.

State Board Workshop on State Assessments and Accountability 10/5/2015 – 5:00 PM

Date, Time and Location all TBA

Below are resources that may be helpful in providing additional information about Delaware State assessments

Here is the link to the Smarter Balanced practice test: http://sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test/

A website with lots of resources and information on Delaware’s standards and assessments: http://delexcels.org/

Additional information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment: http://bealearninghero.org/classroom/smarter-balanced

Smarter Balanced Assessment Guides developed by Delaware PTA and the National PTA:
http://delawarepta.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/smarterbalancedassessmentguide.pdf

http://www.pta.org/files/PTA%20Assessment%20Factsheet%20FINAL.pdf

Resources to review specific skills aligned with Smarter Balanced Score report information by grade level: http://bealearninghero.org/skill-builder

Grade by grade overview of English and math standards: http://www.pta.org/content.cfm?ItemNumber=2909

That’s a whole lot of mention of Delaware PTA in just one part of this presentation.  This will be a couple weeks after parents get the kid’s Smarter Balanced scores, and they will be freaking out.  Here comes the State Board to the rescue.  They are going to make this a big thing.  all parents are invited.  Media will be on hand and probably already got their “save the date” email.  The State Board will say “We didn’t design the test.  Teachers contributed and the Delaware PTA directed parents where to go.”  And that will be all parents need to hear: teachers and an organization to help shoulder the blame.  The State Board and the DOE will promise to look into this. They will assure parents they will do everything they can to make this assessment more tolerable this year and will work with the schools and districts to make sure they are doing it right. And then comes the usual “we want all children to succeed,” most likely from State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.

Unless some soothsayer blogger predicts this a month and a half ahead of time and publishes it on his blog… 😉

What the State Board of Education and the DOE may not realize is the Delaware PTA was the biggest advocate of parents opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. While they did provide links to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, it was a way for parents to find out what this test is really about. They came right out and said they don’t think the Smarter Balanced Assessment is an effective measurement for student success. I would be hard-pressed to find anyone more dedicated to parent engagement than Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges and VP For Advocacy Yvonne Johnson. One of them was at every single debate and meeting on House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill, at Legislative Hall. They formed the town halls on opt-out that ignited the fire. They know how bad this test is.

If parents want to blame someone for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they can look to the following individuals and groups: Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, the un-elected Governor appointed Delaware State Board of Education, the entire leadership of the Delaware DOE (including David Blowman, Penny Schwinn, Chris Ruszkowski, Susan Haberstroh, Karen Field-Rogers and Michael Watson), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Delaware Senator David Sokola, Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques, former Delaware State Rep. Darryl Scott, Rodel, The Vision Coalition, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network. If parents want to take action on their frustration with these people, there is no easier way to do that than to say NO MORE! Refuse the Test for your children! Opt-out! And email-bomb every single member of the 148th General Assembly: State Reps and Senators, demanding they override Governor Markell’s House Bill 50 veto the first day they come back to legislative session in January 2016. And while you are at it, demand legislation removing the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state assessment of Delaware! Parent’s voices were heard with House Bill 50, and those who voted no will be held accountable. But the vast majority voted yes, and they will again when the override comes. Especially when they receive ten times the amount of emails, calls, Facebook messages, tweets, and messages.

I encourage anyone reading this to keep coming back to this link. So when the big news does break with the scores, and enraged parents get on Google and start researching Smarter Balanced Assessment and Delaware PTA, this will be the first link they see on Google. Share it, spread it, email it, write it down and put it on cars at the mall!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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