Big Events Tonight In Delaware! Marino vs Hansen, State Board Of Ed Sunset Review and More!

This is one of the things I can’t stand about Delaware.  Weeks will go by without anything momentous going on and then BOOM! Everything all at once on the same night.  Tonight is no exception!

The biggest, which will likely draw a great deal of media attention, is the debate between Republican John Marino and Democrat Stephanie Hansen for the 10th Senate District seat.  The winner of this special election will dictate who holds the power in the Delaware Senate.  There is a lot of heat on this election already and it will only ramp up until the February 25th voting day.  Hosted by Allan Loudell with WDEL, this debate at Middletown High School begins at 7pm.  As well, Libertarian candidate Joseph Lanzendorfer will be a part of the debate.

The State Board of Education has their first Joint Sunset Committee review tonight in the Joint Finance Committee room at Legislative Hall, 7pm.  The State Board of Education was put on review last Spring by this committee.  There could be big changes coming out of this review and this will be one to watch.

Capital School District is holding a forum on “potential building configurations” at the William Henry Middle School Auditorium, 6pm.  Many in the district have felt their current grade configuration doesn’t work.  Coming out of their ongoing Strategic Plan, this could draw a lot of attention for Senator Citizens in Dover.  This part of their strategic plan is under the long-range master facilities plan.  I say make it K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.  But there is also a potential of pre-school and Kindergartners getting their own building.

The Progressive Democrats for Delaware are holding a pot-luck dinner tonight at the New Castle Democrat Headquarters over on 19 Commons Blvd. in New Castle from 7pm to 9pm.

The Down Syndrome Association of Delaware is holding a forum with state legislators covering topics such as education, Medicaid, and employment.  This event, sponsored by Eventbrite, will be held from 7pm to 9pm at State Troop 2 in Newark, DE.

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is holding a meeting for the Meeting the Needs of Students in Poverty at United Way of Delaware, 625 Orange St. at the Linden Building, 3rd Floor, in Wilmington from 4pm to 6pm.

Earlier today, the Joint Finance Committee heard opening remarks for Public Education as well as the Chief School Officers down in Dover.  After that, the JFC got to hear the Delaware Department of Education’s FY2018 budget request which is still going on until 4pm.

Busy day with no ability for everyone to get to all these things.  I will be attending the debate tonight.  Let’s see who wins this one!

 

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Delaware Senator David Sokola Openly Lied To Citizens In His Debate Last Night

Delaware Senator David Sokola openly lied in a debate with his opponent for the 8th Senate District, Republican Meredith Chapman.  WDEL covered the event which included a lot of talk about opt out and districts vs. charters.  When confronted with the question of opt out, WDEL reported the following:

Longtime incumbent state Senator David Sokola does not fully support an opt-out provision.

“If it said opt-out of Smarter Balanced, I’d probably support it,” said Sokola. “But if just said opt-out of the state tests–then I’d have a problem because I think we will be moving to a different assessment within a couple of years anyway.”

As Senator Sokola knows, House Bill 50 in its original incarnation was for all state assessments.  However, prior to the House voting on the bill, State Rep. Sean Matthews added an amendment limiting the legislation to just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It overwhelmingly passed the House and went to the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Sokola.  When it was released from that committee, it went to the floor for a full Senate vote.  Sokola added an amendment to the bill to include all district assessments.  The amendment passed but Sokola voted no on House Bill 50.  After another Senator put on an amendment which was taken off by the House, it went back to the Senate for a second vote and Sokola voted no a second time.

David Sokola is a flat-out liar.  Some have attempted to sway me into supporting Sokola because of his track record on other issues, but I see him for what he is.  He is no longer fit to represent the people of his district, much less any child in the State of Delaware.  He can’t even own up to his own decisions and be honest about it.  Vote for Meredith Chapman in the 8th Senate District.  A quarter of a century of this liar is far too long…

Lisa Blunt Rochester STILL Can’t Say “I Support A Parent’s Right To Opt Out”, She Is A Vote For Rodel

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At a League of Women Voter’s candidate forum tonight at Delaware State University, Delaware candidates for Congress and Insurance Commissioner debated about many topics.  Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini was unable to make it, so John Carney didn’t come, even though the Green candidate for Governor showed up.  La Mar Gunn wasn’t able to make it, to Bethany Hall-Long left shortly after the debate began.

But Lisa Blunt Rochester… she still can’t say the words: “I support a parent’s right to opt out.”  A question came up about abolishing Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (and it, surprisingly, didn’t come from me).  I will be (no pun intended) blunt and admit my question was “Yes or No, do you support a parent’s right to opt out of standardized testing.”  But the Common Core/SBAC one had Republican candidate Hans Reigle and Libertarian candidate Scott Gesty both openly admit their loathing of Common Core and Smarter Balanced and that they support a parent’s right to opt out.  She snuck in towards the end that she supports parental rights, but it’s not the same thing and she knows it.

I have no doubt the Insurance Commissioner candidates, Republican Jeff Cragg and Democrat Trinidad Navarro thought to themselves, “I’m an insurance guy, I’m not answering that political hot potato.”  Can’t say I blame them, but Blunt-Rochester knows it is a big topic in Delaware.  And she either insults parents who do opt their kids out or just ignores it.  But I don’t think she understands what Markell and the Delaware DOE have done to students in this state.

“For me, as I look at the whole issue of testing, I don’t think we should be teaching to a test.  We should be looking at measuring growth for that additional child so that teachers are empowered to really help that child…one of the issues in terms of tests and opting out is the fact that what we would hope is our education system would be equal and equitable and high quality so that no one would want to opt out.”

So in the meantime, we keep the crappy test that will lead to stealth tests in a personalized learning/competency-based education arena.  And this growth she wants us to measure?  What does she think the feds and the Delaware DOE measure that growth by?  The standardized test.  Hello!  And equal and equitable aren’t the same thing.  High quality based on what?  Common Core and SBAC?  Or do you have a better idea that we haven’t heard.  The other candidates recommended bringing this back to the local level.  I didn’t hear that from you tonight.

They did ask one of my questions about restoring FERPA to pre-2008 levels.  In 2008 and 2011, the US DOE had FERPA changed which allowed student data to go out to third-party companies, sometimes without any parental consent for the data collecting procedures to begin with.  Once again, Gesty and Reigle nailed it and said they would support those changes.  Blunt-Rochester (if she even knows what FERPA is), talked about HIPAA and cell phone tracking apps.  Her response to changing FERPA?

“I would want to know more about why that exchange happens.”

Uhm, it happens so private student information can go out to companies and massive troves of data are collected on our kids.  That was the whole point of the question.  Gesty and Reigle got it.  Not sure why you can’t.  Blunt-Rochester talked about her time as the Delaware Secretary of Labor and constituents complained about filling out multiple forms to different state agencies.  She did say privacy is a concern, but she missed the point of the question.  There is a BIG difference.

She is well aware I blasted her in August for calling opt out a “leisure for some parents” at a Congressional debate in Wilmington.  Afterwards, I asked her point blank on her Facebook page if she supports a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  She said nothing.  Didn’t respond.  And I’ve seen her a few times since (along with John Carney), and they treat me as if I were a ghost.  You can think it is okay to be completely rude and not respond if I smile at you or say hi, but don’t think for one minute that I’m not hip to the Rodel influence on both of you.  I have no doubt I will be writing more about both of them the next four years, and it won’t be pleasant at this rate.  My take when this happens: you are drinking someone else’s Kool-Aid and really don’t know enough about the issue.  You are told what to say and what not to say.  And I’m sure one of the cardinal rules is don’t engage with the blogger.  Which just makes me jump all over you.  Funny how that works out.  Some may say I attack first and ask questions later.  I will own that.  But as most who bother to take the time to actually talk to me know, I am willing to listen.  I may not agree, but if you treat me like a leper, you reap what you sow.  I’m not in it this for politicians or administrators or for whatever state association you have.  I’m in this for the kids.  For my own son.  And for this entire generation of students who have been subjected to pure and utter crap from adults who should REALLY know better than to think it is okay to profit off kids.

I will say I endorsed Scott Gesty for Congress last month.  Ideologically, we agree on many issues.  With that being said, if he wasn’t in the race, I would support Hans Reigle.  Blunt-Rochester is just spend, spend, spend, and economy this and economy that with the same script we’ve read for the past eight years under Governor Rodel, er, uhm, Markell.  And Carney is the same thing.  Enough.  I can say Blunt-Rochester will not be getting a vote from my household as my wife supports Hans.  We are a divided household, what can I say.  I am a firm believer you get what you vote for.  And the way this state votes “blue or die”, we will get the same.  And all those who preach doom and gloom every single political season, those of the same party who can’t stand each other but will support their peer because of a political label, they will be the first ones complaining over the next four years and public education will continue to go down a dark path as we try to spend our way to prosperity.  Many see me as a Democrat, while others see me as a Republican or Libertarian.  I’m just a dad.  Concerned about my son’s future as a citizen of Delaware and America.  I see between the lines of all the crap being slung at us.  The lies, the manipulation, the fraud.  It is not red or blue or any other party.  It’s greed, pure and simple.  People who are so used to hanging out with people who are, at heart, glorified salespeople, who promise great things as they spin their shit into gold.

I can’t support Hillary or Donald either for those same reasons.  Hillary is the godmother of corporate education reform.  Trump is just Trump, all bark and no bite.  But when he gets impeached (which I can easily see happening), we will be left with Mike Pence who is a big corporate education reform kind of guy.  So either way we are screwed.  I think Hillary’s plans are exactly what we see happening in education.  Don’t be fooled by her.  She will stab all students, teachers, and parents in the back.  And her minions in each state, including Delaware, will make damn sure it happens at the state level.  The wheels are already in motion.  We call this the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Don’t think for one minute she isn’t banking on winning and has been planning accordingly.  And just in case, we have Mike Pence waiting in the wings.  And Delaware will automatically cave if we keep the current power structure and say “Yes, we have to do this.”  And the cycle goes on and on and on…

As for Lisa Blunt-Rochester and her need to have us find “common ground” as she put it tonight, we will never find that common ground until some candidates and existing legislators don’t return to the ground.  I don’t vote on smiles.  I vote on words.  And the words I was looking for tonight did come out.  Just not from you.

 

 

Bethany Hall-Long Supports TFA, Colin Bonini Hates The Priority Schools, and John Carney Says “See My Plan”

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I attended a Delaware Governor and Lieutenant Governor debate tonight at Delaware State University.  It felt like it should have been an episode of The Gong Show.  In a night where Colin Bonini said he felt like Delaware’s apology for slavery was a crutch and Lamar Gunn talked to the audience about discrimination and how they don’t have to vote blue or red but rather the person.  There was a lot of talk about discrimination tonight, yet no one addressed the point that the Libertarian and Green candidates were not invited to the debate.  Candidates who I’m sure would have had a lot more to offer than the ones I saw tonight.

Yes, in a reply to a question about a lack of minority teachers in Delaware, Senator Bethany Hall-Long took it upon herself, a DSEA supported candidate, to publicly support Teach For America.  She said why do we have to wait that long when we have Teach For America ready to come into our schools.  So let me get this straight Bethany: you would rather have minorities go through a six-week crash course on teaching Delaware students and throw them in schools than go through the actual degree process to become a Delaware teacher?  Would you have come out with that statement before you were endorsed by the Delaware State Education Association?  This was after she gave a very bizarre “Take A Look At Me Now” opening statement like she was auditioning for a 21st Century Shirley Temple movie.

Colin Bonini decided to throw the six priority schools under the bus.  And then go in reverse and run over them all over them again.  By calling them “six failed schools” because of their test scores, he bashed the schools for only hiring assistant principals.  But then he went that next step as only Bonini would by saying they should have been converted to charter schools.  When asked about why he voted no on the resolution for Delaware to apologize for its role in slavery, Bonini actually told the over 90% African-American crowd he thought slavery apologies were a crutch.

And John Carney.  If I heard “if you take a look at my plan” one more time I was probably going to have to yell “Do you even know what is in your plans?”  Because it was obvious in many areas he didn’t.  When asked about criminal justice he said his campaign was coming out with a plan on that subject in a few days.  As he smugly sat there and said “When I become the next Governor,” Bonini retorted back with his I know I’m going to lose face with a similar comment about how Carney would work in his administration.  In fact, Bonini made it a point to tell the audience he likes John Carney even though his campaign manager keeps telling him to stop saying that.  Carney went a step further and told everyone he and Bonini are friends, and “that’s how we get things done in Delaware.”  Yes, the rotting and festering wound we call “The Delaware Way.”  In some respects, Bonini almost looked like he was prepping for continued life as a Delaware Senator who will have to work with Governor Carney.  It was the only logical answer I could find as he tried to mesmerize the audience with the magical word “Prosperity” throughout the night.

When Lieutenant Governor candidate Lamar Gunn wasn’t trying to eviscerate his opponent every chance he got, he did make some good points about race in Delaware.  But it got lost in his newly created powers he wants for the Lieutenant Governor role.  Carney, Bonini, and Hall-Long all talked about college and career readiness.  And this legislation and that legislation.  Bonini answered many questions with one word, “Prosperity”, before he attempted to explain why prosperity is the answer to life.  Both Hall-Long and Carney couldn’t seem to reconcile how Delaware needs all these 21st Century jobs starting real soon and how we need the bottom rung jobs as well.  It almost seemed like they were telling the audience, “Don’t worry, we will create jobs for you if we can’t get you into those Pathways To Prosperity jobs.”

It was a dismal night.  After the Carney-Bonini debate, someone asked me if I liked what I heard.  My only response was “I never like what I hear.”  This is Delaware.  Everyone wants a seat at the table, but as Gunn put it, you aren’t being invited to the table, you are a dessert on the table.”   Two words I didn’t hear from any candidate’s mouth were special education.  They all seem to forget that for some students, it isn’t just being a minority, it is also being a student with disabilities.  But Carney told the audience how we have been going from one education reform to the next, but whatever we come up with next, we have to make it stick.  Like we haven’t heard that before.  As the Delaware DOE gets ready to unleash the first draft of their ESSA plan that will be a boon for outside providers and will pretty much give schools the same sucky accountability standards they had before.  But both Carney and Bonini said they believe in local control.

In response to the upcoming report coming out on discrimination in Delaware State Government, Carney wants to take that role out of the Office of Management and Budget and give them their own brand new cabinet position in Delaware government.  As he talked about the huge deficit we will face in the next year.  When asked if that would be separate from a Civil Rights office, Carney quickly chimed in that he could roll that into it.  Bonini spoke about a letter he wrote wanting to create new committees in the House and Senate for civil rights but added it would have been hard to do in the middle of a General Assembly.  But Gunn went after Hall-Long for not voting on it even though it was never legislation.

Like the picture of John Bonini and Colin Carney above, my brain felt very blurry as I left the auditorium and walked to my car on this crisp and cool Autumn evening.  It is an epidemic during this 2016 election season.  Brain cells crashing into each other as we continue to ask ourselves why the future sounds so important but those guiding the way are oblivious to so much.  If I walked away from this with any support for any of the four candidates, it would have to be Gunn for Lieutenant Governor.  Only to watch him preside over the Senate while Bethany Hall-Long fake smiles the whole time.  I would have loved to have seen Carney and Bonini react to Libertarian Gubernatorial candidate Sean Goward’s awesome ideas.  But that’s the Delaware Way…

So what should I expect in the next four years of Delaware?  John Carney purposely avoiding eye contact with me, which would make tonight the hat trick for this kind of behavior since I met him at one of his Spaghetti meet and greets earlier last month.  But that’s okay, I’m sure he has a plan…

Chapman Vs. Sokola On Education!!!! Must-See Event!

It looks like Meredith Chapman will have a chance to debate Senator David Sokola on education!  The Friends Of Christina are holding a forum where both will talk about their education platforms on October 27th, from 7:00 to 8:15pm.  I really can’t miss this one!

Please MARK YOUR CALENDARS for an important fall event!

FOCSD will host an education forum for Newark-area state senate candidates on THURS., Oct 27, 7:00-8:15 at Kirk Middle School.

Incumbent Dave Sokola (chair, DE Senate education committee) and challenger Meredith Chapman will speak to us about their education platforms and take questions from participants. Do you have questions, concerns, or ideas you would like to raise with the people campaigning to shape state education policies over the next several years? This is your chance to let Mr. Sokola and Ms. Chapman know what concerns families invested in our schools.

There’s no better time to bend the ear of elected & aspiring public officials than the weeks just before they are up for election!

The Data Wall Debate Gets Real

The article I did on data walls yesterday is stimulating a great deal of conversation.  I think that is awesome.  Something like this should be talked about.  There seems to be two general sides: those who feel data walls shame struggling students and those who think this will scar children by taking away these components of education.  One person on a Facebook group said we are turning kids into wussies and our country will go down the toilet.  Others feel it is a waste of a teacher’s time and energy.  Both sides have some valid arguments, but I want to make a few things clear.

The pictures in the article were not taken by me.  They were also intentionally blurry because student pictures are on the wall.  I can’t really argue for data privacy while putting up hundreds  of kids pictures up so anyone can see them.  This was an academic data wall with three colors ranging from a bottom red to a top green.

I haven’t heard back from any of the Delaware superintendents or charter leaders.  But I have heard from tens of thousands of teachers, in Delaware, the USA and even countries like New Zealand, Germany, and Japan.  I found out states like Oregon have laws specifically banning data walls.  The vast majority of teachers, well over 95%, are against these data walls.  Most of them are required to do it and the mandates are serious.  I will be exploring this topic much more in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I stand ready to start filing FERPA violations on Thursday night if I am not taken seriously.  Let’s keep this conversation going.  It is important.

There were no data walls when I was a kid.  My child never experienced data walls like this.  So this is very new to me.

Watch The University of Delaware Common Core Town Hall Debate

This video needs to be watched by every parent in Delaware.  If you think you know what is really going on with Common Core, you have no idea.  We all have busy lives, but this is well worth 2 1/2 hours out of your life.  This is the debate from January 24th that the Delaware Department of Education was supposed to be a part of but canceled at the last minute.  I can see why they wouldn’t be able to after watching this video.  They would have been slaughtered!

Very Interesting Chat With Delaware State Representative Last Night re: Mark Murphy and Smarter Balanced Assessment @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat #netde #eduDE

Last night, the Kent County League Of Women Voters held a public debate for the Kent County candidates running for office in the election on November 4th.  The event was held at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, DE.  Several candidates declined the debate, and some were unable to attend.  Under debate law, if one party in a particular race does not show up, the other party is unable to debate.

For the Delaware House Representative candidates, the parties that debated were District 30 candidates Libertarian Gordon Gene Smith and Republican Jonathan E. Gallo (current Democrat House Rep. William Outten declined the debate) and District 11 candidates Democrat Lynne Newlin and current Republican House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman.  For the Senate, the only attending candidates were from the 17th Senate District, current Democrat State Senator Brian Bushweller and Republican candidate Dr. Kim Warfield.

A two-part question asked of the candidates on their position on standardized testing and allowing parents to opt out of standardized testing.  Senator Bushweller said he does not believe parents should have the option to opt their children out of standardized testing because he felt students need to be measured for their proficiency.  He also added his belief there have been too many changes in the tests in Delaware, and when the Smarter Balanced Assessment comes out “in a couple years” this will be the third test.   House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman felt there should be a consistent set of standards for the country, but parents should have the right to opt their children out of standardized testing.  Both of these elected officials voted for House Bill 334 which allowed the Smarter Balanced Assessment to replace DCAS as the state standardized test.

After the debate, I had the opportunity to speak with House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman, and I asked him why he voted for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He said his wife is a teacher, and most teachers hated DCAS because it was administered to students three times a year.  I explained to him that I believe the Smarter Balanced Assessment is worse than DCAS.  He replied that for House Bill 334, it was a choice of the lesser of two evils, and what made it very difficult for the vote was the fact that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy had already bought the test for the state.  He felt it put the legislators in a no-win situation.  He gave me permission to publish this opinion.

As for Senator Bushweller’s statement about the Smarter Balanced Assessment during the public debate, where he said it was coming out in “a couple years” it showed an ignorance of the current education climate in Delaware based on the fact that the test will first be administered in the Spring of 2015, not two years from now.  It really makes me wonder based on the two current legislator’s comments how much information they were given about the test before the vote.  Neither of them served on the Education Committee for their respective branch.

I posed a question in an article last month in regards to the testing schedule, but I was given some confusing information about the possibility of interim tests and the DOE document I first saw did not indicate it was optional for the school districts.  As well, two Delaware House Reps, who wished to remain anonymous, informed me they were not aware of an interim test at all and didn’t recall even an option being presented to them.  Neither of them served on the Education Committee for the House either.  In comments on that article, someone who seemed to have insider knowledge of the legislative process behind this bill, and was present, wrote this:

This was passed out at the House and Senate joint education committee meeting in May- that was (t)he first place I saw it, thus legislators had this graphic before voting on the bill as well.

But this commenter assumed the legislators had all information available to them prior to voting on the bill.  Was this the case?  Does anyone in Legislative Hall who was NOT on the education committee want to give an official comment about what exact information was given to them before their vote?

 

Interesting Debate Tonight in Hockessin: Miro, Newton, MacKenzie & Smith, Will Education Come Up? #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

Tonight in Hockessin, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, candidates running for the House of Representatives in the 22nd District will meet in a debate at the Hockessin Memorial Hall. What will make this very interesting for me will be Joe Miro and Steve Newton. Miro is serving on the IEP Task Force starting this Thursday. Newton is a long-time special education advocate and has helped many children not only in Delaware, but across the country.

Common Core, testing and special education are all hot topics in Delaware right now, so I am very interested in those responses from all the candidates. Without being biased (I am), I think there needs to be a lot more Steve Newtons in this state. Advocates need to know what they are talking about when dealing with school administrations, and Newton, along with Kathy Willis and Diane Eastburn definitely know how to tackle schools when problems come up.

Miro voted yes for House Bill 334, which allowed the Smarter Balanced Assessment to replace DCAS as Delaware’s state standardized test. The bill almost died in the Delaware Senate, but Governor Markell sent his team in to let the Senate know it would be implemented anyways, no matter how they voted. The Senate took a revote and four Republicans flip-flopped on the vote, allowing it to pass. Many special education advocates and parents are against the test due to the lack of accommodations for special needs students, which are less than DCAS.