Last week, News Journal reporter Jessica Bies came out with an article about a confidential report that the News Journal “obtained”. The article was rife with speculation and hearsay based on a report commissioned by State Auditor Tom Wagner concerning Kathleen Davies. That article appeared in print today. It looks like something you would see in a bargain-basement tabloid at a grocery store. Continue reading
I reminded myself I had to update the links to other Delaware blogs today since a few new ones have been introduced. I did myself a favor and clicked on each link on the Delaware Blogs section to see which ones are still active and which aren’t. As a result, I’ve added many to a new list called “Closed Delaware Blogs”. I went a step further and found tons of old Delaware blogs and added those. Thanks to Kilroy’s Delaware, The Delaware Way and Delaware Liberal for providing those links. If you know of any old Delaware blogs that aren’t on my lists, please let me know. As a general rule, if someone hasn’t posted anything in at least a year, I am putting them on the closed list. There are a couple where I know the authors and know they are not planning to post anything anytime soon.
Blogging was around a long time before I entered the scene. I think it is important to see what others said in the past. Many of their thoughts are just distant echoes of what we hear today. Different people and places, but the overall themes are the same. Especially when it comes to education and politics. We are entering a new era next week, nationally and in Delaware. Things will change while some things will stay the way they have always been. Having met some of these former bloggers, I miss their writings. Especially Transparent Christina and Kavips. Both of them had such unique spins on education. I’m hoping Kavips has been lurking around the Delaware blogosphere just biding their time to come back. We shall see! I was just beginning as the seventh type was winding down and I would have liked to see what Mike O had to say about what has happened since. He comments but it is not the same. I could always go for more Steve Newton, but he seems resigned to posting on Facebook these days. I’ve seen blogs disappear not long after they first came out. Some of them were damn good too! It isn’t an easy thing, this not-for-profit-much-less-a-penny 21st century writing mechanism.
The Delaware blogging community saw a very odd thing happen this week. Delaware Liberal saw four of their ten contributors suddenly leave the popular liberal blog. El Somnambulo left on Wednesday. Soon after, Delaware Dem, Cassandra, and Pandora left and began a new blog called Blue Delaware. The tension came to a high point when Delaware Dem put up a post about changes readers would like to see on the blog. Feelings rose to the surface causing the split. Delaware Liberal is still around and is pumping out tons of posts. As well, a regular commenter on Del Lib named Donviti began his own blog called Worn Off Novelty. Stan Merriman is also writing more stuff on his own blog, Pitchforks & Populists. Kavips is still closed but I am hoping he/she comes out of the woodwork very soon! On the education front, I am still writing stuff (not as much as I had been), along with Kilroy and Atnre Alleyne’s The Urgency of Now. Elizabeth Scheinberg has been writing some interesting stuff with her new blog, Echo Awareness.
Much of the feelings of resentment go back to the primary and the split among Delaware Democrats between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The three who left Del Lib to start their own blog were huge Hillary supporters. El Som was a big Bernie supporter. Conflict ensued leading to the events of this week. Looks like it is time for me to update my Delaware blog roll!
Delaware has a ton of blogs. I have no doubt there are some I don’t even know about. But there are many and they all provide unique points of view you won’t find elsewhere. These are things us bloggers do on our own time. These are just some of my favorites and some I don’t agree with all the time but they are still worth the read:
2015 was a transition year for education in Delaware. It was a year of prophets and profits. Many were wondering what was going to happen next while others were making money.
Common Core was around for a few years, but the test that most were dreading was finally here. Parents opted their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment causing Delaware to miss some of the 95% participation rates for different sub-groups. For the remaining students taking the test, the results were a battle cry across the state. Students did not fare better on the test, in fact they did worse than the DCAS. Most people involved in education predicted this, including the Delaware Department of Education. While the Governor, a couple of legislators, and the DOE fought the opt-out movement, the rest of the state rallied behind it and there was no greater symbol for it than House Bill 50. With some touch and go moments, and huge support from the Delaware PTA, the legislation passed the Delaware House and Senate twice with an overwhelming majority in both the House and Senate. As we all know, Governor Markell went and vetoed the bill in July. This didn’t stop the DOE and State Board of Education from putting more knives in parents and schools backs with their twisted and diabolical opt-out penalties in the school report card debacle. The teachers escaped the wrath of the Smarter Balanced results as they received another year off from the scores counting towards their teacher evaluations.
To date, the DOE gave American Institutes for Research $38 million dollars between the Smarter Balanced Assessment and DCAS. Many other companies profited immensely from the DOE’s efforts to “fix” our schools. But the DOE itself lost half of Governor Markell’s proposed $7.5 million increase for the Department. DOE wanted to keep Race To The Top going with their own employees, but didn’t want to maybe, perhaps, send those funds to the classrooms where they are desperately needed. In the end though, the DOE kept most of the employees hired through Race To The Top, even though they are slowly but surely leaving the DOE. Leadership at the DOE changed with a new Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky. The former Secretary, Mark Murphy, “resigned” after votes of no confidence from the two biggest districts’ unions, the state teachers union, the state school administrator group and funding for Red Clay priority schools got seriously jacked up. But he “resigned”…
Speaking of priority schools, Christina got to keep theirs, but lost two referendums and a middle school principal named Dr. Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District after Dr. Michael Thomas retired. Christina’s superintendent, Dr. Freeman Williams, went out on leave and shortly after announced his retirement causing the board to hire an Acting Superintendent, former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski. But due to school choice, Christina continued to bleed students who went to charter schools in Wilmington and the surrounding areas causing many to fear for their financial viability by the start of their next school year next fall.
The entire Wilmington education mess brought about a moratorium on new charter schools in Wilmington for a few years or until the DOE could come up with a “strategic plan” to figure it all out. Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission was born out of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee which recommended all Wilmington schools not already in Red Clay be moved to that district. Brandywine and Colonial nudged themselves out of the deal, leaving Christina as the sole giver-upper of their Wilmington schools. This is, of course, contingent on votes by the State Board of Education and the Delaware General Assembly next year. The biggest issues with the redistricting effort are funding and lack of faith in Red Clay being able to take on all these schools when they can’t handle problems with inclusion and bullying in some of their own schools. The devil is in the details, and the funding detail hasn’t been solved. Ideas such as raising property assessments did not win WEIC a lot of public support. Nor did the near shut-out of representation from Kent or Sussex County. While it is a Wilmington commission, the fact that their ideas would support the whole state and they named their website Solutions for Delaware Schools didn’t help the matter.
A couple of charter school leaders in Delaware made immense profits off taxpayer money…until they got caught! Both of these incidents put Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover on formal review with the DOE and very nasty investigations by the State Auditor’s office. Both survived, mainly because the former heads of schools were given the boot. In the case of FFA, East Side Charter School essentially took them over who was still basking in the glow of their miraculous “growth” increases on DCAS. A point which their leader, Lamont Browne, bragged about incessantly at the Imagine Delaware Education Forum in March. Not able to survive a formal review was Delaware Met, which was given the hangman’s noose a couple of weeks ago by the State Board of Education. The Charter School of Wilmington had an interesting Spring with one student’s discipline issue taking up quite a bit of space on here. Low enrollment woes put new charters Freire and Delaware Design Lab High School on formal review, but they were able to get their numbers up just in the nick of time. Freire’s Head of School “resigned” after violating their own zero tolerance policy against local protesters. As the authorizer of three charters in their district, Red Clay dumped Delaware College Prep but renewed the charter for Delaware Military Academy. The DOE pulled a hat trick and renewed three charters: Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek Academy.
Sussex Academy got a pool. Many charters had their own teacher evaluation systems approved by the Secretary of Education. Odyssey and Delaware Military Academy basically asked the state for more money to expand but they did this through articles in the News Journal which caused State Rep. John Kowalko to tell them it shouldn’t happen. Kowalko, along with many other legislators, opposed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget because of slush funds given to charter schools through transportation funds and performance funds. But what really drew their ire was settlement funds from the foreclosure crisis that were used to plug holes in the budget.
The entire General Assembly dealt with education bills left and right. The most controversial were the opt-out bill and the charter school audit bill. Other education legislation dealing with funding for special education and low-income students, cursive, and recording of all board meetings in Delaware were left hanging until the legislators come back in a couple of weeks.
None of these bills stopped the lobbyists from swarming Legislative Hall like a herd of buffalo. The Rodel Foundation, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable gave their lobbyist say on most education bills. Rodel beefed up their personalized learning game with Student Success 2o25 from their Vision Coalition. Their CEO, Paul Herdman, had a pretty good year. I can think of 343,000 reasons why. All opposed House Bill 50, which drew more negative attention to their organizations. Especially from the bloggers.
Kilroy’s Delaware and Transparent Christina cut back on their output. Kavips brilliantly beat the same drums he/she usually does. I posted a few articles. New blogs entered the Delaware landscape with fixdeldoe, Creative Delaware, and State Rep. Kim Williams’ Delaware First State joining the fray. The very excellent Who Is Minding The Children came and went. Newcomer Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks gave Matthew Albright over at the News Journal some much-needed competition.
A lot of what happened on the national level funneled down to Delaware. The reauthorization of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act created the Every Student Succeeds Act with many scratching their heads asking themselves what the hell it all means. But our DOE was able to line up all their initiatives with what went down in the final legislation, even though they were planning it years in advance. I would love to know how they managed to pull that rabbit out of their hat! Actually, for the education conspiracy theory mongers out there (myself included), we all know how that went down. That’s right, Congress didn’t write the act, the corporate education reformers did. The unions all supported it, but it will come back to bite them in the ass.
Delaware escaped the special education “you suck” rating from the feds it received in 3 of the last 4 years, even though they really did. As standards-based IEPs rolled out across the districts and charters, students with disabilities were put in the toughest “growth” goals of any sub-group in the state with an expectation they would go from 19% proficiency to 59% over the next six years of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Dr. Gray, the State Board of Education President, seems to think personalized learning will get them there.
Parents of Kindergarten students wondered why kids weren’t getting recess and some were getting off the bus with homework. The days of students getting a break were gone in favor of rigor and grit. While the DOE and US DOE claimed each student is an individual, their practices and policies were determined to throw them all together in their proficiency pie.
2015 did see a great deal of bi-partisanship with the opt-out movement in House Bill 50. How the votes go down with the veto override next year will tell the tale on that one. Many stories will either continue or come to an end in the General Assembly based on that vote as the 2016 elections will determine the fates of all the House Representatives and over half of the Senate. Many are praying State Rep. Earl Jaques bows out and doesn’t run, along with Senator David Sokola. This could provide much better leaders for the education committees in the House and Senate.
That covers most of the big moments in 2015. 2016 could be quieter or even messier. All I know is 2015 was one for the record books!
A couple months ago, the Delaware blogosphere lit up one Friday afternoon regarding a rumor that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy was either going to resign or be terminated. One blogger heard what they felt was a solid rumor that Murphy and Associate Secretary of Education David Blowman were terminated. This rumor, squashed by Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, was put to rest. However, many things have happened since then.
The Christina, Red Clay and Delaware State Educator Associations have all issued a no confidence press release regarding Mark Murphy. I even denounced him at the Parent Press Conference last week (not that my voice carries that much clout in the First State). Murphy appeared on The Delaware Way and said parents aren’t allowed to opt out. Many seem shocked Governor Markell would continue to let Mark Murphy be the leader of education in Delaware. But he is still here.
The latest rumor, which I’m hearing from a few sources, all unconnected, is that Murphy already gave Governor Markell his letter of resignation, but Markell won’t accept it. While everyone is begging for the Secretary to be replaced, the Governor is holding onto him as if he is the lifeline of education in Delaware. Others seem to be hearing about a July 1st resignation date, which would make more sense given the start of a new fiscal year, but we have all heard these rumors before. As always with Delaware education, we shall see…