Delaware DOE Doesn’t Trust Science Teachers To Create End Of Unit Tests! Check Out This Contract RFP!

Stealth testing.  A state assessment, given 3 to 4 times a year to all students in Delaware public schools from 3rd to 10th grade.  On top of the end of year state Science assessment given to students in 5th, 8th, and 10th grade.   Wasn’t the goal to have students receive less assessments?  Or is the goal to have outside companies create the tests teachers used to create based on their college training and years in the classroom?  This is stealth testing.

These tests will be online.  They will be “embedded”.  The following describes Delaware’s science assessment goals.  When I say Delaware, I am not speaking for ALL of Delaware.  I would like to know how these decisions were vetted with the General Assembly and the public for consumption and digestion.  From the request for proposal:

Delaware envisions a comprehensive science assessment system in grades 3 to 10, consisting of three distinct types of assessment. Under this system, throughout the academic year students will take teacher developed, Embedded Classroom Assessments to provide information on learning in real time. Primarily for instructional use, these Embedded Classroom Assessments will be numerous, short, and administered at the discretion of each teacher. Students will also take End-of-Unit Assessments shortly after the completion of each instructional unit. In each grade, the academic school year is divided into three to four units, each of which is aligned to a specific disciplinary content domain1 (see Appendix B for more detail). Each End-of-Unit assessment is meant to provide information on student learning of the NGSS content in each unit for the purposes of instruction (e.g., determining if additional instruction on previously instructed topics is needed, to be used in place of a classroom assessment for grading purposes) and evaluation (e.g., informing curriculum adoption, adaptation, and modification) at classroom, school, district and state levels. Finally, students in grade 5, grade 8, and high school biology will also take an Integrative Transfer Assessment (whereas the Embedded Classroom Assessments and End-of-Unit Assessments are taken by students in every grade, 3 to 10). These Integrative Transfer Assessments are meant to capture students’ learning of the content instructed during the entire year, in greater depth than on the End-of-Unit Assessments. That is, the Integrative Transfer Assessments are meant to capture the ways that students integrate, transfer and apply science knowledge and skills learned during the year. The integrative transfer assessments will be used to meet federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

So the only thing I see here, which is required by Federal law, is the end of year assessment given in 5th, 8th, and 10th grade.  To be clear, end-of-unit assessment is the same as stealth assessments.  Don’t kid yourself on this!  Why are we hiring a company for, what will surely be a very expensive project costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to create assessments that go beyond the scope of what is required?  In the below RFP, the Delaware DOE talks about this science coalition that represents 25% of Delaware science teachers that have agreed to this.  Did local school boards and charter school boards approve this complete change to the way students are tested in THEIR schools?  Did the General Assembly pass laws to allow the Delaware DOE to completely change methods of assessment?  Why does the Delaware DOE need End-of-Unit Assessment information?  Isn’t the End-of-Year Assessment given to students in certain grades good enough for you anymore?  Why do you need all this data?  You don’t.  Stop testing our kids incessantly.  Parents, opt out of these end-of-unit assessments as well!

I’ve been warning about these stealth tests for well over a year and a half.  Here they are.  This IS competency-based education in a personalized learning environment.  It is a simple formula- testing = data = speculative investment.  They need to test to get the data so our students become investments.  Those that do well.  Those that don’t, keep testing them until they either get it or don’t.  The Delaware DOE will NEVER tell you this, but that is what these companies want.  The workforce of tomorrow!  What a grand plan!  Except, they forgot a few things.  This flies in the face of everything legislators have been wanting: less testing.  How much do teacher created tests cost compared to these “end-of-unit” assessments?  When did we stop trusting our teachers to create tests?  This is a big reason why Delaware has a huge budget deficit.  We have allowed the Delaware DOE to do whatever they want with very little oversight.  And we ALL pay the price, one way or another.  This is what the folks at Rodel want, not what Delaware wants.  At least be honest about that Delaware DOE!

 

Guest Post: Jennifer Cinelli-Miller On School Resource Officer Training

Yesterday, Delaware’s House Bill #142 was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  This bill deals with training for school resource officers in relation to students with disabilities.  This is a great bill!  It passed the House and is now on the Senate Ready List for a full Senate vote.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams worked extensively with Milford parent Jennifer Cinelli-Miller to get this bill going.  With Jennifer’s permission, I present her public comment to the Senate Education Committee:

Good afternoon Gentlemen,

Thank you for allowing me to be here today to speak on behalf of this piece of legislation. My concern with officers being placed in our schools began in 2013, when the Milford School District, in response to the horrific events at Sandy Hook, hired School Resource Officers (SROs) for our elementary schools, including Morris Early Childhood Center. When I began my research, many issues surrounding the use of uniformed, armed officers at the elementary level became apparent.  Most of these issues concerned students with special needs.

The research also showed that SROs were not being provided with appropriate training in regards to behaviors, exhibited by children with special needs which are a manifestation of their disability. These behaviors can be viewed, by the untrained eye, as behaviors that reach a level that requires law enforcement intervention.  My biggest fear was that my daughter, whose Autism causes her to have very serious meltdowns, would be mistaken as a public safety risk and arrested, placed in handcuffs or worse could end up dead.

I took my research to then Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and R.L. Hughes – who was at Homeland Security at the time and was working with the school districts to identify improvements to security measures in their buildings. None of the recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security included adding officers. 

The very first year with SROs in the schools in Milford brought about an incident which was by all accounts the “Perfect Storm” and ended with a child being committed to Rockford Center; strictly because he has Autism. There is nothing in this situation that the officers did that was inappropriate. There was a major breakdown in communication on the school’s part which led the SROs to be called for assistance instead of educators.

I had the honor of meeting with Rep. Williams after this incident and we set out to try to ensure that, at least in Delaware, SROs would be trained with a basic knowledge and understanding of children with disabilities. The family impacted by this incident wanted to ensure that it would never happen to another child.

This legislation will provide SROs with training and a basic knowledge of how the behaviors they may see in the schools are a manifestation of children’s disabilities and should be addressed by the educators in the schools.

I want to thank the many of those statewide that have assisted with this process. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet and work with so many of our wonderful officers from the Delaware State Police (DSP) and it was a relief to hear that they had just as much concern about SROs being utilized in situations that were meant for educators. I would also like to thank Brian Moore from Red Clay’s Public Safety Department, the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), specifically the Exceptional Children Resources group. Wendy Strauss and Sybil White from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens as well as Dafne Carnright from Autism Delaware and Bill Doolittle, a parent advocate who has been an instrumental part every step of the way.

So, after all of our hard work, I am here today to ask for your vote on this bill which has the support of DSP, the DOE and so many parents of children with disabilities.

Thank you,

Jennifer Cinelli-Miller, Parent Advocate

Milford, DE

HJR #6 Directs Delaware DOE & State Board To Create Regulations To Prevent Gender Identity Discrimination In Schools

Pre-filed regulation released today in Delaware’s General Assembly would have the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education to write into Delaware State Code certain provisions to prevent discrimination against students and school employees.  The House Joint Resolution, sponsored by State Rep. Deb Heffernan and State Senator Harris McDowell, states the following in the synopsis:

Directing the Delaware Department of Education, with the assistance of the Delaware State Board of Education, to promulgate regulations that prohibit discrimination in school districts’ employment practices or educational programs and activities for students on the basis of any legally-protected characteristic, including gender identity or expression.

Since the resolution is not “officially” filed, it does not appear on the list for the final House Education Committee meeting of the year, next Tuesday June 27th.  It will be read into the record today during the House’s session and would be assigned to the education committee.

Updated June 22nd, 2:30pm: Click this link for the actual text of the legislation.

 

Delaware State Board Of Education May Survive After All…

Last month, I reported the Delaware State Board of Education was done.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee took their funding away from them.  Many assumed they were toast.  We were wrong.  It appears the Delaware Department of Education will pick up the tab.  So there will be more State Board of Education meetings in the future.  And there is big news on that front as well.  Starting in July, their meetings will begin at 5pm.  Which means, you know, teachers and educators and working parents can actually go to these meetings.  As well, they will have public comment before each action item (except those which have a formal public comment period, such as charter school stuff and regulations).  Unless the Joint Finance Committee or the legislators deny the funding to DOE to do this.

So what happened?  The changes to Delaware Title 14 would be monstrous.  They would have to change up a lot of things.  While some thought things could change in the epilogue language of the state budget (which I oppose in and of itself), it is not an option.  New laws would have to come out granting the authority to the Delaware DOE.  While those could happen, it would be a headache and a half to get them in play between now and June 30th.

There was talk during the Joint Sunset Review meetings about the State Board taking on one or two new members.  With that being said, and probably because of all the confusion surrounding if they should even exist, Delaware Governor John Carney never nominated anyone to take Jorge Melendez’ place on the board.  So there could be changes to the membership.  I am hoping for some folks with more resistance to the Rodel way of thinking.  I haven’t heard anything about Donna Johnson going anywhere.  The Executive Director role is chosen by the State Board of Education President which is currently Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.  She was appointed by former Governor Jack Markell.

The State Board of Education is still under Sunset Review by that legislative committee.  Prior to the announcement about their funding, the committee agreed to hold them over until next year.

Prelude: Patrik Williams & Smyrna School District’s Egregious Zero Tolerance Railroading Of Middle School Student

Consider this a glimpse into the future.  This picture won’t make any sense now, but it will later.  This is an end result of a battle that has gone on for well over a year and a half between a student at Smyrna Middle School and the district, led by now Superintendent Patrik Williams, and their refusal to bow down from zero tolerance policies in the district.  This is ugly, but it doesn’t stop at the Smyrna School District.  It gets bigger from there and involves the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Department of Justice, the police, and the Justice of the Peace in Delaware. Continue reading “Prelude: Patrik Williams & Smyrna School District’s Egregious Zero Tolerance Railroading Of Middle School Student”

Rep. Jaques Turns Simple Opt Out Parental Rights Bill Into A Three-Ring Circus

State Rep. Earl Jaques showed off his “Big Man on Campus” persona in an embarrassing display of supposed power today which he may be wrong about.

Advocates for any opt out bill in Delaware knew there would be opposition.  Those of us who have advocated for a bill which codifies and honors a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment knew this going in.  However, hanging your hat on a superficial and made-up procedure the way Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques did is shameful and embarrassing.  State Rep. John Kowalko, the primary sponsor of the bill, was composed and polished today.  There was no back and forth between himself and Jaques as there was two years ago.

House Bill 60 was not released from the House Education Committee.  With only eight out of seventeen members voting to release the bill, Jaques declared the bill dead.  However, there is a big caveat to his declaration.  Although there were 12 members on the floor, the committee is made up of 17 state representatives.  Five bills were heard in committee today.  For the other four, Jaques indicated he would walk the bill to the members.  For the opt out bill, he said he would not release the bill since there was a majority of members on the floor during the vote.  State Rep. Sean Lynn called for a parliamentary inquiry on the matter.  There is a chance Jaques could be overruled on his refusal to walk the bill for signatures and it could be released.  However, Jaques absolute disdain and contempt against this bill is clouding his better judgment.  He set the precedent for this by agreeing to walk the other four bills in my opinion.

After the committee adjourned the second time (since Jaques declared the meeting over a first time without asking for or getting a motion to adjourn), I spoke to him in the lobby of Legislative Hall. I said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.”  I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t upset.  He began yelling at me and said “The bill is not released.”  I asked him why he was yelling at me and advised I wasn’t yelling at him.  He continued to yell and said “The bill is not released.  It’s done.  The bill is dead,” as he stormed off.

About fifteen minutes later, I found myself in Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s reception area.  In the office were Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, Meghan Wallace, and Jaques.  The receptionist said there was a wait and I advised I would just send him an email.  The email is below.

In terms of the discussion on the bill in committee, it was very much a repeat of 2015.  The usual suspects opposed the bill: Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, Delaware Business Roundtable, State Rep. Tim Dukes, a couple of women from Wilmington who were sitting next to DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne, etc.  Even the Delaware School Boards Association opposed the bill because they believed it is a local decision and detracts from the issues surrounding testing.  There was a lot of discussion around losing federal funds even though it has never happened.  The excuse this time was “We don’t know what will happen with Secretary Betsy DeVos.”  I love when a State Rep. has something important to say about a bill they oppose after they get a piece of paper from someone in the audience, but I digress.  There was talk about how bad Smarter Balanced is, the amount of time wasted on testing, and so forth, but there was far too little about the heart of the bill: the parental right to opt out.

No state has ever lost federal funding over dipping below the 95% participation rate.  And I don’t think little old Delaware would be the first.  If the feds really put their money where their mouth is, it would have happened in New York or New Jersey years ago.  So I don’t care what they say (and no one is actually saying it these days), it is not a good idea to cut federal Title I money from schools with poor kids.  Secretary Bunting did say Delaware got feedback on its state ESSA plan last evening and believes the US Dept. of Education will be tougher than she thought, but as a state with a 97% participation rate, I don’t think we are on the Title I money chopping block.  Let’s get real here.

To be fair, I don’t ever expect the Delaware DOE and the usual cast of opposers to ever support an opt out bill.  It just isn’t going to happen.  Expecting it is as likely as convincing the wind to change direction.  It isn’t something I’m even upset about anymore, it just is.

My public comment was as simple as the bill: it is a parental right bill.  And since there was a question about what districts or charters have given parents a rough time about opting their child out, I named them: Red Clay, Christina, Freire Charter School, and so forth.  I even advised Rep. Dukes a constituent in his own district tried to opt their child out two years ago, the only one in that school district.  When the school refused, they told the mother he could not opt out.  It got so bad the mother was ostracized by members of her community.  After, Dukes came up to me and told me he didn’t appreciate me calling him out.  He asked me which district, and I told him which one I believed it was.  He said “you don’t know?”  I said it was two years ago and I talk to a lot of parents.  He said next time I better know before I call him out like that.  I advised him the parent tried reaching him at the time and he claimed he never heard from the parent.

One public commenter said he wasn’t even there for that bill but felt he had to comment.  He said, as someone who makes six figures and works for Fortune 500 companies, he has never looked at a single standardized test score.  He said if a college student in an interview told him they opted out of the state assessment, he would give them an internship based solely on that.

Here is the email I sent to Schwartzkopf:

Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf,

Good evening.  I attempted to see you in person, but you had a long line in your office about half an hour ago.  I advised your receptionist I would email you, which I prefer to do at this point since it is in writing.

As  you are no doubt aware, I am very passionate about education.  But I have calmed down with my public comments regarding certain legislation.  I wish the same could be said of the Chair of the House Education Committee.  The behavior I saw from him today regarding House Bill 60 was offensive, both as a citizen of Delaware and as a parent.

I am sure you know about the situation with “walking the bill” after Rep. Jaques set the standard for that with four other bills in the committee today.  It was very obvious to all he wanted this bill to die a messy death and he wanted to be the one to do it.  That is conjecture on my part, but based on his attitudes and attempts to kill the bill in 2015, I would say that is a fair assessment.  But his behavior in the lobby of Legislative Hall was unacceptable.  I simply said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.”  He began yelling at me, loud enough for many folks nearby to overhear.  When I asked him why he was yelling at me and that I wasn’t yelling at him, he continued to yell at me claiming “the bill is dead” and stormed off like a petulant child.  While I certainly can’t say I have never shown anger about legislation, I believe a certain decorum is expected out of our elected officials.  I don’t agree with Earl’s decision about deciding not to walk the bill, but I have to believe two grown adults can treat each other with respect and discuss the matter like two gentlemen.  I wanted to advise you of this issue because of his position as Chair of the House Education Committee.  Please consider this a formal complaint against Rep. Jaques.  I do believe this is something the House leadership should investigate.  I would have accepted a decision on the bill if it was given a fair shake, but I found Rep. Jaques behavior and conduct unbefitting for a Chair of a committee.

As I’m sure you know, I am a firm believer in transparency, so this email will be a part of my article about the opt out bill heard in committee today. 

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt

Delaware DOE Releases 2017 District & Charter Special Education Ratings

The Delaware Department of Education came out with the special education ratings for all Delaware school districts and charter schools.  The information the schools and districts were rated on were based on indicators by the federal Department of Education.  This is information the Delaware DOE collects from on-site monitoring of schools as well as performance data, including participation rates from the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The ratings are based on information from the 2014-2015 school year.  I don’t necessarily agree with these ratings, especially as it relates to parents opting their children out of the state assessment.  I’ve always found that many schools who have higher populations of students with disabilities tend to get the rougher ratings.  It is a sure sign we need more funding, staff, resources, and training for special education.

 

Meets Requirements:

Academia Antonia Alonso

Academy of Dover

Charter School of Wilmington

Early College High School

First State Montessori Academy

MOT Charter School

Newark Charter School

Odyssey Charter School

Polytech School District

Sussex Tech School District

 

Needs Assistance:

Caesar Rodney School District

Campus Community School

Cape Henlopen School District

Delaware Design-Lab High School

Delaware Military Academy

Delmar School District

East Side Charter School

Freire Charter School

Indian River School District

Las Americas Aspira Academy

Laurel School District

Milford School District

Positive Outcomes Charter School

Providence Creek Academy

Woodbridge School District

 

Needs Intervention:

Appoquinimink School District

Brandywine School District

Capital School District

Charter School of New Castle (formerly Family Foundations Academy)

Christina School District

Colonial School District

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Gateway Lab School

Great Oaks Charter School

Kuumba Charter School

Lake Forest School District

New Castle County Vo-Tech

Prestige Academy (closing this year)

Red Clay Consolidated School District

Seaford School District

Smyrna School District

Thomas Edison Charter School

Delaware DOE Announces Underwater Basket Weaving Career Pathway

Today, at Silver Lake Park in Dover, the Delaware Department of Education unleashed the latest career pathway to hit Delaware: underwater basket weaving!  Together with Dr. Seymour Fungus of Basket Weavers of Delaware, thousands of students plunged into the polluted waters with their scuba gear and got to work.  Half an hour later, baskets started floating on the lake with an explosive firework ceremony afterwards.

It was a pivotal moment in the Delaware Pathways to Prosperity initiative.

“For years, I’ve wanted our students to take up this fine art,” said Fungus.  “We knew there was a huge need in Delaware so we secured the funding to make it happen.”

Students enlisting in the new Pathways program have several requirements to participate in the program.  They must take a deep-lake or deep-sea diving class, paid out of local costs.  As well, they must get a tetanus shot.  They are required to sign a waiver indicating their school or the state is not responsible for any shark bites or lacerations from used syringes during their basket weaving escapades.  So far, no district has signed up for the program but they are eager to get going.  The Delaware DOE actually hired students from out-of-state to participate in the press event.

Governor Carney was unable to attend the event.

 

Was A Christina Principal/Former Delaware DOE Employee Placed On Leave For Some Type Of Financial Abuse?

In a letter dated to parents on June 2nd, 2017, Christina School District Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa sent a letter to parents advising that Kirk Middle School Principal Brian Curtis was placed on leave.  The letter did not indicate if the leave is a paid leave or not.  In conducting a search for more information, I found a post on Facebook to the Christina School District Facebook page where a parent asked the district if he was fired for embezzlement.

When you go to Christina’s Facebook page, all visitor posts are now gone.  I tried to submit a post asking where they all went and received a message that it would be reviewed.  But the post still shows up on Facebook’s search engine.  I edited the picture just for basic privacy rights of the person who submitted the question although it is public information on Facebook.  The response to the parent post by the administrator of their Facebook page was 10:55am on June 2nd.  The timestamp of the PDF letter sent to parents was 11:53am on June 2nd.

Curtis worked at the Delaware Department of Education for four and a half years in the school turnaround unit (i.e. priority schools) before he was hired to become Principal at Kirk Middle School in 2015.  He replaced outgoing Principal Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District.  Curtis never updated his LinkedIn page with his new position.  I searched for any recent news or events with Brian Curtis in Delaware and found nothing.  While I am sure the district will not release any information pertaining to a pending investigation, this could not come at a worse time in Delaware as the General Assembly is in the final stages of preparing their FY2018 budget which has a current deficit of nearly $400 million dollars.  Many school districts and state agencies are feeling the pinch as budget cuts are expected throughout the state.

In recent years, Delaware school district and charter schools have gone through many audit investigations due to financial abuse of some sort at their schools.  Charter schools Providence Creek Academy, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Delaware Military Academy and the closed Pencader Business School as well as the Indian River School District and Sussex Technical School District have all had reports from that office since 2013.

While working on another article about a situation not related to this one at all, I stumbled across the Facebook post which led me to the announcement about Curtis being placed on leave.  While a question posed by a parent does not give any clear picture of wrongdoing, the fact the school district deleted the ability for anyone to see it on their main district page along with all other visitor posts IS cause for concern.

Why Is Chuck Taylor Still The Head Of School At Providence Creek Academy?

For well over two years, Providence Creek Academy has been searching for a new Head of School.  Let me repeat that.  For over two years.  And guess who is on the committee to hire a new Head of School?  Chuck Taylor.  The not-so-interim and more like permanent Head of School.  How many interviews have they had?  What is the hold up?  If I were a betting man, Chuck is so glued to that school he weeds out anyone who could possibly replace him.  In reviewing their board minutes for the past nine months, there has not been one mention of this committee or any type of interviews for a candidate.

I’ve always been curious how a charter school leader can hold that position when they aren’t even certified to do so.  We hold that standard for traditional school districts, why not a charter school?  This came up with the Delaware DOE during the school’s renewal a year and a half ago but I haven’t heard squat about it since.  I would have to believe more than a handful of qualified candidates knocked on their door for this job.  I have a sneaky feeling there are some in the PCA community who are wondering the same thing.  How they aren’t exactly enamored with Chuck in this role.  That they may be questioning his ability to effectively govern the school with his qualifications.  I’ve also heard, and not just recently, that he rules over the school AND the board with an iron fist.  A season of discontent?  You better believe it!  Many feel Taylor abuses his position and he owns their Board of Directors.

When he isn’t busy with PCA, Chuck helps out with the Delaware Charter Schools Network as the President of their board.  He also serves on the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Department of Education.  How does a former shop teacher get so involved with charter school policy at the state level?  Which will be very busy in the fall with no less than five charter school renewals on their plate.

In 2013, Chuck Taylor left Providence Creek.  He “resigned”.  He resurfaced in the fall of 2014 after a brief stint as interim Head of School at Campus Community School in Dover.  The circumstances surrounding his sudden “resignation” are mysterious.  I’m sure the reasons are tied up in some type of non-disclosure agreement.  But when truly strange things started happening at the school in October of 2014 and many became worried about school safety and security, Taylor came back.  It was meant to be temporary, but two years and eight months later he is still there.  He guided the school through their renewal process last year but during all that one of their former employees was named in an audit investigation and alleged to have embezzled money from the school.

In April, the PCA Foundation was approved as a 501c3 non-profit.  Somehow, this will allow the school to get a loan from the USDA according to their April board minutes.  It also appears the Delaware Department of Finance approved the school for procurement cards with a maximum limit of $5000.  Their board minutes do not specify how many p-cards the school received and which staff will receive them.  The school was selected as one of two pilot schools for the changes to Delaware’s teacher evaluation system.  The changes, which came from House Bill 399 last year, were not implemented at PCA and they bowed out of the new alternative pilot.  They did, however, hire a non-educator to conduct their teacher evaluations at the school.  This DPAS-II coordinator’s education experience consists of summer camp counselor experience.  During the Spring, many parents became upset over a field trip waiver which parents felt did not adequately protect students.  Quite a few spoke out in public comment during their May Board of Directors meeting.

To those who want to say “Here he goes again, bashing on charter schools”, that is NOT the case here.  Aside from the ongoing Newark Charter School ruckus, I’ve probably been harder on districts than charters in the past six months.  But all I will say is there is legitimate cause for concern and I’ll leave it at that.  In this era of reduction in workforce notices and budget cuts, fear is a very powerful thing.  I would love it if educators at PCA went on the record with whatever is going on there, but I also understand a need for staying quiet in what could very easily be seen as a hostile work environment.  Delaware has fairly extensive Whistleblower laws on the books.

Delaware House Passes Cursive Bill With 36 Yes, 1 No, & 1 Not Voting

It looks like the anti-cursive police are done in Delaware!  The Delaware House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 70 yesterday.  The only no was State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman and State Rep. John Kowalko did not vote.  State Reps. Kenton, Viola, and Hensley were absent.

When this bill was heard by to the House Education Committee, it was met with opposition by a woman named Kate Gladstone.  She spent the next couple of weeks after that trying to convince my readers why cursive is horrible.  Any disagreement with her kept it going.  I never thought I would see the day when I would see an anti-cursive rant on this blog, but c’est la vie!

Some legislators reached out to me for my thoughts on this bill.  Some felt this is a decision best handled by local school boards.  I agreed with that, however NONE of them stepped up at all to make this a reality.  I do not mind some decisions mandated by the state.

The bill did have an amendment added to it which changes the date of implementation to the 2018-2019 school year if it passes.  The bill will go to the Delaware Senate Education Committee.

Pray For New Mexico! Surfer Boy Is In Charge Now!

If we could all take a moment of silence for New Mexico public education…

Thank you.  Earlier yesterday, I found out New Mexico’s Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandera, gave her two-week notice.  What I failed to recognize was who her replacement was.  As news trickled out to me, I found myself very concerned for public school educators in New Mexico.  Yes, the  former Race To The Top Delaware DOE darling, the Surfer Boy himself, is now New Mexico’s Acting Secretary of Education.  You heard me right folks, Christopher Ruszkowski is now in charge of New Mexico public education.

According to a U.S. News & World report article:

Deputy Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski will serve as acting cabinet secretary, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said.

Teachers in Delaware will ALWAYS remember the Surfer Boy for his Human Capital and Component V contributions to Delaware education.  Shall we go on… the Delaware Talent Cooperative, his love affair with Teach For America, bringing Relay into schools, and so on.  Ruszkowski left the Delaware DOE last year when he became the New Mexico Deputy Secretary of Education under Skandera.  He had been the Director of the Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware DOE.

All I can say is this: New Mexico, what in the name of Breaking Bad are you thinking?  But then again, they had Skandera, the Wonder Girl to Jeb Bush’s, uhm, Captain Underpants?  But even Surfer Boy is connected with Jeb Bush as he took a fellowship position in Jeb Bush’s corporate education reform group, Chiefs For Change, about a year ago.  Rumor has it Skandera may take a job under U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

It wasn’t long after I began this blog that I began writing about Ruszkowski.  You can read all the articles in THIS LINK.

A moment of silence isn’t enough for the teachers, students, educators, administrators, education bloggers, and hell, any taxpaying citizen in New Mexico.  Please continue praying for New Mexico.

Delaware DOE Posts “Cheap Labor” Vendor Request To Market “Pathways to Prosperity”

Pathways to Prosperity is the greatest invention Delaware ever had!  If you believe that one, you stand to profit from what amounts to a cheap labor program designed to beef up corporate profit while using students to do so.

The Pathways Steering Committee recently recommended a Request for Proposal to make the Pathways To Prosperity initiative really shine.  They want a huge marketing push on this.  After all, this committee does include Del Tech, Rodel, and The Delaware Business Roundtable.  What corporate CEO doesn’t want cheap labor?  The best part is you don’t have to farm jobs out to foreign countries.  You can do it right here in your own state.  All you need are a bunch of students in high school or college and you can call them “paid internships”.  Once students complete these internships, they can earn a secondary diploma or a “certificate”.  How awesome!  NOT!

To be clear, I am ALL IN for students to continue education.  I am ALL IN for disengaged students becoming engaged.  What I am NOT all in for is companies taking advantage of school instruction for their own advantage.  This RFP from the Delaware Dept. of Education is a fascinating read.  RFPs always have some key information about what an initiative is REALLY about.  They have to sell it to a prospective vendor.

Delaware Pathways is an education and workforce partnership that creates a career pathways system for all youth.

Notice the word “all”.  Does all mean all?  Eventually.  Wait until Blockchain really gets going in public education…

This effort is guided by the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee, which represents a cross-sector group of policy makers, educators, employers, and community leaders who developed the Delaware Pathways Strategic Plan.

No parents.  No students.  No parents.  No students.  Shall I go on?

Registered Apprenticeship is a proven method of training which involves on-the-job work experience coupled with related instruction, typically offered in a classroom setting.

Please show me the statistics showing this “proven method”.  I am not against apprenticeships.  I am against taking advantage of apprenticeships for cheap labor.

Registered apprentices work for their employer or sponsor and are paid while they learn their respective trade. Registered Apprenticeship, in simple terms, is a program of “learning while earning.”

Are they paid at the same levels regular employees are who would perform the same job function?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  And how much goes toward other entities while students are “paid”?  Who else gets a cut of this pay?  “Learning while earning” is definitely earning.  The companies earn a lot toward their bottom line.  Disgusting…

Registered Apprenticeships are offered in a variety of occupations. The majority of Registered Apprenticeships are four years in length or 8000 hours of on-the-job training. For each year of training, a minimum of 144 hours of related instruction is required.

8,000 hours is a whole heck of a lot of hours.  That is a lot of pay at a reduced scale that could be helping the average Delawarean.  Companies don’t want to train regular employees.  They LOVE this initiative.  And they will use taxpayer dollars to provide that training.  It is a win-win for companies.  This is exactly WHY they care about education so much.  I kind of thought education was about kids getting a well-rounded education in ALL subjects.  But this will radically transform that so kids only get instruction in certain subjects on the way to their “career path”.  Dumb them down, make sure kids don’t question authority, and then you own them for life.  Big Brother is here, owned by Education Inc.  Did you really think it was “for the kids”?  Please…

Upon completion of the required on-the-job training and related instruction, the apprentice is eligible for Journey papers. A journeyperson is nationally recognized as having a well-rounded ability in all phases of their trade.

Note the words “required” and “nationally recognized”.  Say goodbye to the days of applying for a job, getting hired, and then going through an orientation-training class.  This is the new hiring process for companies.  If you don’t get in on THEIR agenda, you are screwed.  And if you are an older person, looking to change careers, you are doubly screwed.

The intersection of Delaware Pathways and Registered Apprenticeship programs is a result of Delaware’s career pathways system, which begins in the public education system (K-12) through Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways offered in charter, comprehensive, and technical school districts.

What a well-timed intersection.  Like it wasn’t planned for decades.  This is what happens when you let a “non-profit” like the Rodel Foundation dictate education policy.  This is what happens when you let corporations in education.  They plant the seeds and take over.

These pathways continue through adult education, occupational training programs, as well as Registered Apprenticeship and postsecondary programs that are administered by partnering state agencies, institutions of higher education, and other service providers.

Thus, we have Governor Carney’s “public-private partnerships” in full swing.  All hail the Chief!

As a result, Delaware’s career pathways system aligns secondary and postsecondary education and concurrently pairs rigorous academics and workforce education within the context of a specific occupation or occupational cluster.

“Rigorous academics” means the Common Core State Standards.  Which was, ironically enough, a Department of Defense initiative designed to change the human mind.  It was adopted by the Department of Education to actually change young minds to a digital technology environment.  But those standards have to be tested, thus crap like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC.  Make them once a year, get teachers and parents in a tizzy over them, and then institute a competency-based education environment.  Then comes the “stealth tests”- same tests as before, but broken up into chunks, to be given at the end of each unit in each class.  Impossible to opt out of those.  This takes it a step further, tying in the education and corporate worlds into a marriage of game-changing high stakes.

Participants who complete a career pathway attain a secondary school diploma or its equivalent, earn an industry-recognized credential, certificate, or license that holds value in the labor market, and have the opportunity to complete an Associate or Bachelor’s degree program at a Delaware college or university.

Don’t kid yourself.  This will be how it is done for ALL students in the future.  Call it what you want, but this will be a “digital badge” created specifically for your personal share on the Blockchain ledger.  The cradle to grave data tracking job creating machine is here!

All The JFC Cuts & Reductions To Delaware FY2018 Budget Up To Today

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee had one hell of a mark-up session today with the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.  The following are programs that will be eliminated or have their budgets reduced.  I hope they have a lot of pens down there, because this process is not done yet.  Education wasn’t even supposed to happen today except for higher education.  Most of the education power-brokers weren’t even there when this mighty swath of cuts came up!

Delaware Department of Education Eliminations

Infrastructure Capacity

Professional Development for Student Standards & Assessment

Dues for Southern Regional Education Board

State Board of Education

Michael C. Ferguson awards

20% Reduction in Scholarships and Grants

Teacher Leader Pilot program

Summer School: Gifted & Talented funding

Delaware Teacher Center

Career Transition

Delaware Geographic Alliance

Center for Economic Education

Gay Straight Alliance

Teacher stipends for service in high-risk schools through the Delaware Talent Cooperative

Adolescent Day Program

College Access: Dual Enrollment Subgrants, PSAT, Competition subgrants, Delaware College Scholars, College Application Month, Scholarship Compendium, Stand By Me with DHSS,

 

Other Dept. of Education Reductions or Shifts

Professional Accountability and Instructional Advancement fund: eliminates $157 per employee allocation

Driver’s Education: implements fee for non-public school students to pay for program costs

Public School Transportation: Increase local share from 15% to 20%

Reduce $2 million in early childhood incentives

Reduce the following by 5%: Odyssey of the Mind, Teacher of the Year, Educator Certificate & Development, Professional Standards Board, State Testing Comp., Parents as Teachers, Student Organizations, Technology Operations

 

Other big cuts or reductions in the State Budget

Eliminations: FY18 Appropriation for Victim Offender Mediation, FY18 Appropriation for Child Placement Review Board, Civil Indigent Services, Kids Count, International Trade, Italian/American Commission, Delaware Center for Global Trade, Delaware Art, Library DELNET computer system and computer equipment (shifts costs to counties), Medical Marijuana Appropriation, Hispanic Affairs Appropriation, Office of Volunteer Services, FY2018 Appropriations for Dept. of Corrections for Hope Commission, Mentor Programs, Pre-Trial Services provided by Rick Vanstory, Tire Scrap Management Fund, Agriculture Advertising Line, Agriculture Development Program Line, Alternative Agricultural Products Line, Nutrient Management Planning, Poultry Litter State Funding

Reductions: Dept. of Justice Transcription Services, Contractual Services, and Conflict Attorney Rates, Two full-time employee positions and reductes contractual services for Commission for Women, Drug Court Program (Dept. of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families), Child welfare/contractual services for foster care contracts and Ready by 21 program, Vocational Rehabilitation Contractual Services through Dept. of Labor, Reductions for Fire Prevent Commission including ballistic vests and statewide fire safety education

DHSS Reductions of 20%: Health Disparities, Preschool Diagnosis and Treatment, Immunizations, Hepatitis B, Needle Exchange Program, Infant Mortality Task Force, Cancer Council, Gift of Life, Delaware Organ and Tissue Program 2, Developmental Screening, Uninsured Action Plan, DIMES, Sickle Cell, Nurse Family Partnership, Prescription Drug Prevention.

 

For a full list of all the cuts and the amounts, please see the document below:

Delaware School Success Framework Working Group At It Again

With very little fanfare and public notices on the State of Delaware Public Meeting website, the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) Working Group has met again.  It seems, based on the below presentation and meeting minutes, the purpose of the group is to tweak the school “report card” to align with the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  This is a MUST read for teachers and parents.

The last time this group met, one of their biggest recommendations was that the Delaware Dept. of Education should NOT have a penalty on schools for parents their child out of the state standardized test, now the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware DOE did not honor that recommendation and put a penalty into the framework that would have punished schools over decisions made by parents.  Eventually, when Delaware submitted their ESSA state plan earlier this Spring, they took out the penalty.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 30th, from 9:30am to 12noon at the TechRADD Facility (WARR building) in Dover.

My big question is this: Where is the Delaware State Educators Association representative on this?  When this group was the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG), the number of members was much larger.  Who are the members?

Darren Guido, Caesar Rodney

Carisa Pepper, Indian River

Joseph Jones, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech

Chris Havrilla, Woodbridge

Lisa Morris, Delmar

Ken Hutchins, Appoquinimink

Keisha Brinkley, Appoquinimink

Ed Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School

From the Delaware DOE, it looks like various folks are coming to the meetings from multiple areas within the state agency: Luke Rhine, Brittany Mauney, Terry Richard, Carolyn Lazar, Jen Koester, Ted Jarrell, Chantel Janiszewski, Elizabeth Jetter, Eric Niebrzydowski, Shana Payne, Denise Stouffer, Gregory Fulkerson, and Lindsay Lewis.  I believe Janiszewski is the facilitator of this new DSSF working group.

 

Federal Education Dollars Going To Private Schools Increase, Delaware DOE Gets Bigger Role In This

Updated, 7:02am, 5/26/17: This is NOT some new school voucher scheme.  This has always existed.  It is actually a federal rule.  If public schools want federal funds, they must ensure private schools within their districts have equitable services.  One of the requirements is the districts MUST reach out to the private schools, compare notes, and offer to share federal funds with them.  The system is changing, thus these new Delaware DOE documents.  The DOE has a larger role in making sure this happens which requires more follow-up with private schools to ensure this is happening.  As well, there is a larger amount of funds required to be shared with private schools.  But, the feds aren’t supplying more federal dollars to districts so that means the districts have to give up more of their share of federal dollars.  Can someone please tell me, with all the headaches and angst we get from federal funds, along with the testing mandates, why we still WANT federal education dollars?

It looks like the Delaware Department of Education is in the planning stages to set up a school voucher system in Delaware based on changes to the Every Student Succeeds Act.  I know some Delaware private schools do get funding from Delaware school districts for certain services.  As an example, a parent could file a due process complaint over special education issues and if they win, the district may have to pay for private school for the special education child.  I know Christina School District pays for transportation costs to some private schools for students with disabilities.  But this?  Can someone please explain this one to me?

The below document was created in PDF format on Monday, May 22nd but the document is dated February 8th, before the United States Department of Education even submitted their FY2018 budget proposal (which is chock full of funding for vouchers and charter schools).  The document below that was created on the same date by the New Castle Title I Consortium and the author of the PDF was Al “Superman” Minuti (I can’t make this stuff up folks).  Sorry, I don’t believe any Federal, State, or Local dollars should be going to a private school unless it is a case of wrongdoing by a school district under the terms of a lawsuit or settlement.  If there is some sane and logical explanation for all this, I will gladly update this article (which I did, see above).

Big Year For Charter Renewals Coming: Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori, Sussex Academy & Thomas Edison

Five Delaware charter schools will go through their charter renewal process next Fall.  The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office had what I am sure was a huge task of sending out reports to the schools.  Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School are all up for renewal.  With any charter school renewal, the DOE goes through everything: Academics, Financial, and Organizational.  No stone is left unturned.  With five charters and all three Delaware counties represented in these renewals, the public hearings will be everywhere.  But it looks like the Charter School Office has planned ahead and scheduled different public hearings on different days.  Last year, there was only one charter school (Academy of Dover) that went through the renewal process.  There would have been two but Prestige Academy opted to close their doors at the end of this school year.

In reviewing the below renewal reports and the charter schools responses to those reports, I didn’t have any alarm bells going off.  I do have concerns about the demographics of two of these schools, First State Montessori Academy and Sussex Academy.  At least one of these schools has some financial issues that seem to have flown under the radar for a long time now.  Hopefully more will come out during this process.  And one of them, I strongly suspect but can’t prove…yet, has a secret going all the way back to the origin of their school…

Here are all the schools renewal reports from the Charter School Office, their responses, and the timeline issued by the Charter School Office for this mammoth process:

Academia Antonia Alonso:

Early College High School

First State Montessori Academy

Sussex Academy

Thomas Edison Charter School

Charter School Renewal Timeline:

 

Poll: Do You Think The Settlement Between The Charter Schools and Christina School District Was Fair?

Last December, the 15 Delaware charter schools and the Christina School District settled in a lawsuit over local funding from Christina to the charters.  The district agreed to pay that portion of their local funding (even though the Delaware DOE colossally screwed up) going forward and both the DOE and Christina had to pay the charters attorney fees.  As well, wording in the settlement around special education funding indicated there could be a change in the air with those payments.  As well, the match tax was brought up in the settlement (but not decided on) and whether charters should get a portion of that.  Almost six months later, I am curious if you agree or not whether this was a fair settlement.

Delaware Parents Of Students With Disabilities: Your Immediate Input Is Essential!!!!!

The Delaware Department of Education released (finally) the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan.  It will be available for public comment until June 5th.  I strongly encourage all parents of special needs children in Delaware to very carefully go through every single line of this plan.  I will be doing the same on this blog from now until then and I will be putting my breakdown into public comment form for the plan as well.  I do want to thank the very hard work of the Special Education Strategic Planning Group who spent many hours and days, volunteer I may add, to work on this plan.  The group consisted of 24 Delawareans, a moderator, and various employees of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  As well, former Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky as well as current Secretary, Dr. Susan Bunting, provided support for the plan.  I would especially like to thank State Rep. Kim Williams and Dr. Michele Marinucci, the Special Education Coordinator for the Woodbridge School District, for getting this large group of people together during a time when it could have been completely different (and not to the benefit of students with disabilities).

At first glance, I see both positive and negative things in the plan.  It isn’t going to please everyone.  But it is a start and more than we had before.  This isn’t a time to throw stones, but it is a time to let your thoughts be known.  Public comment for this plan is as follows, as per the Delaware DOE:

Public comment for this document can be sent to matthew.korobkin@doe.k12.de.us. Public comments can also be mailed to: 
Matthew Korobkin 
Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation 
Delaware Department of Education 
401 Federal Street Suite 2 
Dover, Delaware 19901 

 

Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal Hates Parents Just Like Jack Markell Does! State Rep. Earl Jaques Pretends New Opt Out Legislation Doesn’t Exist!

Diane Ravitch just wrote about Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of opt-out legislation that passed the Georgia General Assembly.  This immediately reminded me of Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s horrible veto of House Bill 50 in the summer of 2015.  Say, State Rep. Earl Jaques, why the hell hasn’t the new opt out legislation, House Bill 60, been put on the agenda for the House Education Committee.  You promised me it would be over two months ago.  Guess it isn’t a priority for YOU so it won’t get on there.  Being the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee means allowing all education bills to be heard in committee.

Opt out is alive and well.  I may not write about it as much, but it is still happening.  New York continues to have terrific opt out numbers.  It won’t be until July or so until we find out Delaware’s opt out numbers for this year.  That is when the Delaware Dept. of Education releases all the Smarter Balanced information from this year.

Down in Georgia, Jeb Bush’s insane Foundation for Excellence in Education jumped on the veto bandwagon.  Ravitch quoted the Atlanta Journal-Constituion:

“The proposal would have harmed students and teachers by denying access to measurements that track progress on standardized assessments,” the advocacy group, founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said in a statement. “Maintaining a transparent and accountable measurement systems is critical to ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and beyond — and indicates how successful schools are in preparing students for the future.”

Hey Jeb, we don’t want progress on standardized assessments, we just want regular student progress.  These flawed and meaningless tests don’t provide that.  They feed the data whore beasts and waste a crapload of time in our schools.  They stress kids out and the tests are used to label and shame teachers and schools.  Enough already!