Which Delaware Education Leader Agrees With Betsy DeVos On The Proper Route To “Success”?

When Betsy DeVos made Delaware resubmit their state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Delaware Department of Education groaned.  It is no secret the Delaware DOE was not a big fan of Bad News Betsy.  According to the U.S. DOE, Delaware’s plans were not “ambitious” enough.  But one education “leader” agreed with them.  Who was the sell-out? Continue reading

The Delaware DOE: The Support, Enforce, or Ignore Test

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, under the policies of Delaware Governor John Carney, has transformed the Delaware Department of Education into a support organization.  Before Bunting, Carney recognized the DOE as an enforcement organization during former Governor Jack Markell’s two terms.  Carney put it on Bunting to make that transformation.  Did she succeed? Continue reading

Exclusion of Music & The Arts In Delaware’s ESSA Plan Results In Awesome Letter To Delaware Legislators

The Delaware Music Educators Association sent a letter to every single member of the Delaware General Assembly earlier this week urging the Delaware Dept. of Education to include certain recommendations in the final draft of their Consolidated State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Members of the organization felt their pleas for inclusion in the state plan were ignored.  Last night at the final Delaware Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee meeting, the head of the organization gave public comment.  He wished Delaware would include music and the arts in their accountability system.  The Delaware DOE will submit their final plan to Governor Carney for signature on Monday, April 3rd.  Below is the letter sent to the Delaware lawmakers.

Every summer, members of each state’s Music Educators Associations convene in Washington, DC to discuss matters of advocacy, share visions for the future of music education, and speak with our elected members of Congress regarding these issues.  In June of 2014, members of the Delaware Music Educators Association (DMEA), in conjunction with the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and other state Music Educators Associations, helped to successfully lobby members of Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, putting an end to the era of No Child Left Behind. This was a major victory for education—specifically music education. Some of the most important provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act for music education include:

  • A New and Clear Intent to Support Our Nation’s Schools Through a Well-Rounded Education: This is a change from NCLB, which focused heavily on the academic success of students narrowly defined as reading and math only.  
  • Enumeration of Music as a Well-Rounded Subject: Replacing the Core Academic Subject language from NCLB, this language clearly articulates that music should be a part of every child’s education, no matter their personal circumstance.  
  • Requirements for Well-Rounded Education: Schools will now be able to assess their ability to provide a well-rounded education–including music–and address any deficiencies using federal funds.  All Title I programs, both schoolwide and targeted, are now available to provide supplemental funds for a well-rounded education, including music.  
  • More Professional Development for Music Educators: Funds from Titles I, II and IV of ESSA, may support professional development for music educators as part of supporting a well-rounded education.  
  • Flexible Accountability Systems: States must now include multiple progress measures in assessing school performance, which can include such music education friendly measures as student engagement, parental engagement, and school culture/climate.  
  • Protection from “Pull Outs”: The new ESSA discourages removing students from the classroom, including music and arts, for remedial instruction. 

When the Delaware Department of Education began to draft its plan for the ESSA, it seemed that music and arts educators in the state would finally have a voice in helping to build a framework for ensuring that all of Delaware’s students had access to a well-rounded education.  Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

During the second revision of the DDOE ESSA, a survey was created to allow for public feedback regarding the state’s plan. DMEA reviewed the document and was discouraged to find that the arts–specifically music–were referenced only once throughout the entire plan. Utilizing the online survey, members of DMEA, art educators, parents, and community members voiced their concerns to the DDOE, urging them to consider what a truly “well-rounded” education might look like for Delaware students.  With the release of the final draft of the DDOE ESSA plan, it appears that feedback has fallen on deaf ears.  Not one suggestion made by the DMEA, Delaware educators, or parents found its way into the revision.

Also discouraging is Delaware’s lack of inclusion of the arts in its ESSA plan despite such inclusion by other states. Some examples of the importance other states are placing on music include:

  • Michigan includes “Time Spent in Fine Arts, Music, and Physical Education” as an indicator of school quality or student success as part of their accountability system. 
  • New Jersey collects and reports on student access to and participation in the arts as part of a school district’s report card. 
  • Iowa addresses a “well-rounded education” for its students, citing music as a required subject for grades K-8 and requires students in grades 9-12 to have three courses in the arts.  Additionally, the state lists the Iowa Music Educators Association (IMEA) as representatives on the Well-Rounded Issue Specific forum and names the IMEA as stakeholders.
  • Idaho cites music and arts programs as allowable expenditures for Title IV-A funds and goes on to say “Exposure to the arts is an important component of a well-rounded education. As such, LEAs may establish or expand arts education through the purchase or rental of instruments for underserved populations that provide unique music opportunities for those who have not been exposed to music education.”
  • Addressing Title IV funding, Tennessee states: “It is imperative that students have access to coursework and activities that interest them. We heard from hundreds of parents and educators how critical the arts and music, health and wellness, sports and clubs are in a student’s development, as well as supporting students’ academic interests and lifelong learning.”

As an organization with a vested interest in the success of students, DMEA is insisting that music and the arts be included in the DDOE ESSA as a mandatory means to attaining a well-rounded music education. We want to be represented in ESSA, and we need our feedback on the second draft to be considered as ESSA is finalized. Without requiring the presence of music and arts education in Delaware schools, we are certain this Act will fall short of Delaware student needs and hinder the future generations to come.

The Delaware Department of Education, the public-school teachers and administrators, and the citizens of the state of Delaware all have a solemn obligation to our children—our future—to educate them as best we can.  However, education does not stop at survival skills and those things that are “easy” to measure.  It also includes “living skills” and those things not so easy to measure. Math, Science, ELA, and History are all very necessary for our sons and daughters to live and survive, but music, poetry, art, dance, and theatre are what they LIVE for. An ESSA plan from Delaware that does not include those is a document that is negligent.  The Delaware Music Educators Association is more than willing to sit at the table with the Delaware Department of Education to help find ways of ensuring that music and the arts are an inclusive part of our students’ educational experience.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Clint Williams, DMEA President

Daniel Briggs, DMEA President-Elect

Cera Babb, DMEA Advocacy Chair

Thomas Dean, DMEA Advocacy Committee

Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…

 

17 Who Will Make An Impact In 2017: Kevin Carson

kevincarson

The former Superintendent of Woodbridge and Cape Henlopen, as well as the very recent former Executive Director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators could have a very big 2017.  As well, he served as the interim Superintendent in the Woodbridge School District.  Kevin Carson could be handed a role that will define his legacy in Delaware.  This is a man who knows the ins and outs of Delaware education.

I’ve met Carson several times, usually at Legislative Hall.  As the head of DASA, Carson represented every single Delaware school administrator during one of Delaware’s most tumultuous times in education.  He challenged former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with a vote of no confidence, along with leaders from the two biggest local teacher unions in the state and the Delaware State Education Association.

If Carson is picked as John Carney’s Secretary of Education, he will have to juggle many balls all at once.  There is the mounting deficit in our state budget.  Delaware will be submitting it’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  New charter school applications will begin pouring in.  A growing chorus of Delaware citizens are demanding more financial transparency with education.  The Rodel engine will want Carson on their side.  Education technology is poised to  dilute the teaching profession to something unrecognizable.  Education funding will continue to be a thorn in the side of Delaware students.

Carson would be in charge of a Delaware Department of Education that is ripe for change.  He has the logistic ability and intelligence to transform the Department into something that delivers on transparency and better communication.  As well, he would serve as the Secretary for the State Board of Education and would have valuable input on who would be good picks for future board members.  There is nothing in Delaware state code that would prevent Carney from picking an entirely new State Board of Education.  There is now one vacancy on the board and Carson’s opinion on who that replacement should be could be pivotal.

Carson would also have to deal with events transpiring at a federal level.  President Trump and his Cabinet of private sector billionaires will want to change education and privatize it.  As a blue state, Delaware will fight this tooth and nail.  But one compromise could threaten Delaware education in varying ways.  We need a Secretary that has vast amounts of experience in dealing with events at the local level.  Someone who sees the issues from a wide perspective.  Someone who would be the voice for Delaware students and educators, who understands the complexities that divide us.

I completely understand that any Delaware Secretary of Education would have to conform to Governor Carney’s platform.  With Jack Markell, he had a very clear agenda and God forbid if you disagreed with that agenda.  He micro-managed Delaware education to the point of absurdity.  But at the same time he let financial issues run amok in our schools.  While I don’t see Carney as well-versed in education matters as Markell was, I believe that will become a strength of a positive Secretary.  I would like to think Carney would give his Secretary more leeway in implementing education policy in Delaware.  Godowsky was a mixed bag.  Like I’ve said before, he would have been a great Secretary under a different Governor.

Nothing against the other potential choice for Carney’s Secretary of Education, but we need someone who has served as more than a leader of one district.  We need someone who has a multi-leveled array of experience in Delaware education leadership.  That man is Kevin Carson.

Final U.S. DOE Regulations For ESSA Accountability Leave Same Bad Test, Shame, & Punish Policies & No Changes On Opt Out

The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law.  Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of.  We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing.  We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools.  We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix.  Nothing has changed.  Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place.  Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere.  I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.

One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans.  Now they are April 3rd and September 18th.  Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st.  The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).

So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?

In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.

And what about opt-out?  Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  Yeah right!

To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.

This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package.  And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago.  You reap what you sow!

When ESSA Advisory Committee Members Attack!

I’ve given a ton of public comments in the past two and a half years.  100?  200?  I can’t keep track.  Tonight, I got yelled at for my public comment.  By a member of the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee.  It got ugly.  I’m not one to just let someone yell at me like that.

A member of the committee asked the Delaware Dept. of Education how much the committee’s input really means.  She asked the DOE, on a scale of 1-10, how much that input means.  It was a very fair and valid question.  I have seen the woman before.  Maria Matos.  I knew she was on a charter school board and involved with the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington.  But I have never had a conversation with her.  I don’t think she has ever said hello to me or if I’ve been in a position to introduce myself.  I meet a lot of people in Delaware education.  I tend to disagree with many, but I make it a point to show respect face to face.  In a public meeting, there is an understood rule that you don’t devolve to a level of hostility.  Have I always subscribed to that rule?  No, I haven’t.

At a State Board of Education meeting in July of 2015, the Governor had just vetoed House Bill 50.  I had to hear former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy talk about it and how it was a good thing.  He was going on and on about it.  Was he rubbing my face in it?  Perhaps.  I yelled from the back something about how wrong they were and stormed out.  Not a moment I was proud of.  Even though I didn’t agree with what they were saying, I felt bad about it.  I emailed the entire board and Mark Murphy and apologized for my behavior.  I did tell the entire Christina board I was going to FOIA them one night, but I did raise my hand to speak and they allowed me to speak.  So that doesn’t really count.  I’ve yelled at Mark Murphy a couple of times and Senator David Sokola once at Legislative Hall during the House Bill 50 opt out days when the bill was still in play.  But I digress.

So tonight, Karen Field-Rogers with the Delaware DOE responds to Ms. Matos’ question.  She tells her this committee, the ESSA Advisory Committee, has deeper connections with education and she said they would have about 80% input on the Delaware ESSA state plan which will be submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Education.  That led to a whole other conversation about federal control, state control, and local control.  The time came for public comment.  I had something all typed out and ready to go, but upon hearing Field-Rogers response to Matos, I felt the need to ad lib my comment.

I basically said it was very disheartening to hear that this group was given an 8 out of 10 priority for input on the plan.  It felt like the ESSA Discussion Groups and the Community Conversation Groups were all of a sudden less important, that their voice didn’t matter as much.  That was the bulk of my public comment, short and sweet.  There has already been a huge question in the air about if the Delaware DOE already has the plan written and the stakeholder input is being used for show.  At the very least, the kind of questions the DOE are asking participants in any ESSA meeting are very narrow in scope.  Many questions are asked in such a way that someone answering could only give answers that would lean toward pre-conceived notions of what the DOE may put in the final plan.  The fact that the ESSA Advisory Committee was given six different questions tonight, one for each table, and the DOE representative at each table gave the report of each group’s discussion shows far too much DOE control than I am comfortable with.  And those DOE reps will be writing reports to the DOE based on how they interpret the findings of each group.

Usually, public comment ends and the group adjourns and everyone goes home.  But not tonight.  Matos yells at me.  She yells that the DOE just said it was an 8.  I went to respond and she continued.  I asked her why she was yelling at me and let her know I didn’t even know her.  She continued to yell about the same thing.  I told her this was public comment and she needed to step off.  I literally said those words.  She said something about not stepping up, but at the point the moderator intervened and adjourned the meeting.  Usually I stick around and say goodbye to folks, but not tonight.  I was pretty hot and I knew staying in that room would not be a wise idea.  I wish Matos would have used that same restraint a few minutes earlier…

So Ms. Matos, allow me to introduce myself.  I’m the member of the public you yelled at tonight.  And I will tell you straight up, that doesn’t fly with me.  You want to disagree with me, that’s fine.  People disagree with me all the time.  You want to yell at me after a public meeting or in the parking lot, have at it.  But you will not disrespect me in front of an audience with something you didn’t even hear right to begin with.  Maybe people allow you to do that at other meetings, but when someone gives a public comment at a public meeting, you respect that.  I’m sure you have done many wonderful things for Delaware education.  But that does not make you better than me or gives you the justification to do that.   I don’t care how many boards or committees you may be on.  And just because you are on the “8” committee, doesn’t mean your voice weighs more than anyone else.

One final thought Ms. Matos, if you have to ask the question about how much stakeholder input in matters of education with the Delaware DOE count, you’ve probably already answered your own question.

History Is A Set Of Lies Agreed Upon: The Delaware DOE’s Trojan Horse That Shares Personal Student Data

Napoleon once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”  In Delaware, the state has been sharing personal student data in the form of a benign computer program designed on the surface to help students.  This is a program that is so layered in varying shades of legality and loophole in state and federal law no person could ever realistically figure it all out.  Luckily, I am not one of those people.  So what is the Trojan horse inserted into every single school district and charter school in the state?  Hint: it’s NOT the Smarter Balanced Assessment! Continue reading

Learning To Count With Atnre Alleyne And Secretary Godowsky

A week ago, I published an article about the Alleyne Consortium.  They wanted to give Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky some suggestions for the Delaware Dept. of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act first draft of their state plan.  A source was able to give me the emails Alleyne sent to Godowsky.  The irony that Secretary Godowsky didn’t respond to Alleyne is not lost on me.

From: Atnre Alleyne <atnre.alleyne@50can.org>
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 11:23 AM
Subject: An Open Letter: Opportunities for Delaware under the Every Student Succeeds Act
To: steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us

Dear Secretary Godowsky,

I am writing to share an open letter (see attached) a collection of 20+ Delaware community and business organizations crafted to provide an initial set of recommendations regarding Delaware’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Delaware. Specifically, this first letter from our group focuses on school accountability and reporting under ESSA.

The diverse set of organizations that came together around this statement did so because we believe ESSA offers us an opportunity to turn the tide for Delaware students and renew our commitment and urgency toward ensuring equity for every student. As a group, we recognize that while there are examples of success in Delaware’s education system, our system has a long way to go before we can claim every Delaware student is receiving the high-quality education he or she deserves.

Where possible, many of our organizations have participated in the opportunities created by the Delaware Department of Education to provide input on the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for the state. Some of us also have the opportunity to directly provide feedback on the state’s ESSA plan as members of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee.

We compiled this letter understanding that, in order for the state’s implementation of ESSA to be successful, advocates and community groups need to play a more active role in pushing the system toward excellence. 

Thank you in advance for considering the recommendations above as the state develops its ESSA plan.

Regards,

Atnre Alleyne

—————————————————–

Hell no, he didn’t try to get Rodel and the gang to usurp Delaware’s ESSA plan, did he?  He sure did.  But nine days later, not only did he email Godowsky again but he made a broad claim that more organizations joined in.

—————————————————–

From: “Atnre Alleyne” <atnre.alleyne@50can.org>
Date: Nov 4, 2016 9:05 AM
Subject: An Open Letter: Opportunities for Delaware under the Every Student Succeeds Act
To: <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>

Good Morning Secretary Godowsky, 

I hope all is well with you. Last week I emailed to share an open letter a collection of 23 Delaware community and business organizations crafted to provide an initial set of recommendations regarding Delaware’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Delaware. 

As we have not yet received a response from the Delaware Department of Education, we are sending the letter again. I have also copied the members of the ESSA Advisory Committee so that they can consider the perspective of the community groups represented via this letter as they review the DDOE’s ESSA plan. 

The version of the letter attached to this email now includes 24 Delaware organizations. Thank you in advance for considering the recommendations in the attached letter as the state develops its ESSA plan. 

Regards, 
Atnre


Now this is the funny part.  Because in Alleyne’s march towards educational excellence, he seems to have forgotten to count.  He put, in bold, there are now 24 organizations.  In looking at this letter, I only saw 23.  I blame Common Core for this.

alleyneconsortium

I didn’t miss something here, did I?  I counted 23.  Luckily, I wasn’t raised with the Common Core standards.  I imagine everyone at the Delaware DOE is given the Clockwork Orange brainwashing with Common Core so I am able to understand how 23 becomes 24 in Alleyne’s world.  Unless he forgot to put in one of the pretty pictures for a 24th organization.  But, I must admit, Alleyne did inspire me.  Oh, how he inspired me.  He is absolutely right.  We DO need more input on this state plan.  Much more!  And I plan to get that.  Because there is no way in hell Alleyne, Rodel, Teach For America, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable and TeenSHARP are going to steal this plan.  So be on the lookout for my “stealing the thunder” plan.  It will be marvelous!  Okay, bad terminology to use in this day and age, but you get my point!

DESCEEFA Is Meeting Today

I first heard of this group when I read the first draft of the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act the other night.  There is just far too much going on in Delaware education right now to keep track of everything.  I have Pathways coming out of my ears, ESSA drafts out my nose, strategic plans for this and that coming out of my mouth.  What orifice is left?  But I digress.  I’m doing my best here…

Today, the Delaware Equity Steering Committee: Excellent Educators For All is meeting in Dover at 4:30pm. Judging by what the ESSA draft said, this is an attempt by the Delaware DOE to have more “equity” in high-needs schools. Less “novice” teachers and making sure more “experienced” teachers are working at these schools. Of course, this is all to help kids become more “proficient” on the Smarter Balanced Assessment so Delaware can get more bragging rights about how great we think we are. “Look, we went up 2% in Math this year,” while forgetting that going from 46 to 48% still pretty much sucks by any type of standard. Maybe this will work out, maybe it won’t. We all know how well the Delaware Talent Co-operative did!  Consider this yet another ESSA sub-group if you will.  If you get a chance and weren’t aware of this committee I can only DESCEEFA, take an afternoon ride up or down to Dover.  I might swing in if I can…

equitysteeringcommitteeagenda

If you aren’t able to attend, you can read the minutes from their first meeting below:

Delaware ESSA State Plan First Draft, Released Today

The Delaware Department of Education released the first draft of the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act this evening.  I have read about 90% of it and I have many thoughts on it.  Some I loathe just seeing them in writing, some I actually like, and some need to marinate for a day or two.  There are a lot of variables with this: final regulations from the United State Dept. of Education, stakeholder group conversations in the next couple of months, and the usual big one: state funding.

In my opinion, it is going to be very hard to get accurate feedback until the regulations from the U.S. Department of Education have been finalized.  Will this plan be a trick or a treat?  Happy Halloween!  Here is the plan.  It begins with Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky’s letter, followed by the six sections, and some items from the appendices.  I will have much, much more to say on this in the coming days.

And these are the six points:

de-essa-draft-picture-no-links






 

delaware-community-communications-breakdown

Will Stakeholders Be Able To Stop The Delaware DOE With ESSA? And What Delaware Entity Is Already Cashing In?

The Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Discussion Groups held their third meeting on October 17th.  Below are the minutes from those meetings.  The next meeting will be on November 7th at the Collette Center in Dover from 6pm to 8pm.  Big topics like Special Education, Opt Out, the infamous “n” number, and the “whole child”.  As well, a major Delaware entity is holding a non-transparent event with some mighty big players and charging for it to boot!

essasssdiscgroupmembers

The Student and School Supports group found the following items to be priorities in Delaware education:

  1. Schools are the hub of the community so they need more services brought to them.
  2. Schools need more psychologists as well as psychiatrists and neurologists on call to assist with special education.
  3. Schools need more realistic ratios of guidance counselors.
  4. More trauma-informed schools.
  5. Funding for the “whole child” approach.
  6. Greater funding for high-needs schools.
  7. Invest in Birth to 8 with weight put on social and emotional learning (this also included discussion around providing basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade).

This group is top-heavier than the other discussion group with folks from the services side of education, and it definitely showed.  I don’t mind more services in schools.  But the key is in the eagerness.  It was my perception that some were very pushy with what they would like to see.  These very same people would also benefit financially from more of the recommended services in schools.  Are they a stakeholder at that point or a benefactor?

 

essamssprdiscgroupmembers

The most popular items brought for by this discussion group were as follows:

  1. Not having the 95% participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework.  Since participation rate in state assessments is beyond a school’s ability to control, it should not be used as a punishment.
  2. English Language Learners accountability needs to look at factors in access for these students, how much formal education they had prior to coming to Delaware schools, age, how proficient they are in their native language, if they live in a city or rural environment, and how well they are able to read in their own language.
  3. The “n” size, which is the lowest number a school can have for reporting populations of sub-groups so they are not easily identifiable, was 30

The “n” number is always a tricky beast to tackle.  I support a high n# for student data privacy.  But on the other side, schools with small populations in their subgroups (charter schools) aren’t obligated to provide information on those students and it can make them look better than they really are.  This helps to perpetuate the myth that certain charters provide a better education.  I think the notion of being able to easily recognize a student who has disabilities or is in a sub-group is somewhat ridiculous.  I have never believed special education should be a stigma.  I think schools should celebrate every single child’s uniqueness.  By not reporting the results of those students (even if they are based on very flawed state assessments) does those students a disservice.  It makes it look like they don’t matter when they most certainly do.  It doesn’t look like too many people in this group were in favor of keeping the opt out penalty in the state accountability system.  Obviously, I echo that sentiment!

Last week, the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee held their first meeting.  You can read the highlights here.  As well, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, who is also on the Advisory Committee, had some thoughts on the meeting, the US DOE’s pending regulations around Title I, and how they could affect Delaware schools.

The first draft of Delaware’s ESSA plan comes out at the end of this month.  From there, the discussion groups and Advisory Committee will reconvene.  As well, the Delaware DOE will be hosting more Community Conversations in each county.  Those groups will meet on the following dates from 6pm to 8pm:

11/16: Community Education Building, 1200 N. French St., Wilmington

11/21: Cape Henlopen High School, 1200 Kings Highway, Lewes

11/29: Seaford High School, 399 N. Market St., Seaford

12/1: John Collette Education Resource Center, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover

12/8: Newark Charter School, 2001 Patriot Way, Newark

I find it VERY interesting they are holding the Wilmington meetings at charter schools.  The Community Education Building is the home of Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks.  Sussex County also gets two meetings while Kent County only gets one.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the general public, the University of Delaware Institute of Public Administration is holding a 5 1/2 hour event tomorrow at the Outlook at the Duncan Center in Dover.  This event is called the School Leader Professional Development Series: The Opportunities and Challenges of Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.  This event is NOT on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar nor was it mentioned at the discussion groups or the Advisory Committee.  I was able to get my hands on what is happening at this not-so-transparent event.  The event is described as the following:

This workshop is an additional forum for multi-stakeholder district teams to interact and discuss the opportunities and challenges introduced by this new legislation.

Major players are coming to Dover at 9am tomorrow morning.  Folks like the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association.

Presenting on Delaware’s ESSA plan will be Deb Stevens from DSEA, Dr. Terri Hodges from Delaware PTA, Executive Director from Delaware State Administrators Association Tammy Croce, Executive Director John Marinucci from Delaware School Boards Association, and a rep from the Delaware DOE.

Working groups will also be formed to discuss ESSA.  Another one of the workshops will focus on state accountability systems will be led by Robin Taylor with R²  Educational Consulting (never heard of them, time to start digging), one on school interventions led by Director of State Assessment and Accountability Joseph Jones from New Castle County Vo-Tech and Director of Elementary Schools Amy Grundy from Red Clay.  Finally, Laura Glass with the Delaware Center for Teacher Education and Jackie Wilson of the Delaware Academy for School Leadership/Professional Development Center for Education will lead a workshop on Teacher and Leader Training and Evaluation.

Will the Delaware DOE use what is said in this non-transparent event to help in the creation of their first draft?  Why is this event not public?  Shouldn’t those outside of education be able to hear what is being said about what could happen in their local schools based on this act?  One of the biggest challenges of ESSA is the perception that the Delaware DOE already knows what will be in their state plan and all of this is just details.  I suppose someone could crash this event if they registered, but they would have to fork over $85.00 to go.  But if you got in with a local school district or charter school with four or more members that price would jump way down from $85.00 to $75.00.  Cashing in on ESSA!  Gotta love the University of Delaware.

If you are not informed about the Every Student Succeeds Act and Delaware’s proposed plans, you won’t know the future of education in this state.  Period.  I have been imploring parents and citizens to get involved with this for a long time now.  I understand people are busy and they have their own lives.  But this one is really big.  It has not escaped my notice that they are doing all this during a major election cycle and around the holidays.  That is how the Delaware DOE rolls.  Either they plan stuff in the summer when no one can show up (or even knows about it) or they cram it in during very busy times for families, teachers, and citizens.

When the first draft comes out, I will be dissecting every single word and punctuation mark in the document.  I will break it down for you.  I will filter through what they think the public will see and what it really means.  That’s how I roll.  But it can’t stop there.  YOU must lend your voice.  Whether it is in person or email.  Keep a copy of what you say at all times.  Make sure your voice is not only heard but recorded as well.  We will get exactly what they submit.  If you don’t make your voice heard now (or when the drafts are released), it will be far too late.  It comes down to trust.  Do you really trust the Delaware DOE to do the right thing for students without selling them out to Education Inc.?  I don’t.  We need to upset the apple cart.  Are you in?  Or will you lament not speaking up later?