Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook Announce Run For DSEA President & VP

mikejackie

Delaware teachers Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook announced they will run as a team for President and Vice-President the Delaware State Education Association.  These leadership positions are currently held by Frederika Jenner and Karen Crouse.  Their terms end on July 17th, 2017.

Mike Matthews was the most recent past President of the Red Clay Education Association while Jackie Kook currently serves as the Vice-President of the Christina Education Association.  Both are widely known throughout Delaware as advocates against many of the destructive and disparaging policies coming out of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The educators spoke in favor of better teacher evaluation in the DPAS-II system.  They both support a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment and spoke in support of House Bill 50.  As members of their district unions, they both publicly denounced former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and called for him to step down, which was echoed by DSEA at their next representative assembly.  Both were highly involved in fighting for their teachers, students and districts during the troubling priority school fiasco initiated by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE.

Matthews and Kook have launched a Facebook page for their candidacy here.  DSEA members will be able to cast votes by paper or electronically between January 9th and January 23rd, 2017.  Please support Mike and Jackie.  I can’t imagine Delaware education without them.

 

 

Delaware’s 14 Focus Schools & Who Knew There Was A 7th Priority School In Laurel?

2015FocusschoolsThere was a seventh priority school I didn’t know about, and this is the first I’ve heard about it nearly a year after the initial announcement.  According to the DOE’s ESEA Flex Waiver request submitted March 31st, 2015, Laurel Middle School was also labeled a priority school along with the other six in Red Clay and Christina school districts.

With 14 Focus schools, these could eventually become priority schools if they don’t show the necessary “growth” and “proficiency” on standardized test scores.  This is wrong on so many levels, especially since the 10 new focus schools are named based on data from over a year ago.  That’s right, old data is being used by the US DOE.  It doesn’t matter if two grades of students are no longer at those schools, they will label and shame whoever they can…

Some Big Names Bidding For Priority Schools Contract With The DOE…

“The Contractor will have a track record of influencing teachers, school leaders, parents, school boards, and other constituents, and will have the exceptional interpersonal skills and credibility to drive rapid performance through school turnaround initiatives.  This critical role will report directly to the Chief Accountability and Performance Officer.”

The deadline for the bids on contract DOE 2015-13, Priority School Supports Contractors, expired on June 1st.    Three bids have been entered on this contract, and a couple of them are very big names in the corporate education reform world: Pearson Education and American Institutes for Research.  The third bidder, Innovative Educational Programs, hails from Newark, New Jersey.

Any of these three companies would be very bad for priority schools in my opinion.  Pearson runs the PARCC tests in many states.  American Institutes for Research (AIR) is the assessment vendor for Delaware, and has been ever since DCAS was introduced.  And Innovative Educational Programs is from an area where many turnaround schools have been converted to charter schools.  So much so that hundreds of students recently protested these types of actions a couple weeks ago.

The last thing any Delaware school needs is more contractors coming in, attempting to make our students more “college and career ready” through “rigor” and “grit”.  Especially the most vulnerable students: low-income, minority and special needs.

To read the actual bid proposal, please go here: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_2015-13PrioritySchoolSupp_RFP.pdf

To read the list of bidders, go here: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_2015-13PrioritySchoolSupp_RFP.pdf

***UPDATED*** Delaware DOE Looking At 5 More Years Of Priority Schools ***WRONG***

***UPDATED*** Ignore the below comments I made based on this public notice.  School Improvement Grants, otherwise known as SIG funds, are grants given to schools that may or may already be in a priority school status.  The waiver Penny Schwinn is requesting is to have the availability of these funds extended from 2016 until 2020.  Schools actually request these, as can be seen on this list of schools that have applied for SIG funds in the past.  Yes, I do correct mistakes!

I just found this on the DOE website while trying to find other information:

PUBLIC NOTICE

Notice is hereby given, that the Delaware Department of Education (Department) has posted the following for comment:

An application for Title I, 1003(g) School Improvement Grant funds, which can be found here, will be submitted to the US Department of Education on April 15, 2015.  The application will include the waiver shown below.  The Delaware Department of Education will accept comment on this request through May 15, 2015. All comments received on the request will be forwarded to the US Department of Education through May 15, 2015. 

The State requests the following waiver:

 

  • In order to extend the period of availability beyond September 30, 2016, waive section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. § 1225(b)) to extend the period of availability of FY 2014 school improvement funds for the SEA and all of its LEAs to September 30, 2020.

 

Public comment regarding the waiver request mentioned above can be submitted to: Penny Schwinn, Chief Accountability and Performance Officer, Accountability, Assessment, Performance Management and Evaluation, Telephone (302) 735-4090; FAX: (302) 739-3092; Email: penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us

If I were a parent or educator in any low-income school that receives Title I funding, I would send an email of opposition to Penny Schwinn as soon as possible.  Because this is not about the existing priority schools but using funds to create new ones.  This was at the very bottom of Schwinn’s link to the application:

A “new award” is defined as an award of SIG funds to an LEA for a school that the LEA was not previously approved to serve with SIG funds in the school year for which funds are being awarded—in this case, the 2015–2016 school year. New awards may be made with the FY 2014 funds or any remaining SIG funds not already committed to grants made in earlier competitions.

DOE Considering Replacing SAT With Smarter Balanced Assessment, Markell’s “Assessment Reduction” Plan Has Been In The Works For 6 Months, & School Turnaround News

Chief Accountability and Performance Officer Penny Schwinn, at the Delaware Department of Education, gave a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment to the State Board of Education today.  Schwinn indicated the Smarter Balanced Assessment may potentially be considered to replace the SAT in 11th grade for Delaware students.  She claimed that other states are doing this already.

The main part of the presentation was the five-year Smarter Balanced Assessment plan.  Schwinn and Dr. Carolyn Lazar, another associate at the Delaware DOE, talked about the recent “assessment reduction” initiative that had some rather revealing and shocking acknowledgments.  The DOE has spent the past six months reviewing state assessments and found there is a lot of replication across the state.  Their goals in this review have been to make sure assessments align to the state standards, yield valuable reports on student progress, adhere to best practices statewide, and align with the system in place.  Schwinn said “We all want as much instruction time as possible,” and in speaking about the community’s role in this initiative, “We want to be respectful of community input.”

Schwinn’s office feels end of year assessments (finals) are repetitive and they are starting to see a reduction on these tests in districts.  The five-year assessment plan will cover Smarter Balanced Assessments, DCAS for Social Studies and Science, Alternate Assessments, and the following tests: PSAT, SAT, ACCESS and NAEP.

Schwinn explained the grant funds involved with this assessment review available to the “largest districts” as she put it, and it would amount to $5.00 a student for a total of $80-90,000.  Lazar explained, contradicting Schwinn’s earlier statement, that the grant is available to all the districts in Delaware and that the DOE initiated this process two years ago but became a focus six months ago.  The grant funds became available for the districts in early April, and the districts have until the end of the April to deliver a list of their assessments to the DOE.

A company called Achieve is the DOE contractor involved in this, and their role is to provide a user-friendly model and to develop an action plan to execute on the findings of the review.  The DOE is planning to develop a communications and community engagement process, and they are pleased at the level of educator involvement already taking place with this review.

The DOE has already provided the districts with a template of the grant form to ease the burden on the districts.  They suggested the districts use an outside consultancy firm, like Achieve (which they specifically mentioned for a 2nd time).  The review plan has three steps: Phase 1: review, Phase 2: develop action plan, and Phase 3: implement action plan.  The goal, according to Lazar is “teaching more, testing less.”  The plan will ask “Why assess?” which they feel is necessary and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray agreed.  “We are all consumers of data,” Lazar said.

The DOE will be more than happy to provide technical assistance to the districts that they may consider part of their budget, with the help of Achieve (3rd mention of this company), who may want other contractors to come in and assist.  But the districts can be creative with the funds (based on a DOE designed grant template and the able-bodied assistance of Achieve).

Gray restated the earlier statement that the grant is optional to the districts, but Schwinn stated they are committed to doing this for all of the districts.  Board member Pat Heffernan asked if there is a rubric for this initiative, to which Lazar said that is something they are looking to implement but nothing exact like a specific rubric (after they already designed the grant template).

They expect the district assessment tally in mid-May and an action plan by December.  During the gap in time, they plan to utilize focus groups (with no definition of who would be on these focus groups).

Schwinn indicated teacher created assessments used in the classroom are not a part of this review, but some of the Measure B and RTI interventions used by the districts, according to Gray, are repetitive.  Schwinn stated these are the universal assessments that all students must take and determining the validity of them.  Schwinn stated Common Core alignment with the SAT would be ready by next year with a transition in the next two years and full implementation in the next 3-5 years.

The next part of their presentation concerned the current implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in districts and charters in Delaware.  Schwinn said she is “very excited” about the results they have seen so far.  As of April 10th, 15,000 students have taken part in the summative ELA Smarter Balanced Assessment, and 9,000 for the math.  When asked about the different in numbers, Schwinn indicated it was because of how the districts and schools implement the testing scheduled during their testing windows.  There was a long discussion about “chunking”.  Heffernan asked if there have been situations like the schools thought a section would take four days but it took six to which Schwinn answered they haven’t received that feedback at this point.

In terms of problems, the biggest problem which was on the screen, but not even discussed during the meeting was the issue of accommodations.  The screen indicated “ACCOMMODATIONS DATA TRANSFER EXPERIMENTING ISSUES-unresolved, students incorrectly appearing as “custom” for accommodations in the test administration interface.  Work-around requires test administrator to employ additional efforts to validate accommodations for every student.”  American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor is “working on the issue.”  Nothing was discusses about any financial impact to the state or the districts to resolve these issues.  The DOE has an internal system they use to monitor the Smarter Balanced called PBMS.  Schwinn indicated the first year of DCAS had similar issues (another state assessment designed by AIR).

Executive Director of the State Board Donna Johnson asked how many districts were doing the interim assessments and Schwinn answered this is decided by the actual schools, and in some schools, only certain grades.  For the hand-scoring they are using a new technical system for curricular assessments and collaborating with the State of Washington and Air for training.  This is posted on a portal called the Teacher Hand-Scoring System.

There has been an inconsistent display of resources but conference calls with other states in the SBAC, the staff at Smarter Balanced and AIR is allowing for collaboration and sharing of resources like sources, prompts and materials deployed.

Schwinn indicated students like “Smarter” (a recent Facebook commenter said all the DOE hipsters like to call it “Smarter”) better than DCAS and are showing more interest because it has listening and is more realistic (with not even 1/5th of the students in the state taking the test, they are already making this assumption without all the end-of-assessment surveys).

Here is my take on all this, and the whole “reduction of assessments” initiative is not to actually reduce testing, but because the DOE wants more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  The DOE and Governor Markell want everything tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment: college course placement, standards-based IEPs, SATs, and even those pesky little “other” assessments that provide real and valuable data in many cases.  My big question is this: how much did the legislators know of these plans with this test when the majority voted to approve it last year with House Bill 334?

While this question is being pondered, who is Achieve?  According to their website, their agendas (not making this up, they actually have a tab called “Our Agenda”) include standards, graduation requirements, data & accountability and assessments, with sub-groups in this category called sample student assessment reports, ADP assessments, measures that matter, and what a coincidence, one called Student Assessment Directory for School Districts.  And look at that, they just completed a huge guide for districts on 3/20/15!

And from their website, which can be found at just another corporate education reform link:

Below is a brief history of Achieve:

1996: Achieve is founded at the National Education Summit by leading governors and business leaders.

1998: Achieve begins its Academic Standards and Assessments Benchmarking Pilot Project.

1999: Achieve sponsors a National Education Summit.

2001: Achieve sponsors a National Education Summit; Achieve joins the Education Trust, Thomas B. Fordham Institute and National Alliance of Business to launch the American Diploma Project (ADP) to identify the “must-have” knowledge and skills most demanded by higher education and employers.

2004: The American Diploma Project releases “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts.” This groundbreaking report – the result of over two years of research – identifies a common core of English and mathematics academic knowledge and skills, or “benchmarks,” that American high school graduates need for success in college and the workforce. Education Week later named “Ready or Not” one of the most 12 influential research studies.

2005: Achieve co-sponsors a National Education Summit on High Schools, with the National Governors Association; the American Diploma Project Network is launched with 13 inaugural states.

2006: Achieve releases its first annual report on the ADP college- and career-ready policy agenda: “Closing the Expectations Gap: An Annual 50-State Progress Report on the Alignment of High School Policies with the Demands of College and Work.”

2007: The ADP Assessment Consortium launches to develop common Algebra II end-of-course assessment, which was, at that time, the largest multi-state effort to develop assessments to date.

2008: Achieve releases “Out of Many, One: Toward Rigorous Common Core Standards from the Ground Up,” a report that found that individual state efforts to set college- and career-ready standards for high school graduates actually led to a remarkable degree of consistency in English and mathematics requirements.

2009: Work begins on the development of the Common Core State Standards; Achieve partners with the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers on the Initiative and a number of Achieve staff and consultants serve on the writing and review teams.

2010: The final Common Core State Standards are released; Achieve begins serving as Project Management Partner for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

2011: Achieve begins managing the state-led development of the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards.

2013: The final Next Generation Science Standards are released.

 

So now that we know the who, what, where, when and how, my big question is WHY?  This is just another waste of money so the DOE can pay another corporate education reform company.  Is there just this huge and massive network of these companies that comes into states and “transforms” everything education related?

Well, at least now we know Penny Schwinn does more than worry about priority schools.  Wait a minute… I take that back.  I found this on the Delaware Contract Bid website, just placed two days ago in fact…

 

But let’s all hope Delaware Secretary of Education Mary Murphy’s sniffles get better.  The poor guy either has a bad cold, or allergies, or something.  Hope you feel better Mark!

 

 

Priority Schools Update: Christina Board President & Superintendent made plans w/Governor’s office, not DOE **UPDATED**

According to Fred Polaski, the Christina Board of Education President, he and Superintendent Freeman Williams met with Lindsey O’Mara, the education advisor for Governor Markell, in hashing out an agreement over the three priority schools in their district.  The Delaware Department of Education was there at the beginning of the meeting, and left soon after.  More details as they emerge…

I’m not sure if this was at this meeting, before, or after, but apparently DOE Officer of Accountability Penny Schwinn told Christina she already has three assistant principals already in mind for the three priority schools during the “transition”.

The Christina Board is getting ready to vote on the decision to follow this plan, developed not by Christina and the DOE, but Christina and Governor Markell’s office.

The Christina Board passed the Markell/DOE plan (still waiting to find out whose plan it was), by a 4-1-2 vote.  For those keeping track, the yes votes belonged to John Young, Elizabeth Paige, David Ressler and Fred Polaski.  Harrie Minnehan voted no, and George Evans and Shirley Saffer abstained.  The board also voted unanimously for a second referendum on May 27th.

Which Schools Will Become Priority Schools For 2015-2016? The List Of Contenders…

The below email between employees at the Delaware Department of Education from June 21st, 2014, shows what criteria was used for picking the priority schools.  Five of the six priority schools chosen for 2014-2015 are in here, and I would have to assume some of these schools would be removed from the list based on their removal from partnership zone status earlier this year.  I have bolded the ones that are currently priority schools or are no longer turn-around schools.  Why isn’t Shortlidge on this list?

Even more interesting is some of the former partnership schools that were NOT on this list, but the reasons for that are clearly spelled out in the criteria.  What is truly bizarre is the addition of charter schools.  Especially the one that was closed a year and a half prior to this email.  Moyer and Reach have already been ordered to shut down by the end of this current school year, so my guess would be charters are no longer a part of this program since they are already subject to their own performance framework.

The press release they talk about in the email would most likely have been the one from May, 2014 on the new child nutrition “free lunch” program.  There is a DOE website in the press release for all the schools that qualified for the prior program.

Fri 6/20/2014 8:54 AM

Rivello Angeline

Found the list of schools

To   Cannon Tasha <tasha.cannon@doe.k12.de.us>

cc    Adkins Ruth E. <ruth.adkins@doe.k12.de.us>

Tasha,

I found the list in the press release.  It also explains at the bottom how they were selected.  Let me know if you have questions.  Trying to do clean up before vaca week next week. 🙂 

Eligible Schools

The initiative’s eligible schools for the next two years are:

· Brandywine School District’s Harlan Elementary

· Cape Henlopen School District’s Brittingham Elementary

· Capital School District’s South Dover, Towne Point and East Dover elementary schools and Dover High

· Christina School District’s Christiana High, Brookside Elementary, Bayard Middle, Elbert-Palmer Elementary, Pulaski Elementary, Oberle Elementary, Glasgow High, Stubbs Elementary and Bancroft Elementary

· Colonial School District’s McCullough Middle, Colwyck Elementary, Castle Hills Elementary, Downie Elementary and Eisenberg Elementary

· Indian River School District’s Georgetown, North Georgetown, and Clayton elementary schools

· Laurel School District’s Laurel Middle

· Red Clay Consolidated School District’s Warner Elementary, Highlands Elementary, A.I. duPont Middle, Mote Elementary, Richardson Park Elementary, Baltz Elementary, Lewis Elementary, Marbrook Elementary and Stanton Middle

· Seaford School District’s West Seaford and Blades elementary schools

· New Castle County Vo-Tech School District’s Howard High School of Technology

· Charter schools: Positive Outcomes, Thomas Edison, EastSide, Prestige, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations, Delaware College Preparatory Academy, Kuumba Academy, Pencader, Moyer and Reach

Delaware Department of Education chose the eligible schools, which have at least 100 students, based upon the following criteria:

· A school’s inclusion in the state’s Partnership Zone

  • A school’s appearance in the “Top 15 schools” in at least two of the following three categories: highest percentages of minority students, highest percentages of low-income students (students on free- and reduced-price lunches), and highest percentages of English language learners.
  • In addition, schools could be eligible if they have at least 75 percent of their students in any one of the three above categories.

 Angeline A. Willen Rivello

Director, Teacher & Administrator Quality 

Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit

Delaware Department of Education

Collette Education Resource Center

35 Commerce Way, Suite 1

Dover, DE 19904

302.857.3388 (T)  302.739.1777 (F)

angeline.rivello@doe.k12.de.us

 

US DOE Letter To Delaware Governor Jack Markell re: No-Cost Extensions For RTTT Funding

While Delaware legislators are scratching their heads over the Delaware Department of Education’s need for additional funding in the 2015-2016 budget, find out what the US DOE wants Delaware to spend that money on.  Perhaps this will shed some light on the DE DOE’s request to take funds out of the General Fund…

East Side Charter School Rakes In The Bucks In Private Donations

We hear it all the time from the pro-choice charter crowd.  “We don’t get the funding traditional schools get.”  “It’s not fair.”  Wah Wah Wah!  Traditional schools don’t get over a million dollars in contributions through foundations.  They get taxpayer money just like charters do.  And look at all the names on here!  Some of these are very familiar names in the corporate education reform movement here in Delaware!

Compare this to the priority schools in Wilmington.  They have been cash poor for years from tax cuts back in 2009 that were never restored.  It’s easy to have lower proficiency gaps when you rake in the funding which allows for more resources.  And now that you have your hooks in Family Foundations Academy, I’m sure you will be asking for more this year!

 

Delaware House Rep Sean Matthews on WDEL!

Please listen to what Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews had to say on WDEL last Thursday.  This was about United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s visit to Delaware.  The day before, Matthews and DE State Rep. John Kowalko wrote a letter to Arne Duncan on his visit.

To see the letter Matthews and Kowalko wrote to Duncan, please go here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/breaking-news-delaware-state-reps-kowalko-and-matthews-open-letter-to-arne-duncan-for-his-visit-tomorrow/

Hear A Father Opt His Child Out of Smarter Balanced At Christina Board Meeting

I am very proud of this father.  He has taken a courageous step.  I’m not sure how many others have already done this, but it needs to be done.  I posted an article last week with all the February board meetings. While this isn’t the only way to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, it certainly makes a large impact.

To hear a parent bravely opt his child out, go to the below link.  It begins at the 33:05 time stamp.

http://www.ChristinaK12.org/apps/video/watch.jsp?v=55224

If you want to know more about Christina and the Priority Schools, this audio recording goes into a lot more detail about the rationale behind their decisions Tuesday night.  Jackie Kook gave an excellent public comment about choosing between two evils.  Senator Bryan Townsend gave the longest public comment ever, and it is a must hear!

 

Bi-Partisan Education Bill Could Be A Game Changer For Delaware DOE

On Saturday, Delaware State Representative Jeffrey Spiegelman wrote a letter to the editor in The State News.  He announced a new piece of potential legislation that would severely limit some of the shenanigans the Delaware Department of Education has done in recent years.  This bill would prevent the DOE from implementing any rule, regulation, or administrative procedure during a current school year unless approved by the local school board.  They would have to implement any regulations over the summer so the schools can budget accordingly, as well as implement the changes without any interruptions to students and staff in the middle of a school year.

This bill hasn’t even been released yet, but it should gain traction fast.  It seems like every time the DOE wants to make new rules, the local school districts are the ones that face the consequences.  For example, the Priority Schools weren’t even announced until September 4th last year, already into the new school year.  It came as a shock to Christina and Red Clay, and they were not happy about it.  Had this been done over the summer, it could have given the districts and the school boards more time to prepare and strategize before all the students came back.  It would also show the DOE they can’t do whatever they want whenever they want.  It’s easy to sit down in Dover and make all the rules, but the reality on the ground is vastly different.  I look forward to seeing what happens with this legislation!

Spiegelman is in his 2nd term as a Republican State Representative for the 11th District of Delaware.  When he isn’t doing the legislative thing, he is an adjunct professor at Wilmington University and Delaware Technical and Community College.  Other legislators are attached to this potential bill, but as of “press time” I have not received an okay to put their names on it.  The other co-sponsors on the bill are Senator Greg Lavelle and State Representative Earl Jacques who also serves as the head of the House Education Committee.

Please Sign the iPetition for Delaware’s Priority Schools @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @Roof_O @Avi_WA @TNJ_malbright @CapeGazette @TheStateNews @DoverPost @DelawareOnline @DelawareBats @BadassTeachersA #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

A group of like-minded individuals who are against the priority schools initiative has created an iPetition to give to Governor Markell, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the Delaware Department of Education.  Please take a minute or two during the busy holiday season and make a difference!  The timing is crucial on this petition.

We need all bloggers and reporters on deck to re-blog this and re-tweet this whenever possible.  For parents, educators, and concerned citizens, if you do the petition, please be sure to share it on your Facebook to spread the word.  Email it to those who don’t have Facebook.  If you are using Twitter, please use the hashtag #prioritizethat when you post.  Thank you!

This is the wording from the website: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lets-make-priority-schools-a-real-priority-2

Let’s Make Priority Schools A Real PRIORITY

 We ask the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE), Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, and Governor Jack Markell to reconsider their stated plans and time frame for the six “priority schools” located in Wilmington. The time frame provided is insufficient for districts and the schools’ communities to develop thoughtful, serious plans for improvement. Instead, the short time frame sets these schools on a path towards closure, conversion to charter and/or privatization (as threatened)—which would result in city children losing their public schools.

The following items must be considered:

1. A comprehensive review of Christina’s Stubbs and Bancroft elementary schools, conducted by the University of Delaware and commissioned by DDOE, released a report in early December indicating that these schools are making significant progress in a range of categories under their current leadership. In fifteen areas, including School Leadership Decisions, Curriculum and Instruction, and Strategies for Students Who Are at Risk, both schools received the highest possible evaluation.

2. Given such positive evaluation by a highly respected and objective organization, the removal of principals from these schools, merely to comply with federal regulations governing turn-around plans, seems arbitrary, capricious and harmful. Firing respected principals and/or teachers without careful evaluation, in order to replace them with leaders unfamiliar with the students and their communities, is a serious disservice to the professionals and children concerned. Doing this would further destabilize high-needs schools that have already experienced significant turnover. A strong school depends on trust among teachers, administrators, parents and students; this must be rebuilt whenever new staff are brought in.

3. The amount of money allocated to the “priority schools” is not enough to reach the ambitious improvement goals set by DDOE. The insufficient additional funding all but guarantees that these schools will close, convert to charter and/or privatize after failing to achieve dramatic improvement with modest resources within a short timeframe. The likely result is that city children will lose public schools obligated to serve every child in their area—in contrast to charters, which demonstrably choose which students and families to accept and retain.

We request that the following changes be implemented in these schools:

1. Provide needs-based funding—additional dollars to adequately meet the needs of low-income, special education and non-English speaking students

2. Institute smaller class sizes for disadvantaged student populations

3. Offer wrap around social services in the priority schools, to address the many factors that adversely impact educational outcomes for their students.

All of us want what is best for the children attending priority schools. The current DDOE plan is not likely to help them and may, in fact, diminish educational opportunity for many.

Rodel’s Job Posting Page, A Little Biased Here Dr. Herdman? @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @Apl_Jax @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @nannyfat @DSNEleanor @TNJ_malbright @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

Rodel is supposed to be the cheerleader of education in Delaware, right?  They have their Vision and ED25 programs and the DOE laps it up like a moth to a flame.  Governor Markell thinks they are the best thing to hit Delaware since tax-free shopping.  But what is Rodel’s beef with public school districts?  A look at their “Find A Job” page on their website shows a very tainted bias toward DOE agendas and charter schools.  Or is it Rodel’s agenda and the DOE bends toward Rodel?  I can’t keep track anymore.  Let’s just say it’s all the same plan!

Aside from the “communications” jobs for Rodel, they also have postings for Innovative Schools, Newark Day Nursery, Delaware Early Childhood Center, Delaware Office of Early Learning, GreatSchools, and University of Delaware.

For DOE jobs, they have jobs listed for an Education Associate in Accountability and Performance, an Education Associate for the Business-Finance-Marketing department of the DOE, a Deputy Officer for LEA Performance, a Field Agent for Title I Bilingual and ESL programs, and secretarial positions for the Early Development & Learning Resources and Finance divisions of the DOE.

Hoping to get that charter school bandwagon rolling, they have positions listed for the Commandant of First State Military Academy, Founding School Leader for Delaware STEM Academy, and Founding Principal for Delaware Met.

But the most bizarre one of them all is the following, taken directly from their website:

Delaware Leadership Project
This rigorous program is designed to cultivate high performing school leaders and includes: an intensive five week boot camp experience designed to transition participant’s mindset from that of teacher to school leader; a ten month paid residency experience on a school leadership team; and two years of post-graduate coaching to support a school leadership position in a high need school. Successful graduates must be willing to commit, in writing, to working in a high need Delaware public school for three years upon graduation from the program.

More information and application instruction here.

Is this where they will be cultivating their “great leaders” when the priority schools become charter schools?  Will Rodel get a “finders fee” for these jobs?  Or will someone or somebody stop the Markerodell before they can even kick it off?

They have all these “big” job postings, but where are ANY public school district jobs?  Dr. Michael Thomas is resigning as Superintendent of Capital School District, the 3rd biggest in the state, and that posting is up elsewhere, but Rodel can’t put it up on their own website?  In their defense, it does say on the page Please contact us if there is a job or internship posting that we should include.  Their link to joindelawareschools.org doesn’t work, so good luck there!  So I have taken the liberty of informing them of a very important role that needs to be filled (much more important than many of the jobs they have listed on their website) and emailed them with this information:

Hi Rodel, your Find A Job page says to contact you if we know of a position that should be on that page.  Can you please list the Substitute Nurse position in the Milford School District.  This is very important, cause if a nurse gets sick, someone else has to take care of sick kids.  Thanks!

Let’s see if they chew on that bone!

Updated: 7 minutes later.  Why don’t we just change the name of our 1st state to Rodelaware.  It’s the Rodelaware Way!

“Our children are more than test scores”, my letter to the editor printed in Delaware State News today

Our Children are more than test scores - 10-7-14

On October 2nd, I sent a letter to the editor to Delaware State News, Dover Post and The News Journal.  Today, Delaware State News printed the letter in it’s almost near entirety, and the Dover Post will post a shortened version tomorrow.  I am waiting on word back from The News Journal.  This is the letter that appeared in Delaware State News today:

To The Parents of Students in Delaware,

Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Christina Board of Education meeting. There were over 200 people in the crowd, including parents, teachers, and legislators. Sept. 30th was the deadline for the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the Delaware Department of Education and Gov. Jack Markell forced upon the Christina School District and the Red Clay Consolidated School District. At issue was six schools in the city of Wilmington that were deemed “failing” by the DOE based on proficiency scores with the DCAS standardized testing.

To judge any school, much less Title 1 low-income schools with high populations of minorities and special education students, based on standardized testing is a major fault with the DOE. But what made it even worse was the caveat of hiring new school leaders for each school at a salary of $160,000 a year.

The worst part is every single teacher in these schools would have to reapply for their positions. If the school districts did not sign the MOUs then they would have 120 days to comply or risk a state takeover of the schools. Most feel they would become charter schools. Wilmington already has a great deal of designated space in the Bank of America building at Rodney Square within a mile of each of these schools. If they can try to pull this in Wilmington, they can do this anywhere in the state.

The Christina School District voted to ignore the MOU, and to come up with their own with all involved stakeholders: parents, teachers, and the community- Which is something Markell and the DOE should have done to begin with. Instead, they made a big press announcement at one of the schools and announced they would give the six schools $5.8 million dollars over four years. After the costs of the new school “planner” for each school ($50,000 a year), and the new “school leader” ($160,000 a year), this would amount to the schools receiving $31,666 a year. This would not solve the problems these schools are facing. They have bloated classroom sizes, with many having up to 30 students in each classroom. There are also issues of crime, drugs, parental neglect and abuse that many of these children face.

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said he is willing to negotiate with both districts, and I pray he lives up to his word. But this whole education reform with Common Core and high-stakes standardized testing has been controversial at best. There was no input from the school districts when it was implemented in 2009. The United States Department of Education, under the rule of US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and with President Obama’s blessing, offered hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding called Race To The Top. The only catch was the governors of each state had to accept the new Common Core standards as the new curriculum for the states. The Common Core State Standards were written by non-educators, and the only educators involved in the process quit because they thought the standards were horrible.

Next Spring, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is coming out. This replaces DCAS as Delaware’s standardized test for all public schools. Murphy has already stated he believes 70% of students in Delaware will fail the test for the first couple of years because of the “new” curriculum. These students will not fail the test because it’s a hard test. They will fail because it’s a bad test.

Many parents don’t realize the impact this once a year test will have on our public school teachers in Delaware. Their annual reviews will be based on the student scores of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This is completely unfair to educators, and as seen with the priority schools agenda, can have major ramifications for teachers and schools.

Questions have arisen in Delaware and many other states about the legality of parents having their child (ren) opt out of taking the tests. The DOE and the districts will say there is no policy, but here is the bottom line: If more than 5 percent of the students in any district do not take the test, then, they risk losing funding. But what happens if every school district in the state makes this benchmark? Would Markell allow every single school district in the state to lose funding? There were cuts in 2008 and 2009 during the recession that were never fully, or even remotely, restored. To have more cuts would be a disaster for the entire education system in the state- Which is the one part Markell and the DOE won’t tell you. It’s a game they cannot win.

Delaware parents, opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. All you have to do is write a letter to the school, and let them know you do not want your child taking any high-stakes standardized testing, and when other children are taking the test, you expect your child to be educated as is his or her right under Free Appropriate Public Education. Don’t let the state take away the local control that is any school district’s right. It will only take 6% of us in each district to make this happen, but let’s show the DOE and Jack Markell a much bigger percentage.

Have I opted my child out? I am doing it right now. My son, who attends William Henry Middle School in the Capital School District, will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Our children are more than test scores. Don’t let the state define what our children are. Let children define what they are based on their individualized and unique talents.

Kevin Ohlandt, Dover

Updated 5:51pm, October 7th: Based on a conversation with Senator Bryan Townsend on Twitter, he did not say the Smarter Balanced Assessment was “horrible and bad for students” so I am taking that part out of my article and have requested the Delaware State News to correct this as well.  I based this off of things I have heard from multiple sources but since Senator Townsend never went on record with these thoughts, I apologize.  Senator Townsend DID say “I think it’s appalling to change tests/curriculum so quickly & to bases teachers’ evals on tests.”  He also clarified he did not take the full Smarter Balanced Assessment.