State Board Of Ed Puts DE Academy of Public Safety & Security On Formal Review

Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education unanimously put Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security on formal review for academic and financial reasons.  The 6-0 vote puts the New Castle charter school through a two-month review period where they have to meet with the Charter School Accountability Committee and go through public hearings.  The placement of a charter school to formal review status does not mean they are being shut down.  Putting a school under formal review is the process.  Any decision to leave a school open or shut it down takes place after a formal review and the findings that come out of that.

I knew their enrollment was low but that isn’t the only reason they went under the formal review knife.  Academics played a big part.  This is always tough for me to support because I loathe the use of standardized testing in punishing any school.  With DAPSS, they went from Smarter Balanced to the SAT in a two-year period.  In 2015, the SAT was remade to include Common Core.

Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will make her recommendation to the State Board of Education at their March 15th meeting and then the State Board votes on that recommendation.  The letter from Secretary Bunting notifying the school of their formal review status, the timeline, and their performance matrices for each category are included below.

Either the Charter School Office was ready for the State Board to vote for the formal review or they are able to predict the future, because the below PDF was created at 1pm yesterday, four hours before the State Board of Education began their meeting!  I would have to say the school’s founder, Charlie Copeland, is not happy about this!

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

Delaware DOE Continues To Ignore The Voices Of Their Stakeholders

The Delaware Dept. of Education has a very bad habit.  They ignore what the people are telling them.  This is the case with the 2016-2017 Delaware School Success Framework.  Once again, they are incorporating the Smarter Balanced Assessment participation rate as a penalty in the framework.  Even though a majority of their stakeholders in the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group said they don’t want this anymore.  The final regulations from the U.S. Dept. of Education concerning participation rate have not come out yet but ESSA dictates that it is the decision of the states and local education agencies to determine how they handle opt out.  US DOE Secretary of Education John King received a great deal of flack from parents, educators, and citizens with his harsh regulations surrounding accountability.  This also drew the attention of members of Congress who felt King was abusing the authority given to him with ESSA.  The state does NOT have to have a penalty for participation rate.  But the DOE continues to treat ESSA as a penalty-providing opportunity.

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The above picture was taken by one of the members of the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group.  The discussion groups come up with ideas and thoughts on how to improve schools.  For this discussion group, after they have answered all questions, they put three stickers next to their top priorities.  Not having opt out as a penalty in the DSSF and having the school report what may have happened received 8 stickers.  If I remember this meeting correctly, there were only about half the members in attendance.  So for this to get 8 priority stickers, that is huge.  But the Delaware DOE ignores this.

Last year, when the Accountability Framework Working Group convened to decide on the final version of the DSSF, they came up with the same idea which was a valid option from the US DOE.  It looked like that was going to go through until Governor Markell stuck his nose into it and directed Secretary Godowsky to proceed with the opt out penalty.  Even though Markell will end his reign as Governor and is moving onto bigger and better things, like performing in the Nutcracker, the DOE continues his very bad education policy.

Last night, I had an interview with Education Week.  They reached out to me due to my role on the Student and School Supports ESSA Discussion Group.  I won’t spoil the interview, but there was discussion around what the true role of “stakeholder input” is with Delaware’s ESSA plan.  Many feel that we are just placards in the process and the Delaware DOE will do what it damn well pleases.  This latest version of the DSSF just reinforces that thought.

Incoming Delaware Governor John Carney: you really need to put the brakes on the DOE Accountability Machine!  The DOE needs to listen to their stakeholders more than Rodel!

Schools In Delaware Get Ugly By Using SBAC Scores Or Opt Out To Deny Student Access To AP Classes

In the past week, I have heard from several parents in our state that their children are not getting into AP or advanced classes based on either their Smarter Balanced scores or the fact that their parents opted them out of the test.  This is a horrible idea.  Some of these students are straight A students.  What the hell is wrong with these Principals and Superintendents who are making these foolish decisions?  While I won’t name schools or districts due to the privacy of these families, I think these actions are abusive on unheard of levels.

Depression

When did Smarter Balanced become the barometer of student success in Delaware?   The sole purpose of this test is to understand where our children compare to each other, so we can reduce the so-called achievement gaps.  Now it is turning into a punitive measurement tool and it is affecting many lives.  What kind of sick and twisted crap is this?  Who is mandating this?  Is it the Delaware DOE or the districts themselves?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a fraudulent test.  It is horrible and how anyone can think this test in any way should decide what classes a student takes needs to take a look at what true education is all about.

Thecryingboy

We are gearing our kids toward this ridiculous notion of “rigor” at a very early age in Delaware.  I get that children need to read at earlier ages.  But the way we are going about it, by taking away play time and stripping these innocent children from the very creativity which allows them to grow as a human being is truly sad.

UpsetTeenager

Every single parent of a Delaware student this is happening to needs to be very loud and vocal.  They need to tell the school Principal this is unacceptable.  If the Principal doesn’t bend, go to the Superintendent.  If the Superintendent doesn’t bend, go to the School Board.  Go to the State Board of Education.  Go to the media.  Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, Delaware State News, and the News Journal.  Spread this to everyone you know on Facebook and other social media.  Email your friends and family about this.  Nothing in Delaware ever changes unless the people speak.  And on this issue, parents MUST speak.  And for those parents who don’t have kids in AP classes, if they are doing this to those students, just imagine how they are classifying other kids.  The best thing you can all do is opt out in mass numbers to make this waste of a test invalid.  That is the greatest option to end the destruction of public education.  You need to advocate for your child.  You are their parent.  If they are a victim of this insane testing abuse, you have to speak up for them.  Do not believe the lies far too many schools, districts, education non-profits like Rodel, and certain legislators are telling you.

It’s bad enough the Delaware DOE endorses ethical trickery with parents who try to opt their kids out.  It’s bad enough the Smarter Balanced Assessment students take isn’t the same test for every student (which in my mind makes this test worth less than fools gold).  But now we have this.  This is a state assessment.  Not a district mandated, or even school related assessment.  It was created by the state for state usage.  It should have absolutely no bearing on a student’s classroom progress.  Using Smarter Balanced as a competency-based model of student achievement is not a good idea at all.

crying-girl1

Can you imagine how students feel, who try their best in school, only to be victimized because of a once a year test?  The heartbreak they feel, like they just aren’t good enough.  This is what Delaware education has become, a travesty of epic proportions.  We have turned the Smarter Balanced Assessment into the center of education.  If it isn’t data walls, it’s accountability.  If it isn’t libraries closing for weeks at a time, it is teacher evaluations based on this wretched test.  If it isn’t state special education ratings from the feds, it’s standards-based IEPs designed to “help” kids do better on this test.  If it isn’t reshuffling of classrooms to have high-performing SBAC students help low-performing SBAC students, it’s fighting parents when they don’t want their kids taking the test.  If it isn’t students with disabilities being forced to take this test for 2-3 times longer than their peers, it’s the State Board of Education passing opt-out penalties in their school report card accountability joke.  This is NOT the best test Delaware ever made, despite Governor Markell’s comments to the contrary.

ChildCrying

When the 149th General Assembly reconvenes in January, their top priority needs to be setting firm laws dictating what this test can and can’t be used for.  They also need to finish the job with opt out and codify a parent’s right to opt their child out of these punitive tests without penalty to the student in any way, whether it is AP classes, graduation, summer school, standards-based IEPs, abuse by administration, or denying a student the ability to choice to another school.  This could have been written into law last January.  I warned them then this issue was only going to get worse.  My advice was unheeded by the majority of them.  Those that supported the override attempt know the real deal.  Those who didn’t need to seriously rethink their position on this.

And for any school in this state that has any type of data wall up in classrooms or anywhere in your schools with student names on them, take them down now.  The days of shaming students for a state assessment are done.  If any parent sees these data walls in any school, please take a picture of them and send them to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will file a Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) complaint the very same day.  I will need to know the name of the school and the district.  I am in the process of filing a few of these today.

The abuse of students in this state needs to stop.  These are children, not testing guinea pigs for the data freaks.  Is this really what education is about?  Mental torture of children?  All in the name of progress and accountability.  I don’t think so.  People wonder why I am so passionate about education.  This is the main reason.  What we are doing to kids.  We are destroying the future.

NotGoodEnough

 

John King Is Violating Intent Of ESSA By Approving Illegal Flexibility Waivers For Delaware Through 2019

I was wondering why the Delaware Department of Education went to all the trouble of submitting an ESEA flexibility waiver for a dubious standard called the state’s “speaking and listening standards” last March.  ESEA effectively ended on July 31st this year.  Now we know why.  Because it allowed the Delaware DOE to continue the same damaging and disturbing accountability practices for not just this school year, but through the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

This waiver was very odd to begin with.  Yes, there is speaking and listening standards.  It is part of Delaware’s Common Core State Standards.  But to submit an ESEA Flex Waiver for this is ludicrous.  But it doesn’t end there.  The Delaware DOE was not forthright and honest with the process of applying for this waiver.  As part of state code, Delaware is required to have an advisory committee to approve these waivers.  This was the DESS Advisory Committee.  For this waiver, DESS did not meet to approve it.  In fact, as per an email from Susan Haberstroh at the Delaware DOE, the group is not even active at this point.

HaberstrohDESSQuestion

DESS is, however, required under Delaware state code to review the very same things this ESEA flexibility waiver is meant to address:

Title14DESS

Under whose authority did Haberstroh decide DESS did not have to meet to review this flexibility waiver?  This flexibility waiver is illegal in many ways.  There is no state regulation that gives the Delaware School Success Framework any legal enforceability.  Regulation 103, which covers these accountability standards, was not updated last year.  The U.S. DOE has no authority to approve or disapprove Delaware law.  By relying on the United State Dept. of Education to decide on Delaware law, the Delaware DOE is seriously overstepping the will and intent of the Delaware Constitution.

To make things more complicated, U.S. Secretary John King is abusing his authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act by approving any accountability waivers up through 2019.  The Delaware DOE is cherry-picking what they can and can’t do with ESSA, just like John King is.  For John King, when he does this stuff, he gets hauled into congressional hearings.  When the Delaware DOE does this stuff, it gets mentioned on here.  There is no accountability method for the Delaware DOE to answer for their actions.  Someone needs to get the DOE into a public hearing to explain how they can do certain things and not others.  Because the way they interpret the law and the way it must be interpreted are two different things.  Events are progressing rapidly where the Delaware DOE is openly and flagrantly violating state law.  This can not continue and I urge our General Assembly to take immediate and definitive action against our out of control Dept. of Education.

As for U.S. Secretary of Education John King, I have already taken some action on his abuse of power.  I contacted Rep. John Kline (MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) addressing the abuse of power John King is exhibiting by approving this waiver.  As well, I submitted the following to Senator Alexander:

Good morning Senator Alexander,

I am trying to reach you in regards to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Back in March, the Delaware Department of Education submitted a flexibility waiver under ESEA to the United States Department of Education.  This was for a waiver of “speaking and listening standards” as part of our state assessment.  Our Dept. of Education stated this was a “limited waiver” and bypassed parts of our state law for how these things are approved in our state.  While I recognize you have no authority over Delaware state code, I do know you do have authority in regards to the U.S. Dept. of Education and have the ability to call out John King over abuse of power.

On August 5th, 2016, the Delaware DOE received an approval letter from Anne Whelan, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, action on Secretary King’s behalf, to approve our ESEA flexibility waiver. The letter, which can be found on the Delaware Dept. of Education website under “Accountability”, and then “ESSA”, seems to give the U.S. DOE authority to grant flexibility waivers with the same accountability standards under ESEA up through June 30th, 2019.  As I am interpreting the Every Student Succeeds Act, this type of authority was explicitly stripped from the U.S. Secretary of Education.  But John King is openly and publicly defying this federal mandate by continuing the same damaging practices from No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top.

The letter states:

“After reviewing Delaware’s request, I am pleased to grant, pursuant to my authority under section 8401 (b) of the ESEA, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a limited waiver of section 1111 (b)(3)(C)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), for school year (SY) 2016-2017 and of section 1111 (b)(2)(B)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, for SYs 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 so that the state’s assessment system, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment for grades 3-8 and the SAT for high school, need not measure the State’s speaking and listening standards at this time.

This waiver is granted to Delaware on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:

It will continue to meet for each year of the waiver all other requirements in the ESEA, as amended by NCLB or the ESSA, as applicable, for State assessment systems and the implementing regulations with respect to the State’s academic content and achievement standards and assessments, including reporting student achievement and school performance, disaggregated by subgroups, to parents and the public.”

In addition, by granting this waiver to Delaware, it would allow Delaware to continue accountability rules that have no regulatory approval in Delaware as required by Delaware state code. Delaware has not passed a final Accountability Framework for our public schools because there is no regulation supporting this updated matrix.  As well, the Delaware School Success Framework punishes schools for participation rates below 95% on state assessments.  While ESSA allows states to decide policies and procedures with regard to a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment, Delaware has not done so in any official capacity.  The U.S. DOE is approving this illegal practice in our state which is against the spirit and intent of ESSA.  No state regulations have been approved or are even in the pipeline for approval, and the U.S. DOE is in violation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

I implore you, as well as your other Congressional leaders, to hold Secretary King accountable for his very open defiance against the intent of Congress.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.

With warm regards,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

Below is the letter sent from Anne Whalen to Secretary Godowsky on August 5th:

Colin Bonini Would Not Have Vetoed House Bill 50, The Delaware Opt Out Bill

On the Rick Jensen show, Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini just told Jensen he would have signed House Bill 50, Delaware’s opt out bill that Governor Markell vetoed last year.  He agrees with many people in this state that the federal government is too involved in education and decisions are best left to the state and local districts.  Bonini said he doesn’t agree with getting rid of testing altogether, but the high-stakes involved are too much.  He thinks there needs to be some type of measurement to compare students and how they are doing.

He mentioned he will have a Delaware State Education Association interview next week but he doesn’t expect their support since he is a Right To Work guy.  Jensen joked that he could agree with everything they said but would still endorse a Democrat even if that Dem disagreed with them on different things.

Bonini said the recent bill passed by the Feds (ESSA) is a healthy thing, but I would encourage all candidates for any public office in Delaware to read up on the nasty regulations U.S. Secretary of Education John King is trying to roll out.  Which basically gives the feds a lot of the accountability power the bill was meant to get rid of.  This WILL be a major thing during the next four years, guaranteed!  I would also urge the candidates to look into the Delaware DOE supporting those regulations and their already shameful Delaware School Success Framework which was custom-designed for this legislation and the regulations King introduced.

All four Gubernatorial candidates in Delaware need to read between the lines on some of this stuff.  They will be facing whatever comes out of the Every Student Succeeds Act when it is implemented into law next year.  Wrong answers could, and most likely will, come back to haunt them.

Delaware DOE Making Changes To Accountability System Without Any Public Notice Or Input

The Delaware Department of Education has tweaked the Delaware School Success Framework for the past four months without any public notice whatsoever unless you happen to look at the document buried on their website.  While some of the changes were based on approved changes by the State Board of Education or the Secretary of Education (such as the change for 11th graders from Smarter Balanced to the SAT), others have not.  Including a whole new metric calculation included in the latest version, released on Monday.  To rephrase this, they added a whole new section!  Now, if memory serves, the State Board of Education had to approve the Delaware School Success Framework.  And under that statement, I would assume the State Board of Education would have to approve any changes to the accountability system.  But here we have the Delaware DOE bypassing that process, with NO public notice, input, or comment.

Tell me, Secretary Godowsky, when does this better working relationship with the DOE start to happen?  When does that transparency get better?  Because I’m not seeing it.  Maybe some district or charter leaders might be seeing this stuff, but they aren’t the only stakeholders in education.  Please get that through your head.  Because, from my vantage point, things are no better under your leadership than they were with Mark Murphy.  Sure, some of the more visible lightning rods of controversy may have left, but that is no excuse to continue the absolutely horrible decisions your predecessor made.  In fact, I would say it is making it worse.  Who is guiding the DOE towards these decisions?  Who is signing off on these changes?  Why is there no discussion from Secretary Godowsky about these changes at State Board of Education meetings?  Where is the documentation that led to the creation of whole new business rule and a new section of the Delaware School Success Framework?  Was there another meeting of the Accountability Framework Working Group without any public notice whatsoever?  Because they are the ones who convened for well over a year and were the “stakeholders” behind this thing originally.  But I forget, you didn’t even follow their final recommendations with regards to the participation rate, so I assume their opinion doesn’t matter anyways.

The changes regarding the proficiency status if 30 students or less pass a “non-standard” state assessment are pretty major!

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DSSFChanges#2

DSSFChanges#3

Proficiency in science or social studies should have no bearing on proficiency in English or Mathematics.  Who does this benefit?  When parents are looking for schools, they could be looking for how students do in English or Math.  By changing the weight on non-related subjects it can skew the results for an entire school!  Even if it winds up benefitting the school, it is a false picture provided on this “school report card”.  I have to ask, who comes up with this nonsense?  I can only come up with one scenario where this would directly benefit public impressions: charter schools.  More under the radar puffing up of charters at traditional school district expense.  When are you going to stop this?  This n# thing that benefits charters in many situations has gotten out of control.  I get that it is meant to dissuade identification of students, but 30?  Come on!  Who is going to identify one student out of a group of 30?  In some Delaware charter schools, a grade could have less than 100 students.  We know this.  It allows charters to be exempt from some of the same accountability schemes traditional school districts are held under the knife for.  It also happens in special education all the time when it comes time for compliance audits or federal state rating systems.

Delaware DOE: You are the Department of Education, not the Department of Delaware Charter Schools.  Grow the hell up!  It’s getting really old!

And here are the complete list of changes as provided at the end of the updated Delaware School Success Framework:

DSSFChanges#4

DSSFChanges#5

This needs to stop in Delaware.  No school that receives public funds should receive ANY special treatment over others.  But that is exactly what our DOE and State Board of Education do time and time again with our charter schools.  They actually allow them to look good in any potential and possible situation.  They do it with smoke and mirrors, behind closed doors, where no one can stop them.  They don’t solicit public feedback or allow anyone to see these “business rules” until they incorporate them.  And we are expected to believe they want public input on the Every Student Succeeds Act?  I have no doubt they already know exactly what they are going to do there.  Any pizza party at Grotto’s in Dover, on August 9th put on by the State Board of Education is just a big dog and pony show.  And don’t believe the lie about “light refreshments” beginning at 5pm.  When I went to one of these, they had whole pizzas.  So come on down or up to Dover and make your opinions known!  And eat lots of pizza!

 

 

Will Academy Of Dover Survive Charter Renewal?

The Academy of Dover is going through the very laborious charter renewal process with the Delaware Department of Education.  On April 30th, the DOE gave the school their renewal report and AoD had 16 days to respond.  The school had a rough couple years.  Between a very damaging state auditor report on their former head of school embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, low high-stakes testing scores, a very large settlement with a former management company, and compliance issues, they have had their hands full.  The former assistant principal now leads the school.  A former principal from Town Pointe Elementary School in Capital School District runs the curriculum now.  The board has shifted and received training in areas that caused some of the problems.  Will it be enough?

This charter renewal comes at an interesting time.  The 2014-2015 school year was the first year Smarter Balanced came into play.  As such, the scores from that year don’t really count, but the DOE is using the ratings from the Delaware School Success Framework as a substitute for their Academic Framework.  Let me say from the start, I feel bad for charter schools in the respect that the state assessment plays such a large part in anything going on with the DOE.  AoD has a large population of low-income and minority students who typically fare worse on these tests than other schools.

Other factors that could affect their renewal involve Noel Rodriguez, their local school district, and the scores from the 2015-2016 SBAC.  The former Head of School, Noel Rodriguez, will face charges at some point.  I know of at least one other Delaware charter where the Attorney General’s office recently issued subpoenas about their own similar issues.  Yet another Delaware charter had their board file for insurance claims due to embezzlement at their own school from former leaders.  So something is coming which will put the school in the spotlight when Rodriguez faces charges.  However, this issue already came up in their 2015 formal review and they were not shut down for it then so the DOE should not put them under the same scrutiny twice.

Capital School District, under the new leadership of Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, is looking at their own district with their Strategic Plan.  What comes out of that, to improve the district, could affect AoD in the long run in terms of enrollment.  But it should have no bearing on their renewal process.

The scores from the recent Smarter Balanced Assessment for the school will not play into their academic framework since it is not a part of the renewal report, but the impression could taint the process.  Once again, I will stress my opinion these should not even factor into their charter renewal, but the DOE and I do not agree on this point.

I will admit I have softened my stance on Delaware charter schools a bit.  My own experience with them tainted my view a bit.  I still don’t agree with some of their very discriminatory practices up in Wilmington and the only one in Sussex County.  But I believe they are just as much a victim as traditional school districts are with the DOE in terms of very bad regulations, mandates, and accountability.  Academy of Dover and I had a frosty relationship in the past, but that has warmed up a bit in recent months.  Many of the complaints against most charter schools are a result of politics and tainted legislation by people in Dover who should really know better.   I believe the Delaware Charter Schools Network adds immensely to the perceptions against charters.  With that caveat, Academy of Dover has a former State Representative on their board who does carry a bit of clout in Kent County so politics can play a part to help the school.

Many of the issues with Academy of Dover are well-known by the DOE and have come up before in formal reviews.  There really aren’t any new complaints which suggests the school has fixed many of the issues since Noel Rodriguez left.  No school is perfect, but Academy of Dover seems to have turned a lot around in the past year and a half.  Rodriguez controlled the school and left a considerable amount of damage in his wake.

My one concern in the below response from the school is this 11 week Smarter Balanced Boot Camp after school for struggling students.  In this era of high-stakes accountability, schools are under the gun for kids to do well on these tests.  But they can go overboard with this effort.  Calling anything a boot camp with education is a bad idea in my opinion.  It suggests a dire need for these kids to do well on these tests regardless of the cost.  The sooner we can get schools to stop giving in to this very bad proficiency environment, the better things will be in the long run.  It gives the Delaware DOE all the power.  But I also don’t run a school with that kind of pressure thrust upon me so it is easy for me to say that.

I know the school had special education issues in the past, but we won’t know until June how they may have improved.  That is when the DOE issues their special education compliance annual reports.  However, those are usually about three years behind and would reflect the height of the Noel Rodriguez era so that should be taken into consideration as well.  Special education is a hot mess in Delaware overall.  There seems to be a mass amount of confusion between Response to Intervention and true special education.  This is an ongoing issue that will only get worse if we stay in this high-stakes accountability environment.

Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Delaware Secretary of Education will issue his final recommendation to the State Board of Education at their December 15th board meeting where they will vote on Academy of Dover’s charter renewal.

Below is the charter renewal report from the Delaware DOE and Academy of Dover’s response:

 

 

Delaware DOE Will Severely Punish More Brandywine, Christina & Red Clay Schools Based On Smarter Balanced Scores

Wilmington

As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year.  It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.  One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap.  Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year.  Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority1

Wow!  That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE!  This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year.  The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting.  What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…

ReynaPotlFocusPriority2

Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools.  I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list.  The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority3

Booker T. Washington Elementary School?  What?  Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015?  Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround?  I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.

Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group.  Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District!  Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status.  Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.

When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear.  Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above.  But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts.  Why?  Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:

CharterPriorityRegulation

So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above.  As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:

FocusCharterRegulation

And what is that Focus School Criteria?

FocusCriteria1617beyond

But here is where things get confusing:

TimelineTransitionDSSF

The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years.  But they will name Reward and Recognition schools.  So that’s good, right?  Wrong.  The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016.  That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect.  States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak.  But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months.  That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play.  The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015.  So what does this mean?

These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”.  The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.  Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year.  They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations.  If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools.  And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things.  Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington.  Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs.  If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around.  By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status.  Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization.  And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district.  Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.

Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that.  Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status.  Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states.  Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters.  Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters.  Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition.  Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment.  Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run.  Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast.  There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware.  But none of it will be good for students.

This is the game plan.  The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support.  You won’t find any memos or emails about this.  You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either.  It will just happen.  And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…

Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?

OPT OUT

If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes.  This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out.  Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.

DSEA Supports Opt-Out! All DSEA Members Need To Support The Override Of Markell’s Veto!

I strongly implore DSEA to issue a press release giving their full support for the override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.

Last April, the Delaware State Education Association issued a press release with their very strong stance against the way Delaware was using standardized testing.  They also gave their full support for a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized testing.

 

Secretary Godowsky Had No Choice With Opt-Out Penalties

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With the release of the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE about participation rates, we are getting a better picture of what happened the first week of November on the participation rate multiplier in the Delaware School Success Framework.  On October 21st, the soon to be confirmed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appeared before the New Castle County combined school boards at a breakfast.  He announced to the board members and superintendents of the districts that the harsh opt-out penalties most likely would not see the light of day.

The Delaware State Education Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators, Delaware Chief School Officers Association and Delaware School Boards Association all publicly endorsed Godowsky for his Delaware Senate confirmation in a News Journal letter to the editor on October 26th.  Two days later, Godowsky was confirmed by the Senate with only two no votes.  Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore referred to Godowsky as “a breath of fresh air“.  On November 5th, two weeks after his breakfast announcement, Godowsky flipped on his recommendation about opt-out penalties at the Delaware State Board of Education retreat.

Yesterday we found out the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE was dated 11/2/15.  The timing makes perfect sense.  Perhaps Markell did have a change of heart but was forced to flip back once the US DOE announced their opt-out mandates.  Who am I kidding!  Jack probably gave the US DOE the idea!  It does have his manipulative stench all over it.  I now understand why Godowsky looked like Judas Iscariot at the last Accountability Framework Working Group meeting and the State Board of Education meeting two days after.  His words said one thing, but the look in his eyes said something very different.

This may also shed some light on the bizarre Las Americas Aspiras Academy PTO email about opt-out.  Were they aware of this letter the day it was released?  I question the validity of this since their PTO leader stated ALL federal funding would be cut if 6% of their students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But given the nature of federal funding I can see how someone could misconstrue that.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE sent the letter out to all school leaders and Superintendents in Delaware the first chance they got.

I am seriously questioning why the letters to the twelve states who went below the 95% threshold and the letter sent to all the states announcing definitive cuts if participation rates went below 95% two years in a row were just released to the public yesterday, on December 23rd.  It was weeks after the final Every Student Succeeds Act votes and President Obama signing the legislation.  I have to believe some of these legislators in Congress knew about these letters.  How could they not.  No one can keep a secret that long.  Not in politics.

The smart thing the Delaware DOE and Godowsky could have done was simply tell the public on November 2nd they received these letters.  By doing this they could have taken some of the heat off themselves and shifted it to the US DOE.  Instead, they hid it from the public for over a month and a half.  They duped the public, along with the US DOE and every other state DOE, into thinking the Every Student Succeeds Act and the clauses about opt-out would allow states to decide how to handle opt-out.  They could have said they weren’t sure what they meant, but they had to reconsider the opt-out penalties.  Maybe through collaboration they could have come up with something different.  But this is not how the most unpopular state Department in Delaware operates.  Sunshine is not the best disinfectant at our DOE.  I think we need some good old-fashioned bleach to wipe the slate clean and start over.  We have far too many people involved in education who people like, and believe they have the best intentions.  But when it comes time for them to do the right thing all we hear is “I serve at the pleasure of the Governor,” or “It’s the feds.  We can’t do anything about it.”  For a Department that demands accountability from schools, teachers and students, they sure are hypocritical when it comes to themselves… And the duplicity continues…

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Penny Schwinn

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A year ago, if you asked anyone on the Christina School District Board of Education to name one person at the Delaware Department of Education, the first name that would have popped up was Penny Schwinn.  Penny was the DOE face behind the priority schools in Red Clay and Christina.  Penny is currently the Chief of Accountability and Performance at the DOE.  When the Christina board had to pick two members to meet with the DOE, it was to meet Schwinn.  After the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee announced their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington, the DOE and Governor Markell backed off on Christina’s opposition to the priority schools.  The Christina board passed a resolution supporting the recommendations of WEAC.

Schwinn fell off my radar until a couple months later when she announced to the State Board of Education the SAT was being aligned to the Common Core.  I immediately jumped to the conclusion the SAT was being replaced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Many disagreed with me and told me I was wrong.  But essentially, that is what they are doing.  It won’t be the same test, but it will be more like SBAC than the previous SAT.  As well, the talk concerning the Assessment Inventory project showed the DOE was already planning this long before Governor Markell first mentioned it in March.

In May, I was given several emails from a FOIA concerning the priority schools which showed Schwinn’s role in the whole planning stage.  This gave a lot of insight into the whole debacle and how the DOE really didn’t know what the heck they were doing.

The subject of funding for the priority schools in Red Clay came up in a big way over the summer, as the DOE wasn’t giving the district their promised funding.  While never confirmed, this led directly to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s ouster at the Delaware DOE.

In September, after months of waiting, Schwinn’s group released the Smarter Balanced Assessment results to Delaware.  They had the results for quite a while before they were released which led to a lot of concern and speculation on my part as to why.  The results really didn’t show any earth-shattering increases for Delaware students, but overall, most students did worse on SBAC than they had on DCAS>

While all of this was going on, Schwinn was meeting with several superintendents, district admins, a rep from DSEA and a rep from the Delaware PTA on the Delaware School Success Framework.  The Accountability Framework Working Group was under the radar for most Delawareans until I accidentally found all their meeting notes and found the participation rate opt-out penalty.  This led to feverish and frantic emails to Schwinn and several complaints I filed with the US DOE and the Delaware DOJ.  As part of the US DOE mandated “school report card”, the US DOE gave “guidance” on the state’s new accountability systems.

Schwinn watched as the group unanimously voted to get rid of the participation rate penalty as a multiplier that would punish schools with high opt-out rates.  Eventually, newly christened Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky blew off the group’s recommendations and the DOE submitted the harsh opt-out penalty to the US DOE as part of their ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  Schwinn recommended, at the behest of Governor Markell, one of the toughest accountability systems for any state in the country.

As this was all coming to a head, Schwinn resigned from the Delaware DOE and is expected to leave by the end of this year.  Schwinn’s year and a half tenure at the Department was certainly full of controversy and angst for many school districts.  I am very curious where she will end up next…

Final Minutes From AFWG Meeting Illuminates Controversy Over Opt-Out Penalties

When you have many district superintendents and administrators saying “Don’t do it!”, you would think the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and Secretary Godowsky would listen.  If you heard folks saying “opt-out is only going to get bigger,” you would think a voice of reason would go off in their heads.  But no, this is Delaware.  The state where King Markell reigns on high, telling all the little minions what they must do.  Below are the minutes from the final (for now) Accountability Framework Working Group meeting last week.  Interesting news about Jeff Klein from Appoquinimink buried in here as well….

State Board Audio Of Opt-Out Penalty Decision Is A Confusing Mess, Godowsky Stays Quiet Most Of The Conversation

Lord help me, I have transcribed the biggest part of the State Board of Education meeting from yesterday.  Once again I am numb from hearing the State Board try to figure out what the hell they were even voting on.  This is long, but there are very key and integral parts of this conversation which illuminate the State Board and Godowsky’s warped view of the whole opt-out penalty mess.  This whole decision, and the bulk of the weight on the Delaware School Success Framework, is based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The State Board also discussed the DOE’s Annual Measurable Objectives, which caused a huge outcry yesterday among parents of students with disabilities.  Here it is, but stay tuned at the end for a very special announcement with some, in my opinion, shocking news.

State Board audio transcription of the presentation on Delaware School Success Framework, 11/19/15

Players:

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, President of State Board of Education

Board Members: Nina Bunting, Gregory Coverdale, Pat Heffernan, Barbara Rutt, (absent: Vice-President Jorge Melendez and board member Terry Whitaker)

Donna Johnson,  Executive Director of the State Board of Education

Penny Schwinn, Chief Officer Accountability and Performance

Ryan Reyna, Officer of Accountability

 

Dr. Teri Gray: The next topic for us is the presentation of the Delaware School Success Framework and any other revisions to the ESEA flexibility request.  Welcome.  Please state your name for the record.

Penny Schwinn: Good afternoon, Penny Schwinn, Director of Assessment, Accountability, Performance and Evaluation.

Ryan Reyna: and Ryan Reyna, same office as Penny.

Schwinn: Well good afternoon.  Glad to be here to present the final revisions to our ESEA Flexibility request.  Today what we’ll be going over is the specific recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework, or DSSF.  The recommendations for the rating performance thresholds, in essence each category a (?) system, and our annual measurable objective.  Just for a little bit of context, we have an approved ESEA Flexibility Waiver through the end of this school year, through 2016.  We can extend that through the end of the 2017-2018 school year contingent upon the following: we need to submit an amended request to incorporate some of the final modifications to the DSSF, and we also need to demonstrate that the DSSF will allow Delaware to name the required number of priority, focus, and reward schools moving forward in the future.  Again, just to be clear, we’ve already named our priority and our focus schools, we will not be naming anymore for at least three years as they move through that process but we still need to demonstrate that this system would do so.  We also need to provide the technical documentation for the DSSF.  We’ll be provided a Spring workbook, later, once that is approved, so that will let them know what the business rules and metrics will be.  We are also requesting an approval and support from the State Board on the final annual measurable objectives, or AMOs.

So just to provide a very brief overview, I know you are probably getting sick of this graph, you’ve seen it so many times.  But we have our DSSF and this is the whole system. So we haven Part A, and in essence that is the components  that are rated.  The versus proficiency, and that is the proficiency in ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  We also have growth in ELA and Math.  And just to reiterate the points we brought up before. We have one of the most progressive growth measures in the country in terms of the weighting on our system in growth.  So as a state we’ve taken a very strong philosophical stance to really prioritize growth in student achievement as opposed to proficiency which I think is exciting.  Attendance, this is for elementary and middle school only, for school it is looking at on-track (to graduate) in 9th grade and again giving extra points for the catch-up work for those students who are in the bottom quartile in performance, catching up by the end of 9th grade.  The 4, 5, and 6 year graduation rates, which is a big change for the state.  And then finally, for elementary and middle schools we have growth to proficiency in ELA and Mathematics, for high school it is college and career preparation which we’ve spoken about includes more than just one test, it also looks at career and dual education etc.

Part B is the components that are presented.  Transparently but not rated.  Right now that is specifically to surveys, student and parent, teachers may be optional, some post-secondary outcomes, we also know that every school in the state outside of one has provided a narrative report.  And in the future we’re hoping to include social and emotional learning.

So these are the recommendations that are outstanding for the DSSF.  And again these are the Secretary’s recommendations of what we should move forward with in terms of final business rules and components.  The AFWG (Accountability Framework Working Group) has not revised their recommendation from last month so I want to be clear about that.  For the participation rates for 2015-2016’s accountability year which is based on the 2014-2015 data, essentially if a school falls below 95% participation rate, in either Math or ELA, the school will need to create a plan.  That plan will be monitored by the Office of Assessment in terms of implementation.  Moving forward, so starting 2016-2017, based on data from this school year, all schools will divide their participation rate by 95% and multiply that by the proficiency to generate an adjusted rate.  What that allows for is both positive consequences, so if a school for example if a school is higher than 95% in essence they get bonus points for testing more of their students.  Again, it is the same multiplier we will be applying to schools that fall below 95%.  We are also reporting on disaggregated participation rates which is required federally.  So I want to stop there to see if there are any questions before I move onto performance ratings.  (No questions).  Ok, great.

So for performance ratings, we have the aggregate performance so each metric area will get their own aggregated performance.  We will not do an overall rating.  We will have that information but it will not be presented on the PDF so that is consistent with what you saw last month and what we presented at the last retreat.  It will be on a 5 star scale, based on the total points available and we’ll talk about what those cut points will be in a bit.

Gregory Coverdale: So I guess, to make a comparison, that’s why we’re dividing by 95%?

Schwinn: 95% is the threshold in terms of what our expectation is for participation.  So we don’t want to do that out of 100% because if you get 96% you are above that level so 95 is our top point so in essence we are saying that as long as you are at 95% you get a 100% of the points, anything above that is extra credit.  A positive consequence so to speak.

One of the things we did want to highlight, specifically, is just the number of schools who are increasing their ratings in terms of 3, 4, and 5 Star.  We compared that to AYP (Annual Yearly Performance-created through No Child Left Behind).  One of the things we looked at was in the AFWG, our working group, was to make sure that we weren’t just seeing the performance of schools specifically related to income, so what we looked at were the number of 3, 4, and 5 star schools that were Title I schools or had a large proportion of students who were low-income and what we found was that 52 of 124 elementary and middle schools were a 3, 4, or 5 star school under this system so we’re seeing that actually 42% of the schools are high-rated even when they have large proportions of low-income students.  That is not consistent with what we’ve seen with AYP which is a lower percentage of students who did not meet AYP.  So again, while we want to see more of our schools, and many of our schools perform at the highest levels, we see that this system more accurately represents the information, specifically the growth that a lot of our schools are seeing over time.

The last point we want to bring up before we move on is looking at the number of schools who would have dropped their ratings because of the participation rate.  That was an outstanding question we had.  I’ll look to Ryan (Reyna) to double-check on some of those specifics, but no school dropped a rating in the overall based on the participation rate multiplier (important note: they did not include high schools in this information, which would have shown schools like Conrad in Red Clay take a massive drop with their 40% participation rate in math).  We did have one school that would have increased based on this multiplier.

Gray: Based on the 14-15 data?

Schwinn: Based on the 14-15 data, that’s right.

Reyna: Which is not in effect as you see on this slide.  Hypothetical, as the board presented a question to us.  So again, in confirmation of what Dr. Schwinn just said, overall no schools would have decreased their overall rating.  One school actually did improve its overall rating as it was right on the cusp.  In the area of academic achievement alone, there were three schools that improved their ratings and one school that decreased their rating, again, because it was sort of on the cusp of where the cut points are set and we will show you that in one slide.

Gray: So again, what we were trying to clarify with that question, we appreciate that follow-up, was that multiplier applies just to the proficiency component, not the overall rating.

Schwinn: Yes, it’s just the proficiency which is just one component of the overall.  So we did see more schools having positive impacts based on the multiplier.  We did want to provide that information as requested.

Reyna: 141 out of the 149 elementary schools increased as a result, would have increased as a result of this.

Gray: One question about the plan that’s in effect for this accountability year, right, so what happens if a school has to develop a plan, or a template for a plan?  So what happens to the plan?

Schwinn: The school will be given a template.  We are trying to keep it compacted based in the information we have shared earlier which is essentially: what was your participation rate, what were either your theories or proof that would constitute being below 95%, there’s a variety of reasons why that might have occurred.  Then we ask the schools to break that down so we can really get to the heart of why students aren’t participating and we have them break that down by sub-groups so that we are sure we are all appropriately testing all our subgroup students and then from there that plan is submitted to our branch.  The Office of Assessment specifically will be the ones following up on that.  This is the first year the Office of Assessment staff will be visiting every single school in the state to help support how they will be giving assessments this year.  We know there were a lot of things, a lot of questions that came up last year.  We talked about that with the Smarter presentation so our office will actually be visiting every school and we’re doing monthly visits to every district in order to support that.  So those schools that require a plan will have that direct support from our office.

Gray: And is the plan in effect?  Just for the 14-15 year?

Schwinn: It’s a one year plan.

Coverdale: Is there some sort of matrix that categorizes why a student wouldn’t have taken the test?

Schwinn: That will be a part of the plan, and we’ll be happy to supply that to the board.  You would be able to see the reasons assigned to each school where students didn’t participate and we will be doing that overall and by sub-group, for this year.

So looking at performance thresholds, I want to start with elementary and middle school.  Again, this is the similar weights we submitted in draft form in the Spring submission and then brought back to you earlier in the Fall.  But what you’ll essentially see is what the weights are for elementary and middle and the points assigned.  We didn’t…the AFWG recommended a 500 point scale but we used that scale and essentially used the multipliers with the weighting provided to get straight point allocation.  Ryan will talk a little bit about what the cut points will be so you’ll see that with elementary and middle, and then again with the high schools which is slightly different weights.

Reyna: So in setting the performance thresholds for each of the metric areas, again that’s where our focus is, not necessarily on the overall numerical score, the recommendation is that those metric thresholds, those performance thresholds, must be broken up equally across the five different categories to represent 1 through 5 stars.  We would roll up those scores in terms of rounding.  If a school is at 29 ½ for instance on academic achievement, they would be rounded up into the 2 star category so that we are recognizing that benefit, to a half point difference may not be a significant one.  So the table at the bottom of the slide is an example of what those star ratings would be for elementary and middle school with the similar rating structure for high schools as well.

We also wanted to discuss the Annual Measurable Objectives, the AMOs, as has been required since NCLB.  The US Department of Education, in the transition, recognizing the transition that many states made to ESEA adjustments has allowed states to reset their AMOs, create a new baseline.  And so this process is one in which the US DOE has requested that we submit , our process for doing so as well as the actual AMOs by January of ’16.  This is specifically for public transparency for being clear about what the state’s goals are and not necessarily as it has been in the past for determining whether or not a school met AYP or accountability.

Coverdale: How are the weights determined?

Reyna: Sure, this was the recommendation of the AFWG in how they would like to see, or how they believed, the different metrics should be weighted across the full system.  So as Dr. Schwinn mentioned, there was a firm belief amongst the AFWG members that we should place the heaviest weight on growth and the growth metrics.  And that weighting system is what was submitted in draft form in our March submission.  And then after reviewing the data, the AFWG confirmed that they wanted to stick with these weights as a recommendation and we took the weights into a direct translation of that 100 point scale.

Coverdale: The growth is weighted higher on the high school level than it is on the elementary and middle school levels.  I would think that might be reversed?

Reyna: So it is a good question.  Growth directly is weighted higher at the high school level.  But if you take into account growth to proficiency at the elementary and middle school, sort of, if you take that as another sort of growth measure, than it actually becomes more in elementary and middle.  So you see a total of 60% growth metrics between elementary and middle, we have the growth category as well as college and career readiness category.  And then high school we have growth, just the growth category.  That’s 45%.  So 60% growth metrics in elementary and middle, 45% in high school.

Schwinn: I want to reiterate this is the submission to US DOE in terms of what our proposal is.  We’ve been on calls with them multiple times cause this is a very aggressive submission in terms of growth.  But the AFWG felt strongly that these were the right weights.  Though we are pushing pretty hard to make sure this gets approved as is.  And we sent those weights in our proposal and didn’t get any pushback.  They are waiting to see the full DSSF submission in terms of some of the data from Smarter Balanced and that stuff has come in so we can run some of the numbers with DCAS and Smarter.  That being said, they are very aware this is our number one priority in terms of this system.  The group felt incredibly strongly about weights and our responsibility to advocate for that as much as possible.

Reyna: As in previous submissions, the US DOE allowed for three different options for the process which a state would set its AMOs.  Delaware has used #2 in its previous submissions and the recommendation is to stay with that.  The process being, focused on decreasing the numbers of students who are non-proficient in six years.  So that business rule would be allocated equally amongst those six years moving from a baseline to six years in the future as a way to close those gaps.  And on the next slide, you will see what, using that process, what the draft targets would be for ELA, so movement in the state from approximately 50% to 75% by 2021.  Also recognizing that some of our subgroups who start lower behind are required to make improvements at a faster pace just given the process.  And you can see that visually in the next slide where you see, I know this is difficult to read, and I apologize, but you do see that some of the subgroups are starting further behind and are catching up to the rest of the state.

Donna Johnson: And this is the same methodology that was used before in our current ESEA flexibility?  I went ahead and pulled up our existing AMOs to kind of look at them side by side and we set the baseline in 2011.  And so now this is based on a baseline of 2015 scores?  And using that same methodology moving forward?

Reyna: That’s correct.

Pat Heffernan: How close did we come to meeting it the first three years?  My recollection, vaguely, is that we weren’t really, that these are pretty aggressive targets based on what we’ve been able to do.

Johnson: I think some subgroups…

Reyna: Some subgroups have not…

Schwinn: I think that they are certainly aggressive for those subgroups that are starting out low.  Students with disabilities, for example, going from 19.3% to 59.6% is certainly incredibly aggressive.  And I think that internally, and as a state we want to be rational and reasonable about what we would expect for students or schools to grow their students on an annual basis.  If you look at other subgroups such as students either white, or Asian, there is much less growth that needs to occur.  So I think it absolutely depends, but I think they are incredibly aggressive for some of our subgroups.

Reyna: The rule is, the calculation is going to consistently…

Heffernan: Right, yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, sure, and I mean , it’s certainly our stated goal, to increase those gaps and move them, bring them together.  I just, I’m certainly not one for dropping the bar too low, but I don’t want to, get in a thing where, we know that the problem with 100% proficiency, right, is that everybody says “We can’t get that anyways, it’s all hooey”, so I, however we do this, however we monitor it, I don’t want us to get too discouraged because someone like, I don’t think…

Schwinn: I think we have a responsibility on that note to the supports provided to schools.  So the state’s responsibility to provide supports specifically to those subgroups that have a tremendous amount of growth, and the districts the same, to be able to provide support to their schools.  We’re not going to meet these goals if we don’t provide really targeted and comprehensive support to a lot of our subgroups.  Cause there is a long way to go, especially since we have that new baseline with Smarter Balanced.

Johnson: Are there opportunities as we collect more data to revisit our AMOs based upon data and student performance?

Schwinn: We always have the opportunity to resubmit or submit amendments to this flex waiver.  We also know that it is highly likely that the new ESEA bills that is going currently will be passed before the new year.  Let’s call that 60-40.  But there’s a good chance that could happen.  That creates a lot of change, potentially, to how we address this.  For now, this is consistent with what we’ve done in the past.  We felt like it was probably the most appropriate way to move forward given a new assessment, and we also recognize that there may be opportunities, especially after the second year of Smarter Balanced, to revisit based on the data we get in year two.

Gray: I think it’s important, I think that, I guess, the methodology is as good as we can probably get it, but I think the consistency in terms of monitoring is “Are we making progress?” and the conversation should be on are we moving in that direction or not and the endgame is always for us to try to go back cause the baseline has been reset given that we are using the Smarter data versus where we were with the 2011 baseline, which I think is DSTP data.  I’m sorry, DCAS data.  The reality check there is that we had a higher baseline, actually, right?  And we were probably giving, really, a falsehood in terms of where we really were actually at with students proficiency relative to where we want them to be for the  college readiness perspective, right, so a 64% opposed to a 50.5% for all students, so that shift needs to be a reality check for us.  The other piece is, this method does say that we will close the gaps, right?  It’s not closed as in no gap, but we are closing the gaps.  That is the intent.  Cause I keep looking at almost by half in some cases.  If you look at the white students versus African-American students it goes from 25.7% to I think 12.9% or something, so that in itself is a very appropriate goal for us to go for, it shouldn’t be any less than that.  It shouldn’t be less than that.

Schwinn: We certainly always want to see gaps close because our lower performing sub groups are doing significantly better as opposed to seeing our highest performing subgroups doing either worse or (?) we want to get better.

Gray: And I think that formula allows for (? mumbles) I think the challenge, Ryan has given this to us a few times, is there enough methodology approach to say this is better.  We have yet to figure that out.  Maybe that’s a trust we need to try to bring in.  But I think it’s a reasonable one, but I don’t think the goal should be any less, regardless of…

Heffernan: I hear you, and again, some of these make more sense than others.  I just don’t want us to feel like, and to Dr. Gray’s point when she said, making progress or moving in the right direction, I don’t, I don’t buy that really.  It’s not just getting a little bit better, we’ve gotta make appropriate, I, if we set something that’s impossible to reach its just discouraging.

Gray: And then the other piece that’s tied into monitoring.  There are gonna be some individual schools and/or aggregate of schools, that will do much better than this.  And I think we need to make sure we always highlight that relative to the aggregate.  There will be some schools that we know, they have literally closed the gaps within their buildings, it’s not…

Heffernan: They’re not even here now…

Gray: I think that’s part of the conversation, it is possible, right?  If one or two schools can do it, many schools can do it.

Heffernan: Right, I totally agree with that.

Coverdale: I just, big question is how do you close a gap without having more on the upper end, the echelon of, flat money? (not sure, Coverdale speaks very low and it is hard to hear him in the audience so the audio recording isn’t a shock).  If one or two aren’t learning than it just become a perpetual gap.

Gray: I’ll let the experts speak on that.

Heffernan: Everybody has an upper trend on that graph.  It’s just some are steeper slopes.

Schwinn: Yeah, so you’re going to have a steeper slope for those students who are currently lower performing, specifically, our students with disabilities, low-income, African-American, Hispanic-Latino, are starting at a much lower baseline so they are gonna be required to jump by 5,6, or 7 points each year as opposed to our Asian and white students who are gonna be required to jump 1 to 2 points each year.

Coverdale: So is there someone in the classroom saying “Hey, African-American student, this is what you’re gonna have to deal with?”  Is there like an African-American student group?  Do you know what I mean?  That’s the kind of granular focus that we need to happen in order for some of this to come to fruition by 2021.

Schwinn: I think we are seeing with our districts, we just finished our end of year meetings with our districts, we are starting our middle of the year meetings with our districts, a lot of the conversation is really focused on how are you allocating your resources to really target those groups that need additional supports, and how as a state can we provide you with even more supports, whether that’s financial, or capacity, to target some of your lower performing subgroups.  So those are ongoing conversations and what we’re seeing is a lot of districts are really looking at school level and even student level data around how to target more efficiently their dollars and resources.

Heffernan: But are we sending mixed messages?  So that we looked at how we are splitting up the growth and weight, all those things, right, is the growth reflecting these slopes?

Schwinn: The growth on DCAS?

Heffernan: The growth targets that we’re giving people, growth proficiency and all those things, right, this isn’t growth proficiency, that’s not even growth, right?  So on one hand we’re saying the school is growing, we’re going to give you credit for growth, but on the other hand we say these are what our system goals are for growth and I suspect that they’re not really aligned.  You could give us a school that is doing reasonably well in growth targets and are not living up to this.

Schwinn: This is essentially improvement, right, so we’re looking at just a standard baseline improvement for something like an AMO, but I think when we’re looking at growth it’s a much more complex function.  We’re taking into account prior test history, we’re looking specifically at cohorts of students, this is,  essentially, we have to create a straight line of slope as we’re looking at an improvement from year to year as opposed to looking at aggregate growth.

Heffernan: But the cohorts are included in here, a successful cohort growth is much more based on our historical…which we’re not doing anywhere near this, so we would be exceeding our growth targets and coming nowhere near meeting our AMOs.

Schwinn: Yeah, I think it’s gonna vary pretty significantly by school, but I that is absolutely a possibility.

Johnson: The AMOs are something that we report for all subgroups but I did not see that the AMOs were specifically referenced in the DSSF.  So this is a separate report than the DSSF.

Schwinn: Schools will not be rated based on this.  This is something that we are required to publicly report, but they won’t have any of their ratings based on the DSSF impacted whether or not they meet these targets.

Heffernan: I guess the feds are making us do this, but I don’t really buy into it, and we’re not really growing on this goal.  Because the whole system isn’t pointing towards this, we’re not driving this at all, it’s completely separate conversation, we did what we did, sort of, our growth targets are based on what we’ve always…, this is one of my big beefs.  Our growth targets are what we’ve always done, right?  My growth target would be based on, kids like me, how much did I grow, and how much did they grow last year, and if I grow that same amount, if I grow less than that same amount, than I can still easily meet the targets, right?  But overall we’re saying that we gotta bring the targets, the bar, we would never, I just don’t think the system is geared towards producing these results.

Coverdale: (mumbling again) How would the growth trajectory for African-American students be different, and I’m in the same class as these whites, and Asians, and everyone else.  I’m doing the same thing but I grow more, at a higher growth rate than everyone else.

Schwinn: I think that would get into some of the differentiation and instruction that teachers have to do and I think that teachers are, their job gets harder more and more every year, and things are being asked of our educators and they are doing a tremendous job in meeting the needs of individual students, but you’re right, there’s gonna be different growth expectations for different students in your class, and I think, I would say that we are happy to publish these targets, and separately say that we really stand behind the work of the AFWG in terms of really prioritizing growth in a more meaningful way than some of our subgroups formally…

Coverdale: (mumbling) by 2021…

Gray: I think the aggregate conversations are difficult, like this AMO one, and so, federal mandate or not, I think in the spirit of multiple measures, these should be trending in the same direction.  From a growth to proficiency, or a DSSF perspective, centered around that, or these aggregates, but we look at this whole population of 130,000 kids, where with the DSSF were really targeting accountability in our schools in terms of that calculation.

Barbara Rutt: But I would say still, in this conversation and not to get philosophical, but when you talk about multiple students in one classroom this whole concept of personalized learning and how do we get out of that expectation gap.  Cause we have evidence that the gap is closed at certain buildings and at certain at-risk schools so all of this is really possible.  It’s just a matter of how you close the expectation gap as well as actually put the personalized learning into play, and how you give more ownership with that learning, or shared learning, at the student level.  So I think that’s part of the conversation we’re struggling with and half of it is as much to do with policy as it is what is actually the relationship that is happening in the classroom.  Cause we have buildings, we have gaps close, we have schools around this country where there are no gaps, right? So we know that it is possible even if we got these aggregate AMOs or whatever, we got the DSSF which is getting down to the next granular level, like this is what needs to happen at that more intimate level, we got class change, so it should all be going in an upward direction.  As a pass point, it’s going to be very difficult for us to get our actual measures to line up with something at the Federal level cause its hard to serve millions of kids at the personalized level that you need to do, right?  Versus what we would do in Delaware.  So that’s where I am, and let me know if the measures are doing good.  I think it’s really worth the conversation.  They’re all doing that, even if…

Heffernan: The growth measures doing this, there’s no slope…

Gray: AMO? Is that what you’re looking at?

Heffernan: No, I’m talking about the growth of the DSSF.  How about a zero slope, right?  We’re talking about low growth targets or what we did last year, aren’t they?

Gray: No, I see why you’re confused.

Reyna: We moved away from the growth targets at the school level.  Its focused on the aggregate of student growth , there’s no longer a target of other than growth to proficiency is are you…

Heffernan: Growth to proficiency, I got that, yeah

Reyna: The growth targets that are part of the teacher evaluation system are slightly different than the way in which growth is calculated on the DSSF and we plan to discuss that, I believe…

Johnson: Yeah, so we’re not looking at student growth target, as we used to look at when we had the DCAS broke down, but we are looking at that Spring to Spring growth model and looking at it as a school level growth rather than…

Heffernan: But what is the goal of growth?

Johnson: Then you’re looking at the aggregate of, you know, with the conditions around it, did it grow more than the expected growth value of ones like it, and that’s where we use multiple levels of data.  That’s what you’re getting at, in terms of saying, are we seeing growth expectation based on multiple years of prior data, but we are looking at prior years of test data, not just prior years of that grade, which is what we have done before.  Ryan can explain it much better.

Heffernan: I won’t , but I guess, if the target is going to be aggressive in some cases, but on the other hand I think, well, I’m looking specifically at students with disabilities so that’s…

Gray: I gotcha…

Heffernan: We don’t want the target to be what we’ve always done. But I think we understand we need continuous improvement.  If we feed that correctly in there, if we align…I was just questioning that.

Gray: I agree with you.  I think that students with disabilities has always been one of the painful, realistically “How are we going to figure out that one?”  Not only realistic…

Heffernan: Not that we don’t need to do it.  You’re not going to see anyone think we need to do it more than I do.

Gray: I think it’s also worthy, cause it’s confusing Ryan, around the growth targets, and I think I have it in my head, I think that’s really where we were a few cycles back?  So we will always need to refresh our…

Reyna: Happy to do that…

Gray: Growth model.

Nina Bunting: Would you bring me up to date please, cause I wasn’t here in the Spring.  I just have to ask if there are stakeholders out there that feel their recommendations have been dismissed, what about this plan addresses that?  Have their recommendations been dismissed?  Or have you actually addressed those recommendations and incorporated them into the plan?  Because there are people who are very, very concerned.

Schwinn: Are you speaking specifically about the participation rate piece of the DSSF or the AMOs?  I can address both actually.

Bunting: Yeah.

Schwinn: Great.  So one specifically, and I should have probably stated this earlier, the pieces on the AMOs have not gone to DESS, they will go to DESS, a lot of the changes made, will go to DESS in December.  So they have not looked at that specifically.  We are looking at this participation rate discussion.  The recommendation of the AFWG has not changed.  Their recommendation was to do a plan as a primary consequence.  After discussion, and meeting at the retreat, from last month and this month, the recommendation of the Secretary is to use the mulitiplier.  I want to be clear that was the recommendation of the AFWG.  I know that in conversations we were looking at a multitude of input, and the recommendation put forth by Secretary Godowsky in terms of the participation rate.  The AMOs are put forth by the State and we decided because it was a new assessment we should move forward with what has been consistent in prior years.

Reyna: The rest of the plan with all the rest of the DSSF is based on the recommendations of the AFWG.

Schwinn: And the refresher from the Spring, around what kind of stakeholder engagement has been, the other big conversation has been how do you represent the data?  And one of the things we did, we did a series of focus groups that were facilitated by the University of Delaware, and then did a very brief, very fun, pick your framework that you like, the layout that you like.  The feedback that we got was that people didn’t like the layout, any of the options.  There were rocketships, and I think, grades, etc.  So we went back and looked at stars and that’s how we got the star system which was a compromise on that.  We have taken the majority of the feedback, especially from the AFWG, which has met over 16 times over the last 15 months…

Bunting: So you did take their recommendations?

Schwinn: We’ve taken a majority of their recommendations.  I just want to be very specific that there were the recommendations that were on the previous slides where they wanted the plan as the consequence for participation rate.  That was the recommendation, the recommendation in front of you is the multiplier.  But we’ve definitely been…it’s been a lively and engaged group in terms of the recommendation, but the majority of the recommendations have been taken.

Heffernan: What that process was, the group made a recommendation and not a decision, just as often we do with the Secretary around charter schools or whatever it is, the groups come in, and at the end of the day somebody weighs multiple views …

Schwinn: And there are many groups who provide that input and feedback.  The AFWG is the organized group that meets regularly but I certainly know that there are a variety of emails that have been sent to our Accountability email address and all that information is provided as part of the record.

Gray: Yeah, part of this conversation, I think we were 9-10 times on record having this discussion from the very first presentation, which was in March, April, I don’t recall, and much later in the year, so the DSSF component presented in the earlier charts, that kind of outline of A and B and the weights, that has not changed over time, and that came directly from the conversations.  And the whole participation rate, which has been the most robust conversation, that did come back to us initially last April, May (it was March Dr. Gray), it may have been earlier, March, April, the participation rate.  And then what came after was at the end of the AFWG conversations and that was probably the last, if not, one of the next to last sessions I was able to sit in around the conversation of having ratings, and the stars, that came out of that deal, and now we are at stars, versus having an overall rating, and the compromise around having stars as overall ratings, so that was the big one.  And the participation rate, what we actually said in that conversation, and now with the recommendation from the Secretary, was that, you know, the participation rate really does, we wanted a balance of that conversation, so at 95%, left at 95% with the multiplier, we also asked for the upside of that, so if when were above 95%, they get the same upside, an uptick, so we really wanted that balance…

Heffernan: And more schools were given the uptick than the down…

Gray: More schools were given an uptick, cause we really did not want to have a conversation as a one-way consequence, the actual definition of consequence, positive and or negative, is actually the conversation…

Dr. Steven Godowsky: I want to make some comments.  On November 17th, last Tuesday, we had a meeting of the AFWG to discuss the rationale for the modification of the plan so we did bring the group back to their 17th meeting to have that discussion.  I also want to say that the AFWG did, in my opinion, settle on the most important measurable outcome, and that’s the whole idea of a rated growth.  And that is probably the fairest to all schools, and the best measurement for a direct effect of teaching.  That’s where we can make a difference and that’s where we have control over that.  So I think they did absolutely the right thing on that.  And so the fact that has the most value, it belongs there, in my opinion.

Gray: I agree, and I appreciate that, cause growth is where we think the conversation should be, you know, for struggling students and those that are excelling, if we have them in our midst of a K-12 place, we want to see growth.  And  you talked about, there couldn’t have been more alignment, between where the Board is, and the Secretary, and where the AFWG is on that.

Reyna: So last, and you have the Math targets.  Similarly, it’s in process.  Last piece is next steps.  As Dr. Schwinn mentioned, we’ll be submitting, upon assent of the Board, so upon submitting final documentation to the US Department of Education next week, essentially before Thanksgiving, and then would wait for their response.  Certainly our expectation is, there is a lot of transition at the US DOE right now and with the holidays coming, I don’t necessarily believe we would be able to get that before Christmas for instance, but sometime in the early 2016 timeline and then from there the commitment is, again, to update and resubmit Regulation 103 within sixty days of approval by the US Department of Education, with public comment, at which point would then come  back to this Board for discussion and ultimately, action.

Gray: And when do we expect to hear back from US Ed?

Reyna: It would be great if it was before the end of the year, but likely, January, February timeline.

Schwinn: They committed to four weeks, but I don’t think that is taking into consideration that we’re going to have a new Secretary of Education (at the US DOE) there, so our expectation is sometime around the week of January 10th.

Johnson: And then once final approval is received, the Department would then begin re-revising Regulation 103 and we would have sixty days to promulgate those revisions and bring that back before the board for discussion and ultimate action.

Gray: Okay.

Schwinn: Are there any questions?

(none)

Gray: So the Department of Education seeks approval of the ESEA Flexibility Waiver application revisions as outlined in this presentation.  Is there a motion to approve DOE’s ESEA Flexibility application revisions?

Coverdale: So moved.

Gray: I do need a second.

Heffernan: Second.

Gray: Thank you.  Any further questions or discussion?

(none)

Gray: All in favor, indicate by saying aye.

Gray, Heffernan, Coverdale Rutt: Aye.

Gray: Any opposed? (none) Abstentions?

Bunting: Abstention please.

Gray: Motion carries.  Alright.

Johnson: Could we elect to do a roll call?

Gray: Sure

(roll call given, same result, Whitaker and Melendez absent)

 

And with that, the Delaware State Board of Education passed the opt-out penalty in the Delaware school report card.  What makes this all very interesting is the fact that two of the participants in this whole conversation will not even be at the DOE by the end of the year.  Two of the individuals are resigning from the DOE.  Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna are leaving.  A very important fact to make note of here is the timing on approval of this ESEA waiver application.  The DOE can not submit Regulation 103 until they get approval from the US DOE on this.  At that point, they have to redo Regulation 103 and it won’t be voted on by the State Board for at least sixty days.  Which gives the 148th General Assembly more than enough time to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50!  And with that, I will bid you good night.  Stay tuned (literally) tomorrow for the most offbeat post of the year, possibly my lifetime.  I know one person who will definitely want to see this!

 

The DOE Has Lost Their Minds! Really Governor Markell? You Disrespect Students With Disabilities

I posted the whole document these pictures were in two posts ago, but upon reviewing the DOE’s five-year goals for growth in the Smarter Balanced Assesssment, I noticed the one group that is going to be driven hard to improve proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Students With Disabilities.  Dammit Jack, what the hell is wrong with you?  You have NO idea what these kids are going through every single day.  My guess is this is something you do not deal with or experience on a daily basis.  I really think you may be insane.  This isn’t right, and every single parent of a child with disabilities needs to email their legislator and ask them to impeach Delaware Governor Jack Markell based on an inability to perform his job functions.

Below are the growth targets for the next five years for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They expect students with disabilities to jump up astronomically in the next five years which means the DOE will push teachers to push these students.  Enough is enough.

DOEGrowthTargetsELA

DOEGrowthTargetsMath

Welcome to the Jack Markell world of Rigor and Grit for students with disabilities.  This is not education.  This is insanity.  This is not aggressive, this is you just not getting it…

UPDATED: An earlier version of this article had an employee at the DOE named in it.  I talked with this employee when I left the State Board of Education, and I understand she was just doing her job.  She answers to her boss, and I totally get that.  This is why I have changed this to her boss.

DOE Tweaks Opt-Out Penalty But It Is Still Harsh

The State Board of Education finally put the Delaware School Success Framework update on the State Board of Education agenda for the meeting today.  They have tweaked the opt-out penalty a little bit, but it’s still not good enough.  It is still a harsh penalty that will hurt schools over parental choices that are beyond a school’s control.  Nobody was allowed to give public comment about an action item.  I didn’t.  I talked about school transportation.

This is what I said:

So I’m driving my son to school this morning, at a private school with no Common Core and no Smarter Balanced Assessment. (Thank you God!) (look up)   And ahead of me, there’s this school bus.  In the other lane, a car swerves over the line in front of the bus, but the bus driver keeps going straight ahead.  I watched in astonishment as the car noticed the danger and moved over, almost hitting a sidewalk on his side.  I don’t know why the car swerved over the line, and I don’t know why the bus driver kept moving straight ahead oblivious to the danger in front of him.  But it could have been a serious accident.  I can imagine though.  Perhaps the other driver had a disability and suffered a painful motor tic while driving.  Maybe they were a student who comes from poverty and wasn’t able to eat the past few days.  Maybe it was a teacher running late for school because they lost so much sleep worrying about their next evaluation.  We just don’t know.  Meanwhile, the bus driver who ignored an obvious danger, what were his motivations?  I would assume a bit of arrogance.  I can imagine the thought of “I’m not moving.  I’m in the right.”

This is Delaware education in a nutshell.  We have different bus drivers carrying the load of every single student, educator, and school in the state.  Sometimes it is Governor Markell, other times it is Secretary Godowsky.  It could be Dr. Gray.  Or Pat Heffernan.  Or any of you on this board.  Sometimes it seems like someone not even allowed to be a bus driver, like Paul Herdman of Rodel , is driving the bus!  I see the same mentality of that bus driver when I see the leaders of education in Delaware.  I see them making changes and policies based on plowing ahead without knowing the dangers that are clearly in front of them.  Sometimes they spend millions of dollars trying to find out why the other driver swerved over the line.  For whatever reason, our leaders assign blame to people who weren’t even in the car.  Sometimes we are so focused on the blame that we fail to realize the other factors that could be taking place. 

Every time this board meets, you make decisions for the children of Delaware.  You’ll do that today.  You’ll decide how to prevent accidents even if you could be the ones causing them.  But you will never take the accountability on yourselves and realize that you could be the cause of many of them.  Because you are so focused on driving down that road and getting to where you want to be, that you fail to understand the other conditions of the road.  And in your decisions, it never dawned on you that you are driving in the wrong direction on a one-way road that leads to heartache and devastation for hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, parents and communities.

I showed the State Board some pictures of my son since they have never had the opportunity to meet him in person.   I advised them their collective actions have led to his situations in the Delaware public education system since the focus just isn’t on the kids anymore.  Sabine Neal spoke about special education and the DOE’s failure to act, State Rep. Kim Williams talked about the State Board getting to more meetings and not just sending the same designee, Mike Matthews spoke about WEIC and his desire to see the State Board at all four of the public hearings for the redistricting effort in Wilmington, and Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network spoke about school choice and the upcoming Charter School Expo.  Below is the Delaware School Punishment Success Framework.

Opt Your Child Out Tomorrow, Send The State Board A Clear Message

This is why you need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment tomorrow on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015.  And you need to send this message to every single parent you know who has a child in public school in the entire state.  Use Facebook, Twitter, email, text and calling folks to let them know tomorrow is Opt-Out Day.  Schools can not punish you or your child for your right to exercise your rights for what is best for your child.

The Delaware State Board of Education does not care about our schools and our students.  These are unelected officials, along with the Secretary of Education, who serve at the pleasure of Governor Markell.  Let’s get this out in the open for those who are not aware.  They do not care about the path of destruction they leave in their wake with the excessive amount of standardized testing, interim testing for the standardized testing, labeling schools, and evaluating teachers based on those assessments.  They do not care about the impact this has on children of poverty, race, and disabilities.  They will do what they want, when they want, and how they want.  They do not care if they are usurping the authority of the General Assembly.  They do not care about the rights of parents and insist on having negative consequences for schools over opt-out, even if at the most the US DOE simply states in non-regulatory and non-Congressionally approved guidance that schools must have a “consequence” for opt-out.  They do not care about the recommendations of the very committee they formed to give suggestions for this so-called “Delaware School Success Framework”.  The only reason they even created this group is because it was required by the US DOE as stakeholder engagement.  It is a charade and a sham, perpetrated on every single citizen of Delaware.

Delaware Parents: It is now your essential duty, as well as your fundamental right, to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The powers that be will not listen.  They have made this crystal clear.  The only way to stop this is to opt your child out now.  Do not believe the lies and propaganda coming from the Governor, the DOE, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of Education in Delaware.  They will come up with any reason, any task force, group or committee to try to stop you from opting your child out.  They will use other state agencies, such as the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens to get you to believe the lies.  They will throw civil rights in your face while violating the most basic tenets of civil rights in their test and punish environment.  They are causing even more segregation over the shaming of schools over standardized Their latest attempt at mind control is getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  They are retooling the SAT to match the very same Common Core State Standards the Smarter Balanced Assessment already has.  Last Spring, it was announced more than 850 colleges and universities dropping the SAT in the application process.  Warped methodology is their best friend, and they utilize it without regard to the damage it does.

So please, tomorrow, give a letter to your child’s principal telling them (not asking) that your child will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.   If they have opinions, questions, or attempt to talk you out of it, let them kindly know you respect their opinion but your decision is final.  They will definitely tell you now how it will affect their school’s ratings and so forth.  Let them know you understand that but you are the only one who can advocate for your child.  Advise them you expect your child to receive an education while the other students are testing, and stand firm with your decision.  The Delaware General Assembly could override Governor Markell’s veto of the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.  The ESEA reauthorization will most likely leave it up to states to handle opt-out, which the DOE and Markell are attempting to do with Regulation 103, which would become law 60 days after the State Board votes on this.  This is why, if you are going to opt your child out, you need to do it tomorrow.  The State Board meets on Thursday to decide on this.  Let’s show them how ignoring parents will not end well for them.  They disrespect us and underestimate us.  Let’s show them who is really calling the shots!

This is for all traditional school district and charter school parents.  We need to stand united with this and take back the conversation.  We need to show the DOE and the State Board we will not stand for them punishing schools.  In a sense, just making your child take the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a punishment in and of itself.  Because it does not help your child and the DOE uses it as a punishment.  That is the message they told every single parent in the state today.  There are no positive consequences in the picture the DOE wants to paint.  It is all about money, greed, and a severe lack of knowledge about what is truly best for students.

Accountability Framework Working Group Is Meeting NOW!!! Live From The DOE

The Accountability Framework Working Group, the group tasked to provide recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework is meeting now in Dover at the Townsend Building at the Delaware Department of Education.  This should be very interesting!

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appears to be leading the meeting, along with Ryan Reyna from the Accountability and Assesssment area of the DOE.  Delaware State Representatives Paul Baumbach and Kim Williams are here as well.

I’m not sure if Penny Schwinn will be attending this meeting.  She has been very quiet lately…

Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newswork just walked in.  So did State Rep. John Kowalko.  Everyone is introducing themselves.  John Carwell with the DOE Charter School Office is attending as a non-voting member.

Secretary Godowsky stated there will be public comment, but he wants to relay the purpose of the committee.  There were 16 meetings prior to this.  He said he was confirmed as Secretary on October 28th.  The ultimate goal of the AFWG was to get a level of commitment from all stakeholders.  He appreciates everyone coming back for this meeting.  He said he has watched from the outside the past couple years and wants everyone to work together to build a level of trust.  He recognized there were changes to the AFWG’s recommendations.  He is talking about his reversal on the opt-out penalty now.  The first factor was the State Board’s position on the opt-out penalty.  The consequences on the plan were not consequences.  The State Board sets policy.  They have a duty to look at students first and this influenced his thinking on this matter.  As well, he said they are investigating the policy of getting rid of Smarter Balanced for juniors and replacing it with the SAT.

Godowsky said they met with the Chief School Officers and the State Board on 11//5 to discuss this transition.  They came up with the possibility of perhaps doing this as early as Spring 2016 but there are a lot of details to sort out.  He wants to be optimistic about that.  Participation rate is key to their thinking and claims this is a civil rights issue and they have to test students in need.  As they looked at their evidence higher performing students had not taken the test.  On 11/7 there was an op/ed in the News Journal about achievement gaps and how protections need to be used to prevent a moral discrepancy.  He met with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens and will speak with that group this evening.  They respect their opinion but not the thousands of parents in Delaware.

They see more benefits for schools using the participation rate multiplier for schools in Delaware.  This is also used to implement priority and reward schools.  The priority schools will not be identified for another three years.  They have already named these schools this year.  The new framework will not be used this year and there will be no consequences this year.  Now he is addressing schools that purposely left students out of the test.  The New Castle County Vo-Tech District, of which Godowsky used to lead, was one of the first to recognize this.  Now we know why Governor Markell picked him as Secretary of Education.  He is talking about how Howard High School went from 56% to 80% proficiency.  When you can control who gets in…  The State Board raised these concerns in 2004 with students not being tested.  Godowsky is stating the US DOE wants this as well.  Where is the proof Dr. Secretary?

The consequences are significantly positive according to Godowsky.  No, they are not.  Now it is time for public comment.  State Rep. Kim Williams gave public comment and said no superintendents are in agreement with the opt-out penalty.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach said this is not gaming the system but empowering our parents.  State Rep. Kowalko said there were several meetings without the AFWG that influenced his decision.  The civil rights issue is not applicable to this situation.  There are hidden fears perpetuated by the Federal Government and the State Board of Education regarding funding and a dismantling of the education system.  RCEA President Mike Matthews said his membership voted against this penalty.  He is talking about testing and punishing schools and giving more resources to high-needs schools.  Hilary Clinton, according to Matthews, said teachers should not be evaluated.  I gave public comment advising the State Board, the DOE and Secretary Godowsky they have no place determining parental rights.  Especially over a flawed test that gives no immediate feedback or direct instruction for students.  As well, they have provided no solid mandated proof of this opt-out penalty by the feds.  Greg Mazotta is talking about the Baldridge Program.

AFWG member Bill Doolittle, representing the Delaware PTA, stated the federal intent was for schools excluding students from the test.  The new ESEA reauthorization will have very little support for this and it will be up to the states.  This was not a child-centered decision based on real world logic.  This is a political decision.  The AFWG’s recommendations gave the best outlook for students and will initiate confrontation.  This decision will accelerate the opt-out movement in Delaware.  With IDEA, they have used the NAEP standards giving parents the right to choose.  We should do what they recommend.  By agreeing to this it will distort data and the schools and DOE will not have clean data.  SAT has a long history of discriminating against students with disabilities.

Deb Stevens with DSEA said she is very concerned about the State Board’s insistence on having negative consequences for schools in regards to participation rate.  She supported the AFWG’s recommendations, but from what she is hearing it is not negative enough for the State Board.  The State Board members have never had an opportunity to meet with the AFWG.  She doesn’t understand the rationale of meeting with the State Board for 3 minutes a month before they act (as public comment at the State Board of Education meetings).  This will not improve the student gaps and will not help with getting resources to schools.  There is no confidence in this test based on the first-year results.  They don’t know how valid or reliable the test is and it is foolish to attach consequences for a test with no track record.  She will not change her vote that AFWG provided to the DOE.

Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald is thanking Ryan and Penny for their guidance with the group as well as the members of AFWG.  He said poverty was a major concern with this group.  Schools with high poverty will be punished the most with this.  AYP, or adequate yearly progress, does not work.  The AFWG thought the consequences they decided on were good.  He thinks moving towards the SAT is good because students are tested too much, especially in 11th grade.  He has concerns with the disability questions with the SAT.  There is no reason for the AFWG to change their recommendation because the Secretary and State Board will decide what they want.  He hopes they put a great deal of thought into the changes.

Ken Hutchins with Capital School District said parents got back the scores and students who were once proficient are no longer proficient.  He doesn’t think Delaware has hit their peak with the opt-out movement.  This will cause opt-out to increase.  He is a data guy.

Joe Jones with New Castle County Vo-Tech said the schools already know what supports and resources they need.  He doesn’t think an assessment should drive that change.  Delaware needs to work together to get these supports and not under the lens of a consequence.  He said nothing came as a surprise and always knew these were just recommendations.  He would love to see it one day come to fruition where assessment is not driving change.

Heath Chasanov, the Superintendent of the Woodbridge School District, thinks this will cause opt-out numbers to rise.  He went out and visited all four of the schools in his district (laughter in the room) and the comment a top senior in his class said they don’t take the SBAC as seriously as the SAT.  In terms of reading, the student said, the SBAC has flaws with the passages in the test.

Indian River’s Jay Owens supported the AFWG’s recommendations but he is excited about the possibility of the SAT and getting rid of SBAC for juniors.  They have the ability to monitor the participation rate.  They can take action as a district when the test is not being pushed by the schools.

Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, is thanking the members of AFWG.  It is no easy feat to come up with a framework like this.  The State Board has publicly met outside of State Board meetings nine times over the Delaware School Success Framework.  Dr. Gray heard the comments of this group.  They are very clear about what the group’s recommendations are.  The State Board did not believe developing a “plan” for opt-out was a good decision.  “The State Board would prefer to see a consequence that is positive and negative.”  Fitzgerald is stating there are no supports and resources to deal with the consequence.  Is the State Board able to make a decision on that, Fitzgerald asked.  Johnson said this was not a discussion at the State Board Retreat.  Fitzgerald asked if any of the supports and resources are different than ones that currently exist to which Johnson said no.

Doolittle said some members who couldn’t make it submitted comments.  He said the State Board has their own perception and this decision was not driven by Federal requirements and was driven by a desire from the State Board to have negative consequences.  Stevens said the name and blame game is driven by Federal decision.  But this does not provide the resources needed to move the needle and change the achievement gap.  Johnson, in response to Doolittle, said schools should have a plan anyways if they don’t meet the 95% participation rate.  I asked Johnson if Governor Markell advised the board to do this, wouldn’t they agree?  She said no, they are their own board.  She said I am entitled to my opinion.  I responded I am, and many agree.  I really need to check on my complaints with the DOJ today…

Godowsky is thanking the group.  The comments were appreciated.  Kowalko is asking what the exact negative consequence is from the State Board.  He said the State Board did not specifically answer this.  Johnson said the State Board did not suggest negative and punitive consequences.  Doolittle said the AFWG was not given the right guidance from the Feds.

 

 

 

 

What Foolishness Can We Expect At The State Board of Education Meeting This Week?

This Thursday at 1pm, the monthly State Board of Education meeting is happening.  This will be a BIG meeting!  They are voting on the Delaware School Success Framework and the whole opt-out penalty thing.  We already know Secretary Dr. Steven Godowsky is all about the harsh punishments, despite telling reporters a few weeks ago he didn’t think that was going to happen.  Of course, he had an incentive to say that since he was going to have his Senate Confirmation a week later…but I digress…

This is all the agenda has for this portion of the meeting:

Presentation of the Delaware School Success Framework and other any revisions to the ESEA Flexibility request per the prior conditional approval from USED.

The State Board will hear and act upon the request from DOE for approval of the ESEA Flexibility Application revisions.

Aside from that, what else is on the agenda?  We have the obligatory WEIC portion which has been going on the past couple months.  But this is not a formal presentation, so we should not hear Dan Rich explain the whole thing for two hours again.  But the State Board is going to discuss what they will need to make their decision:

The WEIC should create a record that the SBE can review, which includes:

  1. Minutes from the WEIC meetings and subcommittee meetings, which may be accessible through the WEIC website.
  2. Correspondence with WEIC from the public, including written and electronic comments from the public during the notice period. (November 17 – January 14) These should be posted publicly on the WEIC website and submitted as electronic pdf files to the Board for posting on the Board website.
  3. A record of the public hearings from which a verbatim transcript is prepared for presentation to the Board and posting on the Board website. 
  4. Exhibits, documents and testimony presented at the public hearing. These should be submitted to the Board in pdf format in conjunction with the Hearing transcript.
  5. Any findings and summaries of the hearings prepared by the WEIC.
  6. Any proposals or reports developed by WEIC that address the actions established in SB 122 of the Board.

Public Comment in written or electronic form on the proposed plan received between 11/17/15 and 1/14/16 will be compiled and included in the official record for review and consideration by the SBE.

The public hearings where oral comment will be received will be held as described below. Each will be an hour and a half each and a verbatim transcript will be prepared of each hearing and included in the official record for review by the SBE. 

  • Monday, November 30, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. Brandywine Public Hearing at P.S. duPont Middle School, 701 W. 34th Street, Wilmington, DE 19802.
  • Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. Colonial Public Hearing at William Penn High School, 713 E. Basin Rd, New Castle, DE 19720.
  • Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at  6:30 p.m. Christina Public Hearing at Bayard Middle School, 200 S. duPont Street, Wilmington, DE 19805.
  • Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. Red Clay Public Hearing at Warner Elementary School, 801 W. 18th Street, Wilmington, DE 19802.

Which now gives us a January vote by the State Board of Education for the whole Christina/Red Clay Wilmington redistricting.

What else is on the agenda?  The usual regulations (but not Regulation 103).  I guess they have to get US DOE approval first or something like that.  I can’t keep track of this stuff (I do, but it is not healthy for the mind).  There will be an “Educators as Catalysts” presentation regarding STEM and Computer Science.  DOE is doing a College Access Initiatives presentation.  The Charter School Office will do their monthly update, where they will talk about Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek Academy coming to them in December for charter renewal.  Maybe some talk about Delaware Met, but not too much.  It may come out that Mapleton withdrew their major modification and they have to start over in the application process.  I can’t picture any new disciplinary action against any other charters.  We get to find out the winners of the School Bus Safety Contest, brought to you by the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund.  Not really.  It looks like DOE hired a few people but one person is leaving.  No major announcements (I’m sure they are to the people who got hired).  Some appeal with Brandywine.  The State Board will go over the September 30th count numbers and the private school numbers and the other placements Delaware students might be in (prison, residential treatment centers, and so on).

If you plan on attending, just remember, due to the State Board’s lame regulations, you can’t give public comment about an action item on their agenda, which the Delaware School Success Framework is.  I highly recommend going and telling the State Board about why you are opting your child out this year and what kind of reaction the school is giving parents.  Let them hear it from you personally.  I’m sure they are sick and tired of hearing from me.   You can’t give public comment about Delaware Met or the charter renewals since they are under a “public comment period”.  Which makes about as much sense as New Coke, right?  We can’t taint the State Board of Education’s thoughts with actual thoughts and feelings on these kinds of matters!  It’s not like they don’t already have their mind made up on most things cause Governor Markell holds the marionette strings, right?

An Open Challenge To Governor Markell, Secretary Godowsky & DOE Regarding Opt-Out

I just sent Governor Markell and the DOE an email with a request for the final Accountability Framework Working Group meeting on Tuesday at 10am.  Anything less than this will not be sufficient for myself and the growing number of parents who will exercise their parental rights to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Schwinn Penny <penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; Reyna Ryan <ryan.reyna@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay (Governor) <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>
Sent:
Friday, November 13, 2015 9:53 AM
Subject:
AFWG Meeting on 11/17

Good Morning Dr. Godowsky, Dr. Schwinn and Mr. Reyna,
I understand there is to be another Accountability Framework Working Group on 11/17/15 at 10am in the Cabinet Room at the Townshend Building in Dover.  I have to admit I was taken aback at Dr. Godowsky’s suggestion last week at the Delaware State Board of Education Retreat that he was not going to accept the AFWG’s recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework.
What I am asking of the three of you for Tuesday’s meetings is actual documentation, on United States Department of Education letterhead, why Delaware would have to impose the harsh opt-out penalties based on US Congressionally approved laws and regulations.  I’m sorry, but hearing from Dr. Schwinn vocally about what US DOE requires is not enough.  I want to see, in writing, why this is necessary.  Vague letters from an employee no longer at US DOE, and non-regulatory guidance from US DOE is not sufficient.  Not for something this big.  The letter from US DOE provided to then Secretary Murphy places the burden of opt-out on schools, meaning they cannot pick students to opt out.  The law absolutely says nothing in regards to parental opt-out.  While I agree schools should not make that choice as some have done in the past, it is fundamentally, morally, and legally wrong to infer that parents can not opt their child out of the state assessment.
I am writing this on behalf of all the parents who have either already opted their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, those who will be doing so, and those who have intimidation and what amounts to bullying tactics perpetrated on them by schools in Delaware who are not honoring their parental rights which are the underpinnings of our society.  Parents should not live in fear about consequences for a school if they choose to exercise their fundamental and Constitutional rights, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court on many occasions.
If this is a mandate from Delaware Governor Jack Markell, I would challenge him to come to this meeting in person to make clear his justification and reasoning for this. If he is unable to attend, then I would like him to craft a letter on State of Delaware Governor letterhead with a legal basis for this mandate.
To not honor parental rights and to punish schools for a parental decision is a slap in the face to parents and schools.  If the intention is to punish schools for parental decisions, this is abhorrent and a disgrace.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt,
on behalf of the Opt-Out Parents of Delaware