The Bygone Blogger is back! Thanks to Bygone for tackling an overlooked topic on this blog, that of school absenteeism. Bygone dissected a recent Rodel article on the subject and man oh man did they! Continue reading
On September 20th, the Delaware Department of Homeland Security released the 2017-2018 annual progress report for the Comprehensive School Safety Program. As part of the Omnibus School Safety Act, Delaware schools are required to hold different types of safety drills. According to this report, every single public school in the state held these drills. Does this mean our schools are safe? Continue reading
I think it is safe to say Renee Taschner will win the 22nd State Representative Democrat primary. Her opponent , Guillermina Gonzales, sent out a mailer bashing Delaware schools and the teachers union.
You shouldn’t need to send your children to private schools or move to Pennsylvania for them to get a good education.
I’m not going to sit here and say Delaware schools don’t have issues. But this tacit verbiage in a campaign mailer by a Democrat is not going to please voters! So she is basically saying ALL Delaware schools, except for private schools, suck. Even charter schools! Her anti-union stance is certainly not going to win DSEA votes! I can’t imagine the many charter school supporters in her neck of the woods will appreciate it either! So if all Delaware schools suck, is she a Betsy DeVos supporter? Would she join the Delaware Republicans who want school vouchers? Hell, even Joe Miro supported public schools. Ugh.
I’m not beholden to the teachers union or any other special interest groups.
Doesn’t sound like you are beholden to very much Ms. Gonzales. But then I read this part:
As a professor I know how important high quality teachers are and I’ve heard over and over from voters in this district how much room there is to improve in Delaware.
Would any of those voters happen to belong to DelawareCAN? Because I see your endorsement from the DelawareCAN Action Fund. They also endorsed a Republican in the 22nd primary as well, Michael Smith. He of the failed Pike Creek Charter School from 2014. DelawareCAN happens to be anti-union and promotes the “high quality teachers” game while putting down so many of our actual high quality teachers in Delaware. Running on a corporate education reform policy is bad mojo in Delaware. Maybe that will work in the Pike Creek area but I tend to doubt it.
Kenny Rivera, an Assistant Principal at Brandywine High School, recently embarked on an incredible journey to India to explore different schools and systems in education. I interviewed Kenny this week. While he was in India, I saw his Facebook posts filled with pictures of schools and students. Kenny has graciously allowed me to use those pictures in this article. Continue reading
Last night I wrote an article about the Delaware Pay For Success legislation, Senate Bill #242. I stand firm in my convictions and I am calling on ALL Delawareans to contact their Delaware Senator and urge them to either table SB 242 or vote no today. The more I thought about this legislation, the more disturbed I am with it. Say the Pay For Success program an investor initiates does not reach its objectives. The state won’t pay the investor for this “project”. But what happens with all the data collected during the program? Does the investor get to keep that? As we all know, in the 21st Century, data is currency. It is bought and sold all the time. When that data concerns children, we have cause to worry. The whole point of the “investment” could very well be the data collection that comes with it. We see massive data collection on pre-schoolers in these kind of programs going on across the country. Investors love social-emotional learning and are investing millions of dollars for that treasure trove of data collection on students. Children. Think about that.
Let this sink in for a minute- the person pushing this the most is a DuPont. A member of a family that is worth billions of dollars. Someone with deep connections and the ability to snap their fingers so things go his way. His brother already runs Zip Code Wilmington, a coding school. There runs the Longwood Foundation. He is heavily involved in the Delaware Community Foundation which funds the Rodel Foundation. We need to wake up and question motivations here. They are already “invested” in Delaware education.
Good evening distinguished members of the Delaware Senate,
I am urging you to table Senate Bill #242. This bill, dealing with Pay For Success programs in Delaware, is being fast-tracked through the General Assembly.
My concerns with the bill are the eventual forays Pay For Success programs will make into public education. While this bill is being touted as an economic development bill (which I support), it will also be used for “social programs”. There are not enough safeguards in this bill to prevent potential fraud and abuse. I also believe any programs like this, that would use our children as guinea pigs for an investor, is fundamentally and morally wrong.
I have put out the call for Delaware citizens to attempt to stop this bill. But given that it was introduced Tuesday, released from committee today, and will be on the Senate Ready list tomorrow does not fill me with hope. I attended the committee session today and voiced my concern. I was pretty much told to trust the system and if problems arise those could be fixed later on.
This is a huge program that the general public knows NOTHING about. It was put in a committee that does not usually generate much citizen traffic aside from lobbyists. There was no big splashy article from the News Journal on this bill as we see so often with other bills. It is my contention the intention was to get this through as soon as possible which is not a sign of transparency whatsoever.
I put up an article on Exceptional Delaware tonight which goes more in-depth with my concerns. I urge you to table this bill or even vote no on it. I am not opposed to some parts of the bill, but I believe it should be held over until the 150th General Assembly. Let the public weigh on it. Let’s do some research into who this benefits. Please, let’s look at some of the very controversial ways programs like this are being used. The Salt Lake City program, run by Goldman Sachs, is praised by the investment community. But the data in that program was flawed to begin with. And it dealt with finding ways to reduce future special education services for students with disabilities.
I respect both the prime sponsors on this legislation, but it needs to be looked at very carefully before we rush into this sort of thing.
I contacted Mike Matthews from the Delaware State Education Association and urged him to have DSEA weigh in on this bill. After I emailed all the Delaware Senators, I forwarded the email to all of the State Representatives. I begged them to do what is right and to do their due diligence with this legislation should it pass the Senate.
Good evening members of the Delaware House of Representatives,
I sent the below email to every single member of the Senate. Several other Delaware citizens are sending similar emails to them as well. If this bill should happen to pass the Senate tomorrow with no changes, it would fall on the House to do what is necessary. I am not 100% opposed to this bill. But there are very real dangers that will come out of it. We talk about unintended consequences with education all the time. While this is not an education bill, it will dip into that sector. Please do what is right.
I spread the message far and wide last night. The clock is ticking. If you want to take action and contact your Delaware Senator but aren’t sure who they are, please go to this map: Who is my Delaware State Senator?
I have no doubt defenders of the bill are emailing the Senate at this very moment saying things like “This is a great bill that will help the Delaware economy”, or “This is from a blogger who thinks everything in education has some nefarious motive”, or “Just ignore him”. So I will ask the Delaware Senate this question: do you value children or profits? Because you have the chance to do something good here. To do what is right. Do it!
The Senate adjourns at 2pm today. It is #7 on their agenda but bills can be switched around. Time is running out…
The Delaware State Police issued a press release today about the arrest of Tymere Moore, an 18 year old Middletown High School student in Appoquinimink School District. It gives much more information than the statement Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows sent to parents yesterday. Including the very disturbing fact that the student actually pulled out the handgun and pointed it at another student. The primary charge in the arrest was for brandishing a handgun. Which was not mentioned in Burrows’ parent letter at all. Continue reading
The following post came to me by someone with the handle of “George Glass”. For those who know their Brady Bunch history, it should be easy to see why they chose that name, especially in light of the current controversy over Regulation 225!
Delaware pretty much exploded last month about the Department of Education’s Regulation 225, which folks focused on as the “transgender protection” regulation to the exclusion of the (arguably more interesting) racial self-identification, also included in the regulation. I say it’s more interesting, although I know that when I say WHY folks are gonna lose their collective shit because once again I’m calling it out.
Why did everyone flip about parental rights and only discuss the transgender aspect of it?
It’s cute how you thought I was asking a serious question.
It’s because Delaware, and especially southern Delaware, is bright, streaming, American-flag-on-my-everything RED, although to be fair there’s plenty above the ditch who are and lots in SLD who aren’t. Yeah, SLD. That’s what you actually call slower lower, not the LSD you see on bumper stickers. In case you were wondering.
Now, I’m not saying everyone who votes GOP is homophobic, or transphobic. I AM saying that a whole lot of people who came out in full force opposition to Reg 225 are. Most specifically, the ones who bitched about it as a parental rights issue but never once mentioned the racial self-identification. Did you even know it was in there? That IS a serious question
My goal here isn’t to change your mind. I don’t actually want you to change your mind. You can think however you want about whatever you want. Tolerance implies no lack of conviction to one’s beliefs, to misquote JFK. What I DO want you to do is admit what your actual problem with Reg 225 is. That’s all. A little honesty goes a long way. You don’t agree with “transgenders” (which isn’t a thing, btw, so….) and you don’t want kids with penises in the girl’s room and you are absolutely convinced schools are going to indoctrinate everyone and keep it all secret. Okay. Because that scenario doesn’t totally open schools up to significant liability, and individual staff to loss of career. It doesn’t even make logical SENSE that schools would seek to keep a trans kid’s identity secret at their own risk.
What you do need to understand, though, in addition to the fact that we definitely know you are using parental rights as an excuse to discriminate against kids who are already facing significant risk of self-harm, suicide, homelessness, rejection by friends and family, physical and mental and emotional abuse and assault, and an almost-unbearable sense of not even fitting in their own skin, is that we aren’t going to let you ruin the lives of innumerable CHILDREN because of your unchecked bigotry.
Do what you want, and say what you will, the fact will remain that school staff are legally obligated to NOT tell you things like that, unless there is risk of harm to the student or to others. Kids have rights, too, y’all, and if you are living with a child who identifies as transgender and you don’t already know, you might want to seriously consider having your vision, hearing, and mental acuity checked, because this isn’t a condition that happens overnight, and there are signs. If a teacher who sees your kid an hour a day a few days a week can tell, why can’t you?
Maybe it isn’t the schools that are the problem here.
When Regulation 225 hit the Delaware Registrar of Regulations on November 1st, it sparked a firestorm that will get more controversial by the day. The regulation is causing a furor among Republican groups. Legislators are receiving phone calls and emails from constituents who are vehemently opposed to the regulation. What is the controversy? Continue reading
In another Smyrna School District expulsion case, not related to that of Student J, the Delaware State Board of Education overturned that decision. The family filed an appeal earlier this Spring. The Hearing Officer recommended the State Board overturn the decision. They did so at their July 27th meeting last Thursday.
It is my most fervent hope that between this and Student J’s case, the district will take a very close look at their expulsion policies which are among the highest percentage in Delaware for school districts. I am not against expulsion if the violation is egregious. But any expulsion is a very serious thing and should not be taken lightly.
This issue is on my radar and it does not just apply to traditional school districts. I find “counseling out”, where some charter schools have “talked” a parent out of keeping their child in their school to be just as unfair as an unnecessary expulsion. I will be keeping a very close eye on these kind of situations in the upcoming school year. If any parent feels an expulsion was unjust, I encourage them to contact me. As J’s mother quickly became aware, I will quickly intervene and attempt to help.
To read the full story of Student J in Smyrna, click here.
Thank you to Delaware United for getting this out there on Facebook. Polling stations open at 10am and will close at 8pm. Get out and vote early if you can. I would love to see a massive increase in voter turnout for our local school board elections. It is far too important, especially this year! School board members are overlooked by many but their importance is huge to our communities!
Red Clay: A.I. DuPont H.S., Baltz E.S., Brandywine Springs, Cab Calloway, Conrad, Dickinson H.S., Forest Oak E.S., H.B. DuPont M.S., Highlands E.S., Hilltop Lutheran Community Center, Lewis E.S., Linden Hill E.S., Marbrook E.S., McKean H.S., North Star E.S., Stanton M.S., Warner E.S.
Christina: Bancroft E.S., Bayard M.S., Brookside E.S., Christiana H.S., Downes E.S., Elbert-Palmer E.S., Gallaher E.S., Glasgow E.S., Jones E.S., Keene E.S., Maclary E.S., Marshall E.S., McVey E.S., Newark H.S., Oberle E.S., Quaker Hill Place Apartments, Shue-Medill M.S., Wilson E.S.
Brandywine: Brandywine H.S., Carrcroft E.S., Claymont E.S., Concord H.S., Crestview Apartments, Forwood E.S., Hanby E.S., Lombardy E.S., Maple Lane E.S., Mt. Pleasant H.S., P.S. DuPont M.S., Talley M.S.
Appoquinimink: Alfred G. Waters M.S., Bunker Hill E.S., Everett Meredith M.S., Marion Profitt Training Center, Middletown H.S., Old State E.S., Olive B. Loss E.S., Townsend Early Childhood Center
Smyrna: Kenton Ruritan Club, Smyrna E.S., Smyrna M.S.
Capital: East Dover E.S., Hartly E.S., William Henry M.S.
Caesar Rodney: Allen Frear E.S., W. Reilly Brown E.S., W.B. Simpson E.S.
Lake Forest: Lake Forest East E.S., Lake Forest North E.S., Lake Forest South E.S., Lake Forest H.S.
Milford: Benjamin Banneker E.S., Evelyn Morris Early Childhood Center, Lulu Ross E.S., Milford H.S.
Seaford: Seaford H.S.
Woodbridge: Woodbridge M.S., Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center
*Note: Colonial and Cape Henlopen have no election due to only one candidate filing. Laurel and Indian River have no seat up for election this year.
The Delaware Department of Education released the Restraint & Seclusion report for the 2015-2016 school year. The number of physical restraints this year were 2,695, up from 2,307 in 2014-2015. That means there were 388 more physical restraints of students last year compared to the year before. I have to ask why everything is increasing with discipline in our schools. I can’t help but think that Common Core really isn’t working, especially for students with disabilities. Like last year, most of these physical restraints are going to students with disabilities and over half of them were African-American students. The highest age group was 9-11, and boys were more likely to be restrained than girls. You can read the full report below. I broke it down last year, but I really don’t have the stomach for that today.
Tony Allen issued a stern warning about Wilmington schools. He said a lawsuit is coming soon if we don’t fix it.
Last Wednesday evening, the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held a panel on Delaware education funding. The panelists were myself, Tony Allen (the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission), Brian Stephan (on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee), and State Rep. Paul Baumbach.
The main emphasis of the panel was to discuss the pros and cons of implementing a weighted funding system for Delaware schools. In this type of system, students with higher needs would have more money allocated to them. These would include low-income students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. For the last, this already takes place with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.
All the panelists were in agreement that the system we have is not working at all. While I don’t necessarily have an issue with a weighted funding system, the devil is in the details. But beneath the surface, as I stated towards the end of the panel, is the huge elephant in the room concerning accountability. Not for standardized tests but where money is currently going. There is no viable mechanism in Delaware to ensure the funds we are using in public education are truly going to the needs of students. Our state auditor is supposed to audit every single traditional school district for all expenses, but when was the last time we saw one of those reports unless it was part of an official audit inspection? There is no consistency with where funds are going. There are so many sub-groups of payment allocations with many overlapping each other. It is a beast to understand. Coding expenses in definitive places is a must, but no one seems to want to address that at a state level. It is my contention that throwing more money into the system is a recipe for disaster.
Say the advocates for better education in Wilmington schools do file a lawsuit. What would the result be? The feds have made important decisions in the past that put temporary band-aids on the issues but eventually the situation with “failing schools” comes up again and again. The definition of a “failing school” is now tied to standardized tests. It is the heart of all accountability in public education. But it fails to address the issues facing students of poverty, spoken languages that are not English, and disabilities that are neurologically based. The “one size fits all” mentality, which the Delaware Dept. of Education is still pushing in their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, doesn’t work.
Tony Allen told the group he was disappointed the WEIC Redistricting Plan didn’t pass in the General Assembly. He said, without hesitation, that he fears a lawsuit will have to happen to truly address the issues facing Wilmington students. He did concede that one of the biggest issues facing WEIC was not having representation from Kent and Sussex counties in the group. This was something I advised WEIC about in public comment at their very first meeting in August of 2015. It was also why I didn’t go to as many meetings as I could have. But will a federal lawsuit fix Wilmington schools?
In my opinion, the biggest problem in Delaware education among high-needs students is a problem no judge, accountability system, General Assembly, or any advocate can fix: hopelessness. In our biggest cities in the state, and reaching out into the suburbs and rural areas, is a drug problem of epic proportions. And with African-American youth, that comes with a potential of joining a gang. Until that problem is fixed, we will continue to spin our wheels trying to fix education. We can have after-school programs and more guidance counselors in our schools. That will help, but it will NOT solve the problem. I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t know who does. But until we can fix that problem, making our schools the penicillin for the disease facing our state will not get to the heart of the issue. With the drugs and gangs come extreme violence and people getting shot in the streets. This “be tough or die” mentality is the deadliest issue facing Delaware. And when those issues come into our schools, that is when education gets put in the bulls-eye of blame.
I have no doubt, at some point, Tony Allen, Jea Street and others will file some huge lawsuit against the State of Delaware. And many will look towards a judge to solve all our problems. It won’t. Until we get really tough on hopelessness, we will fail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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.
Teachers hear it all the time, “Can I go to the bathroom”? Now if you had to pee, you would just do it, right? Unless you could hold it for a little bit until a more convenient time. But nature always wins this battle. Peeing is not a voluntary event. So why am I hearing about more and more schools restricting when kids can go to the bathroom?
To be fair, students can and will abuse the bathroom visit rights. I did it in school. For whatever reason, there are some kids who just have to pee. I’ve heard some horror stories about teenagers peeing their pants. Or they could be stuck in testing and can’t get out. Some kids will get up to no good in a school bathroom. It happens. But what about those kids who absolutely have to go? Should they be held back from peeing because of some bad apples? I would think most teachers would know who those students are. And I’m not saying this is every school.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, it is normal to have to pee six to eight times a day. Pee is your body’s way of detoxing your system. It gets rid of the bad stuff. Most people, especially students, tend to pee for about seven seconds on average. So by the time a student gets to the bathroom, does the pee thing, washes their hands (they better), and gets back to class, it shouldn’t be a journey of more than three minutes tops. Is it worth having a student feel uncomfortable? Sending all kids to go to the bathroom all at once could make it worse. Some students have “performance anxiety” around other kids or get caught up in fooling around in the bathroom. The anxiety is caused by a condition called parauresis. So if the average school day is seven hours, and that is roughly 30% of a student’s day (and that’s a full 24 hour day), it would stand to reason a student may have to go to the bathroom three times a day. I’ve heard of one Delaware school where students can only pee once a day. Not sure what qualifies that school to be the urine police, but I smell a lawsuit eventually if they keep that up!
How long can someone hold off peeing before nature takes its course? It depends on the person. Once you feel the urge, you should probably go. But it won’t kill you to wait too long. But if you wait too long, there could be an accident or in rarer cases a person could develop a urinary tract infection. Some kids may have health issues that prompt them to pee more than their peers. Your bladder doesn’t literally explode, but it could cause issues if you make this a habit.
Bottom line, schools need to be extra careful when it comes to pee. It is natural, it is real, and it should not be used so a teacher can control a classroom or get all their instruction out. Peeing is the most natural thing human beings do. We can’t get around it. Let the children pee!
I would love school teachers and administrators to comment on this, as well as students and parents. Does your school have a pee problem?
Updated, 7:04pm: Judging by the comments on here and on Facebook, this issue is MUCH bigger than I realized. What prompted this impromptu article? This one. It caught me by surprise. But apparently restricted bathroom breaks are happening in many schools. Another issue has surfaced and that is the teacher pee problem. Some are reporting UTI issues because they can’t just leave a classroom and leave kids unattended. Some students had legitimate health issues that caused them to have to pee more than their peers but had issues with that even with a doctor’s note. I know it seems absurd, but maybe we need some type of pee legislation in Delaware and America.
Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn talked about Senate Bill 207 yesterday, the new legislation introduced by Senator Margaret Rose Henry on Thursday. The bill’s purpose is to change the rules about fighting in schools so the police aren’t automatically called. Meanwhile, downstate, a 13 year old African-American teenager was arrested for a fight at school.
The father alleges the police handcuffed him, arrested him, and took him to the local hospital. He was put in a closed room for six hours and his mother was not allowed to see him. As well, the father claims blood was drawn from his son without consent.
For purposes of this article, I am not revealing the names of the child or his family. But I will say many are up in arms over this matter and I can’t really blame them. In my opinion, the way this was handled was absolutely over the top and absurd. The last thing we need is more action by the police that is viewed as excessive. I’m sure this will come out with more detail by the major media over the next few days.
In the meantime, check out Senate Bill 207. Had this legislation come out earlier, yesterday’s events may not have happened. My sympathies to this family for going through this ordeal.
The federal government issues special education funds to states through IDEA. The state issues them based on the federal funds available, as well as their own share of state funds. In Delaware, this is the unit-count process. Under federal law, they are beholden to use the laws in IDEA to issue these funds. But now the Delaware Department of Education is looking at Smarter Balanced Assessment results in funding to local education agencies (schools). The Exceptional Children Resources Group is looking to do this based on no state or federal laws. Once again, the Delaware DOE, even under the leadership of Dr. Steven Godowsky, is creating their own rules and accountability scare tactics.
Could the DOE find more ways to screw over students with disabilities? This is obviously tied to opt-out. After high school juniors, the highest population of opt-outs was students with disabilities in Delaware. By tying funding to SBAC performance, the DOE is trying to test schools and parents. I can’t say I’m surprised. When Acting US Secretary of Education John King is holding onto state assessments as “excellence in education” and views opt-out as unacceptable, the Markell flavored Delaware DOE is sure to follow suit. When is this going to end? When will we stop relying on high-stakes tests to determine students and schools worthiness? This changes nothing. Continue to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Delaware parents. The testing window starts Wednesday. Opt-out and refuse the test now!
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
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.
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.
Schwinn: Are there any questions?
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.
Gray: Thank you. Any further questions or discussion?
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?
(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 special education law firm of McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. is opening a new office in Georgetown, Delaware in an effort to more adequately serve parents in lower Delaware. Prior to this, their only office in Delaware was in Wilmington. This will be a big help to parents. If you are having special education issues with your child’s school and you are not able to resolve them, I would reach out to McAndrews.
On Monday, November 16th, they are having two education clinics in Georgetown in conjunctions with Delaware Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. Here is a flyer:
While some schools can’t stand McAndrews because of lawsuits, they provide an essential service in Delaware and surrounding states by holding schools accountable for violations of special education law. If our special education system in Delaware did the right thing there would be no need for McAndrews, but until then they are desperately needed. It sounds like business is thriving in Delaware if they are opening a second office. Which means kids are not getting the services they legally deserve. Which also means schools are in violation. Any reader of this blog knows I am a huge advocate for special education rights and I will always advise parents to do what is best for their child, not the school. I do recommend trying to work things out with a school, but when you hit that wall (any parents who have been through this know exactly what I’m talking about) you need to advocate for your child and if you have to go that next step, McAndrews is ready to help and evaluate the situation.
As part of their advocacy, McAndrews goes a step further and holds these clinics throughout the year to educate parents about their rights. This is something the firm’s founder and managing partner Dennis McAndrews wants all his attorneys to do with these clinics and through community outreach. I attended one of these clinics a year and a half ago and it was well attended and parents learned many things they were not aware of.
For any parents in Kent County or Sussex County who may be in need of legal advice for special education matters, I would give them a call today!
Jenn C just commented on here about the debate over School Resource Officers (SROs) in Delaware schools and if they are needed or not. There are valid arguments about the issue, but with the controversy over Officer Fields down in South Carolina, more people are talking about this. As a father of a student with disabilities, this mother’s fear is very real to parents. And what happened to her child is absolutely appalling. I hope she gets some sort of justice on this matter.
Training is the key. My daughter is restrained when all of her other supports fail. I do know that her entire team including the principal and other support staff are trained and if she says “you are hurting me” they have to let go. That being said – more SROs is not the answer. I met with Rep. Williams about an incident last year where the SROs got involved with a student with a BIP and IEP and removed the student from school and took him to the local hospital where he was committed and parental rights were removed even when mom was right there and no one consulted her. This incident in the media recently is not the first of over the top abuse of power by SROs. I have been fighting them being in the schools because of the stats showing that special needs kids, at risk kids and minorities suffer when police are present. I have been fighting for years and it seems no one is listening.
There are three major education groups going on right now. We have the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) led by Bank of America executive Tony Allen, the Rodel sponsored Student Success 2025 brought to us by the Vision Coalition, and the Delaware Department of Education’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO). These are all going on at the same time, and it makes me wonder…
The biggest thing I noticed on WEIC was the glaring fact there was NO representation from DOE or Rodel on the leadership team. At first glance, I didn’t notice a lot of the major charter players at all. But they are well-represented on the Vision Student success 2025 gig: Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman, Eastside Charter’s Dr. Lamont Browne, Teach For America’s Laurissa Schutt, H. Raye Jones Avery, well-known charter supporters and business leaders Gary Stockbridge and Ernie Diastasis, Longwood Foundation President There DuPont, Saul-Ewing Charter School Attorney Jim Taylor, Maria Matos, Freire’s Assistant Head of Academics Paul Ramirez, and Rodman Ward III. And from the DOE there is Mark Murphy (not sure on his status now that he “resigned”), Vice-President of the State Board of Education Jorge Melendez, Chief of the Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit Chris Ruszkowski, Chief Academic Officer Michael Watson, and State Board of Education Director Donna Johnson.
As for the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities, their membership consists of, well, not too many people. The only folks I’ve seen on paper is Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson and DOE Chief Policy and External Communications Officer Susan Haberstroh. The Legislative Hall duo. These are the only names on this group at this point and we have no idea who the stakeholders are aside from local education agencies and their data that will be collected. On it’s face, the SREO is merely a data collection initiative, to be collected, collated, and dissected to find “best practices” in our schools. My issues with this are 1) the vendor is Public Consulting Group, 2) there are always mitigating factors why some schools are “better” than others and trying to copy certain models in other areas of the state may not work, 3) it was a rush announcement by Governor Markell who actually came to a State Board of Education meeting to announce it in March.
All three of these groups have some similar goals for Delaware education. If you look at the three documents below, it is easy to see the similarities but all the differences:
While certain goals in these three groups are similar, such as funding and best interests for students, some are very different. But if you add up all the pieces, it equals a combined picture that includes nearly aspect of Delaware education. I do not believe this is a coincidence. A year ago, all roads let to the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee. Now, all roads lead to Governor Markell and Rodel.
I have hypothesized for a year now that Wilmington will become an all-charter school district eventually. I still believe this is the Governor’s goal. Last night, at the Red Clay board meeting, serious questions were asked by the board to Dan Rich and Tizzy Lockman with WEIC. The board questioned where their authority in all of this is. In the wording of Senate Bill 122, it states the State Board of Education can act without a referendum if the local school board approves a resolution supporting the WEAC recommendations. Red Clay did this in April. The law does not specifically name the school districts that can be redrawn. So who is to say charter schools can’t be considered a school district? They can, and they could have say in all of this before all is said and done.
The alignment for a total takeover is present, right now. But there is one huge glitch in the whole plan…funding. Who pays for any of this? Red Clay? Christina? The taxpayers (invariably, they always do), the State of Delaware? Corporations? And there may be one other snafu in this whole process… but I’m not going to let that cat out of the bag!