Here Comes The School District Consolidation Task Force!

House Concurrent Resolution #39 would create a School District Consolidation Task Force.  Yes, another task force in Delaware.  Because we must always have a group of people sitting around a table before we can do anything.  This task force would study if it is worth consolidating school districts in Delaware.  This is something I actually favor.  Nineteen school districts in little old Delaware?  There are school districts in other states with more students than the entire student population of Delaware.  I believe it will happen, but the question is how many?  I don’t think there should be more than five.  Expect a lot of battles on this one.  I am fairly sure nineteen superintendents won’t want to give up their titles.  Some would have to if this went through.  This will be one of the hottest topics in the second leg of the 149th General Assembly beginning in January, 2018.  I’m calling it now!

Where it goes from here is the House Education Committee.  It is on the agenda for the meeting tomorrow (must be nice to be the Sponsor of the bill AND the Chair of the Committee).  But tomorrow is the last day of committee meetings before the General Assembly closes up shop this year so this is my guestimation on what will happen: clears House Education Committee, gets a House vote in the affirmative, gets sent to Senate Education Committee, a suspension of rules allows it to bypass the committee, Senate votes yes, and the task force gets going late summer/early fall.

 

Why Is Parent Information Center Of Delaware Shilling For Alliance For Excellent Education?

PIC is the Parent Information Center of Delaware.  Subsidized by the Delaware Department of Education, PIC is a federally mandated organization for parents to use as a resource center for special education.  Every state is required to have this type of entity under IDEA, the federal special education law.  Why is PIC of Delaware advertising Alliance For Excellent Education and “personalized learning”?  Personalized learning, if implemented full scale, would diminish the role of special education in schools by giving every single student their own individual education program, otherwise known as an IEP.

picall4ed

As anyone in Delaware who regularly read this blog know, the biggest supporter for personalized learning has been the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  I get very concerned when I see special education groups pushing what Rodel pushes.  As I’ve said before, personalized learning in its true context is light years away from the 21st Century push for it.  It would turn teacher-led instruction into screen time for students with teachers becoming glorified moderators.  This would take place in a competency-based education environment where a student doesn’t move on until they have “mastered” the material.  All in a digital classroom with education technology that reaps high rewards for those who invest in them.  Without any regard for the psychological and physical health effects on any student, much less those who have disabilities.  As anyone who keeps track of progress for students with disabilities can tell you, special education students would be the last ones to “move along” in this type of classroom.  Which makes it even more puzzling that PIC would promote this type of education.  When I clicked on the link in the Alliance For Excellent Education ad, it brought me to a YouTube video.

Whatever the intentions were for the Every Student Succeeds Act, it was hijacked by corporate education reformers and they are taking full advantage of inserting what they want in every single state.  States are working on their ESSA plans this fall and those who wish to profit off education at the expense of student futures are getting louder than ever.

PIC does a  lot of good things.  They can be a good resource.  But I truly wish they would distance themselves from corporate Kool-Aid like this.  It is misleading to parents who don’t know any better.  There are enough issues with special education in Delaware.  We really don’t want or welcome, for those of us who see these kind of education fix it companies as the charlatans they are, these kind of intrusions in our children’s lives.

Alliance For Excellent Education is led by former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise with funding by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  Wise pushes the “Future Ready Schools” initiative, as detailed in the biography on the All4ed.org website:

futurereadyschools

Don’t let the fancy talk fool you. Future Ready Schools requires district Superintendents to sign a “Future Ready Pledge”, heavily pushed by the U.S. Department of Education, to turn classrooms into an ed tech wonderland.  Five current or former Delaware Superintendents signed this pledge: Dr. Merv Daugherty with Red Clay Consolidated, Dr. Victoria Gehrt with New Castle County Vo-Tech, Alan Lathbury with Sussex Tech, Phyllis Kohel with Milford, and John Ewald with Laurel.  I have to wonder if they got the consent of their school boards, teachers, students, parents, and citizens of their districts before they committed themselves to this bogus “pledge”.  All you have to do is look at Future Ready’s “partners” to understand what this really is.

Remember when you were a child and someone, at one point in your life, told you “If I told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?”  Apparently, far too many of those in charge of school districts take the plunge with no regard for students whatsoever.  And it looks like PIC of Delaware is pretty wet already…

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 3: Union? We Don’t Need Your Stinkin’ Union!

How did the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition get around the Delaware State Education Association?

The Rodel Foundation, Delaware DOE, and the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition had a meeting coming up on November 20th, 2014.  In the meantime, things were heating up with the priority schools, especially a looming showdown between the Christina School District and the Delaware DOE.  Many people felt no matter what Christina or Red Clay did, the DOE was going to take the six schools and convert them to charter schools.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was getting ready to release the cut scores on the upcoming high-stakes test based on the field tests administered earlier that Spring.  The Delaware DOE was starting their town halls for their “school report card”.  They had released surveys to the public with ridiculous things like stop lights for grades (this eventually became the Delaware School Success Framework).  The IEP Task Force was in full swing and they were actively working on their final draft.  Unbeknownst to most, former Rodel employee Matthew Korobkin began his job in the Secretary of Education’s office at the DOE to begin work on the Special Education Strategic Plan.  This blogger had started doing some serious digging into Rodel after what I found out at the end of October of 2014.  The General Election came and went.  Matt Denn won the Delaware Attorney General slot in a landslide.  Two new state reps would have a dramatic effect on education in the General Assembly in the next year.

On November 19th, 2014, I released my mammoth Rodel article.  Knowing this little group was meeting in back-door meetings would have been good to know when I was writing that article.  It would have filled in some holes.  From what I heard from a few people, this article really rattled Rodel CEO Paul Herdman.  I know he was upset with me for daring to allege that Rodel would ever make money from hedge funds and somehow profit off Delaware education.  But in any event, the CBL Guiding Coalition was about to meet…

guiding-coalition-2nd-meeting

I tried the link referenced in the email to an Ed Week article, but the link no longer exists.  I have no doubt it reference some personalized learning school and how great it was.  When you look at the above email, note the word barriers.  If competency-based learning is supposed to be so great, why would there be any barriers?  At this point, it is probably a good idea to let folks know who was on both the Core and Advisory groups for this.

cbladvisorygroup

cblcoregroup

In terms of involvement, I don’t know if every single person participated in this CBL Guiding Coalition that was now divided into two groups. I do know, for example, that Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA did not go to any meetings of this group whatsoever.  There were six district Superintendents and one charter Head of School on the coalition.  Quite a few of the teachers were also on the Rodel Teacher Council.  Note the presence of university and college members.  There was a specific reason for that which will come in later parts.  Now, on most education committees and task forces, or any type of education group, there is always representation from the Delaware State Education Association.  But not on this coalition!  To me, the key figures in this group were Michael Watson, Susan Haberstroh, Wayne Hartschuh and Donna Johnson.  They were (and still are) important people at the DOE who were in a position to let the ideas of this group come into being.

In terms of the barriers, the coalition was very visible with what the policy and system barriers could be:

cblbarriers

In answer to why DSEA wasn’t represented on this committee, I think the words “collective barg”, which would be “collective bargaining” gives a clear answer to that question.  Unless this is all about some secret archaeology plan, I can only assume “dig learning” is “digital learning”.

guiding-coalition-3rd-meeting

Policies on seat time?  What does that mean?  In a competency-based world, a student doesn’t move on until they master the assignment or concept.  They must be proficient.  So what measures that proficiency?  The teacher?  Or a stealth assessment embedded into the ed tech the student is working on?  I love how the DOE and ed reformers turn simple words like “jigsaw” into something else.  I know what they mean, but why do they do that?

By the time their January 2015 meeting came around, the holidays came and went.  All eyes were on the Christina School District as they valiantly fought the DOE on the three priority schools in their district.  Red Clay signed their Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  A financial crisis occurred during Family Foundation’s charter renewal.  The community rallied for Gateway Lab School.  Parents were talking more and more about opt out.  And the General Assembly was back in session…

To Be Continued in Part 4: Playing with regulations, priorities change, and the DOE and the Governor freak out…

Prologue

Part 1

Part 2

Emails To Delaware Superintendents From DSCYF Confirms Definitive Discontinuation Of Services Was Planned

The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families sent two emails to Delaware Superintendents regarding the discontinuation of day treatment centers in Delaware.  I submitted a FOIA request to five Delaware Superintendents last evening to obtain these emails.  One of them got to me first so I canceled the other requests.  Both these emails give very definitive timeframes for when this was going to happen.  The State of Delaware reversed course on this issue, but make no mistake, this was going to happen prior to that decision.  One important thing from the second email is the glaring fact that TODAY is the last day for any district or charter school to make a referral for a day treatment center in Delaware.  So my question would be that if this change is on hold, is today still the last day for any referrals?  The second email had a lot of attachments included in the FOIA request.  Apparently there will be public meetings where they will present this.  One of them already happened in New Castle County on September 8th, but I would highly recommend they have another one since this story just broke in mainstream media two days ago.

Email sent to Delaware Superintendents 8/26/16

Follow-Up Email sent to Delaware Superintendents 9/9/16 and Key Information

 

Well This Should Be Interesting… The Irony Is Astounding!

On September 15th, a presentation will be given at the State Board of Education meeting by Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The subject: charter and district collaboration.  The irony!  Kendall will be joined by charter leaders AND district leaders.  I’d give pretty good odds Dusty Blakey will be there.  The Colonial Superintendent joined the board of Las Americas Aspiras last spring.  What other district leaders will be in attendance?  I’d give even better odds that Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski will NOT be there.

Who do you think will show up?

I’m going to guess Ed Emmett with Positive Outcomes, Matt Burrows with Appoquinimink, maybe Merv Daugherty with Red Clay, and could it happen?  Greg Meece with Newark Charter School?  They should be good as long as they don’t bring up FUNDING.

kendallsboepresentation

Who Will Be The New Delaware Secretary Of Education?

This won’t happen for another six months, but I thought I would get the speculation game going.  I’ve heard a few names bandied about.  Some who would qualify and others who would not.  Even though Senator Bryan Townsend introduced what I like to call the “Murphy Bill”, to prevent former gym teachers from becoming the State Secretary of Education here in little old Delaware, there are certain qualifications the nomination has to have.  The current state law states any candidate must have at least five years in teaching and administration, with experience in both.  This rules out Mike Matthews for example.  He would make a very fine Secretary of Education, but unfortunately, he isn’t qualified.  So could someone like Capital Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton qualify if he has only been an administrator for about a year?  Yes, he was a teacher way back when and he was also a Principal at Kirk Middle School and others.  It does not have to be a current or even a former Superintendent.

So who do you think will be the next Delaware Secretary of Education picked by the next Governor?  For the purposes of this poll, I left out names I’ve heard who would not be able to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate because of existing state law.

“The Data Walls Must Come Down”: My Email To All Delaware Superintendents & Charter Chiefs

When I say I am going to do something, I mean it.  Therefore, in response to my article about the atrocious data walls in Delaware schools I just emailed every single Delaware Superintendent and Charter Chief.  I will be emailing each district or charter school’s board of education as well and ask them to bring forth policy to eliminate these walls of shame.  To echo the departed President Ronald Reagan: “Delaware schools, tear down these data walls!” Like I did last year when I emailed all of them about opt out ignorance in Delaware schools, I am posting the email to this blog:

Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To: Burrows Matthew L. <matthew.burrows@appo.k12.de.us>; Holodick Mark <mark.holodick@bsd.k12.de.us>; Fitzgerald Kevin (K12) <kevin.fitzgerald@cr.k12.de.us>; Fulton Robert <robert.fulton@cape.k12.de.us>; Shelton Dan <dan.shelton@capital.k12.de.us>; ANDRZEJEWSKI ROBERT <robert.andrzejewski@christina.k12.de.us>; Blakey Dolan (K12) <dolan.blakey@colonial.k12.de.us>; Phillips Charity <charity.phillips@delmar.k12.de.us>; “susan.bunting@irsd.k12.de.us” <susan.bunting@irsd.k12.de.us>; “bgwynder@lf.k12.de.us” <bgwynder@lf.k12.de.us>; “shawn.larrimore@laurel.k12.de.us” <shawn.larrimore@laurel.k12.de.us>; Phyllis Kohel <pkohel@msd.k12.de.us>; Gehrt Vicki (K12) <vicki.gehrt@nccvt.k12.de.us>; Zych Deborah (K12) <deborah.zych@polytech.k12.de.us>; Daugherty Mervin B. <mervin.daugherty@redclay.k12.de.us>; Marshall Cheri <cheri.marshall@aod.k12.de.us>; “mark.phelps@academia.k12.de.us” <mark.phelps@academia.k12.de.us>; “margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us” <margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us>; Catherine Balsley <catherine.balsley@ccs.k12.de.us>; “spaoli@charterschool.org” <spaoli@charterschool.org>; “sandra.wilson-hypes@dapss.k12.de.us” <sandra.wilson-hypes@dapss.k12.de.us>; “Angela.Dennis@dcpa.k12.de.us” <angela.dennis@dcpa.k12.de.us>; “calvarez@design-labschools.org” <calvarez@design-labschools.org>; “anthony.pullela@dma.k12.de.us” <anthony.pullela@dma.k12.de.us>; Lamont Browne <lamont.browne@escs.k12.de.us>; “evelyn.edney@echs.k12.de.us” <evelyn.edney@echs.k12.de.us>; “rachel.valentin@ffa.k12.de.us” <rachel.valentin@ffa.k12.de.us>; Patrick Gallucci <patrick.gallucci@fsmilitary.k12.de.us>; “felicia.wennell@Freirecharterschool.org” <felicia.wennell@Freirecharterschool.org>; “tim.griffiths@gls.k12.de.us” <tim.griffiths@gls.k12.de.us>; “kchilds@greatoakscharter.org” <kchilds@greatoakscharter.org>; “smaldonado@kuumba.k12.de.us” <smaldonado@kuumba.k12.de.us>; “courtney.fox@fsma.k12.de.us” <courtney.fox@fsma.k12.de.us>; Linda Jennings <linda.jennings@mot.k12.de.us>; Meece Gregory <gregory.meece@ncs.k12.de.us>; Nick Manolakos <nick.manolakos@odyssey.k12.de.us>; “ed.emmett@pocs.k12.de.us” <ed.emmett@pocs.k12.de.us>; “cordie.greenlea@pa.k12.de.us” <cordie.greenlea@pa.k12.de.us>; Chuck Taylor <chuck.taylor@pca.k12.de.us>; “patricia.oliphant@saas.k12.de.us” <patricia.oliphant@saas.k12.de.us>; “Salome.Thomas-EL@tecs.k12.de.us” <salome.thomas-el@tecs.k12.de.us>

Sunday, May 22, 2016 9:09 PM

Good evening Delaware Superintendents and Charter Chiefs,

The last time I wrote most of you in unison like this was in regards to parent opt out last year when some of you were giving parents a hard time about making a choice for their child.  Today I write to you in regards to data walls in some of your schools.  While I recognize this may not even apply to some of you, I felt it was fair to include everyone to make myself very clear.

Any data wall showing any type of progress by a child compared to others, whether in the classroom, outside of the classroom, in a hallway, in the school lobby, or on any type of system (including a computer system) where even students can see how they rate against their peers is morally and ethically wrong.  Some schools post the names of students and I have seen pictures of students on some.  This needs to stop, right here, right now.  Those of you who are participating in this: do you have any clue what that does to a child?  Especially the ones who rate the lowest all the time.  Do you know what that does to a child’s self-confidence?  You could be comparing someone with an iq of 75 iq to a person with an iq of 125.  In what possible way are any of you okay with this?  Not to mention the potential FERPA violations with some of these.

Therefore, I request that all Delaware public schools take down their data walls by this Thursday, May 26th.  If they aren’t down, I will file FERPA violations as soon as I am possibly able if student data walls remain in any of your schools.  And I will file for each school.  I have a host of teachers and parents backing me on this.  I don’t care if this is a part of a focus or priority school plan, if you are in the Leader In Me program, or whatever reason you feel this is a good idea.  I don’t care if the DOE tells you to ignore me, or even US DOE.

I’m shocked it took me until now to find out about these things.  What has education come down to when we are doing this to kids?  And I don’t want to hear anything about competition and how it is good for kids.  It is not.  It is damaging and reprehensible.  For those who support this, you really need to be ashamed of yourself.  If you aren’t aware any of your schools are doing this, I would strongly recommend checking with each and every one of them to be sure because you better believe whether you know about it or not I will be filing a complaint if these aren’t gone by the end of the day on Thursday.

This madness in our education has to stop.  All of you run schools or districts and you have the power to put an end to this absolute insanity happening in our schools.  Why don’t any of you stand up to the DOE?  Why do so many of you kiss their ass constantly?  I see a lot of you do it and it makes me sick to my stomach.  You embrace the very things that are destroying public education.  Most of you are making a ton of money already.  But every time you pay for some vendor the DOE recommends, or sign up for the latest craze in education (flavor of the month: BRINC), you are getting one step closer to the end of what you are supposed to represent.  These are kids.  They aren’t remote control mechanisms you can control.  You can’t force a child to be more than they can endure.  Note I did not say capable, but what they can endure.  I believe every child is capable if it based on a modicum of reason and good instruction.  What is forced on our teachers is not.  Especially with these walls of shame.

I know some of you agree with me on this, but for those that do but still sing the song the DOE sings, please ask yourself why.  And don’t tell me it is for survival.  It is for power, and money.  If we haven’t learned this lesson in Delaware yet after the past twenty-five years, no one is fooled.  Many of you I have rubbed the wrong way many times.  I get that, and I completely understand if you dislike me.  But I’m not sending this out to stroke my own ego.  It’s because of children.  And parents, teachers, and those who care about education.  When we have lost the one thing that really matters, the heart of the student, then we have lost Delaware’s future.  And data walls are guaranteed to do that.  I don’t care if you have used them for the past 15 years or the past week.  They need to stop.

I will be emailing all of your boards throughout the week and I will be asking them to create policies forbidding data walls in all of your schools.  I’m sure some of the walls are beautiful and great works of art.  But the heart and self-confidence of a child are the most beautiful and the greatest work of art ever created.  If even one student feels shame from these data walls, that is one too many.

As always, in the vein of transparency, I will be posting this email to Exceptional Delaware.  Please share this with the principals of all your schools and anyone who you feel would benefit from this.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

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.

 

 

 

 

DOE’s Last Gasp In Fighting Opt-Out Is Resulting In Games And Lies Coming From Markell’s Favorites

Matthew Albright with the News Journal wrote about the betrayal and backstabbing by Secretary Godowsky and the Delaware Department of Education yesterday.  I have to wonder if that story would have come out two weeks from now had I not broken the news last night…

The whole article is chock full of lies as the REAL story is coming out.  I’ll get to the REAL story shortly, but some points I want to make from the News Journal article.

That’s a harsher penalty for schools with low participation rates than a panel of administrators and teacher and parent advocates recommended.

Let’s take a good look at this.  Because in the eyes of the DOE and the State Board of Education, the only voices that mattered in this charade were Donna Johnson, Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna.  Johnson is the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, and she has been calling the shots in the House of Jack for far too long.  She advises the State Board what to vote for, and she sits on these committees and work groups all the time.  I won’t get too much into the machinations Johnson has been up to as some are still under investigation.  But it is past time Donna Johnson was removed from power in the Townshend Building.  As for Schwinn, she smiles a lot and talks the big talk, but I have no doubt she formed this work group for the sole purpose of making it look like the DOE gave a crap about stakeholder input.  Reyna is the wild card, the guy who answers to Schwinn and does whatever she wants.  All three of them- Johnson, Schwinn, and Reyna- have been giving false advice to not only the AFWG, but also to the State Board and Secretary of Godowsky.

State officials say the penalty is a fair way to make sure every student’s academic progress is considered when sizing up a school.

I’m calling bullshit on this one.  The penalty is so the DOE can punish schools for a parent’s decision.  And it is the DOE sizing up the schools and casting their judgments on them.  And this is the infamous “Accountability 2.0” I wrote about earlier this year which came from an email at the DOE from 2013.  The DOE has been planning this Delaware School Success Framework for years.  The legislation they had to plan in April of 2015?  That is Regulation 103.  It got pushed back about six months, but make no mistake, it was all for this school report card crap.  And implementation of the school report card?  That takes place in the 2016-2017 school year.

The federal government requires states have an accountability system, and it requires that test results make up a significant part of the score. It also requires “consequences” for schools that fall below 95 percent participation on the state test.

Do some fact checking on this one Matt Albright!  Did the Delaware DOE tell you that, or did you actually contact the US DOE for that information?  In the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), it does state schools must have a report card.  The ESEA was passed by Congress in 1965.  It has been amended several times, but since President Obama came aboard, the Feds have played a heavy hand in education with non-regulatory guidance.  Which is NOT Congressionally approved.  The US DOE knows damn well what kind of game they are playing here.

The group recommended schools that fall below 95 percent should be required to submit a report explaining why that happened and how to improve participation – and should be ineligible to receive certain honors from the state.

Here is where the DOE’s argument falls apart.  The day the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG) approved this unanimously, Penny Schwinn explained to the group that Governor Markell gave certain options as penalties for the participation rate.  This was one of the options she proposed by the Governor.  The very next day, at the DESS Advisory Group, Schwinn explained that she talked to Governor Markell the night before, after the last AFWG meeting, and he was okay with the group’s recommendation.  So what changed in a month?  Meanwhile, the trio of Schwinn, Reyna and Johnson have been telling folks schools will lose Federal funding if the participation rate goes below 95%.  Which is an absolute lie.

And then the DOE’s Public Information Officer chimed in (who used to write for the News Journal):

“The state feels this is a fair proposal that takes into consideration participation, crediting schools that that work to ensure every child’s learning growth is considered,” May wrote.

Yes, the “that that” was in the article.  When May says “the state”, who is she talking about?  Donna Johnson?  Ryan Reyna?  Penny Schwinn?  Jack Markell?  Secretary Godowsky?  The DOE and Governor Markell are not “the state”.  “The state” is also made up of educators, parents, legislators and citizens.  I’m sure if a vote was taken right now, the entirety of “the state” would not agree with this.  First and foremost, it is bad policy, and second of all, it has Jack Markell’s stink all over it.  This is his way of leaving his legacy of hate for any who would stand against him.

She also points out that parents would still be able to see the school’s unadjusted performance when they get their “report cards” in the mail or online, but the overall component that measures academic performance would be lowered.

This is the DOE’s way of saying “Hey, you parents who opted your kid out, look what you did. This is what it would have been had you not opted your kid out, but because you did this is causing your kid’s school to look bad”.  It is a slap in the face of parents and their rights, and a kick in the back to the schools who aren’t allowed to encourage opt-out.

The Delaware State Education Association had a representative on the working group, and its president, Frederika Jenner, said the education union stood by its recommendation.

Really Frederika?  You might want to talk to your director and your AFWG rep, cause I’m hearing talk coming out of the DOE that they both support this opt-out penalty.  More on that one later.

State officials, however, maintain that the penalty isn’t related to opt out.

This is the biggest joke of them all.  Participation rate IS based on opt-out.  If it isn’t about opt-out, what the hell is it about?  You are lying through your lying little teeth DOE.  You lie when you don’t even have to.  You are a Department of compulsive liars.  Shame on you for abusing authority like this and lying to parents, students, educators and the citizens of Delaware.  Shame on you!  You all hate opt-out because you know it is the only mechanism left that can and will put a stop to all or your crafty plans.

As for Secretary Godowsky… if you honestly believe everything that has come out of the mouths of Johnson, Schwinn and Reyna, you are unfit to be the Delaware Secretary of Education.  I know of many conversations you had today with things that are not even in this article in an effort to put a lid on this quickly.  Where is the whole part about the Smarter Balanced Assessment going away for juniors because of the SAT which is being realigned to become SBAC Jr.?  How about the part where the participation rate for the SAT is 100% because Delaware used Race To The Top funds to pay for that and paid for every high school junior to take it?  But now those funds are gone?  Buries that argument real quick!  Or the part where certain people at DSEA and all the Superintendents of all the districts are behind this because of the very faulty SAT argument which only accounts for high school juniors?  I’m also hearing those state superintendents were not happy at all about this total ignorance of the AFWG’s recommendations.  So which is the real story Secretary Godowsky?  The fabrication of lies in the News Journal, or what you are telling other folks?  It sounds to me like you are lining up all the stakeholders and playing them against each other.  Shifting blame and collaboration to appease the complaints you got today.  Sorry Secretary Godowsky, I know you have your defenders, but all your effort and lip service to making the DOE better fell apart in a week once your were confirmed by the Delaware Senate.

And Jack.  Jack Jack Jack…  Don’t think you are just sliding out of this one.  No way!  Your dirty fingerprints are all over this one.  We all know these underlings of yours don’t breathe sideways unless you give them your dictatorial stamp of approval.  Once again, like you did when you came up with your rebuttals against opt-out and vetoed House Bill 50, you are disrespecting parents and their rights.  You are allowing YOUR Department, your education governance system to LIE to the very people you are sworn to represent.  You are not an honorable man.  You are duplicitous and slimy.  I have no doubt you will continue to destroy public education and Pompeii the whole thing before you leave office.  This is your payback now.  Your small, petty and vengeful payback against those who would dare to stand against the almighty Jack Markell.  But you will lose on this one Jack.  Make no mistake.  This will be rectified and course corrected, and soon, you and your little regulation raiders will be gone and your legacy of shame will go down in the history of Delaware as one of the worst governorships the First State has ever seen.

The DOE, State Board & Superintendents Want To Get Opt-Out Punishment Into State Code Before January

This may very well be the most important article I have ever written on Exceptional Delaware.  Parents, teachers, and citizens need to know what is going on and how perceived absolute power corrupts and serves to belittle and demean those who don’t have it.  Those of us who have been fighting for every student’s education in this state can’t do it alone.  You need to TAKE the power from those who would punish our children, teachers, and schools.  You need to let everyone in the state know about THIS article, because the fate of our children’s future depends on it. Continue reading

Breaking News: Delaware DOE To Punish Schools Over Opt-Out Rate w/School Report Card, Did NOT Submit This For ESEA Waiver

The Delaware Department of Education will punish schools with high opt-out rates based on their School Report Card.  As found in the below document, the school report card is a new system mandated by the US DOE.  Since last summer, the Accountability Framework Working Group has been meeting to get this going in Delaware.  How this works is a school will receive a grade based on multiple factors: academic, graduation rates, etc.  Whatever their academic score is, the DOE will multiply the assessment participation rate against the score.  So as an example, say Charter School of Wilmington gets a score of 90 for their academics.  If their assessment participation rate overall was at 80%, you would multiply 90 x .8, which would give the school an academic score of 72.

They are doing this under the sly.  They did not include this in what was sent to the US DOE for their ESEA Flex Waiver request, which was approved by the feds in July.  This is just another example of the DOE plotting behind the scenes with superintendents from Delaware school districts and making rules without any stakeholder input.  And even then, they just ignore it.  They do what they want and to hell with the consequences.  Below, you can see the ESEA Waiver Approval letter from the US DOE, which mentions NOTHING about this at all, but the State Board approved this in their March 19th, 2015 meeting, which you can listen to here.

So which superintendents and charter heads are on this group? Mark Holodick, Heath Chasanov, Kevin Fitzgerald, Sally Maldonado, Ed Emmett, and other key district staff.  This is a group that doesn’t publicly announce their meetings from what I can see on the DOE calendar on their website or on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  They are creating rules for schools without ANY public feedback whatsoever.  I knew there was more to this whole school report card thing, and now we have the proof.  This group, at first, did not have any representation from parents or the Delaware State Educators Association, but was later added.  I’m sorry, I love Bill Doolittle with the Delaware PTA, but he cannot be the DOE’s go-to guy every time they need a parent on a group.  That is not TRUE stakeholder input.  They should have a minimum of three parents on any task force, group, committee, or commission.  If not MORE!

How ironic they have NO participation from districts where their board passed an opt-out resolution: Capital, Christina and Red Clay…

Delaware parents, don’t let this sway you from opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  If you all do it, then it won’t matter what the participation rate was!  School starts this week or next week for most students, so remember, first day, give the principal your REFUSE THE TEST letter!

UPDATED, 2:35pm, 8/25/15: Ryan Reyna with the Delaware DOE published this document for schools to upload into the Accountability Student Verification system, dated 7/27/15…

Bill To Give K-3 Students Basic Special Education Funding Clears Through Delaware House Education Committee

At the Delaware House Education Committee meeting today, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 30, which would allow students with basic special education needs to receive extra funding in grades Kindergarten to 3rd grade, was unanimously released rom the committee.

The bill’s next stop is the House Appropriations Committee due to a $10 million fiscal note attached to it.  My take on this: this should have never happened in the first place in Delaware.  Part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), reauthorized in 2004, states schools must have adequate resources available for students on an IEP.  Delaware, in my opinion, is in Federal violation of this part of IDEA ever since Governor Jack Markell issued his Executive Order for needs-based funding and this necessary allotment didn’t go to these students.

Several parents have reported their children were denied IEPs in Delaware during these pivotal school years.  The fact that there was no extra funding available for these students has caused many parents to wonder if this was why.

Several Delaware Superintendents voiced their support for the legislation indicating it would give these students the supports they need, especially since the rates are climbing for students with disabilities.  Merv Daugherty, the Superintendent for Red Clay Consolidated, said his K-3 students in his school district are bigger than some of the other Delaware School Districts.  No representatives from charter schools or charter school organizations spoke up about the legislation and it did not appear any were in attendance.