Delaware Auditor Tom Wagner Releases Heavily Edited New Version Of September 30th Unit Count Inspection Report

Tom Wagner, the elected Delaware State Auditor, issued a new September 30th inspect report from his office today.  The original report, issued on May 4th of this year, was conducted by Kathleen Davies who was put on leave in Mid-May.  Oddly enough, this report does not even appear on the state website but this was emailed to many state employees and legislators this morning.

I am presenting both the new report and the original so readers can compare the two.

To view the original point, go below:

In comparing the two documents, there are significant changes.  Missing in the new report is a letter from Thomas Wagner to Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  In the new report there is a new Appendix where the auditor’s office gave each charter school or district that received a finding to respond to the initial report issued on May 4th.  There are key edits of certain sections.  Especially when it revolves around the Delaware Department of Education.  The changes appear to fluff up the DOE in certain instances.  Almost as if the DOE had editing power over an audit approved by the State Auditor.

I resent this whole new report and the attempt to demean Kathleen Davies.  No logical explanations have been provided by anyone on her situation.  This smear campaign by the State Auditor’s office and the Office of Management and Budget needs something more than some bogus explanation provided by Ann Visalli.  Wagner needs to step up for his employee who did her job faithfully for many years.  Instead, just this new report alone looks like he is majorly kissing up to the Delaware DOE, led by Secretary Godowsky, who serves at the pleasure of Governor Markell.

2016 Update: Which Articles Get The Most Hits?

2016 has been a very interesting year in blogging.  Some articles took off way beyond what I thought they would while others didn’t even hit the 1,000 mark.  Such is life in Delaware education!  The articles that get the most hits on this blog seem to take on a life of their own.  It is very odd to watch as the writer of this blog.  I think to myself, “this is Delaware, it can’t be that interesting!”

Without further ado, here are the top 2016 articles on Exceptional Delaware:

  1. Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints 51,505 hits
  2. Her Name Is Amy 36,029 hits
  3. Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice From Year Long Nightmare 22,277 hits
  4. Tragedy Strikes Howard High School In Wilmington As Student Dies From Head Injuries In Fight 6,924 hits
  5. Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary School, Best Teachers, & More 3,098 hits
  6. Delaware Senate Passes The “No School After Labor Day” Bill With Close Vote 3,054 hits
  7. Delaware DOE Hits All-Time Low With Very Scummy Move Against Teachers… 1,993 hits
  8. ***UPDATED***Channel 6 ABC Action News Gives Updated Information About Details In Amy Joyner-Francis Case 1,823 hits
  9. Governor Markell Takes It To Facebook And Receives The Beat Down Of His Life! 1,783 hits
  10. Delaware’s Pee Problem 1,712 hits

Out of all the above articles, the one that was the hardest to write was Her Name Is Amy.  It was the day after her murder at Howard High School of Technology, and the words just came out of me.  The data walls article really took me by surprise.  I wrote the whole article in about five minutes while at work one day in response to a Facebook post.  When I checked my laptop a few hours later at my next break, it had over 3,000 hits.  The whole Senate Labor Day bill was also a post I thought no one would really care about, but it clearly resonated with readers for some reason.  A lot of these articles generated so many hits because they were either original topics that couldn’t really be found anywhere else or because they dealt with a tragedy on a scale we weren’t used to in Delaware.  The fact that three of these articles dealt directly with Amy Joyner-Francis speaks volumes at the grief we felt (and still do) over her senseless death.  There was a lot of misinformation about what happened that day.  Some of it was discounted only to be later verified.  In some instances, it was just bad information.  When I was prepping the Brandywine lawsuit article, I had a feeling it would be big, but not that big.  The Pee article was meant to be serious, and it was.  But sometimes the title just jumps out and says “read me”.

For the data walls article, I will be keeping a close eye on this topic.  I want to hear from any parent, teacher, or student who sees data walls in our schools that give out names and test scores and rankings of students.  In the classroom or out, especially if it is in an area where anyone can see it.  Many schools who practiced this last year got a reprieve from me because it was the end of the school year, but I will not be so kind this year.

Blogging is an odd thing.  None of these posts were heavily linked to with the exception of Facebook in certain situations.  Facebook, Twitter, and Google have always been my biggest “referrers”.  What none of these hits include are hits to my “homepage” which received 93,065 hits so far this year.  Each year, this blog gets bigger, and I am very grateful for that.  When I began this little thing back in June of 2014, I didn’t foresee anything like this or what it became.  I thank all my readers, near and far, for coming to visit.  It’s been controversial, it’s been real, and it’s even been fun with some stuff.  The people I’ve met since have left a very big impression on me.  I am a better man for meeting a lot of you!  And some, I won’t go there!

While I don’t always slow down in the summer, my readers do.  I have noticed a crystal clear trend with this as my 3rd year of summer blogging comes to a finish.  Things ramp up big time in late August/early September.  That continues up until Christmas.  Slows down for a few weeks, and then the General Assembly comes back.  Things slow down around Easter for a week, and then back up again until June 30th.  Slows to a crawl on 4th of July, and goes up or down all summer depending on how many people are around and not purposely checking out from “real life”.  But summer is when the DOE is usually the most crafty, so I make it an extra point to monitor them closely then.  Sometimes it takes a while to put the pieces together, but eventually a picture forms.

Funny story, the first time I wrote an article about Governor Markell in the title, I thought for sure the Delaware Secret Service would be collecting me at work.  It never happened, and as time went on, I stopped worrying about stuff like that.  It’s not that I’ve ever been about to destroy Jack Markell.  I’ve always hoped he would wake up one day and do the right thing.  But he is very predictable once you figure him out.  He constantly disappoints me, but that feeling leads me to the truth every singe time.  I’ve always made it a point to tell the truth on here.  Some of that is perception, and some were gut reactions, borne out of frustration and anger.  I’ve flip-flopped on a lot of things, but some things have stood the test of time: my stances on Smarter Balanced, Opt Out, personalized learning, Rodel, Markell, the Delaware DOE, and the Delaware State Board of Education.  I still think special education needs vast improvement in Delaware.  Following the money has taken more time and research the past few months, but I understand things so much more than I used to.  It isn’t just a charter thing, it’s a Delaware public education thing.

I’ve written some things on here that some found reprehensible but I stand by those decisions.  To my detractors, I ask this: if I am wrong about so many things, why do I get no response for those things from those who know the truth?  They have the ability to reach me.  They all know how.  It has been a very rare event when I left a comment in moderation because of the nature of the comment.  I can count those on one hand.  I have never edited a comment.  I’ve corrected articles many times.  In Delaware education, transparency is not always there so you draw conclusions based on what you have and the information presented.  I’ve even apologized if I was wrong in the past.  Sometimes I hear that others are upset with me, but I never seem to hear from those “others”.  To those “others”, you should not feel afraid to reach out to me.  I may not agree with you, but I will certainly present your side of the story.  As long as you don’t lie to me or intentionally try to mislead me.  Cause if I find out, you can be pretty damn sure I will write about that.

At the end of the day, this isn’t my blog.  It isn’t even about the people who read it.  It’s about the Delaware kids in public education.  It’s about my kid and yours.  When politics gets involved, it can get ugly.  I won’t endorse those who toe the party line or vote against something that could and should be in a student’s best interests.  In Delaware, we have the capability of ushering in true change to education.  We stand on the cusp of something better and different.  But all of this depends on how you vote in the September primaries and on Election Day in November.

I urge all of you to do research into which legislators have stood up for public education.  Who has supported the rights of teachers and parents?  Who voted against the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Who has openly, even in the face of disdain from their peers in their own party, voted for what is right and not for what the Governor or the forces against public education want?  Who goes to a lot of education meetings and serves the will of the people and not the Governor?  This can be a very thin line at times.  There are many parents who support charter schools and school choice in this state.  I recognize that, and I accept that.  Some assume certain politicians are out to destroy charters.  They aren’t.  They just want transparency and honesty, about their finances or their enrollment practices.  They see and hear things you never hear a word about.  They see the lobbyists in full swing at Legislative Hall and know who is zooming who.

I think most of us want something better for our kids than what we have.  But if you want to live in a sheltered island where everything is safe for the few, and not the many, then that isn’t always the best thing.  Parents are used when they exist in those kind of environments.  They are more willing to believe certain things because it is all they know.  But trust me when I say the reality is very different.  There are people in this state who are all about themselves.  They may smile and appear to be the nicest people in the world.  They aren’t.  They know who they are.  They know what they do.  I believe most, if not all of them, are fully cognizant of their actions.  I’ve seen many of their faces when they aren’t in a crowd.  They aren’t the same faces.  It is truly horrifying to see sometimes.  I can also see the weight of guilt on some of them.  I see the stress on their face and the remorse in their eyes.  But they feel powerless to do the right thing.  This isn’t something I can fathom.  I guess it just isn’t in my genetic makeup.  I feel for them in the same respect I feel bad for anyone who does wrong and it eats at them.  We have all been there at one point or another.  It isn’t a fun feeling.  But at the same time, I don’t feel any loyalty to these people.  Everyone has the opportunity to tell the truth or live a better life.  It might mean sacrificing something these people aren’t willing to do.  I don’t think it’s a question of not being able to do so for any of them.

We all make choices, for good or bad.  I believe we all face moments when we wrestle with those choices.  Struggle with what to do.  We may be protecting someone else, or just ourselves.  But when it involves kids, there is no place for ego or greed or manipulation or lies or fraud or power.  Because most of these kids, they don’t know how to do those kind of things.  They are seeing the paths set for them by the adults.  So for those who I am talking about here, and you know damn well who you are, are you okay with Delaware students being who you are when they are your age?  Are you okay with them taking the same actions you have?  Because that is what will happen.  If it isn’t your own children or grandchildren, it will be someone else’s kid.    Someone who will grow up and think the game is more important than life.  Is that really what you want?

Why I Want Your Vote For The Capital School Board

TwitterAnnouncement

For those who haven’t heard, I am jumping into the fire!  Anyone reading this blog knows my stances on education.  Is it enough though?  We need change and we need it now.

These are the reasons I am running.  I will tackle each reason below.

  1. Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District.
  2. Every student needs to be treated as an individual and not a test score.
  3. Our middle schools need a lot of help.
  4. We need more fiscal transparency and accountability.
  5. Low-Income Students.
  6. The Every Student Succeeds Act.
  7. Student Data.
  8. More participation from parents in the district.
  9. Special Education.
  10. More participation in state legislative matters.
  11. Charter schools within our district.
  12. Kindergarten.
  13. Support for our teachers.
  14. Ensuring opt out of standardized testing is honored as a parental right.
  15. More focus on the arts.
  16. Perception of the district.
  17. Perception of Dover as a result of the district.
  18. Oversight of the Delaware Department of Education and the United States Department of Education.
  19. Leadership

CapitalSchoolBoardPoster

“Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District” Continue reading

DE State Board President Dr. Gray Gets Militant About Smarter Balanced Scores & Teacher Evaluations

I can’t believe I first watched this video last night!  This is classic!  It was the Delaware Education Desk, hosted by Avi Wolfman-Arent of WHYY/Newsworks and the two guests were State Rep. John Kowalko and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.  The date was 6/10/15, the same day as the wild and crazy Senate Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50.  When the subject came up about teacher evaluations tied into standardized test scores, Dr. Gray completely loses her composure and gets very angry.  This is the same type of Dr. Gray we saw at the December State Board of Education meeting when the subject of the Christina Priority Schools came up.  What can I say?  Jack Markell picked her…

Many Delaware Parents Are NOT Happy With Smarter Balanced Results

As predicted, Delaware parents are not happy with the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  Of course, the ones who scored proficient or above have not been vocal.  But the 49% of parents who are seeing English/Language Arts non-proficiency and 62% non-proficiency for math, are not too happy.  And parents of special needs children are horrified.  The Delaware DOE is going to put the maximum spin machine on this utilizing every possible source they can use.  The State Board of Education is having a workshop at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover next week to deal with the fallout.  Of course, they are going to talk about the myths and fallacies of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Will they come right out and say “Don’t read Exceptional Delaware, Kavips, or any of the other Delaware blogs”? Or will they, for once in their professional lives, come out and say “You know what, we messed up.  This test is horrible.  We apologize, and let’s really work together to come up with a new test.  We want your help, and all the other stakeholders we didn’t include the last time.”

If they did the latter, and stuck to it, I would be utterly amazed and shocked.  Oddly enough, Governor Markell has been strangely quiet on the issue.  Of course, he went to Germany last week, and the Pope is coming to town this week.  But we are heading into election mode, and it wouldn’t shock me if every announced or potential candidate told his office they don’t want him talking about this test at all!

All Delaware Parents: Opt Out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment #netde #eduDE #edchat #delaware

That is the only way anything can change. If enough parents do it, there will be a very large impact on every school in Delaware and the DOE. We’ve been seeing Common Core for a couple years now, but this is the school year where it will have a huge impact our students. Was it a pain for students in Delaware public schools to take DCAS three times a year? Yes, but I would have my son take DCAS ten times a year before I let him touch the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The time is now. Don’t sit on the fence and wait. Because it will be too late then. Do it now. If we ALL do it, the DOE would have to listen.

Cause I can tell you, they are all sitting in their little chairs at the DOE, smug as all get out, because this is the year all their plans come to fruition. For any parent still not satisfied, take a look at the Louisiana lawsuit concerning Common Core. Look at what happened at the rigged contracting with Pearson and Apple in Los Angeles. Look at what is happening to teachers and how their rights are being toyed with on a daily basis. You may not like education now, parents, but you will HATE it very soon. Don’t come late to the party, opt-out now!

Just call your school district tomorrow and ask how you can opt-out your child from standardized testing. They will tell you their is no opt-out procedure. Then you ask what the consequences are. They will tell you there are none, but if the district is less than 95% participation rate in the testing it could affect funding. But parents, if ALL school districts go below that number, are they going to cut funding to all the schools? Hell no! Public, charter, vocational: Don’t support the core. Stop taking orders and start running things your own way. The state and the feds have unnecessarily interrupted something that wasn’t so bad to begin with.

Bored With The Board of Ed! Welcome to Delaware Penny Schwinn! Please Read Up On Our State! #netde #eduDE #edchat @BadassTeachersA @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_DE

The Delaware Board of Education meeting yesterday was full of controversy and shock.

I attended about an hour and a half of the Delaware Board of Education meeting yesterday. When I arrived, a gentleman from the American Heart Association was thanking the Board for their support. I sat next to a familiar face who was cutting out items for his classroom with a pair of scissors. I introduced myself to Mike Matthews who I had been in contact with on social media recently. I asked if he was giving public comment, and he said I just missed it but to definitely listen to the digital audio recording when it is available. Throughout the meeting, Matthews and I had continuous looks of shock and awe with the comments coming from not only the Board, but members of the Office of Accountability and Performance.

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy seemed very upset about the recent report on how 0% of teachers in Delaware were not ineffective. He didn’t seem to think this was the reality in Delaware. But we all know this will change in a year when the Smarter Balanced Scores come out, which the state has already said they are aware student scores will plummet, and teacher evaluations will be based on these scores.

The Board went through their motions, and we arrived at the Performance and Accountability Presentation. Penny Schwinn is the new Chief Officer of Accountability and Performance for the Delaware DOE. After Assessment Director Brian Touchette gave his reasons for why there are gaps in performance testing between different subgroups, and why charters weren’t included in the Performance and Accountability Presentation (because they have their own performance framework arrangement with the state of Delaware), Schwinn gave a rather enlightening and distorted presentation of African-American students and students with disabilities.

For children with disabilities, she claimed the reasons for the performance gaps in DCAS scores was attributable to the following factors: Litigation at a district level distracted teachers from being able to give adequate special education accommodations, high teacher turn-over and a limited hiring pool in Delaware for quality special education teachers compared to other states. She did say there is a new strategy of looking at IEPs in Delaware, and that is to target the performance of students with disabilities. Which is, as we all know, the coming standards-based IEPs in Delaware. She did recognize that dual credentials for special education teachers provide “expertise and knowledge” in the classroom. What she failed to mention, in Delaware and across America, many special education teachers are leaving the profession due to upcoming teacher evaluations which will be based on student test scores. Many special ed teachers fear losing their jobs, so they are leaving the profession. Who will replace all these teachers with this expertise and knowledge when they are driven out or quit?

Schwinn expressed her interest in Student-Based Plans, which are IEPs, but for regular students. This is one of the goals of Rodel’s Vision 2025, to do away with special education and all students get their own version of IEPs. This just supports my fear and theories of the future of special education. See https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/special-education-in-america-where-is-it-going-spread-this-link-all-over-reblog-netde-edude-delaware-usedgov/

Schwinn went on to talk about African-American student performance in Delaware. She said they expect high performance from all students, and this is driven through PLCs and site leadership. PLC is Professional Learning Community, which emphasizes shared leadership, community-based work groups, and learning over teaching. Schwinn wants to create strategies to prevent downward trends among African-American students in Delaware. She said there is a low expectation for African-American students from teachers “across the board”. At this point, Board of Ed Member Gregory Coverdale asked Schwinn if she felt the rising violence and murders in Wilmington was causing an impact in classroom environment in that area, to which she responded “That isn’t necessarily a hurdle to overcome”. For the three African-American members of the Board of Education, the looks on their faces said it all immediately after her response.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, the President of the Board of Education, said the following based on an article from WDDE today: “From those of us who are in under-represented groups, we deal with this often,” said Gray, who is African-American. “I’m not quite sure what to say about low expectations and cultural mindset,” she said. “How do you address that? A shift of culture takes 20 years, as they say, at least 10.” – See more at: http://www.wdde.org/66555-state-education-officials-seek-reasons-lack-progress-narrowing-achievement-gap#sthash.ii0NJYD3.dpuf

It is obvious Schwinn, who has been in her role for two months after leaving Sacramento, CA, needs to do a bit more research on Delaware. To think the issues of crime in Wilmington won’t have an impact on the classroom is foolish and naïve. To insult issues of poverty, crime and discrimination shows an apparent lack of the true reality in Wilmington. This is definitely a hurdle to overcome Penny Schwinn, and to continue to ignore this reality will only make the problem worse. As the Chief Of Accountability and Performance in Delaware, you need to look at ALL aspects of environment and how they impact the classroom.

For students with disabilities, Schwinn needs to recognize why special education teachers are leaving the profession, and that is mainly due to forced compliance with Common Core standards being shoved down their throats. Children are more than test scores, and the sooner the DOE realizes that, the better education and special education in Delaware will be. Litigation is rising in Delaware because of this education reform, not in spite of it.

The fact that charter schools in Delaware were not included in this presentation speaks volumes. To not include them ignores the impact charter schools have had on students with disabilities and minorities in Delaware, especially in the Wilmington area. Certain charter schools in our state have specific enrollment requirements that discriminates against low-income minorities and special needs children. The easy excuse for this by ignorant people is that children with disabilities are “low performers”. I think the Exceptional Children Group in the DOE is on the right track in correcting this position, but they need to realign their priorities in how to go about this.

But I can see how you would come to those conclusions based on your resume: http://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/meet-the-new-chief-accountability-and-performance-officer-for-the-delaware-doe-more-choice-accountability-and-tfa-straight-up-gap-closing-bullshit/

And yet, your one tweet twitter account from 2010 tells a completely different story: “@EnchantmentAZ As a teacher, role model and advocate for kids from low income communities, my mom inspired me to teach and be a foster mom.”

You are not currently advocating for these children. You may want to recheck your roots and be a part of the solution, not the problem.