Many people in America today are facing an impossible choice. We call this Election Day. I am choosing to spend the day looking at all that is good about America and more specifically the state I live in, Delaware. No matter what happens today, we can’t let anyone take away the spirit of what makes us Americans. We have liberties we often take for granted. Beyond the politics of it all, we all should want the best for each other, especially the children. We have so much talent in this country. Each mind is a unique and wonderful creation of beauty and grace. In Delaware, we have people doing things no one hears about, every single day. We have children who have so many gifts. We have stories of hope and inspiration. As a friend of mine said on Facebook the other day, we are more than this election.
The United States Supreme Court will decide the fate of millions of special education students in America when they rule on a controversial case regarding what the appropriate amount of FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) is for students with disabilities. The landmark case, Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District, could have major consequences for special education students.
According to Disability Scoop:
The Supreme Court’s decision to take up the matter comes at the urging of the Obama administration. In a brief issued last month, the U.S. solicitor general agreed with the parents that the IDEA requires schools to provide more than minimal benefit to students with disabilities.
“This court should hold that states must provide children with disabilities educational benefits that are meaningful in light of the child’s potential and the IDEA’s stated purposes. Merely aiming for non-trivial progress is not sufficient,” the solicitor general indicated.
This could be a moment of triumph or severe disappointment. With the rise of Common Core and a transition from teacher-led instruction to constant bombardment of education technology and a competency-based education environment, students with disabilities have suffered the most from the constant education reform that has taken place over the past twenty plus years. As their numbers rise, so do the corporate profits. They have been forced to take a litany of state assessments that have the same results, year after year: these students tend to perform the worst on these tests. The amount of parents choosing to go the home school route for their special needs children has risen dramatically in the last decade.
A free appropriate public education, in its current landscape, comes with a very steep price for students with disabilities. Unless the Supreme Court clearly defines what FAPE should be, in the face of the overwhelming corporate-driven changes in our schools, these children will continue to be lost in public education. Personalized learning, in the modern-day era meaning, would gear all students towards their own individual education plans which strips the special out of special education. This flies in the face of what disability advocates fight for every single day.
Last night, I watched a movie released last summer called “Me Before You”. The movie dealt with the basic eventualities facing human beings: life and death. Without giving away the outcome of the movie, here is the basic premise of the movie based on the book by Jojo Moyes:
Will Traynor is struck by a motorcycle and becomes paralyzed from the neck down. Traynor is deeply depressed and in a great deal of physical pain and anguish afterwards. He was a very adventurous and daring man before this. Having gone through many caretakers who were not able to deal with the troubled man, his parents hire Lou Clark, a woman from a low-income London family who does not subscribe to the status quo and is her own woman. She doesn’t care how others view her at all.
After months of Traynor doing the same things he did with his other caretakers, eventually Clark is able to get Traynor to come out of his depression and smile. The two form a deep bond. Clark soon discovers her boyfriend is unable to deal with her passion for helping Traynor. Meanwhile, Clark discovers Traynor told his parents he wants to end his life at a Swiss clinic in six months as he no longer has the will to live with his condition. Clark makes it her mission in life to get Traynor to change his mind.
This is a story about love and sacrifice in its purest form. Both characters changed because of their interaction with each other. By the end of the story, they are not the same people. Traynor begins to experience life again through Clark’s eyes. Clark wrestles with what is best for Traynor: what she wants or what he wants.
This is a movie about a person with a disability. Many disability advocates spoke out against the movie. They felt what Traynor wanted to do was a cop-out and could give the wrong message to those afflicted with paralysis. Is it considered “death with dignity” if that death is not imminent? The movie talks a great deal about Traynor’s suffering and screams in the night, but does not show those moments of suffering. It does show incidents where Traynor suffers from high fevers and a hospitalization. The viewer is left with the impression Traynor suffers immensely from his disability. Choosing the moment of our death is a question of faith and belief. Many feel that is not our decision but that of God. Others feel it is murder. I don’t have the answers to those questions. But it got me thinking, about life and death. Do we embrace today or do the events of life determine who we are?
*Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture – © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwin-Mayer Pictures Inc.
Today, Delaware Governor Markell signed an Executive Order which creates an Advisory n Committee for the Every Student Succeeds Act. As required by federal law, this group will convene to provide input (not make final decisions) on ESSA which was signed by President Obama last December. I am assuming this group will replace the DESS Advisory Committee which was required under the former federal education law, ESEA.
This group will have the usual slots: President of the State Board of Education, President of the Delaware State Education Association, and other education, business, and state associations. There are only two legislator slots, one from the Senate and one from the House. Usually, these kind of groups have representation of both parties in the House and the Senate. Only three teachers will be picked, and only four parents. On something this important, bigger is better. But lest we forget, these members will be picked by the Governor, so expect some controversy over those picks!
As well, there will be a series of “Community Conversations” coming up at the end of September. I pray this isn’t a one-sided show where select people are telling the audience what has to happen. It needs to be a true back and forth exchange to be a true conversation.
Below is Executive Order #62 and the press release from the Delaware DOE.
Markell Creates Group to Support Implementation of New Federal Education Law
Calling a new federal education law an opportunity for teachers, school leaders, parents, and others to build on record graduation rates and other progress happening in Delaware schools, Governor Jack Markell today signed Executive Order 62, which brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to provide input for the state plan required by the federal Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA). The plan, which the U.S. Department of Education is expected to require by sometime next year, will detail efforts to:
· Implement academic standards aligned with what students need to know stay on track for success in college and the workplace;
· Ensure students from all backgrounds have access to high-quality educational opportunities from pre-school through high school;
· Support training, retention, and professional advancement of great educators; and
· Track progress of schools across a variety of measures, not limited to test scores, and identify ways to offer additional support where students are struggling.
The Governor, who signed E.O. 62 at Lewis Elementary School, noted that improvements from the last major federal education law, No Child Left Behind, mean that states have more flexibility in ways to support students, including how to measure schools’ progress and new opportunities to focus on early childhood education, which has been a top priority of the Markell Administration.
“We should all be proud of the progress we have made over the last few years, when we have seen thousands more low-income families enroll children in high-quality early childhood programs, recorded the fastest-growing graduation rate in the country, offered thousands more students the chance to earn workplace experience and college credit while in high school, and given more students access to college,” said Markell.
“ESSA provides an exciting chance for us to build on that momentum – to better support and attract great teachers and ensure all of our students have access to the education they deserve, no matter their backgrounds. More flexibility in how states approach these issues means more responsibility for us to make sound decisions and as we develop our state’s plan under ESSA. The executive order I sign today will help engage our teachers, school leaders, parents, and other advocates to ensure a successful process.”
The Executive Order outlines the variety of education leaders and advocates who must be represented on the committee and provides the group with the opportunity to review drafts of the state plan and submit recommendations to the Secretary of Education. A chair will be announced in advance of the first meeting and the group will include representatives of:
· Parents in every county
· Educators from urban and rural communities
· The State Board of Education
· The Delaware State Education Association
· The Delaware Association of School Administrators
· The Delaware School Board’s Association
· The Delaware Charter School Network
· The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission
· The Early Childhood Council
· Delaware English Language Teachers and Advocates
· An organization advocating for students with disabilities
· Delaware’s business community
· Workforce development programs
· The General Assembly
“After engaging in initial discussions with a wide variety of education stakeholders on development of our ESSA plan, this advisory committee represents an important next step in supporting our communication with teachers, administrators, and parents who are working hard to support our students,” said Delaware Education Secretary Steve Godowsky. “This group will help ensure we fully consider a wide range of perspectives and set our state on a path of continued improvement.”
The department also will engage representatives of stakeholder groups in two discussion groups. The first group will focus discussions on technical topics related to Measures of School Success and Reporting. The second group will focus discussions on provisions for Student and School Supports. Participants for these topical discussion groups can be nominated on the department’s ESSA web site through September 9, 2016. The discussion groups will provide information to the Advisory group created by this Executive Order.
To further support engagement of the broader education community, the Department of Education has announced a series of Community Conversations later this month during which teachers, administrators, and others will offer input on specific questions that the state must address in its plan. These discussions will take place at the following times and locations:
Tuesday September 20 at 6:00 p.m. – Cheer Center, Georgetown
Saturday September 24 at 10:00 a.m. – Christina Cultural Arts Center, Wilmington
Tuesday September 27 at 6:00 p.m. – Bunker Hill Elementary School, Middletown
Thursday September 29 at 5:30 p.m. – Collette Education Center, Dover
Delaware Governor Jack Markell sure was a busy guy yesterday. In the morning he was pimping the Rodelian Teacher Leader Project. But then he decided to defy the Delaware Senate and signed Executive Order #61. What did Jack do this time?
A couple of months ago, Markell’s Chief Ass-Kisser, Delaware Senator David Sokola, tried to get a bill going that would create a permanent steering committee for the Pathways to Prosperity program in Delaware schools. The bill made it out of committee, but never made it to the Senate floor in June. From what I hear, it wouldn’t have passed. It was not considered a priority and legislators weren’t fully sold on this idea.
So what does Jack do? He goes and says “screw you Delaware Senate. If you won’t do my bidding, I’ll just make it happen!” He did that yesterday with Executive Order #61. But not only did he give two very big screw yous to the Delaware Senate, but also disability advocates and Delaware parents (again). Because even though Senate Bill 277 didn’t make it to the Senate floor, an amendment was added which would have had two other members on this steering committee:
This amendment adds two members to the Pathways steering committee, one member from a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities and one member of the public who is a parent of a Delaware public school student.
I was at the Senate Education Committee meeting when this bill was discussed. I was the one who questioned why there were no parents on this steering committee. Sokola pretended it was a mistake parents weren’t on the steering committee with his obviously fake “Oh my gosh” face. As well, the Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens noted there was no one representing students with disabilities on it. Thus, the amendment.
Look at the test of Jack’s “I can out-trump Trump” Executive Order and then compare it to the original language in Senate Bill 277:
Text of Executive Order 61
TO: HEADS OF ALL STATE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
RE: ESTABLISHING A DELAWARE PATHWAYS STEERING COMMITTEE
WHEREAS, in 2015, Governor Markell established the Delaware Promise, a commitment that the state will combine education and workforce efforts to provide opportunities for our students as they prepare to enter and advance in a career;
WHEREAS, Governor Markell’s administration has established “Delaware Pathways”, a collaborative workforce development partnership which will create a fluid relationship between our public education system, post-secondary education, non-profit, and employer communities to ensure that the pathway to college and a well-paying job is accessible for every Delawarean, and to help the state fulfill the “Delaware Promise” of ensuring that 65% of our workforce earns a college degree or professional certificate by 2025, and that all of our students graduate high school;
WHEREAS, a Steering Committee is necessary to ensure that the program’s long term sustainability and adaptation proceeds in a manner that aligns its offerings to the needs of the workforce and to the students and parents who participate, along with ensuring that the budgetary priorities of the program are identified and outlined in a transparent and collaborative manner;
WHEREAS, we must work to continue to expand access to these programs in order to provide Delaware students with the opportunity to earn an industry-recognized credential, early college credit, and relevant work experience in high-demand fields in our state and regional economies.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JACK A. MARKELL, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Delaware, do hereby declare and order the following:
1. The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee (“Steering Committee”) is hereby established to set the strategic direction of the Delaware Pathways work and provide recommendations for future development and growth of the program, and ensure that program offerings are properly aligned with current and expected employer demand.
2. The Steering Committee shall consist of 14 members as follows:
a. The Secretary of the Department of Education.
b. The Secretary of the Department of Labor.
c. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.
d. The Director of Economic Development Office.
e. Chair of the Delaware Workforce Development Board.
f. The President of the Delaware State Board of Education.
g. The President of Delaware Technical Community College.
h. One superintendent of a public school district appointed by the Governor.
i. One superintendent of a vocational technical school district appointed by the Governor.
j. Two business representatives appointed by the Governor.
k. Three members of community or non-profit organizations appointed by the Governor.
3. Members serving by virtue of position may appoint, in writing and in advance of a particular scheduled meeting or on a permanent basis, a designee to serve in their stead and at their pleasure. Members appointed by the Governor shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
4. The Steering Committee shall, at least annually, and no later than January 15th of each calendar year perform at least the following:
a. Advise the Governor on the priorities, policy issues, and specific plans for the ongoing implementation of Delaware Pathways.
b. Review the policies of existing statewide programs and funding streams to make recommendations and take actions that align education, higher education, and workforce development programs in the state.
c. Provide guidance and leadership to agency staff involved in implementing this work for the development, expansion, and improvement of Delaware Pathways.
d. Set and track annual goals for Delaware Pathways.
e. Assist in convening stakeholders and increasing participation in Delaware Pathways programs throughout the state.
5. The Governor shall designate from the members one Chairperson of the Steering Committee. The chairperson will be appointed biennially.
6. Members appointed to the Steering Committee shall serve renewable terms of 2 years, except in the case of public employees who are not school district superintendents and who are continuing in the same designated position, and in the case of initial appointment terms, which shall be either one or two years.
7. The initial appointment terms of non-public employees and school district superintendents shall be either one or two years, such that three of the appointed non-public or school district superintendents shall serve a one year term, and the other four shall serve a two year term. The terms of each individual appointment shall be at the discretion of the Governor, but after the initial term is served the position shall be for a renewable term of 2 years.
8. The Steering Committee shall meet at the call of the Chairperson, but not less than semiannually.
9. Any vacancy occurring in the appointed membership must be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.
10. Administrative support shall be provided by the Department of Education.
11. Nothing in this Order is to be construed to create a private right of action to enforce its terms.
This Executive Order shall take effect immediately.
Now, if I were a betting man, Markell is doing a few things here. One, he is laughing at the Delaware Senate. Two, he is setting things up for John Carney who is a big Pathways cheerleader. Three, he is fulfilling his Rodel promise (as well as whatever promise Rodel made to the Lumina Foundation). Four, he is padding up his own resume for his post-Governor job. And Five, he is fulfilling the “Dear Hillary” letter by setting Delaware up as a pilot state for the Pathways portion of this agenda. I underestimated Markell. I really thought he would start to quiet down in his final days. He is busier than ever. He is also a backstabbing and conniving jackass.
As for you Mr. John “I don’t respond to you little blogger” Carney, I have a feeling I’m going to have to start looking into you. A lot. I don’t think you are who you appear to be… You are running out of time to prove me wrong… It’s going to be a loooooooooong four years if this continues…