State Board & WEIC Transcription: FOIA Violation, Priority Schools, And Funding

The State Board of Education audio recordings from their very long meeting yesterday are now up on the State Board website.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission portions of the meeting take up a collective two hours and twenty minutes of the meeting.  Not included are the breaks, legal or illegal, during the meeting with respect to the WEIC discussion.

As I insanely do once in a while, during contentious board meetings, I transcribed part of the WEIC conversations.  The three areas I focused on were the FOIA violation I believe the State Board committed by pausing the meeting to convene with legal counsel without calling for an executive session, the Christina priority school plans, and the funding/pause conversation surrounding the words “shall” and “may”.  The key players in most of this are State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and WEIC Chair Tony Allen.  Others are State Board members Pat Heffernan, Barbara Rutt, and Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson.  While I would have loved to get the whole thing transcribed, there isn’t enough time in the day.  And as I’ve said before, you can only replay some of these voices so many times without wanting to jump off a bridge.  Key parts or words are bolded for emphasis.

 

The FOIA Violation

There has been well over an hour of conversation at this point about the plan and a lot of back and forth between the State Board and Tony Allen.  This occurs at the end of Part 5 in the audio recordings from the meeting yesterday.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: So, I just gotta check out the procedural piece of that with the attorney…do you mind? Cause I’m not sure about, uhm, the timing…

Tony Allen: Could I add, offer something, Could you make a motion to approve it with the new caveats, approval contingent upon…

Gray: Yeah, that’s why I need to make sure we get all the right pieces around that. I think I heard a little bit of that. So, let me ask for, uhm, a 15 minute break to consult with counsel and get the options around that.  Do you mind?

Allen: No

Gray: Miss Rutt, can she come with me, with you, the attorney? It’s 3:46.  We’ll be back at 4.

31 minutes later, beginning of Part 6 of the audio recording…

Gray: It’s 4:17 and we’re back in session. So why we left and the whole purpose of stepping away is we had , uhm,  a proposal to table the current motion to approve the plan as presented.  But, ugh, we brought forth an amendment motion that actually puts forth a conditional approval based on the conditions of changing the “shall” to “may” in the proposed resolution.  And also having a wait for the Christina School District to act on the action item on February 23rd which involves submission of grant applications to the Department of Education for priority schools.  And also contingent upon approval of the Department of Education of that plan, of that grant application.  Right, so that’s the discussion that has been happening for the past thirty minutes or so and the expectation around that, uhm, if the board accepts that amended motion and vote accordingly, or affirmative in that, that we would ask that we take those two conditions and act accordingly however we see fit, we would be able to close that item before us.  There is no need to bring this back to the table or as an agenda item for the board.  We would be able to settle that based on those conditions being met.

Pat Heffernan: And if they’re not met?

Gray: And if they’re not met then the approval is, there is no conditional approval and we do not approve it.

Allen: Can I add two things?

Gray: Sure

Allen: I’ve consulted with many of the commissioners here on both the conditions. On condition one, back to Christina and the priority school plans, I think that, I appreciate, making sure that the condition is with respect to the Department of Education approving the plan as opposed to the Christina School Board being made, maybe that’s how I was interpreting it, made to approve their priority schools plan is a better way to get that.  I think the Christina School District has every intention to approve the plan but I don’t think they take kindly to the State Board as making them so that’s…

Barbara Rutt: Sure

Allen: The second issue, with respect to “shall” and “may” is, I just want to reiterate, and you will act I know, I want to reiterate that on the board level, the commission level, the word “shall” was about making sure this wasn’t becoming an unfunded mandate. We talked about that at length during our discussion.  I think that would be a significant hurdle for us.  The district leaders have continued to express that if the resources aren’t provided they could not go forward.  And it’s my suspicion is that they will see that change from “shall” to “may” as a potential for an unfunded mandate with a cause of concern for their districts.  I will take that back to the commission, but I wanted you to know that as you make your decision, that could be a deal-breaker.  While I would not speak for the commission at this moment, I can guarantee you that if it does not happen, you will not see the commission resubmit a plan. 

 

Christina Priority Schools

Heffernan: I just want to add that, you know, the approval of the priority schools plan by Christina is, is it months or years late? So I have very little patience for Christina for semantics on that.  They literally refused to approve plans to help the kids and honestly, I think got us to this table where we are today.

Secretary of Education Dr. Steve Godowsky: I just want to make this clear. On January 22nd of 2016, I sent Christina’s Acting Superintendent a letter indicating that either the board or the Acting Superintendent can submit and activate the, uhm, the original application for the priority, or the MOU that they submitted a year ago.  Uhm, so that is what you are suggesting.  It may not require a vote from the Board but we wanted to make sure which plan they want to move forward and if it was the MOU plan, and I have talked to the Board President.   Then that will be acceptable to us going forward.

Heffernan: One thing that really troubles me about this is if the Christina Board doesn’t fully support these plans then, you know, we’re back to where we always were. And this is, so I, I, we can’t make, we have no authority to make any local boards approve anything, I totally get that, but I’m just very disappointed that this continues to be hard to get them to agree to help the priority schools.  That’s all I’m saying.

Godowsky: And the Christina Board did sign off on their plan about a year ago with one day difference so I think they did support that plan. And now that we know that’s the plan on the table then we can move forward, I believe we can do our due diligence and be in a position to review that plan and make modifications.

Heffernan: So they approved this a year ago?

Godowsky: As part of, uhm, the Memorandum of Understanding, between the district and others that negotiated that alternative to the original plan, as I understand it. I was…

Allen: As I understand that, the impasse was between Christina and their approved plans and the former Secretary (Mark Murphy), not that they didn’t approve the priority school plans. That is my understanding.

Heffernan: But the Department didn’t approve the plans?

Allen: Correct

Heffernan: So we’re going to take the same plans that the Department didn’t approve…

Godowsky: No, no. I don’t know the history of why it wasn’t signed off.  There were a number of contingencies on that which required the principal, replacing the principal, interviewing, or reapplying teachers for their positions, and management company that, ugh, that, those requirements have changed and we’re not in a position to impose those regulations.  So I think that was the stumbling block.  I don’t want to speak for Christina, and I don’t have all the history that they were the stumbling block, but later on there was an MOU submitted that never got signed off on at the Department level.  I don’t know the reasons in detail.  But I just know what I’ve looked at, in terms of the MOU, it’s consistent with much of what we want to do with those three schools, instructionally, which we’ve talked about since October, that I’ve been here.  And, given some modifications, I’m ready to move forward.

Gray reiterates much of the conversation of what just went on…

Godowsky: I’m in receipt of those plans. I just needed, in a sense I have those plans.

 

“Shall” and “May”

Heffernan: I guess I’m trying to understand where the unfunded mandate is coming from. The redistricting portion of the plan is going to be unfunded or…

Allen: Remember, we arranged this for resources for English Language Learners, special education, and high concentrations of poverty. Every outline of current funding, none of that has been allocated yet, say, for the Governor’s commitment for the four to six million, right, so what we’re suggesting is each year, going through these two budget cycles, everything has to show up and if it that money doesn’t show up all the districts have particular issues with having Red Clay taking on these kids, and by the way this is not just a Red Clay issue, all the districts talk about this, taking on these kids with no changes in the funding formula for how they are going to help those kids.

Gray: And we’re committed to that same delivery around, particularly to support low-income and English Language Learners so we are… (note: Gray did not say special education)

Allen: And I agree. The question is about you all interpreting, and again, this might be an (inaudible) on our part, you all interpreting “shall” as required without deliberation.

Gray: That’s right.

Allen: We don’t interpret it that way. It was meant to be deliberation in consultation with the effected districts…

Gray: Right, so let’s just make it the “may”, and if we need to, we’ll do it, right? Because without this level of conversation and intimacy that we have now, whenever this may come forward a few years from now that “shall” is a… (very, very hard to understand what she said here but I did hear the word legal.  Whether that was “legal” or “illegal” I was unable to tell)

Allen: I agree, and I do not give this short shrift, if you in fact approve it this way, it will require, I believe, a full-throated (inaudible) analysis that you will give in writing and in person to the commission, so…

Gray: Absolutely. We’re committed to that.  The Board is committed to that for sure.

At this point, Dan Rich (another WEIC commissioner) says something to Tony Allen. Tony asks for five minutes, and then Kenny Rivera (President of the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education and a commissioner on WEIC) says something.  I think I heard the word “non-negotiable” but it is very hard to hear.  The State Board grants the WEIC folks a five minute break.  This is the end of Part 6 of the audio recordings.

The break ends, and the State Board is back in session in Part 7 of the audio recordings.

Gray: So Dr. Allen, did you want to add something before we go forward?

Allen: I consulted with many of the Commissioners here and I think there is general agreement that we could, and we would like you to consider, taking out all the provisions outlined in the resolution that we take back to the commission so that it does not come back to the State Board. But in general, but moving forward, it will be contingent upon sufficient funding.  Effectively, that takes you out of the process at the final implementation stage.

Gray: So you’re saying?

Allen: What we’re saying disregard all the remaining “shalls”, make it all contingent upon the necessary and sufficient funding and resources and take it off of the State Board with respect to their responsibility for this board and to future State Boards.

Gray: So is that effectively removing the resolution?

Allen: It’s more changing the resolution but excluding State Board having ongoing responsibility for suspension of the timetable.

Gray: Could I ask the process specialist?

Donna Johnson: With process of approval of the redistricting process in and of itself, and there is the caveat there that the plan would become essentially non-void if necessary and sufficient funding were not available, what safeguards would be in place if those necessary sufficient funding and supports were not at each of the milestones? Where would there be a pause that takes place at that point?

Allen: Do you mean who would authorize that pause?

Johnson: Yes.

Allen: The authorization would come from the commission and the effected districts. So we’d take it out of the State Board’s hands.  There is nothing in Senate Bill 122 that prohibits this.

After much back and forth, the State Board voted on the redistricting plan and the addendums as of 2/11/16 with no amendments which failed 3-4.  The State Board then voted on the plan with the amendments about the Christina priority schools plan approval and the changing of “shall” to “may” on page 10 of the official plan.  The motion passed with a 4-3 vote.

 

Live At The State Board of Education: The WEIC Vote…

2:38pm…back in session….

Tony Allen takes the stand.  Actually, it’s a chair… He will answer questions for the State Board of Education.

Dr. Gray is asking about Question #2: concerning commitments to evidence-based practices for students from now until implementation of redistricting plan…How would these best practices and services be available to all children?

Tony Allen is answering.  Said the principals are dedicated to all students of Wilmington.

Dr. Gray is asking about a commitment from the Christina School District.  Said due to a weather delay they can’t vote on the commitment until their next meeting on February 23rd.  He is now talking about the priority schools in Christina.  He said he expects the Christina board to take that action on 2/23.

Dr. Gray is talking about the $1.3 million grant application from Christina School District for their priority schools.  Said that doesn’t have a lot to do with this right now.

Gray wants to talk about the graduation rates and student outcomes for the students of Wilmington.  Brought up the Delaware School Success Framework (yawn)…

Tony Allen said WEIC is committed to an annual qualitative review of all the Wilmington schools, not just Red Clay.  He said the plan will progress every year with these enhanced services.

State Board member Gregory Coverdale is asking about the Colonia back-out from the plan.  Tony is explaining they were not willing to commit to sending their students to Red Clay but are committed to the WEIC plan.

Board member Pat Heffernan is talking about teaching and learning.  He said what they got is a summary if they didn’t have WEIC.  Tony said WEIC may not have happened if it weren’t for the priority schools.  Said that was an impasse in all of this.  Said he is not an expert on education but there are several members on the commission who are.  Tony just announced University of Delaware will be acting as a partner to help the districts, along with the United Way who will be bringing in other non-profits who have relationships with the schools.  They are committed to helping students with trauma.

Board member Nina Lou Bunting just said we are the State Board of Education, not the State Board of Redistricting.  Said the reason they have asked so many questions because the plan is going to give all this to Red Clay to get best practices and what will be coming into the state.  She said she doesn’t know everything about the plan, but is asking if it is a living and ongoing thing…

Bunting is saying “Yearly, we’re going to get a report with what worked.”  In her view it is not complete in terms of telling the State Board of Education what educational initiatives are going to be adapted with the redistricting plan.  Allen responded that the priority schools were announced by the Governor and the DOE in September, 2014.  He said Red Clay did a lot of community outreach in coming up with their plans.  He said on the Christina side, they are going through this now. (editor’s note: Christina got a lot of community input at the same time Red Clay did)

Bunting said she is hearing from several districts that they want to know where their piece of the pie is.  Said this is going to cost a lot of money and it has to be right.  Heffernan said there is a belief that they (the State Board) are adversaries.  (why would he ever think that?)  Tony said they are not adversaries and this has been an intense debate.  Board member Whittaker said he sees this as a five year plan to let other districts copy on the success of the plan.  Tony is stressing that it has always been the recommendation of the commission that all areas of intense poverty, ELL, and students with disabilities need support and funding right away.  He understands the state doesn’t have enough money for that.  He mentioned Dover as one of these areas and not just Wilmington.

Gray is saying they didn’t get an educational prong in the plan.  She said the measures and impacts are going to be what’s important.  She said the redistricting isn’t as difficult.  It is sweat equity to get it done.  She said district’s accountability or level of blame and accountability needs to start at day one.  She said they shouldn’t be having a conversation at a special board meeting to make this work.  We should be doing it anyways.  Gray is getting huffy again…  She said the odds on this are 50-50.

Tony is saying you can’t find a more dedicated coalition of educators as the ones involved in this initiative.  He never said this is the final plan and he never said this will fix everything.  He said this is building and not an end result.

Board member Barbara Rutt is asking if there is sufficient funding but no change in academics, what happens then?  Tony said they don’t want an unfunded mandate.  Rutt is asking if it could be rephrased.  Tony said sure, but the resolution is more about a set of safeguards (missed part of this, will update based on the audio recording when it’s released).  Rutt doesn’t feel it is appropriate to tie the hands of the future board (State Board).

Rutt said the letters of commitment from the districts could be tough in the future.  Allen said this is a citizen led group.  He said the results will be at the discretion of the schools.  They (WEIC) don’t have the authority to enforce this.

Gray said their initial reaction was of great concern.  She wanted to make sure they have the funding.  She wants to know what “transition supports” are in the funding.  Tony gave an example of United Way as a partner in this which gives them the ability to be an “engine” to move this forward.

Gray keeps going on about student outcomes (based on the very faulty Smarter Balanced Assessment… when is this unelected State Board going to get it?  Sorry, had to go there!).  She is saying something about July of 2017, and that is when they will see a lot of activity around the parent collaboration and engagement.  Tony agreed, as well as meeting the needs of students in poverty.

Gray is saying they won’t see a lot of convergence until that date.  Not to be disrespectful to the huge effort that has already taken place.  All the things will start to go at the same time.  Tony said right.

Quiet moment.

Heffernan wants to switch gears.  Bringing up funding.  Talking about the Governor’s budget.  Asking about local funds being collected without a referendum.  Tony is saying the General Assembly will be coming out with recommendations around this.  What they have heard from the districts is these would be operating funds, not capital funds.  He said those recommendations could render this moot, but their intention is to have the Education Funding Task Force make necessary recommendations to make this work.  Gray is concerned about distribution of funds between Red Clay and Christina.  Red Clay will get the bulk of those dollars in the initial years.   Tony is indicating this would be expanded to all of Christina in the second year and all the city kids in the third year.  Tony said all low-income kids will get these funds.  Rutt wants to know more about transition administrative funds.  Tony said the Governor put in $2 million in the budget for this purpose but it could be held in the Office of Management and Budget.  $7.5 million is needed for this, but $3 million would be transition funds.  Planning year first year, transition second year and implementation third year.  Tony said they are trying to get spec ed funding statewide before this.

Bunting is saying she wants all these programs to be going on right now while they transition.  Tony agrees.  Brought up CEO Hope and the Wilmington Education Strategic Think Tank.

Heffernan is very much in alignment with everything they have talked about.  But he is concerned about question #1 in the State Board’s questions: how will shifting district boundary lines change student outcomes?  He can’t wrap his head around it and doesn’t understand why district lines need to change.  Tony said students vacillate between Christina and Red Clay every year, around 20-30%.  What he is saying is students need district stability.  A student shouldn’t move in with his grandmother across the street and all of a sudden be in a different district.  They need to be in the same construct.

Rutt isn’t satisfied with this answer.  Said she was naïve in thinking she would get answers based on the questions the State Board asked of WEIC.  She gets the part about students and stability but said it isn’t as big a number of students as they thought.  Tony and Heffernan states these issues keep them up at night.

Conversation going back and forth but difficult to hear.  Board member Jorge Melendez said this is the first step in a long journey.  He said that everyone who is here cares.  If the State Board passes this they need to take this back to their community and be in this 100%.

Gray is saying this is a risk.  The measures of success for the State Board are less of the redistricting facets and more on the educational outcome.  They aren’t expecting graduation rates to go up 3% in a year, but does want to see progress.  They all want to serve the students in Wilmington.  She is stating they can’t have full district support without the Christina commitment.

Motion on the table is to approve with addendum to take out “shall” in terms of ??.  Rutt put a motion out to table it again.  Gray said the first motion is to approve the plan and it has been seconded.  Rutt is saying it is important to have the Christina action.  Gray is asking the legal counsel.  She is asking for a fifteen minute break to convene with counsel.

One of the WEIC members stated anyone who came down on the WEIC bus has to leave now because the bus will be coming in fifteen minutes.

Many folks in the room are talking about how the State Board can’t do this outside of public session.  Many feel this is a violation of FOIA law.

State Board is still on break consulting with their legal counsel.  Meanwhile, some of us have figured out the Christina thing.  Thanks to Avi Wolfman-Arent with Newsworks who pointed out an action item on Christina’s board meeting on 2/23.  Basically it is the district’s approval of the grant application for their priority schools.  The “shall” item is in regards to the funding for WEIC.  Red Clay is insisting it “shall” be given, not “may”, and that isn’t optional.

Okay, Tony Allen just came out of a door with Secretary Godowsky and the State Board.  Lowered and angry faces.  WEIC left the room for a quick meeting.  Gray is explaining what I just wrote about the “shall” thing and the Christina action item on 2/23.

The State Board is going to vote based on those two conditions having been met.  If the conditions aren’t met their vote doesn’t mean anything.  Tony Allen is saying the Commission leadership met just now.  He said there is a better way of doing this.  He said he expects Christina to pass their plans.  He said the “shall” thing is a significant curve for them.  He said that change from “shall” has the capability of an unfunded mandate.

Gray is saying the commitment here cannot have the State Board’s hands tied.  The State Board shares the concern about an unfunded mandate.  Tony is saying there is a concern with WEIC for the State Board to mandate Christina approve the priority school plan.  Heffernan said Christina refused to approve plans (last year) and that is what got us to this point in time.

Secretary Godowsky said he submitted a letter to Acting Christina Superintendent Robert Andrzejewski on January 21st indicating if Christina submitted the Memorandum of Understanding plan that would be acceptable.  Godowsky said they aren’t changing the rules midstream.  He said if the Acting Superintendent submits the grant application and the Department approves it.  Heffernan said if Christina doesn’t approve their plans they are back where they started from.  Godowsky said they don’t authority over a local board.  Godowsky said if they submit their plans they can do their due diligence and move forward.  Godowsky is referring to the MOU alternative plan passed in March.  Godowsky said he doesn’t know the full history but it was around replacing principals and a potential management company.  He doesn’t want to speak for Christina and say they were the stumbling block.  He doesn’t know the details around the alternative MOU.  He said much of what WEIC wants to do is what they want to do for the Christina priority schools.

And of course my battery is going to run out and I’m not near a plug…

Secretary Godowsky said he is in receipt of those plans.  Tony Allen said it is a formal response to the commitment from Christina (the letter Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan wrote WITHOUT board approval in the WEIC addendum to the State Board questions).  How can Godowsky be in receipt of plans that weren’t voted on by the Christina Board of Education?

Red Clay Board President Kenny Rivera is talking about the unfunded mandate.  WEIC is asking for a five minute consultation.

There was talk from WEIC about removing the State Board’s role in this until July of 2018 pending passage of the redistricting plan by the State Board.  This was not an acceptable proposal to the State Board of Education.

Okay, got plugged in.  About twenty minutes ago, the State Board of Education voted on a motion to approve the WEIC plan without any addendums.  It did not pass.  Roll Call- Yes: Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Dr. Whittaker, Jorge Melendez, Nay: Pat Heffernan, Nina Lou Bunting, Barbara Rutt, Gregory Coverdale.  Then they made a motion to approve the WEIC plan based on DOE approval of the submitted Christina priority school plans and the changing of “shall” to “may” in regards to the funding.  Roll Call- Yes: Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Barbara Rutt, Jorge Melendez, Dr. Whittaker, Nay: Pat Heffernan, Nina Lou Bunting, Gregory Coverdale.  The plan passed the State Board with the amendments.  But this is a deal breaker because the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education voted in November that if the funding was not guaranteed, they would not move forward.  So the WEIC redistricting plan appears to be dead.  But this is Delaware.

 

 

 

 

State Board of Education’s Lightning Rod Letter To WEIC Questions Redistricting Plan

WEIC

The Delaware State Board of Education fulfilled their obligation to the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission by providing them a letter regarding their rejection of the final redistricting plan. There are serious questions as to the legality of the State Board’s actions at their meeting on January 21st. But in the meantime, WEIC is meeting tonight to go over the letter and plan their next move. The meeting will begin at 5:30pm at the Red Clay Consolidated School District office on 1502 Spruce Avenue in Wilmington.

Below are the letter the State Board sent to WEIC on 1/31/16 and WEIC’s response letter from the same day.

WDEL’s Weasel Of The Year: The Department of Education led by Donna Johnson and Dr. Teri Quinn Gray!!!

Mustela_frenata

The Rick Jensen Show on WDEL just announced their Weasel of the Year for 2015, and by a very wide margin, the Delaware Department of Education led by Executive Director Donna Johnson and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray took the award!  Other nominees were Bloom Energy, Paul Ryan, Governor Markell, and more.  But the DOE won by 27 votes.  Congratulations to the DOE, Donna Johnson, and Dr. Gray!  You certainly worked very hard all year long to get this prestigious honor!

Once Rick gets the podcast of this on the WDEL website I will definitely put it up on here!

Knowing the power structure down at the Townsend Building down in Dover, I have no doubt Donna Johnson will be very irate at being called the leader of the Delaware DOE.  I let Rick know this on the air as well, but I also said they are essentially the same thing.  Maybe not in the formal Delaware State Code, but you know what I’m saying.  The best part?  Even though Governor Markell didn’t win, this is reflective of him because he appointed all of the key personnel at the Delaware DOE.  So this is a double victory in my book!

While Vision Coalition & WEIC Plan Funding, EFIC Meets Today To Discuss Funding As Well

SJR4EFIC

Delaware, the home of multiple groups working on the same issues at the same time.  Today, the Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission is meeting for the third time at the Bear Library.  There are a lot of interesting names in this room.  Former State Rep. Darryl Scott, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara (who is probably having one hell of a morning), Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, State Board of Education member Barbara Rutt and more.  I see Senator Sokola’s aide, Tanner Polce.  I don’t see State Rep. Earl Jaques either, I suppose his aide is there as well.

It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with, along with Rodel The Vision Coalition.  WEIC’s funding will be subject to the Governor’s submitted budget at the end of January.  The one that will be submitted AFTER the State Board of Education votes on the plan.  To read more about the SJR #4 group, please read this.

SJR4

 

Christina Priority Schools & The Weird Behavior Of The DOE & State Board

On Christmas Eve, Avi with Newsworks/WHYY published an article called “A year later, still no money for three Delaware ‘priority’ schools”.  I found this article to be fascinating and revealing.  Especially since it gave information that, apparently, the Christina Board of Education wasn’t even aware of.  One thing is for certain: the Delaware Department of Education is gunning for the Christina School District and they don’t care who knows anymore.

Last year, the DOE labeled six Wilmington schools as priority schools based on standardized test scores.  Three in Christina, and three in Red Clay.  Red Clay submitted their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), their plans for the schools, and received funds from the state for the initiative.  Christina fought it tooth and nail in many intense board meetings.  Finally, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee released their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington.  The Christina Board signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE giving a one-year pause on their priority schools and granting them a second planning year.

The Christina priority schools seemed like a dead issue until October of this year.  At the Delaware Education State Support (DESS) meeting, a DSEA representative asked Penny Schwinn (Chief of Accountability at the DOE) what would happen to the three Christina priority schools if the redistricting effort fell through.  Schwinn responded that had been a recent topic of conversation at the DOE.  But as per several members of the Christina board of education, nobody from the DOE contacted them about the priority schools or even mentioned them until the State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.

Both Avi and I were present at this meeting and we both saw State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray’s very bizarre behavior.  Avi described it well in his article:

The issue surfaced publicly during last Thursday’s State Board of Education Meeting. In the middle of a presentation, board president Terri Quinn Gray grew so upset she rose from her chair and blurted, “I need to take a break.”  She meant it literally. Gray grimaced, clutched her stomach, and walked out of the board meeting.  The source of Gray’s discontent wasn’t charter schools or testing or redistricting in Wilmington. It was priority schools.

There were several contentious moments at this board meeting.  But for Dr. Gray it was something that should have been a throwaway line during a presentation from Penny Schwinn’s Accountability department.  The second Penny Schwinn mentioned Christina was on their 2nd planning year for their priority schools, Gray either was truly surprised or she was putting on a show for everyone to see and hear.

The State Board is presented with information for their meetings from Executive Director Donna Johnson.  Most of the time, the information can be seen by the public on the State Board website.  But sometimes, information isn’t seen until the day of the meeting.  I truly don’t know if this applies to the actual State Board members or not.  But based on attending one of their State Board retreats, I did see the information was available to them and not the public when it came to a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Now whether they actually read this information or not ahead of time, or any of the information presented to them, cannot be determined.

During a late September 2014 Christina board meeting, Dr. Gray and fellow State Board member Gregory Coverdale gave public comment and pleaded with Christina to sign their MOU.  The audience was filled with Christina board members, and Gray and Coverdale were booed and left when board member John Young was talking about how the DOE needs great leaders.  As revealed in a FOIA of DOE emails a year ago, Donna Johnson accused Christina Board member John Young of giving a speech that was most likely written by State Rep. John Kowalko or State Senator Bryan Townsend.  Both Gray and Johnson were hammering Christina at the State Board of Education.  And we can’t forget Donna Johnson’s very bizarre and strange accusation leveled at the Christina School District last summer.

Based on the last link, I filed a complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice’s office of Civil Rights & Public Trust against Johnson.  Over three and a half months later and I have not received an answer to that complaint.  No one has contacted me to clarify any of the information about it.  I did speak with Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn a week ago about the status of these complaints.  He explained to me that the new office in the DOJ is still in the planning stages and they are still sorting out what they can and cannot do based on state code.  He also said someone from that office would be contacting me in a few days.  That never happened.

In my perception, this is a very personal amount of contention against Christina between Gray and Johnson.  I do not think the State Board will approve the WEIC plan for the redistricting of Christina’s Wilmington Schools into Red Clay.  I think they are reintroducing the Christina priority schools conversation to put us back to the exact same moment we were at a year ago where the State wants to take those schools and convert them into charter schools.  The Delaware Met building is in the Christina School District.  There is room in the Community Education building for another school, which is also in the current Christina School District.

The true disconnect here seems to also be taking place within the Christina School District itself.  Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski admitted to having conversation with the DOE about Christina priority schools earlier this month.

Andrzejewski, who started as acting superintendent on October 1, told NewsWorks/WHYY he didn’t know money was available for the three priority schools until early December. He said the district will submit sub-grant applications for each of the three school before the month ends.  “It kind of surprised all of us when we heard come December that there was money available,” Andrzejewski said.

But this is something the Christina Board had no idea even came up until the State Board meeting on 12/17.  And it doesn’t stop there, because Andrzejewski submitted an application for a grant without anyone on the Christina Board even knowing about it.

State and district officials say they’re working together and that both want the schools to receive money as soon as possible. As this article was being reported, a Christina spokesperson told NewsWorks/WHYY that grant applications for each of the three schools were sent to the Department of Education on December 23.

It sounds to me like Andrzejewski needs to get it together and actually speak with his board.  The board hired him so he is beholden to informing them before anything like this is submitted to the DOE.  Beyond that though, this shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation.  The DOE should have given those funds to Christina once they had them available.  Instead, they are pretending this is a big deal to give it a media push.  Behind the scenes, they are just biding their time and waiting for the pushback from Christina so they can take the schools.  And lest we forget, Schwinn herself said one of the consequences of Christina not agreeing to the DOE’s terms on the priority schools is making Christina a “high-risk district”.  Imagine if the DOE could somehow take the whole district lock, stock and barrel?

Key Audio Recording Links From State Board of Education Meeting Yesterday

Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Redistricting Plan.  Christina Priority Schools.  Delaware Met.  All are here.  Please listen.  Please pay attention.  Listen to the words that are said by our unelected Governor appointed State Board of Education.  This meeting touched on most of the hot education issues of our state in one form or another.  Then email your state legislator politely requesting legislation for our State Board of Education to be elected officials.

WEIC Public Comment: Part 2

Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities: Part 3

WEIC Presentation to State Board: Part 5

Christina Priority Schools (about 1/3rd of the way in), Update on Opt-Out Penalties via ESEA Waiver Request with US DOE: Part 6

Delaware Met (starts about 1/3rd of the way in for Del Met) and Charter Renewals: Part 7

 

Delaware Education Funding: Can The Mess Created By Governor Markell Even Be Fixed?

Someone asked if public comment (can) be received by the committee?  We will need to look at how we collect public/stakeholder input.

The above quote will be explained later, but it is very indicative of what happens in Delaware.

DarrylScott

One of the biggest topics in Delaware these days is funding for education.  It is everywhere.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wants to completely revamp how we fund our schools and included this in their redistricting plan which will be presented to the Delaware State Board of Education later today.  The Vision Coalition has this as one of their six areas to get to the “North Star” of educational excellence in Delaware.  But there is an even bigger group meeting these days to tackle this elephant in the room.

The Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission has been meeting since early November.  I was able to obtain the minutes from their first meeting and I had some very deep concerns about some of the things I saw in there.  But before I get to that, there are a lot of interesting names on this committee.  The legislation called for 19 members but there are 24 on this committee.  How does that even happen?

Chair: Former State Representative Darryl Scott

State Rep. Earl Jaques

State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King

State Senator David Sokola

State Senator Gary Simpson

Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov

*Delaware Association of School Administrators Kevin Carson

Delaware PTA Vice-President Ashley Dalzell-Gray

Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing Kristin Dwyer

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt

Woodbridge Board Member Walter Gilefski

State of Delaware Deputy Controller General Mike Jackson

State of Delaware Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Brian Maxwell

Office of the Governor Education Policy Adviser Lindsay O’Mara

Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens Chairperson Robert Overmiller

*University of Delaware Center for Applied Demography & Survey Research Director Ed Ratledge

*Delaware Technical & Community College Chairman of the Board Mark Stellini

Delaware State Board of Education Member Barbara Rutt

Christina Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Raye Jones Avery

Kuumba Academy Head of School Sally Maldonado

Corporation Service Company President Rodman Ward III

Latin American Community Center Vice President of Development Claudia Pena Porretti

*Rodel Foundation of Delaware Vice President for Policy & Practice Madeleine Bayard

Support Staff for the Committee: Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson and Secretary of Education Office Policy Advisor Tina Shockley

I have seen many of these names on various DOE working groups, legislative task forces and committees, and so forth.  Some are new to me.  Some of these are very affiliated with Rodel and the Delaware Business Roundtable.  Some are very charter affiliated.  But as usual, aside from one representative from the Delaware PTA, parents get the shaft.  We are always shut out of groups like this.  To answer my earlier question about how this group has more members than what the legislation called for, the answer was found here:

Three community members with special knowledge of education finance or special ability to contribute to discussion, appointed by Governor: Ed Ratledge, Madeleine Bayard, Mark Stellini, Kevin Carson

Whoever put this up on the DOE website must be using some odd form of Common Core math because I see four names there, not three…

Darryl Scott was the former Chair of the House Education Committee.  He served three terms as State Representative from 2009-2015.  I am very curious how a retired State Rep becomes not only the Chair of an education funding task force but also serves on the Southern Regional Education Board.

Why is the information for these meetings buried on the DOE website and not put on the General Assembly page for SJR #4?  This is a legislative task force.

What concerns me the most about the below minutes is the quote at the top of this article.  This is a public committee which is allowed to have public comment, no questions asked.  The fact that a group like this isn’t sure how that will work stinks of non-transparency.  These minutes were not found on the Delaware General Assembly Website.  But when you look at the minutes, we see who decides how public comment can be given and viewed:

Donna Johnson advised that we will set up a website where all materials will be posted.  An email address will be set up to receive public comment.

I’m sorry, but Donna Johnson is support staff, not a voting member of this committee.  Why is she calling the shots on transparency?  She is not a member of the General Assembly who enacted this legislation.  As for the topics for upcoming meetings, who sets that up?

Chairman Scott noted that the next meeting will be held the week after Thanksgiving and that Tina Shockley will initiate a Doodle poll for the next meeting.

Who decides what is put on this Doodle poll?  Another Department of Education employee.  Who is running the show here?  Of course we know anything education related that happens in Delaware is run by Governor Markell.  And once again he is using the DOE to call the shots.  So much for transparency and an open and democratic commission…

At their December 9th meeting, a presentation was given by Mike Griffiths, the School Finance Strategist with a company called Education Commission of the States.  This is yet another think tank type of company in America dealing with how to “fix” education.  Each state has a group of Commissioners.  For Delaware, the Commissioners are Governor Jack Markell, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Lindsay O’ Mara (Markell’s Education Policy Advisor), Senator David Sokola, and… Madeleine Bayard, Vice-President of Policy and Practice for the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  Senator Sokola is on the Steering Committee for this organization.  Griffith’s presentation is here:

As well, Michael Morton from the Office of the Comptroller General’s office gave a very good presentation on Delaware School Finances.  These are always tricky waters to navigate through for the average citizen, but I found this guide helped me to understand it better:

This is going to be a very interesting commission to keep track of.  And once again, we have three different “coalitions” tackling school funding: WEIC, Vision Coalition, and this group…

We are seeing education funding play out in every single public school in the state.  Schools are lacking resources and staff while the bloated Department of Education continues to shell out millions upon millions of dollars to corporate education reform companies.  If Delaware wants to truly get more funding into our schools, this is the first place where funds can be reallocated.  There should be no discussions about property tax re-assessments or weighted funding until the excess fat is trimmed out of the DOE.  But look who is controlling this behind the scenes…  This is Jack Markell’s mess.  He will slide out of the Governor’s seat and leave the wreckage for Delaware to clean up.  Thanks for that Governor…

 

 

 

 

 

Odyssey Charter School And Other “Successful” Charters Want Money To Grow

Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal wrote an article today about Delaware charters, and centered on Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware charter schools face obstacles to growth is the name of the article.  I think it’s funny, because many disadvantaged students face obstacles to getting into these “dream” charters like Odyssey, Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy.  Their student populations always have less African-Americans, students with disabilities and low-income students than those around them.  And their cheerleaders always say the same thing: “Their lotteries determine who gets in.”  Yeah, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

School leaders and parents at successful Delaware charter schools say the state can and should do more to help them grow.  While understanding that the Department of Education has to crack down on charters showing evidence of financial mismanagement or a failure to provide high quality education, parents and educators wonder: If a school has top test scores, deep community connections and parents clamoring for expansion, can’t the state help?

Did Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware write this article?  If a charter school has “top test scores”, which doesn’t mean squat to me because I don’t value any standardized test score as a true measurement of any school, than they have trimmed the fat and picked the better students and essentially recruited (stolen) them from their local districts.

Albright talks about Odyssey’s latest money problems, something I wrote about six days ago.  But of course, Albright, being a reporter for a somewhat major metropolitan newspaper would get more information.  I’m just a blogger!  Should Odyssey get more money from the state?  Hell no!  Charters wanted to have it their way, but when they can’t get things their way, they call the State.  Enough.  They get more financial perks from non-profits and loop-holes in the budget to make up for what they don’t get from the state.

Charter skeptics maintain that the state shouldn’t spend a cent more on charters while traditional school districts cry out for more resources to serve at-risk students. They argue charters don’t serve enough of the kids who need the state’s help the most, and every dollar that goes to a charter is a dollar less for districts charged with that mission.

Damn straight!  Some schools are literally falling apart, and Odyssey and other charters want more?  After they have siphoned money and students away from their local districts?  Sorry, you missed the boat.  Why don’t they call the Longwood Foundation?  They are always giving away money to charters.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko got the Albright call and didn’t mince words:

“Until you can prove to me, and I mean show me proof on a piece of paper, that these schools are taking in the same kind of students as our districts and doing a better job, then maybe we have a different discussion,” Kowalko said. “Until then, it is unconscionable for us to be sending additional taxpayer dollars to them.”

Why would we give more money to a school that is facing this on their latest financial framework with the DOE:

The problems reported include deficits, high debt-to-asset ratios, low cash reserves and negative cash flow over the past three years.

So we give them a get out of jail free card while Christina bleeds?  I don’t see the state rushing to help them.  And the article even has Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network joining the fray!  I’m not sure when she finally figured out there were other schools in Delaware aside from charters, but I’m not sure I buy what she wrote:

“If any public school, not just a charter, is doing great things for kids, we should be enabling them to do more of it,” Massett said. “Odyssey is a great example of that.”

The timing on this is impeccable.  The DOE and Donna Johnson will be presenting to the State Board on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  This is the strategy to “determine how charters operate in Delaware” along with all the other great programs our schools offer.  Another US DOE non-regulatory non-Congressionally approved “suggestion”.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a moratorium on new charters until June of 2018, or until the state finishes a comprehensive strategic plan that would address how charters fit into the state’s overall public education system.

If anyone really thinks there will be a moratorium on charters until 2018, they are smoking something funny.  Once the State Board celebrates Donna and the DOE’s hard work and does their high-five party, the charter applications will flow.

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

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

I Thought I Should Actually Honor Jack Markell

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

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

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

Players:

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

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

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

Donna Johnson,  Executive Director of the State Board of Education

Penny Schwinn, Chief Officer Accountability and Performance

Ryan Reyna, Officer of Accountability

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gray: Based on the 14-15 data?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schwinn: It’s a one year plan.

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

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

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

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

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

Coverdale: How are the weights determined?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reyna: That’s correct.

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

Johnson: I think some subgroups…

Reyna: Some subgroups have not…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heffernan: They’re not even here now…

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

Heffernan: Right, I totally agree with that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schwinn: The growth on DCAS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coverdale: (mumbling) by 2021…

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

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

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

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

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

Gray: No, I see why you’re confused.

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

Heffernan: Growth to proficiency, I got that, yeah

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

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

Heffernan: But what is the goal of growth?

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

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

Gray: I gotcha…

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

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

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

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

Reyna: Happy to do that…

Gray: Growth model.

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

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

Bunting: Yeah.

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

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

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

Bunting: So you did take their recommendations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gray: Okay.

Schwinn: Are there any questions?

(none)

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

Coverdale: So moved.

Gray: I do need a second.

Heffernan: Second.

Gray: Thank you.  Any further questions or discussion?

(none)

Gray: All in favor, indicate by saying aye.

Gray, Heffernan, Coverdale Rutt: Aye.

Gray: Any opposed? (none) Abstentions?

Bunting: Abstention please.

Gray: Motion carries.  Alright.

Johnson: Could we elect to do a roll call?

Gray: Sure

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

 

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

 

The Biggest Problem For The State Board of Education: Donna Johnson

It is no secret that I have issues with Donna Johnson.  It is also no secret that I blew her anonymous identities on my blog and another one at the end of the summer.  As well, I filed many complaints against the DOE with the Delaware Department of Justice and one of those was specifically against her over what I perceive to be very serious ethics issues.  With those disclaimers out of the way, I firmly believe she is hazardous to education in Delaware.  I know she has passion and conviction for what she believes, and I am okay with that.  What I am not okay with is how she goes about it.

The true problems exist within Title 14.  The role of Executive Director for the State Board of Education is not clearly defined.  I would assume that role to be that of an impartial and unbiased mediator between the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of Education.  Instead what we have is her informing the board about issues and offering suggested guidance to them.  As well, when there are State Board workshops, like the recent one on the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Grotto’s in Dover, the entire presentation was led by Donna Johnson.  She sits on the DESS committee, she sat on the AFWG committee, and many others.  That is not State Board representation as the law dictates.  That is Donna Johnson representation.  I’m sure the law is written in such a way that the President of the State Board can choose a designee, but when it is the same person at the bulk of these meetings and workgroups that is not a voting member of the State Board, I take great issue with that.

I have watched Donna Johnson in the past year and a half.  Some of those times I didn’t even know it was Donna Johnson.  She is very quick to correct someone if they are wrong on something, or her perception of wrongdoing.  But when challenged on something that is controversial or on an issue she is unwilling to give an answer for, we get a self-righteous and indignant comment or look on her face, as if she is saying “how dare you question me, don’t you know who I am?”  Yes Donna, we all know who you are.  There has never been a question about that.  I have seen you at State Board meetings, education workshops, task force meetings, AFWG meetings, and even a State Board retreat when I was the only person from the public at the meeting.  I have no doubt you can’t stand me, and you probably view my outing of you as some sort of betrayal.  But I won’t apologize for that.  You are someone who helps set policy, and your antics behind the scenes demanded I do something.  You can say you don’t set policy, but you are at Legislative Hall more than some legislators and you are firmly aligned with Rodel.  That makes you probably the most dangerous person involved in education in Delaware.  I have seen you anonymously post on my blog about how Smarter Balanced is probably not the right answer but then promote it at every education meeting you go to.  And for those who want to argue about state IP addresses, I would not say this if I were not 100% certain.  Who is the real Donna Johnson?  If this were any other person, I would never have outed them.  And I know this caused some dissent among my readers.  I own that.  But to me, someone with as big a role as yourself, should not be leading conversations in certain directions.  Nor should you be providing information that is, at a minimum, false or misleading.

I have talked with numerous people about you in conversation, and the same basic thing always comes up: that you are very difficult to deal with.  I believe you have confused your job title with personal edification.  You should not be dictating policy, you should be impartially conveying information that is given to you to relay to the State Board.  You should not be the State Board representation at every important education meeting in the state.  We need actual State Board representation at every single one of these meetings so they can hear the tone, and see the looks, and feel the heart of the conversations.  Things get lost in the transition to communicating these meetings with the State Board and that tone of those meetings is lost.  The fact that the State Board is an appointed body and not an elected body leads most citizens to believe they will fall in line with what their appointee wants, not what is best for the students of Delaware.  This has been proven time and time again, and it is bad politics.

Let’s look at the Charter School Accountability Committee.  Yes, you are a non-voting member, but you are allowed to ask very in-depth questions of the charters that face this committee.  That can easily sway the opinion of the voting members of the committee.  Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy some of the questions you ask and they are very important to the context of the purpose of those meetings, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder if your undefined role needs clarification.  I believe the ambiguity of your role allows you to do what you do.  And that isn’t right, in my opinion.  I believe you wield and flaunt way too much “executive” power and policy is made based on this.  I think Rodel is too ingrained in your thought processes and those of other lobbyists.  I feel sometimes that you are a lobbyist when your role does not clearly grant you that power.

The bulk of this post is precipitated by your actions at the final Accountability Framework Working Group meeting yesterday.  Yes, I challenged you on many aspects of Secretary Godowsky and the State Board’s decision to move forward with harsh penalties against schools for the participation rate multiplier against a school’s proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  You respectfully told me I am entitled to my opinion.  But two words did it for me: “positive consequences”.  This is the heart of this.  Because I could see that you truly believe positive consequences are needed to help destroy the opt-out movement.  I do not view these actions as positive in the grand scheme of things.  They are disrespectful to parents, educators, schools, and our communities.  It is meant to shame schools for a parent’s actions.  If I had my way, there would be absolutely no consequences for opt-out as it is not even in the State Board’s jurisdiction to assign judgment for parent’s actions.  But to refer to them as “positive” diminishes the very foundation of our education system and lumps parents as a problem that needs to be dealt with.  This is about an attempt to control parents and manipulate them into deciding what is best for their child.  This is why I vowed to you, the DOE, and Secretary Godowsky that opt-out will continue and it will reach a point where opt-out is not the only measure and it will wind up in court as a class-action law suit against the above parties by many parents in Delaware.

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.

Delaware Met And Their Train Wreck Of A Formal Review Meeting At The DOE Today

The Delaware Met is drowning.  I don’t know any other way to put it.  If this school is open for the 2016-2017 school year, I will be completely shocked.  The Delaware charter school had their first Formal Review meeting today at the Delaware Department of Education, where they faced nearly two hours of questions from the Charter School Accountability Committee.  The answers, when they provided them, caused great concern with the members of the committee, members of the audience, and myself.

To start, let me name all the players in today’s meeting, because there were many.

Charter School Accountability Committee: Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman, Exceptional Children Resources Group DOE Employee Barbara Mazza, Associate Secretary of Adult Education & School Supports Karen Field-Rogers, Educator Effectiveness & Talent Management Atnre Alleyne, Community Representative & Former DOE Employee Paul Harrell, Education Associate at DOE for Science Assessment and STEM April McRae

Staff To The Committee: Charter School Office Director Jennifer Nagourney, Deputy Attorney General & Consul to the Committee Catherine Hickey, Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, from the Charter School Office: John Carwell, Michelle Whalen, & Sheila Kay Lawrence, from the DOE Finance Office: Brook Hughes

Delaware Met Representation: Innovative Schools Chief School Officer Teresa Gerchman, Delaware Met Board President Nash Childs, & Innovative Schools Financial Services School Support employee Karen Thorpe

The meeting began at 1:30pm with a roll call of the participants.  While the exact wording may not be exact in all conversation, I did my best to type notes as fast as I could.  If there is a specific quote, I will highlight that.

Blowman: purpose of meeting is to discuss and review relevant material to see if remedial measures against the school need to be taken, there will be no specific recommendations coming out of this meeting.  This is a preliminary discussion.  The initial report will be out by November 9th and Delaware Met has 15 days to review and comment on the report.  The grounds for formal review were outlined in the letter sent to the school, including potential violations of the school’s charter in respect to the school’s educational program, school culture, board and leadership capabilities, and financial viability.  On November 1st, the Delaware Met submitted documents to the DOE and the committee will consider any documents and discussion at the meeting to determine if charter holder is compliant in these areas and the committee will let the school know if they need additional information.

There was some initial confusion right off the bat as Blowman wanted to discuss the educational program, and Gerchman mentioned something about the Code of Conduct being included in the formal review, to which Blowman responded he was more concerned if the procedures were followed with fidelity.

The first conversation surrounded the technology and computers at the school:

Teresa Gerchman: In addressing computers at the school, she said the school has a firmer grip on what is needed and the school is having meetings with parents so students and parent can understand the computer policy.  The school is working with Positive Outcomes which has the similar Go Guardian software which tracks the computers students have, websites students visit, and any connections for safety of students.  They will be handing out computers on 11/12, will be used starting in the 2nd quarter.

Jennifer Nagourney: At the 10/12 Del Met board meeting, it was discussed there was damage to the computer lab.

Gerchman: The school had a brownout but it was not the one-on-one technology the students will be using

David Blowman: Was the plan for computers to hand them out in mid-November or was that reflective of enrollment?

Gerchman: It was planned for 1st quarter but discipline issues came up and wanted to make sure parents understood the computer policies.

Donna Johnson: How can students check out computers each morning in a personalized learning environment?

Gerchman: Advisors help with that.

Johnson: (Asks same question again, Gerchman interrupts Johnson as she is asking her question)

Gerchman: We will be using the computers to set up internships and to do blended learning in the classroom.

Johnson: How will the computers be used outside of the school?

Gerchman: Students will be using other materials for outside work and by the 3rd quarter students will be able to take computers outside of school.

Johnson: What about teacher training for the technology (for some reason it was difficult to hear this part)

Gerchman: Training was done last summer.

Johnson: Is there after school or extended day to use computers?

Gerchman: Not now but the school will be able to do that.  Basketball starts soon so students involved will have 4-5pm study hall but right now there is no afterschool transportation.

Atnre Allyne: What determines readiness (for computers)?

Gerchman: It is intership readiness.

Johnson: What type of digital citizenship are students taking?

Gerchman: Not sure.  That is with Big Picture (model for school).

Johnson: How long is advisory each day?

Gerchman: 90 minutes.  Charly Adler with Big Picture Learning is involved.  He is providing training and hands on coaching for teachers and for advisory curriculum.

April McRae: What is the ratio of advisors to students?

Gerchman: 17:1

McRae: If advisors are also teachers, liaisons, and internship counselors how does that work?

Gerchman: They work with students during advisory period to go over personalized learning.

McRae: How long was training over the summer?

Gerchman: One month.  Charly was there to help there to help trouble shoot.

Blowman: Was there an awareness teachers weren’t ready?

Gerchman: No, teachers felt like they were prepared.  What they were not prepared for was what it took to engage students in advisory.  They thought the kids would be ready to jump in and they were not prepared for what happened.  Many kids were not engaged in the Big Picture Model.

Karen Field-Rogers: Was there something else that could have helped?

Gerchman: The Summer Institute was not required but going forward they will make it required.  Less than 50% of the students participated.

Blowman: Is there a difference in retention performance for students that went through the Summer Institute?

Gerchman: Yes.  The advisors are determining which students are internship ready but they do not have a percentage calculation.

Blowman: The model was always Big Picture.  The school had four years from the beginning of the application process.  I’m wondering how much planning and implementation was done by the ??? (couldn’t understand)

Gerchman: No.  We clearly stated what it was.  The majority of students who applied or went to open house knew it was clearly defined.  I don’t know if application fully embraced the model when students applied.  Big Picture was not (created?) for an urban setting.  We did not have right connection with the right school models (named schools from California)

McRae: That surprises me because the whole model is based on an urban setting.  I would have assumed Charly and his trainers would have based it on that.  This is a big disconnect.

Gerchman: The Providence schools were the foundation for this.

McRae: I have great concern.

Gerchman: We never heard this till after they opened.

At this point, DOE employees were passing out Halloween candy in Carmike Cinemas popcorn bucket

Gerchman: We are about to start matching potential careers in advisory.  We are having parent meetings and both parents and students will sign off on those.

Blowman: When does the internship program start?

Gerchman: It will vary by student.  Every student will be in one by the 3rd quarter.  The plan was never for 9th graders to start on 9/1.

Blowman: There is a big gap between 9/1 and the 3rd quarter.

Gerchman: It was always the plan to have 10th graders start within 10 weeks.  Not all students are ready.  We will be doing internal internships instead of external for kids with a disciplinary record.  They will stay at school to learn expectations for the workplace.

Alleyne: How do you know they are all going to be ready?

Gerchman: When we say internship ready we mean external.  We have a lot of resources coming into the school to help out, and the internal students can do IT at school.

Barbara Mazza: What training have you given teachers for students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs)?

Gerchman: We are having meetings with parents for one hour instead of a half hour.  All teachers have been given student goals and have a spreadsheet with all the goals.  Sue Ogden, the head of Special Education, is driving those meetings and she has worked w/teachers.

Mazza: Is she working with teachers on professional development for instruction?

Gerchman: Sue Ogden was not there during the summer.

Blowman: Do all eligible students have approved IEPs?

Gerchman: I can’t answer that.  I don’t know.  We are having meetings and they all have to do with transitional (not sure of next word after that)

Mazza: It has to be done within 60 calendar days of the schools opening date.  When did the school open?

German: 8/24.  Sue Ogden has a chart she is following closely.

Blowman: How many are handling special education?

Gerchman: 62.

Blowman: No, teachers.

Gerchman: We have Sue Ogden and two paraprofessionals and outside services for counseling, occupational therapy.

Blowman: That is equivalent to 4 units.

Mazza: How many unit counts did you estimate based on 9/30 student counts?

Karen Thorpe: 4 complex, 39 basic, 17 intensive.

Mazza: That is more than 4 units.  We want assurances every student had an IEP meeting before the 60 day mark.

Editor’s note: It got very quiet at this point.

Gerchman: Do you want a breakdown of service related hours?

Mazza: Not just that.  Also any behavioral needs being met.

Gerchman: We have social workers.

Mazza: You have 8 students identified with a disability?

Gerchman: That is where the mentoring team comes in.  We have a social worker, a psychologist to do the functional behavioral analysis and create the BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan).  Sue is involved in deciding if the behavior was a manifestation of the disability.  When a student brought a weapon to the school, we did a full manifestation determination hearing with the psychologist.

Blowman: Are you pushing inclusion?

Gerchman: Yes, and pull-out groups.  Classes are co-taught with special education teachers and there is time allotted  for pull-out services.

Blowman: How are you implementing RTI (Response to Intervention)?

Gerchman: We are utilizing intervention blocks of times. Students will be pulled for 45 minute times based on tier 1 or tier 2 services.  We are using pevious years of DCAS and Smarter Balanced scores and looking for kids that were consistently low.  Sue did additional testing to get to current levels.  Students get those additional services in addition to special education.

Johnson: Funds generated for special education students must be used for those students. I want a follow-up on how much money is being spent on special education currently and how much is for unit counts and staffing.

April: Science & Social Studies.  I have questions.  The school provided a curriculum outline, but I have concerns.  You also provided 1st quarter objectives and they not in compliance with the science coalition that was provided.  It is not compliant, and it almost feels like you will join the social studies and science coalitions but the application stated the school would be members of that coalition before the school opened and the school year started.

Gerchman: In my role now I can’t explain what happened.  When we saw we were put on formal review we reached out to those coalitions.

Nagourney: Is there anyone in this room that can explain this? Any board members?

Gerchman: I can’t explain it.

Nagourney: Is there anyone here that can answer this?

NO ONE IN ROOM THAT CAN ANSWER!!!

Johnson: Delaware Met had an additional year of planning to get ready.  The charter was approved by the Secretary and the Board (State Board) did not go through the exact science and social studies curriculum because they were joining that coalition.  I see them joining now because they are on formal review. I don’t see this matching to state standards and don’t see teachers have already gone through training to understand current state standards.

Nagourney: Who was responsible for overseeing this process?

Johnson: I don’t care who was responsible.  I want to know what happened and why because they had an additional year.  Those are basics and that’s very concerning.

McRae: Kind of what Donna (Johnson) said but since you are not currently members of the coalition we would like to see lessons aligned to state standard to see students are getting that curriculum.

Blowman: How long into the school year before that impacts students?  A lot of what should have been done over the past two years is being done once the school opened.  It is sacrificing instruction.  You had two years. (Blowman goes over everything discussed up to this point)

Johnson: I have a question about the 1st week of school plan.  Was that week considered an on-ramp to high school or are those hours including instructional hours for the school year?

Gerchman: It was considered on-ramp for Big Picture Learning.  It was also an on-ramp to high school but more Big Picture.

Johnson: That does not count towards instructional hours.

Gerchman: We will subtract them out.

McRae: What does it mean to be intern ready?

Gerchman: Charly has worked with advisors to understand this.  It means the student is ready to go external: they will be ready with how to dress, language, behavior and expectations.  For students we feel are not ready to go external we will give internal (internships).

Paul Harrell: How often does the school psychologist visit the school?  3, 4 days a week?

Gerchman: I’m not sure.  I don’t have that information.

Harrell: The mentoring program, who does it?

Gerchman: It is run by AJ English, it is called English Lessons.  He has two other people for three total.

Harell: Are they local?

Gerchman: It is a local mentoring business, one is a licensed social worker.

Harrell: Does anyone else in Delaware use AJ English?

Gerchman: I’m not sure.

Nagourney: We would like a list of external internship partners.

Gerchman: We don’t have that because no one is in an internship yet but we do have have interested parties.

At this point, the CSAC dove into what everyone wanted to hear: School Culture!

Gerchman: My assessment on the school culture is it is not what is was supposed to be.  This is not a surprise to anyone walking through the door.  AJ English was supposed to be an after school program but we saw the need for additional support for students, a need to understand what is triggering behavior and not just punishing behavior.  They have a rubric.  Some mentors know students.  We added a school climate officer who was hired before the start of the school year.  I was not part of the process for hiring him.  I’m not sure why he wasn’t there the first week of school.  He was given additional support and we brought people in: An In-School suspension person with experience at that to make it more effective- consequences when they are there, doing school work.  He worked in the Philadelphia school system (Note to self: but is he credentialed in Delaware?).  We brought in Rob Moore who works in the community and runs a basketball program and knows students and families.  He is a climate monitor and he can remove students from class with a goal of getting them back into class.  Mr. Wilson has enough people on his team, a one-person team can not handle it.

Blowman: How is the current climate?

Gerchman: Not where it needs to be.  Teachers need to do a better job of fully engaging all the students with instruction and professional development, and using the Teaching for Excellence framework.  I just got to the school on 10/27.  That was always the plan and teachers trained on this in August.  With Tricia Hunter (the official Head of School, out on maternity leave until mid-November) going out on maternity leave those were not fully taking place but since she came on they are.  When my kids are better engaged they are learning.  When we determined the 4-5% of students causing problems, we do check-in and check-out with their advisor or mentor, we are using behavior intervention plans, and we are trying to stop what is going on outside of school from coming into school.  The school is implementing Teaching for Excellence and teachers got training over the summer.

Johnson: That was a minor modification and that didn’t happen until after school year started.

Gerchman: I was mistaken.

Mazza: How is ISS (In-School Suspension) handled?

Gerchman: Sue Ogden administers that.

Nagourney: When was the last time a police officer was called to the school?

Gerchman: The Mayor (of Wilmington, Dennis Williams) came last week.  We have a police officer there every day for 2 hours at dismissal.  Kids come from other high schools to meet friends or for other reasons.  Yesterday we had a student that was suspended come back to school to start a fight with another student.

Blowman: How many times have the police been called in?

Gerchman: I don’t know.

Nagourney: Are those incidents being recorded?

Gerchman: Yes.

Harrell: When was the code of conduct issued?

Gerchman: The beginning of school.

Harrell: Wouldn’t it have been better to send during summer given the population at the school?

Gerchman: We wanted to review it with the students instead of just giving them a document.

Blowman: What plans do faculty have in place to engage students? Are teachers fully able to get engaged with students?

Gerchman: They have lessons plans and they are giving feedback on lesson plans.  We are making sure teachers know who to put out and we are working with those teachers first.  This is not a kid issue, it’s an adult issue.  We need to help teachers get stronger with that, have better relationships with the students.

Harrell: How is the morale of the teachers?

Gerchman: Not great.

McRae: It sounds like you are having an issue with fighting.  A student came back to finish fighting…

Gerchman: We suspended the student for a vocal altercation.

McRae: Have adults been trained to handle physical altercations?

Gerchman: No, not all

McRae: You have 62 IEP students, THAT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST,  AN ABSOLUTE IMPERATIVE

Gerchman: I just found out AJ English has programs in two other schools.

Johnson: Can you provide an outline of how school board and staff used the additional year to plan?

Nash Childs: It was difficult since we didn’t have a building.  We acquired the MBNA building bought by the state.  It took a long time.  We didn’t know we had the building until before the school year started (Innovative Schools officially purchased the building in November 2014).  We had to get a certificate of occupancy for the building.  The board was so focused on facilities and student recruitment that they lost valuable time working on the educational program and the code of conduct.  We had a school leader acquired but didn’t have the  money to pay her.  We had all these financial issues come together.

Johnson: What was relegated to the CMO (Charter Management Organization, in this case Innovative Schools)?  It seems to me they should have been working on those aspects.

Childs: As far as facilities that was the board.

Johnson: That makes sense.  How did the board hold the CMO accountable?

Editor’s note: No one answered this question.  I am guessing here, but I believe at least two board members were sitting in front of me but they were not a part of the response team. There was quite a bit of whispering between the two women at this point.

Childs: We work as a team.  I’m not an educator, but we have a lot of passionate volunteers on the board that love this model.  We thought this was perfect for downtown Wilmington but it is obvious we could have spent more time on the education program and climate.  The board didn’t know they were going to be faced with these issues.

Johnson: What are the current responsibilities the board is putting on Innovative Schools?

Childs: They have been a great partnership and the board is not throwing blame.

Johnson: What role is the board having on Innovative Schools?

Childs: We gave them a list in September 2015.  Our contractual agreement was not 100% implemented until after May of 2015.  They were doing work and not getting paid a dime for a while.

Gerchman: We are currently in the school and not charging the school for that.  Hodges (another Innovative Schools employee) is in the school and we are not charging for that.  We are working on filling gaps with no additional charge.

Blowman: Is that a deferral, cause we had that situation last year…. (I would love to hear more about that one!)

Gershman: It is not a deferral, when we looked at the numbers we rearranged their plan and how we could support them.

Johnson: In response towards the school leader, it says Innovative Schools additional roles would incur greater expense. Is the school having additional costs to cover your (Teresa Gerchman’s) primary duties?

Gerchman: I am working nights and weekends, no.

Johnson: Are you still CSO of Innovative Schools?

Gerchman: Yes.

Blowman: I am concerned about the capacity to serve all these schools.

Johnson: You are serving more schools now.  That was a concern last year and it is now.  I have questions around board governance training, due process training, and financial training.

Childs: We had training that started over a year ago. I can’t say who got what but I can get that list.

Johnson: How many board members have been on the board since you started the training process?

Childs: The majority.

Johnson: For new board members training?

Childs: Yes.

Gerchman: The entire board received DANA training and repeated this in September.

Kendall Massett: I was there and everyone did.

Gerchman: Not everyone got budget training.

Blowman: Financial Viability…

Thorpe: The current student count is 215. We have contractors in place for services, transportation, staffing in budget, our financial goals were not to draw any outside credit, to be able to reserve summer pay as required, as well as instructional goals to provide one on one technology.  The budget you received  was for 218 enrollment.

Nagourney: They submitted a new budget two hours ago.

Thorpe: We submitted a budget before the 9/30 count, but since we have had additional special education and what services are needed, and trying to get all the right people together for the budget.

Field Rogers: The budget submitted did not show funding streams.

Thorpe: It does now.

Gerchman: I was on leave when the letter came out so that is why we didn’t submit a budget.

Field-Rogers: The summer pay is part of a budget.

Thorpe: Those are in-school expenses

Field-Rogers: It shows a surplus of $10,000. Is this through 6/30?

Thorpe: It is a 12 month budget. This is before encumbrances, expenses from encumbrances are in current year budget.

Field-Rogers: This says there was a $65,000 line of credit was drawn in June.

Thorpe: Some bills did not get paid until July.

Field-Rogers: Are there any outside bank accounts?

Thorpe: None.

Field-Rogers: There were 215 students by 9/30. Have any students left since then?

Gerchman: Yes.

Blowman: How many students left since 9/30?

Gerchman: I am not sure. We sent four students back to Red Clay. (Discussion around working plan out with Red Clay to send the funding for those students to Red Clay)

Blowman: Were they special education?

Gerchman: No.

Nagourney: We received complaints as of this morning that students were not released for good cause.

Blowman: How is the school providing related arts: phys ed, fine arts, drivers ed, health? Cause you have a budget of that for $35,000.

Gerchman: We have a person doing phys ed and health, and some drivers ed.

Field Rogers: I’m confused cause revenues received doesn’t match the budget recieved, as well as transportation eligible students.

Thorpe: The local revenue matches what is on the DOE website. The state revenue is a little bit higher because we  have some teachers that will be credentialed.

Blowman: Page 3 says Academia. Is that correct?

Thorpe: That is correct. I will be more careful of that in the future.

Field-Rogers: Cafeteria funds of $189,000 seems really high…

Thorpe: That is correct, but that is what we are trending at.

Field-Rogers: Special Education is nine units and I see two teachers (paras) and one coordinator.

Mazza: Is Sue Ogden the Educational Diagnostician?

Gerchman: She is the Special Education Coordinator. (believe this to be the title that was said)

Nagourney: Are you planning for next year yet?

Gerchman: I don’t think my being the actual leader is effective. We are waiting on the school leader (Tricia) to come back on 11/19.

Massett: I want to point out this isn’t required.

Nagourney: We are looking at long-term financial viability.

McRae: I’m concerned with students leaving the school because of bullying, seven students left with good cause, police reports… do you feel students are safe on your campus?

Gerchman: More students feel safe now. Four bullied students left but one parent has expressed interest in returning.  The parents are concerned about retaliation for coming forward about bullying.  We have lots of students where that level of chaos is comfortable for them but for students not from those environments it is very hard.

Blowman: Do you believe students are safe in the school (looked directly at Gerchman)?

Gerchman: Yes. (long pause) We are reviewing applications for special education staff and having interviews tomorrow.  Sue is the specialist and we want to make sure she is comfortable.

Johnson: Can we get detail around engagement of parents and students with addressing culture, when the application was in process and when the school opened, with other Met schools, and the steps taken to engage parents and plans to move forward?

Nobody answered.

Blowman went around the committee asking members and staff to state what information was needed from Delaware Met.

McRae: Calendar of instructional hours and social studies and science lesson plans, units, and alignment to standards.

Mazza: We need confirmation they have reached out to John Sadowsky (Climate and Discipline Director at DOE, who did attend the meeting but left early, was not announced) for physical restraint training.  We want a list of IEPs and the 60 days, we aren’t seeing it in the system.

Gerchman: We got some expired IEPs, and we had problems with IEP Plus since 10/1.

Michelle Whalen: Please make sure all private information is redacted.

Mazza: If we find services were not being met what is the plan for making up time so services are met? And for the internships, we want to make sure these don’t provide barriers for students with disabilities.

Gerchman: We are using Positive Outcomes as a resource.

Harell: I want to know what other schools AJ English has a mentoring relationship with. Two teachers have left, I want to know of any other teachers leaving.

Johnson: I’ve asked for a lot. I’m asking for Schoology training, prior training, current use, additional follow-up on training for teachers, the training teachers got for social studies and science, the units are aligned to state standards, specific financial information about how much money receied for special education and how funds are being used and special education units staffed with  those funds, documentation on board docs to CMO, board training, detailed information on how board and staff utilized the additional planning year, and board engagements with parents and family members for school culture before school opened and after.  How many times have police been called?  Are there costs for Wilmington police to provide services?

Gerchman :Yes, $100 for two hours. This just started yesterday.

Field-Rogers: This isn’t budgeted.

Gerchman: We gave all the discipline information to John Sadowsky and the charter school office.

Johnson: (directed to DOE). I would like that information provided to our office (State Board of Education).

Blowman: The goal today is to assess where the school is today with concerns and to determine if there are still areas of concern. Meeting adjourned.

State Board of Education: “Poverty Is Not An Excuse…It Is Not Destiny”

The Delaware State Board of Education continues to ignore the effect Poverty has on students in high needs schools in our state.  As part of their presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover, the State Board presented a slide that said:

Poverty Is Not An Excuse…It Is Not Destiny

Once again, the State Board is using the data that helps to further their cause of convincing the state the Smarter Balanced Assessment is necessary for our children to succeed.  The biggest challenge for the State Board and the Delaware DOE is the issue of low-income and poverty.  To fight this, they are hand selecting schools that fared well on Smarter Balanced.  But do some of these schools already have extra programs that could warrant higher Smarter Balanced scores?  Yes they do.

Lewis Dual Language Elementary School (Red Clay), South Dover Elementary School (Capital), and John M. Clayton Elementary School (Indian River) are all part of Governor Markell’s World Language Immersion program for Spanish.  Booker T. Washington (Capital) houses the district’s gifted and talented program for their elementary schools.  As well, Capital only has 3rd and 4th grade in their elementary schools and no 5th grade.  Other schools cited by the DOE as “beating the odds” (my words) are Long Neck Elementary School and Georgetown Elementary School (Indian River), Town Pointe Elementary School and North Dover Elementary School (Capital), Lake Forest South and Lake Forest East Elementary Schools (Lake Forest), Banneker Elementary School (Milford), Kuumba Academy and Thomas Edison Charter School.

An important distinction to make with all of these schools is that they are elementary schools.  The DOE did not praise any middle schools in this presentation.  The tests 3rd graders take are very different than those for 8th graders.  Comparing the two is not a true indicator for why 3rd graders did better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment than their peers in 8th grade.  As well, this ignorance of poverty does not take a large portion of the poverty issue to task: the very real part that deals with addiction, violence and crime in many of these students’ homes.  All of the schools the DOE talks about are in lower Delaware with the exception of two charter schools in Wilmington.  There are no Red Clay, Christina, Colonial or Brandywine schools “beating the odds”.

As well, the State Board emphasized the Smarter Balanced Assessment is just one indicator of how our schools are doing.  Then why are measurements from the Smarter Balanced Assessment going to account for 90% of elementary and middle schools accountability ratings and 70% for high schools in the upcoming accountability system called the Delaware School Success Framework?  All the other indicators the State Board talks about, growth and resources, are tied to students doing better on this test.  Education in Delaware is now based on performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Poverty DOES matter, and there are facets of poverty Governor Markell said last March “that you and I can’t imagine“.  But it sounds like Governor Markell, the DOE, and the State Board of Education are unable to not just imagine it, they don’t have the first clue how to understand it.  Below is the entire presentation Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, presented to a group comprised of mostly educators and very few parents last night.  If any of you have more knowledge about what these schools may possess that other schools don’t, please share this information in the comments section.

The Oxymoron At The State Board of Education Retreat Today **UPDATED**

The hardest part about writing this article was coming up with the title.  There were so many things I could have named it.  Such as “It could have been worse, it could have been rocket ships.”  Or “Vermont and Connecticut are really going to hate Delaware soon.”  Or “We gotta grow them.”  Or “Is it still an embargo if they reveal it at a public meeting?”  In any event, I attended part of the State Board of Education retreat today.  I arrived at 1:30pm, and I was the ONLY member of the public there.  I received some stares.  All but two members of the State Board of Education were present.  Those that were there were President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Vice-President Jorge Melendez, Gregory Coverdale, Pat Heffernan, and Nina Bunting.

When I got there, head of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit Christopher Ruszkowski was giving a presentation on, what else, teacher effectiveness.  There was a slide up which said TEF- 5 charters, TEF- 6 charters, Freire, Colonial, Aspira.  If I had to guess, these are schools or “collaboratives” that have or will have their own teacher evaluation system.    The Rus Man (sorry, spelling his last name is a huge pain!) said Lake Forest School District believes DPAS-II is more equitable.  Rus said “Districts not using the new evaluation methods are not as successful.”  He explained how some districts get “caught up in the structure” and “the rules”.  He said principals want more high-quality data, and they are having better conversations about Measure B in the DPAS-II system.

This was followed with a presentation by Dr. Shana Ricketts.  She explained how that state trained 125 principals over the summer, and there will be training sessions over the next two weeks, and DSEA will be holding workshops over the changes in the DPAS-II.  The Rus Man explained how Delaware has the “most decentralized system in the country for teacher evaluations and goals are different across the board.”  A question came up about assessments.  Discussion was had about reducing assessments even more.  “If we standardize chemistry exams why have teacher ones as well,” Rus Man asked.  “But some are teacher-created, which is good cause it shows growth.”  Dr. Gray responded with “Gotta grow them!”  Rus man explained how “teachers need to be empowered”, “our obligation to be world-class is students have to be proficient when they graduate”, and “We are trying to ask the right questions.”  Rus man also said “There is not enough rigor.”

At this point, Dr. Penny Schwinn came in, followed shortly by Ryan Reyna, who works under Schwinn.  Actually, I should say next to her as they are both easily the two tallest employees at the DOE.  While I was distracted, Rus Man said something about “Commitment to proficiency…mindblocks….set the target, work my way back” followed by something about the “culture of the building”.  To which board member Pat Heffernan responded with “We can’t put blinders on and have no idea.”  Gray responded with “We want growth AND proficiency!” followed by “We don’t set the goal based on average, we set it on growth.”  Rus Man responded by saying “We are to be compared to everyone.  Not Delaware, not other states, but everyone in the world.”  He stated our principals are aware of this.  Someone asked if our principals understand this.  He explained how the alternative is the “same way we’ve done for 100 years, mastery of standards to grade book…”  Gray burst out that “It should be proficiency based!”  Board member Nina Bunting thanked Rus Man for the presentation and said “It was very informative.”  Heffernan said we need to “encourage principals to encourage good data entry.”

The State Board took about a ten minute break at this point.  Dr. Gray asked how I was doing, and I proceeded to tell her all about my hernia and my operation.  She explained how her brother had that done.  I asked if it was stomach or groin.  She said stomach. I told her mine was groin.  She just kind of stared at me for a few seconds, unsure of what to say.

At this point the accountability trio of Dr. Penny Schwinn, Ryan Reyna, and Dr. Carolyn Lazar began to give a presentation on Smarter Balanced.  I actually asked if this meeting had any embargoed information I shouldn’t know about.  Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, explained this is a public meeting.  Most of the information was already on the state DOE website.  Lazar explained how 21 states took the field test, and 17 Delaware districts participated.  All told, 4 million students took the field test in the USA.  Schwinn explained how elementary schools outperformed middle schools and high schools in both math and ELA.  Heffernan asked if this included charters on the data they were seeing, but Schwinn explained the charters were on a separate slide.  Lazar said there was a 15 point gap between Math and ELA, but the “claim area” was only 10 points.  At this point, Dr. Gray asked what the proficiency level was.  For the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Lazar explained it is the students who score proficient or above.  That is good to know!  Next they went over slides showing how close or how far districts were between Math and ELA scores.  Donna Johnson commented how Capital School District’s proficiency lines attached which is very unique.  Schwinn responded that this “speaks to the rigor of assessment.”  Schwinn brought up the student survey and said that 7,000 students self-selected to perform the survey at the end of the test.  Dr. Gray said that isn’t statistically normed.  Schwinn explained it was not, but the survey will become automatic next year, like how it was on DCAS.

Michael Watson, the teacher and learning chief at the DOE, presented next on Smarter Balanced in relation to teaching and instruction.  He explained how we need international assessments so we can compare against India and China.  He explained how Delaware had “strong positive indicators with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) trends.”  Watson proceeded to show the board a chart showing how Delaware compared to nine other Smarter Balanced Assessment states that released their data.  Delaware came ahead for literacy in third to fifth grade, but much lower in ELA for 8th grade.  Next, Watson gave a long talk about comparing Delaware to Connecticut with Smarter Balanced results and the two states NAEP results.  He found that Delaware trailed behind Connecticut in NAEP, but we were closer to their scores with Smarter Balanced.  I wanted to burst out “That’s cause SBAC sucks so I would expect most states to suck equally on it”, but I bit my tongue.  But as I thought about it, comparing two different states NAEP scores to SBAC is like comparing a clothing store to Chuck-E-Cheese.  There really isn’t a comparison as they are two different entities.  In talking about the states Delaware scored near the same as on SBAC, Watson actually said “Either Connecticut and Vermont didn’t take SBAC seriously or we are working harder.”  Bunting explained how in Indian River, “when state says jump we say how high!”

**At this point, Watson looked over at me and said the next slide is embargoed information but he presented it anyways.  So I can’t write about the embargoed information presented to me at a public meeting about a survey done showing that in Delaware, 88% of Superintendents feel we have implemented Common Core, followed by 87% of principals and 67% of teachers.  For some reason, this is top-secret embargoed information that won’t be released until next month or something like that. (**SEE UPDATE ON BOTTOM)

I had to leave to pick up my son from school.  I brought him home and checked my email real quick.  I did get an email from Yvette Smallwood who works for the state on the Delaware Register of Regulations.  She informed me, in response to my request they remove Regulation 103 from their September publication due to issues of non-transparency surrounding it, that they couldn’t remove it but the DOE did agree to extend the public comment period until October 8th, which would be 30 days after Regulation 103 was put on this blog!  I drove back to the State Board retreat and as I walked in I heard Dr. Gray talking loudly about parents needing to understand.  At which point Reyna pointed to a chair for me to sit in and Dr. Gray stopped talking about whatever parent thing she was talking about.

The infamous “toolkit” has been fully released on the Smarter Balanced website.  It includes a link to the DelExcels website, some other “very informative” websites called Great Kids and Be A Learning Hero.  The DOE is working with DSEA to get information out for parents to understand the Smarter Balanced results.  According to Donna Johnson, many districts are excited to get the information to parents, and are aligning curriculum and professional development in an effort to gain more awareness.  The DOE is working with superintendents, principals, social media, and their partners (Rodel).  The test results won’t be mailed out from the DOE until Friday, September 18th and Monday, September 21st.  Which is probably their way of screwing up my well-designed article from earlier today about education events this week…  But I digress.  Schwinn said the resutls will come out earlier in future years, but this is a transition year.  Johnson said “some districts are excited to dig in” with releasing data.  Lazar explained how teachers are getting “claim spreads” which are tied to “anchor data”.  At this point, it’s all Greek to me when they start speaking in that language.  The DOE is working with journalists (no one asked me, and I had already received embargoed information at a public meeting) to write articles on how to educate parents on “how to read reports and grade spreads”.  Because parents don’t know how to do that.  I don’t think parents are confused about the data.  They will be confused why Johnny is doing awesome with grades but he tanked the SBAC.  And no one will be able to present this to them in a way they will clearly understand so hopefully they will come up with the same conclusion as many parents already have: Smarter Balanced sucks!

At this point, Johnson wanted to play one of the new videos, just released Friday in an email blast to anyone the DOE has worked with (which didn’t include me, but I got it forwarded to me on Friday).  So here it is, the world premiere (if you haven’t been so blessed to be included in the email blast), of the Delaware DOE Smarter Balanced Guide For Parents Video 2015:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/4/DE_REPORT_VIDEO_REVISED_MIX_1.mp4?_=1

*video may not be working, I will work on it…

This won’t be the last time you hear this video, because apparently some districts want to put this on their morning announcement! I kid you not…

This next part is actually somewhat frightening.  When asked how many hits the DOE website is getting for this, Johnson was unable to answer, but they can track the hits or work with partners on sites they don’t own to get that information.  Tracking plays a LARGE part later on in this retreat…

The final part of the presentation was my whole reason for coming: The Delaware School Success Framework.  A slide came up from the State Board of Education agenda for Thursday’s meeting, but it had attachments that said “embargoed”.  These links don’t appear on the public agenda.  There was a lot of whispering between Penny Schwinn, Shana Young, and Donna Johnson at this point, as if they could be discussing something they didn’t want me to hear.  I don’t obviously know this for sure, just a hunch! 😉

She went over the state’s new accountability system called the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF).  I covered most of this last week in my Regulation 103 article and how much of a game-changer this system is, but I found out quite a bit of information on it today.  The DSSF will go live next month with what they are calling the “paper framework” until the full online system launches by June 2nd (a must date according to Penny Schwinn).  Schwinn said the reason they are including 4, 5, and 6 year graduation rates is because of special education students who may not graduate in four years.  She proudly said “Delaware is the first state to have college and career preparation” as part of the state report card (which is what the US DOE calls state accountability systems).  When talking about the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG), Schwinn stated Ryan Reyna is leading this group.  She said there is a lot of opinions in this group, and not everyone is going to agree, which makes it a good group.  She said no accountability system is going to have 100% agreement, so it took some compromising.

“Delaware has the most aggressive rate in the country for growth,” Schwinn said.  This was her explanation for the VERY high portion of the DSSF which has growth.  She said it “feels more appropriate with Smarter Balanced to set the bar high.”  She acknowledged they are “pushing it with US DOE” but feels they will be approved.  How this all works with the DSSF is this.  There is a Part A, which counts toward a school’s accountability rating, and Part B which will show on the DOE website and is informative in nature but has no weight on a school’s grade.  Part A includes proficiency (multiplied by the school’s participation rate on SBAC), growth to proficiency, college and career prep (for high schools), average daily attendance, and so forth.  The numbers have changed somewhat since I last reported on the weights of each category.  For elementary and middle schools, 30% of the weight will be proficiency, and high schools will be 25%.  For growth, in elementary and middle schools this will be 45%, and high schools 40%.  So in essence, 75% of a school’s accountability rating will be based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment in elementary and middle schools, and 65% for high schools.  The bulk of the rating system that will determine reward, recognition, action, focus, focus plus and priority status will be based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Schwinn said this is very aggressive and is “not comfortable backing down on it.”  Not one word was said about the participation rate or Regulation 103 during this presentation.  The categories were presented for the ESEA Flex Waiver last March but the weights have to be submitted to the US DOE by 10/31/15.  So the State Board has to make a decision on it by their 10/15 meeting.

Reyna talked about proficiency and growth with some scatter graphs.  “We’re really valuing schools that are showing growth with students” he said out of thin air.  Schwinn talked about the school survey parents will receive (school report card).  They are going with the “5 Essentials Survey” for the non-accountability rated Part B.  The DOE is creating a survey working group which will start next month and will include the “usual stakeholders”.  They sent emails to all the superintendents to participate, just like they did with the AFWG.  The state is holding itself accountable as well, but there was no discussion about what they are measuring themselves against.  Schwinn explained that on the survey last fall, parents liked the idea of letter grades on the school report and teachers hated it.  So they won’t have that on the report.  In news I know many will like, THERE WILL BE NO ROCKET SHIPS, TRAFFIC LIGHTS OR TROPHIES on the Delaware School Success Report sent to parents.  There was a lot of discussion about design and different ideas.  Heffernan said DOE can tell parents “It could have been worse, it could have been rocket ships.”

Schwinn explained on the online report, parents will be able to map and graph data.  As an example, Dr. Gray said if a parent is looking for a school that has choir, they will be able to find that, to which Schwinn agreed.  Schwinn said “accountability is intended to be a judgment on a school.  But we want to make sure parents see other data as well.”  Schwinn said they WILL TRACK THE INFORMATION PARENTS SEARCH FOR ON SCHOOLS to see if they can let schools or districts know about needs in their area.  Or at least that’s what she said.

Schwinn had to leave to “feed her family” and Reyna took over.  They are resetting assessment targets for the state and each subgroup which must be done by 1/31/16.  At this point, the next slide Reyna presented had embargoed information at a public meeting (just love saying that!).  So I cannot, by threat of force or violence, tell you that the overall state proficiency for SBAC was a little over 51% and for the overall subgroups, it was 38.8% for SBAC.  But here is the real kicker.  Delaware has to pick their choice to hold the state accountable.  With a six year plan, the state must close the proficiency gap between the overall sub-groups (including low-income, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and minorities) by 50% in six years.  This is what Delaware DOE wants.  Other choices were all schools are 100% proficient by 2019-2020, or “any other method proposed by state that is educationally sound and results in ambitious but achievable Annual Measurable Objectives for all schools and subgroups.”

Pat Heffernan was not a fan of DOE’s choice because of the impact on students with disabilities.  He even made a comment about how they won’t reach this goal either.  It was discussed how ALL students will be included in this state accountability rating.  The infamous “n” number won’t apply (when students are below 15 at a school in a sub-group, they are NOT counted towards the individual school’s accountability) on this state system since ALL students that are in a sub-group will be included in the state’s rating.  But students will not be double-counted.  So for example, an African-American student with disabilities will only count towards one of those sub-groups.  The DOE must increase the 38.8% for the sub-groups to 45% in six years to meet the state rating with the US DOE.

And with that, the meeting ended since they had already run over time for the meeting, and they used a room at the Duncan Center in Dover.

UPDATED, 9/17/15, 9:34pm: Michael Watson from the Delaware DOE spoke with me at the State Board of Education meeting during a break.  He informed me the slide he presented to me at the State Board Retreat was NOT embargoed information, but the name of the upcoming report is.  Since I didn’t remember it, it’s a non-issue but I do appreciate him letting me know.  As for Ryan Reyna, that’s another story.

Rodel Starts The Blame-Game Against Teachers While Praising Smarter Balanced Results

Yes, I do regularly read the Rodel blog on their website, but I never commented on one until I saw their post from Friday called 5 Data Takeaways From Smarter Balanced Test Scores, written by Rodel employee Liz Hoyt.  I’m always curious what the “opposition” writes about things like this.  I have been very vocal in my thoughts on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  They are a non-profit whose CEO happens to make over a quarter of a million dollars a year.  I do not believe they have students best interests at heart.  This article drove that point home for me with very clear and concise words.  I will go through the areas that bothered me the most.

“Aligned to the Common Core state standards, the new state assessment was designed to ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need in jobs and college.”

I think this has always been my biggest problem with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Please tell me how a 3rd grader taking this test is going to be in any way prepared for college based on how they answer questions on a test?  Even if they put them at a 5th grade level, there is no test in the world that can prepare any student at a young age for a career or post-secondary education.  The education reformers need to pick a side and stick with it: is the test meant to create data to see where students compare with each other or is it to prep them for a world they can’t even fathom until they are 15 or 16?  They can’t have it both ways.  Furthermore,.wasn’t the whole point of Common Core that a student in Alaska would get the same information and be assessed on the same information as a student in Louisiana?  Instead, we have 18 states taking Smarter Balanced, 11 or so taking the PARCC, and the rest developing their own state assessments.  It isn’t very common when states aren’t taking the “common” test.  Funny how life works out…

“While this year’s scores are lower than last year’s DCAS results, Delaware students outperformed estimates (based on the 2014 national field test) in both subjects for every grade with the exception of 11th grade math.”

Why does the DOE and Governor Markell keep trying to pump up the fact that students did better than expected?  Isn’t that the whole point of a field test, to find out what the kinks are and what problems might come up and strive to fix those issues?  How many rockets did Russia blow up before Sputnik launched? If students did worse than the field test, it would prove unequivocally that this was a bad test.  But since students did better than the field test, we are acting like this is the best test Delaware ever created (which Governor Markell did say at a speech for New America earlier in the Summer).  And this is my major issue with this statement.  We have nothing to measure this test by, and even the Feds wouldn’t allow states to compare any test scores to field tests for this very reason with their accountability frameworks.  It’s not often I agree with the US DOE, but anyone can see the fallacy in comparing a field test to the actual test.

Scores dropped as Delaware set a new baseline for student proficiency.”

Once again, how can scores drop when you are comparing apples to oranges?  This test didn’t set a baseline for student proficiency, it set a baseline for Smarter Balanced proficiency based on whatever arbitrary number the Delaware Department of Education set it at.  So what happens if by chance some miracle happens, and every student scores proficient on the test next year.  Would the DOE allow that?  They had a meltdown when the vast majority of teachers were rated as “effective”.  What happens to the baseline then?  I firmly believe they would change it because if everyone is proficient, the test is useless and has outlived it’s purpose.  On the flip side, if everyone scores at a non-proficient level, we can’t have that either, because that shows 1) the test is bad and 2) we need to make all our schools a priority and fire all the teachers.  So the baseline will ALWAYS be set somewhere so that anywhere from 30-70% of  students are proficient.  But that really doesn’t tell us what students need.  It tells us the DOE will do whatever they have to for certain results.

“Despite concerns about the opt-out movement’s potential impact on assessment, student participation remained strong.”

Concerns? How many times does Dr. Paul Herdman speak in public at Legislative Hall about pending legislation for education? He said it was the first time he ever came to an education committee meeting and gave public comment.  It wasn’t a concern for Rodel. It was a five-alarm fire!  I’ve said all along I expected opt-outs to be small the first year.  I also said once parents receive the scores, it will be another story in the second year of Smarter Balanced.  One only needs to look at New York and New Jersey to see the difference between the first and second year opt-out rates to gage how Delaware will be with this in the Spring of 2016.  This is a wake-up call for parents, and they will show how much they support this test with higher opt-out rates in six months.

“Scores varied widely across districts and schools, highlighting the hard work of educators implementing the Common Core State Standards and schools that may need additional support.”

Scores varied widely among low-income schools and higher income schools.  They varied between charters and magnet schools with selective enrollment preferences and those without.  They varied between the haves and the have-nots.  Are you telling us then that schools with low-income just happen to have teachers who aren’t good at “implementing the Common Core State Standards”?  Because that’s the way I’m reading this.  Are you saying that EastSide Charter School, who was publicly praised by Governor Markell for their incredible growth on DCAS has teachers that now are not implementing Common Core the right way?  Or is it because EastSide performed about the same as other schools with comparable low-income populations?  Don’t answer.  We already know.

“…learn more about the Smarter Assessment and the Common Core State Standards at DelExcels.org.”

Since we know Rodel provides invaluable help to Donna Johnson, the State Board of Education and Delaware DOE in getting resource material on the DelExcels website for parents, and Rodel is a non-profit, did Rodel get paid with tax-payer money to help get the material on the DelExcels website?  And how much of that money gets invested into one of the hedge funds Rodel invests in?  Can you please answer those questions?

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