DOE Responds To My Not A FOIA Request On SBAC Achievement Levels With Names

Holy smokes!  I guess if you respond to a DOE email and include tons of people on the response, you might just get a response.  I got real live actual information regarding Smarter Balanced without making four mortgage payments!  State Rep. John Kowalko was included on this as well.  Below is the email from Alison May at the Delaware Department of Education with answers to all my questions (just for this request, they know I still have TONS of other questions).  I did take the liberty of doing some minor edits by adding a colon after each of my questions instead of the comma Alison May used.  As well, her answers had red, so I will do that which got lost in the copy.  I just wanted to make it prettier, but if anyone wants to see the REAL email, let me know.


From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
To: “‘kevino3670@yahoo.com'” <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>
Sent: Monday, October 12, 2015 4:22 PM
Subject: FOIA response

Mr. Ohlandt and Rep. Kowalko,

This is in response to your recent requests for information. Quoted below are Mr. Ohlandt’s original questions with respective answers in red.
1)     I would like to see a list of the individuals from Delaware who participated in the Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting.  This would include both the In-Person Panel and the Cross-Grade Review Committee:  The below spreadsheet lists the Delaware in-person participants.  Also, it identifies the cross-grade review committee participant from DE —-this process was also called Vertical Articulation Committee (VAC).  This was Karen Clifton.
The following represented Delaware as in-person panelists. TBL indicates the person served as a table facilitator. VAC indicates the person also participated on a vertical articulation committee.
SBAC Achievement Level
2)     As well, I would like to know who from Delaware represented the final achievement level settings: The state representatives participated in reviewing and making recommendations, which also took into consideration the online recommendations, etc.  There was then a final cross-grade or vertical process on the last day to make final recommendations from this group to pass forward.  These recommendations also went through external review, TAC, and Governing States chiefs for discussions.  Then they went to states for additional discussions and possible adoption. Karen Clifton from Delaware stayed for the final day of achievement-level setting. Carolyn Lazar of DDOE’s Assessment Office also was there for observation/auditing the process.  Former Secretary Mark Murphy participated in the Governing States discussions.
3)     Which higher education leaders participated in the 11th grade achievement level setting:  Faith Muirhead
4)     And anyone from Delaware who served on SBAC’s Technical Advisory Committee: There were no Delaware reps on Smarter’s TAC—this is not designed to be a state representative group but a professional group of assessment authorities.
5)     And if anyone from Delaware participated in the audit process for this:  Carolyn Lazar participated as a state observer/auditor for the process.  Each state was allowed to send one representative for this.
Alison May
Public information officer
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, DE 19901-3639

I do know or have heard of some of these teachers and general public participants in this.  Yvonne Johnson is THE Yvonne Johnson.  There can only be one!  At least on the Delaware PTA.  I know Yvonne was involved in many facets of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware as it was being developed, but don’t signal this as Yvonne has gone DOE on us.  She does not like this test AT ALL!  Don’t forget she was one of the major voices for opt-out and House Bill 50.

Some of these teachers are or have been involved with Rodel and the Vision Coalition of Student Success 2012, er uhm, 2015, er uhm. 2025.  The bottom line, we will all be dead and Dr. Herdman’s great grandson will be talking about Vision 2105.  And Alison:

THIS WAS NOT A FOIA REQUEST! IT WAS ONLY A QUESTION! BUT THANKS FOR ANSWERING!

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.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Toolkit Revealed! Parents: Call The DOE!

Thanks to Delaware Deep Throat for getting me pieces of the puzzle called the Smarter Balanced Toolkit.  I don’t think I have it all yet, but we are on the right track.  Below you will find a copy of the parent report and the lingo that will be in it.  I love how they pin it on teachers on the very first page!

Developed with input from Delaware K–12 teachers, higher education faculty, and other experts.

And then we have the FAQs they want parents to ASK teachers.  Hey parents, don’t ask the teachers.  They have enough on their plate already.  Call the Delaware Department of Education.  The phone number for the Office of Assessment is (302) 857-3391.  The Interim Director is Dr. Carolyn Lazar.  She should be able to answer the billion questions you will have about this farce of an assessment!

While that may seem a bit unfair, keep in mind the teacher who gave the assessment most likely isn’t the same teacher your child had when they took the assessment.  Furthermore, the teachers don’t get to keep the questions and they don’t even know what any student answered.  The DOE might know! Ask them!  And if they don’t know, try Governor Markell.  Ask him about the data on how many students got question #10 wrong.  That will keep him busy!

DOE Releases All State Assessment Results EXCEPT Smarter Balanced, Five Year Assessment Plan

Yesterday at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, Dr. Carolyn Lazar with the Office of Assessment at the Delaware Department of Education gave a presentation on state assessment results but did not release any Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  This presentation also included school and district proficiency information, which can be found on this page.  The only reason I didn’t Scribd them is because they are stamped “embargoed” which I find hysterical because they are putting them on a public website!

These DCAS results are mixed.  For regular students, they went down from last year in Science and Social Studies.  For severely cognitively impaired students, who take the DCAS-Alt tests, the results are up and down depending on the grade.  Overall, with the exception of 7th and 9th grade, these types of students appear to be reading better, but social studies, science and math are showing a downward trend compared to last year.

This also went into the DOE’s five-year plan for state assessment and the release of Smarter Balanced scores in the coming month.  I absolutely love how they specifically mention who they met with to discuss this roll-out, but FAIL to mention their one-on-one meetings with members of the General Assembly.  Not one mention of legislators at all.  They know this information is already public, so why would they omit this?  If the DOE wants to convey clear communication with parents and community members about this test, than they should make public all contracts, addendums, emails associated with this test, and the exact date they got the results back.  No parent will ever take this Department seriously if they continue this embargo and withholding information from the general public.

As for Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory, when can we expect to see who is on this task force?  Who picks the members?  We can’t forget, Lindsey O’Mara who is the Education Policy Advisor for Governor Markell, publicly stated Smarter Balanced can be included in assessments up for discussion on this task force!

Once again Delaware Parents: REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE starts NOW! And Parent Freak-Out 2015 begins the moment Smarter Balanced results are made public!

Brian Touchette No Longer Director Of Assessment at Delaware DOE

Brian Touchette, the former Director of Assessment at the Delaware Department of Education, has stepped down from the role but is still an employee.  Dr. Carolyn Lazar is serving as the Interim Director for the Office of Assessment.  This was confirmed with the Human Resources Department at the Delaware DOE.  Touchette is still listed as the K-12 lead on the Smarter Balanced website for Delaware, but I believe this information is outdated as well, as it has Touchette’s DOE Role in the Exceptional Children Resources Group, a role he had prior to the Office of Assessment.

I first noticed this when I went to look for any information on the letter Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy spoke of at yesterday’s House Education Committee meeting from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan regarding potential federal funding cuts for Delaware in the event an opt-out law is passed.  I found no letter, which I have formally requested from the DOE, but I did find this:

Office of Assessment Contact Information

Carolyn Lazar, Ed.D.
Interim Director, Office of Assessment
Email:Carolyn.Lazar@doe.k12.de.us
Phone: (302) 857-3391
Fax: (302) 739-3092

I made a few calls and this has been confirmed.  While no details were given in regards to the change, which I would not expect, I have to wonder if Touchette is the fall guy for the opt-out movement in Delaware.  This is merely speculation on my part.

Presentation from Penny Schwinn To The State Board of Education, Also Common Core & Great Leaders Presentations

The following were put as attachments on the State Board of Education website for the agenda on yesterday’s meeting.  Schwinn’s presentation says nothing about the bomb she dropped yesterday concerning the DOE considering replacing the SAT with Smarter Balanced, but the audio released Monday or Tuesday will confirm that one!

DOE Considering Replacing SAT With Smarter Balanced Assessment, Markell’s “Assessment Reduction” Plan Has Been In The Works For 6 Months, & School Turnaround News

Chief Accountability and Performance Officer Penny Schwinn, at the Delaware Department of Education, gave a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment to the State Board of Education today.  Schwinn indicated the Smarter Balanced Assessment may potentially be considered to replace the SAT in 11th grade for Delaware students.  She claimed that other states are doing this already.

The main part of the presentation was the five-year Smarter Balanced Assessment plan.  Schwinn and Dr. Carolyn Lazar, another associate at the Delaware DOE, talked about the recent “assessment reduction” initiative that had some rather revealing and shocking acknowledgments.  The DOE has spent the past six months reviewing state assessments and found there is a lot of replication across the state.  Their goals in this review have been to make sure assessments align to the state standards, yield valuable reports on student progress, adhere to best practices statewide, and align with the system in place.  Schwinn said “We all want as much instruction time as possible,” and in speaking about the community’s role in this initiative, “We want to be respectful of community input.”

Schwinn’s office feels end of year assessments (finals) are repetitive and they are starting to see a reduction on these tests in districts.  The five-year assessment plan will cover Smarter Balanced Assessments, DCAS for Social Studies and Science, Alternate Assessments, and the following tests: PSAT, SAT, ACCESS and NAEP.

Schwinn explained the grant funds involved with this assessment review available to the “largest districts” as she put it, and it would amount to $5.00 a student for a total of $80-90,000.  Lazar explained, contradicting Schwinn’s earlier statement, that the grant is available to all the districts in Delaware and that the DOE initiated this process two years ago but became a focus six months ago.  The grant funds became available for the districts in early April, and the districts have until the end of the April to deliver a list of their assessments to the DOE.

A company called Achieve is the DOE contractor involved in this, and their role is to provide a user-friendly model and to develop an action plan to execute on the findings of the review.  The DOE is planning to develop a communications and community engagement process, and they are pleased at the level of educator involvement already taking place with this review.

The DOE has already provided the districts with a template of the grant form to ease the burden on the districts.  They suggested the districts use an outside consultancy firm, like Achieve (which they specifically mentioned for a 2nd time).  The review plan has three steps: Phase 1: review, Phase 2: develop action plan, and Phase 3: implement action plan.  The goal, according to Lazar is “teaching more, testing less.”  The plan will ask “Why assess?” which they feel is necessary and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray agreed.  “We are all consumers of data,” Lazar said.

The DOE will be more than happy to provide technical assistance to the districts that they may consider part of their budget, with the help of Achieve (3rd mention of this company), who may want other contractors to come in and assist.  But the districts can be creative with the funds (based on a DOE designed grant template and the able-bodied assistance of Achieve).

Gray restated the earlier statement that the grant is optional to the districts, but Schwinn stated they are committed to doing this for all of the districts.  Board member Pat Heffernan asked if there is a rubric for this initiative, to which Lazar said that is something they are looking to implement but nothing exact like a specific rubric (after they already designed the grant template).

They expect the district assessment tally in mid-May and an action plan by December.  During the gap in time, they plan to utilize focus groups (with no definition of who would be on these focus groups).

Schwinn indicated teacher created assessments used in the classroom are not a part of this review, but some of the Measure B and RTI interventions used by the districts, according to Gray, are repetitive.  Schwinn stated these are the universal assessments that all students must take and determining the validity of them.  Schwinn stated Common Core alignment with the SAT would be ready by next year with a transition in the next two years and full implementation in the next 3-5 years.

The next part of their presentation concerned the current implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in districts and charters in Delaware.  Schwinn said she is “very excited” about the results they have seen so far.  As of April 10th, 15,000 students have taken part in the summative ELA Smarter Balanced Assessment, and 9,000 for the math.  When asked about the different in numbers, Schwinn indicated it was because of how the districts and schools implement the testing scheduled during their testing windows.  There was a long discussion about “chunking”.  Heffernan asked if there have been situations like the schools thought a section would take four days but it took six to which Schwinn answered they haven’t received that feedback at this point.

In terms of problems, the biggest problem which was on the screen, but not even discussed during the meeting was the issue of accommodations.  The screen indicated “ACCOMMODATIONS DATA TRANSFER EXPERIMENTING ISSUES-unresolved, students incorrectly appearing as “custom” for accommodations in the test administration interface.  Work-around requires test administrator to employ additional efforts to validate accommodations for every student.”  American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor is “working on the issue.”  Nothing was discusses about any financial impact to the state or the districts to resolve these issues.  The DOE has an internal system they use to monitor the Smarter Balanced called PBMS.  Schwinn indicated the first year of DCAS had similar issues (another state assessment designed by AIR).

Executive Director of the State Board Donna Johnson asked how many districts were doing the interim assessments and Schwinn answered this is decided by the actual schools, and in some schools, only certain grades.  For the hand-scoring they are using a new technical system for curricular assessments and collaborating with the State of Washington and Air for training.  This is posted on a portal called the Teacher Hand-Scoring System.

There has been an inconsistent display of resources but conference calls with other states in the SBAC, the staff at Smarter Balanced and AIR is allowing for collaboration and sharing of resources like sources, prompts and materials deployed.

Schwinn indicated students like “Smarter” (a recent Facebook commenter said all the DOE hipsters like to call it “Smarter”) better than DCAS and are showing more interest because it has listening and is more realistic (with not even 1/5th of the students in the state taking the test, they are already making this assumption without all the end-of-assessment surveys).

Here is my take on all this, and the whole “reduction of assessments” initiative is not to actually reduce testing, but because the DOE wants more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  The DOE and Governor Markell want everything tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment: college course placement, standards-based IEPs, SATs, and even those pesky little “other” assessments that provide real and valuable data in many cases.  My big question is this: how much did the legislators know of these plans with this test when the majority voted to approve it last year with House Bill 334?

While this question is being pondered, who is Achieve?  According to their website, their agendas (not making this up, they actually have a tab called “Our Agenda”) include standards, graduation requirements, data & accountability and assessments, with sub-groups in this category called sample student assessment reports, ADP assessments, measures that matter, and what a coincidence, one called Student Assessment Directory for School Districts.  And look at that, they just completed a huge guide for districts on 3/20/15!

And from their website, which can be found at just another corporate education reform link:

Below is a brief history of Achieve:

1996: Achieve is founded at the National Education Summit by leading governors and business leaders.

1998: Achieve begins its Academic Standards and Assessments Benchmarking Pilot Project.

1999: Achieve sponsors a National Education Summit.

2001: Achieve sponsors a National Education Summit; Achieve joins the Education Trust, Thomas B. Fordham Institute and National Alliance of Business to launch the American Diploma Project (ADP) to identify the “must-have” knowledge and skills most demanded by higher education and employers.

2004: The American Diploma Project releases “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts.” This groundbreaking report – the result of over two years of research – identifies a common core of English and mathematics academic knowledge and skills, or “benchmarks,” that American high school graduates need for success in college and the workforce. Education Week later named “Ready or Not” one of the most 12 influential research studies.

2005: Achieve co-sponsors a National Education Summit on High Schools, with the National Governors Association; the American Diploma Project Network is launched with 13 inaugural states.

2006: Achieve releases its first annual report on the ADP college- and career-ready policy agenda: “Closing the Expectations Gap: An Annual 50-State Progress Report on the Alignment of High School Policies with the Demands of College and Work.”

2007: The ADP Assessment Consortium launches to develop common Algebra II end-of-course assessment, which was, at that time, the largest multi-state effort to develop assessments to date.

2008: Achieve releases “Out of Many, One: Toward Rigorous Common Core Standards from the Ground Up,” a report that found that individual state efforts to set college- and career-ready standards for high school graduates actually led to a remarkable degree of consistency in English and mathematics requirements.

2009: Work begins on the development of the Common Core State Standards; Achieve partners with the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers on the Initiative and a number of Achieve staff and consultants serve on the writing and review teams.

2010: The final Common Core State Standards are released; Achieve begins serving as Project Management Partner for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

2011: Achieve begins managing the state-led development of the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards.

2013: The final Next Generation Science Standards are released.

 

So now that we know the who, what, where, when and how, my big question is WHY?  This is just another waste of money so the DOE can pay another corporate education reform company.  Is there just this huge and massive network of these companies that comes into states and “transforms” everything education related?

Well, at least now we know Penny Schwinn does more than worry about priority schools.  Wait a minute… I take that back.  I found this on the Delaware Contract Bid website, just placed two days ago in fact…

 

But let’s all hope Delaware Secretary of Education Mary Murphy’s sniffles get better.  The poor guy either has a bad cold, or allergies, or something.  Hope you feel better Mark!