Predicting The Future…Was I Right?

Back in March on 2015, I made several predictions for Delaware education.  I ran across this post yesterday while searching for another post.  As I looked back on these predictions, I wondered if I was right or wrong.  I would say I got about half right and half wrong.  Some were dead on the nose while others I wasn’t even close!

Top Ten Exceptional Delaware Predictions for 2015

1. Mark Murphy is either terminated or resigns

Yes, I was absolutely right about this!  By August 2015, Murphy did “resign”.

2. Mark Holodick takes his place

Nope, Dr. Steven Godowsky took his place.

3. Office of Civil Rights comes back with scathing report against Delaware

Nope, still working on it supposedly.

4. More charter schools get scrutiny over finances

Yes.  Academy of Dover, Providence Creek Academy, Kuumba Academy, Delaware College Prep, whatever is in the unreleased petty cash audit, and Delaware Met.

5. At least 3 districts won’t meet the 95% benchmark for standardized test participation rates

Nope, more than 3 districts didn’t hit the 95% benchmark for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

6. Delaware parents become a force to be reckoned with education conversation

Maybe.  We did get House Bill 50 passed in the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  Parents of students with Autism did get Senate Bill 93 passed.  There were other bills that went through, but parent advocacy wasn’t as big in the General Assembly after the veto override of HB50 didn’t go through.

7. Bullying and discrimination will become BIG issues

To me, this is always a big issue.  I think more awareness of discrimination happened due to the situation with cops and African-Americans over the past year.  For bullying, I will have to reserve judgment until I see the report for the 2015-2016 school year.

8. More bills will be introduced AND passed to limit the power of the Delaware DOE, Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education

Not really.  If anything the DOE grew more bold after Mark Murphy left.  Recent months have proved that more than any other time.  But in terms of the legislators, the only thing I can think of which may limit power is placing the State Board of Education under Sunset review.

9. US DOE will approve extension for teacher accountability and the Smarter Balanced Assessment

The US DOE did approve this extension for the 2015-2016 school year, but as I wrote yesterday, this year is another matter.

10. The four Wilmington school districts will become two and Brandywine will cause major problems during the process

Absolutely not!  I can’t recall if the WEAC recommendations came out when I wrote this, but nothing has happened at this point in terms of redistricting.  Brandywine and Colonial did bow out of sending their Wilmington students to Red Clay though, so in a sense it was kind of/sort of right.  But Brandywine didn’t really cause any problems.  But Colonial bowing out was a point of contention for a time.


The High-Stakes Testing Scam Revealed At Last

What if I told you the high-stakes testing American children have been going through is a complete and utter scam? Many would say they already knew that, but would they be able to tell you how they knew this? Probably not. At least not at the levels our state Department of Educations developed with the many testing companies such as American Institutes for Research, Pearson, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The Delaware Department of Education put out a Request for Proposal for our new Social Studies State Assessment. The actual RFP is a treasure trove of testing information. For starters, the Delaware Department of Education is flat-out lying in their RFP. Last year, the Delaware DOE put out their “Delaware School Success Framework”. This is essentially Delaware’s report card for schools. Included in this horrible accountability testing machine are participation rate penalties for schools that go under 95% participation rate on the state assessments. The Delaware DOE and State Board of Education tried passing an updated version of Delaware’s regulation regarding school accountability, but many parents and education organizations balked and successfully blocked the State Board of Education from passing it. As a result, even though the Delaware State Board of Education eventually passed the Delaware School Success Framework, there is no regulatory power behind it. But that didn’t stop the Delaware DOE from making it look like it is perfectly legal in their RFP for the new Social Studies state assessment.

One of the first things the DOE calls for from a potential vendor for this test is understanding of and the ability to put the Rasch Scoring Methodology into the test. What is this Rasch the Delaware DOE has? It is an all-consuming itch to trip up kids and schools and parents. This is part of the underbelly of state testing that no one talks about. The website appropriately titled explains the Rasch Scoring Methodology as this:

What is a Rasch Analysis? The Rasch model, where the total score summarizes completely a person’s standing on a variable, arises from a more fundamental requirement: that the comparison of two people is independent of which items may be used within the set of items assessing the same variable. Thus the Rasch model is taken as a criterion for the structure of the responses, rather than a mere statistical description of the responses. For example, the comparison of the performance of two students’ work marked by different graders should be independent of the graders.

In this case it is considered that the researcher is deliberately developing items that are valid for the purpose and that meet the Rasch requirements of invariance of comparisons.

Analyzing data according to the Rasch model, that is, conducting a Rasch analysis, gives a range of details for checking whether or not adding the scores is justified in the data. This is called the test of fit between the data and the model. If the invariance of responses across different groups of people does not hold, then taking the total score to characterize a person is not justified. Of course, data never fit the model perfectly, and it is important to consider the fit of data to the model with respect to the uses to be made of the total scores. If the data do fit the model adequately for the purpose, then the Rasch analysis also linearises the total score, which is bounded by 0 and the maximum score on the items, into measurements. The linearised value is the location of the person on the unidimensional continuum – the value is called a parameter in the model and there can be only one number in a unidimensional framework. This parameter can then be used in analysis of variance and regression more readily than the raw total score which has floor and ceiling effects.

Many assessments in these disciplines involve a well defined group of people responding to a set of items for assessment. Generally, the responses to the items are scored 0, 1 (for two ordered categories); or 0, 1, 2 (for three ordered categories); or 0, 1,2, 3 (for four ordered categories) and so on, to indicate increasing levels of a response on some variable such as health status or academic achievement. These responses are then added across items to give each person a total score. This total score summarise the responses to all the items, and a person with a higher total score than another one is deemed to show more of the variable assessed. Summing the scores of the items to give a single score for a person implies that the items are intended to measure a single variable, often referred to as a unidimensional variable.

The Rasch model is the only item response theory (IRT) model in which the total score across items characterizes a person totally. It is also the simplest of such models having the minimum of parameters for the person (just one), and just one parameter corresponding to each category of an item. This item parameter is generically referred to as a threshold. There is just one in the case of a dichotomous item, two in the case of three ordered categories, and so on.

Now this has a lot of lingo I didn’t quite get.  But the important part about understanding the Rasch Methodology of Scoring is that ALL items must be the same.  This is NOT what is going on currently.  With Smarter Balanced, PARCC and other state assessments, the testing companies have developed what is called a Partial Matrix of Items.  What this means is that a portion of the state assessment is the same for everyone.  But the remaining portion comes from a bucket of different test items submitted for these tests.  In partial matrix testing theory, the similar content shared by all could be anywhere from 20-30% of the items on the test.  The rest varies based on what is in the bucket.  What this means is this shocking find: students aren’t taking the exact same state assessment.  For Smarter Balanced test-takers, the tests aren’t the same.  The same for PARCC as well.

The truly frightening part about this is the probabilities with Partial Matrix.  If a student is a high achiever, the probability they will get a correct answer is above a probability of .5 on each item’s scale.  If they aren’t a high achiever and struggle, the probability drops below .5 on the scale.  So these tests are designed so roughly half get it right and half get them wrong.  But if kids aren’t taking the same exact test, where all the items after the “common” items change, that throws the whole model into whack.  The testing companies know this.  Our state DOEs know this.  The US DOE knows this.  Chances are many corporate education reform companies, politicians, and even some school Superintendents know this.  Any testing coordinator in a school district or charter school should know this.

This is also why opt out throws the whole scheme into disarray.  If too many “smart kids” opt out, it will change that whole .5 probability.  If too many struggling kids opt out, the test scores will be very high.  The testing companies love this model because it furthers the whole standardized testing environment which gives them lots of money.  With this model, schools fail and schools succeed.  It really is based on the socio-economic demographics of any given school.  This explains why the 95% participation rate is the desired outcome.  With a school of 1000 kids, 950 kids taking the test isn’t going to skew the results too much.  But once you get below that level, that .5 probability begins to shift in either direction.  None of these testing advocates care if the kids are proficient or not.  They already know, for the most part, exactly how it is going to turn out.  That’s when the real work and potential manipulation can occur.

In Delaware, students don’t take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the same time.  There is a three month testing window.  Some schools begin in the first week of March whereas others may not start until May.  How do we know, with 100% certainty, companies like our testing vendor, American Institutes for Research aren’t looking at that data constantly?  How do we know they aren’t able to ascertain which questions have a higher or lower probability of being answered correctly once students start taking the test?  How do we know the testing gurus at our state DOEs aren’t in constant contact with the testing companies and are able to determine ahead of time which testing items in the “non-common” partial matrix to send to different schools, or even certain grades?

For example, say a state really wants to have a particular school show phenomenal “growth” in proficiency scores from one year to the next.  This could be a charter school.  While the overall proficiency rate isn’t phenomenal, the growth could be.  As a result, more students could be wowed by this school and might be more apt to send their children there.  It could flip around another way.  Say a state DOE really is  just sick of a particular district and wants more charters in that area.  The best way to make more charters is to show more failing traditional schools.  Even some charters could be expendable.  Another one might want to expand their enrollment and has more influence and pull than other ones.  With current accountability regulations (and more to come under ESSA), this allows states to continue labeling and shaming certain schools.  The reality is these assessments can be molded into any shape a state might want if they are able to interact with the testing vendor and determine which items go to which school.  This is a worst-case scenario for an already bad test to begin with.

While state DOEs brag about the computer-adaptability of these tests and how it will “work with the student”, this is the most egregious part of the whole modern-day standardized testing scheme.  By having this “adaptability”, it disguises the true intent: different items on the tests for different students.  Even if students talk about particular items on the test, the adaptability prevents them from having the same items on the test.  It is an ingenious scheme.

For teachers, some could be guided towards certain directions by the state DOEs for where to go with curriculum.  Others could be guided in the wrong direction which will ultimately change the results of these assessments.  It is the grandest illusion of them all.  The state DOEs will say “we have advisory committees.  Teachers pick the items for the test.”  I’m sure they do.  And I’m also sure there are plants on those committees.  Ones that wind up working with certain state foundations, state DOEs, or other corporate education reform companies.  It sounds so shady, doesn’t it?  How much of a soul has to be sold to make more money or climb up the corporate education ladder?

While all of this may have your head reeling, try this on for size: what happens when competency-based education becomes the next “thing”?  When digital personalized learning becomes the norm and all these state assessments become broken down into mini-standardized tests?  Instead of those 7-10 days when students are hogging up all the bandwidth in the school and teachers most likely lose a lot of hair, the tests will be shorter.  They will become end of unit assessments.  Teachers won’t even need to worry about administering their own end of unit assessment because Smarter Balanced and PARCC already did all the work!  How convenient.  Not only did our states reduce testing time, but also teacher’s time and effort.  A true cause for celebration.  And parents won’t even be able to opt their kids out of these tests because most of them most likely won’t even know their kid is testing and their classroom grades will be based off their digital personalized learning work and their competency-based education high-stakes mini-test.  We know Delaware is leaning towards this testing model because Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky mentioned this during our last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting back in May.

Meanwhile, back at the state DOE, they are getting all this data.  They are getting it from their vendors like American Institutes for Research, or Questar, or Pearson.  Other companies want to see it so they can work on a report about how to fix our schools.  Our state DOEs actually pay them to do these reports.  Through contracts and extensions of contracts.  Yes, only the student identifier code goes out.  These testing companies really don’t care about who the student is, just what they can extrapolate from the data.  But then that information comes back to the state.  The state knows who that student identifier belongs to.  For example, Student ID # belongs to John Johns at Delaware Elementary School.  Based on the information from all that data, they can easily paint a picture of that student.  Based on the scores, how long it took them to take the test, how they answered responsive questions… all of this allows them to track.  So much so they can determine, based on other algorithms and matrices, exactly what career path John Johns is heading towards.  Perhaps we should guide him towards that culinary program.  Or maybe Bio-technology pathways.  Or maybe poor John Johns won’t ever advance past a welder position.  FERPA guidelines allow state DOEs to actually do this.

Want to know who always loses in these testing games?  Students with disabilities.  They may receive accommodations but they never get the one accommodation they need the most.  For regular classroom tests, IEP teams frequently agree on a student not taking every single test question.  Maybe 1//2 or 3/4 of the questions.  Standardized tests don’t allow for that.  The answer is always the same: they will get more time.  What they fail to understand is what “more time” means to these students.  It means more time focusing on the same task: Taking a test.  What are their regular peers doing when these kids are getting “more time”?  They are learning.  Receiving instruction.  Getting ahead.  Students with disabilities are, yet again, put in a position where they will become further behind.

We all knew our kids were guinea pigs for these tests.  We just didn’t know how much.  The time to opt out of these tests, no matter what the circumstances might be, is now.  Not later, not tomorrow.  Now.  Today is your opt out day for your child.

Below is the RFP for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment.  I’ve gone through this and highlighted key wording and troubling aspects which I will write more about tonight or tomorrow.  Don’t be fooled by the DOE’s statements of assurance in this.  I have no doubt their legal team went through it very carefully.  But I’m fairly certain they didn’t expect a citizen to go through it and dissect it like I did…

Remember The Days When Special Education Was…Special? Steve Godowsky Should!!!

I found an old document.  Very old.  It’s so old I was nine when it came out.  The first Star Wars movie was two years old.  Empire Strikes Back wasn’t even out yet.  The Smashing Pumpkins sang about this year.  1979.  At this point in time, a very young Steven Godowsky was working at what was known as the State of Delaware Department of Public Instruction.  We know this now as the Delaware Department of Education.  And Steven Godowsky is now Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  Back then he was a supervisor in the Exceptional Children Programs.  When he was first nominated to replace Mark Murphy last year, I thought it was impressive he was a Supervisor back then.  But in looking at this document, everyone who worked in that department was a Supervisor.  What was the DPI like 37 years ago?  Check the below out, when it looks like Delaware was trying to create the Individualized Education Program, what we now call the IEP.


Breaking News: AFWG To Have Encore Meeting On Tuesday 11/17, Open To The Public

After the stunning news last week the Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky was blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendation of lighter opt-out penalties for the Delaware School Success Framework, the group is meeting for an encore on Tuesday morning, 11/17, at 10am.  This is two days before the State Board of Education will make their final decision on the ESEA waiver.  Interestingly enough, Regulation 103 (which ties the school report card mess into state code) is not up for a vote at this meeting, which means December will most likely be the vote for that.

Somewhat related to this, I’m hearing the DOE employee named Ryan Reyna who works in the accountability area and was one of the controversial Race to the Top positions that should have been cut from the DOE is in all likelihood leaving the DOE very soon.  Reyna was one of the key DOE employees involved in the AFWG group.

If you are available on Tuesday morning, this meeting will be open to the public and will have public comment.  I strongly suggest attending this meeting and making your voice known on this subject!!!!!

Here is the agenda for this meeting:

Delaware Receives Extension Of Time On ESEA Renewal Waivers

The United States Department of Education granted Delaware an extension on their latest Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Renewal.  The deadline had been October 31st, but the Delaware DOE was granted a reprieve until November 24th.  This will allow the State Board of Education to vote on the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) which is the only pending item from Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Renewal originally approved in July.

The DSSF gained quite a bit of controversy when this blog revealed to the public there were plans to have harsh penalties to Delaware schools if they missed the 95% participation rate based on opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Accountability Framework Working Group met in September and October and the group opted for the participation rate penalty of no school being a Reward School if they did not meet the 95% threshold.  As well, schools must write a report to the DOE on how they plan to get the participation rate back up.  A high school in Red Clay had 40% participation with high school juniors.  The prior penalty had the proficiency rate of schools multiplied by the participation rate.

This could still happen if the State Board of Education, who has the final say, votes for that part of the school report card.  The State Board of Education meets on November 19th.  Public comment will not be allowed on this due to it being an action item for the meeting.  The new Secretary of Education for Delaware, Dr. Steven Godowsky, said he doesn’t think the multiplier will be approved by the State Board, but he did not come out and say this as a definite.  The DOE claims they MUST have some type of punishment, but this is highly controversial based on the US DOE not having this written as a law or approved regulation.  The US Congress has never approved anything of this sort.

If the State Board does pass the multiplier penalty, look for the DOE and State Board getting a ton of grief.  In the end, the final say is actually Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  The Secretary and the State Board are appointed by Markell, and they “serve at the pleasure of the Governor”.

Delaware Senate Confirms Secretary Of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Steven Godowsky is the new Secretary of Education in Delaware.  Today, the Delaware Senate voted 19-2 to confirm Dr. Godowsky to serve at the pleasure of the Governor as the new Secretary of Education.  The sole nay votes belonged to Delaware Senators Colin Bonini and Greg Lavelle.  Red Clay Educators Association Mike Matthews was present at the Senate Confirmation and put a lot out there on Twitter.

Dr. Godowsky’s Big Day! From Vision To Senate Confirmation!

Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Acting Delaware Secretary of Education, is expected to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate in an Executive Session at 2:30pm today.  Earlier this morning, he gave a speech at the Student Success 2025 event sponsored by the Vision Coalition and tons of corporate education reform companies.  I’m hearing lots of good things about Dr. Godowsky, but I am cautiously optimistic.  The Delaware Senate needs to grill him on what his true intentions are.  If he is just there to follow Governor Markell’s bidding, he should step away now before Delaware students come under more harm with false ideologies and tainted dogma coming from the destroyers of public education.

We all know many are in attendance at Student Success 2025 for the eclairs.  No one is fooled.

Are There Human Rights Violations Going On At Delaware Met? Parents Need To Speak Up NOW!!!!

I received an anonymous message this morning concerning Delaware Met.  We may be entering a new level of abuse inflicted by this school on their students.  As if everything already happening isn’t bad enough, I am now hearing about issues concerning the school hiring prison guards to “control kids”, multiple suspensions, and issues with confinement.  While these allegations have not been vetted, it follows the alarming trends with this school.  To that effect, I emailed the DOE, Governor Markell, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, and some legislators in regards to this.  I also called the Delaware DOE about this and left a message.  I did receive a return call just minutes ago from them and I advised the Charter School Office of the information conveyed to me.  Someone needs to do the right thing and get in there and shut this place down.  There are many students with disabilities in this school and not following, implementing, or creating an IEP for them is a recipe for disaster.  Below is the email I sent out not long ago:

From: Kevin Ohlandt <>
Nagourney Jennifer <>; Blowman David (K12) <>; Godowsky Steven <>; Markell Jack <>; O’Mara Lindsay (Governor) <>; Denn Matthew (DOJ) <>
Williams Kimberly (LegHall) <>; Kowalko John (LegHall) <>; Baumbach Paul (LegHall) <>; Sean Matthews <>; Gray Teri (K12) <>
Thursday, October 22, 2015 10:54 AM
Delaware Met

Good morning all,
I received an anonymous and very troubling message this morning concerning the Delaware Met.  As I’m sure you all know, this school is under formal review.  But if this message is true, there could be human rights violations going on at this school, in current time.  I know most of us don’t see eye to eye on education policies, but I’m sure we can all agree that no student in Delaware should have any rights violated whatsoever. 
The message I received concerns many of the items already covered in Del Met’s formal review letter, but also issues concerning the hiring of prison guards, multiple suspensions and issues of “confinement”.  The last of these concerns me greatly.  Many of these students may have IEPs and Federal and State law clearly indicates matters of punishment for students with disabilities.  Confinement sounds very serious, and I fear for these students safety. 
I’m not sure who has to get in there, but something needs to be done.  This school is out of control and something beyond a formal review needs to take place immediately if these types of things are going on.
Thank you for your time, and I appreciate any response to this very disturbing situation.
Kevin Ohlandt
I strongly urge parents of students in this school to go public with what they know.  Do not let this school intimidate you or your child.  If what I am hearing is true, I would highly recommend you do not send your child to this school.  Let the cards fall where they may, but if it is a matter of safety and human rights, please do the right thing for your child.  This is a wake-up call for all of us in Delaware, and I am letting you know I care about your kids.  I have never issued a message like this before, but look out for your kids.  I strongly commend the DOE for doing the right thing with putting this school on formal review, but this has now become a matter beyond them if these events are occurring.  We need to keep our children safe, first and foremost.
Who is actually running this school? Is it Innovative Schools? The Delaware Leadership Executive Director who stated he would farm out the “day-to-day” operations to an intern?  What is going on inside this place?
To that end, parents need to name names and let those with the ability to do something operate out of full transparency so they can get in there.  Schools need to be a safe haven for children, but this sounds more like prison conditions.  I won’t deny there are probably some bad behaviors going on with some teenagers in this school, but if the school is unable to adequately deal with this than the center will not hold.  I heard from another parent of severe bullying going on at this school and the administration not dealing with this properly.  Something needs to be done…NOW!!!!
UPDATED, 12:10pm: This developing situation is being looked at very seriously by the Delaware Department of Education.  As well, I am being told there are two rival gangs within this school and this seems to be the heart of the issues.  Someone is going to get killed in this school if something doesn’t change immediately.  We need all hands on deck here, and parents should be very concerned.  I am begging the school: If you cannot handle this, do not hide.  Don’t think you can wave a magical wand and fix this.  If it is beyond your ability to control, please, just shut it down.  The Delaware Met is not an alternative school.  You do not have the necessary supports to handle those students.  Do the right thing.

Delaware DOE Praises Highest Graduation Rate Gains In The Country

The Delaware Department of Education just sent out a press release regarding the highest graduation rate gains in the United States of America.  But does this include the information revealed by Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks in July about the drop-out rate and changes in how these numbers are reported?  This wouldn’t be the first time the DOE has praised statistics based on faulty information.  Here is the press release:


Delaware made the greatest gains in high school graduation rates between 2013 and 2014, the U.S. Department of Education announced Monday.

The First State, which saw its rate increase from 80 percent in 2013 to 87 percent in 2014, led five states cited by the report as having made the greatest gains. Also cited were Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois.

Delaware school and district leaders have credited the state’s improvements in recent years to initiatives such as credit recovery programs, ninth grade academies and targeted interventions. Many of these efforts were initially funded through federal Race to the Top grants that went to the state as well as districts and charter schools. As a result of these investments, students receive additional supports before and during their first year of high school. In addition, schools are more likely to be able to identify students quickly if they are falling off track so they get the support they need before getting too far behind. Schools have targeted ninth graders because research shows that performance during that year is a major indicator in whether a student will ultimately graduate.

Supports have been coupled with improved data systems, which help educators better identify when and how students are falling off-track so they can more effectively target intervention. Teachers also have more time to communicate with their peers to identify and target needed supports thanks to their Professional Learning Communities, designated time during the school day when educators meet to plan and learn from each other about the most effective ways to serve their students.

“This recognition is the result of tireless work by educators and school leaders throughout the state working to meet the needs of every Delaware student,” Governor Jack Markell said. “Rising graduation rates, increased college attendance, and more students taking and passing college-level courses in high school all show that we are making great progress at a time when education is more important than ever. But we can and must continue to do better; we must sustain and improve upon the efforts that are producing these results.”

Acting Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky said he is proud of Delaware’s educators and students, whose hard work has led to these gains.

“We must continue to invest in these and other initiatives that are working to better prepare our students for college and career,” he said. “If confirmed by the Senate, I will work to continue everything from the effective implementation of our rigorous Common Core academic standards to support for our struggling schools to the Pathways to Prosperity initiative, which gives students hands-on learning opportunities in growing career fields to make learning relevant and fun.

“All of these efforts are necessary to ensure we are meeting student needs and keeping every student on a path to graduation and success after school,” Godowsky said.

The preliminary data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education shows the majority of states – 36 – saw increases in overall graduation rates from 2013 to 2014. Six states saw decreases and eight had no change since 2013. The National Center for Education Statistics is expected to release final graduation rate data – including the nation’s newest graduation rate – in the coming months.

NOTE ABOUT THE DATA: The 2014 Delaware rate reported by the U.S. Department of Education (87 percent) differs from the rate the state reported earlier (84.4 percent), because Delaware includes students in some special schools/programs that are excluded from the calculation used for the federal reporting. The state 2014 calculations also represented a significant increase from 2013, when the state reported a graduation rate of 79.9 percent.​

Some Very Interesting Names On This DOE Email, One In Particular…

As usual, when I search for something, I find something I never expected. Such was the case this evening. Even more strange, what I found was something I actually did. Last winter and spring, I published several emails from the DOE that I obtained through someone else’s FOIA request. To my recollection, and I couldn’t find it on my blog, I never published this one. It didn’t have much of a story around it. But with finding this one name included in this email, it started to make me wonder. For those of you who have been following very current education news, you will certainly know the name when you see it…

Things that make you go hmm…I wonder what Ruszkowski meant about his term “in partnership“…

Teach For America’s “Lead Delaware” Approved By State Board But Who Is Teach For All?

Yesterday at the Delaware State Board of Education unanimously approved the Teach For America led “Lead Delaware” program.  At the September Delaware Professional Standards Board (PSB) meeting, the original application didn’t even get a vote by the voting board.  TFA redesigned the application which was approved by the PSB and several schools wrote letters of support for the program.  The highlights of the program can be seen below:

In listening to the State Board audio recording, Jeremy Grant-Skinner with TFA mentioned a partner called Teach For All.  This is essentially an international Teach For America, led by Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America.  Grant-Skinner talked about how they will bring some of their cohorts (Principal trainers) to different regions to learn best practices.

Kopp’s husband is Richard Barth, the founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools.  While there are no KIPP schools in Delaware, my fear is the more embedded TFA becomes in Delaware, it is only a matter of time before they invade.

I have been very vocal about my feelings on Teach For America embedding themselves in Delaware education, and this new Lead Delaware program is not the best thing for Delaware in my opinion.  First off, they will charge a $7,000 “service fee” to each program participant.  While TFA is saying there will be no costs from the local education agencies (school districts), I have to wonder where these funds will come from.  Perhaps Rodel or the Longwood Foundation?  Both have donated heavily to TFA Delaware in the past.  Here is the budget for each “cohort”:

Category Unit Cost ($)

Tuition/fees/related costs for partner courses (Harvard, WilmU, NAATE) 10,326

Costs for other partner organizations (Teach For All, TNTP, Jounce) 2,576

Principal Consultants 2,500

Excellent School Visits 1,750

Principal Mentors 1,000

Materials 750

Operating costs 17,024

Recruitment 595

Participant Fee (7,000)

Total 29,521

I also cringe at TFA even developing a principal certification program.  From their application:

Lead For Delaware’s candidate assessment process incorporates three types of assessment

data: (1) school leader competency ratings, (2) program completion and participation evidence,

and (3) standardized assessment scores. Cohort members must meet all criteria across these

three areas in order to be recommended for School Principal and Assistant Principal

certification (under Section 1591).

This program still has to be approved by Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  It is my fervent hope he sees past the obvious benefit for TFA and puts a halt to this leap-frog program for leaders in Delaware education.

State Board of Education Audio Recording Up, Definitely Worth A Listen!

The Delaware State Board of Education audio recording went up today.  Yesterday’s meeting was very interesting between the WEIC presentation, SATs, the Delaware Met decision for formal review, and Dr. Steven Godowsky’s first meeting as Acting Secretary of Education.  I had to leave after the Del Met decision and I still need to listen to the decision on the Teach For America sponsored Lead Delaware decision.  You can listen to the whole thing at the following link:

State Board of Education Meeting: Live from Dover

Roll Call.  Everyone is here.  Dr. Godowsky announced as acting secretary.  Announced agenda was changed to remove some regulatory action and to announce Delaware Met being added on for formal review.  Approving minutes.  I just gave public comment to welcome Dr. Godowsky.  I urged him to make decisions in the best interest of students and not politics.  As well I asked the Board and the DOE to strongly look at Response to Intervention and special education.  I advised it is my contention many schools are using it to identify students for special education but it is a long and cumbersome process and children can miss out on vital services during that timeframe.

Going over updates from the Board.  Pat Heffernan talked about attending the IDEA awards from the Delaware Charter School Network last Friday.  He talked about Tom Carper attending to celebrate 20 years.  Executive Director of the SBOE Donna Johnson is talking about updates which can be found here.  President of the State Board Dr. Teri Gray is talking about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Donna Johnson is talking about the Delaware Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  They are still collecting data from schools.  She said this data is not available at the state level, such as enrollment in programs and waiting lists.  This data will give more information for known demand for schools.  Once they receive this they will be able to paint a picture of what their offerings look like.  An interactive mapping tool will be available so they can get a “robust picture in our state of educational opportunities.”  Once the data collection is completed it will be provided to the State Board.  They don’t want to rush it.  They want to examine the data to make sure the information has good quality.  Dr. Gray asked for a one-page graphic for the November Board meeting.  Donna Johnson complied.

Dr. Gray is welcoming Dr. Godowsky to his new role.

I’m very pleased and honored to be here.

and further on:

I’ve gotten to know firsthand names and faces and I appreciate the work happening here.

He said he has been on a listening tour and meeting with different individuals to see what work needs to be done.  His goal is to have better communication internally and externally.  He wants to have a weekly “email blast” coming from the DOE.  He said there was a very deep conversation with the board earlier today about the Accountability Framework Working Group and he has heard lots of thoughts on it.  He attended the New Castle County Boards of Education breakfast this morning.  He wants to continue to do the listening and learning.  He said it is “full speed ahead“.

Next up is an Educators As Catalysts program which is a presentation on the Culinary Arts Program.  From the presentation on the State Board website:

This is a three (3) or (6) credit Career & Technical Education (CTE) program that allows students to explore management & culinary skills needed for success in the restaurant or hospitality industry.

While the Culinary Arts Program talks about what’s cooking (sorry, had to say it), I’ll give a who’s who of who is in attendance here.  Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques is in the house.  Not his House, but DOE’s house.  He will be in his House later today for a caucus meeting.  Dan Rich from the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is here.  He will be giving a presentation on WEIC after the Culinary Arts presentation.  I see Kendall Massett, Devon Hynson, Sue Francis, Greg Mazotta.  Matt Albright with the News Journal and Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks are both here.  Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey is here.  Laurissa Schutt with Teach for America.  Kevin Conrad with Delaware Association of School Administrators is here.

From the DOE we have Susan Haberstroh, Karen Field-Rogers, Michael Watson, David Blowman, Alison May, Catherine Hickey, Shana Yong, Chris Ruszkowski and others.

WEIC Presentation is now up.  Dan Rich and  Joe Pika are giving the presentation.  They are going over the history (again) of how this all came about.  Is there anyone in the state who hasn’t heard this story before?  Plan will be done in December and State Board will have to act on comprehensive and transparent plan by January 21st, 2016.  If State Board acts, General Assembly will have to pass Resolution and Governor Markell will need to sign.  Had to step out for a minute.  They are talking about a problem with Christina because their district office is in Wilmington.  They are talking about how some districts are reluctant to just hand over their students (didn’t say Colonial).  Local unions are talking with administrators about how this can be done.  Resources from state and local sources are at the center of conversation.  Establishing additional supports for schools with low-income students has implications for the whole state.

What happens in Wilmington will happen in the rest of the state. -Joe Pika

Colonial is searching extensively, according to Pika, in regards to the best interests of their students.  As he said this, several DOE staffers looked over at Dr. Blakey.  Pika is talking about the five committees at WEIC.  He said he is most involved with the funding committee.  They are talking about resources for students with disabilities, English Language learners and low-income students.  They have been discussing capital funding with asset management.  They want funding for early learning initiatives and college and career readiness programs.  There are 18 different education entities dealing with students in Wilmington.  WEIC meetings are open to the public and announced, and given public agendas and minutes.  They are collaborating closely with the districts.  Dan Rich has been holding town hall meetings all over New Castle County and will be having public hearings for each district.  (Note: Joe Pika used to be on the State Board of Education).  He just brought up how he used to preside over many public hearings including, which he said sarcastically, “The glorious Neighborhood Schools Act”.

Dan Rich is now talking about WEIC.  Going over the timeframe again and the committees.  WEIC is meeting with the State Board at a State Board retreat in early November.  Dan Rich said WEIC appreciates the collaboration between Red Clay and Christina.  (Was that a dig at Colonial and Brandywine?)  Board member Barbara Rutt asked about how Senate Joint Resolution #4, which will create a task force on funding, will impact WEIC.  Rich said they are hoping to dovetail on that.

Board member Nina Bunting just dropped the bomb about Colonial’s board voting 7-0 not to give their Wilmington students to the other districts.  Dan Rich said they received their email.  Rich said Red Clay acted to become part of the process.  Rich said their job is to make the best recommendation in the interest of the students.  Rich is saying all the Colonial students live in a very concentrated part of Wilmington, said is very industrial, they are surrounded by the other three school districts: Brandywine to the Northeast, Red Clay to the Northwest and Christina to the Southwest.  He is asking the State Board to act in the best interests of the students.  Rich said this section used to be part of the Brandywine School District.

Board member Pat Heffernan asked Dr. Blakey to speak about the Colonial matter.  Dr. Blakey agreed.  Blakey is saying they did an academic analysis using DCAS 2013 and 2014 data as well as Smarter Balanced data from earlier this year.  He said Colonial feels their students did better than the surrounding districts.  This was presented to their board Tuesday night and the board acted on this and this information triggered the vote for keeping their students.  Donna Johnson asked if those schools received social and emotional resources.  Blakey said yes and they are scheduled to have an elementary wellness center for one of the schools these Wilmington children attend in their district.

Dr. Gray said they are still waiting on a confirmation of existing boundaries.  Dan Rich said they don’t want to hand that in until they are absolutely sure of it.  They don’t want to release that detail until it is completed.  She said they expect to have full compliance to operate around the public record with the public hearings.  She is talking about how they will be acting on a full package.  She wants to make sure all the resources are available before they act.  Rich said the law stipulates all resources have to be included in the package.  Dr. Gray asked why the General Assembly doesn’t have a timeframe to take action.  She said the Board embraces the constraints of the timeframe so it doesn’t drag out.  Dan Rich said there won’t be any movement of students until September of 2017 at the earliest and there is talk about moving that to the Fall of 2018.  Pat Heffernan said he is concerned about kicking the can down the road and students losing time and resources as a result of this.  He said this plan is all about the adults and is not about teaching and learning in the classroom and he is afraid we are going to lose sight of that.  He thinks this needs to be done in parallel with what is going on in the classrooms.  Rich said this is not about changing the signs on the buildings.  He said the expectation is this is what will happen and why it will be a five year plan.  The timeline is to give us the opportunity to make sure everyone involved has the resources in place to be successful.  Heffernan said we can do this now.  He is afraid the kids are falling out of the equation. (Thank you Pat Heffernan for looking out for the kids!)

Pika is addressing Heffernan and stating he (Pika) was a pain in the butt about this stuff 14 years ago.  Heffernan is stressing this seems more about the adults and not about the kids.  Rich is saying we are behind the curve and this is all about the total package.  Donna Johnson thinks the funding issue should establish a funding structure that is more beneficial for our students.  She does not want a units based funding system.  Rich is saying the whole system needs to be changed.  Bunting says a lot of us have been involved in education for a long time, and she is talking about the days when it was considered combat pay to teach black students in the city.  She thinks, at the end of the day, it is about the teacher in the classroom and that is the answer.  Melendez is saying “You can talk the talk but you better walk the walk,” in regards to the teaching.

Editor’s note: I really thought this WEIC presentation was going to be more of the same.  There is very heated conversation going on right now.

Heffernan is talking about Tony Allen’s letter to the Governor about the Christina priority schools and holding off on them cause he had a plan.  He said those plans for those schools should have gone into effect this school year and we are missing the forest for the trees.  He said this is distracting us from the work we have to do and that is his biggest concern.  Board member Melendez is concerned about stakeholders not having a clue about what is going on with all of this.

The Board took a break after the WEIC presentation.  Now Michael Watson is giving the SAT presentation.  You can read the presentation here.  After this is a health records regulation and then the charter school monthly update, including the big Delaware Met conversation.

Some highlights from the SAT presentation.  Heffernan asked Watson if any students opted out of the SAT.  He said no.  Heffernan asked if the new Common Core aligned SAT will have more accommodations for students with disabilities.  He said that is something the College Board is looking at.  Khan Academy who is giving practice SAT questions through “personalized learning” got their funding from Bill Gates.  Dr. Gray is wondering why SAT has 100% participation rate and their “other” tests hover around 95%.  Gee Dr. Gray, maybe it’s cause SBAC sucks!  Maybe we will see more students opting out of the SAT if it becomes SBAC Jr.  And there is discussion around getting rid of SBAC for high school juniors.

Regulation 811 is up. Secretary only decision.

Delaware Charter School Update: Delaware Met!  Board stating they don’t have documents.  Nagourney apologized, Dr. Godowsky said no need cause it came up so fast.  Godowsky seeks the assent of State Board to place Delaware Met on Formal Review.  Dr. Gray stating the same: financial viability, student conduct and discipline and strategies for special education students.  Up for discussion.  Heffernan wants to know if the kids are okay while they are sorting this out.  Do we have time to do what we have to do…  Nagourney stating a large issue about safety.  Got a call from Wilmington police officer about concerns coming from parents and students.  Issues of safety, bullying, fights.  Donna Johnson said formal review has to be on actions of the charter, not the actions of the students.  Johnson is saying this could create an unintended consequence of actions not in compliance with charter law.  David Blowman is talking but he isn’t speaking loud.  I believe he said the formal review would be about problems with instruction and financial viability.  Board member Coverdale said there is not a lot of evidence to support formal review based on charter school compliance.  Enrollment as of September 30th was 215 according to Nagourney but not sure if they need additional supports to continue.  Said they are looking at their budget.  Assistant Secretary Blowman said formal review is process where a lot of questions will be answered.  State Board keeps arguing that evidence does not support how they have put formal reviews in place in the past.  Dr. Gray said a formal review is very serious and evidence is needed.  She wants assurances there are issues that warrant formal review.  A lot is not being said about what is going on in this school.  Gray said this is a little too gray for this school.  Catherine Hickey, DOJ liason with the DOE, said formal review is process of getting information to make judgment.  Dr. Godowsky is saying they have had meetings at the school and feels this warrants a formal review.  He said the school had two years to plan to open.

Unanimous: Delaware Met on formal review!

Delaware Senate To Hold Confirmation Hearing For Interim Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

On October 28th, the Delaware Senate will have a rare out of legislative session to reconvene for a confirmation hearing for the Governor Markell appointed Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky.  The meeting will be held at Legislative Hall in Dover in the Senate Chamber at 2:30pm.

It would be really great if the House could come in the day before and override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, that way the reconvened Senate could just vote on it the same day as Godowsky’s confirmation hearing.  But I can’t see this happening at this point in time.  I posted an article earlier today for questions to submit to the Delaware Senate to ask Dr. Godowsky.  This is a time when parents, teachers, and everyday citizens can make an impact.  Please let me know any questions you have and I will make certain the Delaware Senate gets them.

Governor Markell appointed Dr. Godowsky when Mark Murphy resigned from the Secretary position.  His last day was September 30th.  Dr. Godowsky has been visible of late.  He attended the first Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meeting, the final meeting of the Accountability Framework Working Group, and the last State Board of Education meeting in September.

Once again, I pray Godowsky is not just a Secretary who will do whatever Governor Markell says.  We need change in Delaware, and for those who have stood up for Dr. Godowsky, I really hope your words come true.

Ask Dr. Godowsky: Submit Your Questions Here

The Delaware Senate will be having a meeting on October 28th to consider the nomination of Dr. Steven Godowsky for the role of Secretary of Education in Delaware.  Since October 1st, the role is in an interim capacity.  What questions do you think the Delaware Senate should ask Dr. Godowsky when they meet with him?  Now is the time for the Senate to really dig in and find out not only what he plans to do, but what he won’t do.  We need to find out if Dr. Godowsky is simply there to fulfill Governor Markell’s agenda until the end of his gubernatorial term or if he is truly there for change.  Please place your questions for Dr. Godowsky in the comments section and I will make sure this information gets to the Delaware Senate.  We need Dr. Godowsky to be his own man and not a puppet for the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, and Governor Markell.

Delaware DOE Wants To Shield Dr. Godowsky Like He Is The Pope!

The Interim Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, must be the most popular man in Delawarer these days.  I’ve heard of numerous requests for people to meet with him only to be declined or put off with little or no response.  On Thursday morning, the New Castle County School Boards is having their quarterly breakfast.  Dr. Godowsky will be there, but apparently DOE wants to know what questions board members will have for him.  Seriously?  Come on Dr. Godowsky, don’t be the DOE and Markell’s puppet!  Be your own man!  This is your chance to shine.  Don’t look it this as a filler role, look at it as the chance to make the change that is needed in education for Delaware.  Don’t let Jack boss you around like a puppy on a leash.


While I won’t tell you which district this is coming from, it did come from their administration.  I have a question for Dr. Godowsky: If you could fire five people at DOE, who would they be?  In terms of the way the DOE is “protecting you”, should we expect to see the same plastic bubble material around you like the Pope Mobile at the State Board of Education meeting on Thursday?

Godowsky Invitation Breakfast

Please keep in mind, this is the invitation that went out to several different people, not commoners like you and I.  But you can see Dr. Steve later that day at the State Board of Education meeting.

Throwing Down The Gauntlet At The Delaware DOE and Governor Markell

Below is an email chain I had with the DOE today.  This was all based on a reblog from another blogger’s post about the achievement level settings for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  A commenter was questioning this and actually emailed the DOE, who provided answers to her without objection.  But when I emailed them for further clarification on the issues, that’s when things took their usual turn for the worse…

From: Kevin Ohlandt []
Sent: Thursday, October 08, 2015 12:06 PM
To: Schwinn Penny; Reyna Ryan; Godowsky Steven; Haberstroh Susan Keene; Blowman David
Cc: Kevin Ohlandt; May Alison
Subject: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Good morning,
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.  As well, I would like to know who from Delaware represented the final achievement level settings, which higher education leaders participated in the 11th grade achievement level setting, and anyone from Delaware who served on SBAC’s Technical Advisory Committee and if anyone from Delaware participated in the audit process for this. 

From: May Alison <>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <>; Schwinn Penny <>; Reyna Ryan <>; Godowsky Steven <>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Thursday, October 8, 2015 1:37 PM
Subject: RE: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Just confirming I have received your FOIA request. I will be back in touch when your response is compiled.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <>
Sent: Thursday, October 8, 2015 5:21 PM
To: May, Alison (K12); Schwinn, Penny (K12); Reyna, Ryan (K12); Godowsky, Steven (K12); Haberstroh, Susan (K12); Blowman, David (K12)
Cc: Markell, Jack (Governor); Denn, Matthew (DOJ); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kowalko, John (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall);; Pettyjohn, Brian (LegHall); Matthew Albright; Baumbach, Paul (LegHall); Townsend, Bryan (LegHall); Terri Hodges; Avi Wolfman-Arent; Rick Jensen; Kilroy’s Delaware; Kavips World Press Blog; John Young; Lindell, Matt (K12); Nancy Willing; Eve Buckley; Pandora DeLib; Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall); Blevins, Patricia (LegHall); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); Furlong Tim (NBCUniversal); David Paulk;; Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall); Sokola, David (LegHall); Paradee, Trey (LegHall); O’Mara, Lindsay (Governor); Gray, Teri (K12)
Subject: Re: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

This is not a FOIA request.  This is a question.  Does every question have to be treated as a FOIA?  Because we all know how successful that endeavor is.  If I want to file a FOIA request, I’m sure you know by now that I am well aware of how to do that.  What ever happened to transparency?  This is a statewide assessment.  Why is there all this secrecy with this?  If this test is truly about the betterment of children, I would think it would all be publicly available.  But when DOE pulls stunts like this it makes all of us wonder.  What is this Department hiding?  Why would you not have the contracts with the testing vendor available for all to see?  That’s why people aren’t believing the DOE when it comes to this test.  You guys may have a select group of educators in your little web, but at the end of the day everyone sees this for what it is: a huge effort by hundreds of companies who are literally banking on kids doing bad on this test.  And they are making tons of money off it as well as several DOE employees who are making some very high salaries.
I don’t think anyone is fooled anymore.  You folks can pretend you live in a world where you don’t need to abide by the rules and the letter of the law or you can change regulation, but it is catching up with all of you and faster than you think.  You may think you have the Governor’s blessing on all of this, but there will come a day when all the secrets will be unveiled and anyone who was a part of this will be held accountable and I can guarantee the former Governor will not pull any of you out of the fire.  Protection can only go so far, but transparency always rules the day.  So I will posit this question to you: Will you give me ALL the information I have requested from the DOE in the past 15 months without it being some huge clandestine affair?
Dr. Godowsky, this is your chance to actually make a crucial change in this Department.  I know you answer to the Governor, but I challenge you to do the right thing.  And Governor Markell, if you truly believe sunshine is the right thing, than you should readily agree.  We all know I write a blog and I call out the DOE on an almost daily basis.  Someone needs to.  Someone needs to see what this Department is and expose them whenever they can.  But I wouldn’t be too concerned about what I do write, I would be very worried about what I haven’t written.  I know about the true intent of SB79 w/SS1, I know about the umbrella corporation that is actually incorporated in Delaware, I know about all the companies, and on a national level many of us are putting the pieces together.  Now it becomes a matter of who lets this information out: you or me.
I am growing tired of this cat and mouse game with the DOE.  I am running out of patience.  You can provide answers or I can find them out and just publish them.  I’m sure you know I will publish them when you provide them.  It’s just a question of who provides the information.  Either way, all will be revealed eventually.  In the meantime, I would really like an explanation of the attached picture and what the hell Delaware thinks they are doing sharing student data with other states.

From: “Kowalko, John (LegHall)” <>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <>; “May, Alison (K12)” <>; “Schwinn, Penny (K12)” <>; “Reyna, Ryan (K12)” <>; “Godowsky, Steven (K12)” <>; “Haberstroh, Susan (K12)” <>; “Blowman, David (K12)” <>

Dear Ms. May,

I am formally requesting this same information as a sitting State Representative and I expect a reply to be forthcoming from you and your office without delay. FOIA is not to be used as an obstacle course to government transparency and such an attitude will only ensure disappointment for the public and fuel the ire of the duly elected officials. I anticipate a response and the information sought within the next business day or I will be forced to demand it as is my right and the right of all taxpayers,


Representative John Kowalko (25th District)

And the cycle goes over on…

Christina Priority Schools: What Happens If Redistricting of Wilmington Schools Collapses?

Since last Winter, the fate of the three Christina School District Priority Schools has been in limbo.  While threats from the Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell were thrown against the district if they did not comply with the Memorandum of Understanding, a last minute miracle seemed to rise in the form of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Their suggestion of taking the Christina schools currently in Wilmington and transferring them to Red Clay put a freeze on the Christina Priority Schools.  They are still priority schools, but the plans are not really moving forward as they are in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

On Tuesday, at the Delaware Education Support System Advisory Council (DESS), Kristin Dwyer with the Delaware School Education Association (DSEA) posed a question to the Chief Officer of Accountability and Assessment at the Delaware DOE.  To paraphrase: What happens if the redistricting effort doesn’t go through?  Penny Schwinn said this is a question on many folks mind at the Delaware DOE.  She said the schools are eligible to receive funding this year, but did not go into details about what the terms of that “eligibility” is.  She said she felt uncomfortable giving a firm answer to this without the blessing of Interim Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky.  But she did say this will be a topic of conversation between the two in the next couple weeks.

Dwyer indicated that the unique situation with the Christina Priority Schools does not match with the proposed language in Regulation 103 to which Schwinn nodded in agreement.  While the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission continues to have meeting after meeting, time is rapidly running out for them to come up with a firm plan that will have adequate funding and resources for this initiative.  There is a lot of talk, and some good ideas, but nothing is set in place at this point.  If the redistricting effort falls apart, I can foresee a scenario where the DOE and Markell go back to their status quo before the WEAC recommendations and begin the bullying tactics again.  In my opinion, Christina thwarted the DOE and Markell at their intimidation efforts and made the DOE and Markell look very bad in the process.  The whole process created a fire in teachers, parents, and communities in Wilmington and they do not trust the DOE as a result.

Mark Murphy Is OUT At Council Of Chief State School Officers

Since Mark Murphy resigned as Delaware Secretary of Education, along with his counterpart in Maryland, Lillian Lowery, they are no longer eligible to sit on the Board of Directors at the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Murphy’s last day is September 30th.  Interim Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, will have to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate.  I do not envy Dr. Godowsky in the weeks and months ahead.  One of the biggest things he will have to deal with is me.  I don’t envy him that at all.  I requested a meeting with Dr. Godowsky and Governor Markell.  We shall see if they respond.  If not, oh well.  I’ll just keep doing what I do.

The Council of Chief State School Officers is a non-profit company based out of Washington D.C.  I will have much more to write about CCSSO in the coming days.

The Exceptional Delaware Reward, Recognition, Priority, Focus and Focus Plus Schools of 2015

For the first ever Exceptional Delaware Honor Roll, I would like to congratulate the schools and particular grades that went below the 95% “mandatory” participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. With that being said, there could be a multitude of reasons for that participation rate, and it may not necessarily be because of parent opt-out. It could be because of medical reasons, expulsions, or in extreme cases, maybe a touch of the Bubonic Plague. I noticed a large trend in many districts where the participation rate was higher for ELA than Math. Sometimes it was the reverse, but mostly that. I have to wonder how many parents opted out after their child took the first test. For some districts, they would not have been recognized if it weren’t for many of their juniors saying “See ya” to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. These are the students who are paving the way for the younger ones.  My biggest question is what in the world happened with 4th graders at East Side Charter School?

Christina… all I can say is WOW! You far surpassed my expectations with opt-out. With all the smears and bad looks this district gets from the DOE and whatnot, I am proud to announce Christina School District as the winner of the Opt-Out Performance Fund! They will receive a special gift at their next regular board meeting in recognition of this honor. And Red Clay’s Conrad! Fantastic! Below 50% for 11th graders! You are an inspiration to all!

Under the United States Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the fine folks at the US DOE like to throw things called flexibility waivers at the states.  Under No Child Left Behind, enacted during the second President Bush years, all schools in the country had to be proficient by 2014.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.  So under President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, they threw states a bone called Race To The Top: adapt our Common Core standards, and make a big test based on it, and we will let you slide from the whole No Child Left Behind thing.  Then they started throwing more bones called flexibility waivers.  Hey, do this, and you are safe from No Child Left Behind.  This is what created the most severe school labeling system ever created.  But I am turning it around.


All of these schools and grades… I am so proud of them. Parents made a choice, and it showed. While these aren’t anywhere close to New York numbers, it’s a very good start. The ones that are 90% or below get to be REWARD schools. Yeah, it’s one grade, but they went below 95%!  All the Reward Schools got a special prize. The ones between 91-94% are recognition schools for any grade that caused the participation rate to go below 95%. Great job everyone!

Appoquinimink School District:

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Middletown High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Old State Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 94%

Waters Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Brandywine School District:

Brandywine High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Concord High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hanby Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

Harlan Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Campus Community School:

7th Grade Math: 93%

Cape Henlopen School District:

Shields Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 92%

Capital School District:

Central Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 94%

Dover High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

East Dover Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

East Dover Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 93%

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Christina School District:

Bayard Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade ELA: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 92%

Brader Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

Brader Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Brookside Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 79% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gallaher Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Gallaher Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade ELA: 82% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade Math: 82% 🙂 🙂

Keene Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Kirk Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Marshall Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 93%

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 87% 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade ELA: 55% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade Math: 56% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Shue-Medill Middle School, 6th Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

West Park Place Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 83% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Colonial School District:

Bedford Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Penn High School, 11th Grade ELA: 92%

Penn High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Southern Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Delmar School District:

Delmar High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

East Side Charter School:

4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gateway Lab School:

3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

4th Grade ELA: 92%

4th Grade Math: 93%

7th Grade Math: 92%

Indian River School District:

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Laurel School District:

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

Milford School District:

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂


7th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂 🙂

7th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

11th Grade ELA: 65% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

11th Grade Math: 69% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District:

Delcastle Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade ELA: 91%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 87% 🙂 🙂

Polytech School District:

Polytech High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Polytech High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Positive Outcomes Charter School:

7th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Prestige Academy:

7th Grade Math: 94%

Reach Academy For Girls:

4th Grade ELA: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

4th Grade Math: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

6th Grade ELA: 92%

8th Grade ELA: 78% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Red Clay Consolidated School District:

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade ELA: 63% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade Math: 64% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Brandywine Springs School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Conrad Schools of Science, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 40% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 47% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Seaford School District:

Seaford Central Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Central Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Smyrna School District:

North Smyrna Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 94%

The below schools…they didn’t go below the 95% participation mark in any grade for either ELA or Math on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. But there were quite a few that were right at the 95% mark in some grades, and also at 96%. So we can tip the scales by getting the word out. These are the 2015-2016 schools where there are some opt-outs, but we need a lot more. Some of the charters may have only had one or two opt-outs in one grade. But that one opt-out parent can spread the word! But these schools are the 2015-2016 Focus Schools or Focus Districts. If they are a charter school, they did not dip below 95% in any grade. For school districts, I just picked certain schools who hovered around the 99% mark. For one school, it just can’t ever get out of being labeled no matter what it does! This is your chance Stubbs! If it’s in red, it’s a Focus Plus school. That means they had maybe a handful of kids opt-out. Which is good, but not earth-shattering. We need those handful of parents who opted their kids out to spread the word!


Allen Frear Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Banneker Elementary School (Milford)

Bunker Hill Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Clayton Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Delaware College Prep

Delaware Military Academy

Delmar Middle School (Delmar) (Focus Plus)

Family Foundations Academy

Hartly Elementary School (Capital) (Focus Plus)

Howard High School of Technology (New Castle County Vo-Tech)

Indian River High School (Indian River)

Kuumba Academy

Lake Forest School District

Lancashire Elementary School (Brandywine)

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (Focus Plus)

Lombardy Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

Long Neck Elementary School

Lord Baltimore Elementary School (Focus Plus)

Maple Lane Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

MOT Charter School (Focus Plus)

Mount Pleasant Elementary School (Brandywine)

Newark Charter School (Focus Plus)

New Castle Elementary School (Colonial) (Focus Plus)

Oberle Elementary School (Christina)

Odyssey Charter School (Focus Plus)

Providence Creek Academy

Pulaski Elementary School (Christina)

Showell Elementary School (Indian River) (Focus Plus)

Silver Lake Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Smyrna Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Stubbs Elementary School (Christina)

Sussex Academy (Focus Plus)

Sussex Technical School District

Thomas Edison Charter School (Focus Plus)

W.B. Simpson Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

W. Reily Brown Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Woodbridge School District

Below are the 2015-2016 Priority Schools. The three charters had NO opt-outs, along with the other schools. For the charters, one was on Formal Review and was probably scared that one opt-out would shut them down so they allegedly told parents it was not allowed. Another one has the lowest of minorities (aside from Asian), special education, and low-income students in the entire state. And the 3rd… their Head of School spoke out about opt-out at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50 so this truly doesn’t shock me. Other Montessori schools I’ve spoken too were somewhat shocked and believe opposing parental rights like this goes against the whole Montessori model. If anyone from any of these schools did opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, please let me know cause that means something is seriously wrong. Because >99% is pretty damn close to 100%. And you can’t have 100% with one single opt-out.

If I had to guess, a lot of these schools are telling parents they can’t opt their kid out. Or the school has 100% drank the Kool-Aid the DOE gives them and gave it to all the parents. I know some of the leaders of these schools, and some are no-nonsense leaders. Some are known to be very tough. Don’t let them intimidate you. These are my extra special schools this year. Under priority status, they will be watched very closely. Unlike the DOE I won’t make them pick new leaders and fire half their teachers. And I won’t make them sign a Memorandum of Understanding that makes no sense whatsoever by a certain date. I won’t tell them comply or die either. But they are Priority Schools for opt-out, and this is a Code Red alert for Delaware! This is just plain unacceptable…  They get a very special label in recognition of two very special legislators who opposed House Bill 50 the loudest (and they were also the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committee).


Academy of Dover 😦

Charter School of Wilmington 😦

First State Montessori Academy 😦

Lake Forest North Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Lake Forest South Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Richardson Park (Elementary School) (Red Clay) 😦

Star Hill Elementary School (Caesar Rodney)  😦

South Dover Elementary School (Capital) 😦

Sussex Technical High School (Sussex Tech) 😦

For our school principals and superintendents and charter leaders: I’m watching you. I’ve been watching you. The DOE is on the stage, putting on their show. You are all in the audience, and you are literally paying for their performance. Rodel and Vision and the Delaware Business Roundtable are providing all the lighting and special effects, with equipment bought from all the corporate education reform companies around the country. I see the State Board providing the symphony. The legislators are paying all the bills and making sure everything is up to snuff (or in some situations allowing the audience to be robbed blind).  And the director, none other than Delaware Governor Jack Markell. His assistant went exit stage left, but we are waiting to see what his new guy does. And me, I’m the guy up on the catwalk watching the whole thing unfold. I see all of it. I had to get rid of some of the cobwebs up there to see better, but I can see things very clearly right now.  And guess what, I’m not alone.  I’m inviting parents all the time to watch too.  And more and more are watching the play.  They are telling me “hey, you see that guy over there, he told me I couldn’t opt-out my son” or “they told me I have to get a doctor’s note” or sometimes it’s a parent/teacher telling me “our superintendent says only he gets to decide who opts out.”

As of this very moment, I am giving you all amnesty. You are pardoned if I wrote negative things about you concerning opt-out last year.  Some of you actually came through in a big way on the Accountability Framework Working Group and turned the scales on the DOE.  We have a clean slate.  Don’t get all offended if your school is on this list.  The DOE has this information up too, but I’m just reversing the labels for true accountability purposes.  The good news: if your school is a Focus, Focus Plus, or Priority School, you can easily get out of it in the Spring.  All of you will be hearing from me very soon.  But just so you know, all of us on the catwalk are watching…

To all the very brave parents who opted their child out last Spring, I want to say Thank You. You made a very brave decision, and I salute you. Your job now is to do the same this year, no matter what threats or bullying gestures are thrown your way. Hopefully House Bill 50 will be vetoed by the time Smarter Balanced rolls around again next Spring, but if not do what you did this year. While some may have looked down on you for that decision, stand by your convictions. Even if it was in a “high-performing” school. And spread the word. The doors of conversation will start to open up in the coming week when parents get their kids results. You don’t have to worry about that. Cause your child is a not-having-to-take-the-test rock star, and you made the right decision.

If your school isn’t on this list, you can check it all out here: