The Rodel Teacher Council Policy Briefs & Why Delaware Teachers Need To Be VERY Concerned

I’ve heard from more than a few teachers in the past hour since I posted about the Rodel Teacher Council’s presentation to the State Board of Education.  Many were unaware of what this very small group of Delaware teachers have been up to and how it could impact the future of their profession.  I wanted to follow-up on that article with this set of “policy briefs” created by this teacher council.  What could happen is this corporate education reform hocus-pocus is all of a sudden written into Delaware state code without anyone the wiser.  This would be done by our General Assembly who Rodel has been making nicey-nice with in the past year.  I would strongly urge all the local teacher unions and the Delaware State Education Association to get on top of this as soon as humanly possible and find out what the hell some of the teachers in their districts are doing with all this in the name of Rodel.  I’ve been warning about these possibilities for a long time.  But it will take much more than me to stop this from becoming the new reality.

For months, I’ve heard Delaware Governor John Carney talk about “public and private partnerships”.  Funny how the Rodelians mention this very same thing in their policy briefs issued last November.  If you think for one second John Carney is not under Rodel’s thumb, think again!

I’ve written about “Social Impact Bonds” before.  Where companies come in and essentially make bets on student outcomes.  Now we see “Innovation Funding”, also known as crowdsourcing, where communities “invest” in schools so someone can make a whole lot of money.  As well, the state won’t have to pay for it.  But all that comes with a price.  The future generation of students who will be fully immersed in this nonsense will become nothing more than drones to the corporations as true local decision-making becomes a thing of the past.  Meanwhile, all the “smart” and “wealthy” kids will be attending private schools paid for, in part, by school vouchers.

The below documents were created last November but they are making their rounds with the decision-makers in Delaware education.  This is Paul Herdman’s ultimate vision folks.  Everything else has just been a sideshow compared to this.  They can come out with all the pretty and colorful presentations they want.  But as long as people keep swallowing their pills, this will continue.  It will never change until people demand our Department of Education, our legislators, and our schools stop adopting Rodel’s corporate greed-driven drivel.  And for the love of all that is holy, will education stakeholders who really should know better please get off the Vision Coalition?  All you are doing is prolonging the existence of Rodel.  DSEA, DASA, and DSBA need to inform all those who pay dues to them of every single aspect of these policies and let their members decide how to deal with this.  Decisions like this should not be brought forth by 22 Delaware teachers speaking for the entire teaching force in Delaware.

Cursive Bill Released From Delaware House Education Committee

It seemed to be an even split between advocates and those who oppose the bill, but State Rep. Andria Bennett’s House Bill was released from committee today with 12 votes.  Next stop, the House Ready list.  Many of the folks who opposed the bill were not in favor of student’s learning cursive but felt that was a decision best left to the local school board and not a mandate from the state.  The Delaware Department of Education opposed the bill for the same reasons, along with the Delaware Association of School Administrators and the Delaware School Boards Association.

Both sides cited research or studies weighing the pros and cons of the bill.  I supported it and gave public comment on how my son seemed to like cursive more than regular writing.  Another advocate for students with disabilities, Robert Overmiller with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, also supported the bill because of the beneficial nature for special needs students.  A retired teacher supported the bill.

State Rep. Bennett said her idea for this bill came last Christmas when her own daughter was unable to read her grandmother’s cursive writing in a Christmas card.  Some advocates said it is important children know how to read original historic documents, such as The Declaration of Independence.  One gentleman said he would not hire someone at his company who didn’t know cursive since so many old property deeds and paperwork were written in cursive and they would not be able to understand those documents.  One parent stated they were vehemently against the bill and that it shouldn’t matter if kids can read historic documents in cursive because it is all available online.  She also said grandmothers are texting and using Instagram more and more these days.  State Rep. Joe Miro said with our state budget deficit we should not be mandating curriculum at the state level.

If you are in favor of this bill, please contact your state legislator and let them know!  I know I will call my own State Rep, Trey Paradee and ask him to support this bill!

Will Stakeholders Be Able To Stop The Delaware DOE With ESSA? And What Delaware Entity Is Already Cashing In?

The Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Discussion Groups held their third meeting on October 17th.  Below are the minutes from those meetings.  The next meeting will be on November 7th at the Collette Center in Dover from 6pm to 8pm.  Big topics like Special Education, Opt Out, the infamous “n” number, and the “whole child”.  As well, a major Delaware entity is holding a non-transparent event with some mighty big players and charging for it to boot!

essasssdiscgroupmembers

The Student and School Supports group found the following items to be priorities in Delaware education:

  1. Schools are the hub of the community so they need more services brought to them.
  2. Schools need more psychologists as well as psychiatrists and neurologists on call to assist with special education.
  3. Schools need more realistic ratios of guidance counselors.
  4. More trauma-informed schools.
  5. Funding for the “whole child” approach.
  6. Greater funding for high-needs schools.
  7. Invest in Birth to 8 with weight put on social and emotional learning (this also included discussion around providing basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade).

This group is top-heavier than the other discussion group with folks from the services side of education, and it definitely showed.  I don’t mind more services in schools.  But the key is in the eagerness.  It was my perception that some were very pushy with what they would like to see.  These very same people would also benefit financially from more of the recommended services in schools.  Are they a stakeholder at that point or a benefactor?

 

essamssprdiscgroupmembers

The most popular items brought for by this discussion group were as follows:

  1. Not having the 95% participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework.  Since participation rate in state assessments is beyond a school’s ability to control, it should not be used as a punishment.
  2. English Language Learners accountability needs to look at factors in access for these students, how much formal education they had prior to coming to Delaware schools, age, how proficient they are in their native language, if they live in a city or rural environment, and how well they are able to read in their own language.
  3. The “n” size, which is the lowest number a school can have for reporting populations of sub-groups so they are not easily identifiable, was 30

The “n” number is always a tricky beast to tackle.  I support a high n# for student data privacy.  But on the other side, schools with small populations in their subgroups (charter schools) aren’t obligated to provide information on those students and it can make them look better than they really are.  This helps to perpetuate the myth that certain charters provide a better education.  I think the notion of being able to easily recognize a student who has disabilities or is in a sub-group is somewhat ridiculous.  I have never believed special education should be a stigma.  I think schools should celebrate every single child’s uniqueness.  By not reporting the results of those students (even if they are based on very flawed state assessments) does those students a disservice.  It makes it look like they don’t matter when they most certainly do.  It doesn’t look like too many people in this group were in favor of keeping the opt out penalty in the state accountability system.  Obviously, I echo that sentiment!

Last week, the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee held their first meeting.  You can read the highlights here.  As well, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, who is also on the Advisory Committee, had some thoughts on the meeting, the US DOE’s pending regulations around Title I, and how they could affect Delaware schools.

The first draft of Delaware’s ESSA plan comes out at the end of this month.  From there, the discussion groups and Advisory Committee will reconvene.  As well, the Delaware DOE will be hosting more Community Conversations in each county.  Those groups will meet on the following dates from 6pm to 8pm:

11/16: Community Education Building, 1200 N. French St., Wilmington

11/21: Cape Henlopen High School, 1200 Kings Highway, Lewes

11/29: Seaford High School, 399 N. Market St., Seaford

12/1: John Collette Education Resource Center, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover

12/8: Newark Charter School, 2001 Patriot Way, Newark

I find it VERY interesting they are holding the Wilmington meetings at charter schools.  The Community Education Building is the home of Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks.  Sussex County also gets two meetings while Kent County only gets one.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the general public, the University of Delaware Institute of Public Administration is holding a 5 1/2 hour event tomorrow at the Outlook at the Duncan Center in Dover.  This event is called the School Leader Professional Development Series: The Opportunities and Challenges of Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.  This event is NOT on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar nor was it mentioned at the discussion groups or the Advisory Committee.  I was able to get my hands on what is happening at this not-so-transparent event.  The event is described as the following:

This workshop is an additional forum for multi-stakeholder district teams to interact and discuss the opportunities and challenges introduced by this new legislation.

Major players are coming to Dover at 9am tomorrow morning.  Folks like the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association.

Presenting on Delaware’s ESSA plan will be Deb Stevens from DSEA, Dr. Terri Hodges from Delaware PTA, Executive Director from Delaware State Administrators Association Tammy Croce, Executive Director John Marinucci from Delaware School Boards Association, and a rep from the Delaware DOE.

Working groups will also be formed to discuss ESSA.  Another one of the workshops will focus on state accountability systems will be led by Robin Taylor with R²  Educational Consulting (never heard of them, time to start digging), one on school interventions led by Director of State Assessment and Accountability Joseph Jones from New Castle County Vo-Tech and Director of Elementary Schools Amy Grundy from Red Clay.  Finally, Laura Glass with the Delaware Center for Teacher Education and Jackie Wilson of the Delaware Academy for School Leadership/Professional Development Center for Education will lead a workshop on Teacher and Leader Training and Evaluation.

Will the Delaware DOE use what is said in this non-transparent event to help in the creation of their first draft?  Why is this event not public?  Shouldn’t those outside of education be able to hear what is being said about what could happen in their local schools based on this act?  One of the biggest challenges of ESSA is the perception that the Delaware DOE already knows what will be in their state plan and all of this is just details.  I suppose someone could crash this event if they registered, but they would have to fork over $85.00 to go.  But if you got in with a local school district or charter school with four or more members that price would jump way down from $85.00 to $75.00.  Cashing in on ESSA!  Gotta love the University of Delaware.

If you are not informed about the Every Student Succeeds Act and Delaware’s proposed plans, you won’t know the future of education in this state.  Period.  I have been imploring parents and citizens to get involved with this for a long time now.  I understand people are busy and they have their own lives.  But this one is really big.  It has not escaped my notice that they are doing all this during a major election cycle and around the holidays.  That is how the Delaware DOE rolls.  Either they plan stuff in the summer when no one can show up (or even knows about it) or they cram it in during very busy times for families, teachers, and citizens.

When the first draft comes out, I will be dissecting every single word and punctuation mark in the document.  I will break it down for you.  I will filter through what they think the public will see and what it really means.  That’s how I roll.  But it can’t stop there.  YOU must lend your voice.  Whether it is in person or email.  Keep a copy of what you say at all times.  Make sure your voice is not only heard but recorded as well.  We will get exactly what they submit.  If you don’t make your voice heard now (or when the drafts are released), it will be far too late.  It comes down to trust.  Do you really trust the Delaware DOE to do the right thing for students without selling them out to Education Inc.?  I don’t.  We need to upset the apple cart.  Are you in?  Or will you lament not speaking up later?

Delaware School Boards Association Run Amok! Gives Indian River Free Membership! Doesn’t File Tax Returns! Division Of Corporations Okay With That!

Awesome.  Simply awesome.  A non-profit company incorporated in Delaware can get all their funding from tax-payer local school districts, have their 501c3 status as a non-profit revoked, not file tax returns, and the State of Delaware doesn’t care.  Earlier this afternoon, I wrote about how this exact scenario happened with the Delaware School Boards Association (DSBA).  Two hours later, I contacted the Delaware Division of Corporations.  Delaware doesn’t seem to care if a corporation files tax returns or not.  There is no oversight mechanism in the State of Delaware to enforce anything related to federal tax filings.  The Division of Corporations advised me that someone would have to get an attorney and go through the courts.  Excuse me?

So DSBA can gouge school districts out of tons of money, but they will go to bat for them on legislation and counsel school boards on how to make sure board members have the most up-to-date board training.  But they fail to show any transparency for how much money they receive, how they spend it, and what their losses are.  That is just wonderful.  What exactly does this organization do for school districts?  They are glorified lobbyists taking funds out of schools.

I attended my local school board meeting a couple of months ago.  One of the items on their agenda was “legislative priorities”.  One of those priorities concerned special education and due process hearings.  DSBA wanted my district to advocate for something that had never applied to their district.  Why does everything in Delaware have to have some type of “association” attached to it?  Once we centralize every group in the state, who watches that centralizing group?  I’m sure for the members of DSBA, and those who sit on DSBA’s board, it looks great on the resume.  “Look at me, I’m not only on a school board but also on the board of DSBA.”

Please… spare me the righteous indignation.  How ironic that in this National School Boards Association guidance to state associations they offer the following advice:

State school boards associations have been established to provide a state-level network for members of local school boards to achieve common goals, support shared improvement efforts, and explore such widespread issues as board member training, policies, statewide needs, state and federal initiatives, and state and federal funding. Improving student achievement also must be a goal since it is the top priority of the state association’s members.

I am pretty ticked off about this as you can tell.  Is it any wonder our state is corrupt as hell?  What does our state offer oversight on when it comes to financial matters and transparency?  It’s not like DSBA’s Facebook page tells us a lot.

dsbacorporatestatusindelaware

Apparently, it is a-ok for DSBA to instill certain codes of ethics on local school boards, but when it comes to that ethical thing like FILING TAX RETURNS FOR YOUR NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION WITH THE IRS, those ethics aren’t important.

…the Code of Ethics is recommended by the Delaware School Boards Association as a guide to its members as they strive to render effective and efficient service to their respective communities.

But according to DSBA’s website, this is their role in Delaware:

DSBA offers their members:

  • Developing statewide legislative and funding priorities for public education in conjunction with the Legislative Committee and member boards;
  • Monitoring the impact and progress of legislation introduced in the General Assembly which may affect the programs, operation, funding or administration of school districts;
  • Planning and presenting orientation and training programs designed to enhance the effectiveness of school board members;
  • Providing local school boards with information concerning those issues and activities which affect school districts;
  • Coordinating legal services or local board efforts in those instances where boards share common concerns and goals; and
  • Serving as liaison between school boards and other educational organizations or State agencies.

Can I add one?

  • Show no transparency for how we spend taxpayer funneled money but thanks for your contributions chumps!

From their “membership” list of Delaware school boards, not every district board is a member of DSBA.  Only 13 out of 19 are currently members: Brandywine, Cape Henlopen, Capital, Colonial, Lake Forest, Laurel, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech, Poly-tech, Red Clay, Seaford, Smyrna, Sussex Tech and Woodbridge.  As well, the Delaware State Board of Education is also a member.  So it looks like Appoquinimink, Caesar Rodney, Christina, Delmar, Indian River, and Milford have very wise boards who decided not to join this non-transparent organization.

DSBA is led by Executive Director John Marinucci and an Administrative Assistant named Linda Murphy.  That’s it.  That is their entire staff.  They have an office in Dover.  But of course many Delaware school board members govern the whole thing and decide what legislative priorities are best for school boards, even if those legislative priorities don’t even affect a member school district.  So who are these elected officials and Governor-appointed Delaware board members, running 13 out of 19 Delaware school districts, who serve in another capacity for an organization that doesn’t file IRS 990 Non-Profit tax returns?  Thanks for asking!

Officers- President: Joseph Brumskill (Brandywine), 1st Vice-President: Jennifer Burton (Cape Henlopen), 2nd Vice-President: Matthew Lindell (Capital), Treasurer: Cynthia Brown (Poly-tech), Director of Special Affairs: John Skrobot (Brandywine)

Other members of the Board of Directors: Ralph Ackerman (Brandywine), Bobby Benjamin (Colonial), Nina Lou Bunting (Delaware State Board of Education), John Schulties (Lake Forest), Brent Nichols (Laurel), John Lynch (New Castle Co. Vo-Tech), Martin Wilson (Red Clay), David Tull (Seaford), Chris Malec (Smyrna), George Torbert (Sussex Tech), and Walter Gilefski (Woodbridge)

Legislative Committee: Ralph Ackerman (Brandywine), Dr. Roni Posner (Cape Henlopen), John Martin, Jr. (Capital), Leo Magee (Colonial), Barbara Rutt (Delaware State Board of Education), Ronda Swenson (Lake Forest), Brent Nichols (Laurel), Mark Stellini (New Castle Co. Vo-Tech), Nancy Cook (Poly-tech), Kenneth Woods (Red Clay), Jeffrey Benson, Jr. (Seaford), Ron Eby (Smyrna), John Oliver (Sussex Tech), and Walter Rudy (Woodbridge)

They also have corporate members!  Those are Stecher Financial Group, Johnson Controls, and Adelphia Furniture Inc.  Two of those companies aren’t even out of Delaware!

On their calendar they have ZERO events on it, so we don’t even know when this organization and their various officers and legislative committees even meet.  This is like the evil twin of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  For all the bitching I do about them, at least DCSN files their IRS 990 501c3 tax returns.  Oh yeah, that’s because they didn’t get their status revoked for failing to file NINE YEARS.  28 school board members throughout the state.  Do they get paid for their service to DSBA?  We don’t know cause the non-profit doesn’t file a tax return!

My bad, the Delaware Online Checkbook changed over to the new Delaware Open Data Portal thing Governor Markell officially launched yesterday.  So I can see that Delaware School Boards Association received $210,177 in FY2016.  Here is the breakdown by district:

Brandywine: $13,907.50

Cape Henlopen: $32,600.00

Capital: $18,938.00

Colonial: $21,488.66

Delaware Department of Education: $13,930.50

Lake Forest: $10,300.00

Laurel: $6,244.00

New Castle Co. Vo-Tech: $8,784.50

Poly-Tech: $8.676.00

Red Clay: $26,322.00

Seaford: $16,021.50

Smyrna: $8,676.00

Sussex Tech: $4,862.00

Woodbridge: $15,275.50

And the following two school districts, who aren’t even members, didn’t seem to mind paying DSBA in FY2016:

Appoquinimink: $5,400 (cost per student: $1.92)

Indian River (dropped DSBA in fall of 2016): $3,000.00

But the fun doesn’t stop there.  Because not only does DSBA bill school boards for dues, but also food, instructional supplies, and computer supplies.  And it doesn’t matter if it is paid out of the Delaware Special Fund or the Delaware General Fund.  Keep in mind all the below amounts are out of the overall totals listed above, but some of these categories are outlandish given the scope of what DSBA does.  Ones I colored in red are potential audit red flags (I know, stop laughing)!

Appoquinimink: Computer Supplies– $2,700.00

Cape Henlopen: Computer Supplies– $9,100.00

Colonial: Instructional Supplies– $8,100.00

Colonial: Meals w/in State (Breakfast/Dinner)- $349.66

Lake Forest: Computer Supplies– $34.00

Lake Forest: Equipment Rental-$2,700.00

Lake Forest: Food- $173.00

Red Clay: Other Professional Service- $8,100.00

Seaford: Instructional Supplies– $8,100.00

Woodbridge: Other Professional Service- $421.50

Delaware Department of Education: Training- $208.50

I’m sorry, but in what kind of world does DSBA, which amounts to a lobbyist organization, provide computer and instructional supplies?  Did Lake Forest rent a crane or something from DSBA?  I didn’t see a school supply or rental tab on their website.  And why do districts code these expenses all over the map?  The food amounts would have been higher if other districts didn’t code it as association dues.  So we elect school board members who go to meetings at DSBA, which gets over $200,000 of taxpayer money with a staff of two, and those school board members charge their districts for food?  Are you frigging kidding me?  And why is Cape Henlopen, who has half the amount of students in their district as Appoquinimink or Cape Henlopen, paying DSBA the most out of all the districts?  And Woodbridge only has 2,466 students but DSBA gets over $18,000 from them?  There is something seriously funky going on with this.  Some of these districts are paying obscene amounts to this non-profit (who doesn’t file tax returns as a non-profit).

And don’t think for one minute it didn’t dawn on me that the Delaware Dept. of Education, who pretty much decides who sits on task forces and committees, and always seems to find room for someone from DSBA on them, pays a lobbyist organization who helps LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS over $13,000.00.  I see Mr. Marinucci at most of the meetings I attend these days when the DOE is involved, especially ones around the Every Student Succeeds Act.  I know, that is what lobbyists do!  But when I see school boards wasting time with legislative priorities that don’t even concern their school district, an obscene amount of taxpayer money going to a non-profit that doesn’t bother to file tax returns, school districts coding expenses for this non-profit under whatever category they want (probably to get funds from the state and not out of their local funds), and the same organization not filing tax returns as a non-profit for almost a decade, I have some pretty major beefs with this organization.

The Cape Gazette did an article on DSBA on July 31st, 2015, a month after Indian River voted not to rejoin.  They spoke with the First Vice-President, Jennifer Burton:

Cape Henlopen school board member Jen Burton serves as first vice chairman for the DSBA. She said membership is worth the $9,000 a year Cape pays, even though the association is going through some changes.

But when that membership becomes 3 1/2 times more than that $9,000 a year, what is the worth then Ms. Burton?  Apparently Indian River didn’t feel the same way:

Indian River School District Board of Education withdrew July 13 from the Delaware School Board Association, saying $13,000 the district would have paid in dues could be better spent elsewhere.

“The Board came to the conclusion that its DSBA membership was no longer productive and that continuing to pay thousands of dollars in dues to the organization was not a responsible use of taxpayers’ money,” Hudson said.

But I guess it is okay for Indian River to use this organization for FREE at the expense of other district’s taxpayer money, right?  Which means part of my school taxes, along with every other Capital School District resident, are going to pay for Indian River to rejoin something they felt wasn’t a responsible use of money?  I guess when it is free, that’s okay.  I don’t think so!  I don’t pay local school taxes for Indian River.  I pay them for Capital.  And if I were citizens in the other DSBA districts, I would be upset too.  I don’t elect school board members so they can help bail out other districts who don’t know how to spend their own money.  If they want a bail-out on their DSBA dues, go to the state.  That’s why I pay state taxes, not local taxes.  DSBA has a lot of nerve asking other districts to do this.  And yes, if you are not an employee of DSBA but serve as an elected official for your school district but serve on one of their boards or committees, you are acting as DSBA.  Don’t believe me?  Listen to Colonial’s Board of Education discuss this during their October 11th board meeting.  Go towards the bottom of the page on this link to hear it.

In a presentation on DSBA, it was announced that the board of DSBA voted to allow Indian River to rejoin DSBA with full voting rights for free because of their “financial distress”.  Yeah, distress caused by themselves.  Just wait until that audit comes out!  But let’s give them DSBA services for free!  Colonial board member Melodie Spotts, upon hearing that DSBA hasn’t filed their tax return for nine years, put forth a motion to remove their membership in DSBA.  The motion was defeated 4-3.  Spotts was concerned how it would look after their board just voted to go out for a referendum.  There was a lot of talk about promoting transparency around their refernedum and the appearance of paying membership fees to an organization that doesn’t appear to have financial transparency.

So DSBA, care to cough up nine years worth of tax returns and show the citizens of the state who elect school board members if they truly are getting their money’s worth?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget: Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee Meeting Tonight

The Delaware Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee will meet tonight at Legislative Hall in the House Majority Hearing Room.  The fun starts at 6pm.  Will Jack Markell show up?  It would be very tight.  At 5pm he will be in Wilmington for the Delaware Open Data Launch, and then he has to be at Dover Downs for the 2016 Volunteer Awards ceremony.

I can’t believe there has been no announcement concerning who is actually on this committee.  I know State Rep. Kim Williams, Deb Stevens from DSEA, and Appo Superintendent Matt Burrows are on it.  If I were a betting man, I’m sure Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network is on it.  She rarely gives up a spot on any committee for a designee.  Someone from Rodel.  Perhaps Kevin Carson from the Delaware Association of School Administrators.  John Marinucci from the Delaware School Boards Association.  I have a feeling I will know most of this crowd.  See you tonight!

Governor Markell’s Executive Order #62 Creates ESSA Advisory Committee

Today, Delaware Governor Markell signed an Executive Order which creates an Advisory  n Committee for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  As required by federal law, this group will convene to provide input (not make final decisions) on ESSA which was signed by President Obama last December.  I am assuming this group will replace the DESS Advisory Committee which was required under the former federal education law, ESEA.

This group will have the usual slots: President of the State Board of Education, President of the Delaware State Education Association, and other education, business, and state associations.  There are only two legislator slots, one from the Senate and one from the House.  Usually, these kind of groups have representation of both parties in the House and the Senate.  Only three teachers will be picked, and only four parents.  On something this important, bigger is better.  But lest we forget, these members will be picked by the Governor, so expect some controversy over those picks!

As well, there will be a series of “Community Conversations” coming up at the end of September.  I pray this isn’t a one-sided show where select people are telling the audience what has to happen.  It needs to be a true back and forth exchange to be a true conversation.

Below is Executive Order #62 and the press release from the Delaware DOE.

 

Markell Creates Group to Support Implementation of New Federal Education Law

 

Calling a new federal education law an opportunity for teachers, school leaders, parents, and others to build on record graduation rates and other progress happening in Delaware schools, Governor Jack Markell today signed Executive Order 62, which brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to provide input for the state plan required by the federal Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA). The plan, which the U.S. Department of Education is expected to require by sometime next year, will detail efforts to:

·         Implement academic standards aligned with what students need to know stay on track for success in college and the workplace;

·         Ensure students from all backgrounds have access to high-quality educational opportunities from pre-school through high school;

·         Support training, retention, and professional advancement of great educators; and

·         Track progress of schools across a variety of measures, not limited to test scores, and identify ways to offer additional support where students are struggling.

 

The Governor, who signed E.O. 62 at Lewis Elementary School, noted that improvements from the last major federal education law, No Child Left Behind, mean that states have more flexibility in ways to support students, including how to measure schools’ progress and new opportunities to focus on early childhood education, which has been a top priority of the Markell Administration.

 

“We should all be proud of the progress we have made over the last few years, when we have seen thousands more low-income families enroll children in high-quality early childhood programs, recorded the fastest-growing graduation rate in the country, offered thousands more students the chance to earn workplace experience and college credit while in high school, and given more students access to college,” said Markell.

 

“ESSA provides an exciting chance for us to build on that momentum – to better support and attract great teachers and ensure all of our students have access to the education they deserve, no matter their backgrounds. More flexibility in how states approach these issues means more responsibility for us to make sound decisions and as we develop our state’s plan under ESSA. The executive order I sign today will help engage our teachers, school leaders, parents, and other advocates to ensure a successful process.”

 

The Executive Order outlines the variety of education leaders and advocates who must be represented on the committee and provides the group with the opportunity to review drafts of the state plan and submit recommendations to the Secretary of Education. A chair will be announced in advance of the first meeting and the group will include representatives of:

 

·         Parents in every county

·         Educators from urban and rural communities

·         The State Board of Education

·         The Delaware State Education Association

·         The Delaware Association of School Administrators

·         The Delaware School Board’s Association

·         The Delaware Charter School Network

·         The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission

·         The Early Childhood Council

·         Delaware English Language Teachers and Advocates

·         An organization advocating for students with disabilities

·         Delaware’s business community

·         Workforce development programs

·         The General Assembly

 

“After engaging in initial discussions with a wide variety of education stakeholders on development of our ESSA plan, this advisory committee represents an important next step in supporting our communication with teachers, administrators, and parents who are working hard to support our students,” said Delaware Education Secretary Steve Godowsky. “This group will help ensure we fully consider a wide range of perspectives and set our state on a path of continued improvement.”

 

The department also will engage representatives of stakeholder groups in two discussion groups. The first group will focus discussions on technical topics related to Measures of School Success and Reporting.  The second group will focus discussions on provisions for Student and School Supports. Participants for these topical discussion groups can be nominated on the department’s ESSA web site through September 9, 2016.  The discussion groups will provide information to the Advisory group created by this Executive Order.

 

To further support engagement of the broader education community, the Department of Education has announced a series of Community Conversations later this month during which teachers, administrators, and others will offer input on specific questions that the state must address in its plan. These discussions will take place at the following times and locations:

 

Tuesday September 20 at 6:00 p.m. – Cheer Center, Georgetown

Saturday September 24 at 10:00 a.m. – Christina Cultural Arts Center, Wilmington

Tuesday September 27 at 6:00 p.m. – Bunker Hill Elementary School, Middletown

Thursday September 29 at 5:30 p.m. – Collette Education Center, Dover

 

The public also is invited to provide input through online surveys found on the Department’s ESSA web site and by submitting feedback to ESSAStatePlan@doe.k12.de.us

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Secretary Godowsky Had No Choice With Opt-Out Penalties

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With the release of the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE about participation rates, we are getting a better picture of what happened the first week of November on the participation rate multiplier in the Delaware School Success Framework.  On October 21st, the soon to be confirmed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appeared before the New Castle County combined school boards at a breakfast.  He announced to the board members and superintendents of the districts that the harsh opt-out penalties most likely would not see the light of day.

The Delaware State Education Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators, Delaware Chief School Officers Association and Delaware School Boards Association all publicly endorsed Godowsky for his Delaware Senate confirmation in a News Journal letter to the editor on October 26th.  Two days later, Godowsky was confirmed by the Senate with only two no votes.  Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore referred to Godowsky as “a breath of fresh air“.  On November 5th, two weeks after his breakfast announcement, Godowsky flipped on his recommendation about opt-out penalties at the Delaware State Board of Education retreat.

Yesterday we found out the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE was dated 11/2/15.  The timing makes perfect sense.  Perhaps Markell did have a change of heart but was forced to flip back once the US DOE announced their opt-out mandates.  Who am I kidding!  Jack probably gave the US DOE the idea!  It does have his manipulative stench all over it.  I now understand why Godowsky looked like Judas Iscariot at the last Accountability Framework Working Group meeting and the State Board of Education meeting two days after.  His words said one thing, but the look in his eyes said something very different.

This may also shed some light on the bizarre Las Americas Aspiras Academy PTO email about opt-out.  Were they aware of this letter the day it was released?  I question the validity of this since their PTO leader stated ALL federal funding would be cut if 6% of their students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But given the nature of federal funding I can see how someone could misconstrue that.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE sent the letter out to all school leaders and Superintendents in Delaware the first chance they got.

I am seriously questioning why the letters to the twelve states who went below the 95% threshold and the letter sent to all the states announcing definitive cuts if participation rates went below 95% two years in a row were just released to the public yesterday, on December 23rd.  It was weeks after the final Every Student Succeeds Act votes and President Obama signing the legislation.  I have to believe some of these legislators in Congress knew about these letters.  How could they not.  No one can keep a secret that long.  Not in politics.

The smart thing the Delaware DOE and Godowsky could have done was simply tell the public on November 2nd they received these letters.  By doing this they could have taken some of the heat off themselves and shifted it to the US DOE.  Instead, they hid it from the public for over a month and a half.  They duped the public, along with the US DOE and every other state DOE, into thinking the Every Student Succeeds Act and the clauses about opt-out would allow states to decide how to handle opt-out.  They could have said they weren’t sure what they meant, but they had to reconsider the opt-out penalties.  Maybe through collaboration they could have come up with something different.  But this is not how the most unpopular state Department in Delaware operates.  Sunshine is not the best disinfectant at our DOE.  I think we need some good old-fashioned bleach to wipe the slate clean and start over.  We have far too many people involved in education who people like, and believe they have the best intentions.  But when it comes time for them to do the right thing all we hear is “I serve at the pleasure of the Governor,” or “It’s the feds.  We can’t do anything about it.”  For a Department that demands accountability from schools, teachers and students, they sure are hypocritical when it comes to themselves… And the duplicity continues…