John Kowalko Dishes On Charters, DOE, & Governor Markell With Larry Mendte

Larry Mendte’s weekly program, The Delaware Way, aired its most recent segment yesterday.  One of the interview subjects was none other than State Rep. John Kowalko.  Mendte and Kowalko primarily talked about The Public Integrity Commission’s recent grade for Delaware in transparency.  You know, that glaring “F”.  Kowalko said he was surprised Delaware wasn’t 5oth out of 50, as opposed to 48th.  I recommend watching this, and not just cause of the name drop near the end!  I guess Larry didn’t want to hear about that!  But thanks anyways John!

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Key Audio Recording Links From State Board of Education Meeting Yesterday

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

WEIC Public Comment: Part 2

Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities: Part 3

WEIC Presentation to State Board: Part 5

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

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

 

Time Is Running Out #StopESEA

We only have three days to make a VERY strong impression on the members of Congress before they vote on the ESEA Reauthorization on 12/2.  Three days.  They won’t even be releasing the final bill until tomorrow.  I saw somewhere, either on Facebook or Twitter, someone put out a plea to have the members of Congress let the public view this for 60 days.  For something as important as the future of education I am inclined to agree.  I don’t think it will happen.  This is the bill that the corporate education reformers are salivating over.  As well as the politicians who have the most to gain.

It wouldn’t shock me if Delaware Governor Jack Markell has known for months what is going to be in the final draft.  Because all indications point to the very agendas he has been having HIS Department of Education and HIS Secretary of Education inflict on Delaware.  These are crafty and sneaky people, whose sole existence is to do the Governor’s bidding.  Like little minions without a mind of their own.  I love how this bill “allows” states to create their own accountability systems but the ESEA Flexibility waivers demanded it from most states.  Even though it wasn’t congressionally approved and merely “guidance”.  It’s almost like the US DOE and the States knew exactly what was going to be in this bill…

Call your state members of Congress TODAY!  Time is running out!

Opt Your Child Out Tomorrow, Send The State Board A Clear Message

This is why you need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment tomorrow on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015.  And you need to send this message to every single parent you know who has a child in public school in the entire state.  Use Facebook, Twitter, email, text and calling folks to let them know tomorrow is Opt-Out Day.  Schools can not punish you or your child for your right to exercise your rights for what is best for your child.

The Delaware State Board of Education does not care about our schools and our students.  These are unelected officials, along with the Secretary of Education, who serve at the pleasure of Governor Markell.  Let’s get this out in the open for those who are not aware.  They do not care about the path of destruction they leave in their wake with the excessive amount of standardized testing, interim testing for the standardized testing, labeling schools, and evaluating teachers based on those assessments.  They do not care about the impact this has on children of poverty, race, and disabilities.  They will do what they want, when they want, and how they want.  They do not care if they are usurping the authority of the General Assembly.  They do not care about the rights of parents and insist on having negative consequences for schools over opt-out, even if at the most the US DOE simply states in non-regulatory and non-Congressionally approved guidance that schools must have a “consequence” for opt-out.  They do not care about the recommendations of the very committee they formed to give suggestions for this so-called “Delaware School Success Framework”.  The only reason they even created this group is because it was required by the US DOE as stakeholder engagement.  It is a charade and a sham, perpetrated on every single citizen of Delaware.

Delaware Parents: It is now your essential duty, as well as your fundamental right, to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The powers that be will not listen.  They have made this crystal clear.  The only way to stop this is to opt your child out now.  Do not believe the lies and propaganda coming from the Governor, the DOE, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of Education in Delaware.  They will come up with any reason, any task force, group or committee to try to stop you from opting your child out.  They will use other state agencies, such as the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens to get you to believe the lies.  They will throw civil rights in your face while violating the most basic tenets of civil rights in their test and punish environment.  They are causing even more segregation over the shaming of schools over standardized Their latest attempt at mind control is getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  They are retooling the SAT to match the very same Common Core State Standards the Smarter Balanced Assessment already has.  Last Spring, it was announced more than 850 colleges and universities dropping the SAT in the application process.  Warped methodology is their best friend, and they utilize it without regard to the damage it does.

So please, tomorrow, give a letter to your child’s principal telling them (not asking) that your child will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.   If they have opinions, questions, or attempt to talk you out of it, let them kindly know you respect their opinion but your decision is final.  They will definitely tell you now how it will affect their school’s ratings and so forth.  Let them know you understand that but you are the only one who can advocate for your child.  Advise them you expect your child to receive an education while the other students are testing, and stand firm with your decision.  The Delaware General Assembly could override Governor Markell’s veto of the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.  The ESEA reauthorization will most likely leave it up to states to handle opt-out, which the DOE and Markell are attempting to do with Regulation 103, which would become law 60 days after the State Board votes on this.  This is why, if you are going to opt your child out, you need to do it tomorrow.  The State Board meets on Thursday to decide on this.  Let’s show them how ignoring parents will not end well for them.  They disrespect us and underestimate us.  Let’s show them who is really calling the shots!

This is for all traditional school district and charter school parents.  We need to stand united with this and take back the conversation.  We need to show the DOE and the State Board we will not stand for them punishing schools.  In a sense, just making your child take the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a punishment in and of itself.  Because it does not help your child and the DOE uses it as a punishment.  That is the message they told every single parent in the state today.  There are no positive consequences in the picture the DOE wants to paint.  It is all about money, greed, and a severe lack of knowledge about what is truly best for students.

What Foolishness Can We Expect At The State Board of Education Meeting This Week?

This Thursday at 1pm, the monthly State Board of Education meeting is happening.  This will be a BIG meeting!  They are voting on the Delaware School Success Framework and the whole opt-out penalty thing.  We already know Secretary Dr. Steven Godowsky is all about the harsh punishments, despite telling reporters a few weeks ago he didn’t think that was going to happen.  Of course, he had an incentive to say that since he was going to have his Senate Confirmation a week later…but I digress…

This is all the agenda has for this portion of the meeting:

Presentation of the Delaware School Success Framework and other any revisions to the ESEA Flexibility request per the prior conditional approval from USED.

The State Board will hear and act upon the request from DOE for approval of the ESEA Flexibility Application revisions.

Aside from that, what else is on the agenda?  We have the obligatory WEIC portion which has been going on the past couple months.  But this is not a formal presentation, so we should not hear Dan Rich explain the whole thing for two hours again.  But the State Board is going to discuss what they will need to make their decision:

The WEIC should create a record that the SBE can review, which includes:

  1. Minutes from the WEIC meetings and subcommittee meetings, which may be accessible through the WEIC website.
  2. Correspondence with WEIC from the public, including written and electronic comments from the public during the notice period. (November 17 – January 14) These should be posted publicly on the WEIC website and submitted as electronic pdf files to the Board for posting on the Board website.
  3. A record of the public hearings from which a verbatim transcript is prepared for presentation to the Board and posting on the Board website. 
  4. Exhibits, documents and testimony presented at the public hearing. These should be submitted to the Board in pdf format in conjunction with the Hearing transcript.
  5. Any findings and summaries of the hearings prepared by the WEIC.
  6. Any proposals or reports developed by WEIC that address the actions established in SB 122 of the Board.

Public Comment in written or electronic form on the proposed plan received between 11/17/15 and 1/14/16 will be compiled and included in the official record for review and consideration by the SBE.

The public hearings where oral comment will be received will be held as described below. Each will be an hour and a half each and a verbatim transcript will be prepared of each hearing and included in the official record for review by the SBE. 

  • Monday, November 30, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. Brandywine Public Hearing at P.S. duPont Middle School, 701 W. 34th Street, Wilmington, DE 19802.
  • Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. Colonial Public Hearing at William Penn High School, 713 E. Basin Rd, New Castle, DE 19720.
  • Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at  6:30 p.m. Christina Public Hearing at Bayard Middle School, 200 S. duPont Street, Wilmington, DE 19805.
  • Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. Red Clay Public Hearing at Warner Elementary School, 801 W. 18th Street, Wilmington, DE 19802.

Which now gives us a January vote by the State Board of Education for the whole Christina/Red Clay Wilmington redistricting.

What else is on the agenda?  The usual regulations (but not Regulation 103).  I guess they have to get US DOE approval first or something like that.  I can’t keep track of this stuff (I do, but it is not healthy for the mind).  There will be an “Educators as Catalysts” presentation regarding STEM and Computer Science.  DOE is doing a College Access Initiatives presentation.  The Charter School Office will do their monthly update, where they will talk about Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek Academy coming to them in December for charter renewal.  Maybe some talk about Delaware Met, but not too much.  It may come out that Mapleton withdrew their major modification and they have to start over in the application process.  I can’t picture any new disciplinary action against any other charters.  We get to find out the winners of the School Bus Safety Contest, brought to you by the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund.  Not really.  It looks like DOE hired a few people but one person is leaving.  No major announcements (I’m sure they are to the people who got hired).  Some appeal with Brandywine.  The State Board will go over the September 30th count numbers and the private school numbers and the other placements Delaware students might be in (prison, residential treatment centers, and so on).

If you plan on attending, just remember, due to the State Board’s lame regulations, you can’t give public comment about an action item on their agenda, which the Delaware School Success Framework is.  I highly recommend going and telling the State Board about why you are opting your child out this year and what kind of reaction the school is giving parents.  Let them hear it from you personally.  I’m sure they are sick and tired of hearing from me.   You can’t give public comment about Delaware Met or the charter renewals since they are under a “public comment period”.  Which makes about as much sense as New Coke, right?  We can’t taint the State Board of Education’s thoughts with actual thoughts and feelings on these kinds of matters!  It’s not like they don’t already have their mind made up on most things cause Governor Markell holds the marionette strings, right?

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:

US DOE Race To The Top Report Released Today Is A Summary Of Lies And Reform Propoganda

I read this report released today by the US DOE, called Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top and found it to be laughable at best.  I’ll start off with the biggest and boldest first:

Race to the Top used transparency to advance knowledge about improving education and allow states to learn from each other.

What was not transparent was how schools, districts, teachers, parents and students were hoodwinked into believing this lie.  The caveat behind this Federal mandate disguised as a financial incentive was requirements to engage with outside companies with this money.

State work under the grants ended in summer 2015…

For Delaware, this part is completely false since the DOE and Governor Markell used parts of the state General Fund to keep Race To The Top created positions at the DOE.  This is hysterical, because the work continues.  They may not be getting federal funds anymore, but most states are using what they did from Race To The Top at all levels and implementing changes designed not to truly help students but to give their bloated Department of Education employees and leaders high salaries while contracting all their work to outside vendors.

State education agencies (SEAs) as drivers of change. SEAs moved beyond their traditional role of monitoring district compliance to driving comprehensive and systemic changes to improve teaching and learning across the state.

They are still accountability machines.  They live and die by compliance as never before.  Who are you kidding?

Improved, more collaborative, and productive relationships between states and districts. States worked more collaboratively with districts and increased their own capacity to effectively and efficiently support districts and schools in ways that were responsive to local needs.

Yeah, between states maybe, and the districts that sign up for all the personalized learning grants while selling students souls to Satan!

Better communication. States improved lines of communication with stakeholders and used a range of tools (e.g., social media platforms) to continuously gather input from teachers, parents, school leaders, stakeholders and the public to determine the additional supports needed to be successful in carrying out their work.

They certainly used a range of tools in Delaware.  I could name many of those tools, but I would hate to offend anyone.  And many of those tools either gained tremendous financial or political gain from all of this.  And the whole “stakeholder input” never mattered because our DOE didn’t listen to what parents were truly saying and did what they wanted to do anyways.

Higher standards. All Race to the Top states recognized the value of adopting higher standards that are similar across states. Each Race to the Top state implemented challenging kindergarten through 12th-grade academic content standards aimed at preparing students for success in college and careers. With improved standards, teachers, students and parents have a clear roadmap for what students need to know and be able to do to be prepared for success.

The clear roadmap called Common Core, where all students should be on the same level playing field across the country, but all the assessments designed for it are different?  That clear roadmap you say?  And the jury is still way out on if these were “improved” standards.

Teachers support each other to effectively implement higher standards. Teachers worked together to create tools and resources to help them understand the standards and how best to implement them in their classrooms. Hands-on, job-embedded training helped teachers transition to the new content and develop instructional tools, such as sample lesson plans and instructional videos, to translate the standards into effective classroom practices.

Teachers learned how to band together and collectively groan about everything the Feds and the States did to them.  You make it sound like it was such a wonderful and collaborative thing, but it wasn’t and it still isn’t.  Let’s get it straight: the standards were designed for teachers to teach to the state assessment.  Most teachers I know can’t stand these assessments and hate everything that comes with it.

Monitoring student progress during the school year. Every Race to the Top state developed resources and assessment tools that teachers can use in their classrooms to monitor student progress during the school year. Rather than focus on test preparation for the statewide assessment at the end of the school year, nearly all states introduced instructional resources for the classroom that measure higher-order thinking skills, including critical thinking and complex problem-solving.

You can change the words however you want, it is still teaching to the test.

Increased access to and use of objective information on student outcomes. States made critical investments in improving systems to compile student outcome data from pre-kindergarten through the workforce, while protecting personally identifiable information. As outcome data for schools and districts become more accessible to the public, a variety of stakeholders, including parents, policymakers and researchers, will be better able to use these data to answer important questions about educational outcomes, such as “Did students make a year’s worth of growth?” and “Are students succeeding, regardless of income, race, ethnicity or disability?”

That last line is the biggest joke of all.  Because income, race, ethnicity and disability can make a huge difference in a  student’s life, especially as those factors combine!  And we don’t know how much of our children’s data is being farmed out under certain FERPA laws and state regulations.

Local stakeholder engagement. Dramatic improvements in schools require the involvement of community members who understand local contexts and conditions, both inside and outside the school building, to help identify challenges and design solutions. States, districts, teachers, school leaders and community stakeholders are working together to implement strategies to improve the learning environments in their lowest-performing schools and provide services to meet students’ academic and nonacademic needs.

In Delaware, we call this Rodel and the Vision Coalition.  This local stakeholder engagement has been going on for ten years with little or no results except their CEO going from $170,000+ to a salary of $344,000 in a decade.

New performance management approaches. States are using performance management approaches to help districts support effective interventions in their lowest-performing schools. These approaches help states and districts identify problems, set goals to solve them and use data to track progress.

We call these priority schools and focus schools in Delaware.  Or “Partnership Zone” schools.  This is where our state blames teachers for standardized testing scores and do not factor in a lack of resources, funding, neurological disabilities, or issues outside of schools.

States used state-level funds to support districts. In addition to the 50 percent of the total grant award subgranted to districts, many states designed their state-level projects to distribute additional funds to districts. For example, New York competitively distributed nearly $80 million of its state-level “Teachers and Leaders” funds to districts to implement their plans to develop, implement or enhance teacher recruitment, development and retention.

Delaware farmed out millions upon millions of dollars to outside companies, some internal and some external, instead of giving the funds to the districts to lower classroom sizes and get more teachers and extra support.

Some states, such as Hawaii, Delaware and Massachusetts, created a separate office or designated an existing office to plan and coordinate Race to the Top initiatives across different offices

And then the Delaware DOE lied to their General Assembly when the funds ran out and found a way to keep those positions in our DOE without anyone the wiser.

…and Delaware created specific units within their state departments of education and used real-time data to assess whether projects were moving forward and producing quality results.

Results based on federal mandates that were neither Congressionally approved or regulatory in nature…

“We really keep coming back to three questions: Are we doing what we said we would do? Are we doing it well? Is it making a difference?” said Delaware’s former chief performance officer.

Which former chief performance officer is this?  I’m guessing this is why he or she is a former chief performance officer if they were asking questions like this in our dictatorial state led by the not-so-great Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

Beginning in 2008, the state-led effort included governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia and was informed by the best state standards already in use and the experiences of teachers, school administrators, content experts, state leaders and the public. From the beginning, state and local officials and educators took responsibility for adopting and implementing the standards, and for making decisions about how the standards are taught, how the curriculum is developed, and what materials are used to support teachers in helping students meet the standards.

Yes, the beginning of the cabal of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officer’s in leading the Common Core initiative where the two true educators in this design group dropped out from the development of these standards.  Then the districts were essentially brow-beaten, pressured, and lied to if they didn’t accept funds during a recession when states were cash-poor.

As a result, each Race to the Top state developed measures of growth in student learning and made the data available to teachers, school leaders, district leaders and, in some cases, parents.  These measure of growth in student learning provided a reliable measure of teachers’ contributions to student learning because they addressed a student’s proficiency across multiple years on a valid assessment that was comparable across classrooms and schools

“Valid assessment”.  I really don’t need to go any further on this one, do I?

In Delaware, the state hired data coaches to work directly with school leaders and teachers to lead professional learning communities.

The data coaches, who got tons of money.  Like the Vision Coalition in Delaware…

For many Race to the Top states and districts, the initiatives they implemented during the grant period have remained priorities that SEAs are now better equipped to support and continue. For example, Delaware’s performance management system did not exist prior to the grant period and will continue without Race to the Top funds. The state also will continue to implement, as part of its state capacity-building plan, its data analyses and biannual conversations with district leaders to better understand what is happening in districts and develop supports that match local needs. Through its district budget plan approval process, Delaware also is encouraging districts to use available funding streams to support work they found to be effective in their schools, such as using allowable federal funds for professional supports for teachers.

Our DOE might want to check with our General Assembly before they commit to all this.  Oh wait, they will answer to our Joint Finance Committee on 11/30/15 for their devious budget actions…

As directed in the report, the citation for this report belongs to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of State Support, Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top, Washington, D.C., 2015

DOE’s Last Gasp In Fighting Opt-Out Is Resulting In Games And Lies Coming From Markell’s Favorites

Matthew Albright with the News Journal wrote about the betrayal and backstabbing by Secretary Godowsky and the Delaware Department of Education yesterday.  I have to wonder if that story would have come out two weeks from now had I not broken the news last night…

The whole article is chock full of lies as the REAL story is coming out.  I’ll get to the REAL story shortly, but some points I want to make from the News Journal article.

That’s a harsher penalty for schools with low participation rates than a panel of administrators and teacher and parent advocates recommended.

Let’s take a good look at this.  Because in the eyes of the DOE and the State Board of Education, the only voices that mattered in this charade were Donna Johnson, Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna.  Johnson is the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, and she has been calling the shots in the House of Jack for far too long.  She advises the State Board what to vote for, and she sits on these committees and work groups all the time.  I won’t get too much into the machinations Johnson has been up to as some are still under investigation.  But it is past time Donna Johnson was removed from power in the Townshend Building.  As for Schwinn, she smiles a lot and talks the big talk, but I have no doubt she formed this work group for the sole purpose of making it look like the DOE gave a crap about stakeholder input.  Reyna is the wild card, the guy who answers to Schwinn and does whatever she wants.  All three of them- Johnson, Schwinn, and Reyna- have been giving false advice to not only the AFWG, but also to the State Board and Secretary of Godowsky.

State officials say the penalty is a fair way to make sure every student’s academic progress is considered when sizing up a school.

I’m calling bullshit on this one.  The penalty is so the DOE can punish schools for a parent’s decision.  And it is the DOE sizing up the schools and casting their judgments on them.  And this is the infamous “Accountability 2.0” I wrote about earlier this year which came from an email at the DOE from 2013.  The DOE has been planning this Delaware School Success Framework for years.  The legislation they had to plan in April of 2015?  That is Regulation 103.  It got pushed back about six months, but make no mistake, it was all for this school report card crap.  And implementation of the school report card?  That takes place in the 2016-2017 school year.

The federal government requires states have an accountability system, and it requires that test results make up a significant part of the score. It also requires “consequences” for schools that fall below 95 percent participation on the state test.

Do some fact checking on this one Matt Albright!  Did the Delaware DOE tell you that, or did you actually contact the US DOE for that information?  In the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), it does state schools must have a report card.  The ESEA was passed by Congress in 1965.  It has been amended several times, but since President Obama came aboard, the Feds have played a heavy hand in education with non-regulatory guidance.  Which is NOT Congressionally approved.  The US DOE knows damn well what kind of game they are playing here.

The group recommended schools that fall below 95 percent should be required to submit a report explaining why that happened and how to improve participation – and should be ineligible to receive certain honors from the state.

Here is where the DOE’s argument falls apart.  The day the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG) approved this unanimously, Penny Schwinn explained to the group that Governor Markell gave certain options as penalties for the participation rate.  This was one of the options she proposed by the Governor.  The very next day, at the DESS Advisory Group, Schwinn explained that she talked to Governor Markell the night before, after the last AFWG meeting, and he was okay with the group’s recommendation.  So what changed in a month?  Meanwhile, the trio of Schwinn, Reyna and Johnson have been telling folks schools will lose Federal funding if the participation rate goes below 95%.  Which is an absolute lie.

And then the DOE’s Public Information Officer chimed in (who used to write for the News Journal):

“The state feels this is a fair proposal that takes into consideration participation, crediting schools that that work to ensure every child’s learning growth is considered,” May wrote.

Yes, the “that that” was in the article.  When May says “the state”, who is she talking about?  Donna Johnson?  Ryan Reyna?  Penny Schwinn?  Jack Markell?  Secretary Godowsky?  The DOE and Governor Markell are not “the state”.  “The state” is also made up of educators, parents, legislators and citizens.  I’m sure if a vote was taken right now, the entirety of “the state” would not agree with this.  First and foremost, it is bad policy, and second of all, it has Jack Markell’s stink all over it.  This is his way of leaving his legacy of hate for any who would stand against him.

She also points out that parents would still be able to see the school’s unadjusted performance when they get their “report cards” in the mail or online, but the overall component that measures academic performance would be lowered.

This is the DOE’s way of saying “Hey, you parents who opted your kid out, look what you did. This is what it would have been had you not opted your kid out, but because you did this is causing your kid’s school to look bad”.  It is a slap in the face of parents and their rights, and a kick in the back to the schools who aren’t allowed to encourage opt-out.

The Delaware State Education Association had a representative on the working group, and its president, Frederika Jenner, said the education union stood by its recommendation.

Really Frederika?  You might want to talk to your director and your AFWG rep, cause I’m hearing talk coming out of the DOE that they both support this opt-out penalty.  More on that one later.

State officials, however, maintain that the penalty isn’t related to opt out.

This is the biggest joke of them all.  Participation rate IS based on opt-out.  If it isn’t about opt-out, what the hell is it about?  You are lying through your lying little teeth DOE.  You lie when you don’t even have to.  You are a Department of compulsive liars.  Shame on you for abusing authority like this and lying to parents, students, educators and the citizens of Delaware.  Shame on you!  You all hate opt-out because you know it is the only mechanism left that can and will put a stop to all or your crafty plans.

As for Secretary Godowsky… if you honestly believe everything that has come out of the mouths of Johnson, Schwinn and Reyna, you are unfit to be the Delaware Secretary of Education.  I know of many conversations you had today with things that are not even in this article in an effort to put a lid on this quickly.  Where is the whole part about the Smarter Balanced Assessment going away for juniors because of the SAT which is being realigned to become SBAC Jr.?  How about the part where the participation rate for the SAT is 100% because Delaware used Race To The Top funds to pay for that and paid for every high school junior to take it?  But now those funds are gone?  Buries that argument real quick!  Or the part where certain people at DSEA and all the Superintendents of all the districts are behind this because of the very faulty SAT argument which only accounts for high school juniors?  I’m also hearing those state superintendents were not happy at all about this total ignorance of the AFWG’s recommendations.  So which is the real story Secretary Godowsky?  The fabrication of lies in the News Journal, or what you are telling other folks?  It sounds to me like you are lining up all the stakeholders and playing them against each other.  Shifting blame and collaboration to appease the complaints you got today.  Sorry Secretary Godowsky, I know you have your defenders, but all your effort and lip service to making the DOE better fell apart in a week once your were confirmed by the Delaware Senate.

And Jack.  Jack Jack Jack…  Don’t think you are just sliding out of this one.  No way!  Your dirty fingerprints are all over this one.  We all know these underlings of yours don’t breathe sideways unless you give them your dictatorial stamp of approval.  Once again, like you did when you came up with your rebuttals against opt-out and vetoed House Bill 50, you are disrespecting parents and their rights.  You are allowing YOUR Department, your education governance system to LIE to the very people you are sworn to represent.  You are not an honorable man.  You are duplicitous and slimy.  I have no doubt you will continue to destroy public education and Pompeii the whole thing before you leave office.  This is your payback now.  Your small, petty and vengeful payback against those who would dare to stand against the almighty Jack Markell.  But you will lose on this one Jack.  Make no mistake.  This will be rectified and course corrected, and soon, you and your little regulation raiders will be gone and your legacy of shame will go down in the history of Delaware as one of the worst governorships the First State has ever seen.

Delaware 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”.

Dr. Godowsky And His Baptism Of Fire Today With Opt-Out, WEIC, and The Delaware Met

The new Acting Secretary of Education in Delaware, Dr. Steven Godowsky, had a baptism of fire today.  Appearing at both the New Castle County School Boards breakfast and the State Board of Education meeting today, Godowsky was quoted by WDEL’s Amy Cherry at the school board breakfast as saying:

“It’s not a final decision, but it looks like from all levels of the department…that harsh sanctions will not carry the day,” he said. “There will be minimum sanctions that are required.”

Those minimum sanctions will include schools having to report to the Delaware Department of Education about the students opting out and what their prior scores were, and most likely, how they plan to address opt-out.  As well, they will not meet Reward status even if they qualify for it if their participation rates fall below 95%.  There is a lot of gray area about the word “required” based on Federal “guidance” which is not Congressionally approved or existing regulation.  Schools are required to have students participate in the state standardized assessment, but nowhere does it factor in parent opt-out.  That situation is out of their control.

Godowsky talked at both the breakfast and the State Board of Education meeting about more communication coming out of the DOE.  I think all of this is good, but I will be cautiously optimistic.  Dr. Godowsky came up to me before the State Board meeting started, said hi, and shook my hand.  That is something Mark Murphy never did.  There were times at State Board meetings where I would have brief staring contests with Murphy and he would quickly look away or straighten out his glasses.  I do believe the DOE needs to be much more transparent about things, but that doesn’t change policies coming out of their halls.  There is a very fine line between what is law with federal mandate, what is guidance, and what is interpretation.  I will continue to let folks know what those are as situations arise.

For Godowsky, the State Board of Education meeting was filled with tension during the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) presentation. A contentious back and forth between State Board members and the WEIC presenters, Dan Rich and Joe Pika, in regards to the plan made this the most interesting part of the meeting.  Later on, Godowsky’s first major decision was whether or not to place The Delaware Met up for formal review.  He recommended it to the State Board and they unanimously voted yes, but not without a great deal of discussion surrounding the details around the consideration.  It seemed like the DOE and Godowsky knew a lot more about what is going on with the school but were unable to give details because an official investigation could not be done because they were not on formal review yet.

I advised, in public comment, that I truly hope Dr. Godowsky acts in the best interest of students and not politics.  While his official confirmation will not happen until October 28th in a special session of the Delaware Senate, it seems as though he is making good first steps.  There is still a great deal to be done, but I do see some light shining into some cracks.  But his job will be to listen to everyone involved, not just the policy makers.  I think he is much more personable than Mark Murphy was, and he has much more experience.  His true test will be in the ESEA flexibility waiver, which will come up next month at the State Board of Education meeting.  He has gone on record stating that the harsh opt-out penalties most likely will not occur.  I hope he lives up to this, but at the end of the day we all know this is Governor Markell’s decision.

I still have very grave concerns with things coming out of the DOE.  My biggest priority is special education.  I am slowly learning what the true problems are, and I plan to keep on addressing them.  I still loathe the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Common Core, and I will not give up exposing the machinations behind those messes.  There are many inequalities between Delaware charter schools and traditional school districts I don’t agree with, and that will be a continuous topic of discussion.  There are things going on in traditional school districts that are beginning to surface which could result in further widening between students in need and their peers.  A growing issue with myself and others, not just in Delaware but on a national level, is the amount of data outside companies are legally allowed to have about students.  I firmly believe many companies are using legal loopholes to share student data for unknown purposes, and that should scare the hell out of any parent.  The legislators will be back in a few months, and the opt-out bill will still be a big thing with me.  I will say I do like seeing more transparency coming from the Department though and I truly hope this trend continues.  I don’t trust Governor Markell, and I don’t think what he wants for education is in the best interest of students and teachers.  I don’t believe the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and I will ever see eye to eye.

The WEIC conversation continues, and as revealed this week, major issues are coming up with this redistricting effort.  One of my biggest contentions with the whole thing is policy that will happen for Wilmington that will affect the entire state.  I agree change needs to happen, but there needs to be some Kent County and Sussex County representation for all of this.  I have communicated this, as well as a need for more special education discussion, to the WEIC leadership.  It is certainly a bold and innovative idea, but there are so many things to be sorted out with this, and the timeframe as put forth in the law is very narrow.  I have always had a theory about the endgame of all this, but now I wonder if it will even go through.  I would highly recommend to the WEIC leadership not to leave anyone out of crucial conversation and not to come up with ideas that could cause any of the players to feel isolated or left out.  No one likes being told what will happen, especially to students, and I think Colonial’s recent decision is testimony to this.

While all of this is going on, all eyes will be on Dr. Godowsky as the newest leader of a very unpopular Department who many in the state feel as though they can do whatever they want because they are Governor Markell’s baby.  While Godowsky did say in the WDEL interview that DOE will feel the pinch of next year’s budget deficit, I feel as though they have been living high on the hog and they need a huge trimming.  Welcome to the DOE Dr. Godowsky!

AFWG & Penalty For Participation Rates Still Alive While DOE Racks Up More FOIA Violations

Before you read this, you absolutely have to read State Rep. Kim Williams breakdown of their last meeting.  This is essential!

Okay, welcome back.  The Accountability Framework Working Group met last week for their second to last meeting.  Their next meeting will be on October 5th at 1:00pm.  I put all the notes from their first 11 meetings here and they have since updated the DOE website to include the notes from Meetings #12-14, and Agendas for #14 and #15.  Keep in mind the notes were written by the Delaware DOE.

Meeting #12 happened the same day I broke the news about this group and the whole participation rate thing.  I had not delved too deep into it at this point, and it would stand to reason the meeting happened around the same time as my article went up that day.  The key part from this meeting is this:

…as well as ensuring that schools with significant achievement gaps in ELA and Math proficiency and the four-year graduation rate do not receive the state’s highest rating.

Of particular interest is this part about what is required under ESEA and what constitutes a school getting the highest rating.  This will play a huge part later on in this article.  This meeting also had the first mention of Regulation 103 which had already been submitted to the Delaware Register of Regulations at this point.

Meeting #13 was held on September 2nd.  I don’t know how many members of the AFWG were aware of my articles on this group at this point, but I know for a fact at least three of them were.  Nothing was said about participation rate or Regulation 103 at this meeting as per the notes.

Now where things get really interesting, and nobody really knew, was the DOE all of a sudden put out an agenda for the next meeting of the AFWG on September 17th.  By state law, if you are putting out an agenda, it has to be done a week ahead of time if it is a public meeting.  This agenda was NOT on the DOE website as of 9/14/15 because I looked that day.  If you look on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar you can see this listed as a Public Meeting.  However, if you right click on the actual PDF created by Jennifer Roussell at the Delaware DOE on 9/16/15 at 8:36am in the morning, the Delaware Department of Education violated FOIA law by not announcing this a week earlier.

The proverbial stuff hit the fan at Meeting #14 on September 17th.  This was the same day as the State Board of Education meeting and news of Regulation 103 and its implications for Delaware schools spread like wildfire prior to this meeting.

Note that the group unanimously voted down the participation rate against proficiency.  But the AFWG does not have the final say on this.  That is the State Board of Education, who had quite a bit of discussion about this along with members of the public at their meeting that day.

But what the AFWG member who spoke at the State Board of Education meeting did not say was this:

The AFWG members present unanimously recommended removing Participation Rate for the Adjusted Proficiency calculation. Further discussion on the accountability consequence for schools missing the 95% target was requested. Initial feedback supported a rule that no school could receive the highest performance rating on DSSF if they missed the 95% threshold.

Since that meeting, I requested from Dr. Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna at the Delaware DOE the exact law, code, or regulation which states participation rate is required to be any part of a state’s accountability system.  As well, Schwinn said at the 9/17 State Board of Education meeting she was going to request this from US DOE.  To date, NOTHING has been presented.  I spent countless hours going through federal laws concerning this and ESEA waiver laws, rules and guidance, and there is absolutely NOTHING in Federal law that states this is a requirement.  NOTHING.  DOE knows this, but they are stalling.  AFWG needs to stop relying on the word of Penny Schwinn and actually research this for themselves.  But please keep in mind this is what the DOE wrote in the notes and may not actually be what was discussed.  If any member of the AFWG wants to contact me about this, please do so.

Last week, on 9/23/15, the AFWG held their 15th meeting.  Again, an agenda was put up, without 7 full days notice.  It is one again on the Public Meeting Calendar and this one even says there can be public comment at the meeting.  If you do the right-click thing again on this PDF and go to document properties, it was created on 9/17/15.  Two public meeting FOIA violations.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams attended this meeting as I wrote earlier.

The group will meet again on 10/5/15, but you won’t find it on the DOE website.  You have to look in the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar again but at least they got the agenda out more than seven days before the public meeting.  Maybe they were thinking if you add up all the days together for the last three meetings that would be sufficient enough to get a total of twenty-one days.  But that is some fuzzy math, cause that would only be seventeen days…

This will (for now), be the last meeting of the AFWG.  Will you be there?  Of course, it’s on a Monday afternoon, during that oh-so-convenient time for working parents and teachers to come.  But we can’t interfere with the State Board of Education’s Grotto’s Smarter Balanced party at 4pm.  Or the Charter School public hearings beginning at 4pm.

But this has to be the last meeting because it needs to be presented to the Delaware Education Support System group the next day, also during the same hours between 1-4pm.  The group that has no agenda and does not take minutes for their meetings.  Because it is so important to present it to this clandestine group but not parents in a transparent way…

This whole thing has become the biggest debacle in DOE history.  They are breaking the law all over the place.  And yes, I have already submitted two more FOIA complaints for their latest public meeting decisions concerning the AFWG for a grand total of seven pending complaints with the Delaware Department of Justice and two with the federal US DOE.

 

 

Delaware DOE Trying To Push Opt Out Penalty Based On Non-Regulatory Threats From US DOE

Last week, Regulation 103 was the hotbed education issue of the week, and Delaware parents, teachers, and organizations had a victory of sorts in stopping the Delaware State Board of Education from acting on this regulation at their October meeting.  But Penny Schwinn, the Chief Officer of Accountability and Assessment at the Delaware DOE stated she was going to seek official answers from the United States DOE over the issue of participation rate in the standardized assessment.  Based on research, I already knew the answer, but I decided to seek some answers from the Delaware DOE over this.


Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 3:51 PM
To: Schwinn Penny; Reyna Ryan; sgodow@udel.edu; Blowman David
Subject: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Good afternoon,

Could you please provide me with a copy of the letter Deborah Delisle sent to the DOE indicating the participation rate category in the accountability system for the ESEA  Flexibility Renewal had to be used as a “consequence” in the ESEA mandate school report card, otherwise known in Delaware as the Delaware School Success Framework?

Thank you very much,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: Reyna Ryan <Ryan.Reyna@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 4:11 PM
Subject: RE: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Kevin,

Here is the link: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/DE%20USED%20Letter%20Sec%20Murphy.pdf. It has been on the Office of Assessment site since 4/23/15.

Thanks,

Ryan


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 4:17 PM
To: Reyna Ryan
Cc: Schwinn Penny; sgodow@udel.edu; Blowman David
Subject: Re: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Thank you Ryan,

I’ve actually already seen that letter and published it on my blog the next day.  The letter you sent me was from 4/23/15, well after the AFWG group talked about participation rate and it was submitted into the ESEA Waiver renewal on the 3/31 draft.  This would be a letter referenced to the AFWG concerning the rationale for participation rate in the Delaware School Success Framework that specifically uses the word “consequence”.  Dr. Schwinn told the group about this letter.  I would like to have a copy of it.  Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt 


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Reyna Ryan <Ryan.Reyna@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Friday, September 18, 2015 7:07 AM
Subject: RE: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Good morning Mr. Ohlandt,

The letter that Ryan is referencing and the one that was discussed at AFWG stem from the same place. Based on feedback from stakeholders, DDOE asked USDOE for clarification on this issue in early March. These conversations were largely on the phone and, recognizing that this does not allow for documentation, DDOE requested an official letter from USDOE stating their position  on these issues. The letter on 4/23 was the documentation of the information that had been provided to DDOE (and then communicated to AFWG) previously. Both the very top of page 5 as well as the end of the first full paragraph of page 5 reference the need to include a consequence in the accountability system. This is no different than what is currently required through AYP, which as you know is more limited in what is included in accountability metrics.

I absolutely appreciate and understand your disagreement with the idea of imposing consequences in this area, and also recognize that this is different than the information and direction that has been provided by USDOE. I hope there are other areas in the DSSF, especially when compared to AYP, that you find are moving our state in the right direction.

All the best,

Penny


I covered this letter from US DOE Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle last April.  During the House Education Committee meeting, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy referenced a letter sent from US DOE warning about all the potential consequences of opt-out.  After much discussion and even argument, and a significant amount of public comment, the Delaware House Education Committee released the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, out of committee.  That evening I emailed the Delaware DOE for a copy of this letter, which they complied with the very next day in addition to putting it on their website.  Which resulted

In the above emails, Penny Schwinn referenced “telephone calls” with US DOE.  Which of course is not documented.  In February, Deborah Delisle sent a similar letter to Alaska in regards to what is required and what is not.  The key words in this letter are as follows:

In addition, all SEAs with approved ESEA flexibility plans have included specific consequences in their accountability systems for any school that misses participation rate, and must implement this component of their accountability systems with fidelity.

In every other section where Ms. Delisle referenced what is required, she gave specific federal regulatory code and cited it.  In this line, there was NO reference to any regulatory code or law.  On August 28th and 29th, I spent hours combing through ESEA Flexibility Waiver requirements and found NO reference anywhere to specific penalties in a state’s accountability system, which resulted in this article debunking Schwinn’s claim.  Yes, Ms. Delisle referenced a non-regulatory claim without any reference to an actual law or regulation at the top of page 5.  The key is in the wording.  She sandwiched the part about participation rate being included in a state’s accountability system between two regulations and laws, but that particular part is not referenced anywhere in those.  Ms. Delisle is no longer working at the US Department of Education.

As well, the Delaware PTA, in their official public comment at the State Board of Education meeting last week stated they checked with US DOE and found there is NO mandatory requirement to have participation rate on the state assessment as a penalizing factor on the school report card.

So we are at this point: the non-DOE members of the Accountability Framework Working Group collectively voted down having the participation rate penalty as part of the Delaware School Success Framework as seen in the above link.  DSEA spoke in opposition to it as well.  If the Delaware DOE does this, they are making it their own individual choice to include it based on no law or regulation requiring it.  And everyone else who has spoken on it, aside from the lone wolf Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens who receives their funding from the Delaware DOE, has been in opposition to this.

To read the Alaska letter, please see below:

So we are once again at a point where the Delaware DOE is telling everyone this is required and it really isn’t.  I can’t wait to see what kind of response the US DOE provides Penny Schwinn in regards to this when she asks them for “official” answers.  Sorry Penny, phone calls and non-regulatory threats with no legal backing behind them do not count as “mandatory”.  I would strongly suggest you have the Delaware DOE attorney thoroughly check any correspondence from US DOE on this issue.  Because we won’t be fooled again.

State Board of Ed Public Comments Transcribed And Future Of Regulation 103

The audio recording of the State Board of Education meeting yesterday is up in record time.  I went ahead and transcribed all of the public comments.  Every single one.  As well, I listened to the part where they discuss 103 and I took copious amounts of notes.  Here it is.  To understand the different portions of Regulation 103, and how everything culminated and reached a boiling point, please read this.  This whole saga with the Delaware School Success Framework started to boil a few weeks ago when I found information on the Accountability Framework Working Group while looking for the magical Smarter Balanced toolkit.

Delaware PTA

Good afternoon, my name is Bill Doolittle. I will first speak on behalf of Delaware PTA in regards to Regulation 103. With regard to the accountability system the Delaware Department of Education and Delaware State Board of Education are seeking to include parent opt-out rates in the school report card. This is not only misleading representation of the school’s performance, but it is another attempt to coerce and intimidate parents who choose to exercise their right to opt out their students. Although the Delaware DOE maintains that including participation rates is mandated in US (Department of) Education, Delaware PTA has confirmed that the US Department of Education that this is not the case, that students are not required by federal mandate to include opt-out rates in the calculations. This is only one of an array of problems and concerns with this proposed regulation. Delaware PTA will provide further comment.

Bill Doolittle

I will now change hats and speak as a volunteer advocate for children at risk. Proposed Regulation 103 is just a milestone in a larger plan that fails to meet the most fundamental components necessary to meet the needs of our most at-risk children. It fails to provide accurate, timely and useful data for parents and teachers to support their children. It fails to use any metric directly measuring the known risk components related to our children being able to learn. Primarily, (as) it relies on end of year summative exams is the least able to accurately measure our most at-risk children. As many as 15% may not be assessed accurately with the risk characteristics and being crowded into the lowest 10% percentile. We have a statistical growth model, that at best, within the confidence interval, cannot differentiate between the middle 70% of our schools. And unless your child is that average child, it provides only an illusion of useful information to parents as to their child’s growth. Think about the rate of children with disabilities and all you have to compare to is an average child with a disability. And what about children with multiple risk groups and multiple factors? This growth model is worthless at best and grossly misleading at worst. I took the time to scan through other states ESEA waivers and one thing is clear, that is Delaware’s plan is based on punitive actions and bureaucratic compliance and not a robust education system which was the point of ESEA and other states that move forward with this. Even where there are good components, it is not manageable with fidelity. For example, can you explain why, out of $3 million dollars allocated in epilogue for ESEA school support only $900,000 actually made it to schools with approved plans? And even if the full $2.7 million had been in, that would only represent half of what was necessary to actually meet the goal. Our State Board should be asking all of these questions not just accepting spin and rubber stamps. (time ran out)

Frederika Jenner

Good afternoon. I’m Frederika Jenner, President of the Delaware State Educators Association. I’m here today to address the proposed changes to Regulation 103: accountability for schools, districts, and the state. After careful review of the published regulation, we at DSEA cannot support the recommended changes for the following reasons. #1: the proposed changes in Regulation 103 are incomplete. We see this in Section 1, under purpose and definitions, in sub-section 1.2, Action Schools, the definition does not define the conditions that place a school within this category. Although the Department mentions significant academic achievement gaps in their sub-groups and overall low achievement, the parameters of these terms are not defined either in the proposed regulation changes or in the Delaware ESEA Flexibility Waiver application. In Section 2, in Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF), the Academic Framework Group, AFWG, has not yet finished their work on DSSF. For example, discussions are ongoing on issues related to participation rates. In Section 6, performance ratings, this section indicates there will be up to five performance ratings for schools yet does not name them nor does it identify the criteria for any school to be placed in one of these categories. In Section 7, classifications for schools identified for improvement or recognition, Subsection 7.1, Action less schools, this section does not specify whether a planning period is part of the two academic years given for improvement. Do these schools really have two full years to improve? This is unlike the Focus and the Priority schools in which the planning year is separated out. In 7.3, the section on Focus Plus Schools. It does not say how a school can exit Focus Plus school status.

Our second concern involves the proposed regulation changes that we think are confusing. We see this in 2.5, participation rate. Under this condition, can schools have their accountability rating reduced if a single sub-group falls below the 95% participation rate? Looking at the requirement that n=30, if only two students do not participate as part of a sub-group, it appears that a school could have its full rating reduced. Under the section for proration, this section is confusing and needs refinement. Why are academic achievement scores spread over four years in K-3 (grade) when students take the summative assessment in grade 3? This section attempts to hold schools and educators accountable for the 3rd graders performance by assuming that the student attended the same school. What if the student came from Oklahoma? How will the Department apply the rating? Also, does it make sense and is it fair to use the scores of students no longer in a school if the school has no tested grades such as a K-2 school? In 2.8.1, the language in this section makes very little sense and is very confusing. In Section 4, assessment criteria, in 4.1.1 and 4.1.2, the term “non-participant” is not defined in the document . This section also raises the question of whether the non-participant is included in the school’s overall data. In 7.2.4, to get out of Focus School status, why does the school have to meet the academic targets for two consecutive years within the three year period? Is it fair to not allow the school to exit the status if they meet the target in the first and third years?

A third concern, Section 7 is at times inconsistent with State law and does not allow for significant input from educators and parents. In 7.4.5 and 7.4.7, this section does not allow the flexibility and creativity to be granted when considering what to do with Red Clay and Christina Priority Schools. As a result of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, it could possibly lead to redistricting. DSEA appreciates the Department’s recognition of House Bill 82, which mandates that matters regarding collective bargaining are exclusively subject to the public employee rather than the relations board. DSEA further believes that any proposed regulation that gives a school leader the ability to override existing collective bargaining agreements is against the law. Section 11, review process. Again, this does not allow for significant input from parents and educators. In 11.3.1, this section provides for review committee selected only by the Secretary. In 11.3.2, this section significantly limits the evidence that could be considered to only that information provided by the District. In 11.5, this section does not provide for independent appeals process. And finally, what we consider the most important point in which to make today, the epilogue language does not require the Board to take action now. The language explicitly states, “Upon approval, the flexibility waiver by the United States Department of Education, the Department shall publish updated regulations to be consistent with the approved ESEA Flexibility Waiver request within sixty days.” The Department has met their published obligation. As stated before, nothing in this language requires Board action now. Neither does it bar the Board from taking no action. Sending the regulation back to the Department, and having the regulation republished once it has been completed, clarified, and revised. We urge the Board to send the regulation back to the Department. Thank you.

Deborah Stevens

Good afternoon. My name is Deborah Stevens. I am the Director of Instructional Advocacy for DSEA and I am also a member of the Accountability Framework Work Group, also known as AFWG. The group, or let me be specific please, the non-DOE members of the AFWG charged me with coming before you today to talk a little bit about the work but more specifically to talk about Regulation 103 and why we feel a decision on this regulation needs to be deferred. We believe that the work that has been done by AFWG has been a very long and painstaking process. The commitment by the people that have worked this part of the group, and this includes district representatives, superintendents, representative from the PTA, and representative from DSEA, myself. We were all conscious of presenting to the public a very accurate, full narrative about the capabilities and status of all of Delaware’s schools. That has been first and foremost in our minds in the creation of the Delaware School Success Framework. That being said, the work is not done! You see a section within the regulation titled Delaware School Success Framework and there are still incomplete sections contained within. It is a work in progress. Even today, as we met earlier, a little more than an hour ago, this group took a vote to alter the calculation for proficiency to not include participation rate. With that in mind, and understanding that this is still a work in progress, and as has been previously noted that we have already met the intent of the epilogue by having the regulation published within sixty days. We would advocate that the State Board consider that the work still needs to be finished and send the regulation back to the Department for review, further discussion, and completion. Thank you.

Mike Matthews

Good afternoon. My name is Mike Matthews. I’m the President of the Red Clay Education Association, also a teacher on release from Warner Elementary School. It’s nice to see a crowd here. I would urge the State Board to consider, maybe, no, I’ll do that another time.   Also, I am going to urge the State Board again, as I did last month, to amend your public comment policy to allow public comment for items that are going to be voted on that State Board’s meeting. If you want to operate with full and complete transparency and make sure you are giving as much opportunity for your constituents to hear what they would like to say, please change that policy.

Regulation 103. Our association has not taken an official position. It’s challenging for me to hear about these issues from bloggers. I first heard about this from Kevin Ohlandt on his blog. I immediately sent out a communication to my membership asking them to pore through it. It’s a very long regulation. Our association will be taking a vote at our meeting on Monday. I plan on drafting a letter to present to them. I’m officially announcing our a vote of no support for this so as long as they approve that, you will be getting that before the public comment has expired for next month’s meeting. But the initial thoughts that I’ve heard from members are that “Wait, does this mean more Priority Schools?” We saw what happened last year, we saw how ineffective and quite frankly, disgusting the process was. Does this mean more priority schools? There were some concerns about the participation rate issue. Someone came up to me and said “Wait, our General Assembly, by a super majority in both Houses passed the bill saying that opt-out is fine, so what right does the State Board through regulation, have to override what the publicly elected General Assembly has said? One member said “This sounds like a backdoor support of the Governor’s veto.” I’m also concerned that AFWG hasn’t completed its work, yet there are some recommendations, there are some regulations in this language that, I think, should that group be allowed to complete its work would mean this regulation would be written differently. I’m looking forward to joining the team from the Department of Education at they visit my former home, Richardson Park next week. I will be doing the walkthroughs with you. You will be coming to my former school . The staff has requested my present because they are now a Focus School. So I plan on joining DOE and the administrative team and the staffers who will be at that meeting, to see what’s going on. And a genuine good luck to you Secretary Murphy and I hope everything goes well. We’re looking forward to Dr. Godowsky and thank you, have a great month.

Jackie Kook

Good afternoon. My name is Jackie Kook. I am a teacher in the Christina School District and I’m Vice President of the Christina Education Association (CEA). I’m also working with the DPAS Advisory Sub Committee, the advisory sub group committee, I’m going to be working on the sub-committee and I worked on the committee that worked last year as well! That’s a lot of committees (laughter).   I’m knee-deep now! When this came out, when I had a chance to look through the regulations, we were focused on 106, and 107, we were looking at the evaluation changes and things like that and 103 kind of caught me a little off guard. Although I am Vice President of CEA, we have also not discussed this formally. We just haven’t had time because we’ve been focusing on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, participating in that and making sure our Priority Schools plan is worked on, dealing with Superintendent issues, so we’ve got a lot going on in Christina. But my concern is, as more of a parent, my child is not taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment. And it’s not because I think it’s a terrible test, it’s not because I think that it’s the Devil incarnate, it’s because it’s not useful to their teachers. So by requiring schools to count that as part of their accountability, the participation part of literally useless test, right, to inform kids instruction, to inform the teacher’s classroom, there’s just no point. Your just punishing the schools for the parents decision. I’ve been very clear with all the communications I’ve made with the schools where my children go to school in Red Clay, neighborhood schools. I’ve been very clear with my children and I’ve been very clear with their administrators and their teachers. And they will take every test you throw at them, the MAP, the SRI, whatever you want to give them, any test that you can use to figure out where their needs are and meet those. I feel like Regulation 103 has that, whether it’s intentional or not, places that as a negative on my child’s school. I can only imagine the pressure that they will try to levy on me, to keep at Linden Hill Elementary School, to keep their 100%, you know, everybody’s proficient, everybody’s passing, we met AYP, because my child is not going to be taking that test it’s going to hurt their rating. It’s not fair to the school, it’s not fair to me as a parent, it’s also not going to be effective because they’re still not going to take the test. It’s going to divide that school community cause there will be those of us who want to help the school. We volunteer our time, send in supplies, do what’s necessary but still, this is not the right thing for them, for their families, and our children. Like everyone that’s spoken before me, to put it more eloquently, I urge you to reconsider, especially that part. We don’t need to be rated A B C and D. The parents come into this school. They can figure out how their kids are doing and the teachers. The tests we have in place allow for that. Thank you for your time.

Kevin Ohlandt

Thank you very much. Secretary Murphy, I did want to wish you luck in your future endeavors. Today is Parent Strike. This is a nationally coordinated event for parents to oppose the Smarter Balanced, corporate education reform, and to promote every single student in America for refusing the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I filed several complaints against the Department of Education, the Delaware State Board of Education, Dr. Gray, and Donna Johnson. The first one is in regards to your ESEA Renewal request submitted last March. The public was not given an opportunity to comment on the participation rate portion. It was snuck in on the March 31st draft as evidenced by your website and it was not available for public comment. I have filed with the Delaware Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Department of Education Office of Inspector General based on that.

I have filed a complaint with United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. This Department has allowed a multitude of charter schools to deny Individualized Education Programs for students with disabilities. I spoke with that department, the Exceptional Children Resources Group, last summer and I was told there is no method by which this Department can evaluate charter schools for that and that the due process system is more than fair. There has been a handful of actual due process hearings in this state, meanwhile thousands of children are denied IEPs all the time.

I have also filed a couple complaints with the DOJ in regards to FOIA complaints. Last Monday, you had a State Board retreat, which was a public meeting. At this meeting I was told there would be embargoed information. You cannot embargo information at a public meeting. As well, it is my contention that Ms. Johnson, as well as two members of the Department, attempted to conceal information they would have otherwise talked about had a member of the public not been present. I also filed a FOIA request for emails concerning submissions for Regulation 103. Instead of giving a list of estimated charges, I was immediately told you have to pay DTI $300.00 without any timeframe or anything.

Dr. Gray, you sit on the board of the US Education Delivery Institute, of which the Department of Education has paid almost $350,000 over the past five fiscal years and I have no recollection of you publicly acknowledging your capacity on this board. If you want to see more of the complaints, I just put up an article on Exceptional Delaware at 12:35pm. Thank you. (I had more to say, but the timer went off).

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko

Good afternoon Board members, Secretary Murphy. I’m John Kowalko, the State Representative in the 25th District. I’m here today, in spite of the fact that it’s my birthday and I’m missing face time with my seven and a half month old granddaughter, but the importance of this goes beyond that. We are on the brink of the cusp of a Constitutional crisis in the State of Delaware. Regulation 103 is an example of how far we’ve tread of the Constitutional track that we are set upon and bound to be set upon by the State. We have regulations that are imposed with no checks, no balances, that are owed, Constitutionally owed a guarantee to the General Assembly. Meetings, draftings, and mandating regulations while the General Assembly is out of session. It constitutes almost an abuse of power by an unelected body. I will point over to that building (points to Legislative Hall). I just stood outside at a press conference. These regulations, more often than not, are discussed, imposed and mandated while that building is empty. That’s our authority. We can concede the right for the State Board of Education, the DOE, to draft regulations, to consider regulations. We are not allowed to concede to all members of the General Assembly your right to impose regulations which become virtual law. This is an appointed board, State Board is an appointed board, DOE is appointed. There is no allegiance of this body so far to the elected, duly elected General Assembly.

Pennsylvania has their General Assembly members, Senator Denman is one of them, that sits on their State Board of Education.  I met with him, we talked about opt-out legislation in Pennsylvania and he was stunned when he found out that we can have almost a contradiction in the will of that body, over there in the General Assembly. By construction of Regulation 103 which could in fact disarm the intentions of House Bill 50. And when I said to myself “what would you do about it?” He said all of our State Board of Education regulations to the Feds and ESEA flexibility, are bound to go through and be approved by the General Assembly. We had a bill last year, I believe it was Kim Williams bill, to do just that. And leadership wouldn’t let it through. And I’ll tell you, in all this mess that makes sense, that wouldn’t let it go through is the Governor. The Governor appoints you guys, the Governor appoints the employees of the DOE (through the Secretary of Education). So when we look at this separation of powers, we are woefully inadequate. (timer goes off) And having an honest dialogue about who runs this State, the General Assembly runs this State on behalf of the people. Not on behalf of any special interests, not on behalf of any agenda, the only agenda we have is the people and the children of this state. (Dr. Gray advises Rep. Kowalko he has five seconds) Well I’m going to ask this Board to hold Regulation 103 until we reconvene that General Assembly. I think it’s the only right thing to do, it’s the only respectful thing to do. And anything else is bordering on an unconstitutional subversion of our power. And I’ll take every means I can to prevent that from happening. So I’m hoping you’ll consider that. Thank you.

Lorrie Gloede

Not to give Lorrie the boot here, but what she wrote on Delaware First State was essentially what she said at the State Board of Education meeting. And if you haven’t, check out State Rep. Kim Williams awesome new blog, now would be a good time!


At this point, I’m going to summarize what happened with Regulation 103 at the State Board of Education meeting.  DOE Director of Policy and External Affairs Susan Haberstroh spoke to the board about the regulation and what it means.  She stated it was created years ago based on the days of No Child Left Behind and Annual Yearly Progress.  It was updated during Race To The Top.  Haberstroh explained how the US DOE approved Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver request on July 9th.  Within 60 days, based on the epilogue language in Delaware’s budget bill, House Bill 225, the DOE was required to submit the publishing of a regulation tied to the ESEA approval.  Which they did.  But they were not required to approve it  or take action on it based on Delaware state law.  According to Director of Accountability and Assessment Penny Schwinn, only part of the application was approved and the part about the “school report card”, the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) had to be resubmitted with all the “weights and targets” by October 31st.  Since the majority of AFWG voted down the participation rate as a punitive measure in regards to proficiency, Schwinn has asked the US DOE for “very specific answers to bring back to the group.”

The existing ESEA approval is only good through June 30th, 2016.  If the update is approved with the DSSF, the waiver is good for three years, until 6/30/18.  Schwinn stated the portion about naming Priority and Focus schools was already approved in the waiver, and Delaware named all the schools through that waiver, thus the crop of Focus and Focus Plus schools this year.  She did state, at minimum, no schools will be designated Priority or Focus for three years.  The Reward and Recognition portion of the ESEA waiver was not required, but DOE wanted to do it.  As Schwinn said, “There’s no harm in giving schools money and calling them out for great performance.”

Regulation 103 will have to be republished in the Delaware Register of Regulations if there are “substantive” changes to it.  Which there now will be.  Based on the law for the regulations, the DOE must submit the updated regulation to the Register of Regulations by the 15th of the month before the month it is published in.

The purpose of the updated Regulation 103 is because it does not match with ESEA flex waivers and the designation of Priority or Focus Schools, as well as the proposed accountability system called DSSF.  The DOE has been operating without this in regulation and “where it was inconsistent, that’s where ESEA actually was in place of the regulation,” Haberstroh said.  “This was tied in with ESEA inflexibility.  This was the original No Child Bombs,” board member Pat Heffernan joked.  He added “Right now this regulation is out of whack, which might make us want to hurry and get it finished but the point is that we haven’t had it finished and we have a way around it and we’ll continue until we get a final regulation in place, is that right?”

So if AFWG comes up with an updated DSSF, it has to go back to the board by their October 15th meeting.  The DOE has to submit the updated request by 10/31/15.  By January 1st, everything has to be approved by the US DOE, and everything would have to be implemented by 7/1/16.  So essentially, the DOE could submit the DSSF to the US DOE without Regulation 103 in place.  Haberstroh clarified that Regulation 103 would “not be moved for action next month” by the State Board of Education.

The DOE extended the currently published Regulation 103 comment period until 10/8 to give the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) Advisory Council and other stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the regulation.  Schwinn said if it isn’t approved by the feds by 1/1/16, Delaware goes back to the NCLB requirements where they are out of compliance if all schools aren’t proficient by 2014.  Obviously, that date has come and gone, so personally I say let them call the US DOE’s bluff on that one, but I don’t see them having the bravery to do that.

So the earliest Regulation 103 could go back to being published would be November.  That is IF the AFWG is able to come up with a new system for the DSSF.  If they aren’t, will the DOE put something through anyways?  Since the group already voted down the participation rate penalty, what authority is greater, AFWG or the US DOE?  So with a November 1st republishing date, and the mandatory 30 day comment period, which would last until 12/1, the State Board of Education would have to approve the updated Regulation 103 by their December board meeting, 12/17.  Meanwhile, the DOE could resubmit the DSSF to the feds by 10/31 and get approval for the update prior to the 12/17 board meeting.  Once again, I say avoid all that and call their bluff with the absolutely insane No Child Left Behind mandates.  And if Schwinn is able to get the “specific answers”, aka, the participation rate penalty, anything the US DOE sends will not be regulatory and will merely be guidance since there is no law which explicitly states parents can’t opt their child out of the assessment and there are no laws mandating punitive action based on that.  I think Schwinn believes the US DOE can make it mandatory, or has convinced people she believes it, but she is wrong.

And the big monkey wrench in all of this is what happens if the U.S. Congress approves the whole ESEA reauthorization and renders a lot of what is in Regulation 103 meaningless?


Will the US DOE come back and say the participation rate penalty is mandatory?  I emailed Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna at the Delaware DOE about this yesterday.  I will be writing an article about the responses later today….

In the meantime, if you want to listen to the State Board of Education meeting, the public comments and the whole Regulation 103 discussion, you can go to the DOE website and have a listen.  Part 1 has the public comment, and Part 4 has the Regulation 103 discussion.  You can even listen to the Smarter Balanced discussion at the beginning of Part 4.  If you listen to the public comment, stick around after Lorrie Gloede’s public comment to hear Dr. Gray disrespect a parent and not let her give public comment.  But I got her comment and published it yesterday!  And this was Mark Murphy’s last meeting!

Delaware State Board of Education Pulls Regulation 103 As Action Item For October Meeting

Finally! Something proactive! The Delaware State Board of Education just announced they will not be acting on Regulation 103 in their October State Board meeting.  What remains to be seen is if the Delaware Department of Education will submit it by their October 31st deadline to the United States Department of Education.  This is a good thing.  I can’t wait for the 148th General Assembly gets back in January.  They really need to do a top-down review of all regulations and the entire Title 14 in our Delaware law.  But parents won this one today, along with teachers, organizations, legislators, and even our own State Board of Education.  This could be the sea-change Delaware needs!

More Proof DOE Is Moving Ahead With Participation Rate Penalty With School Report Cards

I just came across this document.  This is a Delaware Department of Education presentation to the University of Delaware’s Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL).  Ryan Reyna with the DOE, along with Gerri Marshall from Red Clay and Jeff Klein with Appoquinimink presented the below to DASL on June 24th, 2015 with some very definitive statements about this participation rate…

We see the DOE telling DASL, Part A metrics are those that were submitted to USDOE as part of our ESEA submission.  This is very important because this is where they openly admit they submitted this to the US DOE like this.  But keep in mind, this is NOWHERE in the public draft for ESEA authorization that the State Board of Education approved for submission on 3/19/15.  It did not show up in the draft until their “redlined” edition on 3/31/15.

Schwartzkopf & Blevins: Call For Emergency Session To Override Markell’s Veto Of HB50 BEFORE 10/17/15

We are at crunch time Delaware!  In the US DOE approval letter for Delaware’s 2015 ESEA Flex Waiver request (seen below), it explicitly states Delaware must approve their School Success Framework by October 31st.  The Delaware State Board of Education is the approving authority, and they meet on October 17th.

I need EVERY willing and able citizen of Delaware to email Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate, Patricia Blevins, to call for an emergency session to override Governor Jack Markell’s veto of the parent opt-out legislation and give it enough time to make sure it is approved by 10/16/15 with the condition that it goes into effect immediately.  If the House overrides the veto, it would go back to the Senate, but they cannot do the same in the same legislative session day.  So the latest this could happen for the House would be October 15th, and for the Senate, October 16th.

To email Schwartzkopf, please email: Peter.Schwartzkopf@state.de.us and his phone number is (302) 744-4351.

To email Blevins, please email: Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us and her phone number is (302) 744-4133.

If the State Board of Education passes this, our schools will be penalized for their participation rate on standardized assessments.  As I wrote yesterday in great detail, the Delaware Department of Education is trying to pull a fast one on parents and schools.  This is their final attempt to prevent a veto of House Bill 50 by inserting an opt-out penalty into state regulations without any legislative approval.  This was done with very underhanded and sneaky methods until I lifted the veil of transparency on this earlier this week.

Our schools deserve more than this.  They deserve who will work with our schools, not against them.  Penny Schwinn with the Delaware DOE needs to offer proof of her claim that the penalty rate portion of the Delaware School Success Framework, otherwise known as the School Report Card, is mandatory.  Otherwise she has pressured school district superintendents, admins, the Delaware PTA, and DSEA into setting up something that will be detrimental and dangerous to all our schools, students, teachers, and Delaware itself.  Please email or call Schwartzkopf and Blevins today!

Delaware DOE Challenges Me On Opt-Out Participation Rate Penalties: Who Wins?

Is it a federal requirement to have the participation rate penalty as part of the ESEA required School Report Card?  According to Penny Schwinn with the Delaware Department of Education, it is.  Was I able to debunk this?  Find out as I present this email chain between Penny Schwinn and myself over the past 24 hours.  As well, numerous answers are revealed about the School Report Card, the Delaware ESEA Waivers from this year, and accountability in regards to parent opt-out.

From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 9:08 AM
To: Schwinn Penny; May Alison
Subject: Re: Academic Framework Working Group

Good morning Penny,

I was curious if the AFWG group is still in existence.  I have seen nothing since the March meeting minutes, or any announcements of upcoming meetings.  If the group does meet again, I might suggest they are made public with a lot more stakeholder input.  For the most part, this group is made up of school leaders and admins, as if they are the only ones who would know what accountability is.  It wasn’t until towards the end, after most of the basic frameworks were already set up, that a PTA parent and a DSEA rep were invited.  At a minimum, I would like it made public on the DOE website a list of any upcoming meetings, the agendas, and what the vote counts are for the School Report Card.

Being completely honest here, I found the minutes for this group by accident.  And when I read them, I was shocked that this group existed, much less they are attempting to create policy designed to give parents input without any true parent input.  I know the surveys came out last fall, and I attended the Town Hall in Dover.  I specifically asked Ryan and Chantel about the Smarter Balanced weight for the report cards, and they said it wouldn’t be more than 50% of the report card, but in looking at the minutes, Smarter Balanced results or “growth” which stems from those results, will account for 90-100% of the grade a school gets depending on if its elementary & middle or high school.

Furthermore, penalizing a school for a parent’s decision to opt their child out of an assessment is not the fault of a school.  It is an indication parents don’t want their child taking this test.  Nothing against you, but the DOE can pump out as much material about SBAC as they want, but parents aren’t stupid.  Most of them don’t even like Common Core, so to come out with a test based on that is not really going to win public favor.  I know the DOE is tied to federal mandates, but you folks go way beyond even those stringent mandates.  People are catching on quick, and they don’t trust the DOE because of this.  I’m sure you can’t respond to a lot of this, and I understand that.  But opt-out is something the DOE should not punish schools for.  It will do more damage and probably cause MORE opt-out.  I am a firm believer in opt-out, but only if it is something a parent does as an informed choice, not just to go with the crowd.

Parents are going to be upset when they see the release of the SBAC scores and this will add fuel to the fire.  As I said at the August State Board meeting, I do not hate the DOE, but I do believe they need to engage and listen to parents a lot more than they have.  The result of the history with this is not good for our kids education.  I’m sure the DOE can provide me with numerous arguments on why SBAC needs to happen, but I can easily come back with a counter-argument for each one.  Every time I publish something on my blog that people didn’t know about, it is very bad for the DOE. 

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 10:06 AM
Subject: RE: Academic Framework Working Group

Good afternoon,

Thank you for the email. I think that there is some good feedback here as well as some areas I would like to clarify. I agree, and have stated myself, that DSEA and PTA participation is important and should have been included along with district participation from the beginning. They did miss approximately four of the twelve meetings, but were absolutely part of the decisions on which metrics to include and what those business rules would be. The initial AFWG meetings, as you likely read in the minutes, focused on approach to the work without any recommendations having been made. Also to note, DSEA and the PTA selected the rep(s) that they wanted to participate and we are happy to have them. They have been good representatives of their constituents.

The AFWG is still in existence – until this week, we had not met since March because that is when the SBE approved the framework to be sent with the ESEA Flex waiver. The rest of the work that was needed would come after we received all of the testing data back. We have representation from all three counties and a relatively diverse group in terms of roles and responsibilities. We have had representation from a majority of the districts and I personally invited each superintendent to participate by email and also in a recent meeting. I hope you agree that this is an important and positive step forward in encouraging as much representative participation as possible from our districts, who are ultimately the ones being held responsible for the performance of our schools. Given the different capacities of districts, all superintendents have asked for, and will receive, direct correspondence around the minutes of the meetings. These minutes are also posted on the web site – it is an informal group (not a formal committee such as DESS), but we still want to ensure that we are reflecting the information. Currently, we have representatives from: Caesar Rodney, Appo, Capital, NCCVT, Indian River, Lake Forrest, Red Clay, Colonial, and Woodbridge. We have also had participation from Poly, Brandywine, and Delmar.

The AFWG is a group that meets to discuss and provide recommendations to the Secretary. There is limited Department staff present at the meetings (typically it is myself and one other person who provide facilitation and coordination services) – it was important for us to set-up the group to be able to discuss as stakeholders specifically.

You mentioned below the weight of Smarter Balanced in the DSSF as 90-100%. First, the weights have not been determined and that is what we will be doing over the course of the Fall. For high schools, it is well below 90-100%. For elementary and middle schools, it was difficult to find measurable metrics and that is why we are hoping to weight growth as much as possible. If you have ideas on other metrics that could be used for elementary, please feel free to share them. We have had very robust and long conversations on this specific topic and had truly hoped to find metrics that were fair to all schools!

I do apologize if you had trouble finding the information. We actually made adjustments to the new web site to make accountability its own toolbar so that it would be easier to find information. Hopefully, having that highlighted on the front page continues to make the information more visible. Please let me know if you have suggestions on how to make that even more prominent. I would like to respectfully draw your attention to the relatively significant amount of engagement that the team has tried to do: a statewide survey, a series of focus groups, and over 8 Town Hall/Community meetings over the last eight months. Additionally, we have an accountability email address that allows people to submit feedback directly to the Department if they are unable to attend a public meeting. Through this cumulative process, we have received thousands of responses and have absolutely reflected that feedback in the development of the DSSF (Delaware School Success Framework) – even in how it was named! I think that it is difficult to ask parents to come to meetings that exist during the day, when we meet, which is why we have worked to include as much input as possible from the evening meetings that we have set-up. We continue to solicit this input – one of the things we will be doing is holding a week-long stakeholder input opportunity (the Design Challenge) to present some options on the new DSSF and get input and feedback on its design. That will occur in September. As with any major project, there is typically a smaller (in this case relatively big) group that helps to frame the work and then we go out to get input on it. If you have ideas that will help to expand the number of families that we reach through this effort, place let me know.

As a note, we have also presented on components of the DSSF publicly at SBE meetings and retreats over five times. Truly, we want the input. We have actively discussed it as a group and have tried to create as much awareness as possible. We continue to look for additional ideas and look forward to your feedback and input.

I hope this answers the majority of your questions.

Penny Schwinn

Associate Secretary,

Assessment, Accountability, Performance, and Evaluation

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street

Dover, DE 19901-3639

(Editor’s note, in Penny Schwinn’s further emails her title and address appears but I am taking them out for brevity’s sake)


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 1:25 PM
Subject: Error

Good afternoon,

I wanted to correct a mistake I made in my last email: DSEA and PTA members joined the AFWG at different points last year. I am happy to go back and verify which meetings were the first and/or which dates the conversations occurred. After sending the email, I double-checked and realized my error. Apologies for that.

Thanks,

Penny


On Aug 28, 2015, at 2:18 PM, “Kevin Ohlandt” <kevino3670@yahoo.com> wrote

Penny,

I already have that info because you were VERY thorough with your minutes on attendance! 🙂

Thanks,

Kevin


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 4:47 PM
To: Schwinn Penny
Cc: May Alison
Subject: Re: Academic Framework Working Group

Hello again Penny,

Sorry to keep bothering you on this, but I did have some feedback or potential suggestions based on what you wrote back. 

*Include Board Presidents in communications around this group, not just superintendents

*I know the group decided Suspensions & Expulsions are already reported elsewhere, I think this would be an extreme disservice to parents, as this is one of the chief areas they look at in determining a school for their child, or even what town to move to if they are coming from out of state.  I would go so far as to ask for Bullying & Offensive Touching percentages for each school.

*Once again, I would request these meetings be open to the public, regardless of the time it is, with time allotted for public comment, or perhaps even an audio recording so parents know what was discussed.  I know this isn’t required by law, but it would greatly benefit the DOE to show this kind of transparency to the public.

Just some thoughts, and thank you again for the open communication!

Kevin

(you don’t have to call me Mr. Ohlandt, it makes me feel old, LOL!)


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 7:40 PM
Subject: RE: Academic Framework Working Group

Hi Kevin,

Thanks again for the email and the feedback! Here are some thoughts:

·        I think it is a great idea to email Board Presidents with the minutes of the meetings and to make sure they know when the meetings will take place. I will coordinate internally around this. I appreciate the idea.

·        The suspension and expulsion debate was long and thoughtful. I will say that there was overwhelming support for this indicator in theory. The challenge is that not all districts and schools track suspensions and expulsions in the same way, or even suspend for the same reasons. The group was worried that if it became a part of a rated accountability system, it would create a perverse incentive for schools to not suspend for things that they should. (We have seen this in other states, for example). I agree that it is an important indicator for families, so what we have decided to do at this point is to transparently post the information on the online version of the DSSF. This online version is scheduled to launch in June and would provide information and more detail on all of the indicators that we know are important. I hope and expect that the culture and climate survey will reflect the same type of information (“I feel safe at school”) for the paper version, and in some respects better capture how the culture makes children and staff feel, instead of the number of suspensions alone. Again, I agree it is important, it is just tricky to include if schools aren’t consistent.

·        I appreciate your feedback on the meeting format. Originally when I came to Delaware, the plan was to use the charter framework and there was an even mix of district and DOE staff to adapt this system. We instead decided to restart the discussion/create the system from scratch, and put together the AFWG as a way to ensure that we were soliciting the feedback of our districts; it was relatively informal, though very impactful given that I thought (and believe) it was important to limit DOE staff in the discussion (currently two people). We did ensure there were certain “non-negotiables” in place to be in alignment with the minimum federal requirements. As a result, the group is not  formal like the DESS and while we’ve communicated the meeting schedule to districts, you are correct that we have not done so on the web site. Frankly, it was not to keep people out, it was just the nature of the group. We kept detailed minutes and posted those (along with every presentation) as a way to add transparency. I give you this context only so that you understand the intent. I appreciate your thoughts on ways to continue to increase the transparency, which I hope you feel like we have genuinely tried to do, and will add that for discussion with the full team.

You also had one question that referenced participation rates that I do not believe I fully answered in my last email – apologies. You had wanted information as to the penalty for participation rates on the DSSF and I provided the background on our work to develop weights. I did not, however, give you the reason as to why it was included at all…. As a federal requirement, we must have a piece of the accountability system that accounts for low participation rates. This is exactly the same as what is currently required in AYP, which Delaware uses. We have minimized the impact of this as much as possible by making proficiency a very small part of our new accountability system – currently, it is almost 100% of the accountability system. This was something that the AFWG and districts discussed and felt like would be fair to everyone and minimize the impact of overall participation rates. In summary, we must include it and we have limited its impact as much as possible.

Thanks again for your feedback on this and for your ideas.  Have a wonderful (and warm!) weekend.

Best,

Penny


From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2015 7:39 AM
Subject: Re: Academic Framework Working Group

Penny,

Thank you for your last email and for the clarifications on things.  I did want to respond to those, and also advise you I am publishing this email chain to lift the curtain on these matters.  You referenced the “accountability part of the system that accounts for low participation rates” and that this is a “federal requirement”.  I checked in the actual ESEA requirements for the school report card, and it does include that an SEA and LEA must report the participation rate.

In the guidance document provided by the Feds for this, found here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/titleiparta/state_local_report_card_guidance_2-08-2013.pdf, it states:

Participation rates on State assessments

An SEA must report the percentage of students who are not tested on the State’s reading/language arts, mathematics, and science assessments and must disaggregate those rates by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, migrant status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii)). In the alternative, an SEA may report the percentage of students who are tested, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged. If an SEA that has received ESEA flexibility has included one or more combined subgroups in its State differentiated recognition, accountability, and support system, it must report participation rates for each combined subgroup also. An SEA need not report disaggregated participation rates if the number of students in a category is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information or the results would reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii)).

So I thought I would check ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(c)(iii), which states the following:

SEC. 1111. STATE PLANS. (h) REPORTS- (1) ANNUAL STATE REPORT CARD- (C) REQUIRED INFORMATION- The State shall include in its annual State report card— (iii) the percentage of students not tested (disaggregated by the same categories and subject to the same exception described in clause (i)); which states for clause (i): (i) information, in the aggregate, on student achievement at each proficiency level on the State academic assessments described in subsection (b)(3) (disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, migrant status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged, except that such disaggregation shall not be required in a case in which the number of students in a category is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information or the results would reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student);

For the LEA portion, I checked on that in the same guidance provided in 2013, which states:

Participation rates on State assessments

An LEA must report the percentage of students who are not tested on the State’s reading/language arts, mathematics, and science assessments and must disaggregate those rates by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, migrant status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii), (h)(2)(B)). In the alternative, an LEA may report the percentage of students who are tested, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged. If an LEA is in a State that has received ESEA flexibility and has included one or more combined subgroups in its differentiated recognition, accountability, and support system, the LEA must report participation rates for each combined subgroup also. An LEA need not report disaggregated participation rates if the number of students in a category is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information or the results would reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii), (h)(2)(D)

While 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii) is the same as above, the LEA has the extra caveat of (h)(2)(B) which states:

(2) ANNUAL LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCY REPORT CARDS- (B) MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS- The State educational agency shall ensure that each local educational agency collects appropriate data and includes in the local educational agency’s annual report the information described in paragraph (1)(C) as applied to the local educational agency and each school served by the local educational agency, and—

(i) in the case of a local educational agency—(I) the number and percentage of schools identified for school improvement under section 1116(c) and how long the schools have been so identified; and (II) information that shows how students served by the local educational agency achieved on the statewide academic assessment compared to students in the State as a whole; and (ii) in the case of a school—(I) whether the school has been identified for school improvement; and (II) information that shows how the school’s students achievement on the statewide academic assessments and other indicators of adequate yearly progress compared to students in the local educational agency and the State as a whole.

The 2013 guidance regarding participation rate goes on to state:

D-7. What information must an SEA or an LEA include on its report card regarding participation rates?

An SEA or an LEA must report the percentage of students who are not tested on the State’s reading/languages, mathematics, and science assessments and must disaggregate those rates by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii), (h)(2)(B)). In the alternative, an SEA or an LEA may report the percentage of students who are tested. If an SEA that has received ESEA flexibility has included one or more combined subgroups in its differentiated recognition, accountability, and support system, the SEA and its LEAs must report participation rates for each combined subgroup also. 

So now that we know what the Feds are saying in their guidance and applicable ESEA law in regards to reporting participation rate on the school report card, it is importing to spotlight what “participation rate” can not include as written in the 2013 guidance document:

D-8. May an SEA or an LEA count students without a valid score as participating in the State assessments?

No. Under both the IDEA and the ESEA, students without a valid score may not be reported as participating in State assessments on either the State or local report card (34 C.F.R. §§ 200.20(c)(3), 300.160(b)(2), (f)(1)).

At this point, my key issue with the ESEA Renewal Request submitted to the US DOE by the DE DOE on March 31st is that it was not the SAME ESEA Renewal Request that received public comment.  As I indicated to you before, the only available way of the public seeing the participation rate portion of the School Report Card was in the minutes for the AFWG meetings or by attending or listening to the audio of the State Board of Education meeting.  Since the PDF for the final AFWG meeting notes was not even created by you until March 20th, the day AFTER the State Board of Education meeting, and the State Board approved the ESEA Renewal Request that day which was publicly noted, the ONLY way someone could look for changes to the 3/1 draft would be to listen to an audio recording or happen to see the red-lined edition on 3/31/15 when this was added in which was also the same day it was submitted to the US DOE.  This is NOT public engagement.  There was absolutely no time given for public comment on this issue, nor has their been until this week.  Given the fact that there was vigorous debate over parent opt-out at the time due to House Bill 50, a parent opt-out bill that was pending in the General Assembly, it would have been crucial to that ongoing discussion to include this action by the DOE.  When the DOE and the State Board publicly commented on this bill during the House Education Committee meeting on 4/22/15 and the Senate Education Committee Meeting on 6/10/15, absolutely nothing was mentioned about this, even those who testified would have had FULL knowledge of this.  As well, most would think this would be a valid argument against opt-out.  However the fact this was NEVER adequately exposed to the public until I found this out on 8/25/15, nobody was the wiser to this issue.  If I were a betting man, I would go so far as to say the DOE, State Board and AFWG did not want this publicly disclosed.  As well, I would say there was conscious effort to withhold this information. Nowhere in the comments section of the ESEA Renewal Request did it say anything about this. I am operating under the assumption the DESS Advisory Council was not advised of this either, and even their notes from their meeting prior to the State Board of Education meeting on 3/19 notated some members serve in both groups creating a potential conflict of interest.

Sources: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/234/Delaware%20ESEA%20Flex%20Renewal%20Redline%20DRAFT%203-1-15.pdf (page 72)

 http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/domain/232/esea/DE_ESEA%20Flex_Renewal_Redline_3-31-15.pdf (page 78)

Regarding the “federal requirement” for the accountability portion of the school report card in including participation rate on the School Report Card, it says absolutely nothing as using the participation rate as a penalizing measure in the formulations and weights for the report card grading system.  It merely states the participation rate must be REPORTED.  The participation rate already has a penalizing effect for schools.  Students who don’t take the test are still counted in the proficiency ratings.  Since this would obviously lower proficiency ratings for the overall school the higher the opt-out numbers, the school is ALREADY punished for opt-out.  But by adding a participation rate penalization portion of the school report card, you are in essence punishing a school TWICE for the same action.  As well, as written in the final ESEA waiver, with the weights included, if a school goes below the 95% participation rate they would not be able to get the highest level on the school report card, thus giving a school a potential THIRD punishment for opt-outs.  Since these last two are not required by the federal government, I would strongly suggest this AFWG group with very limited stakeholder input aside from district superintendents, two charter heads, one DSEA rep, one DE PTA rep and one State Board rep, along with one or two members of your group, immediately disqualify the participation rate portion of the School Report Card.

The 95% participation rate began because schools were not testing certain students so they could make their test results look better.  The way the laws are written around it, on a Federal and State level, are based on that past history.  Nowhere does this account for parent opt-out.  The schools are required to administer the assessment to all students.  Parents are not required to have the test administered to their children. This is the key difference here.  No law exists anywhere demanding this.  Therefore, the 95% rule is a fidelity measure for the schools to adhere to their responsibility as written in the law, not the parents.  If a school tells a student, “you aren’t taking the test because the school doesn’t want you to”, then yes, they should be punished for that because it would mean they are violating state and federal law.

Imagine if the General Assembly passed a law stating “We will allow opt-out but only 5% of parents can do it.”  It would be illogical and it would cause public chaos.  In essence, this is the message being sent from schools in our state to parents based on this insane dictate.  In their effort to prevent opt-out so their schools are not punished, some districts and charters are telling parents “No, you can’t opt out” or “Only we can decide who opts out”.  This has created a situation pitting parents against schools based on laws that only apply to schools or their employees, not parents.  Which is also why no school has received federal funding cuts based on participation rates below 95% which is caused by parent opt-out.  The laws are not written to reflect this, nor should they ever be due to the fact that children would be denied resources based on situations beyond their control.  The feds know this, which is why they left it to the State of New York to determine that with their high opt-out numbers.  New York is backing away from those cuts.  The legal challenges, if this ever did happen, would cause considerable expense to districts or charters, SEAs, and the federal government.

So while I appreciate the level of perceived transparency on this issue, it was not anywhere close to transparent.  In fact, many school board members were not aware of this at all until I informed them of it.  Parents, teachers, school board members, and citizens of Delaware are outraged by this.  They are mad, and they have every right to be.  They feel the DOE and the AFWG duped them, and their impression of them is not good.

I sincerely hope these types of transparency and public impression issues are corrected under the new leadership of Dr. Godowsky as Secretary of Education and I look forward to the pending but immediate removal of this participation rate section of the School Report Card in the Delaware School Success Framework.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


Okay, now that you have read this long post and feel inclined to know more backstory on this mess, it started here and continued here but really, everything behind this is included here, here, here, and here and on a national level, here and here.

The DOE, State Board & Superintendents Want To Get Opt-Out Punishment Into State Code Before January

This may very well be the most important article I have ever written on Exceptional Delaware.  Parents, teachers, and citizens need to know what is going on and how perceived absolute power corrupts and serves to belittle and demean those who don’t have it.  Those of us who have been fighting for every student’s education in this state can’t do it alone.  You need to TAKE the power from those who would punish our children, teachers, and schools.  You need to let everyone in the state know about THIS article, because the fate of our children’s future depends on it. Continue reading “The DOE, State Board & Superintendents Want To Get Opt-Out Punishment Into State Code Before January”

Public Comments From Delaware’s ESEA Flex Renewal Request

This can be read anywhere, but you came here!  In this document are the public comments from the public comment period prior to Delaware submitting their Elementary & Secondary Education Act Flex Renewal for the 2014-2015 school year.  There is a very specific reason I am posting this, which will be forthcoming in another article, but remember this…

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Gets ESEA Flex Waiver Approved By US DOE

This was just announced by the Delaware Department of Education.  The good news is teacher and principal evaluations will get another “skip” year from the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The bad news, the feds really want the state to implement more priority, focus and reward schools in 2016-2017 based on the DOE’s new accountability system with grading schools.  I told you nine months ago this was coming…and here it is…

Below is the press announcement from the Delaware DOE:

Delaware receives federal approval for ESEA flexibility renewal

 The U.S. Department of Education today approved Delaware’s request for another year of flexibility from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Acting Assistant Secretary Heather Rieman said ESEA flexibility has helped “Delaware to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement …With this renewal, Delaware will be able to continue implementing its plan to promote innovative, locally tailored strategies to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.”

Delaware is eligible for flexibility approval through the 2017-18 school year after submission of more information this fall.

With the flexibility approval, which Delaware first received in the 2011-2012 academic year, schools no longer are subject to some restrictive requirements of ESEA. Schools and districts also gain the ability to refocus some funding, such as money formerly required for choice and supplemental education services, for the specific supports that best meet their students’ needs.

 Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said he appreciates the U.S. Department of Education’s support for the work underway in our state.

“We are proud of the progress our schools are making and that more children graduating from our system ready for college and careers. This flexibility will allow our educators to continue to make the decisions that are best for their children,” he said.

Find more information here.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4000

This is exactly why the ESEA reauthorization needs to get rid of this label and punish mentality.  If schools constantly feel under threat, that is intimidation.  “Do things our way, or else…”  They are nothing but a bunch of bullies…