Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger”

If Washington D.C. is the capital of America, than Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.

Over the past week, many of us who are resisting the privatization of public education have been talking about The Ledger.  Peter Greene broke the news for the world to see, which Diane Ravitch quickly picked up on.  What is “The Ledger”? Continue reading

John King Is Violating Intent Of ESSA By Approving Illegal Flexibility Waivers For Delaware Through 2019

I was wondering why the Delaware Department of Education went to all the trouble of submitting an ESEA flexibility waiver for a dubious standard called the state’s “speaking and listening standards” last March.  ESEA effectively ended on July 31st this year.  Now we know why.  Because it allowed the Delaware DOE to continue the same damaging and disturbing accountability practices for not just this school year, but through the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

This waiver was very odd to begin with.  Yes, there is speaking and listening standards.  It is part of Delaware’s Common Core State Standards.  But to submit an ESEA Flex Waiver for this is ludicrous.  But it doesn’t end there.  The Delaware DOE was not forthright and honest with the process of applying for this waiver.  As part of state code, Delaware is required to have an advisory committee to approve these waivers.  This was the DESS Advisory Committee.  For this waiver, DESS did not meet to approve it.  In fact, as per an email from Susan Haberstroh at the Delaware DOE, the group is not even active at this point.

HaberstrohDESSQuestion

DESS is, however, required under Delaware state code to review the very same things this ESEA flexibility waiver is meant to address:

Title14DESS

Under whose authority did Haberstroh decide DESS did not have to meet to review this flexibility waiver?  This flexibility waiver is illegal in many ways.  There is no state regulation that gives the Delaware School Success Framework any legal enforceability.  Regulation 103, which covers these accountability standards, was not updated last year.  The U.S. DOE has no authority to approve or disapprove Delaware law.  By relying on the United State Dept. of Education to decide on Delaware law, the Delaware DOE is seriously overstepping the will and intent of the Delaware Constitution.

To make things more complicated, U.S. Secretary John King is abusing his authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act by approving any accountability waivers up through 2019.  The Delaware DOE is cherry-picking what they can and can’t do with ESSA, just like John King is.  For John King, when he does this stuff, he gets hauled into congressional hearings.  When the Delaware DOE does this stuff, it gets mentioned on here.  There is no accountability method for the Delaware DOE to answer for their actions.  Someone needs to get the DOE into a public hearing to explain how they can do certain things and not others.  Because the way they interpret the law and the way it must be interpreted are two different things.  Events are progressing rapidly where the Delaware DOE is openly and flagrantly violating state law.  This can not continue and I urge our General Assembly to take immediate and definitive action against our out of control Dept. of Education.

As for U.S. Secretary of Education John King, I have already taken some action on his abuse of power.  I contacted Rep. John Kline (MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) addressing the abuse of power John King is exhibiting by approving this waiver.  As well, I submitted the following to Senator Alexander:

Good morning Senator Alexander,

I am trying to reach you in regards to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Back in March, the Delaware Department of Education submitted a flexibility waiver under ESEA to the United States Department of Education.  This was for a waiver of “speaking and listening standards” as part of our state assessment.  Our Dept. of Education stated this was a “limited waiver” and bypassed parts of our state law for how these things are approved in our state.  While I recognize you have no authority over Delaware state code, I do know you do have authority in regards to the U.S. Dept. of Education and have the ability to call out John King over abuse of power.

On August 5th, 2016, the Delaware DOE received an approval letter from Anne Whelan, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, action on Secretary King’s behalf, to approve our ESEA flexibility waiver. The letter, which can be found on the Delaware Dept. of Education website under “Accountability”, and then “ESSA”, seems to give the U.S. DOE authority to grant flexibility waivers with the same accountability standards under ESEA up through June 30th, 2019.  As I am interpreting the Every Student Succeeds Act, this type of authority was explicitly stripped from the U.S. Secretary of Education.  But John King is openly and publicly defying this federal mandate by continuing the same damaging practices from No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top.

The letter states:

“After reviewing Delaware’s request, I am pleased to grant, pursuant to my authority under section 8401 (b) of the ESEA, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a limited waiver of section 1111 (b)(3)(C)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), for school year (SY) 2016-2017 and of section 1111 (b)(2)(B)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, for SYs 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 so that the state’s assessment system, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment for grades 3-8 and the SAT for high school, need not measure the State’s speaking and listening standards at this time.

This waiver is granted to Delaware on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:

It will continue to meet for each year of the waiver all other requirements in the ESEA, as amended by NCLB or the ESSA, as applicable, for State assessment systems and the implementing regulations with respect to the State’s academic content and achievement standards and assessments, including reporting student achievement and school performance, disaggregated by subgroups, to parents and the public.”

In addition, by granting this waiver to Delaware, it would allow Delaware to continue accountability rules that have no regulatory approval in Delaware as required by Delaware state code. Delaware has not passed a final Accountability Framework for our public schools because there is no regulation supporting this updated matrix.  As well, the Delaware School Success Framework punishes schools for participation rates below 95% on state assessments.  While ESSA allows states to decide policies and procedures with regard to a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment, Delaware has not done so in any official capacity.  The U.S. DOE is approving this illegal practice in our state which is against the spirit and intent of ESSA.  No state regulations have been approved or are even in the pipeline for approval, and the U.S. DOE is in violation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

I implore you, as well as your other Congressional leaders, to hold Secretary King accountable for his very open defiance against the intent of Congress.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.

With warm regards,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

Below is the letter sent from Anne Whalen to Secretary Godowsky on August 5th:

Delaware DOE Will Severely Punish More Brandywine, Christina & Red Clay Schools Based On Smarter Balanced Scores

Wilmington

As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year.  It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.  One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap.  Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year.  Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority1

Wow!  That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE!  This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year.  The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting.  What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…

ReynaPotlFocusPriority2

Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools.  I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list.  The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority3

Booker T. Washington Elementary School?  What?  Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015?  Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround?  I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.

Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group.  Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District!  Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status.  Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.

When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear.  Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above.  But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts.  Why?  Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:

CharterPriorityRegulation

So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above.  As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:

FocusCharterRegulation

And what is that Focus School Criteria?

FocusCriteria1617beyond

But here is where things get confusing:

TimelineTransitionDSSF

The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years.  But they will name Reward and Recognition schools.  So that’s good, right?  Wrong.  The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016.  That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect.  States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak.  But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months.  That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play.  The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015.  So what does this mean?

These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”.  The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.  Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year.  They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations.  If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools.  And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things.  Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington.  Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs.  If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around.  By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status.  Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization.  And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district.  Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.

Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that.  Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status.  Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states.  Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters.  Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters.  Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition.  Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment.  Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run.  Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast.  There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware.  But none of it will be good for students.

This is the game plan.  The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support.  You won’t find any memos or emails about this.  You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either.  It will just happen.  And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…

Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?

OPT OUT

If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes.  This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out.  Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.

Delaware DOE Breaks Federal Law By Sneaking In Amendment To ESEA Waiver Without Public Notice

The mischievous and law-breaking Delaware Department of Education actually snuck in an amendment to their ESEA Flexibility Waiver without notifying the public at all.  As required by Federal law, any changes to a state’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver MUST have a public announcement indicating the proposed change.  As well, there is a public comment period required where anyone can comment based on the public announcement.  But as usual, the Delaware DOE does as they see fit and continue to break laws with no oversight or accountability…

ESEAFlexibility

ESEAFlexibility2ESEAFlexibility3

I just found this on their website today.  I love how they include in their document to US DOE that they are attaching the pages in their ESEA waiver with red-lined parts where this amendment would change their waiver, but don’t have a link for the public to see this change.  And let’s be honest, this change wasn’t brought forth because of parents clamoring for it.  It was brought forth because the Delaware DOE was wetting their pants over how many juniors opted out last year!  It also references the February 19th, 2016 redline of the US DOE approved ESEA Waiver request, but no document is listed on the page anywhere.  So what does this mysterious document even say?

In regards to the other ESEA waiver the Delaware DOE is asking for public comment on, nothing is listed on the ESEA portion of the Delaware DOE website.  But the ironic part about that ESEA waiver is US DOE told Delaware DOE not to worry about having the DESS Advisory Committee comment on it, even though that is required by law.  So we have US DOE telling us to break the law and don’t worry about it, but they want us to submit this ESEA waiver even though it will be null and void as of August 1, 2017 when ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) goes into effect.  Or will it?  We won’t know until the regulations come out in the coming months.  I see this as a way for US Secretary of Education John King to continue the legacy of Arne Duncan by essentially bribing states with these waiver schemes.  And of course all this comes out after the Senate confirms the snake.

I was at the December State Board of Education where there was an “open discussion”.  Secretary Godowsky said something to the effect of “We are excited to make this change and I think we will have an announcement very soon.”  An “open discussion” would indicate the public was allowed to comment on this during this exchange.  That was not the case.  You can listen to the audio here.  Godowsky did mention many things would need to be ironed out with US DOE during this “open discussion”.  By submitting this ESEA flexibility waiver on March 29th, 2016, three months after Governor Markell and Godowsky announced the switch, how is that ironing things out?

As well, all the prior “stakeholder feedback” was meant to discuss the possibility of the issue.  That should NOT be counted as official public comment required under ESEA law.  But this is the Delaware DOE and the US DOE who bend and shape the laws to their own benefit.  And our Delaware legislators and US legislators just sit back and let it happen.  Wasn’t the whole point of ESSA to stop the US DOE from pulling this kind of crap?  And here we are in Delaware with not one, but two ESEA waivers with very questionable legality issues surrounding both of them.

And what exactly is going on with the DESS Advisory Committee?  Did they cancel them as a group since ESEA was going to be eliminated soon anyways?  But based on that line of thought we shouldn’t be submitting anything regarding ESEA.  Or is this just another way to try to get the feds to approve Delaware’s cockamamie opt out penalty into the Delaware School Success Framework?  Since they didn’t approve that based on their  November resubmission of the ESEA waiver request as a condition of their July approval of the ESEA waiver request because of ESSA.  Are you as confused as I am?  My head is spinning…

WTH

Breaking News: ESEA To Continue For “Several Years” Even With Implementation Of ESSA

Yesterday, I broke the  news that the Delaware Department of Education was going to be submitting another ESEA waiver.  Even though the Every Student Succeeds Act forbids these waiver schemes.  I reached out to the Delaware DOE for more information on this latest waiver, and received the following information from Alison May, the Public Information Officer at the DOE.  Below is what Alison sent me, including the letter Ann Whalen sent to all the states, along with the letter states would need to sign to get the waiver.  Note the part I bolded which extends ESEA waivers well after ESSA will be implemented.  There are serious games afoot here.  Is John King already abusing his authority?  Will Congressman John Kline (MN) intervene and stop this dead in its tracks?

Meanwhile, like with all previous ESEA flexibility waivers, state education agencies are required to get public comment on the waivers.  With three weeks time, how can this happen?  Some district boards don’t meet again until after the April 15th deadline.  Don’t they also have to submit any ESEA waivers to the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) advisory council?  How could that happen, as required by Delaware law, if the meeting scheduled for this week is canceled and no meetings are scheduled between now and April 22nd?

DESSMeetingCanceled

We are already losing a week due to Easter/Spring break.  As well, the Delaware General Assembly will be off for two weeks after this week.  How is the Delaware DOE going to make sure everyone sees this?  Or is just merely putting a notice up, hidden away on their website, or sending out a tweet, sufficient?  Thank God I find these things when I do!  This is the same kind of non-transparent information they put out there like the Accountability Framework Working Group last year.  They count on folks not looking for or even knowing where to find this information.  Too bad they didn’t count on me!

If the Delaware DOE’s deadline is April 15th, and this information is due to US DOE on April 22nd, does this mean the State Board of Education will put it up as an action item at their April 21st meeting?  Will they allow public comment on an action item which they typically don’t due to their archaic rules?

FW: FW: Letter from Senior Advisor Whalen re: Speaking and Listening Waiver People 

Attachments

  • Speaking and Listening Waiver Request Template.docx

 Per your request, please see below and attached. This guidance also is posted on USED’s website.
Alison
From: Honeysett, Adam [mailto:Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2016 9:17 AM
Subject: Letter from Senior Advisor Whalen re: Speaking and Listening Waiver

EXAMPLE OF REQUEST TO WAIVE THE SPEAKING AND LISTENING REQUIREMENT UNDER THE EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT (ESSA)

Ann Whalen

Senior Advisor to the Secretary

Delegated the Duties of Assistant

Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Ms. Whalen:

I am writing to request a waiver, pursuant to section 8401(b) of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), of section 1111(b)(3)(C)(ii) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), that [State]’s assessment system measure the full range of the State’s academic content standards. [State] requests this waiver only with respect to measuring the State’s speaking and listening content standards, which are part of the State’s reading/language arts academic content standards.  [State] requests this waiver because it is not practicable at this time for [State] to administer a large-scale summative assessment that includes speaking and listening standards.  This waiver will advance student achievement by permitting [State] to have a valid and reliable assessment system that measures the full range of the rest of the State’s academic content standards while providing time to complete the work necessary to have a valid and reliable measure of speaking and listening content standards.

[State] requests this waiver to allow for continued State and local receipt of Title I, Part A funding in good standing while [State] completes additional work to develop accurate, valid, reliable, and instructionally useful assessments related to speaking and listening. This waiver is requested for the 2015-2016 school year [(if requesting) through the 2016-2017 school year].  [State] assures that, if it is granted the requested waiver —

  • It will continue to meet all other requirements of section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB, and implementing regulations with respect to all State-determined academic content standards and assessments, including reporting student achievement and school performance, disaggregated by subgroups, to parents and the public.
  • It will continue to work toward assessing speaking and listening consistent with the State’s academic content standards.

 

Prior to submitting this waiver request, [State] provided all LEAs in the State with notice and a reasonable opportunity to comment on this request. [State] provided such notice by [insert description of notice, e.g., sending a letter to each LEA on [date] or sending an email to each LEA on [date]] (see copy of notice attached).  Copies of all comments that [State] received from LEAs in response to this notice are attached hereto.  [State] also provided notice and a reasonable opportunity to comment regarding this waiver request to the public in the manner in which [State] customarily provides such notice and opportunity to comment to the public [e.g., by publishing a notice of the waiver request in the following newspapers; by posting information regarding the waiver request on its website] (see attached copy of public notice).

Please feel free to contact me by phone or email at [contact information] if you have any questions regarding this request.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

John King In The Job A Week And Delaware DOE Is Getting Ready To Submit Another ESEA Flex Waiver

This just came across my newsfeed:

Delaware continues to work with the U.S. Department of Education to develop best practices with respect to assessing speaking and listening on large-scale assessments. As with many other states, Delaware will be requesting a limited waiver of section 1111(b)(3)(C)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), so that the state’s assessment system need not measure the state’s speaking and listening standards for the 2016-2017 school year. Input, comments and questions may be submitted at feedback@doe.k12.de.us through April 15.

Why does Delaware need a “limited” ESEA Flexibility Waiver?  What are we giving up so we are not beholden to this “state’s speaking and listening standards”?  I looked on both the Delaware Department of Education website and the United States Department of Education website and found nothing about this crucial need to submit another waiver.  President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act three months ago.  It goes into effect August 1st of this year.

The only reference from now US Secretary of Education John King about using federal funds for anything is for assessment inventories, something Delaware is nearly done with.  Why isn’t the Delaware DOE giving more information about this?  Why would they solicit public comment without anything to look at?  Yes, we know most of the changes with ESSA won’t take place until after the 2016-2017 school year, but why are they trying to implement more waiver schemes, something ESSA strictly forbids them to do?  I’m calling shenanigans right now!  John King can’t be trusted and the Delaware Department of Education follows suit.  Funny how the two bills that would call for the General Assembly to approve any ESEA flexibility waivers were stricken in January.  Maybe they need to come back tomorrow!  Paging State Representatives Kim Williams and Sean Lynn!  Get your bills back on the table!  This is most likely a play to get Regulation 103 back on the table in Delaware…

To read John King’s missive to “Chief State School Officers”, look below…

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Penny Schwinn

01schwinn_resigns

A year ago, if you asked anyone on the Christina School District Board of Education to name one person at the Delaware Department of Education, the first name that would have popped up was Penny Schwinn.  Penny was the DOE face behind the priority schools in Red Clay and Christina.  Penny is currently the Chief of Accountability and Performance at the DOE.  When the Christina board had to pick two members to meet with the DOE, it was to meet Schwinn.  After the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee announced their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington, the DOE and Governor Markell backed off on Christina’s opposition to the priority schools.  The Christina board passed a resolution supporting the recommendations of WEAC.

Schwinn fell off my radar until a couple months later when she announced to the State Board of Education the SAT was being aligned to the Common Core.  I immediately jumped to the conclusion the SAT was being replaced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Many disagreed with me and told me I was wrong.  But essentially, that is what they are doing.  It won’t be the same test, but it will be more like SBAC than the previous SAT.  As well, the talk concerning the Assessment Inventory project showed the DOE was already planning this long before Governor Markell first mentioned it in March.

In May, I was given several emails from a FOIA concerning the priority schools which showed Schwinn’s role in the whole planning stage.  This gave a lot of insight into the whole debacle and how the DOE really didn’t know what the heck they were doing.

The subject of funding for the priority schools in Red Clay came up in a big way over the summer, as the DOE wasn’t giving the district their promised funding.  While never confirmed, this led directly to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s ouster at the Delaware DOE.

In September, after months of waiting, Schwinn’s group released the Smarter Balanced Assessment results to Delaware.  They had the results for quite a while before they were released which led to a lot of concern and speculation on my part as to why.  The results really didn’t show any earth-shattering increases for Delaware students, but overall, most students did worse on SBAC than they had on DCAS>

While all of this was going on, Schwinn was meeting with several superintendents, district admins, a rep from DSEA and a rep from the Delaware PTA on the Delaware School Success Framework.  The Accountability Framework Working Group was under the radar for most Delawareans until I accidentally found all their meeting notes and found the participation rate opt-out penalty.  This led to feverish and frantic emails to Schwinn and several complaints I filed with the US DOE and the Delaware DOJ.  As part of the US DOE mandated “school report card”, the US DOE gave “guidance” on the state’s new accountability systems.

Schwinn watched as the group unanimously voted to get rid of the participation rate penalty as a multiplier that would punish schools with high opt-out rates.  Eventually, newly christened Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky blew off the group’s recommendations and the DOE submitted the harsh opt-out penalty to the US DOE as part of their ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  Schwinn recommended, at the behest of Governor Markell, one of the toughest accountability systems for any state in the country.

As this was all coming to a head, Schwinn resigned from the Delaware DOE and is expected to leave by the end of this year.  Schwinn’s year and a half tenure at the Department was certainly full of controversy and angst for many school districts.  I am very curious where she will end up next…

News Journal Gives False Impression Of Every Student Succeeds Act

The Delaware News Journal’s Jon Offredo wrote an article about the United States House of Representatives passage of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and how in a rare moment of consensus, most stakeholders in education agree on the legislation.  Citing the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA), the Delaware PTA, New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt, and Governor Markell in the article is not a completely accurate picture of consensus.  Many in Delaware feel the bill, while giving states more authority in education, opens the door to all sorts of new problems.  But the News Journal didn’t reach out to anyone else who could have offered a negative opinion of this bill.

States, districts and parents decried a one-size fits all education policy and many of the goals, including one that mandated every student to reach a proficiency on tests by 2015, were not met.

Since then, Congress has been unable to come up with a better education law so the Obama Administration has issued waivers to states exempting them from the requirement. The waivers mean states won’t lose federal money.

It is those very waivers that have allowed the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell to steer Delaware education towards a disastrous path since Markell took reign in January of 2009.  It is my contention Congress refused to act on reauthorizing this bill due to immense pressure from corporate education reform lobbyists who got exactly what they wanted with the ESEA Flexibility Waivers and with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Perhaps the biggest cheerleader for ESSA is Governor Markell, because he got to keep his precious standardized testing…

“The Every Student Succeeds Act preserves some of the most important elements of our existing system, including annual testing requirements in 3rd-8th grade and in high school, which ensure that every student counts,” the statement said. “We would have liked to see stronger requirements for timely intervention in schools where students are struggling, but overall, the Every Student Succeeds Act is an important step forward that will give states more flexibility to meet their students’ needs.”

What I worry about this is states like Delaware who lead the corporate education reform movement.  Every move Markell made in the past ten plus years has been towards the goals of companies who thrive on “fixing” education.  In giving states more authority in education, states who already abuse that power are ripe to continue  DSEA, along with their national counterpart, the NEA, has trumpeted the ESSA as a great bill because it does not have as big an impact on teachers in terms of evaluations.

Many people are very concerned about the huge pot of money available for new charter schools which will result in a sort of “Race To The Top” for new charter schools.  Others are concerned about the consequences “community schools” and services can have on parental decisions and rights.  Technology and personalized learning are touched on in this bill but in a way that gives the controversial practice a wide berth in the future.  Standardized testing is still here, and Common Core is so embedded in education now that it would be very difficult to just do away with it as the bill allows.

The only parent voice in this article belonged to Dr. Terri Hodges with the Delaware PTA who wisely stated she is “cautiously optimistic” about the ESSA.  The News Journal rarely goes out to ask everyday parents who don’t belong to some organization about their thoughts on education matters.  Not one Delaware legislator commented on this article.  But if it is something Rodel or Vision Coalition related, the News Journal goes out of their way to write huge articles and allow multiple letters to the editor on what those groups promote.  Many understand this is because those groups and those of the Delaware Business Roundtable provide a lot of advertising dollars for the News Journal.  As a result, many folks in Delaware have lost respect for the newspaper based on this and other biases.

 

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Wants To Add Charters To Priority & Focus Status In ESEA Waiver Request

The Delaware Department of Education just announced, at the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) Advisory Committee meeting, that they will be adding to their ESEA Flexibility Waiver that ALL public schools in Delaware will be given the same label system that is currently reserved for traditional public school districts.  These labels include “Priorty”, “Focus”,  and “Focus Plus”.  Currently, only traditional school districts are included but this would now include Delaware charter schools.  This would not include “Action” and “Watch” schools.  No discussion occurred in regards to funding for these schools.

Yesterday, at the Accountability Framework Working Group, the members discussed this idea and Penny Schwinn stated she would check on this.  Last evening she discussed this with members of the Governor’s staff and this will be added to Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  I’m not sure if the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell’s office have thought about needing public awareness of this as well as a public comment period.  Since Delaware has to hand in their updated ESEA Flexibility Waiver by October 31st, that leaves very little time for public comment.  This is not the same as Regulation 103 for several reasons.  This hasn’t been included in Regulation 103 at this point.  Regulation 103 will tie whatever is approved in the ESEA Waiver Request into State regulation.  Schwinn did state no priority or focus schools will be named in the next three years, so even if the charter addition is approved by US DOE, it wouldn’t happen until Fiscal Year 2019 at the earliest.

I am personally against this whole “labeling” system to begin with.  It is punitive in nature and severely disrupts education.  Making this happen for every school in the state could be very damaging to an already weakened traditional school district system.  This will just make charters that serve high populations of low-income, minority and special needs populations vulnerable to the same damaging effects other schools have gone through.

I asked Penny Schwinn at this meeting why are beholden to Federal “Guidance” from US DOE that is non-regulatory and does not have Congressional approval.  She flat-out answered that US DOE wouldn’t approve our ESEA Flexibility Waivers and we would fall under No Child Left Behind mandates.  Call me crazy, but I think we should call their bluff.  Nothing will change if everyone bows to the feds and says “Yes, we will do whatever you want.”  State Board of Education member Pat Heffernan said it best when he called these “Inflexibility Waivers” at last month’s State Board meeting.

Everything is tied together and it all revolves around the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is all under the direction of Governor Jack Markell.  He has sacrificed the public school education and the well-being of students all for the glory of high-stakes testing in the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It is time for Delaware to decide: do we live in Delaware or Markellaware?  Or is it all just Rodelaware?  I know I sound like Chicken Little all the time with my “the sky is falling” comments, but take a look around you.  Look at everything that is going on, in just the past month alone.  Local control is evaporating by the day and those pieces are gone before anyone realizes they are missing.

Penny Schwinn did go over the participation rate penalty part that I discussed yesterday from the AFWG meeting.  She said the Governor is okay with the option the group picked, whereby the school has to explain what they are doing about opt-out to the DOE and no school below 95% participation rate could be labeled a reward school.  I asked her point blank what changed in the past 24 hours since yesterday it seemed Markell wanted the proficiency rate multiplied by the participation rate option.  She said he was favorable to other options but preferred the infamous “#3” option.  This portion of yesterday’s meeting was not discussed by DOE to the DESS Advisory Committee until I brought it up.

Governor Markell Will Have State Board Of Education Do His Bidding

The future of the Delaware accountability system for its school is now in the State Board of Education’s hands.  Despite having the Accountability Framework Working Group meet 16 times for over a year.  Despite whatever the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) says tomorrow at their 1pm meeting.  Despite what the people say.  If Governor Markell wants things a certain way, it will happen.

Despite my telling Penny Schwinn and the Accountability Framework Working Group that there is no Federal law stating there must be a consequence for participation rates on standardized assessments dipping below 95%, the AFWG group voted to pick one of the following consequences.

  1. Go down one level on the performance rating, but use the average proficiency rate over a two-year period so that a school is not penalized for a one-year dip or anomaly.
  2. School must write a plan for how they will address low participation rates and then do not have access to supplementary federal grants.
  3. Use the multiplier for schools that are below 95% only.  Essentially we would have 100% on a 95 point scale, so that if a school had 93% participation and 60% proficiency, the multiplier would be (93/95)*(60%).  Any school at 95% proficiency or above would get full credit.
  4. School would automatically not be able to be a reward or recognition school and automatically be placed on the list as a potential Focus school.
  5. For federal designation calculations ONLY, the school would have all non-participants count as a zero score.

The group voted for part of Option #2 and part of Option #4: School would write a plan and could not be a reward school.

I don’t think there should be any participation rate penalty at all.  The Delaware DOE has not sufficiently provided evidence with exact code.  It’s easy to look at words and cherry-pick what applies.  It’s easy to treat guidance as mandatory, or a letter from an Assistant Secretary who no longer works at US DOE.  But here is the part of the recipe the public doesn’t know about.  On Friday, Penny Schwinn and Interim Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky met with Governor Markell.  They presented the options to him, and he wants #3.  The very same penalty that the non-Delaware DOE members of the AFWG voted unanimously to remove at their last meeting.  When asked why they changed their mind on this, Gerri Marshall from the Red Clay Consolidated School district thought it would be a moot point because nobody thought the opt-out numbers would be as high as they were in many schools and districts.

When asked if the legislators override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, Donna Johnson stated “Federal law trumps state law.”  But once again, they are cherry-picking parts of the law that suit their needs.  Because the Smarter Balanced Assessment doesn’t allow for a human reader under many circumstances even though his IEP stated he should be given this accommodation during testing.  I told the DOE the same words, federal law trumps state law.  I never received a response from them or anyone at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium about that.  Ever.  But back to a potential veto override, if the DOE submits their ESEA waiver and it is approved by the Federal Government, through the US DOE, House Bill 50 could not have the line about opt-out not being included in a school’s accountability ratings.  This is IF the State Board of Education chooses Governor Markell’s #3 option with participation rate.

The Delaware DOE admitted they actually rounded up the participation rates as much as they could for schools in Delaware.  Why would they do that?  Was the same metric for this rounding up applied to ALL schools?  I would love to see the actual data on that.

The Governor doesn’t want the Delaware School Success Framework to publish a school’s overall rating.  But it will be subject to FOIA, the State Board will announce it at their meeting, and media will write about it.  This is the part that leaves me feeling very perplexed.  Why put yourself in a position where you have to get a FOIA when you can just choose to make it public knowledge?

The AFWG, after much discussion, agreed to use points as a school’s calculation based on a 500 point scale.  So if a school gets total points of 70 based on the calculated weights for each category, on this scale their score would be 350.  Whatever the school gets it will be heavily tied to their overall Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The DOE publishes the Smarter Balanced results, and since 90% of an elementary and middle school’s score will be based on either proficiency, growth, or growth to proficiency (all based on SBAC), that other average daily attendance is not going to make that much of a difference.  For high schools, 70% will be based on the same SBAC criteria, with other measurements of 30% tied to college and career preparation and “on track to graduation” levels.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams asked the AFWG many tough questions concerning charter school enrollment preferences, Governor Markell’s position on the participation rate penalty, and the need for the group to have a united front on these issues.

Tomorrow, the DOE will present the Delaware School Success Framework based on the recommendations by the AFWG to DESS.  But even Penny Schwinn said Governor Markell is her boss.  He selected her for the position of Chief Officer of Accountability and Assessment at the DOE and it is her job to do what he says.  Jack hates parents who opt-out, for all of the obvious reasons.  And if Jack doesn’t like, that must mean Rodel doesn’t like it.

The AFWG’s work is done, unless the DOE has to get another month extension from US DOE if needed.  But most of the members of the group know they can’t really discuss this any further.  Their thoughts are known, and many members of the work group wish they could just blow it up and not have to worry about this insane school report card to begin with.  I echo that sentiment.