Breaking News: US Senate Passes Every Student Succeeds Act, President Obama Will Sign The Death Knell Of Public Education

The United States Senate just passed the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The controversial reauthorization of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act (ESSA) is now going to President Obama who is expected to sign the legislation.  The US Senate has not released the roll call on this historic vote, but I will update this as soon as it is released.  Meanwhile, Rep. Kline had this to say about today’s vote:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement today after the Senate passed a bipartisan, bicameral bill to replace No Child Left Behind and improve K-12 education:

Senators Murray and Alexander are to be commended for their leadership on a vitally important issue. They were the partners we needed in the Senate to get the job done. After years of delay, Congress is finally sending a bill to the president’s desk replacing No Child Left Behind with a new law that will reduce the federal role, restore local control, and empower parents. Those are precisely the kind of reforms parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders deserve, and I am grateful for all of the hard work of our House and Senate colleagues for helping to make these reforms a reality.

Known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177), the bipartisan, bicameral bill will reform K-12 education by reducing the federal role, restoring local control, and empowering parents. The bill was approved by the House last week with overwhelming bipartisan support and will soon head to the president’s desk for his signature. To learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/k12education.

And so it begins, again.  Education is a very different world now, and we all know who we can thank for this.  Welcome to the future of education, otherwise known as the death knell of public education.

US House Of Representatives Passes “Every Student Succeeds Act” With 359-64 Vote, Next Stop: US Senate

The “Every Student Succeeds Act” passed the United States House of Representatives today with a vote of 359-64.  The second half of the bill’s journey will take place in the US Senate.  It is anticipated the Senate will vote on the bill next week.  I haven’t even read the entire bill, but I have many issues with various aspects of the bill.  Many of these issues are due to the way Delaware has already utilized many aspects of the bill in a non-transparent fashion.  The Delaware Department of Education is taking drastic steps now in terms of the state accountability system for Delaware schools, and this bill makes it perfectly legal for them to do so.  My thoughts are beginning to shift towards an uneasy acceptance of the legislation versus what we had before with No Child Left Behind, but I will be keeping a very close and cautious eye on how the DOE and Governor Markell could attempt to abuse the state’s powers in this bill.  In a nutshell, I don’t trust them nor do I trust their motivations when it comes to Delaware students.  The lone US House of Representatives member from Delaware, John Carney, voted yes on the bill.

From the House Education and the Workforce Committee:

Kline, Scott Applaud House Passage of
Every Student Succeeds Act
Bipartisan bill replaces No Child Left Behind, improves K-12 education

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) issued the following statements today after the House passed a bipartisan, bicameral bill to replace No Child Left Behind and improve K-12 education. Known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177), the bill passed the House by a vote of 359 to 64.

“Today, we helped turn the page on a flawed law and a failed approach to K-12 education,” said Chairman Kline. “But more importantly, we adopted a new approach that will help every child in every school receive a quality education. Parents, teachers, and state and local school leaders support this bill because they know it will restore local control and help get Washington out of our classrooms. I want to thank my Republican and Democratic colleagues, in both the House and Senate, for their work on this important effort. I look forward to the Senate’s consideration of this bipartisan proposal and finally sending a bill to the president’s desk that will provide parents and school leaders the certainty and flexibility they need to deliver children a great education.”

“Today’s bipartisan vote to reauthorize the ESEA affirms the principles of Brown v. Board of Education, which held that ‘it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education,’ and ‘that such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms,’” said Ranking Member Scott. “Fifty years ago, Congress originally passed ESEA to help make that right a reality, and the Every Student Succeeds Act honors the civil rights legacy of that law. Today’s vote is an embodiment of what we can achieve here in Washington – a workable compromise that does not force either side to desert its core beliefs. I commend my colleagues and our staffs for their diligence, and I have no doubt that this bipartisan legislation will make a positive difference in the lives of our nation’s students and live up to all of our ideals.”

To learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/k12education.

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The Full “Every Student Succeeds Act” Legislation To Be Voted On 12/2 By Congress

Please take the time to read this.  It is a mammoth read.  With PDFs, if you right-click you can search for specific words or phrases.  I strongly recommend every single parent, teacher, staff members, legislator, and US citizen read this.  It will change everything forever.  If there is anything in here you don’t like, call your state Congress representatives and tell them to vote NO!!!! I know what I will be doing when I get home from work tonight…

USA Teachers: It Is 11:59 On The Public Education Doomsday Clock! Wake Up And Act NOW! #StopESEA

clock

This is an urgent message to every single public school teacher in America.  You need to fight for your jobs.  That’s right.  You need to STOP this ESEA bill coming to a vote on Wednesday.  If you don’t, it will weigh on your conscience when all the bad stuff in the bill is implemented and you have even less control than you do now.  This legislation actually changes the future of teaching.  You will no longer be a teacher, giving instruction to your students.  You will become a data coach.  A facilitator.  Is this what you want?  If it is, then you can certainly stay the course.  If you want to stand around while children are plugged into computers all day and you base your very brief interaction with students on what will amount to a corporate written script, then stay the course.  But I urge you to read this legislation when it is made public tomorrow.  You need to act fast once you do.  Call your Congress representatives immediately if you do not think this is a good thing.

You have been under-minded by numerous companies and “leaders” in America.  Between No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Race To The Top, VAM, Standardized Testing, and so forth.  Are you really going to sit back and let this happen again?  You have a voice.  A very powerful voice.  Use it.  And not through the lips of your leaders.  Use your own voices.  But do it now before it is too late.

Just because your union presidents are endorsing this sham of an education bill does not mean you have to.  This bill is designed solely for the corporate education reformers.  The very same ones who pushed VAM and hardcore evaluations on you.  If you want to see the escalation of more money going out to companies instead of your classrooms, than doing nothing or endorsing this bill is your best course of action.  But if you believe that this is not education, but a nightmare being inflicted on kids and teachers, than you need to get on the phone, email, social media and any way or method you have to put a stop to this bill.

I am sure many of you are thinking “It’s no use.  There is nothing I can do.”  If you have that attitude, you are absolutely right.  But there are many of you fighting this fight and using their voice.  They will not quit.  They will not let public education be destroyed by greed and corruption.  If you truly believe in public education, then you need to fight.  And even if  you like some parts of this bill, you need to nuke the whole package with your voice.  All of you.

For those reading this who have no clue who I am, I will tell you.  I’m just a dad.  A very angry and upset father who has watched the fall of education happen before my very eyes.  I watched it affect my own son with disabilities in the worst ways possible.  I acted.  I researched.  I dove in to the data and the very diabolical events happening at my state’s Department of Education.  I saw how they pushed stuff through that was damaging to teachers and students and schools with no one the wiser.  I got wise.  I made it my mission to upset their plans as much as humanly possible.  I speak because so many of you can’t.  But it has reached a point where those of us who are fighting the good fight need you to rise.  If you have to march on your state capital or actually drive to D.C., do it.  Use social media as your weapon pointed right at those who would disrespect you and destroy what you enjoy.  But for the love of public education, do something!

You don’t have time to do nothing.  It is 11:59 on the public education doomsday clock!

 

The above picture was originally on Amazing Stories Mag

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!

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Why Are You Telling Members To Vote Yes When Final Product Isn’t Out Yet? #StopESEA

I wrote a plea to the National Education Association earlier today to wait until they see the final product before urging members to vote yes on the ESEA reauthorization.  So can someone please tell me why their President, Lily Eskelen Garcia, is doing the exact opposite?  This was sent to all NEA members across the country earlier this week:

An ESEA Update from NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Admit it, I’ve been telling you since July that we were getting closer to the finish line of ESEA Reauthorization and you have been thinking, “Yeah right!” 

Well, as you can read in this statement from the House Education and the Workforce Committee or NEA’s statement, the House-Senate ESEA conference committee has voted to approve the framework agreement for ESEA reauthorization!  

What’s next? While we will not see official bill language until November 30th, this framework agreement does seem to address our core goals of closing opportunity gaps, giving students more time to learn and teachers to teach, and includes educators’ voices in the decision making process.  

The House is expected to vote as early as December 2nd followed by a Senate vote the week of December 7th. As usual, this is where you come in to continue the incredible work that has moved ESEA Reauthorization this far down the road. Go to GetESEARight.com  to send an email, or call 1-866-331-7233 to urge your members of Congress to VOTE YES on the ESEA conference agreement!

I would seriously question the wisdom of your President!  This is foolish and hasty at best…

The Education Polls For Delaware…Those Running For Office- Take Note!!!

 

#StopESEA @DelawarePTA @DSEA1 @gacecoffice Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid!!!!

Delaware PTA, DSEA & Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens:

You  hold a great deal of power in your groups.  We the people need you to band together and unite for the students of Delaware.  The ESEA reauthorization is all about more testing, more federal mandates and waivers, and even “social impact bonds”.  I know your bosses in the National PTA, NEA and Governor Markell are all behind this federal legislation.  But that does not mean you need to endorse legislation that has not even been seen by the public yet.

Delaware PTA: You know I love you for your support on the opt-out movement and House Bill 50!  We need you to take a serious look at the personalized learning models and competency-based education supports embedded in this legislation.  These are not good for students over the long-term, especially those students who are most in need.  This bill is big on accountability systems created at the state level, and we all know what that kind of power can have in a few corrupt minds in our state.  Please, do not endorse this bill and let your National PTA know they shouldn’t either.

DSEA: I have to admit, you folks are an enigma to me!  From my perspective, the best words I can think of are this- you always want a seat at the table but don’t realize you are actually on the table as the main course.  I’ve seen this with the Delaware School Success Framework, teacher evaluations, and Race To The Top.  I know you wish there didn’t even have to be opt-out, but the plain simple fact is that it is here and it is necessary for parents to do this.  I get that teachers endorsing opt-out could put them in rough waters, but they are already in that position because of the state and federal mandates coming down.  Please do not endorse this bill that will make sure teachers lose even more voice.

GACEC: You are a Governor’s council run by the state, which puts you under the shadow of Governor Markell.  But your mandate is to look out for exceptional citizens, those with disabilities.  Please tell me how supporting the Governor against opt-out helps those citizens.  Please tell me you truly want the best outcome for children with special needs.  Please tell me you do not support this latest edition of the ESEA reauthorization.  We’ve seen the outcome of Smarter Balanced for our children with disabilities.  They are now further behind.  That isn’t progress, and I’m sure you have seen how Delaware wants these children to go from 19% proficiency to 59% in six years.  That is insanity, brought on by Governor Markell.  Please stop siding with the DOE on matters that only negatively impact our kids.

 

#StopESEA @NEAToday @AFTunion @BadassTeachersA Do Not Endorse This Reauthorization, Very Bad For Teachers

To the members of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teacher, and the Badass Teachers Association:

I know many of you are torn over the latest edition of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization.  It looks great on the surface.  But embedded within are numerous “easter eggs” designed to steal your jobs right out from under you.  It won’t happen tomorrow.  It won’t happen a month from now.  This is the long con.  This bill will eventually replace the jobs you rightfully deserve, and will put data facilitators in your place.  Students will be plugged into their personalized learning modules, striving to pass their current unit standardized assessment.  K-12 will become a thing of the past.  The need for teacher instruction will be gone.  I’m going to take a wild guess that most of you don’t see this as a great leap forward in your profession.  So I have to ask, why are the leaders of the NEA and AFT urging members to endorse this reauthorization?  Why are they considering this the great change that will bring back the respect and standing you have lost over the years?  Start at your local level and bring it all the way up the food chain straight to NEA President Lily Eskelen Garcia and AFT President Randi Weingarten.  Let your locals know you are not happy with this.  The devil is in the details, and while many of you are glad teacher evaluations are being looked at in different lights, do not think for one second that the entire profession of teaching as you know it is not in serious jeopardy.  And I would urge Garcia and Weingarten to look out for their members and not play politics with so much at stake.  Our children’s teachers deserve better than this bill, and I think you both know this.

To the Badass Teachers: you are all awesome and I love your dedication to education!  Don’t change a thing about what you do, but do not endorse this horrible legislation!

#StopESEA @JohnCarneyDE @SenatorCarper @ChrisCoons #netde #eduDE #Delaware Our Children Are Not Lab Rats

Rep. John Carney, Senator Carper and Senator Coons:

We need you to vote NO on the ESEA Reauthorization.  This is not about children.  It is about companies, and their endless invasion into public education.  They want to turn our children into their testing guinea pigs with their personalized learning and competency-based education.  We know this is just an even more invasive method for them to break up Common Core and standardized tests into micro-chunks through their digital platforms.  We know lobbyists in Delaware and across America have been pounding you and your offices with all the reasons you need to vote yes.  We know the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and Governor Markell have most likely been calling you non-stop to vote yes.  That is not good enough to sell the souls of our children down the river.  You represent the people of Delaware.  Not companies like Schoology and Achieve.  Not American Institutes for Research and all their sub-companies.  Not the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Not the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the University of California.

I am quite sure all three of you have aspirations to continue in government, whether it is at a state or federal level.  The people of Delaware are fast becoming aware of the dangers in this legislation.  Those in the know don’t want this.  They don’t want their children broken down into data points and tested incessantly.  This is what this bill is all about.  It is not about the students.  It will only serve to kill the illusion of helping those who need it the most.  Vote with your conscience, not your future prospects.  Vote with the knowledge that if you let this bill pass, your chances of re-election or your campaign for Governor will meet with very serious resistance.  This is not a threat, this is a fact.  When you start messing with children, you hold your fate in the hands of parents.  The same parents who press buttons at the voting booth.  Some of you may think it is a foregone conclusion that your political lives will continue based on voting patterns in Delaware.  This smoke and mirrors is evaporating faster than you realize.  The polls may say one thing, but the reality is a parent’s love for their child is bi-partisan.

Do the right thing for the children of Delaware and America.  We the people are counting on you.

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

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.

Congress Ready To Tackle Reathorization Of ESEA Again…The Devil Is In The Details…

In a press release today, the Education and Workforce Committee in the United States Congress stated the next step in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is about to begin:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 13, 2015
CONTACT: Press Office
(202) 226-9440
Joint Statement on Efforts to Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), along with Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), issued the following joint statement on efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act:

We believe we have a path forward that can lead to a successful conference, and that is why we are recommending to our leadership to appoint conferees to take the next step in replacing No Child Left Behind. This is a law that everyone wants fixed, and teachers, parents, and students are counting on us to succeed. Our efforts to improve K-12 education will continue to reflect regular order, providing conference members an opportunity to share their views and offer their ideas. Because of the framework we’ve developed, we are optimistic that the members of the conference committee can reach agreement on a final bill that Congress will approve and the president will sign.

# # #

The details of this are going to be watched by many.  No one is going to get everything they want.  That is certain.  But many people are going to be looking at what is sacrificed and what is rammed in there at the last minute.  I believe they should honor opt-out if they keep the standardized assessments, or just get rid of them entirely.  I don’t think they should do anything that continues the road we are on because the past 15 years have clearly shown us it is not good for students.

National Letter From State Coalitions To Halt ESEA Reauthorization Under Obama Administration Includes Delaware Representation

Today, a coalition of advocates from nearly every state in the USA joined together to write a letter asking the United States Congress to suspend committee meetings on the ESEA Reauthorization until a new President is elected.  Delaware is included in this, as Refuse The Test Delaware and Delaware Against Common Core.  Please read the document below to see why so many are opposed to this particular ESEA Reauthorization.

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!

Is The Delaware DOE A Victim Of Federal Mandate As Much As Our Students & Educators?

The more I look into education on a federal level, the more I think it is not just parents who are bullied and intimidated, but also each state Department of Education.  For the past week, I have been closely examining the “school report card” fiasco in Delaware.  Dubbed the “Delaware School Success Framework”, this is a new accountability system for public schools in Delaware.  The controversy around it has centered around a participation rate penalty which the Delaware Department of Education said was a “non-negotiable” and “required” item on the framework.  While this is still being investigated by this blog and others at this point, and what the DOE said and did at different pints in time, it is becoming obvious US DOE “mandates” can be non-regulatory but said in a way it could be easily perceived as threatening or intimidating.

The participation rate is the percentage of children who take the state assessment, which in Delaware’s case is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The rule is that it can’t go below the 95% mark, otherwise there would be penalties.  For years, everyone assumed this was a cut in federal funding, which has never happened.  But as I review Delaware and other state’s 2015 ESEA Flexibility Waivers, I’m finding some states are choosing the participation rate penalty in lieu of checking the area off where they would receive cuts in funding.  If the feds have never done this before, when many schools have clearly gone way below the 95% mark, why would they be harping on this now?

When states like New York, New Jersey and Washington had very high opt-out rates statewide, this drew a lot more attention to the issue.  States like Delaware and Oregon had opt-out legislation passed by their legislators.  In Oregon, the Governor signed it.  In Delaware, the Governor vetoed the bill.  But opt-out will continue, and probably in larger numbers this school year.  This is not a train that can be stopped.

Other mandates by the US DOE, such as the labeling of Title I schools as priority or focus, seem to be closely watched and monitored by the feds.  These schools labels are all based on the proficiency ratings from the state assessments, which is very dangerous.  High poverty schools can not be compared to regular schools whose students are not within the same sub-groups.  It is a system designed specifically to measure up or close.  The very term “sub-group” would indicate these students are below others.  I watched the Delaware DOE stumble through this last year, and I was privy to internal and external emails surrounding this debacle through released FOIA material.  The whole process is so convoluted it would take a Mensa genius to figure it all out.

Who in Delaware will stand up to the Feds once and for all for the sake of our children?  If you are banking on Governor Markell, I don’t see that happening.  Will the interim Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, step up?  And how will the upcoming ESEA reauthorization impact all of this?  And will President Obama even sign the bill if Congress gets together and successfully combines both versions of the legislation?  The next few months will be very interesting for education.

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

What Will Be The Big Delaware Education Stories When School Starts?

This is entirely based on predictions of my own and what I have seen people post in social media.  But I think some of these will come up quite a bit in conversation!

Smarter Balanced Assessment Scores: These should be out in mid-September or later.  We will know what the true opt-out numbers are for Delaware, along with if the test was a success or if Mark Murphy’s predictions of 70% non-proficiency were on the mark.  Or maybe they were even worse.  If the scores are low, we will get the very Markellian chant of “C’mon guys, it’s only the first year.  There were some flaws, but we have our top people on it.  But it’s very important that we have this data so we can see where our greatest needs are.”  Murphy will agree, as will the State Board of Education, and the DOE, and the Delaware Business Roundtable, and so on and so on.

Charter Schools: there will be at least one major charter story involving financial abuse of taxpayer funds.  I’m just going with the trajectory here folks!  At last count, there are still six more reports coming from the State Auditor’s office, none of which involve traditional school districts, all charters.

Wilmington Redistricting/Priority Schools: This will be the hotbed of activity in Delaware education this fall.  A lot of the Red Clay Consolidated School District’s demands for this will be adequate funding.  But with the state not even giving Red Clay the promised priority school amounts, will Red Clay be willing to take a chance like this?  And will Christina, already having many financial issues, be willing to just give up all their Wilmington schools?  Will any 3rd parties enter the landscape?

Opt-out/Refuse The Test Delaware: This could go either way.  People want the General Assembly to override Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  But they are still very angry about the veto.  Will the release of SBAC scores cause more parents to join the Refuse crowd?  And will the Refuse crowd get a bit more aggressive when the stories start about schools bullying parents?

Christina School District: Anything can happen here.  Add some board turmoil, a Superintendent review, funding cuts, teacher layoffs and whatever else comes down the pike, and this will be a cauldron of controversy.  Can the district unite and come together to blaze a new and daring path?

Delaware DOE: They are going to do something that makes people upset.  It’s what they do and it comes with the territory.  But with everything they did in the past year, will the School Accountability Report Card push districts to the edge?

Rodel/Vision 2099/etc.: They will announce a brand new marketing push to help get the students of Delaware where they need to be in the next ten years.  For the weeks following this, we will hear numerous people saying “didn’t they just do this last year?”

ESEA Reauthorization: The U.S. House and Senate will come together and go back and forth adding and subtracting from a joint bill.  Will opt-out still be in play?  How much power will the US DOE lose at the end of the day?  Will the compromises not really change much at all?  And whatever happens, will President Obama even sign it?

Senator Lamar Alexander: States Can’t Give Parents The Right To Opt Their Children Out, We Already Own That Right!

The United States Senate just killed the opt-out amendment in their ESEA reauthorization bill according to The Washington Post.  Senator Lamar Alexander, according to the article by Emma Brown, spoke against the amendment for the following reason:

“But Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — the Republican co-sponsor of the carefully crafted bipartisan bill — spoke forcefully against the proposal, saying it would strip states of the right to decide whether to allow parents to opt out.”

Excuse me Mr. Senator?  Nothing on this planet will ever give me a “right” or “allow” me to opt my son out except for the fact that I already have that right and allowance as a father.  Politicians created this mess, and you need to get our children out of it.  I take great offense at your suggestions this is not a right I already possess.

I agree with Diane Ravitch who just stated:

“I have great respect for Senator Alexander but his argument is not logical. The federal government mandates the tests, but it leaves to states the power to decide whether parents have the right to opt out. Why is the federal government mandating any tests? Why is this not a state responsibility? If he were being consistent, he would leave the testing and the right to opt out to the states. I would just remind the Congress that the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 was a resource equity act, not a testing and accountability act. It was meant to send money to schools and districts that enrolled students who lived in poverty. It was No Child Left Behind that turned the ESEA into a testing and accountability act in 2001-02. And it was the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 that first proposed that states create their own standards and assessments.”

Both Delaware U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons voted no for the opt-out amendment.  There are two other opt-out amendments in S.1177 Every Child Achieves Act, but this does not bode well for the other two amendments.  I seriously hope both Carper and Coons don’t think the citizens of Delaware will forget this the next time they are up for re-election…

To find out if your state senator stiffed parents, go here:

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=114&session=1&vote=00235

President Barack Obama, Arne Duncan & Delaware Governor Jack Markell Pull The Race Card Over Education

President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell continue to pull the issue of race into education.  Every time they talk about the proficiency gaps in low-income schools, they fail to mention the very mechanism by which these gaps are allowed to flourish: standardized assessments.  It’s a Catch-22 for a lot of folks.  If you disagree with them or their minions, you are accused of not caring about black kids.  If you agree with them, it looks like you are selling out traditional public school districts.

As Civil Rights groups speak out on the ESEA reauthorization, we already have veto threats by President Obama on either the House or Senate acts.  He has not come right out and said it, but he is given strong notions he doesn’t support either legislation.  Arne Duncan is pulling the Urban League president to support not getting rid of standardized assessments.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell openly said he “doesn’t like” a parent opt-out bill that would codify a parent’s right to opt their children out of the state standardized assessment, citing as one of his reasons that minority children would be disadvantaged.

I take great issue with even the tiniest implication that I don’t care about minorities.  As my son is a special needs student, he already is a minority just by the very nature of his rare disability.  Many of the children in the schools that need TRUE help the most, have all three: poverty, disabilities, and a minority status.

The bottom line is this: there is far too much federal and state control in education.  The result of this is students who are tested incessantly, teachers who are judged based on these test scores, and an out of control charter school industry that doesn’t play by the rules and the states and feds allow it.  By openly stating the bottom schools aren’t doing well in the environment Obama, Duncan, and many state governors created, is all the proof we need that what we have now just isn’t working.

As Smarter Balanced and PARCC scores start to trickle in from assessments given in Spring, we are seeing these great tests are no better than what came before.  It will show standardized assessments with high-stakes are not a true measurement of student’s abilities.  But it will show they need improvement, allowing more state and federal dollars to go to “consultants” who will “fix” our schools.  And the cycle does on and on, unless Congress finally steps up and does what is truly right for America’s public school students.

The first step they need to take is implementing all promised Title I and IDEA funding as originally approved.  Until they do that, nothing is going to improve for low-income, minority, and students with disabilities until they get the proper resources they need: lower classroom sizes, more special education services tailored for their individual IEPs, more education regarding these issues to educators and staff, and true educator-parent-student relationships with a collaborative effort.  It doesn’t matter what you call a curriculum or a standard, if you don’t have the basics down in terms of having an equitable school, nothing else matters.