Exclusion of Music & The Arts In Delaware’s ESSA Plan Results In Awesome Letter To Delaware Legislators

The Delaware Music Educators Association sent a letter to every single member of the Delaware General Assembly earlier this week urging the Delaware Dept. of Education to include certain recommendations in the final draft of their Consolidated State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Members of the organization felt their pleas for inclusion in the state plan were ignored.  Last night at the final Delaware Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee meeting, the head of the organization gave public comment.  He wished Delaware would include music and the arts in their accountability system.  The Delaware DOE will submit their final plan to Governor Carney for signature on Monday, April 3rd.  Below is the letter sent to the Delaware lawmakers.

Every summer, members of each state’s Music Educators Associations convene in Washington, DC to discuss matters of advocacy, share visions for the future of music education, and speak with our elected members of Congress regarding these issues.  In June of 2014, members of the Delaware Music Educators Association (DMEA), in conjunction with the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and other state Music Educators Associations, helped to successfully lobby members of Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, putting an end to the era of No Child Left Behind. This was a major victory for education—specifically music education. Some of the most important provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act for music education include:

  • A New and Clear Intent to Support Our Nation’s Schools Through a Well-Rounded Education: This is a change from NCLB, which focused heavily on the academic success of students narrowly defined as reading and math only.  
  • Enumeration of Music as a Well-Rounded Subject: Replacing the Core Academic Subject language from NCLB, this language clearly articulates that music should be a part of every child’s education, no matter their personal circumstance.  
  • Requirements for Well-Rounded Education: Schools will now be able to assess their ability to provide a well-rounded education–including music–and address any deficiencies using federal funds.  All Title I programs, both schoolwide and targeted, are now available to provide supplemental funds for a well-rounded education, including music.  
  • More Professional Development for Music Educators: Funds from Titles I, II and IV of ESSA, may support professional development for music educators as part of supporting a well-rounded education.  
  • Flexible Accountability Systems: States must now include multiple progress measures in assessing school performance, which can include such music education friendly measures as student engagement, parental engagement, and school culture/climate.  
  • Protection from “Pull Outs”: The new ESSA discourages removing students from the classroom, including music and arts, for remedial instruction. 

When the Delaware Department of Education began to draft its plan for the ESSA, it seemed that music and arts educators in the state would finally have a voice in helping to build a framework for ensuring that all of Delaware’s students had access to a well-rounded education.  Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

During the second revision of the DDOE ESSA, a survey was created to allow for public feedback regarding the state’s plan. DMEA reviewed the document and was discouraged to find that the arts–specifically music–were referenced only once throughout the entire plan. Utilizing the online survey, members of DMEA, art educators, parents, and community members voiced their concerns to the DDOE, urging them to consider what a truly “well-rounded” education might look like for Delaware students.  With the release of the final draft of the DDOE ESSA plan, it appears that feedback has fallen on deaf ears.  Not one suggestion made by the DMEA, Delaware educators, or parents found its way into the revision.

Also discouraging is Delaware’s lack of inclusion of the arts in its ESSA plan despite such inclusion by other states. Some examples of the importance other states are placing on music include:

  • Michigan includes “Time Spent in Fine Arts, Music, and Physical Education” as an indicator of school quality or student success as part of their accountability system. 
  • New Jersey collects and reports on student access to and participation in the arts as part of a school district’s report card. 
  • Iowa addresses a “well-rounded education” for its students, citing music as a required subject for grades K-8 and requires students in grades 9-12 to have three courses in the arts.  Additionally, the state lists the Iowa Music Educators Association (IMEA) as representatives on the Well-Rounded Issue Specific forum and names the IMEA as stakeholders.
  • Idaho cites music and arts programs as allowable expenditures for Title IV-A funds and goes on to say “Exposure to the arts is an important component of a well-rounded education. As such, LEAs may establish or expand arts education through the purchase or rental of instruments for underserved populations that provide unique music opportunities for those who have not been exposed to music education.”
  • Addressing Title IV funding, Tennessee states: “It is imperative that students have access to coursework and activities that interest them. We heard from hundreds of parents and educators how critical the arts and music, health and wellness, sports and clubs are in a student’s development, as well as supporting students’ academic interests and lifelong learning.”

As an organization with a vested interest in the success of students, DMEA is insisting that music and the arts be included in the DDOE ESSA as a mandatory means to attaining a well-rounded music education. We want to be represented in ESSA, and we need our feedback on the second draft to be considered as ESSA is finalized. Without requiring the presence of music and arts education in Delaware schools, we are certain this Act will fall short of Delaware student needs and hinder the future generations to come.

The Delaware Department of Education, the public-school teachers and administrators, and the citizens of the state of Delaware all have a solemn obligation to our children—our future—to educate them as best we can.  However, education does not stop at survival skills and those things that are “easy” to measure.  It also includes “living skills” and those things not so easy to measure. Math, Science, ELA, and History are all very necessary for our sons and daughters to live and survive, but music, poetry, art, dance, and theatre are what they LIVE for. An ESSA plan from Delaware that does not include those is a document that is negligent.  The Delaware Music Educators Association is more than willing to sit at the table with the Delaware Department of Education to help find ways of ensuring that music and the arts are an inclusive part of our students’ educational experience.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Clint Williams, DMEA President

Daniel Briggs, DMEA President-Elect

Cera Babb, DMEA Advocacy Chair

Thomas Dean, DMEA Advocacy Committee

Advertisements

President Obama’s Office Releases Massive “Rethinking Discipline” Report For Schools

Today, the White House released a very long report on school discipline entitled “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline”.  The report has a plethora of recommendations for public schools in America.  I agree with most of them based on a cursory glance, but like many reports of this nature that I write about, it fails to recognize the fact that Common Core State Standards or other similar standards along with the high-stakes testing environment accompanying those standards are causing more problems than they are worth in our schools.  I will write more about this as I go through the report in the coming days.

The Every Student Succeeds Act addresses school discipline and how our schools carry out punishment for negative behaviors.  On Monday evening, the ESSA Discussion Group I am a member of in Delaware addressed this very issue.  As well, a Delaware newspaper is working on an extensive article about bullying in Delaware and how our schools respond to bullying reporting.

It remains unclear how the incoming Trump administration will view this report.

For now, please read the below report.

16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Steven Godowsky had quite a year as the Delaware Secretary of Education!  As he sails off to distant shores (across the canal), away from the Townsend Building in Dover, Delaware, let’s look back on 2016.  And stay tuned for the end of this article where I may or may not reveal a VERY BIG secret about Godowsky.

GodowskyHR22Pic

Continue reading “16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky”

17 Who Will Make An Impact In 2017: State Rep Paul Baumbach

paulbaumbach

A month ago, I participated in a forum on Delaware education funding at the monthly Progressive Democrats for Delaware meeting.  State Representative Paul Baumbach from the 23rd Rep District also discussed the issue.  Baumbach is very supportive of implementing a weighted education funding formula in Delaware.  Last Winter, Baumbach and then Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman presented a report on a weighted funding system to the Education Funding Improvement Commission.  That commission was unable to get a consensus on any particular funding apparatus and ended the 148th General Assembly with no final report.  The WEIC redistricting plan also called for implementation of a weighted funding system.

Education funding, with implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, will take center stage in 2017.  As more and more citizens realize the system we have now is not working for all students, attempts at fixing the problems will appear.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and their redistricting plan for Wilmington Christina School District students is still bubbling under the surface.  Last night, Christina’s board voted 4-3 to settle on a lawsuit filed against them and the Delaware Dept. of Education by 15 charter schools that receive students from Christina.  The charters claim Christina was filing exclusions that were “improper” to the Delaware DOE and the DOE signed off on them.  While the settlement has not been made public, it will assuredly have an impact on local funding formulas going forward.

Baumbach’s plan is to have more money go to students with higher needs, such as low-income or poverty, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.  Currently, students with disabilities do receive additional funding based on a unit-count system (with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade).  This system determines how much staff each district or charter school receive based on their September 30th count of students.  With the funding system Baumbach is pushing for, the money would follow the student based on their needs.  Another question involving this funding system is if Talented and Gifted students would be considered high need as well.

This is not equality funding but equity funding.  Schools who have less sub-groups of students with higher needs would receive less money.  Final accountability regulations for ESSA will require each public school in America to show the amount of funding per student based on local, state, and federal funding.  The biggest problem with education funding in Delaware is property assessments.  No county in Delaware has increased their property assessments in decades resulting in severe imbalances to what the current assessed values would be.  As well, referenda held by school districts have had mixed results.  Adding to this mix is the potential of school vouchers coming to Delaware if President Donald Trump and his pick for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, get their way.  Baumbach argued against a bill that would allow vouchers for special education students last Spring and stated it would be a violation of Delaware’s Constitution to send state funds to a religious private school.  Trump also announced he wants to incentivize new charter schools across America.  Capital costs for school buildings is also a major issue.  Delaware has many outdated schools that have serious structural issues with the recent Christina mold problem as a glaring example.

Baumbach will most likely bring forth legislation in 2017 to change how we fund our schools.  As well, there is increasing talk in Delaware about re-examining property assessments.  Some state officials have even suggested consolidating school districts to save money, possibly to a county school district system with New Castle County having two districts based on the population.

For my part, I can’t support ANY changes to our education funding system until we can get more assurances the money we are already spending is used with fidelity and honesty.  The recent audit investigation into Indian River showed very clearly that this district was not being honest.  We’ve had far too many Delaware charter school leaders and employees committing major fraud with funds that are not getting to students.  Our state auditor is supposed to audit each school district every year and publish the results.  This is not happening.  Charter school annual audits, usually, do not have the ability to catch financial fraud.  The State Auditor of Accounts Office, run by Tom Wagner, is massively understaffed.  Why in the world would we dump more  money into education when we can’t accurately keep track of the money already there?  This is the viewpoint of many conservatives in Delaware, but more on the left are also waking up to a reality that can no longer be ignored.

As the chief legislative advocate for a weighted funding system, Baumbach will have his hands full in the first six months of 2017.  If the Republicans manage to take control of the Delaware Senate after the special election for Bethany Hall-Long’s Senate seat, the voucher conversation will become very loud at Legislative Hall.  Tony Allen also warned that time is running out to fix education for Wilmington students and advocates may file a federal lawsuit against Delaware which could leave education funding and districting in the hands of a federal judge.  The icing on this education funding cake is the very flawed measurement of success for Delaware schools- the standardized test.  If we use them as a barometer of success or need, the system will continue to be a confusing mess with no end in sight.

No matter how you slice and dice money for education, no system will please everyone.  This has become painfully obvious.  We need to look at what is best for Delaware students and not those of corporations who seek to profit from education.  As corporate education reform is more embedded in our schools, more administrators are implementing the very bad policies from those reformers thus turning them into profiteers of education.  Yeah, Baumbach is going to have a big fight on his hands with any legislation involving this system!

To read the final report conducted by Hanover Research for the Delaware DOE on a weighted funding system, please read below:

DSEA President Battle Heats Up As Three Vie For The Top Spot

To date, three Delaware educators have announced their intention to run for President of the Delaware State Education Association.  All three have announced this on Facebook.  I know two of them, but I haven’t met the other candidate.  Two of the candidates are running on a ticket with a Vice-President candidate.  Who are these brave souls? Continue reading “DSEA President Battle Heats Up As Three Vie For The Top Spot”

Congress Is About To Pass $100 Million Social Impact Bond Bill, More Corporate Bets On Student Outcomes Coming

The best way to get something embedded into the American society?  The power of distraction.  Once again, while all eyes are on Donald Trump, Congress is acting in the dawn of Winter to pass a bill that will affect the children of America.  This time, it involves social impact bonds.

This action is only part of a larger bill, known as the 21st Century Cares Act.  Spearheaded by Vice-President Joe Biden after the death of his son, Beau Biden, the bill has become so much more than finding a cure for cancer.  Special interest groups and lobbyists infiltrated the $6.3 billion bill to include things they want.  The bill is expected to pass the U.S. House next week and the U.S. Senate the week after.

The $100 million dedicated to “pay for success”, also known as “social impact partnerships”, will be up to the states to submit grant applications.  The states will work with “nonprofit social service providers, intermediaries, evaluators, and philanthropic organizations,” according to an article from the Social Innovation Research Center.  I’ve written about social impact bonds a bit since I first came across them over a year ago.  These are nothing more than corporations, non-profits, and banks hedging bets on certain outcomes.  And reaping the profits if they succeed.  For some areas of society, this is not necessarily a bad thing, such as medicine.  But when it branches into education, I am very concerned.  The timing of this bill coinciding with full implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act is not a mere coincidence.

The U.S. Dept. of Education will assuredly dip into this vast pool of money.  The Social Innovation Research Center all but guarantees this:

The legislation tasks the Treasury Department with overseeing the Social Impact Partnership program, although the department may delegate oversight authority for individual projects to other federal agencies.

ESSA calls for greater intervention in American public schools- more counselors, more community-based organizations, etc.  The full invasion of American education by corporations will be like nothing seen before once ESSA is firmly entrenched in every single state.  This will, of course, lead to the reinvention of American education into less of a brick-and-mortar system and more of a personalized learning and competency-based system with outside non-profits and corporations calling the shots.  Teachers will become glorified moderators to the education technology invading our schools.  But with the passage of the 21st Century Cares Act, children will become fodder for nothing more than a gambler in Vegas trying to win big.

Because this legislation is wrapped into such a noble cause, that of curing cancer, it is the perfect vessel for the corporate pigs to come home and feast on the trough.  Congress will pass this, regardless of the pork included in it, because “it is the right thing to do”.  And once again, children will pay the price.

To see the full bill, and how education will come into play, please go here.  Of particular note are pages 946-949.  By giving the very vague “improving rates of high school graduation“, that one line is the entrance into education.  One of the first forays into public education with Social Impact Bonds by a major U.S. Bank, Goldman Sachs, resulted in a ton of controversy.  The bank tried to bet on pre-schoolers in Utah.  The “outcome” they wanted was less children getting special education services.  But failing to understand why students even need special education in most cases, because of neurological disabilities, shows corporate America doesn’t believe in reasons, just profit.

Final U.S. DOE Regulations For ESSA Accountability Leave Same Bad Test, Shame, & Punish Policies & No Changes On Opt Out

The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law.  Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of.  We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing.  We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools.  We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix.  Nothing has changed.  Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place.  Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere.  I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.

One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans.  Now they are April 3rd and September 18th.  Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st.  The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).

So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?

In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.

And what about opt-out?  Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  Yeah right!

To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.

This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package.  And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago.  You reap what you sow!

Do You Want To Believe?

Belief is a funny thing.  Some people need to see something splattered all over newspapers and major news outlets to believe something is real.  Others just need to hear one thing to think something is true.  When it comes to education, what do you believe?

I recently had a conversation with someone who told me I was a conspiracy theorist.  That what I am saying about the vast plans that have been going on with education and what is to come is nothing more than that.  That I have no basis to prove my theories whatsoever.  This person also informed me they don’t care about my theories and they have more important things to do with their life.  I encouraged this person to do some research on their own and to come up with their own conclusions.  When you talk about the agendas for public education to someone who is not deeply engrossed in the minutiae of what has been going on, it is very easy to sound like a crackpot.  It won’t be the first time someone has expressed that I am crazy or wearing a tin hat.  I’m sure it won’t be the last.  But as I left that person, they were on Google looking up “Common Core conspiracy theories”.

To an outside observer, many of us who do the research with corporate education reform do sound crazy.  But they haven’t poured through contracts and websites, or followed the money to see where billions of dollars are going.  They haven’t read everything we have.  They can’t accept how deep the tentacles reach.  That this involves much more than education and has ties with the U.S. Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Labor.  That what is going on in public education will redefine society as we know it and strip away substantial rights of citizens in the future.  It sounds so crazy it would have to be a conspiracy theory, right?  And that is exactly what they are counting on, these masters of wealth and foundations, these billionaires who throw money around like it was nothing.  “But these foundations do good things,” I’ve heard.  Of course they do.  They help people around the globe.  If all they did was fund Common Core and personalized learning and education technology, it would be MUCH easier for people to follow the trail.

Our country is run by corporations.  I can’t make people see this.  I can’t make them understand that politicians are bought and sold like discounted goods on Black Friday.  I can’t make them see the major media blackout on so much that is really going on.  I hear so many people say “You can’t believe what you read on the Internet or on blogs.”  I’ve seen it myself.  There is a ton of bad information out there.  I’ve published bad information before based on bad information or a misunderstanding.  It happens.  But when all the same trails lead to the same conclusions repeatedly, after a while the truth sinks in.  It’s not like a lot of these companies are hiding what they want to do with data.  They are announcing it on their websites or pushing it with policy briefs for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  But who has the time to look at all that?  If I weren’t hip to a lot of this stuff, I wouldn’t give any of it the time of day.

It is no longer theory when something has been proven.  It is fact.  And it is a fact that there are corporations and foundations, run by some of the richest people in the world, that want today’s youth and future generations to become servants to their masters.  They will accomplish this through education by turning it into a data tracking system that will affect every facet of their lives: health, careers, outside interests, media, technology, and higher education.  Everyone will be plugged in and led to believe what their lives should be.  The data will tell them so.  Meanwhile, those who aren’t plugged into the Blockchain technology coming our way, the masters, they will happily reap the profits of those who don’t want to believe.

As those who want to save our children from this future, how do we reach those who don’t want to believe?  Who honestly don’t have the time or an inkling of how grand this scheme is?  That it doesn’t matter who is President or this Secretary, they are just following the script written decades ago?

President Donald Trump Promised To Dump Common Core, Hillary Clinton Never Said The Words

I truly thought Hillary Clinton was going to win yesterday.  The thought of either of them winning didn’t sit well with me.  But there is one key factor in this election that no one is talking about.  Common Core.  Those two toxic words that most states in this country wish they never adopted.  In my state of Delaware, we are one of the many “blue” states that voted Clinton in.  In looking at the maps, many of the states that have the Smarter Balanced Assessment and are considered to be big corporate education reform states voted for Hillary tonight.

Look at the states Hillary won that belong to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.  She lost other SBAC states like Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia.  I wouldn’t count those Hillary losses as “power players” in the corporate education reform movement.  But many of the states she won are smack dab in the middle of it.  Other states she won include other big “power players” such as Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York.  She lost Florida but that is Jeb Bush corporate education reform territory.  Trump also won Tennessee but I attribute that victory more to this being a southern state.  As of this writing, Michigan is still too close to call.  While I have always seen corporate education reform as bi-partisan, many of the states that have been most affected by Common Core in the form of huge accountability stakes for standardized tests and horrible teacher evaluation systems based on those tests voted for the very same woman who didn’t say the words Common Core during her campaign.

Donald made it one of his campaign platforms that he would dump Common Core.  Which would, by default, drastically change the very nature of state assessments but also the SAT which was revamped to the standards.  While Hillary has gone on record stating that Common Core was poorly implemented, she never made it a part of her campaign.  In fact, she didn’t make education a major part of her campaign at all.  Which is ironic given how much of the corporate education reform movement she has been connected with.  Especially through the Clinton Foundation.  One of her first objectives once Bill Clinton became the Governor of Arkansas was to hold schools more “accountable” back in the 1980s.  An accounting of this attempt at education reform in Arkansas was detailed in an article in Politico in April 2015.

But an article in The Weekly Standard showed me how very similar Hillary Clinton and Delaware Governor Jack Markell really are:

It’s clear from their statements at the time that the Clintons understood the importance of improving Arkansas schools. Bill Clinton argued that with factory jobs going overseas, the state could no longer rely on manufacturing and needed a more skilled workforce. But Arkansas students were scoring poorly on national exams.

That sounds almost exactly like the propaganda Delawareans have been subjected to by Markell.  But Hillary Clinton’s education initiative began in 1983.  Funny how the arguments for those who want greater accountability tend to blame it on low test scores and a need for a “skilled workforce”.  Like many states since, Arkansas went through new tests over the years back then and the results were abysmal for students.  As well, the Clintons wanted teachers to take skills tests to weed out the bad teachers.  They never went ahead with this after the National Education Association refused to endorse Bill Clinton for Governor twice in the 1980s.  Hillary made amends with the NEA when Bill ran for President in 1992 and they have fervently endorsed her ever since, much to the chagrin of their union members across the country.

The impossible happened tonight.  The popular vote was tight, but the electoral map told a different tale.  This is a new reality we will face in the next four years.  It is what it is.  On the plus side, I think we can safely rule out Jack Markell as the next United States Secretary of Education which was one of my greatest fears with Hillary winning.  I imagine many Americans are freaking out right now.  Trump is going to have to emerge from his past and transform himself if he ever wants any sense of credibility.  His victory speech was very humble and he hit a lot of the right notes.  I am still in complete and utter shock that I am writing the words President Trump.

At the end of a very long day stretching into the wee hours of a new day, part of me would like to think Trump’s promise of dumping Common Core resonated with many voters.  But at the end of the day, Americans wanted change.  At least over half of them did.  The conversations Americans thought they would have today are vastly different.

Will a Trump presidency be able to put a halt to very destructive education policy that began in Arkansas during that very hot summer of 1983?  When the parents of today’s students were still in school?  Before some of them were even born?  Will it end the long saga that kicked into high gear with the 1992 “Dear Hillary” letter from Marc Tucker?  This is something I would very much like to talk to Donald Trump about.  And you better believe every single state Department of Education is going to be scrambling on their Every Student Succeeds Act drafts tomorrow.  Sometimes you just have to find the silver lining in things.

Members Of U.S. Senate & Congress Tell John King To Kill Supplement Not Supplant Regulation!

Today, twenty-five Republicans in both the U.S. Senate and House Education committees told U.S. Secretary of Education to kill the “supplement not supplant” regulation that has drawn the ire of the majority of the teaching profession in America.  In a nutshell, this regulation would completely change the way Title I funds are disbursed to schools, would cause severe damage to the teaching profession, and would grant Title I funds to schools that are not Title I schools.  I wish some Democrat members of these committees would speak up!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Press Office
November 7, 2016 (202) 226-9440
25 Senate, House Education Committee Members: Education Department Should Withdraw Rule That Violates “the Unambiguously Expressed
Intent of Congress”
Proposed “supplement not supplant” regulation could harm
students, schools, and teachers


WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Twenty-five Republican members of the Senate and House education committees today urged the Department of Education to withdraw its proposed “supplement not supplant” regulation, saying it “violates the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress,” and called on the department to instead work with Congress to implement the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act as it is written.

The regulatory proposal would change the longstanding requirement that prevents school districts from using federal Title I funds as a replacement for state and local funds in low-income schools.

In comments submitted to Education Secretary John King, the members said the rule “draws broad and inaccurate conclusions about what Congress intended when amending the [‘supplement not supplant’] provision that are not supported by the statutory text and violate clear and unambiguous limitations on the Secretary’s authority.”

The members said certain provisions of the rule are “unlawful, unnecessary and could result in harmful consequences to [local educational agencies], schools, teachers, and students.”

Specifically, the rule dictates to states and local school districts how they should distribute state and local funds, which violates the law and its prohibitions on the Secretary. They write:

In Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Supreme Court established that the test for reviewing an agency’s interpretation of a statute consists of two related questions. First, the question is “whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue. If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter” because the court and agency must “give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” Second, if “Congress has not directly addressed the precise question at issue” or “if the statute is silent or ambiguous” the question is “whether the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.”

They continue:

The intent of Congress in amending the SNS requirements under Title I of ESEA is clear and unambiguous in directly speaking to the issue of how LEAs must demonstrate compliance. As the Court has held, that should be “the end of the matter” for the Department, which through rulemaking should “give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” Instead, the NPRM violates this principle in imposing new requirements that reflect the Department’s own construction of the statute. We therefore strongly urge the Department to rescind this additional language and work with Congress in a bipartisan, bicameral way to implement ESSA as Congress clearly intended. The following outlines areas of agreement, and then describes the ways in which the Department’s proposal violates the letter and intent of the statute and could lead to negative results for low-income students and schools if it were implemented.

The letter was signed by Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN), along with Senate committee members Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R- ME), Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and House committee members Mike Bishop (R-MI), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Luke Messer (R-IN), Phil Roe (R-TN), Todd Rokita (R-IN), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Joe Wilson (R-SC).

To read the letter, click here.

You don’t have to click on the link, you can read the entire letter below:

Learning To Count With Atnre Alleyne And Secretary Godowsky

A week ago, I published an article about the Alleyne Consortium.  They wanted to give Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky some suggestions for the Delaware Dept. of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act first draft of their state plan.  A source was able to give me the emails Alleyne sent to Godowsky.  The irony that Secretary Godowsky didn’t respond to Alleyne is not lost on me.

From: Atnre Alleyne <atnre.alleyne@50can.org>
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 11:23 AM
Subject: An Open Letter: Opportunities for Delaware under the Every Student Succeeds Act
To: steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us

Dear Secretary Godowsky,

I am writing to share an open letter (see attached) a collection of 20+ Delaware community and business organizations crafted to provide an initial set of recommendations regarding Delaware’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Delaware. Specifically, this first letter from our group focuses on school accountability and reporting under ESSA.

The diverse set of organizations that came together around this statement did so because we believe ESSA offers us an opportunity to turn the tide for Delaware students and renew our commitment and urgency toward ensuring equity for every student. As a group, we recognize that while there are examples of success in Delaware’s education system, our system has a long way to go before we can claim every Delaware student is receiving the high-quality education he or she deserves.

Where possible, many of our organizations have participated in the opportunities created by the Delaware Department of Education to provide input on the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for the state. Some of us also have the opportunity to directly provide feedback on the state’s ESSA plan as members of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee.

We compiled this letter understanding that, in order for the state’s implementation of ESSA to be successful, advocates and community groups need to play a more active role in pushing the system toward excellence. 

Thank you in advance for considering the recommendations above as the state develops its ESSA plan.

Regards,

Atnre Alleyne

—————————————————–

Hell no, he didn’t try to get Rodel and the gang to usurp Delaware’s ESSA plan, did he?  He sure did.  But nine days later, not only did he email Godowsky again but he made a broad claim that more organizations joined in.

—————————————————–

From: “Atnre Alleyne” <atnre.alleyne@50can.org>
Date: Nov 4, 2016 9:05 AM
Subject: An Open Letter: Opportunities for Delaware under the Every Student Succeeds Act
To: <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>

Good Morning Secretary Godowsky, 

I hope all is well with you. Last week I emailed to share an open letter a collection of 23 Delaware community and business organizations crafted to provide an initial set of recommendations regarding Delaware’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Delaware. 

As we have not yet received a response from the Delaware Department of Education, we are sending the letter again. I have also copied the members of the ESSA Advisory Committee so that they can consider the perspective of the community groups represented via this letter as they review the DDOE’s ESSA plan. 

The version of the letter attached to this email now includes 24 Delaware organizations. Thank you in advance for considering the recommendations in the attached letter as the state develops its ESSA plan. 

Regards, 
Atnre


Now this is the funny part.  Because in Alleyne’s march towards educational excellence, he seems to have forgotten to count.  He put, in bold, there are now 24 organizations.  In looking at this letter, I only saw 23.  I blame Common Core for this.

alleyneconsortium

I didn’t miss something here, did I?  I counted 23.  Luckily, I wasn’t raised with the Common Core standards.  I imagine everyone at the Delaware DOE is given the Clockwork Orange brainwashing with Common Core so I am able to understand how 23 becomes 24 in Alleyne’s world.  Unless he forgot to put in one of the pretty pictures for a 24th organization.  But, I must admit, Alleyne did inspire me.  Oh, how he inspired me.  He is absolutely right.  We DO need more input on this state plan.  Much more!  And I plan to get that.  Because there is no way in hell Alleyne, Rodel, Teach For America, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable and TeenSHARP are going to steal this plan.  So be on the lookout for my “stealing the thunder” plan.  It will be marvelous!  Okay, bad terminology to use in this day and age, but you get my point!

Save The Date: November 16th

Eight days after the 2016 elections are over (Thank God!) the Delaware Department of Education will discuss their FY2018 budget with the Office of Management and Budget.  This is open to the public, but I recommend getting there early so you can get a seat.  The budget for the next fiscal year is going to get crazy.  First off, we have the Every Student Succeeds Act.  In Delaware’s first draft plan, you can see that a lot of areas in the law will be depending on state funding.  Which means the feds will have to decide on our state plan assuming these items would pass in our budget.  Delaware is submitting their final plan to the U.S. Dept. of Education on March 6th.  That is 116 days before the Delaware General Assembly would even pass the FY2018 budget.  So what happens if the feds approve our plan but we don’t have the necessary funding allocations for our plan?  The feds would presumably pass (or reject) our plan within 120 days of submission.  That puts Delaware in the position of getting the approval after the end of legislative session.  Not to mention the fact we will have a new Governor (presumably John Carney) with his own ideas on education.  By the time this hearing comes, the next Governor will have been elected.  But further complicating matters is the exiting Governor, Jack Markell.  His administration will work up the proposed budget which won’t be released until January 2017.  And if I know Jack Jack, he will attempt to get all his friends some last-minute goodies!  Add in the fact that pretty much everyone in the state wants to trim down the Delaware Dept. of Education and make it less of a bureaucratic nightmare.  This will be a must-attend meeting if you can make it.  But, of course, it is at 10am in the morning when the true stakeholders in education… students, parents and teachers… are busy doing what they do best.

educbudgetpublichearing111616

 

The Delaware Pathways Docs… Open Your Eyes Delaware And See The Manipulation…

Yesterday, the Delaware Attorney General’s office opened up Delaware to the world of the Delaware Pathways.  Granted, this had to come in the form of a FOIA complaint from yours truly.  But feast your eyes on all the big plans rolled around this initiative.  An initiative so big Governor Markell had to issue an Executive Order when the General Assembly said no thanks to legislation creating a Steering Committee around the Pathways gig.  Given how much is tied into this thing: Common Core, the state assessments, millions upon millions of dollars of state funding, outside businesses, all three of our major colleges, etc., is it any wonder this group has tried to keep things hush as long as they can?  All I can say is whenever Rodel gets involved, something goes wonky with transparency.  So what is “Work-Based Learning” and “Working To Learn”?  The answers lie within.  If you oppose this, let your voice be heard now.  I do not believe it is a coincidence at all that Delaware will be handing in the first draft of their Every Student Succeeds Act state plan in the next few days.  Between this and the ESSA state plan, with all the smoke and mirrors involved with that, NOW is the time to be extra vigilant.  Read every single word in these documents.  Every.  Single.  One.

Lisa Blunt Rochester STILL Can’t Say “I Support A Parent’s Right To Opt Out”, She Is A Vote For Rodel

lowvdebate102616

At a League of Women Voter’s candidate forum tonight at Delaware State University, Delaware candidates for Congress and Insurance Commissioner debated about many topics.  Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini was unable to make it, so John Carney didn’t come, even though the Green candidate for Governor showed up.  La Mar Gunn wasn’t able to make it, to Bethany Hall-Long left shortly after the debate began.

But Lisa Blunt Rochester… she still can’t say the words: “I support a parent’s right to opt out.”  A question came up about abolishing Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (and it, surprisingly, didn’t come from me).  I will be (no pun intended) blunt and admit my question was “Yes or No, do you support a parent’s right to opt out of standardized testing.”  But the Common Core/SBAC one had Republican candidate Hans Reigle and Libertarian candidate Scott Gesty both openly admit their loathing of Common Core and Smarter Balanced and that they support a parent’s right to opt out.  She snuck in towards the end that she supports parental rights, but it’s not the same thing and she knows it.

I have no doubt the Insurance Commissioner candidates, Republican Jeff Cragg and Democrat Trinidad Navarro thought to themselves, “I’m an insurance guy, I’m not answering that political hot potato.”  Can’t say I blame them, but Blunt-Rochester knows it is a big topic in Delaware.  And she either insults parents who do opt their kids out or just ignores it.  But I don’t think she understands what Markell and the Delaware DOE have done to students in this state.

“For me, as I look at the whole issue of testing, I don’t think we should be teaching to a test.  We should be looking at measuring growth for that additional child so that teachers are empowered to really help that child…one of the issues in terms of tests and opting out is the fact that what we would hope is our education system would be equal and equitable and high quality so that no one would want to opt out.”

So in the meantime, we keep the crappy test that will lead to stealth tests in a personalized learning/competency-based education arena.  And this growth she wants us to measure?  What does she think the feds and the Delaware DOE measure that growth by?  The standardized test.  Hello!  And equal and equitable aren’t the same thing.  High quality based on what?  Common Core and SBAC?  Or do you have a better idea that we haven’t heard.  The other candidates recommended bringing this back to the local level.  I didn’t hear that from you tonight.

They did ask one of my questions about restoring FERPA to pre-2008 levels.  In 2008 and 2011, the US DOE had FERPA changed which allowed student data to go out to third-party companies, sometimes without any parental consent for the data collecting procedures to begin with.  Once again, Gesty and Reigle nailed it and said they would support those changes.  Blunt-Rochester (if she even knows what FERPA is), talked about HIPAA and cell phone tracking apps.  Her response to changing FERPA?

“I would want to know more about why that exchange happens.”

Uhm, it happens so private student information can go out to companies and massive troves of data are collected on our kids.  That was the whole point of the question.  Gesty and Reigle got it.  Not sure why you can’t.  Blunt-Rochester talked about her time as the Delaware Secretary of Labor and constituents complained about filling out multiple forms to different state agencies.  She did say privacy is a concern, but she missed the point of the question.  There is a BIG difference.

She is well aware I blasted her in August for calling opt out a “leisure for some parents” at a Congressional debate in Wilmington.  Afterwards, I asked her point blank on her Facebook page if she supports a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  She said nothing.  Didn’t respond.  And I’ve seen her a few times since (along with John Carney), and they treat me as if I were a ghost.  You can think it is okay to be completely rude and not respond if I smile at you or say hi, but don’t think for one minute that I’m not hip to the Rodel influence on both of you.  I have no doubt I will be writing more about both of them the next four years, and it won’t be pleasant at this rate.  My take when this happens: you are drinking someone else’s Kool-Aid and really don’t know enough about the issue.  You are told what to say and what not to say.  And I’m sure one of the cardinal rules is don’t engage with the blogger.  Which just makes me jump all over you.  Funny how that works out.  Some may say I attack first and ask questions later.  I will own that.  But as most who bother to take the time to actually talk to me know, I am willing to listen.  I may not agree, but if you treat me like a leper, you reap what you sow.  I’m not in it this for politicians or administrators or for whatever state association you have.  I’m in this for the kids.  For my own son.  And for this entire generation of students who have been subjected to pure and utter crap from adults who should REALLY know better than to think it is okay to profit off kids.

I will say I endorsed Scott Gesty for Congress last month.  Ideologically, we agree on many issues.  With that being said, if he wasn’t in the race, I would support Hans Reigle.  Blunt-Rochester is just spend, spend, spend, and economy this and economy that with the same script we’ve read for the past eight years under Governor Rodel, er, uhm, Markell.  And Carney is the same thing.  Enough.  I can say Blunt-Rochester will not be getting a vote from my household as my wife supports Hans.  We are a divided household, what can I say.  I am a firm believer you get what you vote for.  And the way this state votes “blue or die”, we will get the same.  And all those who preach doom and gloom every single political season, those of the same party who can’t stand each other but will support their peer because of a political label, they will be the first ones complaining over the next four years and public education will continue to go down a dark path as we try to spend our way to prosperity.  Many see me as a Democrat, while others see me as a Republican or Libertarian.  I’m just a dad.  Concerned about my son’s future as a citizen of Delaware and America.  I see between the lines of all the crap being slung at us.  The lies, the manipulation, the fraud.  It is not red or blue or any other party.  It’s greed, pure and simple.  People who are so used to hanging out with people who are, at heart, glorified salespeople, who promise great things as they spin their shit into gold.

I can’t support Hillary or Donald either for those same reasons.  Hillary is the godmother of corporate education reform.  Trump is just Trump, all bark and no bite.  But when he gets impeached (which I can easily see happening), we will be left with Mike Pence who is a big corporate education reform kind of guy.  So either way we are screwed.  I think Hillary’s plans are exactly what we see happening in education.  Don’t be fooled by her.  She will stab all students, teachers, and parents in the back.  And her minions in each state, including Delaware, will make damn sure it happens at the state level.  The wheels are already in motion.  We call this the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Don’t think for one minute she isn’t banking on winning and has been planning accordingly.  And just in case, we have Mike Pence waiting in the wings.  And Delaware will automatically cave if we keep the current power structure and say “Yes, we have to do this.”  And the cycle goes on and on and on…

As for Lisa Blunt-Rochester and her need to have us find “common ground” as she put it tonight, we will never find that common ground until some candidates and existing legislators don’t return to the ground.  I don’t vote on smiles.  I vote on words.  And the words I was looking for tonight did come out.  Just not from you.

 

 

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

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

essasssdiscgroupmembers

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

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

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

 

essamssprdiscgroupmembers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee Members Revealed **Special Thanks To The Delaware Way Blog**

The Delaware Way announced the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee membership yesterday.  First off, a very big thank you to the Delaware Way for letting me know about this!  Once again, their first meeting is tonight at Legislative Hall in Dover, beginning at 6pm.  Just go to the House Majority Hearing Room.  Even though the General Assembly is not in session, there is still a security checkpoint when you enter Legislative Hall.  So I would try to get there five minutes before the meeting.  As well, I put in a request to a few members, the Governor, Secretary Godowsky, and others to put this up on the live streaming from the  General Assembly website.  I don’t know if they will be able to honor this request since it won’t be held in either of the two main chambers, but it never hurts to ask!  Without further ado, here is the group and their meeting schedule:

  • Wednesday October 19, 2016
  •  Thursday November 17, 2016
  • Wednesday January 11, 2017
Members of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee:
·         Teri Quinn Gray – President of the State Board of Education
·         Deb Stevens – Delaware State Education Association, Director of Instructional Advocacy
·         Kendall Massett – Executive Director, Delaware Charter School Network
·         Eileen DeGregoriis – President, Delaware English Language Learners Teachers and Advocates; Educator and ESL Coordinator for Smyrna School District
·         Tammy Croce – Executive Director, Delaware Association of School Administrators
·         Rhonda Swenson – President, Lake Forest School Board of Education
·         Tony Allen – Chair, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission
·         Maria Matos – Executive Director and CEO, Latin American Community Center
·         Madeleine Bayard – Co-Chair, Early Childhood Council
·         Representative Kim Williams – Vice-Chair, House Education Committee
·         Senator David Sokola – Chair, Senate Education Committee
·         Leolga Wright – Board Member, Indian River School District; Nanticoke Indian Association
·         Kim Joyce – Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Delaware Technical and Community College
·         Rod Ward – President and CEO, Corporation Service Company
·         Patrick Callihan – Executive Director, Administrative and Development, Tech Impact
·         Stephanie DeWitt – Elementary school educator; Special Education Coordinator, Cape Henlopen School District
·         LaShonda Wooten       – Educator at Shortlidge Elementary School, Red Clay Consolidated School District
·         Janine Clark – Paraprofessional, Red Clay Consolidated School District; Child Advocate
·         Wendee Bull – Educator at Georgetown Middle School, Indian River School District; Groves Adult Education Instructor
·         Genesis Johnson – Parent representative from Wilmington
·         Nancy Labanda – Parent representative from New Castle County
·         Catherine Hunt – Parent representative from Kent County
·         Nelia Dolan – Parent representative from Sussex County
·         Alex Paolano – Educator at Howard High School; 2016-17 Howard High School Teacher of the Year
·         Susan Bunting – Superintendent, Indian River School District
·         Laurisa Schutt – Executive Director, Teach for America; Board Member, Leading Youth Through Empowerment
·         Cheryl Carey – Counselor, Philip C. Showell Elementary, Indian River; 2015-16 Delaware Counselor of the Year
·         Margie Lopez-Waite – Founder, Head of School, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, dual language school
·         Atnre Alleyne – Founder, TeenSHARP; Parent representative, Board of St. Michael’s School and Nursery

That is one big group!  I was very happy to see representation from Delaware’s Native American population.  There are some surprises on here.  I know many of these people but there are a few I don’t.  I see a lot of big players.  Some of these members I am not happy with, AT ALL.  I have to wonder how many of these members will financially benefit from Delaware’s state plan for ESSA.  Because at the end of the day, that is what ESSA is all about.

Why Is Parent Information Center Of Delaware Shilling For Alliance For Excellent Education?

PIC is the Parent Information Center of Delaware.  Subsidized by the Delaware Department of Education, PIC is a federally mandated organization for parents to use as a resource center for special education.  Every state is required to have this type of entity under IDEA, the federal special education law.  Why is PIC of Delaware advertising Alliance For Excellent Education and “personalized learning”?  Personalized learning, if implemented full scale, would diminish the role of special education in schools by giving every single student their own individual education program, otherwise known as an IEP.

picall4ed

As anyone in Delaware who regularly read this blog know, the biggest supporter for personalized learning has been the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  I get very concerned when I see special education groups pushing what Rodel pushes.  As I’ve said before, personalized learning in its true context is light years away from the 21st Century push for it.  It would turn teacher-led instruction into screen time for students with teachers becoming glorified moderators.  This would take place in a competency-based education environment where a student doesn’t move on until they have “mastered” the material.  All in a digital classroom with education technology that reaps high rewards for those who invest in them.  Without any regard for the psychological and physical health effects on any student, much less those who have disabilities.  As anyone who keeps track of progress for students with disabilities can tell you, special education students would be the last ones to “move along” in this type of classroom.  Which makes it even more puzzling that PIC would promote this type of education.  When I clicked on the link in the Alliance For Excellent Education ad, it brought me to a YouTube video.

Whatever the intentions were for the Every Student Succeeds Act, it was hijacked by corporate education reformers and they are taking full advantage of inserting what they want in every single state.  States are working on their ESSA plans this fall and those who wish to profit off education at the expense of student futures are getting louder than ever.

PIC does a  lot of good things.  They can be a good resource.  But I truly wish they would distance themselves from corporate Kool-Aid like this.  It is misleading to parents who don’t know any better.  There are enough issues with special education in Delaware.  We really don’t want or welcome, for those of us who see these kind of education fix it companies as the charlatans they are, these kind of intrusions in our children’s lives.

Alliance For Excellent Education is led by former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise with funding by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  Wise pushes the “Future Ready Schools” initiative, as detailed in the biography on the All4ed.org website:

futurereadyschools

Don’t let the fancy talk fool you. Future Ready Schools requires district Superintendents to sign a “Future Ready Pledge”, heavily pushed by the U.S. Department of Education, to turn classrooms into an ed tech wonderland.  Five current or former Delaware Superintendents signed this pledge: Dr. Merv Daugherty with Red Clay Consolidated, Dr. Victoria Gehrt with New Castle County Vo-Tech, Alan Lathbury with Sussex Tech, Phyllis Kohel with Milford, and John Ewald with Laurel.  I have to wonder if they got the consent of their school boards, teachers, students, parents, and citizens of their districts before they committed themselves to this bogus “pledge”.  All you have to do is look at Future Ready’s “partners” to understand what this really is.

Remember when you were a child and someone, at one point in your life, told you “If I told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?”  Apparently, far too many of those in charge of school districts take the plunge with no regard for students whatsoever.  And it looks like PIC of Delaware is pretty wet already…

Why I Accepted An Invite From The Delaware DOE To Join An ESSA Discussion Group

Because it’s time.  We have all heard the phrase, “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”  To many of the stakeholders in Delaware education, they believe this.  I’ve pretty much operated this blog as an outsider looking in.  I’ve vowed never to join anything.  But this isn’t a situation where I’m joining something permanent.  It is a temporary group and I will be one of just thirty people.  I will be on the “Student and School Supports Discussion Group.”  I would have preferred to be on the “Measures of School Success and Reporting” group, but I will take what I can get.  I don’t know who else is in my group or what stakeholder groups they represent.

I fully plan on being a part of a group and behaving as one of many.  But I will also do my due diligence on the issues and offer my voice.  For some out there, they may see this as a betrayal.  Like when celebrities do commercials for a company.  This is not me selling out.  It is getting in there and lending my voice.  These meetings will be open to the public, for both groups.  So it’s not like these are backdoor meetings.  I urge parents and teachers to attend these meetings.

The first meeting for both groups will be held at the John W. Collette Conference Center, 35 Commerce Way, in Dover from 6pm-8pm next Wednesday, October 5th.

Did You Know Rodel’s William Budinger Married Markle Foundation’s Zoe Baird?

A wedding of the education foundations!  Back in 2010, William Budinger, the founder of Rodel Inc., who sold the company and created the Rodel Foundations of Arizona and Delaware, married Zoe Baird, the President of the Markle Foundation.  She has held that role since 1998.  Her main focus, according to Markle’s website, is this:

She currently leads Rework America, the Markle Economic Future Initiative that is pursuing opportunities for all Americans to participate in the economy of the future.

Fascinating!  Both Rodel and Markle really seem to love the current “pathways to prosperity” push going on in many states.  The whole “career ready” part of “college & career ready”.  Kids don’t need a high school diploma when they can earn a certificate in high school!  Missouri Education Watchdog wrote an excellent article earlier this year about Markle’s plans in Colorado.  And it looks like Arizona wants some of that action too!  Thank God they have a Rodel Foundation in Arizona! It sounds like Governor Markell every time he talks to the media!  Please note: Markell and Markle are not the same thing (except in thought process).

Baird is best known in America as the Attorney General pick by President Bill Clinton who was not selected by the U.S. Senate back in 1993.  Apparently, it created a new word in the American lexicon: Nannygate.  But since then, Baird and Budinger have certainly been busy…

mucketymap

 

 

As you can see, this duo has tons of connections to the biggest groups attempting to dismantle public education.  They are all pushing for “career pathways”, competency-based education, and digital learning.  These are NOT our friends America.  Remember that.  I have no doubt if Hillary Clinton becomes President, we will see this unlikely match have more influence.

At this very moment, the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, Paul Herdman, is giving a push to the Delaware Grantmakers Association.  I have no doubt the words Every Student Succeeds Act, Opportunity, Grants, and Money will come up.

 

 

You Can’t Make Things Better Until You Fix What’s Broken

In the past week, a light bulb went off in my head.  I’ve been to a lot of education meetings lately.  State Board of Education, ESSA, Special Education Strategic Plan, district board meetings, and so forth.  I’ve seen and met a lot of legislators and candidates.  I’ve seen the old faces and the new.  For the most part, we are all talking about the same thing: problems in education.  Whether it is at a state level or on the ground floor.  At an ESSA meeting, one of the participants at my table was Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.

He made a very valid point.  We keep talking about education and how to make it better.  We keep throwing ideas into the mix.  We have meetings and task forces and committees and town halls and strategic plans.  We talk ourselves to death.  We don’t take action and we have gotten away from the basics.  I agree with him.

There have been opportunities to act, but they pass by.  Until the next idea comes along.  I’ve met with parents, teachers, district administrators, board members, the DOE, advocates, disability groups, legislators and regular citizens.  There are deep rifts between everyone.  Hurts.  Things happen.  Perceptions are thrown out of whack.  I have seen two of those groups talk about the exact same topic in separate meetings but the tone and feelings about it are wider than the Pacific Ocean.

As much as I rant about the DOE, I do like that they are having these town halls.  I like that people are coming out to them.  But it’s not enough.  Not nearly enough.  What is confusing me is why different states are taking advantage of different timelines for their draft plans.  For example, Delaware wants to get their plan in by the end of March.  In Florida, they are not submitting their plan until the end of July.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their plan in place by the 2017-2018 school year.  Florida’s wouldn’t fully kick in until 2018-2019.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their first draft done by the end of October.  In 37 days.  While it is a draft and would most likely be amended based on public feedback, I don’t like that short of a time frame.

Is that enough time to heal the rifts between the adults involved in education?  Is that enough time for us to decide, as a state, what is best for students?  No.  I don’t like the idea that we are rushing to get a basic plan done, with public comment to possibly tweak that plan, and then again after the end of the year.  I would much rather see something more solid in the beginning and build from there.  I want a foundation that is grounded in fixing the already existing problems with a definitive action plan and a path forward to fix them.  While some may see ESSA as a grand opportunity to get things right, are we rushing to get certain plans that are representative of the more powerful at the expense of the majority?  I believe we are.  Delaware needs more time.  With the vast amounts of money we spend on education, I would think there could and should be a way to get more voices involved.

When many education bills are submitted in the General Assembly, they are symptomatic of larger things that are broken.  If we don’t fix those bigger things, the small solutions don’t always work.  So, I guess, I’m putting this out there for the Delaware DOE, Secretary Godowsky, and the Governor to think about.  What is the harm in waiting another four months to put forth our ESSA plan?  Yes, it’s another year students may not have something.  And many of those things they need now.  But if we squander a gift of time and having true collaboration, at a state-wide level, to get things right, then all the plans in the world won’t help.  It would also give the General Assembly more of a sense of what this will cost over the five and a half months they are in session.  By submitting the plans by the end of March, it will force the General Assembly to most likely scramble to introduce legislation to make it all fit.  Why not let the General Assembly have until the end of June to do their thing while the rest of us, and I mean ALL of us, do our thing?  I have no doubt the DOE has a very good idea of what they would like to see.  But I don’t think the rest of Delaware feels they have been given enough to do this.  We need more time.

This isn’t a rant against the DOE.  It is a heartfelt plea to all involved in education to use the time we could have.  We need to come together, for the kids.