Mark Murphy Spews Sour Grapes About His Time As Delaware Secretary of Education

Do you want some cheese with that wine Mark Murphy?  That is the thrust of an online article from The Job in which Mark Murphy laments his time as the Delaware Secretary of Education.  Murphy gets it wrong on so many levels it isn’t even funny.

Frankly, kids’ interests and adults’ interests don’t always align. Kids have no power, no say, no decision-making authority, no money — so nobody has a real reason to listen to kids. Go shadow a high-school kid for a day — good luck staying awake. You have to walk from class to class, with four minutes between each bell. You have to raise your hand to go to the bathroom. It is so disempowering and so boring.

Yes, he did use the word boring.  Because we are desperately clamoring for high school students to do whatever they want in school.  I’m terribly sorry Murphy had to exercise so much while shadowing a high school kid.  He did always seem fit.  Perhaps that is why.  Let’s be very clear on something.  Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are.  They are going through puberty.  I’m not saying their voice isn’t important, but adults often need to be the ones to make decisions for students.  It isn’t because they are on a power trip, it is because they went through their teenage years and entered adulthood (well, most of them did).  They went through it and came out on the other side and know what works and what doesn’t.  But then a bunch of billionaires got together and decided they knew what was best for education.  They used students and parents in their quest to get rid of teacher unions.  That is whose side you were always on.

What would happen is, I would feel like I had reached an agreement with the union leadership, but then they came back a month or two later and that wasn’t how their membership felt. I should have spent more time meeting with local leadership. In hindsight, I would have done that differently.

Yes Mark, you should have.  It sounds to me like the union leadership wasn’t also aware of what was happening at the ground level either or perhaps they were just placating you.  The union leadership should reach out to their membership before making agreements on their behalf.  If that is how it went down.

Each time you try to turn around a school, or you open or close a charter school, or disagree with the union, you punch another hole in the bucket and you start to drain out. You lose some political capital. Eventually, you’re out of water.

Mark, you became the Delaware Secretary of Education at the worst possible time in Delaware.  Post Race to the Top and knee-deep in Markell’s very bad education policies.  We are seeing a lot of those policies reversed throughout the country.  Being a leader is allowing yourself to stand up to the criticism and not letting it get to you.  If you ran out of water that’s because you kept listening to the same people over and over again and were not willing to hear what was happening at the grass-roots level.

If every kid had access to a middle-class lifestyle, the country would be a much better place, and people wouldn’t be so angry about all the immigrants.

The two don’t really intersect Mark.  I know the goal is for every kid to be the same, but good luck with that.  The bad education policies you pushed on Delaware at the behest of your education totalitarian boss, Jack Markell, failed because they did not look at the individual, only the collective.  Not sure where your immigration comment comes in.

I am really nervous that really great people are going to stop being willing to pursue public office because you get publicly and professionally assassinated in these jobs.

Does this mean you see yourself as “really great people” Mark?  Since I became involved in Delaware public education a few years ago, I have seen three Delaware Secretaries of Education: yourself, Dr. Steven Godowsky, and Dr. Susan Bunting.  Both Godowsky and Bunting treated me with respect although we do not always agree on policy.  When you were around, you didn’t give me the time of day.  You treated opt out parents as if they were somehow beneath you and should be squashed like a bug.  You didn’t even mention the Rodel Foundation in this article, but you listened to them far more than any educator, student, or parent.  The priority schools initiative was the death knell of your time as the Delaware Secretary.  The whole thing was a Delaware Dept. of Education public relations nightmare from the onset.  It was shoddily planned and I would have to think you knew that.

If you’re a teacher in one of these schools, the new principal who comes into the school should decide whether you stay or whether you don’t stay. The teachers’ union was quite upset about that.

Of course they would be upset about it because the whole basis for this was standardized test scores.  It failed to address issues such as trauma, special education, segregation, and the individual student.  Who wants some corporate education reform Principal hand-picked by the Delaware DOE to come in and can a ton of teachers over Smarter Balanced scores?  That’s why parents and citizens also objected to this plan.  The biggest failure was your inability to predict the severity of the public backlash for this.  I have to think you felt so empowered at the height of the corporate education reform movement that you felt infallible.  No human being is infallible.

In retrospect Mark, this sounds like sour grapes on your part.  You cast far too much blame on others while failing to address your own failures in your term.  Playing around with the priority schools funding was the final straw.  You can’t make promises and then back away from them.  I’m not sure why you blame the unions for all that is wrong with public education.  I know that is the corporate education reform mantra, but perhaps you should think of your own future and get off the shame and blame bus.

Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman Is Getting Smart!

Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware recently made a Top 50 list for a company called Getting Smart.  The list is like a who’s who of corporate education reformers.  Released on September 28th, the list also includes a “Chiefs Making A Difference” category.  None other than former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy got a nod, along with nine other state chiefs of education.  I guess they didn’t get the memo that Murphy “resigned”.

The list Herdman was in was called “More Relevant Than Ever In K-12”.  He joins other “reformers” such as Andy Rotherham and Sir Michael Barber.  The website also featured a top 50 Advocacy Organizations list of which Rodel made the list.  Other “prominent” companies included Achieve, Aspen Institute (of which Herdman is a “fellow”), Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Trust, Fordham Institute, New America Foundation, and numerous other companies.  I wonder how many of the CEO’s of these companies get over $343,000 a year for destroying public education like our very own Doc Herdman?

Getting Smart is some type of education technology company that is obviously in bed with all the destroyers reformers of public education.  It would stand to reason Herdman would make this list the way he pimps “personalized learning” and “blended learning”.  Can anyone tell me the difference between the two?  I swear, every day these companies come crawling out of the woodwork…

Why Doesn’t The Delaware State Board of Education & The Secretary of Education Approve Minor Modifications?

The Delaware DOE must love charter school minor modifications.  An approved charter school can request a one-year delay or even choose an alternative educator evaluation system with a minor modification request.  But why doesn’t the State Board of Education have any say with minor modifications?  They used to.  This was changed with Regulation 497, which went into effect on November 1st, 2013.  Prior to that, both the Secretary and the State Board had approval authority.  The Secretary would make their decision and then submit it to the State Board for concurrence:

Decisions for minor modifications to a charter may be decided by the Secretary[, with the

concurrence of the State Board of Education,] within 30 working days from the date the

application was filed, unless the timeline is waived by mutual agreement of the Secretary and the

applicant, or in any case where the Secretary, in the sole discretion of the Secretary, deems that it

would be beneficial to either refer the matter to the Accountability Committee or to seek advice

from the State Board prior to deciding the matter.

Regulation 497 did away with this.  It allowed Mark Murphy, in one of his final acts, to approve many charter schools for an alternate teacher evaluation.  It also allowed charter schools that were approved to get a one-year delay in opening to get a stay of formal review by Mark Murphy.  The Delaware Met used this “get of jail free card” in April 2014 because they didn’t have sufficient enrollment to open by August, 2014.  The Secretary is one person.  One person should not be deciding “minor” decisions which can have a huge impact on students and staff at a school.  I think the 148th General Assembly needs to clearly definite what is considered a major and minor modification for a charter during their next legislative session.  And they should also realign this so the State Board of Education also has to approve both a major AND minor modification.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything Comes Full Circle…

I’ve always had this dream of a huge debate with Markell, Murphy and Herdman on one side, and John Young, Mike Matthews and Diane Ravitch on the other.  That will never happen, but it could have…

From: YOUNG JOHN <JOHN.YOUNG@christina.k12.de.us>
To: Murphy Mark <Mark.Murphy@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Thursday, October 1, 2015 12:00 AM
Subject: Re: Welcome aboard

Secretary Murphy,

Sorry it didn’t work out like we both wanted. Good luck in the future.

John


From: Murphy Mark
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 9:35 PM
To: YOUNG JOHN
Subject: RE: Welcome aboard

Hello John,
I just learned that the staff already set up my state email… and I log on to find a few messages.  I was pleasantly surprised to see and read your note.  Thanks for the supportive words.  I am eager to start, and to work with all around the state who value the quality of the education our children receive. 
Yes, I have read and listened to many of your critiques.  And often, I believe that I understand them (there are those who say we share some ideas and orientations).  Certainly, I may not always agree with your ideas, tone, or the strategy you use.  But, I also believe that people – like you – who invest huge amounts of their time reading, learning, thinking, and contributing are people who approach our educational challenges with the goal of making a positive impact.  So I assume positive intentions.
I hope we have the opportunity to meet sometime soon.
All the best,
Mark

From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Thu 5/10/2012 7:37 PM
To: Murphy Mark
Subject: Welcome aboard

Mr. Murphy, 

 
Welcome to your new role. You may be aware, I am one of the fiercest critics of DE policy. Sometimes this leads people to believe I am against them, personally. This is not the case, ever. Should you ever be interested in how or why I am reacting to policy, feel free to call or e-mail, anytime. I am open to return criticism and challenge since I am willing to offer it into the public arena, I have to take it too. My criticisms are specifically and almost always based on the efficacious aspect of policy, followed closely by sustainability.
 
I wish you the best of luck and success in your new and critical job, for our kids: the thing we have most in common.
 
Sincerely,

John M. Young
Member – Christina School Board

Mark Murphy Is No Longer The Delaware Secretary Of Education

And that’s all I have to say about that!

Update On Freire Getting Their Own Teacher Evaluation System

I reached out to Alison May at the Delaware Department of Education about Freire getting their own teacher evaluation system and I was informed this will be announced at the September 17th State Board of Education meeting.  Apparently, Freire Charter School of Wilmington jumped the gun a bit in announcing this at their July board meeting.

As May explained to me, if a charter school request this, it is considered a minor modification which means it does not need State Board of Education assent, just Secretary of Education approval.  It first goes through the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit (TLEU) at the DOE, and then to the Secretary.  The TLEU approved it in July, which was announced as an approval at their board meeting, but Secretary Murphy had not approved it at that point.  He has since, and this is what will be announced at the meeting next week.

I am curious though, with all the emphasis the DOE puts on teacher effectiveness, why this would only be considered a minor modification.  Something that big SHOULD have State Board approval as well.  What do you think?  Not that the unelected State Board ever differs from a Secretary suggestion!

Who Is Dr. Steven Godowsky?

Dr. Steven Gadowsky
Dr. Steven Godowsky

It was announced today in every single Delaware media outlet that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is “stepping down” and Dr. Steven Godowsky, the former Superintendent of the New Castle County V0cational Technical School District, will fill the role on an interim basis pending a special hearing with the Delaware Senate to accept Governor Markell’s nomination on October 20th.  Who is he?

According to his LinkedIn account and his biography with the University of Delaware, this would not be his first rodeo with the Department of Education.  He served as a Supervisor there from 1977-1982 after serving a short stint in the former Alfred I. DuPont school district as a special education teacher.  He ran the Exceptional Children/Special Education division before becoming returning to teaching at New Castle County Vo-Tech.  In 2000, he was appointed Assistant Superintendent and three years later he became the Superintendent, a role he served faithfully for the next eight years.  Upon retiring in 2011, Dr. Godowsky served as a Supervisor the University of Delaware’s Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL).

I ran across him for the first time from the DOE’s Charter School Accountability Committee final report for Gateway Lab School’s charter renewal last fall.  He helped the school to overcome the odds when their charter was renewed last December after the CSAC recommended their charter not be renewed.  He also assisted the Pencader Business School Board of Directors in board governance training at the former charter school in 2012.

As a former Superintendent of the Year in Delaware, Godowsky also served as President of the Delaware Chief School Officers Administration (now called DASA) in 2008.

It sounds like Godowsky has decades of experience with Delaware education, and I am particularly impressed he has a very rich background in special education and is willing to fight for students with disabilities, as evidenced by his work with Gateway.

New Castle County Vo-Tech Education Associate Danny Rufo tweeted the following statement earlier today:

While some may lament his time with the Vision 2015 workshop, and their ties to Rodel, let’s be honest and face facts.  Most of the higher-ups in Delaware school districts and charters have spent some sort of time on one of these committees.  It does not mean they are “bought and paid for” by Rodel, especially in the pre-Race To The Top years.

I definitely think he is much higher up the education ladder in experience compared to Mark Murphy.  It has become more than obvious what we don’t need in a Secretary of Education, so this is a step in the right direction.  Nothing against Dr. Godowsky, but I really hope the Delaware Senate asks him many questions in regards to the future of Delaware education.  When Mark Murphy passed the nomination, the questions from the Senate were very limited in scope.  We must not make the same mistake again.  I feel confident, based on his vast experience as well as ringing endorsements from several Delaware legislators, he could be the right man for the job!