Mike Matthews’ First Day As DSEA President

Mike Matthews became the next President of the Delaware State Education Association today.  Taking over from outgoing President, Frederika Jenner, Matthews will undoubtedly generate news over the next few years.  After an actual tie in the election last January, Matthews won in a run-off election two months later.

With the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act in our schools, more personalized learning/competency-based education crap, the usual teacher evaluation based on Smarter Balanced, and all the budgetary/legislative stuff going on, look for Matthews to have his hands full the next few years.  Today, he sent out a letter to Delaware DSEA educators:

A Message from DSEA President Mike Matthews


Dear Fellow Educator:

Today I begin a new journey as DSEA President. Throughout my career as an educator, DSEA has been the strongest voice to ensure our members and students have what they need to succeed. I look forward to continuing this strong tradition of advocacy, but will need your help to be successful. Stay informed by reading our e-newsletters Professionally Speaking, which covers all manner of education policy news, as well as Legislative Matters, which provides comprehensive coverage of the legislative developments impacting public education and educators.  Also, DSEA maintains active social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and publishes an all-member newspaper, ACTION, on a quarterly basis.  These are just a few of the many ways in which you can stay informed and continue to advocate for your students.


Over the next few years, working with our network of strong local leaders, I hope you will share your stories with me about what’s going on in your school. Share with me the good… Share with me the not-so-good.  I intend for open and honest communication to be an important piece of my time as DSEA President.  To that end, please feel free to contact me to share those stories.  My email is Mike.Matthews@dsea.org.


Together, our unified, collective voice can speak up on behalf of our colleagues and the students we advocate for every day. I hope you are enjoying your summer and I look forward to working with you in the near future. Thank you for all that you do.

In Solidarity,
Mike

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The Mind of Mr. Matthews Makes Way For President Matthews

Mike Matthews doesn’t have to teach for the next three school years!  Instead, he will be taking over from Frederika Jenner as the President of the Delaware State Education Association beginning July 15th.  Today, Mike got his final evaluation before he takes off to Water St. in Dover.  He reflected on this evaluation and much more in his Facebook status earlier this afternoon.  I’m going to say right now, I expect a lot out of Mike the next three years.  My expectations are very high.  Are we going to agree on everything?  Hell no.  I expect we will have our fair share of disagreements.  I also want to wish the very best to the outgoing President, Frederika Jenner.  I never really had the opportunity to get to know Frederika, and I will regret that.  I was very tough on her a couple of years ago, and once again, I apologize to Frederika for that.  But back to President Matthews…

I finish my year at Cooke Elementary with a totally different worldview. I had an excellent Component V conference with my administrator this morning. Now, that’s not to say I’m a fan of Component V. I’m still 100% absolutely against using standardized test scores of students on an educator’s evaluation.

The meeting was productive because it laid bare and confirmed my thoughts over the last few years. Whereas students at my other schools often showed lower proficiency, but high percentages of growth, my students at Cooke showed amazingly high proficiency at the beginning of the year, but some of the Smarter Balanced growth goals set by the state were so high, that a handful of my students didn’t meet them. Consequently, I was one student away from getting an “Exceeds” rating on my Measure A Component V.

It’s a different world at Cooke, with different challenges and successes from what I experienced at Warner and Richardson Park. But my resolve remains: I feel that our educators should not be judged based on a system that has never been shown to be a valid or reliable measure of teacher effectiveness.

I’ll miss being in the classroom next year, but will certainly be fighting like hell with the awesome DSEA team and educators and professionals throughout the state to lobby and advocate for a teacher and specialist evaluation system that respects the work they do.

Breaking News: Mike Matthews Is The New DSEA President

Mike Matthews just put the following post out on Facebook.  Congrats to Mike for his victory.  This was a long and hard fight, but he finally did it.  Look for a different kind of DSEA in the future!

An email has just been sent to all DSEA members. Results were shared this morning and I won the run off election for DSEA president. I’m thrilled and so happy for this. Thank you to all my supporters and thank you to my three opponents, Karen Crouse, Dom Zaffora, and Danny Rufo, who ran really great, issues-based campaigns.

Biggest thank you to my best friend and always-running mate Jackie Kook. This win is bittersweet for me, but I know she will always be there to support me and this organization.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone, and I hope that you have a great weekend.

My Take On The Bizarre DSEA Election Results. Did Two Wrongs Make A Right?

In the shot heard round Delaware teachers email yesterday around 4:00pm, the Delaware State Education Association election results came in for President and Vice-President.  Shock followed shock.  Mike Matthews and Karen Crouse tied for President at 862 votes each.  Stephanie Ingram (not Ingraham) won the Vice-President position.  Some (including myself) are crying foul.  Matthews and Kook ran as a ticket as did Crouse and Ingram.  Logic would dictate that Matthews and Kook’s votes would align more with Matthew’s total.  But this was NOT the case.  Ingram won with 400 something votes while Kook had 300 plus.

First off, with 12,000 teachers in Delaware, why did only 2,100+ vote in this election?  That is my biggest concern.  Second, how the actual hell do you get a tie?  Off the record, I have heard DSEA did not want the powerhouse of Matthews/Kook ruling the teacher union halls in Delaware.  Did things happen?  Of that I am certain.  When an obvious fake Facebook account with the not-so-genius name of Sam Muskrat showed up at the same time as the election went into full swing, I paid very close attention to the writing style of the you really aren’t fooling anyone Mr. Muskrat.  I’ve seen that style before.  With another anonymous commenter somewhere else.  I won’t out the person, but I can promise you it is NOT Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware.  That guy is probably sucking down some Shirley Temple’s in his batcave.

The next big question surrounds the ballots.  There were mentions on social media of teacher’s getting the ballots in their spam folders.  While the plausibility of that is suspect if it was coming from DSEA (do all DSEA emails go to spam?).  If it was an outside company, such as Intelliscan, based out of Phoenixville, PA, I could somehow see that.  Some teachers reported not receiving any ballots.  Some did not know who was running, or actually know some of  the people running (to them I would say “Hello!  This is the future of your teaching profession calling, wake up!”).

I’ve heard that campaign literature was suspect in certain situations.  While there is nothing against the DSEA rules about the President endorsing a candidate, Frederika Jenner made it transparently obvious who she wanted.  And that person wound up tying and is not a man.  And her VP choice won as well.  Crouse would not have won if it weren’t for Kent County.  Which I find ironic considering her popularity in certain places.  I don’t mean to bash her.  I’m sure she is a fine person.  But there is something VERY shady with this election.  I’m sure the current DSEA crew will get offended I posted this.  First off, too bad.  Second, you can sit there and say it isn’t my business but I choose to make it my business and you can’t stop me.  We live in a country where Donald Trump is President so I think any rules went out the window last November!

So what happens next?  Some more ballots could come trickling in by Monday (since it is soooooo possible for something postmarked 1/23/17 or earlier to take a week to get to Dover in our huge state).  There could be a run-off election if it remains a tie, in which case Presidential candidates Danny Rufo and Dom Zaffora’s votes would go to either Matthews or Crouse.  Or another option could be the tie remains and the Executive Board at DSEA would vote on a winner.  Which would, in all likelihood, be Crouse.  Since these election results are not part of an official state or county election, DSEA is under no obligation to release the full results to the public.  A teacher’s union is a private organization.  If I were Matthews or Kook, I would be issuing a challenge right away.  Something doesn’t smell right.  I could, of course, be wrong.  But I would err on the side of caution in just blindly accepting these results.

While this potential mystery starts to get some heat, feast on the famous Samuel Muskrat posts, from an anonymous person whose Facebook account was created the VERY same day Matthews and Kook had a live Facebook feed answering questions.  And disappeared the next day.

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Yes, I am the Kevin this Samuel Muskrat is referring to.  This kind of makes it my business now!  I will fully admit I am not the most popular person in the executive offices of DSEA.  Once upon a time the stars were in alignment around the time I wrote a huge article on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, but I burned that bridge with them during the whole House Bill 50 veto override fiasco when I called out DSEA (very strongly I might add) with a twinge of regret.  I don’t regret calling them out on their non-support of the override but rather how I did it.  I apologized, but while some accepted that apology, some were less than cordial with me.  In fact, one of them decided to viciously attack me many times somewhere else.  That person knew I knew that when I commented on the above Facebook comment bringing me into it.  I dropped a couple of words in my comment which vanished as soon as it appeared.  Muskrat knew I had them and ran for the hills.  Muskrat seemed to know a lot of things about Mr. Matthews.  Things your average teacher would not know unless they were really involved with DSEA.  But the tone and attitude, and especially the reference to me, shows a personal beef.  Trolling is one thing.  Going on  Facebook during a candidate forum and disguising yourself when they are potentially a staff member of DSEA is another thing entirely.  Like I said yesterday, shenanigans with this election.

Both Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook are well-known in Delaware as teachers who will really fight for their causes.  This doesn’t mean they won’t sit down with you, but it also doesn’t mean they will swallow the Kool-Aid which happened so many times in teacher matters involving the Delaware Dept. of Education, the General Assembly, and yes, even DSEA.  Most recently, Kook ruffled feathers with the teacher evaluation bill last Spring.  It wound up getting Senator Sokola amendments attached to it.  A large part of that was the insertion into the process of former DOE employee Atnre Alleyne, now promoting his role as Executive Director of DelawareCAN which is an offshoot of the corporate education reform company 50CAN.  Another big part was a letter from the DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chair Dr. Susan Bunting.  Bunting was confirmed by the Delaware Senate three days ago as the new Delaware Secretary of Education.  But neither of them are Sam Muskrat.  In Delaware, if you aren’t calling out legislators here and there, than democracy really isn’t taking place.  And some really shouldn’t throw stones like that because the hypocrisy involved is astounding!  But I guess many wrongs make a right?

Only One More Day To Vote In DSEA Election For President and Vice-President

The voting for the Delaware State Education Association leadership officially ends tomorrow, January 23rd.  All ballots must be in as per the DSEA election website.  Initial results will be shared with the Executive Director and Business Manager of DSEA on Thursday, and preliminary results will be announced on January 27th.  If there is a challenge based on the preliminary results, that would have to be in by February 3rd.  At the DSEA Executive Board meeting on February 16th, the results will be officially ratified.

There are four races for the President slot and two for the Vice-President.  For President, there is Karen Crouse, Mike Matthews, Danny Rufo, and Dom Zaffora.  For Vice-President, there is Jackie Kook and Stephanie Ingraham.  Two are running on a “ticket” per se, but that ticket could be divided pending the results.  Those “tickets” are Matthews/Kook and Crouse/Ingraham.

What is at stake with this election?  The teacher’s union in Delaware would have a lot to contend with in the coming years.  The three-year terms would usher in the new Every Student Succeeds Act in Delaware along with mounting budget issues that will almost assuredly result in education cuts along the way.  Add on the new Carney administration and a promise from Governor John Carney to make the Delaware Department of Education less of an accountability factory and more of a resource center for districts and charters.  However, much of that will depend on the final approved ESSA state plan.  Even though ESSA was meant to eliminate a lot of the federal oversight, accountability regulations won’t change things that much.  And if history is an indicator, the Delaware DOE loves accountability.  The role of teacher evaluations will always be a major issue with DSEA.  Other potential factors affecting them, depending on the state budget, could be the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan or the possibility of consolidating districts around the state becoming more than a discussion point.

Vote Mike Matthews & Jackie Kook For President And Vice-President Of DSEA

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I hereby endorse Mike Matthews as President for the Delaware State Education Association.

I hereby endorse Jackie Kook as Vice-President for the Delaware State Education Association.

I’m not a teacher.  Just a parent.  But I have been very aware of DSEA the past few years and their role in education.  To say that relationship has been frosty at times would be an understatement.  I do not always agree with DSEA on issues.  But when I heard Mike and Jackie were running a joint ticket for DSEA leadership, I immediately rooted for them.  And then Danny Rufo announced his candidacy as President.  So I was torn for a long time.  I’ve known all three of these educators since shortly after I started blogging in 2014.  Danny is awesome.  But Mike and Jackie bring many battle scars to these roles.  Battles fought at the Delaware DOE and Legislative Hall.  Fought in front of cameras as they loudly advocated for teacher, student, and parent rights.  To me, they are more of a voice for teachers than the current leadership at DSEA.  They know the players and they know who to watch out for.

I get that these leadership roles change people.  You can’t just say whatever you want.  I don’t know Frederika Jenner very well at all.  But I do know Mike and Jackie.  I know Danny.  Crouse and Ingraham, endorsed by Jenner, just seem to be missing something.  I can’t pinpoint it.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have never seen them before.  Maybe it’s because when I asked three of the candidates their thoughts about student data privacy, the Matthews/Kook team and Rufo genuinely and thoughtfully answered.  Crouse and Ingraham gave some robotic Facebook response.  When I asked for more, they endorsed not getting into Facebook “battles” and having off-line conversations.  Sorry, Delaware has suffered immensely from those kind of talks.  The fourth candidate, Dom, I couldn’t pick out of a line-up.  No offense Dom!

What the package of Mike and Jackie could bring to Delaware education is a dream team beyond compare.  They know the issues.  They have great ideas on how to address those issues.  I’ve heard some say they are worried about Mike’s ability to “go along to get along”.  I firmly believe Mike will bring his A-game to the role and not put aside the issues he has fought for much longer than I have.  If there were a way to have co-Presidents AND a vice-president, I would say throw Rufo on that triumvirate!  But with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and some crazy stuff coming up in education, Delaware’s largest teacher association needs people who will look at every angle.  Who aren’t afraid to go outside of the box for help.  Who will fight not just for teachers, but also what our students need.  The symbiotic relationship between teacher and student is a relationship like no other.  Teachers have had it rough.  But I think because of that fight, many in DSEA leadership have capitulated towards those in favor of corporate education reform to the detriment of that symbiotic relationship.

Between vouchers, personalized learning in a digital environment (which is the gravest threat to teachers in my opinion), and more charter school enrollment going up, the teacher unions have never been more vulnerable than they are right now.  They need a very strong shield, and Mike and Jackie are it!  So I urge every single member of DSEA to vote for Mike and Jackie on January 9th.  Don’t wait, vote that day.  Some will say a non-DSEA person should mind their own business and not get involved.  Too bad.  Freedom of the press baby!  Don’t like it?  Too bad.  At least I’m not making fake Facebook accounts trying to start trouble.  I will leave that right there.

Some will say I am only endorsing Mike and Jackie because I’m friends with them.  I’m friends with Danny too.  And do you want to know what drew me to all three of them in the first place?   Education.  If I never started blogging I wouldn’t know the first thing about any of this.  But this is the world I live in.

Sokola Ebola Vs. Right To Work: Which Is The Bigger Danger To Education?

Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola.  You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got.  In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola.  He has been the chair of this committee for decades.  This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education.  But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign.  I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well.  I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.

Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense.  One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.

Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is.  Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits.  This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here.  Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware.  Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA.  Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.

Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!

DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.

But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.

The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.

DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.

And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.

So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.

DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.

I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year).  Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state?  We just don’t know.  I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place.  Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up.  That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies.  Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example.  But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization.  If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that.  The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years.  Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA.  Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years.  Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states.  A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney.  Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up?  I highly doubt it.  Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.

While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit.  Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions.  But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware.  He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession.  And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.

I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform.  He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers.  He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money.  But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole.  It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day.  At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools.  The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly.  That is what Sokola represents.  He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him.  If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing.  But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.

In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go.  By any means necessary.  I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District.  Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception.  He is that bad.  Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him?  I would go with the latter.  But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot.  That time is now.  We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education.  This is a guy who lied in a debate last week.  How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him?  That is how desperate he has become.  For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator.  He is scared.  In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect.  But it stops there.  In politics, you reap what you sow.  And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.

As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue.  To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights.  As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware.  When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools.  When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts.  When special education took a back-seat to standards.  When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days.  When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change.  Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation.  And it worked.  DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges.  I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill.  One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.

Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education.  Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids.  The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it.  I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point.  Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership.  I get that.  Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans.  But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem.  Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen.  That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.

As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out.  When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office.  While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge.  Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out?  We will never know.  But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week.  We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches.  This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017.  And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that.  Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC.  But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours.  Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.

As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible.  As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware.  I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids.  Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola.  He must go.  I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger.  But it is not something that would automatically come to pass.  We have years and years of watching Sokola operate.  I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate.  Nor am I doing that for any election this year.  But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election.  I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power.  I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola.  There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.

DSEA May Not Be Endorsing Sokola, But They Sure As Hell Are Paying For One Of His Ads… No Thanks To Their Leader…

The Delaware State Education Association did not endorse Delaware Senator David Sokola this year.  They always have in the past.  But that didn’t stop their President, Frederika Jenner, from helping to pay for his online ads…

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So who is Delawareans First PAC?

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Yup, this is the same Frederika Jenner.  The President of DSEA.  The same organization Sokola took an axe to with House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill.  The same Frederika Jenner that sits on the Rodel-inspired (and funded) Vision Coalition.  I’m sure she will be ticked at me over this but I truly don’t care.  She will be out in January.  Hopefully we will have new and better leadership that won’t surrender Delaware educators to the Rodel time-bomb that is just ticking away until it fully blows up Delaware public education in favor of Charterville.  But that’s right, she just wants to sit at the table with them.  But that’s okay.  Let’s help fund the campaign of the one Delaware legislator who should NOT be re-elected under any circumstances…

Picture Of The Week: What Seems Out Of Place?

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For the full story behind this picture, please click here. Thank you to State Rep Earl Jaques for getting this picture up!

Governor Markell Signs Teacher Evaluation Bill With No Press Release Or Media Mention

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Yesterday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 399, a teacher evaluation bill that began its journey with great intentions and wound up a victim to horrible amendments put on the bill by Senator David Sokola.  There was no announcement of the bill signing to the press.  It was not on the Governor’s public schedule  There has been no press announcement or even a mention of this bill signing anywhere on the internet.  Until now.

In attendance were Governor Markell, State Rep. Earl Jaques (the primary sponsor of the bill), Senator Bryan Townsend, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, DSEA President Frederika Jenner, one of the co-chairs of the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, Jackie Kook (Christina), Jill League (Red Clay teacher, on the DPAS-II Advisory Committee), Markell Education Policy Advisor Meghan Wallace, and Delaware parent Kevin Ohlandt.

Markell invitied the parties into his conference room and engaged in a conversation about the bill.  As he looked around and commented how it was an interesting group in attendance, Markell thanked Jaques for all his hard work on the bill.  Markell and Jaques talked about how they had many conversations about this bill.  He then went around the table and asked for folks thoughts on the bill.  Many were supportive of the bill.  One person, the parent, said he felt it was a great bill until Senator Sokola put his amendment on it.

Secretary Godowsky said two charter schools were picked for the pilot program coming out of the bill, which would allow for a teacher and an administrator to choose which test to use for Part A of Component V (with the administrator having final say), all components would be equally weighted, and student and parent surveys.  Sokola’s amendment added the administrator always having final say, the student and teacher surveys, and the pilot of three schools.  The two charter schools invited by the Delaware DOE were Providence Creek Academy and Odyssey Charter School.  Oddly enough, Providence Creek announced in a board meeting on June 21st, eight days before the Senate Education Committee and nine days before Sokola put his amendment on the bill on June 30th, that they were picked for a DPAS study by the Delaware DOE.  Governor Markell expressed an interest in having districts participate in the pilot program.  Secretary Godowsky said he thought Appoquinimink was on board but they opted out.  Markell stated he may want to see Christina or Red Clay participate.  Jenner said she would put out some feelers.

Markell was very cordial with the audience.  He asked the teachers how their school year was going and how the schools they worked at were.  He reflected on a program at Kirk Middle School from many years ago called “I Am Kirk” which was an anti-bullying program.

The time came for the bill signing, and everyone in attendance stood besides Markell as many pictures were taken by Markell staffers, James Dawson with Delaware Public Media, and even State Rep. Earl Jaques wanted a picture of the event.  When Markell was signing the bill, the parent noticed he wrote each letter with a different pen until he reached the second letter of his last name which he finished signing with the same pen.  Afterwards, he gave each participant one of the pens he signed the bill with, as seen in the above picture.  He shook hands with everyone as the crowd drifted off, with the exception of Senator Townsend who stayed.

Yes, my first bill signing.  I was very happy for the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee when this legislation was first announced.  It was finally an end to the very harmful effect of standardized testing on teacher evaluations.  It opened a door for more medicine on the corporate education reform wounds inflicted on Delaware education.  But one ex-DOE employee (who worked in the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit there) was able to influence one advocacy group from Wilmington to intervene.  Then throw in Senator Sokola into the mix, and the amendment hijacked a great bill.  I firmly believe having student and parent surveys as a part of a teacher’s evaluation is very dangerous.  I am not sure why the DOE contacted schools to participate in this pilot program before Sokola even introduced the amendment (much less having the Senate approve the amendment).  That isn’t the first time they have done something like that, way before something else had to be done first.

I do think it is good the pilot program could morph into a permanent thing.  With Component V not always needing the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and giving the actual professionals: the teacher and the administrator the ability to collaborate and talk about a teacher’s choice is a good idea.  As well as the equal weighting of each component.  The DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee worked very hard for many months and they deserve major kudos for that.  The disrespect for teachers that stand up for their rights is alarming.  It is very disturbing that the Governor would not honor this bill the same as other bills he signs by making a pre-announcement of his signing and inviting any teacher who wanted to attend.  But to make it worse, by not even acknowledging he signed this bill shows something I don’t want to say right now but the words are in my head.  The disrespect for teachers that stand up for their rights is alarming.

As I eagerly awaited a picture or some type of announcement of the signing, from the Governor, Delaware Public Media, DSEA, Senator Townsend, or Rep. Jaques, with nary a paragraph or photo in sight, I was stuck with a Bic pen signed by Jack Markell.

You Go Frederika!

I have not always agreed with Frederika Jenner, the President of the Delaware State Education Association.  But on this, we solidly agree!  Frederika submitted a very awesome public comment on the proposed regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Thank you for calling out the Delaware Department of Education for pretending this law doesn’t change anything.  It does, and the more people that become aware of this, the more we can expect true change in public education!  Please click on the picture to enlarge!

FrederikaESSAPublicCommentESSARegulations

 

Mike Matthews & Frederika Jenner Get The Spotlight In Vision Coalition Video

Mike Matthews, the President of the Red Clay Education Association, and Frederika Jenner, the President of the Delaware State Education Association, were both featured prominently in a video of the Vision Coalition’s recent coffee meeting. Watch the video below!

Interesting House Education Committee Meeting Today With Wellness Centers And University of Delaware

The Delaware House Education Committee held their first meeting today after the long Joint Finance Committee break.  On the agenda was one bill, House Bill 234, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams.  As well, the University of Delaware gave a presentation on their overall enrollment trends.

House Bill 234 concerns wellness centers in three traditional school district high schools: Appoquinimink High School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Conrad Schools of Science.  These three are the last remaining high schools in the state (not including charters) which have no wellness center.  A wellness center is not just a school nurse.  They also provide counseling services as well.  The bill was unanimously released from committee.  Several folks gave public comment in support of the bill: Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, President of DSEA Frederika Jenner, and a representative from Red Clay.  Rep. Williams read a letter she received from a high school student.  The young man was going through a depression and he credited the wellness center at his high school for getting him through this very troubled time.

There was some debate about which schools would get a wellness center first if the bill passes.  Rep. Williams felt it should be the oldest school first, but State Rep. Charles Potter felt it should be needs-based.  Rep. Williams indicated the JFC would determine this in the budget as the bill calls for each of the schools receiving the wellness centers at one per year for the next three fiscal years.

Dr. Nancy Targett, the Acting President of the University of Delaware gave a long presentation on enrollment trends and a general overview of the university.  She showed many slides about minority enrollment, retention rates, and graduation rates.  Afterwards, during a question and answer with the members of the House Education Committee, things got a bit more tense.  State Rep. Charles Potter was very concerned about minorities being placed in the Associate program at the University of Delaware.  This program is for students who need more help when they enter college.  When asked about what may be holding these students back by Rep. Williams, Dr. Targett was unable to give a clear answer but did promise the committee she would get more information.  Many civil rights advocates feel the University of Delaware under-enrolls African-Americans.  Dr. Targett did say this is her number one priority and many universities across the country are dealing with these issues.

Dr. Targett felt the recent announcement about the pilot program concerning SAT scores not counting towards admission credentials could allow for more minorities to be accepted at University of Delaware.  She said the University understands not all students do well on tests like that and a student could just have a bad day.  They want to focus more on students’ actual Grade Point Average and other activities.

After the meeting adjourned, I asked Dr. Targett about an omission in her presentation: students with disabilities.  She said she didn’t know the numbers offhand but gave me her email address so she can find out.  Which I will certainly take her up on!

DSEA Supports Opt-Out! All DSEA Members Need To Support The Override Of Markell’s Veto!

I strongly implore DSEA to issue a press release giving their full support for the override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.

Last April, the Delaware State Education Association issued a press release with their very strong stance against the way Delaware was using standardized testing.  They also gave their full support for a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized testing.

 

Who Is On The Assessment Inventory Committee?

I reached out to Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques to see who is on the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  I received his response yesterday.  This is a very interesting list with a name I never saw before, but I was very familiar with the last name.  We shall see what comes out of this committee.  My guess: a massive reduction in district assessments which will lead to more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  As well, official legislation getting rid of the Smarter Balanced for high school juniors since the SAT is going to become SBAC Jr. (my nickname for it).

Here are the members of the SJR #2 Assessment Inventory Committee:

Delaware Senator David Sokola

Delaware Senator Nicole Poore

Delaware Senator Ernie Lopez

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews

Delaware State Rep. Timothy Dukes

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques

Delaware State Education Association President Frederika Jenner

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt (filling the role of President of Chief School Officer’s Association)

Raina Allen (filling the role of “A representative of the civil rights’ community picked by the Governor”)

Equetta Jones (filling the role of “Parent picked by the Governor”, also a teacher in Red Clay Consolidated School District)

This is an interesting group.  With the legislators, it is right down the middle with who voted yes on the opt-out bill, House Bill 50, and  who voted no.  The “yeas” were Senators Poore and Lopez and State Rep.  Matthews.  The “nays” were Senator Sokola and State Reps Jaques and Dukes.  Both Sokola and Jaques are the head of their prospective education committees in the Senate and House.  Jenner is obviously represent the entire DSEA membership.  Gehrt, who also hails from the same district as our current Secretary Godowsky.   I have never personally met Equetta Jones, but I did see her speak at a Red Clay school board meeting last spring and she is very passionate.  The only person I wasn’t familiar with was Raina Allen, but a quick Google search let me know exactly who she was.

Filling roles from the Department of Education are: Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Chief of Staff Shana Young (which will be interesting given what I’m hearing), Tina Shockley, and Susan Haberstroh.  What I don’t see is anyone from the State Board of Education involved, anyone as just a teacher, and only one parent.  This is a very top-heavy group and they will be helping to make crucial decisions about the future of assessment in Delaware.  If this sounds reminiscent of the DOE’s recently defunct Accountability Framework Working Group (but no legislators were on this), where the recommendations of that committee were ignored by Godowsky and the State Board of Education, let’s hope the legislators can keep an eye on what is really important and not make this the usual Jack Markell dog-and-pony show.

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

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

Delaware PTA

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

Bill Doolittle

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

Frederika Jenner

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

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

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

Deborah Stevens

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

Mike Matthews

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

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

Jackie Kook

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

Kevin Ohlandt

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

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

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

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

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko

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

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

Lorrie Gloede

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

DSEA & RCEA President Back An “Alternative” To House Bill 50 & Stab Parents In The Back

At yesterday’s Senate Education Committee meeting, the Delaware State Educators Association and Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Educators Association,  publicly backed Senate Joint Resolution #2, labeled by the Delaware Department of Education as an “alternative” to House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill.  An amendment was added to the resolution yesterday, at the request of DSEA, adding more authority to the General Assembly to make “recommendations” to the State Board of Education when the assessment inventory is due on January 31st, 2016.

For an organization representing thousands of teachers in our state and supposedly backs House Bill 50 and parent opt-out, they sure have a funny way of showing it.  DSEA representative, Kristen Dwyer, told the committee she supports it but did add she doesn’t want this legislation confused with House Bill 50 because they are two different issues.

When asked by Dwyer if the Smarter Balanced Assessment would be included in the discussion of the assessment inventory, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsey O’Mara, said the following:

“Absolutely, yes, all assessments will be the subject of discussion.  We were all invited together to have a discussion about assessments.  Hopefully those discussions will be grounded in the reality of the cycle of state legal requirements around assessments.  But were happy to have any conversation around any assessment that any member of this group would put on the table.”

Dwyer went on to say “clearly Senate Joint Resolution #2 is a positive step in the right direction.”  RCEA President Mike Matthews gave public comment after Senator David Sokola talked about No Child Left Behind and how it should have been called “No Test Left Behind”.

“I had  some concerns when this resolution was first introduced.  I spoke to Kristen earlier today and I’m supporting the bill.  I’d like to see an amendment that the parent be appointed by the PTA and not the Governor’s office.  That would be fair.  And on a personal note, we’re going to do this testing inventory, I think it’s a great thing, public meetings, get everyone’s opinion on board.  The one test, we have a lot of tests in Red Clay, a lot of tests that give immediate feedback, DIBELS, SRI, even to some extent the Measure B’s, the pre and post tests, the one test that gives our teachers, our members absolutely no feedback is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  So I’m hopeful that will be a part of the discussion.  I’m very please the language has been strenghthened surrounding reporting out to the legislature.”

*Amended to add Mike Matthews full public comment*

It is painfully obvious that DSEA and Matthews have fallen into the trap set for them by Governor Markell, the DOE, Senator Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques.  Because this is what is going to happen: The Smarter Balanced Assessment will be discussed in this group.  It will be brought up by someone with legal authority that the Smarter Balanced is the state assessment as required by Federal law.  The report will be completed by January 30th, 2016.  Maybe some legislation will come out of it when the General Assembly gets fully rolling again in February 2016.  It will go through the motions there, which will bring us into April 2016.  Well after the next Smarter Balanced Assessment testing window will begin in March 2016.

Some legislative genius will propose the following in the next 26 days of this legislative session: “If the Smarter Balanced Assessment is up for discussion in this assessment inventory, why do we even need House Bill 50?  Why don’t we have it stricken?”  And they may just do this.  I could see this happening in the next week.  Now that the Governor’s office has given a happy and cheerful “Absolutely” about Smarter Balanced being included in this process, I can definitely see this.  And this is where the trap is revealed.

If House Bill 50 is stricken, or removed from the equation, here is what will happen: we will STILL have Smarter Balanced next year.  Parents will opt-out their children.  And they will still be harassed, bullied and intimidated by our schools.  Teachers will be judged by these tests, whether it is official or not.  Schools will be labeled and shamed.  Students who are opted out won’t be given proper instructional or educational material to work on while their peers are taking the test.  And we are right back to where we were a year ago when the 147th General Assembly passed House Bill 334 allowing the Smarter Balanced to be the state assessment.

Does the DSEA even care about any of this?  They say they support House Bill 50, but their public support has been very limited.  Do they care if they fall into this trap?  I can’t answer that.  But what was even more shocking was Mike Matthews publicly supporting SJR #2.  Out of ALL the teachers in Delaware, he would have been the last one I would ever expect to back this.

If the DSEA showed as much backbone for parents as they do for educators, the system in this state would be a lot different.  But no, they won’t do that.  In fact, they will go to bat for teachers every chance they get and call for their support, like in this email they sent out today:

From: DSEAInfo@DSEA.org
To: dsea-info@list.nea.org
CC: DoverStaff@DSEA.org; NewCastleStaff@DSEA.org; LeadershipTeam@DSEA.org
Subject: DPAS II Proposed Changes – Call to Action
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 2015 13:03:55 +0000

Dear Member,

As you may know, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) has sought to make substantive changes to the DPAS II-R evaluation system every year since 2010, when Component Five was first discussed.   These annual changes have occurred even as the Department’s own survey data shows a precipitous decline in educator support for the system designed to assess educator effectiveness. 

Despite these facts, DDOE is again pushing the State Board of Education to adopt substantive changes to the appraisal cycle and summative rating system.  The potential impact of these changes, coupled with the history of other changes and data showing an overwhelming lack of support for the system, once again paints a troubling picture for the educator evaluation system in Delaware. 

Issues with Changes to the Annual Appraisal Cycle:

DDOE is currently proposing a move to an annual appraisal cycle for all educators.  They contend that this change will provide for “ongoing opportunities for teacher development and student achievement by strengthening and refining the appraisal cycle” and that “new administrative requirements would be offset by the number of required observations and the online platform system.” 

DSEA’s position is that the Department’s response does not truly capture the impact their changes to regulations 106A and 107A would have.  Administrators conducting DPAS II observations have long cited the amount of time required to complete an observation as a key problem with the current system.  This opinion is supported by DDOE’s own Year 6 and Year 7 Annual DPAS II Survey, where administrator respondents specified that “time remains a significant issue.”  Simply put, administrators already have far too many employees assigned to them for observations and they continue to struggle to complete the required number of observations and the accompanying paperwork.   

Furthermore, the number of required observations has remained the same for the past three years.   Last year the Department added the “short observation” (10 minutes in length) as an optional observation type for administrators to use “in addition to” the standard observation, not “in lieu of.”  

Additionally, there is no indication that the online portal system would help offset the added administrative requirements, as the Department states it would.  Theses proposed changes do not improve the system and actually create the potential for educators to be rated solely on the basis of one 30-minute observation and their Component 5 scores.  

Issues with Changes to the Summative Rating System:

DDOE is also proposing to change how the summative ratings for evaluations are calculated and labeled.  The primary change is adjusting the numerical scores and labels attached to Components 1-4, allowing for fractional point totals.  It also further restricts the summative rating of “highly effective” to only those teachers who score “highly effective” or “effective” in Components 1-4 and “exceeds” in Component 5.  The Department chose to submit this proposed amendment knowing that an alternative summative rating system had been proposed by a joint DASA/DSEA DPAS II Work Group. 

The DASA/DSEA Work Group, a collaborative team of principals and educators, shared their alternate proposal with the DPAS II Advisory Committee.  They also recommended that any changes to the ratings be piloted, with full implementation delayed for one year.  The Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed the DASA/DSEA proposal.  Despite those facts, DDOE asked the Advisory Committee to recommend to the State Board the Department’s original proposed changes and stated that the DASA/DSEA proposal could be offered as an alternative evaluation system that school districts use pending DDOE approval. 

DSEA contends that the proposal of the Work Group is less burdensome than the Department’s changes and that it refines and simplifies the current system.  The changes proposed by the Work Group are: (1) Creating uniform rating categories throughout the system for criteria, components, and the overall summative rating; (2) Assigning an equal value of 20% to all components; and (3) Creating a numeric system to determine criteria, component, and summative ratings.  The Work Group continues to advocate for their proposed rating system to be piloted statewide with statewide implementation in school year 2016-17.  

Call to Action!

The State Board of Education will vote upon these proposed changes at their meeting on June 18th. Now, this is where you come in, public comment on the proposed changes will be accepted until June 5th.  So, we are encouraging all of our members to let the State Board of Education know why you oppose the proposed changes by sending in a letter for public comment.  We have attached two form letters that you can read and edit to make your own.  Once completed and personalized, please email or mail your letter to: 

Ms. Tina Shockley

Policy Advisor

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite 2

Dover, DE  19901

tina.shockley@doe.k12.de.us 

To read the proposed changes click here.  To read the letter submitted by DSEA to the State Board of Education stating our issued with these changes, click here

Thank you in advance for voicing your concerns and taking action with us! 

In Solidarity,

Frederika Jenner

Now if this same organization were to write a letter supporting a parent’s right to opt-out, I would be very impressed.  But I have a growing feeling they only care about opt-out as it would relate to teachers and their evaluations.

I have supported teachers and their unions for almost a year now, and backed them time and time again.  But when the parents really need their backing, they scurry away like little mice.

Markell & News Journal Education Article: My Spin On This & The Two Words Not Mentioned By Anyone

The Delaware News Journal had an article about Governor Markell and education as a front-pager today.  Some of the comments certain folks made were very shocking while others had the usual drivel coming from their education reform views.  What nobody talked about was special education in Delaware.  While the DOE reports about 13% of students having IEPs in Delaware, I’m going to say as many as 20% should have an IEP.  So with 1/5th of Delaware students not even being mentioned in an article on Delaware education is insulting.  Even though my estimate of an IEP population of 20% is high, I would definitely say it affects over 50% of education in Delaware.  Read on as I go through this article part by part with some cold hard reality.

After years of pushing education reforms in Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell is facing a revolt in the General Assembly.

You are also facing a revolt from parents and teachers.  We are sick of all of this.  Especially parents of special needs children.  While you think you are helping, you are making it worse for our children.

Lawmakers, including many from his own party, have little faith Markell’s Department of Education knows what everyday educators think is the best way to improve schools. They are skeptical the $119 million federal Race to the Top grant, one of Markell’s signature education achievements, has done any lasting good.

Markell’s signature education achievement was using $59 million to beef up the DOE with high-paid employees and contract after contract with little or no results.  And it keeps going on.  In the month of May, the DOE has put up seven proposals for “professional services” because they don’t know how to do the work themselves.

Legislators are sending a clear message that they need to more actively make policy on behalf of classroom teachers and district leaders, rather than approving a top-down state agenda led by Markell and his education secretary, Mark Murphy.

But there are still some very tricky legislators who still bow to the Emperor.  Unfortunately, they run the education committees for the House and the Senate.  How long until their house of cards crumbles?

“It’s not just the representatives and the senators who are having problems with the way things are going, it’s parents, it’s teachers, it’s people on the local level,” said Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newark. “There are loud voices out there saying, ‘We’re done. We’re tired of being told how to teach and how to run our schools.’ “

Amen Kim!  No one should be afraid to stare Markell dead in the eye and say “You are wrong!”  It is also parents who have less to fear about speaking up.  Those of us who are screaming at the DOE and Markell are not easily intimidated or fooled.

Markell acknowledges he and Murphy are taking heat for some of their proposals.

Now this is the understatement of the year…  You and Murph are taking heat, but it isn’t for some of your proposals.  It’s for about 90% of them.  And the only reason we aren’t tackling the other 10% is because we haven’t found the catch in those yet.

He contends the education system is improving, pointing to a steadily declining dropout rate, a growing number of students taking and passing Advanced Placement and college-level classes, more low-income students in highly-rated preschool programs and more students applying to college.

I’ll give you a sort-of pass on this.  I question the validity of some of these numbers.  What I can say is homeschooling in Delaware has never been higher.  These are mostly special needs children.  What does that say about special education in Delaware when parents reach such a high level of anxiety and don’t feel the public school system in Delaware can provide a Free Appropriate Public Education for their children?  This will go down as your greatest failure.  While you are trying to “improve” the lives of these children, they have been drop-kicked out of the rights they are legally entitled to.  We have so many denied IEPs, schools openly violating IDEA law, and “counseling out” going on in charters, and no one on your staff is addressing these issues.

“It’s no surprise to me that there’s some controversy and angst over some of the things we’ve done,” Markell said. “But the results speak for themselves. And I’m more concerned about results than I am about what people think about me.”

No matter who pays the price, right?  And I don’t buy for one iota of a second that you don’t care what people think of you.  You and I both know this to be true.  Don’t try to play the “I’m going to take the high road on my actions now” card cause you aren’t fooling anyone.  Everything you have done with education in Delaware has been to serve YOUR future and those of your corporate education reform buddies.

A bill strongly opposed by Markell that would let parents pull their kids out of standardized tests sailed almost unanimously through the State House of Representatives, and several other bills aimed squarely at reducing the authority of the Department of Education are in the works. Budget-writing lawmakers slashed in half a request to continue Race to the Top initiatives and balked at a request to pick up the tab for 10 department positions paid for in the grant.

I am appreciative of what these legislators did, but the DOE doesn’t need a budget increase, they need an audit and an accountability of every single penny they have spent.  Those who have squandered taxpayers funds need to be sent packing.

“I think there’s frustration among parents and educators and students that education policies don’t seem to be based on feedback coming from the classroom,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark. “I think also though that now is a natural time for us to take a step back and re-assess what we’re doing. Race to the Top has naturally come to an end, and I think we’re at a point where the question is, what’s next?”

Massive improvement Senator Townsend!  We need to take an excruciatingly hard look at special education in Delaware.  We need to find out why a student was kicked at a charter school by a special education teacher.  We need to find out why, as of a year ago, there were 60-70 pending special education lawsuits and only a handful of due process hearings.  We need to know why the DOE wants to write Common Core into IEPs without having the ability to fix the IEPs that are already out there.  We need to find a way for parents, teachers, and school districts to effectively collaborate with special education and stop the battleground mentality.  Why are these children and their parents being put through the wringer while the DOE and school districts think they know best?  This philosophy is a dying breed, but no one is listening.

The challenge, Townsend argues, is moving in a new direction without abandoning some of the good things that have happened in schools.  “It’s about our educators who are very justifiably tired of yet another iteration of education reform, but it’s also the business community that sees a lot of progress and wants to see some accountability,” Townsend said. “It’s parents who are trying to be involved in the process. I’m worried that, whatever the next steps are, that people are going to view them as just another round.”

Then my suggestion would be to invite more of them to the table.  The biggest problem with Markell’s policies is they are approved with little or no oversight, and then parents and teachers are invited to rate them with pre-determined results.  As well, the amount of lobbying by companies like Rodel and the Delaware Charter School Network needs to stop.  And yes, I will throw this in there as well, DSEA as well.  Here is a novel idea: parent lobbyists.  They are the most important.  We also do that little thing called VOTING!!!!

There is no better symbol of lawmakers’ willingness to buck Markell’s will than House Bill 50, which would explicitly allow parents to “opt out” of the statewide standardized test.  Markell says that’s a bad idea because the state needs good test-score data to make smart policy, especially when it comes to closing the achievement gap for low-income and minority students.

If the state needs “good test-score data” then what the hell are we doing with the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  And enough about the achievement gap.  The only gap I want to see closed is the one between your upper and lower lip when it comes to education.  The only “smart” policy going on right now is parents exercising their rights when it comes to the educational outcomes of their children.

But when the House took up the opt-out bill, sponsored by firebrand Markell critic Rep. John Kowalko, only three representatives out of 41 voted against it.  That’s a massive margin in a Democrat-controlled chamber for a bill that a Democratic governor has so strenuously protested.  “I was frankly stunned by the margin,” Kowalko said. “That hasn’t happened before.”  Kowalko, who has fiercely criticized Markell in previous years, believes there is a “new awakening” where lawmakers are starting to look more critically at what the executive branch proposes.  Lawmakers say they voted for the bill because they routinely hear from teachers and parents that Delaware tests students too much and stakes too much on the results.

It was also about hundreds of parents actually opting out and emailing the legislators.  It was a wake-up call for the legislators that said “we vote for you and the power we give you we can easily take away.”  This is something folks like Earl Jaques, Michael Barbieri, Timothy Dukes and David Sokola don’t understand.  I don’t buy the whole idea that lawmakers voted yes on HB50 cause they heard from parents their children were being tested too much.  That was the same rationale they used to pass House Bill 334, which allowed Smarter Balanced to officially infest our lives.  I think it was them actually listening to parents and realizing Smarter Balanced is a horrible test.

The Delaware Parent-Teacher Association and the Delaware State Education Association union both urged lawmakers to vote yes.

I would definitely say the Delaware PTA urged lawmakers to vote yes.  They came through hitting grand slams left and right.  DSEA…maybe a bunt here and there.  I see the DSEA’s contribution as being a bit sheepish.  They kind of sort of supported it, but they could have done a lot more.  Look at the New Jersey unions.  They put up billboards and videos all over the place.  That is the kind of support I would have liked to see from the DSEA.  Instead we got the “time to teach, time to learn” videos without once even mentioning parent opt-out.  If that’s the full pressure DSEA can use to support a bill as important as House Bill 50, it’s obvious new leadership is needed.

Markell has acknowledged the concerns over testing, and the Department of Education is reviewing tests to see if any extraneous ones can be eliminated. But Markell says he isn’t backing away from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the state test that teachers complain is overused in judging students, teachers and schools.

Albright and Starkey, you keep talking about the teachers.  What about the parents?  That’s what House Bill 50 is about.  You are both making the SAME mistake Markell and the DOE keep making: underestimating the will and resolve of parents to protect their kids.

Markell has not said whether he will sign the opt-out legislation if it clears the Senate and reaches his desk. If not, it would not be the first time Markell has wielded his veto pen.  But the governor, working throughout his term with a Democrat-controlled General Assembly, has not found himself in that position much.  Markell has vetoed just 13 pieces of legislation since 2009. And he has never vetoed a bill related to education.

I heard the WDEL interview with Rick Jensen, and when Markell was asked if he would veto House Bill 50 if it came to his desk, there was a distinct “yeah”.  It might have been edited out, but it was there.  I heard it, and so did others.  I hope he realizes if he does veto it, parents will haunt him as long as he holds any semblance of power in Delaware.

The other major education legislation this year would redistrict Wilmington schools and create a weighted funding formula to students. The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, led by Bank of America Executive Tony Allen, has led the charge for those changes.  Though Markell created the Committee, it has operated independently of the governor and the Department of Education.

Nothing operates independently of Markell and the DOE.  And throw in Rodel there for good measure.  I’ve met Tony Allen, and he’s a great guy.  But I have to wonder what the grand picture is here.  The timing on this was a little too perfect…

Markell supports those bills. But he said his primary focus right now is making sure some of the programs he thinks are most important and have already passed the legislature — higher academic standards and more access to good preschool, for example — grow and are implemented well.  “I don’t have any big new bills that I’ve spent a lot of time on, for sure,” he said. “We’ve started a lot of big things. So a lot of it is not necessarily legislative in nature at this point.”

Except holding the DOE accountable for their actions during your reign.  I can see why you wouldn’t be a big supporter of those bills.  You will sign anything that gets your agenda going, but if it doesn’t you make a few phone calls and get bills stalled or killed.

Legislators are taking steps to shrink the size and power of the Department of Education, which many school district educators believe has grown too powerful under Race to the Top and Markell’s tenure.  There were signs this would be a tough legislative session for the Department well before HB 50.  Near the start, lawmakers grilled Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and senior Department of Education staffers for hours, both in the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee and the House Education Committee.  “You may have a view of the wonderful things Race to the Top has done, but the public does not appear to share that view,” said Rep. Joe Miro, R-Pike Creek Valley.  During legislative budget meetings last week, lawmakers expressed concerns with Markell’s education policy, and voted to cut by half the governor’s $7.5 million plan to fund high-paid positions in the Department and programs previously covered by the Race to the Top.  “I can’t support this spending, this continually throwing money at something that’s not working,” said Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel. “It’s just a poor investment. I don’t think anyone in this room, at this table, would put money into it out of their own pocket. I’m very disappointed in what I’m seeing from the top.”  Members of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee took extra steps to show they had little confidence in Markell’s education bureaucracy to use the money as intended.  They moved most of the remaining appropriations, more than $3 million, into budget lines that directly fund school district operations, not the Department of Education. And they approved epilogue language that prevents the Department of Education from using any of the money to add or retain positions in the department.  “We want to make sure the money that we did fund goes to the purposes that we’ve specified,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, a budget committee member. “I just think that the epilogue language clarifies and makes it perfectly clear where that money is going to go.”

Why does it take the amount of money being spent before some legislators wake up after falling asleep at the wheel after years of rampant spending by this Department?  It’s good they are doing it, but next time we get some program like Race To The Top, please do this before millions upon millions of dollars are spent with little or no results for the students.

In addition to shrinking the size of the department, some lawmakers think the state exerts too much influence over schools that should be locally run.  Williams, for example, has filed a bill that would give local administrators and school boards sole authority over hiring and firing.  That’s a direct response, she says, to the state’s controversial Priority Schools plan to improve six inner-city Wilmington schools. State leaders said the plan would funnel much-needed money and talent into schools with sagging test scores, but they soon drew outrage from those schools’ parents and teachers.

What the Delaware DOE should be doing is holding school districts and charter schools more accountable for special education results.  Solely going by the 17 indicators for US DOE compliance and sending letters to schools saying “fix this” is not effective.  I am not against a DOE in and of itself, but they should only be monitoring activities that are outright illegal or not truly for the benefit of students.  Just think what this Department could actually accomplish with special education if they actually did what is necessary?

The Department of Education, which said elite educators could turn around those schools’ sagging test scores, clashed with the Red Clay and Christina School districts, which bristled at the notion that state leaders should have any say in who runs their schools.  Williams and other lawmakers say the fight over Priority Schools, more than any other debate over education, energized opposition among teachers and parents.

What the priority schools initiative did was open the eyes of the general public to what the DOE is willing to do in accomplishing their goals at any cost.  It was very stupid of them to attempt this at the time they did.  That’s what cockiness and arrogance will do every time: bite you in the ass.

Some lawmakers have taken aim at Secretary Murphy in particular.  “We don’t see him day-in, day-out in Legislative Hall, having conversations with us,” Williams said. “I think, unfortunately, people have lost faith in the Department and Secretary Murphy. They’re not willing to just go along with them anymore.”  Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, has filed a bill that would require the Secretary of Education to have at least 10 years’ experience in schools, at least of six of them as a classroom teacher.  That bill aims to address criticism of Murphy, who was a classroom teacher for only three years before climbing the ranks of administration and education nonprofits.  The Delaware State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, voted no confidence in Murphy earlier this year, the first time the organization has taken such a step.

I think Townsend’s bill obviously sends a message, but it could also cause someone with Murphy’s ideology but more experience to insert themselves into the DOE.  It would be a very frightening thing what a more knowledgeable and assertive Secretary of Education would be like in this education reform world.  A vote of no confidence is only as good as the ability to follow-up on it, which I have not heard from DSEA.

Murphy, in a statement issued through a spokesperson, cited the same educational achievements as Markell.  “There’s no question that this work has not been easy and we have asked a lot of everyone involved in our education system,” the statement said. “We understand that not everyone agrees with everything we have done and that many pieces of legislation proposed have been in direct response to certain initiatives that have been controversial. That said, the progress our students are making shows that an enormous amount of positive work is happening. We are committed to continuing to make that progress.”

Please Murphy, just be quiet.  We are ALL sick of hearing the same boring things coming out of your mouth.  You have more corporate education reform Kool-Aid around it, and I don’t think you even realize what an idiot you sound like anymore.

Markell said people are rushing to judge the Department because of a few controversial proposals. The Department doesn’t get enough credit, he argues, for coordinating things like the state’s College Application Month, where kids signed up for college during the school day, or Pathways to Prosperity, where students get real-world experience that sets them up for careers.  “Most of what the Department does is not controversial,” Markell said. “And even our biggest detractors have recognized that [Priority Schools] has brought some much needed attention to these schools, even if it got a lot of people really riled up.”

And who has benefited the most from these initiatives Jack?  That’s something on my to-do list.

Markell has his defenders, including Rep. Melanie George Smith, the budget committee’s co-chair who came to the governor’s defense amid criticism last week.  “What we have in front of us is our governor….who has spent an awful lot of his administration really focused on what we can do better to help teachers, what we can do better to help students,” Smith said during public budget negotiations.

Wow! I would say he has spent far too much time during his administration interfering and causing disruptions in education.  The fact you want to defend this man while our education is damaged is very telling….

Some political observers say backlash is almost a given.  “When you try to make drastic change, you’re going to hit nerves, on both sides,” said Rhett Ruggerio, a longtime Democratic operative and Dover lobbyist who represents charter schools. Everybody is well intentioned. The problem is they have strong philosophical differences.”  Ruggerio said much of the disagreement appears to have stemmed from Race to the Top, and questions over whether the program’s experiments have helped Delaware’s public schools.  Ruggerio defended Murphy, saying he “has been pretty aggressive, I think for the right reasons. He wants to make change,” Ruggerio said. “It’s very difficult to do that unless you’re willing to take a risk.”

Who let the Delaware Charter School Network in on this article?  Out of all the folks not hired by the state, you use DCSN as your “impartial” third party observer?  When any legislation is opposed by Markell and the Kool-Aid gang, these non-profits like Rodel and DCSN send in their overpaid lobbyists to whisper sweet nothings in the legislators ears.  Ruggerio and his boss Kendall have obviously benefited from the reform agendas Markell thrust upon Delaware.  This is where you lose a tremendous amount of credibility News Journal.  How many everyday parents did you contact for this article?  By my estimation, that would be a grand total of zero.  I guess parents aren’t part of the process…

The growing backlash against “education reform” in Delaware mirrors a national trend that has seen the rise of groups like the “Badass Teachers’ Association,” a loose coalition of fed-up educators. In places like New York, the outcry has gotten so loud that some school districts have seen more than half of parents opt their kids out of standardized tests.

A loose coalition with well over 50,000 members.  Wake up Albright and Starkey.  Just like that “small but vocal minority” of parents who want to opt-out.  I love the way you try to reduce these groups that have tremendous impact while pumping up groups like DCSN.  No bias here…

Delaware lawmakers “are focused on making sure all Delaware public school students have a real chance to achieve success,” said Frederika Jenner, president of the Delaware State Education Association, the teachers union.  With the expiration of Race to the Top funding, “now is the time for the General Assembly to weigh in on what they believe has worked and what hasn’t worked,” Jenner said.  If the momentum really is shifting in Delaware education policy, many people, like Sen. Townsend, hope that doesn’t mean everything built in the past few years crumbles.  “I think a key point is that there have been successes and there have been some not-so-successes,” Townsend said. “We understand there’s a need for course-correction. But let’s not pretend that everything hasn’t gone well.”  Townsend said, for example, that the state’s move to the Common Core State Standards will be a good thing, even though some schools have faced hiccups in implementing it. Common Core is a set of new, higher academic expectations for students.

So Senator Bryan Townsend is a supporter of Common Core but is against many of the evils that crawled through the back door in Delaware education when the DSEA, Delaware PTA and all the school districts and charters signed up for Race To The Top?  After coercion and political wrangling by the DOE and Markell?  This is part of the whole education reform movement.  People want to remove bits and pieces, but as long as the foundation is there, it remains.  I define this movement as Common Core, high-stakes standardized assessments, labeling and punishing schools over test scores while increasing the number of charter schools, the illusion of increasing supports for special needs students while teachers and administrators fight parents over the most basic of supports, hundreds of reform “non-profits” and “for-profits” invading every aspect of education and making billions of dollars that should be going to our schools, and the eventual destruction of public education and the teacher unions.  Senator Townsend, you can’t cherry-pick what stays and goes.  And let your legislator and DSEA friends know this too.  It’s all for one, and one for all.  I would be very wary about trying to fill the power vacuum when all of this crumbles without getting everything cleaned out of the wound.  I would be even more wary about your support for Common Core if you hope to get elected again.

Markell frequently says adopting and defending those standards in Delaware in the face of growing national criticism is one of his highest school priorities. In other states, lawmakers have eliminated or drastically modified Common Core, but, though some teachers have criticized the standards’ implementation here, no serious repeal effort has gained steam in the General Assembly. 

See my previous paragraph.  What Jack is saying here is even though he is being challenged on many fronts, he is working behind-the-scenes to make sure the foundation is still there long after he is gone.  Don’t worry Jack, Common Core and it’s elimination is coming sooner than you think.  This isn’t a forgotten issue.

Some of the inroads Markell’s administration has made with getting the business community involved in education, connecting students with jobs, internships and real-life learning experiences, should be made more common, Townsend said.

Markell has made it a priority to get the business community to take over education in our state, whether it was homegrown in Delaware or out-of-state.  And all of these lower-paying jobs and internships save these companies millions of dollars in salaries they would otherwise be paying.  Some of it is good, but the motivation behind it is not for the benefit of students.  It was, is, and always will be about money with Markell.

Though Townsend agrees with many teachers that the state’s way of judging teachers needs a great deal of work, he says Delaware is ahead of other states in some ways.  “I think this concept of trying to have accountability is important,” he said. “We need to improve it, definitely, but let’s not just get rid of this idea entirely.” 

This is the big elephant in the room.  If we don’t judge teachers by standardized tests, what do we judge them on?  Should teachers be blamed for events outside of the classroom in students regular lives?  Absolutely not.  But if their actions contribute to those actions, than I would say yes.  As an example, say a student with disabilities doesn’t have her IEP followed.  As a result, she doesn’t perform to the best of her ability because those supports aren’t being enforced.  As she becomes more frustrated, she starts acting out at school.  This becomes a part of her very fabric and it spills over into the “outside” world.  So while she was having problems in school, it is now everywhere.  Should teachers and schools be held accountable for things like this?  I think every single parent of a special needs child who has faced these kinds of issues would say yes.  It is essential that teachers and schools know special education and IDEA law like the back of their hand.

With Markell approaching the end of his second term, many lawmakers say the next governor will play a big role in steering the state’s educational future.  “I think one of the things our next governor is going to be elected on is education,” Williams said. “I know that’s going to be the biggest factor for me.”

Some would say Jack Markell was elected because of his talk about education before he was elected. I would personally like to see a gutting of the Delaware DOE, build it up from the bottom all the way to the top with employees who care more about education than what we have seen in this “corporate education reform” world.  I would also like to see less talk from a state Governor about education and more about creating more jobs in our state and reallocating funds so the citizens of the state don’t suffer needlessly.  Whoever the new Secretary of Education may be, it would be my hope he/she is the spokesperson for education in our state, and has the skills, knowledge and compassion to truly fix education in our state, not make it worse.

DSEA Passes Resolution For No Confidence In Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy

This past weekend, the Delaware State Educators Association passed a resolution indicating they have no confidence in Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy to effectively lead Delaware in education.  As reported by Avi Wolfman-Arent on WHYY/Newsworks today,

The resolution comes shortly after unions representing teachers at the state’s two largest school districts passed a similar measure. It also points to growing discord between the union and state leaders, who once earned kudos for working together,  but recently have clashed over teacher evaluation, teacher training, and the use of standardized tests.

“It is no secret that many public school employees are frustrated by the decisions and actions coming out of the Department of Education,” said union president Frederika Jenner, in a statement. “This past weekend, that collective frustration manifested itself in a vote of ‘No Confidence” in Secretary Murphy.”

The resolution stopped short at Murphy, and did not call out the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education which the Christina and Red Clay Educators Association both did in their resolution last week, but it sends a very clear message that educators in Delaware are fed up with the policies of the Department and believe it is time for a change.  I think the majority of the citizens of Delaware are also reaching this point…

To read more on this story, please go here: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/79647-delaware-teachers-union-votes-no-confidence-in-secretary-of-education?l=dt

A Must Read! FULL Transcript of DE PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall

An individual transcribed the complete Delaware Parent Teachers Association Parent Opt Out Town Hall from February 19th.  Transcription is a very difficult endeavor.  I’ve done it before, and it is time-consuming at best.  The longest I’ve ever done it for was a forty-five minute meeting.  This person did it for a two-hour meeting with multiple participants.  I posted the part with “Mr. Brandywine” yesterday, but this also has this individual’s conversation with him afterwards.

If you are on the fence about opting your child out, this is an essential document for you to read.  If you will never do so, you may want to read this anyways to find the “true value” of these tests.