Delaware School District & Charter School Special Education Ratings Are The Biggest Joke In The State!

How were the Delaware school districts and charter schools rated this year for special education?  Every single one is in here and the joke isn’t even funny anymore! Continue reading

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What’s Goin’ On?

I feel blessed today.  Maybe because it’s pay-day, but I have to think it’s more than that. Continue reading

Apples, Oranges, & The Myth Of Grading Schools: The True Goals Behind Bad Education Policy

Atnre Alleyne came out with a blog post this morning supporting a Governor Carney idea where Delaware rates schools with stars.  Of course he did!  I don’t care what you label them with: stars, letter grades, numbers, or rocket ships.  It all translates to a comparison between apples and oranges.  What I find most ironic about Alleyne’s post is how self-serving this is for him.  As the guy behind Delaware Can, any school labeling further perpetuates the myth that companies like that thrive on: label, shame, and punish.  Alleyne’s personal war against the Delaware State Education Association is filled with holes and misdemeanors!  I thought I would pick apart a few of his “facts” and “myths”.

The Fallacy of Surveys

Thousands of Delawareans responded to the Delaware Department of Education’s 2014 survey indicating they want school performance ratings.

When you come out with a survey that doesn’t even ask the question “Do you think Delaware should have school performance ratings?” and you continue that survey with questions about those ratings, I don’t think it is fair to say that means “thousands of Delawareans” wanted this.  The survey predetermined the school report cards was going to happen (as required by federal law) but that in no way to translates to the citizens of Delaware demanding this system.

Self-Serving Agendas

Recently a coalition of 24 community and business groups also sent the Department a letter with recommendations for the state’s ESSA plan that called for a “single summary rating for schools and districts…in order to ensure clarity for parents and community members.”

And who led that band of public education marauders, disguised as organizations wanting to help public education?  Who corralled and convinced these 24 mostly non-profits who would benefit from what Alleyne wants?  Who was also on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for the state ESSA plan and in a position to leverage his agenda?  Yes, none other than Atnre Alleyne.

The Rating-Label Scheme

MYTH: School ratings are more of the type of “testing, labeling, and punishing” we do not need in our schools.

Yes, they are.  Given that the weighting of these report cards is over 50% towards results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment so carefully masked as two different categories: growth and proficiency, it most certainly is a testing, labeling, and punishing apparatus.

Even The Feds Are Backing Away From Bad Education Policy

Today, federal law requires that we identify and “label” the bottom 5 percent of schools in our state. The school report cards to which the Department has committed renames those schools – from Priority and Focus schools to   Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools – and continues its support for these schools with access to more money and assistance. That’s not punishment. It’s being honest about where and how we need to help our schools.

A label is still a label even if you change the wording.  I love the word “Targeted” because that is exactly what this system does.  Jack Markell loved this and apparently Governor Carney does as well.  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems to be backing away from a federal accountability system and leaving it up to the states.  Governor Markell embedded that system into Delaware and our whole education system is based on this.  Alleyne, who used to work for the Delaware Dept. of Education, is very familiar with this system and knows exactly what it is meant for.

The Growth In Our Education System Is Malignant

It’s also important to remember that growth measures, which take into account how much a student’s performance has grown over a school year, also benefits schools with higher performing students in ensuring they help their students grow, as well.

Okay, this is the part that absolutely kills me!  If a school has higher performing students, i.e., the average proficiency on SBAC is 3.87 out of 4, that does not leave much room for growth.  But the illusion of having a growth goal of students reaching a 3.9 proficiency is not out of the ballpark.  It is doable and can certainly happen.  Take a school with a high population of low-income and students with disabilities, where the average SBAC proficiency is 1.24 and the growth goal to proficiency is 2.0, the whole system changes.  The work needed to get to that score, with more challenging students with much higher needs, multiplies at an exponential rate.  The odds of that school reaching that goal are much lower than the “high-performing” school that only needs to go up a tiny bit to reach their growth goals.  It is comparing apples and oranges.

Judging The Haves and The Have-Nots And Voucherizing Students

MYTH: If you give schools a rating parents are just going to use that single rating to judge schools and ignore all the other information about a school’s performance.

This is an exercise in futility.  This is the difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  The “haves” will utilize this system to find the “best” school for their child.  Many of the “have-nots”, who in many cases aren’t even aware a system like this even exists, will simply send their child to the local neighborhood school.  In the midst of this landscape we have the issue of school vouchers coming to the front burner.  So much so that the feds are willing to dump all this truly bad accountability crap out the window in favor of a voucher system that will make private schools the next big thing.  For reasons they aren’t saying, this will be the cushion for students from wealthier families for what happens next.  See more on this later.

How To Place Yourself In An Area Of “Importance”

Our goal, as advocates and policymakers, must be to equip parents and taxpayers with school quality information that is easy to understand, fair, and consistent.

Notice Alleyne uses the word “Our”, as if he is the man behind the curtain waving the magic wand that mesmerizes his audience into taking his every word as the Gospel truth.  For a guy that makes a living based on the very worst of corporate education reform Kool-Aid disguised as helping disadvantaged students, I encourage all Delawareans to take what he says with a grain of salt.  Having met Alleyne in person, he is a nice guy.  But his education policy and what he advocates for causes alarm bells to go off in my head.  I get why he does what he does, but he is just another victim of the bad education policy that is fighting for its last legs in the new era of Trumplandia.  I completely understand that he wants better education outcomes for minority students.  I do as well.  I also want that for students with disabilities and English Language learners.  It is the way Alleyne wants this that bothers me.  If society as a whole has not learned the valuable lesson that the continued use of high-stakes testing is just plain bad for public education, than folks like Alleyne will continue to spread their “myths” and “facts”.  I say opt out of not just the high-stakes testing but also opt out of false edu-speak that exists to sway parents of student populations and trapping them in a system where testing reigns supreme.

What’s Up With All The Teacher Union Hate?

If there is one consistent question I’ve been asked by parents who seek to understand this system of high-stakes tests it is this: if we don’t use these tests how do we measure how our schools are doing?  It’s a damn good question and I won’t pretend to have the answer.  I have always suggested that a student’s classroom grades are more of a true measure than these once a year test scores.  I don’t believe in students going on to the next grade if they aren’t ready.  That is when parents need to carefully watch their child’s progress.  It is not the end of the world if a student is held back.  We need to also trust our teachers that their years of preparation and continued training serve to benefit our child’s success in education.  If you have doubts about a teacher’s effectiveness than certainly question it.  I believe it is our sacred duty to do so.  But when we are given lie after lie about teachers from these education think tanks about how bad unions are and how they only want what is best for them, we have to recognize the truth: these companies do NOT want teacher unions to exist at all.  They don’t like the idea of teacher’s organizing on behalf of themselves because it takes away from their profit-making ventures.  The sad part is how so many parents actually believe these horrible lies about public education.  So when unions fight against these bad policies they are immediately painted as the villain in articles like the one Alleyne wrote today.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the teacher unions are perfect.  But I don’t think any organization, school, parent, student, or state agency is perfect.  But there is a clear difference between offense and defense.  I see corporate education reformers as a vicious marauder into areas where they have no business being in.  The predictable result is teacher unions going on the defense against these schemes and agendas.

Opt Out Is The Only Defense

The only way to fight a bad system is to ignore it.  This is why I have always defended a parent’s fundamental and God-given right to opt out of these silly little standardized tests.  I refuse to give them the clout these companies think they deserve.  I would rather hear the word of the teacher in the classroom who is on the ground floor watching the colossal waste of time these tests have.  They are expensive, take up true teaching time, take up school resources, kill libraries during testing time, and the results serve no true purpose.  If you haven’t opted your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year, please do so now.  Even if they are already in the middle of testing.  When many parents get the Delaware DOE suggested letter from the school about how opt out is illegal and the school can’t allow it, treat it as fire-starter material for a fire-pit in your backyard.  Just write a letter to your child’s school stating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, hand it to the principal, and state there is to be no further discussion on the issue.  If they attempt to dissuade you, give a pleasant “thank you but no thank you” and stand firm on your decision.

What Is A Governor To Do Facing A $385 Million Dollar Deficit?

For Delaware Governor John Carney, he faces a crucial moment.  He has to make cuts in the state budget.  There won’t be easy choices, but one should be a no-brainer: get rid of the dead and expensive weight at the Delaware DOE and get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Sever the ties between the Delaware DOE and these “non-profit” for-profit education companies.  If that means getting rid of DOE employees whose sole existence is to continue what amounts to lobbying off the backs of children, just do it!

The True Goal Behind Alleyne And The Rodel Foundation

These are the end goals behind all this:

  • Get rid of the teacher unions
  • Have students learn in a 100% digital learning environment
  • Create a competency-based education system which will prevent students with high needs from advancing more than ever before
  • Track the hell out of the data in this ed-tech wonderland and create what amounts to a caste system where the best students get the best jobs and the struggling students get the menial jobs
  • Do away with brick and mortar schools and have teachers become glorified online moderators
  • Send young children to 3rd party organizations to get their “personalized learning” with Teach For America and other fast-track educator prep “teachers” guiding students
  • Have older students logged into whatever Blockchain technology is coming our way where they “earn to learn” and companies profit from teenagers

Surf-And-Turf or Filet Mignon?

We see this in agendas like Delaware’s “Pathways to Prosperity” program.  I attended Governor Carney’s Inaugural ball.  All the food was prepared and served by students in the culinary program.  The food was awesome.  But did any of those students who prepared this food get paid for their servitude?  I highly doubt it.  I have no doubt they received some type of education credit for their service while the State of Delaware says “thanks for the cheap labor”.  Or what about these “coding schools” where students pay thousands of dollars to train themselves on coding while at the same time doing work for very big companies through the training material?  Our students are nothing more than fodder for corporations.  They are the true victims in this new world and are being used by those whose biggest concern is if they should get the surf-and-turf or just the filet mignon at their next country club dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

**UPDATED**Delaware Senators Pettyjohn, Lopez, Lavelle, Simpson and DelCollo Publicly Support Betsy DeVos…Why? Please Withdraw Your Support

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*Please see below for a statement from Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn in regards to this letter.

This morning, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams published a letter from several state legislators around the country supporting Betsy DeVos in her nomination for the United States Secretary of Education.  Senators Anthony DelCollo, Greg Lavelle, Ernie Lopez, Brian Pettyjohn, and Gary Simpson represented the Delaware contingent of these signatures.  I am publicly asking these five Delaware Republican Senators to withdraw their support for Mrs. DeVos.

Last week, DeVos had her Senate Confirmation hearing.  She did not know the difference between growth and proficiency.  She supported guns in schools to prevent grizzly bear attacks.  She stated when she was first nominated that she supported dismantling Common Core, but history with the DeVos Foundation suggests otherwise.  She is a fervent supporter of school vouchers which have the strong potential to further issues of discrimination and segregation in American schools the way they are currently set up in many states.  She supports charter schools which have not shown to be a greater success unless the pull smarter students in through selective enrollment preferences despite the legality of those preferences in many states.  But most disappointing was DeVos inability to understand that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, is a federal law, not a state and local law.

As a father of a student with disabilities, I was appalled when Betsy DeVos said this.  The U.S. Secretary of Education is a person who leads all American students in public education.  The last thing we need is someone who does not understand special education going into the job.  DeVos is a billionaire but her ability to lead education in America is disturbing on many levels.

I have found myself in alignment with many bills that Pettyjohn and Lopez supported.  They stood with parents during the opt out saga.  They did not support the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Which is why I find their support of DeVos puzzling.  Education has become synonymous with standardized testing.  Students with disabilities do the poorest on these tests.  But they are expected to show the most “growth” in state accountability systems.  As a result, in my opinion, special education has become a gigantic mess.  It is now geared more towards the student outcomes on these tests than accommodating the true needs of each individual student.  If DeVos has her way, students with disabilities could be shuffled around different private schools through a very flawed school voucher system.  Private schools are not obligated to follow federal special education law unless they receive federal education funds.  Special education in public schools can be challenging enough, adding private schools to that mix with federal dollars could become a recipe for disaster for a population that is already marginalized to a great extent.

Once again, I urge these five Delaware Republican Senators to withdraw their support for Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.  Our children deserve better.  Students with disabilities deserve better.  And my son deserves better.

**UPDATED**5:16pm: I spoke with Senator Pettyjohn about this issue shortly after I posted this article.  He echoed the statement he made on Facebook, which said:

Kevin, I agreed to support Betsy DeVos for her nomination to lead the US Department of Education based on my belief that an outsider view of the US DOE is necessary. In previous statements, Ms. DeVos had indicated her disdain for the Department and it’s overburdensome policies and regulations toward states and local districts. I have, for some time, been critical of the federal intrusion into our classrooms, and prior to Ms. DeVos’ confirmation hearings, those were concerns that she had also viewed with a critical eye.

That being said, I do have concerns that have been brought to light since her confirmation hearings; especially concerning her stance on special education. While this is an issue that our United States Senators will be faced with in the coming days, I believe that the letter that was sent, which I agreed to sign before the confirmation hearings took place, will have relatively little impact on the decision that will ultimately be made on Capitol Hill.

That Senate Confirmation hearing took a lot of folks by surprise.  In my eyes, it just proved that vast amounts of wealth does not always equal knowledge.  DeVos will face a vote for her nomination next Tuesday, January 31st.

 

EastSide Charter & Family Foundations Academy Have No Child Left Behind Goals But Plan To Leave More Students Behind

Aaaron Bass, the new Executive Director of EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations Academy has some very lofty goals for students.  Mirroring the very controversial No Child Left Behind law enacted in 2002, Bass wants all students to be 100% proficient on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The difference is Bass’ plans to determine how a child advances in grade levels.  And what method of teaching does Bass prefer? Continue reading

Lisa Blunt-Rochester: “To Be Able To Have The Luxury To Opt Out Is A Luxury”

At the Delaware Congressional education debate last evening, a question concerning state testing led to some very offensive comments from candidate Lisa Blunt-Rochester.  Senator Bryan Townsend was asked a question by a member of the audience concerning his fights with state testing at Legislative Hall and his endorsement by DSEA (the Delaware teachers union).  The question was confusing but it alleged that since civil rights groups stand by testing as an accurate way to measure the progress of African-American students, and he fought against the state testing, how would he respond to that? The question was read by one of the moderators, Nichole Dobo.  Townsend defended his stance on testing because the testing was being used for purposes it was not meant for.

By the time candidate Lisa Blunt-Rochester answered, the subject of opt out had already come up by candidate Scott Walker.  He indicated he does not support opt out, especially for students with disabilities and feels it is illegal.  I’m assuming Walker didn’t see the very atrocious scores students with disabilities had on the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  But I digress.  By the time the question came back to Rochester, this was her response, as I understood it, while I typed it as I was live blogging:

The original question was about civil rights.  She understands why some folks would opt out, but as a person coming from the Civil Rights movement, to not measure anything is a problem.  Opting out isn’t the issue.  We need to measure to know where we are discriminating.  We need to put our money where our mouth is.

This is what she actually said, thanks to videos shown on the DelaCore Leaders Facebook page:

So the original question was about civil rights organizations and their positions on state testing and the concern that you can’t have it, kind of, both ways.  I understand why some folks would want to opt out, but for myself, as a parent, also as a person who comes from a Civil Rights background, you have to measure growth.  Maybe that’s part of what the challenges folks were concerned about, what we were measuring.  To not measure anything is a problem, to be able to have the luxury to opt out is a luxury.  If we need to fix the test, let’s fix the testing.  But we do have to hold ourselves accountable.  In all the conversation about discrimination, we need to be able to measure, so that we know we are being discriminated against.  So, I think, you put your money where your mouth is.

This statement could be taken a lot of ways.  I see it as the same argument as other folks defending the civil rights groups statements as “it doesn’t matter how bad the test is, we still need that measurement.”  I’m sorry, but I can’t, won’t, and never will buy that logic.  First off, there is a cultural bias with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It wasn’t written for African-Americans, English Language learners, or students with disabilities.  It was written for white kids.  We see this with every single score release of standardized tests.  This isn’t new.  It has been going on for decades.

If Blunt-Rochester feels opting out is a “luxury”, an option that is truly open and is not illegal under any circumstances in Delaware, then by her logic we can all enjoy that luxury.  Parents don’t opt out because it is a luxury.  They opt their kids out of the state assessment, which in Delaware’s case is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They don’t opt out of MAPS, or SRI, or SMI, or final exams.  They opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The test is long.  Parents and teachers don’t get the scores back on time.  Students aren’t even given the exact same test.  It is a test for accountability for schools.  This was said by Jon Cohen, who runs the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which just so happens to be the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment:

When you use a test for accountability, you’re not really using it to measure the kid.  You’re using it to measure the school, or the teacher, or the district.  And you want that school or teacher or district to have an incentive to teach the full range of curriculum.

This statement was taken from a video that used to appear in an article about AIR on this very blog, but AIR changed the settings on it so it could not be embedded outside of their reach.  It is my contention they don’t want people seeing this video.  When talking about the computer adaptability of the assessment, Cohen very frighteningly tells viewers students are not receiving the same test.  The questions aren’t the same for every student.  I wrote in greater detail about this a few weeks ago.  For all the talk about resources and funding we need for schools in Delaware, the one question many candidates aren’t asking is where is the existing funding going?  In Delaware, we have given AIR well over $40 million dollars over a five year period.  That is $8 million a year.  For results that really haven’t changed much when looking at this measurement.  I don’t know about you, but I’m sure our schools would be more than happy to be able to use that money towards lower class-room sizes or more support for students who are at-risk.

While I respect your right to choose whether or not your child takes the Smarter Balanced Assessment, what I don’t respect is you’re telling me that my choice is a luxury.  I actually found this extremely offensive.  I have a child with disabilities.  For these students, who score much lower than African-Americans, it frequently takes them two to three times longer to take this test with accommodations than their peers.  And yes, non-disabled African-Americans are their peers.  They are easily frustrated being forced to take a test for this long.  Because at the same time, their neurological disabilities are manifesting.  Whether it is high-functioning Autism, or Tourette Syndrome, or ADHD, or OCD, or in some cases (as it is with my child) a combination of co-morbidities.

I would like anyone reading this to try something.  Grab a piece of paper and start writing the Pledge of Allegiance.  While you are writing with your hand of choice, take your other hand and start swinging it out.  Keep writing.  At the same time you are doing both of these, start making humming noises.  Do all three at once.  How far did you get on the Pledge of Allegiance?  Now put that in a scenario where you are taking the state assessment on a computer.

Now, imagine you are a low-income African-American student with disabilities taking this test.

I’m sorry Lisa Blunt-Rochester, but you don’t get the luxury of telling me it is a luxury for me to opt my son out.  I respect your choice, but if you want to talk about discrimination, we can do that.  I can talk about how my son was denied an IEP at a charter school in Delaware because of a poorly-trained special education staff who were not even aware of the classification for disabilities of “other-health impaired” until my wife told them.  I can talk about how they treated his disability as behavior issues and wanted to punish him when they wouldn’t give him the accommodations he deserved under federal law.  And when things got so bad there, over a dropped cookie in the lunchroom, he ran to a confined space because he was so scared of their behavior interventionist who told him he would be suspended if he didn’t pick it up.  When they found him, he wanted to get out of that confined space.  And as my son sat there screaming to be let out of that confined space for half an hour, while I was in the school substituting that day and they never bothered to come get me knowing I was there, I found my son in a state I had never seen him in before.  I also found the behavior interventionist sitting in the hallway eating a sandwich and the head of school sitting there as well.  His face was the only face my son could see as they ignored his cries for help.  As I managed to coax my son out, who was crying, embarrassed, and afraid, the head of school and I took him to a conference room.  He explained I should take him home and talk about this the following Monday.  My son, who was in a very distraught state, said to the Head of School, “I’m going to get revenge on you.”  He didn’t specify what kind of revenge or anything he would do.  He just blurted it out.  The Head of School yelled, “That is duly noted”.

As I drove home with my son, my wife called the school.  She was unaware of what had just gone down.  She spoke with the Head of School.  When my wife asked him what he knew about Tourette Syndrome, he started making a tapping noise and said “I know there is a meeting on Concord Pike next week about it.”  He wound up yelling at my wife and hanging up on her.  When we brought my son back into school the next Monday, we were told my son was suspended for three days and when he came back he had to meet with a police officer to discuss “terroristic threats”.  That was the last time my son was in that school.  He was nine years old.

We pulled him out and took him to the local school district.  He got an IEP… after five long months.  It was the end of the school year.  The way my district is set up, he went to 5th grade in a middle school.  We were told by the new IEP team that his IEP was too complicated and we should rework it.  Over the next four months, my son was physically assaulted nine times.  The last of which gave him a severe concussion two days before Christmas.  That was the last time my son was in that school.  He was on homebound instruction for the rest of the year, along with months of physical therapy, headaches, and a very real fear that if he stepped out of the house he would get beat up.  He was ten years old.

We tried a local private school who would only take him on a probationary status because of his disabilities.  He received hours upon hours of homework each day which he had not received in the other two schools.  It was too much for him, so we pulled him out.  He was eleven years old.

We found a good school for him now, far away from Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He is receiving the best instruction he ever has.  He is twelve years old.

So we can sit here and talk about equity and discrimination.  But I can tell you I have lived it through my son.  So I’m sorry you see it as a luxury that I opted him out at the school where he got his concussion.  The ironic truth is that even though I opted him out, he didn’t have to take the test because he was released from the obligation by the school due to his medical issues, received at the school.  While all this was going on that year, I spent a considerable amount of time at Legislative Hall fighting for the rights of other parents to opt their child out.  In all the conversations about opt out, I never heard it referred to as a luxury.  Until last night.

The odds of your child having greater success at life are greater than mine.  This is a fact for persons with disabilities.  So if I make a choice to opt my son out of a test, that has nothing to do with your child, or someone else’s child.  It has nothing to do with civil rights.  I chose not to have my son be used as a guinea pig for results that have stated the same measurements you so vigorously defended last night.  A person can defend civil rights and be against state assessments.  They can have it both ways.  Many civil rights groups do this already, without financial backing from the Gates Foundation.  I am a staunch supporter of civil rights.  But I refuse to let my child be a part of your measuring stick for a test that is horrible to begin with so we can endlessly compare where your child is against mine.  You are a pawn to a money-making scheme that has been going on far longer than you realize.  All our children are being used.  It has nothing to do with proficiency.  The tests are rigged so there will always be winners and losers.  I don’t need my son to take a test to know he has been a victim of disability discrimination.  He didn’t even have to log onto a computer for me to realize that.

I have a very strong suspicion why Senator Townsend was asked such a specific question about state testing, civil rights, and DSEA.  It was meant to trip him up.  It was very carefully worded.  There was only one person in that audience who would have asked him a question like that.  You may or may not know who it is.  I doubt he would ever own up to it.  But he now knows I know.  I’ve seen his manipulation at play before.  But it backfired and most likely forced you to address something that may end up hurting your campaign.

As a candidate for Congress, you need to be aware of how you can be used and how other people’s agendas can backfire on you.  There were hundreds of people in that audience last night.  How is that was the only question asked by a member of the audience at an education debate?  I invite you to think about that.  But in the meantime, let’s stop talking about measurements.  When I cast my vote in the primary, I will be choosing a candidate who looks at all sides of the issues, for all Delawareans, and what is best for us as a state.  I support civil rights and equity.  But I don’t think constantly measuring students so we can hold schools, teachers, and districts accountable is moving forward.  As long as some support this mistaken belief about measuring students against each other while ignoring the individual student and their individual needs, we will continue to have this conversation while testing companies and hedge fund managers make tons of money that isn’t going into our schools.  I am unable to support you as a candidate based on what I heard tonight.  And yes, one word left a very big impression on me.  I respect your choice to put your money where your mouth is.  Please respect my choice to put my voting finger where my beliefs are.  Because the only gap I saw tonight was how far away you and a couple of other candidates are to the reality of what is truly happening with Delaware education.

Federal representatives voted for the No Child Left Behind Act.  Federal representatives stood back while Race To The Top bribed and coerced our states into accepting dubious state standards, tied to a state assessment, and put our highest needs schools into a deplorable cycle of test, label, punish and shame.  Federal representatives (from Delaware) voted no for a clause that would have honored a parent’s right to opt their children out of the state assessment.  Federal representatives (from Delaware) voted yes for the Every Student Succeeds Act which reversed the other two but essentially kept the very worst from what came before but promises vast amounts of money for other things.  We have once again, been duped.  Many of you won’t know it until it is too late.  So yes, opt out is just as much a federal issue as it is a state issue.  But one thing will not change: my unwavering belief that all parents have the constitutional, God-given, and fundamental right to decide what is best for their child.  Education is only one part of what an elected U.S. representative faces.  But education, which is the foundation for our children, is also the foundation for our democracy.  It is our way of instilling hope for the future.  It isn’t a measurement, or accountability.  It is about what is best for each child based on their own unique and beautiful mind.  When we constantly compare, there are always going to be winners and losers.  This creates an environment of discrimination.  I don’t care what any candidate looks like, the color of their skin, or their gender.  I don’t care where they come from.  I care about what they are going to do.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people say, even before it came out, that we need to fix the test.  And yet, Smarter Balanced is still here.  With no indication of it disappearing anytime soon.  Our United States Secretary of Education just okayed illegal flexibility waivers for Delaware under the condition we use the Smarter Balanced Assessment until June 30th, 2019.  We can talk about the importance of “growth”, but for students with disabilities, their “growth” requires two to three times more “growth” than their peers according to the Delaware Department of Education.  But yeah, let’s keep using a flawed test to measure students.  But you don’t have to be an elected federal Congresswoman to speak up against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and “fix the testing”.  Please put your money where your mouth is.

Delaware DOE Praises Higher Income Schools For Smarter Balanced Results

Like a record with a skip, that keeps playing the same song over and over again, the Delaware Department of Education continues to praise traditional district schools and charter schools that are known to have very small populations of low-income students.  They can try to celebrate the “growth” and “gains” on this test, but until I get verification on what their cut scores were for both last year and this year, it is pointless to see any type of gain or growth.  We already know students don’t receive all the same items on this test so it’s viability is already out the window.

This Department is so out of touch with reality I don’t think they could turn it around even if they tried.  They are so embedded in the false ideologies and agendas that seek to destroy public education they don’t seem to be able to see the reality behind it all.  They are blinded by their own power.  It is, in some respects, very sad to see.  We are a small state, which should work in our favor.  Instead, we have our schools, students, educators, parents, and tax-paying citizens suffering from a state Department that thrives on rigor and accountability.  They are supported by a Governor that is not influenced by these agendas, but helped to create them.  I eagerly await major changes and for those who have the power to change things to wake up from this long nightmare.  I urge parents to opt out of this horrible test and keep their children far away from it.

Beneath The Happy Face Of Providence Creek Academy…

ProvidenceCreekAcademy

On a Facebook page called The Unofficial PCA, about Providence Creek Academy, the host put up a post on Monday about a large exodus of teachers from the Kent County charter school.  The post disappeared, but a more watered down version of the question showed up Wednesday night on the page.  As well, students in Kindergarten to 2nd grade took a standardized test that actually caused some parents to pull their children out of the school.  Questions are beginning to mount concerning the “interim” Head of School, Chuck Taylor, who has filled this interim position for a year and nine months.

In terms of the teacher exodus, it was confirmed at PCA’s board meeting on Tuesday that twelve teachers left this year.  The average is three to five.  But the school insisted this is “in the norm” according to the new Facebook post on The Unofficial PCA.

Are Teachers Leaving PCA?

Notes from 7/26 board meeting.

I hadn’t planned to attend last night’s board meeting.  But the day before, I ran into another parent at the store asking if I had heard about the rumors.  People had been saying that a large portion of the teachers were leaving PCA out of frustration with Head of School Chuck Taylor and Principal Audrey Erschen.  My friend didn’t have much details so I canceled my plans and went to the meeting.  I was expecting a huge turnout from parents but there was only one other parent attending (other than the parent board member) and she hadn’t heard the rumors.

I relayed as much of the rumors as I could, without revealing names.  This year, there are about 60 on staff and about a dozen teachers left PCA; some to other positions, some for family, and a couple that were dissatisfied.  In an average year, 3-5 teachers leave PCA but this year is not too far out of the norm and certainly not as severe as the year in which 21 teachers left.  All but two of the teaching positions have been filled.  Ms Erschen assured us that they are in no rush to fill the position and are being very selective.  She is confident that the two positions will be filled well before school starts.

As far as any issues teachers may have had with Mr Taylor or Ms Erschen, they never were clearly defined.  Mr Taylor has been the interim Head of School longer than intended as that the last candidate selected was not able to take the position.  Another candidate is being considered and Mr Taylor is planning to go back to retirement in January.  On the couple of occasions that I have heard someone complaining about Mr Taylor, it usually stemmed from a misunderstanding.  I do not envy Ms Erschen for the balancing act she does every day.  She deals with a whole lot of problems and somebody being dissatisfied is inevitable but she always maintains professional composure.  Every morning, no matter the weather, they are out in front of the school to greet students and talk with parents.  I’ve always found them to be very approachable and the kids (including my daughter) think well of them.

Greater transparency and addressing issues before they become rumors would help to put parents at ease.  Board meetings include an “Opportunity to Address the Board” and it is a great opportunity for parents to ask questions and raise concerns.  PCA is considering putting the ‘Head of School’ and ‘Principal’ reports in the webpage ‘news’ in addition to already being in the ‘Board Minutes’.  They are also considering providing staff bios so that parents know more about the staff.

I intend to follow up with any more details that I come across and certainly welcome any input.  Rather than passing along rumors, it’d be helpful to discuss these things in an open format (you can message me if you’d like to remain anonymous).  I requested a list of the teachers that left (elsewise, we could always figure it out through the process of elimination).  Arguing the validity of an individual complaint may not be as useful as keeping an open eye for trends.  PCA isn’t perfect (no school is) and we should all strive to make things better and that depends on parents being involved.

Other items:

-Director of Curriculum Danielle Moore wants to go back to the classroom and work with kids.  She has been replaced by John Epstein who had been working for the Delaware Board of Education.

-‘Special’ classes will no longer be on a six day rotation because the classes were too far apart. So this year, students will have two special classes each trimester with the same amount of time give to each class.

I would not say 12 teachers leaving out of a staff of 60 is “in the norm“.  That is 20% of their staff.  Charter schools do tend to have higher turnover than traditional public schools.  But that is an alarming number, in my opinion.  While it isn’t the exodus of 21 teachers that happened at one time, it should be a matter of concern for other teachers and parents.  My biggest questions would be how seasoned the departing teachers are.  Will their replacements be more experienced or less?  That could have a big impact!

In their latest posted board minutes, for their June 21st board meeting, I found several items that were somewhat odd which have my comments under each one.

Mrs. Erschen reviewed the placement of appropriate employees to be included in the Consolidated Grant FY 2016-2017.

What does “appropriate employees mean?

PCA will be the only charter school involved in a new DPAS study.

Which DPAS study is this?  The only public DPAS study I have seen is the pilot program which will come out of House Bill 399, which changes Component V for teacher evaluations.  Senator David Sokola was really promoting his “pilot program” amendment.  Sokola and Chuck Taylor worked together on the charter school audit bill.  But what makes this very interesting is House Bill 399 didn’t pass until July 1st.  Eleven days after this board meeting on June 21st.  So how could PCA have been picked for this program if this is the DPAS program they are talking about?  And Markell hasn’t even signed the bill yet.  Unless there is some other DPAS program that hasn’t been revealed.

There were some issues with the implementation of the new grading policy for grades K-2. This new policy created some confusion with parents. With help from Mrs. Erschen and Mr. Taylor the concerns were addressed and professional development will be provided to the teachers at the beginning of the school year to ensure that there is consistency among teachers.

What is this new grading policy?  How did it create confusion for parents?  If professional development is needed so teachers can understand a grading system in the next school year, there is something not right about this.  More on this later.

Approval of Employee Bonuses: Lisa Moore made the motion, Chris Craig seconded. All in favor? Motion passed.

PCA consistently gives out “academic excellence” payouts every single month.  But are all teachers getting them?  The average monthly employee bonus is $466.

And from their May 24th Board minutes:

Head of School Search Committee: One candidate was interviewed. Board of Directors are still narrowing candidate pool for more candidate interviews.

Can someone please tell me why the Interim Head of School, who has been in this “interim” status for 21 months, is on the search committee for this new head of school?  How many candidates have interviewed?  It looks to me like Chuck Taylor is using his position on this committee to secure continued employment for himself.  Because this is how I see it.  He left PCA under very vague circumstances in the Spring of 2013.  He wound up at Campus Community School where he became their interim Head of School after Trish Hermance resigned in the Summer of 2013.  In September of 2013, their board voted unanimously to keep him on as the permanent Head of School.  By December, they hired a new Head of School.  Chuck joined their board and six months later, he resigned from their board.  In October of 2014, Chuck came back to PCA during the Audrey Erschen odd relative/employee shenanigans going on at the school.  As the interim Head of School.  A few months later, the Tatnall leader who was supposed to become the new Head of School was poisoned in the Caribbean.  That was over a year and a half ago.  What qualifications does a leader need to become their Head of School?  This looks like a lot of stall tactics by Chuck Taylor.  I don’t buy him wanting to retire.

For a guy who wants to fade into obscurity, he sure does place himself in very important charter school positions.  As well as his “interim” duties at PCA, he also has a slot on the Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) at the Delaware DOE and is the President of the board for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  He was present at the Senate Education Committee for legislation surrounding charter school audits.  While this may not seem to be a big deal, it is important to know that PCA used the same auditor for their annual audit as Family Foundations Academy for many years.  Both PCA and FFA had major investigations from the State Auditor of Accounts that led to findings of severe financial abuse and theft.  During FFA’s charter renewal, Taylor served on CSAC.  When questions arose among the committee about FFA having a bizarre number of fraternity brothers on their board, Taylor actually defended the FFA board even though it was painfully obvious there was a major conflict of interest at play.  During this time, FFA’s leader, Sean Moore, was the Treasurer for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Moore embezzled over $100,000 from FFA according to the inspection report that came out last December.  The State Board of Education placed FFA on probation when it became public about the financial fraud.  Moore was terminated by the re-structured board which eventually removed the fraternity brothers.

All K-2 end of year assessments were created and given to the teachers who are working on administering them to the students. After all tests are complete teachers will submit them to so that data can be gathered on the assessments and determine if any changes need to be made for next school year.

PCA created assessments for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd year students?  Yes, they did.  Who created these assessments?  And if a child failed these tests, the parents were told the student had to go to summer school for a fee of $350.00.  It didn’t seem to matter what their classroom grades were.  Six different parents of first graders received a letter the second week of June indicating their child had failed the reading assessment part of this assessment.  PCA highly recommended sending these kids to summer school.  This is actually a step up for the school, because the original intention was to keep the kids in the same grade if they did poorly on this self-created assessment.  At least two parents pulled their children out as a result.  Was this the intention?  Let’s see: students do bad on an assessment, school tells parents they want the kids to go to summer school for a rather steep fee (told to parents days before this summer school was supposed to start), and parents pull kids out.  I see it as a way to get rid of low-scoring assessment takers without regard to their actual capabilities.

For the Smarter Balanced Assessment results, PCA did rather well on their scores compared to the state average.  They went from 66% proficiency in English/Language Arts to 74%.  In Math, they went from 43% to 55%.  Those are huge gains which will cause the Delaware DOE to award the charter school the token “reward school” status next fall.  I have to wonder how much of these gains and “growth” are engineered by the school in advance.  For the surrounding districts where PCA draws its student base from, the Smyrna School District went from 59% to 66% proficiency in ELA and 45 to 46% in Math.  Capital went from 48% to 50% in ELA and 32% to 36% in Math.  Campus Community School went from 62% to 60% in ELA and 37% to 40% in Math.

A few years ago, one parent pulled her child out of PCA.  Her child, according to the mom, was brilliant.  This student had some minor attention deficits, but was able to get straight As at the school.  PCA insisted on placing the child into a lower-tiered classroom as a 4th grader.  At that time, there were three levels in classrooms: lower, middle, and high.  I would have to assume this was due to Response to Intervention (RtI) strategies for lower grade students when they attended those grades.  But placement in RtI groups usually isn’t based on actual classroom grades.  It is based on how they do on standardized tests.  For this child, being placed in a lower-tier was not a good thing.  The child did not feel challenged.  Many children who are very smart put in this position will tend to act out.  As a result, the school started putting the “bad behavior” label on the student.  Teachers agreed with the mom that the student should not have been at that level.  By the time the school finally put him into the higher level, it was so late in the school year (and after the 2nd wave of DCAS testing) the mother had already decided her child would not attend the school the next year.  The mother stated that the new school had none of these issues and her child has thrived ever since.

Last weekend, I posted an article about Newark Charter School and what I see as “social engineering” to drive up their test scores.  Many of the most fervent charter school supporters are parents of children who do well on these types of tests.  In my opinion, far too many Delaware charters drive their enrollment based on this flawed idea.  When you compare PCA’s demographics to surrounding districts and their closest competition with an area charter school, we see startling changes.

PROVIDENCE CREEK ACADEMY

PCA15-16demographics

SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT

Smyrna1516Demographics

CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Capital1516Demographics

CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL

CampusCommunity1516Demographics

The students who score the lowest on the state assessment are special education students.  This has always been the case.  By driving out students with special needs, the overall scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment will automatically go up.  If you have a low population of these students to begin with, which is the case with PCA, it is a guarantee.  Many Delaware charter schools that begin with Kindergarten have screenings with potential applicants.  These screenings, which are meant to show a school where a student is at, can also serve as a way for schools to look for characteristics which could ultimately lead to perceived lower state assessment scores.  I have no doubt this practice takes place at some Delaware charter schools, and I believe PCA does this.  To further muddy the waters of this social engineering practice, PCA came up with some type of assessment for students in K-2 (who do not take the state assessment) to see how they may do on Smarter Balanced, and came up with a way to tick parents off enough they would pull their child out of the school.  Whether by design or unintentional, this is a discriminatory recipe for disaster.  Any school is only as good as the populations it serves.  We know this.  We know the Smarter Balanced Assessment changes constantly and the cut scores change from year to year.  The test is not designed to have a great majority of students showing proficiency.

In a charter school that bases everything on state assessment scores, it can become a pressure cooker for students, parents, and teachers.  This drive to perform on a once-a-year test is everything that is wrong about Delaware education.  And it is becoming clear that this is the environment at PCA.  I have no doubt they have many very positive attributes.  I am sure they do a lot of good things for their students and have a very welcoming community.  But that is the surface.  Underneath is a testing regimen that overshadows everything else.  If you are a smart kid, you will do great.  If you struggle, in any way, there will be issues.  When you look at the school’s Facebook reviews on their page, you see many 5 star designations.  Many of these reviews are from teachers and even the Principal, Audrey Erschen.  Even board members review this school.  When any rating system is purposely stacked toward a certain goal, the perception is deceptive.

While the school appears to be doing better financially, nothing happened with the terminated employee who embezzled large amounts from the school.  The Delaware Attorney General’s office has yet to file charges against this perpetrator.  But that might change.  Earlier in the Spring, state agents were in the school issuing subpoenas for financial records.  Will they find anything more than what already came out from the State Auditor of Account’s inspection released earlier this year?  Time will tell. Providence Creek Academy is the 7th largest charter school in Delaware out of 27 charter schools.  But for their expenditures divided by the number of students, they come in at 26th place.  We know they don’t pay their teachers huge amounts as well compared to surrounding districts.  So where is all their money going?

These are my biggest concerns with this school, and for perspective parents looking at this Delaware charter school, they should be seen as potential red flags.  For those who want to claim I hate charter schools, I don’t.  I think some of our charters do a great job.  I recognize no school is perfect.  But far too many use tactics like this which lead to a type of discrimination, particularly against students with disabilities.  That is intolerable.  But because our state DOE and Governor base everything on test scores on high-stakes tests driven by corporate education reformers, they look the other way.

To view past articles on Providence Creek Academy on this blog, please go here.  To view their board minutes, please go here.  The picture of the Providence Creek Academy campus came from a website belonging to Nickle Electrical Properties who renovated the school six years ago.

DOE Recognizes Delusionary Growth In Ceremony For Non-Priority Schools

This is interesting.  Priority schools get a press conference in front of Warner Elementary School with the Governor and legislators in attendance.  The citizens of Delaware are told these schools are failing, for all to see.  Recognition schools get a party, on a secure Air Force base in Dover.  Ten of them get $8,000 each to do with what they will.  Priority schools get over $5 million, divided by the six of them, to send Wilmington into a tailspin.  Six are shamed and eleven are honored.  They are all Title I schools, but some get favor while others get false labels.  One is open for the world to see while the other is closed.  Priority demands a chunk of the money goes to a company called Mass Insight while the rewarded ones can form a voluntary committee to allocate the funds.  Priority gives teachers stress and frustration while reward gets banner and a shiny headline.  Priority gets a picture of failure and recognition gets a picture with Secretary Godowsky.

From the DOE press release to the media:

 

Media Advisory       *Please note RSVP deadline below*


Contact Alison May (302) 735-4006

REWARD, RECOGNITION SCHOOLS TO BE HONORED


Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky — joined by principals, superintendents, educators, parents and students — will honor the 2015 Reward and Recognition School award winners during an event at 1 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19 at  Dover Air Force Base Middle School, 3100 Hawthorne Drive, Dover.


These awards, created by legislation passed by the Delaware General Assembly in 2009, formerly were called Academic Achievement Awards. They recognize schools for closing the achievement gap and/or showing exceptional growth on state tests for two or more consecutive years.

 

This year, there are two Reward and 10 Recognition schools that will receive $8,000 each. Additionally, there is one School of Continued Excellence that will be recognized. There is no monetary award with this honor. Each county is represented among the winners.

 

Reward schools are Title I schools identified for being either highest performing or high progress.  Recognition schools are chosen for exceptional performance and/or closing the achievement gap.  The School of Continued Excellence is a school that has received a state award during 2014 and continues to qualify for Reward or Recognition distinction in 2015. It is designated a School of Continued Excellence to recognize its sustained accomplishments.

 

As in years past, each school will appoint a committee (with administration, teacher, support staff and parent representation) to determine how the award will be used. All schools’ representatives will receive banners and will have pictures taken with Secretary Godowsky.

Because Dover Air Force Base Middle School is located on a secured military facility, the state must submit information about all those attending the event in advance so visitors can receive security clearance. Journalists planning to cover this event should RSVP with their names (as it appears on his or her driver’s license), driver license number (please note state if not Delaware) and date of birth to Alison.May@doe.k12.de.us no later than 8 a.m on Thursday, Feb. 11.

 

Dover Air Force Base Middle School (3100 Hawthorne Drive; Dover, DE 19901) is accessed by Del. 1, exit 93. (This is south of the Del. 1 and Rt. 10 intersection.) After taking Del.- 1 exit 93, proceed west toward Base Housing on Old Lebanon Road. There will be a security guard gate. Continue on Old Lebanon Road. Make a right (north) on Hawthorne Drive. The school will be immediately on your left (west).

Under The Radar, Another Delaware Charter May Go Down Tonight

All the media attention has been on Delaware Met, but another charter school may face the charter revocation knife in less than twelve hours!  The Delaware Department of Education is the charter school authorizer for most of the charters in the state, but three of them fall under the watch of the Red Clay Consolidated School District: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep.  The last of those is on formal review, and the odds are in favor of Delaware College Prep getting their charter revoked at the Red Clay board meeting tonight.

If this happens, and Delaware Met goes down at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow, that will be five charter schools shut down in the past few years: Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Met.  For a state with anywhere from 22-25 charters (it is getting hard to keep track with the openings and closings), this is an abysmal track record.  Delaware doesn’t have the charter chains like many other states.  Most of them are “mom and pop” charters.  Most of these are serving children with needs greater than other charters.

The inner-city charter experiments are clearly not working.  Sure, folks can say East Side is a resounding success, but when you look at their Smarter Balanced results, they weren’t much better than their traditional school district peers.  I am not saying I agree with using standardized test scores as a measure of success or failure, but for the sake of argument, their perceived “growth” blew up with their SBAC scores.  The problem is also the charters who do “perform” well.  This is another illusion cast upon our state because of their enrollment practices.  We all know who those players are but nothing ever changes.  So we continue this game of Russian Roulette with our Wilmington students.  We are rolling the dice with them and the results are horrible.

And yet, the charters with some of the most egregious financial abuses in our state stay open.  Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy collectively wasted over $300,000 in taxpayer funds for personal use.  Their schools are still open.  Their former leaders are not in prison for outright theft.  But we will bounce students around Wilmington through choice and charter openings and closings without any regard to the amount of instability this inflicts on our districts, our communities, and most of all, the students.

Arne Duncan Leaves Nuclear Bomb Parting Gift For Students With Disabilities

One year ago tomorrow, I wrote my biggest article ever.  Entitled US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States’ Special Education Rights, it generated numerous hits from across the country.  I imagine just about every engaged parents of children with disabilities read that article.  It was a warning shot.  It impeded on the ability of IEP teams to accurately and correctly formulate an IEP.   The latest “Dear Colleague” letter from the United States Department of Education is actually striking the hammer into the coffin of IDEA.  The letter, written by Melody Musgrove, the Direct of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), demands all IEPs be written with the state standards as part of the goals for an IEP.  I find this to be incredibly offense and this spits on the whole concept of IDEA.

In Delaware, where I live, our Department of Education released their Annual Measurable Objectives last week based on growth and proficiency of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  While overall they want the proficiency rate to go from 50% to 75% in six years, for the sub-group of students with disabilities, they want them to go from 19% to 59% in six years.  So students with disabilities will have to work harder than every single one of their peers.

The combination of these two announcements shows that those in power in education truly don’t understand neurobiological disorders and disabilities.  It almost seems as if they want to get rid of the whole concept of special education in favor of personalized learning.  As well, it appears they want parents to pull their kids out of public education.  Is this some twisted voucher program that no one has told us about, or do they just not care about the well-being of these students?  I’m all for progress and improvement, but there comes a point in time where every long-distance runner hits a wall.  When they hit that, their body literally breaks down.  Students with disabilities are going to hit that wall and it won’t be pretty.

State Board Audio Of Opt-Out Penalty Decision Is A Confusing Mess, Godowsky Stays Quiet Most Of The Conversation

Lord help me, I have transcribed the biggest part of the State Board of Education meeting from yesterday.  Once again I am numb from hearing the State Board try to figure out what the hell they were even voting on.  This is long, but there are very key and integral parts of this conversation which illuminate the State Board and Godowsky’s warped view of the whole opt-out penalty mess.  This whole decision, and the bulk of the weight on the Delaware School Success Framework, is based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The State Board also discussed the DOE’s Annual Measurable Objectives, which caused a huge outcry yesterday among parents of students with disabilities.  Here it is, but stay tuned at the end for a very special announcement with some, in my opinion, shocking news.

State Board audio transcription of the presentation on Delaware School Success Framework, 11/19/15

Players:

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, President of State Board of Education

Board Members: Nina Bunting, Gregory Coverdale, Pat Heffernan, Barbara Rutt, (absent: Vice-President Jorge Melendez and board member Terry Whitaker)

Donna Johnson,  Executive Director of the State Board of Education

Penny Schwinn, Chief Officer Accountability and Performance

Ryan Reyna, Officer of Accountability

 

Dr. Teri Gray: The next topic for us is the presentation of the Delaware School Success Framework and any other revisions to the ESEA flexibility request.  Welcome.  Please state your name for the record.

Penny Schwinn: Good afternoon, Penny Schwinn, Director of Assessment, Accountability, Performance and Evaluation.

Ryan Reyna: and Ryan Reyna, same office as Penny.

Schwinn: Well good afternoon.  Glad to be here to present the final revisions to our ESEA Flexibility request.  Today what we’ll be going over is the specific recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework, or DSSF.  The recommendations for the rating performance thresholds, in essence each category a (?) system, and our annual measurable objective.  Just for a little bit of context, we have an approved ESEA Flexibility Waiver through the end of this school year, through 2016.  We can extend that through the end of the 2017-2018 school year contingent upon the following: we need to submit an amended request to incorporate some of the final modifications to the DSSF, and we also need to demonstrate that the DSSF will allow Delaware to name the required number of priority, focus, and reward schools moving forward in the future.  Again, just to be clear, we’ve already named our priority and our focus schools, we will not be naming anymore for at least three years as they move through that process but we still need to demonstrate that this system would do so.  We also need to provide the technical documentation for the DSSF.  We’ll be provided a Spring workbook, later, once that is approved, so that will let them know what the business rules and metrics will be.  We are also requesting an approval and support from the State Board on the final annual measurable objectives, or AMOs.

So just to provide a very brief overview, I know you are probably getting sick of this graph, you’ve seen it so many times.  But we have our DSSF and this is the whole system. So we haven Part A, and in essence that is the components  that are rated.  The versus proficiency, and that is the proficiency in ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  We also have growth in ELA and Math.  And just to reiterate the points we brought up before. We have one of the most progressive growth measures in the country in terms of the weighting on our system in growth.  So as a state we’ve taken a very strong philosophical stance to really prioritize growth in student achievement as opposed to proficiency which I think is exciting.  Attendance, this is for elementary and middle school only, for school it is looking at on-track (to graduate) in 9th grade and again giving extra points for the catch-up work for those students who are in the bottom quartile in performance, catching up by the end of 9th grade.  The 4, 5, and 6 year graduation rates, which is a big change for the state.  And then finally, for elementary and middle schools we have growth to proficiency in ELA and Mathematics, for high school it is college and career preparation which we’ve spoken about includes more than just one test, it also looks at career and dual education etc.

Part B is the components that are presented.  Transparently but not rated.  Right now that is specifically to surveys, student and parent, teachers may be optional, some post-secondary outcomes, we also know that every school in the state outside of one has provided a narrative report.  And in the future we’re hoping to include social and emotional learning.

So these are the recommendations that are outstanding for the DSSF.  And again these are the Secretary’s recommendations of what we should move forward with in terms of final business rules and components.  The AFWG (Accountability Framework Working Group) has not revised their recommendation from last month so I want to be clear about that.  For the participation rates for 2015-2016’s accountability year which is based on the 2014-2015 data, essentially if a school falls below 95% participation rate, in either Math or ELA, the school will need to create a plan.  That plan will be monitored by the Office of Assessment in terms of implementation.  Moving forward, so starting 2016-2017, based on data from this school year, all schools will divide their participation rate by 95% and multiply that by the proficiency to generate an adjusted rate.  What that allows for is both positive consequences, so if a school for example if a school is higher than 95% in essence they get bonus points for testing more of their students.  Again, it is the same multiplier we will be applying to schools that fall below 95%.  We are also reporting on disaggregated participation rates which is required federally.  So I want to stop there to see if there are any questions before I move onto performance ratings.  (No questions).  Ok, great.

So for performance ratings, we have the aggregate performance so each metric area will get their own aggregated performance.  We will not do an overall rating.  We will have that information but it will not be presented on the PDF so that is consistent with what you saw last month and what we presented at the last retreat.  It will be on a 5 star scale, based on the total points available and we’ll talk about what those cut points will be in a bit.

Gregory Coverdale: So I guess, to make a comparison, that’s why we’re dividing by 95%?

Schwinn: 95% is the threshold in terms of what our expectation is for participation.  So we don’t want to do that out of 100% because if you get 96% you are above that level so 95 is our top point so in essence we are saying that as long as you are at 95% you get a 100% of the points, anything above that is extra credit.  A positive consequence so to speak.

One of the things we did want to highlight, specifically, is just the number of schools who are increasing their ratings in terms of 3, 4, and 5 Star.  We compared that to AYP (Annual Yearly Performance-created through No Child Left Behind).  One of the things we looked at was in the AFWG, our working group, was to make sure that we weren’t just seeing the performance of schools specifically related to income, so what we looked at were the number of 3, 4, and 5 star schools that were Title I schools or had a large proportion of students who were low-income and what we found was that 52 of 124 elementary and middle schools were a 3, 4, or 5 star school under this system so we’re seeing that actually 42% of the schools are high-rated even when they have large proportions of low-income students.  That is not consistent with what we’ve seen with AYP which is a lower percentage of students who did not meet AYP.  So again, while we want to see more of our schools, and many of our schools perform at the highest levels, we see that this system more accurately represents the information, specifically the growth that a lot of our schools are seeing over time.

The last point we want to bring up before we move on is looking at the number of schools who would have dropped their ratings because of the participation rate.  That was an outstanding question we had.  I’ll look to Ryan (Reyna) to double-check on some of those specifics, but no school dropped a rating in the overall based on the participation rate multiplier (important note: they did not include high schools in this information, which would have shown schools like Conrad in Red Clay take a massive drop with their 40% participation rate in math).  We did have one school that would have increased based on this multiplier.

Gray: Based on the 14-15 data?

Schwinn: Based on the 14-15 data, that’s right.

Reyna: Which is not in effect as you see on this slide.  Hypothetical, as the board presented a question to us.  So again, in confirmation of what Dr. Schwinn just said, overall no schools would have decreased their overall rating.  One school actually did improve its overall rating as it was right on the cusp.  In the area of academic achievement alone, there were three schools that improved their ratings and one school that decreased their rating, again, because it was sort of on the cusp of where the cut points are set and we will show you that in one slide.

Gray: So again, what we were trying to clarify with that question, we appreciate that follow-up, was that multiplier applies just to the proficiency component, not the overall rating.

Schwinn: Yes, it’s just the proficiency which is just one component of the overall.  So we did see more schools having positive impacts based on the multiplier.  We did want to provide that information as requested.

Reyna: 141 out of the 149 elementary schools increased as a result, would have increased as a result of this.

Gray: One question about the plan that’s in effect for this accountability year, right, so what happens if a school has to develop a plan, or a template for a plan?  So what happens to the plan?

Schwinn: The school will be given a template.  We are trying to keep it compacted based in the information we have shared earlier which is essentially: what was your participation rate, what were either your theories or proof that would constitute being below 95%, there’s a variety of reasons why that might have occurred.  Then we ask the schools to break that down so we can really get to the heart of why students aren’t participating and we have them break that down by sub-groups so that we are sure we are all appropriately testing all our subgroup students and then from there that plan is submitted to our branch.  The Office of Assessment specifically will be the ones following up on that.  This is the first year the Office of Assessment staff will be visiting every single school in the state to help support how they will be giving assessments this year.  We know there were a lot of things, a lot of questions that came up last year.  We talked about that with the Smarter presentation so our office will actually be visiting every school and we’re doing monthly visits to every district in order to support that.  So those schools that require a plan will have that direct support from our office.

Gray: And is the plan in effect?  Just for the 14-15 year?

Schwinn: It’s a one year plan.

Coverdale: Is there some sort of matrix that categorizes why a student wouldn’t have taken the test?

Schwinn: That will be a part of the plan, and we’ll be happy to supply that to the board.  You would be able to see the reasons assigned to each school where students didn’t participate and we will be doing that overall and by sub-group, for this year.

So looking at performance thresholds, I want to start with elementary and middle school.  Again, this is the similar weights we submitted in draft form in the Spring submission and then brought back to you earlier in the Fall.  But what you’ll essentially see is what the weights are for elementary and middle and the points assigned.  We didn’t…the AFWG recommended a 500 point scale but we used that scale and essentially used the multipliers with the weighting provided to get straight point allocation.  Ryan will talk a little bit about what the cut points will be so you’ll see that with elementary and middle, and then again with the high schools which is slightly different weights.

Reyna: So in setting the performance thresholds for each of the metric areas, again that’s where our focus is, not necessarily on the overall numerical score, the recommendation is that those metric thresholds, those performance thresholds, must be broken up equally across the five different categories to represent 1 through 5 stars.  We would roll up those scores in terms of rounding.  If a school is at 29 ½ for instance on academic achievement, they would be rounded up into the 2 star category so that we are recognizing that benefit, to a half point difference may not be a significant one.  So the table at the bottom of the slide is an example of what those star ratings would be for elementary and middle school with the similar rating structure for high schools as well.

We also wanted to discuss the Annual Measurable Objectives, the AMOs, as has been required since NCLB.  The US Department of Education, in the transition, recognizing the transition that many states made to ESEA adjustments has allowed states to reset their AMOs, create a new baseline.  And so this process is one in which the US DOE has requested that we submit , our process for doing so as well as the actual AMOs by January of ’16.  This is specifically for public transparency for being clear about what the state’s goals are and not necessarily as it has been in the past for determining whether or not a school met AYP or accountability.

Coverdale: How are the weights determined?

Reyna: Sure, this was the recommendation of the AFWG in how they would like to see, or how they believed, the different metrics should be weighted across the full system.  So as Dr. Schwinn mentioned, there was a firm belief amongst the AFWG members that we should place the heaviest weight on growth and the growth metrics.  And that weighting system is what was submitted in draft form in our March submission.  And then after reviewing the data, the AFWG confirmed that they wanted to stick with these weights as a recommendation and we took the weights into a direct translation of that 100 point scale.

Coverdale: The growth is weighted higher on the high school level than it is on the elementary and middle school levels.  I would think that might be reversed?

Reyna: So it is a good question.  Growth directly is weighted higher at the high school level.  But if you take into account growth to proficiency at the elementary and middle school, sort of, if you take that as another sort of growth measure, than it actually becomes more in elementary and middle.  So you see a total of 60% growth metrics between elementary and middle, we have the growth category as well as college and career readiness category.  And then high school we have growth, just the growth category.  That’s 45%.  So 60% growth metrics in elementary and middle, 45% in high school.

Schwinn: I want to reiterate this is the submission to US DOE in terms of what our proposal is.  We’ve been on calls with them multiple times cause this is a very aggressive submission in terms of growth.  But the AFWG felt strongly that these were the right weights.  Though we are pushing pretty hard to make sure this gets approved as is.  And we sent those weights in our proposal and didn’t get any pushback.  They are waiting to see the full DSSF submission in terms of some of the data from Smarter Balanced and that stuff has come in so we can run some of the numbers with DCAS and Smarter.  That being said, they are very aware this is our number one priority in terms of this system.  The group felt incredibly strongly about weights and our responsibility to advocate for that as much as possible.

Reyna: As in previous submissions, the US DOE allowed for three different options for the process which a state would set its AMOs.  Delaware has used #2 in its previous submissions and the recommendation is to stay with that.  The process being, focused on decreasing the numbers of students who are non-proficient in six years.  So that business rule would be allocated equally amongst those six years moving from a baseline to six years in the future as a way to close those gaps.  And on the next slide, you will see what, using that process, what the draft targets would be for ELA, so movement in the state from approximately 50% to 75% by 2021.  Also recognizing that some of our subgroups who start lower behind are required to make improvements at a faster pace just given the process.  And you can see that visually in the next slide where you see, I know this is difficult to read, and I apologize, but you do see that some of the subgroups are starting further behind and are catching up to the rest of the state.

Donna Johnson: And this is the same methodology that was used before in our current ESEA flexibility?  I went ahead and pulled up our existing AMOs to kind of look at them side by side and we set the baseline in 2011.  And so now this is based on a baseline of 2015 scores?  And using that same methodology moving forward?

Reyna: That’s correct.

Pat Heffernan: How close did we come to meeting it the first three years?  My recollection, vaguely, is that we weren’t really, that these are pretty aggressive targets based on what we’ve been able to do.

Johnson: I think some subgroups…

Reyna: Some subgroups have not…

Schwinn: I think that they are certainly aggressive for those subgroups that are starting out low.  Students with disabilities, for example, going from 19.3% to 59.6% is certainly incredibly aggressive.  And I think that internally, and as a state we want to be rational and reasonable about what we would expect for students or schools to grow their students on an annual basis.  If you look at other subgroups such as students either white, or Asian, there is much less growth that needs to occur.  So I think it absolutely depends, but I think they are incredibly aggressive for some of our subgroups.

Reyna: The rule is, the calculation is going to consistently…

Heffernan: Right, yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, sure, and I mean , it’s certainly our stated goal, to increase those gaps and move them, bring them together.  I just, I’m certainly not one for dropping the bar too low, but I don’t want to, get in a thing where, we know that the problem with 100% proficiency, right, is that everybody says “We can’t get that anyways, it’s all hooey”, so I, however we do this, however we monitor it, I don’t want us to get too discouraged because someone like, I don’t think…

Schwinn: I think we have a responsibility on that note to the supports provided to schools.  So the state’s responsibility to provide supports specifically to those subgroups that have a tremendous amount of growth, and the districts the same, to be able to provide support to their schools.  We’re not going to meet these goals if we don’t provide really targeted and comprehensive support to a lot of our subgroups.  Cause there is a long way to go, especially since we have that new baseline with Smarter Balanced.

Johnson: Are there opportunities as we collect more data to revisit our AMOs based upon data and student performance?

Schwinn: We always have the opportunity to resubmit or submit amendments to this flex waiver.  We also know that it is highly likely that the new ESEA bills that is going currently will be passed before the new year.  Let’s call that 60-40.  But there’s a good chance that could happen.  That creates a lot of change, potentially, to how we address this.  For now, this is consistent with what we’ve done in the past.  We felt like it was probably the most appropriate way to move forward given a new assessment, and we also recognize that there may be opportunities, especially after the second year of Smarter Balanced, to revisit based on the data we get in year two.

Gray: I think it’s important, I think that, I guess, the methodology is as good as we can probably get it, but I think the consistency in terms of monitoring is “Are we making progress?” and the conversation should be on are we moving in that direction or not and the endgame is always for us to try to go back cause the baseline has been reset given that we are using the Smarter data versus where we were with the 2011 baseline, which I think is DSTP data.  I’m sorry, DCAS data.  The reality check there is that we had a higher baseline, actually, right?  And we were probably giving, really, a falsehood in terms of where we really were actually at with students proficiency relative to where we want them to be for the  college readiness perspective, right, so a 64% opposed to a 50.5% for all students, so that shift needs to be a reality check for us.  The other piece is, this method does say that we will close the gaps, right?  It’s not closed as in no gap, but we are closing the gaps.  That is the intent.  Cause I keep looking at almost by half in some cases.  If you look at the white students versus African-American students it goes from 25.7% to I think 12.9% or something, so that in itself is a very appropriate goal for us to go for, it shouldn’t be any less than that.  It shouldn’t be less than that.

Schwinn: We certainly always want to see gaps close because our lower performing sub groups are doing significantly better as opposed to seeing our highest performing subgroups doing either worse or (?) we want to get better.

Gray: And I think that formula allows for (? mumbles) I think the challenge, Ryan has given this to us a few times, is there enough methodology approach to say this is better.  We have yet to figure that out.  Maybe that’s a trust we need to try to bring in.  But I think it’s a reasonable one, but I don’t think the goal should be any less, regardless of…

Heffernan: I hear you, and again, some of these make more sense than others.  I just don’t want us to feel like, and to Dr. Gray’s point when she said, making progress or moving in the right direction, I don’t, I don’t buy that really.  It’s not just getting a little bit better, we’ve gotta make appropriate, I, if we set something that’s impossible to reach its just discouraging.

Gray: And then the other piece that’s tied into monitoring.  There are gonna be some individual schools and/or aggregate of schools, that will do much better than this.  And I think we need to make sure we always highlight that relative to the aggregate.  There will be some schools that we know, they have literally closed the gaps within their buildings, it’s not…

Heffernan: They’re not even here now…

Gray: I think that’s part of the conversation, it is possible, right?  If one or two schools can do it, many schools can do it.

Heffernan: Right, I totally agree with that.

Coverdale: I just, big question is how do you close a gap without having more on the upper end, the echelon of, flat money? (not sure, Coverdale speaks very low and it is hard to hear him in the audience so the audio recording isn’t a shock).  If one or two aren’t learning than it just become a perpetual gap.

Gray: I’ll let the experts speak on that.

Heffernan: Everybody has an upper trend on that graph.  It’s just some are steeper slopes.

Schwinn: Yeah, so you’re going to have a steeper slope for those students who are currently lower performing, specifically, our students with disabilities, low-income, African-American, Hispanic-Latino, are starting at a much lower baseline so they are gonna be required to jump by 5,6, or 7 points each year as opposed to our Asian and white students who are gonna be required to jump 1 to 2 points each year.

Coverdale: So is there someone in the classroom saying “Hey, African-American student, this is what you’re gonna have to deal with?”  Is there like an African-American student group?  Do you know what I mean?  That’s the kind of granular focus that we need to happen in order for some of this to come to fruition by 2021.

Schwinn: I think we are seeing with our districts, we just finished our end of year meetings with our districts, we are starting our middle of the year meetings with our districts, a lot of the conversation is really focused on how are you allocating your resources to really target those groups that need additional supports, and how as a state can we provide you with even more supports, whether that’s financial, or capacity, to target some of your lower performing subgroups.  So those are ongoing conversations and what we’re seeing is a lot of districts are really looking at school level and even student level data around how to target more efficiently their dollars and resources.

Heffernan: But are we sending mixed messages?  So that we looked at how we are splitting up the growth and weight, all those things, right, is the growth reflecting these slopes?

Schwinn: The growth on DCAS?

Heffernan: The growth targets that we’re giving people, growth proficiency and all those things, right, this isn’t growth proficiency, that’s not even growth, right?  So on one hand we’re saying the school is growing, we’re going to give you credit for growth, but on the other hand we say these are what our system goals are for growth and I suspect that they’re not really aligned.  You could give us a school that is doing reasonably well in growth targets and are not living up to this.

Schwinn: This is essentially improvement, right, so we’re looking at just a standard baseline improvement for something like an AMO, but I think when we’re looking at growth it’s a much more complex function.  We’re taking into account prior test history, we’re looking specifically at cohorts of students, this is,  essentially, we have to create a straight line of slope as we’re looking at an improvement from year to year as opposed to looking at aggregate growth.

Heffernan: But the cohorts are included in here, a successful cohort growth is much more based on our historical…which we’re not doing anywhere near this, so we would be exceeding our growth targets and coming nowhere near meeting our AMOs.

Schwinn: Yeah, I think it’s gonna vary pretty significantly by school, but I that is absolutely a possibility.

Johnson: The AMOs are something that we report for all subgroups but I did not see that the AMOs were specifically referenced in the DSSF.  So this is a separate report than the DSSF.

Schwinn: Schools will not be rated based on this.  This is something that we are required to publicly report, but they won’t have any of their ratings based on the DSSF impacted whether or not they meet these targets.

Heffernan: I guess the feds are making us do this, but I don’t really buy into it, and we’re not really growing on this goal.  Because the whole system isn’t pointing towards this, we’re not driving this at all, it’s completely separate conversation, we did what we did, sort of, our growth targets are based on what we’ve always…, this is one of my big beefs.  Our growth targets are what we’ve always done, right?  My growth target would be based on, kids like me, how much did I grow, and how much did they grow last year, and if I grow that same amount, if I grow less than that same amount, than I can still easily meet the targets, right?  But overall we’re saying that we gotta bring the targets, the bar, we would never, I just don’t think the system is geared towards producing these results.

Coverdale: (mumbling again) How would the growth trajectory for African-American students be different, and I’m in the same class as these whites, and Asians, and everyone else.  I’m doing the same thing but I grow more, at a higher growth rate than everyone else.

Schwinn: I think that would get into some of the differentiation and instruction that teachers have to do and I think that teachers are, their job gets harder more and more every year, and things are being asked of our educators and they are doing a tremendous job in meeting the needs of individual students, but you’re right, there’s gonna be different growth expectations for different students in your class, and I think, I would say that we are happy to publish these targets, and separately say that we really stand behind the work of the AFWG in terms of really prioritizing growth in a more meaningful way than some of our subgroups formally…

Coverdale: (mumbling) by 2021…

Gray: I think the aggregate conversations are difficult, like this AMO one, and so, federal mandate or not, I think in the spirit of multiple measures, these should be trending in the same direction.  From a growth to proficiency, or a DSSF perspective, centered around that, or these aggregates, but we look at this whole population of 130,000 kids, where with the DSSF were really targeting accountability in our schools in terms of that calculation.

Barbara Rutt: But I would say still, in this conversation and not to get philosophical, but when you talk about multiple students in one classroom this whole concept of personalized learning and how do we get out of that expectation gap.  Cause we have evidence that the gap is closed at certain buildings and at certain at-risk schools so all of this is really possible.  It’s just a matter of how you close the expectation gap as well as actually put the personalized learning into play, and how you give more ownership with that learning, or shared learning, at the student level.  So I think that’s part of the conversation we’re struggling with and half of it is as much to do with policy as it is what is actually the relationship that is happening in the classroom.  Cause we have buildings, we have gaps close, we have schools around this country where there are no gaps, right? So we know that it is possible even if we got these aggregate AMOs or whatever, we got the DSSF which is getting down to the next granular level, like this is what needs to happen at that more intimate level, we got class change, so it should all be going in an upward direction.  As a pass point, it’s going to be very difficult for us to get our actual measures to line up with something at the Federal level cause its hard to serve millions of kids at the personalized level that you need to do, right?  Versus what we would do in Delaware.  So that’s where I am, and let me know if the measures are doing good.  I think it’s really worth the conversation.  They’re all doing that, even if…

Heffernan: The growth measures doing this, there’s no slope…

Gray: AMO? Is that what you’re looking at?

Heffernan: No, I’m talking about the growth of the DSSF.  How about a zero slope, right?  We’re talking about low growth targets or what we did last year, aren’t they?

Gray: No, I see why you’re confused.

Reyna: We moved away from the growth targets at the school level.  Its focused on the aggregate of student growth , there’s no longer a target of other than growth to proficiency is are you…

Heffernan: Growth to proficiency, I got that, yeah

Reyna: The growth targets that are part of the teacher evaluation system are slightly different than the way in which growth is calculated on the DSSF and we plan to discuss that, I believe…

Johnson: Yeah, so we’re not looking at student growth target, as we used to look at when we had the DCAS broke down, but we are looking at that Spring to Spring growth model and looking at it as a school level growth rather than…

Heffernan: But what is the goal of growth?

Johnson: Then you’re looking at the aggregate of, you know, with the conditions around it, did it grow more than the expected growth value of ones like it, and that’s where we use multiple levels of data.  That’s what you’re getting at, in terms of saying, are we seeing growth expectation based on multiple years of prior data, but we are looking at prior years of test data, not just prior years of that grade, which is what we have done before.  Ryan can explain it much better.

Heffernan: I won’t , but I guess, if the target is going to be aggressive in some cases, but on the other hand I think, well, I’m looking specifically at students with disabilities so that’s…

Gray: I gotcha…

Heffernan: We don’t want the target to be what we’ve always done. But I think we understand we need continuous improvement.  If we feed that correctly in there, if we align…I was just questioning that.

Gray: I agree with you.  I think that students with disabilities has always been one of the painful, realistically “How are we going to figure out that one?”  Not only realistic…

Heffernan: Not that we don’t need to do it.  You’re not going to see anyone think we need to do it more than I do.

Gray: I think it’s also worthy, cause it’s confusing Ryan, around the growth targets, and I think I have it in my head, I think that’s really where we were a few cycles back?  So we will always need to refresh our…

Reyna: Happy to do that…

Gray: Growth model.

Nina Bunting: Would you bring me up to date please, cause I wasn’t here in the Spring.  I just have to ask if there are stakeholders out there that feel their recommendations have been dismissed, what about this plan addresses that?  Have their recommendations been dismissed?  Or have you actually addressed those recommendations and incorporated them into the plan?  Because there are people who are very, very concerned.

Schwinn: Are you speaking specifically about the participation rate piece of the DSSF or the AMOs?  I can address both actually.

Bunting: Yeah.

Schwinn: Great.  So one specifically, and I should have probably stated this earlier, the pieces on the AMOs have not gone to DESS, they will go to DESS, a lot of the changes made, will go to DESS in December.  So they have not looked at that specifically.  We are looking at this participation rate discussion.  The recommendation of the AFWG has not changed.  Their recommendation was to do a plan as a primary consequence.  After discussion, and meeting at the retreat, from last month and this month, the recommendation of the Secretary is to use the mulitiplier.  I want to be clear that was the recommendation of the AFWG.  I know that in conversations we were looking at a multitude of input, and the recommendation put forth by Secretary Godowsky in terms of the participation rate.  The AMOs are put forth by the State and we decided because it was a new assessment we should move forward with what has been consistent in prior years.

Reyna: The rest of the plan with all the rest of the DSSF is based on the recommendations of the AFWG.

Schwinn: And the refresher from the Spring, around what kind of stakeholder engagement has been, the other big conversation has been how do you represent the data?  And one of the things we did, we did a series of focus groups that were facilitated by the University of Delaware, and then did a very brief, very fun, pick your framework that you like, the layout that you like.  The feedback that we got was that people didn’t like the layout, any of the options.  There were rocketships, and I think, grades, etc.  So we went back and looked at stars and that’s how we got the star system which was a compromise on that.  We have taken the majority of the feedback, especially from the AFWG, which has met over 16 times over the last 15 months…

Bunting: So you did take their recommendations?

Schwinn: We’ve taken a majority of their recommendations.  I just want to be very specific that there were the recommendations that were on the previous slides where they wanted the plan as the consequence for participation rate.  That was the recommendation, the recommendation in front of you is the multiplier.  But we’ve definitely been…it’s been a lively and engaged group in terms of the recommendation, but the majority of the recommendations have been taken.

Heffernan: What that process was, the group made a recommendation and not a decision, just as often we do with the Secretary around charter schools or whatever it is, the groups come in, and at the end of the day somebody weighs multiple views …

Schwinn: And there are many groups who provide that input and feedback.  The AFWG is the organized group that meets regularly but I certainly know that there are a variety of emails that have been sent to our Accountability email address and all that information is provided as part of the record.

Gray: Yeah, part of this conversation, I think we were 9-10 times on record having this discussion from the very first presentation, which was in March, April, I don’t recall, and much later in the year, so the DSSF component presented in the earlier charts, that kind of outline of A and B and the weights, that has not changed over time, and that came directly from the conversations.  And the whole participation rate, which has been the most robust conversation, that did come back to us initially last April, May (it was March Dr. Gray), it may have been earlier, March, April, the participation rate.  And then what came after was at the end of the AFWG conversations and that was probably the last, if not, one of the next to last sessions I was able to sit in around the conversation of having ratings, and the stars, that came out of that deal, and now we are at stars, versus having an overall rating, and the compromise around having stars as overall ratings, so that was the big one.  And the participation rate, what we actually said in that conversation, and now with the recommendation from the Secretary, was that, you know, the participation rate really does, we wanted a balance of that conversation, so at 95%, left at 95% with the multiplier, we also asked for the upside of that, so if when were above 95%, they get the same upside, an uptick, so we really wanted that balance…

Heffernan: And more schools were given the uptick than the down…

Gray: More schools were given an uptick, cause we really did not want to have a conversation as a one-way consequence, the actual definition of consequence, positive and or negative, is actually the conversation…

Dr. Steven Godowsky: I want to make some comments.  On November 17th, last Tuesday, we had a meeting of the AFWG to discuss the rationale for the modification of the plan so we did bring the group back to their 17th meeting to have that discussion.  I also want to say that the AFWG did, in my opinion, settle on the most important measurable outcome, and that’s the whole idea of a rated growth.  And that is probably the fairest to all schools, and the best measurement for a direct effect of teaching.  That’s where we can make a difference and that’s where we have control over that.  So I think they did absolutely the right thing on that.  And so the fact that has the most value, it belongs there, in my opinion.

Gray: I agree, and I appreciate that, cause growth is where we think the conversation should be, you know, for struggling students and those that are excelling, if we have them in our midst of a K-12 place, we want to see growth.  And  you talked about, there couldn’t have been more alignment, between where the Board is, and the Secretary, and where the AFWG is on that.

Reyna: So last, and you have the Math targets.  Similarly, it’s in process.  Last piece is next steps.  As Dr. Schwinn mentioned, we’ll be submitting, upon assent of the Board, so upon submitting final documentation to the US Department of Education next week, essentially before Thanksgiving, and then would wait for their response.  Certainly our expectation is, there is a lot of transition at the US DOE right now and with the holidays coming, I don’t necessarily believe we would be able to get that before Christmas for instance, but sometime in the early 2016 timeline and then from there the commitment is, again, to update and resubmit Regulation 103 within sixty days of approval by the US Department of Education, with public comment, at which point would then come  back to this Board for discussion and ultimately, action.

Gray: And when do we expect to hear back from US Ed?

Reyna: It would be great if it was before the end of the year, but likely, January, February timeline.

Schwinn: They committed to four weeks, but I don’t think that is taking into consideration that we’re going to have a new Secretary of Education (at the US DOE) there, so our expectation is sometime around the week of January 10th.

Johnson: And then once final approval is received, the Department would then begin re-revising Regulation 103 and we would have sixty days to promulgate those revisions and bring that back before the board for discussion and ultimate action.

Gray: Okay.

Schwinn: Are there any questions?

(none)

Gray: So the Department of Education seeks approval of the ESEA Flexibility Waiver application revisions as outlined in this presentation.  Is there a motion to approve DOE’s ESEA Flexibility application revisions?

Coverdale: So moved.

Gray: I do need a second.

Heffernan: Second.

Gray: Thank you.  Any further questions or discussion?

(none)

Gray: All in favor, indicate by saying aye.

Gray, Heffernan, Coverdale Rutt: Aye.

Gray: Any opposed? (none) Abstentions?

Bunting: Abstention please.

Gray: Motion carries.  Alright.

Johnson: Could we elect to do a roll call?

Gray: Sure

(roll call given, same result, Whitaker and Melendez absent)

 

And with that, the Delaware State Board of Education passed the opt-out penalty in the Delaware school report card.  What makes this all very interesting is the fact that two of the participants in this whole conversation will not even be at the DOE by the end of the year.  Two of the individuals are resigning from the DOE.  Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna are leaving.  A very important fact to make note of here is the timing on approval of this ESEA waiver application.  The DOE can not submit Regulation 103 until they get approval from the US DOE on this.  At that point, they have to redo Regulation 103 and it won’t be voted on by the State Board for at least sixty days.  Which gives the 148th General Assembly more than enough time to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50!  And with that, I will bid you good night.  Stay tuned (literally) tomorrow for the most offbeat post of the year, possibly my lifetime.  I know one person who will definitely want to see this!