Farewell Dr. Terri Hodges, Hello Delaware PTA President Julie Alvarez

For the past five years, Dr. Terri Hodges led the Delaware Parent Teachers Association through some very trying times in Delaware.  As Common Core became a staple, along with its evil counterpart, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Hodges stood up for parents during the opt out movement in Delaware.  Yesterday, Hodges turned over the mantle to the newly elected Julie Alvarez at the annual Delaware PTA convention.

Yvonne Johnson, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, and Dr. Terri Hodges

Together with their Vice President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson, Hodges and Johnson were the PTA Mafia in Delaware.  I mean that in the best way possible.  They made the opt out movement what it was back in 2015 with their non-stop advocacy for parental rights on the issue.  Sadly, they were shut down on that advocacy by their parent organization, the National PTA.  The Nation PTA President, Laura Bay, threatened to shut off their national funding if they didn’t shut up.  It was a classic case of bullying.

Johnson, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, Hodges

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Hodges in support of House Bill 50, the infamous legislation that ultimately passed the General Assembly but was subject to a veto by the very corporate education reformer loving Governor, Jack Markell.  Hodges strongly supports funding for basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade along with tons of common sense legislation.  I will miss her as President of Delaware PTA but I have no doubt I will continue to count her as a friend I met during my journey in Delaware public education.  Thank you Terri for your outstanding advocacy and looking out for Delaware students!

As for President Alvarez, she had some words to say about her new role.  I look forward to working together with her on various education bills and policy in the years ahead.

Thank you for joining us at the annual Delaware PTA Convention and for all of the work that you do on behalf of Delaware’s children. We have put together an extensive day of networking and information gathering opportunities for you that we hope you will find beneficial.  Make sure to visit the vendor area and take advantage of the door prizes and giveaways.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Terri Hodges for all of her hard work and tireless efforts as the Delaware State PTA President for the past five years. In that capacity, she has created a strong platform on which I plan to continue to build upon. I am excited to continue working with her as she moves to the position of Immediate Past President as well as with the other members of the board.

In the coming year, my focus will be on three major areas: expanding family engagement in our schools, increasing PTA membership and involvement through raising awareness of the value of and developing excitement for PTA, and continuing the advocacy that is the foundation of PTA.

I invite you all to join Delaware PTA as we work together to make positive change towards the mission of making every child’s potential a reality.  Enjoy the Convention!

Regards,

Julie Alvarez

Delaware PTA President Julie Alvarez

Caroline Harrison-DeJose became the Delaware PTA 1st Vice-President as well yesterday.

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Odyssey Charter “Denies” A Parent’s Opt Out Letter Two Months Later

Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February.  The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws.  The school does have discretion.  It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.

The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child.  I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out.  So this would be the first to my recollection.  The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out.  They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold.  Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year.  I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay.  It isn’t.

What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law.  That states schools must administer the state assessment to students.  It says nothing about the student actually taking the test.  A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test.  That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it.  And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.

The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law.  Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate.  But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either.  It doesn’t even address opt out.  In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out.  But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it.  And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.

Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee.  It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th.  I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.

Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent.  Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it.  I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it.  That is my promise to you!  And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!

 

The Exceptional Delaware Hero Of The Year 2017: Laurie Howard

I normally wait to release this until the last day of the year, but this year’s hero demanded the honor sooner.  You see, Laurie Howard passed away.  Surrounded by her loved ones, she left us far too soon.  Laurie was many things: a mother, a wife, a teacher, and a friend.

I’ve known Laurie for almost three years.  I met her through this blog.  A teacher in Caesar Rodney School District, Laurie and I were in fierce agreement on many things.  That standardized testing in the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is wrong.  That every single parent has a fundamental right to opt their child out of that test.  That corporations are slowly taking over public schools and school districts are powerless to stop it.

Laurie even had her own short-lived blog but only a select few were aware it was her.  Back in 2015, Laurie launched a blog where she challenged the Delaware State Education Association to fervently support House Bill 50.  She called out DSEA leadership for their sheepish support of the legislation.  The blog did not last long as Laurie was terrified of being found out and terminated from her job as a teacher.  But it had an impact.  From accounts I heard, Jenner was very upset about Laurie’s blog posts.  But Laurie felt strongly the teacher’s union was in bed with the privateers in public education.  At least their leadership was. I loved that blog and I wish Laurie had been able to continue it but I completely understand her reasoning to end it abruptly.  Many assumed they knew who wrote that blog but they were wrong. It was a secret that I carried to her grave. But I know she would not mind having this knowledge out now. To me, it was one of her many legacies. My only regret is not saving her articles for posterity and remembrance.  When Laurie shut down the blog she deleted all of the posts.

Laurie joined the Delaware Parent Teacher Association in 2015 so she could be in a position to advocate to a wider audience. She was well aware and did research on the corporate education reform movement and the dangers it posed in our public schools.  One of her articles focused on how PISA was a misused test. One of her biggest worries was the growing amount of tracking going on with students.  She felt, and I agree, that schools have become more about diagnosing students than educating them.  She did not like the feds controlling education and thought they should stick their noses out of local control.

In 2016, Laurie started another blog in an attempt to save the Schwartz Center for the arts in Dover.  She was a fervent supporter of theater and the arts.  I wished she had won that fight as well.

Last Spring, Laurie was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She was already set to retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.  I had the honor of attending her retirement party at the Schwartz Center in Dover.  She was happy and humbled by so many of her peers and friends celebrating her time as a Delaware educator.

I talked to Laurie over the summer, mostly on social media.  She was scared.  She didn’t want to leave.  But she didn’t want the world to see this.  I did my best to not talk about education matters because I wanted the borrowed time I spent with her to be about her and to see if she needed anything.  On her Facebook page, she talked about how beautiful this world is and she put on a brave face.  In the past few weeks, Laurie put this up on her account:

Okay, time is getting mighty precious lately. I’ve been brought to the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford. My hope is that the awesome care I’ve received the past two days here will provide for extended life opportunities with my friends and family! I was asked to help my friends figure out what to say or do as a result of this stay. Just know if I’m your FB friend, we are friends. I love you, I care about you and your family. You don’t have to send expressions of love and longtime friendships (unless you want too). My love and best wishes for a long and healthy life are sent without question. Love to all!

Laurie’s post was just who she was.  A couple of years ago, Laurie was able to answer a question for me.  One that haunted my soul for a long time.  It was purely coincidental, and while I won’t get into the question, it did give me understanding and comfort about someone.  For the longest time, I thought this person was evil incarnate but Laurie urged me to forgive this person.  And I did.  That’s who she was.

Together with our friend Natalie, we would haunt meetings in Dover.  Especially the Assessment Inventory Committee and meetings about the opt out bill.  We would give public comment about how bad the testing was and how it wasn’t right for Delaware children.  Laurie’s struggles with students in the classroom over this test are very similar throughout the state.  My only wish was that Laurie would have been able to use her voice at its full force because it was a voice worth hearing. I will miss you Laurie Howard. I find comfort that you are watching over all of us and I pray that you can impart your wisdom to those who think education is a financial playground. I know Laurie would want me to keep fighting the fight, and I will, the best I can.  May you rest in peace my sweet friend.

Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal Hates Parents Just Like Jack Markell Does! State Rep. Earl Jaques Pretends New Opt Out Legislation Doesn’t Exist!

Diane Ravitch just wrote about Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of opt-out legislation that passed the Georgia General Assembly.  This immediately reminded me of Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s horrible veto of House Bill 50 in the summer of 2015.  Say, State Rep. Earl Jaques, why the hell hasn’t the new opt out legislation, House Bill 60, been put on the agenda for the House Education Committee.  You promised me it would be over two months ago.  Guess it isn’t a priority for YOU so it won’t get on there.  Being the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee means allowing all education bills to be heard in committee.

Opt out is alive and well.  I may not write about it as much, but it is still happening.  New York continues to have terrific opt out numbers.  It won’t be until July or so until we find out Delaware’s opt out numbers for this year.  That is when the Delaware Dept. of Education releases all the Smarter Balanced information from this year.

Down in Georgia, Jeb Bush’s insane Foundation for Excellence in Education jumped on the veto bandwagon.  Ravitch quoted the Atlanta Journal-Constituion:

“The proposal would have harmed students and teachers by denying access to measurements that track progress on standardized assessments,” the advocacy group, founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said in a statement. “Maintaining a transparent and accountable measurement systems is critical to ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and beyond — and indicates how successful schools are in preparing students for the future.”

Hey Jeb, we don’t want progress on standardized assessments, we just want regular student progress.  These flawed and meaningless tests don’t provide that.  They feed the data whore beasts and waste a crapload of time in our schools.  They stress kids out and the tests are used to label and shame teachers and schools.  Enough already!

Shut Up About Education Already Jack Markell, We Don’t Care About Your Failed Policies Anymore

Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell was supposed to go biking into the sunset.  That was an honorable move on his part.  But in the past week, Markell has been on a tear in the education world.  If he isn’t joining the board of Graham holdings with their very huge education ties, he is pimping for Campbell Brown’s ridiculous education outfit. Continue reading “Shut Up About Education Already Jack Markell, We Don’t Care About Your Failed Policies Anymore”

Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…

 

House Bill 50 To Be Heard In House Education Committee Today…. Say What?

The Delaware General Assembly returns today!  It was supposed to happen yesterday, but the impending doom of the snowstorm that didn’t quite live up to its potential postponed the return.  Today is Committee day!  House Bill 50 WILL be heard in the House Education Committee today.  Say what?  Didn’t former Governor Jack Markell veto that bill? Continue reading “House Bill 50 To Be Heard In House Education Committee Today…. Say What?”

Uncle Sam Wants YOU… To Opt Out!

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Sam Golder is the Director of Secondary Education for the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  He is also one of the three candidates for the Christina Superintendent position.  Last night, at a community forum, Golder was asked about parents opting their kids out of standardized testing.  Golder’s response was “Opt Out! Everyone opt out!”  The other two candidates believed it comes down to a parent’s right, but Sam Golder unequivocally and enthusiastically wants parents to opt out.  Which would be good for opt out supporters.  He needs to take that show on the road and hit every single school board, be it district or charter school, and tell them this energetic burst of good news.  Since he believes in opt out so strongly, he needs to get a letter in with the News Journal promoting that same amount of opt out energy he showed last night.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing Golder at any of the House Bill 50 hearings at Legislative Hall back in 2015.  Oh well.  He came out as the opt out supporter of 2017 last night though!  Since I am not as active on this blog as I once was, I strongly urge parents who are curious about opt out to contact Golder so they can gain his infectious spirit and spread the news!

Should Golder get this lofty education leader position in the second largest district in the state, I sincerely hope he leaves some of his entourage back in Red Clay.  You know, those who claim to be “in the know” but just want to see who can make the loudest thud in public education.  I just wrote about some of those people.  Yes, I promised to be nice this year.  But I don’t like shenanigans, at any level.  Crypticism is not completely dead on this blog.

16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky

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

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

Delaware Senator David Sokola Openly Lied To Citizens In His Debate Last Night

Delaware Senator David Sokola openly lied in a debate with his opponent for the 8th Senate District, Republican Meredith Chapman.  WDEL covered the event which included a lot of talk about opt out and districts vs. charters.  When confronted with the question of opt out, WDEL reported the following:

Longtime incumbent state Senator David Sokola does not fully support an opt-out provision.

“If it said opt-out of Smarter Balanced, I’d probably support it,” said Sokola. “But if just said opt-out of the state tests–then I’d have a problem because I think we will be moving to a different assessment within a couple of years anyway.”

As Senator Sokola knows, House Bill 50 in its original incarnation was for all state assessments.  However, prior to the House voting on the bill, State Rep. Sean Matthews added an amendment limiting the legislation to just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It overwhelmingly passed the House and went to the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Sokola.  When it was released from that committee, it went to the floor for a full Senate vote.  Sokola added an amendment to the bill to include all district assessments.  The amendment passed but Sokola voted no on House Bill 50.  After another Senator put on an amendment which was taken off by the House, it went back to the Senate for a second vote and Sokola voted no a second time.

David Sokola is a flat-out liar.  Some have attempted to sway me into supporting Sokola because of his track record on other issues, but I see him for what he is.  He is no longer fit to represent the people of his district, much less any child in the State of Delaware.  He can’t even own up to his own decisions and be honest about it.  Vote for Meredith Chapman in the 8th Senate District.  A quarter of a century of this liar is far too long…

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Trey Paradee For 29th State Rep. District

I’ve known Trey Paradee for a few years now.  He was the first State Representative I ever met.  It is fitting, because he is my State Rep in the 29th District.  I have approached him about many issues, mostly dealing with education.  Trey comes from a long lineage of Paradees who have served Delaware.  I proudly endorse him for another term in the 29th Rep. District.

I witnessed Paradee getting more involved with education during the course of the 148th General Assembly.  During the infamous House Bill 50 opt out saga, Paradee made it a point to attend the House Education Committee meeting to hear what parents and teachers were saying.  He stayed for the entire meeting (and it was a long one).  He voted in favor of House Bill 50 twice and also voted in favor of suspending the rules to allow for a vote on an override of Governor Markell’s veto of said bill.  While that attempt failed, Trey was one of only 13 House Reps who voted yes on this measure out of 40.  It showed his commitment to parents and their inalienable rights.

I haven’t made it easy on Paradee.  As my district rep, Trey is in the sometimes uncomfortable position of being in “that blogger’s” district.  Let’s face it, I’m not always easy on those I disagree with.  To me, it is always about the kids.  But Trey gets that.  I believe he gets that sometimes a legislator needs to cut across the grain in order to do what is right.  But at the same time, he has talked with me about my approach.  And while I haven’t always heeded those words, I very much appreciate his insight.

trey

This morning, I read the Delaware State News and there was an entire page devoted to Paradee’s views.  His opponents, Republican Jean Gallagher and Green Party candidate Ruth Ann James did not even bother to return the survey.  While it is certainly their right not to participate in a survey, it also speaks volumes to their commitment to informing the citizens of the district about their views on issues.  Given that this article came out a week and a half before the election, I find it odd they would not want to participate in something that would get their positions out there.  Neither of Paradee’s opponents participated in a questionnaire from the Dover Post as well.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Paradee devoted portions of his survey to education.  He cited education funding as a top priority the state needs to change.

However, we have created a system of haves and have-nots, and the referendum process has devolved into a political endeavor with yard signs, call centers and mailers.  Meanwhile, some school districts that deal with a higher number of English second language students and children who face challenges brought upon by poverty do not have adequate resources.  This problem needs to be addressed by the next administration, with the help of parents, educators, and administrators, to find a way to provide adequate resources to our most challenged students while maintaining some of the local control that we have grown to enjoy through the referendum process.

When asked what changes he would like to see in the Delaware Department of Education, he responded with the following:

We need to clean house.  We need to reduce the number of positions and return more control to the local school boards.

Amen Trey!

In looking at Janice Gallagher’s survey responses to the Delaware Voter’s Guide, she fully supports school vouchers which would further cripple an already financially strapped public education system and has proved ineffective in many states.  On her website, Gallagher’s only mention of education is a very broad “create common sense education for your children and grandchildren” which tells me absolutely nothing about what she stands for.  I can easily go back to the past four years and see how Trey Paradee stands on education through his voting record in the House of Representatives.  While I don’t agree with every single vote he has cast, I see a continual increase in his involvement with education issues.

On a personal level, Trey is very approachable and he will look into issues if you go to him.  I have sent a few parents his way over the past couple of years.  During the last legislative session, he made it a point to make sure Delawareans were not unfairly raked over the coals with a proposed Artificial Island project that would have increased energy costs but given the bulk of the benefit of the station to New Jersey residents.  And he succeeded!

Please vote for Trey Paradee if you live in the 29th Rep. District on November 29th.  I know I will!  Besides, who wouldn’t vote for a guy that brings his dogs everywhere!  This is also a state representative who has never missed a vote in the House.  In four years!  Not everyone can say that.  But one thing people can say is that Paradee was a spitting image of Rush singer Geddy Lee in his younger days!

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Senator David Sokola Does NOT Get Endorsed By Delaware State Education Association

The Delaware State Education Association came out with their 2016 Endorsed Candidate list for the upcoming election in November.  There is a rather large glaring omission: the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, none other than 8th District Senator David Sokola.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  He was not a friend to teachers in the 148th General Assembly.  Or parents.  Or students.  Between House Bill 50 and House Bill 399, opt out to teacher evaluations, Sokola did not make a lot of new friends the past two years.   He was widely seen as the legislative water carrier for Governor Jack Markell.  While he is now trying to distance himself from the Delaware Dept. of Education, his actions the past two years speak otherwise.  This is very big folks!  To be the Chair of an education committee at Legislative Hall and NOT get endorsed by the teachers union speaks volumes.

DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates for State and Federal Elections

DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates

Vote For John Kowalko In The 25th Rep District On Election Day!

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No one stood up for parents more than Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko in the 148th General Assembly.  As the prime House sponsor on House Bill 50, the opt out bill, Rep. Kowalko fought for months to ensure that a parent’s fundamental rights to opt their child out of the state assessment was honored.  Furthermore, it would have stopped schools or the state from punishing a child for having a parent opt them out.  Ultimately, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  An attempt to override the veto failed when the legislators came back in 2016.

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John Kowalko is the rake at the gates of hell when it comes to standing up to Jack Markell on education.  He is not afraid to go against the establishment when he knows in his heart those choices are not good for kids.  He has always been about looking out for the little guy.  He will not vote yes on the state budget if it means those with the highest needs will do without.  I respect that immensely.  Because of his stances and how he makes noise, he runs into opposition constantly in the General Assembly.  We need more legislators who can be vocal and won’t bow down to leadership.

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Kowalko’s opponent has failed to give me any reason to support him.  If anything, he sounds a lot like John Kowalko but much less experienced.  I have never subscribed to this Delaware Way theory of “getting along to go along.”  I compare it to being a part of the race without realizing you are being dragged by the horse on the way to the finish line.  We don’t need more of that in Dover.  We need more like Kowalko!  Some will call me crazy and believe that John Kowalko is unable to get along with his peers.  I think it is the other way around.  Too many are unwilling to get along with Kowalko because they know he is right and that if they allied themselves with him it wouldn’t be the best for their own personal agendas.  The will of the people in Delaware should be the biggest priority of our General Assembly.  But private interests and political power rule the day.  Until we get more John Kowalkos in the General Assembly, we will continue to play this status quo game.  And that is NOT good for Delaware.

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At the end of the day, Kowalko is about doing what is right. Yes, he utilizes the press every chance he can to get his message out to the people. It is not self-serving. It is so enough people can hear what he is saying to help the people. I endorse John Kowalko for the 25th Rep. District in Newark. I urge citizens in this district to re-elect John Kowalko so we have another voice of reason in the Delaware 149th General Assembly.

 

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sean Matthews For State Rep. District 10

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Sean Matthews is awesome.  I can’t put it any clearer.  The 1oth Representative District in Delaware has only one choice to make on September 13th: Sean Matthews.

I met Sean in the beginning days of the 148th General Assembly when he came in as a rookie.  He is always friendly and cordial.  I knew he was an educator and stood for many of the same things I do.  But he took the ball and ran with it.  During the House Bill 50/opt out saga, he was in front of the bill supporting it all the way.  This brought him in conflict with some of his Democrat peers in the House, but he didn’t give up.  When there was a question if the bill would die in the original House vote, Sean added an amendment to make it just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  My proudest moment with Sean Matthews came in March of 2015.  The News Journal had an opposing views column on opt out, and Sean annihilated State Rep. Earl Jaques position on the issue.

But Sean’s accomplishments go beyond just House Bill 50.  He sponsored House Bill 157, signed by Governor Markell, which would change how potential patients are able to gather crucial information about freestanding emergency rooms.  He helped ease some of the burdens citizens face during snowstorms when they live near a school with House Bill 129, also signed by the Governor.  Matthews also sponsored a bill that may not seem important now but could save many lives down the road with House Bill 91.  If a student is opted out of immunizations based on religious beliefs, that student would be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an outbreak for what that student could have received a vaccine for.  That one was controversial, but it makes sense in the context of that kind of frightening scenario.  Sean also signed on as a sponsor on many education bills that I pushed for, including House Bill 30 (basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade) and House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill that I am hearing Governor Markell will sign in the next few weeks).

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As an educator in the Brandywine School District, Sean knows exactly what kind of challenges students face.  He doesn’t buy into the education fixit talk we hear from so many in Delaware.  He knows what teachers need to be able to reach students so they can truly succeed.  Not by a standardized test, but by treating students as unique and creative kids.  He knows that poverty is not an excuse for teachers to do their best with low-income students, but it plays a crucial factor in brain development.  I remember hearing him on the Rick Jensen Show one afternoon when he talked about the actual physical effects of poverty on the human brain and how that can impact a student’s ability to learn effectively.

On June 30th, 2015, Sean and five other Democrats valiantly said no to the budget that year.  He knew this would draw criticism from some of his peers who believe a budget vote must always be yes.  But he stood his ground, and for that I respect him.  I would rather see someone vote no for the right reasons than vote yes for the wrong reasons.

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He was one of the key members on the Assessment Inventory Committee that advocated for including the Smarter Balanced Assessment as one of the tests to look at getting rid of.  In the education arena we live in under Governor Markell, Sean consistently stuck his neck out in the face of fierce opposition.  But he did so with style and grace.  I don’t know if he first coined the phrase “cash in the trash” but it was the first time I heard it.  This term refers to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on education reform that doesn’t really do anything for students or educators.

He is one of the younger and newer faces at Legislative Hall, but also one of the brightest.  Rookie House Reps aren’t always able to get a lot done during their first term.  But Matthews will be one to watch, that I can bank on.  We have only begun to see what Sean Matthews has to offer and I urge the citizens in the 10th District to vote for Sean next Tuesday, September 13th.  Dennis Williams had his time.  It passed in 2014 when something better came along.

Schools In Delaware Get Ugly By Using SBAC Scores Or Opt Out To Deny Student Access To AP Classes

In the past week, I have heard from several parents in our state that their children are not getting into AP or advanced classes based on either their Smarter Balanced scores or the fact that their parents opted them out of the test.  This is a horrible idea.  Some of these students are straight A students.  What the hell is wrong with these Principals and Superintendents who are making these foolish decisions?  While I won’t name schools or districts due to the privacy of these families, I think these actions are abusive on unheard of levels.

Depression

When did Smarter Balanced become the barometer of student success in Delaware?   The sole purpose of this test is to understand where our children compare to each other, so we can reduce the so-called achievement gaps.  Now it is turning into a punitive measurement tool and it is affecting many lives.  What kind of sick and twisted crap is this?  Who is mandating this?  Is it the Delaware DOE or the districts themselves?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a fraudulent test.  It is horrible and how anyone can think this test in any way should decide what classes a student takes needs to take a look at what true education is all about.

Thecryingboy

We are gearing our kids toward this ridiculous notion of “rigor” at a very early age in Delaware.  I get that children need to read at earlier ages.  But the way we are going about it, by taking away play time and stripping these innocent children from the very creativity which allows them to grow as a human being is truly sad.

UpsetTeenager

Every single parent of a Delaware student this is happening to needs to be very loud and vocal.  They need to tell the school Principal this is unacceptable.  If the Principal doesn’t bend, go to the Superintendent.  If the Superintendent doesn’t bend, go to the School Board.  Go to the State Board of Education.  Go to the media.  Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, Delaware State News, and the News Journal.  Spread this to everyone you know on Facebook and other social media.  Email your friends and family about this.  Nothing in Delaware ever changes unless the people speak.  And on this issue, parents MUST speak.  And for those parents who don’t have kids in AP classes, if they are doing this to those students, just imagine how they are classifying other kids.  The best thing you can all do is opt out in mass numbers to make this waste of a test invalid.  That is the greatest option to end the destruction of public education.  You need to advocate for your child.  You are their parent.  If they are a victim of this insane testing abuse, you have to speak up for them.  Do not believe the lies far too many schools, districts, education non-profits like Rodel, and certain legislators are telling you.

It’s bad enough the Delaware DOE endorses ethical trickery with parents who try to opt their kids out.  It’s bad enough the Smarter Balanced Assessment students take isn’t the same test for every student (which in my mind makes this test worth less than fools gold).  But now we have this.  This is a state assessment.  Not a district mandated, or even school related assessment.  It was created by the state for state usage.  It should have absolutely no bearing on a student’s classroom progress.  Using Smarter Balanced as a competency-based model of student achievement is not a good idea at all.

crying-girl1

Can you imagine how students feel, who try their best in school, only to be victimized because of a once a year test?  The heartbreak they feel, like they just aren’t good enough.  This is what Delaware education has become, a travesty of epic proportions.  We have turned the Smarter Balanced Assessment into the center of education.  If it isn’t data walls, it’s accountability.  If it isn’t libraries closing for weeks at a time, it is teacher evaluations based on this wretched test.  If it isn’t state special education ratings from the feds, it’s standards-based IEPs designed to “help” kids do better on this test.  If it isn’t reshuffling of classrooms to have high-performing SBAC students help low-performing SBAC students, it’s fighting parents when they don’t want their kids taking the test.  If it isn’t students with disabilities being forced to take this test for 2-3 times longer than their peers, it’s the State Board of Education passing opt-out penalties in their school report card accountability joke.  This is NOT the best test Delaware ever made, despite Governor Markell’s comments to the contrary.

ChildCrying

When the 149th General Assembly reconvenes in January, their top priority needs to be setting firm laws dictating what this test can and can’t be used for.  They also need to finish the job with opt out and codify a parent’s right to opt their child out of these punitive tests without penalty to the student in any way, whether it is AP classes, graduation, summer school, standards-based IEPs, abuse by administration, or denying a student the ability to choice to another school.  This could have been written into law last January.  I warned them then this issue was only going to get worse.  My advice was unheeded by the majority of them.  Those that supported the override attempt know the real deal.  Those who didn’t need to seriously rethink their position on this.

And for any school in this state that has any type of data wall up in classrooms or anywhere in your schools with student names on them, take them down now.  The days of shaming students for a state assessment are done.  If any parent sees these data walls in any school, please take a picture of them and send them to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will file a Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) complaint the very same day.  I will need to know the name of the school and the district.  I am in the process of filing a few of these today.

The abuse of students in this state needs to stop.  These are children, not testing guinea pigs for the data freaks.  Is this really what education is about?  Mental torture of children?  All in the name of progress and accountability.  I don’t think so.  People wonder why I am so passionate about education.  This is the main reason.  What we are doing to kids.  We are destroying the future.

NotGoodEnough

 

Delaware DOE Ignored Allegations Of SAT Fraud & Deception

Manuel Alfaro, the former College Board employee, contacted several state departments of education to inform them of potential fraud coming from the College Board with the restructured SAT.  Yesterday, Alfaro’s home was raided by the FBI due to the College Board claiming Alfaro published confidential information according to an article from Breitbart.

In May, Alfaro wrote to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, along with six other state Secretaries.  When he didn’t hear back from any of them, he posted an open letter on his LinkedIn account on Sunday.  He wrote:

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

But it gets worse…

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations.

The Delaware Department of Education announced in May 2015 that the SAT was going to become realigned for the Common Core.  As juniors in the state opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that Spring, Secretary Godowsky and Governor Markell replaced the Smarter Balanced Assessment with the new SAT for the 2015-2016 school year.  Students in Delaware already had the test paid for them by the state, but this made the SAT the official state assessment for high school juniors.  Markell and Godowsky acted unilaterally on this with no legislation or executive order backing this up.  Many legislators changed their mind on the veto override because of this announcement on 12/31/15.

Alfaro appears to be under a lot of pressure from his former employer.  It remains to be seen if he will be granted whistle-blower protection or if the College Board will prosecute him in this matter.  In the same article linked above, it mentions a Reuters article from Friday which talks about the different states response to Alfaro’s allegations.  Delaware was not one of them.

A New Hampshire official said the state had no immediate comment. Officials in Delaware, Illinois and Maine didn’t respond to requests for comment.

But the matter has caught the attention of one member of Congress according to the Reuters article.

A member of Congress, meanwhile, has asked federal regulators to look into Alfaro’s allegations. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, has “been in touch with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” according to a July 28 letter she wrote to Alfaro.

I alleged back in January this was done to prevent high school juniors from opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At one school in the Red Clay Consolidated school district, 60% of students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment by their parents.  Including Delaware State Representative Kim Williams’ son which she announced on social media.  It appeared to be a very rushed decision by Godowsky and Markell.  In early November last year, the U.S. Department of Education issued warning letters to states with high opt out numbers.  In January, the Delaware House of Representatives failed to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, an opt out law that passed the House and Senate with a massive majority earlier in 2015.

I find it interesting this matter was not brought up by Secretary Godowsky or the State Board of Education last month when they discussed the SAT results and the scoring method for the test.  In my opinion, the College Board is trying to protect themselves in a massive cover-up and will prosecute Alfaro to prevent this matter from moving forward.  I believe Alfaro should be granted whistle-blower protection and an investigation needs to take place immediately.  As well, all the states involved with their SAT decisions need to come clean if they knew anything about this potential fraud.

Why does Delaware always come up in these kind of matters?  As I wrote last week, Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.  Governor Markell has been the biggest proponent of every single bad education idea that has come out since he took office in January, 2009.  This decision with the SAT saved many “high-performing” high schools in Delaware from devastating participation rate numbers, including Newark Charter School, Charter School of Wilmington, Conrad, and Cab Calloway, and the vocational school districts in Delaware which only have high schools.  Markell has been pumping them up with his incessant Pathways To Prosperity declarations for all high schools.  With the highly controversial charter school payments story still unfolding, it is more than obvious there are levels of corruption and deceit at extremely high levels at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell’s office.

 

 

Exclusive: A Delaware Legislator Is Not The Hero For Public Education They Appear To Be

I’ve been wrestling with something for a long time now.  I found out something.  Something big.  Usually my first instinct is to get it out there.  But this was BIG, and if I was wrong about it, it could have shot me in the foot.  It concerns a legislator and an election.  But more than that, it concerned friends.  Friends who are very supportive of this particular legislator.  I’ve had wrestling matches in my head before about these kind of things, but usually the need for truth prevails.  This time though, it was different.  Continue reading “Exclusive: A Delaware Legislator Is Not The Hero For Public Education They Appear To Be”

Colin Bonini Would Not Have Vetoed House Bill 50, The Delaware Opt Out Bill

On the Rick Jensen show, Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini just told Jensen he would have signed House Bill 50, Delaware’s opt out bill that Governor Markell vetoed last year.  He agrees with many people in this state that the federal government is too involved in education and decisions are best left to the state and local districts.  Bonini said he doesn’t agree with getting rid of testing altogether, but the high-stakes involved are too much.  He thinks there needs to be some type of measurement to compare students and how they are doing.

He mentioned he will have a Delaware State Education Association interview next week but he doesn’t expect their support since he is a Right To Work guy.  Jensen joked that he could agree with everything they said but would still endorse a Democrat even if that Dem disagreed with them on different things.

Bonini said the recent bill passed by the Feds (ESSA) is a healthy thing, but I would encourage all candidates for any public office in Delaware to read up on the nasty regulations U.S. Secretary of Education John King is trying to roll out.  Which basically gives the feds a lot of the accountability power the bill was meant to get rid of.  This WILL be a major thing during the next four years, guaranteed!  I would also urge the candidates to look into the Delaware DOE supporting those regulations and their already shameful Delaware School Success Framework which was custom-designed for this legislation and the regulations King introduced.

All four Gubernatorial candidates in Delaware need to read between the lines on some of this stuff.  They will be facing whatever comes out of the Every Student Succeeds Act when it is implemented into law next year.  Wrong answers could, and most likely will, come back to haunt them.

Delaware Teacher Mike Matthews Reply To Delaware “Education” Governor Jack Markell

Former Red Clay Education Association and current Red Clay teacher Mike Matthews replied to Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s controversial email to Delaware teachers with the words only a teacher can say.  If any other teachers or Delaware citizens want me to publish their reply to our “education” Governor, let me know!

Gov. Markell:

Thank you for the email, but I feel I can’t accept your praise. First, the growth you’re praising is about as much as a margin of error in any political poll, so I’ll take said growth with a grain of salt. Second, you continue prop up this Smarter Balanced Assessment and the standards they are evaluating while failing to admit that this test provides virtually no diagnostic or beneficial material to educators in any timely fashion.

I’m going to keep this email short and say that while I respect you as a person and I respect many of the progressive stances you’ve taken during your nearly eight years in office, I continue to be disturbed by your tone and agenda when it comes to education matters. I would have thought you’d lighten up in your final year after the debacle that was Priority Schools. After mounting evidence has revealed that judging schools, teachers, and students on test scores is statistically unreliable and morally bankrupt. After charter after charter around Delaware continues to fail and close. After overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate vote to uphold a parents’ right to opt their children out of toxic standardized tests that do little to help their progress in school or out. After educators across the State vote unanimously no confidence in your corporate education reform Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy.

What other messages need to be sent to you, Governor, that your business-minded approach to education is not the way to go when we are working with students of varying needs and abilities. Using your business-model approach to education, Governor, who will get left behind when we close all those “poor-performing” schools because of a silly test score? Will it be the student with severe emotional needs that breaks down at the sight of a computerized test? Will it be the student who came to school on test day in soiled clothes after having eaten nothing the weekend before? Will it be the student who witnessed his brother get shot on the streets of Wilmington the night before?

While the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has done a great job approaching many of the education issues your administration ignored during the first seven years of your administration (remember: the people you put in charge at DoE explicitly believe that poverty is NEVER a barrier to success. One Penny Schwinn actually stated that violence in Wilmington is never a challenge to a student’s success in school), it’s too little too late for your education legacy.

I wish this could have been different. I wish my outsized support for you in 2008 had been a little more probing when it came to education issues. As it stands, I regret the unequivocal support I offered you then both personally and by way of my blog, which no doubt contributed much to your narrow primary victory.

That being said, I genuinely wish you the best once you leave office and I hope someday you’ll realize the damage your education policies caused in this state and that you’ll have a change of heart in the coming years. 

One suggestion: At the conclusion of your term, I’d ask you to please spend a week with Warner teacher Monique Taylor-Gibbs to see what’s it’s like working at one of those “failing” schools. Your opinions will change and I guarantee you’ll realize the damage your administration did to our schools with the neverending “test and punish” schemes hoisted upon them.

All the best,

Mike

Sent from my iPhone

Breaking News: Freire Charter School Gave Students A’s On Final Exams If Parents Didn’t Opt Them Out

At least five students at Freire Charter School in Wilmington were given A’s on their final examinations in exchange for their parents not opting them out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this spring.  One parent was notified by the school that the Delaware Department of Education claimed all schools had to have a participation rate of 100%.  When the parent challenged them on the federal and state laws which require 95% participation, the school agreed on that figure.  They also told the parent the school was already under the 95% participation rate threshold.  All five parents agreed to this deal.  The school lured parents who wanted to prevent parents from opting their child out into this “deal” with false pretenses.  Furthermore, the students didn’t even take their final exams but they were automatically given A’s because of this.

Can someone please tell me when this madness is going to stop?  Aside from all the bullying issues at this “zero tolerance” school, we now have test fraud?  How much does the Delaware Department of Education know about this?  If they don’t, what are they going to do about it?  This is exactly why the veto on House Bill 50 needed to have the override by the Delaware General Assembly.  But our legislators were too scared to tick off the “education Governor” and do the right thing for parents.  Now we have this going on.  No one in Legislative Hall who voted no on the fake “suspension of rules” to bring the override to a vote probably doesn’t care that our schools play games like this.  How many situations like this have played out in other Delaware charters or districts?  I would call for the Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware State Board of Education to render all scores from the Spring 2016 Smarter Balanced Assessment as invalid due to corruption and fraud.  We don’t know how many students and parents were given choices like this.  And the results are meaningless.

One parent notified me the only reason she didn’t opt her child out, even though this deal was offered, was because she was choicing their child out of Freire into another district.  That district had a requirement for Smarter Balanced results in order for the student to enter their honors program.  While I may not agree with that requirement from the other district, it is their right to require it until a law is set in stone for them not to.  But Freire proceeded to not have the student take the final exam and gave the student an A for both their Math and English/Language Arts final exams.  Also against policy with the Delaware DOE, parents and students were given the scores when they were “encumbered” which means they couldn’t reveal them at that point.  I would have to imagine no schools are able to give out this information until the Delaware State Board of Education discusses them at their board meeting in two days.  In fact, scores aren’t even going out to

As for Freire, are you trying to send the message that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is more important than a parent’s Constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  That it is okay, from a “zero tolerance” school to trick parents and then deliver false scores on final exams to prevent them from exercising that right?  Parents chose to send their child to your school because they believed in your “zero tolerance” edicts.  While I don’t agree with zero tolerance, it was also a parent’s right to make that choice.  But since you have no interest in applying “zero tolerance” to your own school,  I would strongly suggest the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office immediately conducts a thorough investigation into these allegations through the formal review process.  For a school that hasn’t even been open a year and Governor Markell attended your ribbon-cutting ceremony, these egregious actions are unconscionable.  This is why these standardized tests bring out the worst in schools.

I would also urge our General Assembly, upon reconvening on January 7th, 2017, to immediately draft legislation in regards to opt out, similar to House Bill 50, and also addressing immediate consequences for schools that use lies and false pretenses toward parents and students have anyone involved in those situations immediately terminated and criminal charges pressed against them.  And if a new Governor should veto such legislation, I would expect an immediate override of that veto.  Those who voted no on January 14th, 2016: this is on you!  Please don’t play political games for political favors when you aren’t the ones who are being toyed with by those who should know better.

If any other Delaware parent out there, at any charter school or district was offered similar “deals” or promises in exchange for not opting your child out, I can be reached at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I give you my assurance all will be confidential.  Thank you.