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.

 

Exclusive: Secretary Godowsky’s Willful Misconduct Against A General Assembly Directive

GodowskyHR22Pic

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has violated a directive issued to him by the law-making body of the State of Delaware, the Delaware General Assembly. Continue reading

Teacher Evaluation, Charter School Audits, & WEIC Extension Pass The General Assembly

It was a wild and crazy night-morning at Legislative Hall in Dover.  I can honestly say I have never bounced back between the Senate and the House as much as I did in the past six hours.  But some of my “must list” legislation passed.  Some with changes and some intact.

House Bill 399 passed but not without some amendments and an odd conversation about teachers and a comment Jack Markell made years ago in the Senate.  Senator Colin Bonini talked about how Governor Markell gave a speech on the Senate floor many years ago and told everyone only 19% of students in Delaware were college and career ready.  But yet our teachers were rated 99% effective.  He couldn’t grasp these facts.  He said he would support the bill.  But then Senator Dave Lawson spoke against the bill and said the system isn’t working.  The bill passed with 19 yes and 2 no votes.  The no votes were from Senators Lawson and Henry.  The amendments added on can be seen here and here.  Apparently, this was the only way it was going to pass.  In looking at the first amendment, they changed a lot and many teachers won’t be happy about those changes.  But this was the compromise reached.  Will Governor Markell sign the bill?  We shall see.  I did speak briefly with Secretary of Education Godowsky and asked him if he thought they were good amendments and he said yes.

After four previous bills, the Kumbaya compromise charter school audit bill, House Bill 435, passed the Senate in the wee hours of the morning.  It hadn’t been on the agenda for the Senate.  I emailed Senator Sokola, and it appeared on there a few minutes later.  It passed soon after.

And the WEIC redistricting plan.  I thought rigor mortis was setting in on this plan, but it rose from the ashes.  A crucial amendment by State Rep. Kim Williams which deleted some of the unnecessary language in Senate Bill #300 seemed to be what is going to keep that train chugging.  This is what happened: WEIC is still alive, and they will plan for another year.  The $7.5 million initially requested in the final recommendations has been appropriated for FY2018.  But I will get to more of that after a message from Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC:

Delaware General Assembly Affirms the Commission’s Plan
Governor commits the “necessary and sufficient funds” for next year
Commission suspends timeline

Tonight, an older African American woman stopped me on the Senate Floor and said “if you believe in this, you keep fighting on.” We did!

As the 148th Delaware General Assembly legislative session ended, the House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 17, an interim affirmation of the Delaware State Board of Education’s approval of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan and Senate Bill 300, which clarifies the funding implications and supports further analysis by the Commission.

In a related action, Governor Markell committed to put no less than $7.5 million in his FY 2018 plan to support the Commission’s plan, specifically to begin to change the 70-year old student funding formula. In a letter to the Wilmington delegation, Markell said, “I am proud to have worked alongside you in these efforts and pleased to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of the funds necessary and sufficient to fund the first year of implementation of the proposals of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, specifically an amendment to the unit count that would carry additional support for low-income students, English Language Learners and students with special needs statewide.”

Earlier this morning, I noted that because the “necessary and sufficient” funding has not yet been provided that we will immediately call on the Commission to suspend the timetable for implementing its plan.

While I am disappointed with several aspects of this legislative season, SJR17 allows the Commission to fight another day. After 62 years of waiting, fight on we will. The Commission is wholly committed to reducing the fragmentation and dysfunction caused by 23 different school systems currently serving Wilmington children, less than 10% of Delaware’s student population. In addition, the Commission will continue to focus attention on the needs of low-income students, English language learners, and other students with special needs in Wilmington and throughout Delaware. That includes meeting the non-instructional needs of these students, engaging empowered parents in school reform, and changing the antiquated funding system for students and schools that has for many years created sustained inequities dating back to well before Brown v Board of Education (1954). I am grateful to the 22 other commissioners, the previous members of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, and the more than 10,000 community members who have been participating in this process.

I urge your continued resolve.

There are some key words in this, especially Markell saying “to commit that I will recommend an appropriation of funds…  That isn’t a guarantee that the next Governor will do the same or that the 149th General Assembly will either.  We don’t know what the state’s financial picture will be a year from now.  But for now, WEIC lives after most thought it was dead and buried.  I find it odd that Allen talks about how 23 different school systems serve Wilmington students but the WEIC plan would only reduce that to 22.  Granted, Christina has a lot of Wilmington students, but that is still a lot students going to other districts or charters.  I will see what this additional year of planning will produce.  But it looks like I am not done writing about WEIC despite what I wrote earlier today.   I talked to Rep. Charles Potter after the vote and he said this isn’t what he wanted, but it keeps WEIC alive and it is about the students.

Senate Bill 93 passed, one of two Autism bills introduced last year.  Senate Bill 92, however, was another victim of funding issues in the state.  An amendment was added to Senate Bill 93 in the House which got rid of the Senate Amendment that had the DOE getting involved.  The Autism community in Delaware felt that was an unwelcome presence.  Good for them!

It was a long second half of the 148th General Assembly.  House Bill 50 had two shots to override the Governor’s veto in the House of Representatives and it failed both times.  But I want to thank Rep. John Kowalko for trying and standing up for parents.  I respect and admire him for doing that.  Had the House ever been able to actually vote on the override, I believe it would have passed.  The fact that they were never able to get to that point shows the will of the Governor influencing certain members of the House in very inappropriate ways.  My other “dream legislation”, House Bill 30, which would have finally given students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade considered to be “basic special education” students, never received a full House vote despite coming out of the House Appropriations Committee weeks ago.  I know Rep. Kim Williams fought hard for that bill.  I still remember when she first told me about it a year and a half ago and I truly felt it was a no-brainer.  For both of those bills, the 149th General Assembly will tell the tale on opt out and special education funding.

I will write more over the next few days about all the bills that passed and those that are now dead.  In the meantime, Happy Fiscal New Year 2017!

Schwartzkofp and Longhurst Ignore House Rules During Kowalko’s HB50 Veto Override Attempt

Audio Of Parliamentary Inquiry, Delaware House, 6/29/16

Tonight, I witnessed the death of a dream.  That our Delaware House of Representatives would finally do the right thing for our children.  Delaware State Representative John Kowalko brought back House Bill 50 tonight, the Delaware opt out bill that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate a year ago.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill less than a month later.  The last time the House considered this bill was for an override of the Governor’s veto on January 14th.  Kowalko received bad information from the House Attorney on how to present a veto override.  He was told he had to have a suspension of rules prior to a vote on the reconsideration.  I can’t speak to the lack of knowledge or the reason this attorney gave bad advice to Kowalko.  I do know House Attorney’s are not employed by the State, but retained from law firms.  But Kowalko found out it was not necessary with carefully vetted research into veto override attempts in Delaware.  He brought up what is known as a Parliamentary Inquiry to the House tonight.  Had he been able to explain how the legal advice given to him by someone who is supposed to know House Rules and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure in the event a situation is not covered by House Rules, the House would have understood what he was doing.  The Delaware House could have voted on the reconsideration of the Governor’s veto back in January without a suspension of rules.

Instead, what we got was Val Longhurst and Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf turning it into a power play and putting forth a point of order motion.  It was a trap, probably planned ahead of time since Kowalko told the House Attorney he would be requesting the Parliamentary Inquiry.  He had a representative lined up to second the motion for the Parliamentary Inquiry.  As Kowalko brought it up, Longhurst interrupted Kowalko while he was speaking and stated House Bill 50 was not on the agenda.  Kowalko knew this and stated he was talking about a Parliamentary Inquiry.  Schwartzkopf said Kowalko was out of order even requesting a Parliamentary Inquiry, which Kowalko challenged.  Kowalko appealed Schwartzkopf’s point of order.  Val Longhurst seconded it, said “Oh shit” (nice conduct of an elected official during a legislative session) and then retracted her second as the floor of the General Assembly burst into laughter as Schwartzkopf said “Jiminy Christmas” and said the motion was dead.  Gavel went down, case closed.  But is it?  By denying an elected official the ability to request a parliamentary inquiry under the guise of a point of order given while the elected official was speaking which had nothing to do with the matter at hand could be ruled as illegal.

Once again, we have Democrat leadership in the House who don’t know the policies of the floor they are supposed to govern.  They have committed themselves to a lame-duck governor at the expense of our high-stakes tested children.  There are good legislators in Legislative Hall, but the vast majority are in it for themselves and don’t know what they are doing except how to put forth legislation from corporate lobbyists or to further their own careers.

Prior to Kowalko’s motion, the House had just voted on a very emotional budget bill.  It passed, but eight voted no.  Some voted no who have voted before, but State Reps. Stephanie Bolden and Charles Potter voted no due to the lack of funding for the WEIC redistricting plan and the Senate’s refusal to move forward with the legislation.  Even State Rep. Miro, who voted yes on the budget, gave a well-intentioned speech about how the state is not doing well economically and it will be worse next year.  Kowalko objected to the budget after he filed an amendment to take the charter school transportation slush fund out of the budget.  The amendment failed but eight voted yes.  Which fell in line with the budget vote, 31 yes, 8 no, and 2 absent.

I firmly believe our state needs a serious fiscal and ethical investigation by the Federal government into where every single penny of our state funds are going and who is profiting off of shady backroom deals.  They need to start with Governor Jack Markell and work their way down through the House, the Senate, the DOE, vendors, school districts, charter schools, the auditor’s office, the treasurer’s office, the Department of Health and Social Services, and pretty much everywhere anyone gets funds from the State of Delaware.

Our children are used as guinea pigs.  We see it from Sokola, the DOE, Markell, Schwartzkopf, Longhurst, Melanie Smith, McDowell and others.  Godowsky puts on another face constantly.  He tries to save face with the Governor when he knows the stuff they are pedaling out of his building is absolute crap.  None of these people care about kids.  Not a single damn one of them.  I’ve tried to deal with the legislators in Legislative Hall.  I’ve tried to reach out to some of them in good faith.  They don’t respond.  Those that do know who they are and I know you are trying your best, but when the majority is corrupt, the whole building is.  I see many of you get upset when good bills that will truly help the children of Delaware go nowhere.  Our DOE is not a State Agency.  It is a collection of education reformers and lobbyists, selling our children out to the highest bidders.  A great deal of the legislation passed in Delaware for education allows them to do this.

When a State Representative votes against a budget because of the rampant corruption in our state, they are a hero.  They are not unpatriotic.  If patriotism is following orders and never questioning anything and allowing children to suffer while you remain in power Rep. Melanie Smith, then you may want to look at what the patriots who founded this country actually did so you could hold elected office.  You allow a great deal of bills that go through that will only please corporations at the expense of the citizens of Delaware.  Tonight, I was ashamed to say I live in Delaware.  Everything the other legislators said about the budget was from the heart, not quotes from books or a Tedx talks speech.  It is a legislator’s responsibility to pass a good budget, not a bad one.  This was a bad budget.  You can do all the glad-handling and take the applause for getting it passed, but it is still filled with pork.  You know it, and I know it.  We all know it.  We know who this budget truly serves, and it is not in the best interest of children or the citizens of the state who by your own admission deserve more.

For someone who wants what is best for Delaware, why have you, Pete Schwartzkopf, consistently gone with the Governor’s wishes and not the will of the people.  You are the Speaker of the House.  It isn’t your House.  It is ours.  The people of the state.  Until you learn that valuable lesson, you will continue to be called Sneaky Pete all over the state until your time is done.  Because you refuse to find out the answer concerning how the State Representatives would vote on the override of Markell’s veto, you are not a friend to parents in the state of Delaware.

 

The Next 55 Hours Will Determine WEIC, HB399, HB30, The Budget, The Bond Bill, & Possibly The Election Season

We are down to the homestretch on the 148th General Assembly.  It is the bottom of the ninth with two outs.  The next batter is up.  This will be Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s last sphere of influence with Delaware legislation as Governor of the First State.  For that, we should all have reason to celebrate.  As of July 1st, all eyes will turn towards elections in Delaware and the USA.  But there is a bit of unfinished business in Legislative Hall.  We will know by about 4am on Friday, July 1st what happened.

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting resolution is ready for a Senate vote.  The Executive Committee will clear it for a full vote.  But then, it gets very interesting.  I reported a few days ago that one Senate Democrat was a no and another was on the fence.  Now we can make that three Senate Dems as a no.  And the Senate Republicans which gives Senate Joint Resolution #12 a vote of 9 yes and 12 no.  But, I’m also hearing from the cracked walls of the basement of Legislative Hall that there might be new legislation kicking the can on this down the road into the 149th General Assembly.  Will Red Clay and Christina say “Enough” and get out of the whole thing?  Or will we have another year of “will they or won’t they” speculation?  In the chance SJR #12 does pass, the question then becomes “what happened to $6 million dollars”?  The Senate passed the budget today and WEIC was not in it.  I did find out the answer to this.  The funds are in reserve but they don’t want to put it in the budget without an affirmative vote on SJR #12.  What happens to the $6 million if SJR #12 doesn’t pass?  It goes to the Bond Bill.  For those who don’t know what the heck a bond bill is, in a nutshell it is a capital improvements bill.  Here is an example from FY2013.  We should see the FY2017 bond bill in the next 24 hours.

The Basic Special Education Funding for K-3 students, House Bill 30, has not received the full House vote yet.  I hope we will see it, and then a rush to the Senate, but I am not optimistic.  I did hear today that the Education Funding Improvement Committee may ask for an extension, but then that they may not.  We will know if a final report is issued to the General Assembly in the next 27 hours.

House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill, has become a very odd bill with a great deal of power.  As the story goes, State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola’s tiff is still going on.  Today in the House Education Committee, Jaques pulled Sokola’s teacher certification legislation, Senate Bill 199, from the agenda.  House Bill 399 is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for tomorrow.  Apparently a deal was reached whereby House Bill 399 will get to be heard in the Senate Education Committee and will most likely be released for a full Senate vote.  In exchange, Jaques will “walk” Senate Bill 199 for signatures from the House Education Committee members.  But then House Bill 399 has to go before the full Senate.  Which is a toss-up for how it could go there.  I’m hearing different things from different people.  Honestly, if anyone is still concerned about defying the will of Governor Markell, I would think twice before using that empty-handed justification.  Did you hear that quacking sound?  It is the sound of a lame-duck desperately grasping for power in a vacuum.

There is more at stake here than current bills.  Election season is coming fast and broken alliances and grudge matches could make things real ugly for the Delaware Democrats.  I’m pretty sure if WEIC fails in the Senate, Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Reps. Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and Helene Keeley will have a lot to say about that!  They say Wilmington wins elections for state-wide positions in Delaware, but the reality is that Jack Markell would not have become Governor if he didn’t win crucial votes in Kent and Sussex County when he beat John Carney in the primary in 2008.

Speaking of Carney, it looks like he is finally getting around to reaching out to different groups and state agencies in Delaware to firm up support for the Gubernatorial election in November.  He still hasn’t officially filed for the 2016 election yet, but he has until July 12 to do so.  We also have filings from Republican Lacey Lafferty and Libertarian Sean Goward.  Nothing from Republican and current State Senator Colin Bonini.  Goward and Lafferty have been the most visible on Facebook.  In my mind, you have to work for my vote and get your name out there.  I want to know your original ideas, not more of the same-old I hear now.  Many Delawareans are in this mindset.  If I had to vote today, Carney would not get my vote.  The only candidate who has reached out to me and presented many ideas I agree with is Sean Goward.  And not just about education either.  I would reach out to him and hear what he has to say!

The Congressional race in Delaware is going to amp up big time as well.  The News Journal declared Townsend as the “front-runner” a couple of weeks ago, but it is still a long ways off.  Townsend has massive support over at Delaware Liberal with some calling him one of Delaware’s best legislators.  He does certainly get a plethora of bills passed.  But Lisa Blunt-Rochester also has a great deal of support from the African-American community which could change this tale.  In terms of signage, I can’t speak for what is popping up in New Castle or Sussex County, but I can say Hans Reigle signs are all over the place in Kent County.  And not just roadside ones, but also property signs as well.  I have seen Mike Miller and Sean Barney popping up a bit more on the Democrat side.  While Townsend may have amassed the biggest war chest thus far, how much of that will be spent on the primary between five candidates?  I’m sure some will drop out between now and then.  This will be a contest between Townsend and Blunt-Rochester when it comes down to it.  Assuming no one else files on the Republican side, Hans Reigle will have an all-clear until the General Election.  After the primary, we will see massive competition between Reigle and the Democrat candidate.  With a growing feeling of disillusionment with the Democrat party in Delaware, especially in an environment with more in-fighting among themselves, I wouldn’t count Reigle out.  Delaware might be a “blue state”, but this year could change things.  Look at how much traction Trump has gotten in the past year.  I would like to hear more from Scott Gesty as I think he has some very interesting ideas as a Libertarian candidate.

In terms of the State Rep and State Senate races, we may see a mad rush of filings in the next couple weeks.  While some are already saying the Republicans don’t have a chance of changing the power structure in Dover, I wouldn’t be too sure.  At least in one House of the Delaware General Assembly.  People don’t like what is going on.  They see a lot of the egregious glad-handling and deals being made in Dover and they don’t like it one bit.  This is becoming a more vocal community, especially on social media.  I’m going to go ahead and predict many new faces in Dover come January.  I think the citizens of Delaware deserve a more balanced legislature.  Too much on one side has not been a good thing for the middle-class and lower-income families of the state.  I don’t like the assumption that certain people should win office because they are Democrat, or that certain bills will pass because they have Democrat support.  I like to hear both sides of the issues, but all too often some voices are drowned out by the high-fives and fist-bumping going on.  By the same token, there are some Republicans who need to realize they could be on the cutting line as well come November, or even September.  They should stop thinking of this as a frat club.  If you want respect, you have to show respect.  Especially as an elected official.  For those who are about to call me a hypocrite, bloggers don’t count!

Things are going to get very interesting over the next 55 hours and in the next four months.  This is Delaware.  Anything can happen!  The crazy action will take place on Thursday night in the General Assembly.  I’m not sure about the Senate yet, but the House begins their legislative session at 7pm.

Oh yeah, what about House Bill 50?  And the Autism bills, Senate Bills 92 and 93 with their assorted amendments?  To be continued…

A Time For Promises Fulfilled And A Restoration Of Honor: The General Assembly’s True Test This Week

The worst time I ever had blogging was last January.  Once I heard the Governor was rounding up his posse of legislators to vote no on the override of his veto on House Bill 50, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  There were events that day I didn’t count on, but they happened.  But it is time for State Rep. Mike Ramone to live up to the promise he made to me that day.

To give a quick refresher, the Delaware House and Senate passed House Bill 50 last year, a parent opt out bill honoring their right and preventing schools from giving parents a hard time.  Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  On the third day the General Assembly was back in session this year, State Rep. John Kowalko brought HB50 back.  But first, a suspension of rules had to happen to get it on the agenda for a full House vote.  The majority of the legislators voted no on the suspension of rules.  For whatever reason, many of them didn’t want to vote on overriding the veto.  To make matters worse, many House Republicans introduced new opt out legislation.  One was a House Resolution, which passed, directing Secretary Godowsky to come up with uniform policies for opt out.  This report was due by May 1st.   Another was a bill to remove opt out from any accountability ratings.  The accountability bill was never heard from the House Education Committee.

Secretary Godowsky did honor the resolution.  I’ve heard two different stories with this report.  One was that it was submitted to State Rep. Joe Miro, the sponsor of the resolution.  The other was that it was submitted to State Rep. Earl Jaques, who is also the Chair of the House Education Committee.  That would mean Jaques has been sitting on this for well over a month and a half with no intention of doing anything with it.  Either way, this was never made public.  Miro told me well over a month ago the report was “vanilla”, meaning it didn’t do anything.  I’m not sure what the real story is, but I don’t really care.  Nothing happened with either of the bills the House Republicans introduced.  And now it is time for State Rep. Mike Ramone to keep his word.  On January 14th, when the House refused to suspend the rules, Ramone promised me they would bring back House Bill 50 if nothing happened with the new legislation they introduced that day.  Guess what Ramone?  Nothing happened.  And I don’t want to hear one word about next January.  You made a deal with me and I expect you to honor it.  There were enough people that overheard you say this.  Now only Kowalko can put forth a suspension of rules for it as the bill’s sponsor in the House.  But I expect Ramone and the House Republicans to fully support the suspension of rules and the override of the veto.  House Bill 50 is on the ready list.  But this can happen.  It has to.  It is time.  There is no more House Bill 50 after June 30th.

The Senate can’t vote on an override of a veto on the same day, but I hope if the House does the right thing, the Senate will have it up for a vote the next day.  If not, I fully hope Senator Dave Lawson will request a suspension of rules as the Senate co-sponsor of the bill.  I’ve waited patiently, along with countless other parents, for our General Assembly to do the right thing here.  They unanimously passed a bill in the House that would make the Smarter Balanced an option in teacher evaluations.  This is it General Assembly.  You have three days to do this.  Elections are coming up for a lot of you.  Parents and teachers are a large portion of your voters.  Are you really going to keep disrespecting parents like this?  This is your chance to make up for past mistakes.  It’s up to you.  The only reason the Delaware PTA isn’t pushing this is because they were cut off at the knees by National PTA.  But trust me, the people still want this.  All you have to do is truly listen.

 

Markell’s Former Girl Friday Lindsay O’Mara’s Big Blog Post On The US DOE Website

Wow! Everyone is blogging these days!  Even former Education Policy Advisors for Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  Lindsay O’Mara, who left Governor Markell’s administration earlier this year, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement at the United States Department of Education.  What do we call that title?  DASSLE?  But I digress…

I don’t see this blog post, put up earlier today, as a coincidence.  Her boss got shellacked by the Education and the Workforce Committee earlier today.  Poor John King, in the eternal hot seat with those not willing to put up with his malarkey.

My favorite Lindsay story to tell is from the Delaware House Education Committee meeting on our opt out bill, House Bill 50.  It is a well-known fact that you don’t just go up to legislators during a hearing, even if it a Delaware Education Committee meeting and the DOE just openly sits at legislators’ desks.  Especially when they are just about to vote on whether or not they will release the bill from committee.  But there’s Lindsay, running over to State Rep. Mike Ramone who was the swing vote on the bill.  Trying to whisper something to Ramone.  The Chair, State Rep. Earl Jaques, told Lindsay she couldn’t do that.  She skirts away like she had absolutely no idea she shouldn’t.  Yeah, right!  The committee released the bill on the way to an eventual veto by her boss, but Lindsay kept many advocates for the bill (myself included) pretty busy in the Spring of 2015!

A View from the Field: Building Comprehensive ESSA Stakeholder Engagement

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, presents an opportunity to continue making progress towards educational equity and excellence for all. For the first time, the reauthorization of the nation’s defining elementary and secondary education law explicitly supports a preschool to college- and career-readiness vision for America’s students. It also creates the flexibility for states, districts, and educators to reclaim the promise of a quality, well-rounded education for every student while maintaining the protections that ensure our commitment to every child — particularly by identifying and reporting the academic progress of all of our students and by guaranteeing meaningful action is taken in our lowest performing schools and school with low performance among subgroups of students.

To realize this promise, states should engage meaningfully with a wide range of stakeholders to create a common vision of educational opportunity and accountability. This engagement can take many forms and still be successful. Regardless of the form, however, to be meaningful it must be wide-spread, inclusive, ongoing, and characterized by true collaboration. For the law to work we need all those who have a stake in our education system to have a seat at the table as states are making their plans.

While many states are still contemplating how to move forward, several have launched stakeholder engagement processes to start determining how to develop the best education systems for students in their states, and to explore the new flexibilities and opportunities within ESSA. Some have committees chaired by senior state officials working to develop plans for accountability systems, school interventions, and assessment systems, among other elements of the law.   Others have solicited input more broadly and are taking a grass-roots approach to beginning their planning.

Although each state will ultimately pursue an engagement strategy that works for its local context, the work of others, and the guidance and tools that national education organizations have created for state and local government officials and stakeholders, may prove useful in devising those strategies. Here are a few examples of states and their unique approaches:

  • There is grassroots engagement afoot in Pennsylvania, where Education Secretary Rivera has held a series of stakeholder sessions at the local level, creating working groups focusing on core issues of the law – e.g. accountability and assessment – to better allow citizens throughout the Commonwealth to engage on specific issues within the ESSA law. These working groups are comprised of a wide array of stakeholders including teachers, principals, community based organizations, education non-profits, businesses and higher education institutions.
  • Strong executive leadership is the highlight of Alabama’s outreach strategy, where the Governor established a committee through an executive order to lead the development of the ESSA state plan. This ESSA Implementation Committee includes representatives from across the education community, including parents, educators, superintendents, school board members, school leaders, state Department of Education officials, and education policy advocates. In addition to the meetings of the committee itself, the chair and vice chair are holding subcommittee meetings on a variety of topics (including accountability, early learning, and standards and assessments), and plan to host public forums so local leaders and members of the public have an opportunity to weigh in on the development of the state plan. A full list of committee members, along with meeting dates, times, and locations, is available here. The Committee is also soliciting feedback and comments from the general public through an online webform.
  • The Colorado Department of Education created an ESSA working group and in May led listening sessions in different regions of the state to gather input from stakeholders such as parents and teachers. The ESSA working group committees will utilize this information from the sessions to develop the state plan that will ultimately be approved by the Colorado State Board of Education.

As states continue to refine their plans it is important that citizens, civil rights groups, parents, educators and many more stakeholders become involved in the state and local level conversations on how to best implement ESSA both initially and in the months and years to come. Here are some highlights of the tools national organizations have created to help their members create a thoughtful and inclusive engagement plan:

We look forward to supporting state and local leaders as they work to engage their constituents in developing high quality implementation plans that provide every student with a high quality world class education. For additional information, please read Secretary King’s Dear Colleague Letter to state and local leaders that highlights additional engagement materials developed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Lindsay O’Mara is Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education.

Now I don’t expect you to read most of the above links.  You can.  But a lot of it is going to be corporate education reform mumbo-jumbo.  Or it is corporate education reform mumb0-jumbo presented by organizations who have been brainwashed because of the mumbo-jumbo.

I wonder why she didn’t mention Delaware?  Oh yeah, we don’t have any ESSA stakeholder groups.  Just a clueless DOE and an even more clueless State Board of Education who will just take John King’s illegal regulations as law and implement them in Delaware while our crooked Governor sits back and goes cha-ching for all his buddies in Education Inc. while the students, teachers, parents, and schools suffer even more with high-stakes tests that offer nothing of meaning to anyone but the Rodel Foundation sure does love them!

We miss you in Delaware Lindsay!  Legislative Hall hasn’t been the same without you!

Why Are So Many Charters In Delaware Starting Smarter Balanced After Traditional Districts?

This question came up last year and it is happening again this year.  Why do many Delaware charters get to begin Smarter Balanced testing anywhere from 3-7 weeks after traditional school districts take the assessment?  That is a lot more instruction students are getting.  That can make a large difference in the scores on SBAC.  It can make some schools look better.  Not that I think anything involving standardized test scores actually means anything, but our state and policy-makers do and they allow our DOE to judge schools based on the performance of these tests.  As well, schools are now getting rewarded based on their test scores and receiving financial awards.

I challenge all school districts and charters, or the parents thereof, to let me know when kids started taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment in your schools this year.  When the scores come out, it will be very interesting to see if that additional month makes a difference.  My feeling is that it probably does.  As well, how do we really know, since the tests are already out there so much earlier, that some schools aren’t given a heads up on what to expect on the tests and design instruction based on that?  I’m sure the DOE would respond “they can’t do that”.  But we all know the DOE does many things “they can’t do” but they do it anyway.

If there is one consistent thing I’ve heard this year about opt out it is that some schools are still sending out the -yawn- Delaware DOE template letter they sent to schools and districts way back in December of 2014.  The one with laws with … two times in the middle of the sentence.  The one where it cherry-picks certain words in the law without giving the full context, weight, or even the meaning of the law.  You know, the illegal letter.  The one that is about enforceable as a Resolution in the Delaware General Assembly.  I know the testing season is nearing the end for this year, but some schools haven’t begun testing yet, so it is important to continue to get the word out there for parents who don’t know this information.  Of course, this wouldn’t even be necessary to point out if our General Assembly did the right thing with House Bill 50.  But it appears that ship has sailed.  Please share on your Facebook pages and social media.

Kowalko Talks House Bill 50, Opt Out, & The Will Of The People On Delaware Way With Larry Mendte

Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko appeared on “The Delaware Way” with host Larry Mendte last week to discuss parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and  the veto override of House Bill 50 and the bill’s chances.  Citing the bill sits on the House Ready List, Kowalko blamed State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, the Delaware Speaker of the House, for letting the bill just sit there.  Even Mendte said polling in the state suggests the people overwhelmingly want this bill.  Kowalko felt it wasn’t right for the Governor to usurp the will of the people and the General Assembly with his veto.

Secretary Godowsky, Don’t Forget About Your May 1st Deadline! Will You Own Up To It Or Play Chicken?

GodowskyPic

Delaware House Resolution #22 and House Bill #243 are Delaware legislation introduced by several Delaware House Republicans on January 14th this year.  That was also the same day the majority of the State Representatives in Delaware voted not to suspend the rules to override the veto on House Bill #50, the opt out legislation that DID pass the House and Senate last year.  For newer readers, Delaware passed a perfectly good opt out bill last year, but Governor Markell vetoed the bill in July.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko brought the bill back on 1/14 in an attempt to have legislators override the veto, but many who supported the bill last year refused to suspend the rules to allow it come up for a vote that day.  It is sitting on the House Ready list, but only the Delaware Speaker of the House, State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, can put it on the agenda for a full House vote.  I would give the odds of Schwartzkopf putting it on the Ready List at slim to none.

Several House Republicans felt House Bill 50 wouldn’t go anywhere that day, but they still wanted to keep the possibility of opt out alive.  House Resolution 22 gives Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky until May 1st to come up with procedures and a process for all schools to follow in regards to opt out.  He has not given any indication he would even address this resolution.  House Bill 243 would make it so no schools or districts would be held accountable for a parent opting their child out of the state assessment.  Which would also override any current federal laws on the issue as the federal law, like the Delaware law, states schools can’t opt kids out.  This is parent opt out, not school opt out.  It is a good bill, but the likelihood of it even being heard in the House Education Committee is slim to none.  At the end of January, State Rep. Earl Jaques rather smugly told me “that legislation isn’t going anywhere“.

We still have parents opting out, and we still have schools trying to bully and intimidate parents into not opting out.  Some schools feel it is perfectly okay for a child who is opted out to be in the classroom while others are taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Some schools are telling parents they aren’t allowed to opt out, and some are saying they will lose ALL funding if any student opts out.  Why would the House Republicans who sponsored this bill give until May 1st for Godowsky to act on it?  Most of the Smarter Balanced testing would have been done by then, or many students would have already “broken the seal” and started the test.  Be that as it may, Secretary Godowsky has un upcoming deadline.  I’ve already heard from a couple of legislators that Godowsky hasn’t even broached the subject.

Today in April 9th.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has 22 days to honor House Resolution #22.  Will he do the right thing or is he truly just Governor Markell’s puppet?  We will find out on May 1st!

One very interesting tidbit to report: another Delaware Republican State Rep. signed onto the bill and the resolution as a sponsor since it was introduced.  State Rep. Tim Dukes signed on as a co-sponsor for both.  Last year, Dukes consistently voted no on every iteration of House Bill 50.  Prior to the veto override attempt, he was emphatic about voting no again if it came up.  However, at the last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting in February, Dukes looked like he was starting to see the light with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It was refreshing to see.  And then when I saw him added on these two bills, I have to admit I smiled!

 

Governor Jack Markell & Johnnie Cochran: Parallel Lines & Big Mistakes

American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson concluded on Tuesday night.  Based on the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the show brought the O.J. Simpson saga from 1994-1995 back to life.  During this time, Jack Markell was making a name for himself in the business world.  The parallels between Johnnie Cochran’s defense of O.J. and Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s defense of high-stakes testing are uncanny.

To be very clear, there is no doubt in my mind O.J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.  DNA evidence proved that conclusively with the blood found in his Bronco and in various areas around the Brentwood Estate.  The reason he was found not guilty was because the trial turned into a racial matter instead of a criminal one.  Even defense attorney Robert Shapiro admitted to playing the “race card” in the trial.  During the show, it became obvious that defense attorney Johnnie Cochran insisted on turning the already explosive murder trial into a black vs. white thing.  What didn’t help the defense at all was the very racist views of former Los Angeles detective Mark Furman and questions that arose concerning the bungling or planting of evidence by the Los Angeles Police Department.

JohnnieCochran

For the past twenty years, Delaware has embarked on one standardized test after another.  The purpose behind these tests, at least from the viewpoint of education “reformers”, is to close the equity gaps between minorities and their white peers.  As parents in Delaware decided to opt their children out of taking these tests, Governor Jack Markell continued to point out this divide.  With big money and high-profile names supporting him, Markell sold the “need” for the Smarter Balanced Assessment through a false defense for at-risk students along with intimidating threats by the US Department of Education.

Both Markell and Cochran seemed to think bringing race into a controversial issue was a smart idea to defend something bad.  O.J. Simpson, once again in my opinion, brutally killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend.  High-stakes standardized tests serve no other purpose than to give faulty data to corporations to further perpetuate the cycle of showing these “gaps” between minorities and their peers.

When things got tough during the O.J. trial, Cochran turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black people.  This galvanized the trial into two camps.  Most white people felt O.J. was guilty but most African-Americans felt he was either innocent or didn’t care if he did it and felt a verdict of not guilty was warranted based on past injustices against African-Americans.  As the show vividly displayed when the verdict of not guilty was read, white people gasped and African-Americans cheered.  It didn’t seem to matter what the scientific and forensic evidence in the trial showed.  It became a race issue.

When things got tough during the House Bill 50 opt out legislation last year, Markell and his friends at the Rodel Foundation turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black students.  The News Journal displayed an ad showing Delaware civil rights groups urging the Delaware General Assembly not to pass HB50.  When the bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly, Markell vetoed the bill and sought out public comment from members of Delaware civil rights groups to support the Smarter Balanced Assessment and rail against the opt out movement.

JMarkell

Cochran felt the O.J. trial was symptomatic of the problems African-Americans faced in the USA.  He believed far too many African-American faced arrest and imprisonment simply for the color of their skin.  He was right, but Cochran refused to believe his client was even possible of the murders.  As a result, his fierce advocacy for the true violations of civil rights of African-Americans blinded him to the preponderance of evidence which should have supported a guilty verdict.  His job was to defend his client, but the trial became a race issue because of how he conducted himself and he used the mistakes of the L.A. Police to highlight the racial divide.  Granted, Mark Furman and his very racist views didn’t help the prosecution, but race became the issue, not the murders of two people.

Many reports have come out about the very faulty state assessments in America.  Based on the Common Core standards, these tests are given once a year to students and the thresholds for the scores allow x amount of students to be proficient and the majority to be not proficient.  Clear and graphic data has shown these tests are more an indication of socio-economic levels in society than true academic progress.  This data, which has produced vast amounts of profit for testing companies and “education research” foundations and non-profits, is abused by those who want to increase the divide between at-risk students and their peers.  Politicians like Governor Markell are on the side of these companies, not the students, and especially not African-Americans.  Their agendas and testing schemes have disrupted education to such a degree that ordinary parents have chosen to pull their children out of these unnecessary and burdensome tests.

Both Cochran and Markell used the issues of the day to further matters that truly were not about race.  Cochran wanted a not guilty verdict for OJ Simpson and Markell wants a guilty verdict for schools with low-income students and high amounts of at-risk students.  By bringing race into their arguments, they have not advanced the cause for what they say.  They both caused the divide to widen.  In the end, OJ Simpson wound up being found guilty in a civil trial against him and is now serving time in prison for kidnapping and theft.  In the end, parents are still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and many in the African-American community are beginning to question if these tests truly are useful.

OJSimpson

Over twenty years later, many in the African-American community believe OJ Simpson committed the murders.  As OJ sits in a Nevada prison, pending parole next year, the true victims of his actions are the two people whose murderer was never found guilty by a jury.  As well, OJ’s children will forever live with the facts and the doubts in their minds about the results of what happened on June 12th, 1994.  Johnnie Cochran passed in 1995.  He will always be remembered for getting the not guilty verdict for his client, OJ Simpson.  Sadly, he won’t be remembered for advancing the true civil rights issues that continue to plague so many in the African-American community.

Meanwhile, as estimates come in of over 300,000 students opted out of the state assessment in New York and an unknown amount here in Delaware, the media is once again torn on the usefulness of these high-stakes tests.  Governor Markell has been very quiet on the issue this year, perhaps learning from the mistakes he made last year by reacting to the opt out movement in Delaware.  The true victims in this high-stakes education game are the children in 3rd to 8th grade, forced to either take a test that bears no worthwhile results to further their academic progress or be opted out by their parents with some schools fighting the parents tooth and nail over their decision.  As well, the parents who are forced to fight schools, the teachers who would much rather instruct students meaningfully instead of wasting all this time over a silly test, and the school administrators who feel the need to fight parents because of threats of funding cuts and false labels against their schools.  Standardized testing has done nothing to stop the very dangerous school-to-prison pipeline in Delaware.  If anything, it caused an increase as more at-risk students felt like failures based on the results of the very faulty tests and their self-confidence eroded to such a degree that they felt school was not a valid option.  Is it any wonder crime and violence increased in Wilmington the same years high-stakes testing increased?  Where is that study?

SchoolToPrisonPipeline

Cochran and Markell, two men of power, twenty years and 2,700 miles apart from each other, both used race to bring the wrong conclusion to bad events.  Their actions didn’t make things better.  They only made them worse.  History will eventually show the truth in both matters.  Race should never be used to support bad ideas.  Civil rights groups should not defend a man who openly admitted to beating his wife, was accused of killing her and her boyfriend, ran from the police, and then made a mockery of the very same community that defended him.  Civil rights groups should not use children in agendas to advance their cause, especially when they are receiving vast amounts of money from the very same foundations and companies that support the high-stakes testing environment that is putting labels on their communities.  It is deceptive and doesn’t help the ones they should be advocating for.

The injustices perpetrated against the African-American community are wrong.  No man or woman or child should be labeled or judged based on the color of their skin.  By showing false divides, we are not helping them, we are harming them.

The Appo Vs. Opt Out Parents War Is Building…

Appoquinimink does not want parent opt out at all.  They don’t want parents talking about it with outsiders.  Especially me.  Parents are getting VERY upset and they have justification.  I wrote about the latest intimidation tactics the district is taking earlier last week.  It turns out that isn’t all they are doing!

Last Thursday, I spoke with the Public Information Officer for Appo, Lilian Miles.  I advised her the Appo letter about opt out is very confusing to parents and it is hard for them to understand what it even means.  Between the “absent” for the purposes of testing portion and the illegal portion with federal and state code with their glaring omissions surrounding parents, I told her they need to change the wording  in the letter.

Lilian explained she understands but they are following the Delaware Department of Education’s suggested template.  She was going to check with some district folks and get back to me.  She asked which parents were coming to me about this.  I advised her I didn’t feel comfortable giving out that information.  Apparently, she didn’t like that.

From: Miles Lilian <Lilian.Miles@appo.k12.de.us>
To: “kevino3670@yahoo.com” <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2016 1:12 PM
Subject: wording on letter

Mr. Ohlandt:
 
Thank you for your time on the phone yesterday. If you find yourself in conversation with an Appoquinimink parent who feels unclear about the language in the letter they received (which employs a template supplied by DDOE), we encourage you to have them reach out to the educational leader in their child’s building. Parents are partners in our district and as such, we respect their decision-making process. We would appreciate the opportunity to address any concerns they may have personally.
 
Thank you in advance for your support and understanding!
 
Lilian Miles
Public Information Officer
Appo is trying to make parents sign an illegal letter so Appo is “off the hook” with opt out.  Even they are naïve enough to think that is acceptable for the testing overlords at the DOE!  Another parent approached me after I received this email.  The district was really pushing this parent to sign their illegal letter.  I responded to Lilian Miles and decided a few more people may want to be aware of what is going on in Appoquimink…
From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Miles Lilian <Lilian.Miles@appo.k12.de.us>
Cc:
Denn Matthew (DOJ) <matthew.denn@state.de.us>; Kowalko John (LegHall) <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Burrows Matthew L. <matthew.burrows@appo.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Lawson Dave (LegHall) <dave.lawson@state.de.us>
Sent:
Friday, March 11, 2016 4:33 PM
Subject:
Re: wording on letter

Lilian,
With all due respect, Appoquinimink is making this much harder than it has to be.  The DOE and the Appo letter are both wrong with their wording in the letter.  The US DOE code, which I informed Appo of last year, is for schools to administer the test.  It doesn’t mean a student has to take it or that a parent can not opt their child out.  As well, the Delaware code is completely wrong because they only provide the part that states “individuals” without including the part of the code that defines who “individuals” are, like school teachers, principals, administrators, etc.  Not once is “parents” any part of that definition.  Just because Attorney General Matt Denn did not have the Dept. of Justice do a legal opinion on this letter does not mean it couldn’t be challenged in court.  This letter was one of many reasons parents and legislators in Delaware fought so strongly for House Bill 50.
I would strongly encourage Appoquinimink to stop using this outdated and complete fabrication of a letter.  It is not enforceable and nor should the Appoquinimink district make it so.  If parents were indeed partners in your district, you would not be sending them a letter like this.  As far as my telling parents to reach out to the district, I will not do that.  I informed the district about the fallacies in this letter a year ago and here we are a year later having the same conversation.  Delaware DOE is well aware of this as well with the wording in this letter.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt
Opt out is a little bit different this year.  For the second timers, they know what they are doing.  But for the first timers, they don’t have as much support from the state or organizations.  The Delaware PTA was hushed into compliance with National PTA who is against opt out.  The legislators of the General Assembly could not muster enough votes to override the Governor’s veto of House Bill 50, the parent opt out legislation that would have prevented the bullying and intimidation Appoquinimink is practicing.  So what is a parent going to do?  If they do a Google search on opt out in Delaware, my name or this blog is going to come up pretty fast.
If a parent reaches out to me, I am not mentioning their name if I deal with a district.  If a parent is taking the time to come to me about this, I trust they have already done their own due diligence and already dealt with an administrator in their child’s school.  Appo just needs to gut this letter, period!  Upon discussion of this with another parent, they shot off a response to the district referencing the response I sent to Lilian Miles.
I will do this for any parent in Delaware if they want me to.  If I have to be the only opt out advocate you have, I will gladly take on that mission.  I have no qualms about doing so.  I don’t care if it ticks people or districts off.  Parents have no one else to turn to.  So until our state can put a law into place honoring this fundamental and Constitutional right for parents, schools and districts need to know that if they bully or intimidate, I will act on a parent’s behalf.  If they don’t like it that is just too bad!
I have not received a response from anyone since my latest email.  That may change tomorrow.

Appoquinimink Taking The Hard Line On Opt Out! General Assembly, You Could Have Stopped This…

An Appoquinimink parent just told me they received the Appo opt out threat letter I wrote about last year.  Two parents from Appo have informed me their child would not receive academic instruction when their peers took the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware General Assembly could have stopped this nonsense in January by overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  Now they are going to have to deal with ticked off parents.  I personally sent each and every one of them an email letting them know this would happen.  The vast majority of the Delaware House of Representatives ignored this.

One parent was very confused by the wording of the letter and was very upset.  Is this really a repeat of last year?  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, I demand you put House Bill 50 off of the ready list and let the Delaware House give it a vote.  Let’s see how these “representatives of the people” vote when they can’t hide behind a suspension of rules!

Christina Board Member Opts His Son Out Of DCAS-Alt1

Christina Board of Education member John Young just forwarded me an email he sent to the administrators at his son’s school in the district.

All,
 
Please be advised that Evan Young is being opted out of DCAS-Alt1. DCAS-Alt1 is a painful, inappropriate, and worthless exercise designed to cause pain to the student and educator alike. It provides no useful data and as such is, as is SBAC, irredeemably valueless.
 
Under no circumstance is he permitted to take DCAS-Alt1. This is in addition to the Opt Out demand for SBAC.
 
Please provide Evan academic opportunities pursuant to established CSD board policy permitting parental opt out devoid of retaliation and penalty of any kind during the sadly allotted time of the administration of this inappropriate measure.
 
Thanks,
 
John Young

Christina, along with Red Clay, has opt-out policies passed by their board.  The only other board in Delaware that has an opt-out resolution is the Capital board.  There are sixteen other districts in Delaware.  What are they waiting for?  Please keep in mind parents, you don’t need a board resolution or policy, or even legislation to opt your child out.  While House Bill 50 (which sits on the Pete Schwartzkopf “ready list”, meaning it sits there until he realizes he is wrong or until the end of the legislative session where the bill dies) would certainly add extra protection for parents, students, and schools, it does not “allow” you to opt your child out the Smarter Balanced Assessment or any standardized assessment.  YOU already own that right!

Once again, the Smarter Balanced Assessment starts Wednesday in a lot of districts.  Opt your child out tomorrow!  Once they log in, the data collection begins!

Something Doesn’t Add Up With National PTA’s Intimidation Letter To Delaware PTA…

PTABullying

I was thinking about this a lot the past two days.  Since I posted the National PTA “Comply Or We Will Make You” letter to the Delaware PTA, something didn’t feel quite right.  Was it the absolute absurdity and gall of National PTA, or the timing of it?

The Delaware PTA heavily advocated House Bill 50, the Delaware opt-out legislation that our cowardly weasel of a Governor vetoed last July.  When an attempt  to have our legislators do the right thing and override Markell’s veto, the Delaware PTA staged a rally outside of Legislative Hall in Dover.  This was a month and a half ago.  The very next week, the Delaware PTA announced National PTA would be coming out with a position statement against opt-out very soon.  They did so in the beginning of February.

Let us flash forward to last Wednesday.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has their post-State Board meeting where State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray is grilled and served on a plate by Wilmington school districts and members of the Commission.  State Board Executive Director Donna Johnson is most likely highly embarrassed about the allegation she advised State Board members how to vote on the WEIC plan.  The very next day, President of Delaware PTA Dr. Terri Hodges gets the comply or die letter from Laura Bay, the President of National PTA.  Right before the assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware Department of Education.  Right before.  As she walks into the meeting, handouts are provided to the committee and members of the public.  One of them is the National PTA position statement on assessment and opt-out.  It was a very odd choice for a hand-out.  Especially since it was NEVER discussed at all during the meeting.  Dr. Hodges attended the previous meeting, and I’m sure the DOE knew some type of Delaware PTA representation would attend the meeting.  I’m not coming right out and saying this, but I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

Yes, the National PTA did issue the position statement against opt-out.  For what reasons, I absolutely cannot fathom.  But Kilroy’s Delaware did present something very interesting today in regards to National PTA President Laura Bay.  It turns out she is the coördinator for assessment and instruction in her Washington school district.  And she essentially runs National PTA.  But was there some outside influence to have Bay pull a sword on Delaware PTA?

We have January and February of 2016 as two key months with a lot of Delaware PTA/National PTA/State Board of Education/Delaware DOE/WEIC activity.  All involving some very key players in this very bizarre game of Russian Roulette with parental choices.  Add in some referendums, priority schools, and redistricting and we have a huge mess on our hands!

In the backdrop of it all: a very power-hungry Delaware Governor Jack Markell and John King, the very controversial figure at the US Department of Education who is hoping to become the next US Secretary of Education instead of Acting.  Surrounding all of this is the massive tome called the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The mammoth legislation that has not been clearly defined but will in the coming months when the US DOE begins issuing regulations around it.  To make matters more complicated, this will be going on during most state’s testing windows for their state assessments, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  Also during an election year.

The bridge between Delaware PTA and National PTA has one person on both sides: Yvonne Johnson.  She serves as the Vice-President of Advocacy for Delaware PTA and is a board member of National PTA.  The Governor was not pleased with the Delaware PTA’s defense of House Bill 50 at all.  The Delaware PTA has some choices ahead of them.  Fight, submit, or secede.  None will be easy decisions.  Secession is not an easy thing.  Fighting could result in major issues for them.  Submit will assuredly permanently scar the organization that has made a name for itself over the past year by supporting a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  Dr. Hodges is not one to surrender quietly.  This will definitely be something to watch over the coming months.  Perhaps a little push is in order…

 

 

National PTA Forces Delaware PTA To Back Down From Honoring Parent’s Right To Opt-Out, Time To End That Relationship!!!!

Immediately cease advocacy efforts in support of the Delaware PTA Position Statement on Parent Opt Out HB50 including but not limited to website promotion, action alerts, e-newsletters, media interview and information flyers.

Per National PTA SOA Policy, if you are unable to comply with the SOA requirements by April 26, 2016 (60 days from this notification), a support team will be assigned to Delaware PTA to help create and implement a plan to move your PTA back into compliance.

Unbelievable!  It’s one thing to say you don’t agree with someone for doing something.  But then you force them to take a position on it? And if they don’t you will make sure they do?  I say the Delaware PTA renames itself and kicks National PTA to the curb!  Who do they think they are?  What a bunch of arrogant jerks!  It is the PARENT-Teacher Association.  Not the “we got more money from Bill Gates so we are going to force our state PTAs to shut up about opt-out” Association.  What a bunch of sell-outs!  What the hell kind of parent organization doesn’t honor parent’s rights?  Terri and Yvonne, do the right thing for the parents of Delaware, not this bureaucratic nightmare in Washington D.C.  Absolutely ridiculous!

And the Delaware PTA sent some questions to National PTA:

Yeah, they may not say places like the Gates Foundation won’t fund you if you support opt-out.  But guess what, they just won’t give you money in the future.  National PTA knows this.  Time for a clean break Delaware PTA!  Meanwhile, Delaware PTA President Terri Hodges sent this out to the Delaware PTA membership this afternoon:

PTA members and supporters,

            As you are aware, National PTA issued an updated position statement in January 2016 regarding state assessments. The position statement, developed by the National PTA Legislative Committee and approved by the National Board of Directors, also outlines National PTA’s opposition of the growing parent opt-out movement across the United States.

            When the position statement was released in January, we were initially informed that our advocacy of parental rights was not in conflict with the updated position statement, as Delaware PTA has never encouraged parents to opt of testing. However, upon further review National PTA has determined that our advocacy of parental rights is in fact in conflict with the updated position statement. As a result, Delaware PTA has received the attached DE Sanctions Letter from National PTA informing us that as a state association we are not in compliance with the Standards of Affiliation.

            As a state association, we are obligated to comply with the National PTA Standard of Affiliations which governs the relationship between National PTA and the state associations. Similarly, our bylaws define the relationship between the state association and our local units in that the local units may not collectively take up any position that contradicts the position of Delaware State PTA and by extension National PTA. As indicated in the letter, the position statement can only be amended /rescinded by the voting body. This will be an action item on the agenda for our upcoming Board of Managers meeting, where we will also accept a motion to amend the legislative priorities at the next state convention. In the interim, Delaware PTA is required to cease all advocacy related to parent opt out.

            We recognize that with the support of parents and teachers, several of our school districts have adopted policies, resolutions and/or procedures for honoring a parent’s request to opt out of the state assessment. National PTA’s prohibition on our advocacy only extends to the state association and thus the local units. This position does not have any impact on individual activity and advocacy.

            We want to ensure our members that we have done our due diligence in sharing our concerns with National PTA and requesting complete transparency around the new position statement via the Questions posed to National PTA(attached). Delaware PTA remains committed to our membership and advocating for the students of Delaware. PTA is a multi-issue advocacy organization. As such, we will continue our advocacy in the following key areas:

  • A reduction in testing across all grade levels
  • A reliable and valid state assessment that measures student growth
  • A fair and representative teacher evaluation system
  • Weighted funding
  • Anti-Bullying compliance

            We thank everyone for your continued support. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at de_office@pta.org

 Delaware PTA

Capital’s Board Of Education’s House Bill 50 Veto Override Letter To Legislators Is Amazing!!!!!

Lindell

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If John or Jane have to worry about if there is going to be food on the table for dinner tonight, worry about if they will have a roof over their head, or worry about being hit by a stray bullet within their neighborhoods, the self-actualization required to succeed on these tests, or for that matter, school, is made even more difficult for these students.  This translates into schools that service large high-need populations facing a difficult climb to reach accountability targets.

I was curious why the Capital School District Board of Education did not pass an official policy on opt-out the way Christina and Red Clay did.  They were the first Delaware school board to pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes state assessments way before anyone else did, back in October 2014.  The answer to that question is included in the below letter.  It was introduced at their January meeting and will be voted on at their meeting next Wednesday, February 17th.  This is the best letter I think I’ve ever seen written about opt-out, anywhere!  And I have seen some awesome letters!  Kudos to Board President Matt Lindell, Vice-President Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Nauleen Perry, and Ralph Taylor for this letter that says more about Delaware education than anything I have seen in a long time!  Thank you!

SAT Development Shows Delaware DOE & Markell Have No Clue What They Are Doing, Opt-Out Has Them Flustered

6008_train-off-a-cliff

The Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell are finding the very traps they set to stop the opt-out movement are coming back to bite them in the ass.  Irony is an awesome thing sometimes.  At the beginning of 2015, the DOE was riding high.  They thought they had Christina and Red Clay in their crosshairs, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was coming out, and they were winning.  A funny thing happened on the way to their victory lap.  Parents.  They said no to the almighty DOE and Markell.  This set off a litany of announcements from the DOE and Markell.

The Governor announced the Assessment Inventory as opt-out was gaining a lot of traction.  He foolishly believed that parents wouldn’t opt-out if they just reduced the amount of tests students take.  In April, the DOE and Markell announced University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Wilmington University were going to accept Smarter Balanced scores in lieu of students taking remedial classes.  Meanwhile, the SAT was retooled to align with Common Core.  In December, the Governor and Secretary Godowsky announced the SAT would replace Smarter Balanced for high school juniors, which killed the press announcement in April about Smarter Balanced.  Yesterday, https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/university-of-de-faculty-senate-will-vote-on-an-admission-requirement-making-sat-scores-optional/ revealed the University of Delaware will be voting on whether or not to make SAT scores a factor in their admission process.  Several universities around the USA have already cut the SAT out entirely.

This whole experiment of Governor Markell’s to try to squelch the opt-out movement has been a miserable failure.  It was so obvious to myself and others that each move he was making was from a clumsy and defensive posture against parents.  In a way, his whole assessment inventory plan helped to set up a national argument against too much testing.  As a result of that, Delaware is now postponing their new science and social studies assessments because of the whole assessment inventory.  Another example of “be careful what you wish for”.  These were the unintended consequences of opt-out.  The DOE and Markell looking like fools on the Delaware stage.  By switching from the Smarter Balanced to SAT, the “best test Delaware ever made” has now become much less than what Markell professed it to be.  And now the SAT, with all the insanity the College Board has gone through switching the test to Smarter Balanced Junior, is redundant as well.

Meanwhile, parents are still opting their kids out of Smarter Balanced and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.  The 148th General Assembly still has a shot at redemption with parents by allowing a vote for the veto override of House Bill 50.  Will Schwartzkopf continue to ride the Markell train that is about to derail and fly off a cliff?  Or will he do the right thing and put it up for a vote?  In the meantime, we can put the pressure on Schwartzkopf by gaining over 20,000 signatures on the Change.org petition: https://www.change.org/p/delaware-speaker-of-the-house-pete-schwartzkopf-put-hb50-on-the-agenda-for-a-full-house-vote-on-the-veto-override

House Bill 50 Is Not Dead! Sign The Petition To Pete Schwartzkopf For A Full House Vote On The Veto Override

SchwartzkopfPetition

Despite what others have said, House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation in Delaware, is not dead.  It isn’t finished.  It is merely hiding in Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s desk drawer.  It is on the ready list, but Schwartzkopf has not put it on the agenda for a full House vote.  What is he afraid of?  That the House and Senate will pass the veto override?  That the lame-duck Governor Markell will be upset if his veto is overturned?  We the people demand House Bill 50 gets a full vote for the veto override in the Delaware House and Senate.

I am giving this petition a long time to breathe because the General Assembly doesn’t return until March 8th.  I need all your help to make this happen.  I need you to share this petition with every single person you know in Delaware.  I want Schwartzkopf to see this with no less than 20,000 signatures from Delaware citizens.  We have a month to make this happen! Let’s Do It!!!!! To go to the Change.org petition, please click the link:

Pete Schwartzkopf: Put HB50 On The Agenda For A Full House Vote On The Veto Override!

A Conversation With Earl Jaques Yesterday & How He Wants Me To Betray The Opt-Out Movement

After running some errands yesterday, I stopped by Legislative Hall in Dover.  There was no particular reason for going.  As the House Education Committee came out of their meeting, I was approached by State Rep. Earl Jaques.  He asked if he could speak with me in his office.  I immediately thought he was going to blast me for blasting him on this blog.  This wasn’t the case.

Last Spring, right before the House voted on HB50 for the first time on May 7th, Earl approached me about changing provisions for students with disabilities when it comes to the state assessment.  In 2014, Senator Nicole Poore brought Senate Bill 229 forward.  Her bill, which passed, allowed for the most cognitively impaired students to take an alternate assessment in lieu of the state assessment.  It was a bill I fully supported.  It passed within days of the HB334, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The law states this is for students who are “clinically incapable of producing valid results on a standardized assessment”.  This is for a very limited number of students, usually 1%.  These are children who don’t even have the ability to hold a pencil, or they are so challenged they can’t put words together.  Earl told me he wanted to add more disabilities to that list.  I advised him right then and there it doesn’t work like that.  You can’t just pick disabilities and say this child has to take a test and this one doesn’t.   He told me he wants to help out kids like my own.  I advised Earl my son is very smart, but I don’t want him taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He told me to think about it and let him know.

A couple days later, I received an email from Earl:

Additions to SB 229

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Schwartzkopf Peter (LegHall) <peter.schwartzkopf@state.de.us>; Markell Jack <jmarkell@comcast.net>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; “John.King@ed.gov” <john.king@ed.gov>; Johnson Donna R. <donna.johnson@doe.k12.de.us>; “David.Sokola@state.de.us” <david.sokola@state.de.us>
Sent:
Thursday, January 28, 2016 10:24 PM
Subject:
Opt-Out Clauses For Students With Disabilities

Good evening all.
Most of you know me, but for John King, please allow me to introduce myself.  I am one of, if not the, most vocal proponents of opt-out in the State of Delaware.  I supported Delaware’s House Bill 50 before it was even filed.  This was a legitimate bill, aimed at honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Our House and Senate passed it, but Governor Markell vetoed it.  I’m sure you know all of this and what has happened since.
According to our State Representative Earl Jaques, he had a conversation with you last Friday during your visit to Wilmington. About his idea to add disabilities for students who take the alternative assessment.  He made it sound like you were encouraged by this and you asked him to send you information on it.  At least that’s what he told me…
Getting to the root of this email, Earl approached me yesterday about adding disabilities to Senate Bill 229.  Mr. King, this was Delaware’s bill which would allow the most severe cognitively impaired students to take an alternate test. Either Rep. Jaques truly thinks disabilities can be added to this bill like a specific disability defines what a child can or can’t do, or he was playing me.  I believe he was trying to weaken opt-out by getting one of it’s biggest advocates to slow down the cause.  He wants me to give up the fight and cave.  I just have to offer labels to him.  As a father of a student with disabilities who is very intelligent and smart, and no longer attends public school in Delaware because of the insanity that has become public education, I find it disgusting and reprehensible that Jaques would think I would even think about participating in his sick game.
Rep. Schwartzkopf: You made a very big mistake putting Earl as the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee.  Is this how State Reps behave?  Playing on what they perceive to be an Achilles heel of someone who opposes them?  And then uses students with disabilities to accomplish this?  This is some sick stuff, and I hope you take action on this immediately.
I sincerely hope none of you in this email put Jaques up to this.  I truly hope none of you would stoop that low.  I can promise you though, my resolve with opt-out has never been stronger and thanks to Earl I am more determined than ever to educate every single parent of a child in a Delaware public school on opt-out.  We could have done this clean without all of this.  Oregon passed an opt-out bill Governor Markell, but you had to stick to your guns and look out for business interests over the rights of parents.  We can stop with the charades here.  It is what it is.  We all know what Smarter Balanced truly is and what it’s true goals are.  I would have to be a morally bankrupt human being, with what I know, to not encourage every single parent in this state to say no to SBAC.
But I’m not done there, because as we all know there are many parts to this machine in Delaware.  I am going to tear the whole thing apart.  Don’t believe me?  You don’t think I can do it?  Watch me!
Mr. King, since you aren’t really a part of all this, but I feel you should bear witness, I do have a boon to ask of you: Call off your participation rate attack dogs with their threatening letters about cutting Federal funding because of a parental choice.  Schools have no control over opt-out.  There is nothing they can do to stop a parent from making this choice.  And there is nothing you can do against a parent.  If you want to be helpful, stop with all this assessment inventory nonsense you are pushing and encourage states to get rid of the very tests parents are opting out of: the standardized test.  The jig is up.  Parents are only going to opt out more which renders the test useless.  We don’t want it for our children.  It is designed for data to track our children and to sell them to the lowest bidder.  We don’t even want it embedded into the personalized learning competency-based education widgets.  We don’t want our children to be investor’s little playthings.  Look me in the eye and tell me that isn’t what this is all about.  You can “personalize” and “standardize” all you want.  But leave our kids alone.  We aren’t stupid.  And the charter love, that is going to go down like the Titanic more and more every day as the cracks are exposed and the rot festers through the foundations behind that movement.
Governor Markell… Jack… I’ll bet you didn’t even think twice about not putting the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to third grade into your neat little budget.  But you made damn sure to get the $11.35 million in for all the early childhood education.  Let me ask you this though: what happens to those children, who got all that extra support when they were a toddler with disabilities, when they go to school and become a student with disabilities?  In an oversized classroom with limited resources?  I’m sure we would blame the teacher then, right?  It’s almost like you want students with disabilities to fail.  But they can’t just fail, they have to fail spectacularly well!  And we will stretch that proficiency gap so hard it snaps!  But hot damn, if we can get them a low-paying job when they graduate, then by golly, we did our job!  And we will continue to pay University of Delaware millions and millions of dollars to come up with “behavior” programs to deal with those neurologically-based special education kids!  But hey, we have money to throw around.  Let’s allocate $3 million for bike trails…
If any of you need more information on all of this and more detail about Earl, please read my article about this on Exceptional Delaware.  This email will be included in it.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt