How Can A Teacher Measure Goals For A Student When The DOE Hasn’t Provided The Actual Goals?

A Delaware teacher in the Red Clay Consolidated School District asked the Delaware Dept. of Education for the growth goals for Group 1 educators, which would be English/Language Arts and Math teachers.  Not an unreasonable question given that we are already a month into school.  It would be a pretty neat idea to have teachers measure goals based on the goals the DOE provides them.  Especially since this is a major part of their evaluation each year.  But in the below email exchange between Red Clay Teacher Steve Fackenthall and DOE Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit employees Laura Schneider and Jon Neubauer, something comes out.

doegoals1

doegoals3

 

 

doegoals2

doegoals4

I apologize for the squinty eyes some of you may have experienced looking at the pictures of these emails. I tried to make them bigger, but c’est la vie! But notice how the teacher had very specific concerns about the targets and the response from Schneider at the DOE? As a married man, if my wife came to me with a concern and I said “thanks for sharing”, she wouldn’t take it too well.  I know if my boss addressed something with me at work and I said “thanks for sharing” and walked away, that would NOT be good for me. So why is it that the DOE feels they can talk to teachers like that? I give the DOE a hard time…a lot. But it is this kind of exchange which lends that feeling of a lack of communication a great deal of credibility.  I understand the DOE is busy and they have a clear mandate for what their duties are.  But a bit of empathy and compassion goes a long way.

I know John Carney (should he be elected as Governor) wants to make the DOE less a compliance factory and more of a valued resource for educators.  If I were a DOE employee and I read the teacher’s concern, knowing Carney is probably going to be our next Governor (based on what others have written), I might think twice of giving a “thanks for sharing” response.  Something to the effect of “that is a valid concern.  Maybe we should talk about that” or “can you go into more detail?” would go a loooong way towards mending old wounds teachers feel.

Many teachers feel that the DOE gives off a superior attitude to teachers.  It shouldn’t be like that.  It should be a collaborative relationship.  The very nature of the teacher’s email shouldn’t even be a reality.  Those goals should be sent out before school starts so teachers can start preparing.  Targets are one thing, but actual student’s goals shouldn’t wait until over halfway into a marking period or well into a trimester (which some districts and charters have).  This is the number one complaint I hear about the Delaware DOE.  And I think the lack of transparency is connected to that attitude.  It gives off a vibe of “we will release information when we want to do it, not when YOU want it”.

I have seen many emails from the DOE that came from FOIA requests.  I have seen them totally dog teachers between each other.  I’ve seen a dismissive attitude when teachers or other district staff reach out to them for help.

The DOE is filled with a lot of caring and wonderful people who care about kids.  But the leaders and higher-ups need to look at the perception people have of them.  If not, we can expect more of the same no matter what John Carney or the next Governor plan.  I understand the DOE isn’t going to please everyone all the time.  They get their marching orders from the big boss (and it is not the Secretary no matter what you think).  This same thing does take place in some charters and districts.  Just because you have a loftier position does not mean you are better.  It means you have an opportunity to provide more answers and deal with employees and constituents (whether they are parents, teachers, anyone really) on an equal level.  You might get a bigger paycheck but it should always be about the end goal: helping kids.  And upsetting and frustrating teachers is not the way to go.  They are the front line in education.  I get that politics play a big part, but be human!  I’m sure this sounds hypocritical coming from me, but when I react it isn’t always pretty.  I get upset when I see this kind of thing.  I could have easily written a title like “DOE doesn’t give a crap about teachers” but it has become more than obvious that there is a severe disconnect happening in Delaware education.  This isn’t anything new.  But how can we set a new course if the old matters aren’t addressed or pointed out?  Sitting at the table and hashing it out is good if there is less baggage to deal with.  That baggage needs to be dealt with.

 

Advertisements

Reality Hits Delaware Teachers That SBAC Counts In Their Evaluations Now But Bigger Dangers Are On The Horizon…

Yesterday, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky sent a memo to all Delaware public school teachers.  This message reiterates existing Delaware law about Component V of the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system.  In other words, Smarter Balanced counts in teacher evaluations this year.

godowskymessage

It was supposed to “count” last year, but legislators from the 148th General Assembly persuaded the Delaware Department of Education to submit an ESEA flexibility waiver in 2015 to extend the exemption period another year.  The US Dept. of Education approved that request.  Beginning this year, for almost every single public school in the state, the highly controversial high-stakes test will be a major part of Component V.

House Bill 399 will start a pilot program in select Delaware schools where the teacher and the administrator can choose another type of assessment for Measure A of Component V, but the administrator has final say in the event of a deadlock.  Governor Markell is expected to sign the legislation in the coming weeks.

Back in the spring of 2015, at a Common Core for Common Ground event, Governor Markell unwisely told a room full of educators to be prepared because he was:

Giving you another year before consequences kick in.

That was before the US DOE approved the flex waiver.  In 2015, the Governor very condescendingly told WHYY/Newsworks:

We know that some people don’t agree with higher standards and accountability.

When those “higher standards” and “accountability” are rigged from the get-go, it is hard to take the Common Core loving Jack Markell seriously.  It is very convenient for Markell to be okay with Component V hitting teachers after he leaves office.  Just yet another example of our “education” Governor creating destruction and leaving it for others to clean up the mess.

In the meantime, the dynamic due of Senator Sokola and Atnre Alleyne all but assured House Bill 399 was morphed into something from the corporate education reform playbook when it passed the Delaware General Assembly on July 1st.  Sokola’s amendments added a student and parent survey to the pilot program which enraged teachers across the state.  Newark Charter School has these types of surveys and it is something the DOE has been planning for a lot longer than we think…

In June of 2014, Atnre Alleyne worked at the Delaware DOE in the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit under Chief Christopher Ruszkowski.  He contacted a company called Panorama Education Inc. since they administered surveys to schools in New Haven, Connecticut public schools.  They provided information to Alleyne showing what these parent and student surveys could look like in Delaware:

And here are examples of the surveys this company wrote:

Student Perception Surveys for 3rd-5th Grade Students:

Student Perception Surveys for 6th-12th Grade Students:

For those who may be wondering how I was able to uncover these documents, they came from a FOIA request a Delaware teacher received from the Delaware DOE over a year and a half ago.  While looking back at the emails in this FOIA a few weeks ago, I found this.  It didn’t mean a lot at the time I initially reviewed the FOIA material, but in context of the Sokola amendment added onto House Bill 399, it is huge.  As an exclusive bonus, here are the emails that allowed Ruszkowski, Alleyne, and Laura Schneider (still with the TLEU at the Delaware DOE) to begin looking at student surveys over two years ago:

panoramaemail1

panoramaemail2

panoramaemail3

panoramaemail4

panoramaemail5

The problem with any survey is how it is worded.  Surveys can very easily slant towards a very specific purpose.  There are a multitude of factors that can cause surveys to be tainted.  For students, there are many reasons why they could bash a teacher in a survey.  But Sokola and the DOE seem to want these surveys, along with parent surveys.  For what purpose?  I think we can all figure that one out: to label more teachers as ineffective in their path to destroy teacher unions.

For the Delaware DOE, they have already paid a very large chunk of money to Panorama this year.  What were the services Panorama provided for the DOE?  I can only imagine it was for the implementation of surveys into DPAS-II.  Note the date on the below picture.  This was before House Bill 399 had the Sokola amendment added to it.  Almost two months before…

panormadeonlinechkbook

I firmly believe the original intention of House Bill 399 was hijacked from the Delaware DOE and Senator Sokola even before it was introduced.  They knew exactly what the outcome of this bill would be.  I would almost prefer Governor Markell does not sign it because of the Sokola amendment and the potential damage this could do to the teaching profession in Delaware.

In terms of Atnre Alleye, he is a nice guy.  But I have serious “heartburn” as Senator Sokola frequently says, about his role as a founder of TeenSHARP and the work they do while he was an employee of the Delaware Department of Education.  I believe there was a clear conflict of interest.  While he did leave the DOE in February of this year, he was very involved with House Bill 399 and what became of it.

Going back as far as 2010, Alleyne’s motivations were very clear for what he wanted in education:

I don’t believe a company he co-founded should in any way benefit from policies he helped contribute to as an employee of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  There is a blurring of the lines so to speak.  In fact, when you look at Alleyne’s Twitter account, it is filled with love for corporate education reform companies.

For Delaware teachers, this year will be the true test for them on the absolute damage one high-stakes test will do to their careers.  But is this a smokescreen for something even worse coming to all of education in America?  I believe it is.  I think the very loud protest coming from teachers in this state will lead to an elimination of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as we know it.  The test will evolve into weekly or bi-weekly tests in a personalized learning/competency-based education environment where the role of the teacher will be reduced to that of a glorified moderator.  Now, more than ever, teachers in Delaware need to not only fight what is here but what is coming.  And prepare now!