Earl Jaques Bows To The Delaware Chamber Of Commerce Over Special Education Diplomas

It looks like you need special permission to introduce legislation to help students with disabilities.  At the Joint House and Senate Education Committee today in Delaware, State Rep. Earl Jaques asked one of the presenters of the special education strategic plan if she checked with the Delaware Chamber Of Commerce first before pushing legislation for special education diplomas.  Currently, many students with disabilities with complex and intensive needs get a certificate in lieu of a diploma.  Many businesses will not hire these young adults after graduation because they do not have a diploma.

The legislation, which was filed last week by State Rep. Kim Williams, would award these students a diploma based on modified standards.  It is not exactly the same as a regular diploma because of those modified standards, but it is still a diploma.  That way, these students would be able to check the box on job applications indicating they have a diploma.

During a question and answer session after Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle gave the special education strategic plan presentation, State Rep. Earl Jaques (also the Chair of the House Education Committee) asked Marinucci if she consulted with the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the business community over the proposed legislation.  Marinucci indicated she had not.  I took severe offense to this question from Jaques.  As if legislators need some type of special permission from big business to allow things to get better for people with disabilities.  We don’t need permission from the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber should be begging for this type of bill to allow equal access to employment for ALL Delaware citizens.  As State Senator Anthony Delcollo pointed out, there exist certain laws already such as the Americans with Disabilities Act that prevents discrimination against disabled citizens.

The entire Delaware certificate system needs to disappear.  There are plenty of jobs where former students are more than qualified but this discriminatory certificate prevents them from getting those types of jobs.  Our legislators and Governor need to stop bowing down to big business in Delaware and do what is right for ALL the citizens, especially the most vulnerable.  While big business lobbyists run rampant throughout Legislative Hall telling legislators how they should vote and which bills they support and which ones they don’t, our legislators are missing the point of making laws.  It should be what is best for all the citizens, not just those with the fattest wallets.  There are those legislators who understand this, State Rep. Kim Williams being one of them.  But far too many listen to those who have the most money.

While Jaques indicated he doesn’t want to see potential problems arise from persons with disabilities just checking a box and not being qualified for those jobs, there is also a thing called an interview process.  As well, many job applications do ask an applicant about their qualifications to meet the need for the job.  Having a certificate instead of a diploma is an instant barrier that serves to weed out these job applicants from the get-go.  I find this practice disgusting and barbaric.  For this comment to come from Jaques, who has publicly acknowledged having a grandchild with Autism, I found it  particularly disturbing.  I’m sure he is trying to get all his ducks in a row and making sure there has been enough stakeholder engagement.  And while I do agree the business community should certainly be a part of the discussion in how to best help students with disabilities and improve upon the process, I do not think any group involved in getting common sense legislation through needs permission first.  I wonder if Jaques read my article on the current Chair of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce from yesterday.  Maybe then he would understand why I am vehemently opposed to any pre-consultation with the damn Chamber over education legislation.

The actual presentation was top-notch.  The plan is designed to help students with disabilities and schools to improve special education.  While the plan is not set in stone and is a “living document”, I think it is a major step in the right direction.  This group did their homework and while I always think there should be more parents not affiliated with any other organization on these things, there is an excellent amount of diversity from all aspects of special education.  To see the actual strategic plan and what was discussed today, please go here.

I did see one moment of political maneuvering and it was very blatant in my opinion, but since I am unable to verify that as fact, I will stop right there.  I will say it did not involve anyone involved with the Special Education Strategic Plan.  But I expect more from that legislator than to ask questions on behalf of the Governor.  If the Governor’s circle of advisers want to ask a question, they should just do it themselves.  They are more than welcome to do so.  By using a legislator to get a point across is just slimy in my opinion.  Especially when it really doesn’t have much to do with the actual presentation being discussed and more about a priority of Governor Carney.  I will say to this legislator as well as Carney’s guy, the article I posted yesterday with the actual plan embedded into it was posted on the Solutions for Wilmington Schools Facebook page and was read by many.

In another brilliant moment of the Joint committee session, State Senator David Sokola (the Chair of the Senate Education Committee) suggested to Marinucci that they should really take a look at Finland’s special education and what a bang-up job they do recognizing special education needs at an early age.  State Rep. Sean Matthews replied to Sokola’s statement that the educational barriers that exist in Delaware, such as charter and choice school enrollment preferences, do not exist in Finland.  He indicated Finland is at the top of education in the world because they do not have those barriers and grant equal education to all in Finland.  As well, Matthews said you don’t see actions like “counseling out” going on in Finland.  That is a practice with certain charter schools where parents are told “we aren’t sure if your child is the right fit here”.  While I don’t know how much this goes on now, it has been an allegation thrown at certain charters in Delaware.  Many students in the past would wind up back in their traditional school district in the middle of a school year.  Many of these were also special education students.  Sokola is a firm believer in enrollment preferences, usually those that protect the largest school within his own voting district, Newark Charter School.

In terms of the entire House Education Committee it would have been nice if the Republican House members actually stayed for the entire presentation.  About twenty or so minutes in they all walked out.  But along those lines, State Rep. Melanie Smith was a no-show as she usually is.  No offense to the GOP guys, but if you are on a committee you should stick around for, you know, the actual meetings.  It is special education.  Not sure what was more important than that.  But I digress.  On the Senate side, the only missing Education Committee member was Senator Bryan Townsend.

Despite Jaques’ assurance to me yesterday that this meeting would be on the live audio feed on the General Assembly website, it was not.  But there were also issues in getting a smart-screen going for the strategic plan presentation so I would chalk that up to technical issues going on.  Legislative Hall is a very old building.

 

If Kendall Massett Is In The Picture, It’s Bad For Public Non-Charters. Period.

HB435Signing

On Thursday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 435, the charter school audit bill.  After 15 months of back and forth between the forces of right and the shadows of wrong, we finally have something that is better than what existed before.  It could have been better, but Kendall Massett (runs the Delaware Charter Schools Network) had to stick her nose in it and get Senator David Sokola (the only guy who isn’t looking in the camera) to mess around with it.

I’ve seen Kendall several times.  We are polar opposites on education policy.  We always say hi to each other.  She has never written anything bad about me.  I can’t say the same.  We don’t see a lot of the corporate education reformers attacking people.  They have the power (or the illusion of it) so they don’t have to.  They are the ones who have a massive amount of lobbyists and political influence to get what they want.  Using Star Wars as an analogy, they are the Evil Empire, and folks like me are the Rebels, fighting the stuff they do with every fiber of our being.

House Bill 435 was a compromise bill.  Had Kendall not interfered with it, there would be a lot more transparency coming out with future audits of charter schools.  They are required to have annual audits.  But those audits miss a hell of a lot of information, as was the case with Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy.  We have something less than what it was meant to be because one woman couldn’t have her charter schools look bad.  If she is in the picture, charter schools will benefit while traditional public schools will suffer more in some way.  It’s a sure thing.

In this picture, we have Governor Markell’s right-hand man (literally, to Markell’s real right, and for the love of God Dave, look into the camera, you have an election coming up.  You aren’t going to get any door-knockers that way!) Senator David Sokola, standing on Jack’s shoulders is Kendall Massett, and to Jack’s far left (literally) is State Rep. Kim Williams.  Of course Jack Markell is the guy in the middle.  I have no clue who the guy next to Kendall is.  My apologies Mr. Unknown!

If Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams is in the picture, we know someone is fighting the good fight, sometimes with insurmountable odds.  We are lucky to have Kim Williams in our corner.  I fully endorse Kim Williams for her upcoming State Rep. election!

Delaware JFC Cuts Charter School Performance Fund, SAIL, Career Pathways, Teacher Pay Raises, & More From Budget

BudgetCutsRodel

While this isn’t my dream list of cuts, and some things are still in there, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee sure did swing the axe on tons of programs from Governor Markell’s budget!  Gone is the after-school SAIL funding ($1 million), the always controversial charter school performance fund ($500,000), career pathways programs ($250,000), more internet bandwidth for schools ($3 million), a technology block grant ($1 million), and SEED scholarship expansion ($500,000).

The VERY controversial early learning budget of $11 million got cut to $9 million.  Teachers will not be happy about this: they lost their raises which had $3 million allocated.  Even the big three: University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical Community College got a 1% slash in their operating budgets.

Governor Markell is on the way out and the Joint Finance Committee sent a strong message to Delawareans today: we are not going to allow all this rampant spending in education to continue for programs that have no intrinsic value to the true success of students.  It’s almost like they read all the crap in the Every Student Succeeds Act and said “Not for Delaware”!   I’m sure Rodel is pissed about a lot of these cuts, but it’s about time we got their stink out of Legislative Hall.  Eight years is enough!

They can cut some more stuff: the charter school transportation slush fund (which can add up to about $2 million a year), all these insane contracts the DOE has with the take the money and run education companies (they could probably save the deficit by taking an axe to that stuff), and perhaps some more to the early learning program (or hell, give it all to the basic special education funding for Kindergarten to 3rd grade students with disabilities).  Not mentioned in today’s round of budget cuts are any funds associated with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan.  But the General Assembly has to pass the legislation first!

The JFC meets tomorrow, so there could be more.  I’m sure the lobbyists are chomping at the bit to meet with every single legislator they can between now and June 30th, the last day of the 148th General Assembly.

 

Townsend & Baumbach Declare War On Lobbyists & Legislator Conflicts Of Interest

Two new bills introduced today tackle the very problematic issue with lobbyists in Delaware.  State Senator Bryan Townsend and State Rep. Paul Baumbach are the main sponsors of each bill showcasing the need for transparency from lobbyists.  As well, their peers in the General Assembly will have a lot more to answer for in terms of their relationships with lobbyists.  Conflicts of interest will be under the spotlight, as they should be.

Senate Bill 225, sponsored by Townsend, is a much-needed bill that removes exemptions for General Assembly members not being investigated in conflict of interest and code of conduct investigations.  The legislation also requires lobbyists to disclose any payments they receive, including the source of the payment and the amount.

SB225

House Bill 385, sponsored by Baumbach, would make it so lobbyists have to pay a registration fee to offset the costs imposed on the Public Integrity Commission.  Many lobbyists pose a conflict of interest and this bill would actually generate funds in a situation that deals with this ongoing issue.

HB385

Both of these bills are very welcome in my opinion.  We can’t cut the rot out of Delaware politics until we get to the root of it.  And unfortunately for the good lobbyists, there are many bad ones.  In most investigations, it becomes a standard game of follow the money.  If both of these bills pass, that will be much easier.

This will get real interesting with the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  In Delaware education, they are both at Legislative Hall for anything education related.  I would love to know how much the lobbyists for the Delaware Business Roundtable make as well.

Updated, 5:20pm: I’m now seeing a third bill introduced today, once again by Townsend.  Senate Bill 224 deals with Campaign Finance Reform and disclosure of a contributor’s occupation and employment information.  This is already done in federal elections.  It looks like the transparency train is finally making a stop in Dover…

SB224

Prophets & Profits: The Year In Delaware Education

2015Collage

2015 was a transition year for education in Delaware.  It was a year of prophets and profits.  Many were wondering what was going to happen next while others were making money.

Common Core was around for a few years, but the test that most were dreading was finally here.  Parents opted their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment causing Delaware to miss some of the 95% participation rates for different sub-groups.  For the remaining students taking the test, the results were a battle cry across the state.  Students did not fare better on the test, in fact they did worse than the DCAS.  Most people involved in education predicted this, including the Delaware Department of Education.  While the Governor, a couple of legislators, and the DOE fought the opt-out movement, the rest of the state rallied behind it and there was no greater symbol for it than House Bill 50.  With some touch and go moments, and huge support from the Delaware PTA, the legislation passed the Delaware House and Senate twice with an overwhelming majority in both the House and Senate.  As we all know, Governor Markell went and vetoed the bill in July.  This didn’t stop the DOE and State Board of Education from putting more knives in parents and schools backs with their twisted and diabolical opt-out penalties in the school report card debacle.  The teachers escaped the wrath of the Smarter Balanced results as they received another year off from the scores counting towards their teacher evaluations.

To date, the DOE gave American Institutes for Research $38 million dollars between the Smarter Balanced Assessment and DCAS.  Many other companies profited immensely from the DOE’s efforts to “fix” our schools.  But the DOE itself lost half of Governor Markell’s proposed $7.5 million increase for the Department.  DOE wanted to keep Race To The Top going with their own employees, but didn’t want to maybe, perhaps, send those funds to the classrooms where they are desperately needed.  In the end though, the DOE kept most of the employees hired through Race To The Top, even though they are slowly but surely leaving the DOE.  Leadership at the DOE changed with a new Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky.  The former Secretary, Mark Murphy, “resigned” after votes of no confidence from the two biggest districts’ unions, the state teachers union, the state school administrator group and funding for Red Clay priority schools got seriously jacked up.  But he “resigned”…

Speaking of priority schools, Christina got to keep theirs, but lost two referendums and a middle school principal named Dr. Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District after Dr. Michael Thomas retired.  Christina’s superintendent, Dr. Freeman Williams, went out on leave and shortly after announced his retirement causing the board to hire an Acting Superintendent, former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski.  But due to school choice, Christina continued to bleed students who went to charter schools in Wilmington and the surrounding areas causing many to fear for their financial viability by the start of their next school year next fall.

The entire Wilmington education mess brought about a moratorium on new charter schools in Wilmington for a few years or until the DOE could come up with a “strategic plan” to figure it all out.  Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission was born out of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee which recommended all Wilmington schools not already in Red Clay be moved to that district.  Brandywine and Colonial nudged themselves out of the deal, leaving Christina as the sole giver-upper of their Wilmington schools.  This is, of course, contingent on votes by the State Board of Education and the Delaware General Assembly next year.  The biggest issues with the redistricting effort are funding and lack of faith in Red Clay being able to take on all these schools when they can’t handle problems with inclusion and bullying in some of their own schools.  The devil is in the details, and the funding detail hasn’t been solved.  Ideas such as raising property assessments did not win WEIC a lot of public support.  Nor did the near shut-out of representation from Kent or Sussex County.  While it is a Wilmington commission, the fact that their ideas would support the whole state and they named their website Solutions for Delaware Schools didn’t help the matter.

A couple of charter school leaders in Delaware made immense profits off taxpayer money…until they got caught!  Both of these incidents put Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover on formal review with the DOE and very nasty investigations by the State Auditor’s office.  Both survived, mainly because the former heads of schools were given the boot.  In the case of FFA, East Side Charter School essentially took them over who was still basking in the glow of their miraculous “growth” increases on DCAS.  A point which their leader, Lamont Browne, bragged about incessantly at the Imagine Delaware Education Forum in March.  Not able to survive a formal review was Delaware Met, which was given the hangman’s noose a couple of weeks ago by the State Board of Education.  The Charter School of Wilmington had an interesting Spring with one student’s discipline issue taking up quite a bit of space on here.  Low enrollment woes put new charters Freire and Delaware Design Lab High School on formal review, but they were able to get their numbers up just in the nick of time.  Freire’s Head of School “resigned” after violating their own zero tolerance policy against local protesters.  As the authorizer of three charters in their district, Red Clay dumped Delaware College Prep but renewed the charter for Delaware Military Academy.  The DOE pulled a hat trick and renewed three charters: Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek Academy.

Sussex Academy got a pool.  Many charters had their own teacher evaluation systems approved by the Secretary of Education.  Odyssey and Delaware Military Academy basically asked the state for more money to expand but they did this through articles in the News Journal which caused State Rep. John Kowalko to tell them it shouldn’t happen.  Kowalko, along with many other legislators, opposed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget because of slush funds given to charter schools through transportation funds and performance funds.  But what really drew their ire was settlement funds from the foreclosure crisis that were used to plug holes in the budget.

The entire General Assembly dealt with education bills left and right.  The most controversial were the opt-out bill and the charter school audit bill.  Other education legislation dealing with funding for special education and low-income students, cursive, and recording of all board meetings in Delaware were left hanging until the legislators come back in a couple of weeks.

None of these bills stopped the lobbyists from swarming Legislative Hall like a herd of buffalo.  The Rodel Foundation, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable gave their lobbyist say on most education bills.  Rodel beefed up their personalized learning game with Student Success 2o25 from their Vision Coalition.  Their CEO, Paul Herdman, had a pretty good year.  I can think of 343,000 reasons why.  All opposed House Bill 50, which drew more negative attention to their organizations.  Especially from the bloggers.

Kilroy’s Delaware and Transparent Christina cut back on their output.  Kavips brilliantly beat the same drums he/she usually does.  I posted a few articles.  New blogs entered the Delaware landscape with fixdeldoe, Creative Delaware, and State Rep. Kim Williams’ Delaware First State joining the fray.  The very excellent Who Is Minding The Children came and went.  Newcomer Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks gave Matthew Albright over at the News Journal some much-needed competition.

A lot of what happened on the national level funneled down to Delaware.  The reauthorization of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act created the Every Student Succeeds Act with many scratching their heads asking themselves what the hell it all means.  But our DOE was able to line up all their initiatives with what went down in the final legislation, even though they were planning it years in advance.  I would love to know how they managed to pull that rabbit out of their hat!  Actually, for the education conspiracy theory mongers out there (myself included), we all know how that went down.  That’s right, Congress didn’t write the act, the corporate education reformers did.  The unions all supported it, but it will come back to bite them in the ass.

Delaware escaped the special education “you suck” rating from the feds it received in 3 of the last 4 years, even though they really did.  As standards-based IEPs rolled out across the districts and charters, students with disabilities were put in the toughest “growth” goals of any sub-group in the state with an expectation they would go from 19% proficiency to 59% over the next six years of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Dr. Gray, the State Board of Education President, seems to think personalized learning will get them there.

Parents of Kindergarten students wondered why kids weren’t getting recess and some were getting off the bus with homework.  The days of students getting a break were gone in favor of rigor and grit.  While the DOE and US DOE claimed each student is an individual, their practices and policies were determined to throw them all together in their proficiency pie.

2015 did see a great deal of bi-partisanship with the opt-out movement in House Bill 50.  How the votes go down with the veto override next year will tell the tale on that one.  Many stories will either continue or come to an end in the General Assembly based on that vote as the 2016 elections will determine the fates of all the House Representatives and over half of the Senate.  Many are praying State Rep. Earl Jaques bows out and doesn’t run, along with Senator David Sokola.  This could provide much better leaders for the education committees in the House and Senate.

That covers most of the big moments in 2015.  2016 could be quieter or even messier.  All I know is 2015 was one for the record books!

 

15 Who Made An Impact On 2015: Paul Herdman

Paul Herdman, President and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware makes remarks at the Vision 2015 Conference for the Race To The Top.

For 2015, Dr. Paul Herdman was a busy Rodelian!  Between the Vision Coalition, Student Success 2025, sponsoring the Imagine Delaware forum on education, fighting against House Bill 50, and potentially dealing with the fallout from his 2014 hissy fit, Herdman earned his exorbitantly high pay in 2015!  He also helped the State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE with the Smarter Balanced toolkit!

Herdman’s most public appearance this year was at the Senate Education Committee hearing on House Bill 50.  He told the committee he never spoke out on legislation at Legislative Hall but it was very important for him to do this.  His public comment basically said we are stuck with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and there should be no opt-out.  I was not impressed by what he had to say.

In September, the Rodel-backed Vision Coalition launched Student Success 2025.  Broken record time… because Vision 2012 and Vision 2015 and Ed25 worked out so well…

In March, Rodel sponsored the Imagine Delaware Education forum at the Chase Waterfront Center in Wilmington.  The forum was between Tony Allen, Senator David Sokola, Lamont Browne, Dr. Merv Daugherty and Mike Matthews.  It came down to a WEIC infomercial and how great East Side charter is.

Rodel certainly did their fair amount of lobbying at Legislative Hall this year!  It wasn’t just HB50 they opposed!  With an election year on the horizon, I fully expect Rodel to plant themselves firmly in the election pool with their own candidates!  But what in the world will Dr. Paul and his merry band of corporate education reformers at Rodel do once Jack Markell is no longer Governor?

What Do You Think Were The Best And Worst Moments In Delaware Education In 2015?

2015.  What a year!  What were the best and worst moments?  Who were the villains and heroes?  What were the biggest issues?  Take the polls below and let us know!  This poll is only running for 24 hours, so please get your answers in ASAP!

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

The Data Consortium That Allows Student Information To Be Shared With Hundreds Of Companies & Universities Globally

One picture. Nine cross-state collaborations. And a company that houses all of the big testing companies and many of the big education reform players as well as some unusual shockers. What in God’s name has the DOE done now? What the hell is “student interventions product, data tagging” and all this other nonsense? Now I can see why Delaware Senator David Sokola and Attorney General Matt Denn were in such a huge rush to get Senate Bill 79 passed. But the original legislation was not what passed. It was the SS1 amendment that was the true goal. Have to say I’m very disappointed Delaware seems to think it can share student data with whoever the hell they want.

And then there is this very disturbing document, taken from Colorado’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System Grant application for a potential award from the US Department of Education for this year:

12088161_1631093473798876_7639148365207500198_n

And what is this, in the July 2015 newsletter from the CCSSO website:

Privacy Workgroup

The privacy workgroup would like to welcome Pat Bush from Delaware as the newest CIO-lead for the group. He joins current CIO leads- Melinda Maddox from Alabama and Marcia Bohannon from Colorado. The leads are meeting this month to continue discussions around the development of a privacy toolkit for SEA leadership and will also identify priority areas for the workgroup to focus on during the new program year.  

For those who may not be familiar with CCSSO and SEA, CCSSO is the Council of Chief State School Officers and SEA stands for State Educational Agencies which in Delaware is the Department of Education. Why would the DOE need a privacy “toolkit”?

Back to Senate Bill 79 w/SS1.  This bill was rushed through the 148th General Assembly by Senator David Sokola under the hand of Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn.  Below is the lobbying activity on this one bill:

SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 8/11/2015 Robert L. Byrd Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 7/6/2015 Cheryl Heiks Google
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 7/6/2015 Cheryl Heiks Google
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 7/2/2015 Melissa Hopkins Rodel Foundation of Delaware
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/22/2015 Rhett Ruggerio Delaware Charter School Network
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/22/2015 Jordan Seemans Delaware Charter School Network
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Kimberly B. Gomes Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Kimberly B. Gomes Amazon
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Robert L. Byrd Amazon
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Rebecca Byrd Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Rebecca Byrd Amazon
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Rebecca Byrd Amazon
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/17/2015 Ron Barnes Google Inc.
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/15/2015 Melissa Hopkins Rodel Foundation of Delaware
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/15/2015 Paul Herdman Rodel Foundation of Delaware
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/11/2015 Christopher V. DiPietro MICROSOFT CORPORATION
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/3/2015 Christopher V. DiPietro MICROSOFT CORPORATION
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/18/2015 Deborah Hamilton Google
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/12/2015 Scott Ward MICROSOFT CORPORATION
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/12/2015 Jeremy Kudon MICROSOFT CORPORATION
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/5/2015 Rebecca Byrd Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/5/2015 Kimberly B. Gomes Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/5/2015 Robert L. Byrd Verizon Delaware LLC
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/5/2015 Robert L. Byrd Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/5/2015 Robert L. Byrd Amazon
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/5/2015 Kim Willson Delaware Charter School Network
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/5/2015 Rhett Ruggerio Delaware Charter School Network
SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 5/5/2015 Jordan Seemans Delaware Charter School Network
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 8/11/2015 Robert L. Byrd Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 7/6/2015 Cheryl Heiks Google
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 7/2/2015 Melissa Hopkins Rodel Foundation of Delaware
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/22/2015 Rhett Ruggerio Delaware Charter School Network
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/22/2015 Jordan Seemans Delaware Charter School Network
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Kimberly B. Gomes Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Kimberly B. Gomes Amazon
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Robert L. Byrd Amazon
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Rebecca Byrd Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/19/2015 Rebecca Byrd Amazon
SS 1 FOR SB 79 (Sokola) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATIONAL DATA GOVERNANCE. 6/11/2015 Christopher V. DiPietro MICROSOFT CORPORATION

To anyone who thinks Senator Sokola is trustworthy and is looking out for kids, think again.  But Attorney General Matt Denn’s involvement and the imperative rush to get this through…that’s a headscratcher.  Similar bills went through in other states, and nearly all of them had the same amendments added and the lobbyists swarmed in to make sure the following language was added, which is taken from the final legislation for Senate Bill 79:

(6) Nothing in this subsection prohibits an operator from using student data for any of the following:

a. Maintaining, delivering, supporting, evaluating, or diagnosing the operator’s Internet website, online or cloud computing service, online application, or mobile application.

b. Adaptive learning or customized student learning purposes.

(7) Nothing in this subsection prohibits an operator from using or sharing aggregate student data or de-identified student data for any of the following:

a. The development and improvement of the operator’s Internet website, online or cloud computing service, online application, or mobile application, or other educational Internet websites, online or cloud computing services, online applications, or mobile applications.

b. Within other Internet websites, online or cloud computing services, online applications, or mobile applications owned by the operator, and intended for school district, school, or student use, to evaluate and improve educational products or services intended for school district, school, or student use.

c. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the operator’s products or services, including their marketing.

When are Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE going to stop allowing all this data sharing?  Not anytime soon.  And don’t think this is just Delaware.  A company called IMS Global Learning Consortium has ALL the major players involved.  They are an umbrella company for data to be shared between all of these companies, with companies that do business with the Delaware DOE and two Delaware School Districts bolded for emphasis:

Contributing Members

Act, American Institutes for Research, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Blackboard, California State University, Data Recognition Corporation, ETS, EduCause, Harvard Business Publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, IBM, Indian River School District, Intel, Learning.com, Lumen, McGraw Hill Education, Measured Progress, MediaCore, Microsoft, National Student Clearinghouse, Northwest Evaluation Association, Pacific Metrics Corporation, PARCC, Pearson, Public Consulting Group, Qualcomm Education Inc., Questar, Samsung, Schoology, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and numerous other companies and universities in the United States and around the world.

Affiliates

ACE Learning, College Board, Google, Red Clay Consolidated School District, Scantron, Scholastic, SunGard K-12 Education (houses Delaware e-school and IEP Plus), WestEd and many more.

And then they have hundreds of Alliance Participants. You can see what all the members get for their dues to IMS.  Pretty extensive list.

When you are a member, you get shared access of the whole network.  And which school district does the DOE praise the most and just had an administrator from that district join the State Board of Education? Indian River. And what district will be the recipient of the Wilmington Christina School District students? Red Clay Consolidated.

This company that charges outlandish fees to belong to their network has all the major education players. American Institutes for Research is the vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Want to know what that means Delaware parents? That means YOUR child’s test results are most likely filtering through this network of companies and universities and school districts. All over the world.

And take a wild guess where they are incorporated?

Delaware parents: by letting your child take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, you are saying it is okay for all these entities around the country and the globe to see your child’s information. It’s okay for them to see the psychometric information American Institutes for Research uses as a result of these assessments. Yes, the Delaware Department of Education isn’t on there. But guess what, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and American Institutes for Research are. And so is their scoring vendor, Data Recognition Corporation. And if Delaware ever changes the state assessment, I’m sure one of the many other testing companies on this list will gladly put in a bid.  But you can change that.  Aside from the obvious misuse and abuse that comes from Smarter Balanced, we are now learning the data from it is the true goldmine. The only way to stop this is to refuse to have your child take this test. Opt your child out now. Unless, once again, you are okay with all this…

Delaware legislators, this is just yet another reason why you need to override Governor Markell’s veto of the opt-out legislation: House Bill 50. You don’t think the Governor knows about all of this data swapping? Of course he does!

While Delaware didn’t win an award for this year’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System grant, it is very interesting to see the requirements for this, which can be found here,especially Section V.

Are we human? Or are we data?

Back To School Message For Students, Parents, Teachers & Schools

In Delaware, all public school students are back in school.  This will be a very interesting year ahead for all of us.  The invasion of corporate education reform will be felt the strongest this year.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment results will be released on a statewide level in a couple days and the results will go to parents in a few weeks.  Priority and focus schools will feel the pain of submitting plans to the Delaware Department of Education.  Opt-out will become bigger and more complicated.  Schools will lose essential funding due to budget issues in our state government that will continue to go unaddressed.  Reports will come out showing how some charters in this state should practice certain application tactics.  Parents and teachers will complain about things.  The DOE will make it look like everything is awesome when they come out with press releases.  Governor Markell will most likely have about 20 weekly messages and 30 public comments about how great education is but how much we need to do to make Delaware the best state in the country for education.  A new Secretary of Education will decide if the DOE should stay on course or course-correct.  The 148th General Assembly will debate education issues for our children and the DOE and their reform buddies will lobby the legislators for their own agendas.  Parents will become increasingly vocal about hotbed education issues in our state.  Common Core will be a common pain for students and parents.  Wilmington schools will be the front page headline for most schools in the state.  Vouchers won’t go anywhere.  Most of the people in the state will still have no clue who Rodel is.  I will keep blogging about all of this.  But at the end of the day, it’s about our children.  We all need to keep them safe and keep them learning.  The rest is just detail.  Best of luck to all involved in any way with education this year!

Why It Is Necessary To Reveal A High-Profile Source….

I sent the below email earlier today to an employee of the State of Delaware.  They are a source, and I am outing them as that source, as well as multiple pseudonyms used on my blog, and possibly others.  Sometimes there is a higher call of duty than blogger honor, and this gross negligence of right and wrong called for this.  This is an extreme situation, affecting multiple people, but most of all, the students of Delaware.  Especially in the Christina School District.  Below is the full email I sent to Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education.  As well, I blind cc:ed several persons on this email, so no one will be able to say “I didn’t know about this.”

Re: State Board Meeting The Other Day  

To
  • Donna Johnson
BCC
  • John Young
  • Kevin Ohlandt
  • Mike Matthews
  • Jackie H. Kook
  • Eve Buckley
  • Nancy Willing
  • Kowalko John (LegHall)
  • Kavips World Press Blog
  • Williams Kimberly (LegHall)
  • Pandora DeLib
  • Matthews Sean (LegHall)
  • Kilroy’s Delaware
  • Baumbach Paul (LegHall)
  • Terri Hodges
  • Lawson Dave (LegHall)
  • Paige Elizabeth (K12)
  • John Young
  • Minnehan Harrie E (K12)
  • shirley.saffer@christina.k12.de.us
  • montagnebeau@aol.com
  • Natalie Ganc
  • Yvonne Johnson
  • Markell Jack
  • Murphy Mark
  • Denn Matthew (DOJ)
  • Townsend Bryan (LegHall)
  • Blowman David (K12)
  • acherry@wdel.com
  • Avi Wolfman-Arent
  • Matthew Albright
  • rick@wdel.com
  • Lindell Matt (K12)
  • Gray Teri
 
Donna,

How Much Influence On Education Policy Does Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the DE Business Roundtable Really Have?

“The Markell Administration and the Delaware Department of Education led a number of initiatives aligned with and supported by the Rodel Foundation and Vision Coalition.”

Melissa Hopkins with the Rodel Foundation wrote a very long article recently about the non-profit company’s outlook on the first half of the 148th General Assembly.  You can read Rodel’s Legislative Update article and see which bills they openly supported.  Aside from House Bill 50, which Executive Director Dr. Paul Herdman openly opposed, what other legislation did they fight?  By announcing in this article what legislation they supported, it is very easy to find out what legislation they opposed.  By going to the Public Integrity Commission website for Delaware, you can actually download all the lobbyist activity for all legislation.  I did just that and found all the bills Rodel has registered as a lobbyist for.

Rodel sees itself as some sort of policy-maker and thinks they have the ability to “align” the field with their own interests.  This is very dangerous in the education arena.  They are a non-profit designed to disrupt public education as we know it, and their ultimate goal, along with the other “reformers” is to create more and more charter schools.

What always concerns me about Rodel, as well as the Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, is how much lobbying influence they have.  Yes, that is the whole point of being a lobbyist.  But it just seems whenever these three get going on certain legislation, there are always problems.  The biggest bills all three of these groups opposed this year were House Bill 50 (the parent opt-out bill) and House Bill 186 (the charter school post-audit accountability legislation).  The good part is these lobbyists have failed to sway enough legislators to prevent these bills from moving forward.  These groups are experience waning influence as the voices of  parents and educators are rising.  But they have certainly made their mark in providing disruption and getting parts they want added to bills.

Take the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  With Senate Bill 33, the IEP Task Force legislation, this bill was destined to make a clean sweep through the Senate and the House.  But once DCSN got their hooks in, the bill found itself tabled, with two amendments, later stricken, and a 3rd one added in.  You can also see what legislation they lobbied for here:

The very fact that the Executive Director of DCSN was able to get 600 emails sent to legislators to oppose House Bill 186 is very worrisome.  Did these 600 “opposers” get all the facts?  No, they received the very tainted and biased views from the same organization that made every attempt to gut this bill like a fish.  As charter school fraud and financial abuse spreads throughout the state, this bill is a no-brainer.  It passed the House of Representatives in Delaware, and will next go to the Senate Education Committee in January.  To openly oppose legislation like this does not seem like the best public relations move, especially knowing that even more reports like the recent Academy of Dover one are forthcoming.

It seems like every time I am at Legislative Hall, I see the same faces: the lobbyists from Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee.  The last of these is the most concerning to me.  The Delaware Business Roundtable is a group of businessmen in Delaware who meet to determine how education should be in Delaware.  They aren’t educators, they are big businessmen, with more accumulated wealth than the gap in Delaware’s anticipated FY 2017 budget.  They have no official website, and they are not a public entity.  So you can’t see minutes of their meetings or what they talk about behind closed doors.  In fact, on the Delaware lobbyist website, it shows this:

Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.

c/o Rodel Foundation of DE
100 West 10th St., Suite 704
Wilmington, Delaware 19801

I reported last November, based on the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee’s non-profit tax forms, that Rodel runs the show for this organization.  They file the taxes for them, get the mail and act as a management company for this organization.  When I tried to find a listing of their current membership, a simple Google search yielded no results.  This is a level of non-transparency and secrecy beyond the realm of normalcy.  The Roundtable may be great at running their prospective businesses, but I don’t think they should be influencing State Departments and legislators for how education ought to be, especially when we don’t even know who they are.  But if I were a betting man, I would assume most of these companies have someone sitting on this “roundtable”.  But education is not King Arthur’s Camelot.  Big business getting involved in education led us to the creation of high-stakes assessments with funds flowing out of the classroom and into the waiting arms of “consultants” who will “fix” the problem.  But nothing ever gets fixed.

Their lobbyist firm is The Byrd Group.  With the Roundtable, it seems like they send the same three people in for a certain amount of legislation whenever they go to Legislative Hall.  Are they meeting with legislators all at once, or taking turns, picking and poking along the way?  Find out which bills they lobbied for!

Of particular concern to me is the amount of lobbying done on bills sponsored by State Rep. Earl Jaques and State Senator David Sokola.  As the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees, these two legislators have a tremendous amount of influence with education bills.  But how much of the direction of the bills under their jurisdiction are influenced by these three organizations?  And who is the fourth factor involved in all of this who is always at Legislative Hall but is not considered a lobbyist because she actually works for the State of Delaware?

Donna Johnson is the Executive Director of the State Board of Education.  Never mistake her for a Delaware Department of Education employee.  She doesn’t like that.  She is at Legislative Hall all the time.  When she isn’t in education committee meetings, she is hanging out with folks, talking away.  She speaks on almost every single education bill that comes before the House and Senate.  But what is very alarming is her very close connection with the three above lobbyist entities.  Is she influencing them or are they influencing her?  Or are they all in cahoots with each other?  I can’t recall too many bills this session that the four were in disagreement with each other over.  Which is very frightening that legislation is made or opposed based on the influence of three non-profits and the woman who runs the day -to-day operations of the State Board of Education.

The legislation that makes a lot of sense, bills that come from folks like State Reps. Kim Williams, John Kowalko, and others tend to be some of the bills that are opposed by the four.  Both Williams and Kowalko are tired of the lack of accountability and transparency by the DOE, and are very wary of the influence the three non-profits have on the state of education in Delaware.

To be fair, there are other lobbyists that hang out at Legislative Hall and do exert influence, most notably Kristin Dwyer with the Delaware State Educators Association.  The organization she works for is charged with looking out for the thousands upon thousands of teachers in our state.  Since so much legislation does revolve around education, and more specifically, the role teachers play in education, I would be shocked if she wasn’t there.  But even DSEA’s lobbying activity on education bills is much less than any of these three.  Other organizations such as the Delaware PTA and some of our universities make appearances.  But these three non-profits are always there.

Parents have no idea how much goes into legislation surround their children in schools, and it astonishes me how much public policy is based around three non-profits sticking their nose in areas where they have a clear conflict of interest.  Even more astounding is the role the State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE play in this quagmire.  Our Governor plays right along, helping to dictate policy and curriculum for our children, oblivious to what is going on in his own state.

An anonymous source, speaking out because they felt it was the right thing to do but was also afraid for their job, said “The News Journal plays right into their hands because if they don’t they lose valuable advertising dollars they desperately need.”

The education four will surely be around in January, fighting the bills that make the most sense, and cheerleading bills that serve their own agendas.  It’s the landscape of education in Delaware now, because we have allowed it to happen.  These are the forces that want Common Core State Standards, Smarter Balanced Assessment, Annual Yearly Progress, Personalized Learning, and Teacher Accountability based on High-Stakes Testing.  We have allowed this “breakfast of champions” to control our children’s lives.

edbuddies7115

Pictured are Kendall Massett (back left), Donna Johnson (back right), Rebecca Byrd (front right), and Melissa Hopkins (center front).  This picture was taken at 7:30 in the morning on July 1st, right after Governor Markell signed the FY2016 budget bills following the all-night legislative session.

Kendall Massett Teaches Parents How To Use Computers (and oppose legislation that makes DE charter schools accountable)

Wow Kendall.  Thank you for the computer lesson!  I had no idea how to navigate through a website until you taught me.  Notice on this very important “action alert” she doesn’t give any reasons why House Bill 186 is bad for charter schools, just that it’s “bad for our charters”.  For those who have never heard of Kendall Massett (which is most of the state), she is the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Or, in another words, a cheerleader non-profit for Delaware charter schools, backed by other “non-profits” and “foundations”.  Aside from having an annual show called “The IDEA awards” (which has absolutely nothing to do with special education), nobody really knows what they do except show up to charter school open houses, hang out at the Delaware DOE and Legislative Hall, and make very strange videos.

So if you believe your voice matters, and you want our charter schools to stop stealing taxpayer funds, please email your legislator by 7:00pm on Tuesday evening and offer your support of House Bill which makes charter schools in Delaware get a post-audit by the State Auditor.  As the poster in Kendall’s office says, “Change the way you look at things.”  An email or phone call of support will allow you to change the way you look at charter school finances!

Who Are The House Bill 50 Lobbyists? Easy To Pick Out The Pro & Con Crowd On This One!

I found a very awesome website today that actually gives you the lobbying activity for each bill in the Delaware General Assembly.  So who is making visits to Legislative Hall?  This information comes from: https://egov.delaware.gov/Lobs/Explore/ExploreActivity where you can check on any legislative bill currently in session.
Lobbying Activity

Title Description Date Entered Lobbyist Name Employer
HB 50 (Kowalko) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT. 4/18/2015 Bill Doolittle PTA Delaware Congress
HB 50 (Kowalko) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT. 4/17/2015 William McMurray We, The Little People
HB 50 (Kowalko) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT. 4/13/2015 Paul Herdman Rodel Foundation of Delaware
HB 50 (Kowalko) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT. 3/27/2015 Jordan Seemans Delaware Charter School Networl
HB 50 (Kowalko) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT. 3/24/2015 Melissa Hopkins Rodel Foundation of Delaware
HB 50 (Kowalko) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT. 3/24/2015 Kimberly B. Gomes Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
HB 50 (Kowalko) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT. 3/24/2015 Robert L. Byrd Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.
HB 50 (Kowalko) AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT. 3/24/2015 Rebecca Byrd Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.