Cut The Admins In Districts & Schools? How Many Are There? TONS!

If there is one consistent thing I hear all over social media, it is people wanting the number of administrators and their staff in Delaware school districts and charter schools.  I am asked constantly how many there are for various schools or districts.  Robert Overmiller of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens compiled a list showing exactly how many there are.

Updated: I’ve included the below picture which shows the student ratios required to get state funding for administrator roles:

Some of these numbers are outrageous.  While it is a local school district’s decision, there are certain laws pertaining to how many administrators schools are allowed to have per student in order to get state funding for those roles.  If they go over those numbers, the funds come from local or federal funding.  For example, a Title I or special education coordinator may get funding based on federal disbursements.

If we truly want to look at education funding, this is the FIRST place to look.  Many of these positions get high salaries.  I’ve heard of some administrators who just get jobs in a district office and do nothing all day long.  Does every single administrator need a secretary?  Because that happens more than you think!  It’s the buddy system kicked into high gear.  And our teachers and students pay the price.

Ding-Dong Moment Of The Year: Trying To Get The Delaware Secretary of Education To Approve Local Policy

At the Christina School District Board of Education meeting last night, the board voted on the very controversial safety zone policy.  This policy would not allow ICE officials to just enter a school to question or detain a student who is here illegally.  They would first have to go through the Superintendent of the district.  But board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan introduced a whopper of an amendment to the policy!

It seemed like a very Sokola moment.  Her amendment was to have the Delaware Secretary of Education sign off on the safety zone policy in the event it should pass last night.  Since when does ANY school district need the Secretary of Education to sign off on local policy?  Yes, let’s completely evaporate local control and cede all district policy to the state!  Thank God the amendment failed.  The two supporters of the amendment were the same two board members that voted no on the policy: Minnehan and George Evans.

Evans and Minnehan’s line of thought was that the buildings are owned by the state.  Okay.  And do the schools not rent them out essentially?  It would be like a landlord telling a convenience store they can’t sell soda or candy.  Not to mention the fact that I don’t think a local school board can force the head of a Delaware state agency to do anything without state legislative changes.  I have no doubt that when Dr. Susan Bunting sees this she is going to have a chuckle.  For years, this district has desperately tried to hold onto local control and Minnehan was ready to give it away over a policy she didn’t seem to like.

Meanwhile, Republicans, Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians alike are battling it out over the approved policy over on my Facebook page.  As I told one commenter, it’s like throwing a donut across a room, yelling “Food Fight!” and just standing back as chaos reigns.  I love Delaware!

Ron Russo Lost Me With Jeb Bush, I Think I’m Going To “Go Home”!

Ron Russo, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Caesar Rodney Institute, wrote a blog post yesterday with a BOLD PLAN for Delaware schools.  By even mentioning former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education in the very first sentence, it was hard to lend any credibility to this piece.  But I read the whole thing out of morbid curiosity.

…Governor Jeb Bush, the keynote speaker, told the attendees that they had to, “Be big, be bold, or go home.”

I would have left at that point and proudly went home.  Jeb Bush has made a ton of money capitalizing off the backs of schools and students.  He is the very essence of corporate education reform.  I give anything he says zero weight.

Russo seems to view former Red Clay Consolidated Board President William Manning as the Messiah of Delaware education:

He recommended a confederation of independent schools each locally managed and free of regulations about who to hire and how to teach.  The schools would be evaluated only by performance data that would be shared with the public.

Manning’s vision created charter schools that do not serve the populations within their district boundaries.  Quite a few Delaware charters have selective enrollment preferences that seem to further segregation and push out kids with high needs.  Manning was the lead attorney in the lawsuit against the Christina School District when charters that serve Christina students sued the district to get more money per student.  Eventually the lawsuit wound up becoming a settlement that further stripped funds away from the district.  Russo’s BOLD PLAN is modeled after the original charter school bill, Senate Bill 200:

The Caesar Rodney Institute is supporting a systemic change to our education bureaucracy called the “BOLD PLAN”.  It significantly alters the way the current education system operates by empowering the individual schools to make operational decisions to best serve their students.

In theory, this would be a great idea.  However, Russo lost me yet again when he brought up the VERY controversial priority schools as a potential model for this plan:

CRI’s BOLD PLAN incorporates the best features of the 1995 Charter School Law and the Memorandum of Understanding designed by Delaware’s DOE for Priority Schools.  If the changes proposed in the MOU were expected to raise the performance of the state’s lowest performing schools, why wouldn’t those changes be offered to all public schools?

Sorry Ron, but the priority school Memorandums of Understanding were absolutely horrible and did more to create parent backlash in Wilmington than anything seen before.  So what would this plan consist of?  Therein lies the rub:

BOLD legislation would specify areas of local decision-making.  Such areas would include: 1) Authority to hire and dismiss all staff; 2) All programing inputs (school calendar, schedule, curriculum aligned to Delaware standards, instructional practices and methodology, textbooks, technology, etc.); 3) Marketing and planning; 4) Support services including transportation, food, and maintenance; 5) Budget preparation and expenditure control with surplus operating funds retained by the school.  Schools will have autonomy from any district or Delaware DOE requirements not mandated by state or federal law.

This legislation has more holes than a donut shop.

  1. What happens if the board membership or the Superintendent of the district is not operating under normal parameters of their function?  What if personal grudges get in the way of a sound decision to hire or dismiss all staff?  Delaware is a small state and conflicts of interest are well-known in this state.
  2. You lost me at “Delaware standards”.  If you truly want to give local education authorities the coveted local control, they would be free to set their own curriculum without being tied to any type of standard pushed down from the state or federal government.  I have yet to see any indication Delaware will get rid of Common Core which was created under false pretenses.
  3. Don’t they already do this anyway?
  4. See #3
  5. That would not be a good thing.  Delaware charter schools already keep their surplus transportation funds in a sweetheart deal with the General Assembly and there is no apparatus to make sure those funds are being used with fidelity.  What is the point of even having a district or charter board if the school can do whatever it wants with extra money?  This proposal sounds like anarchy.

Russo’s logic becomes even more confusing when he casually drops the Rodel Visionfests and Race To The Top into his conversation:

The BOLD PLAN complements Delaware’s other education improvement efforts (Visions, Races, etc.).  In fact, it may even complete them.

I don’t think completion of those plans is something anyone in Delaware really wants.  Race To The Top was an unmitigated disaster with funds going to the state Department of Education more than local school districts.  The Vision Coalition goals further perpetuate many bad corporate education reform policies.  It is hard to take anything they do seriously when the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, Dr. Herdman, makes over $345,000 a year.

Ironically, Russo channels Dan Rich who has been very involved with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s proposed Wilmington redistricting.  But Russo doesn’t bring him up in any way related to that endeavor but rather his involvement with the Vision Coalition:

At the very first Vision 2015 meeting hosted by Dan Rich, then Provost of the University of Delaware, he ended the meeting by telling the attendees that if they wanted to improve Delaware’s public schools they had to be bold and, if they didn’t want to be bold, they should get out.  Hmmmm, it seems that Dan was way ahead of Jeb.

Comparing Rich to Jeb Bush almost seems insulting.  Of course, any education push should be bold.  But by telling people if you don’t like it to “get out” or “go home” it is essentially saying if you don’t agree with us we won’t give you the time of day.  That is NOT the way education issues should be ironed out and only creates more of a divide.  The Delaware charter school experiment, now well into it’s third decade, has met with very mixed results.  It has not been the rousing success the forefathers of the original legislation thought it would be.  Why would Delaware even entertain this idea based on that?  And lest we forget, all this imaginary “success” is based on standardized test scores, of which Delaware has gone through three different state assessments since then.  Sorry Ron, but this is not a BOLD PLAN.  It is an old plan, that just plain doesn’t work.

I have to wonder about the timing of this article.  The Caesar Rodney Institute has long been a fierce supporter of school vouchers.  Delaware has been very resistant to that system under Democrat control but under the Trump administration and the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education, it is not surprising to see Russo coming out with this type of article.  President Trump and DeVos want a federal school voucher system that has already met with disappointing results in several states.

America Is Getting Bamboozled With Betsy Devos! She Is All In On The True Agenda: Cradle To Grave Workforces Of Tomorrow

It’s real easy to play Monday morning quarterback after your team just took a huge hit.  Donald Trump promised (and fooled) many citizens into thinking he could get rid of Common Core.  So much so that his pick for Secretary of Education is now backtracking on her years of actions financially supporting Common Core.  She sits on Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.  This foundation LOVES Common Core and all that comes with it.  DeVos, through the Betsy and Steve DeVos Foundation, poured millions of dollars into pro-Common Core candidates.

On some Betsy DeVos Question and Answer website that sprung out of nowhere, she denounces Common Core.  This website was created on 8/16/16, but her picture was just added this month.  This isn’t some long-time website that shows the DeVos denunciation of Common Core.  This website was created specifically for the possibility of a Trump win.  Why would anyone put up a q and a website unless they knew what the opposition would immediately come out with?  This is what she has to say about Common Core.  Items in red are my response to that.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about Common Core. Can you provide some straight talk on this topic?

Certainly. I am not a supporter—period.

Financial support into candidates and states that support it IS supporting it.

I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense. 

State standards, as written in the Every Student Succeeds Act, are now state decisions.  Trump couldn’t dump them if he tried.  There is a big difference between state and local decisions.  The states now call the shots on education.  The locals are just along for the ride.  Local control of education is a thing of the past.

Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position. Sometimes it’s not just students who need to do their homework.

I don’t even know what that means Betsy DeVos.  Common Core wasn’t created because kids weren’t doing their homework.  It was set up for a VERY specific reason which I will get to soon.

However, along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.

A very intentional federalized boondoggle where states gave up ALL control to the feds.  Once the states adopted the standards, it didn’t end there.  In came the standardized testing, the accountability game that judges failing schools based on those same tests, as well as the longitudinal data (which was the real purpose which I will also get to later) creation in every state to allow student data to go out.  Once everything was set up in the states through Federal funds (most of which did not go to local schools but to state Departments of Education who paid education reform companies billions of dollars), then the reauthorization of ESEA came about.  ESSA is the shift towards this future.  Giving the illusion of state control based on federal mandates and snake-oil deals from the Obama administration.

Above all, I believe every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserves access to a quality education.

Every single corporate education reformer says this, but being pro-school choice has not equated to greater educational improvement for children overall.  Especially children that are minorities, low-income, English Language learners, and students with disabilities. 

Betsy DeVos, through her foundation work for her own foundation as well as others, has been on of the biggest driving forces for the privatization of American public education.  But why?  Where is all of this going?

As I put up my post about DeVos selection for the U.S. Secretary of Education, I was met with an onslaught of comments stating she doesn’t support Common Core.  Actions speak louder than words.  I immediately directed readers to this excellent post showing how she DOES support Common Core and how.  And then I wrote this:

To put this in a very easy way to understand, Common Core was created to train young minds for constant all-the-time digital learning.  State assessments (based on Common Core) will become stealth assessments embedded in personalized learning/competency-based education environments. Once they bust the unions, traditional school districts will fall. Charters will go online. Our young kids will go to local non-profits to learn online while older kids learn online in a pay to earn environment through Charter Online Inc. Meanwhile, all this data from ed tech is tracking every student and whoring out their personal data and gearing them towards pre-determined professions that corporations want, not the kids. Who do you think will profit from this? Charters. Teachers will become glorified moderators while parents watch their rights slowly disappear. Their kids will go to community health-based centers for everything. This is the grand agenda. There is nothing Trump can do to stop it. Complete control over the future by corporations. Read into plans for Blockchain technology to see where all of this is going…. This has NEVER been about kids. It has always been about corporate profit.

We are now at a huge tipping point with public education.  I’ve actually seen parents today, on anti-Common Core Facebook pages, actually trying to convince me DeVos is a good pick and to give her a chance.  This is what the corporate education reformers do best.  They pit people against each other.  While everyone is arguing about this and that, they are getting things done.  Planting seeds to get the whole thing done.  They are the masters of distraction.  Bill Gates is just one of them.  Today, we saw another billionaire get the top education job in the country.  With no background of ever being an educator.  Do you really think it is a coincidence that the past three Secretaries of Education have been fervent supporters of school choice, charter schools, and “higher standards”?  You can call Common Core whatever you want.  But it is the same everywhere, in every state.  It is just a vessel to much bigger plans, a complete and utter transformation of society where the top will always be on the top, but true choice and upward mobility for the rest will be on the bottom.  It is central to destroying who we are as a nation.  A nation of freedom and free will.  That will be stripped from us, forever.  We will become the cradle to grave workforce with the rich and elite overlords looking down upon us.  The future generations of today’s rich and elite who use their money and influence to reshape society to their mold.

This was going to happen no matter who won the Presidency.  Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein… it didn’t matter.  Who do you really think is running the show?  Politicians?  No.  It is corporations.  Follow the money.  Read the stuff that is coming out right now through ESSA.  Sift through the smoke and open your eyes America.  And act.  Do something.  They have you fooled.  Everyone is going nuts about Trump, both sides.  Love or hate.  Meanwhile, no one is talking about the WOIA bills in every state.  Or the ed tech invasion happening in your schools.  Or the shift towards getting rid of number grades towards the same type of scores on standardized tests.  How many states are developing “Pathways” programs which shift education towards a pre-determined career rather than moving on to college?  Trump doesn’t matter.  Not in the long run.  Neither did Clinton.  This was going to happen before your very eyes.

Do you hear anyone, aside from student privacy groups, demanding Trump restore FERPA to pre-2008 and 2011 levels?  No.  Do you hear anyone making a big deal about the Bill Gates driven work group that is deciding data sharing at ALL levels?  No.  Do you know why?  Because they are distracting you.  And they are succeeding.

Someone wrote to me on Facebook today that to change things would require a rebellion.  That person wasn’t promoting it.  I am.  It is what we need.  And it has to happen now.  Please share this article.  Spread it.  Make sure people see it and see the truth about what is happening.  The reformers will say I am a conspiracy theorist.  I will gladly take that.  Because this is a vast conspiracy that has been playing out for decades.  And they aren’t done yet.  Time for a rebellion.

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

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

Depression

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

Thecryingboy

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

UpsetTeenager

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

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

crying-girl1

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

ChildCrying

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

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

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

NotGoodEnough

 

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Scott Gesty For Congress

There comes a time when you have to decide, and for Delaware’s Representative in Congress, there is only one choice: Scott Gesty!

I’ve gone back and forth on this one for weeks now.  But the only candidate I can endorse for Congress is Scott Gesty.  Scott is a Libertarian.  But don’t let the party fool you.  To me, the political party is just a cover for any candidate.  It’s who they are and what they believe that truly matters.  Folks will say I’m a one-issue voter.  To some extent, that is true.  But my answer to that is if you can’t get education right for kids, how can you really get the rest right?  I could list the reasons why I’m not endorsing the other candidates, but I’ve covered those reasons to one extent or another in various posts.  But this is what I like about Scott Gesty.

He is against the corporate education reform movement in not only Delaware, but America as well.  He does not support high-stakes standardized tests and Common Core.  He supports a parent’s right to opt their child out of those tests and he was not happy Governor Markell “thumbed his nose at parents”.  He said these words succinctly and clearly at the education debate in Wilmington a couple of weeks ago.  Gesty thinks the federal Department of Education needs to disappear and education decisions are best left at the local level.  He doesn’t like the fact that districts and states have to “jump through hoops” to get grant money.

In the economy, he is deeply troubled that we are trillions of dollars in debt as a nation.  He does not see free tuition as truly free, and he knows this would only put us in debt more as a country if we pursued this.  He sees education as a money-making enterprise and doesn’t see this as a good thing.  He understands that when companies start jumping into education, the prices go up but the quality goes down.

On the one issue brought up in the forum that I did not agree with Gesty on was the topic of giving teachers training with guns to protect a school until law enforcement arrives in the event of a crisis.  But that wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.  Even if Gesty supports this, there is no way it would happen.  But I agree with him on all his other education stances.  He believes in our local teachers to make the best decisions for Delaware kids.  He has seen how federal intervention at alarming levels in the past decade has taken away the ability for teachers to do what they are supposed to do: teach.

A growing concern with a number of parents in Delaware revolve around issues with student data privacy.  I believe Gesty would be the best representative in Washington D.C. to tackle this issue on behalf of Delaware.  And with what is coming down the pike, we will definitely need a voice of reason not beholden to special interests.

He recognizes the role charter schools play with discrimination in our state and feels that is a federal topic he could address in Congress.  But with other matters with charters, those should be dealt with at the state and local level.

But the biggest issue I have with all government is the two-party system.  Obviously, running as a 3rd party candidate, Gesty does as well.  But he sees how much damage this has done to our country.  How the system has brainwashed the masses into thinking you can only vote for one or the other.  It is manipulation at the highest levels, and I don’t trust the vested interests of many in both parties.  I do support some, but the majority appear to have their face in the public but their hands are always in their wallet.  I believe it is very dangerous for any American to swear absolute fealty to any one party.  I support issues, not the party.

As Gesty says on his campaign website:

In a decade or even less, the United States could suffer a very serious financial crisis. What happens when people’s individual incomes lose the ability to purchase basic goods and services? What happens when the government can no longer print money with any value and the people refuse to accept more tax increases? History suggests that not only does the government move in and take over large segments of the economy, but also that the Republic as we know it becomes a hollow shell. Real examples of this process abound, from the ancient Roman Republic to Weimar Germany.

If we intend to avoid that calamity, we need real change now. We cannot keep re-electing the career politicians who promise us that we can have lower taxes, more spending, and larger wars without consequence. We have to put American citizens into office who will tackle these problems if we want our children to avoid growing up in a Republic lost to the will of special interests and an ever expanding government.

Please vote Scott Gesty for Congress on November 8th!  We need to get out of the status quo that is destroying our state.  When I heard all the candidates at that forum, Gesty was the only one who talked at levels that didn’t sound like his answers were rehearsed.  He spoke from the heart.  I’m not saying the other candidates didn’t, but there was never any doubt in my mind about any of the answers Gesty gave.  I couldn’t say the same for the other candidates.  Even if I disagree with him on that one issue, it was how he truly felt.  We need more honesty like that in government.  I know Delaware is a very blue state, but I believe that has been to our detriment in many areas.   If we truly want any chance of getting out of the corruption and fraud our country is buried in, we have to start thinking outside of the box.

Many folks may be surprised at my choice, but I encourage all of you to find out why I made my choice and look into Scott.

As US DOE Releases Proposed Rules For ESSA, Kline & Alexander Threaten To Pull The Plug

The first set of proposed rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act, unofficially released on May 20th, are already drawing the ire of many in Washington D.C. are not too happy with them.  Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) and US Rep. John Kline (MN) issued a press release today advising the United States Dept. of Education and Secretary of Education John King that if the proposed rules for regulation do not match the sprit and intent of the law they will take measures to overturn the proposed rules.

Both Kline and Alexander feel the federal overreach, which ESSA was supposed to get rid of, is still there.  This is not the first time in recent months they have blasted John King over the US DOE’s interpretation of the ESSA.  But as the proposed rules come out, expect a vicious fight in D.C.

Below are the proposed rules sent out for public comment.  They will be published in the Federal Register on May 31st, next Tuesday.  Also below are a summary of the proposed rules, a chart, the press release issued today by the US DOE on the proposed regulations, the Title I approved consensus for regulatory language on assessments, and the press release issued today by Kline and Alexander.

NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING FOR REGULATIONS UNDER ESSA FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, STATE PLANS, AND DATA REPORTING TO APPEAR IN FEDERAL REGISTER ON 5/31/16

US DOE SUMMARY OF PROPOSED REGULATIONS ON ACCOUNTABILITY, STATE PLANS, AND DATA REPORTING UNDER ESSA

US DOE CHART ON PROPOSED ESSA REGULATIONS

PRESS RELEASE FROM US DOE ON PROPOSED REGULATIONS, 5/20/16

TITLE Ia: APPROVED CONSENSUS REGULATORY LANGUAGE FOR ASSESSMENT IN ESSA, 4/19/16

PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY HOUSE AND SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN, 5/26/16

House and Senate Education Committee Chairmen: ESSA Accountability Regulations Need Close Review
Chairmen say if regulation doesn’t follow law, they will seek to overturn it through Congressional Review Act

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released the following statements after the Department of Education released its proposed regulation implementing “accountability” provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act. This proposed regulation is the first step of the regulatory process. The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal.

Congressman Kline said: “Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to move the country away from the prescriptive federal mandates and requirements of No Child Left Behind. We replaced that failed law with a fundamentally different approach that empowers state and local leaders to determine what’s best for their schools and students. I am deeply concerned the department is trying to take us back to the days when Washington dictated national education policy. I will fully review this proposed rule and intend to hold a hearing on it in the coming weeks. If this proposal results in a rule that does not reflect the letter and intent of the law, then we will use every available tool to ensure this bipartisan law is implemented as Congress intended.”

Senator Alexander said: “I will review this proposed regulation to make sure that it reflects the decision of Congress last year to reverse the trend toward a national school board and restore responsibility to states, school districts, and teachers to design their own accountability systems. The law fixing No Child Left Behind was passed with large bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate. I am disappointed that the draft regulation seems to include provisions that the Congress considered—and expressly rejected. If the final regulation does not implement the law the way Congress wrote it, I will introduce a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to overturn it.”

DSEA Will Be Part Of NEA’s ESSA Implementation Team

The largest teachers union in America is going to have representatives from each state as part of their Every Student Succeeds Implementation Team.  This group was formed so they can comb through the recently passed ESSA signed by President Obama last month.  I know a few of the folks on this team, and I certainly hope they can help Delaware students, parents, teachers, and schools navigate through this transitional period.

There is news below about the ESSA and opt-out.  I strongly urge all Delaware parents to read this as the new law allows for opt-out policies to be made at the state level, not the Federal level.  This comes at a crucial time as the Delaware General Assembly is on the cusp of overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  The ESSA does not allow for the feds to issue letters about funding cuts whatsoever.  The key words in this are “maintains requirements that assessments be administered to at least 95% of all students“.  Schools control that, but they have absolutely no control if a parent chooses to not have their child take the assessment.

From their monthly newsletter, “Professionally Speaking”:

ESSA Explained

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December has raised an overwhelming number of questions from educators and other education stakeholders as to what is actually contained within the law.  Over the next few issues of DSEA’s digital newsletters, Professionally Speaking and Legislative Matters, we will feature some of the key differences between the No Child Left Behind Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  In this issue we focus upon Standards and Assessments:

ESSA Standards Table_2

ESSA Assessments Table_2
For any of the changes outlined above, it is important to remember that successful implementation of this new bill will be dependent upon the decisions made at the state and local levels.  Educator input on state and district policies covering testing, accountability systems, and how ESSA can best support the whole child will be crucial to ensuring that the bill truly works for students and schools.

To meet DSEA and other state affiliate needs, NEA has created an ESSA Implementation Team.  This team will have its first meeting in Washington, DC on January 22-23, 2016.   Implementation team members will learn more about the core aspects of the law, provide advice about how best to equip affiliates and members with tools they need, and formulate strategies for connecting affiliates, members and staff together in this implementation effort so that we learn from each other and can help each other.  

State affiliates were asked to submit name of staff and educators to be part of this team. DSEA team members from Delaware include Kristin Dwyer, DSEA Director of Government Relations, Deb Stevens, DSEA Director of Instructional Advocacy, Jesse Parsley, an Association Rep and 8th grade math teacher at Milford Central Academy, and Jill League, a member of the DPAS II Advisory Committee and a 5th grade teacher at Brandywine Springs Elementary.  Watch for more information about ESSA implementation from our team in the near future.

Legislation & True Education Reform That NEEDS To Happen For Schools, the State Board and the DOE In Delaware

I’ve talked about legislation that did pass, and bills that are still pending.  The following are bills that should happen given the current state of education in Delaware.  I strongly encourage our legislators to read this and start thinking about these ideas if you haven’t already.  If we really want meaningful change for students in Delaware, we need to start thinking outside of the very small box we have placed ourselves in with curriculum, assessments, transparency, accountability, discipline and special needs.  These are by no means my only ideas, but ones I feel could best benefit everyone involved in education in a meaningful way.  I welcome comment on these ideas and actual ways to move forward on these if consensus is reached on them.

1) A bill to mandate the Delaware Department of Education places any contract with any outside vendor, regardless of active or non-active status, on their website.  This shall include the original request for proposal, any bidders and their proposed bids within 10 business days after the selection of the contracted vendor, any addendums to the contract, change orders, or extensions, a clear and concise timeline for the contract, and any violations of the contract unless involved in current legal action.  As well, all funds released to such vendor must be fully transparent for each vendor along with the dates of such payment and the services rendered for those funds.  If any contract is in conjunction with another state Department, the Department of Education shall also release the same contract and financial information regardless of the reporting Department for the vendor.

2) A bill to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state assessment for Delaware.  Any further state assessments developed in the state for the purposes of assessing Delaware students shall not be used for teacher evaluations and shall have no impact on a school’s accountability ratings, annual yearly progress, or the ability for a student’s retention or summer school options.  Any state assessment shall be used for informational purposes only to guide teachers and educators in best practices for instruction of students and further advancement of researched and normed best educational practices.  Any future state assessment must have a 3/4 majority vote in both the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate in the event that item #10 on this list does not occur.  Any testing vendor or contract associated with a state assessment must clearly indicate on their request for proposal any method of data collection and disbursement, internet safety protocols, conflicts of interest, scoring system with open and transparent rules and regulations surrounding such system, and ability to collect, collate and disseminate the scores based on the educational material to the State Board of Education and all school districts, charter schools and vocational school districts in a manner which will give reliable, timely (within one month), and purposeful educational direction designed for the ability to help students progress to the next level and to identify key barriers on an individual and local level for any student achievement.  Any accommodation approved by an IEP or 504 team for the purposes of students with disabilities shall be honored as long as it does not prevent the student from actively taking part in such assessment.  Any student who appears to be having undue stress or anxiety while taking such assessment shall immediately be given the ability to stop the assessment and take it at a future time.  No assessment shall be more than three hours long and shall take up more than three school days.  Any section of any such assessment shall be given no longer than one hour increments for each. No elected Governor of Delaware shall issue an Executive Order for any such state assessment, curriculum associated with the state assessment, or state standards for any such assessment.  No local school district, charter, or vocational school district shall provide more than two assessments a school year, longer than two hours, as approved by the State Board of Education and the local school board of education based on the above and below criteria within this act.  This does not include final exams, mid-terms end of unit assessments, teacher created assessments, the SAT, ACT, or classroom quizzes.  None of these assessments shall create situations where a student is exposed to deductive reasoning or opinion based on any religious, racial, civil rights, violent, or current controversial issues that could create any type of belief system or cultural group to be affected, compromised, or in any way cause civil unrest or situations pitting students, parents or educators against each other.

3) The Delaware Department of Education and the State Auditor of Accounts will create a Comptroller General to oversee the financial flow of education funds coming in and out of all Delaware school districts, charter schools and vocational.  This comptroller shall report on a monthly basis to the State Board of Education on the financial viability of all the above as well as any red flags that come up during their constant review and monitoring of all state, local, and federal funds.  Any funds received by charter schools in the form of grants or donations, whether individual, group or foundation, shall be shown on the Comptroller General website as well as each charter school’s website.  The charter school website must show where the funds are allocated, the purpose, and the progress of those funds being spent.

4) An act to remove the provision regarding the State Board of Education.  Previously, the Governor appointed members to the State Board of Education.  All seven members of the State Board of Education shall be elected by the general populace during the general election occurring each Election Day in the state.  No member shall serve longer than a 3 year term, and term limits are set at two terms.  No member who previously sat on the Governor-appointed State Board of Education shall be able to announce candidacy for the State Board of Education.  The Executive Director of the State Board of Education shall be appointed by the General Assembly with a 3/4 majority vote in both the House and the Senate.  The make-up of the State Board of Education shall consist of the following: Three members from Newcastle County, two members from Kent County, and two members from Sussex County.  Three members shall be parents not affiliated with any state organization, department, group, commission or task force.  No legislators shall be a member.  Two members must be educators or former educators.  One member must be an administrator or former administrator.  One member must be either a special education educator or have sufficient special education background to represent the population of students with disabilities.  No member shall be on the board of any current school district, charter, or vocational technical district.  No member shall be employed or sit on the board of any past or present Department of Education contracted vendor.  This act removes the Cabinet position of Secretary of Education and any reports created through this duly-elected State Board of Education must be sent to the Governor within 3 business days.

5) All school districts, charter schools, and vocational districts must have on their website the following: the number of Individualized Education Programs (IEP) the school currently administers, to be updated by the 5th day of each calendar month; the number of applied for IEPs and the number of accepted IEPs, the number of administrative complaints filed with the Department of Education against the school in terms of special education, the number of mediations through the Department of Education, the number of Due Process Hearings and their decisions with redacted identifiable student information, the number of special education lawsuits the school has or had, and the financial awards, including any applicable attorney fees or other amounts of each resolution if applicable; no hearing officer of any Due Process Hearing or Administrative complaint shall serve on any other state Department, group, commission, council, or division.  The newly selected Due Process Hearing Council shall consist of five members, to be appointed by the duly-elected State Board of Education, and shall have the following qualifications: two parents of a child with a current IEP or last had an IEP within the past five years, one special education teacher currently employed by the State of Delaware, one member with a license to practice psychology, and one member with a license to practice psychiatry.

6) This act is to clarify that all schools must report any incidents of bullying, offensive touching, or fighting through the E-School or any such future designated system within two calendar days.  All perpetrator and victim reports must be filled out.  Any incident with a perpetrator or victim on this system shall be communicated with the parent or legal guardian of the student within 3 business days and signed by the parent or legal guardian.  All such reports shall be given to the parent or legal guardian of a student along with their marking period or trimester report cards.  Any proven failure to follow this act more than 3 times over any rolling three month period shall results in a filing by the State Board of Education to the Delaware Attorney General’s office to conduct an immediate investigation of the school or district, which shall have public notice of such filing both on the school or district website along with the most circulated newspaper in each county, to determine if the school is considered a persistently dangerous school and if determined, the school shall notify all parents of this designation within 5 business days of this decision.

7) This act is to clarify the process of “manifestation determination” as dictated by Delaware state code and Federal law.  Any student on an IEP or Section 504 plan has clear and concise rights in regards to discipline.  In the event of multiple suspensions, currently 10, but with this act changed to 5, the IEP or 504 team must convene within five business days to determine if the actions associated with the suspension or expulsion were a manifestation of the student’s disabilities.  If it is determined by the team to be such, the school psychologist must do a functional behavioral analysis of the student within ten business days, report the findings to the team, and a behavioral intervention plan must be developed to assist the student with coping mechanisms, best proven practices associated with that particular disability to prevent such behaviors, and appropriate steps to educate students and all school staff in regards to the student’s disability as approved by the parent or legal guardian.  This act shall also apply if a student spends more than 30 hours out of the instructional classroom due to any discipline incident.  In the event the parent or legal guardian cannot be notified within 15 business days for any part of this process, one member of the duly-elected State Board of Education or the Due Process Hearing Council shall be appointed to represent the parent or legal guardian after all efforts to contact the parent have been exhausted within a 10 day period of time.

8) Any incident of an educator, school staff member, contracted vendor, or adult on school property or school function, seen by witnesses, whether student or adult, or viewed on school surveillance equipment, or reported by a parent after the fact in both writing and verbally, physically assaulting a student in retaliation or with malicious intent, including the following: punching, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, spitting on, biting, head butting, twisting any part of the student’s body with intent to cause discomfort, pushing to the extent the student falls down or falls into a surface to cause any type of mark on the student’s body, struck with a foreign object, or seen to actively notice and not react in  a timely manner while other students engage in such activity against a student, shall result in the school administrator, or designated appointee, district superintendent, or designated appointee determining of the local law enforcement shall be contacted and an emergency convening of the local board of education within three business days with a quorum present to determine the nature of the incident and if any result of the action was through legal seclusion and restraint mechanisms as allowed by state law, and what the next appropriate steps shall be.  This information must be reported to the State Board of Education and the Attorney General’s office within 24 hours.  If either body determines the local board did not act in the student’s best interest, such adult will be terminated without pay or pension if employed by the state, or banned from the school property or any school function if not.  Collective bargaining rights, if applicable, shall be suspended during this investigation.  The local educators association, if applicable, must be notified of any such investigation within 24 hours and both the agency and the educator must be notified of the exact details of the allegation.  In the event of any such action where the school is legally bound to contact law enforcement under state code and regulation, any decision determined by the state court system shall supersede any decision by the local board or state board of education.

9) This act shall remove Title 14, paragraph 508, section 347 of state code, the provision that charter schools shall keep any excess transportation funds over the contracted bid with any school bus company.  In the event a charter school or school district owns the school buses, they must report on a monthly basis on their website, to the State Board of Education, and the Comptroller General all receipts for fuel, tolls, bus driver wages, repairs, estimates for repairs, and any maintenance receipts or costs for such buses.

10) Any Federal mandated curriculum, assessment, waiver, or regulation designed to give any type of educational direction to any school, student, or educator must be approved with a 3/4 vote by the following coalition of representatives: The State Board of Education, the President of the Delaware State Educators Association and each local president of the local educators associations based on a majority vote by each member of such local organization, three members of each school district board of education, one member from each charter school board of education, one member of each vocational school district, the President of the Delaware Association of School Administrators based on a majority vote by that body, the President of the Delaware Parent Teacher Organization based on a majority vote of that membership, and five Delaware State Representatives, three of which must be on the House Education Committee, three Delaware State Senators, two of which must be on the Senate Education Committee, and a State Board of Education appointed “50 Parent Council” consisting of the following: 22 parents from Newcastle County, 15 parents from Kent County, and 13 parents from Sussex County, all of which must have children currently enrolled in Delaware public schools with at least four years left in school, and not a member of any of the other organizations listed on this act.  This body must then approve any such Federal education designation with a 3/4 majority vote.  Any Federal funding linked to such curriculum, assessment, direction or regulation, shall be a means to give punitive action to any school, student or educator, nor shall a rule, threat or veiled threat of the removal or reduction of any mandated Federal funding give rise to intimidate, bully or coerce any type of public school establishment or state governing body into accepting these actions on a Federal level.

11) All state employees associated with any type of disbursement of educational funds, or employed to receive any such funds, with approval by the Comptroller General and the local board of education shall, in the event of the issuance of a state purchase card, list on the school or district website any and all receipts for such purchases, the reason for the purchase, and the exact description of the purchase designed for and approved under norms and regulations as determined by the Comptroller General and the State Board of Education to best serve the education of students in Delaware.

12) All school district and charter school board meetings must be digitally recorded and live-streamed from their websites.  Minutes from non-executive sessions of board meetings must be posted on the school website within two business days if any action items were voted on or discussed to give parents and citizens the ability to view these items.  All recordings must be placed on the school website within three business days of such board meeting.  All boards must have a clear and concise agenda listed one week prior to any board meeting along with a description of any action items.  All school board meetings must take place at either the district office or a school within the district.  No board meeting shall take place at any location outside of these two designated areas, including any retreats which shall also be open to the public with the above rules and regulations.  This will also include the State Board of Education.

13) The convening of a task force to determine how the Department of Education in Delaware effectively guides and determines best education policies for students in Delaware. No member of this task force shall be any past or present employee of the Department, or any contracted vendor employee currently or in the past receiving any funds from the Department.  This task force must consist of the Governor, three members of the duly-elected State Board of Education, the Comptroller General, the President of the Delaware State Educators Association, the President of the Delaware Parent Teacher Association, the President of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, three board members from each traditional school district, one member from each charter school and vocational district, 5 parents from Newcastle county, 3 parents from Kent County and 3 parents from Sussex County, two special needs advocates, two parents of special needs students, two members from any minority-based Civil Rights group, and nine State Representatives (three of which must be on the House Education Committee) and five State Senators (two of which must be on the Senate Education Committee).  This task force shall look at all best practices, rules, regulations, salaries, reporting structure, and communications within the Department and vote with 3/4 majority on proposed legislation to be reported to the Governor, publicly shown, and brought before the General Assembly within 30 days of the report or the first day of the assemblage of that body if after 30 days.