News Journal Lacks Integrity And Ethics With Coverage Of State Auditor Race

Last week, News Journal reporter Jessica Bies came out with an article about a confidential report that the News Journal “obtained”.  The article was rife with speculation and hearsay based on a report commissioned by State Auditor Tom Wagner concerning Kathleen Davies.  That article appeared in print today.  It looks like something you would see in a bargain-basement tabloid at a grocery store. Continue reading

Delaware GOP Poverty Plan Would Bring Social Impact Bonds & Glorified Vouchers To Delaware

Matt Albright with the Delaware News Journal unveiled the Delaware Republican Senate’s Poverty Plan before it was even presented to Delaware lawmakers.  Included in these 11 potential ideas are two items that are highly disdained by advocates for public education: Social Impact Bonds and school vouchers.

As if we haven’t learned enough from the problems with corporations dipping into education waters, the Delaware GOP wants Social Impact Bonds, or “Pay For Success” programs in Delaware.  I wrote about how Delaware opened the door for Social Impact Bonds last month.  This is extremely dangerous for any public education system.  Having corporations get the ability to earn a profit from student measures is a potential minefield.  If a goal, for example, is to have 95% of students in a pre-school not get special education in the elementary school system based on early interventions in reading, how do we know the results won’t be pushed towards that goal regardless of what a student actually needs?  As well, for some students, a disability may not manifest until a later age.  We have seen how Goldman Sachs attempted this in another state with very controversial results.  Social Impact Bonds have no place in K-12 education.  Students should not be fodder for corporate investment.

Also included in the poverty plan is a form of school vouchers called “Scholarship Tax Credits”.  This latest round of tax credits in Delaware would give additional tax credit to those who donate to non-profits for the purpose of scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.  This is just another way of getting a school voucher system going.  If this point were brought into legislation, it would recognize school vouchers as an additional education funding mechanism in Delaware.  This is something Governor Markell opposes on any level.  This is one of those rare areas where the two of us are in agreement.  Vouchers would further deplete traditional school districts of funding when they are already losing a great deal of local and state funding to charter schools and other choice schools.

There are some other Easter eggs in this plan that concern me.  The plan calls for removing some restrictions from federal grants aimed at fighting poverty.  Instead of allocations to certain areas, the Delaware GOP wants those restrictions lifted.  This could result in the Delaware Department of Education wanting funds to go towards more “focus” or “priority” schools.  While most can agree schools with high concentrations of poverty certainly need more money, once the Delaware DOE gets involved, there is no guarantee those funds would make it into the classroom.  We saw that happen with Race To The Top funds where the DOE got half of the $119 million the state won.  Instead of actually making a difference with that money, most of it went to outside vendors whose reports made Delaware schools look bad and our State Longitudinal Data System, which makes it possible for corporate education reformers to get student data and use it to their advantage.

The part of the plan that also concerns me is an idea concerning more people entering the workforce as an apprentice.  The article in the News Journal specifically mentions Zip Code Wilmington, which is run by Ben DuPont.  The DuPont family is a huge influence on the Delaware GOP.  They are also a huge influence on Delaware charter schools.  They run the Longwood Foundation which has donated millions of dollars to Delaware charter schools.  This is just more of the same.  Governor Markell’s “Pathways to Prosperity” program is clearly designed to track students into certain career paths.  I covered a great deal of this master plan a couple weeks ago  and I have to wonder how much of it is included in this poverty agenda.  I know, many will assume I am looking for things that don’t exist.  They said the same thing when I said the Smarter Balanced Assessment will replace the SAT.  While it was the opposite, the SAT became more like the Smarter Balanced Assessment when the College Board retooled the SAT to align with Common Core.

One glaring omission about a whole agenda to lift folks out of poverty is no mention of increased wages.  The Delaware GOP consistently, as a majority of their party, fights against minimum wage increases.  That should be the first step to decreasing poverty.  Families can’t survive on the minimum wage.  It just isn’t possible.  While the plan concedes not all members of the GOP Delaware Senate agree on all of these ideas, it opens the door to Delaware Democrats who may actually want to see programs like Social Impact Bonds in Delaware.  Like everything in Delaware, it will come down to who is involved with any type of task forces or committees if this gets to that point.

To read the entire plan, see below:

Kendall Massett And I Agree On Something!!!! Del Met & Other Charter News

Just kidding Kendall!  But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript!  Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well.  One clarification which I am now hearing about.  The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students.  There were about ten of them I am now hearing.  According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters.  But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:

School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

I supported this recommendation before it was even made!  One important thing to take note of is the timing.  The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February.  By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.

A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.

Issues considered by the committee include:

Educational program, specifically:

o    Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.

o    Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education

Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.

Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.

I feel bad for these kids.  I truly do.  It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education.  Delaware Met is another thing altogether!  I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here.  Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision.  Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process.  Because it isn’t just Delaware Met.  Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions.  But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains.  First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator.  I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning.  If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA.  For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system.  As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that.  You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that.  Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue.  But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.

As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices.  I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March.  Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave?  Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse.  I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school.  Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing.  And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs.  I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students.  But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records.  We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth.  I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.

At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed.  I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up.  First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools.  Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.

News Journal Disgustingly Butchers My Letter To The Editor

I submitted an editorial letter to several Delaware media a week ago.  Entitled “Opt Out Ends The Madness Of High-Stakes Testing”, it appeared in the Delaware State News, Delaware Liberal, and The News Journal.  Delaware Liberal wrote everything I wrote, and Delaware State News wrote just about everything, except a part about the News Journal continuing to get House Bill 50 wrong.  I can understand that, don’t bash the competition.  No issue there.

When I sent the email to Delaware media, I asked if there was any way they could get it in prior to Thursday.  I sent it on a Sunday though, so I didn’t know if that would be possible.  I get that.  It was in Delaware State News and Delaware Liberal on Thursday.  I was a bit bummed the News Journal didn’t put it in at all, but I also knew Matt Albright would be at the Parent Strike press conference on Thursday.  To my surprise, it did show up Friday on Delawareonline.  I didn’t really read it, thinking it would show what I sent to them and what others had posted.  It showed up in their actual newspaper yesterday.

So how did I find out they messed up?  Of all places, the Rodel Foundation.  Or more specific, their blog.  I’ve actually found their “daily news” section of their blog to cover a lot of articles in one place.  I never see my stuff in there, nor would I expect to.  Lo and behold, I see my editorial covered in their “daily news” on Friday with the headline, and “opinion by Kevin Ohlandt, blogger” (come on Paul, you can’t put the words Exceptional Delaware, or parent, or even human being? Blogger?).  My radar went way up.  This is an editorial slamming the DOE and Smarter Balanced and really getting aggressive in wanting every parent in the state to opt their child out.  Why would Rodel of all places be providing a link to it?  Curiosity got the best of me, and I read what showed up in the News Journal.

I’m going to do a compare and contrast here…blue is the original parts in Delaware Liberal posted Thursday which had everything I mailed to Delaware media a week ago (with one exception and that was the part about also filing federal violations since I sent it to them Wednesday night, a few hours after I filed those), and red is the News Journal.

This “school report card” is nothing more than Federal mandate PLUS the many layers of complexity the DOE added to it. 

This “school report card” is nothing more than Federal mandate.

See how they took out the whole part about the DOE adding to it and making it look like the whole school report card is “Federal mandate”?  Very crafty…

This week, we will hear about the creation of 10 new so-called “Focus Schools” and 4 “Focus Plus Schools”.  The DOE will attempt to sell this as yet another way of “fixing” these high-need schools.  The truth is, these labels are punitive in nature and are just another step before they become “Priority Schools”.  We all know how that went a year ago.

The DOE will attempt to sell this as yet another way of “fixing” these high-need schools. The truth is, these labels are punitive in nature and are just another step before they become “Priority Schools.”

By taking out the part about the DOE adding stuff, it makes it look like the Federal mandate will be sold by the DOE wanting to “fix” the high-needs schools.  It’s an editorial, so of course it’s going to have opinion.  And we do all know how it went a year ago, not very well!

The transparency around Regulation 103 and the “school report card” is suspect at best. I filed a large complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice over several issues, and a complaint over FOIA violations with the DOE. As well, for the second time this year, I filed a complaint over FOIA violations with the DOE.  The first complaint showed the DOE overcharging me nearly $7,000. It seems the DOE wants accountability for everyone but themselves.  

The transparency around Regulation 103 and the “school report card” is suspect at best. I filed a large complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice over several issues, and a complaint over FOIA violations with the DOE. The first complaint showed the DOE overcharging me nearly $7,000.

Keep in mind that Albright was at the Parent Strike press conference AND the State Board of Education meeting.   He heard me list my complaints against the DOE and the State Board of Education twice.  How much was written about a State agency getting five state complaints and two federal complaints?  One of those being on OCR complaint?  Not one word.  In fact, Albright didn’t write at all about anything with Regulation 103, even though that was obviously the highlight of the whole board meeting.  But in the above, we get what looks to be confusion with my complaints, like I’m not too sure what I’m doing.  We obviously can’t be slamming the DOE too hard in News Journal letters.  Especially when it comes to controversial issues on accountability for schools but the DOE never owns up to what they do, never!

This was the one that REALLY did it for me though…watch what they do…

The DOE would have us blame the teachers in these schools.  How about we blame the DOE and Governor Markell?  Instead of focusing on the true needs of students, such as smaller classrooms and more special education training, our schools continue the failed experiment of Smarter Balanced.

The DOE would have us blame the teachers in these schools. How about we blame the DOE and Gov. Markell instead of focusing on the true needs of students.

Trying to make me look like a bad guy, like I would rather focus on DOE and Markell than focus on what students really need.  That’s pretty low.  And I’m sure Dr. Paul Herdman was probably like “Holy crap, did you see what Ohlandt wrote in the News Journal.  We have to get this out there!”  But it is worlds away from what I actually wrote.  Actually, it’s a universe away.  Yes, I am critical of their articles and editorials.  I won’t deny that.  But I don’t CHANGE what they write.  I don’t combine parts of sentences to make them look bad.  I’m pretty certain at this point I won’t be writing any more letters to the News Journal.  They have published some and given me some mentions over opt-out, and I appreciate that.  But I can’t condone this.  Either this was a really bad copy editor, or this was intentional.  Knowing the articles the News Journal writes, their allegiance to Rodel and the Delaware Business Roundtable, and their continual ass-kissing with the DOE and Governor Markell, I can’t help but assume it’s the latter.  I’m sure they were arrogant enough to think I would only send it to the almighty News Journal and no one else would know.  But guess what chumps, you screwed up.

To read what I actually wrote, please go to Delaware State News and Delaware Liberal at the below links.

http://delawarestatenews.net/opinion/letter-to-the-editor-opt-out-ends-the-madness-of-high-stakes-testing/

http://www.delawareliberal.net/2015/09/17/opt-out-ends-the-madness-of-high-stakes-testing/

If you want to get unbiased, good education news, please check out your local newspaper, or check out Avi’s great stuff on Newsworks.  I’m really sick of the dog and pony show the News Journal keeps putting on.  This is a newspaper that will sell their soul to Rodel and Markell and all their corporate education reform buddies, but when everyday people try to get their point across they edit it and change intent.  Maybe I should opt out of reading the News Journal altogether…

Vision Coalition Launches Latest 10 Year Plan, Student Success 2025

Today, at Del-Tech Terry Campus in Dover, Delaware, the Vision Coalition launched their latest ten-year endeavor, Student Success 2025.  With a very large crowd in attendance, the team officially announced Student Success 2025.  Nothing was  actually said about what exactly they will be doing, but I got plenty of quotes!

A student from Newark High School and a student from Kuumba Academy gave the opening remarks.  “Let’s never forget the most important group here today: the students!”

The leadership of the Vision Coalition all gave remarks.  The leadership team consists of H. Raye Jones Avery, Kurt Landgraf, Lamont Browne, Susan Bunting, Paul Herdman, Mark Holodick, Frederika Jenner, Dan Rich, Susan Perry-Manning, Dan Rich, Jorge Melendez, Gary Stockbridge, and the absent chair of the coalition, Ernie Dianastasis.

The entire thing was an infomercial without really getting into the product.  Since I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of it, I’ll direct you to Matt Albright’s story in the News Journal. I’ll just give some interesting quotes:

Stockbridge: “A once a decade opportunity for Delaware, a chance most states don’t have,” “provide students with greater and fairer opportunity,” “this coalition is not only powerful…”, “Student Success 2025 isn’t just another 10 year plan,” and “I know we haven’t seen as much harmony as we would like, and we are not always going to agree.”

Browne: “forcing our teachers to redesign…”, “we know that change isn’t only possible, it’s inevitable”

Rich: “we’ve raised academic standards, improved teacher evaluation policy, improved recruitment of new teachers, improved …for new teacher candidates”, ”, “we need to be very clear-sighted”, “we need a plan looking forward”, “engage entire DE community across all sectors”, “because of Vision 2015 we don’t need to start from scratch”, “we need greater alignment and coherence, that includes traditional public schools, charters and vo-tech, efficient funding system,” WEIC: “what we are launching today is aligned w/that system”, “we need to work with them together”, “we need to reaffirm the goals we set a decade ago”, “I believe there remains a broad commitment to these goals”, “high standards, invest in early education, preparing principals to be highly effective leaders, engaging families in all we do, adoptoption of fair and efficient funding system….they remain critical goals” “go with what’s working: it’s not easy to identify what’s working…”, “the goal here is pretty clear” “what we need is a cohesive and integrated system” “we need that whole system to be connected”, “we’ve often gotten off track instead of emphasizing collaboration, we’ve emphasized compliance”, “we need private as well as public collaboration, (including) collaboration between public and charter, families…”

Jenner: “the men and women I represent in the DE educ. System work in tandem across the state of Del….they counsel, they nurture…they deliver instruction, provide meals, transportation…meet the needs of students who require special services…they are hardworking and passionate, they hold the entire system together, without them there would be no student success, there is no plan that makes sense w/out educators at the table.”

At this point, while I was looking around, a woman in the back row when I glanced past her called me an a-hole.  Don’t know who she was, and I didn’t see a name tag on her.  Probably not a fan of my blog I assume…

Avery: “out of the mouths of babes come gems”, “too often the student voices is absent from those reports”, “we started by listening to the voices of students”, “we received more than just gems, we were shown a window to their world”, “overall we heard more than 1,359 students from over 45 different Delaware schools”, “our young people said they want more concrete connections between school and what happens next in life”, “most felt unsure about the steps to get there”

Bunting: “we’ve invested local dollars in this opportunity”, “personalized learning puts the student at the center of the environment”, “BRINC Consortium-Mark and I are a part of it”, “this report calls for greatest investment in…” “Develop the whole child”

Holodick: “up to 1/3rd of our budget, up to a billion dollars, goes to education”, “only state in America using unit-based funding”, “allow students to take courses from other school districts”

Herdman: “we’re getting near the finish line”, “the whole concept of education has expanded”, “we want our state to be performing in the top ten of the u.s., but also the world” “we want them to be good people, adults who are kind, good citizens,”, “there is an empathy, a recognition of rich and poor” (among students)

The two students gave closing remarks.  The Newark High School student got props from me for talking about writing a bill for a school legislative program to adopt Finland’s school system in America!

My take: it’s just more of the same, with more emphasis on personalized learning.  I think personalized learning will eventually find a way to shrink the teacher workforce and make the teaching profession more of a “refresher” of sorts for students after they learn everything online.  Just my thoughts on that.  I find it interesting this group and WEIC are both looking at funding of education in Delaware.  From what I heard by many in attendance at the WEIC meeting last night, they are still going over the history of how they got to this point.  It’s hard to move forward for this group.  I personally think it is a huge project, and they do not and will not have enough time to meet their deadlines.  Will they cram it all in or start again from scratch?

But back to Student Success 2025.  I don’t think anything any group in Delaware matters as long as the Delaware Department of Education is continuing the federal mandates and their own high-stakes accountability systems.  I’m all for student improvement, but not with the measuring sticks they are using.  But I firmly believe this is what most of this coalition also wants.  So I can’t really support it.  I do think Rodel is backing off a bit in their charter school obsession, but nobody knows what really goes on behind closed doors…