Guest Post: Rodel Article On Absenteeism Absent Of Facts

The Bygone Blogger is back!  Thanks to Bygone for tackling an overlooked topic on this blog, that of school absenteeism.  Bygone dissected a recent Rodel article on the subject and man oh man did they! Continue reading

Is Senate Bill 193 An Antidote To Priority Schools, A Social Impact Bond, or a WEIC Alternative?

This is a very interesting piece of legislation introduced today.  This is almost like an anti-priority schools bill.  Take the schools with the most economically disadvantaged students and offer grants to those schools at up to $1 million a year for three years.  It looks great, but I don’t recall seeing these funds in the budget.  So where are the funds coming from?  The bill only says the funds would be appropriated from the state.  It doesn’t specify if these funds would come from the general funds or what the source of revenue is for this.  If this is a social impact bond deal, I can’t support that.  I have many questions with this one.  The Joint Finance Committee slashed education proposals in the budget mark-up last week so why would legislators introduce a new bill that guarantees grant funding of $3 million by the Delaware DOE for the next three years beginning in August 15th of this year?  Unless…

Could this be a way of getting funding through in the event the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan doesn’t pass?  The devil is in the details on this one…

The 21st Century Racism That Pits Parents Against Teachers While Companies Profit

Yesterday, a presentation was given to the Delaware Senate Education Committee by the Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE) on the highly controversial Component V portion of the teacher evaluation system in Delaware. Component V is the part of Delaware’s teacher evaluation system tied to standardized tests.  The group also felt that the recently concluded DPAS-II Sub-Committee on teacher evaluations was found lacking with a diversity among its members.

PACE is an initiative of the Christina Cultural Arts Center, which advocates and promotes the arts in education. Centered out of Wilmington, PACE is comprised of concerned citizens who feel that parent education organizations are underrepresented by minorities.  The Christina Cultural Arts Center is run by Raye Jones Avery, who also sits on the board of the Rodel Foundation.

PACE began a few years ago but gained more momentum last fall when Elizabeth Lockman began running the organization. As a result of Lockman’s connections and influence in the Wilmington community, the group was able to define themselves and began conducting workshops to gain perspective on education in Delaware.

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The workshops offered different topics in education. Some examples of their workshops included presentations  from or topics on the following: Parent Information Center of Delaware (PIC), members of the Delaware Department of Education Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit, Early Education advocates, the Metropolitan Urban League, School Board governance, Community Schools, Title I Schools, Education Funding, College Readiness, “Opportunity Gaps”, the School To Prison  Pipeline, the State Legislature, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC), the Wilmington Education Strategy Think Tank (WESTT), TeenSHARP (run by former DOE employee Atnre Alleyne), Discipline and School Climate, ACLU/Coalition for Fair and Equitable Schools, and a presentation by Alleyne shortly before he resigned from the Delaware Department of Education.  This last presentation is very important in the context of this article, but I will touch on that later.

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Upcoming presentations include State Rep. Stephanie Bolden explaining how Education Policies become law, the education landscape in Wilmington, School Choice & Climate, Quality: Teacher Inequity & Ed Quality, Readiness: Getting from Early Ed to College & Career, Accountability: Inside Title I & Assessment, and Support: Empowered Parents = Ready Children. In addition, PACE partnered with the Delaware Charter Schools Network on the Public School Choice Expo and hosted the Michael Lomax presentation in January.

The DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee is an offshoot of the DPAS-II Advisory Group. Created through House Joint Resolution #6 last year, sponsored by Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola, the legislation stated the following about the goals of the committee:

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The group met for the first time on September 15, 2015. Based on the first meeting minutes, the membership of the group consisted of the following:

DPAS-II Sub-Committee Members

  • Jackie Kook, (Delaware State Education Association, Christina School District) – Chair
  • Dr. David Santore, (Delaware Association of School Administrators, Caesar Rodney) – Co-Chair
  • Sherry Antonetti, (DSEA, Caesar Rodney)
  • Clay Beauchamp, (DSEA, Lake Forest)
  • Rhiannon O’Neal, (DSEA, Woodbridge)
  • Kent Chase, (DASA, Woodbridge)
  • Dr. Clifton Hayes, (DASA, New Castle County Vo-Tech)
  • Dr. Charlynne Hopkins, (DASA, Indian River)
  • Bill Doolittle, (Parent Representative, Delaware PTA)
  • David Tull, DE (Delaware School Boards Association, Seaford Board of Education)
  • Dr. Lisa Ueltzhoffer, (Charter School Representative, Newark Charter School)
  • Dr. Susan Bunting, School Chief’s Association/(DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chairperson, also Superintendent of Indian River)
  • Donna R Johnson, (Executive Director of Delaware State Board of Education, non-voting member)
  • Delaware State Senator David Sokola
  • Tyler Wells, Higher Education representative
  • The following Delaware DOE members served as staff for the committee:
  • Christopher Ruszkowski, (Delaware DOE, Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit, non-voting member)
  • Atnre Alleyne, (Delaware DOE, TLEU, non-voting member)
  • Shannon Holston (Delaware DOE, School Leadership Strategy, non-voting member)
  • Renee Holt (Delaware DOE, TLEU, secretary for committee)

As well, Senator Sokola’s Aide, Tanner Polce, sometimes sat in for Senator Sokola.

Various members of the DOE attended meetings, usually from the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit.

The biggest recommendation to come out of the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee was reducing the weight of Component V. This part of the DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation system is tied to the state assessment. In lieu of using the state assessment as a measure of growth, the assessment could be one of several other measures. As well, the weight with component V, both parts, would be equal to the other four components. Each one would carry a weight of 20%.

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When this recommendation came out in its full context at the Sub-Committee meeting in January, Delaware Secretary Dr. Steven Godowsky was most likely planning for another big event coming the next day, on January 14th. Neither Donna Johnson nor Chris Ruszkowski from the DOE attended the meeting on January 13th. The very next day, the Delaware House of Representatives knew State Rep. John Kowalko would attempt to get an override of Delaware Governor Markell’s veto of the opt out legislation, House Bill 50. To do this, he would need to have a majority of the House vote to suspend the rules to have it get a full House vote. While that didn’t happen, I am sure Secretary Godowsky was in constant contact with Governor Markell and his Education Policy Advisor, Lindsay O’Mara. Since Alleyne attended the Sub-Committee meeting on January 13th, it would stand to reason Godowsky was notified the group was leaning towards the Component V recommendation. On the evening of January 14th, the PACE sponsored Michael Lomax presentation occurred.

At some point in February, Atnre Alleyne announced his resignation at the Delaware DOE. His last day was on February 29th. On February 13th, an announcement went up on PACE’s Facebook page announcing their next set of workshops.

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At the 2/16 meeting of the Sub-Committee, Secretary Godowsky showed up and listened to the group’s recommendations.

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Alleyne attended this meeting as well. He was very concerned about the wording on part of the draft for the final report of the committee

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Two days later, on February 18th, Alleyne was the speaker at the PACE Workshop on Teacher Quality and Assessment. Without knowing what was said at this workshop, I am speculating that a discussion ensued about the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee and their findings. Keep in mind he was still an employee of the Delaware Department of Education at this point.

By the time the next meeting came on February 29th, it was Alleyne’s last day at the DOE. Several people gave public comment, including two members of PACE: Althea Smith-Tucker and Mary Pickering.

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Alleyne served his last day at the Delaware DOE after this meeting. On March 7th, the day before the next meeting of the Sub-Committee, Alleyne put a post up on his blog, “The Urgency of Now”, entitled “Do #blackvoicesmatter in Delaware schools?” The blog article touched on many points which do show an underrepresentation of African-American students in the teaching profession in Delaware. Citing some other examples that I somewhat agree with, Alleyne brought up the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. In writing about both the DPAS-II Advisory Committee AND the DPAS-II Sub-Committee, he touched on the fact the Advisory Committee had no members of color aside from himself and he was a non-voting member (as an employee of the DOE). But what he did in the next paragraph failed to distinguish between the Advisory Committee and the Sub-Committee:

At the committee’s most recent meeting, a few black parents from Wilmington sat through the meeting and provided comments during the public comment section.

But what happened next made it look even worse for the committee:

After the meeting, they followed up on their critique of the committee’s lack of parent representation (it has one parent representative from the PTA) with the PTA representative. He noted that he agreed we need more parents on these committees. One of the parents pressed further and said, “Well I’ve seen you as the one representative of parents on a number of state committees. You should share the wealth.” His response: (paraphrasing) I’d love to not be the only one on these committees if other parents could learn enough about these issues and systems to be able to participate.

Apparently the two parents from PACE did not like this response. As well, Alleyne, who was STILL a DOE employee at this point (granted, it was his last day), jumped to their defense:

I joined the parents in letting him know that we found that notion offensive. He chided me for not understanding the research and advocating for ineffective and uninformed parent engagement. I retorted that perhaps the problem is we have policy wonks and interest groups advocating for adults at the table. Meanwhile, nobody is asking the simple questions and speaking from the heart about what is best for students.

I reminded him that ours is a democracy that lets everyone participate even if they are seemingly less informed. I also reminded him that the hoops and prerequisites he was promulgating as a barrier to participation seemed painfully similar to hoops black people had to jump through to prove they were smart enough to vote. One of the parents informed him (sarcastically) that she had a doctorate in education and that she was pretty sure she could figure out Delaware’s educator evaluation system–but it shouldn’t take having a doctorate degree to be worthy of sitting at the table.  

I found this assault on the parent representative from the Delaware PTA, Bill Doolittle, to be absolutely unfounded. In my years of blogging, I have met many people involved in education. As a parent advocate with the Delaware PTA and the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, as well as his own personal advocacy, there are not too many “non-educators” who have the resolve, knowledge, and depth of compassion for students that Bill Doolittle has. To turn his comments into an issue of race is very offensive to me. As well, by referring to “we” in his response to Doolittle, he removed himself from the reason he was there, as a non-voting member of the DPAS Sub-Committee, and became Atnre Alleyne.

But since Alleyne never made the distinction between the Advisory Committee and the Sub-Committee in the rest of the article, one would assume there was no person of color on either committee. What Alleyne left out was the fact two of the administrators on the Sub-Committee were African-American.

Now keep in mind, Alleyne had not written an article on his blog in eleven months. But by the time he wrote this, he was no longer an employee of the DOE and most likely felt he could express his thoughts as a private individual. This is certainly his right. But to leave an impression about a lack of diversity on an important education group when he very well knew there was diversity on this committee is disingenuous. I wouldn’t bring this up, but it does play a huge role in what happened after.

At the final meeting of the DPAS Sub-Committee on March 8th, the final recommendations of the committee came out, and Ruszkowski and Alleyne were not happy about them at all.

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As well, members of PACE, Alleyne (now speaking on behalf of TeenSHARP), and a Delaware student gave public comment:

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Now the name “Halim Hamorum” sounded very familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it. I Googled the name and couldn’t find anything. I tried the last name, nothing. Then I tried the first name and Delaware, and several hits came up. Halim Hamroun, a student at Newark High School, was one of the speakers at the launch of the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 last September. But I also remembered he wrote a column the same day in the News Journal about the student voice.

I am also a veteran of at least three state test programs meant to improve our educational system, and a guinea pig for various scheduling and teaching methods. Each year there’s a new flavor.

As I sit here writing this, I find myself wondering how a Newark High School student would find out about the DPAS-II Sub-Committee meeting, know exactly what it was about, and be able to attend and give public comment. This is conjecture on my part, but someone reached out to him. He was coached. They knew about his connection with the Rodel Foundation/Vision Coalition sponsored “Student Success 2025” and asked him to speak against the committee’s recommendations. In Delaware education, there is no such thing as a coincidence.

But what shocked me the most about the final meeting was the abhorrent behavior of the soon to be former DOE employee Chris Ruszkowski. His comments, especially suggesting that the committee was conducting secret meetings and “hoodwinked” the process and goals of the legislation is absolutely preposterous, especially coming from one of the most controversial employees of the Delaware Department of Education during Governor Markell’s tenure as Governor of Delaware. We all know transparency is an issue in Delaware, but I have seen many meeting minutes for all sorts of groups in Delaware. The minutes and transparency surrounding the DPAS-II Sub-Committee are some of the best I have seen in Delaware. I frequently look at the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar, and I always saw their meeting notices, agendas, and minutes faithfully listed.

What Ruszkowski may not be aware of is the large amount of DOE emails that were part of a FOIA request by another Delaware citizen that have his name on many of them. I’ve published some, and others I haven’t due to the nature of the emails. I have seen his disdain for many traditional school districts. I’ve heard the tales of his tirades against school districts who opposed his initiatives, such as the Delaware Talent Cooperative. I personally haven’t had any face to face discussion with Ruszkowski, but the one time I did, it was a childish response to a comment I made during the last assessment inventory meeting. I would not be surprised in the least, and this is merely conjecture on my part, if Ruszkowski’s resignation from the DOE was somehow connected with his behavior at the final DPAS-II Sub-Committee meeting.

To read the entire minutes from this final meeting (and I strongly suggest you do), please read the below document. But there is much more that happened after this meeting!

Two days after the final Sub-Committee meeting, Alleyne posted another article on his blog about the meeting. This article, aptly named “Reflections after last nights educator evaluation commitee meeting”, went over his perception of the events.

The committee is also recommending that the use of students’ growth on the state Math/English assessment will no longer be required as one of two measures in a Math and English teacher’s Student Improvement component. This is currently the only statewide, uniform, and objective measure of educator effectiveness in the evaluation system.

Keep in mind this is coming from the perspective of someone who lives and breathes the same kind of education talk we have heard from Governor Markell, the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation, and so many of the companies, non-profits, foundations, and think tanks that make up the corporate education reform behemoth.

What this led to next took many by surprise. PACE, somehow, was able to get a presentation before the Senate Education Committee yesterday. The man who sets the agenda for the Senate Education Committee is Senator David Sokola, the Chair. The same Senator who served on the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. The same Senator who wrote the legislation creating the DPAS-II Sub-Committee. The same Senator whose legislation stated the committee would present their findings to both the Senate and House Education Committees in the Delaware General Assembly. So how is it that a parent advocacy group from Wilmington presents their complaints about a committee that they didn’t really take action with until their last two meetings, well after the recommendations were put forth, is able to give a presentation to members of the Senate Education Committee, before the DPAS-II Sub-Committee even presented their final report to either Education Committee? And from what I’m hearing, the committee hasn’t even had a presentation date scheduled!

I attended the Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday, and I heard what Mary Pickering, who spoke on behalf of PACE, had to say. As well, a handout was given to members of the education committee and I was graciously given a copy. This document was written on March 31st, but nothing shows up anywhere online about it. PACE does not have a website, just a Facebook and Twitter page. I copied the entire document, but to prove its authenticity, I did take a picture of part of the first page:

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March 31, 2016

 

To The Members of the Delaware Legislature:

The Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE) is an organization whose mission is to raise awareness among parents and people who care about the need to improve public education across the state of Delaware, and in particular, for students living in the city of Wilmington.

Earlier this year PACE became aware of the DPAS-II subcommittee (created through HJR 6) and their efforts to recommend changes to Delaware’s teacher evaluation system. We began attending these meetings, sharing our perspectives as parents during the public comment porting of the meetings, and asking questions.  How teachers should be evaluated in Delaware was the focus of this committee, a very important topic that will impact all Delaware teachers, parents, and students.  Yet this 14-member committee has only one parent representative, very little diversity, and each of the meetings we attended had little participation from the general public.  The perspectives many parents shared during the public comment portion of the meeting, as well as those we’ve heard from other parents in our community, are not reflected in the Sub-Committee’s final recommendations.  As such, we are sharing this letter in the hopes that you will consider a diverse set of perspectives on this issue. 

As you discuss the future of teacher evaluation in Delaware’s public school system, we would like you to consider the following:

The importance of parent and student voice in teachers’ evaluations: Parents and students had very little voice in the DPAS-II Sub-committee process and have no voice in teachers’ overall evaluation process. Although this was mentioned in the Sub-Committee numerous times, our request was excluded from their recommendations.  Parents and students can offer unique perspectives on their experience with various teachers that will complete the picture of a teacher’s overall performance.  Parents are routinely subjected to surveys, none of which ask about our children’s experiences in the classroom.  Although all teachers receive ratings through the DPAS-II system, this information is not made available to parents to make informed decision and protect against inequities in schools.  We ask that you emphasize the importance of parent and student voice by adding a requirement that parent and/or student surveys be included in our Delaware teacher evaluation system.  We also ask that legislature make information about teachers’ evaluations more transparent to parents.

The importance of diverse perspectives in decisions about teacher evaluation: The DPAS-II Sub-committee had four representatives from the teacher’s union, four from the administrator’s association, and only one parent to represent the entire state of Delaware parent population. There were no teachers of color on the committee.  Although this committee is a poor representation of the diverse population you serve across the state, their recommendations will be presented as if there is a consensus.  We ask that you show your commitment to diversity by engaging a wider and more diverse set of stakeholders before taking any action on the sub-committee’s recommendations.  We also ask that legislation be amended to allow a more diverse set of stakeholders to serve on the DPAS-II Advisory Committee.

The importance of student learning and accountability for student learning: During the meetings we attended, we were appalled at how student learning took a back seat to the convenience of adults in the system. The committee is recommending reducing the weight of the Student Improvement component and making all 5 components equally weighted.  This would allow a teacher rated unsatisfactory on the Student Improvement Component to still be rated as an effective teacher.  The Sub-committee is basically saying that Planning and Preparation (Component 1) and Professional Responsibilities (Component 4) are as important as Instruction (Component 3) and Student Improvement (Component 5).  It is not clear to us how an education system designed to produce academically and socially successful students, implement an evaluation system that de-emphasizes accountability for student learning.  It is our concern that the recommendations of the subcommittee, if adopted, will widen the achievement gap for the children in places like Wilmington, DE.  We believe there should be an evaluation system that supports teachers, but also meaningful and consistent accountability.  We ask that you show your commitment to student learning and leave the weight of the Student Improvement Component as is. 

The importance of including the state assessment as a part of teachers’ evaluations: The committee is recommending that Math and English teachers no longer be required to use student growth from the state assessment as one part of their evaluation.  State test scores are the only objective measure of student improvements that are consistent across the state for educator effectiveness.  As flawed as the test may be (something we believe also needs to be addressed), it is still the only consistent measure of student growth.  The measures that the committee is recommending to replace state assessments are substantially less rigorous and comparable across the state.  Removing this measure will only serve to remove accountability, widen the disparity among schools, and eliminate the ability to monitor the impact of inequitable funding in disproportionately children of color.  We ask that you show your commitment to creating an objective and consistent evaluation system by leaving the state assessment as a required measure of Student Improvement for Delaware Math and English teachers.

We believe that an evaluation system where 99% of teachers are told they are effective or highly-effective does a disservice to educator professional growth.   It is also inconsistent with the experiences we have (and our children have) in schools each day.  We believe our recommendations will help Delaware create an evaluation system that values student learning, gives teachers accurate information they can use to improve, holds teachers accountable fairly, and values student perspectives.  We would appreciate the opportunity to further discuss our recommendations as the legislature discusses this important matter.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Mary Pickering

Advocacy Coordinator

Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE)

What I would like you, the reader, to do at this point is compare the handout from PACE with Alleyne’s blog article from March 10th.

This is what bothers me about this whole situation.  I like the idea of PACE. I think the idea of community members getting together, no matter who may provide the funding, in an effort to improve education is honorable.  I love the fact that they are very organized and set up workshops on a multitude of education subjects.  I agree with many of PACE’s goals.

I firmly believe minority students are not always given the same level playing field as their non-minority peers. The African-Americans in America are still marginalized in many areas of society.  But they have also come a long way depending on the path they took.  We have a black President.  We have very successful African-American business executives, both male and female.  In pop culture, the African-American culture thrives in music.  While there are still some hurdles to overcome, Hollywood is very welcoming to African-Americans.

But what hasn’t changed is the plight of inner-city youth. We still have far too many minorities who deal with poverty, violence, crime, drugs, and a gang culture that draws far too many of them away from the potential for success and into prison.  Many of these children have single parents, or no parents at all.  Many of these children are traumatized through the events in their lives.  Some of them, and by growing numbers, also have disabilities.

Somewhere along the way, corporate businessmen decided they could make a profit off this. As a result, we saw the growth of charter schools and school choice.  We saw testing companies spring up overnight.  With funds sponsored by the Gates Foundation, the Koch Brothers, the Walton Foundation, and so many more, education “reform” companies came out of the woodwork.  All of a sudden schools and states were contracting with these companies.  Report after report came out with the following statements: Our schools are failing.  Our teachers were not effective.  The unions were calling the shots.  Teach For America and similar teacher prep programs had better results than regular teachers.  Charter schools are better than traditional schools.  And every single report, every finding, came from one single thing: the standardized test score.

There are many names for these standardized tests: High-Stakes testing, state assessments, Smarter Balanced, PARCC, and the list goes on. But they all wind up with the same results, plus or minus a few abnormalities: they are socio-economic indicators that do not determine a student’s abilities but their zip code.  And many in the African-American community believe it is a valid measure.  In some ways, I can’t blame them.  They have a valid history of marginalization.  There have been equity gaps that still exist to this very day.  In Delaware, we have some schools that do not accept a large population of African-Americans or other minorities, even though the demographics surrounding these schools strongly suggest something is amiss.  These schools argue back and forth that they don’t get the applications from these communities, or the placement test scares them off.  But these are public schools, barred from any type of discrimination whatsoever.  If they have things in place that are preventing any group of students from attending, that is against the law.  But this is Delaware, and we seem to think it is okay as a state to let those things slide.

Which brings me back to PACE. A group, which started with honorable intentions, has been sucked into the madness of standardized testing.  In their handout to the Senate, they openly admit the current assessment in Delaware, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, is flawed.  Knowing that, they still want our teachers evaluated by it.  They feel that the potential price teachers could pay based on those evaluations is less important than the mirage standardized test scores give.  If anything, standardized test scores have widened the equity and proficiency gaps more than anything else since black and white schools.  And this is happening right now, in the 21st Century.

But here is the kicker to all of this. There is one group in education that performs far worse than any minority group.  They are always at the bottom of these lists.  And that is students with disabilities.  I am a parent of a child with a disability.  So no one can say I don’t have a voice or a stake in what is going on with standardized tests.  But we don’t see parents of students with disabilities advocating for these kinds of measurements for our children.  Many of us see them as an impediment to progress as opposed to a road to progress.

I was the first member of any type of media in Delaware to announce the DOE’s Annual Measurable Objective goals for all of the sub-groups in Delaware Education for 2015-2021. I was at the State Board of Education meeting in November.  I saw the document just placed on the State Board of Education website that documented what the Delaware DOE’s growth goals were for all of the sub-groups, all based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I saw immediately what the DOE’s growth goals meant for any high-need student: students with disabilities, English Language learners, African-Americans, Hispanics, and low-income students.

Take a very good look at the below two pictures. Note the growth that is expected out of these different sub-groups on one single measure: the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Look at the gains they will have to make compared to the groups with the least amount of growth expected: Asians and Whites.  Think about the vast amount of work expected out of educators to get to those levels.  Think about the struggles and “rigor” those students will need to get to those levels, if they make it at all (which I highly doubt).  Think about the state assessment, how it is designed, the anxiety in schools based on them.  Think about the vast amount of instruction time that is taken away for these tests.  Time your child will NEVER get back.  Think about the fact that most of us are in agreement that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a very flawed test.  Think about the fact that the Delaware DOE openly admitted these are the highest goals of any other state in the country.

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Think about this: During this meeting, when I saw these goals, I assumed a DOE Employee was behind this. Her name is Penny Schwinn, and she no longer works for the DOE.  She left in January.  Her title was the Chief of Accountability and Assessment.  When I saw these pictures, I put her name in the title of this article.  After I posted it, I saw her in the hallway.  She had been crying and was very upset.  After the meeting, I approached her.  She explained to me that she didn’t set these goals.  She also explained that they are impossible goals to reach for these students.  I said to her “I know who set these goals.”  She looked at me and said “Chris?” to which I responded, “No, Governor Markell.”  I changed the name on the article since she openly admitted to myself and another person she did not make these goals.  I knew Penny Schwinn ultimately answered to the Governor, so I assumed he made the goals.  Or at the very least, approved them.

Upon retrospection of this conversation and all I have learned since, Governor Markell is a corporate guy. He is a persuasive public speaker and he knows how to sell a product.  But he doesn’t know how to build a product.  This growth model, in all likelihood, came from Chris Ruszkowski at the Delaware DOE.  The very same individual who, along with his second-in-command, Atnre Alleyne, used flawed data in every possible way to perpetuate the myth that school district teachers in districts with high poverty are failing our students.  In particular, students of color.  This is the pinnacle of the corporate education reform movement’s essence for being.  This is the heart of everything that comes out.  They use groups like PACE to further their own agendas.  Both Ruszkowski and Alleyne came to the Delaware DOE with well-established resumes in the corporate education reform movement.  I have no doubt they speak very well to a group like PACE.  They live and breathe the data they read, study, and create every single day.  They were paid by the Delaware DOE, with more money than most of us will ever see in an annual salary, to prove that public school education teachers are failing students of color.  Their data is, in large part, based on standardized tests.

So when I hear groups like PACE advocating for Component V in the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system, I know for a fact these aren’t conclusions they came up with by themselves. The timing of events suggests otherwise.  If you ask people in Delaware what they know about Component V, they would give you a puzzled look and think you were strange.  Unless you are an educator, a legislator, or deeply involved in education matters, it isn’t something that comes across the radar of everyday citizens.  But a group that has had multiple visits by Alleyne and Ruszkowski, who knew the exact right words to say to pull their chain, they would.  PACE came to two of the DPAS-II Sub-Committee meetings with very advanced knowledge of the DPAS-II process within a week of a presentation to their committee by the Delaware DOE employee who opposed the recommendations of the committee.  They were fed the same line of malarkey all of us have been fed.  But groups like PACE are organized and they want to see different lives for the children in their community.  I do not fault them at all for that.  But because they so desperately want these changes in education, they can easily fall prey to the very bad data and myths surrounding standardized tests and educators.

I have no doubt there are issues of racism in our schools. We do need more African-American teachers in our schools.  But to judge the teachers we do have in our schools with the highest needs, based on a test we know is horrible, what message does that send?  Let me put this another way: many parents who tend to advocate for their children the most believe there is an actual barrier to their educational success, whether it is the color of their skin or a disability.  It is very easy to blame a teacher when our children don’t succeed.  And I am sure, in some cases (but not as many as some think), there could be a valid argument there.  But to judge any teacher based on a flawed test that defines a child based on their zip code, color of their skin, disability, or income status is just plain wrong.  These tests are discriminatory in nature.  They are judgmental of our children, their teachers, and their schools.  They are, to put them in one word, racist.

Let that word hang there for a few minutes. Racist.  Standardized tests are racist.  Racism doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing it did twenty years ago.  Racism has evolved.  If standardized tests are racist, and we have people of all diverse cultures promoting them, what does that even mean?

It is the 21st Century version of racism: the sub-groups.  The African-American students.  The Hispanic students.  English Language learners.  Students with disabilities.  Low-Income Students.  Students from inner-cities who are homeless or come from severe poverty.  The children of the drug addicts who are born into trauma.  The children whose father is in prison.  This is the modern form of racism.  We hear it all the time.  We only have to look at some of the very racist comments when any article about race comes up on the Facebook account of Delawareonline.

None of these education groups out of the DOE or the foundations, think tanks and non-profits have the first clue about how to truly change these children’s lives. What they know is how to make a lot of money pretending to.  And it goes all the way to the top.  Do you want to know who has the best shot, aside from the parents of these children?  Their teachers.  The ones who devote their lives to helping them.  Even when they know they have no control over what happens outside of their classroom.  Even when they know they will most likely lose that student at the end of the year when they go into the next grade.  Sure, they get tough over the years.  The teachers in high-needs schools see it all.  They see the poverty.  They see the hunger.  They see the disabilities.  They see the cries for help that come out in anger from these kids.  They care so much more than you think they do.  They know a once a year test can’t measure the sum performance of these children.  They also know these tests are flawed, but the only way they can fight this ideology is by making sure these tests don’t stop their ability to try to help your child.

When I hear advocacy groups like PACE talk about “our community”, it makes me sad. I fight some of the exact same battles for students with disabilities but it seems like we are on opposite sides in the fight.  When I hear civil rights groups blasting opt out and continuing these very sick lines that are force fed to them by those who profit off the lies, I have to wonder why.  When they say “our community”, it is not.  All of us, we are all our community.  There should be nothing that divides us.  Not wealth, not religion, not the color of our skin or our hair or our language or the way our eyes are shaped.  Not our disabilities, of which we are all disabled in some way to some degree.  Not who we love or choose to spend our life with.  We all struggle, in our own ways.

Those with money and power are blinded to the realities of the real world. They justify their decisions because they don’t come from that perspective.  They look at us from their microscopes and think they know how to fix it.  And if they can get their buddies to help them out, to fix all those people below them, then it’s a party.  But they either don’t know or don’t care what kind of damage they leave in their wake.  They measure success by their paycheck.  If they make more money, or gain more power, they feel the decisions they make are the right ones.

This is the new racism. The haves and the have-nots.  The same story but with a much different twist.  This time, they are using children in the biggest high-stakes test of all time.  They get richer, while the rest of us either stay the same or slide down the scale.  We allowed this into our schools, slowly, over time.  We believed the lies they were telling us.  So many of us still do.  But this time, they are playing for keeps.  What they are setting up now will forever divide the rich from the poor and the rapidly declining middle class.  They are the ones telling us what to do.  Telling us our children can’t possibly succeed unless we make our schools do what they say.

Every single time your child takes a standardized test, you are giving them the power and the ability to sever themselves from the rest of us. This will continue, until we rise against them.  Rome fell.  The Soviet Union fell.  And Corporate America will fall.  It is the nature of power.  But until we revolt and take back the stability our children need, we will fight this war.  They will pin us against each other while we suffer.  While our children suffer.  The only way to stop it is to stop listening to them.  Demand our teachers be able to adequately instruct our children without the shadow of high-stakes standardized testing looming over their heads.  Demand our children be given better assessments that give true and immediate feedback.  Demand that if they don’t, we won’t let them take their tests.  We will opt them out.

Whatever you do, don’t ever be fooled into believing that your child or their teacher or their school is failing because of a standardized test. Do believe that the measurement, or the growth to that measurement, is designed to keep your child exactly where they are.  Don’t believe that any standardized test will ever show the vast majority of students as proficient.  They will always give the illusion that the majority of students are failing.  This is how those in power stay in power.  They rely on your belief that they are right.  It is their constant energy source.  This is the way they will keep most of the population in low-paying jobs.  They want to control us.  This is 21st Century racism.  End it.  Now.

US DOE Promises Funding Cuts To States Who Miss Participation Rates Two Years In A Row, Contact President Obama Now!

In a letter sent to all states in America, the United States Department of Education is pulling the lever towards federal funding cuts to states who have participation rates below 95% on state assessments two years in a row.

If a State with participation rates below 95% in the 2014−2015 school year fails to assess at least 95% of
its students on the statewide assessment in the 2015−2016 school year, ED will take one or more of the
following actions: (1) withhold Title I, Part A State administrative funds; (2) place the State’s Title I,
Part A grant on high-risk status and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative
funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title VI State assessment funds.

Yes, they are actually doing it.  I would go with option number 3 for Delaware.  We don’t want your stupid state assessment funds.  Go ahead.  I dare you to do this US DOE.  You are nothing but bullies, flexing your muscles in direct opposition to parental rights.  You are complete idiots if you think parents are going to take this lying down.  We challenge you.  Miss Ann Whalen, “delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education”.  Who gave you this authority?  The departing Arne Duncan or the incoming John King?  You still don’t get it, do you?  Schools cannot and should not be punished for parents exercising their God-given, fundamental and constitutional rights for their children when it comes to education.  Yes, all schools are required to make sure students participate in the test.  That means the schools can’t tell parents to opt out.  There is nothing in your insane, ridiculous, mind-boggling, hateful, punitive, and disrespectful law about parents exercising their rights.  You are twisting the knife in public education.  America is tired of your high-stakes assessments meant to punish schools and feed the wallets of corporate education reformers.  You have sold your soul to Wall Street. 

President Obama, you are a lame-duck.  Are you really going to have this be your education legacy?  Choosing business over children?  Cutting funds to schools where standardized testing doesn’t mean a damn thing to students whose lives have not improved under your presidency?  You disrespect parents.  You disrespect minorities.  You disrespect students with disabilities.  You disrespect teachers.  You disrespect schools.  You disrespect state rights.  You disrespect those in low-income or poverty.  I disrespect you if this is really the route you want to take.  If this is something you are okay with, if this is something you allow, you should be prepared to take the heat for it.  I invite every single parent of a child in public school in America to call you now, until this mandate is GONE, and voice their vehement opposition to this totalitarian rule from the federal government on education.  Call today.  The phone number for the White House is 202-456-1111.  You can email President Obama here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact and tweet him at @WhiteHouse or you can comment on every single article the White House puts out here: https://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse/timelineTell the President your child is not his child.  Your child is not the property of the United States Department of Education.  Tell him your child is YOUR CHILD.  And you know what is best for them in determining YOUR CHILD’S education. 

To read the US DOE’s ultimate bully letter to the states, please see below:

DOE Recognizes MOT Charter & Sussex Academy As “Reward Schools” While Low-Income Title I Schools Are Labeled

The top recognition by the Delaware Department of Education for schools that do awesome on standardized assessments are two charter schools.  One is in a district that has a low population of low-income students and is in a more affluent area of the state, and the other has been named in a lawsuit by the ACLU for selective enrollment preferences in their application process that results in discrimination.  MOT Charter School and Sussex Academy are the two reward schools.  The recognition schools are as follows:

Distinguished Title I/Recognition Schools:

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and Newark Charter School

Recognition Schools:

Brick Mill E.S., Dover Air Force Base M.S., Lake Forest North E.S., Lake Forest South E.S., Lancanshire E.S., Olive B. Loss E.S., Southern Delaware School of the Arts, Kathleen H. Wilbur E.S.

School of Continued Excellence 2015:

Howard High School

This is a new process for the Department as approved in their ESEA waiver submitted earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in the low-income Title I schools that have high populations of low-income, minority students, and students with disabilities, these schools have been labeled as Focus, Focus Plus and Priority Schools.  There are 10 Focus Schools, 4 Focus Plus, and 7 Priority Schools listed in the below report.  None of them are charter schools…no magnets…no vo-techs…just traditional school districts struggling to receive the resources and staffing they deserve.  They are not allowed to pick and choose who goes to their schools.  They take everyone.

The Coalition For Fairness & Equity In Schools Needs YOUR Help!

A new group has formed in Delaware called The Coalition for Fairness & Equity In Our Schools.  This group is looking for one thing in our schools, as per their Facebook page:

Diverse group advocating for statewide changes to discipline practices to eliminate suspensions for low-level offenses and adopt a restorative approach.

This group was convened by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware to help eliminate the “school to prison” pipeline coming out of many of our schools in Delaware, specifically the Wilmington schools.  You can read more about them here.

To this end, they have started a petition which can be found below, and I strongly encourage all to sign in support of this petition.  As a special needs father, I have seen first-hand what disproportionate discipline can create, and so much of what these children are exhibiting are manifestations of their disabilities.  This doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, but it also doesn’t mean punish whenever you want, which leads to social stigma that is very damaging for so many students with disabilities.  I have always promoted a simple mantra: work with the disabilities, not against them.  When anyone tries to fight something that is natural, it becomes stressful for all involved.  This can make a minor situation become infinitely worse.  It isn’t just about social groups for students either.  The adults have a HUGE responsibility in this as well.

I have seen multiple videos from other countries where students disabilities are celebrated, not hidden.  The classes and staff are educated on them, and this creates a much more tolerable environment for all involved: the student with disabilities, their classmates, the teachers, the staff, the admins, and the entire school.  Aside from all this, there are very specific laws regarding disproportionate punishments and manifestation determination.  In Delaware, and also under IDEA and Section 504 law, if a student is suspended more than ten times during a school year, the IEP team or 504 team must convene to determine if a behavior was a result of the disability.  A parent can also request this if they believe this to be true in a discipline situation.

What should result from this is the stakeholders involved get together, talk about the issues and behaviors, and the school psychologist should do a functional behavioral analysis.  Based on the results of this, a behavior intervention plan should be established with all parties agreeing, not just the administrators of the school.  And I would caution parents to be very careful about the wording of these BIPs as they are called.  I highly recommend knowing your child’s disability to the best of your ability, and find out what is typical or atypical behaviors associated with the disability.

When all efforts have failed, and a parent feels their efforts for their child are not being met, that is the time to take further action.  There are numerous things you can do, but one I do NOT recommend is taking that action through the Delaware Department of Education.  Their best solution seems to be “mediate” which is good, but this can also stifle your rights for your child.  Sometimes, as many special needs parents can attest to, you have to fight for your child.  The DOE methods of resolution do not have the best odds of working to your child’s benefit.  I’m sure they would disagree with me, but the bare fact that there have been NO due process hearings in Delaware for two years and a smattering of administrative complaints over a ten year period is testament to this fact.  Their way just doesn’t work.

Furthermore, the number of special education lawsuits when parents reach their wits end (not to get rich quick, that is NOT what happens with these lawsuits) has skyrocketed in Delaware over the past few years.  This is a more proven resolution method for far more parents than the DOE has ever helped over  the past decade.  In fact, many of the curriculums and specific IEPs the DOE wants (which are not part of approved federal IDEA law as brought before the U.S. Congress but resolutions and regulations tacked on by the US DOE with no Congressional approval), will wind up being more harmful to many students in the coming years as they are forced to adapt to national standards that are controversial at best, culminating in standardized assessments that on the surface purport to close the achievement gaps, but will in actuality further widen them.  This will in turn bring in more “consultants” and “non-profit companies” who need to  help these “failing” students.  All the while, teachers who don’t have the proper resources and are dealing with very large classrooms will be evaluated based on these high-stakes assessments.  This is why I don’t trust the DOE, and why any special needs parent should be very wary of them.

But back to this coalition, I am in full support of this group, and this is very needed in our state.  I just wish I had known about it sooner!  I would strongly encourage this group to take a very strong look at various disabilities and the neurobiological events that take place when so many of these “behaviors” occur, as well as the exponential increase of them when unneeded stress is placed on these students from the adults in the school.

Arne Duncan Wants Parent Participation: Has He Been Listening? Parents Are Opting Kids Out Of Assessments He Endoreses! Wake Up Arne!

At the National PTA Conference in Charlotte, North Caroline, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a speech about parent participation in their children’s education.  The details of his speech are below, and I am going to make comments for each paragraph.

Parents are critical assets in education. Parents can be a voice for high expectations for children and for supporting educators in creating schools where all children receive what they need to succeed. An excellent education is every child’s civil right; and while our nation has made great strides—with a record high school graduation rate and college enrollment at all-time highs—we have much further to go to ensure that every child has equal opportunity to learn.

My suggestion would be to actually listen to parents Arne.  Hundreds of thousands of parents in our country are opting their kids out of standardized assessments that your reign as Secretary has FORCED on schools through waivers and little or no choice requirements.  You are right though, an excellent education is every child’s right, which is why parents are exercising their rights to make sure our children are not forced to take assessments that have no bearing on their educational growth.

Parents can play a key role in demanding the world-class education that their children deserve. But, for many parents and families, it can be an uncertain task determining the best ways to support their children or the right questions to ask to ensure their children are learning and growing.

But one thing many parents know is tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC are not valid methods to determine how our children are learning and growing.  Let me ask you Arne… you are Secretary of Education of the most powerful country in the world.  Did your education prevent that from happening for you?  Was Bill Gates education so bad that he felt the need to change it all?  Neil Armstrong?  Stephen Hawking?  So why do you want to remove that kind of education and make it so all children are forced to be the same?  Is it possible there is a lot of money to be made by making it appear children are doing bad in school?

That’s why, today, speaking from the perspective of a father of two young children, Secretary Arne Duncan described a set of educational rights that should belong to every family in America in a speech at the National PTA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This set of three foundational family rights can unite everyone who works to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in school and in life. These rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.

I actually don’t have a problem with these rules.  However, the policies you have set in place put minority students, low-income students, and students with disabilities at an unfair advantage.  We can talk Civil Rights any day of the year, but what you have implemented has caused further distances in the education gaps between these sub-groups and their regular peers.  And the humiliating way you have disparaged and insulted teachers in our country is shameful.

Parents and families can use these basic—but necessary—elements of an excellent education to build deeper relationships with educators, administrators, and community leaders to support schools so that these rights become realities. At the Convention, Secretary Duncan also noted his hope that parents will hold elected officials and others accountable for accelerating progress in education and expanding opportunity to more children—particularly our nation’s most vulnerable.

I do believe parents in Oregon and Delaware were very proud of their legislators for passing parent opt-out legislation honoring a parent’s right to choose the best education for their child.  Parents will hold elected officials accountable once the scores on this year’s standardized assessments come in.  They will remember the elected officials that allowed their children to be non-proficient and in need of intervention.  Especially those parents who did not encounter these problems before.

Secretary Duncan’s discussion of this set of rights complements work by the Education Department to reach out to parents—from the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships released last year, to tools that can help families and students select the best colleges for their needs, to support of Parent Training and Information Centers and resource hubs.

Is that way the College Board is turning the SAT into a Common Core based assessment?  One that will mirror the SBAC and PARCC assessments?  And parents don’t need training.  We need responsible people like the Secretary of Education of the USA to get his paws out of local education and stop interfering and causing constant disruptions.  We all know you want to get rid of traditional public school districts and open up charterville across the country. 

While in Charlotte, Secretary Duncan also participated in a “Future Ready Schools” panel to emphasize the importance of integrating technology into the classroom, especially as a tool for promoting equity for all students.

Ah, yes, more personalized learning modules for students to learn from home and then have a teacher go over homework questions in the classroom.  That’s very crafty.  Teachers won’t need as much education and they will just have to follow a script.  We won’t need those pesky teacher unions anymore and we can lower the salaries for these robot teachers.  Promoting equity?  Are you kidding me?  This will ensure that those who struggle the most will continue to be left behind.

To learn more about the rights that Secretary Duncan discussed today and to find other resources for parents and families, visit the Department’s Family and Community Engagement page. And, consider joining Secretary Duncan in a Twitter chat to continue the dialogue about parent involvement in education on July 1 at 1:30 p.m., ET, using #PTChat.

I hope ALL parents join that Twitter party.  I will get a lot of parents to come to that fiesta.  I hope you seriously answer the questions your advisors tell you “don’t answer that question” if you are serious about wanting parent engagement.

This was written by Tiffany Taber and can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/blog/2015/06/the-critical-voice-of-parents-in-education-2/

Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Final Report

After months of hard work, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee issued its final report today.  This mammoth 204 page report has many suggestions based on interviews, research and community input.  Please read the below report.  I will post my own thoughts in an update on this article after I have read through the entire report.

 

Message From The DE ACLU In Wake Of Wilmington City Council Vote To Ban New Charter Schools

The Delaware American Civil Liberties Union has put out a message to all citizens of Delaware following the vote by the Wilmington City Council to ban all new charter schools in the City of Wilmington last Thursday night.  Nancy Willing, of Delaware Way, has written the following:

Any parent in the state of Delaware who has experienced problems getting their child into a charter school or keeping a child in a charter school should contact the ACLU of Delaware! http://www.aclu-de.org/. The ACLU’s resegregation lawsuit is focusing on the actionable classes of either special needs or minority children but I would think they’d be interested in the testimony of any parent whose child was denied admission to a public charter school.

Sad to say, I know far too many people who should probably check this out if they haven’t already…

Guest Blog by Sue Ward, Special Education Teacher, re: Damage Done To Teachers & Students With Disabilities, Low-Income & Minorities @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @usedgov @DeStateBoardEd #netde #eduDE

This is my (Sue Enos Ward’s) story, and the reasons I cannot sit back and watch Common Core take over.  I grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont when I was a teenager. I attended Lyndon State College in VT and obtained a BS in Education, BA in Liberal Arts and an AS in Communications. Before I graduated college I had over 1,000 hours of time in the classroom observing, assisting and actually teaching.

When I graduated I moved back to MA where I taught in a preschool, then became an assistant teacher in the classroom to work with special education students. I then became the teacher of a first-grade classroom. Looking back they are some of my favorite memories. One of the reasons those memories stand out was because I knew I was making a difference. I was doing it RIGHT! I was taught in college to avoid worksheets as much as possible, to get students involved in rich experiential learning, to get them to use critical thinking skills while incorporating things like social studies, hands-on learning and cooperative learning. As every teacher knows, every classroom has students that are at very different levels. I spent hours upon hours making sure that lessons, activities and independent activities were available to each student’s ability. It is A LOT of work, but it can be done.

When students were finished with their work and while I was working with different leveled reading groups, the students that finished their work knew where to find their challenge activity (for higher-level learners) or some of those higher-level learners knew how to be a peer-buddy and check on a student or read with a student that may need some extra help. I made sure that each and every student was taught our “system” so they knew how to be independent learners, working on lessons “at their own developmental level.” I used to take a minute sometimes and just sit back and observe the room. The buzzing sound of the students quietly knowing what to do, working together or independently, running like clock-work. They were happy. I was happy. They were learning and discovering and developing social skills, working at a pace and level that challenged them but did not frustrate them. I took pride in that creation, that rhythm we developed as a class. There was and will never be anything that gives me that same feeling. I taught passionately and found fulfillment in my craft. When I think about how amazing that system was, my eyes water.

Fast forward 10 years. I now live in FL. I have an 8-year-old son in the school system. I am still in education but in a different field. I’m still working with students but they are at the college level with learning disabilities. The feeling that I get when working with the students is similar but it’s not the same. My absolute favorite part is that I know this facility (Beacon College) is teaching these students at their individual levels and providing strategies and accommodations so that they can be effective and active learners. We are free from being mandated to teach the Common Core curriculum or any other “boxed” curriculum for that matter.

My son, his school, and most schools in 46 states are being taught through the Common Core curriculum. The curriculum’s original intent was for states to all be working on the same curriculum so that if a student were to move from one state to another, there would be no gap. I understand the intent. I would even understand the states implementing the same standards. But what I don’t understand is how their reading lessons, writing lessons and math lessons can all be written out for every single school, for each day for a year, for each grade. Not only are the younger students reading passages that are inappropriately long, they include inappropriate concepts such as the Vietnam War with lists of facts that involve a child to have abstract operational thinking. At age 8, they are still in the concrete operational developmental stage. If a true educator had written the story, he/she would have known that. What does that say about the validity of the writers of this curriculum?

It’s a one-size-fits-all curriculum that allows no extra time, it does not let the teacher provide any sort of background knowledge about what he or she is about to read. Every Friday, the students are given TWO different 2-page, “cold reads”, each with a test with 10 questions per test. Some of the questions have nothing to do with the story, but about how words and language meaning relate to other meanings in the story. Not only is this a difficult task for a child of this age, how does this help a student with ADHD? Also, as we all know our country is filled with multicultural diversity. After reading the information given on these test, it becomes obvious that the culturally diverse student (especially when it comes to language) will have no way of passing these tests. I will include that the way cultural diversity IS incorporated into this biased curriculum is in stories where the author’s name characters “Ling, Sanchez, and Soo”. Most of the students that may take longer to process information also have difficultly passing these tests.

What this means for culturally diverse students, students from low socio-economic status, special education students and students with learning disabilities is a failing grade, an F, low self-esteem and they should be in the “OTHER” category as they “don’t fit into the perfect little box” that the Common Core Curriculum has created.

There is so much more to talk about as far as the lessons, the assignments, the expectations, etc. but I would be writing for a month. As a former teacher that understands the importance of teaching to all of the different learners in the classroom to make them ALL successful, this curriculum (Federally mandated for each state in the United States) is an educational plague. It is a farce and should actually be illegal.  According to Federal law, the phrase “least restrictive environment” is defined in federal legislation. The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires that children with disabilities be educated “to the maximum extent appropriate” in the “least restrictive environment.” It means that students with disabilities should be “educated with children who are non-disabled; and that special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disabilities is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

I question how the Common Core Curriculum teaches ALL students to the “maximum extent possible” if the curriculum is not even teaching at the developmentally appropriate level. Also, where is Common Core’s “supplementary aids and services” I mean, surely if it is a Federal law to use supplementary aids and services Common Core MUST come with those since it is NOT designed for students with learning disabilities or students in special education.

I’m ready. I can’t sit back for one more minute and watch these children suffer (one being my own). I use an analogy to  people who don’t have a degree in education. I tell them, “Imagine you are a former doctor. And years ago you saw sick patients, you had the magic medicine that cured them when they were sick. When the directions were followed, the medicine was successful. Now, you’ve been away and things have changed. You peer into the medical field to find the magic medicine is NO where to be found and the doctors are using a medicine that keeps the patients sick. But YOU HAVE the medicine’s formula. You’re jumping and screaming, ‘Hey! Over here! I have the medicine that WORKS!’ But no one hears you. Not only does no one hear you, but the entire country is now using the fake stuff that doesn’t even work. THAT’S where I’m at. I’m jumping up and down here when I need to find a way to shout it from the rooftops, to yell it in the ears of the people that CAN change it. If someone can tell me who and how…I’ll even start at the bottom. But it needs to change. I will sacrifice time or whatever it takes and be the voice if others cannot. I am determined to change our children’s future.

-Susan Ward

Editor’s Note: A big thank you to Susan Ward for writing this article.  I admire and respect her for having the courage and determination to write down what so many of us are feeling already.  There are so many of us, but we don’t know how to unite into one voice.  We have to do this before everything we want our children to have with education is lost forever.  There are numerous Facebook groups involved with this endeavor, but we need to ALL join as one: Teachers, parents, students and citizens.  What do we need to do to make this happen?  For a start, I recommend every US Citizen who is opposed to Common Core and standardized tests email, call and talk to their elected officials: State Representatives and Senators, US Reps and Senators, and even President Obama himself.  If nobody speaks, nobody will listen.  Speak from the heart like Susan has, and I have.  If enough of us do it, they will have to listen.

-Kevin Ohlandt