Capital Union President Lied To Every Single Teacher In Capital School District

For the past several months, teachers at Dover High School have been grappling with Covid, remote learning, hybrid learning and the district itself. But it appears their greatest enemy might just be their own union that is supposed to protect teachers.

This past Monday, WDEL had an explosive article about teachers at Dover High School. The news shocked Delaware teachers up and down the state but it didn’t come as a surprise to many. For Leann Ferguson, her actions in reporting the incidents to WDEL were met with mixed results. Many teachers hailed her as a hero for finally reporting things many would not. Others branded her a traitor to the district and Dover High School.

The article dealt mainly with accommodations teachers could get through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how the district responded to those requests. According to the article and Ferguson, one teacher was fired after they were denied an ADA request to the district. The teacher wrote to the board and was summarily terminated the next day with an email from the district indicating their contract was ending before the end of the year.

One teacher, who also requested anonymity for fear of retribution, confirmed to WDEL they initially requested reasonable ADA accommodations to teach remotely. When that request was refused the teacher sent a letter to the Capital School District Board of Education asking for unpaid leave. Instead, they were let go.

The district denies the allegation.

“That is absolutely inaccurate. No one who requested accommodations has been terminated,” said Cooke.

However, WDEL has obtained their request for leave letter, and an email response from the district, dated November 30, 2020, indicating the teacher’s contract would be paid off and their insurance ended. The teacher is considering litigation in the matter.

It seems there is a lot of denial at Dover High School. One of the chief denial makers is a teacher named Lisa Whiteman, the President of the Capital Educators Association. In response to the WDEL article, Whiteman issued a letter to every single teacher at Dover H.S. and for no reason at all, lied about CEA knowing anything about the issues in the article. The full letter can be seen below.

Careful attention should be drawn to the words “Please know CEA had no prior knowledge of the issues brought forth in the article.” This would indicate that they knew absolutely nothing about issues with ADA accommodation issues that teachers were facing. CEA did an investigation into the matter, met with the district, and found the article “to be not completely true in most instances”. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Whiteman lied to every single teacher in the Capital School District in her sad attempt to throw Ferguson under the bus. What does “to be not completely true” even mean? Why didn’t Whiteman address the issues in it that she knew to be true? Whiteman knew. And on more than one occasion.

In an email dated 10/13/2020, from the UniServ Director for the Capital School District, Mike Hoffman, that included Whiteman and Ferguson, it dealt directly with the issues that were mentioned in the article. To understand the matter in it’s full context, I will include Ferguson’s email to Hoffman and others first. As educators do like abbreviations, here is a quick guide: DO = district office, CBA = collective bargaining agreement, CEA – Capital Educators Association

From: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 1:00 PM
To: Hoffmann, Mike [DE] <Mike.Hoffmann@DSEA.org>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>
Subject: [External] Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations

Hello Mike, 

Hope you are well.  We have been hearing from more and more staff members who have serious concerns about the DO handling of a number of issues. This is not new of course but the pandemic appears to have emboldened the DO.  Some staff members believe this amounts to unilaterally rewriting certain aspects of our CBA.  I know you have been contacted regarding the demand to submit lesson plans and the DO disregard for our contract language that specifically prohibits that unless a staff member is on an improvement plan. That issue has not been resolved but we have a far more pressing situation on the horizon.  We have already been contacted by staff members who have submitted the required documentation related to requesting ADA compliant accommodations.  The manner in which the DO is handling this has given rise to a fear that staff members with be subject to disparate treatment under the law.  

We are asking for the support and guidance of the DSEA as we navigate this process. I’m sure you are having similar situations across the state and that the DSEA would want to present a united position on providing protection and support for its membership.  

Staff members who have already submitted medical documentation requesting accommodations have been told by Ms. Cooke that she will contact them individually and discuss each case individually.  None of the staff members we have spoken with have expressed any level of comfort with this.  They do not want to engage with DO unless union support is present during any discussions. Ms. Cooke has also stated (on the record in a recent IAC meeting) that each request for accommodation would be handled individually and that the granting of accommodations would depend on the position of the staff member making the request.  In other words, your request will be granted or denied based on the professional position you hold.  This appears to constitute “disparate treatment” in the eyes of the law.  (EEOC documentation)

I have read the State benefits explanations re: covid benefits and coverages. I have read the EEOC and ADA regulations and recommendations.  We are deeply concerned about the level of discretionary authority afforded a single individual in the DO.  This individual does not hold a medical degree and appears to be making unilateral decisions about risk exposure and notification of affected staff.  (See her recent response to my letter of concern re: notification of potential staff exposure to Covid 19.

We have seen a pattern of disregarding the CEA CBA from the DO.  We are truly in uncharted territory here and we believe we would be best served by engaging in a formal, transparent process to develop acceptable MOU’s to address these very important protections for our members.  The conduct and commentary from the DO is clear on one point only; their primary objective is to protect the DO, NOT the staff.  Ms. Cooke has stated on more than one occasion that the DO will not accept any liability for exposure to covid, that WC coverage would not be applied and would be “difficult to prove”, and that the DO will be making ALL decisions unilaterally as to who will be afforded “reasonable accommodations” and who will not.  The DO has indicated that they will attempt to do this by aggressively interpreting and applying HIPAA.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule states the following: “A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well-being.” 

So far, the DO actions have protected the DO without transparency and consideration for the “public’s health and well-being”.  We believe this level of discretionary authority at the DO level has created tremendous risks for the health, safety, and financial well-being of protected members of the CEA.  We are asking for your guidance and support as we proceed.  

I would be happy to discuss these concerns in more detail. You can reach me via cell at your convenience.   

Thank you very much. 

Best Regards, 
Leann H. Ferguson 

In Hoffman’s reply to Ferguson he not only included Whiteman but also mentioned her name in the email and the act of setting up a meeting with her to discuss the issues that eventually led to the WDEL article this week:

From: Hoffmann, Mike [DE] <Mike.Hoffmann@DSEA.org>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 2:01 PM
To: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>
Subject: [External] RE: Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations 

Good afternoon,

I understand and appreciate your concerns.  There are questions being raised in other districts as well around ADA accommodations.  I am in consult with our attorney on these concerns and have been directed to obtain any denial of the accommodations in writing.  I do agree that a lot of power, when it comes to deciding who gets what accommodations has been given the HR departments.   The accommodations are there to address the ability of a person to carry out their job without the accommodations.  This would be different depending on what that job is and the duties needed to successfully carry out the job. We need to have data on who has requested accommodations and the result of that request.  I would like to set up a meeting with you and TH along with Lisa Whiteman to discuss the concerns.  If there are contract violations that need to be addressed with MOU’s let’s talk about them.  I would certainly encourage anyone that is having a conversation with Mary Cooke about the request for accommodations, ask that there be a representative present.  I am available to attend these meetings if needed.

She does not have to grant that request but lets see how that plays out.  CEA has a meeting tomorrow and I will bring your concerns up, and talk with Lisa about setting up a meeting with you and TH.  I appreciate your advocacy for a safe working environment for you, the students and your colleagues.

Mike Hoffmann

DSEA UniServ Director

If Hoffman knew about these issues as an employee of the Delaware State Education Association it should be assumed folks at DSEA were brought up to speed with the ADA issues with Capital teachers. But this cannot be verified at the time of this writing. But what is very troublesome is the fact that Whiteman denied any knowledge of these issues and then compounded on this lie by collaborating with the Capital School District officials in an “investigation” she herself knew was completely true.

To add insult to injury, the issue was addressed again in an email exchange between Whiteman and Ferguson on November 4th, 2020:

From: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 8:11 PM
To: Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>; mike.hoffmann@dsea.org <mike.hoffmann@dsea.org>
Subject: Advocacy Concerns Greetings,
 

Would you please advise as to what CEA leadership actions are being taken to address the many unresolved concerns of staff members?  As we attempt to safely navigate many challenges, we have been waiting for communication from CEA Leadership as to advocacy actions on behalf of the membership.  Will you be addressing these unresolved concerns at the Board of Education meeting tomorrow night?  Some of the issues that remain unresolved are unknown numbers of students (the DO policy of allowing any student “on the bus”)increasing numbers of people in the building at any point in time, lack of an enforceable policy of mask wearing for all students, cleaning of surfaces contacted by food, inconsistent communication from the DO regarding covid positive notifications(this makes contact tracing nearly useless if the DO has discretion on who gets notified) and last but certainly not least, the inflexibility of the DO in addressing staff accommodations requests, forcing many to choose between their health and safety or their livelihoods. These and many more issues affect all of us. 

The covid case numbers are rising everywhere.  The CEA membership deserves to have clear, consistent and transparent plans for successfully reopening our classrooms. The members need to have copies of the DPH and CDC guidance the DO says it is following including all District procedures demonstrating full compliance with CDC and DPH recommendations. The safety and well-being of the staff and students should be the most important factor as we proceed forward.  

Thank you for your consideration.  

Best Regards, 
Leann H. Ferguson Dover High School Social Studies Dept. 

Whiteman responded to Ferguson and very directly discussed the district response to ADA issues.

From: Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, November 4, 2020 8:57 AM
To: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>; mike.hoffmann@dsea.org <mike.hoffmann@dsea.org>
Subject: Re: Advocacy Concerns Hello Leann,

Thank you for voicing your concerns.  

There are answers to each one of them which will be shared below.  

Information has come out from DO (town hall, HR emails)as to what to do next when a member has concerns about: coming back because of personal/health issues, what the district is using to clean (schedules/product ingredient lists), discipline when students are not adhering to the mask-wearing policy and having any student “on the bus” and enter the school, even when they’re not on the list to come in to the school building.

Realizing that you as a district employee and a CEA member and still don’t know the answers means that communication was not given enough times or in multiple ways to reach all appropriate audiences. For that, I apologize, and have taken steps to hopefully remedy the situation.

One step taken is that  I have asked the DO to put answers to all of these in some type of written communication for all members to benefit from the information.  If they choose not to, I have offered to create MOUs to put these procedures in writing.

I have also reached out to a board member to see if I can even approach them with questions for tonight…but am unsure as to how to go about it as this is a “work session”.  If I am able to, I certainly will. Clear and consistent communication is what I see is our weakest link with the DO now…specifically how word is getting out to all the employees in mass distribution.  The district has had emails go out via the HR department and from Paul Dunford and most recently a Town Hall.  I was very supportive of the Town Hall as it seemed to answer a lot of the questions being asked of me by the entire membership, including some that you inquired about.

Specifically, until that “written form” happens, my answers will mirror the response to Mr. Lewis yesterday, that you were also included:

Personal/Health concerns about coming back: Accommodations requests are at the discretion of the employer. The union has no interaction with that.  It’s about being ADA compliant according to the law. Mrs. Cooke has continued to meet with individuals and sometimes with our UNISERV rep, Mike, who is also on this email. She’s offered information on accommodations to keep teachers safe and has asked them to bring them to their doctor to see if that is appropriate for individual cases.  I believe in this case, the members have been and continue to be supported.

Cleaning (schedules/product ingredient lists): It was stated in the Town Hall that a list of the product ingredients used in the disinfecting of the schools is available via the chief custodian and your building principal and will be given to you when requested. Cleaning schedules are set by the building administrator and will be communicated to you via the building administrator. I believe in this case, we are also supporting our members by making this information available.

Non-compliance of mask wearing policy: It was stated first at the board meeting and then again at the town hall that there is a progressive discipline process where 2 documented forms of redirection/re-education will need to happen, then a mandatory administrative meeting with the student and parent, then the student would be sent home to have the only option of learning as “virtual”. In this case, I believe the membership is being supported in the area of safety.

Accepting all students who attempt to “board the bus”: It was stated at the board meeting, but not sure it was at the town hall, that no student will be turned away.  It was stated that it was a far greater concern for the safety of the child, who if turned away, may not have adequate supervision if left at the stop.  So, the next step that was mentioned was that the student (who because of the way the bus seating is set up) would board the bus, remain socially distant, and then be greeted by adminstration/designee at the school, held at the office or a designated space and admin would contact the parent, or keep the student safe, under their care, keeping the socially distant requirements of the CDC in the building. In this case, I believe the members are being supported in the area of safety, while still holding the accountability of safety of the students on the DO’s shoulders.

Again, thank you for reaching out and sharing your concerns.  It is my intent to increase the clarity of communication from the district to the membership.

Lisa Whiteman

Teacher & Educational Diagnostician

William Henry Middle School

Capital School District

Whiteman’s assertion that the union, including CEA and DSEA has NO involvement with ADA issues seems to be contradictory. Why did Mike Hoffman attend a meeting with Capital School District’s Human Resources Director Mary Cooke covering ADA Interactive Processes?

In multiple Capital School District Board of Education meetings in 2020, Cooke and Director of Instruction Paul Dunford told the board the district expects teacher losses. By playing games with ADA requests, it seems the district is cherry-picking who they can give ADA accommodations to. They are accepting certain requests and not others. Which is highly illegal.

The heart of the ADA matter involves the law around it. In the case with the teacher that was terminated, the teacher provided the letter from their physician which explicitly said the teacher should not be doing in-person learning. By ADA law that is all the district needed to honor the ADA request. But instead they denied that request and asked for additional medical information which, according to the ADA, is also against the law to ask for more information. So why would a school district, which is expecting teacher losses, mess around with a federal law? Did they think they were above the law?

In the case of the terminated teacher, they did what they thought they should based on all the guidance they received from the school district and in compliance with ADA law. They went to their doctor, received a doctor’s note for the ADA request. They issued it to district human resources and was denied their request and told they had to provide more medical information. Because the teacher was already in full compliance with the requirements set forth by ADA law, they did not obtain the illegal request for more medical information in violation of ADA law. They then wrote a letter to the Capital Board of Education on 11/27/2020 requesting an FLMA absence and instead of an answer from the Board they received an email from the District on 11/30/2020 stating the following:

I wanted to let you know that we will be paying off your contract on the 12/18/20 check. Also, you will not have insurance after today. You will receive COBRA information in the mail. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

I’m not an attorney but I know enough to know this was indeed a termination with a slew of labor law issues, including violations with ADA, Equal Employment Oppurtunity Commission (EEOC) and the actual Capital Educators Association Collective Bargaining Agreement that the district is bound to.

Getting back to Whiteman’s letter to the entire union membership of Capital School District teachers, I would really like to know what her “investigation” with the district consisted of considering she already knew about the ADA issues going on with teachers. In addition, why is Whiteman telling teachers to go to the district office when there is already an issue with ADA accommodation requests? If she wants to claim ignorance on the issue why did she not seek guidance set forth by the National Education Association (NEA)? Did she not understand how her own union works?

These are my questions: What is the level of collusion between the CEA leadership team and the Capital School District? Why is Whiteman, who is supposed to work with teachers, working with Mary Cooke, who has already proven she knows how to break multiple labor laws, to clarify ADA issues in a WDEL article that Whiteman herself already knew about? It isn’t like the NEA gave specific guidance on this issue, right? Oh wait, they did, as seen below:

What is the district going to do about their HR Director, Mary Cooke, in the face of all this? How much did Interim Superintendent Dr. Sylvia Henderson know about this? If the CEA President would lie about a WDEL article that she wasn’t even mentioned in how much can the teachers of the Capital School District trust their union leadership? Has this situation played out in other Delaware school districts with ADA requests during the pandemic? Why are teacher losses even an acceptable scenario with district officials at Capital? Why would they speed up that process by terminating a teacher that did everything they were supposed to do? Which leads to a more fundamental question and the biggest of them all: what are teacher unions doing if they don’t protect and support the teachers who need them the most?

This article was not an easy one for me to write. I support a lot of the same things the teacher unions do. We have stood in unison at Legislative Hall supporting legislation through public comment. I have fought for teachers in this state more times than I can count. But what I cannot abide is any supposed union leader turning their back on a fellow educator and throwing them under the bus the way Whiteman did to Ferguson. Teachers in Delaware pay roughly $750 a year for membership in the teachers union. For teachers like Ferguson and the Capital teacher that was terminated they might as well throw that money away because their union failed them.

In full disclosure, my son attends the Capital School District. Nothing in this article is a reflection of my personal experiences with the district. Until this week, with the exception of Mike Hoffman, I never heard of the educators mentioned in this article as well as the WDEL article. If this were about any other district in this state, with the information provided, I would be writing about the exact same thing. This is about a deadly pandemic affecting our state and teachers are scared. When districts use those fears against teachers it is time for rampant change that has to happen now. When the very same teachers union that is supposed to advocate AND protect teachers turns their back it is incumbent upon the teachers union to re-examine what they stand for.

While Whiteman’s actions are deplorable in this situation there are a great deal of lessons to be learned here. Education isn’t just for students. All too often the adults involved need to be schooled as well. It takes extreme bravery for a teacher like Leann Ferguson to do what she did. She approached her union multiple times for guidance and assistance. The responses she received, given the preponderance of evidence which indicated Mary Cooke broke the law, were not sufficient. Her moral conscience demanded she do more for the educators in her district. It wasn’t for personal gain or fame. It was to help those who needed help. Which is more than the teachers union President at Capital did. I support a teachers union that does the right thing. Not the farce Whiteman has turned it into.

If we are going to fix education in Delaware it starts in our schools. There are far too many players involved for these silly power games to be going on. It is, and always should be, about the students first. Teachers second. But our schools are run by bureaucracies that don’t seem to realize that very simple attitude. It is about power and ego. Arrogance and stupidity. Teachers want to teach and the less bureaucracy they have in their way the more students will learn. It isn’t rocket science.

Charter School of Wilmington Teachers Vote To Unionize And Join DSEA

Last night, Charter School of Wilmington teachers made a huge vote.  They became the only current charter school in Delaware to join the Delaware State Education Association.  As such, they will be a part of the National Education Association as well.  This opens the door for other charter schools to unionize in the future.  Often, when one domino falls…

The vote was not won by an overwhelming majority but enough for it to pass.  I’ve been hard on DSEA and NEA recently but that was because of very unique and limited circumstances.  That was a case of bad apples in the bunch and perception.  Even with that, I do support the unions and see them as a last defense against education reform that is bad for schools.  This CSW vote changes the landscape in Delaware.

I’ve heard rumblings about severe dissatisfaction with CSW leader Sam Paoli for months now.  Nobody wanted to go on the record though.  A teacher was terminated in the Winter over a minor disagreement with Paoli.  Many claim he rules the school with an iron fist and teachers, parents, and students are against this dictatorship.  By unionizing, these teachers regain some sense of control over their job security.  The CSW board is not elected so it allowed Paoli to run around unchecked.

There have been other charter schools in Delaware that have looked into unionizing but this is the first to actually do it.  Last summer, teachers at Providence Creek Academy wanted to but you must have at least 50% of the vote in favor of it.

More information as it becomes available.

Updated, 10:50am: This is not the first time a Delaware charter school joined DSEA.  Positive Outcomes did many years ago but it only lasted a year.

Project Veritas Hits Ohio Teacher Unions, More Cover-Ups Of Student Abuse By Teachers

First it was New Jersey, then Michigan. Now Ohio is the latest state to show situations where teacher union officials and Presidents would cover up teacher abuses and not report it. But so many have been telling me the guy in NJ was a solo act. Uh-huh..

As I projected when I started writing about these videos last Friday, I would lose friends. Folks would be mad at me. If someone wants to blow a friendship over this they were never a friend to begin with. Folks seem perfectly okay with trying to downplay this because it is Project Veritas. Sorry, if there is blood in the water does it really matter how someone found it?

When a union President explains that he has protected teachers in a physical abuse against students 80 times in his career, over an eight-year time span, that is very alarming. But let’s continue to blame Project Veritas for getting this news out.

To date, neither the Delaware State Education Association or the National Education Association has issued press releases disavowing this type of activity of union activity around the country.  NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia seems to think students should feel safe in school in regards to school shootings but she is silent on the issue of these videos.  A bit of a pickle you are in right about now Lily.  This is starting to remind me of the Catholic priests scandal.  How widespread are these issues?  How many more videos have to come out before the NEA says something?

“Every child has the right to feel safe and be safe at school, and every parent has the right to know their neighborhood schools are safe places to send their children.” -Lily Eskelsen Garcia

So I will challenge the Delaware State Education Association and their local affiliates to answer this question: Have you ever protected a teacher in a physical or sexual abuse situation and not reported it to the proper authorities or the school?  Have you ever turned a situation where a student was made out to be an aggressor when you knew it was the teacher?

Who Protects Kids When Teacher Unions Won’t? The DSEA and NEA Response To Shocking Video Is Horrendous!

Project Veritas released a video on May 2nd about a teacher union president that clearly shows him admitting the union will lie and manipulate to protect a teacher in a student abuse situation.  The responses from the union president are shocking.  Even more shocking are the responses from the Delaware State Education Association and the National Education Association to help members deal with this video. I am putting the video up which you can see below. Continue reading

Final U.S. DOE Regulations For ESSA Accountability Leave Same Bad Test, Shame, & Punish Policies & No Changes On Opt Out

The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law.  Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of.  We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing.  We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools.  We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix.  Nothing has changed.  Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place.  Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere.  I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.

One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans.  Now they are April 3rd and September 18th.  Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st.  The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).

So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?

In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.

And what about opt-out?  Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  Yeah right!

To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.

This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package.  And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago.  You reap what you sow!

Trump Picks Betsy DeVos For U.S. Secretary of Education: Let The Privatizing And Union Busting Begin

Out of all the people President Donald Trump could have picked for the United States Secretary of Education, why did it have to be Betsy DeVos?  She supports Common Core, hates teacher unions, loves school choice, vouchers, and more of the same corporate education reform crap we’ve had to deal with in education for the past 15 years.  She supports Right To Work laws, which she helped get through in Michigan.  Her family is the heir to the Amway Corporation.  The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation started their own charter school in 2014, the West Michigan Aviation Academy.  That’s all we need, is one of… them.  Someone with big money thinking school choice and vouchers are the answers to everything.  So much for Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core.  He is a liar.  But I am not shocked.

As for the unions, this is going to be a looooong four years for them.  According to Detroit News :

Speaking in July during a school choice forum at the Republican National Convention in Ohio, DeVos accused teachers unions of holding back innovation in education and called them “a formidable foe” at both state and national levels.

Both NEA and AFT should have picked Bernie Sanders in their endorsement for President.  They jumped on the Hillary train and look where they are now?  If they thought they had a tough time under President Obama, they haven’t seen anything yet!  I have no doubt there will be some serious meetings for both organizations in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, every charter school cheerleader is probably doing cartwheels alongside the private school voucher advocates.  Public education will not know what hit them.  Meanwhile, we have Diane Ravitch backtracking on an earlier article she put up this week where she actually endorsed DeVos.  She thought people would see it as a joke, but apparently they didn’t.  A little too late Diane!  Thanks for that…

 

Parent, Education, and Privacy Groups Oppose Overturning The Ban On A Federal Student Database

Leonie Haimson, the co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, allowed me to share a press release issued by today by the following groups: Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, American Civil Liberties Union, Network for Public Education and NPE Action, Parents Across America, Badass Teachers Association, and New York State Allies for Public Education.

This morning a letter was sent to the federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking from parent groups, education advocates, and privacy experts, urging them against proposing that the ban on a centralized federal database of student personal data be overturned. 

Recently, several DC-based groups testified before the Commission, urging that this ban be lifted, which was established by Congress as part of the Higher Education Act in 2008.  The Gates Foundation has also announced that the creation of a centralized federal database to track students from preK through college, the workforce and beyond is one of their top advocacy priorities for 2017.

In the letter, parent, privacy and education organizations warned that eliminating this ban would risk that highly sensitive information would breached, as has occurred with sensitive data held by many federal agencies in recent years.  A hack into the Office of Personal Management released personnel records of about 22.1 million individuals. More recently, an audit of the US Department of Education found serious security flaws in their data systems, and a government security scorecard awarded the agency an overall grade of D.

Moreover, K-12 student data currently collected by states that would potentially be incorporated in the federal database often include upwards of 700 specific personal data elements, including students’ immigrant status, disabilities, disciplinary records, and homelessness. Data collected ostensibly for the sole purpose of research would likely be merged with other federal agency data and could include information from their census, military service, tax returns, criminal and health records.

Said Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, whose members led the fight against inBloom, designed to capture and share the personal student data of nine states and districts, “A centralized federal database containing the personal data of every public-school student would pose an even greater risk to individual privacy than inBloom.  It would allow the government to create dossiers on nearly every United States resident over time, and if breached or abused would cause immeasurable damage.”

As privacy advocates in England recently discovered, the personal information in a similar national student database that the government promised would be used only for research purposes has been secretly requested by the police and by the Home Office, in part to identify and locate undocumented children and their families.

“Our disastrous data privacy situation here in England should serve to warn Americans of the grave dangers of this sort of comprehensive student surveillance and database. The personal confidential information in our National Pupil Database was supposed to be used only for research, but we found out recently that data on thousands of students and their families has been secretly requested by the police and for the purposes of immigration control in just the last 15 months. It would be unwise and irresponsible for the United States to create a similar database, which can so easily be used for political purposes which are not in all children’s best interests,” said Jen Persson, coordinator of defenddigitalme, a privacy and digital rights group in the UK.

Chad Marlow, Advocacy& Policy Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “Improving educational opportunities for children and protecting student privacy are not mutually exclusive goals.  In fact, it is our responsibility as parents, educators, and Americans to doggedly pursue both objectives.  Creating any type of centralized database for personally identifiable student data would pose real and significant risks to the privacy of America’s students, and that is why such databases have consistently been rejected in the past.  With education policy, as with privacy, ‘do no harm’ is a reasonable place to start, and here, doing no harm clearly requires rejecting any attempts to establish a universal database that compiles and tracks students’ most sensitive information.”

Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education and NPE Action pointed out, “Whether Democrat or Republican, the one thing parents agree on is the importance of their child’s privacy. To allow the federal government to collect personal and sensitive data on every public-school student in the nation risks that this information would be misused by the government and corporations. “

“Parents Across America opposes any effort to establish a national student record system. Ever since the federal government weakened protections for student privacy, parents have been in a crisis mode. Our children are exposed every school day to a growing mish-mash of screen devices and online programs that capture mountains of their data. We know that the threat to privacy will only get worse if there’s a national record system; education profiteers will line up to tap into an even more convenient source of private student information. But we are determined not to let that happen to our children’s data,” said Julie Woestehoff, Interim Executive Director of Parents Across America.

Lisa Rudley, Executive Director of the NY State Allies for Public Education, observed, “Data collection and sharing of our children’s personally identifiable information should require a parent’s informed consent. Just because the technology of data mining is here, it doesn’t mean children’s privacy rights should be sacrificed.”

“Our children and their families deserve protection of their data.  More importantly, we must understand that protecting our children relies upon protecting their personal information from breach or abuse,” concluded Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the Badass Teachers Association.

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking is accepting public comment on this matter until December 14, 2016. For more information, visit the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy website here: http://www.studentprivacymatters.org/federaldatasystem/

####

I certainly hope the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association add similar public comments to this massive plan of Bill Gates…

President Donald Trump Promised To Dump Common Core, Hillary Clinton Never Said The Words

I truly thought Hillary Clinton was going to win yesterday.  The thought of either of them winning didn’t sit well with me.  But there is one key factor in this election that no one is talking about.  Common Core.  Those two toxic words that most states in this country wish they never adopted.  In my state of Delaware, we are one of the many “blue” states that voted Clinton in.  In looking at the maps, many of the states that have the Smarter Balanced Assessment and are considered to be big corporate education reform states voted for Hillary tonight.

Look at the states Hillary won that belong to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.  She lost other SBAC states like Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia.  I wouldn’t count those Hillary losses as “power players” in the corporate education reform movement.  But many of the states she won are smack dab in the middle of it.  Other states she won include other big “power players” such as Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York.  She lost Florida but that is Jeb Bush corporate education reform territory.  Trump also won Tennessee but I attribute that victory more to this being a southern state.  As of this writing, Michigan is still too close to call.  While I have always seen corporate education reform as bi-partisan, many of the states that have been most affected by Common Core in the form of huge accountability stakes for standardized tests and horrible teacher evaluation systems based on those tests voted for the very same woman who didn’t say the words Common Core during her campaign.

Donald made it one of his campaign platforms that he would dump Common Core.  Which would, by default, drastically change the very nature of state assessments but also the SAT which was revamped to the standards.  While Hillary has gone on record stating that Common Core was poorly implemented, she never made it a part of her campaign.  In fact, she didn’t make education a major part of her campaign at all.  Which is ironic given how much of the corporate education reform movement she has been connected with.  Especially through the Clinton Foundation.  One of her first objectives once Bill Clinton became the Governor of Arkansas was to hold schools more “accountable” back in the 1980s.  An accounting of this attempt at education reform in Arkansas was detailed in an article in Politico in April 2015.

But an article in The Weekly Standard showed me how very similar Hillary Clinton and Delaware Governor Jack Markell really are:

It’s clear from their statements at the time that the Clintons understood the importance of improving Arkansas schools. Bill Clinton argued that with factory jobs going overseas, the state could no longer rely on manufacturing and needed a more skilled workforce. But Arkansas students were scoring poorly on national exams.

That sounds almost exactly like the propaganda Delawareans have been subjected to by Markell.  But Hillary Clinton’s education initiative began in 1983.  Funny how the arguments for those who want greater accountability tend to blame it on low test scores and a need for a “skilled workforce”.  Like many states since, Arkansas went through new tests over the years back then and the results were abysmal for students.  As well, the Clintons wanted teachers to take skills tests to weed out the bad teachers.  They never went ahead with this after the National Education Association refused to endorse Bill Clinton for Governor twice in the 1980s.  Hillary made amends with the NEA when Bill ran for President in 1992 and they have fervently endorsed her ever since, much to the chagrin of their union members across the country.

The impossible happened tonight.  The popular vote was tight, but the electoral map told a different tale.  This is a new reality we will face in the next four years.  It is what it is.  On the plus side, I think we can safely rule out Jack Markell as the next United States Secretary of Education which was one of my greatest fears with Hillary winning.  I imagine many Americans are freaking out right now.  Trump is going to have to emerge from his past and transform himself if he ever wants any sense of credibility.  His victory speech was very humble and he hit a lot of the right notes.  I am still in complete and utter shock that I am writing the words President Trump.

At the end of a very long day stretching into the wee hours of a new day, part of me would like to think Trump’s promise of dumping Common Core resonated with many voters.  But at the end of the day, Americans wanted change.  At least over half of them did.  The conversations Americans thought they would have today are vastly different.

Will a Trump presidency be able to put a halt to very destructive education policy that began in Arkansas during that very hot summer of 1983?  When the parents of today’s students were still in school?  Before some of them were even born?  Will it end the long saga that kicked into high gear with the 1992 “Dear Hillary” letter from Marc Tucker?  This is something I would very much like to talk to Donald Trump about.  And you better believe every single state Department of Education is going to be scrambling on their Every Student Succeeds Act drafts tomorrow.  Sometimes you just have to find the silver lining in things.

An Open Letter To NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Dear Lily Eskelsen Garcia,

As President of the National Education Association, I am very curious why the NEA Foundation accepts money from the Gates Foundation. While that foundation does have some very noble projects going on with health issues in Africa, they also have some very disturbing things that have caused serious disruption in public education.  I can’t remotely fathom how anything even associated with the largest teachers union in the country would want anything to do with the Gates Foundation.

Gates and all the other foundations that support corporate education reform want to bust the teachers unions. They want to privatize education and make schools 21st Century community learning centers.  Everything the NEA stands for will eventually crumble to dust.  Gone will be a teacher instructing a class.  Instead, they will get training on how to guide students on their 1:1 devices.

I am not a teacher. I’m a parent.  I understand NEA is about teachers.  But lately, at least in terms of leadership, it seems like those leaders are all about themselves and their personal quest for power.  It isn’t even about the teachers anymore.  If I were a teacher, I would consider it a slap in the face knowing NEA actually collaborates with these entities.

I can only assume you are well-connected with these organizations and know exactly what they are planning. As an education blogger, I’ve written about it as have many others.  The writing is on the wall but you seem to be worried about that one tiny corner in the room with a tiny cobweb.  At least that’s what you tell your membership.  I find it abhorrent you would sell out those who elected you.

But what I find even more bizarre is the buzzwords coming out of NEA and all these education organizations pretending they know what is best for children. If you are following the corporate mantras then you lost touch with what is best for kids a long time ago.  This makes you, NEA leadership, and the NEA Foundation a part of the problem, not a hope for a solution.

When I first began blogging over two years ago, I soon find myself rooting for teachers. I joined the Badass Teachers Facebook page and began to see how all of this affected teachers.  But I find myself wondering why the supposed leadership of teachers is getting in bed with companies that want to destroy you and your membership.

I would like you to explain this. Not for me, but for the hundreds of thousands of teachers who elected you as President of the NEA.  Also for the students who are under the care of teachers for 1/3rd of their life until they graduate high school.

I understand many will take offense to this very open and public letter to you. But I also know what is coming up in the very near future, based on the seeds planted by the privatizers of education.  You keep watering those plants and they will weed out what is left of public education.  I warned you and AFT about jumping on the Every Student Succeeds Act and begging your membership to support it before the final legislation came out.  That law will destroy NEA and the American Federation of Teachers.

You seem more concerned with Donald Trump lately than the very real danger facing teachers as every state in the country submits their ESSA state plans. It doesn’t matter who the next President of this country is.  Our national government sold their souls to corporations and foundations a long time ago.  This is all just distraction so they can get their final pieces in play. I suppose that is why the NEA Foundation is actually helping to fund all these ed tech conferences and global future forums.  It is complete nonsense and they are taking teachers money and investing it in what will replace them.  Doesn’t that bother you in the slightest?

In my viewpoint, this is like the snake giving you the apple. But you don’t just take a bite out of it, you start taking tons of apples, begin making apple pies, and sell them for the snake.  It is just wrong.  If you can’t look out for teachers and their future, please step down.  And for those who are also subscribed to these viewpoints in NEA and AFT, you should step down as well.  The price for teachers and students is too big to have power brokers dancing with the devil.  I’m sure the viewpoint of parents is the last thing on your mind, but we are sick and tired of those who think they know what is best for our children but are selling them out behind the scenes.  You seem to forget that today’s students are tomorrow’s teachers.  What you do to them now will make sure NEA will become an archived post on Wikipedia that gets less readers by the year.

If you want our schools to become personalized learning competency-based career tracking community schools of the future, where students have no privacy and everything is catalogued while they earn to learn, then please, go work for a cyber charter school. If not, then please detach from any corporation that wants to destroy what you lead.  Only then will I truly believe you have teachers best interests in mind.  Your job should be leading teachers away from this madness, not embracing it.

 

Sincerely,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

 

Why Is The NEA Foundation Funding Crap Like The Global Education Forum In October?

For that matter, why is the National Education Association Foundation sponsoring any company or event along with companies that will eventually destroy the teaching profession as we know it?  I want to make very clear that the NEA Foundation is separate from the NEA.  Many members in the NEA are not happy with the NEA Foundation and how they co-mingle with corporate education reformers.

For the NEA Foundation, they have their own sponsors.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AT&T, Bank Of America, Horace Mann, and, of course, the NEA itself.  Those are the funders in the “Genius Level”.  I don’t see a lot of genius involved in taking money from a foundation that pushed Common Core and its nasty little assessments along with funding tons of other foundations for seed money to incubate more charter schools.

The Global Education Forum in Philadelphia on October 13th-15th is an ed tech wonderland.  All the companies that just love all this new technology taking over classrooms will be pimping their wares at this conference for sure!  The conference is run by the appropriately named Global Education Conference.  Their sponsors include Google Education and a whole host of ed tech and assessment companies.  It looks like anyone can be on their global advisory board which looks like the Olympics for personalized learning.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind everyone that the President of the NEA sits on this foundation, Lily Eskelsen Garcia.  To me, this is like when the National PTA called out the Delaware PTA for supporting a parent’s right to opt out.  It goes against everything they stand for to not only support, but also fund all the ed tech and corporate education reform.  They aren’t only sitting at the table, they are openly helping to buy the table.  NEA needs new leadership.  You can’t have it both ways Lily.  Unless you are somehow profiting from all this…  Stop selling out teachers!

Equity Is Not The Same As Equality, But Equity Does Not Mean Online Digital Education For All

Just in case anyone was wondering why “equity” is such a big word these days…

The term is being hijacked by the US DOE and corporate education reformers with the Every Student Succeeds Act…

Everyone is talking about equity these days…

But what it is supposed to mean and what the corporate education reformers want it to mean are two different things…

Equity means those with more needs get more resources…

Equity means charter schools can’t cherry-pick students…

Equity means the people decide what is equitable, not the corporations and foundations…

Equity means recognizing the very same corporations and foundations that created situations that are inequitable now want to talk about equity…

Be very wary of the word equity during Every Student Succeeds Act discussions at a state level…

I have many friends who live and breathe the word equity in its true meaning by they are being lured in like a mouse to a cat…

For those who truly want equity, fight for it, but do not make our children puppets for corporate profit…

True equity can happen now, not in some World’s Fair vision of the smart cities of tomorrow…

Competency-Based Education and Personalized Learning, whether it is flipped, blended, or personalized, is not equity, it is greed…

The ed tech poverty pimps have no more grasp of the word equity than they do education…

Their equity created turnaround schools and high-stakes tests…

Their equity disrespects educators and parents who stand up for their students and children…

Equity does not equal technology profits for those who prophet…

When it comes to children, all lives matter, those who are minority, special education, English Language learners, low-income, poverty, talented & gifted, or the average student, they all deserve equity in its purest form…

To truly understand equity, you need to read every single below link to understand their equity is not the same thing…

http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-awards-more-65-million-grants-help-schools-and-communities-promote-equity-education

https://maec.org/our_work/educational-equity/

https://maec.org/res/e-learning/

http://www.competencyworks.org/about/who-we-are/

http://www.inacol.org/symposium/program-presenters/keynote-speakers/

http://www.inacol.org/symposium/2016-sponsors/

http://www.inacol.org/resource/access-and-equity-for-all-learners-in-blended-and-online-education/

http://www.globaleducationconference.com/page/sponsors-partners

http://www.promiseneighborhoodsinstitute.org/about-the-institute/what-we-do

http://www.promiseneighborhoodsinstitute.org/about-the-institute/our-funders

http://global.blogs.delaware.gov/2016/07/11/governor-markell-signs-crowdfunding-equity-law/

http://nc-sara.org/about/evolution-sara

http://gettingsmart.com/2016/06/equity-digital-games/

http://gettingsmart.com/2016/09/inspiration-incubation-intermediation-keys-to-next-gen-learning-at-scale-2/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Getting_Smart&utm_content=Inspiration,%20Incubation,%20Intermediation:%20Keys%20to%20Smart%20Cities

http://www.nxgentechroadmap.com/stateleadertable.html

http://www.edu2035.org/pdf/what_is_GEF.pdf

http://www.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/FEIE_TaleOf3States-20Sep2016.pdf

http://gettingsmart.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SmartBundle-Fidelis-22Aug2016-1.pdf

http://www.smartcitiesweek.com/Meet-our-sponsors

http://www.smartcitiesweek.com//products

http://www.knowledgeworks.org/future-learning/forecast/smart-transactional-models

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/jack-markell-blockchain-coding-schools-rodel-brinc-pathways-to-prosperity-registered-agents-delawares-role-in-the-ledger/

http://www.edu2035.org/pdf/GEF_future-map_en.pdf

You Go Frederika!

I have not always agreed with Frederika Jenner, the President of the Delaware State Education Association.  But on this, we solidly agree!  Frederika submitted a very awesome public comment on the proposed regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Thank you for calling out the Delaware Department of Education for pretending this law doesn’t change anything.  It does, and the more people that become aware of this, the more we can expect true change in public education!  Please click on the picture to enlarge!

FrederikaESSAPublicCommentESSARegulations

 

Why Companies Like Achieve Inc Now Want You To Opt Out Of State Assessments

A blog called NYC Public School Parents published the results of a survey about testing and opt out a couple of days ago.  The findings were a bit bizarre in my opinion.  The fact that it came from Achieve Inc. is very troubling.  For the past couple years, maybe longer, parents have been opting their children out of the state assessment.  That’s a good thing.  But the fact that Achieve Inc. would publish findings that show parents are presumably getting sick of testing and more suburban moms know about opt out is a bit of a farce in my opinion.  At this point, Achieve wants you to opt out.  They want you to complain about too much testing.  They want you, the parents of America, to make such a loud noise that the feds and the states will be forced to change testing environments.  Yes, one of the biggest corporate education reform companies in America is finally in agreement with what we’ve been saying all along!  Finally!  But guess what… this was the plan all along.

If you are royally confused, follow me.  Achieve Inc. helped to set up the Common Core, way back when.  There are some who say they took the work of the Common Core steering committees, ditched it, and came up with their own set of standards.  You know how so many people say “Common Core sucks” and “It’s federal intrustion” and all that stuff?  They are right.  I believe it was intentionally designed to be messed up.  And the tests based off it, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC?  They were designed to be bad tests.  No one will say this officially.  But they wanted enough parents to opt out to make some noise.  Not a full-blown, everyone opts out noise.  But enough to draw attention to the subject of assessments.  And they responded.  Florida, Delaware, and many other states conducted Assessment Inventories.  In Delaware, ours was initiated by, who else, Achieve Inc.  These inventories served a double purpose.  It kept the subject of “too many assessments” in the minds of those who followed this type of thing.  It also helped to stop some states from moving forward with opt out legislation.  I’ve seen a Delaware Department of Education email stating our Senate Joint Resolution #2 was a solution against opt out.

You’re still confused.  I understand.  It’s hard to explain this in any way that makes sense.  The Common Core-High Stakes Testing era of corporate education reform is coming to an end.  Very soon.  But that was just a phase.  It allowed the states to get all their data systems in place.  It allowed career & technical education initiatives to get their start.  But the biggest thing Common Core and the state assessments did was open the door to something else.  We are now entering the next phase and the groundwork was laid a long time ago.

Welcome to the Competency-Based Education era!  Instead of your child advancing through grade levels, they will now advance once they master the material.  Don’t get me wrong.  The state assessments will still be there.  But parents most likely won’t even know when their child is taking it.  Because it won’t be the same test.  It won’t be students cooped up taking the same test over a period of weeks in the Spring.  It will be all year.  The same tests, that we have loved to hate, they will still be here.  They may tweak them up a bit, but they aren’t going anywhere.  They laid the trap, and we all fell in it.

How is this even possible?  Through modern technology.  Through personalized learning.  Don’t be fooled by the term personalized learning.  There are actually two kinds.  The concept has been around for decades.  More one-on-one instruction from teachers, personalized on that student’s strengths and weaknesses.  A very humanistic approach which I don’t have an issue with.  But what the corporate education pirates want is the same thing, but take out the teacher.  Substitute it with technology.  With computers, and the internet, and cloud-based systems, and blended learning.  The teachers will still be there, but they won’t be the in front of the classroom teachers anymore.  They will facilitate, and guide the students through what the computer is teaching them.  Some states may push back a bit on this, and compromise with a blended learning system, which is a mix of both.  But make no mistake, the eventual destination is the demise of teacher unions and public education as we know it.

So if public education is gone, will we all have to pay for private school?  We kind of already are.  They are called charter schools.  The first one opened up in the early 1990s.  It has been a slow invasion ever since.  Even though charters represent less than a quarter of the schools in America, they have gained such a foothold in America that their supporters have overshadowed those who oppose them.  Charter schools, no matter what anyone tells you, are not public schools.  They don’t operate the same, and they aren’t held accountable in the same ways.  In charter heavy states, the laws have been written so they get a little bit more of this, a little bit less of that.  They are corporations.  With bylaws and boards that aren’t elected by the people, but among themselves.  Many of them are non-profit organizations, while some of the chains are very much for profit.  But they are not held to the same standards as regular schools.  Those that are horrible wind up shutting down.  These usually surround incapable buffoons who decide to steal from the kitty and get rich quick.  These idiots usually get caught, at one point or another.  They are non-union, and teachers don’t have the same protections as public school teachers.  But we pay for charter schools.

When you pay a local school district with your school taxes, they have to send part of those funds to the charter schools.  Any student from that district who attends a charter school?  You are paying for them to go there.  It comes out of a district’s local funds.  You send that proportion of the students costs to the charter.  There are different buckets of money where your school taxes go.  Some go towards buildings and repairs.  But a lot of them go to the actual student’s share of the pie.  And if they go to a charter, those funds follow them.  As a result, some school districts are left with much less funds over they years.  And since some charters like to pick and choose who they get, even though getting them to admit it is a lesson in futility, they take the better kids from the school districts.  Leaving the school districts with the harder to reach kids.  The ones who the charters don’t want.  If you think lotteries are really random, think again.  Some have very carefully worded interviews, some do kindergarten screenings, and some even have actual pre-acceptance tests.  They don’t want regular school districts anymore, and they are openly at war with public education.  They like to throw out that their enemies are the oppressors and they are the victims.  I hear this rhetoric a lot.  But it’s the whole chicken and the egg scenario.  But in this case, one did come first and the other has been like locusts swarming on public education as we know it.  They have the backing of billionaires.  Those billionaires set up the funds for them, through shell companies all over the country.  Even the feds are in on it.  So what does any of that have to do with testing?

The way things are now, the full-scale privatization of American schools can’t possibly move forward with the blessing of the teacher unions.  But they can infiltrate those unions, and slowly but surely get them to move over to their side of thinking.  We see it all the time.  The National Education Association just finished up their annual representative assembly down in D.C.  One of the biggest topics was charter schools.  Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the NEA members and when she mentioned charters, she got booed.  But behind the scenes, there were several new business items different members of the NEA introduced.  Controversial business items.  Ones that called out the leadership for cavorting with the enemy.  Ones that called for less testing and less labeling and punishing.  The ones leadership wanted, they passed.  The ones they didn’t were either defeated or bundled up and sent to a committee.  Where they will most likely never be heard from again.  Not in their current form at least.  Far too many in the teacher unions are well aware they are under attack but their defensive posture is “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”  That Kumbaya seat at the table is a red herring.  It will be a feast.  A feast of crows and vultures picking at the bones of public education.

Every time the unions give in, every time they give up just that one little piece of what used to be theirs, they are dying a slow death.  They incorporate the education reformers ideas and then you start hearing talk about “the whole child” and “community centers”.  And how there is too much testing, and we need to support that idea.  As our school districts try to become community centers, they won’t realize it is a losing proposition.  It is an unsustainable effort, unless they get help.  That help will come from outside organizations.  Like the United Way, and foundations, and those who are dedicated to helping the plight of low-income and minority children.  The civil rights organizations will say Yes, Yes, Yes!  Money will flow all over the place.  The districts will think they have it made.  Add more pre-school!  Bring them in as early as possible.  We have grant money flowing.  We won’t have to pay for it.  Who cares about the charters, we have tons of money.  Until they don’t.  And that’s when they pull the plug.  Who is this “they” I speak of?  All those outside companies, the states, the feds and their grant money.  It will run out.  The districts won’t even see the man behind the curtain until it is too late.

Districts who promised parents they would take care of their children will all of a sudden, in a blink of an eye, go bankrupt.  The states will take them over.  They already did it in some cities with testing and accountability schemes crafted by random luck or things like Race To The Top.  Those schools became, you guessed it, charter schools.  But this will be much more epic in scope.  It will be called the end of public education.  Schools that over-borrowed to become what the education reformers wanted them to be, all under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  So what happens to the teachers?  The ones that are still in the profession by that point?  The ones who haven’t jumped ship because of the stringent regulations and accountability schemes?  And the evaluations based on the high-stakes tests that companies like Achieve Inc. now want parents to opt out of?  By this time, the personalized digital learning empire will be in full swing.  The state assessment will be broken up into chunks at the end of each learning chapter.  For students taking the online Social Studies class, for example, they will take the state assessment portion of the Civil War chapter one week, and a month later they will get the one on The Reconstruction.  Or maybe two months later depending on how not proficient some of those students are.  How quickly they can grasp the concepts.  By this time, most of those who fought the reformers will either give in and settle into their facilitator role or will have left the profession.

With the testing, don’t be shocked at all if you hear one name coming up a lot.  That would be Questar.  They are NOT their own company.  They are owned by American Institutes for Research (AIR), the un-credited creator of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Yeah, I know, the states made it!  And I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’m willing to sell to you as well.  They have their hooks in quite a few states, the most recent being New York and Tennessee.  The PARCC test got the most bad press and AIR took advantage of that.  So your kid will take the smaller high-stakes test which will also be an end-of-unit test.  Which will also determine students’ class grades.  Will parents be able to opt out of that?  It was one thing when the tests didn’t mean anything.  Now they will mean everything!  But it doesn’t stop there.  Because everything will be online and through cloud services, that means all your kid’s data is being meticulously tracked.  All the way down to how long it takes them to type something.  The “researchers” will use this data to determine what the best career your child will “do best” at when they are older.  Career pathways, beginning at the very youngest of ages.  Probably in pre-school with the latest screams to get more of that going.  It all looks great on paper, and they want you to think it’s great.  It’s how they will own your child.  The future corporate America.  Education won’t be education anymore.  It will be a high-tech recruiting facilitator-led community-centered we own your kid once we get our hooks into them.   And if all of this isn’t enough, they will bet on the results through social impact bonds.  And get paid for their perceived success margins.  Companies.  Your child is a profit center, but your kid won’t see any of the results except the ultimate Big Brother.

Any parent, teacher, or student needs to speak up NOW.

 

Call For NEA To Cut Ties With TeachStrong Coalition

Another new business item at the NEA Rep. Assembly in D.C. this week would call for NEA to quit the TeachStrong Coalition sponsored by the Center for American Progress.  Delaware Governor Markell is one of the biggest advocates for this farce of a coalition and helped to launch the initiative.  The Center for American Progress was also the same group that led the “Testing Bill of Rights for Education” which landed with a resounding thud.  This led to my creation of the “Parent Bill of Rights for Education” which pretty much led to a two-week banishment on Facebook for myself in April.  How dare parents voice their opinion!

The NEA has to realize they are cutting their own throats by aligning with these companies.  They need to fight this crap, not join it.  To read more on this NBI, please go here.  How much do you want to bet the TeachStrong ambassadors were carefully selected by these partnership organizations to further their own agendas, including the ultimate privatization of public schools?  Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, you are not leading your membership to glory.  You are leading them to the slaughter…  will the NEA members wake up and take back any shred of decency before it is gone forever?

NEA Members Call Out Lily Eskelsen-Garcia Over “Partnership” With Relay Graduate School

A new business item showed up this morning at the National Educators Association’s annual representative assembly, held in Washington D.C. This one is very interesting. It concerns an alleged partnership NEA has with Relay Graduate School of Education. They are both involved in the corporate education reformer led “Teach Strong” initiative. But a partnership bears further investigation. In an article calling out both NEA and the American Federation of Teachers, both NEA leader Lily Eskelsen Garcia and AFT leader Randy Weingarten were raked over the coals for their affiliation with these groups and companies.

NEARelay

This action item calls for an explanation from Eskelsen-Garcia on why she is partnering with an organization that is the anti-thesis of NEA.  Programs like Relay and Teach For America diminish the role of teachers in public education and cause a wide-spread path of destruction along the way.  Their teachers, no matter what their intentions are, do not receive the same training regular teachers do, and get rammed into a crash-course on teaching.  Many of them frequently do not stay in the profession.  Some become administrators, leap-frogging past certified teachers, or get jobs with ed reform companies or state DOEs.  If NEA is partnering with an organization like Relay, their members definitely need an explanation from Eskelsen-Garcia.

I called her out last year over NEA’s rushed endorsement of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  As well, they were a very early endorser for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential candidacy.  Even though they are making it an official vote at this rep assembly to endorse her, it is something leadership did almost a year ago already.  Right now, Hillary is speaking to the assembled NEA members at their assembly.  In a picture taken before she arrived on the stage, teachers are seen waving and clapping as if Hillary is the second coming.  Someone made a comment of “Stepford Teachers”… a comment I am inclined to agree with.  I am no fan of Hillary, or Trump for that matter.  These are dark times…

NEAHillary

As the saying goes, while you may want a seat at the table, you also need to recognize when you are on the table.  NEA members need to be extra vigilant these days.  It’s not just a matter of trust, it is also a matter of survival in an increasingly hostile environment for public school teachers.   When dealing with these corporate education reform companies, collaboration is the same thing as alliance.  In Delaware, we have this ridiculous thing called “The Delaware Way” where parties comes to the table and compromise.  It is ridiculous and absurd and allows very bad entities into things they have no business being in.  NEA seems to have taken up this mantra as well.  Time to call out the leadership folks!

National Education Association To Advocate For Full IDEA Special Education Funding

I didn’t want to put “news” up on the 4th of July, but this one was too important to pass by.  The National Education Association (NEA) is having their Annual Representative Assembly in Washington D.C. this week.  They just passed an item to launch a digital campaign to advocate for the full funding of IDEA.  Since it was reauthorized in 2004, the feds have never given the full amount of funding for special education in America.  Here is how it works now: The feds, through IDEA Part B funding, pays about 10-15% of special education costs while states and local districts pay the rest.  However, the original intent was for the feds to pay up to 40% of a student’s special education costs.

This glaring omission on the feds part results in states and districts bearing the brunt of the costs.  And in a state like Delaware, where there is no Basic Special Education funds from the state for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, the local district or charter is forced to pay for 100% of special education services for these students.  Despite excellent legislation that would have provided these funds over a period of years for these students, the Delaware General Assembly as a collective body refused to allocate these funds in their most recent budget and the bill didn’t move past being released from the House Appropriations Committee.  This should be a no-brainer, but our budget is filled with pork that could have easily been cut to make room for this.

I salute the NEA for their advocacy on this issue.  As states struggle with different education funding models, the US DOE needs to step up and do their promised part.  But it is up to Congress to allocate these funds.  Thank you NEA!

NEASpecEdFunding

Thank you to Mike Matthews for putting this picture up on Facebook!

What Is The ESSA Implementation Network?

ESSAPic

The US House Committee on Education and The Workforce released a statement on the Every Student Succeeds Act implementation today.  It turns out a lot of the groups that were cheering Congress to pass the law now want a seat at the table for the transition.  Nobody really understands the full implications of the law.  It almost seems as if they threw a bunch of ingredients in a pot, stirred it all up, and called it legislation.  Now all those who begged people to support it don’t really know what it all means.  Or they do and they are just making it look like they are responsible stakeholders who will guide the states to full transparency.   You know, the unions, the National PTA, the Governor groups, national state board, school board, superintendent, legislator, and principal associations.  Many of the same organizations who created the mess to begin with!  The ones who made ESSA necessary by collaborating with the education reformers on high-stakes testing and Common Core.  The ones who never fully supported parent opt-out even though one of them has the word “parent” in their title…

And the press release from the Education & Workforce Committee:

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Members learned what state and local leaders expect from the new law and discussed opportunities to ensure control over K-12 education is restored to states and school districts.

“The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act puts states and school districts back in charge of education, and includes more than 50 pages of provisions to keep the Department of Education in check,” Chairman Rokita said. “Moving forward, it’s our collective responsibility to hold the Department of Education accountable for how it implements the law. Congress promised to restore state and local control over K-12 education, and now it’s our job to ensure that promise is kept.”

A key part of that effort is congressional oversight of the Department of Education as it implements the law. Kent Talbert, former general counsel for the department, described the responsibility of the administration in adhering to both the letter of the law and the congressional intent behind it. For example, under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal government is “prohibited from mandating, directing, or controlling a state, school district, or school’s instructional content, curricula, programs of instruction, or standards or assessments. This prohibition includes any requirement to adopt the Common Core Standards.”

Citing this and other examples, Talbert said the unifying theme of ESSA’s provisions is limiting the federal role in education and returning decision-making authority back to the states and school districts. That’s why, when it comes to implementing the law, Superintendent of Hartselle City Schools in Hartselle, Alabama Vic Wilson, said, “less is more.” Speaking specifically about the role the Department of Education, Wilson added, “[The department] can empower school districts to think outside the box and implement procedures and policies that best meet the needs of schools and students they serve.”

Dr. Wilson continued, “ESSA makes it clear … Congress’ intent is that states should be solely responsible for decisions regarding accountability, standards, teachers, and other factors.” Oklahoma’s State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister agreed, adding her state-level perspective to the discussion. “States like Oklahoma,” said Hofmeister, “will only be able to achieve the full promise of the ESSA if the federal government holds true to the spirit of the law.”

“States are not only ready, but we are willing and able to lead,” Hofmeister continued, urging Congress and the department to “trust us as we work with parents, teachers and key stakeholders to transition to this new law.”

Those sentiments were echoed today by organizations representing parents, teachers, and state and local leaders. In a letter to Acting Secretary of Education John King, the organizations wrote, “We must work together to closely honor congressional intent. ESSA is clear: Education decision making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.”

“It is my firm belief,” Chairman Rokita concluded, “that when the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented as Congress intended, parents, teachers, and state and local leaders will be empowered to deliver the excellent education every child deserves.”

To learn more about this hearing, visit edworkforce.house.gov.

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American Parents Go It Alone As National PTA Opts Out of Opt-Out

Sending a very confusing message to American parents, the National PTA will be issuing a position statement on testing and opt-out in the next couple days.  In anticipation of this, the Delaware PTA issued a press release indicating they still support House Bill 50 because it supports parent’s rights, and in turn, children’s rights.  The National PTA will not support the opt-out movement according to the Delaware PTA statement.  The Delaware PTA has always advised they do not tell parents to opt out or tell them not to.  But they have done a lot for opt-out in their support for House Bill 50.

As state teacher’s unions and the national unions, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, have never really supported the movement one way or another, the focus for all these groups has now become the nature of testing.  In other words, the reformers have won.  They have convinced the biggest organizations concerning schools that the problem isn’t with these upstart parents opting their kids out, it is the actual tests.  Which is why we are seeing these assessment inventory committees popping up all over the country.

The end goal will be the same tests parents object to, but in smaller chunks, embedded in tests throughout the year.  As students reach the end of units they are learning in their personalized learning environment, they will be given unit tests.  They will still be standardized assessments, but not on the surface.  Students will only progress when they have become proficient on the material.  Based on “their” material.  Not the standards most people grew up with, but the Common Core standards.

It is a disgrace.  I still believe the only way to stop the takeover of our children by these reprehensible companies and organizations is to make a lot of noise and opt-out.  The PTA’s and unions have been lulled into a false sense of security by these animals.  They still don’t get what the essential problem is here.  But many parents do.  It is Common Core.  It is the resources pouring out of the classroom and into corporations that disguise themselves as think tanks and non-profits.  Where their CEO’s make more than most people make in six years.  Where they buy off legislators and politicians with their big money and big words.   With promises of power and security at the expense of children.

I have felt many betrayals in the past year and a half, but none have stung like the ones in the past two months.  Organizations and people I thought were allies.  They know who they are.  If they don’t, be assured I hear a lot.  Much more than you probably realize.  Delaware isn’t that big.  People who think the world will stop revolving if they don’t make sure they are heard.  I respect the Delaware PTA for getting this out there ahead of time.  I joined the PTA back in September so I could hopefully get some more access to things.  That never happened, despite assurances from someone that it would.  So I will not be paying my “membership fee” again.  I truly can’t support an organization that thinks a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced is okay but still thinks Common Core is a good thing.  I always knew this day would come, but it happened much sooner than I expected.

Delaware and American parents are on their own.  We can’t rely on anyone but ourselves.  We must shoulder the fight for our children by ourselves, without any true support.  And you know what, I kind of like it better that way…

DSEA Will Be Part Of NEA’s ESSA Implementation Team

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

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

From their monthly newsletter, “Professionally Speaking”:

ESSA Explained

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

ESSA Standards Table_2

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

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

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