Which Delaware Education Leader Agrees With Betsy DeVos On The Proper Route To “Success”?

When Betsy DeVos made Delaware resubmit their state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Delaware Department of Education groaned.  It is no secret the Delaware DOE was not a big fan of Bad News Betsy.  According to the U.S. DOE, Delaware’s plans were not “ambitious” enough.  But one education “leader” agreed with them.  Who was the sell-out? Continue reading

Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger”

If Washington D.C. is the capital of America, than Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.

Over the past week, many of us who are resisting the privatization of public education have been talking about The Ledger.  Peter Greene broke the news for the world to see, which Diane Ravitch quickly picked up on.  What is “The Ledger”? Continue reading

President Obama Signs Every Student Succeeds Act, How Will Delaware DOE & Markell Respond?

It is now official! President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act today after the US Senate passed it yesterday.  No Child Left Behind is dead.  Welcome to a new era.  While there is certainly more flexibility in this bill, it almost seems as though Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE have been carefully setting things up in anticipation of what was in the final bill.  Which makes me wonder how much was known to Governors and state DOEs ahead of time.  And I’m talking years ahead of time.

We have a bizarre new charter school Race To The Top embedded in here, which will cause a feeding frenzy in Delaware once the charter “moratorium” is lifted.  And if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission plan for the redistricting in Wilmington, look for Red Clay’s board to be very busy with new charter applications in the coming years.

For teachers, they got some leeway on evaluations stemming from standardized test scores, but the perks for teacher prep programs like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School will make sure we see an increase in this practice in Delaware.

Standardized testing is still here, and unless the General Assembly votes to get rid of Smarter Balanced (which they should), we are stuck with it for the next five years.  Which means we are also stuck with Common Core as well, even though the ESSA gives states leeway on making their own state standards (but they still have to be approved by the US Secretary of Education).  Students in 3rd to 8th grade still have to be “standardized” with the state assessment, and once in high school.  For opt-out, the bill states it is up to the states to handle it.  The House Bill 50 veto by Markell can’t happen fast enough.

I will be going into this legislation more in-depth in the coming weeks and picking it apart, piece by piece.  I started to do that, but a lot happened between now and then.  Fighting it took up a lot of time, but even though it passed, more folks are aware of what is going on because of the fight, so it was worth it.

News Journal Gives False Impression Of Every Student Succeeds Act

The Delaware News Journal’s Jon Offredo wrote an article about the United States House of Representatives passage of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and how in a rare moment of consensus, most stakeholders in education agree on the legislation.  Citing the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA), the Delaware PTA, New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt, and Governor Markell in the article is not a completely accurate picture of consensus.  Many in Delaware feel the bill, while giving states more authority in education, opens the door to all sorts of new problems.  But the News Journal didn’t reach out to anyone else who could have offered a negative opinion of this bill.

States, districts and parents decried a one-size fits all education policy and many of the goals, including one that mandated every student to reach a proficiency on tests by 2015, were not met.

Since then, Congress has been unable to come up with a better education law so the Obama Administration has issued waivers to states exempting them from the requirement. The waivers mean states won’t lose federal money.

It is those very waivers that have allowed the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell to steer Delaware education towards a disastrous path since Markell took reign in January of 2009.  It is my contention Congress refused to act on reauthorizing this bill due to immense pressure from corporate education reform lobbyists who got exactly what they wanted with the ESEA Flexibility Waivers and with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Perhaps the biggest cheerleader for ESSA is Governor Markell, because he got to keep his precious standardized testing…

“The Every Student Succeeds Act preserves some of the most important elements of our existing system, including annual testing requirements in 3rd-8th grade and in high school, which ensure that every student counts,” the statement said. “We would have liked to see stronger requirements for timely intervention in schools where students are struggling, but overall, the Every Student Succeeds Act is an important step forward that will give states more flexibility to meet their students’ needs.”

What I worry about this is states like Delaware who lead the corporate education reform movement.  Every move Markell made in the past ten plus years has been towards the goals of companies who thrive on “fixing” education.  In giving states more authority in education, states who already abuse that power are ripe to continue  DSEA, along with their national counterpart, the NEA, has trumpeted the ESSA as a great bill because it does not have as big an impact on teachers in terms of evaluations.

Many people are very concerned about the huge pot of money available for new charter schools which will result in a sort of “Race To The Top” for new charter schools.  Others are concerned about the consequences “community schools” and services can have on parental decisions and rights.  Technology and personalized learning are touched on in this bill but in a way that gives the controversial practice a wide berth in the future.  Standardized testing is still here, and Common Core is so embedded in education now that it would be very difficult to just do away with it as the bill allows.

The only parent voice in this article belonged to Dr. Terri Hodges with the Delaware PTA who wisely stated she is “cautiously optimistic” about the ESSA.  The News Journal rarely goes out to ask everyday parents who don’t belong to some organization about their thoughts on education matters.  Not one Delaware legislator commented on this article.  But if it is something Rodel or Vision Coalition related, the News Journal goes out of their way to write huge articles and allow multiple letters to the editor on what those groups promote.  Many understand this is because those groups and those of the Delaware Business Roundtable provide a lot of advertising dollars for the News Journal.  As a result, many folks in Delaware have lost respect for the newspaper based on this and other biases.

 

US House Of Representatives Passes “Every Student Succeeds Act” With 359-64 Vote, Next Stop: US Senate

The “Every Student Succeeds Act” passed the United States House of Representatives today with a vote of 359-64.  The second half of the bill’s journey will take place in the US Senate.  It is anticipated the Senate will vote on the bill next week.  I haven’t even read the entire bill, but I have many issues with various aspects of the bill.  Many of these issues are due to the way Delaware has already utilized many aspects of the bill in a non-transparent fashion.  The Delaware Department of Education is taking drastic steps now in terms of the state accountability system for Delaware schools, and this bill makes it perfectly legal for them to do so.  My thoughts are beginning to shift towards an uneasy acceptance of the legislation versus what we had before with No Child Left Behind, but I will be keeping a very close and cautious eye on how the DOE and Governor Markell could attempt to abuse the state’s powers in this bill.  In a nutshell, I don’t trust them nor do I trust their motivations when it comes to Delaware students.  The lone US House of Representatives member from Delaware, John Carney, voted yes on the bill.

From the House Education and the Workforce Committee:

Kline, Scott Applaud House Passage of
Every Student Succeeds Act
Bipartisan bill replaces No Child Left Behind, improves K-12 education

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) issued the following statements today after the House passed a bipartisan, bicameral bill to replace No Child Left Behind and improve K-12 education. Known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177), the bill passed the House by a vote of 359 to 64.

“Today, we helped turn the page on a flawed law and a failed approach to K-12 education,” said Chairman Kline. “But more importantly, we adopted a new approach that will help every child in every school receive a quality education. Parents, teachers, and state and local school leaders support this bill because they know it will restore local control and help get Washington out of our classrooms. I want to thank my Republican and Democratic colleagues, in both the House and Senate, for their work on this important effort. I look forward to the Senate’s consideration of this bipartisan proposal and finally sending a bill to the president’s desk that will provide parents and school leaders the certainty and flexibility they need to deliver children a great education.”

“Today’s bipartisan vote to reauthorize the ESEA affirms the principles of Brown v. Board of Education, which held that ‘it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education,’ and ‘that such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms,’” said Ranking Member Scott. “Fifty years ago, Congress originally passed ESEA to help make that right a reality, and the Every Student Succeeds Act honors the civil rights legacy of that law. Today’s vote is an embodiment of what we can achieve here in Washington – a workable compromise that does not force either side to desert its core beliefs. I commend my colleagues and our staffs for their diligence, and I have no doubt that this bipartisan legislation will make a positive difference in the lives of our nation’s students and live up to all of our ideals.”

To learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/k12education.

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State Board of Ed Public Comments Transcribed And Future Of Regulation 103

The audio recording of the State Board of Education meeting yesterday is up in record time.  I went ahead and transcribed all of the public comments.  Every single one.  As well, I listened to the part where they discuss 103 and I took copious amounts of notes.  Here it is.  To understand the different portions of Regulation 103, and how everything culminated and reached a boiling point, please read this.  This whole saga with the Delaware School Success Framework started to boil a few weeks ago when I found information on the Accountability Framework Working Group while looking for the magical Smarter Balanced toolkit.

Delaware PTA

Good afternoon, my name is Bill Doolittle. I will first speak on behalf of Delaware PTA in regards to Regulation 103. With regard to the accountability system the Delaware Department of Education and Delaware State Board of Education are seeking to include parent opt-out rates in the school report card. This is not only misleading representation of the school’s performance, but it is another attempt to coerce and intimidate parents who choose to exercise their right to opt out their students. Although the Delaware DOE maintains that including participation rates is mandated in US (Department of) Education, Delaware PTA has confirmed that the US Department of Education that this is not the case, that students are not required by federal mandate to include opt-out rates in the calculations. This is only one of an array of problems and concerns with this proposed regulation. Delaware PTA will provide further comment.

Bill Doolittle

I will now change hats and speak as a volunteer advocate for children at risk. Proposed Regulation 103 is just a milestone in a larger plan that fails to meet the most fundamental components necessary to meet the needs of our most at-risk children. It fails to provide accurate, timely and useful data for parents and teachers to support their children. It fails to use any metric directly measuring the known risk components related to our children being able to learn. Primarily, (as) it relies on end of year summative exams is the least able to accurately measure our most at-risk children. As many as 15% may not be assessed accurately with the risk characteristics and being crowded into the lowest 10% percentile. We have a statistical growth model, that at best, within the confidence interval, cannot differentiate between the middle 70% of our schools. And unless your child is that average child, it provides only an illusion of useful information to parents as to their child’s growth. Think about the rate of children with disabilities and all you have to compare to is an average child with a disability. And what about children with multiple risk groups and multiple factors? This growth model is worthless at best and grossly misleading at worst. I took the time to scan through other states ESEA waivers and one thing is clear, that is Delaware’s plan is based on punitive actions and bureaucratic compliance and not a robust education system which was the point of ESEA and other states that move forward with this. Even where there are good components, it is not manageable with fidelity. For example, can you explain why, out of $3 million dollars allocated in epilogue for ESEA school support only $900,000 actually made it to schools with approved plans? And even if the full $2.7 million had been in, that would only represent half of what was necessary to actually meet the goal. Our State Board should be asking all of these questions not just accepting spin and rubber stamps. (time ran out)

Frederika Jenner

Good afternoon. I’m Frederika Jenner, President of the Delaware State Educators Association. I’m here today to address the proposed changes to Regulation 103: accountability for schools, districts, and the state. After careful review of the published regulation, we at DSEA cannot support the recommended changes for the following reasons. #1: the proposed changes in Regulation 103 are incomplete. We see this in Section 1, under purpose and definitions, in sub-section 1.2, Action Schools, the definition does not define the conditions that place a school within this category. Although the Department mentions significant academic achievement gaps in their sub-groups and overall low achievement, the parameters of these terms are not defined either in the proposed regulation changes or in the Delaware ESEA Flexibility Waiver application. In Section 2, in Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF), the Academic Framework Group, AFWG, has not yet finished their work on DSSF. For example, discussions are ongoing on issues related to participation rates. In Section 6, performance ratings, this section indicates there will be up to five performance ratings for schools yet does not name them nor does it identify the criteria for any school to be placed in one of these categories. In Section 7, classifications for schools identified for improvement or recognition, Subsection 7.1, Action less schools, this section does not specify whether a planning period is part of the two academic years given for improvement. Do these schools really have two full years to improve? This is unlike the Focus and the Priority schools in which the planning year is separated out. In 7.3, the section on Focus Plus Schools. It does not say how a school can exit Focus Plus school status.

Our second concern involves the proposed regulation changes that we think are confusing. We see this in 2.5, participation rate. Under this condition, can schools have their accountability rating reduced if a single sub-group falls below the 95% participation rate? Looking at the requirement that n=30, if only two students do not participate as part of a sub-group, it appears that a school could have its full rating reduced. Under the section for proration, this section is confusing and needs refinement. Why are academic achievement scores spread over four years in K-3 (grade) when students take the summative assessment in grade 3? This section attempts to hold schools and educators accountable for the 3rd graders performance by assuming that the student attended the same school. What if the student came from Oklahoma? How will the Department apply the rating? Also, does it make sense and is it fair to use the scores of students no longer in a school if the school has no tested grades such as a K-2 school? In 2.8.1, the language in this section makes very little sense and is very confusing. In Section 4, assessment criteria, in 4.1.1 and 4.1.2, the term “non-participant” is not defined in the document . This section also raises the question of whether the non-participant is included in the school’s overall data. In 7.2.4, to get out of Focus School status, why does the school have to meet the academic targets for two consecutive years within the three year period? Is it fair to not allow the school to exit the status if they meet the target in the first and third years?

A third concern, Section 7 is at times inconsistent with State law and does not allow for significant input from educators and parents. In 7.4.5 and 7.4.7, this section does not allow the flexibility and creativity to be granted when considering what to do with Red Clay and Christina Priority Schools. As a result of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, it could possibly lead to redistricting. DSEA appreciates the Department’s recognition of House Bill 82, which mandates that matters regarding collective bargaining are exclusively subject to the public employee rather than the relations board. DSEA further believes that any proposed regulation that gives a school leader the ability to override existing collective bargaining agreements is against the law. Section 11, review process. Again, this does not allow for significant input from parents and educators. In 11.3.1, this section provides for review committee selected only by the Secretary. In 11.3.2, this section significantly limits the evidence that could be considered to only that information provided by the District. In 11.5, this section does not provide for independent appeals process. And finally, what we consider the most important point in which to make today, the epilogue language does not require the Board to take action now. The language explicitly states, “Upon approval, the flexibility waiver by the United States Department of Education, the Department shall publish updated regulations to be consistent with the approved ESEA Flexibility Waiver request within sixty days.” The Department has met their published obligation. As stated before, nothing in this language requires Board action now. Neither does it bar the Board from taking no action. Sending the regulation back to the Department, and having the regulation republished once it has been completed, clarified, and revised. We urge the Board to send the regulation back to the Department. Thank you.

Deborah Stevens

Good afternoon. My name is Deborah Stevens. I am the Director of Instructional Advocacy for DSEA and I am also a member of the Accountability Framework Work Group, also known as AFWG. The group, or let me be specific please, the non-DOE members of the AFWG charged me with coming before you today to talk a little bit about the work but more specifically to talk about Regulation 103 and why we feel a decision on this regulation needs to be deferred. We believe that the work that has been done by AFWG has been a very long and painstaking process. The commitment by the people that have worked this part of the group, and this includes district representatives, superintendents, representative from the PTA, and representative from DSEA, myself. We were all conscious of presenting to the public a very accurate, full narrative about the capabilities and status of all of Delaware’s schools. That has been first and foremost in our minds in the creation of the Delaware School Success Framework. That being said, the work is not done! You see a section within the regulation titled Delaware School Success Framework and there are still incomplete sections contained within. It is a work in progress. Even today, as we met earlier, a little more than an hour ago, this group took a vote to alter the calculation for proficiency to not include participation rate. With that in mind, and understanding that this is still a work in progress, and as has been previously noted that we have already met the intent of the epilogue by having the regulation published within sixty days. We would advocate that the State Board consider that the work still needs to be finished and send the regulation back to the Department for review, further discussion, and completion. Thank you.

Mike Matthews

Good afternoon. My name is Mike Matthews. I’m the President of the Red Clay Education Association, also a teacher on release from Warner Elementary School. It’s nice to see a crowd here. I would urge the State Board to consider, maybe, no, I’ll do that another time.   Also, I am going to urge the State Board again, as I did last month, to amend your public comment policy to allow public comment for items that are going to be voted on that State Board’s meeting. If you want to operate with full and complete transparency and make sure you are giving as much opportunity for your constituents to hear what they would like to say, please change that policy.

Regulation 103. Our association has not taken an official position. It’s challenging for me to hear about these issues from bloggers. I first heard about this from Kevin Ohlandt on his blog. I immediately sent out a communication to my membership asking them to pore through it. It’s a very long regulation. Our association will be taking a vote at our meeting on Monday. I plan on drafting a letter to present to them. I’m officially announcing our a vote of no support for this so as long as they approve that, you will be getting that before the public comment has expired for next month’s meeting. But the initial thoughts that I’ve heard from members are that “Wait, does this mean more Priority Schools?” We saw what happened last year, we saw how ineffective and quite frankly, disgusting the process was. Does this mean more priority schools? There were some concerns about the participation rate issue. Someone came up to me and said “Wait, our General Assembly, by a super majority in both Houses passed the bill saying that opt-out is fine, so what right does the State Board through regulation, have to override what the publicly elected General Assembly has said? One member said “This sounds like a backdoor support of the Governor’s veto.” I’m also concerned that AFWG hasn’t completed its work, yet there are some recommendations, there are some regulations in this language that, I think, should that group be allowed to complete its work would mean this regulation would be written differently. I’m looking forward to joining the team from the Department of Education at they visit my former home, Richardson Park next week. I will be doing the walkthroughs with you. You will be coming to my former school . The staff has requested my present because they are now a Focus School. So I plan on joining DOE and the administrative team and the staffers who will be at that meeting, to see what’s going on. And a genuine good luck to you Secretary Murphy and I hope everything goes well. We’re looking forward to Dr. Godowsky and thank you, have a great month.

Jackie Kook

Good afternoon. My name is Jackie Kook. I am a teacher in the Christina School District and I’m Vice President of the Christina Education Association (CEA). I’m also working with the DPAS Advisory Sub Committee, the advisory sub group committee, I’m going to be working on the sub-committee and I worked on the committee that worked last year as well! That’s a lot of committees (laughter).   I’m knee-deep now! When this came out, when I had a chance to look through the regulations, we were focused on 106, and 107, we were looking at the evaluation changes and things like that and 103 kind of caught me a little off guard. Although I am Vice President of CEA, we have also not discussed this formally. We just haven’t had time because we’ve been focusing on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, participating in that and making sure our Priority Schools plan is worked on, dealing with Superintendent issues, so we’ve got a lot going on in Christina. But my concern is, as more of a parent, my child is not taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment. And it’s not because I think it’s a terrible test, it’s not because I think that it’s the Devil incarnate, it’s because it’s not useful to their teachers. So by requiring schools to count that as part of their accountability, the participation part of literally useless test, right, to inform kids instruction, to inform the teacher’s classroom, there’s just no point. Your just punishing the schools for the parents decision. I’ve been very clear with all the communications I’ve made with the schools where my children go to school in Red Clay, neighborhood schools. I’ve been very clear with my children and I’ve been very clear with their administrators and their teachers. And they will take every test you throw at them, the MAP, the SRI, whatever you want to give them, any test that you can use to figure out where their needs are and meet those. I feel like Regulation 103 has that, whether it’s intentional or not, places that as a negative on my child’s school. I can only imagine the pressure that they will try to levy on me, to keep at Linden Hill Elementary School, to keep their 100%, you know, everybody’s proficient, everybody’s passing, we met AYP, because my child is not going to be taking that test it’s going to hurt their rating. It’s not fair to the school, it’s not fair to me as a parent, it’s also not going to be effective because they’re still not going to take the test. It’s going to divide that school community cause there will be those of us who want to help the school. We volunteer our time, send in supplies, do what’s necessary but still, this is not the right thing for them, for their families, and our children. Like everyone that’s spoken before me, to put it more eloquently, I urge you to reconsider, especially that part. We don’t need to be rated A B C and D. The parents come into this school. They can figure out how their kids are doing and the teachers. The tests we have in place allow for that. Thank you for your time.

Kevin Ohlandt

Thank you very much. Secretary Murphy, I did want to wish you luck in your future endeavors. Today is Parent Strike. This is a nationally coordinated event for parents to oppose the Smarter Balanced, corporate education reform, and to promote every single student in America for refusing the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I filed several complaints against the Department of Education, the Delaware State Board of Education, Dr. Gray, and Donna Johnson. The first one is in regards to your ESEA Renewal request submitted last March. The public was not given an opportunity to comment on the participation rate portion. It was snuck in on the March 31st draft as evidenced by your website and it was not available for public comment. I have filed with the Delaware Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Department of Education Office of Inspector General based on that.

I have filed a complaint with United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. This Department has allowed a multitude of charter schools to deny Individualized Education Programs for students with disabilities. I spoke with that department, the Exceptional Children Resources Group, last summer and I was told there is no method by which this Department can evaluate charter schools for that and that the due process system is more than fair. There has been a handful of actual due process hearings in this state, meanwhile thousands of children are denied IEPs all the time.

I have also filed a couple complaints with the DOJ in regards to FOIA complaints. Last Monday, you had a State Board retreat, which was a public meeting. At this meeting I was told there would be embargoed information. You cannot embargo information at a public meeting. As well, it is my contention that Ms. Johnson, as well as two members of the Department, attempted to conceal information they would have otherwise talked about had a member of the public not been present. I also filed a FOIA request for emails concerning submissions for Regulation 103. Instead of giving a list of estimated charges, I was immediately told you have to pay DTI $300.00 without any timeframe or anything.

Dr. Gray, you sit on the board of the US Education Delivery Institute, of which the Department of Education has paid almost $350,000 over the past five fiscal years and I have no recollection of you publicly acknowledging your capacity on this board. If you want to see more of the complaints, I just put up an article on Exceptional Delaware at 12:35pm. Thank you. (I had more to say, but the timer went off).

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko

Good afternoon Board members, Secretary Murphy. I’m John Kowalko, the State Representative in the 25th District. I’m here today, in spite of the fact that it’s my birthday and I’m missing face time with my seven and a half month old granddaughter, but the importance of this goes beyond that. We are on the brink of the cusp of a Constitutional crisis in the State of Delaware. Regulation 103 is an example of how far we’ve tread of the Constitutional track that we are set upon and bound to be set upon by the State. We have regulations that are imposed with no checks, no balances, that are owed, Constitutionally owed a guarantee to the General Assembly. Meetings, draftings, and mandating regulations while the General Assembly is out of session. It constitutes almost an abuse of power by an unelected body. I will point over to that building (points to Legislative Hall). I just stood outside at a press conference. These regulations, more often than not, are discussed, imposed and mandated while that building is empty. That’s our authority. We can concede the right for the State Board of Education, the DOE, to draft regulations, to consider regulations. We are not allowed to concede to all members of the General Assembly your right to impose regulations which become virtual law. This is an appointed board, State Board is an appointed board, DOE is appointed. There is no allegiance of this body so far to the elected, duly elected General Assembly.

Pennsylvania has their General Assembly members, Senator Denman is one of them, that sits on their State Board of Education.  I met with him, we talked about opt-out legislation in Pennsylvania and he was stunned when he found out that we can have almost a contradiction in the will of that body, over there in the General Assembly. By construction of Regulation 103 which could in fact disarm the intentions of House Bill 50. And when I said to myself “what would you do about it?” He said all of our State Board of Education regulations to the Feds and ESEA flexibility, are bound to go through and be approved by the General Assembly. We had a bill last year, I believe it was Kim Williams bill, to do just that. And leadership wouldn’t let it through. And I’ll tell you, in all this mess that makes sense, that wouldn’t let it go through is the Governor. The Governor appoints you guys, the Governor appoints the employees of the DOE (through the Secretary of Education). So when we look at this separation of powers, we are woefully inadequate. (timer goes off) And having an honest dialogue about who runs this State, the General Assembly runs this State on behalf of the people. Not on behalf of any special interests, not on behalf of any agenda, the only agenda we have is the people and the children of this state. (Dr. Gray advises Rep. Kowalko he has five seconds) Well I’m going to ask this Board to hold Regulation 103 until we reconvene that General Assembly. I think it’s the only right thing to do, it’s the only respectful thing to do. And anything else is bordering on an unconstitutional subversion of our power. And I’ll take every means I can to prevent that from happening. So I’m hoping you’ll consider that. Thank you.

Lorrie Gloede

Not to give Lorrie the boot here, but what she wrote on Delaware First State was essentially what she said at the State Board of Education meeting. And if you haven’t, check out State Rep. Kim Williams awesome new blog, now would be a good time!


At this point, I’m going to summarize what happened with Regulation 103 at the State Board of Education meeting.  DOE Director of Policy and External Affairs Susan Haberstroh spoke to the board about the regulation and what it means.  She stated it was created years ago based on the days of No Child Left Behind and Annual Yearly Progress.  It was updated during Race To The Top.  Haberstroh explained how the US DOE approved Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver request on July 9th.  Within 60 days, based on the epilogue language in Delaware’s budget bill, House Bill 225, the DOE was required to submit the publishing of a regulation tied to the ESEA approval.  Which they did.  But they were not required to approve it  or take action on it based on Delaware state law.  According to Director of Accountability and Assessment Penny Schwinn, only part of the application was approved and the part about the “school report card”, the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) had to be resubmitted with all the “weights and targets” by October 31st.  Since the majority of AFWG voted down the participation rate as a punitive measure in regards to proficiency, Schwinn has asked the US DOE for “very specific answers to bring back to the group.”

The existing ESEA approval is only good through June 30th, 2016.  If the update is approved with the DSSF, the waiver is good for three years, until 6/30/18.  Schwinn stated the portion about naming Priority and Focus schools was already approved in the waiver, and Delaware named all the schools through that waiver, thus the crop of Focus and Focus Plus schools this year.  She did state, at minimum, no schools will be designated Priority or Focus for three years.  The Reward and Recognition portion of the ESEA waiver was not required, but DOE wanted to do it.  As Schwinn said, “There’s no harm in giving schools money and calling them out for great performance.”

Regulation 103 will have to be republished in the Delaware Register of Regulations if there are “substantive” changes to it.  Which there now will be.  Based on the law for the regulations, the DOE must submit the updated regulation to the Register of Regulations by the 15th of the month before the month it is published in.

The purpose of the updated Regulation 103 is because it does not match with ESEA flex waivers and the designation of Priority or Focus Schools, as well as the proposed accountability system called DSSF.  The DOE has been operating without this in regulation and “where it was inconsistent, that’s where ESEA actually was in place of the regulation,” Haberstroh said.  “This was tied in with ESEA inflexibility.  This was the original No Child Bombs,” board member Pat Heffernan joked.  He added “Right now this regulation is out of whack, which might make us want to hurry and get it finished but the point is that we haven’t had it finished and we have a way around it and we’ll continue until we get a final regulation in place, is that right?”

So if AFWG comes up with an updated DSSF, it has to go back to the board by their October 15th meeting.  The DOE has to submit the updated request by 10/31/15.  By January 1st, everything has to be approved by the US DOE, and everything would have to be implemented by 7/1/16.  So essentially, the DOE could submit the DSSF to the US DOE without Regulation 103 in place.  Haberstroh clarified that Regulation 103 would “not be moved for action next month” by the State Board of Education.

The DOE extended the currently published Regulation 103 comment period until 10/8 to give the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) Advisory Council and other stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the regulation.  Schwinn said if it isn’t approved by the feds by 1/1/16, Delaware goes back to the NCLB requirements where they are out of compliance if all schools aren’t proficient by 2014.  Obviously, that date has come and gone, so personally I say let them call the US DOE’s bluff on that one, but I don’t see them having the bravery to do that.

So the earliest Regulation 103 could go back to being published would be November.  That is IF the AFWG is able to come up with a new system for the DSSF.  If they aren’t, will the DOE put something through anyways?  Since the group already voted down the participation rate penalty, what authority is greater, AFWG or the US DOE?  So with a November 1st republishing date, and the mandatory 30 day comment period, which would last until 12/1, the State Board of Education would have to approve the updated Regulation 103 by their December board meeting, 12/17.  Meanwhile, the DOE could resubmit the DSSF to the feds by 10/31 and get approval for the update prior to the 12/17 board meeting.  Once again, I say avoid all that and call their bluff with the absolutely insane No Child Left Behind mandates.  And if Schwinn is able to get the “specific answers”, aka, the participation rate penalty, anything the US DOE sends will not be regulatory and will merely be guidance since there is no law which explicitly states parents can’t opt their child out of the assessment and there are no laws mandating punitive action based on that.  I think Schwinn believes the US DOE can make it mandatory, or has convinced people she believes it, but she is wrong.

And the big monkey wrench in all of this is what happens if the U.S. Congress approves the whole ESEA reauthorization and renders a lot of what is in Regulation 103 meaningless?


Will the US DOE come back and say the participation rate penalty is mandatory?  I emailed Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna at the Delaware DOE about this yesterday.  I will be writing an article about the responses later today….

In the meantime, if you want to listen to the State Board of Education meeting, the public comments and the whole Regulation 103 discussion, you can go to the DOE website and have a listen.  Part 1 has the public comment, and Part 4 has the Regulation 103 discussion.  You can even listen to the Smarter Balanced discussion at the beginning of Part 4.  If you listen to the public comment, stick around after Lorrie Gloede’s public comment to hear Dr. Gray disrespect a parent and not let her give public comment.  But I got her comment and published it yesterday!  And this was Mark Murphy’s last meeting!

Delaware DOE Challenges Me On Opt-Out Participation Rate Penalties: Who Wins?

Is it a federal requirement to have the participation rate penalty as part of the ESEA required School Report Card?  According to Penny Schwinn with the Delaware Department of Education, it is.  Was I able to debunk this?  Find out as I present this email chain between Penny Schwinn and myself over the past 24 hours.  As well, numerous answers are revealed about the School Report Card, the Delaware ESEA Waivers from this year, and accountability in regards to parent opt-out.

From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 9:08 AM
To: Schwinn Penny; May Alison
Subject: Re: Academic Framework Working Group

Good morning Penny,

I was curious if the AFWG group is still in existence.  I have seen nothing since the March meeting minutes, or any announcements of upcoming meetings.  If the group does meet again, I might suggest they are made public with a lot more stakeholder input.  For the most part, this group is made up of school leaders and admins, as if they are the only ones who would know what accountability is.  It wasn’t until towards the end, after most of the basic frameworks were already set up, that a PTA parent and a DSEA rep were invited.  At a minimum, I would like it made public on the DOE website a list of any upcoming meetings, the agendas, and what the vote counts are for the School Report Card.

Being completely honest here, I found the minutes for this group by accident.  And when I read them, I was shocked that this group existed, much less they are attempting to create policy designed to give parents input without any true parent input.  I know the surveys came out last fall, and I attended the Town Hall in Dover.  I specifically asked Ryan and Chantel about the Smarter Balanced weight for the report cards, and they said it wouldn’t be more than 50% of the report card, but in looking at the minutes, Smarter Balanced results or “growth” which stems from those results, will account for 90-100% of the grade a school gets depending on if its elementary & middle or high school.

Furthermore, penalizing a school for a parent’s decision to opt their child out of an assessment is not the fault of a school.  It is an indication parents don’t want their child taking this test.  Nothing against you, but the DOE can pump out as much material about SBAC as they want, but parents aren’t stupid.  Most of them don’t even like Common Core, so to come out with a test based on that is not really going to win public favor.  I know the DOE is tied to federal mandates, but you folks go way beyond even those stringent mandates.  People are catching on quick, and they don’t trust the DOE because of this.  I’m sure you can’t respond to a lot of this, and I understand that.  But opt-out is something the DOE should not punish schools for.  It will do more damage and probably cause MORE opt-out.  I am a firm believer in opt-out, but only if it is something a parent does as an informed choice, not just to go with the crowd.

Parents are going to be upset when they see the release of the SBAC scores and this will add fuel to the fire.  As I said at the August State Board meeting, I do not hate the DOE, but I do believe they need to engage and listen to parents a lot more than they have.  The result of the history with this is not good for our kids education.  I’m sure the DOE can provide me with numerous arguments on why SBAC needs to happen, but I can easily come back with a counter-argument for each one.  Every time I publish something on my blog that people didn’t know about, it is very bad for the DOE. 

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 10:06 AM
Subject: RE: Academic Framework Working Group

Good afternoon,

Thank you for the email. I think that there is some good feedback here as well as some areas I would like to clarify. I agree, and have stated myself, that DSEA and PTA participation is important and should have been included along with district participation from the beginning. They did miss approximately four of the twelve meetings, but were absolutely part of the decisions on which metrics to include and what those business rules would be. The initial AFWG meetings, as you likely read in the minutes, focused on approach to the work without any recommendations having been made. Also to note, DSEA and the PTA selected the rep(s) that they wanted to participate and we are happy to have them. They have been good representatives of their constituents.

The AFWG is still in existence – until this week, we had not met since March because that is when the SBE approved the framework to be sent with the ESEA Flex waiver. The rest of the work that was needed would come after we received all of the testing data back. We have representation from all three counties and a relatively diverse group in terms of roles and responsibilities. We have had representation from a majority of the districts and I personally invited each superintendent to participate by email and also in a recent meeting. I hope you agree that this is an important and positive step forward in encouraging as much representative participation as possible from our districts, who are ultimately the ones being held responsible for the performance of our schools. Given the different capacities of districts, all superintendents have asked for, and will receive, direct correspondence around the minutes of the meetings. These minutes are also posted on the web site – it is an informal group (not a formal committee such as DESS), but we still want to ensure that we are reflecting the information. Currently, we have representatives from: Caesar Rodney, Appo, Capital, NCCVT, Indian River, Lake Forrest, Red Clay, Colonial, and Woodbridge. We have also had participation from Poly, Brandywine, and Delmar.

The AFWG is a group that meets to discuss and provide recommendations to the Secretary. There is limited Department staff present at the meetings (typically it is myself and one other person who provide facilitation and coordination services) – it was important for us to set-up the group to be able to discuss as stakeholders specifically.

You mentioned below the weight of Smarter Balanced in the DSSF as 90-100%. First, the weights have not been determined and that is what we will be doing over the course of the Fall. For high schools, it is well below 90-100%. For elementary and middle schools, it was difficult to find measurable metrics and that is why we are hoping to weight growth as much as possible. If you have ideas on other metrics that could be used for elementary, please feel free to share them. We have had very robust and long conversations on this specific topic and had truly hoped to find metrics that were fair to all schools!

I do apologize if you had trouble finding the information. We actually made adjustments to the new web site to make accountability its own toolbar so that it would be easier to find information. Hopefully, having that highlighted on the front page continues to make the information more visible. Please let me know if you have suggestions on how to make that even more prominent. I would like to respectfully draw your attention to the relatively significant amount of engagement that the team has tried to do: a statewide survey, a series of focus groups, and over 8 Town Hall/Community meetings over the last eight months. Additionally, we have an accountability email address that allows people to submit feedback directly to the Department if they are unable to attend a public meeting. Through this cumulative process, we have received thousands of responses and have absolutely reflected that feedback in the development of the DSSF (Delaware School Success Framework) – even in how it was named! I think that it is difficult to ask parents to come to meetings that exist during the day, when we meet, which is why we have worked to include as much input as possible from the evening meetings that we have set-up. We continue to solicit this input – one of the things we will be doing is holding a week-long stakeholder input opportunity (the Design Challenge) to present some options on the new DSSF and get input and feedback on its design. That will occur in September. As with any major project, there is typically a smaller (in this case relatively big) group that helps to frame the work and then we go out to get input on it. If you have ideas that will help to expand the number of families that we reach through this effort, place let me know.

As a note, we have also presented on components of the DSSF publicly at SBE meetings and retreats over five times. Truly, we want the input. We have actively discussed it as a group and have tried to create as much awareness as possible. We continue to look for additional ideas and look forward to your feedback and input.

I hope this answers the majority of your questions.

Penny Schwinn

Associate Secretary,

Assessment, Accountability, Performance, and Evaluation

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street

Dover, DE 19901-3639

(Editor’s note, in Penny Schwinn’s further emails her title and address appears but I am taking them out for brevity’s sake)


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 1:25 PM
Subject: Error

Good afternoon,

I wanted to correct a mistake I made in my last email: DSEA and PTA members joined the AFWG at different points last year. I am happy to go back and verify which meetings were the first and/or which dates the conversations occurred. After sending the email, I double-checked and realized my error. Apologies for that.

Thanks,

Penny


On Aug 28, 2015, at 2:18 PM, “Kevin Ohlandt” <kevino3670@yahoo.com> wrote

Penny,

I already have that info because you were VERY thorough with your minutes on attendance! 🙂

Thanks,

Kevin


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 4:47 PM
To: Schwinn Penny
Cc: May Alison
Subject: Re: Academic Framework Working Group

Hello again Penny,

Sorry to keep bothering you on this, but I did have some feedback or potential suggestions based on what you wrote back. 

*Include Board Presidents in communications around this group, not just superintendents

*I know the group decided Suspensions & Expulsions are already reported elsewhere, I think this would be an extreme disservice to parents, as this is one of the chief areas they look at in determining a school for their child, or even what town to move to if they are coming from out of state.  I would go so far as to ask for Bullying & Offensive Touching percentages for each school.

*Once again, I would request these meetings be open to the public, regardless of the time it is, with time allotted for public comment, or perhaps even an audio recording so parents know what was discussed.  I know this isn’t required by law, but it would greatly benefit the DOE to show this kind of transparency to the public.

Just some thoughts, and thank you again for the open communication!

Kevin

(you don’t have to call me Mr. Ohlandt, it makes me feel old, LOL!)


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2015 7:40 PM
Subject: RE: Academic Framework Working Group

Hi Kevin,

Thanks again for the email and the feedback! Here are some thoughts:

·        I think it is a great idea to email Board Presidents with the minutes of the meetings and to make sure they know when the meetings will take place. I will coordinate internally around this. I appreciate the idea.

·        The suspension and expulsion debate was long and thoughtful. I will say that there was overwhelming support for this indicator in theory. The challenge is that not all districts and schools track suspensions and expulsions in the same way, or even suspend for the same reasons. The group was worried that if it became a part of a rated accountability system, it would create a perverse incentive for schools to not suspend for things that they should. (We have seen this in other states, for example). I agree that it is an important indicator for families, so what we have decided to do at this point is to transparently post the information on the online version of the DSSF. This online version is scheduled to launch in June and would provide information and more detail on all of the indicators that we know are important. I hope and expect that the culture and climate survey will reflect the same type of information (“I feel safe at school”) for the paper version, and in some respects better capture how the culture makes children and staff feel, instead of the number of suspensions alone. Again, I agree it is important, it is just tricky to include if schools aren’t consistent.

·        I appreciate your feedback on the meeting format. Originally when I came to Delaware, the plan was to use the charter framework and there was an even mix of district and DOE staff to adapt this system. We instead decided to restart the discussion/create the system from scratch, and put together the AFWG as a way to ensure that we were soliciting the feedback of our districts; it was relatively informal, though very impactful given that I thought (and believe) it was important to limit DOE staff in the discussion (currently two people). We did ensure there were certain “non-negotiables” in place to be in alignment with the minimum federal requirements. As a result, the group is not  formal like the DESS and while we’ve communicated the meeting schedule to districts, you are correct that we have not done so on the web site. Frankly, it was not to keep people out, it was just the nature of the group. We kept detailed minutes and posted those (along with every presentation) as a way to add transparency. I give you this context only so that you understand the intent. I appreciate your thoughts on ways to continue to increase the transparency, which I hope you feel like we have genuinely tried to do, and will add that for discussion with the full team.

You also had one question that referenced participation rates that I do not believe I fully answered in my last email – apologies. You had wanted information as to the penalty for participation rates on the DSSF and I provided the background on our work to develop weights. I did not, however, give you the reason as to why it was included at all…. As a federal requirement, we must have a piece of the accountability system that accounts for low participation rates. This is exactly the same as what is currently required in AYP, which Delaware uses. We have minimized the impact of this as much as possible by making proficiency a very small part of our new accountability system – currently, it is almost 100% of the accountability system. This was something that the AFWG and districts discussed and felt like would be fair to everyone and minimize the impact of overall participation rates. In summary, we must include it and we have limited its impact as much as possible.

Thanks again for your feedback on this and for your ideas.  Have a wonderful (and warm!) weekend.

Best,

Penny


From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2015 7:39 AM
Subject: Re: Academic Framework Working Group

Penny,

Thank you for your last email and for the clarifications on things.  I did want to respond to those, and also advise you I am publishing this email chain to lift the curtain on these matters.  You referenced the “accountability part of the system that accounts for low participation rates” and that this is a “federal requirement”.  I checked in the actual ESEA requirements for the school report card, and it does include that an SEA and LEA must report the participation rate.

In the guidance document provided by the Feds for this, found here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/titleiparta/state_local_report_card_guidance_2-08-2013.pdf, it states:

Participation rates on State assessments

An SEA must report the percentage of students who are not tested on the State’s reading/language arts, mathematics, and science assessments and must disaggregate those rates by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, migrant status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii)). In the alternative, an SEA may report the percentage of students who are tested, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged. If an SEA that has received ESEA flexibility has included one or more combined subgroups in its State differentiated recognition, accountability, and support system, it must report participation rates for each combined subgroup also. An SEA need not report disaggregated participation rates if the number of students in a category is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information or the results would reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii)).

So I thought I would check ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(c)(iii), which states the following:

SEC. 1111. STATE PLANS. (h) REPORTS- (1) ANNUAL STATE REPORT CARD- (C) REQUIRED INFORMATION- The State shall include in its annual State report card— (iii) the percentage of students not tested (disaggregated by the same categories and subject to the same exception described in clause (i)); which states for clause (i): (i) information, in the aggregate, on student achievement at each proficiency level on the State academic assessments described in subsection (b)(3) (disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, migrant status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged, except that such disaggregation shall not be required in a case in which the number of students in a category is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information or the results would reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student);

For the LEA portion, I checked on that in the same guidance provided in 2013, which states:

Participation rates on State assessments

An LEA must report the percentage of students who are not tested on the State’s reading/language arts, mathematics, and science assessments and must disaggregate those rates by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, migrant status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii), (h)(2)(B)). In the alternative, an LEA may report the percentage of students who are tested, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged. If an LEA is in a State that has received ESEA flexibility and has included one or more combined subgroups in its differentiated recognition, accountability, and support system, the LEA must report participation rates for each combined subgroup also. An LEA need not report disaggregated participation rates if the number of students in a category is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information or the results would reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii), (h)(2)(D)

While 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii) is the same as above, the LEA has the extra caveat of (h)(2)(B) which states:

(2) ANNUAL LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCY REPORT CARDS- (B) MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS- The State educational agency shall ensure that each local educational agency collects appropriate data and includes in the local educational agency’s annual report the information described in paragraph (1)(C) as applied to the local educational agency and each school served by the local educational agency, and—

(i) in the case of a local educational agency—(I) the number and percentage of schools identified for school improvement under section 1116(c) and how long the schools have been so identified; and (II) information that shows how students served by the local educational agency achieved on the statewide academic assessment compared to students in the State as a whole; and (ii) in the case of a school—(I) whether the school has been identified for school improvement; and (II) information that shows how the school’s students achievement on the statewide academic assessments and other indicators of adequate yearly progress compared to students in the local educational agency and the State as a whole.

The 2013 guidance regarding participation rate goes on to state:

D-7. What information must an SEA or an LEA include on its report card regarding participation rates?

An SEA or an LEA must report the percentage of students who are not tested on the State’s reading/languages, mathematics, and science assessments and must disaggregate those rates by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, English proficiency, and status as economically disadvantaged (ESEA section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii), (h)(2)(B)). In the alternative, an SEA or an LEA may report the percentage of students who are tested. If an SEA that has received ESEA flexibility has included one or more combined subgroups in its differentiated recognition, accountability, and support system, the SEA and its LEAs must report participation rates for each combined subgroup also. 

So now that we know what the Feds are saying in their guidance and applicable ESEA law in regards to reporting participation rate on the school report card, it is importing to spotlight what “participation rate” can not include as written in the 2013 guidance document:

D-8. May an SEA or an LEA count students without a valid score as participating in the State assessments?

No. Under both the IDEA and the ESEA, students without a valid score may not be reported as participating in State assessments on either the State or local report card (34 C.F.R. §§ 200.20(c)(3), 300.160(b)(2), (f)(1)).

At this point, my key issue with the ESEA Renewal Request submitted to the US DOE by the DE DOE on March 31st is that it was not the SAME ESEA Renewal Request that received public comment.  As I indicated to you before, the only available way of the public seeing the participation rate portion of the School Report Card was in the minutes for the AFWG meetings or by attending or listening to the audio of the State Board of Education meeting.  Since the PDF for the final AFWG meeting notes was not even created by you until March 20th, the day AFTER the State Board of Education meeting, and the State Board approved the ESEA Renewal Request that day which was publicly noted, the ONLY way someone could look for changes to the 3/1 draft would be to listen to an audio recording or happen to see the red-lined edition on 3/31/15 when this was added in which was also the same day it was submitted to the US DOE.  This is NOT public engagement.  There was absolutely no time given for public comment on this issue, nor has their been until this week.  Given the fact that there was vigorous debate over parent opt-out at the time due to House Bill 50, a parent opt-out bill that was pending in the General Assembly, it would have been crucial to that ongoing discussion to include this action by the DOE.  When the DOE and the State Board publicly commented on this bill during the House Education Committee meeting on 4/22/15 and the Senate Education Committee Meeting on 6/10/15, absolutely nothing was mentioned about this, even those who testified would have had FULL knowledge of this.  As well, most would think this would be a valid argument against opt-out.  However the fact this was NEVER adequately exposed to the public until I found this out on 8/25/15, nobody was the wiser to this issue.  If I were a betting man, I would go so far as to say the DOE, State Board and AFWG did not want this publicly disclosed.  As well, I would say there was conscious effort to withhold this information. Nowhere in the comments section of the ESEA Renewal Request did it say anything about this. I am operating under the assumption the DESS Advisory Council was not advised of this either, and even their notes from their meeting prior to the State Board of Education meeting on 3/19 notated some members serve in both groups creating a potential conflict of interest.

Sources: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/234/Delaware%20ESEA%20Flex%20Renewal%20Redline%20DRAFT%203-1-15.pdf (page 72)

 http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/domain/232/esea/DE_ESEA%20Flex_Renewal_Redline_3-31-15.pdf (page 78)

Regarding the “federal requirement” for the accountability portion of the school report card in including participation rate on the School Report Card, it says absolutely nothing as using the participation rate as a penalizing measure in the formulations and weights for the report card grading system.  It merely states the participation rate must be REPORTED.  The participation rate already has a penalizing effect for schools.  Students who don’t take the test are still counted in the proficiency ratings.  Since this would obviously lower proficiency ratings for the overall school the higher the opt-out numbers, the school is ALREADY punished for opt-out.  But by adding a participation rate penalization portion of the school report card, you are in essence punishing a school TWICE for the same action.  As well, as written in the final ESEA waiver, with the weights included, if a school goes below the 95% participation rate they would not be able to get the highest level on the school report card, thus giving a school a potential THIRD punishment for opt-outs.  Since these last two are not required by the federal government, I would strongly suggest this AFWG group with very limited stakeholder input aside from district superintendents, two charter heads, one DSEA rep, one DE PTA rep and one State Board rep, along with one or two members of your group, immediately disqualify the participation rate portion of the School Report Card.

The 95% participation rate began because schools were not testing certain students so they could make their test results look better.  The way the laws are written around it, on a Federal and State level, are based on that past history.  Nowhere does this account for parent opt-out.  The schools are required to administer the assessment to all students.  Parents are not required to have the test administered to their children. This is the key difference here.  No law exists anywhere demanding this.  Therefore, the 95% rule is a fidelity measure for the schools to adhere to their responsibility as written in the law, not the parents.  If a school tells a student, “you aren’t taking the test because the school doesn’t want you to”, then yes, they should be punished for that because it would mean they are violating state and federal law.

Imagine if the General Assembly passed a law stating “We will allow opt-out but only 5% of parents can do it.”  It would be illogical and it would cause public chaos.  In essence, this is the message being sent from schools in our state to parents based on this insane dictate.  In their effort to prevent opt-out so their schools are not punished, some districts and charters are telling parents “No, you can’t opt out” or “Only we can decide who opts out”.  This has created a situation pitting parents against schools based on laws that only apply to schools or their employees, not parents.  Which is also why no school has received federal funding cuts based on participation rates below 95% which is caused by parent opt-out.  The laws are not written to reflect this, nor should they ever be due to the fact that children would be denied resources based on situations beyond their control.  The feds know this, which is why they left it to the State of New York to determine that with their high opt-out numbers.  New York is backing away from those cuts.  The legal challenges, if this ever did happen, would cause considerable expense to districts or charters, SEAs, and the federal government.

So while I appreciate the level of perceived transparency on this issue, it was not anywhere close to transparent.  In fact, many school board members were not aware of this at all until I informed them of it.  Parents, teachers, school board members, and citizens of Delaware are outraged by this.  They are mad, and they have every right to be.  They feel the DOE and the AFWG duped them, and their impression of them is not good.

I sincerely hope these types of transparency and public impression issues are corrected under the new leadership of Dr. Godowsky as Secretary of Education and I look forward to the pending but immediate removal of this participation rate section of the School Report Card in the Delaware School Success Framework.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


Okay, now that you have read this long post and feel inclined to know more backstory on this mess, it started here and continued here but really, everything behind this is included here, here, here, and here and on a national level, here and here.

Showdown Tomorrow on Opt-Out Legislation vs. “Staying In” Resolution

On Wednesday, June 3rd, the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50, will face off against Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory resolution.  The supporters of standardized testing have been out in full force in opinion pieces in the News Journal and the Dover Post, but so have the supporters of opt-out.  Backed by a 36-3 vote in the House of Representatives, House Bill 50 has a great deal of momentum coming into the Senate Education Committee meeting tomorrow at 3pm.

The monkey wrench in the House Bill 50 path is SJR #2.  Whether this “assessment inventory” legislation was created by the sponsors, Senator Sokola & House Rep. Jaques, or Governor Markell’s office, or the DOE is immaterial.  It was created to distract from parent opt-out.  The opponents are realizing this bill could clear the Senate very easily, and are attempting to put up ever possible roadblock they can think of.  The civil rights groups in Wilmington are out in full force arguing the merits of the Smarter Balanced Assessment with very little facts, even bringing up Brown v. The Board of Education from 50 years ago.  The argument simply shows further segregation of low-income and minority students as evidenced by standardized testing scores since No Child Left Behind began.

Meanwhile, the Delaware PTA, the Delaware State Educators Association, many teachers and a legion of parents are supporting House Bill 50.  For one simple reason: they do not want their children taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The flaws are out there for every one to see.

SJR #2 is now referred to as the “Staying In” resolution because of Dr. Teri Quinn Gray’s editorial in today’s News Journal where she states she wants parents to have the courage to “stay in” with the Smarter Balanced Assessment instead of opting out.  She even brought up her own child in the editorial who is a sophomore in college and not subject to the SBAC.

Red Clay Board Member Adriana Bohm’s Incredible Opt Out Speech At March Board Meeting

As the parent opt out movement continues in Delaware, some of the larger school districts have not taken an official stance on the matter.  At the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting on March 18th, board members Adrianna Bohm gave an excellent speech on the parent opt out movement.  This is a must-read!

I want to personally thank Adriana Bohm for delivering this speech.  I was unable to attend, but I did hear it through Red Clay’s digital recording, and it was stirring and powerful.  I heard Bohm speak at a Wilmington City Council meeting last fall in regards to the priority schools initiative, and she has a very powerful voice.  I expect we will hear much more from Adriana in Delaware’s future.

Both the Capital and Christina Boards of Education have passed resolutions supporting the right for parents to opt their child out of standardized testing with no penalty to the student.  Other districts have verbally stated they would support opt out, such as Colonial, but no official board decision was made.

In the meantime, if you live in Red Clay Consolidated School District, please attend their April 15th board meeting and give public comment supporting parent opt out.  And don’t forget about the Parent Press Conference, covering parent opt out and education in Delaware from the parent’s perspective.  This event will be outside of Legislative Hall in Dover on April 1st at 5pm.  For more details, please go here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/962893793730222/

President Obama Lawsuit For Education and Health Initiatives Prepared By Republican Senators #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @BadassTeachersA @DianeRavitch

It looks like the GOP Senators questioning the US DOE and Arne Duncan about major special education violations wasn’t the only item on their agenda.  Apparently, Republicans in D.C. who are upset about how Obama handled the health-care law are using other items President Obama has used in executive action, including education reform in a bid for a lawsuit against President Obama.  In particular, No Child Left Behind waivers and Race To The Top funding were cited as specific examples in their claims of abuse of executive powers.

The major issue concerns the Race To The Top funding, introduced in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The $4 billion funding directive was given to states who, the Republicans feel, were coerced into forming the Common Core State Standards.  As well, the issues of teacher evaluations based on the test scores of students who performed new standardized testing based on Common Core appear to be major issues with the GOP as well in D.C.  They argue this was not approved by the legislators of Congress or The Senate. 

A Republican House Representative from Minnesota, John Kline, stated “The proposal raises questions about the department’s legal authority to grant conditional waivers in exchange for reforms not authorized by Congress.” 

In a quote to the Associated Press on July 30th, 2014, House Representative John Sessions said “Branches of government have always attempted to exert their influences on the other branches. But the president has gone too far. Rather than faithfully executing the law as the Constitution requires, I believe the president has selectively enforced the law in some instances, ignored the law in other instances, and in a few cases unilaterally attempted to change the law altogether.” 

Since no lawsuit has been filed yet, it is unclear what implication this could have on current state Common Core and Standardized Testing initiatives.  Many education experts believe this could have an implication on mid-term elections as well as Congressional oversight over executive decision-making ability.  President Obama has staunchly supported his position of utilizing executive orders to improve education and health due to what he feels is an inept Congress.  The results of these actions by the GOP Senate could have long-lasting effects on the ability of the Obama administration, and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to grant waivers with pre-existing conditions not signed into law by Congress.

More information can be found on the original article on EdWeek’s website: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/08/20/01lawsuit.h34.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1