Let’s Get Together

So education is a mess in Delaware.  It has basically come down to two sides: the moneymakers who want to make more money off education and those who just want education to be about teachers teaching and students learning with no high-stakes attached other than the student’s actual grades they receive based on the quality of work they put out.  This is it in a nutshell.  Sure, there are a million other variables in-between but this is the crux of the issues.

One side says what we have isn’t good enough while the other disagrees.  I’ve heard legislators say that both sides need to get together and compromise.  But how do you compromise when your very ethics and morals are questioned?  How do you put what you believe and you know in your heart of hearts to be true?  When does a financial reason ever replace what is actually good for a student?

In the 1960’s, people were very good about rising up when civil rights issues came up.  They stood up and rallied and rioted and marched and talked.  They said no to the big man and changed the face of the country.  Now many of the same people who advocated for change are the ones telling us how to run schools and what we need to do.  What changed?  Money.  They got a sniff of it, ran with it, kept it, invested it, and based their lives on it.  But they also achieved a level of power.  They got used to getting their way, and woe to anyone who gets in their way.  The only difference is now they are controlling events through money and power, as opposed to their hearts and convictions.  I think they believe the lies they tell us about our children and schools because the overwhelming need to control the scene is the mindset they have always had.

Is it even possible to change that kind of mindset?  Is there a way to convince these people they are wrong?  I don’t think so.  They will plot and scheme, and come up with other accountability measures designed to get what they want.  The difference is people are hip to their credo.  We are rising up, just as they did fifty years ago, to protest what they once believed to be wrong.  Will it be enough?  My best advice is to get together again.  Not those who will destroy public education, but all those who are opposed to what they are doing.

We need our own march that will go down in the annals of history as a catalyst for change.  We need to rally and protest.  We need to say no…together, as one voice.

The Delaware Battle For Public Education Is America’s War

In the grand scheme of things, six schools in the 2nd smallest state in the country really doesn’t amount to anything.  But the six priority schools in Wilmington, Delaware could change the face of education.  It’s not about making the schools better for the students.  It’s about two forces colliding in a battle that’s been in the making for over a decade.

On one hand is Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education.  Their public claim is the students aren’t reading up to their grade level, their standardized test scores are atrocious, and the beefed up funding will bring the schools back up again.  On the other hand are the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated school districts.  While Red Clay has already signed their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and submitted it to the Delaware Department of Education, Christina is holding out and will vote on their draft MOU at their next board meeting on January 7th.

Both school districts have vehemently and publicly opposed the priority school initiative.  The biggest demands, new principals at $160,000 a year and teachers must reapply for their jobs, has insulted and demeaned many individuals throughout Delaware.  Recent Freedom of Information Act requests have shown a collusion with the major media outlet in Delaware, The News Journal.  Meetings with the Delaware DOE have been cut short, and language from the Secretary of Education Mark Murphy to certain members of the public have been extremely rude.  Murphy refused to answer questions from the public at a Wilmington City Council meeting in October.  FOIA emails have also shown that event was largely planned by the Delaware DOE and the Governor’s office.

The methodology for the priority schools has been controversial since day one.  The DE DOE has focused on these six schools, all within a square mile of the Community Education Building designed to hold charter schools.  Bank of America donated this building to the state, and only two charter schools reside in the large building with another one slated to open in the Fall of 2015.  Prior turnaround schools, such as Booker T Elementary School in Dover and Eastside Charter School in Wilmington have been held up as the biggest gainers in test scores, but mitigating factors have contributed to those increases, whether it has been rezoning of a district or massive expulsions changing the student dynamic and decreasing the size of a class by more than half.

So why should America care about these six schools in a city that was just labeled Murdertown, USA?  Three words: Governor Jack Markell.  He has taken a very active interest in education in this first state to sign the constitution but the last to follow.  In fact, he was on the original committees for Common Core and he holds a very powerful position among US Governors when it comes to education.  Many view him as a lame duck, which he is in Delaware.  But nationally the man can continue the corporate education reform until 2020.

In 2012, there was talk about US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan possibly leaving his post, whether voluntary or by force.  There were two names lobbied as potential replacements: Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of schools for Washington D.C., and Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  While Rhee has fallen from public favor, Markell is still seen by many in political circles as the new voice for education in America.  The election of 2016 will work in Markell’s favor no matter which way it goes.  If the President-elect is a Democrat, Markell could very well be picked as the new US Secretary of Education.  If the country decides for a radical change and puts a 3rd Bush in office, Markell will still be picked for this slot.  Jeb Bush is very high in the food chain for corporate education reform, and you can bet your bottom dollar Markell has been cozying up to the former Florida Governor.

It all comes down to the Christina School District Board of Education.  As one of four school districts in Wilmington, Christina has always been the thorn in the DOE’s side.  They are fighters, and they don’t take kindly to bullying by the state.  Their refusal to follow the demands of the state with the priority schools has already put a chink in Markell’s armor.  On October 29th, at the Rodel sponsored Vision Network conference, Markell gave a speech and publicly stated he would not hesitate to takeover these schools if it came down to it.  Many in the audience were shocked at Markell’s overexertion of executive power, including many out-of-state guests.

This is what you will see if Markell takes over these six schools and turns them into charter schools:

-A precedent will be set in Delaware, and the DOE will be able to use flawed methodology via standardized test scores to “prioritize” any school in the state and turn it into a charter school.

-The DOE is already working on plans to penalize defiant school districts and potentially lead to the creation of Priority School Districts, which could then result in all schools within that district being turned into charter schools.  If you don’t think this can happen, look at New Orleans and York, Pennsylvania as cities that have turned into charter school towns.

-More Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, and Relay Graduate School teachers invading Delaware schools like a Nazi Blitzkrieg out of World War II.  These are teachers who excel at teaching to the test and are groomed to become future leaders of schools, with minimal training and hands-on experience in classrooms.

-The eventual busting of the unions.  The education unions are among the most powerful in the country, and corporate education reformers have found a way to finally break them up.  While some see these unions as a major detriment to education, they are the last man standing in the complete slaughter of public school district education.

-Even more Common Core, for not only English and Math, but also Science and Social Studies.  This will result in even more standardized testing through PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Consortium.  The US DOE used “waivers” to manipulate and blackmail and bribe states into accepting their reforms.  If the school districts didn’t comply, they would be labeled as failing due to No Child Left Behind guidelines.  Every single one of these waivers benefit the exact blueprint Markell and Rodel CEO Paul Herdman helped to create ten years ago, which has resulted in the current landscape of Delaware education.

-As more lower paid teachers come into schools, it sets up Rodel and Markell to initiate their “personalized learning” agenda through a company called 2Revolutions, which will result in the elimination of hands-on instruction in the classroom and will turn students into complete virtual zombies.  This will give the students of the future more screen-time than ever.  When they aren’t looking at screens all day at school, they will go home and do homework on the screen.  When they aren’t focused on school, they will be on their iPads and Xbox.  This “personalized learning” plan has already stated schools would need to do away with extracurricular activities like sports and band, or plays and art clubs.

-Special needs children will suffer the most from this plan, and they will be put at the bottom of the barrel.  Arne Duncan has already put things in place that will eliminate the very heart of IDEA law.  Do not believe for one second that states want to narrow the proficiency gap between special education students and regular students.  They are using this data to make huge decisions with our schools.  They will sacrifice a few of their own beloved charter schools to make this point.  For every charter school that is closed, there are many more waiting in the wings.

-Minorities and low-income students will continue to be targeted and clumped together in charter schools with their own.  Segregation will become the de facto method for all of education.

-Who benefits from all public school students going to charter schools, doing all their work in front of a screen, eliminating the diverse choices students have in schools, and being tested like guinea pigs in high-stakes testing?  The companies that have backed all of this and the politicians who have set up the pieces on the board to allow it to happen.

Do parents and the current school districts have a choice anymore with what happens in education?  Of course they do.  It is not too late.  Stopping Markell in Delaware would send a clear message to these companies that would benefit off the backs of our children.  The time has come to stop rallying on Facebook on our state “Stop Common Core” pages and actually do something.  Every single state in America that is driving these agendas needs to be stopped.  Citizens need to start sending Freedom Of Information Act requests to their governors and state DOE.  They need to expose these charlatans for what they are.  This isn’t something that can be held off.  You can’t wait and see.  You have to take a stand if you are against this, and it needs to be done NOW.

If the little state of Delaware Governor Jack Markell is not held in check, he will most likely be the next US Secretary of Education and that means more of the same in education, with even more steps being taken to destroy what we have.  This nonsense would continue until January 2021 at the earliest, if not longer.  By then, all that public school district education has will be gone.  It will become a whisper, and hundreds of thousands of educators will disappear.  Markell is viewed by many in Delaware as a dictator, and if he is allowed to be set loose as the leader of education in America, all bets are off.

This is the future of education in America.  Don’t let anyone fool you.  Don’t let them say you are crazy.  The people telling you this are already in key positions that are allowing this to happen.  Once you enter this matrix world of corporate education reform, the connections these people have and the paths they take become very obvious.  They are all pieces of the puzzle that lead to the complete annihilation of education as we know it.

Right now, Delaware needs your help America.  We have formed a group called  Delaware Parents and Teachers for Public Education.  We have started a petition against the priority schools.  We need your voice.  We don’t just want 1,000 signatures.  We want a million.  We want to send a powerful message to those that want to dictate rather than collaborate.  So please, sign our petition.  It is not about Delaware.  It’s about freedom, and voice, and our children.  It’s about America.

Please go here to sign our petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lets-make-priority-schools-a-real-priority-2

 

 

Delaware Special Needs Parents Need To Unite Statewide Now! We can’t let the Rodels, Markells & DOE Screw Us Over

Gateway.  Priority Schools.  Smarter Balanced.  Standards Based IEPs.  Common Core.  Personalized Learning.  Rodel.  Vision.  Relay Graduate School.  Teach For America.  Governor Markell.

These are the ways Governor Markell, under the long-term strategic plans of Rodel, using the DOE as his shadow puppets, has systematically and methodically destroyed education as we know it in our state.  Some of us know this, and others are still living in the haze.

Sometimes, to move forward, you have to look back.  Last night, I journeyed back to last April.  My family’s situation with my son’s former charter school was starting to end and we were laboriously working on an IEP for my son at his new public elementary school.  But it felt like it wasn’t enough.  I started to research what led to all this.  I contacted a blogger named Kilroy, and we had many sidebar chats.  One day, I emailed him and advised him I figured it all out: Rodel ran education in this state.  They didn’t care what you or I thought, they had their vision, and to hell with anyone that got in their way.

We have allowed this to happen.  Because we haven’t spoken as one voice.  It’s hard being a special needs parent.  We all know this.  If it isn’t impacting my child, then we just don’t make the time to help.  Well guess what, everything is impacting your child now.  I’m sure a few weeks ago all the parents at Gateway thought they were secure.  I’m sure last summer some of the parents at the Priority schools thought their children were in good hands.  We have a standardized test coming up next Spring that a lot of our kids are rigorously  prepped for every day.  This test is so bad the company that made it doesn’t even know how to set proficiency levels.  Our teachers are being held at bay, getting screwed over left and right, held with a gun to their head every day with the threat of lower pay and the future of their already low-paying job on the line.   None of our schools are safe anymore.  Our educators aren’t safe.  And our children aren’t safe.

When I was chatting with Kilroy, he told me this state needs a unified special needs parent group.  Like a PTA for special needs parents.  As pieces, we can make some noise, ruffle some feathers, but at the end of the day nothing changes.  As a whole, a large unified group, representing 13.5% of children in this state, we can make a difference.  When one of our schools is threatened, we stand up.  When one of our kids is being mistreated, we stand up.  When legislation is introduced that can impact our kids, we stand up.  This is the only way we can make true and lasting change in Delaware.

We can NOT be a part of a government group.  Not PIC.  Not GACEC.  Not the DOE.  Not the Delaware PTA.  Or a PTO.  Once you are in the matrix, you don’t leave.  Don’t get me wrong, some individuals have made great changes to the system by being in these groups.  Some have gone on to become legislators.  That’s a good thing.  However, for the services and supports we need now, we need each other.  We can no longer rely on a Governor who really doesn’t care about what our kids need.  Gateway has proven that numbers on a piece of paper are more important than our children’s needs.

I would like to see this group start in January 2015.  Or sooner.  We can all go to the public comment meeting for Gateway on December 10th at the Delaware DOE.  They need our support.  We can protest the priority schools.  Because the state DOE has said nothing about the needs of those special needs children.  It hasn’t even been a part of the conversation.

Please leave comment and let’s start planning together.  This isn’t impossible.  It only takes a few people to unite and start spreading the word.  Reading this and agreeing is not enough.  Many of us have had our differences.  So we talk about them, we hash them out.  Maybe you think your kid is doing fine and everything is alright.  Great, let’s talk and see if that’s really the case.  We cannot live in a bubble anymore.  Because if you think for one minute all of this Common Core and standardized testing is going to lead to a greater future for your child, you are very wrong.

Special Needs Parents: The Watchers On The Wall

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

This is from George R.R. Martin’s Game Of Thrones.  I’ve taken out the parts of the oath that don’t apply.  We don’t need to be just parents for our special needs kids.  In the Autism world, I hear about parents being a warrior for their children.  We all need to be warriors for our special needs children.  We fight the battles at home, we refuse to fight this battle anymore at our schools.  We cannot sit idly by and watch our legislators and the DOE decide what is best for our children.  This is what will happen if we do not provide input.

Special Needs Parents, we are the Watchers On The Wall!  We are all that stands between bad education standards and our children.  We need to unite, once and for all, and make a stand.  I’ve been saying this all summer.   Show up tonight at the IEP Task Force, either in Dover or Wilmington.  Make your voice heard.  Say no to the tests that are damaging our schools.  Say no to the battles at IEP meetings.  Say no to schools denying special education services our children deserve by law and right.  Say no to a Department of Education that does whatever the Federal Government tells them to do and nothing more.  If you can’t show up tonight, come to the next one.  Or the one after that.  Email your parent rep on the task force.  I don’t have all that info yet, but I will get it.  Don’t go to the DOE with your concerns about IEPs while this task force is running.  Go directly to the task force, to your parent rep, to the meetings, to the microphone.    I just don’t trust the DOE right now.  Too much has happened.  They are the one entity in the state who should be doing certain things for our children, and they are not.  They haven’t been for a long time, if ever.  I’m not clear on the the intentions with the task force, but this is our time.  We have NEVER had a better opportunity to initiate change then RIGHT NOW!!!!  You would be surprised how many of us there are, but we need EVERY voice.  This isn’t something that comes around often.  We have been given a public forum.  Let’s take advantage of that.  Our children are counting on us.

If you want to come at 4pm to the Dover site so we can organize, I will be there.  Meet me in front of the building.  Parents: We must fight, like we have never fought before.  We need to show them and tell them what they have done is wrong.  We must stop them from making the same mistakes, over and over and over.  Our children suffer.  Our families suffer.  Our schools suffer.  NO MORE!!!