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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Delaware Juniors Take The Common Core SAT Today… Can They Opt Out?

Back in December, Governor Markell and Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky announced the Smarter Balanced Assessment was going away for high school juniors.  Because the College Board aligned the SAT with Common Core, why take both tests?  Today is the annual SAT day for the juniors.  The state pays for all of them to take the test.  I am very curious how the scores will be this year with the realignment.  I haven’t heard a peep about any parent wanting to opt their kid out of the SAT.  Or as I like to call it, Smarter Balanced Junior.

I actually heard one district gave all the 9th and 10th graders off tomorrow.  Did others do this as well and why?  Does the testing environment have to be in the right alignment as well for the juniors?  And why not give the seniors off as well?  Only in Delaware!  We are a state that is obsessed from the top down with testing.  We can’t escape from it because our Governor, legislators, and the DOE believe it is essential.  But our hubris comes at a price.  We don’t look at the quality, only the results.

Have You Signed The “Parent Bill of Rights for Education” Change.org Petition Yet? This Is Not The “Testing Bill Of Rights” From Center for American Progress

Two weeks ago, I posted the “Parent Bill of Rights for Education”.  As a result of posting this on Facebook to various education groups that promote opt out, Facebook banned me for two weeks from posting to groups or joining groups.  So I created a petition on Change.org.  Please sign it today if you haven’t already.  When you finish, please share the Change.org link or this one on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, or anywhere else you can think of.  Share it with your family and neighbors.

This was a reaction to the “Testing Bill of Rights” promoted by the Center for American Progress, an education reform company that heavily supports high-stakes testing and Common Core.  They are against opt out and hope to make more money from their education reforms.  Their petition, which they claim has 11,000 signatures in the past two weeks, does nothing to protect a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Their claim that reducing testing, while getting rid of the tests that do matter, is bogus.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at some of their recent tweets:

So what is the “Parents Bill of Rights for Education”?

THE PARENTAL BILL OF RIGHTS FOR OUR CHILDREN IN EARLY EDUCATION, PRE-SCHOOL, ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

CONCERNING HIGH-STAKES STANDARDIZED ASSESSMENTS, OUR RIGHT TO OPT OUT OR REFUSE OUR CHILD OUT OF THOSE ASSESSMENTS, THE COLLECTION OF STUDENT DATA, AND OUR RIGHT TO GATHER

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PARENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Definition of parent: any biological parent, or a parent through legal adoption, or foster parent, or guardian, or court-appointed guardian, for children through the ages of birth to 18 or 21 with guardianship through the end of an IEP, whichever is later.

Whereas parents have been given the responsibility to raise a child and to help guide them to adulthood, as their primary caregiver, and

Whereas parents, through United States Supreme Court decisions and other laws, have the right to decide what is best for our children in education matters until they come to a legal age when they are able to make those decisions on their own, and

Whereas, we believe public education should be reserved for the public at large and not the corporations, be they profit or non-profit, and that decisions based on education are best made at the local level, and

Whereas, we believe any assessments given to our children should provide immediate feedback for the student, teacher, school, and parent as defined for the sole purpose of giving reasonable and interpretive analysis of academic progress for our child’s allotted grade.

Whereas, as the caretakers of our children, we demand that decisions regarding data and the collection of data are parental decisions and that we furthermore have the absolute, unconditional right and ability to consent or not consent to any sharing of said data

(1) As parents, we have the fundamental, moral, and constitutional right to make decisions on behalf of our children in regards to their education.

(a) This includes the type of school we decide they go to, whether it be in a traditional school district, public charter school, vocational school, private school, home school, or home school co-op.

(b) This includes our ability to refuse or opt our children out of standardized assessments despite accountability measures placed upon a school.

(1) Once we have submitted our letter indicating our choice to refuse or opt out our child, we shall receive no verbal or written words meant to threaten, bully, or intimidate, in an effort, whether intentional or coincidental, to coerce us into changing our minds.

(2) We expect our children to receive instruction while their peers take the state assessment that is of equal or greater value to the type of instruction they would receive prior to or after the administration of the state assessment.

(3) If our child is forced to take a test after we have already given our consent to refuse or opt out, we reserve the right to call the local police and press charges against the local education administration.

(4) If we witness parents who are bullied or intimidated, we will advocate on their behalf with their consent, if they feel they are unable to do so.

(2) We reserve the right, as dictated by United States of America Federal Law, Title 34, Subtitle A, Chapter 1, Part 99.32 (b), to request all personal identifiable information sent as data or official records to all parties indicated in the entirety of Title 34, Subtitle A, and to receive the entire list of all those who have disseminated, received, or researched said data, and to receive such record keeping as required by federal law, within the 30 day timeframe.

(a) Parents also reserve the right to have any aggregated data on our child, which could conceivably set up a pattern of identification based on our unique and individual child’s health records, social-emotional behavior, discipline, socio-economic, or any such identifiable trait or history of said traits, be banned from any education research organization, personalized learning computer system, or blending learning computer systems, standardized assessment(s), or any other form of educational environment practice or computer-based digital learning environment, whether it is through algorithms already built into a system or any other form of data collection that does not include the legal definition of personal identifiable information, at our request.

(1) This would also include any State Longitudinal Data System, or any Federal system, up to and including the Federal Learning Registry, a joint system shared by the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Defense.

(2) Parents have the right to reject any “competency-based education” decisions for our children that we feel are not based on reasonable, valued, well-researched, or statistically-normed guidelines or analysis.

(3) Parents may freely reject any form of data collection, data-mining, or data sharing that would lead to our child having a pre-determined pathway to a career based on any such data unless we give consent for said behavior, before the actual data collection, data-mining, or data sharing by any education agency or institution, and as such, we reject and forbid any trajectory-based decisions for our child unless we have given complicit consent.

(3) For any education decisions regarding our children that we, as parents, feel is not safe, or is inadequate, or is unhealthy for our children, we hereby reserve the right to be able to give public comment to any governing body, without incident or refusal, based on compliance with existing, applicable, and reasonable rules of public meeting conduct, based on our First Amendment Rights.

(4) As parents, we reserve the right to gather, discuss, and give advice to other parents or concerned citizens, in any public meeting or gathering place or social gathering place, whether it is physical or on the internet, without censorship, removal, or banishment, based on existing, applicable, and reasonable rules of conduct set forth by the host of the public meeting place or social gathering place.

(5) Parents have the right to lobby elected officials or local school board officials or state board of education officials, regarding pending, suggested, or passed legislation or regulation, that parents deem harmful to their child or children in general, without cause or incident, based on existing, applicable, and reasonable law.

(a) We expect our elected officials, based on their availability, to make every concerted effort to personally respond to our request(s) and to not send a generic form letter, but rather to constructively engage with parents to the same effort they would with any official registered lobbyist who is paid to do so.

(6) As parents, we reject the ability of corporations to “invest” or “hedge” in education with financial predictors of success, including social impact bonds, or any other type of investments where financial institutions or corporations would gain financial benefit or loss based on student outcomes, as we believe a child’s education should be based on the unique and individual talents and abilities of each child, not as a collective group or whole.

(7) As parents, we believe our child’s teacher(s) are the front line for their education, and therefore, have the most immediate ability and responsibility to guide our children towards academic success, and therefore, should have the most say in their instruction.

(a) Therefore, we believe no state assessment can give a clear picture of a teacher’s ability to instruct a student or group thereof, and therefore, we reject any evaluation methods for teachers based on high-stakes standardized testing.

(b) Therefore, we believe a teacher’s best efforts should remain at the local level, in the classroom, and not to conform to a state assessment or to guide instruction towards proficiency on a state assessment, but rather on the material and instruction present before the students based on the material and instruction they have learned before.

(8) We reject any basis of accountability or framework system meant to falsely label or demean any teacher, administrator, school staff, or school, based on students outcomes as it pertains to state or national standardized assessments.

(9) As parents, we are the primary stakeholders for our child’s education, and therefore demand representation on any group, committee, task force, commission, or any such gathering of stakeholders to determine educational decisions for children, be it at a local, state, or national level.

(a) We demand equal or greater representation on any such group as that allotted to outside corporations.

 

Governor Jack Markell & Johnnie Cochran: Parallel Lines & Big Mistakes

American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson concluded on Tuesday night.  Based on the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the show brought the O.J. Simpson saga from 1994-1995 back to life.  During this time, Jack Markell was making a name for himself in the business world.  The parallels between Johnnie Cochran’s defense of O.J. and Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s defense of high-stakes testing are uncanny.

To be very clear, there is no doubt in my mind O.J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.  DNA evidence proved that conclusively with the blood found in his Bronco and in various areas around the Brentwood Estate.  The reason he was found not guilty was because the trial turned into a racial matter instead of a criminal one.  Even defense attorney Robert Shapiro admitted to playing the “race card” in the trial.  During the show, it became obvious that defense attorney Johnnie Cochran insisted on turning the already explosive murder trial into a black vs. white thing.  What didn’t help the defense at all was the very racist views of former Los Angeles detective Mark Furman and questions that arose concerning the bungling or planting of evidence by the Los Angeles Police Department.

JohnnieCochran

For the past twenty years, Delaware has embarked on one standardized test after another.  The purpose behind these tests, at least from the viewpoint of education “reformers”, is to close the equity gaps between minorities and their white peers.  As parents in Delaware decided to opt their children out of taking these tests, Governor Jack Markell continued to point out this divide.  With big money and high-profile names supporting him, Markell sold the “need” for the Smarter Balanced Assessment through a false defense for at-risk students along with intimidating threats by the US Department of Education.

Both Markell and Cochran seemed to think bringing race into a controversial issue was a smart idea to defend something bad.  O.J. Simpson, once again in my opinion, brutally killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend.  High-stakes standardized tests serve no other purpose than to give faulty data to corporations to further perpetuate the cycle of showing these “gaps” between minorities and their peers.

When things got tough during the O.J. trial, Cochran turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black people.  This galvanized the trial into two camps.  Most white people felt O.J. was guilty but most African-Americans felt he was either innocent or didn’t care if he did it and felt a verdict of not guilty was warranted based on past injustices against African-Americans.  As the show vividly displayed when the verdict of not guilty was read, white people gasped and African-Americans cheered.  It didn’t seem to matter what the scientific and forensic evidence in the trial showed.  It became a race issue.

When things got tough during the House Bill 50 opt out legislation last year, Markell and his friends at the Rodel Foundation turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black students.  The News Journal displayed an ad showing Delaware civil rights groups urging the Delaware General Assembly not to pass HB50.  When the bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly, Markell vetoed the bill and sought out public comment from members of Delaware civil rights groups to support the Smarter Balanced Assessment and rail against the opt out movement.

JMarkell

Cochran felt the O.J. trial was symptomatic of the problems African-Americans faced in the USA.  He believed far too many African-American faced arrest and imprisonment simply for the color of their skin.  He was right, but Cochran refused to believe his client was even possible of the murders.  As a result, his fierce advocacy for the true violations of civil rights of African-Americans blinded him to the preponderance of evidence which should have supported a guilty verdict.  His job was to defend his client, but the trial became a race issue because of how he conducted himself and he used the mistakes of the L.A. Police to highlight the racial divide.  Granted, Mark Furman and his very racist views didn’t help the prosecution, but race became the issue, not the murders of two people.

Many reports have come out about the very faulty state assessments in America.  Based on the Common Core standards, these tests are given once a year to students and the thresholds for the scores allow x amount of students to be proficient and the majority to be not proficient.  Clear and graphic data has shown these tests are more an indication of socio-economic levels in society than true academic progress.  This data, which has produced vast amounts of profit for testing companies and “education research” foundations and non-profits, is abused by those who want to increase the divide between at-risk students and their peers.  Politicians like Governor Markell are on the side of these companies, not the students, and especially not African-Americans.  Their agendas and testing schemes have disrupted education to such a degree that ordinary parents have chosen to pull their children out of these unnecessary and burdensome tests.

Both Cochran and Markell used the issues of the day to further matters that truly were not about race.  Cochran wanted a not guilty verdict for OJ Simpson and Markell wants a guilty verdict for schools with low-income students and high amounts of at-risk students.  By bringing race into their arguments, they have not advanced the cause for what they say.  They both caused the divide to widen.  In the end, OJ Simpson wound up being found guilty in a civil trial against him and is now serving time in prison for kidnapping and theft.  In the end, parents are still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and many in the African-American community are beginning to question if these tests truly are useful.

OJSimpson

Over twenty years later, many in the African-American community believe OJ Simpson committed the murders.  As OJ sits in a Nevada prison, pending parole next year, the true victims of his actions are the two people whose murderer was never found guilty by a jury.  As well, OJ’s children will forever live with the facts and the doubts in their minds about the results of what happened on June 12th, 1994.  Johnnie Cochran passed in 1995.  He will always be remembered for getting the not guilty verdict for his client, OJ Simpson.  Sadly, he won’t be remembered for advancing the true civil rights issues that continue to plague so many in the African-American community.

Meanwhile, as estimates come in of over 300,000 students opted out of the state assessment in New York and an unknown amount here in Delaware, the media is once again torn on the usefulness of these high-stakes tests.  Governor Markell has been very quiet on the issue this year, perhaps learning from the mistakes he made last year by reacting to the opt out movement in Delaware.  The true victims in this high-stakes education game are the children in 3rd to 8th grade, forced to either take a test that bears no worthwhile results to further their academic progress or be opted out by their parents with some schools fighting the parents tooth and nail over their decision.  As well, the parents who are forced to fight schools, the teachers who would much rather instruct students meaningfully instead of wasting all this time over a silly test, and the school administrators who feel the need to fight parents because of threats of funding cuts and false labels against their schools.  Standardized testing has done nothing to stop the very dangerous school-to-prison pipeline in Delaware.  If anything, it caused an increase as more at-risk students felt like failures based on the results of the very faulty tests and their self-confidence eroded to such a degree that they felt school was not a valid option.  Is it any wonder crime and violence increased in Wilmington the same years high-stakes testing increased?  Where is that study?

SchoolToPrisonPipeline

Cochran and Markell, two men of power, twenty years and 2,700 miles apart from each other, both used race to bring the wrong conclusion to bad events.  Their actions didn’t make things better.  They only made them worse.  History will eventually show the truth in both matters.  Race should never be used to support bad ideas.  Civil rights groups should not defend a man who openly admitted to beating his wife, was accused of killing her and her boyfriend, ran from the police, and then made a mockery of the very same community that defended him.  Civil rights groups should not use children in agendas to advance their cause, especially when they are receiving vast amounts of money from the very same foundations and companies that support the high-stakes testing environment that is putting labels on their communities.  It is deceptive and doesn’t help the ones they should be advocating for.

The injustices perpetrated against the African-American community are wrong.  No man or woman or child should be labeled or judged based on the color of their skin.  By showing false divides, we are not helping them, we are harming them.

Why?

After 19 months and a couple of days of posting an article on this blog every single day, I broke that streak yesterday. It was intentional.  First off, it got me out of that “have to post something every day” mindset.  Second, what else is there to say?  I’m not saying this to be obtuse, but there are several reasons why I am now limited in what I can do or say. Continue reading

JP Morgan Chase Teams Up With CCSSO For Corporate Race To The Top

JP Morgan Chase will be giving away $75 million in grants over the next five years to different states in their “New Skills For Youth” program.  The goal is to implement career readiness programs in order to have more students ready to enter the workforce.  This is all part of the original design, detailed in a letter to Hillary Clinton 24 years ago.

What is interesting is who is on the advisory committee JP Morgan Chase used for this initiative.  We have the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, and the Education Strategy Group.  The CCSSO was instrumental in launching Common Core on unsuspecting states.  But the last of these groups is very interesting given one of their recent hires this year.

Remember Ryan Reyna?  This former Delaware Department of Education employee was the Director of the Accountability unit under Penny Schwinn.  Schwinn and Reyna were the dynamic duo in charge of creating Delaware’s new accountability system.  You know, the one with the participation rate penalty that would punish schools for opt outs over 5% of the school or any sub-group.

From their bio for Ryan Reyna:

Ryan joined ESG in 2016 to support ESG’s overall college and career readiness strategy.  He leads the organization’s efforts to help states bring stronger, more impactful career-focused indicators into their K-12 accountability systems to ensure that those systems measure and value students’ readiness for the 21st century world of work.

What I didn’t know about Reyna was that before he came to the Delaware DOE, he worked at the National Governor’s Association in their Center for Best Practices.  And take a wild guess what he did there?

At the NGA Center, Ryan led the division’s support of governors’ offices on numerous issues, including college and career ready standards, assessment, accountability, and transitions into postsecondary education and training. He also previously held Senior Policy Analyst and Policy Analyst positions at the NGA Center and worked as a Research Associate at the Data Quality Campaign.

Even Education Strategy Group’s Founder and President has some deep ties to corporate education reform.  Matt Gandal worked as a Senior Advisor to former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and prior to that he was an executive vice-president at Achieve Inc.  Gandal was one of the key players in the American Diploma Project which led to the creation of the Common Core State Standards.  From his bio with Education Strategy Group:

He helped found the organization and was responsible for overseeing its major initiatives, including the American Diploma Project which helped 35 states advance college and career readiness policies; the Common Core State Standards Initiative which resulted in 45 states adopting rigorous academic standards; and National Education Summits that brought together governors, CEOs and education leaders from across the country to commit to ambitious reforms.

Both he and Delaware Governor Jack Markell took part in a “Colloquim” run by the Hope Street Group in January, 2013.  One of the main goals of this gathering of corporate education reformers was, you guessed it, career pathways.  If you aren’t familiar with the Hope Street Group, former Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education Dan Cruce is an executive Vice-President there.  He served under Lillian Lowery when she held the role for a few years when Jack Markell became Governor of Delaware.

For the states who submitted applications for this grant from JP Morgan Chase, the selection committee included the following: IBM, Southern Regional Education Board, CLASP, James Irvine Foundation, Jobs For The Future, New America, National Governor’s Association, US Chamber and Chamber Foundation, National Skills Coalition, the Aspen Foundation, a high school principal, and a former Kentucky Commissioner of Education.  Look at their bios.  Follow the trail of breadcrumbs from one corporate education reform company to the next.

It was only a matter of time before financial institutions got involved in these “pathways to prosperity”.  In a letter to the editor that appeared in USA Today back in January, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski stated:

Awarding grants to U.S. states will encourage them to implement career and technical education programs that correspond to the needs of area employers. High-quality, rigorous career technical programs would arm students with the skills to work as aviation mechanics, nursing technicians or IT specialists. The result is great jobs.

And so begins the Corporate Race To The Top.  But I doubt JP Morgan Chase will be the only company doing this.  Yesterday, Bank of America’s lead for corporate communications, none other than Tony Allen himself, had a very interesting tweet:

So I’m sure we can expect more of this from Bank of America and other big banking corporations out there.  It seems like many states are jumping on this Career-Technical Education bandwagon.

Read the “Dear Hillary” letter if you haven’t already.  This was planned a quarter of a century ago.  This isn’t a Republican or Democrat thing.  It is a Corporate thing.  Designed for the vast majority of society to be given a pre-determined career path based on standardized test scores.  To keep the bulk of the population in low-paying jobs while the top 1-5% keep the control.  Think about it, if students are “guided” toward certain career trajectories, they will most likely serve that job for the rest of their life.  Everyone will have their designated role in life while the fat cats reap the profits. 

We hear big companies talking all the time about the cost of training employees.  By getting rid of that and having public education do all the training, guess who pays for it?  The taxpayers.  While the big companies score even more profit.  Do you really think they are doing this to help disadvantaged students?  These are some of the same companies that caused the housing collapse and the worst recession this country has ever seen.  That wasn’t even ten years ago folks!  Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if it was one day revealed these companies wanted that to happen so they could implement all of this.  Where did all the funding for Common Core and Race To The Top come from?  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. 

The major players in the corporate education reform movement have been at this for a long time, well before Common Core became a headache for parents helping their kids with math homework.  We have Bill & Melinda Gates, Marc Tucker, and Matt Gandal as some of the key figureheads in everything that has come to pass since 1992.  Their policies and agendas have become embedded in nearly every single state’s educational and workforce landscape.  It is the complete restructuring and redesigning of American society.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell is actually a big piece of this puzzle, and has been for a long time.

These plans, long in scope and design, include corporate leaders, members of Congress, a couple Presidents, non-profit companies, state legislators, and every single education think tank and organization that has been paid one cent or more since 2009.  If they received money from Race To The Top, they are in on it.  And now, with personalized learning becoming the “next big thing”, we see companies like Schoology benefitting immensely from this charade we call corporate education reform.  You can read about this grand design in a blog from one of the pilot states for the personalized learning and Competency-Based Education guinea pigs.

Teachers as we know them now will be a thing of the past in just a few short years.  They will become moderators of the personalized learning and competency-based education platforms.  The teacher’s unions will disappear.  Student data will flow freely from the states to even more companies because they will now be considered “education agencies” based on initiatives like today’s announcement by JP Morgan Chase.  Our children are mere cattle for investors.  They will hedge bets on student outcomes and they will profit off these as well.  And for every single standardized test your child takes, no longer a once a year cram but a series of small high-stakes tests, your child’s uniqueness and individuality will disappear into the abyss as they become another drone of Corporate America’s Workforce.  They won’t have the ability or capability of being able to have independent thought.  They will be programmed and conditioned for their career pathway and you won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.

This is why the opposition against opt out is so huge among the education-workforce players.  Opt out kills their plans.  As former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said at a Senate meeting on opt out, “The data is important to us.”  You bet it is!  Without it, these plans are dead in the water.  Opt out now.  Seriously.  What more do you need to know to convince you?  If you are thinking “it won’t happen to my child”, think again.  It already is.  What can you do?  Stand tall and offer resistance.

beavoicenotanecho

From the Delaware DOE’s press announcement on the JP Morgan Chase “Corporate Race To The Top” initiative:

Delaware wins grant to develop plan to improve career preparation systems

The Delaware Department of Education has secured a $100,000 grant to develop a detailed career readiness action plan, which is an essential step to expanding economic opportunity for young people across the First State.

“Delaware has made tremendous progress in aligning our education and workforce development systems through Governor Jack Markell’s Delaware Pathways initiative,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “We are thrilled that these funds will further create opportunities for students to earn industry-recognized credentials and early college credits to accelerate their career goals.”

Delaware is among 24 states and the District of Columbia that secured grants for this work through phase one of New Skills for Youth grant opportunity. The grants are one piece of a $75 million, five-year initiative developed by JPMorgan Chase, in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Advance CTE, aimed at increasing economic opportunity for young people by strengthening career-focused education, starting in high school and ending with postsecondary degrees or credentials aligned with business needs.

Today, too few young people are receiving the education or training in high school and beyond that would put them on a track to qualify for these careers. By the age of 25, only about half of young Americans have a meaningful postsecondary credential that enables them to compete for good jobs, and the U.S. youth unemployment rate is more than double the national rate.

In Delaware, the 2014 youth (age 20-24) unemployment rate for men was 15.8 percent. For women, it was 8.8 percent. This is compared to 5.8 percent for all other age demographics. For men and women of color, the youth unemployment rate was even higher at 18 percent for African American and 11.1 percent for Hispanic youth.

Through phase one of New Skills for Youth, Delaware and other selected states will each receive a $100,000 six-month grant, in addition to expert technical assistance and peer support from other grantees, to perform a diagnostic assessment of their career preparation system and prepare for implementation of a new action plan.

Through Governor Markell’s Delaware Pathways initiative, Delaware has revamped career and technical education (CTE) to ensure youth have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials and early college credit to accelerate their career goals. And, these opportunities are expanding quickly. By the 2016-17 school year, more than 5,000 students in 29 of 44 public high schools will be enrolled in state-model pathway programs aligned to areas of high demand in Delaware’s economy. These programs include: finance, allied health, culinary and hospitality management, CISCO networking, computer science, manufacturing logistics and production, manufacturing/engineering technology, biomedical science, and engineering.

This work is further accelerated through the Delaware Pathways Strategic Plan, which was unveiled in February 2016 to more than 300 educators and employers.

“This grant is a testament to Delaware’s focus on preparing our students to leave high school college and career ready and well positioned to compete for the in-demand jobs driven by today’s global economy,” Governor Markell said.  “We’ll put it to good use to help ensure that we meet our commitment to the Delaware Promise that we announced last year, that by 2025, the percentage of Delawareans with a college degree or professional certificate will match the percentage of our jobs that will require one – 65 percent.”

States across the country are adjusting their career readiness programs to ensure they adequately prepare students for their next step after graduation, said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. “States have seized this grant opportunity to pursue bold plans for pathways that will put kids on a course for success after high school and beyond.”

Chauncy Lennon, head of Workforce Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase, said, “We must address the youth career crisis, and it starts in our schools. These grants kick start an effort to ensure career and technical education systems are better aligned with the needs of business and leaders throughout states are committed to tackling youth employment.”

An independent advisory committee recommended phase one grant recipients after a rigorous review process that considered states’ proposed plans, cross-sector partnerships, and demonstrated commitment and capacity to transform their systems of career preparation according to the grant guidelines.  In the judgment of the advisory committee, the selected states showed promise in their career readiness plans and indicated strongly that this work is a priority for them.

Delaware, and the other phase one planning grant states, will be eligible to apply for the phase two grant opportunity, which will require states to demonstrate the commitment and capacity to execute the action plans developed in phase one.

This grant opportunity builds on CCSSO’s Career Readiness Initiative, launched in 2015 to help close the skills gap in this country. The goal is to ensure that students are not only college-ready, but that all children also graduate from high school prepared for careers.

CCSSO’s work has been guided by the recommendations made in Opportunities and Options, a report of CCSSO’s Career Readiness Task Force.

The report encourages states to make high school programs more responsive to the labor market by enlisting the employer community as a lead partner; significantly raise the threshold for quality career pathways in secondary schools; and make career preparation matter to schools and students, in part by expanding accountability systems to emphasize career readiness.

Go back and click on all the links in the Delaware DOE press release.  Find out if your state is a part of this budding enterprise.  Research, write it down, and expose.  If you don’t have an avenue to do so, reach out to me.  There are plenty of ways to get information out there.

One final thought.  If you go to this JP Morgan Chase document, go all the way to the bottom of the last page on the right.  Look at the footnotes, #12.  A report from the Center for American Progress, the creator of the bogus “Testing Bill of Rights” released last week (not to be confused with the valid Parent Bill of Rights for Education that I created last week in response, for which you can sign a petition on at Change.org).  Notice the name of the author of that report in the footnotes: Sarah Ayres.  Who JP Morgan Chase discloses is now an employee of JP Morgan Chase.  This is how it is in corporate education reform.  People jumping from one position to the next.  Working for state Departments of Education at one point.  Thousands of players, involved in any potential place where education policy is discussed.

Read through that link very carefully.  Look at what states will be required to do to receive this Corporate Race To The Top seed money.  The changes they will need to make.  And then go look at the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Read through it very carefully, absorbing every single word.  While doing so, keep this article in mind and what the new federal education law is really about.  How it was rushed out in its final wording and how many organizations blindly accepted it.  Once again, they were either fooled or they already knew about all of this.

Other recipients of JP Morgan Chase’s “Corporate Race To The Top” career-readiness agenda are Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, and Montana.  At press time, these were the only states I could find press releases on in this first phase of the New Skills For Youth plan.

 

 

Opt Out: “The Data We’re Receiving Would Look Like Swiss Cheese”, The Easter Egg At A Congressional Hearing On Student Privacy

On Tuesday, the Education and Workforce Committee held a Congressional hearing called “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students”.  With one parent advocate, one data guy from the Georgia Department of Education, and two corporate schills (yes, there were two, more on that one later).  The hearing was stacked with U.S. Representatives who are, shall we say, sympathetic to the data-testing regime.  We all know the type!

If you looked at the witness list for who was giving testimony at this hearing on the EdWorkforce website, you can see who they were:

WitnessList

So who are these people?  Rachael Strickland is the co-founder and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.  Neil Campbell is the Policy Director for Next Generation Reforms at the Foundation for Excellence in Education (Jeb Bush’s company).  Jane Hannaway is with the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.  Robert Swiggum is the Deputy Superintendent for the Georgia Department of Education.  But one of these four has another job, which the Education and Workforce Committee did not include on their website.  During the hearing, this person’s other job wasn’t even discussed at all.  But it is a whopper.  So which one was it?

The day before the hearing, I received an email from the EdWorkforce Committee notifying me of the hearing.  They had the exact same witnesses in the email, but one of them has a different job:

EdWorkforceCommitteeEmail

Take a good look at Dr. Jane Hannaway… Institute Fellow, American Institutes for Research.  Also known as AIR, this is the company that was instrumental in creating the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They are my state’s vendor for Smarter Balanced.  They are all over the place.  Now why would the United States Education and Workforce Committee not mention that glaring fact at all?  Why would they not include it on their website and have the witness, sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not mention this at all?  In fact non-Government employees are required to fill out a “Truth In Testimony” form prior to any Congressional hearing.  Ms. Strickland and Mr. Campbell both listed their affiliated sources, but Ms. Hannaway didn’t list any organizations.  Even though she wrote about her affiliation with AIR in her testimony, it wasn’t spoken out loud.

There are some key points I want to highlight from Hannaway’s testimony, with my thoughts in red:

Almost every state has developed an individual student level longitudinal administrative data system. These data systems have substantive and technical research advantages, as well as efficiency virtues.

Substantive, technical, and efficiency virtues: Can we say cha-ching?  Show me the money?

Because the data are existing working files – created, maintained and used by the state for administrative purposes – they are readily available for approved research purposes.

I have no doubt the states are making these “readily available”.  And I’m sure they pay a pretty penny to make it so!

Having data already in hand means the turnaround time for getting feedback on the results of new policies is short, allowing informed decision making about whether to discontinue, modify or continue particular policies and practices. Indeed, some decisions of interest can be made almost in real time.

Decision making, policies, practices: This lady is combing through your child’s data.  She doesn’t at a government agency, but I’m sure she does work for government agencies.  How are these corporations setting policy?  Very frightening…

The files include data on all students and all teachers in the state over a number of years. So data on students of interest for a particular intervention or for a particular study, say 8th graders, or high performing students, or disadvantaged students can be easily selected.

“A particular intervention”… sounds like something every parent should worry about.  Note the word “all”: all teachers, all students.  They have it set up so they can “shop” through the data for any possible category they want.  I didn’t underline this for emphasis.  It was underlined in her testimony.

Indeed, because teachers can be linked in the data to their students and students’ test scores, teachers can also be compared in terms of their performance. Indeed, some of the most important finding from studies using longitudinal data have focused on teacher effectiveness.

Because that data has given us so many unreasonable conclusions, I find that data inconclusive.  And yet, here is Hannaway continuing to use the biggest fallacy of our time…

For example, regression discontinuity designs can assess the effect of, say, receiving an award on subsequent behavior by comparing results for students just above and below the performance award threshold.

In other words, they set the “performance award threshold”, aka, the high-stakes standardized test scores, based on a point where there would always be some above or below the threshold.  We will NEVER have maximum proficiency.

The advantages in terms of policy insights of individual education data are also substantially expanded when linked to later individual measures in areas beyond education, such as labor market (employment and earnings), justice and health outcomes.

Basically, she is saying we are going to use this data to track and catalog every individual student and determine your outcome for you based on high-stakes standardized testing data.

The state anonymizes the data before researchers receive them. Each student is assigned a state-constructed unique student id (USI) that is used by researchers to link data for each student across years and schools.

So instead of giving a name and social security number, I’ll call this the number of the beast scenario.  For “each student”… has anyone read “Revelations” recently?

Hannaway said, when asked about opt out and what it does to the data: “The data we’re receiving would look like Swiss cheese.”  She couldn’t have said it any better!  If you never had a reason to opt your child out before, know that your child’s “unique” number of the beast, assigned by your state, is given to all education agencies who ask for it from your state.  They base conclusions and policy and decisions, which become laws, based on that crappy test your child takes once a year.  Do your child a favor: make some Swiss cheese for companies like American Institutes for Research.  It is the ONLY way this nonsense will ever stop!  We need MORE Swiss Cheese!

To watch the full video, watch below.  The hearing doesn’t begin until the 6:37 mark.

Campbell looks really nervous at several points during this hearing.  He keeps wringing his hands.  Is that because he is afraid of what will come out or guilt?  Or is he generally a nervous guy?

I love how Swiggum says that states own the data.  Really?  Does the Delaware DOE “own” the data on my child?  His academic performance, social-emotional behavior, all that… they “own” it?  I don’t think so.  If they own it, they should take better care of it!

Non-Transparent Delaware

The Associated Press did an article entitled “How open record laws are applied in state legislatures” on March 13th.  Delaware did not fare well in this report.  The AP sent Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to all fifty states asking for the public schedules for the state Governor and members of their legislatures for the week of February 1st to 7th of this year.  In Delaware, our General Assembly is exempt from FOIA requests.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who promoted “sunshine is the best disinfectant” regarding public transparency of Governmental records, seems to be having a very hard time with FOIA requests lately, between the FOIA request from his former State Treasurer Chip Flowers and the one he received from the AP for their article.  The article gave Markell’s response to the FOIA:

Delaware legislative leaders refused to provide their emails. The Legislature has specifically exempted emails of lawmakers and their staffs from the state’s Freedom of Information law, as well as any communications between lawmakers, or between lawmakers and their constituents. A bill to remove those exemptions was introduced earlier this month but has yet to be heard in committee. An attorney for the lawmakers also said many activities on their daily schedules are exempt from disclosure, asserting that exemptions allowed by statute or common law extend to the concept of “legislative privilege” based on the Delaware Constitution and common law. The attorney nevertheless released portions of the lawmakers’ schedules while asserting that doing so was not a concession that the information is subject to the FOI law. The activities mostly involved appearances at community meetings and charitable events. The deputy legal counsel for Democratic Gov. Jack Markell said the governor’s office is working diligently to respond to the AP’s request, but that more time is needed because review of the records requires legal advice. Markell’s office has previously denied formal records requests for his emails.

I guess I should count myself lucky for the FOIA I received from Markell’s office back in early 2014.  But the Chip Flowers FOIA denial is certainly interesting because Markell’s office used Exemption 16 to deny the FOIA request.  Exemption 16 is when a General Assembly member or the comptroller is part of an email chain.  I find it very ironic the Governor’s counsel would use that as a reason to decline a FOIA.  Especially since they seem to cherry-pick when they want to use this exemption.  In fact, the Governor’s office has actually shown legislators emails in earlier FOIA requests.  Something I recollected right away as I was reading the Chip Flowers petition from the Delaware Attorney General’s office.  I felt it was my civic obligation to let them know about this memory of mine.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>

To: Gibbs Danielle (DOJ) <danielle.gibbs@state.de.us>

Cc: Denn Matthew (DOJ) <matthew.denn@state.de.us>

Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 10:04 AM

Subject: The Chip Flowers FOIA Legal Opinion

Good morning Danielle,

I read, with great interest yesterday, the FOIA petition from Chip Flowers.  I found it very interesting the Governor’s office would cite Exemption 16 for not releasing the information Chip Flowers requested. 

In December 2014, State Rep. John Kowalko received a FOIA from the Governor’s office regarding the priority schools in Wilmington.  He gave them to me to publish on my blog.  In several of the emails, General Assembly emails were used and not redacted, and in some of them they gave the actual email from State Reps. 

Here is the link to the FOIAs: 

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/the-priority-schools-foias-part-1-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-delawarebats-netde-edude-delaware-edchat/

I find it very interesting the Governor’s office would cherry-pick who this information is released to.  There is absolutely no consistency and I would strongly question the use of this Exemption 16 when it is convenient.  Please feel free to use this information for any ongoing matters regarding Chip Flowers FOIA.  If you need any other clarification on this matter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

With something that took up so much media interest, I would think the Delaware Attorney General’s office would respond, but so far I have yet to receive a response.  I can only surmise based on the behavior surrounding the Chip Flowers FOIA request and the fact the Governor would need legal advice for the AP FOIA request, the Governor is hiding things.  Could there be something in his daily schedule he doesn’t want people to know about?  Or in his emails?  Did they include his “Alan Jackson” email address?  I’ll be flat-out honest: I don’t trust Jack Markell.  At all.  He is dishonest and sneaky.  He seems to have the General Assembly under his thrall this legislative session.  They are suspending rules and passing bills in record time.  Just today, Governor Markell signed the Commitment to Innovation Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 200, mere hours after it passed in the House of Representatives and 31 state representatives agreed to suspend the rules.  Including some who have gone on record as saying they never suspend the rules.  This tax-break bill, in conjunction with House Bill 235, are seen as great boons to companies in Delaware as the state faces potential deficits in their state budget.

I  have no doubt Markell will have instituted all of his education policies and agendas in Delaware by the time he leaves office next January.  Judging by the mad rush of legislation which will allow tech companies to swarm into Delaware with our generous tax breaks, Social Impact Bonds, Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education.  Kids will be earning their number of the beast data badges in the not-too-distant future.  Parents won’t be able to notice, because all of our little screen-time kids will be staying after school in the SAIL program.  And Jack’s buddy over at the Rodel Foundation, Paul Herdman… he actually uses LEGOs to lure unsuspecting parents and children into his personalized learning paradise.  If you think Kindergarten grit is bad, wait until you get a load of the money pouring into toddler grit.  Of course, we must determine what children are going to do when they are older before they even know how to tie their shoes.  But we call this Pathways To Prosperity.  We have Jamie Merisotis and the good folks at the Lumina Foundation to thank for all of this nonsense!  And if you think Delaware has issues with FOIA, wait until you hear more about WOIA!  Under the recently confirmed US DOE leadership of John King, these things are going on in just about every single state in the country.

The one thing our non-transparent Governor is good at is the art of distraction.  He gets us all riled up over charter schools, opt out, and teacher evaluations while he paves the road to hell for John Carney who doesn’t seem to have the good sense to come up with his own thoughts.  And in case we get too close to his overall plan, Jack throws things like the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vs. State Board of Education battle in our faces but there are questions about the legality of that secret meeting.  Hard to tell since no one aside from Tony Allen has responded about that one.  Tony made it very clear to me the whole thing was the Governor’s idea.

This is Delaware.  A state filled with sinister plotting and backroom deals.  Legislators who get the “Jack call” and make miracles happen before our very eyes while telling us it’s all about the DuPont/Dow merger.  Markell is the master of spin.  He can turn crap into gold!  And the state legislators, DOE employees, State Board of Education members, and business leaders watch in amazement as they hold onto their illusions of power and wealth.  We call these people “stakeholders”.  But guess what doesn’t change?  Bullying, teacher dissatisfaction, high-stakes testing, a severe lack of funding and resources for our schools, and more segregation and discrimination for every single at-risk student than you can even fathom.  All under the guise of student success.  The stuff going on behind the scenes?  We will never get that cold, hard, tangible proof to bust these children destroyers.  They write the laws to protect themselves and the citizens of Delaware pay for it.  And we keep electing so many of them!  We are a state that is immune to true and radical change.  We act as if holding onto a political party’s belief is what we must do.  I hate to tell you Delaware, but greed is bi-partisan.  The love we need to have for our children, our unconditional love, that should be enough to make the necessary changes.  But we aren’t doing it.  We are holding onto the dreams of yesterday and think it really matters who becomes the next President or Governor.  We get sucked into the 24 hour news cycle about Trump, Clinton and Sanders while the distracters spin their webs and suck us in.  It doesn’t matter who wins the Presidency because corporate America bought our government while we blinked.  Our kids don’t have a chance.

Is There A Conflict Of Interest With A High-Ranking DE PTA Member Involving Christina School District?

Yvonne Johnson serves as the Vice-President of Advocacy for the Delaware PTA, sits on the board of the National PTA, and in news that most people don’t know is also employed with the Christina School District as the Parent Engagement Coordinator.  The issue with this surrounds transparency.  Nothing has ever been officially announced with Johnson’s hiring in this role.  There is no official name on the Delaware Division of Corporations for Yvonne Johnson as a business.  According to her National PTA profile, Johnson is a self-employed education consultant:

YvonneNationalPTAProfile

She has also been very involved in several current initiatives with the Christina School District, including their upcoming referendum and the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School.  The Christina referendum is on March 23rd.  As for the elementary school, Johnson is listed as the Christina Parent Engagement Coordinator in an announcement for a meeting at the school on March 1st:

MarshallInterestMtg

I looked on the Christina School District website, and it seems Christina already has someone else listed as their Family & Community Engagement Supervisor, Whitney Williams.  What is even more interesting is this idea for Thurgood Marshall in turning it into a Kindergarten to 8th grade school.  Quite simply, this is not in the district’s official plans for their upcoming referendum.  The current building for the school would not even be able to house a K-8 program.

As for Johnson’s role in this idea, is it proper for someone to be paid to have parents lobby the school board?  As the next three pictures show, taken from notes and a presentation on the “Marshall Plan”, Johnson has very specific ideas about this idea and the referendum.  Johnson also served as the head of the Referendum Committee for the Red Clay Consolidated School District last year.  Red Clay’s referendum was subject to a lawsuit that has not been decided on as of this date.

MarshallPlan1

We don’t see a Christina School District email address for Johnson, but that makes sense if she is self-employed and has some type of contract with the district.  However, no such contract exists on their website.

MarshallPlan2

This is where we see Yvonne Johnson actively soliciting parents to advocate for the “Marshall Plan” by essentially lobbying the Christina Board of Education.  But the next picture paints an even bigger picture:

MarshallPlan3

We see the line “Get out and vote for the referendum for planning $$”.  Should a paid consultant to the district be advocating for parents to “get out and vote” for increased money for the school district in which she is paid to consult for?  Is this plan even a part of the board-approved referendum?

The referendum does call for planning funds for potential grade reconfiguration in the amount of $100,000.00.  However, the “Marshall Plan” is looking at getting this going in the 2017-2018 school year.  That would require extensive capital costs to reconfigure an existing school that does not have the capacity.  If they shrunk the class sizes, the district does not have the ability to pay for that either.  The upcoming referendum is strictly for operating costs and not capital costs, which would be needed to move the school if necessary.  So my big question would be what in the name of Thurgood Marshall is going on with all of this?  While there is nothing in writing on the district website or in board documents indicating Johnson has a contract, several sources who wished to have their name withheld for this article have indicated Johnson has openly told them she is being paid for her services to the Christina School District.

In my opinion, Johnson’s capacity as serving on several different groups as well as her self-employed advocacy job, the Delaware PTA, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, several different Red Clay initiatives, and now her job with Christina, has far too many potential conflicts of interest for her to be issuing fair and impartial judgment on the Wilmington education scene.  As well, her position as a National PTA board member forbids her from advocating for opt-out of standardized testing but she is a consultant with a school district that had their board pass a policy honoring a parent’s right to opt out.

Don’t get me wrong here, I very much want Christina’s referendum to be successful.  I was not happy when their referenda did not pass last year.  But I also believe in full transparency, especially when a school district is asking for trust from their voters.  Trust is a two-way street.  Which means all aspects of school finances, contracts, and vendors need to be visibly apparent for all to see.

On a personal note, Yvonne Johnson is a great advocate.  There aren’t too many people in Delaware who have advocated for students as long as she has.  But the lines get blurry at times when people in Delaware jump on too many trains.  Yes, Delaware is a small state and if we had more parents taking on these kinds of roles, this wouldn’t be an issue.  But for those who do, they must recognize any potential conflicts of interest and act accordingly for the betterment of students.

John King Blames Remedial Classes On His Failure As NY Commissioner Of Education

I don’t think anyone intended for science or social studies or art or music to get less attention when No Child Left Behind was adopted. -John King

When asked by New York Rep. Elise Stefanic at last week’s Every Student Succeeds Act hearing what lessons he learned and what mistakes were made during his time as Commissioner of Education of New York State, John King blamed remedial classes and circumvented giving a direct answer to Rep. Stefanic.  He refused to take any personal blame for what many in New York see as a very flawed Commissioner.  For someone who wants “Educational Excellence”, or in other words, more accountability for “failing schools” based on very flawed high-stakes testing scores, King is unable to be accountable to himself or his own actions.  If the Common Core standards were as great as King believes, it would not take this long to implement them.  King didn’t even address Rep. Stefanik’s comments about some schools in her district having 80% opt-out rates.

The Winter Flower

snowflower

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Sorry for not posting much today.  I woke up at 4:30am to see if the Level 2 State of Emergency alert was still in effect for Delaware.  I saw something about it being lifted at 10am, and I fell asleep again.  At 9:00am, I woke up again.

I shoveled some yesterday and a good neighbor came over with his snow blower.  After he finished, I began shoveling our porch when I found the above picture.  One lone flower, buried underneath the snow, still alive in the harsh winter.  I had to get a picture of it.  For some people, they would think “Big deal, it’s just a flower.”  But I am a deep philosophical kind of guy and I look for meaning in even the smallest things.

To me, this was a symbol of hope.  I haven’t had much reason to hope lately.  The battles have gotten harder, and longer.  They are more time-consuming.   For the longest time, I’ve been scared.  Scared there is no hope for education.  That no matter what some of us do or say, no one is listening.  But I think they are, cause our enemies are speaking louder and trying to carry out all they can in a hurry.  These reformers have been patient for well over a decade, sinking their teeth in wherever they can and thrusting the knife into public education.  But because of those like myself who are fighting them, every chance we get, we are making a difference.  They are getting a bit sloppy.  Actually, they left a lot of tracks uncovered, and many of us are finding them in the oddest of places.

I’m not giving up.  Not by a long shot.  I may be quiet at times.  Those are the times they need to worry the most.  That means I’m doing lots of research that is already bearing fruit.  I will post a lot about this research… when I’m ready.  In the meantime, keep opting out.  Keep asking the questions.  Challenge them.  Call them out.  Write letters to the editor.  Whatever you do, don’t let nagging questions gnaw at you.  Let them out.  Take a risk, be daring.  Be vocal.  We can’t get there alone.  We need all of you who are willing to rise up to the challenge.  These are children we are fighting for, never forget that.  They need us to be their voice.

Watch The People Talk About Opt-Out

This last one is NOT safe for work!  But it IS very funny!

 

Delaware PTA Releases Petition For HB50 Veto Override! Please Sign Today!

The Delaware PTA created a petition on Change.org to support the override of Delaware Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  HB50 is legislation codifying a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized assessments.  It passed the Delaware House and Senate with an overwhelming majority.  House Bill 50 does not “allow” a parent to opt-out, despite what other media may have written in the past.  Parents already own that right.  This bill honors that right and protects them and schools from bullying and intimidation when an opt-out choice is made by a parent.

Please sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/delaware-state-house-delaware-state-senate-vote-to-override-delaware-hb50-veto?recruiter=135941660&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

Once you sign, please copy and paste the link and share it on Facebook, Twitter, email or anywhere you can think of.  Our legislators need to hear our voice on this issue.  This will be presented to all the legislators in the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate to lend support for the crucial vote.

Thank you Delaware PTA for making this happen!!!!!!!!!

The Arne Grinch Who Stole Christmas And Promised To Punish School-Ville

Image

ArneGrinch

ESSA Part 2: Assessments & Opt-Out

The Every Student Succeeds Act is very clear about expectations for state assessments as well as participation rates in those assessments.  Some of this may surprise you, including the mechanism by which every single student can be opted out in certain conditions!!!

ESSA13

Once again, no social studies requirement.  Are these assessments the same as the current wave including the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC tests?

ESSA14

If you thought standardized tests were going to disappear from this legislation, you were wrong.  They are still there.  Who needs to take them?  The below language clearly defines the expectation on the school or school district’s part:

ESSA15.1

ESSA15.2

There is a lot thrown into these two sections.  The word “all” does not mean all students have to take the assessment.  This law stipulates schools must give the test, but it does not define the responsibility of the student to actually take the test.  The words coherent and timely need to be more defined in my opinion.  One of the biggest arguments against SBAC and PARCC was they did not provide either, nor were they considered valid and reliable.  Having the results come out after the school year ends, or even into the next school year does nothing for students who advance to the next grade.  By the time parents see the results, most have long since moved on from the prior year’s assessment.

ESSA18.1

This is the big one.  This is the heart of the legality of opt-out.  Those two words define what the school has to do, not the student.

ESSA18.2

The above defines what the school needs to do with assessments.  They must “provide for”.  I can provide chocolate-chip cookies at a bake sale, but I can’t make everyone buy them.

ESSA19

Welcome to stealth testing!  This is where personalized learning rears its head in this legislation, but not overtly said.  The future of standardized assessments will be embedded into end of unit modules on student’s computers.  Instead of the “once-a-year” assessment, or even 2-3 times like in the past in some states, these will be constant assessments.  This law allows schools to come up with a summative score based on all these little assessment.

ESSA27.1

ESSA27.2

Yes, adaptive assessments.  What we currently have in the once  a year assessment, but set up for personalized learning and competency-based education.

ESSA28.1

Here is the loophole, and one of the reasons these tests are so dangerous.  The adaptability allows corruption in the data.  The programmers of the assessment can manipulate them in a way that certain students have a disadvantage.  When a student gives an end-of-unit test, all students are given the same questions.  Why should a standardized assessment be any different?  But this law allows that!

ESSA29

Here is the snake in the grass.  How can a student be determined proficient for current school year instruction if they are given items on a test that are above the grade level?  I can understand items below the grade level.  If a student is behind, you would want to know what level they are at.  I get that.  But to go above like that…it leads to all sorts of issues.

ESSA30.1

This is the clincher!  And I love they put the words “local law”.  Does a district board of education policy honoring a parent’s right to opt-out of the state assessment count as local law?  If a state’s accountability system has opt-out penalties which could harm a school’s rating, would this not completely contradict this part of the legislation?  And if it is a state law to honor opt-out and not punish, then there is nothing anyone can do about it!  Which is why the legislators in Delaware need to override Governor Markell’s veto of their opt-out legislation as soon as possible!!!!

ESSA30.2

Another big thing going on right now is “assessment inventory”.  I believe this will wipe out many of the district assessments in favor of the state assessments.  Especially if the future will be stealth mode on assessments…

#StopESEA @DelawarePTA @DSEA1 @gacecoffice Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid!!!!

Delaware PTA, DSEA & Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens:

You  hold a great deal of power in your groups.  We the people need you to band together and unite for the students of Delaware.  The ESEA reauthorization is all about more testing, more federal mandates and waivers, and even “social impact bonds”.  I know your bosses in the National PTA, NEA and Governor Markell are all behind this federal legislation.  But that does not mean you need to endorse legislation that has not even been seen by the public yet.

Delaware PTA: You know I love you for your support on the opt-out movement and House Bill 50!  We need you to take a serious look at the personalized learning models and competency-based education supports embedded in this legislation.  These are not good for students over the long-term, especially those students who are most in need.  This bill is big on accountability systems created at the state level, and we all know what that kind of power can have in a few corrupt minds in our state.  Please, do not endorse this bill and let your National PTA know they shouldn’t either.

DSEA: I have to admit, you folks are an enigma to me!  From my perspective, the best words I can think of are this- you always want a seat at the table but don’t realize you are actually on the table as the main course.  I’ve seen this with the Delaware School Success Framework, teacher evaluations, and Race To The Top.  I know you wish there didn’t even have to be opt-out, but the plain simple fact is that it is here and it is necessary for parents to do this.  I get that teachers endorsing opt-out could put them in rough waters, but they are already in that position because of the state and federal mandates coming down.  Please do not endorse this bill that will make sure teachers lose even more voice.

GACEC: You are a Governor’s council run by the state, which puts you under the shadow of Governor Markell.  But your mandate is to look out for exceptional citizens, those with disabilities.  Please tell me how supporting the Governor against opt-out helps those citizens.  Please tell me you truly want the best outcome for children with special needs.  Please tell me you do not support this latest edition of the ESEA reauthorization.  We’ve seen the outcome of Smarter Balanced for our children with disabilities.  They are now further behind.  That isn’t progress, and I’m sure you have seen how Delaware wants these children to go from 19% proficiency to 59% in six years.  That is insanity, brought on by Governor Markell.  Please stop siding with the DOE on matters that only negatively impact our kids.

 

The Lockdown In Middletown: This Story Is For The Birds

Yesterday, NBC Philadelphia reported the strange news of a runaway emu that caused a “soft” lockdown of Spring Meadow Early Childhood Center in Middletown.  I took it upon myself to expand on the story to find out what this new and latest threat to Delaware education actually is.  Luckily, it is not a Rodel spawned creation or something seeping out of the Townshend Buiilding which houses the Delaware Department of Education.  According to the San Diego Zoo, an emu is:

Tall and majestic, the emu belongs to a group of flightless running birds known as ratites, the most primitive of the modern bird families. The ratite family includes the kiwi, ostrich, cassowary, and rhea, all birds found only in the Southern Hemisphere. The emu is the second-largest living bird in the world (the ostrich is the largest). Adult female emus are larger and heavier than the males.

How does a flightless running bird found primarily in Australia wind up in Middletown, Delaware?  Turns out it escaped from its owner and police and animal control officers have been looking for the emu for months.  I had a rare chance to talk to the emu, and it told me it resented being in captivity.  It has been actively seeking Delaware students because the emu feels they are in the same boat.

I opted out of being tied to one place.  Like the students in Delaware who are tied to one test, I sought freedom from an oppressive regime.  In essence, I opted out and I think all kids in Delaware should as well.  I tried to talk to my previous owner about honoring my rights, but he vetoed my suggestion.  I am seeking to have my friends overturn that decision.

When I asked the emu to please consider not causing any more problems, it simply ran away again shouting “Opt Out Now!”.  I have a feeling it will be back again.

Breaking News: Delaware DOE To Punish Schools Over Opt-Out Rate w/School Report Card, Did NOT Submit This For ESEA Waiver

The Delaware Department of Education will punish schools with high opt-out rates based on their School Report Card.  As found in the below document, the school report card is a new system mandated by the US DOE.  Since last summer, the Accountability Framework Working Group has been meeting to get this going in Delaware.  How this works is a school will receive a grade based on multiple factors: academic, graduation rates, etc.  Whatever their academic score is, the DOE will multiply the assessment participation rate against the score.  So as an example, say Charter School of Wilmington gets a score of 90 for their academics.  If their assessment participation rate overall was at 80%, you would multiply 90 x .8, which would give the school an academic score of 72.

They are doing this under the sly.  They did not include this in what was sent to the US DOE for their ESEA Flex Waiver request, which was approved by the feds in July.  This is just another example of the DOE plotting behind the scenes with superintendents from Delaware school districts and making rules without any stakeholder input.  And even then, they just ignore it.  They do what they want and to hell with the consequences.  Below, you can see the ESEA Waiver Approval letter from the US DOE, which mentions NOTHING about this at all, but the State Board approved this in their March 19th, 2015 meeting, which you can listen to here.

So which superintendents and charter heads are on this group? Mark Holodick, Heath Chasanov, Kevin Fitzgerald, Sally Maldonado, Ed Emmett, and other key district staff.  This is a group that doesn’t publicly announce their meetings from what I can see on the DOE calendar on their website or on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  They are creating rules for schools without ANY public feedback whatsoever.  I knew there was more to this whole school report card thing, and now we have the proof.  This group, at first, did not have any representation from parents or the Delaware State Educators Association, but was later added.  I’m sorry, I love Bill Doolittle with the Delaware PTA, but he cannot be the DOE’s go-to guy every time they need a parent on a group.  That is not TRUE stakeholder input.  They should have a minimum of three parents on any task force, group, committee, or commission.  If not MORE!

How ironic they have NO participation from districts where their board passed an opt-out resolution: Capital, Christina and Red Clay…

Delaware parents, don’t let this sway you from opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  If you all do it, then it won’t matter what the participation rate was!  School starts this week or next week for most students, so remember, first day, give the principal your REFUSE THE TEST letter!

UPDATED, 2:35pm, 8/25/15: Ryan Reyna with the Delaware DOE published this document for schools to upload into the Accountability Student Verification system, dated 7/27/15…

The #SignHB50NOW Party For @GovernorMarkell Begins NOW @UnitedOptOut @BadassParents @ParentalRights

https://twitter.com/hashtag/signhb50now

Delaware will have a parent opt-out bill IF Governor Jack Markell.  Our House and Senate passed it last week.  Our legislative session ends Tuesday at midnight.  We need the Governor to sign this bill! Retweet, post on Facebook everywhere, tell your friends, tell your enemies, scream it from the rooftops “SIGN HB 50 NOW Governor Markell!”  His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/GovernorMarkell?fref=ts and I would post this on any education article you see on there.  Message him.  Email him.  His email is jack.markell@state.de.us and tell him why you want this bill signed.  This isn’t just for Delaware.  This is for ALL of America.  It’s no secret Markell has his eye on a bigger prize than Delaware.  Trust me when I say we don’t want another Arne Duncan!

Oregon’s Governor signed legislation very similar to this the other day.  Let’s make it a two-peat America!

Governor Markell Is Having A Hissy Fit Over Smarter Balanced Opt Out Numbers! #supportHB50

Governor Markell wants ALL students to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He isn’t getting his way.  What you are seeing with his announcements about “reducing” other standardized assessments and the whole Delaware colleges and universities and Smarter Balanced is basically a hissy fit of epic proportions on a political level.  Why didn’t Markell throw all these carrots out there before the test started?  Because he didn’t know the opt out movement in Delaware would become as big as it has.

House Bill 50 will be heard in the House Education Committee on Wednesday.  Please read my most recent posts to get all the information on that.  What Markell loathes and hates is any mention of the words “opt  out” in the media.  Because every time someone hears those words, at least ten more kids opt out.  House Bill 50 will generate a great deal of media attention.

Governor Markell banked on the opt out movement not getting a lot of attention in Delaware.  He didn’t count on parents like me pushing the envelope on it to such a degree.  Delaware is a very unique state.  We tend to run behind on the trends of other states.  There are various reasons for this.  Our media has been accused of being biased towards corporate interests and political associations.  Folks in Delaware don’t question items of interest and controversial issues as much as other states.

Jack Markell is fuming in his own head.  He probably thought the Smarter Balanced Assessment would go off without a hitch.  His own ego wouldn’t allow the possibility of parents rising up and turning the conversation around.  Well guess what Jack, it’s happening, and we are NOT done talking!   We are forcing the conversation to those who are in a position to listen AND act.  If it’s all about politics with them, we will make them act based on that.  But I have to think many legislators are now wondering what the political fallout for them may be if they vote no on House Bill 50.  This is a bi-partisan bill with bi-partisan backing from the citizens of Delaware.  If Markell was crying in his sleep over opt out numbers a week ago, wait until he sees what they are a week from now!