Wrecking Ball Ruszkowski At It Again… Merry Christmas Albuquerque!

Four schools.  Change or die.  That is the bully mantra coming out of Chris Ruszkowski’s mouth these days.  The former Delaware DOE employee who is now the New Mexico Secretary of Education seems to have taken the Wilmington Priority Schools guidebook and foisted it on New Mexico.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the four schools, three in Albuquerque, have until January 9th to make their decisions:

• Close the school and enroll students in other area schools that are higher performing.

• Relaunch the school under a charter school operator that has been selected through a rigorous state or local review process.

• “Champion” parents’ option to move their children into higher-performing charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling. This may also include the creation and expansion of state or local school voucher programs.

• Significantly restructure and redesign the school through steps like extending instructional time, changing the staff to include only top-rated educators or adopting state-selected curriculum approaches.

As usual, Ruszkowski fails to understand the reality of inner-city schools, just like he did in Wilmington, DE.

“For Albuquerque, this is a gut check moment,” Ruszkowski said. “Albuquerque talks a lot about equity and access, but when you have kids trapped in a failing school for six straight years, I don’t know what that means for equity and access.”

He questioned why APS hasn’t taken more action to improve these schools on its own, and said he expects the district will make excuses by citing the schools’ poverty rates and demographics.

Poverty is NOT an excuse.  It is a reality for these students.  Fat cats like Ruszkowski, who has never known poverty a day in his life, will never get that.  But this is just the beginning for New Mexico because there are 86 other schools that could be in this position next year.

New Mexico is a PARCC state.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment, the test used in Delaware, used to be the state assessment in NM but was changed to PARCC.  Same demon, different name.  This is like 2014 all over again, only it is in a different state.  Ruszkowski’s pals at the Delaware DOE targeted six schools in Wilmington, DE with pretty much the exact same threats.  Promised funding either never materialized or was drastically reduced.  The state did not live up to what it promised in their forced coercion scenario.

I always assumed Penny Schwinn, the former Delaware accountability chief (now making waves in Texas) was the ringleader behind the Delaware Priority Schools fiasco but it appears now Ruszkowski may have played a heavy hand in that debacle.  These fake, charter-loving “leaders” in public education are a destructive force, a wave of anti-matter ripping chaos through school buildings.  I’m sorry my state created so many monsters and let them loose on the rest of the country.

In Delaware, two of those priority schools are part of a horrible plan invented by Delaware Governor John Carney’s office and the Christina School District. The Governor wants those schools to consolidate with other schools in the area but he is rushing the district into a decision. Their board voted 5-2 to have the Governor slow his roll. Many in Delaware feel this plan by the Governor is a smoke and mirrors scenario where the district will fight the plan to the point where Carney pulls a fast one and charterizes the schools.

Say some prayers for New Mexico.  Putting a guy like Ruszkowski in the driver’s seat of education in a state is tantamount to giving a thief keys to your house.  He is a result of Race To The Top, the very worst kind of result.

ESSA: Parents & Educators MUST Attend The Upcoming Meetings & Educate Themselves On The Law!

The Delaware Dept. of Education will have three more Every Student Succeeds Act Community Engagement meetings in the next week.  They held a meeting in Georgetown on Tuesday.  The next three meetings will take place in Wilmington, Middletown, and Dover.  The DOE is “requiring” participants to register through a company called Event Brite.  Links to register can be found here.

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I will stress with all the urgency I can muster that ALL public education parents attend these meetings.  Before you go, I would familiarize yourself with the federal law.  You can read the full text of the law here.  It is a very long law with a lot of repeated jargon and “legalese” in it.  The Delaware State Board of Education and Delaware DOE has put up many links to it on their websites, but a lot of that is open to interpretation.  As well, U.S. Secretary of Education John King has issued “proposed rulemaking” which are potential regulations.  These regulations are VERY controversial.  You can read those regulations here and here.

These are my major concerns with ESSA:

By allowing states to have more flexibility, many states have already created long-term plans based on the prior federal mandates.  Far too many in our state DOEs follow what the corporate education reformers want and give a false illusion of “stakeholder input”.

The Delaware DOE has given NO indication whatsoever that they will even consider changing the state standards away from Common Core even though they can certainly do this according to ESSA.  The US Secretary of Education isn’t required to approve these standards.  The states merely have to give an assurance that their standards will follow the law.

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Student data still isn’t protected to parents satisfaction.  To stop this data from going out, they need to restore the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) to pre-2011 levels

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Bouncing off the previous statement, by allowing more social service and health-based practitioners into our schools, there is a serious question regarding what applies to FERPA and what applies to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

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John King’s regulations would keep the 95% participation rates for state assessments with consequences for schools and districts.

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John King’s Title I regulations would enact a “supplement not supplant” these funds.  This is in sharp contrast with federal law and he was called out on this the other day by the US House Education and Workforce Committee.

There is far too much talk of competency-based education through computer adaptive assessments.  That is just lingo for personalized learning.  This law would allow for classrooms to become online all the time.  There are severe dangers with this in regards to the downgrading of the teacher profession, far too much screen time for students, and the quality of the educational material.  As well as severe data privacy concerns.  In fact, there are incentives for schools to adopt personalized learning.

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While the law forbids the US DOE from forcing or coercing states to implement any state standards, like Common Core, many states already have these in place and spent years embedding them into every facet of public education.

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The law calls for state accountability “report cards”, based on performance of the state assessment, but the tests are not required to be exactly the same for all students.  So the state assessments are not a true measurement since they will be different for each test-taker.  Delaware set up their report card last year under the name of the “Delaware School Success Framework” but they inserted a very punitive participation rate penalty if a school dips below the 95% participation rate which can’t use parent opt-out in those calculations according to the law.

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State assessments will not be required to have questions at the appropriate grade level for students.

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ESSA requires any plan to be submitted to the State DOE, State Board of Education, the Governor and the state legislature.  To date, the Delaware DOE has not had “meaningful” consultation with the Delaware General Assembly about ESSA.

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The law specifically states that all choice schools should have priority given to the lowest-achieving students, but Delaware allows for charter schools to have enrollment preferences that allow for higher-achieving students to have distinct advantages, especially in our magnet schools and charter schools like Charter School of Wilmington.

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I have many other concerns with ESSA, but these ones stand out for me.  I am coming at this from the perspective of a parent.  I know educators have concerns over some of this as well.

What’s So Bad About Educational Technology? Beware The Poverty Pimps!

Ed Tech.  It is everywhere.  Like the Vikings of yesteryear, it is invading every classroom in America.  It is pillaging the public education village.  For the Vikings, this was their way.  It was all they knew.  But for the Poverty Pimps, the companies who profit from students with the justification of fixing education for poor kids, it is disturbing on many levels.  If this technology is used in moderation and for the sole benefit of increasing the ability for students to learn, that would be one thing.  But companies are making billions of dollars off of our kids.  Even worse, the privacy of our children’s information is suspect at best.  One mom from Pennsylvania, Alison McDowell, has looked into all of this and she has found out a lot about what is going on with this aspect of the Ed Tech Boom.

A Skeptical Parent’s Thoughts on Evaluating Digital Learning Programs

With the school year beginning, questions about digital learning programs and computerized behavior management programs have started to pop up in my feed. Is X program ok? How about Y? Concerned parents are scanning privacy policies and trying to figure it all out. What does this mean for MY child?

As someone who took a symbolic stand and opted her child out of Google Apps for Education last year (and she didn’t seem to come out any the worse for wear for it BTW), I’d like to share my current thinking on this topic. I am not a Luddite, but I am concerned that rather than being taught to use and control technology, many children (especially children in turn-around or transformation schools) are increasingly being put into the position of being used BY technology to further the interests of for-profit cyber instruction and workforce development. I’m sharing my thoughts in the hope of opening up a discussion and to see where other folks are in this brave new world.

For me the bottom line is this: Does the technology under consideration empower students to be the creators of the content? Is the power with THEM?

If the answer is “yes,” then it shouldn’t depend on tracking personalized data to function properly. Sure kids should be able to work on a project, save it, and go back to it, but online monitors shouldn’t be tracking all their data. Students own the work they do. It is their intellectual property. It should remain accessible and editable by them for the purposes of what the child and the teacher are doing in the CLASSROOM-that’s it. Storing student learning with PII (personally identifiable information) in the cloud for some unspecified future purpose concerns me.

Fortunately for our family, the above scenario is the norm at my daughter’s school. Mostly they use GAFE for open-ended word processing and there is a geometry program that allows students to render shapes. But THEY are doing the creating. The work is being done in THEIR brains. They are not consuming pre-determined content and having their micro-data tracked and aggregated.

If the sole purpose of the technology under consideration is to distribute content from an online learning management system based on prior data that a program has gleaned from a student interacting with the program, that is NOT an empowering educational experience.

Others may feel differently, but right now that is my framework for looking at this issue. That, and the fact that technology should not supplant funds for human teachers and there should be age-appropriate screen time limits during the school day.

What we need is more educational sovereignty and less educational surveillance.

In Delaware, personalized learning is pushed heavily by the Rodel Foundation with support from the Delaware business community.  Rodel, a non-profit company, has been pimping personalized learning and competency-based education for years.  I have extreme issues with the CEO of a non-profit being the highest paid education person in the state, with a reported earning of $343,000 as of 2014.  That is a lot more money than the highest paid state employee in education, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, who earned $217,000 as of last year.  Every state has similar “foundations” doing the same thing.

Delaware teachers are at a crossroads.  Do they embrace this technology knowing it could eventually lead to the end of their career as they know it, or do they resist it and fade into obscurity as districts and charter schools feel they aren’t supporting education?  The problem is the power  structure.  The teachers who are embracing this technology are regarded as education heroes in the press.  They are considered the “trailblazers” who will lead our children to “college and career readiness”.  They get the rewards and the accolades while teachers in high-poverty schools, who work just as hard without proper funding and resources in bloated classrooms, get labeled and shamed over the state assessment scores.

For parents, their rights to protect their child’s personal information have slowly been dismantled through federal regulations involving FERPA.  Outside contractors with state and local education agencies have certain allowances which allow them to see personal information.  The laws surrounding this are very vague and unclear.  On the surface, they look great.  But the loopholes embedded in these laws are the true tale.  For parents, opt out is no longer about the state assessment.  It is also about education technology.  But how does a parent opt their child out of entire curriculums that use computers and hand-held devices?  It’s not like schools can say “that’s fine, we will give your child a textbook.”

As the world slowly begins to embrace Blockchain technology, modeled after Bitcoin, serious questions are being asked about how this could transform the education landscape.  And what it means for our children.  Make no mistake, the initiatives and “ideas” are already in play and have been for years.  Blockchain is the end of the agendas.  It is the Rubicon of the plans that began in the early 1990s.  While these “futurists” didn’t foresee the exact mechanism of what is now Blockchain, they knew education would become a master and apprentice society, with earn to learn programs replacing the traditional classroom.  Common Core and the high-stakes testing were a means to this end.  We are hearing more and more talk about career pathways and early education.  The role of corporations in these areas is too large to ignore.  We are knee-deep in Education Incorporated, but we are about to be swallowed whole.

Last March, I created a Parent Bill of Rights for Education.  It began as a response to the Center for American Progress’ Testing Bill of Rights.  I found their platform to be insulting to the students, parents, and teachers of America.  Since then, things have changed.  I landed in Facebook jail when I posted this to the same groups I show my articles to.  With no explanation whatsoever from Facebook.  The idea took on a life of its own.  But I need your help.  Please look at it.  Come up with ideas on how to improve it.  Let’s make this a real thing and present it to Congress next year.  We must be able to exert parental control over what is best for our children before that control is stripped from us forever.  To this end, I have created a Parent Bill of Rights for Public Education group.  It will be a private group.  It will be by invitation only, which some may see as hypocritical on my end given my  rants about transparency.  But we don’t want the corporations getting their hooks into this.  This will be created by parents, for their children.  Not for profit or power and gain.  This is for our kids.  Because we love them better than any company ever will.

 

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

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

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

The High-Stakes Testing Scam Revealed At Last

What if I told you the high-stakes testing American children have been going through is a complete and utter scam? Many would say they already knew that, but would they be able to tell you how they knew this? Probably not. At least not at the levels our state Department of Educations developed with the many testing companies such as American Institutes for Research, Pearson, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The Delaware Department of Education put out a Request for Proposal for our new Social Studies State Assessment. The actual RFP is a treasure trove of testing information. For starters, the Delaware Department of Education is flat-out lying in their RFP. Last year, the Delaware DOE put out their “Delaware School Success Framework”. This is essentially Delaware’s report card for schools. Included in this horrible accountability testing machine are participation rate penalties for schools that go under 95% participation rate on the state assessments. The Delaware DOE and State Board of Education tried passing an updated version of Delaware’s regulation regarding school accountability, but many parents and education organizations balked and successfully blocked the State Board of Education from passing it. As a result, even though the Delaware State Board of Education eventually passed the Delaware School Success Framework, there is no regulatory power behind it. But that didn’t stop the Delaware DOE from making it look like it is perfectly legal in their RFP for the new Social Studies state assessment.

One of the first things the DOE calls for from a potential vendor for this test is understanding of and the ability to put the Rasch Scoring Methodology into the test. What is this Rasch the Delaware DOE has? It is an all-consuming itch to trip up kids and schools and parents. This is part of the underbelly of state testing that no one talks about. The website appropriately titled Rasch-Analysis.com explains the Rasch Scoring Methodology as this:

What is a Rasch Analysis? The Rasch model, where the total score summarizes completely a person’s standing on a variable, arises from a more fundamental requirement: that the comparison of two people is independent of which items may be used within the set of items assessing the same variable. Thus the Rasch model is taken as a criterion for the structure of the responses, rather than a mere statistical description of the responses. For example, the comparison of the performance of two students’ work marked by different graders should be independent of the graders.

In this case it is considered that the researcher is deliberately developing items that are valid for the purpose and that meet the Rasch requirements of invariance of comparisons.

Analyzing data according to the Rasch model, that is, conducting a Rasch analysis, gives a range of details for checking whether or not adding the scores is justified in the data. This is called the test of fit between the data and the model. If the invariance of responses across different groups of people does not hold, then taking the total score to characterize a person is not justified. Of course, data never fit the model perfectly, and it is important to consider the fit of data to the model with respect to the uses to be made of the total scores. If the data do fit the model adequately for the purpose, then the Rasch analysis also linearises the total score, which is bounded by 0 and the maximum score on the items, into measurements. The linearised value is the location of the person on the unidimensional continuum – the value is called a parameter in the model and there can be only one number in a unidimensional framework. This parameter can then be used in analysis of variance and regression more readily than the raw total score which has floor and ceiling effects.

Many assessments in these disciplines involve a well defined group of people responding to a set of items for assessment. Generally, the responses to the items are scored 0, 1 (for two ordered categories); or 0, 1, 2 (for three ordered categories); or 0, 1,2, 3 (for four ordered categories) and so on, to indicate increasing levels of a response on some variable such as health status or academic achievement. These responses are then added across items to give each person a total score. This total score summarise the responses to all the items, and a person with a higher total score than another one is deemed to show more of the variable assessed. Summing the scores of the items to give a single score for a person implies that the items are intended to measure a single variable, often referred to as a unidimensional variable.

The Rasch model is the only item response theory (IRT) model in which the total score across items characterizes a person totally. It is also the simplest of such models having the minimum of parameters for the person (just one), and just one parameter corresponding to each category of an item. This item parameter is generically referred to as a threshold. There is just one in the case of a dichotomous item, two in the case of three ordered categories, and so on.

Now this has a lot of lingo I didn’t quite get.  But the important part about understanding the Rasch Methodology of Scoring is that ALL items must be the same.  This is NOT what is going on currently.  With Smarter Balanced, PARCC and other state assessments, the testing companies have developed what is called a Partial Matrix of Items.  What this means is that a portion of the state assessment is the same for everyone.  But the remaining portion comes from a bucket of different test items submitted for these tests.  In partial matrix testing theory, the similar content shared by all could be anywhere from 20-30% of the items on the test.  The rest varies based on what is in the bucket.  What this means is this shocking find: students aren’t taking the exact same state assessment.  For Smarter Balanced test-takers, the tests aren’t the same.  The same for PARCC as well.

The truly frightening part about this is the probabilities with Partial Matrix.  If a student is a high achiever, the probability they will get a correct answer is above a probability of .5 on each item’s scale.  If they aren’t a high achiever and struggle, the probability drops below .5 on the scale.  So these tests are designed so roughly half get it right and half get them wrong.  But if kids aren’t taking the same exact test, where all the items after the “common” items change, that throws the whole model into whack.  The testing companies know this.  Our state DOEs know this.  The US DOE knows this.  Chances are many corporate education reform companies, politicians, and even some school Superintendents know this.  Any testing coordinator in a school district or charter school should know this.

This is also why opt out throws the whole scheme into disarray.  If too many “smart kids” opt out, it will change that whole .5 probability.  If too many struggling kids opt out, the test scores will be very high.  The testing companies love this model because it furthers the whole standardized testing environment which gives them lots of money.  With this model, schools fail and schools succeed.  It really is based on the socio-economic demographics of any given school.  This explains why the 95% participation rate is the desired outcome.  With a school of 1000 kids, 950 kids taking the test isn’t going to skew the results too much.  But once you get below that level, that .5 probability begins to shift in either direction.  None of these testing advocates care if the kids are proficient or not.  They already know, for the most part, exactly how it is going to turn out.  That’s when the real work and potential manipulation can occur.

In Delaware, students don’t take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the same time.  There is a three month testing window.  Some schools begin in the first week of March whereas others may not start until May.  How do we know, with 100% certainty, companies like our testing vendor, American Institutes for Research aren’t looking at that data constantly?  How do we know they aren’t able to ascertain which questions have a higher or lower probability of being answered correctly once students start taking the test?  How do we know the testing gurus at our state DOEs aren’t in constant contact with the testing companies and are able to determine ahead of time which testing items in the “non-common” partial matrix to send to different schools, or even certain grades?

For example, say a state really wants to have a particular school show phenomenal “growth” in proficiency scores from one year to the next.  This could be a charter school.  While the overall proficiency rate isn’t phenomenal, the growth could be.  As a result, more students could be wowed by this school and might be more apt to send their children there.  It could flip around another way.  Say a state DOE really is  just sick of a particular district and wants more charters in that area.  The best way to make more charters is to show more failing traditional schools.  Even some charters could be expendable.  Another one might want to expand their enrollment and has more influence and pull than other ones.  With current accountability regulations (and more to come under ESSA), this allows states to continue labeling and shaming certain schools.  The reality is these assessments can be molded into any shape a state might want if they are able to interact with the testing vendor and determine which items go to which school.  This is a worst-case scenario for an already bad test to begin with.

While state DOEs brag about the computer-adaptability of these tests and how it will “work with the student”, this is the most egregious part of the whole modern-day standardized testing scheme.  By having this “adaptability”, it disguises the true intent: different items on the tests for different students.  Even if students talk about particular items on the test, the adaptability prevents them from having the same items on the test.  It is an ingenious scheme.

For teachers, some could be guided towards certain directions by the state DOEs for where to go with curriculum.  Others could be guided in the wrong direction which will ultimately change the results of these assessments.  It is the grandest illusion of them all.  The state DOEs will say “we have advisory committees.  Teachers pick the items for the test.”  I’m sure they do.  And I’m also sure there are plants on those committees.  Ones that wind up working with certain state foundations, state DOEs, or other corporate education reform companies.  It sounds so shady, doesn’t it?  How much of a soul has to be sold to make more money or climb up the corporate education ladder?

While all of this may have your head reeling, try this on for size: what happens when competency-based education becomes the next “thing”?  When digital personalized learning becomes the norm and all these state assessments become broken down into mini-standardized tests?  Instead of those 7-10 days when students are hogging up all the bandwidth in the school and teachers most likely lose a lot of hair, the tests will be shorter.  They will become end of unit assessments.  Teachers won’t even need to worry about administering their own end of unit assessment because Smarter Balanced and PARCC already did all the work!  How convenient.  Not only did our states reduce testing time, but also teacher’s time and effort.  A true cause for celebration.  And parents won’t even be able to opt their kids out of these tests because most of them most likely won’t even know their kid is testing and their classroom grades will be based off their digital personalized learning work and their competency-based education high-stakes mini-test.  We know Delaware is leaning towards this testing model because Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky mentioned this during our last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting back in May.

Meanwhile, back at the state DOE, they are getting all this data.  They are getting it from their vendors like American Institutes for Research, or Questar, or Pearson.  Other companies want to see it so they can work on a report about how to fix our schools.  Our state DOEs actually pay them to do these reports.  Through contracts and extensions of contracts.  Yes, only the student identifier code goes out.  These testing companies really don’t care about who the student is, just what they can extrapolate from the data.  But then that information comes back to the state.  The state knows who that student identifier belongs to.  For example, Student ID # belongs to John Johns at Delaware Elementary School.  Based on the information from all that data, they can easily paint a picture of that student.  Based on the scores, how long it took them to take the test, how they answered responsive questions… all of this allows them to track.  So much so they can determine, based on other algorithms and matrices, exactly what career path John Johns is heading towards.  Perhaps we should guide him towards that culinary program.  Or maybe Bio-technology pathways.  Or maybe poor John Johns won’t ever advance past a welder position.  FERPA guidelines allow state DOEs to actually do this.

Want to know who always loses in these testing games?  Students with disabilities.  They may receive accommodations but they never get the one accommodation they need the most.  For regular classroom tests, IEP teams frequently agree on a student not taking every single test question.  Maybe 1//2 or 3/4 of the questions.  Standardized tests don’t allow for that.  The answer is always the same: they will get more time.  What they fail to understand is what “more time” means to these students.  It means more time focusing on the same task: Taking a test.  What are their regular peers doing when these kids are getting “more time”?  They are learning.  Receiving instruction.  Getting ahead.  Students with disabilities are, yet again, put in a position where they will become further behind.

We all knew our kids were guinea pigs for these tests.  We just didn’t know how much.  The time to opt out of these tests, no matter what the circumstances might be, is now.  Not later, not tomorrow.  Now.  Today is your opt out day for your child.

Below is the RFP for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment.  I’ve gone through this and highlighted key wording and troubling aspects which I will write more about tonight or tomorrow.  Don’t be fooled by the DOE’s statements of assurance in this.  I have no doubt their legal team went through it very carefully.  But I’m fairly certain they didn’t expect a citizen to go through it and dissect it like I did…

The Judases On The Rodel Teacher Council & How They Changed Public Education Forever In Delaware **UPDATED**

Establish a “critical mass” of support for CBL in DE and leverage supportive voices to raise awareness about CBL

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A group of Delaware teachers, in conjunction with a few Superintendents, principals, a high-ranking member of the Delaware PTA, the executive director of the State Board of Education and members of the Delaware Department of Education found a way to sneak in a future-changing regulation eight months ago with a group no one knew about and never had any notices of public meetings.  But all is not as it appears.  In doing so, they opened the gates to one of the most dangerous corporate education reformers out there.

Have you ever heard of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition?  Me neither.  Until last night.  In doing a massive amount of research on the Leader In Me program in many of our Delaware schools (and there will be MUCH more on that coming), I found a very odd write-up on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware website.

In investigating a school in the Capital School District that is heavily promoting the snake-oil Leader In Me program, I came across the Rodel Teacher Council section of their website on a Google search.  And there it was, under Michele Johnson of Towne Point Elementary School in Capital School District.  I knew she was involved in the Leader In Me program, but what I didn’t know and had never heard of was the Delaware Department of Education’s Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  I’ve looked at every single section of the DOE website and never found anything about it.  So I went back to Google.  I found a link to a pdf from a State Board of Education work session on July 16th, 2015.

To give some more background, this was an important day in Delaware education.  It was the same day Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed House Bill 50.  The State Board holds their work sessions during the morning before their board meetings.  The State Board did have it on their agenda for this work session but try looking for anything else on this group and you will be hopelessly lost.  With most groups at the Delaware DOE, there is something listed somewhere.  But not with this one.  There was no notice of public meetings and no transparency whatsoever.    Why would there be?  This was a Rodel group from their hand-picked teacher council.  If you never believed Rodel was running education in Delaware, you will after reading the below document.  Every single thing I’ve been writing about on this blog for the past nine months: about competency-based education, personalized learning, pathways to prosperity, the “Dear Hillary” letter, it is all in this 10 page pdf in some form.

So this group recommended finding a way past these barriers to competency-based education in Delaware.  The pictures of the post-it notes show words like “urgency” and “barriers”.  They mention collective bargaining as a “system barrier”.  This Rodel Teacher Council sold their souls to Rodel when they joined this cabal.  In the above document there is an entity called Reinventing Schools.  I’ve heard of this company but this is the first time I ever saw them mentioned in Delaware.  But obviously Rodel has been working with them behind the scenes for many years.  To find out why, I highly suggest reading this article on the funded by the Gates Foundation organization led by Dr. Marzano.

I put a picture at the beginning of this article with the members of this Rodel created group.  While I’m not surprised by most of the names, one of them stood out: Yvonne Johnson.  As the face behind the Delaware PTA for many years, Johnson has been involved in many groups in one form or another.  I originally wrote, and have now changed in this article, is how Johnson was involved with this group.  I just spoke to Yvonne Johnson who was very upset about her supposed involvement with the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  As Johnson told me, she was invited to a webinar on this and there was a meeting at Howard High School of Technology about it.  She said she does not support competency-based education and the other Delaware PTA member, Ashley Gray, told this group this was not for the Delaware PTA.  Obviously the Rodel machine presented this information to the State Board of Education, close to a year later, suggesting the full involvement of Delaware PTA.  But that is not the case.  It is just another example of our State Board of Education being duped by Rodel into passing regulations they really don’t have a clue about.

The biggest barrier to implementing competency-based education in Delaware was the graduation requirements.  They had to change existing state code to do that.  Lo and behold, they did exactly that.  But not without some old fashioned trickery.  At the August 20th State Board meeting, Regulation 505 was put up for discussion by the State Board.

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In listening to the State Board audio recording for this meeting, notice how it is introduced as having nothing to do with competency-based education.  For a long time, they talk around it.  It isn’t until the President of the State Board, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, seeks clarification on this regulation that anyone in that room would know what they were talking about.  As well, Tina Shockley with the DOE sped through describing the regulation very fast.  But when the conversation gets going, Michael Watson from the DOE responds to a question from Gray about struggling students.  He responds by saying  some students can reach mastery in 180 days but for other students it may take longer and that’s okay.  So is he suggesting some students will have to go to school longer?

At the September State Board meeting, when everyone was going nuts about opt out penalties in the Delaware School Success Framework/Regulation 103 fiasco, the State Board passed this regulation.  But I find it hysterical how all the language surrounding the DSCFY wasn’t even needed to begin with which I’m sure the DOE was well aware of.  In my opinion, they put it in the regulation to put the focus around that knowing it would be removed to get what they want.

So what does all this mean?

Here is the easiest way to break it down.  This isn’t a Delaware thing.  It is happening all over the country.  To put it in a nutshell, corporations took over public education.  This is a plan that has been in place for decades.  First they had to make it look like public schools were failing students.  This began in 1983 when the report called A Nation At Risk was released by the federal government.  This damning report on public education changed the perception of schools in America.  It also began the thirty-three year coordinated attack against teacher unions.  Ten years later, the country’s first charter schools came into being.  At the same time, Bill Clinton became the U.S. President.  His wife Hillary received a letter from Marc Tucker, who went on to be one of the chief architects of Achieve Inc. and the Common Core.

By the late 1990s, standardized testing with high-stakes was the law of the land in Delaware.  When Delaware launched the DSTP test, students did horrible on it.  Many students dropped out of school as testing mania took over the state.  Graduation rates dropped due to the requirement of proficiency on the horrible test.  In 2002, No Child Left Behind demanded all students in America become proficient on these high-stakes tests by 2014.  It was completely absurd and everyone knew it, but it was a stall tactic.  As Common Core came out in President Obama’s second year, Delaware switched to another test called DCAS.  While not as bad as DSTP, it was offered two to three times a year.  Race To The Top was in full swing along with all the ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Charter schools were rising in popularity for the past decade and the teacher unions were under attack.  To get all of this going, the teacher unions had to be destroyed.  But they couldn’t bust the unions, just give them a slow and painful death.

Many teacher unions across the country caved in to the new corporate education reform suggestions.  They could have fought it, but it would have given an already rising bad perception of them an even worse one.  So with the help of school boards, the unions signed on to Race To The Top.  Even the state PTAs got sucked into the Common Core/Race To The Top vortex.  Common Core was the boss, teachers were the servants, and students were the true victims.  Then came the even newer high-stakes assessments tied to the Common Core.  Meanwhile, new education think tanks and non-profits emerged from nowhere to give more and more bad news about education and how to fix it.  In Delaware,  we call them the Rodel Foundation and the Vision Coalition.  They have been around for a long time, but they are one and the same and they are as venomous to public education as any of these other education fixit organizations.

So here we are now, in 2016.  Governor Markell finishes up next January and in comes John Carney.  Like the rushed implementation of Common Core, in the next few years we will see the “urgency” to incorporate full-time competency-based learning in our schools.  Our students will be on the computer all the time in this era of “personalized learning” while our teachers become glorified guides and facilitators.  As veteran teachers leave the profession in droves, we will see more duds like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School coming into our schools.  They won’t be union, and they will take over.  With their corporate driven brainwashing, we will see more “teacher-leaders” come into play via programs like “Leader In Me”.  But education is, and always has been, about the students.  What happens to them?  This is the kicker.

All of this, everything since the day A Nation At Risk was introduced 33 years ago, has been with this plan in mind.  It is all an elaborate tracking measure meant to keep down minority students, students with disabilities, and low-income students.  They will not do well in this.  We see this with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC tests.  The resources and funding are there.  They have always been there.  But our states and government didn’t want to fix education.  They had to tear it down first and build it up again to one of their own design.  They don’t want anyone questioning their authority.  They want their worker bees to fall in line with their career pathways and shut up.  They had to beat down the teachers and numb the minds of children.  They do not care and have no remorse if anyone gets in their way.  Even the charter schools they so methodically built up were fodder for sacrifice if need be.  We saw this in Delaware as many charters closed and more sprung from the ashes.

What the corporate education reformers do is use the art of distraction to an astonishing degree.  They know those who oppose them can’t fight everything all at once so they get us to focus on certain things.  Take opt out for example.  While they know opt out kills everything they are planning, they also know it is the key to their future.  The once a year test will go away.  It will be broken down into little tiny chunks, embedded into the end-of-unit personalized learning chapter.  But a student must score proficient to be able to move on.  They must “master” the material.  But who writes the material?  Who grades the mini-assessments?  How long will a student be “held back” until they get it?  What happens when a student just gives up because they are so mentally frustrated?  How does IDEA and existing law fit in with any of this?  Does anyone care about these kind of things anymore?

Governor Markell and Dr. Paul Herdman, along with their key player at the Townsend Building in Dover, Donna Johnson, have been the masterminds behind all of this in Delaware.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence there have been very few task forces, working groups and committees with an actual State Board of Education member on it?  It is always Executive Director Donna Johnson.  Calling the shots.  Bossing people around as if she is the ultimate authority in education.  Manipulating the playing field to the agendas she controls.  She did it with WEIC, the priority schools, the Delaware School Success Framework, Common Core, opt out, and all the other destructive policies and regulations under her control.  We don’t have a State Board of Education.  We have Jack and Donna’s puppets.  Behind them is the face of Rodel: Dr. Paul Herdman.  The single-most, number one with a bullet, vessel of discrimination and evil I have ever met in my life.  The man behind the Delaware curtain.  The man who helped Jack into the Governor role.  The man who took over the Delaware Department of Education.  The man who directs it all in Delaware.  Who answers to his masters in bigger organizations like the Aspen Institute, Achieve Inc., the Lumina Foundation, and Reinventing Schools.  Behind them are the true power players in the guise of the US Department of Education, the US Department of Labor, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Gates Foundation.  And then there are the investors and hedge fund managers and corporations making billions of dollars off all of this.  For those living in other states who may not be familiar with many of these names, I’m sure if you look hard enough, you have your own puppet masters pulling the strings.

At this point, I don’t know if those who oppose this could stop any of this.  It is so embedded into policy and law.  All the states were required to have some type of career workforce plan based on the below federal document.  The future is now.  It is here.  This Leader In Me garbage that is sweeping our schools is the biggest example of this.  It goes beyond the classroom and invades the home.  It has children making the parents compliant to this nonsense.  Their “data walls” are one of the most disgusting and abhorrent acts of labeling, shaming, and discrimination I have ever seen in my life.  But far too many of our Delaware teachers think it is okay.  This is what happens when you are brainwashed to points beyond common sense.  When you are fed the same false garbage time and time again.  You begin to believe it.  You become the enemy before you even realize it.  When you once questioned all of this and you become a slave to the compliance machine.  I am not saying these teachers are bad or even evil.  They are misguided.  They have been fooled and once the Rodelian mindset becomes a part of your thinking, they have their hooks in you.  They mold and shape you into another one of their puppets or put your name out there to make it look like they have diverse “stakeholder input”.  It seems like people with the last name of Johnson are their favorites.  Charter schools, by their very nature, are ripe for takeover or creation by the Rodelian puppet masters.  And don’t think it ends with Jack Markell.

But too many of us were blinded by opt out, teacher evaluations, and charter schools to even notice.  All we hear about anymore on social media is Trump and Hillary.  It doesn’t matter who wins because all the pieces were put into play years ago.  They snuck it all in when those who should have seen it were distracted.  As our pre-schools and schools become community centers and human teaching becomes a thing of the past, what happens to the children of tomorrow?  Will we even need the school building in the future?  What happens when they become indoctrinated into the cults of compliance?  When they lose their spark?  As the more affluent families stay in power while the vast majority of the population perform all the low-paying jobs?  Who will rise from the ashes like a phoenix to turn it all around again twenty years from now?  Or fifty?  Many have predicted the machines would take over.  But what they failed to realize was the machines were children.  I saw this coming.  I knew it.  But I was looking in the wrong place.  And for that I apologize.  At some point, like everything in history, there will be a revolution.  Only we can decide when that is.

 

The PARCC Test: Exposed

This was originally written on another blog.  I will just call it Celia’s blog.  It was about the PARCC Test, released by the corporate education reform monster Pearson.  Pearson made Celia take off some of what she wrote.  Now ALL of us are reposting the original material in support of Celia and to give a collective whatever to Pearson.  Below is the original.

The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

  1. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”

Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

 Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3

  1. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

Network for Public Education Calls For National Opt Out, Refuse The Test NOW!!!!

Carol Burris, the Executive Director for the Network for Public Education, put out a press release last night calling for a National Opt Out of high-stakes testing, otherwise known as standardized tests.  In Delaware, we call this the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Refuse this test for your child now.  The stakes are getting bigger by the day for each student in public education.  What started out on my end as thinking these tests were just Common Core drivel has morphed into something much bigger.  Just look at the past week’s worth of my articles to find out why.  This isn’t a matter of making a choice for your child anymore.  It is now a moral imperative.  Here is the press release from the Network for Public Education.

After careful thought and deliberation, the Network for Public Education is calling for a national Opt Out because of the harmful effects of annual high-stakes testing on children and schools.  We enthusiastically support those parents who refuse to have their children take the 2016 state exams.

The alleged purpose of annual testing, federally mandated since NCLB was passed in 2004, is to unveil the achievement gaps within schools, ostensibly to close them.  Twelve years later, there is no conclusive evidence that NCLB high-stakes testing has improved the academic performance of any student—particularly those who need the most help. All that has been closed by testing are children’s neighborhood schools.

Fairfield University Professor and NPE Board member, Yohuru Williams, has made the case that annual high-stakes testing feeds racial determinism and closes doors of opportunity for black and brown children. We agree when he states that opting out is a necessary and direct act of protest to highlight the injustice of a system that refuses to address the underlying socio-economic problems that contribute to unequal learning experiences.  The current demand for high-stakes testing and uniform standards diverts attention from the hard work of school improvement and the correction of the social and economic inequities that lead to inequitable results.

The Common Core tests rely on passing marks set artificially high, so that at least two thirds of all children will be labeled as failing. When U.S. Secretary of Education, John King, was New York’s Commissioner, he accurately predicted that about 70% of students would fail. Students with disabilities, English Language learners, and children who live in poverty experience even higher failure rates. These tests are manifestly unfair to the neediest children.

Furthermore, the data derived from high-stakes testing is intended to undermine our public schools by creating a false narrative of failure. Once public schools are closed, they are replaced by privately managed charter schools, with insufficient public oversight. When teachers are fired, they are replaced with inexperienced and often temporary staff. Testing data are used to demoralize teachers and take away their hard-earned job rights, thus creating a constant churn of teachers whose work is reduced to test preparation.

Although officials may claim that the information derived from these tests is helpful to children and teachers, this is not true. Test results are reported in the summer or fall, when it is too late to inform instruction. Numerical rankings of 1,2 3 or 4 and percentile ranks are meaningless markers that cannot be used to guide the instruction of any individual child.

We acknowledge that there is a legitimate role for standardized tests, if they are limited in frequency and time, developmentally appropriate, well-designed and reasonably scaled with realistic cut scores and provide useful instructional feedback. High-stakes tests given for school accountability purposes, do not meet those standards.  They are undermining the public school system that is the pillar of our democracy. We believe that opting out of state tests as an act of direct protest will help turn the tide and eliminate damaging policies.

We recognize that some parents will find it difficult or impossible to have their children refuse the exam due to punitive state laws or district policies.  We urge those who cannot opt out to speak out and demand their right to do what is best for their children in the face of harmful testing. The brunt of testing for school accountability is falling on children. Our elected leaders must address this broken accountability system and provide relief.

For those who can, we ask that they break ranks, join us and not comply with testing. Policymakers cannot ignore the voices of the public when we speak together. Opt Out gives us that voice.

The promise of a public school system, however imperfectly realized, is at risk of being destroyed. The future of our children is hanging from testing’s high stakes. The time to Opt Out is now.

For more information on how to opt out, we recommend the following sources: United Opt Out’s State by State resources: http://unitedoptout.com/state-by-state-opt-out-2/ and FairTest’s: Just Say No to the Test: http://www.fairtest.org/get-involved/opting-out.

Listen to Diane Ravitch give reasons why parents should opt out here.

NPE Board member Yohuru Williams explained why opt out matters at this year’s United Opt Out conference. Watch him here.

And NPE Board member Julian Vasquez Heilig explains how Opt Out rights a “civil wrong” in this video here.

Don’t hesitate.  Don’t even question your decision.  Just do it.  First thing Monday.  If you are able, make it a point to drive your child to school and hand the Principal your refusal letter.  Opt out is the ONLY way to change things.  It is the ONLY way to force the destroyers of public education from furthering their agendas.   I’m not going to mince words.  These education reformers: they are not nice people.  They may smile for the camera and tell you they care about children, but they don’t.  If they did, many of their own children would be taking these tests.  If you care about the future for your children and your grandchildren, refuse the test Monday.  All of you need to do it.  We all need to refuse.  We need to say NO MORE!!!  This is an education revolution.  I get that.  It is bold, and daring, and frightening in some respects.  But you truly need to do this NOW!!!

New Mexico ACLU Complaint Could Have Huge Impact For Teachers Nationwide

The New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint yesterday with the First Judicial District Court of Santa Fe County.  The plaintiffs, five public school teachers and a parent, allege that the New Mexico Public Education Department is violating their First Amendment rights by forbidding them to talk negatively about standardized assessments.

The concerns are serious, touching on one of the most basic functions of government, public education.  They include criticisms that government officials have prioritized profit and politics over public education; have fundamentally changed education, as teachers must now devote significant hours to teaching to the tests, not their students’ actual education needs; and have ignored that the tests are often developmentally inappropriate and traumatic for some students with disabilities.

The teachers and the parent work or live in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque Public School districts.  Both districts give parents the right to opt their children out of standardized tests, but state law forbids teachers from “disparaging” standardized tests.  The teachers and the parent this robs educators of the ability to advocate for students when they have first-hand knowledge of what high-stakes tests do to students.  They also allege these tests give school districts false labels in accountability measures.

I could easily see this case, if not won at a state level, advancing even higher.  It was only a matter of time before this country saw a case like this.  This could have far-reaching implications for opt out across the country.  If the plaintiff wins, it could be used as precedent in other cases across America.  If they lose, I would certainly hope they would appeal.  I truly wouldn’t mind if a case like this wound up in the United States Supreme Court so the decision on parental rights is made once and for all by the highest court in the country.

New Mexico uses the PARCC as their state assessment.

I salute these five teachers and parent for bringing this case forward as well as the ACLU for taking the case.  It is about time people stood up for their own rights, student rights, and parent rights.  I will be following this case closely going forward!  To read the full complaint, please see below:

Achieve Inc. Celebrates Failure of SBAC & PARCC With Their Honesty Gap Bullcrap!

quote-don-t-put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket-is-all-wrong-i-tell-you-put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket-andrew-carnegie-304276

Yes, Achieve Inc. is actually letting people know that certain states are closing their self-created “honesty gap”.  What is an honesty gap?  Apparently, according to Achieve Inc., it is when you make your state standardized tests too easy and kids do too well on them.  Using the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as their benchmark, Achieve Inc. felt too many students did way better than the NAEP in recent years.  As a result, the gap between NAEP scores and state assessment scores was too big, which created an “honesty” gap.  Now that the “tough new tests” like Smarter Balanced and the PARCC rolled out in many states last year, Achieve Inc. is praising states that are closing this honesty gap.  I kid you not.

Of course, their whole evidence of this supposed honesty gap is scores on standardized tests.  Let’s not even worry about the actual grades kids are getting in class, if they are getting their projects and homework done, or if they feel like they are succeeding.  Let’s just worry about the data, the high-stakes test scores.  All this report really does is show how bad the Common Core standardized tests are really doing.  Let’s not read into this too much folks!  Only a corporate education reform company would judge failure as a success!

I am sure Achieve Inc. is salivating at the thought of brainwashed State Boards of Education saying “we need to fix this!  Now that we know how bad our kids are doing, we need to get them back up again!”  And Achieve Inc.’s marketing department is going “Hallelujah!  Let’s roll out the products!”  If it isn’t their marketing department, I’m sure it is one of the 1,000 or so other ed reform companies hoping to make a quick buck before the speculation craze in education goes the way of baseball cards.  I have no doubt, in my own state of Delaware, our State Board of Education will talk about this at one of their upcoming meetings.  In fact, I found the link to this absurdity through their own Twitter account!

Here’s an honesty gap for you Achieve Inc.: You helped to create Common Core, got a ton of money through Race To The Top grants as a vendor to many states, convinced states of this crucial need for an assessment inventory, and now you are telling them these horrible, waste of time, cash in the trash assessments are what students need?  Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!

Education: Everybody’s Got A Price! Stand Up And Refuse! Awesome Video About Data Mining & Sharing

This video is making the rounds today on Youtube and Social Media.  It is excellent and puts everything a lot of us bloggers have been warning about for a long time now.  Parents, not just in Delaware but all over the country, ask your schools what data is being collected on your children.  Ask them what is being shared.  If they won’t give you the answer, keep moving up the chain: district, school board, state DOE, US DOE, as far as you want to take it.  You may be able to FOIA this information depending on your state laws.  This isn’t about helping kids become college and career ready.  It’s about the data, and big, BIG money!

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…

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

US DOE Race To The Top Report Released Today Is A Summary Of Lies And Reform Propoganda

I read this report released today by the US DOE, called Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top and found it to be laughable at best.  I’ll start off with the biggest and boldest first:

Race to the Top used transparency to advance knowledge about improving education and allow states to learn from each other.

What was not transparent was how schools, districts, teachers, parents and students were hoodwinked into believing this lie.  The caveat behind this Federal mandate disguised as a financial incentive was requirements to engage with outside companies with this money.

State work under the grants ended in summer 2015…

For Delaware, this part is completely false since the DOE and Governor Markell used parts of the state General Fund to keep Race To The Top created positions at the DOE.  This is hysterical, because the work continues.  They may not be getting federal funds anymore, but most states are using what they did from Race To The Top at all levels and implementing changes designed not to truly help students but to give their bloated Department of Education employees and leaders high salaries while contracting all their work to outside vendors.

State education agencies (SEAs) as drivers of change. SEAs moved beyond their traditional role of monitoring district compliance to driving comprehensive and systemic changes to improve teaching and learning across the state.

They are still accountability machines.  They live and die by compliance as never before.  Who are you kidding?

Improved, more collaborative, and productive relationships between states and districts. States worked more collaboratively with districts and increased their own capacity to effectively and efficiently support districts and schools in ways that were responsive to local needs.

Yeah, between states maybe, and the districts that sign up for all the personalized learning grants while selling students souls to Satan!

Better communication. States improved lines of communication with stakeholders and used a range of tools (e.g., social media platforms) to continuously gather input from teachers, parents, school leaders, stakeholders and the public to determine the additional supports needed to be successful in carrying out their work.

They certainly used a range of tools in Delaware.  I could name many of those tools, but I would hate to offend anyone.  And many of those tools either gained tremendous financial or political gain from all of this.  And the whole “stakeholder input” never mattered because our DOE didn’t listen to what parents were truly saying and did what they wanted to do anyways.

Higher standards. All Race to the Top states recognized the value of adopting higher standards that are similar across states. Each Race to the Top state implemented challenging kindergarten through 12th-grade academic content standards aimed at preparing students for success in college and careers. With improved standards, teachers, students and parents have a clear roadmap for what students need to know and be able to do to be prepared for success.

The clear roadmap called Common Core, where all students should be on the same level playing field across the country, but all the assessments designed for it are different?  That clear roadmap you say?  And the jury is still way out on if these were “improved” standards.

Teachers support each other to effectively implement higher standards. Teachers worked together to create tools and resources to help them understand the standards and how best to implement them in their classrooms. Hands-on, job-embedded training helped teachers transition to the new content and develop instructional tools, such as sample lesson plans and instructional videos, to translate the standards into effective classroom practices.

Teachers learned how to band together and collectively groan about everything the Feds and the States did to them.  You make it sound like it was such a wonderful and collaborative thing, but it wasn’t and it still isn’t.  Let’s get it straight: the standards were designed for teachers to teach to the state assessment.  Most teachers I know can’t stand these assessments and hate everything that comes with it.

Monitoring student progress during the school year. Every Race to the Top state developed resources and assessment tools that teachers can use in their classrooms to monitor student progress during the school year. Rather than focus on test preparation for the statewide assessment at the end of the school year, nearly all states introduced instructional resources for the classroom that measure higher-order thinking skills, including critical thinking and complex problem-solving.

You can change the words however you want, it is still teaching to the test.

Increased access to and use of objective information on student outcomes. States made critical investments in improving systems to compile student outcome data from pre-kindergarten through the workforce, while protecting personally identifiable information. As outcome data for schools and districts become more accessible to the public, a variety of stakeholders, including parents, policymakers and researchers, will be better able to use these data to answer important questions about educational outcomes, such as “Did students make a year’s worth of growth?” and “Are students succeeding, regardless of income, race, ethnicity or disability?”

That last line is the biggest joke of all.  Because income, race, ethnicity and disability can make a huge difference in a  student’s life, especially as those factors combine!  And we don’t know how much of our children’s data is being farmed out under certain FERPA laws and state regulations.

Local stakeholder engagement. Dramatic improvements in schools require the involvement of community members who understand local contexts and conditions, both inside and outside the school building, to help identify challenges and design solutions. States, districts, teachers, school leaders and community stakeholders are working together to implement strategies to improve the learning environments in their lowest-performing schools and provide services to meet students’ academic and nonacademic needs.

In Delaware, we call this Rodel and the Vision Coalition.  This local stakeholder engagement has been going on for ten years with little or no results except their CEO going from $170,000+ to a salary of $344,000 in a decade.

New performance management approaches. States are using performance management approaches to help districts support effective interventions in their lowest-performing schools. These approaches help states and districts identify problems, set goals to solve them and use data to track progress.

We call these priority schools and focus schools in Delaware.  Or “Partnership Zone” schools.  This is where our state blames teachers for standardized testing scores and do not factor in a lack of resources, funding, neurological disabilities, or issues outside of schools.

States used state-level funds to support districts. In addition to the 50 percent of the total grant award subgranted to districts, many states designed their state-level projects to distribute additional funds to districts. For example, New York competitively distributed nearly $80 million of its state-level “Teachers and Leaders” funds to districts to implement their plans to develop, implement or enhance teacher recruitment, development and retention.

Delaware farmed out millions upon millions of dollars to outside companies, some internal and some external, instead of giving the funds to the districts to lower classroom sizes and get more teachers and extra support.

Some states, such as Hawaii, Delaware and Massachusetts, created a separate office or designated an existing office to plan and coordinate Race to the Top initiatives across different offices

And then the Delaware DOE lied to their General Assembly when the funds ran out and found a way to keep those positions in our DOE without anyone the wiser.

…and Delaware created specific units within their state departments of education and used real-time data to assess whether projects were moving forward and producing quality results.

Results based on federal mandates that were neither Congressionally approved or regulatory in nature…

“We really keep coming back to three questions: Are we doing what we said we would do? Are we doing it well? Is it making a difference?” said Delaware’s former chief performance officer.

Which former chief performance officer is this?  I’m guessing this is why he or she is a former chief performance officer if they were asking questions like this in our dictatorial state led by the not-so-great Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

Beginning in 2008, the state-led effort included governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia and was informed by the best state standards already in use and the experiences of teachers, school administrators, content experts, state leaders and the public. From the beginning, state and local officials and educators took responsibility for adopting and implementing the standards, and for making decisions about how the standards are taught, how the curriculum is developed, and what materials are used to support teachers in helping students meet the standards.

Yes, the beginning of the cabal of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officer’s in leading the Common Core initiative where the two true educators in this design group dropped out from the development of these standards.  Then the districts were essentially brow-beaten, pressured, and lied to if they didn’t accept funds during a recession when states were cash-poor.

As a result, each Race to the Top state developed measures of growth in student learning and made the data available to teachers, school leaders, district leaders and, in some cases, parents.  These measure of growth in student learning provided a reliable measure of teachers’ contributions to student learning because they addressed a student’s proficiency across multiple years on a valid assessment that was comparable across classrooms and schools

“Valid assessment”.  I really don’t need to go any further on this one, do I?

In Delaware, the state hired data coaches to work directly with school leaders and teachers to lead professional learning communities.

The data coaches, who got tons of money.  Like the Vision Coalition in Delaware…

For many Race to the Top states and districts, the initiatives they implemented during the grant period have remained priorities that SEAs are now better equipped to support and continue. For example, Delaware’s performance management system did not exist prior to the grant period and will continue without Race to the Top funds. The state also will continue to implement, as part of its state capacity-building plan, its data analyses and biannual conversations with district leaders to better understand what is happening in districts and develop supports that match local needs. Through its district budget plan approval process, Delaware also is encouraging districts to use available funding streams to support work they found to be effective in their schools, such as using allowable federal funds for professional supports for teachers.

Our DOE might want to check with our General Assembly before they commit to all this.  Oh wait, they will answer to our Joint Finance Committee on 11/30/15 for their devious budget actions…

As directed in the report, the citation for this report belongs to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of State Support, Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top, Washington, D.C., 2015

Competency-Based Education & Personalized Learning Invaded Delaware…We Didn’t Even Realize It…

Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who has held the role of state leader in Delaware since 2009, also serves on the National Governor’s Association.  This collective of all the United States Governors has several different committees they serve on.  Governor Markell serves on the Education & Workforce Committee.  To any citizen of Delaware, this is not a shock.  Markell serves on this committee with the Chair, Governor Jay Inslee (WA), the Vice-Chair, Governor Robert Bentley (AL), Governor Pete Ricketts (NE), Governor Kate Brown (OR), Governor Tom Wolf (PA), Governor Dennis Daugaard (SD), Governor Bill Haslam (TN) and Governor Scott Walker (WI).  Four of these states, Delaware, Washington, Oregon and South Dakota all administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  None of these Governors represent the nine states where the PARCC assessment is administered.

From their website, the Education & Workforce Committee’s main goal is this:

The Education and Workforce Committee has jurisdiction over issues in the area of education (including early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary) as well as in the areas of workforce development. Members of the committee ensure that the governors’ views are represented in the shaping of federal policy.

The committee released a paper two and half weeks ago about “Competency-Based Education” from Kindergarten to college.  In a nutshell, the document (which can be read below), wants to completely gut what is currently done in education.  Instead of students going through grades K-12, this new model would have students advance when they are proficient in a subject.

CBE shows promise for helping more elementary and secondary students meet higher standards of learning and become better prepared for college or a career training program.  Once in higher education or job training, CBE allows older students (traditional-age college students or adult learners) to learn on their own time at their own pace.

While some envision personalized learning as the wave of the future, I think it is ripe for abuse.  If the goal of personalized learning is for each student to advance at their own pace, it presents a clear danger to students who are already behind to become even more so.  Even more frightening is the role of the teacher in this personalized learning environment:

In a CBE system, the role of the educator changes from an individual lecturing in a classroom to that of a coach or facilitator who guides learning.  In a CBE system, the training, certification, evaluation, pay, promotion, and leadership role of educators should all be reexamined.

The role of assessment plays a major part in this.  For those reading this and may be thinking none of this has happened yet, this is exactly what is going on right now in Delaware.  This is the Delaware School Success Framework.

Assessment is frequently tied to accountability in K-12; therefore, policymakers should rethink what their accountability systems measure and value.

The third big area with this revolves around student funding, which has become a hotbed issue in Delaware in the past year.

Altering structures to award funding based on learning could provide incentives for the wider adoption of CBE efforts and allow states to pay for the learning outcomes according to their value.

So we have this competency-based education that turns teachers into facilitators of a computer program, students who either advance fast or fall even further behind (and we all know who that will be: minorities, low-income students, and students with disabilities), and funding that translates to which companies will get very rich very fast off this initiative.  And let’s face it, anytime we hear the word “incentives”, it is more “waivers” where nothing really gets waived except an antiquated No Child Left Behind standard that nobody can meet and forces states to comply with Federal standards.  And when they say “wider adoption” that means comply or you get nothing, just like they did with the Common Core State Standards (developed by this group and the Council of Chief State School Officers) and Race To The Top.  Lest we forget, none of this means Common Core and the current crop of state assessments are going away, because the whole reasoning for this is based on 1/3rd of children in America were proficient on the state assessments.  Which allows them to complete the vicious cycle all over again for their next initiative, Competency-Based Learning.

Imagine, if you will, you are an education-tech company and your personalized program gets picked in this CBE world.  You are instantly rich!  And you will align with all the other companies to make sure you stay that way.  You will join consortiums and committees, and as your company grows, you will own employees in the US DOE and all the State DOEs as well.  But guess what?  This has already happened!  Things in Delaware like BRINC, Schoology, Student Success 2025, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and the DOE/State Board led Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities are all about this.  Even the Assessment Inventory Task Force will make sure assessments are designed towards this model.  We blinked, and personalized learning already infiltrated over half the state.  I warned folks a year ago how this would be a special education killer and competency-based education will do exactly that!

If you don’t think Delaware has been planning ahead for this for a long time, take this piece of information in the paper which talks about New Hampshire and their role in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium:

New Hampshire is working with other states on a task force as part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to describe how the assessments can comprehensively support a CBE-aligned system.  The task force will recommend enhancements and changes to the assessment components to provide more precise information to teachers that they can use to improve students’ learning within a CBE system.

In other words, the teacher facilitator will simply switch the module in the personalized learning computer system that some Fortune 500 company created so the student can do better on the assessment which is designed to show how much we need this new system based on the amount of students not scoring as proficient.  It is a vicious cycle which rewards students who come from a better economic background and drags the students who struggle through a proficiency nightmare.  If the goal is to challenge “smarter” kids and to make proficiency the goal for “not as smart” kids, what happens when the “not as smart” kids get tired of waiting to become proficient?  If there is no challenge for them and they go over the same material over and over again, they will quickly become very bored and will start to act out in this CBE classroom.  And what is a CBE classroom?  Will it have inclusion for students with disabilities?  How does discipline work with this new working class of facilitators?

There are more questions than answers with all of this, but it is painfully transparent how the stage was set for all of this.  The Common Core was developed to set the “standard”, the state assessments were developed to set the “proficiency”, the accountability systems for teachers and schools (not the students) were set up to “destroy” the public education system as we know it, all leading to this: students getting even more screen time all day in school and getting brief amounts of time off the computer to hear a facilitator summarize or say “time for lunch”.  This is also why we see such a huge push for charter schools.  They have no teacher unions for the most part, and their “models” are based on this type of environment.  As more and more charters choke the traditional school districts, the path to this get-rich future becomes even more clear.  And our Governors seem to be okay with all of this!  Why?

The promise of such a system is that it can adjust the methods of instruction and assistance to provide deeper, more personalized learning and help ensure that all students meet or exceed the high expectations of rigorous and relevant standards.

Or, you can believe this will further separate the haves from the have-nots.  Can anyone stop this train which left the station years ago?  Or is the future already here?  Parents across the country are actually making a difference in stopping this runaway train by opting their children out of the state assessment.  While the motivation is to look out for their child’s well-being, they are also throwing a wrench into this massive machine and stopping it dead in its tracks.  We just need much higher opt-out numbers to blow the whole thing up!

The full document is below:

US DOE Directing All States To Make All Assessments The Way They Want Them

The United States Department of Education issued non-regulatory guidance on Assessment Review on September 25th, 2015.  This was a couple weeks before President Obama and Soon-To-Be-Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s public announcement for states to limit testing and to have no more than 2% of classroom going towards assessments.  Many have predicted this is just another attempt to get rid of district assessments that give clear and meaningful data for students, parents, and teachers.  We don’t want our students actually figuring out how to improve quickly when we have all those great state assessments like Smarter Balanced and PARCC that will give us results after kids go onto the next grade, right?

The full document from the US DOE is non-regulatory guidance but considered a “significant guidance document”, whatever the hell that means…  When the US DOE issues guidance that is non-regulatory, that means it has not been Congressionally approved by both Houses in the US Congress.  Which is how the US DOE likes to operate, without legislative approval…

Arne Duncan Calls For Limits On Testing…Is This US DOE’s Version Of Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2?

As heard pretty much everywhere, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan along with President Obama’s administration called for a limit on standardized testing and state it shouldn’t take up more than 2% of class time.  Do Not Be Fooled!  The words Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC were never mentioned in this press release.  Many states have called for a reduction in testing.  But not the ones that people REALLY want to disappear.  It is my contention that the feds are mimicking what many states are doing: trying to get rid of district assessments in lieu of the big state standardized assessments that Obama and Duncan just love so much.

Last March, Delaware Governor Jack Markell called for a limit in testing.  Coincidentally, this happened at the exact same time the opt-out movement in Delaware was gaining steam.  Coincidentally, Delaware Senator David Sokola introduced Senate Joint Resolution #2 within a week after the House of Representatives passed the opt-out legislation in Delaware, House Bill 50.  SJR #2 was the legislation to go along with Markell’s test reduction announcement.  Coincidentally, the task force to examine all of these assessments has done absolutely nothing.  Aside from some legislators being assigned to the task force, no planned dates have been announced for it whatsoever.  And coincidentally, when Governor Markell vetoed House Bill 50, take a wild guess what Markell and the DOE’s main reason was for this?  Because we are already going to reduce testing.

I got a ton of heat for casting fingers on SJR #2, but I have yet to be proven wrong.  Now the Feds are playing the same game.  And people are getting excited.  Once again, don’t be fooled.  Parents aren’t opting out of district assessments that gave immediate feedback and actually help teachers.  They are opting out of SBAC and PARCC.  Because they don’t help students or teachers, and there is no immediate feedback.  Hell, teachers can’t even see the questions or the answers.  Until President Obama publicly apologizes for the policies and non-Congressionally approved mandates coming out of HIS Department of Education, and abolishes all of these standardized assessments and the punitive measures they have on teachers and schools, I don’t believe a word he says about this matter.

Want to know when the SJR #2 Task Force will start to meet?  Probably the second a legislator brings up the veto override of House Bill 50!

As The SAT Aligns With Common Core And Becomes SBAC/PARCC Lite, How Many Students Will Suffer?

Tomorrow at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting in Dover, DE, a presentation will be given on Delaware’s 2015 SAT performance and upcoming changes to the test in 2016.  Last Spring, Chief Officer of Assessment and Accountability Penny Schwinn at the Delaware DOE advised the State Board the SAT was being aligned with Common Core.  Some states have already dumped the state standardized assessment for 11th graders because of this.

Only two high schools in Delaware had over 50% of their students reach the “college ready” benchmark on the 2015 SATs.  With alignment to the Common Core how will high school juniors perform next year?  When I see terms like “personalized learning” and “problems grounded in real world contexts”, I think Common Core and all it’s education reform friends.  Will we ever escape from the Common Core? January 2017 can’t get here fast enough and hopefully we will have a good Governor and a good President who can guide our state and country away from this insanity…

Save The Date: September 8th, Dr. Peg Luksik Teleconference To Talk About Cut Scores & Common Core

Last winter, Dr. Peg Luksik from Founded on Truth, was part of a presentation on the Common Core standards. Many parents who participated in this even said this was what truly opened their eyes to what is happening in education in America. Many joined the opt-out movement in Delaware as a result.

On Tuesday, September 8th, Dr. Luksik will be giving a free tele-conference for folks wanting to know how “cut scores” tie in to the Common Core agenda. Cut scores are the benchmarks in the high-stakes testing that put a student on a track of “proficient” or “not proficient”. The details are here:

Join Dr. Peg Luksik for a free Teleconference call on September 8!

When: Tuesday September 8 from 8pm ET to 8:30pm ET
How: Call 641-715-3580 with code 249-850 to join!
What: A 30 minute class on When The Tests Lie (Part 2).

Learn about the fallacies behind the concept of “cut scores” and how they are used to manipulate results to achieve the political agenda of Common Core.

Interim Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky Needs To Learn From New York Superintendent Elia

State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia says she won’t prevent parents who want their children to skip the state’s standardized tests from doing so.

Diane Ravitch is reporting New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia will not try to stop parent opt-out.  This is a welcome relief for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers I’m sure.  New York had the highest opt-out rates of any state in the country last spring, and all indications are pointing to these numbers increasing nationwide next year.  Bottom line: parents are fed up and sick of their children going through these state assessments.

In Delaware, we will find out how our state did tomorrow when the mighty Markell and the distorted DOE release the 2015 results for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Will they release the participation rate for the test?  Or will we have to wait for the State Board of Education presentation on September 17th for that?  Whatever the opt-out numbers are, they WILL increase in 2016.

I’m already hearing about how districts are bragging that they did better than they thought.  But there is no indication if this is better than the proficiency rates for DCAS from last year.  One common thing I am hearing in Delaware as well as the rest of the country: students with disabilities did very bad on the Smarter Balanced.  Really bad.  Single digit proficiency in a lot of cases…

Will Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Interim Delaware Secretary of Education do anything?  He has been very quiet since the “resignation” of Mark Murphy two and a half weeks ago.  Will he be a Markell puppet or his own man? One thing is for sure, if districts, charters and the DOE thought they had their hands full with opt-out requests this year, they might want to fasten their seatbelts, because REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE is going to give them a long and bumpy ride!