Odyssey Charter “Denies” A Parent’s Opt Out Letter Two Months Later

Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February.  The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws.  The school does have discretion.  It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.

The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child.  I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out.  So this would be the first to my recollection.  The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out.  They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold.  Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year.  I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay.  It isn’t.

What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law.  That states schools must administer the state assessment to students.  It says nothing about the student actually taking the test.  A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test.  That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it.  And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.

The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law.  Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate.  But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either.  It doesn’t even address opt out.  In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out.  But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it.  And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.

Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee.  It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th.  I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.

Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent.  Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it.  I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it.  That is my promise to you!  And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!

 

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It Is Time For The Regulation 225 Opposition To Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is!

This has been my biggest beef with the opposition of Regulation 225.  So many of those who are full-throttle opposed to it do not want the State of Delaware dictating something that could deny them their parental rights.  They don’t want schools making decisions on behalf of their children without their consent.  But they have been doing this for years!  And you have had the most powerful weapon at your disposal and have not utilized it!

Every year, the public school children of Delaware are forced to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It is a worthless test that really tells you nothing about your child.  You don’t get the results until AFTER the school year is over.  It doesn’t tell you what your child’s key strengths are.  It doesn’t tell you anything.  But you allow your child to sit in front of a computer over a three-week period and take a test.  Based on Common Core which many of you can’t stand already.

If you stand for parental rights and deciding how your child should be educated, you can’t do it in small chunks.  You need to do it full throttle, in ALL aspects.  If you want to tell the state that YOU are the parent and YOU make the best decisions for your kids, do it all the way.

If you truly believe in parental rights, you will prove that by opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment which starts in a few weeks in many of our schools.  I have seen thousands of you oppose a regulation you believe is harmful.  But I can guarantee you the Smarter Balanced Assessment has been pumping out data about your own child to education companies around the country.  I can guarantee you it is a complete waste of time, money, and resources when our kids could be getting a more well-rounded education.  But you let the State do this every single year.  Some kids do bad on those kind of tests.  It doesn’t mean they need extra intervention.  Some kids ace those tests and may not get good grades.  It doesn’t mean they don’t need intervention.  Students with disabilities usually do terrible on those tests because the accommodations for them are horrible.  Three years of this test and we are expected to believe it is a good test?  The needle hasn’t moved at all.  And it is based on Common Core.

Governor Carney wants more Math coaches in our schools based on his proposed budget.  He wants those coaches in middle schools.  Do you know why?  Because the foundations of Common Core begin in the earlier grades.  And it’s been around long enough that kids who were once in elementary school are now in middle school and don’t get the math!  Our kids can’t stand Common Core math.  Parents can’t stand it.  If we need more math coaches in middle schools it is because COMMON CORE MATH DOESN’T WORK!  But every year we let the state give our kids a test on it and then the state says “our schools need help” because of the test results.  This is just one reason why I am befuddled with those who oppose Regulation 225!

You say you don’t want our schools doing this but you have ignored what they have already been doing for years.  And here is the kicker: the schools hate these tests as well.  They won’t tell you that, but they know it.  It is state and federal driven, but behind that curtain is a whole bunch of companies that are profiting off YOUR kid based on the results of these tests.  And don’t let anyone tell you we will lose all federal funding over opt out.  It hasn’t happened in any other state.  In New York and New Jersey they had more kids opt out than the entire population of Delaware.  If you want to bring sanity back to education, it starts here.  I don’t bemoan you opposing this regulation.  It is your right to oppose something you don’t want for your child.  What I do bemoan is parents not getting involved enough.  When they are ignoring what is so clearly right before their very eyes.

If you REALLY want to send a message to the Delaware Department of Education and Secretary Bunting, you should opt our child out tomorrow or today based on when you read this.  All you need to do is write a simple letter to the school:

Date: ______

Dear Principal ______, of (insert school name here),

I am opting my child, ________ __________, out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I expect my child to attend school on the days the test is administered and receive educational instruction while the other students take the test.  I do not want a call from the Principal or any teachers telling me why I should not opt my child out.  As well, I do not want to receive any letters from the school or district based on the Delaware Department of Education template letter indicating I can not opt my child out.  Furthermore, I will not tolerate any type of retaliation or punitive action against my child over my fundamental right to opt my child out.  This type of retaliation includes, but is not exclusive to, any threat of summer school, holding them back a year, or any type of isolation activity.

Thank you for your time,

Respectfully,

_______ ____________

After you give this to the Principal of the school, as in hand-deliver it to them, have them sign an acknowledgment form that they received your opt out letter for your child.  This way they can’t say later they never got it.  It can be as simple as this:

I acknowledge that I have received an opt out letter from ______ ______, parent or guardian of ______ ________.

Date: _________

Signature: ________

When you have done this, start taking a serious look at the enormous amount of data collection already going on with your child.  Start looking at EVERYTHING and ask yourself “Is this what I want for my child?”  If the answer is no, don’t stop with opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Educate yourself.  Read.  Learn.  Don’t listen to what places like the Rodel Foundation and the Delaware DOE are telling you.  Listen to what other parents and teachers at the ground level have been saying for years.  Those who of us who have been in the trenches and calling our legislators and Governors out for their totalitarian approaches to education.  Don’t believe the Delaware DOE is miraculously turning into a “support organization”.  Because that support is designed to drive up test scores on an already flawed test.  And just wait until they turn that once a year test into stealth assessments, throughout the year.  Make your move now or your child and grandchildren will deal with the long-term consequences for the rest of their lives.  This isn’t something you should hem and haw on.  You shouldn’t mull it over.  You should just do it.

 

A Strong Reminder For Delaware Schools About The Smarter Balanced Assessment And Opt Out

No school in Delaware is allowed to issue threats about a student who is opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  That decision is taken out of your hands every single year in the Delaware Appropriations Act.

That means you can’t tell students they can’t go to high school or their next grade, have to go to summer school, retake the test, or any other consequence if they opt out.  I trust our schools will follow the law.  If not, I will call you out every single time, by school, district, charter, or whatever.  Parents, if you want to opt your child out of Smarter Balance, remember the veiled threats have no legal justification.  If they do this, let me know.

Rep. Jaques Turns Simple Opt Out Parental Rights Bill Into A Three-Ring Circus

State Rep. Earl Jaques showed off his “Big Man on Campus” persona in an embarrassing display of supposed power today which he may be wrong about.

Advocates for any opt out bill in Delaware knew there would be opposition.  Those of us who have advocated for a bill which codifies and honors a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment knew this going in.  However, hanging your hat on a superficial and made-up procedure the way Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques did is shameful and embarrassing.  State Rep. John Kowalko, the primary sponsor of the bill, was composed and polished today.  There was no back and forth between himself and Jaques as there was two years ago.

House Bill 60 was not released from the House Education Committee.  With only eight out of seventeen members voting to release the bill, Jaques declared the bill dead.  However, there is a big caveat to his declaration.  Although there were 12 members on the floor, the committee is made up of 17 state representatives.  Five bills were heard in committee today.  For the other four, Jaques indicated he would walk the bill to the members.  For the opt out bill, he said he would not release the bill since there was a majority of members on the floor during the vote.  State Rep. Sean Lynn called for a parliamentary inquiry on the matter.  There is a chance Jaques could be overruled on his refusal to walk the bill for signatures and it could be released.  However, Jaques absolute disdain and contempt against this bill is clouding his better judgment.  He set the precedent for this by agreeing to walk the other four bills in my opinion.

After the committee adjourned the second time (since Jaques declared the meeting over a first time without asking for or getting a motion to adjourn), I spoke to him in the lobby of Legislative Hall. I said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.”  I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t upset.  He began yelling at me and said “The bill is not released.”  I asked him why he was yelling at me and advised I wasn’t yelling at him.  He continued to yell and said “The bill is not released.  It’s done.  The bill is dead,” as he stormed off.

About fifteen minutes later, I found myself in Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s reception area.  In the office were Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, Meghan Wallace, and Jaques.  The receptionist said there was a wait and I advised I would just send him an email.  The email is below.

In terms of the discussion on the bill in committee, it was very much a repeat of 2015.  The usual suspects opposed the bill: Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, Delaware Business Roundtable, State Rep. Tim Dukes, a couple of women from Wilmington who were sitting next to DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne, etc.  Even the Delaware School Boards Association opposed the bill because they believed it is a local decision and detracts from the issues surrounding testing.  There was a lot of discussion around losing federal funds even though it has never happened.  The excuse this time was “We don’t know what will happen with Secretary Betsy DeVos.”  I love when a State Rep. has something important to say about a bill they oppose after they get a piece of paper from someone in the audience, but I digress.  There was talk about how bad Smarter Balanced is, the amount of time wasted on testing, and so forth, but there was far too little about the heart of the bill: the parental right to opt out.

No state has ever lost federal funding over dipping below the 95% participation rate.  And I don’t think little old Delaware would be the first.  If the feds really put their money where their mouth is, it would have happened in New York or New Jersey years ago.  So I don’t care what they say (and no one is actually saying it these days), it is not a good idea to cut federal Title I money from schools with poor kids.  Secretary Bunting did say Delaware got feedback on its state ESSA plan last evening and believes the US Dept. of Education will be tougher than she thought, but as a state with a 97% participation rate, I don’t think we are on the Title I money chopping block.  Let’s get real here.

To be fair, I don’t ever expect the Delaware DOE and the usual cast of opposers to ever support an opt out bill.  It just isn’t going to happen.  Expecting it is as likely as convincing the wind to change direction.  It isn’t something I’m even upset about anymore, it just is.

My public comment was as simple as the bill: it is a parental right bill.  And since there was a question about what districts or charters have given parents a rough time about opting their child out, I named them: Red Clay, Christina, Freire Charter School, and so forth.  I even advised Rep. Dukes a constituent in his own district tried to opt their child out two years ago, the only one in that school district.  When the school refused, they told the mother he could not opt out.  It got so bad the mother was ostracized by members of her community.  After, Dukes came up to me and told me he didn’t appreciate me calling him out.  He asked me which district, and I told him which one I believed it was.  He said “you don’t know?”  I said it was two years ago and I talk to a lot of parents.  He said next time I better know before I call him out like that.  I advised him the parent tried reaching him at the time and he claimed he never heard from the parent.

One public commenter said he wasn’t even there for that bill but felt he had to comment.  He said, as someone who makes six figures and works for Fortune 500 companies, he has never looked at a single standardized test score.  He said if a college student in an interview told him they opted out of the state assessment, he would give them an internship based solely on that.

Here is the email I sent to Schwartzkopf:

Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf,

Good evening.  I attempted to see you in person, but you had a long line in your office about half an hour ago.  I advised your receptionist I would email you, which I prefer to do at this point since it is in writing.

As  you are no doubt aware, I am very passionate about education.  But I have calmed down with my public comments regarding certain legislation.  I wish the same could be said of the Chair of the House Education Committee.  The behavior I saw from him today regarding House Bill 60 was offensive, both as a citizen of Delaware and as a parent.

I am sure you know about the situation with “walking the bill” after Rep. Jaques set the standard for that with four other bills in the committee today.  It was very obvious to all he wanted this bill to die a messy death and he wanted to be the one to do it.  That is conjecture on my part, but based on his attitudes and attempts to kill the bill in 2015, I would say that is a fair assessment.  But his behavior in the lobby of Legislative Hall was unacceptable.  I simply said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.”  He began yelling at me, loud enough for many folks nearby to overhear.  When I asked him why he was yelling at me and that I wasn’t yelling at him, he continued to yell at me claiming “the bill is dead” and stormed off like a petulant child.  While I certainly can’t say I have never shown anger about legislation, I believe a certain decorum is expected out of our elected officials.  I don’t agree with Earl’s decision about deciding not to walk the bill, but I have to believe two grown adults can treat each other with respect and discuss the matter like two gentlemen.  I wanted to advise you of this issue because of his position as Chair of the House Education Committee.  Please consider this a formal complaint against Rep. Jaques.  I do believe this is something the House leadership should investigate.  I would have accepted a decision on the bill if it was given a fair shake, but I found Rep. Jaques behavior and conduct unbefitting for a Chair of a committee.

As I’m sure you know, I am a firm believer in transparency, so this email will be a part of my article about the opt out bill heard in committee today. 

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt

Action Alert: Opt Out Bill To Be Heard In House Education Committee Next Wednesday, It Needs YOUR Support!

Here we go again!  House Bill 60 is on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 14th, at 2:30pm.  It is the ONLY bill on the agenda.  Most educators should be done with school by then.  Parents, teachers, students, and Delaware citizens: I invite you to attend this committee meeting and give public comment on why you feel this bill should pass!

Delaware Governor John Carney has been very quiet on the subject of opt out.  When he was a U.S. Congressman, he voted against a part of the reauthorization of the ESEA which would have honored a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment prior to the bill becoming the Every Student Succeeds Act.  When the last opt out bill, House Bill 50, overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, former Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill within weeks.  An attempted override of that veto led to a lot of shady deal-making between Markell’s office and legislators and the attempt failed.

While opt out has not been a huge topic, it is more important than ever.  I feel the bill should also include personalized learning assessments and any “stealth” assessments embedded in digital technology.  While these aren’t the norm in Delaware yet, they will be.  These mini assessments will replace the once a year test in a competency-based education arena.

Due to an actual “gag order” by National PTA concerning opt out, we will not be able to get support from the Delaware PTA this go-around.  So any participation in this committee meeting will have to be a grassroots effort by parents.  Please spread the word.  If you are unable to attend the meeting, please email the members of the House Education Committee asking for their support of House Bill 60.  As well, you can sign this petition on Change.Org which can be found here: Please release House Bill 60 from the House Education Committee

Here are their emails:

earl.jaques@state.de.us

kimberly.williams@state.de.us

sean.matthews@state.de.us

sean.lynn@state.de.us

michael.ramone@state.de.us

Charles.Postles@state.de.us

joseph.miro@state.de.us

edward.osienski@state.de.us

charles.potter@state.de.us

debra.heffernan@state.de.us

david.bentz@state.de.us

melanie.g.smith@state.de.us

harvey.kenton@state.de.us

stephanie.bolden@state.de.us

ruth.briggsking@state.de.us

timothy.dukes@state.de.us

kevin.hensley@state.de.us

 

Shut Up About Education Already Jack Markell, We Don’t Care About Your Failed Policies Anymore

Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell was supposed to go biking into the sunset.  That was an honorable move on his part.  But in the past week, Markell has been on a tear in the education world.  If he isn’t joining the board of Graham holdings with their very huge education ties, he is pimping for Campbell Brown’s ridiculous education outfit. Continue reading

Red Clay Schools Continue To Openly Defy Their Own Board of Education With Opt Out Threats

I sent the following email to the entire Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and Dr. Merv Daugherty, the Superintendent of the district.  I am posting the email because I have heard similar complaints from parents several times since the Smarter Balanced Assessment came out in 2015.  What is the point of having a policy if the schools ignore it?

Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…

 

Here Comes House Bill 60, Let The Fun Begin Again But Don’t Opt Out Of Opting Out!

optouthb60picture

It is now official!  House Bill 60, filed today, would do what House Bill 50 did in the Delaware 148th General Assembly.  Time to rally the troops again and get the show on the road!  While on its face, folks could expect business as usual, things could change and very fast.  Word on the street is already forming about something happening very soon which could turn this bill into the biggest bill of the legislative season.  I would pay VERY close attention to what happens with this bill.  Sponsored by State Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson.  Additional sponsors include State Reps. Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach, Deb Hudson, Helene Keeley, Sean Lynn, Trey Paradee, Jeff Spiegelman, and David Wilson, and Senators Margaret Rose-Henry and Gerald Hocker.  We have six House Dems, three Republican House reps, one Senate Dem and two Senate Republicans.  Let the fireworks begin (again)!

I am pretty sure it goes without saying, email your State Rep and Senator NOW in support of this bill.  Also give State Rep. Earl Jaques a holler asking him to put this on the agenda for the next House Education Committee meeting when they get back after their JFC hearing break at the end of February.

*Sorry for the technical snafu with Scribd.  Not sure why I didn’t pick up the pdf.  Here is the actual bill:

hb60

hb60pt1

hb60pt2

It’s Baaaaaaack… Opt Out Redux! Kowalko Files New Opt Out Legislation In Delaware

On Thursday, we will see new opt out legislation from State Rep. John Kowalko.  It will be very similar to House Bill 50 but it will have a different number.  I thought they would retire that number after the last go-around with opt out.  Will House Bill #60something have a shot with Markell gone if the General Assembly passes it?  Would Governor Carney sign it?  Are parents still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  It doesn’t begin again until March so if parents are thinking about it, we won’t hear much noise until February.  I still fervently support opt out as a parental choice and feel there should be legislation to codify that right.  I already have a few ideas for a potential amendment but I’m holding that one very close to see how the response to the bill goes.

I will support this bill in its entirety.  I will write about it and campaign for its passage.  I don’t know if I will be as heavily involved in it as I was two years ago.  But most of the legwork has already happened.  House Bill 50 brought opt out into daily language in the First State.  Markell fighting it most likely caused opt out numbers to increase.  Some have (I believe correctly) surmised that ed reformers wanted opt out at some levels.  Plans have been afoot to create stealth tests in a personalized learning environment.  These would most likely be in the form of end-of-unit tests but it would still be the state assessment, just taken throughout the year.  That could be a tough nut to crack.  But all nuts have some crackability.  You just have to find the right tool.

16 Who Defined 2016: Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Steven Godowsky had quite a year as the Delaware Secretary of Education!  As he sails off to distant shores (across the canal), away from the Townsend Building in Dover, Delaware, let’s look back on 2016.  And stay tuned for the end of this article where I may or may not reveal a VERY BIG secret about Godowsky.

GodowskyHR22Pic

Continue reading

Oops! Christina’s NCS Wannabe Middle School Academy Forgot Something BIG In Their Application

chshonorsacademy

Christiana High School wasted no time getting the application for their controversial “Middle School Academy” out to the public.  The board approved this kind-of-magnet school last week with a 5-1 vote.  The program, slated to start next year with 6th graders, seems to love the word rigor.  Many concerned parents in the district have raised serious questions about potential discrimination and what effect this will have on the already existing middle schools in the district.  One commenter on an earlier article I posted about this said “Honors programs should be down the hall.”  I fully agree with this commenter.  I hate the name of this program.  It reeks of elitism and sounds like something it is pretending to be and wants to be, but really shouldn’t.  It sounds really pretentious and sort of obnoxious.  “My child goes to Middle School Academy”… I can hear it already…

The Christiana Middle School Honors Academy requires a high degree of commitment to academic and extra-curricular activities. Our vision offers selected middle school students the opportunity to become academically accomplished, confident, and well-rounded. Selected students will be educated using a rigorous curriculum focused on developing core knowledge, critical thinking and reasoning skills. This will be accomplished by providing each student with a smaller learning community that builds confidence and knowledge which will enhance their individual high school experience.

Aside from the extra-curricular activities, isn’t that what Common Core was supposed to bring to Delaware education to begin with?  Why is this district using the same boring Governor Markell talking points to sell this program?

But in the application, one of the requirements is for the student’s Smarter Balanced scores.  A quarter of the rubric for the application is weighted toward Smarter Balanced scores.  But here is the elephant in the room… what if the student was opted out of Smarter Balanced by their parents?  Christina has a board policy which states no student shall be penalized if they are opted out of the wretched test.  But this application says nothing about that or gives any indication they would change the formula in that situation.  This could cause students or parents who opted their child out to not apply because of the absence of this information.  As well, who is determining what the placement test will look like?  Has this been approved by the Christina Board of Education?  Is this test used by other schools?  Has this test been vetted and verified for its effectiveness?  If the parent statement is not a part of the rubric, why are they requiring it with the application?  Does the parent statement have any weight on the decision of placement?  Is there a panel who approves the application or just a principal?  What are the qualifications of whoever approves the applications?

Yeah, let’s throw some more controversy gas on an already raging fire!

Capital’s Balanced Scorecard Is A Massive Shift In The WRONG Direction

Capital School District sure has changed in just two years.  Back in 2014, their board was railing against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and fully supporting a parent’s right to opt their child out of the test.  Flash forward to now, and their board will be discussing something called a “Balanced Scorecard.”

This balanced scorecard is five-year goals for the district.  Some of the goals are good: getting behavior referrals down, more parent involvement, things like that.  But then I wanted to vomit when I saw goals for Smarter Balanced proficiency.  Keep in mind this is just a draft.  The board hasn’t decided on this.  I’m at their board meeting now.  I thought their meetings started at 7:30 but I haven’t been here for a while so it looks like they changed it to 7:00.  Otherwise I would have assuredly giving public comment based on what I’m writing in this.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware students have ever taken.  Why in the name of public education is this district wanting to kiss the DOE’s ass and follow their own despicable goals based on standardized test scores?

What truly shocked me was a goal of “increasing students exiting out of special education”.  Currently they are using a baseline of 31% but they want to increase this to 41% in five years.  I’m sorry, how do you put a measurement on unique disabilities that affect an individual student?  While it is certainly true that students can fall out of needing special education for varying reasons, that seems like a very high number.  As well, decisions on special education are decided on by an IEP team, not based on a district-driven strategic plan.  This is highly disturbing on many levels.  The last thing special education students is a district trying to hit some arbitrary goal and pushing schools to have students get out of IEPs.

The board is discussing this now.  Board member Matt Lindell asked why the district can’t use this as their accountability scorecard.  Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton explained how the Delaware DOE has no intention of removing their own Delaware School Success Framework.  That was the only question.  Three members of this board sat in front of a very similar audience two years ago and proudly passed their opt out resolution.  Now they seem like they have accepted the horrible status quo that is killing public education.  The board is voting on the scorecard, passed 5-0.  What the hell is wrong with this board?  They are prescribing to the point of view of the Delaware DOE.  They have fully accepted Common Core and Smarter Balanced as legitimate for their district.

In talking about technology in their ongoing Strategic Plan, there is a lot of talk about collaborating with BRINC and increasing ed tech in the classroom.  More personalized learning.  They have no clue, as they talk about building configuration, how they are signing their own district death warrant by signing on to all of this junk.  The board is not asking questions about anything they should be asking.  This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed this out with this board.  Stop drinking the Kool-Aid Capital!  You should be better than this!  And I distinctly remember when Matt Lindell was President of the Board when they approved a letter to the General Assembly urging them to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, the opt out bill.  They never overrode the veto, so why has this district not come forth with an opt out policy like Red Clay and Christina did?

Delaware Senator David Sokola Openly Lied To Citizens In His Debate Last Night

Delaware Senator David Sokola openly lied in a debate with his opponent for the 8th Senate District, Republican Meredith Chapman.  WDEL covered the event which included a lot of talk about opt out and districts vs. charters.  When confronted with the question of opt out, WDEL reported the following:

Longtime incumbent state Senator David Sokola does not fully support an opt-out provision.

“If it said opt-out of Smarter Balanced, I’d probably support it,” said Sokola. “But if just said opt-out of the state tests–then I’d have a problem because I think we will be moving to a different assessment within a couple of years anyway.”

As Senator Sokola knows, House Bill 50 in its original incarnation was for all state assessments.  However, prior to the House voting on the bill, State Rep. Sean Matthews added an amendment limiting the legislation to just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It overwhelmingly passed the House and went to the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Sokola.  When it was released from that committee, it went to the floor for a full Senate vote.  Sokola added an amendment to the bill to include all district assessments.  The amendment passed but Sokola voted no on House Bill 50.  After another Senator put on an amendment which was taken off by the House, it went back to the Senate for a second vote and Sokola voted no a second time.

David Sokola is a flat-out liar.  Some have attempted to sway me into supporting Sokola because of his track record on other issues, but I see him for what he is.  He is no longer fit to represent the people of his district, much less any child in the State of Delaware.  He can’t even own up to his own decisions and be honest about it.  Vote for Meredith Chapman in the 8th Senate District.  A quarter of a century of this liar is far too long…

Vote For John Kowalko In The 25th Rep District On Election Day!

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No one stood up for parents more than Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko in the 148th General Assembly.  As the prime House sponsor on House Bill 50, the opt out bill, Rep. Kowalko fought for months to ensure that a parent’s fundamental rights to opt their child out of the state assessment was honored.  Furthermore, it would have stopped schools or the state from punishing a child for having a parent opt them out.  Ultimately, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill.  An attempt to override the veto failed when the legislators came back in 2016.

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John Kowalko is the rake at the gates of hell when it comes to standing up to Jack Markell on education.  He is not afraid to go against the establishment when he knows in his heart those choices are not good for kids.  He has always been about looking out for the little guy.  He will not vote yes on the state budget if it means those with the highest needs will do without.  I respect that immensely.  Because of his stances and how he makes noise, he runs into opposition constantly in the General Assembly.  We need more legislators who can be vocal and won’t bow down to leadership.

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Kowalko’s opponent has failed to give me any reason to support him.  If anything, he sounds a lot like John Kowalko but much less experienced.  I have never subscribed to this Delaware Way theory of “getting along to go along.”  I compare it to being a part of the race without realizing you are being dragged by the horse on the way to the finish line.  We don’t need more of that in Dover.  We need more like Kowalko!  Some will call me crazy and believe that John Kowalko is unable to get along with his peers.  I think it is the other way around.  Too many are unwilling to get along with Kowalko because they know he is right and that if they allied themselves with him it wouldn’t be the best for their own personal agendas.  The will of the people in Delaware should be the biggest priority of our General Assembly.  But private interests and political power rule the day.  Until we get more John Kowalkos in the General Assembly, we will continue to play this status quo game.  And that is NOT good for Delaware.

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At the end of the day, Kowalko is about doing what is right. Yes, he utilizes the press every chance he can to get his message out to the people. It is not self-serving. It is so enough people can hear what he is saying to help the people. I endorse John Kowalko for the 25th Rep. District in Newark. I urge citizens in this district to re-elect John Kowalko so we have another voice of reason in the Delaware 149th General Assembly.

 

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 2: Reinventing Schools & Dark Omens

At the first official meeting for the Delaware Dept. of Education/Rodel created Guiding Coalition for Competency-Based Learning, an email went out to members to research an organization called Reinventing Schools.  Theresa Bennett with the DOE sent the following email:

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Bennett announces that a Kim Hanisch from the Reinventing Schools Coalition will be facilitating their meetings.  The organization changed their name because of the initials, RISC, to Reinventing Schools.  This group received their start-up funds from the Gates Foundation.  A blog called Save Maine Schools gave a very detailed description of the man that runs Reinventing Schools, Dr. Joseph Marzano.  I imagine Rodel and Reinventing Schools have a lot in common since they are both lovers of competency-based education and personalized learning in a digital classroom.  Oddly enough, Reinventing Schools does not list Delaware in their map of schools and districts they work with.  I guess non-profits don’t count as true education centers of learning!  Save Maine Schools referred to Marzano as just another corporate education reform snake-oil salesman.  His ideas, according to the article and commenters, were nothing new but repackaged to further this modern-day Competency-Based Education mixed with Personalized Learning in a digital environment.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, a lot was going on in Delaware education at this time.  The priority schools debacle was heating up.  On the same day as this first meeting of the “Guiding Coalition”, the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated Boards of Education were holding meetings to decide their next steps with the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell.  Red Clay indicated they would capitulate with the DOE, but Christina was defiant and insisted on writing their own Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  The priority schools MOU called for the firing of half the teachers and each school had to get a new principal.  As teachers and Delaware citizens seethed, a growing voice was calling for the resignation of Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and a new employee at the DOE named Penny Schwinn, who led the Accountability & Assessment department, soon became the most hated person in the Delaware education landscape.  Many, including legislators, began wondering what the heck Delaware did with all the Race To The Top money and FOIAs started going out to the Delaware DOE.

As a result of this, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee was born.  Governor Markell issued an Executive Order to come up with recommendations on how to deal with the rising Wilmington education crisis.  Bank of America Communications Chief  and Former Chair of the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, Tony Allen, was chosen to lead the committee.  Meanwhile, a certain blogger started talking about Delaware Opt Out more and more.  All of these were easy distractions for those who were very worried about what was going on with Delaware education.  Markell was taking a very hard stance on the priority schools.  Nobody saw what was going in with the back-door and secret meetings of the Guiding Coalition.

The Rodel Foundation of Delaware was busy preparing for their next Vision Coalition annual conference.  One of their guests at the conference was a company called 2Revolutions.  I did not attend the conference, but I followed along on Twitter.  I decided to look into this digital learning company and was shocked by what I found.  Pretty much everything I am current writing about with Corporate Education Reform 2.0 is covered in that link.  That was from almost two years ago.  The next day I received an email from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC):

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This email contained a copy and paste from the Rodel Teacher Council for their “Performance Learning” blueprint which I included in an article I wrote on this.  I was skeptical of Rodel based on everything I saw and read before that email from the GACEC.  But this horrified me.  It was obvious Rodel was facilitating the reinvention of Delaware education and nobody was paying attention.  Changes were taking place.  The Delaware DOE was not running the show.  It was Rodel.  I began to commit myself to finding out all I could about Rodel.  It was Halloween and nothing horrified me more than what I wrote about that dark evening.  I didn’t truly understand it all at that time.  There was a lot going on.  But this was the beginning of putting the puzzle pieces together.  However, the upcoming General Election in Delaware would cause things to change in the Delaware General Assembly that would provide very big distractions for many.

As everyone prepared for a potential takeover of the Priority Schools, the Delaware DOE and Rodel continued their secret meetings.  To be continued in Part 3: Rodel gets a surprise and a matter of civil rights…

 

Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook Announce Run For DSEA President & VP

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Delaware teachers Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook announced they will run as a team for President and Vice-President the Delaware State Education Association.  These leadership positions are currently held by Frederika Jenner and Karen Crouse.  Their terms end on July 17th, 2017.

Mike Matthews was the most recent past President of the Red Clay Education Association while Jackie Kook currently serves as the Vice-President of the Christina Education Association.  Both are widely known throughout Delaware as advocates against many of the destructive and disparaging policies coming out of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The educators spoke in favor of better teacher evaluation in the DPAS-II system.  They both support a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment and spoke in support of House Bill 50.  As members of their district unions, they both publicly denounced former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and called for him to step down, which was echoed by DSEA at their next representative assembly.  Both were highly involved in fighting for their teachers, students and districts during the troubling priority school fiasco initiated by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE.

Matthews and Kook have launched a Facebook page for their candidacy here.  DSEA members will be able to cast votes by paper or electronically between January 9th and January 23rd, 2017.  Please support Mike and Jackie.  I can’t imagine Delaware education without them.

 

 

Opt Out As We Know It Is Dead… Long Live The Badge

For years, I’ve been telling Delaware parents they should choose to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I was wrong.  Here is why…

We are entering a new era in education.  The promised era of digital personalized learning is here.  It is on the cusp of coming into every single public school in the country.  New national broadband laws are coming out of the woodwork to allow this.  We won’t need to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It will be gone soon.  They listened to us.  They heard us.  They will get rid of this test.  We gave them exactly what they wanted.  It was a trap. Continue reading

The Week That Was And The Week To Come With New Information About The Old

As Christina and Newark Charter School head into a showdown of sorts, new information about Chartergate 2016 is coming to light.  But first, a week in review with all the news from the first week of school in Delaware.  And what a week it was!

It has been one hell of a week.  Make that ten days!  Hogging up the headlines was the (still) ongoing district-charter funding issue.  Things got ugly with Newark Charter School parents and the News Journal articles.  Sometimes you have to look to the past to figure out why this happened to begin with.  Christina made an official announcement that became not so official hours later.  I believe I figured it out in the end but new information will be revealed below.

But to me, the most important post I put up was the one about the Smarter Balanced Assessment and some schools not letting kids take AP classes over SBAC scores or if their parents opted their child out of the test.  I should have added honors classes because that came up a bit too.

The Indian River financial mess (meltdown?) is going to get bigger.  I felt it was important to let folks know there are some serious problems going on there.  This won’t be good for the state for several reasons.

Doing the education interviews with three out of the four Governor candidates was awesome.  I liked hearing their different views on education.  I endorsed Scott Gesty for Congress.  I’m still bummed Carney didn’t want to play.  Milford School District is having tuition tax woes.  Senator Sokola plagiarized wrote a letter to the editor in the News Journal.

Governor Jack Markell had a busy week when he wasn’t riding around with Batman.  He had an interesting weekly message (this was not an audition for U.S. Secretary of Education…that was the joke) and he got an honor.  Jack signed an Executive Order for ESSA collaboration with stakeholders.  An afterschool task force had a meeting in the morning.  The Delaware DOE was called out for ignoring allegations of fraud at the College Board over the revamped SAT.

On Wednesday, at 7:30am, there will be a Legislative Briefing at the Eden Hill Center.  This is open to the public, but not for public comment.  In attendance will be Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski, CFO Bob Silber, State Reps. John Kowalko, Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach and Earl Jaques that I know of so far.  Christina will present their side of the story to the legislators.  This is NOT a done deal.  Despite what you may have heard, that the local cost per pupil won’t change this year, that statement in and of itself is the misnomer not too many people have caught.

The Delaware DOE saying that means they were going to change the formula.  This isn’t just about the exceptions that charter kids don’t get choice money for from the districts.  The DOE was actually going to change the formula, without any input from anyone.  The charters already sent out their bills to the districts.  When Secretary Godowsky said he wasn’t going through with that, I assume that means those payments are on hold or they will revert back to what it always was.  But from what I’m hearing, they aren’t budging with Christina and their exceptions.  As I wrote on Friday, those exceptions were approved by the Delaware DOE.  They can’t go back now and say they weren’t.  That will be Christina’s case in all this, and I have to say I agree with them.

I also wrote that I wanted to know how Greg Meece all of a sudden came up with this brilliant idea of going after Christina for this.  I have a few suspects with this.  I will reserve names until I know for sure who did it.  But rest assured, I will find out.  They can ‘fess up to me now if they like, or I can write when I know for sure.  Your choice (see, I do support choice).

One thing that did bother me over the weekend was a State Representative’s Facebook page.  This rep wanted to call me out for saying I will have to apologize to Newark Charter School if it turns out they were in the right.  It’s called sarcasm, but the state rep obviously didn’t get that.  This rep went a step further to admonish blogs and not to believe everything you read.  Sorry, what did I get wrong so far?  I clearly stated in the original article I didn’t have specifics or that I knew what the exact items were that will be taken away from the district’s restricted funding part of their local funds.  Perhaps that part didn’t dawn on the State Rep.  But I gave enough information for that rep and several others to make frantic calls and emails to Secretary Godowsky.  And it changed the course of their original intention, which was to change the formula.  So while this state rep wants to call me out as a blogger, I feel it is necessary to remind this state rep they had no clue about any of this until I wrote about it.  By telling people on one hand the DOE isn’t going to take any action only to find out a few days later they will take some sort of action against Christina, who isn’t really sure about their information?

What concerned me even more was a post about the legislative briefing on Wednesday.  This same state rep told people it was a legislative briefing and wouldn’t be open to the public.  Even though the Christina School District wrote a letter publicly announcing this meeting.  The President of the Christina Board, Elizabeth Paige, pointed out that the district was making it open to the public.  I commented that closed-door meetings were what started this mess to begin with.  The state rep never responded to this.  I find it ironic that this state rep would want this meeting to be a closed-door meeting.  In other posts the rep put up they mention working with the DOE and getting it all sorted out.  If I have learned one thing in Delaware, the DOE does what the DOE wants.  There isn’t any compromise unless those are things the DOE throw out as bait to get what they want all along.  We all know who runs the DOE, and it is NOT Secretary Godowsky.  Remember, he serves at the pleasure of the Governor.

There was one final thing the state rep did that ticked me off.  The rep wrote about my articles a few times over the week.  The rep kept referring to me as “the blogger” as if we had never met before.  I’ve talked to this state rep several times.  We are on a first-name basis when we see each other.  But somewhere along the way I must have become “toxic” to this state rep if he can’t address me in a public post by my name.  I suppose the state rep is upset with me about a few things lately.  The rep is more than welcome to engage in an actual conversation with me without resorting to passive-aggressive potshots at me on social media.  But I can promise the rep one thing: I will blog as I please and you can either deal with it or not.  I truly don’t care.  I’m sure I could write the “correct way” about a few things pertaining to this state rep, but I’m taking the high road here.

Speaking of closed-door meetings, what many of you may not know is that district Superintendents attended a meeting at the DOE last week.  And there was a swap-out so to speak of different exclusions.  It worked out so that it would basically be a draw for the districts.  Well, almost all of them.  Not so for Christina.  By the DOE doing this, they have effectively targeted Christina with all this and pitted the other fifteen districts against them.  And the charters?  I hear there was a meeting with Secretary Godowsky as well at Newark Charter School (such an impartial place to have this kind of meeting).  The charter leaders were told the formula change wasn’t going to happen this year.

So this boils down to Newark Charter School (and other charters Christina gives local funding to) versus Christina School District in the immediate future.  They are going after Christina money in what I suspect will wind up being an illegal move.  I also predict Christina will take legal action if they push this.  This is not an area for compromise.  It is petty.  What remains to be seen is what the original plan looked like.  Remember, Godowsky found out about this after the charter bills went out to the districts.  So how can the DOE do anything like this without the Secretary’s approval?  That is the burning question every one should be asking.  Whoever our new Governor is, he or she is going to have one royal mess on their hands!

Schools In Delaware Get Ugly By Using SBAC Scores Or Opt Out To Deny Student Access To AP Classes

In the past week, I have heard from several parents in our state that their children are not getting into AP or advanced classes based on either their Smarter Balanced scores or the fact that their parents opted them out of the test.  This is a horrible idea.  Some of these students are straight A students.  What the hell is wrong with these Principals and Superintendents who are making these foolish decisions?  While I won’t name schools or districts due to the privacy of these families, I think these actions are abusive on unheard of levels.

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When did Smarter Balanced become the barometer of student success in Delaware?   The sole purpose of this test is to understand where our children compare to each other, so we can reduce the so-called achievement gaps.  Now it is turning into a punitive measurement tool and it is affecting many lives.  What kind of sick and twisted crap is this?  Who is mandating this?  Is it the Delaware DOE or the districts themselves?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a fraudulent test.  It is horrible and how anyone can think this test in any way should decide what classes a student takes needs to take a look at what true education is all about.

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We are gearing our kids toward this ridiculous notion of “rigor” at a very early age in Delaware.  I get that children need to read at earlier ages.  But the way we are going about it, by taking away play time and stripping these innocent children from the very creativity which allows them to grow as a human being is truly sad.

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Every single parent of a Delaware student this is happening to needs to be very loud and vocal.  They need to tell the school Principal this is unacceptable.  If the Principal doesn’t bend, go to the Superintendent.  If the Superintendent doesn’t bend, go to the School Board.  Go to the State Board of Education.  Go to the media.  Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, Delaware State News, and the News Journal.  Spread this to everyone you know on Facebook and other social media.  Email your friends and family about this.  Nothing in Delaware ever changes unless the people speak.  And on this issue, parents MUST speak.  And for those parents who don’t have kids in AP classes, if they are doing this to those students, just imagine how they are classifying other kids.  The best thing you can all do is opt out in mass numbers to make this waste of a test invalid.  That is the greatest option to end the destruction of public education.  You need to advocate for your child.  You are their parent.  If they are a victim of this insane testing abuse, you have to speak up for them.  Do not believe the lies far too many schools, districts, education non-profits like Rodel, and certain legislators are telling you.

It’s bad enough the Delaware DOE endorses ethical trickery with parents who try to opt their kids out.  It’s bad enough the Smarter Balanced Assessment students take isn’t the same test for every student (which in my mind makes this test worth less than fools gold).  But now we have this.  This is a state assessment.  Not a district mandated, or even school related assessment.  It was created by the state for state usage.  It should have absolutely no bearing on a student’s classroom progress.  Using Smarter Balanced as a competency-based model of student achievement is not a good idea at all.

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Can you imagine how students feel, who try their best in school, only to be victimized because of a once a year test?  The heartbreak they feel, like they just aren’t good enough.  This is what Delaware education has become, a travesty of epic proportions.  We have turned the Smarter Balanced Assessment into the center of education.  If it isn’t data walls, it’s accountability.  If it isn’t libraries closing for weeks at a time, it is teacher evaluations based on this wretched test.  If it isn’t state special education ratings from the feds, it’s standards-based IEPs designed to “help” kids do better on this test.  If it isn’t reshuffling of classrooms to have high-performing SBAC students help low-performing SBAC students, it’s fighting parents when they don’t want their kids taking the test.  If it isn’t students with disabilities being forced to take this test for 2-3 times longer than their peers, it’s the State Board of Education passing opt-out penalties in their school report card accountability joke.  This is NOT the best test Delaware ever made, despite Governor Markell’s comments to the contrary.

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When the 149th General Assembly reconvenes in January, their top priority needs to be setting firm laws dictating what this test can and can’t be used for.  They also need to finish the job with opt out and codify a parent’s right to opt their child out of these punitive tests without penalty to the student in any way, whether it is AP classes, graduation, summer school, standards-based IEPs, abuse by administration, or denying a student the ability to choice to another school.  This could have been written into law last January.  I warned them then this issue was only going to get worse.  My advice was unheeded by the majority of them.  Those that supported the override attempt know the real deal.  Those who didn’t need to seriously rethink their position on this.

And for any school in this state that has any type of data wall up in classrooms or anywhere in your schools with student names on them, take them down now.  The days of shaming students for a state assessment are done.  If any parent sees these data walls in any school, please take a picture of them and send them to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will file a Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) complaint the very same day.  I will need to know the name of the school and the district.  I am in the process of filing a few of these today.

The abuse of students in this state needs to stop.  These are children, not testing guinea pigs for the data freaks.  Is this really what education is about?  Mental torture of children?  All in the name of progress and accountability.  I don’t think so.  People wonder why I am so passionate about education.  This is the main reason.  What we are doing to kids.  We are destroying the future.

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