Senator David Sokola did not present the entire truth to the Delaware Senate last night when he gave his introductory remarks to House Bill 399 and introduced an amendment to the bill. I immediately saw what he was doing and it worked because the amendment which completely changed the original bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate. I find this legislative process, with no one able to rebut or correct Sokola’s statements a serious flaw in our law-making process.
His remarks concerned the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, forged out of legislation last year. The group met last fall and this winter to come up with new recommendations in the DPAS-II evaluation system for Delaware teachers. The group had many recommendations, but the sticking point with the Delaware Department of Education was an administrator not having the final say for which assessment to use in the Component V of DPAS-II. They didn’t feel as though teachers and an administrator should have an adult conversation and be able to mutually agree on this. I wrote extensively about what happened during the last few sub-committee meetings and it completely contradicts the version Sokola gave his peers in the Delaware Senate. As well, in reaction to comments given by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne at the Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, one of the chairs of the sub-committee gave her version of other events transpiring out of those meetings. In return, Atnre had many things to say about House Bill 399 in the past week. He was absolutely right on one point:
But if anyone is paying attention, this is the week when powerful interest groups take the unsuspecting masses to school. It is the last week of Delaware’s legislative session and while most are ruminating on 4th of July plans, pressure groups are seeing their bills breeze by on their way to becoming law.
What he fails to distinguish is how he himself represents several public interest groups which I have referred to numerous times as corporate education reform. Stacked to the brim with flawed research and reports, they manipulate the masses into thinking teachers are bad and the unions will make sure they stay in schools no matter how bad they are. I may have had issues with the Delaware State Education Association over opt out last winter (to which I admittedly overreacted), but I think most can agree that if a teacher is really bad, they most likely aren’t going to be around for too long. Is there such a thing as a perfect teacher? Probably not. We are, after all, only human. No one is perfect. But I will stress, once again, that anything using a monstrosity like the Smarter Balanced Assessment as an indicator of a student or a teacher’s performance is the high point of insanity. But Senator David Sokola doesn’t seem to care about that aspect, as indicated by the below remarks he gave the Delaware Senate last night:
Sokola: Thank you Madam President. I’m going to talk very briefly about House Bill 399 before going to the amendment. It was, the process of the DPAS II Advisory Committee was to, uhm, set up, uh, in the past from House Joint Resolution #6. And we had various stakeholders who, uhm, met quite a few times, as well as a sub-committee, uh, to this group to look at the evaluation of, uhm, teachers. Uhm, that, uhm, process got a little discombobulated towards the end of the process, and uhm, there were a number of versions of a bill drafter over a period of a few weeks. And I was not satisfied at, at that. Various groups were continuing to meet, and discuss, to try to come to a consensus on the issues. So, uh, with that in mind I would like to ask that Senate Amendment #1 to House Bill #399 be read and brought to the Senate.
Senator Patti Blevins: Senate Amendment #1 is before the Senate. Senator Sokola…
Sokola: Thank you Madam President. This amendment actually does a few things. The one that it does is it does give the administrator final say on components, the components of the teacher evaluation process. Dr. Susan Bunting (Superintendent of Indian River School District and Chair of the DPAS-II Advisory Committee) had, uh, sent a letter to the education committee for the last meeting. That was very important. It turned out a number of the proponents in the bill as it was indicated that they thought, uhm, uh, that was the intent of the bill anyhow. I made a suggestion that we make that very clear in the amendment. This amendment does clarify that the administrator does maintain the final say or discretion to determine whether the state standardized assessment should be used as part of the educator’s evaluation. It also clarifies proposed changes to DPAS-II evaluation system as recommended, uhm, intended to be piloted in three education institutions over a work period of two years. It has an input, information and deletes section 7 of the bill in its entirety. Are there, uhm, any questions? I’ll attempt to answer them. Otherwise I’d like to ask for a roll call on Senate Amendment 1.
Roll call on Senate Amendment #1: 18 yes, 2 no, 1 absent
Sokola makes it sound like the consensus issues were within the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee. They were not. It was between the group’s recommendation and outside groups, like PACE, which was meeting with Alleyne and former Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit Chief Chris Ruszkowski in the weeks prior to their engagement with the committee. To say Alleyne had a bias would be an understatement. He and Ruszkowski were the two main guys at the DOE for the DPAS-II having Component V in it to begin with.
What Sokola never mentioned in his remarks and with little time for every Senator on the floor to read the full and lengthy amendment while discussion was also going on about the amendment, was a brand-new insertion into the legislation. This insertion was to include student and parent surveys in the pilot program. This drew the ire of teachers all across the state today if social media is any indication. This idea came from Atnre Alleyne in his many comments and blog posts about this bill. But Sokola took all the credit for it on Mike Matthews Facebook page today:
To be continued in Part 2 dealing with a 2nd amendment, heartburn, and more!