ESSA Killed The Delaware DOE’s Opt-Out Penalty

Delaware School Successs Framework, Parent Opt-Out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment

When President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act last December, he actually helped Delaware immensely in regards to opt-out.  The Delaware DOE submitted their updated ESEA Flexibility Waiver to US DOE at the end of the November.  Two weeks before that, the Delaware State Board of Education voted on the participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework which was submitted to US DOE for approval.  As a result of ESSA, the US DOE is not signing off on anything that goes into effect after August 1st, 2016.  Since their original ESEA Flexibility Waiver submitted last March had it snuck in there at the last minute based on final recommendations by the Accountability Framework Working Group, the participation rate penalty in the DSSF can not be considered enforceable.

The updated Delaware Regulation 103, which was postponed by the State Board of Education last September after parents, educators, and a legislator had an open revolt at the State Board of Education meeting that month, was based on US DOE approval of the waiver request.  Since it is essentially null and void, Delaware can not insert the participation rate penalty into state code.

The caveat is the US DOE will be issuing regulations surrounding the Every Student Succeeds Act in the next few months.  That could change the conversation again at a later date, but I would assume the Delaware DOE will be unable to enforce the participation rate penalty on the DSSF for the 2015-2016 school year.  So no school should be citing the opt-out penalty to ANY parent when the parent wants to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment because that would technically be ILLEGAL to do so!

So Delaware parents, you can strike that off the list of reasons you shouldn’t opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  Despite the crazy State Board of Education meeting, this was very refreshing news to hear.  I emailed the DOE earlier this week and today I spoke to Susan Haberstroh at the DOE about whether or not the US DOE ever approved the request.  She explained they didn’t and why.  But she did inform me of the upcoming regulations from the US DOE which will truly test the power of ESSA in limiting the federal role in public education.

Governor Markell Will Have State Board Of Education Do His Bidding

Delaware School Successs Framework, Governor Markell

The future of the Delaware accountability system for its school is now in the State Board of Education’s hands.  Despite having the Accountability Framework Working Group meet 16 times for over a year.  Despite whatever the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) says tomorrow at their 1pm meeting.  Despite what the people say.  If Governor Markell wants things a certain way, it will happen.

Despite my telling Penny Schwinn and the Accountability Framework Working Group that there is no Federal law stating there must be a consequence for participation rates on standardized assessments dipping below 95%, the AFWG group voted to pick one of the following consequences.

  1. Go down one level on the performance rating, but use the average proficiency rate over a two-year period so that a school is not penalized for a one-year dip or anomaly.
  2. School must write a plan for how they will address low participation rates and then do not have access to supplementary federal grants.
  3. Use the multiplier for schools that are below 95% only.  Essentially we would have 100% on a 95 point scale, so that if a school had 93% participation and 60% proficiency, the multiplier would be (93/95)*(60%).  Any school at 95% proficiency or above would get full credit.
  4. School would automatically not be able to be a reward or recognition school and automatically be placed on the list as a potential Focus school.
  5. For federal designation calculations ONLY, the school would have all non-participants count as a zero score.

The group voted for part of Option #2 and part of Option #4: School would write a plan and could not be a reward school.

I don’t think there should be any participation rate penalty at all.  The Delaware DOE has not sufficiently provided evidence with exact code.  It’s easy to look at words and cherry-pick what applies.  It’s easy to treat guidance as mandatory, or a letter from an Assistant Secretary who no longer works at US DOE.  But here is the part of the recipe the public doesn’t know about.  On Friday, Penny Schwinn and Interim Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky met with Governor Markell.  They presented the options to him, and he wants #3.  The very same penalty that the non-Delaware DOE members of the AFWG voted unanimously to remove at their last meeting.  When asked why they changed their mind on this, Gerri Marshall from the Red Clay Consolidated School district thought it would be a moot point because nobody thought the opt-out numbers would be as high as they were in many schools and districts.

When asked if the legislators override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, Donna Johnson stated “Federal law trumps state law.”  But once again, they are cherry-picking parts of the law that suit their needs.  Because the Smarter Balanced Assessment doesn’t allow for a human reader under many circumstances even though his IEP stated he should be given this accommodation during testing.  I told the DOE the same words, federal law trumps state law.  I never received a response from them or anyone at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium about that.  Ever.  But back to a potential veto override, if the DOE submits their ESEA waiver and it is approved by the Federal Government, through the US DOE, House Bill 50 could not have the line about opt-out not being included in a school’s accountability ratings.  This is IF the State Board of Education chooses Governor Markell’s #3 option with participation rate.

The Delaware DOE admitted they actually rounded up the participation rates as much as they could for schools in Delaware.  Why would they do that?  Was the same metric for this rounding up applied to ALL schools?  I would love to see the actual data on that.

The Governor doesn’t want the Delaware School Success Framework to publish a school’s overall rating.  But it will be subject to FOIA, the State Board will announce it at their meeting, and media will write about it.  This is the part that leaves me feeling very perplexed.  Why put yourself in a position where you have to get a FOIA when you can just choose to make it public knowledge?

The AFWG, after much discussion, agreed to use points as a school’s calculation based on a 500 point scale.  So if a school gets total points of 70 based on the calculated weights for each category, on this scale their score would be 350.  Whatever the school gets it will be heavily tied to their overall Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The DOE publishes the Smarter Balanced results, and since 90% of an elementary and middle school’s score will be based on either proficiency, growth, or growth to proficiency (all based on SBAC), that other average daily attendance is not going to make that much of a difference.  For high schools, 70% will be based on the same SBAC criteria, with other measurements of 30% tied to college and career preparation and “on track to graduation” levels.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams asked the AFWG many tough questions concerning charter school enrollment preferences, Governor Markell’s position on the participation rate penalty, and the need for the group to have a united front on these issues.

Tomorrow, the DOE will present the Delaware School Success Framework based on the recommendations by the AFWG to DESS.  But even Penny Schwinn said Governor Markell is her boss.  He selected her for the position of Chief Officer of Accountability and Assessment at the DOE and it is her job to do what he says.  Jack hates parents who opt-out, for all of the obvious reasons.  And if Jack doesn’t like, that must mean Rodel doesn’t like it.

The AFWG’s work is done, unless the DOE has to get another month extension from US DOE if needed.  But most of the members of the group know they can’t really discuss this any further.  Their thoughts are known, and many members of the work group wish they could just blow it up and not have to worry about this insane school report card to begin with.  I echo that sentiment.

Delaware DOE To Name 10 Focus Schools By End of 2015, School Report Card Will Determine Future Priority Schools

Delaware Focus Schools

The Delaware DOE will pick 10 new Focus Schools by the end of 2015 according to their ESEA Renewal document.  These Focus Schools will be in addition to four remaining Focus Schools from the prior year.  No priority schools will be picked this year, but be sure they will the year after!  In the Delaware Department of Education’s ESEA Flex Waiver request for 2015, they wrote the following:

Classification of Schools and Districts

The U.S. Department of Education requires Title I schools to be classified into three categories: Reward, Focus and Priority. Delaware has created a fourth category for Title I and non-Title I schools called Recognition. Moving forward, DDOE intends to use the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) to classify its schools within these categories.1 The U.S. Department of Education has indicated that using a state’s rating system is permissible so long as the state demonstrates that it has identified the required number of schools that meet the ESEA Flexibility definitions.

“For each ESEA Criterion there is a proposed way in which the DSSF will be used to identify schools.2 By the end of 2015, this methodology will be used for the identification of a new cohort of 10 Focus schools (with 2015-16 school year as a planning year),3 at least two Reward schools, and up to 15 Recognition schools for 2015-16. A new cohort of Priority schools will not be identified for the 2015-16 school year, but the proposed new methodology is included to indicate how future cohorts may be identified.”

with footnotes added:

2 “For the sections in Principle 2 on Reward, Recognition, Priority and Focus schools, unless otherwise noted, LEA references district public schools.”

3 “Four current Focus schools will not exit from that status at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, for a total of 14 Focus Schools”

This information can be found here, on page 9:

The US Department of Education defines a Focus school as:

“A Title I school that has the largest within-school gaps between the highest-achieving subgroup or subgroups and the lowest-achieving subgroup or subgroups or, at the high school level, has the largest within-school gaps in graduation rates (“within-school-gaps” focus school); or

 A Title I school that has a subgroup or subgroups with low achievement or, at the high school level, low graduation rates (“low-achieving subgroup” focus school).”

The DOE will use past data from 2013-2014 to pick these focus schools.

Making matters worse, the US DOE is making the Delaware DOE use their upcoming Delaware School Success Framework to be the guide for picking Priority, Focus, Reward and Recognition schools once it is approved by our State Board of Education and than the US DOE (see the Scribd document). Delaware MUST submit an approved request for this by October 31st.  Even more reason for the General Assembly to override Governor Markell’s House Bill 50 veto, otherwise opt-out could push a Title I school to priority schools status.