Ten Crazy Days In Delaware Education & A Glimpse Of The Future

August is supposed to be the twilight of summer.  Stuff isn’t supposed to happen.  At least until school starts in the 3rd week of the month.  Like last year though, this August has been anything but quiet.

It started on August 5th when I came out with a massive article alleging Newark Charter School was using student body activity funds to pay for capital expenses.  Like most things in Delaware, nothing came of that one.  The next day, I discovered the NY PTA wasn’t as scared of National PTA and their opt out threat as the Delaware PTA was last winter.  A week ago today I found out Academy of Dover was having some money issues… again.  But the biggest bombshell of the week (in my opinion, and there were many), was when I started looking into the pending contract for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment and found out all sorts of things about high-stakes tests and Delaware’s Smarter Balanced Assessment.  All of this went down on three of the hottest days of the summer.

As the new week started, I called out Christina School District’s CFO Bob Silber for not responding to my inquiry about why Christina spent over $50,000 for non-state employee travel with federal funds.  Still waiting on an answer from Bob on that one after a month.  The Exceptional Children Resources Group at the Delaware DOE dropped a ton of due process hearing and administrative complaint reports.  A hearing for Trinity Carr, the murderer of Amy Joyner-Francis, had a bit of controversy and gave some more details about what happened that day.  On Tuesday, the State Board of Education held an Every Student Succeeds Act Workshop at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover.  Usual Kool-Aid fest!  I posted a photo album of the event.  On Wednesday, I played pin the tail on the Appoquinimink special education tuition tax warrant again after they went on WDEL and basically called me a liar.

Things quieted down for about an hour on Thursday when it was revealed Brian Touchette left the Delaware DOE.  But then the hat trick went down.  In hockey, a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in one game.  The hat trick in this case was the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell pulling fast ones and really ticking myself and others off.  The first was the press release about the Teacher Leader Pilot program and the bizarre email from last May which shed a lot of light on how despicable and manipulative the DOE really is.  Then came Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman’s email response about the Freire opt out scandal and the DOE basically saying congratulations to the charter school.  As if those two events didn’t piss me off to no end, then I read Governor Markell’s back-stabbing Executive Order about a Pathways To Prosperity steering committee that the General Assembly had already squashed.  By the time I went to bed Friday night, I was very angry at how much the DOE and Markell don’t care about how their actions impact others and they act with impunity.

I used three words from a song that came out in 1983 for a post yesterday about how nothing is invincible.  Proving that I do have a life outside of this blog, I wrote about an excellent new television series called Stranger Things this morning.  And finally, I wrote two articles about Governor Markell signing the charter school audit bill and how Kendall Massett is bad for education.  As well, I pondered why the hell Michael Duffy from Great Oaks Charter School (and not even the one in Delaware) attended the bill signing.  I also felt Kathleen Davies should have been there and I vowed to find out why she was really put on leave at the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office.

All this kept me busy, but there were a few things I didn’t write about.  Delaware lost one of our State Representatives this week as Jack Peterman succumbed to prostate cancer.  I heard more parents grumbling about how they really didn’t care how their kids did on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It was hot as hell this week, but hopefully that will end tomorrow night.  Outcast got really interesting if you watch that show.  Matt Denn’s office did email me last week to inform me that the charter school thieves are under investigation but they can’t say anything more than that.  But they stressed it is active.

How do you top all that?  Who the hell knows.  This is Delaware education.  Last year, after the Donna Johnson outing and the Christina drama, I thought things would quiet down.  But then I found out about the Accountability Framework Working Group and the very punitive opt out penalties against schools.  That set the track for a very busy fall last year.

There are things I know I will be writing about this week: the State Board of Education meeting and the Congressional education debate up in Wilmington.  Hans Reigle informed me he will not be able to make it, but it will be interesting to see Townsend, Blunt-Rochester, Barney, Miller, Gesty and the rest talk about education.  Both of those will be on Thursday.  I foresee getting a lot of dirty looks at that State Board meeting.  That’s okay.  I’ll be giving them right back if that’s the case.  I am hoping to get some “Part 2s” of series I started a long time ago and haven’t gotten around to.  Especially the Delaware Illuminati series given what went down this week.  As the Delaware primary is thirty days away, I expect I will be putting out some endorsements of candidates.  There is one thing coming out, maybe some this month but all of them in September, that has me very excited.  All public schools in Delaware have to record their board meetings and put them up on their websites in seven days.  I’m going to predict a lot of “technical difficulties” for charter schools.  As well, it could be a FOIApalooza watching them go in and out of executive session.  I may put some more graphs up about district and charter finances in FY2016.  You can also expect my predictions for the 2016-2017 school year this week.  The other girls involved in the Amy Howard murder have a court case tomorrow and the judge in the Trinity Carr case should decide by Friday if she will be tried as an adult.

There could be some follow-up or fallout from the articles I put up in the last ten days.  I hope so.  There is too much elusive and non-transparent crap going on in education.  I don’t mind shaking things up at all and watching the dust settle.  There is also a lot of stuff I can’t talk about… yet.  There is always something cooking on the back burner.  I do a lot of research and save it.  Very often, something happens and I find a need to go back to that research when something clicks.  There are some things I predict won’t happen this week: Bob Silber won’t respond to my email, Tom Wagner won’t respond to anything or anyone, John Carney won’t respond to me, and Jack Markell will do something stupid.

To be fair, this isn’t original.  Kavips started this last week with a week in review.  It inspired me!

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What Will Be The Big Delaware Education Stories When School Starts?

This is entirely based on predictions of my own and what I have seen people post in social media.  But I think some of these will come up quite a bit in conversation!

Smarter Balanced Assessment Scores: These should be out in mid-September or later.  We will know what the true opt-out numbers are for Delaware, along with if the test was a success or if Mark Murphy’s predictions of 70% non-proficiency were on the mark.  Or maybe they were even worse.  If the scores are low, we will get the very Markellian chant of “C’mon guys, it’s only the first year.  There were some flaws, but we have our top people on it.  But it’s very important that we have this data so we can see where our greatest needs are.”  Murphy will agree, as will the State Board of Education, and the DOE, and the Delaware Business Roundtable, and so on and so on.

Charter Schools: there will be at least one major charter story involving financial abuse of taxpayer funds.  I’m just going with the trajectory here folks!  At last count, there are still six more reports coming from the State Auditor’s office, none of which involve traditional school districts, all charters.

Wilmington Redistricting/Priority Schools: This will be the hotbed of activity in Delaware education this fall.  A lot of the Red Clay Consolidated School District’s demands for this will be adequate funding.  But with the state not even giving Red Clay the promised priority school amounts, will Red Clay be willing to take a chance like this?  And will Christina, already having many financial issues, be willing to just give up all their Wilmington schools?  Will any 3rd parties enter the landscape?

Opt-out/Refuse The Test Delaware: This could go either way.  People want the General Assembly to override Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  But they are still very angry about the veto.  Will the release of SBAC scores cause more parents to join the Refuse crowd?  And will the Refuse crowd get a bit more aggressive when the stories start about schools bullying parents?

Christina School District: Anything can happen here.  Add some board turmoil, a Superintendent review, funding cuts, teacher layoffs and whatever else comes down the pike, and this will be a cauldron of controversy.  Can the district unite and come together to blaze a new and daring path?

Delaware DOE: They are going to do something that makes people upset.  It’s what they do and it comes with the territory.  But with everything they did in the past year, will the School Accountability Report Card push districts to the edge?

Rodel/Vision 2099/etc.: They will announce a brand new marketing push to help get the students of Delaware where they need to be in the next ten years.  For the weeks following this, we will hear numerous people saying “didn’t they just do this last year?”

ESEA Reauthorization: The U.S. House and Senate will come together and go back and forth adding and subtracting from a joint bill.  Will opt-out still be in play?  How much power will the US DOE lose at the end of the day?  Will the compromises not really change much at all?  And whatever happens, will President Obama even sign it?

Exceptional Delaware Top 10 Lists Spring 2015 Edition With Predictions

It’s been a while since I’ve done this.  Happy first day of Spring.  As the snow comes down, I see change coming up but I also see the past rearing it’s ugly head.  This is education in Delaware.  I’ve been doing this a little over 9 months now, or 10 1/2 if you count my story on Kilroy’s.  But enough babbling from me, let’s get down with the countdowns!

Top 10 Articles from the past nine months:

1. I wrote this a few days before Thanksgiving.  Another blogger wrote about US DOE Secretary of Education Arne Duncan changing special education code in Federal regulations, and I jumped on it and expanded it a bit.  This one angered a lot of special needs parents, and for good reason.

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/us-doe-arne-duncan-drop-the-mother-of-all-bombs-on-states-special-education-rights-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-delawarebats-badassteachersa-wsj-nytimes/

2. This is what happens when every 5th grader in public school America has the same confusing Common Core math homework on the same night!

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/my-special-needs-sons-first-day-of-common-core-division-this-is-his-homework-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-dianeravitch-hanna_hurley-edtraveller-doverpost-delawareonline-thestatenews-washi/

3. This one shot up the charts fast.  When a Missouri circuit court judge made a ruling against the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a wave of excitement spread throughout America.  Nothing has happened since, but I am still waiting on a legal opinion from our own Attorney General Matt Denn.

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/breaking-news-court-rules-smarter-balanced-assessment-violates-the-u-s-constitution/

4. This one had a little bit of rumor, a little bit of fact, and a lot of opinion.  Which will stand the test of time?

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/breaking-news-priority-schools-in-christina-will-convert-to-red-clay-in-2016/

5. This was my biggest Family Foundations Academy story.  Getting a nod from Newsworks certainly helped this one to grow.  This story is still read on an almost daily basis.

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/breaking-news-family-foundations-academy-under-financial-investigation-with-state-auditor-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-apl_jax-rceaprez-governormarkell-destateboarded-dedeptofed-tnj_malbright-de/

6. Rodel and Markell, a symbiotic theme in Delaware.  Find out the full scoop here!

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/delaware-race-to-the-top-hedge-funds-millions-wasted-the-story-of-rodel-markell-charters-the-vision-network-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-dwablog-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-delawarebat/

7. After hearing complaints from parents for weeks over how they were being treated in regards to opt out, I took the bull by the horns and said enough is enough and sent this long email.  I had NO response from anyone on this list.

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/email-to-delaware-superintendents-and-heads-of-school-re-parent-opt-out-de-doe-governor-markell-and-corporate-education-reform/

8. The whole opt out continues to bring a lot of new readers to this blog, and they see things you don’t typically see in mainstream media.  This is a wake-up call to the DOE, Schools and Markell: Parents are like a bear you really shouldn’t poke!

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/opt-out-week-in-delaware-begins-now/

9. I think this was a pivotal moment in the Delaware opt out movement.  It was the first organized gathering in Delaware to discuss this, and parents and teachers reacted.  When a major organization supported parent opt out, parents started to rise!

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/exclusive-explosive-events-at-delaware-pta-parent-opt-out-town-hall-last-night/

10. Apparently Dr. Holodick still hasn’t understood the message as I had to write another article a couple nights ago.  Parents DO understand, they just don’t agree with you.  Deal with it.

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/brandywine-superintendent-holodick-says-parents-cant-opt-out-not-your-choice-buddy/

Top 10 Referrers to Exceptional Delaware:

1. Facebook (Many “comments” on stories take place here among many different groups and individuals)

2. Google

3. Kilroy’s Delaware https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/

4. Twitter

5. Yahoo

6. Children & Educators First http://elizabethscheinberg.blogspot.com/

7. Bing

8. Kavips https://kavips.wordpress.com/

9. AOL

10. Delaware Way http://delawareway.blogspot.com/

Top Ten Commenters on Exceptional Delaware

1. Kavips

2. John Young

3. delawareway

4. jax2816

5. kilroysdelaware

6. 4equity2

7. teachezwell

8. ericgustafson2015

9/10. Elizabeth/Eve Buckley (tie)

Top Ten Countries Reading Exceptional Delaware

1. USA

2. Canada

3. United Kingdom

4. Australia

5. India

6. Germany

7. Mexico

8. Russia

9/10. Netherlands/South Africa (tie)

Top Ten Search Engine Terms To Get To Exceptional Delaware

1. Exceptional Delaware  (duh)

2. Kilroy’s Delaware

3. Delaware Priority Schools

4. Family Foundations Academy

5. Sean Moore Delaware

6. Delaware IEP Task Force

7. federal government and Delaware IEP

8. tennell brewington

9. Penny Schwinn Delaware

10. arne Duncan special education

Top Ten Most Bizarre Searches Leading People To This Blog

1. Smarter Balance Song

2. publius coward delware title

3. misusecreditcardsinwilmingtoncharterschools

4. delaware principal pellet guns school

5. when we received exsepshinal leater for highscool

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Top Ten People Who Wish I Never Started This Blog 2015 Edition

1. Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques

2. Dr. Mark Holodick

3. Governor Jack Markell

4. Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy

5. Dr. Lamont Browne

6. Dr. Paul Herdman

7. Moorebrewington

8. Brian Touchette

9. Christina Board Members Who Voted YES On Priority Schools MOU

10. Publius

Most Popular Weeks With Viewers

1. 11/24/14-11/30/14

2. 9/15/14-9/21/14

3. 2/23/15-3/1/15

4. 3/2/15-3/8/15

5. 3/9/15-3/15/15

6. 1/12/15-1/18/15

7. 2/16/15-2/22/15

8. 2/2/15-2/8/15

9. 1/5/15-1/11/15

10. 2/9/15-2/15/15

Top Ten Exceptional Delaware Predictions for 2015

1. Mark Murphy is either terminated or resigns

2. Mark Holodick takes his place

3. Office of Civil Rights comes back with scathing report against Delaware

4. More charter schools get scrutiny over finances

5. At least 3 districts won’t meet the 95% benchmark for standardized test participation rates

6. Delaware parents become a force to be reckoned with in the education conversation

7. Bullying and discrimination will become BIG issues

8. More bills will be introduced AND passed to limit the power of the Delaware DOE, Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education

9. US DOE will approve extension for teacher accountability and the Smarter Balanced Assessment

10. The four Wilmington school districts will become two and Brandywine will cause major problems during the process