Delaware DOE Making Changes To Accountability System Without Any Public Notice Or Input

The Delaware Department of Education has tweaked the Delaware School Success Framework for the past four months without any public notice whatsoever unless you happen to look at the document buried on their website.  While some of the changes were based on approved changes by the State Board of Education or the Secretary of Education (such as the change for 11th graders from Smarter Balanced to the SAT), others have not.  Including a whole new metric calculation included in the latest version, released on Monday.  To rephrase this, they added a whole new section!  Now, if memory serves, the State Board of Education had to approve the Delaware School Success Framework.  And under that statement, I would assume the State Board of Education would have to approve any changes to the accountability system.  But here we have the Delaware DOE bypassing that process, with NO public notice, input, or comment.

Tell me, Secretary Godowsky, when does this better working relationship with the DOE start to happen?  When does that transparency get better?  Because I’m not seeing it.  Maybe some district or charter leaders might be seeing this stuff, but they aren’t the only stakeholders in education.  Please get that through your head.  Because, from my vantage point, things are no better under your leadership than they were with Mark Murphy.  Sure, some of the more visible lightning rods of controversy may have left, but that is no excuse to continue the absolutely horrible decisions your predecessor made.  In fact, I would say it is making it worse.  Who is guiding the DOE towards these decisions?  Who is signing off on these changes?  Why is there no discussion from Secretary Godowsky about these changes at State Board of Education meetings?  Where is the documentation that led to the creation of whole new business rule and a new section of the Delaware School Success Framework?  Was there another meeting of the Accountability Framework Working Group without any public notice whatsoever?  Because they are the ones who convened for well over a year and were the “stakeholders” behind this thing originally.  But I forget, you didn’t even follow their final recommendations with regards to the participation rate, so I assume their opinion doesn’t matter anyways.

The changes regarding the proficiency status if 30 students or less pass a “non-standard” state assessment are pretty major!

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Proficiency in science or social studies should have no bearing on proficiency in English or Mathematics.  Who does this benefit?  When parents are looking for schools, they could be looking for how students do in English or Math.  By changing the weight on non-related subjects it can skew the results for an entire school!  Even if it winds up benefitting the school, it is a false picture provided on this “school report card”.  I have to ask, who comes up with this nonsense?  I can only come up with one scenario where this would directly benefit public impressions: charter schools.  More under the radar puffing up of charters at traditional school district expense.  When are you going to stop this?  This n# thing that benefits charters in many situations has gotten out of control.  I get that it is meant to dissuade identification of students, but 30?  Come on!  Who is going to identify one student out of a group of 30?  In some Delaware charter schools, a grade could have less than 100 students.  We know this.  It allows charters to be exempt from some of the same accountability schemes traditional school districts are held under the knife for.  It also happens in special education all the time when it comes time for compliance audits or federal state rating systems.

Delaware DOE: You are the Department of Education, not the Department of Delaware Charter Schools.  Grow the hell up!  It’s getting really old!

And here are the complete list of changes as provided at the end of the updated Delaware School Success Framework:

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This needs to stop in Delaware.  No school that receives public funds should receive ANY special treatment over others.  But that is exactly what our DOE and State Board of Education do time and time again with our charter schools.  They actually allow them to look good in any potential and possible situation.  They do it with smoke and mirrors, behind closed doors, where no one can stop them.  They don’t solicit public feedback or allow anyone to see these “business rules” until they incorporate them.  And we are expected to believe they want public input on the Every Student Succeeds Act?  I have no doubt they already know exactly what they are going to do there.  Any pizza party at Grotto’s in Dover, on August 9th put on by the State Board of Education is just a big dog and pony show.  And don’t believe the lie about “light refreshments” beginning at 5pm.  When I went to one of these, they had whole pizzas.  So come on down or up to Dover and make your opinions known!  And eat lots of pizza!

 

 

Charter School Teachers Getting Preferential Treatment at Market Street Village, Discrimination Against Public School Teachers

In the Delaware News Journal today one of the articles was about luxury apartments in development for the new “millennials” to spice up the downtown district in Wilmington.  The article announced the 77 unit Market Street Village will give “below-market rates” to charter school teachers.  Jeff Mordock with the News Journal wrote:

“One of the projects, Market Street Village, will include 77 residential units that will be offered to charter school teachers at below-market rates.  Hare said tax credits and funding from the state’s Downtown Development District programs will help the units be priced at a discount.”

This was Governor Markell’s big announcement right before his State of the State address a couple weeks ago.  Locations were chosen in Wilmington, Dover and Seaford.  Markell, why don’t you just come out with a press release that says “I hate public school district teachers, and I will not rest until they are wiped off the map in Delaware.”  This is discrimination, pure and simple.  I suppose there aren’t any Millennials among the very large teacher pool in the local public school districts?  Or is this indicative of something bigger?  Because the New York Times also had an article about this on February 5th, but they said something a little bit different.  NY Times reporter Mark Makela wrote:

“The former bank building is part of the Market Street Village development that will create 77 residential units at three locations for the city’s growing number of charter school teachers, who will be offered the apartments at below-market rates.”

In the 2015-2016 school year there will be a total of six new charter schools in Delaware, five of which will be in New Castle County.  Two are already scheduled to open within Wilmington.  But on the other hand, two established charter schools will close, Reach Academy for Girls and Moyer.  So that’s 1,290 approved seats for the five new charter schools, and based on the DOE school profiles website, 573 students currently enrolled this year (I didn’t count the 12 seniors at Moyer) will be forced to find a new school next year.  So this will create a huge amount of available teachers.  What it won’t do is put the local school districts in a good position.  Already under the knife’s edge with the priority schools, more local funding will be taken out of these school districts.  This is assuming all these new charters fill all their seats.

While the fate of the priority schools is in your hands with Christina School District, or your lapdog Murphy, we all know most of these teachers will be forced to reapply for their jobs.  Do you honestly think they would accept being terminated and then taking a job at a charter school?  So where will all these new teachers come from?  Perhaps Teach For America or Relay Graduate School?  Younger people, perfect for your little downtown agenda.

It’s bad enough with all the Common Core, standardized testing and teacher evaluations, but now Markell has to push the knife in the back even deeper by allowing this 21st century discrimination by excluding public school district teachers out of a major state “revitalization” project.  He isn’t even trying to hide it anymore..  I’m sure you figure “I’ve got two years left, and I’ll do whatever I damn well please.”  Why anyone in this state would think Markell is an honorable man is beyond me.  His obsession with Rodel and all the little side deals he made has turned Delaware education into a disgrace.  It was one thing when he kept his obvious disdain of public school district education in the schools and the education landscape.  Now he has crossed a very big line into actual incentives for some he feels are “worthy” and nothing for those that are not.  I thought a Governor was supposed to be a voice for all people Governor Markell, but it’s obvious you are only there for some.

Now I understand why you have not said one word about the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  You would be a hypocrite.  Equity for all aren’t even words in your vocabulary.

Discrimination, Bullying & Isolation In A World of Inclusion

This is going to be one of the hardest articles I’ve ever written. The reason for this is because it is deeply personal. I write about bullying and discrimination often on this blog, and I understand it all too well. I see it everyday, in all walks of life.

“People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” Andrew Smith

Everyone in this world has bullied or been bullied at some point in their lives. Any time you exert will and force on someone to get a desired outcome, this could be defined as bullying. I am guilty of it. In my quest to have the perfect IEP for my son, I have expected knowledge and wisdom of my son’s disabilities greater than my own. This has been my life for the past 9 1/2 months. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until someone said these simple words: “You’ve had two years to understand your son’s Tourette Syndrome. His teachers have had eight weeks. And I’m sure you don’t fully understand it at times.” In a very odd way, my attempts at advocacy for my son in school can be viewed as a type of bullying. I admit I have been forceful in my attempt to do the best for my son, and at times the lines may have blurred between right and wrong ways to go about that.

“A lot of people are afraid to tell the truth, to say no. That’s where toughness comes into play. Toughness is not being a bully. It’s having backbone.” Robert Kiyosaki

Those words affected me in a huge way. My son’s teachers are with him seven hours a day. When I say teachers, I mean the entire school staff, whether they are certified or not. These are people who have been placed in an educational environment to help children succeed. They have hundreds of decisions they need to make on a daily basis. We expect them to make the right choices constantly. But they can and do make wrong ones. They are only human. Unfortunately, teachers are put in impossible situations all the time with disabled students. When I hear about my son calling out in class, or being disruptive, I sometimes wonder what would happen if a non-disabled student did the same thing. Chances are, with my son’s IEP, he would receive a gentle warning followed by a positive reinforcement statement. For a student without disabilities, the reaction may be different. Is this fair to this type of student?

“I know the world isn’t fair, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?” Bill Watterson

This makes me question humanity itself. We will give one type of treatment to a group of people because we are required to, but not another. Some teachers will utilize the techniques they see in an IEP with the entire class. But for those who don’t, I can see how some students and parents could see this as a type of favoritism or preferential treatment. I think, in an odd way, this creates a bizarre type of resentment against students with disabilities. Students certainly pick up on it. I can see the conversation already: “Johnny threw a pencil and he was talked to and nothing else happened. When I did it, I had to go to the principal’s office.” For this student, something complex happens. He sees Johnny doing things and gets away with it, but for others they get in trouble. Students, especially those in elementary and middle school, are shaped by those around them. They expect everyone to get the same treatment.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Do I think that student is going to reach out a hand of friendship to a disabled student? Sadly, probably not. The opposite usually happens, and this is when teasing or bullying comes into play. It can be a quiet, covert type of bullying. What happens next, which has happened time and time again with my son, is the disabled student’s reaction being far greater than the original sin. It’s like a snowball sliding down a hill, getting bigger and bigger every inch it moves. Soon, what was once a very small thing becomes so enormous it can’t be ignored. These things could be prevented, but it would take a very educated and compassionate person to stop it.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

If the non-disabled student goes home and tells his parents about this, the parent may call the school. Due to privacy laws the school can’t just say “That kid is on an IEP due to his disability.” This puts the school in a very awkward position. This can result in issues where the non-disabled child is pulled out of the school, and perhaps sent to a charter school or a private school. Or the charter school just can’t handle issues with disabled children, and the student is “counseled out”. These scenarios play out every day in our country and many of us don’t see the forest through the trees.

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

Unfortunately, outside of the school environment, these rules don’t apply. If a disabled child has an issue with another child in the neighborhood, a parent may tell the other parent about their child’s disability. At this point, the parent makes a choice: Do I let my child hang out with another child with this disability knowing issues can creep up more often? My hope would be yes, because it teaches our youth about tolerance and understanding. But the reality is a different landscape. I’ve seen it with my own son, where he is completely cut off from playing with certain children. Far too many people see disabilities as a type of mental illness, and when they hear the word medication, it raises this type of belief to high levels.

“I have learned that the biggest disability any of us may ever face is our own attitudes.” Jeffrey K. Walton

Advocacy is the art of informing another about an issue in a desired attempt to achieve resolution. In so many situations with my son, we have attempted to advocate first before issues could arise. But it is my fear this creates certain labels about him in others minds. When issues happen, the first thing this person may think is “They told me he has issues, well I’m not going to let my own kid be a part of that.” I have seen this time and time again, and it doesn’t matter which child has created the issue. It becomes the simple fact that problems are there, and instead of the adults getting together to resolve it, it becomes a blame game. It results in isolation for my son. The worst part is when he does see these kids again and more issues arise. Then it becomes something bigger than the sum of its parts. This is when parents who may have once been friends, turn on each other. The rational part of the mind is replaced by fear and misunderstanding. Anger takes hold, and that’s when things can get ugly, and what started out as a small problem can result in fences that can never be repaired.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to do anything on which it is poured.” Mark Twain

I read the blog Teachezwell often, because this is a special education teacher who is at the top of her game. She gets the students she is helping. She understands how so many of those issues are beyond their capability of controlling. She is not only a teacher, but for these students, their primary advocate at school. I wish I could clone her and place her everywhere in life. But I can’t, and I have to deal with this discrimination my son experiences almost on a daily basis. I see it in stores, or at a park, or anywhere the public is present and they see my son acting out or not listening to me. I understand him and what his limits and capabilities are. I know many of the triggers that cause him to do particular things. But how can I expect others too? Children don’t get an IEP outside of school, but I really wish they could. This is impossible. As long as there is fear and misunderstanding about things that aren’t viewed as “normal”, discrimination will exist.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin

Let’s face it, the vast majority of people who don’t have disability issues in their everyday lives do not attempt to reach out and educate themselves on it. I don’t blame them. It’s not like I research the effect of global warming on crops in Nebraska because it isn’t a part of my world. But to farmers in Nebraska, they don’t have a choice. If I were to meet one of these farmers, he may try to educate me on the dangers his crops are facing, but I would most likely walk away not absorbing what he said. It’s not because I’m selfish or uncaring, it’s because it doesn’t impact me the same way it does them. This is true of children with disabilities when parents advocate for them to the “outside” world. Adrenaline kicks in during problems, and the basic human tenet of “fight or flight” invariably kicks in.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie

Is there any fix to these problems? Not an easy one. It would take a willingness of people to learn and find ways to resolve issues and not escalate them. It sounds very bleak. My heart reaches out to these children who feel cut off from the world and are alone so many times in their lives. They want to feel normal. They want someone to reach out to them and say simple words like “I understand,” or “I know what you are going through.” Loneliness and despair are the biggest enemies to these children. It’s where their thoughts start to live, and a deep and lasting sadness invades the light of their souls.

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral’s Kiss

Inclusion is a good thing. It puts disabled children on the same level playing field with their peers. But it can also have some nasty side effects, the biggest being seclusion in an inclusive environment. I know my audience for this article is going to be those who are in this world in one shape or another. But I would encourage anyone reading this to pass it on. All too often, people don’t know what an issue is unless they see it. Please share this with those outside of the disability world. Unless we educate those who don’t have a vested interest, we can’t expect them to care as much as we do. It’s sad, but it’s reality. Whether a child has ADHD, Autism, Tourette Syndrome, or is blind or deaf, humanity doesn’t view these issues the same way as those who are knee-deep into them. But the best we can do is try, and try again.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Dalai Lama

To read the very awesome Teachezwell blog, please go to http://teachezwell.me/