Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware…What’s Next?

Delaware DOE, Delaware State Board of Education, Governor Markell, Smarter Balanced Assessment

The shot heard round Delaware went off yesterday, and most citizens don’t know what the hell any of this means!  Half the kids aren’t proficient in English/Language Arts and 61% aren’t proficient in Math.  But they did better than what they expected, or at least that’s what the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell are spouting.  But here’s the crucial truth: nobody knew what to expect with any of this.  I’ve heard from more than one source the DOE just kind of picked a number for proficiency and above.  But this is the nature of standardized testing.

With high-stakes assessments like this, not everyone can be proficient.  And not everyone can be failing.  There will always be that bar.  It is set up like that for a reason.  The DOE can’t label and punish if everyone is doing great.  With all the talk of poverty schools, which are Title I schools, the system is specifically designed to punish those schools.  The ones who promote getting these schools the resources they need to succeed (Markell, DOE, Rodel, Delaware Business Roundtable, etc.) are the exact same ones pushing the standardized testing agenda.  And parents and citizens buy into it hook, line and sinker.  The State Board of Education and Rodel have reached the point where it is hard to distinguish one from the other.  In an email sent out today from Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board, she cites Rodel’s huge help in getting resource material on the State Board website to “help” parents.  Dani Moore is the Administrative Secretary for the State Board of Education.  The key part is bolded for emphasis.

From: Moore Dani <>
Sent: Thursday, September 3, 2015 8:15 AM
To: Moore, Dani L. (K12)
Cc: Johnson, Donna R (K12)
Subject: Additional resources available on SBE website, please feel free to link to your site and share with others

Dear Educational leaders, Policy makers, and Community Partners:

In recent weeks we have developed and finalized additional materials to assist with the Smarter Assessment Score release and continue to provide information and resources to our educators, parents, and community partners. 

Our website ( has several new tools and resources that may be of interest to you.

1)      Two one page documents that provide an overview of Smarter Assessments as well as an big picture overview of the shift to new standards and assessment. I have also attached them here as pdf’s.  (I greatly appreciate the help from our SBAC partners in WA, CT, OR, and WV as well as the huge assistance from Rodel and DOE in pulling these together)

2)      Two short videos – one is a 30 second overview of why we shifted to these assessments and what it means for students, the other is a little over 1 minute description of the Smarter Balanced assessment suite and how it can be used as well as some big ideas about the summative assessment

3)      A link to a table of resources that provides additional tools and resources for educators, parents, and the community (this is also given as a word document so that others can utilize it directly in case that is more useful)

You will see throughout all of these resources we prominently link and direct people to the website, which is the existing partner site for information regarding Standards and Assessments.  That site is a partnership of DOE, DSEA, PTA, and Rodel. 

We have an additional video that should be available soon.  It is a narrated Prezi, in video clip format, that talks you through the components of the Smarter score report and basically verbalizes much of what is explained in written form within the Parent guide that will accompany the report. I will post this to our website as well as provide a direct link when it is ready to go live.

Here are links to the videos directly that are posted on our home page:

–          SBA 30-sec Promo

 –          SBA system overview  

I hope these resources are helpful to you, again please do not hesitate to give me feedback or suggestions that could improve upon these items and again please feel free to share these with others.

All my best,  


In terms of the DelExcels website, I have heard from quite a few people the Delaware PTA does not have an active role in this and haven’t for a long time.  But the DOE will get their name out as much as they humanly can just to attach Smarter Balanced with the Delaware PTA.  The PTA was very active in getting House Bill 50 to pass, and were instrumental in the legislative sessions surrounding it.

The key part of all this is the scores this year don’t matter…for this year!  They will be huge NEXT year though.  This is what all the growth measurements will be based on, this year’s scores and next year’s.  For a school like Eastside Charter School, who performed horribly on this test (if you count SBAC as a valid measurement of student performance which I don’t), they are pretty much set up to show huge growth gains based on their scores this year.  Most schools are, especially the Title I schools.

What is very telling is the fact DOE did not release the sub-group data.  They have it, because all states do.  States like Connecticut already released their statewide sub-group information.  There is no reason the DOE could not have.  I’m sure they will come up with some reason, like they are still aggregating the data and whatnot, but I believe they did not want this information out yet.  The DOE and the State Board are masters at using timetables to their advantage.  They will only release information on their timing, so it can serve them best, not the true stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, schools, districts.  But you better believe Rodel was probably one of the FIRST organizations to see the Smarter Balanced data.

The State Board of Education meets next on September 17th.  They will release the sub-group data and come up with a shock and awe strategy to cover up the simple fact that the Smarter Balanced is a BAD test.  It’s what they do.  Meanwhile, schools don’t know what to do with all of this.  Parents are wising up faster than I anticipated them to and are asking if we even need this.  Yesterday, 105.9 covered the Smarter Balanced results and asked the audience if they felt Governor Markell should reverse his House Bill 50 veto.  When we are at that point, and the entire state knows what a colossal waste of time, money, energy and resources this has been, all involved in this assessment need to suck it up and say “Yeah, we need to admit failure and move on for what’s best for Delaware students.”  But that won’t happen, instead they will keep trying to fix what is irreversibly broken.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it.  Last year, at a Christina School District Board of Education meeting, member John Young said “You want to know who needs great leaders? The Delaware DOE needs great leaders.”  Never has this been more true!

And DOE, stop calling it Smarter.  It sounds stupid, because we all know now the test is DUMBER than any test ever created!

The Honesty Gap Between Governor Markell And Students, Parents, & Teachers Is Wider Than The Pacific Ocean

Governor Markell, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

“And we’re not being honest with kids about what they need to be proficient.”

In an article in the News Journal, Governor Markell said there is an “honesty gap” between state standardized tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  First off, with all the news going on with education in Delaware, how is it that reporter Matthew Albright’s biggest education news of the day yesterday was a conference call with Markell, Achieve, and the Collaboration for Student Success?  I can think of at least three dozen other matters that are more newsworthy.

Governor Markell is scrambling.  So are the big education reform companies.  They will say and do anything to attempt to gain the trust back in their corporate education reform agenda.  Now they are tackling the biggest problem they will have in the next three months: when the scores come back on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  What Markell and Achieve don’t mention in this article is how Achieve is in a contract with the Delaware Department of  Education right now with the Assessment Inventory initiative.  This was Markell’s rocket science idea to get rid of other assessments to justify the Smarter Balanced.

When the issue of parent opt-out came up during this conference call, Achieve President Michael Cohen said:

“While we’re here talking about making sure parents get honest, accurate measures of performance, parents are actually opting to get no information about their performance,”

You are absolutely right Mr. Cohen.  The parents who are opting their children out do not trust the test or Governor Markell.  Teachers don’t trust it either.  Sure, maybe the chosen few who become Teachers of the Year or become part of the Rodel Round Table over at Camelot, aka 100 W. 10th St. in Wilmington.  These are the dying embers of a failed policy, but Markell is too stubborn or too invested to just throw water over them and just let it cool down.  This is his Achilles Heel.  Whenever his baby is threatened, he pulls these stunts.  And this widens the gap between himself and the rest of us.

Where is the honesty with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Governor Markell?  Teachers can’t see the test beforehand, and they don’t see the answers the students give or the actual graded tests.  Parents don’t see it either, but they are supposed to trust a score?  But this is okay to measure schools and teachers?  I don’t see a lot of honesty  in that Governor.  So keep peddling your proficiency measure like some guy selling Rolex watches in New York City, and us parents will continue to opt our kids out.  The debate is over, but you are too foolish to realize it.

Matt Albright, you are better than this.  Stop taking phone calls from the Governor and start covering real education stories.

Governor Markell, Please Close The Income Gap Before The Proficiency Gap

Governor Markell

The Delaware News Journal came out with an article yesterday which stated the 1% of Delaware’s wealthiest citizens saw a 15% rise in their individual wealth since the 2009 recession while the remaining 99% actually dropped 1.6%.  This is all under Governor Markell’s watch.  He has ignored this cold hard reality while allowing millions and millions of dollars spent trying to close an unrealistic fantasy, the proficiency gap.

Governor Markell and his corporate education reformers in the Delaware Department of Education actually believe that by osmosis and rigor, all students can perform the same on standardized tests.  Minorities, low-income, and special needs children can be the same as their “regular” peers because they said so.  There is no evidence, data, or research to back this up.  But if they keep saying it, we have to keep trying.

Jonathan Dworkin, Governor Markell’s Spokesman told Jonathan Starkey with the News Journal:

“…the report “makes clear the long-term challenge facing Delaware and our country as middle class jobs of the past have been outsourced to new technology or other countries over many years.”

Price blamed the unequal economy – in Delaware and across the country – on the reduction of well-paid manufacturing jobs, falling union representation and a minimum wage that has not kept pace with rising costs, among other factors.”

El Somnambulo with Delaware Liberal wrote this:

“The policies he put into effect during the so-called ‘recovery’ led to more, not less, inequity in income growth. Actually, you can’t call it income growth for the 99% who saw their income shrink by 1.6%.  This is obscene.”

Maybe if Markell redistributed the millions of dollars he wasted in his thirst for power in education, this gap would not be so wide.  He allowed the Delaware Department of Education to beef itself up into a power mad unit of the Delaware government which has remained virtually unchecked until recently.  He did this in front of all the citizens of Delaware, and most of us didn’t even notice.

Governor Jack Markell doesn’t answer to citizens anymore, he answers to foundations: The Rodel Foundation, The Longwood Foundation, and The Gates Foundation.

Today, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will appear before the House Education Committee in Delaware to explain how his Department spent the Race To The Top funding.  As well, he also has to appear before the Joint Finance Committee to detail the 2015-2016 budget.  The fun begins at 1pm before the JFC, and then at 3pm for the House Education Committee.

The rest of the article is found here: while El Somnambulo’s take on this can be found here:

FOIA Update To Kuumba and their $425,000 Charter Performance Fund Award & How Charters Can Commit Fraud

Kuumba Academy

After I posted my article about Kuumba’s money problems and the rewarding of $425,000 from the Charter School Performance Fund, I started to wonder what they put in their application for that much money.  I couldn’t find anything on the DOE website, so I submitted a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.  I got my answer emailed to me this morning.  Apparently, all the charter school performance funds are on the DOE website.  How you get to them is a mystery that needs to be solved.  But what is very interesting is the actual web address that was given to me:

Now what’s interesting is the part that says senate148.  Is this only available to members of the Delaware Senate?  Like I said, I searched everywhere for this link on the DOE website and it was nowhere to be found.  Once again, charter school transparency is very hard to come by in Delaware.  But why senate148?  The 148th General Assembly hasn’t even been fully elected or even assembled.  So who can see this data without submitting a FOIA request?

The actual application from Kuumba has lots of data about achievement gaps and minority and low income status, something that should be of considerable interest given what Kilroy came out with today!

Of particular interest to this special education blogger was Kuumba’s claim in the application that 10% of their student body were special needs with IEPs.  For the 2013-2014 school profiles on the DOE website, Kuumba had 298 students.  10% would be 29 students with IEPs, right.  But no, Kuumba had 5.7% as their special eduction population, or 17 students.  So which is it Kuumba?  Say you gained 12 more IEPs in the next 8 months and you were at 10%.  This means 10% of your students grades didn’t count for DCAS because your special ed population was too low to count in the proficiency ratings.  How very convenient for you when you are applying for a $464,000 grant because you have such great proficiency gaps.  This means that the greatest proficiency gap when it comes to standardized testing, that of students with disabilities, was not a big deal to you cause you knew the scores wouldn’t count anyways.

And that is how charter schools in Delaware are able to make themselves greater than they are.  The DOE knows it, Markell knows it, and now everyone knows it!  Does anyone have any confirmation on what that emergency charter school and DOE meeting was about a couple weeks ago?