Delaware DOE Trying To Push Opt Out Penalty Based On Non-Regulatory Threats From US DOE

Last week, Regulation 103 was the hotbed education issue of the week, and Delaware parents, teachers, and organizations had a victory of sorts in stopping the Delaware State Board of Education from acting on this regulation at their October meeting.  But Penny Schwinn, the Chief Officer of Accountability and Assessment at the Delaware DOE stated she was going to seek official answers from the United States DOE over the issue of participation rate in the standardized assessment.  Based on research, I already knew the answer, but I decided to seek some answers from the Delaware DOE over this.


Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 3:51 PM
To: Schwinn Penny; Reyna Ryan; sgodow@udel.edu; Blowman David
Subject: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Good afternoon,

Could you please provide me with a copy of the letter Deborah Delisle sent to the DOE indicating the participation rate category in the accountability system for the ESEA  Flexibility Renewal had to be used as a “consequence” in the ESEA mandate school report card, otherwise known in Delaware as the Delaware School Success Framework?

Thank you very much,

Kevin Ohlandt


From: Reyna Ryan <Ryan.Reyna@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 4:11 PM
Subject: RE: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Kevin,

Here is the link: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/DE%20USED%20Letter%20Sec%20Murphy.pdf. It has been on the Office of Assessment site since 4/23/15.

Thanks,

Ryan


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 4:17 PM
To: Reyna Ryan
Cc: Schwinn Penny; sgodow@udel.edu; Blowman David
Subject: Re: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Thank you Ryan,

I’ve actually already seen that letter and published it on my blog the next day.  The letter you sent me was from 4/23/15, well after the AFWG group talked about participation rate and it was submitted into the ESEA Waiver renewal on the 3/31 draft.  This would be a letter referenced to the AFWG concerning the rationale for participation rate in the Delaware School Success Framework that specifically uses the word “consequence”.  Dr. Schwinn told the group about this letter.  I would like to have a copy of it.  Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt 


From: Schwinn Penny <Penny.Schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Reyna Ryan <Ryan.Reyna@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: “sgodow@udel.edu” <sgodow@udel.edu>; Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Friday, September 18, 2015 7:07 AM
Subject: RE: US DOE Deborah Delisle Letter

Good morning Mr. Ohlandt,

The letter that Ryan is referencing and the one that was discussed at AFWG stem from the same place. Based on feedback from stakeholders, DDOE asked USDOE for clarification on this issue in early March. These conversations were largely on the phone and, recognizing that this does not allow for documentation, DDOE requested an official letter from USDOE stating their position  on these issues. The letter on 4/23 was the documentation of the information that had been provided to DDOE (and then communicated to AFWG) previously. Both the very top of page 5 as well as the end of the first full paragraph of page 5 reference the need to include a consequence in the accountability system. This is no different than what is currently required through AYP, which as you know is more limited in what is included in accountability metrics.

I absolutely appreciate and understand your disagreement with the idea of imposing consequences in this area, and also recognize that this is different than the information and direction that has been provided by USDOE. I hope there are other areas in the DSSF, especially when compared to AYP, that you find are moving our state in the right direction.

All the best,

Penny


I covered this letter from US DOE Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle last April.  During the House Education Committee meeting, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy referenced a letter sent from US DOE warning about all the potential consequences of opt-out.  After much discussion and even argument, and a significant amount of public comment, the Delaware House Education Committee released the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, out of committee.  That evening I emailed the Delaware DOE for a copy of this letter, which they complied with the very next day in addition to putting it on their website.  Which resulted

In the above emails, Penny Schwinn referenced “telephone calls” with US DOE.  Which of course is not documented.  In February, Deborah Delisle sent a similar letter to Alaska in regards to what is required and what is not.  The key words in this letter are as follows:

In addition, all SEAs with approved ESEA flexibility plans have included specific consequences in their accountability systems for any school that misses participation rate, and must implement this component of their accountability systems with fidelity.

In every other section where Ms. Delisle referenced what is required, she gave specific federal regulatory code and cited it.  In this line, there was NO reference to any regulatory code or law.  On August 28th and 29th, I spent hours combing through ESEA Flexibility Waiver requirements and found NO reference anywhere to specific penalties in a state’s accountability system, which resulted in this article debunking Schwinn’s claim.  Yes, Ms. Delisle referenced a non-regulatory claim without any reference to an actual law or regulation at the top of page 5.  The key is in the wording.  She sandwiched the part about participation rate being included in a state’s accountability system between two regulations and laws, but that particular part is not referenced anywhere in those.  Ms. Delisle is no longer working at the US Department of Education.

As well, the Delaware PTA, in their official public comment at the State Board of Education meeting last week stated they checked with US DOE and found there is NO mandatory requirement to have participation rate on the state assessment as a penalizing factor on the school report card.

So we are at this point: the non-DOE members of the Accountability Framework Working Group collectively voted down having the participation rate penalty as part of the Delaware School Success Framework as seen in the above link.  DSEA spoke in opposition to it as well.  If the Delaware DOE does this, they are making it their own individual choice to include it based on no law or regulation requiring it.  And everyone else who has spoken on it, aside from the lone wolf Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens who receives their funding from the Delaware DOE, has been in opposition to this.

To read the Alaska letter, please see below:

So we are once again at a point where the Delaware DOE is telling everyone this is required and it really isn’t.  I can’t wait to see what kind of response the US DOE provides Penny Schwinn in regards to this when she asks them for “official” answers.  Sorry Penny, phone calls and non-regulatory threats with no legal backing behind them do not count as “mandatory”.  I would strongly suggest you have the Delaware DOE attorney thoroughly check any correspondence from US DOE on this issue.  Because we won’t be fooled again.

The Exceptional Delaware Reward, Recognition, Priority, Focus and Focus Plus Schools of 2015

For the first ever Exceptional Delaware Honor Roll, I would like to congratulate the schools and particular grades that went below the 95% “mandatory” participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. With that being said, there could be a multitude of reasons for that participation rate, and it may not necessarily be because of parent opt-out. It could be because of medical reasons, expulsions, or in extreme cases, maybe a touch of the Bubonic Plague. I noticed a large trend in many districts where the participation rate was higher for ELA than Math. Sometimes it was the reverse, but mostly that. I have to wonder how many parents opted out after their child took the first test. For some districts, they would not have been recognized if it weren’t for many of their juniors saying “See ya” to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. These are the students who are paving the way for the younger ones.  My biggest question is what in the world happened with 4th graders at East Side Charter School?

Christina… all I can say is WOW! You far surpassed my expectations with opt-out. With all the smears and bad looks this district gets from the DOE and whatnot, I am proud to announce Christina School District as the winner of the Opt-Out Performance Fund! They will receive a special gift at their next regular board meeting in recognition of this honor. And Red Clay’s Conrad! Fantastic! Below 50% for 11th graders! You are an inspiration to all!

Under the United States Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the fine folks at the US DOE like to throw things called flexibility waivers at the states.  Under No Child Left Behind, enacted during the second President Bush years, all schools in the country had to be proficient by 2014.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.  So under President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, they threw states a bone called Race To The Top: adapt our Common Core standards, and make a big test based on it, and we will let you slide from the whole No Child Left Behind thing.  Then they started throwing more bones called flexibility waivers.  Hey, do this, and you are safe from No Child Left Behind.  This is what created the most severe school labeling system ever created.  But I am turning it around.

REWARD & RECOGNITION SCHOOLS

All of these schools and grades… I am so proud of them. Parents made a choice, and it showed. While these aren’t anywhere close to New York numbers, it’s a very good start. The ones that are 90% or below get to be REWARD schools. Yeah, it’s one grade, but they went below 95%!  All the Reward Schools got a special prize. The ones between 91-94% are recognition schools for any grade that caused the participation rate to go below 95%. Great job everyone!

Appoquinimink School District:

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Middletown High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Old State Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 94%

Waters Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Brandywine School District:

Brandywine High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Concord High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hanby Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

Harlan Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Campus Community School:

7th Grade Math: 93%

Cape Henlopen School District:

Shields Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 92%

Capital School District:

Central Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 94%

Dover High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

East Dover Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

East Dover Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 93%

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Christina School District:

Bayard Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade ELA: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 92%

Brader Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

Brader Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Brookside Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 79% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gallaher Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Gallaher Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade ELA: 82% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade Math: 82% 🙂 🙂

Keene Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Kirk Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Marshall Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 93%

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 87% 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade ELA: 55% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade Math: 56% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Shue-Medill Middle School, 6th Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

West Park Place Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 83% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Colonial School District:

Bedford Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Penn High School, 11th Grade ELA: 92%

Penn High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Southern Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Delmar School District:

Delmar High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

East Side Charter School:

4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gateway Lab School:

3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

4th Grade ELA: 92%

4th Grade Math: 93%

7th Grade Math: 92%

Indian River School District:

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Laurel School District:

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

Milford School District:

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂

Moyer:

7th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂 🙂

7th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

11th Grade ELA: 65% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

11th Grade Math: 69% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District:

Delcastle Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade ELA: 91%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 87% 🙂 🙂

Polytech School District:

Polytech High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Polytech High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Positive Outcomes Charter School:

7th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Prestige Academy:

7th Grade Math: 94%

Reach Academy For Girls:

4th Grade ELA: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

4th Grade Math: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

6th Grade ELA: 92%

8th Grade ELA: 78% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Red Clay Consolidated School District:

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade ELA: 63% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade Math: 64% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Brandywine Springs School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Conrad Schools of Science, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 40% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 47% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Seaford School District:

Seaford Central Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Central Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Smyrna School District:

North Smyrna Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 94%

The below schools…they didn’t go below the 95% participation mark in any grade for either ELA or Math on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. But there were quite a few that were right at the 95% mark in some grades, and also at 96%. So we can tip the scales by getting the word out. These are the 2015-2016 schools where there are some opt-outs, but we need a lot more. Some of the charters may have only had one or two opt-outs in one grade. But that one opt-out parent can spread the word! But these schools are the 2015-2016 Focus Schools or Focus Districts. If they are a charter school, they did not dip below 95% in any grade. For school districts, I just picked certain schools who hovered around the 99% mark. For one school, it just can’t ever get out of being labeled no matter what it does! This is your chance Stubbs! If it’s in red, it’s a Focus Plus school. That means they had maybe a handful of kids opt-out. Which is good, but not earth-shattering. We need those handful of parents who opted their kids out to spread the word!

NEED TO GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT OPT-OUT FOR THESE FOCUS AND FOCUS PLUS SCHOOLS
 

Allen Frear Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Banneker Elementary School (Milford)

Bunker Hill Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Clayton Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Delaware College Prep

Delaware Military Academy

Delmar Middle School (Delmar) (Focus Plus)

Family Foundations Academy

Hartly Elementary School (Capital) (Focus Plus)

Howard High School of Technology (New Castle County Vo-Tech)

Indian River High School (Indian River)

Kuumba Academy

Lake Forest School District

Lancashire Elementary School (Brandywine)

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (Focus Plus)

Lombardy Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

Long Neck Elementary School

Lord Baltimore Elementary School (Focus Plus)

Maple Lane Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

MOT Charter School (Focus Plus)

Mount Pleasant Elementary School (Brandywine)

Newark Charter School (Focus Plus)

New Castle Elementary School (Colonial) (Focus Plus)

Oberle Elementary School (Christina)

Odyssey Charter School (Focus Plus)

Providence Creek Academy

Pulaski Elementary School (Christina)

Showell Elementary School (Indian River) (Focus Plus)

Silver Lake Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Smyrna Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Stubbs Elementary School (Christina)

Sussex Academy (Focus Plus)

Sussex Technical School District

Thomas Edison Charter School (Focus Plus)

W.B. Simpson Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

W. Reily Brown Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Woodbridge School District

Below are the 2015-2016 Priority Schools. The three charters had NO opt-outs, along with the other schools. For the charters, one was on Formal Review and was probably scared that one opt-out would shut them down so they allegedly told parents it was not allowed. Another one has the lowest of minorities (aside from Asian), special education, and low-income students in the entire state. And the 3rd… their Head of School spoke out about opt-out at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50 so this truly doesn’t shock me. Other Montessori schools I’ve spoken too were somewhat shocked and believe opposing parental rights like this goes against the whole Montessori model. If anyone from any of these schools did opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, please let me know cause that means something is seriously wrong. Because >99% is pretty damn close to 100%. And you can’t have 100% with one single opt-out.

If I had to guess, a lot of these schools are telling parents they can’t opt their kid out. Or the school has 100% drank the Kool-Aid the DOE gives them and gave it to all the parents. I know some of the leaders of these schools, and some are no-nonsense leaders. Some are known to be very tough. Don’t let them intimidate you. These are my extra special schools this year. Under priority status, they will be watched very closely. Unlike the DOE I won’t make them pick new leaders and fire half their teachers. And I won’t make them sign a Memorandum of Understanding that makes no sense whatsoever by a certain date. I won’t tell them comply or die either. But they are Priority Schools for opt-out, and this is a Code Red alert for Delaware! This is just plain unacceptable…  They get a very special label in recognition of two very special legislators who opposed House Bill 50 the loudest (and they were also the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committee).

THE EARL JAQUES AND DAVE SOKOLA PRIORITY SCHOOLS OF DELAWARE

Academy of Dover 😦

Charter School of Wilmington 😦

First State Montessori Academy 😦

Lake Forest North Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Lake Forest South Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Richardson Park (Elementary School) (Red Clay) 😦

Star Hill Elementary School (Caesar Rodney)  😦

South Dover Elementary School (Capital) 😦

Sussex Technical High School (Sussex Tech) 😦

For our school principals and superintendents and charter leaders: I’m watching you. I’ve been watching you. The DOE is on the stage, putting on their show. You are all in the audience, and you are literally paying for their performance. Rodel and Vision and the Delaware Business Roundtable are providing all the lighting and special effects, with equipment bought from all the corporate education reform companies around the country. I see the State Board providing the symphony. The legislators are paying all the bills and making sure everything is up to snuff (or in some situations allowing the audience to be robbed blind).  And the director, none other than Delaware Governor Jack Markell. His assistant went exit stage left, but we are waiting to see what his new guy does. And me, I’m the guy up on the catwalk watching the whole thing unfold. I see all of it. I had to get rid of some of the cobwebs up there to see better, but I can see things very clearly right now.  And guess what, I’m not alone.  I’m inviting parents all the time to watch too.  And more and more are watching the play.  They are telling me “hey, you see that guy over there, he told me I couldn’t opt-out my son” or “they told me I have to get a doctor’s note” or sometimes it’s a parent/teacher telling me “our superintendent says only he gets to decide who opts out.”

As of this very moment, I am giving you all amnesty. You are pardoned if I wrote negative things about you concerning opt-out last year.  Some of you actually came through in a big way on the Accountability Framework Working Group and turned the scales on the DOE.  We have a clean slate.  Don’t get all offended if your school is on this list.  The DOE has this information up too, but I’m just reversing the labels for true accountability purposes.  The good news: if your school is a Focus, Focus Plus, or Priority School, you can easily get out of it in the Spring.  All of you will be hearing from me very soon.  But just so you know, all of us on the catwalk are watching…

To all the very brave parents who opted their child out last Spring, I want to say Thank You. You made a very brave decision, and I salute you. Your job now is to do the same this year, no matter what threats or bullying gestures are thrown your way. Hopefully House Bill 50 will be vetoed by the time Smarter Balanced rolls around again next Spring, but if not do what you did this year. While some may have looked down on you for that decision, stand by your convictions. Even if it was in a “high-performing” school. And spread the word. The doors of conversation will start to open up in the coming week when parents get their kids results. You don’t have to worry about that. Cause your child is a not-having-to-take-the-test rock star, and you made the right decision.

If your school isn’t on this list, you can check it all out here:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/Attachment3%20SchoolandCharterPerformanceParticipationUpdated0917.pdf

Did You Get Your Child’s Smarter Balanced Results Today?

The Delaware Department of Education said they would be mailing individual student Smarter Balanced Assessment results yesterday, Friday September 18th, and on Monday, September 21st.  Depending on the mail system, some parents could be getting those results today.  This is the moment where many parents will get these scores and say “What the hell is this?”  And God forbid if ANY parent in this state who opted their child out gets actual results in the mail.

If anyone wants to share information about this with me, feel free to contact me at kevino3670@yahoo.com.  All is confidential, and if I write about the results, it will not include any information about YOUR child.  Unless that is something you want to comment on after the article is published.

This will be a very interesting week.  If you are very upset about this, I strongly suggest going to the State Board of Education workshop on the “Smarter Assessment” on October 5th at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover, DE at 5pm.  Light refreshments on the State Board (if they follow what they did at other Grotto’s State Board workshops).  This usually does NOT include free pizza!  Let the State Board know how you feel about this test they praise as the greatest thing since the Vega! (This is not quoted anywhere, nor was it ever said, but it will be the end result).

When you see these results, ask yourself…  “How did we get here?”  “What do I do?”  “Is this test really worth it?”  And take action.  All the fluff and stuff you get from DOE will say “Contact your child’s teacher if you have more questions.”  But which one? Their current teacher or the one they had last year when your child took the test?  I would say neither.  They don’t have the answers or any of the cut score information.  All they get is the overall results and their classes scores from the previous year.  But the cut score was an arbitrary number pulled out of a hat.  Another option to consider, if you haven’t already, is refusing the test for your child.  Opt them out.  Do it now.  Some schools will give you crap, but stand your ground.  The only way to make this go away is to ignore it.  Opt out is ignoring it.  It’s saying “Take your stupid test, your useless, untimely, not validated, not statistically normed, not internationally benchmarked, waste of time test and stop treating my child as data for your proficiency mongering.”

Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens STILL Bashing Parent Opt-Out

This may provide schools with an incentive to encourage student participation in the assessment system.

I would think, after seeing the abysmal Smarter Balanced Assessment results for Delaware, especially for students with disabilities, the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens would change it’s tune on parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But in their public comment for Regulation 103, which the State Board shot down for action yesterday, they felt the participation rate penalty could be a good way for schools to convince parents the kids need to take the test.

What is it with this council?  I appreciate a lot of the work they do.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  But this is HUGE.  Yes, it is a group with the word Governor in it, but that doesn’t mean they have to stick with his opinions.  I would love it if they could give any factual basis for their claims aside from the News Journal.  This isn’t the first time they have based their opinions on articles in the News Journal.  Don’t read a newspaper, or even my own blog.  Just look at the statistics for students with disabilities on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  10% in Math, 15% in ELA.  That’s ALL you need to know.  These are kids.  And I’m sure a lot of them wanted to do good on this test.  Imagine the pain and confusion they will feel when they get their results.  Imagine the struggles they had taking this test.  It’s not right, and it isn’t fair that a group of adults speaking for these children should go against the public consensus on this.  This test is horrible, and everyone knows it.

I’ve met Robert Overmiller and Wendy Strauss, and they are good people.  I know quite a few members on this council.  I just don’t get why they would do this.  Luckily, this Regulation is going to be reviewed and hopefully reworked.  But I would love a compelling reason why they are so adamantly against parent opt-out.

NBC Philadelphia Coverage of Delaware Parent Strike!

It’s not often NBC Channel 10 from Philadelphia comes to a Delaware State Board of Education meeting, but this happened yesterday after the Parent Strike press conference outside Legislative Hall in Dover.  You can watch the video here and see reporter Tim Furlong cover the events.

http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video/#!/news/politics/Achievement-Gap-Remains-in-Delaware’s-New-Standardized-Test/328104041

The Public Comment @DEStateBoardEd Would Not Allow

Yesterday, many individuals wanted to give public comment at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting.  A large crowd showed up to speak out against Regulation 103 and the very punitive measures it could place on our schools.  As the meeting was about to begin, State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray did say “If anyone else wants to give public comment this is your last chance to sign in.”  The problem was that the room was beyond capacity and parents were forced to stand in the hallway.  One parent did not hear Dr. Gray above the crowd.  Public comment was given by many parents, but for Appoquinimink mother Lisa Radke, she missed her chance.  I did ask Dr. Gray if the parent could give her comment given the circumstances, but Dr. Gray said no.  The parent, very upset, told Dr. Gray that was messed up.  I asked Lisa to send me her public comment and promised her I would post it on this blog.  Here it is:

Hello, My name is Lisa Marie Radke and I’m from Middletown. I have 2 children, one with special needs, in Delaware Schools. One 7th grader at A.G. Waters and one 10th grader at First State Military Academy.

Under Section C. of Regulation 103, “Impact Criteria” #4 says, “Will the amended regulation help to ensure that all students’ legal rights are respected? The amended regulation will help ensure that all students’ legal rights are respected.”

I see that in this section you asked and then answered your own questions. I interpreted it to say…here is the concern but we ALREADY have all the answers. But you missed one important group’s rights. PARENTS’ RIGHTS. We are our children’s advocates. It is our job, before it is your job, to make sure that our children have the best education we can provide and it is our job to protect them in this process. In Regulation 103, it seems to me, a parent, that you are going to label entire schools based on an unproven, controversial test and punish them accordingly. A test that is not even graded by educators. That’s what I’m seeing here. And that’s crazy.

I opted my 6th grader out last year.  I was so glad that I did and he was too.  Because he was able to witness the pressure the rest of his class and even his teachers were under.  His class had to cram to finish their work at the end of the year because testing took up too much classroom time. The Library remained closed, classrooms were disrupted, Ipads had to be turned in before projects were completed and all because of the Tests.

According to a NY Times article dated August 13th of this year by Kate Taylor, New York State’s Education Department said that 20 percent of third- through eighth-grade students did not take this year’s exams, quadruple the number from the year before. And it’s going to get worse. And this is coming to Delaware. And if you think that parents are not happy with you now, just think what their reaction will be when you start punishing schools because of this test.

I was in a meeting last week with a school district superintendent when he stated that a movement was coming from the transgender community. That this issue with transgenders using opposite sex restrooms and locker rooms was coming to Delaware and will be addressed and we will have to show “respect.” I was floored. But I have to tell you that another movement is coming and it’s much bigger than the “Transgender movement.” MUCH. BIGGER.

If you only hear one statement that I say today, please hear this. THE STATE DOES NOT OWN MY CHILDREN. The state does not have rights to my children. There is a clear lack of validity, reliability and fairness in these new assessments. I’ve read article after article from educators all over the country stating the same opinion. I don’t have to read or cite every article because anyone can “Google” it and it’s all there. And that is why I have made this decision for my children. The state cannot impose these stressful, high stakes tests on my children if I say NO. And today, I am here to say NO.

Schools are here to teach. TEACH. Not to test. Get back to basics. Assessments can and have been made in other ways in the classroom and within the district. Once again… The State does not own my child or have rights to my child. I am the Parent. You are the parents (looking at audience). NOT THE STATE. It is my right to say that regarding “Smarter Balanced”… we… OPT OUT. Thank you.

Roughly 10% Of Special Education Students In Delaware Are “Proficient” On Smarter Balanced

I just heard roughly 10% of students with disabilities in Delaware were rated as proficient in Delaware for the Smarter Balanced Assessment administered last Spring.  I wish to God this test would just disappear.  Can you imagine the other 90% of these children’s parents getting the results of this assessment.  I really hope they strongly reconsider having their child take Smarter Balanced next year.  10%…

I feel a deep sadness for these children.  I picture them struggling on this test, with fewer worthwhile accommodations than they had on the prior DCAS state assessment.  The weeks they spent taking this horrible, horrible test.  This is a wake-up call for special needs parents.  Our children are more than ten scores.  I don’t care what their proficiency rate is.  They are 100% awesome!

When I have official numbers, I will update this.

Believe

Believe in parents because we know what is best for our children!

Believe in parents because we know what is best for our

Believe in parents because we know what is best for

Believe in parents because we know what is best

Believe in parents because we know what is

Believe in parents because we know what

Believe in parents because we know

Believe in parents because we

Believe in parents because

Believe in parents

Believe in

Believe

Believe we can make a difference!

Believe we can make a

Believe we can make

Believe we can

Believe we

Believe

Believe we will fight for our children!

Believe we will fight for our

Believe we will fight for

Believe we will fight

Believe we will

Believe we

Believe

 

 

 

PARENT STRIKE!

 

 

Believe your child is just data to the DOE

Believe your child is just data to the

Believe your child is just data to

Believe your child is just data

Believe your child is just

Believe your child is

Believe your child

Believe your

Believe

Believe the DOE knows nothing about individuals and creativity

Believe the DOE knows nothing about individuals and

Believe the DOE knows nothing about individuals

Believe the DOE knows nothing about

Believe the DOE knows nothing

Believe the DOE knows

Believe the DOE

Believe the

Believe

Believe and refuse the test for your child

Believe and refuse the test for your

Believe and refuse the test for

Believe and refuse the test

Believe and refuse the

Believe and refuse

Believe and

Believe

TOMORROW

THURSDAY

SEPTEMBER

17th

PARENT STRIKE!

LEGISLATIVE HALL

DOVER, DE

12:30PM

LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE!!!!!!!

Governor Markell Visits Germany During Crucial Education Week

Delaware Governor Jack Markell is in Germany this week initiating trade agreements with companies.  Meanwhile, Delaware education has A LOT going on this week.  Most important is the State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, September 17th.  But other big events are happening as well.  Today, the State Board of Education is having a retreat at the Duncan Center in Dover, tomorrow the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meets for their regular meeting at William Penn High School in New Castle, and the Vision Coalition is formally announcing their next “big thing” on Wednesday at 10am at Del Tech in Dover.  Oh yeah, there is also the whole Parent Strike REFUSE THE TEST event on Thursday, with a press conference in front of Legislative Hall at 12:30pm.  And starting on Wednesday, the Delaware Department of Education will start mailing individual Smarter Balanced Assessment results to parents across the state.

With all this going on, I would probably skip town too Jack! 😉 But I’m sure this was scheduled way in advance.  The fallout from decisions made this week, and in the next few months, could change the education landscape in Delaware for a long time.  Will the DOE and State Board of Education change or will they be forced to?  How much will it cost Delaware taxpayers to redistrict Wilmington?  Will parent rage over the Smarter Balanced Assessment be enough to make an impact?

Here is a list of all things education this week:

Today, Monday September 14th:

Delaware State Board of Education Retreat, Outlook at the Duncan Center in Dover, 9:00am-5:00pm

Delaware STEM Council Quarterly Meeting, Dept. of Natural Resources Office, Lewes DE, 4:00-6:00pm

SCR 22 Educational Technology Task Force Meeting, DOE Townshend Bldg., Cabinet Room, 4:30-7:00pm

Red Clay Community Financial Review Meeting, Brandywine Springs Teacher’s Lounge, 6:30pm

Tomorrow, Tuesday September 15th

WEIC Funding Student Success Committee, William Penn H.S., Newcastle, 2:00-4:00pm

Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC), Regular Meeting, William Penn H.S. in Newcastle, 4:00-6:00pm

DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee Meeting, DOE Townshend Bldg., Cabinet Room, 4:30-6:30pm

WEIC Parent, Educator, & Community Engagement Committee, William Penn H.S. in Newcastle, 6:15pm

Christina School District Citizens Budget Oversight Committee Meeting, Gauger-Cobbs M.S., Newark, 6:30-8:30pm

Wednesday September 16th

Vision Coalition Student Success 2025 Launch, Del-Tech, Dover, 10am-12noon

Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education Meeting, Warner Elementary School, Wilmington, 7:00pm

Capital School District Board of Education Meeting, District Office, Dover, 7:30pm

Delaware DOE begins mailing individual results on Smarter Balanced Assessment to parents

Thursday, September 17th

Accountability Framework Working Group Meeting, John Collette Education Resource Center, Dover, 8:30am *no announcement of this meeting anywhere, is not a public meeting although it should be.

Parent Strike Press Conference, outside of Legislative Hall, Dover, 12:30pm

State Board of Education Meeting, Townshend Bldg, Dover, Cabinet Room, 1:00-5:30pm

Student Data Privacy Task Force, Carvel State Office Bldg,, 5th Floor, Wilmington, 2:00-4:00pm

Christina School District Board of Education Meeting, Sarah Pyle Academy, Wilmington, 6:30pm-8:30pm

Some parents start to get Smarter Balanced results in the mail, collective scream begins to emerge in Delaware

Friday, September 18th

More parents get SBAC results, the scream gets louder

Parent Strike: What Is It? How Can I Help? What If I Can’t Come?

These are the questions Delaware parents have been asking me for the past five days, and it is time for some answers.  Parent Strike is a national effort on September 17th, coordinated with Constitution Day, whereby parents across America attempt to stop the insanity that has become public education.

What Is So Bad About Public Education?

  • The high-stakes testing environment which has culminated in the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • The lost school-time based on test prep and interim assessments
  • The penalties to schools and teachers over low-scores in our high-needs schools
  • The hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone to outside companies instead of into our schools
  • The extreme amount of interference from companies without educators who think they know how to “fix” education
  • The lack of transparency from the State of Delaware with the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • Regulations inserted into code without any legislative input by the State Board of Education
  • The very structure of the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • American Institutes for Research as the testing vendor for Smarter Balanced
  • Classroom sizes that are way too big and even the most advantaged children are not able to learn
  • Schools with low demographics of sub-groups being labeled as “Recognition” or “Reward” schools
  • Schools with high demographics of sub-groups being labeled as “Focus” or “Priority” schools
  • The lack of true stakeholder input in the creation of standardized assessments
  • The complete and utter disregard by Governor Markell in failing to listen to parents and the legislators of Delaware with his veto of House Bill 50
  • The continued bullying and intimidation of parents by districts or charter schools when they give an opt-out letter
  • The charter schools even giving a hint that students may not get a spot or won’t be able to keep their spot over opt-out
  • The Common Core implementation and many disturbing aspects in it that have nothing to do with education
  • The lack of oversight over special education in our schools and listening to parents
  • Regulation 103 and it’s punitive measures against students, teachers, schools, and communities

How Can I Help?

  • Write a Refuse The Test letter to your child’s school advising them your child will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment during this school year and you expect your child to have an education while other students are testing and hand it to the administrator of the school first thing in the morning
  • Attend a press conference outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 12:30 pm and go to the State Board of Education meeting at 1pm and give public comment about your opposition to Regulation 103
  • Talk with other parents at your child’s school about opt-out if they are not aware of it
  • Wear a red shirt as a symbol of protest for Parent Strike
  • Drop off flyers everywhere you go with a print-out of these bullet points
  • Paint REFUSE THE TEST on your car (with temporary paint)
  • Use stealth guerilla tactics: Put sticky notes everywhere (bathroom stalls, school supplies, in cereal and toy aisles at stores, anywhere you can think of) with REFUSE THE TEST written on it
  • Thank your child’s teacher for all they do and that you are willing to fight for them
  • Help a parent write a REFUSE THE TEST letter
  • On the night before, use sidewalk chalk on pathways parents use to walk their children to school
  • Whatever you can think of to legally spread the message

What If I Can’t Come To Dover?

  • You aren’t required to come, but all are welcome and a larger crowd always sends a larger message
  • You can write letters to the editor of your local paper
  • You can go to your local board meeting and give public comment about opt-out and your thoughts about what is going on with education
  • Plan an event for a future date to gather parents in your district to discuss what is going on with pubic education
  • Email your State Representative, State Senator, Congressmen, Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education
  • You can read all about it with hashtag #parentstrike on Twitter and the Parent Strike Facebook page and see what others in Delaware and the USA are doing

I’m going to tell a story.  The first time I went to a public meeting knowing I would give public comment, I was scared out of my mind.  I didn’t believe my voice could make a difference.  It was the State Board of Education meeting in April 2014.  Since then, I have spoken at several events.  I’ve reached out to fellow citizens across the state, from Wilmington to Rehoboth, and answered questions to the best of my ability.  I’ve educated, informed, and spent a great deal of time helping other parents.  But I won’t ever forget that first time, the hardest time.

The power of voice is one of the most amazing things in creation.  I encourage anyone speaking publicly on something they believe in for their children to reach back to the moment your child was born.  When you first looked into their eyes and vowed you would do whatever you can to protect them.  Over the years, we lose some of that.  It gets lost in all the noise.  We may know something could be bad for our child, but other factors get in the way.  We worry about the implications and overthink things to the point where we are unable to act.  Many have asked me how I can do all I do.  I don’t have an easy answer for that.  But I always remember that initial promise to my son.  The one moment that matters most of all, born out of unconditional love.

It’s not an easy thing, being brave.  It takes courage you may not think you have.  It means taking yourself out of your usual comfort zone.  Any advocate or activist started out this way.  It’s not a matter of being practical, it’s about being radical.  Too many of us see “radicals” as sign-carrying flower children from the 1960s yelling and screaming all the time or protests getting arrested.  Being radical means going against the viewpoint of those you think are wrong.  That’s it.  There is no formula to it.  I can promise you, once you start, it gets easier.  I won’t say the words get easier, but it gets easier to speak them.  The very best public comments I’ve ever heard are those initial ones, because they come from the heart and usually carry a great deal of emotion.

You need to ask yourself: who is going to speak for my child?  Teachers can’t.  Not when it comes to standardized testing and opt-out.  Your friend can’t, your neighbor can’t and your child can’t.  Only YOU can.

These are the groups or people that talk a lot about education and what’s best for your child but they also brought us to this point and you should take what they say with a grain of salt: Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the Vision Coalition, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  As well, for parents of minority children, I implore you to do research.  There are many civil rights groups who speak the same kind of language as the above entities.  Always find the connections.  For example, the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League spoke out against opt-out claiming it would put at-risk children even further behind.  As we have seen from the initial results of Smarter Balanced, the gaps widened even further than they did last year.  I like to think these groups go with the governmental flow and take things at face value without doing their own research.

People will tell you that you are wrong.  They will argue your points until you are blue in the face.  That’s alright.  Ask them how they know they are right and you are wrong.  Ask them for research to support their points of view.  But never, ever, just give up and throw your hands up in the air.  Don’t let Governor Markell tell you what you speak out about is a recipe for the status quo.  Don’t let Rodel tell you what your child needs to succeed.  Listen to your heart and your own convictions.

Some will tell you I am just a rebel rouser, or a fire-starter, just looking to cause chaos due to injustices inflicted on my son in the past.  They couldn’t be further from the truth.  I have no vested interest whether your child is opted out or not.  I don’t get paid one single solitary cent for what I do.  Blog stats are just numbers that mean nothing to anyone.  I believe.  I believe education can and should be more than what it has become.  There are far too many in power dictating every single move, and the result is a generation that will suffer immensely.  Unless we stop it, and we stop it now.

Please share this post on your Facebook page, or your Twitter account, or Instagram.  Email it to friends.  If you believe, don’t be afraid to let others know.  Any movement starts with a few voices but it can rise to a legion more powerful than anything.

Parent Opt-Out Is Now Policy In Christina School District After 6-1 Vote, Board Member George Evans Hates Parents!!!!

At the Christina School District Board of Education meeting tonight, the board passed their opt-out policy in a 6-1 vote.  This policy closely mirrors House Bill 50, the vetoed but still on life support parent opt-out legislation that Delaware Governor Jack Markell kicked to the curb in July.  The same board passed a resolution earlier in the year, but this now makes opt-out a policy in the district.  I sincerely hope George Evans takes some time to assess his decision not once, but twice this year, to disrespect parents this way.  Hopefully he can come to terms with this before he loses his next school board election and enjoys his last term on this board.

Congratulations to Christina School District for becoming the first district in the First State to have an official opt-out policy! Perhaps others will join in and stop fretting over what the DOE will do.  The worst they can do is knock your school down on their ridiculous school report card a grade or two.  This is great news is for parents, who should care far more about opt-out then some silly little crappy and hastily designed report card they get from the DOE.

I’m sure this will give the DOE and Markell one more reason to hate the Christina School District, but for parents across the state who are going “Why the hell doesn’t my school district do this”, they will be very envious.  Christina needed a big win, and this is it!  Stew on that Jack!

September 17 is REFUSE THE TEST PARENT STRIKE in Delaware! Press Conference at 12:30pm!

Parent Strike is a coordinated effort across America to take back public education from the corporate education reformers and those who would do our children irreparable harm with state standardized assessments.  In Delaware, we will be celebrating this momentous day, September 17th, with other states across our country.  I invite all parents and press to attend a press conference outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 12:30pm, where I will announce the violations and complaints against Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware State Board of Education, and other entities within Delaware that have contributed to this toxic environment against our children.

If you want to make a statement during the press conference, please let me know ahead of time.  I will also help parents coordinate opt-out/refuse the test for their local schools.

Following this, at 1pm, is the Delaware State Board of Education meeting across the street at the Townshend Building.  I invite every single parent to attend this meeting, at least for the first half hour to forty-five minutes.  After they do their roll call and approval of minutes, it opens up to Public Comment.  Each speaker gets three minutes to speak on a topic.  Those who give public comment are not allowed to speak on an item that is up for action that day, but there is nothing in their agenda covering standardized testing or parent opt-out or Refusing The Test.

During the State Board of Education meeting, they will announce the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for the different sub-groups: low-income, English language learners, students with disabilities, African-American students, Hispanic Students and Asian students.  This is where we will see the very real impact of the Smarter Balanced Assessment on the most vulnerable of students.  They could have announced this information last week, but they chose to hold off on it.  Parents will also begin to receive their children’s official report on the test that week.

Please join in and let the unelected State Board of Education know your child is more than endless data.  Let them know your child is more than a pawn in their attempts to “fix” education.  Let them know their vain attempts at stifling parents is not allowed.  Be loud, be a parent, and let them know you will not tolerate this madness one more minute.  This is Parent Strike Delaware!

Rodel Starts The Blame-Game Against Teachers While Praising Smarter Balanced Results

Yes, I do regularly read the Rodel blog on their website, but I never commented on one until I saw their post from Friday called 5 Data Takeaways From Smarter Balanced Test Scores, written by Rodel employee Liz Hoyt.  I’m always curious what the “opposition” writes about things like this.  I have been very vocal in my thoughts on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  They are a non-profit whose CEO happens to make over a quarter of a million dollars a year.  I do not believe they have students best interests at heart.  This article drove that point home for me with very clear and concise words.  I will go through the areas that bothered me the most.

“Aligned to the Common Core state standards, the new state assessment was designed to ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need in jobs and college.”

I think this has always been my biggest problem with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Please tell me how a 3rd grader taking this test is going to be in any way prepared for college based on how they answer questions on a test?  Even if they put them at a 5th grade level, there is no test in the world that can prepare any student at a young age for a career or post-secondary education.  The education reformers need to pick a side and stick with it: is the test meant to create data to see where students compare with each other or is it to prep them for a world they can’t even fathom until they are 15 or 16?  They can’t have it both ways.  Furthermore,.wasn’t the whole point of Common Core that a student in Alaska would get the same information and be assessed on the same information as a student in Louisiana?  Instead, we have 18 states taking Smarter Balanced, 11 or so taking the PARCC, and the rest developing their own state assessments.  It isn’t very common when states aren’t taking the “common” test.  Funny how life works out…

“While this year’s scores are lower than last year’s DCAS results, Delaware students outperformed estimates (based on the 2014 national field test) in both subjects for every grade with the exception of 11th grade math.”

Why does the DOE and Governor Markell keep trying to pump up the fact that students did better than expected?  Isn’t that the whole point of a field test, to find out what the kinks are and what problems might come up and strive to fix those issues?  How many rockets did Russia blow up before Sputnik launched? If students did worse than the field test, it would prove unequivocally that this was a bad test.  But since students did better than the field test, we are acting like this is the best test Delaware ever created (which Governor Markell did say at a speech for New America earlier in the Summer).  And this is my major issue with this statement.  We have nothing to measure this test by, and even the Feds wouldn’t allow states to compare any test scores to field tests for this very reason with their accountability frameworks.  It’s not often I agree with the US DOE, but anyone can see the fallacy in comparing a field test to the actual test.

Scores dropped as Delaware set a new baseline for student proficiency.”

Once again, how can scores drop when you are comparing apples to oranges?  This test didn’t set a baseline for student proficiency, it set a baseline for Smarter Balanced proficiency based on whatever arbitrary number the Delaware Department of Education set it at.  So what happens if by chance some miracle happens, and every student scores proficient on the test next year.  Would the DOE allow that?  They had a meltdown when the vast majority of teachers were rated as “effective”.  What happens to the baseline then?  I firmly believe they would change it because if everyone is proficient, the test is useless and has outlived it’s purpose.  On the flip side, if everyone scores at a non-proficient level, we can’t have that either, because that shows 1) the test is bad and 2) we need to make all our schools a priority and fire all the teachers.  So the baseline will ALWAYS be set somewhere so that anywhere from 30-70% of  students are proficient.  But that really doesn’t tell us what students need.  It tells us the DOE will do whatever they have to for certain results.

“Despite concerns about the opt-out movement’s potential impact on assessment, student participation remained strong.”

Concerns? How many times does Dr. Paul Herdman speak in public at Legislative Hall about pending legislation for education? He said it was the first time he ever came to an education committee meeting and gave public comment.  It wasn’t a concern for Rodel. It was a five-alarm fire!  I’ve said all along I expected opt-outs to be small the first year.  I also said once parents receive the scores, it will be another story in the second year of Smarter Balanced.  One only needs to look at New York and New Jersey to see the difference between the first and second year opt-out rates to gage how Delaware will be with this in the Spring of 2016.  This is a wake-up call for parents, and they will show how much they support this test with higher opt-out rates in six months.

“Scores varied widely across districts and schools, highlighting the hard work of educators implementing the Common Core State Standards and schools that may need additional support.”

Scores varied widely among low-income schools and higher income schools.  They varied between charters and magnet schools with selective enrollment preferences and those without.  They varied between the haves and the have-nots.  Are you telling us then that schools with low-income just happen to have teachers who aren’t good at “implementing the Common Core State Standards”?  Because that’s the way I’m reading this.  Are you saying that EastSide Charter School, who was publicly praised by Governor Markell for their incredible growth on DCAS has teachers that now are not implementing Common Core the right way?  Or is it because EastSide performed about the same as other schools with comparable low-income populations?  Don’t answer.  We already know.

“…learn more about the Smarter Assessment and the Common Core State Standards at DelExcels.org.”

Since we know Rodel provides invaluable help to Donna Johnson, the State Board of Education and Delaware DOE in getting resource material on the DelExcels website for parents, and Rodel is a non-profit, did Rodel get paid with tax-payer money to help get the material on the DelExcels website?  And how much of that money gets invested into one of the hedge funds Rodel invests in?  Can you please answer those questions?

Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware…What’s Next?

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 <dani.moore@doe.k12.de.us>
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 (www.destateboarded.k12.de.us) 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 DelExcels.org 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   http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/170/033115_SBA_National_30sPromo.mp4

 –          SBA system overview  http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/170/PFL_National_Short_English.mp4  

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,  

Donna


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!

Delaware Does Better Than Expected On Smarter Balanced But Much Worse Than DCAS, Opt-Out Rates by District

“Depending on the grade level and subject, students scored between 16 and 45 percentage points lower on the Smarter Balanced than they did on its predecessor, DCAS.”

The above quote by Avi Wolfman-Arent with his article on the Smarter Balanced results for WHYY/Newsworks tells the main story.  The results are in and the numbers are interesting.  Statewide, the proficiency rate was 51.9% for ELA and 38.8% for Math. The highest rated district was Cape Henlopen with an overall proficiency of 57.2% and the lowest was Laurel with 26.3%

Statewide, the opt-out numbers didn’t go below the 95% threshold with the exception of 11th grade English and Math, with 90.5% and 89.3%.  But certain districts did, with Christina at 91.8% in Math and 91.3% in ELA, Gateway Lab School at 94.6% in Math, the recent closed Moyer Academy had 85.9% in English and 87% in Math, another closed charter called Reach Academy for Girls had 89.3% for ELA and 91.3% for Math, and finally, Poly-tech had 94.0% and 92.3% for Math.  For the state, the overall participation rate in ELA was 96.7% and 95.8% for Math.

What hasn’t been announced yet is the  sub-groups, like students with disabilities, African-Americans, Hispanic, low-income, and so forth.  Those are the numbers I really wanted to see, aside from the opt-outs.  By looking at the below chart, found on the Delaware DOE website, it’s obvious schools with higher populations of these “sub-groups” performed worse than the more affluent schools.  And of course, the “Charter Trio” of Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy did the best.  Cherry-picking has its advantages.

Even Eastside Charter School, praised by Governor Markell for their growth rates on DCAS, took a beating on this test.  As did many of the other charters in Wilmington.  The two charters with high populations of special needs students didn’t fare so well either.  I don’t blame any of these schools, I blame the DOE and American Institutes for Research, the creator of the assessment and the DOE’s vendor and distributor.  But the blame game by the DOE and Markell is already beginning, as seen in Governor Markell’s obligatory press release.  Even Secretary of Education Mark Murphy who still seems to be hovering around, said to Matthew Albright in the News Journal coverage:

Murphy said the goal is for parents to use those results to have more informed conversations with their teachers.  If a student scored a one or a two, parents should seek extra help for their kids in the subjects they’re struggling with, for example.

“It’s not like all the answers lie in the Department of Education,” Markell said.  “Many of the best are in the districts.  And, in the end, they have responsibility for their own schools.”

As the accountability gun is pointed at their heads…Sorry Jack and Mark, the test was forced on students by the Delaware DOE and the US DOE.  But the DOE will not take any blame for this test whatsoever.  Instead, they want to point fingers:

 As a governing state in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, Delaware partnered with other states to develop the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. Delaware educators have been integral to many aspects of the new assessment system, including question development, standard setting, report development and the creation of professional learning resources for teachers. In spring 2014, educators and students across Delaware participated in the successful national field test of new assessment items and the accompanying technology.

Now we will see the schools and districts rushing to get all those kids “college and career ready” so they can get the very high growth portion on the upcoming Delaware School Success Framework, otherwise known as the school report card.  But what they may not be counting on is the anger about half the parents in this state will feel that their kids weren’t proficient on this test.  All that time and energy, designed for one test, and their kid is just not good enough.  But don’t despair parents.  Your kid should not be measured based on one test.  You do have a choice: REFUSE THE TEST!

Interim Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky Needs To Learn From New York Superintendent Elia

State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia says she won’t prevent parents who want their children to skip the state’s standardized tests from doing so.

Diane Ravitch is reporting New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia will not try to stop parent opt-out.  This is a welcome relief for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers I’m sure.  New York had the highest opt-out rates of any state in the country last spring, and all indications are pointing to these numbers increasing nationwide next year.  Bottom line: parents are fed up and sick of their children going through these state assessments.

In Delaware, we will find out how our state did tomorrow when the mighty Markell and the distorted DOE release the 2015 results for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Will they release the participation rate for the test?  Or will we have to wait for the State Board of Education presentation on September 17th for that?  Whatever the opt-out numbers are, they WILL increase in 2016.

I’m already hearing about how districts are bragging that they did better than they thought.  But there is no indication if this is better than the proficiency rates for DCAS from last year.  One common thing I am hearing in Delaware as well as the rest of the country: students with disabilities did very bad on the Smarter Balanced.  Really bad.  Single digit proficiency in a lot of cases…

Will Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Interim Delaware Secretary of Education do anything?  He has been very quiet since the “resignation” of Mark Murphy two and a half weeks ago.  Will he be a Markell puppet or his own man? One thing is for sure, if districts, charters and the DOE thought they had their hands full with opt-out requests this year, they might want to fasten their seatbelts, because REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE is going to give them a long and bumpy ride!

If Delaware Is Like Connecticut, Most Students Failed The Smarter Balanced Assessment

Connecticut, although larger in population, may be a good comparison for what Delaware can expect when we release our Smarter Balanced Assessment results next Wednesday, September 2nd.  Governor Malloy of Connecticut announced the statewide results today, and according to Jon Pelto‘s blog, Wait What?, the state did not do well on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Pelto writes:

“As designed, intended and projected, the vast majority of Connecticut students have been labeled as failures according the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC math test results.”

In fact, for the math scores, with a high of 48% proficiency in 3rd grade and a low of 31% proficiency in 11th grade, I would consider this an abysmal failure.  For special education students in math, only 8% made proficiency, English-Language Learners, 7%, and low-income, a range of 15.4% to 26.4% depending on their free or reduced lunch fee status.

Connecticut has some very wealthy areas, specifically in Fairfield County with many workers commuting to New York City from the suburbs.  Based on this, I would venture to say Delaware’s results will be worse than Connecticut.  Pelto, like myself, has been wondering when his state was going to release these scores.  With the track record of states releasing results, it seems like they are waiting longer to release them if the kids did really bad on the test.

I am hearing low-mumbled groans about some of Delaware’s results, but nothing I can officially talk about.  Delaware did not do well on this test based on what I am hearing, but I will wait for the “official” word on 9/2.  I am fairly sure the DOE and Governor Markell are dreading this day.  Not released in Connecticut are their opt-out numbers.  As I always say in Delaware, parents have the right to REFUSE THE TEST if they don’t think Smarter Balanced is a good assessment for their child.

UDPATED, 4:26pm: The Connecticut Department of Education released a briefing on the results.  The scores are so bad in this state, they can only compare them to NAEP results from two years ago…

The DOE Smarter Balanced Propoganda-Brainwashing P.R. Campaign Begins Now!

The Delaware Department of Education released their latest newsletter called “Take Note” today with a very important message about their upcoming release of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  I feel obligated to break this down and give my thoughts on each part.  As usual, DOE’s stance is in black, mine is in red (which John Young from Transparent Christina invented, at least on Delaware blogs).

The Delaware Department of Education will release preliminary statewide Smarter Assessment results on September 2. Final results will be released in mid-September, when families also will receive score reports.

But they have had the results for well over a month now, but they were too chicken to actually release them.  Instead, they met with every single Delaware legislator individually.  Slowly but surely, I’m hearing some results here and there, and they are anything but promising, especially among students with disabilities.

The test results will show children’s strengths and weaknesses in different areas within each subject. This will help families and educators understand whether children need additional practice or need to be challenged by going deeper into a subject. Families can use these results to locate activities online that were designed specifically for each category at every grade level. Families also can use the test results to guide a discussion with their children’s teachers about additional supports or challenges that may be needed in class, as well as other ways to support their children at home.

The test results will show this is a crappy test, period.  This won’t show strengths.  It will show the inherent weaknesses in THIS test.  How will this help educators who no longer have the same child in their grade this year?  It won’t.  When you say “need to be challenge by going deeper into a subject”, what you are really talking about is teaching to the test.  “…to guide a discussion with their children’s teachers…”  I said this the other day.  If you have problems with the test, call the DOE.  The teachers want to teach, not go over a child’s test results when they weren’t even their teacher.  They don’t know how your child answered or even what questions they were given.  Parents, the best way to support your child at home AND at school is to REFUSE THE TEST!

There are many resources available. For example, you can find Delaware-specific resources differentiated by subject, testing area and grade level at Be A Learning Hero’s Skill Builder site (http://bealearninghero.org/skill-builder). Also check out GreatKids! (http://www.greatschools.org/gk/) for more resources, including a new Delaware-specific tool launching Sept. 1. Using a child’s individual results, a parent or guardian will be able to find resources that will match the child’s areas of strength and areas for improvement.

If the teacher isn’t teaching to the test properly, you can go online and have the same thing!  Because every child wants to go home and do the SAME thing for a high-stakes test they won’t even take until next Spring.  (Unless you REFUSE THE TEST and they don’t have to worry about it!)

Find these and other great resources and information about the Smarter Assessments on the DelExcels (www.delexcels.org) site. There you also will find sample score reports for each achievement level, an interpretive guide for reading the score reports and an extensive FAQ document.

Or parents, you could help your child out with their homework, or spend time with them and talk to them about how their day was, or go for a walk in the park, or count stars…you get the idea.

Students took the new tests, which assess children in grades 3 to 8 and 11 in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, for the first time in the spring. The tests replaced Delaware’s previous Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) state tests in reading and mathematics.

The U.S.A. is the ONLY country in the world that tests our children in all of these grades like this.  Something to be proud of…not!  DCAS was a much better test, and it actually showed growth, something this test doesn’t because there is NO growth model. And multiple states wisely jumped out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium because they knew it was going to be bad news.

The Smarter Assessments help parents understand how their children are doing and whether their children know and are able to do the things in each grade that are important for them to be prepared for the next grade level and the future. The tests show results in comparison to their peers in their grade levels and schools.  They also inform parents where their children need more support or additional challenges, which allows for more personalized teaching. Along with families knowing how their own children are performing, schools also benefit from knowing how all of their students are progressing, which enables educators to make the best and most-informed instructional decisions.

If it’s the first year of the test, how can the DOE say these tests “help parents understand how their child is doing”?  They can’t.  There is nothing to compare it to.  And they don’t show comparisons to their peers in their grade levels, they show comparisons to their peers from the LAST grade level, with a different teacher.  Your child is a guinea pig for the endless data machine that is killing public education.  Schools hate this test, and educators do as well.  The only ones that don’t are the ones who will use it to advance their own careers by sucking up to administration and DOE.  And how can teachers give “personalized” teaching when this test sucks the oxygen out of their entire school year?  And they have huge classrooms with little support?  Or are you talking about personalized learning, which is basically have the computer do all the talking and teachers just chat a little bit about it or go over homework?  No thanks.  I want my kid to be taught by a teacher, not a screen!

Next week’s score release will include preliminary aggregate results at the state, district and school levels. Final results, including analysis by student demographics and subgroups, will be released on Thursday, September 17 (but they have had the results for over a month) in conjunction with the State Board of Education meeting. Families will receive score reports for their students via U.S. mail beginning in mid-September.

Because the unelected State Board needs to know before parents!  What I really want to know is the number of opt-outs for each grade and sub-group.  The growth I want to see is how much that can be increased next spring.

In general, we expect fewer students to score at the proficient level on these exams than did on the DCAS. That’s because we are asking students to do more challenging work that will better prepare them for their futures. The new tests are measuring more complex skills including critical thinking, analyzing and problem solving, which is different than previous tests. A low score does not mean that a child did not improve or that he or she learned less. This first year’s test scores set a new baseline from which progress will be measured moving forward.

The first year’s tests will also punish schools by their participation rate.  Since the Feds said they can’t enforce federal funding cuts with opt-out, they are leaving this to the states.  The Delaware DOE, in conjunction with Delaware Superintendents and staff, with very little stakeholder input from other education organizations or parents, and almost no transparency passed this one on the sly.  A low score means the test is horrible Delaware parents!  If your child did well, they are probably good at memorizing what is on THIS standardized test because it was drilled into them for 7-8 months.  The DOE wants low scores, because if everyone does well, they have no basis for their continual high salaries and outside vendors they throw taxpayer money at, all in the name of the children.  Which is utter nonsense.

Back to normal color!  If you want to truly make a difference in your child’s education, REFUSE THE TEST!  Let’s get out of this high-stakes testing mentality that does nothing more than test, label and punish!  Just give the school a letter stating your child will NOT take the Smarter Balanced Assessment next Spring, and you expect your child to be educated during this time.  If the school wants to meet you to “discuss” this, politely say thank you.  If they pressure you, let me know.

DOE Releases All State Assessment Results EXCEPT Smarter Balanced, Five Year Assessment Plan

Yesterday at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, Dr. Carolyn Lazar with the Office of Assessment at the Delaware Department of Education gave a presentation on state assessment results but did not release any Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  This presentation also included school and district proficiency information, which can be found on this page.  The only reason I didn’t Scribd them is because they are stamped “embargoed” which I find hysterical because they are putting them on a public website!

These DCAS results are mixed.  For regular students, they went down from last year in Science and Social Studies.  For severely cognitively impaired students, who take the DCAS-Alt tests, the results are up and down depending on the grade.  Overall, with the exception of 7th and 9th grade, these types of students appear to be reading better, but social studies, science and math are showing a downward trend compared to last year.

This also went into the DOE’s five-year plan for state assessment and the release of Smarter Balanced scores in the coming month.  I absolutely love how they specifically mention who they met with to discuss this roll-out, but FAIL to mention their one-on-one meetings with members of the General Assembly.  Not one mention of legislators at all.  They know this information is already public, so why would they omit this?  If the DOE wants to convey clear communication with parents and community members about this test, than they should make public all contracts, addendums, emails associated with this test, and the exact date they got the results back.  No parent will ever take this Department seriously if they continue this embargo and withholding information from the general public.

As for Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory, when can we expect to see who is on this task force?  Who picks the members?  We can’t forget, Lindsey O’Mara who is the Education Policy Advisor for Governor Markell, publicly stated Smarter Balanced can be included in assessments up for discussion on this task force!

Once again Delaware Parents: REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE starts NOW! And Parent Freak-Out 2015 begins the moment Smarter Balanced results are made public!

Arne Duncan’s Threats Of Federal Funding Cuts For Opt-Out Go Up In Smoke!

Kate Taylor wrote in the New York Times today an article stating New York State Chancellor of the State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, would not give any district with high opt-out rates any Federal funding cuts for going below the 95% participation threshold in standardized tests.

But on Thursday, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, said that the federal Education Department informed the state’s Education Department “a couple of weeks ago” that it was leaving any decision about financial penalties to the state. And Ms. Tisch, whose board oversees the state agency and appoints the commissioner, said the state did not plan to withhold money from districts.

All that melodrama from United States Secretary of Education and state education leaders and Governors about Federal funding cuts, including Title I funds, was nothing but empty threats.  I’ve been saying this for months, as well as many others, but no one in my state, Delaware, would indicate this would or would not happen.  I heard from one state legislator in Delaware who indicated he opposed our opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, because “you don’t know what Arne Duncan told me he will do if this passes.”  Now we have a crystal clear answer: nothing.

In Delaware, in approximately one month, we will experience Parent Freak-Out 2015 when Delaware parents receive the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  As I stated when Governor Markell vetoed House Bill 50 in July, opt-out is dead, just REFUSE THE TEST!  But I still want the 148th General Assembly to override Markell’s veto, because it is a great bill!

On the first day of school, starting next week for many Delaware students, just give the letter to the principal stating you refuse to let your child take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, you expect your child to be educated based on their current curriculum, and you do not want to discuss it further.  This is your right Delaware parents, and no one can stop you from doing this.  Do what is right for your child and REFUSE THE TEST!