John King Is Violating Intent Of ESSA By Approving Illegal Flexibility Waivers For Delaware Through 2019

I was wondering why the Delaware Department of Education went to all the trouble of submitting an ESEA flexibility waiver for a dubious standard called the state’s “speaking and listening standards” last March.  ESEA effectively ended on July 31st this year.  Now we know why.  Because it allowed the Delaware DOE to continue the same damaging and disturbing accountability practices for not just this school year, but through the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

This waiver was very odd to begin with.  Yes, there is speaking and listening standards.  It is part of Delaware’s Common Core State Standards.  But to submit an ESEA Flex Waiver for this is ludicrous.  But it doesn’t end there.  The Delaware DOE was not forthright and honest with the process of applying for this waiver.  As part of state code, Delaware is required to have an advisory committee to approve these waivers.  This was the DESS Advisory Committee.  For this waiver, DESS did not meet to approve it.  In fact, as per an email from Susan Haberstroh at the Delaware DOE, the group is not even active at this point.

HaberstrohDESSQuestion

DESS is, however, required under Delaware state code to review the very same things this ESEA flexibility waiver is meant to address:

Title14DESS

Under whose authority did Haberstroh decide DESS did not have to meet to review this flexibility waiver?  This flexibility waiver is illegal in many ways.  There is no state regulation that gives the Delaware School Success Framework any legal enforceability.  Regulation 103, which covers these accountability standards, was not updated last year.  The U.S. DOE has no authority to approve or disapprove Delaware law.  By relying on the United State Dept. of Education to decide on Delaware law, the Delaware DOE is seriously overstepping the will and intent of the Delaware Constitution.

To make things more complicated, U.S. Secretary John King is abusing his authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act by approving any accountability waivers up through 2019.  The Delaware DOE is cherry-picking what they can and can’t do with ESSA, just like John King is.  For John King, when he does this stuff, he gets hauled into congressional hearings.  When the Delaware DOE does this stuff, it gets mentioned on here.  There is no accountability method for the Delaware DOE to answer for their actions.  Someone needs to get the DOE into a public hearing to explain how they can do certain things and not others.  Because the way they interpret the law and the way it must be interpreted are two different things.  Events are progressing rapidly where the Delaware DOE is openly and flagrantly violating state law.  This can not continue and I urge our General Assembly to take immediate and definitive action against our out of control Dept. of Education.

As for U.S. Secretary of Education John King, I have already taken some action on his abuse of power.  I contacted Rep. John Kline (MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) addressing the abuse of power John King is exhibiting by approving this waiver.  As well, I submitted the following to Senator Alexander:

Good morning Senator Alexander,

I am trying to reach you in regards to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Back in March, the Delaware Department of Education submitted a flexibility waiver under ESEA to the United States Department of Education.  This was for a waiver of “speaking and listening standards” as part of our state assessment.  Our Dept. of Education stated this was a “limited waiver” and bypassed parts of our state law for how these things are approved in our state.  While I recognize you have no authority over Delaware state code, I do know you do have authority in regards to the U.S. Dept. of Education and have the ability to call out John King over abuse of power.

On August 5th, 2016, the Delaware DOE received an approval letter from Anne Whelan, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, action on Secretary King’s behalf, to approve our ESEA flexibility waiver. The letter, which can be found on the Delaware Dept. of Education website under “Accountability”, and then “ESSA”, seems to give the U.S. DOE authority to grant flexibility waivers with the same accountability standards under ESEA up through June 30th, 2019.  As I am interpreting the Every Student Succeeds Act, this type of authority was explicitly stripped from the U.S. Secretary of Education.  But John King is openly and publicly defying this federal mandate by continuing the same damaging practices from No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top.

The letter states:

“After reviewing Delaware’s request, I am pleased to grant, pursuant to my authority under section 8401 (b) of the ESEA, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a limited waiver of section 1111 (b)(3)(C)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), for school year (SY) 2016-2017 and of section 1111 (b)(2)(B)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, for SYs 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 so that the state’s assessment system, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment for grades 3-8 and the SAT for high school, need not measure the State’s speaking and listening standards at this time.

This waiver is granted to Delaware on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:

It will continue to meet for each year of the waiver all other requirements in the ESEA, as amended by NCLB or the ESSA, as applicable, for State assessment systems and the implementing regulations with respect to the State’s academic content and achievement standards and assessments, including reporting student achievement and school performance, disaggregated by subgroups, to parents and the public.”

In addition, by granting this waiver to Delaware, it would allow Delaware to continue accountability rules that have no regulatory approval in Delaware as required by Delaware state code. Delaware has not passed a final Accountability Framework for our public schools because there is no regulation supporting this updated matrix.  As well, the Delaware School Success Framework punishes schools for participation rates below 95% on state assessments.  While ESSA allows states to decide policies and procedures with regard to a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment, Delaware has not done so in any official capacity.  The U.S. DOE is approving this illegal practice in our state which is against the spirit and intent of ESSA.  No state regulations have been approved or are even in the pipeline for approval, and the U.S. DOE is in violation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

I implore you, as well as your other Congressional leaders, to hold Secretary King accountable for his very open defiance against the intent of Congress.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.

With warm regards,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

Below is the letter sent from Anne Whalen to Secretary Godowsky on August 5th:

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Delaware DOE Will Severely Punish More Brandywine, Christina & Red Clay Schools Based On Smarter Balanced Scores

Wilmington

As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year.  It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.  One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap.  Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year.  Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority1

Wow!  That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE!  This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year.  The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting.  What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…

ReynaPotlFocusPriority2

Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools.  I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list.  The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority3

Booker T. Washington Elementary School?  What?  Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015?  Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround?  I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.

Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group.  Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District!  Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status.  Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.

When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear.  Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above.  But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts.  Why?  Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:

CharterPriorityRegulation

So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above.  As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:

FocusCharterRegulation

And what is that Focus School Criteria?

FocusCriteria1617beyond

But here is where things get confusing:

TimelineTransitionDSSF

The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years.  But they will name Reward and Recognition schools.  So that’s good, right?  Wrong.  The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016.  That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect.  States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak.  But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months.  That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play.  The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015.  So what does this mean?

These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”.  The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.  Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year.  They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations.  If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools.  And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things.  Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington.  Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs.  If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around.  By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status.  Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization.  And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district.  Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.

Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that.  Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status.  Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states.  Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters.  Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters.  Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition.  Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment.  Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run.  Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast.  There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware.  But none of it will be good for students.

This is the game plan.  The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support.  You won’t find any memos or emails about this.  You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either.  It will just happen.  And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…

Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?

OPT OUT

If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes.  This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out.  Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.

John King In The Job A Week And Delaware DOE Is Getting Ready To Submit Another ESEA Flex Waiver

This just came across my newsfeed:

Delaware continues to work with the U.S. Department of Education to develop best practices with respect to assessing speaking and listening on large-scale assessments. As with many other states, Delaware will be requesting a limited waiver of section 1111(b)(3)(C)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), so that the state’s assessment system need not measure the state’s speaking and listening standards for the 2016-2017 school year. Input, comments and questions may be submitted at feedback@doe.k12.de.us through April 15.

Why does Delaware need a “limited” ESEA Flexibility Waiver?  What are we giving up so we are not beholden to this “state’s speaking and listening standards”?  I looked on both the Delaware Department of Education website and the United States Department of Education website and found nothing about this crucial need to submit another waiver.  President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act three months ago.  It goes into effect August 1st of this year.

The only reference from now US Secretary of Education John King about using federal funds for anything is for assessment inventories, something Delaware is nearly done with.  Why isn’t the Delaware DOE giving more information about this?  Why would they solicit public comment without anything to look at?  Yes, we know most of the changes with ESSA won’t take place until after the 2016-2017 school year, but why are they trying to implement more waiver schemes, something ESSA strictly forbids them to do?  I’m calling shenanigans right now!  John King can’t be trusted and the Delaware Department of Education follows suit.  Funny how the two bills that would call for the General Assembly to approve any ESEA flexibility waivers were stricken in January.  Maybe they need to come back tomorrow!  Paging State Representatives Kim Williams and Sean Lynn!  Get your bills back on the table!  This is most likely a play to get Regulation 103 back on the table in Delaware…

To read John King’s missive to “Chief State School Officers”, look below…

ESSA Killed The Delaware DOE’s Opt-Out Penalty

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

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

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

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

Opt Your Child Out Tomorrow, Send The State Board A Clear Message

This is why you need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment tomorrow on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015.  And you need to send this message to every single parent you know who has a child in public school in the entire state.  Use Facebook, Twitter, email, text and calling folks to let them know tomorrow is Opt-Out Day.  Schools can not punish you or your child for your right to exercise your rights for what is best for your child.

The Delaware State Board of Education does not care about our schools and our students.  These are unelected officials, along with the Secretary of Education, who serve at the pleasure of Governor Markell.  Let’s get this out in the open for those who are not aware.  They do not care about the path of destruction they leave in their wake with the excessive amount of standardized testing, interim testing for the standardized testing, labeling schools, and evaluating teachers based on those assessments.  They do not care about the impact this has on children of poverty, race, and disabilities.  They will do what they want, when they want, and how they want.  They do not care if they are usurping the authority of the General Assembly.  They do not care about the rights of parents and insist on having negative consequences for schools over opt-out, even if at the most the US DOE simply states in non-regulatory and non-Congressionally approved guidance that schools must have a “consequence” for opt-out.  They do not care about the recommendations of the very committee they formed to give suggestions for this so-called “Delaware School Success Framework”.  The only reason they even created this group is because it was required by the US DOE as stakeholder engagement.  It is a charade and a sham, perpetrated on every single citizen of Delaware.

Delaware Parents: It is now your essential duty, as well as your fundamental right, to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The powers that be will not listen.  They have made this crystal clear.  The only way to stop this is to opt your child out now.  Do not believe the lies and propaganda coming from the Governor, the DOE, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of Education in Delaware.  They will come up with any reason, any task force, group or committee to try to stop you from opting your child out.  They will use other state agencies, such as the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens to get you to believe the lies.  They will throw civil rights in your face while violating the most basic tenets of civil rights in their test and punish environment.  They are causing even more segregation over the shaming of schools over standardized Their latest attempt at mind control is getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  They are retooling the SAT to match the very same Common Core State Standards the Smarter Balanced Assessment already has.  Last Spring, it was announced more than 850 colleges and universities dropping the SAT in the application process.  Warped methodology is their best friend, and they utilize it without regard to the damage it does.

So please, tomorrow, give a letter to your child’s principal telling them (not asking) that your child will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.   If they have opinions, questions, or attempt to talk you out of it, let them kindly know you respect their opinion but your decision is final.  They will definitely tell you now how it will affect their school’s ratings and so forth.  Let them know you understand that but you are the only one who can advocate for your child.  Advise them you expect your child to receive an education while the other students are testing, and stand firm with your decision.  The Delaware General Assembly could override Governor Markell’s veto of the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.  The ESEA reauthorization will most likely leave it up to states to handle opt-out, which the DOE and Markell are attempting to do with Regulation 103, which would become law 60 days after the State Board votes on this.  This is why, if you are going to opt your child out, you need to do it tomorrow.  The State Board meets on Thursday to decide on this.  Let’s show them how ignoring parents will not end well for them.  They disrespect us and underestimate us.  Let’s show them who is really calling the shots!

This is for all traditional school district and charter school parents.  We need to stand united with this and take back the conversation.  We need to show the DOE and the State Board we will not stand for them punishing schools.  In a sense, just making your child take the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a punishment in and of itself.  Because it does not help your child and the DOE uses it as a punishment.  That is the message they told every single parent in the state today.  There are no positive consequences in the picture the DOE wants to paint.  It is all about money, greed, and a severe lack of knowledge about what is truly best for students.

Breaking News: AFWG To Have Encore Meeting On Tuesday 11/17, Open To The Public

After the stunning news last week the Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky was blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendation of lighter opt-out penalties for the Delaware School Success Framework, the group is meeting for an encore on Tuesday morning, 11/17, at 10am.  This is two days before the State Board of Education will make their final decision on the ESEA waiver.  Interestingly enough, Regulation 103 (which ties the school report card mess into state code) is not up for a vote at this meeting, which means December will most likely be the vote for that.

Somewhat related to this, I’m hearing the DOE employee named Ryan Reyna who works in the accountability area and was one of the controversial Race to the Top positions that should have been cut from the DOE is in all likelihood leaving the DOE very soon.  Reyna was one of the key DOE employees involved in the AFWG group.

If you are available on Tuesday morning, this meeting will be open to the public and will have public comment.  I strongly suggest attending this meeting and making your voice known on this subject!!!!!

Here is the agenda for this meeting:

Are Brandywine’s Mark Holodick & The News Journal Singing A New Song On Smarter Balanced & Opt-Out?

The Superintendents of the Wilmington schools, Red Clay, Christina, Colonial and Brandywine, held an education forum for WDEL last night.  Discussing the issues of Wilmington education, the subject of the state assessment came up.  What was very interesting was Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick’s response to this issue.  He told WDEL’s Shana O’Malley:

Brandywine superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick added that they’re starting to see pushback from those who are frustrated and unhappy with state standardized testing.

“The length of the state assessment, how often it’s being given, combined with this era of high stakes accountability for both educators and school ratings and rankings, I think it has reached a tipping point,” he said.

I gave Holodick a lot of heat earlier in the year for his views on opt-out procedures.  He seemed to think only he could decide who takes the test and who doesn’t.  Opt-out isn’t about someone giving permission.  It’s about honoring a parent’s right and not giving any grief about it.  Even Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski jumped on the issue.

“For example, the state test that we give, I think cost us about $6 million,” said Dr. Robert Andrzejewski, acting superintendent for the Christina School District. “What if we decided to go back to a system where we test grades three, five, eight and ten like we used to and maybe cut the testing cost in half. There are other priorities like that.”

Or how about we just get rid of the Smarter Balanced and high-stakes testing environment altogether Bob A?  That would solve that problem!

Even the News Journal Editorial staff jumped on this issue this morning.

If that’s the case, why can’t Delaware take a proactive stance and focus not on a child’s scores, but on the child herself? If the state is so concerned with schools trying to game the system, then the system is broken and our energy should be spent on fixing it, not simply policing it.

The devil is in the details with that one.  If it means personalized learning where one students gets ahead faster and another stays behind, no thanks!  And how much will it cost to fix it?  We all know fixing anything in education in Delaware means the DOE sends tons of money to outside companies to “fix” what they don’t understand.  And if it’s all tied to the Delaware School Success Framework, the DOE’s latest and not greatest accountability nightmare, it still doesn’t matter.  We will see what kind of people the Delaware State Board of Education really are when they vote on Regulation 103 which makes this insane school report card legal.  Even the News Journal seems to agree on that one:

Though Gov. Jack Markell vetoed opt-out legislation this summer, it’s safe to assume Smarter Balance will not see 100 percent student participation this school year. And if the General Assembly overrides Markell’s veto when it returns to session, then the entire scorecard concept is out the window.

House Bill 50 is all about parental rights in terms of how they want their child to be educated.  It is nothing more than that.  Something the News Journal is finally coming around to by giving it their full support:

In the meantime, parents, more than anybody else, deserve to have a say in how their kids are educated. Let’s honor that right.

It would have really helped if they came out with that opinion eight months ago!  Why the sudden shift in thinking on the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  I think it is becoming more apparent than ever that Governor Markell is indeed a lame-duck at this point and everyone is sick to death of hearing about his education reform ideas.  Everyone is starting to look towards the future and essentially undoing a lot of what Jack wrought on the First State.  Folks are sick and tired of the accountability behemoth the DOE has become and they want it to stop.  Their stupid score card penalties are not required, and I have not heard anyone say “Oh, that’s a great idea!”  The DOE is a hot mess, and if they want to play the accountability game, that starts with them!  In the meantime, keep opting your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and educate other parents of their rights!

Meanwhile, as all the adults keep tinkering around with education, it is the students who suffer the most.  As Dr. Holodick told WDEL:

“I think we have an opportune time to ask some really hard questions about what we have created regarding the educational landscape in Delaware,” added Holodick.

We are ALWAYS asking the really hard questions Mark.  The time to stop asking and start doing has to begin now before this generation of students loses it all to the high-stakes testing proficiency machine.

Secretary Godowsky Stabs Schools And Parents In The Back With His Cowardly Move

At the State Board of Education Fall Retreat today in Dewey Beach, Dr. Steven Godowsky made his first big move as Delaware Secretary of Education, and it was not a good one.  I have been writing the past couple months about the Accountability Framework Working Group and the Delaware School Success Framework.  At their last meeting in early October, the group unanimously agreed not to have opt-out penalties where the proficiency rate of a school was multiplied by their participation rate for the school report card.  They agreed to a lesser penalty whereby the school would have to write a report about how to improve the participation rate and no school could earn a status of “reward” school if their participation rate fell below the 95% mark.

Today, Dr. Steven Godowsky undid all the work this group did, their 14 months of meetings and discussion, and overrode their recommendations.  That’s right, the same guy who told the New Castle County school boards at their  combined school board breakfast just two weeks ago:

“It’s not a final decision, but it looks like from all levels of the department…that harsh sanctions will not carry the day,” he said. “There will be minimum sanctions that are required.”

So what made him override this?  Looks pretty easy to me: he got confirmed by the Delaware Senate last week.  If I had to guess, if he came across as the tough guy the Senate would have pounded him.  I never thought I would say this, but thank you to Senators Greg Lavelle and Colin Bonini for saying no to this guy getting confirmed.  All his lies about being more transparent and communicating better with the public.  He just gave the middle finger to the public school system and parents in Delaware by doing this.

Godowsky is a water carrier for Governor Markell and his buddies at Rodel.  He is NOT his own man, and he is a coward.  He met with members of the Delaware Senate before his confirmation to talk about the changes he wants in the DOE.  He will make no changes without Jack Markell whispering in his ear, I can guarantee that!  This jacked up move of his assures the State Board of Education will vote on this and pass Regulation 103 which will put this into the books at their November 19th meeting.  And now schools will be coming up with even more nonsense concerning opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Delaware Parents: Just refuse the test now.  Do not lie down and let this happen.  Let’s beat New York’s 20% opt-out rate, and get it up to 50%, or higher!  The only way this cockamamie test is going to go away is unless we MAKE it happen.  That’s right, We The People!  I was starting to believe Godowsky’s line of crap about making things better.  I know he has his defenders, and I’m okay with the heat I’m about to get, but this man is a liar!  He is worse than Mark Murphy, because he does have the experience, and he is still okay with putting the screws to the public school system.  And he used to run a few of them!

If the 148th General Assembly doesn’t override the House Bill 50 veto by the equally cowardly Governor, there is going to be hell to pay for those who say no.  And if the leaders don’t even let it get to a vote, they will NOT be re-elected.  I will make damn sure of that!  We have all been victims of Jack Markell for far too long, and now he is on the cusp of completely destroying parental rights and the voice of educators.  The State Board is in Markell’s pocket just as much as Godowsky.  So we need to strike NOW!

Email your legislators today and start pounding the State Board of Education right away.

AFWG & Penalty For Participation Rates Still Alive While DOE Racks Up More FOIA Violations

Before you read this, you absolutely have to read State Rep. Kim Williams breakdown of their last meeting.  This is essential!

Okay, welcome back.  The Accountability Framework Working Group met last week for their second to last meeting.  Their next meeting will be on October 5th at 1:00pm.  I put all the notes from their first 11 meetings here and they have since updated the DOE website to include the notes from Meetings #12-14, and Agendas for #14 and #15.  Keep in mind the notes were written by the Delaware DOE.

Meeting #12 happened the same day I broke the news about this group and the whole participation rate thing.  I had not delved too deep into it at this point, and it would stand to reason the meeting happened around the same time as my article went up that day.  The key part from this meeting is this:

…as well as ensuring that schools with significant achievement gaps in ELA and Math proficiency and the four-year graduation rate do not receive the state’s highest rating.

Of particular interest is this part about what is required under ESEA and what constitutes a school getting the highest rating.  This will play a huge part later on in this article.  This meeting also had the first mention of Regulation 103 which had already been submitted to the Delaware Register of Regulations at this point.

Meeting #13 was held on September 2nd.  I don’t know how many members of the AFWG were aware of my articles on this group at this point, but I know for a fact at least three of them were.  Nothing was said about participation rate or Regulation 103 at this meeting as per the notes.

Now where things get really interesting, and nobody really knew, was the DOE all of a sudden put out an agenda for the next meeting of the AFWG on September 17th.  By state law, if you are putting out an agenda, it has to be done a week ahead of time if it is a public meeting.  This agenda was NOT on the DOE website as of 9/14/15 because I looked that day.  If you look on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar you can see this listed as a Public Meeting.  However, if you right click on the actual PDF created by Jennifer Roussell at the Delaware DOE on 9/16/15 at 8:36am in the morning, the Delaware Department of Education violated FOIA law by not announcing this a week earlier.

The proverbial stuff hit the fan at Meeting #14 on September 17th.  This was the same day as the State Board of Education meeting and news of Regulation 103 and its implications for Delaware schools spread like wildfire prior to this meeting.

Note that the group unanimously voted down the participation rate against proficiency.  But the AFWG does not have the final say on this.  That is the State Board of Education, who had quite a bit of discussion about this along with members of the public at their meeting that day.

But what the AFWG member who spoke at the State Board of Education meeting did not say was this:

The AFWG members present unanimously recommended removing Participation Rate for the Adjusted Proficiency calculation. Further discussion on the accountability consequence for schools missing the 95% target was requested. Initial feedback supported a rule that no school could receive the highest performance rating on DSSF if they missed the 95% threshold.

Since that meeting, I requested from Dr. Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna at the Delaware DOE the exact law, code, or regulation which states participation rate is required to be any part of a state’s accountability system.  As well, Schwinn said at the 9/17 State Board of Education meeting she was going to request this from US DOE.  To date, NOTHING has been presented.  I spent countless hours going through federal laws concerning this and ESEA waiver laws, rules and guidance, and there is absolutely NOTHING in Federal law that states this is a requirement.  NOTHING.  DOE knows this, but they are stalling.  AFWG needs to stop relying on the word of Penny Schwinn and actually research this for themselves.  But please keep in mind this is what the DOE wrote in the notes and may not actually be what was discussed.  If any member of the AFWG wants to contact me about this, please do so.

Last week, on 9/23/15, the AFWG held their 15th meeting.  Again, an agenda was put up, without 7 full days notice.  It is one again on the Public Meeting Calendar and this one even says there can be public comment at the meeting.  If you do the right-click thing again on this PDF and go to document properties, it was created on 9/17/15.  Two public meeting FOIA violations.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams attended this meeting as I wrote earlier.

The group will meet again on 10/5/15, but you won’t find it on the DOE website.  You have to look in the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar again but at least they got the agenda out more than seven days before the public meeting.  Maybe they were thinking if you add up all the days together for the last three meetings that would be sufficient enough to get a total of twenty-one days.  But that is some fuzzy math, cause that would only be seventeen days…

This will (for now), be the last meeting of the AFWG.  Will you be there?  Of course, it’s on a Monday afternoon, during that oh-so-convenient time for working parents and teachers to come.  But we can’t interfere with the State Board of Education’s Grotto’s Smarter Balanced party at 4pm.  Or the Charter School public hearings beginning at 4pm.

But this has to be the last meeting because it needs to be presented to the Delaware Education Support System group the next day, also during the same hours between 1-4pm.  The group that has no agenda and does not take minutes for their meetings.  Because it is so important to present it to this clandestine group but not parents in a transparent way…

This whole thing has become the biggest debacle in DOE history.  They are breaking the law all over the place.  And yes, I have already submitted two more FOIA complaints for their latest public meeting decisions concerning the AFWG for a grand total of seven pending complaints with the Delaware Department of Justice and two with the federal US DOE.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

Delaware State Board of Education Pulls Regulation 103 As Action Item For October Meeting

Finally! Something proactive! The Delaware State Board of Education just announced they will not be acting on Regulation 103 in their October State Board meeting.  What remains to be seen is if the Delaware Department of Education will submit it by their October 31st deadline to the United States Department of Education.  This is a good thing.  I can’t wait for the 148th General Assembly gets back in January.  They really need to do a top-down review of all regulations and the entire Title 14 in our Delaware law.  But parents won this one today, along with teachers, organizations, legislators, and even our own State Board of Education.  This could be the sea-change Delaware needs!

DOE’s Own Accountability Framework Working Group Slams Regulation 103 At State Board of Education Meeting

At the State Board of Education meeting today, it was a packed house as several public comments were given in opposition to Regulation 103.  The Delaware State Educators Association slammed it, the Red Clay Educators Association slammed it, Delaware PTA slammed it, I slammed it, and parents slammed it.  One parent slammed DOE’s Smarter Balanced Assessment and their obsession with proficiency.  In my public comment, I advised the DOE and State Board of Education of the state and federal complaints I filed against them in the last week.  I could have gone on, but the clock ran out. State Rep. John Kowalko lambasted the State Board of Education on their regulatory practices when the General Assembly is not in session and vowed to fight DOE and the State Board on these matters.

One parent was denied the chance to speak.  Because of the huge crowd, and a regulation stating you must sign up for public comment 15 minutes prior to the meeting, several people were told they couldn’t speak.  Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray did give one last chance to sign up for public comment, but the sign-up sheet was at the Board table, not in the hallway like it usually is (even way after the 15 minute “regulation” mark).  After all the comments ended, I advised Dr. Gray there was one more speaker who didn’t hear her “last chance” comment.  Dr. Gray refused to let the parent give public comment.  This parent is going to be sending me her public comment today and I will post it on here.

The ParentStrike press conference went well.  NBC Philadelphia and reporter Tim Furlong were there, and will be airing a segment during their 5pm broadcast.  The News Journal, Dover Post, and others were in attendance between the Press Conference and the State Board meeting as well.   I spoke, as did Rep. Kowalko, State Senator Dave Lawson, and RCEA President Mike Matthews.  I had to leave the State Board of Education early to pick my son up from school, but I will be getting updates on their discussion of Regulation 103 and the Smarter Balanced Assessment results for all the sub-groups.

Any goodwill the Delaware DOE had is quickly evaporating as no one seems to be taking their side anymore.  The House of Cards has collapsed, but I did wish departing Secretary of Education Mark Murphy good luck in his future endeavors, as did others.  He was given a gift by the State Board so he could “write it all down”, which if I had to guess would be a future book???? Please don’t call it “Murphy’s Law” Mark…that would be too much…

Oh yeah, what about the Accountability Framework Working Group, otherwise known as AFWG?  Apparently, the notes from their meetings I published a few weeks ago, did not show the true story about what went on during these meetings.  It wasn’t all harmony and agreement like the minutes suggest.  DSEA member of the group, Deb Stevens, gave public comment.  She spoke as the representative for all of the non-DOE members of the group.  She indicated that this coalition from the AFWG wants the State Board of Education to defer a ruling on this until it can be flushed out even further and does not believe it is a final product at all and needs a lot of work.

I did find out former US DOE employee Deborah Delisle apparently sent a letter to the Delaware DOE indicating the participation rate MUST be used on the ESEA mandated school report card as a “consequence”, although there is nothing on the US DOE or Delaware DOE website with this letter or language.  I just emailed Penny Schwinn for a copy of this letter.  Even if it is in there, it is not regulation and the Delaware DOE is in way obligated to enforce a simple warning.

Delaware Students Are The Sacrificial Lamb For Penny Schwinn

Penny Schwinn is the most dangerous woman at the DOE.  I saw this firsthand yesterday at the State Board of Education retreat.  I wrote about this extensively last night.  This is a woman who pushed Red Clay and Christina to the breaking point over the priority schools last year.  She is the same person who said that violence in our most impoverished communities “isn’t necessarily a challenge to overcome” with how it affects students in the classroom.  And yesterday, she announced at a public meeting that Delaware is going to implement the most aggressive and difficult accountability plan for schools in the entire country.  And she isn’t willing to back down from this.

I’m sure nobody challenges the fact that our schools have issues in our state.  No state is perfect, and Delaware is no exception.  It’s not like we are the top-ranked state in the country where we can afford to push the bar so high for our students.  We have one of the highest per-student funding mechanisms in the country.  But our students are not advancing.  Not to the level of the DOE’s satisfaction, and certainly not to parents satisfaction either.

The elephant in the room is the test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Everything is tied to this test.  I never hear the DOE or the State Board of Education EVER talk about students actual grades.  You know, the ones given by a teacher three or four times a year.  The ones that show, over a ten-week period, how our students are really doing.  Everything is in relation to the test: student growth, student proficiency, teacher effectiveness, school ratings, etc.  But if there is one thing I have learned in the past two weeks it is this: the Smarter Balanced measures schools based on labels.  In all the graphs released by this blog and Delaware Liberal in the past week, this test measures poverty and economic status.  And that is essentially it.  It recognizes the haves and the have-nots.

Regulation 103, also known as the Delaware School Success Framework, will punish schools severely over once-a-year test scores.  I truly don’t care what Penny Schwinn’s motivation is for all of this.  This is insanity at an epic level and our students will pay the most severe price for her madness.  It is past time our legislators and leaders took a step back and look at the effect all of this is having on education in Delaware.  Far too many citizens are measuring success based on one test.  It is wrong.  It is propaganda.  It is evil.  And it needs to stop.  Delaware parents, I implore you to refuse this test for your child.  It is now an essential and absolute urgency.  You hold in your hands, your voice, the ability to turn this around and get out of this toxic environment our children have been exposed to.  Please end it.  Now.

The Oxymoron At The State Board of Education Retreat Today **UPDATED**

The hardest part about writing this article was coming up with the title.  There were so many things I could have named it.  Such as “It could have been worse, it could have been rocket ships.”  Or “Vermont and Connecticut are really going to hate Delaware soon.”  Or “We gotta grow them.”  Or “Is it still an embargo if they reveal it at a public meeting?”  In any event, I attended part of the State Board of Education retreat today.  I arrived at 1:30pm, and I was the ONLY member of the public there.  I received some stares.  All but two members of the State Board of Education were present.  Those that were there were President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Vice-President Jorge Melendez, Gregory Coverdale, Pat Heffernan, and Nina Bunting.

When I got there, head of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit Christopher Ruszkowski was giving a presentation on, what else, teacher effectiveness.  There was a slide up which said TEF- 5 charters, TEF- 6 charters, Freire, Colonial, Aspira.  If I had to guess, these are schools or “collaboratives” that have or will have their own teacher evaluation system.    The Rus Man (sorry, spelling his last name is a huge pain!) said Lake Forest School District believes DPAS-II is more equitable.  Rus said “Districts not using the new evaluation methods are not as successful.”  He explained how some districts get “caught up in the structure” and “the rules”.  He said principals want more high-quality data, and they are having better conversations about Measure B in the DPAS-II system.

This was followed with a presentation by Dr. Shana Ricketts.  She explained how that state trained 125 principals over the summer, and there will be training sessions over the next two weeks, and DSEA will be holding workshops over the changes in the DPAS-II.  The Rus Man explained how Delaware has the “most decentralized system in the country for teacher evaluations and goals are different across the board.”  A question came up about assessments.  Discussion was had about reducing assessments even more.  “If we standardize chemistry exams why have teacher ones as well,” Rus Man asked.  “But some are teacher-created, which is good cause it shows growth.”  Dr. Gray responded with “Gotta grow them!”  Rus man explained how “teachers need to be empowered”, “our obligation to be world-class is students have to be proficient when they graduate”, and “We are trying to ask the right questions.”  Rus man also said “There is not enough rigor.”

At this point, Dr. Penny Schwinn came in, followed shortly by Ryan Reyna, who works under Schwinn.  Actually, I should say next to her as they are both easily the two tallest employees at the DOE.  While I was distracted, Rus Man said something about “Commitment to proficiency…mindblocks….set the target, work my way back” followed by something about the “culture of the building”.  To which board member Pat Heffernan responded with “We can’t put blinders on and have no idea.”  Gray responded with “We want growth AND proficiency!” followed by “We don’t set the goal based on average, we set it on growth.”  Rus Man responded by saying “We are to be compared to everyone.  Not Delaware, not other states, but everyone in the world.”  He stated our principals are aware of this.  Someone asked if our principals understand this.  He explained how the alternative is the “same way we’ve done for 100 years, mastery of standards to grade book…”  Gray burst out that “It should be proficiency based!”  Board member Nina Bunting thanked Rus Man for the presentation and said “It was very informative.”  Heffernan said we need to “encourage principals to encourage good data entry.”

The State Board took about a ten minute break at this point.  Dr. Gray asked how I was doing, and I proceeded to tell her all about my hernia and my operation.  She explained how her brother had that done.  I asked if it was stomach or groin.  She said stomach. I told her mine was groin.  She just kind of stared at me for a few seconds, unsure of what to say.

At this point the accountability trio of Dr. Penny Schwinn, Ryan Reyna, and Dr. Carolyn Lazar began to give a presentation on Smarter Balanced.  I actually asked if this meeting had any embargoed information I shouldn’t know about.  Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, explained this is a public meeting.  Most of the information was already on the state DOE website.  Lazar explained how 21 states took the field test, and 17 Delaware districts participated.  All told, 4 million students took the field test in the USA.  Schwinn explained how elementary schools outperformed middle schools and high schools in both math and ELA.  Heffernan asked if this included charters on the data they were seeing, but Schwinn explained the charters were on a separate slide.  Lazar said there was a 15 point gap between Math and ELA, but the “claim area” was only 10 points.  At this point, Dr. Gray asked what the proficiency level was.  For the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Lazar explained it is the students who score proficient or above.  That is good to know!  Next they went over slides showing how close or how far districts were between Math and ELA scores.  Donna Johnson commented how Capital School District’s proficiency lines attached which is very unique.  Schwinn responded that this “speaks to the rigor of assessment.”  Schwinn brought up the student survey and said that 7,000 students self-selected to perform the survey at the end of the test.  Dr. Gray said that isn’t statistically normed.  Schwinn explained it was not, but the survey will become automatic next year, like how it was on DCAS.

Michael Watson, the teacher and learning chief at the DOE, presented next on Smarter Balanced in relation to teaching and instruction.  He explained how we need international assessments so we can compare against India and China.  He explained how Delaware had “strong positive indicators with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) trends.”  Watson proceeded to show the board a chart showing how Delaware compared to nine other Smarter Balanced Assessment states that released their data.  Delaware came ahead for literacy in third to fifth grade, but much lower in ELA for 8th grade.  Next, Watson gave a long talk about comparing Delaware to Connecticut with Smarter Balanced results and the two states NAEP results.  He found that Delaware trailed behind Connecticut in NAEP, but we were closer to their scores with Smarter Balanced.  I wanted to burst out “That’s cause SBAC sucks so I would expect most states to suck equally on it”, but I bit my tongue.  But as I thought about it, comparing two different states NAEP scores to SBAC is like comparing a clothing store to Chuck-E-Cheese.  There really isn’t a comparison as they are two different entities.  In talking about the states Delaware scored near the same as on SBAC, Watson actually said “Either Connecticut and Vermont didn’t take SBAC seriously or we are working harder.”  Bunting explained how in Indian River, “when state says jump we say how high!”

**At this point, Watson looked over at me and said the next slide is embargoed information but he presented it anyways.  So I can’t write about the embargoed information presented to me at a public meeting about a survey done showing that in Delaware, 88% of Superintendents feel we have implemented Common Core, followed by 87% of principals and 67% of teachers.  For some reason, this is top-secret embargoed information that won’t be released until next month or something like that. (**SEE UPDATE ON BOTTOM)

I had to leave to pick up my son from school.  I brought him home and checked my email real quick.  I did get an email from Yvette Smallwood who works for the state on the Delaware Register of Regulations.  She informed me, in response to my request they remove Regulation 103 from their September publication due to issues of non-transparency surrounding it, that they couldn’t remove it but the DOE did agree to extend the public comment period until October 8th, which would be 30 days after Regulation 103 was put on this blog!  I drove back to the State Board retreat and as I walked in I heard Dr. Gray talking loudly about parents needing to understand.  At which point Reyna pointed to a chair for me to sit in and Dr. Gray stopped talking about whatever parent thing she was talking about.

The infamous “toolkit” has been fully released on the Smarter Balanced website.  It includes a link to the DelExcels website, some other “very informative” websites called Great Kids and Be A Learning Hero.  The DOE is working with DSEA to get information out for parents to understand the Smarter Balanced results.  According to Donna Johnson, many districts are excited to get the information to parents, and are aligning curriculum and professional development in an effort to gain more awareness.  The DOE is working with superintendents, principals, social media, and their partners (Rodel).  The test results won’t be mailed out from the DOE until Friday, September 18th and Monday, September 21st.  Which is probably their way of screwing up my well-designed article from earlier today about education events this week…  But I digress.  Schwinn said the resutls will come out earlier in future years, but this is a transition year.  Johnson said “some districts are excited to dig in” with releasing data.  Lazar explained how teachers are getting “claim spreads” which are tied to “anchor data”.  At this point, it’s all Greek to me when they start speaking in that language.  The DOE is working with journalists (no one asked me, and I had already received embargoed information at a public meeting) to write articles on how to educate parents on “how to read reports and grade spreads”.  Because parents don’t know how to do that.  I don’t think parents are confused about the data.  They will be confused why Johnny is doing awesome with grades but he tanked the SBAC.  And no one will be able to present this to them in a way they will clearly understand so hopefully they will come up with the same conclusion as many parents already have: Smarter Balanced sucks!

At this point, Johnson wanted to play one of the new videos, just released Friday in an email blast to anyone the DOE has worked with (which didn’t include me, but I got it forwarded to me on Friday).  So here it is, the world premiere (if you haven’t been so blessed to be included in the email blast), of the Delaware DOE Smarter Balanced Guide For Parents Video 2015:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/4/DE_REPORT_VIDEO_REVISED_MIX_1.mp4?_=1

*video may not be working, I will work on it…

This won’t be the last time you hear this video, because apparently some districts want to put this on their morning announcement! I kid you not…

This next part is actually somewhat frightening.  When asked how many hits the DOE website is getting for this, Johnson was unable to answer, but they can track the hits or work with partners on sites they don’t own to get that information.  Tracking plays a LARGE part later on in this retreat…

The final part of the presentation was my whole reason for coming: The Delaware School Success Framework.  A slide came up from the State Board of Education agenda for Thursday’s meeting, but it had attachments that said “embargoed”.  These links don’t appear on the public agenda.  There was a lot of whispering between Penny Schwinn, Shana Young, and Donna Johnson at this point, as if they could be discussing something they didn’t want me to hear.  I don’t obviously know this for sure, just a hunch! 😉

She went over the state’s new accountability system called the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF).  I covered most of this last week in my Regulation 103 article and how much of a game-changer this system is, but I found out quite a bit of information on it today.  The DSSF will go live next month with what they are calling the “paper framework” until the full online system launches by June 2nd (a must date according to Penny Schwinn).  Schwinn said the reason they are including 4, 5, and 6 year graduation rates is because of special education students who may not graduate in four years.  She proudly said “Delaware is the first state to have college and career preparation” as part of the state report card (which is what the US DOE calls state accountability systems).  When talking about the Accountability Framework Working Group (AFWG), Schwinn stated Ryan Reyna is leading this group.  She said there is a lot of opinions in this group, and not everyone is going to agree, which makes it a good group.  She said no accountability system is going to have 100% agreement, so it took some compromising.

“Delaware has the most aggressive rate in the country for growth,” Schwinn said.  This was her explanation for the VERY high portion of the DSSF which has growth.  She said it “feels more appropriate with Smarter Balanced to set the bar high.”  She acknowledged they are “pushing it with US DOE” but feels they will be approved.  How this all works with the DSSF is this.  There is a Part A, which counts toward a school’s accountability rating, and Part B which will show on the DOE website and is informative in nature but has no weight on a school’s grade.  Part A includes proficiency (multiplied by the school’s participation rate on SBAC), growth to proficiency, college and career prep (for high schools), average daily attendance, and so forth.  The numbers have changed somewhat since I last reported on the weights of each category.  For elementary and middle schools, 30% of the weight will be proficiency, and high schools will be 25%.  For growth, in elementary and middle schools this will be 45%, and high schools 40%.  So in essence, 75% of a school’s accountability rating will be based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment in elementary and middle schools, and 65% for high schools.  The bulk of the rating system that will determine reward, recognition, action, focus, focus plus and priority status will be based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Schwinn said this is very aggressive and is “not comfortable backing down on it.”  Not one word was said about the participation rate or Regulation 103 during this presentation.  The categories were presented for the ESEA Flex Waiver last March but the weights have to be submitted to the US DOE by 10/31/15.  So the State Board has to make a decision on it by their 10/15 meeting.

Reyna talked about proficiency and growth with some scatter graphs.  “We’re really valuing schools that are showing growth with students” he said out of thin air.  Schwinn talked about the school survey parents will receive (school report card).  They are going with the “5 Essentials Survey” for the non-accountability rated Part B.  The DOE is creating a survey working group which will start next month and will include the “usual stakeholders”.  They sent emails to all the superintendents to participate, just like they did with the AFWG.  The state is holding itself accountable as well, but there was no discussion about what they are measuring themselves against.  Schwinn explained that on the survey last fall, parents liked the idea of letter grades on the school report and teachers hated it.  So they won’t have that on the report.  In news I know many will like, THERE WILL BE NO ROCKET SHIPS, TRAFFIC LIGHTS OR TROPHIES on the Delaware School Success Report sent to parents.  There was a lot of discussion about design and different ideas.  Heffernan said DOE can tell parents “It could have been worse, it could have been rocket ships.”

Schwinn explained on the online report, parents will be able to map and graph data.  As an example, Dr. Gray said if a parent is looking for a school that has choir, they will be able to find that, to which Schwinn agreed.  Schwinn said “accountability is intended to be a judgment on a school.  But we want to make sure parents see other data as well.”  Schwinn said they WILL TRACK THE INFORMATION PARENTS SEARCH FOR ON SCHOOLS to see if they can let schools or districts know about needs in their area.  Or at least that’s what she said.

Schwinn had to leave to “feed her family” and Reyna took over.  They are resetting assessment targets for the state and each subgroup which must be done by 1/31/16.  At this point, the next slide Reyna presented had embargoed information at a public meeting (just love saying that!).  So I cannot, by threat of force or violence, tell you that the overall state proficiency for SBAC was a little over 51% and for the overall subgroups, it was 38.8% for SBAC.  But here is the real kicker.  Delaware has to pick their choice to hold the state accountable.  With a six year plan, the state must close the proficiency gap between the overall sub-groups (including low-income, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and minorities) by 50% in six years.  This is what Delaware DOE wants.  Other choices were all schools are 100% proficient by 2019-2020, or “any other method proposed by state that is educationally sound and results in ambitious but achievable Annual Measurable Objectives for all schools and subgroups.”

Pat Heffernan was not a fan of DOE’s choice because of the impact on students with disabilities.  He even made a comment about how they won’t reach this goal either.  It was discussed how ALL students will be included in this state accountability rating.  The infamous “n” number won’t apply (when students are below 15 at a school in a sub-group, they are NOT counted towards the individual school’s accountability) on this state system since ALL students that are in a sub-group will be included in the state’s rating.  But students will not be double-counted.  So for example, an African-American student with disabilities will only count towards one of those sub-groups.  The DOE must increase the 38.8% for the sub-groups to 45% in six years to meet the state rating with the US DOE.

And with that, the meeting ended since they had already run over time for the meeting, and they used a room at the Duncan Center in Dover.

UPDATED, 9/17/15, 9:34pm: Michael Watson from the Delaware DOE spoke with me at the State Board of Education meeting during a break.  He informed me the slide he presented to me at the State Board Retreat was NOT embargoed information, but the name of the upcoming report is.  Since I didn’t remember it, it’s a non-issue but I do appreciate him letting me know.  As for Ryan Reyna, that’s another story.

Big Brother Isn’t Just Watching, He’s Gearing Up For A Hostile Takeover

If this is the plan, it is very troubling.  Especially since Regulation 103 seems to be something embedded in Delaware state code in order for this to happen.  I normally read this stuff with a grain of salt but with a watchful eye.  But read this with an open mind.  Read it and think of everything going on in education right now.  When we have out-of-state education reform think tank guys writing in the News Journal out of the blue, something is up… When we have education surveys given to teachers asking a lot of the same questions as what is described in the below article, something is up…

Read The Survey DOE Sent To Focus School Teachers To Prep Them For DOE Intrusion

The Delaware Department of Education is naming 10 Focus Schools (think Priority Lite) in addition to 4 Focus Schools which will become Focus Plus.  This is in addition to the 7 Priority Schools in Delaware.  And it doesn’t look like the soon-to-be-voted-on by the State Board of Education Regulation 103 will ease this plethora of schools the Delaware DOE wants to punish in the future.

As part of their prep work for the new Focus Schools, the DOE sent a survey for teachers to fill out.  They gave them a lot of time too.  They got it today and it has to be done by Monday.  Yes, I said Monday.  It is all voluntary, but I digress…

To say some of these questions are very intrusive would be an understatement.  The DOE is disturbing me on more levels than ever before.  And that’s just in the past two months.  What they are doing to education is going to have damaging effects on students, teachers, schools, parents, communities, and themselves.  It’s one thing to follow Federal mandate, but to do what they are doing is way beyond what any Federal mandates or even non-regulatory guidance suggest.  It’s like poor schools are the DOE’s lab rats and they keep wanting to change the catalysts to completely destroy them.  It is a sickening thing to report on, and I hate it.  The DOE has no concept of human dignity anymore, and it is shameful.  But what can I expect from a state agency that refers to educators as “Human Capital”.  But someone has to report this stuff so the public knows what is going on behind all the press releases they send out.  “Who watches the watchmen?”

Below is the survey sent to the teachers at these 10 Focus Schools.  Did this come from the mind of Penny Schwinn or Christopher Ruszkowski at the DOE?

* 1. Teachers at my school follow an established curriculum and appropriate pacing.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 2. Teachers at my school routinely differentiate instruction based on data and the needs of students.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 3. Teachers at my school have a strong understanding of the academic content standards that make-up the curriculum.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 4. Teachers at my school are aware of effective instructional strategies to promote student engagement.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 5. My school has a formal process or model for designing lessons.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 6. Teachers at my school utilize various formative assessment strategies.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 7. Student progress at my school is monitored regularly.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 8. Individual teachers and/or teams of teaches set academic goals related to student achievement.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 9. School or district developed benchmark assessments are effectively used at my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 10. Teachers at my school review and analyze data together.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 11. Teachers at my school have easy access (electronically or hard copy reports) to student achievement data.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 12. I feel comfortable using data to inform my teaching practices.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 13. There is an effective process to identify academically struggling students at my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 14. Our school’s RTI or intervention system is effective.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 15. Teachers new to my school are given an appropriate amount of support.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 16. Our school has a difficult time getting good candidates to apply for openings at our school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 17. School sponsored professional development activities address my needs.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 18. I receive feedback on my teaching practices at least once per month.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 19. There is a process for teachers at my school to receive assistance and coaching when needed.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 20. Our school has a functional building leadership team.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 21. Teachers are often asked for input on school matters at my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 22. My school’s most critical priorities are known by most staff.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 23. Teachers participate in setting school-wide achievement goals each year.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 24. This year my school has implemented effective strategies to engage parents.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 25. I feel comfortable talking with school leaders (administrators or teachers) about instructional practices.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 26. Our school does a good job of utilizing resources (time, money, personnel).

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 27. Established school rules are followed by students at my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 28. School leaders at my school monitor student discipline data and implements effective systems to promote positive student behavior.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 29. The teaching-learning process in my classroom is frequently made more difficult because of poor student behavior.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 30. My school has implemented effective strategies to promote student attendance and punctuality to school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 31. My school has effective resources in place to support students’ social and emotional needs.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 32. Students at my school are expected to achieve and conduct themselves at a high level, and students are recognized for doing so.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 33. Teachers at my school believe students’ backgrounds are major barriers.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 34. Teachers at my school often stay after school or work on weekends.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 35. I am excited about the future of my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 36. I believe most of my students are capable of pursuing post-secondary education.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 37. Teachers at my school are committed to supporting new educational initiatives.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree
Prev Done

Delaware School Success Framework Is Regulation 103: * Opt-Out Penalty * Action Schools * Focus Schools * Priority Schools *

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLE I HAVE EVER WRITTEN AND ACTION NEEDS TO BE TAKEN NOW!!!!

Now Exceptional Delaware has yet another place to look for information and changes the Delaware Department of Education are trying to squeak into state regulation.  I have found the actual regulation for the Delaware School Success Report in the monthly Delaware Register of Regulations for September.  It is still a proposed regulation but the deadline for public comment is 10/1/15.  I’m glad I found yet another source of information for me to be on top of in this state.  I’m going to have come up with some kind of parent guide to navigate through all this stuff in case I ever become incapacitated or die or whatever.

Yes, this regulation already has the participation rate penalty as part of the regulation, even though it was never on the actual ESEA waiver the public was able to view and comment on.  For the calendar of events/public hearing notices in the registrar, it has a listing of what the options are for the public to comment on a regulation or any hearings to attend based on the regulation.  For all of them EXCEPT Regulation 103, it states what the regulation is and what the public can do.  For Regulation 103, all it says is:

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
PUBLIC NOTICE
The State Board of Education will hold its monthly meeting on Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. in the Townsend Building, Dover, Delaware.
Hmm…
So I have the actual regulation with it’s exact proposed wording below.  Where is the public notification of this regulation in printed material?  In the meantime, if you have never read a long document on Scribd, this is the time WHERE YOU MUST READ EVERY SINGLE WORD OF THIS BECAUSE THIS IS THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN DELAWARE!!!!!!!!!!!  Every single legislator, parent, teacher, staff member, principal, district worker, district administrator, superintendent, board member and citizen needs to read this.  Because if you don’t act NOW, it will be too late.  AND THERE IS NO WAY THE 148TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY WILL BE ABLE TO OVERRIDE THE HOUSE BILL 50 VETO once this goes into effect because it will go against STATE LAW!  You MUST write or email the DOE by October 1st, and give public comment at next week’s State Board of Education meeting, on September 17th, to voice your strong objection to this absolute state takeover of our neediest schools based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware School Success Report is NOT the same as the Delaware School Success Framework.  The report is just the pretty little report card parents will get on the school.

The DOE, State Board & Superintendents Want To Get Opt-Out Punishment Into State Code Before January

This may very well be the most important article I have ever written on Exceptional Delaware.  Parents, teachers, and citizens need to know what is going on and how perceived absolute power corrupts and serves to belittle and demean those who don’t have it.  Those of us who have been fighting for every student’s education in this state can’t do it alone.  You need to TAKE the power from those who would punish our children, teachers, and schools.  You need to let everyone in the state know about THIS article, because the fate of our children’s future depends on it. Continue reading “The DOE, State Board & Superintendents Want To Get Opt-Out Punishment Into State Code Before January”