State Board Of Education To Double-Up At Next Meeting With 7 Charter School Renewals & Many Presentations

When freaky weather occurred on the date of their last State Board of Education meeting, Executive Director Jenna Ahner canceled the meeting which was to take place in Milford.  As a result, all the agenda items from that meeting will be added to the already crowded December agenda.  If you plan on attending the thing, this is going to be a long night!  The mammoth agenda has a lot going on! Continue reading

**UPDATED**The Clock Is Ticking For The State Board Of Education

The State Board of Education still has four members.  Which is their quorum amount.  Governor Carney, with ten days left in the 149th General Assembly, has not put forth ANY nominations for replacements.  Delaware State Code mandates four members on the State Board.  If Carney does not put forth nominations until after the General Assembly goes into recess from July 1st until mid-January 2019, he could order the Delaware Senate back into session to confirm nominations.  That isn’t unusual but typically doesn’t happen until October when it does occur.  Which means our State Board of Education is operating at a bare minimum for the next four months.  Which means if just one member doesn’t attend a meeting they can not take action on any item, even approving their minutes.

I have an extreme issue with keeping this body at four members.  Any regulation or appeal the State Board hears would only have four members voting.  One no-show could shut something down very fast.  It is a recipe for disaster.  Simply put, they cannot operate the way they are supposed to.  As an example, what happens if Secretary of Education Susan Bunting decided to put a charter school on formal review for some reason?  The State Board would have to vote on that.  Is four members enough to give that conversation the full weight for a matter that serious?  There is a reason there are seven members.

I was told by Jon Sheehan, Governor Carney’s Education Policy Advisor, the State Board of Education would be restored by June 30th.  So where are the nominations?  Since there are none today, that leaves one last Senate Executive Committee meeting to do this, which would be next Wednesday.  At that point it is the last week of the General Assembly.  I would worry about the quality of the nominations if it is rushed at the last-minute.

Two weeks ago, the Joint Sunset Committee released the State Board of Education from Sunset review.  The only unanswered question is who the State Board’s Executive Director will report to- the State Board, the Delaware Department of Education, or a hybrid of both.  Meanwhile, the deadline for applicants to replace Donna Johnson expired June 9th.  Which means someone will most likely get that job soon.  But will there even be a functional State Board of Education for them to direct?

I still feel as though the State Board of Education should be elected by the people.  Having a Governor hand-pick who he wants on the State Board of Education all but ensures people will get picked who would follow his agendas.  It is something our legislators could change but nobody wants to tick off the Governor.  Many of them agree but lack the stones to actually do it.  I say have an elected State Board of Education and get rid of “Secretary-only Regulations”.  Those are the ones, like Regulation 225, that the State Board of Education does not vote on.  Which is preposterous in my opinion.

Updated, 3:37pm: I spoke with Jon Sheehan a short time ago who assured me that three nominations will be introduced next week and he anticipates a full State Board of Education by June 30th.

The Dream Becomes A Reality: Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students

It all starts with an idea.  But ideas that roll around in your mind will always be just that.  It is now time for action!  Therefore, this is the birth of Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students.

For almost four years I’ve been writing about education in good old Delaware.  It’s taken me from the bottom of Sussex all the way to the tip-top parts of the state.  I’ve been to Legislative Hall and the Delaware DOE building more times than I can count.  And nothing has changed.  In fact, I’m going to say it is getting worse.  Especially with special education.  But it isn’t just that.  It is also issues dealing with school discipline, race, gender, bullying, classroom management, class sizes, safety, and trauma coming into our schools in ways our educators are just now starting to fathom and understand.

To that end, I am taking my email/Facebook/social media/cell phone advocacy out of the digital world and into the schools.  This will be a huge task and I need your help!

These are the issues I am willing to advocate for students:

Special Education: whether it is IEPs or 504 plans, it is important to know your child’s rights, the parental rights, and the rights of the school.  Many parents feel overwhelmed in IEP meetings.  Trying to learn about federal IDEA law, Delaware State Code, and all the pending special education legislation is a task in itself.  Do you have a child with a unique disability that may warrant very specific goals or accommodations in their IEP?

School Discipline: does the punishment fit the crime?  Does the punishment meet the criteria of the school student code of conduct?  Does it follow state law?  If a student has an IEP or 504 plan was it a manifestation of their disability or just poor choices?  What are the rights of students when there are School Resource Officers, constables, or armed security?  When is physical restraint warranted?  How does it work with transportation and busing when a discipline issue comes up?

Trauma: Is your child going through a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder based on violence in their neighborhood?  Or in their own home?  Are their grades falling behind as a result of this?  Are they acting out?  These are students that may not be special education but need an advocate to help schools and teachers sift through these issues so they can give your child the best education possible.

Bullying: Is your child being bullied?  Are you finding the school isn’t doing everything they can to put a stop to it?  What steps can you take to make sure they do?

These are my goals:

To serve any of the above needs or potential conflict a parent may have with a school.

To guide parents on the appropriate ways to deal with the folks in the schools.  This isn’t as simple as it looks, and when things escalate, there is a proper chain of steps to go through.

To work with every school district and charter school in the state to make sure Parent Council Groups for special education are up and running.

To advocate meaningful dialogue between parents and schools.  This is crucial.  But it is also important to make sure there is one adult in the room who can be unbiased and impartial.  Screaming heads don’t get you far.  It might feel good in the short-term, but it is not conducive to the best interests of the one person who matters the most- your child!

To inform parents of their child’s rights and how that applies to the school setting.  To inform parents of the differences between legislation and regulation and what is enforceable and what is not.

To make sure due process rights are followed to the letter of the law in discipline situations.

I am not an attorney nor do I pretend to be.  I am just a parent with my own special needs child who has run the gauntlet with Delaware schools.  If your child’s school building doesn’t know me directly, they know of me.  All the district and charter leaders know me as well as the legislators.  I have contacts all over the place and know exactly who to go to when things need to happen.  I’ve helped parents out for years but it is time to take it to the next level.

I will be doing this work at no cost.  But any organization or business (whatever this turns out to be based on demand) needs funding.  Pure and simple.  So I am asking for donations from folks in Delaware who see this growing need in our state.  Whether it is a dollar or more, every bit counts.  I am willing to go up and down our state to help our kids.  I am centrally located in Dover so my door is open for all!

If you are of mind to help get this going and help sustain this, any contributions are certainly welcome!  Please go to the Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students page here: https://www.gofundme.com/exceptional-advocacy-for-delaware

If you are a parent who needs help in dealing with a situation involving your child at a Delaware school, please contact me as soon as possible.  My email is kjohlandt70@gmail.com and we can exchange phone numbers from there.

Highlights From The January State Board of Education Meeting

Aside from the controversial Special Education Strategic Plan presentation and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security going under formal review, what else happened at the January State Board of Education meeting?  This is what goes out to legislators and all those important education folks in the state!

January State Board Meeting Highlights

The State Board of Education held its Regular Monthly Board Meeting on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.

All materials and presentations from the meeting can be accessed on the online meeting platform posted within each month’s agenda as posted on our website (www.destateboarded.k12.de.us ).

  • Here is a direct link to the agenda complete with links and attached documents related to presentations and other items before the Board:  SBE Monthly Meeting Agenda

The audio recording from the meeting is now posted on the State Board website.  An index of the recording with live links by section is copied below.

 

·         Board President, Dr. Dennis Loftus,  discussed his attendance at the Governor’s State of the State address earlier in the day and provided a recap of the key points involving education.  The Executive Director presented her report which included discussion of the latest publication by NASBE which focuses on Early Learning. A link to the publication as well as a few other articles regarding accountability plans across all 50 states according to ESSA plans and an interesting approach to chronic absenteeism. Her posted report called “News Updates and Information” is provided monthly.  There will soon be a link added to the home page for easier access to these reports and local and national articles related to education issues which are provided for review by the Board and public. Ms. Johnson then updated the Board on the work related to the Literacy Campaign and highlighted the upcoming meetings for the steering committee and subcommittees of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

·         Secretary Bunting provided a comprehensive report to the Board which included details about several school visits and opportunities to engage with members of the business community and other policy leaders,  meetings with school administrators, educators, and students in which she had been involved throughout the month.  These visits included meeting with the School District Consolidation Task Force Academic and Student Needs Committee where they discussed the state’s EL Strategic Plan. She also had the opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievement of 4 schools for Continued Excellence and identified 15 as Recognition Schools. Recognition Schools receive a banner to display in their school as well as $8,000 to further advance learning at their schools. She highlighted her involvement at the P-20 Council, Governor’s Cabinet meeting, Family Service Council, and the G.E.A.R meeting.

·         The Board received a presentation from the 2018 DE State Teacher of the Year, Virginia Forcucci.  Following her presentation and discussion with the Board they honored her with the SBE Award of Excellence.

·         The Board received a presentation on the Special Education Strategic Plan from the co-chairs of the Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Council, Dr. Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle. Board members discussed the development of the plan and asked questions regarding the goals and metrics within the plan. Additional information and resources from the presentation were provided on the agenda page for this item.

·         Department Regulations

o    Regulation 925: Children with Disabilities Subpart D, Evaluations, Eligibility Determination, Individualized Education Programs  was presented for final action.  There was discussion regarding the comments received from the GACEC and Statewide Disabilities Council as well as the fact that this change was only addressing one aspect of the regulation to align with federal requirements.  The Board was informed that a broader group of stakeholders are currently working on revisions to further update the rest of the regulation and that this regulation may be before them again with more comprehensive changes in the near future. A motion to approve the regulation as presented for final order was made by Mrs. Rutt and seconded by Dr. Whittaker. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote with one abstention (Mr. Rushdan, who was just confirmed to the Board the prior day and not a part of the prior month’s discussion of the regulation).

o   Regulation 501: State Content standards  was presented for final action. The amendments included the addition of statewide K-12 Financial Literacy and Computer Science standards.  The public comment received as well as feedback received through the community engagement sessions held by the Department was shared with the Board. There was discussion regarding the date in regulation for adoption and how that was different from the full implementation date of these standards to be integrated and aligned with curriculum.  It was explained that the date in regulation is the date that the standards would officially become the state content standards and that the implementation of those standards into professional development for teachers and integrated and aligned with curriculum would follow a similar timeline trajectory has was used for the Next Generation Science standards.  A motion to approve the regulation as presented for final order was made by Mr. Heffernan and seconded by Mrs. Rutt. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote with one abstention (Mr. Rushdan, who was just confirmed to the Board the prior day and not a part of the prior month’s discussion of the regulation).

o   Following the approval of Regulation 501, the Board took a moment to thank Mr. Michael Watson, Chief Academic Officer, for his many contributions to improving education for children in the state of Delaware.  It had been announced the prior month that this would be his final State Board meeting before leaving the department.  The Board recognized him for his service and awarded him the State Board’s Award of Excellence.

o   Regulation 1008 DIAA Junior High and Middle School Interscholastic Athletics and Regulation 1009 DIAA High School Interscholastic Athletics were presented to the Board for discussion.  These regulations are out for comment during the month of January and will be back before the Board in February for final action.  The DIAA Executive Director and legal counsel addressed questions from the Board members regarding the proposed changes which dealt with Officials organizations and Foreign Exchange and International Students’ eligibility.

·         The Board received public comment from two individuals commending them on the decision to approve regulation 501 and adopt statewide Computer Science standards for Delaware.

·         John Carwell, from the Charter School Office, presented the Department’s request to place Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.

o   At the December 18, 2014 meeting of the State Board of Education, the charter for DAPSS was renewed with the following conditions:

§  1. The school shall attain a rating of “Meets Standard” on the Academic Framework for the 2014-15 school year; and

§  2. The school shall attain a rating of “Meets Standard” on the Financial Framework for the 2014-15 school year.

o   In SY 2014/2015 Delaware implemented a new system of accountability known as the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) and was permitted by the U.S. Department of Education to use this school year as the year from which to measure academic achievement and progress.  Due to this waiver, DAPSS was provided an additional year to satisfy its conditions.

o   In SY 2015/2016, Delaware changed the academic assessment for high schools from Smarter Balanced to SAT.  Due to this change in academic assessment, DAPSS was provided an additional year to satisfy its conditions.

o   In SY 2016/2017, DAPSS failed to meet academic standards in three of the four DSSF metrics and showed a decline in both academic achievement and academic growth.

o   As for financial standards, in SY 2014/2015, SY 2015/2016, and SY 2016/2017, DAPSS failed to meet financial standards.

o   In 2015-2016, DAPSS was approved for a modification to decrease enrollment.  Despite this decrease, the school did not meet the 80% requirement for enrollment by May 1st for SY 2017-2018 enrolling only 77% of its projected population.   As of September 30, 2017, DAPSS enrolled 228 of their projected 340 students or 67% of their approved enrollment.   Since September 30, 2017, DAPSS’s enrollment has again declined.  The school currently has 217 students enrolled.

o   This is the third year that the school has shown a decline in enrollment going from 303 students in SY 2015/2016 to 217 students SY2017/2018.  With a 2018 graduating class of 47 students, 49 choice applications, and one withdrawal at the time of this report, it is doubtful that DAPSS will meet the Financial Framework standard this school year.

o   After considering these potential violations of its charter, the Department as approving authority, has determined that DAPSS should be submitted to formal review to determine whether the school is violating its charter and whether there are grounds for remedial measures.  The Department is seeking the assent of the Secretary and the State Board for this action.

·         The Secretary of Education following this outline of performance and concerns regarding the compliance with their charter stated, “Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security appears to have failed to meet the conditions of its charter renewal and should have the opportunity for a rigorous review of the school performance. Therefore, as Secretary of Education, I assent to placing Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.   In accordance with 14 Delaware Code Section 511(c), I seek the assent of the State Board of Education to the decision to place Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.”

·         Dr. Loftus asked for a motion to assent to the formal review of the charter for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  The motion was made by Mrs. Sorenson and seconded by Mr. Heffernan.  After discussion of the Board which involved discussing the process that is included during formal review the motion passed unanimously by voice vote.

·         The charter office also provided in its monthly update, which was posted on the SBE website for information a timeline for the review of the new application received to open a new charter school in Sussex county called Sussex Montessori as well as the major modification requested for Design Lab HS. The links to all of these were provided in the agenda item online.

·         The Professional Standards Board  had no items to bring before the SBE this month since their January meeting was cancelled due to snow.

·         The Board had no one signed up for general public comment

·         The Board received an update from its Deputy Attorney General  regarding two appeal requests that have had their hearing and are currently in the time window in which either party is able to submit responses to the hearing officer’s recommendation. Both of those appeals will come before the Board for action at the February meeting.

The next regular monthly meeting of the State Board is scheduled for

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The meeting will begin at 4:00 p.m. and the Board will enter Executive Session to discuss two disciplinary appeals and then will return to general session at 5:00pm 

January 18, 2018 – Delaware State Board of Education Audio Recordings

State Rep. Rich Collins Is Not Digging Gender Expression Regulations

It looks like State Rep. Rich Collins is taking aim at proposed regulations dealing with gender discrimination according to the weekly newsletter from the Republican Caucus of the Delaware House of Representatives.  I felt the need to redline this because there are some points I agree with and some I don’t.

State Lawmaker Says Proposed Education Regulations Could Violate Parental Rights, Spark Lawsuits
A proposed anti-discrimination policy and regulations that could soon be applied to Delaware public schools are raising questions and concerns.
I’m sorry, but how often does Rep. Collins take an active role on education issues in the General Assembly?  How much education legislation has he put forth?  I think this has more to do with transgender issues than potential legality of the Governor’s actions.  Cause if Collins wants to poke holes at legality in state code, I can think of a few dozen issues that need the spotlight more than this.
“It opens Pandora’s Box,” said State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro.  “It has the potential to twist schools up in knots.”
A little overdramatic there.
The process began in mid-July with the issuance of a brief memorandum from Gov. John Carney to Sec. of Education Susan Bunting.  In the memo, the governor directed the agency to promulgate regulations providing clear guidance to schools “to prohibit unlawful discrimination in educational programs, and activities for students, on the basis of any legally protected characteristic.”
This is Executive Overreach.  Something Carney does very well.  He has been doing this a lot lately. 
The memo set a deadline of November 1st for the proposed rules to be posted in the Delaware Register of Regulations, a needed step preceding implementation.
If you ask me, any regulation should be based on a bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  No questions asked. 
Four “community conversations” were held — one in each county, and one in the City of Wilmington — to gather public input.
These community conversations are usually poorly attended.  The results of these meetings are predetermined as usual.
State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, attended the Sussex County event last week.  She said the meetings – which all took place between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. over a period of just ten days – were, perhaps intentionally, inconveniently staged for parents to participate.  “They were held when families are collecting students from school activities, having dinner and assisting with homework,” she said.
I like Rep. Briggs King.  But my question would be when is an opportune time?  When parents are at work?  Is after 8pm better when parents are trying to get kids to bed?  I would say sufficient notice and having schools send out robo-calls paid for by the state would work better.  Or hell, have the state send out robo-calls. 
Rep. Collins noted that the forums appeared to have been deliberately engineered to thwart public criticism, with participants broken into small discussion groups, limiting interaction and open debate.
Welcome to DOE 101 Rep. Collins!  This is how they roll.  I’ve been dealing with this kind of nonsense for years.
He added that an online survey form for public feedback on the proposed policy and regulations posed questions that specifically called for participants to provide three things they liked about each but avoided any such pointed solicitation of negative comments.
Once again, we go back to the predetermined thing.  The Delaware DOE will never put “This sucks” as an option!
The draft regulations include “gender identity or expression” among its protected characteristics. 
Among the more controversial aspects of the proposed rules are the following:
  • All students enrolled in a Delaware public school would be able to self-identify gender or race.  (Rule 7.4)

I watch the show Shameless.  In an episode from last year, a character named Carl wanted to get a DNA test to prove he had African-American ancestry so he could get into a military academy.  The white teenager couldn’t get in but the school did have openings for different minorities for 20% of their population.  Even though he did not have any African-American ancestry, he did find out he was 3% Apache so he got in.  Not sure where I’m going with this, but I thought it was kind of funny.  In these episodes dealing with Carl’s situation, another brother named Ian is dating a transgender.  The writers did a great job of conveying some of the issues transgender people go through.  But I digress. 

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate on the sports team that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (6.4)

I really don’t know how to comment on this one.  I have no issues with gender identity whatsoever.  But calling it “assigned sex”?  Is that a legal term?  I don’t know.

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate in the program of instruction dealing with human sexuality that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (3.4)

I would think this is appropriate.

  • Regarding physical education programs – goals, objectives and skill development standards could not be designated on the basis of gender.  (5.2)

Why does everything have to be a “standard”?  What happened to the days when kids went to gym to release energy and play basketball or floor hockey? 

  • School districts and charter schools would be required to work with students and families on providing access to locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to students’ “gender identity or expression.”  (8.1)

What does “work with” mean?  This is a good point.  I’ve seen how schools are “required” to work with parents, but sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

  • Even if a student does not legally change his or her name, he or she can select a “preferred name” based on a “protected characteristic” that school officials would be obligated to use except on official records.  (7.3)

I don’t mind this.  My son’s name is Jacob.  He likes his name.  He doesn’t like to be called “Jake”.  If he wanted to be called “Bob” in school, I would respect that, as long as he is consistent with it and not changing his “preferred name” every other week.

The proposed regulations direct school districts to establish antidiscrimination policies within 90 days of the rules’ implementation or the start of the next academic year, whichever is earlier.  The policies would be required to contain informal and formal complaint procedures.
A procedure isn’t the same thing as reality.  Just gonna throw that one out there.
“The regulations and policy contain no mention of a student’s age, so I question the wisdom of allowing very young students to make some of these decisions,” Rep. Collins said.  “These proposals also seem to undercut parental authority; giving parents less say in some of these processes then I think is appropriate.”
Then and than mean two different things.  Just saying.  But I kind of agree with Rep. Collin’s point here.  A five-year old making these decisions, without parental consent, could be a slippery slope.  A thirteen-year old, who is more aware of their body and their wants… that could be a different thing.
State Reps. Collins and Briggs King say the proposed regulations are invalid, noting that “gender identity or expression” is not a legally protected classification under the Delaware Code covering public education.
Then perhaps Reps. Collins and Briggs King should write legislation which would put it as a legally protected classification.
Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 — which forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations, and insurance – added new language to seven titles of the state code.  However, those changes were not applied to Title 14, which covers public education.
See above.
“Neither the proposed regulation nor the model policy document, are legitimate because they are not based on any legal authority granted by the General Assembly,” Rep. Collins said.
That’s because Carney wants to circumvent the General Assembly whenever possible.  He is becoming very proficient at that.  But the House Republicans had a Carneypalooza in their newsletter this week with pictures of him all over the place. 
Rep. Briggs King points to language in House Joint Resolution 6 – which is still pending action in the Senate – as further proof.  The measure contains a provision explicitly stating that Delaware’s laws on public education do not “prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.”
Carney likes to flex his gubernatorial muscle.  If he wanted this so bad, he should have done his posturing on June 30th (and July 1st, July 2nd) and gotten the General Assembly to pass a simple Joint Resolution.
Rep. Collins said there has been a rapid push to implement the anti-discrimination regulations, outside the authority of law and escaping the attention of most parents and elected officials.  He said the new rules would produce confusion and likely create additional disputes and lawsuits.
John is all about the rapid push.  Patience is not his strong suit.  The only authority he seems to recognize is his own authority.
In a recent communication to the Department of Education, Rep. Collins urged the agency to delay action to address the growing concerns about the proposals.
How much you want to bet the response will be as empty as Legislative Hall between July and early January?
I am really torn on this one.  Collins offers up some valid points.  The biggest is that Governor Carney once again operated under the guise of Executive Power to do whatever the hell he wants.  He is the most non-transparent Governor in Delaware history.  He is flaunting this power a lot lately.  Much more than Jack Markell did.  It does not bode well for Carney.  I’m sure the DOE, Rodel, and the Delaware Business Roundtable love it though!
I dig into a great deal of education happenings.  I don’t mind any rights of students being clarified.  But there are some parental no-nos in the below draft of the proposed regulations.  I don’t think any educational setting should determine what is best to tell a parent or NOT tell a parent.  Parents have rights when it comes to their children and I can understand the concerns by some parents in feeling those rights are being stripped away.  I don’t see it as a “left-wing liberal snowflake” agenda though.  I see it as an overall concern I have with education policymakers who pretend they want parental engagement but operate behind the scenes and make decisions which ALL parents should know about.  They should also be a part of those conversations and no back-door meetings should take place.
The reason I’m so torn on this issue is because for me it is relatively new.  I’m not in schools enough and I don’t know many transgender folks.  While this isn’t a brand-new issue, it has gotten the spotlight the past few years.  I’m against any kind of discrimination, period.  Equal rights for all.  But many Republicans are against transgender folks, as well as homosexuals, because of what the Bible says.  I’m sure I won’t win any friends here, but the Bible was rewritten in the Council of Nicea some 1,500 years ago.  By a group of men.  It wasn’t rewritten by God.  And while the Bible doesn’t address gender identity or expression, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a big debate in the Council of Nicea.  I’ve heard some say the Bible is “God-breathed”, meaning it is infallible.  But I’ve seen one message in the Bible taken in so many different ways that it seems folks forget the basic message of the good book: love your neighbor.  Be nice.  Be kind.  To me, that is the message I take from the Bible.  Did you learn to forgive others?  Do you give more than you take?  Do you do your best to set an example for your children?  To me, those are the important things.  I believe in the Ten Commandments.  I do my best to obey them.  I don’t covet my neighbor’s wife.  I know the couple next to me are moving out and I haven’t met my other neighbor yet.  I haven’t killed anyone.  And so on.  I will never understand hating someone for what they are or the choices they make.  If they get all the stuff I take from the Bible, I’m pretty sure their passage to Heaven (or whatever afterlife you choose to believe in) is assured.
If Delaware Republicans and Democrats want to make some real headway, how about they band together to get rid of the rot in our state government?  We did a pretty good job on opt out a couple years ago.  Imagine what we could do together if we REALLY got organized?

Breaking News: Governor Carney Signs Cursive Bill! Take That Kate Gladstone!

At 2:27pm, on August 30th, Delaware Governor John Carney signed House Bill 70, which will make cursive writing mandatory instruction in all Delaware public schools beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.  The new (and old) instruction will require English and Language Arts teachers to teach cursive to students until the end of 4th grade.

So what happens next?  I imagine the State Board of Education will issue regulations based on the new law and from there the local school district and charter school boards will have to make sure it is part of the curriculum for the next school year.

As for the fierce opponent of the bill, Kate Gladstone, she will NOT be happy about this.  Ms. Gladstone travels to different states opposing cursive legislation.  Me, I write a blog.  She travels.  We all have our thing I guess.  But I don’t think Gladstone counted on the tenacity of little old Delaware.  She probably thought she could just roll over our state legislature.

Congrats to State Rep. Andria Bennett for getting this rolling again and to State Rep. Deb Hudson for bringing it for in the last legislative session.

President Trump Issues Executive Order About Federal Control Of Public Education

Hot off the press, United States President Donald Trump just issued an Executive Order concerning federal control of education.  This order gives U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos a lot of authority to remove regulations that may interfere with state or local control of public education.  It also talks about Common Core.  Worth a read…

The Sun Rises For The Delaware State Board of Education

The Delaware Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee voted today not to Sunset the Delaware State Board of Education.  Sunset would have shut down the board.  I will write more details later since I arrived late for the meeting due to a prior commitment.  As for the State Board’s Executive Director, Donna Johnson, the board voted for option one in regards to her role: The Board will present to the Committee a revised Executive Director job description to better align with the Board’s duties.

Issues surrounding public comment got a bit of discussion.  The JLOSC voted unanimously that the State Board of Education shall allow public comment before each action item but with an amendment.  Public comment may not be allowed during action items that have a pre-established and finite public comment period, such as regulations and charter school issues.  The reason for this is because state code allows for this.  Newly christened Senator Stephanie Hansen said during county council meetings in Sussex and New Castle Counties they allow for this because sometimes the public comment could affect a decision by the Council.  State Board member Pat Heffernan said they are bound by the Delaware State Code.  In my eyes, that is legislation begging for change as soon as humanly possible.  The Committee agreed that information shall be sent to public libraries and schools with meeting information about the State Board of Education.  A matter surrounding charter school approval and local impact was tabled so the State Board of Ed can give more clarifying information about their role on this matter.

I did not anticipate the JLOSC would shut down the State Board of Education.  I surmised some items would pass and some wouldn’t.  Without an apparatus in place to replace them it would be tough to figure out who should pass regulations.  Once again, legislation could take care of a lot of the issues surrounding them.  In a poll I put up the other day, over 70% of readers felt the State Board should shut down permanently.  I write this with the caveat that my readership tends to align with what I believe more and the poll only had over a 100 voters.

What To Make Of Bad News Betsy’s Letter About ESSA To Chief State School Officers

On Friday, newly christened U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a, how shall I call it, awkward letter to all the education leaders of each state.  Alarm bells went up immediately.  Many people are scratching their heads about the missive dealing with state Every Student Succeeds Act implementation plans.  The word “may” in relation to Title I, II, III, IV and V funding is the part that is confusing many.  Is this Betsy’s way of phasing from Title funding to her school voucher plan?  And how many enemies of modern-day accountability standards are equally confused about Betsy gutting the John King regulations from last fall?  This could be a Trojan Horse leading to more Competency-Based Education.  We all know CBE is a darling of the ed reformers these days.  Read the below letter and sit and wonder like the rest of us!  I have no doubt President Trump is clueless about any of this and is applying his next daily helping of orange glow.

Members Of U.S. Senate & Congress Tell John King To Kill Supplement Not Supplant Regulation!

Today, twenty-five Republicans in both the U.S. Senate and House Education committees told U.S. Secretary of Education to kill the “supplement not supplant” regulation that has drawn the ire of the majority of the teaching profession in America.  In a nutshell, this regulation would completely change the way Title I funds are disbursed to schools, would cause severe damage to the teaching profession, and would grant Title I funds to schools that are not Title I schools.  I wish some Democrat members of these committees would speak up!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Press Office
November 7, 2016 (202) 226-9440
25 Senate, House Education Committee Members: Education Department Should Withdraw Rule That Violates “the Unambiguously Expressed
Intent of Congress”
Proposed “supplement not supplant” regulation could harm
students, schools, and teachers


WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Twenty-five Republican members of the Senate and House education committees today urged the Department of Education to withdraw its proposed “supplement not supplant” regulation, saying it “violates the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress,” and called on the department to instead work with Congress to implement the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act as it is written.

The regulatory proposal would change the longstanding requirement that prevents school districts from using federal Title I funds as a replacement for state and local funds in low-income schools.

In comments submitted to Education Secretary John King, the members said the rule “draws broad and inaccurate conclusions about what Congress intended when amending the [‘supplement not supplant’] provision that are not supported by the statutory text and violate clear and unambiguous limitations on the Secretary’s authority.”

The members said certain provisions of the rule are “unlawful, unnecessary and could result in harmful consequences to [local educational agencies], schools, teachers, and students.”

Specifically, the rule dictates to states and local school districts how they should distribute state and local funds, which violates the law and its prohibitions on the Secretary. They write:

In Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Supreme Court established that the test for reviewing an agency’s interpretation of a statute consists of two related questions. First, the question is “whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue. If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter” because the court and agency must “give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” Second, if “Congress has not directly addressed the precise question at issue” or “if the statute is silent or ambiguous” the question is “whether the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.”

They continue:

The intent of Congress in amending the SNS requirements under Title I of ESEA is clear and unambiguous in directly speaking to the issue of how LEAs must demonstrate compliance. As the Court has held, that should be “the end of the matter” for the Department, which through rulemaking should “give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” Instead, the NPRM violates this principle in imposing new requirements that reflect the Department’s own construction of the statute. We therefore strongly urge the Department to rescind this additional language and work with Congress in a bipartisan, bicameral way to implement ESSA as Congress clearly intended. The following outlines areas of agreement, and then describes the ways in which the Department’s proposal violates the letter and intent of the statute and could lead to negative results for low-income students and schools if it were implemented.

The letter was signed by Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN), along with Senate committee members Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R- ME), Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and House committee members Mike Bishop (R-MI), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Luke Messer (R-IN), Phil Roe (R-TN), Todd Rokita (R-IN), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Joe Wilson (R-SC).

To read the letter, click here.

You don’t have to click on the link, you can read the entire letter below:

Delaware ESSA State Plan First Draft, Released Today

The Delaware Department of Education released the first draft of the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act this evening.  I have read about 90% of it and I have many thoughts on it.  Some I loathe just seeing them in writing, some I actually like, and some need to marinate for a day or two.  There are a lot of variables with this: final regulations from the United State Dept. of Education, stakeholder group conversations in the next couple of months, and the usual big one: state funding.

In my opinion, it is going to be very hard to get accurate feedback until the regulations from the U.S. Department of Education have been finalized.  Will this plan be a trick or a treat?  Happy Halloween!  Here is the plan.  It begins with Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky’s letter, followed by the six sections, and some items from the appendices.  I will have much, much more to say on this in the coming days.

And these are the six points:

de-essa-draft-picture-no-links






 

delaware-community-communications-breakdown

Live From Legislative Hall: The Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee Meeting

The meeting is about to start.  A facilitator introduced himself.  Didn’t hear his name.  Secretary Godowsky is talking about how the ESSA Adv. Comm. came about (Executive Order #62).  Stakeholder input is important.  Goal is to submit plan by March, 2017.  Thanking everyone for being on the committee.  Secretary Godowsky just told the group Delaware schools grew by 1,100 students this year.  Appo Super Matt Burrows (the chair) is talking now.  Some late members of the committee are forced to sit against the walls cause they don’t have enough chairs to go around the table.

Rollcall: Tony Allen, Atnre Alleyne, Alex Palaono, Matt Burrows, Catherine Hnt, Nancy Labanda, Madeleine Bayard, LaShanda Wooten, Laurissa Schutt, Kim Williams, Nelia Dolan, Stephanie De Witt, David Sokola, Rodman Ward, Eileen DeGregoriis, Wendee Bull, Barbara Rutt, Leolga Wright, Cheryl Carey, Susan Bunting, Deb Stevens, Tammi Croce, Patrick Callahan, Janine Clark, and Genesis Johnson.  Other people in attendance are as follows.  DOE: Michael Watson, Karen Field-Rogers, Secretary Godowsky, Angeline Rivello, DSEA: Kirsten Dwyer.  Caesar Rodney teachers Laurie Howard and Natalie Ganc.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams reacted to a statement from the facilitator.  She wanted clarification on who is writing the ESSA state plan.  The Delaware DOE is.  The Adv. Comm. will give recommendations.  Tony Allen asked about the due dates for the plan.  The facilitator told him there are two due dates, March 31st and July 31st.  Delaware chose March 31st because it takes the US DOE 120 days to approve it and they want to get it going by the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

Alex Nook with the Penn Hill Group is giving a presentation on ESSA.  He is familiar with federal education law.  ESSA gives states more leeway but still has accountability and so forth.  Now he is talking about Title I.  He asked if anyone in the room doesn’t know what Title I is.  No one raised their hand (thank God).  States are still required to set long-term goals for academic achievement.  Unlike No Child Left Behind, 100% of kids don’t have to be proficient.  ESSA gives states flexibility.  What kind of accountability system should we have.  What works for some schools and what do we need to do for struggling schools.  The requirement for turnaround schools but if they want mo money they have to do something for those schools.  English Language learners have more focus in ESSA.  English proficiency for these students is now a requirement in federal education law.  But states determine the timeline for this.  Kim Williams asked if this means we won’t fire principals and teachers in turnaround schools.  Nook said not federally required.  Atnre Alleyne asked what the percentage of Title I funds have to go to struggling schools.  Nook said 7%.  Alleyne asked how much fed money Delaware is getting.  Karen Field-Rogers said she would find out.

Nook said Title II funds are for teachers and professional development.  $2 billion nationally, every school district gets a portion of them.  Congress felt school leaders weren’t getting enough federal dollars so they allowed states to set aside 3% of funds to ensure leaders get prof. development as well.  The rest of the fed money goes to schools and districts for teachers and prof. development.

Another pot of money is Title IV funds.  This is a new program.  They are consolidating this into a Student Supports and Academic Enrichment Grant.  The former funds didn’t work well so this is a larger flexible program.  Money is more for what a school district or charter school needs.  This is figured out at the local level and not through Congress.  Congress hasn’t approved a final amount for this.  Obama Administration, Congress, and the Senate are all floating different numbers.  There is no existing funding mechanism for this.  21st Century Learning Program will continue.  Charter School program will continue: $ for start-ups, help, resources for charters.

Nook is answering questions.  DeGregoriis asked for more info on the charter school funding.  Alleyne asked about highly qualified teachers and state equity plans.  Congress wrote definition, according to Nook, of what a highly qualified teacher was under NCLB.  Congress decided that should not be a requirement of the law.  Now all teachers must meet state certification plans, so whatever Delaware says, that is it.  With the equity plan, a carryover from NCLB, disadvantaged kids can’t be taught by ineffective and inexperienced teachers.  That was the plan for why Obama and Congress created the equity plan.  These plans weren’t in statute before and the next administration will have more say on what happens with that.  Class-size waivers will still be allowed.  That can be done through Title II.  Kim Williams asked about requirements for a teacher to teach in a classroom.  Nook said highly qualified teachers are done but the states handle requirements for this.  LaShonda Wooten said highly qualified teachers have to take a test to be highly qualified.  So before the feds mandated this, now the states do.

Now Nook is talking about the dreaded R word… regulations.  Regulations make sure rules don’t go against the will of Congress for the intent of the law.  US DOE put out regulations for accountability and assessments  (even though many members of Congress are against John King’s massive overreach on this).  These are proposed regulations and the public comment period closed.  The accountability regulations had over 21,000 public comments (one was mine, LOL).  Regulations say states must have tests available in second most commonly spoken language in the state.  Delaware’s plans will hinge on the final form of these regulations so our plans could change.  This is one of the reasons why Delaware wants to submit their plans in March.  Nook is anticipating the final regulatory package in late November/early December.  There will also be an application package put out by US DOE.  Deb Stevens asked if the regulations will be ironed out for the states that submit their plans in early March.  Nook said it will be very difficult for US DOE to adhere to those due dates if the regulations aren’t set in stone.  Nook said he has faith in US Secretary of Education John King to make sure this is done.  Stevens asked about giving states more time for the 17-18 school year if things aren’t set in stone.  Would Delaware get that flexibility?  Nook believes US DOE would be open to that but nothing is written on paper.  He understands you don’t want to risk Title I dollars over this kind of stuff.

Nook said the accountability system has to have five different standards, including English Language learner proficiency.  The fifth category is picked by the states.  Nook said Delaware has an advantage because we already have a multi-level accountability system.  Seven states are “competency-based” pilot states.  Delaware will have to decide what they want to do (hell to the no on Delaware going competency-based- editor’s note).  Nook said the Presidential election will have a huge impact on everything.  Whether it is Trump or Clinton there might be change.  A new Secretary could change due dates from March to April or change regulatory matters.  They may advocate for different funding for programs.

DeGregoriis asked what the benefit is for Delaware submitting their plan early with all these what ifs… Nook said the benefit is being in better shape for budgetary decisions.  It sounds like Delaware wants input.  Secretary Godowsky said the March due date is a goal.  But it could change given all the moving targets.  Godowsky said we are making a good effort.  Kim Williams asked how we are going to get the new Delaware administration’s input as well.  That is her concern with a March due date.  She said we could have a new Secretary of Education.  Godowsky said they WILL have a new Secretary of Education.  He feels if there is a lot of change with the plan, there could be due date changes.

Stevens asked Nook to explain supplement vs. supplant.  He defines it as federal dollars are supposed to supplement and not replace systems.  Federal dollars need to be on top of a state or local set of resources.  There is contention in Congress over this, and a new regulation is out there and public comment is still open until early November.  Congress feels Title I should be a more equalized state and local amount of funding.  The US DOE is moving forward on the regulations to give districts options on how to even out funding.  Stevens explained she understands it could affect local staffing in Title I schools.  Tony Allen asked if this is dollar for dollar or equitable funding.  Nook said the US DOE is giving districts four options to choose from.  (Note to self: look into this one a lot more).

Alleyne asked if this will kick the can down the road more for struggling schools.  Nook said Delaware chose to freeze schools for this year that would have gone under the SIG program like previous years.  Nook is done.  Five minute break.

Break is over.  Karen Field-Rogers is talking about what the DOE has done already.  She is explaining how they had stakeholder consultation groups they meet with on an already continual basis throughout the year.  They have held four community conversations in Dover, Georgetown, Middletown, and Wilmington.  There are two discussion groups: School Success and Reporting AND Student and School Supports.  They have also had a survey open on their website and they have had over 400 submissions already.  The DOE wants a first draft of the plan by the end of this month.  They just announced the new Community Conversations.  There will be gaps in the first draft.  The DOE wants comments.  It is not a complete plan at all.  They also want to have the first draft so the new Governor-elect will be able to provide input.  DOE wants to submit second draft of the plan by the end of the year.  Susan Bunting asked if the public will be able to comment online for the drafts.  DOE is talking to their lawyers about that.  (What? Why?).  There were over 100 nominations for the discussion groups.  They worked w/organizations like DSEA to pick those members.  Only 54 were chosen (27 for each group).  Alleyne asked if the representation on the different groups represented the diversity of the state.  Field-Rogers believes they have.  She said they were very careful about this.  She said in Wilmington they partnered with the Christina Cultural Arts Center and there was a block party afterwards.  Williams asked what the purpose of the Community Conversations were?  Field-Rogers said it is to help guide the DOE with their plan.  All the discussion group minutes are on the DOE website (or on Exceptional Delaware- editor’s note).  The DOE is in the process of “synthesizing” all the responses to the surveys and will be releasing that information soon.

Facilitator is going over piece of paper handed out to everyone.  Asking questions: what is the most important thing that Delaware should accomplish for its schools through its ESSA Plan?  What three areas are you most interested in reviewing?  The five groups are Supporting Excellent Educations for All Students, Challenging Academic Standards and Assessments, Measures of School Success and Public Reporting, School Support and Improvement, and Supporting All Students.  He is giving the group five minutes to fill out the sheet.  Then the group will caucus in four to five groups.  One person in the group will be a facilitator for each group and will report out to the whole group.

Groups are done meeting.  I was chatting with the Laverne and Shirley of Delaware education most of the time.  Atnre Alleyne is talking for his group.  A big focus of his group was educator equity and accountability.  Who is accountable when gaps in the system happen?  What happens when people leave the state and more gaps continue?  Next group, Laurissa Schutt said their group talked about the timing of the group.  As well, they talked about academic supports and how much local discretion there will be.  Wendee Bull is talking for the third group: how to still have the rigor we have now, to make sure districts still have accountability to uphold that rigor.  The facilitator said ESSA doesn’t totally give up federal oversight of accountability but gives more leeway.  It will be determined how much of that flexibility will occur and it will be a balancing act.  Patrick Callihan represented the last group.  He agreed with Atnre.  In order to get there we need a fair and balanced system.  Start to change the stigma of how schools are being guided.  The feds don’t know a lot about what is going on in Delaware.

 

 

 

 

ESSA: Parents & Educators MUST Attend The Upcoming Meetings & Educate Themselves On The Law!

The Delaware Dept. of Education will have three more Every Student Succeeds Act Community Engagement meetings in the next week.  They held a meeting in Georgetown on Tuesday.  The next three meetings will take place in Wilmington, Middletown, and Dover.  The DOE is “requiring” participants to register through a company called Event Brite.  Links to register can be found here.

essawilmington

essamiddletown

essadover

I will stress with all the urgency I can muster that ALL public education parents attend these meetings.  Before you go, I would familiarize yourself with the federal law.  You can read the full text of the law here.  It is a very long law with a lot of repeated jargon and “legalese” in it.  The Delaware State Board of Education and Delaware DOE has put up many links to it on their websites, but a lot of that is open to interpretation.  As well, U.S. Secretary of Education John King has issued “proposed rulemaking” which are potential regulations.  These regulations are VERY controversial.  You can read those regulations here and here.

These are my major concerns with ESSA:

By allowing states to have more flexibility, many states have already created long-term plans based on the prior federal mandates.  Far too many in our state DOEs follow what the corporate education reformers want and give a false illusion of “stakeholder input”.

The Delaware DOE has given NO indication whatsoever that they will even consider changing the state standards away from Common Core even though they can certainly do this according to ESSA.  The US Secretary of Education isn’t required to approve these standards.  The states merely have to give an assurance that their standards will follow the law.

essa9

essa10

Student data still isn’t protected to parents satisfaction.  To stop this data from going out, they need to restore the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) to pre-2011 levels

essa40

Bouncing off the previous statement, by allowing more social service and health-based practitioners into our schools, there is a serious question regarding what applies to FERPA and what applies to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

essa44

essa45

 

John King’s regulations would keep the 95% participation rates for state assessments with consequences for schools and districts.

essa30-1

John King’s Title I regulations would enact a “supplement not supplant” these funds.  This is in sharp contrast with federal law and he was called out on this the other day by the US House Education and Workforce Committee.

There is far too much talk of competency-based education through computer adaptive assessments.  That is just lingo for personalized learning.  This law would allow for classrooms to become online all the time.  There are severe dangers with this in regards to the downgrading of the teacher profession, far too much screen time for students, and the quality of the educational material.  As well as severe data privacy concerns.  In fact, there are incentives for schools to adopt personalized learning.

essa48

essa19

essa1

While the law forbids the US DOE from forcing or coercing states to implement any state standards, like Common Core, many states already have these in place and spent years embedding them into every facet of public education.

essa41

The law calls for state accountability “report cards”, based on performance of the state assessment, but the tests are not required to be exactly the same for all students.  So the state assessments are not a true measurement since they will be different for each test-taker.  Delaware set up their report card last year under the name of the “Delaware School Success Framework” but they inserted a very punitive participation rate penalty if a school dips below the 95% participation rate which can’t use parent opt-out in those calculations according to the law.

essa28

State assessments will not be required to have questions at the appropriate grade level for students.

essa29

ESSA requires any plan to be submitted to the State DOE, State Board of Education, the Governor and the state legislature.  To date, the Delaware DOE has not had “meaningful” consultation with the Delaware General Assembly about ESSA.

essa5

The law specifically states that all choice schools should have priority given to the lowest-achieving students, but Delaware allows for charter schools to have enrollment preferences that allow for higher-achieving students to have distinct advantages, especially in our magnet schools and charter schools like Charter School of Wilmington.

essa3

I have many other concerns with ESSA, but these ones stand out for me.  I am coming at this from the perspective of a parent.  I know educators have concerns over some of this as well.

Katonah-Lewisboro School District’s Very Awesome Resolution On John King’s ESSA Draft Regulations

…provisions in the US Department of Education (DOE) draft regulations would perpetuate federal overreach in areas that ESSA specifically delegates to the states and to local school districts.

Last night, I remembered where I came from.  In 1988, I graduated from John Jay High School in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District in Cross River, New York.

While looking at public comments on the Every Student Succeeds Act draft regulations put forth by the United States Department of Education, I actually found a comment submitted by the Board of Education at my old school district.  They basically told John King to shove it and to keep his nose out of state and local education matters.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I truly wish any of the districts in Delaware, where I now live, took similar actions with these horrible regulations.  They say you can’t go home again, but you can certainly look back with pride!

What I was also shocked to see was an item on their Board Docs, which they have at every single board meeting.  Something I would urge all Delaware Boards of Education, Boards of Directors, the State Board of Education, task forces, committees, or any public body that meets and allows public comment to have, this:

KatohnahLewisboro

Public comment is a must. But seeing a board taking the time to discuss the concerns or matters brought up during public comment is something we just don’t see in Delaware. All too often, we bring something up during public comment and it isn’t referred to again. Although, being fair, Capital School District (where I live) does discuss many items brought up in public comment. Frequently, I am the only one giving public comment at board meetings and I am very open about items on their agenda and how they pertain to special education. But could you imagine how different our State Board of Education would be if they adopted this amazing philosophy? If there was actually some type of conversation between the public and themselves? Or going a leap further, what if our Senate or House Education Committees took these steps? They could understand things so much more.  Bottom line is this: Delaware, as a whole, needs to speak up with a very loud voice and have more engagement with ALL stakeholders!

So much of who I am comes from the spirit of the school district I grew up in. I’ve taken this for granted over the years, but this makes me really happy to see. But one thing I do want to know: when did my high school get an Ice Hockey team? That is really awesome!  I wish they had that when I grew up!

Colin Bonini Would Not Have Vetoed House Bill 50, The Delaware Opt Out Bill

On the Rick Jensen show, Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini just told Jensen he would have signed House Bill 50, Delaware’s opt out bill that Governor Markell vetoed last year.  He agrees with many people in this state that the federal government is too involved in education and decisions are best left to the state and local districts.  Bonini said he doesn’t agree with getting rid of testing altogether, but the high-stakes involved are too much.  He thinks there needs to be some type of measurement to compare students and how they are doing.

He mentioned he will have a Delaware State Education Association interview next week but he doesn’t expect their support since he is a Right To Work guy.  Jensen joked that he could agree with everything they said but would still endorse a Democrat even if that Dem disagreed with them on different things.

Bonini said the recent bill passed by the Feds (ESSA) is a healthy thing, but I would encourage all candidates for any public office in Delaware to read up on the nasty regulations U.S. Secretary of Education John King is trying to roll out.  Which basically gives the feds a lot of the accountability power the bill was meant to get rid of.  This WILL be a major thing during the next four years, guaranteed!  I would also urge the candidates to look into the Delaware DOE supporting those regulations and their already shameful Delaware School Success Framework which was custom-designed for this legislation and the regulations King introduced.

All four Gubernatorial candidates in Delaware need to read between the lines on some of this stuff.  They will be facing whatever comes out of the Every Student Succeeds Act when it is implemented into law next year.  Wrong answers could, and most likely will, come back to haunt them.

Hey Terri & Yvonne! DE PTA Needs To Get Back On The Opt Out Bus! If NY PTA Can Do This, You Should Too!

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the United States Department of Education is required to issue regulations associated with the new law.  Of course U.S. Secretary of Education John King saw this as his big chance to make his national mark for his corporate education reform buddies, so he stuck with the accountability script and harsh rules about opt out of high-stakes tests.  The New York Parent Teacher Organization wrote a letter to King as part of their public comment for the regulations.

Something to keep in mind is the National PTA’s bizarre stance on parent opt out.  They are against it and don’t want the state PTA’s advocating it either.  Last February, they threatened Delaware with severe sanctions if they continue to advocate for a parent’s right to opt out.  This caused a complete shutdown with Delaware PTA on the issue.

Here is the letter the NY PTA sent to King:

There are a few other things readers need to be aware of when it comes to this issue.  Sanctions against the NY PTA would not be as damaging as ones against Delaware PTA.  If even ten percent of NY parents belong to their PTA, that is still at least ten times the amount of members as Delaware PTA.  Which means they have a lot more cash and pull with National PTA.  Plus, New Yorkers are a hell of a lot fiestier than Delawareans.  That doesn’t mean I would seriously mess with the Dynamic Duo of Dr. Terri Hodges and Yvonne Johnson.  I wrote a few articles about this issue last winter, as well as poking a bit at Johnson’s involvement with the Christina School District.  I caught holy hell for that.

But I do wish Delaware would follow New York’s lead on this.  They are basically telling John King AND National PTA “We don’t care what your stance on opt out is.  We are going to tell parents what their rights are.”  New York leads the way with opt outs, followed by New Jersey.  Yes, Delaware’s PTA could get into a heck of a lot of trouble with National PTA if they get back on their opt out positions, but who cares?  This a PARENT-TEACHER organization, not Laura Bay and Friends.  If the former district testing coördinator wants to hate on opt out, let her.  But she should not get a whole parent organization to stop doing what they feel is best for parents.  It’s kind of what they are there for Ms. Bay!

In the meantime, the next few months will be very interesting, not only in Delaware, but across the country.  As these regulations go forward, I predict a lot of pushback from many states, teacher unions, parents, schools, and advocates for public education.  Hopefully, the members of Congress who like to call out John King on a monthly basis will continue to do so.  If they don’t, John King gets his way, and the punitive mandates of Race To The Top will still be here.

With Great Power… The Perception Problem Of The State Board of Education

StateBoardESSASpideyPic

“With great power must also come great responsibility.”-Stan Lee

If you haven’t heard those exact words before, then you have been victim to one of the greatest butcherings of the past fifty years.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Now this you have heard.

in 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the world to the Amazing Spider-Man.  We all know the story.  Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider which gave him the proportionate strength of a spider.  An orphan who lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  He learned an important lesson very fast when he became a superhero.  At first, he used his powers for fortune and fame.  One night, he failed to stop a robber.  The same burglar later attempted to rob his house and shot and killed his uncle.  When Peter, dressed up as Spider-Man, finally confronted the burglar, he saw the same face he failed to stop.  As he walked off into the night, he remembered what his Uncle Ben always told him, “With great power must also come great responsibility.”

This is the problem with the Delaware State Board of Education.  The initial phrase Stan Lee provided to readers shows that just because you have power doesn’t mean you already possess an inherent sense of responsibility.  That is something you have to develop and learn.  The rewording of the classic phrase, which appeared in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, changes the concept of the phrase.  As if power and responsibility are there from the start.  As Delaware plows into the upcoming Every Student Succeeds Act regulations, this will become very important.  I don’t feel our State Board has developed the responsibility that comes with their power.  In fact, they want to hijack this term in their meetings about the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Many of the decisions they have made since 2008 have not been in the best and long-term interest of children.  They embraced the corporate education reform movement and haven’t looked back.  They continue to listen to the Rodel Foundation more than the teachers, students and parents who are their primary stakeholders.  As a result, they have allowed an environment of false labels against schools, demeaned teachers, created a false illusion of praise for rushed teacher and leader programs, subjected our students to three different high-stakes tests that have not created improvement for anyone, manipulated legislators into believing their mantras, approved charter schools without any consistent or necessary follow-up to ensure they will be successful upon opening, revoked five charter schools, and nearly destroyed a generation of students.  They will never take responsibility for these actions or events or even state they had anything to do with it.  They will sit there and say most of these events were based on federal mandate or existing state law.

They have an opportunity now to change that.  With the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law states that the United States Department of Education cannot dictate what type of state standard any state chooses to have.  It also deals with parent opt out of state assessments as a state’s decision.  However, U.S. Secretary of Education John King seems to have some comprehension issues as the regulations coming out of the U.S. DOE contradict what the law states.  Granted, the law is a confusing mess and there are parts that contradict each other.  King knows this and he is taking FULL advantage of it.  King will, in all likelihood, be gone by January next year, but he will be able to approve regulations and state plans based on forced dictates from his office.  That is NOT responsibility either.  That is power run amok.

As our State Board of Education prepares to deal with these regulations, they are having a workshop on ESSA before their regular State Board of Education meeting on July 21st.  They will go over what many of the corporate education reform companies are translating the law into along with King’s regulations and accepting it as the Gospel truth.  This is a critical time for Delaware education.  A wrong move by our State Board and Delaware DOE will leave us in the same problems we have faced since No Child Left Behind came into law fifteen years ago.  If you read the below presentation, you can clearly see their interpretation of the law based on the regulations and what the education companies want.  Keep in mind, many of these “companies” have never taught in a classroom.  But they have a vested interest in education.  Actually, make that an invested interest in education.

There are others who have power in education: parents, teachers, administrators, unions, and even students.  I urge all of you to watch our State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE like a hawk.  Yes, it’s the summer and in a couple of months kids will be back in schools with all the business surrounding that.  This is why they are choosing now to push regulations through when parents aren’t paying attention.  Those who want to profit off education are already on this.  They helped to create ESSA.  They have power but no responsibility.  They will control education if we let them.  And our own Governor, Jack Markell, has been the largest cheerleaders for this movement.  Power, with no responsibility, or even accountability.

We need parents, teachers, administrators, and students to take a role in this.  Don’t rely on me as a mouthpiece.  I’m a hot-tempered judgmental and pissed-off dad who has already been through many wars over this stuff.  I will continue to fight the war, but I could hit by a truck tomorrow.  Even if you are busy, you need to make the time to attend any meeting about ESSA in Delaware.  You need to review what our state is proposing, carefully watch the public comment timeframes, and make your voice known.  As well, contact your state legislators and Congressmen.  Let them know how you feel.  We have the opportunity and means to take back our children’s education.  But not if we don’t become a part of it.  This is our power.  This is our responsibility.  We have to use our power and become responsible.  If you are relying on our policymakers and unelected State Board of Education to get it right, then you have already allowed them to shape education into what they want.  They want to control the conversation and trick us.  They are masters at it.  They will smile and invite you to their events and give you real yummy eclairs and make you feel special and wanted.  But they don’t want you, they want your child.  Make no mistake about it.

To add insult to injury, Delaware is embarking on a “regulatory review”.  So not only do we have federal education regulations under review, but also a statewide regulatory review which could easily cause mass confusion.  I believe this is very intentional.  So if you are reading up on regulations, make absolutely sure you know which ones are state and which ones are federal.

If you want to change the future, you have to act now.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  I will do my best to inform you and give crucial dates and timeframes, but make sure you also do this.

In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now

-John Mellancamp

John King Gets Grilled By John Kline Over ESSA Regulations

This morning, United States Secretary of Education John King was once again asked to testify in a hearing before the US House Education and the Workforce Committee.  Chairman John Kline issued a press release:

Kline Statement on Hearing with Secretary of Education King

Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, released the following statement after Secretary of Education John King concluded his testimony addressing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act:

The Every Student Succeeds Act is based on the principle that state and local leaders can run their K-12 schools better than Washington bureaucrats. The law represents the best opportunity we’ve had in decades to provide every child in every school an excellent education. We will not allow the administration to destroy that opportunity by substituting its will for the will of Congress and for the will of our state and local education leaders. This hearing is an important opportunity to hold the administration accountable to those leaders and their students. We appreciate hearing from Secretary King, but in many ways he reinforced our concerns with the troubling direction the department is taking this new law. We will continue to use the tools at our disposal to ensure the letter and intent of the law are strictly followed. Our nation’s parents, teachers, and students deserve nothing less.

Kline also issued his opening statement in the hearing:

Kline Statement: Hearing on “Next Steps in K-12 Education: Examining Recent Efforts to Implement the Every Student Succeeds Act”

Welcome back, Secretary King, and thank you for joining us. When we last met, the process for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act was just getting underway. We had a healthy discussion about the bipartisan reforms Congress passed and the president signed into law. Those reforms are designed to restore state and local control over K-12 schools.That’s not just my own personal view. It’s the view held by governors, state lawmakers, teachers, parents, principals, and superintendents who recently wrote that, “[The Every Student Succeeds Act] is clear: Education decision-making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.” It’s also the view of most honest observers. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, the law represents the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”

That’s not just my own personal view. It’s the view held by governors, state lawmakers, teachers, parents, principals, and superintendents who recently wrote that, “[The Every Student Succeeds Act] is clear: Education decision-making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.” It’s also the view of most honest observers. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, the law represents the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”The reason for this hearing and our continued oversight is to ensure the letter and intent of the law are followed. A critical part of our effort is holding your agency accountable, Mr. Secretary, for the steps that are taken to implement the law. When you were with us in February, you said, “You can trust that we will abide by the letter of the law as we move forward …”

That is a strong statement, and it is one of several commitments you’ve made that the department would act responsibly. But actions speak louder than words. In recent months, we have seen troubling signs of the department pulling the country in a different direction than the one Congress provided in the law.

The first troubling sign is the rulemaking process itself. There are a number of concerns about the integrity of the negotiated rulemaking committee, including the makeup of the panel, the lack of rural representation, and the accuracy of statements made by department staff. The point of the negotiated rulemaking process is to build consensus among those directly affected by the law, yet it seems the department decided to stack the deck to achieve its own preferred outcomes.

The second troubling sign surrounds the long-standing policy that federal funds are to supplement, not supplant, state and local resources. Prior to the Every Student Succeeds Act, this rule was applied differently depending on how many low-income students a school served; some schools faced more onerous requirements than others. Last year, Congress decided the rule would be enforced equally across all schools. Now, school districts must simply show that funds are distributed fairly without prescribing a specific approach or outcome. The law explicitly prohibits the secretary from interfering, yet that is precisely what your proposal would do. 

What the department is proposing would be both illegal and harmful to students and communities. It would impose a significant financial burden on states and force countless public school districts to change how they hire and pay their teachers. This regulatory effort is trying to achieve an end Congress deliberately rejected and that the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service warns goes beyond “a plain language reading of the statute.” No doubt you have good intentions, Mr. Secretary, but you do not have the legal authority to do this. I strongly urge you to abandon this flawed scheme.

The third troubling sign is the department’s accountability proposal. Let me note that there are policies in this proposal we are pleased to see, such as how states set long-term goals and measure interim progress. But in a number of ways, we also see the department’s bad habit for making decisions that must be left to states.

This is especially troubling given the law’s explicit prohibitions against federal interference, including how states compare school performance and identify schools for support. For years, states grappled with a rigid accountability system imposed by Washington. The Every Student Succeeds Act turns the page on that failed approach and restores these decisions back to state and local leaders. I urge you, Mr. Secretary, to adopt a final proposal that fully reflects the letter and spirit of the law. 

We are raising these concerns because it’s vitally important for the laws written by Congress to be faithfully executed. And just as importantly, we are raising these concerns because we want to ensure every child has the best chance to receive a quality education. We cannot go back to the days when the federal government dictated national education policy—it didn’t work then and won’t work now.

If the department refuses to follow the letter and intent of the law, you will prevent state leaders, like Dr. Pruitt from Kentucky, from doing what’s right for their school districts. You will deny superintendents, like Dr. Schuler of Arlington Heights, Illinois, the ability to manage schools in a way that meets the needs of their local communities. And you will make it harder for teachers, like Cassie Harrelson from Aurora, Colorado, to serve the best interests of the students in their classrooms.

Later, we will hear from these individuals because they represent the people we want to empower. Every child in every school deserves an excellent education, and the only way to achieve that goal is to restore state and local control. That’s what the Every Student Succeeds Act is intended to do, and we will use every tool at our disposal to ensure the letter and intent of the law are followed.

Kline, Alexandar & Rokita Try To Get Lemonade Out Of A Turnip With John King

Well that didn’t take long.  United States Secretary of Education John King has been the official Secretary of Education for not even three months and he is already under the Education and the Workforce Committee’s microscope.  The United States Senate should have never confirmed him in the first place.  Why are we dealing with this so soon?  Because John King thinks he is invulnerable based on the arrogant and cocky mindset of those in corporate education reform who think they are perfect and everyone else is scum.  Remember after 9/11, when President Bush said you can’t negotiate with terrorists?  It is the same with corporate education reformers.  You can’t try to get lemonade out of a turnip.  You will only get a headache.

The Every Student Succeeds Act regulation process has begun, but like most of us, we have no clue what is really going on with it.  I have the same problem in Delaware when our “stakeholders” convene on some task force, working group, or committee.  There is no true representation.  It is who they want on these groups.  They want an outcome so they will stack the deck to make sure they get it.  Nothing but smoke and mirrors here folks!  So why are Kline, Alexander, and Rokita having a hissy fit because King did what is in his very nature to do?  Even if you give a snake legs,  it’s still a snake.  You can’t change the character of a person by giving them a title.  If anything, that character becomes a part of the title.

Read the letter below.  King has until June 7th to respond.  Will he?  Even if he does will it change anything?  This is exactly what I predicted would happen.  For some inexplicable reason, the Every Student Succeeds Act was rushed through the US House and Senate with a quick signature by Barack Obama.  It was, as explained in the letter, heavily lobbied… probably too much.  This bill wasn’t about students, it was about corporations.  There is very little in this act that actually helps students.  It may look that way, but far too many states invested the past seven years on Common Core and the state assessments.  They aren’t going to change course now.  Not during an election year.  Kline should have known better, but no, he acted with haste to get King nominated.  What about this clown’s history ever said that was a good idea?

And from the official press release on this:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2016 CONTACT: Press Office
(202) 226-9440

Congressional Leaders Raise Concerns with Integrity of ESSA Negotiated Rulemaking

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN)—along with Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN)—today wrote to the Department of Education to express “serious concerns about the integrity” of the department’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) negotiated rulemaking process. Among other concerns, the letter raises questions related to the makeup of the rulemaking panel, a lack of rural and student representation in the process, and the accuracy of statements made by the department’s negotiators.

First established in 1990, the negotiated rulemaking process was created to bring federal agencies and interested stakeholders together to develop certain new regulations through a framework designed to promote consensus among diverse groups. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires the department to use this process, at a minimum, for regulations on standards, assessments, and the requirement that federal funds supplement, rather than supplant, state and local funds.

To “evaluate the Department’s compliance with negotiated rulemaking requirements and the integrity of the ESSA negotiated rulemaking process,” the chairmen’s letter requests information related to a number of questions, including:

•How the department met a requirement that individuals on the negotiated panel shall include “representation from all geographic regions of the United States, in such numbers as will provide equitable balance between representatives of parents and students and representatives of educators and education officials.”

•Whether the department’s actions in naming panel participants biased the panel’s deliberations.

•Protocols and/or criteria used to determine when a secretary or other high ranking department official will speak to a panel or otherwise participate in a panel’s work, as Secretary King did during the rulemaking process.

•Steps taken to ensure statements made by the department’s negotiators accurately reflect the statute and their role in the negotiated rulemaking process.

•The participation of three outside experts and the process for choosing those experts.

•How the department determined which provisions related to assessments would be included in the process.

Additionally, the letter requests “all documents and communications related to the department’s determination of its legal authority for all regulatory language proposed to the negotiated rulemaking panel.” The chairmen are requesting a response by June 7, 2016.

Delaware House Education Committee Baffled By Inability Of Public To Comment On Action Items At State Board of Education Meetings

This bill is a no-brainer! DeStateBoardofEducation

At the House Education Committee meeting in Delaware today, members looked confused as State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson tried to explain to them why they don’t allow public comment before any action items.  Citing regulatory laws and charter applications, which are in the synopsis of the bill, Johnson said regulations have a set period of public comment.  For charter applications, she said State Board members are required to vote on the charter file which is set up with a public comment period.  State Rep. Kim Williams brought House Bill 232 forward because of events she witnessed at State Board of Education meetings.

For a while there, the volley went back and forth between Williams and Johnson.  Williams stated she wanted to give public comment on Gateway Lab School’s formal review the day the State Board made their decision but she couldn’t because of this rule.  She also cited a recent Regulation, #616, that she wanted to give public comment on but couldn’t.  Johnson explained that Regulation 616 was a Secretary only regulation so she could have given public comment.  How anyone could ever keep track of all this stuff is beyond me.  If you are just a curious member of the public going to these meetings, you would have no clue!

Johnson went on to say the State Board could face a risk of a lawsuit if they voted on something based on a public comment after they have reviewed the entire record.  When asked if there has ever been any lawsuit in any situation like this for any state agency, the answer was no.  As State Rep after State Rep tried to figure out why the State Board wouldn’t allow public comment, it culminated in State Rep. Sean Lynn stating he felt the opposition to the bill (which only came from Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network) was disingenuous and was filled with self-interests.  No one on the committee had any reason to oppose the bill and it was released from committee.

For a split second, I almost felt bad for Donna Johnson.  Not because I felt she was right, but because she has no idea how she sounds to decision-makers.  She doesn’t see how going to bat for her friends in the charter community actually hurts her in the long run.  When a fervent charter school supporter like State Rep. Mike Ramone is saying this is an excellent bill and doesn’t understand why this isn’t already allowed, you know there is something wrong with the policy.  He questioned Johnson about the ability for a three minute public comment to completely sway a vote.  He felt that an official on any board should have enough knowledge of the events to be able to make a sound decision on matters.

Massett gave public comment.  She recalled a charter application in Southern Delaware where someone gave a statement that was completely false but there was no ability for the person they were talking about to rebut the comment.  This was the only “evidence” she could give to oppose House Bill 232.  I believe it was State Rep. Kevin Hensley who stated someone could still file a defamation of character suit in an incident like that.

Both State Reps Kim Williams and Kevin Hensley talked about their time on school boards and they couldn’t fathom not letting the public speak about an action item.  Hensley explained there were times when parents or a member of the community approached him about an issue right before a board meeting.  He said he would tell them to make sure to give public comment so the whole Board could hear it.  Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty said he may not always like what he hears in public comment, but he appreciates the public comment process.  As Lynn said today, “this bill is a no-brainer.”

I gave public comment before the vote.  I explained the public comment ban also happens for other charter issues, such as modifications or formal reviews.  I cited Family Foundations Academy and the Delaware Met as examples where things happened after the charter record closed and the State Board voted on something without giving the ability to the public to add new events.  I said there was an inherent danger with this.

One of the funnier moments came when Ramone kept going on and on about how the meeting room for State Board meetings was too small.  He recalled how it is standing room only and many people are forced to stand in the hall.  He suggested maybe they meet in the House chambers!  While it would be difficult to have seven state board members, an executive director and the Secretary of Education cram into the front of the House chamber, I’ve always suggested utilizing the VERY large conference room at the DOE’s other building over at the Collette Center in Dover.  While it isn’t as “official” looking as the Cabinet Room at the Townsend Building, it is certainly big enough to fit the State Board, DOE Chiefs, and at least a hundred members of the public, if not more.

It became very apparent to everyone in the audience today exactly why the Delaware State Board of Education was put on review by the Joint Sunset Committee yesterday.  In my opinion, I think this antiquated rule is something that comes from a country where dictators rule and the people are put on mute.  Transparency isn’t just being open with your records and dealings, it is also letting the public be transparent about how they feel.

One quick note: House Bill 161, which deals with Parent Empowerment Savings Accounts for students with disabilities, or as most call them, school vouchers, was taken off the agenda for today’s House Education Committee.