Mike Matthews On Personalized Learning And Digital Technology In The Classroom

The upcoming Delaware State Education Association President, Mike Matthews, just wrote an excellent post on Facebook about the rise of digital technology and personalized learning in the classroom.  His post was in response to the recent announcements by various Delaware school districts of Reduction in Workforce notices going out to schools based on Governor John Carney’s proposed budget for FY2018.

For the past several years, personalized and blended learning have been strong dialogue points in education circles. The thinking behind personalized and blending learning is that it offers different environments to meet students’ needs for learning. One of those environments is digital, where some of the learning is done on devices as opposed to direct teacher instruction or small-group instruction.

There is a belief out there by some that many education reformers and corporatists are supporting personalized and blended learning because, ultimately, it could reduce personnel costs by getting rid of large numbers of teachers. Me? I’m a fan of “personalized learning” in a very basic sense: that all learning, in effect, should be personalized to meet student needs. However, I am beginning to have some concerns with the personalized and blended learning information I’m seeing as well as the propagation of 1:1 devices in classrooms across the state.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Technology is a must in today’s digital environment and students MUST be exposed to its responsible use. However, eight years ago, then-Gov. Jack Markell made a series of devastating cuts to education. And we still haven’t recuperated from that.

Governor John Carney is proposing a series of devastating cuts to his education budget now. We never saw Gov. Markell’s cuts come back to education. Will we see Gov. Carney’s cuts come back if they’re passed by the legislature? Will these layoffs — these hundreds of human beings about to lose their jobs — be victims to technology because it’s cheaper to purchase a Chromebook than it is to pay a teacher’s salary?

Two years ago, I had a very open mind about personalized learning when I was president of the Red Clay Education Association and some fellow members introduced me to personalized learning. And, to an extent, I’m still VERY open to what personalized learning is and can be. I made sure to share with those teachers that at no time should personalized learning EVER be seen as a means to layoff and cut teachers in our schools and the they agreed with that. However, I’m concerned that these heartless and cruel layoffs coming could only grow worse as policymakers embrace the idea that technology can do cheaper or better what humans can for children.

I will never accept a world where computers take the place of living, breathing, caring human beings. We must fight like hell to bring these positions back to our school districts as quickly as possible. Anything less should be cause for direct, organized action by educators and the public that supports us across the state.

Amen Mike, Amen!  With that being said, the reaction of the state and local education associations to this technology push in our classroom will be instrumental in making sure that future never comes to pass.  DSEA will have to be at the front of the line opposing this future.  When Mike said “some believe”, those numbers are growing fast and it isn’t just a belief.  It is happening in districts across the country and it will happen here if we don’t get enough educators, parents, citizens, and students to fight it.

In Delaware, the Rodel Teacher Council has been pushing personalized learning a lot in the past couple months.  They met with legislators and the State Board of Education.  As I have said many times, I don’t believe these teachers are the bad guys.  But I don’t trust Rodel at all.  For the life of me, with everything I’ve written, I can’t understand why these teachers continue to listen to Rodel and do their bidding.  These teachers spend a lot of time working for Rodel with little to no pay for their time and effort.  At the end of the day, Rodel is a corporation.  They may say they are a non-profit, but when their CEO Dr. Paul Herdman makes over $350,000 a year, that gives me considerable pause.

The personalized learning push goes beyond computers replacing teachers though.  There is the matter of massive exposure to screen time and what kind of effects that has on students.  There is the massive amount of data collection.  There is the presumption by many that the algorithms in many of these apps and learning programs are being used to push students toward certain types of future careers.  There is the competency-based education aspect of it all that has a severe danger of putting at-risk students even further behind than their peers.  While I don’t expect many to get this yet, they soon will.  Right now, I am John the Baptist, wandering around in the wilderness warning everyone.  A madman?  No.  One who would rather prophet for students than profit from students?  Yes.

Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner

Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will talk to educators, parents, and citizens tonight about education funding and the state budget tonight at 7:45pm.  To be included on the call, you had to sign up yesterday by 2pm.  I signed up on Tuesday.  I will be reporting live from the Town Hall.  What concerns me the most is not what Carney is saying.  It is what he isn’t talking about… Continue reading “Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner”

The Rodel Teacher Council Policy Briefs & Why Delaware Teachers Need To Be VERY Concerned

I’ve heard from more than a few teachers in the past hour since I posted about the Rodel Teacher Council’s presentation to the State Board of Education.  Many were unaware of what this very small group of Delaware teachers have been up to and how it could impact the future of their profession.  I wanted to follow-up on that article with this set of “policy briefs” created by this teacher council.  What could happen is this corporate education reform hocus-pocus is all of a sudden written into Delaware state code without anyone the wiser.  This would be done by our General Assembly who Rodel has been making nicey-nice with in the past year.  I would strongly urge all the local teacher unions and the Delaware State Education Association to get on top of this as soon as humanly possible and find out what the hell some of the teachers in their districts are doing with all this in the name of Rodel.  I’ve been warning about these possibilities for a long time.  But it will take much more than me to stop this from becoming the new reality.

For months, I’ve heard Delaware Governor John Carney talk about “public and private partnerships”.  Funny how the Rodelians mention this very same thing in their policy briefs issued last November.  If you think for one second John Carney is not under Rodel’s thumb, think again!

I’ve written about “Social Impact Bonds” before.  Where companies come in and essentially make bets on student outcomes.  Now we see “Innovation Funding”, also known as crowdsourcing, where communities “invest” in schools so someone can make a whole lot of money.  As well, the state won’t have to pay for it.  But all that comes with a price.  The future generation of students who will be fully immersed in this nonsense will become nothing more than drones to the corporations as true local decision-making becomes a thing of the past.  Meanwhile, all the “smart” and “wealthy” kids will be attending private schools paid for, in part, by school vouchers.

The below documents were created last November but they are making their rounds with the decision-makers in Delaware education.  This is Paul Herdman’s ultimate vision folks.  Everything else has just been a sideshow compared to this.  They can come out with all the pretty and colorful presentations they want.  But as long as people keep swallowing their pills, this will continue.  It will never change until people demand our Department of Education, our legislators, and our schools stop adopting Rodel’s corporate greed-driven drivel.  And for the love of all that is holy, will education stakeholders who really should know better please get off the Vision Coalition?  All you are doing is prolonging the existence of Rodel.  DSEA, DASA, and DSBA need to inform all those who pay dues to them of every single aspect of these policies and let their members decide how to deal with this.  Decisions like this should not be brought forth by 22 Delaware teachers speaking for the entire teaching force in Delaware.

The Rodel Teacher Council Scares The Living Hell Out Of Me

Today, the Rodel Teacher Council gave a presentation to the Delaware State Board of Education with policy recommendations for their Personalized Learning Blueprint.  I’ve written about them before and actually received a bit of heat from a few of their membership.  These aren’t bad people or bad teachers.  I truly believe they have been brainwashed into the corporate education reform movement.  Some may not even realize it.  But what they came out with today for their State Board presentation literally frightens me and makes me wonder more than ever where public education is heading.  I have to wonder if the State Board of Education would ever allow those who are against this kind of thing to give a presention to them.

This presentation has all the education reform buzz words in it: Personalized Learning, Blended Learning, Competency-Based Education, Micro Credentials, Seat-Time, Social and Emotional Learning, Waivers, Assessment, and Standards.  To break it down, under these models the eventual goal is what is known as “stealth assessments”, the state assessment broken down in chunks at the end of each unit.  The student can’t move on until they “master” the material provided to them from their digital technology.  Predicting the future here, I imagine Delaware will eventually incorporate some kind of “digital badge” the student would get once they “master” the material (Colorado is at the forefront of this ridiculousness).  Meanwhile, all the data from this ed tech is going to vendors galore.  Personal and private data, every single keystroke.

So why are Delaware educators jumping on this bandwagon when it will eventually lead to the demise of the public school teacher?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Special standing, power, incentive for future mobility in their profession?  Perhaps they are blind to how their actions today will lead to the end of their professional world as we know it.  The fact that ANY Delaware school district teacher would get behind something with the Rodel name in it makes me suspect.  Very suspect.  The fact this council is going before the State Board of Education after they went to some legislators earlier this month makes me very worried.  Worried that legislation is coming that will allow this Rodel Vision of Educational Paradise.

Make no mistake.  This has been in the planning stages for years.  And it will get a huge push in states once Blockchain Technology really gets going.  And Delaware will be at the forefront of that initiative.  People read stuff like this from me and some say I am wearing a tin hat or engaging in conspiracy theory.  Let them.  They said the same thing when I said Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Committee was just a big distraction from opt out and would produce nothing worthwhile.  I said that before the legislation even passed which created that committee.

What is Governor Carney’s role in all this?  I don’t think he has an original thought on any of this.  I think his staff tells him what to do.  Many of those staff members are fully aligned with this Rodelian future and have been for quite a while.

To read what the Rodel Teacher Council (aka Rodel) wants policy-makers in Delaware to subscribe to, please read the document below.

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 3: Union? We Don’t Need Your Stinkin’ Union!

How did the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition get around the Delaware State Education Association?

The Rodel Foundation, Delaware DOE, and the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition had a meeting coming up on November 20th, 2014.  In the meantime, things were heating up with the priority schools, especially a looming showdown between the Christina School District and the Delaware DOE.  Many people felt no matter what Christina or Red Clay did, the DOE was going to take the six schools and convert them to charter schools.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was getting ready to release the cut scores on the upcoming high-stakes test based on the field tests administered earlier that Spring.  The Delaware DOE was starting their town halls for their “school report card”.  They had released surveys to the public with ridiculous things like stop lights for grades (this eventually became the Delaware School Success Framework).  The IEP Task Force was in full swing and they were actively working on their final draft.  Unbeknownst to most, former Rodel employee Matthew Korobkin began his job in the Secretary of Education’s office at the DOE to begin work on the Special Education Strategic Plan.  This blogger had started doing some serious digging into Rodel after what I found out at the end of October of 2014.  The General Election came and went.  Matt Denn won the Delaware Attorney General slot in a landslide.  Two new state reps would have a dramatic effect on education in the General Assembly in the next year.

On November 19th, 2014, I released my mammoth Rodel article.  Knowing this little group was meeting in back-door meetings would have been good to know when I was writing that article.  It would have filled in some holes.  From what I heard from a few people, this article really rattled Rodel CEO Paul Herdman.  I know he was upset with me for daring to allege that Rodel would ever make money from hedge funds and somehow profit off Delaware education.  But in any event, the CBL Guiding Coalition was about to meet…

guiding-coalition-2nd-meeting

I tried the link referenced in the email to an Ed Week article, but the link no longer exists.  I have no doubt it reference some personalized learning school and how great it was.  When you look at the above email, note the word barriers.  If competency-based learning is supposed to be so great, why would there be any barriers?  At this point, it is probably a good idea to let folks know who was on both the Core and Advisory groups for this.

cbladvisorygroup

cblcoregroup

In terms of involvement, I don’t know if every single person participated in this CBL Guiding Coalition that was now divided into two groups. I do know, for example, that Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA did not go to any meetings of this group whatsoever.  There were six district Superintendents and one charter Head of School on the coalition.  Quite a few of the teachers were also on the Rodel Teacher Council.  Note the presence of university and college members.  There was a specific reason for that which will come in later parts.  Now, on most education committees and task forces, or any type of education group, there is always representation from the Delaware State Education Association.  But not on this coalition!  To me, the key figures in this group were Michael Watson, Susan Haberstroh, Wayne Hartschuh and Donna Johnson.  They were (and still are) important people at the DOE who were in a position to let the ideas of this group come into being.

In terms of the barriers, the coalition was very visible with what the policy and system barriers could be:

cblbarriers

In answer to why DSEA wasn’t represented on this committee, I think the words “collective barg”, which would be “collective bargaining” gives a clear answer to that question.  Unless this is all about some secret archaeology plan, I can only assume “dig learning” is “digital learning”.

guiding-coalition-3rd-meeting

Policies on seat time?  What does that mean?  In a competency-based world, a student doesn’t move on until they master the assignment or concept.  They must be proficient.  So what measures that proficiency?  The teacher?  Or a stealth assessment embedded into the ed tech the student is working on?  I love how the DOE and ed reformers turn simple words like “jigsaw” into something else.  I know what they mean, but why do they do that?

By the time their January 2015 meeting came around, the holidays came and went.  All eyes were on the Christina School District as they valiantly fought the DOE on the three priority schools in their district.  Red Clay signed their Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  A financial crisis occurred during Family Foundation’s charter renewal.  The community rallied for Gateway Lab School.  Parents were talking more and more about opt out.  And the General Assembly was back in session…

To Be Continued in Part 4: Playing with regulations, priorities change, and the DOE and the Governor freak out…

Prologue

Part 1

Part 2

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 2: Reinventing Schools & Dark Omens

At the first official meeting for the Delaware Dept. of Education/Rodel created Guiding Coalition for Competency-Based Learning, an email went out to members to research an organization called Reinventing Schools.  Theresa Bennett with the DOE sent the following email:

guiding-coalition-1st-meeting

Bennett announces that a Kim Hanisch from the Reinventing Schools Coalition will be facilitating their meetings.  The organization changed their name because of the initials, RISC, to Reinventing Schools.  This group received their start-up funds from the Gates Foundation.  A blog called Save Maine Schools gave a very detailed description of the man that runs Reinventing Schools, Dr. Joseph Marzano.  I imagine Rodel and Reinventing Schools have a lot in common since they are both lovers of competency-based education and personalized learning in a digital classroom.  Oddly enough, Reinventing Schools does not list Delaware in their map of schools and districts they work with.  I guess non-profits don’t count as true education centers of learning!  Save Maine Schools referred to Marzano as just another corporate education reform snake-oil salesman.  His ideas, according to the article and commenters, were nothing new but repackaged to further this modern-day Competency-Based Education mixed with Personalized Learning in a digital environment.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, a lot was going on in Delaware education at this time.  The priority schools debacle was heating up.  On the same day as this first meeting of the “Guiding Coalition”, the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated Boards of Education were holding meetings to decide their next steps with the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell.  Red Clay indicated they would capitulate with the DOE, but Christina was defiant and insisted on writing their own Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  The priority schools MOU called for the firing of half the teachers and each school had to get a new principal.  As teachers and Delaware citizens seethed, a growing voice was calling for the resignation of Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and a new employee at the DOE named Penny Schwinn, who led the Accountability & Assessment department, soon became the most hated person in the Delaware education landscape.  Many, including legislators, began wondering what the heck Delaware did with all the Race To The Top money and FOIAs started going out to the Delaware DOE.

As a result of this, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee was born.  Governor Markell issued an Executive Order to come up with recommendations on how to deal with the rising Wilmington education crisis.  Bank of America Communications Chief  and Former Chair of the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, Tony Allen, was chosen to lead the committee.  Meanwhile, a certain blogger started talking about Delaware Opt Out more and more.  All of these were easy distractions for those who were very worried about what was going on with Delaware education.  Markell was taking a very hard stance on the priority schools.  Nobody saw what was going in with the back-door and secret meetings of the Guiding Coalition.

The Rodel Foundation of Delaware was busy preparing for their next Vision Coalition annual conference.  One of their guests at the conference was a company called 2Revolutions.  I did not attend the conference, but I followed along on Twitter.  I decided to look into this digital learning company and was shocked by what I found.  Pretty much everything I am current writing about with Corporate Education Reform 2.0 is covered in that link.  That was from almost two years ago.  The next day I received an email from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC):

gacechalloweenemail

This email contained a copy and paste from the Rodel Teacher Council for their “Performance Learning” blueprint which I included in an article I wrote on this.  I was skeptical of Rodel based on everything I saw and read before that email from the GACEC.  But this horrified me.  It was obvious Rodel was facilitating the reinvention of Delaware education and nobody was paying attention.  Changes were taking place.  The Delaware DOE was not running the show.  It was Rodel.  I began to commit myself to finding out all I could about Rodel.  It was Halloween and nothing horrified me more than what I wrote about that dark evening.  I didn’t truly understand it all at that time.  There was a lot going on.  But this was the beginning of putting the puzzle pieces together.  However, the upcoming General Election in Delaware would cause things to change in the Delaware General Assembly that would provide very big distractions for many.

As everyone prepared for a potential takeover of the Priority Schools, the Delaware DOE and Rodel continued their secret meetings.  To be continued in Part 3: Rodel gets a surprise and a matter of civil rights…

 

The Teacher Leader Pilot Program Comes To Us Courtesy Of Rodelaware

The Delaware Department of Education continues their self-righteous Rodel led agendas.  In their latest corporate education reform press release, Godowsky and the gang announced the nineteen members of the Delaware Teacher Leader Pilot program kicking off this year.  I find it more than a coincidence that most of the districts who got these positions are very tight with the “Leader In Me” program.  The only districts selected were Capital and Appoquinimink.  Three charters are joining the bandwagon which are MOT, Kuumba Academy and Odyssey.

At their April board meeting, the Capital Board of Education tentatively approved going forward with this program.  But they had deep concerns about setting up competitions in schools.  They cited the very controversial Delaware Talent Co-op Program from a few years ago and how it caused many problems among teachers.  As well, the board was concerned with the amount of time the selected Teacher Leaders would spend out of the classroom and how additional substitute teachers would need to take their place.  The principals of these schools were very enthusiastic about the program.  Both are “focus” schools, one of the latest “turnaround” labels thrown at schools over low state assessment scores.  In a sense, I don’t blame these principals for doing what they can to get their schools out of these false labels put on them by the Delaware DOE.  If you go to the Capital board audio recording from their April 20th board meeting, click on the second audio recording link, and the discussion begins around the 1:22:03 mark.  When asked how much the program would cost, Superintendent Dan Shelton mentioned the stipend teachers would get but also that the training would take up the bulk of the costs.  A figure of $50,000 was thrown around.

The only schools in Capital who are instituting this pilot program are Towne Point and East Dover Elementary.  Towne Point is a huge advocate of the “Leader In Me” program.  Fairview Elementary in Capital also has this program.  Appoquinimink School District brought Leader In Me to Delaware.  Payments for this program are made to a company called Franklin Covey.  Many of the teachers at Towne Point who advocate for this program are also members of this Teacher Leader pilot program.  One of them is also very involved with the Rodel Teacher Council.  I have no doubt this teacher is an excellent teacher, but when you see one name associated with so many things I can not support, it is hard to draw the line between saying nothing and pointing it out.  I fully welcome any discussion with this teacher about anything written in this article, especially the part I write about later on.

The Delaware General Assembly passed their budget bill in late June with an appropriation of $800,000 in state funds going to the recipient districts and charters towards the Teacher Leader program.

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What I don’t understand is how the DOE can move forward with a program that is contingent on approval in the State Budget.  The funds for this state grant weren’t approved until late June.  But here we have the DOE sending out invitations to apply after Spring Break.  For Capital school district, students came back after Spring Break on April 4th.  They gave schools a very short time to apply for this program, a matter of 25 days.  What was the insane rush behind this?  I will touch on this later, but for now check out the press release from Alison May at the DOE:

First teacher leaders announced

Nineteen teachers have been selected to serve as teacher leaders in a pilot program launching this school year. The program is among the first of its kind in the nation to take place at the state level.

Providing this kind of teacher leadership opportunity was among the recommendations of the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers. During his administration, Governor Jack Markell has championed the creation of a compensation system that makes Delaware educator salaries more competitive with neighboring states and rewards teachers for helping their peers to best support our students.

“Through this pilot, teacher leaders are provided a career pathway that both rewards educators for excellence and provides opportunities in formal leadership positions,” said Markell, who recommended funding for the pilot in his Fiscal Year 2017 budget that was approved by the General Assembly on June 30. “Through these roles, teacher leaders will use their skills to support schools where they need it most: helping other educators develop their practices and better prepare Delaware’s students for college and careers —all while allowing teacher leaders to maintain a foot in the classroom and earn additional compensation without needing to take on administrative roles.”

The Governor joined Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky today at Appoquinimink High School in Middletown to participate with members of the pilot in a discussion about the coming year.

The five teacher leader roles to launch this year will support educators in the following areas:

·         Instructional practice leads will improve the instructional practice of fellow educators using a variety of high-impact support strategies focused on frequent, targeted feedback in educators’ development areas.

·         Digital content leads will help educators build their instructional technology knowledge so more students have access to technology that helps improve their academic outcomes.

·         Instructional strategy leads will introduce new instructional strategies into schools to help educators meet their learning needs and help schools meet their academic goals.

·         Community partnership leads will help students gain access to services designed to improve their physical and mental health, giving them a greater chance at academic success.

·         Instructional culture leads will help schools build a philosophy around culture, discipline and culturally responsive teaching.

Schools across Delaware were invited to participate in the teacher leader pilot. A nine-member committee representing educators, administrators and external partners selected eight schools and those schools created selection committees that designed a rigorous, multi-stage process to meet their schools’ needs and choose the 19 teacher leaders.

Each school is identifying a set of goals that teacher leaders will work toward. This summer, teacher leaders and school leaders came together to meet other pilot participants, plan pilot implementation for their schools, and learn more about teacher leadership to ensure a successful launch this fall.

“Being a novice teacher can be overwhelming at first, especially when it comes to lesson planning and classroom management. That’s why we want to use this new position to target support for our novice teachers in these areas,” said Kirsten Belair, who will work as an instructional practice lead at Odyssey Charter School.

The 2016-17 teacher leaders are:

 

·         Amanda Alexander, instructional culture, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)

·         Colleen Barrett, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Chelsea Baxter, instructional culture, Kuumba Academy (Charter)

·         Kirsten Belair, instructional practice, Odyssey Charter School (Charter)

·         Lindsay Bouvy, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Michelle Duke, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)

·         Carrie Howe, community partnerships, MOT Charter School (Charter)

·         Melanie Fauvelle, digital content, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Michele Johnson, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)

·         Kris King, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Heather Patricco, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Heather Mann, instructional practice, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)

·         Shana Noll, instructional practice, MOT Charter School (Charter)

·         Crystal Samuels, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Katharine Sawyer, instructional practice, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Krista Seifert, instructional culture, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)

·         John Tanner, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Kady Taylor, instructional strategy (K-8 reading), Kuumba Academy (Charter)

·         Tamara Walker, instructional strategy (K-8 math), Kuumba Academy (Charter)

Alison May

alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Last May, educators were “encouraged” to apply for this program.  The Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware DOE issued an overview of the program along with applications and descriptions of the different categories teachers could apply for:

Based on all of these descriptions, the teachers selected into this program would receive a stipend ranging from $5000-$6000 depending on whether or not the school is a “high-needs” school.  Assuming all of the schools are “high-needs”, that would give each teacher a stipend of $6000.  With nineteen teachers selected, that is a total of $114,000.  So my question would be where the other $684,000 allocated for this program is going to.  I emailed the DOE about this earlier this afternoon.

This program spun out of the Committee to Advance Educator Compension & Careers Committee which spun out of the 147th General Assembly and Senate Bill 254.  In the beginning of this committee, Delaware teachers were outraged because the vendor for the committee, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), suggested Smarter Balanced scores should determine if a teacher could become a teacher leader.  Eventually, the committee ran out of time and the committee was extended through House Joint Resolution #7 in the 148th General Assembly.  The group was led by an employee in Governor Markell’s office named Ryan Fennerty.  This name may sound familiar to some readers.  Another member of the committee, Lindsay O’Mara, former wife of Colin O’Mara, is engaged to Fennerty.  She also worked in Governor Markell’s office as his education policy advisor before leaving last winter to get a job at the United States Dept. of Education.  Delaware or Peyton Place?  You decide!  But I digress…

If you look at the minutes for this committee, the last three meetings have no minutes.  This is where the final votes would be shown on what became today’s announcement by the Delaware DOE.  These last three meetings were held on 5/11/15, 1/29/16 and 4/22/16.  The Delaware DOE obviously jumped the gun on this a bit because Capital’s board discussed their two schools applying for this on April 20th, two days before the final vote took place.  I did email the chair of the CAECC, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, as well as Donna Johnson, the legislators on the committee, and Dr. Godowsky for a status on these minutes earlier today.  There was also an Educator Work Group as a subset of this committee, and this section of the CAECC website has NO minutes at all for the four meetings that were held between November 2015 to January 2016.  So much for transparency in Delaware.

This committee had a lot of familiar faces.  The heads of the Senate and House Education Committees for the 147th General Assembly were on it, Senator David Sokola and former State Rep. Darryl Scott.  Senator Brian Pettyjohn and State Rep. Joe Miro rounded out the legislative portion of the committee from the other side of the aisle.  State Rep. Kim Williams replaced Scott when he opted not to run again in the 148th General Assembly.  The Delaware State Education Association, Dr. Mark Holodick (Superintendent of Brandywine School District), and eventually, the Delaware Association of School Administrators had a seat at the table.  On the state financial side of things, Meghan Brennan represented the Office of Management and Budget and Controller General Michael Morton from his office.  It is important to note there were no actual teachers on the main committee. 

I’ve heard tales from these meetings and how DSEA fought against SBAC scores tying into these Teacher Leader creations.  I actually wrote about how teachers went to a Town Hall based on this at the Bear Public Library and many weren’t allowed entrance because the library had too many people.  But I can’t find the article.  But needless to say, teachers were VERY pissed off about this.

I have to wonder how many applications were received by the Delaware DOE for this and how many different districts or charters applied.  And yet, we only have two districts and three charters represented in this pilot program.  Appoquinimink is pretty much a grant whore and applies for every grant under the sun (and usually gets it) and is a proud member of BRINC and The Leader In Me program, Capital is an unknown quantity: heavily involved in The Leader In Me, just joined BRINC (the digital blended learning consortium representing 8-9 districts in Delaware), and now this program, Kuumba is one of the darling charters loved by the DOE, the Delaware Charter Schools Network and several legislators, MOT Charter School is one of the Smarter Balanced superstars with high scores (take a look at their demographics), and Odyssey Charter School is… I don’t know what they are.  They have been under my radar for a long time, but I have a sneaky feeling that will change in the coming months.

Now, to be fair, I don’t think every teacher involved with these type of things are evil or the Judas Iscariot of the Delaware teaching profession.  I think they are regular teachers who want to do more but don’t want to necessarily go into administrative roles.  They jump on things like this, or the Leader In Me program, or the Rodel Teacher Council, in an honest intention of diversifying their resume and their professional career path.  But, with that being said, I don’t trust Rodel, or a DOE sponsored program, or the Leader In Me.  I think a lot of them are not in it for kids and teachers and have bigger plans.  And behind all of this, we have Smiling Jack, leading the pep rally behind this latest pilot program.  But what I do take extreme offense to is the arrogance of people who knew 1) the CAECC had not approved the program when applications went out, and 2) the General Assembly had not approved the funding for the program before applications went out.

In the grand scheme of things, $800,000 for a Teacher Leader Pilot Program is not that much money considering the state spends a third of it’s budget on education.  But the danger is when it is labeled a success and the funds no longer flow freely from the state in the form of grants.  In a year or three, when the local school districts are asked to pick up a share and they jump on it because they don’t want to disrupt the program, that is when we will find out the true cost of a program like this.  And as we have more teachers jumping to become a Teacher Leader, spending less time in the classroom with less instruction they are giving students, what happens to the kids?  I believe the Capital board members should have pushed harder against having their two schools apply.  There were no firm answers about what to do with the vast amount of substitute teachers needed to make up for these teachers being out of the classroom.  Not only do you have the teacher’s salary, but you also have an ever-growing number of substitute teacher wages that the districts will  have to eat.  I truly don’t think it is a wise idea to have seasoned teachers out of the classroom up to half the day.  If they want to do this stuff outside of school hours, that is one thing.  But our students deserve better than to have half a teacher.

Oh yeah, there is just one more tiny, itty-bitty, little thing with all this.  On April 21st, Angeline Rivello, the Chief of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit and also an Assistant Secretary at the Delaware DOE, sent out an email to the Selection Committee of the Teacher Leader Pilot program.  I was able to get this email.  And it is a doozy of an email.

How does a member of the Selection Committee manage to get selected for this program?  Can you answer that for me Michele Johnson?  Why do I constantly see the names of the aforementioned Michele Johnson, Robyn Howton and Jennifer Nauman attached to so much Rodel/Vision stuff and now this selection committee?  Under whose authority did you allow schools to apply for this before any decision was made granting the authority by legislative decree to a public committee or before the funds were even appropriated for this program?  Can you answer that for me Angeline Rivello?  Or do you answer to Donna Johnson?  Because there is a crystal clear reason she was cc’ed on this email.  Who chose the selection committee for a program that, once again, wasn’t even approved?  Your email said there was a chance to get a “wide diversity” of schools but we have only one Kent Country district, one New Castle County district, and three New Castle charters.  How did that work out?  What was the rubric for scoring applications?  How many applications were received?  Did the selection committee read every single application or what it divvied up among the selection committee?

I think it is past time the DOE fessed up on their sneakiness and manipulation. Secretary Godowsky PROMISED a greater degree of transparency and open communication coming from this Department, and all I see are more lies, secret agendas, emails to select individuals with no public awareness, funds committed to things before they are even approved, focus groups or special meetings with no public notice, no minutes provided for certain things, or even links to certain groups (hello Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition).  Meanwhile, you allow charters and districts to allocate money wherever they want with no true oversight, browbeat the auditor’s office until a good woman is put on leave while charters get away with financial murder, manipulate the ESSA regulatory process by claiming to have true stakeholder input when it is really just school administrators and lobbyists, force a school report card scheme on our schools without any regulatory authority to impose it, and have our students take a test that judges everything and the students don’t even take the test.  Secretary Godowsky, I don’t care what anyone says, you are a HORRIBLE Secretary of Education.  This kind of crap makes even Mark Murphy look okay in comparison.  The rot in YOUR Department still exists, more than ever.  This happened under YOUR watch.  I hope the pieces of silver from Rodel and Markell were worth it… 

Angeline Rivello, when I announced Chris Ruszkowski was leaving the DOE, a lot of teachers in this state reached out to me and they expressed how they wanted to give you a chance and hoped the stink from the TLEU would disappear.  It is stronger then ever. 

Donna Johnson, this just once again proves what I have always known: you don’t believe in transparency and you are well aware of everything that goes on in the Townsend Building.  Does your beloved State Board know what you know?  How the hell are you even still employed there?  All of you are liars, plain and simple.  There is no other justification for your actions. 

Governor Markell, you tricked us again. You are a mastermind at turning something that looks good on the surface into a tangled web of lies and deception. If I had my way, I would impeach you even though you have less than five months in office.

If those in Delaware thought maybe I would temper things down eventually, my commitment to exposure in this state has NEVER been stronger.  Every single day I see the corruption and fraud going on in our state.  This isn’t a democracy.  We have the most corrupt and vile state government in the country.  None of this is about our kids.  It is about power, position, and money.  You all need to start coming clean before I find out about it.  Because if you think only a few Delaware teachers and parents read this blog, you are VERY wrong.  You have no idea, no one does, who is watching all of you.  Recording every single thing I come out with, just building a very large and thick file.

And I do have a final item to throw out there.  How can three contracts, which I can only assume may play into the total of $800,000 for Section 362is program which answers some of my questions for the funds involved in this sham, be signed on the following dates: 4/19/16, 4/21/16, 4/26/16, 5/2/16, 5/4/16, 5/10/16, 5/11/16, and 5/23/16?  If these are for this program, and the General Assembly had not approved the funds for this program, how can you have contracts starting before the Joint Finance Committee even released their budget?  Or should I assume the Rodel Foundation will be the one training these teacher leaders?  With funds from the Vision Coalition?  Or should I say Schools That Lead?  Because when I look up Schools That Lead’s IRS 990 tax forms, it comes up with 990s for 2012, 2013, and 2014.  Since Schools That Lead wasn’t really around then, care to take a guess what company comes up?  The Vision Network.  And if this description of their purpose doesn’t fit the bill for this Teacher Leader Pilot, I don’t know what does:

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Care to take a close look at who Schools That Lead’s “partners” are?  Just look at this.  And if you aren’t aware of the backbone behind the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025, you need to take a look at this.  The Vision Coalition wants us to be “rethinking roles and responsibilities” and that includes teacher leaders and their compensation levels.  Take a look at the contracts above with Teach For America, University of Delaware and Supporting School Success.  Sound familiar based on all this?  Even more fascinating, even though Delaware has paid millions of dollars to the Rodel/Vision education incorporated enterprise, we never see any contracts with them listed on the awarded vendors portion of the state contracts website.  I would have to imagine this contract could land them anywhere from $500,000-$600,000.  Would that be a good guess Dr. Paul Herdman?  With an address at 100 W. 10th St. in Wilmington, DE, it stands to reason Rodel is somehow going to profit off this.

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When I first started digging into education stuff in Delaware, I remember reading an article on Kilroy’s where he wrote about talking with Jack Markell in 2008.  Kilroy wanted to support him, and he asked Markell flat-out if he was going to stop the spread of Rodel into Delaware education to which Markell said he would.  Jack lied Kilroy.  He lied to all of us.  Rodel runs the education show in Delaware.  They have for 12 years.  Every single decision made in Delaware education has been at the behest of the Rodel Foundation since Jack Markell took office.  Together with their order-takers at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Christina Cultural Arts Center, Governor Markell’s office, and the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, they have single-handedly turned Delaware education into a billion dollar corporation.  And our kids lose more and more every single day.  Because their minions have infiltrated every charter, every district, every state agency, and even our General Assembly.  We gave them this power.  Now, it is time to take it all back.

The Judases On The Rodel Teacher Council & How They Changed Public Education Forever In Delaware **UPDATED**

Establish a “critical mass” of support for CBL in DE and leverage supportive voices to raise awareness about CBL

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A group of Delaware teachers, in conjunction with a few Superintendents, principals, a high-ranking member of the Delaware PTA, the executive director of the State Board of Education and members of the Delaware Department of Education found a way to sneak in a future-changing regulation eight months ago with a group no one knew about and never had any notices of public meetings.  But all is not as it appears.  In doing so, they opened the gates to one of the most dangerous corporate education reformers out there.

Have you ever heard of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition?  Me neither.  Until last night.  In doing a massive amount of research on the Leader In Me program in many of our Delaware schools (and there will be MUCH more on that coming), I found a very odd write-up on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware website.

In investigating a school in the Capital School District that is heavily promoting the snake-oil Leader In Me program, I came across the Rodel Teacher Council section of their website on a Google search.  And there it was, under Michele Johnson of Towne Point Elementary School in Capital School District.  I knew she was involved in the Leader In Me program, but what I didn’t know and had never heard of was the Delaware Department of Education’s Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  I’ve looked at every single section of the DOE website and never found anything about it.  So I went back to Google.  I found a link to a pdf from a State Board of Education work session on July 16th, 2015.

To give some more background, this was an important day in Delaware education.  It was the same day Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed House Bill 50.  The State Board holds their work sessions during the morning before their board meetings.  The State Board did have it on their agenda for this work session but try looking for anything else on this group and you will be hopelessly lost.  With most groups at the Delaware DOE, there is something listed somewhere.  But not with this one.  There was no notice of public meetings and no transparency whatsoever.    Why would there be?  This was a Rodel group from their hand-picked teacher council.  If you never believed Rodel was running education in Delaware, you will after reading the below document.  Every single thing I’ve been writing about on this blog for the past nine months: about competency-based education, personalized learning, pathways to prosperity, the “Dear Hillary” letter, it is all in this 10 page pdf in some form.

So this group recommended finding a way past these barriers to competency-based education in Delaware.  The pictures of the post-it notes show words like “urgency” and “barriers”.  They mention collective bargaining as a “system barrier”.  This Rodel Teacher Council sold their souls to Rodel when they joined this cabal.  In the above document there is an entity called Reinventing Schools.  I’ve heard of this company but this is the first time I ever saw them mentioned in Delaware.  But obviously Rodel has been working with them behind the scenes for many years.  To find out why, I highly suggest reading this article on the funded by the Gates Foundation organization led by Dr. Marzano.

I put a picture at the beginning of this article with the members of this Rodel created group.  While I’m not surprised by most of the names, one of them stood out: Yvonne Johnson.  As the face behind the Delaware PTA for many years, Johnson has been involved in many groups in one form or another.  I originally wrote, and have now changed in this article, is how Johnson was involved with this group.  I just spoke to Yvonne Johnson who was very upset about her supposed involvement with the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  As Johnson told me, she was invited to a webinar on this and there was a meeting at Howard High School of Technology about it.  She said she does not support competency-based education and the other Delaware PTA member, Ashley Gray, told this group this was not for the Delaware PTA.  Obviously the Rodel machine presented this information to the State Board of Education, close to a year later, suggesting the full involvement of Delaware PTA.  But that is not the case.  It is just another example of our State Board of Education being duped by Rodel into passing regulations they really don’t have a clue about.

The biggest barrier to implementing competency-based education in Delaware was the graduation requirements.  They had to change existing state code to do that.  Lo and behold, they did exactly that.  But not without some old fashioned trickery.  At the August 20th State Board meeting, Regulation 505 was put up for discussion by the State Board.

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In listening to the State Board audio recording for this meeting, notice how it is introduced as having nothing to do with competency-based education.  For a long time, they talk around it.  It isn’t until the President of the State Board, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, seeks clarification on this regulation that anyone in that room would know what they were talking about.  As well, Tina Shockley with the DOE sped through describing the regulation very fast.  But when the conversation gets going, Michael Watson from the DOE responds to a question from Gray about struggling students.  He responds by saying  some students can reach mastery in 180 days but for other students it may take longer and that’s okay.  So is he suggesting some students will have to go to school longer?

At the September State Board meeting, when everyone was going nuts about opt out penalties in the Delaware School Success Framework/Regulation 103 fiasco, the State Board passed this regulation.  But I find it hysterical how all the language surrounding the DSCFY wasn’t even needed to begin with which I’m sure the DOE was well aware of.  In my opinion, they put it in the regulation to put the focus around that knowing it would be removed to get what they want.

So what does all this mean?

Here is the easiest way to break it down.  This isn’t a Delaware thing.  It is happening all over the country.  To put it in a nutshell, corporations took over public education.  This is a plan that has been in place for decades.  First they had to make it look like public schools were failing students.  This began in 1983 when the report called A Nation At Risk was released by the federal government.  This damning report on public education changed the perception of schools in America.  It also began the thirty-three year coordinated attack against teacher unions.  Ten years later, the country’s first charter schools came into being.  At the same time, Bill Clinton became the U.S. President.  His wife Hillary received a letter from Marc Tucker, who went on to be one of the chief architects of Achieve Inc. and the Common Core.

By the late 1990s, standardized testing with high-stakes was the law of the land in Delaware.  When Delaware launched the DSTP test, students did horrible on it.  Many students dropped out of school as testing mania took over the state.  Graduation rates dropped due to the requirement of proficiency on the horrible test.  In 2002, No Child Left Behind demanded all students in America become proficient on these high-stakes tests by 2014.  It was completely absurd and everyone knew it, but it was a stall tactic.  As Common Core came out in President Obama’s second year, Delaware switched to another test called DCAS.  While not as bad as DSTP, it was offered two to three times a year.  Race To The Top was in full swing along with all the ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Charter schools were rising in popularity for the past decade and the teacher unions were under attack.  To get all of this going, the teacher unions had to be destroyed.  But they couldn’t bust the unions, just give them a slow and painful death.

Many teacher unions across the country caved in to the new corporate education reform suggestions.  They could have fought it, but it would have given an already rising bad perception of them an even worse one.  So with the help of school boards, the unions signed on to Race To The Top.  Even the state PTAs got sucked into the Common Core/Race To The Top vortex.  Common Core was the boss, teachers were the servants, and students were the true victims.  Then came the even newer high-stakes assessments tied to the Common Core.  Meanwhile, new education think tanks and non-profits emerged from nowhere to give more and more bad news about education and how to fix it.  In Delaware,  we call them the Rodel Foundation and the Vision Coalition.  They have been around for a long time, but they are one and the same and they are as venomous to public education as any of these other education fixit organizations.

So here we are now, in 2016.  Governor Markell finishes up next January and in comes John Carney.  Like the rushed implementation of Common Core, in the next few years we will see the “urgency” to incorporate full-time competency-based learning in our schools.  Our students will be on the computer all the time in this era of “personalized learning” while our teachers become glorified guides and facilitators.  As veteran teachers leave the profession in droves, we will see more duds like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School coming into our schools.  They won’t be union, and they will take over.  With their corporate driven brainwashing, we will see more “teacher-leaders” come into play via programs like “Leader In Me”.  But education is, and always has been, about the students.  What happens to them?  This is the kicker.

All of this, everything since the day A Nation At Risk was introduced 33 years ago, has been with this plan in mind.  It is all an elaborate tracking measure meant to keep down minority students, students with disabilities, and low-income students.  They will not do well in this.  We see this with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC tests.  The resources and funding are there.  They have always been there.  But our states and government didn’t want to fix education.  They had to tear it down first and build it up again to one of their own design.  They don’t want anyone questioning their authority.  They want their worker bees to fall in line with their career pathways and shut up.  They had to beat down the teachers and numb the minds of children.  They do not care and have no remorse if anyone gets in their way.  Even the charter schools they so methodically built up were fodder for sacrifice if need be.  We saw this in Delaware as many charters closed and more sprung from the ashes.

What the corporate education reformers do is use the art of distraction to an astonishing degree.  They know those who oppose them can’t fight everything all at once so they get us to focus on certain things.  Take opt out for example.  While they know opt out kills everything they are planning, they also know it is the key to their future.  The once a year test will go away.  It will be broken down into little tiny chunks, embedded into the end-of-unit personalized learning chapter.  But a student must score proficient to be able to move on.  They must “master” the material.  But who writes the material?  Who grades the mini-assessments?  How long will a student be “held back” until they get it?  What happens when a student just gives up because they are so mentally frustrated?  How does IDEA and existing law fit in with any of this?  Does anyone care about these kind of things anymore?

Governor Markell and Dr. Paul Herdman, along with their key player at the Townsend Building in Dover, Donna Johnson, have been the masterminds behind all of this in Delaware.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence there have been very few task forces, working groups and committees with an actual State Board of Education member on it?  It is always Executive Director Donna Johnson.  Calling the shots.  Bossing people around as if she is the ultimate authority in education.  Manipulating the playing field to the agendas she controls.  She did it with WEIC, the priority schools, the Delaware School Success Framework, Common Core, opt out, and all the other destructive policies and regulations under her control.  We don’t have a State Board of Education.  We have Jack and Donna’s puppets.  Behind them is the face of Rodel: Dr. Paul Herdman.  The single-most, number one with a bullet, vessel of discrimination and evil I have ever met in my life.  The man behind the Delaware curtain.  The man who helped Jack into the Governor role.  The man who took over the Delaware Department of Education.  The man who directs it all in Delaware.  Who answers to his masters in bigger organizations like the Aspen Institute, Achieve Inc., the Lumina Foundation, and Reinventing Schools.  Behind them are the true power players in the guise of the US Department of Education, the US Department of Labor, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Gates Foundation.  And then there are the investors and hedge fund managers and corporations making billions of dollars off all of this.  For those living in other states who may not be familiar with many of these names, I’m sure if you look hard enough, you have your own puppet masters pulling the strings.

At this point, I don’t know if those who oppose this could stop any of this.  It is so embedded into policy and law.  All the states were required to have some type of career workforce plan based on the below federal document.  The future is now.  It is here.  This Leader In Me garbage that is sweeping our schools is the biggest example of this.  It goes beyond the classroom and invades the home.  It has children making the parents compliant to this nonsense.  Their “data walls” are one of the most disgusting and abhorrent acts of labeling, shaming, and discrimination I have ever seen in my life.  But far too many of our Delaware teachers think it is okay.  This is what happens when you are brainwashed to points beyond common sense.  When you are fed the same false garbage time and time again.  You begin to believe it.  You become the enemy before you even realize it.  When you once questioned all of this and you become a slave to the compliance machine.  I am not saying these teachers are bad or even evil.  They are misguided.  They have been fooled and once the Rodelian mindset becomes a part of your thinking, they have their hooks in you.  They mold and shape you into another one of their puppets or put your name out there to make it look like they have diverse “stakeholder input”.  It seems like people with the last name of Johnson are their favorites.  Charter schools, by their very nature, are ripe for takeover or creation by the Rodelian puppet masters.  And don’t think it ends with Jack Markell.

But too many of us were blinded by opt out, teacher evaluations, and charter schools to even notice.  All we hear about anymore on social media is Trump and Hillary.  It doesn’t matter who wins because all the pieces were put into play years ago.  They snuck it all in when those who should have seen it were distracted.  As our pre-schools and schools become community centers and human teaching becomes a thing of the past, what happens to the children of tomorrow?  Will we even need the school building in the future?  What happens when they become indoctrinated into the cults of compliance?  When they lose their spark?  As the more affluent families stay in power while the vast majority of the population perform all the low-paying jobs?  Who will rise from the ashes like a phoenix to turn it all around again twenty years from now?  Or fifty?  Many have predicted the machines would take over.  But what they failed to realize was the machines were children.  I saw this coming.  I knew it.  But I was looking in the wrong place.  And for that I apologize.  At some point, like everything in history, there will be a revolution.  Only we can decide when that is.