Greg Meece runs Newark Charter School. For 18 years, Newark Charter School is rated not only one of the top charter schools in Delaware but one of the top schools. There is a multitude of reasons for this but it boils down to diversity. At their public hearing for their charter renewal process, Meece made a comment that is sure to rile up the diversity crowd all over again. Meece openly lied about his own school. Continue reading The Lies Greg Meece Says About Newark Charter School
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for the United States Department of Education came out with their special education ratings for each state on July 5th and Delaware was rated as “Needs Assistance” in special education for IDEA Part B (ages 3 through 21). For Part C, which covers Birth through Age 2, Delaware was rated “Needs Assistance” for the second year in a row.
While OSERS did not release the letters sent to each state, they did put up a document covering what each state received for their rating. The individual letters are supposed to be up this month according to their website.
It is hard to give a lot of weight to these rulings by the US DOE. Most of the ratings are based on standardized test scores. I broke this down by school districts and charter schools a few weeks ago based on the letters sent to each district or charter by the Delaware Department of Education. When over 60% of the ratings are based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the SAT, by grade, we are failing to properly grade our special education. Students with disabilities, historically, are the worst performers on these type of tests. These tests do not give an accurate gage of the ability and knowledge these students need to succeed in school. While even the education reformers are jumping on the “standardized testing does not show the full picture in education” bandwagon, for the US DOE, the almighty standardized test is the basis of everything. These tests, based on Common Core, which President Trump swore up and down he would abolish (like he even could if he wanted to). Furthermore, these ratings are always two years behind. This current rating is based on the 2015-2016 school year.
Repeat after me, IDEA is more than a standardized test. IDEA is more than a standardized test.
Once the US DOE releases Delaware’s findings letter I will post it. Last year we were “Meets Requirements”. We tend to flip back and forth between “meets requirements” and “needs assistance”. In 2014 we were rated as “Needs Intervention” which upset me to no end until I found out just how flawed these ratings are.
How were the Delaware school districts and charter schools rated this year for special education? Every single one is in here and the joke isn’t even funny anymore! Continue reading Delaware School District & Charter School Special Education Ratings Are The Biggest Joke In The State!
I’ve seen some arrogant stuff from charter schools in my day but this one takes the cake! Separating herself from the rest of the Board of Directors, Margie Lopez-Waite must be thinking her name adds extra oomph to the struggling Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. Yes, being a Chairperson or President of any school board does give you a certain amount of power and responsibilities, but to distance yourself from the other equal board members is not a good idea. It makes the rest of the Board look weak in comparison. I’ve seen many charters where the head of the Board calls the shots. The rest of the Board winds up becoming a rubber stamp.
For Queen Margie, she has gained absolute control at the school. Obviously they need something since they are on formal review but I would prefer like-minded people working together as opposed to this self-created hierarchy.
Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security came out with their response to the initial Charter School Accountability Committee meeting. We learned Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting turned down the school’s request to submit a major modification to reduce their numbers. That makes sense since you can’t do that when you are on formal review. The school also made an attempt to compare their test scores to area high schools and show they really aren’t that bad when you compare them like this.
Since their modification won’t happen, that means they can’t switch their location for this school year or even next school year if they remain open by that time. That means they have to renew their lease with Fatima, the church that holds the lease on their building. Given that the school is at least $184,000 in the hole, this spells trouble. My sense is they are deeper in the hole than suggested but they found a way to hide it. Even though THIS WAS DISCUSSED AT THEIR FIRST MEETING WITH CSAC.
We also learned their teaching staff has some glaring holes in it. Out of their eight core teachers, three are on emergency certificates, two are vacant positions, and one has an initial license. What does that mean? This school’s teaching population is not up to snuff. 75% of them are not fully certified teachers.
Does Herb Sheldon make $185,000 as Principal of this school? According to their proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year, that’s what it looks like. I hardly think a school of 200 students needs a Principal making THAT much money. Especially since he has NO academic background aside from human resources at another charter school.
What disturbed me the most about this school was their attrition rate with special education students. If you look at the below graph, you can see the number of students with disabilities dropping considerably each year as they go on to their next grade. What happens to these students? Are they counseled out? Expelled? Or do parents just say enough is enough and pull them out? Where are these students going when they leave DAPSS? To other charters or back to their regular feeder pattern? For their Grade 9 that started last year, they were at 32.9% special education. This year, those students in 10th grade are at 0% special education. What happened to those 25 students on an IEP? Same with the 9th graders that started in 2014-2015. In two years, they went from 27 IEPs to 16 to none. For a school that boasts about being able to handle high-needs students, I’m not seeing it! To begin training on special education law at a state and federal level before the 2018-2019 school year does NOT show a commitment to these students. That training should be going on NOW!
I love how the school talks about all the programs brought about by their former Curriculum Director, Erica Thomas, who is no longer with the school. Way to take someone else’s work and make it your own!
To read the pitiful response from the school, please see below. To read the appendices mentioned in the report, please go here.
In her resignation letter, former Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security Board of Directors President Sherese Brewington-Carr expressed a desire for the charter school to close. As well, she opened a can of extreme whoop-ass on Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett. Five days later, the school and board went through their first meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee and went through a very intense meeting. Las Americas Aspiras Academy Head of School Margie Lopez-Waite lambasted the school in the meeting while begging CSAC to keep the school open another year. Continue reading Former DAPSS Board President Rips School & Kendall Massett To Shreds While Margie Lopez-Waite Pleads To Keep School Open
The Delaware Department of Education just presented the 2017 Smarter Balanced, SAT, and DCAS-Alt1 preliminary results to the Delaware State Board of Education. Even though scores were up and down, the Department is excited by the magnificent work of… and that’s about it! As the poor guy next to me was snoring through the presentation, I listened to the whole thing. The only thing I cared about was that every district and charter school met or exceeded the 95% participation rate. Which means opt out rates are going down. Which means more Delaware parents are okay with their kids being tested, catalogued, tracked, and data shared with corporate education companies. That is nothing to celebrate. We need opt out numbers to increase and have ALL districts and charters crack that 95% barrier and plummet down to 90% or even 0% in the event of a miracle.
To see the rigorous and vigorous results (not really, just trying to add some super pizazz here), see below. Sorry, I just can’t take this test or the results seriously it all. They are about as important as wrapping paper after you open a gift.
The College Board is asking for a lot of information from students they don’t need. Such as social security number, family income, religion, and things like that. A commenter named MEMO just posted a brilliant comment on an article I put up a long time ago. Delaware is unique though compared to all the other states in that all students are required to take the SAT. So you may not be able to get out of providing the student identification number. But all the stuff listed below under “none of their business”? Don’t let your kid provide that info because it truly is none of their business.
Please remind parents that the in school SAT will be taken by 11th grade students across the state- PSAT for 9th and 10th graders also. The ONLY information that students need to supply is Name, Address, Gender, and Date of Birth. You do not have to enter your student id. The proctor will encourage student to complete the none of their business questions- parent education level, income, religion, GPA, coursework taken or planing to take, etc… etc… do not provide your cell no, ss#, personal email, twitter, Facebook, etc.. keep everything separated from College Board. Have your child ask specifically which information is optional!
You can protect the amount of data going out on your child. Get involved and make sure your child’s private information stays private! As well as your own!
As Christina and Newark Charter School head into a showdown of sorts, new information about Chartergate 2016 is coming to light. But first, a week in review with all the news from the first week of school in Delaware. And what a week it was!
It has been one hell of a week. Make that ten days! Hogging up the headlines was the (still) ongoing district-charter funding issue. Things got ugly with Newark Charter School parents and the News Journal articles. Sometimes you have to look to the past to figure out why this happened to begin with. Christina made an official announcement that became not so official hours later. I believe I figured it out in the end but new information will be revealed below.
But to me, the most important post I put up was the one about the Smarter Balanced Assessment and some schools not letting kids take AP classes over SBAC scores or if their parents opted their child out of the test. I should have added honors classes because that came up a bit too.
The Indian River financial mess (meltdown?) is going to get bigger. I felt it was important to let folks know there are some serious problems going on there. This won’t be good for the state for several reasons.
Doing the education interviews with three out of the four Governor candidates was awesome. I liked hearing their different views on education. I endorsed Scott Gesty for Congress. I’m still bummed Carney didn’t want to play. Milford School District is having tuition tax woes. Senator Sokola
plagiarized wrote a letter to the editor in the News Journal.
Governor Jack Markell had a busy week when he wasn’t riding around with Batman. He had an interesting weekly message (this was not an audition for U.S. Secretary of Education…that was the joke) and he got an honor. Jack signed an Executive Order for ESSA collaboration with stakeholders. An afterschool task force had a meeting in the morning. The Delaware DOE was called out for ignoring allegations of fraud at the College Board over the revamped SAT.
On Wednesday, at 7:30am, there will be a Legislative Briefing at the Eden Hill Center. This is open to the public, but not for public comment. In attendance will be Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski, CFO Bob Silber, State Reps. John Kowalko, Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach and Earl Jaques that I know of so far. Christina will present their side of the story to the legislators. This is NOT a done deal. Despite what you may have heard, that the local cost per pupil won’t change this year, that statement in and of itself is the misnomer not too many people have caught.
The Delaware DOE saying that means they were going to change the formula. This isn’t just about the exceptions that charter kids don’t get choice money for from the districts. The DOE was actually going to change the formula, without any input from anyone. The charters already sent out their bills to the districts. When Secretary Godowsky said he wasn’t going through with that, I assume that means those payments are on hold or they will revert back to what it always was. But from what I’m hearing, they aren’t budging with Christina and their exceptions. As I wrote on Friday, those exceptions were approved by the Delaware DOE. They can’t go back now and say they weren’t. That will be Christina’s case in all this, and I have to say I agree with them.
I also wrote that I wanted to know how Greg Meece all of a sudden came up with this brilliant idea of going after Christina for this. I have a few suspects with this. I will reserve names until I know for sure who did it. But rest assured, I will find out. They can ‘fess up to me now if they like, or I can write when I know for sure. Your choice (see, I do support choice).
One thing that did bother me over the weekend was a State Representative’s Facebook page. This rep wanted to call me out for saying I will have to apologize to Newark Charter School if it turns out they were in the right. It’s called sarcasm, but the state rep obviously didn’t get that. This rep went a step further to admonish blogs and not to believe everything you read. Sorry, what did I get wrong so far? I clearly stated in the original article I didn’t have specifics or that I knew what the exact items were that will be taken away from the district’s restricted funding part of their local funds. Perhaps that part didn’t dawn on the State Rep. But I gave enough information for that rep and several others to make frantic calls and emails to Secretary Godowsky. And it changed the course of their original intention, which was to change the formula. So while this state rep wants to call me out as a blogger, I feel it is necessary to remind this state rep they had no clue about any of this until I wrote about it. By telling people on one hand the DOE isn’t going to take any action only to find out a few days later they will take some sort of action against Christina, who isn’t really sure about their information?
What concerned me even more was a post about the legislative briefing on Wednesday. This same state rep told people it was a legislative briefing and wouldn’t be open to the public. Even though the Christina School District wrote a letter publicly announcing this meeting. The President of the Christina Board, Elizabeth Paige, pointed out that the district was making it open to the public. I commented that closed-door meetings were what started this mess to begin with. The state rep never responded to this. I find it ironic that this state rep would want this meeting to be a closed-door meeting. In other posts the rep put up they mention working with the DOE and getting it all sorted out. If I have learned one thing in Delaware, the DOE does what the DOE wants. There isn’t any compromise unless those are things the DOE throw out as bait to get what they want all along. We all know who runs the DOE, and it is NOT Secretary Godowsky. Remember, he serves at the pleasure of the Governor.
There was one final thing the state rep did that ticked me off. The rep wrote about my articles a few times over the week. The rep kept referring to me as “the blogger” as if we had never met before. I’ve talked to this state rep several times. We are on a first-name basis when we see each other. But somewhere along the way I must have become “toxic” to this state rep if he can’t address me in a public post by my name. I suppose the state rep is upset with me about a few things lately. The rep is more than welcome to engage in an actual conversation with me without resorting to passive-aggressive potshots at me on social media. But I can promise the rep one thing: I will blog as I please and you can either deal with it or not. I truly don’t care. I’m sure I could write the “correct way” about a few things pertaining to this state rep, but I’m taking the high road here.
Speaking of closed-door meetings, what many of you may not know is that district Superintendents attended a meeting at the DOE last week. And there was a swap-out so to speak of different exclusions. It worked out so that it would basically be a draw for the districts. Well, almost all of them. Not so for Christina. By the DOE doing this, they have effectively targeted Christina with all this and pitted the other fifteen districts against them. And the charters? I hear there was a meeting with Secretary Godowsky as well at Newark Charter School (such an impartial place to have this kind of meeting). The charter leaders were told the formula change wasn’t going to happen this year.
So this boils down to Newark Charter School (and other charters Christina gives local funding to) versus Christina School District in the immediate future. They are going after Christina money in what I suspect will wind up being an illegal move. I also predict Christina will take legal action if they push this. This is not an area for compromise. It is petty. What remains to be seen is what the original plan looked like. Remember, Godowsky found out about this after the charter bills went out to the districts. So how can the DOE do anything like this without the Secretary’s approval? That is the burning question every one should be asking. Whoever our new Governor is, he or she is going to have one royal mess on their hands!
Manuel Alfaro, the former College Board employee, contacted several state departments of education to inform them of potential fraud coming from the College Board with the restructured SAT. Yesterday, Alfaro’s home was raided by the FBI due to the College Board claiming Alfaro published confidential information according to an article from Breitbart.
In May, Alfaro wrote to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, along with six other state Secretaries. When he didn’t hear back from any of them, he posted an open letter on his LinkedIn account on Sunday. He wrote:
Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.
But it gets worse…
On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations.
The Delaware Department of Education announced in May 2015 that the SAT was going to become realigned for the Common Core. As juniors in the state opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that Spring, Secretary Godowsky and Governor Markell replaced the Smarter Balanced Assessment with the new SAT for the 2015-2016 school year. Students in Delaware already had the test paid for them by the state, but this made the SAT the official state assessment for high school juniors. Markell and Godowsky acted unilaterally on this with no legislation or executive order backing this up. Many legislators changed their mind on the veto override because of this announcement on 12/31/15.
Alfaro appears to be under a lot of pressure from his former employer. It remains to be seen if he will be granted whistle-blower protection or if the College Board will prosecute him in this matter. In the same article linked above, it mentions a Reuters article from Friday which talks about the different states response to Alfaro’s allegations. Delaware was not one of them.
A New Hampshire official said the state had no immediate comment. Officials in Delaware, Illinois and Maine didn’t respond to requests for comment.
But the matter has caught the attention of one member of Congress according to the Reuters article.
A member of Congress, meanwhile, has asked federal regulators to look into Alfaro’s allegations. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, has “been in touch with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” according to a July 28 letter she wrote to Alfaro.
I alleged back in January this was done to prevent high school juniors from opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. At one school in the Red Clay Consolidated school district, 60% of students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment by their parents. Including Delaware State Representative Kim Williams’ son which she announced on social media. It appeared to be a very rushed decision by Godowsky and Markell. In early November last year, the U.S. Department of Education issued warning letters to states with high opt out numbers. In January, the Delaware House of Representatives failed to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, an opt out law that passed the House and Senate with a massive majority earlier in 2015.
I find it interesting this matter was not brought up by Secretary Godowsky or the State Board of Education last month when they discussed the SAT results and the scoring method for the test. In my opinion, the College Board is trying to protect themselves in a massive cover-up and will prosecute Alfaro to prevent this matter from moving forward. I believe Alfaro should be granted whistle-blower protection and an investigation needs to take place immediately. As well, all the states involved with their SAT decisions need to come clean if they knew anything about this potential fraud.
Why does Delaware always come up in these kind of matters? As I wrote last week, Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform. Governor Markell has been the biggest proponent of every single bad education idea that has come out since he took office in January, 2009. This decision with the SAT saved many “high-performing” high schools in Delaware from devastating participation rate numbers, including Newark Charter School, Charter School of Wilmington, Conrad, and Cab Calloway, and the vocational school districts in Delaware which only have high schools. Markell has been pumping them up with his incessant Pathways To Prosperity declarations for all high schools. With the highly controversial charter school payments story still unfolding, it is more than obvious there are levels of corruption and deceit at extremely high levels at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell’s office.
A week ago, I received notice the Delaware Assessment Inventory Committee will meet on April 26th. Now, I am hearing May 2nd. This came straight from Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky! The May 2nd date is tentative. So what is the hold-up? It seems to me no one at the DOE really knows what they are doing with all of this. Why are they the ones calling the shots? They screwed it all up to begin with.
The above picture came from Secretary Godowsky’s “Legislator Update”, an email sent to all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly yesterday. While this may seem arrogant of me, I could swear they change these meetings to Monday afternoon because they know I will be at work! 😉
For all the hoopla Delaware has made of their beloved “assessment inventory”, they don’t seem to be in a rush to get anything done with it. This has been in discussion since April of last year, when it was first announced at the State Board of Education meeting. We all know what it really is: a “solution” to eliminate opt out by giving the people what they think they want (but we aren’t that stupid DOE) and to get rid of local assessments that give immediate feedback and help to guide instruction.
Parents say there is too much testing and I agree with that. But take what Appoquinimink is doing: They are administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment and then the MAP testing immediately after. What kind of message does this send to parents? They will all say “there is too much testing”. The Governor and the DOE will pounce on that and suggest getting rid of the lesser of the two evils. Buh-bye MAP tests, hello to the great Smarter Balanced! This is all rigged and far too many parents believe the lie.
Other “highlights” from the “Legislator Update” include:
I love the use of the word “investment”. While I appreciate Dr. Godowsky getting this out there, and it is light years better than anything former Secretary Mark Murphy did, sending out a newsletter instead of actually changing things legislators want are two very different things. For example, how about House Resolution #22 Dr. Godowsky? Why do they only put the “good things” the DOE is up to in this newsletter? I would love to see articles on how the DOE is causing more stress and headaches in our schools. Putting a pretty picture on a state agency really doesn’t fool anyone Dr. Godowsky.
It was at last year’s Common Core for Common Ground that Governor Markell gave a very condescending speech to Delaware teachers. He told them it was the last year before things start to count, meaning the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores being used for their teacher evaluations. Of course this year, they won’t either. And everything changes with the Every Student Succeeds Act replacing ESEA. What teacher in their right mind (those not recruited into the Rodel-DOE-Markell “dream teams” that unabashedly promote Common Core and personalized learning) would show off the very standards and “results-driven” strategies (which is one thing only in Delaware: the almighty high-stakes testing score) to their peers? It looks like there is free food though. That is always a way to lure educators into these events. It wouldn’t shock me if they use all the culinary students in the state to produce the food! But will they have the chocolate eclairs Rodel uses as bait for Delaware citizens to their Vision 20whatever conferences?
I can’t wait to see the scores on the “new” SAT. They are going to plummet because of the Common Core alignment. But instead of recognizing that, we will see constant reports about how our high school juniors aren’t getting the instruction they need to be college and career ready. More pawns in the corporate education reform psychodrama.
Back in December, Governor Markell and Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky announced the Smarter Balanced Assessment was going away for high school juniors. Because the College Board aligned the SAT with Common Core, why take both tests? Today is the annual SAT day for the juniors. The state pays for all of them to take the test. I am very curious how the scores will be this year with the realignment. I haven’t heard a peep about any parent wanting to opt their kid out of the SAT. Or as I like to call it, Smarter Balanced Junior.
I actually heard one district gave all the 9th and 10th graders off tomorrow. Did others do this as well and why? Does the testing environment have to be in the right alignment as well for the juniors? And why not give the seniors off as well? Only in Delaware! We are a state that is obsessed from the top down with testing. We can’t escape from it because our Governor, legislators, and the DOE believe it is essential. But our hubris comes at a price. We don’t look at the quality, only the results.
The mischievous and law-breaking Delaware Department of Education actually snuck in an amendment to their ESEA Flexibility Waiver without notifying the public at all. As required by Federal law, any changes to a state’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver MUST have a public announcement indicating the proposed change. As well, there is a public comment period required where anyone can comment based on the public announcement. But as usual, the Delaware DOE does as they see fit and continue to break laws with no oversight or accountability…
I just found this on their website today. I love how they include in their document to US DOE that they are attaching the pages in their ESEA waiver with red-lined parts where this amendment would change their waiver, but don’t have a link for the public to see this change. And let’s be honest, this change wasn’t brought forth because of parents clamoring for it. It was brought forth because the Delaware DOE was wetting their pants over how many juniors opted out last year! It also references the February 19th, 2016 redline of the US DOE approved ESEA Waiver request, but no document is listed on the page anywhere. So what does this mysterious document even say?
In regards to the other ESEA waiver the Delaware DOE is asking for public comment on, nothing is listed on the ESEA portion of the Delaware DOE website. But the ironic part about that ESEA waiver is US DOE told Delaware DOE not to worry about having the DESS Advisory Committee comment on it, even though that is required by law. So we have US DOE telling us to break the law and don’t worry about it, but they want us to submit this ESEA waiver even though it will be null and void as of August 1, 2017 when ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) goes into effect. Or will it? We won’t know until the regulations come out in the coming months. I see this as a way for US Secretary of Education John King to continue the legacy of Arne Duncan by essentially bribing states with these waiver schemes. And of course all this comes out after the Senate confirms the snake.
I was at the December State Board of Education where there was an “open discussion”. Secretary Godowsky said something to the effect of “We are excited to make this change and I think we will have an announcement very soon.” An “open discussion” would indicate the public was allowed to comment on this during this exchange. That was not the case. You can listen to the audio here. Godowsky did mention many things would need to be ironed out with US DOE during this “open discussion”. By submitting this ESEA flexibility waiver on March 29th, 2016, three months after Governor Markell and Godowsky announced the switch, how is that ironing things out?
As well, all the prior “stakeholder feedback” was meant to discuss the possibility of the issue. That should NOT be counted as official public comment required under ESEA law. But this is the Delaware DOE and the US DOE who bend and shape the laws to their own benefit. And our Delaware legislators and US legislators just sit back and let it happen. Wasn’t the whole point of ESSA to stop the US DOE from pulling this kind of crap? And here we are in Delaware with not one, but two ESEA waivers with very questionable legality issues surrounding both of them.
And what exactly is going on with the DESS Advisory Committee? Did they cancel them as a group since ESEA was going to be eliminated soon anyways? But based on that line of thought we shouldn’t be submitting anything regarding ESEA. Or is this just another way to try to get the feds to approve Delaware’s cockamamie opt out penalty into the Delaware School Success Framework? Since they didn’t approve that based on their November resubmission of the ESEA waiver request as a condition of their July approval of the ESEA waiver request because of ESSA. Are you as confused as I am? My head is spinning…
The Delaware Department of Education held a District Test Coordinators meeting on March 16th, 2016. The full report is below. The presentation covered all things testing: Smarter Balanced, DCAS Science, DCAS Social Studies, and the new SAT. One of the most shocking finds in this presentation was the revelation the redesigned for the Common Core State Standards SAT will be used for accountability purposes this year. For those who may not be aware, prior to this year, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was used as the 11th grade state assessment for high school juniors. In late December last year, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky made an announcement that the College Board redesigned SAT would replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment. While the legislation that allowed for the transition from DCAS to the Smarter Balanced Assessment did not specifically name Smarter Balanced in the wording of the bill, House Bill 334 does clearly state:
(b) The Department shall administer both accountability and growth assessments of student achievement for students in grades 3-8, provided that additional grades may be added by the Department. (c) The assessments referred to in subsection (b) of this section shall measure achievement in English language arts and mathematics for students in a minimum of grades 3 through 8 and high school, provided additional grades may be added by the Department
But here’s the kicker, this is a brand new test. It has been reformulated (like New Coke and those who lived in the 1980s know how that went over) to align with the Common Core. It took a long time for many states to get the scores from the PSAT this year. Many are already saying the new SAT is horrible (just like they did with Smarter Balanced which is why I call it Smarter Balanced Junior). At least with the regular Smarter Balanced the DOE gave a one year pause for accountability purposes. But they must have a lot of faith in the new SAT. Who made this decision? Godowsky? Markell?
My big question would be how you measure growth for the new SAT. Furthermore, how do you even measure growth when students skip grades 9 and 10? Or are they measuring growth between last year’s juniors who took the brand new Smarter Balanced or the old SAT? I thought the DOE would get smarter (no pun intended) with Godowsky, but it looks like they are fumbling at the fifty yard line yet again. The only reason they came up with this not-so brilliant plan to begin with was because too many juniors opted out of Smarter Balanced last year. But they must test, label and punish, even with a new, unproven, and already controversial test.
All the latest testing news is in here, including the draft of next year’s testing windows.
The United States Department of Education wrote a fluff piece today on Delaware’s assessment inventory. There were obvious flaws in their article. But they did get one thing right, which certainly applies to “the best test Delaware ever made” (quote attributed to Governor Jack Markell), the Smarter Balanced Assessment:
Done poorly, in excess, or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creativity from our classrooms.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is finally defined!
Here are some of the other fallacies in the article:
Following up on its commitment to be a part of the solution, the Department recently released guidance to States on how they can use federal funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to reduce the testing burden and improve the use of high-quality assessments so that educators and families can better understand student learning needs and help them make progress (read the letter to States).
Hello! Part of the solution? You created the problem! How can educators and families help children make progress when they don’t see the answers the child gave? This is all designed to get rid of the tests that give REAL information to better understand student learning needs and help them make progress.
“It’s important for us to know where we have achievement gaps. It is important for us to know where our students are making progress,” King said. “But there are places around the country where there is too much assessment and the assessments are not the quality we want.”
Key words from Acting Secretary John King (and I stress the word “acting”): “…not the quality we want.” Yes, you don’t want them because the whole mechanism by which schools are labeled and shamed, the high-stakes standardized test, is the quality you want. Based on the Common Core standards, these tests are horrible. And you know it John King! You are deluded if you think parents aren’t waking up to this more and more!
All district and charter schools in Delaware were required to complete an inventory of their assessments and submit their findings to the Delaware Department of Education by December 31, 2015.
Who checks the facts at the US DOE? Or did the Delaware DOE give them this information? All districts and charters were not “required” to participate. Many did and many of them got grant money for doing so. And a couple of them recommended getting rid of Smarter Balanced!
A committee of teachers, administrators, and parents from across the State is reviewing the assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information.
Actually, there is ONE parent on this committee (acting as both a parent and a teacher). She has been to one of the four meetings. There are six legislators on the committee, one of which is also a teacher (but I put him in the camp of the “good guys”). The President of the Delaware State Educators Association is on the committee and one administrator: the superintendent of one of our vocational districts. There is also a representative from the civil rights community on the committee. And that’s it, aside from the Delaware Department of Education members who weren’t part of the original legislation but threw themselves on. Oh yeah, it’s moderated by a woman from the University of Delaware. I love how they make it seem like this is a huge group with an “s” added on at the end of each of the members.
“Our educators, our students, and their parents all deserve the benefits of effective assessments that show when students are excelling and when they need extra support,” said Governor Jack Markell. “At the same time, tests that don’t add meaningfully to the learning process mean less time for students to receive the instruction and support they need. We are committed to finding the right balance, and this initiative is an important part of that process.”
Notice the use of the words “the right balance” in the Governor’s statement? Is this some kind of Jedi mind trick? He is right though. We do deserve the benefit of effective assessments. Too bad “the best test Delaware ever made” isn’t one of them. This initiative was started because Jack Markell didn’t know how to handle the opt out movement in Delaware. He was arrogant enough to think it wouldn’t hit Delaware, but it did. He said all sorts of stuff between February and December of 2015 without putting a lot of thought into what it actually meant. My favorite was when he said the Smarter Balanced results could be used for Delaware universities so students wouldn’t have to take remedial classes. Then he took away the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors in lieu of the revamped Common Core aligned SAT because too many Delaware juniors opted out last year. Then the University of Delaware announced a pilot program announcing they weren’t going to use the SAT as part of their admissions process.
Brandywine’s assessment inventory found that many of these assessments were not aligned to the State’s standards, did not measure the depth of knowledge required by these new standards, nor included a variety of item types.
Kudos to Brandywine!
In particular, there was limited use of performance tasks that measure students’ critical thinking skills. The district is working with its teachers and school administrators to review, revise, and in some cases, eliminate these assessments. In their place will be high-quality formative assessments, tests used throughout the year by educators to assess whether students are learning content, aligned to the State’s standards that will be given throughout the district.
Oops! Never mind. They are getting rid of what are most likely the good tests but don’t help the students to do well on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is the only test that matters to Governor Jack and his band of merry persons at the Delaware DOE! And now we have to go through ten months of the new buddy team of Jack and John. I may be running for the local school board, but I can’t help writing about the utter nonsense in this article. And I am glad my local school district is one of the districts that said the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not a good assessment.
Meanwhile, the world keeps spinning as it has for billions of years, before Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment made children feel stupid…
To read the complete nonsense in full, please go here if you have the stomach for more of this…
The Delaware House Education Committee held their first meeting today after the long Joint Finance Committee break. On the agenda was one bill, House Bill 234, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams. As well, the University of Delaware gave a presentation on their overall enrollment trends.
House Bill 234 concerns wellness centers in three traditional school district high schools: Appoquinimink High School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Conrad Schools of Science. These three are the last remaining high schools in the state (not including charters) which have no wellness center. A wellness center is not just a school nurse. They also provide counseling services as well. The bill was unanimously released from committee. Several folks gave public comment in support of the bill: Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, President of DSEA Frederika Jenner, and a representative from Red Clay. Rep. Williams read a letter she received from a high school student. The young man was going through a depression and he credited the wellness center at his high school for getting him through this very troubled time.
There was some debate about which schools would get a wellness center first if the bill passes. Rep. Williams felt it should be the oldest school first, but State Rep. Charles Potter felt it should be needs-based. Rep. Williams indicated the JFC would determine this in the budget as the bill calls for each of the schools receiving the wellness centers at one per year for the next three fiscal years.
Dr. Nancy Targett, the Acting President of the University of Delaware gave a long presentation on enrollment trends and a general overview of the university. She showed many slides about minority enrollment, retention rates, and graduation rates. Afterwards, during a question and answer with the members of the House Education Committee, things got a bit more tense. State Rep. Charles Potter was very concerned about minorities being placed in the Associate program at the University of Delaware. This program is for students who need more help when they enter college. When asked about what may be holding these students back by Rep. Williams, Dr. Targett was unable to give a clear answer but did promise the committee she would get more information. Many civil rights advocates feel the University of Delaware under-enrolls African-Americans. Dr. Targett did say this is her number one priority and many universities across the country are dealing with these issues.
Dr. Targett felt the recent announcement about the pilot program concerning SAT scores not counting towards admission credentials could allow for more minorities to be accepted at University of Delaware. She said the University understands not all students do well on tests like that and a student could just have a bad day. They want to focus more on students’ actual Grade Point Average and other activities.
After the meeting adjourned, I asked Dr. Targett about an omission in her presentation: students with disabilities. She said she didn’t know the numbers offhand but gave me her email address so she can find out. Which I will certainly take her up on!
The Delaware Department of Education submitted their participation rate plan to the United States Department of Education on 2/11/16. Less than 24 hours later, the “plan” was approved by US DOE. In my opinion, this is all smoke and mirrors. The Smarter Balanced Assessment window opens next week. I have no clue what opt-out numbers will be this year. I know many of the same parents who opted their child out last year plan on doing it this year as well. The big factor is going to be the replacement of the Smarter Balanced Assessment with the Common Core aligned SAT for high school juniors. Many of the opt-outs last year were high school juniors.
I love how the Delaware DOE talks about how some communities balked about over-testing which resulted in the Assessment Inventory. The ironic part is parental choice to have their kids not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Parents didn’t opt their kids out of the SAT, AP exams, or any of the other tests: just Smarter Balanced. Much of the over-testing discussion for lower grades was around the DCAS which was administered two to three times a year depending on how the student did on the first Spring test.
Okay Secretary Godowsky, the DOE will send letters to Superintendents and Principals if the numbers are too low. What do you expect them to do at that point? The parents have already opted their child out. Do you expect them to threaten or cajole the parent into having their kid take the Smarter Balanced Assessment? Bribe them? Or even worse, have the kid take it without the parent’s knowledge? That isn’t a plan! The plain simple fact is the DOE cannot and should not make an opt-out plan. It is something the DOE, school districts, and charter schools have no control over. It’s a parental decision that should not be tampered with in any way! And I love how you can’t use the participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework this year because the US DOE didn’t approve it because of the Every Student Succeeds Act!
But let’s look at the US DOE response:
Alrighty then, that’s a plan! Cut the Title I administrative funds for the state assessment? Yes! Please do it! Cut it all! Bankrupt the federal funding for state assessments? Sounds like a plan to me! Delaware parents, opt your kids out TODAY! Or better yet, REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE!!!! And while your at it, all American parents need to contact their US Representatives and Senators and tell them to vote NO on confirming Acting US Secretary of Education John King!
The Delaware Department of Education released the Delaware College Report for 2016. Basing the information off the Class of 2014, the report shows remediation rates, students taking classes when they enter college, to still be high. Nine districts lowered their numbers between 2012-2014. Say, wasn’t the Smarter Balanced Assessment supposed to eliminate all these remedial classes? Oh yeah, they took it away from high school juniors in lieu of the revamped SAT. So much for that anti-opt-out idea! But seriously, are these rates higher because of Common Core or in spite of it? I guess we will know the answers to these questions in the next 8 years when the class of 2024 graduates. This class would be the first to have Common Core from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Provided it doesn’t become extinct by then. We can all say a prayer for that!
The Delaware DOE also provided a press release with the announcement:
State Report: High student remediation rates remain
Of Delaware public high school graduates entering an in-state college or university, 42 percent will begin their post-secondary education behind their peers, according to the state’s 2016 College Success Report released today.
During her senior year at Woodbridge High School, Katelyn Harding, 18, took Foundations of College Math.
Two different college experiences
Remediation numbers are also significantly higher for students of color, students with special needs, English language learners (ELLs), and students from low-income families.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If John or Jane have to worry about if there is going to be food on the table for dinner tonight, worry about if they will have a roof over their head, or worry about being hit by a stray bullet within their neighborhoods, the self-actualization required to succeed on these tests, or for that matter, school, is made even more difficult for these students. This translates into schools that service large high-need populations facing a difficult climb to reach accountability targets.
I was curious why the Capital School District Board of Education did not pass an official policy on opt-out the way Christina and Red Clay did. They were the first Delaware school board to pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes state assessments way before anyone else did, back in October 2014. The answer to that question is included in the below letter. It was introduced at their January meeting and will be voted on at their meeting next Wednesday, February 17th. This is the best letter I think I’ve ever seen written about opt-out, anywhere! And I have seen some awesome letters! Kudos to Board President Matt Lindell, Vice-President Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Nauleen Perry, and Ralph Taylor for this letter that says more about Delaware education than anything I have seen in a long time! Thank you!
The University of Delaware rendered a verdict on Common Core: We don’t care! As Delaware First State reported on Friday could happen and the The News Journal reported last night, the University of Delaware is now making SAT scores optional on applications. In other words, they don’t care what your SAT score was high school students of Delaware! What does this have to do with the Smarter Balanced Assessment? Last May, the Delaware Department of Education made a big showing about the College Board redesigning the SAT to align with Common Core standards. At the same time, high school juniors were the largest group of students opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. At the end of 2015, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky made his big announcement about getting rid of Smarter Balanced for high school juniors in lieu of the SAT. And now the largest university in Delaware has said the test is now optional.
Members of the committee that came up with the idea say research at other universities – and their own research into UD students – suggests that high school grade point averages are a better predictor of college success than the SAT.
This follows 815 other colleges and universities around the country who already did the same. The message is loud and clear: our higher education institutes in America do not believe Common Core and the SAT are what makes a student “college-ready”. Of course the article doesn’t come right out and say this, but for University of Delaware to do this now, right before the new alignment comes out? Governor Markell’s education agenda failed. There are no other words to accurately describe what the University of Delaware declared with this. When I read the words “GPA” in the News Journal article my heart leaped! These are the words I have wanted to hear for years! Nobody talks about actual grades students are getting anymore. All the big decisions made rotate around the state assessment.
The Delaware 148th General Assembly needs to have someone bring legislation forward to ban the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware. We can no longer sit idly by and pretend this test has been anything but a colossal failure. I believe we can now expect parents to opt their teenagers out of the SAT. Really, what is the point? Yes, the test cost money. Do we continue to spend millions of dollars on waste (I know, this is Delaware)? I know this has been on the minds of many legislators in Dover but no one has crossed the Rubicon to make it happen. I can say this, anyone envisioning a future role of higher public office could almost guarantee success by sponsoring something like this today.
While we are already transitioning to the Every Student Succeeds Act, now is the best time to reevaluate education in Delaware. This means getting rid of Common Core, high-stakes assessments, how we evaluate our teachers, funding, and how to best serve all students in the state. There are already several initiatives going on, but we need something bigger. We need to bring ALL the existing groups and gets tons of parents, teachers, and even students in on this. We need an education summit like no other. Before we were knee-deep in the current wave of education reform we did this twice: in 2001 and 2005. We need to look at everything: special education, bullying, district alignment, everything! We are at a pivotal crossroads with education, and there is a ton of room for error. Let’s bring everyone together and make something that is good and lasting for our kids.
On January 27th, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued Executive Order #57 dealing with a Delaware Open Data Council. In November, Executive Order #55 concerned a Delaware Cyber Security Council. So where is Executive Order #56? I can only imagine what it might have been. I have some thoughts though. Given the timing of the other two, I can easily picture an Executive Order dealing with high school juniors taking the SAT instead of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This did happen, but not from the lips of Markell. Perhaps an issue like that didn’t fall into the legal definition of an Executive Order.
Perhaps he was going to issue an Executive Order mandating all students take the state assessment and outlawed opt-out. That wouldn’t have gone over too well with parents, schools, and legislators. Maybe it was WEIC related. I could foresee him issuing some type of Executive Order on that, after all, that is how the whole thing began to begin with. What would have been really nice is if he issued an Executive Order mandating funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.
The likely reality is something could still come out with the number 56 on it. This happened before during his Governorship, back in 2014. I would expect to see this in the next couple weeks. Our legislators have skipped around with bill numbers in the past as well. What usually happens is something is pre-filed, but isn’t ready for full release. It will be interesting to see what it is. Any guesses?
This is all conjecture on my part.