SAT Development Shows Delaware DOE & Markell Have No Clue What They Are Doing, Opt-Out Has Them Flustered

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The Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell are finding the very traps they set to stop the opt-out movement are coming back to bite them in the ass.  Irony is an awesome thing sometimes.  At the beginning of 2015, the DOE was riding high.  They thought they had Christina and Red Clay in their crosshairs, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was coming out, and they were winning.  A funny thing happened on the way to their victory lap.  Parents.  They said no to the almighty DOE and Markell.  This set off a litany of announcements from the DOE and Markell.

The Governor announced the Assessment Inventory as opt-out was gaining a lot of traction.  He foolishly believed that parents wouldn’t opt-out if they just reduced the amount of tests students take.  In April, the DOE and Markell announced University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Wilmington University were going to accept Smarter Balanced scores in lieu of students taking remedial classes.  Meanwhile, the SAT was retooled to align with Common Core.  In December, the Governor and Secretary Godowsky announced the SAT would replace Smarter Balanced for high school juniors, which killed the press announcement in April about Smarter Balanced.  Yesterday, https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/university-of-de-faculty-senate-will-vote-on-an-admission-requirement-making-sat-scores-optional/ revealed the University of Delaware will be voting on whether or not to make SAT scores a factor in their admission process.  Several universities around the USA have already cut the SAT out entirely.

This whole experiment of Governor Markell’s to try to squelch the opt-out movement has been a miserable failure.  It was so obvious to myself and others that each move he was making was from a clumsy and defensive posture against parents.  In a way, his whole assessment inventory plan helped to set up a national argument against too much testing.  As a result of that, Delaware is now postponing their new science and social studies assessments because of the whole assessment inventory.  Another example of “be careful what you wish for”.  These were the unintended consequences of opt-out.  The DOE and Markell looking like fools on the Delaware stage.  By switching from the Smarter Balanced to SAT, the “best test Delaware ever made” has now become much less than what Markell professed it to be.  And now the SAT, with all the insanity the College Board has gone through switching the test to Smarter Balanced Junior, is redundant as well.

Meanwhile, parents are still opting their kids out of Smarter Balanced and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.  The 148th General Assembly still has a shot at redemption with parents by allowing a vote for the veto override of House Bill 50.  Will Schwartzkopf continue to ride the Markell train that is about to derail and fly off a cliff?  Or will he do the right thing and put it up for a vote?  In the meantime, we can put the pressure on Schwartzkopf by gaining over 20,000 signatures on the Change.org petition: https://www.change.org/p/delaware-speaker-of-the-house-pete-schwartzkopf-put-hb50-on-the-agenda-for-a-full-house-vote-on-the-veto-override

State Board Of Education Preview: WEIC, Assessments, Teacher Evaluations, Charter Modifications, And Maybe One Illegal Request

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At 9am this morning, the Delaware State Board of Education will have their first meeting of 2016.  Normally these meetings are at 1pm, but since Governor Markell has to give his big speech across the street at 2pm, they are having it earlier.  I thought they would make it a light schedule for this meeting because of the time change and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vote, but I was very wrong.  There is a lot going on at this meeting.  So being the good little blogger I am, I thought I would just go ahead and put up everything going on!  To get to the potentially illegal thing, you have to go all the way to the bottom… Continue reading

Opt Out And The House Bill 50 Veto Override Hits The Blogs & Major Media!!!

The never-ending saga of House Bill 50 and opt out marches on.  Since a couple of days before Christmas, it has grabbed a lot of headlines.  When the US DOE issued letters to states about potential funding cuts for opt-out, I knew the conversation would heat up fast.  Here is a chronology of links to the latest on the override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 in Delaware, with a few other kernels thrown in:

12/23/15

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/parent-opt-out-veto-override-rally-11416-i-know-what-you-have-been-up-to-governor-markell/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/us-does-threat-letter-to-delaware-doe-about-opt-out-is-ridiculous/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/us-doe-promises-funding-cuts-to-states-who-miss-participation-rates-two-years-in-a-row-contact-president-obama-now/

12/24/15

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/secretary-godowsky-had-no-choice-with-opt-out-penalties/

12/29/15

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/governor-markells-secret-weapon-against-house-bill-50-veto-override-exposed/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/delaware-house-reps-and-senators-who-support-the-house-bill-50-veto-override-and-those-who-dont/

12/30/15

http://www.doverpost.com/news/20151230/update-opt-out-supporters-rally-jan-14–to-override-veto

12/31/15

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/house-democrats-letter-to-governor-markell-to-remove-smarter-balanced-for-11th-grade/

1/1/16

http://www.sussexcountian.com/article/20160101/NEWS/160109972

1/2/16

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/education-everybodys-got-a-price-stand-up-and-refuse-awesome-video-about-data-mining-sharing/

1/3/16

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/predicting-delawares-assessment-inventory-report/

1/4/16

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/delaware-pta-pokes-finger-in-eye-of-delaware-governor-markell/

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2016/01/04/opt-out-veto/78270050/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/opt-out-heats-up-again-during-arctic-chill/

1/5/16

https://kavips.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/the-pros-and-cons-of-opting-out-of-the-smarter-balanced-assessment/

http://elizabethscheinberg.blogspot.com/2016/01/dear-rep-jaques-youre-wrong-but-its-not.html

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/breaking-news-delaware-state-rep-jaques-masturbates-gov-markell-in-public/

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/rep-mike-ramone-playing-the-political-fence-re-testing-opt-out/

http://delawarestatenews.net/schools/15006/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/dsea-supports-opt-out-all-dsea-members-need-to-support-the-override-of-markells-veto/

1/6/16

https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/my-daughter-is-not-a-widget/

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/01/06/importance-overriding-veto/78361916/

http://delawarepublic.org/post/smarter-balanced-opt-out-supporters-aim-push-bill-past-governors-veto#stream/0

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/african-american-opt-out-in-delaware-part-1-the-lomax-factor/

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/01/06/opt-out-veto-override-vote-students-teachers/78362468/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/governor-markell-gives-godowsky-authority-to-replace-sbac-with-sat-without-general-assembly-approval-or-an-executive-order/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/kowalko-to-ask-for-suspension-of-rules-to-override-markells-veto-of-house-bill-50-this-is-the-minefield-legislators-are-stuck-in/

https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/sat-to-replace-smarter-in-11th-grade-in-delaware-less-testing-is-a-good-thing-but-are-there-unintended-consequences/

http://delawarepublic.org/post/state-will-drop-smarter-balanced-sat-official-11th-grade-test#stream/0

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2016/01/06/juniors-wont-have-take-smarter-balanced-exam/78367630/

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/delaware-governor-markell-chokes-on-his-soap-on-the-rope-re-student-testing/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/delaware-scraps-state-assessment-for-high-school-juniors/2016/01/06/3f7c8c6a-b4cf-11e5-8abc-d09392edc612_story.html

1/7/16

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/readers/2016/01/07/letters-editor-greedy-dupont/78410616/

http://www.delawareliberal.net/2016/01/07/the-general-assembly-needs-to-override-the-governors-veto-of-opt-out-bill/

http://delawareway.blogspot.com/2016/01/will-legislature-stand-up-for-their.html

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/secretary-godowsky-and-governor-markell-recklessly-whitewash-the-satsbac-debacle-while-violating-state-federal-law/

http://www.doverpost.com/news/20160107/sat-replacing-smarter-balanced-assessment-for-high-school-juniors-

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/delaware-governor-markell-should-be-required-to-register-as-a-child-abuser/

https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/warning-gates-is-infiltrating-opt-out/

1/8/16

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/one-mother-to-another-mother-governor-markell-re-test-op-out/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/delaware-should-not-make-it-okay-for-parents-to-opt-their-kids-out-of-testing/2016/01/08/36cd6410-b586-11e5-a76a-0b5145e8679a_story.html

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/governor-markell-sends-the-washington-post-editorial-hit-squad-to-disrespect-delaware-parents-even-more/

1/9/16

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/house-bill-50-gives-protection-for-student-rights-and-honors-parental-rights/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/delaware-house-republicans-weigh-in-on-veto-override-of-house-bill-50/

https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/the-washington-post-article-chimes-in-about-de-parents-opting-out-and-the-needed-data/

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/washington-post-throws-gov-markell-a-rope-as-it-slap-de-pta/

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/frederika-jenner-jeff-taschner-dsea-needs-to-side-with-parents-on-the-veto-override-of-house-bill-50/

1/10/16

https://delawarefirststate.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/letter-from-state-pta-to-delaware-legislators-asking-them-to-support-house-bill-50-veto-override/

https://www.facebook.com/GovernorMarkell/?fref=ts

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/governor-markell-takes-it-to-facebook-and-receives-the-beat-down-of-his-life/

1/11/16

http://www.wdel.com/story/72793-education-budget-city-crime-top-priorities-in-upcoming-legislative-session

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/red-clay-education-association-officially-supporting-house-bill-50-veto-override-and-more/

1/12/16

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/for-the-love-of-god-godowski-what-are-you-even-talking-about-and-general-assembly-a-no-is-a-no-to-your-constituents/

http://www.wrdetv.com/index.cfm?&ref=60200&ref2=3461

http://www.wboc.com/story/30948519/2016-legislative-session-begins-in-delaware

http://www.wmdt.com/news/more-local-news/de-rep-senators-explain-their-points-of-emphasis-for-148th-gen-assembly/37399824

1/13/16

http://www.doverpost.com/article/20160113/NEWS/160119913

 

Delaware House Republicans Weigh In On Veto Override Of House Bill 50

Within 10 minutes of Rep. Kowalko’s veto override e-mail to fellow House members on Wednesday afternoon, the state Department of Education (DOE) issued a press release noting it was eliminating the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.
In the latest newsletter from the Delaware House Republicans, they wrote about the potential of the House Bill 50 Veto Override:
NEWS:

Student Testing “Opt-Out” Bill Could

be Subject of Rare Veto Override Attempt Next Week
An effort to override Gov. Jack Markell’s veto of a bill that sought to allow parents to remove their children from academic assessment testing is expected next Thursday.
 
House Bill 50, as amended, would have allowed students to opt out of the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment as well as any district-level assessment.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is aligned with the contentious Common Core standards in English and mathematics.
Earlier this week the legislation’s prime sponsor, State Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark notified his House colleagues that he intends to bring the bill to the floor on Thursday, January 14 for “reconsideration in order to override the governor’s veto.”
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Such a move requires a “suspension of rules” with a simple majority vote (21 of the 41 state representatives).  That would be followed by the override vote, which requires at least a three-fifths majority (25 votes minimum).
The Senate would have to take similar action to successfully override the veto in that chamber.
Previous votes on the bill indicate an override could be a possibility. The measure cleared the House of Representatives twice: 36 to 3 and 31 to 5.   It was approved twice by the Senate as well: 14 to 7 and 15 to 6.  All four votes had majorities exceeding the three-fifths threshold.
However, some of those familiar with the legislative process note that overriding a veto involves more than just a simple weight of numbers.  Other factors are likely to come into play, including partisan considerations involving the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and their party’s top state office-holder, Gov. Jack Markell.  Such complications are one of the main reasons veto overrides are rarely attempted.  The last one reportedly took place nearly 40 years ago.
In vetoing the bill in July, the governor said the legislation would weaken “the only objective tool we have to understand whether our children are learning and our schools are improving.  It has the potential to marginalize our highest need students, threaten tens-of-millions of dollars of federal funding, and undermine our state’s economic competitiveness.”
The Delaware State Teachers Association and parents’ groups had supported the bill, citing classroom time lost to testing; increased stress on students and teachers; and questions about its usefulness in helping educators identify and address students’ needs.
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce (DSCC) was among those opposing the legislation.
The bill had strong bipartisan support.  State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, who was among the bill’s co-sponsors, said immediately after the veto that the action was misguided.  “Parents already have the option of removing their students from testing, but this bill would have provided protections for the schools and school districts from being held accountable for decisions that are out of their control.”
Within 10 minutes of Rep. Kowalko’s veto override e-mail to fellow House members on Wednesday afternoon, the state Department of Education (DOE) issued a press release noting it was eliminating the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.
DOE officials said a redesigned SAT is being launched that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, making the Smarter Balanced Assessment duplicative for 11th grade students.  Delaware has been administering a school-day SAT to all public school juniors at no cost to students since 2011.
The state will continue to administer the Smarter Assessment in grades 3 to 8.

Secretary Godowsky And Governor Markell Recklessly Whitewash The SAT/SBAC Debacle While Violating State & Federal Law

“I, Jack Markell, do proudly swear to carry out the responsibilities of the office of Governor to the best of my ability, freely acknowledging that the powers of this office flow from the people I am privileged to represent. I further swear always to place the public interests above any special or personal interests, and to respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage of Delaware. In doing so I will always uphold and defend the Constitutions of my Country and my State, so help me God.”from the Delaware Oath of Office for all publicly elected officials

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Yesterday, Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education made a grandstand announcement about the SAT replacing the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  They forgot many things in their hasty announcement.  There are important and crucial reasons why this is not what it appears to be and actually violates many state and federal laws.

  1. The SAT went through a “redesign” to make it tied to the Common Core standards.  This is not the same SAT high school juniors took last year.  Delaware already has horrible scores on the SAT.  With the scores based on Smarter Balanced already showing less than half of Delaware students were proficient, expect those scores to plunge even lower on the SAT.
  2. House Bill 334, which brought the Smarter Balanced Assessment to Delaware explicitly states that “(j) Rules and regulations pursuant to this subchapter shall be proposed by the Secretary subject to approval by the State Board of Education.”  Since the State Board of Education did not vote on this, nor have they even had this as a discussion item on their agenda, Governor Markell broke Delaware law.  The State Board would not be able to vote on this until their February State Board meeting at the earliest.  By giving the Secretary full authority on this issue, Markell is in violation of his oath of office.
  3. There is no fiscal note for this unlawful change as well.  The funding for giving the SAT to all high school juniors in Delaware was part of the Race To The Top grant.  Those funds are now expired.  With the SAT at $90.00 or more, who is going to pay for this assessment?  Assuming there are roughly 10,000 high school juniors in Delaware, that price tag is now $900,000.00.
  4. As Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams brilliantly pointed out yesterday, “Last year, the Governor announced that Delaware colleges agreed to use the Smarter Balance Assessment as a way to measure college readiness as Delaware students entered college. Students would be able to opt out of remedial courses if they were to score at a certain level on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, what happened to that great idea?”
  5. Over the summer, Governor Markell spoke to an audience at an education “think tank” called New America.  He stated “Smarter Balanced is the best test Delaware ever made.”  Why is he replacing “the best test Delaware ever made” with the SAT?  Is Smarter Balanced no longer the “best test Delaware ever made?”
  6. By far, the biggest mistake Markell and the DOE made in their haste to push this through was their complete ignorance of students with disabilities who have to take the SAT.  As per Title 14, § 151, (f) ”The Department shall establish alternate assessments for children with disabilities who cannot participate in the statewide assessment of student achievement even with appropriate accommodations and modifications. Alternate assessments must be developed and used in the statewide assessment beginning not later than the 2010-2011 school year. Each local school district, through the individual student’s Individualized Education Program Team or 504 Team, shall determine what assessment the student will take, as well as the student’s matriculation or promotion status and necessary remedial activities if the student’s performance on the assessment is below standard, and if the statewide assessment is administered, what accommodations and/or modifications will be utilized. However, no student shall be denied the opportunity to take the state assessments administered pursuant to subsections (b) and (c) of this section.”  Since the decision was made to begin this in the spring of this year, has the Governor and the DOE assured students with disabilities that the accommodations offered on the SAT will be the exact same ones offered by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium?  According to the College Board website, the process for accommodations on the SAT for students with disabilities is completely different.  At a minimum, the Governor and the Delaware Department of Education have now broken IDEA law (more on this below).
  7. With a letter from 10 Democrats, and not an actual resolution or bill passed by the General Assembly, Governor Markell has circumvented the legislative process.  House Bill 334 specifically states the purpose of the legislation was to transition Delaware from DCAS to Smarter Balanced.  Without an executive order, Governor Markell usurped the authority of the General Assembly and their ability to make laws in Delaware.  Since he signed the law, he has broken it.  “This bill provides for the transition of the statewide student assessment system, the Delaware Comprehensive Student Assessment (DCAS), to the Smarter Balanced Assessment System (Smarter). Specifically, the bill removes references to multiple assessments.”

In terms of accommodations for students with disabilities on the SAT, it is a minimum of a seven-week process.  The deadline to submit this application, along with consent from the student’s parent, for the March 5th test is January 15th, for the May 7th test it is March 16th, and for the June 4th test it is April 15th.  This will mean that all IEP teams will need to meet to determine what accommodations students with disabilities will need for the SAT test.  What happens if the College Board won’t accept all the accommodations students received for the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  According to the College Board website, sending an IEP or a doctor’s note is not sufficient by itself.  If Delaware State Code specifically states the IEP team decides on the accommodations but they are now subject to College Board approval, how does this even work?  In looking at the College Board website, they also ask for a great deal of personal student information including doctor evaluations and any medicine students take.  I don’t believe this is written in Delaware State Code.  The Governor and the DOE are seriously putting Delaware at great risk of potential litigation with this action.  In addition to IDEA federal law, there are also serious questions concerning private student data, FERPA, and basic civil rights for students with disabilities.

While Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky brought up working through the accommodations issue, he is not looking at the big picture at all.  In a letter sent to Delaware educators this morning, Godowsky failed to bring up many of the points I have made concerning actual laws his Department and the Governor have broken with this decision.

Message from the Secretary of Education

 
Fellow educators,
 
I hope you enjoyed the recent holiday break and have returned rejuvenated for the rest of the school year. Thank you for your continued commitment to ensure every child is prepared for success in our schools.
 
I am pleased to welcome you back with exciting news for 2016: The SAT will replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state accountability test for high school juniors beginning this spring.
 
We made this decision after hearing from educators, students, families, lawmakers and others concerned about the testing burden on students, especially 11th graders who already were taking both tests.
 
We formally announced this news today, and you can learn more here. This change comes with many challenges we must overcome in a short time period, such as determining the proper accommodations for students with disabilities, and we are working through these issues. We will continue to update this site with more information in the weeks ahead.
 
This year, the SAT is also redesigned. Changes include:
 
  • Two sections (plus an essay): Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math
  • A focus on the math that matters most for college and career
  • A move away from obscure vocabulary to the use of relevant words in context
  • The elimination of the guessing penalty
 
Several SAT supports are available to you as well. College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free SAT test practice to all Delaware students. Khan also provides personalized SAT practice based on students’ PSAT results. Through a score reporting portal, you can monitor student progress and guide them in preparing for greater SAT success. More information on the re-designed SAT, personalized practice recommendations, and important SAT dates and news is available here.  
 
Teacher guides and professional development modules are also available to support educators integrating SAT practice into their classrooms. Resources are available online, and College Board can come to districts to assist with training. Find more information here.
 
We continue to look for ways to support Delaware educators, help students, and reduce testing, and we look forward to the results of the work of an on-going assessment inventory task force to inform our state’s policy in the future.
 
In partnership,
 
Steven Godowsky
Secretary of Education
It is more than obvious Governor Markell is desperate and scared of the veto override on House Bill 50.  He is pulling out all the stops, but now he is getting very sloppy, careless and reckless.  Delaware parents have him on his toes and he really doesn’t know how to handle it.  Legislators in Delaware are now confused about what to do based on these decisions by Markell and the DOE.  The amount of discussion surrounding House Bill 50 while completely ignoring the entire purpose of the bill is sucking the oxygen out of the room.  Legislators are forgetting what this entire bill is about: parent rights, nothing else.  It is not about over-testing, or the SAT, or anything else.  It is parent rights.  Parents want it, they asked for it, and the majority of the 148th General Assembly approved it.  Everything else is subterfuge and propaganda coming from the DOE, Markell, and Rodel.
Governor Markell, in granting the authority to the Secretary of Education of Delaware, to make this decision is in violation of his Oath of Office.

Governor Markell Gives Godowsky Authority To Replace SBAC With SAT Without General Assembly Approval Or An Executive Order

It took a lot of work for the General Assembly to implement the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  Now Governor Markell has granted Secretary of Education Godowsky the authority to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment from the lives of high school juniors and replace it with the SAT.  Here’s the problem, the SAT is not considered to be a state assessment as defined in Delaware law.  Funding for the SAT to be provided to all Delaware students was part of a Race To The Top grant, and now that funding is gone.  Is Delaware going to pick up the cost for this?  As well, Markell did not issue an executive order to make this happen.  Are we now entering a stage in Delaware where the Governor can do whatever he wants as long as ten members of his own party write a letter to him?

This is clearly Markell’s strategy to once again thwart those who support the opt-out movement.  And he is doing this while at the same time spitting in the face of the General Assembly.  With the override of his House Bill 50 veto possibly coming up as early as January 14th, Markell is not pulling any punches to fight this.  I really hope the legislators who side with him on this issue think long and hard about his circumvention of the legislative process when it comes to Delaware education.  This is just another in a long series of moves the Governor made in the last eight years to make his corporate friends happy.

From the DOE press release:

SAT to replace Smarter in 11th grade

The SAT will replace the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.

The change comes at the request of legislators and as the state continues to look for ways to reduce testing, particularly for 11th graders who already were taking both exams as part of Delaware’s state-funded School Day SAT program.

The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the college entrance exam, is launching a redesigned SAT this spring that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, the academic expectations for what Delaware students should know and be able to do at the completion of each grade level. The changes to the SAT also include a move away from obscure “SAT vocabulary words” to the use of relevant vocabulary words in context, an in-depth focus on essential areas of math and the elimination of the guessing penalty.

“Our students deserve an exam that helps them gauge their college and career readiness, and our teachers deserve an exam that provides them with the information they need to guide their instruction. This is one example of how we are reducing the testing burden on our students and teachers,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “This is a smart solution that ensures our educators, students and families get the information they need while mitigating the over-testing concern many share.

The state will continue to administer the Smarter Assessment in grades 3 to 8.

Delaware has been administering a school-day SAT to all public school juniors at no cost to students since 2011. Godowsky said making the transition to use the SAT as the accountability test this year is based on the feedback of elected leaders, educators and families. Last week, 10 legislators sent a letter to Gov. Jack Markell asking to replace the 11th grade Smarter exam with the SAT.

“Our community was clear that this was in the best interest of our high school juniors and the sooner we could make the switch the better,” Godowsky said. “This decision is in response to that feedback.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who launched a statewide assessment inventory process last spring, said, “We believe that the concerns about the testing burden on our juniors are well founded.  We also agree that this move is a smart, commonsense way to reduce the testing burden significantly without sacrificing our ability to understand whether we are serving our students well and whether they are making the progress they need to be successful.  I have asked Secretary Godowsky to immediately designate the SAT as our 11th grade assessment and take all necessary steps to implement the change so that, beginning this year, juniors will no longer take Smarter Balanced.  The department will seek federal approval for this change in our state assessment as quickly as possible and otherwise ensure that the transition goes smoothly in schools across the state.”

Under Delaware’s former state test, the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS), 9th and 10th graders were tested. When the state moved to Smarter in Spring 2015, 11th grade became the singular testing year for high school. But many said that proved overwhelming for juniors, who also take Advanced Placement exams, the SAT, SAT subject tests, the ACT and other tests during their 11th grade year.

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt, president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, said superintendents in the state are in support of substituting the SAT in lieu of the Smarter Assessment as the required assessment for high school students.  This shift both gives teachers more time to provide necessary instruction and eases the load on our high school students with respect to the annual assessments they already must take.

State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray said students and families value the SAT.

“The redesigned SAT provides important information students, parents and educators want and need to understand students’ college, career and civic readiness. For that reason, it is already valued by parents and students.  In addition, by using this test as the high school assessment for English language arts and math, we will reduce the amount of required testing and costs to the state,” Gray said.

Last spring, the General Assembly passed and Governor Markell signed into law Senate Joint Resolution 2, requiring an inventory and review of all assessments currently administered at the state, district and school level “with the goal of decreasing the testing burden on students and teachers and increasing time available for teaching.”

This work continues. Districts and charter schools, which were eligible for supporting state grants, submitted their assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information to the state at the end of December. The department has convened an assessment inventory committee with representatives from the House and Senate education committees, Delaware State Education Association, state superintendents, civil rights community and parents to make recommendations. The state’s final report must be published by June 2016.

Sen. David Sokola, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Earl Jaques, chair of the House Education Committee, lauded today’s announcement.

“This is the kind of change legislators were seeking when we approved SJR 2 to create a task force to fully review our student testing,” Sokola said. “This is a good first step toward removing burdens on our students and increasing instruction time for teachers, while also providing them with the important metrics needed to gauge student progress.”

Jaques agreed, “This decision eliminates duplicative testing and reduces over-testing while helping to ease student stress and parental concerns.”

The department has posted information and will continue updating its website with information, including resources for districts/charters and the public, regularly. Educators or families with questions may email assessment@doe.k12.de.us or call (302) 857-3391.

As students prepare for the spring SAT, they also have some extra help this year. A partnership with Khan Academy and the College Board offers personalized SAT preparation based on students’ PSAT results. Delaware also provides the PSAT free to all public school 10th graders.

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

Opt-Out Heats Up Again During Arctic Chill

Here we go again!  The opt-out movement is back!  And smack dab in the middle of it all is Delaware’s 62 legislators in the House and Senate.  Matthew Albright with the News Journal wrote about the Veto Override of House Bill 50.  There are some great quotes in here… and then there is Earl…

“If you’re a Democrat, and the governor’s a Democrat, you have to think long and hard, ‘Do I want to override my governor?” said Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, chairman of the House Education Committee. “It has to be a really big issue for you to do that.”

Jaques was one of five representatives who voted against House Bill 50. He says parents already have the right to opt out, so he doesn’t understand the need for a new law.

Earl, Earl, Earl… when are you going to get what this is all about?  I’ve already put Earl in the no column on this.  I don’t expect him to change his vote at all.  There is no law when it comes to parents opting out, thus House Bill 50!!!  It protects the parents, but it is more than obvious Earl wants to side with the Governor.  Luckily, State Rep. John Kowalko is able to comment on this insanity with a breath of fresh air”

“If it’s a good policy, you voted for it because it’s a good policy,” Kowalko said. “That policy does not change its makeup just because the governor has decided that he doesn’t like it. If we start considering another branch of government as dictating to us how our decisions should be made, we are seriously compromising our rights as an independent body.”

State Rep. Mike Ramone is once again thinking this is all about the amount of testing kids take.  Mike, I’m going to tell you right now I have never once heard from any parent about any other test but the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Parents don’t want to opt out of any other test but the Smarter Balanced.  Once again, those who are pro “assessment inventory” are missing some basic facts.  When DCAS was around, it was taken two to three times a year depending on how the students did on the first Spring test.  If they didn’t hit proficiency, they had to take it again.  That’s when parents were talking about “too much testing”.  But what happens when we do get rid of the assessments that do matter in favor of SBAC and the interim assessments that accompany it?  Then you will have opt-out and NO assessments that give good feedback.  I am not anti-assessment.  Like the PTA, I support assessments that give timely feedback with a validated test.    I already gave my predictions on the final results for the Assessment Inventory Committee.  But Ramone… does he realize what House Bill 50 actually is?

Ramone also said he wants to see a statewide process for opting out, since the current rules are a patchwork of district-by district rules.

A statewide process for opting out?  It’s called House Bill 50.  It specifically states when schools would receive letters from parents and that students who are opted out need to receive another form of instruction.  Does he want us to do it through the DOE?  That would be a never-ending nightmare!  Let’s not muddy the waters any more Mike.  House Bill 50 is what it is.  You are either for parental rights or you’re not.  At the end of the day, this is what it all boils down to.  Something Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges agrees with:

“The message we’re trying to send is that parents and teachers and the community have spoken,” said Terri Hodges, the PTA’s president. “We are hoping our legislators honor the will of the people and follow their original vote.”

I am already hearing the DOE is talking about Smarter Balanced results coming in before kids leave school for summer.  I saw that one coming a mile away!  This will be another one of their attempts to dissuade legislators from voting for the override.  “Look, parents said they wanted quicker feedback.  We’re going to make that happen.”  But no matter when the results come in, we have to face facts.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a BAD test.  Period.  I am all for getting rid of SBAC for high school juniors.  But I am also for getting rid of it for ALL Delaware students. Until that happens, parents will opt out, and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it.  Yes, the legislators do need to look at the reasons why.  I won’t disagree with that.  But talking about it doesn’t do anything for parents.  The legislators who voted for the Smarter Balanced Assessment knew there were issues with it.  But they voted it in anyways.  This is the consequence of that action.  Yes, Murphy already bought the test.  We all know that.  But look at the results.  Has it changed anything for our students?  Not really.  It has brought disruption and chaos to our children’s education.  The only ones who support this assessment are the very ones who seem to profit, whether financially or through an illusion of success by having “great scores”.

As for the infamous letter the ten Democrats sent Governor Markell about the SAT replacing the Smarter Balanced Assessment, this is NOT their idea.  The Delaware DOE has been talking about this publicly since last May.  The College Board is redesigning the SAT to be more like the Smarter Balanced and make it all about the Common Core.  So guess what, it’s not like it will be that much of an improvement.  Can’t wait to see those SAT scores on top of Delaware’s already horrible scores.

This is a bill that comes down to basic and fundamental parental rights.  Meanwhile, over 200 parents have already signed the Delaware PTA Petition.  More will sign as well before it is all said and done.  This is a battle parents aren’t giving up on.  We won’t stop until our rights are protected.  I am frankly shocked that some legislators would rather see parents fighting with schools than overriding a ridiculous veto by a Governor who is so entrenched in corporate education reform he can’t see the forest from the trees.

House Democrats Letter To Governor Markell To Remove Smarter Balanced For 11th Grade

Today, ten Delaware House Democrats signed a letter to Delaware Governor Jack Markell asking him to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  The letter also mentions Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory task force.

We recognize that, by your order, the Department of Education is in the midst of creating an inventory of standardized tests administered throughout the state. Pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 2, signed into law in July, the department will share its findings with legislators and the public, as well as a special work group that will make recommendations regarding possible elimination of redundant tests. While opinions will differ among stakeholders, we believe there is universal support for eliminating the Smarter Balanced test for juniors in lieu of the SAT.

I fully accept that this is Governor Markell’s order.  He came up with the “assessment inventory” idea back in March.  It is a red herring though.  I firmly believe it will get rid of many assessments that give immediate and crucial feedback for teachers in how best to instruct their students.  I also predict it will see an increase in “prep” and “interim” Smarter Balanced Assessments.  The move towards personalized learning will allow for the eventual elimination of the nine-hour test (or longer depending on the individual student’s needs).  But it will not get rid of the basic flaws in SBAC, nor will it eliminate the time taking the test.  Instead it will eventually be in shorter doses but will be just as harmful to students.

There should be universal supporting for eliminating SBAC for ALL grades.  I would caution parents not to be fooled by this letter.  This is not a direction where the Smarter Balanced Assessment will gradually be removed.  It does not address the fundamental and core issues of what is wrong with Smarter Balanced.  I fear this is another attempt to sway legislators from voting for the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  This does not get rid of the issue of parents opting out except for those who have 11th graders.  The SAT is on a downward slope in many states, and now that they are “aligning” it with Common Core, that trend may increase.

Do Not Be Fooled by this Delaware parents!  The DOE has been planning this for over a year IN RESPONSE to the opt-out movement.  They knew 11th graders would have the highest opt-outs.  But it is still implemented in 3rd to 8th grade.  The assessment inventory task force is also stocked with many who will align with the Governor’s flawed logic about standardized assessments.  It wouldn’t shock me if the DOE already wrote the report on it and they are just waiting on the group to tweak it here and there.  I will still fight for the House Bill 50 Veto Override and support parents who choose to exercise their choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have been calling out the “assessment inventory” ruse since the Governor first started talking about it last March.

All The DOE Assessment Information Given To Districts In Delaware

On Wednesday, November 18th, the Delaware Department of Education had a meeting with all the district testing coordinators to go over all things assessment.  This includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the assessment inventory campaign, accommodations, and more.  It looks like the DOE’s Office of Assessment will be raiding monitoring visiting every single public school in the state over the coming months.  But who will lead this office now that Schwinn and Reyna are bidding adieu?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delaware DOE’s Shocking Assessment Plans: This Was All Pre-Determined

“Life is like a box of chocolates, sometimes you never know what you’re gonna get.”

This was my thought last night when I found this document.  This is a draft of the Delaware Department of Education’s 5 year assessment plan.  Senate Joint Resolution #2, which provides for an assessment inventory in Delaware, will “reduce the amount of testing” students get in Delaware Schools.  Just not the right ones if the below picture is what ends up happening.  And it will.  This is Delaware.  Where they give the illusion of control to others, but it isn’t…they just steer people into thinking it.  But I’ll bet the fathers of SJR #2, Earl Jaques and David Sokola, know exactly what will happen…

5yrassessment

5yrassessmentalt

As The SAT Aligns With Common Core And Becomes SBAC/PARCC Lite, How Many Students Will Suffer?

Tomorrow at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting in Dover, DE, a presentation will be given on Delaware’s 2015 SAT performance and upcoming changes to the test in 2016.  Last Spring, Chief Officer of Assessment and Accountability Penny Schwinn at the Delaware DOE advised the State Board the SAT was being aligned with Common Core.  Some states have already dumped the state standardized assessment for 11th graders because of this.

Only two high schools in Delaware had over 50% of their students reach the “college ready” benchmark on the 2015 SATs.  With alignment to the Common Core how will high school juniors perform next year?  When I see terms like “personalized learning” and “problems grounded in real world contexts”, I think Common Core and all it’s education reform friends.  Will we ever escape from the Common Core? January 2017 can’t get here fast enough and hopefully we will have a good Governor and a good President who can guide our state and country away from this insanity…

Arne Duncan Wants Parent Participation: Has He Been Listening? Parents Are Opting Kids Out Of Assessments He Endoreses! Wake Up Arne!

At the National PTA Conference in Charlotte, North Caroline, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a speech about parent participation in their children’s education.  The details of his speech are below, and I am going to make comments for each paragraph.

Parents are critical assets in education. Parents can be a voice for high expectations for children and for supporting educators in creating schools where all children receive what they need to succeed. An excellent education is every child’s civil right; and while our nation has made great strides—with a record high school graduation rate and college enrollment at all-time highs—we have much further to go to ensure that every child has equal opportunity to learn.

My suggestion would be to actually listen to parents Arne.  Hundreds of thousands of parents in our country are opting their kids out of standardized assessments that your reign as Secretary has FORCED on schools through waivers and little or no choice requirements.  You are right though, an excellent education is every child’s right, which is why parents are exercising their rights to make sure our children are not forced to take assessments that have no bearing on their educational growth.

Parents can play a key role in demanding the world-class education that their children deserve. But, for many parents and families, it can be an uncertain task determining the best ways to support their children or the right questions to ask to ensure their children are learning and growing.

But one thing many parents know is tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC are not valid methods to determine how our children are learning and growing.  Let me ask you Arne… you are Secretary of Education of the most powerful country in the world.  Did your education prevent that from happening for you?  Was Bill Gates education so bad that he felt the need to change it all?  Neil Armstrong?  Stephen Hawking?  So why do you want to remove that kind of education and make it so all children are forced to be the same?  Is it possible there is a lot of money to be made by making it appear children are doing bad in school?

That’s why, today, speaking from the perspective of a father of two young children, Secretary Arne Duncan described a set of educational rights that should belong to every family in America in a speech at the National PTA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This set of three foundational family rights can unite everyone who works to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in school and in life. These rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.

I actually don’t have a problem with these rules.  However, the policies you have set in place put minority students, low-income students, and students with disabilities at an unfair advantage.  We can talk Civil Rights any day of the year, but what you have implemented has caused further distances in the education gaps between these sub-groups and their regular peers.  And the humiliating way you have disparaged and insulted teachers in our country is shameful.

Parents and families can use these basic—but necessary—elements of an excellent education to build deeper relationships with educators, administrators, and community leaders to support schools so that these rights become realities. At the Convention, Secretary Duncan also noted his hope that parents will hold elected officials and others accountable for accelerating progress in education and expanding opportunity to more children—particularly our nation’s most vulnerable.

I do believe parents in Oregon and Delaware were very proud of their legislators for passing parent opt-out legislation honoring a parent’s right to choose the best education for their child.  Parents will hold elected officials accountable once the scores on this year’s standardized assessments come in.  They will remember the elected officials that allowed their children to be non-proficient and in need of intervention.  Especially those parents who did not encounter these problems before.

Secretary Duncan’s discussion of this set of rights complements work by the Education Department to reach out to parents—from the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships released last year, to tools that can help families and students select the best colleges for their needs, to support of Parent Training and Information Centers and resource hubs.

Is that way the College Board is turning the SAT into a Common Core based assessment?  One that will mirror the SBAC and PARCC assessments?  And parents don’t need training.  We need responsible people like the Secretary of Education of the USA to get his paws out of local education and stop interfering and causing constant disruptions.  We all know you want to get rid of traditional public school districts and open up charterville across the country. 

While in Charlotte, Secretary Duncan also participated in a “Future Ready Schools” panel to emphasize the importance of integrating technology into the classroom, especially as a tool for promoting equity for all students.

Ah, yes, more personalized learning modules for students to learn from home and then have a teacher go over homework questions in the classroom.  That’s very crafty.  Teachers won’t need as much education and they will just have to follow a script.  We won’t need those pesky teacher unions anymore and we can lower the salaries for these robot teachers.  Promoting equity?  Are you kidding me?  This will ensure that those who struggle the most will continue to be left behind.

To learn more about the rights that Secretary Duncan discussed today and to find other resources for parents and families, visit the Department’s Family and Community Engagement page. And, consider joining Secretary Duncan in a Twitter chat to continue the dialogue about parent involvement in education on July 1 at 1:30 p.m., ET, using #PTChat.

I hope ALL parents join that Twitter party.  I will get a lot of parents to come to that fiesta.  I hope you seriously answer the questions your advisors tell you “don’t answer that question” if you are serious about wanting parent engagement.

This was written by Tiffany Taber and can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/blog/2015/06/the-critical-voice-of-parents-in-education-2/

Penny Schwinn’s Exact Words At The State Board of Education Meeting Last Week Regarding Smarter Balanced Vs. SATs

The digital audio recording of the Delaware State Board of Education Meeting on 4/20 is up on the State Board website, so of course I had to go back and carefully listen to exactly what Penny Schwinn did say in regards to the controversy over the Smarter Balanced Assessment and SATs.

You can listen here: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=4505&ViewID=E324842B-E4A3-44C3-991A-1E716D4A99E3&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=13683&PageID=1770

I went ahead and transcribed the key part, which occurs about three to four minutes into it (the recording doesn’t show a time stamp if you pause it).  The areas in bold are what jumped out at me.

Penny Schwinn: So this is the five-year assessment plan.  Were gonna pass around a copy.  I know you’ve received the copy before.  There’s been a minor change.  We can just talk broadly about what’s going into that.  So for the five-year plan, uhm,  this, we will be doing over the next several months, we’ve distributed this to, uhm, several stakeholder groups, obviously given out on December 1st.     There’s been a pretty big robust discussion on our science and social studies test, specifically making sure we are aligned to our state standards, that we also have computer adaptive tests in a way that, uhm, we know measures student learning and thinking as much as it does content.  Uhm, we have seen pretty strong feedback in regards to reduction in end-of-course exams because they tend to be repetitive, and then also looking at 11th grade assessment.  Looking at 11th grade assessment, obviously with the transition to Smarter Balanced it does increase the amount of tests our 11th graders are taking, uhm, including Smarter, SAT, uhm, APs, etc.  That’s been a really big piece of feedback as well.  So I wanna give you a minute in case there’s any initial questions but what we’re asking from this group is people to write any feedback over the next two months around what you see when you look through these assessments and any potential reductions or changes you  would like to see coming out of the office of assessment.  But those are the big ones.  Again, science and social studies, uhm, the reduction in end-of-course exams, and then reduction in the amount of assessments that are required for 11th graders.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: So what was the change again?

 Schwinn: So what you saw before did not include the, just a little bit of asterisk on the bottom.  We hadn’t committed to, uhm, looking specifically at SAT versus Smarter in 11th grade.  There are several states that are moving in that direction and so what we would be looking at is an either/or potentially in the coming years as opposed to a both.  It would be a big change and we would want a lot of information on that specifically. 

Other conversation occurs at this point with board member Jorge Melendez showing his confusion over the whole assessment inventory process.

Pat Heffernan: I don’t know if you were asking anything, but in terms of the SAT, uhm, in 11th grade, I know as SAT becomes more aligned with Common Core and Smarter, you know, we should sort of know where kids are, going through the continuum.  There is value in taking the SAT for kids who might not otherwise.  So, you know, just factor that into your thinking.  I think it’s a, there’s a value in that, and how you want to… it’s a part of the big picture, right?  An overall sense of strategy, but more than that, the SAT per se, has value in and of itself that needs to be consider when you’re reviewing.

Schwinn: And that’s where we’re, that’s the direction we would be heading, so as the SAT becomes Common Core aligned, it would be a reduction in 11th grade Smarter but the SAT is not something that would be on the tableSo it would be SAT, and then not Smarter Balanced.  It’s not the other way around. 

Gray: What’s the timeframe for Common Core alignment of the SAT?

Schwinn: So we’re, I, there’s two parts to that question.  So we’ll have that through next year, but what we’re looking at is we wouldn’t want to make a decision until we have a couple years of data to be able to match the 11th grade Smarter with SAT, so we can see what the alignments with the test are and certainly see student scores.  We wouldn’t want to make any decisions on the transition within the next two years.  It would be something that would happen over the next 3-5 years once we had more robust data sets.  Uhm, but certainly, if that’s on the table, we would want to be able to fit capacity towards a really deep study and make sure we’re making a responsible decision that truly captures student achievement.   

Sorry Penny, but hearing your actual words, as well as Pat Heffernan publicly commenting about the transition for the SAT to Common Core AND Smarter, confirms that even if you call it the SAT, it will be the Smarter Balanced Assessment with a name change.  Which is what all the corporate education reformers want.  But the DOE and Governor Markell can certainly call it a “reduction” in assessments, but you would do away with the SAT as it is now.  And that’s exactly what Heffernan was talking about, there is value in the SAT.  Sure, people have their beefs with the SAT, but compared to Smarter Balanced, it is infinitely better.  I noticed all your “uhms” in the conversations.  Having told a fib or two in my life, I have certain mannerisms in my speech when I’m not being entirely truthful.  I do believe I, uhm, found yours…

For those listening to this recording, did you notice how fast Penny Schwinn speeds through her topics, with LONG drawn-out sentences that go on forever?  Heffernan does the same, but not fast at all.  You can tell he is thinking while he is talking.  And Schwinn loves the word “obviously” as if we should all agree with her line of thought…

DOE Considering Replacing SAT With Smarter Balanced Assessment, Markell’s “Assessment Reduction” Plan Has Been In The Works For 6 Months, & School Turnaround News

Chief Accountability and Performance Officer Penny Schwinn, at the Delaware Department of Education, gave a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment to the State Board of Education today.  Schwinn indicated the Smarter Balanced Assessment may potentially be considered to replace the SAT in 11th grade for Delaware students.  She claimed that other states are doing this already.

The main part of the presentation was the five-year Smarter Balanced Assessment plan.  Schwinn and Dr. Carolyn Lazar, another associate at the Delaware DOE, talked about the recent “assessment reduction” initiative that had some rather revealing and shocking acknowledgments.  The DOE has spent the past six months reviewing state assessments and found there is a lot of replication across the state.  Their goals in this review have been to make sure assessments align to the state standards, yield valuable reports on student progress, adhere to best practices statewide, and align with the system in place.  Schwinn said “We all want as much instruction time as possible,” and in speaking about the community’s role in this initiative, “We want to be respectful of community input.”

Schwinn’s office feels end of year assessments (finals) are repetitive and they are starting to see a reduction on these tests in districts.  The five-year assessment plan will cover Smarter Balanced Assessments, DCAS for Social Studies and Science, Alternate Assessments, and the following tests: PSAT, SAT, ACCESS and NAEP.

Schwinn explained the grant funds involved with this assessment review available to the “largest districts” as she put it, and it would amount to $5.00 a student for a total of $80-90,000.  Lazar explained, contradicting Schwinn’s earlier statement, that the grant is available to all the districts in Delaware and that the DOE initiated this process two years ago but became a focus six months ago.  The grant funds became available for the districts in early April, and the districts have until the end of the April to deliver a list of their assessments to the DOE.

A company called Achieve is the DOE contractor involved in this, and their role is to provide a user-friendly model and to develop an action plan to execute on the findings of the review.  The DOE is planning to develop a communications and community engagement process, and they are pleased at the level of educator involvement already taking place with this review.

The DOE has already provided the districts with a template of the grant form to ease the burden on the districts.  They suggested the districts use an outside consultancy firm, like Achieve (which they specifically mentioned for a 2nd time).  The review plan has three steps: Phase 1: review, Phase 2: develop action plan, and Phase 3: implement action plan.  The goal, according to Lazar is “teaching more, testing less.”  The plan will ask “Why assess?” which they feel is necessary and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray agreed.  “We are all consumers of data,” Lazar said.

The DOE will be more than happy to provide technical assistance to the districts that they may consider part of their budget, with the help of Achieve (3rd mention of this company), who may want other contractors to come in and assist.  But the districts can be creative with the funds (based on a DOE designed grant template and the able-bodied assistance of Achieve).

Gray restated the earlier statement that the grant is optional to the districts, but Schwinn stated they are committed to doing this for all of the districts.  Board member Pat Heffernan asked if there is a rubric for this initiative, to which Lazar said that is something they are looking to implement but nothing exact like a specific rubric (after they already designed the grant template).

They expect the district assessment tally in mid-May and an action plan by December.  During the gap in time, they plan to utilize focus groups (with no definition of who would be on these focus groups).

Schwinn indicated teacher created assessments used in the classroom are not a part of this review, but some of the Measure B and RTI interventions used by the districts, according to Gray, are repetitive.  Schwinn stated these are the universal assessments that all students must take and determining the validity of them.  Schwinn stated Common Core alignment with the SAT would be ready by next year with a transition in the next two years and full implementation in the next 3-5 years.

The next part of their presentation concerned the current implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in districts and charters in Delaware.  Schwinn said she is “very excited” about the results they have seen so far.  As of April 10th, 15,000 students have taken part in the summative ELA Smarter Balanced Assessment, and 9,000 for the math.  When asked about the different in numbers, Schwinn indicated it was because of how the districts and schools implement the testing scheduled during their testing windows.  There was a long discussion about “chunking”.  Heffernan asked if there have been situations like the schools thought a section would take four days but it took six to which Schwinn answered they haven’t received that feedback at this point.

In terms of problems, the biggest problem which was on the screen, but not even discussed during the meeting was the issue of accommodations.  The screen indicated “ACCOMMODATIONS DATA TRANSFER EXPERIMENTING ISSUES-unresolved, students incorrectly appearing as “custom” for accommodations in the test administration interface.  Work-around requires test administrator to employ additional efforts to validate accommodations for every student.”  American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor is “working on the issue.”  Nothing was discusses about any financial impact to the state or the districts to resolve these issues.  The DOE has an internal system they use to monitor the Smarter Balanced called PBMS.  Schwinn indicated the first year of DCAS had similar issues (another state assessment designed by AIR).

Executive Director of the State Board Donna Johnson asked how many districts were doing the interim assessments and Schwinn answered this is decided by the actual schools, and in some schools, only certain grades.  For the hand-scoring they are using a new technical system for curricular assessments and collaborating with the State of Washington and Air for training.  This is posted on a portal called the Teacher Hand-Scoring System.

There has been an inconsistent display of resources but conference calls with other states in the SBAC, the staff at Smarter Balanced and AIR is allowing for collaboration and sharing of resources like sources, prompts and materials deployed.

Schwinn indicated students like “Smarter” (a recent Facebook commenter said all the DOE hipsters like to call it “Smarter”) better than DCAS and are showing more interest because it has listening and is more realistic (with not even 1/5th of the students in the state taking the test, they are already making this assumption without all the end-of-assessment surveys).

Here is my take on all this, and the whole “reduction of assessments” initiative is not to actually reduce testing, but because the DOE wants more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  The DOE and Governor Markell want everything tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment: college course placement, standards-based IEPs, SATs, and even those pesky little “other” assessments that provide real and valuable data in many cases.  My big question is this: how much did the legislators know of these plans with this test when the majority voted to approve it last year with House Bill 334?

While this question is being pondered, who is Achieve?  According to their website, their agendas (not making this up, they actually have a tab called “Our Agenda”) include standards, graduation requirements, data & accountability and assessments, with sub-groups in this category called sample student assessment reports, ADP assessments, measures that matter, and what a coincidence, one called Student Assessment Directory for School Districts.  And look at that, they just completed a huge guide for districts on 3/20/15!

And from their website, which can be found at just another corporate education reform link:

Below is a brief history of Achieve:

1996: Achieve is founded at the National Education Summit by leading governors and business leaders.

1998: Achieve begins its Academic Standards and Assessments Benchmarking Pilot Project.

1999: Achieve sponsors a National Education Summit.

2001: Achieve sponsors a National Education Summit; Achieve joins the Education Trust, Thomas B. Fordham Institute and National Alliance of Business to launch the American Diploma Project (ADP) to identify the “must-have” knowledge and skills most demanded by higher education and employers.

2004: The American Diploma Project releases “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts.” This groundbreaking report – the result of over two years of research – identifies a common core of English and mathematics academic knowledge and skills, or “benchmarks,” that American high school graduates need for success in college and the workforce. Education Week later named “Ready or Not” one of the most 12 influential research studies.

2005: Achieve co-sponsors a National Education Summit on High Schools, with the National Governors Association; the American Diploma Project Network is launched with 13 inaugural states.

2006: Achieve releases its first annual report on the ADP college- and career-ready policy agenda: “Closing the Expectations Gap: An Annual 50-State Progress Report on the Alignment of High School Policies with the Demands of College and Work.”

2007: The ADP Assessment Consortium launches to develop common Algebra II end-of-course assessment, which was, at that time, the largest multi-state effort to develop assessments to date.

2008: Achieve releases “Out of Many, One: Toward Rigorous Common Core Standards from the Ground Up,” a report that found that individual state efforts to set college- and career-ready standards for high school graduates actually led to a remarkable degree of consistency in English and mathematics requirements.

2009: Work begins on the development of the Common Core State Standards; Achieve partners with the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers on the Initiative and a number of Achieve staff and consultants serve on the writing and review teams.

2010: The final Common Core State Standards are released; Achieve begins serving as Project Management Partner for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

2011: Achieve begins managing the state-led development of the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards.

2013: The final Next Generation Science Standards are released.

 

So now that we know the who, what, where, when and how, my big question is WHY?  This is just another waste of money so the DOE can pay another corporate education reform company.  Is there just this huge and massive network of these companies that comes into states and “transforms” everything education related?

Well, at least now we know Penny Schwinn does more than worry about priority schools.  Wait a minute… I take that back.  I found this on the Delaware Contract Bid website, just placed two days ago in fact…

 

But let’s all hope Delaware Secretary of Education Mary Murphy’s sniffles get better.  The poor guy either has a bad cold, or allergies, or something.  Hope you feel better Mark!

 

 

Let’s Do The Timewarp Again! A Peek Into The Past At The DOE Shows Current & Future Agendas

This is the FOIA file that keeps on going, and going, and going…

This one shows a document from October, 2013 showcasing what the DOE’s most important goals are, especially for the current academic year.  Once again, we get confirmation that SATs and PSATs are being aligned to the Common Core Standards.  This is happening at a national level as a state does not have the ability to dictate what appears on these tests.  The College Board does all the legwork for these assessments.

I would have to guess at this point that Accountability 2.0 is the new accountability standards the DOE is trying to get in place for schools.  This would involve legislation according to this memo, so look for something to be introduced in the General Assembly at any time.  It will be interesting to see who sponsors this legislation at first, because that would mean they are probably in tight with the Delaware DOE.