Jaques Is Playing Tricks With 2% School Board Tax Bill While McGuiness and Schwartzkopf Conspire Against Charter School Audit Bill

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Earl Jaques is abusing his position as Chair of the House Education Committee while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf sits back and lets it all go down.  But Schwartzkopf will protect his buddy Kathy McGuiness at any cost. Continue reading

From “Jon’s Loving Father” To Absolute Insanity: The Exceptional Delaware Story

As I delve into year five on this blog, sometimes it is healthy to take a look back at my humble beginnings.  From the crazy legislation I proposed in 2014 to my modern-day attempt to get a Secretary of Education removed from power, it has been a crazy four plus years!  It started out with a plan and turned into so much more! Continue reading

Kilroy Was Here, And What A Time It Was! Bon Voyage Kilroy’s Delaware!

Kilroy wrote his last post today.  I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m not surprised.  I’m sad, for many reasons.  I will still talk to the man behind Kilroy.  Perhaps one day we can go fishing at his paradise in really slower lower.  But dammit, Kilroy filled me in on so much with Delaware education before I took a crack at blogging.  He lent me his blog for about a month and a half three years ago so I could tell a story about my son.  We talked a lot over the past few years.  Over time, he became a friend.  Not a friend I talk to every day or even see.  But a friend nonetheless.

Some of the commenters over at Kilroy’s Delaware pissed me off to no end.  That is no secret, especially that one guy.  But I loved the discussion even if I didn’t agree with the point of view.  Things got nasty between myself and a few of the commenters from time to time.  But Kilroy loved it.  He loved his virtual kitchen table.  He was the godfather of Delaware education blogs and paved the way for the rest of us fighting the good fight.

Transparent Christina, Kavips, and now Kilroy’s Delaware.  We still have other education blogs, but they are either mixed in with political blogs (Delaware Liberal and Blue Delaware) or the other blogs really don’t post that often.  They were the big three.  I get it.  Life moves on.  Blogs are not a forever thing.  I’m very surprised mine has lasted as long as it has.  I feel this insurmountable task of carrying the torch for the giants that came before me.  Someday, another irate or concerned parent will take up the mantle.  Perhaps a teacher.  Blogging is not dead.

I often consider hanging it up though.  Is Delaware education blogging needed anymore?  Things have calmed down since Governor Markell left his throne.  But there are still considerable dangers and concerns going on with education.  Perhaps bigger than all that came before.  The biggest concerns I have are vouchers, personalized learning, competency-based education, funding, digital technology, and student data privacy.  And hovering above all those issues is how students with disabilities will fit in with this new world.  I’ve seen the end goals, and any legislator, teacher, or educator can tell me that will never happen.  But they aren’t in the corporate world.  Not knee-deep in it.  That’s where Rodel comes in.  They are the middle man between the corporations and the education stakeholders, whether it is the Governor, the Delaware Dept. of Education, schools, teachers, and even parents at times.  As long as they are peddling their wares, I will try my best to stick around.

There will never be another Kilroy.  He had such a unique identity and style to his writing.  Even the best imitator couldn’t come close.  I’ll miss his cryptic hints and his crazy codes he would drop.  He had a mission, and he accomplished it.  I remember taping the Senate session when they passed his digital recording bill (finally) and sent him a copy.  I was proud of him because I knew great things don’t always come easy.  But with sweat and perseverance, change can come.

Best of luck Kilroy.  I will forever be grateful for you taking a chance on an odd parent from Kent County and getting me going in this very surreal blogging world.  Because of you, my life was forever changed.  Sometimes it wasn’t always good change, but it hasn’t been bad.  You were the gateway to my meeting a ton of people (including yourself) who have left a mark on my life, often at times I needed it more than ever.  At the end of the day, it is about friendship and trying to help people.  Even when you don’t get anything for yourself out of it.  You taught me that Kilroy, along with Kavips and Transparent Christina.

Should they ever make a movie about Kilroy’s Delaware, I want Robert DeNiro to play him!

School After Labor Day Bill NOT Released From House Education Committee

I had a sneaky feeling this was going to be the outcome on this bill.  While Senate Bill 161, sponsored by State Senator Gerald Hocker, passed the Delaware Senate last week, it did not have the required votes to get out of the House Education Committee.  Since the bill passed last week in the Senate, a growing chorus of opponents to the bill reached out and feel this kind of decision should be made by local school district boards of education.  They did not feel this should be a statewide decision.  Currently, some districts in Sussex County already begin school after Labor Day.  Once the official details on the vote count in the House Education Committee come out, I will update this article.  It appears only 3 or 4 of the legislators in the committee were in support of the bill which is far short of the But for now, it appears there will be no more action on this controversial legislation.

Senate Bill 161 had a good ride, and I thought it may have a shot.  But many of the members of the House Education Committee are fervent supporters of local control as opposed to state control.  We can consider this matter closed.  Until the 149th General Assembly that is!

Teacher Evaluation Bill Unanimously Released While WEIC Bill Tabled In House Education Committee

It was a mixed bag of results at the Delaware House Education Committee.  A teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, was released unanimously from the committee.  But a Wilmington Education Improvement Commission bill, concerning the redistricting of Wilmington students in the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District, designed to make clear a school board can not raise taxes without a referendum, was not released.  It was immediately tabled after in the chance the bill can get enough votes to be lifted from that designation.  None of the House Republicans on the House Education Committee voted to release the bill, nor did Democrat Reps. Sean Matthews or Deb Heffernan.  While this doesn’t kill the WEIC redistricting plan (the main legislation for this is House Joint Resolution #12), it certainly doesn’t help.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf attended the meeting in support of the bill.

With the teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, this came after years of back and forth conversation between Delaware teachers and the Department of Education.  The bill deals with how Component V, the major sticking point for teachers, is measured in teacher evaluations.  The major part of that section deals with the state assessment scores, currently the Smarter Balanced Assesssment.  This bill would make it so both the administrator and the teacher would have to agree on what to use for this section, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be the state assessment.  There are some restrictions with this based on a teacher’s prior rating through the DPAS-II evaluation system.  This wouldn’t kick in if they were rated below effective.  House Bill 399 will go on the House Ready list and awaits a vote by the full House.  If it passes there, it would have to go to the Senate Education Committee, and if released, to a full Senate vote, and ultimately the Governor for signature.  Teachers have been fighting this component for years ever since Senate Bill 51 was signed into law during the 2013-2014 legislative session.

Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson, expressed concern during public comment concerning an administrator still having the final word in an evaluation.  Kristin Dwyer, speaking on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association, was in support of House Bill 399.  One public speaker (I did not catch her name so I apologize) spoke about a lack of diversity on the sub-committee of the DPAS-II Advisory Group that came up with the recommendations.  Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, spoke on behalf of the Chief State School Officers, spoke in support of the bill.

The slow climb to a House vote for the WEIC bill met with resistance by half the House Education Committee today.  Seven voted yes to release while seven voted no.  For a bill to be released from the committee in the House, it must have a majority.  A lot of the discussion concerned what House Bill 424 means in terms of a school board being able to raise taxes without a referendum.  State Rep. Sean Lynn deferred to the House Attorney who said it would not give school boards this right.  That was not enough to sway the half of the committee who voted no on release of the bill.

Over in the Senate Education Committee, House Bill 277 was heard.  This bill would give the Pathways to Prosperity program a permanent steering committee.  Questions were asked to DOE representatives by State Senator Nicole Poore concerning funding for the program.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee cut $250,000 Governor Markell earmarked to go towards this program.  Michael Watson and Luke Rhine from the Delaware DOE shared the funds for this mostly come from federal Perkins funds.  I gave public comment concerning a lack of parent representation on the proposed committee.  State Senator David Sokola thought that was in there and made it a point to make sure this was corrected.  A comment was made to Sokola’s question about this to the effect of “We can talk about this.”

As well, Senate Bill 278, dealing with the Freedom of Information Act at Delaware universities and proposed to make committees and sub-committees subject to FOIA, was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  Drs. Morgan and Galileo from the University of Delaware were in support of the bill as they met with stiff resistance in trying to find out what was even discussed at committee meetings.  They also shared that public comment is not allowed at committee meetings at University of Delaware.  Representatives from University of Delaware and Delaware State University were in opposition of the bill.

With the Senate, the results are not known right away if a bill is released or not.

While not officially on the agenda list yet, House Joint Resolution #12 will most likely be voted on tomorrow in the full House of Representatives.  This could either advance the WEIC redistricting forward or end it.  Senate Bill 277 is already on the agenda for a full Senate vote tomorrow as well.

Updated, 8:09pm: House Joint Resolution #12 is NOT on the House Agenda for tomorrow…

Breaking News: ESEA To Continue For “Several Years” Even With Implementation Of ESSA

Yesterday, I broke the  news that the Delaware Department of Education was going to be submitting another ESEA waiver.  Even though the Every Student Succeeds Act forbids these waiver schemes.  I reached out to the Delaware DOE for more information on this latest waiver, and received the following information from Alison May, the Public Information Officer at the DOE.  Below is what Alison sent me, including the letter Ann Whalen sent to all the states, along with the letter states would need to sign to get the waiver.  Note the part I bolded which extends ESEA waivers well after ESSA will be implemented.  There are serious games afoot here.  Is John King already abusing his authority?  Will Congressman John Kline (MN) intervene and stop this dead in its tracks?

Meanwhile, like with all previous ESEA flexibility waivers, state education agencies are required to get public comment on the waivers.  With three weeks time, how can this happen?  Some district boards don’t meet again until after the April 15th deadline.  Don’t they also have to submit any ESEA waivers to the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) advisory council?  How could that happen, as required by Delaware law, if the meeting scheduled for this week is canceled and no meetings are scheduled between now and April 22nd?

DESSMeetingCanceled

We are already losing a week due to Easter/Spring break.  As well, the Delaware General Assembly will be off for two weeks after this week.  How is the Delaware DOE going to make sure everyone sees this?  Or is just merely putting a notice up, hidden away on their website, or sending out a tweet, sufficient?  Thank God I find these things when I do!  This is the same kind of non-transparent information they put out there like the Accountability Framework Working Group last year.  They count on folks not looking for or even knowing where to find this information.  Too bad they didn’t count on me!

If the Delaware DOE’s deadline is April 15th, and this information is due to US DOE on April 22nd, does this mean the State Board of Education will put it up as an action item at their April 21st meeting?  Will they allow public comment on an action item which they typically don’t due to their archaic rules?

FW: FW: Letter from Senior Advisor Whalen re: Speaking and Listening Waiver People 

Attachments

  • Speaking and Listening Waiver Request Template.docx

 Per your request, please see below and attached. This guidance also is posted on USED’s website.
Alison
From: Honeysett, Adam [mailto:Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2016 9:17 AM
Subject: Letter from Senior Advisor Whalen re: Speaking and Listening Waiver

EXAMPLE OF REQUEST TO WAIVE THE SPEAKING AND LISTENING REQUIREMENT UNDER THE EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT (ESSA)

Ann Whalen

Senior Advisor to the Secretary

Delegated the Duties of Assistant

Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Ms. Whalen:

I am writing to request a waiver, pursuant to section 8401(b) of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), of section 1111(b)(3)(C)(ii) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), that [State]’s assessment system measure the full range of the State’s academic content standards. [State] requests this waiver only with respect to measuring the State’s speaking and listening content standards, which are part of the State’s reading/language arts academic content standards.  [State] requests this waiver because it is not practicable at this time for [State] to administer a large-scale summative assessment that includes speaking and listening standards.  This waiver will advance student achievement by permitting [State] to have a valid and reliable assessment system that measures the full range of the rest of the State’s academic content standards while providing time to complete the work necessary to have a valid and reliable measure of speaking and listening content standards.

[State] requests this waiver to allow for continued State and local receipt of Title I, Part A funding in good standing while [State] completes additional work to develop accurate, valid, reliable, and instructionally useful assessments related to speaking and listening. This waiver is requested for the 2015-2016 school year [(if requesting) through the 2016-2017 school year].  [State] assures that, if it is granted the requested waiver —

  • It will continue to meet all other requirements of section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB, and implementing regulations with respect to all State-determined academic content standards and assessments, including reporting student achievement and school performance, disaggregated by subgroups, to parents and the public.
  • It will continue to work toward assessing speaking and listening consistent with the State’s academic content standards.

 

Prior to submitting this waiver request, [State] provided all LEAs in the State with notice and a reasonable opportunity to comment on this request. [State] provided such notice by [insert description of notice, e.g., sending a letter to each LEA on [date] or sending an email to each LEA on [date]] (see copy of notice attached).  Copies of all comments that [State] received from LEAs in response to this notice are attached hereto.  [State] also provided notice and a reasonable opportunity to comment regarding this waiver request to the public in the manner in which [State] customarily provides such notice and opportunity to comment to the public [e.g., by publishing a notice of the waiver request in the following newspapers; by posting information regarding the waiver request on its website] (see attached copy of public notice).

Please feel free to contact me by phone or email at [contact information] if you have any questions regarding this request.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Email Penny Schwinn At The DOE To Oppose The Opt-Out Punishment In The School Report Card!!!!

It appears the Academic Framework Working Group will have a few more meetings heading into September.  They will be finalizing their decisions at their September 23rd meeting.  Today I had a very cordial email exchange with Penny Schwinn, the Chief Officer of Performance & Accountability at the Department of Education.  I found out the next three meetings will be on 9/2, 9/17 and 9/23 and I asked Penny Schwinn if they could be made public and for more stakeholders added to this group.

Schwinn indicated other than the non-negotiable items mandated by the US DOE, which have to be in there, the other items have not been finalized, including the participation rate penalty and the growth measures.  She said no weights for the school report card have been finalized at this point as well.  I did share with her that I felt far too much weight, as proposed based on their March meeting, is tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  In addition, I did advise her more of the school culture, such as suspension & expulsion rates and even bullying statistics should be added, as this is a frequent concern for parents in any school choice.

Schwinn also shared that all Delaware Superintendents will receive emails about the next few meetings and all have been invited to attend. She did not say anything about the Board members in each district, but I did request the Board Presidents be emailed as well since they have a large say in district matters as well. I also asked if the meetings could be recorded and released on the DOE website to show a level of transparency for the public.

This measure the AFWG wants to have with a participation rates for standardized testing being multiplied by the school’s academic performance is a punishment against schools. It is out of the school’s hands if a parent opts their child out.  It is 100% a parent’s right and their decision.  Penny Schwinn did indicate she is more than happy to receive public input on this matter and anything associated with the school report card and welcomes any input.  So please email Penny Schwinn and the accountability department at the Delaware DOE, DOEAccountability@doe.k12.de.us and include me in the cc: section with kevino3670@yahoo.com so I can get an accurate feel for the opposition to this punishing measure.

I suspect the State Board of Education will attempt to vote on this at their October meeting, without true stakeholder input.  This could be very damaging for our schools and teachers and students.  A poor grade for a school can cause a lot of public perception to sway parents towards one school or another.  This School Report Card is vastly weighted with the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which can not and should not be a determining factor for how good or bad a school might be.

As well, email your legislator, the Delaware PTA, the school board in your district, and anyone who you think might be able to oppose this.  If you have children in Delaware public schools, talk to other parents.  Let the principal know you oppose this.  MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!  Whether you support or oppose opt-out, this is not an accurate measurement of a school!

Vice President Biden Wants Body Cameras For Police, Why Can’t We Get Charter Boards To Record Their Meetings?

Vice President Joe Biden said he wants body cameras for police so they can record everything.  I don’t mind this idea at all.  It would avoid any questions that may arise during a confrontation, like Ferguson.  We need more transparency in another big area in Delaware as well: charter school board meetings!

Last year, State Rep Deb Hudson sponsored House Bill 23, and nothing came of it.  It sat there, waiting for Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf to release it and put it on the ready list.  The Speaker did nothing with it.  The bill would have to be written again and go through the whole process all over again, but it would be worth it.  I’m sure many parents from charter schools like Academy of Dover, Providence Creek, Moyer, Family Foundations Academy and Academia Antonia Alonso wish they knew what was said at different times in the past year.  This would be the best time for a legislator to introduce this type of legislation!

Which legislator would do it?  Will Hudson pick up the baton again or should it be handed off to someone else?  Someone with more influence on Schwartzkopf preferably.  I know Kilroy would have a parade if this passed!  Publius would have a heart attack!  About 6-7 public school districts do this already in the state, along with the Delaware State Board of Education.  Our children deserve more than board minutes that don’t give much information.  We want and need more!

Full Presentation of DE State Board of Education to Public and Charter School Boards

On January 6th, the Delaware State Board of Education had a State Board Workshop with Local School District and Charter School Boards and other “stakeholders”.  Led by Executive Director Donna Johnson, this workshop went over the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the upcoming ESEA waivers, and school accountability.  Included is the entire presentation for the public to view.

I have to wonder exactly which schools had the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test last Spring.  How many of these schools and classrooms had “Vision Network” teachers administering these tests.  How many classrooms had a high population of minorities, low-income and special education students.  The parameters around the success of these field tests are only as good as the pool of test takers.

Once again, if students aren’t expected to do as well the first few years, how in hell can you blame any teacher or school for the results of a test you have already admitted is too hard and only provides a baseline?  This is a system that is pre-stacked against those who care more about education than this department.

As far as the “Common Themes” from the Town Hall meetings the DOE had in November with the public, I was at one of them, and the common themes were not so common at the one I attended.  It wasn’t all about “clear consequences for lack of performance” unless you counted complaints against the Delaware DOE.  If anyone needs to be measured to by that standard, it’s the DOE.  But they seem to have no consequences for their actions, whether they are legal or not.

Delaware parents, do not get sucked up into the Departments web of lies and coercion.  This is spin, and it only spins in their direction.  They want to hold entire school districts accountable for performance based on a test that has already been deemed to fail.  How is that right or just?  This is a corporate education reform agenda to privatize our public school districts and turn them into charter schools which have never been proven to be more effective than regular schools.  In point of fact, they have been proven in this state to have no transparency, financial mismanagement, and severe discrimination across the state to the most vulnerable of students.  Don’t drink the kool-aid they want you to drink public!  You are better than them.

Poll: Should ALL School Boards Record Their Meetings?

In light of the Family Foundations Academy mess, and the ACLU Lawsuit against the state of Delaware and Red Clay Consolidated School District over segregation in charter schools, I thought I would run this poll again to see if the results differ from four months ago.  I firmly believe transparency is desperately needed from all the charter schools these days!

Delaware State Board of Education Is Having A Pizza Party For All The District & Charter Bigwigs! Open To The Public!

If you live in Dover, I would highly recommend not going to Grotto’s Pizza between 5 to 8:30pm on Monday.  A lot of important education people will be convening on the establishment for a meeting about the Next Generation Science Standards.  With that many powerful people going there after a school day when kids had been off for Thanksgiving break, expect a lot of food and spirits being ordered!

I’m curious who the “stakeholders” are.  Cause I’m pretty sure parents are the most important stakeholders and I don’t recall seeing a public invite to their pizza party!  Didn’t the DOE have all those town hall meetings in November to increase parent participation?  But when it comes to determining curriculum for the students of Delaware, the parents are completely shut out of the process.

Updated: Commenter Dee has advised this is indeed open to the public and anyone is welcome to attend.  Does this mean free pizza for Delaware? Not sure on that one.  The flyer does say light refreshments.  So that depends on your perspective.  For myself, pizza is a light refreshment! I have updated the title as well.  Thanks Dee!

Poll: Should School Boards Digitally Record Their Meetings? #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

A hot topic of late has been if school boards should digitally record their board meetings.  In Delaware, the Board Of Education, as well as several school districts, including Christina, Red Clay and Capital record their meetings and put them on their websites.  None of the charter schools do.  This is under the caveat that the executive sessions where individual private matters of discipline or legal matters are not recorded, which is the norm for those that do this already.

Proponents say it is a matter of transparency and the public has a right to know since most minutes are not an accurate assessment of what really goes on in board meetings, while opponents say it is a waste and that nobody will ever listen to them.  What do you think?  I want this to be impartial, and to avoid people going with the flow, I’m not showing the results until a week from now.  You will not be able to vote more than once!