Holy Crap! Paul Herdman and I Agree (Mostly) On Something Involving Delaware Education!

The end times are nigh.  I read an opinion piece by Paul Herdman on delawareonline and found myself agreeing with a lot of what the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware was saying.  No, I don’t have food poisoning.  I haven’t been drugged.  I didn’t slip on a banana peel and pass out.  But Dr. Paul Herdman and I both seem to agree on disagreeing with some of the cuts the Delaware Joint Finance Committee proposed a few weeks ago.  I know, I couldn’t believe it myself!

What Doc Herdman is lamenting are cuts to early childhood education and college access.  I believe every student, if they have the means and even if they can get help, should go to college.  I also think early childhood education is very important.  While the Doc and I disagree on the methods, I have to believe we both want kids to get the best education possible.  While he may think Common Core, Smarter Balanced, Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education are the best ways, I think true instruction in the classroom with teacher-created tests and assessments are the way to go.  I don’t think kids need all this educational technology in the classroom.  I don’t think we need all these leadership training classes.  Leaders should come naturally, not some profit-induced seminar brought on by Education Inc.  The best education leaders are those with advanced knowledge of education through advanced masters degrees and come up through years of teaching.

But any cuts to education aren’t good.  I wish the Doc would go a step further and go after wasteful spending at the Delaware Dept. of Education and all that trickles down to our schools as a result of their continued corporate education reform shenanigans.  I wish he would urge our General Assembly to fully fund our state auditor’s office so they can, you know, actually follow Delaware law and properly audit our school districts each year.  I was really hoping he would recommend our General Assembly (finally) implements basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, especially with his background in special education.  But I’ll take what I can get.

The final week of the 149th Delaware General Assembly’s 2017 session is going to be absolutely crazy.  I’ve told others.  It won’t be over by July 1st.  The gap is just too big and I’ve heard several legislators say “I won’t vote for the budget if (insert this cut or this attempted revenue here).”  I don’t blame them.  But some pain will have to come in this budget.  It is my fervent hope students won’t lose out.  I do support district consolidation in Delaware and while there are those who think it won’t amount to much saving, we won’t know unless we really study it.  It is my contention there would be considerable savings.  I do support shared resources, like Herdman.  Whether it is a traditional, charter, or vo-tech, why wouldn’t we come together as a state to make sure students have all the resources they need?  I don’t think school boards should be given a one-time chance to raise the match tax without a referendum as I truly believe that will hurt school districts when they do need to go out for a referendum.  If districts and charters can actually share, all students would win.  It takes some pride swallowing on both ends.  Get rid of the charter school transportation slush fund or any perks for charters out of the budget.  It only aggravates the us vs. them mentality.  Truth is, there should be no us vs. them.  It should be education for all students.  Get rid of old, antiquated laws that create any type of de facto segregation.

The truth is, the Doc and I probably agree on a lot of things but our differences cast us as polar opposites.  I’m sure he is a good guy, and yes, I think he should be taxed at a higher tax bracket along with the rest of the $150,000 and over club.  This does not mean, by any stretch, I will attempt to get on the Rodel Advisory Council.

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Cut The Admins In Districts & Schools? How Many Are There? TONS!

If there is one consistent thing I hear all over social media, it is people wanting the number of administrators and their staff in Delaware school districts and charter schools.  I am asked constantly how many there are for various schools or districts.  Robert Overmiller of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens compiled a list showing exactly how many there are.

Updated: I’ve included the below picture which shows the student ratios required to get state funding for administrator roles:

Some of these numbers are outrageous.  While it is a local school district’s decision, there are certain laws pertaining to how many administrators schools are allowed to have per student in order to get state funding for those roles.  If they go over those numbers, the funds come from local or federal funding.  For example, a Title I or special education coordinator may get funding based on federal disbursements.

If we truly want to look at education funding, this is the FIRST place to look.  Many of these positions get high salaries.  I’ve heard of some administrators who just get jobs in a district office and do nothing all day long.  Does every single administrator need a secretary?  Because that happens more than you think!  It’s the buddy system kicked into high gear.  And our teachers and students pay the price.

Delaware Auditor Report For Certain Eyes Only On School District Tax Rates For FY 2015 & 2016 Raises Questions

The Delaware Auditor of Accounts office released a report today on School District Tax Rates for the past two school years, Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016.  It shows many school districts receiving more in taxes than they were allowed based on the tax warrants.  While these were not huge amounts in many cases, a few districts raised red flags in my book.

But why is the tuition tax not included in this report?  Why is their no inspection by the Auditor’s office to make sure those funds are allocated where they are supposed to and not elsewhere?  This report is lacking in many details.  While it caught a few things, it is not enough.  Under Delaware state code, the Auditor’s office is failing in their fiduciary duty to perform what is required by the law.  You can blame that on funding and staffing issues for the Auditor of Accounts office but if Delaware State Code indicates a state office must perform a duty necessary to adhere to state law, the General Assembly MUST fund that office so they are able to carry out those duties.  Since they haven’t been, the General Assembly has been derelict in their duty.

What kills me is the end of the report:

This information is intended solely for the information and use of DOE and the management of the school districts.  It is not intended to be, and should not be, used by anyone other than these specified parties.  However, under 29 Del. C. 10002(1), this report is a public record and its distribution is not limited.  This report, as required by statute, was provided to the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Controller General, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of Management and Budget.

So how many reports are out there that the public has not seen?  I have a feeling it is quite a lot.  I smell a FOIA coming because I want to see ALL the reports that are considered public but are not listed on the Delaware Auditor of Accounts website…

Updated, 3:13pm: This is listed on the auditor’s website, but after State Rep. Earl Jaques admission that he has seen annual audits performed by the Auditor’s office for each district, I have to believe there are a ton of reports the public never sees.  Why all the secrecy?

Withholding Information: The Dangers Of Holding Back

This article originally appeared on the McAndrews Law website.  Attorney Caitlin McAndrews wrote this and it is very important!  It has pivotal information that parents of students with disabilities need to know about during the IEP process.  Parents, even with the best of intentions, can make mistakes during this process.  I agree with the author: give as much information as you possibly can to help your special needs child succeed!

Parents sometimes withhold information from School Districts, worried that the District will find a way to “use it against them.” This can include privately obtained evaluations, information from outside therapists or medical providers, or changes in medication. Though the instinct to protect your child’s privacy is understandable, withholding this type of information from the educators who work with your student typically does more harm than good.

In the example of an independent evaluation, providing the report to the District only gives them more information about how your child learns, which they should use to appropriately program for the student. Hopefully, the District will use the evaluation to help provide appropriate supports and services; but even if they do not, the family can at least say they provided all available information to the District. If parents have to go to a hearing, and they withheld a private evaluation, a hearing officer may hold that against the parent, and may question why the parent withheld outside information about the child that could have helped the District understand and program for the child.

Additionally, the private evaluation might contain information that would trigger the District’s Child Find obligation – that is, by putting the District on notice that the child has certain needs/diagnoses, and might require special education support.  If the District never saw the outside evaluation, it may be harder to prove that the District knew of the child’s disabilities.

Similarly, Districts often request permission to speak to outside providers, such as private speech/language or occupational therapists, treating psychologists, or pediatricians. This information could help the District program for your child, and withholding it can make a parent appear uncooperative in front of a hearing officer.

In general, the instinct to hold back can be a very natural and protective one, but ultimately, parents should ask themselves, “What am I afraid will happen if I share this information?” and “What good could potentially come from sharing?” In the vast majority of cases, the potential good will outweigh the potential harm.

By Caitlin McAndrews, Esq., McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.

Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan Nears Completion

facilitatedworkgroup

After some starts and stops, the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan is almost finished.  The plan has been underway since 2014 when Governor Jack Markell inserted the creation of the strategic plan in the FY2015 epilogue language of the state budget.  Matthew Korobkin, the Special Education Officer through the Secretary of Education’s office at the Delaware Dept. of Education, will give a status update on the plan to the State Board of Education at their meeting on January 19th.  This is not to be confused with the State of Delaware Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities.

Last fall, the Special Education Strategic Plan was retooled after disability advocates viewed an initial draft.  As a result of that, along with a very big push from State Rep. Kim Williams, a Facilitated Workgroup came into formation to fine tune the plan and make sure all voices were heard.  In mid-December, the newly created group had a public two-day retreat to decide what should be in the plan.  From there, sub-groups worked on different parts of the plan.  It is expected to be released for public comment at some point in February, shortly after the State Board of Education meeting next week.  From there, at some point in March, a presentation will be given to the State of Delaware Oversight Group for the Special Education Strategic Plan which includes members of the Delaware Interagency Resource Committee, a representative from Governor Carney’s office, and the Chairs of the Senate and House Joint Finance Committee.

The stakeholder workgroup has seven goals for development of the strategic plan which include the following: Students, Parents & Families, Community, Staff/Partners, Resources, Policies & Regulations, and Delivery/Structure/Systems.  Like most Strategic Plans, this one will be not be set in stone and will be considered a fluid document whereby changes and tweaks can be added as needed.  But every plan needs a foundation and what we will soon see are the building blocks for this plan.  Things can happen which could substantially change the plan including the Delaware state budget and the upcoming ruling on the United States Supreme Court special education case of Endrew v. Douglas County School District.

Various groups and committees revolving around special education have occurred in Delaware over the past decade, but this is the first time I have seen such a huge mix of school districts, parents, and advocacy groups.  The last group to form policy around special education was the IEP Task Force from 2014 which led to a large number of changes to state law and regulations.  No education plan will ever please everyone and there will be parts people love and some others disapprove of.  If there is one thing I have learned in education, it is constantly evolving and nothing will ever be perfect.  But I would encourage any and all persons who care about special education to give this plan a very careful read when it comes out and let your thoughts be known with a goal of improving education for special needs kids.

The members of the Facilitated Workgroup consist of the following:

Michele Marinucci, Woodbridge School District

Daphne Cartright, Autism Delaware

Edward Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School

Katheryn Herel, PIC of Delaware

Jon Cooper, Colonial School District

Kendall Massett, Delaware Charter Schools Network

State Representative Kim Williams, Legislator

Kristin Dwyer, DSEA

Kristin Pidgeon, Down Syndrome Association

Lisa Lawson, Brandywine School District

Mary Ann Mieczkowski, Delaware Dept. of Education

Elisha Jenkins, Division for the Visually Impaired

Bill Doolittle, Parent Advocate

Sarah Celestin, Red Clay Consolidated School District

Vincent Winterling, Delaware Autism Program

Wendy Strauss, Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens

Annalisa Ekbladh, University of Delaware Center for Disability Studies

John Marinucci, Delaware School Boards Association

Sonya Lawrence, Parent Advocate

Teresa Avery, Autism Delaware

Laurie Kettle-Rivera, Delaware School for the Deaf

Mark Campano, Delaware Statewide Programs

Josette McCullough, Appoquinimink School District

Mondaria Batchelor, Woodbridge School District

*above photo courtesy of State Rep. Kim Williams, photographed by yours truly at the 12/9 retreat

 

Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger”

If Washington D.C. is the capital of America, than Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.

Over the past week, many of us who are resisting the privatization of public education have been talking about The Ledger.  Peter Greene broke the news for the world to see, which Diane Ravitch quickly picked up on.  What is “The Ledger”? Continue reading “Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger””

Amy, Skyline, Bomb Threats, Bus Issues, Fighting, Bullying, Inclusion, Zero Tolerance: How Do We Fix The Mess?

In the wake of what happened at Howard High School of Technology a week ago, many are questioning how to fix what is happening in our schools.  There are no easy answers.  I have not heard anyone defending the perpetrators of Amy’s murder.  But I have seen people describe students who exhibit behavior issues referred to as “animals” and “they should be sent to labor camps”.  While this is an extreme, I’ve heard these types of comments more than once, and I hear it more and more.  Once we go down that path we are essentially labeling these students as helpless and stating there is nothing we can do to help them.  And let’s face facts: when people say this there is a very racist undertone and they are referring to African-Americans.  I don’t agree with it on any level and every time I see it I want to ship the people who would say things like that out of our state.

Just this school year we have seen the following: a charter school that closed mid-year due to an uncontrollable environment, a change in feeder patterns resulting in many instances of bullying at a Red Clay middle school, a bizarre number of bomb threats resulting in many schools closing for the day, a child intimidated by a bus driver in Appoquinimink, a father suing Brandywine over what he alleges are due process violations and unsubstantiated searches, students sent to hospitals as a result of fighting that are never publicly acknowledged but whispered about on social media, inclusion practices that are not working, and a student who died from a brutal assault last week at Howard.

As our state grapples with these issues, we have not seen solutions put forth that look at the big picture.  Why are our students acting out?  Why are many of our schools attempting to hide many of these issues?  I have attended many State Board of Education meetings this year and I listen to their audio recordings.  We don’t hear them discussing these kinds of issues too much, if at all.  They seem to be more concerned with student outcomes based on standardized tests, Pathways programs, charter schools, accountability for schools, and celebrating the good things in our schools while giving short shrift to the issues that truly impact school climate.

It starts there.  To get to the heart of issues like this, you have to start at the top and have it trickle down to the Superintendents or Heads of School, to the building administrators, to the teachers, to the students and to the community.  If we have that massive disconnect at the top, the issues can never truly be addressed.  If our State Board and legislators can’t get these matters fixed, how can we expect our schools to do so?

To adequately blame one thing that started a lot of this, we can blame zero tolerance.  After the Columbine shootings in 1999, a massive wave of zero tolerance spread throughout America.  No school wanted to have a situation like that on their hands.  Students would be suspended for frivolous things.  It got to a point in Delaware where an African-American first grader was expelled in the Christina School District for having a cake knife.  As a result of that one bad judgment call, a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resulted in the district entering an agreement with the OCR.  Because the OCR ruled too many minority student suspensions were happening, the district had to be very careful about how they were meting punishment to students.  Other districts saw what happened to Christina and didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

As a result, there was no consistency throughout the state on best practices.  For all the accountability and “standardization” of students based on very flawed state assessments, there has never been any definitive set of standards for school discipline and school climate.  There is no consistency with how schools report instances of bullying, offensive touching, and fighting.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn pointed this out many times but there has been no direct accountability to schools over these issues.  Part of the problem with discipline issues is the unique nature of them.  Because of student privacy and FERPA regulations, many situations can’t be discussed publicly.  There is no accurate tracking method to make sure our schools are recording these instances on the state reporting system, E-school, as required by state law within a set time period.  The result is very bad data in the one area we actually need it the most.  Add in special education issues and behaviors exhibited by students with disabilities.  Is it a result of their disability or is it everyday behavior?  Sometimes we just don’t know.

Some schools are very faithful with recording issues, but far too many aren’t.  How do we know which schools need help with issues if they aren’t being 100% honest about what is going on in their halls?  What shape would that help even be?  If it is a punitive measure from the state, is that going to solve the problem or persuade schools to hide things better?  Non-profits and corporations are lining up to get into our schools to offer what amounts to for-profit assistance.  Under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a call for companies to come into our schools like never before to offer after-school programs and to turn our schools into all-day community centers.  As well, we are seeing some states allowing companies to essentially bet on student outcomes in return for financial profit through social impact bonds.  Many of these ideas are concerning to parents.  Should schools be a place where medical and therapeutic treatment for students occur?  For neglected and abused children, this could be a life-saving measure for those children.  But it also opens up more of our public education system to less control at the local level.  Many feel government should not even be allowed to write something like this into any law.  The Elementary/Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was designed to make sure minority students were given equal footing in schools and were not disadvantaged.  Written in 1965, its goal was actually simple: equal rights for all.  Fifty years later, we are still tackling many of the original issues.  But now we want to turn our schools into more than what they should be.

As far as this insane filming of fights in our schools, it is a new environment with no oversight.  Students want to become social media famous because people come to their profile to look at it.  Something needs to happen immediately.  It is fostering an environment that is not healthy and desensitizes kids to violence.  Even community Facebook pages that have nothing but street fights on them exist unchecked and unmonitored.  In some of these videos, you actually see people telling others how to evade the police and they give warnings when the police are in the area.  For some reason, students are fascinated by this.  But the effect is chilling.  As well, the role of technology in our schools and homes is greater than ever.  But why are we allowing students to carry iPhones around school?  How much of the violence from gaming is warping young minds?  For that matter, what is all this screen time doing to all our brains?

If Amy’s tragic death has shown us anything it is that something is very broken.  We have to fix it, no matter what.  Amy’s situation is by far the worst thing that could happen to a student in school.  But many students bare physical and emotional scars from this broken system.  They are the survivors of fights and bullying that cause trauma to the soul, if not the physical.  On the flip side, we have students like Patrick Wahl’s son Joseph who many view as a victim of very bizarre due process circumstances for a district that still follows zero tolerance tendencies.  There are good things happening in our schools.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  We see students participating in charity events and giving back to their community on many levels.  But that can’t be all the public sees.  We have to look at the bad too.  We can’t put a blanket over the violence in our schools and pretend it isn’t there.  Amy’s death shattered that illusion in our state.

In the shadow of all this is the other illusion the state has cast on parents.  Many parents judge schools based on their performance without realizing the measurement of that performance is fundamentally flawed.  To get a basic breakdown of how this works, many years ago corporations decided they could make money off education.  They tailored reports to give the illusion that “the sky is falling” and all students were in danger of falling behind other countries.  Politicians jumped on the bandwagon through concerted lobbying efforts on the part of these companies, and soon enough new laws came down from a federal level based on student outcomes from standardized tests.  No Child Left Behind opened the door but Race To The Top opened the floodgates for this corporate invasion.  As schools were labeled and shamed under “school turnaround” laws, the US DOE started their ESEA flexibility waiver scheme.  They bribed schools with money to further these agendas.  Our schools and districts took the money with immense pressure from state governments during a recession.  A dramatic shift in school climate happened.  As more and more teachers took part in professional development to train them on the Common Core and other company initiatives, something happened to students.  They were not supervised the way they were prior to all of this and they found new ways to usurp authority, especially in schools with large populations of high-needs students.  Add in the situation with the OCR in Christina, and it was a recipe for disaster.  Diane Ravitch wrote today about the fifteen years of “fake” reform and how the impetus behind it all, NAEP scores, show students who are now seniors more behind than they were compared to their counterparts in 1992.  Common Core doesn’t work.

What if what we are seeing with student behavior and the reasons behind it are all wrong?  What if those who come from poverty, special needs, and low-income minority populations isn’t just misbehavior but something else altogether?  What if it is a direct result of a system designed for conformity?  The supposed goal of the Common Core was to make all students get the same set of standards across the country.  I hear many consistent things from parents in Delaware.  For smarter kids, Common Core isn’t so tough once they get it.  But for struggling students, basically the ones from sub-groups that perform poorly on state assessments, it is much more difficult.  Perhaps what we are seeing with this absolute disregard of authority in schools is a natural defense mechanism kicking in.  A fight or flight mechanism when their way of living, of being, is attacked.  The natural instinct for teenagers is to rebel.  Compound that with an entire education system designed to make students question authority less and use “critical thinking” based on standards that actually give children less choices, and something will give.  We are seeing this now.  And if we continue on the same track, it will get far worse.  If a “smart” student gets it faster, it would naturally put other students behind.  This is the impossible bar the Common Core puts on students.  For the intelligent who come from wealthier and more cohesive home environments, this isn’t a problem.  But for students with disabilities who cannot always control their actions and minority students who do not have the environmental stability their more advantaged peers have, it will take a great deal of effort to catch up with their peers.  Add in the stress and anxiety they have from their environment outside of school to the pressure to perform in school, and the pressure gage gets higher.  Then add the explosive need every teenager has, to belong and have friends, and the gage gets closer to the point of no return.  Throw in a fixation on violence mixed with wanting to be accepted and the Pompeii of public education is set.  Last week we saw the volcanic eruption of rage unchecked and bystanders filming it and doing nothing.

The biggest victims of the education reform movement are inner-city African-American students.  While civil rights groups demanded more equity for these students they fell into the trap the corporate education reformers methodically laid out for them with financial enticements.  The reformers echoed their complaints and pitted parents against teachers.  The reformers used standardized test scores to give a false impression of schools and invented a whole new language based on the word “gap”: the equity gap, the proficiency gap, the honesty gap, and on and on and on.  Add in school choice, a growing charter school movement, forced busing based on a horrible Neighborhood Schools Act in Delaware, and the rise of Jack Markell as Governor wrapped in a corporate bow and the perfect storm began in our schools.

To ignore the plight of African-Americans in Delaware would be a gross injustice.  It goes way beyond apologizing for slavery.  A friend of mine sent me an article about the 1968 Occupation of Wilmington.  The article written by Will Bunch with philly.com talked about the nine-month Occupation of Wilmington by the National Guard following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  For the African-American community in Wilmington at the time, this was a grave injustice:

On the other hand, in a sign of some of the deep divide and mistrust in Delaware that lingers to this day, the white Democratic governor down in Dover decided to send in the National Guard – and then kept troops on the streets of Wilmington for nine long months, the longest military occupation of a U.S. city since the Civil War.

And this quote from former Wilmington Mayor James Baker:

But the memory still burns for those who lived through the occupation. “It sent a shock wave through the social-service agencies . . . and the city as a whole,” Baker recalled. “People said, ‘What are we doing?’ “

Many African-American communities in Wilmington are very distrustful of the government, and for very good reasons.  This belief gets handed down from generation to generation.  But when drugs enter a city like Wilmington, followed by violence and murders, that distrust can get out of control.  How do we tackle this?  How do we lift a whole city out of a problem of this magnitude?  When my friend sent me this article, it was a response to my question about why we don’t just send in tons of cops and clean it all up, all the drugs and gangs.  She informed me the last time this happened it didn’t work out too well.  It astonishes me that we are still dealing with issues of race in the 21st Century, but we are and we need to face it and deal with it, all of us.  But at the same time, we cannot ignore what individuals are doing in individual circumstances.

We need to be very careful on how we plan to deal with the situations in far too many of our schools.  Far too much is tied into the very bad education reforms that show, time and time again, how it just doesn’t work.  But our current system has been infiltrated with far too many people tied to these efforts.  I expected to see a late rush of legislation coming forth at Legislative Hall in the final days of June.  With very little community input and transparency, we need to watch our legislators like a hawk and make sure what they put forth is best for students and not the broken system some of them are trying desperately to make permanent.  The funding mechanisms for our schools are under the microscope, but if we squeeze the property assessment orange too fast, it could cause many to leave the state they moved to because of low taxes.  As well, we need to be mindful of laws Delaware could pass in anticipation of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The law is still being flushed out in a lot of areas and the DOE and Governor Markell WILL take full advantage of that to please the hedge funders and corporations.

If businesses want to come into our schools and turn them into community schools, they should pay rent to our schools.  If they want to turn education into a marketplace, like any other store they need to pay their rent.  Why are we giving them a free ride while they make millions and millions and our districts get less?  It makes no sense when you look at it like a business model.  But no, our state wants to give them tax discounts for doing business in our state.  We are giving them free reign to pump out the same products over and over again with no actual results.

While these aren’t the solutions we need to make our schools safer, it is a big start.  Our district administrators are far too distracted with all of the nonsense around Common Core, state assessments, personalized learning, and career pathways when they should be focused on the more important things.  The first steps to ending violence in our schools are actually quite simple.  A rebellion like none seen before in public education.  A collective and concerted effort to rid ourselves of the catalysts that are stroking the flames in our children’s lives.  End Common Core.  End state assessments.  End the testing accountability machine that destroys morale in students, teachers, and schools.  End the corporate interference in education that perpetuates the false ideals that if students have more “rigor” and “grit” they can become college and career ready.  We are indoctrinating children at a very young age to be something they are not meant to be.  The human mind won’t allow it.  Some will conform.  But for the growing poor and disabled in our country, they will not be what the reformers want them to be.  You can’t guide a four-year old towards a certain career path based on data and scores.  You can’t say they don’t qualify for special education if a disability has not manifested itself yet.  End the abhorrent amount of data collection on our students for “educational research”.

This is the start.  Let’s get back to more human education.  Why are we doing this to our future?  No child should be a victim of a padded resume or a fattened wallet.  The majority of teachers will tell you privately what we are doing is not working.  Administrators will as well if you catch them on a good day.  But they feel threatened that if they don’t comply their profession will disappear.  They will fight for certain things but when they need to openly rebel against the system, it doesn’t happen.  It is their self-defense mechanism.  The closest we have come to ending this era of education reform is opt out.  But even that is in danger of disappearing if the education tech invaders get their way and have the state assessment embedded in small chunks instead of a once a year test.  The personalized learning and competency-based education models are already calling for this.

When I hear people say “all you do is complain, what are your solutions?”, I cringe.  The problem is so epic in scope, so large in diameter, that it will take a great deal of effort by many well-meaning people to find all the answers.  And when I say well-meaning, I don’t mean the Rodel Foundation or the Governor.  I mean the people who are not affected by corporate greed and a lust for power.  I’m talking about the people who truly want to save our children.

The Sokola Williams House Bill 186 Charter Funding “Town Hall” Debate: What If We Are All Wrong?

Sometimes the best conversations happen when there is a freedom to it with no strings attached, just honest questions and answers.  Yesterday, Senator David Sokola responded to a post of Mike Matthews on Facebook about House Bill 186 and Senate Bill 171.  The two competing bills both deal with charter audits. What happened next on the “debate” was pleasantly surprising.  I actually admire Sokola for entering into what I’m sure he knew could be “hostile territory” so to speak.  What ensued was very interesting.

Here is the bottom line, as I wrote in one of the final replies on this: something needs to be done to make sure the charter school fraud just stops.  We can’t have school leaders going rogue and raiding the public coffers.  It’s just wrong.  I think House Bill 186 would prevent that quite a bit.  Will it prevent any school employee from ever absconding money for personal use?  No, I don’t think anyone could ever 100% stop that.  But it is one hell of a deterrent.  There are more than enough issues with school funding in Delaware, the last thing we need is for one cent to be wasted like this.  It is criminal, it is illegal, and it needs to end.

Given all that has occurred since Senate Bill 171 was introduced last week, I would actually love to hear Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network response to this thread.  So I invite Kendall to comment on here.  This is not a free-for-all to jump on her should she take up the invite.  It is just a debate about the issues at hand.  If Kendall does take me up on this, I believe it could shed light on what the charters may be looking at for this.

In my opinion, the way charters were set up in Delaware is miles away from the present reality.  It is much more visible in New Castle County, but the whole traditional school district/charter school debate has morphed into something with both sides pitted against each other.  I will fully admit it’s something I’ve been guilty of.  But is it good for the education landscape of Delaware?  Should charters be funded separately from regular school districts?  But even bigger than that is the competition.  This need to be the best school in the state and all that comes with that.  Since the catalyst for that is standardized test scores, what would happen if those scores all of a sudden didn’t hold the weight they currently have?  What if schools were judged on their own merits, good or bad, based on something not so exact?

Our Department of Education, in line with the US DOE, certainly set up this kind of environment.  But let’s get real for a moment.  The traditional districts and the charters aren’t going anywhere.  I know I’ll probably get shot for even bringing this up, but a lot of us look at education in Delaware under the lens of how the charters affect the schools around them.  But I’m going to attempt to look at this from the charter perspective.  They view themselves as not getting as much money as districts, thus their assumption they do “more with less”.  In defense of that, they don’t have the sheer size and multiple capital costs the way districts do, so there is that.  Most of their teachers are not unionized, so turnover is most likely greater.  So they need to retain their good teachers and find ways to keep them and attract them to their schools.  They also need to make sure their enrollment stays at certain levels or the DOE will come after them.  To do that, they need to make their schools look as attractive as possible, so they need to sell it as such.  While some schools do indeed have enrollment preferences that are very questionable, a lot of them do not.  But still, the lure of charters for many parents is the escape from the local school districts who do “less with more”.  Most parents who are engaged at that level, and have made a choice to keep their kids out of a district, will certainly be more active in their child’s education, which results in more of a collaborative relationship between charter parents and their schools.  But the flip side to all of this, as those students who most likely have more parental engagement with their child’s education (not all) and  pull their kids out of districts, it has a rebound effect on the traditionals.  It can draw out the “better” students resulting in more issues at the local level for the remaining students.  This is certainly not the case in every school in every district, but we have seen this happen in Wilmington most of all.

So how do we get around all of this and work to make both co-exist?  The conversation gets very heated very quick with parties pointing fingers and making declaratory statements that don’t serve to solve the issues but actually polarize both sides into their position of defense.  As a result, we see legislators with differing opinions proposing laws that the other side opposes.  In the case of the charter audit bills, Kim Williams wins that one, hands down.  Will it cost charters more money?  Like I’ve said before, probably.  But we should have never reached this point.  It should have always been equitable for both when it comes to audits.  It isn’t now, and it wouldn’t be with Senator Sokola’s bill.  I’m not saying this cause I like Kim better than Dave, I’m saying it cause it makes sense.  There are some Republican bills I think make a lot of sense, and vice versa.  But let’s face it, the Democrats have controlled Delaware for a long time now, so their bills tend to get more press and traction because of that control.

This is what I would like to eventually see in the charter/traditional debate.  All schools, be it charters, magnets, or vo-techs, have no enrollment preferences whatsoever.  This would put everyone on the same level playing field.  As well, charter schools should be funded the same way vo-techs are.  But there could still be a problem of a district shedding students as we see in Christina.  How do we solve that issue?  Not an easy answer.  When districts do lose a lot of students, it is bound to cause financial concerns.  But obviously we can’t just close districts.  But we can’t let them go to the poorhouse either.  And when a referendum goes south, it doesn’t just affect the traditional school districts, it flows into charters that receive the funding for those students.

Finally, our legislators need to find a way to minimize the importance of standardized testing.  At a state level, not a district level where those assessments do actually help students.  I posted an article on American Institutes for Research last September where their CEO admits standardized testing is actually accountability tests against teachers and schools.  Because our states and federal government have allowed this to happen.  They set up this crazy chess match but is very bad for schools, students, teachers, administrators, and even communities.  Whenever there are high-stakes, there are also consequences.  While some are intended, others are not.  Setting our schools up to compete against each other can bring innovation, but then it becomes a matter of “who has the better test scores?”  It’s not good, it’s not healthy, and this is leading all our students into the assumption that if they do well on a once-a -year test they are actually a success and “college and career ready”.   But even more dangerous, the schools actually think this and instruction is aimed around the test as opposed to the individual student and their own individual success.  The question that always comes up after this argument from the proponents of standardized testing is “How do we measure our student’s progress?”  There are measurements that don’t have to be the focal point of everything.  But yet our DOE has the Smarter Balanced Assessment with most of the weight on the Delaware School Success Framework.

Until we can get out of this testing obsession, nothing will ever change.  If charters and traditional school districts want to survive, they should join together to eliminate this abusive practice, not to perpetuate it.  There is no stability in it, and it is very destructive.  To those who do profit off this, they truly don’t care.  As long as they are making money.  This should be something parents of students should want as well.  They may not see it now, but they certainly will after their child graduates and they find they are really struggling in college.  This is why we are seeing more students taking college-level courses in our high schools because even the corporate education reformers know this.  But what we should really be doing is focusing less on test scores and letting children progress naturally in schools without the test stress.  So by the time they go to college, they are ready for what comes next.  College is supposed to be hard.  It shouldn’t be easy.  If we are seeing so many kids taking remedial classes, maybe this isn’t a reflection on our schools but on the emphasis society places on test scores.

For me personally, I care deeply about these issues.  Because I believe the students that pay the price the most are those who need the most.  By leading all students toward these very specific goals of “proficiency” and “growth”, we are allowing students with disabilities and those who come from poverty to start at the gate with a disadvantage.  And wanting to “close the gaps” without changing their inherent disadvantages results in an explosion just waiting to happen.  I’m not saying these kids can’t learn, or that they don’t want to learn.  But the instruction they need may not be the same for their regular peers.  If the end goal of accommodations is to make a student do better on a test, then we are losing sight of the true picture.  We can’t erase a disability or poverty in schools.  There are far too many outside factors to make that ever happen.

The charter/district debate is a systemic issue, but it is symptomatic of the far greater disease: standardized testing.  We have many excellent teachers who can become even better by allowing them to flourish in an environment that isn’t poisoned and set up as a competition.  Education isn’t a race.  It isn’t a contest.  It is education.  No child learns the same, and no child tests the same.  It needs to stop.  Until our leaders learn this, parents will continue to opt out.  At greater numbers than each year before.  Because we see it and we have the power to act on it.  Sooner or later they will get the message.  But in the meantime, the reformers and leaders continue to spin their wheels looking for the next big thing in order for them to survive.  They do not care if a school is doing bad.  They love it and they will pounce on it.  They use our schools and students so they can get rich.  And their method of measurement: the standardized test.  And far too many lap it up and believe it.

 

 

Delaware Quarterly District, Charter & DOE Expense & P-Card Spending

We are already a quarter of the way into Fiscal Year 2016.  I went through Delaware Online Checkbook and the Delaware Online Credit Card Transactions and made lists of which districts and charters spend the most.  Since the procurement card (also known as P-Card) is also a part of the total spending, I made two different lists.  As well, I put in all the major education reform companies the DOE shells funds out to, along with our state universities and colleges.  One thing to keep in mind is that P-Card spending is not an admission of guilt to financial abuse.  Many districts and charters use them for easier use of spending.  While some charters have been under the gun in the past couple years over this kind of abuse, it is not a general practice.

Total 1st Quarter Spending for FY2016
School Districts:
Christina $65,949,468
Red Clay $64,359,994
Brandywine $38,941,201
Indian River $34,451,340
Colonial $33,581,753
Appoquinimink $27,235,242
Capital $26,920,056
Caesar Rodney $25,365,753
Cape Henlopen $24,462,771
New Castle Co. Vo-Tech $20,459,061
Smyrna $18,781,120
Lake Forest $13,360,017
Seaford $12,380,371
Milford $11,056,539
Woodbridge $7,931,473
Laurel $7,513,240
Sussex Technical $7,401,832
Poly-tech $6,775,292
Delmar $3,303,696
Charters:
Newark Charter $7,513,240
Odyssey $3,820,528
MOT $2,714,233
Charter School of Wilmington $2,157,353
Thomas Edison $1,987,107
Providence Creek $1,890,432
Kuumba $1,769,796
Del. Military Academy $1,641,501
East Side $1,619,359
Family Foundations $1,615,134
Las Americas Aspiras $1,611,533
Sussex Academy $1,566,229
Del. Acad. Public Safety $1,065,013
Gateway Lab School $991,959
Campus Community $966,644
Prestige Academy $938,260
Academy of Dover $937,442
Positive Outcomes $741,137
First State Montessori $718,311
Early College High School $651,222
Academia Antonio Alonso $645,448
Delaware Met $518,340
Freire $492,507
Delaware College Prep $478,976
Great Oaks $430,763
First State Military $293,564
Delaware Design Lab $236,174
Delaware STEM Academy $829.15
Department of Education and sub-groups within DOE:
Department of Education $28,311,420
Special Needs Programs $7,414,664
Driver Training $303,940
Education Block Grants $239,953
Transportation $970,166
Advisory Council $70,974
DOE Education Expenses unless noted:
Achievement Network $69,000
Advanced Educaction Products $13,181
American Institutes For Research $2,048,269
Applied Technologies $107,480
Bloomboard $48,000
Delaware Community Foundation $93,381
Delaware Technical College (entire state spending) $11,363
Delaware State Educators Association $937,417
Delaware State University (entire state spending) $795,514
Derek J. Nino (Relay) $13,240
Double Line $95,515
Education Analytics $125,700
Education First Consulting $21,868
Education Pioneers $40,000
Empower Education Consulting $10,900
ESP Solutions Group $20,560
Essential Teaching & Learning $18,722
Evergreen Evaluation $11,700
Federal Education Group $87,725
Greatschools $15,000
Harris Mackessy Brennan $165,000
Hendy Avenue Consulting $43,900
iAssessment $49,999
Innovative Schools $618,441
Insight Public Sector $620,566
Jobs For Delaware Graduates $921,255
KSA Plus Communications $39,105
Marshall Consulting $15,500
Mass Insight $360,000
MH Miles Company CPA $66,800
Middlebury Interactive Language $26,146
Myriam Met $14,000
National Louis University $23,313
NCS Pearson $83,600
NCS Pearson (Districts and Charters) $465,428
New Teacher Center $29,962
Partnership to Advance Learning $26,000
Rand Corporation $156,136
Research For Action $100,000
Richard Colvin $18,200
Rodel Foundation $175,000
Ronald Berry $14,000
Schoology $264,588
Sungard Public Sector $948,245
Teach For America $35,143
Teaching Strategies $114,228
Tembo Inc. $85,000
The Center For Better Schools $28,000
The Hanover Research Council $33,000
The New Teacher Project $20,000
Transact Communications $14,750
University of Delaware (entire state spending) $41,111,614
University of Wisconsin-Madison $110,492
US Education Delivery Institute $20,793
Wesley College (entire state spending) $242,452

Total Procurement Card Spending 1st Quarter FY2016

School Districts:
Cape Henlopen $219,585
Appoquinimink $180,107
Red Clay $147,338
Sussex Technical $140,334
Poly-tech $81,610
Seaford $71,230
Colonial $63,021
Lake Forest $62,102
Delmar $58,599
Capital $45,762
Milford $28,486
Brandywine $25,431
Caesar Rodney $22,563
Smyrna $22,487
Woodbridge $20,612
Indian River $17,890
New Castle Co. Vo-Tech $17,427
Christina $16,715
Laurel $0.00
Charters:
MOT $88,221
Kuumba $48,971
East Side $48,349
Thomas Edison $37,808
Sussex Academy $30,137
Positive Outcomes $24,653
Odyssey $24,632
Las Americas Aspiras $20,924
Charter School of Wilmington $19,077
Delaware College Prep $12,972
Family Foundations $12,597
Del. Military Academy $12,428
Campus Community $9,942
*Academia Antonio Alonso $0.00
*Academy of Dover $0.00
*Del. Acad. Public Safety $0.00
Delaware Design Lab $0.00
*Delaware Met $0.00
*Delaware STEM Academy $0.00
*Early College High School $0.00
*First State Military $0.00
*First State Montessori $0.00
Freire $0.00
Gateway Lab School $0.00
*Great Oaks $0.00
Newark Charter $0.00
Prestige Academy $0.00
*Providence Creek $0.00
*indicates Innovative Schools handles bookkeeping for those schools
Department of Education and related organizations:
Department of Education $113,915
Education Block Grants $28,504
Special Needs Programs $24,449
Gov. Adv. Council $1,078
Advisory Council $879
Transportation $434

How Can Title I Funds Be Distributed In Delaware School Districts And Charters?

Since I’ve been posting articles the past couple days about Title I funding from the feds, I’ve received many questions about how these funds can be allocated.  There is no simple answer as the below document from the Delaware Department of Education will show.  This must be an accountant or auditor’s worst nightmare, trying to keep up with district budgets!

In addition, the formula was definitely changed in the past couple years based on this email from the DOE:

Low Socio-Economic Status (SES)

As many of you are aware, the USDA has made changes to the School Nutrition Programs. Most recently is the introduction of Community Eligibility.

In the past, the school nutrition program meal benefit eligibility forms have been the source data for low income determination.  As you may remember, in March 2013 we told you that we would be moving to the DHSS Alternative Poverty (SNAP, TANF or Medicaid) measure for low socio economic status for 2013-14.  Over the past year, we continued to get guidance from USDA and USED regarding these programs and application to other programs.

Based on this new information, the state will move to a standardized low socio-economic status measure. The new measure is Direct Certification or Direct Cert.  This measure includes SNAP or TANF and does not include Medicaid.  We strongly believe this is the purest measure of low socio economic status.  In addition, the sharing of student level data is allowable for specific purposes.  With Medicaid, there are potential issues of HIPPA.

The new low income indicator is defined to be:
A student is Low-SES if any one of the following two indicator is yes:
o  TANF (Public assistance)
o  SNAP (Food stamp)

For purposes of eSchool, the new indicator will be named: Low-Income.  This is to distinguish from Low-SES that is used for the past four years.  A separate data column in eSchool will be created for the new indicator.  It will be co-existence with LOW-SES for the past years so that historical low-SES data will not be interrupted.

The new indicator will APPLY TO 2013-2014 DATA AND BEYOND starting from Fall 2013 DCAS reporting and all federal and state reporting including EDEN and school profiles.  We may have instances where we will do a look-back with the Direct Certification data for trend purposes.

Districts are still able to use a different measure of poverty when distributing funds and providing services to their schools.  The DDOE will not be collecting free and reduced lunch price information in the future, unless legislatively mandated to do so.  If you do collect information through another means, you will be expected to secure those data appropriately. 

We know we have reports online and published that have a different methodologies for low SES.  Our plan is to highlight the change in methodology on these reports, and to be clear on any reports to you, which method of low SES we are using or had been used.

This email was sent to school leaders on May 30th, 2014…

Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Final Report

After months of hard work, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee issued its final report today.  This mammoth 204 page report has many suggestions based on interviews, research and community input.  Please read the below report.  I will post my own thoughts in an update on this article after I have read through the entire report.

 

WEAC’s Tony Allen Is The Busiest Man in Delaware!

The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee is completely transparent with their meetings with individuals outside the committee.  I applaud this level of transparency!  Tony Allen, the Chair of WEAC, has been extremely busy.  When does this man sleep?

How Are Delaware Students Benefitting From Superintendent Salaries?

It is not Mark Murphy.  This honor belongs to Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.  According to a Delawareonline report issued today with a top ten list of the state’s highest paid employees, Holodick made $215,043.72 in 2014.  Even our own Governor Markell ranked at 85th on the list with his income of $171,000.03.  This seems like a very large salary for a district superintendent.

In 2014, Delaware Online listed all state employees making over $100,000.  This list can be found here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/04/05/data-top-state-salaries/7312283/

I went through the list for each charter and school district listed, and pulled out the following:

Noel Rodriguez, Academy of Dover, $119,432

Matthew Burrows, Appoquinimink, $152,660, 31 over $100k

Mark Holodick, Brandywine, $214,176, 71 over $100k

Kevin Fitzgerald, Caesar Rodney, $162,547, 26 over $100k

Robert Fulton, Cape Henlopen, $154,821, 32 over $100k

Michael Thomas, Capital, $199,564, 35 over $100k

Samuel Paoli, Charter School of Wilmington, $116,368, 3 over $100k

Freeman Williams, Christina, $192,088, 108 over $100k

Dorothy Linn, Colonial, $185,724, 54 over $100k

Charles Hughes, DE Academy of Public Safety, $129,433

Angela Dennis, Delaware College Prep, $115,448

Anthony Pullela, Delaware Military Academy, $111,777

David Ring, Delmar, $139,260, 3 over $100k

Mark Murphy, DOE, $160,144.92, 58 over $100k

Lamont Browne, EastSide Charter, $143,633

Tennell Brewington, Family Foundations Academy, $127,418, 2 over $100k

Susan Bunting, Indian River, $165,885, 21 over $100k

David Curry, Lake Forest, $147,374, 12 over $100k

John Ewald, Laurel, $138,660

Phyllis Koehl, Milford, $146,897, 14 over $100k

Linda Jennings, MOT Charter, $125,845, 3 over $100k

Victoria Gehrt, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech, $184,433, 43 over $100k

Greg Meece, Newark Charter School, $153,788, 4 over $100k

Nick Manolakos, Odyssey Charter, $115,423

Deborah Zych, Polytech, $152,365, 8 over $100k

Audrey Erschen, Providence Creek, $112,679

Mervin Daugherty, Red Clay, $174,931, 103 over $100k

Shawn Joseph, Seaford, $172,502.24, 12 over $100k

Deborah Wicks, Smyrna, $151,645, 17 over $100k

Allen Stafford, Sussex Academy, $106,604

Allen Lathbury, Sussex Tech, $164,361, 14 over $100k

Salome Thomas-EL, Thomas Edison Charter, $133,486

Heath Chasanov, Woodbridge, $135,544, 7 over $100k

It’s become obvious the number of districts and charter schools in Delaware has caused a great deal of money to go towards administrative positions.  For a state with three counties, we have 19 school districts, and many charters.  Even Matt Denn, now Attorney General, spoke out on this issue in 2012:

“A report issued by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn in 2012 found that if all school districts spent as much money on “direct educational services” as the top five, the state would free up an addition $2.1 million for classrooms.

“We’re still spending too much on administration versus classroom, both at the state level and at the district level,” said Denn, adding that districts should explore ways to share administrative functions.”

In my opinion, I completely agree with Denn’s position on this, as written by Matthew Albright for the News Journal in a link found here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/04/05/state-employees-earned-k-last-year/7355333/

This state has an extreme amount of bloated salaries, but I don’t see the benefits for this money going to the students.  Perhaps it’s time for more than just a look at Wilmington’s school districts…

 

 

Why Schools Need To Be Okay With Upset Parents of Students With Disabilities

I posted my last article of 2014 last night, and I talked about how my son needed an MRI after he received a concussion at his school stemming from his 8th physical assault since the end of August.  Since then, the number one question I have received is why.  That’s not an easy question for me to answer.  If I knew the answer I could try to fix the problem

It’s very easy for me to focus on Priority Schools, FOIAs, charter school financial mismanagement and non-profit tax forms for educational lobbyist groups.  The answers come very easy for me with just a little bit of investigation.  Disability bullying is a very tough topic.  It’s personal for me because it involves my son.  And I will need help from other parents who have gone through or are going through these types of ordeals.  This needs to be an ongoing conversations between parents and schools.  It can’t just be the schools. Continue reading “Why Schools Need To Be Okay With Upset Parents of Students With Disabilities”

DOOM Guide: Facebook Opt-Out Groups For All Districts In Delaware & More

I’ve taken the liberty of creating Facebook groups for each school district in Delaware.  This way parents can get together and plan opt-out strategies together.  I suggested going to the school board meeting in your district, speak for 20 seconds about who your child or children are, that you want them to opt out, and give an opt out letter to the school board president.  The original article for that from a week ago was here:

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/doom-comes-to-schools-in-delaware-parents-go-to-school-board-meetings-this-month-and-do-this-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-dwablog-nannyfat-ecpaige-netde-edude/

What do you need to do?  Join your district opt out group on Facebook, and SPREAD THE WORD. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your enemies, tell anyone who will listen!  Just talk about it.  If you want to be really radical, tell people at church, put flyers on windshields at your local grocery store, give them to parents at school sporting events, just do SOMETHING!  Because if you do nothing, nothing will happen.  Share this link on Facebook, put it on Twitter, Instagram, wherever you can!  Make opt out cupcakes for kids at Halloween!

To get a quick link to all the Facebook groups for each district, just go to this list:

Appoquinimink: https://www.facebook.com/groups/811176278901676/

Brandywine: https://www.facebook.com/groups/750657841672044/

Caesar Rodney: https://www.facebook.com/groups/330217710494265/

Cape Henlopen: https://www.facebook.com/groups/659590697473347/

Capital: https://www.facebook.com/groups/capitaloptout/

Christina: https://www.facebook.com/groups/739051449503566/

Colonial: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1492448737676855/

Delmar: https://www.facebook.com/groups/659590697473347/

Indian River: https://www.facebook.com/groups/343734129141847/

Lake Forest: https://www.facebook.com/groups/328549060664391/

Laurel: https://www.facebook.com/groups/375501729267620/

Milford: https://www.facebook.com/groups/578841975553978/

New Castle County Vo-Tech: https://www.facebook.com/groups/703996539678113/

Polytech: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1491857177767603/

Red Clay Consolidated: https://www.facebook.com/groups/290247144492167/

Seaford: https://www.facebook.com/groups/557562024345929/

Smyrna: https://www.facebook.com/groups/640600302723389/

Sussex Tech: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1522571074626892/

Woodbridge: https://www.facebook.com/groups/556125087864842/

All Charter Schools in Delaware: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1477351309213561/

If you want to know all the reasons why Common Core is bad for your child, I highly recommend joining this group:

Delaware Against Common Core: https://www.facebook.com/groups/157115501116902/

If you are against what the Governor Markell, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the Delaware Department of Education are doing with the “priority schools”, please join this group:

Delaware Parents Against Priority Schools: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1474847392802505/

I will also keep this in my menu guide with links below the title of this blog.

It’s past time parents started taking their children’s education back and helped to get rid of Common Core and standardized testing once and for all.  It will never happen if you do nothing.  It is controversial, and it will piss people off, but if enough of us do it, things will change.

Capital School District in Dover has a board meeting Wednesday night (October 15th) and already has this on their agenda for discussion.  They want and need parent support.

3.10 State Assessment Parent Opt Out (Resolution No. 15-041)

Parents aren’t the only ones thinking opt out is a good choice, so you are not alone on this if you are already leaning towards it.  It’s a big choice, I understand.  Some may ask if I’ve opted my own son out.  Yes I did.  I did it through a letter to the editor in the Delaware State News, which posted on October 7th.  But if that isn’t sufficient, I will be at the Capital Board meeting, and I will do what I am asking every parent of a student in Delaware to do at a board meeting.  It is actually a relief once you do it, like a great weight has been lifted.  Yes, you will get grief for it, but your kid won’t have to take the test. It may start small and you will feel like a voice crying out in the wilderness.  That’s okay, I feel like I’ve been doing that sometimes for the past six months!  Whatever your differences, where you come from, what you do, who you are- none of that matters.  It’s what’s best for our children.

Please go and join the Facebook page for your district.  I will stay on as admin until things get up and running, and then if you want to be an admin just let me know!  Thank you Delaware parents, and please do the right thing for your child.

US Senator Wants to Improve Special Education for Parents and Increase IDEA Funding #netde #eduDE @DEStateBoardEd

United States Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, wants to improve IDEA and make it better for parents.  In a recent article on Disability Scoop, Harkness stated he has introduced legislation that will allow parents to recoup their fees for expert witnesses in a due process hearing if they prevail.

In 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled parents can get their attorney feeds paid by the school district if they win, but they were still on the hook for the expert witnesses.  These witnesses could include doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, or neurologists.  All of which charge hourly for witness testimony at more than their typical hourly rate.

According to the Disability Scoop article:

“Without access to expert witnesses, families may be unable to make an argument for the educational needs of their children,” Harkin said. “This legislation is an essential step for protecting the rights of students with disabilities and ensuring that all families, regardless of their financial resources, can advocate for and protect their children’s rights through due process, consistent with congressional intent.”

As well, Senator Harkin has introduced other legislation which would allow for IDEA to gradually increase their funding until they reach the 40% funding cap they originally agreed to almost 40 years ago.  This would give more desperately needed special education funding to schools.  The plan would allow for the full funding to be reached by 2023.  The funding for this, according to the legislation, would come from tax increases for those earning more than $1 million a year.

For more information, please read the article at http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/09/12/senator-burden-idea-disputes/19667/