Governor Carney Is NOT Letting The Sunshine In!!!!

In February, Delaware Governor John Carney brought back the Family Services Cabinet Council through Executive Order #5.  Many in Delaware thought this was a good thing.  But apparently transparency took a backseat to this return.  The group met on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 in a meeting that was closed to the public and press.  What is the point of this council if it is not able to be seen by the public?

I discovered this when I was looking at the Governor’s public schedule last week.  I also view the Delaware Public Meetings Calendar and did not see this on there.  I would have attended this meeting had it been made public but I never had the chance.

For a council that is responsible for recommendations for so many issues in Delaware, I am shocked they wouldn’t let the public in on it.  To that end, I emailed Governor Carney’s staff about this gross oversight on April 6th.  Over a week later and NO response.

This is the kind of crap I would expect from former Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  I truly hoped Governor Carney would be different.  But I am not seeing that marriage between the state and the public.  Especially with a council as important as this one.  So what are the areas this council covers that Carney doesn’t want the public to hear conversation about?

If this council isn’t open to the public will we ever see any minutes from their meetings?  Attendance?  Who else is invited?  What they are even doing?  I urge Governor Carney to answer these questions and make this council open to the public.  Delaware got an F for transparency and came in 49th out of 50 states in an evaluation of public transparency at the end of 2015.  That should have ended on January 17th, 2017, the day Governor Carney swore his oath of office and promised the citizens of Delaware he would listen to the people.  I expect more from you Governor Carney!

For those who have been following this blog the past few years, I have written many articles about the eventual goals of the corporate education reformers and this council seems to be moving things along in that direction.  Especially when it comes to strengthening the “public-private partnerships”.

The mission of the Council shall be to design and implement new service alternatives for school and community-based family-centered services, and otherwise act as a catalyst for public-private partnerships to reduce service fragmentation and make it easier for families to get supportive services.

In a nutshell, this is inviting non-profits into our schools.  While some may see this as a step in the right direction, I am hesitant to think this is the cure for what ails the youth of Delaware.  Every single time a company, whether it is for-profit or non-profit, comes into our schools, it is siphoning money away from students and into the more than welcoming hands of corporations.  With that comes bad education policy because the corporations only make money off education if there is something to fix.  The measurement of what needs to be “fixed” is the standardized test, currently the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  If there is one thing we have learned in Delaware it is the Smarter Balanced Assessment is very flawed and their consortium is extremely non-transparent and secretive.

Carney was also instrumental in getting the whole Blockchain thing going in Delaware.  If you want your children to morph into drones in the Common Core/personalized learning/digital tech/stealth testing/digital badge environment than please ignore this article.

As citizens of Delaware, we need to demand transparency from Governor Carney.  Please call the Governor’s office today.  The Dover office phone number is (302) 744-4101 and the Wilmington office phone number is (302) 577-3210.  Or you can email him here: Email Governor Carney

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Governor Carney Brings Family Services Cabinet Council Back To Delaware

On Tuesday, Delaware Governor John Carney signed Executive Order #5.  This order reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council.  From the press release:

Governor Carney Reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council

Date Posted: Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney signed Executive Order Five on Tuesday, reestablishing the Family Services Cabinet Council to help coordinate public and private services for Delaware families.

Delaware families continue to face significant challenges – including the high cost of child care; violence and poverty in their neighborhoods; the impact of caring for an aging family member; and the challenges of navigating an economy in transition. The Family Services Cabinet Council will be charged with coordinating public and private services that are often fragmented, and proposing changes to current programs to make the delivery of state services more effective.

Governor Carney will serve as chair of the Council.

Reestablishment of the Council, which was first established under Governor Tom Carper, was an action called for by Governor Carney’s Transition Team in their Action Plan for Delaware. The Council also will work closely with the Government Efficiency and Accountability Review Board (GEAR), which Governor Carney created this month to identify cost savings and efficiencies in state government, and to more effectively operate state programs and services.

“Our challenge is to determine whether the programs and services we offer are effective in moving families out of poverty, improving our system of education and creating opportunities for all Delaware families to succeed,” said Governor Carney. “That requires all of us – government agencies, nonprofits and private business – to work together. That also requires that we measure our progress. The reestablishment of the Family Services Cabinet Council will help us do just that, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of Delaware families.”

The Council will be tasked with implementing innovative tools and strategies for addressing a series of specific issues, including: breaking the school-to-prison pipeline; improving access to early childhood education; increasing the availability of affordable housing; improving access to substance abuse treatment; reducing recidivism in Delaware’s correctional system; expanding job training opportunities; and reducing violence in Delaware’s neighborhoods.

The Council will include eight members of Governor Carney’s Cabinet – the Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families; the Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services; the Secretary of the Department of Education; the Secretary of the Department of Labor; the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security; the Director of the Delaware State Housing Authority; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and the Commissioner of the Department of Correction.

“It is our duty to ensure that our children and our families have the necessary tools to be healthy, prosperous, and safe,” said Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “The reestablishment of this Council will break down silos in state government and allow for a more collaborative and coordinated approach to address some of the most critical issues we face, so that every Delawarean has a fair shot.”

 

President Obama’s Office Releases Massive “Rethinking Discipline” Report For Schools

Today, the White House released a very long report on school discipline entitled “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline”.  The report has a plethora of recommendations for public schools in America.  I agree with most of them based on a cursory glance, but like many reports of this nature that I write about, it fails to recognize the fact that Common Core State Standards or other similar standards along with the high-stakes testing environment accompanying those standards are causing more problems than they are worth in our schools.  I will write more about this as I go through the report in the coming days.

The Every Student Succeeds Act addresses school discipline and how our schools carry out punishment for negative behaviors.  On Monday evening, the ESSA Discussion Group I am a member of in Delaware addressed this very issue.  As well, a Delaware newspaper is working on an extensive article about bullying in Delaware and how our schools respond to bullying reporting.

It remains unclear how the incoming Trump administration will view this report.

For now, please read the below report.

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sherry Dorsey Walker For Lieutenant Governor

sherrydorseywalker

I’ve known Sherry Dorsey Walker for a couple of years now.  I first met her at a Christina Board meeting on the priority schools two years ago.  She stood quietly in the back, listening to every single word said.  It was one of the very few meetings I’ve been to in Delaware where the public comments were longer than the actual board meeting.

Sherry is a huge education advocate.  She wants the best for the children of Wilmington and the entire state.  Sherry gets it, in ways that many others do not.  She recognizes that poverty and violence are a hurdle to overcome.  She is all about ending the school to prison pipeline and making sure suspensions drop, especially for African-American students.

Jackie Kook, a Christina School District teacher, had this to say about Sherry:

I’ve been working with her on the Coalition for Fairness and Equity in Schools. She has a sister who is an educator. She’s good people and listens to the teachers.

I couldn’t agree more.  I would love to see Sherry presiding over the Delaware Senate!

 

Restorative Justice Legislation In Delaware Would Decrease Suspension Rates & School To Prison Pipeline

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This legislation hasn’t even been filed.  It was sent to me anonymously.  I have very mixed feelings about this.  There are many things kids are suspended for and probably shouldn’t be.  But to limit suspension rates over bodily injury, threats of bodily injury or death but not in self-defense, or bringing weapons to school.

What about racial epithets?  Or swearing at a teacher?  Or throwing furniture but not causing bodily injury?  Or making sexually suggestive comments to a student?  Those are all things that would have given me a ticket home when I was in school.  Bullying isn’t addressed in this unless it is physical.  If we have zero tolerance for bullying under any circumstances why isn’t this included?

What if a student abuses the new system?  Continuously?  My fear with this type of bill is students trying to get out of class and knowing they won’t be suspended for it.  As well, if a student gets in-school suspension, the parents should be notified right away.

Perhaps the biggest part of this bill concerns students with disabilities.  Under the federal IDEA law, a manifestation determination hearing must be held if a student is suspended a certain amount of time.  If the student isn’t suspended but still showing the behavior that would have caused the suspension prior to the implementation of this law, how can an IEP team have the manifestation determination hearing?  The purpose of these is to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan after the school psychologist develops a functional behavioral analysis.  That is federal law.  State law does not trump federal law.  But if the state does away with the catalyst for the federal law, isn’t it essentially taking away rights for students with disabilities?  And does restorative justice replace what is in a developed IEP?

I’ll be honest, restorative justice wasn’t around when I was a kid.  Maybe it is great.  But is it known to work?  In my opinion, all the restorative justice in the world is not going to cure what comes in from a home environment.  If a student comes from a broken home or violence, it may temper the behavior but it doesn’t get rid of the outside of school problems that could be a very big reason for the behavior.  I would caution our legislators on passing this bill as written.  There are too many factors at play here that haven’t been looked at yet.  Which could be why it wasn’t filed yet.

Restorative Justice came about in prisons.  I have no problem with anyone making amends.  But it is for criminal behavior.  By using this in schools, are we making some issues bigger than they  are?

On the other hand, this law would reduce many suspensions that are completely unnecessary.  When I hear about the reasons some kids are suspended, I shake my head.  But then again, sometimes suspensions dealing with weapons brought to school could be seen as overreaching depending on the circumstances.  We need consistency but we also need common sense.  There are never easy answers.  But I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Keep in mind, this bill hasn’t even been filed yet.

Governor Jack Markell & Johnnie Cochran: Parallel Lines & Big Mistakes

American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson concluded on Tuesday night.  Based on the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the show brought the O.J. Simpson saga from 1994-1995 back to life.  During this time, Jack Markell was making a name for himself in the business world.  The parallels between Johnnie Cochran’s defense of O.J. and Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s defense of high-stakes testing are uncanny.

To be very clear, there is no doubt in my mind O.J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.  DNA evidence proved that conclusively with the blood found in his Bronco and in various areas around the Brentwood Estate.  The reason he was found not guilty was because the trial turned into a racial matter instead of a criminal one.  Even defense attorney Robert Shapiro admitted to playing the “race card” in the trial.  During the show, it became obvious that defense attorney Johnnie Cochran insisted on turning the already explosive murder trial into a black vs. white thing.  What didn’t help the defense at all was the very racist views of former Los Angeles detective Mark Furman and questions that arose concerning the bungling or planting of evidence by the Los Angeles Police Department.

JohnnieCochran

For the past twenty years, Delaware has embarked on one standardized test after another.  The purpose behind these tests, at least from the viewpoint of education “reformers”, is to close the equity gaps between minorities and their white peers.  As parents in Delaware decided to opt their children out of taking these tests, Governor Jack Markell continued to point out this divide.  With big money and high-profile names supporting him, Markell sold the “need” for the Smarter Balanced Assessment through a false defense for at-risk students along with intimidating threats by the US Department of Education.

Both Markell and Cochran seemed to think bringing race into a controversial issue was a smart idea to defend something bad.  O.J. Simpson, once again in my opinion, brutally killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend.  High-stakes standardized tests serve no other purpose than to give faulty data to corporations to further perpetuate the cycle of showing these “gaps” between minorities and their peers.

When things got tough during the O.J. trial, Cochran turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black people.  This galvanized the trial into two camps.  Most white people felt O.J. was guilty but most African-Americans felt he was either innocent or didn’t care if he did it and felt a verdict of not guilty was warranted based on past injustices against African-Americans.  As the show vividly displayed when the verdict of not guilty was read, white people gasped and African-Americans cheered.  It didn’t seem to matter what the scientific and forensic evidence in the trial showed.  It became a race issue.

When things got tough during the House Bill 50 opt out legislation last year, Markell and his friends at the Rodel Foundation turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black students.  The News Journal displayed an ad showing Delaware civil rights groups urging the Delaware General Assembly not to pass HB50.  When the bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly, Markell vetoed the bill and sought out public comment from members of Delaware civil rights groups to support the Smarter Balanced Assessment and rail against the opt out movement.

JMarkell

Cochran felt the O.J. trial was symptomatic of the problems African-Americans faced in the USA.  He believed far too many African-American faced arrest and imprisonment simply for the color of their skin.  He was right, but Cochran refused to believe his client was even possible of the murders.  As a result, his fierce advocacy for the true violations of civil rights of African-Americans blinded him to the preponderance of evidence which should have supported a guilty verdict.  His job was to defend his client, but the trial became a race issue because of how he conducted himself and he used the mistakes of the L.A. Police to highlight the racial divide.  Granted, Mark Furman and his very racist views didn’t help the prosecution, but race became the issue, not the murders of two people.

Many reports have come out about the very faulty state assessments in America.  Based on the Common Core standards, these tests are given once a year to students and the thresholds for the scores allow x amount of students to be proficient and the majority to be not proficient.  Clear and graphic data has shown these tests are more an indication of socio-economic levels in society than true academic progress.  This data, which has produced vast amounts of profit for testing companies and “education research” foundations and non-profits, is abused by those who want to increase the divide between at-risk students and their peers.  Politicians like Governor Markell are on the side of these companies, not the students, and especially not African-Americans.  Their agendas and testing schemes have disrupted education to such a degree that ordinary parents have chosen to pull their children out of these unnecessary and burdensome tests.

Both Cochran and Markell used the issues of the day to further matters that truly were not about race.  Cochran wanted a not guilty verdict for OJ Simpson and Markell wants a guilty verdict for schools with low-income students and high amounts of at-risk students.  By bringing race into their arguments, they have not advanced the cause for what they say.  They both caused the divide to widen.  In the end, OJ Simpson wound up being found guilty in a civil trial against him and is now serving time in prison for kidnapping and theft.  In the end, parents are still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and many in the African-American community are beginning to question if these tests truly are useful.

OJSimpson

Over twenty years later, many in the African-American community believe OJ Simpson committed the murders.  As OJ sits in a Nevada prison, pending parole next year, the true victims of his actions are the two people whose murderer was never found guilty by a jury.  As well, OJ’s children will forever live with the facts and the doubts in their minds about the results of what happened on June 12th, 1994.  Johnnie Cochran passed in 1995.  He will always be remembered for getting the not guilty verdict for his client, OJ Simpson.  Sadly, he won’t be remembered for advancing the true civil rights issues that continue to plague so many in the African-American community.

Meanwhile, as estimates come in of over 300,000 students opted out of the state assessment in New York and an unknown amount here in Delaware, the media is once again torn on the usefulness of these high-stakes tests.  Governor Markell has been very quiet on the issue this year, perhaps learning from the mistakes he made last year by reacting to the opt out movement in Delaware.  The true victims in this high-stakes education game are the children in 3rd to 8th grade, forced to either take a test that bears no worthwhile results to further their academic progress or be opted out by their parents with some schools fighting the parents tooth and nail over their decision.  As well, the parents who are forced to fight schools, the teachers who would much rather instruct students meaningfully instead of wasting all this time over a silly test, and the school administrators who feel the need to fight parents because of threats of funding cuts and false labels against their schools.  Standardized testing has done nothing to stop the very dangerous school-to-prison pipeline in Delaware.  If anything, it caused an increase as more at-risk students felt like failures based on the results of the very faulty tests and their self-confidence eroded to such a degree that they felt school was not a valid option.  Is it any wonder crime and violence increased in Wilmington the same years high-stakes testing increased?  Where is that study?

SchoolToPrisonPipeline

Cochran and Markell, two men of power, twenty years and 2,700 miles apart from each other, both used race to bring the wrong conclusion to bad events.  Their actions didn’t make things better.  They only made them worse.  History will eventually show the truth in both matters.  Race should never be used to support bad ideas.  Civil rights groups should not defend a man who openly admitted to beating his wife, was accused of killing her and her boyfriend, ran from the police, and then made a mockery of the very same community that defended him.  Civil rights groups should not use children in agendas to advance their cause, especially when they are receiving vast amounts of money from the very same foundations and companies that support the high-stakes testing environment that is putting labels on their communities.  It is deceptive and doesn’t help the ones they should be advocating for.

The injustices perpetrated against the African-American community are wrong.  No man or woman or child should be labeled or judged based on the color of their skin.  By showing false divides, we are not helping them, we are harming them.

Attorney General Matt Denn, We Need You To Do More About Bullying & Abuse In Our Schools

Skyline Middle School.  Anne Gullo.  The Appoquinimink Bus Driver.  Delaware Met.  This is just in the last month.  As these incidents of bullying and abuse become more public, I haven’t seen any official statement from those in power in Delaware on these systemic issues going on.  This is the bottom line: students don’t feel safe.  While the DOE wants to bury students in their latest programs with the University of Delaware about social skills and positive behavior supports, which are also costing the state millions of dollars, the districts or charters don’t implement those things and it is a colossal waste.  They talk the talk and walk the walk, but who are we kidding?  Why are we seeing adults take out their frustrations on kids?

NBC Philadelphia covered the Appoquinimink bus driver.  The district said she wouldn’t be driving their kids anymore.  That’s great.  But more needs to be done.  This kid was being bullied, and he needed help.  Instead of the bus driver, or substitute bus driver (immaterial to me, still an adult in charge of kids) even noticing there was already a situation going on where a kid was getting hurt, she did nothing.  She finally acted, and in a highly inappropriate way, when she was forced to do something as this kid yelled at her for help.  What she did is disgusting and morally reprehensible.

It doesn’t matter if its one person or hundreds.  No kid deserves this.  From other kids or adults.  When I was a kid, we didn’t call it bullying.  We usually called it getting the crap kicked out of you.  There are always going to be reasons for it.  Somebody doesn’t like something the other kid said.  They are jealous over a girl.  A kid is black.  A kid is white.  A kid is gay.  A girl is mean.  A kid has disabilities.  A kid doesn’t believe the same thing another kid does.  Maybe if kids actually enjoyed learning, and were not tied to curriculums tied to standards tied to standardized tests tied to teacher evaluations tied to school report cards, we could put an end to this.  We have more resources than ever before to tackle these issues, but our failure of a Governor ignores these issues.  He assigns people to “serve at the pleasure of the Governor”.  We need to elect leaders and Secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the people!

This is where you come in Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn.  You do not serve at the pleasure of Jack Markell.  You are a publicly elected official.  Prior to your becoming Attorney General, you were the Lieutenant Governor and I watched you chair a very decent IEP Task Force.  I was drawn to you because you spoke succinctly when needed and firm when it was desperately needed.  When you first became Attorney General nine months ago, I saw very positive moves on your part.  The first of which was an Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which I have referred many parents to.  I have yet to see any action coming out of this office Matt.  We don’t see any official reports or press releases coming out of there at all.  Has it really come down to Delaware needing a Department of Bullying and Physical Abuse Against Children?

I truly think it is a good thing that parents can take personal action on individual cases in Delaware.  But they are forced to shut up about it in most situations.  That isn’t justice.  It is covering it up.  It is making the bad stuff (for the guilty party) just go away.  Talk to most parents who go through that process, and they would much rather have worked it out with the school earlier.  If there is not a systemic change, nothing will change.  We will see more Skylines, and Appo bus drivers, and Anne Gullos, and Delaware Mets.  We need YOU Matt Denn to become the Attorney General we elected and become a bully against bullying.  We need YOU to take quick action.  We all know schools are underreporting.  We know stuff gets covered up.  We need you to take action when schools don’t.  Since we are becoming a data mad country anyways, why not give parents access to their child’s e-school report.  It’s a digital world now.  When bullying happens, an email goes to parents and they see it.  And I think your office should have access as well.  We need more heroes and less victims Matt.  Kids need YOU to be that hero.  It has to be YOU.

For the citizens of Delaware, we need you to stop with the high-fiving of how great your kid’s school is in certain areas.  We all know what schools are “the best” and we all know why.  Education shouldn’t be a competition, but our Governor has created this environment.  Race To The Top may be over, but don’t think our schools aren’t competing against each other every single day.  It is all about the stupid test scores for them.  You will be seeing them really concentrating on attendance as well because that is going to be another accountability measure for them.  They always seem to do what the DOE wants them to do, but that does not always translate into doing what is best for the students.  As many Delaware parents already know, they will cover their own ass first.  If they are tackling bullying and “social skills” and “positive behavior supports” for the purpose of driving up test scores, they are completely missing the boat.

Parents are going to start organizing as more and more issues become public and transparent.  It is happening already.  And we don’t like a lot of what we are seeing in our schools, the DOE and Governor Markell.  The drums of war are already starting to beat.  We will only be shushed so many times before we start to get really loud.  We will not be disrespected and we will certainly not let our children be disrespected.  We will not be lied to, and we will not be told one thing only to have it change after administrators get together and have a meeting about it.  We are the parents of the students who you want to take meaningless and useless tests.  We are the parents of students with disabilities.  We are the parents of low-income and poverty students.  We are the parents of the bullied and the abused.  We are the parents of those who are punished without due process.  We are the parents of students whose schools think they know about our children than we do.  We are the parents of students who are also taught by parents.  We are the parents of homeschooled kids.  We are the parents who talk to legislators more and more every day.  We are the parents of students who choice out of school districts.  We are the parents of students who were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Governor Markell severely disrespected.  We are the parents of youth who are already in prison.  We are the parents of the students who are physically restrained.  We are the parents who raise our children by the standards we believe in not what the state wants us to.  We are the parents who vote.  We are the parents who talk about all of this stuff on social media every single day but give a smile and a nod when you see us and you are none the wiser.  We are the parents of Delaware.