Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 1: Rodel, DOE & Achieve Inc. Team-Up

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  In its original form, it was an effort to personalize learning between a teacher and a student.  Students don’t always learn at the same pace.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning dream team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil but rather teachers who are easily manipulated and coerced into being connected with the “next big thing”.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.

Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coördination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

Coming up in Part 2: Delaware gets Marzanoed

The Delaware Illuminati, Part 1: Jeb Bush Inspires Rodel

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  It is an effort to personalize learning so a student doesn’t always learn at the same pace as other students.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.  Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

 

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coordination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

To be continued…in part 2…coming soon…

To read the prologue to this series, link to The Delaware Illuminati, Prologue

Governor Markell Gives $400,000 To 21 Delaware Schools On Common Core Tour

As Delaware Governor Markell went on his “common core” tour today at W. Reilly Brown Elementary School in the Caesar Rodney School District, he announced $400,000 in competitive grants going to 21 Delaware schools.  The goal of these grants are professional development for teachers to further implement Common Core to increase student outcomes.  And God wept…

Why is Jack Markell, with nine months left in his reign as Governor, doing this Common Core tour?  Which company is paying him for this?  What disgusts me is the way the Governor and the DOE lure teachers in by making it look like it is for them.  How much professional development do teachers need?  Let’s not forget the two purposes of this tour: to thank teachers for implementing Common Core and to “debunk” the myths surrounding it.  You may fool some of our teachers and administrators Jack, but this is corporate tomfoolerty at its best.  Far too many Delaware parents know better and you may have fooled us once, but not twice.  As the state looks for funding, our districts will take any money they can get regardless of the cost to students.  I will ask again Governor Markell: where are the funds for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade?  Answer the question Jack!

This is, in my opinion, a strong push towards the blended/personalized learning the Rodel Foundation has pushed on Delaware the past couple years.  The press release doesn’t even mention this, but events from last night suggest otherwise.  Last night at the Capital Board meeting, their board unanimously voted to apply to BRINC, the blended learning consortium that already includes the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Colonial, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney School Districts.  Despite my public comment about the very obvious data privacy loopholes in existing law.

While student identifiable information doesn’t go out, it all filters through the Delaware DOE who simply gives education “research” companies the student’s identification number.  When that information comes back, the DOE has all that data attached to a student’s identification number.  As well, Schoology uses a cloud system called IMS  that would allow any aggregate information through the Schoology application to be shared with their members.  The Capital board seemed a little too eager to get this passed.  At one point, Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton didn’t know how much it would cost the district and it took him over fifteen minutes to find the information.  The board discussed how it would be good professional development for teachers without talking about what it means for students or their personal data.  Their CFO, Sean Sokolowski, said it would be paid for through Federal Consolidated Grants.  Are these the same grants Markell announced today or are they separate?  I would assume they are separate, but I’ve found many grants tend to have strings attached to them, just like the federal waiver scheme the US DOE abused under Race To The Top.  As we rush headfirst into this personalized learning/competency-based education/career pathway future for our students, those in the power to question things are going along to get along.  I can’t understand, for the life of me, why teachers are jumping on this bandwagon.  This will eventually cause their job functions, as instructors,  to diminish in the future.  To the point where they will become “facilitators” instead of “instructors”.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence paraprofessional salaries will eventually start at the same point as a first-year teacher in Delaware?  Don’t believe me?  Check out Governor Markell’s proposed FY2017 budget.  Go to page 202 on the pdf, section 286.  While many feel, and rightfully so, that paras in our schools are underpaid, should they be paid the same as a first-year teacher?  If they performed the same job function…

I have not been too impressed with Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald in the past year.  He seems to have been sucked into the DOE/Markell/Rodel whirlpool of corporate education reform.  You can read more on his role in today’s announcement below.

Just today, the National Education Policy Center issued a damning report on the success of blended and personalized learning schools and pointed out they are less successful than schools who don’t use these services.  So if it is all about proficiency and increasing standardized test scores and growth, why are we pushing, as a state, a system that just isn’t working?  Could it have anything to do with the billions of dollars companies are making off this smoke and mirrors?  And how many of these companies are incorporated out of Wilmington, DE?  As per the IMS article I linked to above, they are incorporated out of Delaware.

It is my opinion the Governor’s time could have been better spent heading to Wilmington to do more than issue a statement on the tragic and pointless death of a student at Howard High School today.  His visit to W. Reilly Brown was at 11am, well after this hit the media today.  As a state tries to understand the absolute horror that went on in that school today, our Governor is off playing corporate lap-dog for his education buddies.  I will never understand that man.

Here is the DOE press release on these “grants”:

21 schools win professional learning grants

Delaware awarded 21 schools in seven school districts nearly $400,000 in competitive professional learning grants Thursday as the state moves toward professional learning tailored to individual school needs.

Governor Jack Markell announced the awards today during a visit with Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky to Caesar Rodney School District’s W. Reily Brown Elementary School in Dover. Five schools in the district won a combined $50,000.

“All educators deserve the opportunity to continuously improve their practice through their own initiative and through investments made in them by their schools, districts, and the state,” Markell said. “We must improve the quality and efficacy of professional learning for all educators in Delaware. To do this, we as a state need to support districts and schools in their promise to provide Delaware educators with ongoing, job-embedded professional learning that leads to real improvement for students.”

For the past three years, the Delaware Department of Education has provided state-led professional learning for school-based teams through the Common Ground for the Common Core program. Common Ground identified principals and teacher leaders, engaged them in deep practices around the standards and concepts and analyzed student work to determine how to target instruction in the classroom.

In year one, the focus of Common Ground was on the shifts under the then-new standards. In year two, the focus was on ensuring a balanced assessment system, and in year three, the initiative focused on targeted approaches to closing achievement gaps and deepening literacy in other content areas. Next year, the Reimagining Professional Learning grants will provide professional learning that continues to target the school level.

“A stable foundation has been built, and after three years of Common Ground, we now are incentivizing schools that are committed to continuing this important work while also strengthening the professional learning for their educators,” Godowsky said. “The grant applications of these 21 schools is a clear indication that they are ready to embrace this challenge.”

Godowsky said he is continuously impressed by the commitment of Delaware’s teachers and administrators and what they do every day and by what they plan to do with the Reimagining Professional Learning Grant: “Educators at all of these schools are looking at their data, lesson plans and structures so that they can reimagine the positive impact of  professional learning for the benefits of their students.”

Each school designed professional learning to meet its staff’s needs. For example, at Brown, the grant will allow teachers to gather each month to plan and research a lesson. They will agree which team member will teach the lesson, and the lesson study team members will observe the lesson, collect data on teacher actions and student responses. Through using lesson studies, educators will collaborate and focus on the impact of this training on teacher practice and student learning.

The funding will make a difference in other ways across the state from Bunker Hill Elementary’ s focus on inquiry learning in the Appoquinimink School District to Milford School District’s emphasis on teacher leadership through cross-district work with all elementary schools and the early childhood center. In New Castle County Vo-Tech’s St. Georges High School, there will be a school-wide focus on speaking and listening with strong professional learning communities to sustain a cycle of improvement for both teachers and students. In Colonial, school and district leaders evaluated curriculum, structures and teacher and student needs to develop a comprehensive plan with regular coaching and feedback from administrators, teachers and students.

“Educators at these schools not only looked at their data but studied their structures and developed plans to reimagine professional learning that they will tie to student outcomes,”  said Michael Watson, the department’s chief academic officer.

Kevin Fitzgerald, superintendent of the Caesar Rodney School District, said he appreciates the state’s commitment to support school-led professional learning.

“This is a perfect partnership between the state, the district and the teachers and school leaders who work closest with our children and know best how to deliver these college- and career-ready standards.”

The winners are:

·         Appoquinimink School District (Bunker Hill Elementary): $30,000

·         Capital School District (Central Middle, Henry Middle, Dover High): $90,000

·         Caesar Rodney School District (Brown Elementary, Frear Elementary, McIllvaine Early Childhood, Simpson Elementary, Stokes Elementary): $50,000

·         Colonial School District (Eisenberg Elementary, Gunning Bedford Middle, George Read Middle, McClullough Middle, William Penn High, Wilmington Manor Elementary): $90,000

·         Milford School District (Banneker Elementary, Mispillion Elementary, Morris Early Childhood, Ross Elementary): $90,000

·         New Castle County Vo-Tech School District (St. Georges High): $30,000

·         Smyrna School District (Smyrna High): $20,000

Alison May
Updated, 5:41pm: Apparently schools did apply for these grants as found on the Delaware DOE website.

 

Delaware Educational Technology Report Wants Statewide Personalized Learning By 2020

The corporate education reform juggernaut wants personalized learning in every school in America, and Delaware’s latest educational technology report will help to make sure that happens in The First State.  Unless you home school, standardized testing will be impossible to stop in the future.  The plans from this report could also bring data mining into your very own home.

Last year, the Delaware 148th General Assembly created a State Educational Technology Task Force through Senate Concurrent Resolution #22.  The task force released their final report to the General Assembly yesterday.  There are far-reaching and gigantic goals coming out of this report, with huge technological and financial implications for every single student, teacher, school, and citizen in the state.

To be clear from the get-go: I am not against technology in the classroom.  What I am against is technology taking the place of a human teacher.  Technology, in my opinion, should be used as a support for the teacher, and not the other way around.  In today’s society, the majority of us are glued to the internet.  This article would not exist were it not for the internet.  My other chief concern with the digital invasion into every classroom is the data that comes out of it.  I’ve written about this hundreds of times in the past couple years, more so in the past few months.  There is nothing in any law that will prevent aggregate data, formed through algorithms embedded into the various learning modules and standardized tests, from falling into outside companies hands.  In fact, most states seem to want them to have access to this information.  The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) had its guidelines relaxed to such an extent that companies have easy access to student data.  The data is not connected to any personal identifiable information for each student, but it is all sent to these companies with each student identification number assigned to it based on the information they request.

Imagine, if you will, what happens when you go to Amazon.  You’ve been shopping there for years.  Amazon knows what you want to look for.  If you bought the second season of Downton Abbey through their cloud service, bought a paperback of The DaVinci Code a couple months later, and then a Bananarama mp3 a few months later, Amazon will tailor your shopping experience based on everything you have purchased and browsed.  As most of us who have gone through these “suggestive” ideas, there are many times where we don’t want what they are recommending.  But it still shows up.  The same happens with Google.  It remembers what you search for.  How many times have you gone to type something in Google, and they automatically know exactly what you are looking for?  Or Google thinks it knows and goes right to it but it was wrong?  It is all based on algorithms and predictive analysis.

Educational data on your child is crafted the exact same way.  It doesn’t know his name or his social security number, but it knows how old they are, what school they go to, what grade they are in, how long it takes to finish a test, all the behavior issues, any discipline problems, and much, much more.  It is all assigned to that number.  Outside companies get this information for “research” and send it back to the state.  The state is then able to come up with a model for that student based on their own data and what these companies are doing with it.  In time, states will emulate the Amazon and Google predictive analysis methods and will come up with “suggestive” career paths for students (if they aren’t already).  The personalized learning will be tailored towards that career path.  And of course all of this will be based on the Common Core, as students move on based on Competency-Based Education.  They can’t move on until they have gained proficiency in a subject.  Instead of you searching on Google or Amazon, this is the state (already bought by Corporate America) searching on your child and taking those predictive analysis algorithmic conclusions and making decisions on your child.  Whatever happened to the uniqueness and individuality of each child?  There are human factors and emotions that no computer-based model can ever measure.  Corporate Education Inc. wants to take that away from your child.  Permanently.

I also have grave concerns with the goal of every single student in Delaware having a state-owned digital device in home AND school by 2020.  The report shies away from districts and charters having individual contracts with providers of the devices due to cost.  So the technology each student would have would be based on what the state decides to purchase.  We are seeing this already in twenty-four Delaware local education agencies with the Schoology Learning Management System.

For teachers, they will be subject to countless hours of professional learning development geared towards the technology and how to implement the technology towards instruction.  In time, they will be required to show “confidence” in this ability.  Teaching will shift away from teacher to student  interaction to a technology-student-moderator environment.

The report also touches on what is known as the K-12 Open Educational Resources Collaborative.  This group is comprised of eleven states, including Delaware and the following: California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.  But they aren’t the only members.  There are companies and “associations” that signed on as well: the Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve Inc., The Learning Accelerator, Lumen Learning (most likely an offshoot of The Lumina Foundation.  Their CEO was a speaker at Delaware’s Pathways To Prosperity conference in February), Creative Commons, State Education Technology Directors Association, Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, State Instructional Materials Reviews Association, Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics, and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.  And just to put the frosting on this corporate education reform entity, guess what they support? A member of their advisory team named Joe Wolf, who is also the Chair of The Learning Accelerator, is into “Social Action Bonds”.  But who are we kidding?  You can call them whatever you want, they are all Social Impact Bonds.  Every day there is some new education company coming out of the woodwork that I never knew existed before!

What concerns me about Delaware’s Educational Technology report is the questions that were not asked.  If the goal is to have every single student’s home wi-fi compatible, who pays for the actual internet service provider (i.e. Comcast or Verizon)?  How would it connect to the education personalized management systems?  If the home becomes a new “learning environment”, would anything on the internet in each person’s home then become “data” available for “education agencies” to request from the state (fully allowable under FERPA)?  Since most homes tend to get bundle packages, including cable and phone, does that mean that data could now be fodder for the state?  Imagine every single phone call you make on your landline or every television show you watch being a part of data collection.  By not answering these types of questions, or even asking them, it is very bold of this task force to suggest these kinds of recommendations.  There is a Student Data Privacy Task Force now in session (they meet again on Monday, April 4th from 3:00 to 4:30 pm on the 7th level of the Carvel State Office Building at 820 N. French St. in Wilmington and it is open to the public).  But this task force was created from Senate Bill 79 in Delaware which had so much lobbying from Microsoft and Google that the original intent of the legislation was shredded due to their interference and still allows this open flow of student data at an aggregate level (based on each student’s identification number).

This potential future is happening right before our very eyes.  There is so much more to this, and a few of us in the education blogging landscape suspect a future where the majority of the population become little drones and worker bees as a result of all of this.  We will exist only to serve the hive, aka, the corporate government.  Your job will be created for you based on your digital education.  Meanwhile, those in power will control it all.

It is time for a revolution.

One Week For Parents To Opt Out In Many School Districts In Delaware

The official Smarter Balanced Assessment Year 2 window opens up on March 9th.  While this doesn’t mean every single student in every single grade will start the Smarter Balanced that day, I would highly recommend opting your child out of the test prior to that.  Just write a letter indicating you don’t want your child taking the test and you wish for them to receive academic instruction while their peers are taking it.  Make a copy, give it to the principal or head of school, have a witness with you, and be proud of your decision.  It is that easy.

As opposed to your child sitting for days on end taking a test that truly has no bearing on his or her unique capabilities and academic strengths or weaknesses.  It is a flawed test meant for the sole purpose of giving the government and non-profits data about your child.  The algorithms built into the test allow for that data to pass freely into the federal governments hands.  Your child is now part of a tracking system that will allow the government and companies to determine what kind of “career path” your child will embark on.  And the rest of their elementary or secondary education will be spent guiding them towards that path.

Remember those personality tests or career path tests you may have taken years ago?  And then you take it a few days later and your answers may be different?  You could go from being a lawyer to an accountant based on a couple different answers.  But imagine if you weren’t able to give a different answer?  And the rest of your life went by what answers you gave when you were in 3rd grade?  That is the future of high-stakes assessment.  They may get rid of the false labeling of schools and teachers.  They may even shorten the test, or even break it up into smaller segments embedded into personalized learning modules brought to you by Schoology.  Your child’s data is going out from those systems as well.  And our state’s highest officials know this.  Our Governor knows this.  And guess what?  They don’t care.

If you want to feed the beast, then let your child take the test.  If you think, “Hey, it’s the 21st Century.  It’s about time our schools become more technologically advanced.  Who cares about data,” then let your child take the test.  If you do care about these things, opt your child out now.  Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were 8 years old?  Or even 11 years old?  Or even 15?  Are you what you thought you would be?  I imagine the answer is no.  So why would you let the government decide what your child should be?  Opt-out now.  Do it today.  Your child’s future DOES depend on it.

Until our legislators craft a law indicating absolutely NO data goes out from these computer systems and programs, including the very computer code that captures and sends out this data, opt your child out of anything done on a computer at a school.  If they have to do research, let them do it from home.  This is a major change and the schools will pitch a fit.  Ask to see your child’s data file.  Chances are they won’t be able to provide it.  Ask the state.  FOIA the information if they say no or can’t do it.  Do not stop until you are able to track down every kilobyte of data that has left school computers and into the welcome hands of the state and federal government and the companies they serve.  Schools don’t own your child.  The government doesn’t either.  Nobody does.  They are your child, and you have been given a mission on this earth to protect them from harm.  This is harmful, and disturbing, and toxic.  Protect your child.

Flip This Bob A! Joining BRINC & Spending Tons Of Money While Laying Off Teachers Sends The Wrong Message

For a school district that laid off 99 teachers over the summer to enter into the BRINC Consortium and sign contracts with companies like Modern Teacher prior to going to a referendum is not the smartest of ideas.  With that being said, this is exactly what Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski is looking to do.  The Christina School District Board of Education released the agenda for their meeting a week from today.  On the Consent Agenda is this:

Contract Services: BRINC Consortium/Modern Teacher

When a district signs a contract, it isn’t free.  It costs money.  Christina lost their last two referendum attempts earlier this year.  They will assuredly attempt a third one at some point in 2016.  This is not the time for Christina to start signing personalized learning or professional development contracts based on that personalized learning with outside companies.  The last time I went to a Christina board meeting in August, there was talk concerning how the district might look in a year.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.  So why on earth would the district even attempt to sign onto this?

Two words: Bob Andrzejewski.  The former Red Clay Superintendent was voted in by the board as the Acting Superintendent after the soon to be resigning Superintendent Freeman Williams went on leave.  The vote was 4-3.  Since he was appointed, “Bob A” (his blog nickname, established long before I joined the scene) has told Christina parents and teachers in town halls he wants the district to join the BRINC consortium.  The original BRINC districts were Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial.  Last year, Appoquinimink, Caesar Rodney and Red Clay joined the “blended learning” initiative.  The only difference between personalized learning and blended learning is in the details.  They are both based on personalized learning.  Students still get that “personalized” touch, but with blended learning it is like a flipped classroom.

Last month, the United States Department of Education spotlighted the BRINC Consortium in an article.

Blended learning is an approach in which teachers deliver some instruction in traditional ways but also expect students to learn via digital and online media in and outside of class. Students are encouraged to follow a path of their choosing at a pace that is comfortable to them, as long as they meet expectations.

While BRINC is mostly a high school program, it will filter into the lower grades as well.  While I am all for innovation and technology, I don’t think students being guided to do their own thing as long as it fits “expectations” is appropriate.  There is a crystal clear reason why teachers and even college professors teach specific subjects.  They have been trained to do so (in most cases) and feel they can deliver that knowledge to the classroom.  I don’t think a “flipped classroom” is going to be effective in the long-term.  I definitely don’t think a “flipped classroom” with Common Core standardized assessment material embedded into a personalized learning environment to create a competency-based education experience is going to advance the proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment either.

As a result of this partnership, the Delaware Department of Education recently selected Schoology’s learning management system to replace its existing system to power online and blended learning for the entire state to shift education from being teacher-driven to student-centered, making active, engaged learners with access to the best, most effective technology.

That is a lot of power in an outside company’s hands.  Where does all that data go?  Schoology offers a cloud system where teachers submit ideas and lesson plans and other teachers pull it out of the cloud and use it.  But what this does is it takes away from that teacher-class relationship.  It turns it into a peer relationship opposed to a teacher-student mentality.  I just don’t agree with that.  Teachers are the adults.  They are not facilitators.  This is just the next education craze, but here is the issue with that.  Nobody is talking about Common Core anymore.  They have grown to accept it.  They are still complaining about the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is based on the Common Core.  Add personalized learning and competency-based education to the mix, and it is the future version of “Iceberg dead ahead”.  Many see Common Core and competency-based education as mirror opposites.  But Common Core has become embedded into all of it.  And the standardized tests will be as well.  Instead of once a year, they will be cut up into smaller pieces, all brought to Delaware by Schoology.  And since teachers have to keep up with all these changes, in comes Modern Teacher to save the day.  More professional development brought to us by Education Inc.

Back to “Bob A”.  I believe he is part of the Rodel/Vision/University of Delaware crowd.  The ones who are pushing all of this personalized learning and have been for a couple years now.  Even some of the BRINC Superintendents are a part of this crowd as well: Mark Holodick (Brandywine) and Susan Bunting (Indian River) are both part of the Rodel crowd now, and they are on the inner circle of the Vision Coalition.  But guess what, no matter what trends or crazes come in education, Common Core is here.  It is a part of all the personalized learning.  The standardized assessments are still here.  It is difficult to move on to the next thing if its foundation is based on a corporate education reform movement that turned Common Core into dirty words. but allow it to not only exist but thrive like never before.  But “Bob A” seems to want Christina to join this next big thing when the district clearly cannot afford it.  I would be hard pressed to meet any of the 99 laid off teachers from Christina who would be happy their jobs were replaced with vendor contracts and education technology to teach the other teachers who weren’t laid off how to sit back and watch students do most of the work.

Modern Teacher is just another in a long, long list of companies that will “transform” education and bring it to the next level.  Yawn…  From their website:

 “We are building a bold, ambitious solution to transform our current model of education by changing the end-user experience for teachers and students. A re-imagined instructional core binds today’s teachers, 21st century students, and digital content options into a personalized learning solution that truly transforms the K-12 classroom experience.”

Some think Andrzejewski will be the force that parts the Red Sea and allows Christina to win their next referendum.  I don’t see that.  I see someone who inserted himself into the district.  Whether that was him individually or if there were unseen hands pushing him there I can’t say.  But if I were the Christina board, I would be very wary of signing contracts with companies while the district could potentially go into receivership in nine months if their referendum doesn’t pass.  I just say more Rodelian and Markellian antics at play here.  Board members for all the districts need to become more involved in the negotiation phases of these contracts.  For far too long, the Superintendents have been the ones calling the shots in many districts.  They get the business and present it to the board.  The board is relying on the word of the Superintendent and their support staff.  The assumption is that the information conveyed to boards is open and honest.  But unless they are getting involved and doing the research into these contracts, I don’t think any board member can safely say they are voting on something that is the best for the students they are elected to oversee.  A Superintendent is appointed by a school board and they become the face of the district.  But a board is the law of the district.

As I read more and more of the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t like where all of this is going.  But there are clearly forces out there pushing this on all the schools and districts.  They contact the state non-profits (in Delaware’s case that would be Rodel) who then push it on the state Department of Education, and next thing you know, things like BRINC happen and spread.  There is a ton of money in education technology.  BRINC is not free, because students and teachers will pay the price.  You can attempt to have the board vote for a contract they most likely can’t afford with another education reform company, or you can flip this Bob A!

Important Survey For Parents To Take About Their Child’s Data Collection In Schools

A reader just asked me to put this up.  While the reader asked to remain anonymous, I can say with absolute certainty that her concerns about data mining are very well and she looks into these issues religiously.  Parents: please take some time out of your day to fill out this survey.  We need companies like this to keep track of what data is being released on our students!

I usually don’t ask parents to fill out surveys but this is an exception. This organization is taking on edtech corporations and the data mining happening in our schools. EFF is HELPING us.

Please, READ THIS AND SHARE. TAKE THE SURVEY—- here: https://www.eff.org/issues/student-privacy

EFF is spreading the word about companies collecting students’ data and launching a campaign to educate parents and administrators about these risks to student privacy. Children usually have little or no say about which devices they’re assigned, and we believe that the safety of their sensitive personal information should lie in the hands of parents and trusted school officials – not private companies.

You can help us investigate school surveillance by taking our survey.  The results will help us paint a nation-wide portrait of which cloud platforms are in use, which devices are being assigned, and where. You can read a case study of one family in Roseville, California and learn more in our FAQ.

EFF is the organization who just filed an FTC complaint against Google for spying on kids. Help them know who else is taking data from our children.

https://www.eff.org/press/releases/google-deceptively-tracks-students-internet-browsing-eff-says-complaint-federal-trade

 

Kendall Massett And I Agree On Something!!!! Del Met & Other Charter News

Just kidding Kendall!  But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript!  Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well.  One clarification which I am now hearing about.  The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students.  There were about ten of them I am now hearing.  According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters.  But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:

School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

I supported this recommendation before it was even made!  One important thing to take note of is the timing.  The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February.  By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.

A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.

Issues considered by the committee include:

Educational program, specifically:

o    Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.

o    Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education

Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.

Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.

I feel bad for these kids.  I truly do.  It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education.  Delaware Met is another thing altogether!  I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here.  Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision.  Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process.  Because it isn’t just Delaware Met.  Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions.  But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains.  First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator.  I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning.  If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA.  For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system.  As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that.  You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that.  Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue.  But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.

As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices.  I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March.  Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave?  Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse.  I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school.  Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing.  And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs.  I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students.  But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records.  We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth.  I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.

At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed.  I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up.  First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools.  Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

Competency-Based Education & Personalized Learning Invaded Delaware…We Didn’t Even Realize It…

Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who has held the role of state leader in Delaware since 2009, also serves on the National Governor’s Association.  This collective of all the United States Governors has several different committees they serve on.  Governor Markell serves on the Education & Workforce Committee.  To any citizen of Delaware, this is not a shock.  Markell serves on this committee with the Chair, Governor Jay Inslee (WA), the Vice-Chair, Governor Robert Bentley (AL), Governor Pete Ricketts (NE), Governor Kate Brown (OR), Governor Tom Wolf (PA), Governor Dennis Daugaard (SD), Governor Bill Haslam (TN) and Governor Scott Walker (WI).  Four of these states, Delaware, Washington, Oregon and South Dakota all administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  None of these Governors represent the nine states where the PARCC assessment is administered.

From their website, the Education & Workforce Committee’s main goal is this:

The Education and Workforce Committee has jurisdiction over issues in the area of education (including early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary) as well as in the areas of workforce development. Members of the committee ensure that the governors’ views are represented in the shaping of federal policy.

The committee released a paper two and half weeks ago about “Competency-Based Education” from Kindergarten to college.  In a nutshell, the document (which can be read below), wants to completely gut what is currently done in education.  Instead of students going through grades K-12, this new model would have students advance when they are proficient in a subject.

CBE shows promise for helping more elementary and secondary students meet higher standards of learning and become better prepared for college or a career training program.  Once in higher education or job training, CBE allows older students (traditional-age college students or adult learners) to learn on their own time at their own pace.

While some envision personalized learning as the wave of the future, I think it is ripe for abuse.  If the goal of personalized learning is for each student to advance at their own pace, it presents a clear danger to students who are already behind to become even more so.  Even more frightening is the role of the teacher in this personalized learning environment:

In a CBE system, the role of the educator changes from an individual lecturing in a classroom to that of a coach or facilitator who guides learning.  In a CBE system, the training, certification, evaluation, pay, promotion, and leadership role of educators should all be reexamined.

The role of assessment plays a major part in this.  For those reading this and may be thinking none of this has happened yet, this is exactly what is going on right now in Delaware.  This is the Delaware School Success Framework.

Assessment is frequently tied to accountability in K-12; therefore, policymakers should rethink what their accountability systems measure and value.

The third big area with this revolves around student funding, which has become a hotbed issue in Delaware in the past year.

Altering structures to award funding based on learning could provide incentives for the wider adoption of CBE efforts and allow states to pay for the learning outcomes according to their value.

So we have this competency-based education that turns teachers into facilitators of a computer program, students who either advance fast or fall even further behind (and we all know who that will be: minorities, low-income students, and students with disabilities), and funding that translates to which companies will get very rich very fast off this initiative.  And let’s face it, anytime we hear the word “incentives”, it is more “waivers” where nothing really gets waived except an antiquated No Child Left Behind standard that nobody can meet and forces states to comply with Federal standards.  And when they say “wider adoption” that means comply or you get nothing, just like they did with the Common Core State Standards (developed by this group and the Council of Chief State School Officers) and Race To The Top.  Lest we forget, none of this means Common Core and the current crop of state assessments are going away, because the whole reasoning for this is based on 1/3rd of children in America were proficient on the state assessments.  Which allows them to complete the vicious cycle all over again for their next initiative, Competency-Based Learning.

Imagine, if you will, you are an education-tech company and your personalized program gets picked in this CBE world.  You are instantly rich!  And you will align with all the other companies to make sure you stay that way.  You will join consortiums and committees, and as your company grows, you will own employees in the US DOE and all the State DOEs as well.  But guess what?  This has already happened!  Things in Delaware like BRINC, Schoology, Student Success 2025, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and the DOE/State Board led Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities are all about this.  Even the Assessment Inventory Task Force will make sure assessments are designed towards this model.  We blinked, and personalized learning already infiltrated over half the state.  I warned folks a year ago how this would be a special education killer and competency-based education will do exactly that!

If you don’t think Delaware has been planning ahead for this for a long time, take this piece of information in the paper which talks about New Hampshire and their role in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium:

New Hampshire is working with other states on a task force as part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to describe how the assessments can comprehensively support a CBE-aligned system.  The task force will recommend enhancements and changes to the assessment components to provide more precise information to teachers that they can use to improve students’ learning within a CBE system.

In other words, the teacher facilitator will simply switch the module in the personalized learning computer system that some Fortune 500 company created so the student can do better on the assessment which is designed to show how much we need this new system based on the amount of students not scoring as proficient.  It is a vicious cycle which rewards students who come from a better economic background and drags the students who struggle through a proficiency nightmare.  If the goal is to challenge “smarter” kids and to make proficiency the goal for “not as smart” kids, what happens when the “not as smart” kids get tired of waiting to become proficient?  If there is no challenge for them and they go over the same material over and over again, they will quickly become very bored and will start to act out in this CBE classroom.  And what is a CBE classroom?  Will it have inclusion for students with disabilities?  How does discipline work with this new working class of facilitators?

There are more questions than answers with all of this, but it is painfully transparent how the stage was set for all of this.  The Common Core was developed to set the “standard”, the state assessments were developed to set the “proficiency”, the accountability systems for teachers and schools (not the students) were set up to “destroy” the public education system as we know it, all leading to this: students getting even more screen time all day in school and getting brief amounts of time off the computer to hear a facilitator summarize or say “time for lunch”.  This is also why we see such a huge push for charter schools.  They have no teacher unions for the most part, and their “models” are based on this type of environment.  As more and more charters choke the traditional school districts, the path to this get-rich future becomes even more clear.  And our Governors seem to be okay with all of this!  Why?

The promise of such a system is that it can adjust the methods of instruction and assistance to provide deeper, more personalized learning and help ensure that all students meet or exceed the high expectations of rigorous and relevant standards.

Or, you can believe this will further separate the haves from the have-nots.  Can anyone stop this train which left the station years ago?  Or is the future already here?  Parents across the country are actually making a difference in stopping this runaway train by opting their children out of the state assessment.  While the motivation is to look out for their child’s well-being, they are also throwing a wrench into this massive machine and stopping it dead in its tracks.  We just need much higher opt-out numbers to blow the whole thing up!

The full document is below:

DOE Report On Physical Restraint Of Students Is Very Disturbing

I read a lot of reports the Delaware Department of Education puts out.  Probably more than is healthy for a normal human being.  This one though…it got to me.  The last two times I felt like this was when I read the reports from the last couple of years on the Inter-agency Collaborative Team.  That group decides which students go to treatment centers, either in Delaware or out-of-state.  This report on Physical Restraint of Students has been out since October 6th, and it represents the total number of physical restraints in Delaware schools for the 2014-2015 school year.  The timing on this article could not be better given recent events that have occurred in Delaware and other states with adults acting very inappropriate to students.

In my eyes, physical restraint should be an absolute last resort with any student.  Other categories, which by regulation are not allowed, can be used through a “waiver request” with the Delaware DOE.

While the regulations prohibit the use of chemical restraint, mechanical restraint, and seclusion, the latter two are subject to use if authorized through the Delaware Department of Education’s (DDOE) waiver granting process. In addition to permitting and prohibiting uses of restraint and seclusion, these regulations require training for public school, private program or alternative program personnel, documentation and reporting of incidents of restraint and seclusion, requirements of notification to parents, and waiver procedures for the use of mechanical restraint or seclusion. These regulations provide for the safety of all students in our public school system.

I would love to know who approves these at the DOE.  Is it the head of their climate and discipline area?  The head of the Exceptional Children Resources Group?  The Secretary of Education?

The report goes on to talk about how no mechanical or seclusion waivers were accepted by the DOE.

Please note, no seclusion or mechanical restraint waivers were approved during the 2014-2015 school year. Although there were no approved waivers for mechanical restraint or seclusion, one LEA reported the use of mechanical restraint. The DDOE addressed the unauthorized use of the mechanical restraint with the LEA.

And why was this not made public?  A school violates the law in a severe way, and we have no mention of how the DOE addressed the issue?  Really?

And what does the DOE and Delaware law describe as chemical, mechanical, and physical restraints?  And seclusion?

“Chemical restraint” means a drug or medication used on a student to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement that is either not medically prescribed for the standard treatment of a student’s medical or psychiatric condition or not administered as prescribed. (Authority: 14 Del.C. §4112F(a)(1)).

“Mechanical restraint” means the application of any device or object that restricts a student’s freedom of movement or normal access to a portion of the body that the student cannot easily remove.

“Physical restraint” means a restriction imposed by a person that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to freely move arms, legs, body, or head.

“Seclusion” means the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room, enclosure, or space that is either locked or, while unlocked, physically disallows egress.

So how many times were students in Delaware physically restrained?

In total, 2,307 incidents of physical restraints were reported during the 2014-2015 school year to the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE).

And how many of these were students with disabilities?

For the 2014-2015 school year, districts and charter schools in Delaware restrained a disproportionate number of students with disabilities (77%) who qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

And how many were African-American?

The number of Black or African-American students restrained was also disproportionately high at 54%.

As I surmised, the amount of physical restraints was much higher for male students than female students.

More males than females – 77% vs. 23%, respectively – were restrained.

Out of these 2,307 incidents, we learn later on in the report that it was actually only 507 students who were physically restrained.  Which means it happened multiple times to some students.

What kills me is the next part.  The age group with the most amount of physical restraints was students aged 6-8 with 153 students.  Then 9-11 with 128 students, and 12-14 with 121 students.  15 students aged 3-5 were physically restrained.  Out of the 392 students with disabilities, 135 were students with Autism.  101 had an Emotional Disturbance classification, and 57 were considered “other-health impaired”.  115 regular students without special education status were physically restrained.

In Table 6 of the below document, the DOE makes a MAJOR error in their synopsis of their data.  They indicate 1,022 students were physically restrained at five minutes or less for a total of 44%.  877 students at 6-9 minutes for 38%, and 408 students at 10 minutes or more for 18%.  The DOE’s major blunder occurs in the part they write after this:

Table 6 displays the duration of all physical restraints. The majority of physical restraints were less than or equal to 5 minutes.

No they weren’t DOE.  If you add 877 and 408, you get 1,285.  Last time I checked, Common Core or not, 1,285 is more than 1,022.  Therefore, the majority of students were physically restrained for more than five minutes.  Imagine, if you will, you are wrestling with someone.  They pin you down.  To win the round, they have to hold you down for ten seconds.  Imagine that for a minute.  Then imagine five minutes.  And if that is too much for you to stomach, imagine that happening for ten minutes.  Or imagine you are really mad.  Someone tells you to calm down.  Someone bigger and stronger than you.  How much time is excessive?  How hard are they holding the student down?  At what point does your body give up as well as your mind?  If you have reached that point but they are still holding you down, what does that do to a person?  To a child?

For the 2014-2015 school year, the month with the most physical restraints was October with 345.  I found this to be particularly telling.  Many students with IEPs have issues in a new school year.  At what point does it get to be too much for some students?  Looks like October.  Things seem to calm down in November and the number decreased to 189.  In December, there were 250.  Keep in mind, schools are off for about 1/4 of the month, so on average, December isn’t much better than October.

The next part I want to talk about shows the special education limits on charter schools.  Many charters won’t take Autism kids.  With few exceptions, it is very hard to find ones that do aside from Gateway Lab School.  Out of the 2,307 incidents, only 9 happened in Delaware charter schools.  Some would take this is “Oh, charters in Delaware seem to handle things better, I should send my disabled child there.”  No, you shouldn’t.  Like I said, they don’t take many kids with severe disabilities.

The report next goes through each school district and the charters to show how many happened at each school.  But this is one of the most insulting parts of the whole report, because the almighty “n” # of 15 rears its ugly head, and most schools don’t show the actual number because it is 15 or less.  None of the school reports show the time the child was physically restrained either.  Are there any particular schools or districts that are doing this for longer periods of time?  That is something that should be reported and investigated to find out why.  But we don’t know that because the DOE didn’t bother to put it in the report.  What we do know is out of the 2,307 students, 1,589 were in New Castle County, 334 in Kent County, 392 in Sussex County, and 9 in charter schools.

When I first read this report, I assumed a lot of these incidents could occur at the residential treatment centers.  Nope.  Only 29 students who attended these facilities in Delaware or out-of-state were physically restrained a total of 187 times.  Which means the other 2,120 happened in public schools.

The DOE states these situations happen when a student is a danger to themselves or others.  But I also have to wonder how many times situations escalated because adults involved either were not properly trained or were just having a bad day and made a situation worse.  To me, the most disturbing aspect of this whole report is the appendix B at the end which shows what kind of data the DOE collects for a mechanical restraint waiver.  I’m glad they didn’t grant any of these, but it doesn’t show how many applications they received with a lot of personal data about a student.  All of the data for this is stored on E-School Plus, which is run by a company called Sungard.  They also run IEP Plus, with all of the special education data for every single student that has an IEP in the state.  But the training for this is administered by another company called Schoology.  Sorry, I just don’t trust the DOE and all this data running through their hands.  I know, there are laws meant to protect this information but there are many loopholes in those very laws which can allow for other companies or vendors to obtain data for “educational instruction” and whatnot.

In terms of physical restraint, I had a long sidebar conversation with Kilroy tonight over these kinds of issues.  We talked at length about the SRO in another state who threw a female student across the room.  The girl wouldn’t leave the room, and apparently it was over a cell-phone.  We can all argue about what happened with the desk, but the way he threw her after, that was abusive in my opinion.  And I’m not sure how many of you have sat in those kinds of desks.  It is very easy, if someone pushes you, to go down with the whole desk because your legs are somewhat pinned in them unless you go to get up.  Kilroy posted a great article yesterday about the role of State Resource Officers in Delaware schools and a News Journal article on it.  This needs to be part of the conversation as well.  The physical restraint laws do not apply to police.  If they see someone in danger to their self or others, they are obligated to act.  Should schools have more SROs in them?  Probably.  The last thing we need is rent-a-cops.  But what happens if an SRO goes over the line?  What are parent’s choices then?

All I can say is this: if a school employee is laying their hand on a student, I would expect them to have done everything possible with the student’s IEP and behavior intervention plan and accommodated that student 100%.  If they haven’t, that is a huge part of the problem.  I do not have a child with Autism, and I understand there are instances where this could be needed with these students.  But once again, if an educator or school staff is part of the problem, and not the solution, this could play a huge part in a student’s behavior.

Everyone wants to always blame a school or district for discipline issues.  While it is certainly true they share some of the blame, there are outside factors that play huge parts in many districts.  The Wilmington schools show this the most in Delaware.  But we can also blame the DOE for many of their crippling policies and unreasonable mandates that do not allow for proper funding, their just-about crippling of teacher’s ability to provide a proper education to students (many do, but I think we can all agree many of them would like to do it different than what we currently have), and the DOE’s inability to understand special education.

My biggest concern out of all of this: are parents always notified when this happens?

You can read the full report below.

“Teachers Have Such A Cushy Job”…Oh Really? One Delaware Teacher Tells All!

I wrote an article last night wishing more teachers in Delaware would write anonymous blogs.  The comments are coming in fast and furious on social media and on the article.  One teacher’s response deserved an article of its own.  Thank you Delaware Teacher!  I like this idea, and I would be more than happy to do the same for any teacher in the state!

Hey so here’s a thought: Give educators the opportunity to guest blog here. Like how Kilroy got you started. Then you might be able to hear from more folks. I’d also reach out directly to individuals you know and see if they’d like to submit something.
As far as a list of responsibilities, there is an excellent blog that I saw floating around on Facebook that really went into a great deal of detail about how teaching has changed over the 30+ years that person has been teaching. It is extremely comprehensive in terms of additional responsibilities.

Prior to making a list of my own, I want to make sure folks understand that I’m not complaining about working in my chosen profession. I’m not interested in being attacked by someone who thinks I’m “just bitching”, and yes, that has happened, online, on MY blog. So…

Educators are salaried employees, and that means we can be expected to work the job until our job responsibilities are complete. I’d like it noted for the record that, in my district at least, the union contract actually states this exact sentiment, that it is expected for educators to work outside the contractual hours.

I teach 3 classes and an enrichment course daily. I have 3 different grade levels, plus the mixed-grade enrichment, so that’s 4 separate courses I’m planning for on a daily basis. Currently I have a student load of over 210 spread across those courses, and in my discipline (elective course) there is no support person available to come in and work with the students who have special educational needs. Approximately 20% of my students have individualized education plans, with up to 1/3-1/2 of some classes with those particular individuals. Additionally, there are students with behavior plans, emotional support needs, and 504 plans that include such medical diagnoses as ADHD (I don’t have quick data on that percentage).

My courses are all hands-on, and I manage an 8,000 sq ft courtyard and have between 70 and 80 animals in the animal science program as well as wildlife habitat, vegetable gardens, fruit plants, and a small greenhouse. In my classroom I provide centers for students to work in when they finish early; these centers are in reading, art, science, and technology, and I created activities for each center that students complete as they work in the center.

On a normal day, I come into work 30-45 minutes early to get my room set up, copy materials, etc. I’m on hall duty for approximately 15 minutes, then the first class block starts. I’ve got 40 minutes of individual plan, then hall duty for 30 minutes twice a week, 70 minutes of individual plan twice a week, and 45-60 minutes of professional development with an additional 10-25 minutes of individual plan on the fifth day. After school I have hall duty again for about 10 minutes daily, then meetings three days a week. One of those meetings is about an hour in length while the other two are around 20-25 minutes each. That leaves me with four additional hours on a normal week between the end of the school day and the time I have to leave to pick my pre-k student up at his school. In a perfect week, I have about 11.50 hours between 6:15 am and 3:30 pm where I am at school with “free” time to plan, grade, etc.

I’m fine with my job duties, but it would be irresponsible to say that I have adequate time during the work day to get things done. Between the hall duties (good for the school), the peer learning time (good for the teachers), meetings (good for the staff), parent contacts (good for the students and families), and other things we get regularly called upon to do, it can be difficult to take the entire time allocated for work and give it to work. I’ve got IEP meetings, behavior plan meetings, TONS of emails to answer, guest speakers to arrange, trips for my student clubs to plan, evaluation system goals to write, lesson reflections to complete, student work samples to hang in the classroom and hallway, essential questions and standards and agendas to write on the board every day for every separate class, a positive behavior support system to maintain, attendance to enter into the computer (within the first 10-15 minutes of class, while also teaching), grades to update and enter electronically as well as back up manually, supplies such as books and paper and scissors to inventory and maintain, conversations with other educators about the students we share to help support them in our classrooms, missing and makeup work to track down, and data data data to enter into multiple systems. Heaven forbid I need to write a behavior referral for a student, because that entails multiple actions across multiple platforms in addition to calling home and conferencing with the student and all the things I did prior to needing to complete the referral.

Many of these are things educators have been doing for a long time. And that’s fine. The difference really is all the initiatives that we now have to follow. I can’t just write down my lesson topic on a piece of paper and go. I have to show my bellringer activity, my activating strategy, 3-4 transitions throughout the class, how I’m differentiating for all my students, what in-depth questions I’m asking to evaluate learning, what my formative assessment will be, where the lesson ties in to the overall unit and course, what standards the lesson is based on (my content standards plus math and ELA common core plus any science and social studies), and the level of rigor. We have a lot of professional development on our own in addition to the ones we get in groups.

So yes, over time the responsibilities have grown and the complexity of meeting the requirements have grown.
A side note about Amplify: Yes, it is a company. However, that term is being used across the educational environment to describe a series of tests. There’s the Smarter Balanced test, the STAR test, SRI, etc. Amplify has a product that gets used, but instead of using its full name every time we refer to it, we simply say “Amplify”. Not trying to be touchy, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone respond to an educator with that “Amplify is a company, not a test” comment.

And now that my lunch “half hour” is over…

Will Schwinn and Ruszkowski Be Cut From DOE? Is Herdman’s Vision Of Personalized Learning Already Here? Do Teacher Surveys Give Meaningful Data? And MUCH MORE!!!!

Back in February, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee and the House Education Committee grilled the Delaware DOE over Race To The Top funding and everything that came with it.  At last, we have the answers made available to the public in this exclusive bombshell.  There are seven documents here, giving LOTS of details about the DOE.

It looks like the Joint Finance Committee’s slashing of the Delaware DOE’s previous Race To The Top employee funds could result in MAJOR changes at the DOE according to the below document!  Will Penny Schwinn and Chris Ruszkowski be the first to go?  And many more key positions as well!

As well, if you replace 2Revolutions with Schoology it is obvious that personalized learning is already implemented in many of our schools.  This will eventually lead to less direct instructional time by a teacher and more kids glued to computer screens.

There is SO much in these documents.  About teacher surveys, priority schools, more on Booker T, Education Insight and massive amounts of data being captured, and so much more!

So if I am reading this right, the following positions could be cut:

Chief Accountability & Performance Officer: Penny Schwinn

Director, Office of Data Management: Ryan Reyna

Education Specialist, Data Analyst, Office of Data Management: Chesiree Wise

Chief Performance Officer, Office of Performance Management: Katherine Villari

Deputy Officer, LEA Performance, Office of Performance Management: Elizabeth Jettter

Education Associate, School Turnaround: ??

Chief Officer, Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit: Christopher Ruszkowski

Chief of Staff, Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit: ??

Deputy Officer, Talent Recruitment & Acquisition: Tasha Cannon

Director, Talent Management: Atnre Alleyne

If anyone knows the blanks, please let me know.

Check out all the below documents which are referenced as attachments in the first document.