When Is The Next Delaware Assessment Inventory Meeting? Why Are They Stalling?

A week ago, I received notice the Delaware Assessment Inventory Committee will meet on April 26th.  Now, I am hearing May 2nd.  This came straight from Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky!  The May 2nd date is tentative.  So what is the hold-up?  It seems to me no one at the DOE really knows what they are doing with all of this.  Why are they the ones calling the shots?  They screwed it all up to begin with.

TaskforceUpdates

The above picture came from Secretary Godowsky’s “Legislator Update”, an email sent to all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly yesterday.  While this may seem arrogant of me, I could swear they change these meetings to Monday afternoon because they know I will be at work! 😉

For all the hoopla Delaware has made of their beloved “assessment inventory”, they don’t seem to be in a rush to get anything done with it.  This has been in discussion since April of last year, when it was first announced at the State Board of Education meeting.  We all know what it really is: a “solution” to eliminate opt out by giving the people what they think they want (but we aren’t that stupid DOE) and to get rid of local assessments that give immediate feedback and help to guide instruction.

Parents say there is too much testing and I agree with that.  But take what Appoquinimink is doing: They are administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment and then the MAP testing immediately after.  What kind of message does this send to parents?  They will all say “there is too much testing”.  The Governor and the DOE will pounce on that and suggest getting rid of the lesser of the two evils.  Buh-bye MAP tests, hello to the great Smarter Balanced!  This is all rigged and far too many parents believe the lie.

Other “highlights” from the “Legislator Update” include:

LegislatorUpdate3

I love the use of the word “investment”.  While I appreciate Dr. Godowsky getting this out there, and it is light years better than anything former Secretary Mark Murphy did, sending out a newsletter instead of actually changing things legislators want are two very different things.  For example, how about House Resolution #22 Dr. Godowsky?  Why do they only put the “good things” the DOE is up to in this newsletter?  I would love to see articles on how the DOE is causing more stress and headaches in our schools.  Putting a pretty picture on a state agency really doesn’t fool anyone Dr. Godowsky.

LegislatorUpdate1

It was at last year’s Common Core for Common Ground that Governor Markell gave a very condescending speech to Delaware teachers.  He told them it was the last year before things start to count, meaning the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores being used for their teacher evaluations.  Of course this year, they won’t either.  And everything changes with the Every Student Succeeds Act replacing ESEA.  What teacher in their right mind (those not recruited into the Rodel-DOE-Markell “dream teams” that unabashedly promote Common Core and personalized learning) would show off the very standards and “results-driven” strategies (which is one thing only in Delaware: the almighty high-stakes testing score) to their peers?  It looks like there is free food though.  That is always a way to lure educators into these events.  It wouldn’t shock me if they use all the culinary students in the state to produce the food!  But will they have the chocolate eclairs Rodel uses as bait for Delaware citizens to their Vision 20whatever conferences?

LegislatorUpdate2

I can’t wait to see the scores on the “new” SAT.  They are going to plummet because of the Common Core alignment.  But instead of recognizing that, we will see constant reports about how our high school juniors aren’t getting the instruction they need to be college and career ready.  More pawns in the corporate education reform psychodrama.

Parent Action Alert: Attend The Next Delaware Assessment Inventory Meeting Scheduled For April 26th

HighStakesTesting

The Assessment Inventory Committee for Delaware finally has a date scheduled for their next meeting.  It will be on April 26th, from 4pm-6pm, at the main Department of Education Building in Dover.  The meeting will be held in the Cabinet Room where the State Board of Education meets on a monthly basis.  No agenda has been set for the meeting at this point in time.

I highly encourage parents and teachers to attend this meeting and give public comment.  This is the time and place to make your voices heard where it could potentially have some sort of impact.  At the last meeting, I sensed some hesitation from State Rep. Tim Duke.  Prior to this meeting, I perceived Dukes as a pro-standardized testing, anti-opt out legislator.  He talked about walking through schools and really listening to teachers and hearing their concerns.  I would have not thought this was possible a few months ago.

This is a committee that is largely controlled by the DOE.  There is a parent representative on the group, but she only attended the first meeting.  I find this to be unacceptable.  State Rep. Kim Williams has emailed the DOE several times about this glaring hole on the committee without any response from them.  The Delaware PTA has also been very vocal about the lack of parent representation on the committee.

It is very important for parents and teachers to give their opinion on these matters to those who have the ability to make a difference.  While you may think your voice does not matter, it does.  It always has.  Don’t be afraid to use it.  The timing on this meeting is crucial given that the Every Student Succeeds Act is in the process of issuing regulations that could dictate how much control states have over high-stakes testing.  Our children need you to speak up.  They need you to be their voice.  Do not let them down!  The Smarter Balanced Assessment must go.  But we also need to make sure it is not replaced by something comparable or worse.  As well, the data output from the state assessment and personalized learning must be protected so children are not tracked and used as guinea pigs for testing companies or other corporate entities.  This is a non-negotiable in my opinion!

Look For Late Night Deals On Education Legislation At Legislative Hall On June 30th

As predicted, the final hours of the Delaware 148th General Assembly are going to be a hotbed of activity.  It will be Governor Markell’s last chance to get the legislation HE wants passed while he is still Governor.  For the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee, no date has been scheduled for their next meeting.  The final report is due 6/30/16.  And just now, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution #56.  This concurrent resolution which will most likely get passed by the Delaware House of Representatives today, extends the due date for the final report of the Education Funding Task Force.  This group was formed from Senate Joint Resolution #4 last year.

SCR56

These are the kinds of shenanigans where transparency goes out the window.  Rules are suspended so bills aren’t heard in committee and bills fly in and out of Legislative Hall on the last day of session.  The Governor will sign them because he is the one calling all the shots.  And on so many of these kinds of bills, we see the same names: Sokola and Jaques.  The education bullies of the state.  The ones who treat the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education like they are the royalty of Delaware.  The ones who treat parents and their rights as if they are a fly to swat away.  The ones who take good education bills and make mincemeat of them (or try).  Enough.  Someone run against these two education thugs.  Please!  If I were a betting man, I would say the results of these two committees are a foregone conclusion and the legislation that will come out of them was written a long time ago.  They just want to ram it through in the wee hours of June 30th, possibly into July 1st.  When everyone will be going nuts over the budget, Markell will take advantage of this and get his usual legislative accomplices to do his work.  WAKE UP DELAWARE!

Assessment Inventory Committee Meeting Tomorrow Night At DOE In Dover

The Assessment Inventory Committee will hold a meeting tomorrow night at the Delaware Department of Education office at the Townsend Building in Dover at 4:30pm.  The meeting will take place in the Library Conference Room.  The agenda, as shown below, will go over the DOE’s role in summative assessments.  The agenda does not show public comment, but it is a public meeting and public comment was allowed at other meetings so I’m sure this is just an error.  Please try to attend and give public comment!  Governor Markell’s former Education Policy Advisor assured members of the public the Smarter Balanced Assessment would be a part of the conversation around assessments last June.  I have yet to see anything serious from the SJR #2 Assessment Inventory Committee addressing this absolute waste of a test.

SJR2#4

Capital’s Board Of Education’s House Bill 50 Veto Override Letter To Legislators Is Amazing!!!!!

Lindell

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If John or Jane have to worry about if there is going to be food on the table for dinner tonight, worry about if they will have a roof over their head, or worry about being hit by a stray bullet within their neighborhoods, the self-actualization required to succeed on these tests, or for that matter, school, is made even more difficult for these students.  This translates into schools that service large high-need populations facing a difficult climb to reach accountability targets.

I was curious why the Capital School District Board of Education did not pass an official policy on opt-out the way Christina and Red Clay did.  They were the first Delaware school board to pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes state assessments way before anyone else did, back in October 2014.  The answer to that question is included in the below letter.  It was introduced at their January meeting and will be voted on at their meeting next Wednesday, February 17th.  This is the best letter I think I’ve ever seen written about opt-out, anywhere!  And I have seen some awesome letters!  Kudos to Board President Matt Lindell, Vice-President Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Nauleen Perry, and Ralph Taylor for this letter that says more about Delaware education than anything I have seen in a long time!  Thank you!

Delaware Assessment Inventory By District, Charter & State: What Is Good & What Is Bad

Timeliness is a huge problem.  Couldn’t use the data as needed.  No teacher reports that gave insight that was meaningful.  Math items were very difficult.

Non-relevant information in a timely manner, not adaptive and doesn’t measure achievement ability at the grade level.  Not valid yet.  Lost instructional time.

TestStress

The above quotes came from two Delaware school districts’ assessment inventories.  Care to guess which assessment they are talking about?  The one everyone wants to be eliminated from Delaware assessments (in most cases) but will likely be the last assessment standing when all is said and done.

Governor Markell asked for an assessment inventory less than a year ago.  The Delaware Department of Education started moving on this prior to Markell’s announcement, with the help of Achieve Inc.  Achieve Inc. and Delaware go way back.  As far back as 2000 when the Assistant Secretary of Education Michael Cohen helped Delaware to “define their standards”.  In 2004, Cohen became the CEO of Achieve Inc. From 2007-2009, Achieve Inc. was instrumental in designing the new Common Core standards.  How ironic that they are now riding to the rescue in Delaware’s Assessment Inventory.  Not only did they set the standards that would be measured by state assessments, now they are determining which assessments are important and which are redundant.  Nothing like setting up the whole game in your favor…

Senate Joint Resolution #2 put the assessment inventory into law.  The Assessment Inventory Task Force is now meeting to decide the next steps.  All districts and charters who participated in the assessment inventory had to have their information submitted to the DOE by December 31st, 2015.

The Delaware DOE is accepting public comment on the assessment inventory:

Persons wishing to present comments on the assessment inventories or recommendations by the district, schools or state may do so in writing or by email by the close of business on or before February 21, 2016 to Tina Shockley, Education Associate, Department of Education, at 401 Federal Street, Suite 2, Dover, Delaware 19901.  Email is tina.shockley@doe.k12.de.us. Please type Assessment Inventory Comments in the subject line of the email.

All comments will be made public on the DDOE website and also provided to the SJR#2 Assessment Inventory Committee.
I would take FULL advantage of this Delaware parents!!!

Below are links to every single part of the Delaware Assessment Inventory.  Interestingly enough, only five of the Delaware charter schools participated in this inventory.  All 19 school districts in the state took part.  Also included is the state assessment inventory and their estimated time chart showing how they plan to reduce testing time but with no details explaining the how.  Care to take a guess which district’s assessment inventory was over 500 pages long?

DISTRICTS

Appoquinimink

Brandywine

Brandywine Recommendations

Caesar Rodney

Caesar Rodney Recommendations

Cape Henlopen

Capital

Christina

Christina Recommendations

Delmar

Delmar Recommendations

Indian River

Lake Forest

Laurel

Milford

Milford Recommendations

New Castle County Vo-Tech

Polytech

Polytech Recommendations

Red Clay Consolidated

Seaford

Smyrna

Sussex Tech

Woodbridge

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Academy of Dover

Campus Community School

Campus Community School Recommendations

Charter School of Wilmington

Charter School of Wilmington Recommendations

Delaware Design-Lab High School

Delaware Design-Lab High School Recommendations

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy

STATE ASSESSMENTS

State English/Language Arts

State Math

State Science

State Social Studies

TIME CHART

Time Reducation Chart for Delaware mandated assessments

Acting US Secretary of Education John King recently praised Delaware for it’s “important role” in defining how an assessment inventory should be done.  As if it was planned from the very beginning…

There is more than meets the eye with this assessment inventory…

Exceptional Delaware Apologizes To The DOE

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  I wrote how they did not give sufficient public notice for their meeting last night.  Delaware law demands all public meetings be given a week notice with a posted agenda.  The DOE did get this out there on November 3rd, and I must have missed it somehow.  The DOE did act in full transparency in this situation.  This does not mean I am a DOE cheerleader, but I will point out when I make a mistake.  I emailed the powers that be over there just now about this with a heartfelt apology.

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

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

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

5yrassessment

5yrassessmentalt

The Full US DOE Fact Sheet On The Testing Action Plan

Below you will find the complete and unedited US DOE Fact Sheet on their recently announced Testing Action Plan.  Delaware citizens: Take not of the mention of Delaware.  Which confirms my suspicions this is all a smokescreen to get rid of district assessments and make EVERYTHING aligned to Common Core.  As long as they have their precious standardized assessment, no matter what the length is, they will do this.  I don’t buy this for a second.  This is exactly what Delaware Governor Jack Markell did, but on a national scale. Continue reading

Arne Duncan Calls For Limits On Testing…Is This US DOE’s Version Of Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2?

As heard pretty much everywhere, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan along with President Obama’s administration called for a limit on standardized testing and state it shouldn’t take up more than 2% of class time.  Do Not Be Fooled!  The words Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC were never mentioned in this press release.  Many states have called for a reduction in testing.  But not the ones that people REALLY want to disappear.  It is my contention that the feds are mimicking what many states are doing: trying to get rid of district assessments in lieu of the big state standardized assessments that Obama and Duncan just love so much.

Last March, Delaware Governor Jack Markell called for a limit in testing.  Coincidentally, this happened at the exact same time the opt-out movement in Delaware was gaining steam.  Coincidentally, Delaware Senator David Sokola introduced Senate Joint Resolution #2 within a week after the House of Representatives passed the opt-out legislation in Delaware, House Bill 50.  SJR #2 was the legislation to go along with Markell’s test reduction announcement.  Coincidentally, the task force to examine all of these assessments has done absolutely nothing.  Aside from some legislators being assigned to the task force, no planned dates have been announced for it whatsoever.  And coincidentally, when Governor Markell vetoed House Bill 50, take a wild guess what Markell and the DOE’s main reason was for this?  Because we are already going to reduce testing.

I got a ton of heat for casting fingers on SJR #2, but I have yet to be proven wrong.  Now the Feds are playing the same game.  And people are getting excited.  Once again, don’t be fooled.  Parents aren’t opting out of district assessments that gave immediate feedback and actually help teachers.  They are opting out of SBAC and PARCC.  Because they don’t help students or teachers, and there is no immediate feedback.  Hell, teachers can’t even see the questions or the answers.  Until President Obama publicly apologizes for the policies and non-Congressionally approved mandates coming out of HIS Department of Education, and abolishes all of these standardized assessments and the punitive measures they have on teachers and schools, I don’t believe a word he says about this matter.

Want to know when the SJR #2 Task Force will start to meet?  Probably the second a legislator brings up the veto override of House Bill 50!

Unraveling The Gordian Knot Around The Delaware DOE, AIR, DRC, CCSSO & SBAC

For many years, the Delaware Department of Education enacted policies and procedures with most of Delaware not aware of what was really going on.  This is changing at an exponential rate.  A Gordian knot is described as an unsolvable problem.  For years, folks in Delaware took whatever the DOE said as the gospel truth and there was nothing they could do about it.  The times, they are indeed changing…

For example, Senate Joint Resolution #2.  Sponsored by Delaware State Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques.  This resolution creates a task force to do away with unnecessary assessments because “students are being tested too much.”  Now I am hearing the DOE wants to increase the amount of interim assessments for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  So we will get rid of the tests that actually give immediate feedback for instructional growth, but have more tests aligned with the Smarter Balanced?  You have got to be kidding me.  I always knew this was a ploy to fight opt-out, but now we are seeing the scorpion sting coming from the backend.  They want ALL the assessments kids get to be tied to Smarter Balanced, all for scores on THIS test.  And let’s not even get into how much more money this will give the vendor for Smarter Balanced, none other than American Institutes for Research (AIR).  As if $38 million between DCAS and Smarter Balanced weren’t enough…

In a couple newsletters from the Delaware System of Student Assessments (DeSSA), they talk about Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) being the scoring vendor, but never reveal the actual contractual relationship between AIR and DRC, even though other states were openly talking about it.  In fact, it appears the DOE did everything they could to avoid anything seen as issues with the Smarter Balanced Assessment during all of the House Bill 50 debate.

The key words in this newsletter from May of 2015, which talks about the “assessment inventory” are as follows:

Ultimately, the overall goal of this project is to provide a balanced system of assessments incorporating a minimum amount of high quality testing while meeting accountability needs and the needs of the educators supporting student growth and maximizing time for instruction.

Source: DeSSA May 2015 Newsletter

We are also finding out how much AIR and DRC are closely tied.  DRC is not just a test scoring vendor.  In fact, DRC was recently announced as the testing vendor for the Badger Exam in Wisconsin.  And there are already accusations surrounding campaign contributions to Governor Scott Walker from DRC President Susan Engeleiter.  DRC is the scoring vendor for Delaware’s Smarter Balanced essay portions of the test.  But the Delaware DOE never announced this.  In fact, they danced around the question for quite a long time.  They said nothing about it.

In the same newsletter from above, the DOE is very careful about how they word things:

Delaware non-machined scored online items are being hand-scored by the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC). Delaware student items are being scored using the rubrics and student samples validated by educators from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium states, including educators from Delaware.

Hand-scored results will then be combined with machine-scored results for reporting purposes. Our score reports will then be sent from our Delaware online platform vendor, American Institutes for Research (AIR).

Parent reports are scheduled to be sent out early August, providing student scores for testing in ELA/literacy and mathematics. An interpretative guide will also be distributed to support full understanding of the document.

The whole newsletter is actually chock full of information.  Too bad parents don’t get this newsletter.  But in the March 2015 newsletter, it indicates more about DRC, and the qualifications for their scorers.

High Expectations for Summative Scorers:

Step 1 – Screening

Four-year college degree in relevant scoring content area

 Educational/work experience related to scoring subject

 Prior scoring experience is considered

Step 2 – Interview

Personal interview

 DRC content-area proficiency assessment

Step 3 – Training

Item training

 Reliability calibration/validation

Step 4 – Ongoing Validation

Read-behind validation

 Ten percent double-scoring, supervisor review

 Ongoing accuracy review

Step 5 – Retraining (if warranted)

Re-assignment of scoring and all previously scored work

 Follow-up tracking for accuracy

 Dismissal from process and rescoring of scored work

Source: DeSSA March 2015 Newsletter

The DOE confirmed at the May 2014 Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens that none of these portions of Smarter Balanced would be graded in Delaware.  This article from Oregon Save Our Schools shows a great deal of concern with DRC as the “human scoring vendor”…

…confirmed that the test vendor (AIR) is subcontracting with a company called Data Recognition Corporation, DRC, to manage scoring of constructed responses.  They operate in much the same way the Measurement Incorporated and Pearsons scores the tests using random temp workers paid low wages. DRC is paying $13/hour, like Pearsons while MI pays $10.70. They all make the only qualification, a BA or 4 year degree in any subject. These low wage temp workers are not educators and not qualified to evaluate our students. They work under conditions that are not conducive to good assessment, sitting for hours reading huge volumes writing of students they don’t know.

So what is the relationship between AIR and DRC in terms of standardized assessments?  They both have strong ties to overall education policy due to their business relationship with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  These corporations pay a “membership” fee to get in, and then reap the benefits through numerous contracts with testing consortiums and state education agencies like the Delaware DOE.

Led by Executive Director Christopher Minnich, CCSSO describes itself as:

The Council of Chief State School Officers is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

But good luck getting into any of their closed-to-the-public meetings.  In fact, they stress this is by invitation only.  As I reported last night, Mark Murphy and former Delaware Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery were both on the Board of Directors, but due to their recent resignations, they can’t be on the Board.  But that doesn’t mean other members of the DOE aren’t participating in the many different work groups within this organization.

Delaware DOE has a hand in the following groups at CCSSO: Accountability Systems and Reporting, Assessing Special Education Students, Science, Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction, and Supports and Interventions.  While CCSSO is very strict about quoting from their website, it is worth poking around at the CCSSO website to see exactly how many of the grand announcements coming out of the Delaware DOE actually come from this organization.  Everything from their recent announcements about educator effectiveness, to school leader programs, and even the Delaware School Success Framework seem to come from work done in this group.  Keep in mind this is a company, and it is not the United States Department of Education.  But they certainly assist in setting policy while they get paid handsomely by states and businesses.

Their business members, which they call “corporate partners”, include the following: American Institutes for Research, Data Recognition Corporation, Educational Testing Service (ETS), McGraw-Hill, Microsoft, Pearson, Scholastic, Amplify, Apple, College Board, ACT, IBM, Questar, Texas Instruments, and numerous other assessment and technology companies.  These members join at a Tier level, between 1-3, based on the amount of their entrance fee.

If you look at the contracts web page for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, you can see how many of these “corporate partners” are directly aligned with development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

States also have to pay for CCSSO’s services.  Delaware alone has paid $770,572.00 since Fiscal Year 2011 in annual membership fees and payments.  All of the companies CCSSO works with have made billions of dollars on testing American public school students.  American Institutes for Research is at the top of the pack.  Some have theorized that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium IS American Institutes for Research, but this has not been proven definitively.  But it is more than obvious AIR benefits from the need for high-stakes testing as blogger Mercedes Schneider wrote last year:

AIR does not question the self-defeating role that test-driven reform plays in compelling states to set “safe” state goals for an unrealistic NCLB  (including the lowering of state standards and watering down of state tests) in order to not have principals and teachers fired and schools declared failures and taken over in order to be “turned around” or handed over to privately managed, under-regulated charters. AIR assumes that test-driven reform is good and will result in some undefined international superiority evidenced by America’s achieving The Best Test Scores In the Universe.

But there is another home-hitting, *economic* reason for this AIR “CCSS and assessments” push:

AIR NEEDS CCSS because AIR is counting on profiting from CCSS assessments. 

AIR is the company that designed the pre-National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests which soon became the NAEP test as we know it.  They published report after report about how our schools were failing.  They were heavily involved with CCSSO who developed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS, not to be confused with CCSSO).  Then they developed the Smarter Balanced Assessment, many of the psychometrics for the test, and the algorithms for the test which creates the adaptive portion of the test.  And because so much of this is proprietary, they won’t even let state DOEs contract out the scoring vendor of THEIR test.  Only they can sub-contract.  Which they do to DRC, all the time.  But DRC is also known to be a recruiter for AIR, an assessment vendor, and other similar functions.  In this crazy world of corporate education reform, it is very hard to tell AIR and DRC apart.  But at the top of the assessment game, it’s AIR.  They not only created the need for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they created the test, the benchmarks, the algorithms, and they are well-connected with the company that scores the essays from the test.  It’s all a big win for AIR as Schneider wrote in the above link:

So, for AIR to analyze state standards and assessments, compare those to national and international assessments, and find in favor of a set of standards that it cannot test because doing so would require AIR use assessments that do not yet exist but are nonetheless declared imperative for America to compete internationally– that is decidedly suspect given AIR’s past, current, and future aim to profit off of CCSS assessments.

But AIR doesn’t just get rich from state DOEs.  They have over 20 contracts with the United States Department of Education as well, as I reported in April in a very extensive article about AIR.  If you look at the contracts web page for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium you can see how many of these “corporate partners” are directly aligned with development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

AIR also “helped” the Delaware DOE with their state educator equity plan, which drew the wrath of numerous inner-city school districts once the News Journal published a story blasting Delaware educators, especially those in Wilmington schools.

Source: Page 8, Delaware Excellent Educators For All Plan

AIR and DRC have their hands all over the education landscape.  And Delaware seems to be an easy target for their extensive work.  But our children do not benefit from their empire.  Delaware citizens are lied to all the time from state officials, or they aren’t given pertinent information.  Our educators are ridiculed and humiliated constantly, and the DOE doesn’t care.  They want this.  Make no mistake, this is a vast network of companies and US Government agencies, with tentacles everywhere, not just in education.  To untangle it all would take a great deal of time, and every time you think you have it figured out, like a hydra, two more take its place.

Since all of this culminates in the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the easy solution is the most obvious: REFUSE THE TEST!  Take away the fruit of all their labors, and what are they left with?  These companies have tried to mold public policy in their own self-serving interest to make more money!  At the end of the day, this conspiracy is all about money.  They are corporate invaders trying to take over public education because they want to make more money by privatizing it all.  This isn’t one political party that’s doing all of this.  It’s bi-partisan.  Because there is one thing that makes the world tick: money.  Either you have it or you don’t.  And in corporate education reform, these companies are getting it by the truckload every day!  You don’t have to be a prophet to see the profit.  But you do have to care to see this is not good for children at all.

State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf Will Not Vote For HB50 Veto Override, Cites SJR #2 As Reason

In an article today by Melissa Steele in the Cape Gazette, Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf emphatically said no to any type of veto override for House Bill 50.

On the House side, Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said he will not support an override attempt. He voted yes for the bill in June, but he said he would call no special session to override the veto, and he will vote no for the override if it comes up after the legislative session resumes in January.

How does that song by Cyndie Lauper go, “I’ll see your true colors, shining through…”.  It sounds like he swallowed the poison pill that is Senate Joint Resolution #2 as well.  This is the statewide assessment inventory resolution that was always meant to counter House Bill 50.  Schwartkopf even said so in the article:

Schwartzkopf said based on the joint resolution, a task force is being established, and a lot of concerns of over testing may be resolved by its recommendation.

“Let’s give the task force a chance to look at this,” he said.

For those who may not recall, I was livid when SJR #2 was introduced, and even beforehand.  Once Markell announced his “overtesting” initiative, I knew this would be his huge attack against parent opt-out.  I even called allies out in their support of SJR #2, because I knew what it was meant to do.  And here we are, with a veto of an opt-out bill and a push for SJR #2.  If ANYONE thinks Smarter Balanced will be a major discussion point in the assessment inventory, in terms of eliminating that test, they are going to be fooled.  The talk will last for five minutes until someone says “We can’t get rid of it, it’s a federal requirement.”

Perhaps the day has come where Schwartzkopf shouldn’t be able to run the show anymore on the House side in Dover.  Maybe the House Bill 50 veto isn’t the only thing that needs to change down  there.

Meanwhile, Delaware State Senator Ernie Lopez is very much in favor of overriding the veto.

“Smarter Balanced has been the culmination and been on the receiving end of frustration on all levels,” he said. “All of us are disappointed in the governor’s response.”

Now that is a legislator quote I can agree with!  Once and for all we will see which legislators side with parents and which side with Markell in any veto override attempt in January.  And yes, as Senator Bryan Townsend said during the final senate vote on House Bill 50, legislators are being tested with this vote.  And with 11 out of 21 senate seats and all 41 of the House Representative seats open for re-election in November 2016, you better believe it!  Parents are watching what our legislators do like never before.

Opt-Out Haters Of Delaware: Who is Senator David Sokola And How Has He Damaged Public Education For A Quarter Of A Century?

Delaware Senator David Sokola certainly had his moments with parents this legislative session, myself included.  After a tumultuous four and a half months in the General Assembly, House Bill 50 eventually passed.  Yesterday, Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill to the amazement and anger of, well, Delaware.  But the fallout from that one bill may echo into the second part of the 148th General Assembly as a potential veto override could take place as early as January, or barring some miracle where the General Assembly agrees to come back in special session between now and then.  While State Rep. Earl Jaques was certainly the biggest obstacle in the House of Representatives, Senator Sokola was clearly the largest obstacle of the bill as a whole.

I wondered why a State Senator who is the chair of the Senate Education Committee would oppose legislation that would codify the rights of parents to opt their child out of harmful testing.  I did some research on Sokola, and found his legislator history is filled with controversial education bills.  Over the last twenty-five years, he has served as a State Senator in the First State.

In 1995, Sokola was instrumental in getting the original charter school bill, Senate Bill 200, passed.  When Newark Charter School opened, Sokola was a board member and helped create the school.  According to Kilroy’s Delaware, Senator Sokola sponsored legislation in 2002 that repealed the law surrounding the impact of new charters on other schools in the area.  This led to Kilroy blasting the Senator in 2013 when he wrote a letter of recommendation for the never-opened Pike Creek Charter School, which was within his own district.  Last year though, legislation sponsored by Sokola brought this law back into place with Senate Bill 209.

In another article, Kilroy slammed Sokola for creating the DSTP in Delaware.  The DSTP was the state standardized assessment prior to DCAS, and was widely considered to be just as damaging as the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

“Many forget or might not know Senator Sokola is the godfather of DSTP the former standardized student test that was flawed from day(one)! Remember those 3-tiered diplomas grading student(s) based on one test like sides of beef in the supermarket.”

In fact, Sokola was opposed to DCAS and wanted another kind of standardized assessment in Delaware, but he was not granted his wish, and Delaware received the kinder and friendlier DCAS.  But last year, Sokola was the Senate sponsor for the very controversial House Bill 334, which brought the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  It would stand to reason he would oppose a measure whereby the state recognized and honored a parent’s right to opt out of a state assessment he sponsored legislation for.

In 2013, Sokola co-sponsored a bill to update the original Senate Bill 200 charter school law.  This one brought out a lot of fighting in Delaware and helped set up some of the current animosity against the Delaware Charter School Network.  House Bill 165 went through more amendments that were defeated or stricken than any bill in recent memory.  It set up the whole transportation slush fund and the annual charter school performance award.  The bill went through in a little less than a month with local school districts even more afraid of the impact a slew of charter schools would have on their enrollment and funding.  Side deals occurred like crazy, and the blogger Kavips gave a list of the reasons why House Bill 165 was a very bad bill.

Another Sokola sponsored legislation caused the current wave of teacher resentment against the DOE with Senate Bill 51.  This very controversial bill created the harsher evaluations currently used against Delaware educators.  While the educators have received a two-year pass from the Smarter Balanced Assessment impacting their evaluations, there is plenty in this bill that ticked teachers off.  And John Young with Transparent Christina warned citizens of Delaware:

“So, we have a group of legislators who have signed on, including my own Senator. But why? Well, I can only guess because it sounds so good and intuitive and simple and pure. All of which, when you are talking education should make your spine crawl.”

His latest offering to Delaware, signed by Markell yesterday, is Senate Joint Resolution #2.  Like most Sokola offerings, this bill looks really great on the surface, but it is injected with a poison.  SJR #2 is a convening of a group to look at district and state assessments and pick out which ones are good and which ones are bad.  Kids are over-tested, sure.  But this bill all but guarantees the further implementation of Common Core as assessments will be picked that are aligned with the state standards.  This will give districts less autonomy in figuring out what struggles students are having and how they can help them.  SJR #2 is filled with controversy.  Shana Young with the DOE sent out an email in early May fully stating this bill was designed to be a counter to the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50.  When I submitted a FOIA for this email, the DOE claimed it never existed even though I have seen it with my own two eyes.

During the Senate Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50, Sokola graciously allowed the opponents of House Bill 50 all the time they wanted for public comment, but stopped the supporters short and towards the end would interrupt them.  He then introduced an amendment to House Bill 50 when it came up for a Senate vote all but guaranteeing it would kick the bill back to the House of Representatives for another vote.  It did just that, and another amendment put on the bill by Senator Bryan Towsend almost killed the bill, but common sense prevailed and Townsend’s amendment was shot down after a 2nd vote.

I am sure Sokola is presently making the rounds about an override of House Bill 50.  It would need a 3/5ths vote in both houses to pass, and I have no doubt Sokola and his counterpart but not so smart buddy in the House Earl Jaques are making the calls as I write this.

A pattern begins to form with Senator Sokola’s greatest hits.  Rigorous testing, more charter schools and autonomy for them that they clearly don’t deserve, and what many view as unfair accountability for teachers.  Sokola has gone on record as recently as last month in saying we need to compete with other countries with standardized assessments, but he seems to forget that was the argument two years ago for Common Core.  It is very hard for me to trust any legislation introduced by Senator David Sokola when it comes to education, cause something always seems to come back to bite public schools and educators in the ass, with the exception of his beloved charter schools.   He has used his position and created multiple conflicts of interest but the Delaware Senate looks the other way.  Just like the Delaware Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education seem to want.  In a sense, Sokola could be directly blamed for the current status of segregation in Wilmington with his original charter school legislation and his demands for rigorous standardized testing that has done more damage to schools than anything Governor Markell could ever hope to do.  He will pretend to stand up for black students, but his actions speak otherwise.

Senator Sokola is up for re-election in 2016.  Will he run again, or does he possibly have something else lined up now that he has retired from DuPont?  Rumors circulate, but at this time they are just that.  Will he fade into oblivion or end up running some huge charter management company in Wilmington?  Or will someone finally hold this man accountable for his actions?

House Bill 50 News… Not On The Agenda For Senate Vote Tomorrow or Wednesday

The clock is ticking fast for the last days of the Delaware General Assembly’s legislative session.  June 30th is the last day, and House Bill 50 has one last stop before it either goes to Governor Markell or gasps its last breath on the Senate floor.  Many folks have been emailing the Senate, and I would love it if everyone reading this in Delaware could do the same if they haven’t already.

Here’s the latest: Senator David Sokola, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee plans to add an amendment to the bill adding all state assessments as well as district-wide assessments that parents “can” opt out of.  This bewildering move is strategic on his part.  The Senate may pitch a fit over this thinking parents can opt out of any test.  They can, but they are only choosing to opt out of one test: The Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Senate doesn’t release their committee votes, but all eight agreed to release the bill with one unfavorable.

The Senate is an unknown enigma in this opt out saga.  I had a feeling it would pass the House, but not with a 36-3 vote!  The problem now is Senate Joint Resolution #2.  I can see someone saying “But we are already doing the assessment inventory.”  Well played Sokola.  Not really, it was a shady plan you and Jaques cooked up there, fully backed by Governor Markell I’m sure.  But now it is time to put this to the test (no pun intended).  Let the Senate decide.  Put this up on the agenda this week.  And don’t do it with any backroom deals.  Be a Senator, but more important, be a man and put this up!!!

My Son & I Will Be On NBC Philadelphia News This Afternoon Discussing Parent Opt-Out

Tim Furlong with NBC Philadelphia Channel 10 left my house about half an hour ago after filming a segment on parent opt-out of standardized testing for the afternoon news.  This news story will also include Tim covering the Senate Education Committee meeting today at Legislative Hall in Dover at 3pm.  With numerous articles appearing today from WDEL and WDDE on House Bill 50, this will be THE place to be at Legislative Hall today.

Another bill has been added to the agenda, Senator Margaret Rose Henry’s Senate Bill 122, which is described as:

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14, CHAPTER 10 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION AND THE REORGANIZATION AND CHANGING OF SCHOOL DISTRICT BOUNDARIES.

I did hear Senator Sokola promise State Rep. John Kowalko House Bill 50 would be heard first today after it was postponed during last week’s meeting.  I sincerely hope the Senator lives up to his promise.

House Bill 50 Back In The Saddle For Senate Education Committee Meeting 6/10/15, 3pm

As committee meetings were posted on the legis.delaware.gov website today, I kept waiting to see the Senate Education Committee meeting posting.  It is finally up, and it is just House Bill 50 and Senate Joint Resolution #2.  I expect, to borrow some words from the Delaware DOE, a lot of robust and rigorous conversation around these two educational matters.  I did hear Senator David Sokola tell State Rep. John Kowalko House Bill 50 would be heard first the other day, so I fully expect Sokola to keep his word.

I have not received a response to my request for House Bill 50 to be petitioned out of committee by any member of the Senate leadership, but given that the past couple days have been about Beau Biden’s viewing, I didn’t expect to.  Here is the official agenda:

Chamber: Senate

Chairman: Sokola

Location/Room: Senate Hearing Room

Date/Time: 06/10/2015 03:00:00 PM

Revision Num:

Agenda

SJR 2 DIRECTING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO STUDY STUDENT ASSESSMENT TESTING.
Sponsor : Sokola


HB 50 w/HA 1 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT.
Sponsor : Kowalko


Comment: Introduction, Approval of Meeting Minutes, Agenda, Other items that appear before the Committee, Adjournment *Agenda Subject to change

Meeting Minutes:

I have to wonder if the same folks will show up.  I imagine there will be a lot more parents there since the agenda is lighter.  From what I understand, there were several parents outside of the meeting room the other day but were unable to come in because the room was at capacity.  I know Dr. Paul Herdman from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware was going to give public comment on House Bill 50 the other day, so it will be interesting to see if he returns and what he has to say about all this…

Why The Timetable For SJR #2 Guarentees Another Year (or more) Of Smarter Balanced

Senate Joint Resolution #2 in Delaware calls for recognition of the assessment inventory currently going on in all our public schools.  As well, with the amendment added on 6/3, it gives the General Assembly more ability to make recommendations on it.  According to Lindsey O’Mara, Markell’s education policy advisor, Smarter Balanced will be a part of the discussion.  But what this will not do is get rid of Smarter Balanced, if it even could, until the 2016-2017 school year.

I don’t think Smarter Balanced can be removed from the assessment equation in this assessment inventory.  State law is very clear there has to be a state assessment, and the law is for Smarter Balanced.  This is required by Federal law currently.  O’Mara said this, very fast mind you, at the Senate Education Committee meeting.  Furthermore, any legislation coming out of this discussion group, would still have to be signed by Markell if it passes the General Assembly.  He is a lame duck.  There is no way in hell he will sign legislation getting rid of Smarter Balanced.  Even if it passed unanimously through the House and Senate.

If a veto process carried past June 30th 2015, this would guarantee Smarter Balanced for the 2016-2017 school year.  Yes, there would be a new Governor and a new General Assembly starting in January 2017, and they would have to start from scratch all over again.  Which then brings us to the 2017-2018 school year.  Over two years from now…

If the only reasons DSEA is supporting SJR #2 is because Smarter Balanced was included in the discussion and the fact that it gives the General Assembly more abilities in the process, this is a weak argument.  I am still sticking with my original articles on this the past couple days.  I do not think the actions of DSEA and the RCEA President are intentional in deriding HB 50.  But I firmly believe they have been duped, and as a commenter wrote yesterday, DSEA is still trying to differentiate between a “seat at the table” and “being on the table”.  They are very eager for change, as we all are.  But if they fall over the cliff on this one and something happens with House Bill 50 as a result, the relationship between parents and the DSEA may never be repaired.

DSEA & RCEA President Back An “Alternative” To House Bill 50 & Stab Parents In The Back

At yesterday’s Senate Education Committee meeting, the Delaware State Educators Association and Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Educators Association,  publicly backed Senate Joint Resolution #2, labeled by the Delaware Department of Education as an “alternative” to House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill.  An amendment was added to the resolution yesterday, at the request of DSEA, adding more authority to the General Assembly to make “recommendations” to the State Board of Education when the assessment inventory is due on January 31st, 2016.

For an organization representing thousands of teachers in our state and supposedly backs House Bill 50 and parent opt-out, they sure have a funny way of showing it.  DSEA representative, Kristen Dwyer, told the committee she supports it but did add she doesn’t want this legislation confused with House Bill 50 because they are two different issues.

When asked by Dwyer if the Smarter Balanced Assessment would be included in the discussion of the assessment inventory, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsey O’Mara, said the following:

“Absolutely, yes, all assessments will be the subject of discussion.  We were all invited together to have a discussion about assessments.  Hopefully those discussions will be grounded in the reality of the cycle of state legal requirements around assessments.  But were happy to have any conversation around any assessment that any member of this group would put on the table.”

Dwyer went on to say “clearly Senate Joint Resolution #2 is a positive step in the right direction.”  RCEA President Mike Matthews gave public comment after Senator David Sokola talked about No Child Left Behind and how it should have been called “No Test Left Behind”.

“I had  some concerns when this resolution was first introduced.  I spoke to Kristen earlier today and I’m supporting the bill.  I’d like to see an amendment that the parent be appointed by the PTA and not the Governor’s office.  That would be fair.  And on a personal note, we’re going to do this testing inventory, I think it’s a great thing, public meetings, get everyone’s opinion on board.  The one test, we have a lot of tests in Red Clay, a lot of tests that give immediate feedback, DIBELS, SRI, even to some extent the Measure B’s, the pre and post tests, the one test that gives our teachers, our members absolutely no feedback is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  So I’m hopeful that will be a part of the discussion.  I’m very please the language has been strenghthened surrounding reporting out to the legislature.”

*Amended to add Mike Matthews full public comment*

It is painfully obvious that DSEA and Matthews have fallen into the trap set for them by Governor Markell, the DOE, Senator Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques.  Because this is what is going to happen: The Smarter Balanced Assessment will be discussed in this group.  It will be brought up by someone with legal authority that the Smarter Balanced is the state assessment as required by Federal law.  The report will be completed by January 30th, 2016.  Maybe some legislation will come out of it when the General Assembly gets fully rolling again in February 2016.  It will go through the motions there, which will bring us into April 2016.  Well after the next Smarter Balanced Assessment testing window will begin in March 2016.

Some legislative genius will propose the following in the next 26 days of this legislative session: “If the Smarter Balanced Assessment is up for discussion in this assessment inventory, why do we even need House Bill 50?  Why don’t we have it stricken?”  And they may just do this.  I could see this happening in the next week.  Now that the Governor’s office has given a happy and cheerful “Absolutely” about Smarter Balanced being included in this process, I can definitely see this.  And this is where the trap is revealed.

If House Bill 50 is stricken, or removed from the equation, here is what will happen: we will STILL have Smarter Balanced next year.  Parents will opt-out their children.  And they will still be harassed, bullied and intimidated by our schools.  Teachers will be judged by these tests, whether it is official or not.  Schools will be labeled and shamed.  Students who are opted out won’t be given proper instructional or educational material to work on while their peers are taking the test.  And we are right back to where we were a year ago when the 147th General Assembly passed House Bill 334 allowing the Smarter Balanced to be the state assessment.

Does the DSEA even care about any of this?  They say they support House Bill 50, but their public support has been very limited.  Do they care if they fall into this trap?  I can’t answer that.  But what was even more shocking was Mike Matthews publicly supporting SJR #2.  Out of ALL the teachers in Delaware, he would have been the last one I would ever expect to back this.

If the DSEA showed as much backbone for parents as they do for educators, the system in this state would be a lot different.  But no, they won’t do that.  In fact, they will go to bat for teachers every chance they get and call for their support, like in this email they sent out today:

From: DSEAInfo@DSEA.org
To: dsea-info@list.nea.org
CC: DoverStaff@DSEA.org; NewCastleStaff@DSEA.org; LeadershipTeam@DSEA.org
Subject: DPAS II Proposed Changes – Call to Action
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 2015 13:03:55 +0000

Dear Member,

As you may know, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) has sought to make substantive changes to the DPAS II-R evaluation system every year since 2010, when Component Five was first discussed.   These annual changes have occurred even as the Department’s own survey data shows a precipitous decline in educator support for the system designed to assess educator effectiveness. 

Despite these facts, DDOE is again pushing the State Board of Education to adopt substantive changes to the appraisal cycle and summative rating system.  The potential impact of these changes, coupled with the history of other changes and data showing an overwhelming lack of support for the system, once again paints a troubling picture for the educator evaluation system in Delaware. 

Issues with Changes to the Annual Appraisal Cycle:

DDOE is currently proposing a move to an annual appraisal cycle for all educators.  They contend that this change will provide for “ongoing opportunities for teacher development and student achievement by strengthening and refining the appraisal cycle” and that “new administrative requirements would be offset by the number of required observations and the online platform system.” 

DSEA’s position is that the Department’s response does not truly capture the impact their changes to regulations 106A and 107A would have.  Administrators conducting DPAS II observations have long cited the amount of time required to complete an observation as a key problem with the current system.  This opinion is supported by DDOE’s own Year 6 and Year 7 Annual DPAS II Survey, where administrator respondents specified that “time remains a significant issue.”  Simply put, administrators already have far too many employees assigned to them for observations and they continue to struggle to complete the required number of observations and the accompanying paperwork.   

Furthermore, the number of required observations has remained the same for the past three years.   Last year the Department added the “short observation” (10 minutes in length) as an optional observation type for administrators to use “in addition to” the standard observation, not “in lieu of.”  

Additionally, there is no indication that the online portal system would help offset the added administrative requirements, as the Department states it would.  Theses proposed changes do not improve the system and actually create the potential for educators to be rated solely on the basis of one 30-minute observation and their Component 5 scores.  

Issues with Changes to the Summative Rating System:

DDOE is also proposing to change how the summative ratings for evaluations are calculated and labeled.  The primary change is adjusting the numerical scores and labels attached to Components 1-4, allowing for fractional point totals.  It also further restricts the summative rating of “highly effective” to only those teachers who score “highly effective” or “effective” in Components 1-4 and “exceeds” in Component 5.  The Department chose to submit this proposed amendment knowing that an alternative summative rating system had been proposed by a joint DASA/DSEA DPAS II Work Group. 

The DASA/DSEA Work Group, a collaborative team of principals and educators, shared their alternate proposal with the DPAS II Advisory Committee.  They also recommended that any changes to the ratings be piloted, with full implementation delayed for one year.  The Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed the DASA/DSEA proposal.  Despite those facts, DDOE asked the Advisory Committee to recommend to the State Board the Department’s original proposed changes and stated that the DASA/DSEA proposal could be offered as an alternative evaluation system that school districts use pending DDOE approval. 

DSEA contends that the proposal of the Work Group is less burdensome than the Department’s changes and that it refines and simplifies the current system.  The changes proposed by the Work Group are: (1) Creating uniform rating categories throughout the system for criteria, components, and the overall summative rating; (2) Assigning an equal value of 20% to all components; and (3) Creating a numeric system to determine criteria, component, and summative ratings.  The Work Group continues to advocate for their proposed rating system to be piloted statewide with statewide implementation in school year 2016-17.  

Call to Action!

The State Board of Education will vote upon these proposed changes at their meeting on June 18th. Now, this is where you come in, public comment on the proposed changes will be accepted until June 5th.  So, we are encouraging all of our members to let the State Board of Education know why you oppose the proposed changes by sending in a letter for public comment.  We have attached two form letters that you can read and edit to make your own.  Once completed and personalized, please email or mail your letter to: 

Ms. Tina Shockley

Policy Advisor

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite 2

Dover, DE  19901

tina.shockley@doe.k12.de.us 

To read the proposed changes click here.  To read the letter submitted by DSEA to the State Board of Education stating our issued with these changes, click here

Thank you in advance for voicing your concerns and taking action with us! 

In Solidarity,

Frederika Jenner

Now if this same organization were to write a letter supporting a parent’s right to opt-out, I would be very impressed.  But I have a growing feeling they only care about opt-out as it would relate to teachers and their evaluations.

I have supported teachers and their unions for almost a year now, and backed them time and time again.  But when the parents really need their backing, they scurry away like little mice.

Senator Sokola Purposely Runs Down The Clock So House Bill 50 Not Heard

Today at the Delaware Senate Education Committee meeting, House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill was NOT HEARD.  There were five bills on the agenda, and the chair, Senator David Sokola, came strolling in very late.  As well, there were numerous public speakers, and he made NO effort to limit their speaking time.  In fact, he let them talk as long as they wanted to.  But he did get to have his Senate Joint Resolution #2 heard, which has now been amended to give the General Assembly more authority in the process of the State conducting an assessment inventory.

Sokola did say House Bill 50 will be heard first at next week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, but this was purposely done, make NO mistake about that.  The Senate was requested at 4pm to come downstairs for their session.  The most disgusting part of the whole thing was Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy smiling and giggling on his way out, like some demented freak.  This is a disturbing man, and he should not be around any children whatsoever, much less leading education in our state.

Senator Sokola obviously is at the beck and call of the DOE and Governor Markell.  He is not fit to lead any matters in education.  He is in the back pocket of the Governor, who is in the back pocket of all the corporate interests.

Contradicting what the DOE said in April at the State Board meeting, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is now included in the statewide assessment inventory but DO NOT BE FOOLED for one second this is to be taken seriously, despite what Governor Markell’s education policy advisor, Lindsey O’Mara said at the meeting, because that is also up to “state and federal regulations” as she said.

This is an obvious stall on the Governor’s part.  I could feel it in the air.  There were too many smug faces in that room.  No consideration whatsoever was given to members of the public who showed up for the meeting to hear House Bill 50.  Far too much time was allotted for public comment, and that was done with one goal in mind: to keep pushing this off.  In the meantime, we will see more useless editorials coming out and more ridiculous links and commentaries on the DOE’s Facebook page.

This is the Delaware Way at it’s finest and most appalling.  Parents, this is WAR!  Our Governor and DOE does not give a rats ass about any of us.  We are just little bugs to them.  It’s time to swarm.

Showdown Tomorrow on Opt-Out Legislation vs. “Staying In” Resolution

On Wednesday, June 3rd, the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50, will face off against Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory resolution.  The supporters of standardized testing have been out in full force in opinion pieces in the News Journal and the Dover Post, but so have the supporters of opt-out.  Backed by a 36-3 vote in the House of Representatives, House Bill 50 has a great deal of momentum coming into the Senate Education Committee meeting tomorrow at 3pm.

The monkey wrench in the House Bill 50 path is SJR #2.  Whether this “assessment inventory” legislation was created by the sponsors, Senator Sokola & House Rep. Jaques, or Governor Markell’s office, or the DOE is immaterial.  It was created to distract from parent opt-out.  The opponents are realizing this bill could clear the Senate very easily, and are attempting to put up ever possible roadblock they can think of.  The civil rights groups in Wilmington are out in full force arguing the merits of the Smarter Balanced Assessment with very little facts, even bringing up Brown v. The Board of Education from 50 years ago.  The argument simply shows further segregation of low-income and minority students as evidenced by standardized testing scores since No Child Left Behind began.

Meanwhile, the Delaware PTA, the Delaware State Educators Association, many teachers and a legion of parents are supporting House Bill 50.  For one simple reason: they do not want their children taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The flaws are out there for every one to see.

SJR #2 is now referred to as the “Staying In” resolution because of Dr. Teri Quinn Gray’s editorial in today’s News Journal where she states she wants parents to have the courage to “stay in” with the Smarter Balanced Assessment instead of opting out.  She even brought up her own child in the editorial who is a sophomore in college and not subject to the SBAC.