WEIC Meeting Tonight, The DOE’s Divide And Conquer Strategy Next Monday, & The Capital Debate

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is having a full commission meeting tonight at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The meeting on the 2nd floor in the teacher’s lounge begins at 5:30pm.  Many big education meetings are going down Monday afternoon with overlapping times, thereby ensuring no one can possibly make all three meetings.  As well, the very odd-sounding EFIC group has another meeting and the candidates for the Capital School Board are having a question and answer night!  But first, the WEIC agenda:

WEICAgenda42616I would imagine the group is a bit nervous since no legislation has been introduced to move forward on their redistricting plan.  If I were a betting man, it is coming but not until late June.  Tomorrow, one of the WEIC sub-committees is having a meeting: The Charter & District mud fight Collaboration Committee.

WEICCharterDistrictAgenda

But next Monday is where a lot of the action is as groups meet about the assessment inventory, student data privacy and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  It is possible to make all three if you drive REALLY fast and miss portions of two of the meetings.  But if you want free soda and pizza on the taxpayer’s dime, go to the last meeting!

The first one, which I’m most interested in given that I write a lot about student data privacy all the time these days, is the Data-Mining Club Student Data Privacy Protection Task Force.  They canceled the last meeting because they knew they wouldn’t have a quorum.  I would have put the agenda in, but of course the link doesn’t work.  I guess they want to make it private! 😉

StudDataPrivTF5216

In the next episode of “We Hate Parents so we are going to trick them out of opting out by making it look like we are getting rid of the bad tests”, the committee meets to discuss testing in Delaware.  Someone on the DOE side will talk about how essential the Smarter Balanced Assessment is and someone from the “good guys” side of the table will question what the hell we are even doing.  Audience members will give public comment overwhelmingly on the side of “Smarter Balanced sucks”.

SJR25216

To see the wonderful world of the Every Student Succeeds Act through the eyes of Corporate Education Reform Cheerleader State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson, come to Grotto’s Pizza at 5:30pm.  Keep in mind, everyone is still trying to figure out what the hell this mammoth law even means so anything Donna talks about will be subject to change.  Expect many “I don’t know”s and “We don’t know yet”s coming from the microphone for this one.  We can expect a lot of the same people to show up to this one.  Last time I went to one of these I got to take part in a table discussion with Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation.  Talk about awkward!  But it was all good…

StateBoardWorkshopESSA

And then on Tuesday, the Education Funding Task Force is meeting again to finalize their pre-determined potential education funding plan for the General Assembly to squeeze in during the last days of their legislative session.

SJR4Mtg5316

But THE most exciting education event next week will actually take place at Central Middle School on Wednesday May 4th at 7pm.  Candidates running for the Capital School Board are having a debate!!!  Shameless plug: I am one of the candidates.  Come and find out what our priorities, ideas, and concerns are and what our plans are to improve the district.  And don’t forget, no matter what district you live in, the school board elections are only two weeks away, on May 10th.

Capital Candidate Night

Assessment Inventory Minutes From February Show Clear Divide Between DOE & Everyone Else!

The Delaware Assessment Inventory Committee met in February, and the meeting was very controversial!  It is interesting how the Delaware Dept. of Education spun what happened in their meeting notes.  The minutes, written by Susan Haberstroh with the DOE, do show a lot of discussion around the Smarter Balanced Assessment and its effectiveness.  In the above link with my perception of the meeting, I have, verbatim, what I said in my public comment.  Never once was the word “weasel” used!

The next meeting of the Assessment Inventory Committee is on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar for May 2nd at 4:30pm at the Townsend Building in Dover.

DSEA Unanimously Votes To Eliminate Smarter Balanced Assessment As Part Of Delaware’s Assessment Inventory

Senate Joint Resolution #2 in Delaware created legislation for the state’s assessment inventory.  All assessments given to students are included in this, with the exception of final exams and end of unit tests.  This includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At their Rep Assembly last weekend, a business item was introduced for the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) to recommend eliminating the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  It was a unanimous vote.

Last Spring, when discussion on inclusion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in the assessment inventory was discussed at a Senate Education Committee, then Education Policy Advisor for Governor Markell Lindsay O’Mara assured the large audience it would be.  During the last assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware Department of Education, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was a large topic of discussion.  State Rep. Sean Matthews argued the state does not provide any real identifiable data and takes away far too much classroom time.

While DSEA doesn’t have the final say on the assessment inventory, it is a very positive step that they would unanimously pass a recommendation based on the entire rep assembly at their event last weekend.  I would love to see the test gone from all schools in Delaware, but I also fear for the future of standardized assessments.

With personalized learning invading our schools in mass quantity, the writing is on the wall for the future of assessments: much smaller standardized assessment chunks embedded into digital format through the modules for personalized learning.  As the brilliant blogger EducationAlchemy pointed out in a recent post, what makes personalized learning so personalized if it is a student using a computer?  It is all about the data.  The predictive analysis algorithms built into the Schoology systems used in Delaware.  That legislation to protect student data does not cover at all.  All to determine career paths for children at a very young age and guide them toward that profession when they leave secondary education.

Our children are not test scores, and they certainly aren’t your data guinea pigs.  The intrusion into children’s personal lives is at an all-time high.  We must stop this and take back public education from the reformers who not only want to get very rich off children but also want to mold the future with people on pre-determined career paths.

US DOE Pumps Up Delaware Without Knowing All The Facts

JackandJohn

The United States Department of Education wrote a fluff piece today on Delaware’s assessment inventory.  There were obvious flaws in their article.  But they did get one thing right, which certainly applies to “the best test Delaware ever made” (quote attributed to Governor Jack Markell), the Smarter Balanced Assessment:

Done poorly, in excess, or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creativity from our classrooms.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is finally defined!

Here are some of the other fallacies in the article:

Following up on its commitment to be a part of the solution, the Department recently released guidance to States on how they can use federal funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to reduce the testing burden and improve the use of high-quality assessments so that educators and families can better understand student learning needs and help them make progress (read the letter to States).

Hello! Part of the solution?  You created the problem!  How can educators and families help children make progress when they don’t see the answers the child gave?  This is all designed to get rid of the tests that give REAL information to better understand student learning needs and help them make progress.

 “It’s important for us to know where we have achievement gaps. It is important for us to know where our students are making progress,” King said. “But there are places around the country where there is too much assessment and the assessments are not the quality we want.”

Key words from Acting Secretary John King (and I stress the word “acting”): “…not the quality we want.”  Yes, you don’t want them because the whole mechanism by which schools are labeled and shamed, the high-stakes standardized test, is the quality you want.  Based on the Common Core standards, these tests are horrible.  And you know it John King!  You are deluded if you think parents aren’t waking up to this more and more!

All district and charter schools in Delaware were required to complete an inventory of their assessments and submit their findings to the Delaware Department of Education by December 31, 2015.

Who checks the facts at the US DOE?  Or did the Delaware DOE give them this information?  All districts and charters were not “required” to participate.  Many did and many of them got grant money for doing so.  And a couple of them recommended getting rid of Smarter Balanced!

A committee of teachers, administrators, and parents from across the State is reviewing the assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information.

Actually, there is ONE parent on this committee (acting as both a parent and a teacher).  She has been to one of the four meetings.  There are six legislators on the committee, one of which is also a teacher (but I put him in the camp of the “good guys”).  The President of the Delaware State Educators Association is on the committee and one administrator: the superintendent of one of our vocational districts.  There is also a representative from the civil rights community on the committee.  And that’s it, aside from the Delaware Department of Education members who weren’t part of the original legislation but threw themselves on.  Oh yeah, it’s moderated by a woman from the University of Delaware.  I love how they make it seem like this is a huge group with an “s” added on at the end of each of the members.

“Our educators, our students, and their parents all deserve the benefits of effective assessments that show when students are excelling and when they need extra support,” said Governor Jack Markell. “At the same time, tests that don’t add meaningfully to the learning process mean less time for students to receive the instruction and support they need. We are committed to finding the right balance, and this initiative is an important part of that process.”

Notice the use of the words “the right balance” in the Governor’s statement?  Is this some kind of Jedi mind trick?  He is right though.  We do deserve the benefit of effective assessments.  Too bad “the best test Delaware ever made” isn’t one of them.  This initiative was started because Jack Markell didn’t know how to handle the opt out movement in Delaware.  He was arrogant enough to think it wouldn’t hit Delaware, but it did.  He said all sorts of stuff between February and December of 2015 without putting a lot of thought into what it actually meant.  My favorite was when he said the Smarter Balanced results could be used for Delaware universities so students wouldn’t have to take remedial classes.  Then he took away the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors in lieu of the revamped Common Core aligned SAT because too many Delaware juniors opted out last year.  Then the University of Delaware announced a pilot program announcing they weren’t going to use the SAT as part of their admissions process.

Brandywine’s assessment inventory found that many of these assessments were not aligned to the State’s standards, did not measure the depth of knowledge required by these new standards, nor included a variety of item types.

Kudos to Brandywine!

In particular, there was limited use of performance tasks that measure students’ critical thinking skills. The district is working with its teachers and school administrators to review, revise, and in some cases, eliminate these assessments. In their place will be high-quality formative assessments, tests used throughout the year by educators to assess whether students are learning content, aligned to the State’s standards that will be given throughout the district.

Oops! Never mind.  They are getting rid of what are most likely the good tests but don’t help the students to do well on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is the only test that matters to Governor Jack and his band of merry persons at the Delaware DOE!  And now we have to go through ten months of the new buddy team of Jack and John.  I may be running for the local school board, but I can’t help writing about the utter nonsense in this article.  And I am glad my local school district is one of the districts that said the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not a good assessment.

Meanwhile, the world keeps spinning as it has for billions of years, before Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment made children feel stupid…

To read the complete nonsense in full, please go here if you have the stomach for more of this…

 

 

 

Sorry If I Made You Storm Out Of The Assessment Inventory Committee Meeting!

The Delaware Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee, otherwise known as the Achieve Inc. payday, had their fourth meeting tonight.  Most of the discussion was around the district inventories and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Don’t get too excited Delaware!  The discussion about Smarter Balanced was by some members of the committee wondering why the Smarter Balanced wasn’t a major part of the discussion and the DOE trying desperately to work around it and misinterpreting the actual legislation that created the committee.  Once again, Senator David Sokola, who wrote the bill, didn’t show up.  I think he has been at one or two of the four meetings.  He hasn’t been to most of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meetings either, of which he is a member.  But his Legislative Aide did sit in his place, unlike State Rep. Earl Jaques who also championed this legislation last spring as an anti-opt-out bill and didn’t show up nor did he have someone come in his place, but I digress.  I do reserve the right to re-digress later though.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky was there for about the first third of the meeting.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if any state in the country has received a cut in federal funding due to participation rate.  The answer was no.  He then asked if any school or district in Delaware has.  Michael Watson from the DOE explained there have been Title I reallocations but didn’t specify why (and it wasn’t because of opt-out and we all know it).  Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey gave a presentation on Colonial’s assessment inventory process.  Many wondered right away why Smarter Balanced wasn’t included in their inventory even though most of the other districts and charters who participated did include it.  No clear answer was given except further clarification of the legal interpretation of SJR #2.  At some point, questions came up about the expectation of the district and the information supplied to them from the Delaware DOE for the process (of which schools and districts did receive grant money).  I yelled out “Achieve Inc. created it,” to which I was told public comment was at the end of the meeting.  😉  I can see the two DOE representatives were not happy with my comment and one of them was visibly pissed off.  State Rep. Matthews asked what the purpose of the Smarter Balanced is and why we need it.  He explained parents are more upset about their children not being able to go to the library to do research since their computer labs are tied up between March and June.  Even State Rep. Tim Dukes, a fervent supporter of standardized testing in the past, was questioning what this is all about.  He explained how he has been talking to teachers and, in my opinion, he may be walking towards the light in regards to how bad high-stakes testing really is.

Discussion continued around the federal role in Delaware education.  State Rep. Matthews asked why the DOE doesn’t push harder against federal mandate.  DSEA member Kirstin Dwyer, also on the committee, explained that when teachers pushed very hard for another year off from Smarter Balanced scores tying into their evaluations, they were told prior to this that the feds would never grant it, but they did.  A discussion came up about states that do not have to take assessments and were granted waivers.  The DOE explained there are seven states involved in something called the Innovation Network, which rang a bell in my head.  State Rep. Matthews asked why Delaware can’t try to join this group.  A vote was taken to get more information about these kinds of programs before they make their final recommendations.  It passed the committee.  Talk continued about the federal role, and Susan Haberstroh from the DOE said something to the effect of “Maybe the feds will let us do that”.  At this point, the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit leader Christopher Ruszkowski, who was sitting in the back, said “No they won’t.”  I said “Yes they will.”  We both repeated ourselves.  But the sad truth is Delaware doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Council of Chief State School Officers Innovation Lab Network.  Just ask the many teachers and citizens who are seeing this guinea pig experiment taking place in states like Maine, Colorado and New Hampshire.  I actually touch on one of the key parts coming out of these “Innovation Labs” later on in this article.  You will know it when you see it!  Scary stuff!

Teachers gave public comment about, you know, how bad SBAC is and how the test doesn’t give any useful information.  Red Clay Education Association President Mike Matthews complimented the Christina School District for giving a recommendation to dump the Smarter Balanced in their assessment inventory (Capital didn’t give it a ringing endorsement either).  He lamented Red Clay didn’t do the same.  But he did advise the committee his executive membership unanimously voted on a resolution to have Red Clay change their recommendation about SBAC and he questioned the transparency around Red Clay’s inventory process.

And then came my public comment.  To give some background, the meeting was already running late, and public comment was limited to two minutes.  One public commenter already went over their time (and continued), which didn’t bother me at all.  I knew exactly what I was going to say cause I wrote it out.

In 1992, the CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy wrote an 18 page letter to Hillary Clinton. Bill was just elected, and the CEO, named Marc Tucker, took it upon himself to write Hillary his ideas for the future of America.  Tucker wanted America to become like Germany and Switzerland, where students are “apprentice-trained”.  This begins at a very early age.  As part of Tucker’s plan, public education must become standardized.  As well, career paths are chosen through the tests implemented through these higher standards.  This is all part of a much larger plan to merge the US Departments of Education, Labor, and the Immigration division of Homeland Security.  By crafting this agenda, children will be tracked and catalogued through massive data systems, tied to state longitudinal data systems.  These “pathways to prosperity”, or career tracks for children, are contingent upon data.  Data that is provided by every single state to a joint system shared by the US Department of Defense and the US DOE. 

In 1996, a company called Achieve Inc. was created by our nation’s governors, corporate leaders, and Tucker’s group. Achieve eventually created the Common Core standards, but gave the illusion it was created by stakeholders.  Yes, the very same company that assisted with the assessment inventory in Delaware and gave the matrix for districts to follow.  The same company that created the standards is now telling districts how they should utilize their own assessments.

Bill Gates, through his foundation, began funding this over 15 years ago. Delaware allowed this into our state with the Race To The Top grant.  Yes, Senator Sokola and Attorney General Matt Denn wrote Senate Bill 79 last year which passed the General Assembly and was signed by the Governor.  This bill, supposedly meant to protect student data, was heavily lobbied by companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.  There is a gigantic loophole in this.  Eventually, Smarter Balanced will be broken down into chunks through personalized learning.  Using a competency-based education model, students will advance based on how they do on these mini-standardized tests.  This data will flow freely to the feds which will in turn be shared with employers, non-profits (especially those who really push personalized learning), and corporate interests.  What Sokola and Denn allowed into the final bill appears, on the surface, to protect student data.  But whether it was intentional or not, the algorithms for personalized learning and state assessments are allowed to be shared.  We already see 7-8 Delaware districts using the BRInC Consortium’s “Blended Learning” models.  Every single time a student logs in or enters a keystroke, the data recording begins by the companies tracking all of this data.  All of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, through the algorithms created by American Institutes for Research, fall into this category as well.  Our Governor is one of the very early pioneers of this agenda in Delaware, along with the Rodel Foundation. 

So really, who are we kidding with this nonsense?  This IS about students: cataloguing them, tracking them, and allowing the government to decide what they should be based on data.  But for students with disabilities, they will remain on the bottom of all things concerned with education.  Something Delaware fully allows by not granting these students funding in Kindergarten to 3rd grade unless they are so impaired the state doesn’t have a choice.  Meanwhile, Governor Markell is getting ready to go down to D.C. to hobnob with yet another education foundation instead of taking care of his own state.  

As I mentioned earlier, Senator Sokola did not attend the meeting but his Legislative Aide did.  I’ve met him a few times and he is a nice guy.  During my public comment, at the second mention of “Sokola”, he picked up his things, had a VERY angry face, and stormed out of the meeting.  I certainly hope it wasn’t anything I said, but he looked very troubled.  I have talked to Matt Denn about this bill, along with the representative from his office who wrote the legislation, and I don’t know if they are even aware of the “algorithm loophole” that is causing student data to go out like a burst dam.  But, and I am only guessing here, it bothered Sokola’s legal aide.  I could be wrong and something else was going on that I was not privy to.   As well, when I got my two minute flag, I did keep going.  I was almost done!  As I got into the part about students with disabilities somebody said “Kevin…” like I was saying something bad.  Or perhaps it was my angry tone.  But I already had to speed through my public comment due to a ridiculous two minute time limit.  I’m not a big fan of being cut off over parliamentary rules and procedures (which is why you don’t see me on these committees, task forces, or public office).  Or maybe some people didn’t like what I was saying and it cut a little to close to the bone for them.  Either way, I got it out.  And I have a ton more to say about all that.

Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges gave public comment about the Smarter Balanced Assessment that echoed many of the opponents of the test throughout the evening.  (As an aside, the DOE actually gave out the National PTA’s position statement against parent opt-out to members of the committee and the public).  Finally, State Rep. Kim Williams, https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/state-rep-kim-williams-slams-state-board-exec-director-donna-johnson-at-weic-meeting-tonight/ again questioned where the parent representative of the assessment inventory committee was.  She informed them this parent rep came to the first meeting and not the other three.  She was not happy the DOE hasn’t responded to her about this issue and that parents are once again being shut out of the process.  With that the meeting adjourned.  And I am left with the same conclusion I have always had about the Achieve Inc. Party Assessment Inventory Committee: it will get rid of the good diagnostic district tests that give immediate feedback and allow teachers to help students in lieu of more interim Smarter Balanced Assessments (which will eventually be broken down into mini-tests at the end of units).  More data.  More tracking.  More pre-determined “pathways” for every single student in Delaware.  Unless you opt out now.  Out of Smarter Balanced AND Personalized Learning.  Unless you are okay with your child’s social-emotional, academic, behavioral, and personal data going out to Education Inc.  In that case, keep on opting in!

Delaware DOE Responds Positively To My Request For More Transparency On The Assessment Inventory

I emailed several folks at the Delaware Department of Education about more transparency surrounding the current Assessment Inventory initiative taking place in Delaware.  Since then, they have added a tab on their “Announcements” section on their front page calling for public comment on the assessment inventory.  They have also added the minutes, agendas, and other presentations from the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee on a new page: Delaware Assessment Inventory Senate Joint Resolution #2.  To be sure this wasn’t always there, I right clicked on the page and checked properties which said it was created today, 2/5/16.  Thank you to the Delaware DOE for doing the right thing and making this information more transparent for concerned parents up and down Delaware!

Assessment Inventory Task Force Meeting Tonight, Don’t Opt Out Of This One!!!!

I strongly encourage everyone in Delaware to go to the Assessment Inventory Task Force meeting tonight at the Delaware Dept. of Education Townsend Building in Dover at 5:00pm.  The transparency surrounding this task force has been horrible.  When Senate Joint Resolution #2 was discussed during the Senate Education Committee meeting last June, the audience was told these would be public meetings with full transparency.  We are now seeing that isn’t the case at all.  I’m really not sure where the minutes are for this because there are none.  We can thank Senator David Sokola for this.  Tonight’s meeting is the third meeting and no minutes have been listed on the SJR #2 page.  You would think the DOE would also put minutes for this group on their website since it was their idea anyways, but no.  Unless you go to these meetings, we have no idea what they are doing.

For those thinking “Why should I go?  It’s not like they care about my input anyways!”, you are probably right.  But we need all eyes on this.  When asked if the Smarter Balanced Assessment would be a part of this conversation, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Lindsay O’Mara said:

“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.”

Time to live up to that promise Lindsay!  If we want this task force to Achieve it’s original promise, then we need to start making sure it is wide open to all.

Updated 15 minutes later.  The minutes for the second meeting are out there, but I could only find them on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar in draft form:

So I ask again: where is the conversation about Smarter Balanced being put on the table?  Or is the Smarter Balanced the power brokers behind this that want to eat up all the other assessments unless they support SBAC?  And I see a whole let of Achieve Inc. mentions in these minutes.  Speaking of power brokers…

Predicting Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Report

SJR2DOE

By June 30th this year we will all know what is in the final report from Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Committee.  This is when it is due to the General Assembly.  I have made predictions in the past about the end result: that district assessments will go the way of the dinosaur in favor of more interim assessments for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When Senate Joint Resolution #2 was announced, it was at the height of the 2015 opt-out movement.  Governor Markell spoke about it at Howard High School last March.  I immediately saw it as a response to opt-out.

A week before the legislation hit the General Assembly, I had the opportunity to see a DOE email stating that Senate Joint Resolution #2 was the answer to opt-out.  The House and Senate Education Committee Chairs in Delaware sponsored the legislation.  During the Senate Education Committee meeting in June, it was brought up before House Bill 50, much to the consternation of several people.  Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsay O’Mara, when asked at the meeting, said the Smarter Balanced Assessment could be a part of the assessment inventory but it depends on state and federal regulations.  The Assessment Inventory Committee officially began in November.

To date, no minutes have been posted on the General Assembly website or the DOE website.  The group first met on November 16th and then again on December 16th.  The only place it shows up is on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar and it must be put there seven days before the meeting as per Delaware state code.  In looking at that website, there are no scheduled meetings showing up anywhere in 2016.  In fact, on the list of committees and task forces in a different section of the General Assembly website, there is no listed Chair of this committee.  No meetings show up on the Department of Education calendar part of their website either.

I am going to predict now that the Smarter Balanced Assessment will definitely be a major topic of discussion at this task force.  It will not be a part of the assessment inventory to be kept or removed.  But someone will say something to the effect of “We need to do an evaluation of this test.”  It may even be one of the few members on the task force who has vocally opposed it.  Politics is often suggesting something to someone and making it seem like it was their idea.  Someone will whisper it into their ear and they will think it is a great idea.  When it comes to education, great ideas can seem like a good thing but they are loaded with snares and traps.  Like I said before, this committee is top-heavy with Markell sympathizers.

There will be some other carrots in this final report.  One teachers will love will be a recommendation that standardized tests not be used for the purpose of teacher evaluations.  Teachers will support this emphatically and will then support anything the committee recommends.  If Governor Markell doesn’t sign an executive order or no legislation passes prior to this report, there will be a very strong recommendation that high school juniors not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is something ten Democrats in the House of Representatives wrote to the Governor about three days ago.  The reduction in district assessments will not specifically say “get rid of this or that”.  There will be a recommendation that no student receives any type of “interim assessment”, whether it is the Smarter Balanced Assessment or something like SRI, SMI, MAPS, DIBELS, or any of the other assessments districts use in Delaware more than once in any given marking period.  There may be certain assessments ditched, but for the most part it will be up to the local districts.  There will most likely be language either requiring or strongly suggesting the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessment be given at least once during the first or second marking period.

The evaluation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be done by a third corporate cousin of one of the many vendor companies the DOE utilizes for pretty much anything that generates a report.  The evaluation will come back and find that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is effective.  Bloggers and teachers will rip it apart and say the report is not valid.  The state will most likely pay this vendor anywhere from $50-$100,000 for this report which will show some issues with the test but not enough to render it invalid.  When all is said and done, we will pretty much have what we’ve always had but a little bit less of the district assessments.  Smarter Balanced will still be here.  Parents will still opt-out.  The big question on everybody’s mind will be if our legislators honor that right by overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 or if they side with the test and punish corporate backed privateers who are hell-bent on continuing their agendas.

 

House Democrats Letter To Governor Markell To Remove Smarter Balanced For 11th Grade

Today, ten Delaware House Democrats signed a letter to Delaware Governor Jack Markell asking him to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  The letter also mentions Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory task force.

We recognize that, by your order, the Department of Education is in the midst of creating an inventory of standardized tests administered throughout the state. Pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 2, signed into law in July, the department will share its findings with legislators and the public, as well as a special work group that will make recommendations regarding possible elimination of redundant tests. While opinions will differ among stakeholders, we believe there is universal support for eliminating the Smarter Balanced test for juniors in lieu of the SAT.

I fully accept that this is Governor Markell’s order.  He came up with the “assessment inventory” idea back in March.  It is a red herring though.  I firmly believe it will get rid of many assessments that give immediate and crucial feedback for teachers in how best to instruct their students.  I also predict it will see an increase in “prep” and “interim” Smarter Balanced Assessments.  The move towards personalized learning will allow for the eventual elimination of the nine-hour test (or longer depending on the individual student’s needs).  But it will not get rid of the basic flaws in SBAC, nor will it eliminate the time taking the test.  Instead it will eventually be in shorter doses but will be just as harmful to students.

There should be universal supporting for eliminating SBAC for ALL grades.  I would caution parents not to be fooled by this letter.  This is not a direction where the Smarter Balanced Assessment will gradually be removed.  It does not address the fundamental and core issues of what is wrong with Smarter Balanced.  I fear this is another attempt to sway legislators from voting for the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  This does not get rid of the issue of parents opting out except for those who have 11th graders.  The SAT is on a downward slope in many states, and now that they are “aligning” it with Common Core, that trend may increase.

Do Not Be Fooled by this Delaware parents!  The DOE has been planning this for over a year IN RESPONSE to the opt-out movement.  They knew 11th graders would have the highest opt-outs.  But it is still implemented in 3rd to 8th grade.  The assessment inventory task force is also stocked with many who will align with the Governor’s flawed logic about standardized assessments.  It wouldn’t shock me if the DOE already wrote the report on it and they are just waiting on the group to tweak it here and there.  I will still fight for the House Bill 50 Veto Override and support parents who choose to exercise their choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have been calling out the “assessment inventory” ruse since the Governor first started talking about it last March.

16 To Watch In 2016: The Seans

seanmatthewslynn

Both of the Seans in the Delaware House of Representatives have a lot in common.  They are both Democrat, they are both named Sean, they both voted against the budget last June, and they both began their first terms as State Representatives this year.  They both supported House Bill 50 in a big way.  They brought in a much-needed amount of fresh young blood to the General Assembly.  They are both up for re-election this year.  Both of them dealt with some controversial issues in 2015.

Sean Lynn’s biggest moment came during the debate of Senate Bill 40, the legislation designed to repeal the death penalty in Delaware.  According to Delaware Liberal, Lynn plans to attempt a suspension of House rules to bring the bill back from its own form of death: not coming out of the Judiciary Committee.  This could happen as early as January according to the article.  The death penalty is one of those issues in Delaware that keeps coming back, draws the ire of both sides, and doesn’t move forward.  Will Lynn’s attempt to reanimate the bill be the difference?  Time will tell.

Sean Matthews sponsored or co-sponsored many education bills in the General Assembly.  He enjoyed moderate success with these bills, which helped to land him a slot on the assessment inventory task force stemming from Senate Joint Resolution #2.  As one of the key players in this group, Matthews will be the voice of reason in a group filled with many who lean toward Governor Markell’s way of thinking with state assessments.  Time will tell if this group can get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, but I doubt it.

Both of the Seans will have their hands full with the rest of their own party.  As part of the “Six” who voted against the budget last year, along with State Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Kowalko and Williams, many in their party felt it was a mighty bold move for two legislative rookies.  It was.  I would rather see legislators vote with conviction and belief than going along to get along.  I fear there could be retribution of a political sort this year by the House leadership.  The easiest targets are the new guys.  But both Seans are a mighty stock and I have faith they will deal with any fallout from their decision last year with grace.

With an election year looming, many are assuming no matter what the Democrats will keep their power in Legislative Hall.  But there is a growing feeling of discontent in Delaware.  After years of questioned policies and agendas coming from Governor Markell and the leadership in Legislative Hall, many Delawareans are willing to vote out of party this year.  I predict both of the Seans will be safe because they are among those questioning what is really going on in Delaware.  The key to all of this will come in January when Governor Markell releases his budget proposal for Delaware.  We will get a very firm idea on where Delaware stands in terms of a budget deficit.

 

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: State Rep. Earl Jaques

I have to be honest here.  Until 2014, I had never heard of Earl Jaques.  That all changed in 2015, and everyone knew who he was then!  Earl started the year as the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee.  He took over the slot from former State Rep. Darryl Scott who chose not to run again in 2014.  Many assumed the position would be held by State Rep. Kim Williams since she was the Vice-Chair since 2012.  Before the General Assembly even convened in 2015, State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf booted Kowalko off the education committee.  State Rep. Kim Williams remained as the Vice-Chair.  Why Jaques was assigned the Chair position was baffling, but it soon became apparent.

Jaques role as Chair of the Education Committee defined his year in the 148th General Assembly.  He went head-to-toe with the Department of Education over Race To The Top.  An epic battle played out on the House floor between Kowalko and Jaques over House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation.  Jaques allied himself with Governor Markell over opt-out, which led to Jaques very unfortunate comments about opt-out which appeared in Delaware media.  Referring to those who opt-out as “failures”, many parents of children with disabilities jumped on Jaques’ comments and slammed him for it.  He told a group of Christina teachers that House Bill 50 would never pass.  He helped create very controversial legislation with Senator David Sokola in the form of Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory bill that was meant to be a cure for opt-out.  He fought a charter school audit bill created by Kim Williams which led to more angst in the House due to Jaques not releasing the bill from committee to give it a full House vote.

By the time House Bill 50 came up for its first House vote, Jaques and two other lone wolves were the only nay votes for the legislation and it passed 36-3.  It still passed overwhelmingly by the time the Senate added amendments to the legislation causing it to bounce back to the House for a vote.  Jaques still voted no.

Even after the General Assembly went into recess for the recess for the rest of the year, Jaques still caused some controversy.  He was overheard talking negatively about parents at a State Board pizza party in early October.  At the end of October, Kowalko sent out an email to tons of people about the falling NAEP scores.  Jaques tried to hush Kowalko up by telling him not to use the state email system and his facts were biased.  This caused many people to defend Kowalko, including radio-show host Rick Jensen with WDEL.

Jaques will continue as Chair of the House Education Committee in 2016, even though most folks don’t take him seriously at all.  They understand he will do whatever Governor Markell instructs him to do.  As well, the Delaware DOE seems to know exactly how to maneuver Jaques with controversial legislation.  There is SO much more I could say about Earl Jaques, but for those who want to know more, just write Earl Jaques in my search bar and all can be found on here!

All The DOE Assessment Information Given To Districts In Delaware

On Wednesday, November 18th, the Delaware Department of Education had a meeting with all the district testing coordinators to go over all things assessment.  This includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the assessment inventory campaign, accommodations, and more.  It looks like the DOE’s Office of Assessment will be raiding monitoring visiting every single public school in the state over the coming months.  But who will lead this office now that Schwinn and Reyna are bidding adieu?

Who Is On The Assessment Inventory Committee?

I reached out to Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques to see who is on the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  I received his response yesterday.  This is a very interesting list with a name I never saw before, but I was very familiar with the last name.  We shall see what comes out of this committee.  My guess: a massive reduction in district assessments which will lead to more Smarter Balanced interim assessments.  As well, official legislation getting rid of the Smarter Balanced for high school juniors since the SAT is going to become SBAC Jr. (my nickname for it).

Here are the members of the SJR #2 Assessment Inventory Committee:

Delaware Senator David Sokola

Delaware Senator Nicole Poore

Delaware Senator Ernie Lopez

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews

Delaware State Rep. Timothy Dukes

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques

Delaware State Education Association President Frederika Jenner

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt (filling the role of President of Chief School Officer’s Association)

Raina Allen (filling the role of “A representative of the civil rights’ community picked by the Governor”)

Equetta Jones (filling the role of “Parent picked by the Governor”, also a teacher in Red Clay Consolidated School District)

This is an interesting group.  With the legislators, it is right down the middle with who voted yes on the opt-out bill, House Bill 50, and  who voted no.  The “yeas” were Senators Poore and Lopez and State Rep.  Matthews.  The “nays” were Senator Sokola and State Reps Jaques and Dukes.  Both Sokola and Jaques are the head of their prospective education committees in the Senate and House.  Jenner is obviously represent the entire DSEA membership.  Gehrt, who also hails from the same district as our current Secretary Godowsky.   I have never personally met Equetta Jones, but I did see her speak at a Red Clay school board meeting last spring and she is very passionate.  The only person I wasn’t familiar with was Raina Allen, but a quick Google search let me know exactly who she was.

Filling roles from the Department of Education are: Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Chief of Staff Shana Young (which will be interesting given what I’m hearing), Tina Shockley, and Susan Haberstroh.  What I don’t see is anyone from the State Board of Education involved, anyone as just a teacher, and only one parent.  This is a very top-heavy group and they will be helping to make crucial decisions about the future of assessment in Delaware.  If this sounds reminiscent of the DOE’s recently defunct Accountability Framework Working Group (but no legislators were on this), where the recommendations of that committee were ignored by Godowsky and the State Board of Education, let’s hope the legislators can keep an eye on what is really important and not make this the usual Jack Markell dog-and-pony show.

DOE Releases All State Assessment Results EXCEPT Smarter Balanced, Five Year Assessment Plan

Yesterday at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, Dr. Carolyn Lazar with the Office of Assessment at the Delaware Department of Education gave a presentation on state assessment results but did not release any Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  This presentation also included school and district proficiency information, which can be found on this page.  The only reason I didn’t Scribd them is because they are stamped “embargoed” which I find hysterical because they are putting them on a public website!

These DCAS results are mixed.  For regular students, they went down from last year in Science and Social Studies.  For severely cognitively impaired students, who take the DCAS-Alt tests, the results are up and down depending on the grade.  Overall, with the exception of 7th and 9th grade, these types of students appear to be reading better, but social studies, science and math are showing a downward trend compared to last year.

This also went into the DOE’s five-year plan for state assessment and the release of Smarter Balanced scores in the coming month.  I absolutely love how they specifically mention who they met with to discuss this roll-out, but FAIL to mention their one-on-one meetings with members of the General Assembly.  Not one mention of legislators at all.  They know this information is already public, so why would they omit this?  If the DOE wants to convey clear communication with parents and community members about this test, than they should make public all contracts, addendums, emails associated with this test, and the exact date they got the results back.  No parent will ever take this Department seriously if they continue this embargo and withholding information from the general public.

As for Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory, when can we expect to see who is on this task force?  Who picks the members?  We can’t forget, Lindsey O’Mara who is the Education Policy Advisor for Governor Markell, publicly stated Smarter Balanced can be included in assessments up for discussion on this task force!

Once again Delaware Parents: REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE starts NOW! And Parent Freak-Out 2015 begins the moment Smarter Balanced results are made public!

Hear Chest-thumping & Applause By State Board of Education & Coach Murphy on Markell Veto of HB50

One good thing the Delaware State Board of Education has done in the past day is release their audio recordings of their meeting yesterday in lightning speed.  Bravo!  Now let’s listen to their condescending and boastful comments about Governor Markell’s veto.  Other highlights include Mike Matthews, Sabine Neal, and my own public comment in part 1, the introduction of a new state board members and more boasting in part 2, my fiery interruption of Mark Murphy in the beginning of part 3, the controversial update on the Smarter Balanced Assessment survey given to educators who administered the test in part 5, and charter school hoorahs in part 6.

You can find it all here: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/domain/225

House Bill 50 Update And Other Education Legislation That Passed In The Wee Hours Of The Morning Yesterday

House Bill 50 is waiting.  No action has been taken by Delaware Governor Jack Markell on the parent opt-out legislation.  Matt Albright with the News Journal spoke with Jonathan Dworkin, the spokesman for Governor Markell, and wrote yesterday:

“Markell has not asked for H.B. 50 to be delivered to his desk yet, Dworkin said. Once he receives the bill, he has 10 days to veto it; if he doesn’t, it becomes law with or without his signature.

That means the Legislature would have to wait for a veto override vote until next year unless they call a special session, which is unlikely.”

I checked Delaware state code, and found the following:

“Section 18. Every bill which shall have passed both Houses of the General Assembly shall, before it becomes law, be presented to the Governor;”

The key part concerning this seems to be “presented to the Governor”.  Whose job is it to present a bill to Markell?  The last place House Bill 50 sat in was the Delaware Senate and they passed the bill a week ago today.   I contacted Markell’s office, and they indicated he has ten days to take action on a bill, but when I asked specifically about the bill being “presented”, they did not have an answer but did indicate they would check on that aspect as well as the status of the bill and would get back to me either later today or Monday since their offices are closed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, other education bills passed both the Delaware House and Senate and are also awaiting a signature from Markell.  In no short order:

House Bill 91, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Rep. Sean Matthews, Synopsis: This bill involves the public school immunization program. Currently, the Affidavit of Religious Belief does not expressly alert parents or guardians who file for the religious exemption from the program that the child will be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an epidemic of a vaccine preventable disease. This bill amends the required affidavit so parents or guardians are directly made aware of the possibility of the child’s temporary exclusion from school. The bill also adds that the asserted cause of a medical exemption may be subject to review and approval by the Division of Public Health. Additionally, the bill would require the Division of Public Health to declare an outbreak, rather than the current language of an epidemic throughout the State or a particular definable region thereof.

House Joint Resolution #6 w/House Amendment #1, passed 7/1,  Sponsor: Rep. Earl Jaques, This House Joint Resolution directs the DPAS II Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations to the current educator evaluation system. This Resolution also limits the State Department of Education’s ability to propose changes to certain sections of the Administrative Code.

Senate Bill #61, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, This Act clarifies that school buses are not exempt from the requirement to stop at railroad grade crossings regulated by a traffic-control signal or at railroad grade crossings protected by crossing gates or flashing lights. Section 4163 currently is contrary to best safety practices requiring that school buses stop at these types of crossings to ensure optimal safety for students.
This Act also makes additional changes to § 4163 in keeping with the grammar and style guidelines of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.

Senate Bill #62, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, This Act updates the minimum insurance coverage requirements for school transportation to reflect current industry standards.

Senate Bill #94, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Brian Bushweller, This Act requires the Department to develop a regulation for the identification of a “military-connected youth”. The Act further provides that this identification is not a public record, is protected by the federal Family Educational and Privacy Act and shall not be used for purposes of determining school achievement, growth or performance. The purpose of this identification is to ensure the necessary individuals at the school level are aware of any military connected youth for services and supports.

Senate Concurrent Resolution #29, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Bethany Hall-Long, This concurrent resolution establishes the Behavioral and Mental Health Task Force to examine mental health in the State of Delaware and make recommendations for the improvement of services and the mental healthcare system. *editor’s note: while this is not a direct education bill, many students would benefit from a better mental health care system in the state

Senate Concurrent Resolution #39, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator Colin Bonini,  This Concurrent Resolution forms a working group to make a recommendation as to whether or not the Budget Bill should continue to be treated as a simple majority Bill.  *editor’s note: this working group will take a hard look at funding for charter schools, University of Delaware, and Delaware State University.  Since they are considered corporations under state law, and corporations need a 3/4 majority vote for passage, and currently the budget bill only needs a majority vote, this group will examine this legal anomaly.

Senate Joint Resolution #2 w/Senate Amendment #1, passed 7/1, Sponsors: Senator David Sokola and Rep. Earl Jaques, The amount of testing required of our students and educators has grown significantly in recent years. While the General Assembly recognizes the need to administer assessments that provide valid and reliable data about how Delaware’s students are growing academically, it is also committed to maximizing time in the classroom for our educators to teach, and our students to learn.
The Department of Education is already coordinating an inventory of all assessments required at the state, district, and school level. This Joint Resolution requires the Department of Education to report the inventory results, and any assessments that districts or the state propose to eliminate, to the public and to the House and Senate Education Committees of the General Assembly. It also requires the Department to convene a group, consisting of members of the General Assembly and the public, to conduct an in-depth review of the inventory results and make recommendations for consolidation or elimination of assessments. 

Senate Joint Resolution #4, passed 7/1, Sponsor: Senator David Sokola, While Delaware is deeply committed to preparing every child to reach his or her full potential and succeed in the new economy, the State will not be able to build a world-class education system for its children without modernizing the 70-year-old education funding system. This Joint Resolution establishes the Education Funding Improvement Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of Delaware’s public education funding system and make recommendations to modernize and strengthen the system. The Commission will include stakeholders from across the education system and will submit a report and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than March 31, 2016. 

House Bill #184, passed 6/30, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, This bill establishes a mechanism for persons receiving special education services pursuant to an active Individual Education Plan until the age of 21 to receive license to drive.

House Joint Resolution #7, passed 6/30, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, Recognizing (1) that many of our educators are assuming greater levels of responsibility and demonstrating leadership in their classrooms and schools, (2) that our current educator compensation system does not reflect the work we value in our educators or provide them with a meaningful career pathway or ability to earn additional compensation for assuming additional responsibility, and (3) that we must retain and attract great educators to ensure that our students are prepared to compete in an increasingly global economy, this bill re-establishes the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers in addition to establishing two sub-committees: the Educator Work Group and the Technical Advisory Group. The Committee will continue its work in developing a plan for an alternative compensation structure and career pathway for educators aligned with the parameters set forth in Senate Bill No. 254, including providing educators with a meaningful career pathway, including higher starting salaries and recognition for working with high-needs students, and significant leadership opportunities for career advancement that keeps talented educators in the classroom.   The Committee must submit updated recommendations to the Governor by March 31st, 2016 with sufficient detail for implementing legislation, and will continue to meet thereafter to issue subsequent recommendations for consideration. 

I will be updating the page on this blog entitled “Education Bills in the 148th General Assembly” over the next week and as Markell makes decisions on these as well.  I also intend to go through all the legislation that was passed over and is left in limbo until January 2016.

Mark Murphy And His Magical Educational Journey To Excellence

I’ve seen Mark Murphy speak a few times and he was definitely playing it up a bit for the news cameras on him at the Senate Education Committee meeting a few days ago.  If there is one thing you can say about the former gym teacher, he is certainly consistent.

Thank you Senator.  We are all, all of us, appreciative of Senator Townsend’s sentiment that we are all supporting our children as they take this educational journey to excellence. And hopefully that will lead into success not just in 4th grade or 5th grade, but obviously success well into high school and beyond high school years.  In order to help deliver our children into a place where they are successful in the world we have to measure their progress along the way.  And to understand whether they’re on track to be successful in those middle school years, in those high school years, and beyond.  So that’s what this is about, this is about measuring progress.  When we use that progress, when we use that measurement, in order to understand what’s working.  Our pedalogical approach is working, our curriculum is working, the way that we organize our schools, the way that we allocate budgets, the way we resource schools and which schools need additional resources.  If we do not have measurement of how our students are doing against the standards that their teachers are teaching to them, then we are unable to make well-informed great decisions.  Certainly at this level, also at a school and district level.  Measurement matters.  We also agree, that we are testing too much.  We have said that a number of times over these recent months and we have launched an initiative to take a look at how many assessments our children are taking.  And more importantly than the number of assessments they are taking, is the quality, whether these are redundant assessments.  If they test the same thing the child was assessed on a week ago.  Are they relevant assessments for what the child needs to be learning to be successful later? Are they high quality?  Do they give us good data in order to make informed decisions?  And so while we recognize that we are in the middle of that process, we are asking that we allow that process to take hold, before we start making major decisions about opting out of important measurement tools.  Finally, these assessments help to unlock doors for us, the decision-makers, for our kids, for our parents, for our educators, in regards to decisions they can make to support the children better.  And that information is available at the student level, the teacher level, the school level, and the state level.  And we all need this information to move forward.

Is it just me, or does it kind of creep you out when he keeps referring to “our” children?  Not my kid Mark!  The information available Mark, does that mean we can ALL see the tests and the answers and the actual questions?  Sorry buddy, but a lot of parents have jumped off your train trip to la la land.  Cue the Puff the Magic Dragon music, we are out of here!

Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman & His Vehement Opposition To Parent Opt-Out Speech

Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware gave a very long oppositional speech to parent opt-out and House Bill 50 the other day at the Senate Education Committee.  I’m going to post his full comment, and then I will react to it.  I will be posting various public comments over the next two to three days, and I will include the time stamps from my recording of the meeting to show how much time each speaker was allotted.

Paul Herdman, Rodel Foundation of Delaware, 32:49-38:28

So, my name is Paul Herdman, I’m with the Rodel Foundation. I’ve got three kids in Delaware schools.  I was a teacher myself for seven years.  I’ve worked for two governors in Massachusetts on education policy and I’ve been here for the past eleven years trying to actually bring public and private players together on accommodation around education.  And frankly, this is the first time I’ve actually come and spoken in front of this in eleven years.  And I oppose HB50.  I support the resolution.  What I want to try and to do is two things.  One, clarify the issue.  And then speak to some unintended consequences.  So to touch the issue, I think there is a lot of frustration around testing.  And I think this has become the focal point for a lot of different issues.  You have some folks who just don’t like Common Core, and they are supportive of this because it seems like it’s against Common Core.  You have some who see this as truly a parent’s rights issue.  That’s true, but I think one of the challenges is that some people are concerned about the Smarter Balanced test itself, but there are some who looking at this as a way to invalidate the test overall.  Senator Matthews, who was a sponsor, I mean Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of the bill in the House, said to the News Journal a couple of different times, one, a teacher, legislator and a member of the House Education committee encouraged all parents to consider exercising their right to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test, and he says further, in a subsequent article, “Kowalko and I are hoping that enough parents are getting out of the Smarter Balanced test, that the data becomes invalid.” (at this point Rep Kowalko interrupts at 34:30)

State Rep. John Kowalko: Excuse me Mr. Chairman, I never made that quote and I never made that statement and I find it unfair that you’re going to quote out of a paper what I said I never said.

Herdman: No, I, Senator…

Kowalko: You said it…

Herdman: Yes, and I’m saying that’s inaccurate.

(little bit of back and forth between Herdman and Kowalko, Senator Sokola steps in, ends at 35:02)

Herdman: Representative Matthews said, I’m just quoting what was in the paper, but, so Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of this, let’s leave Representative Kowalko out of this issue, Matthews says, that he hopes enough parents are getting out of the test that the data becomes invalid.  Now, the concern with that is that what do you do next?  Right?  So maybe we don’t like this particular test, who’s going to pay for and design the new test?  It takes, right, so how would that play out, because it costs millions of dollars to actually design a test, it takes year to actually do the pilot testing, etcetera etcetera, what’s next?  And the other piece is maybe you don’t want a test at all in terms of math and reading, but that doesn’t seem to work either.  The three unintended consequences that I would just like to point out are 1) virtually every civil rights group in the country and in Delaware have come out to say they oppose opt-out.  So you’ve got everybody in the United Negro College Fund (someone in the audience is heard saying “That’s not true.”), You’ve got the NAACP, you’ve got the Urban League, Latin Community Center, have said they do not support opt-out, and the reasons for that are if you make the test invalid for some students, it makes it invalid for all students.  And the concern is that, for civil rights groups on particular, they’ve been working a long time to make sure those students are counted, and there have been dark days when kids were encouraged to opt out to raise overall test scores.  So they don’t want to return to those days.  The second thing that is an unintended consequence is that if the test becomes invalid, that you undermine the trust in the public school system.  Now we spend a fill third of our budget on education, that’s over a billion dollars.  So the concern is that, that particularly in the business community, that if we do not have a valid test, you’re going to lose trusts amongst them.  In particular, there are folks who are concerned that they just may walk away, that they may not have enough confidence in the system, that in terms of passing referendums and things like that, it’s going to become more and more difficult.  We don’t have a valid test.  Trust in the system is the second piece.  The third pieces that I’ll just leave you with is that we get $90 million a year, in federal funds, for Title I students.  We get those dollars, with the commitment, that we will show how those kids are doing.  These are for low-income kids.  Now, the U.S. Department of Education has written letters to say that those dollars could be at risk.  And when we are facing a $100 million dollar deficit this year, it’s going to be worse next year, we can’t afford to risk losing any of those dollars going into the next year and there’s no, I guess my concern is that the current bill is more than a parents rights issue.  They could have broad implications for our most vulnerable students and could undermine the thing they trust in the public education system if we don’t have a consistent and comparable assessment over time.  So that’s my concern, and I do believe that the resolution could be a more thoughtful way to look at all of our tests and how they are used, cause I believe there needs to be some course corrections but I don’t believe House Bill 50 is the right way to go.  Thank you.

The first thing I want to say is Dr. Herdman is a very good public speaker in the respect that he can be very persuasive with an audience.  I have seem him speak on YouTube, and he masters the use of his hands in luring an audience to effectively listen to him.  During this speech, he used the word “Right?” after several of his points, as if to reaffirm his statements to which most people would say “Yes” in their head.  I didn’t because I have super powers to render myself immune to that sort of thing, but many people could fall under that spell.

I disagree with most of Dr. Herdman’s comments.  I don’t believe trying to link public and private players has provided a good outcome for education in general.  It has brought more inequity than not.  Dr. Herdman is paid very handsomely to promote the Rodel Foundation’s agendas for education, more than any state, district, or charter employee in Delaware, and by a very wide margin.

The very same civil rights groups Herdman talks about are the same ones that represent vulnerable students the Rodel Foundation of Delaware has helped to put in a position of segregation in Delaware with their constant advocating for more charter schools.

I’ve already gone through the financial funding threats so many times, but for the record, one more time, that’s if the schools opt kids out, not parents.  But let’s bring that old chestnut out one more time.  In regards to returning to those “dark days”, Rodel’s actions have brought much more of the actions of those days than anything parent opt-out (not school opt-out) could ever do.

I have no qualms with Rep. Matthews quote in the News Journal, which he did say.  If a parent is going to go to all the trouble of opting their child out of a three day test, it would stand to reason it is because they don’t like the test.  If someone doesn’t like a test, of course they would want it to go away.  It is also very logical to assume if enough students are opted out the data the Rodel Foundation and the DOE want so badly would be rendered inert.  This isn’t a leap in science, and I fail to understand why Herdman would paint Rep. Matthews as the bad guy here.  I guess every side needs a villain, right Paul?

“Virtually every civil rights group in the country…”  This is completely false Dr. Herdman, and you know it.  28 national groups wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress in regards to the ESEA reauthorization in January and touched very briefly on the importance of these tests for the minorities, special needs, and low-income children they represent.  But in the beginning of April, only 12 remained to voice opposition of parent opt-out.  And as Kilroy pointed out so brilliantly, how many of those very same organizations are at the exact same physical address where your office is?

“If the test becomes invalid, you will undermine the trust in the public school system.”  If the test becomes invalid, this would validate the complete lack of trust we have in the test-makers, the DOE, and Governor Markell in terms of education.  And yes, it would invalidate your 11 years of work in Delaware as well, and that is your biggest fear in my opinion.  If Rodel and the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce are so concerned about potential deficits in Delaware, perhaps they could cash in their numerous hedge funds and actually fully support education, not just the ones they support for their own financial benefit.

Senator Sokola Is Disgracing Parents With His Foul & Disgusting Games On House Bill 50, Email Him Now!!!! #supportHB50

Delaware Senate Joint Resolution #2, directing the Department of Education to do an inventory of assessments and to form a “discussion group” surrounding these issues unanimously passed the full Delaware Senate today.  As well, Senate Bill 122, directing the State Board of Education to look at reorganizing school boundaries and district lines passed the Senate 19-1 with one member not voting.

What is interesting about this is these two bills, along with House Bill 50, were all part of the agenda for the Senate Education Committee yesterday.  House Bill 50 took up most of the meeting, Senate Bill 122 was given public comment by Tony Allen with no other members of the committee present except for Senator Sokola, and SJR #2 was not even discussed except as a counter to HB50 by opponents of the opt-out bill.  But Senate Bill 122 and SJR #2 were both released from the committee in time for the Senate Legislative Session yesterday, put on the agenda for a full Senate vote today and passed.  Meanwhile, no word on House Bill 50 being released from the committee.

At this point, I do not believe anything coming from Senator Sokola.  He is railroading this bill.  I know others will vouch for him, but this is deliberate.  I am not going to be patient, nor should any parent who has endured the disrespect and intolerance by the heads of both education committees in our General Assembly who will side with corporate interests and the DOE over fundamental parent rights.  I had a long conversation with Sokola last evening, and at no point did he come out in support of HB50 or did he state why he wanted district assessments added to HB50 as an amendment.

These people do not want parents to exercise their rights for their children, and they have bought off legislators to continue to peddle their outright lies and intimidation.  We all know who they are: Rodel, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, and more.  NO MORE!

We need as many people as humanly possible to email Senator Sokola and cc the Speaker of the House, Patti Blevins, and feel free to unleash your displeasure with the Senator who would care more about data and rigor than the best interest of children and parental rights.  This is ALL on Senator Sokola’s dirty hands right now, and the Speaker of the House needs to see this.  Their emails are as follows:

David.Sokola@state.de.us

Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us

Live From The Senate Education Committee Meeting Discussing House Bill 50: Parent Opt-Out

The Senate Education Committee in Delaware is about to hear House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill.  The bill already cleared the House in Delaware by an overwhelming majority, 36-3.  This is the next stop on the bill’s journey.  There are lots of proponents and opponents of this legislation here today.  If it passes here, it goes to the full Delaware Senate.  If it is voted down today in committee, the bill is dead.

Who is here?  Representatives from the Delaware Department of Education. Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsey O’Mara.  Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews.  Delaware PTA Vice-President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson.  Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education Donna Johnson.  Wilmington Education Advisory Commission Chair Tony Allen.  John Radell with the Faith & Freedom Coalition.  Bill Doolittle with the Delaware PTA and also a member of the Governors Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens.  And More!

House Bill 50 is up first.

Senator Townsend is speaking about how frightening this issue is for parents to be this worried.  He is upset there wasn’t years of research done on this issue and the Smarter Balanced Assessment has not been proven.  Parents want to see a test that works.  He wants us all to work together to decide the issues.  He has to go to another committee meeting but he will vote yes for releasing the bill.

Senator Lawson, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, is speaking about the bill.  “Parents should in fact have the right to opt-out.  This lays it out so they can under Delaware law.  Senator Sokola is upset this test is aligned to international standards.  He would put in an amendment to allow parents to get the reasons for the test.   He is talking about an email from a 3rd grade teachers about all the testing going on.  He thinks if parents can opt out of this test, they should be able to opt out of all of them.  This is why he introduced Senate Joint Resolution #2.  “We all want what’s best for our kids.”  He doesn’t like the amount of time between the actual Smarter Balanced Assessment testing and when the results show up.  He refers to No Child Left Behind as No Challenge Left Behind.  He said the DSTP (the first major standardized test in Delaware) did give him a little bit of heartburn.

Senator Dave Lawson is talking about how the test has changed 3 times and how $70 million from Race To The Top went towards this test and the desired results.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is speaking about children’s “educational journey to excellence”.   He is talking about how we use this measurement to understand what’s working, how we allocate budgets, which schools need which resources.  “We are testing too much.”  He is now talking about the assessment inventory, and whether the tests have quality or if they are redundant.  “These assessments help to unlock doors.”  “We all need this information to move forward.”

State Rep. Kowalko came in.  He is going over the essential facts concerning House Bill 50.  He is talking about the lack of law on opt-out which is for or against.  “This is not an indictment against Smarter Balanced Assessment or Common Core.”  He and Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, President of the State Board of Education, had an interview with WHYY earlier today.  He told her and he is telling the committee how this test is not needed and parents see this.  “If a parent feels…this can harm (their child) psychologically, they have that right.”  “It’s about parental rights, pure and simple the rights of the parents.”

Sokola has a problem with the local districts and the amount of money they spend on tests.  He served on an international committee going over the assessments, and all the kids are taking these tests in the high-performing countries of the world.  In no country, other than this country, are they taking these tests every year.  “If kids aren’t learning, we have to figure out a way to teach them.”  Kowalko said “It would be disingenuous for parents to opt their child out of any test.”  There is no track record in place, he explained, but the bill does not say we are getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  “All we are doing is giving an opportunity for those who know their child best.”

Sokola asked why it was changed to just the SBAC.  “What happens in two years if we change to the PARCC?”  (Dear lord, no!!!).  Kowalko explained that he didn’t want to shut the door prematurely if a test is designed that will give the results that matter.  Sokola said this was why he introduced SJR #2.  “We have real important issues we have to change.”  This test is needed, according to Sokola, to help students that are having issues.  He said “We can get real good data from this.”  Kowalko spoke about the many emails he received from parents regarding the psychological damage done to parents and students over this test.

Bob Byrd with the Delaware Business Roundtable is speaking about their group’s opposition to this bill.  “We think this is the wrong thing to do at this particular time.”  He presented a letter from their chair, Ernie Dianastisis.  Lorraine Gloede is speaking about how her neighbor opted her child out and there was definite repurcussions for his child in opting out.  John Radell said every professional in the country are saying this test is not proven.  “It is a disaster around the country.”  “This is an experiment.”  He said children should not be guinea pigs.  “We don’t need more gimmicks!”  We are testing kids based on empty skillsets.  These kids don’t have time to be told six years down the road to find out this test doesn’t work.

Dr. Paul Herdman from Rodel Foundation is speaking.  He has three kids in Delaware public schools.  He has tried for eleven years to bring public and private education together.  He opposes HB50.  He said there is a lot of frustration around testing.  He is referring to House Rep. Matthews News Journal opinion piece and how he said “He hopes that enough parents are getting out of the test that the data becomes invalid.”  His concern is what’s next, and all the expense gone into this.  “Every civil rights group in the country has come out against opt-out.”  If you make this test invalid for one student, you make it invalid for all students, according to the civil rights groups.  “We undermine the trust in public education.”  He said we get $90 million dollars a year from federal funding for Title I students, low-income students.  His concern is can we afford to risk losing these funds when we are already facing a $100 million dollar deficit in this state.  “I don’t believe House bill 50 is the right way to go.”

The Delaware Chamber of Commerce spokesperson is speaking in opposition to the bill.  They oppose HB 50 and support SJR #2.  Mike Matthews is talking about how it is business group’s rights to talk about education, but they aren’t advocating for higher wages for the parents of low-income students.  Yvonne Johnson is speaking about how she has never received so many emails and complaints in her many years with the PTA as they have with the SBAC.  She is opposed to SJR #2.  She doesn’t think SBAC is the answer to our children.  HB 50 is a symptom to a larger problem.  “No one is losing federal funding.” I spoke next and railed against the whole Smarter Balanced Assessment and how it is dangerous. Senator Sokola cut me off stating I was repeating things as I brought up the never-talked about in this meeting letters from the DOE indicating how it was illegal to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He said they have other bills to hear. Dr. Teri Quinn Gray spoke about the need for this data and how she is there to speak for the students. She was not cut off as she was allowed to speak much longer than myself. Tara Greathouse spoke and was cut off by Sokola when she asked questions about what is best for her children.

Due to other committees in session, the bill is being circulated so we do not know the results yet.

**UPDATED** 5:02pm, still no word on House Bill 50 and whether it has been released from the Senate Education Committee.