Governor Carney’s Slimy Obsession With Public-Private Partnerships & The Erosion Of Public Trust With His Springfield Trip

Delaware Governor John Carney is throwing Delaware’s public school system under the bus and he will begin this transition with the Christina School District.  Yesterday, he sent an unannounced delegation to Springfield, Massachusetts that included far more than those on his public schedule.  This group included Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen (who received his invite on September 23rd), Christina Education Association President Darren Tyson, and an unnamed member of the Delaware State Education Association (which was their legislative liason, Kristin Dwyer).  I’m sure Carney’s Education Policy Advisor Jon Sheehan attended as well.

The News Journal covered the trip in an article by Jessica Bies:

Despite school board members asking to be equal partners in the effort, there were no members of that group on the trip.

Carney apparently seems to think Tony Allen is a better choice to bring on trips about Christina than the actual board members:

Tony Allen, chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, on the other hand, has known about the trip since at least Sept. 23, he confirmed Friday. He said he was invited sometime before that.

In the article, it said Board President George Evans received an invite “very recently” but was unable to attend.  Board Vice President Fred Polaski said he didn’t even know about it until a reporter called him.

Christina Board member John Young had plenty to say about this trip on his Facebook account this evening:

Delaware officials touring a Massachusetts effort run by an unelected governing board under a 501(c)-3, just like DE charters for possible use in Christina. On its face it certainly appears that Governor John Carney does not intend to partner with Christina, but deploy untested, unproven ideas on us. I honestly took him at his word Tuesday, now it seems like I may have been wrong to do so. Google Springfield Empowerment Zone if you want the 411 on this ed reform trainwreck that’s seemingly on the way. I am disappointed that mere days after agreeing to engage us within the rules that govern public meetings and board actions, a delegation was sent out of state to “research” a model to insert into CSD and usurp local control, possibly placing millions and millions of dollars into the hands of an appointed board without any elected representation from Christina.

Carney is playing the exact same kind of education games Jack Markell played.  I’m not sure which is worse at this point, but at the rate Carney is going I have to go with our latest corporate education reform Governor.  What makes Carney so dangerous is his throw it in your face backdoor dealings.  He doesn’t care who he pisses off.  As long as he has his select cabal to go along with his plans.  Transparency is a thing of the past with this Governor.  He is initiating very scumbag moves.

There can never be public trust with John Carney.  Never.  He has proven that multiple times.  He is getting our legislators to think his hocus-pocus public-private partnership scams are perfectly okay.  There is no collaboration with Carney.  If you don’t go along with his vision, he will go ahead and do it anyway.  The very fact that Carney wants to emulate a flash-in-the-pan scam like this where the “partnership” creates a board to oversee these schools separate from the local education agency board of education where the state picks the four board members and the district the other three shows an immediate state control of Christina’s Wilmington schools.  But his contempt for local authority was not missed by Young in the News Journal article:

It has become clear the trip was planned in advance of that meeting, school board member John Young said, which concerns him because if the Springfield model ends up being the basis for the Christina partnership, it would suggest the outcome was predetermined and the school board didn’t actually have any say in the matter.

That’s right Mr. Young.  Carney doesn’t want the Christina board to have any say because he knows they would say no.  This is priority schools all over again except this time Carney is very upfront about selling these schools off to a corporate entity.  Call it a non-profit all you want.  I’m sure the overlords of this non-profit would exact their pound of flesh from the district in the form of certain salaries and operating expenses.

Where is DSEA President Mike Matthew on this?  He has been very quiet about all this since it came out in the past week.  I would think, given his resistance to the priority schools fiasco, he would oppose this.  But he has been silent and I would like to know why.  Especially given what Bies said in the article:

Legislators in Massachusetts say the program is “compelling” and has made it possible for the state to effect educational change without seizing local control from school districts. Yet, teachers unions have complained that it removes control of schools from local officials and puts it more in the hands of the state.

What is to stop this from spreading out from Christina?  I have no doubt Carney will push this on other districts as well.  Especially when their Smarter Balanced Assessment scores don’t meet his fake standards.  Once again, the Christina Board of Education will have to stand up against the evil empire (the state) to prevent further erosion in local control even though Carney’s crappy vision ridiculously suggests it would give more local control.

I  have no doubt Carney will sell more of his public-private partnership encyclopedia salesman malarkey throughout his term as Governor (a one-term Governor I hope and pray).  But what he is really doing is selling his state away.  He is evaporating transparency with his Family Services Cabinet Council and the non-public board meetings of his public-private partnership board at a state level.  The Delaware Department of Education seems to be okay with this and I have never been more annoyed with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting for going along with this dog and pony show.  But I suppose that’s why Carney picked her for this post.  She has become Carney’s yes woman.  But what should I expect from the Rodel-Vision circle of followers?  This is not the change promised by Carney in terms of the Delaware DOE.  They aren’t a support network for schools.  He has found a way for them to micro-manage our schools more than ever with this nonsense.  But he wraps it in his public-private partnership bow.

As for Tony Allen, he is being used in a big way for the second time by a Delaware Governor.  Markell used him and threw him out with the whole WEIC plan.  Now Carney is sucking him in with his big vision for Christina.  I would think Allen would be too busy with his new Del State job, but I guess not.  Not listed in the article is another attendee, Nnamdi Chukwuocha.  This Wilmington City Councilman actually thought it was a good idea for corporations to take over public schools in the infamous Christina priority schools board meeting when he gave his public comment back in September, 2014.  More of Carney surrounding himself with those who will suck up to him, allow themselves to be used, or whatever empty promise or vapor he whispered in their ears.

The Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, and our past two Governors have had a consistent hard-on for the Christina School District.  Once they get their hooks into them it is only a matter of time until the infection spreads.  Delaware is a small state so it would not come as a shock to me that we are a model state to completely destroy the word public in public education.

This whole thing stinks like hell and I hope Delawareans who do care about public education wise up and stand up fast to this fake Governor and his shallow followers.  If Mike Matthews is the man I believe him to be, he will fight this tooth and nail.  If he even entertains this notion, I will publicly shame him and my support for DSEA will be done.  If he does not publicly go against this, it will prove he ran for President of DSEA for the power.

The Springfield model is a fake.  It is just another way for Carney and other corporate education reform politicians to erode local control away and give power to states who in turn give out taxpayer money to idiotic companies who have taken more money away from the classroom than anything else since public education was first invented.

I am beginning to doubt any sincerity from John Carney.  This whole district consolidation task force seems to be the big distraction.  “Look here and pay attention to that while I spin my web of lies somewhere else in places you would never think to look.”  The problem with Carney is his ego.  He really is as transparent as Saran Wrap.  I don’t look at him and think, “what a great politician I can trust”.  I think, “That guy can’t be trusted at all.  He’s up to something.”  We all know the type.  But that seems to be okay for over half of Delaware who put the guy in power with an empty campaign that essentially had no platform we hadn’t heard before.  This is what happens when you reward a false sense of entitlement Delaware voters.

 

 

 

 

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Governor Carney Shows His True Colors In A Dog And Pony Show For The Ages!

Delaware Governor John Carney released a statement about his meeting with the Christina School District Board of Education last evening.  I felt obligated to give it the TC Redline Edition.  In which I give a no-holds barred critique of Carney’s boneheaded idea.

Governor Carney to Christina Board: Let’s Partner to Improve Wilmington Schools

Date Posted: Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday met with the Christina Board of Education during a study session at Bancroft Elementary School to discuss a proposed partnership between the state and Christina School District to more effectively serve educators and students in Christina schools in the City of Wilmington.

I have to give kudos to Carney for actually attending and meeting with the Board.  However, that does not excuse the backdoor closed meetings he had with two of their board members over the summer.

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Governor John Carney
Full remarks to Christina School District Board of Education – October 3, 2017
*As prepared for delivery

Thank Rick Gregg, members of the Board, Principals, teachers, parents and others present.

Proper thing to do when you are in their house so to speak.

I’m here with Secretary of Education Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Board in this workshop format.

They would be the ones to also be there.  Was anyone else there?  Perhaps your Education Policy Advisor, Jon Sheehan?

I’ve lived in this city for 30 years. And it’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state.

I respect that Wilmington is the biggest city in the state and it is essentially the gateway to the rest of it, but the rest of the state has a lot to offer.  Perhaps Wilmington wouldn’t be in the shape it is in if the state didn’t keep trying to put all its eggs in one basket when there are hundreds of others as well.  We get you’ve lived in this city for 30 years.  It’s all we heard from you when you were campaigning for Governor.  But you had many years at a Federal level to do more for Wilmington.  What did you do for Wilmington when you were in Congress?

Wilmington is our economic and cultural center. Its success in many ways will drive Delaware’s long-term success. And so we need a city that is safe, with strong neighborhoods and good schools. We’re working with Mayor Purzycki, legislators, members of city council, businesses and the community service agencies to achieve these goals.

And yet we continue to see murders and violent crimes constantly.  All we hear from political leaders is “we’re working with…”.  That doesn’t solve the problem.  Action does and I have yet to see true action being taken to reduce those crimes and rampant drug use.

Our efforts have to start with improving our schools, and doing a better job educating city children.

No, your efforts have to start with improving the climate of Wilmington. 

One of the first things I did when I took office was ask Secretary Bunting to visit Wilmington schools.

Which she did.

I joined her on some of these visits. And while we certainly saw dedicated teachers and principals, what we saw by and large was very discouraging.

Let me guess: you saw children with hygiene issues and worn clothing.  You saw a look in their eyes you couldn’t really understand.  It tugged at your heartstrings and thought, “I will be the one to fix this.”

And when the proficiency scores for these schools were released this summer, we saw that they fell well short of what’s acceptable.

Here we go… the test scores.  For a flawed test.  In most schools, anything below a 65% is failing.  For Smarter Balanced, the whole state is failing.  Is that the fault of teachers and students or the test itself.  Don’t answer, we already know.

All of us, together, are responsible for doing better.

We can always do better, but don’t put the blame on all of us Governor Carney.  The buck stops with you.  While you inherited many of these issues from your predecessors, you are falling into the same traps.

It was pretty clear to us that Christina’s portion of the City schools – Bayard, Stubbs, Bancroft, Palmer, and Pulaski – are in the most need of help.

Was it only a year ago that the state refused to step in when Pulaski had all the mold issues?  It is great that you visit these schools but what have you done to make life outside of these schools better?  These are the schools with the highest concentrations of low-income and poverty students.

Already we have taken steps that, I believe, will help our efforts in all city schools.

And how many of those were created by you with no public input.  How many of those efforts involved back-door secret meetings?  Once again, don’t answer.  We know the score.

We opened the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Department of Education, to focus state energy on these and other high-needs schools.

Ah, yes.  Your attempt at “reducing” the Delaware DOE.  By making a satellite office in Wilmington. 

We created an Opportunity Grants program that, while not funded at the level that I want, will help identify proven practices for serving disadvantaged students.

Don’t even get me started on that failure of a FY2018 budget Carney.  You put aside a million bucks while cutting exponentially more.  That does not serve disadvantaged students.  It is a Band-Aid on an infected wound.

We put basic needs closets in Wilmington schools, so students can have access to hygiene products, school supplies, and winter clothing, in a dignified way.

Now this I do support and continue to do so.

We’ve reestablished the Family Services Cabinet Council to better coordinate services to families and children, and to address issues of poverty that are impeding the success of our city children.

Closed-door, non-public, back-door meetings.  We have no idea what this council discusses.  For something you like to scream from the rooftops about, we have no clue what they talk about.  Put your money where your mouth is and make these meetings public.  Otherwise, this is smoke and mirrors.

But we need to do much, much more, and that’s why I’m here today.

Every time the state tries to fix these issues, the problems get worse.  I have to wonder if that is intentional.

We didn’t get here over night. And we could spend all day debating the reasons for how we got here. I know a lot of that history through my father who worked in the old Wilmington Public School District and through my many years in state government.

Yes, why debate how we got there.  Because until you take a deep dive at those reasons, you will never understand.  You can’t ignore things that come into schools.  But I digress…

Some blame a lack of resources. Dysfunctional families. Inexperienced teachers. Weak leadership. Busing. Trauma in the home. Segregated neighborhoods. Too much testing. Not enough testing. Bad parenting. Education bureaucracy. Violence in the city.

I agree with some of these: a lack of resources, dysfunctional families, weak leadership (some from CSD in the past and definitely from the state), busing, trauma in the home, segregated neighborhoods, too much testing, bad parenting, education bureaucracy, violence in the city.  I don’t see the inexperienced teachers (except for the TFAers who get their rush-job credentials in a matter of months) and not enough testing.

Over the last few years the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) did a comprehensive study of the challenges, and came up with a plan to make changes. We’ve incorporated many of their recommendations into what I’m about to discuss.

In other words, you are copying the work done from others for your own political benefit. 

It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as Governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as Secretary of Education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina Board members. We’re in this together.

Together?  Are you kidding me?  For months you’ve been circling the wagons and cherry-picking people to talk to about the “Christina problem”.  Divide and conquer.  That’s what I see.  Not getting that warm and fuzzy feeling I felt at your inauguration Carney…

I’m here today, at the invitation of your Superintendent, because I want to partner with you to say “enough.” I believe it’s time to begin intensive efforts to get our teachers, principals and students what they need in the classroom.

Knowing Rick Gregg like I do, I believe he invited you because he was getting tired of your secret meetings and wanted to make it a public event so people can see what the hell you are up to.  I think it’s high time Christina said “enough” with the endless interventions from the state that have been compete and utter failures.

To that end, I’m proposing that the State, Christina School District, and Christina Education Association form a partnership that focuses exclusively on Christina’s city schools.

You and your damn partnerships.  Let’s be partners.  Public-private partnerships.  In other words, let’s do as much as we can behind closed doors and throw transparency out the window.

My vision is to spend the next few months talking as a group about what this partnership would look like, so that by the end of this calendar year we can sign a memorandum of understanding to work together to improve these city schools and the proficiency of the students. I want to be ready to put our new plans into effect by the start of the 2018 school year. This aligns with your Superintendent’s timetable for implementing change as well.

When I hear Memorandum of Understanding, I hear priority schools all over again.  Who is your Penny Schwinn that is facilitating this?  How much state money will be spent trying to craft this MOU for months?  Cause I published all the emails where Schwinn painstakingly tried to make the MOU from the Fall of 2014.  And that was based on Delaware’s clueless interpretation of their own ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Schwinn did everything she could to make sure it was six Wilmington schools within Christina and Red Clay.  Definitely Markell’s biggest failure.

I think our partnership should address five main issues that I’ve heard over and over again as I’ve toured schools in Wilmington.

Who is telling you these things you’ve heard “over and over”?  Let me guess: Senator Sokola, Rep. Jaques, Rodel, Atrne Alleyne, Michael Watson, Donna Johnson, Jon Sheehan, Kendall Massett, Greg Meece, etc.

First, principals need more control over key decisions in their schools. I would like to work with you to give principals the leadership tools they need and the flexibility and autonomy over structural areas such as staffing/hiring, school schedules, and programs. To give them the resources to implement extended learning time, and to create other school conditions necessary to best meet student needs. As part of this partnership, the Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with principals and our institutions of higher education to provide principals with high quality professional learning, coaching, and support. The Department of Education, using state resources, would assist Christina School District in training principals to better use observations to provide effective feedback that will elevate instruction.

Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the “empowerment zones” in Springfield, MA.

Second, educators in high-needs schools need more say in how resources are used. I plan to engage Christina’s city educators to ensure we are working in partnership with them, as they are on the ground every day working to improve student outcomes. I would like to work with you to empower teacher-leader teams at each school to partner with school administration on key decisions like working conditions, resource use, and school culture. The Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with our institutions of higher education and use the full expertise of the Department of Education to provide educators with professional learning that is relevant, consistent, and meaningful.

In other words, more useless programs through TFA, The Leader In Me, and other cash-cow Crackerjack box outfits that will happily take state money to “fix” the problems.  And that “full expertise of the Department of Education”… are you serious?  How many of these “experts” at the DOE have actually taught in these classrooms?  How many came up the ranks from TFA or the charter world?

Third, we need to address the fact that student achievement rates at Christina’s Wilmington schools are among the lowest in the state. In partnership with DSEA and CEA, I want to create more flexibility for these schools to provide students with additional learning time, including vacation and weekend academies. Teachers would receive stipends for additional hours worked, supported by state funds and the redeployment of district resources. I would argue serious conversations, in partnership with the Christina Wilmington community, need to take place around building use. We are doing our students, educators, and taxpayers a disservice when we have half-empty school buildings — needlessly spreading resources thin.

Maybe if the state stopped intervening in Christina, stopped pumping up charter schools like they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and stopped calling Christina a failure, those buildings wouldn’t be half full.  The state created most of this mess by authorizing so many damn charters up there.  This is where you are assuming DSEA and CEA are on board with your half-cocked plan.  You are seriously messing with collective bargaining agreements here.  Vacation and weekend academies?  When do these kids get a break?  Are you going to churn and burn them until they score proficient on the useless Smarter Balanced Assessment?

Fourth, we need a plan to address the significant trauma students in Wilmington experience outside the classroom. I’m proud of the work already underway between the Office of Innovation and Improvement, DSEA, the Office of the Child Advocate, and community leaders to train staff to create trauma-informed classrooms. We need to double down on those efforts. I have already directed the Family Services Cabinet Council to work with City leaders to implement the CDC report, including finding a way to share data across state agencies about students in need. That work is under way.

How about thanking the Christina teachers who spend every single day dealing with trauma first-hand?  The ones who wash kids clothes, make sure they have food for the weekend, and help students deal with the latest murder that happened in their neighborhood?  You are all about the kudos before anything happens while failing to properly thank those on the ground floor.  And what will the closed-door Family Services Cabinet Council do with all this data that tells us what we have always known?  Let’s get real Carney: until you fix the crime, violence, and rampant drug use in Wilmington, these problems will always exist.  Until you find a way to desegregate the charter schools that cherry-pick students and put every single Delaware school back in balance with their local neighborhoods, these efforts will fail.

Finally, we need to build systems to create meaningful, sustained change in Christina’s Wilmington schools. As part of a partnership with you, the Family Services Cabinet Council would launch a two-generation network to support infants, toddlers and adults, with the goal of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Additionally, we ought to convene higher education institutions and create a pipeline to develop teachers and leaders ready to enter into our Wilmington schools. These efforts cannot be a flash in the pan. We need to methodically build systems that will endure.

Are you saying the teachers in these schools aren’t ready?  That they can’t handle the trauma they deal with every single day?  There is nothing any higher education institution can do to adequately deal with these issues until the state takes an active hand in dealing with the issues coming into the classroom.  And Wilmington City Council needs to get their heads out of their ass and deal with the corruption going on there before they enter into any “partnership”.  Once again, make your beloved Family Services Cabinet Council public.  This whole thing reeks of non-transparency and I’m getting sick of that. 

Give principals a bigger say. Trust and support our teachers. Tackle low proficiency rates. Address trauma. Build systems. That’s what I propose we work on together.

You will never trust and support our teachers while they are under local control.  Never.  You want to mold them and cherry-pick them to serve the latest corporate education reform scheme.  The best way to tackle low proficiency rates is to get rid of Smarter Balanced and stop judging schools, teachers, and districts based on meaningless and useless test scores.  These misused and abused scores are just one of the reasons why I advocate parents opting their kids out of the state assessments.  Addressing trauma is one thing but finding a way to actively eliminate it is the true hurdle and I don’t think you have the money, resources, or guts to do that.  Working together doesn’t require a contract like an MOU.  That is a gun to the head and we all know it.  You are seriously overreaching here with your executive power here Carney and you need to slow your roll.

The partnership I’m proposing isn’t flashy. It’s not an education fad or sound bite. It’s about the nuts and bolts of educating children. It is a simple but intense effort to put the focus where I think it belongs — in the classroom.

This isn’t about kids at all.  It’s about different ed reform companies lobbying through Jon Sheehan to get their latest programs or technology into the classroom.  And you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Frederick Douglass said that “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And that’s the choice we’re facing. We all have dreams for our children. But right now, we’re consigning far too many of our students to a life that no parent wants for their child. Every student we graduate who can’t do basic math or who can’t read or write, we’re sending into the world knowing he or she doesn’t have the tools to succeed. Doors are closing for these children before they even leave the third grade.

For the most part, the state created the conditions which led to these broken men.  Through very racist laws and credos.  The state allowed this to happen and now they want to rush in and save the day by fixing the schools.  What about all these broken men?  What are you doing to make restitution for the state’s absolute failure with them?

I believe, and I know you do too, that it would be immoral to let this situation continue this way.

Don’t speak for the Christina Board of Education Carney!  It would be immoral for this board to give up local control so you can make education companies happy.  How about you let Christina School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Rick Gregg and their elected Board of Education, do their thing.  I like Gregg.  I think he is the leader Christina needs.  But your swooping in and undermining the hard work he has done is an insult at best.

So I’m asking you to form this partnership with us. Let’s take the next few months and work out the details. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what I’ve laid out, and on how you think we can work together.​


I have to listen to the audio when it comes out today, but based upon reading the News Journal article on this last night by Jessica Bies, board member Liz Paige said it best:

Elizabeth Paige said the plan lacked specificity, but that she was willing to talk more as long as the state could guarantee they weren’t going to pull the infamous Charlie Brown football gag on Christina.

“We’re Charlie Brown and the football,” she said. “He has to prove he’s not Lucy.”

Don’t be fooled Mrs. Paige.  He is most definitely Lucy!

Board member John Young gave Carney’s remarks at B+.  I think he was being nice.

Harrie-Ellen Minnehan spoke the hard truth:

Harrie Ellen Minnehan said that students are often used as “political pawns” and that the plan sounded too much like just another in a long string of political solutions imposed on the education system but that have resulted in no gain whatsoever for students caught in a downward academic spiral.

The Christina Board of Education is at their best when they are fighting the latest state method of eroding local control.  I saw this firsthand at the first Christina board meeting I went to in September of 2014.  When they stood together and gave Markell’s priority schools idea a collective no thank you.  I am hoping they do the same with this latest Markellian effort by Carney.

As for Dorrell Green, his quote in the News Journal is very concerning because it gives a good deal of insight into Carney’s plan:

“Do you feel you have the bandwidth or the internal capacity to see that plan through without our support?”

This was in response to Superintendent Gregg’s own plan to build up Christina.  It as if Green was saying “You can’t do anything without the state helping out.”  Which is exactly what the problem is here.  The state interferes so much that it paralyzes the district.  The state needs to do more on the side of fixing the crime and poverty in Wilmington.  Let Christina deal with Christina.  If the state wants to “partner” under forced coercion, that is bullying.  Christina needs to enact a zero tolerance policy on state bullying.  And just by using the word “bandwidth”, Green may have overplayed his hand.  By using that particular word, he is suggesting Christina will get better by more corporate education reform double-speak education technology.

I have to give it to Carney.  He has successfully learned how to play the field like Jack Markell did.  He certainly has been busy trying to hand-select his pawns with this attempt.  And yet he gave the farm away when he announced his trip to Springfield, MA on his public schedule.  I didn’t see any of that in your speech.  It’s like a super villain in a comic announcing their intentions before they even implement them.  Look what I’m about to do.  We see through you Carney.  Stop listening to those around you who truly don’t have a clue about what is really going on.  Otherwise you are just another Jack Markell.  Be your own man, not a carbon-copy.

Don’t think for one minute that I don’t understand you Carney.  I know about some of your antics with things lately.  I know you hate my blog and will cast out those who support it.  We both know exactly what I’m talking about.  We know you have heard objections to this Christina scheme and totally ignored them.  In fact, you punish those who don’t agree with you.  You aren’t the person you put in front of the media.  Who is the real John Carney?  Time to take off the mask and reveal the true John Carney.  We both know when this plan fails (and it will if implemented), the state will continue to blame Christina for their own failure and will embark on another scheme to “fix” the problem they create in the first place.

Catching Up On Delaware Education And Politics

It’s been a while.  At least for me.

I haven’t been blogging as much.  Like I’ve said before, sometimes you have to take a break and recharge your batteries.  But it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening offline or in sidebar conversations.  These are just some of the things I’ve seen and heard the past few weeks: Continue reading “Catching Up On Delaware Education And Politics”

Red Clay Board of Education Votes Unanimously For Equity Plan

Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education voted unanimously for the district to develop an Equity Plan through their long-standing Diversity Committee.  The resolution, written by board member Adriana Bohm, would charge the committee to develop the Equity Plan, which will be presented to the board by April of 2018.  Many community members came out to give public comment in support of plan.

Where this gets a bit sticky is the two charter schools Red Clay authorizes, Charter School of Wilmington and Delaware Military Academy.  As their authorizing agent, Red Clay can conduct their charter renewal process along with formal reviews, modifications, and other such matters.  But they cannot dictate district policy to those schools and make them follow it.  Both schools have substantially lower populations of racial groups the Diversity Committee would talk about.  Failure to address this huge gap between the districts and those charters would ignore the inherent and not-to-be ignored problems of race in the district.  Based on enrollment preferences, those schools have the tendency to pick and choose who they want based on “specific interest”.

I definitely think Bohm’s resolution is a good one.  Red Clay had mixed results with their Inclusion Plan over the past few years which has prompted significant changes in the way the district handles special education.  Based on 2016-2017 data, Red Clay has more minorities than white students, with the largest of those minorities being Hispanic students at around 30%.  But what I don’t want to see this committee doing is basing student success on Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  I do not believe these are a valid measurement of student success in any possible way.  Many in the African-American community feel these are a valid measurement since they include all students, but when the test is flawed it is not a good measurement.

To read the entire plan, please see below.

2017 Not That Much Smarter Balanced Results For Delaware Show Blah Blah Blah

The Delaware Department of Education just presented the 2017 Smarter Balanced, SAT, and DCAS-Alt1 preliminary results to the Delaware State Board of Education.  Even though scores were up and down, the Department is excited by the magnificent work of… and that’s about it! As the poor guy next to me was snoring through the presentation, I listened to the whole thing.  The only thing I cared about was that every district and charter school met or exceeded the 95% participation rate.  Which means opt out rates are going down.  Which means more Delaware parents are okay with their kids being tested, catalogued, tracked, and data shared with corporate education companies.  That is nothing to celebrate.  We need opt out numbers to increase and have ALL districts and charters crack that 95% barrier and plummet down to 90% or even 0% in the event of a miracle.

To see the rigorous and vigorous results (not really, just trying to add some super pizazz here), see below.  Sorry, I just can’t take this test or the results seriously it all.  They are about as important as wrapping paper after you open a gift.

Delaware Shows Improvement In Special Education But Measurements Are Horribly Wrong

The United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education the other day and Delaware obtained a “Meets Requirements” for indicators under IDEA Part B.  For IDEA Part C, they were designated as “Needs Assistance”.  Part B is for children ages 3 and up to 21, with disabilities, and Part C ranges from birth to 2 years old.  I wrote last year how so many of these special education indicators are based on the state assessment: their scores and participation rate play a very heavy roll.  I have neither the time or the patience to get into the nitty gritty with these determinations at a granular level.  The feds don’t get it and our state doesn’t get it.  I have no doubt the Delaware Department of Education will celebrate this and say “look how far we’ve come”.  But since so much of this is based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I give it about as much legitimacy as a Mona Lisa forgery.

 

Action Alert: Opt Out Bill To Be Heard In House Education Committee Next Wednesday, It Needs YOUR Support!

Here we go again!  House Bill 60 is on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 14th, at 2:30pm.  It is the ONLY bill on the agenda.  Most educators should be done with school by then.  Parents, teachers, students, and Delaware citizens: I invite you to attend this committee meeting and give public comment on why you feel this bill should pass!

Delaware Governor John Carney has been very quiet on the subject of opt out.  When he was a U.S. Congressman, he voted against a part of the reauthorization of the ESEA which would have honored a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment prior to the bill becoming the Every Student Succeeds Act.  When the last opt out bill, House Bill 50, overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, former Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill within weeks.  An attempted override of that veto led to a lot of shady deal-making between Markell’s office and legislators and the attempt failed.

While opt out has not been a huge topic, it is more important than ever.  I feel the bill should also include personalized learning assessments and any “stealth” assessments embedded in digital technology.  While these aren’t the norm in Delaware yet, they will be.  These mini assessments will replace the once a year test in a competency-based education arena.

Due to an actual “gag order” by National PTA concerning opt out, we will not be able to get support from the Delaware PTA this go-around.  So any participation in this committee meeting will have to be a grassroots effort by parents.  Please spread the word.  If you are unable to attend the meeting, please email the members of the House Education Committee asking for their support of House Bill 60.  As well, you can sign this petition on Change.Org which can be found here: Please release House Bill 60 from the House Education Committee

Here are their emails:

earl.jaques@state.de.us

kimberly.williams@state.de.us

sean.matthews@state.de.us

sean.lynn@state.de.us

michael.ramone@state.de.us

Charles.Postles@state.de.us

joseph.miro@state.de.us

edward.osienski@state.de.us

charles.potter@state.de.us

debra.heffernan@state.de.us

david.bentz@state.de.us

melanie.g.smith@state.de.us

harvey.kenton@state.de.us

stephanie.bolden@state.de.us

ruth.briggsking@state.de.us

timothy.dukes@state.de.us

kevin.hensley@state.de.us

 

The Mind of Mr. Matthews Makes Way For President Matthews

Mike Matthews doesn’t have to teach for the next three school years!  Instead, he will be taking over from Frederika Jenner as the President of the Delaware State Education Association beginning July 15th.  Today, Mike got his final evaluation before he takes off to Water St. in Dover.  He reflected on this evaluation and much more in his Facebook status earlier this afternoon.  I’m going to say right now, I expect a lot out of Mike the next three years.  My expectations are very high.  Are we going to agree on everything?  Hell no.  I expect we will have our fair share of disagreements.  I also want to wish the very best to the outgoing President, Frederika Jenner.  I never really had the opportunity to get to know Frederika, and I will regret that.  I was very tough on her a couple of years ago, and once again, I apologize to Frederika for that.  But back to President Matthews…

I finish my year at Cooke Elementary with a totally different worldview. I had an excellent Component V conference with my administrator this morning. Now, that’s not to say I’m a fan of Component V. I’m still 100% absolutely against using standardized test scores of students on an educator’s evaluation.

The meeting was productive because it laid bare and confirmed my thoughts over the last few years. Whereas students at my other schools often showed lower proficiency, but high percentages of growth, my students at Cooke showed amazingly high proficiency at the beginning of the year, but some of the Smarter Balanced growth goals set by the state were so high, that a handful of my students didn’t meet them. Consequently, I was one student away from getting an “Exceeds” rating on my Measure A Component V.

It’s a different world at Cooke, with different challenges and successes from what I experienced at Warner and Richardson Park. But my resolve remains: I feel that our educators should not be judged based on a system that has never been shown to be a valid or reliable measure of teacher effectiveness.

I’ll miss being in the classroom next year, but will certainly be fighting like hell with the awesome DSEA team and educators and professionals throughout the state to lobby and advocate for a teacher and specialist evaluation system that respects the work they do.

Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal Hates Parents Just Like Jack Markell Does! State Rep. Earl Jaques Pretends New Opt Out Legislation Doesn’t Exist!

Diane Ravitch just wrote about Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of opt-out legislation that passed the Georgia General Assembly.  This immediately reminded me of Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s horrible veto of House Bill 50 in the summer of 2015.  Say, State Rep. Earl Jaques, why the hell hasn’t the new opt out legislation, House Bill 60, been put on the agenda for the House Education Committee.  You promised me it would be over two months ago.  Guess it isn’t a priority for YOU so it won’t get on there.  Being the Chair of the Delaware House Education Committee means allowing all education bills to be heard in committee.

Opt out is alive and well.  I may not write about it as much, but it is still happening.  New York continues to have terrific opt out numbers.  It won’t be until July or so until we find out Delaware’s opt out numbers for this year.  That is when the Delaware Dept. of Education releases all the Smarter Balanced information from this year.

Down in Georgia, Jeb Bush’s insane Foundation for Excellence in Education jumped on the veto bandwagon.  Ravitch quoted the Atlanta Journal-Constituion:

“The proposal would have harmed students and teachers by denying access to measurements that track progress on standardized assessments,” the advocacy group, founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said in a statement. “Maintaining a transparent and accountable measurement systems is critical to ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and beyond — and indicates how successful schools are in preparing students for the future.”

Hey Jeb, we don’t want progress on standardized assessments, we just want regular student progress.  These flawed and meaningless tests don’t provide that.  They feed the data whore beasts and waste a crapload of time in our schools.  They stress kids out and the tests are used to label and shame teachers and schools.  Enough already!

Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…

 

Apples, Oranges, & The Myth Of Grading Schools: The True Goals Behind Bad Education Policy

Atnre Alleyne came out with a blog post this morning supporting a Governor Carney idea where Delaware rates schools with stars.  Of course he did!  I don’t care what you label them with: stars, letter grades, numbers, or rocket ships.  It all translates to a comparison between apples and oranges.  What I find most ironic about Alleyne’s post is how self-serving this is for him.  As the guy behind Delaware Can, any school labeling further perpetuates the myth that companies like that thrive on: label, shame, and punish.  Alleyne’s personal war against the Delaware State Education Association is filled with holes and misdemeanors!  I thought I would pick apart a few of his “facts” and “myths”.

The Fallacy of Surveys

Thousands of Delawareans responded to the Delaware Department of Education’s 2014 survey indicating they want school performance ratings.

When you come out with a survey that doesn’t even ask the question “Do you think Delaware should have school performance ratings?” and you continue that survey with questions about those ratings, I don’t think it is fair to say that means “thousands of Delawareans” wanted this.  The survey predetermined the school report cards was going to happen (as required by federal law) but that in no way to translates to the citizens of Delaware demanding this system.

Self-Serving Agendas

Recently a coalition of 24 community and business groups also sent the Department a letter with recommendations for the state’s ESSA plan that called for a “single summary rating for schools and districts…in order to ensure clarity for parents and community members.”

And who led that band of public education marauders, disguised as organizations wanting to help public education?  Who corralled and convinced these 24 mostly non-profits who would benefit from what Alleyne wants?  Who was also on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for the state ESSA plan and in a position to leverage his agenda?  Yes, none other than Atnre Alleyne.

The Rating-Label Scheme

MYTH: School ratings are more of the type of “testing, labeling, and punishing” we do not need in our schools.

Yes, they are.  Given that the weighting of these report cards is over 50% towards results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment so carefully masked as two different categories: growth and proficiency, it most certainly is a testing, labeling, and punishing apparatus.

Even The Feds Are Backing Away From Bad Education Policy

Today, federal law requires that we identify and “label” the bottom 5 percent of schools in our state. The school report cards to which the Department has committed renames those schools – from Priority and Focus schools to   Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools – and continues its support for these schools with access to more money and assistance. That’s not punishment. It’s being honest about where and how we need to help our schools.

A label is still a label even if you change the wording.  I love the word “Targeted” because that is exactly what this system does.  Jack Markell loved this and apparently Governor Carney does as well.  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems to be backing away from a federal accountability system and leaving it up to the states.  Governor Markell embedded that system into Delaware and our whole education system is based on this.  Alleyne, who used to work for the Delaware Dept. of Education, is very familiar with this system and knows exactly what it is meant for.

The Growth In Our Education System Is Malignant

It’s also important to remember that growth measures, which take into account how much a student’s performance has grown over a school year, also benefits schools with higher performing students in ensuring they help their students grow, as well.

Okay, this is the part that absolutely kills me!  If a school has higher performing students, i.e., the average proficiency on SBAC is 3.87 out of 4, that does not leave much room for growth.  But the illusion of having a growth goal of students reaching a 3.9 proficiency is not out of the ballpark.  It is doable and can certainly happen.  Take a school with a high population of low-income and students with disabilities, where the average SBAC proficiency is 1.24 and the growth goal to proficiency is 2.0, the whole system changes.  The work needed to get to that score, with more challenging students with much higher needs, multiplies at an exponential rate.  The odds of that school reaching that goal are much lower than the “high-performing” school that only needs to go up a tiny bit to reach their growth goals.  It is comparing apples and oranges.

Judging The Haves and The Have-Nots And Voucherizing Students

MYTH: If you give schools a rating parents are just going to use that single rating to judge schools and ignore all the other information about a school’s performance.

This is an exercise in futility.  This is the difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  The “haves” will utilize this system to find the “best” school for their child.  Many of the “have-nots”, who in many cases aren’t even aware a system like this even exists, will simply send their child to the local neighborhood school.  In the midst of this landscape we have the issue of school vouchers coming to the front burner.  So much so that the feds are willing to dump all this truly bad accountability crap out the window in favor of a voucher system that will make private schools the next big thing.  For reasons they aren’t saying, this will be the cushion for students from wealthier families for what happens next.  See more on this later.

How To Place Yourself In An Area Of “Importance”

Our goal, as advocates and policymakers, must be to equip parents and taxpayers with school quality information that is easy to understand, fair, and consistent.

Notice Alleyne uses the word “Our”, as if he is the man behind the curtain waving the magic wand that mesmerizes his audience into taking his every word as the Gospel truth.  For a guy that makes a living based on the very worst of corporate education reform Kool-Aid disguised as helping disadvantaged students, I encourage all Delawareans to take what he says with a grain of salt.  Having met Alleyne in person, he is a nice guy.  But his education policy and what he advocates for causes alarm bells to go off in my head.  I get why he does what he does, but he is just another victim of the bad education policy that is fighting for its last legs in the new era of Trumplandia.  I completely understand that he wants better education outcomes for minority students.  I do as well.  I also want that for students with disabilities and English Language learners.  It is the way Alleyne wants this that bothers me.  If society as a whole has not learned the valuable lesson that the continued use of high-stakes testing is just plain bad for public education, than folks like Alleyne will continue to spread their “myths” and “facts”.  I say opt out of not just the high-stakes testing but also opt out of false edu-speak that exists to sway parents of student populations and trapping them in a system where testing reigns supreme.

What’s Up With All The Teacher Union Hate?

If there is one consistent question I’ve been asked by parents who seek to understand this system of high-stakes tests it is this: if we don’t use these tests how do we measure how our schools are doing?  It’s a damn good question and I won’t pretend to have the answer.  I have always suggested that a student’s classroom grades are more of a true measure than these once a year test scores.  I don’t believe in students going on to the next grade if they aren’t ready.  That is when parents need to carefully watch their child’s progress.  It is not the end of the world if a student is held back.  We need to also trust our teachers that their years of preparation and continued training serve to benefit our child’s success in education.  If you have doubts about a teacher’s effectiveness than certainly question it.  I believe it is our sacred duty to do so.  But when we are given lie after lie about teachers from these education think tanks about how bad unions are and how they only want what is best for them, we have to recognize the truth: these companies do NOT want teacher unions to exist at all.  They don’t like the idea of teacher’s organizing on behalf of themselves because it takes away from their profit-making ventures.  The sad part is how so many parents actually believe these horrible lies about public education.  So when unions fight against these bad policies they are immediately painted as the villain in articles like the one Alleyne wrote today.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the teacher unions are perfect.  But I don’t think any organization, school, parent, student, or state agency is perfect.  But there is a clear difference between offense and defense.  I see corporate education reformers as a vicious marauder into areas where they have no business being in.  The predictable result is teacher unions going on the defense against these schemes and agendas.

Opt Out Is The Only Defense

The only way to fight a bad system is to ignore it.  This is why I have always defended a parent’s fundamental and God-given right to opt out of these silly little standardized tests.  I refuse to give them the clout these companies think they deserve.  I would rather hear the word of the teacher in the classroom who is on the ground floor watching the colossal waste of time these tests have.  They are expensive, take up true teaching time, take up school resources, kill libraries during testing time, and the results serve no true purpose.  If you haven’t opted your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year, please do so now.  Even if they are already in the middle of testing.  When many parents get the Delaware DOE suggested letter from the school about how opt out is illegal and the school can’t allow it, treat it as fire-starter material for a fire-pit in your backyard.  Just write a letter to your child’s school stating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, hand it to the principal, and state there is to be no further discussion on the issue.  If they attempt to dissuade you, give a pleasant “thank you but no thank you” and stand firm on your decision.

What Is A Governor To Do Facing A $385 Million Dollar Deficit?

For Delaware Governor John Carney, he faces a crucial moment.  He has to make cuts in the state budget.  There won’t be easy choices, but one should be a no-brainer: get rid of the dead and expensive weight at the Delaware DOE and get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Sever the ties between the Delaware DOE and these “non-profit” for-profit education companies.  If that means getting rid of DOE employees whose sole existence is to continue what amounts to lobbying off the backs of children, just do it!

The True Goal Behind Alleyne And The Rodel Foundation

These are the end goals behind all this:

  • Get rid of the teacher unions
  • Have students learn in a 100% digital learning environment
  • Create a competency-based education system which will prevent students with high needs from advancing more than ever before
  • Track the hell out of the data in this ed-tech wonderland and create what amounts to a caste system where the best students get the best jobs and the struggling students get the menial jobs
  • Do away with brick and mortar schools and have teachers become glorified online moderators
  • Send young children to 3rd party organizations to get their “personalized learning” with Teach For America and other fast-track educator prep “teachers” guiding students
  • Have older students logged into whatever Blockchain technology is coming our way where they “earn to learn” and companies profit from teenagers

Surf-And-Turf or Filet Mignon?

We see this in agendas like Delaware’s “Pathways to Prosperity” program.  I attended Governor Carney’s Inaugural ball.  All the food was prepared and served by students in the culinary program.  The food was awesome.  But did any of those students who prepared this food get paid for their servitude?  I highly doubt it.  I have no doubt they received some type of education credit for their service while the State of Delaware says “thanks for the cheap labor”.  Or what about these “coding schools” where students pay thousands of dollars to train themselves on coding while at the same time doing work for very big companies through the training material?  Our students are nothing more than fodder for corporations.  They are the true victims in this new world and are being used by those whose biggest concern is if they should get the surf-and-turf or just the filet mignon at their next country club dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell Markell

In less than 20 hours, Delaware’s new Governor will be sworn in.  Jack Markell’s eight-year term as the Governor of Delaware will end.  I’ve seen reviews of his term all over Delaware and social media in the past week or so.  I believe it is no secret that I view his education initiatives as an unmitigated disaster.  But were they? Continue reading “Farewell Markell”

Uncle Sam Wants YOU… To Opt Out!

samgolder

Sam Golder is the Director of Secondary Education for the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  He is also one of the three candidates for the Christina Superintendent position.  Last night, at a community forum, Golder was asked about parents opting their kids out of standardized testing.  Golder’s response was “Opt Out! Everyone opt out!”  The other two candidates believed it comes down to a parent’s right, but Sam Golder unequivocally and enthusiastically wants parents to opt out.  Which would be good for opt out supporters.  He needs to take that show on the road and hit every single school board, be it district or charter school, and tell them this energetic burst of good news.  Since he believes in opt out so strongly, he needs to get a letter in with the News Journal promoting that same amount of opt out energy he showed last night.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing Golder at any of the House Bill 50 hearings at Legislative Hall back in 2015.  Oh well.  He came out as the opt out supporter of 2017 last night though!  Since I am not as active on this blog as I once was, I strongly urge parents who are curious about opt out to contact Golder so they can gain his infectious spirit and spread the news!

Should Golder get this lofty education leader position in the second largest district in the state, I sincerely hope he leaves some of his entourage back in Red Clay.  You know, those who claim to be “in the know” but just want to see who can make the loudest thud in public education.  I just wrote about some of those people.  Yes, I promised to be nice this year.  But I don’t like shenanigans, at any level.  Crypticism is not completely dead on this blog.

Santa And John

santaclaus

Once upon a holiday season, in the land of Delaware, there lived a man who would become Governor.  He was promised the throne eight years ago, but another man took his seat.  In this land, the people chose their Governor  every four years.  The man who would be Governor finally won the seat and 58.34% of the people rejoiced.  As he sat in his car one day after returning from his job in D.C., he looked out the window.  He saw the sun setting in the distance.

John was anxious to get things going in Delaware.  He had to officially wait until January 17th, 2017.  “Only 47 days,” John said to himself.  He had been so busy for so long.  Things wouldn’t slow down for him in the next four years, and hopefully the four after that.  His day was filled with phone calls, texts, and emails.  Everyone wanted a piece of Delaware.  He knew not everyone could get a piece.  He called his wife from the driveway and told her he was going to go for a walk to clear his head.  Always supportive, she knew John needed this and told him to take all the time he needed.  John drove to the nearby park.  As he walked out of his car, he put on his hat.  It was rare he could get away from his security detail but at the same time he didn’t want to be bothered.  John walked down the trail…

Meanwhile, 3,529.75 miles away, the jolly one was settling into his favorite chair.  The elves were busy preparing for the big day.  Santa was happy he had an extra day to prepare this year.  As a tradition, during these leap years, he would pick one day off each leap year to do whatever he wanted.  Mrs. Claus always forgot about it, but Santa didn’t.  Today was his day off!  Santa picked up his laptop and on his favorites bar was the website he enjoyed going to the most: Exceptional Delaware.  Ever since Santa learned about Common Core and opt out, he found himself checking back in to see what was happening with the children of Delaware and the rest of the country.  Santa was not happy when he found out what happened a few weeks after Christmas earlier this year.  The people of Delaware wanted the lawmakers to override Governor Jack’s veto of the opt out bill, but it got hung up in some silly rule business.  He knew exactly which of those lawmakers would be getting coal this year, led by their Speaker and the leaders below him.  Santa heard there was a new Governor in Delaware so he decided he would pay him a visit.  While he didn’t usually venture so far south during the busy month, it was his day off and he could do whatever he wanted.  At least the things Mrs. Claus wouldn’t have cause to file for divorce over.

As hard as he tried, John couldn’t stop thinking about his plans.  He didn’t count on the new President actually winning the election.  All his plans were contingent on the Hill winning.  But the Tower Man won and he had to plan around it.  The Tower Man was picking people who John couldn’t picture running things down in D.C.  His office was frantic over the mess.  John had to strategize very carefully how he moved forward with everything.  Not only did the Tower Man win, but the two bodies of Congress won a majority in the election as well.  John’s Delaware was still blue, but a shocking election there threatened to turn the Delaware Senate red too.  The state he was to lead had some peculiar problems in it and at the top of that list was the economy and education.  Governor Jack treated the two as if they were symbiotic with each other and made some poor choices along the way.  John knew if he was going to improve both he would have to find a way to draw everyone in.  It was a difficult maze and John knew he wouldn’t please everyone.  Governor Jack chose a particular route but John knew if he did the same it would not be good.

Santa knew John’s mind was heavy.  As his sleigh crossed the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Santa could feel the weight on John’s shoulders.  Leadership always carries a heavy burden.  Santa knew that better than anyone.  Santa knew John ever since he was a little boy.  He always knew John would become a leader.  John didn’t have the same political sharpness so many politicians had but this also made him more relatable to the people.  He watched John’s humble beginnings in the town of Claymont.  Carney was one of those tough kids who excelled in football which helped him out at St. Mark’s High School and then Dartmouth College.  Santa remembers John’s awards.  As John was teaching freshmen football at the University of Delaware, he was also studying public administration.  From there, John began his political career working for the county he lived in and then for Governor Tom.  From there, John’s political ladder kept getting bigger and bigger.  He became the Lieutenant Governor for eight years and decided to run for Governor.  But the future “education” Governor Jack beat him in a close race.  Others told Jack to wait his turn, it was John’s turn, but Jack ignored them.  A couple of years later, John ran for Congress and won.  For six years, having to run every two years for a total of three Congressional terms, John worked in D.C. and learned how the game of politics really works.  But he never gave up on getting back to Delaware to win as Governor.  After Governor Jack was expected to end his tenure, many thought Vice-President Joe’s son Beau would run, but tragically Beau passed away after a long illness.  It was then that John decided he would run but wished it had been under better circumstances.

John walked down the path.  There was a crisp wind in the air but the moon was bright.  He used to walk down this path many times.  It hadn’t changed much over time and he remembered it like the back of his hand.  John tripped on a branch and fell to the ground.  As he looked up, he saw a bright light in the sky above him.  A voice cried out “John, we need to talk.”  John reached for his phone but he had left it in the car.  He thought to himself, “This is it, all alone in the woods with no one to help.”  He began to picture the headline in the News Journal the next day.  “Who are you?” John asked.  “Someone you haven’t thought about in a long time John.”  Santa gracefully landed the sleigh on the path in front of John.  His lights were still on so John couldn’t tell who it was.  “I do have security watching me right now.  They are watching you right now.  So I wouldn’t try anything  They will find you if anything happens to me.”  “No they won’t,” Santa said.  “Remember you let all of them have the night off and you so conveniently told each one there was coverage?”  John wondered how this guy would know that.  “It’s me, John.  Santa.”

John couldn’t believe his eyes.  As a child, he always believed.  But as children grew older, that magic disappeared.  John saw Santa everywhere this time of year.  He began seeing him in stores as early as October.  But it wasn’t the same as the man who just walked off a sleigh that came down in the middle of the woods.  John took that early childhood magic for granted, as every adult does.  John wondered what in the world Santa Claus wanted with him.  Did he visit all the new leaders?  “John,” Santa said, “We have to talk about the kids.  Come with me.”  John felt the world spin beneath him.  Santa’s words captured him.  They weren’t words demanding John obey him, but those of comfort and a calm John hadn’t felt for a long time.  John looked at his watch.  It was 6:30pm.

Santa and John got in the sleigh.  The reindeer, who John hadn’t noticed before, began running down the path.  John felt the sleigh lift up into the December night.  “John, did you read my letter last year?” Santa asked.  John read letters every day.  There were some days he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast he was so busy.  John shook his head.  “Did you send it to me?” John asked.  He knew he probably had not seen it unless it was an issue of critical importance.  He was sure if one of his staffers opened it and saw a letter from Santa Claus it would go in the circular bin next to their desk.  “No, I let Exceptional Delaware put it up.  I thought everyone in Delaware reads it.”  That was a name John was familiar with the past six months.  The blogger.  “You mean the crazy education blogger from DoverThat guy wants to meet with me but I don’t know…” Santa abruptly interrupted John  “Watch yourself,” Santa warned.  “I have the utmost respect for the blogger.  He helped me out last year and he knows what he is talking about.”  John responded to Santa.  “But he tends to tick off a lot of people.  People I’m going to have to work with.  I was warned to stay away from him.”  Santa’s eyes widened.  “Oh really?  Would that have been Senator So-coal-A,” Santa carefully empathized.  “And all those other adults who don’t have the first clue about what education really is?  Let me tell you something John.  You will be a leader of Delaware.  Any state has a foundation from which it must build on.  That foundation is the kids.  Not the adults, and especially not the adults who try to make money and get power from kidsThere are those out there who will pretend to speak the truth.  You surround yourself with them.  But there are those who speak uncomfortable truths that people don’t always want to hear.  But they do so out of an innate need for change, in the hopes someone with the ability to hear will actually listen.”

John was familiar with what was going on in education.  He was told of the long-range plans and how education would be reformed so all kids can succeed.  The children would be trained to become the workforce of tomorrow.  As he began his campaign, he knew many people in Delaware were hurting.  When he ran for Governor the first time, the economy of the whole country was collapsing.  Even though Delaware recovered from this, not all of the citizens did.  Some never got the jobs back that made them more money.  The cities were becoming too violent again.  Drug use was up and children were getting shot in the street.  But still, Delaware did the one thing it knows how to do best- spend money.  John knew all that money wasn’t going to the right places.  He also knew that when he became the leader he would have to fix a lot of these problems.  Many of his advisors told him that education was going to fix all these problems.  Not now, but down the road.  But if he didn’t help follow the same paths Governor Jack made, nothing would ever get fixed.  This was happening all over the country.  There were critics, like the damn blogger, but they were just a whisper in the wind.  They didn’t see the big picture and how this was for the good of the state and the country.

Santa, where are we going?” John asked.  “To see the children John.”

Uhm, Santa.  We are flying into downtown Wilmington.  No offense sir, but I can’t be seen riding around in a sleigh with someone people don’t believe in along with eight reindeer.”  Santa pulled out a pouch from his pocket.  “Thanks for reminding me John, I almost forgot.”  Santa took out a handful of dust and blew it all around him and John.  “They won’t see us now.”  Santa parked the sleigh on top of the Community Education Building.  The duo went down through the building and to the streets below.  They walked over to the playground next to the building.

In a dark corner, an African-American boy was reading with a flashlight.  The boy was shivering as he turned a page.  “Why is this boy out here Santa?  Why doesn’t he go home?”  Santa sighed.  “This is his home John.  He lives on the streets.  During the really cold months he goes to a shelter with his aunt.  She is at work right now.”  John saw a grocery cart a few feet away from the boy.  Covering it was a blue tarp.  John could see some clothes in there and a few boxes.  As John looked away for a moment in horror, he saw a hypodermic needle on the ground.  The boy was reading a worn-out copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a flashlight between his yellow teeth.  He saw the boy lift a crumpled up bag out of his coat pocket.  The boy began eating the few crumbs left in the bag of potato chips.  Santa told John about how his father went to prison a few years ago.  He belonged to one of the gangs.  During a shoot-out in front of their apartment building, a bullet missed hitting the boy but instead lodged itself in his mother’s brain.  He told John this is the first thing the boy sees when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he sees at night.  “Come on John, we have more stops to make tonight.”  John walked to the sleigh but kept looking back at the boy.

Santa and John flew once more into the night.  It was very quiet between them.  They landed in a very wealthy neighborhood with mansions all around them.  John wasn’t sure if he had been on this street when he was campaigning.  Many houses were decked out in Christmas lights and he even saw Santas made up in lights.  “This is never what Christmas was supposed to be John,” as Santa looked down at his belly.  They got out of the sleigh and went into one of the houses.  A girl was on her computer playing the latest version of Minecraft.  Her mom asked her if she finished her homework.  “I sure did,” the girl said.  “You can check it on Schoology.”  “Did you finish all the stuff on iReady?” the mother asked.  “Yes Mom,” as the girl rolled her eyes.  She had just finished eating the steak and shrimp but she was still hungry.  “Can you turn the heat down Mom?” she yelled.  As her hand grabbed the ice cream bowl, Santa and John left.  As Sarah pulled the spoon to her mouth, she wondered if she had to be at the school in her cheerleader’s outfit by 9am tomorrow or 9:15.

They flew down to Georgetown.  John was last there on Return Day in November.  All the candidates who run for office, whether they win or not, participate in this event to “bury the hatchet”.  But they flew away from the town to a trailer park.  Inside, a Hispanic girl was kicking a ball around with her little brother.  A man came into the room.  “Hicerion sus deberes?” the man asked.  “No podríamos papá. No sabíamos lo que significaban las palabras,” the boy answered.  The man watched as his children did what they do after school almost every day.  Kicking around the same ball.  “Sorry Santa, my Spanish is very rusty.  What did they say?” John asked.  “The father asked if his children did their homework.  They couldn’t because they can’t read the words.  They don’t know English very well.  They know enough for very basic things, but not enough to learn what they need to know.  Their mother is still at the chicken farm working her shift.  One of them always has to be with the kids. They aren’t here legally.  The father is afraid all the time that his kids will be taken from him and he and his wife will have to go back to their country.  He doesn’t know English at all.” 

John felt his mind stir as they flew north.  He was very troubled by what he saw.  When he was campaigning, he tended to see the best of Delaware.  In the daylight or early evening when many of his “Meet and Chews” with people were attended by those who had the means and the desire to see him.  When he went to schools, he could tell the kids were on their best behavior because “an important man” was coming to visit.  He didn’t see people in their homes or on the streets the way he did tonight.  He felt uncomfortable, like he was seeing a side of the world he heard about but didn’t see first-hand.  “Santa, I should really be getting back.  It’s getting late and my wife is probably worrying about me.”  Santa laughed so hard the sleigh shook. Look at your watch John.  What time is it?”  John looked at his watch in bewilderment.  It was still 6:30pm.  No time had passed since he first got in the sleigh with Santa back on the trail.  “Let me guess, another bit of your magic?”  Santa smiled at John as they flew into a middle-class neighborhood in Dover.

The odd couple went into the house.  Inside, a boy was crying on the couch.  His parents were arguing in the kitchen.  “What do you mean he was suspended again?” the father asked.  “I got a call from school.  They said he was acting out in class again and when the teacher told him to stop he ran out of the room.  When another teacher found him, he pushed her away.  The Principal came down the hall and yelled at him to come with him.  David yelled back at him and Dr. Smith called two teachers to help bring him to the office,” the mother explained.  “I didn’t get the call until two hours later.  By the time I got there he was so upset.”  “Did they give him any work to do when he was in there for two hours?” the boy’s father asked.  “I don’t know.  But this is not what his IEP says.  They aren’t supposed to drag him down the hall and yell at him.  He isn’t learning anything there.  He’s depressed all the time.  He can’t learn in a class with thirty kids.”  John knelt down in front of the boy.  He saw such pain and sadness in the boy’s eyes.  “This boy has no friends John.  The things you had growing up, kids to play with and throw a football around, running around in the woods, even going to the amusement park, David can’t do those things.”  Santa explained how David was labeled as high-functioning Autism.  He could do the work, but only under certain conditions.  If there was a lot of activity in the classroom, people talking, moving around, David couldn’t handle that.  His brain couldn’t filter out all the stimuli.  Some days it worked, but for David, it was an endless litany of suspensions and leaving school early.  “Special education John.  If you don’t know what is going on with a child, and everyone is different, how can we put all kids in the same box?” Santa asked him.

John could see what Santa was doing.  He understood that not every kid is the same.  But if they didn’t try to help all the kids nothing would change.  The two flew to the building where John was destined to spend many of his days in the next four years.  Legislative Hall.  Where all the laws in Delaware happened.  John didn’t think there would be any kids there at 6:30pm, and he was right.  Inside, a meeting was taking place.  John knew about half the people at the large table in the House Majority Caucus room.  There were some from the Department of Education, a couple from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the usual Delaware State Education Association contingent, some Superintendents, a few teachers, Delaware PTA, some of the disability advocates, the lady from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, four legislators, and a couple of State Board members.  He knew them.  A few people sat in the chairs outside of the table.  A woman from the Delaware DOE was giving a presentation on the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Delaware had to come up with a state plan so all students can succeed.  She was talking about the Delaware School Success Framework and the measurements they wanted included in their state accountability system.  It was all about proficiency and growth.  Which John knew was based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  All these adults, sitting there talking about kids and how they can make education better.  John knew a few of the people there had the best of intentions but this was what they do in Delaware.  They sit around a table and talk.  This was how things got done.  They even had a name for it, The Delaware Way.

You don’t get it!” John cried out.  “We can’t keep testing these kids.  They aren’t the same.  We can’t keep doing this.  Their lives mean so much more than these tests.”  Santa looked at John.  “They can’t hear you.  Even if they could, too many of them wouldn’t listen.  They think they know what is best.  They forget what it was like when they were kids.  Even that man over there.”  Santa pointed to a man from Wilmington.  “He kept fighting for the kids in Wilmington and how the teachers need to be better,” Santa explained.  “The man believed what he said but he didn’t realize how much these children don’t have outside of school.  The man didn’t understand that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make teachers better.  And the best teachers, they were the ones already in those classrooms in Wilmington.  They were the ones who came to school every day, knowing the problems these kids brought to the classroom.  The look of hunger in their eyes as they wore the same clothes for the third day in a row.  They dedicated their lives to helping these kids in the hardest classrooms in the state.  In return, they were shamed by many of the people in this room.  The little boy we saw on the playground tonight?  He goes to the poorest school in the state.  Most of the people in this room have never walked into his school.  They don’t understand what he needs.  That legislator over there?  She sponsored a bill so special education would get better in the state.  In their eyes, it did.  Students went from 21% proficiency on the ELA part of Smarter Balanced to 23%.  To them, that is growth.  The Superintendent over there?  She runs the district where the two kids from Georgetown go to school.  She has a lot of students who can’t speak or read English.  She hasn’t said one word tonight about how to help them.  See the man over there?  He runs a charter school in Newark.  They just settled on a lawsuit against the Christina School District.  In return they will get more money in the future.  Remember the girl in the mansion?  She goes to that charter school.  That money will be taken from the homeless boy’s school.  He will get less than he has today at school.  The man over there?  He sits on the board at the Rodel Foundation.  He sees opportunity.  He sees how the business leaders in the state can profit from all this.  He is hoping they will start talking about more career pathway programs in our high schools.  He knows that some will go to the coding school he sits on the board of.  He talks with other business leaders and the graduates of that program do internships at their companies.  Sometimes they get jobs.  While they are learning, these coding students are building the network of tomorrow.  They develop algorithms that will go into the education technology in all the schools.  All that data, all that blessed data.  They store it all.  They keep everything, these futurists and visionaries.  They have the money and influence to make sure what they want becomes policy and law.  It is the way the modern world works John.  Perhaps they know, and don’t care, that what they are setting up now will only make those children who struggle the most even further apart from any true opportunity to succeed.  And them, over there, they work for the Department of Education.  They are the middlemen between the schools and the business community.  They make sure the business community gets what they want in the schools.  They do this through regulations and conversations you will never hear about.  That woman there, she runs the accountability section of the Department.  Her job is to make sure all children in certain grades take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When she sees the results come in, she doesn’t see the faces of the children who took the test.  She sees numbers.  Results.  Scores.  Her job is to understand why all the children we saw tonight got a 1 on the test last Spring except for the girl in the mansion who got a 4.  She doesn’t see David’s disability.  Or the two siblings who can’t read the instructions for the test in English much less understand the context of a passage  in Spanish about the stock market.  She doesn’t know that the African-American boy in Wilmington has slept in 124 different beds in the past year alone and the other 241 nights were outside with blankets.  But she actually thinks they can close the achievement gaps and these children will grow into prosperity.  How does she know this?  It’s what her bosses tell her every single day.  She hears the lie so much she believes it.

John and Santa left the building.  As the two flew north, they talked about what John had to do.  What he needed to change.  They talked about the blogger and the parents, teachers, legislators, advocates, and citizens who thought like Santa did.  “Those are the ones you really need to talk to John.  I’m sure you have heard from many of the people who were in that meeting tonight.  If you haven’t, I have no doubt your advisors have.”  John knew this to be true.  “You need to understand the other side of the coin John, where the real world lives.  These aren’t pleasant realities you saw tonight.  For those fighting for the kids, even opting out of the test isn’t as easy as it once was.  They are fighting for these kids, their kids.  And their grandchildren.  They are fighting for their jobs.  They see beyond the results and the growth.  They see what needs to change but no one listens.  No one who can really make a difference.  Some do, but not enough to make the changes.  When they do speak, they are shunned by their peers.  Given less importance.  It isn’t right John.  What the people in that room wanted, it won’t change anything.  It will only cause more damage.  You can’t incorporate education.  These are children.  You need to change all this.”

John walked out of the sleigh.  He thanked Santa for showing him so much of the Delaware he didn’t see before.  The two shook hands.  “Santa, I don’t know if I can change all of this by myself.  You know if I try I will make enemies.  Those enemies won’t make my job any easier.”  Santa put his hand on John’s shoulder.  “That is what all leaders who understand what is right and just have to face.  Some succeed and some fail.  Some do it alone and some have support.  All I can say is this John-  remember what you saw tonight.  Every single time you make a decision.  Remember the children’s faces before you see the adults.  You know in your heart who is really in this for the kids and who isn’t.  When you hear that voice in your head, questioning what the true motives are, listen to that.  Let that be your shield against your enemies John.”  John hugged Santa.  “Merry Christmas Santa.”  “And to you as well Governor Carney.”  Santa walked toward his sleigh and turned around. “John, find those who speak the uncomfortable truths.”

John looked down at his watch.  It was 6:31pm.  Santa was gone.

Pearson Awarded Vendor Status For Delaware Social Studies State Assessment

Pearson has officially entered the world of Delaware standardized tests.  On November 10th, NCS Pearson officially signed a contract with the Delaware Department of Education for a five-year contract worth $6 million to create and deliver the Social Studies state assessment.  This contract will expire on December 31st, 2021.  You won’t find any official news release from the Delaware DOE on this.  I imagine many history teachers across the state will not be too happy to see this news.  The Delaware DOE has used Pearson in the past as a vendor, but never for an official state assessment.  With American Institutes for Research as the Smarter Balanced Assessment vendor for English Language Arts and Math, along with WestEd as the recent awarded vendor for Science, Pearson joins the Delaware state assessment crew.

The Social Studies state assessment will be given to students in 4th, 7th, and presumably 10th grade.  This would follow the former Social Studies DCAS testing delivery method.  Upon reading the contract, it looks like the field tests would begin next year with full implementation in those grades by the 2018-2019 school year.

I was not able to determine whether this test will be a once a year test or a “stealth test” based on the below contract.  Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky did mention the possibility of this assessment being a “stealth test”.  Those kind of tests are delivered throughout the year in competency-based education environments.  Until a student is considered to “master” the content, they do not move on until they do.

There has been recent talk in Delaware concerning the future of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Sources have indicated newly elected Governor John Carney may want to move away from the Smarter Balanced standardized test and may want to engage NWEA for the assessment provider for ELA and Math.  But no matter who the vendor is or what kind of test it is, it would still be based on the Common Core State Standards.  The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the flexibility to choose their own standards for education, but the Delaware DOE already decided (without any input from stakeholders whatsoever) that Common Core is the way to go.

Pearson beat out American Institutes for Research, Measured Progress Inc., and Strategic Measurement and Evaluation, Inc. to win this contract.

Oops! Christina’s NCS Wannabe Middle School Academy Forgot Something BIG In Their Application

chshonorsacademy

Christiana High School wasted no time getting the application for their controversial “Middle School Academy” out to the public.  The board approved this kind-of-magnet school last week with a 5-1 vote.  The program, slated to start next year with 6th graders, seems to love the word rigor.  Many concerned parents in the district have raised serious questions about potential discrimination and what effect this will have on the already existing middle schools in the district.  One commenter on an earlier article I posted about this said “Honors programs should be down the hall.”  I fully agree with this commenter.  I hate the name of this program.  It reeks of elitism and sounds like something it is pretending to be and wants to be, but really shouldn’t.  It sounds really pretentious and sort of obnoxious.  “My child goes to Middle School Academy”… I can hear it already…

The Christiana Middle School Honors Academy requires a high degree of commitment to academic and extra-curricular activities. Our vision offers selected middle school students the opportunity to become academically accomplished, confident, and well-rounded. Selected students will be educated using a rigorous curriculum focused on developing core knowledge, critical thinking and reasoning skills. This will be accomplished by providing each student with a smaller learning community that builds confidence and knowledge which will enhance their individual high school experience.

Aside from the extra-curricular activities, isn’t that what Common Core was supposed to bring to Delaware education to begin with?  Why is this district using the same boring Governor Markell talking points to sell this program?

But in the application, one of the requirements is for the student’s Smarter Balanced scores.  A quarter of the rubric for the application is weighted toward Smarter Balanced scores.  But here is the elephant in the room… what if the student was opted out of Smarter Balanced by their parents?  Christina has a board policy which states no student shall be penalized if they are opted out of the wretched test.  But this application says nothing about that or gives any indication they would change the formula in that situation.  This could cause students or parents who opted their child out to not apply because of the absence of this information.  As well, who is determining what the placement test will look like?  Has this been approved by the Christina Board of Education?  Is this test used by other schools?  Has this test been vetted and verified for its effectiveness?  If the parent statement is not a part of the rubric, why are they requiring it with the application?  Does the parent statement have any weight on the decision of placement?  Is there a panel who approves the application or just a principal?  What are the qualifications of whoever approves the applications?

Yeah, let’s throw some more controversy gas on an already raging fire!

Sokola Ebola Vs. Right To Work: Which Is The Bigger Danger To Education?

Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola.  You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got.  In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola.  He has been the chair of this committee for decades.  This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education.  But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign.  I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well.  I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.

Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense.  One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.

Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is.  Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits.  This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here.  Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware.  Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA.  Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.

Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!

DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.

But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.

The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.

DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.

And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.

So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.

DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.

I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year).  Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state?  We just don’t know.  I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place.  Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up.  That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies.  Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example.  But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization.  If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that.  The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years.  Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA.  Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years.  Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states.  A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney.  Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up?  I highly doubt it.  Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.

While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit.  Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions.  But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware.  He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession.  And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.

I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform.  He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers.  He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money.  But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole.  It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day.  At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools.  The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly.  That is what Sokola represents.  He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him.  If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing.  But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.

In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go.  By any means necessary.  I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District.  Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception.  He is that bad.  Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him?  I would go with the latter.  But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot.  That time is now.  We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education.  This is a guy who lied in a debate last week.  How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him?  That is how desperate he has become.  For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator.  He is scared.  In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect.  But it stops there.  In politics, you reap what you sow.  And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.

As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue.  To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights.  As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware.  When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools.  When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts.  When special education took a back-seat to standards.  When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days.  When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change.  Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation.  And it worked.  DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges.  I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill.  One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.

Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education.  Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids.  The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it.  I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point.  Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership.  I get that.  Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans.  But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem.  Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen.  That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.

As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out.  When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office.  While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge.  Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out?  We will never know.  But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week.  We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches.  This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017.  And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that.  Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC.  But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours.  Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.

As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible.  As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware.  I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids.  Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola.  He must go.  I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger.  But it is not something that would automatically come to pass.  We have years and years of watching Sokola operate.  I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate.  Nor am I doing that for any election this year.  But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election.  I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power.  I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola.  There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.

Delaware Senator David Sokola Openly Lied To Citizens In His Debate Last Night

Delaware Senator David Sokola openly lied in a debate with his opponent for the 8th Senate District, Republican Meredith Chapman.  WDEL covered the event which included a lot of talk about opt out and districts vs. charters.  When confronted with the question of opt out, WDEL reported the following:

Longtime incumbent state Senator David Sokola does not fully support an opt-out provision.

“If it said opt-out of Smarter Balanced, I’d probably support it,” said Sokola. “But if just said opt-out of the state tests–then I’d have a problem because I think we will be moving to a different assessment within a couple of years anyway.”

As Senator Sokola knows, House Bill 50 in its original incarnation was for all state assessments.  However, prior to the House voting on the bill, State Rep. Sean Matthews added an amendment limiting the legislation to just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It overwhelmingly passed the House and went to the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Sokola.  When it was released from that committee, it went to the floor for a full Senate vote.  Sokola added an amendment to the bill to include all district assessments.  The amendment passed but Sokola voted no on House Bill 50.  After another Senator put on an amendment which was taken off by the House, it went back to the Senate for a second vote and Sokola voted no a second time.

David Sokola is a flat-out liar.  Some have attempted to sway me into supporting Sokola because of his track record on other issues, but I see him for what he is.  He is no longer fit to represent the people of his district, much less any child in the State of Delaware.  He can’t even own up to his own decisions and be honest about it.  Vote for Meredith Chapman in the 8th Senate District.  A quarter of a century of this liar is far too long…

Lisa Blunt Rochester STILL Can’t Say “I Support A Parent’s Right To Opt Out”, She Is A Vote For Rodel

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At a League of Women Voter’s candidate forum tonight at Delaware State University, Delaware candidates for Congress and Insurance Commissioner debated about many topics.  Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini was unable to make it, so John Carney didn’t come, even though the Green candidate for Governor showed up.  La Mar Gunn wasn’t able to make it, to Bethany Hall-Long left shortly after the debate began.

But Lisa Blunt Rochester… she still can’t say the words: “I support a parent’s right to opt out.”  A question came up about abolishing Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (and it, surprisingly, didn’t come from me).  I will be (no pun intended) blunt and admit my question was “Yes or No, do you support a parent’s right to opt out of standardized testing.”  But the Common Core/SBAC one had Republican candidate Hans Reigle and Libertarian candidate Scott Gesty both openly admit their loathing of Common Core and Smarter Balanced and that they support a parent’s right to opt out.  She snuck in towards the end that she supports parental rights, but it’s not the same thing and she knows it.

I have no doubt the Insurance Commissioner candidates, Republican Jeff Cragg and Democrat Trinidad Navarro thought to themselves, “I’m an insurance guy, I’m not answering that political hot potato.”  Can’t say I blame them, but Blunt-Rochester knows it is a big topic in Delaware.  And she either insults parents who do opt their kids out or just ignores it.  But I don’t think she understands what Markell and the Delaware DOE have done to students in this state.

“For me, as I look at the whole issue of testing, I don’t think we should be teaching to a test.  We should be looking at measuring growth for that additional child so that teachers are empowered to really help that child…one of the issues in terms of tests and opting out is the fact that what we would hope is our education system would be equal and equitable and high quality so that no one would want to opt out.”

So in the meantime, we keep the crappy test that will lead to stealth tests in a personalized learning/competency-based education arena.  And this growth she wants us to measure?  What does she think the feds and the Delaware DOE measure that growth by?  The standardized test.  Hello!  And equal and equitable aren’t the same thing.  High quality based on what?  Common Core and SBAC?  Or do you have a better idea that we haven’t heard.  The other candidates recommended bringing this back to the local level.  I didn’t hear that from you tonight.

They did ask one of my questions about restoring FERPA to pre-2008 levels.  In 2008 and 2011, the US DOE had FERPA changed which allowed student data to go out to third-party companies, sometimes without any parental consent for the data collecting procedures to begin with.  Once again, Gesty and Reigle nailed it and said they would support those changes.  Blunt-Rochester (if she even knows what FERPA is), talked about HIPAA and cell phone tracking apps.  Her response to changing FERPA?

“I would want to know more about why that exchange happens.”

Uhm, it happens so private student information can go out to companies and massive troves of data are collected on our kids.  That was the whole point of the question.  Gesty and Reigle got it.  Not sure why you can’t.  Blunt-Rochester talked about her time as the Delaware Secretary of Labor and constituents complained about filling out multiple forms to different state agencies.  She did say privacy is a concern, but she missed the point of the question.  There is a BIG difference.

She is well aware I blasted her in August for calling opt out a “leisure for some parents” at a Congressional debate in Wilmington.  Afterwards, I asked her point blank on her Facebook page if she supports a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  She said nothing.  Didn’t respond.  And I’ve seen her a few times since (along with John Carney), and they treat me as if I were a ghost.  You can think it is okay to be completely rude and not respond if I smile at you or say hi, but don’t think for one minute that I’m not hip to the Rodel influence on both of you.  I have no doubt I will be writing more about both of them the next four years, and it won’t be pleasant at this rate.  My take when this happens: you are drinking someone else’s Kool-Aid and really don’t know enough about the issue.  You are told what to say and what not to say.  And I’m sure one of the cardinal rules is don’t engage with the blogger.  Which just makes me jump all over you.  Funny how that works out.  Some may say I attack first and ask questions later.  I will own that.  But as most who bother to take the time to actually talk to me know, I am willing to listen.  I may not agree, but if you treat me like a leper, you reap what you sow.  I’m not in it this for politicians or administrators or for whatever state association you have.  I’m in this for the kids.  For my own son.  And for this entire generation of students who have been subjected to pure and utter crap from adults who should REALLY know better than to think it is okay to profit off kids.

I will say I endorsed Scott Gesty for Congress last month.  Ideologically, we agree on many issues.  With that being said, if he wasn’t in the race, I would support Hans Reigle.  Blunt-Rochester is just spend, spend, spend, and economy this and economy that with the same script we’ve read for the past eight years under Governor Rodel, er, uhm, Markell.  And Carney is the same thing.  Enough.  I can say Blunt-Rochester will not be getting a vote from my household as my wife supports Hans.  We are a divided household, what can I say.  I am a firm believer you get what you vote for.  And the way this state votes “blue or die”, we will get the same.  And all those who preach doom and gloom every single political season, those of the same party who can’t stand each other but will support their peer because of a political label, they will be the first ones complaining over the next four years and public education will continue to go down a dark path as we try to spend our way to prosperity.  Many see me as a Democrat, while others see me as a Republican or Libertarian.  I’m just a dad.  Concerned about my son’s future as a citizen of Delaware and America.  I see between the lines of all the crap being slung at us.  The lies, the manipulation, the fraud.  It is not red or blue or any other party.  It’s greed, pure and simple.  People who are so used to hanging out with people who are, at heart, glorified salespeople, who promise great things as they spin their shit into gold.

I can’t support Hillary or Donald either for those same reasons.  Hillary is the godmother of corporate education reform.  Trump is just Trump, all bark and no bite.  But when he gets impeached (which I can easily see happening), we will be left with Mike Pence who is a big corporate education reform kind of guy.  So either way we are screwed.  I think Hillary’s plans are exactly what we see happening in education.  Don’t be fooled by her.  She will stab all students, teachers, and parents in the back.  And her minions in each state, including Delaware, will make damn sure it happens at the state level.  The wheels are already in motion.  We call this the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Don’t think for one minute she isn’t banking on winning and has been planning accordingly.  And just in case, we have Mike Pence waiting in the wings.  And Delaware will automatically cave if we keep the current power structure and say “Yes, we have to do this.”  And the cycle goes on and on and on…

As for Lisa Blunt-Rochester and her need to have us find “common ground” as she put it tonight, we will never find that common ground until some candidates and existing legislators don’t return to the ground.  I don’t vote on smiles.  I vote on words.  And the words I was looking for tonight did come out.  Just not from you.

 

 

A Little Ditty About The Negan & Lucille Of Public Education: Jack & Dave

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Senator Sokola.  You need to get a Governor to try to win an election.  The Negan and Lucille of public education.  I would quote their silly little letter to the News Journal, but it is all rubbish.  Nothing you haven’t heard before.  It appears desperation breeds laziness in these two.  When they can’t come up with anything new, they resort to the same old every single time.  It is a broken record trying to be heard when the record player stopped working years ago.  Yawn…

God help us if David Sokola is re-elected.  Which means Meredith Chapman has to win!  We don’t need Governor Markell’s right-hand man destroying public education for another term.  Markell wouldn’t have been able to get 3/4 of his initiatives through without his Lucille.

This is the second time in the past two months we have been subjected to Sokolaness in the opinion section of the News Journal.  The last time was Sokola taking credit for the Council of State Legislatures big report on public education.  As if education would just stop working unless David Sokola wasn’t involved.  You have seen the videosDSEA did not endorse him.  But he is fine with endorsing a bogus lawsuit against Christina School District.  John Carney has the Sokola blinders on.  He screws over teachers every chance he gets.  He helped Newark Charter School get away with financial invisibility.  He serves on the Joint Finance Committee with this fellow Newark Charter School cheerleader.  He keeps his knife sharp so when he betrays his peers in the General Assembly it has the sharpest cut.  He brought the DSTP and Smarter Balanced Assessment into our schools.  He does not support parental rights.  He has a very bizarre partnership with the 2016 Genghis Khan of teacher evaluations.  When he lost his political prowess last Spring, the Governor had to issue an Executive Order to do the job Sokola couldn’t do.  He rips on blogs while providing the ammunition they hurl at him.  He chickened out on a vote to put the State Board of Education under Sunset Review.

Sadly, Delaware being what it is, his fellow Democrats are forced to support him.  As the Lucille to Jack Markell’s Negan, Sokola smashes Delaware public education constantly.  And then Jack takes all the credit.