DOE Contract Soliciting Bids To Mix Rodel’s Personalized Learning & Markell’s World Immersion Program

The Delaware Department of Education has a Request For Proposal (RFP) for middle-school students to have “blended” learning in the World Immersion Program.  I called this last October!  Rodel has been pimping the whole personalized learning thing for the past year, and I am sure it will be a highlight of their latest Vision fest in September.  Blended learning and personalized learning are essentially the same thing.  The RFP states they want students in 6th to 8th grade to be able to take their time learning another language.

World Immersion, on the surface, looks great.  But it is having the undesired effect in some schools of causing special needs students and low-performing students to not be able to participate in this program.  It is already making it’s mark in Capital and Caesar Rodney.  Students from one school in a district are moving to other ones because this program is offered at that school.  This is creating a shift to occur, whereby some schools will do well and others won’t.  And the districts are the ones doing this!  Check out the below RFP and please let me know what you think of this latest venture.  I know some teachers who agree with me on a lot who think World Immersion and personalized learning are great things, but I just see it as something that will separate the “strong” from the “weak”.  And don’t forget, this is all Governor Markell’s baby.  What happens to those schools in districts in a few years that have all the most high-needs students while all the “smart” ones are at the high-performing schools learning Chinese or Spanish?  The way Delaware sets up certain schools to fail continues to astonish me!  I’m going to predict this now: either Schoology or 2Revolutions will get this contract!

Say House Bill 50 Becomes Law….What Happens Next?

Steve Newton is a Professor of History and Science at Delaware State University.  He also ran for State Representative last fall as an independent.  I fully endorsed him at the time, and it would have been very interesting to add him to the dynamic down at Legislative Hall.  Steve wrote an excellent post today on Facebook about what happens after House Bill 50 is decided on.  With Steve’s permission, I share his awesome ideas with you.  Please let me know what you think and we can start to build a foundation for something.

The important truth to understand is that Opt-out is really a political and not really an educational strategy. That’s not a bad thing, but critical to understand. First, opting-out as an individual family educational strategy only avoids visiting the consequences of high-stakes testing on your child; it DOES NOT change the aim of the several months of classroom experience before that, which is–in many schools–directed preparation toward a test that the student will not take. By itself, opt-out will only be a bump in the road, unless …

… unless we recognize that opt-out is the most effective political strategy that anti-corporate-reformers have come up with to date. Resistance to Common Core has been too easily pigeon-holed as right wing or conservative, and the potential coalition of left and right wings behind education is going to get severely undermined in a presidential election year. Simply put, Democrats as a group are not going to vote for Rand Paul or Marco Rubio simply based on Common Core.

But opt-out is different. Opt-out focuses on the potential harm (or lack of value) to MY child, and offers ME a chance to do something. Moreover, it is about local politics. The Governor may rant and rave (he usually does), but this is an issue where (again, in an election year) voters WILL punish their legislators. Moreover, opt-out has DSEA and DPTA back on the same page, resisting a government mandate.

Even if opt-out passes, however, the momentum will be lost UNLESS an equally wide-ranging follow-up goal is established. This will have to be selected carefully. Resistance to charters or teacher evaluation programs is all well and good for education activists, teachers, and other insiders, but those are unfortunately NOT propositions that are going to reach as wide an audience as opt-out has. There are way too many pro-charter parents and voters, and way too few people who will do more than shake their head about teacher evaluations. They certainly won’t vote out the state rep who got their sewer fixed because of it.

Here’s my initial suggestion, (and being a libertarian there’s an agorist twist): let’s put DSEA, DPTA, and as many parents and academic partners as we can find at work on a new Delaware Content Standards Project. We did this as part of Pat Forgione’s New Directions agenda two decades ago, and there is a lot to learn from that process. First lesson: we don’t need to have government sanction or even government participation–in spite of how they act, for example, Rodel is not part of the government. We can create our own organization to do this work, and invite the districts to participate. If DOE would like to observe the process, well, it’s still supposedly a free country.

Second, let’s invert the usual approach. Common Core started with ELA and Math. Instead of going head-to-head with that initiative, let’s start with one or more of the following:

Standards for integrating the Arts and Music into the core academic curriculum.

Standards for developing interdisciplinary units that combine Social Studies and Science to examine how technology and new research is affecting the way we live.

Standards for the services necessary for special needs children with disabilities not normally covered under the easier rubrics of IDEA.

Standards that integrate healthy living (Physical Education/Health) with Civics (building healthy communities) and Technology (building platforms–apps if you will–to allow people to have more control over what they eat, how they exercise, and how they live).

The beautiful part about starting here is that by starting with integrative standards, not content-level standards, we get back toward actual teaching and learning that matters. Meeting the Math and ELA proficiency requirements is easily addressed within that more meaningful context.

More to the point, these standards would be voluntary, but schools that met specific benchmarks toward implementing them could receive certification from DSEA, DPTA, National Council for Social Studies, and other organizations. Eventually, if we did this right over a 2-3 year period, I’m pretty sure we could even build up some financial support from a variety of carefully considered sources.

This is an endeavor that, realistically speaking, I doubt will happen. I doubt it because I’m not the person to put it together, and any group of people that gets together with the time, energy, and motivation is going to come up with its own plan. But I offer this as an alternative–a non-governmental political alternative–run by parents and teachers themselves to having to always sit back and respond to the horrible things being done to education today, rather than initiative our own mechanisms for positive change.

In other words, it is time to go on offense in a strategic sense.

Steve is absolutely right on all of this.  What I love about the opt-out movement in Delaware is the bi-partisanship of it all.  Democrats and Republicans are coming together and uniting in a common cause…our children.   Steve is not asking to lead a group, and I can’t say I would want that either, but coming together would be good.  I tried to get something going with parents of special needs children last summer, but this blog was brand new and the readership certainly wasn’t anywhere close to where it is now.  We have already changed the conversation with the opt-out movement.  Let’s keep talking….

Mark Murphy & Governor Markell Targeting Gateway & Reach! Making Room For Priority Charters?

In a shocking article yesterday, Kilroy’s Delaware announced the Delaware Department of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy were targeting Gateway Lab School and Reach Academy For Girls.  Both these schools have struggled for many years with reaching the proficiency ratings from standardized testing.  My thoughts and predictions on this are below the DOE announcement from yesterday:

CHARTER SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY COMMITTEE ISSUES RECOMMENDATIONS ON REACH ACADEMY, GATEWAY LAB’S FUTURES

Secretary Murphy to make decision at December 18 State Board of Education meeting following public comment period

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended not to renew Reach Academy and Gateway Lab School’s charters at the end of this academic year because of poor academic performance at both schools.

A public hearing is scheduled for December 10 in Wilmington with public comment accepted through that date as well. After reviewing the record, including public hearing transcripts, public comment and the CSAC recommendations, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make his decision regarding the schools’ futures at the December 18 State Board of Education meeting.

Should the Secretary and the State Board accept the committee’s recommendations and decide not to renew the charters, the state will assist families in finding other schools for the next academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school. The application deadline is January 14, 2015.

Reach Renewal Information/Timeline
· Renewal report (April 2014)
· Academic Performance Review (September 9, 2014)
· Organizational Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Financial Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Renewal application (September 30, 2014)
· Public hearing transcript (October 8, 2014)
· Initial CSAC meeting (October 15, 2014)
· CSAC initial report issued (October 22, 2014)
· School response (November 7, 2014)
· Final CSAC meeting (November 17, 2014)
· Final CSAC report issued (November 24, 2014)

· Public hearing and close of public comment period (6 p.m., December 10, 2014, 2nd floor auditorium, Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French St., Wilmington)

· Decision by Secretary Murphy at State Board of Education meeting (1 p.m., December 18, 2014, Cabinet Room, Townsend Building, 401 Federal St., Dover)

Gateway Renewal Information/Timeline
· Renewal report (April 2014)
· Academic Performance Review (September 9, 2014)
· Organizational Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Financial Performance Review (October 1, 2014)
· Renewal application (September 30, 2014)
· Public hearing transcript (October 8, 2014)
· Initial CSAC meeting (October 14, 2014)
· CSAC initial report issued (October 22, 2014)
· School response (November 7, 2014)
· Final CSAC meeting (November 17, 2014)
· Final CSAC report issued (November 24, 2014)

· Public hearing and close of public comment period (6 p.m., December 10, 2014, 2nd floor auditorium, Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French St., Wilmington)

· Decision by Secretary Murphy at State Board of Education meeting (1 p.m., December 18, 2014, Cabinet Room, Townsend Building, 401 Federal St., Dover)

In other recommendations, the committee supported renewal of the following charter schools: Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, EastSide Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, Las Américas ASPIRA Academy and Odyssey Charter School.

According to last year’s September 30th Unit Count report, Gateway Lab School is home to almost 60% special education students.  Out of that population of 122 students, nearly 28% were listed as in intensive or complex categories.  It is very easy to see why this many students with disabilities would struggle with standardized testing, something the DOE, Murphy and Markell seem to ignore.  Rigor and special needs don’t mix well, never have, never will.  But the DOE, in its continued arrogance, seems to think these students will just magically rise to the occasion.

The timing is also very suspicious for this announcement.  A month and a half before the Christina and Red Clay Districts have to announce their intentions with the priority schools and the already soon-to-be-closed Moyer charter school was given the hangman’s noose, two other charters seem to be given a death sentence as well.  This is a lot of realignment in one county.  Reach has been a thorn in the DOE’s side for years, but Gateway is different.  Closing Gateway would send a crystal clear message to the special needs community that no one is safe from scrutiny in Delaware.  I’ve commented before about the very high population of special needs children in the priority schools, and now this.  It would not be surprising if a very huge charter school housing special needs children in Newcastle County became a reality.  There has already been a Facebook announcement of a planned charter school of this type for Kent County, in addition to Positive Outcomes.

The DOE is shifting the landscape to further their own agenda.  So far, nothing has been able to stop them in their endless quest to harm public education in Delaware.  No task force, union, PTA, or other groups have stopped them in anything since Governor Markell began his authoritarian reign.  They are making all their decisions based on DCAS scores which no longer mean anything since that is not the state assessment anymore.  Furthermore, many students at Gateway would most likely qualify for the DCAS-Alt assessment.  The DOE could care less because to think otherwise would show a level playing field.  If Rodel and Markell say to do it, they jump.  And yet, Delaware College Prep gets a pass even though they have not met proficiency in four years.  Yes, their charter is not up for renewal, but they must please someone in the DOE and the Governor’s office.  This just proves the DOE will use data and manipulate it when it suits their needs.

I anticipate the parents at Gateway will cause a huge ruckus over this announcement.  This needs to be a warning sign to EVERY special needs parent in Delaware that has children in our public schools.  The DOE does not care about disabilities.  They do not care about anything that could affect your child.  It’s all about serving their masters and corporate profit at student’s expense.  They are moving so fast with decisions, the public can’t digest yesterday’s announcement when another one comes.  This throws everyone off track and stops the negative chatter because nobody can keep up with it all.

I will say this once more: We need to make a stand against Governor Markell and the DOE.  We need to do this now.  If you are in agreement, let’s start planning now.  We will only get one chance before things change so much we will be helpless to stop it.  Yes, I can be very argumentative about these things, but how often have I been wrong since I started this blog?  Come January 1st, I predict Markell will announce the priority schools will become charter schools, effective August 2015.  The student populations that don’t go to the feeder schools of the six priority schools, Gateway, Moyer and Reach will all transfer to the new charter school chain in the CEB Tower in downtown Wilmington.  If they do not make a new special needs charter school in this building, these students will go to their feeder schools where the DOE will use the data from Smarter Balanced to judge those schools as failures.  Eventually, they will replace every single school with charter schools while Rodel, the Vision Network, the DuPonts, Delaware Community Foundation, Governor Markell, select members of the DOE, many legislators, and the millionaires of Delaware become VERY rich, more than they already might be.

Into The Wild: The Special Needs Kids of Delaware’s Priority Schools @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @delawareonline #netde #eduDE

People have asked me why I care about the priority schools all the way up in Wilmington when I live in Dover.  My reply is we should all care.  Not only because what the state and the DOE are doing is fundamentally wrong, but also because if it can happen there it can happen anywhere in our state if we don’t make a stand.  I am also very concerned about what happens with all of the students with disabilities who receive special education services.

Here are the facts: If the Red Clay and Christina school districts do not sign the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) by September 30th, the Delaware DOE will take them over.  This is no secret.  All indications are leading to the school district boards refusing to do so.  Rumors, although unsubstantiated, indicate these six schools would become charter schools.

For the September 30th, 2013 count, the six schools had the following special education populations:

Bancrof, Christina 14.7% 61 out of 206
Bayard, Christina 19.0%  88 out of 463
Warner, Red Clay 15.4% 101 out of 541
Shortlidge, Red Clay 14.0% 45 out of 317
Stubbs, Christina 9.5% 31 out of 325
Highlands, Red Clay 11.5% 32 out of 350

In comparison, the “great” charter schools Markell referred to had the following special ed populations:

East Side Charter 15.1% 61 out of 403 (students with Special Education did not score proficient in scoring)
Kuumba Academy 5.7% 17 out of 298 (not enough students to even count in the proficiency figures)

So what happens to these 358 special education students?

358 childen with IEPs and special education services may be transferred to new charter schools. As a whole, Delaware charter schools have been notorious for not being able to adequately handle special education correctly. Very few even accept the most severely complex students with disabilities.

Taking away the potential legal hurdles that may come up for the DOE, such as union contracts, ownership of the school buildings, and other litigation that may come up, say these students go to a new charter school. Since it is essentially a transfer, an IEP would have to be reviewed. Governor Markell has already said these schools will be put through a rigorous process to get the students to proficiency status. He announced after school activities for tutoring and to get students back on track. Children with special needs often have enough problems getting through a regular school day. To add longer time to the day will be a severe burden for these kids.

The “rigor” of common core will be put to the test with special needs children at these new schools. I have a theory that out of these six schools, one of the new charters will focus solely on all of these displaced students with IEPs. This would eliminate inclusion and the least restricted environment. It would also allow the other five schools proficiency scores to automatically rise on standardized testing since the “specials” are no longer part of the equation. This is not about “closing the gaps” as the DOE, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Governor Markell have stated. Even more far reaching is the belief from many that the DOE will grandstand these achievements, and try to have even more reach across the state with this experiment.

If this is true, every single special needs parent in Delaware needs to be very concerned. Our children will be segregated from “normal” children and a free appropriate public education will become a joke. Even worse, for these special needs children at the priority schools, this will become a TRIPLE SEGREGATION: special needs, low income and minorities. This sinister agenda is happening right before our very eyes and we need to unite. If I were any parent of special needs children at these six schools, you need to speak now. You need to organize into a group and come down to Dover, straight to the DOE office, to the Governor’s office, and anywhere your collected voice can carry weight. Demand that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy resign or call for his termination. You need to write to the newspapers, the blogs, and contact TV and radio stations. Call AND email your elected officials: State House Representatives and Senators. Let our US Senator and House Representative representing Delaware know your complaints. Contact the US Department of Education. Let President Obama know. Contact the Office of Civil Rights. You need to picket where it will be noticed.

The IEP Task Force has their next meeting on Tuesday, September 23rd, at 4:30 pm. There are two locations: The Carvel Building in Wilmington and The Collette Center in Dover. If you are working, ask to leave early. Bring your children with you. Tell the task force your fears. Let them know you are not okay with this.

In ten days, by October 1st, you may not have any more options. This is short notice, but your children will be severely affected by this. There is no time to wait. If you have any doubt in your mind, you need to do this now. Because once it happens, you will live with regret that you didn’t speak up sooner.

 

Bored With The Board of Ed! Welcome to Delaware Penny Schwinn! Please Read Up On Our State! #netde #eduDE #edchat @BadassTeachersA @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_DE

The Delaware Board of Education meeting yesterday was full of controversy and shock.

I attended about an hour and a half of the Delaware Board of Education meeting yesterday. When I arrived, a gentleman from the American Heart Association was thanking the Board for their support. I sat next to a familiar face who was cutting out items for his classroom with a pair of scissors. I introduced myself to Mike Matthews who I had been in contact with on social media recently. I asked if he was giving public comment, and he said I just missed it but to definitely listen to the digital audio recording when it is available. Throughout the meeting, Matthews and I had continuous looks of shock and awe with the comments coming from not only the Board, but members of the Office of Accountability and Performance.

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy seemed very upset about the recent report on how 0% of teachers in Delaware were not ineffective. He didn’t seem to think this was the reality in Delaware. But we all know this will change in a year when the Smarter Balanced Scores come out, which the state has already said they are aware student scores will plummet, and teacher evaluations will be based on these scores.

The Board went through their motions, and we arrived at the Performance and Accountability Presentation. Penny Schwinn is the new Chief Officer of Accountability and Performance for the Delaware DOE. After Assessment Director Brian Touchette gave his reasons for why there are gaps in performance testing between different subgroups, and why charters weren’t included in the Performance and Accountability Presentation (because they have their own performance framework arrangement with the state of Delaware), Schwinn gave a rather enlightening and distorted presentation of African-American students and students with disabilities.

For children with disabilities, she claimed the reasons for the performance gaps in DCAS scores was attributable to the following factors: Litigation at a district level distracted teachers from being able to give adequate special education accommodations, high teacher turn-over and a limited hiring pool in Delaware for quality special education teachers compared to other states. She did say there is a new strategy of looking at IEPs in Delaware, and that is to target the performance of students with disabilities. Which is, as we all know, the coming standards-based IEPs in Delaware. She did recognize that dual credentials for special education teachers provide “expertise and knowledge” in the classroom. What she failed to mention, in Delaware and across America, many special education teachers are leaving the profession due to upcoming teacher evaluations which will be based on student test scores. Many special ed teachers fear losing their jobs, so they are leaving the profession. Who will replace all these teachers with this expertise and knowledge when they are driven out or quit?

Schwinn expressed her interest in Student-Based Plans, which are IEPs, but for regular students. This is one of the goals of Rodel’s Vision 2025, to do away with special education and all students get their own version of IEPs. This just supports my fear and theories of the future of special education. See https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/special-education-in-america-where-is-it-going-spread-this-link-all-over-reblog-netde-edude-delaware-usedgov/

Schwinn went on to talk about African-American student performance in Delaware. She said they expect high performance from all students, and this is driven through PLCs and site leadership. PLC is Professional Learning Community, which emphasizes shared leadership, community-based work groups, and learning over teaching. Schwinn wants to create strategies to prevent downward trends among African-American students in Delaware. She said there is a low expectation for African-American students from teachers “across the board”. At this point, Board of Ed Member Gregory Coverdale asked Schwinn if she felt the rising violence and murders in Wilmington was causing an impact in classroom environment in that area, to which she responded “That isn’t necessarily a hurdle to overcome”. For the three African-American members of the Board of Education, the looks on their faces said it all immediately after her response.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, the President of the Board of Education, said the following based on an article from WDDE today: “From those of us who are in under-represented groups, we deal with this often,” said Gray, who is African-American. “I’m not quite sure what to say about low expectations and cultural mindset,” she said. “How do you address that? A shift of culture takes 20 years, as they say, at least 10.” – See more at: http://www.wdde.org/66555-state-education-officials-seek-reasons-lack-progress-narrowing-achievement-gap#sthash.ii0NJYD3.dpuf

It is obvious Schwinn, who has been in her role for two months after leaving Sacramento, CA, needs to do a bit more research on Delaware. To think the issues of crime in Wilmington won’t have an impact on the classroom is foolish and naïve. To insult issues of poverty, crime and discrimination shows an apparent lack of the true reality in Wilmington. This is definitely a hurdle to overcome Penny Schwinn, and to continue to ignore this reality will only make the problem worse. As the Chief Of Accountability and Performance in Delaware, you need to look at ALL aspects of environment and how they impact the classroom.

For students with disabilities, Schwinn needs to recognize why special education teachers are leaving the profession, and that is mainly due to forced compliance with Common Core standards being shoved down their throats. Children are more than test scores, and the sooner the DOE realizes that, the better education and special education in Delaware will be. Litigation is rising in Delaware because of this education reform, not in spite of it.

The fact that charter schools in Delaware were not included in this presentation speaks volumes. To not include them ignores the impact charter schools have had on students with disabilities and minorities in Delaware, especially in the Wilmington area. Certain charter schools in our state have specific enrollment requirements that discriminates against low-income minorities and special needs children. The easy excuse for this by ignorant people is that children with disabilities are “low performers”. I think the Exceptional Children Group in the DOE is on the right track in correcting this position, but they need to realign their priorities in how to go about this.

But I can see how you would come to those conclusions based on your resume: http://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/meet-the-new-chief-accountability-and-performance-officer-for-the-delaware-doe-more-choice-accountability-and-tfa-straight-up-gap-closing-bullshit/

And yet, your one tweet twitter account from 2010 tells a completely different story: “@EnchantmentAZ As a teacher, role model and advocate for kids from low income communities, my mom inspired me to teach and be a foster mom.”

You are not currently advocating for these children. You may want to recheck your roots and be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Special Education in Capital School District A Hot Issue At Board Meeting #netde #eduDE @Doverpost @TheStateNews

The topic of special education and standardized testing came up in a big way at the monthly Board meeting in the Capital School District.  Here’s where I take my impartial glasses off and announce that I spoke at the meeting.  I gave public comment to the Board concerning my article yesterday about Federal interference with IDEA and Special Education laws.

I read parts of the letter the US Republican Senators sent to the US DOE and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about how the US DOE is potentially breaking the law with results-driven accountability and NAEP testing as a performance indicator for special education students.  I advised that since a national test like NAEP is skirting around IDEA laws, then the state is doing the same with Smarter Balanced Assessments by having it put into Indicator 17 on the new special education audit system the state of Delaware has to give to the Feds.  Because of this, I advised the Board that no child with an IEP should be required to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I also said parent opt-out shouldn’t even be an option, it just shouldn’t happen at all.

Board Vice-President Matthew Lindell also brought up the subject of standards-based IEPs and their impact on Capital School District.  It appeared Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas was going to look into this subject.  I wrote about the standards-based IEPs last week and how the state of Delaware is incorporating Common Core and the controversial results-driven accountability as part of their “counseling” to schools for these new standards. 

Dr. Thomas also briefly discussed the United States Supreme Court decision on Schaffer v. Weast, from 2005.  This decision indicated the burden of proof for due process hearings on special education matters rests with the party initiating the case for the student, usually the parents.  In using this framework, Dr. Thomas had a slide up which wrote: “This creates a number of practical problems and is a significant reason school districts are regularly expending vast amount of public funds to settle what are at time dubious claims.” 

There was not much actual discussion about this matter, but the fact that it was introduced seemed odd.  I am quite sure, speaking from experience, that to parents of special needs children, their claims are not dubious and are a result of months of effort to obtain proper special education for their children.  For more information on the 2005 Supreme Court Ruling, please read here: http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/ussupct.schaffer.weast.htm