Condoms, Chlamydia, Christina, Closures, Carney and the Council

The Christina Board of Education meeting last night was filled with some awesome discussion about what appears in the title of this article.  I painstakingly transcribed the part of the meeting with the Superintendent’s report to the Board and the crazy discussion after.  Board member John Young was on fire!!!!  The topics dealt with Governor Carney’s plans for Christina’s Wilmington schools.  There is A LOT of information in here.  A ton.  From venereal diseases to transparency to possible school closures and more!  I have a feeling things are going to look VERY different in Christina’s Wilmington schools a year from now.  And for the record, I agree with John Young on EVERYTHING he said! Continue reading

When ESSA Advisory Committee Members Attack!

I’ve given a ton of public comments in the past two and a half years.  100?  200?  I can’t keep track.  Tonight, I got yelled at for my public comment.  By a member of the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee.  It got ugly.  I’m not one to just let someone yell at me like that.

A member of the committee asked the Delaware Dept. of Education how much the committee’s input really means.  She asked the DOE, on a scale of 1-10, how much that input means.  It was a very fair and valid question.  I have seen the woman before.  Maria Matos.  I knew she was on a charter school board and involved with the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington.  But I have never had a conversation with her.  I don’t think she has ever said hello to me or if I’ve been in a position to introduce myself.  I meet a lot of people in Delaware education.  I tend to disagree with many, but I make it a point to show respect face to face.  In a public meeting, there is an understood rule that you don’t devolve to a level of hostility.  Have I always subscribed to that rule?  No, I haven’t.

At a State Board of Education meeting in July of 2015, the Governor had just vetoed House Bill 50.  I had to hear former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy talk about it and how it was a good thing.  He was going on and on about it.  Was he rubbing my face in it?  Perhaps.  I yelled from the back something about how wrong they were and stormed out.  Not a moment I was proud of.  Even though I didn’t agree with what they were saying, I felt bad about it.  I emailed the entire board and Mark Murphy and apologized for my behavior.  I did tell the entire Christina board I was going to FOIA them one night, but I did raise my hand to speak and they allowed me to speak.  So that doesn’t really count.  I’ve yelled at Mark Murphy a couple of times and Senator David Sokola once at Legislative Hall during the House Bill 50 opt out days when the bill was still in play.  But I digress.

So tonight, Karen Field-Rogers with the Delaware DOE responds to Ms. Matos’ question.  She tells her this committee, the ESSA Advisory Committee, has deeper connections with education and she said they would have about 80% input on the Delaware ESSA state plan which will be submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Education.  That led to a whole other conversation about federal control, state control, and local control.  The time came for public comment.  I had something all typed out and ready to go, but upon hearing Field-Rogers response to Matos, I felt the need to ad lib my comment.

I basically said it was very disheartening to hear that this group was given an 8 out of 10 priority for input on the plan.  It felt like the ESSA Discussion Groups and the Community Conversation Groups were all of a sudden less important, that their voice didn’t matter as much.  That was the bulk of my public comment, short and sweet.  There has already been a huge question in the air about if the Delaware DOE already has the plan written and the stakeholder input is being used for show.  At the very least, the kind of questions the DOE are asking participants in any ESSA meeting are very narrow in scope.  Many questions are asked in such a way that someone answering could only give answers that would lean toward pre-conceived notions of what the DOE may put in the final plan.  The fact that the ESSA Advisory Committee was given six different questions tonight, one for each table, and the DOE representative at each table gave the report of each group’s discussion shows far too much DOE control than I am comfortable with.  And those DOE reps will be writing reports to the DOE based on how they interpret the findings of each group.

Usually, public comment ends and the group adjourns and everyone goes home.  But not tonight.  Matos yells at me.  She yells that the DOE just said it was an 8.  I went to respond and she continued.  I asked her why she was yelling at me and let her know I didn’t even know her.  She continued to yell about the same thing.  I told her this was public comment and she needed to step off.  I literally said those words.  She said something about not stepping up, but at the point the moderator intervened and adjourned the meeting.  Usually I stick around and say goodbye to folks, but not tonight.  I was pretty hot and I knew staying in that room would not be a wise idea.  I wish Matos would have used that same restraint a few minutes earlier…

So Ms. Matos, allow me to introduce myself.  I’m the member of the public you yelled at tonight.  And I will tell you straight up, that doesn’t fly with me.  You want to disagree with me, that’s fine.  People disagree with me all the time.  You want to yell at me after a public meeting or in the parking lot, have at it.  But you will not disrespect me in front of an audience with something you didn’t even hear right to begin with.  Maybe people allow you to do that at other meetings, but when someone gives a public comment at a public meeting, you respect that.  I’m sure you have done many wonderful things for Delaware education.  But that does not make you better than me or gives you the justification to do that.   I don’t care how many boards or committees you may be on.  And just because you are on the “8” committee, doesn’t mean your voice weighs more than anyone else.

One final thought Ms. Matos, if you have to ask the question about how much stakeholder input in matters of education with the Delaware DOE count, you’ve probably already answered your own question.

Governor Markell’s Executive Order #62 Creates ESSA Advisory Committee

Today, Delaware Governor Markell signed an Executive Order which creates an Advisory  n Committee for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  As required by federal law, this group will convene to provide input (not make final decisions) on ESSA which was signed by President Obama last December.  I am assuming this group will replace the DESS Advisory Committee which was required under the former federal education law, ESEA.

This group will have the usual slots: President of the State Board of Education, President of the Delaware State Education Association, and other education, business, and state associations.  There are only two legislator slots, one from the Senate and one from the House.  Usually, these kind of groups have representation of both parties in the House and the Senate.  Only three teachers will be picked, and only four parents.  On something this important, bigger is better.  But lest we forget, these members will be picked by the Governor, so expect some controversy over those picks!

As well, there will be a series of “Community Conversations” coming up at the end of September.  I pray this isn’t a one-sided show where select people are telling the audience what has to happen.  It needs to be a true back and forth exchange to be a true conversation.

Below is Executive Order #62 and the press release from the Delaware DOE.

 

Markell Creates Group to Support Implementation of New Federal Education Law

 

Calling a new federal education law an opportunity for teachers, school leaders, parents, and others to build on record graduation rates and other progress happening in Delaware schools, Governor Jack Markell today signed Executive Order 62, which brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to provide input for the state plan required by the federal Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA). The plan, which the U.S. Department of Education is expected to require by sometime next year, will detail efforts to:

·         Implement academic standards aligned with what students need to know stay on track for success in college and the workplace;

·         Ensure students from all backgrounds have access to high-quality educational opportunities from pre-school through high school;

·         Support training, retention, and professional advancement of great educators; and

·         Track progress of schools across a variety of measures, not limited to test scores, and identify ways to offer additional support where students are struggling.

 

The Governor, who signed E.O. 62 at Lewis Elementary School, noted that improvements from the last major federal education law, No Child Left Behind, mean that states have more flexibility in ways to support students, including how to measure schools’ progress and new opportunities to focus on early childhood education, which has been a top priority of the Markell Administration.

 

“We should all be proud of the progress we have made over the last few years, when we have seen thousands more low-income families enroll children in high-quality early childhood programs, recorded the fastest-growing graduation rate in the country, offered thousands more students the chance to earn workplace experience and college credit while in high school, and given more students access to college,” said Markell.

 

“ESSA provides an exciting chance for us to build on that momentum – to better support and attract great teachers and ensure all of our students have access to the education they deserve, no matter their backgrounds. More flexibility in how states approach these issues means more responsibility for us to make sound decisions and as we develop our state’s plan under ESSA. The executive order I sign today will help engage our teachers, school leaders, parents, and other advocates to ensure a successful process.”

 

The Executive Order outlines the variety of education leaders and advocates who must be represented on the committee and provides the group with the opportunity to review drafts of the state plan and submit recommendations to the Secretary of Education. A chair will be announced in advance of the first meeting and the group will include representatives of:

 

·         Parents in every county

·         Educators from urban and rural communities

·         The State Board of Education

·         The Delaware State Education Association

·         The Delaware Association of School Administrators

·         The Delaware School Board’s Association

·         The Delaware Charter School Network

·         The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission

·         The Early Childhood Council

·         Delaware English Language Teachers and Advocates

·         An organization advocating for students with disabilities

·         Delaware’s business community

·         Workforce development programs

·         The General Assembly

 

“After engaging in initial discussions with a wide variety of education stakeholders on development of our ESSA plan, this advisory committee represents an important next step in supporting our communication with teachers, administrators, and parents who are working hard to support our students,” said Delaware Education Secretary Steve Godowsky. “This group will help ensure we fully consider a wide range of perspectives and set our state on a path of continued improvement.”

 

The department also will engage representatives of stakeholder groups in two discussion groups. The first group will focus discussions on technical topics related to Measures of School Success and Reporting.  The second group will focus discussions on provisions for Student and School Supports. Participants for these topical discussion groups can be nominated on the department’s ESSA web site through September 9, 2016.  The discussion groups will provide information to the Advisory group created by this Executive Order.

 

To further support engagement of the broader education community, the Department of Education has announced a series of Community Conversations later this month during which teachers, administrators, and others will offer input on specific questions that the state must address in its plan. These discussions will take place at the following times and locations:

 

Tuesday September 20 at 6:00 p.m. – Cheer Center, Georgetown

Saturday September 24 at 10:00 a.m. – Christina Cultural Arts Center, Wilmington

Tuesday September 27 at 6:00 p.m. – Bunker Hill Elementary School, Middletown

Thursday September 29 at 5:30 p.m. – Collette Education Center, Dover

 

The public also is invited to provide input through online surveys found on the Department’s ESSA web site and by submitting feedback to ESSAStatePlan@doe.k12.de.us

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Capital School District Strategic Plan White Paper Shows Strengths & Weaknesses Of District

At the Capital School District Board of Education meeting tonight, the vendor for their Strategic Plan, Demosophia, presented a white paper on the plan.  Their findings were based on forums held with the public as well as a series of one-on-one interviews and small group discussions with different stakeholders in the district: teachers, administrators, board members, students, parents, and citizens.  The next part of the Strategic Plan is co-labs.  With these, a diverse set of stakeholders will convene for all-day sessions on 4/28 and 4/29 to formulate a definitive plan for the district which will be presented to the Board of Education next month.

Below is the white paper.  One thing to keep in mind is the data the Delaware Department of Education put together from the IDEA Parent Surveys sent out last year.  Recently, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn encouraged all parents of students with an IEP to participate in the survey rather than the random number sent out by the DOE.

US DOE Race To The Top Report Released Today Is A Summary Of Lies And Reform Propoganda

I read this report released today by the US DOE, called Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top and found it to be laughable at best.  I’ll start off with the biggest and boldest first:

Race to the Top used transparency to advance knowledge about improving education and allow states to learn from each other.

What was not transparent was how schools, districts, teachers, parents and students were hoodwinked into believing this lie.  The caveat behind this Federal mandate disguised as a financial incentive was requirements to engage with outside companies with this money.

State work under the grants ended in summer 2015…

For Delaware, this part is completely false since the DOE and Governor Markell used parts of the state General Fund to keep Race To The Top created positions at the DOE.  This is hysterical, because the work continues.  They may not be getting federal funds anymore, but most states are using what they did from Race To The Top at all levels and implementing changes designed not to truly help students but to give their bloated Department of Education employees and leaders high salaries while contracting all their work to outside vendors.

State education agencies (SEAs) as drivers of change. SEAs moved beyond their traditional role of monitoring district compliance to driving comprehensive and systemic changes to improve teaching and learning across the state.

They are still accountability machines.  They live and die by compliance as never before.  Who are you kidding?

Improved, more collaborative, and productive relationships between states and districts. States worked more collaboratively with districts and increased their own capacity to effectively and efficiently support districts and schools in ways that were responsive to local needs.

Yeah, between states maybe, and the districts that sign up for all the personalized learning grants while selling students souls to Satan!

Better communication. States improved lines of communication with stakeholders and used a range of tools (e.g., social media platforms) to continuously gather input from teachers, parents, school leaders, stakeholders and the public to determine the additional supports needed to be successful in carrying out their work.

They certainly used a range of tools in Delaware.  I could name many of those tools, but I would hate to offend anyone.  And many of those tools either gained tremendous financial or political gain from all of this.  And the whole “stakeholder input” never mattered because our DOE didn’t listen to what parents were truly saying and did what they wanted to do anyways.

Higher standards. All Race to the Top states recognized the value of adopting higher standards that are similar across states. Each Race to the Top state implemented challenging kindergarten through 12th-grade academic content standards aimed at preparing students for success in college and careers. With improved standards, teachers, students and parents have a clear roadmap for what students need to know and be able to do to be prepared for success.

The clear roadmap called Common Core, where all students should be on the same level playing field across the country, but all the assessments designed for it are different?  That clear roadmap you say?  And the jury is still way out on if these were “improved” standards.

Teachers support each other to effectively implement higher standards. Teachers worked together to create tools and resources to help them understand the standards and how best to implement them in their classrooms. Hands-on, job-embedded training helped teachers transition to the new content and develop instructional tools, such as sample lesson plans and instructional videos, to translate the standards into effective classroom practices.

Teachers learned how to band together and collectively groan about everything the Feds and the States did to them.  You make it sound like it was such a wonderful and collaborative thing, but it wasn’t and it still isn’t.  Let’s get it straight: the standards were designed for teachers to teach to the state assessment.  Most teachers I know can’t stand these assessments and hate everything that comes with it.

Monitoring student progress during the school year. Every Race to the Top state developed resources and assessment tools that teachers can use in their classrooms to monitor student progress during the school year. Rather than focus on test preparation for the statewide assessment at the end of the school year, nearly all states introduced instructional resources for the classroom that measure higher-order thinking skills, including critical thinking and complex problem-solving.

You can change the words however you want, it is still teaching to the test.

Increased access to and use of objective information on student outcomes. States made critical investments in improving systems to compile student outcome data from pre-kindergarten through the workforce, while protecting personally identifiable information. As outcome data for schools and districts become more accessible to the public, a variety of stakeholders, including parents, policymakers and researchers, will be better able to use these data to answer important questions about educational outcomes, such as “Did students make a year’s worth of growth?” and “Are students succeeding, regardless of income, race, ethnicity or disability?”

That last line is the biggest joke of all.  Because income, race, ethnicity and disability can make a huge difference in a  student’s life, especially as those factors combine!  And we don’t know how much of our children’s data is being farmed out under certain FERPA laws and state regulations.

Local stakeholder engagement. Dramatic improvements in schools require the involvement of community members who understand local contexts and conditions, both inside and outside the school building, to help identify challenges and design solutions. States, districts, teachers, school leaders and community stakeholders are working together to implement strategies to improve the learning environments in their lowest-performing schools and provide services to meet students’ academic and nonacademic needs.

In Delaware, we call this Rodel and the Vision Coalition.  This local stakeholder engagement has been going on for ten years with little or no results except their CEO going from $170,000+ to a salary of $344,000 in a decade.

New performance management approaches. States are using performance management approaches to help districts support effective interventions in their lowest-performing schools. These approaches help states and districts identify problems, set goals to solve them and use data to track progress.

We call these priority schools and focus schools in Delaware.  Or “Partnership Zone” schools.  This is where our state blames teachers for standardized testing scores and do not factor in a lack of resources, funding, neurological disabilities, or issues outside of schools.

States used state-level funds to support districts. In addition to the 50 percent of the total grant award subgranted to districts, many states designed their state-level projects to distribute additional funds to districts. For example, New York competitively distributed nearly $80 million of its state-level “Teachers and Leaders” funds to districts to implement their plans to develop, implement or enhance teacher recruitment, development and retention.

Delaware farmed out millions upon millions of dollars to outside companies, some internal and some external, instead of giving the funds to the districts to lower classroom sizes and get more teachers and extra support.

Some states, such as Hawaii, Delaware and Massachusetts, created a separate office or designated an existing office to plan and coordinate Race to the Top initiatives across different offices

And then the Delaware DOE lied to their General Assembly when the funds ran out and found a way to keep those positions in our DOE without anyone the wiser.

…and Delaware created specific units within their state departments of education and used real-time data to assess whether projects were moving forward and producing quality results.

Results based on federal mandates that were neither Congressionally approved or regulatory in nature…

“We really keep coming back to three questions: Are we doing what we said we would do? Are we doing it well? Is it making a difference?” said Delaware’s former chief performance officer.

Which former chief performance officer is this?  I’m guessing this is why he or she is a former chief performance officer if they were asking questions like this in our dictatorial state led by the not-so-great Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

Beginning in 2008, the state-led effort included governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia and was informed by the best state standards already in use and the experiences of teachers, school administrators, content experts, state leaders and the public. From the beginning, state and local officials and educators took responsibility for adopting and implementing the standards, and for making decisions about how the standards are taught, how the curriculum is developed, and what materials are used to support teachers in helping students meet the standards.

Yes, the beginning of the cabal of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officer’s in leading the Common Core initiative where the two true educators in this design group dropped out from the development of these standards.  Then the districts were essentially brow-beaten, pressured, and lied to if they didn’t accept funds during a recession when states were cash-poor.

As a result, each Race to the Top state developed measures of growth in student learning and made the data available to teachers, school leaders, district leaders and, in some cases, parents.  These measure of growth in student learning provided a reliable measure of teachers’ contributions to student learning because they addressed a student’s proficiency across multiple years on a valid assessment that was comparable across classrooms and schools

“Valid assessment”.  I really don’t need to go any further on this one, do I?

In Delaware, the state hired data coaches to work directly with school leaders and teachers to lead professional learning communities.

The data coaches, who got tons of money.  Like the Vision Coalition in Delaware…

For many Race to the Top states and districts, the initiatives they implemented during the grant period have remained priorities that SEAs are now better equipped to support and continue. For example, Delaware’s performance management system did not exist prior to the grant period and will continue without Race to the Top funds. The state also will continue to implement, as part of its state capacity-building plan, its data analyses and biannual conversations with district leaders to better understand what is happening in districts and develop supports that match local needs. Through its district budget plan approval process, Delaware also is encouraging districts to use available funding streams to support work they found to be effective in their schools, such as using allowable federal funds for professional supports for teachers.

Our DOE might want to check with our General Assembly before they commit to all this.  Oh wait, they will answer to our Joint Finance Committee on 11/30/15 for their devious budget actions…

As directed in the report, the citation for this report belongs to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of State Support, Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top, Washington, D.C., 2015

How Does The Rest Of Delaware Feel About Higher Property Assessments To Fund Our Schools?

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is proposing a plan for funding of the redistricting effort currently in the planning stages.  WEIC wants the state to look at increasing property assessments to raise more funding for our schools.  How do you feel about this?  With Wilmington schools as a test for a weighted formula funding, which would start there first, will Kent and Sussex counties support this without more funding going to their own schools?  WEIC does not have any true stakeholder input from Kent or Sussex right now.  I urge every Delaware citizen to read the below document and let WEIC know how you feel about this, as well as your state legislators.  Because if the State Board of Education passes this plan, it will go to the 148th General Assembly for a vote.

Breaking News: Delaware DOE To Punish Schools Over Opt-Out Rate w/School Report Card, Did NOT Submit This For ESEA Waiver

The Delaware Department of Education will punish schools with high opt-out rates based on their School Report Card.  As found in the below document, the school report card is a new system mandated by the US DOE.  Since last summer, the Accountability Framework Working Group has been meeting to get this going in Delaware.  How this works is a school will receive a grade based on multiple factors: academic, graduation rates, etc.  Whatever their academic score is, the DOE will multiply the assessment participation rate against the score.  So as an example, say Charter School of Wilmington gets a score of 90 for their academics.  If their assessment participation rate overall was at 80%, you would multiply 90 x .8, which would give the school an academic score of 72.

They are doing this under the sly.  They did not include this in what was sent to the US DOE for their ESEA Flex Waiver request, which was approved by the feds in July.  This is just another example of the DOE plotting behind the scenes with superintendents from Delaware school districts and making rules without any stakeholder input.  And even then, they just ignore it.  They do what they want and to hell with the consequences.  Below, you can see the ESEA Waiver Approval letter from the US DOE, which mentions NOTHING about this at all, but the State Board approved this in their March 19th, 2015 meeting, which you can listen to here.

So which superintendents and charter heads are on this group? Mark Holodick, Heath Chasanov, Kevin Fitzgerald, Sally Maldonado, Ed Emmett, and other key district staff.  This is a group that doesn’t publicly announce their meetings from what I can see on the DOE calendar on their website or on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  They are creating rules for schools without ANY public feedback whatsoever.  I knew there was more to this whole school report card thing, and now we have the proof.  This group, at first, did not have any representation from parents or the Delaware State Educators Association, but was later added.  I’m sorry, I love Bill Doolittle with the Delaware PTA, but he cannot be the DOE’s go-to guy every time they need a parent on a group.  That is not TRUE stakeholder input.  They should have a minimum of three parents on any task force, group, committee, or commission.  If not MORE!

How ironic they have NO participation from districts where their board passed an opt-out resolution: Capital, Christina and Red Clay…

Delaware parents, don’t let this sway you from opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  If you all do it, then it won’t matter what the participation rate was!  School starts this week or next week for most students, so remember, first day, give the principal your REFUSE THE TEST letter!

UPDATED, 2:35pm, 8/25/15: Ryan Reyna with the Delaware DOE published this document for schools to upload into the Accountability Student Verification system, dated 7/27/15…

Delaware PTA slams Governor Markell and Delaware DOE over their latest harebrained scheme!

I am loving the Delaware PTA this year!  After Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE announced their little “we’re scared of opt-out so why not brainwash more parents into thinking their kids won’t have to take remedial classes in college” scheme, many stakeholders were not happy.  Including the Delaware PTA who has been very vocal in support of parent opt-out.  They are fast-learning that there is no collaboration in Markell’s nation!

Delaware PTA’s Response to Press Release on SBAC and DE Higher Ed Institutions 

In a statement made today by Governor Markell, Delaware PTA learned that the four colleges; Wilmington University, University of Delaware, Delaware Technical and Community College and Delaware State University have all agreed that the outcomes of the 11th grade Smarter Balanced Assessments is a good indicator of college readiness. In addition, these institutions have all agreed to accept the assessment in lieu of other placement exams.

At a time when there is so much turbulence in our public education system, we are disheartened to learn that the conversations that proceeded this major conclusion did not include input from any of our major stakeholders. The Delaware Department of Education and the Governor’s office have publicly committed to greater transparency and collaboration with the broader community, yet Delaware PTA, the Delaware State Education Association, state legislators and other community stakeholders were not only excluded from these conversations, but we only learned of this decision a few hours prior to the public announcement.

We believe the lack of a collaborative process has resulted in misguided decisions regarding the efficacy of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, further misleading parents and students.

While Delaware PTA supports the use of assessments with a growth model that will effectively and adequately measure student growth and college and career readiness, we stand by our previous statements, citing the following concerns with the Smarter Balanced Assessments:

1. In its current form, the SBAC does not provide a true growth model;

2. In its current form, the SBAC is overly subjective and not an accurate assessment of student knowledge, skills and abilities;

3. Our educators have not had sufficient time to teach and our students have not had sufficient time to learn;

4. In its current form, the SBAC does not provide parents or teachers with the individual diagnostic data necessary to work together to support student success.

Although we believe that this most recent development is a knee jerk reaction to HB 50 on the Parent Opt Out, Delaware PTA remains fully committed to engaging in collaborative and transparent discussions on developing a state assessment that provides meaningful data for parents, students and teachers.

Decisions made in a vacuum often lead to outcomes that are misaligned and unsuccessful. Delaware parents, students and teachers deserve better. 

Dr. Terri L Hodges, State President 

Yvonne Johnson, VP of Advocacy