It’s Baaaaaaack… Opt Out Redux! Kowalko Files New Opt Out Legislation In Delaware

On Thursday, we will see new opt out legislation from State Rep. John Kowalko.  It will be very similar to House Bill 50 but it will have a different number.  I thought they would retire that number after the last go-around with opt out.  Will House Bill #60something have a shot with Markell gone if the General Assembly passes it?  Would Governor Carney sign it?  Are parents still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  It doesn’t begin again until March so if parents are thinking about it, we won’t hear much noise until February.  I still fervently support opt out as a parental choice and feel there should be legislation to codify that right.  I already have a few ideas for a potential amendment but I’m holding that one very close to see how the response to the bill goes.

I will support this bill in its entirety.  I will write about it and campaign for its passage.  I don’t know if I will be as heavily involved in it as I was two years ago.  But most of the legwork has already happened.  House Bill 50 brought opt out into daily language in the First State.  Markell fighting it most likely caused opt out numbers to increase.  Some have (I believe correctly) surmised that ed reformers wanted opt out at some levels.  Plans have been afoot to create stealth tests in a personalized learning environment.  These would most likely be in the form of end-of-unit tests but it would still be the state assessment, just taken throughout the year.  That could be a tough nut to crack.  But all nuts have some crackability.  You just have to find the right tool.

WestEd Selected As Vendor For Delaware’s Next Gen Science State Assessment

WestEd, a San Francisco based company, was selected as the vendor for the future Next Generation Science Standards state assessment.  The contract runs through December 31st, 2017 but it will assuredly get an extension based on the scope of work involved and the timetable for the full release of the new Science state assessment.  The amount awarded for the contract is $673,658.  Only two bidders sent proposals to the Delaware Department of Education, WestEd and American Institutes for Research (AIR).  AIR is the current vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.

The plan is to have the field tests for this assessment in the 2017-2018 school year and then all public school students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade get to take it in the 2018-2019 school year.  All states are required to administer Science state assessments to students in these grades and it will be the same for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Currently, Delaware students take the Science DCAS Assessment.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were created by Achieve Inc. and 26 states.  It rolled out in 2013 but only five states signed up to implement them.  As of today, there are only 18 states that have adopted the sometimes controversial science standards.  NGSS is very big on terminology surrounding three dimensions: science & engineering, disciplinary core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts.  Okay.  How do you accurately explain that?  I have an idea!  They should use rope to do it!  Oh wait, someone beat me to it…

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I wrote about WestEd a month and a half ago when I saw they were one of the bidders for this contract:

WestEd, though, is no stranger to Delaware.  This is a company that thinks online digital learning games with Curious George are just great for preschool.  They also have an extensive list of clients with some very familiar names.  Ironically, the Delaware DOE hired facilitators from WestEd for their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, along with Research In Action.  They even went into a partnership recently with NewSchools Venture Fund to expand small business data technology companies in K-12 classrooms.

Lately, whenever I see a corporate education reform company, I check out how much money they have received from the Gates Foundation.  WestEd has received $24,164,909 over the past ten plus years.  That is no small chunk of change!  You can read the full contract below:

 

House Bill 399 Is The Official Legislation On Fixing The Wrongs Done To Delaware Teachers

Last week, I wrote about pending legislation that would make Component V of the Delaware teacher evaluation system an equal part of the evaluation system and that both the teacher and administrator would have to agree on the state assessment being a part of it.  Today, that bill was filed as House Bill 399, seen below.  There are sixteen days left in the month, and only a few education committee meetings left.  Will there be enough time to get this bill out there?  I have no doubt we will hear from at least one other blogger on this issue.

Updated, 4:01pm: This is on the agenda for the House Education Committee tomorrow at 4pm.  If you are a Delaware teacher or are interested in what this means for students, please attend!

 

 

One Of Markell’s Hand-Picked Education Top Dogs To Resign

Someone very big in the Jack Markell education world is resigning.  This is as close to the top as you can get.  This is someone Markell hand-picked for the position.  Who is it?  And more important, who will replace this person?  From what I’m hearing, the title won’t be replaced but the duties will be delegated to different people.  This is big folks!  This person has been around long enough to have an impact on how things go that this void will have an effect on things.  Of course, it was, is, and always has been Jack Markell’s show.  I can’t say I’m surprised by the exit, but I am surprised at the assignment of duties to other people.  Who is it?  Did you think it was going to be that easy?  If you are drawing a blank on this one, don’t fret.  Continue reading

So Who Bid On The Social Studies And Science State Assessments In Delaware?

Cashinthecan

The Delaware DOE is getting ready to pick a vendor for their high-stakes rigorous grit-worthy state assessments for Science and Social Studies.  Some of these were the companies I expected to see and some I never heard of before in my life!  This is the world of corporate education reform.  Every time you think you have a good handle of what companies are out there, a few more rise to the surface.  All bids were due to the Delaware Department of Education by November 30th.  The DOE is giving an estimated date of 12/18 for the recipient of the contract to be announced.

So let’s start with the obvious suspects: American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Pearson.  AIR is the vendor of choice for the DOE on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They were also the vendor for DCAS.  They also implemented state assessments in Florida and Utah that did not go over well with the public.  Pearson, the father of the PARCC assessment, is taking a huge hit after their bungled test.

Strategic Measurement & Evaluation Inc. comes from Lafayette, IN.  Coincidentally, they have as one of their clients the Indiana Department of Education, along with the Michigan counterpart.  But what is really fascinating is the testimonial section of their website.  There are only two names on there.  One is John King, the upcoming US Secretary of Education.  It turns out he used this company when he ran schools in New York City.  Another woman worked in NYC around the same time.  She was the Vice-President of School Supports for the NYC Charter School Center.  We in Delaware know this woman by her current title, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Education Building in Wilmington, none other than Aretha Miller.  Yes, I noticed their website address is “escoreny” as well.  Turns out they have a revamped website coming soon called “smeasurement.com”.

The other company, MetriTech is something of a mystery.  Not for the obvious reason.  If you go to their website, you better bring a magnifying glass or zoom to 150% or greater.  Not that I’m impressed with any of these companies, but at least have a good website!  Their list of clients includes Chicago Public schools and a couple state DOEs, but in looking at their product, it seems geared towards ELL students.  But they are based out of Champaign, IL.  So maybe they have some political connections or something.

So who will win the big contract?  If I had to guess, I would go with Strategic Measurement and Evaluation.  Pearson and AIR are becoming toxic names associated with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC.  MetriTech looks like they need financing to get a good website going.  But then again, SME has an old website.  Who knows!  I’m sure whoever it is, kids will hate it, teachers will prep students for it, and parents will want to opt their kids out of it!

 

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Exclusive: Senator Sokola’s Proposed House Bill 50 Amendment

I spoke with Senator Sokola this evening, and he informed me exactly what his amendment to House Bill 5o, the parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced assessment legislation, would entail.  It would include any state assessment and any district-wide assessment.  It would also change some of the timeframes involved in notifying parents.  He did say a Delaware Senate attorney will be looking it over and he hopes to have it in circulation tomorrow.

Originally, House Bill 50 included any state assessment.  When the House voted on the bill on May 22nd, it was changed to just the Smarter Balanced assessment in an amendment introduced by State Rep. Sean Matthews.  If passed, this amendment would change the bill for a third time.

Sokola is a firm believer in standardized assessments and believes in international benchmark standards for education.  He referenced Singapore, China, Finland and Quebec in Canada as areas around the world who perform the best in education.  He believes teachers should be great, and there are schools in Delaware who are getting it right and the rest of the schools should be copying what they are doing.

He stated that usually there is a limited public comment time during the Senate Education Committee, but last week he allowed additional comment time to the parents of Autism children for Senate Bills 92 and 93, and since House Bill 50 was not heard on last week’s agenda, he wanted to extend the courtesy this week.

What remains to be seen is the actual amendment and the exact wording of it.  We shall know more later today…

The Heroes of Delaware: Transcript of Parent Opt Out Decision at Capital School District Board Meeting @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @BadassTeachersA #netde #eduDE #edchat

On Wednesday, October 15th, the Capital School District Board of Education passed a resolution allowing parents to opt their children out of state assessments without any penalty from the schools or the district. The following is a transcript, taken from the digital audio recording of the meeting.

Capital School District Board of Education: Matthew Lindell (Vice-President, Acting President in lieu of President Kay Dietz-Sass’ absence), Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Brian Lewis (absent), Dr. Michael Thomas (Superintendent)

Lindell: Moving on. 3.10, State Assessment, Parent Opt Out, Resolution #15-041. Ms. Sass asked to put this on the agenda. I think we’ve gotten to the point where we ended up tabling the policy itself when we were trying to adjust the policy as far as protecting parents who choose to opt their children out of standardized testing within the school district. Upon just taking things into consideration and other thoughts, feelings and so forth. You know, parents, by creating a policy we’ve basically already, basically were almost like DOE but were just saying, were giving you the ability to do this. The parents have the choice, it’s just frowned upon by DOE. And yes, can there be consequences for the district? Yes, there can be. I think we’ve debated that extensively. But there comes a time, and I think I mentioned this the last time we tabled this, there comes a time when, imagine in history, when some of the key points in history when some individuals said “I’m gonna sit down and I’m not gonna risk it.” Imagine if George Washington said “I’m gonna turn down the command of the Continental Army in 1775,” or Thomas Jefferson was like “No, I’m not going to risk King George III hanging me from the closest tree.” Or Martin Luther King Jr. saying “You know what, I don’t want to rock the boat so I’m just going to let things go as they may.” If we did this every single time someone threatened us, and said “This is going to happen to you if you don’t do this,” what’s going to happen? I grew up in an America standing up for issues of great importance. Not being afraid of what might happen if you take the step of questioning the government that the people duly elect. Our government is not perfect, we’re certainly not perfect, but there comes a time when policies and the continuation of the same old same old needs to be questioned and addressed. When that communication is ignored, sometimes it requires bolder action.

I would support, and I hope the board would support, the idea that we would entertain a motion to protect the parents and the district who choose to opt out their children from the test. Just as much as we would protect the parents who choose to have their kid take the test. I think it comes down to parental rights. Who knows more about their kids, many times, than their parents? Just to see the stories of kids struggling and the lack of confidence… Just tonight we saw Mr. McCove (a former alumni of Capital who gave a presentation on a program called Passport To Success earlier in the meeting)… that creativity. That is what, in my personal opinion, I think, many countries around the world admire that they can’t duplicate about our system. We’re creative, and the one thing we try to do is educate everyone. But we’ve come to the point now where it’s just about the test. You see the excitement for learning just draining out of kids. We shouldn’t see that in 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade. We shouldn’t see kids going to the bathroom having to throw up, or being afraid to go to school because they have to take this test. There’s more to measuring our schools. The banners tonight, recognizing our schools, (banners were presented earlier in the meeting to schools in Capital School District that had significant increases in DCAS scores or decreased percentages in different proficiency gaps between regular groups and sub-groups such as minorities or special education students) I didn’t need the test data telling us our district and our schools are successful. I can walk in there and see what good teaching looks like. I can see what our students are doing. It’s about time that we started addressing these things and making waves and saying enough is enough. And hopefully we have some legislators that might join on board and say this is an issue we need to take a look at.

Christiansen: Mr. Lindell, as one of those parents that witnessed a child losing his mind because he was worried about a test, “I got a 4 Dad, but they need me to do better.” He didn’t sleep that night, he didn’t want to go to school the next morning, but he went. He took his test, he came home, (I said) “How did you do?” He said “Dad, I sat in the test.” “What did you learn today?” “How to take a test.” And that’s what our teachers are being pushed to do. You know, a lot of these teachers have been here a long time, and they’re going to be here a lot longer. Teaching has changed. The demands on our students have changed. The demands on our teachers have drastically changed. And it’s not easy for you to wake up every morning and say I’m going to school to educate because you’re worried about one thing or another. But when we take fun out of learning, we take kids that are in elementary school, not getting on the bus and hiding behind a bush because they don’t want to take a test, that’s an issue. We talked about this in May, of this year, and that’s when we tabled it I believe. And we stood up here strong and said we’re going to fight for the student or fight for the parents to be a parent. I think it’s time. I wish there were five of us here instead of three of us. But unless Mr. Martin’s got something to say or has a question I’d like to make a motion.

Martin: I’ve been waiting for this one all night long, the whole dog-gone time!

Christiansen: Are you okay with me making a motion now or do you have something to say?

Martin: Oh no, I have something audacious to say.

Christiansen: I can’t wait.

Martin: Let’s do it!

Christiansen: Mr. President, I’d like to make a motion that this Board of Education will support a parent’s decision for a child to opt out of standardized state testing without any repurcussions from the Capital School District.

Martin: Mr. Lindell, I second that motion. Resolution #15-041 for parents to be able to opt out of the state assessment.

Lindell: The motion has been made by Mr. Christiansen, and it’s been seconded by Mr. Martin. Any further discussion gentlemen?

Martin: None.

Lindell: All those in favor? Say aye.

Lindell, Christiansen and Martin: Aye.

Lindell: All those opposed? (None) Motion carries. (clapping coming from audience)