ESSA: Parents & Educators MUST Attend The Upcoming Meetings & Educate Themselves On The Law!

The Delaware Dept. of Education will have three more Every Student Succeeds Act Community Engagement meetings in the next week.  They held a meeting in Georgetown on Tuesday.  The next three meetings will take place in Wilmington, Middletown, and Dover.  The DOE is “requiring” participants to register through a company called Event Brite.  Links to register can be found here.

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I will stress with all the urgency I can muster that ALL public education parents attend these meetings.  Before you go, I would familiarize yourself with the federal law.  You can read the full text of the law here.  It is a very long law with a lot of repeated jargon and “legalese” in it.  The Delaware State Board of Education and Delaware DOE has put up many links to it on their websites, but a lot of that is open to interpretation.  As well, U.S. Secretary of Education John King has issued “proposed rulemaking” which are potential regulations.  These regulations are VERY controversial.  You can read those regulations here and here.

These are my major concerns with ESSA:

By allowing states to have more flexibility, many states have already created long-term plans based on the prior federal mandates.  Far too many in our state DOEs follow what the corporate education reformers want and give a false illusion of “stakeholder input”.

The Delaware DOE has given NO indication whatsoever that they will even consider changing the state standards away from Common Core even though they can certainly do this according to ESSA.  The US Secretary of Education isn’t required to approve these standards.  The states merely have to give an assurance that their standards will follow the law.

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Student data still isn’t protected to parents satisfaction.  To stop this data from going out, they need to restore the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) to pre-2011 levels

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Bouncing off the previous statement, by allowing more social service and health-based practitioners into our schools, there is a serious question regarding what applies to FERPA and what applies to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

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John King’s regulations would keep the 95% participation rates for state assessments with consequences for schools and districts.

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John King’s Title I regulations would enact a “supplement not supplant” these funds.  This is in sharp contrast with federal law and he was called out on this the other day by the US House Education and Workforce Committee.

There is far too much talk of competency-based education through computer adaptive assessments.  That is just lingo for personalized learning.  This law would allow for classrooms to become online all the time.  There are severe dangers with this in regards to the downgrading of the teacher profession, far too much screen time for students, and the quality of the educational material.  As well as severe data privacy concerns.  In fact, there are incentives for schools to adopt personalized learning.

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While the law forbids the US DOE from forcing or coercing states to implement any state standards, like Common Core, many states already have these in place and spent years embedding them into every facet of public education.

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The law calls for state accountability “report cards”, based on performance of the state assessment, but the tests are not required to be exactly the same for all students.  So the state assessments are not a true measurement since they will be different for each test-taker.  Delaware set up their report card last year under the name of the “Delaware School Success Framework” but they inserted a very punitive participation rate penalty if a school dips below the 95% participation rate which can’t use parent opt-out in those calculations according to the law.

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State assessments will not be required to have questions at the appropriate grade level for students.

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ESSA requires any plan to be submitted to the State DOE, State Board of Education, the Governor and the state legislature.  To date, the Delaware DOE has not had “meaningful” consultation with the Delaware General Assembly about ESSA.

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The law specifically states that all choice schools should have priority given to the lowest-achieving students, but Delaware allows for charter schools to have enrollment preferences that allow for higher-achieving students to have distinct advantages, especially in our magnet schools and charter schools like Charter School of Wilmington.

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I have many other concerns with ESSA, but these ones stand out for me.  I am coming at this from the perspective of a parent.  I know educators have concerns over some of this as well.

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With Great Power… The Perception Problem Of The State Board of Education

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“With great power must also come great responsibility.”-Stan Lee

If you haven’t heard those exact words before, then you have been victim to one of the greatest butcherings of the past fifty years.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Now this you have heard.

in 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the world to the Amazing Spider-Man.  We all know the story.  Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider which gave him the proportionate strength of a spider.  An orphan who lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  He learned an important lesson very fast when he became a superhero.  At first, he used his powers for fortune and fame.  One night, he failed to stop a robber.  The same burglar later attempted to rob his house and shot and killed his uncle.  When Peter, dressed up as Spider-Man, finally confronted the burglar, he saw the same face he failed to stop.  As he walked off into the night, he remembered what his Uncle Ben always told him, “With great power must also come great responsibility.”

This is the problem with the Delaware State Board of Education.  The initial phrase Stan Lee provided to readers shows that just because you have power doesn’t mean you already possess an inherent sense of responsibility.  That is something you have to develop and learn.  The rewording of the classic phrase, which appeared in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, changes the concept of the phrase.  As if power and responsibility are there from the start.  As Delaware plows into the upcoming Every Student Succeeds Act regulations, this will become very important.  I don’t feel our State Board has developed the responsibility that comes with their power.  In fact, they want to hijack this term in their meetings about the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Many of the decisions they have made since 2008 have not been in the best and long-term interest of children.  They embraced the corporate education reform movement and haven’t looked back.  They continue to listen to the Rodel Foundation more than the teachers, students and parents who are their primary stakeholders.  As a result, they have allowed an environment of false labels against schools, demeaned teachers, created a false illusion of praise for rushed teacher and leader programs, subjected our students to three different high-stakes tests that have not created improvement for anyone, manipulated legislators into believing their mantras, approved charter schools without any consistent or necessary follow-up to ensure they will be successful upon opening, revoked five charter schools, and nearly destroyed a generation of students.  They will never take responsibility for these actions or events or even state they had anything to do with it.  They will sit there and say most of these events were based on federal mandate or existing state law.

They have an opportunity now to change that.  With the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law states that the United States Department of Education cannot dictate what type of state standard any state chooses to have.  It also deals with parent opt out of state assessments as a state’s decision.  However, U.S. Secretary of Education John King seems to have some comprehension issues as the regulations coming out of the U.S. DOE contradict what the law states.  Granted, the law is a confusing mess and there are parts that contradict each other.  King knows this and he is taking FULL advantage of it.  King will, in all likelihood, be gone by January next year, but he will be able to approve regulations and state plans based on forced dictates from his office.  That is NOT responsibility either.  That is power run amok.

As our State Board of Education prepares to deal with these regulations, they are having a workshop on ESSA before their regular State Board of Education meeting on July 21st.  They will go over what many of the corporate education reform companies are translating the law into along with King’s regulations and accepting it as the Gospel truth.  This is a critical time for Delaware education.  A wrong move by our State Board and Delaware DOE will leave us in the same problems we have faced since No Child Left Behind came into law fifteen years ago.  If you read the below presentation, you can clearly see their interpretation of the law based on the regulations and what the education companies want.  Keep in mind, many of these “companies” have never taught in a classroom.  But they have a vested interest in education.  Actually, make that an invested interest in education.

There are others who have power in education: parents, teachers, administrators, unions, and even students.  I urge all of you to watch our State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE like a hawk.  Yes, it’s the summer and in a couple of months kids will be back in schools with all the business surrounding that.  This is why they are choosing now to push regulations through when parents aren’t paying attention.  Those who want to profit off education are already on this.  They helped to create ESSA.  They have power but no responsibility.  They will control education if we let them.  And our own Governor, Jack Markell, has been the largest cheerleaders for this movement.  Power, with no responsibility, or even accountability.

We need parents, teachers, administrators, and students to take a role in this.  Don’t rely on me as a mouthpiece.  I’m a hot-tempered judgmental and pissed-off dad who has already been through many wars over this stuff.  I will continue to fight the war, but I could hit by a truck tomorrow.  Even if you are busy, you need to make the time to attend any meeting about ESSA in Delaware.  You need to review what our state is proposing, carefully watch the public comment timeframes, and make your voice known.  As well, contact your state legislators and Congressmen.  Let them know how you feel.  We have the opportunity and means to take back our children’s education.  But not if we don’t become a part of it.  This is our power.  This is our responsibility.  We have to use our power and become responsible.  If you are relying on our policymakers and unelected State Board of Education to get it right, then you have already allowed them to shape education into what they want.  They want to control the conversation and trick us.  They are masters at it.  They will smile and invite you to their events and give you real yummy eclairs and make you feel special and wanted.  But they don’t want you, they want your child.  Make no mistake about it.

To add insult to injury, Delaware is embarking on a “regulatory review”.  So not only do we have federal education regulations under review, but also a statewide regulatory review which could easily cause mass confusion.  I believe this is very intentional.  So if you are reading up on regulations, make absolutely sure you know which ones are state and which ones are federal.

If you want to change the future, you have to act now.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  I will do my best to inform you and give crucial dates and timeframes, but make sure you also do this.

In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now

-John Mellancamp

Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Final Report Is A Complete Waste Of Time

This makes me sick.  All that time, wasted.  What did this assessment inventory accomplish?  Not a heck of a lot.  That’s for sure.  Just another notch in the DOE’s bedpost sucking away money from public education, yet again.  A bunch of people got together, but at the end of the day we still have Smarter Balanced and districts still have assessments.  So what was the point of all this?  Oh yeah, it was the “antidote” to opt out.  We still have the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Let me reiterate.  We still have it.  Even though everyone NOT affiliated with the DOE and Markell’s pals in the General Assembly said “Get rid of it”.

I don’t remember all the talk about computer-based assessments as a best path forward.  How about those who attended a lot of these meetings?  Do you remember that?  And I’m sorry.  I don’t know Equetta Jones at all aside from a public comment she gave at a Red Clay board meeting.  But the “parent” representative was picked by Governor Markell and she showed up to one meeting, the first one.  I don’t know her circumstances, but if she was unable to commit to being on the committee, she should have resigned.  All that time was wasted when a parent (who is not also a teacher) could have been giving worthwhile feedback.  State Rep. Kim Williams noted in public comment at one of the meetings that she reached out to the Delaware DOE about this without any response.  Once again, parents were completely shut out as if our opinions don’t matter at all.  The usual kick in the back by those who know best.

Here is the final report folks.  I predicted months ago nothing of great importance would come of it.  It was a distraction, pure and simple.

Amy, Skyline, Bomb Threats, Bus Issues, Fighting, Bullying, Inclusion, Zero Tolerance: How Do We Fix The Mess?

In the wake of what happened at Howard High School of Technology a week ago, many are questioning how to fix what is happening in our schools.  There are no easy answers.  I have not heard anyone defending the perpetrators of Amy’s murder.  But I have seen people describe students who exhibit behavior issues referred to as “animals” and “they should be sent to labor camps”.  While this is an extreme, I’ve heard these types of comments more than once, and I hear it more and more.  Once we go down that path we are essentially labeling these students as helpless and stating there is nothing we can do to help them.  And let’s face facts: when people say this there is a very racist undertone and they are referring to African-Americans.  I don’t agree with it on any level and every time I see it I want to ship the people who would say things like that out of our state.

Just this school year we have seen the following: a charter school that closed mid-year due to an uncontrollable environment, a change in feeder patterns resulting in many instances of bullying at a Red Clay middle school, a bizarre number of bomb threats resulting in many schools closing for the day, a child intimidated by a bus driver in Appoquinimink, a father suing Brandywine over what he alleges are due process violations and unsubstantiated searches, students sent to hospitals as a result of fighting that are never publicly acknowledged but whispered about on social media, inclusion practices that are not working, and a student who died from a brutal assault last week at Howard.

As our state grapples with these issues, we have not seen solutions put forth that look at the big picture.  Why are our students acting out?  Why are many of our schools attempting to hide many of these issues?  I have attended many State Board of Education meetings this year and I listen to their audio recordings.  We don’t hear them discussing these kinds of issues too much, if at all.  They seem to be more concerned with student outcomes based on standardized tests, Pathways programs, charter schools, accountability for schools, and celebrating the good things in our schools while giving short shrift to the issues that truly impact school climate.

It starts there.  To get to the heart of issues like this, you have to start at the top and have it trickle down to the Superintendents or Heads of School, to the building administrators, to the teachers, to the students and to the community.  If we have that massive disconnect at the top, the issues can never truly be addressed.  If our State Board and legislators can’t get these matters fixed, how can we expect our schools to do so?

To adequately blame one thing that started a lot of this, we can blame zero tolerance.  After the Columbine shootings in 1999, a massive wave of zero tolerance spread throughout America.  No school wanted to have a situation like that on their hands.  Students would be suspended for frivolous things.  It got to a point in Delaware where an African-American first grader was expelled in the Christina School District for having a cake knife.  As a result of that one bad judgment call, a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resulted in the district entering an agreement with the OCR.  Because the OCR ruled too many minority student suspensions were happening, the district had to be very careful about how they were meting punishment to students.  Other districts saw what happened to Christina and didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

As a result, there was no consistency throughout the state on best practices.  For all the accountability and “standardization” of students based on very flawed state assessments, there has never been any definitive set of standards for school discipline and school climate.  There is no consistency with how schools report instances of bullying, offensive touching, and fighting.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn pointed this out many times but there has been no direct accountability to schools over these issues.  Part of the problem with discipline issues is the unique nature of them.  Because of student privacy and FERPA regulations, many situations can’t be discussed publicly.  There is no accurate tracking method to make sure our schools are recording these instances on the state reporting system, E-school, as required by state law within a set time period.  The result is very bad data in the one area we actually need it the most.  Add in special education issues and behaviors exhibited by students with disabilities.  Is it a result of their disability or is it everyday behavior?  Sometimes we just don’t know.

Some schools are very faithful with recording issues, but far too many aren’t.  How do we know which schools need help with issues if they aren’t being 100% honest about what is going on in their halls?  What shape would that help even be?  If it is a punitive measure from the state, is that going to solve the problem or persuade schools to hide things better?  Non-profits and corporations are lining up to get into our schools to offer what amounts to for-profit assistance.  Under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a call for companies to come into our schools like never before to offer after-school programs and to turn our schools into all-day community centers.  As well, we are seeing some states allowing companies to essentially bet on student outcomes in return for financial profit through social impact bonds.  Many of these ideas are concerning to parents.  Should schools be a place where medical and therapeutic treatment for students occur?  For neglected and abused children, this could be a life-saving measure for those children.  But it also opens up more of our public education system to less control at the local level.  Many feel government should not even be allowed to write something like this into any law.  The Elementary/Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was designed to make sure minority students were given equal footing in schools and were not disadvantaged.  Written in 1965, its goal was actually simple: equal rights for all.  Fifty years later, we are still tackling many of the original issues.  But now we want to turn our schools into more than what they should be.

As far as this insane filming of fights in our schools, it is a new environment with no oversight.  Students want to become social media famous because people come to their profile to look at it.  Something needs to happen immediately.  It is fostering an environment that is not healthy and desensitizes kids to violence.  Even community Facebook pages that have nothing but street fights on them exist unchecked and unmonitored.  In some of these videos, you actually see people telling others how to evade the police and they give warnings when the police are in the area.  For some reason, students are fascinated by this.  But the effect is chilling.  As well, the role of technology in our schools and homes is greater than ever.  But why are we allowing students to carry iPhones around school?  How much of the violence from gaming is warping young minds?  For that matter, what is all this screen time doing to all our brains?

If Amy’s tragic death has shown us anything it is that something is very broken.  We have to fix it, no matter what.  Amy’s situation is by far the worst thing that could happen to a student in school.  But many students bare physical and emotional scars from this broken system.  They are the survivors of fights and bullying that cause trauma to the soul, if not the physical.  On the flip side, we have students like Patrick Wahl’s son Joseph who many view as a victim of very bizarre due process circumstances for a district that still follows zero tolerance tendencies.  There are good things happening in our schools.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  We see students participating in charity events and giving back to their community on many levels.  But that can’t be all the public sees.  We have to look at the bad too.  We can’t put a blanket over the violence in our schools and pretend it isn’t there.  Amy’s death shattered that illusion in our state.

In the shadow of all this is the other illusion the state has cast on parents.  Many parents judge schools based on their performance without realizing the measurement of that performance is fundamentally flawed.  To get a basic breakdown of how this works, many years ago corporations decided they could make money off education.  They tailored reports to give the illusion that “the sky is falling” and all students were in danger of falling behind other countries.  Politicians jumped on the bandwagon through concerted lobbying efforts on the part of these companies, and soon enough new laws came down from a federal level based on student outcomes from standardized tests.  No Child Left Behind opened the door but Race To The Top opened the floodgates for this corporate invasion.  As schools were labeled and shamed under “school turnaround” laws, the US DOE started their ESEA flexibility waiver scheme.  They bribed schools with money to further these agendas.  Our schools and districts took the money with immense pressure from state governments during a recession.  A dramatic shift in school climate happened.  As more and more teachers took part in professional development to train them on the Common Core and other company initiatives, something happened to students.  They were not supervised the way they were prior to all of this and they found new ways to usurp authority, especially in schools with large populations of high-needs students.  Add in the situation with the OCR in Christina, and it was a recipe for disaster.  Diane Ravitch wrote today about the fifteen years of “fake” reform and how the impetus behind it all, NAEP scores, show students who are now seniors more behind than they were compared to their counterparts in 1992.  Common Core doesn’t work.

What if what we are seeing with student behavior and the reasons behind it are all wrong?  What if those who come from poverty, special needs, and low-income minority populations isn’t just misbehavior but something else altogether?  What if it is a direct result of a system designed for conformity?  The supposed goal of the Common Core was to make all students get the same set of standards across the country.  I hear many consistent things from parents in Delaware.  For smarter kids, Common Core isn’t so tough once they get it.  But for struggling students, basically the ones from sub-groups that perform poorly on state assessments, it is much more difficult.  Perhaps what we are seeing with this absolute disregard of authority in schools is a natural defense mechanism kicking in.  A fight or flight mechanism when their way of living, of being, is attacked.  The natural instinct for teenagers is to rebel.  Compound that with an entire education system designed to make students question authority less and use “critical thinking” based on standards that actually give children less choices, and something will give.  We are seeing this now.  And if we continue on the same track, it will get far worse.  If a “smart” student gets it faster, it would naturally put other students behind.  This is the impossible bar the Common Core puts on students.  For the intelligent who come from wealthier and more cohesive home environments, this isn’t a problem.  But for students with disabilities who cannot always control their actions and minority students who do not have the environmental stability their more advantaged peers have, it will take a great deal of effort to catch up with their peers.  Add in the stress and anxiety they have from their environment outside of school to the pressure to perform in school, and the pressure gage gets higher.  Then add the explosive need every teenager has, to belong and have friends, and the gage gets closer to the point of no return.  Throw in a fixation on violence mixed with wanting to be accepted and the Pompeii of public education is set.  Last week we saw the volcanic eruption of rage unchecked and bystanders filming it and doing nothing.

The biggest victims of the education reform movement are inner-city African-American students.  While civil rights groups demanded more equity for these students they fell into the trap the corporate education reformers methodically laid out for them with financial enticements.  The reformers echoed their complaints and pitted parents against teachers.  The reformers used standardized test scores to give a false impression of schools and invented a whole new language based on the word “gap”: the equity gap, the proficiency gap, the honesty gap, and on and on and on.  Add in school choice, a growing charter school movement, forced busing based on a horrible Neighborhood Schools Act in Delaware, and the rise of Jack Markell as Governor wrapped in a corporate bow and the perfect storm began in our schools.

To ignore the plight of African-Americans in Delaware would be a gross injustice.  It goes way beyond apologizing for slavery.  A friend of mine sent me an article about the 1968 Occupation of Wilmington.  The article written by Will Bunch with philly.com talked about the nine-month Occupation of Wilmington by the National Guard following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  For the African-American community in Wilmington at the time, this was a grave injustice:

On the other hand, in a sign of some of the deep divide and mistrust in Delaware that lingers to this day, the white Democratic governor down in Dover decided to send in the National Guard – and then kept troops on the streets of Wilmington for nine long months, the longest military occupation of a U.S. city since the Civil War.

And this quote from former Wilmington Mayor James Baker:

But the memory still burns for those who lived through the occupation. “It sent a shock wave through the social-service agencies . . . and the city as a whole,” Baker recalled. “People said, ‘What are we doing?’ “

Many African-American communities in Wilmington are very distrustful of the government, and for very good reasons.  This belief gets handed down from generation to generation.  But when drugs enter a city like Wilmington, followed by violence and murders, that distrust can get out of control.  How do we tackle this?  How do we lift a whole city out of a problem of this magnitude?  When my friend sent me this article, it was a response to my question about why we don’t just send in tons of cops and clean it all up, all the drugs and gangs.  She informed me the last time this happened it didn’t work out too well.  It astonishes me that we are still dealing with issues of race in the 21st Century, but we are and we need to face it and deal with it, all of us.  But at the same time, we cannot ignore what individuals are doing in individual circumstances.

We need to be very careful on how we plan to deal with the situations in far too many of our schools.  Far too much is tied into the very bad education reforms that show, time and time again, how it just doesn’t work.  But our current system has been infiltrated with far too many people tied to these efforts.  I expected to see a late rush of legislation coming forth at Legislative Hall in the final days of June.  With very little community input and transparency, we need to watch our legislators like a hawk and make sure what they put forth is best for students and not the broken system some of them are trying desperately to make permanent.  The funding mechanisms for our schools are under the microscope, but if we squeeze the property assessment orange too fast, it could cause many to leave the state they moved to because of low taxes.  As well, we need to be mindful of laws Delaware could pass in anticipation of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The law is still being flushed out in a lot of areas and the DOE and Governor Markell WILL take full advantage of that to please the hedge funders and corporations.

If businesses want to come into our schools and turn them into community schools, they should pay rent to our schools.  If they want to turn education into a marketplace, like any other store they need to pay their rent.  Why are we giving them a free ride while they make millions and millions and our districts get less?  It makes no sense when you look at it like a business model.  But no, our state wants to give them tax discounts for doing business in our state.  We are giving them free reign to pump out the same products over and over again with no actual results.

While these aren’t the solutions we need to make our schools safer, it is a big start.  Our district administrators are far too distracted with all of the nonsense around Common Core, state assessments, personalized learning, and career pathways when they should be focused on the more important things.  The first steps to ending violence in our schools are actually quite simple.  A rebellion like none seen before in public education.  A collective and concerted effort to rid ourselves of the catalysts that are stroking the flames in our children’s lives.  End Common Core.  End state assessments.  End the testing accountability machine that destroys morale in students, teachers, and schools.  End the corporate interference in education that perpetuates the false ideals that if students have more “rigor” and “grit” they can become college and career ready.  We are indoctrinating children at a very young age to be something they are not meant to be.  The human mind won’t allow it.  Some will conform.  But for the growing poor and disabled in our country, they will not be what the reformers want them to be.  You can’t guide a four-year old towards a certain career path based on data and scores.  You can’t say they don’t qualify for special education if a disability has not manifested itself yet.  End the abhorrent amount of data collection on our students for “educational research”.

This is the start.  Let’s get back to more human education.  Why are we doing this to our future?  No child should be a victim of a padded resume or a fattened wallet.  The majority of teachers will tell you privately what we are doing is not working.  Administrators will as well if you catch them on a good day.  But they feel threatened that if they don’t comply their profession will disappear.  They will fight for certain things but when they need to openly rebel against the system, it doesn’t happen.  It is their self-defense mechanism.  The closest we have come to ending this era of education reform is opt out.  But even that is in danger of disappearing if the education tech invaders get their way and have the state assessment embedded in small chunks instead of a once a year test.  The personalized learning and competency-based education models are already calling for this.

When I hear people say “all you do is complain, what are your solutions?”, I cringe.  The problem is so epic in scope, so large in diameter, that it will take a great deal of effort by many well-meaning people to find all the answers.  And when I say well-meaning, I don’t mean the Rodel Foundation or the Governor.  I mean the people who are not affected by corporate greed and a lust for power.  I’m talking about the people who truly want to save our children.

Opt Out: “The Data We’re Receiving Would Look Like Swiss Cheese”, The Easter Egg At A Congressional Hearing On Student Privacy

On Tuesday, the Education and Workforce Committee held a Congressional hearing called “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students”.  With one parent advocate, one data guy from the Georgia Department of Education, and two corporate schills (yes, there were two, more on that one later).  The hearing was stacked with U.S. Representatives who are, shall we say, sympathetic to the data-testing regime.  We all know the type!

If you looked at the witness list for who was giving testimony at this hearing on the EdWorkforce website, you can see who they were:

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So who are these people?  Rachael Strickland is the co-founder and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.  Neil Campbell is the Policy Director for Next Generation Reforms at the Foundation for Excellence in Education (Jeb Bush’s company).  Jane Hannaway is with the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.  Robert Swiggum is the Deputy Superintendent for the Georgia Department of Education.  But one of these four has another job, which the Education and Workforce Committee did not include on their website.  During the hearing, this person’s other job wasn’t even discussed at all.  But it is a whopper.  So which one was it?

The day before the hearing, I received an email from the EdWorkforce Committee notifying me of the hearing.  They had the exact same witnesses in the email, but one of them has a different job:

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Take a good look at Dr. Jane Hannaway… Institute Fellow, American Institutes for Research.  Also known as AIR, this is the company that was instrumental in creating the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They are my state’s vendor for Smarter Balanced.  They are all over the place.  Now why would the United States Education and Workforce Committee not mention that glaring fact at all?  Why would they not include it on their website and have the witness, sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not mention this at all?  In fact non-Government employees are required to fill out a “Truth In Testimony” form prior to any Congressional hearing.  Ms. Strickland and Mr. Campbell both listed their affiliated sources, but Ms. Hannaway didn’t list any organizations.  Even though she wrote about her affiliation with AIR in her testimony, it wasn’t spoken out loud.

There are some key points I want to highlight from Hannaway’s testimony, with my thoughts in red:

Almost every state has developed an individual student level longitudinal administrative data system. These data systems have substantive and technical research advantages, as well as efficiency virtues.

Substantive, technical, and efficiency virtues: Can we say cha-ching?  Show me the money?

Because the data are existing working files – created, maintained and used by the state for administrative purposes – they are readily available for approved research purposes.

I have no doubt the states are making these “readily available”.  And I’m sure they pay a pretty penny to make it so!

Having data already in hand means the turnaround time for getting feedback on the results of new policies is short, allowing informed decision making about whether to discontinue, modify or continue particular policies and practices. Indeed, some decisions of interest can be made almost in real time.

Decision making, policies, practices: This lady is combing through your child’s data.  She doesn’t at a government agency, but I’m sure she does work for government agencies.  How are these corporations setting policy?  Very frightening…

The files include data on all students and all teachers in the state over a number of years. So data on students of interest for a particular intervention or for a particular study, say 8th graders, or high performing students, or disadvantaged students can be easily selected.

“A particular intervention”… sounds like something every parent should worry about.  Note the word “all”: all teachers, all students.  They have it set up so they can “shop” through the data for any possible category they want.  I didn’t underline this for emphasis.  It was underlined in her testimony.

Indeed, because teachers can be linked in the data to their students and students’ test scores, teachers can also be compared in terms of their performance. Indeed, some of the most important finding from studies using longitudinal data have focused on teacher effectiveness.

Because that data has given us so many unreasonable conclusions, I find that data inconclusive.  And yet, here is Hannaway continuing to use the biggest fallacy of our time…

For example, regression discontinuity designs can assess the effect of, say, receiving an award on subsequent behavior by comparing results for students just above and below the performance award threshold.

In other words, they set the “performance award threshold”, aka, the high-stakes standardized test scores, based on a point where there would always be some above or below the threshold.  We will NEVER have maximum proficiency.

The advantages in terms of policy insights of individual education data are also substantially expanded when linked to later individual measures in areas beyond education, such as labor market (employment and earnings), justice and health outcomes.

Basically, she is saying we are going to use this data to track and catalog every individual student and determine your outcome for you based on high-stakes standardized testing data.

The state anonymizes the data before researchers receive them. Each student is assigned a state-constructed unique student id (USI) that is used by researchers to link data for each student across years and schools.

So instead of giving a name and social security number, I’ll call this the number of the beast scenario.  For “each student”… has anyone read “Revelations” recently?

Hannaway said, when asked about opt out and what it does to the data: “The data we’re receiving would look like Swiss cheese.”  She couldn’t have said it any better!  If you never had a reason to opt your child out before, know that your child’s “unique” number of the beast, assigned by your state, is given to all education agencies who ask for it from your state.  They base conclusions and policy and decisions, which become laws, based on that crappy test your child takes once a year.  Do your child a favor: make some Swiss cheese for companies like American Institutes for Research.  It is the ONLY way this nonsense will ever stop!  We need MORE Swiss Cheese!

To watch the full video, watch below.  The hearing doesn’t begin until the 6:37 mark.

Campbell looks really nervous at several points during this hearing.  He keeps wringing his hands.  Is that because he is afraid of what will come out or guilt?  Or is he generally a nervous guy?

I love how Swiggum says that states own the data.  Really?  Does the Delaware DOE “own” the data on my child?  His academic performance, social-emotional behavior, all that… they “own” it?  I don’t think so.  If they own it, they should take better care of it!

US DOE Directing All States To Make All Assessments The Way They Want Them

The United States Department of Education issued non-regulatory guidance on Assessment Review on September 25th, 2015.  This was a couple weeks before President Obama and Soon-To-Be-Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s public announcement for states to limit testing and to have no more than 2% of classroom going towards assessments.  Many have predicted this is just another attempt to get rid of district assessments that give clear and meaningful data for students, parents, and teachers.  We don’t want our students actually figuring out how to improve quickly when we have all those great state assessments like Smarter Balanced and PARCC that will give us results after kids go onto the next grade, right?

The full document from the US DOE is non-regulatory guidance but considered a “significant guidance document”, whatever the hell that means…  When the US DOE issues guidance that is non-regulatory, that means it has not been Congressionally approved by both Houses in the US Congress.  Which is how the US DOE likes to operate, without legislative approval…