President Obama Signs Every Student Succeeds Act, How Will Delaware DOE & Markell Respond?

It is now official! President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act today after the US Senate passed it yesterday.  No Child Left Behind is dead.  Welcome to a new era.  While there is certainly more flexibility in this bill, it almost seems as though Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE have been carefully setting things up in anticipation of what was in the final bill.  Which makes me wonder how much was known to Governors and state DOEs ahead of time.  And I’m talking years ahead of time.

We have a bizarre new charter school Race To The Top embedded in here, which will cause a feeding frenzy in Delaware once the charter “moratorium” is lifted.  And if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission plan for the redistricting in Wilmington, look for Red Clay’s board to be very busy with new charter applications in the coming years.

For teachers, they got some leeway on evaluations stemming from standardized test scores, but the perks for teacher prep programs like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School will make sure we see an increase in this practice in Delaware.

Standardized testing is still here, and unless the General Assembly votes to get rid of Smarter Balanced (which they should), we are stuck with it for the next five years.  Which means we are also stuck with Common Core as well, even though the ESSA gives states leeway on making their own state standards (but they still have to be approved by the US Secretary of Education).  Students in 3rd to 8th grade still have to be “standardized” with the state assessment, and once in high school.  For opt-out, the bill states it is up to the states to handle it.  The House Bill 50 veto by Markell can’t happen fast enough.

I will be going into this legislation more in-depth in the coming weeks and picking it apart, piece by piece.  I started to do that, but a lot happened between now and then.  Fighting it took up a lot of time, but even though it passed, more folks are aware of what is going on because of the fight, so it was worth it.

News Journal Gives False Impression Of Every Student Succeeds Act

The Delaware News Journal’s Jon Offredo wrote an article about the United States House of Representatives passage of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and how in a rare moment of consensus, most stakeholders in education agree on the legislation.  Citing the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA), the Delaware PTA, New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt, and Governor Markell in the article is not a completely accurate picture of consensus.  Many in Delaware feel the bill, while giving states more authority in education, opens the door to all sorts of new problems.  But the News Journal didn’t reach out to anyone else who could have offered a negative opinion of this bill.

States, districts and parents decried a one-size fits all education policy and many of the goals, including one that mandated every student to reach a proficiency on tests by 2015, were not met.

Since then, Congress has been unable to come up with a better education law so the Obama Administration has issued waivers to states exempting them from the requirement. The waivers mean states won’t lose federal money.

It is those very waivers that have allowed the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell to steer Delaware education towards a disastrous path since Markell took reign in January of 2009.  It is my contention Congress refused to act on reauthorizing this bill due to immense pressure from corporate education reform lobbyists who got exactly what they wanted with the ESEA Flexibility Waivers and with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Perhaps the biggest cheerleader for ESSA is Governor Markell, because he got to keep his precious standardized testing…

“The Every Student Succeeds Act preserves some of the most important elements of our existing system, including annual testing requirements in 3rd-8th grade and in high school, which ensure that every student counts,” the statement said. “We would have liked to see stronger requirements for timely intervention in schools where students are struggling, but overall, the Every Student Succeeds Act is an important step forward that will give states more flexibility to meet their students’ needs.”

What I worry about this is states like Delaware who lead the corporate education reform movement.  Every move Markell made in the past ten plus years has been towards the goals of companies who thrive on “fixing” education.  In giving states more authority in education, states who already abuse that power are ripe to continue  DSEA, along with their national counterpart, the NEA, has trumpeted the ESSA as a great bill because it does not have as big an impact on teachers in terms of evaluations.

Many people are very concerned about the huge pot of money available for new charter schools which will result in a sort of “Race To The Top” for new charter schools.  Others are concerned about the consequences “community schools” and services can have on parental decisions and rights.  Technology and personalized learning are touched on in this bill but in a way that gives the controversial practice a wide berth in the future.  Standardized testing is still here, and Common Core is so embedded in education now that it would be very difficult to just do away with it as the bill allows.

The only parent voice in this article belonged to Dr. Terri Hodges with the Delaware PTA who wisely stated she is “cautiously optimistic” about the ESSA.  The News Journal rarely goes out to ask everyday parents who don’t belong to some organization about their thoughts on education matters.  Not one Delaware legislator commented on this article.  But if it is something Rodel or Vision Coalition related, the News Journal goes out of their way to write huge articles and allow multiple letters to the editor on what those groups promote.  Many understand this is because those groups and those of the Delaware Business Roundtable provide a lot of advertising dollars for the News Journal.  As a result, many folks in Delaware have lost respect for the newspaper based on this and other biases.