Red Clay Superintendent Merv Daugherty Hints Governor Jack Markell May Not Veto Parent Opt-Out Bill

Will Delaware Governor Jack Markell veto House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation in Delaware that passed the House of Representatives and Senate in the First State in June?  According to Red Clay Consolidated School District Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, indications are pointing to him not vetoing the controversial bill.  At their board meeting on Wednesday July 8th, Daugherty said the district is preparing for the legislation to take place later in the summer.  He indicated the district may have to notify parents in both September and in the Winter so they are given the options at the start of the school year and prior to the next round of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Weeks later, and Markell has not even asked for House Bill 50 to be brought to his desk.  Once he does that, if he fails to do anything with the legislation, it passes into law in ten days.  The opt-out legislation would stop Delaware schools and the Delaware Department of Education from bullying and intimidating parents when they decide to opt their child out of the high-stakes assessment.  As well, it would stop the opt-out students from counting in the school’s accountability rating and would not count against teachers in their evaluations.  Sponsored by State Rep. John Kowalko, a Democrat, and State Senator Dave Lawson, a Republican, the legislation had a five month battle in many areas of Delaware: schools, Legislative Hall, the DOE, the Governor’s office, homes, and on social and print media.

In New York, New Jersey, and the state of Washington, many opt-outs went far below the 95% Federal threshold for test participation.  Threats of federal funding cuts have been just that: empty threats.  Despite all the posturing and bullying by both the US DOE and the Delaware DOE, no school has received funding cuts due to opt-out by parents.  While the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores haven’t been released yet in Delaware, it looks like high school juniors may have gone below the 95% mark.

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Gets ESEA Flex Waiver Approved By US DOE

This was just announced by the Delaware Department of Education.  The good news is teacher and principal evaluations will get another “skip” year from the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The bad news, the feds really want the state to implement more priority, focus and reward schools in 2016-2017 based on the DOE’s new accountability system with grading schools.  I told you nine months ago this was coming…and here it is…

Below is the press announcement from the Delaware DOE:

Delaware receives federal approval for ESEA flexibility renewal

 The U.S. Department of Education today approved Delaware’s request for another year of flexibility from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Acting Assistant Secretary Heather Rieman said ESEA flexibility has helped “Delaware to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement …With this renewal, Delaware will be able to continue implementing its plan to promote innovative, locally tailored strategies to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.”

Delaware is eligible for flexibility approval through the 2017-18 school year after submission of more information this fall.

With the flexibility approval, which Delaware first received in the 2011-2012 academic year, schools no longer are subject to some restrictive requirements of ESEA. Schools and districts also gain the ability to refocus some funding, such as money formerly required for choice and supplemental education services, for the specific supports that best meet their students’ needs.

 Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said he appreciates the U.S. Department of Education’s support for the work underway in our state.

“We are proud of the progress our schools are making and that more children graduating from our system ready for college and careers. This flexibility will allow our educators to continue to make the decisions that are best for their children,” he said.

Find more information here.

Alison May
(302) 735-4000

This is exactly why the ESEA reauthorization needs to get rid of this label and punish mentality.  If schools constantly feel under threat, that is intimidation.  “Do things our way, or else…”  They are nothing but a bunch of bullies…

Vast Majority Of Delaware School Administrators Have No Confidence In Delaware DOE

 “We believe this lack of confidence is due to a failure to engage the education community in a shared decision-making process and the failure of the leadership of the Department to implement reform without creating trust.” -Kevin Carson, Executive Director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators (DASA)

In a Delaware News Journal article published last night, nine out of ten Delaware school administrators that voted on a survey showed no confidence in the Delaware Department of Education.  They join the Delaware State Educators Association and their local chapters in the Christina and Red Clay school districts, the Delaware PTA in regards to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, several legislators, and several parents in the state.

The DOE responded to the survey in a statement by their spokeswoman, Alison May:

“If we had to choose between making extraordinary progress together and avoiding controversy, we would choose progress for our students every time.”

It is the very nature of this progress that is the rudimentary question these days.  Many folks in Delaware do not see standardized assessments as a true measure of progress for students.  With the roll-out of Smarter Balanced this year, this feeling has only intensified as the test has not been validated nor does it offer an actual growth model.

As well, the DOE seems to thrive on controversy these days and are not engaging in true stakeholder input.  Perhaps they are just putting on a tin shell to defend themselves from all the potshots that are lobbed their way with statements like these, but it certainly doesn’t help their cause.

Another strong indictment against the DOE by DASA is the fact that the DOE has “flawed systems for evaluating teachers and schools and has stumbled to find a better way to pay educators,” according to the article written by Matthew Albright.

Relations between the DOE and the most essential stakeholders in the state have deteriorated to an all-time low.   When the most important groups in education have NO confidence in the rigorous work you are doing, at what point do the light bulbs finally turn on?  Will the entire state have to endure Secretary Mark Murphy until Governor Markell leaves office?

Jill Shilling’s Letter To The Senate Education Committee Should Open Many Eyes!!! Incredible!

Jill Shilling hit a grand slam home run with her letter to the Senate Education Committee!  Keep ’em coming Delaware!


The Inner City Teacher Vs. DE State Rep. Earl Jaques

A couple days before the Delaware House vote on House Bill 50, State Rep. Earl Jaques sent email responses to many parents, teachers and citizens of Delaware.  One of them wished to go public with it to show an example of the crystal clear propaganda some of our legislators have been fed by either the Delaware DOE, lobbyists, or both.  She responded to each one of Jaques comments very effectively.  I firmly believe at this point the Delaware DOE and their corporate interests, all protected under the umbrella of Governor Markell, will say and do anything to keep their agendas from falling apart.

Jaques Claim 1:

“If not enough students take the Smarter Balance test then we would not be able to use the data to effectively place resources where they are needed the most. Such as the “inner city” and poverty areas across our state.”

Inner City Teacher Response to Claim 1:

You don’t need the Smarter Balanced Assessment in order to “use the data to effectively place resources where they are needed the most.” You already have that data in the School Profiles page of the Delaware Dept. of Education website. Choose a district, choose a school then, look at the “Other Student Characteristics” section. Here, you can see the percentage of low-income students and the percentage of Special Education students. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the trend in this country: the lowest performing schools are the ones with the higher percentages of low-income and special needs students.


Jaques Claim 2:

“House Bill 50 doesn’t give parents the right to Opt Out. That is given to all parents under the US Constitution. That is why parents have been Opting Out for weeks and HB 50 isn’t even a law!”

Inner City Teacher Response to Claim 2:

You are correct in saying that the U.S. Constitution gives parents that right. However, right now, parents are receiving letters from districts across the state stating that this is not the case.

An example from the Christina School District can be found here on this webpage:

**Editor’s note, Christina School District’s Board of Education passed a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt out in their March 2015 board meeting**

Jaques Claim 3:

“HB 50 also takes away from local control and if HB 50 passes it could result in our state losing 40 million in Education funding. I don’t know whether that will happen or not, but can we really take that chance? What would will do then – take more resources away from the “inner city”?”

Inner City Teacher Response to Claim 3:

You should probably read the budget reports for RTTT spending. Most of the money was spent on unnecessary DEDOE positions with inflated salaries and contractual services with huge corporations like Wireless Generation/Amplify to provide useless data coaches to districts.

Here is the budget report:

Jaques banter 1:

“Would you be willing to have your taxes raised to make up the difference?”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques banter 1:

Yes. Actually, my husband and I are planning a move to Texas for the sole reason of sending our 5-year-old daughter to a school with sufficient resources. Our Delaware taxes for our area are in the 3k range. In Texas, they will be in the 8k range. However, having both been educated in the Catholic school system with little to no resources, we both understand that education begins with parents at home. Families who value education and participate in it have children who behave well in school and do well academically. Did you not read the research article I sent to you.

Here is the link, again:

Jaques banter 2:

“Finally, Representative Bolden is an outstanding member of the House Education Committee! Her insight as a former teacher is counted on by each and every member and especially me!”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques banter 2:

I don’t disagree with you there. As I stated in my email, I worked in schools in Louisiana with 96% poverty rates for 7 years… the very first 7 years of my teaching career! I am unsure of when Ms. Bolden retired, but if she has been far-removed from teaching in a classroom (within the last 10 years), then she is just as far-removed from the realities occurring in today’s schools. Or, perhaps, and I hope this IS NOT the case… Someone is receiving kickbacks from corrupt corporations or politicians to push their agendas?

Jaques Claim 4:

“So why are teachers against Smarter Balance, because they are afraid that the test scores would be used as part of their evaluation. I agree they shouldn’t be used for that purpose.”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques Claim 4:

Thank you for agreeing that it is heinous to use such tests as part of a teacher’s evaluation system. However, have you polled teachers about why they are against the Smarter Balanced Assessment? I know that you did not poll me or any of my colleagues. Because if you had, we would tell you that we are against THIS PARTICULAR TEST for a variety of reasons.

Reasons Teachers are Opposed to SBAC:

1.) We have spent months wasting time by practicing how to take the test. For instance, instead of students doing more research for reports in the Computer Lab, we spent time on various sites trying to teach them how to type. Instead of learning useful skills from the curriculum, we practiced answering the different types of “trick” questions that this particular test poses.

2.) My colleagues and I just finished administering the ELA portion to our 5th graders. It took an ENTIRE week of us doing nothing but sitting at a computer and actively monitoring our students taking this test. On average, it took a student 6 hours to complete both the ELA CAT test and the ELA Performance Task combined. If a student finished early, we were only to allow them to read a book, stare into space, or sleep, per the agreement we signed. We haven’t even gotten to the Math portion, yet! (The amount of time it took for 5thgraders to complete these sections is MORE than the amount of time it takes for the SAT, LSAT, and MCAT tests!)

3.) Students have NO stake in the testing. They know this. Some decide that they will take it seriously. Others do not. How can you get any useful data from something that attributes NO accountability or responsibility to the person directly involved in taking it? One of my students finished answering 40+ questions on the ELA CAT test in FIVE MINUTES! During the ELA performance task, one of my students copied and pasted a sentence from the passage 1,000 times into a space where he/she was supposed to write a 3 paragraph essay! (This is why we don’t like scores tied to our evaluations.)

4.) Teachers DO NOT get to ever see these tests and how each student answered each of the particular questions. Therefore, we get NO USEFUL DATA from them. In fact, Pearson, American Institutes for Research, and Data Recognition Corporation hire temporary workers as scorers to grade these tests. Some of their ads ask for applicants to have at least 48 college credits. There is something seriously wrong when teachers aren’t allowed to see these tests, yet temporary workers with much less college experience making $10-$14 an hour are allowed to grade them! This is absurd! Essentially, these temporary scorers are responsible for grading not only the student’s work, but TEACHER, SCHOOL, and DISTRICT PERFORMANCE. This sounds like a minefield waiting to be populated by lawsuits, especially when redistricting or closing schools is involved.

Jaques Claim 5:

“Do you know that most of the “Teachers of the Year” support the Smarter Balance assessment.”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques Claim 5:

Wow! Really? May I please have their names so that I can speak with them personally? I know that the teachers-of-the-year, with whom I am blessed to be working, do not share this view. Also, Pearson (you know, the company who owns the Smarter Balanced Assessment) owns the Teacher-of-the-Year program. Isn’t that convenient.

Not surprisingly, after Courtney Fox, former Delaware Teacher-of-the-Year was exposed on the Exceptional Delaware blog (, the link to Pearson’s teacher-of-the-year site could no longer be accessed. Here is a link to the cached page:

Jaques Claim 6:

“I believe that the teachers who oppose the Smarter Balance assessment are doing it for a self serving purpose and not for helping children who live in poverty or inner city. Thanks!”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques Claim 6:

Hmmm… Some would think that legislators who oppose the voices of parents, teachers, students, and other constituents are doing *it* for a self-serving purpose (kickbacks, collusion, extortion, etc.)

Thank you for sharing your personal opinion on this. I will be certain to share it with the 12,000 teachers across Delaware. J

Exclusive: Governor Markell Letter To General Assembly, DOE Freaking Out Over Opt Out

Parents are opting out.  Teachers are crying foul.  Legislators are demanding accountability from the Delaware DOE.  Schools are overwhelmed.  Students are walking out of schools across the country.  We are in test overload as a country.  So what is the DOE, members of the 148th General Assembly, and Governor Markell’s response?  Ease the problems by taking away what is surrounding the Smarter Balanced Assessment but by all means keep the test intact.

So who is this “small group” of legislators who have had closed-door meetings with the Delaware DOE?  Why is there no transparency with these discussions with parents or other stakeholders aside from DSEA or the Delaware PTA?

This is what you are going to see: more “extensions” for teacher accountability, a push to decrease the other tests students get during the school year, downplaying the parent opt out movement by making the Smarter Balanced Assessment less than what it is, turn the movement into a political thing, and education leaders voicing objections to the objections as if they are speaking for everyone they represent when they are not.

This is becoming dirty politics in every sense of the word.  I imagine many closed-door conversations are occurring down at Legislative Hall without authority or transparency.  This is the Delaware Way.  When things get out of hand and the people actually speak out about something, let’s get dirty.

What makes this situation different though is parents are finally starting to see through the smoke and mirrors.  I told the legislature last week in an article that parents will hold them accountable, and the response has been less than stellar.  There are a handful trying to do the right thing for students, but the vast majority either won’t address it or the ones that do are making the situation worse.

Yesterday, we had State Rep. Jaques refer to Smarter Balanced as a “little test” in an attempt to diminish the impact.  This was quoted in an article about potentially getting rid of some of the other tests for students which give actual useful data and in a timely manner.  Donna Johnson, executive director with the State Board of Education echoed this sentiment overtly at the Delaware PTA Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall last night.  Now we have this article from WHYY/Newsworks: with this direct quote from the President of the Delaware Educators Association:

“Jenner said she’d support tying test scores to teacher evaluations beginning in the 2016-17 school year.”

But not so fast, Jenner is denying on Twitter that this was the context of what she said.

In everything I’ve heard from numerous members of DSEA and the various education associations with each district, they did not support this, and overwhelmingly were against Component V in the DPAS II teacher evaluation system.  In Delaware DOE surveys given to teachers last year, they consistently said they lack faith in the systems as they are.  In fact, DSEA voted on a moratorium on Component V.

State rep. John Kowalko said in a conversation with Exceptional Delaware this afternoon,

“This is a Trojan horse, and DSEA members need to think twice before they approve a stall tactic designed to lessen the impact of an intrusive and damaging test to children.”

More details on this continuing story as they emerge…


How Did East Side, Prestige, Kuumba & Thomas Edison Get Out Of DPAS II? The Delaware Charter Collaborative

As I saw in the Family Foundations Academy Update Report submitted to the Delaware Department of Education for their formal review, four charter schools in Delaware are part of a consortium called the Delaware Charter Collaborative.  Because East Side, Prestige, Kuumba and Thomas Edison are so special, they get to skip the DPAS II and form their own teacher evaluation program.  And it looks like Family Foundations Academy will join the cabal since East Side took them over in a “consultation” agreement.  Can anyone tell me what makes the teachers in these schools so special?  First one to answer gets the Sunday No-Prize!  Check out the rubric below:

Which States In The USA Will Get Waivers Up Until 2018-2019?

Waiver.  Anyone who is against the corporate education reform hates this word.  I loathe it.  For all the good it could have done, it has instead been a symbol of the worst from the No Child Left Behind Act.  Certain states have received a lot of money and rewards for succumbing to the Arne Duncan machine.  The latest set of waivers, set to expire in the 2018-2019 academic year, are strongly tied to teacher evaluations.

Most states will be able to apply by late March, but seven states will be able to apply now because they have done such an awesome job screwing teachers over with the federally “suggested” evaluation program.  The states also have to show how they are doing in identifying “low performing” schools and how they are closing the achievement gaps for minorities, low-income, and students with disabilities.  Because making one size fit all when you are putting a circle in a square always works!  And we all know states would never identify these schools to fit their own purposes. Continue reading

DOE Contract Bid Docs For “Student Growth Model”, Teachers Will Want To Read This!!! @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @Roof_O @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

The document in the article below this one, about Penny Schwinn’s presentation to the Delaware Department of Education went over many topics, including a student growth model.  It talked about an RFP, which is an overview of what prospective vendors can look at to determine if they want to bid on the project.  I have located the RFP on the state contract page.  It is interesting with the wording for teacher evaluations….

President Obama Lawsuit For Education and Health Initiatives Prepared By Republican Senators #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @BadassTeachersA @DianeRavitch

It looks like the GOP Senators questioning the US DOE and Arne Duncan about major special education violations wasn’t the only item on their agenda.  Apparently, Republicans in D.C. who are upset about how Obama handled the health-care law are using other items President Obama has used in executive action, including education reform in a bid for a lawsuit against President Obama.  In particular, No Child Left Behind waivers and Race To The Top funding were cited as specific examples in their claims of abuse of executive powers.

The major issue concerns the Race To The Top funding, introduced in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The $4 billion funding directive was given to states who, the Republicans feel, were coerced into forming the Common Core State Standards.  As well, the issues of teacher evaluations based on the test scores of students who performed new standardized testing based on Common Core appear to be major issues with the GOP as well in D.C.  They argue this was not approved by the legislators of Congress or The Senate. 

A Republican House Representative from Minnesota, John Kline, stated “The proposal raises questions about the department’s legal authority to grant conditional waivers in exchange for reforms not authorized by Congress.” 

In a quote to the Associated Press on July 30th, 2014, House Representative John Sessions said “Branches of government have always attempted to exert their influences on the other branches. But the president has gone too far. Rather than faithfully executing the law as the Constitution requires, I believe the president has selectively enforced the law in some instances, ignored the law in other instances, and in a few cases unilaterally attempted to change the law altogether.” 

Since no lawsuit has been filed yet, it is unclear what implication this could have on current state Common Core and Standardized Testing initiatives.  Many education experts believe this could have an implication on mid-term elections as well as Congressional oversight over executive decision-making ability.  President Obama has staunchly supported his position of utilizing executive orders to improve education and health due to what he feels is an inept Congress.  The results of these actions by the GOP Senate could have long-lasting effects on the ability of the Obama administration, and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to grant waivers with pre-existing conditions not signed into law by Congress.

More information can be found on the original article on EdWeek’s website: