The Full, Unadulterated Email Chain Between The Delaware DOE And A Red Clay Teacher

Last Friday, I posted an article about a Red Clay teacher asking the Delaware Dept. of  Education for the student growth goals for their 2016-2017 evaluations.  The teacher who sent this to me sent it as screen shots.  Someone named “Penny” commented on the article last night suggesting that either myself or the teacher may have left out parts of the email chain in an attempt to make the Delaware DOE look bad.  This is what “Penny” wrote:

When you post emails as a way to inform your readers of what is occurring at DOE or via the general communication exchange from a teacher to personnel at DOE, it would be far more honest and a clearer picture if they were posted in entirety as opposed to cutting them down to exclude portions of one or an entire sections of the exchange. When portions of the email exchange are not included in your article, it is not fair to judge the response of the representative that you are shaming without either knowing or sharing all that was communicated. I am hoping that it was Mr. Fackenthall that failed to share the full exchange in its entirety rather than your deliberate omission of portions in order to taint a member of the DOE in order to make the response altered from what it stated. Taking it piecemeal and not in its fluid exchange changes the tone, content, and intent of the conversation by both parties. I hope there was no malice on your intent but rather you were misinformed and the full email exchange was not shared with you.

As I replied to the commenter this morning, the screen shots sent to me were very small, and I had to do some cutting and pasting of the emails to give the full picture for the original article.  As a result, the Red Clay teacher sent me the full email chain and I don’t see any changes to the content of the email whatsoever.  I hoped anyone reading the article would be able to follow the time-stamps on the emails.  But for clarity, here is the entire email chain:

 

From: Schneider Laura <Laura.Schneider@doe.k12.de.us>
Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 6:47 AM
To: “S. Fackenthall” <steven.fackenthall@redclay.k12.de.us>
Cc: Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US>, Brake Kelley <Kelley.Brake@doe.k12.de.us>
Subject: Re: 2016-2017 growth goals

Thank you for sharing.

Laura Schneider
Director, Educator Effectiveness

Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Branch
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901-3639


From: Fackenthall Steven
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 6:11:48 AM
To: Schneider Laura
Cc: Neubauer Jon; Brake Kelley
Subject: RE: 2016-2017 growth goals

Thank you.  I still don’t understand WHY our educators can’t know what the student targets are PRIOR to the meeting.  This information apparently is already known since you take the scores from last year to create the target. 

I’m hopeful that these targets are REASONABLE.  I think we fail to address the diverse populations and learning needs within our buildings.

From: Schneider Laura
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 10:02 AM
To: Fackenthall Steven <steven.fackenthall@redclay.k12.de.us>
Cc: Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US>; Brake Kelley <Kelley.Brake@doe.k12.de.us>
Subject: RE: 2016-2017 growth goals

Steven,

Jon sent you the rating targets, found in the DPAS-II Guide.  That is all you need.

Here is some additional info:

Group 1 Educators include any educator who instructs reading and/or mathematics for at least ten (10) students in grades four (4) through eight (8). The Student Improvement Component of DPAS-II for Group 1 Educators shall be comprised of one Measure A and one Measure B or C, weighted equally (50% for each).

· Measure A: Measure A will utilize student scores from the state assessment in ELA and Math. Growth targets are based on the state’s student growth model and are established by the Department of Education.

· Measure B or C: The second growth target is locally determined using a state-approved Measure B content assessment or Measure C growth goal.

The Delaware student growth model for Measure A measures student academic growth based on the state assessments in ELA and mathematics. The model uses a statistical growth model technique to identify the impact of an educator’s performance on student achievement, controlling for variables such as prior student knowledge and other student characteristics.  Measure A rating targets (found in the DPAS-II Guide for Teachers) needed for goal setting are as follows:

PLEASE NOTE:  Although individual student targets are not needed for the goal setting process, they will be made available to the field in October

Measure selection and goal target identification is based on professional conversation between the administrator and educator during conferencing. If agreement cannot be reached, administrators have final approval. Whenever possible, goal setting should include all students the educator instructs.

Please visit the Student Improvement Component policy document from the DOE website.

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/375/2016-17%20Component%20V%20Policy%20-%20FINAL.pdf

In addition, please take time to utilize our Goal Setting Resource Suite.

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/Page/2403

Laura Schneider

Director, Educator Effectiveness

Delaware Department of Education

Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Branch

401 Federal Street

Dover, DE 19901-3639

302-735-4262

laura.schneider@doe.k12.de.us

From: Fackenthall Steven
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 10:01 AM
To: Schneider Laura <Laura.Schneider@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US>; Brake Kelley <Kelley.Brake@doe.k12.de.us>
Subject: Re: 2016-2017 growth goals

Once again, how can educators create appropriate goals for their students without knowing what the targets are?

Sent from my iPad

On Sep 20, 2016, at 9:45 AM, Schneider Laura <Laura.Schneider@doe.k12.de.us> wrote:

Not sure if Jon got back to you yet, but the individual student targets will be made available to the field sometime in October.

Laura Schneider

Director, Educator Effectiveness

Delaware Department of Education

Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Branch

401 Federal Street

Dover, DE 19901-3639

302-735-4262

laura.schneider@doe.k12.de.us

From: Fackenthall Steven
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 7:58 AM
To: Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Cc: Schneider Laura <Laura.Schneider@doe.k12.de.us>; Brake Kelley <Kelley.Brake@doe.k12.de.us>
Subject: Re: 2016-2017 growth goals

Thank you, Jon. Will the targets be made public?

While the student targets aren’t needed, educators would probably want to know what they are ahead of time as to best decide their goals.

Thank you.

Steven Fackenthall

Sent from my iPad

On Sep 20, 2016, at 7:02 AM, Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US> wrote:

Steven-

Thank you for reaching out.

The individual student targets will be made available in early October.  However, you don’t need those for the goal setting process.

The rating targets have been established and can be found in the DPAS-II Guide (http://www.doe.k12.de.us/domain/375).  Below is a snapshot from the guid.

<image003.jpg>

Please let me know if you need additional clarification.

Jon

From: Fackenthall Steven
Sent: Monday, September 19, 2016 11:36 AM
To: Neubauer Jon <jon.neubauer@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Subject: 2016-2017 growth goals

Good morning Jon,

Can you refer me to the growth goals for SBAC ELA/Math this year?  

Thank you for your help.

Steven Fackenthall

How Can A Teacher Measure Goals For A Student When The DOE Hasn’t Provided The Actual Goals?

A Delaware teacher in the Red Clay Consolidated School District asked the Delaware Dept. of Education for the growth goals for Group 1 educators, which would be English/Language Arts and Math teachers.  Not an unreasonable question given that we are already a month into school.  It would be a pretty neat idea to have teachers measure goals based on the goals the DOE provides them.  Especially since this is a major part of their evaluation each year.  But in the below email exchange between Red Clay Teacher Steve Fackenthall and DOE Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit employees Laura Schneider and Jon Neubauer, something comes out.

doegoals1

doegoals3

 

 

doegoals2

doegoals4

I apologize for the squinty eyes some of you may have experienced looking at the pictures of these emails. I tried to make them bigger, but c’est la vie! But notice how the teacher had very specific concerns about the targets and the response from Schneider at the DOE? As a married man, if my wife came to me with a concern and I said “thanks for sharing”, she wouldn’t take it too well.  I know if my boss addressed something with me at work and I said “thanks for sharing” and walked away, that would NOT be good for me. So why is it that the DOE feels they can talk to teachers like that? I give the DOE a hard time…a lot. But it is this kind of exchange which lends that feeling of a lack of communication a great deal of credibility.  I understand the DOE is busy and they have a clear mandate for what their duties are.  But a bit of empathy and compassion goes a long way.

I know John Carney (should he be elected as Governor) wants to make the DOE less a compliance factory and more of a valued resource for educators.  If I were a DOE employee and I read the teacher’s concern, knowing Carney is probably going to be our next Governor (based on what others have written), I might think twice of giving a “thanks for sharing” response.  Something to the effect of “that is a valid concern.  Maybe we should talk about that” or “can you go into more detail?” would go a loooong way towards mending old wounds teachers feel.

Many teachers feel that the DOE gives off a superior attitude to teachers.  It shouldn’t be like that.  It should be a collaborative relationship.  The very nature of the teacher’s email shouldn’t even be a reality.  Those goals should be sent out before school starts so teachers can start preparing.  Targets are one thing, but actual student’s goals shouldn’t wait until over halfway into a marking period or well into a trimester (which some districts and charters have).  This is the number one complaint I hear about the Delaware DOE.  And I think the lack of transparency is connected to that attitude.  It gives off a vibe of “we will release information when we want to do it, not when YOU want it”.

I have seen many emails from the DOE that came from FOIA requests.  I have seen them totally dog teachers between each other.  I’ve seen a dismissive attitude when teachers or other district staff reach out to them for help.

The DOE is filled with a lot of caring and wonderful people who care about kids.  But the leaders and higher-ups need to look at the perception people have of them.  If not, we can expect more of the same no matter what John Carney or the next Governor plan.  I understand the DOE isn’t going to please everyone all the time.  They get their marching orders from the big boss (and it is not the Secretary no matter what you think).  This same thing does take place in some charters and districts.  Just because you have a loftier position does not mean you are better.  It means you have an opportunity to provide more answers and deal with employees and constituents (whether they are parents, teachers, anyone really) on an equal level.  You might get a bigger paycheck but it should always be about the end goal: helping kids.  And upsetting and frustrating teachers is not the way to go.  They are the front line in education.  I get that politics play a big part, but be human!  I’m sure this sounds hypocritical coming from me, but when I react it isn’t always pretty.  I get upset when I see this kind of thing.  I could have easily written a title like “DOE doesn’t give a crap about teachers” but it has become more than obvious that there is a severe disconnect happening in Delaware education.  This isn’t anything new.  But how can we set a new course if the old matters aren’t addressed or pointed out?  Sitting at the table and hashing it out is good if there is less baggage to deal with.  That baggage needs to be dealt with.

 

Reality Hits Delaware Teachers That SBAC Counts In Their Evaluations Now But Bigger Dangers Are On The Horizon…

Yesterday, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky sent a memo to all Delaware public school teachers.  This message reiterates existing Delaware law about Component V of the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system.  In other words, Smarter Balanced counts in teacher evaluations this year.

godowskymessage

It was supposed to “count” last year, but legislators from the 148th General Assembly persuaded the Delaware Department of Education to submit an ESEA flexibility waiver in 2015 to extend the exemption period another year.  The US Dept. of Education approved that request.  Beginning this year, for almost every single public school in the state, the highly controversial high-stakes test will be a major part of Component V.

House Bill 399 will start a pilot program in select Delaware schools where the teacher and the administrator can choose another type of assessment for Measure A of Component V, but the administrator has final say in the event of a deadlock.  Governor Markell is expected to sign the legislation in the coming weeks.

Back in the spring of 2015, at a Common Core for Common Ground event, Governor Markell unwisely told a room full of educators to be prepared because he was:

Giving you another year before consequences kick in.

That was before the US DOE approved the flex waiver.  In 2015, the Governor very condescendingly told WHYY/Newsworks:

We know that some people don’t agree with higher standards and accountability.

When those “higher standards” and “accountability” are rigged from the get-go, it is hard to take the Common Core loving Jack Markell seriously.  It is very convenient for Markell to be okay with Component V hitting teachers after he leaves office.  Just yet another example of our “education” Governor creating destruction and leaving it for others to clean up the mess.

In the meantime, the dynamic due of Senator Sokola and Atnre Alleyne all but assured House Bill 399 was morphed into something from the corporate education reform playbook when it passed the Delaware General Assembly on July 1st.  Sokola’s amendments added a student and parent survey to the pilot program which enraged teachers across the state.  Newark Charter School has these types of surveys and it is something the DOE has been planning for a lot longer than we think…

In June of 2014, Atnre Alleyne worked at the Delaware DOE in the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit under Chief Christopher Ruszkowski.  He contacted a company called Panorama Education Inc. since they administered surveys to schools in New Haven, Connecticut public schools.  They provided information to Alleyne showing what these parent and student surveys could look like in Delaware:

And here are examples of the surveys this company wrote:

Student Perception Surveys for 3rd-5th Grade Students:

Student Perception Surveys for 6th-12th Grade Students:

For those who may be wondering how I was able to uncover these documents, they came from a FOIA request a Delaware teacher received from the Delaware DOE over a year and a half ago.  While looking back at the emails in this FOIA a few weeks ago, I found this.  It didn’t mean a lot at the time I initially reviewed the FOIA material, but in context of the Sokola amendment added onto House Bill 399, it is huge.  As an exclusive bonus, here are the emails that allowed Ruszkowski, Alleyne, and Laura Schneider (still with the TLEU at the Delaware DOE) to begin looking at student surveys over two years ago:

panoramaemail1

panoramaemail2

panoramaemail3

panoramaemail4

panoramaemail5

The problem with any survey is how it is worded.  Surveys can very easily slant towards a very specific purpose.  There are a multitude of factors that can cause surveys to be tainted.  For students, there are many reasons why they could bash a teacher in a survey.  But Sokola and the DOE seem to want these surveys, along with parent surveys.  For what purpose?  I think we can all figure that one out: to label more teachers as ineffective in their path to destroy teacher unions.

For the Delaware DOE, they have already paid a very large chunk of money to Panorama this year.  What were the services Panorama provided for the DOE?  I can only imagine it was for the implementation of surveys into DPAS-II.  Note the date on the below picture.  This was before House Bill 399 had the Sokola amendment added to it.  Almost two months before…

panormadeonlinechkbook

I firmly believe the original intention of House Bill 399 was hijacked from the Delaware DOE and Senator Sokola even before it was introduced.  They knew exactly what the outcome of this bill would be.  I would almost prefer Governor Markell does not sign it because of the Sokola amendment and the potential damage this could do to the teaching profession in Delaware.

In terms of Atnre Alleye, he is a nice guy.  But I have serious “heartburn” as Senator Sokola frequently says, about his role as a founder of TeenSHARP and the work they do while he was an employee of the Delaware Department of Education.  I believe there was a clear conflict of interest.  While he did leave the DOE in February of this year, he was very involved with House Bill 399 and what became of it.

Going back as far as 2010, Alleyne’s motivations were very clear for what he wanted in education:

I don’t believe a company he co-founded should in any way benefit from policies he helped contribute to as an employee of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  There is a blurring of the lines so to speak.  In fact, when you look at Alleyne’s Twitter account, it is filled with love for corporate education reform companies.

For Delaware teachers, this year will be the true test for them on the absolute damage one high-stakes test will do to their careers.  But is this a smokescreen for something even worse coming to all of education in America?  I believe it is.  I think the very loud protest coming from teachers in this state will lead to an elimination of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as we know it.  The test will evolve into weekly or bi-weekly tests in a personalized learning/competency-based education environment where the role of the teacher will be reduced to that of a glorified moderator.  Now, more than ever, teachers in Delaware need to not only fight what is here but what is coming.  And prepare now!

Delaware DOE Hits All-Time Low With A Very Scummy Move Against Teachers…

Those no-good, rotten bastards at the Delaware Department of Education have done it again.  This time the after-effects will cause much more than a ripple.  This is going to really damage relations between the Delaware DOE and the Delaware State Education Association.  Things were supposed to be better with Secretary of Education Godowsky, but they really aren’t.  Instead, we have more humiliation for the educators of our state. This post does have an update at the bottom. Continue reading

Delaware DOE Goes On A Contract Spree For Priority Schools, Teachers, & Prep Programs

You wouldn’t know the Delaware Department of Education is tightening spending after their budget increase was slashed in half last week by the Joint Finance Committee.  Just this month alone, they put out seven bid proposals.  These proposals are for priority school programs, teacher quality, the proposed school report card, and more.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence the 148th General Assembly will not be in session when all of these contracts are finalized?

I suppose the DOE would have to put a contract out for individual priority school leaders because it would not be an ongoing position.  All of these positions report to Chief Accountability Office Penny Schwinn, not the districts involved- Christina and Red Clay.

And we can’t forget the school report card program, otherwise known as the grade your local school accountability game.  Did anyone else know this will go live on August 24th, 2015?

But lest we forget, the DOE has four bid proposals in regards to teachers.  Because we can never have enough taxpayer money going out to improve teachers, right DOE?  I’m sure most of these are the brainchild of the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit, under the very watchful eye of Chris Ruszkowski…

That’s a whole lot of professional services the DOE is requesting.  Is this the sole purpose of the DOE’s Accountability and Assessment Office and the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit,  to serve as the middle men between our schools and these education reform companies?  It sure seems like that.  It’s very rare where you see any of them doing the actual work themselves, aside from taking other companies words, mixing them up, and presenting them to the State Board of Education at their monthly meetings.  Meanwhile, over 130,000 students in the state are suffering from a severe lack of resources in their classrooms…

DOE Stands To Lose Many Positions & Contracts If RTTT Programs Are Not Approved In Budget

The Delaware Department of Education got hammered by the 148th General Assembly in February over their FY2016 budget request.  This file, released through a FOIA request, shows exactly what the DOE, or more specifically, the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit, will lose if these programs don’t receive funding.  Previously, these positions were funded through the Race To The Top program which has now been discontinued.

Delaware DOE FOIA Reveals Disdain Of Delaware Higher Education

“This launch will mark the first significant pressure point since the passage of SB51, and will raise the ire of every Delaware higher-education institution.”

These words were said in an email memo at the Delaware DOE about Relay Graduate School of Education’s introduction to Delaware.  Read the below, and go to the part about Relay.  And by all means, read the other stuff as well.  More intriguing stuff in there as well!  You know an email is going to reveal something when it starts off with “not to be shared”…

Breaking Exclusive News: Delaware DOE Fraud & Manipulation Revealed

If you ever needed more proof of how corrupt the Delaware Department of Education really is, this will prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.  The Delaware Talent Cooperative is a program to bring teachers to high-need schools.  Obviously, based on the below email, the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit can manipulate who sees what and when.  This is tantamount to fraud on many levels.  We have Chris Ruszkowski, the leader of this unit, blatantly manipulating wording without even bothering to check if it is able to be done or even legal.  And it is more than obvious the DOE was very selective about who they wanted in this program.  They can’t have “sabotage”!

And here is the letter Ruszkowski edited clearly showing his financial enticement to lure teachers into this program:

So What Exactly Will Teachers Be Rated On If It’s Not The Smarter Balanced? And Why Administrators Are So Against Opt-Out!

Another Delaware Department of Education FOIA file!  This one shows a question and answer document regarding teacher and administrator evaluations for the 2014-2015 academic year.  For non-educators, to understand this document you would need to know about DPAS-II, the current evaluation system in Delaware for educators.  Even if the Smarter Balanced Assessment won’t be used as part of Component V from DPAS-II for this year and possibly next year, it is clear from this document the DOE holds all educators to very high standards, some of which may be beyond their ability to control.

As well, administrators evaluations are directly tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  For both groups, their goals need to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards in preparation for the assessment.  It sounds confusing, and it is to me, and I welcome any educator feedback on this article.

Exclusive FOIA: The Delaware DOE Human Capital 2017 Project Fully Revealed

This was a draft created by the Delaware Department of Education Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit on their Human Capital 2017 project.  I originally wrote about this project here.  In reviewing more of the huge FOIA material I received over two months ago, I stumbled across a Power Point presentation in draft form that gives A LOT of information about the whole purpose of the DOE.

While converting the document on a Scribd file, some of the material overlaps, and I was unable to fix it, but make sure you read every single word in this document.  It’s amazing how much long-term planning goes into these DOE programs, including legislation in the General Assembly.

After watching the Director of this unit, Christopher Ruszkowski, at the February 18th Delaware House Education Committee meeting, it is amazing how much power he has at the Delaware DOE.  The website Education Pioneers.org has a pretty thorough review on Ruszkowski.

When someone told Christopher that he should be a teacher in the inner-city, something clicked. After undergrad, he joined Teach For America and taught 7th and 8th grade social studies at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Miami-Dade County for two years. There, Christopher saw himself in his students, the majority of whom were first-generation Americans. Under his guidance, Christopher’s students achieved significant gains and demonstrated 80% content mastery.”

“As a Fellow, Christopher was placed with San Francisco Unified School District where he worked to ensure that hundreds of district administrators were well prepared for the upcoming school year and their work to educate over 55,000 San Francisco students. Christopher helped develop, facilitate, and plan the district’s annual Administrator Leadership Institute and worked cross-functionally across all departments to ensure strong professional development for all district administrators.”

“My project connected me with leaders across the district, and I witnessed different management styles, political maneuvering, and cross-district collaboration,” he says. “I saw how leadership and management could cut through the noise or raise the decibel level. It was invaluable for me to see those organizational dynamics in another context before moving to a state-level role.”

“Post-Fellowship and eager to be a part of Race to the Top, President Obama’s signature education initiative, Christopher headed to the Delaware Department of Education. In his first year there, he launched a dozen educator effectiveness initiatives and was quickly promoted to Chief Officer of the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Unit. Christopher has grown his team from three people to 25. He now oversees the unit’s $30 million budget and all state-led educator effectiveness efforts, as well as analyzes how districts’ individual human capital plans are driving student achievement.”

Will Ruszkowski survive the post-Markell purge that will most likely occur at the Delaware DOE?  But more importantly, will the Human Capital 2017 project ever see its fruition?  I hope not…

What Is The Human Capital 2017 Program at the Delaware DOE?

Is this an active program at the Delaware Department of Education or something that was proposed and scrubbed?  Read the below information and judge for yourself!