I warned them. Many times. Sit at the table and you will be on the table. The Delaware State Education Association was swallowed whole. By who? Continue reading
Last week, News Journal reporter Jessica Bies came out with an article about a confidential report that the News Journal “obtained”. The article was rife with speculation and hearsay based on a report commissioned by State Auditor Tom Wagner concerning Kathleen Davies. That article appeared in print today. It looks like something you would see in a bargain-basement tabloid at a grocery store. Continue reading
The former Superintendent of Indian River School District who is now the Delaware Secretary of Education, Dr. Susan Bunting, was well aware Patrick Miller, the former Indian River Chief Financial Officer, was stealing money. Despite telling the Auditor of Account’s office, Delaware media, and the staff of Indian River that she was shocked and had no clue about what Miller was doing, she knew. In fact, she knew going back to at least 2008. Continue reading
Last night. The walkout. The fury.
I missed it. I got in my car and drove to Legislative Hall once the Grant-In-Aid bill was introduced and went to committee around 11pm last night. I arrived at Legislative Hall as the Capital police officer, the same one I see every single time I go there, told me it was over. He also said “They aren’t happy.” I went in anyways and got the scoop from Reps. John Kowalko and Andria Bennett. Continue reading
I am getting very sick of the political games in Dover. Very sick. We have the Joint Finance Committee cutting programs left and right, with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle continuing to bicker over raising taxes or having more cuts. We elect these people to do what is right for Delaware, not to kick the can until the next election. They continue to use the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware in their political football games: the students, those who are sick or rely on state assistance, and those who live in poverty. Enough.
In a Delaware State news article, JFC Co-Chair Melanie Smith brags about needing only $60 million in “soft cuts” while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf says further cuts would be “drastic“. Do these two even talk to each other? They are in the same damn party. Meanwhile, we have Senator Greg Lavelle preaching from his pulpit wanting the state to have even more cuts. But both sides are not giving serious thought to State Rep. John Kowalko’s bills which would raise taxes on the wealthy of Delaware. Hell, they spit in our faces in the House by passing the very ridiculous estate tax appeal last month.
Delaware Republicans, let’s get one thing straight: prevailing wage will NEVER happen as long as the Democrats hold power in the House and Senate. It is a pipe dream. Delaware Democrats, the Republicans will NEVER allow you to raise taxes on the wealthy. Delaware citizens, we are screwed.
I believe they are making these “drastic” cuts in the JFC to cut to the heart of Delaware. By going after the most vulnerable of Delaware citizens, they are hoping the legislators will cave and come up with some sort of short-term compromise to fix the budget. Governor Markell left the station, but not without spending our way to prosperity. But guess what, the bill came in for that spending and we have treated the state wallet like an ATM without any limits.
In Delaware, we have this insane tendency to vote the SAME people into office every election. While there are some very good State Reps and Senators filling the halls in Dover, I fear we have reached a stalemate in Dover. For far too many of our legislators it is about one thing: holding on to power and the next election. The Delaware Way has become a steaming pile of horse manure.
Governor Carney and his office have shown no sign of getting rid of this stink in Delaware. My recent FOIA complaint against Carney’s office over the Family Services Cabinet Council generated a response from his office. Because the Attorney General’s office is still working on the legal opinion for this, all I can say is the response is one of the most insulting things I’ve read in my entire life. It reeks of corruption and deals made behind closed doors. The solution, which is Carney’s way of saying “Don’t mess with me Ohlandt, cause I will do what I want no matter what” screams of the very thing I have grown to expect in Delaware. It evaporates hope and replaces it with a bad taste that no mouthwash could replace. I can’t wait until this legal opinion comes out to the public so they can see firsthand what I am talking about.
Our children, poor, and sick should not be held hostage because these lawmakers think they can do what they want. In the State News article, Matt Bittle discussed the decision by the JFC to hold off on meeting until later in June. Bittle writes:
The move, an atypical one, minimizes public backlash and concern in response to spending reductions and gives the caucuses more time to come to an agreement on tax increases.
I disagree with this. The public backlash is just beginning. I see more discussion about what is going on with the budget this year than I’ve seen in years. The very ugly move by the JFC yesterday on not allowing the cut sheets from yesterday to be released to the media or the public is the shadiest thing I’ve seen in my entire time blogging. In response to cuts already made, I’m sure their phones and emails were lighting up like a Christmas tree. Get over it. It is your job to listen to your constituents, not to stifle their voices. When you play games with people, don’t get upset when they voice their concerns over it. Last I heard, freedom of speech was still a real thing. Last I heard, we elected you to balance the budget, not to keep it from us.
Because of loop holes in state code, there are no-brainer ways to raise revenue in this state that are impossible because of budget allocations. We could raise the gas tax but that would only go towards the transportation fund. How about shifting that in state code so it would go to the general fund? I would support a ten cent raise in the gas tax if it would dig us out of this mess that the General Assembly created in the first place. It is things like that which make it impossible for me to give the General Assembly more than a shrug when this time of year comes around. They need to think outside of their very small boxes and get creative. Because I am sure they will get the same salary, benefits, and pensions. Meanwhile, I know I am going to have to pay more for getting less in Delaware as will every single citizen in this state. Except some of those really rich people who will bully legislators into making sure their shared sacrifice is palatable to their over-stuffed bank accounts.
I believe in Delaware. I believe in the people of Delaware. I don’t believe in our very corrupt state government who throws away their conscience in favor of lobbyists and back-door deals. I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican. The very second you replace a moral with some incentive, you have failed in your duty as an elected official. That isn’t integrity. It isn’t honesty. It is the Delaware Way.
Once upon a holiday season, in the land of Delaware, there lived a man who would become Governor. He was promised the throne eight years ago, but another man took his seat. In this land, the people chose their Governor every four years. The man who would be Governor finally won the seat and 58.34% of the people rejoiced. As he sat in his car one day after returning from his job in D.C., he looked out the window. He saw the sun setting in the distance.
John was anxious to get things going in Delaware. He had to officially wait until January 17th, 2017. “Only 47 days,” John said to himself. He had been so busy for so long. Things wouldn’t slow down for him in the next four years, and hopefully the four after that. His day was filled with phone calls, texts, and emails. Everyone wanted a piece of Delaware. He knew not everyone could get a piece. He called his wife from the driveway and told her he was going to go for a walk to clear his head. Always supportive, she knew John needed this and told him to take all the time he needed. John drove to the nearby park. As he walked out of his car, he put on his hat. It was rare he could get away from his security detail but at the same time he didn’t want to be bothered. John walked down the trail…
Meanwhile, 3,529.75 miles away, the jolly one was settling into his favorite chair. The elves were busy preparing for the big day. Santa was happy he had an extra day to prepare this year. As a tradition, during these leap years, he would pick one day off each leap year to do whatever he wanted. Mrs. Claus always forgot about it, but Santa didn’t. Today was his day off! Santa picked up his laptop and on his favorites bar was the website he enjoyed going to the most: Exceptional Delaware. Ever since Santa learned about Common Core and opt out, he found himself checking back in to see what was happening with the children of Delaware and the rest of the country. Santa was not happy when he found out what happened a few weeks after Christmas earlier this year. The people of Delaware wanted the lawmakers to override Governor Jack’s veto of the opt out bill, but it got hung up in some silly rule business. He knew exactly which of those lawmakers would be getting coal this year, led by their Speaker and the leaders below him. Santa heard there was a new Governor in Delaware so he decided he would pay him a visit. While he didn’t usually venture so far south during the busy month, it was his day off and he could do whatever he wanted. At least the things Mrs. Claus wouldn’t have cause to file for divorce over.
As hard as he tried, John couldn’t stop thinking about his plans. He didn’t count on the new President actually winning the election. All his plans were contingent on the Hill winning. But the Tower Man won and he had to plan around it. The Tower Man was picking people who John couldn’t picture running things down in D.C. His office was frantic over the mess. John had to strategize very carefully how he moved forward with everything. Not only did the Tower Man win, but the two bodies of Congress won a majority in the election as well. John’s Delaware was still blue, but a shocking election there threatened to turn the Delaware Senate red too. The state he was to lead had some peculiar problems in it and at the top of that list was the economy and education. Governor Jack treated the two as if they were symbiotic with each other and made some poor choices along the way. John knew if he was going to improve both he would have to find a way to draw everyone in. It was a difficult maze and John knew he wouldn’t please everyone. Governor Jack chose a particular route but John knew if he did the same it would not be good.
Santa knew John’s mind was heavy. As his sleigh crossed the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Santa could feel the weight on John’s shoulders. Leadership always carries a heavy burden. Santa knew that better than anyone. Santa knew John ever since he was a little boy. He always knew John would become a leader. John didn’t have the same political sharpness so many politicians had but this also made him more relatable to the people. He watched John’s humble beginnings in the town of Claymont. Carney was one of those tough kids who excelled in football which helped him out at St. Mark’s High School and then Dartmouth College. Santa remembers John’s awards. As John was teaching freshmen football at the University of Delaware, he was also studying public administration. From there, John began his political career working for the county he lived in and then for Governor Tom. From there, John’s political ladder kept getting bigger and bigger. He became the Lieutenant Governor for eight years and decided to run for Governor. But the future “education” Governor Jack beat him in a close race. Others told Jack to wait his turn, it was John’s turn, but Jack ignored them. A couple of years later, John ran for Congress and won. For six years, having to run every two years for a total of three Congressional terms, John worked in D.C. and learned how the game of politics really works. But he never gave up on getting back to Delaware to win as Governor. After Governor Jack was expected to end his tenure, many thought Vice-President Joe’s son Beau would run, but tragically Beau passed away after a long illness. It was then that John decided he would run but wished it had been under better circumstances.
John walked down the path. There was a crisp wind in the air but the moon was bright. He used to walk down this path many times. It hadn’t changed much over time and he remembered it like the back of his hand. John tripped on a branch and fell to the ground. As he looked up, he saw a bright light in the sky above him. A voice cried out “John, we need to talk.” John reached for his phone but he had left it in the car. He thought to himself, “This is it, all alone in the woods with no one to help.” He began to picture the headline in the News Journal the next day. “Who are you?” John asked. “Someone you haven’t thought about in a long time John.” Santa gracefully landed the sleigh on the path in front of John. His lights were still on so John couldn’t tell who it was. “I do have security watching me right now. They are watching you right now. So I wouldn’t try anything They will find you if anything happens to me.” “No they won’t,” Santa said. “Remember you let all of them have the night off and you so conveniently told each one there was coverage?” John wondered how this guy would know that. “It’s me, John. Santa.”
John couldn’t believe his eyes. As a child, he always believed. But as children grew older, that magic disappeared. John saw Santa everywhere this time of year. He began seeing him in stores as early as October. But it wasn’t the same as the man who just walked off a sleigh that came down in the middle of the woods. John took that early childhood magic for granted, as every adult does. John wondered what in the world Santa Claus wanted with him. Did he visit all the new leaders? “John,” Santa said, “We have to talk about the kids. Come with me.” John felt the world spin beneath him. Santa’s words captured him. They weren’t words demanding John obey him, but those of comfort and a calm John hadn’t felt for a long time. John looked at his watch. It was 6:30pm.
Santa and John got in the sleigh. The reindeer, who John hadn’t noticed before, began running down the path. John felt the sleigh lift up into the December night. “John, did you read my letter last year?” Santa asked. John read letters every day. There were some days he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast he was so busy. John shook his head. “Did you send it to me?” John asked. He knew he probably had not seen it unless it was an issue of critical importance. He was sure if one of his staffers opened it and saw a letter from Santa Claus it would go in the circular bin next to their desk. “No, I let Exceptional Delaware put it up. I thought everyone in Delaware reads it.” That was a name John was familiar with the past six months. The blogger. “You mean the crazy education blogger from Dover? That guy wants to meet with me but I don’t know…” Santa abruptly interrupted John “Watch yourself,” Santa warned. “I have the utmost respect for the blogger. He helped me out last year and he knows what he is talking about.” John responded to Santa. “But he tends to tick off a lot of people. People I’m going to have to work with. I was warned to stay away from him.” Santa’s eyes widened. “Oh really? Would that have been Senator So-coal-A,” Santa carefully empathized. “And all those other adults who don’t have the first clue about what education really is? Let me tell you something John. You will be a leader of Delaware. Any state has a foundation from which it must build on. That foundation is the kids. Not the adults, and especially not the adults who try to make money and get power from kids. There are those out there who will pretend to speak the truth. You surround yourself with them. But there are those who speak uncomfortable truths that people don’t always want to hear. But they do so out of an innate need for change, in the hopes someone with the ability to hear will actually listen.”
John was familiar with what was going on in education. He was told of the long-range plans and how education would be reformed so all kids can succeed. The children would be trained to become the workforce of tomorrow. As he began his campaign, he knew many people in Delaware were hurting. When he ran for Governor the first time, the economy of the whole country was collapsing. Even though Delaware recovered from this, not all of the citizens did. Some never got the jobs back that made them more money. The cities were becoming too violent again. Drug use was up and children were getting shot in the street. But still, Delaware did the one thing it knows how to do best- spend money. John knew all that money wasn’t going to the right places. He also knew that when he became the leader he would have to fix a lot of these problems. Many of his advisors told him that education was going to fix all these problems. Not now, but down the road. But if he didn’t help follow the same paths Governor Jack made, nothing would ever get fixed. This was happening all over the country. There were critics, like the damn blogger, but they were just a whisper in the wind. They didn’t see the big picture and how this was for the good of the state and the country.
“Santa, where are we going?” John asked. “To see the children John.”
“Uhm, Santa. We are flying into downtown Wilmington. No offense sir, but I can’t be seen riding around in a sleigh with someone people don’t believe in along with eight reindeer.” Santa pulled out a pouch from his pocket. “Thanks for reminding me John, I almost forgot.” Santa took out a handful of dust and blew it all around him and John. “They won’t see us now.” Santa parked the sleigh on top of the Community Education Building. The duo went down through the building and to the streets below. They walked over to the playground next to the building.
In a dark corner, an African-American boy was reading with a flashlight. The boy was shivering as he turned a page. “Why is this boy out here Santa? Why doesn’t he go home?” Santa sighed. “This is his home John. He lives on the streets. During the really cold months he goes to a shelter with his aunt. She is at work right now.” John saw a grocery cart a few feet away from the boy. Covering it was a blue tarp. John could see some clothes in there and a few boxes. As John looked away for a moment in horror, he saw a hypodermic needle on the ground. The boy was reading a worn-out copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a flashlight between his yellow teeth. He saw the boy lift a crumpled up bag out of his coat pocket. The boy began eating the few crumbs left in the bag of potato chips. Santa told John about how his father went to prison a few years ago. He belonged to one of the gangs. During a shoot-out in front of their apartment building, a bullet missed hitting the boy but instead lodged itself in his mother’s brain. He told John this is the first thing the boy sees when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he sees at night. “Come on John, we have more stops to make tonight.” John walked to the sleigh but kept looking back at the boy.
Santa and John flew once more into the night. It was very quiet between them. They landed in a very wealthy neighborhood with mansions all around them. John wasn’t sure if he had been on this street when he was campaigning. Many houses were decked out in Christmas lights and he even saw Santas made up in lights. “This is never what Christmas was supposed to be John,” as Santa looked down at his belly. They got out of the sleigh and went into one of the houses. A girl was on her computer playing the latest version of Minecraft. Her mom asked her if she finished her homework. “I sure did,” the girl said. “You can check it on Schoology.” “Did you finish all the stuff on iReady?” the mother asked. “Yes Mom,” as the girl rolled her eyes. She had just finished eating the steak and shrimp but she was still hungry. “Can you turn the heat down Mom?” she yelled. As her hand grabbed the ice cream bowl, Santa and John left. As Sarah pulled the spoon to her mouth, she wondered if she had to be at the school in her cheerleader’s outfit by 9am tomorrow or 9:15.
They flew down to Georgetown. John was last there on Return Day in November. All the candidates who run for office, whether they win or not, participate in this event to “bury the hatchet”. But they flew away from the town to a trailer park. Inside, a Hispanic girl was kicking a ball around with her little brother. A man came into the room. “Hicerion sus deberes?” the man asked. “No podríamos papá. No sabíamos lo que significaban las palabras,” the boy answered. The man watched as his children did what they do after school almost every day. Kicking around the same ball. “Sorry Santa, my Spanish is very rusty. What did they say?” John asked. “The father asked if his children did their homework. They couldn’t because they can’t read the words. They don’t know English very well. They know enough for very basic things, but not enough to learn what they need to know. Their mother is still at the chicken farm working her shift. One of them always has to be with the kids. They aren’t here legally. The father is afraid all the time that his kids will be taken from him and he and his wife will have to go back to their country. He doesn’t know English at all.”
John felt his mind stir as they flew north. He was very troubled by what he saw. When he was campaigning, he tended to see the best of Delaware. In the daylight or early evening when many of his “Meet and Chews” with people were attended by those who had the means and the desire to see him. When he went to schools, he could tell the kids were on their best behavior because “an important man” was coming to visit. He didn’t see people in their homes or on the streets the way he did tonight. He felt uncomfortable, like he was seeing a side of the world he heard about but didn’t see first-hand. “Santa, I should really be getting back. It’s getting late and my wife is probably worrying about me.” Santa laughed so hard the sleigh shook. “Look at your watch John. What time is it?” John looked at his watch in bewilderment. It was still 6:30pm. No time had passed since he first got in the sleigh with Santa back on the trail. “Let me guess, another bit of your magic?” Santa smiled at John as they flew into a middle-class neighborhood in Dover.
The odd couple went into the house. Inside, a boy was crying on the couch. His parents were arguing in the kitchen. “What do you mean he was suspended again?” the father asked. “I got a call from school. They said he was acting out in class again and when the teacher told him to stop he ran out of the room. When another teacher found him, he pushed her away. The Principal came down the hall and yelled at him to come with him. David yelled back at him and Dr. Smith called two teachers to help bring him to the office,” the mother explained. “I didn’t get the call until two hours later. By the time I got there he was so upset.” “Did they give him any work to do when he was in there for two hours?” the boy’s father asked. “I don’t know. But this is not what his IEP says. They aren’t supposed to drag him down the hall and yell at him. He isn’t learning anything there. He’s depressed all the time. He can’t learn in a class with thirty kids.” John knelt down in front of the boy. He saw such pain and sadness in the boy’s eyes. “This boy has no friends John. The things you had growing up, kids to play with and throw a football around, running around in the woods, even going to the amusement park, David can’t do those things.” Santa explained how David was labeled as high-functioning Autism. He could do the work, but only under certain conditions. If there was a lot of activity in the classroom, people talking, moving around, David couldn’t handle that. His brain couldn’t filter out all the stimuli. Some days it worked, but for David, it was an endless litany of suspensions and leaving school early. “Special education John. If you don’t know what is going on with a child, and everyone is different, how can we put all kids in the same box?” Santa asked him.
John could see what Santa was doing. He understood that not every kid is the same. But if they didn’t try to help all the kids nothing would change. The two flew to the building where John was destined to spend many of his days in the next four years. Legislative Hall. Where all the laws in Delaware happened. John didn’t think there would be any kids there at 6:30pm, and he was right. Inside, a meeting was taking place. John knew about half the people at the large table in the House Majority Caucus room. There were some from the Department of Education, a couple from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the usual Delaware State Education Association contingent, some Superintendents, a few teachers, Delaware PTA, some of the disability advocates, the lady from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, four legislators, and a couple of State Board members. He knew them. A few people sat in the chairs outside of the table. A woman from the Delaware DOE was giving a presentation on the Every Student Succeeds Act. Delaware had to come up with a state plan so all students can succeed. She was talking about the Delaware School Success Framework and the measurements they wanted included in their state accountability system. It was all about proficiency and growth. Which John knew was based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. All these adults, sitting there talking about kids and how they can make education better. John knew a few of the people there had the best of intentions but this was what they do in Delaware. They sit around a table and talk. This was how things got done. They even had a name for it, The Delaware Way.
“You don’t get it!” John cried out. “We can’t keep testing these kids. They aren’t the same. We can’t keep doing this. Their lives mean so much more than these tests.” Santa looked at John. “They can’t hear you. Even if they could, too many of them wouldn’t listen. They think they know what is best. They forget what it was like when they were kids. Even that man over there.” Santa pointed to a man from Wilmington. “He kept fighting for the kids in Wilmington and how the teachers need to be better,” Santa explained. “The man believed what he said but he didn’t realize how much these children don’t have outside of school. The man didn’t understand that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make teachers better. And the best teachers, they were the ones already in those classrooms in Wilmington. They were the ones who came to school every day, knowing the problems these kids brought to the classroom. The look of hunger in their eyes as they wore the same clothes for the third day in a row. They dedicated their lives to helping these kids in the hardest classrooms in the state. In return, they were shamed by many of the people in this room. The little boy we saw on the playground tonight? He goes to the poorest school in the state. Most of the people in this room have never walked into his school. They don’t understand what he needs. That legislator over there? She sponsored a bill so special education would get better in the state. In their eyes, it did. Students went from 21% proficiency on the ELA part of Smarter Balanced to 23%. To them, that is growth. The Superintendent over there? She runs the district where the two kids from Georgetown go to school. She has a lot of students who can’t speak or read English. She hasn’t said one word tonight about how to help them. See the man over there? He runs a charter school in Newark. They just settled on a lawsuit against the Christina School District. In return they will get more money in the future. Remember the girl in the mansion? She goes to that charter school. That money will be taken from the homeless boy’s school. He will get less than he has today at school. The man over there? He sits on the board at the Rodel Foundation. He sees opportunity. He sees how the business leaders in the state can profit from all this. He is hoping they will start talking about more career pathway programs in our high schools. He knows that some will go to the coding school he sits on the board of. He talks with other business leaders and the graduates of that program do internships at their companies. Sometimes they get jobs. While they are learning, these coding students are building the network of tomorrow. They develop algorithms that will go into the education technology in all the schools. All that data, all that blessed data. They store it all. They keep everything, these futurists and visionaries. They have the money and influence to make sure what they want becomes policy and law. It is the way the modern world works John. Perhaps they know, and don’t care, that what they are setting up now will only make those children who struggle the most even further apart from any true opportunity to succeed. And them, over there, they work for the Department of Education. They are the middlemen between the schools and the business community. They make sure the business community gets what they want in the schools. They do this through regulations and conversations you will never hear about. That woman there, she runs the accountability section of the Department. Her job is to make sure all children in certain grades take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. When she sees the results come in, she doesn’t see the faces of the children who took the test. She sees numbers. Results. Scores. Her job is to understand why all the children we saw tonight got a 1 on the test last Spring except for the girl in the mansion who got a 4. She doesn’t see David’s disability. Or the two siblings who can’t read the instructions for the test in English much less understand the context of a passage in Spanish about the stock market. She doesn’t know that the African-American boy in Wilmington has slept in 124 different beds in the past year alone and the other 241 nights were outside with blankets. But she actually thinks they can close the achievement gaps and these children will grow into prosperity. How does she know this? It’s what her bosses tell her every single day. She hears the lie so much she believes it.”
John and Santa left the building. As the two flew north, they talked about what John had to do. What he needed to change. They talked about the blogger and the parents, teachers, legislators, advocates, and citizens who thought like Santa did. “Those are the ones you really need to talk to John. I’m sure you have heard from many of the people who were in that meeting tonight. If you haven’t, I have no doubt your advisors have.” John knew this to be true. “You need to understand the other side of the coin John, where the real world lives. These aren’t pleasant realities you saw tonight. For those fighting for the kids, even opting out of the test isn’t as easy as it once was. They are fighting for these kids, their kids. And their grandchildren. They are fighting for their jobs. They see beyond the results and the growth. They see what needs to change but no one listens. No one who can really make a difference. Some do, but not enough to make the changes. When they do speak, they are shunned by their peers. Given less importance. It isn’t right John. What the people in that room wanted, it won’t change anything. It will only cause more damage. You can’t incorporate education. These are children. You need to change all this.”
John walked out of the sleigh. He thanked Santa for showing him so much of the Delaware he didn’t see before. The two shook hands. “Santa, I don’t know if I can change all of this by myself. You know if I try I will make enemies. Those enemies won’t make my job any easier.” Santa put his hand on John’s shoulder. “That is what all leaders who understand what is right and just have to face. Some succeed and some fail. Some do it alone and some have support. All I can say is this John- remember what you saw tonight. Every single time you make a decision. Remember the children’s faces before you see the adults. You know in your heart who is really in this for the kids and who isn’t. When you hear that voice in your head, questioning what the true motives are, listen to that. Let that be your shield against your enemies John.” John hugged Santa. “Merry Christmas Santa.” “And to you as well Governor Carney.” Santa walked toward his sleigh and turned around. “John, find those who speak the uncomfortable truths.”
John looked down at his watch. It was 6:31pm. Santa was gone.
I attended a Delaware Governor and Lieutenant Governor debate tonight at Delaware State University. It felt like it should have been an episode of The Gong Show. In a night where Colin Bonini said he felt like Delaware’s apology for slavery was a crutch and Lamar Gunn talked to the audience about discrimination and how they don’t have to vote blue or red but rather the person. There was a lot of talk about discrimination tonight, yet no one addressed the point that the Libertarian and Green candidates were not invited to the debate. Candidates who I’m sure would have had a lot more to offer than the ones I saw tonight.
Yes, in a reply to a question about a lack of minority teachers in Delaware, Senator Bethany Hall-Long took it upon herself, a DSEA supported candidate, to publicly support Teach For America. She said why do we have to wait that long when we have Teach For America ready to come into our schools. So let me get this straight Bethany: you would rather have minorities go through a six-week crash course on teaching Delaware students and throw them in schools than go through the actual degree process to become a Delaware teacher? Would you have come out with that statement before you were endorsed by the Delaware State Education Association? This was after she gave a very bizarre “Take A Look At Me Now” opening statement like she was auditioning for a 21st Century Shirley Temple movie.
Colin Bonini decided to throw the six priority schools under the bus. And then go in reverse and run over them all over them again. By calling them “six failed schools” because of their test scores, he bashed the schools for only hiring assistant principals. But then he went that next step as only Bonini would by saying they should have been converted to charter schools. When asked about why he voted no on the resolution for Delaware to apologize for its role in slavery, Bonini actually told the over 90% African-American crowd he thought slavery apologies were a crutch.
And John Carney. If I heard “if you take a look at my plan” one more time I was probably going to have to yell “Do you even know what is in your plans?” Because it was obvious in many areas he didn’t. When asked about criminal justice he said his campaign was coming out with a plan on that subject in a few days. As he smugly sat there and said “When I become the next Governor,” Bonini retorted back with his I know I’m going to lose face with a similar comment about how Carney would work in his administration. In fact, Bonini made it a point to tell the audience he likes John Carney even though his campaign manager keeps telling him to stop saying that. Carney went a step further and told everyone he and Bonini are friends, and “that’s how we get things done in Delaware.” Yes, the rotting and festering wound we call “The Delaware Way.” In some respects, Bonini almost looked like he was prepping for continued life as a Delaware Senator who will have to work with Governor Carney. It was the only logical answer I could find as he tried to mesmerize the audience with the magical word “Prosperity” throughout the night.
When Lieutenant Governor candidate Lamar Gunn wasn’t trying to eviscerate his opponent every chance he got, he did make some good points about race in Delaware. But it got lost in his newly created powers he wants for the Lieutenant Governor role. Carney, Bonini, and Hall-Long all talked about college and career readiness. And this legislation and that legislation. Bonini answered many questions with one word, “Prosperity”, before he attempted to explain why prosperity is the answer to life. Both Hall-Long and Carney couldn’t seem to reconcile how Delaware needs all these 21st Century jobs starting real soon and how we need the bottom rung jobs as well. It almost seemed like they were telling the audience, “Don’t worry, we will create jobs for you if we can’t get you into those Pathways To Prosperity jobs.”
It was a dismal night. After the Carney-Bonini debate, someone asked me if I liked what I heard. My only response was “I never like what I hear.” This is Delaware. Everyone wants a seat at the table, but as Gunn put it, you aren’t being invited to the table, you are a dessert on the table.” Two words I didn’t hear from any candidate’s mouth were special education. They all seem to forget that for some students, it isn’t just being a minority, it is also being a student with disabilities. But Carney told the audience how we have been going from one education reform to the next, but whatever we come up with next, we have to make it stick. Like we haven’t heard that before. As the Delaware DOE gets ready to unleash the first draft of their ESSA plan that will be a boon for outside providers and will pretty much give schools the same sucky accountability standards they had before. But both Carney and Bonini said they believe in local control.
In response to the upcoming report coming out on discrimination in Delaware State Government, Carney wants to take that role out of the Office of Management and Budget and give them their own brand new cabinet position in Delaware government. As he talked about the huge deficit we will face in the next year. When asked if that would be separate from a Civil Rights office, Carney quickly chimed in that he could roll that into it. Bonini spoke about a letter he wrote wanting to create new committees in the House and Senate for civil rights but added it would have been hard to do in the middle of a General Assembly. But Gunn went after Hall-Long for not voting on it even though it was never legislation.
Like the picture of John Bonini and Colin Carney above, my brain felt very blurry as I left the auditorium and walked to my car on this crisp and cool Autumn evening. It is an epidemic during this 2016 election season. Brain cells crashing into each other as we continue to ask ourselves why the future sounds so important but those guiding the way are oblivious to so much. If I walked away from this with any support for any of the four candidates, it would have to be Gunn for Lieutenant Governor. Only to watch him preside over the Senate while Bethany Hall-Long fake smiles the whole time. I would have loved to have seen Carney and Bonini react to Libertarian Gubernatorial candidate Sean Goward’s awesome ideas. But that’s the Delaware Way…
So what should I expect in the next four years of Delaware? John Carney purposely avoiding eye contact with me, which would make tonight the hat trick for this kind of behavior since I met him at one of his Spaghetti meet and greets earlier last month. But that’s okay, I’m sure he has a plan…
Delaware State Representative John Kowalko has a challenger in the 25th District. Mike Nagorski did not file in the early July deadline, but he was nominated by the Delaware Republican party last week. But who is Michael Nagorski?
Information on Nagorski is hard to find. According to the Newark Post, Nagorski graduated from Charter School of Wilmington in 2004. According to his Facebook account, he graduated from University of Delaware in 2008. He is married with a child and one more on the way later this year (congratulations). But in May of 2014, he won a legal name change, from Molaski to Nagorski. I’m not sure of the reason for this name change, but it is perfectly legal. His wife is a registered Democrat. Which is okay, my wife and I don’t agree on everything. He lives in the heart of the Newark Charter School populace along with Kowalko. He has a Master’s Degree from the University of Delaware, and he very recently obtained employment as a Senior Consultant at MHI Global. The biggest thing I see mentioned of Nagorski (then Molaski) is an article from the News Journal two years ago about his weight loss and a get healthy initiative. While this is certainly admirable, meeting the Governor at a gym doesn’t make one a State Representative.
In terms of his politics and what he stands for, that is difficult to find online. In response to the Newark Post article, he wrote on his Support Michael Nagorski Facebook page: “Delaware has tremendous opportunity. Now is the time to listen and act, not criticize and oppose.” What does that even mean? No one should question anything? I’m pretty sure that both Democrats AND Republicans criticize and oppose. Does this mean, if elected, Nagorski would never question anything? I would venture to say John Kowalko was elected five times because of his ability to not only listen and act, but also to criticize and oppose. It’s called politics! I think every candidate running for public office in Delaware will agree that Delaware needs to get more employers in the state to increase revenue. That isn’t a sea change in Delaware politics. He seems to be against state incentives to attract employers, which I would assume would be corporate tax cuts. That is something Kowalko has said for years. He said in the Newark Post article his three main reasons for running are “healthy living, improving education and growing the economy,” but the article did not give any of his ideas in any of these areas.
In another Facebook post where someone called him “the second coming of Reagan“, Nagorski responded that “if I had to choose someone I’m closest to, it’s Castle” While Mike Castle served a long and distinguished career in Delaware and national politics from 1966 to 2010, I don’t see a lot coming out of Nagorski that would give me that impression. In fact, I don’t see anything coming out of Nagorski that shows anything about why he is running. No website, no stances on any subject. Not to be too critical of Nagorski, but trashing your opponent in a newspaper article while not giving any substance or meat to why you are running, aside from an alternate voice and things every Delaware politician says, isn’t going to have me running to push your button on Election Day.
The Newark Post wrote:
“What people see is someone who’s certainly passionate and an advocate,” Nagorski said. “But what they don’t see is someone who is listening to everyone. He’s putting himself out there and not necessarily listening to everyone else.”
I would say being the State Representative for ten years would qualify Kowalko as someone who listens to a great deal of people.
I will fully admit the following things: I support many of Kowalko’s sponsored legislation, I worked with Kowalko on House Bill 50 (the opt out bill), and I have enjoyed many conversations with him about Delaware education. Is Kowalko boisterous and speaks from the cuff? Yes he is. Has he said things with an angry tone in the past? Yes he has. Does that disqualify him as a worthy Delaware State Representative? No, it does not. In fact, I would go so far as to say this should be a requirement for all Delaware politicians. We’ve had far too much of the “Delaware Way”. Far too many closed door meetings deciding the fate of the many with little to no transparency. If I were sitting in the 29th Representative seat at Legislative Hall, you better believe I would be very vocal about things.
I am sure as time goes on, we will learn more about Mike Nagorski. But until then, I see someone running just to run. I would urge all in the 25th District to vote the same as you have since 2006, for John Kowalko. As someone who is a fervent supporter of transparency, limiting corporate windfalls, stands up for parental rights, is against discrimination of any sort, and doesn’t sell out to the Delaware Way, Kowalko is one of the best State Representatives in the Delaware General Assembly. Perhaps if we had more John Kowalkos, we wouldn’t see Delaware’s education system in shambles and our fast reducing revenue getting lower by the year.
I would assume, based on his attendance at the Charter School of Wilmington, Nagorski supports school choice. But does he support the very controversial enrollment practices at both CSW and Newark Charter School? How does he feel about the Christina School District? School vouchers? The Smarter Balanced Assessment? Opt Out? Common Core? Teachers? Does he think the University of Delaware should be more transparent? Does he support choice in all political matters? I know where John Kowalko stands on those issues. I’ve been to several of the key education conversations in Delaware the past couple of years. I’ve seen John Kowalko at many of those events. I don’t recall seeing Mike Nagorski at any of them.
I reached out to Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and Assistant Deputy Secretary David Blowman about the Freire Charter School Opt Out/Smarter Balanced Assessment/Final Exam scandal. Apparently, the Delaware Department of Education thinks it is perfectly acceptable for students to earn an A for tests they never took.
While I won’t release the full email chain since I would betray a source, I can say it is one of the most disrespectful and insulting emails I have ever received from the Delaware DOE. What offended me the most was how Blowman wrote his response, as if this is a common occurrence and it is A-Ok.
I must have been sniffing glue to think the Delaware DOE would take this matter seriously and actually, for once, do the right thing. But no, they turn it around with Blowman’s cocky and arrogant “historically common” and “educationally appropriate”. So every single parent in Delaware knows, the Delaware DOE does NOT give a crap about what actual grades a student gets in classes, JUST the Smarter Balanced Assessment. They don’t care if a student could be failing a course, but an unearned A on a final exam could cause them to pass a class. Because the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the true measurement, right assholes? Social promotion is okay as long as we get that participation rate, right Blowman?
I am DONE with this Department. DONE. As if their fraudulent Teacher Leader Pilot program I wrote about yesterday wasn’t bad enough, I get this unbelievable spit-in-parents face email. Because it is okay if a school changes grades. It’s okay if they offer sweetheart deals to parents to manipulate them out of opting their child out of a test that doesn’t give any true instructional feedback, parents don’t know the scores until after the school year ends, and it violates a parent’s constitutional, God-given, and fundamental right to decide what is best for their own child.
Is the DOE calling final exams unnecessary? The tests that actually show what a student may or may not have learned the entire year in a class, unlike the Not-So Smarter Balanced? Really Blowman? Are you out of your Kool-Aid drinking mind? We know this isn’t in statute or regulation because our corrupt Governor cares more about companies than students. If the situation were in reverse, like a parent wanted to opt their child out of a final exam, but the school said “How about we do this: let your child take the final exam and one of our teacher leaders will take the Smarter Balanced Assessment for your kid,” the DOE would be at that school pretty damn fast. It’s the same thing Blowman! By giving a student a false grade, you are teaching that student it is okay to manipulate the system. By allowing schools to do it you are showing all you care about is a high-stakes test. If that is the DOE’s definition of college and career ready, I weep for the future.
I truly don’t care if the DOE never gives me information again because of this article. I truly don’t. Not with the complete idiots in charge over there. From now on, everything will be a FOIA or a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education. So teachers, who I do respect immensely (except for those who do the suck-up dance to the DOE), please let me know of any “sweetheart” deals your administrators are pulling on students. Parents as well. Because this is sick. This is what our education governance has come down to: immoral and unethical practices coming all the way from the top and THEY ENDORSE IT. Just because something isn’t written in Title 14 doesn’t make it right Blowman. Don’t you dare try to pull that crap on me. Did you really think my response to this would be “Okay, dead issue.” This email could have easily said “We at the Department do not agree with the inappropriate actions taken by Freire with parents.” Instead, I’ll bet they got a high-five for their most excellent anti-opt out tactics.
I used to treat some DOE employees with kid gloves in the past. I’m done with that. You have spit on parents and their rights, manipulated teachers and their best interests, and lied to the public for the last time Delaware DOE. You have invited the opt out wrath that is coming your way in the 2016-2017 school year.
For my readers, I apologize for my harsh language in this article. But I feel it is necessary because there are no other accurate words that best sum up my thoughts on our Department of Education. We sit here in Delaware and pretend this is okay. Why aren’t parents and teachers standing up in mutiny at every single State Board meeting and picketing the Delaware DOE office? We allow this by doing nothing. If you think anything I write in this blog makes ANY difference, it is marginal at best. They won’t do a damn thing until they see parents rising up in massive numbers. And if some of our schools or the Department that is supposed to oversee our schools think lying, fraud, cheating, manipulating, brainwashing, stealing and disrespecting our children and those charged with teaching them, you need to do something about it.
I’m sure the DOE will do something that will piss me off more than this. I have no doubt. This is why we pay them the big bucks with no oversight. So they can screw over every possible person who doesn’t conform to their Rodel/Markell ass-kissing agendas. And for those who think you are at the table, you aren’t. And it isn’t a nutritious meal. You are ON THE TABLE and they are eating you alive and you are letting them do it. I don’t want to hear one more word about the cannibalistic Delaware Way (except the very excellent Delaware Way blog- shameless plug).
Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko appeared on “The Delaware Way” with host Larry Mendte last week to discuss parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the veto override of House Bill 50 and the bill’s chances. Citing the bill sits on the House Ready List, Kowalko blamed State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, the Delaware Speaker of the House, for letting the bill just sit there. Even Mendte said polling in the state suggests the people overwhelmingly want this bill. Kowalko felt it wasn’t right for the Governor to usurp the will of the people and the General Assembly with his veto.
The moles made a huge impact in 2015! The moles were everywhere. All over the state. From Rehoboth to Hockessin, they let me know. They said “don’t tell them it is me”. And I didn’t, except for you-know-who. The one that gets away with whatever she wants because she is friends with Jack. Even Mark “resigned”, but she is still there conspiring away. But the moles certainly helped me this year. To say more would be to say more than I can so I won’t. But thank you to all the moles. Sometimes they were right on the money, sometimes they tried to lead me astray (see above), and other times they were misinformed. But they certainly had a huge impact on how I look at things.
To clear up a misconception, I am NOT paranoid. I just think everyone is out to get us and will stop at nothing until they do. Just because The Illuminati is alive and well in Delaware does not make me paranoid, okay? If I was paranoid, I would center all my theories on one group (Rodel) and one person (Jack). I have NEVER done that. Not once! I think the DOE, State Board of Education, DESS, DSEA, DASA, NASA, DEPTA, SEPTA, AFWG, CSD, RCEA, CEA, IRSD, BRINC, USDOE, ISIS, DCSN, ABC, EYZ…they are all part of it. But just to clarify, when I say ABC, I’m not talking about the tv station.
It doesn’t take a rigor scientist to see what is really going on here. The signs have all been there. I can’t even say it. It is THAT frightening. It keeps me awake at night, like a train heading to nowhere. Does anyone think it is really a coincidence that we have never seen Jack Markell and John Young at the same time? Please, like I was born yesterday! And the DOE just happens to be all gung-ho on the Christina priority schools. I know there’s something going on. Frida told me back in 1982…
But beyond that, there are forces at play that we have yet to even dream of. Some call it The Delaware Way. But is it? Is it really? Notice two of the words in the phrase “The Delaware Way”. If we take out “Delaware”, and insert “Blessing”, we can see a picture start to form… “The Blessing Way”.
We can talk about “college & career readiness all we want, but if that were really the case, why hasn’t Jack brought up the proverbial icing on the cake? This is the thing NOBODY has written about. How many people do you know that have changed careers? I know I have. So if I am a modern-day student, and I get a job after high school or college, I was career ready. But what happens when I turn thirty and I switch careers? Am I still career ready? Do I have to go back to school again, from Kindergarten to 12th grade so I can be, again, career ready? This is the grand plan. An endless lifetime of robust education. Jack Markell has an obsession with Peter Pan!
It’s okay Jack. You can say goodbye. You can’t be Governor forever. We will forget about you one day. One day, hundreds of years from now, someone will be working on a history of Delaware and they will decide to omit the section on you in the state history. I can finally tell you the truth: it IS all about the children…
But it goes WAY beyond that. WAY beyond. Because the truth is actually seen for all to see. It is right in front of us and always has been.
I know the truth Jack Alan Markell. I know what SBAC really stands for. “School begins again children”. There, I said it. You are just the latest in a long string of those who would tell Delaware what they ought to be. And it all started with this guy:
Larry Mendte’s weekly program, The Delaware Way, aired its most recent segment yesterday. One of the interview subjects was none other than State Rep. John Kowalko. Mendte and Kowalko primarily talked about The Public Integrity Commission’s recent grade for Delaware in transparency. You know, that glaring “F”. Kowalko said he was surprised Delaware wasn’t 5oth out of 50, as opposed to 48th. I recommend watching this, and not just cause of the name drop near the end! I guess Larry didn’t want to hear about that! But thanks anyways John!
We strike first. We don’t have to wait for a copy editor or an all-clear from the publisher. We are the copy editor. We are the publisher. You love us. You hate us. We show up at meetings when you least expect us. Some of you get nervous when you see us typing feverishly. We don’t get paid. We do it for the kids. We find you. We are opinionated and headstrong. We have allies and enemies. We know who has been naughty and nice. We are the tired. We are the alert. We don’t cut corners. We don’t aim to please. Election Season is coming. Fear Us. This is gonna be fun!
With Delaware State Senator Colin Bonini looking at bowing out of the 2016 Delaware Governor election, it looks like there is no real challenge to John Carney. This is NOT what Delaware needs. We need a bigger candidate pool so the real issues are talked about and the candidates can challenge each other. I have never been a huge fan of a clear shot to an elected position. Be that as it may, what can we expect from a potential Governor Carney in Delaware? More of the same and business as usual, or will he make the necessary changes we need. Delaware needs a strong leader to clean up the corruption and lack of transparency of the Markell administration and to forge a clear path for Delaware’s success in the future. We need someone to reign in the runaway spending and get more businesses attracted to Delaware. What we don’t need is a cheerleader for Rodel and the education reform companies. This has led to state corruption on a massive scale. What kind of Governor will you be John Carney?
Side Deals. Secret Phone Calls. Backroom Meetings. This is the stuff Delaware is made of. By the time the public finds out about something, the script has already been written and the public part is just semantics and window dressing. This is politics, not just in Delaware, but everywhere. It is not something I believe in. Neither does Christina board member John Young, who wrote the following on Facebook this morning:
All eyes will be on the WEIC with the Colonial declaration of retaining their students. If WEIC buckles, the premise for the WEAC recommendations and the subsequent, successful legislation is irrevocably damaged and a Pandora’s box of permutations will flood the marketplace surrounding the entire redistricting process. I do not envy Dr. Allen and the commission co-chairs right now. WEIC just got punched in the nose, so to speak, and their response is going to be scrutinized. This cannot be a series of private phone calls, this is the moment where transparency must shine. If this Colonial issue is negotiated in darkness, WEIC loses.
There’s going to be a forum tonight if you are interested in attending. This is from Nancy Willing’s excellent blog, The Delaware Way:
Education Panel Discussion
Our four Education Heroes, Mike Matthews, Kevin Ohlandt, Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, and John M. Young, will be joined by Vicki Bloss Seifred and Brian Stephan for a panel review of the impact of state education policy: what’s being done with it and what should we do about it.
Two panelists, Tizzy and Vicki, are members of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC). Two panelists, John as Board member and Brian as Citizen Budget Oversight Committee member, represent Christina School District. Two panelists, Mike as education union president and Vicki as teacher, represent Red Clay School District. And four panelists, John with Transparent Christina, Kevin with Exceptional Delaware and Brian with Those In Favor and Delaware Liberal, are education bloggers with Mike formerly blogging at Down With Absolutes.
What a line up! Also, we’ll be presenting Kevin and Tizzy with their Hero certificates!
And we are thrilled to announce that joining PDD on November 4th for a presentation on Citizens United led by Judith A. Butler will be Democratic candidates for Congress, Rep. Bryon Short and Sen. Bryan Townsend, both prime sponsors of SCR 6, calling for an Article V Convention and an Amendment to the US Constitution.
President, Progressive Democrats for Delaware
About a month ago, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy appeared on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte. On this controversial episode, Murphy told Mendte flat-out parents are not allowed to opt their children out of tests. Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA appeared last weekend on the show to tackle Murphy’s comments. Watch the full segment!
A couple months ago, the Delaware blogosphere lit up one Friday afternoon regarding a rumor that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy was either going to resign or be terminated. One blogger heard what they felt was a solid rumor that Murphy and Associate Secretary of Education David Blowman were terminated. This rumor, squashed by Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, was put to rest. However, many things have happened since then.
The Christina, Red Clay and Delaware State Educator Associations have all issued a no confidence press release regarding Mark Murphy. I even denounced him at the Parent Press Conference last week (not that my voice carries that much clout in the First State). Murphy appeared on The Delaware Way and said parents aren’t allowed to opt out. Many seem shocked Governor Markell would continue to let Mark Murphy be the leader of education in Delaware. But he is still here.
The latest rumor, which I’m hearing from a few sources, all unconnected, is that Murphy already gave Governor Markell his letter of resignation, but Markell won’t accept it. While everyone is begging for the Secretary to be replaced, the Governor is holding onto him as if he is the lifeline of education in Delaware. Others seem to be hearing about a July 1st resignation date, which would make more sense given the start of a new fiscal year, but we have all heard these rumors before. As always with Delaware education, we shall see…
Last week, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy appeared on The Delaware Way with host Larry Mendte. I posted the video the other day. Now you can read the full transcript of the whole conversation.
Larry Mendte: Welcome back to The Delaware Way. I’m Larry Mendte. We’re pleased to be joined by the Delaware Department of Education, Secretary Mark Murphy. Thank you so much for being here today. I think it’s fair to say that there is controversy across the country on standardized testing, new standardized testing connected to Core and that you have been, your Department, has been trying to head off that type of controversy in Delaware by trying to get out in front of it. Are you doing that because you’ve seen what’s happened in other states?
Mark Murphy: No, we’re doing that because it’s important to make sure our students and our educators and our parents understand the value of this assessment.
Mendte: So it’s the Smarter Balanced Assessment. That’s the official title for the test. Explain what that test is.
Murphy: It is an academic checkup. I think that’s incredibly important for our parents to remember is that at the end of the day we want to make sure as parents that our children are making adequate progress. That progress that they need to make so that they are ready after high school to be successful. And the Smarter Balanced Assessment that we will administer once a year provides an academic checkup for parents, for kids, for educators. Is that child on track? It’s nothing more than that.
Mendte: Are parents allowed to opt out of it?
Murphy: No, parents are not allowed to opt out of it. Testing is a part of school. Assessments are a part of school. It’s a part of life, it’s what we do here in public school. And it’s incredibly important. It provides information, #1, #2, it highlights the challenges that our students may have as individuals, and as a State it provides us with great information about how to shape our funding decisions, how to shape our policy decisions.
Mendte: Why wouldn’t parents be allowed to opt out of it. I know there is a movement, there’s some legislation asking for parents to be able to opt out of it. And there are also some parental organizations asking for that. Why wouldn’t you allow that? Does it have to do with funding?
Murphy: No, it does not have to do with funding. It has to do with the importance of information.
Mendte: Let me back up for a second. Federal government says you have to have 95% involved, and that is linked to funding, right?
Murphy: That is absolutely the case, yes. But that aside, the information is powerful. It provides all of us with an understanding about how our children are doing. First and foremost, the kids themselves, but right on through us policy makers. And if we do not have the ability to measure the progress our kids are making, then we do not have the ability to make great educational decisions, from the classrooms right through to the Legislature.
Mendte: Let me go through some pushback on it and you can answer the questions. Some parents are concerned that the tests are too hard, that it’s much too difficult than any of the tests they’ve had in the past, and they don’t want their kids to be the lab rats for this new test. What about the fear that the children will be taught just for the test, they ‘ll be taught just to take a test and not necessarily what they need to know in life?
Murphy: In schools that have done a poor job in the past decade, they have done all this test prep work. I agree that is a common fear that we hear and is often perpetuated. But it is not the case in our high quality schools and in the hearts of our educators. What our educators are doing is teaching to a set of standards. What do our students need to know and be able to do to be successful later and the test is a measuring stick, it’s an academic checkup on those standards.
Mendte: You can assure me that a teacher who realizes that they may be measured by a test wouldn’t teach for the test?
Murphy: So if they, there is a couple ways to think about this. The first is that you’re not teaching for the test, you’re teaching for a set of standards. But the test measures those standards and the teachers measuring those standards every day and every week and trying to see “Are the students making progress?” And in some ways they are teaching for the test because the test is a measurement tool against the standards. But let’s not overdo it here, cause some of this nonsensical test prep work that has gone on over recent decades does not help kids. What we need to do is make sure that kids have great, real, authentic problems to solve in school and that they are demonstrating their knowledge in real life kind of ways.
Mendte: Well, as we move along, you pointed out “Why didn’t I have you in yet, because education is such a big issue,” and I agree with you and I’d really love for you to come back.
Murphy: My pleasure.
Mendte: Thank you so much. The Department of Education Secretary Mark Murphy. That wraps it up for The Delaware Way.
Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy appeared on The Delaware Way with host Larry Mendte over the weekend. The subject was standardized testing. When Mendte asked Murphy point blank if parents were allowed to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Murphy said “Absolutely not.”
I’m not sure what world Murphy is living in, but his own DOE has publicly stated there is nothing they can do about it. There is no law prohibiting or allowing it, so parents can, have and will opt their children out. I would strongly suggest Mark Murphy gets a reality check. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a joke, and parents are realizing this more and more every day. I really hope House Bill 50 passes the House and Senate, and it puts Governor Markell in a position of either approving it and following the will of his constituents, or denying it and looking like a complete fool.
In the meantime, watch Murphy in all his grinning glory.