Delaware School Administrator Funding Analysis Reveals A Hot Mess!

In essence, administrator counts are being determined by units of pupils, as opposed to the number of personnel under their span of responsibility.

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Earl Jaques Planning To Draft Legislation That Would Put Christina In Receivership By The State

State Representative Earl Jaques has some mighty bold plans in the 150th General Assembly.  The biggest and most controversial will be a bill that would have the state takeover the Christina School District.  It is in the works and he is looking for sponsors. Continue reading

Meredith Chapman’s Life Cut Short, Rest In Peace

It was with extreme sadness when I received a call this morning about the death of Meredith Chapman.  While details are vague, there was a murder-suicide at her home in Bryn Mawr, PA yesterday.  17 hours ago she posted on Facebook about accepting a job at Villanova University.  I endorsed Meredith when she was against State Senator David Sokola two years ago and she came within five percentage points in the November 2016 election.

Meredith was best known for her time as Director of Digital Communications at University of Delaware.  She resigned to take the new position at Villanova as an Assistant Vice President.

Meredith was young and full of life.  Had she won, I have no doubt she would have become a vibrant voice at Legislative Hall.  Out with the old and in with the new.  Sadly, Meredith’s voice will never be able to create new laws in our state.  I can’t imagine how her husband is dealing with this as well as her friends and family.  No one ever wants to receive that call.

Please keep them all in your prayers and thoughts today.

A Review Of “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”: More Of The Same With No Solutions

A University of Delaware class called Documentary Production produced a video called “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”.  The cinematography of the video was good, but I feel it should have been renamed “Fixing Education In Wilmington” because that was pretty much what the video was about.

It gave a good history of segregation before 1954, but after that it focused solely on Wilmington.  But I found the stereotypes to be a bit too much.  The video primarily focuses on two Caucasian mothers.  One is in what appears to be a classroom, and the other is out in the suburbs in a very nice home.  When they do show African-Americans (aside from  Tony Allen), it is primarily urban Wilmington.  As if there are no African-Americans in the suburbs.

The TedX Wilmington videos shown in this are from Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and Dr. Paul Herdman, the CEO of the Rodel Foundation.  Other folks shown in the video are Dan Rich from the University of Delaware and one of the main WEIC players, Atnre Alleyne from DelawareCAN and TeenSHARP, and Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.   There are cameos from Delaware Teacher of the Year Wendy Turner and the not-even sworn in yet Christina Board Member Meredith Griffin Jr.

Here is a newsflash.  There are 19 school districts in Delaware.  Up and down the state.  I love Wilmington, but if you are going to make a video called Fixing Education In The First State, you have to focus on the whole state.  This was one of the biggest mistakes WEIC made, focusing on Wilmington and expecting the rest of state to pick up the tab to fix Wilmington issues.  Yes, Wilmington is the biggest city, but many issues with poverty and low-income exist all over Delaware.

Like most discussions about “fixing” education in Delaware, we go through the history and the present situation.  Add some current events like the upcoming Colonial Referendum to make it current.  Show some shots from a WEIC meeting a few months ago when Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting attended for some extra oomph and importance.

I recognize segregation in Wilmington schools and what school choice has done to Northern New Castle County as major problems in Delaware.  But there are other equally important issues, only one of which was briefly touched on in the video- education funding.  We also have special education with a rapidly growing population of students with disabilities, standardized testing, a growing population of English Language Learners, a General Assembly that generally makes some very bad choices for our schools, bullying in our schools,the continued fall-out from the Race To The Top accountability era, a State Auditor who doesn’t audit school districts every year even though that office has to by state law, referenda, a new Governor that is putting a ton of cuts towards school districts (but not charters), the Rodel Foundation’s stranglehold on decisions made in education, data mining of personal student information, and the upcoming and very real threats of competency-based education, personalized learning, an eventual replacement of real teachers with glorified moderators instead in a digital technology wonderland, and the upcoming Blockchain technology which will institute a full-blown “digital badge” scenario, tracking children from cradle to grave and predetermined careers and what their societal worth will be.  And yes, even Social-Emotional Learning is in the process of getting hijacked by the corporate education reformers (more on that soon).

Many of these things aren’t on the radar as much as they should be.  We are still bickering over how to “fix” education but we are stumbling with talking about what is right in education.  We are in a constant state of flux, in a state of constant improvement.  This obsessive need for improvement is actually what is fracturing education the most in Delaware.  The problem comes when we try to measure all these changes by one standardized test.

For an eleven minute video, it would be impossible to catch all the issues in Delaware education.  But showing very old videos of Tony Allen and Paul Herdman don’t do much for me.  Most Delawareans really don’t know who the two of them are.  Just because they have a TedX stage doesn’t give them more importance than a teacher giving a lecture to a class or a parent giving public comment at a school board meeting.  Those are actually the voices we need to hear more of in Delaware education, the everyday citizen.  Not a CEO of a “non-profit” making over $344,000 a year or a well-meaning Bank of America executive.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Tony Allen is a great guy, but it has become more than obvious that WEIC isn’t heading towards the destination it dreamed of and it is time to move on.  As for Dr. Paul “Rodel” Herdman, I have never been shy about my dislike of his “visions” for Delaware schools that have its roots in corporate profit.

We need to focus on what is going right in Delaware education and build from that.  It begins at the grass-roots level, in the classroom.  For that, the student and teacher voice are the most important.  And then the parent.  We go from one reform or initiative to the next, and the cycle goes on and on.

FOIA Complaint From Newark Legislators Puts University Of Delaware In The Hot Seat

Several Newark, Delaware legislators submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the Delaware Attorney General’s office last Spring.  The response to the complaint came out today.

State Representatives Paul Baumbach, John Kowalko, and Ed Osienski, and State Senators Karen Peterson, David Sokola and Bryan Townsend felt the University of Delaware violated FOIA with the posting of an agenda about a change to their bylaws.  The Attorney General’s response opined the Board of Trustees at the University did violate FOIA by not posting a specific resolution they would be voting on in the agenda.  The AG’s office stated even if the public had some knowledge of what could be happening it still falls on a public board to give notice of the proposed action item on an agenda.

As a result of the FOIA complaint, the University Board of Trustees will vote again on the bylaws at their December board meeting.  The AG opinion wants the board to have an open and public discussion surrounding this vote.

I have been hard on Sokola in the past, for what I believe are good reasons.  I wish he would demand the same transparency from charter schools.  Have you ever seen some of their board agendas?  I hardly ever see any action items on them even though they constantly vote on items.

Reasons America & Delaware Are Still Great 2016 Edition

Many people in America today are facing an impossible choice.  We call this Election Day.  I am choosing to spend the day looking at all that is good about America and more specifically the state I live in, Delaware.  No matter what happens today, we can’t let anyone take away the spirit of what makes us Americans.  We have liberties we often take for granted.  Beyond the politics of it all, we all should want the best for each other, especially the children.  We have so much talent in this country.  Each mind is a unique and wonderful creation of beauty and grace. In Delaware, we have people doing things no one hears about, every single day. We have children who have so many gifts. We have stories of hope and inspiration. As a friend of mine said on Facebook the other day, we are more than this election.

The Delaware Pathways Docs… Open Your Eyes Delaware And See The Manipulation…

Yesterday, the Delaware Attorney General’s office opened up Delaware to the world of the Delaware Pathways.  Granted, this had to come in the form of a FOIA complaint from yours truly.  But feast your eyes on all the big plans rolled around this initiative.  An initiative so big Governor Markell had to issue an Executive Order when the General Assembly said no thanks to legislation creating a Steering Committee around the Pathways gig.  Given how much is tied into this thing: Common Core, the state assessments, millions upon millions of dollars of state funding, outside businesses, all three of our major colleges, etc., is it any wonder this group has tried to keep things hush as long as they can?  All I can say is whenever Rodel gets involved, something goes wonky with transparency.  So what is “Work-Based Learning” and “Working To Learn”?  The answers lie within.  If you oppose this, let your voice be heard now.  I do not believe it is a coincidence at all that Delaware will be handing in the first draft of their Every Student Succeeds Act state plan in the next few days.  Between this and the ESSA state plan, with all the smoke and mirrors involved with that, NOW is the time to be extra vigilant.  Read every single word in these documents.  Every.  Single.  One.

Will Stakeholders Be Able To Stop The Delaware DOE With ESSA? And What Delaware Entity Is Already Cashing In?

The Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Discussion Groups held their third meeting on October 17th.  Below are the minutes from those meetings.  The next meeting will be on November 7th at the Collette Center in Dover from 6pm to 8pm.  Big topics like Special Education, Opt Out, the infamous “n” number, and the “whole child”.  As well, a major Delaware entity is holding a non-transparent event with some mighty big players and charging for it to boot!

essasssdiscgroupmembers

The Student and School Supports group found the following items to be priorities in Delaware education:

  1. Schools are the hub of the community so they need more services brought to them.
  2. Schools need more psychologists as well as psychiatrists and neurologists on call to assist with special education.
  3. Schools need more realistic ratios of guidance counselors.
  4. More trauma-informed schools.
  5. Funding for the “whole child” approach.
  6. Greater funding for high-needs schools.
  7. Invest in Birth to 8 with weight put on social and emotional learning (this also included discussion around providing basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade).

This group is top-heavier than the other discussion group with folks from the services side of education, and it definitely showed.  I don’t mind more services in schools.  But the key is in the eagerness.  It was my perception that some were very pushy with what they would like to see.  These very same people would also benefit financially from more of the recommended services in schools.  Are they a stakeholder at that point or a benefactor?

 

essamssprdiscgroupmembers

The most popular items brought for by this discussion group were as follows:

  1. Not having the 95% participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework.  Since participation rate in state assessments is beyond a school’s ability to control, it should not be used as a punishment.
  2. English Language Learners accountability needs to look at factors in access for these students, how much formal education they had prior to coming to Delaware schools, age, how proficient they are in their native language, if they live in a city or rural environment, and how well they are able to read in their own language.
  3. The “n” size, which is the lowest number a school can have for reporting populations of sub-groups so they are not easily identifiable, was 30

The “n” number is always a tricky beast to tackle.  I support a high n# for student data privacy.  But on the other side, schools with small populations in their subgroups (charter schools) aren’t obligated to provide information on those students and it can make them look better than they really are.  This helps to perpetuate the myth that certain charters provide a better education.  I think the notion of being able to easily recognize a student who has disabilities or is in a sub-group is somewhat ridiculous.  I have never believed special education should be a stigma.  I think schools should celebrate every single child’s uniqueness.  By not reporting the results of those students (even if they are based on very flawed state assessments) does those students a disservice.  It makes it look like they don’t matter when they most certainly do.  It doesn’t look like too many people in this group were in favor of keeping the opt out penalty in the state accountability system.  Obviously, I echo that sentiment!

Last week, the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee held their first meeting.  You can read the highlights here.  As well, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, who is also on the Advisory Committee, had some thoughts on the meeting, the US DOE’s pending regulations around Title I, and how they could affect Delaware schools.

The first draft of Delaware’s ESSA plan comes out at the end of this month.  From there, the discussion groups and Advisory Committee will reconvene.  As well, the Delaware DOE will be hosting more Community Conversations in each county.  Those groups will meet on the following dates from 6pm to 8pm:

11/16: Community Education Building, 1200 N. French St., Wilmington

11/21: Cape Henlopen High School, 1200 Kings Highway, Lewes

11/29: Seaford High School, 399 N. Market St., Seaford

12/1: John Collette Education Resource Center, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover

12/8: Newark Charter School, 2001 Patriot Way, Newark

I find it VERY interesting they are holding the Wilmington meetings at charter schools.  The Community Education Building is the home of Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks.  Sussex County also gets two meetings while Kent County only gets one.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the general public, the University of Delaware Institute of Public Administration is holding a 5 1/2 hour event tomorrow at the Outlook at the Duncan Center in Dover.  This event is called the School Leader Professional Development Series: The Opportunities and Challenges of Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.  This event is NOT on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar nor was it mentioned at the discussion groups or the Advisory Committee.  I was able to get my hands on what is happening at this not-so-transparent event.  The event is described as the following:

This workshop is an additional forum for multi-stakeholder district teams to interact and discuss the opportunities and challenges introduced by this new legislation.

Major players are coming to Dover at 9am tomorrow morning.  Folks like the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association.

Presenting on Delaware’s ESSA plan will be Deb Stevens from DSEA, Dr. Terri Hodges from Delaware PTA, Executive Director from Delaware State Administrators Association Tammy Croce, Executive Director John Marinucci from Delaware School Boards Association, and a rep from the Delaware DOE.

Working groups will also be formed to discuss ESSA.  Another one of the workshops will focus on state accountability systems will be led by Robin Taylor with R²  Educational Consulting (never heard of them, time to start digging), one on school interventions led by Director of State Assessment and Accountability Joseph Jones from New Castle County Vo-Tech and Director of Elementary Schools Amy Grundy from Red Clay.  Finally, Laura Glass with the Delaware Center for Teacher Education and Jackie Wilson of the Delaware Academy for School Leadership/Professional Development Center for Education will lead a workshop on Teacher and Leader Training and Evaluation.

Will the Delaware DOE use what is said in this non-transparent event to help in the creation of their first draft?  Why is this event not public?  Shouldn’t those outside of education be able to hear what is being said about what could happen in their local schools based on this act?  One of the biggest challenges of ESSA is the perception that the Delaware DOE already knows what will be in their state plan and all of this is just details.  I suppose someone could crash this event if they registered, but they would have to fork over $85.00 to go.  But if you got in with a local school district or charter school with four or more members that price would jump way down from $85.00 to $75.00.  Cashing in on ESSA!  Gotta love the University of Delaware.

If you are not informed about the Every Student Succeeds Act and Delaware’s proposed plans, you won’t know the future of education in this state.  Period.  I have been imploring parents and citizens to get involved with this for a long time now.  I understand people are busy and they have their own lives.  But this one is really big.  It has not escaped my notice that they are doing all this during a major election cycle and around the holidays.  That is how the Delaware DOE rolls.  Either they plan stuff in the summer when no one can show up (or even knows about it) or they cram it in during very busy times for families, teachers, and citizens.

When the first draft comes out, I will be dissecting every single word and punctuation mark in the document.  I will break it down for you.  I will filter through what they think the public will see and what it really means.  That’s how I roll.  But it can’t stop there.  YOU must lend your voice.  Whether it is in person or email.  Keep a copy of what you say at all times.  Make sure your voice is not only heard but recorded as well.  We will get exactly what they submit.  If you don’t make your voice heard now (or when the drafts are released), it will be far too late.  It comes down to trust.  Do you really trust the Delaware DOE to do the right thing for students without selling them out to Education Inc.?  I don’t.  We need to upset the apple cart.  Are you in?  Or will you lament not speaking up later?

How The Delaware General Assembly Got Away With Not Needing A 3/4 Vote To Pass The State Budget

Last summer, many folks took notice the Delaware Senate did not pass the state budget with a 3/4 majority vote as required by Delaware state code.  There was a specific reason they needed a 3/4 vote.  That was because the universities and charter schools they have appropriations for are considered corporations.  The law states the 3/4 vote is needed to appropriate money to corporations.  If they didn’t give any money to those entities, they only need a majority vote.  At the end of the legislative session in 2015, State Senator Colin Bonini introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution #39 which formed a working group to determine if the universities and charter schools were indeed corporations as defined in state code.

The group met twice and quickly issued a letter to Governor Markell which determined charter schools, the University of Delaware, and Delaware State University are not “corporations” as was originally written in the law because they have many key relationships with state government.  So therefore, that was why the 3/4 majority vote was not needed, based on a legal opinion which came out of all this.

 

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 1: Rodel, DOE & Achieve Inc. Team-Up

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  In its original form, it was an effort to personalize learning between a teacher and a student.  Students don’t always learn at the same pace.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning dream team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil but rather teachers who are easily manipulated and coerced into being connected with the “next big thing”.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.

Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coördination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

Coming up in Part 2: Delaware gets Marzanoed

A Message From Sean Goward, Candidate For Delaware Governor

Delaware candidate for Governor Sean Goward is asking for YOUR help.  No matter what your political views are, everyone deserves a shot to speak when they run for office.  It can’t just be the blues and the reds that get to debate, no matter where it is.  This message also applies to Andrew Groff, the gubernatorial candidate for the Green Party as well!

The most recent poll out of Quinnipiac on this issue has debate inclusion at a very favorable 62%.  Delaware can do better than that though.  Let’s get 100% and be fair to ALL the candidates!

Good afternoon,

Whether you support my campaign or not, I would like to ask your support in favor of an open and transparent election process. University of Delaware Center for Political Communication has a requirement that we meet a 10% poll threshold in a professionally conducted public opinion survey. I’m not sure how many of you have received phone calls asking you who you intend to vote for, but for the calls I’ve gotten, despite being on the ballot, unopposed in my party, I was not one of the options.

The market of ideas only improves with more options, and I’m not asking you to buy my ideas, or to vote for me. While the LP presidential nominee is working hard to meet his 15% threshold for debating on the national stage, more than 75% of people polled support having third party candidates on the debate stage. In an election year that is marked by a distaste for a lack of options, what I am asking for is that we leverage the support of the people of Delaware for allowing your Libertarian candidate to stand on the debate stage next to Congressman Carney and State Senator Colin Bonini , and represent the ideals of Liberty. 

If you would like to hear another voice outside the mainstream of options provided, please call or write to the University of Delaware Center for Political Communications and ask them to revisit their exclusionary policy that favors only the two party system. Thank you.

Yours in Liberty,
Sean

I would LOVE to see Sean Goward debate with Carney and Bonini.  Groff as well.  Let’s make it happen!

Contact Info to make this happen:

UD CPC
Email: prbrewer@udel.edu
Phone: (302) 831-7771

 

I Still Can’t Agree With Teach For America Getting Paid $125,000 To Do Teacher Leader Prep Programs…

Teach For America, the University of Delaware, and Supporting School Success just began contracts with the Delaware Department of Education for their teacher-leader preparation programs.  The contract began June 1st.  It could just be me, but I see something inherently wrong with using Teach For America to shape the future leaders of education.  If I understand these programs right, the teachers will be out of the classroom a lot, so schools will have to get substitute teachers.

Teach For America is getting $125,000 for their work on this contract, along with the University of Delaware.  The FLEX program, operated by Supporting School Success, is only getting $50,000 for eleven months of work.  Reading state contracts is like reading hieroglyphics, but I can’t really understand why the Teach For America contract is a five-year program that runs out in a year.  Maybe I’m misreading something, but who pays for this after a year?  The district or charter school?  Would those payments go to Teach For America?  Cause I’m pretty sure applicants for these programs have to apply through the Delaware Department of Education unless I’m thinking of some other teacher leader program.  Are districts okay with getting invoices from Teach For America after a year?  If someone could explain all this to me, please let me know.  I’m not sure which program has this, but I did attend a Capital board meeting a few months back where the board approved a couple of schools to take part in this program.  The district explained funds would come out of grants.  Whether those are federal or state, I’m not sure.  But in the end, we all pay for it!

This contract with Teach For America was actually very controversial about ten months ago, but the Professional Standards Board and State Board of Education eventually approved the application.

In the meantime, the contracts for each of the programs are below:

The Delaware Illuminati, Part 1: Jeb Bush Inspires Rodel

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  It is an effort to personalize learning so a student doesn’t always learn at the same pace as other students.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.  Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

 

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coordination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

To be continued…in part 2…coming soon…

To read the prologue to this series, link to The Delaware Illuminati, Prologue

Delaware House Education Committee Today Promises To Be VERY Controversial

The House Education Committee has been updated and will include the following: House Bills 161, 333 and 349 and Senate Bills 92 and 93.

houseedcommagenda5416

Vouchers, Autism, Student Loans and School Boards!  I am hearing from several different sources that there will be fireworks over a few of these bills.  I can’t believe they crammed all these in for one meeting.  If you plan on going, I would get there early!  The meeting starts in less than an hour folks!

Senator Dave Sokola In Crisis Mode

Inside sources at Legislative Hall are telling me Delaware Senator David Sokola is very concerned about his opponent in the General Election for his Senate Seat next November.  As one legislator told me, he is very scared.  Some legislators in the Democrat party are actually hoping he is unseated.  Many blame him for the charter school woes in Delaware based on the very legislation he wrote and sponsored.  As well, his push for Common Core and standardized testing has caused a great deal amount of stress in Legislative Hall.  Many feel more important things could have been done but a lot of time was wasted based on legislation he created.  Others feel he is too biased towards the charter schools which has angered many on the Right and Left.

Last week, Republican Meredith Chapman announced she was running for the Senate 8th District.  A young woman in her thirties, she has a very extensive resume.  Her big draw will be the University of Delaware which is in the center of the 8th District.  Despite the discriminatory comments from the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club over on Kilroy’s Delaware, a lot of folks in Delaware feel Chapman would be a breath of fresh air in the Senate.

As the 148th General Assembly winds down in the next couple months, a lot of legislation will be brought up for a vote.  Education legislation in the Senate that is up for a full Senate vote gets put on the agenda by the Chair of the Senate Education Committee which just so happens to be Sokola.  Will he allow legislation he may not agree with to come up for a vote in order to gain a modicum of respect back from his district?  Or will he stay the course and stick with what Governor Markell wants?  Time will tell…

Delaware State Senator David Sokola Faces Competition From Republican Meredith Chapman In 2016 Election

For over a year now, many people in Delaware have felt State Senator David Sokola has served for far too long in the Delaware Senate.  Today, a Republican named Meredith Chapman publicly announced she is running for State Senate in District 8.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Chapman’s resume includes the following summary of her credentials:

Award-winning, nationally-recognized digital strategist, educator, communicator and former journalist, known as @MediaMeredith. Highly motivated and polished public relations manager with expertise in higher education, public affairs, government and politics, community outreach, crisis management, multimedia and strategy development as well as relationship cultivation. Innate leader with successful track record in management, organizational development, and strategy creation and execution. More than 10 years experience with and in the Delaware news scene with work on national and global levels. Proven skills in strategic communications, project management, program development, leadership and high-profile outreach and event management.

She is the current Director for Digital Communications at the University of Delaware.  This could get very interesting.  What do you think?  Is it time for new blood in the 8th Senate District in Delaware?  I will flat-out say I believe Senator Sokola has not used his position as Chair of the Senate Education Committee without bias towards certain agendas in Delaware.  A fervent charter school and standardized testing supporter, Sokola has been a lightning rod of controversy for some time.

MeredithChapman

 

As Legislation For Autism Pass In Delaware Senate, Very Strange Rodel Connections Sneak Into Special Education

Last week, the Delaware Senate passed both Senate Bill 92 and 93.  The legislation, dealing with Autism, passed unanimously in the Delaware Senate.  I wholeheartedly support this legislation as originally written, and I hope the House of Representatives passes it very soon.  The children and adults with Autism of Delaware have waited long enough for more support.  But what concerns me are the amendments added to both bills during the Senate vote last week.  Below are the original bills and the amendments.

With the amendment on Senate Bill 92, this takes away the authority of the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education to provide training and technical assistance for students with autism.  This will shift to the University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Studies.  The funding for the training specialists comes from the appropriations act AND possible tuition fees from the local school district.

The amendment for Senate Bill 93 references things that aren’t even in existence at present.  Upon doing a Google search, there is no established entity called “Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services”.  I did find reference to similar groups in New Hampshire and Massachusetts but none for Delaware.  How can legislation provide for an organization that doesn’t exist anywhere in the public domain?  But while we are waiting for the creation of this mythical initiative, the representative on the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism will be the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware DOE.  Who is this person?  That would be Matthew Korobkin.

Korobkin came to the Secretary of Education’s office in March of 2015.  I first found out about him last summer when I was discussing special education with Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation.  She mentioned Korobkin and how he was going all over Delaware to find out best practices with Delaware special education.  She suggested I reach out to him to discuss my concerns with special education.  I emailed him but never received a response.  I found out soon after where Korobkin came from: the Rodel Foundation.

This is where things get very strange with this bill.  Korobkin’s history shows more of a slant towards special education technology.  How does someone who has a very brief tenure as a special education data teachers and an administrator position that is more a Technology Curriculum role than a true administrator become the key person in Delaware’s special education strategic plan?  Simple: he came from Rodel.  If you do a Google search on Korobkin in Delaware, you see many links to his functions at Rodel.  But for the DOE, you see his role as a member of the Statewide Educational Data Task Force come up the most.  He appears somewhere in the below picture.

EducDataTaskForce

I find it somewhat frightening that a data person would be put in charge of a statewide special education plan, much less someone who came from Rodel.  During his time at Rodel, he ran the Rodel Teacher Council.  He even gave his own biography in 2012 after he joined Rodel.  I can think of hundreds of other people in Delaware who are immensely more qualified than Korobkin for this key role that was snuck into the Fiscal Year 2015 budget epilogue:

SB255Sec.307

 

I did find a link to the minutes of the February 2016 meeting of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens.  Korobkin gave a presentation on the progress of this special education strategic plan.  Even more interesting was the attendees part of the minutes.  Both Hopkins and CEO Dr. Paul Herdman with Rodel attended this meeting.  I would imagine it was to see their former employee/current DOE plant give his big presentation.

I also linked to this Korobkin’s proposed Strategic Plan when he gave a presentation to the State Board of Education at their Spring Retreat last Friday.

Like I said in the first paragraph of this article, this legislation is a must.  But why do we have Rodel poking around in special education?  This non-profit organization doesn’t support a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes testing, helped Governor Markell and the DOE win our first-round win in the Race To The Top competition, supports Common Core and personalized learning, and heavily supports charter schools at the expense of traditional school districts.  And now they want to get involved in special education?  Sorry, I’m not buying it.  Their activity in Delaware education is not good for any student, much less students with disabilities.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the House Education Committee meeting on these bills.  And I plan on viewing this Strategic Plan due in May of 2016 the second it comes out!  Parents of children with Autism should have concern about some of the language in these amendments, specifically Senate Bill 93.

 

 

US DOE Pumps Up Delaware Without Knowing All The Facts

JackandJohn

The United States Department of Education wrote a fluff piece today on Delaware’s assessment inventory.  There were obvious flaws in their article.  But they did get one thing right, which certainly applies to “the best test Delaware ever made” (quote attributed to Governor Jack Markell), the Smarter Balanced Assessment:

Done poorly, in excess, or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creativity from our classrooms.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is finally defined!

Here are some of the other fallacies in the article:

Following up on its commitment to be a part of the solution, the Department recently released guidance to States on how they can use federal funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to reduce the testing burden and improve the use of high-quality assessments so that educators and families can better understand student learning needs and help them make progress (read the letter to States).

Hello! Part of the solution?  You created the problem!  How can educators and families help children make progress when they don’t see the answers the child gave?  This is all designed to get rid of the tests that give REAL information to better understand student learning needs and help them make progress.

 “It’s important for us to know where we have achievement gaps. It is important for us to know where our students are making progress,” King said. “But there are places around the country where there is too much assessment and the assessments are not the quality we want.”

Key words from Acting Secretary John King (and I stress the word “acting”): “…not the quality we want.”  Yes, you don’t want them because the whole mechanism by which schools are labeled and shamed, the high-stakes standardized test, is the quality you want.  Based on the Common Core standards, these tests are horrible.  And you know it John King!  You are deluded if you think parents aren’t waking up to this more and more!

All district and charter schools in Delaware were required to complete an inventory of their assessments and submit their findings to the Delaware Department of Education by December 31, 2015.

Who checks the facts at the US DOE?  Or did the Delaware DOE give them this information?  All districts and charters were not “required” to participate.  Many did and many of them got grant money for doing so.  And a couple of them recommended getting rid of Smarter Balanced!

A committee of teachers, administrators, and parents from across the State is reviewing the assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information.

Actually, there is ONE parent on this committee (acting as both a parent and a teacher).  She has been to one of the four meetings.  There are six legislators on the committee, one of which is also a teacher (but I put him in the camp of the “good guys”).  The President of the Delaware State Educators Association is on the committee and one administrator: the superintendent of one of our vocational districts.  There is also a representative from the civil rights community on the committee.  And that’s it, aside from the Delaware Department of Education members who weren’t part of the original legislation but threw themselves on.  Oh yeah, it’s moderated by a woman from the University of Delaware.  I love how they make it seem like this is a huge group with an “s” added on at the end of each of the members.

“Our educators, our students, and their parents all deserve the benefits of effective assessments that show when students are excelling and when they need extra support,” said Governor Jack Markell. “At the same time, tests that don’t add meaningfully to the learning process mean less time for students to receive the instruction and support they need. We are committed to finding the right balance, and this initiative is an important part of that process.”

Notice the use of the words “the right balance” in the Governor’s statement?  Is this some kind of Jedi mind trick?  He is right though.  We do deserve the benefit of effective assessments.  Too bad “the best test Delaware ever made” isn’t one of them.  This initiative was started because Jack Markell didn’t know how to handle the opt out movement in Delaware.  He was arrogant enough to think it wouldn’t hit Delaware, but it did.  He said all sorts of stuff between February and December of 2015 without putting a lot of thought into what it actually meant.  My favorite was when he said the Smarter Balanced results could be used for Delaware universities so students wouldn’t have to take remedial classes.  Then he took away the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors in lieu of the revamped Common Core aligned SAT because too many Delaware juniors opted out last year.  Then the University of Delaware announced a pilot program announcing they weren’t going to use the SAT as part of their admissions process.

Brandywine’s assessment inventory found that many of these assessments were not aligned to the State’s standards, did not measure the depth of knowledge required by these new standards, nor included a variety of item types.

Kudos to Brandywine!

In particular, there was limited use of performance tasks that measure students’ critical thinking skills. The district is working with its teachers and school administrators to review, revise, and in some cases, eliminate these assessments. In their place will be high-quality formative assessments, tests used throughout the year by educators to assess whether students are learning content, aligned to the State’s standards that will be given throughout the district.

Oops! Never mind.  They are getting rid of what are most likely the good tests but don’t help the students to do well on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is the only test that matters to Governor Jack and his band of merry persons at the Delaware DOE!  And now we have to go through ten months of the new buddy team of Jack and John.  I may be running for the local school board, but I can’t help writing about the utter nonsense in this article.  And I am glad my local school district is one of the districts that said the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not a good assessment.

Meanwhile, the world keeps spinning as it has for billions of years, before Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment made children feel stupid…

To read the complete nonsense in full, please go here if you have the stomach for more of this…

 

 

 

Interesting House Education Committee Meeting Today With Wellness Centers And University of Delaware

The Delaware House Education Committee held their first meeting today after the long Joint Finance Committee break.  On the agenda was one bill, House Bill 234, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams.  As well, the University of Delaware gave a presentation on their overall enrollment trends.

House Bill 234 concerns wellness centers in three traditional school district high schools: Appoquinimink High School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Conrad Schools of Science.  These three are the last remaining high schools in the state (not including charters) which have no wellness center.  A wellness center is not just a school nurse.  They also provide counseling services as well.  The bill was unanimously released from committee.  Several folks gave public comment in support of the bill: Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, President of DSEA Frederika Jenner, and a representative from Red Clay.  Rep. Williams read a letter she received from a high school student.  The young man was going through a depression and he credited the wellness center at his high school for getting him through this very troubled time.

There was some debate about which schools would get a wellness center first if the bill passes.  Rep. Williams felt it should be the oldest school first, but State Rep. Charles Potter felt it should be needs-based.  Rep. Williams indicated the JFC would determine this in the budget as the bill calls for each of the schools receiving the wellness centers at one per year for the next three fiscal years.

Dr. Nancy Targett, the Acting President of the University of Delaware gave a long presentation on enrollment trends and a general overview of the university.  She showed many slides about minority enrollment, retention rates, and graduation rates.  Afterwards, during a question and answer with the members of the House Education Committee, things got a bit more tense.  State Rep. Charles Potter was very concerned about minorities being placed in the Associate program at the University of Delaware.  This program is for students who need more help when they enter college.  When asked about what may be holding these students back by Rep. Williams, Dr. Targett was unable to give a clear answer but did promise the committee she would get more information.  Many civil rights advocates feel the University of Delaware under-enrolls African-Americans.  Dr. Targett did say this is her number one priority and many universities across the country are dealing with these issues.

Dr. Targett felt the recent announcement about the pilot program concerning SAT scores not counting towards admission credentials could allow for more minorities to be accepted at University of Delaware.  She said the University understands not all students do well on tests like that and a student could just have a bad day.  They want to focus more on students’ actual Grade Point Average and other activities.

After the meeting adjourned, I asked Dr. Targett about an omission in her presentation: students with disabilities.  She said she didn’t know the numbers offhand but gave me her email address so she can find out.  Which I will certainly take her up on!

The Time Is NOW For “Get Rid Of Smarter Balanced” Legislation In Delaware!!!!

JackLameDuck

The University of Delaware rendered a verdict on Common Core: We don’t care!  As Delaware First State reported on Friday could happen and the The News Journal reported last night, the University of Delaware is now making SAT scores optional on applications.  In other words, they don’t care what your SAT score was high school students of Delaware!  What does this have to do with the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Last May, the Delaware Department of Education made a big showing about the College Board redesigning the SAT to align with Common Core standards.  At the same time, high school juniors were the largest group of students opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At the end of 2015, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky made his big announcement about getting rid of Smarter Balanced for high school juniors in lieu of the SAT.  And now the largest university in Delaware has said the test is now optional.

Members of the committee that came up with the idea say research at other universities – and their own research into UD students – suggests that high school grade point averages are a better predictor of college success than the SAT.

This follows 815 other colleges and universities around the country who already did the same.  The message is loud and clear: our higher education institutes in America do not believe Common Core and the SAT are what makes a student “college-ready”.  Of course the article doesn’t come right out and say this, but for University of Delaware to do this now, right before the new alignment comes out?  Governor Markell’s education agenda failed.  There are no other words to accurately describe what the University of Delaware declared with this.  When I read the words “GPA” in the News Journal article my heart leaped!  These are the words I have wanted to hear for years!  Nobody talks about actual grades students are getting anymore.  All the big decisions made rotate around the state assessment.

The Delaware 148th General Assembly needs to have someone bring legislation forward to ban the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We can no longer sit idly by and pretend this test has been anything but a colossal failure.  I believe we can now expect parents to opt their teenagers out of the SAT.  Really, what is the point?  Yes, the test cost money.  Do we continue to spend millions of dollars on waste (I know, this is Delaware)?  I know this has been on the minds of many legislators in Dover but no one has crossed the Rubicon to make it happen.  I can say this, anyone envisioning a future role of higher public office could almost guarantee success by sponsoring something like this today.

While we are already transitioning to the Every Student Succeeds Act, now is the best time to reevaluate education in Delaware.  This means getting rid of Common Core, high-stakes assessments, how we evaluate our teachers, funding, and how to best serve all students in the state.  There are already several initiatives going on, but we need something bigger.  We need to bring ALL the existing groups and gets tons of parents, teachers, and even students in on this.  We need an education summit like no other.  Before we were knee-deep in the current wave of education reform we did this twice: in 2001 and 2005.  We need to look at everything: special education, bullying, district alignment, everything!  We are at a pivotal crossroads with education, and there is a ton of room for error.  Let’s bring everyone together and make something that is good and lasting for our kids.