Delaware “Needs Assistance” For Special Education But Most Districts “Need Intervention” According to US DOE

The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education in public schools.  Their system of rating states and, by default, schools is problematic on its best day.  Far too much emphasis is placed on the state assessment.  In Delaware, that test is the Smarter Balanced Assessment for most students with disabilities.  We all know it is a horrible test but no one seems to want to change it anytime soon.  This is for the Part B determinations.  Part C is for children with disabilities aged 3-5 while Part B is for students in elementary up through 12th grade.

The letters to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting can be found as follows:

Part B

Part C

You will notice some very distinct patterns in the below local education agency determinations for Delaware.  No traditional school district met requirements.  Those that were labeled as “Needs Intervention” tend to be the larger districts with high pockets of low-income students, minorities, and higher populations of special education students.  All the schools that met requirements only serve high school students.  I take these things with a grain of salt but it is not a state secret that Delaware special education needs a serious overhaul!  As usual, the state education agency, the Delaware Department of Education, is not judged under the same criteria as our districts and charters.  If they were, the Delaware DOE would assuredly need intervention.

MEETS REQUIREMENTS:

Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements

Delaware Military Academy: Meets Requirements

First State Military Academy: Meets Requirements

New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements

Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements

 

NEEDS ASSISTANCE:

Academia Antonia Alonso: Needs Assistance

Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance

Campus Community: Needs Assistance

EastSide Charter School: Needs Assistance

First State Montessori Academy: Needs Assistance

Great Oaks Charter School: Needs Assistance

Lake Forest: Needs Assistance

Las Americas ASPIRAS: Needs Assistance

MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance

Newark Charter School: Needs Assistance

Polytech: Needs Assistance

Positive Outcomes: Needs Assistance

Providence Creek: Needs Assistance

Seaford: Needs Assistance

Sussex Academy: Needs Assistance

Thomas Edison: Needs Assistance

 

NEEDS INTERVENTION:

Appoquinimink: Needs Intervention

Brandywine: Needs Intervention

Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention

Cape Henlopen: Needs Intervention

Capital: Needs intervention

Charter School of New Castle: Needs Intervention

Christina: Needs Intervention

Colonial:  Needs Intervention

Delaware Design Thinking Academy: Needs Intervention

Delmar: Needs Intervention

DSCYF: Needs Intervention

Early College High School: error on web page for letter

Friere Charter School: Needs Intervention

Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention

Indian River: Needs Intervention

Kuumba Academy: Needs Intervention

Laurel: Needs Intervention

Milford: Needs Intervention

Odyssey Charter School: Needs Intervention

Red Clay: Needs Intervention

Smyrna: Needs Intervention

Woodbridge: Needs Intervention

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Why Did Delaware Get “Needs Assistance” From The U.S. DOE For Special Education?

Last week, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education officially released the state determination letters for implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  As I reported earlier this month, Delaware received a rating of “needs assistance”.  In June, I reported the special education ratings for each school district and charter school.  Both articles contain my thoughts on these ratings and how they don’t capture what it needs to.

The US DOE lags two years behind so these findings are based on the 2015-2016 school year in Delaware.  This was the second year of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

As part of their release, the US DOE included documents for each state on how they reached their determination.  Below is the Delaware documents.  Also included are the letters sent for IDEA Part B and IDEA Part C.

U.S. DOE Sued By Special Education Advocacy Group Over Failure To Implement Regulation

According to Disability Scoop, the United States Department of Education is being sued by an organization called the Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates for delaying a final rule regarding significant disproportionality.

In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA, alleges that the agency is skirting its obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to ensure that students with disabilities receive appropriate services no matter their racial background.

The ruling was supposed to go into effect this year but the U.S. DOE delayed it for another two years.  However, this is a part of each school’s matrix for annual determinations for how they are implementing special education.

Despite the delay, states are allowed to implement the new standard if they wish to, the Education Department said, and they are still obligated under IDEA to assess school districts for significant disproportionality.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is named in the lawsuit:

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia names DeVos and Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Johnny Collett in addition to the department itself. It seeks to have a judge invalidate the Department of Education’s delay and reinstate the July 1 start date for the rule.

I seriously wonder why the U.S. DOE would put a delay on a ruling that makes absolute sense.

US DOE Rules Delaware “Needs Assistance” For Special Education

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for the United States Department of Education came out with their special education ratings for each state on July 5th and Delaware was rated as “Needs Assistance” in special education for IDEA Part B (ages 3 through 21).  For Part C, which covers Birth through Age 2, Delaware was rated “Needs Assistance” for the second year in a row.

While OSERS did not release the letters sent to each state, they did put up a document covering what each state received for their rating.  The individual letters are supposed to be up this month according to their website.

It is hard to give a lot of weight to these rulings by the US DOE.  Most of the ratings are based on standardized test scores.  I broke this down by school districts and charter schools a few weeks ago based on the letters sent to each district or charter by the Delaware Department of Education.  When over 60% of the ratings are based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the SAT, by grade, we are failing to properly grade our special education.  Students with disabilities, historically, are the worst performers on these type of tests.  These tests do not give an accurate gage of the ability and knowledge these students need to succeed in school.  While even the education reformers are jumping on the “standardized testing does not show the full picture in education” bandwagon, for the US DOE, the almighty standardized test is the basis of everything.  These tests, based on Common Core, which President Trump swore up and down he would abolish (like he even could if he wanted to).  Furthermore, these ratings are always two years behind.  This current rating is based on the 2015-2016 school year.

Repeat after me, IDEA is more than a standardized test.  IDEA is more than a standardized test.

Once the US DOE releases Delaware’s findings letter I will post it.  Last year we were “Meets Requirements”.  We tend to flip back and forth between “meets requirements” and “needs assistance”.  In 2014 we were rated as “Needs Intervention” which upset me to no end until I found out just how flawed these ratings are.

 

Delaware School District & Charter School Special Education Ratings Are The Biggest Joke In The State!

How were the Delaware school districts and charter schools rated this year for special education?  Every single one is in here and the joke isn’t even funny anymore! Continue reading

Odyssey Charter “Denies” A Parent’s Opt Out Letter Two Months Later

Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February.  The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws.  The school does have discretion.  It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.

The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child.  I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out.  So this would be the first to my recollection.  The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out.  They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold.  Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year.  I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay.  It isn’t.

What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law.  That states schools must administer the state assessment to students.  It says nothing about the student actually taking the test.  A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test.  That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it.  And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.

The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law.  Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate.  But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either.  It doesn’t even address opt out.  In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out.  But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it.  And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.

Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee.  It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th.  I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.

Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent.  Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it.  I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it.  That is my promise to you!  And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!

 

Hey Delaware DOE, You May Want To Make Sure Mitch & Our Schools Know This Stuff!

It would be my hope that all Delaware schools, be they district or charter, have seen this.  I would also hope the Exceptional Children Resources Group, the special education area of the Delaware Department of Education, led by Mary Ann Mieczkowski, circulated this to all our schools.  If not, I’ll make sure they get this.  And I won’t even charge them!  But just in case they haven’t seen this, they may want to read this from top to bottom.  Special education is NOT a choice.  And you are expected to implement it with fidelity and as per federal law under IDEA.  The below document, released by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education issued guidance about the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on Endrew F v. Douglas County School District.

US DOE Says Pennsylvania Charter School Violated FERPA By Not Allowing Parent To Opt Their Child Out Of Ed-Tech

This is very big.  The United States Department of Education ruled on a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) complaint in favor of a parent about opting their child out of education technology in the classroom.  They went a step further and told the school they had to provide an alternative to the ed-tech as well.

The letter, sent to Agora Cyber Charter School in King of Prussia, PA, came out on November 2nd, 2017 (see below).  It ruled the school violated FERPA by denying the parent’s request for their child not to use the ed-tech from K12 Inc. due to their terms of service.  K12 could not make sure the information in their application would not go out to third parties.  The parent filed a complaint five years ago.  The US DOE letter said the charter school could not make this a condition of enrollment for the cyber charter school.

I would caution every single school in America that utilizes ed-tech in the classroom to make sure they are in compliance with this ruling!

Delaware Shows Improvement In Special Education But Measurements Are Horribly Wrong

The United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education the other day and Delaware obtained a “Meets Requirements” for indicators under IDEA Part B.  For IDEA Part C, they were designated as “Needs Assistance”.  Part B is for children ages 3 and up to 21, with disabilities, and Part C ranges from birth to 2 years old.  I wrote last year how so many of these special education indicators are based on the state assessment: their scores and participation rate play a very heavy roll.  I have neither the time or the patience to get into the nitty gritty with these determinations at a granular level.  The feds don’t get it and our state doesn’t get it.  I have no doubt the Delaware Department of Education will celebrate this and say “look how far we’ve come”.  But since so much of this is based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I give it about as much legitimacy as a Mona Lisa forgery.

 

Delaware DOE Releases 2017 District & Charter Special Education Ratings

The Delaware Department of Education came out with the special education ratings for all Delaware school districts and charter schools.  The information the schools and districts were rated on were based on indicators by the federal Department of Education.  This is information the Delaware DOE collects from on-site monitoring of schools as well as performance data, including participation rates from the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The ratings are based on information from the 2014-2015 school year.  I don’t necessarily agree with these ratings, especially as it relates to parents opting their children out of the state assessment.  I’ve always found that many schools who have higher populations of students with disabilities tend to get the rougher ratings.  It is a sure sign we need more funding, staff, resources, and training for special education.

 

Meets Requirements:

Academia Antonia Alonso

Academy of Dover

Charter School of Wilmington

Early College High School

First State Montessori Academy

MOT Charter School

Newark Charter School

Odyssey Charter School

Polytech School District

Sussex Tech School District

 

Needs Assistance:

Caesar Rodney School District

Campus Community School

Cape Henlopen School District

Delaware Design-Lab High School

Delaware Military Academy

Delmar School District

East Side Charter School

Freire Charter School

Indian River School District

Las Americas Aspira Academy

Laurel School District

Milford School District

Positive Outcomes Charter School

Providence Creek Academy

Woodbridge School District

 

Needs Intervention:

Appoquinimink School District

Brandywine School District

Capital School District

Charter School of New Castle (formerly Family Foundations Academy)

Christina School District

Colonial School District

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Gateway Lab School

Great Oaks Charter School

Kuumba Charter School

Lake Forest School District

New Castle County Vo-Tech

Prestige Academy (closing this year)

Red Clay Consolidated School District

Seaford School District

Smyrna School District

Thomas Edison Charter School

Coons Concerned About Trump’s Deep Cuts To Education Budget

A couple of weeks ago, I posted responses I received from U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE) and U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (DE) concerning the FY2018 U.S. Department of Education budget.  Yesterday, I received the following from U.S. Senator Chris Coons (DE).

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:
 
Thank you for contacting me regarding President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget and the proposed cuts to education programs. I appreciate your taking the time to write to me about this issue.
 
As someone who has served as a countywide elected official charged with writing balanced budgets, I have long viewed budgets as not just a collection of numbers and programs, but also a statement about our basic values. Unfortunately, the budget proposed by President Trump denies our basic values by balancing the budget on the backs of children, seniors, the poor, and the middle class, while cutting investments essential for our nation’s future. We need a budget that preserves our social safety net and recognizes that investments in infrastructure, research, health care, and education are critical to growing our economy and supporting a strong middle class.
I am particularly concerned about the President’s proposed $9.2 billion cut to the Department of Education. Among other programs, this budget eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program, Title II grants for teacher training, and Title IV grants for academic enrichment and student support. The budget also proposes drastic cuts to programs like TRIO, GEAR UP, and Federal Work-Study that help low-income students access college, as well as eliminates the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that incentivizes individuals to take public sector jobs. These cuts help fund $1.4 billion in school choice initiatives, including $1 billion for Title I portability, an increase for the charter school grant program, and a new private school choice initiative.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, you can be sure that I will advocate to reverse these cuts to critical Department of Education programs, as well as support access to quality public K-12 and post-secondary education. You might be pleased to know that I cosigned a number of letters this May to the Senate Appropriations Committee advocating for funding for a variety of education programs, including: 21st Century Community Learning Centers; Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA); Title II School Leader Recruitment and Support Program; Title IV Student Success and Academic Enrichment Block Grant; Teacher Quality Partnership Grants; Pell Grants; and, campus-based student financial aid programs like Federal Work Study and Perkins Loans. Please know that I will do all I can to prioritize funding these important programs as Congress moves through the Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations process.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I am honored to represent Delaware in the United States Senate and value hearing from constituents on issues of concern. My website, http://www.coons.senate.gov, can provide additional details about my work in the Senate, including legislation and state projects. I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter to you.
Sincerely,
 
Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

 

Jack Markell Under Investigation By Ed Authorities ***Debunked***April Fool’s Day***

Well, that didn’t take long.  It turns out former Delaware Governor Jack Markell is under investigation.  I can’t say I’m surprised given some of his questionable activities concerning education during his term as Delaware Governor of the First State.  It’s like I’ve always said, Delaware is the first to sign the constitution but the last to follow it.  But what is he under investigation for? Continue reading

Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…

 

Delaware DOE Postpones Submission Of State ESSA Plan By One Month

As predicted, the Delaware Dept. of Education is delaying the final sending of their state Every Student Succeeds Plan to the United States Dept. of Education by one month.  Last week, the U.S. DOE released the final regulations for the accountability portion of the new federal education law.  As a result, they are giving states more time to submit their state plans.

For Delaware, this means the State Board of Education will vote on the final plan at their March, 2017 board meeting.  On April 3rd, Delaware will send the plan to the U.S. DOE.  This changes many of the public comment periods for the Delaware plan as well.  Here is the press release from the Delaware DOE from yesterday:

The U.S. Department of Education has extended its submission deadline for states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans, allowing Delaware to adjust its plan submission schedule and provide more time for public input and plan development.

Delaware now will submit its final plan on April 3. Other dates leading up to that submission also have been adjusted and are reflected below:

 

·         January 11: Release of second draft of plan

·         February 28: Release of final draft of plan

·         April 3: Submission of final plan to U.S. Department of Education for approval

 

The public has several on-going opportunities to provide input on the plan:

 

·         Community conversations: Three of the seven sessions of this second round of public input sessions remain. The next is Thursday night in Newark followed by two sessions for Spanish-speaking community members in Georgetown and Wilmington on December 14 and December 20, respectively. Find more information on these and the previous sessions here.

·         Online surveys: Members of the public also may submit their feedback via three online surveys available here. This is the second round of online surveys.

·         Discussion groups: Stakeholders are serving on two on-going discussion groups, one focusing on school supports and the second on measures and reporting. These are public meetings, and public comment is available at each session. The next session is tonight. Find more information, including minutes from past meetings here.

·         Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee: Governor Jack Markell’s advisory committee also continues to meeting. These public sessions also include public comment. The next session is Jan. 11.

·         Feedback also can be submitted via a designated email address, ESSAStatePlan@doe.k12.de.us.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006
Last night, the ESSA discussion groups held a meeting.  As a result of the changes, the schedules for the discussion groups are as follows:
Student and school supports will meet at some point in January, date to be determined.
Measuring student success will hold their next meeting, as scheduled, on December 12th from 6pm-8pm at the Collette Resource Center in Dover, DE.
The Community Conversation meeting held on Thursday evening will be at Newark Charter School.

Final U.S. DOE Regulations For ESSA Accountability Leave Same Bad Test, Shame, & Punish Policies & No Changes On Opt Out

The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law.  Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of.  We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing.  We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools.  We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix.  Nothing has changed.  Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place.  Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere.  I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.

One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans.  Now they are April 3rd and September 18th.  Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st.  The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).

So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?

In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.

And what about opt-out?  Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  Yeah right!

To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.

This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package.  And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago.  You reap what you sow!

Delaware DOE Continues To Ignore The Voices Of Their Stakeholders

The Delaware Dept. of Education has a very bad habit.  They ignore what the people are telling them.  This is the case with the 2016-2017 Delaware School Success Framework.  Once again, they are incorporating the Smarter Balanced Assessment participation rate as a penalty in the framework.  Even though a majority of their stakeholders in the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group said they don’t want this anymore.  The final regulations from the U.S. Dept. of Education concerning participation rate have not come out yet but ESSA dictates that it is the decision of the states and local education agencies to determine how they handle opt out.  US DOE Secretary of Education John King received a great deal of flack from parents, educators, and citizens with his harsh regulations surrounding accountability.  This also drew the attention of members of Congress who felt King was abusing the authority given to him with ESSA.  The state does NOT have to have a penalty for participation rate.  But the DOE continues to treat ESSA as a penalty-providing opportunity.

essameasurepicture1

The above picture was taken by one of the members of the Measures of School Success ESSA Discussion Group.  The discussion groups come up with ideas and thoughts on how to improve schools.  For this discussion group, after they have answered all questions, they put three stickers next to their top priorities.  Not having opt out as a penalty in the DSSF and having the school report what may have happened received 8 stickers.  If I remember this meeting correctly, there were only about half the members in attendance.  So for this to get 8 priority stickers, that is huge.  But the Delaware DOE ignores this.

Last year, when the Accountability Framework Working Group convened to decide on the final version of the DSSF, they came up with the same idea which was a valid option from the US DOE.  It looked like that was going to go through until Governor Markell stuck his nose into it and directed Secretary Godowsky to proceed with the opt out penalty.  Even though Markell will end his reign as Governor and is moving onto bigger and better things, like performing in the Nutcracker, the DOE continues his very bad education policy.

Last night, I had an interview with Education Week.  They reached out to me due to my role on the Student and School Supports ESSA Discussion Group.  I won’t spoil the interview, but there was discussion around what the true role of “stakeholder input” is with Delaware’s ESSA plan.  Many feel that we are just placards in the process and the Delaware DOE will do what it damn well pleases.  This latest version of the DSSF just reinforces that thought.

Incoming Delaware Governor John Carney: you really need to put the brakes on the DOE Accountability Machine!  The DOE needs to listen to their stakeholders more than Rodel!

History Is A Set Of Lies Agreed Upon: The Delaware DOE’s Trojan Horse That Shares Personal Student Data

Napoleon once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”  In Delaware, the state has been sharing personal student data in the form of a benign computer program designed on the surface to help students.  This is a program that is so layered in varying shades of legality and loophole in state and federal law no person could ever realistically figure it all out.  Luckily, I am not one of those people.  So what is the Trojan horse inserted into every single school district and charter school in the state?  Hint: it’s NOT the Smarter Balanced Assessment! Continue reading

Delaware ESSA State Plan First Draft, Released Today

The Delaware Department of Education released the first draft of the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act this evening.  I have read about 90% of it and I have many thoughts on it.  Some I loathe just seeing them in writing, some I actually like, and some need to marinate for a day or two.  There are a lot of variables with this: final regulations from the United State Dept. of Education, stakeholder group conversations in the next couple of months, and the usual big one: state funding.

In my opinion, it is going to be very hard to get accurate feedback until the regulations from the U.S. Department of Education have been finalized.  Will this plan be a trick or a treat?  Happy Halloween!  Here is the plan.  It begins with Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky’s letter, followed by the six sections, and some items from the appendices.  I will have much, much more to say on this in the coming days.

And these are the six points:

de-essa-draft-picture-no-links






 

delaware-community-communications-breakdown

Delaware DOE Announces “Go Open” Ed Tech Guinea Pig Initiative For Red Clay And Colonial

…the transition to openly licensed educational resources has enabled school districts to reallocate funds typically spent on traditional instructional materials back into teachers curating and creating, as well as supporting a full digital transition.

The beginning of the end.  Today, the Delaware Dept. of Education announced Red Clay Consolidated and Colonial School District have joined 27 other states for the “Go Open” initiative.  the full-scale ed-tech invasion of public education will begin in two New Castle County school districts.  No doubt they announced this the same day as the unveiling of the first draft of the state Every Student Succeeds Act plan.  Trick or treat indeed…

 

Delaware launches open resource initiative

The Delaware Department of Education today announced the launch of a new statewide #GoOpen initiative, joining a cohort of states recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for their commitment to support school districts and educators transitioning to the use of high-quality, openly licensed educational resources in their schools.

“States are powerful collaborators in supporting and scaling innovation. They can connect forward-thinking educators, share effective ideas and approaches widely, amplify successes, and can support districts in leveraging limited resources,” says Joseph South, director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. “With the launch of statewide #GoOpen initiatives, states are helping districts thoughtfully transition to a new model of learning by facilitating the creation of an open ecosystem of digital resources that can increase equity and empower teachers.”

Delaware was recognized for its commitment to implement a statewide technology strategy that includes the use of openly licensed resources as a central component, developing and maintaining a statewide repository solution for openly licensed resources, and participating in a community of practice with other #GoOpen states and districts to share learning and professional development resources. More information on Delaware’s #GoOpen commitment can be found here.

“Openly licensed educational resources will help increase equitable access to high-quality educational opportunities across our state and the country,” Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky said. “We are proud to be part of this work.”

Since the launch of #GoOpen, school districts from more than 27 states have worked with #GoOpen Ambassador districts and innovators from educational technology companies and nonprofit organizations who have committed to create new tools and provide professional learning opportunities to help districts in their transition to using high quality, openly licensed educational resources in their schools.

In Delaware, the Colonial and Red Clay Consolidated school districts have joined.

“It helps empower our teachers to make instructional decisions focused on standards and student needs using current and dynamic resources,” Colonial Director of Schools Pete Leida said. “As #GoOpen continues to grow, educators will have access to increased amounts of resources rather than be confined to static resources presented by a single publisher. It fosters collaboration, sharing, a sense of ownership and allows for personalization of instruction.”

Kristina Peters, K-12 Open Education Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education, said the transition to openly licensed educational resources has enabled school districts to reallocate funds typically spent on traditional instructional materials back into teachers curating and creating, as well as supporting a full digital transition.

“We are excited that Delaware is committed to supporting its districts in using openly licensed educational resources,” she said.

For more details on #GoOpen commitments made by states, school districts, and technology companies, visit http://tech.ed.gov/open.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

The Creepy Personalized Learning Virtual Reality “Genie” In Reasoning Mind Math: Who Is Behind The Avatar?

 When a “personalized” MATH program admittedly creates a virtual reality “Genie” to become a child’s best friend… what happens when email secrets start to go out, along with confessions about themselves and their home life?  Many parents in America are very concerned.  Who is behind the Genie? Who gets the information?  When they found out that BILL GATESRUSSIA, and the US DOE are promoting and/or paying for this….  let’s just say they became more concerned.  Please read and share this so more parents can become aware of this child predator in the making!  As for the Genie… Well, how would you feel if your child was emailing grown men, disguised as a friendly Genie?  In another country?

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Reasoning Mind Math reasoningmind.org

The non-profit Reasoning Mind offers “personalized” on-line math curriculum and a computer-based “Genie” who is virtually a child’s best friend, and knows personal things about them, even confessions.  As first noted in this RM document posted by a blogger known as Educray, Reasoning Mind math curriculum  places a large emphasis on teaching Soviet-style morals, collectivism, and the importance of labor (Tudge, 1991).  Reasoning Mind has given some parents reason to worry.   So, let’s take a look at Reasoning Mind and see what could possibly cause concern.

“The Genie”, according to this Reasoning Mind report:

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that students are quite “attached” to Genie, who regularly receives (and answers) email on topics beyond the scope of the learning software, including jokes, requests for friendship, and  confessions about students’ home life.”

“Every day, Reasoning Mind elementary students send hundreds of messages to the Genie, a “friend and mentor” who guides students through their studies. Here’s our favorite student message from this week. And yes, the Genie does respond!”

 

 

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Since Reasoning Mind offers “personalized” curriculum that knows and also remembers the student, a child can log into RM from home or school. And since it’s adaptive and personalized, RM and Genie will keep track of the child, will remember their profile. If RM and Genie can track a child into consecutive grades,  like an old friend,  Genie will be able to pick up the profile where the child left off last year.  While proponents would say keeping track of learners’ profiles is beneficial, this massive accumulation of student information also begs the question of data privacy, risk, and security.

With all that PERSONAL communication being directly and indirectly (ie: analyzing emotions) shared with RM’s Genie, we wondered what their data sharing agreements and Privacy Policy  look like. If a parent were curious what data was collected and shared on their child, this is what they would find if they went to Reasoning Mind’s website.  There is nothing posted about how RM uses and analyzes and shares the noncognitive and personal information that children are providing to RM and to Genie while logged onto their curriculum.  There is no mention of how RM complies with COPPA law.

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Given the many Supporters  and In-Kind Contributors of Reasoning Mind, spanning the globe, parents wonder if organizations like Salesforce, Microsoft, Russian Petroleum, Google, Swagger Films, etc. are allowed access to their child’s profile or personal information.  We know that data is money.

Money and Moscow Connections:

Non-profits must make public their tax returns (form 990).  Here are 990 returns available for Reasoning Mind. Looking at the 2014 return tells us a lot; for starters, Reasoning Mind is connected.

Connected to each other:  Page 32…   FORM 990, PART VI, SECTION A, THE PRESIDENT AND CEO IS MARRIED TO ONE OF THE SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT’S AND THEIR SON IS (LINE2) ALSO A SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT

Connected to Russia:
Pages 7 and 8 of their 2014 form 990 tax return.  Note the Russia Connections:
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Page 22 of RM’s 2014 return shows Moscow did the computer Programming and Testing of end product (remember that GEF MAP I posted a few months ago).
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Reasoning Mind is Connected to Bill Gates, with this $300k grant for a math pilot  as seen in Gates Foundation 2011 990 form (hint: take a look for other interesting awardees)

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Reasoning Mind is AGAIN connected to Bill Gates with this $700+ grant awarded in 2011  for alternative human capital models and Common Core aligned math pilot targeting minority children.
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Reasoning Mind is featured in this 2013 US Department of Education publication that focuses on “New technologies using educational data mining and “affective computing”:
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“There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the “noncognitive” factors—attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability—that high-achieving individuals draw upon to accomplish success… —it is the responsibility of the educational community to design learning environments that promote these factors so that students are prepared to meet 21st-century challenges.
Several private foundations have recently initiated programs to push the frontiers of theory, measurement, and practice around these and related factors, particularly for at-risk and vulnerable students. In national policy, there is increasing attention on 21st-century competencies (which encompass a range of noncognitive factors, including grit), and persistence is now part of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics….
Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance mentions Reasoning Mind as an example of  a system that customizes to a student’s cognitive profile and emotional state (e.g., frustration or boredom) using inputs from physiological indicators and facial expressions” and  they also mention experimenting with “animated, affective [digital] agents perceived as caring can increase the likelihood that students will persist through frustrating portions of instruction”.
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Reasoning Mind is connected to Rice University, an advisor to Reasoning Minds, Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian is also the Director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Additionally, Dr. Neal Lane, Professor Emeritus, Rice University; Former Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Former Assistant to the President for Science and Technology; Former Director of the National Science Foundation–sits on the board of RM.
Reasoning Mind is connected to Columbia University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute who did a study on the “affect and behavior among students at three schools using Reasoning Mind, a game-based software system”.   This study was  paid for by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.   The researchers reporthigh student engagement with this learning system“.  The researchers attribute student engagement to the game-based nature and also because children were embracing the genie as a friend and confidant:
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that students are quite attached to Genie, who regularly receives (and answers) email on topics beyond the scope of the learning software, including jokes, requests for friendship, and confessions about students’ home life.  On the basis of these reports, it seems that the effect of Genie deserves more careful consideration, as the success of her design may contribute significantly to the high levels of engagement observed.  Finally, we should consider the many game-like elements in its design, including a point system that rewards students for speed drills and puzzles. Once sufficient points have been accumulated, students may furnish their own virtual space within RM City or buy virtual books. Particularly at a young age, this kind of autonomy is likely very appealing.”
Some have questioned whether RM’s Genie is gaining children’s trust and using a reward system to train children to  respond in much the same way that  the Russian researcher, Pavlov,  conditioned his dogs.  Speaking of experiments and research…

Is it any wonder that students areengaged in this video-gaming atmosphere?  They are engaged because many like Dr. Kardaras, author of Glow Kids,  know: online games are addictive.

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Online Curriculum– or Spying on Children?

This 1984 quote by Dustin Heuston (Geuston), Utah’s World Institute for Computer-Assisted Teaching, seems  remarkably fitting if not foreboding:
We’ve been absolutely staggered by realizing that the computer has the capability to act as if it were 10 of the top psychologists working with one student… you’ve seen the tip of the iceberg. Won’t it be wonderful when the child in the smallest county in the most distant area or in the most confused urban setting can have the equivalent of the finest school in the world on that terminal and no one can get between that child and that curriculum?”-Dustin H. Heuston, “Discussion–Developing the Potential of an Amazing Tool,” Schooling and Technology, Vol.3, Planning for the Future: A Collaborative Model, published by Southeastern Regional Council for Educational Improvement, P.O. Box 12746, 200 Park, Suite 111, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709/ Grant from National Institute of Education, p. 8.
Even more fascinating and startling is this 2010 research on monitoring engagement [curriculum-usage compliance and Academic learning time (ALT)] of preschoolers while interacting with online curriculum, done by Edward B Heuston of Brigham Young UniversityHis conclusion:
“The ability to remotely and accurately quantify interaction with a computer-based curriculum and assessment in the home defines a new vista in ALT research.”
Should parents and teachers (and friends) and human social interactions be replaced by online “affective” avatar agents, who profile childhood secrets, moods, emotions, failures, and flaws? Will artificial, virtual “friends” like Genie become the Oracle that children consult, confide in? … and take direction from?
Perhaps, parents are wise to question who the Great Oz is behind the curtain.  The entity (or persons), receiving and profiling the hearts and minds of their connected children, both at home and in classrooms.  What has to happen before parents realize the danger they are allowing to come into their child’s life?  Every time you sign a consent form, are you getting this kind of information?  I highly doubt it.  And are parents bothering to educate themselves on privacy policies and how data is disseminated?  I doubt it.  The wolf isn’t at the door.  It is in your home…