Let’s Get Together

So education is a mess in Delaware.  It has basically come down to two sides: the moneymakers who want to make more money off education and those who just want education to be about teachers teaching and students learning with no high-stakes attached other than the student’s actual grades they receive based on the quality of work they put out.  This is it in a nutshell.  Sure, there are a million other variables in-between but this is the crux of the issues.

One side says what we have isn’t good enough while the other disagrees.  I’ve heard legislators say that both sides need to get together and compromise.  But how do you compromise when your very ethics and morals are questioned?  How do you put what you believe and you know in your heart of hearts to be true?  When does a financial reason ever replace what is actually good for a student?

In the 1960’s, people were very good about rising up when civil rights issues came up.  They stood up and rallied and rioted and marched and talked.  They said no to the big man and changed the face of the country.  Now many of the same people who advocated for change are the ones telling us how to run schools and what we need to do.  What changed?  Money.  They got a sniff of it, ran with it, kept it, invested it, and based their lives on it.  But they also achieved a level of power.  They got used to getting their way, and woe to anyone who gets in their way.  The only difference is now they are controlling events through money and power, as opposed to their hearts and convictions.  I think they believe the lies they tell us about our children and schools because the overwhelming need to control the scene is the mindset they have always had.

Is it even possible to change that kind of mindset?  Is there a way to convince these people they are wrong?  I don’t think so.  They will plot and scheme, and come up with other accountability measures designed to get what they want.  The difference is people are hip to their credo.  We are rising up, just as they did fifty years ago, to protest what they once believed to be wrong.  Will it be enough?  My best advice is to get together again.  Not those who will destroy public education, but all those who are opposed to what they are doing.

We need our own march that will go down in the annals of history as a catalyst for change.  We need to rally and protest.  We need to say no…together, as one voice.

Is The Delaware DOE Evil, Or Just Extremely Misguided?

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In the past year, with all the articles I’ve written about the Delaware Department of Education, I have never had anyone come up to me and say “The DOE is awesome, they’re doing a great job.”  They’ve had supporters, but even they say there are issues.  I’ve often wondered if the DOE, Governor Markell, the State Board, Rodel, and all the rest are truly evil.

I don’t think they are.  I think they are operating in a climate of fear where they buy into everything hook, line, and sinker.  But I also think they believe their mantra about teachers, and students needing to be assessed to “close the gaps”.  People can be easily swayed if they are only given one argument.  I’ve had quite a few DOE employees tell me offline “Don’t publish this, but the Smarter Balanced Assessment really sucks!”  But at heart, most of them are Kool-Aid drinkers.

I’m not saying they are all good people either.  I took a course in college called “The Problem of Evil”.  The professor posited that all people are neither inherently good or completely evil.  We all operate on “tainted decency”, which states that everything we do has some sort of selfish motivation for us.  We tried to come up with anything anyone in this world does without a self-interest clause, and the only thing we could come up with is volunteer fireman.

What we don’t know about the DOE is their innermost thoughts, their soul, their conscience.  We can’t even guess what they think about late at night.  They are people just like the rest of us.  I’m not defending them, but I think it’s important to separate the job from the person.  Everyone I’ve talked to at the DOE is very nice and cordial.  Now when I say “talked to”, there are some who won’t even glance in my direction.

For all the razzing bloggers give them in Delaware, they have some pretty thick skin.  Especially when it involves charter schools.  But to this date, with the numerous times I’ve seen him, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has only said two words to me, and those were “Thank you.”  This was on June 24th last year at Governor’s Café in Dover.  He was rushing out the door, and I held it open for him.  He has tried staring me down a few times, but I don’t let him.  I just keep staring back.

For some of these people, there is a factor I like to call greed.  They are making a lot of money, more than the average Delawarean.  They are young, and some of these employees are making over $100,000 to essentially destroy public education as we know it.  Wealth and an imagined power can make anyone submit to authority if it keeps the pipeline flowing.

What bothers me though, are the outright lies.  Lines like “Smarter Balanced is the best test this state ever made”, or “Were entitled to our opinions, but not facts” when those “facts” are very wrong.

The companies surrounding the DOE and whispering in their ear, along with the Governor’s office, I don’t think they are evil either.  Pretty close to it though.  They are a business.  Businesses make money.  And that’s what it’s all about!

But for the most part, many of the employees at the DOE are just more state worker bees.  I tend to focus on the big dogs there because they set the policies and guidelines.  When I go to the DOE, it is the hub I visit, not the kiosks with eight employees in a row.

The big question is how many of these chiefs for academic excellence down at the Townshend Building in Dover will still be there in two years?

Gilligan and The Skipper Speech About Common Core Implementation

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Governor Jack Markell and Secretary Of Education Mark Murphy gave a speech to educators in Delaware in 2012 to “keep Delaware moving forward”. What they didn’t say was “Thanks for all that Race To The Top money. Let’s give some to the schools, and we’ll spend a lot of it on a new test that’s going to make us filthy rich!”