Farewell Dr. Terri Hodges, Hello Delaware PTA President Julie Alvarez

For the past five years, Dr. Terri Hodges led the Delaware Parent Teachers Association through some very trying times in Delaware.  As Common Core became a staple, along with its evil counterpart, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Hodges stood up for parents during the opt out movement in Delaware.  Yesterday, Hodges turned over the mantle to the newly elected Julie Alvarez at the annual Delaware PTA convention.

Yvonne Johnson, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, and Dr. Terri Hodges

Together with their Vice President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson, Hodges and Johnson were the PTA Mafia in Delaware.  I mean that in the best way possible.  They made the opt out movement what it was back in 2015 with their non-stop advocacy for parental rights on the issue.  Sadly, they were shut down on that advocacy by their parent organization, the National PTA.  The Nation PTA President, Laura Bay, threatened to shut off their national funding if they didn’t shut up.  It was a classic case of bullying.

Johnson, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, Hodges

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Hodges in support of House Bill 50, the infamous legislation that ultimately passed the General Assembly but was subject to a veto by the very corporate education reformer loving Governor, Jack Markell.  Hodges strongly supports funding for basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade along with tons of common sense legislation.  I will miss her as President of Delaware PTA but I have no doubt I will continue to count her as a friend I met during my journey in Delaware public education.  Thank you Terri for your outstanding advocacy and looking out for Delaware students!

As for President Alvarez, she had some words to say about her new role.  I look forward to working together with her on various education bills and policy in the years ahead.

Thank you for joining us at the annual Delaware PTA Convention and for all of the work that you do on behalf of Delaware’s children. We have put together an extensive day of networking and information gathering opportunities for you that we hope you will find beneficial.  Make sure to visit the vendor area and take advantage of the door prizes and giveaways.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Terri Hodges for all of her hard work and tireless efforts as the Delaware State PTA President for the past five years. In that capacity, she has created a strong platform on which I plan to continue to build upon. I am excited to continue working with her as she moves to the position of Immediate Past President as well as with the other members of the board.

In the coming year, my focus will be on three major areas: expanding family engagement in our schools, increasing PTA membership and involvement through raising awareness of the value of and developing excitement for PTA, and continuing the advocacy that is the foundation of PTA.

I invite you all to join Delaware PTA as we work together to make positive change towards the mission of making every child’s potential a reality.  Enjoy the Convention!

Regards,

Julie Alvarez

Delaware PTA President Julie Alvarez

Caroline Harrison-DeJose became the Delaware PTA 1st Vice-President as well yesterday.

Hey Terri & Yvonne! DE PTA Needs To Get Back On The Opt Out Bus! If NY PTA Can Do This, You Should Too!

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the United States Department of Education is required to issue regulations associated with the new law.  Of course U.S. Secretary of Education John King saw this as his big chance to make his national mark for his corporate education reform buddies, so he stuck with the accountability script and harsh rules about opt out of high-stakes tests.  The New York Parent Teacher Organization wrote a letter to King as part of their public comment for the regulations.

Something to keep in mind is the National PTA’s bizarre stance on parent opt out.  They are against it and don’t want the state PTA’s advocating it either.  Last February, they threatened Delaware with severe sanctions if they continue to advocate for a parent’s right to opt out.  This caused a complete shutdown with Delaware PTA on the issue.

Here is the letter the NY PTA sent to King:

There are a few other things readers need to be aware of when it comes to this issue.  Sanctions against the NY PTA would not be as damaging as ones against Delaware PTA.  If even ten percent of NY parents belong to their PTA, that is still at least ten times the amount of members as Delaware PTA.  Which means they have a lot more cash and pull with National PTA.  Plus, New Yorkers are a hell of a lot fiestier than Delawareans.  That doesn’t mean I would seriously mess with the Dynamic Duo of Dr. Terri Hodges and Yvonne Johnson.  I wrote a few articles about this issue last winter, as well as poking a bit at Johnson’s involvement with the Christina School District.  I caught holy hell for that.

But I do wish Delaware would follow New York’s lead on this.  They are basically telling John King AND National PTA “We don’t care what your stance on opt out is.  We are going to tell parents what their rights are.”  New York leads the way with opt outs, followed by New Jersey.  Yes, Delaware’s PTA could get into a heck of a lot of trouble with National PTA if they get back on their opt out positions, but who cares?  This a PARENT-TEACHER organization, not Laura Bay and Friends.  If the former district testing coördinator wants to hate on opt out, let her.  But she should not get a whole parent organization to stop doing what they feel is best for parents.  It’s kind of what they are there for Ms. Bay!

In the meantime, the next few months will be very interesting, not only in Delaware, but across the country.  As these regulations go forward, I predict a lot of pushback from many states, teacher unions, parents, schools, and advocates for public education.  Hopefully, the members of Congress who like to call out John King on a monthly basis will continue to do so.  If they don’t, John King gets his way, and the punitive mandates of Race To The Top will still be here.

The Real Story About What Happened At The Christina Board Meeting Last Night…

Last night, Christina Board of Education member Elizabeth Paige was elected by her peers to be the next President of the board.  With a 4-3 vote, she took the post over from Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  What happened next was very surreal.  Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski was going through different contract amounts which the board had to take action on.  When one of them came up, I was absolutely shocked and horrified.  It wasn’t even on the agenda.  Their Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, disappeared shortly before this.  I think he knew what was coming.  Everyone was there: Acting Superintendent Robert “Bob A” Andrzejewski, Board members John Young, Fred Polaski, George Evans, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Shirley Saffer, Elizabeth Paige, and newly elected board member Meg Mason.  There were some people I knew in the audience as well.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to be writing about this, so I will show you…

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The Judases On The Rodel Teacher Council & How They Changed Public Education Forever In Delaware **UPDATED**

Establish a “critical mass” of support for CBL in DE and leverage supportive voices to raise awareness about CBL

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A group of Delaware teachers, in conjunction with a few Superintendents, principals, a high-ranking member of the Delaware PTA, the executive director of the State Board of Education and members of the Delaware Department of Education found a way to sneak in a future-changing regulation eight months ago with a group no one knew about and never had any notices of public meetings.  But all is not as it appears.  In doing so, they opened the gates to one of the most dangerous corporate education reformers out there.

Have you ever heard of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition?  Me neither.  Until last night.  In doing a massive amount of research on the Leader In Me program in many of our Delaware schools (and there will be MUCH more on that coming), I found a very odd write-up on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware website.

In investigating a school in the Capital School District that is heavily promoting the snake-oil Leader In Me program, I came across the Rodel Teacher Council section of their website on a Google search.  And there it was, under Michele Johnson of Towne Point Elementary School in Capital School District.  I knew she was involved in the Leader In Me program, but what I didn’t know and had never heard of was the Delaware Department of Education’s Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  I’ve looked at every single section of the DOE website and never found anything about it.  So I went back to Google.  I found a link to a pdf from a State Board of Education work session on July 16th, 2015.

To give some more background, this was an important day in Delaware education.  It was the same day Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed House Bill 50.  The State Board holds their work sessions during the morning before their board meetings.  The State Board did have it on their agenda for this work session but try looking for anything else on this group and you will be hopelessly lost.  With most groups at the Delaware DOE, there is something listed somewhere.  But not with this one.  There was no notice of public meetings and no transparency whatsoever.    Why would there be?  This was a Rodel group from their hand-picked teacher council.  If you never believed Rodel was running education in Delaware, you will after reading the below document.  Every single thing I’ve been writing about on this blog for the past nine months: about competency-based education, personalized learning, pathways to prosperity, the “Dear Hillary” letter, it is all in this 10 page pdf in some form.

So this group recommended finding a way past these barriers to competency-based education in Delaware.  The pictures of the post-it notes show words like “urgency” and “barriers”.  They mention collective bargaining as a “system barrier”.  This Rodel Teacher Council sold their souls to Rodel when they joined this cabal.  In the above document there is an entity called Reinventing Schools.  I’ve heard of this company but this is the first time I ever saw them mentioned in Delaware.  But obviously Rodel has been working with them behind the scenes for many years.  To find out why, I highly suggest reading this article on the funded by the Gates Foundation organization led by Dr. Marzano.

I put a picture at the beginning of this article with the members of this Rodel created group.  While I’m not surprised by most of the names, one of them stood out: Yvonne Johnson.  As the face behind the Delaware PTA for many years, Johnson has been involved in many groups in one form or another.  I originally wrote, and have now changed in this article, is how Johnson was involved with this group.  I just spoke to Yvonne Johnson who was very upset about her supposed involvement with the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  As Johnson told me, she was invited to a webinar on this and there was a meeting at Howard High School of Technology about it.  She said she does not support competency-based education and the other Delaware PTA member, Ashley Gray, told this group this was not for the Delaware PTA.  Obviously the Rodel machine presented this information to the State Board of Education, close to a year later, suggesting the full involvement of Delaware PTA.  But that is not the case.  It is just another example of our State Board of Education being duped by Rodel into passing regulations they really don’t have a clue about.

The biggest barrier to implementing competency-based education in Delaware was the graduation requirements.  They had to change existing state code to do that.  Lo and behold, they did exactly that.  But not without some old fashioned trickery.  At the August 20th State Board meeting, Regulation 505 was put up for discussion by the State Board.

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In listening to the State Board audio recording for this meeting, notice how it is introduced as having nothing to do with competency-based education.  For a long time, they talk around it.  It isn’t until the President of the State Board, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, seeks clarification on this regulation that anyone in that room would know what they were talking about.  As well, Tina Shockley with the DOE sped through describing the regulation very fast.  But when the conversation gets going, Michael Watson from the DOE responds to a question from Gray about struggling students.  He responds by saying  some students can reach mastery in 180 days but for other students it may take longer and that’s okay.  So is he suggesting some students will have to go to school longer?

At the September State Board meeting, when everyone was going nuts about opt out penalties in the Delaware School Success Framework/Regulation 103 fiasco, the State Board passed this regulation.  But I find it hysterical how all the language surrounding the DSCFY wasn’t even needed to begin with which I’m sure the DOE was well aware of.  In my opinion, they put it in the regulation to put the focus around that knowing it would be removed to get what they want.

So what does all this mean?

Here is the easiest way to break it down.  This isn’t a Delaware thing.  It is happening all over the country.  To put it in a nutshell, corporations took over public education.  This is a plan that has been in place for decades.  First they had to make it look like public schools were failing students.  This began in 1983 when the report called A Nation At Risk was released by the federal government.  This damning report on public education changed the perception of schools in America.  It also began the thirty-three year coordinated attack against teacher unions.  Ten years later, the country’s first charter schools came into being.  At the same time, Bill Clinton became the U.S. President.  His wife Hillary received a letter from Marc Tucker, who went on to be one of the chief architects of Achieve Inc. and the Common Core.

By the late 1990s, standardized testing with high-stakes was the law of the land in Delaware.  When Delaware launched the DSTP test, students did horrible on it.  Many students dropped out of school as testing mania took over the state.  Graduation rates dropped due to the requirement of proficiency on the horrible test.  In 2002, No Child Left Behind demanded all students in America become proficient on these high-stakes tests by 2014.  It was completely absurd and everyone knew it, but it was a stall tactic.  As Common Core came out in President Obama’s second year, Delaware switched to another test called DCAS.  While not as bad as DSTP, it was offered two to three times a year.  Race To The Top was in full swing along with all the ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Charter schools were rising in popularity for the past decade and the teacher unions were under attack.  To get all of this going, the teacher unions had to be destroyed.  But they couldn’t bust the unions, just give them a slow and painful death.

Many teacher unions across the country caved in to the new corporate education reform suggestions.  They could have fought it, but it would have given an already rising bad perception of them an even worse one.  So with the help of school boards, the unions signed on to Race To The Top.  Even the state PTAs got sucked into the Common Core/Race To The Top vortex.  Common Core was the boss, teachers were the servants, and students were the true victims.  Then came the even newer high-stakes assessments tied to the Common Core.  Meanwhile, new education think tanks and non-profits emerged from nowhere to give more and more bad news about education and how to fix it.  In Delaware,  we call them the Rodel Foundation and the Vision Coalition.  They have been around for a long time, but they are one and the same and they are as venomous to public education as any of these other education fixit organizations.

So here we are now, in 2016.  Governor Markell finishes up next January and in comes John Carney.  Like the rushed implementation of Common Core, in the next few years we will see the “urgency” to incorporate full-time competency-based learning in our schools.  Our students will be on the computer all the time in this era of “personalized learning” while our teachers become glorified guides and facilitators.  As veteran teachers leave the profession in droves, we will see more duds like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School coming into our schools.  They won’t be union, and they will take over.  With their corporate driven brainwashing, we will see more “teacher-leaders” come into play via programs like “Leader In Me”.  But education is, and always has been, about the students.  What happens to them?  This is the kicker.

All of this, everything since the day A Nation At Risk was introduced 33 years ago, has been with this plan in mind.  It is all an elaborate tracking measure meant to keep down minority students, students with disabilities, and low-income students.  They will not do well in this.  We see this with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC tests.  The resources and funding are there.  They have always been there.  But our states and government didn’t want to fix education.  They had to tear it down first and build it up again to one of their own design.  They don’t want anyone questioning their authority.  They want their worker bees to fall in line with their career pathways and shut up.  They had to beat down the teachers and numb the minds of children.  They do not care and have no remorse if anyone gets in their way.  Even the charter schools they so methodically built up were fodder for sacrifice if need be.  We saw this in Delaware as many charters closed and more sprung from the ashes.

What the corporate education reformers do is use the art of distraction to an astonishing degree.  They know those who oppose them can’t fight everything all at once so they get us to focus on certain things.  Take opt out for example.  While they know opt out kills everything they are planning, they also know it is the key to their future.  The once a year test will go away.  It will be broken down into little tiny chunks, embedded into the end-of-unit personalized learning chapter.  But a student must score proficient to be able to move on.  They must “master” the material.  But who writes the material?  Who grades the mini-assessments?  How long will a student be “held back” until they get it?  What happens when a student just gives up because they are so mentally frustrated?  How does IDEA and existing law fit in with any of this?  Does anyone care about these kind of things anymore?

Governor Markell and Dr. Paul Herdman, along with their key player at the Townsend Building in Dover, Donna Johnson, have been the masterminds behind all of this in Delaware.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence there have been very few task forces, working groups and committees with an actual State Board of Education member on it?  It is always Executive Director Donna Johnson.  Calling the shots.  Bossing people around as if she is the ultimate authority in education.  Manipulating the playing field to the agendas she controls.  She did it with WEIC, the priority schools, the Delaware School Success Framework, Common Core, opt out, and all the other destructive policies and regulations under her control.  We don’t have a State Board of Education.  We have Jack and Donna’s puppets.  Behind them is the face of Rodel: Dr. Paul Herdman.  The single-most, number one with a bullet, vessel of discrimination and evil I have ever met in my life.  The man behind the Delaware curtain.  The man who helped Jack into the Governor role.  The man who took over the Delaware Department of Education.  The man who directs it all in Delaware.  Who answers to his masters in bigger organizations like the Aspen Institute, Achieve Inc., the Lumina Foundation, and Reinventing Schools.  Behind them are the true power players in the guise of the US Department of Education, the US Department of Labor, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Gates Foundation.  And then there are the investors and hedge fund managers and corporations making billions of dollars off all of this.  For those living in other states who may not be familiar with many of these names, I’m sure if you look hard enough, you have your own puppet masters pulling the strings.

At this point, I don’t know if those who oppose this could stop any of this.  It is so embedded into policy and law.  All the states were required to have some type of career workforce plan based on the below federal document.  The future is now.  It is here.  This Leader In Me garbage that is sweeping our schools is the biggest example of this.  It goes beyond the classroom and invades the home.  It has children making the parents compliant to this nonsense.  Their “data walls” are one of the most disgusting and abhorrent acts of labeling, shaming, and discrimination I have ever seen in my life.  But far too many of our Delaware teachers think it is okay.  This is what happens when you are brainwashed to points beyond common sense.  When you are fed the same false garbage time and time again.  You begin to believe it.  You become the enemy before you even realize it.  When you once questioned all of this and you become a slave to the compliance machine.  I am not saying these teachers are bad or even evil.  They are misguided.  They have been fooled and once the Rodelian mindset becomes a part of your thinking, they have their hooks in you.  They mold and shape you into another one of their puppets or put your name out there to make it look like they have diverse “stakeholder input”.  It seems like people with the last name of Johnson are their favorites.  Charter schools, by their very nature, are ripe for takeover or creation by the Rodelian puppet masters.  And don’t think it ends with Jack Markell.

But too many of us were blinded by opt out, teacher evaluations, and charter schools to even notice.  All we hear about anymore on social media is Trump and Hillary.  It doesn’t matter who wins because all the pieces were put into play years ago.  They snuck it all in when those who should have seen it were distracted.  As our pre-schools and schools become community centers and human teaching becomes a thing of the past, what happens to the children of tomorrow?  Will we even need the school building in the future?  What happens when they become indoctrinated into the cults of compliance?  When they lose their spark?  As the more affluent families stay in power while the vast majority of the population perform all the low-paying jobs?  Who will rise from the ashes like a phoenix to turn it all around again twenty years from now?  Or fifty?  Many have predicted the machines would take over.  But what they failed to realize was the machines were children.  I saw this coming.  I knew it.  But I was looking in the wrong place.  And for that I apologize.  At some point, like everything in history, there will be a revolution.  Only we can decide when that is.

 

Is There A Conflict Of Interest With A High-Ranking DE PTA Member Involving Christina School District?

Yvonne Johnson serves as the Vice-President of Advocacy for the Delaware PTA, sits on the board of the National PTA, and in news that most people don’t know is also employed with the Christina School District as the Parent Engagement Coordinator.  The issue with this surrounds transparency.  Nothing has ever been officially announced with Johnson’s hiring in this role.  There is no official name on the Delaware Division of Corporations for Yvonne Johnson as a business.  According to her National PTA profile, Johnson is a self-employed education consultant:

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She has also been very involved in several current initiatives with the Christina School District, including their upcoming referendum and the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School.  The Christina referendum is on March 23rd.  As for the elementary school, Johnson is listed as the Christina Parent Engagement Coordinator in an announcement for a meeting at the school on March 1st:

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I looked on the Christina School District website, and it seems Christina already has someone else listed as their Family & Community Engagement Supervisor, Whitney Williams.  What is even more interesting is this idea for Thurgood Marshall in turning it into a Kindergarten to 8th grade school.  Quite simply, this is not in the district’s official plans for their upcoming referendum.  The current building for the school would not even be able to house a K-8 program.

As for Johnson’s role in this idea, is it proper for someone to be paid to have parents lobby the school board?  As the next three pictures show, taken from notes and a presentation on the “Marshall Plan”, Johnson has very specific ideas about this idea and the referendum.  Johnson also served as the head of the Referendum Committee for the Red Clay Consolidated School District last year.  Red Clay’s referendum was subject to a lawsuit that has not been decided on as of this date.

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We don’t see a Christina School District email address for Johnson, but that makes sense if she is self-employed and has some type of contract with the district.  However, no such contract exists on their website.

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This is where we see Yvonne Johnson actively soliciting parents to advocate for the “Marshall Plan” by essentially lobbying the Christina Board of Education.  But the next picture paints an even bigger picture:

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We see the line “Get out and vote for the referendum for planning $$”.  Should a paid consultant to the district be advocating for parents to “get out and vote” for increased money for the school district in which she is paid to consult for?  Is this plan even a part of the board-approved referendum?

The referendum does call for planning funds for potential grade reconfiguration in the amount of $100,000.00.  However, the “Marshall Plan” is looking at getting this going in the 2017-2018 school year.  That would require extensive capital costs to reconfigure an existing school that does not have the capacity.  If they shrunk the class sizes, the district does not have the ability to pay for that either.  The upcoming referendum is strictly for operating costs and not capital costs, which would be needed to move the school if necessary.  So my big question would be what in the name of Thurgood Marshall is going on with all of this?  While there is nothing in writing on the district website or in board documents indicating Johnson has a contract, several sources who wished to have their name withheld for this article have indicated Johnson has openly told them she is being paid for her services to the Christina School District.

In my opinion, Johnson’s capacity as serving on several different groups as well as her self-employed advocacy job, the Delaware PTA, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, several different Red Clay initiatives, and now her job with Christina, has far too many potential conflicts of interest for her to be issuing fair and impartial judgment on the Wilmington education scene.  As well, her position as a National PTA board member forbids her from advocating for opt-out of standardized testing but she is a consultant with a school district that had their board pass a policy honoring a parent’s right to opt out.

Don’t get me wrong here, I very much want Christina’s referendum to be successful.  I was not happy when their referenda did not pass last year.  But I also believe in full transparency, especially when a school district is asking for trust from their voters.  Trust is a two-way street.  Which means all aspects of school finances, contracts, and vendors need to be visibly apparent for all to see.

On a personal note, Yvonne Johnson is a great advocate.  There aren’t too many people in Delaware who have advocated for students as long as she has.  But the lines get blurry at times when people in Delaware jump on too many trains.  Yes, Delaware is a small state and if we had more parents taking on these kinds of roles, this wouldn’t be an issue.  But for those who do, they must recognize any potential conflicts of interest and act accordingly for the betterment of students.

Something Doesn’t Add Up With National PTA’s Intimidation Letter To Delaware PTA…

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I was thinking about this a lot the past two days.  Since I posted the National PTA “Comply Or We Will Make You” letter to the Delaware PTA, something didn’t feel quite right.  Was it the absolute absurdity and gall of National PTA, or the timing of it?

The Delaware PTA heavily advocated House Bill 50, the Delaware opt-out legislation that our cowardly weasel of a Governor vetoed last July.  When an attempt  to have our legislators do the right thing and override Markell’s veto, the Delaware PTA staged a rally outside of Legislative Hall in Dover.  This was a month and a half ago.  The very next week, the Delaware PTA announced National PTA would be coming out with a position statement against opt-out very soon.  They did so in the beginning of February.

Let us flash forward to last Wednesday.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has their post-State Board meeting where State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray is grilled and served on a plate by Wilmington school districts and members of the Commission.  State Board Executive Director Donna Johnson is most likely highly embarrassed about the allegation she advised State Board members how to vote on the WEIC plan.  The very next day, President of Delaware PTA Dr. Terri Hodges gets the comply or die letter from Laura Bay, the President of National PTA.  Right before the assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware Department of Education.  Right before.  As she walks into the meeting, handouts are provided to the committee and members of the public.  One of them is the National PTA position statement on assessment and opt-out.  It was a very odd choice for a hand-out.  Especially since it was NEVER discussed at all during the meeting.  Dr. Hodges attended the previous meeting, and I’m sure the DOE knew some type of Delaware PTA representation would attend the meeting.  I’m not coming right out and saying this, but I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

Yes, the National PTA did issue the position statement against opt-out.  For what reasons, I absolutely cannot fathom.  But Kilroy’s Delaware did present something very interesting today in regards to National PTA President Laura Bay.  It turns out she is the coördinator for assessment and instruction in her Washington school district.  And she essentially runs National PTA.  But was there some outside influence to have Bay pull a sword on Delaware PTA?

We have January and February of 2016 as two key months with a lot of Delaware PTA/National PTA/State Board of Education/Delaware DOE/WEIC activity.  All involving some very key players in this very bizarre game of Russian Roulette with parental choices.  Add in some referendums, priority schools, and redistricting and we have a huge mess on our hands!

In the backdrop of it all: a very power-hungry Delaware Governor Jack Markell and John King, the very controversial figure at the US Department of Education who is hoping to become the next US Secretary of Education instead of Acting.  Surrounding all of this is the massive tome called the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The mammoth legislation that has not been clearly defined but will in the coming months when the US DOE begins issuing regulations around it.  To make matters more complicated, this will be going on during most state’s testing windows for their state assessments, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  Also during an election year.

The bridge between Delaware PTA and National PTA has one person on both sides: Yvonne Johnson.  She serves as the Vice-President of Advocacy for Delaware PTA and is a board member of National PTA.  The Governor was not pleased with the Delaware PTA’s defense of House Bill 50 at all.  The Delaware PTA has some choices ahead of them.  Fight, submit, or secede.  None will be easy decisions.  Secession is not an easy thing.  Fighting could result in major issues for them.  Submit will assuredly permanently scar the organization that has made a name for itself over the past year by supporting a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  Dr. Hodges is not one to surrender quietly.  This will definitely be something to watch over the coming months.  Perhaps a little push is in order…

 

 

State Rep. Kim Williams Slams State Board Exec. Director Donna Johnson At WEIC Meeting Tonight

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The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission had two meetings tonight.  At 5pm, they had their Redistricting Committee meeting and at 6:30 they had a regular commission meeting.  During the public comment part of the redistricting meeting, State Rep. Kim Williams advised the audience State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson was telling State Board members how to vote on the WEIC plan at last week’s controversial State Board of Education meeting.  This was overheard by a few people in the audience at the State Board of Education meeting.  The best part… Donna Johnson was sitting in the row behind her.  As reported to me by several people, Johnson immediately began shaking her head no.  She did not look happy at all by the time I got there.

I was not there for that stunning announcement, but I did arrive late to the commission meeting.  As Milli Vanilli would say, blame it on the rain.  But the meeting was in full swing by the time I got there.  Commission member Yvonne Johnson introduced a motion to send the WEIC plan back to the State Board without their amendments concerning “shall” and “may” and the Christina priority school plans.  The motion passed, after a lot of heated discussion on both sides of the argument, with 15 yes, 6 no, and 2 absent.

Prior to that, State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky were there to answer questions.  The best moment of the evening, which drew a huge round of applause, was when Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan informed Dr. Gray about how former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy never signed their memorandum of understanding developed with their board, the DOE, and representatives from Governor Markell’s office.  Dr. Gray actually said she wasn’t aware of that even though she was told this at the December State Board meeting.  She told Minnehan she misread the addendum to the WEIC plan, even though it was very clearly spelled out.  I have to wonder if these State Board members read anything or if Donna Johnson is calling the shots 100% of the time.  Minnehan told Dr. Gray she wanted an apology from the State Board for their misleading labeling of the Christina School District.  Many members of the commission and nearly all of the audience clapped at this.  Of course, Dr. Gray did not apologize.  I guess they need a board vote to determine if they “may” or “shall” do that.

Commission member Chandra Pitts asked Gray if she understood the intent of Senate Bill 122, which was that the WEIC plan either got a yes or a no vote from the State Board.  Gray responded by saying she did understand the legislation.  Pitts asked Secretary Godowsky what his plans are for Wilmington students after he openly said he wanted to make sure the Christina priority schools clause was put into the State Board’s consideration for the WEIC plan.

Gray said the State Board will advocate for Wilmington students just as much as they do for all of Delaware’s students.  This didn’t soothe any of the emotions in the crowd.  As I wrote on Facebook tonight, their idea of advocacy is ruling as tyrants in the Cabinet Room at the DOE Building once a month.  They are the most disconnected education group in the state, yet they have this power to make or break education.  All I see is a lot of breaking at the expense of Delaware’s students.  When the majority of the voices out there are telling you “this is wrong” or “don’t do this”, the State Board usually takes it upon themselves to ignore those voices and essentially do whatever Governor Markell tells Donna Johnson who then tells them what to do.  One member of the commission asked why the State Board brought up this whole “shall” and “may” stuff in Mid-February when they had the plan since December.  No response…

The districts were united in their response to the State Board’s change of the “shall” and “may” with no way!  They will have no part of an unfunded mandate that could eventually leave the citizens in their districts on the hook to pay for all of this.  Colonial Board Member Joseph Laws told Gray he thought it was ridiculous that the State Board would change those words based on the possibility of “tying the hands of the future State Board”.  He said the General Assembly and school board members pass laws, resolutions, and policies all the time.  Basically, and these are my words, it was lame of the State Board to change a whole plan based on future boards.

During the deliberation of the motion to send the original plan back to the State Board, WEIC member Rev. Meredith Griffiths told the group it should be about the students.  He felt if they send the plan back to the State Board where they will vote no on it again, it won’t help the students because the adults self-posture.  I see it as defending their local turf.  Had they done this during the Race To The Top days, things could be very different now.  Perhaps they have learned their lesson and we are seeing this now with the WEIC vs. State Board fight.

Bottom line: you can’t trust the State Board.  They are not publicly elected officials.  They are appointed by the Governor.  Granted, not all of the State Board members were appointed by Markell, but they have let him run the show since he became Governor.  And by using his puppet Donna Johnson to give the marching orders to the State Board, we get events like tonight.

Gray was not in her turf, so she couldn’t do her grand posturing and her bouts of Christina Derangement Syndrome the way she does in State Board meetings.  But make no mistake, beneath her calm demeanor, her arrogance could still be seen by all.  For the most part, Godowsky sat there stone-faced without much comment at all.  Our State Board of Education needs some major changes.  The trust in them is gone.  And I am still not convinced Godowsky’s changes in the DOE are enough to restore any semblance of faith in them as well.  At the end of the day, it is still Governor Markell’s commands being followed.  He may tweak those plans here and there in a vain attempt to restore public faith in his failed agendas, but the results are still the same.

If someone could please answer how the hell Donna Johnson still has her job I would greatly appreciate it.  How does someone advance from being on the Common Core math implementation team to the Executive Director of the State Board of Education in just a couple years?  It is my opinion, shared by many, that Donna Johnson abuses her power time and time again and no one at a state level who has the power to do anything about it does.  Like I said, we need drastic change in Dover.  The State Board’s incompetence at either passing or denying a redistricting plan is clear evidence of this, but this is just the culmination of years of their Markell-driven need for control.

 

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Hodges & Johnson

DEPTA

Hodges & Johnson is not the latest detective show hitting television.  But it is an appropriate name for the powerhouse behind the Delaware PTA.  They really stepped up this year for parent rights.  President Dr. Terri Hodges and Vice-President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson started the year off with a bang by announcing two town halls for those interested in opting their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I will fully admit to being blown away when I heard this but I quickly got in touch with Dr. H and let her know I was in full support of this.

In March, the duo held the first opt out town hall in New Castle County.  To say the first town hall on opt-out was controversial would be an understatement.  Confession time again: I truly thought I was advocating on my own for opt-out.  I knew others in the state who supported it and a couple school boards were behind it, but in terms of rallying the troops I thought it was going to be a solo act.  With that first town hall I knew there was massive support for the rising movement in Delaware.  Around the same time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was introduced in the General Assembly, State Rep. Earl Jaques was blasting opt-out parents, and Governor Markell was taking steps in his failed effort to squash the movement.

By the time the second opt-out town hall in Kent County happened a couple weeks later in early March, Brian Touchette from the DOE and Donna Johnson with the State Board of Education were forced to admit there was no law preventing parents from opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This was a major breakthrough in the opt-out movement and cleared the path for everything that went down at Legislative Hall over the next four months.

Johnson & Hodges, or at least one of their carefully chosen representatives, were present for every single opt-out meeting or vote at Legislative Hall.  By the time the Delaware Senate finally passed the bill on June 25th, summer was here and everyone who supported the bill needed a well-earned break.  But not even a month later, Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed House Bill 50 and spit on parental rights everywhere.  Immediately the talk went towards overriding the Governor’s veto, but the General Assembly went out of legislative session for six months.  Since then, Hodges & Johnson, with the PTA membership, have been gearing up for next month when the legislators return.

In the past few months, the Delaware PTA again stepped up to help prevent the harsh opt-out penalties as part of Delaware’s new state accountability system.  Unfortunately, Secretary Godowsky caved in to pressure and recommended the opt-out multiplier penalty as opposed to districts and schools having to come up with a plan to prevent opt-out.  The State Board of Education approved the final part of their ESEA Flexibility Waiver last month and they are awaiting word from the US DOE on final approval.

I have no doubt that will happen, especially given the stab in the back from the US DOE announced today about definitive funding cuts for states who dip below the 95% participation rate two years in a row.  But the Delaware PTA is on it, and the recently announced House Bill Veto Override Parent Rally at Legislative Hall on January 14th will show the legislators parents should not be underestimated.  In the thick of it will be Yvonne and Terri, Delaware’s own Hodges & Johnson!

Both of them truly believe parents have a voice in education, and they have proved it time and time again.  While I don’t agree with 100% of everything the PTA endorses, I respect their ability to draw consensus from a large group of parents for whatever they decide as a group.  That is how it should be in education, but we have too many Markells and Rodels in our country.

Appoquinimink Up To Their Dirty Tricks Again With Opt-Out/Legal Letters…Just Refuse The Test!

The Appoquinimink School District in Delaware is continuing their intimidation of parents when they opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It looks like they added some wording to the 2015-2016 edition about the testing windows.  Once again, with gusto, the ESEA doesn’t even address parents opting their children out of the state assessment.  The laws in ESEA deal with schools not testing students,  not parents.  Once upon a time, schools would discourage students from taking the test to improve their scores.  That was why that law was written.  Why is Appo continuing this false impression after I posted their 2014-2015 letter 8 months ago?  Say, didn’t the Delaware PTA ask Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn for a legal opinion of this letter?  Whatever happened to that?  Paging Yvonne Johnson…

I love how this letter states it was sent via regular mail AND certified.  From what I’m hearing, a child under the age of eighteen signed for it.  So does that make the certified mail drop-off even legal?  Delaware parents, you may get letters like this from other school districts or charters.  I would be creative with it.  Teach a younger child how to make paper airplanes.  Teach them how to do origami.  Or that thing where it becomes eight sides with all the questions on it.  Don’t sign it, and don’t send it back.  They want you to acknowledge a law that doesn’t even apply to you.  Continue opting your child out, and when the district comes back and asks why you didn’t respond, let them know you already gave them your letter, conversation over.  The override of Governor Markell’s parent disrespecting House Bill 50 veto by the 148th General Assembly can’t come soon enough.

12295559_10206951860368549_141385777_o

 

Hey Appo Board: How about getting off your weak knees and actually pass an opt-out policy like Red Clay and Christina did this fall.  Or even a resolution like Capital did.  Stop kissing DOE’s  you-know-what and show some spine!

I Thought I Should Actually Honor Jack Markell

DOE Responds To My Not A FOIA Request On SBAC Achievement Levels With Names

Holy smokes!  I guess if you respond to a DOE email and include tons of people on the response, you might just get a response.  I got real live actual information regarding Smarter Balanced without making four mortgage payments!  State Rep. John Kowalko was included on this as well.  Below is the email from Alison May at the Delaware Department of Education with answers to all my questions (just for this request, they know I still have TONS of other questions).  I did take the liberty of doing some minor edits by adding a colon after each of my questions instead of the comma Alison May used.  As well, her answers had red, so I will do that which got lost in the copy.  I just wanted to make it prettier, but if anyone wants to see the REAL email, let me know.


From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
To: “‘kevino3670@yahoo.com'” <kevino3670@yahoo.com>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>
Sent: Monday, October 12, 2015 4:22 PM
Subject: FOIA response

Mr. Ohlandt and Rep. Kowalko,

This is in response to your recent requests for information. Quoted below are Mr. Ohlandt’s original questions with respective answers in red.
1)     I would like to see a list of the individuals from Delaware who participated in the Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting.  This would include both the In-Person Panel and the Cross-Grade Review Committee:  The below spreadsheet lists the Delaware in-person participants.  Also, it identifies the cross-grade review committee participant from DE —-this process was also called Vertical Articulation Committee (VAC).  This was Karen Clifton.
The following represented Delaware as in-person panelists. TBL indicates the person served as a table facilitator. VAC indicates the person also participated on a vertical articulation committee.
SBAC Achievement Level
2)     As well, I would like to know who from Delaware represented the final achievement level settings: The state representatives participated in reviewing and making recommendations, which also took into consideration the online recommendations, etc.  There was then a final cross-grade or vertical process on the last day to make final recommendations from this group to pass forward.  These recommendations also went through external review, TAC, and Governing States chiefs for discussions.  Then they went to states for additional discussions and possible adoption. Karen Clifton from Delaware stayed for the final day of achievement-level setting. Carolyn Lazar of DDOE’s Assessment Office also was there for observation/auditing the process.  Former Secretary Mark Murphy participated in the Governing States discussions.
3)     Which higher education leaders participated in the 11th grade achievement level setting:  Faith Muirhead
4)     And anyone from Delaware who served on SBAC’s Technical Advisory Committee: There were no Delaware reps on Smarter’s TAC—this is not designed to be a state representative group but a professional group of assessment authorities.
5)     And if anyone from Delaware participated in the audit process for this:  Carolyn Lazar participated as a state observer/auditor for the process.  Each state was allowed to send one representative for this.
Alison May
Public information officer
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, DE 19901-3639

I do know or have heard of some of these teachers and general public participants in this.  Yvonne Johnson is THE Yvonne Johnson.  There can only be one!  At least on the Delaware PTA.  I know Yvonne was involved in many facets of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware as it was being developed, but don’t signal this as Yvonne has gone DOE on us.  She does not like this test AT ALL!  Don’t forget she was one of the major voices for opt-out and House Bill 50.

Some of these teachers are or have been involved with Rodel and the Vision Coalition of Student Success 2012, er uhm, 2015, er uhm. 2025.  The bottom line, we will all be dead and Dr. Herdman’s great grandson will be talking about Vision 2105.  And Alison:

THIS WAS NOT A FOIA REQUEST! IT WAS ONLY A QUESTION! BUT THANKS FOR ANSWERING!

Will Delaware State Board of Education & DOE Throw Delaware PTA Under The Bus For Smarter Balanced Scores As Well?

I found this very interesting item today… On October 5th, there will be a tentative special Delaware State Board of Education Workshop on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Accountability.  While it is not on the State Public Meeting Calendar, they already have the agenda up if you go to the above link, along with documents to be used in the presentation.  I wrote yesterday about the DOE’s plans to use teachers as scapegoats for the Smarter Balanced Assessment results, and from the looks of this, the Delaware PTA may be used in similar fashion.

State Board Workshop on State Assessments and Accountability 10/5/2015 – 5:00 PM

Date, Time and Location all TBA

Below are resources that may be helpful in providing additional information about Delaware State assessments

Here is the link to the Smarter Balanced practice test: http://sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test/

A website with lots of resources and information on Delaware’s standards and assessments: http://delexcels.org/

Additional information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment: http://bealearninghero.org/classroom/smarter-balanced

Smarter Balanced Assessment Guides developed by Delaware PTA and the National PTA:
http://delawarepta.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/smarterbalancedassessmentguide.pdf

http://www.pta.org/files/PTA%20Assessment%20Factsheet%20FINAL.pdf

Resources to review specific skills aligned with Smarter Balanced Score report information by grade level: http://bealearninghero.org/skill-builder

Grade by grade overview of English and math standards: http://www.pta.org/content.cfm?ItemNumber=2909

That’s a whole lot of mention of Delaware PTA in just one part of this presentation.  This will be a couple weeks after parents get the kid’s Smarter Balanced scores, and they will be freaking out.  Here comes the State Board to the rescue.  They are going to make this a big thing.  all parents are invited.  Media will be on hand and probably already got their “save the date” email.  The State Board will say “We didn’t design the test.  Teachers contributed and the Delaware PTA directed parents where to go.”  And that will be all parents need to hear: teachers and an organization to help shoulder the blame.  The State Board and the DOE will promise to look into this. They will assure parents they will do everything they can to make this assessment more tolerable this year and will work with the schools and districts to make sure they are doing it right. And then comes the usual “we want all children to succeed,” most likely from State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.

Unless some soothsayer blogger predicts this a month and a half ahead of time and publishes it on his blog… 😉

What the State Board of Education and the DOE may not realize is the Delaware PTA was the biggest advocate of parents opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. While they did provide links to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, it was a way for parents to find out what this test is really about. They came right out and said they don’t think the Smarter Balanced Assessment is an effective measurement for student success. I would be hard-pressed to find anyone more dedicated to parent engagement than Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges and VP For Advocacy Yvonne Johnson. One of them was at every single debate and meeting on House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill, at Legislative Hall. They formed the town halls on opt-out that ignited the fire. They know how bad this test is.

If parents want to blame someone for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they can look to the following individuals and groups: Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, the un-elected Governor appointed Delaware State Board of Education, the entire leadership of the Delaware DOE (including David Blowman, Penny Schwinn, Chris Ruszkowski, Susan Haberstroh, Karen Field-Rogers and Michael Watson), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Delaware Senator David Sokola, Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques, former Delaware State Rep. Darryl Scott, Rodel, The Vision Coalition, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network. If parents want to take action on their frustration with these people, there is no easier way to do that than to say NO MORE! Refuse the Test for your children! Opt-out! And email-bomb every single member of the 148th General Assembly: State Reps and Senators, demanding they override Governor Markell’s House Bill 50 veto the first day they come back to legislative session in January 2016. And while you are at it, demand legislation removing the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state assessment of Delaware! Parent’s voices were heard with House Bill 50, and those who voted no will be held accountable. But the vast majority voted yes, and they will again when the override comes. Especially when they receive ten times the amount of emails, calls, Facebook messages, tweets, and messages.

I encourage anyone reading this to keep coming back to this link. So when the big news does break with the scores, and enraged parents get on Google and start researching Smarter Balanced Assessment and Delaware PTA, this will be the first link they see on Google. Share it, spread it, email it, write it down and put it on cars at the mall!

Delaware Legislators, When Yvonne Talks, You Better Listen!!!! #REFUSETHETESTDELAWARE

The following came from the amazing but tough Delaware PTA Vice-President For Advocacy, the one and only Yvonne Johnson.  I will say no more, because Yvonne says it best:

Some key points our legislators need to hear regarding HB#50

The following key points on HB 50 has been sent to every legislator in the state. If you haven’t already done so, please reach out to them and urge them to override Governor Markell’s veto of HB 50.

 

  • As a reminder the votes on HB# 50 in both the house and the senate were overwhelmingly in favor of the parent opt out bill; House 33 to 3, Senate 15 to 6.
  • HB#50 was intended for the SBAC assessment. The bill is not about other assessments. Clearly parents want a choice without the fear of retribution to opt their student out of the SBAC.
  • DDOE promised to have results to parents in early August, which in and of itself is ludicrous, it is now expected to be in parents hands in late fall.
  • This bill was driven from parents and educators recognizing that the SBAC assessment does not offer the data that is valuable.
  • Parents want assessments that give nationally normed references, give immediate results, and measure their child’s growth within the current school year in which the test is administered; SBAC does not do any of above.
  • Educators want assessments that inform instruction within the current academic year; SBAC does not do this.
  • The people have spoken! The results of the vote on this bill in The General Assembly, are a direct result of constituent concerns regarding SBAC.

 

It is time for action from our elected officials. Unfortunately Governor Markell has ignored the wishes of YOUR constituents. There is no other resolution to this but to override his veto.

This is the only and the right thing to do for the hundreds of parents and teachers that you all have heard from.

Representing over 7000 members, Delaware PTA asks you to take action today and override the veto!

VP of Advocacy,

Yvonne Johnson

You don’t disregard Yvonne Johnson if you want to make it out of Delaware with all your teeth!  But seriously, if you agree with Yvonne, and I KNOW most of you do, please email our legislators.  If you are having any problems finding your legislator, don’t despair.  Email ALL of them!  Just copy and paste:

Harris.McDowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Karen.Peterson@state.de.us Bethany.Hall-long@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us David.McBride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us Charles.Potter@state.de.us StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us helene.keeley@state.de.us gerald.brady@state.de.us melanie.g.smith@state.de.us debra.heffernan@state.de.us Bryon.Short@state.de.us Quinton.Johnson@state.de.us Kevin.Hensley@state.de.us sean.matthews@state.de.us jeff.spiegelman@state.de.us Deborah.Hudson@state.de.us john.l.mitchell@state.de.us Peter.Schwartzkopf@state.de.us Valerie.Longhurst@state.de.us jj.johnson@state.de.us Michael.Mulrooney@state.de.us michael.barbieri@state.de.us kimberly.williams@state.de.us Steve.Smyk@state.de.us Michael.Ramone@state.de.us joseph.miro@state.de.us paul.baumbach@state.de.us Edward.Osienski@state.de.us john.kowalko@state.de.us John.Viola@state.de.us Earl.Jaques@state.de.us william.carson@state.de.us trey.paradee@state.de.us bobby.outten@state.de.us Sean.Lynn@state.de.us andria.bennett@state.de.us jack.peterman@state.de.us Lyndon.Yearick@state.de.us David.L.Wilson@state.de.us Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us Ronald.Gray@state.de.us Daniel.Short@state.de.us Timothy.Dukes@state.de.us Richard.G.Collins@state.de.us

Delaware PTA Statement On House Bill 50 Parent Opt-Out Veto & Link To Petition For Legislators To Override Veto

Thanks to Dr. Terri Hodges, President of the Delaware PTA for letting me post this in it’s entirety from the Delaware PTA website.

A message from the State PTA President, Dr. Terri Hodges

On Thursday June 16, 2015, Governor Markell vetoed HB 50 on the parent opt out. You can read Governor Markell Statement to House of Representatives Vetoing House Bill 50

We are deeply disappointed in the Governor’s decision to veto HB 50. Even more so, we are disappointed with the reasoning outlined in his letter to the General Assembly. His statements clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of not only HB 50, but also of the motivations behind parent support of this Bill. We are deeply saddened that the Governor has chosen to defend his right to exercise his veto power on the backs of our minority and at risk student populations. Many national civil rights organizations have clearly shown that these types of high stakes tests only serve to widen the achievement gap. As such, Delaware PTA denounces the Governor’s arguments. Furthermore, the argument that this assessment is the “only objective” tool we have to measure student growth and school performance is categorically false.

As we have stated before, this Bill is very straight forward, in that it codifies a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. However, opponents of the bill and subsequent amendments took the argument down a very convoluted and confusing path. Even those that are well versed on the subject and familiar with the bill were confused at times. To help alleviate any confusion or misconceptions with regard to parent motivation and interest in HB 50, Delaware PTA attempted to meet with the Governor on numerous occasions, but he did not acknowledge our requests or attempt to meet with us. In fairness, his Education Policy Advisor did agree to speak with me for about 10 minutes via phone towards the end of the legislative session. Out of fairness to the thousands of members we represent and given the enormity of what was at stake, we felt a more genuine conversation was warranted.

HB 50 passed both the chambers with more than a 3/5 majority. Your legislators worked very hard and fought for your rights as parents. They listened to you. For that they should be commended.

Although the Governor has vetoed this bill, it is not dead. Our legislators still have the right to override his veto when the general assembly resumes in January 2016.  This is an election year and we know the legislators will continue to work hard to represent their constituents.

During the last 24 hours, we have heard from many of you asking “what’s next?”, and many more have taken to social media to express their discontent with the Governor’s decision.
We came together before to get the bill this far, and we are asking for your support once again.

 

  1. We need each and every one of you to contact the legislators and thank them for their support on HB 50. Ask them to stand firm in their convictions, support their constituents and honor their first vote by overriding the Governor’s veto of HB 50. 

 

  1. Sign this petition to override the Governor’s veto of HB 50

 Here you will find the  HB 50 Roll Call listing all the legislators and how they voted. In addition, here is the contact information for the Delaware Legislators 2015 

Dr. Terri L Hodges,

State PTA President

I have to admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Delaware PTA before this whole opt-out movement.  But even before that, when they wrote a letter against the priority schools initiative, they started to turn me to their side.  And then the opt-out movement hit, and the Delaware PTA went right up to bat and hit a grand slam home run with their Town Hall meetings on opt-out.  They haven’t looked back since.  They have been at the forefront of every single meeting, decision, and supporting it front and center.  My most sincere thanks to the Delaware PTA on this!  While I may not agree completely with their stance on the Common Core state standards, I know they will listen.  But for now, go PTA!

Please sign the petition Dr. Hodges provided a link for, and lets get these legislators to override Governor Markell!!!!!!!

And once again, if this is your first time seeing the message, opt-out is dead, we are now REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE!

Delaware Opt-Out Gets FairTest Coverage the Past Two Weeks!!!! Delaware PTA & Exceptional Delaware!!!

The FairTest website, for the past two weeks, has Delaware opt-out in the news.  In their synopsis from two weeks ago, they had Dr. Terri Hodges and Yvonne Johnson, both with the Delaware PTA, covered in their weekly news with their very awesome editorial in the News Journal.  In last week’s news, they covered the letter State Rep. John Kowalko and I wrote to the News Journal.  Kowalko did NOT get co-authorship from the News Journal for our letter.

I’m very glad to see little old Delaware get noticed for our growing opt-out movement.  The noise will get louder as long as the Smarter Balanced Assessment is still on the table.  You know, the test that is included in the “assessment inventory” but was called “The best test Delaware ever made,” by Governor Markell today in a speech at a reformy non-profit in D.C.

For those who may not be aware, the next step for House Bill 50 is the Senate Education Committee meeting tomorrow, 3pm, at Legislative Hall in Dover.  If it passes there, and then the full Senate, will Governor Markell sign into law a bill designed to not punish schools and students over this “best test”?  Or will he veto the legislation, dragging the House Bill 50 out over the rest of the month, or possibly into next January?  Either way expect some fireworks!

Mark Murphy Tries To Come Off Like Markell, But Sounds More Like Little Bo Peep

In the Dover Post today, four people gave their opinion on opt-out.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Alissa Schubert, a parent and Media Relations for the Delaware Charter School Network were the anti-opt-out folks, while Delaware Senator Dave Lawson and Vice-President for Advocacy for the Delaware PTA, Yvonne Johnson were on the pro-side.

Murphy shied away from saying “Parents aren’t allowed to opt-out, but he did have some of his usual Murphyisms.

“Measuring the progress our children make in school is essential for providing teachers, parents, taxpayers, and leaders throughout the state with honest, objective information about whether they are learning the skills and gaining the knowledge they need to be successful now and in the future…”

“The “smarter” assessments have been designed, tested, and validated according to the highest standards…”

Nice try Mark.  We’ve heard it all before.  And once again, don’t try telling this parent what is best for my special needs son.  That’s my job, not yours!

And how about this…the reporter, David Paulk, contacted me over a week ago.  He wanted to know if I knew any parents who were opposed to opt-out.  I told him about some educators who spoke at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50, but I really couldn’t think of any normal parents.  So he found someone from the Delaware Charter School Network.  Of course they are opposed to it!

But the best line in the whole story is from Lawson:

“Smarter Balance is a test created by a for-profit company that makes money every test that is given.”

Lawson hit the nail right on the head.  Yvonne Johnson rocked it as well, with her never-ending support for House Bill 50.  Schubert just came off sounding like all the education reform folks who are opposed to HB50…. I’m getting bored with that.

The full link can be read here: http://www.doverpost.com/article/20150524/NEWS/305249990#305249990/?Start=4&_suid=143248401592807283983035871071

DE PTA’s Yvonne Johnson Responds To Mark Murphy On The Delaware Way! Must-Watch Video!

About a month ago, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy appeared on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte. On this controversial episode, Murphy told Mendte flat-out parents are not allowed to opt their children out of tests. Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA appeared last weekend on the show to tackle Murphy’s comments. Watch the full segment!

The Key Moments For House Bill 50 Opt-Out Victory In The Delaware House

There were many seminal moments on the road to this important victory for parents in Delaware.  I’ll start at the beginning:

1) Delaware bloggers Kavips and Transparent Christina begin talking about opt-out in the Spring of 2014.  It’s who got me to start thinking about it for Delaware.

2) Matt Lindell and the Capital School Board: a year ago, the Capital school board started the discussion on this, but it was tabled.  Then it came roaring back last fall for a unanimous vote by the Capital Board.

3) The Delaware DOE letters: In early December of 2014, the Delaware DOE began sending school districts a “suggested” letter to give to parents about opt-out should they ask or opt-out.  The confusing Delaware state code regarding this was exposed immediately by yours truly.  It took a while for this to be clarified by the DOE, but once the genie was out of the bottle, it made the DOE look ineffective

4) Delaware State Rep. Kowalko and Senator Lawson introduce House Bill 50 in early February. WDEL radio show host Rick Jensen starts having opt-out advocates on his show.

5) The Delaware PTA holds the first Delaware Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in mid-February.  Wide discussion about bullying tactics by school districts really ticks parents off.  What was meant to be a scare tactic fast turns into a rallying point for Delaware parents. President Terri Hodges announces publicly she is opting her own child out.

6) Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques tells a group of Christina Educator Association teachers House Bill 50 will never pass as Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick attempts to dictate terms about opt-out to parents in that district which does not work out as planned.

7) Delaware PTA holds Kent County Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in early March.  DOE is forced to admit parent opt-out can’t be stopped and the state law only applies to teachers and school staff, not parents.

8) Christina board of Education passes parent opt-out resolution in large measure due to the hard work in preparing the resolution by board member Elizabeth Paige and a fiery speech supporting parent opt-out by board member John Young.

9) Governor Markell announces initiative to reduce assessments for Delaware students while conveniently ignoring the elephant in the room, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This leads to Jaques referring to Smarter Balanced as a “little test”.

10) Governor Jack Markell is forced to talk about opt-out at Howard High School, which leads to remarks by Jaques which fans the opt-out flames even more, especially for special needs parents.  Jaques quickly apologizes.

11) The Delaware News Journal publishes a front-page cover story on opt-out from both sides of the fence.  A cover photo of parent Jackie Kook with her daughter brings it home for many parents.  Parent who never heard the words opt-out start looking into it.

12) In front of an audience of over 1,000 people at the Imagine Delaware forum, teacher and President of the Red Clay Educator Association Mike Matthews announces he supports the opt-out movement.

13) As the Smarter Balanced Assessment begins, parents start opting out by the hundreds in Delaware.  Many schools give parents a rough time, which causes parents to talk to each other and spread the news about opt-out.

14) Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews and Jaques go head to head in a News Journal dual opinion piece on opt-out.  Matthews clearly wins the contest and shows why opt-out is important in regards to Delaware education.

15) Both Red Clay and Christina Educators Association hold joint press conference announcing no confidence vote in Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.

16) Delaware PTA passes resolution officially supporting opt-out and House Bill 50.

17) DSEA (Delaware Educators Association) passes resolution supporting opt-out and House Bill 50, as well as a vote of no confidence in Mark Murphy.

18) Parent Press Conference/Rally at Legislative Hall in early April, though small, draws most Delaware media to it and more media coverage of opt-out.

19) Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams publicly announces she is opting out her own son, a high school junior who, like many Delaware juniors, are forced to take weeks and weeks of testing.

20) Mark Murphy appears on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte and states “parents aren’t allowed to opt-out students”.

21) Red Clay Consolidated School Board passes parent opt-out resolution with excellent writing by board member Adrianna Bohm.

22) The day before the House Education Committee vote, Governor Markell announces initiative to have Smarter Balanced Scores tie into elimination of remedial classes for four Delaware universities and colleges.  The announcement is critically slammed by legislators, parents and teachers.

23) At the House Education Committee meeting on April 22nd, Kowalko and Jaques battle each other as Kowalko is forced to answer a barrage of questions by Jaques.  Kowalko successfully fends him off.  After discussion from other legislators, public comment from parents shows near overwhelming support for the release of the bill.  Opposition includes organizations well-known to support Governor Markell’s corporate education agendas.  After a vote to have the bill tabled falls apart, the bill is released from the committee in an 8-4 vote ending the over two hour debate.

24) Mark Murphy’s claim of federal funding cuts of $40-$90 million over potential opt-outs and the passage of House Bill 50 is debunked the next day with the release of the US DOE letter which clearly states schools cannot opt students out, and the letter never mentions the words parent opt-out.

25) Last week, organizations such as GACEC and Council for Persons with Disabilities release near identical letter in opposition to House Bill 50 with claims that are quickly debunked.

26) In a hasty and damaging example of executive overreach, Governor Markell announces to radio host Rick Jensen on WDEL he will veto House Bill 50 if it reaches his desk.

27) Parents begin emailing all the legislators of the Delaware House and public support for the bill is clearly seen by the legislators.

28) State Rep. Sean Matthews introduces an amendment to House Bill 50 the day of the House vote which changes the language of the legislation from “the state assessment” to the “Smarter Balanced Assessment”.

All leading to today’s enormous victory in the Delaware House of Representatives, with a 36-3 victory with two reps absent.  At the end of the day, this is about parents using their voice to initiate change.  This could not have been done by one individual at all.  It took a great deal of advocacy, hard work, sweat, social media, and legislators, parents, organizations and ordinary citizens spreading the word and supporting the cause.

What also helped were some obvious tactical blunders by the Delaware DOE, Secretary Murphy, and Governor Markell.  And God bless him, we cannot forget Earl Jaques.  He revealed today House Bill 50 got in the way of his planned legislation to reduce the Smarter Balanced Assessment to only three grades of testing.  Which is a noble gesture, but legislation getting rid of the “little” test would be a much grander statement.

While getting the bill through the House was an undertaking, it remains to be seen how the Delaware Senate will receive the legislation.  Folks are already guessing which Senate members will support the bill.  Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn already announced on Facebook tonight he will vote yes.  Senator Lawson, a co-sponsor of the bill, is a lock.  But the others are a mystery for now.  I can guess and predict, but until they publicly announce their intentions or a vote, we must email them and call them as much as we can.

Delaware PTA’s Excellent Statement Of Support For House Bill 50 & Opt-Out

From the Delaware PTA website:

The Truth about Parent Opt Out and HB 50

The parent opt out movement is in full swing in Delaware. HB 50, legislation sponsored by Rep John Kowalko provides a consistent process to allow Delaware parents to opt their child(ren) out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment without fear of punishment or reprisal from district and school administration. The Bill also requires meaningful academic instruction for those students not participating in the test. In its simplest form, HB 50 secures a parent’s right to opt their child(ren) out of the assessment if they believe it is in the best interest of their child. The Bill acknowledges the parent’s right to protect their child from unnecessary and harmful tests. At its core, HB 50 places students first.

The increased momentum of the parent opt out movement in Delaware has resulted in an increase of misinformation regarding the purpose, intent and implications of HB 50. Delaware PTA supports HB 50 and a parent’s right to choose. This was a decision that was voted on and supported by our Board of Managers after months of research and community outreach among various stakeholders throughout the state. Delaware PTA is not encouraging any family to opt out of the state assessment. We do not believe it is our place to make such an important decision on behalf of thousands of Delaware families. We believe that this fundamental right is reserved for the family. Our goal in advocating for HB 50 and the parent opt out is to ensure that every family has the ability to make that decision, free of coercion, intimidation and fear of reprisal from their district and the state of Delaware. Current state code does not contain any language that prohibits the parent/guardians from opting their student out of the state assessment. Many school and district officials have already confirmed that they cannot and will not force a student to participate in the assessment. HB 50 simply codifies this.

Rather than debate the merits of a parent’s rights, those who oppose HB 50 continue to play on the fears of parents, exploit the vulnerable and coerce other stakeholders by misleading them on the intent and value of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Opponents of HB 50 have waged a war against parents, students and teachers. They claim a parent has no right to decide what is best for their child. Implying that these decisions are better left in large part, to large for-profit corporations and other parties that stand to benefit financially from the Smarter Balanced Assessment. State leaders say they want family engagement. They say they want parents to be involved in the education of their children, but only when it suits them.

Delaware PTA is not, and never has been anti-assessment. We support standardized tests, if they are limited, developmentally appropriate and provide useful instructional feedback. The Smarter Balanced Assessment does none of this. Assessments, regardless of which one is used, have to be judged against their intended uses. The SBAC was not designed to meet the needs of students and teachers; it was designed to meet the needs of the state, to allow state level and inter-consortia comparisons of student performance. For years parents and teachers were led to believe that No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top initiatives would help identify at risk students and schools, allowing state officials to direct resources and supports to our most neediest schools in an attempt to reduce the achievement gap. In fact, all that has happened under these initiatives were attempts to label, punish and close our schools. Yet, we are to believe that the new Smarter Balanced Assessments will do more than prior assessments and initiatives, and that the Smarter Balanced Assessments are necessary to reduce the achievement gap.

In 2013, Delaware PTA expressed concerns with the then proposed Smarter Balanced Assessments. We met regularly with decision makers in an attempt to have these concerns corrected prior to piloting and implementing the assessment. In 2014, exactly one year ago this month, Delaware PTA went on record in opposition of HB 334, the legislation that allowed Smarter Balanced to replace DCAS as the state assessment for English Language Arts and Math. We urged legislators not to support this Bill and we outlined very specific concerns with the Smarter Balanced Assessments, the same concerns we had been addressing since 2013. Despite the numerous concerns and flaws with the assessment, leadership pushed forward with Smarter Balanced and HB 334 was passed. Here we are in 2015 and the very concerns we voiced in 2013 and again in 2014, are now being voiced by our legislators and other stakeholders. Nothing has changed. That is why it is imperative that parents, teachers, legislators and community members support HB 50. We realize that the parent opt out is symptomatic of a larger problem. We understand that many educators, parents and community members want to change the Smarter Balanced Assessment to an assessment that actually provides meaningful individual student data in a timely manner. However, we must not ignore the right of a parent to make these critical decisions while we continue to work together to address the testing problems in our state.

We all want to see reductions in the achievement gap. For years, Delaware PTA and other stakeholders have worked tirelessly to advocate for an increase in supports and services for at risk students. We know that the solution to this problem is not more testing. Our public schools are being destroyed by the negative effects from annual high-stakes testing, which include less creative and engaging schooling; the de-professionalization of teachers and teaching; the reduction of teaching of the arts, music, social studies, and science; and the continued intimidation of our parents and teachers.

Parents are not opting out because the test is “too hard”. Parents are opting out because this overly subjective assessment provides no value to the student or teacher. The test results are not available until after the academic year has ended and students are losing valuable instruction time. Parents want meaningful assessments that produce accurate and valid data on how their student is performing. They want feedback that allows them to work with the teachers to support student learning and growth. Parents support HB 50 because they want teachers to teach and students to learn.

Dr. Terri Hodges is President of the Delaware PTA. Yvonne Johnson is the Delaware PTA VP of Advocacy.

Podcast of DE PTA Yvonne Johnson on WDEL, Hear A Caller Call Mark Murphy A Sycophant

The Rick Jensen show on WDEL today had Rick interviewing Delaware PTA’s very own Yvonne Johnson.  The two discussed House Bill 50, standardized tests, common core and more.  And then John Young called in and things got very interesting!

Even I called in at the end to announce the publishing of Part 31 of the priority school FOIA series I’ve been posting for the past few weeks to give a clear example of what the Delaware DOE is doing with all this important “data” they receive from standardized testing.