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Under No-Child-Left-Behind, large numbers of mandates were decided in Washington DC by the Department of Education…

State Boards had to wait to find out that which they would have to deal,  then decide how to work with it…

Under the new ESSA that is changed.  State Boards are the ones now given the ultimate power to decide education in that state…  In a theoretical contest between Washington DC and the state, the state is now given top-right…

Many state school boards are not prepared for this… whether their state elects or has their governor appoint them, they are laypeople who are far removed from the daily grind which education extracts.  Often having never set foot in a classroom since their high school graduation, they are now thrust into making policy that affects ever child under their control.

Often meeting only 8-10 times a year as a ceremonial function,  they are now tasked with overseeing policy. Over the past several years, the membership of state boards has become younger and more diverse. While, in the past, sitting on a state board was the crown jewel for an accomplished educator, board members now range from bankers, lawyers, and doctors to outspoken parents of action.

As an example of who can be on these boards, residents in the East Texas region will soon decide whether to elect to the state board Mary Lou Bruner, a retired kindergarten teacher who has said in widely publicized Facebook posts that she believes that a young President Barack Obama worked as a gay prostitute, that the country should ban Muslims, and that the Democratic Party killed President John F. Kennedy.

Often these board members approach education only from a philosophy and are intent only on forwarding that philosophy onward, often putting them at odds with those who have a more practical focus on how to educate children.

In the past, board members were inconspicuous stewards convening in sparsely attended, daylong meetings where they debated education policy.

The ESSA law now adds plenty more to their plate. In the coming months, boards will be tasked with revising teacher evaluations, school report cards, and ways to intervene in their lowest-performing schools…..

Which means the window of opportunity to make changes to our state’s education system exists from now till June 1st.

Delaware citizens have a tool in a General Assembly at their disposal and policy elected and signed, does set the parameters of our state boards.

So whereas some may think OPT OUT is a dead issue, suddenly it becomes live again.  Whereas some may think we are solidly committed to the smarter balanced future, suddenly getting rid of it becomes a real possibility again.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says more than 500 bills regarding state standards and assessments have been proposed across the country so far this year.  Resentful that a massive wave of common-standards adoptions four years ago bypassed their chambers and subjected them to intense political heat, state lawmakers are taking steps to claim some of the authority that state boards of education have traditionally held over academic standards.

So now is an important time.. It is the equivalent of maneuvers done during the advent of the No-Child-Left-Behind which set policy for 15 years hence.

As a state we need to steer to these future goals which are open yet structured enough to insure that every child gets a first class education worthy of the First State…..

  • Let teachers teach. They know your children best.
  • Work toward an 11:1 student/teacher ratio in all classes k-5 and 9th grade where the school lunch level is over 50%.
  • Divorce teacher accountability and school accountability from tests.  Use tests only to benefit the child.
  • Replace the Smarter Balanced test with one that is beneficial in giving us information on how well our child is doing….
  • Begin phasing out charter schools by making their authorizer the district board in which their school resides…

Parents who step up can now make great changes in education for years to come.

 

 

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Smarter Comparisons ELA

Charts courtesy of Education Reform Now

Delaware’s Rankings by Grade Levels in ELA  Among Smarter Balanced States

Grade 3:  2nd (Tied with Connecticut)

Grade 4: 4th

Grade 5:  5th

Grade 6:  7th

Grade 7: 7th

Grade 8: 7th

Grade 11: 7th

Smarter Comparison Math

And in math:

Grade 3:  2nd

Grade 4:  3rd

Grade 5:  5th (tied with I da ho)

Grade 6:  8th

Grade 7:  7th

Grade 8:  7th

Grade 11:  7th

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But before one can jump on Delaware’s poorer showing, one must take into account a very glaring factoid totally ignored by those intent of foisting corporate reforms on public schools….

That is:

Delaware has one of the highest proportion of its students (all the highest quality) in private schools; completely outside of public education….

Private enrollment

Map and Charts Courtesy of The Atlantic CityLab.com

Over 15% of all our state’s children are taught in our private schools.  That has to suck a lot of cream off the top of  overall test scores…. Kids whose parents have a college or graduate degree are much more likely to go to private school. Their lack of impact in the public school system, should hit Delaware hard when comparing scores across states.

Particularly when Greater Wilmington Metro Area

Wilmington Private Enrollment

…. is ranked 6th in the nation for highest private school enrollment and we have one zip code, 19807 =  Greenville.………..

Private enrollment by zip

…. fourth highest in the nation at a whopping 78%..….

I’ll do the calculations at another time but with math we can begin to predict based on some assumptions, where if we had fewer of our best in private schools how that would stack our state up against other states.

Bottom line:  if you trim a tree at its first branch, it will not be as tall as those allowed to grow naturally….

A common sense explanation for Delaware’s low scores.  (And none of these private schoolers have to undergo Common Core)  None.

Fortunately it was an early Easter this year… Spring Break is done and now we roll straight through Memorial Day into June and summer….

Wait you say:  “Isn’t that 8 weeks to Memorial day and two more in June?”

“Didn’t you just make an error?”

My reply is this… Look at the title, I said 4 more weeks to teach… not 4 more weeks of school… After May begins, testing becomes the sole focus of every teacher, every school in the state.  What your children will know,… stops growing as of April 29th…  Testing runs all May… and it is intense.  There is no teaching between May the Fourth (be with you) and Memorial Day….

So out of roughly a 180 day school year, we are culling off the final 6 weeks to undergo testing.  WE defacto have a 150 day school year… This calls “bull” on all those against Hocker’s Bill to limit the school year to Labor Day and Memorial Day.

I think he should add an amendment to his bill that gets rid of all Smarter Balanced testing, then we have good possibility of support and passage.  Because when truth is told, a child has a better chance of learning while NOT in school over a longer summer break, than they do sitting in a room either taking the test, or waiting for his classmates to finish.

This is pure tragedy… With the Smarter Balanced, WE are teaching our children 30 days less this and last year, than before when we had the DCAS which had a much more positive impact than the current one now taken.

Everyone in General Assembly still supporting the taking of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, needs to be forcefully thrown into some cold tar and rolled around in chicken feathers;  then made to drink tea…… it is the only patriotic thing left for Americans to do….

Citizens Catch Up To Dave Sokola

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian.

The entire nation was set on the course of Common Core … Delaware raced to be first… Filling out applications to “Race To The Top” it was accepted first and there Common Core had an extra year of implementation.  Therefore seeing how Delaware is functioning is good for showing how the rest of the nation shall fare when it too reaches that level Delaware now is …

Fact is, in very many areas, solely because of Common Core, Delaware is less better than it was before “Race To The Top” became a priority. We as the first state, are now fighting for survival in a race to the bottom because of our state’s enthusiasm to embrace an untried, untested, and unproven strategy to implement better learning processes….

This can be seen no better than our failure to improve ELL in Hispanics here in Delaware…

Again charts show this better than do words…..

Hispanic score gainsOne can see from the above grade 4 score-chart, gains have been made nationally on the NAEP since 2005 to 2015, a rather impressive achievement, and something which would be celebrated if it were not completely overshadowed by the current focus on achievement gaps.

Hispanic score gains 8

Same with the national Grade 8 scores on the NAEP. All segments trend upward over ten years, an amazing feat worthy of celebration.  Meaning we are doing a much better job in taking children who have never heard English and do not have it reinforced at home, and giving them the ability to survive in our English speaking country.

But instead of celebrating this good thing, we beat up ourselves over a self-imposed restriction called “the achievement gap”…

So we are complaining and trying to develop a process which makes children who don’t know English and don’t have it reinforced at home, catch up and surpass those who grew up learning English and always have it reinforced everywhere they go…

It is pretty silly really, isn’t it?   Shouldn’t we concentrate on the big picture and improve the reading rates for all Hispanics and ignore the fact that the achievement gap will always be there and possibly grow larger due to natural selection?   The only way to REALLY improve the Hispanic achievement gap is to pull them out of their families and put them in English speaking ones of higher incomes… Something that will never happen.

It should also be acknowledged here, that before we were worried about testing, Hispanic scores rose much higher than after we began to worry about them.  This should be no surprised to anyone who’s followed what goes on in education lately because of the testing requirements placed on teachers and students.

Because WE are focusing only on closing achievement gaps, we are teaching only the test to our Hispanic students.   All they learn is how to take the tests. This readily explains the slumps from 2013 to 2015 in the charts above.  This slump comes about because of pressure top-downward.  Teachers are told they have to get scores up on their Hispanic children.  And the only way to do that is to teach them how to fill in the bubbles of the test, how to accurately guess the right answers, and when and when not just skip a question.  Strategy outranks knowledge of language….

And make no mistake!  All children are suffering from this strategy that Common Core forces on every single school required to be evaluated by these tests. It is just that with students who learn one language at school and another at home, the differences are wider and more pronounced.  One can immediately see the impact without  other issues clouding the picture.

And so if you are astute, (I’m very lucky, most of MY readers are) you are probably putting two and two together and saying to yourself that 1) if the national average score has risen for all Hispanics over the past ten years, that 2) if Common Core and its tests negatively impact the learning process for all students, that if 3) Delaware has a year more of Common Core under its belt than other states, then probably Delaware is near the NAEP’s bottom rank of all states when one compares the gains or losses Hispanics have faced during the Markell administration’s second term.  If you are astute, that is what you should be thinking right now…..

Hispanic ranking by state 4

Hispanic ranking by state 8

Delaware, 2nd to last of all 50 states in gains made by Hispanic 8th graders ….. Thanks, Jack Markell and Mark Murphy.

WE went the wrong direction in Race To The Top and corporate reform… Today it is very obvious that the test has got to go.  We already have great overall accountability in the NAEP… These calls from lobby shills saying we need to keep the Smarter Balanced to make schools accountable, are exactly who and what is ruining education for all of 130,000 + of Delaware’s children in public schools.

Nothing wrong with accountability.. it worked very well until we started focusing on the Smarter Balanced Assessments.  Again, don’t take my word. Just look at the charts.

 

Kevin reports that Sokola and Jacques put up a bill that postpones the Education Funding Improvement till effectively legislature is over. (Senate CCR 56)

Why?

Here is what the old bill said…

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Commission shall report its findings and recommendations to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Governor, and, for public distribution, the Director of the Division of Research of Legislative Council and the Director of the Delaware Public Archives by March 31, 2016.”

This was one of the major sticking points last year if you will remember, because several people would not originally vote for the original bill’s date of June 30th 2016 because that was “bad” government… So it was changed to get passage votes… and now it has been changed back.

This original bill was forced on an runaway Educational lobby that really did not want it. It’s purpose was to propose legislation to change how schools were to be funded. it was also a foil being used to blunt the passage of Opt Out and opponents to the charter takeover of city schools.

The charter proponents are very scared that exposing the reality of how the funding of charters does immense detriment to the rest of public education, might wake up some legislators and the Delawarean public. They want this hidden.

Hence, the two legislators who are completely owned by corporate educational big money, Earl Jacques and Dave Sokola, wind up being the only sponsors of these two bills:

The first bill requiring the report by the end of March, and the second pushing it to June 30th.

Legislature ends on 6/30/2016.  This report is due on 6/30/2016.  There will be no time to debate or even look at what was proposed.

That is the bill’s intent.

Whenever anything comes up due on the last day of legislature, we can be assured that someone is trying to sneak something in, the majority of Delawareans don’t want…

What the original bill was intended to accomplish was a way to shift more funding to poorer state school districts.   it sounds good in principle.

But if one takes the actual record of deals stuck in the middle of the night by this administration, deals such as Fisker, Bloom Energy, TDC, Kinder Morgan, and Race To The Top, with 5 straight losses it does not look good for the sixth.

Anything other than a late night end-run-sneak, was no reason to pass this bill…

It is past time to hold accountable, those who are accountable for Delaware’s Educational fiasco. 

Our legislators at least for now, seem to be failing miserably at doing so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STATE ACTION
Florida:

Florida adopted more than 100 revisions to the Common Core State Standards to adapt them to Florida learners following a large-scale review and series of public hearings.

Indiana:

Indiana became the first state to withdraw from the Common Core consortium in 2014 and adopted new standards for ELA and Mathematics validated by state education stakeholders.

Oklahoma:

Oklahoma became the second state to withdraw from the Common Core consortium in 2014 and adopted new standards for ELA and Mathematics validated by state education stakeholders.

South Carolina:

South Carolina became the third state to withdraw from the Common Core consortium in 2014 and adopted new standards for ELA and Mathematics validated by state education stakeholders.

Louisiana:

The Louisiana Governor and legislature enacted legislation to direct the
Education Commissioner to review and develop new standards from 2015-
2016.20 The Education Commissioner also conducted an online survey to gather public feedback on specific standards.

Maine:

The Maine Education Commissioner created a 24-member panel in 2014 to
engage the public, evaluate, and make recommendations on the Common Core Standards.

New Jersey

The New Jersey Governor appointed a committee to review the Common Core Standards and make recommendations regarding revisions before January 2016. The State Education Commissioner also conducted a public online survey to gather public input on specific standards.

North Carolina:

The North Carolina legislature created a committee to review the Common Core Standards, gather public input, and make recommendations to the legislature before December 2015.

Oklahoma:

Oklahoma enacted legislation to repeal the Common Core Standards and revert to its previous Oklahoma standards. School districts retain the option to teach to the Common Core or the Oklahoma standards.25

Pennsylvania:

The Pennsylvania Governor ordered a delay in the implementation of the
Pennsylvania Common Core Standards in 2013 in order for the State to conduct a review and make modifications.26 Approved revisions to the PA Core Standards went into effect on March 1, 2014.

Tennessee:

The Tennessee Governor appointed a committee in 2014 to review the Common Core Standards, gather gather public input, and make recommendations before January 2016.

New York:

Governor’s task force recommends Common Core be scrapped and new state standards be compiled by professional educators and that educational corporations be completely shut out from the process.

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Delaware

The lemmings follow their educational leaders over the cliff obviously hypnotized by the personal magnetism and scintillating personalities of both Dave Sokala and Earl Jacques.…..

 

A Cure for Carlotta
by Bart King

A boy stood on deck and sniffed the salty sea air as the ship pitched back and forth. The smell of the sea was familiar and comforting. The boy’s earliest memories were of being at sea with his father. They would fish for hours, just the two of them, surrounded by the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Now Enzio and his family were on a giant ship crossing the Atlantic. Also on board were hundreds of other people, mostly Italians like Enzio’s family. There were more people on board than lived in his entire village back home in Trevilla.

Enzio clattered down the iron steps to the steerage deck and dove into his bunk. He rested his head against his pillow. Trevilla wasn’t his home anymore. Gone was the fishing boat. Gone was the Mediterranean blue that he’d always taken for granted. Who knew what kind of home America would be?

One of the passengers was a girl named Carlotta. Her family was from Rome. Carlotta had been quick to tell him this on the first day of the voyage. “New York will not be so different from Rome,” Carlotta had said. “They are both great cities, but of course Rome is better. My father has already been to America twice. He is going to open a big department store downtown. My father had a successful business in Rome; all the wealthy ladies would buy from him.”

Carlotta loved to talk about herself, her family, and the rich and powerful people they knew. With so many hours to fill, Enzio did not mind. He noticed—but didn’t really mind—that she never asked about him or his family. Enzio was especially hungry for any details about America. He loved hearing Carlotta’s tales about life in a big city. It sounded exciting and a little scary.

Today, Carlotta was unusually quiet. Her face was pale, and she clutched her stomach with one hand and the ship’s rail with the other. “Up and down, up and down, will it never stop?” she groaned.

Enzio took Carlotta’s hand from the rail. He pressed his fingers on the inside of her wrist, an inch or so from the palm of her hand. “Press this place here, on your wrist,” Enzio said.

Carlotta looked at him miserably. Enzio could tell that only her illness kept her from arguing with him. How well he knew that look on her face. He’d seen it on the faces of many fishermen. He smiled encouragingly. “That’s right. Keep pressing.”

An hour later, Carlotta found Enzio. She was still holding her fingers to her wrist. “I do feel better,” she admitted. “How did you know it would work? Is your father a doctor?” she asked.

Enzio explained that his father had come from a long line of fishermen who had passed down the remedy for seasickness. One of Enzio’s uncles always wore a braided wristband with a bead that pressed into his wrist.

Interested, Carlotta asked to hear more about Enzio’s family. He explained that they were sailing to meet his mother’s brothers. One was a successful stonemason in upstate New York. Another had helped construct the Brooklyn Bridge. Still another worked as a welder, joining the steel frames of the city’s rising skyscrapers.
Carlotta looked at Enzio with new respect. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” Enzio shrugged. “You didn’t ask.”

Suddenly the blast of the ship’s horn startled them. Looking out the porthole, Carlotta shouted, “Look! The Statue of Liberty!”

They could hear the commotion of all the passengers talking at once. Soon the ship would dock at Ellis Island. Gazing out at the mighty but silent statue, Enzio wondered what marvelous things the statue might teach if only someone asked the right question.

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question 1question 2

 

To receive the full-credit score of 1 point, the student must correctly select both paragraphs. The correct paragraphs are paragraph 1 and paragraph 3.

question 3

question 4

question 5

And that concludes your Smarter Balanced test for your child…

He would need to answer all of these correctly to deemed proficient.  How proficient were you?

The idiocy of using this one single event to rate teachers’ performance, to rate schools’ performance, to rate district [performance, by now should be apparent….

The questions are aimed not to determine what each child knows, but how well they can guess what the test takers were thinking….

Remember, none of these questions came from anyone who actually spends time teaching kids… or has children of their own…

Every parent who does know children, needs to opt out today…. It would be different if the test was a good test…. by good, we mean objective… “What is the capital of Delaware?”..  this test does not test knowledge. It tests whether you choose the same things I would choose… nothing more…

I was particularly struck by the last question asking the main idea….  Only B and D could be opted out…..

For picking A, C, E all of which have very good grounds… you child will be deemed a failure who is not college or career ready by the 5th Grade…..

I understand many may be confused or not sure if your child is better served by not taking the test.

But when a Blue Ribbon panel is handpicked to decide the Opt-Out issue, and THEY shock their “handlers” by all siding with opting-out is the best for children….  something big is up.

You HAVE to take that seriously.. Just as serious as you do the fact that their viewpoint was dismissed and the preset policy decided long ago, was poured into form and allowed to set….

Politics are not your concern.  Plush post electoral jobs for Markell, Sokola, or Jacques are not your concern.  Your child,…. is your concern….

When a handpicked group of people expected to side with the administration (that’s why they got picked) all flip and say: “no, this test is awful.  We have go allow parents to opt out”…. then that should set off alarm bells.

You may be able to opt out later, but I can’t guarantee it.. If you opt out now, and change your mind later, you can always opt back in.  Even as late as test day…

But opting out now is the smart move because it gives you wider options to do what is best for your child….

Here is all you need to say…..

I __________________, parent of ________________ am opting my child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Please make sure he does not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment this spring….

Love,

Your favorite parent….

 

 

 

Today an agreement was announced by leaders in Congress and a conference to hammer the differences between the Senate and House Bills will soon be set.  The target for passage is by the end of the year.

You are probably wondering what this portends?

In synopsis fashion it goes like this:

On Accountability

  • states would still have to test students in grades 3-8 and once in high school in reading and math.
  • States would get to decide how much those tests count for accountability purposes.
  • States would be in the driver’s seat when it comes to goals for schools, school ratings, and more
  • States would be required to identify and take action in the bottom 5 percent of schools, and schools where less than two-thirds of kids graduate.
  • States would also have to identify and take action in schools that aren’t closing the achievement gap.

On Opt-Outs

  • It would allow states to create their own testing opt-out laws.
  • It maintains the federal requirement for 95 percent participation in tests.
  • States would have to take low testing participation into consideration in their accountability systems. Just how to do that would be up to them, though.
  • The agreement “leaves a lot of this to states to figure out and the secretary’s ability to interfere with those state decisions is astonishingly limited.”

On Programs

  • Substitutes block granting  instead of delineated granting for physical education, mathematics and science partnerships, and Advanced Placement.
  • Living on as separate line item, will be the 21st Century Community schools program, which pays for after-school programs.
  • Early childhood investment is in. But the new program will be housed at the Department of Health and Human Services, not the Education Department.
  • The new research and innovation program that was described as the next generation “Investing in Innovation” program, made it into the bill.

On School Choice

No Title I portability—that means that federal funds won’t be able to follow the child to the school of their choice.

Other Funding Issues

  • No changes that would steer a greater share of the funds to districts with high concentrations of kids in poverty.
  • Some changes to the Title II formula (which funds teacher quality) that would be a boon to rural states.

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(Anthology courtesy of John Young; printed by Exceptional Delaware.)

LIES

• Test scores show we perform poorly.
• America performs poorly compared to international students (other nations do not test poverty).
• Schools are failing.
• Teachers are lazy.
• Teachers are incompetent.
• Lack of Grit is an obstacle to success.
• Lack of Rigor causes failure.

Truths…..

• Policies of merit pay and bonuses are creating turnover not stabilizing it.
• The constant shifts in staff based on test score accountability create understandable teacher inertia to meaningful policy change.
• Our schools have been subject to veritable unending policy change since 1983 (Nation at Risk).
• Testing is misused to label and destroy the profession of teaching.
• Testing is used to inappropriately measure schools of education (SB51).
• Testing is used to label schools and fuel a choice law that shifts funds and creates economic chaos in our schools.
• Property tax funding base is unstable.
• Special education is dramatically underfunded and frequently violated ….School boards can help, but honestly are largely an exercise in petty ego wrapped up in pseudo-authority.