Last week I posted a letter sent by Secretary Murphy to all of Delaware’s teachers. Today I will parse it. #netDE

My rejoinders in RED.

But before I do that, let’s remember our Secretary’s prescient statement about how word matter at the 1:40 mark of this video, made upon his confirmation in May 2012. It is important to keep this in context as you read my acerbic take on the policy he references in the e-mail last week. Also, I skewer the term “human capital” as I have before, here:

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From: Kepner Alison
Sent: Friday, November 02, 2012 11:12 AM
Subject: Component 5 Update from the Secretary

Component 5 Update from the Secretary

To all of our educators:

As we near the conclusion of the first quarter of the school year and way past the deadline I gave my department to provide you with critical aspects of your own evaluation system, I wanted to take the time to communicate directly with each of you via a blast, impersonal e-mail and share my reflections as reflections are my only, best way to share my thoughts without offering any accountable commitments on the state’s professional appraisal system, DPAS II.

In my first five months as Secretary, I have spent many hours discussing discussing is weak action implementation of our evaluation system with educators across the state who? where? when?.  My reflections again with the weak reflections line below include a brief overview of the context for this work, the challenges that we’re facing together, and how I not we, you, or publicly elected officials responsible for public eduction, just me, only me see us improving the system this year and beyond.


Almost three years ago, our state committed by hoodwinking legislators and other scattered power bases namely union locals and school boards with the promise of gobs of cash to a more comprehensive approach that has ZERO basis in peer reviewed research for our professional appraisal system.  At its core, the expanded approach (DPAS-II(R)) emphasizes the academic growth of our students even though teachers do not, and cannot control: poverty, sleep, nutrition, parental involvement or horrendous policy based on intuition .  As educators, you work every single day to improve the achievement of your students – the changes to DPAS II aim to honor that work, ironically by bastardizing it to its very core, and ensure that it is part of the feedback professional disrespect my office administers to its statewide cadre of “human capital” you receive.

After over two years of planning, and with the contributions of hundreds of educators 400-600 holed up in Dover negotiating for meager inroads to a complex system that again, has no evidence of success whatsoever, the revised evaluation system now is being implemented just like governor Markell promised Arne Duncan he would, teachers of Delaware be damned.  As I’ve shared with you before, our approach continuously is guided by a set of principles and previously made commitments tot he federal government that I/we will not break for you no matter what:

1.      Fair: Each educator has the opportunity to demonstrate growth on more than one measure. This is the trick to keep you happy and ignorant of the control of  component 5 by 50% test scores.
2.      Transparent: The measures are available for all educators to see and all growth targets are established at the beginning of the year in collaboration with your evaluator. Transparent? Like test scores, cut scores, and mysterious score explosions like winter to spring in the 2011-2012 school year right before an election? The kind of transparent that has professional educators scratching their heads at their own students sudden, explosive growth?
3.      Easy to understand: All educators and administrators have access to the necessary information that we decide for you is necessary on our website as well as district and state-led trainings where? when? who? and point-people oooh, point people! I feel much better within district and state offices to answer questions.
4.      Respectful of the education profession by effecting massively and pervasively disrespectful VAM system guided by test scores: Measures are selected at the local level flat out, BS, this is just a plain old lie from state-approved lists ahh, the catch that makes it a lie and student goals are set by the educators who are closest to our children more total BS, set by DOE, they just refuse to OWN it which is why their credibility levels are PLUMMETING under Jack Markell with teachers. Overall ratings are determined at the local level with your evaluator data coach? Principal?  Principals are in control of the rating? NOPE, test scores control the rating, who also observes your practice throughout the year. Certainly supposed to.

Implementation Challenges Funny.

Implementation of any major initiative is very challenging.  As a state we have seen this each of the last three years, from our move to statewide “professional learning communities” (PLCs) hardly done yet, and VERY controversial to this day…plenty of grievances in pipeline right now, DOE  and lame duck Governor Jack Markell in utter denial/ do not care what teachers think at all on the subject in 2010 to new guidance related to educator observations last year.  In each of these cases-once past the initial implementation challenges-many educators how many? the 47% that bothered to respond in which not all of them were happy? come on Mr. Murphy do not insult our teachers, they can see right through bogus assumptions like this  have shared positive feedback about the initiatives’ impact on the profession and on student improvement.  In fact, educators at nearly every award-winning school are those the only schools you visited for this letter? Confirmation Bias much? that I visited earlier this month said that PLCs were a major factor how? quantify? qualify? in their students’ success.

That’s not to downplay challenges experienced and the significant implementation effort that is underway related to Component 5.  I know that this initial implementation phase has been difficult for many of you.  The process is new, it can be time-consuming, and it may be different from what you have done in the past. Complete and utter disdain for your collective concerns here, only thing missing are a few selective “buts” to nullify every insincere recognition.  I have heard your concerns, and I take them seriously really? how? what’s changing as a result? or are you plowing on without regard because of federal commitments? own up, be honest.  From frequent school visits to multiple conversations with our state’s education leaders, I know that there have been technical challenges with new systems and communication challenges with the revised policy, and I thank you for your feedback.  Your feedback is a major part of what drives our continued statewide support. Not the policy, not your evaluation, the DOE’s support: DO NOT FORGET THIS LINE, IT IS THE ESSENCE OF HOW THE DOE IS MANIPULATING THE ENTIRE REFORM.

Continued Statewide Supports

We appreciate your ongoing help in identifying the specific schools and districts that require additional assistance in implementation. While we have provided multiple opportunities for training, and have trained more than a thousand educators in the new policy $59.5MM for the DOE from RTTT and all you have reached is more than a thousand? really? and systems, we know additional assistance is needed for some schools some, just some, the rest, well, you know, we’ll get to you, eventually that is. We will continue to provide  “on-demand” code for bare bones support for any district or charter school that requests gotta ask, the assumption is that you are good, plus if they assist to much, they may find out how absolutely screwed up it is assistance.  We also will continue to offer multiple help-lines (see below) again code for bare bone and  impersonal to answer questions from educators and district technology coordinators.  Each day district and school leaders contact us-we encourage this, and we encourage your continued collaboration with local leadership in ensuring that all of your questions are answered.

Statewide Safeguards

We have a responsibility, at the state and district level, to monitor this process so that educators are not impacted negatively by technical challenges that are outside of their control-this is one piece of feedback that I’ve heard consistently from educators and association leaders throughout the state. monitor the process, that’s the responsibility, to monitor the process, wow.  For instance, if a pre-test was given after significant portions of your curriculum was delivered, or if there were significant technical problems with administering your assessments, those circumstances should be discussed yeah, talk about it that will make you feel better about the absolutely unproven method by which you are receiving your rating, just talk it out with your evaluator and considered code for good luck! in your final rating.  There are two concrete actions sounds about right, concrete that is  that we will take to provide assistance as we move forward:

1.      We will offer additional training to all educators on the end-of-year conference for Component 5: End-of-year conferences should be professional should be, not must be…we would want to treat you like resources, we’ll just keep calling you all CAPITAL and use high standards like SHOULD  and effective SHOULD be effective, not must? ARE. YOU. KIDDING?  He’s not and neither is lame duck Governor Jack Markell and take unique circumstances, if any how is this determined? by the DOE, the evaluator or the teachers/slab of human capital?, from this year into account.  An evaluator from each school will be required to participate in training, and all educators will have optional training human capital rates OPTIONAL training, the respect is just free flowing out of Dover now eh? available as well.  Heading into next year, the Department of Education will provide a menu of support this is what kids need: a la carte menus of support! for all educators (teachers, specialists, school leaders, district leaders) and consult with each district or charter school on how to best implement a quality process that is consistent with the four principles I not you, you unit of capital outlined above.

2.      We will collect and review data from the field for consistency with policy guidance we must not waiver from a bad policy, we must prove to the feds that we follow the guidance of a bad policy!: The Department of Education will collect and review data on Component 5 implementation, including Component 5 forms and ratings (while maintaining confidentiality).  We also will monitor Component 5 challenges submitted by educators to schools and districts as appropriate meaning when the DOE thinks the capital has a point, not when our educators actually have a point.  I believe that the relationship between a principal and a teacher is of the utmost importance and teachers think its the one between them and their students, funny huh?, and I value our school leaders’ professional appraisals.  That said, the state can play an important role in training your district and school leaders and holding them accountable for implementing educator evaluations with quality. The DOE is now holding administrator human capital accountable? Really?

Continuous Improvement of DPAS II

As with all of our initiatives, I am focused on the continuous improvement of this effort.  To that end:

1.      We will continue to solicit your locally-developed measures for use in future years but for now, chew on this stick: We welcome your submissions for additional goals and measures that you would like to be part of the Component 5 process next year BUT FOR NOW, SUCK IT UP, WE DON’T HAVE TIME TO LISTEN TO OUR HUMAN CAPITAL OR THEIR CONCERNS.  We will provide more information on this submission and approval process in January WHEN IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE, THANKS DOE!.

2.      We will ask for feedback from every educator in the state on DPAS II implementation then send you back a  sanitized report about how much you love it!: All educators also will have the opportunity to provide feedback through the annual statewide DPAS II survey, which will cover Components 1-5 this year. The recommendations from that survey will be made public and used by the DPAS-II Advisory Committee who are these folks? names published for all to see? Transparency anyone?, which includes educators and meets monthly during the school year.  More immediately, we will implement a process that will provide you the opportunity to communicate your reflections well I feel much better. I get to reflect and then communicate those reflections as if anything will happen as a result of those reflections. Tremendous incentive there. not. about your initial experience with Component 5.
In closing, I am committed to supporting you, your school leaders, and your district leaders in this critical work.  I encourage your continued communication with the Department of Education, your fellow educators, and your school community.  Below you’ll find more information about specific resources, such as the links to the DPAS II website.  I acknowledge the challenges that you have shared with me and that you may continue to face each day.  Our intent is not to make your important work with students burdensome-but rather to bring increased esteem to our profession. by using a disproven model, funny way of raising the esteem of teachers, oh wait, I finally get it, since they are just human capital to the DOE then this sounded like a good policy to you. sad.

I know that it’s your teaching, your support for our children, and your leadership that has led to improved student achievement in recent years. And it is your commitment to continuously improving that will continue to drive success for our students.  As education professionals, my team also will take actions to continuously improve the DPAS II system and to improve our support for all of you.  It is a priority and a responsibility that I take very seriously. But I will do nothing to violate the inviolable sanctity of lame duck Governor Jack Markell and his relationship with the USDOE as I am a political appointee and do not answer to the people of DE nor its elected officials other than Governor.

Thank you, as always, for the work you do every day to prepare all of our students for success beyond the years we spend with them.



Mark T. Murphy
Secretary of Education


7 thoughts on “Last week I posted a letter sent by Secretary Murphy to all of Delaware’s teachers. Today I will parse it. #netDE

  1. John… I agree that Component 5 sounds like a train wreck. But where is the evidence that teachers actually are seriously opposed to it? As an outsider, I see two or three education bloggers virulently opposed to it, yet I also see that it was worked out and approved in negotiations with DSEA, which seems to be unfazed and not undergoing any membership revolt.

    Believe me I’m not supporting Component 5 as currently configured, but I just don’t see any evidence of widespread discontent, as much as I wish there was. It’s more like passive acceptance.

    1. John Young


      as a school board member, I speak with many, many teachers, This is my overwhelming sense of things. As for the applicability to everyone, my rant is 100% UNscientific.

      That said, the teachers that feel this way, almost to a person, FEAR retaliation for speaking on the issue, another HUGE DOE credibility/culture issue.

      My virulent opposition is rooted in the expressed opposition I am exposed to, not just personal feelings.

  2. I can understand fear of retaliation from District managers, but do teachers also fear speaking out to their union leadership? If so, that is an even bigger problem. Are DSEA leaders hearing of widespread discontent with Component 5, yet signing off on it anyway?

    1. John Young

      Sadly, they fear both Mike. The teachers I speak with fear not only district administrators but that the DOE will channel back comments on “anonymous surveys” to the buildings. They feel at times, that their union is ineffective so, while I think they do talk to their unions I am not convinced that the teachers are telling them exactly what they feel because of the climate issues in their specific and unique workplace

  3. Steven Fackenthall

    Mike, trust me…there is MUCH DISCONTENT with Component V. It is a complete, uneducated approach to education. DOE shoots stuff out so they can say they are appeasing Washington while teachers are buried with forms, tests, and other RTTT shit to do. DSEA never fully backed this crap. Just like they did with the local districts when they made presentations, DOE said, “you don’t have to accept the money, but you will need to fund it locally”.

    It’s all a hot mess. Love the post, John. I hope someone from DOE reads it, rather Secretary Murphy.

    1. John Young


      thank you for your reply. I appreciate your willingness to offer a comment here. I know many teachers feel the way you do and I know you are not alone. I wish more had the courage to speak up and out. I honestly feel the right, and best advocates in the entire system SHOULD/COULD be school board members:

      1) we are elected
      2) we do not run on party affiliation
      3) we are unpaid

      When combined, those factors strip opponents from accusing us of being partisan or spiteful, they allow us to offer pure arguments that put kids first.

      All the paid adults in the system are screwing it up, and I think there is blame in all directions, including teachers. BUT, make no mistake about it, teachers are the victims more than anything else here and the elected and appointed PAID politicians like lame duck Governor Markell and Secretary Murphy along with his predecessor are ideologues who IGNORE research and hurt teachers, simply to please monied interests here and in D.C.

      It is disgusting, and sad, and put children anywhere but first.

      Again, thank you so much for your comment!

  4. Pingback: What a Delaware Politician Really Meant « GFBrandenburg's Blog

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