The Individual versus The Collective

Originally posted on Minding My Matters:

On Thursday, March 12, I was part of a panel of educators, parents, and local union leaders who spoke at a press conference announcing the resolution on educational leadership in Delaware that the Christina and Red Clay Education Associations adopted. In subsequent days I have heard a number of comments, but the one most pervasive concern with the resolution that I’d like to address today is that in every organization there are folks who do not deserve the reputation of the collective. (Obviously I’m paraphrasing here.)

Unfortunately, the opportunity to address this concern myself in person has not presented itself. I would like to take a moment of personal privilege to first publish a portion of my speech from Thursday night and then give an analogy that I hope will not only make sense but also help others to understand, if not agree with, my position. Disagreement is completely acceptable…

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Smarter Balanced Offers Tips for Monitoring Students on Social Media

Originally posted on deutsch29:

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) offers the following tips to SBAC schools for monitoring students on social media. The excerpt below is from a single-page document entitled, “Guidance for Social Media Monitoring During the Field Test.”

The SBAC-suggested keys to successful social media “test security trolling”?

1) Set up a school social media site, and encourage students to join.

2) Search social media sites by keyword.

Click on the document below to read for yourself. (Click on image to enlarge.)

SBAC Social Media

There is more to this letter than is shown in the image above. The full document can be read here.

Also, here is the section of the letter missing from above. Click on image to enlarge:

SBAC social media 2

The sneakiest component of this “monitoring” is the potential use of a school social media site to track students without their knowing.

School social media sites should include disclaimers that those “following”…

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Rep. Earl Jaques called my son a failure today. #eduDE #netDE

Here’s his quote:

“To me, opt out is admitting failure,” said Jaques. “[It’s] saying, oh, I can’t measure up. I’m not good enough to be able to take this test. I can’t pass that test. That’s not the American way.”

Rep. Jaques, my son has Autism. He is taught by professionals that are demonized by these tests. My son has more tenacity and courage to get through a day that you have exhibited in your life.

My son is not a failure. How dare you call him one.

Respectfully, you need to resign. You are a disgrace to your office, colleagues, and the parents of all children who are the rightful decision makers for their children. Your arrogance and petulance is embarrassing.

3 Months Later

Originally posted on Those In Favor:

Hey, where did those last 3 months go?  Let’s see, what’s transpired since my last post.  Red Clay and Christina went out for referendums in February.  Red Clay’s passed, Christina’s was mauled by a bear.  Red Clay did a FANTASTIC job of marketing, advertising and selling their referendum to their residents, students and staff.  Christina…did not.  Red Clay celebrated on Feb 24th.  Christina did not. Christina inked a deal with DDoE to retain control of their three “priority” schools through 2015-16 keeping all staff and leadership but adding assistant principals to each school who will *not* report to the principal they work under.  Instead they will report directly to DDoE.  Can’t see that causing any problems.  Plans to redistrict Christina out of Wilmington are moving forward but they still hinge on the General Assembly to rewrite the laws.  If that does happen, Red Clay gets 3 new inner-city schools from…

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An Open Letter to My Students: I Am Sorry For What I Am About To Do To You

Originally posted on Crawling Out of the Classroom:

To all of my precious students,

I am sorry for what I am about to do to you.

This week, I am going to have to give you a new test. It’s called PARCC. There will be five separate tests, on four separate days, and my guess is that most of you will hate them.  My guess is that one or two of you will be brought to tears because they will make you feel like you are not smart enough.  My guess is that several of you will give up part way through the test and just start clicking around on the screen. My guess is that some of you will look around at the students sitting next to you to try and figure out if they are also as confused as you are in the hopes of knowing that you are not the only way feeling this way…

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Welcome to Relay Medical College & North Star Community Hospital

Originally posted on School Finance 101:

Arne Duncan has one whopper of an interview available here:

Related to his new push to evaluate teacher preparation programs using student outcome data:

And his Whitehouse press release can be found here:

Now, there’s a whole lot to chew on here, but let me focus on one of the more absurd hypocrisies in all of this.

First, Duncan seems to think the world of medical education without apparently having the first clue about how any of it actually works. In his view, it’s really just a matter of intensive clinical training (no academic prerequisites required) and competitive wages (a reasonable, though shallowly articulated argument).

Second, Duncan also seems to think that a major part of the solution for Ed Schools can be found in entrepreneurial startups like Relay Graduate School of Education. The Whitehouse press release proclaims:

Relay Graduate School of Education, founded by three charter…

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Friday Story Time: Deconstructing the Cycle of Reformy Awesomeness

Originally posted on School Finance 101:

Once upon a time, there was this totally awesome charter school in Newark, NJ. It was a charter school so awesome that its leaders and founders and all of their close friends decided they must share their miracle with the world in books on the reasons for their awesomeness, including being driven by data andteaching like a champion!

The school’s break-the-mold – beating the odds – disruptively innovative awesomeness was particularly important during this critical time of utter collapse of the American education system which had undoubtedly been caused by corrupt self-interested public school teachers (& their unions) who had been uniformly ill-trained by antiquated colleges and universities that themselves were corrupt and self-interested and generally in the business of selling worthless graduate degrees.

In fact, the undisputed awesomeness of this North Star Academy could, in theory, provide the foundation for a whole new approach to turning…

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The Biggest Lie Told About NCLB/ESEA and CCSS:

Originally posted on Who's Minding the Children?:

The biggest lie ever told by pro-education reform policy makers is that the motivation behind the education reform mandates are to improve achievement gaps, not just some, but all of them.  African Americans, Asians (I know…), Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, illegal alien-Americans, European Americans with special needs, Christian Americans, Jewish Americans, Buddhist Americans, Muslim Americans. The truth is, the purpose of education reform is to close the achievement gap of American-Americans compared to Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada, New Zealand, and all the other country-members of the OECD on thhe PISA test.   While one might ask, what’s so wrong with that?  Nothing, in an ideological sort of utopian sort of nirvana way.

However, here’s the truth, unless we are willing to eliminate child-poverty and all the societal ills connected to poverty; health/wellness prenatal nutrition, physical and mental wellness for babies and toddlers, early education interventions, affordable housing, substantial…

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REFUSE to surrender our children’s rights. OPT-OUT. How?

Originally posted on Reclaim Reform:

Mr. Rogers knew. Mr. Arne Duncan, certain governors, legislators, school boards and school administrators seem to be ignoring our and our children’s basic rights.

Whatever race or combination of races we and our children are, we have basic human rights.

Mr Rogers and Arne Duncan

We and our children do not surrender our basic rights as Americans as we enter a school building.

Civil rights apply to all Americans. How can we stop the labeling and monetizing of our children when they are forced to take high stakes tests that none of us as parents were ever forced to take?

The wonderful people at United Opt Out National give us the paperwork to complete to defend our children and our children’s basic human rights.

Whether we are one of those “white suburban moms” that Arne Duncan insulted or are someone he chose to marginalize and ignore, we have legal recourse by filing a valid Civil…

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Help! Leader of United Opt Out Under Attack in Colorado

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Peggy Robertson, the leader of United Opt Out, is under attack. In this article in the “Denver Post,” administrators warn that she might lose her job if she doesn’t give the test. Even union leaders express ambivalence about supporting her.

Peg has Ben a hero of the Opt Out movement. She has been fearless and outspoken. She belongs on the honor roll of the blog as one of the indispensable voices who support children.

Please write letters and tweets to the Denver Post and tweet your support for Peg.

The Denver Post is @denverpost

Peggy Robertson is @pegwithpen

United Opt Out is @UnitedOptOut

Stand with Peggy and UnitedOpt Out!


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“The Other PARCC:” A New Short Film Of Refusal In New Jersey

Originally posted on The Education Activist: From Student to Teacher:

The activist movement in New Jersey, as a coalition of parents, students, teachers, and community members, has culminated in some of the most incredible grassroots organizing in the country. As Diane Ravitch has reported, new legislation in New Jersey has been coined “a ray of hope against PARCC” and state and national writers have been covering the happenings in local towns all across New Jersey (there are just too many links to post, but please look around online). All of this work in New Jersey has culminated in a new short film to be released tomorrow – “The Other PARCC: Parents Advocating Refusal on High-Stakes Testing,” a short documentary film by Michael Elliot.

The video is set to be released nationally at 5:00pm tomorrow, Sunday, Match 1st, 2015 and will launch the already inspiring grassroots activist movement in New Jersey into the national spotlight, highlighting the stories of…

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The Lego Movie Sequel Has a Director and a Completely Unsurprising Title

Originally posted on TIME:

The Lego Movie sequel now has a title, and it’s… The Lego Movie Sequel. But in less obvious news, the upcoming animated film has also found a director, who will be making the jump from television comedy to the big screen.

Rob Schrab, known for his work on The Sarah Silverman Program,Community, and The Mindy Project, will make his feature-film directorial debut with The Lego Movie Sequel, the Guardian reports. But you’ll have to sit through two other Lego-related films before the direct sequel arrives in 2018. A spin-off movie starring Lego’s ninja figurines, Ninjago, is slated for a 2016 release, while another spin-off movie about the Batman character from The Lego Movie will hit theaters the following year in 2017.

[time-brightcove videoid=4075421220001]

[The Guardian]

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Today’s referendum: A case study in Optimism v. Nilhilism

Image result for optimism

So today we have the state’s 2 largest district seeking affirmation from their communities to take more taxes from them in order to strengthen and preserve the most sacrosanct public trust we as a state and nation have: the education of our children. It is the conclusion of much consideration from elected school boards and the sole way in which Delaware code permits its local share of education dollars to be modified: direct election.  I love democracy, and the vote. Today we receive our truth and I am A-OK with that; however, the General Assembly is directly elected and they control  taxes as well. Why not the school taxes? Perhaps they feel it is best to keep the decisions truly local and not burden their colleagues with provincial battles? Perhaps they are just enamored with selective direct voting? Perhaps they are cowards, afraid to preserve this public trust over their precious jobs? Honestly, we’ll never know what the feckless wonders who have presided over the destructive policies of the last 6 years have done to school funding because they don’t seem too interested in searching their souls nor revealing them.

Here’s what I know: this is a tough referendum for a ton of reasons. The economy is not what our Governor tells us it is: it’s tough, and people continue to struggle… so asking for more money is a difficult sell. The state has spent a tremendous amount of energy in the past six years making public education an arena for labeling, shaming, fighting. I’m talking about schools, students, teachers, parents, school boards, and even communities. Test driven accountability and the unfavorable coverage it’s “alleged” results begets has fractured the public trust in public education. We now bicker (yes, me too. Actually me first much of the time) constantly over results, salaries, tests, special education, elections, FOIA, charters, magnets, PZ schools, Priority Schools, Focus Schools, Common Core, DCAS, SBAC, educator evaluations, ELL/ESL delivery, class sizes, etc., etc.  All of these are important things and the opinions on these subjects vary greatly, but the opinions all gather into one place and become a cacophonous, out of tune, symphonic disaster that leaves many parents and taxpayers deeply skeptical of how the educational establishment in Delaware functions well, or even at all. They are right to be affected by the discourse in just this way.

All of this brings me to my argument for the referendum. I’m hearing the NO voters loud and clear: they seem to believe there is no accountability for results, pay is too high for administrators, kids are out of control behaviorally with no consequence (schools are not safe). When added to the reality of not being able to afford additional taxes, it leads them to a visceral NO vote.  I understand this position and why it is a very sincere belief despite not sharing it.

I also hear the YES voters: we cannot move forward without adequate funding, I value my child’s school and teachers, my school has a great community and I will do anything to support it.

In the middle, and who I hear loudest, are the MAYBE voters, or the I’M NOT SURE voters. They are drawn to the opinions of the NO voters because they see many of the same things, but they know that without adequate funding there is no hope for the future. It is a classic case of embracing the nihilism of saying I want to stick it to the schools to teach them a lesson in being better and I don’t care if my children, your children, charter children, TPS children, children with special needs, gifted children have no resources VS. the optimism of belief that we, as a state and community, must provide resources to this effort so that we can make better decisions tomorrow than we did yesterday.

I know this is a difficult decision. Only one vote, a vote for nihilism and the selection of NO will box Red Clay and Christina in a corner with our children. If you have deep and sincere reservations about how to move forward, but also deeply believe we have a moral obligation to do so, vote for optimism, vote YES.

That’s YES… and get involved. Come to board meetings, join PTA, vote in board elections, RUN for school board! If you want to have the money to allow your district to make change, vote YES.

If you want to force us to change in a way that reduces our ability to serve children while you make your point, then vote NO, and shrink back into your world and pretend you didn’t take money from schools, students, and literally fire your neighbors.

Dover’s inability to produce a school funding mechanism that is equitable or flexible has put us here, along with the Governor’s draconian cuts. If you want Red Clay and Christina to have chance of honoring this public trust, then join me at the polls. Without funds, there are no option to improve, only shrink, reduce, and comply.

I’m voting yes, because I have optimism and faith in public education, community, and the provision of opportunity to our students.

Who wrote the Common Core Standards? The Common Core 24

Originally posted on Seattle Education:


We have all heard stories about who decided on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that are now holding students and teachers hostage to a narrow curriculum and an endless testing regime.

Mercedes Schneider decided to find out who the twenty-four people were that determined the Common Core Standards.

Here is an excerpt from her post Those 24 Common Core 2009 Work Group Members:

NGA (National Governors Associaiton) and CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers ) (and, by extension, USDOE) undeniably meant for CCSS to be something done “to” teachers. NGA’s and CCSSO’s concentration of individuals versed in standardized assessment on their CCSS work groups speaks to the purpose of CCSS to both financially benefit education testing companies and usher unprecedented, nationwide standardized testing into the classrooms of those very professionals purposely excluded from the CCSS work group table.

2009 CCSS Development Work Groups

CCSS Mathematics Work Group


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Newark city councilman Todd Ruckle gets his Tom Cruise Navy Lawyer on. #CSDreferendum

Todd Ruckle is voting no on the CSD referendum. That is most certainly his right. Here are some quotes from him:

Ok folks in the Christina school district, I along with 4 other citizens attended the referendum seminar at Christina high school and here is the results. The district wants 50 million dollars to maintain being almost the lowest ranking school district in new castle county. The superintendent was proud that Christina will not expel major problem students that completely disrupt student who want to learn. I highly recommend we vote this referendum down and get the community and local leaders together to create an major action plan to correct this ship before it sinks. 2/24 you need to vote or this referendum will pass without any action plan to bring this district back to being the best. It is truly time to get involved.

Since 2000, the district has held six referenda, four of which received favorable results.

Newark Councilman Todd Ruckle was one of only a handful of people who attended last week’s forum at Christiana High School. He voiced strong opposition to the proposed tax hike.

Much like the city’s financial planning, he said, an important part of crafting a budget is making cuts. He questioned what the school district has done to cut corners before asking the public to cough up more cash.

“Right now, I haven’t seen one cut,” he said. “I’ve seen expansions.”

Williams defended the proposal and argued that Christina is using all of its current available resources. If the referendum fails, he said, the district is prepared to make cuts.

“It’s not a scare tactic,” Williams said. “It would be painful, but it would be appropriate, and we would do it if we have to.”

Ruckle said he is worried how the tax hike will affect the senior citizens in his district, many of whom live on fixed incomes.

“I’m going to tell you right now, what I’m seeing, they’re not going to back it,” he said.

Mr. Ruckle is a supporter of Newark Charter School, where he has at least one child in attendance. Again, his choice, his right, no argument here. However, I think it is fair to make a few comments in response to his concerns:

  • Public education is a sacred social contract and is designed to work for all, not just those that win a lottery
  • Traditional school districts are not permitted to throw kids out of school indiscriminately or arbitrarily and have an obligation to educate all and keep our students in school in spite of behaviors than many feel warrant suspension/expulsion. We do not always do the right things along these fronts, but our calling demands we aspire to them, always.
  • CSD, along with many other districts are routinely victimized by DOE’s label, shame, and punish politics which erodes public confidence, like yours.
  • Proving a point to your local school system by not supporting it financially will only serve to further fracture our community and expose all schools, including NCS, to a weaker operational landscape and poorer opportunities for all children
  • NCS receives local share of funding for almost every single child from CSD. An increase in our funding will send MORE monies to NCS to further enhance their excellent programs.  Failing to support the referendum could mean less money for more children and cost NCS monies.
  • Back to the issue of Dr. Williams pride in serving children by refusing to kick them out: is that really a position you want to take as a public servant, that children be denied access to their schools, teachers,a nd ultimately their education? We are not NCS. We serve all children, no matter how they come to us, no matter where they come from, no matter what their parents don’t choose for them.

Your arguments remind me of a famous movie scene:

Mr. Ruckle, please support our students, programs, and schools on February 24th. Don’t continue down this dark road you are showing us.

Priority Schools BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!

Interesting e-mail.

The most important thing NOW, NOW, NOW, is to let parents and students and teachers KNOW what these 3 schools will look like for 15-16 school year. CBA based deadlines and personnel decisions are imminent and our schools need stability and information to make good decisions…not the DEM House Caucus pounding their chests.

Do. Your. Job.

Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2015 4:48 PM
Subject: Memo on Behalf of House Leadership regarding Christina School District


To:                  House Democratic Caucus Members


From:             Representative Pete Schwartzkopf

                        Representative Valerie Longhurst

                        Representative John Viola

Date:              2/12/2015

Re:                  Christina School District Priority Schools

During the past two days, several caucus members have contacted leadership expressing concerns about the Department of Education’s letter to the Christina School District (which is attached). Thank you for contacting us. We wanted to update you on what actions we took and where the situation currently is.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy sent a letter to Christina School District saying that the district’s Board of Education is not in compliance with the Priority School program. As a result, Secretary Murphy gave district leaders until February 27 to decide on one of following options for its three priority schools: closure or restructuring, either as a charter school or under an education management organization. The letter also detailed the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to redraw Christina’s school district lines and close the noncontiguous Wilmington portion of Christina’s district in the city. The suggestion was that doing so could have an effect on “the planning process for Christina’s Priority Schools moving forward.”

Caucus leadership held a conference call with staff to discuss this issue and the concerns that several of you raised about this letter. We had multiple conversations with the governor’s office about the issue and had decided to send a letter to the governor asking that the Department of Education to extend the fast-approaching February 27 deadline. In part, the letter would have noted that forcing a short turnaround for Christina to make a decision would not result in a productive outcome, and it could have a negative impact on school referendums that are taking place. We also planned to ask the governor to convene a group of district, DOE stakeholders to reach a decision on this issue. The letter would have requested that the Chairs of the House and Senate Education committees be included in the negotiations to help facilitate the discussion, and to ensure that each caucus received accurate accounts of the progress of the negotiations. 

Late Wednesday evening, we learned that the Christina School Board voted at its Tuesday meeting to support the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to close the Wilmington portion Christina’s district (a copy of that resolution is also attached). When they learned of this, the governor’s office told us that the February 27 deadline no longer applied because Christina had pledged to work with the state to implement the WEAC redistricting recommendation.

Currently, we are communicating with the governor’s office about what they foresee as the next steps. Here’s what we do know:

·         Any redistricting process will require action by the General Assembly.

·         Any redistricting process will take multiple years to implement.

·         Any redistricting process is a complicated process that will involve a lot of discussions about finances and revenue, and it may require a significant amount of state money to implement.

Most importantly, we need to recognize and remember that when we talk about redistricting these Christina School District schools, we are talking about not just the physical schools, but hundreds of teachers who will be unsure of their future, and thousands of students whose educational future is at stake. Whatever we do in the coming weeks and months, our focus must be on what’s best for all of them, as well as the state of Delaware.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of us in leadership if you have questions, concerns or suggestions.

A Free Bird

Originally posted on Minding My Matters:


I’ve been thinking over how to do this, whether to write this post with a tone, or overload it with facts and figures and research.

I think what is best is just to speak from my heart on this. I’m willing to provide data to support my assertions, but in many ways and in many places I already have. Please take a few moments to look it up for yourself, if you aren’t sure, or message me directly, and I’m happy to answer anything I can.

That said, here we go.

We are all having the wrong conversation. All we discuss is how we can improve student learning, and what impact all the different things in a student’s life have on the student’s ability to learn, and how we can respond to the needs of students to help them learn. And that is a beautiful thing, truly. I would…

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Podcast of WDEL Interview w/Rick Jensen on Parent Opt Out of High-Stakes Testing

Originally posted on Exceptional Delaware:

I had an awesome time with Rick Jensen today talking about parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.   There was so much more I could have said, but I had an hour.  Some folks called in.  John Young from the Christina School Board, Delaware State Rep Sean Matthews and Delaware State Rep John Kowalko.  Rick and I talked about special needs children, the Delaware DOE, Smarter Balanced Assessment, and how it is not illegal to opt your child out in Delaware.  We talked about the “scare tactic” letter the DOE wants districts to give to parents when they opt their kid out and how it is based on state code that does not include parents at all.  I hope to do this again soon!

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