My FOIA complaint filed in response to the 8/4/15 CSD BOE meeting.


Office of the Attorney General,
This e-mail is intended to serve as a complaint designed to determine the legality of actions at a meeting held by the Christina School District Board of Education on Tuesday, August 4th, 2015.
Attached is the agenda which was posted in compliance with the 7 day rule for an executive session of the board.
Specifically, the agenda cites that the purpose of the meeting is:
1. Personnel Matters Include a Discussion of the Superintendent’s Competencies and Abilities [See 29 Del C 10004 (b)(9)]
​I have two concerns regarding this agenda item:
contains specific guidance to the school board in Appoquinimink that in the context of a contract discussion that must be public, a discussion that reached into the area of competencies and abilities should not be shielded from the public because the position of Superintendent is not “typical” as an employee and that the “public has a substantial interest in a superintendent’s job performance”. Ultimately, the opinion indicates that the public was “entitled to monitor and observe” the contract discussion even if a portion touched on the superintendent’s “competencies and abilities as superintendent”.
2) By using the words “include a discussion” in the 8/4/15 agenda it may imply, or be inferred, that that there could be other personnel matters to be discussed or items other than the specific description limiting the discussion to “competencies and abilities” when in fact there were no other personnel matters at hand. If FOIA would protect the right of the public to monitor and observe competency and ability discussions for a superintendent outside a contract discussion (opinion desired on this point), then the inaccurate wording suggesting items other than discussing the superintendent’s competency and abilities may have been used to deny the public access as the meeting was held as an executive session and the public was not permitted to attend.
Based on these 2 concerns in combination, I am asking for clarification of the previous FOIA opinion in order to ensure the CSD BOE acted properly. It is my ardent hope that we did so, but I feel we need to confirm this in light of the Appoquinimink FOIA opinion.
Additionally, it has come to my attention (I was unable to attend this meeting due to a work meeting out of state) that the Board held a vote in executive session to prevent a board member from making and audio recording of the meeting (not sure that practice is permitted/not permitted). I believe that all votes must occur in public and not in an executive session. I am seeking to determine if this was a FOIA violation with the expectation that a determination as such would likely not yield a remediation beyond a response indicating the BOE will not hold any votes in executive session.
Board Members in attendance:
  • Harrie Ellen Minnehan: President
  • Fred Polaski: Vice President
  • Elizabeth Paige
  • David Resler
  • Shirley Saffer
Respectfully submitted, 
John M. Young
Christina School Board Member
109 Cypress Dr. 
Newark, DE 19713

+++Breaking News+++ Exclusive to Transparent Christina. DOE earthquake to strike tomorrow.


Well, these things are always tenuous, but the DOE mouse of Kilroy fame has morphed into Mighty DOE Mouse…

The scoop?

Murphy. Out. Tomorrow.

Standard Disclaimer: I may be wrong, but if I’m right, then I just called bank.

Urgent! Funds Needed For DOE FOIA On Smarter Balanced & Vendor Contracts ASAP!

Originally posted on Exceptional Delaware:

Delaware DOE Smarter Balanced & Vendor Contracts & Emails FOIA GoFundMe Page

Exceptional Delaware needs your help, and it needs it yesterday!  Back in March I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Delaware Department of Education for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), American Institutes for Research (AIR), and Data Recognition Corporation contracts and any emails sent from the DOE to these entities.  The DOE responded with an original $6,500 quote and then, to add “recently found” contracts, the estimate surged to over $8,500.  After filing a petition against the DOE with the Delaware Department of Justice, the DOJ responsed a few months later with an estimate of $1,725.10.  I started a GoFundMe donation to raise the costs for this FOIA and the costs associated with GoFundMe with a goal of $1,875.00.  To date, $775 has been raised, but we are still short of the goal by…

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While deciding which national standardized assessment is “better”, DE entered into an MOU with PARCC, the other test. Here are those terms…

Clearly, the commitment to use these tests for teacher eval is front and center…

This was signed in JUNE 2010,  less than three months after “winning” RTTT, and BEFORE DE “adopted” the CCSS “officially”.

What Scares Me

John Young:

Love this!

Originally posted on Minding My Matters:

There is a lot of misinformation, intention (good and bad), double speak, and confusion floating around these days about standardized testing and its myriad uses. I’d like to go on record about this, and about why I object to the use of standardized tests as part of educator evaluations.

What scares me about using standardized test scores in educator evaluations is NOT fear of being held accountable for the scores of my students because I am a bad teacher.

What scares me is the students who have a bad day and bomb the test, or don’t take the test seriously and bomb it, or are all tested out and bomb it, or didn’t get enough sleep or enough to eat or had no where to stay or had a fight with a best friend or…. And bomb the test.

What scares me is there being no good back-up plan for…

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DIBELS: Pedagogy of the Absurd Hurts Children? #amplify #$122K

DIBELS: Pedagogy of the Absurd Hurts Children

The federal Reading First program has come under repeated scrutiny for corruption, exposing how individuals in charge of monitoring the program have pushed products, such as the DIBELS test, from which they have benefited financially (see “Reading First,” this issue). Complementing the financial corruption is ideological corruption. In Examining DIBELS: What It Is and What It Does, Ken Goodman and his colleagues carefully dissect the test, concluding that it is conceptually flawed and educationally harmful.

DIBELS is one of the most common tools used to assess student early progress in learning to read. Goodman summarizes each subtest, examining the design of each and “the extent to which it tests what it is intended to measure.” He finds it does not assess even the limited things it purports to test. He then critiques the underlying view of reading embedded in the DIBELS and the consequences of its use for curriculum, reading and “the lives of students and teachers.” This book extends and complements Gerald Cole’s Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation and Lies(see Examiner, Fall 2004). It also could serve as a useful model for evaluating other standardized tests.

Goodman criticizes the implicit view underlying DIBELS that reading can be reduced to a few skills, each of which can be accurately tested in a minute or so. He charges that this approach is conceptually flawed and leads to harmful instructional practices. For example, the test of “oral reading fluency…equate(s) a score which represents correct words read in one minute with the totality of reading competently with comprehension.” DIBELS does not assess comprehension.

He points out that speed-“reading” nonsense words, one of the subtests, could cause students to believe that reading does not involve making sense. Dialect differences, speaking English as a second language, and seeing fake words that look like real words all can induce confusion in children. Confirming Goodman’s fears, one of the other essays in the book, by Robert Tierney and Elizabeth Thome, notes that publishers are now peddling nonsense word workbooks.

Not only do the subtests reduce reading to a few skills, they test only a fragment of even these narrow skills. DIBELS’ approach rewards speed, which could lead to “children being drilled on doing each test as fast as possible.” The exam’s instructions, Goodman charges, are also hard to understand. Teachers must score kids on the fly while administering the test and paying attention to the student. While administering the test, teachers must use a stopwatch, which students find distracting. Because of these flaws, concludes Goodman, DIBELS “can not be administered and scored consistently.”

Goodman adds that DIBELS appears to have one sensible, albeit optional, subtest – “Retelling.” To most educators, this would be a means to evaluate student comprehension. But DIBELS retelling is scored simply by counting the number of words the student speaks in response to the teacher’s questioning.

Reading, Goodman explains, is an ultimately qualitative act: making meaning from text. But DIBELS reduces reading to discrete skills that have at best minimal connection to actual reading. It then further shrinks these skills to a limited set of purely quantitative measures. As a result, he concludes, “Focus on improving performance on DIBELS is likely to contribute little or nothing to reading development and could actually interfere” with it.

The DIBELS is being used in thousands of schools, often “chosen” under duress from the U.S. Department of Education, as revealed in the fiscal corruption investigation. The consequences of its use include drilling to nonsense words; focusing on narrow slices of what reading is; reducing if not eliminating the reading, writing and discussion of real stories; confusing students; and demeaning if not deskilling teachers.

As Tierney and Thome conclude, “DIBELS may be perpetuating the (race and class) literacy gap it has promised to eliminate… [The] definition of literacy has been narrowed for the most vulnerable students… Once again, the rich get richer and the poor are left only with the most basic of basics.”

Timecapsule edition: An Open Letter to Jack Markell, our Governor. #SignHB50NOW


Dear Governor Markell,

Any reader of this blog knows there is no shared vision between the two of us on public education except that I choose to believe that each of us deeply respects that passion we both have for the subject. If I were to place myself in the role of personal political adviser on the issue of the Opt Out movement here in Delaware… and could go back 3 months, I would give you one piece of advice your closest advisers failed to give you: support Opt Out.

My advice is not based on you agreeing with the movement, but rather the political capital you will spend opposing it AND the likely effects of opposing it compared to supporting it. A quick pro/con list of opposing Opt-Out

Pros: it’s what you believe, it allows you to oppose John Kowalko which you like to do, it keeps you aligned with the state’s business interests and “non-profits” like Rodel, et. al., demonstrates support for “accountability”, get to enlist bullies like Sokola and Jaques to lift for you against parents

Cons: draws attention to an issue you are concerned about, alienates parents, disrespects parents, draws battle line with your own party’s legislators who are listening to parents, pitches you against the PTA, gives light and space to the discussion in the paper and other news media in such a way that more parents get to exercise this right(one they already have)

If you support Opt-Out here’s the pro/con:

Cons: appear weak to big monied interests, betray your own beliefs, let down Sokola and Jaques

Pros: support parents, make the news cycle go away almost a year before the next testing window (fighting now all but guarantees a vicious, pitched battle next Spring with more awareness…again on a right parents ALREADY have), build bridges with PTA and teachers unlike what your DOE does now.

Remember, if the test is as awesome and necessary as you and your supporters believe it to be, then the parents of this state will follow your lead and NOT Opt-Out, right?  Stand up for what you truly believe: believe in the power of SBAC, and let parents have their say without fear, bullying, and intimidation.

It makes the most political sense to just sign the bill. I know me saying it probably pisses you off some, but my advice is to sign it in a closet in Woodburn and post it to the bill tracking website. No press conference, no signing ceremony, no fanfare.

Just do it. Let us find it. We’ll celebrate…

and for the most part, this then just goes away…like you need it to…because if you don’t sign it, the political ramifications in your ultimate lame duck year will be significant and likely twice as unacceptable as now. #SignHB50NOW