Daily Archives: September 25, 2015

SJR #2 – Directing the DOE to Study Student Assessment Testing – Update

Appointments from the House and Senate were completed in August and September.

View the entire bill, click here – SJR #2.

The amount of testing required of our students and educators has grown significantly in recent years. While the General Assembly recognizes the need to administer assessments that provide valid and reliable data about how Delaware’s students are growing academically, it is also committed to maximizing time in the classroom for our educators to teach, and our students to learn.

The Department of Education is already coordinating an inventory of all assessments required at the state, district, and school level. This Joint Resolution requires the Department of Education to report the inventory results, and any assessments that districts or the state propose to eliminate, to the public and to the House and Senate Education Committees of the General Assembly. It also requires the Department to convene a group, consisting of members of the General Assembly and the public, to conduct an in-depth review of the inventory results and make recommendations for consolidation or elimination of assessments.

Membership Information 

Membership: Appointing Authority:
Three House Members of the House Education Committee (two members of the majority party and one member of the minority party) Speaker of the House
Three Senate Members of the Senate Education Committee (two members of the majority party and one member of the minority party) President Pro Tempore
President of the Delaware State Education Assoc. or designee
President of the Chief School Officer’s Assoc. or designee
A rep. of the civil rights’ community Governor
A parent Governor

Appointee Information 

Appointee: Appointed by: Appointment Date:
Rep. Earl Jaques Speaker of House 08/21/2015
Rep. Sean Matthews Speaker of House 08/21/2015
Rep. Timothy Dukes Speaker of House 08/21/2015
Sen. David Sokola President Pro Tempore 09/15/2015
Sen. Nicole Poore President Pro Tempore 09/15/2015
Sen. Ernesto Lopez President Pro Tempore 09/15/2015


SJR #4 – Education Funding Improvement Commission – Update

Appointments from the House and Senate were completed in August and September.


View the entire bill, click here – SJR #4.

While Delaware is deeply committed to preparing every child to reach his or her full potential and succeed in the new economy, the State will not be able to build a world-class education system for its children without modernizing the 70-year-old education funding system. This Joint Resolution establishes the Education Funding Improvement Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of Delaware’s public education funding system and make recommendations to modernize and strengthen the system. The Commission will include stakeholders from across the education system and will submit a report and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than March 31, 2016.

Membership Information 

Membership: Appointing Authority:
Chair Governor
Two Senate Members (1 from each caucus) President Pro Tempore
Two House Members (1 from each caucus) Speaker of House
Controller General
Secretary of Education
Director of Office of Management and Budget
President of Delaware State Board of Education
President of Delaware State Education Assoc.
One parent Delaware Parent Teaacher Assoc.
One superintendent President of the Chief School Officers Assoc.
One superintendent Vocational Technical District President of Chief School Officers Assoc.
One traditional public school administrator employed at a school with high population of at-risk students. Delaware Assoc. of School Administrators
One charter school leader employed at school with a high population of at-risk students Delaware Charter Schools Network
One local school board member Delaware School Board Assoc.
Council Chair of Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens
One business representative Governor
One member of community organization serving student in poverty Governor
One member of community organization serving students learning English.

Appointee Information 

Appointee: Appointed by: Appointment Date:
Rep. Earl Jaques Speaker of House 08/12/2015
Rep. Ruth Briggs Speaker of House 08/12/2015
Sen. David Sokola President Pro Tempore 09/15/2015
Sen. F. Gary Simpson President Pro Tempore 09/15/2015

Minutes, Reports & Information 

Governor Markell Announces Review of State Expenditures

Committee of Private Sector and Public Sector Leaders to Review State Spending and Identify Opportunities for Savings 

Wilmington, DE – Governor Jack Markell announced today the signing of Executive Order No. 52, creating the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee. Led by Fred Sears of the Delaware Community Foundation, the Committee will review state government for opportunities to create efficiencies and provide services in a more cost-effective manner. The Committee, comprised of private sector appointees from the Governor and all four caucuses of the General Assembly, brings together representatives of the business community, unions, government and the non-profit sector.

“Delaware’s revenue sources don’t grow with our economy, so even as our state’s economy has improved, we face tremendous budget challenges,” said Governor Markell. “We must do everything we can to deliver the most value to Delawareans at a reasonable cost and the committee I’m creating today builds on six years of work to make government more efficient in providing high quality services to our citizens. The results so far have produced the least amount of budget growth during any administration – Republican or Democrat – in modern history. We must remain open to evaluating new ideas and look forward to partnering with the private sector to continue this effort.”

When accounting for inflation and population growth, the state budget has shrunk by an average of 0.58 percent per year during the Markell Administration, representing significantly less growth in spending than any prior administration in the last 30 years. That success in containing costs during a time of high demand for government services is the result of a wide range of efforts since 2009, from the Government Performance Review that generated $35 million in savings opportunities that year to additional savings through energy efficiency gains, attrition in cabinet-level agencies, pension reform, and more.

The Committee established by E.O. 52 provides an additional opportunity at an important time to fully examine other ideas to increase efficiency. This initiative complements the work of the DEFAC Advisory Council on revenues, which put together options for the state to raise revenue in a way that better reflects Delaware’s economic progress.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring together private and public sector leaders to take a look at how the State may be able to find savings,” said Fred Sears, Chairperson of the Committee.  “This is not going to be easy, but I think the Governor and legislative leaders have appointed a good team that is prepared to go to work.”

“The JFC has made it a top priority to examine our budget for areas where we can save the taxpayers money while improving outcomes for everyone who relies on government services,” said Rep. Melanie Smith.  “The JFC welcomes the input, time and ideas of our friends and colleagues in the private sector, and looks forward to working together.”

“The Joint Finance Committee has one of the most difficult jobs in state government – making sure that we pass a balanced budget that reflects our values,” said Sen. Harris McDowell. “Every year, we come through on that, but it isn’t getting any easier. We face difficult decision to meet the needs of Delawareans and hopefully this group can help us with those.”

“This Committee is a worthwhile endeavor and the State Chamber looks forward to working with the Administration and legislature on the Committee’s recommendations,” said State Chamber of Commerce President A. Richard Heffron.

The Committee – a bipartisan group of government and private sector leaders – includes:

  • Chairman Fred Sears – Delaware Community Foundation, appointed by the Speaker of the House and designated as Chairperson by the Co-Chairs of JFC
  • Fred Cottrell – Richards, Layton & Finger, appointed by the Senate Minority Leader
  • Rick Gessner – Capital One, representing the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce
  • Dennis Greenhouse – Former County Executive and State Auditor
  • The Hon. Joshua Martin – Chairperson of DEFAC; Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP
  • Robert McMurray – Christiana Care Health System, representing the Delaware Business Roundtable
  • Mike Morton – Controller General
  • Ed Ratledge – Chairperson of DEFAC’s Subcommittee on Expenditures; University of Delaware
  • Jack Riddle – Community Bank, appointed by the House Minority Leader
  • Jeff Taschner – DSEA, appointed by the Senate President Pro Tempore
  • Ann Visalli – Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Lincoln Willis – Former State Representative; Willis Chevrolet

The text of the Executive Order follows:





WHEREAS, the Delaware Economic & Financial Council (DEFAC) Advisory Council on Revenues has examined the State of Delaware’s revenue portfolio and determined that more than half of Delaware’s revenue sources do not grow in proportion to the overall economy;

WHEREAS, as a result of the lack of growth among major revenue categories, total state revenues in FY 2016 are estimated to be less than FY 2015;

WHEREAS, the General Assembly and the administration have managed the State’s budget responsibly, with budgets that are balanced every year and budget growth that is only 2.3% annually during the Markell administration and that is actually negative 0.58% if adjusted for inflation and population growth during that time;

WHEREAS, the Markell administration has eliminated more than 1,000 state positions between FY 2009 and FY 2016, reduced overall head count by more than 600 employees, reduced energy costs, enacted state employee health and pension reform, reduced fleet costs, and implemented savings programs in Medicaid, Long-Term Care, and many other programs;

WHEREAS, as a result of these efforts and other budget savings, the Delaware state budget has grown less during the Markell administration than any other administration in a generation or more;

WHEREAS, even with well-managed budgets, the absence of robust revenue growth that tracks Delaware’s economy and the State of Delaware’s expenses creates an anticipated budget deficit of more than $100 million in FY 2017, and that deficit has the potential to grow as expenses continue to climb and revenue sources do not keep up;

WHEREAS, the Delaware General Assembly and Joint Finance Committee are interested in identifying opportunities for savings in the state budget and have begun efforts to identify savings through reviews by the Pew Charitable Foundation and attempts to identify savings in programs like Medicaid;

WHEREAS, the Governor and the General Assembly are committed to responsible management and administration of the state’s budget, including identifying opportunities for achieving better savings for taxpayers;

WHEREAS, a comprehensive review of state spending can identify opportunities to achieve savings in a manner that allows for the continued provision of effective service to Delawareans, particularly those who depend on government services in times of need.

NOW, THEREFORE I, JACK A. MARKELL, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Delaware, do hereby DECLARE and ORDER that:

  1. The Delaware Expenditure Review Committee is hereby created.
  1. The Committee shall be comprised of twelve members.  The Committee shall be comprised of the Chairperson of DEFAC, the Chairperson of DEFAC’s Subcommittee on Expenditures, the Controller General or his designee, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget or her designee, one person appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, one person appointed by the Speaker of the House, one person appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one person appointed by the Minority Leader of the House, and four public members appointed by the Governor.  The Co-Chairpersons of the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee shall designate a member from among those appointed to serve as chairperson of the Committee.
  1. Members of the Committee shall receive no compensation, but shall be reimbursed for customary and usual expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.  The Committee shall act by majority vote and may adopt public procedures and standards for the conduct of its affairs, consistent with this Order.  A quorum of the Committee shall consist of a majority of members.
  1. The Committee is tasked with a review of state government services to evaluate whether there are opportunities to provide government services in a manner that is more efficient, more effective, or can be performed at less cost to taxpayers.  The Committee shall review any such proposals in a manner that gives consideration to both the overall cost savings that might be obtained and the positive and negative effects of those savings on the provision of services.
  1. The Committee is authorized to call upon volunteer assistance from its membership or other interested parties, and may retain such advisors or consultants as appropriate to assist its work.  The compensation of any advisor or consultants shall be approved jointly by the Office of Management and Budget and Controller General.
  1. On or before January 29, 2016, the Committee shall report to the Governor and the Joint Finance Committee of the General Assembly any findings and any recommendations for the State of Delaware’s operations or budget.
  1. The Office of Management and Budget and Controller General’s Office shall provide staff support to assist the Committee in performing its duties and shall, upon request, provide the Committee with reports and data helpful to the Committee’s ability to perform its assigned duties.  All executive branch state agencies and departments shall cooperate with the Committee when requested.
  1. The Delaware Expenditure Review Committee shall be terminated on June 30, 2016, if not reconstituted by further executive order.

Funding Student Success – Meeting #2 – Update

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I attended the Funding Student Success meeting on September 22 at Baltz Elementary School from 2:00 to 4:00. There were about 4 community members present. I have concerns about the timeline placed on this committee. They have three meetings left and I am not sure how they are going to come up with recommendations. The next funding meeting is October 6 at Baltz Elementary School.

  • Overview of State Funding Impacts since Fiscal Year 2008
  • State’s education budget has grown over the years due to more kids attending public schools
  • House Bill 30 and 117 were endorsed in WEIC Final Report
    • House Bill 117 – new funding source for low income students. The committee is not recommending this bill as written. They would like to see a low income bill structured like needs based funding.
    • House Bill 30 – committee recommended this bill as written.
  • Committee asked the University of Delaware to look at other states who use weighted formula to fund low income and ELL students.
  • Committee discussed multi enrollment counts

Friday’s Education Corner, “In the Name of Testing” former Red Clay teacher


Sensing danger, elephants stampede, birds start chirping, and earthworms pull out of their holes. Are these wives’ tales or acute sensory perceptions? Probably a little bit of both. Here is my analogy. Professionals in the educational field from superintendents to principals to teachers have been ringing the bell and shouting from the roof tops about the misconceived storm of testing raining upon our students. We have had the data driven testing agenda for ten years. What has changed for our students? Based on the data very little. How have our schools improved? Based on the number of Priority schools and Focus schools nothing. The process of education is clearly floundering, and knowledgeable voices are being marginalized . I am looking at this through an elementary lens and this is my view.

In general, it seems pretty clear that the emphasis on testing and analytics is having an effect on schools –negatively and positively. On one hand, the oversized focus on testing clearly carries some costs to instruction, curricular breadth, student experience, and has clearly impacted public perception of our schools.Here are some specifics.

Standardized tests DO NOT measure educational quality. For over a decade we have continued to test and punish schools based on test results that have no reliability or validity to evaluate a school. The newest test is still an unproven tool that measures student achievement. Isn’t this why you take an achievement test… to determine a child’s strengths and weaknesses This is the only purpose for which it was designed. Teachers need timely authentic data from the test to inform their instruction. What do the children in that class need more of to meet the goals and expectations of the standards? This is key information to share and discuss with families. The current summative test does none of this. Teachers do get a general sense of how that student is doing. Information received in September however does nothing to supports kids and teachers throughout the previous school year..

The testing data are misleading. It is one snapshot of a child. Somedays you take a beautiful picture. On other days you want to rip the picture up. First, there is a limited number of test questions. The sample is small considering all a student is expected to learn in the course of a year. Second, scores in schools are influenced by several different factors. As examples, students who have stronger interpersonal skills will not score as well as a truly academically oriented students. Students who come from stimulus- rich environment will score better… Buildings with lower numbers of English Language learners or Special Education students will score higher. Third, a student may be two years below grade level and grow over a year and a half, and be given no recognition for this tremendous achievement. That student is still failing the test. Fourth, the identical student can negatively populate different areas of the scoring formula. These all affect test scores. Last, we have wonderful, dedicated teachers in the suburbs and in the city. Many suburban teachers started their careers in the city. We have teachers who need support in both the city and suburbs. In the suburbs, those teachers often get a pass because their students score higher on the test. This is not an indicator of a better teacher or better school. None of this speaks to the quality of education in a school.This can be accomplished in so many other ways that don’t cost millions of dollars and support the corporate intervention into public education.

Testing prep and teaching to the test take time away from real reading writing and math instruction. It has constricted the curriculum. Science, Social Studies, and the Arts are a fleeting after thought. These brightly lit avenues into learning now have detour signs.

The emphasis and time spent on high stakes testings undermines the love of learning that teachers spend hours developing in elementary classrooms. Students can’t collaborate to think through a math solution, or read slowly to savor a text. or read a complete book. They can not check the word wall to help them understand unfamiliar words. Just take the test. If that joy of school is non-existent in elementary school, how will these students become ‘college and career ready’?

It is the test that is failing our students and staff not vice versa. The goal of education has become to pass the test not learning and creating. Relationships with classmates and becoming caring citizens have taken a backseat. The curricula are in constant flux to meet the changing challenges of the test. In elementary classrooms teaching should be aligned to the individual needs of the learner. It is difficult to do both. Teachers need to know the standards and follow a scope and sequence of skills.This way consistent formative assessments can be created.

This all said, the upside of this current hollow educational agenda is that we’re seeing substantially more attention shined on underserved populations – especially poor and minority students or those with special needs. This begs the question- Do schools with high concentrations of under served students have the capacity to reach these goals? In today’s environment, I believe not. Why? According to the US Department of Education (2013) crushing poverty and parent economic status impact student achievement the most. It is not leadership or teachers. Schools, principals and teachers are willing to be held accountable. We need the District, the City, and the State to be accountable. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. This state has given away over a hundred million dollars on testing, Race to the Top and consultants but not to our kids. These dollars could pay for quality day care and pre school. Money given to corporations to create tests could be given to educators in collaboration with DoE to develop strong assessment tools, lower class size and provide wrap around services.What are our priorities? Does the State have a Theory of Action, a funded class size mandate? Will the State work with the city on job development and housing issues? The City needs to play an active role in a solution to the education and social woes of Wilmington. Each of us needs to support our future.

I believe that In the long run, tests that are less intrusive and time consuming than today’s are within reach.We continue to embrace the idea that our students are all at the start line each year. They are not. With enough public clamor the big springtime summative test will disappear It should particularly at the elementary level. Authentic performance tasks, portfolios, growth tests that inform instruction in a timely manner, should become the norm. Schools are more than a test. Our children are more than a number

Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This insanity needs to stop. The data results have not changed in over a decade. Listen, the clock IS ticking.

Lee Davis – former Red Clay teacher and former Red Clay Board President

No public comment is allowed at the State Employees Health Plan Task Force


I attend the State Employees Health Plan Task Force meeting yesterday from 10:00 to 12:00 at Buena Vista, the place was packed. This is the 2nd meeting of the task force. Ann Visalli was getting ready to adjourn the meeting. I asked if there would be public comment period and  Ms. Visalli answered me with a “no”.  Ann Visalli stated that public comment could be made by email (Suggestions Mailbox which is not working) or through the Public Testimony Meetings and those meetings have ended.

As a State Representative, I was not allowed to make a public comment at the end of the meeting.

I attended one of the Public Testimony Meetings and all they give you is a brief overview of the purpose and objective of the State Employees Health Plan Task Force. The real discussion is taking place during the task force meetings, the public should be allowed to make a public comment.

They had four Public Testimony Meetings that have already taken place and a total of 16 members of the public commented at these Public Testimony Meetings. The state has about 35,000 employees. There could be significant changes and these meetings are taking place during the day when most state employees are working.

Friday’s Education Corner, Could it be that DOE simply “made up” the cut scores for the Smarter Balanced Assessment?

I received the following email from an educator. I have to say, I have no idea who or how they came up with scores. This is the only thing I could find on the cut scores.
Thank you for opening the door for discussion on education concerns.  I would prefer to remain anonymous if you decide to discuss this particular information.  However, I do promise that what I’m telling you is true in every way and there are many other who can bear witness to what I am telling you.
At a recent faculty meeting, our staff was told (by a very high administrator in our district office) that the DOE has simply “made up” the cut scores for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He was appalled, our principal was appalled and the saddest part was, the teacher’s were not.  We are used to the DOE treating us as though we are unworthy, ne’r do wells. The educators at my table looked and one another and no one was surprised that the DOE would do such a thing.
So, when the DOE made the projection that proficiency would drop by 30+% last year, they were going to be correct and there was really no conjecture on their part.  They could set the cut scores anywhere they wanted.  Why would they want to do this?  This is the big question, isn’t it? 
This habit of holding the hoop we and our students must jump through higher and higher is seen as a ploy by the DOE to make teachers look bad.  Why would the DOE take an accountability system that simply checked for state standard proficiency, then in the year the accountability took hold, change the rules to now include a “student growth goal”?  For example, if a student scored a 4 on the fall DCAS, they now had to score a scale score growth goal.  No doubt that students should grow over the course of a school year, but no one could explain the growth margins or how they were determined.  I had 8-9 students who scored within 10 scale score points and therefore did not meet their growth goals; even though they showed growth of upwards of 75+ scale score points.  I was penalized for that.  I received a rating of “Needs Improvement”, even though in years passed when just looking for proficiency, I was always at 95 -100%.  It’s crazy! 
This year, during the who Parent Opt out debates, the DOE quickly backed down to the teachers and said, “Okay, okay we won’t hold you accountable this year.”  As teachers were on fire from what happened to them in the last rating with DCAS, that wasn’t enough.  So the state came back and said, “Okay, we won’t hold you accountable for two years.”  This is what kept teachers our of the opt out debate.  well, not me because I still had a bee in my bonnet over the last rating I received.
Just what exactly is the goal of the DOE?  To make Delaware public school teachers look bad? Why? Is it because teachers picketed leg hall when the Governor took office and cut our pay? Since then he added the percentage back, but cut our pay again by taking away our ability to earn extra based on the cluster work we’d done to improve our craft, so when that earned income expired, there was no way to earn it back.    

State Employees Health Plan Task Force Info from Meeting #2

This task force was created in House Bill 225 Section 74 of the budget bill. At the 2nd meeting two presentations were given, the first presentation was a trend driver analysis of active and early retirees and medicare retirees. High Cost Claimants and prescription drug prices are driving the trend in the active and early retirees analysis and prescription drug cost was the driving trend in the medicare retirees analysis.

The second presentation was on finding cost savings and inefficiencies.

The next meeting will be October 8, 2015 – Tatnall Building – Conference Room 112 – Dover 1:00 to 3:00.