Tag Archives: State Assessment

Trump, St. Andrew’s School in Florida, school choice and state vouchers – the appearance of helping disadvantage students – Fake News!

On February 28, President Trump addressed Congress, speaking briefly about school choice for disadvantaged youth, breaking the cycle of poverty.  He talked about how families should be able to choose the schools that are right for them, whether they be public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home schools.

On Friday, President Trump visited a private school in Florida  – St. Andrew Catholic School – Florida is one of 14 states and DC, which has a state-funded school voucher program to qualifying students.

If you look at St. Andrew’s admission requirements you must provide most recent report card and state assessment, which would be ok since it is a private school. But President Trump though is pushing for school choice and vouchers. There is a $250 registration fee (non-refundable) per child is assessed. There is an admission test for students 2nd through 8th grades.  A parent needs three teacher recommendations.  There is a list of priorities, one being you must attend church on a regular basis and ENVELOPE USE AS DEFINED BY THE PASTOR.  

How are policies like this going to help break the cycle of poverty?  Folks living in poverty cannot afford a $250 non-refundable registration fee, $25 application fee or financially supporting any church every week? How are they going to pay for the balance of the tuition that is owed after using their voucher?

It is very interesting when you look through the qualifying student requirements for school-funded voucher programs, because most states require that a student has an IEP, certain disability or specific income level tied into the federal poverty level.  THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART – In Delaware, most students who have an IEP or disability, and leave a private or charter schools, do so because the school does not provide the necessary special education services or the school tells a family that they cannot provide these services for the child – this school is not a good fit.

We have people creating policy that really have no idea as to what is really going on in our public schools, because if they did, they would understand that they are not helping disadvantage students.

1 to 5 Star Ratings Are Being Pushed by Some Members of the State’s ESSA Advisory Committee


I was a member of the ESSA Advisory Committee and our last ESSA meeting was last week. I read the entire updated draft ESSA Plan, 90 + pages, and there are a few things that are very troubling – one being the state would like to move forward with the continued labeling of our public schools with a 1 to 5 star rating – similar to a hotel rating. There were members of the ESSA Advisory Committee who support the 1 to 5 star rating but there were members who opposed it. 

There are schools in Delaware that are allowed to select their students based on grades, attendance, behavior, a test, an interview, or a state assessment. There are schools in Delaware that have low percentages of ELL, Spec Ed and Low Income students compared to other schools in our state. How can we compare our schools when some schools can admit students based on academics? How can we compare schools when certain public schools are “Counseling out” students with disabilities  – other schools enrollment practices limits access to certain student populations? How can we compare schools when certain schools can say to a family this school is not the right fit for your child? How can we compare schools when some schools are testing in March compared to those schools that test in April or May? Our bigger schools will have to test earlier so they can test all the students to meet the 95% participation rate so they are not penalized and the smaller schools can afford more classroom time because the size of their school.

Recently, I wrote to the Department of Education, asking why Family Foundation Charter School was approved for a name change. DOE’s response was: Family Foundations Academy stated its rational for the name change was, “There have been many changes in the last two years for Family Foundations.  These changes have included new leadership, new curriculum and a new focus for our future.  With all of these changes we have been focusing on the impact we wish to have in New Castle County as well as the city of New Castle. We are deeply committed to seeing the children of New Castle actualize into adults that make a deep and positive impact on our future.   We want our name to reflect our focus on our community.

Family Foundations Charter School has had plenty of bad press during the last few years. Two of their former leaders were accused of misspending school funds and Federal prosecutors have charged one of the former leaders with theft. According to a Delaware Online article from January 2015, one leader made $73,956.02 in purchases with the cards, while the other leader spent a total of $20,673.85. I have provided a link to the Delaware Auditor’s Office audit on Family Foundation.  The Department of Education and the State Board of Education supported Family Foundations name change but is pushing for the 1 to 5 Star rating – so there is a different set of standards in place when it comes to some of our public schools. The state approved two/three name changes for Moyer Academy Charter School which eventually closed. Changing the name of a charter school attempts to conceal the issues, which in the end hurts the students and community. These schools should to keep their names so we can make sure they are actually improving and that they are transparent. How can our State Board of Education hold some of our public schools to a higher standard than others?  

SJR #2 – Assessment Inventory Committee Meeting Update

I attended the Assessment Inventory Meeting this week–I am not sure what direction the committee is heading. I appreciate the open discussion and the questions that were being asked by some committee members. The next meeting will be February 22, 2016 from 4:00 to 6:00 – Townsend Building.

Dr. Terri Hodges with the Delaware PTA and Natalie Avini Ganc, a Delaware teacher, both made public comments at the end. They commented about how there are no parents or classroom teachers serving on the committee. When I addressed the committee, I told the committee that I agreed with Dr. Hodges and Ms. Ganc’s comments. I also asked the following question and asked for the DOE to get back to me and the committee with an answer:

We are constantly comparing schools and their state assessment scores. I asked if there was data available showing which schools test in March, April, and May? With an elementary school that tests in May, the school’s scores are compared to another elementary school that tests their students in March. The elementary school that tests in May has two additional months of instruction time compared to the elementary school that tests in March.  One would assume that a school that tests in March probably has no choice because of the size of their school; the school needs to start testing early on in order to get all of their students tested.

Example: Washington T Booker Elementary School has 304 students and no 5th grade. Warner Elementary School has 529 students and 5th grade. Warner has 200+ more students than Washington T Booker and an additional grade level to test.

I am interested in seeing when schools are testing and if, certain schools are testing later, are their state assessment scores better compared to the ones who are testing earlier? Also, does size of a school matter when it comes to state assessment scores? It would be interesting to see data showing size of school and test dates and see if there is a correlation between the two.

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


The Washington Post article chimes in about DE Parents Opting Out and the needed data!

I am a parent of two DE public school children, I am a former DE PTA president, a former Red Clay school board member, I am currently a DE State Representative and Vice Chair of the House Education Committee. I found this article to be quite interesting. The writers of this piece truly do not understand what is going on here in Delaware regarding the current state assessment and the ignored and meaningless data that is produced from it.

The Washington Post article states that opting out “undermines the collection of the needed data.” I find that sentence just fascinating! I wonder if the authors of this piece understand that the needed data comes after the student has moved on to the next grade level. The needed data arrived in the mail addressed to the parent after their child moved on to the next grade or moved up to another school. If the parent had questions about the needed data, who should the parent talk to -the student’s new teacher who just started teaching the student or last year’s teacher who is teaching new students? Do the writers understand that this test which produces the needed data does not measure growth?

In the article Governor Markell states, “Assessments are an important tool for teachers and families to have.” I would agree, if these assessments were a useful tool. If the assessment gave meaningful data to a teacher immediately on individually students, I would agree. My question to the writers, how is this a useful tool if the test comes seven months later, after the student has been promoted to the next  grade? What are we learning from this needed data? Is the state developing educational programs from this needed data or are we just going to continue to label schools with this needed data? Are we going to continue to tell communities that your school is failing with this needed data? Are we going to tell these communities that we are going to continue to collect the needed data for another 20 years ignoring what we already know that we do not properly fund what the needed data has been telling us for years -that there is no funding for ELL students, we do not fund Basic Special Education Kindergarten through 3rd grade, and that we have been ignoring poverty since the needed data has been collected?  So why would anyone continue to support this state assessment when the needed data has been screaming at us for years what our state needs? These are the questions these folks from The Washington Post should have asked the Governor instead of telling Delaware parents it is not ok to opt out!

Delaware should not make it okay for parents to opt their kids out of testing


Why does the state continue to insist on punishing schools?

I have to say that I am very disappointed that the state may not take the recommendations of the Accountability Framework Working Group who met for over a year and a half. Instead, they are doing exactly what Donna Johnson with the State Board and the Governor’s Office wanted which was stronger penalties for schools who fell below the 95% Smarter Balanced state assessment participation rate.

I was at the last two meetings of the AFWG and I heard first hand what the Governor’s Office wanted; stronger penalties to be placed on our schools. Donna Johnson stated that the State Board was probably not going to approve the final recommendations that the group made. She indicated that the State Board would want stronger penalties as well. Really, how did the State Board come to that conclusion because they were not at the meetings. How would Donna know that they would not agree with these recommendations because the group just decided on the recommendations?

The AFWG recommended that if a school fell below 95 percent it would be required to submit a report explaining why that happened and how to improve participation and that school could not be named a reward school. The group decided on this penalty because it would cause the least amount of damage to a school. The group would have preferred not to put any penalties in place, but the state told the group it was mandated by the feds.

The group members consisted of school administrators from charter and traditional schools, the Delaware PTA , the Delaware State Education Association, and the State Board. The entire group, except for one, did not want to punish schools because the administrators at a school have no control as to whether or not a student takes the state assessment. If a parent wishes to opt their child out of the state assessment, a school has no control over that, so why does the state want to punish that school for something a school has no control over?

In an effort to ensure as many students as possible are taking the state standardized test, the state Department of Education is recommending schools lose points on a new “scorecard” if fewer students than expected take the exam.

That’s a harsher penalty for schools with low participation rates than a panel of administrators and teacher and parent advocates recommended.

Their plan, which the Working Group had previously rejected, would multiply a school’s score by its participation rate if that rate fell below 95 percent.

“The state feels this is a fair proposal that takes into consideration participation, crediting schools that work to ensure every child’s learning growth is considered,” May wrote.

Click here to read the entire Delaware Online article.

Parents Who Opted Out, No Need to Worry When Filling Out Red Clay Choice Applications Which Require Spring Smarter Balanced Scores

Exceptional Delaware published a post about Conrad Schools of Science choice application which requires Spring Standardized Test Scores which would be Smarter Balanced for all public school children in Delaware. You can read Exceptional Delaware’s post by clicking here

I wanted to make sure students were not penalized because their parents opted them out of the state assessment. Red Clay’s Superintendent Dr. Daugherty has assured me that will not happen. Conrad Schools of Science staff is well aware of the concerns and the lack of a state assessment score will not hinder any student’s chances of getting into Conrad.

Thank you to Red Clay School District for respecting a parent’s choice to opt out and not penalizing the child.

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