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Archive for September, 2012

Drug take-back day Saturday. Keep your family safe!

September 27, 2012 Comments off

On Saturday September 29, Delaware will offer collection sites around the state to collect and dispose of your prescription as well as non-prescription drugs that you need to get rid of. Click here for a list of collection sites. All sites are open from 10:30 to 2:00.

Keep your children and your family safe! Get rid of those outdated or no-longer-needed medications. You don’t need that stuff hanging around your house waiting for something bad to happen with it.

You aren’t supposed to flush medications or send them to the landfill, because they are now turning up in our water in detectable amounts.

From the DHSS website:

Controlled, non-controlled, and over-the-counter medications will be collected. Liquid products and creams in its containers will be accepted. Sharps and syringes will not be accepted due to the potential hazard posed by blood-borne pathogens.

This program is absolutely anonymous and all efforts will be made to protect the anonymity of individuals disposing of medications. No questions or requests for identification will be made by law enforcement personnel present. Participants will remove any personal information from bottles or packages that contain pills/capsules and liquids and place the bottles or packages into the disposal box.

The University of Delaware collection site WILL be accepting sharps (i.e., needles) at the UD Public Safety building, 413 Academy St.

Vision 2015 conference October 17

September 26, 2012 10 comments

I just registered for the Vision 2015 conference on October 17 at Clayton Hall, all day (7:30-4:00). Registration is $25 and includes lunch.

Main conference page | Registration page | Conference program brochure

Whatever you think about Vision 2015, the afternoon sessions look like amazing opportunities to learn some developing information that has not been previously shared with the public. In fact I want to go to all three of the concurrent 1:30-2:30 sessions, and I am distressed I have to choose one 🙂

If anybody might want to go and take notes on one or more of the afternoon sessions, please contact me at mike01@seventhtype.com.

Here’s an overall summary from the program brochure:

District leaders, principals, teachers, and others will share their work related to Common Core implementation, parent engagement, data use, personalized learning, and other critical topics. Attendees will explore how to replicate and expand on the successes already underway – right here in Delaware.

Right up my alley, I’m hoping.

Here are the three 1:30-2:30 afternoon sessions:

1. RAISING THE BAR: Implications of the Common Core Standards
Designed for all stakeholder groups. This session will provide context on and explore
implications of the Common Core Standards – for students, teachers, universities, and
other stakeholders. The discussion will also explore what is on the horizon in terms of
Common Core, and how schools in Delaware are rolling out implementation.

Participants TBD

2. EMPOWERMENT: Schools that “Get It:” Examples of meaningful parent engagement
Designed for teachers, parents, administrators, school leaders, community leaders,
and policy-makers.

Participants:
Tracey Roberts, Pulaski Elementary School, Christina School
District
Ashley Gray, Brandywine School District
Michele Murphy, Indian River School District
Frederika Jenner, President, DSEA (invited)

3. INNOVATION: Transforming Data into Action for Schools and Students
Designed for teachers, parents, administrators, school leaders, and policy-makers.
District and school representatives will reflect on and react to a Professional
Learning Community (PLC) demonstration. PLCs allow district officials, school
leaders, teachers, and other staff to collaborate and make data-driven decisions.
The PLC participants in this session will explore the various ways data can be used,
such as to build student accountability/ownership, to support instructional
strategies and meet individual students’ needs, to ease the transition between
middle and high schools, to look at progress on RTTT and other state-wide
initiatives, to support parent-teacher and principal-teacher conferences, and to
support college/workforce readiness planning. The list goes on and on!

Participants TBD

WHERE ARE MY LEGIONS OF TERROR??

September 25, 2012 Comments off

I am SO DISAPPOINTED. I was expecting hordes of rabid parents answering my call to invade last night’s RCPAC meeting and overwhelm security, blind with madness to express their parent involvement concerns to someone who would listen.

Instead, all I got was one nice young lady, quietly watching the presentation by the Transportation Department. She must have gotten past security using stealth rather than brute force. My hopes surged when she raised her hand, thinking she was about to strike. But no, she just asked a polite question about transportation policy. I ask you – is that any way for a horde to behave?

All I wanted was some respectable Legions of Terror. Is it too much to ask for some Legions of Terror? WHERE ARE MY FRIKKIN’ LEGIONS OF TERROR!!!

Comment period on education regulations ends October 1

September 25, 2012 6 comments

The Delaware Department of Education held its final regulatory review meeting on August 23, but you can still submit your comments in writing until October 1. Teachers, educators, parents – The Department of Education wants to know:

Do you have specific ideas about regulations that should be modified or eliminated? If so, we want to hear from you.

Click here for the comment submission form.

I attended the August 23 meeting at the New Castle County Government Center, and it was lightly attended, considering the number of teachers in the county. There were a few teachers, Rep. Mike Ramone, Kendall Massett of the Charter School Network, and representatives from the Governor’s office and DOE. Also a few people I didn’t recognize (and unfortunately didn’t get a chance to talk to at the conclusion of the meeting). Secretary of Education Mark Murphy presided in a listening role.

As I understood Executive Order 36, the value of the meetings was to focus on regulations, and identify those issues that the agency could fix on its own. While the meeting was a great chance to network, and to meet some of these players in a small one-on-one setting, there wasn’t a big focus on regulations.

Ron Russo led off with his thoughts on charter schools and DOE structural organization, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Mike Matthews then brought up three great ideas:

Mike Ramone spoke and asked what the General Assembly could do to help. I thought this was a great point, but apparently nobody including myself was prepared with an answer. However, Mike Matthews’s points about class size waivers and district reconfiguration are in the General Assembly’s domain, but neither will be quick fixes. Ramone also asked whether legislative changes would be needed to enable distance learning, which I thought was an interesting comment.

I spoke and made the point that while I am not a teacher, I am very interested in reducing teachers’ reporting and paperwork burden, but that we would need teachers to speak up to identify the tasks, forms, and reports that make up this burden. Only then could we begin to reduce or eliminate them via the regulatory process. I also pointed out that we now had sufficent technology to automate or streamline a lot of paperwork and reporting, if we began a process reengineering effort to identify tasks that could be better done by technology.

I was surprised not to hear Kendall Massett speak up with a list of regulations that charter schools were seeking to be exempted from. She and Greg Meece have both been quoted to the effect that since the charter law was passed, new regulations have been passed and have accumulated on charter schools, which (they feel) is opposed to the “original intent” of the charter law. I was hoping to hear a list of those regulations. A few days after the meeting I contacted Ms. Massett, but we were unable to schedule a meeting to discuss her thoughts on original intent.

The Governor’s report on the Executive Order 36 hearings for all agencies is due next June.

Red Clay security staff assembling at Baltz

September 24, 2012 3 comments

 

 

Oh my. Now you HAVE to come to the RCPAC meeting on Monday night at Baltz Elementary at 6:00 pm

September 23, 2012 6 comments

 

 

Parent involvement is like freedom of speech: You have to exercise it once in a while if you want to keep it.

Welcome RCPAC members! And Red Clay officials! I am surprised and delighted to hear so many of you are reading this blog. The things a parent has to do to get a conversation started…

On Thursday I posted about RCPAC (Red Clay Consolidated Parent Advisory Council), pointing out what an excellent and under-utilized parent involvement opportunity it is: Red Clay parents: Take back RCPAC

And on Saturday, I received a lengthy email from a Red Clay official (who shall remain nameless for now), copying top Red Clay brass and several others. The email provided so much insight into the District’s thinking on parent involvement that I just have to share it here (see below; the full name-redacted email is at the very end).

Red Clay Consolidated School District, meet the Streisand Effect.

It was hard to choose my favorite quote from the email. It’s a toss-up between:

If they say they are attending based on the information you posted on your blog, they will be informed by district security staff that it is a closed meeting…

and

Time is not available for anyone to “bring their issues” to the meeting.

 
Wow.

Apparently, Red Clay fears my post will incite an army of wild-eyed parents into overrunning the RCPAC meeting like a Viking invasion, raiding the granaries and savagely expressing their parent involvement concerns.

While I admit that image has a certain appeal, and I am flattered that the District thinks I have so much readership and power of persuasion, I really don’t think that is a realistic or even an appropriate concern. In fact I think nearly all the blog hits on that post came from District officials and their friends exchanging panicky and/or indignant emails linking to the post.

As shown in the email, Red Clay’s antipathy and fear toward parent involvement, along with its obstructive, controlling behavior toward parents, is shameful and needs to be brought into the sunlight.

I think it is clear in this email how the District considers the Parent Advisory Council a captive organization and just one more wholly-owned player in its stage-managed Parent Involvement Theater. ™ I strongly urge the District to rethink its attitudes and practices regarding RCPAC before Federal Title I authorities and RTTT monitors become aware of these parent involvement practices.

By the way, did I mention that the meeting is in the Baltz Elementary library at 6:00 pm on Monday, September 24. Baltz Elementary is at 1500 Spruce Avenue, Wilmington, DE (302) 992-5560 (right off Faulkland Road, click here for a map)?

If you do go for the first time, please be aware that only enough food and child supervision is available for the number anticipated, so please be considerate. Also, like any public meeting, don’t speak out of turn. Members and non-members alike should make sure they are recognized by the chair before speaking.

The full email is below, but first, some highlights:

Red Clay email highlight #1

If [attendees] say they are attending based on the information you posted on your blog, they will be informed by district security staff that it is a closed meeting and only those names listed on the sign-in sheet and the presenters will be permitted to partipate in the meeting…

Oh my. This Red Clay official is apparently unaware of the Open Meetings provision of Delaware’s FOIA law: “(a) Every meeting of all public bodies shall be open to the public except those closed pursuant to subsections (b), (c), (d) and (h) of this section. “ To my knowledge, the RCPAC meeting does not meet any of the exception criteria.

On Monday, anybody I hear stating that RCPAC is a closed meeting will be specifically named in my FOIA violation report to the Attorney General.

Red Clay email highlight #2

“…to my knowledge you were not authorized to provide a general open invitation.”

Well now you know. Nobody needs authorization to publicize a public meeting – GOT IT? The fact that this official thinks I do is an appalling attitude and lack of appropriate knowledge for a District administrator with parent involvement responsibilities. The District should have publicized the meeting better itself, and should be grateful and open to the potential for increased parent involvement.

Red Clay email highlight #3

The RCPAC monthly meeting does not have sufficient time for an open forum that allows for anyone to dominate the evening with their personal issues. Time is not available for anyone to “bring their issues” to the meeting.

And there you have it folks, Red Clay’s expression of its REAL parent involvement policy.

Let’s be clear here though – by custom and courtesy, members and non-members alike should ask to be recognized and introduce themselves before they speak. And also by custom and courtesy, they should ask the RCPAC chairman for the floor – NOT the District liaison. If you don’t do this, you may be deemed disruptive and kicked out of the meeting – which is also specifically allowed by Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act. Although frankly, that would be one heck of a spectacle that would be a PR disaster for the District, especially if it happened to be videotaped.

I don’t see disruptive attendees being a problem though. We’re just regular parents, not the barbarians feared by the District. Although I can certainly understand how the prospect of dealing with RCPAC parents who aren’t on the District payroll takes them out of their comfort zone.

Red Clay email highlight #4

It is greatly appreciated that you adjust your blog immediately to accurately reflect the expectation of the monthly RCPAC meetings.

Consider it done.

Red Clay email highlight #5

Speaking of being invited to serve on RCPAC, I have received no communication from either [principal’s name redacted] or [principal’s name redacted] regarding their support of you representing and serving as the liaison for their school

I am currently a voting member of RCPAC, according to RCPAC bylaws. This District official is clearly unfamiliar with the bylaws of the organization he/she is charged with facilitating. He/she already has a copy of my RCPAC appointment by a Red Clay principal, which means that I am a voting member of RCPAC. I will send him/her another copy in case he/she has misplaced it.

There is NO provision in RCPAC bylaws that causes a voting membership to expire annually or at any time, or to require any renewals. There is also no limitation on the number of appointed members who may serve, regardless of which school their children attend.

The District may WISH it could expire RCPAC members, or require annual renewals, or limit membership to two parents per school, but it may not. If they want the bylaws changed to permit those things, they will have to ask the parents to vote on those changes. And I suspect such an effort will be mounted shortly, and will be successful, given the number of District employees in the membership and the control of speaking time exerted by the District. But if such a thing happens, I will make sure the District’s effort to lock parents out will be well documented.

There is currently NO PROBLEM of too many parents attending or voting at RCPAC meetings. Red Clay should consider itself fortunate if more interested parents show up, and should not be reacting defensively to lock parents out.

Let’s be clear: RCPAC is a parent organization, not a District-owned captive appendage. District officials may not make up the rules as they go along, especially not by distributing District opinions by email.

The bylaws only say two things about RCPAC appointments [emphasis mine]:

Criteria of Membership

  • A parent or guardian of a child currently attending or previously attending a Red Clay school or a school in Delaware.
  • Appointed by building administrator or serving at the request of the Superintendent.
  • The district reserves the right to invite additional community members who are concerned Red Clay residents.
  • Membership is voluntary.
  • Each Red Clay school shall have at least two representatives with one serving as an alternate.
  • Voting privilege shall be granted to membership appointed by a building principal.

and

Red Clay building administrators are to submit two names each school year.

 
The 9/22 email (names redacted to protect the innocent and guilty alike)

Good morning Mike,

I have received numerous communications from RCPAC members regarding your blog and the inaccurate information that has been posted regarding the upcoming September RCPAC meeting. Since I am not a blogger, I had to search the web to find your comments. Obviously you are free to state your personal opinions regarding RCPAC. However, you made a few comments that are inaccurate, and I wanted to be sure you post the correct information to avoid confusion and personal embarrassment.

You have provided a general invitation for “come one, come all”. Please be advised that as we do encourage families to come and experience the opportunity of RCPAC, prior communication has always been the courtesy and expectation of anyone new attending either by their own personal communication or by the individual bringing them as a guest. RCPAC is NOT an evening for anyone and everyone to just come, eat and have homework assistance provided for his/her student(s). RCPAC members are either invited by their principal to represent their school, by the superintendent or with the approval of the superintendent and are affiliated with an organization that also supports parent engagement. Food and refreshments are not ordered to accommodate a mass number of off the street attendees; especially now, as the Title I parent engagement allocation has a very limited budget, and we are actively engaging in creative ways to provide funding for the meals being served each month.

Please be aware that if there is a significantly large number of unexpected attendees as a result of your open invitation, “come one, come all” on your blog, they will not be able to receive food and will receive no childcare. If they say they are attending based on the information you posted on your blog, they will be informed by district security staff that it is a closed meeting and only those names listed on the sign-in sheet and the presenters will be permitted to partipate in the meeting and partake of the food and childcare. The information was misleading on your blog, and to my knowledge you were not authorized to provide a general open invitation.

Speaking of being invited to serve on RCPAC, I have received no communication from either [principal’s name redacted] or [principal’s name redacted] regarding their support of you representing and serving as the liaison for their school, [school names redacted].

Please remember it is the responsibility of RCPAC members to provide two-way communication with school administration and their school parent association. Please tell me which school you represent as I have had many parents who wish to continue as a an active member of RCPAC, but their school affiliation has changed due to the fact that their child now attends a different school. We also have new members as well, so this information is very important to avoid duplication of responsibilities.

Lastly, please be advised, that RCPAC has a planned agenda for each monthly meeting designed by the president and reviewed with the other officers before the meeting takes place. Then, after receiving the agenda from them, I am able to duplicate the necessary number of handouts needed for the meeting. The September meeting has two presenters; 1. Red Clay Transportation, at the requests of RCPAC members at the May meeting, and 2. Wesley College staff members addressing a wonderful opportunity for parents to participate in a certificate training program designed specifically for promoting effective parent engagement. The RCPAC monthly meeting does not have sufficient time for an open forum that allows for anyone to dominate the evening with their personal issues. Time is not available for anyone to “bring their issues” to the meeting.

I look forward to seeing you at Monday’s meeting. It is greatly appreciated that you adjust your blog immediately to accurately reflect the expectation of the monthly RCPAC meetings.

Thank you,

[Red Clay official]

Welcome Slashdot readers!

September 23, 2012 Comments off

Please take it easy on me!

The Seventh Type just got a shout-out and a quote from slashdot.org. OK, it was just a reference from a commenter, but still, slashdot is a well-known and popular blog that is a gathering place for all sorts of technically-minded people from around the world, and is one of my favorite blogs I read daily.

Slashdot is so popular it often happens that when somebody posts a link to your site on Slashdot, your site gets so many visitors it may crash, a phenomenon known as “slashdotting.” I’m hosted by WordPress so I don’t think that’s a problem today. Plus my quote is kind of boring 🙂

My posts on the Shared Learning Collaborative are the most popular (have gathered the most hits) of all posts on the Seventh Type. Apparently there is just not that much information out there on SLC, so my posts come up in a Google search.

The comment came as part of a discussion about Bill Gates’s motives for supporting education software and organizations (I was not part of that discussion). I’m not as critical as most of the commenters on that thread but apparently my analysis was appreciated. Here’s my quote that was referenced; go to the thread to see the whole discussion in context:

“However, just having the source code and standards for the technology won’t get you too far. The real work (and the real money) is in the process of making sure the system can connect to all the state’s various data sources, and is customized to meet the particular requirements of each state, a process known as integration. This part will not be done for free. On top of that, the deployment of the SLC system will generate consulting fees, training, ongoing customization, add-on features, and other needs known as professional services. Wireless Generation’s $8 million data-coaching contract with Delaware is just a small example.”

[here’s my full post the quote came from: Who and what is the Shared Learning Collaborative?

DCAS scores vanish again

September 21, 2012 6 comments

This Home Access Center page used to display all past DSTP and DCAS scores. I’m sure it’s just a data loading problem, but they need to get a handle on it soon.

Schools are now staking everything on data-driven decision making driven by DCAS scores. Is this what teachers are seeing too on their Teacher Dashboards?

Come on DDOE data gurus, summer’s over. The kids are back in school and are already taking DCAS tests again. At least put out an explanation so parents aren’t left in the dark (or in this case, in the blank).

UPDATE 9/22: From the Data Warehouse RFP for Education Insight:

Current, operational data (for the current school year) will come from the eSchool Master. This database is a nightly consolidation of the data contained in 43 separate eSchool instances used by Delaware’s school districts and charter schools. Current data will appear to dashboard users exactly as it does in eSchool.

Historic data will be populated from the “cleansed” data in the Insight Data Warehouse.

Hmmm….

Red Clay parents: Take back RCPAC

September 20, 2012 1 comment

Red Clay parents, we need more of you at RCPAC!

Please come out to the RCPAC meeting next Monday Sept. 24 at 6pm at Baltz Elementary. We need more parents and more ideas added to the discussion. You can bring the kids! – a light dinner and child supervision is provided, and they can get their homework done. I’ll post the agenda when I receive it.

[Update 9/22: It was pointed out to me that Red Clay is not necessarily prepared for an unexpectedly large number of people to show up. While I think this is extremely unlikely, and would be a GOOD problem to have, if you do go for the first time, please be aware that only enough food and child supervision is available for the number anticipated, so please be considerate. Also, like any public meeting, don’t speak out of turn. Members and non-members alike should make sure they are recognized by the chair before speaking. For updated info click here.]

RCPAC is the Red Clay Parent Advisory Council, as described by Red Clay:

The Red Clay Parent Advisory Council (RCPAC) is comprised of parent representatives from each school and concerned community members who support Red Clay schools. Monthly RCPAC meetings serve as a direct link between parents, schools and the school district. RCPAC members make recommendations concerning parent involvement, communication issues and support initiatives to improve student achievement in all schools.

Actually in my opinion, that last part about parents making recommendations seems to have been lost over the years, and we need to bring it back! I can’t recall a parent ever making a motion on the floor, or a vote on any parent recommendation. Also in my observance, the RCPAC meetings are chaired de facto not by elected RCPAC officers, but by the District staff liaison. And last time I checked, nearly half the parent membership were also District employees. Who are great and dedicated members, but we also need more unaffiliated parents for a broader view.

Let’s turn it around! We need YOUR VOICE to bring RCPAC up to its full potential as a parental advisory body. Bring your issues to the group and get the conversation going again so we can start doing some Parent Advising and bringing strong parent recommendations to the Board.

Some District and school officials (including principals) are under the impression that only two parents from each school may join RCPAC. This is not true, so please come one, come all. The bylaws say at least two members from each school, not only two members. But you don’t even need to represent a school. RCPAC meetings are open to the public and anyone may attend.

To be a voting member you need to be appointed by any principal (just ask; they are usually having trouble finding someone). But being a voting member hardly matters, since in two years I can’t recall a general vote on anything other than approval of minutes or election of officers.

[…] Read more…

You know you are tough when you win anti-bullying concessions from Rahm Emanuel

September 19, 2012 Comments off

Chicago teachers and students are back in class today after their union voted to suspend the strike. The new contract includes significant concessions to teachers. The full membership will vote on the contract later, which is endorsed by leadership and is expected to be accepted.

Chicago teachers won in large part because of the support of parents. Chicago teachers went out of their way to welcome and cultivate alliances with parents (take note, DSEA). Also because the union clearly articulated and fought for their agenda, which was aligned with parents’ hopes and obviously so much more pro-student than the administration proposals.

Even though the union did not win their demands for lower class size, parents understood teachers were fighting for their children on what matters.

Another recently formed group, Parents4Children, picketed alongside teachers throughout the week. With 1,000 supporters, the group organized this year to stand up against “teacher bashing,” according to parent Erica Clark.

“We support the teachers union because they are fighting for the same things we are, the things that matter in the classroom, like smaller classes, better curriculums with art and music,” said Clark, who has a teenage son in CPS.

CTU President Karen Lewis:

“This Union has proven the Chicago labor movement is neither dormant nor dead,” Lewis continued. “Our members are on the line because we all believe there is an assault on our profession and public education in general. We will always do what is in the best interest of our students and our own children, many of whom attend these schools. We showed our solidarity and our strength, and with this new contract we have solidified our political power and captured the imagination of the nation. No one will ever look upon a teacher and think of him or her as a passive, person to be bullied and walked on ever again.”