In reviewing the decisions made by the Charter School Accountability Committee for Delaware, there is an obvious bias against Gateway Lab School. Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security (DAPPS), with their special education population of 12.6%, had their charter renewed.
DAPPS was rated Does Not Meet for the past three years under academic proficiency. Their financial accountability was fail in 2011-2012, does not meet in 201-2013 and fail again in 2013-2014. Their organizational rating was does not meet for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, but managed to meet for 2013-2014. For Gateway, they were rated meets in both financial and organizational this year.
Below are the final reports from the Charter School Accountability Committee:
There a few things that stuck out to me. One is the membership of Charles (Chuck) Taylor on this committee. They have him as a community member and Former Charter School Leader. While these are both true, Chuck Taylor is also the President of the Delaware Charter Schools Network Governing Board. Why would they not list him as such as he holds such a lofty position? In the DAPSS final report, David Blowman, the Deputy Secretary of the Delaware DOE, is talked about. “He noted that the Financial Framework section does not meet standard, but stated that is not a concern.” Yet the school is only at 76% capacity with 363 students out of a maximum enrollment of 420. For charter schools, if they are not financially viable, then they cannot operate. But this isn’t a concern, based on a promise they will get their enrollment up for the next school year when several other charter schools will be opening?
For DAPSS, in 2013-2014, their Math proficiency score percentage for students with disabilities was 31.3% and for ELA it was 30.1%. For Gateway, their Math was 28.3% and ELA was 30.3%. While DAPSS did only slightly better in Math for students with disabilities, Gateway did slightly better in ELA. If you are going to judge a whole school for proficiency scores for these types of students, then you need to be consistent across the board, regardless of the population.
For Gateway, they are compared to their home district, which is Red Clay Consolidated School District. These would be listed as similar schools. But they are not similar schools with Gateway having such a high population of special education students. But Positive Outcomes, in Kent County, has their proficiency ratings compared to forty different schools in the area that specialize in learning disabilities and high populations of special education students. This seems like a very glaring bias against Gateway. How can they be judged as failing when the very metric they are being measured for is extremely flawed? I have nothing but the utmost respect for Positive Outcomes, but Gateway should be judged academically the same way Positive Outcomes is. Would they still be rated as failing if they were held against that correct standard?
To view these two very different pieces of data, go to the following:
There is something fundamentally and morally wrong when a state wants to recommend the closure of a school for special needs children using flawed comparison data. So then I must ask, what is the true purpose of this decision? I can guess and theorize as to what that might be, but at the end of the day, none of that guessing will help the students and parents of these children being forced to make hard decisions. If I were these parents, I would be filing an Office of Civil Rights violation against the Delaware Department of Education immediately.
Charter schools in Delaware discriminate all the time with enrollment preferences and denial of special education services. But when a charter school gets it right, they are given a knife in the back. There is no justice.