Wilmington Education Improvement Commission First Meeting Notes

I attended the first meeting of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission this evening.  It was held at the Red Clay Consolidated School District office in Wilmington.  The meeting was very informal, and non-commission members of the audience were able to ask questions outside of the “formal” public comment period.  It was more of a Town Hall atmosphere.

As Kilroy’s Delaware pointed out earlier this evening, this is in sharp contrast to the town hall meeting WEIC had in Red Clay last night, where the comments from the audience were not as reserved at the main meeting tonight.  I strongly encourage all the parents who are attending these town halls to go to the regular meetings.  First off, most of the WEIC members will be there, and two, this is where questions may have answers.  Not that the town halls aren’t important.

Tonight’s meeting did answer some questions of my own.  During my public comment, I asked the members of WEIC why this was going on, the DOE’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) and the Rodel/Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025.  I advised they could all start bumping into each other.  Dan Rich, the WEIC Policy Advisor, advised the SREO sprung out of the charter school moratorium legislation, House Bill 56.  He said Governor Markell saw it and ran with it.  For the Rodel thing, he stated there group is more for actual education in the classroom as opposed to redistricting and funding our schools.  I then asked why, if there is a charter school moratorium, why are schools like Family Foundations Academy allowed to submit a major modification request to increase enrollment.  He said that was done prior to the law being enacted.  WEIC member Chandra Pitts made a point to reinforce WEIC is not against charter schools, and neither was WEAC.  So yes, this was intentional in some respects, but not overtly planned.

WEIC member Vicki Seifred said she is hearing all the right things, but there is skepticism that this will be the group to fix everything.  She also pointed out that even though WEIC wants more district and charter collaboration, there is a lot of animosity, especially between some of the Wilmington districts and the more “high-performing” charters and this needs to be addressed.  (Editor’s note: I think the upcoming final report coming from the Enrollment Preference Task Force will provide some type of resolution to these types of situations.)

Yvonne Johnson brought up the million-dollar question about funding, and she stated even though she has chaired a referendum and been very involved in education matters for 20+ years, the whole funding issues facing WEIC and the redistricting are new to her.  She asked if members can be brought up to speed on how to explain this at the Town Hall meetings at the four Wilmington school districts going forward.  Red Clay Chief Financial Officer Jill Flores advised she may be able to come up with some type of presentation for this as questions come up.

Basically, the first meeting was introductions, even with members of the public (which I thought gave it a very personal touch: kudos to Tony Allen for this), and going over the basic layout of the whole thing.  The committee chairs will be able to pick their own members on those groups, but of course the WEIC leaders do have some “suggested” members on these groups.  Tony Allen did say he expects every WEIC member to be on one of the committees.

Jackie Kook, a teacher in Christina as well as the Vice-President of the Christina Educators Association, said she is really hoping all this works out for the best of Wilmington students.  A sentiment echoed by State Rep. Kim Williams.

The incoming Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Sodowsky, was in attendance.  He seemed more personable in two hours than Mark Murphy did in three years!  Tony Allen did mention several times that WEIC does not answer to the DOE or Governor Markell.  While I want to believe this, I don’t trust the DOE or Markell, and for good reason.  We really have no clue about Sodowsky yet, but I’m glad he felt it was necessary to show up here.  He did say he would have probably been involved with this Commission through his work at University of Delaware, but something else came up…

At first I didn’t get why this group has to act so fast with their implementation plan to the State Board of Education.  WEIC has until 12/31/15 to get the State Board their plans, the State Board has until 3/31/16, and then the General Assembly takes the ball with it from there and if they pass a joint resolution, it goes to Governor Markell.  I think this last part is the reason for the tight time-frame.  This will essentially be the last General Assembly Governor Markell deals with.  After 6/30/16, they will be gone until the same time Governor Markell leaves office.  And with upcoming elections, the next General Assembly could look radically different than the one we have now.  Plus, I’m sure Jack Markell will be using this on his resume for the next fifty years…if it works.

Aside from State Rep. Kim Williams, the only other legislators in attendance were the two on WEIC, State Rep. Charles Potter and Senator David Sokola.  Allen wanted to give a shout-out to Williams who attended every single meeting of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee last fall and winter.

No questions were asked about a Wilmington all-charter school district, and even if Governor Markell may want that, I don’t think it would fly with this group’s make-up.  Yes, there are some very pro-charter folks on it, but there is also a balance with many representing traditional school districts.  Very smart move for whoever came up with this!

Breaking News: Delaware DOE To Punish Schools Over Opt-Out Rate w/School Report Card, Did NOT Submit This For ESEA Waiver

The Delaware Department of Education will punish schools with high opt-out rates based on their School Report Card.  As found in the below document, the school report card is a new system mandated by the US DOE.  Since last summer, the Accountability Framework Working Group has been meeting to get this going in Delaware.  How this works is a school will receive a grade based on multiple factors: academic, graduation rates, etc.  Whatever their academic score is, the DOE will multiply the assessment participation rate against the score.  So as an example, say Charter School of Wilmington gets a score of 90 for their academics.  If their assessment participation rate overall was at 80%, you would multiply 90 x .8, which would give the school an academic score of 72.

They are doing this under the sly.  They did not include this in what was sent to the US DOE for their ESEA Flex Waiver request, which was approved by the feds in July.  This is just another example of the DOE plotting behind the scenes with superintendents from Delaware school districts and making rules without any stakeholder input.  And even then, they just ignore it.  They do what they want and to hell with the consequences.  Below, you can see the ESEA Waiver Approval letter from the US DOE, which mentions NOTHING about this at all, but the State Board approved this in their March 19th, 2015 meeting, which you can listen to here.

So which superintendents and charter heads are on this group? Mark Holodick, Heath Chasanov, Kevin Fitzgerald, Sally Maldonado, Ed Emmett, and other key district staff.  This is a group that doesn’t publicly announce their meetings from what I can see on the DOE calendar on their website or on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  They are creating rules for schools without ANY public feedback whatsoever.  I knew there was more to this whole school report card thing, and now we have the proof.  This group, at first, did not have any representation from parents or the Delaware State Educators Association, but was later added.  I’m sorry, I love Bill Doolittle with the Delaware PTA, but he cannot be the DOE’s go-to guy every time they need a parent on a group.  That is not TRUE stakeholder input.  They should have a minimum of three parents on any task force, group, committee, or commission.  If not MORE!

How ironic they have NO participation from districts where their board passed an opt-out resolution: Capital, Christina and Red Clay…

Delaware parents, don’t let this sway you from opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  If you all do it, then it won’t matter what the participation rate was!  School starts this week or next week for most students, so remember, first day, give the principal your REFUSE THE TEST letter!

UPDATED, 2:35pm, 8/25/15: Ryan Reyna with the Delaware DOE published this document for schools to upload into the Accountability Student Verification system, dated 7/27/15…

Overview Of Smarter Balanced Released Scores

kavips

As we approach D Day here are some following truths to keep in mind as the spin doctors on both sides chew the cherries that they pick and start spitting seeds at you…

A)  The Smarter Balanced is a corporate made-up test which had no educational experts involved in its development. Those handpicked token experts who were invited to attend its inception, were rudely pushed aside, treated derogatorily, and have all written disclaimers saying this test is the most ridiculous thing ever invented.  It has no basis for testing your child.

B)   The test has no accountability.. Your child can get a 0 by a mistake made in scoring and there is no way you can ask for his test to see why his score is inexplainably low.   No accountability opens the door for misdeeds. This test has no way to determine if the reader missed a…

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