WEIC’s Charter-District Collaboration Meeting Minutes Show Obvious Barriers

A student from the Charter School of Wilmington described the sense of community at his school, and the concern that this committee might break up that community that is very important to the school.

 

I didn’t expect the Charter School of Wilmington issues to come up so fast in the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission/redistricting initiative, but I’m glad the elephant in the room was addressed in the first Charter and District Collaboration Committee meeting.  The minutes from the September 23rd meeting, seen below, show many of the concerns surrounding the whole charter/traditional conversation from both sides of the aisle.

The one part that was brought up was the whole nature of a “consortium” for the Wilmington charters which was brought up in the original WEAC report (or book if you have it, there are a few thousand of these floating around Delaware).  A commenter made the following statement:

The recommendation in the WEAC report is on collaboration in the form of a consortium. It is important to focus time around that, and decide if a brand new consortium is necessary or if you should work with the existing Charter School Network and Innovative Schools. We need to embrace the existing options and use the organizations we have, and determine what target we are aiming at.

Yeah, I don’t know if I can recommend Innovative Schools as a role model these days.  They have their hands full with the schools they are operating in.  And we all know what is going on with Delaware Met.  To have the Delaware Charter Schools Network running the show is also a recipe for disaster.  They have not shown a true willingness to work with traditional school districts and this has caused a lot of angst with the issues.  Especially when it comes to equity among the two and legislation to even the playing field.

There are lots of other interesting and conversation-starting bits in here.

Report On Delaware Talent Cooperative By University Of Pennsylvania Shows Many Flaws With The Program

The Delaware Department of Education contracted with a University of Pennsylvania program called Operation Public Education to do an evaluation report on the Delaware Talent Cooperative.  I’m not too familiar with this offshoot of Univ. Of Pa., but their final report shows many inherent weaknesses with the program, and of course pumps it up at the same time.  Read for yourself!

 

Attorney General Matt Denn, We Need You To Do More About Bullying & Abuse In Our Schools

Skyline Middle School.  Anne Gullo.  The Appoquinimink Bus Driver.  Delaware Met.  This is just in the last month.  As these incidents of bullying and abuse become more public, I haven’t seen any official statement from those in power in Delaware on these systemic issues going on.  This is the bottom line: students don’t feel safe.  While the DOE wants to bury students in their latest programs with the University of Delaware about social skills and positive behavior supports, which are also costing the state millions of dollars, the districts or charters don’t implement those things and it is a colossal waste.  They talk the talk and walk the walk, but who are we kidding?  Why are we seeing adults take out their frustrations on kids?

NBC Philadelphia covered the Appoquinimink bus driver.  The district said she wouldn’t be driving their kids anymore.  That’s great.  But more needs to be done.  This kid was being bullied, and he needed help.  Instead of the bus driver, or substitute bus driver (immaterial to me, still an adult in charge of kids) even noticing there was already a situation going on where a kid was getting hurt, she did nothing.  She finally acted, and in a highly inappropriate way, when she was forced to do something as this kid yelled at her for help.  What she did is disgusting and morally reprehensible.

It doesn’t matter if its one person or hundreds.  No kid deserves this.  From other kids or adults.  When I was a kid, we didn’t call it bullying.  We usually called it getting the crap kicked out of you.  There are always going to be reasons for it.  Somebody doesn’t like something the other kid said.  They are jealous over a girl.  A kid is black.  A kid is white.  A kid is gay.  A girl is mean.  A kid has disabilities.  A kid doesn’t believe the same thing another kid does.  Maybe if kids actually enjoyed learning, and were not tied to curriculums tied to standards tied to standardized tests tied to teacher evaluations tied to school report cards, we could put an end to this.  We have more resources than ever before to tackle these issues, but our failure of a Governor ignores these issues.  He assigns people to “serve at the pleasure of the Governor”.  We need to elect leaders and Secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the people!

This is where you come in Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn.  You do not serve at the pleasure of Jack Markell.  You are a publicly elected official.  Prior to your becoming Attorney General, you were the Lieutenant Governor and I watched you chair a very decent IEP Task Force.  I was drawn to you because you spoke succinctly when needed and firm when it was desperately needed.  When you first became Attorney General nine months ago, I saw very positive moves on your part.  The first of which was an Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which I have referred many parents to.  I have yet to see any action coming out of this office Matt.  We don’t see any official reports or press releases coming out of there at all.  Has it really come down to Delaware needing a Department of Bullying and Physical Abuse Against Children?

I truly think it is a good thing that parents can take personal action on individual cases in Delaware.  But they are forced to shut up about it in most situations.  That isn’t justice.  It is covering it up.  It is making the bad stuff (for the guilty party) just go away.  Talk to most parents who go through that process, and they would much rather have worked it out with the school earlier.  If there is not a systemic change, nothing will change.  We will see more Skylines, and Appo bus drivers, and Anne Gullos, and Delaware Mets.  We need YOU Matt Denn to become the Attorney General we elected and become a bully against bullying.  We need YOU to take quick action.  We all know schools are underreporting.  We know stuff gets covered up.  We need you to take action when schools don’t.  Since we are becoming a data mad country anyways, why not give parents access to their child’s e-school report.  It’s a digital world now.  When bullying happens, an email goes to parents and they see it.  And I think your office should have access as well.  We need more heroes and less victims Matt.  Kids need YOU to be that hero.  It has to be YOU.

For the citizens of Delaware, we need you to stop with the high-fiving of how great your kid’s school is in certain areas.  We all know what schools are “the best” and we all know why.  Education shouldn’t be a competition, but our Governor has created this environment.  Race To The Top may be over, but don’t think our schools aren’t competing against each other every single day.  It is all about the stupid test scores for them.  You will be seeing them really concentrating on attendance as well because that is going to be another accountability measure for them.  They always seem to do what the DOE wants them to do, but that does not always translate into doing what is best for the students.  As many Delaware parents already know, they will cover their own ass first.  If they are tackling bullying and “social skills” and “positive behavior supports” for the purpose of driving up test scores, they are completely missing the boat.

Parents are going to start organizing as more and more issues become public and transparent.  It is happening already.  And we don’t like a lot of what we are seeing in our schools, the DOE and Governor Markell.  The drums of war are already starting to beat.  We will only be shushed so many times before we start to get really loud.  We will not be disrespected and we will certainly not let our children be disrespected.  We will not be lied to, and we will not be told one thing only to have it change after administrators get together and have a meeting about it.  We are the parents of the students who you want to take meaningless and useless tests.  We are the parents of students with disabilities.  We are the parents of low-income and poverty students.  We are the parents of the bullied and the abused.  We are the parents of those who are punished without due process.  We are the parents of students whose schools think they know about our children than we do.  We are the parents of students who are also taught by parents.  We are the parents of homeschooled kids.  We are the parents who talk to legislators more and more every day.  We are the parents of students who choice out of school districts.  We are the parents of students who were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Governor Markell severely disrespected.  We are the parents of youth who are already in prison.  We are the parents of the students who are physically restrained.  We are the parents who raise our children by the standards we believe in not what the state wants us to.  We are the parents who vote.  We are the parents who talk about all of this stuff on social media every single day but give a smile and a nod when you see us and you are none the wiser.  We are the parents of Delaware.

Picture of the Week!

This picture was taken at the annual Vision Coalition conference on Wednesday, October 28th during Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s annual “I love Rodel” speech.

JMSHADOW

When Jack talks, you better listen!  I love shadowplay!  Governor Markell has always backed Rodel and their plans.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.  Rodel and Markell are thick as thieves!

Appoquinimink School Bus Driver Bullies Kid Being Bullied

Many have seen this video already, and it is highly disturbing.  This child was being bullied by other students and he yelled to the bus driver to help.  This was her response.  The child’s parents are seething and I don’t blame them one bit.

This is what the parent wrote on Facebook:

This video needs to go viral…this is a video of my 11 year old son getting screamed at by his bus driver. He yelled at her because he felt she wasn’t helping a situation where he was being bullied and then hit several times about the face (we have pictures of his face) by the person bullying him. This is what followed. This is completely unacceptable! We are seething right now!!! We have contracted local authorities, transportation department, school and the local news. We WILL NOT stand for this! Our children need to be protected!!! His Dad and I will make sure this does NOT go away!!!

I agree, and make no mistake, adults can be bullies too.  These parents know how to reach me, and if they need any help with this I am readily available.  This nonsense with adults needs to stop.

Delaware Is Spending Much More Than They Are Taking In. When Will The Mounting Budget Deficit Burst?

Delaware Secretary of Finance Thomas Cook issued the Fiscal Year 2016 Month-End Financial Statement for September 30th a couple weeks ago.  Make no mistake, the First State is spending a lot of money, but our revenues are much less.  And which state agency is spending the most money? One would think it is the Department of Health and Social Services.  Nope.  The Department of Education.  For the month of September, we went from a beginning cash balance of $536,915,269 and we are down to $241,244,740 as of 9/30/15.

This is the elephant in the room that no one can quite tackle.  But everything in this state WILL hinge on this financial monster coming our way.  And it will play a huge part in every single Delaware election next year.  Governor Markell has already checked out and he will keep bantering about how great education in our state is but how far we still need to go.  Ignore him.

You can see the whole thing here:

Will Red Clay Dump WEIC At Their Special Board Meeting? Will Brandywine? Should Christina Teachers Feel Insulted?

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the redistricting of Wilmington schools from Christina to Red Clay has been controversial on its best day.  Colonial is saying no, and it looks like Brandywine might as well.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams attended the redistricting committee meeting the other day, and all sorts of information came to light such as:

Red Clay School Board will be holding a Special Board Meeting on November 2, 2015 starting at 5:30 at Red Clay’s District Office. The board may be taking action with regards to WEIC.

But where is the agenda for this Special Board meeting? I can’t see it anywhere on their board docs.  The only notice of it is here.  How long has this been planned?  Next week begins budget discussions with state agencies.  With a very large looming budget deficit, more than the public really knows (more on that later), there will not be funding for this initiative without making huge cuts to something else.  Has the Red Clay board seen the light, or is this just another meeting to talk about things?

Brandywine School District would like to maintain the current school boundaries.

I’m not certain how much this will impact things as Brandywine has never been a big player in all of this, but with both of the “other” districts backing out it sends a clear message.

Brandywine School Board will bring forward a board resolution at their next school board meeting with regards to WEIC.

Sounds like Colonial and Brandywine are on the same page.

DSEA is very concerned about teachers losing their job because of this plan; district lines being redrawn.

As they should be.  Where would those teachers go?

Dr. Daugherty replied back to DSEA and said Red Clay is not going to guarantee that Red Clay will hire everyone from the Christina schools. Christina schools will become a part of the Red Clay School District.

This is just wrong in my opinion.  Unless it is a reduction in work force.  Red Clay already has some of the most bloated classrooms in the state.  If I were Christina, I would back out unless their teachers have a written and assured safety net.

A comment was made, if the plan is just to move district lines and rename schools and not provide any resources or funding; don’t bother moving any further with this plan.

I agree.  It sounds exactly what Delaware State Board of Education member Pat Heffernan said a couple weeks ago at their meeting.

My fear of Red Clay dumping WEIC is the aftermath.  Will Governor Markell step in and issue an executive order “for the kids”?  My gut tells me he will.  Which is also going to be the time we start hearing the words “impeachment” if he does.  That type of executive decision would certainly shed some light on this and would gel with everything that has been going on behind the scenes for years.  Or I could just be paranoid…

State Rep. Sean Matthews Reflects On The Waste To The Top

Many legislators are resistant to the Markell-given power of the Delaware Department of Education, but State Rep. Sean Matthews truly gets it.  I have watched Rep. Matthews, in less than a year, become one of the leading voices against corporate education reform.  He speaks truth!  He recognized the reform movement is an illusionary power and the true power exists in the hearts and voices of our educators, students and parents.  It is past time we yield that power as a force for change!

One of my co-teachers was recycling some old papers today. We found a school calendar from several years before Race to the Top, DCAS, testing-mania, etc came into effect. It was interesting to see how few days were spent on state testing as compared to our current State-mandated testing requirements. Are we better off for all these new days, hours and efforts spent on more standardized testing? Are kids learning more? Is our “reform” test/punish/test/punish cycle working? Recent NAEP data would say no. We have think-tanks and “reformers” with scant teaching experience driving the education agenda. Teachers/parents/students, take back your power!

Breaking News: Vision Coalition Not Offering Eclairs To Citizens, Just Coffee

This just in.  The attendees at the annual Vision Coalition conference get eclairs.  However, they have to pay an admittance fee to the shindig.  I just got an email indicating the Vision Coalition will be holding public meetings in each county between November and January at the big libraries for each county.  The kicker though is they are not offering the eclairs, just coffee.  As Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks once said, that better be “a damn fine cup of coffee”.  Speaking of Twin Peaks, if you go, you will see a lot of the same logic applied by Herdman and friends at these meetings.  I would say I’m shocked they aren’t offering Kool-Aid, but they really are….

d0079a26-ffdb-4e33-b2f9-605000006255

WDEL’s Rick Jensen Slams Rep. Earl Jaques Over First Amendment Rights & Attempts To Suppress Rep. John Kowalko

Rick Jensen of WDEL fame replied to the stunning attempt by Rep. Earl Jaques to silence Rep. John Kowalko from an email chain yesterday and put Jaques in his rightful place on the issue:

Earl Jacques,

The viewpoints of any State Representative or State Senator on public policy are absolutely permitted (and encouraged) for public dissemination via official email.

What should outrage every journalist and supporter of the First Amendment is Earl Jacques trying to suppress the comments of a Rep who disagrees with him.

Kowalko does, indeed base his opinions on facts, Mr. Jacques.

As many people on this list you made public know, Mr. Jacques, I may not agree with many of them on many issues, but I have never tried to suppress their professional opinions as you are attempting with Mr. Kowalko.  In fact, I invite the contrast and debate for our many thousands of listeners to decide for themselves which policies to support and which to work against.

Are you going to try to suppress everyone on this email list when they disagree with you about some policy, Mr. Jacques?

Rick Jensen

Talk Show Host / Syndicated Columnist

WDEL AM&FM / Cagle Syndicate

2727 Shipley Rd.

Wilmington, DE  19810

(302) 478-2700 x170

Rick@WDEL.Com

@TheJensenShow

Updated, 12:16pm:  And it gets even more heated! Because Earl responded to Rick Jensen!

From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) [mailto:Earl.Jaques@state.de.us]
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2015 11:32 AM
To: Jensen, Rick <rjensen@dbcmedia.com>
Subject: Re: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

First Rick, my name is spelled JAQUES – no “c”.  No I’m not in anyway trying to suppress his opinion.  He has every right to his opinion as do you and I.  But I just don’t think that the state email system is the best place for this type of comments.  Maybe a better place would be a “Letter to the Editor” or a posting on a blog.  Finally, you are making the assumption that I disagree with Rep Kowalko.  But no where in my email do I state that as the reason for him not posting on the state email system.  I just don’t believe that the state email system is the place for his bias opinion and rants!

And Jensen quickly shot a retort to Jaques!

From: “Jensen, Rick” <rjensen@dbcmedia.com>

Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2015 12:06 PM
Subject:
RE: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

Earl “Jaques not Jacques,”

If you’re so concerned about lawmakers sharing their “bias opinion and rants” with fellow stakeholders on state.de.us email, then why are you ranting your “bias opinion” to me on state email?

Every opinion has bias. Bias per ideology, bias per research, bias per studies, etc.  The problem is your declaring a State Rep has no business communicating his or her opinion on policy to fellow stakeholders via state email.

Would you please forward to this email address of all of your state.de.us emails to see if, perhaps, you have followed your own prescription?

Feel free to omit those emails that pertain to personal and sensitive information from and about constituents.

Respectfully,

Rick Jensen

Delaware Today Article Has Overwhelming Bias For Wilmington Charter Schools

The November issue of Delaware Today hit the stands, and controversy surrounding an article on Wilmington charter schools is already beginning.  The article, written by Melissa Jacobs, does not even mention the four surrounding traditional school districts: Christina, Red Clay, Brandywine or Colonial.  It gives the illusion that these students would be complete failures unless they attend a charter with Teach For America corps members.  It is highly disrespectful of the hard work traditional school districts do for these students.

Any article that props up the Charter School of Wilmington as the greatest school in Delaware is going to immediately be on my radar.

Other kids find it in other charters. Three of them—Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks—are housed in the Community Education Building on French Street. Delaware Met just opened its doors nearby. All-boys Prestige Academy is older. It’s true that some of the city’s charter schools have stumbled. But others have excelled, like the Charter School of Wilmington, which was ranked No. 15 in Newsweek’s 2015 list of America’s top high schools.

The reporter failed to even mention CSW’s enrollment practices and specific interest clause which results in a very skewed population of students in a Wilmington School.  As of their 2014-2015 school profile, CSW had 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic-Latino, and .2% students with disabilities.  Meanwhile, far surpassing any school in the state, they had a population of 26.4% Asian students.  Their demographics do not even come close to matching the surrounding schools in Wilmington.

Aside from Howard High School in the New Castle County Vocational District, no other traditional Wilmington schools are mentioned.  This is a puff piece on charters and I have to wonder why that is.  I am usually suspicious when Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation is quoted in an article:

“We are at a juncture of potentially profound hope for Wilmington’s schools,” says Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a nonprofit committed to creating a first-class educational system in the state by 2020.

Last Winter, I wrote an article concerning potential preferential treatment given to charter school teachers and the development of the Market Street Village apartments.  While Governor Markell’s office quickly debunked this theory, the article in the News Journal mentioned the Buccini/Pollin Group as providing this effort to attract teachers:

The new units will add to the 800 units Buccini/Pollin has already built in Wilmington, including 116 at The Residences of Harlan Flats, a luxury apartment property that opened last month along the Riverfront.

The Delaware Today article references the very same group as working with Great Oaks Charter School to attract certain kinds of teachers to Wilmington:

 With an ancillary mission of improving the community, Great Oaks worked with local developers Buccini/Pollin Group to find or create housing for its 37 AmeriCorps-funded tutors. Those now housed in various BPG apartment buildings on Market Street drive a need for restaurants and nightlife. And if the record from other cities with Great Oaks schools holds, a third of each year’s cohort will find permanent jobs and remain in the city after their year of service.

What concerned me the most about the article is the following part which flies in the face of the charter school moratorium in place with House Bill 56 w/Amendment #1 passed last Spring by the 148th General Assembly and signed by Governor Markell.

In the 2014-15 school year, 2,475 of the 11,575 students in Wilmington attended charter schools. That’s more than a fifth of the city’s school-aged children. And in two years, with the planned openings of new schools, charters will provide capacity for half of the city’s school-aged children. Six of the current charters call downtown home.

There is only one charter scheduled to open up next year in Wilmington, and that is the Delaware STEM Academy.  No applications for new charters were approved by the Delaware DOE last year, so where are all these new charters coming from?  Where do the estimated 3,300 students not currently attending charters currently go to school?  This makes me highly suspicious of a foul stench surrounding this article and plans in place that are not fully transparent to the public.  I have a strong suspicious many legislators in Delaware are not aware of these plans either as those who oppose the massive charter school push in Delaware would have surely mentioned this by now.  This article completely contradicts the view that there are already way too many charter schools in Wilmington and the reporter needs to reveal who told her about these new charters scheduled to open which will more than double the amount of Wilmington students attending charters.

As well, Paul Herdman talks about the role charter high schools play in Wilmington, and he made a completely false statement:

Though critics of public education in Wilmington make much of the fact that there is no traditional public school in the city, Herdman notes that there are three, each with a specific educational emphasis.

I’m not sure if Rodel and Herdman are aware, but charter schools are not traditional public schools.   They are uniquely different and it was specifically written into the original Delaware charter bill that these are not the same as traditional public schools.  Charter School of Wilmington, Freire and Delaware Met are not traditional public schools and the last of them may not even survive past the current school year.

This article poses a great deal of questions that deserve immediate answers.

Updated, 11:17am: Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the Vice Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wrote the following on my Facebook page:

In defense of the article’s participants, Laurisa Schutt (TFA) referred the Philly-based author to Tony (Allen)/WEIC, assuming they might be interested in a broader vision for Wilmington’s ed landscape. Needless to say, the author made it fairly clear she was not.

I did a quick check on the author, Melissa Jacobs, and could not find any real connections with charter schools but I did find one where she promotes education reform and the charter movement in the same article.  Her LinkedIn profile doesn’t even show her as a writer for Delaware Today, but does show her as an Associate Editor at Main Line Today out of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and a freelance writer for the Pennsylvania Gazette, an alumni magazine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Power Women Today 2013

This gets more bizarre by the minute…

Christina Superintendent Freeman Williams Submits Retirement Letter

The on-leave Superintendent of the Christina School District, Freeman Williams, submitted a retirement letter to the district effective February, 2016.  In August, Williams went on a leave status which prompted the Christina Board of Education to hire an Acting Superintendent.  Former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski is the current Acting Superintendent, but Christina’s Board must now look for a new and permanent Superintendent.

The first time I met Freeman was 13 months ago at a special board meeting at Christina surrounding the priority schools.  I found him to be very cordial and respectful, and he was greatly concerned about the priority status designated to the three Christina schools.  I attended quite a few Christina board meetings in the next five months and watched them systematically and efficiently hold back the Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell from making rash and hasty decisions over the Christina priority schools.

The last time I saw Freeman was at the Imagine Delaware Forum back in March.  I had a very pleasant discussion with him concerning House Bill 50 and parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which he supported.  Whatever his reason for retirement, I wish him the best and I hope he enjoys his time away from the crazy education environment we live in.

As Christina will assuredly attempt another referendum in 2016 amidst severe financial issues, the search will be on for a new Superintendent.  This district needs a very strong leader who can rally the people in favor of Christina.  While some think Christina may wind up in receivership by the end of the year, I would prefer to have hope.  The long-term impact of charters has definitely siphoned off a great deal of local funding due to many of the students in Christina’s feeder pattern choicing out to charters, and the emergence of so many new charters in Wilmington this school year alone has definitely had a negative effect.  Now is the time for Christina to strongly promote their strengths and eliminate their weaknesses.  What many don’t realize is Christina also holds the Delaware Autism Program and the Delaware School for the Deaf.  That could cause tremendous problems for the students involved if they have to transition out of the existing programs.

Anani Maas Returns And Looks At The Big Picture At Delaware Met

This is the second guest article by Anani Maas in a week, and I have to say I am very impressed! Thank you Anani!

By Anani Maas
Delaware Educator
In response to the discussion on the Delaware MET and the interest in their model, here are some things that I know about Big Picture Learning:
1. It is a charter chain with over 60 schools nationwide.  The first school was opened in Rhode Island in 1995.  They are non-profit, but that doesn’t mean the founders aren’t bringing in big bucks.  If I were a teacher there and I was making peanuts while the leaders are pulling big $$, I’d be pretty mad.
2. It sounds good. From their website: “In the schools that Big Picture Learning envisioned, students would take responsibility for their own education. They would spend considerable time doing real work in the community under the tutelage of volunteer mentors and they would not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests. Instead, students would be assessed on their performance, on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, heart, and behavior that they display – reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.” – See more at: http://www.bigpicture.org/big-picture-history/#sthash.ecQGJHsw.dpuf
The problem with good theories is that they are hard to replicate, and hard to meld with DE state requirements.   Delaware requires charter school students to take standardized tests and those tests determine their funding and charter renewal, no matter what their model describes. So, the charter will have to decide to trust their model and risk reduction in funding and difficulty in renewal, OR, teach to the test anyway and attempt to do both.  This almost always means that the model cannot be followed with fidelity.
I personally agree with the model IN THEORY, but as an educator, I know that educational theories and educational realities are usually not the same thing!  For example, their model says students SHOULD take responsibility for their learning.  So, what is their plan if a student doesn’t?  They also say that students will be assessed on their habits of mind, hands, heart, etc.  Again, I ask, what is the plan if students come with horrible attitudes, bad habits, poor motivation, low skill levels, and etc.  What if they won’t or can’t find mentors?  What if the students use their freedom to do nothing at all, or worse, to harm and take advantage of others?
We don’t live in utopia, we live in a real city with students with real problems.  Having good intentions and great ideas isn’t enough to help students who are at-risk!  They need resources, wrap-around services, guidance counseling, qualified educators, etc.  If the school isn’t providing these things, then all the theories and research in the world won’t help them.  In fact, removing them from a school that has those services could actually be hurting them.  Why would you choose to put children who need the MOST resources in a school with the LEAST?
3. They exist through grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as others.  Because Big Picture Learning is promoting “individual” learning, each student needs a computer, and Gates supports those kinds of charter schools.
4. Their website does not offer any independent research that has been done on the model outside of that performed by the founders themselves.  This sounds like more radical changes to education not based on research.

Earl Jaques Tries To Silence And Censor John Kowalko On Email Chain

Earlier this evening, Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko sent an email to over a hundred people about his thoughts on the latest round of NAEP scores, which are showing a downward trend.  Several folks responded, including State Rep. Earl Jaques.  What Jaques did is symptomatic of what is wrong in Delaware politics.  Follow the email chain, and let me know if you agree or disagree with Jaques.


From: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:06 PM
To: Bennett, Andria (LegHall); acherry@wdel.com; aloudell@dbcmedia.com; al@wdel.com; Bohm, Adriana L (K12); albydm@aol.com; “alan@greendel.org”; Alyssa Van Stan; amywroe@gmail.com; Volturo, Andrew (LegHall); Bradley, Juanita V (K12); Short, Bryon (LegHall); Baumbach, Paul (LegHall); Townsend, Bryan (LegHall); Hall-Long, Bethany (LegHall); Mike Begatto; Bentz, David (LegHall); Torbert, Betty (K12); “Graves, Bianca”; Bolden, StephanieT (LegHall); Bush, William (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); cciferni1972@gmail.com; Thompson, Cathy (K12); Carson, William (LegHall); Collins, Richard G (LegHall); Yvonne; downwithabsolutes@gmail.com; Rufo, Donato (K12); “dresler@verizon.net”; Sokola, David (LegHall); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); Wilson, David L (LegHall); “delawaregrapevine@comcast.net”; Hudson, Deborah (LegHall); Nelia Dolan; john_allison@comcast.net; Mitchell, John L (LegHall); Viola, John (LegHall); kevino3670@yahoo.com; Keeley, Helene (LegHall); kempskim@comcast.net; kenhaas@udel.edu; Osienski, Edward (LegHall); eve.buckley@gmail.com; Minnehan, Harrie E (K12); Paige, Elizabeth (K12); Henry, Margaret Rose (LegHall); hegedusfamily@comcast.net; frederika.jenner@dsea.org; Polaski, Fred (K12); Newton, Faith (K12); “flally@council81.org”; Frank Sims; Katie Gifford; Brady, Gerald (LegHall); gerri.coble@dsea.org; george.evans@christina.k12.de.us; Godowsky, Steven (K12); hegedusfamily@comcast.net; McDowell, Harris (LegHall); Kenton, Harvey (LegHall); Jackie Hilderbrand Kook; Hudson, Deborah (LegHall); jdf0000@aol.com; jyd1988@gmail.com; james.dawson@wdde.org; Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall); Spiegelman, Jeff (LegHall); Bradley, Juanita V (K12); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Peterson, Karen (LegHall); kavips2006@yahoo.com; kempskim@comcast.net; Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); lehman@bgisolutions.com; lpkaplan@comcast.net; Lindell, Matt (K12); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); lewis@udel.edu; Lindell, Matt (K12); Longhurst, Valerie (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Matthews, Michael J (K12); malbright@delawareonline.com; Nancyvwilling@yahoo.com; Tyler Nixon; Braddock, Nicole (K12); Marshall, Jayne O (K12); Piccio, Mike (K12); Sedacca, Paul A (K12); Paradee, Trey (LegHall); Puffer, Richard (LegHall); Johnson, Quinton (LegHall); rick@wdel.com; Marshall, Robert (LegHall); Ramone, Michael (LegHall); Zoe Read; Rivera, Brie E.; robgiff@gmail.com; BriggsKing, Ruth (LegHall); Thompson, Seth (LegHall); Frank Sims; tbarchak@nea.org; tobinpolitics@yahoo.com; “terri.hodges@delawarepta.org”; Williams, Freeman (K12); Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal); andy@pasenate.com; Yearick, Lyndon D (LegHall); Young, John (K12); Yvonne
Subject: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

 Dear all please read and seriously consider the harmful effects foisted on our children by these “education reform” salesmen. The NAEP test is one of the most widely used, highly respected and proven (over decades) accurate assessments of education results. If this latest development doesn’t strike a warning chord in any of you that consider themselves as advocates for children and public education than I’m afraid it’s time for an introspective look we all should take.

Representative John Kowalko

Here is part of my response to a media interview regarding my feelings as to why NAEP scores went down and my conclusion why that occurred.

Very simply put Markell’s, Arnie’s, RODEL’s, Gates’, and all of the other (for personal profit) “education reformists” have foisted a failed system on our children with a horribly harmful result under the guise of a “common core” system that is ruining America’s and Delaware’s public education structure and willfully hurting children. Brief statement follows:

Scores down for NAEP
They’ve changed the curriculum. When they are now teaching algebra and geometry (under common core) in 3rd grade what are they not teaching or no longer teaching. If kids don’t truly understand and know multiplication, how are they going to perform the higher level skills required?
The NAEP is a generalized test given to kids all over the world. It is a consistent and reliable measure of comparison. You can’t “study” for it. So when we look at countries that do well (i.e. Finland/New Zealand) and see that their curriculums are nothing like what we have just adopted/imposed we should ask “what are we doing”?
Common Core is not a curriculum but it is so specific in its standards that it becomes a de-facto curriculum. Covering those prescribed “standards” forces teachers to teach only those skills. This presents two significant problems. There is no time for anything else and teachers are being handed a curriculum and much like the “Balanced Assessment Test”, it is being written (and profited from) by the same people who wrote common core who are (in most cases) not qualified teachers in these fields.


Editor’s note: to save space, I’m not going to keep copying the to: part of the email.


From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) <Earl.Jaques@state.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:39 PM

John,

Your personal views shouldn’t be part of our email system.  Your email isn’t based on any facts but filled with innuendoes and bias against people you dislike.  Please take your postings to the blogs – not on the state email system!!

Earl Jaques


On Oct 28, 2015, at 6:58 PM, Rufo Donato wrote:

Hey earl
I like john and what he is doing…. He cares… Seems like your email is the snippy one….
When your in politics you have to learn how to deal with things….

Perhaps you should start to blog…. Maybe then people will know who’s side your on….

Donato C. Rufo

Social Studies Teacher

NCCVTEA President

From: Matthews Michael <michael.matthews@redclay.k12.de.us>

I have no problem with Rep. Kowalko’s email because, in essence, it directly calls out the leaders of the failed, multi-billion dollar policies at the state and national level that have most assuredly contributed to the embarrassing drop in NAEP scores.
We’ve had 15 years of education reform policies under Bush/Obama/Markell.  Those policies have includes — but are not limited to — more charter schools, more testing, most consultants, RttT, fewer reading and math specialists, more bloated bureaucracy at the Department of Education, more threatened school closures and turnaround, PLCs, “deep data dives,” “rigor,” “grit,” Teach for America, priority schools, focus schools, focus plus schools, Charter School Performance Fund monies for schools who a) don’t show a financial need for it or b) have shown no track record to deserve it, data coaches from FOX News’ Wireless Generation…need I go on?
The same policies and ideologies towards which millions of dollars have been ostensibly wasted all in the name of student achievement and heightened teacher accountability that could have been used to provide immediate supports to our neediest of schools. These are the policies of the last 15 years that have attempted to corporatized and privatize our schools.
And you know what? They’ve failed. Miserably. The gold standard of assessment — the NAEP — tells us we’ve failed. And you know who takes this stuff the hardest? The classroom teachers and specialists who’ve been saying for years that failed policies under two presidential administrations and this governor have given many cause to quit well before they’ve hit their peak.
It’s too late for the kids who’ve already gone through the system these last 15 years. Will we have the courage to stop the insanity NOW so we don’t risk the future of the next generation of kids?
Mike Matthews

From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 7:45 PM

Earl,

Your email epitomizes the problem. The state system is the peoples’ system. Why are you so concerned with stifling it? Why do you deign to denigrate John’s email as if it not informed by taxpaying constituents? Who are you to silence opinion and debate? Who elected you Governor? Our tax dollars pay for this, so you should probably consider it an EXPEDITED FOIA request.

I echo Mike Matthews sentiment completely.

Why don’t you show up to another CEA meeting and berate them over Opt Out again after it passed out of your committee and overwhelmingly by your colleagues after you declared the possibility of such as ZERO.  This is the peoples’ bully pulpit and I am deeply offended that an elected official, fresh off of calling my son a quitter over his parents’ reasoned decision to opt him out of high stakes tests would dare stifle dissent in such a brazen, callous manner. Tests imposed by this Governor, with your overt, glowing approval that have clearly been ineffective by the way. That was John’s point, and it is not only true, it resonates.

Why don’t you go read the Race to the Top Grant Application: https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/delawares-race-to-the-top-grant-application/and check the goals with the results. Get back to me when you realize the depth of failure you have chosen to embrace.

We need more John Kowalko’s and less Earl Jaques’. We need elected representative who actually understand representative republics and know that the House they do their work in is only on a visitor’s pass and at the exclusive behest of the people they represent.

Lastly, you are free to denigrate the blogs, but know this: we are the last line of truth in a free society, free from corporate influence.  Feel free to attack bloggers all you want, but we are not going away. We live to hold ill informed, power hungry, tin-eared politicians like yourself accountable.

John, thank you for speaking truth to power. Everyone does not have to, nor should agree with you at times, but they should never ignore you or denigrate your motives.

Earl, thanks for confirming what we already knew about your iron-fisted, bullying and intimidating style. It went out of fashion in 1985, but thanks for keeping it alive. (sarcasm intended)

John Young


Editor’s note: I sent a reply but I couldn’t reply to all with Yahoo, so I asked Rep. Kowalko to forward it to the recipients.


From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:57 PM
To:
Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall)
Cc:
Kowalko, John (LegHall); Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall)
Subject: Re: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

Earl,
I applaud Rep. Kowalko for getting the word out on these matters.  It shows courage and conviction that some legislators won’t dare to show for fear of opposing Governor Markell.  The only reason I am not including everyone on this email is because my yahoo Email won’t allow me to respond to that many people.  Just my two cents: I would listen to John.  I’m sorry you don’t see the inherent danger with what Governor Markell and others have done to education, but this path is clearly not good for Delaware students.  My best suggestion for you Rep. Jaques: You can either sink with the ship or grab ahold of a life-jacket as soon as possible.
Furthermore, by not personally sending John a reply with just him, you are using the very same email system you don’t want him using.  That seems odd, but putting a fellow State Rep. down over something and accusing him of bias without any facts is completely false.  I believe he is showing facts based on data from the NAEP scores that education reform isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I saw you battle John during the House Education Committee meeting over House Bill 50, and it was almost like you had a personal grudge against him.  There is no place in Delaware politics for that and I hope we don’t see that kind of behavior again come January.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt

Earl, Earl, Earl, when are you ever going to learn?  You can’t silence people like that.  You need to let the people speak, whether it’s through opt-out or public comment.  Legislators are not exempt from public comment.

Delaware DOE To Form Working Group For Charter Schools & Organizational Framework

Move over AFWG, there’s a new, uhm, FWG coming to town!  The Delaware Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE looks like they are gearing to change the organizational part of the charter school Performance Framework.  This is mighty interesting, and I have to wonder how this came about.  Perhaps many of the events going on at some of the newer charters that opened this year?  Like Delaware Met, First State Military Academy, Freire, and Delaware Design Lab High School.  This could cover a lot of issues several Delaware charters go through, such as board transparency, charter heads of school going crazy with money, and leadership which is vitally needed at the newer charters.  Maybe Kilroy’s lifelong dream of having charters record their board meetings will come out of this!

Here’s the way I look at this: charters aren’t going anywhere and neither are traditional school districts.  Since charters are public schools but get more leeway for how they do things, they are also under the microscope more.  I’ve actually heard some charters say they would prefer more accountability so they can ensure they are doing the right thing and not wind up on formal review.  Charters in Delaware have had a few rough years, starting with Pencader.  I will have to assume these are going to be public meetings.  The last things charter schools in Delaware need are closed-door secret meetings.  If I know Jennifer Nagourney at the DOE, this will be very transparent.  She has done an excellent job with transparency of charters on the DOE website.

My suggestion?  They may not want to make this JUST charter related members.  Having the perspective of a traditional school district financial administrator, board member or superintendent could potentially help charters to see things in different ways they may not be used to.  And it would go a long way towards the charter-district collaboration that was discussed at the Vision Quest thing today.  Just my two cents!  Here comes the OFWG!

Call for Organizational Framework Working Group Members

The DDOE is convening a working group to review the Organizational component of the Performance Framework. The Organizational Framework Working Group (OFWG) will review the existing Organizational Framework against national models and requirements under Delaware law. The OFWG will also identify areas of potential further improvement and potentially make recommendations for future changes.  
Who We Are Looking For: A total of 10-12 participants from Delaware charter schools (may include school leaders, board members, administrators, parents, teachers, and community partners)
Time Commitment: A maximum of 6 3-hour meetings from November to February (exact times and dates to be determined when group formed)
Deadline to Express Interest in Participating: November 13 
How to Express Interest in Participating: Complete the form below:
Name *

  • E-mail *
  • Charter School *
  • Affiliation *

    Charter School Leader
    Board Member
    Charter School Staff
    Parent
    Community Partner
    Other

  • Why do you think you would a good addition to the Organizational Framework Working Group?
  • Submit

Delaware Senate Confirms Secretary Of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

Dr. Steven Godowsky is the new Secretary of Education in Delaware.  Today, the Delaware Senate voted 19-2 to confirm Dr. Godowsky to serve at the pleasure of the Governor as the new Secretary of Education.  The sole nay votes belonged to Delaware Senators Colin Bonini and Greg Lavelle.  Red Clay Educators Association Mike Matthews was present at the Senate Confirmation and put a lot out there on Twitter.

Mapleton Charter Withdraws Modification, Has To Start Over With New Application

Mapleton Charter School has withdrawn its major modification request to move to Dover and change their name to Discovery Charter School according to David Paulk with the Dover Post.  I have to give the board a heads up for recognizing they were not prepared to open up in the 2016-2017 school year and avoiding some of the huge mistakes like Delaware Met this year.  I admit I was concerned when I looked at their modification request and only saw a budget for one special education teacher with an anticipated 200 students.  You know at least 30 of them would be students with disabilities, if not more.  But perhaps they recognized this along with other matters and they are being proactive.

Allison May with the Delaware DOE said:

“If Mapleton decides to withdraw its modification application and forfeit its charter, then the school approved to open in Middletown next year will not open,” she said. “The involved parties could submit a new application for another school, including one in Dover as their modification application suggested. If so, that would go through the entire application process again just like any other new applicant.”

But not so fast, because House Bill 56 with Amendment #1 states no new charter schools shall open in Delaware unless they were previously approved until June 30th, 2018, or until the State Board makes a better plan for all of this.  From HB56:

Section 2. There shall be a moratorium on all new charter schools opening until June 30, 2018 or until the State Board of Education develops a strategic plan for the number of charter, district, and vocational-technical schools in the State, whichever occurs first. The aforementioned strategic plan shall be based on a systematic evaluation of educational needs using national models and best practices that align with the public education system, such as the National Association of Charter School Authorizers guidelines.

This strategic plan is the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities currently under review by the State Board of Education and the Delaware Department of Education.  While I am sure they will be completed with this prior to 6/30/18, how does that work with applications?  If they can’t approve a charter for opening in 2017 if the review isn’t done, how can this school open in 2017?  This will be one to watch.

The legislation passed last year which placed a moratorium on new charter schools applies to Wilmington

Kevin Welner: Reformers, Please Stop Making Excuses for NAEP Scores!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Kevin Welner, executive director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, has advice for the test-loving reformers: Stop making excuses!

For the past 15 years or more, a passel of organizations have pushed test-based accountability; they never met a test they didn’t like and they used test scores to bash teachers and American public education. They ARE the status quo. They own the U.S. Department of Education. Their views are backed by federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act, and by the billions handed out by the federal Race to the Top. They have had the admiration and financial support of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, and dozens of other philanthropic (testophilic) foundations. Their theory was simple: More testing will produce higher achievement; test scores can be used to weed out bad teachers; test scores can be used to fire teachers and principals…

View original post 695 more words

Vision Coalition & Student Success 2025 Is A Joke, All The Kiss-Asses Need To Stop The Charade #vcconf15

I’ve been following the live tweets from the Vision Coalition and their idiotic Student Success 2025 most of the morning.  I see lots of district admins, Delaware PTA reps, teachers and legislators buying into this absolute nonsense.  All you are doing is lining up the pockets of Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman and his corporate education reform buddies.  Enough.  You attend this event expecting some kind of miracle every year, and it is more of the same.  Endless talk with no true progress.  The NAEP scores came out today, and students did worse.  Smarter Balanced is a complete failure.  You talk and talk and do nothing about the true problems: crap like this making its way into the classroom.  All this talk about personalized learning…you have no idea what you are turning children into.  Drones for the millionaires and hedge fund managers.  And who is going to pay for all this?  Our state is facing a probable $200 million dollar deficit in the coming months, and you want to spend more money.  While funds are siphoned out of the classroom for these events?  Come on people, wake up!

If you want to do something meaningful for Delaware students, stop attending events like this.  Get in the classrooms, see what teachers really need.  See what students need.  Personalized learning is not it.  Standards-Based IEPs are not it.  You can talk about community and parent engagement all you want, but I guarantee you the bulk of the parents in this state could not give a rat’s ass about this kind of thing.  Stop trying to reinvent the wheel.  All you are doing is making clowns like Paul Herdman rich.  And trust me, he is laughing all the way to the bank.  He likes to talk about unintended consequences a lot.  You have no idea what just attending an event does to the students you like to think you represent.  If you are there for the awesome eclairs, I get it.  But if you are there to go back to your district, school, or association and fill heads up with all these great ideas, you are barking up the wrong tree.

I’m sure Jack Markell will give some rousing speech to go along with all the other bs you heard today.  Don’t forget about the students and stop going to these “all-star country club” events.  You are all culprits in the traps being set for students and teachers by merely attending.  You should be supporting a nationwide push to get outside companies the hell out of education.  You should be digging your heels in against standardized testing and all it’s punishment tactics.  Support opt-out.  Support special education.  Stop bullying.  Turn the discussion on how we can lift children out of poverty and reduce crime.  Stop with the apparent racism that exists in our state.  Stop the segregation and the tactics used to make it continue.  This isn’t education, it is a corporation.

Dr. Godowsky’s Big Day! From Vision To Senate Confirmation!

Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Acting Delaware Secretary of Education, is expected to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate in an Executive Session at 2:30pm today.  Earlier this morning, he gave a speech at the Student Success 2025 event sponsored by the Vision Coalition and tons of corporate education reform companies.  I’m hearing lots of good things about Dr. Godowsky, but I am cautiously optimistic.  The Delaware Senate needs to grill him on what his true intentions are.  If he is just there to follow Governor Markell’s bidding, he should step away now before Delaware students come under more harm with false ideologies and tainted dogma coming from the destroyers of public education.

We all know many are in attendance at Student Success 2025 for the eclairs.  No one is fooled.