Delaware DOE Responds To Current Discipline Issues At Delaware Met

Yesterday, I wrote an article about some very concerning events at Delaware Met.  I emailed the Delaware Department of Education about these concerns, along with legislators, Governor Markell, and Attorney General Matt Denn.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked the DOE to look at the amount of in-school suspensions as well to which Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman responded today:


From: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
To:
Baumbach Paul <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc:
Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew <matthew.denn@state.de.us>; Williams Kimberly <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Matthews Sean <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Gray Teri <teri.gray@sbe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Young Shana <Shana.Young@doe.k12.de.us>; Carwell John <john.carwell@doe.k12.de.us>; Whalen Michelle <Michelle.Whalen@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Friday, October 23, 2015 2:32 PM
Subject:
RE: Delaware Met

Representative Baumbach,

DOE staff visited Delaware Met yesterday afternoon to investigate the alleged violations of students rights.  Below is a summary of their observations relative to the specific allegations reported by Mr. Ohlandt:

  • Hiring prison guards – The school has hired four new support staff to help address the school’s climate issues.  They began working at the school on Monday. Two of these individuals have backgrounds in juvenile corrections and currently serve a number of Delaware Met students in external community based programs. 
  • Multiple suspensions – It appears that the school is attempting to be more consistent with holding students accountable to the code of conduct which might explain a spike in suspensions. The exact number of suspensions will be verified.
  • Inappropriate student confinements – There was no evidence of inappropriate student confinements. DDOE staff observed the In School Suspension (ISS) room.   There were 2-3 students in the room. 

DOE will continue to monitor the school and investigate potential violations of the school’s charter through the formal review process. 

Many thanks, David



My biggest concern is how special education and IEPs are being implemented with fidelity at Delaware Met.  And as I wrote earlier today, there seems to be confusion with their Code of Conduct, discipline efforts, and their Restorative Justice approach.  In essence, I’m sure there is a lot we aren’t being told about what the exact nature is of the offenses students are committing that warrant suspension.  From what I am hearing from Blowman, the school may be administering a type of zero-tolerance program in an attempt to instill order in the school.  I do not think that is viable solution, nor is it a positive long-term action.  It takes more students out of the classroom and away from education.  I have not seen anything coming from this school to indicate they are making the best decisions or even know how to.  But can parents of suspended students afford to wait until the State Board of Education makes a decision in mid-December?  And even then, if they ultimately wind up deciding to revoke the school’s charter, it would not be until the end of the school year.  How much damage can happen until then?

As well, I have heard numerous references to “gang-related” activity, both from third parties and the DOE’s own Formal Review notification letter.  I don’t believe the DOE is equipped as a state agency to handle that type of thing and it may take the Delaware Attorney General’s office getting involved to gage what is truly going on with that aspect of events.

I also have to wonder how well the staff is at dealing with these types of matters.  From what I am hearing, the bulk of the teachers are new.  Do they have the necessary training and development to be able to deal with defiance from students?  Does the administration?  And for that matter, who is running the school?  Is it Sean Gallagher who already has a full-time role as the Executive Director of Leadership at Innovative Schools for the Delaware Leadership Project?  Or is it his intern who Gallagher stated at their 9/28 board meeting would run the “day-to-day” details of the school?  And why has no one questioned the apparent conflict of interest with being paid by both Innovative Schools and the school that makes payments to Innovative Schools?

This culture of silence emanating from the school and their lack of transparency is highly troubling.  Two board members left (which are not changed on their web site), no staff are listed on their website, and no board minutes have been released since their 9/23 meeting even though they have had three board meetings since then (their “special board meetings” on 9/28 and 10/12 and their regular monthly board meeting on 10/21).  We don’t know what their current student enrollment is or even how many students have been suspended in the two months since the school opened.  I’m sure answers will come at the November 4th meeting of the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for Delaware Met’s formal review, but that may be little comfort to students and their parents who want answers now.

Red Clay’s Skyline Middle School Parents Want Change In School Climate, Release Youtube Video

At the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night, several parents of students who attend Skyline Middle School spoke before the board about school climate.  The school has several new students from the City of Wilmington attending the school and parents are very concerned about the 500% increase in suspension rates and a rapid increase in bullying.  Sounds like Skyline needs to be looked at as well as The Delaware Met.  I’m glad the board at Red Clay is taking quick and decisive action on this, but these things just shouldn’t happen under any circumstances.

I just posted the following on Facebook:

The bullying has got to stop. No more excuses. Schools need to be a safe haven for ALL students. Matt Denn, please look into this in ALL Delaware schools. We need to make sure special education is being implemented and done right. We also need to put an end to violence being inflicted on students. No child should ever come home crying and tell his parents he is too scared to go to school. No parent should ever have to stand before a school board and demand change. It just shouldn’t happen.

Teachers: This Is What We Do and Why We Love It

Diane Ravitch's blog

Kate Sacco is a first grade teacher in upstate New York. In this post, she describes the joys and satisfactions of teaching. While many others may complain about the many demand placed on them, Kate writes about the pleasure she takes in her children, the love she feels for each of them, and the awesome responsibility of caring for them.

Public schools are “an amazing place,” she writes.

“I work in an increasingly diverse school. Every year we get more children who are immigrants or refugees and every year our poverty level grows as more families struggle. These children are OURS. At bus duty you see the ratio of students to adults. You see how much they love their teachers and how much the teachers care about these kids. You also see what an awesome responsibility it is to have these children in our care. These children are someone’s…

View original post 379 more words

Science & Social Studies State Assessments Up For Bids By Delaware DOE For 5 1/2 Year Contract With No General Assembly Legislation

The Delaware DOE wants to remove the DCAS Social Studies and Science State Standardized Assessments and have new ones implemented by the 2016-2017 school year.  They currently have a Request for Proposal (RFP) with final bids due by 11/30/15.  You have to love this part of the bid proposal:

The initial term of the resulting Contract(s) will be from the Contract’s effective date, on or about December 31, 2015, through June 30, 2021. The DDOE reserves the right to extend any contract awarded as a result of this Competitive Sealed Proposal (CSP) for as many as five additional annual contracts if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the State of Delaware.

I imagine these new tests will be “more aligned with the Common Core State Standards” and the RFP already states these tests will be a part of the Delaware School Success Framework.  So where does the DOE have the authority to do this?  And where is the oversight?  Look no further than this part of the proposal:

Funding for Contract(s) resulting from this Competitive Sealed Proposal (CSP) is contingent upon approval by the Delaware General Assembly each year of appropriations, limitations, or other expenditure authority.

The DOE estimates the “winner” will be announced around 12/18/15 with a start date of 12/31/15.  While this bid proposal was created on 9/29/15, note at the bottom of page 2 and page 3 what the accountability measures are for proficiency.  Yes, the old participation rate multiplier is in full effect on here even though the Accountability Framework Working Group voted against it and the State Board has yet to make a decision on this.  Couldn’t that affect the bid process somewhat?

And what is the DOE requiring for these tests from a vendor?

require students to demonstrate a range of higher-order, analytical thinking and performance skills in reading, writing, and research based on the depth and complexity of Delaware Social Studies Standards, Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies (grades 6-10 only) and/or Next Generation Science Standards allowing robust information to be gathered for students with varied levels of achievement. A significant portion of total score points come from items that demonstrate a deeper level of knowledge (e.g., represent the high complexity levels designated by taxonomies of cognitive demand).

And which students will be taking these tests?  Currently the DCAS Science assessments are for grades 5,8, and 10 and the DCAS Social Studies is grades 4th and 7th with a High School End of Course for U.S. History.  By the 2019-2020 school year, these tests will be for all students from 3rd through 10th grade, in both Science and Social Studies.

Now if the 147th General Assembly had to approve the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the State Standardized Assessment and the bids for this are due while the General Assembly is out of session (like they did with Smarter Balanced), is this even allowed?  Some legislators in the 147th General Assembly stated they voted yes for the Smarter Balanced legislation (House Bill 334) because Mark Murphy and the DOE already bought it.  Can the 148th General Assembly prevent the very same mistake from happening again before a contract is signed and sealed?  Especially when the plan is to have even more students taking these assessments?

To read the whole contract, see below:

Updated: I read through the text of House Bill 334, which allowed the Smarter Balanced invasion in Delaware (even though  the DOE already signed a contract with American Institutes for Research to be the test vendor and joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium).  For Science and Social Studies, House Bill 334 states the following:

(c) The assessments referred to in subsection (b) of this section shall measure achievement in readingEnglish language arts and mathematics for students in a minimum of grades 3 through 8 and high school, provided additional grades may be added by the Department. Science and social studies shall be assessed for students at least once in the elementary grades, at least once in the middle grades, and at least once in high school.

It looks like the DOE is taking the “at least once” and running with it.

Delaware Met & Their Code Of Conduct: Circle Time Won’t Solve Some Of The Issues

The Delaware Met’s code of conduct is very confusing.  While it states they are using restorative justice, I am not hearing about it actually being used.  Restorative justice is defined as examining the harm done to an individual or a group and using that in lieu of punishment.  This sounds good in theory, but certain actions will still warrant suspension or other disciplinary measures.

Where it gets very tricky is if the student may not agree to the harm done to others.  If a student believes someone else started something, and they reacted (even if the reaction was stronger than the previous action), they may not see it as completely being their fault.  Where Delaware Met is most likely having issues (if they are even following this philosophy) would be what happens after the student disagrees with the restorative justice discussion.  The student may be suspended for additional days.  Where this becomes a bigger mess is if the student has an IEP.  Federal IDEA law states that if a student is suspended for ten days (whether from one punishment or cumulative punishments), a manifestation determination hearing must occur.  The purpose of this is to determine whether the behavior or actions are a manifestation of the student’s disability.

A parent commented on an article from yesterday about her daughter being out of school for a month.  The shenanigans stemming from this are not surprising given everything I have heard about this school.  Even the Delaware DOE is not seeing restorative justice happening at Delaware Met.  Even more concerning are allegations of “confinement”.  Whether that is an in-school suspension or some other type of disciplinary measure is yet to be determined, but those in authority in the state are looking into this.

To read Delaware Met’s code of conduct, please read the below document: