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….

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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.