Just kidding Kendall! But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript! Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well. One clarification which I am now hearing about. The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students. There were about ten of them I am now hearing. According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters. But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:
School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.
That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.
“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.
Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.
I supported this recommendation before it was even made! One important thing to take note of is the timing. The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February. By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:
The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.
A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.
Issues considered by the committee include:
Educational program, specifically:
o Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.
o Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education
Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.
Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.
As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.
I feel bad for these kids. I truly do. It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education. Delaware Met is another thing altogether! I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here. Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision. Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process. Because it isn’t just Delaware Met. Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions. But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains. First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator. I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.
One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning. If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA. For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system. As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that. You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that. Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue. But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.
As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices. I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March. Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave? Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse. I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school. Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing. And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs. I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students. But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records. We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth. I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.
At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed. I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up. First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools. Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.