Governor Markell Praises Pathways To Prosperity But True Issue Is Impact On Labor Market

In his weekly address, Delaware Governor Jack Markell talked about the Pathways to Prosperity initiative which seems to be his main focus these days.  Remember the “Dear Hillary” letter?  It is no coincidence the Pathways to Prosperity push in Delaware is happening the same time Hillary Clinton is about to secure the Democratic nomination for the next President of the USA.  In the latest “Will he or won’t he?”, Politico talked about the prospect of Jack Markell being Hillary’s nomination for the US Secretary of Education.

But neither Clinton, nor anyone close to her, has approached him about the job, he said. Markell said he’s focused on the final months of his tenure. He’s not sure what he wants to do next, but if it’s education-related, Markell said he’d like an opportunity to work closer to students so he could have more of a direct impact. The position of education secretary seems a little far-removed, he said. “I’m not sure it’s the best leverage point,” Markell said.

I’m not sure how much I believe there has been no discussion about this.  I’ve heard the rumor enough to know there has to be at least a kernel of truth behind it.  Others feel Markell will lead one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of corporate education reform companies that continues to push out the very bad fallacies about public education while they increase their profit at the expense of children.

But what concerns me about the Pathways to Prosperity initiative in Delaware is the effect it can have on our labor market.  While our unemployment is down, wages still aren’t back to what they were before the 2008 recession.  Markell announced 1,000 Delaware students will have internships at Delaware companies this summer, double the amount it was in 2015.  That is free labor for companies.  Which means they don’t have to pay wages.  Which keeps unemployment going.  There are still far too many Delawareans suffering from low salaries, especially with the DuPont merger.  On top of all the tax breaks our General Assembly gave companies in Delaware already this year, the companies are making out like bandits.  As well, handing students certificates in high school to “make sure” they have a better chance of getting a job after high school is a bit misleading.  I believe it is a push to get teenagers to not enroll in four year colleges and instead attend a community college or go straight to the workforce.  Thus pushing the “cradle to grave” theories about education and the workforce.

Markell announced in the video 5,000 students will be enrolled in Pathways programs in Delaware schools in the upcoming school year.  He talked about the “Delaware Promise” that 65% of Delaware graduates will have a college degree or professional certification in the next ten years.  If I know Jack and how this will end up, most of those 65% (if they even reach that) will not have four-year college degrees.  They will have government paid community college degrees or professional certifications.  With this being said, this could give struggling students a chance they may not otherwise have.  But this is also in the continuous era of high-stakes testing and personalized learning that Markell, the DOE, and Rodel push with amazing proficiency.  This is just the endpoint of this atrocious era of public education.  Common Core has, does, and will continue to numb kids from thinking for themselves which allows corporations to truly control kids.  And the data privacy issues are an afterthought to the long-term evil inflicted on our children.

To see the latest kool-aid coming from Jack Markell, watch the video below:

 

Will Prestige Academy Survive Charter Renewal?

The outlook for Prestige Academy is not good in my opinion.  Like I just posted in the Academy of Dover charter renewal article, one of the biggest factors going against the school is the state assessment which is extremely dangerous to any public school in Delaware.  But the biggest danger this school faces is a case of Wilmingtonitis.  There are just too many charter schools in Wilmington and Prestige faces serious enrollment issues.

Despite their recent modification, Prestige still faces enrollment issues.  All Delaware charter schools are required to meet 80% of their enrollment by April 1st before the next academic year begins.  The school was placed on formal review along with two other Delaware charter schools last year.  They barely got their enrollment up by the time they were put on probation as recommended by then Secretary of Education Murphy and passed by the State Board of Education.  According to the Charter School update presented to the State Board of Education in April, Prestige Academy was at 76% of their enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year as of April 19th, with 182 students enrolled based on their approved charter enrollment of 240 students, thus putting them ten students shy of meeting the mark.

The most startling part from the Delaware Department of Education charter renewal report is the following:

Should Prestige Academy Charter School not make a deposit of funds sufficient to cover the school’s end of year expenditures in May, the Department of Education may take measures to freeze the school’s spending and establish payroll reserves.

That is NOT a good place for any school to be in.  It means there are very serious concerns about their financial viability.  In the below response to the DOE charter renewal report, the school does not even address their enrollment and financial issues.  That is not a good start to what will be a long seven months until the State Board of Education issues its final recommendation about Prestige Academy’s charter renewal on December 15th of this year.  With that being said, can Wilmington take yet another charter school closing down and the instability this causes for the students who have to transition to another school?  With no less than four charter schools closing down in upper New Castle County in the past three years (Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, and Delaware Met), most of these schools serviced high populations of low-income and minority students.  While they obviously didn’t get a lot of things right, it still contributed to some of the current problems we are seeing in Wilmington education.

 

 

Will Academy Of Dover Survive Charter Renewal?

The Academy of Dover is going through the very laborious charter renewal process with the Delaware Department of Education.  On April 30th, the DOE gave the school their renewal report and AoD had 16 days to respond.  The school had a rough couple years.  Between a very damaging state auditor report on their former head of school embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, low high-stakes testing scores, a very large settlement with a former management company, and compliance issues, they have had their hands full.  The former assistant principal now leads the school.  A former principal from Town Pointe Elementary School in Capital School District runs the curriculum now.  The board has shifted and received training in areas that caused some of the problems.  Will it be enough?

This charter renewal comes at an interesting time.  The 2014-2015 school year was the first year Smarter Balanced came into play.  As such, the scores from that year don’t really count, but the DOE is using the ratings from the Delaware School Success Framework as a substitute for their Academic Framework.  Let me say from the start, I feel bad for charter schools in the respect that the state assessment plays such a large part in anything going on with the DOE.  AoD has a large population of low-income and minority students who typically fare worse on these tests than other schools.

Other factors that could affect their renewal involve Noel Rodriguez, their local school district, and the scores from the 2015-2016 SBAC.  The former Head of School, Noel Rodriguez, will face charges at some point.  I know of at least one other Delaware charter where the Attorney General’s office recently issued subpoenas about their own similar issues.  Yet another Delaware charter had their board file for insurance claims due to embezzlement at their own school from former leaders.  So something is coming which will put the school in the spotlight when Rodriguez faces charges.  However, this issue already came up in their 2015 formal review and they were not shut down for it then so the DOE should not put them under the same scrutiny twice.

Capital School District, under the new leadership of Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, is looking at their own district with their Strategic Plan.  What comes out of that, to improve the district, could affect AoD in the long run in terms of enrollment.  But it should have no bearing on their renewal process.

The scores from the recent Smarter Balanced Assessment for the school will not play into their academic framework since it is not a part of the renewal report, but the impression could taint the process.  Once again, I will stress my opinion these should not even factor into their charter renewal, but the DOE and I do not agree on this point.

I will admit I have softened my stance on Delaware charter schools a bit.  My own experience with them tainted my view a bit.  I still don’t agree with some of their very discriminatory practices up in Wilmington and the only one in Sussex County.  But I believe they are just as much a victim as traditional school districts are with the DOE in terms of very bad regulations, mandates, and accountability.  Academy of Dover and I had a frosty relationship in the past, but that has warmed up a bit in recent months.  Many of the complaints against most charter schools are a result of politics and tainted legislation by people in Dover who should really know better.   I believe the Delaware Charter Schools Network adds immensely to the perceptions against charters.  With that caveat, Academy of Dover has a former State Representative on their board who does carry a bit of clout in Kent County so politics can play a part to help the school.

Many of the issues with Academy of Dover are well-known by the DOE and have come up before in formal reviews.  There really aren’t any new complaints which suggests the school has fixed many of the issues since Noel Rodriguez left.  No school is perfect, but Academy of Dover seems to have turned a lot around in the past year and a half.  Rodriguez controlled the school and left a considerable amount of damage in his wake.

My one concern in the below response from the school is this 11 week Smarter Balanced Boot Camp after school for struggling students.  In this era of high-stakes accountability, schools are under the gun for kids to do well on these tests.  But they can go overboard with this effort.  Calling anything a boot camp with education is a bad idea in my opinion.  It suggests a dire need for these kids to do well on these tests regardless of the cost.  The sooner we can get schools to stop giving in to this very bad proficiency environment, the better things will be in the long run.  It gives the Delaware DOE all the power.  But I also don’t run a school with that kind of pressure thrust upon me so it is easy for me to say that.

I know the school had special education issues in the past, but we won’t know until June how they may have improved.  That is when the DOE issues their special education compliance annual reports.  However, those are usually about three years behind and would reflect the height of the Noel Rodriguez era so that should be taken into consideration as well.  Special education is a hot mess in Delaware overall.  There seems to be a mass amount of confusion between Response to Intervention and true special education.  This is an ongoing issue that will only get worse if we stay in this high-stakes accountability environment.

Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Delaware Secretary of Education will issue his final recommendation to the State Board of Education at their December 15th board meeting where they will vote on Academy of Dover’s charter renewal.

Below is the charter renewal report from the Delaware DOE and Academy of Dover’s response: