Delaware Opt Out Numbers By School District: Who Rose? Who Fell? And What About The Charters?

Thanks to the always faithful Delaware Department of Education for their obsession with data.  It makes my job a lot easier!  As I announced earlier today, opt out numbers went up this year for Delaware students in 3rd to 8th grade.  Despite whatever flawed data system the accountability gurus at the DOE are using.  Because they seem to think opt out went down this year.  But in my eyes, they went up:

2014-2015 ELA: 1,269

2015-2016 ELA: 1,375 (+106)

2014-2015 MATH: 1,116

2015-2016 MATH: 1,267 (+151)

These numbers do play games with my head.  Why are some parents just opting kids out of ELA and not Math, or vice versa?  I believe any increase is good.  That means more parents are wising up to the high-stakes testing regimen and telling schools they don’t want their kids to be a part of this nonsense.

So which districts saw more students opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Which saw less?  And where the heck are the charter schools actual participation rate numbers?  I guess since charters are “special” and have “autonomy” we can’t see their numbers….  But we can see Prestige Academy and Gateway Lab School definitely didn’t make the 95% overall participation rate, Family Foundations Academy is questionable, and 4th graders at Kuumba missed the mark.  Great job charter parents at those schools!  Too bad the document only has ELA numbers…whoops!  I can say I was able to determine that 161 students in the combined charters were opted out of the Smarter Balanced ELA and 111 were opted out of Math.  I am basing this on the total of the below numbers for this year subtracted from the overall numbers for this year in both ELA and Math.

OPT OUT NUMBERS BY DELAWARE SCHOOL DISTRICT 

Appoquinimink:

15-16 ELA 101 (+14)

14-15 ELA 87

15-16 MATH 138 (+45)

14-15 MATH 93

Brandywine:

15-16 ELA 167 (+90)

14-15 ELA 77

15-16 MATH 138 (+55)

14-15 MATH 83

Caesar Rodney:

15-16 ELA 56 (+5)

14-15 ELA 51

15-16 MATH 41 (-7)

14-15 MATH 48 BOO

Cape Henlopen:

15-16 ELA 60 (+17)

14-15 ELA 43

15-16 MATH 75 (+25)

14-15 MATH 50

Capital:

15-16 ELA 118 (+62)

14-15 ELA 56

15-16 MATH 83 (+30)

14-15 MATH 53

Christina:

15-16 ELA 246 (-77)

14-15 ELA 323 BOO

15-16 MATH 231 (-52)

14-15 MATH 283 BOO

Colonial:

15-16 ELA 92 (-15)

14-15 ELA 107 BOO

15-16 MATH 86 (-28)

14-15 MATH 114 BOO

Delmar:

15-16 ELA 6 (+5)

14-15 ELA 1

15-16 MATH 7 (+6)

14-15 MATH 1

Indian River:

15-16 ELA 34 (-45)

14-15 ELA 79 BOO

15-16 MATH 39 (+16)

14-15 MATH 23

Lake Forest:

15-16 ELA 27 (+4)

14-15 ELA 23

15-16 MATH 31 (+6)

14-15 MATH 25

Laurel:

15-16 ELA 15 (+9)

14-15 ELA 6

15-16 MATH 9 (+5)

14-15 MATH 4

Milford:

15-16 ELA 27 (+3)

14-15 ELA 24

15-16 MATH 28 (+9)

14-15 MATH 19

Red Clay:

15-16 ELA 198 (+1)

14-15 ELA 197

15-16 MATH 175 (+26)

14-15 MATH 149

Seaford:

15-16 ELA 20 (-8)

14-15 ELA 28 BOO

15-16 MATH 26 (0)

14-15 MATH 26 SORT OF BOO

Smyrna:

15-16 ELA 49 (+6)

14-15 ELA 43

15-16 MATH 37 (+3)

14-15 MATH 34

Woodbridge:

15-16 ELA 13 (-9)

14-15 ELA 22 BOO

15-16 MATH 12 (-1)

14-15 MATH 13 BOO

It looks like Christina and Colonial shed a lot of opt outs this year.  There could be different reasons for that.  8th graders who were opted out last year wouldn’t count for this year.  And by my recollection, those were the second highest opt out numbers last year behind juniors.  Those 2014-2015 8th graders are not represented in opt out numbers now that they (luckily) don’t have to take the test anymore.  Which also eliminated the vo-tech school districts from these kind of comparisons.  How convenient it was for a former vo-tech Superintendent to become Secretary of Education for Delaware and one of the first major things he does is get rid of the “opt-out problem” for the vo-techs.  I never made that connection until just now… you do learn something new every day!  I did have to help a few parents in Christina with regards to opt out even though their board passed a policy honoring a parent’s right to do so.  But never underestimate a principal who just won’t have that in their school.  While they may have felt powerful at the moment, I’m sure they didn’t by the time I advised the board.

In terms of gains, it looks like Appoquinimink, Brandywine, Cape Henlopen, Capital, Indian River (Math) and Red Clay (Math) were the biggest gainers.  But Indian River is weird cause they lost 45 opt outs for ELA.

There is one district listed on here I am very happy to see the numbers on.  And I know one mom in that district who is as well.

No man is alone who has friends.

As always, my door is always open for any parent who has questions about opt out or is having issues with a district about it.  There are Opt Out Delaware: (Insert District Name) Facebook pages for all districts and one for all charter schools.  Now that I have opt out baseline data, I know what I have to do next year and which districts I need to reach out to.  In the meantime, I encourage all Delaware parents to really question these scores when you get them in the next couple of weeks.  What does it tell you about a test where only 41% of Delaware students were proficient last year and only 44% this year?  Considering the cut scores for these things, and how a lot of schools fell on those cut scores, within a 200 point range in the mid 2000s, what are we really using this test for?  When you get the scores in late July or early August, how is that going to help your child next year with a new teacher and new classes?  Not to mention the data going out like the Hoover Dam just burst to education “research” companies?  You do realize your kid is just a guinea pig for companies, right?  No matter what the DOE or the district or the school tells you, you know in your heart what your kid can and can’t do.  Does this test tell you the same thing?  Does it change anything?  Will it make your child “college and career ready” just because someone tells you it will?  Only you can answer these questions.  But if your heart has that nagging feeling that you know this test is bad, opt your kid out next year.  I got your back, and so do 1,375 other parents in Delaware.  Maybe Governor Markell doesn’t, but he will be gone in six months.  Hopefully the next Governor will care more about parents than this one does.

Opt Outs Rise in Delaware for 2015-2016 School Year!

The Delaware Department of Education released preliminary scores for the Smarter Balanced Assessment administered this past spring in public schools.  Below is the official press release from the DOE.  In comparing students in their grades last year and the grade they are in this year, it looks like opt out actually increased for most grades, from 5th to 8th graders in Math and 6th to 8th graders in English/Language Arts.  The opt out numbers are a bit misleading if you compare them to last year.  In the 2014-2015 school year, high school juniors took SBAC.  776 of those juniors were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  In comparing the 3rd to 8th grade levels from last year to this year, we actually see an increase in opt out.  Last year, 1,269 students in 3rd to 8th were opted out whereas this year that number increased to 1,375.  So as predicted, opt out did go up this year!

Here is the official numbers and kudos from the DOE:

2016 state test results show progress across the board in English language arts, mathematics

Delaware students across the board are performing better in mathematics and English language arts, according to preliminary 2016 state test results for grades 3 to 8 released today. The gains are in almost every grade and subject and across almost every student demographic, including students with disabilities, English learners, students from low-income families and those of most racial and ethnic subgroups. Students reaching proficiency levels increased by 2 to 5 percentage points in nearly all grade levels in both subjects.

 

“We are pleased with the progress and look forward to continuing gains,” Governor Jack Markell said. “This progress reflects hard work by children and educators to meet higher standards as we aim to ensure every student is prepared for success in the next grade and, ultimately, after graduation. We know a lot more must be done to reach our goal and that means reaffirming our commitment to giving all students, and their teachers, the support they need to reach their potential.”

 

This is the second year Delaware administered the Smarter Assessment. Statewide, nearly 55 percent of students in third through eighth grades were proficient or better in English language arts this year compared to 52 percent in 2015 for the same grades. In math, almost 44 percent scored at the proficient level or higher, up from 41 percent in 2015.

 

“What is most exciting about this year’s results is the strong progress made by students across the board, including those from groups that traditionally have performed at lower levels than their peers,” Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky said.

 

State assessments measure students’ progress toward the academic goals laid out in Delaware’s Common Core academic standards, which are designed to ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in jobs and college. The standards, which were established by a diverse group of educators and others in the education community through a national initiative Markell co-chaired, set learning expectations for what students should know or what skills they should master at the completion of each grade level. Individual districts or charter schools determine their own curricula and decide how those skills and knowledge are best taught.

 

The state assessments ask students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and skills in areas such as critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving. By focusing on skills most important for students to succeed in college and the workplace, the results provide teachers and families with a snapshot of children’s progress, helping to identify school and student strengths and determine subject areas in which students need support.

 

While no single test can provide a complete picture of achievement, annual assessments give families and educators important information about student progress and areas for improvement, especially when combined with student grades and teacher reports.

 

This year, Delaware educators are able to access deeper-level Smarter score information than last year through the state’s Smarter Analytics system. Using Smarter Analytics, teachers have the ability to determine each student’s understanding of specific items taught in English and math classes, which helps them better serve individual student needs.

Scores for multiple other standards-based assessments, including SAT and in-class assessments, are available in Smarter Analytics as well, providing a more-comprehensive look at student assessment scores and demonstrating the importance of an entire assessment system over any one test to help guide instruction.

Preliminary state and district/charter-level results were released today. Final results, including school-level, will be released in August.

 

Families will receive enhanced family score reports for their children in the mail beginning next week. The redesigned reports include detailed information about how students scored on different parts of each subject test and also show how students are progressing through the standards and across grades. Also new this year, families are receiving guides in advance of the score reports that outline how to support student learning at home. The guides include resources for understanding what students should learn at each grade level based on the academic standards. For each grade, families are given lists of what students should have learned last year and what students should be able to do this year and corresponding ways to support student learning at home.

Smarter ELA
Smarter math

On the Smarter Assessment, students earn an overall score on a four-point scale with at least a three required to be considered proficient.

Statewide change in percent proficient for 2015-16 for ELA by subgroup

table1

Statewide change in percent proficient for 2015-16 for mathematics by subgroup

table2

Almost every school district saw gains in English language arts and mathematics, with the greatest gains made in Woodbridge, Seaford and Laurel, respectively.

district ELA

district math

Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov, whose district saw 13-percentage point increases in both English language arts and math, credited his staff for their dedication and hard work.

 

“We are extremely excited about the growth that we have obtained across the district on this year’s assessment. It’s a testament to a group of educators that believe in the abilities of all children and are dedicated to their success,” he said. “We are proud of how hard our students have worked and continue to be excited for their future success.”

 

In Seaford, the average proficiency was up 11 percentage points in both subjects.

 

“These types of gains become possible through the combined efforts of our school board, administration, staff, students, parents and school community. Our district has been on a course to have all of our stakeholders internalize the expectation that all students will be successful,” Superintendent David Perrington said. “While we are appreciative with these gains, we also recognize this is not an end point, but a measure of the dynamic process that is necessary to provide our students with the greatest opportunity to be successful.”

 

Laurel also saw great gains: 9 percentage points in mathematics and 8 in English language arts.

 

Superintendent Shawn Larrimore said Laurel refocused last August with a mission of “People. Practices. Performance.” for the district and “Rigor. Relevance. Relationships.” as the instructional mission for the schools.

 

“We knew we’d have to work very hard this year, but we’d also have to have a laser-like focus on the initiatives that would make the biggest impact – and not waver from them – if we were going to have a shot at increasing student achievement across our district,” Larrimore said. “We started on Day 1. Our teachers and our administrators came together for our first week back to school … and outlined where we were as a district and where we wanted to go.

 

“Mission statements alone don’t cut it, but they must serve as a lens through which you gauge every decision for your district and for your school,” he said.

 

Several districts, including Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, that already were above the state average also saw strong gains.

 

 

SAT

 

The Delaware Department of Education today also released preliminary statewide results for the state administration of the SAT in 11th grade: 53 percent proficient or above in English language arts and 31 percent or above in mathematics. Since 2011, Delaware has provided the SAT to all public high school juniors during the school day. This year marked the first time the SAT also served as the state’s high school accountability test, replacing the Smarter Assessment used for this purpose last year. This spring also saw a redesigned SAT from the College Board. Because this year’s redesigned SAT is different than previous years’ and on a different score scale, a comparison with 2015 scores is not provided.

 

The statewide results presented today are preliminary and based on proposed cut scores that must be approved by the State Board of Education. That decision is expected to come at the board’s August meeting. District- and school-level results also will be released at that time.

 

 

Other assessment results

 

Today’s release also included the preliminary Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) assessment results for science and social studies as well as the DCAS-Alt1 test for students with severe cognitive disabilities in all subjects.

 

For science, DCAS measures the progress of students in grades 5, 8, and 10. In social studies, DCAS measures grades 4 and 7. This year’s DCAS assessment results are consistent with last year across all grade levels for which the assessment is administered.

 

Percent Proficient on DCAS Science

science

Percent Proficient on DCAS Social Studies

ss

The DCAS-Alt1 is an assessment designed to measure what students with the most significant cognitive disabilities know and are able to do in reading and mathematics in grades 3 through 11; science in grades 5, 8, and 10; and social studies in grades 4, 7, and 9.

Percent Proficient on DCAS-Alt1
alt

Find more results here. For more information about the state’s standards and assessments, families should visit www.DelExcels.org.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

The Sound Of Silence

Over the past year or so, I’ve written a lot of emails that never got a response.  I save all of them, and since I am so often accused of not reaching out, I thought I would publish those sent emails.  There are many more going back to the Mark Murphy days, but I will get around to those another time.  In the meantime, see what questions or requests I had that no one ever answered.  On some of these, they did respond, but when I responded back the sound of crickets was all I heard.  There are those who always respond to me, and I do truly appreciate those people.  And some I disagree with on policy all the time.  But for those who choose to ignore me, please see how I will be dealing with this practice at the end of the article going forward.

This email was sent during the infamous “school report card opt out & participation rate” saga from last fall.

Schwinn915

For the Parent Strike on 9/17/15, I sent a letter to the editor to all the major media in Delaware.  The News Journal actually edited parts of it which changed the whole context of what I wrote in parts.

NewsJournal923

The PTO at Las Americas Aspiras was telling parents the school would lose ALL funding if too many parents opted out.  I reached out to their Head of School.

LopezWaite113

To be completely fair, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky did reply to the original email, but after that… complete silence when I called him out on a few things.

Godowsky115

Godowsky116Pt2

Godowsky116

Last fall I reached out to Matthew Korobkin who was assigned to the Secretary’s area at the Delaware DOE to work on a special education strategic plan.  I had heard of him, but I did reach out to him in good faith to talk about special education.

Korobkin119

This was a second request to Governor Markell’s education policy advisor, Lindsay O’Mara, to clarify some questions about expenses when the Governor speaks for private education companies.  No response…

Lindsay1110

About a year after I posted an in-depth article on Rodel and their CEO Paul Herdman emailed me about not reaching out to them first, I thought it was time to attempt to reach out to him after he completely ignore my response to him the year before.  Once again… nothing…

Herdman1125

I did get a few responses to this one, done in the spirit of the holidays, but nothing from Jack Frost…

Markell124

This was a second request to Governor Markell asking him to contribute to a New Years Day article.  I asked folks to list three things they wanted to see in Delaware education in 2016.  I guess Jack didn’t have any…

Markell1230

While there is no guarantee that a letter to the editor will be published or even considered, a little bit of acknowledgment, which the News Journal did in the past, would have been nice…

NewsJournal112

Last January, Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques asked for my opinion on getting opt out for students with disabilities.  I was vehemently against the idea as I believed it is any parent’s right to make that choice and shouldn’t be “allowed” for one group over another.  It angered me that he would think I would support that kind of idea, so I wrote this.  US Secretary of Education John King did respond to this, but not with anything truly addressing the issues I wrote about…

JaquesMarkellKing

For anyone following the former Delaware Treasurer Chip Flowers FOIA situation with Governor Markell’s office, I had a little bit to add to that situation.  Funny how precedent is set on issues when it is in the Governor’s favor…

Gibbs315

I did finally get a response to this FOIA request concerning National PTA President Laura Bay (no records found), but this wasn’t the first time I addressed FOIA issues with the Delaware DOE which they are acutely aware of.  To be fair, Alison May did respond to these emails, but from Godowsky… nothing!

Godowsky321

I submitted a request through the Delaware DOE’s request for data forms for actual data.  Especially information concerning their data.  Sometimes I think they like to mess with me…  The first pictures are screen shots I took of the actual request as I was doing it since the DOE doesn’t send an automatic reply showing what you requested.

DOEDataRequest

DOEDataRequest2

DOEDataRequest3

 

Peoples526Pt3

Peoples526Pt2

Peoples526

After I read a special education due process decision for Cape Henlopen School District, I saw an inherent flaw in Delaware code in regards to this decision.  I reached out to legislators who I know tend to advocate for special needs students.  Granted, it was the second to last day of the legislative session, but I have yet to receive a response from any of the legislators with one exception.  I did discuss it with Kim Williams in person, but for the others, nothing.

SpecEdLegislators629

I sent this one last week to Christina School District CFO Bob Silber.  No response.  But I have since found out these VERY high non-state employee travel costs were paid with federal funds which makes me even more curious…

SilberEmail712

For the past few weeks, Jack Wells has been hammering Delaware State Auditor Thomas Wagner to more effectively (and in some cases actually) audit school funding.  Wells tends to include a lot of folks on these emails, including myself.  I jumped on the bandwagon.  Either Wagner doesn’t read his emails or feels everyday citizens of the state that elected him into office aren’t worthy of a response.  I asked him to look into the Appoquinimink tuition funds situation.  To date, nothing from Wagner….

WagnerEmail714

Here I am basically telling people in response to a Jack Wells email that all too often, folks in Delaware who have the power to change things ignore the pleas for help and transparency coming from Delaware citizens.  I did get responses from Rick Jensen and Colin Bonini (who wasn’t even on the original email).  And some of the usual citizens on this email chain.  But for the power brokers…zip…nada…zilch…

Everyone714

As well, I also emailed Capital School District to find out why they lump special education funding into one big bucket on their expenditure codes instead of giving breakdowns…

SheltonSokolowski714

While this was just sent two days ago, I think history proves that Delaware Governor Jack Markell doesn’t respond to anything I have to say.  He did once, and that was when I sent something to his personal email address which was made public through a FOIA another citizen obtained.  And that was basically saying “we both want what’s best for students and we won’t always agree”…  For a Governor who believes transparency and accountability are SO important, he can’t even get through the gate with those two things…ob

GodowskyMarkell719

I have many more examples of this non-response environment in Delaware which I will put up in the future.  From here on out, if I send a request to someone who is a Delaware state employee and they fail to respond in a week, or within a week after an out-of-office reply shows a return date, I’m just going to publish the original email I sent… no matter what it says.  This is my idea of transparency.  If you think this is arrogant or presumptuous on my part, then keep ignoring me.  I think it is arrogant to ignore people as if we are just little tiny bugs you can swat away…