Christina School District’s Very Dangerous Game With Equity Could Backfire On Them

One of the reasons I have always admired the Christina School District is because they don’t have magnet schools or choice schools within their district.  That could change tomorrow night when the Christina Board of Education will vote on a proposal to expand the Honors program at Christiana High School from a 9th-12th grade program to a 6th-12th grade program.  I understand the why behind it as the district has empty seats in some of their buildings and they will be forced to consolidate at some point.  But this… I can’t get behind it.

Before I get into why I can’t support this, let me explain why they are doing it.  Christina, over the past fifteen years, has lost a ton of students to charter schools.  I truly believe the district wants to let go of the past and start offering richer programs to keep students in the district and to hopefully lure students back from the charters.  As well, they are losing honors students to Dickinson High School in Red Clay who offers an International Baccalaureate program.  Eventually, the Christina students in Wilmington issue will be resolved one way or another and Christina will lose those students.  The district has to make some major changes if they want to survive in the next decade.

But this idea is not good.  First off, I don’t think it is a wise idea to place middle school students in a high school setting.  Developmentally, they are not on the same level playing field.  By osmosis, these students will be exposed to things they are not ready for.  There is a reason students in public education are at elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.  To make matters worse, the plan would call for this to start with 6th graders only for the next school year and by 2019 all 6th-8th grade students participating in this program would be integrated as students at a high school.  This cohort of 6th graders are going to have a very difficult time at a building with peers who are far older than them.

Furthermore, what happens when all the honors students leave the existing middle schools in the district?  That will leave a higher concentration of students who have larger needs.  Our current state accountability system for schools will place those schools with a bulls-eye on them when test scores come out.  If anyone thinks the Every Student Succeeds Act is going to take care of that they are deluding themselves.  It will set up an irreversible system of discrimination and segregation all over again, within their own district.  That is something all schools in Delaware should be steering away from, not towards.

This program would have smaller “cohorts” which would mean smaller class sizes.  I am all for that but it has to be done across the board.  There are existing classrooms in elementary and middle schools that do not have enough support in this district but teachers are forced to handle large classrooms with no support whatsoever.  But giving this preference to students who would most likely be considered talented and gifted while not giving those same choices to other students with just as much need if not more is just reinventing the discrimination wheel.  I’m not saying talented and gifted students shouldn’t be given those benefits, but I am saying if that benefit exists it needs to happen for all students.  No one wins in the large classroom scenario with one teacher.

The State of Delaware, and more specifically, the General Assembly, needs to look at the state school choice law.  While the intent may have been honorable in the beginning, it has morphed into pockets of segregation across the state.  Some are big and some are small, but they exist.  While charter schools take the brunt of the shots fired at these practices, many districts are setting up programs within their own districts that are dividing students.  Take the World Language Immersion program as an example.  In my day, you took a language.  They didn’t put a fancy name on it and start teaching Kindergartners Chinese or Spanish.  While I do think it is good for students to learn a second language, and possibly a third depending on their abilities, we are already seeing school districts around the state dealing with issues of segregation between the smarter kids and those with higher needs based on this program.  This isn’t even inequity, it is also inequality.  When you have both, it is a recipe for disaster for the overall educational health of a state.  This example is not just affecting New Castle County schools.  Districts in Kent and Sussex County are having these issues as well.  But their boards and administration don’t seem to be addressing what is happening within their own schools.

I don’t know what the solution is, but this isn’t it.  I don’t understand why they wouldn’t attempt to instill those honors programs in the schools they have now.  If they need to combine some schools and possibly sell old property that isn’t being used, that is one thing.  But dividing students like this is a lesson Delaware doesn’t want to learn.  This is a recommendation from the Superintendent (even though it is an Acting Superintendent).  When Christina passed their referendum earlier this year one of their promises was to create programs like this.  I am all for better programs in schools.  But school choice has led to such severe competition among Delaware schools that future generations of adults are going to be more divided than ever between the haves and the have-nots.  We have traditional school districts, charter schools, vo-techs, magnet schools, honors programs, World Immersion programs, and so forth.  And I’m not even getting into the Pathways to Prosperity program and how that is setting up particular societal roles in the future.

How can we talk about equity in schools with a weighted funding system when we are forcing schools into that position?  We are killing education in this state, one choice program at a time.  I believe Christina is trying to rush a program like this into place.  Let it marinate a bit.  Look at other options.  Slow your roll!  I’m not convinced this isn’t a case where the Acting Superintendent who will be gone in a few months at most just wants a notch like this on his résumé.  I think something this big would need to still be in the discussion stage with a new Superintendent who would be tasked to carry it out.

And in the name of all that is holy can we please get the words rigor or rigorous legally banned from discussion about education?  As well, the word “Academy” in traditional school districts signifies something elite that only select students can get into.  Not a smart idea to put an “Academy” into a school district.

To read the action item, which will be read for a second time, please go below.

 

Governor Markell Loses His Voice Tonight. Now Is The Time To Seize The Moment.

delawaregreetings

At some point later this evening, Delaware will have a newly elected Governor. No matter who it is, they can’t be worse than Governor Jack Markell. I truly hope I don’t eat those words, but I can’t think of any Delaware politician who has sold out Delaware children to corporations more than Jack. Well, there is one, but I’m really hoping he gets ousted in the 8th Senate District today. If not, I expect some very frosty stares between the two of us come 2017.  But it is also my fervent hope that this particular Senator, no matter what the outcome is today, begins to see deep inside his soul what certain viewpoints on education can have on the state as a whole.  But Jack Markell…

I never gave Delaware politics much thought before 2013. I was just one of those guys who stayed in his own neighborhood and didn’t truly care about the state politics. I couldn’t even tell you who my State Rep was before that year. Or my State Senator. But then things changed in my life and I reached a point where I couldn’t live in my insular little bubble anymore. Circumstances demanded I get involved. When things happen to your child, beyond the point of a parent to control it, something happens. A shifting of thoughts begins and a need for understanding takes over. I may have gone way past the point of sanity most parents do when faced with this reality, but I felt it was my obligation to do all this.   I have regrets, but I also know everyone makes mistakes.  But no one, not even Senator Sokola or Mark Murphy, has ticked me off over education more than Jack Markell.

I quickly learned Jack cares more about corporations and their profits than Delaware students. Sadly, he found a way to combine the two and turned Delaware schools into profit centers for companies that could give two craps about student outcomes. Jack knows this. He knows the only way those companies will continue to flourish is with a steady stream of data and fix-it schemes. I suppose most states have a Jack Markell. How else can we explain the onslaught of Common Core and crappy tests like Smarter Balanced? I also learned Markell and Rodel are two sides of the same coin. They feed off each other, like twin parasites infecting their host.

My worst fear is having to continue beating up on Jack Markell. That would only happen if he were put in a more dangerous position than he is now. I see two potential Cabinet positions he could be placed in if the “nasty woman” wins. I’m hoping a rumor I heard long ago about him taking a Cyber Security position in Israel comes true. I would have loved to sit in a debate with him for a few hours and blown apart his theories and thoughts on education.

The most dangerous thing Jack Markell did with education in Delaware happened before he even became Governor. He did the interview for a man from the Massachusetts Department of Education, in their charter school office. A guy named Dr. Paul Herdman. This set up 12 years of education policy in this state that very closely aligned with what was going on across the country. And those plans aren’t done yet. Both of these men are actually very brilliant. They are strategists of the highest measure. They are futurists who plant seeds that bloom years in the future. I actually find them to be very worthy opponents in that respect. But one half of that equation is coming to an end in this state. And hopefully his replacement will be able to sever that cord.

It will be up to our next Governor to see through all the smoke and mirrors involved with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Whoever our new Governor is, I will attempt to meet with him. I intend to have a very long conversation with him, if he will let me, and let him know what I know. Maybe he already knows it already. Maybe he doesn’t. But I truly don’t want to fight him. I will give him a fresh and clean slate from day one, regardless of whatever policies he may have come out with during his campaign. I will also give every single member of the General Assembly that same respect, regardless of what may have happened pre-January 2017. They can choose to hang on to the past and hold a grudge against me.  I haven’t been easy on many.  But whether they are new or old, it is a new day. This also goes for the Department of Education and the State Board of Education. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to expose what I find out, or file FOIA requests or complaints if something happens. Everything I have fought for will continue. But I won’t do it alone.

There are many who are on my side of things on many issues. There are some who are just now beginning to see the big picture. There are those who can’t see the forest through the trees. There are so many moving parts to education and understanding the full scope of it all takes time and patience. But I refuse to allow any child to be a guinea pig or a pawn for profit. I refuse to let their personal data go out to anyone who makes one penny off it. I refuse to let our Department of Education get away with what they have been doing.

January won’t just see new leaders in politics. We will also have new leadership in the Delaware State Education Association. Knowing what little I know about potential leaders and conversation that has taken place in the last week based on a few of my posts, I firmly believe that change in leadership can’t come quick enough. But we also need changes in the charter school landscape. For far too long, advocates for charters have ignored the elephant in the room. I am not saying it is all of them, but those with the loudest voices tend to get what they want. The funding and equity issues involved are killing us as a state. I personally believe there is enough funding in our state budget as it currently stands to have every child get the resources they need. There is a ton of wasted money being spent. We just have to convince the 149th Delaware General Assembly of this fact despite what will be a tsunami of opposition from districts and charter schools alike. I am leaning towards a weighted funding system more and more but not before we make sure every single district and charter schools is held fully accountable for the funds they already have.

The next six months are going to be very slippery in Delaware. One wrong move could send Delaware education sliding off the cliff. Now will be the time for voices like never before. Opt out was a drop in the bucket. But I don’t see those voices. Not front and center. Parents need to speak up like they never have before. They need to be louder than the state, louder than the administrators, and louder than our legislators. We need to become a force to be reckoned with. We need to organize and band together. We won’t agree on everything, but I think the majority of parents in this state can agree that what we have now is not working. We need to make sure Rodel is reduced to a low decibel noise that doesn’t hold the weight it used to. We need to make sure Delaware education is what we want, not what corporations want. This does not mean increased membership in the Delaware PTA either, but they will play a role. You will be hearing from me on this more in the next few weeks. Eyes will open to things that have happened right underneath all our noses with no one the wiser.

I need you. Our children need you. We are Delaware, not them. We need to finally make sure that is understood. We need to end the discrimination and segregation in this state. We need to end the racism that is underneath it all. We need to end the hate and make peace with the past. It is the only way we can truly move forward. I won’t have all the answers. You won’t. But maybe together, we can figure it out.

Reasons America & Delaware Are Still Great 2016 Edition

Many people in America today are facing an impossible choice.  We call this Election Day.  I am choosing to spend the day looking at all that is good about America and more specifically the state I live in, Delaware.  No matter what happens today, we can’t let anyone take away the spirit of what makes us Americans.  We have liberties we often take for granted.  Beyond the politics of it all, we all should want the best for each other, especially the children.  We have so much talent in this country.  Each mind is a unique and wonderful creation of beauty and grace. In Delaware, we have people doing things no one hears about, every single day. We have children who have so many gifts. We have stories of hope and inspiration. As a friend of mine said on Facebook the other day, we are more than this election.