Cursive Bill Released From Delaware House Education Committee

It seemed to be an even split between advocates and those who oppose the bill, but State Rep. Andria Bennett’s House Bill was released from committee today with 12 votes.  Next stop, the House Ready list.  Many of the folks who opposed the bill were not in favor of student’s learning cursive but felt that was a decision best left to the local school board and not a mandate from the state.  The Delaware Department of Education opposed the bill for the same reasons, along with the Delaware Association of School Administrators and the Delaware School Boards Association.

Both sides cited research or studies weighing the pros and cons of the bill.  I supported it and gave public comment on how my son seemed to like cursive more than regular writing.  Another advocate for students with disabilities, Robert Overmiller with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, also supported the bill because of the beneficial nature for special needs students.  A retired teacher supported the bill.

State Rep. Bennett said her idea for this bill came last Christmas when her own daughter was unable to read her grandmother’s cursive writing in a Christmas card.  Some advocates said it is important children know how to read original historic documents, such as The Declaration of Independence.  One gentleman said he would not hire someone at his company who didn’t know cursive since so many old property deeds and paperwork were written in cursive and they would not be able to understand those documents.  One parent stated they were vehemently against the bill and that it shouldn’t matter if kids can read historic documents in cursive because it is all available online.  She also said grandmothers are texting and using Instagram more and more these days.  State Rep. Joe Miro said with our state budget deficit we should not be mandating curriculum at the state level.

If you are in favor of this bill, please contact your state legislator and let them know!  I know I will call my own State Rep, Trey Paradee and ask him to support this bill!

Enrollment Preferences Bill Released From Committee But Newark Charter School Exclusion Remains Controversial

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today.  There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School.  Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district.  The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district.  However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.

Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was.  State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion.  Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola.  This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85.  State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.

State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District.  He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.

If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews

State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews.  The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing,  said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough.  DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.

My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with.  Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area.  This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.

While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district.  I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius.  While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District.  In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina.  While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS.  I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools.  Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.

The bill, if passed, would take place immediately.  However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January.  During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools.  Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary.  If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.

Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.

Delaware DOE Aid To Migrant Students Comes With A Catch

The Delaware Department of Education is helping students who happen to be classified as migrant student population.  But they can only get the “hygiene bags” if they register as such under ESEA.  How many of these students’ parents will register them so the federal government can track their every movement in Delaware?  The DOE issued a press release on their Facebook page yesterday.  Bolded areas are for emphasis.

DDOE staff prepared over 40 hygiene supply bags last week for Delaware’s migrant student population. Migrant students are the school-aged children of seasonal workers traveling to Delaware each year for agricultural work. These children face unique educational barriers as a result of multiple family moves. Many migrant families stay in Delaware through late fall before returning to their home states. During this time their children attend Delaware schools.

Funded with a federal grant, the insulated bags are filled with sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid supplies, and related items. DDOE provides the bags as a support service to eligible migrant families upon their enrollment into the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I C Migrant Education Program. This program identifies, recruits, teaches, and supports migrant children so they can focus on school success. DDOE also collects donated clothing for the students and their families.

DDOE supports activities for migrant students to ensure all kids receive a clear path for becoming college and career ready after high school. Migrant families who choose to live in Delaware permanently continue to receive education-related support services.

With everything going on with immigration in this country, would you trust the Trump administration with this enrollment information?

Global Finance Needs Our Schools to Fail

Wrench in the Gears

Yesterday Peter Greene expanded on an idea I’d put forth a few months back that Competency Based Education (and really all digital curriculum) was a way of gradually turning neighborhood public schools into charters from the inside out. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read his piece “Charterizing From Within.” I’m glad this proposition is making it out into the world and finding a wider audience. However there are still many who doubt CBE / Personalized Learning / Blended Learning etc. will ever take hold. This despite the fact that adaptive “personalized” learning systems are popping up all over the country each passing day.

Doubters say virtual schools and e-learning don’t “work.” So there; it won’t happen. But therein lies the problem. Many assume that a system that “works” is one designed to serve the needs of children and society as a whole. The present system, however, is being increasingly twisted to serve the interests of global capital markets. When you look…

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