New Year’s Goals From 37 Of The First State’s Finest On Delaware Education

I’m going to kick back today and shut up on here.  After the last 365 days of yapping (487 consecutive days if we want to be technical), I figure it is time to give others a shot!  I reached out to a host of Delaware citizens for their 2016 New Years Goals for Delaware education.  The response was amazing!  You will see teachers, parents, Superintendents, State Reps, Senators, Republicans, Democrats, PTA, DSEA members, school board members, advocates, an attorney, a charter school leader, and more!  Unfortunately, Governor Markell, Rodel’s Paul Herdman, and several DOE employees did not respond.  I can only wonder why…  But there are a few in here I have taken potshots at before and I appreciate their seeing beyond that and responding.  I actually told Jack this would have no opinions or comments from me based on what people write.  I was actually hoping he would respond…

I would ask that folks don’t go nuts in the comments.  These were all well-thought out goals by all involved and I think there are some very recurring themes throughout.  I highly recommend every member of the Delaware General Assembly reads this.  It is a very good barometer of the education environment in Delaware these days.

If anyone wants to email me their own goals for Delaware education, feel free to email me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will be more than happy to keep this going.  This includes any who missed this the first time around, even Jack and Paul!

2016 New Years Goals:

Josiah Andrews, Wilmington Resident and Grandfather to Delaware Students:

  1. Make all charter school board members be residents of the State of Delaware. If you’re going to regulate tax dollars, they you’d damn well better have a vested interest as a tax payer in our state.
  2. Unionize charter school teachers so they are not constantly in fear of losing their jobs. Allow them to TEACH and FOCUS on the children, not be in a constant state of fear that they may become unemployed in a minute’s notice.
  3. Allow parents and teachers the ability to OPT OUT. Parents should not be forced to have their children stress out over these ridiculous Smarter Balanced Tests, and teachers should be permitted to TEACH a curriculum, not teach to a test.   I grew up learning how to actually read and write.  I also learned common sense math, rather than the nonsensical common core math.

Adriana Bohm, Red Clay Board of Education Member:

  1. I would like the DOE to implement a weighted funding formula which addresses poverty and institutionalized racism.
  2. I would like the educational system to stop disciplining students of color and those with special needs and IEPs/504s in a harsh, biased, and discriminatory manner.
  3. I would like the state to “deconcentrate” poverty in our schools.

Jennifer Cinelli, Milford School District Parent:

  1. Statewide Delaware Autism Program (DAP) assistance programming for all districts.  This would include respite, in home services, summer programming, etc. for all children in need.
  2. Funding for schools pushed down to the County level including a requirement that the counties be current on property assessments which would increase funding exponentially in Kent and Sussex Counties.
  3. Increase in statewide technology for all students.  I can’t understand the fact that Amazon is in our state but all the school kids don’t have Kindles instead of textbooks.  If we want our children to be competitive worldwide, we need to give them the tools.

Dr. Merv Daugherty, Superintendent of Red Clay Consolidated School District:

  1. Appropriate funding allocations for students of poverty and English Language Learners (ELL), Opportunity to support students and families.
  2. Increase Collaboration, especially in the areas of parent involvement and effective community partnerships.
  3. Increase Support for Pre-K programs, opportunity to work with students (age 4) to prepare them for their elementary experience.

Nelia Dolan, Indian River School District Parent:

  1. I would like to see our legislature consider the financial and spiritual harm that many of the policies they instituted over the last 20 years have inflicted on district schools, their students and their teachers. It is time to start supporting our district schools that accept all students, to stop punishing schools that house the highest percentages of at risk students, and rewarding those schools that manage to keep those children out.
  2. I would like to see the SBA thrown out. Having a test to measure individual student growth that is 9+ hours is ridiculous, and in the case of our younger students is abusive. We need the return of a test that can be reasonably given to all students, that is equal in length to a subject test that can be taken in a single period (50 minutes or less), and that can be used to inform instruction.
  3. I would like to hear serious discussion about making available quality preschool and summer enrichment for all of our low income and at risk students. The first place to look for money should be in our DOE. If the enormous amounts of money the DOE has spent on data, consultants, testing, surveys, salaries, etc., over the last few years had been spent on preschool for low income children in Wilmington, real progress could have been made.

Natalie Ganc, Caesar Rodney School District Special Education Teacher:

  1. Kim Williams funding bill for special education students in K-3. Being back to teaching in 3rd grade has been a real eye opener in this department. There are so many kids who aren’t being identified due to cell numbers and funding, it’s ridiculous.
  2. Delaware stops focusing on testing students, which ultimately would stop everything being ranked and tied to student test scores. I would like to just be able to do my job and spend time teaching students the skills they will need to survive in life. With test scores being tied to my school’s performance (even though they haven’t been tied to mine for going on 2 years), I end up having to spend an inordinate amount of time teaching test-taking skills to students who can barely read or perform basic mathematical operations.
  3. Get rid of Common Core standards and go back to the Delaware Standards that we already had. They were much more developmentally appropriate.  Rushing advanced concepts before a child’s brain is developed enough in that area to process them is very damaging.  I have students who feel like they are failures, because they can’t grasp the 5th grade concepts that they are now forced to learn.  If there are talented and gifted students, then they could work on the higher concepts, but trying to force them on everyone, especially my ELL and SPED students, before they are ready, is creating a culture where everyone feels inadequate. In fact, if you look at my 3 goals for Delaware Education Reform for 2016…  I’m afraid if there aren’t changes made in those areas, then we are just preparing more children to drop out of school.

Lorrie Gloede, Delaware Citizen:

Guess it could be entitled “Impossible Dream”.  I would like to see Delaware educators be free to teach, using their creativity and curriculum and standards planned by them (the way it used to be).  Student assessments would be done by teachers; teacher assessments would be done by the principals and assistant principals; principal assessments would be done by the superintendents.  This “old-fashioned” concept would involve separating ourselves from federal government mandates, federal bribes, corporate involvement; and paying our education taxes to the state and local districts, resulting in more local control.  I believe problems are more easily fixed when we are closer to them.

Karen Gritton, 9/12 Patriots:

  1. Parental oversight of the Delaware DOE to force transparency and get information out. FOIAs aren’t being responded to.
  2. Parental oversight of data collection by schools.
  3. Reversal of funding for Common Core and Smarter Balanced.

Eric Gustafson, Christina School District Teacher:

  1. Cancel SBAC
  2. Funding of charter schools unlined to traditional public schools, imitate vo-tech funding.
  3. Funding of traditional public schools addressed in the Era of Choice, do away with referendums.
  4. Wilmington education scene needs conclusive action. I favor Christina School District being removed from Wilmington.
  5. Reshaping the power of the Delaware Department of Education.

Terri Hodges, President of Delaware PTA:

  1. Establishment of a committee, under the direction of the Attorney General’s office to continue assessing progress and/or areas of improvement with the compliance of anti-bullying policies and reporting of incidents at the local level. As a caveat to this, I would like to see strong and clear language with regards to the rights of victims & their families.
  2. Real meaningful inclusion of parents, teachers, and other stakeholders in addressing components of the Every Student Succeeds Act in the form of legislative initiatives that will give more local control particularly over assessments and accountability. This includes replacing SBAC with a more reliable and valid assessment.
  3. Implementation of the recommendations from the Enrollment Preference Task Force.
  4. I would like to see the passage of House Bill 186.

Dr. Mark Holodick, Superintendent of Brandywine School District:

  1. Double down on early childhood programming and supports, ensuring that ALL children have access to quality early learning opportunities that ultimately lead to ALL children reading fluently and with comprehension by grade 3.
  2. We implement a weighted student funding formula that recognizes and addresses children living in poverty and English Language Learners.
  3. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, districts refocus on the importance of Emotional Health and the Arts in education. Both are critical in the development of the whole child and deserve greater emphasis and resources within education.

State Rep. Earl Jaques, 27th District:

  1. Have audit procedures the same for every school district.
  2. Provide funding for children with disabilities in K-3.
  3. Pass redistricting for Wilmington.
  4. Eliminating test scores as part of Component 5 (in DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation System).
  5. Increase school funding for children of low-income families.

Yvonne Johnson, Vice-President Delaware PTA Advocacy Committee:

  1. Abandonment of The SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment: I wish there would not be a need for a state assessment. I wish that the Federal Government had a better way to measure how students are learning.  Children are not a one size fits all and when we use high stakes testing to determine everything about children and their proficiency, we are not recognizing that not all children develop on the same path. I have always been against high stakes testing, however, SBAC is probably the poorest assessment Delaware has ever used. Why? Because it does not inform instruction for teachers, it does not measure growth from fall to spring, it says that all students should master standards at a particular grade level, and the results land in the parents and educators hands when the student has already moved onto the next grade. My wish is to replace SBAC with a developmentally appropriate growth model assessment.
  2. Parent Engagement: Many school districts think they actually have 100% parent engagement in their schools. Why? Because they check the box off. If a school has a pizza party paid for by Title I funds and only 10 parents show up, the school feels that is parent engagement. I think that no matter how parents show up, it is a win, however, we need to look at parent engagement differently. We need to take the engagement to the families. We need to train parents on what true parent engagement is. Sure, volunteering is essential to support a school, however, parent engagement looks very different to different folks. I wish that we could actually have mandatory parent engagement seminars and activities in each school to show parents that it is not just about volunteering in the building but also about reading to your child, assisting them with their homework, and working with their child’s teacher to ensure that their children are learning while in school and receiving all the resources and services that are mandated. Parents must be their own child’s advocate but not all parents know how to do this. So my wish is that all parents would and should learn to be their own child’s champion.
  3. Weighted Funded for at risk students: In theory WEIC is a tremendous idea. It’s main goal is to ensure that the students in the poorest neighborhoods (at risk students and low-income students) get the best education possible. Delaware DOE has failed this population enormously. These students need more resources from the school system because they may not be getting it at home or in the community. There are so many recommendations for this to work however, if nothing else actually materializes, I wish that our schools can go to weighted funding. This would put the students at risk receiving the resources they most desperately need. These students should get more funding then perhaps their suburban counterparts because many of the students that are not at risk have other advantages to enhance and strengthen their education. My wish is that the state moves to weighted funded formula system and gets rid of unit counts.

Jackie Kook, Vice-President Christina Education Association and Christina Teacher:

  1. A method of monitoring student progress in classes based on the professional judgment of the educator. That could look like proficient scores on an agreed-upon test or a comprehensive, standardized portfolio system or anything in-between, but it should be personalized to the student and integral to the work of the class (i.e., not a standalone test with no relevance to the coursework.
  2. A well-rounded evaluation system for schools. This should include not only academic things but also access to extra-curricular activities, diverse arrays of elective/expressive courses, and respected staff that offers support to all learners on an individual basis.
  3. I’d like to see Dr. Dan Shelton rumored to be next Secretary of Education 😉 But seriously, the third thing I’d like to see is a rescinding of educational laws that make no sense, or that are holdovers from a prior federal educational policy maker. It would be great to take it all back to square one and come up with a new holistic plan instead of piecing it together a little at a time.

State Rep. John Kowalko, 25th District:

  1. Restore the cuts to public education that Governor Markell imposed in 2008-2009 which would enable smaller classroom ratios and a return of the “Minner” reading specialists among other things that have been taken away from the “educators” toolbox.
  2. Cancel all Race To The Top initiatives that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned off into the pockets of the corporate speculators. Stop asking for taxpayer money to continue this public education death spiral that will break our budget while ensuring failure for our teachers and students.
  3. An override of the Governor’s poorly considered veto of House Bill 50 with a legitimate consideration of dismantling the “Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium” commitment by Delaware.
  4. Making the State Board of Education an elected body.
  5. Cutting the ever-burgeoning bureaucracy that is the Department of Education, and electing a Governor who will insist that entities such as the State Board of Education and DOE serve the will and interest of the communities and families.

Matt Lindell, President of Capital Board of Education and Cape Henlopen Teacher:

  1. I would like to see Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 overridden by the legislature.
  2. I would like to see someone at DOE or the state admit that rating schools based on tests is a waste of time as it wastes money on something that we already know, which is socio-economic plays a role in successful and so-called struggling schools.  Fix the source of the problem; you fix the schools.
  3. I would like to see a State Board of Education that is a rubber stamp for DOE policy. They do not have to agree with my views 100% of the time; however, it would be nice to see some independent thought out of them on a consistent basis.

Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Education Association:

The time is now for the General Assembly and our Governor to act FOR the students in our neediest schools. Will they choose test scores or adequate supports and resources for our students? There are two big things coming down the pike this year: The House and Senate must immediately vote to override the Governor’s veto of HB 50, the parent opt-out bill. And even if they don’t pass the recommendations made by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, then the Legislature must begin a full-scale review of our schools’ funding system to get more resources to our neediest schools. Which side will the Legislature and our Governor be on?

Greg Mazzotta:

  1. Delaware (state-level) Quality Program R & R – Refreshed and Realized – deployed by the six sections: Manufacturing, Small/Service Business, Non-Profit/Government, Health Care, and Education.
  2. Establish a Baldridge-in-Residence Leadership Program to support the state-level Quality Program regardless if Delaware has its own or is affiliated with that of another state. Currently, the fiduciary is the Missouri Foundation for Excellence and has been since 2012. With leadership changes in MD, NJ, and VA, it’s unclear who will be partnering with whom.
  3. That my work at DSU continues to show promising results in continuous improvement and that other Higher Ed organizations will take note.

Harrie Ellen Minnehan, President of Christina Board of Education:

  1. An end to all but end of the year annual tests and I’d only do them in Grades 3, 5, and 10.
  2. An end to administrative walk-throughs in classrooms. Nonsense, utter nonsense. All that is created is stress on both teachers and kids.
  3. Bring back REAL Kindergarten. Kindergarten kids do NOT NEED TO LEARN TO READ. Some do teach themselves but the typical Kindergarten child is not ready socially or intellectually to be reading. They need to learn to play, to get along with other kids, and to be part of a classroom group.

Sabine Neal, Smyrna School District Parent:

  1. A checks and balance system for IEP process.
  2. Schools to actually face accountability.
  3. For ALL children to receive a quality education.

Lauren O’Connell-Mahler, Attorney for McAndrew’s Law Firm:

  1. Improved collaboration between the state agencies that serve students with disabilities.
  2. Improved supports and services within our schools for students with emotional/behavioral/mental health needs.
  3. Increased focus on educating the whole student, not just boosting report card grades or state test scores, but also developing the other skills that our children need to be ready for life after graduation (e.g., social skills, vocational skills, adaptive skills, behavioral skills, organizational skills, etc.)

Liz Paige, Christina Board of Education Member:

  1. Christina School District moving forward with a permanent Superintendent and strong district leadership.
  2. An elected State Board of Education.
  3. Debates about education to be focused on what is best for students and not grown-ups.

Senator Brian Pettyjohn, 19th District:

  1. I’d like the relationship between the state DOE and stakeholders rebuilt. The animosity between the DOE and just about every group is apparent.
  2. Testing has to be manageable, reasonable, and reflect what we are expecting of our children when they are promoted or graduate. And those expectations have to be grounded in reality and aligned with what employers or colleges are expecting from the final product of our K-12 system.
  3. The funding model for education has to be fixed. It’s an outdated model that does not work efficiently and effectively in the 21st Century.

Lisa Radke, Appoquimink School District and First State Military Academy Parent:

  1. Override the veto on House Bill 50 and more strength in numbers with the opt-out movement in Delaware.
  2. New blood on our school boards if possible.
  3. Be rid of Smarter Balanced and Common Core.

State Rep. Mike Ramone, 21st District:

  1. Establish a unified rolling reassessment of real estate in Delaware in which each property would be grandfathered at their current assessment value and property tax rate until they sell their property at which time the “State Wide Current Market Value” is established and a new State wide property tax rate would then apply. Result: Immediately more income to fund our educational system in a fair equatable way State wide without the cost and time consumed to reassess property values throughout the State.
  2. Consolidation of our school districts into 5 Districts. Sussex, Kent, Southern New Castle, Northern New Castle and Vocational. Result: Reduction in administrative costs, allowing more monies to flow into the classrooms, and a more unified, streamlined educational environment for teachers, students and communities.
  3. Develop a statewide commitment to unified campuses with direct feeders from Elementary to Middle to High schools. Result: Consistency in transition from school to school. Teachers, Students and Administration would be more familiar with families and communities and would be better equipped to address the needs of those entities.

Three big steps but all needed to make Delaware School the Best once again. I am sure my thoughts may stray from my colleagues but they are all designed to help create a consistent environment which supports learning, allowing our teachers to help fill every child’s “cup” to the top regardless of how large or small that cup is. This results in children graduating from high school with the skills and knowledge to contribute to society in a valued and respected way. What more could we ask for?

Kenny Rivera, President of Red Clay Board of Education, Vice-Chair of Wilmington Education Improvement Commission:

  1. Support for Wilmington Education Improvement Commission recommendations (especially the current sustainable and weighted funding recommendations).
  2. Passage of the Enrollment Preference Task Force recommendations to come.
  3. More public education friendly legislators/Governor to be elected and/or stand strong.
  4. Opt Out Override.
  5. Less Testing and change the poor usage of that data to label students, schools, and teachers.
  6. Smarter Balanced replaced by SATs in high school.
  7. Kim Williams’ audit charter bill (House Bill 186).
  8. Expansion of Pre-K for at-risk children.

Ashley Sabo, Delaware PTA Advocacy Committee, Red Clay Inclusion Committee:

  1. More transparency from leaders- school boards, legislators, superintendents, state officials, ALL those in leadership positions.
  2. Return the focus of education to the children and their true needs, not the needs and desires of corporations pushing agendas and big ideas to earn a dollar at the expense of our kids- after all, these kids, our kids are our future- so fewer assessments, standards-based education, Common Core, etc.
  3. More social skills learning and active learning for our little kids in preschool and Kindergarten. They need more time to explore and hands on learning to allow their brains to grow and expand. Not more worksheets.

Dr. Dan Shelton, Superintendent of Capital School District:

  1. All High School graduates college ready and if they choose, prepared to begin the career of their choice.
  2. Full funding of the education budget.
  3. Full funding for initiatives that are places on schools by legislature (future and past).

State Rep. Byron Short, 7th District:

My key concerns regarding education are mostly related to policy leaders understanding the roll of poverty in our educational system. I think few of us really understand how desperate the lives of some of our students really are.  I would like to see schools in high poverty areas almost become community resource centers with social workers helping the whole family connect to available services.  We need strong wrap-around services.  Increased mental health services to address PTSD.  My daughter is at University of Delaware studying to become a teacher.  She is learning best teaching practices but so much of what is required of teachers to be successful are unmet needs outside of the classroom.  I am confident we can be successful but we have to take the real education challenges head-on and that means addressing the life challenges of economically disadvantaged students.

Brian Stephan, Christina School District Citizens Budget Oversight Committee:

  1. Sustainable traditional public school funding formula developed.
  2. Fund Charters via line item on State budget.
  3. House Bill 50 Veto Override.

Senator Bryan Townsend, 11th District:

  1. More funding/services for high poverty schools.
  2. Doing away with predominance of student testing in teacher evaluations.
  3. Reforms to enhance educator compensation.

Leroy Travers, Principal of Campus Community School:

I can basically answer your question with one statement that would encompass all three (and many more) things that I would like to see. That is that I would like to see more attention and emphasis, state and system wide, placed on the needs of students, all students!  That alone would solve many, many problems.

Niki Vella, Red Clay Consolidated School District Parent:

  1. Students with special needs and disabilities not labeled as students with behavior issues. For instance, a student who comes from a home of neglect or abuse and acts out, is NOT the same as a student with disabilities or special needs. Our Governor, Secretary of Education, and Delaware’s education system has failed to recognize this. If they bothered to it just might change things with our diverse students coming into the schools from neglected households in the city. This is not fair to them also. Also there would be less money for charter schools that don’t work who are draining the public school systems funds.
  2. Common Core and State Testing ABOLISHED! With this system our children and teachers strengths are being discounted. This is an ugly system that only benefits our money-hungry stingy government in Delaware and is NOT helping our children and their education in ANY way. It is a test and education plan to make our politicians discount our children’s education. Our special needs and disabled students should be exempt from this test because it is NOT the right way to measure their learning and intelligence.
  3. We need more public schools opening in the next few years. The size of our classrooms is WAY too large. Our teachers cannot keep up with the amount of kids in each class. It would be nice if they did what Jeb Bush did three years ago and passed a referendum that limited 25 kids per class and opened MORE schools per city. Our schools in DE are not evened out enough and there are limited schools in each of our cities. I blame this on the State Testing excuse and bad useless Charter Schools opening up and closing. This is causing the well to run dry! We need to re-open public schools and stop using the discrimination card. Diversity is a wonderful thing and as a parent I believe in it for my son, but these poor kids with behavioral issues caused by bad parenting coming in from the city cannot be expected to flourish in a class of 50 kids.  This is no way fair to those kids or any kids in the public school system. This is hurting ALL of our kids and the wonderful teachers in this state. This is a cry for help!

State Rep. Kim Williams,19th District:

  1. Kindergarten classrooms bring back their play stations, let children explore and use their imagination once again, instead of focusing on their performance on a test they will have to take in three years.
  2. House Bill 186- charter audit bill passes the Senate and is signed by the Governor.
  3. Weighted Funding for K-3 Basic Special Education and Students of Poverty
  4. Eliminate most enrollment preferences in our schools.
  5. No more labels being placed on our schools.
  6. No more teaching to a test, eliminate Smarter Balanced.

State Rep. Lyndon Yearick, 34th District:

  1. A reform to the unit count funding system. Let’s provide more discretion and flexibility for schools.
  2. Classify all education employees as essential and non-essential. For example, an essential employee is the teacher, paraprofessional, custodian, etc.- the individuals as close to the student as possible. Let’s build our schools from the classroom/student up.
  3. Standardize designs for new schools and construction.
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