Comment Rescue: The Truth About Charter Schools

Thanks to commenter Lori Michelle for putting into words what the heart of the problem is with far too many charter schools.

Charter schools, most of the time, are started by people who have read about this cool educational theory or idea that is working somewhere else (sometimes even an exclusive private school who aren’t beholden to state tests and CCSS and who can pick and choose their students and expel whoever they want…) and think it would be great to get an awful lot of grants and tax money to create a “public school” in the same model. These people are usually not educators who know better and who actually have experience with real live students. Even if these charter school founders aren’t corporate reformers trying to line their pockets with tax dollars, it takes more than good intentions and a good idea to run a school. I feel sorry, first, for the students, and second for those poor teachers who are trying to teach and earn a living under an unprepared and probably unqualified administration. Been there, done that…won’t ever do it again.

Students With Disabilities & Delaware Charter Schools: OCR Complaint & We Need Your Help!

Last week, I filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights against the Delaware Department of Education for allowing a culture of discrimination against students with disabilities at Delaware charter schools.  All too often, children with disabilities are either denied an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or they are “counseled out”, meaning the school either expels the students or very strongly suggests to the parent they don’t have the resources to help their child.  Both are illegal under Federal and Delaware law.  To this extent, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has responded to my complaint and they need a lot more information.

I need every single parent or guardian who has run across any of the below issues to contact me as soon as possible.  The OCR has given me a very small window of opportunity here.  For some parents, they may be worried if this interferes with any type of legal resolution they had with a school in the past.  It would not.  This is a complaint against the Delaware Department of Education, not any individual school.  I will not make any of this information public, but it would be included in the complaint.  We need to stop this culture of lawlessness in our state in respect to special education.  It must stop.

While the below information states anything prior to 180 days would need a waiver, I fully intend to request this waiver since this has been an ongoing system issue in our state.  The Delaware Department of Education has no method by which they track IEP denials in Delaware schools.  If things progress too far, it can wind up going into mediation or a due process hearing.  But this is not an easy task for parents and it takes up a great deal of time, money, and resources.  We need to stop this problem from happening in the first place.  While far too many parents can’t change what happened to their own child, we can stop this from happening to other children.  I need your story!

If you have any information in regards to the following, including the funding issues when a student leaves a charter school, please reach out to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com.  If you are just reading this article and it does not apply to you, please share this link on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media.  If you know anyone this may apply to, please share this with them specifically.  Thank you!

Below is the letter I received from the Office of Civil Rights in regards to my complaint:


Dear Mr. Ohlandt,
This refers to the complaint you filed with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE).  OCR enforces regulations that prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color, disability, sex and age.  The regulations enforced by OCR also prohibit retaliation against individuals who assert or defend a right or privilege secured by the laws OCR enforces, or participate in an OCR proceeding.
In order to proceed further with your complaint, we need additional information regarding your allegation[s].  Please respond to the questions below as specifically as possible. In responding to questions about your belief that an action by the recipient is discriminatory, please provide information indicating that the action was inconsistent with a recipient policy or practice (be as specific as possible), you were treated differently than others in a similar situation, and/or that members of the recipient staff made statements that would indicate dislike/hostility on the basis of disability.
 
  1. Based on your review of your complaint, it appears that you are alleging that the DDOE is discriminating on the basis of disability by:
  1. Permitting Delaware charter schools to deny students with disabilities an individualized education program (IEP);
  2. Permitting Delaware charter schools deny or discourage the enrollment of students with disabilities; and
  3. Permitting Delaware charter schools to maintain funding for students who leave the charter school after the September 30th count, but requiring the funding to follow a student who leaves a traditional school district to attend a Delaware charter school.
  1. Do the allegations listed above in #1.a.-c. fully and completely capture the allegation(s) that you wish to raise at this time?  Yes or No (please circle or highlight your answer).  If not, please edit the above allegations accordingly and/or list your additional allegations.   Please provide the following information about each additional allegation:
  1. Describe the discrimination (who, what, when (date), where, how, please list the applicable names and dates);
  2. State the basis for the discrimination (e.g., disability); and
  3. State your reasons for believing that the discrimination is related to that basis (es).
  1. With regard to allegation #1.a., provide the following information for each student was denied an IEP:
  1. Name of student;
  2. Name of charter school;
  3. Date of parent request to charter school to evaluate the Student for an IEP or Section 504 plan;
  4. Date of charter school’s denial of request;
  5. If request was denied, indicate whether parent was provided with notice of procedural safeguards;
  6. If the denial occurred as a result of an evaluation meeting and you believe the meeting did not comport with the regulations enforced by OCR, please provide information indicating that the meeting was not attended by persons knowledgeable about the child, the evaluation data, and the placement options, or that the parent was not provided with notice of procedural safeguards.
  1. With regard to allegation #1.b., provide the following information about each instance when a charter school denied or discouraged the enrollment of students with disabilities:
  1. Name of student;
  2. Name of charter school;
  3. A description of the discriminatory conduct by charter school officials, including the date;
  4. The names or titles of the charter school officials engaging in the discriminatory conduct; and
  5. Most recent date of charter school’s denial of enrollment or student withdrawal.
 
  1. With regard to allegation #1.c., please state your reasons for believing that this practice constitutes discrimination against students with disabilities, identify any harmed students with disabilities, and the date of the harm.
 
  1. In your complaint, you identified September 1, 2015, as the most recent date of discrimination.  If not already explained in responses to the questions above, please provide the information requested under #2.
 
  1. OCR will generally only investigate allegations of discrimination that have been filed within 180 days of the most recent act of discrimination unless the complainant is granted a waiver.  You filed your complaint on September 16, 2015; therefore, any incidents occurring prior to March 20, 2015, are untimely.  To the extent that you are requesting a waiver of the 180-day filing requirement, please state the reason(s) for not filing sooner.
 
We need to receive your response within 20 calendar days from the date of this email (i.e., by October 14, 2015). If we do not receive this information within 20 days, we may close your complaint.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  Thank you.
 
Joseph P. Mahoney
Program Manager
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
100 Penn Square East
The Wanamaker Building, Suite 515
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Serious Questions About Delaware Secretary of Education & Charter Modification Approvals

I was told last week by Alison May, the Public Information Officer for the Delaware Department of Education, that any change in teacher evaluation is considered a minor modification for Delaware charter schools.  If this is the case, why are there no applications shown online?  The DOE website clearly lists applications for other major and minor modifications, but for Freire and the Wilmington Charter Collaborative (EastSide, Prestige, Kuumba, & Thomas Edison), it does not show any of these.  At least not for the change in teacher evaluation.

The state law is very unclear about this aspect in relation to charter schools.  The code states all schools must use DPAS-II unless they have been otherwise approved for a different teacher evaluation system.  A minor modification is a change in school practices that does not go against their charter.  Since the DOE doesn’t list Freire’s actual charter, it is very hard to see if this meets the criteria for a minor or major modification.  And still, the DOE needs to be putting any application, from any school or district, up on their website.  But Freire seems to get a pass for some reason as their original application is not listed on the Delaware Charter Schools page on the DOE website.

So the unanswered question is this: Can Mark Murphy, in one of his last acts as Delaware Secretary of Education (his last official day is September 30th), approve an alternate evaluation system for Freire without consent from the State Board of Education?  I would assume a teacher evaluation part of a Delaware charter school would be embedded in their actual charter.  And was the approval for the Wilmington Charter Collaborative legal as well?  If anyone has the answers to this, with actual state law to prove it, please let me know.  I have searched extensively for this but I am unable to find it.  And it’s not like the DOE is actually being proactive and forthcoming with information these days, unless it’s to cover their own ass.  And the even bigger question, if it is proven this is a minor modification, should it be considered a major modification?

Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact: Delaware Charter Schools

charterPovertyCorrected

According to Delaware Governor Jack Markell, throwing our hands up with poverty is a recipe for the status quo.  As we can see in the above chart, poverty had a tremendous impact in Delaware charter schools.  The higher the low-income status, the lower the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  There is no hiding this.  Even the highly-praised EastSide Charter School was not immune to the wrath of the high-stakes test.  Below is part of Governor Markell’s speech he gave at the Imagine Delaware Forum in March of this year:

One of the reasons that we often hear for the struggle of our kids in the inner-city schools is poverty. And it is absolutely true that poverty presents enormous, enormous challenges for many children across our state. They face barriers to learning that the rest of us can’t imagine. And that’s why we need to do everything in our power to lift our children and our families out of poverty and to reach these children from the beginning of their lives, to counter the effects of growing up poor. And we are committed to addressing the root causes of poverty, by increasing access to the best early-learning programs, by investing in economic development and reducing crime and battling the addiction epidemic, and more. But as we pursue these goals we can’t delay improvements to the education kids in these communities receive. I, and I know that many of you, refuse to throw up our hands and say that we can’t truly improve education in these schools as long as poverty exists. That’s a recipe for the status quo, a recipe for fewer of our most vulnerable children to get the skills they need to escape poverty.

What Governor Markell seems to lack insight into or just plain ignores is the impact of poverty on children’s education.  It isn’t something “rigor” and “grit” can fix.  It’s a matter of increasing the funding to these schools, and not under the guise of priority schools or focus schools.  It means lowering the size of classrooms, increasing special education funding, and judging children based on a once a year test the clearly shows how much poverty does matter.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not improving education. It is making it more difficult for schools to get the true reform they need.  The Delaware Department of Education will be releasing their school report cards with the Smarter Balanced Assessment carrying most of the weight for school grades.  This is highly destructive to schools that do not do well on this test.  With the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education pushing Regulation 103 into state code, we need parents to see how that will affect all school districts in Delaware.

This is just the first of many articles based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how it affects students of low-income status, students with disabilities, and the most vulnerable minorities in our state.  In conjunction with Delaware Liberal, Exceptional Delaware will be publishing articles in the coming week on this high-stakes testing epidemic that is destroying schools in our state.  This very unique “blog crossover” will paint the picture the Delaware Department of Education doesn’t want the public to see.  But numbers don’t lie.  They present facts that cannot be disputed.  Please come to Delaware Liberal and here to see further articles “Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact”.  Delaware Liberal will be covering New Castle County while Exceptional Delaware will be covering Kent and Sussex Counties.  We may cross reference each other here and there, and I highly recommend reading what they have to write, especially with all the potential redistricting in Wilmington and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

A very special thanks to the always awesome Pandora and LiberalGeek from Delaware Liberal, Brian Stephan of the excellent blog Those In Favor, and Delaware State Representative Kim Williams for their assistance in the data collection and formation of the graphs in this series.  This is truly a collaborative effort on all ends, and Delaware is a better place for it!

Smarter Balanced Results If Delaware DOE Understood Poverty Matters & Special Education Was Understood

As Delaware journalists, schools and parents dove into the Smarter Balanced data this week, Delaware Liberal and Those In Favor released two graphs. Both of them showed how low-income and Smarter Balanced results worked against each other fairly consistently in the Red Clay Consolidated and Christina School District.  Did the same hold true for charter schools?  The below information tells the tale.  As well, I went a step further and played with some different weights into what really matters in education data.

Statistically, schools with small amounts of low-income students had higher scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Those with high percentages of low-income students fared worse on the assessment.  Now if our Delaware Department of Education truly cared about factors affecting high-stakes testing, the results would be completely different.  The below chart shows all Delaware charters and their average Smarter Balanced results.  By simply adding ELA & Math and dividing by two, we see each charters average.  And this does include Positive Outcomes and Gateway for reasons which will become clear very soon.

As a guide, the following abbreviations are as follows:

LI: Low-Income

PF: Proficiency Factor (average proficiency for each school multiplied by low-income percentage)

SE: Percentage of special education students (having an IEP) at each school

PFSE: The proficiency factor multiplied by the special education percentage for each school


DELAWARE CHARTER SCHOOLS LOW-INCOME & SBAC PROFICIENCY RATES

Charter School of Wilmington- LI: 2.3% ELA: 97.5% Math: 96.3% Average: 96.9%

Newark Charter School- LI: 7.2% ELA: 93.1% Math: 84.1%, Average: 88.6%

Sussex Academy- LI: 7.8% ELA: 95.6% Math: 73.9%, Average: 84.75%

Odyssey Charter School- LI: 17.9% ELA: 77.7% Math: 69.5%, Average: 73.60%

MOT Charter School- LI: 5.9% ELA: 75.4% Math: 71.1%, Average: 73.25%

Providence Creek Academy- LI: 18.3% ELA: 66.0% Math: 43.3%, Average: 54.65%

Kuumba Academy- LI: 58.0% ELA: 44.6% Math: 39.9%, Average: 51.3%

Campus Community- LI: 38.3% ELA: 61.9% Math: 36.9%, Average: 49.4%

First State Montessori- LI: 10.0% ELA: 57.4% Math: 41.1%, Average: 49.25%

Las Americas Aspiras- LI: 25.0% ELA: 51.0% Math: 40.7%, Average: 45.85%

Delaware Military Academy- LI: 6.9% ELA: 54.0% Math: 27.6%, Average: 40.8%

Family Foundations- LI: 44.4% ELA: 36.5% Math: 28.9%, Average: 32.7%

Academy of Dover- LI: 64.8% ELA 35.7% Math 25.9%, Average: 30.8%

Thomas Edison Charter School- LI: 76.2% ELA: 33.7% Math: 20.9%, Average: 27.3%

Reach Academy- LI: 55.2% ELA: 31.2% Math: 17.0%, Average: 24.1%

East Side Charter School- LI: 77.3% ELA: 19.9% Math: 23.4%, Average: 21.65%

Prestige Academy- LI: 58.1% ELA: 17.6% Math: 13.4%, Average: 15.5%

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security- LI: 27.0% ELA: 20.6% Math: 7.4%, Average: 14%

Gateway Lab School- LI: 20.8% ELA: 15.4% Math: 4.8%, Average: 10.1%

Positive Outcomes- LI: 31.7% ELA: 15.7% Math: 2.0%, Average: 8.85%

Delaware College Prep- LI: 77.8% ELA: 5.8% Math: 7.5%, Average: 6.65%

Moyer- LI: 73.1% ELA: 8.3% Math: 1.4%, Average: 4.85%

Of course, the highly-praised Charter School of Wilmington is on top and the recently closed Moyer is on the bottom.  The two special education charters are near the bottom of the list as well.  These are solid numbers based on DOE website data on low-income populations and Smarter Balanced results.


DELAWARE CHARTER SCHOOL SBAC RESULTS WITH LOW-INCOME WEIGHT ADDED IN

Kuumba Academy 58.0% ELA 44.6% Math 39.9%, PF: 24.5%

Thomas Edison Charter School 76.2% ELA 33.7% Math 20.9%, PF: 20.8%

Academy of Dover 64.8% ELA 35.7% Math 25.9%, PF: 20.0%

Campus Community 38.3% ELA 61.9% Math 36.9%, PF: 18.9%

East Side Charter School 77.3% ELA 19.9% Math 23.4%, PF: 16.7%

Family Foundations 44.4% ELA 36.5% Math 28.9%, PF: 14.5%

Reach Academy 55.2% ELA 31.2% Math 17.0%, PF: 13.3%

Odyssey Charter School 17.9% ELA 77.7% Math 69.5%, PF: 13.2%

Providence Creek Academy 18.3% ELA 66.0% Math 43.3%, PF: 10.0%

Sussex Academy 7.8% ELA 95.6% Math 73.9%, PF: 6.61%

Newark Charter School 7.2% ELA 93.1% Math 84.1%, PF: 6.38%

Delaware College Prep 77.8% ELA 5.8% Math 7.5%, PF: 5.2%

First State Montessori 10.0% ELA 57.4% Math 41.1%, PF: 4.93%

MOT Charter School 5.9% ELA 75.4% Math 71.1%, PF: 4.32%

Delaware Acad. Public Safety & Security 27.0% ELA 20.6% Math 7.4%, PF: 3.78%

Moyer 73.1% ELA 8.3% Math 1.4%, PF: 3.5%

Positive Outcomes 31.7% ELA 15.7% Math 2.0%, PF: 2.8%

Delaware Military Academy 6.9% ELA 54.0% Math 27.6%, PF: 2.8%

Charter School of Wilmington 2.3% ELA 97.5% Math 96.3%, PF: 2.3%

Prestige Academy 58.1% ELA 17.6% Math 13.4%, PF: 2.2%

Gateway Lab School 20.8% ELA 15.4% Math 4.8%, PF: 2.10%

Las Americas Aspiras 25.0% ELA 51.0% Math 40.7%, PF: 1.14%

Everything changes when you factor low-income and poverty into the equation.  But is that enough?  Many of the schools with high populations of low-income students also have high populations of students with disabilities.  What if we add that to the equation?


DELAWARE CHARTER SCHOOL SBAC RESULTS WITH LOW-INCOME AND SPECIAL EDUCATION WEIGHT ADDED IN

East Side Charter School 77.3% ELA 19.9% Math 23.4%, PF: 16.7%, SE: 14.8%, PFSE: 2.4716

Academy of Dover 64.8% ELA 35.7% Math 25.9%, PF: 20.0%, SE: 11.7%, PFSE: 2.3400

Positive Outcomes 31.7% ELA 15.7% Math 2.0%, PF: 2.8%, SE: 65.9%, PFSE: 1.8452

Campus Community 38.3% ELA 61.9% Math 36.9%, PF: 18.9%, SE: 8.3%, PFSE: 1.5687

Kuumba Academy 58.0% ELA 44.6% Math 39.9%, PF: 24.5%, SE: 6.3%, PFSE: 1.5438

Thomas Edison Charter School 76.2% ELA 33.7% Math 20.9%, PF: 20.8%, SE: 7.1%, PFSE: 1.4768

Gateway Lab School 20.8% ELA 15.4% Math 4.8%, PF: 2.10%, SE: 59.9%, PFSE: 1.2579

Moyer 73.1% ELA 8.3% Math 1.4%, PF: 3.5%, SE: 29.8%, PFSE: 1.0430

Reach Academy 55.2% ELA 31.2% Math 17.0%, PF: 13.3%, SE: 6.4%, PFSE: .8512

Family Foundations 44.4% ELA 36.5% Math 28.9%, PF: 14.5%, SE: 5.3%, PFSE: .7685

Las Americas Aspiras 25.0% ELA 51.0% Math 40.7%, PF: 1.14%, SE: 5.7%, PFSE: .6498

Delaware Acad. Public Safety & Security 27.0% ELA 20.6% Math 7.4%, PF: 3.78%, SE: 16.5%, PFSE: .6237

Odyssey Charter School 17.9% ELA 77.7% Math 69.5%, PF: 13.2%, SE: 4.4%, PFSE: .5808

Providence Creek Academy 18.3% ELA 66.0% Math 43.3%, PF: 10.0%, SE: 5.1%, PFSE: .5100

Prestige Academy 58.1% ELA 17.6% Math 13.4%, PF: 2.2%, SE: 22.0%, PFSE: .4840

Newark Charter School 7.2% ELA 93.1% Math 84.1%, PF: 6.38%, SE: 5.6%, PFSE: .3573

First State Montessori 10.0% ELA 57.4% Math 41.1%, PF: 4.93%, SE: 5.4%, PFSE: .2662

MOT Charter School 5.9% ELA 75.4% Math 71.1%, PF: 4.32%, SE: 6.1%, PFSE: .2635

Sussex Academy 7.8% ELA 95.6% Math 73.9%, PF: 6.61%, SE: 3.6%, PFSE: .2380

Delaware College Prep 77.8% ELA 5.8% Math 7.5%, PF: 5.2%, SE: 2.5%, PFSE: .1300

Delaware Military Academy 6.9% ELA 54.0% Math 27.6%, PF: 2.8%, SE: 3.0%, PFSE: .0840

Charter School of Wilmington 2.3% ELA 97.5% Math 96.3%, PF: 2.3%, SE: .2%, PFSE: .0046


PRIORITY SCHOOLS

Now where all of this gets really interesting is when you start comparing this to traditional district schools.  Since it would take me forever and a day to get all of them, I thought I would start with the six priority schools announced a year ago yesterday.

Bancroft- LI: 80.5% ELA: 11.0% Math: 6.9%, PF: 13.5%, SE: 24.2%, PFSE: 3.2670

Shortlidge- LI: 81.0% ELA: 20.9%, Math: 15.7%, PF: 14.8%, SE: 14.9%, PFSE: 2.2052

Highlands- LI: 65.2% ELA: 29.5%, Math: 17.9%, PF: 15.5%, SE: 12.2%, PFSE: 1.8910

Warner- LI: 82.6% ELA: 13.4%, Math: 10.6%, PF: 9.9%, SE: 14.2%, PFSE: 1.4058

Bayard- LI: 78.2%, ELA: 9.3%, Math: 3.2%, PF: 4.9%, SE: 27.2%, PFSE: 1.3328

Stubbs- LI: 86.5% ELA: 8.1%, Math: 7.1%, PF: 6.6%, SE: 11.6%, PFSE: .7656

Bancroft would have beat ALL the charters, and even Stubbs, at the bottom of this list, would have beat  over half the other charters.  So what is the reason we are judging schools on high-stakes assessment scores when so many other factors need to be considered?  Maybe we can get a new funding program based on these calculations, but please hold the SBAC!  But seriously, as these numbers prove, our “greatest schools” aren’t so great when they don’t have high populations driving a need for additional support and services that are not coming into those schools at the rate they should be.  This is Delaware’s #1 problem, not proficiency scores on a useless once a year test. Governor Markell, poverty does matter and special education plays a huge role in the overall dynamic in Delaware education.

 

Washington Supreme Court Ruling On Charters Not Being Public Schools: Could This Happen In Delaware?

The news broke tonight and all over the country folks are having a collective gasp and bewilderment at the Washington Supreme Court ruling on charter schools being unconstitutional in Washington.  Could this happen in Delaware?  There are some very strong arguments for this.  Given the nature of referendums in Delaware, and how charter schools get local funding, it could if there was strong support for it.  Do we have that in Delaware?

State Rep. Kim Williams really drove it home on social media tonight:

kimwashingtonruling

I’ve always felt if charters want to be called public schools than they need to behave like public schools.  I’m not saying they all go against this grain, but enough of them do that it causes huge issues with feeder patterns.  I’m talking about you Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy and Sussex Academy.  But even more than that, the funding issues with Delaware charters cause more problems than they are worth.  Christina School District is definitely feeling the brunt of this right now, but what happens once the charter moratorium is lifted and more begin to open up across the state?  I just heard today that First State Montessori is looking to open a second charter in Sussex County.  And what about when schools like Family Foundations Academy get modifications approved to increase their enrollment?  MOT Charter School just opened a high school in Middletown/Odessa and that will surely affect enrollment in the Appoquinimink School District.

The way charters are funded in Delaware just doesn’t work.  There is only so much money to spread around, and funds getting squeezed out of the traditional school districts isn’t working.  It is creating chaos, and this will only increase.  Vo-techs are funded by line item on the budget.  Why aren’t we doing this with charter schools?

The political capital to do away with charters as public schools does not exist in Delaware right now.  There is far too much public support for them.  Some key differences between Washington and Delaware spotlight this.  Washington just began their journey with charters in the past few years.  Delaware’s began twenty years ago.  Teachers are allowed to strike in Washington (as they are doing in Seattle right now) and Delaware’s can not.  Despite Bill Gates coming from Washington, this state sure knows how to challenge the reformers in Education.  Between high opt-out numbers, dropping out of Common Core, and now this, they are the state to watch!

Parent Advocate Questions Sending Kids To New Charters In Delaware

I may not always agree with Devon Hynson, but for the most part, he hits a bullseye!

This is the reality in Delaware.  And like he said, it’s not all charters. It’s not all schools.  But I don’t think the solution is necessarily to send your kid back to a traditional public school.  I think the time is come to hold the schools who say they can’t, or won’t accommodate, to the fire.  It’s not a choice for public schools to pick and choose things that go against state and federal law.  And if the DOE won’t do anything about it, than every single parent who goes through this needs to stand up and shout it to the world.  They are getting OUR taxpayer money.  Why should we leave?  They need to be held accountable for this stuff, not all the stupid assessments.  It’s not choice if the student isn’t getting everything they would be entitled to at a regular school.  It’s discrimination.  And traditional schools, you don’t get to pick and choose based on what’s best for the district or your budget, you pick what’s best for the individual student.  No more!

What Is The Legal Definition Of A Charter School In Delaware?

Is a charter school a corporation?  I’ve heard this question asked by many people in recent years, and the answer is yes.  They are definitely a corporation under legal terms in Delaware.  But they are accountable to the State of Delaware and their issuing authority agent.  For most charters, this is the Delaware Department of Education.  Only three charters in the state are accountable to their authorizing school district, Red Clay Consolidated: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep.

But how does it all work?  This report from the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office gives crystal clear information in legal terms about what a charter school’s responsibilities and obligations are as a corporation.

Delaware Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report 2015

“Head of School Report: School is completed for this year.  This year should go down in the history books as gone for good and never have history repeat itself.  We need to learn from the past.”

The above quote was found in a Delaware charter school’s board minute notes recently.  About a year ago, I went through all the charters websites and graded them on certain things: board minutes up to date, agendas for next board meetings posted, and monthly financial information posted.  I will be grading each charter based on this information again this year, but I am adding in Citizens Budget Oversight Committee (CBOC) notifications and minutes.  I’m not including charters that haven’t opened yet or charters who got shut down this year cause really, what’s the point?

I can say a lot of the charters have become more compliant and transparent with these in the past year.  But some have not.  I gave a little bit of slack on the board minutes.  A lot of them had a meeting in the past week, so I don’t expect them to get the June minutes up right away.  If you see red, it’s not a major thing, but they need to fix it.  If it’s in BOLD red, they are majorly breaking the law and they need to fix that ASAP!  State law mandates charters put up their monthly financial info up within 15 days of their last board meeting.  As well, you have to have a CBOC committee and meetings.  Two of the charters on here with some big dinks are on probation already so they need to get on that.  Two others are up for charter renewal, so they definitely need to jam on it!

Academia Antonia AlonsoAgenda: no (only has two agendas for two board meetings in past year listed), Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: has meetings listed through end of 2015, Grade: C-

Academy of Dover– Agenda: Yes, Board minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: July 30th, Grade: B

Campus Community School– Agenda: July 2015, Board minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: March 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, Grade: D

Charter School of Wilmington– Agenda: Yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, but does indicate no July meeting, Grade: B

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & SecurityAgenda: no, website gives generic agenda for every meeting, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade: F

Delaware College PrepAgenda: no, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: April 2014, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade F- for Formal Review

Delaware Military Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: January 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Monday of the month, Grade: D

Early College High SchoolAgenda: no, Board Minutes: May 2015 (states June meeting had no quorum which is majority of board members present to approve items up for action), CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: no, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed but states meets 4th Thursday of the month, Grade: F

Eastside Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: Shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A

Family Foundations Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A

First State Montessori AcademyAgenda: no, Board Minutes: February 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 4th Thursday of the month, Weird Fact: Uses WordPress as their website, the same as Exceptional Delaware…, Grade: D+

Gateway Lab School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A+

Kuumba Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: B

Las Americas Aspiras Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: yes*, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Thursday of each month, *Superstar: Monthly Financial report is excellent, shows both what the DOE wants AND what state appropriations and codes are needed!!!!, Grade: A+

MOT Charter SchoolAgenda: no, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: not sure, shows agenda for June 2015 meeting but last meeting was in May 2013, CBOC Minutes: May 2013, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: F

Newark Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: board meetings listed through June, 2016, Grade: A+

Odyssey Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 12th, Grade: A-

Positive Outcomes– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 19th, Bonus: board meetings AND CBOC meetings listed through June 2016, Grade: A+

Prestige Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: none listed, website only shows members of CBOC, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 3rd Tuesday of each month, Grade: F

Providence Creek Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 25th, Bonus: does have all future board meetings through June 2016 on school calendar, Grade: A+

Sussex Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: February 2015, next board meeting: September 16th (no meetings in July or August), Grade: C

Thomas Edison Charter– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 17th, Bonus: Has all board meetings listed through June 2016, Grade A+

There you have it.  The Exceptional Delaware July 2015 Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report.  8 out of 22 need to do some serious damage control quick.  Because once DOE Jenny (as Kilroy calls her) reads this report, she’s going to have some serious questions for some of you!

Oh, I forgot one thing.  The quote up above will be shown later today as part of another article.  Because even though that school wants to forget about the past year, the past is knocking on their door!  More later!

Prologue to Delaware Charter War: Cherry-picking, Counseling Out, Choice, Fraud and Discrimination

Delaware Education. Before twenty years ago, you sent your child to the local school district and called it a day unless you sent them to a private school. But that costs big bucks, and only the wealthy or those who worked night and day could afford that. In 1995, that all changed with Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Delaware Senator David Sokola. Dubbed “The Charter Law”, it changed everything about the Delaware education landscape. Although Sokola was the sponsor, the true “godfather” of charter schools in Delaware was the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education, Bill Manning. Some have even theorized Manning was the ghost writer of Senate Bill 200.

While the original doesn’t appear on the General Assembly website, MikeO from the much-missed blog “the seventh type” got his hands on the Senate debate transcript, and many of the issues that we face now were forewarned even back then. We can even see hints of the issues being discussed, such as how charters were ever able to determine low-income status for students:

SENATOR CORDREY: I guess in reading the synopsis it says “Such as low income students”. Why is there a separating out of cost of busing for low income students anymore than a normal income student?

SENATOR SOKOLA: The reason for that was it was felt that since it is the parent’s responsibility in the Bill to get the student to a normal bus route, there may be an additional burden for a family who did want to apply for a charter that was outside of their normal feeder pattern.

A great deal of discussion was held concerning amendments Senator Sokola added to the bill, such as the percentage of parents and teachers that could vote to have a public school converted to a charter school and how charters couldn’t apply to a local board and if it was rejected, they could go ahead and apply go to the State Board of Education.

As originally written, charter schools were supposed to have a certain niche, and based on it’s success, local school districts were meant to replicate or mirror that success in an effort to improve education. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. What did happen is the debate of the past twenty years in Delaware, and it boils down to a simple question: What is more important: a parent’s choice or equity in education?

For the proponents of charter schools, many believe it is the choice. The ability to decide what is best for your child’s education. Ironically, this is also the heart of the argument for the parent opt-out legislation Governor Markell vetoed last week. The difference is one has been proven to cause inequity (charters) and the other has been unproven (civil rights groups claims opt-out will put minorities and disadvantaged students in a bad position).

For charter schools, the main accusations against them are called cherry-picking and counseling out. Many have been doing it for years, and the DOE and the Governor don’t even bat an eye. Hell, Governor Markell sent his own kid to Charter School of Wilmngton. Take the best, forget the rest. Not even a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid against Red Clay Consolidated School District and the Delaware Department of Education as the charter authorizers for these schools seems to make a difference. But shouldn’t it actually be the Delaware State Board of Education and the Secretary of Education since they are the ones who make the decision? Or the Delaware Department of Education because they know what these schools are doing and don’t seem to be able to do anything? Or should it be the General Assembly since they are the ones who created the law? I know, that was the 138th General Assembly, and we are now on the 148th General Assembly. Who should get sued or held accountable for furthering segregation in Wilmington and other parts of the state? Do we go all the way back to then Red Clay Superintendent William Manning who proposed the idea for Wilmington High School to become a charter school which resulted in Senate Bil 200?

In researching information for this article, I found the perfect analogy for this concept of “cherry-picking” in the comments thread of Kilroy’s Delaware. Anonymous commenter Publius and Mike Matthews were going at it in a long thread, and Mike Matthews explained this concept brilliantly:

Publius:

Allow me to make an analogy. It may be inappropriate, but I think it is actually quite good.

Charters and traditionals. It’s like picking teams on the playground. You line up the class. Pick two captains for the two teams — charters and traditionals.

The charter captain gets to pick HIS half of the class for his team first. He picks all the amazingly skilled students. The other captain gets whatever is left. The game starts. The charter captain learns that two of his players just aren’t cutting it. They are slow and can’t make it to the base without getting called out. So, midway through the game, the charter captain gets the rules changed. Switches out two of his weaker players and gets two of the stronger players from the other team.

In essence, this is what the debate is. Charters get the best of the best and then they can change the rules mid-game if they don’t like what they’ve got: Kick out challenging students.

Again, not a perfect analogy, but I think it’s kinda on target.

The original article and comment thread can be found here: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/new-delaware-standardized-charter-school-enrollment-application/

But what started the whole “traditional school district” vs. charter war? The roots can once again be found here:

The most ironic part about this video is the footage right after Manning talks about Charter School of Wilmington, and it shows two African-American female students. CSW is well-known to have a very low percentage of African-Americans compared to, well, anywhere in Delaware. The same has been said regarding Sussex Academy’s Hispanic population at the bottom end of the state.

CSW will claim their demographics became that way not by design but in who applies. CSW has a placement test prior to admissions. In December, I attended a meeting of the Enrollment Preference Task Force which came out of House Bill 90 in 2013. Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is on the task force, but for this meeting, Charter School Office Director Jennifer Nagourney took his place. Even she said she was against any type of placement test prior to admission. The US DOE has also offered guidance in this vein as well.

This topic will heat up in the coming months as the Enrollment Task Force final report is released. State Rep. Kim Williams informed me the report will be coming in the early Fall. This is just a prologue of many articles I will be writing on this topic, and I would love to see comments from both sides of the spectrum, and why you feel the way you do.  At the heart of this is what we have allowed to become law in our state, and every single charter law will be ripe for the plucking with this series of articles.

I will be exploring all the issues surrounding Delaware charter schools: counseling out, cherry-picking, special education, fraud, board issues, the DOE’s role in charters, Wilmington, down-state charters, enrollment preference, specific interest, parent involvement, teachers, leadership, and the role corporate education reform and standardized testing plays in everything about public education but more specifically how charters play a central role in all of this.

Delaware Charter School Leadership Changes

As the new school year approaches, there is movement afoot among Delaware charter schools.  Some are coming from different states, while others are transferring between different Delaware charters.

William Bennett, a former principal from an elementary school in Media, PA has taken on the role of principal at Delaware Design Lab High School after a shocking exit and settlement from his former school.

Rebeccah Forrest, an assistant principal at EastSide Charter’s middle school is taking over the principal position at Gateway Lab School as Stacey Solomon heads over to St. Ann’s, a parochial private school.

At Providence Creek Academy, Chuck Taylor resumes his former role as head of school due to the bizarre illness Steve Esmond contracted in the Bahamas shortly before he was scheduled to start at PCA.  Taylor left PCA in 2013, went to Campus Community for about six months, and returned to PCA to serve as interim head of school.

Dr. Evelyn Edney, former Dover High School principal, became the principal at Early College High School in Dover effective July 1st.

Former executive director Jack Perry of Prestige Academy in Wilmington has landed a new job as deputy chief of academic enrichment for the Philadelphia School District according to an article in Philly.com.  Cordie Greenlea is the new executive director at Prestige after previous stints in Christina School District and most recently Delcastle Technical High School.

One thing you can say for Delaware charters, they certainly like to mix things up!  As long as we don’t get more like Noel Rodriguez, Sean Moore, or Dr. Tennell Brewington.

House Bill 186 Is #1 With A Bullet, Aimed Directly At Charter School Accountability

The Delaware House of Representatives released their House Agenda for their last day of legislative session until January 2016.  The first item on the agenda is State Rep. Kim William’s House Bill 186.  These are the reasons this bill needs to pass:

1) Noel Rodriguez & Academy of Dover- $127,000 in personal spending and another $129,000 the State Auditor isn’t sure was used for school or personal spending.  As well, an anonymous source informed me two other staff members at the school were also pilfering funds, and this was reported to the FBI, but nothing has come from any of that…

2) Family Foundations Academy, Sean Moore & Tennell Brewington- over $90,000 in person spending between this dynamic duo, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in other questionable spending performed by this school during their reign.  The State Auditor’s report hasn’t come out yet on this one, but it will be a doozy that may make Academy of Dover look weak in comparison.

3) Delaware Military Academy & Jack Wintermantel- while out of the news, this 2013 State Auditor investigation found numerous financial violations at this school.  Source: http://auditor.delaware.gov/Reports/FY2013/DMA%20Investigative%20Report.pdf

4) The seeming inability for many charter schools to accurately code items correctly on the state financing website, as indicated by what is shown on Delaware Online Checkbook.  In some situations, funds are allocated in areas that have absolutely nothing to do with why the funds were spent, i.e. Academy of Dover putting a payment for an out of state residential treatment center under “Employee Recognition”.  Furthermore, putting students names in a special education settlement transaction on Delaware Online Checkbook is a clear violation of FERPA legislation but schools continue to do this.

5) Section 347 of Paragraph 508 of Title 14: This special designation for charter schools allows them to keep the unused portion of their transportation funds for “educational purposes”, but there is no clear mention of what those “educational purposes” can be, or where the funds should be directed on an accounting level.  In the past two fiscal years, over $2.4 million dollars was kept by Delaware charter schools, with Family Foundations Academy and Newark Charter School each keeping over $400,000 EACH from this caveat.

6) As indicated by the ten charter school performance fund applications I just posted, most schools don’t have a clue about finances and what funds can go to which allotment.

7) The Delaware Charter School Network is vehemently opposed to this bill- while they have a right to be concerned about the cost of audits, the cost to taxpayers over the complete and utter disregard of how taxpayer funds are spent as well as the strain and disruption this places on all education in Delaware makes it very clear more oversight is needed over the Wild West of Finances occurring in our charter schools.  As well, at least two of the current or former members of their governing board are/were heads of school at two of the charter schools that are being investigated, and one of them sits on the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE

8) The DOE is not in a position to do anything about this: through a complete lack of oversight over the charter schools they authorize, the DOE has never caught fraud in the act.  They do not monitor they money flowing in and out of these schools

9) Lack of oversight at the charter schools themselves- many charter schools just started having a Citizens Budget Oversight Committee this year.  This has been in state code for years.  As well, a DOE representative is supposed to be at each meeting for each school.  If some of these schools that have operated for years never had a DOE rep at their non-existent CBOC meetings, than the DOE fell asleep at the wheel but they are never held accountable.

10) In discussing House Bill 186, the State Auditor’s office said seven charter schools are under investigation.  We know Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, and Providence Creek Academy are three, but who are the other four?  Judging by their board minutes, Thomas Edison Charter School may be one, but who are the other three and why are they being investigated?

Kendall Massett at the Delaware Charter Schools Network is fighting like a House Bill 50 parent proponent, but she is against this bill.  She has emails going out every day begging parents to email legislators to stop this bill.  Should what is essentially a lobbyist firm receive that much free reign to stop a bill?  What is Kendall so afraid of?  Is there something much, much bigger yet to be discovered?  That wouldn’t shock me at all.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A State Rep Scorned! Seven Charter Schools Under Investigation By State Auditor!!!!!

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams is mad as hell, and she is making it known!  The reason for her anger?  Her Delaware charter school audit bill, House Bill 186, is facing some fierce opposition.  But why?  Find out here, from her State Rep. Facebook page:

PLEASE READ VERY IMPORTANT!!!!!! Our teachers are held accountable, students are held accountable, don’t you think our public tax dollars should also have accountability?

Academy of Dover since 2010-2011 has not met or fell far below the financial standards set forth by the Department of Education and the Charter School Accountability Committee. The charter school office reported to the State Board of Education yesterday that in early April they learned of serious allegations of financial management by a former Academy of Dover school leader. Their financial framework for the last three years have shown there have been financial issues. I brought a bill forward which would require all charter schools to be audited through the Auditor’s Office, currently all public schools are audited through this office except for charter schools, and the House republicans sitting on the House Education Committee voted against the bill that I sponsored; House Bill 186. Family Foundation this year had issues with two former co-directors misusing the public’s money, over $90,0000, and now we have Academy of Dover who is now under investigation by the Auditor’s Office for misuse of public funds. The Delaware Charter Schools Network were there on Wednesday lobbying legislators hard not to support my bill. This is a great bill and it should be released from Committee. I have eight Democrats who are willing to sign the bill backer. During the State Board of Education meeting you hear one board member stating that the Financial Framework would not have caught this. Another board member stated this is happening a lot. DOE Charter School Office stated that Academy of Dover has been working for years on a payment plan, so does that mean folks knew for years this was going on. House Bill 186 needs to be released and voted on the House floor.

If you have never met Kim Williams, she doesn’t seem the type to get mad.  However, once she is, you know it pretty fast.  I’ve seen her and she isn’t the yelling and screaming type, but she is very direct and firm.  I can completely understand why she is so upset about this bill.  Charters, many of them, have been pilfering taxpayer funds for a long time now.  At the House Education Committee on Wednesday, a representative from the State Auditor’s office confirmed seven charter schools are under investigation in their office and no traditional school districts are at all (which squashes the rumors I heard about two school districts in our state being investigated over there).  Three are known: Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy and Providence Creek Academy.  Who are the other four?  That’s 31.8% of the charters in this state!

Patrick Heffernan with the Delaware State Board of Education raised a very good point the other day.  The settlement with Mosaica was $650,000.00.  Academy of Dover plopped down $200,000 right away, and has $150,000 due 7/3/15 and another payment of $150,000 by 7/31/15.  Then they will pay $50,000 once a year for 3 years after.  So that’s $500,000 they will pay by the end of July.  Where does all this money come from?  This is taxpayer money they have been tucking away somewhere waiting for this rainy day.  This is funding that should be going to students.  Now I understand why they were being so cheap about paying their paraprofessionals an extra buck or two an hour when they were asked to substitute teach!

Write you state representative today and demand accountability for charter schools!

Tomorrow Is The Last Day To Give Public Comment On Academy of Dover, Freire, Prestige Academy & DE Design Lab

The formal review public comment period for the four Delaware charter schools officially ends tomorrow.  You can email comments to infocso@doe.k12.de.us and they must have them by 5pm est.  This is your last chance to get your say on the formal reviews for Academy of Dover, Prestige Academy, Freire and Delaware Design Lab High School.  Good or bad, this is it.

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will issue his decision on the recommendations of probation by the Charter School Accountability Committee for all four charters next Thursday at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting.  The meeting starts at 1pm, but based on their schedule, I can’t see the charter part happening before 2:30pm.  You can give public comment at State Board of Education meetings, but not about the four charters.  These are the State Board guidelines for public comment:

Details

Time has been allocated at the beginning of the meeting for individuals or groups to address the State Board on general issues and on agenda items at the time they are before the Board for discussion. Board Agenda items with formal comment periods or discrete identified records, such as Charter School applications or renewals, Department of Education and Professional Standards Board regulations, and student disciplinary appeals,  are not open for comment at the Board meeting at which action is to be taken. At least 15 minutes prior to the meeting being called to order, persons wishing to address the Board should sign up on the appropriate form, giving their name and topic they will address. Comments should be limited to five minutes and each group should choose one representative to speak.  Speakers will be recognized by the Board President in the order their names appear on the sign up list. As circumstances require, the Board President may at his/her discretion, limit the number of persons allowed to speak, as well as designate the time for comments.

Please Note: Normally, the Board will not respond to questions by or engage in a dialogue with those offering comments during the Board meeting, but may respond in writing to a person or group.

Final Public Hearings For Freire, Prestige Academy and DE Design Lab Tonight At 5pm, Academy of Dover Tomorrow At 6pm

The Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Department of Education is holding the final Public Hearings for Freire Charter School, Prestige Academy and Delaware Design Lab High School tonight in the 2nd floor auditorium at the Carvel Building in Wilmington at 5pm.  Academy of Dover will have their final public hearing tomorrow night at the main Delaware DOE building across from Legislative Hall at 5pm tomorrow in the 2nd floor Cabinet Room.

These are not public hearings where the schools are on trial.  Rather, it gives the public time to give comment on these schools official formal review proceedings.  There is a transcript which is put on the DOE website a couple days after.

I anticipate quite a few of the community members near the new Freire sight to protest this school’s location again.  For Academy of Dover, God only knows what will come out at this hearing!

Last Chance Meeting For Academy of Dover, Prestige and DE Design Lab On Wednesday, Freire Will Be Saved By Jack and Murphy

On Wednesday, June 3rd, at 1pm, the four Delaware charter schools under formal review will have their final Charter School Accountability Committee meetings.  The meeting will be held at the Townshend Building in Dover, home to the Delaware Department of Education.

It remains to be seen if Academy of Dover will be able to overcome the odds and save itself.  The key for Delaware Design Lab and Prestige Academy will be their current enrollment figures.  Freire has already met those figures, and at last count was at 93%.  All they needed was 80%.  Prestige will also need to prove if they are worthy enough academically.

This is the major problem with the DOE holding any school accountable for academics at this point in time.  DCAS is over, and Smarter Balanced is here, at least for this year.  Schools should not be double penalized for last year’s DCAS scores.  They shouldn’t be punished at all for standardized test scores.

Academy of Dover has to prove they are financially viable with a $2 million dollar judgment staring them in the face.  They face the academic battle as well.  But the even more dangerous threat for them is one student.  One student with autism who represents the severe danger of this school staying open.  One student whose mother will stand up for him and reveal all.  Blue Ribbon status won’t be enough to save Academy of Dover.  But one student…one student could shut them down for good.

The fate of them all will be decided on June 18th, at the State Board of Education meeting…

Delaware Charter School Mystery Teaser

-Which Delaware charter school has a leader that is severely ticking off not only students, but faculty as well?

-Which Delaware charter school is not renewing a beloved teacher’s contract because this teacher called out the same leader on their tactics of bullying and intimidation?

-Which Delaware charter school has students taking a stand: the teacher over the leader?

*Hint: It’s all the same charter school, and you will definitely hear more about this soon…

Academy of Dover, Freire, DE Design Lab, & Prestige Academy Get Their Initial Formal Review Meeting Reports

What do these Delaware Charter Schools have in common: Academy of Dover, Freire Charter School of Wilmington, Prestige Academy and Delaware Design Lab High School?  Not only are they all under formal review, but the Charter School Accountability Committee came out with their initial reports in the last hour!

We start the show with Academy of Dover.  Having attended this meeting, it is missing some crucial moments, but that’s okay.  I’m sure it will all come out in the wash!

Next up is Freire Charter School of Wilmington.  Not even opened yet, and they are already up for formal review.  But they do have a get out of jail free card if they decide to use it….

Prestige Academy sure does have a lot going against it right now.  Academic and enrollment are not good reasons to have a formal review placed on your school!

Last, but not least, is Delaware Design Lab High School.  They already received a new lease on life last year with a modification to reduce their enrollment.  They can only use this trick once.  Will they get their enrollment up?

It’s very sad when 18% of the charter schools in the state are under a formal review.  Actually, make that 23% if Red Clay puts the formal review screws on Delaware College Prep.  The final reports, after public hearings tomorrow and Wednesday will be issued two days after the final committee meetings on June 5th.

Timeline for Delaware Charter Schools Going Through Formal Review

Four Delaware charter schools, Academy of Dover, Delaware Design Lab High School, Freire, and Prestige Academy are all under formal review by the Delaware Department of Education right now.  All four schools had their initial meetings with the Charter School Accountability Committee on 5/13/15.  All meetings are open to the public.  As well, you can email public comment on any of the four schools and send it to this email address: infocso@doe.k12.de.us

This is what happens next:

5/15/15: Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) report issued (not currently showing) for Academy of Dover

5/18/15: CSAC report issued for Delaware Design Lab High School, Freire, and Prestige Academy; Public Hearing for DE Design Lab, Freire and Prestige Academy at Carvel Building, 2nd floor auditorium, in Wilmington, 5pm

5/19/15: Public Hearing for Academy of Dover at DOE Building in Dover (across from library), Townshend Building, 2nd floor Cabinet room, 5pm

6/1/15: Response to initial CSAC meetings due by all four schools to DOE by 5pm

6/3/15: Final CSAC meetings for all four schools held at DOE building in Dover, 2nd floor Cabinet room, 1pm

6/5/15: Final CSAC reports issued for all four schools

6/9/15: Final Public Hearings for Freire, DE Design Lab and Prestige Academy, at Carvel Building, 2nd floor auditorium, DE Design Lab and Prestige Academy at 5pm, Freire at 6:30pm

6/10/15: Final Public Hearing for Academy of Dover, DOE building, 2nd floor Cabinet room, 5pm

6/12/15: Public Comment Period ends

6/18/15: State Board of Education Meeting, 1pm, decision on all four schools by Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and State Board of Education

Breaking News: State Auditor’s Office Looking At More Than Family Foundations & Academy of Dover

I just talked to Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office to find out when the audits for Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover will be released.  FFA does not have an estimated date, but they expect Academy of Dover to come out in May.  I asked if there are any other charter schools being investigated by their office.  I was told “we have a report coming out on other charter schools.”  I asked if they were of the same magnitude as Family Foundations and Academy of Dover.   The response was that those two were reported to their office and both have been talked about in the public so they have made the fact known they are being investigated.  But the office gave me no other information about which other charter schools are being looked at.  But it is more than one, and whether this is an overall report or locked into specific charters was not provided.

When is the Delaware DOE going to do their job and not just authorize charter schools, but actually take part in State law which indicates they have to have a DOE representative on each charter school’s Citizen Budget Oversight Committee?  This is beyond the point of absurdity.  Enough DOE!  You are making our state look like a bunch of idiots!  Do your job and stop worrying about priority schools, standardized tests, teacher accountability and standards-based IEPs.  Because this Department needs to be held accountable most of all!  House Bill 53 needs to pass as soon as possible so these charters can stop taking taxpayer money and doing what they want with it!  And if their own independent auditors can’t seem to catch these cases of taxpayer theft, maybe their own audits need to go deeper every year.

I’m all for choice.  I know everyone thinks I hate charters, but I don’t.  I hate the lack of transparency, the lack of fair practices, how they keep transportation funds after they have spent their budgeted amount, enrollment preferences that slight any student under any circumstances, the extreme amount of lobbying that happens for their benefit, the special education issues in many of them, the unelected boards, and the corporate education reform designed to create more charters while leaving traditional school districts out in the cold.  There are good charters in this state, but the stink of far too many give them a bad name.

And please, Delaware General Assembly, let’s get House Bill 61 through the House Education Committee and out for a vote.  This is what I will call the Kilroy bill: that all school boards have to record and post to their website all board meetings.  Three years is enough!  The people deserve to hear what these boards are saying!