Delaware Education

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Ten Crazy Days In Delaware Education & A Glimpse Of The Future

August is supposed to be the twilight of summer.  Stuff isn’t supposed to happen.  At least until school starts in the 3rd week of the month.  Like last year though, this August has been anything but quiet.

It started on August 5th when I came out with a massive article alleging Newark Charter School was using student body activity funds to pay for capital expenses.  Like most things in Delaware, nothing came of that one.  The next day, I discovered the NY PTA wasn’t as scared of National PTA and their opt out threat as the Delaware PTA was last winter.  A week ago today I found out Academy of Dover was having some money issues… again.  But the biggest bombshell of the week (in my opinion, and there were many), was when I started looking into the pending contract for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment and found out all sorts of things about high-stakes tests and Delaware’s Smarter Balanced Assessment.  All of this went down on three of the hottest days of the summer.

As the new week started, I called out Christina School District’s CFO Bob Silber for not responding to my inquiry about why Christina spent over $50,000 for non-state employee travel with federal funds.  Still waiting on an answer from Bob on that one after a month.  The Exceptional Children Resources Group at the Delaware DOE dropped a ton of due process hearing and administrative complaint reports.  A hearing for Trinity Carr, the murderer of Amy Joyner-Francis, had a bit of controversy and gave some more details about what happened that day.  On Tuesday, the State Board of Education held an Every Student Succeeds Act Workshop at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover.  Usual Kool-Aid fest!  I posted a photo album of the event.  On Wednesday, I played pin the tail on the Appoquinimink special education tuition tax warrant again after they went on WDEL and basically called me a liar.

Things quieted down for about an hour on Thursday when it was revealed Brian Touchette left the Delaware DOE.  But then the hat trick went down.  In hockey, a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in one game.  The hat trick in this case was the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell pulling fast ones and really ticking myself and others off.  The first was the press release about the Teacher Leader Pilot program and the bizarre email from last May which shed a lot of light on how despicable and manipulative the DOE really is.  Then came Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman’s email response about the Freire opt out scandal and the DOE basically saying congratulations to the charter school.  As if those two events didn’t piss me off to no end, then I read Governor Markell’s back-stabbing Executive Order about a Pathways To Prosperity steering committee that the General Assembly had already squashed.  By the time I went to bed Friday night, I was very angry at how much the DOE and Markell don’t care about how their actions impact others and they act with impunity.

I used three words from a song that came out in 1983 for a post yesterday about how nothing is invincible.  Proving that I do have a life outside of this blog, I wrote about an excellent new television series called Stranger Things this morning.  And finally, I wrote two articles about Governor Markell signing the charter school audit bill and how Kendall Massett is bad for education.  As well, I pondered why the hell Michael Duffy from Great Oaks Charter School (and not even the one in Delaware) attended the bill signing.  I also felt Kathleen Davies should have been there and I vowed to find out why she was really put on leave at the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office.

All this kept me busy, but there were a few things I didn’t write about.  Delaware lost one of our State Representatives this week as Jack Peterman succumbed to prostate cancer.  I heard more parents grumbling about how they really didn’t care how their kids did on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It was hot as hell this week, but hopefully that will end tomorrow night.  Outcast got really interesting if you watch that show.  Matt Denn’s office did email me last week to inform me that the charter school thieves are under investigation but they can’t say anything more than that.  But they stressed it is active.

How do you top all that?  Who the hell knows.  This is Delaware education.  Last year, after the Donna Johnson outing and the Christina drama, I thought things would quiet down.  But then I found out about the Accountability Framework Working Group and the very punitive opt out penalties against schools.  That set the track for a very busy fall last year.

There are things I know I will be writing about this week: the State Board of Education meeting and the Congressional education debate up in Wilmington.  Hans Reigle informed me he will not be able to make it, but it will be interesting to see Townsend, Blunt-Rochester, Barney, Miller, Gesty and the rest talk about education.  Both of those will be on Thursday.  I foresee getting a lot of dirty looks at that State Board meeting.  That’s okay.  I’ll be giving them right back if that’s the case.  I am hoping to get some “Part 2s” of series I started a long time ago and haven’t gotten around to.  Especially the Delaware Illuminati series given what went down this week.  As the Delaware primary is thirty days away, I expect I will be putting out some endorsements of candidates.  There is one thing coming out, maybe some this month but all of them in September, that has me very excited.  All public schools in Delaware have to record their board meetings and put them up on their websites in seven days.  I’m going to predict a lot of “technical difficulties” for charter schools.  As well, it could be a FOIApalooza watching them go in and out of executive session.  I may put some more graphs up about district and charter finances in FY2016.  You can also expect my predictions for the 2016-2017 school year this week.  The other girls involved in the Amy Howard murder have a court case tomorrow and the judge in the Trinity Carr case should decide by Friday if she will be tried as an adult.

There could be some follow-up or fallout from the articles I put up in the last ten days.  I hope so.  There is too much elusive and non-transparent crap going on in education.  I don’t mind shaking things up at all and watching the dust settle.  There is also a lot of stuff I can’t talk about… yet.  There is always something cooking on the back burner.  I do a lot of research and save it.  Very often, something happens and I find a need to go back to that research when something clicks.  There are some things I predict won’t happen this week: Bob Silber won’t respond to my email, Tom Wagner won’t respond to anything or anyone, John Carney won’t respond to me, and Jack Markell will do something stupid.

To be fair, this isn’t original.  Kavips started this last week with a week in review.  It inspired me!

How Delaware Got A “D” On The Network for Public Education 2016 State Report Card

The Network for Public Education released state report cards for their 2016 State Report Card today.  Below is Delaware’s grade determination, for which they received a grade of D.  Personally, I would have given Delaware a grade of D for rejecting high-stakes testing with the behavior over a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Delaware scored very poorly on the “resisting privatization” category.  While Delaware doesn’t take part in any type of voucher system, the push for “school choice” is huge in the First State.  The gap between certain charter schools student demographics and their counterparts in the traditional school districts they reside in is gigantic!

NPEDelawareStateReportCard2016

Why Should Red Clay Get $6 Million In Funding For Things All Delaware Schools Need & Deserve?

StateOfDelaware

It struck me last night that if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan does pass the State Board of Education, the 148th General Assembly and the Governor that Red Clay will benefit immensely while every other district and charter school in the state will suffer.  The plan calls for Red Clay to get all these perks starting out.  I’ve heard Tony Allen say the redistricting is the “price for admission” to all the great things WEIC will offer.  But why in the world should Delaware taxpayers pay for one district to receive $6 million while the others have to wait?  We hear a lot of talk about how Wilmington needs less governance.  Allen and Dan Rich talk constantly about how there are 17 governing education bodies in Wilmington between the districts and charters.  So going down to 16 is the answer?

I was unable to attend the WEIC meeting last night, but I did communicate with some of the members through Facebook during the meeting.  My whole beef with this initiative is the lack of basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  For these students, this is their foundation, the building blocks of their future education in Delaware.  These students cannot afford to wait through the Response To Intervention process to “determine” if they should get special education services or not.  You can’t fix disabilities.  While Tony Allen did say he is working on getting this implemented into the state budget, I commented on this Facebook post that it should have ALWAYS been there.  The WEIC plan calls for this to start in Red Clay.  Sorry Mr. Allen, but what about all the other students with disabilities in the state?  Why should all those students be slighted so one district can get millions of dollars for taking $2500 more students, on top of the large increase in regular school funding they will get anyways just by having those 2500 students come into their district?

The biggest disappointment in WEIC for me thus far is their complete and utter failure to look at the elephant in the room: standardized testing.  This has done far more damage to Wilmington schools than anything else since The Neighborhood Schools Act.  And as we have advocates like Dr. Michael Lomax from the United Negro College Fund playing the civil rights and race cards to make sure Wilmington citizens continue to believe the lies about education in our state through the News Journal, the rest of the state has to wonder how much we can afford to “fix” the problems in education while ignoring the biggest problem of them all.  We have a gushing wound here folks, bleeding out faster than we can stop it.  Putting a Band-Aid on part of the wound while the rest bleeds out is not going to do anything.  Nobody wants to make the head-on charge against Governor Markell.  They believe he is infallible.  This ignorance is killing us in Delaware.  This blind loyalty to a man who continues to lead our children into menial jobs with their Common Core foundation is a disaster in the making.  There would be no need for opt-out at all if we can make the changes our state needs in education.

The fact WEIC is even considering making changes to their “final” draft based on the State Board’s cowardly no action is an injustice.  The State Board is going way beyond the scope of the legislation surrounding this, and there are a considerable amount of legal questions surrounding their vote of nothingness.  Forgive me for saying this, but Dan Rich’s voice in Delaware education for well over fifteen years is enough.  What has he done to improve education?  Who is he loyal to?  University of Delaware or Rodel or WEIC or Tony Allen or Wilmington or Governor Markell or the DOE?  See what I’m saying here?  So WEIC changes their “final” draft again, do they allow the local school boards a chance to vote on it or do they just say “Here you go State Board, this is what we came up with.”  Having one member of the Wilmington school boards on the commission does not give those people the power to speak on the board’s behalf with constantly changing plans.  Or maybe this has been the plan all along and we will see the true motivation behind WEIC in these new “final” plans.

If we want to fix Wilmington schools, this is how we do it.  About 8% of Delaware’s education funding comes from Federal dollars.   But 100% of the current problems are coming from their mandates.  Let’s dump the federal funding.  Completely.  Say bye-bye to it and all the poison and vitriol that comes with it.  We are talking about $80 million dollars we just don’t give to our schools.  In return, we also say goodbye to state mandated high-stakes assessments.  That will save us well over $20 million a year.  Since the DOE makes everything about the results of this testing, we would also no longer have a need for all these outside companies coming into Delaware to do their expensive research that tells us nothing new or twists data to make it look like our schools are worse than they already are.  This includes many programs through the University of Delaware.  This saves us another $30 million or more.  The DOE needs some massive trimming.  Since there are so many positions there tied to assessments, teacher evaluations, and professional development, we can easily save about $10 million right there alone.  Since we don’t have this fed money anymore, we get rid of the labels: priority, focus, focus plan, reward, recognition, etc.  All the money that the state ends up paying for that: $2.5 million a year.  The next part is a bit trickier and more complicated.  We need to recognize which legislators are riding Markell’s gravy train to destroy public education in Delaware.  We label them and do everything in our power to make sure they are NOT elected again next November.  Many of these legislators allow all the loopholes in the state budget that benefit charter schools and education reform companies.  We don’t need Longhurst’s ridiculous SAIL program for our kids after school.  We don’t need $11 million going to Delaware STARS for the early childhood education scams.  No more charter school transportation slush funds.  No more charter school “performance” awards.  No more minor capital funding for charter schools.  We rewrite the laws and get all this pork out of our state budget.  Now we have a surplus from this loss of federal funds.  We have more money.  This is where we reallocate this money to all our schools.  We write our own state standards, as far away from Common Core as we can get, and have true stakeholder input to determine what our children need to know.  We find ways to strengthen our teachers by giving them the resources they need: smaller classroom sizes, more support for special education students, and less administrative oversight.  We eliminate the biases for charters and get rid of enrollment preferences.  We take a strong look at our district formation in Delaware and consolidate many of them.  We redraw lines all over the state, not just in Wilmington.  We trash the current concept of school choice and disallow students from travelling out of district to go to different schools.  We find the flaws in our special education and we plug those holes.  We get rid of the cash going to all these administrators whose very jobs were created so students in their districts do better on the state test.  Teachers get to actually engage more with their students.  Students will care more about their education when true equity is realized.  Students who care more will know more and will do better.  That is the goal, not forcing them to care.

If companies like Rodel don’t want to play ball with the way things are done, we just don’t listen to them anymore.  We bite the bullet and call their bluff and say no to the privatization of our schools.  Because that is the end result.  All privatization does is give us more charters who perform the same as the deceased traditional school districts, or ones that are essentially free private schools who cherry-pick their way to the top of the school rankings.  Kind of like the class system in our country: the lower class, the middle class, and the wealthy class.  A lot in the bottom, some in the middle, and very few at the top.  This is the end goal with everything going on in education.  And as that middle class of education shrinks away, we are left with many at the bottom and a small percentage at the top.  This is playing out all over our country, in every single state.  The likelihood of your child getting a good education from the way things are now is getting slimmer by the day.  It isn’t just African-Americans.  It is whites, Hispanics, students with disabilities, low-income/poverty students, all of them.

All of this takes ignoring what those in power are telling us.  Those with money and influence.  If we want education to survive in Delaware and make it more of an equitable chance for our children, now is the time to institute radical change.  Not at the November elections.  Not when Jack Markell leaves office in January of 2017.  Now.  Now is the time.  These are my solutions for Delaware schools.  Not solutions for Red Clay schools with an expectation that the rest will get those solutions down the road.  That is cherry-picking, district style.  We are above that as a state.  Our children deserve better than that.  All students deserve the best education, despite what color or disability or economic background they are from.  So let’s stop using the students who are most at risk and start looking at ALL children as unique and finding out what their individual needs are.  We can’t lump children into a group and say this is what they need.  They are not they.  One student.  One set of needs.  One student at a time.

Delaware Gets A Grade Of “D” From The Network For Public Education

The Network for Public Education released their 50 State Report Card today and Delaware got a D.  This is no surprise to me considering all the education policies Governor Markell has brought about in the last year.  Frankly, I’m shocked we didn’t get an F.  As Markell continues to tout his success with education, it becomes more clear how flawed his initiatives truly are.  Below you can read the entire report card.

Governor Markell’s FY2017 Education Budget Gives Funds For WEIC, SAIL, Autism, & Early Childhood Education But Stiffs Basic Spec. Education For K-3 Students

Provide greater support and accountability to Priority Schools and ensure the State and districts collaboratively intervene in failing schools.

 

Once again we have the Delaware Governor and his Department of Education labeling schools as “failing”.  This is based on standardized test scores.  It doesn’t take into account the high number of low-income/poverty students, students with disabilities, and the students who bear witness to horrible violence which has a severe impact on their ability to learn.

Governor Markell put in $6 million for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan and $1 million for the SAIL (afterschool) program.  Charters have the recommended $500,000 for their “performance” fund which is the same as last year.  $2.5 million would go towards “school improvement” funds (priority schools, focus schools).  The Governor is recommending $4 million for “teacher compensation reform”.  He nixed nearly $10.7 million in base teacher increase pays, but allowed for $5.3 million to cover inflationary costs.  This is a $57 million dollar increase from the FY2016 budget for personnel costs so I am a bit confused on that one.

From what I can see, it looks like the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE is losing some funds.  Secretary of Education Godowsky requested an increase from $1.8 million to $2.4 million, but Markell is recommending $1.75 million.  Godowsky also wanted to double the state funding for technology operations from $2.8 million to $5.7 million, but Markell is looking at $3.6 million in his budget.  SEED scholarships, which increase scholarships for Delaware students going to Community College, has a proposed $1.6 million increase.

What I do see is a $10 million increase in special needs programs.  Although it doesn’t explain the increase, I am assuming this is to cover the funding for Basic Special Education for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade students in Delaware.  Currently, there is no state funding for these students with disabilities.  This was one of the main recommendations from WEIC and is also pending legislation from State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 30.  It looks like, upon inspection of Senate Bill 175, which breaks down everything in the budget, these funds are going towards early education.  Since the Race To The Top for Early Childhood Education ended, Markell is putting $11.35 million towards this.  So Basic Special Education funding doesn’t get funding, but we are going to pay for early childhood “intervention”.  I will have MUCH more to say about this one later.  Many other special education programs remain the same, including alternative settings.  Allocations for out-of-school placement, like Day Schools and Residential Treatment Centers looks the same as last year, even though costs for these programs have skyrocketed over the years.

On the Dept. of Health and Human Services budget, Markell is looking to increase funding for Autism by only $500,000.00, which is much less than the funds requested through Senate Bills 92 and 93.  Altogether, the fiscal notes for those two bills totaled $1.3 million.

Many of the increases from the previous year are based on inflationary measures.  In the below document, I’m not sure why the first page has all the black on it, but I will attempt to fix it later. Updated 4:58pm: I’m just going to put a picture of it in here…

DOEProposedBudget1stPage

And the detailed version, giving a full breakdown of where the money would go…

Delaware Comes In 16th Place In EdWeek Ranking, Academics Get A D+

It seems like many websites are putting out education rankings these days.  The latest comes from EdWeek with their quality counts ranking system.  For Delaware, we came in 16th place, but this truly isn’t anything to rave about.  Delaware’s overall grade on this ranking was a C+.  A student’s “chance for success was also a C+, K-12 achievement got a D+ and school finance got a B.  I assume this report didn’t factor in all the charter school fiascos with financial fraud and abuse, but like I have said about ranking systems overall, I don’t give them much weight because they can be extremely subjective and biased.

The top three states were Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.  I think we can say, based on this and the Niche.com charts I listed the other day, our overall Smarter Balanced Assessment scores, the opt-out movement in Delaware, a pending ACLU lawsuit against the state and our biggest district based on charter school enrollment practices, a funding system that makes no sense, SAT scores at the bottom of the list based on every single student taking it, falling NAEP scores, and special education chaos throughout our state that Governor Markell’s education initiatives have landed our state into a position of abject failure when it comes to education.  Governor Markell’s education legacy won’t be looked on favorably in the years to come.

Our surrounding states did better than Delaware, with New Jersey coming in at #3, Maryland at #4, Pennsylvania at #7, and Virginia at #12.

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.

Prophets & Profits: The Year In Delaware Education

2015Collage

2015 was a transition year for education in Delaware.  It was a year of prophets and profits.  Many were wondering what was going to happen next while others were making money.

Common Core was around for a few years, but the test that most were dreading was finally here.  Parents opted their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment causing Delaware to miss some of the 95% participation rates for different sub-groups.  For the remaining students taking the test, the results were a battle cry across the state.  Students did not fare better on the test, in fact they did worse than the DCAS.  Most people involved in education predicted this, including the Delaware Department of Education.  While the Governor, a couple of legislators, and the DOE fought the opt-out movement, the rest of the state rallied behind it and there was no greater symbol for it than House Bill 50.  With some touch and go moments, and huge support from the Delaware PTA, the legislation passed the Delaware House and Senate twice with an overwhelming majority in both the House and Senate.  As we all know, Governor Markell went and vetoed the bill in July.  This didn’t stop the DOE and State Board of Education from putting more knives in parents and schools backs with their twisted and diabolical opt-out penalties in the school report card debacle.  The teachers escaped the wrath of the Smarter Balanced results as they received another year off from the scores counting towards their teacher evaluations.

To date, the DOE gave American Institutes for Research $38 million dollars between the Smarter Balanced Assessment and DCAS.  Many other companies profited immensely from the DOE’s efforts to “fix” our schools.  But the DOE itself lost half of Governor Markell’s proposed $7.5 million increase for the Department.  DOE wanted to keep Race To The Top going with their own employees, but didn’t want to maybe, perhaps, send those funds to the classrooms where they are desperately needed.  In the end though, the DOE kept most of the employees hired through Race To The Top, even though they are slowly but surely leaving the DOE.  Leadership at the DOE changed with a new Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky.  The former Secretary, Mark Murphy, “resigned” after votes of no confidence from the two biggest districts’ unions, the state teachers union, the state school administrator group and funding for Red Clay priority schools got seriously jacked up.  But he “resigned”…

Speaking of priority schools, Christina got to keep theirs, but lost two referendums and a middle school principal named Dr. Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District after Dr. Michael Thomas retired.  Christina’s superintendent, Dr. Freeman Williams, went out on leave and shortly after announced his retirement causing the board to hire an Acting Superintendent, former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski.  But due to school choice, Christina continued to bleed students who went to charter schools in Wilmington and the surrounding areas causing many to fear for their financial viability by the start of their next school year next fall.

The entire Wilmington education mess brought about a moratorium on new charter schools in Wilmington for a few years or until the DOE could come up with a “strategic plan” to figure it all out.  Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission was born out of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee which recommended all Wilmington schools not already in Red Clay be moved to that district.  Brandywine and Colonial nudged themselves out of the deal, leaving Christina as the sole giver-upper of their Wilmington schools.  This is, of course, contingent on votes by the State Board of Education and the Delaware General Assembly next year.  The biggest issues with the redistricting effort are funding and lack of faith in Red Clay being able to take on all these schools when they can’t handle problems with inclusion and bullying in some of their own schools.  The devil is in the details, and the funding detail hasn’t been solved.  Ideas such as raising property assessments did not win WEIC a lot of public support.  Nor did the near shut-out of representation from Kent or Sussex County.  While it is a Wilmington commission, the fact that their ideas would support the whole state and they named their website Solutions for Delaware Schools didn’t help the matter.

A couple of charter school leaders in Delaware made immense profits off taxpayer money…until they got caught!  Both of these incidents put Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover on formal review with the DOE and very nasty investigations by the State Auditor’s office.  Both survived, mainly because the former heads of schools were given the boot.  In the case of FFA, East Side Charter School essentially took them over who was still basking in the glow of their miraculous “growth” increases on DCAS.  A point which their leader, Lamont Browne, bragged about incessantly at the Imagine Delaware Education Forum in March.  Not able to survive a formal review was Delaware Met, which was given the hangman’s noose a couple of weeks ago by the State Board of Education.  The Charter School of Wilmington had an interesting Spring with one student’s discipline issue taking up quite a bit of space on here.  Low enrollment woes put new charters Freire and Delaware Design Lab High School on formal review, but they were able to get their numbers up just in the nick of time.  Freire’s Head of School “resigned” after violating their own zero tolerance policy against local protesters.  As the authorizer of three charters in their district, Red Clay dumped Delaware College Prep but renewed the charter for Delaware Military Academy.  The DOE pulled a hat trick and renewed three charters: Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek Academy.

Sussex Academy got a pool.  Many charters had their own teacher evaluation systems approved by the Secretary of Education.  Odyssey and Delaware Military Academy basically asked the state for more money to expand but they did this through articles in the News Journal which caused State Rep. John Kowalko to tell them it shouldn’t happen.  Kowalko, along with many other legislators, opposed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget because of slush funds given to charter schools through transportation funds and performance funds.  But what really drew their ire was settlement funds from the foreclosure crisis that were used to plug holes in the budget.

The entire General Assembly dealt with education bills left and right.  The most controversial were the opt-out bill and the charter school audit bill.  Other education legislation dealing with funding for special education and low-income students, cursive, and recording of all board meetings in Delaware were left hanging until the legislators come back in a couple of weeks.

None of these bills stopped the lobbyists from swarming Legislative Hall like a herd of buffalo.  The Rodel Foundation, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable gave their lobbyist say on most education bills.  Rodel beefed up their personalized learning game with Student Success 2o25 from their Vision Coalition.  Their CEO, Paul Herdman, had a pretty good year.  I can think of 343,000 reasons why.  All opposed House Bill 50, which drew more negative attention to their organizations.  Especially from the bloggers.

Kilroy’s Delaware and Transparent Christina cut back on their output.  Kavips brilliantly beat the same drums he/she usually does.  I posted a few articles.  New blogs entered the Delaware landscape with fixdeldoe, Creative Delaware, and State Rep. Kim Williams’ Delaware First State joining the fray.  The very excellent Who Is Minding The Children came and went.  Newcomer Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks gave Matthew Albright over at the News Journal some much-needed competition.

A lot of what happened on the national level funneled down to Delaware.  The reauthorization of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act created the Every Student Succeeds Act with many scratching their heads asking themselves what the hell it all means.  But our DOE was able to line up all their initiatives with what went down in the final legislation, even though they were planning it years in advance.  I would love to know how they managed to pull that rabbit out of their hat!  Actually, for the education conspiracy theory mongers out there (myself included), we all know how that went down.  That’s right, Congress didn’t write the act, the corporate education reformers did.  The unions all supported it, but it will come back to bite them in the ass.

Delaware escaped the special education “you suck” rating from the feds it received in 3 of the last 4 years, even though they really did.  As standards-based IEPs rolled out across the districts and charters, students with disabilities were put in the toughest “growth” goals of any sub-group in the state with an expectation they would go from 19% proficiency to 59% over the next six years of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Dr. Gray, the State Board of Education President, seems to think personalized learning will get them there.

Parents of Kindergarten students wondered why kids weren’t getting recess and some were getting off the bus with homework.  The days of students getting a break were gone in favor of rigor and grit.  While the DOE and US DOE claimed each student is an individual, their practices and policies were determined to throw them all together in their proficiency pie.

2015 did see a great deal of bi-partisanship with the opt-out movement in House Bill 50.  How the votes go down with the veto override next year will tell the tale on that one.  Many stories will either continue or come to an end in the General Assembly based on that vote as the 2016 elections will determine the fates of all the House Representatives and over half of the Senate.  Many are praying State Rep. Earl Jaques bows out and doesn’t run, along with Senator David Sokola.  This could provide much better leaders for the education committees in the House and Senate.

That covers most of the big moments in 2015.  2016 could be quieter or even messier.  All I know is 2015 was one for the record books!

 

What Do You Think Were The Best And Worst Moments In Delaware Education In 2015?

2015.  What a year!  What were the best and worst moments?  Who were the villains and heroes?  What were the biggest issues?  Take the polls below and let us know!  This poll is only running for 24 hours, so please get your answers in ASAP!

Something Is Going To Come Out Soon That Will Change Everything

I can’t say what it is, or when it will be released.  But you will definitely know about it, and probably the whole country.  This is a BIG thing.  I know and I’m just letting all involved know that I know.  To say I am disgusted beyond words would be the understatement of the century.  The fact that you know and aren’t doing anything about it?  Absolutely deplorable.  You do realize this is going to change the whole landscape in Delaware, don’t you?  You need to stop acting like a deer in the headlights and do something, NOW!  Because if you don’t, I will.  You should have been looking out for those who needed help, not covering your own ass and hoping it would go away.

Delaware, Stop Calling Our Schools Failing!!!! It Is Not A Solution!!!

Every time a Delaware citizen talks about our “failing schools”, it gives the Delaware Department of Education fuel.  They absolutely love it when people say this.  Because what so many of our citizens are forgetting, any label of success or failure is based on standardized testing.  This year, it is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Last year, it was DCAS.  A few years ago it was DSTP.  Everyone loves to put an easy Band-Aid on a deep flesh wound.  This is what our DOE has done.  They have allowed and brainwashed the public into believing their own fallacies.

It sickens me what the DOE has done to our communities and schools with their ideology that only puts more of OUR taxpayer money into the hands of companies that aren’t even incorporated in our state and make them rich beyond our wildest dreams.  All in the name of “progress” and erasing the “status quo”.  Failure is the Delaware DOE’s favorite word.  We need to STOP using this word as a measurement of our schools, and by default, our teachers and students.  We can talk about education, especially in the most impoverished and high-crime statistics.  But don’t for one second believe our children are failing based on the DOE’s measurement.  Because then you have fallen into their trap.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is bad.  It’s very bad.  Refuse this test for your child.  Write a letter today and let the DOE know you will not let your child be their guinea pig for one day longer.

Governor Markell Visits Germany During Crucial Education Week

Delaware Governor Jack Markell is in Germany this week initiating trade agreements with companies.  Meanwhile, Delaware education has A LOT going on this week.  Most important is the State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, September 17th.  But other big events are happening as well.  Today, the State Board of Education is having a retreat at the Duncan Center in Dover, tomorrow the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meets for their regular meeting at William Penn High School in New Castle, and the Vision Coalition is formally announcing their next “big thing” on Wednesday at 10am at Del Tech in Dover.  Oh yeah, there is also the whole Parent Strike REFUSE THE TEST event on Thursday, with a press conference in front of Legislative Hall at 12:30pm.  And starting on Wednesday, the Delaware Department of Education will start mailing individual Smarter Balanced Assessment results to parents across the state.

With all this going on, I would probably skip town too Jack! 😉 But I’m sure this was scheduled way in advance.  The fallout from decisions made this week, and in the next few months, could change the education landscape in Delaware for a long time.  Will the DOE and State Board of Education change or will they be forced to?  How much will it cost Delaware taxpayers to redistrict Wilmington?  Will parent rage over the Smarter Balanced Assessment be enough to make an impact?

Here is a list of all things education this week:

Today, Monday September 14th:

Delaware State Board of Education Retreat, Outlook at the Duncan Center in Dover, 9:00am-5:00pm

Delaware STEM Council Quarterly Meeting, Dept. of Natural Resources Office, Lewes DE, 4:00-6:00pm

SCR 22 Educational Technology Task Force Meeting, DOE Townshend Bldg., Cabinet Room, 4:30-7:00pm

Red Clay Community Financial Review Meeting, Brandywine Springs Teacher’s Lounge, 6:30pm

Tomorrow, Tuesday September 15th

WEIC Funding Student Success Committee, William Penn H.S., Newcastle, 2:00-4:00pm

Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC), Regular Meeting, William Penn H.S. in Newcastle, 4:00-6:00pm

DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee Meeting, DOE Townshend Bldg., Cabinet Room, 4:30-6:30pm

WEIC Parent, Educator, & Community Engagement Committee, William Penn H.S. in Newcastle, 6:15pm

Christina School District Citizens Budget Oversight Committee Meeting, Gauger-Cobbs M.S., Newark, 6:30-8:30pm

Wednesday September 16th

Vision Coalition Student Success 2025 Launch, Del-Tech, Dover, 10am-12noon

Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education Meeting, Warner Elementary School, Wilmington, 7:00pm

Capital School District Board of Education Meeting, District Office, Dover, 7:30pm

Delaware DOE begins mailing individual results on Smarter Balanced Assessment to parents

Thursday, September 17th

Accountability Framework Working Group Meeting, John Collette Education Resource Center, Dover, 8:30am *no announcement of this meeting anywhere, is not a public meeting although it should be.

Parent Strike Press Conference, outside of Legislative Hall, Dover, 12:30pm

State Board of Education Meeting, Townshend Bldg, Dover, Cabinet Room, 1:00-5:30pm

Student Data Privacy Task Force, Carvel State Office Bldg,, 5th Floor, Wilmington, 2:00-4:00pm

Christina School District Board of Education Meeting, Sarah Pyle Academy, Wilmington, 6:30pm-8:30pm

Some parents start to get Smarter Balanced results in the mail, collective scream begins to emerge in Delaware

Friday, September 18th

More parents get SBAC results, the scream gets louder

Is It A Coincidence WEIC, Rodel’s Student Success 2025 & DOE’s SREO Initiative Are All Taking Place At The SAME Time?

There are three major education groups going on right now.  We have the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) led by Bank of America executive Tony Allen, the Rodel sponsored Student Success 2025 brought to us by the Vision Coalition, and the Delaware Department of Education’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO).  These are all going on at the same time, and it makes me wonder…

The biggest thing I noticed on WEIC was the glaring fact there was NO representation from DOE or Rodel on the leadership team.  At first glance, I didn’t notice a lot of the major charter players at all.  But they are well-represented on the Vision Student success 2025 gig:  Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman, Eastside Charter’s Dr. Lamont Browne, Teach For America’s Laurissa Schutt, H. Raye Jones Avery, well-known charter supporters and business leaders Gary Stockbridge and Ernie Diastasis, Longwood Foundation President There DuPont, Saul-Ewing Charter School Attorney Jim Taylor, Maria Matos, Freire’s Assistant Head of Academics Paul Ramirez, and Rodman Ward III. And from the DOE there is Mark Murphy (not sure on his status now that he “resigned”), Vice-President of the State Board of Education Jorge Melendez, Chief of the Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit Chris Ruszkowski, Chief Academic Officer Michael Watson, and State Board of Education Director Donna Johnson.

As for the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities, their membership consists of, well, not too many people.  The only folks I’ve seen on paper is Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson and DOE Chief Policy and External Communications Officer Susan Haberstroh.  The Legislative Hall duo.  These are the only names on this group at this point and we have no idea who the stakeholders are aside from local education agencies and their data that will be collected.  On it’s face, the SREO is merely a data collection initiative, to be collected, collated, and dissected to find “best practices” in our schools.  My issues with this are 1) the vendor is Public Consulting Group, 2) there are always mitigating factors why some schools are “better” than others and trying to copy certain models in other areas of the state may not work, 3) it was a rush announcement by Governor Markell who actually came to a State Board of Education meeting to announce it in March.

All three of these groups have some similar goals for Delaware education.  If you look at the three documents below, it is easy to see the similarities but all the differences:

While certain goals in these three groups are similar, such as funding and best interests for students, some are very different.  But if you add up all the pieces, it equals a combined picture that includes nearly aspect of Delaware education.  I do not believe this is a coincidence.  A year ago, all roads let to the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Now, all roads lead to Governor Markell and Rodel.

I have hypothesized for a year now that Wilmington will become an all-charter school district eventually.  I still believe this is the Governor’s goal.  Last night, at the Red Clay board meeting, serious questions were asked by the board to Dan Rich and Tizzy Lockman with WEIC.  The board questioned where their authority in all of this is.  In the wording of Senate Bill 122, it states the State Board of Education can act without a referendum if the local school board approves a resolution supporting the WEAC recommendations.  Red Clay did this in April.  The law does not specifically name the school districts that can be redrawn.  So who is to say charter schools can’t be considered a school district?  They can, and they could have say in all of this before all is said and done.

The alignment for a total takeover is present, right now.  But there is one huge glitch in the whole plan…funding.  Who pays for any of this?  Red Clay? Christina? The taxpayers (invariably, they always do), the State of Delaware? Corporations?  And there may be one other snafu in this whole process… but I’m not going to let that cat out of the bag!

The Last Exceptional Delaware Post

This is the last post I will be writing because all my objectives with this blog have come to fruition.  Education is always going to be an issue in Delaware, as it should be.  The learning environment for children and teens should always be one of the most paramount issues of our state.  I actually prayed this day would come for years! Continue reading “The Last Exceptional Delaware Post”