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!