Breaking News: Delaware DOE Wants To Add Charters To Priority & Focus Status In ESEA Waiver Request

The Delaware Department of Education just announced, at the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) Advisory Committee meeting, that they will be adding to their ESEA Flexibility Waiver that ALL public schools in Delaware will be given the same label system that is currently reserved for traditional public school districts.  These labels include “Priorty”, “Focus”,  and “Focus Plus”.  Currently, only traditional school districts are included but this would now include Delaware charter schools.  This would not include “Action” and “Watch” schools.  No discussion occurred in regards to funding for these schools.

Yesterday, at the Accountability Framework Working Group, the members discussed this idea and Penny Schwinn stated she would check on this.  Last evening she discussed this with members of the Governor’s staff and this will be added to Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  I’m not sure if the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell’s office have thought about needing public awareness of this as well as a public comment period.  Since Delaware has to hand in their updated ESEA Flexibility Waiver by October 31st, that leaves very little time for public comment.  This is not the same as Regulation 103 for several reasons.  This hasn’t been included in Regulation 103 at this point.  Regulation 103 will tie whatever is approved in the ESEA Waiver Request into State regulation.  Schwinn did state no priority or focus schools will be named in the next three years, so even if the charter addition is approved by US DOE, it wouldn’t happen until Fiscal Year 2019 at the earliest.

I am personally against this whole “labeling” system to begin with.  It is punitive in nature and severely disrupts education.  Making this happen for every school in the state could be very damaging to an already weakened traditional school district system.  This will just make charters that serve high populations of low-income, minority and special needs populations vulnerable to the same damaging effects other schools have gone through.

I asked Penny Schwinn at this meeting why are beholden to Federal “Guidance” from US DOE that is non-regulatory and does not have Congressional approval.  She flat-out answered that US DOE wouldn’t approve our ESEA Flexibility Waivers and we would fall under No Child Left Behind mandates.  Call me crazy, but I think we should call their bluff.  Nothing will change if everyone bows to the feds and says “Yes, we will do whatever you want.”  State Board of Education member Pat Heffernan said it best when he called these “Inflexibility Waivers” at last month’s State Board meeting.

Everything is tied together and it all revolves around the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is all under the direction of Governor Jack Markell.  He has sacrificed the public school education and the well-being of students all for the glory of high-stakes testing in the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It is time for Delaware to decide: do we live in Delaware or Markellaware?  Or is it all just Rodelaware?  I know I sound like Chicken Little all the time with my “the sky is falling” comments, but take a look around you.  Look at everything that is going on, in just the past month alone.  Local control is evaporating by the day and those pieces are gone before anyone realizes they are missing.

Penny Schwinn did go over the participation rate penalty part that I discussed yesterday from the AFWG meeting.  She said the Governor is okay with the option the group picked, whereby the school has to explain what they are doing about opt-out to the DOE and no school below 95% participation rate could be labeled a reward school.  I asked her point blank what changed in the past 24 hours since yesterday it seemed Markell wanted the proficiency rate multiplied by the participation rate option.  She said he was favorable to other options but preferred the infamous “#3” option.  This portion of yesterday’s meeting was not discussed by DOE to the DESS Advisory Committee until I brought it up.

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