In reviewing GACEC and their modus operandi, I was curious if they gave public comment concerning Gateway Lab School. This is a charter school designed for students with disabilities that was threatened with non-renewal of their charter in late 2014. Thankfully, the State Board of Education and Mark Murphy did renew their charter. Public support was massive for this school. The GACEC wrote a letter of support for their charter renewal which can be found on pages 6 & 7 of the below document. My take on this below that.
It comes down to one statement in their letter: “In conjunction with our role as the state advisory panel, we would like to share our concerns on the recent decision by the Charter School Accountability Committee to recommend the State Board of Education revoke the charter of the Gateway Lab School based on assessment data.”
Assessment data should not be the sole factor in making a policy decision as per the GACEC. But in their letter of opposition to House Bill 50, President Robert Overmiller with the GACEC writes “the validity of overall test results will be undermined if large numbers of students do not participate in the assessment.” So GACEC can determine when data should and should not be used. The main issue with Gateway Lab School was academic performance. I completely agree with the GACEC, standardized test scores should never make or break a school. But they can’t play both sides on this balance beam. Because “Avoiding the unpleasant reality of assessments and their place in public education is not a viable response to relatively poor overall performance by Delaware students” as Overmiller wrote in the opposition letter, completely goes against their reasoning for supporting Gateway’s charter renewal.
In the case of Gateway, Overmiller actually went to the school to observe and see how their students were doing with the school and if they were showing academic interest and their special education was offering a rewarding environment. He found it was. But in the case of parent opt-out, Overmiller did not reach out to parents who are opting out, or try to understand the motivations behind their decisions. Has he talked to teachers or the DOE about the technical accommodation issues affecting students with disabilities? Did he observe how these children are doing on the test? This council is meant to look at issues with citizens with disabilities, but in their opposition letter, they never once say the words “special education” or “disabilities”. Once again GACEC, you can’t have it both ways. I truly believe the GACEC should rescind their letter of opposition to House Bill 50 until they have truly educated themselves on this issue.