Delaware ACLU Planning To Sue State Over Education Funding

In a shocking announcement, the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union wants to sue the State of Delaware over education funding.  But the announcement was not made by the ACLU but rather a Capital School District Board of Education member at their meeting last evening. Continue reading

Capital Board of Education Candidates To Debate Tonight At “Meet The Candidates Night”

The League of Women Voters and the Central Middle School PTO are holding a Meet The Candidates Night at Central Middle School at 7pm this evening.  The candidates (shameless plug: includes me) are Andres Ortiz, Chanda Jackson, and Kevin Ohlandt.

Each candidate will give a three minute introductory statement and then questions will be asked by the audience.  Each candidate will have one minute to respond and one minute for rebuttal.  I can’t speak for the other candidates, but I can certainly say this will be an evening citizens in the Capital School District will never forget.  For anyone that knows me, you know I go into education issues with a ton of research.  That’s all I’m saying!

The Dover Post had an article today on the candidates where one candidate stated:

First off I do not believe the Capital School District has issues, I believe we have opportunities to build a better tomorrow.

They are only opportunities if every single issue becomes an opportunity, but I will have more to say on that tonight…

 

Former Dover High School Principal Dr. Edney Moving To Early College High School at DSU

Dr. Evelyn Edney, the Dover High School principal, is finishing up her last days at Dover High School and has taken on the position of Principal at Early College High School at Delaware State University.  Last winter, supporters of Edney were very upset her contract wasn’t renewed with the Capital School District.  They came to board meetings demanding transparency on the issue.

It sounds like Edney has secured a new position, albeit in a much smaller charter school.  Please read the press release from Early College High School on Edney’s new role:

My Public Comment at the Capital School District Board Meeting when they passed Parent Opt-Out @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @ecpaige @dwablog @nannyfat @TNJ_malbright #netde #eduDE #prioritizethat

Last night was a packed house at the Capital School Board meeting in Dover, DE.  But appearances can be deceiving.  Many schools in the district received awards from the Board and Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas.  Teachers, staff, and administrators were all there to get the awards and have pictures taken.  After this was done, most of them left.  I asked a couple of them prior to that if they were there for the parent opt-out item on the agenda.  They hadn’t heard of it.  Shortly thereafter, I gave my public comment to the board.  My son was there and heard every word of it.

Good evening members of the board. I’ve spoken to you a couple times before, and one of those was in regards to a matter on your agenda tonight,  Resolution #15-041. I have been a major proponent of the ability for parents to opt their children out of standardized testing, specifically, the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I speak for all the students of Capital School District, the 18,000 children with disabilities in our state, and all of the students in Delaware. We don’t want this test.

I first became aware of “Smarter” as the DOE now calls it, last April. It came up in an IEP meeting, and my wife and I were told how much harder it would be than DCAS. I researched it, and found that some of the accommodations my son had on his IEP would not be allowed on the Smarter test. I emailed several people: members of the Delaware DOE, Dr. Denman, even betters of the Smarter Balanced Consortium. I received no response, aside from Dr. Denman, who did not have a clear answer from the DOE on my question of how a state test could circumvent Federal IDEA law. I did a lot more research on standardized testing, and it’s driving force, the Common Core State Standards. I have no problem with consistent standards for the whole country. But the standards that our educators are teaching right now every day in classrooms, are standards that were forced upon Delaware schools by Governor Markell, who accepted them for the state without any stakeholder input. It was at a time when there were very deep cuts in education, and we were still in a recession.

Ever since then, our DOE has infringed upon the fundamental rights of every public school district in this state. Teachers will be unfairly judged based on the scores of a test the state judged as a failure. They have used the scores of DCAS tests to label schools as failures in, what I believe, to be a grand design to turn them into charter schools up in Wilmington. And if they can do it there, they can and will do it anywhere in our state, including here in Capital. Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has already publicly stated he expects 70% of students in our state will fail the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He expects the trend to continue for a couple years, as schools learn how to roll out the Common Core standards. Many school districts, including Capital, have been doing that for four years. If the test has such a dire failure rate, it’s because it’s a bad test. Period. And now they want to use this test, with a high expected failure rate, to be the sole measuring factor in the proficiency of our children’s educators? No, I’m not swallowing that. I’ve been told it will weed out the “bad” teachers. But it will also weed out very good teachers, and this is unacceptable. It’s a bad measure. For far too long, Delaware teachers have been the whipping post of the Delaware DOE. They have been told to “teach the standards”, “follow this schedule”, “teach to the test”. No. This is not right, and it is not fair. Teachers should be held accountable for student’s classwork, homework, and formative and summative assessments, developed by the teachers and schools. We want our kids to be college ready, but we can’t accept the formal education our teachers received in college?

It’s an agenda that serves to profit no one but corporations and those who swear allegiance to them. Our DOE and other publicly elected officials have these backroom deals, but smile in public while they stab every single student and teacher in the back. Terms like “rigor” and “centers of excellence” are used all too often by our DOE, and I will not subject my son to anything that does not profit his educational experience. I opted him out last week in a letter to the editor of the Delaware State News. No matter what this board votes tonight, my son will NOT take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

This board can make history tonight. You can vote for change, and inspire others within our state to do the same. A passing of this resolution will send a clear message to our DOE and Governor Markell that our teachers, our students, and our schools will NOT be bullied, and they will certainly not be humiliated and disgraced the way six “priority” schools are up in Wilmington. In Red Clay, right now, they are deciding on how to hold onto three of those schools with the DOE claiming it is because of standardized test scores. Tonight, you will make a decision that may have consequences for our district. But with a passing vote, you will be the first to light a flame that will carry to every school district in Delaware. My son will learn more about conviction, bravery and teamwork than anything the Smarter Balanced Assessment would. He will remember the night his school district cared more about freedom and individuality than data and rigor. Our children are more than test scores. Let’s show the DOE how much we believe those words tonight. Thank you.

Special Education, Burden of Proof, Parent Opt-Out, Lockdowns & Funding discussed at Capital School District Board Meeting #netde #eduDE

The Capital School District Board meeting last night touched on very recent topics affecting the state of education in not only the Capital School District, but also the state of Delaware.

Following up from a topic introduced last month at their board meeting, the Capital School Board is pushing for legislators in Delaware to look at Burden Of Proof during Due Process Hearings.  Capital’s stance is the burden of proof needs to be on the school’s side more.  One board member, Matthew Lindell, stated he feels this has shifted more towards the parent’s side, but the Delaware DOE appoints due process hearing officers and they are not partial to parents.  Lindell stated he would like to see a balance in the middle.

At the same time, Capital is looking for the state to increase special education funding which was reduced during the recession that began in 2008 and funds were never increased back to the normal rate.  They had a very long list of other areas where funding was reduced and want back to the previous level.

Updates on the new Dover High School by school principal, Dr. Evelyn Edney.  The top concern by the school as well as the public were traffic patterns.  The school has made changes in terms of signage and assigned parking to help ease the local strain for neighborhoods in the surrounding area.

Board member Lindell indicated he has spoken with other school boards in the state about the way the Delaware Department of Education has treated the priority schools situation in Red Clay Consolidated and Christina school districts.  Lindell indicated the basis for these decisions is test scores, but the DOE has been known to make errors in the past.  Lindell and Superintendent Dr. Thomas spoke about Capital’s graduation rates having many errors in the past, but once the DOE officially publishes these numbers it is difficult to fix.  Lindell indicated there is a lot of discussion about the Delaware DOE and the school boards need to make a firmer stance with them.

Lindell once again stated he wants parents to be able to have the choice to opt-out of standardized testing.  He stated that if special education parents have the choice, all parents should.  The only apparatus that allows students not to take the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment is the legislation passed through Senate Bill 229 in Delaware, which allows for the most severely complex special education students to have an alternate test.

Board member Sean Christensen discussed his feelings on the recent school lockdown in Capital School District when a person was shot in downtown Dover.  He felt parents should have been notified of the lockdown within minutes of the event.  Dr. Thomas explained social media knows about situations before the districts or schools have even been notified by police, resulting in hundreds of calls from parents to board members, the district, and schools.  He reiterated that no parent can enter a school during a lockdown, and no student or staff member is able to leave.  Board President Kay Dietz-Sass felt the schools and district handled the situation very well.  Dr. Thomas said discussion with the Dover Police Department about quicker notification could help ease concerns.

Another big topic was how organizations in the City of Dover have to pay high rents for usage of Capital schools.  Christensen did a comparison with other districts in the state, and found Capital charges higher rents than other districts.  He feels the district needs to give back to the community that allows them to have the buildings in the first place since taxpayers pay for these places.